Thursday, June 19, 2003

Selective morality props up blanket immunity.

Israel enjoys blanket immunity because the great majority of so-called
international leaders, thinkers, pundits, academics and journalists practice
selective morality when it comes to Israeli attacks on Palestinians and
those who offer sympathy to their struggle for freedom and

When Israeli civilians are killed their tragedies make international
headlines. The loss of life is described with heart rendering details of
loss and mourning. Images of blood, agony and suffering are abundant. Words
like attacks on civilians, murder and brutal killing are used to describe
their deaths.

On average Palestinian civilians deliberately killed by the Israeli Army and
armed Jewish settlers, if they are covered by the media at all, are usually
news-in-brief items, relegated to paragraph 14 of section D. Their cause of
death is usually described as being shot (by whom we are not told) or
"caught in a cross- fire," as if their deaths were the result of some
"natural disaster" or "accident." We are almost never told that the majority
of Palestinians killed are unarmed innocent civilians. We do not hear their
names, the stories of their precious lives or witness the mourning of their
families. We do not get a snapshot into THEIR devastation, destruction and
heart rendering tragedies.

Does the world condemn equally? Is it only wrong when an Israeli dies? Are
we all created equal, but as Orwell says, some of us are more equal than

And I return to Rachel Corrie's sentiment that somehow "they wouldn't dare
kill an American." If there is one thing I have learned about this conflict
is that they do dare, because when it comes to Israel's crimes there is
always an exemption.

Take for example the bombing in Tel Aviv. Kofi Annan said he "condemns in
the strongest possible way" the attack calling it a "morally reprehensible"

The next day, the Israel Army killed a dozen Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,
including a two-year-old toddler close to where Rachel was crushed. Kofi
Annan's response was that he was "deeply disturbed by Israeli military
incursions" (not terrorist attacks). He did not find this morally
reprehensible. Nor was there any condemnation.

Israel has a right to exist but are Palestinians given that same right? That
is never debated. Israeli deaths are murders. Palestinian deaths are

It is never an issue to address the Palestinians "legitimate security
concerns" or the right to live in secure borders, FREE from occupation. Only
Israelis have these moral and human rights. Palestinian must accept diapers
and humanitarian aid and be grateful little natives for whatever carrot
Israel or the US throws them.

This selective morality props up blanket immunity.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Children's Teeth

Uri Avnery


One of the most progressive Jewish principles of old is now being put to the test: "In those days they shall say no more, ‘The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge'. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge." (Jeremia, 31.)

A suicide bomber kills himself. Should his orphan children be punished for that?

The Israeli army of occupation says: Yes, indeed! Furthermore, anyone who helps the children is a criminal, an accomplice, a supporter of terrorism. If the potential suicide bomber knows that his family will starve after his death, he might shrink from committing the deed. But if he knows that somebody will take care of his family, his readiness to become a martyr will be strengthened.

That is to say: "The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth shall be set on edge. Every one shall die for his fathers iniquity, the teeth of his whole family shall be set on edge."

In recent times, this logic has frequently been acted upon. When Stalin's secret police arrested a man as an "imperialist spy", his family was dispersed, his wife sent to the Gulag and the children to the party's orphanage. The Nazis created the term "Sippenhaft", meaning that the whole family is responsible for the acts of any of its members. Until now, such methods were associated with totalitarian regimes.

Even if this method were effective, if starving the wives and children of suicide bombers deter others, we must still say: No. We cannot allow our state to behave like this, just as we do not take hostages and shoot them or wrap the corpses of suicide bombers in pigs' skins, as has been suggested by some (to prevent them from entering paradise). In the final analysis, that is not wise, either. The prophets of Israel were no fools.

And to the matter at hand: This week the leaders of the Islamic Movement in Israel ("Northern Branch") were arrested. The huge propaganda apparatus of the army and Security Service, which controls all our media, accused them of "helping Palestinian terrorism".

Two days later, the mountain gave birth to a mouse (as the Hebrew saying goes). The main accusation against the Islamists was that they are supporting the family members of suicide bombers and other "martyrs". The police officer in charge declared that, beyond that, there is no evidence of support of terrorism. All in all, the only offences allegedly discovered were of an economic nature, such as money laundering. "Economic offenses", and for that such a gigantic operation!

The arrests were conducted like a military operation against a dangerous enemy. In the middle of the night, a convoy of 800 police rolled into the township of Um-al-Fakhem, accompanied by a company of reporters and photographers. Policemen in bulletproof vests surrounded the homes of the "suspects", all of them respected public figures. Snipers were at the ready, as the policemen burst in and dragged the leaders out of their beds.

The climax of the operation was the arrest of the head of the movement, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah. His father was dying in hospital, the Sheikh was lying next to him to give him support in his last hours. The policemen woke him up and took him out in his underclothes to the waiting photographers, as we saw on TV. If they wanted to humiliate him, they failed. The dignified bearing of the Sheikh put the policemen to shame. His father died a few hours later, alone.

I must disclose here that I am not entirely objective where Sheikh Ra'ed is concerned. Ten years ago, in the winter of 1993, when Yitzhaq Rabin expelled 415 Islamic activists and left them in a deserted field on the Lebanese border, we set up protest tents opposite the Prime Minister's office. With us in the tent was Sheikh Ra'ed. For 45 days and nights in the fierce cold of snow-covered Jerusalem, we lived together - the Sheikh and his followers, I and my spouse Rachel and a changing number of guests, Jews and Arabs. We spent hundreds of hours talking about everything under the sun, and the Sheikh taught us a lot about the Kor'an and Islam, especially its tolerant face.

I admit that the Sheikh, who was 34 years old at the time, charmed us. Unlike the stereotype of a religious extremist, he was full of humor. He is a wise person. In daily life he was pleasant, courteous and modest. I was impressed by his leadership style: early in the morning he got up and started to clean the area around the tents. His men were quick to join him. No orders, no requests.

This does not mean, of course, that I accepted his ideas. I reject any religious regime. I support the total separation of religion from politics, between church (or mosque or synagogue) and state. Religious fanaticism is completely alien to me. That did not prevent me from liking Ra'ed Salah. End of personal note.

The solidarity of the Arab citizens of Israel with their kin in the Palestinian territories in their struggle against the occupation seems to me quite natural. I understand their feelings and their desire to tender humanitarian aid. All the more so as Gush Shalom, the movement to which I belong, collects money and sends food to the beleaguered Palestinian villages and refugee camps, as an act of solidarity. This can also be construed as "aid to terrorists" - after all, if the army wants to starve the population into surrender, who are we to alleviate their hunger?

Clearly, all these are pretexts. One does not send 800 policemen just to prevent children from getting bread or to arrest people laundering money. If so, what was the real aim?

The Sharon government is now engaged in an all-out struggle to destroy the Palestinian people as a national entity. The re-conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the enlargement of the settlements at a frantic pace, the building of the "separation walls" that will cut off about half of area of the West Bank, the daily assassinations and other killings, the starving of the population, the wholesale demolition of homes and the building of bypass roads - all these are meant to beat the Palestinian people into submission and to break their will to resist.

Sharon is now opening a second front. The million and a quarter Palestinians who are Israeli citizens were not directly involved up till now. A lot of declarations of support for their compatriots beyond the Green Line, some humanitarian actions, here and there some individuals who actively helped bombers. All in all, very little, under the circumstances.

Sharon is going to change that. The attack on the Islamic Movement is the beginning of a concentrated onslaught that will drag the "Israeli Arabs" into the bloody fight. Breaking the back of this population is aimed at driving the Palestinians deeper into despair. It is, of course, convenient to start with the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, because it is the most distant from the Jewish public. It does not participate in the Knesset elections. It is easy to create suspicion and to attack it. But let there no doubt: if this operation succeeds, all the other sections of the Arab population, from Azmi Bishara to Hadash, will follow. The recent attempt to get them out of the Knesset was just the beginning. After that, it may be the turn of the Jewish peace forces which support the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in all the occupied territories.

Let there be no illusions: Sharon's final goal is turning the whole country, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river, into an exclusively Jewish state. In this vision there is no place for Arabs, whether in the occupied territories or in Israel proper. Whoever opposes this vision is an enemy (if an Arab) or a traitor (if a Jew).

Therefore, paradoxically, the struggle over Sheikh Ra'ed, the religious extremist, is also a battle for the future of Israel as a democratic, secular and liberal state.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Lesson number one: never underestimate the power of the dollar. Numerous defense experts predicted bloody battles in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan. But the Taliban has disappeared almost without a trace offering only minimal resistance. All large cities and towns – ideal places for close-quarters combat where the enemy’s technological superiority offers few advantages – were abandoned with little resistance. Resistance offered to the US troops in Baghdad didn’t even qualify as a face-saving show. Everyone is still wondering why… Taliban is far from extinct: if anything, we see increasingly more action in Afghanistan as the weather gets warmer and more coffins with US soldiers head to Ramstein and to Dover. And we have never really seen the Taliban destroyed: the number of killed and captured Taliban troops was nowhere near the pre-war strength of the regime’s forces. Most of the Taliban fighters have simply switched sides and now support the US forces. Or maybe not.

In a way this situation is repeating itself in Iraq: disappearance of the Iraqi army and its equipment; cities absolutely unprepared for long-term defense; stiff initial resistance followed by organized total withdrawal. Just like in Afghanistan the pre-war rhetoric in Iraq promised the US a bloody hell should they come into the country. And initially it seemed like this promise may come true. Despite predictions by many military analysts Iraq actually offered stiff resistance during the first two weeks of the war. But then something happened – first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq – and all resistance melted away. Some are even talking about some secret mind-control weapon used by the US.

But it seems that the only mind-control weapon – and a very effective one – that Washington has is the good old dollar. Why fight for victory when you can buy it? It’s not a waste of money – it’s an investment. In Afghanistan it was an investment in Bush’s image as the protector of the world against the threat of terrorism; while in Iraq the reasons are far more trivial. In return you get stability, oil and many other benefits not immediately apparent to non-business types. For example: the loot from Baghdad museums – a well-planned out operation to free the Iraqis from the national heritage of their oppressed past. Maybe this is the future: a humane war when one side has too much money and the other side – not enough… But there are still some problems to works out (like civilians getting killed and similar small issues).

The question of what exactly happened (and is still happening) in Iraq remains open. One may argue that some sort of a deal might have been reached between the US and the top Iraqi military commanders to secure the Iraqi army’s surrender. I am not saying this is not possible. But I am saying that there is no evidence to support this theory. We’ve heard about entire divisions and army corps surrendering, yet, officially the US claims just under 10,000 POWs (many of which are already known to be civilians and paramilitary fighters). Just a reminder, Iraq’s pre-war army strength was put at between 350,000 and 402,000. And we are yet to see captured Iraq’s military hardware in any significant numbers – at least a few thousand tanks and APCs. The keyword here is “thousand”.

What supports the theory of a wartime deal between the US and the Iraqi military commanders? Of all the reportedly captured Iraqi government officials there is only one military commander: Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, Iraq’s air defense commander. Gen. Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib, the former head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence surrendered on his own accord and hardly qualifies as an army commander. Top command of the Iraqi army – all branches including the Air Force and the Republican Guard – have escaped capture somewhat miraculously, considering that, according to Pentagon, the entire Iraqi army has surrendered. What else? Absence of any significant numbers of Iraqi military hardware: Pentagon does not want to show large number of intact equipment realizing that doing so would let the cat out of the bag and turn the glorious victory into an under-the-table arrangement. Finally, the public opinion seems to support this theory of a wartime deal between the Iraqi and the US commanders.

Nevertheless, significant evidence goes against the theory of a wartime deal between Iraq and the US and instead suggests a pre-war arrangement. First, many defense analysts point to complete absence of any serious defenses in Baghdad, Tikrit, and most of the other large Iraqi cities. Significant defenses were deployed in Umm Quasar and it took the coalition forces more than two weeks to capture this borderline village with the population of about 1,200. Defense around Basra were formidable and held the British forces at bay for weeks. Defenders in An Najaf and An Nassiriyah held back the US assaults for many days. One may counter that Saddam did not expect the US troops to get to Baghdad at all, let alone so quickly. But he did! Saddam practically invited the US troops to Baghdad, where they should have gotten embroiled in urban fighting. US troops did not arrive to Baghdad quickly. If anything, the coalitionÂ’s military progress on the ground was much slower than expected by most military analysts. In any case, Iraq had years to prepare for the war, which was inevitable since G.W. came to power in the US.

Another interesting aspect of the war is the Iraqi leadership: with the money and influence available to Saddam’s government they could have been anywhere by now. But they are in Iraq. And this goes for Iraqi officials of all levels – from the top figures like Tarik Aziz to mid-level Baath functionaries. Some will argue that this supports the first theory of a wartime deal between the US and the Iraqi army: Saddam’s government simply had no time to escape. This argument holds no water: did Saddam expect to defeat the US? Hardly. The fact the active part of the war lasted for as long as it did is in itself quite an accomplishment by the Iraqi military but mainly by the Fedayeen irregulars. Even if we are to suppose that the Iraqi army held out in Umm Quasar, Basra, An Najaf, An Nassiriyah and other places for two weeks while a deal was negotiated, a conspiracy on this scale would have been impossible. Iraqi army numbered hundreds of thousands of which we have seen just a fraction. There are thousands of top- and mid-level commanders many of whom are loyal to Saddam and have no reasons to expect anything good from the US occupation. Many of these commanders and troops have been accused of genocide against the Kurds. Those military commanders who might have considered a deal with the US would be too afraid to act in the society characterized by clan loyalties, all-embracing fear and mistrust of everyone and everything. Several military commanders corrupted by US dollars? Entirely possible. An entire army in a secret deal with the Anglo-American coalition? Absolutely out of the question.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

We said it would be a nightmare

Alexander Cockburn - Creators Syndicate

04.09.03 - Baghdad's hospitals admit a hundred casualties an hour and have run out of anesthetics. Surgeons try to numb up mangled children with short-term pain-killers, but even these are in dwindling supply. Iraqi families who fled into the desert face 100-degree temperatures and no water. U.S. tanks inflict mayhem and slaughter in Baghdad's streets.

From Umm Qasr and the Faw peninsula, through Basra to Baghdad, it's a scene of devastation, with every bridge and guard post adorned with civilian cars riddled with bullets by jumpy U.S. soldiers. There's no "fog of war" where the disaster of daily life in Iraq (what's now swaddled in that virtuous bureaucratic phrase "humanitarian crisis") is concerned. Reports confirm what all sane forecasts predicted of a U.S. attack: It is a catastrophe for the Iraqi people, particularly the poor.

A few days ago, the BBC featured a vivid interview with Patrick Nicholson of the British charity Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD). He's just returned from Umm Qasr, where he found the humanitarian effort in the British-occupied area to be a "shambles." "From the TV pictures of Umm Qasr, I had been led to believe it was a town under control, where the needs of the people were being met. The town is not under control. It's like the Wild West. And even the most major humanitarian concern, water, is not being adequately administered.

"Everywhere I went, the local people asked me for water. I went into the two rooms occupied by a family of 14, they were drinking from an oil drum half full of stagnant, dirty water. It was water I certainly would not have drunk. The little girl was very malnourished, skeletal, and in my experience as an aid worker I would say she had less than a week to live."

Given this, plus the sort of horrors reported from near Al Hillah about Iraqi civilians sliced to ribbons by U.S. cluster bombs, can one imagine that an Iraqi puppet government is going to be greeted with cheers and bunting by Iraqis? Take Kenan Makiya, based at Harvard and one of the more prominent people in Ahmed Chalabi's group of exiles, the Iraqi National Congress.

On March 24, Makiya described his emotions at the news that Baghdad was being bombed: "The bombs have begun to fall on Baghdad … those bombs are music to my ears … the explosion of a JDAM can sound beautiful." Probably more beautiful when contemplated from the sanctuary of Harvard Yard than in the maternity hospital in Baghdad a U.S. missile hit last week.

"My friends in the opposition," Makiya went on, "are gathering in Kurdistan with the Iraqi National Congress and in Kuwait with Jay Garner's office. [The retired US general, intended as postwar Iraq's proconsul, noted for the public vehemence of his support for Israel.] I should be there with them, but I am told I have to stay. I am needed here, to keep touch with Washington. I cannot stand it. All I have to think about is whether or not the U.S. government is going to once again betray the Iraqi opposition."

Makiya is right to be apprehensive. It was he who personally assured George Bush before the U.S./U.K. attack that the invaders would be greeted with cheers and roses. The U.S. high command has no doubt adjusted its estimate of exactly how closely people like Chalabi and Makiya are attuned to the sentiments of the people of Iraq, who probably do not appreciate the scenario Makiya recently shared with the American Enterprise Board (at a symposium) of a "federal, non-Arab demilitarized Iraq." Such a federal Iraqi government, Makiya went on, "cannot be thought of any longer, in any politically meaningful sense of the word, as an Arab entity."

Assessing the surprising extent of resistance, the U.S. ultra-hawks are now circulating the idea that Iraq is a "deeply sick" society, not yet ready for "western-style democracy," which will require purgation through lengthy occupation, with all appropriate theft or exploitation of Iraq's assets. Assuming the demise of Saddam's regime, Iraqi national resistance will probably be led by Dawa, which is the Shi'ite resistance group, by the Iraqi Communist Party and perhaps the pro-Syrian elements of the Ba'ath Party, which has retained through years of repression a surprising amount of strength.

How long will U.S. occupation last, given lethal assaults of the sort that killed over 200 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in the Reagan years, prompting rapid withdrawal? From across the border, the Iranians will be pretty good at this sort of game, and of course will be eager to speed U.S. departure. So a flickering U.S. casualty rate (note the disclosure last week of 175 casualties among U.S. special operations forces, post 9/11), as now occurring in Afghanistan, could prompt a Bring the Troops Home call from Democratic contenders such as John Kerry, currently too prudent to do anything but wag the flag.

The future? Most assuredly, the continuation of existing nightmare for ordinary Iraqis for years to come. For a sense of perspective read the grand speeches of the British who entered Mesopotamia in 1917, only to face a concerted uprising by Shi'a, Sunni and Kurds three years later.

© 2003 Creators Syndicate


Monday, March 31, 2003

Before the first cruise missile crushed the first skull of the first child killed in the first installment of George W. Bush's crusade for world dominion, the unelected plutocrats occupying the White House were already plying their corporate cronies with fat contracts to "repair" the murderous devastation they were about to unleash on Iraq. There was, of course, no open bidding allowed in the process; just a few "selected" companies -- selected for their preponderance of campaign bribes to the Bushist Party, that is -- "invited" to submit their wish lists to the War Profiteer-in-Chief?.

It should come as no surprise that one of the leading beneficiaries of this hugger-mugger largess is our old friend, Halliburton Corp., the military-energy servicing conglomerate. Halliburton, headed by Vice Profiteer Dick Cheney until the Bushist coup d'etat in 2000, is already reaping billions from the Bush wars -- which Cheney himself says "might not end in our lifetime."

Cheney is an old hand at this kind of death merchanting, of course. In the first Bush-Iraq? War, Cheney, playing the role now filled by Don Rumsfeld -- a squinting, smirking, lying Secretary of Defense -- directed the massacre of some 100,000 Iraqis, many of whom were buried alive, or machine-gunned while retreating along the "Highway of Death," or annihilated in sneak attacks launched after a ceasefire had been called. When George I and his triumphant conquerors were unceremoniously booted out of office less than two years later by that radical fringe group so hated by the Bushists -- the American people -- Cheney made a soft landing at Halliburton.

There, he grew rich on government contracts and taxpayer-supported credits doled out by his old pals in the military-industrial complex. He also hooked up with attractive foreign partners -- like Saddam Hussein, the "worse-than-Hitler" dictator who paid Cheney $73 million to rebuild the oil fields that had been destroyed by, er, Dick Cheney. And while the Halliburton honcho became a multimillionaire many times over, some of his employees were not so lucky -- Cheney ashcanned more than 10,000 workers during his boardroom reign. (At least, he didn't bury them alive.)

Old news, you say? Irrelevant to the current crisis? Surely, now that Cheney has been translated to glory as the nation's second-highest public servant, he is beyond any taint of grubby material concerns? Au contraire, as those ever-dastardly French like to say. At this very moment, while the smoke is still rising from the rubble of Baghdad, while the bodies of the unburied dead are still rotting in the desert wastes, Dick Cheney is receiving $1 million a year in so-called "deferred compensation" from Halliburton. That's a million smackers from a private company that profits directly from the mass slaughter in Iraq, going into the pockets of the "public servant" who is, as the sycophantic media never tires of telling us, the power behind George W.'s throne -- and a prime architect of the war.

This is money that Cheney wouldn't get if Halliburton went down the tubes -- a prospect it faced in the early days of the Regime, due to a boneheaded merger engineered by its former CEO, a guy named, er, Dick Cheney. In a deal apparently sealed during a golf game with an old crony, Cheney acquired a subsidiary, Dresser Industries -- a firm associated with the Bush family for more than 70 years -- which was facing billions of dollars in liability claims for its unsafe use of asbestos. Dresser's bigwigs doubtless made out like bandits from the deal, and Cheney left the mess behind when the grateful Bushes put him on the presidential ticket, but there was serious concern that Halliburton itself would be forced into bankruptcy -- unless it found massive new sources of secure funding to offset the financial "shock and awe" of the asbestos lawsuits.

Then lo and behold, after Sept. 11, Halliburton received a multibillion-dollar, open-ended, no-bid contract to build and service U.S. military bases and operations all over the world. It also won several shorter-term contracts, such as expanding the concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, where the Regime is holding unnamed, uncharged suspected terrorists in violation of the Geneva Convention. With this fountain of federal money pouring into its coffers -- and Bushist operatives in Congress pushing legislation to restrict asbestos lawsuits -- Halliburton was able to hammer out a surprisingly favorable settlement deal with the asbestos victims. The company -- and Cheney's million-dollar paychecks -- were saved. Praise Allah!

Halliburton is just the tip of the slagheap, of course. Daddy Bush's popsicle stand, the Carlyle Group -- which controls a vast network of defense firms and "security" operations around the world -- is also panning gold from the streams of blood pouring down the ancient tracks of Babylon. Junior Bush -- who like a kept woman made his own influence-peddling fortune through services rendered to a series of sugar daddies -- has conveniently gutted the national inheritance tax, swelling his own eventual bottom line when his father joins the legions of Panamanian, Iranian, Afghan, Iraqi -- and American -- dead he and his son have sent down to Sheol.

Never in American history has a group of government leaders profited so directly from war -- never. Like their brothers-in-arms, Saddam's Baathists, the Bushists treat their own country like a sacked town, looting the treasury for their family retainers and turning public policy to private gain. Like Saddam, they feed on fear and glorify aggression. Like Saddam, they have dishonored their nation and betrayed its people.

But the money sure is good, eh, Dick?

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Faced with popular resistance US prepares for slaughter in Iraq

By Bill Vann
26 March 2003

With the failure of the Bush administration’s war strategy to secure either the speedy collapse of the Iraqi regime or the support of the Iraqi people, the Pentagon is preparing to dramatically escalate its onslaught against the country’s civilian population as well as its military.

It was announced Tuesday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will arrive in Washington Thursday for a day of meetings with Bush. In the wake of significant setbacks for both British and US forces, and with a battle pending in Baghdad that may claim many thousands of civilian lives, the conference at Camp David has the character of an emergency war council. The logic of events on the ground in Iraq is pushing the two imperialist powers toward a far bloodier war, with enormous political consequences.

After five days of heavy bombing and the advance of US forces to within 50 miles of Baghdad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hinted at the mounting difficulties confronting the US and British invaders. “We’re still, needless to say, much closer to the beginning than the end,” he told a Pentagon press briefing. “This campaign could well become more dangerous in the coming days and weeks.”

Rumsfeld was repeatedly questioned as to whether the administration had deceived the American people into expecting a quick and virtually bloodless war of “liberation.”

“Not me,” Rumsfeld replied, disavowing responsibility for promoting the “shock and awe” strategy that was touted to the media by his aides. This strategy was based on the conception that an intense, carefully targeted bombardment could bring about the implosion of Saddam Hussein’s government through either assassination or mutiny, while leaving the Iraqi military largely intact as the basis for a new US-dominated regime.

Its execution consisted of repeated aerial assaults on key “command and control” installations and other sites viewed as centers of power of the Ba’athist party leadership. This has been coupled with a psychological warfare campaign aimed at convincing both the Iraqi people and the military command that the end of the regime was inevitable.

Part of this psychological warfare effort was Washington’s spreading of false reports of the death of Saddam Hussein, the death or defection of his key deputy, Tariq Aziz, and the repeated claims that high-ranking Iraqi officers were in negotiations on the terms of surrender. This was supplemented by the bombardment of the country with some 25 million leaflets urging Iraqis not to resist.

The “embedded” US media also played their part in this effort, presenting an image, beamed to Baghdad, of an unstoppable US armored juggernaut approaching the Iraqi capital at breakneck speed. This was to be coupled with scenes of Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq welcoming advancing US and British troops as liberators, together with the mass surrender of Iraqi military units.

Propaganda versus reality

In less than a week, the contradiction between the underlying assumptions of this strategy and reality have become painfully clear. Underlying this disconnect was the fact that the Pentagon’s political leadership had become the victim of the Bush administration’s own propaganda. The more Washington churned out pretexts for toppling the Iraqi regime and demonized its leadership, the more it came to believe that the regime would simply collapse at the first show of force.

Instead, the key personnel in the Iraqi regime have shown themselves to be quite alive and seemingly confident. Mass surrenders have not materialized—even the Pentagon claims only some 3,500 Iraqi POWs. And, instead of being greeted as “liberators,” US troops have faced determined resistance from irregular forces—including substantial numbers of armed civilians—which have repeatedly attacked military convoys.

There is an undeniable element of heroism in this resistance in the face of overwhelming military power. The claims of the US military—which has done the bulk of its killing with cruise missiles fired from hundreds of miles away and with war planes flying out of reach of Iraqi guns—that the actions of the so-called fedayeen are a violation of “civilized” norms of war ring hollow. The Iraqis are, after all, fighting on their own land against an enemy that—without any provocation—has come from thousands of miles away to conquer them. Under such circumstances, they can hardly be faulted for seizing any means to fight back.

In the small port city of Umm Qasr, which the British claimed to have captured in the first hours of the war, fighting has dragged on for five days, making it impossible to utilize the docks to unload both military and humanitarian supplies. To quell resistance, air strikes and artillery barrages were called in, largely demolishing the town.

In Nasiriya, where at least 10 US soldiers have been killed in the last 48 hours, fierce resistance has continued, despite intense bombing raids.

Basra, which US and British forces initially intended to bypass in the rush to Baghdad, has also been targeted for attack because of Iraqi actions against the invasion force. Iraq’s second-largest city with a population of 1.5 million people, Basra was expected by the Pentagon to welcome the invaders, given its Shi’ite population’s repeated rebellions against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Instead, it became another area of “scattered resistance,” to use the phrase preferred by US military spokesmen.

Iraqi sources reported at least 77 civilians killed by US-British bombardments in Basra, and several hundred wounded pouring into poorly supplied hospitals.

United Nations officials have warned that the city is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, with the lives of over 100,000 children under five at risk because of the lack of safe drinking water. The city’s water supplies and electric power were both cut off as result of the US-British attacks.

Washington and London have attributed the hostile reaction in Basra and the rest of the south to memories of the aftermath of 1991 Persian Gulf War, when George Bush senior urged the Shi’ite population to revolt, but then thought better of it and allowed the Iraqi army to brutally suppress them.

With sketchy reports of renewed anti-government unrest in Basra, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld made clear the current Bush administration’s lack of enthusiasm for such a development. “I am very reluctant to run around the world encouraging people to rise up,” he said. Washington is well aware that its plans for a post-Saddam occupation entail the suppression of any popular movement.

Popular anger

Independent observers in Iraq have stressed that the invasion has triggered popular anger among the Iraqi people and a determination to oppose foreign conquest, despite hatred for the regime in Baghdad. Perhaps most striking is the fact that the predicted surge of Iraqis heading for the borders has not materialized. Instead, there has been significant traffic going the other way, with Iraqis living in Jordan, Syria and elsewhere heading home with the aim of fighting the Americans.

The killing and capture of US and British troops in the south of the country, combined with the downing of a US Apache helicopter and fierce battles in a whole number of areas, have led to sharp criticisms from within the military establishment over the strategy devised by the Pentagon leadership.

Senior uniformed commanders had argued from the outset for a much larger military force—the current deployment comprises barely half the number of troops used in the 1991 Gulf War. Rumsfeld and the civilian officials advocated the use of much smaller forces, relying heavily on special operations units and advanced military technology.

To a large extent, these differences were ideologically driven. The extreme right-wing elements that have taken the reins at the Pentagon under the Bush administration have long argued for the unfettered application of military power in redrawing the geopolitical map of the Middle East to suit US imperialist interests. Their mad vision of American military might and free-market economic policies transforming the world excludes any objective estimation of mass popular opposition.

Retired senior military commanders like Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a key commander in the 1991 Gulf War, have publicly criticized the Pentagon for failing to deploy sufficient forces, while active-duty officers have done so privately. Some have blamed the stunning ambush that resulted in the capture of five US support troops and the killing of several others on the failure to deploy additional forces to protect the military’s long supply line from Kuwait.

The headlong rush to the Iraqi capital, ironically described by some military personnel as the “Baghdad 500,” has left a substantial section of the invading military forces dangerously exposed, with significant hostile Iraqi forces to their rear.

The failure to supply additional armored units can be attributed in part to the overwhelming worldwide opposition to the war. In Turkey, this opposition prevented the government from allowing the US military to send in the 4th Infantry Division from the north. Military cargo ships carrying the unit’s armor and equipment are still sailing from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea after the Turkish parliament refused to allow a land invasion from Turkish soil.

Another source of conflict between the uniformed and civilian leadership is differences over the importance of “force protection.” Since losing 55,000 troops and facing a catastrophic breakdown in morale during the Vietnam War, the US military has clung to a doctrine based on the use of overwhelming force, so as to minimize American casualties. Thus, in 1991, the US conducted a six-week air war, pounding the Iraqi military with B-52 bombers before sending ground troops into Kuwait.

“Vietnam syndrome”

As far as Bush and the civilian leaders within the Pentagon are concerned, US military lives are eminently expendable. Indeed, battlefield deaths are to be welcomed as a means of expunging the “Vietnam syndrome,” which involves what they consider a squeamish aversion to American casualties. “Blooding” the American troops is for this administration a necessary step in implementing a policy of “preventive war” on a global scale.

Bush has quite literally lost no sleep over the young people killed in this predatory war. According to White House sources, he is keeping his normal schedule, sleeping soundly every night, reserving ample time for workouts in the gym, and weekending at Camp David. After all, those who are dying are not the children of the corrupt and wealthy elite with whom he associates.

Following the losses suffered by US forces in the south, there are growing indications that the Pentagon is preparing a shift in military strategy and a loosening of the invading forces’ rules of engagement regarding Iraqi casualties, both military and civilian. B-52 bombers flying out of Britain are increasingly being used to hit troop positions south of Baghdad. Some 1,400 air sorties were scheduled on Tuesday. Pentagon sources claimed that elements of the 7th Cavalry killed 300 or more Iraqis in a single engagement, without specifying whether the dead were regular troops or armed civilians.

Rumsfeld, meanwhile, indicated that the US would begin targeting Iraqi television and radio stations in retaliation for the broadcasting of reports on US losses and the airing of footage showing American POWs.

Washington is already fashioning the rationale for mass killings. It has categorized all those civilians resisting US forces as either Iraqi soldiers out of uniform or “terrorists,” as Rumsfeld put it Tuesday. Many of the American soldiers, having been told that they would be greeted with flowers for “liberating” the Iraqis, no doubt feel betrayed. While some will begin to question the justifications presented to them by their commanders and the Bush White House for their presence in Iraq, others will be inclined to vent their anger on the civilian population.

US officials are also citing unspecified intelligence reports that the Iraqi forces are prepared to use chemical weapons once the invaders cross a line south of the capital. Military sources have indicated that faced with a threat of chemical attack, the US military would drop all restraints on attacking civilian areas. Just as “weapons of mass destruction” provided a pretext for the invasion, the claim that such weapons could be used against US troops serves as a justification for the unrestrained use of firepower against heavily populated urban areas.

Even the so-called “precision” bombings have caused the deaths of scores, if not hundreds, of Iraqi civilians. Correspondents in Baghdad report that with each civilian killed and each home destroyed, anger against the American and British forces is growing. They acknowledge that the city’s residents are in no mood to greet the invaders as liberators.

The unraveling of the US military strategy in just five days of warfare represents a colossal failure of the Bush administration’s political perspective. War, as Clausewitz famously stated, “is the continuation of politics by other means.” For this government, however, it is the continuation of gangsterism by other means. The economic plunder and corporate malfeasance carried out domestically is being translated into a predatory war of aggression abroad. In both cases, the pursuit of narrow self-interest by a corrupt ruling elite is leading to catastrophe.

The assault that Washington and London are preparing against Baghdad, a city of five million people and an historic center of the Arab world, will be an act of barbarism comparable to the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the carpet-bombing and napalming of Vietnam, and the war crimes of the Nazi regime in World War II.

The impending military actions will only redouble the revulsion felt by masses of people throughout the world, including within the US itself, for the predatory war launched by Bush and Blair.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Israel's another war cime

"Rachel, from the town of Olympia, in Washington State, stood before Israeli bulldozers, as they tore down a building that belongs to a "protected person" because no one else, but Rachel and a few of her comrades dared to challenge the Israeli army .."

Rachel Corrie: a victim of Israeli policy and US complicity

By Henry Michaels
19 March 2003

The more the circumstances surrounding the murder of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American student killed by an Israeli military bulldozer March 16, become known, the clearer it is that the Israeli government bears direct political and legal responsibility, and that the Bush administration is its political accomplice in her death.

Corrie, an extraordinary young woman, was deliberately crushed to death for trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in the refugee town of Rafah, in southern Gaza.

She is a victim of the Sharon government’s violence in the Gaza Strip, which has gathered pace in tandem with Bush’s preparations to invade Iraq. Not only is the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians being carried out with the tacit sanction of the US government, the US Consulate in Tel Aviv explicitly refused to demand protection for US citizens and other international volunteers trying to halt the bulldozing of houses and killing of innocent civilians.

Two conclusions are inescapable from the evidence produced so far. The first is that Rachel Corrie’s killing was a premeditated act approved by the upper echelons of the Israeli regime—the culmination of a series of confrontations in recent months with International Solidarity Movement (ISM) “human shields.” The second is that the US government is complicit, having rejected repeated requests to intervene on behalf of the volunteers.

Eyewitnesses have refuted Israeli military claims that Corrie’s death was an accident caused by her own actions. Her fellow volunteers have confirmed that she was highly visible to the Israeli soldier who twice drove the giant US-supplied bulldozer over her body.

“She was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and was plainly visible,” Greg Schnabel told journalists. “The bulldozer approached but she stood her ground. Then it pushed up a pile of dirt beneath her feet. She struggled to stay on top of the mound. At that point she was raised up to a level where she was probably looking the bulldozer driver in the eye.”

Based on the reports given by Schnabel and the six other activists who were with Corrie, the ISM media coordinator Michael Shaikh stated:

“The Israeli Army are attempting to dishonour her memory by claiming that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue. Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing.

“The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body.”

It is inconceivable that an individual Israeli soldier would commit such a crime without prior discussion and approval at the highest official levels, military and civilian. Although Israeli army and settler paramilitary units have been responsible for the deaths of 2,181 Palestinians and the injuring of another 22,218 since September 2000, this is the first time that a US citizen has been killed.

Corrie’s murder was not an isolated incident. A month earlier, on February 14, the ISM reported an incident in which activists were nearly killed after the US Consulate refused to intervene. On that day, seven volunteers (three American, three British and one Dutch) came under Israeli rifle and machine gun fire when they approached bulldozers.

The ISM media office immediately made an emergency call to the US Consulate to request that it alert the Israeli military that international peace activists were coming under fire from Israeli troops and ask for restraint, a standard ISM procedure in such circumstances. The consular representative Ingrid Barzel refused to do so. “We do not accept any responsibility for anyone who ignores our travel advisories and illegally enters the Gaza Strip,” she replied. When a similar request was made to the British consulate, an official promised to phone back, but did not.

Soon after, a bulldozer trapped two activists in the corner of a building, but found its path blocked by rubble. Before it resumed its advance, the two escaped and stood on some barrels next to the building to photograph and film the destruction, but the bulldozer then began ramming the barrels.

Israeli policy

The house demolitions are part of Israel’s “Apartheid Wall” policy toward the Occupied Territories. Palestinian communities are being sealed from the outside world by a massive series of walls, complete with towers from which military sharpshooters can monitor their activities. The wall under construction near Rafah stretches along the entire length of Gaza’s border with Egypt. To give the snipers in the wall’s towers clear fields of fire, the Israeli occupation forces intend to demolish all the houses within 70-100 meters of the wall.

Rachel Corrie died trying to save the home of Dr. Samir Nasrallah, who had engaged in no hostile activities and had been charged with no offence. His house was demolished because, like 600 others that have been bulldozed in Rafah, it lay within Israel’s planned “security strip.” Nasrallah was offered no compensation or alternative housing and had no right of appeal to a court.

Despite Israeli government claims, the vast majority of demolitions have nothing to do with alleged terrorism. According to UN figures, less than 600 of the 10,000 houses demolished since the occupation began in 1967 involved security suspects. The policy, designed to leave families homeless, impoverished and traumatized, is illegal because international law forbids the demolition of houses by an occupying power.

During February, Israel forces nearly set a new record for killing Palestinians, mostly civilians, in a single month. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli assaults killed 82 Palestinians, 50 in the Gaza Strip and 32 in the West Bank, and wounded another 616.

Just two days after Corrie’s death, Israeli troops killed 11 Palestinians, including a toddler and a 13-year-old boy, in raids on the Gaza Strip. In one raid, some 30 armored vehicles with bulldozers and infantry advanced several hundred meters into the Nusseirat refugee camp just south of Gaza City.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stepped up the killing since his re-election in January, particularly in Gaza. The Israeli military has conducted unprecedented armored operations there, repeatedly attacking deep into refugee camps. Sharon appears to be preparing a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip to complement the reconquest of the West Bank last April.

Continuing Palestinian resistance in Gaza stands in the way of Sharon’s scheme to confine the Palestinians to small, disconnected apartheid-style Bantustans surrounded by hundreds of Israeli settlements. With the Bush administration poised to invade Iraq, Sharon has evidently calculated that the time is ripe to reoccupy Gaza, even if it provokes further suicide bombings, which his government can use as a pretext for even larger actions.

US complicity

Rachel Corrie went to Palestine, in part, because she strongly opposed the US war against Iraq and understood that Israeli aggression was likely to increase when the US attacked. In one of her last emails to her family, sent on February 7, she wrote:

“I’ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the ‘reoccupation of Gaza.’ Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region, then I hope they will start.

“People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and ‘problems for the government’ in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete Pollyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.”

Her message also expressed some of the horror and compassion that motivated her actions:

“I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States—something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons.”

Corrie’s friends and colleagues have been joined by Amnesty International in demanding an independent investigation into her death. After initially shrugging off the killing, the US State Department has cynically called for an Israeli government inquiry, but refused to condemn the incident. Likewise, the Israeli military has now promised an investigation, while still declaring in advance that Corrie’s death was not intentional.

Any inquiry conducted by Israeli military or civilian authorities will be a sham, conducted with the Bush administration’s connivance. A United Nations investigation would be no better, as last year’s cancellation of its inquiry into the Jenin refugee camp massacre demonstrates. Every crime carried out by the Israeli government has been whitewashed with Washington’s assistance.

Amnesty International and other international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have reported repeatedly on Israel’s use of lethal force without regard to civilian lives—its indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial executions and unwarranted destruction of civilian property by bulldozers and other equipment, resulting in deaths of innocent bystanders. The US State Department’s own Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002 confirmed many violations and cited US-supplied helicopters, fighter aircraft, anti-tank missiles and flechettes being used as weapons to commit human rights abuses.

The Sharon government’s atrocities can continue only because they have the backing, explicit or tacit, of the White House. Only a truly international tribunal, completely independent of Washington and other governments, can lay bare the truth of Rachel Corrie’s death and the Israeli regime’s record of war crimes.

Baghdad’s Night of Terror

By Robert Fisk, The Independent

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s main presidential palace, a great rampart of a building 20 stories high, simply exploded in front of me — a cauldron of fire, a 100ft sheet of flame and a sound that had my ears singing for an hour after. The entire, massively buttressed edifice shuddered under the impact. Then four more Cruise missiles came in.

It is the heaviest bombing Baghdad has suffered in more than 20 years of war. All across the city last night, massive explosions shook the ground. To my right, the Ministry of Armaments Procurement — a long colonnaded building looking much like the facade of the Pentagon — coughed fire as five missiles crashed into the concrete.

In an operation officially intended to create “shock and awe,” shock was hardly the word for it. The few Iraqis in the streets around me — no friends of Saddam I would suspect — cursed under their breath.

From high-rise buildings, shops and homes came the thunder of crashing glass as the shock waves swept across the Tigris River in both directions. Minute after minute the missiles came in. Many Iraqis had watched — as I had — television film of those ominous B-52 bombers taking off from Britain only six hours earlier. Like me, they had noted the time, added three hours for Iraqi time in front of London and guessed that, at around 9 p.m., the terror would begin. The B-52s, almost certainly firing from outside Iraqi airspace, were dead on time.

Police cars drove at speed through the streets, their loudspeakers ordering pedestrians to take shelter or hide under cover of tall buildings. Much good did it do. Crouching next to a block of shops on the opposite side of the river, I narrowly missed the shower of glass that came cascading down from the upper windows as the shock waves slammed into them.

Along the streets a few Iraqis could be seen staring from balconies, shards of broken glass around them. Each time one of the great golden bubbles of fire burst across the city, they ducked inside before the blast wave reached them. At one point, as I stood beneath the trees on the corniche, a wave of Cruise missiles passed low overhead, the shriek of their passage almost as devastating as the explosions that were to follow.

How, I ask myself, does one describe this outside the language of a military report, the definition of the color, the decibels of the explosions? When the Cruise missiles came in, it sounded as if someone was ripping to pieces huge curtains of silk in the sky and the blast waves became a kind of frightening counterpoint to the flames.

There is something anarchic about all human beings, about their reaction to violence. The Iraqis around me stood and watched, as I did, at huge tongues of flame bursting from the upper stories of Saddam’s palace, reaching high into the sky. Strangely, the electricity grid continued to operate and around us the traffic lights continued to move between red and green. Billboards moved in the breeze of the shock waves and floodlights continued to blaze on public buildings. Above us we could see the massive curtains of smoke beginning to move over Baghdad, white from the explosions, black from the burning targets.

How could one resist it? How could the Iraqis ever believe with their broken technology, their debilitating 12 years of sanctions, that they could defeat the computers of these missiles and of these aircraft? It was the same old story: Irresistible, unquestionable power.

Well yes, one could say, could one attack a more appropriate regime? But that is not quite the point. For the message of last night’s raid was the same as that of Thursday’s raid, that of all the raids in the hours to come: That the United States must be obeyed. That the EU, UN, NATO — nothing — must stand in its way.

No doubt this morning the Iraqi minister of information will address us all again and insist that Iraq will prevail. We shall see. But many Iraqis are now asking an obvious question: How many days? Not because they want the Americans or the British in Baghdad, though they may profoundly wish it. But because they want this violence to end: Which, when you think of it, is exactly why these raids took place.

Reports were coming in last night of civilians killed in the raids — which, given the intensity of the Cruise missile attacks — is not surprising. Another target turned out to be the vast Rashid military barracks, perhaps the largest in Iraq.

But the symbolic center of this raid was clearly intended to be Saddam’s main palace, with its villas, fountains, porticos and gardens. And, sure enough, the flames licking across the facade of the palace last night looked very much like a funeral pyre.

22 March 2003