Saturday, June 10, 2006

The massacre of Palestinian civilians continues unabated

While many Americans engage in what can best be described as a pagan bloodlust in the aftermath of the apparent death of Zarqawi (I say apparent, as we've been led down that road before) , the Israeli military has been up to its usual tricks:
Hamas ends ceasefire after Israeli attack kills family
Published: 10 June 2006

Israeli naval gunboats killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians yesterday and wounded about 40 others who were relaxing in the summer heat on a northern Gaza beach. Palestinian medical sources reported that the shelling wiped out the entire Ghalia family, including four children aged one, two, three and seven.

The military wing of Hamas responded by ending the fragile ceasefire it has maintained for the past 16 months. "We are going back to work, to fight," it said in a press statement. "The earth will shake in the Zionist cities. The only choice for these settlers will be to pack up and leave."

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, condemned the killings as a "bloody massacre", but the Hamas political leadership was slow to endorse its military wing's announcement.

Lt-Gen Dan Halutz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, suspended the shelling from land and sea, which had continued throughout the day in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire into the Negev. Four rockets fell there yesterday, damaging property but causing no casualties.

The army apologised for the incident, saying it "regretted the strike on innocent people". Maj-Gen Yoav Galant, the chief of southern command, ordered an investigation. "It is not our intention to harm innocent civilians," he said. One possibility, he suggested, was that a shell had strayed from its path. Israel was also checking whether the disaster was caused by what they call a "work accident" - a Palestinian bomb exploding prematurely.

But Maj-Gen Galant insisted that, despite the pause, the army would continue to do everything to defend its own civilians, who have come under incessant attack from Qassam rockets launched across the border from the Gaza Strip. Two sonic booms shook Gaza City later last night.

Amir Peretz, the Defence Minister, expressed his regret at the loss of civilian lives. "We don't seek to fight against the Palestinian people, only against terror," said the Labour Party leader, whose home town of Sderot has borne the brunt of the Qassam shelling.

Earlier yesterday, an Israeli air strike killed three gunmen. A military spokesman said they were hit minutes after firing a Qassam rocket into Israel. One was standing beside a car; the other two were trying to drive away. They were hit by a second missile.

Israeli forces had been alerted after Palestinian militants vowed to avenge Thursday night's killing of Jamal Abu Samhadana, who headed the Hamas government's security forces in the Gaza Strip and the umbrella Popular Resistance Committee. He was the first office-bearer assassinated by Israel since Hamas came to power in January.

More than 10,000 mourners attended the funeral of Mr Abu Samhadana, who died along with at least three other members of the resistance committee when warplanes hit a military training camp.

Abu Abir, a resistance committee spokesman, said the Israelis had "opened the gates of hell" by his assassination. "The Zionist entity and Zionist settlements near Gaza will not feel security and safety any more," he said. "Our rockets will rain into the Zionist entity and our heroes will blow themselves up among their dirty bodies."

Israel accused Mr Abu Samhadana of ordering many of the rocket attacks, which have pounded the Negev since Israel withdrew from Gaza last August. He is also suspected of masterminding a roadside bombing that killed three security men escorting an American embassy aid convoy in 2003.

Israeli naval gunboats killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians yesterday and wounded about 40 others who were relaxing in the summer heat on a northern Gaza beach. Palestinian medical sources reported that the shelling wiped out the entire Ghalia family, including four children aged one, two, three and seven.

The military wing of Hamas responded by ending the fragile ceasefire it has maintained for the past 16 months. "We are going back to work, to fight," it said in a press statement. "The earth will shake in the Zionist cities. The only choice for these settlers will be to pack up and leave."

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, condemned the killings as a "bloody massacre", but the Hamas political leadership was slow to endorse its military wing's announcement.
My emphasis added. The immediate question on my mind is why in the Hell were the Israelis bombing a beach where families were trying to chill out in the first place?

More via blogger Oui of Booman Tribune:
There was no immediate comment on Hamas's announcement from Israel or from Abbas, locked in a power struggle with the Islamists.
Palestinian officials said Israeli air strikes and artillery fire killed 10 Palestinians in Gaza, the highest Palestinian toll in a single day since 2004. Seven people, including five from the same family, were killed in what Palestinian officials said was Israeli shellfire from boats on to a crowded beach.
Among the dead were three children, aged 1, 3 and 10. Their sister, who had been swimming, survived. Twenty people were wounded. Covered in blood, children screamed as adults carried the wounded and dead from the sand.
In pictures: Gaza violence

Ten Palestinian civilians, including five children, died from shellfire as they were picnicking on a northern Gaza beach and 45 persons were wounded in the attack.

Somehow, an Israeli massacre of families is viewed by our State Department as "self defense". I suppose that's par for the course when we're dealing with settler nations that occupy much of their territory by force (as are both the US and Israel).

Journalist Christopher Brown has this to say:
The Palestinians are in the midst of a storm that continues to rain down on they’re lives. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert strode into Washington DC and addressed both houses of Congress declaring that: Unilateral Realignment is peace, the Israeli Occupation Army continued it’s unrelenting assault upon The Palestinians. As the storm clouds gathered over The West Bank and Gaza Strip, The Israeli version of raindrops, taking the form of tank shells, rubber bullets and live ammunition continued to flood The Occupied Territories.

Yet half way around the World, Olmert poured out empty rhetoric regarding his willingness to sit down and extend: “my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority.” All of this sounded so wonderful to assembled, masses of both houses as they stood and gave Olmert a standing ovation.

Yes, Olmert was more than willing to sit down and talk with Abbas, provided that the Palestinians “renounce terrorism, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and accept previous agreements and commitments, and recognize the right of Israel to exist.”

This constant refrain from Israel about the Hamas government not recognizing Israel’s right to exist is one they constantly hammer into the minds of the World. And they have a right to do this. I agree, that Hamas should recognize Israel’s right to exist. But what about Palestine’s right to exist? Why is this never brought up in any conversation regarding the subject of Israel/Palestine from the mouths of heads of State or their representatives? Why not demand that Israel abide by the Road Map (Road Block actually), international law, stop building settlements, end extra-judicial killings of “wanted terrorists”, and stop building the wall on Palestinian (excuse me disputed) land?

But of course, Olmert is willing to sit down and talk with Abbas. The man that the US and Israel favored to negotiate for the Palestinians. The man whose Fatah party was overwhelmingly voted out of power by the will of the Palestinian people on January 26th 2006 in a democratic election. The man who is now demanding that the Hamas led PA accept the referendum that he claims is based on a document that was drawn up by both Hamas and Fatah prisoners now sitting in Israeli jails, though no provision exists for a referendum in the Palestinian Constitution.

Israel’s watchword is “terrorism”; a word that plays well on the ears of US lawmakers. Israel claims they are more than willing to negotiate with the Palestinians if they renounce violence; that they are doing the things they are doing now for “Israel’s security”. But no amount of elaborate highways, security fences, demolition of homes, water rationing, limited freedom of movement, and sanctions are for security.

Let’s call this occupation for what it is; a land grab.

The flood is here and it is washing away any reminisce of Palestine.
Although the point of whether or not Palestinians even should recognize Israel is one that's debatable, to say the least. That said, Brown's words are as clear as anything one is likely to read from a fellow Westerner regarding the real nature of Israel's alleged "self defense." I suspect that if the Palestinians are aware of fate of our own continent's indigenous nations against the onslaught of European settlers, they know they're in for a long struggle to regain their land.

I'll close with a rant by Salunga that pretty well captures the gist of where I'm coming from:
How the fuck do you shell a beach full of people having a picnic by accident? This is outrageous...I am really sick of this shit and Israel needs to back off. They violate every truce and we back them up everytime on every atrocity. They reciprocate by backing us up when we start an illegal war and commit our own atrocities. A lot of fucking people are out of control right now and the governments of Israel and the United States need to get a grip and start acting humane and reasonable to the rest of the world.

I really cannot believe this has happened. If Hamas lifts one finger to retaliate, and believe me we will see those pictures live, Israel is going to lay a world of hurt on the long suffering Palestinian people. Its a setup for sure designed to enrage and get a showdown with Hamas. How much can one people take? Mercy Corps has front paged the Gaza crisis as it stands now. It will only get worse in the coming months. It might be a good time to send a little money. It might be a good time write congress and plead with them to think of the Palestinian children, women and men who are suffering at the hands of the Israelis. At least try to pretend they are not bought and paid for by AIPAC.

Palestine needs to be free of the occupation and free of all of the illegal settlements. Maybe just free to have a picnic without a boat load of psychopaths shelling you.
Doing the right thing means standing in solidarity with those who are being oppressed. It's a truism, perhaps, that if one person's oppressed we're all oppressed. Someone once told me that evil can be defined as a lack of empathy. So, here's a thought...before brushing aside news about massacred civilians, whether in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., put yourself in their shoes. It really isn't that hard to do.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Late week torture news roundup

From logistics to turning a blind eye: Europe's role in terror abductions. Damning verdict from human rights body. Evidence points to secret jails in Eastern Europe. There are a number of governments' leaders who have some 'splainin' to do to their people. Just a clip:
Mr Marty says that while Spain, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus have provided staging posts for rendition operations, Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, and Macedonia have all allowed the rendition of their residents from their soil. He accuses the latter of covering up its involvement in the CIA rendition of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, to Afghanistan, after he arrived in Macedonia in January 2004. Britain - like Ireland, Portugal, and Greece - is described as providing stopovers for CIA planes, but the greatest criticisms levelled against London are about the handing over of information about its residents and former residents that has, says Mr Marty, led to renditions and torture. For instance, information about a former London student, Benyam Mohammed, 27, is alleged to have been used during his torture in Morocco, where he was taken following his arrest in Pakistan.

Finally, Mr Marty alleges there is enough concrete evidence, mainly consisting of flight data, to support suspicions that Romania and Poland have allowed the operation of secret CIA detention centres on their soil, despite official denials.
Lenin's Tomb has this to say by way of commentary:
However, because the report has firmly stipulated that the fourteen European countries that colluded in this were fully aware of what was taking place - were not dupes, in other words - the response has been curiously defensive. Blair says that the report has "added absolutely nothing new whatever to the information we have". This wording suggests that the report was somehow supposed to augment the information available to Mr Blair himself, as if he is entitled to grade the report for how useful it has been to him. I'm sure, however, that he was already fully aware of what he was up to. No one has accused him of being a somnambulist. What he has been accused of is allowing the CIA to anchor an important limb in its torture circuit in the UK, and of being complicit in the slicing of Benyam Mohammed's penis.
My emphasis added. The story of the involvement of a number of European nations' involvement in aiding and abetting the US government in its efforts to round up new victims for torture.

We also have an LA Times story that touches on the involvement of psychologists and physicians in the torture that has occurred at Guantánamo Bay. The role of health professionals from physicians to psychologists in the human rights abuses committed at Gitmo should be pretty well-known by this time. In fact, there has been quite a lively discussion to be found in a number of medical and psychological journals (some of which is presented in the excellent Crimes of War: Iraq, edited by Falk, Gendzier & Lifton) regarding the role that the various helping professionals are playing and should play. One of the organizations I belong to, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (or SPSSI) has been pushing the American Psychological Association to draw up more stringent ethical guidelines in order to preclude any possibility of even indirect involvement in such abuses. I doubt much will come of SPSSI's efforts if for no other reason than that American psychology has long been militarized and indeed has a lengthy history of collaborating with the CIA in researching and developing the torture techniques currently in use by our government (I am in the process of preparing a book review on Alfred McCoy's latest book, A Question of Torture, which delves into this ugly chapter in psychology's history).

Spiderleaf at My Left Wing has a summary of Amnesty International's latest ad campaign in Switzerland ("It's not happening here but it's happening now"). Definitely worth checking out. Make sure to give AI some well-deserved props.

Just like the Bible sez, the truth will be made known. Count on it.

DATELINE - Abu Ghraib Torturers Expose US Government Direct Torture Orders

Via Le Thé Chez Vierotchka. If you already hadn't seen this one before, it's worth watching. From an Australian news show called "Dateline."

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Quotable: Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos Edition

"there's nothin' in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

- David Van Os
Nerdified Link.

The US Government's War Against Its Own People

Well, it's a psy-ops war, to be precise. David Neiwert breaks it down for us. Here's a couple grafs that he quotes from Craig Unger:
For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success—specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.


By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, in March 2003, this apparent black-propaganda operation had helped convince more than 90 percent of the American people that a brutal dictator was developing W.M.D.—and had led us into war.
Then from one of his own earlier posts:
We have in fact known from even before the outset that the war against Iraq would prominently feature psychological warfare. Most people have assumed that this warfare would be directed against the enemy and the subject citizens. They have not stopped to consider that, by definition, it would also be directed toward the American public as well.

This reality raises a serious concern about the fragility of democracy during wartime. Because under the aegis of a seemingly eternal war, the American government has clearly been involving the public in its psychological combat, and has hijacked the nation's press in the process. The entire meaning of the Iraq war -- and by extension, the "war on terrorism" -- is inextricably bound up in the psychological manipulation of the voting public through a relentless barrage of propaganda.

This is why the both the runup to the war and its subsequent mishandling have been so replete with highly symbolic media events -- many of them played repeatedly on nightly newscasts -- that have proven so hollow at their core, from the declarations of imminent threat from Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, to phony images of Saddam's statue being torn down, to flyboy antics aboard airline carriers, to meaningless "handovers" of power. It also explains why certain important and humanizing symbols of wartime -- civilian casualties, the returning flag-draped coffins -- have been so notably absent from our views of the war.

The role of the media in this manipulation cannot be understated. The abdication of the media's role as an independent watchdog and its whole subsumation as a propaganda organ bodes ill for any democracy, because a well-informed public is vital to its functioning.

But the fact that the military establishment, in the context of the "war on terror," clearly views the American public as the subject of a psychological combat operation should give us all pause regarding the ability of democracy to withstand this kind of assault.
I'll leave you with Neiwert's conclusion, which is well worth discussion:
The key to all of this, of course, is the behavior of the media, its reliance on storylines, and the dissemination of the information, all of which reflect an elitist, top-down model of communications. I think it's easy to predict that Unger's revelations will receive less discussion on the airwaves than the "immigration debate" and Bill and Hill's sex life, because it doesn't fit readily into the well-established storyline that the Bush administration is "well meaning."

Which leaves it up to us Webfolk to start talking about it.
I'll go so far as to say from the get-go that whether or not Bu$hCo is "well-meaning" is completely irrelevant. Let's instead consider the actual policies put into practice by this bunch and the consequences of those policies - the real human toll that has been taken. That despots feel the need to use psy-ops against their own populations is not terribly surprising. If the public were to be aware of what was being done in their name, there'd be some serious hell to pay. The dirty little secret of any tyrant is that the tyrant needs us far more than we need the tyrant. Propaganda efforts fill the bill by wrapping up some half-truths and damned lies in the holy cloth of God and Country, and the so-called "noble intentions" of the rulers. To the extent that those efforts succeed, the tyrants can breathe easily. It's when we find ways to see through the b.s., when the truth hits the fan, that they have to start worrying.

Quotable, MLK:

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thus begins the latest article by Mickey Z, America, Land of Denial: What we missed while the Yankees played the Red Sox. Makes for an interesting street-level alternative history lesson and critique of contemporary American culture. Don't miss it.

Here we go again: Brownshirt Barbie sez

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much."
Via Crooks and Liars. Never mind that Matt Lauer is to hard journalism what quiche is to truckstop cuisine. Why in the hell do news outlets continue to give a forum to hatemongers like Coulter? In a civilized nation, someone like Coulter would be shrieking incoherent obscenities within the confines of an isolated compound, where she could shoot at cacti that she's mistaken for terrorists without doing much damage (except perhaps to the local desert flora). Instead, she's a celebrity whose fascist rantings get treated as "mainstream". I do need to give the crew at Crooks and Liars props for wading through the weekday morning newsdrivel - I'd need more antacids than are fit for human consumption if I bothered.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006


Today's the big day. Some Throbbing Gristle Lyrics for the occasion:
I am one of the injured
A tear blurs flesh
Like an injured dog
Like wasted limbs
Get smaller
Pain is the stimulus of pain
But then of course nothing is cured
This is the world now
Move a fin and the world turns
Sit in a chair and pictures change
Try to eat us
And get trapped
Or injured
From the album 20 Jazz Funk Greats (a title that of course manages to not describe the music at all!).

What Solidarity Looks Like

Read more here.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Army Manual to Skip Geneva Detainee Rule

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

The decision could culminate a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department fiercely opposes the military's decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the Defense Department officials acknowledged.
Nerdified Link.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, this is precisely the sort of distal influence that makes atrocities such as torture more likely. Rather than speak of a few "bad apples" when discussing the torture that has occurred at various US-run prisons (think Abu Ghraib & Guantánamo Bay), we need to view the violence of torture at the organization level of analysis. The decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections is an organizational decision that will have a profound effect on what happens in these prisons. Of course the basic organization Zeitgeist from the White House on down had been favorable to such human rights abuses from the get-go, and has already led to the numerous reported incidents of torture of which we are currently aware. The above appears to merely further codify what was already accepted SOP. It goes without saying that the timing, given that we now live in the shadow of Abu Ghraib, is in and of itself quite telling. This government appears to assume that it can operate outside of the constraints of international law with impunity. Given the dearth of American outrage over the abuses that have already occurred in our names, such impunity is to be expected.

On a somewhat related note: Michael Moore has plenty to say on the abominations of war.

Monday Open Thread

The clip features Pharoah Sanders, one of my favorite jazzers, from what is apparently a live gig at Viersen Germany, Sept. 25, 2004.

This open thread inspired by Chris at Booman Tribune, who's been linking to some great jazz video/film footage over the last couple weeks (if you dig Trane, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy you owe it to yourself to check out what Chris has to offer).

Say Hello To

Worldwide Sawdust.

I'll have more to say about Bob Higgins' blog later, but suffice it to say, it's very nicely laid out, and summarizes much of what is going on in America and around the world from what can easily be described as a progressive/liberal perspective.

Lieberman as "Average Joe"?

Meanwhile, in ads and public statements, Lieberman portrays himself as Regular Joe, a fighter for the little guy, in touch with blue-state Connecticut and mainstream Democrats on all issues except Iraq.

And somehow we - not just Lieberman - keep a straight face, as if he hadn't just spent 18 years helping Republicans hijack the Constitution and pick on little guy after little guy.
Nerdified Link. The whole article is rather damning - for Joe Lieberman (just to give you the flavor):
I had forgotten how he played the leading role in 1993 to thwart Democrats who tried to close loopholes allowing companies to cook the books on millions of dollars of stock options. Thus began the regulatory abandonment that spawned Enron and its sibling rip-offs.

I had forgotten how that same year, Lieberman joined with Republican Sen. Alphonse M. D'Amato of New York and against Democrats to "work the cloakrooms" of the Senate, in the words of a news account, to "line up unanimous support so that a tax break eagerly sought by the real estate industry could be passed without senators having to vote on the record."

How many Connecticut Democrats remember that their senator was one of only two Democrats who voted with Republicans in 1995 to kill a lobbyist-gift ban? Or that he called affirmative action "un-American?" Or that in August 1994 he voted in favor of a proposal by Republican Jesse Helms to cut off all federal money from schools that offer counseling to suicidal gay teens by referring them to gay support groups or in any way suggesting it's OK to be gay?

Or that Gov. John Rowland and Lieberman had the same fundraiser, Michael Lewan, raising the same campaign cash from the same fat cats, because, as Lewan told the Courant, "they're two like-minded guys?"

Did most Connecticut Democrats even know that Lieberman helped Lynne Cheney found a McCarthy-style group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which hounded liberal university professors for criticizing American foreign policy, including the president of Wesleyan University?

No wonder Lieberman could vote to confirm an attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who wrote the legal opinion excusing torture. Most recently, Gonzalez threatened to start prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information in order to silence government critics. But that was weeks ago. The new Fightin' Joe is on our side. A real Democrat.
Hopefully the residents of Connecticut take advantage of the opportunity to send the dude packing.

Shorter GOP

"When in doubt, appeal to hatred to get the vote out."

See Politics of the Altar.