Saturday, July 22, 2006
Missiles hit a Lebanese TV station hard
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
Israel has been unable to silence Hezbollah's television station, its powerful voice at home and in the Arab world, despite 11 days of bombing. But
Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV appeared to have gotten caught in Israel's campaign to prevent Hezbollah from communicating among its fighters and spreading its word in a war that has played out on television to viewers across the Middle East — bumping even the violence in Iraq.
Three missiles leveled a transmission station in , about 10 miles northwest of Beirut, leaving it a mountain of rubble and twisted antennas. The head of LBC's transmission center, Sueliman Chidiac, was killed.
Another airstrike crippled a transmission tower at in northern Lebanon, where relay stations for LBC, Future TV and Hezbollah's Al-Manar as well as cell phone towers are located.
Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said the target of the strikes was Al-Manar and Al-Nour, Hezbollah's radio station. He told The Associated Press that five of those station's antennas were hit.
"It's important to understand why the attack was carried out. This will disrupt their ability to communicate," he said, adding that cell phones were a "key communication link" for the guerrillas.
**it's also how Lebanese civilians communicate but I doubt the IDF can tell the difference**
An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Al-Manar and LBC may have been sharing an antenna.
LBC's terrestrial transmission was knocked out to homes in the surrounding portion of north-central Lebanon, though homes with satellite dishes received it without interruption.
Al-Manar continued broadcasting without interruption — as it has after repeated strikes on its facilities, except for one eight-minute break earlier in the week.
The top Arab satellite news networks, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, have become virtually all-Lebanon all the time, with correspondents across Lebanon, northern Israel and Jerusalem. In a region were people were riveted to the World Cup only weeks ago, they are now glued to the events in Beirut.
Even Iraq has taken a back seat. In recent days of heavy insurgent attacks there, "you had to stay focused for 15 minutes or longer on Lebanon before mention was made of Iraq" on Arab networks, said Jamal Dejani, who is director of Middle Eastern affairs at the U.S. satellite network Link TV and who monitors Arab TV channels.
The criticism continued in the early days of Israel's offensive against Lebanon, launched July 12 after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. But even on LBC it has been increasingly overshadowed by as casualties grew in the bombardment.
" This is the issue we have to deal with now and then we will deal with the internal divisions later," Dejani told The Associated Press.
Al-Manar runs a constant stream of military music and images from the front, with guerrillas training and firing rockets — as well as street interviews with Lebanese denouncing Israel. It also posts announcements from Hezbollah's leaders — and its newscasts have gained a region-wide audience. The war gives it a chance to spread its image as a force fighting for the whole Arab world against Israel.
**Israel WANTS that broadcast to go out, to "justify" further attacks. Either that, or it's incompetent...**
In Jordan, construction engineer Bassam Jibril said he depends on Al-Manar for "accurate reports" on the fighting.
"When the station carries a report quoting Hezbollah saying they will strike place 'x', a report soon after from Israel says place 'x' was hit by Hezbollah's rockets," he said.
"They want to blot out the voice of the Lebanese, and hide the truth from Lebanese citizens," he told reporters. "They want to impose a darkness on the country and its media."
AP correspondent Tarek El-Tablawy in New York contributed to this report.
Israel strikes Lebanon religious building
Israeli warplanes struck Sidon early Sunday, targeting a religious building run by a Shiite Muslim cleric close to Hezbollah in their first hit inside the southern port city, currently swollen with refugees from fighting further south.
Also early Sunday, a huge explosion reverberated across Beirut, apparently caused by an Israeli air raid on the capital's southern suburbs.
At least four people were wounded in the airstrike that targeted Sidon for the first time since Israel launched its massive military offensive against Lebanon and Hezbollah guerrillas July 12, hospital officials said.
Strikes early in Israel's campaign hit bridges outside the city of 100,000, where 35,000 refugees are also now residing.
Witnesses said the Israeli jets fired two missiles that directly hit the four-story Sayyed al-Zahraa compound in Sidon. The compound, which contains a mosque, a religious library and a seminary, was entirely destroyed but was believed to be empty at the time of the strike, they said.
A man and his wife in a nearby house were lightly wounded from broken glass, while two other people strolling near the compound were also hit by shrapnel, hospital officials said.
The compound is run by Sheik Afif Naboulsi, a Shiite Muslim cleric close to Iran and the militant Hezbollah group.
Minutes earlier, two other blasts also shook Beirut also caused by an Israeli airstrike on the southern suburbs where Hezbollah headquarters, including the residence of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah have been flattened by repeated Israeli bombing.
Israeli warplanes also hit targets in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley firing missiles in the cities of Hermel and Baalbek at around 11 p.m. Saturday, witnesses said. There was no immediate word on casualties in either strike.
Canadian Contingent Late to Meeting Evacuees
Saturday, July 22, 2006
The Blue Dawn has docked in Cyprus, but not without more controversy.
The explosion turned out to be a punctured fire extinguisher. No one was injured during the incident.
When the vessel docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca, no Canadian personnel were present to register the approximately 200 passengers.
According to one report, the officals, who have been sleep-deprived for the past 48 hours, were asleep. The Blue Dawn was ahead of schedule, and the early arrival caught the members off-guard.
The evacuees remained on the ship for about an hour and a half before a team greeted the exhausted nationals.
There is no comment from either the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister's office.
July 22/23, 2006 -- U.S. military intelligence sources have told WMR that the artillery shell shown below being used by an Israel Defense Force member in Lebanon, is a type of dual and multi-use weapon the neocons falsely accused Saddam Hussein of possessing. Although the canister artillery shell is marketed as an anti-land mine fuel-air bomb, its payload can also include the chemicals used in thermobaric bombs, white phosphorous weapons, and chemical weapons. Thermobaric bombs contain polymer-bonded explosives or solid fuel-air explosives in their payloads. Thermobarics use a fuse munition unit (FMU) such as that seen on the nose of the Israeli artillery shell. The shell penetrates buildings, underground shelters, or tunnels, creating such a blast pressure that all the oxygen is sucked out from the spaces and the lungs of anyone who happens to be in proximity. Israel's use of such "vaccum" weapons has been reported from across Lebanon.
The artillery shell below, with its FMU penetrator, can also be used to deliver chemical weapons, the use of which is also being reported from southern Lebanon. In addition, it can deliver white phosphorous, a substance that literally melts through skin but leaves clothing relatively intact. In Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. forces have used white phosphorous on civilians, leaving grotesque corpses as a psychological warfare reminder to the civilian population to surrender or evacuate an area. The photo from Sidon of a burnt and badly disfigured young Lebanese girl is a telltale sign of white phosphorous use by the Israelis. Similar photos from Fallujah were shown to this editor by a top investigative reporter for Italy's RAI television network.
U.S. military intelligence experts believe the ease at which the Israeli soldier is handling the artillery shell is an indication that the payload contains light-weight gas and not a fuel-air mixture or thermobaric bomb components. WMR continues to receive reports from Lebanon of depleted uranium shells being used by the Israelis. The New York Times today is reporting that the U.S. is stepping up its delivery of "precision-guided" munitions to Israel ....
Israeli dual/multi-use WMD (left) and badly burnt body of young Lebanese girl with telltale signs of white phosphorous attack.
U.S. officials condemn 'meddling' by third parties in Cuba
By Laura Wides-Munoz
Hispanic Affairs Writer
July 21, 2006, 5:36 PM EDT
CORAL GABLES, Fla.--U.S. officials on Friday condemned potential outside interference in Cuba's future by those who don't support democratic elections there--singling out Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as ``meddling'' in Cuban affairs.
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., distinguished between aid from Venezuela and other countries to help the current Cuban government maintain its control over the island after 79-year-old Cuban President Fidel Castro dies, and U.S. aid to promote democracy.
**in other words, when the US puts millions of dollars toawards ensuring the "correct" transition for Cuba, that's not "meddling" either...**
``There's a big difference between attempting to prevent a transition and being of assistance to a transition,'' Martinez said. ``If there are those who believe they can impose upon Cuba a succession of a tyranny, they are wrong, and this government will not permit that.''
Martinez, who fled Cuba as a teen, was joined by three Cuban-American U.S. Congressional representatives and Commerce Sec. Carlos Gutierrez to promote a presidential commission report calling for democracy in Cuba. They met with reporters after speaking at an event sponsored by the nonpartisan lobbying group Cuba Democracy Advocates.
**that would be that "meddling" part**
Gutierrez, who is also Cuban-American and co-chaired the commission's report, told reporters that during a transition in Cuba, the U.S. would with food and humanitarian aid and only if asked.
``That's a different story than trying to be in there and manipulating and planning something regarding the lives and future of the people of Cuba,'' he said.
The report repeatedly cites the relationship between Castro and Chavez and efforts by the two to expand their influence throughout the hemisphere using money Venezuela receives from its oil exportation.
The U.S. buys more than $30 billion in petroleum related products from Venezuela, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Martinez said recent tightening of the U.S.' 47-year embargo on Cuba has not had the desired effect because Cuba has turned to Venezuela and China for aid, but he cautioned that the U.S. should not abandon the policy.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Israel celebrates Irgun hotel bombers
By Harry de Quetteville, in Jerusalem
In the midst of its campaign against Hizbollah and Hamas "terrorists", Israel has been accused by Britain of feting Jewish "terrorists" whose bomb attack killed 28 Britons 60 years ago today.
The accusation, which reopens the debate about the use of politically-inspired violence in the region, follows the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the attack on the King David hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, by the Irgun Jewish "resistance" to British mandate rule in Palestine. The 28 Britons were among 91 people killed.
This week, former Irgun fighters and current Right-wing politicians unveiled the plaque at the hotel, which read: "The hotel housed the Mandate Secretariat as well as the Army Headquarters. On July 22, 1946, Irgun fighters at the order of the Hebrew Resistance Movement planted explosives in the basement. Warning phone calls had been made urging the hotel's occupants to leave immediately. For reasons known only to the British, the hotel was not evacuated and after 25 minutes the bombs exploded, and to the Irgun's regret and dismay 91 persons were killed."
But Israel's celebration of its "freedom fighters" remains highly controversial at a time when it continues to pound Palestinian "terrorists".
Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, has found herself deeply embroiled in the debate - her father, Eitan, was Irgun's chief operations officer.
Simon Macdonald, the British ambassador to Israel, and consul general John Jenkins, wrote to the mayor of Jerusalem protesting at the plaque. "We don't think it's right for an act of terrorism to be commemorated," their letter read.
The embassy said: "There is no credible evidence that any warning reached the British authorities." The plaque has subsequently been amended, dropping the implication that Britain ignored any warnings.
July 22, 2006
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 21 — Lawyers for one of four American soldiers charged with raping an Iraqi girl and killing her and her family accused government interrogators on Friday of forcing a misleading confession from him during an intimidating interrogation. They also said the interrogators had failed to tape the eight-hour interview of the soldier, though military regulations suggest doing so.
Their accusations came on a comparatively quiet but by no means peaceful day across most of Iraq. In a predawn raid in a village outside Baquba, a city northeast of Baghdad, American and Iraqi military forces traded heavy gunfire with a group of gunmen. The battle, which included attacks on several buildings by an American helicopter gunship, killed six people: two militants, two women, a 70-year-old man and a 2-year-old girl, said an Interior Ministry official who spoke on condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
The accused soldier, Specialist James P. Barker, and three other members of his platoon, part of the 502nd Infantry, were charged this month with raping the girl, who was 14, and killing her and three other family members in a village near the market town of Mahmudiya.
The military had originally blamed insurgents for the killings, which occurred on March 12, but began investigating the incident after an Army private first class, Justin Watt, provided a sworn statement on June 20 alleging American soldiers’ involvement, military officials said.
Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard were also charged with rape, murder and arson. A fifth person, Steven D. Green, a discharged private first class, was arrested by federal authorities in North Carolina last month and accused of being the ringleader of the group.
The charges against the four soldiers carry the possibility of punishments that include life in prison without possibility of parole, and death.
Specialist Barker, Private Spielman and Sergeant Cortez were being held in military confinement in Iraq pending a hearing to determine whether the charges warranted trial by courts-martial. But they were released about 10 days ago after a military magistrate ruled they were not likely to flee.
Specialist Barker’s lawyers, Capt. James D. Culp in Baghdad and David Sheldon, a civilian lawyer in Washington, said their client had been unfairly intimidated into providing a detailed written confession after a lengthy interrogation by agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
“At the end of the eight hours, the agents made SPC Barker type out his ‘confession’ line by line, telling him what to write nearly word for word,” Mr. Sheldon said in an e-mail message on Friday. He added, “It is incredible that in a case of this magnitude Army investigators did not tape the interrogation.”
Captain Culp and Mr. Sheldon said they hoped to place the actions of Specialist Barker on the night of March 12 in the context of the extreme stress and lethal attacks his unit had encountered during extended stays at a base outside of Mahmudiya. Six of Specialist Barker’s friends in the platoon or attached to it had been killed by enemy fire, they said.
“The fact is, and it is undeniable, that Specialist Barker and the soldiers he served with were under tremendous battlefield stress,” Mr. Sheldon wrote.
Mr. Sheldon also said military prosecutors plan to call Iraqi witnesses at the investigative hearing for the four accused soldiers next month. The hearing, known as an Article 32 hearing, combines elements of a grand jury hearing and a jury trial to determine whether charges warrant a court-martial. In a sign of the sensitivity of the case, the United States ambassador and the top American military commander in Iraq publicly apologized in a statement released here earlier this month.
While violence continued to flare in Iraq on Friday, the number of officially reported deaths, at least 28, was a sharp if momentary decline from previous days. Since, Monday, at least 250 people across Iraq have been killed by gunfire, explosions, suicide attacks and sectarian-led executions.
Earlier this week, the United Nations reported that an average of more than 100 civilians per day were killed in Iraq last month, suggesting that far more people were being killed than had been reported in news accounts.
The American attack near Baquba began at 3:30 a.m. after a roadside bomb in nearby Hayal al-Nasser struck an American military convoy, a police officer in Baquba said in a telephone interview. American forces established a perimeter around 12 houses inhabited mostly by members of a Sunni tribe, and attacked a number of armed men after they refused orders to leave, the officer said. American military officials said they regretted the death of civilians, including the child.
Also on Friday, an American marine was killed in an insurgent attack in Anbar Province.
The Supreme National Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue, which includes representatives of Iraq’s top elected officials, legislators, tribal and political leaders, agreed to meet on Saturday for the first time.
In Mahmudiya, a city controlled by insurgent Sunni Arabs, seven Iraqi soldiers and policemen and six armed insurgents were killed in a three-hour firefight Friday afternoon, said the Interior Ministry official and the city’s mayor, Mouayid Fadhil. About 38 other insurgents were captured, he said.
In Baghdad, the day went by in what passes for calm, with reports of eight people killed and several others wounded in bursts of violence that occurred despite an eight-hour ban on vehicular traffic.
Three policemen and three Iraqi Army soldiers were killed in a two-hour exchange of gunfire with armed men Friday afternoon, the Interior Ministry official said. Around 2 p.m., an explosion killed one person and wounded two others as they left a Shiite mosque in the New Baghdad neighborhood after Friday Prayers, the official said.
The Iraqi police found the bodies of four unidentified people in different parts of the city; each had been tortured and shot in the head, an Interior Ministry official said. In the volatile Dawra neighborhood an employee of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Bashar Yuhana, was shot and killed.
Omar al-Neami and Mona Mahmoud contributed reporting for this article.
Soldiers Plan to Argue Rape Tied to Distress
Iraq Checkpoint Among 'Most Stressful'
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006; A10
Attorneys for Army soldiers accused of raping an Iraqi teenager and killing her and her family in March are planning to argue that the men were under extreme emotional distress because of the horrors of their combat assignment and will probably challenge the alleged confessions some of the soldiers gave to investigators in Iraq.
**I wonder how they plan to rationalize away the premeditation?**
David Sheldon, a civilian lawyer who is representing Spec. James P. Barker, said yesterday that B Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment was devastated by numerous combat casualties and repeated violent attacks in and around Mahmudiyah before and after a group of soldiers allegedly attacked the Iraqi family March 12. Sheldon said the men were placed at a traffic checkpoint "in one of the most stressful environments imaginable" and that commanders failed to recognize the damage that was being done to the soldiers.
Barker is one of five soldiers who have been charged with raping and killing Abier Kassim Hamzah Rashid al Janabi -- listed in new court documents as being under 15 years old -- and also killing her parents and her younger sister.
In federal court documents filed in the case against Steven D. Green, 21, a former Army private who allegedly led the attack, government officials said the men planned the crime. In military charge sheets obtained by The Washington Post, officials say the men also burned their clothes after the attack and one disposed of the alleged murder weapon in a canal.
"While the government wants to say that this was somehow a planned event, it's clearly the result of a tremendously stressful environment where soldiers are subjected to the most horrendous acts of violence by the insurgency," Sheldon said, describing a unit that was in disarray, with leadership problems and outside threats. "They were extremely young soldiers who suffered repeated traumatic attacks and saw unimaginable carnage. This was not a crime of opportunity but the result of extreme pressure."
Another lawyer familiar with the case said that Sheldon's argument is consistent with what he had heard.
Barker, 23, was serving at the checkpoint with Green, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Pfc. Bryan Howard and Sgt. Paul Cortez. According to the charging documents, Barker, Green, Spielman and Cortez drank alcohol together before going to a house near their checkpoint. Sources said Howard stayed behind to man a radio.
Sheldon said the men had served at the checkpoint -- one of the most dangerous jobs on the ground in Iraq -- for far longer than Army procedures allow. While there is supposed to be a limit of just a few days on such a post, this squad had been doing the job for nearly a month, another lawyer said.
"This unit suffered tremendous casualties," Sheldon said. "Due to continuous insurgency action, Specialist Barker, along with his fellow soldiers, lost a number of close friends in his company as well as an Iraqi with whom he was very close friends. . . . The fact is, and it is undeniable, that Specialist Barker and the soldiers he served with were under tremendous battlefield stress."
While such stress has become a major issue in the war in Iraq, largely because of the unpredictable and violent attacks, a case like the one in Mahmudiyah is still a rarity.
Sheldon said he believes Green led the other soldiers to the house without telling them what he planned to do, and some of those soldiers have since pointed to Green as the only one who fired a gun in the house. Green was later discharged from the Army for an unspecified "personality disorder" before officials knew of the attack.
Still, Army officials allege Green and others raped the girl, and in the charge sheets allege that Spielman "wrongfully" touched the corpse.
Patrick Bouldin, a federal public defender who represents Green in Kentucky, said yesterday that he has filed a request for a gag order in the case and declined to comment. Yesterday, prosecutors, citing logistical concerns, asked for an extension of a grand jury for Green's case and a judge agreed to delay it until Nov. 8.
Article 32 hearings -- the military equivalent of grand jury hearings -- for Barker and others who remain in Iraq are scheduled for Aug. 6 in Baghdad.
Lebanon victims buried in mass grave
By NASSER NASSER AND HAMZA HENDAWI
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITERS
A relative from the border village of Marwaheen, Muhammed Abdullah, 53, prays by coffins containing the bodies of Lebanese victims prior to their burial in a mass grave at the southern Lebanon city of Tyre, Friday, July 21, 2006. With a few mourners at hand, 72 victims of Israel's 10-day-old bombardment are buried in a mass grave in this southern Lebanese city. Lebanese have streamed out of the south, leaving some villages ghost towns, but with roads destroyed many are trapped in their homesin the face of a possible Israeli invasion.
Lebanese have streamed out of south Lebanon since fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah last week, leaving some villages almost deserted. But many people are believed trapped in their homes - too poor to live anywhere else, too afraid to travel or unable to go because bridges and roads have been destroyed.
An estimated 400,000 Lebanese make their home south of the Litani River, 20 miles from the Israeli border, and it's not known how many remain - but those that do risk being caught up in an Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah.
"It is not looking good and it's going to last for some time," Ali Sayegh, a 39-year-old furniture salesman from Tyre, said of the Israeli offensive.
"There are not many people left in Tyre, very few walk the streets and there is a shortage of fresh produce," said Sayegh, who moved to a seaside hotel after sending his wife and two daughters abroad last week.
Israel has been broadcasting radio messages into southern Lebanon and dropping leaflets, urging all residents south of the Litani to flee. Sometimes the warnings name specific villages and say residents should clear out.
"There is a desire to leave, but they are afraid to. They're afraid of being hit by Israeli missiles and most of the roads are out anyway," said Timur Goksel, a former senior U.N. adviser in the region who now lectures on political science at the American University of Beirut.
In the border village of Naqoura, home to the headquarters of U.N. peacekeepers, only 100 people are left of a population of some 3,000. Most of those who stayed have jobs at the local U.N. mission.
Hundreds of thousands of southern Lebanese have been on the move since the fighting began July 12, mostly heading toward Beirut.
They left in thousands of cars, with white sheets fluttering from their antennas or windows and their roofs packed with luggage.
There has also been movement within the south.
Thousands of people along the border moved to Marjayoun and Qlaia - two mainly Christian cities widely thought to be safer because Israel is hitting Shiite areas. Residents there opened schools and homes to refugees.
A thousand people went to Marjayoun, a town of 2,000, said council head Fuad Hamra. Marjayoun has so far been spared bombardment, but Hamra said artillery and warplanes were hitting targets in orchards and fields 500 yards away.
Hezbollah is the dominant force in the mainly Shiite south, running clinics, schools and offering a network of social and economic services as well as an army of some 5,000-6,000 fighters.
Over the past 30 years, the region has borne the brunt of Israeli incursions, first against Palestinian guerrillas in 1978 and later against Hezbollah. Israel occupied a large chunk of the south between 1978 and 2000, when it was forced to pull out its troops in the face of mounting casualties from Hezbollah attacks.
Despite the hardships created by decades of intermittent fighting, Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, remain popular in southern Lebanon. "Oh God, oh God, please protect Nasrallah," is a popular slogan among the area's Shiites.
In Tyre on Friday, volunteers placed the bodies of 72 victims - many of them children - in hurriedly made wooden coffins, their lids spray-painted with the names of the dead and an identifying number.
Army troops loaded the coffins three or four high onto trucks and took them to an empty lot outside their barracks, where two trenches had been dug.
The soldiers lowered the coffins into the grave as Israeli warplanes flew overhead, diving to fire missiles on targets in the nearby countryside.
Only 20 mourners looked on, a sign of the mass flight of Tyre's residents.
In Srifa, outside Tyre, bodies still had not been removed from a neighborhood leveled in Israeli airstrikes three days earlier. The mayor, Hussein Kamaledine, said up to 30 people may have been in 15 demolished houses, but no one knows for sure because workers can't bring equipment to clear the rubble.
The situation was similar in the border village of Aytaroun, where a Friday morning strike reduced a building to rubble, with up to 10 people believed inside - but again rescue teams could not approach amid continued artillery barrages.
Much of the downtown area of Nabatiyeh, a market town of 40,000, was devastated by two missile strikes last week. Most of the stores that escaped destruction remain closed. Homes have electricity for an average of two hours a day and long lines form outside bakeries, according to residents.
Mustapha Badreddine, who heads Nabatiyeh's local council, told the AP by telephone that Israeli warplanes attacked downtown again Friday night, killing at least one person and wounding five.
"It is another inhumane message from an evil enemy," said Badreddine, a U.S.- and French-educated cardiologist.
Accused troops: We were under orders to kill
Soldiers say officers commanded them to ‘kill all military age males’ in Iraq
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:56 p.m. PT July 21, 2006
EL PASO, Texas - Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to “kill all military age males,” according to sworn statements obtained by The Associated Press.
The soldiers first took some of the men into custody because they were using two women and a toddler as human shields. They shot three of the men after the women and child were safe and say the men attacked them.
“The ROE (rule of engagement) was to kill all military age males on Objective Murray,” Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard told investigators, referring to the target by its code name.
That target, an island on a canal in the northern Salhuddin province, was believed to be an al-Qaida training camp. The soldiers said officers in their chain of command gave them the order and explained that special forces had tried before to target the island and had come under fire from insurgents.
Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, and Spc. Juston R. Graber are charged with murder and other offenses in the shooting deaths of three of the men during the May 9 raid.
Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett are also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening to kill another soldier if he told authorities what happened.
‘They did it admirably’
In sworn statements obtained this week by the AP, Girouard, Hunsaker, Clagett, and a witness, Sgt. Leonel Lemus, told Army investigators they were ordered to attack an island in northern Salahuddin province on May 9 and kill anti-Iraqi fighters with ties to al-Qaida.
All four soldiers charged are members of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. They have been jailed in Kuwait since their June arrests. Their first hearing is Aug. 1 near Tikrit, Iraq.
Michael Waddington, Hunsaker’s civilian lawyer, said his client followed orders and killed the detainees in self-defense after he and Clagett were attacked.
“They did (their job) honorably, they did it admirably,” said Paul Bergrin, Clagett’s civilian attorney. “If they did want to kill these men, they could have and been within the rules of engagement.”
Officers from their unit initially cleared the soldiers of wrongdoing. Charges were filed when witnesses changed their testimony after repeated interviews with Army investigators, Bergrin said.
Military declines to comment
Reached by e-mail in Iraq, Girouard’s Army lawyer, Capt. Theodore Miller, declined to comment because the investigation was continuing.
An Army prosecutor, also deployed to Iraq, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Army spokesman Sheldon Smith asked that a request for comment be e-mailed to him in Virginia. He did not immediately respond.
Military officials have released few details of the case.
But statements from Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett describe a tense early morning scene, with soldiers immediately opening fire on buildings.
Girouard told investigators he expected he and his comrades would immediately be attacked when they landed on the island. Intelligence officials had warned that at least 20 al-Qaida operatives were hiding there.
But it was only once the men moved to the northern half of the island that they found anyone, Girouard said. He said he and others shot and killed a man they spied in a window in one building and then rushed into a house where they found three other men hiding behind two women.
A fifth man, holding a 2-year-old girl in front of him, later came out of another building, Girouard and Hunsaker told investigators.
‘Struck on the face’
Girouard said the four surviving men were not immediately killed because of the human shields. Once the women and child were moved to safety, he told investigators, the men did not appear to pose a threat and the soldiers took them into custody.
But Hunsaker said three of the men then attacked him and Clagett as the soldiers were trying to bind the men’s hands with heavy-duty plastic ties.
“I had felt this action necessary for they had tried to use deadly force on me and my comrade,” Hunsaker wrote about the shooting.
Hunsaker told investigators he was stabbed. Clagett said he was “struck on the face with a fist or something.”
Lemus, who only saw the men fall to the ground, told investigators he thought the killings were justified.
“Proper escalation of force was used when the detainee became hostile and armed himself with a weapon and wounded one soldier and struck another,” Lemus said. “Our actions ... were in accordance to the ROE (rule of engagement) briefed to us prior to our mission and moments before our air assault was conducted.”
‘Telling the truth’
Girouard said he did not see the shooting either but was immediately told what happened.
“I think they are telling the truth,” Girouard’s statement said. “If it would have happened another way they would have told me and the story has been the same the whole time.”
Clagett and Hunsaker also told investigators they found AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and gun parts after the men were killed.
Bergrin said the weapons and other evidence not mentioned in the statements were proof that the Iraqi men were a threat.
Several other service members face similar charges in unrelated cases involving the deaths of civilians in Iraq.
According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the maximum penalty for murder is death, but it was unclear if the government will seek the death penalty in any of the pending cases.
© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
July 22, 2006
Disaster in the Making
You can observe three important things simultaneously in the Middle East: One, Israel's total disregard for the lives and property of the Arab people; two, the effectiveness of the Israeli propaganda machine; and three, the utterly craven support for Israel by the U.S. government.
A fourth thing, if you can stand to watch television news, is how casually the talking faces dispense falsehoods because of their ignorance, which is understandable. Middle East history is too complex for a fly-in TV star to avoid the trap of failing to separate fact from propaganda.
Hezbollah, for example, raided an Israeli military outpost on what Hezbollah considers the Lebanese side of the border. Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers. It did not fire any rockets at Israel as several television people have said – mimicking, of course, Israeli propaganda.
Instead of sending a special-forces team or setting up negotiations for a prisoner exchange, Israel launched an all-out attack, knocking out bridges, roads, airports and fuel facilities, and doing enormous damage to civilians. Only then did Hezbollah respond with rockets, as it certainly had a right to do. Israeli journalists have pointed out that Israel has been planning for years to destroy Hezbollah and is using the raid as an excuse.
The Israelis did the same thing in Gaza. When a handful of militants kidnapped one soldier, what did the Israelis do? They destroyed the power plant, bridges and all the government facilities in Gaza. Once again, they are using the kidnapping as an excuse to do what they had planned to do anyway – destroy Hamas and the ability of the Palestinian people to govern themselves. It takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to destroy the Palestinian government and then demand that it control the militants. "With what?" American reporters ought to be asking the Israelis.
By the way, the Israelis never ended their occupation of Gaza. They forced settlers to withdraw because it was too much trouble to guard them. But they retained control of Gaza. Nobody can go in or out without Israeli permission. The airport is closed. They cut off the tax money that is paid by Palestinians and rightfully should have gone to the Palestinian Authority. In other words, they turned Gaza, already one of the most densely populated areas in the world, into a Middle East version of the Warsaw Ghetto. And they regularly bombed it or sprayed it with artillery.
Yet, so effective is Israeli propaganda and so ineffective is American news coverage, Israel is once again playing the poor victim. Gee, the Israelis tell the American media, we hate to destroy Lebanon – even as their planes and artillery continue to do just that – but we can't stand living under a rain of terrorist rockets.
Well, obviously, they have not been. Hezbollah only fires its Katyusha rockets (a short-range, unguided missile with a 50-pound conventional warhead) in response to Israel's violation of Lebanon's borders, which it routinely does with its fighter planes. Even now, what Hezbollah is firing can hardly be called a "rain." It's more like a scattered shower. As for the "thousands" of rockets Hezbollah allegedly has, that number comes from the Israeli government. It may or may not be accurate.
Like President Bush, the Israelis offer no evidence. Bush, who revealed himself inadvertently in St. Petersburg, Russia, as the arrogant, foul-mouthed slob he is, blames Syria and Iran for Hezbollah but offers no evidence whatsoever. If Hezbollah had thousands of rockets, you'd think it wouldn't be so sparing in the use of them.
One reason Lebanon never disarmed Hezbollah is because its members are considered heroes by the Lebanese Shi'ites. They were the ones who made Israel's occupation of Lebanon so costly that the Israeli people demanded that it be ended. They also provide a wide range of welfare services to the Lebanese people, and they are not terrorists. The largest terrorist organization in the Middle East is the state of Israel, which kills civilians by the hundreds.
What you are witnessing is a disaster in the making – not only for Lebanon, which will require 50 years to recover, but for the United States, which stands exposed once again as a prejudiced hypocrite and an accessory to Israel's war crimes.
July 22, 2006
U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis
By DAVID S. CLOUD and HELENE COOPER
WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.
The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she would head to Israel on Sunday at the beginning of a round of Middle Eastern diplomacy. The original plan was to include a stop to Cairo in her travels, but she did not announce any stops in Arab capitals.
Instead, the meeting of Arab and European envoys planned for Cairo will take place in Italy, Western diplomats said. While Arab governments initially criticized Hezbollah for starting the fight with Israel in Lebanon, discontent is rising in Arab countries over the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, and the governments have become wary of playing host to Ms. Rice until a cease-fire package is put together.
To hold the meetings in an Arab capital before a diplomatic solution is reached, said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, “would have identified the Arabs as the primary partner of the United States in this project at a time where Hezbollah is accusing the Arab leaders of providing cover for the continuation of Israel’s military operation.”
The decision to stay away from Arab countries for now is a markedly different strategy from the shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations used to mediate in the Middle East. “I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante,” Ms. Rice said Friday. “I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling around, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do.”
Before Ms. Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, she will join President Bush at the White House for discussions on the Middle East crisis with two Saudi envoys, Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the secretary general of the National Security Council.
The new American arms shipment to Israel has not been announced publicly, and the officials who described the administration’s decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity. The officials included employees of two government agencies, and one described the shipment as just one example of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel.
One American official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of an “emergency resupply” of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when an American military airlift helped Israel recover from early Arab victories.
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said: “We have been using precision-guided munitions in order to neutralize the military capabilities of Hezbollah and to minimize harm to civilians. As a rule, however, we do not comment on Israel’s defense acquisitions.”
Israel’s need for precision munitions is driven in part by its strategy in Lebanon, which includes destroying hardened underground bunkers where Hezbollah leaders are said to have taken refuge, as well as missile sites and other targets that would be hard to hit without laser and satellite-guided bombs.
Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means. But an arms-sale package approved last year provides authority for Israel to purchase from the United States as many as 100 GBU-28’s, which are 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The package also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions.
An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”
American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.
Although Israel had some precision guided bombs in its stockpile when the campaign in Lebanon began, the Israelis may not have taken delivery of all the weapons they were entitled to under the 2005 sale.
Israel said its air force had dropped 23 tons of explosives Wednesday night alone in Beirut, in an effort to penetrate what was believed to be a bunker used by senior Hezbollah officials.
A senior Israeli official said Friday that the attacks to date had degraded Hezbollah’s military strength by roughly half, but that the campaign could go on for two more weeks or longer. “We will stay heavily with the air campaign,” he said. “There’s no time limit. We will end when we achieve our goals.”
The Bush administration announced Thursday a military equipment sale to Saudi Arabia, worth more than $6 billion, a move that may in part have been aimed at deflecting inevitable Arab government anger at the decision to supply Israel with munitions in the event that effort became public.
On Friday, Bush administration officials laid out their plans for the diplomatic strategy that Ms. Rice will pursue. In Rome, the United States will try to hammer out a diplomatic package that will offer Lebanon incentives under the condition that a United Nations resolution, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah, is implemented.
Diplomats will also try to figure out the details around an eventual international peacekeeping force, and which countries will contribute to it. Germany and Russia have both indicated that they would be willing to contribute forces; Ms. Rice said the United States was unlikely to.
Implicit in the eventual diplomatic package is a cease-fire. But a senior American official said it remained unclear whether, under such a plan, Hezbollah would be asked to retreat from southern Lebanon and commit to a cease-fire, or whether American diplomats might depend on Israel’s continued bombardment to make Hezbollah’s acquiescence irrelevant.
Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said that Israel would not rule out an international force to police the borders of Lebanon and Syria and to patrol southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has had a stronghold. But he said that Israel was first determined to take out Hezbollah’s command and control centers and weapons stockpiles.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.
Blair urged to back Lebanon ceasefire
By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 22 July 2006
The Archbishop of Canterbury has led calls for Tony Blair and George Bush to demand an immediate ceasefire by Israel and Hizbollah.
Dr Rowan Williams accused Mr Blair of being out of touch with public opinion as people across Britain prepared to march in protest today at the carnage in the Middle East.
The demonstrations echo the backlash before the Iraq war began in March 2003 when millions demonstrated against British involvement in the invasion of Iraq. The issue of Mr Blair's adherence to the American line has dogged his premiership since.
The former Foreign Office minister Chris Mullin accused the US and British governments of standing by while the Israelis committed "war crimes".
As the demands for a change of British foreign policy raged, Mr Blair's official spokesman dismissed the calls by Dr Williams and others for a ceasefire, saying it would "make people feel good for a few hours" but was unlikely to have any lasting effect. "In what way is it in the interests of the Middle East to pretend that somehow or other calling for a unilateral ceasefire is actually going to help the situation?" the Prime Minister's spokesman said.
However, Dr Williams warned: "We really have to ask whether the governments of some Western countries are catching up with the consciences of their own people. They may have to reckon with the rising level of public despair and dismay and I hope that they will bring their influence to bear in moving towards a ceasefire."
Thousands of people are expected to join demonstrations across the country today to protest at the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.
The protests have been called by groups including the Stop The War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain to highlight "crimes against humanity".
A spokesman for the protest organisers said: "Israel's war in Gaza and Lebanon is escalating into an international crisis which could soon engulf the whole region.
"The promise by Bush and Blair in the lead-up to the Iraq war that their wars would bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East and peace to Palestine, have yet again been shown to be lies, just as the anti-war movement has consistently said they were."
Demonstrations will also be held in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.
The Foreign Office minister Kim Howells was flying to the Middle East for talks with governments in the region. Mr Howells said: "The aim of these talks will be to work towards a lasting ceasefire, backed up by action not just words, which guarantees Israel's security and that of its neighbours."
July 21, 2006
A perilous excursion into the distant past, starting seven whole weeks ago
Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel: Everything You Need To Know
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
As the tv networks give unlimited airtime to Israel’s apologists, the message rolls out that no nation, least of all Israel, can permit bombardment or armed incursion across its borders without retaliation.
The guiding rule in this tsunami of drivel is that the viewers should be denied the slightest access to any historical context, or indeed to anything that happened prior to June 28, which was when the capture of an Israeli soldier and the killing of two others by Hamas hit the headlines, followed soon thereafter by an attack by a unit of Hezbollah’s fighters.
Memory is supposed to stop in its tracks at June 28, 2006.
Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.
Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.
Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32.
That’s just a brief trip down Memory Lane, and we trip over the bodies of twenty dead and forty-seven wounded, all of them Palestinians, most of them women and children.
Israel regrets… But no! Israel doesn’t regret in the least. Most of the time it doesn’t even bother to pretend to regret. It says, “We reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever we want. We reserve the right to assassinate their leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, tear out their olive groves, and when they try to resist we call them terrorists intent on wrecking the ‘peace process’”.
Now Israel says it wants to wipe out Hezbollah. It wishes no harm to the people of Lebanon, just so long as they’re not supporters of Hezbollah, or standing anywhere in the neighborhood of a person or a house or a car or a truck or a road or a bus or a field, or a power station or a port that might, in the mind of an Israeli commander or pilot, have something to do with Hezbollah. In any of those eventualities all bets are off. You or your wife or your mother or your baby get fried.
Israel regrets… But no! As noted above, it doesn’t regret in the least. Neither does George Bush, nor Condoleezza Rice nor John Bolton who is the moral savage who brings shame on his country each day that he sits as America’s ambassador (unconfirmed) at the UN and who has just told the world that a dead Israel civilian is worth a whole more in terms of moral outrage than a Lebanese one.
None of them regrets. They say Hezbollah is a cancer in the body of Lebanon. Sometimes, to kill the cancer, you end up killing the body. Or bodies. Bodies of babies. Lots of them. Go to the website fromisraeltolebanon.info and take a look. Then sign the petition on the site calling on the governments of the world to stop this barbarity.
You can say that Israel brought Hezbollah into the world. You can prove it too, though this too involves another frightening excursion into history.
This time we have to go far, almost unimaginably far, back into history. Back to 1982, before the dinosaurs, before CNN, before Fox TV, before O’Reilly and Limbaugh. But not before the neo-cons who at that time had already crawled from the primal slime and were doing exactly what they are doing now: advising an American president to give Israel the green light to “solve its security problems” by destroying Lebanon.
In 1982 Israel had a problem. Yasir Arafat, headquartered in Beirut, was making ready to announce that the PLO was prepared to sit down with Israel and embark on peaceful, good faith negotiations towards a two-state solution.
Israel didn’t want a two-state solution, which meant -- if UN resolutions were to be taken seriously -- a Palestinian state right next door, with water, and contiguous territory. So Israel decided chase the PLO right out of Lebanon. It announced that the Palestinian fighters had broken the year-long cease-fire by lobbing some shells into northern Israel.
Palestinians had done nothing of the sort. I remember this very well, because Brian Urquhart, at that time assistant secretary general of the United Nations, in charge of UN observers on Israel’s northern border, invited me to his office on the 38th floor of the UN hq in mid-Manhattan and showed me all the current reports from the zone. For over a year there’d been no shelling from north of the border. Israel was lying.
With or without a pretext Israel wanted to invade Lebanon. So it did, and rolled up to Beirut. It shelled Lebanese towns and villages and bombed them from the air. Sharon’s forces killed maybe 20,000 people, and let Lebanese Christians slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Chatilla.
The killing got so bad that even Ronald Reagan awoke from his slumbers and called Tel Aviv to tell Israel to stop. Sharon gave the White House the finger by bombing Beirut at the precise times -- 2.42 and 3.38 -- of two UN resolutions calling for a peaceful settlement on the matter of Palestine.
When the dust settled over the rubble, Israel bunkered down several miles inside Lebanese sovereign territory, which it illegally occupied, in defiance of all UN resolutions, for years, supervising a brutal local militia and running its own version of Abu Graibh, the torture center at the prison of Al-Khiam.
Occupy a country, torture its citizens and in the end you face resistance. In Israel’s case it was Hezbollah, and in the end Hezbollah ran Israel out of Lebanon, which is why a lot of Lebanese regard Hezbollah not as terrorists but as courageous liberators.
The years roll by and Israel does its successful best to destroy all possibility of a viable two-state solution. It builds illegal settlements. It chops up Palestine with Jews-only roads. It collars all the water. It cordons off Jerusalem. It steals even more land by bisecting Palestinian territory with its “fence”. Anyone trying to organize resistance gets jailed, tortured, or blown up.
Sick of their terrible trials, Palestinians elect Hamas, whose leaders make it perfectly clear that they are ready to deal on the basis of the old two-state solution, which of course is the one thing Israel cannot endure. Israel doesn’t want any “peaceful solution” that gives the Palestinians anything more than a few trashed out acres surrounded with barbed wire and tanks, between the Israeli settlements whose goons can murder them pretty much at will.
So here we are, 24 years after Sharon did his best to destroy Lebanon in 1982, and his heirs are doing it all over again. Since they can’t endure the idea of any just settlement for Palestinians, it’s the only thing they know how to do. Call Lebanon a terror-haven and bomb it back to the stone age. Call Gaza a terror-haven and bomb its power plant, first stop on the journey back to the stone age. Bomb Damascus. Bomb Teheran.
Of course they won’t destroy Hezbollah. Every time they kill another Lebanese family, they multiply hatred of Israel and support for Hezbollah. They’ve even unified the parliament in Baghdad, which just voted unanimously -- Sunnis and Shi’ites and Kurds alike -- to deplore Israel’s conduct and to call for a ceasefire.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these little excursions into history, even though history is dangerous, which is why the US press gives it a wide birth. But even without the benefit of historical instruction, a majority of Americans in CNN’s instant poll –- about 55 per cent out of 800,000 as of midday, July 19 -- don’t like what Israel is up to.
Dislike is one thing, but at least in the short term it doesn’t help much. Israel’s 1982 attack on Lebanon grew unpopular in the US, after the first few days. But forcing the US to pressure Israel to settle the basic problem takes political courage, and virtually no US politician is prepared to buck the Israel lobby, however many families in Lebanon and Gaza may be sacrificed on the altar of such cowardice.
CAN YOU HELP US , PLEASE! Do you know what kind of weaponcauses this damage?
Take a good, long hard look at this. And no, this picture hasn't been photoshopped.
This is the kind of destruction and devastation YOUR American tax dollars are paying for, every day, by way of military aid to Israel.
But remember, they only hate us because we are free!
July 22, 2006
The Shame of Being an American
by Paul Craig Roberts
Gentle reader, do you know that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing in southern Lebanon? Israel has ordered all the villagers to clear out. Israel then destroys their homes and murders the fleeing villagers. That way there is no one to come back and nothing to which to return, making it easier for Israel to grab the territory, just as Israel has been stealing Palestine from the Palestinians.
Do you know that one-third of the Lebanese civilians murdered by Israel's attacks on civilian residential districts are children? That is the report from Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the UN. He says it is impossible for help to reach the wounded and those buried in rubble, because Israeli air strikes have blown up all the bridges and roads. Considering how often (almost always) Israel misses Hezbollah targets and hits civilian ones, one might think that Israeli fire is being guided by US satellites and US military GPS. Don't be surprised at US complicity. Why would the puppet be any less evil than the puppet master?
Of course, you don't know these things, because the US print and TV media do not report them.
Because Bush is so proud of himself, you do know that he has blocked every effort to stop the Israeli slaughter of Lebanese civilians. Bush has told the UN "NO." Bush has told the European Union "NO." Bush has told the pro-American Lebanese prime minister "NO." Twice. Bush is very proud of his firmness. He is enjoying Israel's rampage and wishes he could do the same thing in Iraq.
Does it make you a Proud American that "your" president gave Israel the green light to drop bombs on convoys of villagers fleeing from Israeli shelling, on residential neighborhoods in the capital of Beirut and throughout Lebanon, on hospitals, on power plants, on food production and storage, on ports, on civilian airports, on bridges, on roads, on every piece of infrastructure on which civilized life depends? Are you a Proud American? Or are you an Israeli puppet?
On July 20, "your" House of Representatives voted 410-8 in favor of Israel's massive war crimes in Lebanon. Not content with making every American complicit in war crimes, "your" House of Representatives, according to the Associated Press, also "condemns enemies of the Jewish state."
Who are the "enemies of the Jewish state"?
They are the Palestinians whose land has been stolen by the Jewish state, whose homes and olive groves have been destroyed by the Jewish state, whose children have been shot down in the streets by the Jewish state, whose women have been abused by the Jewish state. They are Palestinians who have been walled off into ghettos, who cannot reach their farm lands or medical care or schools, who cannot drive on roads through Palestine that have been constructed for Israelis only. They are Palestinians whose ancient towns have been invaded by militant Zionist "settlers" under the protection of the Israeli army who beat and persecute the Palestinians and drive them out of their towns. They are Palestinians who cannot allow their children outside their homes because they will be murdered by Israeli "settlers."
The Palestinians who confront Israeli evil are called "terrorists." When Bush forced free elections on Palestine, the people voted for Hamas. Hamas is the organization that has stood up to Israel. This means, of course, that Hamas is evil, anti-Semitic, un-American and terrorist. The US and Israel responded by cutting off all funds to the new government. Democracy is permitted only if it produces the results Bush and Israel want.
Israelis never practice terror. Only those who are in Israel's way are terrorists.
Another enemy of the Jewish state is Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a militia of Shi'ite Muslims created in 1982 when Israel first invaded Lebanon. During this invasion the great moral Jewish state arranged for the murder of refugees in refugee camps. The result of Israel's atrocities was Hezbollah, which fought the Israeli Army, defeated it, and drove it out of Lebanon. Today Hezbollah not only defends southern Lebanon but also provides social services such as orphanages and medical care.
To cut to the chase, the enemies of the Jewish state are any Muslim country not ruled by an American puppet friendly to Israel. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the oil emirates have sided with Israel against their own kind, because they are dependent either on American money or on American protection from their own people. Sooner or later these totally corrupt governments that do not represent the people they rule will be overthrown. It is only a matter of time.
Indeed Bush and Israel may be hastening the process in their frantic effort to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran. Both governments have more popular support than Bush has, but the White House Moron doesn't know this. The Moron thinks Syria and Iran will be "cakewalks" like Iraq, where ten proud divisions of the US military are tied down by a few lightly armed insurgents.
If you are still a Proud American, consider that your pride is doing nothing good for Israel or for America.
On July 20 when "your" House of Representatives, following "your" US Senate, passed the resolution in support of Israel's war crimes, the most powerful lobby in Washington, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), quickly got out a press release proclaiming "The American people overwhelming support Israel's war on terrorism and understand that we must stand by our closest ally in this time of crisis."
The truth is that Israel created the crisis by invading a country with a pro-American government. The truth is that the American people do not support Israel's war crimes, as the CNN quick poll results make clear and as was made clear by callers into C-Span.
Despite the Israeli spin on news provided by US "reporting," a majority of Americans do not approve of Israeli atrocities against Lebanese civilians. Hezbollah is located in southern Lebanon. If Israel is targeting Hezbollah, why are Israeli bombs falling on northern Lebanon? Why are they falling on Beirut? Why are they falling on civilian airports? On schools and hospitals?
Now we arrive at the main point. When the US Senate and House of Representatives pass resolutions in support of Israeli war crimes and condemn those who resist Israeli aggression, the Senate and House confirm Osama bin Laden's propaganda that America stands with Israel against the Arab and Muslim world.
Indeed, Israel, which has one of the world's largest per capita incomes, is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. Many believe that much of this "aid" comes back to AIPAC, which uses it to elect "our" representatives in Congress.
This perception is no favor to Israel, whose population is declining, as the smart ones have seen the writing on the wall and have been leaving. Israel is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims who are being turned into enemies of Israel by Israel's actions and inhumane policies.
The hope in the Muslim world has always been that the United States would intervene in behalf of compromise and make Israel realize that Israel cannot steal Palestine and turn every Palestinian into a refugee.
This has been the hope of the Arab world. This is the reason our puppets have not been overthrown. This hope is the reason America still had some prestige in the Arab world.
The House of Representatives resolution, bought and paid for by AIPAC money, is the final nail in the coffin of American prestige in the Middle East. It shows that America is, indeed, Israel's puppet, just as Osama bin Laden says, and as a majority of Muslims believe.
With hope and diplomacy dead, henceforth America and Israel have only tooth and claw. The vaunted Israeli army could not defeat a rag tag militia in southern Lebanon. The vaunted US military cannot defeat a rag tag, lightly armed insurgency drawn from a minority of the population in Iraq, insurgents, moreover, who are mainly engaged in civil war against the Shi'ite majority.
What will the US and its puppet master do? Both are too full of hubris and paranoia to admit their terrible mistakes. Israel and the US will either destroy from the air the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iran so that civilized life becomes impossible for Muslims, or the US and Israel will use nuclear weapons to intimidate Muslims into acquiescence to Israel's desires.
Muslim genocide in one form or another is the professed goal of the neoconservatives who have total control over the Bush administration. Neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz has called for World War IV (in neocon thinking WW III was the Cold War) to overthrow Islam in the Middle East, deracinate the Islamic religion and turn it into a formalized, secular ritual.
Rumsfeld's neocon Pentagon has drafted new US war doctrine that permits pre-emptive nuclear attack on non-nuclear states.
Neocon David Horowitz says that by slaughtering Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, "Israel is doing the work of the rest of the civilized world," thus equating war criminals with civilized men.
Neocon Larry Kudlow says that "Israel is doing the Lord's work" by murdering Lebanese, a claim that should give pause to Israel's Christian evangelical supporters. Where does the Lord Jesus say, "go forth and murder your neighbors so that you may steal their lands"?
The complicity of the American public in these heinous crimes will damn America for all time in history.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Reassessing the Hariri assassination in the light of recent events
Reassessing the Hariri assassination in the light of recent events:
- The Hariri assassination, immediately blamed on Syria (with no evidence other than the lies promoted by Mehlis), led directly to Syria being forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. It is obvious that that step was a necessary precondition of Israeli involvement in Lebanon.
- The huge mystery of the current Israeli adventures is why Israel is sacrificing so much international goodwill in murdering innocent Lebanese civilians, when its stated goal is ‘self-defense’ against Hezbollah. In fact, Israel is spending an inordinate amount of time destroying Lebanese infrastructure and making direct attacks against the Lebanese army, the latter particularly odd if Israel really wants the Lebanese army to disarm Hezbollah. Israel’s actions are actually strengthening the position of Hezbollah, which isn’t so odd when you consider the fact that Israel has long helped to create its own enemies in order to have an excuse for colonialist attacks against them. In this case, attacks against the central Lebanese government and army appear to be leading to an argument that Lebanon – newly destroyed Lebanon – is incapable of living up to its international obligations to disarm Hezbollah, leading directly to the necessity of Israel entering Lebanon to do the job itself.
- Israel has another motive in wanting to destroy Lebanese civil society, as such destruction is part of the Zionist Plan for the Middle East. Ideally, Lebanon will end up fractured on ethnic lines, following the Yinon plan of breaking all of Israel’s potential enemies into tiny statelets. A peaceful and tolerant and wealthy Lebanon is bad publicity for the general Zionist line that Arabs are incapable of such progress.
- Hariri was one of the main architects of the reconstruction of Lebanon, and would not have stood for its re-destruction. He had a lot of powerful friends around the world, and would probably have been able to prevent the current Israeli attacks. Even if the attacks had done damage, he would have been able to lead the re-reconstruction, thwarting Israeli long-term plans. It was thus necessary to remove him as a precondition of the current Israeli attacks.
- The original Official Story of the Hariri assassination was that it was an underground explosion of a type that only the Syrian intelligence services could have handled. When it turned out that the evidence indicated a truck bomb, the propaganda machine turned 180 degrees and declared that it was the work of an ‘al Qaeda’ group hired by the Syrians (odd given the fact that the Syrian government is probably the biggest enemy of al Qaeda). We have recently seen that the Israeli spy ring in Lebanon had very curious connections to al Qaeda organizations in Lebanon. It is not difficult to see how Israel managed to cloak the Hariri assassination, now clearly part of the current attack on Lebanon, in such a way as to direct blame towards Syria, thus leading directly to the removal of Syrian troops.
- Israel has a number of goals in its current attacks, the ultimate one being fooling the Americans into another war for Israel, this time against Syria. The most feasible goal, however, is water. With the connivance of the Americans, Israel is resisting calls for any kind of ceasefire or negotiated settlement, as that would prevent Israel from achieving its real goal of seizing southern Lebanon, including control over the water in the Litani river (some of which is already being stolen by the Israelis). UN peacekeepers would make such a goal impossible, and so UN involvement must be resisted. The plan is to take over southern Lebanon under the guise of creating a Hezbollah-free buffer zone to protect Israel from Hezbollah rocket attacks. Of course, we’re supposed to forget the fact that the dangerous rocket attacks – the ones that haven’t been faked by the IDF – only occurred after the Israeli attack on Lebanon, and the fact that a buffer zone will have no effect on Hezbollah’s ability to send rockets into Israel. The real goal of the buffer zone will be to allow Israel to begin to siphon off greater quantities of Lebanese water.
It is only in the light of the ongoing crimes being committed by Israel in Lebanon that we can come to a full understanding of the real reason for the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Like Hollis Mulwray in the movie Chinatown, Hariri died so that water could be stolen.
Fire Extinguisher Blamed in Attack Report
The Associated Press
Friday, July 21, 2006; 6:01 PM
OTTAWA -- A fire extinguisher exploded aboard one of the ships ferrying Canadian evacuees from Lebanon to Cyprus Friday, Canadian officials said, denying rumors that the vessel had been attacked.
Canadian diplomats in Cyprus confirmed that the explosion was not due to any attack but to a fire extinguisher aboard the Blue Dawn, which was heading to Larnaca, Cyprus, said Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Ambra Dickey in Ottawa. There were no reports of injuries.
There was no immediate word on the seriousness of the blast or how it occurred.
The Israeli military told The Associated Press there was no report of any Israeli firing from the sea, land or air off the Lebanese coast. It also said Israeli forces had not picked up any distress calls from ships off Lebanon.
**just as there was no Israeli fire with the LIBERTY, just like they weren't firing when that shell hit the beach and wiped out a little girl's family**
Canada, which had 38,626 people registered at its embassy in Beirut on Friday, has been bombarded with criticism over its chaotic and slow evacuation efforts. Foreign Affairs officials said it had evacuated 2,413 people from Beirut by the end of the day Friday.
MacKay said the criticism was unwarranted and reminded reporters that it would likely become the country's largest emergency exodus from another country.
The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement announced on Wednesday that its guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. "Implementing our promise to free Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, our strugglers have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon," a statement by Hezbollah said.
"The two soldiers have already been moved to a safe place," it added. The Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were captured as they "infiltrated" into the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border. [Hindustan Times 7/12/06]
The Lebanese Hezbollah movement announced Wednesday the arrest of two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were arrested as they entered the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border. Israeli aircraft were active in the air over southern Lebanon, police said, with jets bombing roads leading to the market town of Nabatiyeh, 60 kilometers south of Beirut. [Bahrain News Agency 7/12/06]
TRANSLATION: According to the Lebanese police force, the two soldiers were captured in Lebanese territory, in the area of Aïta Al-Chaab close to the border, whereas Israeli television indicated that they had been captured in Israeli territory. [fr.news.yahoo 7/12/06]
In the afternoon, the scene changed in the streets of southern Lebanon, which was the target of 32 Israeli raids that mainly targeted areas near the area where the two soldiers were captured in Aita al Chaab, close to the border with Israel. [news.monstersandcritics.com 7/12/06]
It all started on July 12 when Israel troops were ambushed on Lebanon's side of the border with Israel. Hezbollah, which commands the Lebanese south, immediately seized on their crossing. They arrested two Israeli soldiers, killed eight Israelis and wounded over 20 in attacks inside Israeli territory. [Asia Times 7/15/06]
TRANSLATION: In a deliberated way, Tsahal sent a commando in the Lebanese back-country to Aïta Al Chaab. It was attacked by Hezbollah, making two prisoners. [voltairenet.org 7/18/06]
Do you get it yet? Israel sent troops across the border into Lebanon. They then claimed the captured invaders were "kidnap victims" and launched their attacks.
Middle East Violence: Neocons' Fantasy
By Michael Lerner, AlterNet
Posted on July 17, 2006, Printed on July 22, 2006
The champions of American global empire are using the latest upsurge of violence in the Middle East to give new life to their discredited plan to extend the war in Iraq to Syria and Iran. The neo-con Weekly Standard has taken the lead in its July 24th cover issue, proclaiming that the current violence is "Iran's Proxy War" against the West.
As Standard editor William Kristol puts it, "It's our war." America's, that is.
"What's under attack," Kristol argues "is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States." The logical conclusion of this "war of civilizations" analysis is Kristol's advice to the Bush Administration: "our focus should be less on Hamas and Hezbollah, and more on their paymasters and real commanders -- Syria and Iran. And our focus should be not only on the regional war in the Middle East, but also on the global struggle against radical Islamism."
Progressives have no sympathy for radical Islamism, if that means those who have systematically denied the rights of women and gays, imprisoned those insisting on human rights and civil liberties, and sponsored campaigns of terror against civilians in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, India, Bali, Spain, England or anyplace else in the world.
But even many who might have forgotten the lesson before the Iraq war today rally around the cry to "Bring the troops home" rather than the neo-con appeal to extend the war into other nations. Most of us have come to the conclusion that violence is not the solution to our problems.
Which is why many of us have been sickened and saddened by the recent escalation of the struggle after Israel decided to use the capture of one of its soldiers by Hamas an an excuse to reenter Gaza and destroy its pathetic infrastructure. This punitive measure left one million of the world's poorest people, living in the world's most densely populated area, without electricity -- i.e., without refrigeration or water -- and can only be construed as an act of collective punishment for the deeds of a small group of people (the elected Hamas government which actually made a public plea for the release of the prisoner, though that did not prevent Israel from moving in and arresting a significant portion of the Hamas elected leadership).
Perhaps seeing the moment as one requiring solidarity, or perhaps instigated by its patrons in Syria and Iran, Hezbollah broke its previous pledge to respect the Israeli border, crossed it, killed a group of Israeli soldiers and captured two. In turn, Israel again resorted to collective punishment, holding much of the Lebanese civilian population responsible, bombing the civilian airport and many other civilian installations, and surprisingly finding that Hezbollah was able to respond with a barrage of missiles which killed and wounded Israelis in several northern cities.
It's ludicrous to try to establish "blame" in the sense of who did what first. Incidents of violence on the part of Palestinians and their allies cannot be separated from the constant violence of the Occupation, the continual kidnapping by the IDF of Palestinian civilians who are held in prison camps without charges or trial for as long as six months, often enduring torture as documented by the Israeli Human Rights Organization B'Tselem.
Nor can the violence of the Occupation be separated from the misguided policies of many Palestinians who have never been willing to unequivocally acknowledge the legitimacy and right of the Jewish people to the same kind of national self-determination in the land of Palestine that Palestinians rightly demand for themselves; nor from the equally misguided fantasy that peace and prosperity will come from violence rather than from the non-violent strategies used by Gandhi, MLK Jr., and Mandela in his later years.
In my books Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003) and The Geneva Accord and Other Strategies for Middle East Peace (North Atlantic Books, 2004) I show that both sides have a legitimate narrative that needs to be heard and recognized by the other side; that neither side will ever prevail through violence, and that each side needs to acknowledge that it has been unreasonably cruel and insensitive to the needs of the other.
Yes, of course it's clear that in the last forty years Israel's had the upper hand and has used its power in an immoral way. But these are peoples with long historical memories, and Israeli partisans are as unlikely to convince Israelis whose families escaped oppression in Arab lands that there was no Arab oppression of Jews as Palestinian partisans are to convince the Palestinians that they never really lived in the homes in Palestine from which they were expelled by the wars from 1947-1967.
Nor are we likely to get to peace by trying to discount the fears of Israelis and Jews who face a stream of violence -- from terrorist attacks to Hamas-launched Qassam rockets to physical assaults on random Jewish people from Paris to Moscow -- than we are to convince Palestinians that Israel is merely being sensibly defensive and exercising its right to protect itself. These kinds of triumphalist narratives must be abandoned.
But they won't be as long as Bush and his advisors in the neo-con camp see in the current violence yet another opportunity to reframe the Middle East struggle as one that will provide ex post facto justification for the war in Iraq and enticement for new militarist adventures to destabilize or overthrow oppressive regimes in Iran and Syria.
Instead progressives need to begin with a new discourse, one that demands from both Israelis and Palestinians -- and their Arab supporters -- that they reject violence and crimes against humanity on all sides (e.g. Hezbollah's current bombing of civilians in Haifa and Tsfat as well as Israel's punishment of whole nations), and realize that their only path to peace is one that starts from a place of atonement for their own sins, and a new spirit of open-hearted generosity toward the other side, recognizing it as the only way that either side will achieve what they want in terms of social justice, peace and security.
But since there are no signs of this happening, in the short run we should be asking the international community to step in, impose a settlement on all sides that includes a return of Israel to its pre-67 borders with minor border changes (as defined in the Geneva Accord of 2003), reparations for Palestinian refugees and for Jews who fled Arab lands from 1948-1967, iron-clad security arrangements enforced by an armed international force on the restored borders, and a Truth and Reconciliation commission that is empowered to expose all acts of human rights violations on both sides -- and to impose punishment accordingly.
While partisans on all sides of this struggle must abandon their fantasy of ultimate justification of their claims, a clear first step is to dismiss the neo-con fantasy of a global war of civilizations, with its accompanying notion that this is the best way to reframe the globalization of capital and American corporate domination of the world as a path to expand democracy and human rights. That fantasy is dead -- the Iraq invasion and subsequent tragedy has removed it from any level of plausibility. Let's not let the neo-cons use the violence between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon as an excuse to try to revive that which ought to be put to eternal rest.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of Tikkun and author of, most recently, "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right." He is co-chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Nearly one third of all casualties in the Lebanon-Israel conflict have been children, according to the United Nations’ emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland.
He said it appeared neither Hezbollah nor the Israelis seemed to care about civilian suffering.
Nearly a third of the dead or wounded were children and the wounded could not be helped because roads and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes.
“It is nearly impossible in southern Lebanon to move anything anywhere because it is too dangerous. It is too dangerous for our people to move things,” Egeland said.
Without a truce allowing aid agencies to begin the relief effort there would be a “catastrophe“.
US raid kills Iraqi women, toddler
Fri Jul 21, 8:43 AM ET
U.S. forces killed two suspected militants as well as two women and a child in a raid in the Iraqi city of Baquba on Friday, the military said.
Police officers and neighbors said six members of one family were killed when U.S. helicopters rocketed their house.
"The raid was targeting terrorists associated with senior al Qaeda in Iraq network members who have been targeted in previous Coalition operations and have been linked to several attacks against Iraqi citizens," said a military statement.
"Intelligence also indicates that the targeted terrorists have extensive links to foreign fighters in the area."
The raid came at a sensitive time when U.S. Marines are under criminal investigation over allegations they shot dead 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb.
"The U.S. forces bombed civilian houses in Baquba, killing and wounding civilians," Raad al-Dahlaki, the head of the Baquba provincial council, told Reuters.
Police and neighbors said people in one of several houses that were attacked by U.S. forces and helicopters had mistaken the Americans for hostile Shi'ite militiamen because they were wearing black. As a result they fired on the U.S. troops.
"They saw men who they thought were militiamen coming to harm them and they fired at them and then the Americans responded with shooting and helicopter attacks," Fawzi Ahmed, a relative of the Abdul Hassan family.
The U.S. military said troops came under small arms fire.
Victims included Ghadban, the 70-year-old head of the family, and his three-year-old granddaughter Ghufran, according to police and hospital sources.
As she lay in the morgue with part of her head blown off, a relative stood over her small frame and wept.
Twenty three people were injured in the overnight assault in Baquba, including several women and children, said the military.
"After the target block was contained, several men were seen moving around on the roof tops. The ground force twice gave verbal instructions for all occupants to exit the target buildings. These instructions were ignored."
"The troops secured the area using a combination of aerial and ground fire."
(Writing by Michael Georgy, editing by Ralph Boulton)