Wednesday, February 28, 2007

John Stewart on Laura Bush and that pesky "one bombing a day"

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars

Olbermann, Rice and Hitler

Olbermann takes apart another of Condi's mind blowingly dumb statements.

Hat tip to Anything They Say

How the war on terror made the world a more terrifying place

An authoritative new US study has been looking into the effect the Iraq invasion has had on terrorism worldwide and has exposed the lie that Bush and Blair continuously parrot, claiming that there is no link between their invasion and any surge in worldwide terrorism.

This opinion is simply not supported by the facts.

The research is said to be the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,420.

Iraq was the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist backlash, according to the study, which says that the number of those killed by Islamists within Iraq rose from seven to 3,122. Afghanistan, invaded by US and British forces in direct response to the September 11 attacks, saw a rise from very few before 2003 to 802 since then. In the Chechen conflict, the toll rose from 234 to 497. In the Kashmir region, as well as India and Pakistan, the total rose from 182 to 489, and in Europe from none to 297.

Two years after declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq President Bush insisted: "If we were not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."

I have always thought that Blair's claims that the Iraq war bore no relation to the terrorist attacks in London to be simply surreal, especially as one of the bombers left a tape making a direct connection between the two events.
Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world

And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.
He may not mention Iraq specifically by name but all but those with myopic vision get the gist of what he is saying.

Against even events like this, Blair has steadfastly maintained that there is no link between his actions and the revenge attacks that have taken place. And only last Month John Negroponte said he was "unsure" of whether the Iraq war was acting as a recruiting factor for al Qaeda.

Yet the report points out that the US administration's own National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" - partially declassified last October - stated that " the Iraq war has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists ... and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."

The new study, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, argues that, on the contrary, "the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of al-Qa'ida ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.

"Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a stunning increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and civilian lives lost. Even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one third."

This is actually one of those times where Bush and Blair, rather than staunchly denying the obvious, should admit the link and then ask what other course of action we would propose.

I personally would propose sorting out the situation in Israel and Palestine which I honestly believe is the rocket fuel underneath the vast majority of Muslim anger towards us. Instead, we have a US government that actively assist Israel in avoiding any meaningful negotiations and the US, EU and Israel carrying out painful sanctions against an occupied people for daring to elect a party that we disagree with as their democratic representatives.

I'm sure others would have more suggestions. What is abundantly clear however, is that the present course - if it's aim is the defeat of terrorism as opposed to the elimination of neo-con enemies - is simply not working.

Indeed, it is having the precise opposite effect of it's proposed aim. Carrying on with such a policy when it is plainly counter productive to your stated goals is simply mind staggeringly dumb.

Click title for full article.

U.S. Set to Join Iran and Syria in Talks on Iraq

I'm sorry to sound so cynical, but what the Hell are they playing at?

American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.

The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.

The announcement, first made in Baghdad and confirmed by Ms. Rice, that the United States would take part in two sets of meetings among Iraq and its neighbors, including Syria and Iran, is a shift in President Bush’s avoidance of high-level contacts with the governments in Damascus and, especially, Tehran.

This is something that many people, including the Baker Report, have been calling on this administration to do for months. Their response has been to ratchet up tensions and accuse Iran of killing US soldiers, whilst moving carriers within striking distance of Tehran.

And now, going completely against the grain, we get the offer of high level meetings?

Am I the only one to find this a staggering U-turn? Now, there are only two possible things that can be going on here. Either Bush has been ratcheting up the pressure on Iran in order to make Ahmadinejad view this meeting as a sort of last chance saloon. Or, and this is the one the cynic in me finds myself leaning towards, Bush has realised that Iran is not going to as easy a sell as Iraq was and he is going to go through some faux diplomacy before launching his strikes against a Tehran regime that "can't be reasoned with." A bit like the way the Bushites like to tell us that "he tried to go through the UN" before the Iraqi invasion.

The administration are certainly going to some lengths to convince us that they have been engaging in the former, deploying anonymous sources (any more flashbacks to Iraq anyone?) to reassure us that the conflicting signals have been "part of a larger diplomatic strategy for dealing with Iran that verges on a high-level game of chicken."

“We became convinced that the Iranians were not taking us seriously,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Ms. Rice. “So we’ve done some things to get them to take us seriously, so now we can try diplomacy.”

If that was your strategy, why would you now be using anonymous sources to alert the Iranians to your game? Or are they actually warning the Iranians - and by inference the rest of the planet - that this is, indeed, the last chance saloon?

Either way, the Bush regime are about to attempt diplomacy whilst holding a giant gun to Ahmadinejad's head. It's a highly unusual way to conduct diplomatic talks, but with time we'll find out more about what's actually behind this bizarre turn of events.

Click title for full article.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Russia wants sanctions lifted on Palestine

In a move which many of us saw coming, Russia are preparing to break away from the rest of the Quartet and call for the new Palestinian unity government to be recognised and for sanctions against the Palestinians to be lifted.

"Russia favors the agreement between Hamas and the Fatah group to share power because it shows wisdom, reason and responsibility before the Palestinian people," Sergey Lavrov said before a meeting with the head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal.

"We are pushing for all members of the international community to support this process and make it irreversible, including efforts to lift the blockade," Lavrov added.
This eminently sensible proposal will now come under attack from the US and Israel who are determined not to recognise the new Palestinian unity government until it "recognises Israel", a totally bizarre concept as Israel herself refuses to state what she regards as her national borders.

Nor is support for this new government limited merely to the Russians.
French President Jacques Chirac has said he would ask the EU, at a summit in March, to support plans for a unity government.
So it would appear that Bush and his pro-Likud cohorts are not going to find it easy to keep the rest of the Quartet on board as they attempt to starve the Palestinians into submission.
Meshal's Moscow visit reflected the Kremlin's position that negotiations - rather than sanctions - are the best way to deal with Hamas. Russia, which has been clamoring for a greater role in the Middle East, has been more positive about the unity government plan than Washington and the European Union.

"The Russian leadership supported forming such government from the very start," Lavrov said. "We have consistently backed specific steps which helped make this process successful, and we shall continue acting like that."

"The Mecca meeting was also important because it opened the way toward the resumption of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel," he added.
Of course, a resumption of the peace process is the very thing that Olmert is striding to avoid, so it will be interesting to watch how he approaches things from here on in. He can be guaranteed that the US will remain on board, demanding that Hamas recognise Israel and embrace their other demands before sanctions can be lifted, but he is now losing the support of Russia and parts of Europe.

Russia has long wanted a larger role in sorting out this dispute and Condi's recent visit, with it's declaration that both sides want the US to act as mediator, was palpable nonsense.

The US wants to help Israel get the best deal she can, she is no more a mediator than I am a ballerina.

I really hope Russia and France see this through and have some success in having the sanctions lifted. Or, at the very least, refusing to have both their nations take part in any continuation of this foul scandal where we are imposing sanctions on the occupied people rather than on the occupier.

Especially as those sanctions are being imposed because we disagree with the democratic choice the Palestinian people made. That we can do such a thing at the very time that we claim to be wishing to export democracy to the region is simply hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Click title for full article.

Poverty gap in US has widened under Bush

The number of US citizens living in extreme poverty has dramatically increased since George Bush came to power, with the number of the severe poor increasing at a rate that is 56% faster than the overall segment of the population characterised as poor - about 37 million people in all according to the census data.

One in ten Americans now lives in poverty according the study's findings. And Reagan's theory of "trickle down economics" - enthusiastically embraced by Bush and his cohorts to justify their tax breaks for the rich - is exposed as the puerile garbage most of us always thought it was.

The causes of the problem are no mystery to sociologists and political scientists. The share of national income going to corporate profits has far outstripped the share going to wages and salaries. Manufacturing jobs with benefits and union protection have vanished and been supplanted by low-wage, low-security service-sector work. The richest fifth of US households enjoys more than 50 per cent of the national income, while the poorest fifth gets by on an estimated 3.5 per cent.

The average after-tax income of the top 1 per cent is 63 times larger than the average for the bottom 20 per cent - both because the rich have grown richer and also because the poor have grown poorer; about 19 per cent poorer since the late 1970s. The middle class, too, has been squeezed ever tighter. Every income group except for the top 20 per cent has lost ground in the past 30 years, regardless of whether the economy has boomed or tanked.

These figures are rarely discussed in political forums in America in part because the economy has, in large part, ceased to be regarded as a political issue - John Edwards' "two Americas" theme in his presidential campaign being a rare exception - and because the right-wing think-tanks that have sprouted and thrived since the Reagan administration have done a good job of minimising the importance of the trends.

They have argued, in fact, that the poverty statistics are misleading because of the mobility of US society.

The mobility of US society - "the American Dream" - is, of course, a myth. The rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. The "dream", that it is easier in the United States to experience generational mobility than it is in any other country, is simply not borne out by the facts.
By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parents’ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. Intergenerational mobility in the United States is lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.
However, this dream - that intergenerational mobility is possible if you pull yourself up by your bootstraps - is being used, not only to deprive America's poorest of their share of their country's enormous wealth, it is now being used to ensure that even America's middle class enjoy a smaller share.
The middle class is experiencing more insecurity of income, while the top decile is experiencing less. From 1997-98 to 2003-04, the increase in downward short-term mobility was driven by the experiences of middle-class households (those earning between $34,510 and $89,300 in 2004 dollars). Households in the top quintile saw no increase in downward short-term mobility, and households in the top decile ($122,880 and up) saw a reduction in the frequency of large negative income shocks. The median household was no more upwardly mobile in 2003-04, a year when GDP grew strongly, than it was it was during the recession of 1990-91.
The most bizarre aspect of all this is that American's faith in this dream seems to be expanding at the very moment that the figures reveal the actuality to be the opposite.
In the 1999 International Social Survey, 61 percent of U.S. respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “people get rewarded for their effort,” versus 58 percent in Australia, 49 percent in Canada, 41 percent in Japan, 40 percent in Austria, 33 percent in Great Britain and 23 percent in France (ISSP, 1999). In fact, the U.S. percentage was higher than that of each of the 26 other countries in the survey, with the sole exception being the Philippines (63 percent).
I have always admired the optimism of Americans, by which I mean the people I have met when I visited there rather than the political hoods that are currently running that country.

However, in this case, it would appear that their optimism is being used against them. And it is being used to facilitate a transfer of the country's resources and income towards a group of people who already have far too much of those resources and that income.

And if Republicans were right that rewarding the rich ensured a "trickle down" effect that benefited all, why - more than twenty years after Reagan initialised this bizarre theory - don't any of the figures show this "trickle down" taking place?

Indeed, all that the figures actually show is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Which is what most of us thought Reagan was all about in the first place.

Click title for full article.

Court allows Abu Qatada to be deported to Jordan

The British government have been cleared by British courts to deport detainees to country's where torture may take place as long as those said country's provide reassurances to the British that they will not practice torture upon the named detainee.

The ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) in London was condemned by human rights groups who said it gave the Government the green light to deport non-British residents on the strength of "dodgy little assurances" from regimes that abuse human rights.

Amnesty International said it was "profoundly concerned" by the ruling.

Would one hand a child into the care of a child abuser if he reassured you that no abuse would place? Is there any appreciable level of trust that has been established that would reassure the government that torture will be avoided? No, there is not. What there is, is a poxy little piece of paper that allows the British government to wash it's hands of a troublesome detainee.

And, one should never forget that they are handing these detainees over to people who "have form" so to speak. They are handing them to nations that are known to torture and accepting their word that they will not do so in this particular case.

The courts have given permission for Abu Qatada, once described as al-Qa'ida's ambassador in Europe, to be transferred to Jordan. A country with a horrendous record of torturing people.

A recent Amnesty International Report found that:
"Jordan appears to be a central hub in a global complex of secret detention centres operated by the US in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"It is into this complex that suspects 'disappear' -- and are held for interrogation indefinitely, outside any legal or administrative process."
The General Intelligence Department (GID) -- a military security agency directly linked to the Jordanian prime minister -- is the primary instrument of abuse of political detainees and for obtaining forced "confessions".

According to former senior US intelligence officials, the GID receives secret funding from the US government.

Methods of torture and ill-treatment suffered by detainees in Jordanian places of detention and detailed in the Amnesty International report include
"falaqa" -- whereby the soles of the victims feet are repeatedly beaten with a stick; beatings with sticks, cables, plastic pipes, ropes or whips; and "shabeh" ("the phantom"), whereby the victim is suspended for up to several hours by his handcuffed wrists, and then beaten.
It simply astounds me that the UK government can say it is "assured" that torture will not take place based on reassurances that are blatantly not worth the price of the paper that they are written on.

We should not forget that the United States “sought assurances" in respect of the Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, shortly before they transferred him to Syria.

Syria, of course, reassured the United States that they would not torture him.

He was kept for ten months in a cell slightly larger than a coffin, and regularly beaten with a heavy metal bar. So much for Syrian "assurances".

However, we are reassured that, in this case, all will be different.

The Siac judges said: "We have concluded that there is no real risk of persecution of the appellant were he now to be returned with the safeguards and in the circumstances which now apply to him."

Siac's judgement said the Jordanians could be expected to observe the agreements in a "transparent and conscientious" way.

The court accepted that senior members of the Jordanian military police had probably "sanctioned or turned a blind eye" to torture in the past.

But it added: "The Jordanian government would have specific interest in not being seen by the UK Government or the public in Jordan ... as having breached its word."

So, even though he's abused children in the past, the court accepts it is not in the specific interest of the proposed adoptive parent to abuse this child as he has given us reassurances that he will not do so.

The casual way that torture is being accepted as a norm is one of the most horrendous aspects of this War on a Noun. Indeed, when the history of George Bush's presidency is written, it will be hard to imagine any serious examination of his time in office that does not include a chapter on torture and his decision to facilitate it. As I have covered here, here and here, torture - as we enter the 21st Century - is making a remarkable comeback. And it is doing so with the active encouragement of the George Bush regime.

And now we have British courts accepting the word of the Jordanians. And they are doing so despite the fact that United Nations say "the practice of torture is widespread in Jordan, and in some places routine."

But the British courts and the British government are reassured. Because the child molester has given his word that his behaviour will be different in this instance.

We have lost our moral compass.

Click title for full article.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Seymour Hersh talks to CNN

If even a fraction of what he is saying is true, these buggers deserve impeachment.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars

Cheney behind "realignment" that facilitates attacking Iran.

The very respected journalist Seymour Hersh has written an article in the New Yorker in which he claims that the Bush administration have drawn up plans to attack Iran within 24 hours of the President giving an order to do so.

Indeed, the entire administration is said to be realigning itself to deal with the "unintended" empowerment of Iran that happened as a consequence of the Iraq war.

Such an empowerment may have been "unintended" but it surely cannot have been unforeseen? There could have been no other outcome to the removal of Saddam than a newly empowered regionally dominant Iran. Readers of first year history could have told them that would be the outcome.

Nor apparently did they foresee that a Shi'ite Iraqi government would form an alliance with their Shi'ite neighbours, Iran.

Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
These people are as thick as posts and now - their answer to the terrible mess their last war had created - is to plan to launch another war.

This new American policy has been made in public by Condaleezza Rice:
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.”
She says this whilst American soldiers are being killed by a Sunni insurgency in Iraq. This can hardly be described as joined up thinking. Indeed, it is so removed from the reality that confronts the US in Iraq that it can be taken as nothing other than an announcement of an intention to attack Iran. All logic is being turned on it's head in order to facilitate that policy.

So who is behind such a rash realignment of US policy?
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser.
Wouldn't you know it? Cheney is once again itching to go to war. And, once again, he appears to be doing so without fully understanding the size of the gamble he is taking. Is a man who was puzzled that the outcome of toppling Saddam was a regionally empowered Iran really the best person suited to take another huge gamble in the region?

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”

Indeed, Mr Indyk, everything is upside down. The facts are, once again, being fitted around the policy. Only the most insane optimist could look at this "realignment" and not see it as a blatant policy shift to justify attacking Iran.
Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”
I agree totally with Leverett's assessment. There can be no other reason for such an about turn other than an attempt to goad the Iranians into doing something, anything, that can be used as a justification to attack.

Indeed, Hersh took to the airwaves yesterday and spelled out just how sure he was that this is what, despite all it's denials, that the administration are planning to do.

Hersh was just as adamant. "This president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran," he told CNN. Hersh claims that the former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, resigned his post to take a parallel job as the deputy director of the state department because of his discomfort with an approach that so closely echoed the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s.

Nor, in their frantic attempts to hold back Shi'ite influence in the region, are they being too fussy over who they are funnelling money to.

Some of the billions of aid to the Beirut government has ended up in the hands of radical Sunnis in the Beka'a valley, Hersh writes. Syrian extremist groups have also benefited from the new policy. "These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hizbullah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaida," Hersh writes.

They are so desperate to bring down Iran that they care not a jot if they are pumping money to groups whose "ideological ties are with al-Qaida".

There's nothing more to say. That is simply insane. And these are the people currently in charge of American foreign policy. I know that many on the right love to accuse others of treason and treachery, but when you find yourself arming and financing groups affiliated to the people who attacked your country on 9-11, you really have lost the plot.

Rentoul's immoral defence of Blair's lack of responsibility

John Rentoul is revelling in his new role as Blair's "Apologist in Chief". Perhaps it's the fact that he wrote Blair's biography that makes him feel bound to assume such a role. But it's coming to seem as if Rentoul gets louder in an exact inverse proportion to how much power Blair at any point holds. Since Blair has been forced to announce he will go soon, Rentoul is now transmitting at almost fog horn levels.

He has written an extraordinary article in yesterday's Independent newspaper where he sets out to defend the rather - yes, I'll say it again - unhinged interview Blair gave last week on the Today programme in which he said he accepted "no responsibility" for the mess that is Iraq.

Rentoul begins: (All bold emphasis throughout is mine)

There is method in the madness of Tony Blair. He cannot say sorry for the invasion of Iraq, because he does not accept that he made the wrong decision. This is a reasonable view, although many readers of this newspaper may disagree with it, but the Prime Minister sometimes presents it in such an unreasonable way that his critics resort to the language of psychology. He is delusional, they say, or, in the vogue phrase that Sir Malcolm Rifkind threw at him last week, he is "in denial".

As one of the people who have said that Blair sounded "detached from any kind of reality" I found his article fascinating, especially as it was printed in the Independent: a newspaper most of whose readers would no doubt favour descriptions much stronger than the one I chose.

However, it is interesting that Rentoul states that Blair does "not accept" that he made the wrong decision and that Rentoul found such a stance to be "reasonable". Blair has just announced the British withdrawal from Iraq. A withdrawal that Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at London's Institute of Strategic Studies, has described as being "criminally irresponsible" in abandoning the people of Basra to the ravages of "militias, criminals and a police force fighting for control".

It is inconceivable that this is the end result that Blair would have wished for. Indeed, he himself is on record as saying so, although Rentoul quotes this in Blair's defence:
That he agreed with Robert Gates, the new US Defense Secretary, that "we" were not winning the war in Iraq.
If Blair admits that we "are not winning" the war in Iraq, and then goes on to announce, shortly after, that we are withdrawing - which is exactly what he has done - then we are announcing a retreat. We are conceding defeat. Blair might not have called it such, but make no mistake, that is what it is.

Is Rentoul seriously arguing that a Prime Minister who launches a war of choice, which he subsequently loses, can claim not to have thought he made the wrong decision in waging that war?

Because, if this is seriously the argument he is proffering, then the "delusional" tag applies equally to himself.

More interesting still, is the fact that he then seeks to defend Blair by citing the example of Thatcher, the first real indication of how "New Labour" Rentoul really is:

Blair provoked his critics in the Commons on Wednesday by refusing to accept any responsibility for what he called the "wretched and inexcusable bloodshed" in Iraq. "The terrorists cause the terrorism," he told Sir Malcolm: a statement of grating moral simplicity in the style of the later Margaret Thatcher. Clever people who should have known better used to question her sanity too.

Now here Rentoul implies that when critics of Blair talk of him as "insane", "deranged" or - as I said - "detached from any kind of reality", that we are somehow implying that the person we are talking about is fit to be hospitalised.

We are not. That is not the charge we are making. We are saying that the person in question is talking piffle. That, when the history of this moment is written, the person we are talking about will be found to be saying things that history does not bear out.

And it's fascinating that he chooses to name Thatcher in Blair's defence. Thatcher is a person whose very name should be an anathema to any Labour politician. And yet Rentoul names her in defence of Blair.

He has, inadvertently, chosen well; for Thatcher is the perfect example of a politician who was said to be "deranged" and of whom history, subsequently, found to be out of step with her time.

Thatcher, who Rentoul has chosen as his example with which to defend Blair, expressed her admiration for General Pinochet whilst she condemned Nelson Mandela as a "terrorist".

Is there a single sentient human being who would argue that Thatcher's understanding of the period of history that she was living through was not at odds with the reality of that era? Indeed, that it was not so at odds with that era's reality that she could reasonably be described as being "detached from any kind of reality", especially the reality that was unfolding before her very eyes?

Is there any single person alive who thinks that the legacy of Pinochet will be more revered by future generations that the legacy of Mandela? Is it unreasonable to describe anyone who argued for such a wrong to be described as "deranged" or "detached from any kind of reality"?

She was as detached from the reality of her time - as history will understand it - as Blair currently is from his.

Blair is stating falsehoods. He is stating things that history will find to be untrue.

Rentoul is not only seeking to defend a person who is knowingly telling falsehoods, he is asking us to applaud the manner of the deceit.

There is a reason he will not accept the obvious fact that Iraq's present state is a consequence of the invasion four years ago. While it may be inescapable that he and George Bush bear some indirect responsibility for much that has happened in Iraq since March 2003, he can see where accepting such a concept would lead.

Would the front pages carry essays on contingent moral liability? Would there be a discussion on the Today programme about the extent to which the consequences of the invasion were foreseeable? No, he would be torn apart by the one-sided media that do not allow for nuance. He would be held personally accountable for every violent death in Iraq since the invasion. The headlines would read: "Blair - I have blood on my hands." Or similar.

So, the reason we must accept Blair saying things that are obviously at odds with reality is because we have "a one sided media that do not allow for nuance". Indeed, that "one sided media that do not allow for nuance" would probably hold Blair "accountable for every violent death in Iraq since the invasion". An accountability that Rentoul will only admit that Blair and Bush have some "indirect responsibility" for.

He admits "the obvious fact that Iraq's present state is a consequence of the invasion four years ago" but then chooses to give a free pass to the two men who launched that war. A war that all would concede was a war of choice.

If politicians are not responsible for the consequences of wars of choice that they launch, then they really have abdicated all responsibility for any of their actions. And that is what Rentoul is arguing. He argues that it was either the present situation or "Saddam still in power", as if the former is preferable to the latter.
If Blair is to take his share of the blame for the disastrous state of Iraq, then the invasion's opponents should accept that they wish Saddam Hussein were still in power.
This is a false choice as it implies that anyone who opposed the invasion is a natural supporter of Saddam as they wish he were still in power. I do not wish Saddam was in power any more than I wish Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe; but there are consequences to our actions and, sometimes, the consequences are so horrendous that they outdo any good that may come from the initial intentions, however well meaning they might have been.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives as a direct consequence of Bush and Blair's actions and Blair has just announced a withdrawal of British forces which leaves the people of Basra "to the ravages of militias, criminals and a police force fighting for control".

One does not have to be a person who wishes Saddam were still in control in order to say that Bush and Blair have failed in their mission, and that their failure has had real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people.

Rentoul argues that Blair cannot accept this because "the headlines would read: "Blair - I have blood on my hands.""

Again, he has - inadvertently I suspect - chosen his example very well.

When two million Brits marched through London in the largest demonstration ever in this nation's history, in the hope of dissuading Blair from embarking upon an invasion of Iraq, he took to the stage in Glasgow and announced that those of us who opposed the war would have blood on our hands if we stopped the military action. Those were his words. We would have blood on our hands.

And now Rentoul justifies Blair evading all personal responsibility for a war of choice on the grounds that newspapers may accuse him of the very thing that he was happy to accuse us of.

That's not deranged. That's simply immoral.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Torture on Trial.

We all know that George Bush had no intention of ever bringing the case of José Padilla to trial. He was supposed to rot in legal limbo.

However, when his status as an enemy combatant faced a Supreme Court challenge, the Administration abruptly changed course, charged Padilla and transferred him to civilian custody. This was a way of avoiding the Supreme Court ever ruling on the legality of what they were doing. And, indeed, continue to do to the present day.

This decision, taken to avoid a court ruling on their actions, is one that they may - with hindsight - come to regret.

For the way that Padilla has been treated and, by inference, the way all prisoners detained as "enemy combatants" have been treated is now being put on trial.

For Padilla's lawyers are arguing that the treatment meted out to their client has been so severe that it has left him unable to participate in his own defence as he has been driven insane in the hands of his captors.

Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an "enemy combatant" and taken to a Navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a "truth serum," a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.

According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defense. He is convinced that his lawyers are "part of a continuing interrogation program" and sees his captors as protectors. In order to prove that "the extended torture visited upon Mr. Padilla has left him damaged," his lawyers want to tell the court what happened during those years in the Navy brig. The prosecution strenuously objects, maintaining that "Padilla is competent," that his treatment is irrelevant.
The barbarity and severity of the treatment meted out to "enemy combatants" is at last coming under the spotlight. The techniques used to break Padilla have been the standard operating procedure at Guantanamo Bay for the last five years. Many people subjected to this treatment have simply lost their minds. They have literally gone insane whilst undergoing interrogation techniques that the Bush administration maintains do not constitute torture.

These techniques are now coming under scrutiny in a court in Miami. The prosecution have alleged that Padilla is perfectly sane and fit to stand trial and have argued that the treatment meted out to him is irrelevant to the trial.

However, the judge has disagreed. She thinks the treatment meted out to him is highly relevant.
"It's not like Mr. Padilla was living in a box. He was at a place. Things happened to him at that place." The judge has ordered several prison employees to testify at the hearings on Padilla's mental state, which begin February 22. They will be asked how a man alleged to have engaged in elaborate antigovernment plots now acts, in the words of brig staff, "like a piece of furniture."
What makes this significant is that Padilla is only one of many. The only reason he is on trial is because he is an American citizen. But his case will highlight what has been done to many of the men arrested by the US and held outside of the reach of any form of law, either international or domestic.

According to James Yee, former Army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state. "They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over." All of Delta Block was on twenty-four-hour suicide watch.

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known as the "prison of darkness"--tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. "Plenty lost their minds," one former inmate recalled. "I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the door.

The way that these neo-con thugs have been conducting their War on Terror is finally going to come under public scrutiny, which will give them a considerable problem. It is one thing to talk about "tougher techniques" when interrogating prisoners, most Americans might even approve of something couched in those terms. However, I don't think the American public will maintain that approval once they realise just what has been done to these prisoners in their name.

People have been literally driven insane. Nor has this been accidental.
The CIA and the military have known since the early 1960s that extreme sensory deprivation and sensory overload cause personality disintegration--that's the whole point. "The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure."
At last a court will shine some light onto this hideous barbarity. At which point I fully expect the Bush administration to start running around like cockroaches caught under torchlight, claiming they knew little about what was going on and blaming over exuberance on the part of underlings further down the chain of command.

Before that day comes, be sure to acquaint yourself with the list of documents these people produced on the subject of interrogation, the casual way they dispensed with people's rights to trial or protection under any convention, and ask yourself if they seriously didn't know what was happening. Even a cursory reading quickly confirms that they were allowing themselves these arbitrary powers for a reason.

And that reason was to legitimise torture.

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Robert Fisk: 27 July 1880. A date Mr Blair should look up

By Robert Fisk:

Out of the frying pan, into the historical fire. If only our leaders read history. In 1915, the British swept up from Basra, believing that the Iraqis would reward them with flowers and love, only to find themselves surrounded at Kut al-Amara, cut down by Turkish shellfire and cholera. Now we are reinforcing Nato in that tomb of the British Army, Afghanistan.

Hands up any soldiers who know that another of Britain's great military defeats took place in the very sands in which your colleagues are now fighting the Taliban. Yes, the Battle of Maiwand - on 27 July, 1880 - destroyed an entire British brigade, overrun by thousands of armed Afghan tribesmen, some of whom the official enquiry into the disaster would later describe as "Talibs". The Brits had been trying to secure Helmand province. Sound familiar?

Several times already in Helmand, the British have almost been overwhelmed. This has not been officially admitted, but the Ministry of Defence did make a devious allusion to this last year - it was missed by all the defence correspondents - when it announced that British troops in Helmand had been involved in the heaviest combat fighting "since the Korean War". The Afghans talk of one British unit which last year had to call in air strikes, destroying almost the entire village in which they were holding out. Otherwise, they would have been overrun.

General Burrows had no close air support on 27 July, 1880, when he found himself confronting up to 15,000 Afghan fighters at Maiwand, but he had large numbers of Egyptian troops with him and a British force in the city of Kandahar. Already, the British had cruelly suppressed a dissident Afghan army - again, sound familiar? - after the British residency had been sacked and its occupants murdered. Britain's reaction at the time was somewhat different from that followed today. Britain's army was run from imperial India where Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, urged his man in Kabul - General Roberts, later Lord Roberts of Kandahar - to crush the uprising with the utmost brutality. "Every Afghan brought to death, I shall regard as one scoundrel the less in a nest of scoundrelism." Roberts embarked on a reign of terror in Kabul, hanging almost a hundred Afghans.

The commander of the rebellious Afghans was Ayub Khan, whose brother was forced to abdicate as king after the Kabul uprising. When Ayub Khan re-emerged from the deserts of the west - he marched down from that old warlord territory of Herat towards Kandahar - the luckless General Burrows was sent to confront him. Almost a thousand British and Indian troops were to be slaughtered in the coming hours as Ayub Khan's army fired shells from at least 30 artillery pieces and then charged at them across the fields and dried-up river at Maiwand.

The official British inquiry - it was covered in red cloth and ran to 734 pages - contains many photographs of the landscape over which the battle was fought. The hills and distant mountains, of course, are identical to those that are now videotaped by "embedded" reporters in the British Army.

Outgunned and outmanoeuvred, the British found themselves facing a ruthless enemy. Colonel Mainwaring of the 30th Bombay Infantry wrote a chilling report for the authorities in Delhi. "The whole of the ground... was covered with swarms of 'ghazis' and banner-men. The 'ghazis' were actually in the ranks of the Grenadiers, pulling the men out and hacking them down with their swords."The wreckage of the British Army retreated all the way to Kandahar where they were besieged, until rescued by General Roberts himself, whose famous march of 10,000 troops from Kandahar - a distance of 300 miles covered in just 20 days - is now military legend.

History, it seems, haunts all our adventures in the Middle East. Who would have believed that after the British reached Baghdad in a 1917 invasion, they would face an insurgency which, in speed and ruthlessness, was an almost exact predecessor to the rebellion which the British and Americans would confront from 2003? Lloyd George, then Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons to insist that the British occupation force had to stay in Iraq. Otherwise, he warned, the country would be plunged into civil war. Sound familiar?

One of the greatest defeats of British forces anywhere in the world had occurred more than four decades before Maiwand, on the Kabul Gorge in 1842, when an entire British army was wiped out by Afghan fighters in the snow. The sole survivor, the famous Doctor Brydon, managed to out-horse two armed Afghans and ride into the British compound in Jalalabad.

So now the British are to reinforce Afghanistan yet again. Flying by Chinook to Kandahar will not take as long as General Roberts's 20 days. British soldiers are unlikely even to enter Kandahar's central square. But if they do, they might care to look at the few ancient cannon on the main roundabout: all that is left of General Roberts's artillery.

Click title for source.

Egypt jails blogger for insulting Islam and President Mubarak

A young Egyptian blogger, Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman, has been jailed for four years in Egypt for writing articles which the state claim incite hatred of Islam and insult the Egyptian President.

He is the first blogger in Egypt to stand trial for his writings and his sentence has been roundly condemned by international organisations.

“This sentence is a disgrace,” said Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). “Almost three years ago to the day, President Mubarak promised to abolish prison sentences for press offences. Suleiman’s conviction and sentence is a message of intimidation to the rest of the Egyptian blogosphere, which had emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the regime’s authoritarian excesses.”

“This sentence sets a chilling precedent in a country where blogs have opened a window for free speech,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Egyptian government should abide by its commitments to uphold free expression and release Sulaiman without delay.”

Amnesty International said in a statement: “This is yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt.” The group considers Suleiman to be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully expressing his opinion, it added.

RSF said, “As a result of this conviction, which clearly confirms Egypt’s inclusion in our list of Internet enemies, we call on the United Nations to reject Egypt’s request to host the Internet Governance Forum in 2009. After letting Tunisia, another violator of online freedom, host the World Summit on the Information Society, such a choice would completely discredit the UN process for debating the future of the Internet.”
This young man has gone to jail for the crime of expressing his opinion. He is 22 years old.

And, at a time when George Bush claims to be invading other country's in order to export democracy, there has been no governmental criticism of Egypt's actions. Indeed, there has been an almost marked silence of this attack on freedom of speech.

Egypt remains an ally in the War on a Noun whilst carrying out these acts of oppression. This young man has now been disowned by his family and his own father is now calling for his death, which gives some indication of the pressure they must be under. And it highlights the family's fear of association with their one of their own who has fallen out of favour with the authorities.

Again, his crime was expressing his opinion.

If you think this is wrong, please consider signing this petition to the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States. Click here to sign.

To get involved further please visit the Free Kareem website.

“This heavy sentence is also a slap in the face for the international organisations and governments that support President Mubarak’s policies. It is time the international community took a stand on Egypt’s repeated violations of press freedom and the rights of Internet users,” the RSF statement said. Egypt is on the list of the 13 Internet enemies which RSF compiled in 2006.

Click title for full article.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Israel in talks with U.S. on 'air corridor' over Iraq to Iran

The Israelis are negotiating with the United States for an air corridor through Iraq should they decide to attack Iran unilaterally.

The report cited a senior Israeli defense official who said talks are currently underway between the two countries over the possibility that Jerusalem decides to take unilateral action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important," said the official, speaking under condition of anonymity.

"The only way to do this is to fly through U.S.-controlled air space. If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other," he said.

Contingency planning has accelerated significantly, the newspaper said, since the beginning of the year in light of Mossad estimates that Iran could have the necessary amount of fissile material to produce a nuclear weapon by 2009.
Meanwhile Dick Cheney, speaking in Sydney has said that, "all options are on the table" on Iran. And, with a certitude reminiscent of his many false statements regarding Iraq's WMD and nuclear facilities prior to the Iraq war, Cheney stated that, "They appear to be pursuing the development of nuclear weapons."

Of course, such a statement is simply false. The Americans have no idea whether or not Iran are pursuing nuclear weapons and have refused all Iranian offers to make their nuclear programme more transparent.

Indeed, the person behind the US's refusal was Dick Cheney. Hmmm.

Click title for full article.

Blair in talks with Bush to site US defence shield in Britain

Sometimes watching Blair makes me feel as if I am in some kind of time warp.

In the eighties we all marched through Greenham and Aldermaston objecting to Thatcher's decision to allow Reagan to position American cruise missiles in Britain. Our argument at the time was that the positioning of these weapons on British soil made us a target and that the final decision on the use of these weapons lay with a foreign power. Various right wing newspapers at the time published the lie that Maggie's finger was on the button, but only the most deluded ever took that remotely seriously.

The world is a very different place now than it was then. The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union no longer exists and, indeed, Russia is America's partner in the War on a Noun.

All of which makes Blair's attempts to have the US put American anti-ballistic weapons on British soil, as part of the American "Star Wars" defensive shield, seem bizarre.

It all seems to be part of Blair's wish to establish himself as more Thatcherite than even Thatcher was. At least when Thatcher turned us into a target she did so by employing a weapons system that was proven to work. Blair seems to want to turn us into a target by installing a US defence system that has so far proven unable to shoot down any incoming missile with any degree of reliability.

And, at a time when most of us would like to reduce our reliance on a nuclear defence, Blair seems to be joining Bush in ratcheting up tensions with the Russians who, rightly, see this missile "defence" as an act of hostility and an attempt to give the US the right to use nuclear weapons without fear of a nuclear retaliation against them.

And what's also astonishing about Blair's offer and the fact that he has now - for the first time - made such an offer public, is that the US appear not to even want to base these weapons in Britain.

The US deputy chief of mission in London, David Johnson, said: "As we go forward, there may be opportunities for us to talk to other countries about their needs, but right now we are concentrating on the Czech Republic and on Poland as the primary sites where we would be looking for this," he told BBC radio.

Leaving aside the hysterically funny claim by Mr Johnson that country's who accept these weapons will be doing so in consideration of "their needs" as opposed to the needs of the US, Johnson is actually knocking Blair back. He's saying, "thanks, but no thanks".

There seems no humiliation that Blair will not endure in order to prostrate himself before Bush and prove the "Special Relationship". A relationship that has, under Blair, revealed itself to be a hideously one way street.

The Prime Minister's eagerness to accept the weapons was seen by Labour MPs as part of an attempt by Mr Blair to clear the decks on legacy issues including a replacement for Trident, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and cuts in NHS waiting times, before handing over to Mr Brown. One Labour MP said it was like "a fire sale".

I mean we've got to the stage where we are not only acceding to every American request - whether it is in our interests or not - we are now actively offering to make ourselves targets, getting knocked back, and then making public our request to have a giant bullseye painted on UK Plc.

I try to avoid saying that politicians are insane or unhinged, however, Blair's actions are beginning to seem more and more detached from any kind of reality.

His interview on the Today programme this week was literally jaw dropping. If you haven't heard it I really would strongly recommend that you click here and do so. As one commentator at the Guardian observed, Blair now makes Comical Ali sound like the voice of reason.

Indeed, in the very week that Blair announced our ignominious withdrawal from Iraq in defeat, whilst loftily declaring that he accepted "no responsibility" for the chaos that is swirling throughout that country, a few words uttered by that loveable loon, Comical Ali, come back as an example of prescience.
"Do not be hasty because your disappointment will be huge," the old crazy warned. "You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat. We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire."
It's a sad day when Comical Ali turns out to have had more foresight than the leaders of either the US or the UK.

And as Blair stumbles towards his exit, making rash offers to the US and ignoring the reality that is his political legacy, I am reminded of the words of Zig Ziglar, the American motivational speaker, "If you can learn from defeat, you haven't really lost."

Blair refuses to accept even a consolation as minor as that.

Click title for full article.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Close Guantanamo! Amnesty Speaks Out

Although I freely admit to being disappointed with the number of protesters involved in these demonstrations, I am heartened that, within Bush's own country, - with it's "with us or against us" philosophy - that there are a few good souls prepared to stand up and argue for what is right.

These people represent "the American way"; something that the Malkins and the Kristols will never understand. America is a dream. It is a devoutly hoped for wish.

The Malkins and the Kristols have abandoned that wish, that dream, after the first ever attack on the American mainland. And yet they claim to represent America's values? Don't make me laugh...

h/t to Withinsight and Blogger Round Table.

UN says Israel's behaviour in Gaza resembles Apartheid

A UN human rights investigator has compared Israel's occupation of Palestine to the South African Apartheid regime and says there should be "serious consideration" over bringing the occupation to the International Court of Justice.

John Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, went on to say that Israel's bombardment of Gaza after the kidnap of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit "is a form of collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949."

And then, in a sentence that goes to the heart of the matter but will almost certainly be excluded from all mainstream coverage of his report, he states:

The indiscriminate use of military power against civilians and civilian targets has resulted in serious war crimes.
He then finds the state of Israel to possess characteristics of the three regimes that the international community finds "inimical to human rights".
The international community has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights - colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the occupying Power and third States? It is suggested that this question might appropriately be put to the International Court of Justice for a further advisory opinion.
Now, of course, we know that the US would never allow such an action to take place and would come down heavily on any state that attempted to ensure that Israel conformed with international law. However, Dugard argues - and I agree - that such reticence on the part of the US (and, indeed, other Western governments) to confront the worst excesses of it's Israeli ally has serious consequences to how seriously the West is seen to be committed to human rights.

Indeed, this is the only case of a western ally denying people self determination since the fall of Apartheid South Africa.
The Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only instance of a developing country that is denied the right of self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State. The apparent failure of Western States to take steps to bring such a situation to an end places the future of the international protection of human rights in jeopardy as developing nations begin to question the commitment of Western States to human rights.
He then goes on to describe the effects this occupation has on the occupied people beginning with Israel's actions in Gaza following the kidnap of Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants. Here, he describes what took place in Beit Hanoun.
Forty thousand residents were confined to their homes as a result of a curfew as Israeli tanks and bulldozers rampaged through their town, destroying 279 homes, an 850-year-old mosque, public buildings, electricity networks, schools and hospitals, levelling orchards and digging up roads, water mains and sewage networks. In April 2006, the IDF narrowed the “safety zone” for artillery shelling, allowing targeting much closer to homes and populated areas. This, together with heavy artillery fire, contributed substantially to the increase in the loss of life and damage to property.
And, whilst condemning Palestinian rocket fire into Israel as "war crimes" he states, "Israel’s response has been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the commission of multiple war crimes."

And, of course, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is being implicitly supported by the international community who, after the election of Hamas, agreed to a series of sanctions that have resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territories. A crisis which he says has been, "carefully managed by Israel, which punishes the people of Gaza without ringing alarm bells in the West. It is a controlled strangulation that apparently falls within the generous limits of international toleration."

The idea that this strangulation is failing to set off alarm bells in the West implies that the effect of the sanctions must be seriously more grave than we have been led to believe. We know that this strangulation is controlled by closing all the principle crossing points into Palestine, through which all goods and foods flow. Dugard explains the effect:
The siege has had a major impact on employment. Construction workers are out of work as a result of the restriction on the import of construction materials; farmers (particularly those employed in the greenhouses of the former Israeli settlements) are unemployed as a result of the ban on exports of Palestinian produce; fishermen are out of work as a result of the ban on fishing along most of the Gaza coast; many shopkeepers have had to close their shops as a result of the lack of purchase power of Gazans; small factories employing some 25,000 workers have had to close; and the public service, while employed in theory is largely unpaid as a result of Israel’s withholding of funds due to the Palestinian Authority and the refusal of the EU and the United States to transfer donations to the Palestinian Authority. Consequently about 70 per cent of Gaza’s potential workforce is out of work or without pay.
And the international community seem silent on Israel's refusal to comply with international law regarding the "security" wall, despite the findings of the International Court of Justice that this wall is illegal and that it must be brought down. Dugard argues that Israeli reasoning that it needs the wall for security masks it's true purpose:
That the purpose of the Wall is to acquire land surrounding West Bank settlements and to include settlements within Israel can no longer be seriously challenged. The fact that 76 per cent of the West Bank settler population is enclosed within the Wall bears this out.
So we continue to punish the Palestinian people for the refusal of their government to recognise Israel whilst ignoring the fact that the International Court of Justice has found all settlement activity in the occupied territories to be illegal and yet, despite this, "the Government of Israel persists in allowing settlements to grow." Indeed, Israeli settlements are growing at a rate of 5.5% each year compared to the 1.7% average for Israeli cities, and the Israeli government Dugard states, "makes no attempt to enforce the law". And yet we are continuing to punish the Palestinians?

This is one of the most damning reports I have ever read, outlining the war crime of collective punishment, land theft and a policy of demolition that constitutes ethnic cleansing.
Since 1967, Al-Aqaba’s population has decreased by 85 per cent, from 2,000 in 1967 to 300 persons today. What cynical exercise in social engineering could motivate the demolition of nearly half the structures in the village?
Nor is there any clear set of rules when Palestinians are made to pass through Israel's numerous check points. Here Dugard tells us that, rather than a set of laws that all can understand, "an arbitrary and capricious regime prevails" where people's freedom of movement is curtailed on what appears to be the whim of the particular IDF soldier operating the check point on any given day. He warns that Israel should pay attention to the historical precedent of it's present behaviour:
In apartheid South Africa, a similar system designed to restrict the free movement of blacks - the notorious “pass laws” - created more anger and hostility to the apartheid regime than any other measure. Israel would do well to learn from this experience.
Indeed, Dugard asserts that many of Israel's laws and practices towards the Palestinians, "violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination."

Taking all of the above into account, he asks:
Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them?
Dugard reminds us that, with the application of sanctions against the Palestinians by Israel, the US and the EU, that this is the first time in the UN's history that an occupied people have been subjected to such measures. Indeed, he argues that it is Israel who should be the subject of UN sanctions, not the Palestinians.
Israel is in violation of major Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights and has failed to implement the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, yet it escapes the imposition of sanctions. Instead, the Palestinian people, rather than the Palestinian Authority, have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.
He concludes:
Colonialism and apartheid are contrary to international law. Occupation is a lawful regime, tolerated by the international community but not approved. Indeed over the past three decades it has, in the words of the Israeli scholar Eyal Benvenisti, “acquired a pejorative connotation”.

What are the legal consequences of a regime of occupation that has continued
for nearly 40 years? Clearly none of the obligations imposed on the occupying Power are reduced as a result of such a prolonged occupation. But what are the legal consequences when such a regime has acquired some of the characteristics of colonialism and apartheid? Does it continue to be a lawful regime? Or does it cease to be a lawful regime, particularly in respect of “measures aimed at the occupants’ own interests”? And if this is the position, what are the legal consequences for the occupied people, the occupying Power and third States? Should questions of this kind not be addressed to the International Court of Justice for a further advisory opinion?
As I say, it is the most damning report of it's kind that I have ever read. Nor is it possible for any fair minded person to disagree with it's conclusions. An occupation is, by definition, a temporary thing that occurs to restore order after warfare. A forty year occupation is, therefore, an oxymoron. And when that forty year occupation appears to favour the domination of one racial group over another then one is right to raise the apartheid analogy.

And yet, at the moment, the international community is imposing sanctions on the occupied people rather than on their occupiers. This is a scandalous perversion of any idea of natural justice, where the occupier appears to flout international law with impunity and the occupied people suffer harsh sanctions for failing to "recognise" their occupier.

There are many historical and political reasons as to why successive US administrations appear willing to view all events in the Middle East from an Israeli perspective, but we have now arrived at a point of moral and ethical bankruptcy where we are punishing the weaker state and deliberately turning a blind eye to the many crimes - in some cases war crimes - of the occupying power.

Fear of the charge of anti-Semitism has made the West complicit in these crimes. Dugard's report should be clarion call, a wake up point where we ask Israel to comply with international law to the same degree that we insist other country's do. Our failure to do so not only makes us hypocritical of the values we espouse, but - in the case of Israel - it makes us the equivalent of an over indulgent parent, feeding chocolate to an obese child.

Our indulgence is helping no-one. And I include Israelis in that.

Click title to read the full report.