Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mario Cuomo On HardBall

This guy is so on the money when it comes to the Democratic cowardice over possible action against Iran.



The Fallen

Moyers looks at the seven soldiers who wrote the infamous New York Times oped and praises their service. Especially as three of them have died since writing that piece.



Cameron meltdown as public urge early vote

David Cameron is insisting that he is still the man to take on Gordon Brown, but the sheer scale of the mountain that he still has to climb has been made apparent by all the recent opinion polls.

An Observer poll that shows the Tory leader trailing badly on nearly every indicator of public opinion. The poll also shows that voters overwhelmingly back a general election within the next year, with the largest number, nearly 40 per cent, wanting a poll within weeks.

Gordon Brown, who is expected to wait at least another week before deciding whether to call a snap election, will face intense pressure to go to the country after the Ipsos MORI poll found that 70 per cent of people want an election by spring. The biggest group of voters - 39 per cent - would like an autumn election, echoing younger members of the cabinet who want Brown to take the biggest gamble of his life and announce a November election when the Commons returns next week. Just under a third (31 per cent) want the election to be held by spring, with only a few (18 per cent) saying he should wait until 2009 or 2010.

Obviously, Brown will wait until after this weeks Tory Party conference in order to gauge how much damage has actually been done to Cameron's stock before he makes his final decision.

Brown is well aware of the Labour Party's history and will well remember Callaghan refusing to call a general election, thinking his chances would be better in the spring, only for the country to be hit by the winter of discontent; it was a mistake by Callaghan that threw Labour into the political wilderness for eighteen years.

All the indicators are that Brown is favoured by the public in all areas which matter:

Labour enjoys a seven-point lead over the Tories. Labour is on 41 per cent, the Conservatives on 34 per cent and the Lib Dems on 16 per cent. Labour's lead in today's poll is lower than its double-digit margin in some polls this weekend; however this will not alarm Brown, whose private polls are closer to Ipsos MORI's figures.

Brown is regarded as best able to handle a crisis by 60 per cent of voters, compared with 13 per cent for Cameron and 9 per cent for Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell. The Prime Minister even leads on the crisis issue among Tory supporters - by 37 per cent to 32 per cent.

Brown leads the most united team, according to 54 per cent of those asked. Cameron scores 12 per cent and Campbell scores 10 per cent.

Cameron falls behind Brown on one of the defining issues of his leadership. Just over a third of voters (34 per cent) say that Brown is best able to deal with the environment, compared with 22 per cent for Cameron and 17 per cent for Campbell.

Voters are also in no doubt that Labour is on course for victory at the next general election. More than two thirds (71 per cent) believe Labour will win a majority, with a mere 12 per cent believing Tories will win. Only 29 per cent of Tories think they will win the next election, and nearly half of Conservatives (48 per cent) think Labour will win.

I also think that these figures might make Cameron's conference even more difficult for him than it already is. The Conservative Party are already unhappy that Cameron is taking them in a direction that they don't want to go in, but they will be asking why they are going in that direction once they see that the figures don't imply that Cameron's strategy is working.

Of course, I happen to think that Cameron's figures are slipping because - every time it really matters - he caves in to his base and reverses policy that he has defined as critical to the party he wants to build.

Because of this he is not seen as leading his party.

Asked whether he was ready for an election, he replied: 'You bet.'

Cameron added: 'This is going to be the week when the Conservative Party fights back. We are going to be setting out an absolutely clear and compelling alternative to this government.'

The early success which Cameron enjoyed was based on never actually being specific about policy, which allowed him to be all things to all people. It is when he states what his policies are to be that his problems begin.

He is implying that this week he intends to set out "absolutely clear and compelling" policy.

If that's actually the case, then Cameron may very well end this week in a worse position than he starts it.

Click title for full article.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bill Clinton slams Republicans over “feigned outrage” on MoveOn.org Ad

Clinton, as always, has these buggers sussed. The hypocrisy of the Republicans over the MoveOn advert really was quite something.



The Spanish Downing Street Memo...

After the release of the Downing Street memo, we now have the Spanish version!

El Pais are reporting of a private talk between President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on February 22, 2003, concerning the coming U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The conversation took place on the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.

Bush purportedly said he planned to invade Iraq in March "if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution or not....We have to get rid of Saddam. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March."

He said the U.S. takeover would happen without widespread destruction. He observed that he was willing to play bad cop to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's good cop.

Aznar pleaded for patience and replied that it was vital to get a U.N. resolution, noting that public opinion in Spain was strongly against the war.
How many times does this have to be reported before people accept that Bush's approach to the UN was nothing more than a sham? It was always an action taken to placate Blair and Aznar's home audience and was never going to have any effect on what the Bush administration actually did.

Bush was always going to invade, no matter what.

Whilst awaiting a more accurate translation, this is the very rough translation given by Google:
BUSH: Saddam Husein will not change and will continue playing. The moment has arrived for undoing of him. It is thus. I, as for me, will from now on try to use the possible subtlest rhetoric, while we looked for the approval of the resolution....Saddam Hussein is not being disarmed. We must take to him right now. We have shown an incredible degree of patience until now. They are left two weeks. In two weeks we will be militarily ready. I believe that we will obtain the second resolution.... We will be in Bagdad at the end of March. A 15% of possibilities that exist then Saddam Hussein is dead or has gone away...

We would like to act with the mandate of the United Nations. If we acted militarily we will do it with high accuracy and focusing much our objectives. We will decimate the loyal troops and the regular army quickly will know which it is.... We are developing a package of humanitarian aid very hard. We can win without destruction. We are raising Iraq already post Sadam, and I believe that there are good bases for a future better. Iraq relatively hard has a good bureaucracy and a civil society. It would be possible to be organized in a federation. Meanwhile we are doing all the possible one to take care of the necessities political of our friends and allies.

AZNAR: It is very important to count on a resolution. ... The next Wednesday [16 of February] I see myself with Chirac. The resolution already will have begun to circulate.

BUSH: It seems to me very well. Chirac knows the reality perfectly. Their intelligence services have explained it. The Arabs are transmitting him to Chirac a very clear message: Sadam Hussein must go away. The problem is that Chirac is created Mister Arab and in fact the life is making them impossible. But I do not want to have no rivalry with Chirac....

This is as the Chinese torture of the water. We must end it.

AZNAR: I agree, but it would be good for counting on the maximum number of possible people. Then a little patience.

BUSH: My patience is exhausted. I do not think to go beyond half of March.

[Saddam] is a thief, a terrorist, a criminal military. Compared with Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa. When we enter we are going to discover many more crimes and we will take to the Court the International to him of Justice of Is It. Saddam Hussein thinks that already it has escaped. Think that France and Germany have stopped the process of their responsibilities....

AZNAR: In fact the greater success would be to gain the game without shooting a single shot and entering Bagdad.

BUSH: For me it would be the perfect solution. I do not want the war. I know what they are, the wars. I know the destruction and the death that bring with himself. I am the one that she has to console to the mothers and the widows of deads. By all means, for us that would be the best solution...

AZNAR: We needed that you help us with our public opinion....

BUSH: When within years History judges us I do not want that people ask themselves so that Bush, or Aznar, or Blair did not face their responsibilities. In the end, which people wants is to enjoy freedom. ..

AZNAR: The only thing which it worries to me about you is your optimism.

BUSH: I am optimistic because I believe that I am in the certain thing. I am peacefully with me same.
It is a very rough translation, but you get the gist. Bush was always going in and his optimism even worried his allies, like Aznar. Bush also appears to believe that a post-Saddam Iraq can be structured using the existing bureaucracy and civil society to create "a federation".

Which makes the subsequent de-Ba'athification of Iraq all the more puzzling.

However, yet again, we have Bush insisting that, no matter what the United Nations decides, he intends to be in Baghdad in March.

Click title for full article.

Shootings by Blackwater Exceed Other Firms in Iraq

As the Iraqi government complain about the actions of Blackwater in their country, the US state department has released figures which clearly show that Blackwater USA have been involved in a far higher share of shootings than other security teams offering similar security.

Blackwater has actually been involved in twice as many shooting incidents as other companies working in Iraq to provide security.

The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq. Officials familiar with the internal State Department reports would not provide the actual statistics, but they indicated that the records showed that Blackwater personnel were involved in dozens of episodes in which they had resorted to force.

The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq.

Blackwater are refusing to provide any sort of data of incidents in which their personnel have opened fire.

“The incident rate for Blackwater is higher, there is a distinction,” said a senior American government official who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss a delicate, continuing investigation. “The real question that is open for discussion is why.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman declined to comment.

Blackwater, based in North Carolina, has gained a reputation among Iraqis and even among American military personnel serving in Iraq as a company that flaunts an aggressive, quick-draw image that leads its security personnel to take excessively violent actions to protect the people they are paid to guard. After the latest shooting, the Iraqi government demanded that the company be banned from operating in the country.

“You can find any number of people, particularly in uniform, who will tell you that they do see Blackwater as a company that promotes a much more aggressive response to things than other main contractors do,” a senior American official said.

There are some who argue that Blackwater operate in some of the most violent parts of Iraq, which they say explain it's very high shooting rate, although there are even American officials who say that they think the shooting rate reflects a corporate culture which encourages excessive behaviour: “Is it the operating environment or something specific about Blackwater?” asked one government official. “My best guess is that it is both.”

Some now find Blackwater's behaviour counterproductive to American efforts to gain support from Iraqis for their military effort in that country.

“They’re repeat offenders, and yet they continue to prosper in Iraq,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who has been broadly critical of the role of contractors in Iraq. “It’s really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to them and there are no rules of the game for them.”

Blackwater still have an unusually close relationship to the Bush administration, with Mr Prince - Blackwaters owner and founder - having hired J. Cofer Black, the former counterterrorism chief at the C.I.A. and State Department, as vice chairman at Blackwater.

The Maliki regime recently called for Blackwater to stop operating in Iraq. Blackwater, like other mercenaries operating in Iraq, do so with immunity from prosecution.

It says a lot about how much power the Iraqi government actually possesses that Blackwater continue to operate in Iraq, albeit on a reduced scale. Surely an independent Iraqi government would be able to expel such a company and that this would simply happen? The fact that it hasn't undermines Bush's claims that Maliki is really in charge.

Click title for full article.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Myanmar Protests

YouTube and modern technology are enabling the Burmese to highlight the level of protest taking place there. With the news that the army have started firing tear gas, it feels appropriate to show this.





Bill O'Reilly: "M-F-er, I want more Iced Tea!"

It's fascinating. O'Reilly is actually trying to be complimentary whilst he is, in reality, engaging in velvet glove racism.



Miliband: We have alienated millions of Muslims over Iraq

David Miliband has had an attack of honesty and admitted that the attack on Iraq has alienated millions of Muslims towards the UK/US policy.

In a frank speech, he also admitted there could be no military solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the government had found it hard to win peace in such countries. He repeatedly said the government needed to learn lessons as it launched a second wave of foreign policy in which there would be greater reliance on stronger multilateral institutions. He also called for all Iraq's neighbours, including Syria and Iran, to be involved in negotiations on the future of Iraq, a position the Bush administration has opposed. He warned if such countries were not involved there was a serious danger that Sunni-Shia sectarian war in Iraq could spread throughout the Middle East.
Miliband would not have been allowed to make this speech without the approval of Gordon Brown, so we can take this as a message from Downing Street that the British position is changing.
"Whatever the rights and wrongs - and there have been both - we have got to focus on the future. We need to continue to support the development of an effective Iraqi security force. We need to keep our promise to all Iraqis that they will have an economic stake in the future of the country. And we need to work with all the neighbours of Iraq to reconcile Sunni and Shia to prevent the conflict first fragmenting the country and then spreading like a contagion across the Middle East."
So, we now have Downing Street openly calling for the inclusion of Syria and Iran in any Iraqi solution, a policy which the White House are vehemently opposed to. Indeed, Miliband has gone far enough to state that, despite the "surge", that the US military solution not only is not working, but that it cannot work.
"While we have won the wars, it has been harder to win the peace. The lesson is that while there are military victories there is never a military solution. There's only military action that creates the space for economic and political life."
Bush's allies are now openly fracturing around him and proposing policies which he has expressly ruled out, despite these policies having been recommended to him him by the bipartisan Baker report.

It is becoming quite clear that the British position, under Brown, is totally different from the position held under Blair, who basically believed that - for cohesion - the British should adopt whatever position Bush held.

Brown first withdrew British troops from Basra Palace and now is sending out Miliband to make the case that the current US policy is not working.
"I met young, educated, articulate people in their 20s and 30s who told me millions of Muslims around the world think we're not seeking to empower them, but to dominate them. So we have to stop and think.
Indeed. Bush will, of course, pay no attention as he is no longer even interested in victory. In his heart even he must know that this intervention is a failure, and his greatest ambition now is to pass this monumental failing to the next US administration.

Click title for full article.

President defies UN by declaring nuclear debate closed

Iran's President Ahmadinejad has declared that the debate over Iran's nuclear programme is over - which is surely a case of wishful thinking on his part - and said that the UN has been hijacked by major powers to pursue their own interests.

"In the last two years, abusing the security council, the arrogant powers have repeatedly accused Iran and even made military threats and imposed illegal sanctions against it," the Iranian leader said.

He praised the IAEA, with which Iran agreed last month to answer unresolved questions about its past nuclear activities. He said that attempts to politicise the issue had failed in the face of Iranian resistance, adding: "I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary agency matter."

Ahmadinejad is, of course, correct. The Bush regime's threats to act outside of international law has forced many country's to go along with American sanctions against Iran as they regard this as preferable to the alternative. In this way, Bush's tactics have actually been successful, in much the same way as his threats to attack Iraq without a "permission slip" led to the UN passing of 1441.

The security council is to consider further sanctions against Iran this Friday, although the Germans are already accusing France and the USA of hypocrisy over the subject of Iranian sanctions.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the economics department of the German Foreign Ministry has collected revealing data which Steinmeier will use to back up his argument against EU sanctions.

Several French companies in the automobile, energy and financial sectors - including Peugeot, Renault, Total, BNP Paribas and Societé Générale - have hardly reduced the level of business they do with Iran, according to the Foreign Ministry data. German exports to Iran, in contrast, have dramatically declined.

Even more explosive is the data that reveals US hypocrisy over sanctions. The German Foreign Ministry accuses American firms of bypassing the boycott against Iran, which has been in place since 1979, by creating front companies in Dubai to carry out their business. German politicians have long internally accused the United States of knowingly tolerating the practice.

Ahmadinejad is making his case in New York at the very time that it is being revealed that Dick Cheney had urged Israel to attack Iran in the hope that an Iranian response would give the US the excuse it needed to launch an attack of it's own against Tehran's suspected nuclear sites.

And, of course, the new French President is continuing to make himself the new Tony Blair by making Bush's case for him:

President Sarkozy said that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world". "There will not be peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of the proliferation of nuclear arms," he said.

Sarkozy says all this with no proof whatsoever that Iran are even pursuing a nuclear weapon programme and with Iranian President Ahmadinejad going as far as labeling those who pursue such weapons as "retarded".

So, Ahmadinejad is being provocative when he declares concern about this matter to be "over". The Israelis and the US still want his head and the new French President is anxious to prove his loyalty to the lame duck Bush administration, so we can expect further sanctions against Iran come Friday, especially as many US and French companies have already found a way around those sanctions.

After all, the point of the sanctions isn't to harm the profits of US multinationals, it is to prepare the American public for a possible attack on Iran.

Click title for full article.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The US media and Ahmadinejad.

There appears to be a rule in the US media that if the government have decided that a certain person is to be treated as as America's latest enemy then no-one is allowed to have any contact with this person without first proving their credentials by setting out to make the point that they accept without doubt the way the person has been portrayed by the Bush administration.

It is apparent in every word of Scott Pelley's interview with Ahmadinejad, where Pelley started from the premise that every allegation made by the Bush administration was simply an indisputable fact:

PELLEY: Mr. President, you say that the two nations are very close to one another, but it is an established fact now that Iranian bombs and Iranian know-how are killing Americans in Iraq. You have American blood on your hands. Why?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, this is what the American officials are saying. Again, American officials wherever around the world that they encounter a problem which they fail to resolve, instead of accepting that, they prefer to accuse others.
This same theme was picked up by Lee C. Bollinger, president of New York's Columbia University who, having invited Ahmadinejad as a guest, felt he had to prove his credentials by resorting to outright insult of the man he had invited to address his students.

He referred to Ahmadinejad as someone who exhibited "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator" and called him either “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.”

For Ahmadinejad to be a dictator he would have to have absolute power in Iran and, as Ahmadinejad isn't actually the man in charge in Iran, Bollinger's accusation came across as petty and mean spirited.

But Bollinger was out to prove to the US press pack that he loathed his guest as much as they did.
"I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes what you say and do.”

“Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for,” Mr. Bollinger told Mr. Ahmadinejad. “I only wish I could do better.”

The auditorium erupted in thunderous applause.

I watched the event live on C-Span and thought, with the exception of a ridiculous claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran, that Ahmadinejad won the battle on points.

He certainly made all the points that he might have wished to make before arriving at the university, if the points he wanted to make were to undermine the Bush regime's claims that he is out to develop a nuclear weapon.

Ahmadinejad countered Bollinger's speech and certainly won over some parts of the room:

Mr. Ahmadinejad began: “At the outset, I want to complain a bit about the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims…”

The room erupted in applause.

He then, during a question and answer session, addressed whether or not his country was attempting to obtain a nuclear bomb.

He said, some “two or three” world powers want to “monopolize all science or knowledge” and “they expect the Iranian nation to turn to others for fuel, science and knowledge that are indigenous to itself” and “to humble itself.”

He asked of the United States: “If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and tested them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of others who want nuclear power? We don’t believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.”

He added that politicians interested in nuclear weapons “are backward, retarded.”

And the central theme of the hypocrisy of the United States - who have ignored the NNPT by developing a new range of bunker busting nuclear weapons - whilst demanding that he desist from enriching uranium, which is his right under the NNPT, is certainly a powerful one.

He also made a claim which I have not heard before and will have to do some research on. He claimed that Iran would not enrich uranium above 5%, which I presume means they will enrich below the level needed for a bomb.

He certainly did not come across as someone displaying a "fanatical mindset" and even ended his session by inviting all of the students to visit Iran and to go and see a university of their choice.

What was fascinating about both Bollinger and Pelley's style of approaching Ahmadinejad is that, had the US media been a fraction as aggressive as this in pursuing the truth from US politicians before the invasion of Iraq, then the US would possibly not be in the quagmire it currently finds itself in in the Middle East.

However, once again, the aggression is used to shore up the administration's claims, to accept the rhetoric of an administration of proven liars as if it were fact, and to approach anyone who questions what the neo-cons are claiming as people exhibiting a "fanatical mindset".

Ahmadinejad, despite the fact he's not actually in charge of Iran, must be treated by all as the new Hitler. That's the only way within the American system that you can be seen to be "fair and balanced".

Click title for full article.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blackwater Road Massacre

At a time when Maliki is insisting that action be taken against Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq, this video shows what is purported to be Blackwater personnel taking pot shots at any car which comes up behind them. If this video is real, then what we are watching is truly shocking, and it demands that the amnesty given to civilian contractors must be withdrawn immediately.



Iranian president uses TV interview to deny rush to war with US

The American right wing like nothing more than a manufactured outrage, and they have been indulging themselves spectacularly this week with the news that Ahmadinejad wanted to visit the site of Ground Zero.

They have succeeded in preventing this man - who not even the most fervent right winger would claim was responsible for 9-11 - from paying his respects at the site of the World Trade Centre attacks, but he's touched down stateside anyway to address the UN.

He is also to address a forum at New York's Columbia University, an event which has had people like Bill O'Reilly in his usual state of tizzy. It's got Bill so upset that he's even gone as far as to say that he's "tired of free speech".

Now, O'Reilly seems to be lamenting the fact that when Ahmadinejad visits New York's Colombia University he will be facing an audience with the power of free speech that Bill has grown so "tired" of, unlike when he is at home in Iran. This audience will be able to ask him anything. Surely this is a good thing?

At a time when right wing nutters like John Bolton are salivating at the prospect of the US attacking Iran, surely it is valid to hear what the Iranian leader has to say?

I suspect the Billo's of this world worry that Ahmadinejad stating his case publicly and answering questions from students might in some way hinder their glorious rush to war against Iran, a war which everyone but themselves feels sure would be disastrous.

The right wing frothers are claiming that Columbia University are giving Ahmadinejad a soapbox, a point which Alternet have challenged:

Moreover, Columbia's invitation to Ahmadinejad not only shows the world the importance of free speech, but also demonstrates what free speech means. Free speech does not simply allow individuals to express their views. It also forces them to defend and validate those views.

Those who oppose Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia argue that we are giving him a soapbox. Ahmadinejad is clearly not challenged for venues in which he can promote his twisted ideology. His ability to spread his heinous views is evidenced by the fact that Americans are well aware of these positions. If we didn't let him speak here, he could just as easily spread hate from Iran. The difference in bringing him to Columbia is that we will have the opportunity to challenge his claims, whereas we can only cringe when he speaks from Iran. What Columbia has chosen to do is to put him in a context where he cannot take advantage of the bully pulpit, where he must defend his actions to students and academics, where, for once, he is in a conversation rather than a monologue.

I suspect that certain right wingers are not remotely interested in dialogue, which is why they object so strenuously to Ahmadinejad being given this opportunity to state his case.

They have created their own reality in which Ahmadinejad has stated a desire to destroy Israel, despite the fact that he actually said no such thing, and the more we hear what he actually has to say the more the likelihood of war may rescind itself. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that people like O'Reilly are tiring of free speech.

They are not interested in the truth, they are welded to a series of talking points which they have been fed by Cheney and Fox News and they are anxious that no information should ever be allowed to surface which may challenge their presumptions.

Ahmadinejad's opening remarks on American soil must already have enraged the war mongers:
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said yesterday there was "no war in the offing" between his country and the United States.

He told the CBS programme 60 Minutes: "It's wrong to think that Iran and the US are walking toward war. Who says so? Why should we go to war? There is no war in the offing."

Likewise, his statements regarding Iran's nuclear intentions:
At the beginning of a week in which and he and George Bush will deliver competing speeches to the UN in the battle for international support, he repeated a longstanding denial of accusations that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, asking: "What need do we have for a bomb?"
By facing the university forum Ahmadinejad will be forced to publicly state his views on Israel and his bizarre views of the Holocaust. He will be able to be challenged. Facts will be presented to him, which he will either accept or deny. And, at the end of it all, the public will have a better idea of this man who some on the right proclaim as the new Hitler.

If he is as evil as the right wing frothers are claiming him to be, why do they fear us being able to hear him speak and make up our own minds?

I suspect it's because they fear that, when we hear this man speak, he might undermine their arguments for war. And it is for that reason alone that they want him silenced.

Click title for full article.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Israel claim Syria had nuclear materials.

There is a rather startling report in today's London Times which claims that Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month.

The report quotes unnamed "informed sources" within Washington and Jerusalem. One would think that if Israel actually had such concrete proof of Syria and North Korea colluding in such material that they would not be relying on anonymous "informed sources" to let us know what was actually going on and would be holding press conferences to show the world why they had behaved in the way that they have.

The very fact that we have to rely on such sources makes me very suspicious that we are actually being fed a line here. The Israeli government, with the exception of Bibi, have gone uncharacteristically quiet on this subject and appear happy to let "informed sources" carry the company line whilst offering no proof to back up these assertions.

Meanwhile at United Nations, Tehran upped the ante by calling for UN inspectors to be sent into Israel to check for nuclear weapons:

Iranian delegate Ail Asghar Soltanieh _ like Arab delegates before him _ said Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had acknowledged last year that his country possessed nuclear weapons _ something Olmert says he never did.

Soltanieh also criticized "the continuous silence of the U.S. ... vis a vis the atrocities, aggression, bloodshed and violations of over 30 resolutions of the United Nations.''

That, he said, is "shameful and (a) dark point in the history of the United Nations, and the IAEA and the modern century at large.''

In turn, Israeli delegate Israel Michaeli alluded to claims that Olmert acknowledged Israel's nuclear weapons, saying, some previous speakers "continued to lie.''

"Those who call for the elimination of Israel have no moral standing when they criticize Israeli policies aimed at defending Israel's very existence,'' Michaeli said.

Soltanieh, in response, challenged the IAEA to send its inspectors into the country "to verify who is telling the truth.''

And, of course, the US approved "nuclear ambiguity" of the Israelis points up the hypocrisy of the US/Israeli horror at other nations in the Middle East attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.

And Israel Michaeli's claims that people are lying when they state that Olmert admitted that Israel was a nuclear power, really is asking that we suspend all disbelief. Here is what Olmert said:

"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as France, America, Russia and Israel?"

Of course, Tehran's demands that Israel be subject to the same level of nuclear inspections as we demand of them will be deemed irresponsible talk. The blather of madmen.

However, the whole argument about Tehran's wish to acquire a nuclear weapon cannot seriously be resolved until we decide whether or not we are serious about our commitments under the NNPT. Our side of the bargain is that we will disarm as long as other powers desist from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Israel's "nuclear ambiguity" is only the most obvious example of our hypocrisy. Blair recommissioning Trident and Bush developing a new range of "bunker busting" nuclear weapons are another two examples which spring to mind, where we demand others obey a treaty which we ourselves are in blatant violation of.

In the meantime, Israel feels that she only has to send out "informed sources" to talk of Syrian nuclear materials in order to justify an Israeli incursion into Syrian territory.

But just imagine reversing that. Imagine what would happen if the Syrians had invaded Israeli airspace and bombed suspected Israeli nuclear sites?

It's unimaginable isn't it? A bit like imagining there would ever be a day when UN inspectors would be allowed to wander through Dimona.

"Do as we say, not as we do" appears to be our official policy when it comes to the nuclear issue. And we wonder why we find ourselves in our current situation vis a vis Iran?

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Iraqis: Video shows Blackwater guards fired 1st

The Iraqis are claiming that they have a video tape which proves that Blackwater guards opened fired on civilians without provocation in an incident last week in which 11 people died.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Iraqi authorities had completed an investigation into the Sept. 20 shooting in Nisoor Square in western Baghdad and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths.

He told The Associated Press that the conclusion was based on witness statements as well as videotape shot by cameras at the nearby headquarters of the national police command. He said eight people were killed at the scene and three of the 15 wounded died in hospitals.

Blackwater, which provides most of the security for U.S. diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq, has insisted that its guards came under fire from armed insurgents and shot back only to defend themselves.

There are reports that Mailiki's government intends to prosecute the Blackwater guards responsible for the incident, but I am not sure how this can actually happen as all US "civilian contractors" have immunity from prosecution in Iraq.

Although al-Waili did not spell out exactly what the investigative committee would recommend to the Iraqi courts, a preliminary report of findings by the Interior Ministry, National Security Ministry and Defense Ministry stated that "the murder of citizens in cold blood in the Nisour area by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians just like any other terrorist operations."

"The criminals will be referred to the Iraqi court system," the report stated.

Iraqi investigators have videotape showing Blackwater guards opening fire on civilians without provocation in the shooting last week, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said.

Time will tell whether or not anyone is actually prosecuted in this case but I would be extremely surprised if the US allow any prosecution to take place. After all the US have become increasingly reliant on these mercenaries and one of the ways that the US encourages people to sign up for this task - apart from the obvious financial incentive - is to guarantee that they will never be prosecuted.

Of course, to most sensible people, the notion that you can tell someone in a war zone that they are immune from prosecution is an almost guaranteed recipe for disaster. Awful things take place in war zones and crimes are committed by people who know full well that they may one day have to answer for what they have done, so giving certain people immunity is almost asking for the kind of incident which is reported to have taken place in Nisoor Square.

The whole notion of immunity from prosecution, which was derived from a 2004 law imposed by the occupation army, must surely now come under review. There is talk that three of the Blackwater employees were Iraqi's so perhaps it is with this in mind that that Maliki's government are talking about prosecutions.

For I notice that, having recently demanded that Blackwater stop all work in Iraq and leave, Maliki's government are now saying they want an "apology, compensation for victims or their families and for the guards involved in the shooting to be held accountable." That's quite a lowering of the stakes.

But, the notion that certain people can be allowed to work in a war zone with immunity is an obscenity, and it is an obscenity that the Iraqi government should quickly insist be brought to an end.

Click title for full article.

I’m sorry, were you saying something about Iraq?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bush Refuses to Answer Question on Israeli Raid in Syria

This is a shocking example of how arrogant Bush has become.It also shows how delicate the topic of Israel is within the U.S.

Rudy talks tough on Iran, wants Israel in NATO

Rudy Giuliani's Presidential campaign appears to be based on the premise that, if he shows himself to be more insane and extreme right wing than any of the other Republican candidates, then he is assured of the nomination.

How else can one explain his recent outburst regarding Iran?

"If they get to the point that they become a nuclear power, then we will set them back five years. That is not a threat, that is a promise,'' Giuliani, 63, said.
So here we have a presidential candidate "promising" to bomb Iran into oblivion for doing what they are legally permitted to do under the NNPT. That surely is shocking enough, but Giuliani took it even further:
Rudy Giuliani talked tough on Iran yesterday, proposing to expand NATO to include Israel and warning that if Iran's leaders go ahead with their goal to be a nuclear power "we will prevent it, or we will set them back five or 10 years."
While Giuliani did not explicitly address the implications for Iran of adding Israel to NATO in his speech, his aides later highlighted a 2006 Heritage Foundation paper by Nile Gardiner, a former Thatcher aide who was announced as a new Giuliani adviser yesterday.

That step would "leave the mullahs with no illusions about the West's determination to respond to Iran's strategic threat to the region," Gardiner wrote. "Any nuclear or conventional attack on Israel, be it direct or through proxies such as Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, would be met by a cataclysmic response from the West."
So Guiliani is now seeking to make the entire Nato alliance an ally of Israel and implying that it should be Nato's responsibility to tackle Israel's enemies such as Hizbullah and Hamas with, what he calls, a "cataclysmic response".

The idea that Israel's wars were actually America's wars was first mooted by William Kristol during Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon last summer. I thought at the time that Kristol was letting the cat out of the bag and saying publicly what many had been accused of Antisemitism for even hinting at.

Giuliani is taking this argument substantially further by claiming that any conventional attack on Israel should become the responsibility of the entire Nato alliance.

He blatantly does not understand that Europe sees the conflict in the Middle East from an entirely different perspective than the US does. In Europe we would much rather see this conflict sorted according to international law, which means Israel returning to the pre-1967 borders and the dismantling of the illegal settlements.

Giuliani is now asking that Nato give a "cataclysmic response" in defence of the only country in the world who refuses to even define her own borders.

Israel's wars are now no longer to be America's wars as well, they are to be the wars of Nato.

The simple fact is that there is no majority of Americans who even support the notion that Israel's wars are America's wars, far less a majority of Europeans who would agree with this insane notion:

During the Israel-Hezbollah war last summer -- even with virtually no significant political figures criticizing the Bush administration for involving itself so blatantly in supporting Israel's war effort -- the vast majority of Americans wanted the U.S. to stay out of that war. A Washington Post poll found that a plurality (46%) blamed "both sides equally" (Israel and Hezbollah) for the war; a plurality (48%) believed that Israel's claimed "bombing [of] rocket launchers and other Hezbollah targets located in civilian areas" was "not justified"; and a solid majority (54-38%) said Israel "should do more to try to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon."

More importantly, while large majorities favored the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces to Lebanon, a large majority (59-38%) opposed having U.S. troops involved in that force. More significantly still was this finding from an August, 2006 CBS News/New York Times poll:

"Do you think the U.S. has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, or is that not the U.S.' business?"

Has responsibility - 39%

Not the U.S.' business - 56%

Not sure - 5%

American politicians of both political parties appear to fall over themselves in order to prove loyalty to Israel, to an extent that the American public does not appear to share.

Sometimes the votes in favour of Israel from America's political elites resemble the kind of results one would expect from a Stalinist state, with majorities in favour that resemble the kind of election results that used to be won by Saddam Hussein in his "free and fair" elections.

So the American people have no real democratic choice when it comes to whether or not they wish Israel to be supported in this way as both their political parties are as biased as each other when it comes to this matter.

However, Giuliani greatly underestimates the sentiments on this subject in Europe if he seriously believes that Europeans would welcome sending their young men and women to defend a country that most of us see as engaging in rampant colonialism.

Click title for full article.

Embrace returning troops, pleads army chief

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, has made an unprecedented call for Britain to start appreciating the work being done by it's army in what he has called the "bloodstained earth of Iraq and Afghanistan".

He has asked that the army be given homecoming parades and free tickets to football games.

Gen Dannatt said: "We must move from being a society that uses the military as a political and media football, and more towards seeing the military for what it is - the instrument of foreign policy conducted by a democratically elected government acting in the name of the people."

He was becoming increasingly concerned about the "growing gulf between the army and the nation", he told the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was not talking about the government, he said, but the public.

"When a young soldier has been fighting in Basra or Helmand," he said, "he wants to know that the people in their local pub know and understand what he has been doing, and why," he said.

I understand the sentiment which Dannatt is expressing. The problem is that this "instrument of foreign policy" has not been acting "in the name of the people", it has been acting almost precisely against the will of the people.

The war in Iraq has never enjoyed popular support among the populace and the troops have the publics sympathy for the way that they have been employed in a dangerous situation when the nations national interests were not actually under threat.

This fact was one that Dannatt himself appeared to acknowledge:

He made it clear a factor in growing antipathy towards the army was the extent of public opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the unpopularity of Britain's continuing military presence there. Asked after his speech whose fault it was that Iraq was an unpopular war, he responded that it was a question he would "significantly duck". It was one for "someone else", said Gen Dannatt, who caused a storm a year ago when he said the presence of British troops in Iraq exacerbated Britain's security problems.

The reality of one's army placed in an illegal, immoral and unpopular war puts all of us in a very awkward position.

It is very easy for the war supporters to say that they "support the troops", after all they are paying no price at all for insisting that these young men and women fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no food rations as in the days of the second world war, there are no excessive taxes to pay for the war, there is almost no price to pay for this war at all; indeed, a perfunctory walk down any of Britain's streets will quickly confirm that - as far as most citizens are concerned - this nation is not at war at all.

No, the price for Blair and Bush's stupidity is being paid for exclusively by the nation's armed services.

So I would be all for homecoming parades, after all my deepest wish is that we bring them all home as soon as possible.

I fear though that, genuine as Dannatt's plea surely is, he underestimates the extent to which the British government are served by the fact that serving soldiers - and the dead - are slipped back into this country almost under a cover of darkness.

I agree that more should be made of the return of brave young men and women who have been sent into danger on a lie. For the more we focus on that, the more likely it is that we will one day demand that the people responsible be brought to justice.

Click title for full article.

Washington Post Fact Checks Moveon Ad

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bill Clinton on The Daily Show

The President of Hypocrisy

Olbermann takes apart Bush's latest cowardly press conference and his attack on MoveOn.org. The person who politicised Petraeus, he argues, was Bush himself.



Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

Fury as Netanyahu confirms Syria strike

You can always rely on Bibi to say what other people will not say. As Israel maintains an unusually tight lipped silence about what actually occurred during her invasion of Syrian airspace, Bibi has confirmed that an air strike did take place on Syrian territory.

Mr Netanyahu, a former prime minister, infuriated some of his political opponents by telling Channel One television that he was "party" to the operation on which he had personally congratulated Olmert. He declared " When the Prime Minister takes action in important and necessary matters, and generally when the government is doing things for the security of Israel, I give it my endorsement. I was party to this matter, I must say, from the first minute and I gave it my backing, but it is still too early to discuss this subject." Israel's government has maintained a studious, and unusual, silence since Syria first complained about an incursion into its airspace.

The row came as US President George Bush – while refusing to confirm what US officials have been anonymously briefing for more than a week was a strike on a suspected nuclear facility built with North Korean help – warned against nuclear prolifetration by North Korea.

Originally this was thought to be some kind of warning by Israel to Syria and Iran, showing just what they are capable of doing. However, Netanyahu is hinting at something much more serious here. He is implying, on the back of anonymous US briefings, that Israel actually attacked Syria.

The reaction from Israel to his comments have not included any denials, but have rather concentrated on Bibi's "irresponsibility" for allowing this information to become public.

Eitan Cabel, secretary general of the Labour Party, told Army Radio that Mr Netanyahu had been guilty of "an outburst that is severe, stupid and irresponsible". Mr Cabel, whose party leader, Ehud Barak, is seen by his supporters as the main rival to Mr Netanyahu for the future premiership, declared: "Bibi [Mr Netanyahu's nickname] is the same Bibi. I haven no idea if it is foolishness, stupidity, the desire to jump on the bandwagon, the desire to be a partner, to steal credit – or something else. It is simply very dangerous. The man simply does not deserve to lead."

An anonymous official said to be close to Mr Olmert was quoted in the Haaretz newspaper as saying: "Bibi's slip of the tongue borders on national irresponsibility. Once again Netanyahu couldn't restrain himself and he ran to tell the guys."

If Israel has struck inside Syrian territory, even if she believed that she was attacking a Syrian nuclear facility, then this is an illegal act under international law, which goes some way to explain Israeli coyness when it comes to discussing this subject.

Ha'aretz newspaper in Israel are also reporting that there was American collusion in the air strike.
The sources reportedly said the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence, prior to an alleged Israel Air Force strike on Syria earlier this month.

Syria has said IAF planes violated its airspace and fired missiles at targets on the ground, but both Damascus and Pyongyang have vehemently denied the reports of nuclear cooperation.
This explains why both Israel and the US are saying so little about what took place in Syria.

Yet again, Bush has sanctioned actions that are in clear violation of international law, actions that we have been told that the US is "happy" about because of the signal that this action has sent to Syria and Iran.

Of course, the Bush administration - who share Netanyahu's extremism - have been privately briefing journalists that a nuclear facility was involved, a claim which the Syrians deny. Like Netanyahu, the Bush administration want us to know that an illegal attack has taken place.

They like to remind country's in the Middle East that international law means little to them and that they intend to do what they want whenever they want.

The stunning thing about all this is the total silence from the rest of the international community.

Where is the condemnation of this suspected violation of international law? Why is the world silent whilst rumours of this crime circulate and the Bush administration give us a knowing wink and yet say little?

Click title for full article.

Bush says he will be "strong asset" to 2008 Republicans

You have to give this bugger his due, he's fucking funny.

Bush has set out to state why he thinks he is an asset to the conservative movement in the forthcoming election.

"Strong asset," Bush said emphatically, when asked at a White House news conference whether he would be an asset or liability for Republicans in presidential and congressional elections next year.

Why does he believe, against all the evidence, that he is such a good role model to be followed?

"Candidates who go out and say that the United States is vulnerable to attack and we're going to make sure our professionals have the tools necessary to protect us are going to do well," said Bush, who appeared invigorated by the question.

Ah, if you play the fear card that will apparently help your campaign. Tell Americans that, if they don't vote for you, they might end up dead.

"Candidates who go out and say that helping these Iraqis realize the benefits of democracy are going to do well," said Bush who has often said that only future historians will offer a true judgement on his presidency.

Future historians will actually note that Bush never gave Iraq democracy, he gave Iraq anarchy which he confused with democracy because people were given a vote. The vote only counts if there is sufficient order to ensure that the will of the people can be carried out. The Bush invasion and "liberation" failed at the first hurdle. He never, ever, established order.

"Candidates who go out and say that it's very important for the United States to have clear principles when it comes to foreign policy, they'll do well.

Ah, right. A clear principle, like promoting democracy. Unless, as in Palestine, the people elect a government that the Israeli's disagree with. In which case the democratic wish of the people can be safely ignored and the people can be starved for making the wrong democratic choice.

Bush appears to think that his "policies" are "an asset" for the forthcoming election in 2008.

As someone who hopes to see this immoral bunch of neo-con warmongers driven from office, I can only hope and pray that they adopt Bush's tactics and attempt to defend his presidency and his positions.

As the Dear Leader himself would say: Bring It On.

Click title for full article.

Rep. Boehner ad: “A Small Price to Pay!”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Olmert cuts energy to Gaza Strip in reply to rocket fire

Ehud Olmert has said that he will cut electricity and fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire.

After his disgraceful campaign in Lebanon, a campaign which I believe made him a war criminal, I am not remotely surprised to find Olmert, once again, employing collective punishment against a people who have nothing to do with the crime he seeks retaliation for.

The idea that Olmert can punish all the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in this way for the actions of the few who fire rockets is simply repugnant.

But, once again, Olmert will employ collective punishment with impunity.

I wonder what the reaction would be if the Arab nations found some way to cut off all fuel supplies to the people of Israel? There would, rightly, be serious condemnation and outcry from all over the world.

But when it comes to Palestine, Israel's supporters almost refuse to see the Palestinians as human. They are certainly incredibly casual about how much punishment should be meted out to these people simply for the crime of being born a Palestinian.

The decision is another step in a process which began last month when the Israeli cabinet decided against a full-scale military invasion of Gaza but to examine ways of cutting utility supplies. The cabinet decided yesterday against cutting water supplies.

I think we are supposed to applaud the Olmert government's great humanity at deciding not to cut off the water supply. I actually find it astonishing that this is something that reasonable people would even consider cutting off.

Condi Rice, who is in Middle East in an attempt to start serious talks about a solution, has stated:
Invited to say whether she backed the move at a news conference yesterday, Ms Rice did not answer directly, but affirmed: "Hamas is a hostile entity to the United States as well." She added: "We will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in Gaza, and indeed will make every effort to deal with their humanitarian needs."
Quite how one does this whilst cutting off their energy supplies was a point which dear little Condi did not elaborate upon.

Click title for full article.

Refugees in their own land: 2m Iraqis forced to flee their homes

A report from Red Crescent says that nearly two million Iraqis have become refugees in the past year, with more than a million people fleeing Baghdad alone.

Last month saw the sharpest rise so far in the numbers of Iraqis forced to abandon their homes - 71.1%.

These figures are in sharp contrast to Petraeus' claim that the American "surge" is making Iraq safer for it's citizens. Were Iraq actually safer then one would not expect residents to be fleeing at such a shocking rate.

The vast internal exile began after the bombing of Shia shrines at Samara in February 2006 ignited Iraq's sectarian war.

Thousands of Shias fled Sunni majority neighbourhoods and headed for the south, where they are in the majority. Sunnis fled Shia enclaves for the north and west of the country. Christians also left their homes in Sunni areas for Kurdistan. Some two million Iraqis left the country.

Now a further wave of migration is under way as Iraqis discover they can not survive in their original havens. Unlike the earlier flights, the current movements are not easily categorised by ethnicity. "Our understanding is that people are just moving to where they feel safer," said Tim Irwin, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Washington.

Many of these fleeing families are fleeing for the second time having found no safety in their first location.

And, as always in such situations, there are unforeseen consequences:

"Some teenagers who lost loved ones joined the armed groups and started taking revenge on innocent people from different ethnic groups. Rape, armed gangs, theft, drug addiction was commonplace," it said. "The overall picture is that of a human tragedy unprecedented in Iraq's history."

There is simply no way to measure the tragedy that Bush and the neo-cons have visited upon the people of Iraq.

And the proof that Petraeus is lying when he says ordinary Iraqis are now safer is in the simple fact that ordinary Iraqis are fleeing at an unprecedented rate. People who feel safe don't abandon their homes and run...

Click title for full article.

Brown threatening Mugabe boycott

Gordon Brown has threatened to boycott a summit of European and African leaders if Robert Mugabe is in attendance.

Mr Brown says Mr Mugabe's presence at the conference in Portugal will "divert attention" from important issues such as poverty, climate change and health.

He told the Independent newspaper that Mr Mugabe has an EU travel ban for a reason - "the abuse of his own people".

The European Union-African Union summit will take place in Lisbon in December.

I really appreciate the many subtle differences between the premiership of Brown and the premiership of Blair. Blair insisted that Mugabe was a problem that only Africa could solve, and we have watched for years as the situation worsens and Mbeki appears unable to change the suicidal course Mugabe has set Zimbabwe on.

The figures are devastating:

The average life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe is 34 years; for men, it is 37. Inflation rages at 8,000 per cent; the shelves are empty of bread and maize; in the hospitals and clinics, children die for lack of vitamins, food and medicine, while the ravages of Aids are exacerbated by government indifference.

In the cramped townships now home to those supporters of the opposition whose homes Mugabe destroyed in a frenzy of destruction called 'Clean Out the Filth', there is no electricity or fresh running water and sewage spews out of the dilapidated buildings. The first cholera deaths were reported last week.

I linked last week to a call from the Archbishop of York saying that Britain needs to get over it's colonial guilt and actually take actions against this vile dictator.

It is now time for the sanctions and campaigns that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa to be applied to the Mugabe regime. What Britain deemed to be in the best interest of the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith must now be enacted against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe. The smart sanctions implemented by governments towards terror groups now need to be brought to bear upon Mugabe's regime.

So, whilst I appreciate the subtle distinction between Brown's actions and those of Blair, and indeed note that Brown does not hang back from describing Mugabe in withering terms:
Brown added that Britain had a responsibility to the people of Zimbabwe, who find themselves in an "appalling and tragic" situation.

"There is no freedom in Zimbabwe: no freedom of association; no freedom of the press.

"And there is widespread torture and mass intimidation of the political opposition," added Mr Brown.

There is still a part of me that thinks that this is not enough. It is time, as the Archbishop of York says, for tough sanctions and a serious attempt to bring this immoral and undemocratic regime down.

Click title for full article.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

90 Seconds of FOX: “Fair and Balanced” Coverage of Petraeus Hearings

Ann Coulter: It’s Good for Wall Street If We Bomb Iran

Now, they're discussing how attacking Iran would affect Wall Street. And right on cue, up pops Ann Coulter to tell us why Iran must be attacked. The way these people see attacking other nations as almost routine is simply breathtaking...

Please note also the false choice that Wall Street must consider: "A war with Iran or an Iran with nukes". The fact that Iran is lying when they say they don't want nuclear weapons is simply taken as a given...

Rice Flies in to face Israeli Intransigence.

Condi Rice is heading for the Middle East and probably into trouble as she attempts to galvanise the peace process and start some kind of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

The problem? She appears to have run out of patience and says she's tired of just talking:

"We can't simply continue to say we want a two-state solution, we have got to start to move towards one," Rice told reporters before a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland.
As someone who has been highly critical of the Israeli government's constant seemingly futile search for a "partner in peace" it doesn't surprise me in the least that the Israelis have almost immediately started dragging their feet.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to try to set a timetable with Rice for progress in advance of the regional conference scheduled to be held in Washington in November.

He will try to convince Rice that "joint declarations," including a mention of the core issues, are sufficient for the conference, and that a full "agreement of principles" is not needed.
Here we go....

Barak is supposedly ready to tell Rice that security comes before diplomacy... another well worn Israeli technique which signals that the excuses are already in place for why progress will not be possible.

Insisting on "security" is the means by which Israel claims the Palestinians must demonstrate that they can show results in the security realm before Israel can make any concessions. It's the cart before the horse. Security is actually the responsibility of the occupying force. The Israelis have come up with a novel reading of international law in which the occupied people must show that they can protect the occupying forces before the Israelis are prepared to make any concessions.

And the proposed concessions with which to test this new Palestinian commitment to peace?
Barak will inform Rice that Israel plans to remove 24 barriers in the West Bank in order to ease travel among Palestinian cities and villages. If this does not lead to any security problems, Israel will also remove a manned checkpoint and expand security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Twenty four barriers will be removed. And, only if that is deemed by the Israelis not to have jeopardised their security, will Israel get all dizzy on us and actually remove ONE checkpoint.

That's their opening position. I wish Rice well, but her task is hopeless. As long as the focus is only on the security of the occupying forces and shows scant concern for the security of the occupied people the task will be a thankless one.

And I expect it will be thankless because that's exactly what the Israelis want it to be.

Click title for full article.