The noble war in Afghanistan is against 100 people?

 27 Jun 2010

Let me get this straight. Tens of thousands of Western troops are fighting in Afghanistan because of this or are we actually occupying the country for another reason altogether?

In an EXCLUSIVE interview on “This Week,” CIA Director Leon Panetta told host Jake Tapper that there were “at most” only 50-100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan?” Tapper asked.

“I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small,” Panetta said. “At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

What Kevin Rudd is thinking still today

27 Jun 2010

Kevin Rudd’s DownfallMore bloopers are a click away

Lebanon considers entering the 21st century on rights

 27 Jun 2010

The possibility that Palestinians may soon have more rights in Lebanon – such as fair work and fair pay – is covered by al-Jazeera.

The current situation is a shameful example of Arab racism and inaction towards the Palestinian people:

New York Times wonders why those silly Arabs don’t get sick of being killed

 27 Jun 2010

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman – a fan of Western state violencewrites today that Israel should stretch out the hand of peace because otherwise it may simply kill many more Palestinian civilians:

Israel’s newfound sense of security, though, was bought at a very high price — and it is not a steady state.

Let me explain. The history of Israeli-Arab relations since 1948 can be summarized in one sentence: “War, timeout, war, timeout, war, timeout, war, timeout, war, timeout. …” What differentiates Israel from the Arabs and the Palestinians is how much more productive Israel has been during its timeouts.

Israel today is enjoying another timeout because it recently won three short wars — and then encountered one pleasant surprise. The first was a war to dismantle the corrupt Arafat regime. The second was the war started by Hezbollah in Lebanon and finished by a merciless pounding of Shiite towns and Beirut suburbs by the Israeli Air Force. The third was the war to crush the Hamas missile launchers in Gaza.

What is different about these three wars, though, is that Israel won them using what I call “Hama Rules” — which are no rules at all. “Hama Rules” are named after the Syrian town of Hama, where, in 1982, then-President Hafez el-Assad of Syria put down a Muslim fundamentalist uprising by shelling and then bulldozing their neighborhoods, killing more than 10,000 of his own people.

In Israel’s case, it found itself confronting enemies in Gaza and Lebanon armed with rockets, but nested among local civilians, and Israel chose to go after them without being deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties. As the Lebanese militia leader Bashir Gemayel was fond of saying — before he himself was blown up — “This is not Denmark here. And it is not Norway.”

The brutality of the Israeli retaliations bought this timeout with Hezbollah and Hamas, and the civilian casualties and troubling TV images bought Israel a U.N. investigation into alleged war crimes.

Bottom line: Israel needs to try to buy its next timeout with diplomacy, which means Netanyahu has to show some initiative. Because the risks to Israel’s legitimacy of another war in Gaza, Lebanon or the West Bank — in which Israel could be forced to kill even more civilians to squash rocket attacks launched from schoolyards by fighters who wear no uniforms — will be staggering.

Obama soon to put serious pressure on Israel (let’s wait and see)

27 Jun 2010

Oh my:

The lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and permission for Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip freely through Israeli border crossings. These are the unequivocal demands that President Barack Obama is expected to make during his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the White House in two weeks.

If anyone thought that lifting the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip would satisfy the Americans, it is now clear to them that is only the beginning. Reliable sources who have been apprised of the preparations that the White House is making for the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu revealed that the demands are much more significant. While Obama voiced his satisfaction with the relief measures that Israel announced, he believes that the situation in which more than a million and a half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are living is intolerable.

The American president is particularly angry that the inhabitants are not free to leave the Gaza Strip. He sees that as a kind of “collective punishment.” Political sources say that Netanyahu, who has chosen not to change the situation with the Gaza Strip, now finds himself under a great deal of international pressure and must act under pressure from the United States.

Obama also intends to examine the issue of extending the construction freeze with Netanyahu. It may be assumed that Netanyahu will make a continuation of the construction freeze conditional upon going over to direct talks with Abu Mazen.

But considering the firm demands to be made in the private meetings, White House officials are planning quite a warm reception for Netanyahu. Obama’s advisers are preparing quite a few “photo ops” in which the president and Netanyahu will be seen together in public. According to the plan, they will go out into the Rose Garden, which overlooks Obama’s office, where they will answer questions from the media.

Reliable sources say that one of the reasons for the special effort is requests from Jewish Democrats running in the interim Congressional elections this coming November, who are  urging the White House to provide them with “friendly pictures” of Obama and Netanyahu.

White House officials are even looking into the possibility that Obama will invite the Israeli prime minister to come with him to Camp David for talks that will go far into the night. The president’s advisers are examining the idea, the purpose of which, in essence, is to see first-hand which compromises Netanyahu is willing to strive for in a final status arrangement with the Palestinians and with Syria.

Sources in Washington explained that Obama expects to hear from Netanyahu “not only slogans about his willingness to enter negotiations with Abu Mazen and with Assad,” but to show clearly what he means when he talks about two states — Israel and Palestine — existing side by side. Another subject about which the American president expects an answer is Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace treaty with Syria.

Perhaps the most sensitive issue that is going to be discussed in the talks between the two leaders is Obama’s view that the world must give up nuclear weapons. Since Netanyahu is very well aware that the opinions of American decision-makers on this matter have changed, he will try to receive guarantees that for now, there will be no change in American policy regarding Israel’s nuclear capability.

America can never progress in Afghanistan without leaving

26 Jun 2010

Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 27 June:

General David Petraeus is taking command in Afghanistan to stage-manage a war that the US has decided it cannot win militarily, but from which it cannot withdraw without damaging loss of face.

General Petraeus has so far said surprisingly little about Afghanistan, aside from noting how different it is from Iraq. The similarity between the two conflicts is that in both cases the US needed to compromise with its enemies and take a back seat in conflicts that have raged for 30 years.

The US never had vital interests at stake in Baghdad or Kabul. It tumbled into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9/11 to restore its status as the world’s sole superpower, and because it thought victory would come easily in both countries. To its horror, the US political elite found that it was fighting draining wars that demonstrated American weakness rather than strength. The immense US military machine proved unable to overcome local guerrillas numbering in each case fewer than 30,000.

General Petraeus’s greatest skills are as a politician who can adapt himself to local circumstances. His reputation for innovative military tactics is largely a smokescreen to hide political manoeuvres. In Afghanistan, the Taliban draw their support exclusively from a portion of the Pashtun community to which only 42 per cent of Afghans belong.

In Afghanistan, it is not that the Taliban is so strong but that the Afghan government is so weak. One Pakistani officer commanding Pashtun tribal levies on the other side of the Afghan border said: “For 3,000 years xenophobia has been at the heart of Pashtun culture.” By the same token, the Taliban cannot expand into areas populated by the 58 per cent of Afghans who are Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara or other minorities.

A hug and cuddle with Tzipi Livni

26 Jun 2010

This is how the New York Times interviews Israel’s “opposition” leader Tzipi Livni. Soft-ball questions, nothing about the occupation or the real human rights crisis in Gaza or fundamentalist Jewish settlers. Of course not, she’s one of us, remember?

The Israeli security cabinet just voted to ease the three-year blockade on Gaza, in the wake of the tragic naval attack on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos. What does that mean in practical terms?
I’ve heard that the cabinet changed the list to allow more goods to enter. There shouldn’t be any limitations on food, but things that can be used for terror cannot be permitted. The reason for the blockade on Gaza was not to punish the Palestinians but to continue to delegitimize Hamas. There is no hope for peace with Hamas, and we need to continue the peace process with the legitimate Palestinian government.

Many Americans agree Hamas is a disaster, but might Israel do more to show concern for the Palestinian people and the problems they face?
I know that there is no humanitarian crisis.

Why do you say that?
The crossings are open for humanitarian needs. I suggested in the past to put cameras online, on the Internet, for the world to see all the goods entering Gaza Strip. This was my suggestion when I was foreign minister.

You’re the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, which is an opposition party. Yet you don’t sound very opposed to the views of the ruling party.
On the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself, there is no opposition in Israel.

Have you met frequently with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party?
Netanyahu is my next meeting.

When does his term expire?
About three years from now.

Do you think he will be pushed out before his term ends, as often happens in Israeli politics?
If he does the right thing, he has a future, but in order to do the right thing, he needs to make new decisions, new policy and a completely different coalition. Otherwise the Israelis are going to change the government.

By “right thing,” do you mean he needs to move beyond his longstanding aversion to atwo-state solution?
Yes, he said a few months ago that he supported this idea of two nation-states, and now we are at the beginning of the proximity talks. This is going to be tested by decisions, not by words. It’s going to be tested in the near future.

You lost to him in the race for prime minister last year. Will you run again?
I will be prime minister. It’s about the future of my state.

Your parents were among the country’s founders.
They were the first couple to marry in Israel, the very first. Both of them were in the Irgun. They were freedom fighters, and they met while boarding a British train. When the British Mandate was here, they robbed a train to get the money in order to buy weapons.

It was a more romantic era. Is your mom still alive?
No. She died two years ago. A few years ago, when I was interviewed on Israeli television, I said I support the idea of two nation-states. I was afraid that my mother was listening and hoped that she didn’t open the TV when I was speaking. But then one day she called me and said: “Listen, Tzipi. I hear you. It gives me pain. But you need to make decisions about the future of Israel. We didn’t establish this state for having just old people living here.”

That could be a good slogan. Isn’t your husband in advertising?
My husband is in branding. He brands places — cities, institutions.

Do you ever talk to him about improving Israel’s image?
Yes, of course. I believe Israel needs branding. I want that the word “Israel” will relate not just to an Israeli soldier or a camel, but Israel as an advanced liberal society with a strong economy and great people.

Do your children agree with your politics?
They know that what I’m doing is for the sake of their own future. I want to know that when I die I leave them something more than a bank account — a state to live in, to be proud of.

Are you dying?
It’s not part of my plan for now.

Midnight on the Mavi Marmara

 26 Jun 2010

Norman Finkelstein’s last book, This Time We Went Too Far, is published by new figure on the scene. OR Books.

Now, in late July, comes a new title, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara:

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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