Spending billions on a cause that remains unclear

The price of an endless “war on terror”:

Over the past five years, the U.S. government has spent a combined $80 billion on contractors to support its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that has U.S. military leaders concerned: On Friday, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan suggested that the coalition had become too dependent on private contractors to carry out its mission there effectively.

Why Zionists want to be told what to think about Israel

The front page of this week’s Australian Jewish News features a picture of Theodore Herzl, a headline that reads, “Unite behind the blue and white” and the lines: “Despite facing a barrage of assaults on a daily basis, 150 years after Herzl’s birth and 62 years after the foundation of the state, Israel remains a beacon of hope for world Jewry.”

Murdoch cares for nothing more than being close to the big boys

Briton David Yelland, former editor of Murdoch’s Sun newspaper and now PR man, writes a very insightful column in the Guardian. A rare understanding of the Murdoch view of the world – namely, power at any cost with ideology a long way behind:

I doubt if Rupert Murdoch watched the election debate last week. His focus is very firmly on the United States, especially his resurgent Wall Street Journal. But if he did, there would have been one man totally unknown to him. One man utterly beyond the tentacles of any of his family, his editors or his advisers. That man is Nick Clegg.
Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election – or held the balance of power – it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.
I can say this with some authority because in my five years editing the Sun I did not once meet a Lib Dem leader, even though I met Tony Blair, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith on countless occasions. (Full disclosure: I have since met Nick Clegg.)
I remember in my first year asking if we staffed the Liberal Democrat conference. I was interested because as a student I’d been a founder member of the SDP. I was told we did not. We did not send a single reporter for fear of encouraging them.
So while we sent a team of five, plus assorted senior staff, to both the Tory and Labour conferences, we sent nobody to the Lib Dems. And while successive News International chiefs have held parties at both those conferences, they have never to my knowledge even attended a Lib Dem conference.
It gets even worse. While it would be wrong to say the Lib Dems were banned from Murdoch’s papers (indeed, the Times has a good record in this area), I would say from personal experience that they are often banned – except where the news is critical. They are the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper’s pages and ignored.
But it is worse than that, because it is not just the Murdoch press that is guilty of this. The fact is that much of the print press in this country is entirely partisan and always has been. All proprietors and editors are part of the “great game”. The trick is to ally yourself with the winner and win influence or at least the ear of the prime minister.
The consequence of this has been that the middle party has been ignored, simply because it was assumed it would never win power. After all, why court a powerless party?
So, as the pendulum swings from red to blue and back to red, the newspapers, or many of them, swing with it – sometimes ahead of the game and sometimes behind.
Over the years the relationships between the media elite and the two main political parties have become closer and closer to the point where, now, one is indistinguishable from the other. Indeed, it is difficult not to think that the lunatics have stopped writing about the asylum and have actually taken it over.
We now live in an era when very serious men and women stay out of politics because our national discourse is conducted by populists with no interest in politics whatsoever. What we have in the UK is a coming together of the political elite and the media in a way that makes people outside London or outside those elites feel disenfranchised and powerless. But all that would go to pot if Clegg were able to somehow pull off his miracle. For he is untainted by it.
Just imagine the scene in many of our national newspaper newsrooms on the morning a Lib-Lab vote has kept the Tories out of office. “Who knows Clegg?” they would say.
There would be a resounding silence.
“Who can put in a call to Gordon?” another would cry.
You would hear a pin drop on the editorial floor.
The fact is these papers, and others, decided months ago that Cameron was going to win. They are now invested in his victory in the most undemocratic fashion. They have gone after the prime minister in a deeply personal way and until last week they were certain he was in their sights.
I hold no brief for Nick Clegg. But now, thanks to him – an ingenue with no media links whatsoever – things look very different, because now the powerless have a voice as well as the powerful.
All of us who care about democracy must celebrate this over the coming weeks – even if Cameron wins in the end, at least some fault lines will have been exposed.

Anonymity is (usually) the enemy of good journalism

At somebody is awake at the New York Times. Thank you, Public Editor:

The Times continues to hurt itself with readers by misusing anonymous sources.
I have received complaints about recent articles in which unnamed sources were allowed to 1) accuse a real estate agent of racial discrimination, 2) provide a letter from a dead man in the midst of a political controversy, and 3) discuss the press strategy of a politician who seeks to manipulate reporters with, among other tactics, off-the-record phone calls.
Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.
Joe Walsh of Roslindale, Mass., wrote last week that reporters seem to have a ready list of reasons why sources can’t be named — not authorized to speak, ongoing negotiations and the like — that serve only to provide “both the source and the reporter with a veil of integrity.”
Anonymous sources can be invaluable. Notably, they recently helped The Times break a scandal involving Gov. David Paterson of New York. But used casually or routinely, they stir readers’ skepticism.

Our oil addiction is funding this

Life for a Saudi woman who writes poetry.

A close US ally that practices gender apartheid:

…Even successful businesswomen arriving at an airport today must still wait, like small children, until an authorized man comes to pick them up, because women are prohibited from driving.

Insecure Zionism, an ongoing series

Another nail in the coffin of Israeli “democracy”, a fanciful word that always meant discrimination against non-Jews:

A new report and billboard campaign launched by Israeli group Im Tirtzu – the Second Zionist Revolution” accuses at least twelve Israeli human rights groups of support for or involvement in the indictment of Israeli officials for serious violations of international law in courts overseas, under the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’ (see below).
Launched to coincide with Israeli Remembrance Day on 19 April, and Independence Day on 20 April, the campaign also accuses two grant-making bodies, the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Ford Foundation, of complicity in these activities.
The report, of which 34 pages have been made available to JNews, was published Friday by reporter Ben Caspit of the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. (Both report and article are in Hebrew.)
Caspit covered the report largely sympathetically, although he objected to the blatant connection to Remembrance Day. According to his article:

“Im Tirtzu are keeping the grand finale of the campaign for Remembrance Day. It will feature a hard-hitting billboard: against the background of a wreath placed on the tomb of a fallen IDF soldier from operation ‘Cast Lead’, with a burning torch in the background, the following text will appear: ‘We salute, They persecute! New Israel Fund and Adalah: Subversives, we’ve had enough of you.’”
The chairperson of Im Tirtzu, Ronen Shoval, is quoted in the article as saying: “This research and its results made us feel sick. Every Hebrew mother should know that while her son stands guard, somewhere there is a lawyer connected to the NIF sitting and thinking how to turn him into a war criminal.”
The latter is a play on a famous quote by David Ben-Gurion, who said that every Hebrew (Jewish) mother should know that her son is in good hands in the army.
Caspit says that the NIF employs a “systematic pattern of action” and that it “establishes and sponsors dozens of radical anti-Zionist organizations.” He adds that the Im Tirtzu campaign aims to expose the “antithesis” to Remembrance Day: “Israelis who ask international courts to conduct ‘targeted assassinations’ against Israeli officers.”
The report points to Gaza-based rights group the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) as the prime mover in legal action against Israeli officials overseas in recent years. It then attempts to describe links between that organization and Israeli human rights groups, the NIF and the Ford Foundation.
The report mentions a plethora of Israeli organizations, including Gisha, Bimkom, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, HaMoked, B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Yesh Din, MachsomWatch, Social TV, Zochrot, Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), Adalah and Rabbis for Human Rights, but the accusations directed at them are rather broad.
Most of these organizations are castigated for maintaining ongoing relations with PCHR and other Palestinian organizations, exchanging human rights information with them and issuing joint statements against human rights violations. Social TV is also castigated for having organized public debates about the principle of universal jurisdiction.
The report also criticizes Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard (Yesh Din) and Ishai Menuhin (PCATI) for saying that if Israeli officials are not brought to justice in Israel, they should face charges abroad, while the feminist peace group Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), is attacked for having issued a statement supporting indictment abroad of Israeli officials for crimes committed during the Gaza offensive (2009).
Menuhin is described as having promoted a war crimes case while he was a spokesperson for Israeli antimilitarist group Yesh Gvul, while human rights group Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – is targeted for having provided a legal opinion for one of the legal cases overseas.
The report also examines in detail the history and connections of Jamil Dakwar, a lawyer whose studies were previously funded by the NIF, and is now active in submitting war crimes cases against Israeli policymakers.
Financial relations between these organizations and the NIF, and between the Ford Foundation and the NIF, are also explored in detail.

We are truly sorry, say US troops from Iraq

Following the recent Wikileaks revelation of a video that showed the cold-blooded murder by American forces of Iraq civilians, now this:

Two former soldiers from the Army unit responsible for the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” incident have written an open-letter of “Reconciliation and Responsibility” to those injured in the July 2007 attack, in which U.S. forces wounded two children and killed over a dozen people, including the father of those children and two Reuters employees.
Ethan Mccord and Josh Stieber deployed to Baghdad with Bravo Company 2-16 in 2007. Ethan was on the ground at the scene of the shooting, and is seen on the video rushing one of the injured children to a U.S. Vehicle; “When I saw those kids, all I could picture was my kids back home”. Ethan applied for mental health support following this incident and was denied by his commanding officer.
Josh Stieber was not at the scene of the shooting but says similar incidents happened throughout his 14-month tour; “The acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war.”
 Josh states that these casualties demonstrate the impact of U.S. military policy on both the civilians and the soldiers on the ground.
Ethan and Josh claim that though their unit was following the Rules of Engagement that day, they are taking responsibility for their role in the incident and initiating a dialogue around it; “Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.”
The letter, which they hope to get to the family who lost their father and whose children were injured in the attack, states that they “are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.”
The letter can be seen at: www.lettertoiraq.com

Israel is a sick child with no real interest in recovery, writes Haaretz

In a sad editorial, Haaretz laments the state of the Jewish state:

The joy attendant on Israel’s Independence Day traditionally focused on emphasizing the growing list of the young state’s achievements and the sense that the country was progressing toward a better future – one of peace, enhanced physical and existential security, integration into the family of nations and the region, and a normalized existence. But the country’s lifespan, which was considered a great virtue in and of itself during the first few decades, has become secondary to a far more important question:
Within what dynamic is Israel operating? Is time on Israel’s side? Is it setting goals for itself and working toward their realization? Has it blossomed into maturity? Are its citizens more secure and happier? Does it greet the future with hope?
Unfortunately, Israel’s 62nd Independence Day finds it in a kind of diplomatic, security and moral limbo that is certainly no cause for celebration. It is isolated globally and embroiled in a conflict with the superpower whose friendship and support are vital to its very existence.
It is devoid of any diplomatic plan aside from holding onto the territories and afraid of any movement. It wallows in a sense of existential threat that has only grown with time. It seizes on every instance of anti-Semitism, whether real or imagined, as a pretext for continued apathy and passivity.
In many respects, it seems that Israel has lost the dynamism and hope of its early decades, and is once again mired in the ghetto mentality against which its founders rebelled.
Granted, Israel is not the sole custodian of its fate. Yet the shortcomings that have cast a pall over the country since its founding – the ethnocentrism, the dominance of the army and religious functionaries, the socioeconomic gaps, the subservience to the settlers, the mystical mode of thinking and the adherence to false beliefs – have, instead of disappearing over time, only gathered steam.
The optimistic, pragmatic, peace-seeking spirit that once filled the Israeli people, in tune with the Zionist revolution, which sought to alter Jewish fate, has weakened. And it is not clear whether the current government is deepening the reactionary counterrevolution or merely giving it faithful expression.
On the eve of Independence Day last year, we wrote in this space: “Stagnation has taken the place of change. Not only does this government, which was formed not long ago, not bode well for hope and change.
It champions a policy of regression in a number of areas: the diplomatic front; the Palestinian question; the state’s attitude toward the settlers; issues of state and religion; its handling of Israeli Arabs; and its general behavior toward our Arab neighbors and the world. Whoever clings to the vision of ‘managing the conflict’ and despairs of reaching a solution to the conflict will find himself treading water. Instead of growing and reinventing ourselves, we will be the ones managed by crises.”
It is saddening to discover that all these fears came true this year, to an even greater degree than we expected. When the prime minister’s main message to the country is that we are once again on the verge of a holocaust, and his vision consists primarily of delving into the Bible, nurturing nationalist symbols and clinging to “national heritage sites,” it seems that Hebrew independence has become a caricature of itself. One can only hope that forces within the nation will soon arise to reshape the state and the leadership in a way worthy of us all.

What does a Taliban fighter think?

My following book review appeared in Saturday’s Melbourne Age:

My Life with the Taliban
Abdul Salam Zaeef
Scribe, $45

The former UN special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, told the BBC World Service in March that not negotiating with the Taliban was “unthinkable”. He condemned the arrest by American-backed Pakistani troops of prominent Taliban leaders and claimed it would have a “negative effect” on ongoing, secret peace talks with members of the insurgency.
The underlying and mistaken assumption of using military means to destroy an enemy is that the Taliban are essentially outsiders and not simply ordinary Afghans fighting foreign occupation. All sides have used brutal methods in this conflict.
Last December Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid that he guessed about 70 percent of the Taliban battled for local reasons or money rather than an ideological commitment to any movement. They could be bribed and won over, he claimed.
It is a position that would be seriously challenged by Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban minister and ambassador to Pakistan who spent more than four years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. This autobiography, translated from his native Pashtun, details his life growing up in Kandahar province (he now lives under government protection in Kabul).
Zaeef’s stories are like those of countless others who became hardened fighters during the epic and ultimately successful war against the faltering Sovietempire.
He served under current Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Zaeef details a conversation with him just after the September11 attacks. Zaeef “did not [initially] believe” that New York and Washington had been attacked but the Islamic Emirate in Kandahar immediately condemned the atrocities: “We want them [the perpetrators] brought to justice and we want America to be patient and careful in their actions.”
When the Bush administration demanded the alleged mastermind Osama Bin Laden be delivered, the Taliban, explains Zaeef, opposed. “If every country were to hand over any person deemed a criminal by America,” he writes, “then America would de facto control the world.”
“Other solutions” were allegedly proposed, including a trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but “the USA made it clear that they were willing to use force should Afghanistan not comply with its demands”.
It’s worth remembering that Washington never had any substantive issues before September 11 with the gross human rights abuses in the Islamic nation— issues basically ignored by Zaeef, including gender apartheid and public stonings—and “would drop all its other demands and formally recognise the Emirate if he [Bin Laden] were handed over”.
Zaeef’s internment at Guantanamo Bay makes painful reading. American soldiers stationed there are portrayed as
largely intolerant, scared and culturally clueless. Curiously, he is constantly asked about the presence of natural minerals in Afghanistan, including uranium and gold.
Despite years of imprisonment, Zaeef retains strongly Islamist leanings and deeply opposes the American occupation of his country. He chastises the Obama administration (and therefore Australia and other allies) for relying “solely on force and even the so-called peace talks are accompanied by threats”.
Although Zaeef hardly represents a liberal face of the war-torn country, his observations about Afghanistan provide a salutary lesson for readers who view the nation as incapable of rising above its tribal afflictions. The Taliban have been brutal and most studies indicate a reluctance of Afghans to return to their rule. But US-backed warlords currently control large swathes of the state, dishing out Taliban-style fear and retribution.
“Foreign troops [are arriving] in great numbers trying to solve a problem they are part of,” Zaeef writes.
Antony Loewenstein is the author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution (MUP)

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *