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 Saturday, July 31, 2004

  Dump the American Empire

by Charley Reese
28th July 2004

Charley Reese is a journalist for 49 years. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

There is an American Empire, but we should dump it, because we Americans are woefully incompetent when it comes to maintaining empires.

One mistake that seems to be a permanent feature of our foreign policy is mirror-imaging. So many American politicians, most of them poorly educated and ignorant of other people and their cultures, tend to think other people are just like us. A great many are not.

Lyndon Johnson failed in Vietnam because he thought he could treat the Vietnamese the same way he treated members of the U.S. House and Senate. Johnson always used a stick and a carrot. Vote with me, and you'll get pork-barrel rewards; vote against me, and I'll find a way to punish you.

That worked with American politicians, most of whom are nothing more than officeholders with "for sale or rent" signs on their foreheads.

Johnson told the North Vietnamese, make peace, and I'll give you billions of dollars in American aid; don't make peace, and I'll bomb you.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the North Vietnamese, whatever their other faults, were not for sale, nor were they willing to succumb to threats. They wanted to unify their country, and they were willing to fight as long as necessary to achieve that. As it turned out, we were not willing to fight as long as necessary to prevent it.

So, despite billions of dollars, despite 57,000 dead, despite a quarter of a million wounded, Vietnam is today a unified communist country.

President George W. Bush has offered a $25 million reward for Osama bin Laden. He thought, apparently, that like most Americans, the Afghans and Pakistanis were for sale.

Despite Afghanistan being one of the poorest countries in the world, the American millions have not produced a single traitor willing to rat out bin Laden.

Let's face it — we have become a secular and materialistic society. The two kinds of people we have real trouble believing actually exist are people of true religious faith and people to whom honor means more than money.

Years ago, an understandably irate chiropractor said of medical doctors, "If they can't drug it or cut it, they don't know what the hell to do." Similarly, if we can't bribe with our dollars or intimidate with our bombs, we don't know what to do. That disqualifies us to run an empire, so we ought to cut our losses and go back to being a republic.

Now, returning to our republican roots doesn't mean we try to live in splendid isolation. Not at all. It just means that we stop trying to run other people's countries and concentrate on running our own. We can have trade relations with the whole world — cultural exchanges, tourism, the whole ball of friendly wax. We just make sure the CIA and the military don't do any dirty work inside other people's countries, such as interfering in their elections or overthrowing their governments.

And we don't take sides in other countries' wars and feuds. Armed neutrality should be our position.

That, to me, would be the best of all possible worlds for Americans. This is not pie in the sky. It was once American policy, and the United States was widely loved and respected during that period of time. Now, with our troops in more than 100 foreign countries, we are widely disliked, if not hated and feared.

The cluster blunders in Iraq and Vietnam, not to mention many smaller cluster blunders we have made around the world, should convince any reasonable person that we Americans are simply not competent imperialists.

We don't know much about other people; we resist learning other languages; we love our own country so much we are frankly not very interested in the rest of the world. We have all the qualifications to be a mind-our-own-business republic, and none of the qualifications to be a world empire.

We should start bringing our troops home from the far-flung corners of the world, establish a sensible self-defense posture and use the billions of dollars we would save to tackle all the really serious domestic problems we have.

Unfortunately, for that to happen you'd probably have to elect Pat Buchanan or me as president, and neither one of us is running.

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  IRAN: War Target for Bush's Re-Election Bid in November

Read here full article,"Iran new U.S. whipping boy" by Eric Margolis in Toronto Sun.

July 25, 2004

"Those who deceived America into attacking Iraq may be at it again."
Did Iran help al-Qaida stage the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States?

Perhaps, suggested the U.S. 9/11 commission.

It claimed Iran allowed eight al-Qaida future airplane hijackers to pass through Iran from Afghanistan between seven and 11 months prior to the attacks on America.

Unnamed senior Bush administration officials also claim Iran proposed collaborating with al-Qaida in 2000, but was rejected by Osama bin Laden.

"Maybe we attacked the wrong country," one of the dimmer lights in Congress ruefully observed.

There has been no real evidence produced that Iran knew of the 9/11 attacks or assisted them.

In fact, the Bush administration has still never produced the white paper promised by Colin Powell in late 2001 proving bin Laden and al-Qaida were behind 9/11.

Why would Iran, knowing it was in Bush's gunsights, join in a monstrous terrorist attack that, if linked to Tehran, could have conceivably brought U.S. nuclear retaliation?

This column has long predicted the Bush administration would orchestrate a pre-election crisis over Iran designed to whip up patriotic fervour in the U.S. and distract public and media attention from the Iraq fiasco.

The growing clamour over Iran's nuclear intentions, with rumblings about air strikes against Iran's reactors in the fall, may prove to be a part of just such a manufactured crisis.

Remember, these latest fevered claims about Iran come from the same "reliable intelligence sources" and neo-conservative hawks who insisted Iraq had a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the U.S., with intimate links to al-Qaida.

The Iran-Afghan border is 1,000 km of wild, broken terrain that is extremely difficult to police. Large numbers of smugglers cross this border on countless hidden trails, bringing hashish and gems into Iran.

The U.S., with fleets of planes, helicopters and sensors, cannot stop a flood of undocumented Mexicans crossing its own southwestern borders.

Why should the poorly equipped Iranians do any better?

Didn't these same 9/11 hijackers also enter the U.S. unchallenged? Of course. They slipped unnoticed into Iran and the U.S. No one knew their intentions. This is the most likely explanation.

Iran does not have a unified government. This nation of 72.5 million is afflicted by feuding factions that have produced a state of political chaos.

Iran has certainly been involved in acts of terrorism, notably against Jews in Argentina.

And militants from the intelligence service or Pasdarann (Revolutionary Guards), might have let al-Qaida mujahidin slip across the border without Tehran's knowledge.

But far more important are two key facts that most media and the government aren't telling you.

1. Iran and al-Qaida were bitter enemies.

In Afghanistan, al-Qaida ardently backed the Pushtun-dominated, Sunni Taliban movement, which hated Shia as heretics and killed large numbers of them. Shia Iran (and Russia) armed and supported the Taliban's greatest foe, Ahmad Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, composed of Dari (a Persian dialect)-speaking Tajiks, Afghan communists, and Shia.

Massoud was a long-time collaborator with Soviet/Russian intelligence.

After the Taliban killed a group of Iranian intelligence agents, Iran almost invaded Afghanistan to overthrow them.

Just before 9/11, al-Qaida assassinated Massoud.

Iran quietly aided the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan that overthrew the Taliban, and jailed scores of al-Qaida members, including one of bin Laden's sons.

Active Iranian co-operation with al-Qaida seems illogical. Of course my enemy's enemy is my friend, and collaboration was theoretically possible, but Iran derived no benefit whatever from the 9/11 attacks -- quite the contrary.

2. The Bush administration and former Clinton officials are trading accusations that the other was responsible for failing to take action against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies prior to 9/11.

But what no one admits is that both administrations sent millions in aid to the Taliban until four months before 9/11.

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 Friday, July 30, 2004

  Australian Ministers Accused of Dodging Vietnam War But Sent Australians to Iraq War

Former Adelaide Magistrate Brian Deegan has accused two senior Government ministers of avoiding military service in Vietnam, but then sending Australians to an "unjustified" war.

He singled out Foreign Minister Downer and Defence Minister Robert Hill for NOT serving in Vietnam.

Mr Deegan today resigned from the bench after announcing his candidacy as an independent candidate in Mr Downer's seat of Mayo. He said:

"Where were the two senior ministers that have voted for an illegal, illicit and immoral war?

Well, neither of them were in Australia I can assure you of that.

They were in Great Britain, and they sat it out in Great Britain."

He spoke at the South Australian Press Club to launch his book, Remembering Josh, a tribute to his son who died in the Bali bombings.

He also used the occasion to renew his criticism of the Howard Government for engaging in an "immoral war" in Iraq, claiming that no member of Federal Cabinet had been to war.

"I mean if these people went to war for themselves, and had first-hand knowledge of the horrors of war, I think they might be just a little bit more reluctant to cause a war," he said.

Senator Hill today denied he was a draft dodger.

"Well, I deferred during my studies. That's true," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Downer says he moved to London at the age of 13, and grew up there, so the allegation is factually wrong.

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  Ignorance of American College Students on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Caused by Deliberate American Media's Bias and Prejudice.

Read here full article by Tom Fenton of CBS News

In a new study of media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group of American college students was asked,

"Who is occupying the occupied territories, and what nationality are the settlers?”

Fairly simple questions, but only 29 percent knew the correct answers. The Israelis are both the occupiers and the settlers.

  • Some thought the Palestinians occupy the occupied territories, but the Israelis are the settlers.
  • Others thought the Israelis occupy the occupied territories, but the Palestinians are the settlers.
  • A smaller number thought the Palestinians were both the settlers and the occupiers.
  • The rest simply could not answer.

The study points out that the Americans questioned were journalism and media students and some had even done projects on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

 So their answers clearly overstated the public’s level of knowledge about the Middle East.

As a journalist who has spent almost four decades reporting on world affairs and especially the Middle East, I was not surprised. I learned long ago that you cannot underestimate the level of understanding of the general public.

The study(*) by the Glasgow University Media Group examines coverage of the Middle East conflict and its impact on public opinion. It includes audience samples of over 800 people, most of them British, and large samples of television news reports from September 2000 to April 2002. It claims to be the largest study ever undertaken in this area.

The focus is not on the public confusion and ignorance about the Middle East, but on where the fault lies.

The researchers believe the media, and primarily television news, are at fault.

They point to the way Israeli and Palestinian combatants are labelled in television reports.

  • Palestinians are "activists," "militants," "extremists," "assailants," "gunmen," "bombers," "terrorists," "killers," "assassins," "fundamentalist groups," "attackers," "self-styled Palestinian martyrs" and "fanatics."
  • Iraelis are "soldiers" or "troops," and even when an Israeli group tried to bomb a Palestinian school, they were not "terrorists" but "vigilantes."

The report also found that there is significantly more coverage of Israelis casualties than Palestinian, even though Palestinians consistently have two or three times as many casualties.
Also, in the spiral of Palestinian-Israeli violence, Palestinians are frequently described as "starting" the trouble, while the Israelis "retaliate."

The researchers say television has largely denied its audience an explanation of the background and origins of the conflict.

"It is clear," they say, "that the fact of military occupation and its consequences are crucial to an understanding of the rationale of Palestinian action."

Many in the audience sample did not understand that there is a military occupation and that it is widely seen as illegal.

A BBC journalist even told the researchers his boss had instructed him not to do "explainers." So his reports were "all bang bang stuff." And the BBC is widely thought to be better on foreign news coverage than American TV.

The authors conclude that the lack of understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict leads to a lack of interest.

One British viewer complained, "Every time it comes on, it never actually explains it so I don’t see the point in watching it. I just turn it off and go and make a cup of tea or something."

In both Britain and America, television news is still the main source of information on world affairs for most of the public. So it is not surprising that most of the public hasn’t got a clue about what is behind the depressing news from the Middle East. It’s mostly "bang bang" and very little context.

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 Thursday, July 29, 2004

  US Presidential Election: Bush or Kerry, Israel Wins  Both Ways 

Excerpt from article by  Linda S. Heard
Arab News 
27 July 2004

Linda S.Heard is a specialist writer on the Middle East.

George Bush is a devout Christian aligned to Pro-Israel right wing fundamentalist Christians.

John Kerry, a Catholic,  has Jewish ancestry. His paternal grandfather was Jewish and became a Christian convert.

How does John Kerry  feel about Israel and its ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, a divisive subject unlikely to come to the fore during the convention when Muslim and African American votes are being courted?
 If at all possible Kerry is more pro-Israel than George W. Bush and deeply aware of the issues surrounding Middle East politics.
Earlier this month, Kerry’s brother Cameron, who converted to Judaism in the early 1980s, spent six days in Israel courtesy of the American Israel Education Fund, which is linked to AIPAC. Accompanying Cameron was Jay Footlik — Kerry’s campaign adviser on the Middle East and a former resident of Israel.
Kerry, a Catholic, only discovered his own Jewish antecedents a year ago thanks to a newspaper’s investigative reporting.
His Jewish paternal grandfather Fritz Kohn changed his name to Frederick Kerry and became a convert to Christianity early last century.
Kerry further came to realize that many of his relatives were Holocaust victims and that one of his ancestors may have been a Czech luminary the Rabbi Yehuda Loewe.
Indeed, as Ha’aretz journalist Nathan Guttman points out, John Kerry would be perceived by Israel as possessing an automatic “right of return”.

Guttman writes:

“The Jewish community also points out that during all his years in the Senate, he [Kerry] had a ‘perfect AIPAC record’. In other words he always voted in accordance with the pro-Israel lobby on matters related to Israel and the Middle East.

His supporters also mention that he has visited Israel many times, unlike Bush who came to visit only when he was a presidential candidate.”

Writing in the Brown Students for Israel publication Perspectives: An Israel Review, Kerry says:

"My first trip to Israel made real for me all I’d believed about Israel. I was allowed to fly an air-force jet from the Ovda Airbase. It was then that Israeli insecurity about narrow borders became very real to me. In a matter of minutes, I came close to violating the airspace of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

From that moment on, I felt as Israelis do: The promise of peace must be secure before the Promised Land is secure margin of land.I went as a friend by conviction; I returned a friend at the deepest personal level.

In this difficult time we must again reaffirm we are enlisted for the duration — and reaffirm our belief that the cause of Israel must be the cause of America — and the cause of people of conscience everywhere.”

In case there is any room for doubting Kerry’s pro-Israel stance, during the spring of 2002, Kerry co-sponsored a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel, which called for continued assistance in strengthening Israel’s homeland defenses.
Further, Kerry supports the “construction of Israel’s security fence to stop terrorists from entering Israel” and does not believe it is a matter for the International Court of Justice.

He believes that the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is not a peace partner and should remain in isolation while controversially advocating the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem “Israel’s indisputable capital”.

He even went as far as to co-sign a letter dressing down former President Clinton on his reluctance over the issue.

But hang on... here is what Kerry told the Arab American Institute in Michigan last October:

“I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build the barrier off of the Green Line — cutting deep into Palestinian areas. We don’t need another barrier to peace.

Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israel’s security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.”

Let the real John Kerry stand up.

If he succeeds in taking the White House, no doubt he will. But by then it may be too late. Arab Americans and American Muslims are left with a Hobson’s choice.

Vote Bush and it is more of the same.
Vote Kerry and there is a possibility it could get even worse.

This is why many are planning a throw away votes for Nader, which will do nothing except, perhaps, to highlight the issues for which he stands.

Whoever is the next president of the United States, the Palestinians are shamefully once again left without a glimmer of light at the end of their long and lonely tunnel, while Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will receive yet another ‘made in America’ good housekeeping seal.

This is one time I sincerely hope and pray that I’m wrong.

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 Tuesday, July 20, 2004

  Passport Fraud in Asia: Mossad Agent Linked to Asia Scam
by Craig Skehan
July 19, 2004
Sydney Morning Herald

The fugitive Israeli Mossad intelligence agent Zev Barkan has been dealing with Asian criminal gangs to obtain Australian and other passports stolen in Asia, a New Zealand aid worker has said.

Barkan has been named by New Zealand authorities as the kingpin in a passport scam for which two Israelis with Australian links were jailed for six months last week in Auckland.

One of the jailed men, Eli Cara, 50, had his rented home in Turramurra raided by ASIO in March. A short time later, he was arrested in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government has named Barkan, Cara and the other convicted man, Uriel Kelman, as Mossad agents.
Barkan fled New Zealand before police swooped.
There are unconfirmed reports that Barkan, allegedly using a fraudulent Canadian passport, has since made visits to North Korea.

The New Zealand aid worker, who has intelligence connections in Asia, said Barkan was also connected to an Israeli security company operating out of Thailand.

"He goes to Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand and deals with gangs who rob tourists of their valuables and passports," the aid worker said.

"Barkan is mostly interested in passports and there have been a number of Australian passports."

Intelligence analysts in New Zealand believe Barkan, a former navy diver in the Israeli Defence Force, was trying to secure a "clean" passport for use in a sensitive Israeli undercover operation in the region, less risky than a forged passport.

The Herald has also been told that Barkan had grown up in Washington as Zev Bruckenstein, where his father was director of religious studies at a synagogue.

 The Palestinian militant group Hamas has praised New Zealand, saying in a statement it "highly appreciated the daring position of the New Zealand Government against the Zionist entity".

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 Monday, July 19, 2004

  Passport Fraud by Mossad Spies in New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald
16th July 2004

 The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, made a scathing attack on Israel and imposed tough diplomatic sanctions after two alleged Mossad spies were jailed for passport fraud yesterday.
Helen Clark said:

"The New Zealand Government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law".

The sanctions, including suspending all high-level visits to or from Israel, came minutes after Uriel Zoshe Kelman, 31, and Eli Cara, 51, were sentenced to prison for six months for stealing the identity of a tetraplegic man to obtain a false New Zealand passport.

Helen Clark said there were "very strong grounds" to believe the men were acting for Israel's intelligence services.

The case was revealed by the Weekend Herald in April.

Last night Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said, "We are sorry about this matter. It will be dealt with and all will be done to restore Israel's long history of good relations with New Zealand to their previous correct ties."

Mr Shalom did not address the claim that the two convicted men were linked to Israel's intelligence services.

In court both men denied having links with spy agencies, such as Mossad.

Helen Clark said: 
 " If one were to lay espionage charges, one would have to be prepared to offer the kind of evidence in court which our intelligence agencies don't like coming forward to display. We have very strong grounds for believing these are Israeli intelligence agents."
  The sanctions are high on the scale of diplomatic displeasure between Governments, although they avoid targeting the 6000-plus Israeli tourists who visit New Zealand each year.

All Israelis coming to New Zealand on Government business must now obtain visas, Foreign Ministry consultations with Israel have been suspended and the Government has declined an approach for Israel's head of state, President Moshe Katsav, to visit in August.

Helen Clark said the case was a "sorry indictment" on Israel, with which New Zealand had long shared friendly relations. Ms Clark said:
"We regard it as an unfriendly action by agents of the Government of Israel, aimed at undermining New Zealand's sovereignty and certainly breaching international law. While we regret the need for it, New Zealand has no option but to take the actions that it has in response to a deliberate breach of its sovereignty. This incident has seriously strained that relationship and it will remain strained for some time."
New Zealand had asked for an explanation and an apology three months ago."We look forward at some point to the Israeli Government swallowing its pride and offering the explanation and apology we have asked for."

Helen Clark ruled out any deals with the Israeli Government similar to the agreement the previous Labour Government reached with France in 1986 over the two French spies who bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior.

The breach has parallels to a row in 1997 between Israel and Canada, which demanded Mossad stop using Canadian passports on covert operations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said: "One of the most damaging things that has been done to Israel is the public exposure of the actions of their intelligence agencies in violating other people's sovereignty in total contradiction of international law."

Mr Goff said the agents were working for Mossad. 
"We have no doubt on our side that these were individuals who were not working simply as part of a private criminal organisation. These were people who were doing it on behalf of Israeli intelligence agencies." 
The convicted men, who have spent two weeks in prison awaiting sentence, are likely to remain behind bars for a further 10 weeks before being deported.

Israel's acting ambassador in Australia, Orma Sagiv, said she hoped Israel's relationship with New Zealand would not be damaged long-term.

The affair began after a tip-off to police from Internal Affairs over an application for a New Zealand passport by an Israeli, Zev William Barkan, 37, who has now fled the country.

Barkan took the identity of a man around the same age, who had cerebral palsy, in applying for a New Zealand passport.
Investigating Barkan, a covert police operation discovered Cara and Kelman near drop-off points for the couriered passport.

Read below additional articles on the Passport Fraud

  • Editorial: To Prime Minister Helen Clark's credit,  she has taken suitable steps to show Israel, and any other country, that New Zealand will defend the integrity of its passports.   Read here for more
  • Police have confirmed they are continuing to investigate the case of the alleged Mossad spies despite the jailing of two men this week. Sources have told the Weekend Herald that tracking whether the two men had help within New Zealand is a focus of inquiries. Read here for more
  • An Auckland family have told how their tetraplegic son's identity was stolen by an Israeli secret agent who moved in just down the road. Zev Barkan, who has fled New Zealand and escaped the justice faced yesterday by his two co-accused spies, lived within 300m of the man in whose name he applied for a passport to assume a New Zealand identity. Read here for more
  • Why Mossad is interested in New Zealand: When you think of Mossad, you think of daring missions and rescues. But you also think of assassinations of Israel's enemies. The value of a passport to an intelligence agent is the new identity it allows him to assume. "With a New Zealand passport they can work in international organisations or NGOs in the Middle East as an unsuspected person. It's not necessarily that being a New Zealander makes you more trusted, it's just that you're not an Israeli. Passports could also enable an agent to obtain other useful documents or identities. With a New Zealand passport, depending on the true owner's background, that might get you British permanent residency and you might then get an EU passport, " according to Dr Jim Rolfe, a former New Zealand Army officer and defence analyst who lectures at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu.  Rolfe, too, believed Australia would be more interesting to Mossad than New Zealand. But obtaining a New Zealand passport would make the job of accessing Australia easier. Read here for more
  • High-ranking Israeli officials are seeking a diplomatic solution to the New Zealand Government's decision to impose sanctions against the Middle East nation after the sentencing of two alleged intelligence agents for trying to illegally obtain New Zealand passports. But a formal apology from Israel's Government is not in the pipeline. That would be an admission of guilt, said a well-placed source. This is unlikely to happen given the New Zealand Government's stance on Palestine. Prime Minister Helen Clark's strong statement featured prominently on television bulletins in Israel on Thursday and was splashed across the front pages of all leading newspapers yesterday. Read here for more
  • The Government has reacted angrily to New Zealand Jewish Council claims its stinging condemnation of Israel over the actions of the alleged Mossad spies is further evidence of bias against the state. And it has indicated, if necessary, it is prepared for the long-haul if it needs to maintain diplomatic sanctions against Israel. New Zealand Jewish Council president David Zwartz, also Israel's honorary counsel in New Zealand, claimed the Government's handling of the issue had added weight to the community's belief it was "anti-Israel". Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff angrily rejected all of Mr Zwartz' claims. Attempts to blame the Government for the "deplorable" grave attacks were ill-founded and would not justify silence in the face of criminal action, Mr Goff said. Read here for more
  • The suspension of diplomatic ties with Israel following yesterday's jailing of two suspected spies is thought to be New Zealand's strongest diplomatic retaliation against a foreign government since David Lange tore strips off the French 20 years ago.  The Clark Government will judge that Canada set the precedent in taking a similarly tough line when that country's sovereignty was similarly breached by Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad - especially as Israel has failed to offer either explanation or apology in New Zealand's case.    Read here for more 

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  Iraq War: Intelligence Failure or Strategic Deception by Bush Administration 
Read here full article by Eric Margolis, "The era of strategic deception "
18th July 2004
HAVING PRESIDED over the two worst intelligence disasters since Pearl Harbor -- 9/11 and the misbegotten invasion of Iraq -- the Bush Administration and its apologists are now whining, "Okay, we were wrong about Iraq's weapons and supposed threat, but so was everybody else. Besides, it was all the CIA's fault."

No way.
The Iraq weapons fiasco was absolutely not caused by an "intelligence failure," as the White House and the recent Senate whitewash claim.

U.S. national security and CIA were corrupted and blinded by extremist ideology, cowardice, and careerism.

Nor was everyone wrong about Iraq.

  • Scores of Mideast professionals, this writer included, insisted from Day 1 that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, posed no threat to the U.S., and had no link to al-Qaida.
  • Meanwhile, in 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney thundered that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.
  • A month later, Secretary of State Colin Powell proclaimed "no doubt he (Saddam) has chemical weapons."
  • Shortly after, President George W. Bush assured the UN that Iraq had biological weapons.
  • National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned a "mushroom cloud" threatened America.
  • Britain's glib prime minister, Tony Blair, made similar ludicrous claims.
  • Many veteran CIA officers dismissed these alarms as politically-motivated propaganda.
  • The U.S. state department, air force, and French intelligence challenged claims Iraq had threatening offensive weapons systems.
  • Many senior Pentagon military officers opposed invading Iraq.

But the word went out: Now hear this. If you value your job and pension, do not, repeat, do not contradict the boss. The president is hell-bent on invading Iraq. Make it so.

  • Cheney repeatedly demanded evidence be found of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida.
  • Oblivious to all facts, he keeps warning Iraq still threatens the U.S. He is increasingly out of touch with reality and may need professional calming.
  • Former CIA director George Tenet, a political aparatchik, not an intelligence professional, undermined his agency by pandering to all of Bush and Cheney's prejudices.

Careerism and hand-licking took precedence over professionalism.

Those with dissenting views were ignored or shunted aside.

This column has long reported smouldering anger among veteran CIA officers over Bush's deeply flawed policies towards Iraq and the Muslim world.

In late 2001, I was shocked and horrified to hear a distinguished member of the CIA's founding families actually claim a "fifth column" had taken control of Iraq policy and was driving the U.S. to war.

But even the compliant CIA failed to satisfy Bush and Cheney's growing demands for more damning "evidence".

Cheney and Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld created two independent intelligence units, Office for Special Plans, and "Team B."

Their mission: Find the smoking guns to justify immediate war against Iraq.

These two units became the main conduits for disinformation about Iraq, promoting every rumour the White House and media wanted to believe, no matter how absurd.

Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi -- created, financed, and managed by Pentagon neocons -- was a major source of information.

His tales were trumpeted by the White House and media.

This was no intelligence failure.

This was strategic deception, a combination the Soviet KGB called "disinformatzia" and "maskirovka." This was facilitated by an ideologically and religiously extreme president; a Dr. Strangelovian vice-president lusting for war and oil; neocon ideologues and a cowardly Congress that violated its most basic responsibility to the nation.

All that, plus a national security establishment that lacked the cojones to tell superiors or Americans the truth.

Purging the CIA is not the answer.

If anyone should be purged, it is the politicians and neocons in the Pentagon and media, who misled the U.S. into a catastrophic war that has so far cost the lives of more than 880 Americans, 13,000 Iraqi civilians, $200 billion US, and ruined the good name of the United States around the world.

They and Britain's Tony Blair must NOT  be allowed to escape full blame and retribution by hiding behind the sophistry that everyone -- and thus no one -- was responsible.

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 Wednesday, July 14, 2004

  Commentary: World Court's Ruling on the Israeli Wall

Read here full article by Ian Williams
14 July 2004

People who attack the World Court for its July 9 opinion on the Israeli wall in the Occupied Territories should beware.
In doing so, they are calling into question the United Nations Charter, and the whole foundation of international law and humanitarian conventions and treaties: which in the end are the legal basis of the state of Israel's international recognition, and, in a broader sense, everyone else's best hope for a global order that does not rely on anarchistic violence and force majeure.

The court in The Hague said in its ruling that the 600-kilometer wall, about a third built, "severely impeded" Palestinian rights to self-rule. It curves at points deep into the West Bank around Jewish settlements built on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. The court said the wall violated international humanitarian law and called on the UN Security Council and General Assembly to stop the barrier's construction.

It is not often that the court comes out with such an unequivocal opinion.

Just because it ruled against Israel and, by extension, its US protector, on every point, does NOT invalidate the reasoning for the rest of the world.

Rather it is a wake-up call to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his supporters in the United States to reconsider their stands and return from orbit. You cannot cherry-pick international law, enforcing the parts you like on others and denying those that impinge on your interests.

The one dissenting vote was American judge Thomas Buergenthal, who said the opinion did not take into account Israel's need to protect itself against terrorism.

His opinion was seconded by many American politicians seemingly more mindful of the coming presidential election in November than of ensuring a sound and peaceful world order.

In any case, Buergenthal's statement was economical with the truth.

The court considered the issue of Israel's security needs and the threat of terrorism in some depth and length in its 56-page opinion - and it concluded that if Israel wanted to build the wall, it could do so entirely legally, on its own side of the "Green Line".

However, it could not do so on illegally occupied territory. Indeed, the court specifically excluded the small section of the wall built in Israel from its judgment.

Presumably well-lobbied beforehand, most of the US media reports about the case have sought to qualify the court's opinion as "non-binding".

Of course, an authoritative statement of international law, issued by a 14-1 majority, is non-binding only if you do not accept the applicability of international law.

In reality, it would be difficult to get a more authoritative decision, not least since this opinion is being delivered to the General Assembly of the UN - with part of the opinion being that states party to the various conventions have a duty to enforce them on Israel.

The combination of the court and the General Assembly is the route that led to the independence of Namibia and sanctions against South Africa. It is the route that led to the eventual independence of East Timor - and a route that has kept Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara unrecognized by any other country in the world.

It may be slow - but such opinions are binding on all law-abiding countries. Indeed, it was the General Assembly that voted for the partition of mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

The other defense is to attack the decision as one of a kangaroo court. Just before the hearings, Howard Meyer, an authoritative historian of the World Court, pointed out that the lead counsel for Israel would "be Dr Shabtai Rosenne, an Israeli diplomat and longtime observer of the ICJ [International Court of Justice]". As a student of the court, he has written more books about its procedures and its rulings than anyone.

In 1989, four years after the US walked out of the courthouse in Nicaragua's case, Rosenne wrote in an introduction to a new edition of one of his works on the court that it had "rendered important services in the evolution of international law through the United Nations and in the peaceful settlement of disputes, more in the last decade than in the first 30 years of its existence ... it has performed a major service to the international community as a whole because the need to bring international law into line with present-day requirements is real and urgent".

As Meyer points out, "Some kangaroo!" It does not help the detractors' case that the Israeli Supreme Court itself ruled last month that the route of the wall violated international humanitarian law, even it did not go so far as to rule occupation and settlements illegal.

It is hardly biased of the court to find that the Occupied Territories are indeed occupied and that the settlements are illegal. That is the position that the UN has always taken, and even the US had supported explicitly until very recently. The Israelis beg to differ, but then Saddam Hussein decided unilaterally that Kuwait was his 19th province and the world disagreed with him. In the end, the world tends to win.

The Palestinians by now may be a little bewildered. If they had sent people to place bombs next to the wall, or launched armored bulldozers against it, they would have been roundly condemned for terrorism. So they go to court and find both themselves and the judges condemned for bias and worse.

In fact, there is a lot of material in the opinion that may well provide sound precedents for future disputes.

First of all, the court decided that it did, indeed, despite the US and the Israeli opposition, have the right to consider the question, and that the UN General Assembly indeed had the right to ask it to do so. In this, as in all its other issues, it cited numerous precedents for its reasoning.

Then the judges voted by 14-1, with Buergenthal dissenting in each case, that:

The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law.

Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with Paragraph 151 of this opinion.

Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.

The United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated regime, taking due account of the present advisory opinion.

In a very important clause, Buergenthal was joined by the Dutch judge in his dissent, but it was nevertheless passed 13-2.

All states are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all states party to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that convention.

However, the decision has many other implications that should concern all who want law-based solutions to the world's problems.

The court had already allowed Palestine as an entity all the privileges of a state in representation to the court and it refers to Palestine throughout on a par with Israel as a party to the proceedings.

It had then further gladdened Palestinian hearts by vindicating their whole position of reasserting international law and UN decisions on the issue, as opposed to US and Israeli attempts since Oslo to relegate the conflict to a bilateral issue, excluding the UN.

"Given the powers and responsibilities of the United Nations in questions relating to international peace and security," says the opinion, the wall was of direct concern to the organization and while it welcomed the "roadmap" and negotiations for a settlement, it qualified such negotiations as being "on the basis of international law".

Interestingly, it also finds that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applies to all people over which a state has jurisdiction, which means that they apply to the Occupied Territories - and so one must conclude would also apply to the US in such places as its detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, although the court does not wander that far that explicitly.

It also affirmed the applicability of other conventions that the Israelis have signed to people in the territories.

As a coup de grace, the court notes that the wall's route has been drawn to include over 80% of the settlements - and it rules that the settlements are illegal, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as repeated Security Council resolutions have also termed them, not merely "unhelpful" as the Bill Clinton reformulation of the US position has it.

In a further blow to the expedient US position that decries the "Uniting For Peace Resolution", which allows issues stalled by vetoes in the Security Council to be dealt with by the General Assembly, the court ruled that the procedure was indeed valid - and obligingly cited precedents from the time that the US and others had pioneered the procedure.

The Palestinians had of course used just this procedure in the face of yet another US veto in the Security Council to ask for the opinion from the court. An expedient Clinton administration declared the procedure as "no longer applicable".

The next step is for the reconvening of the Special General Assembly, probably on July 15-16 to receive the report. As the draft resolution for that session has it, "Considering that acceptance of advisory opinions issued by the International Court of Justice is essential to the rule of law and reason in international affairs", so most states will vote to accept the resolution, since to vote otherwise would indeed be tantamount to a vote to dismantle the UN charter.

The resolution asks the UN Secretary General to compile a register of property damage caused by the construction - which is innocent sounding but allows a suit for damages.

However while restating the opinion, the draft mostly leaves the issue hanging like a sword of Damocles - until after the American election, when the diplomatic mills will begin to grind.

However, it does reiterate focus on the court's finding that states have a duty to apply international law when it is flouted.

After all, how can democratic governments outside the US, and particularly in the European Union, explain to their people their failure to "ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law", when told by the world's highest court that they have an obligation to do so?

The resolution will certainly strengthen pressure inside the EU to take a stronger line against Israel's behavior, and the EU is a far bigger trading and commercial partner for Israel than the US.

The nightmare for Israel is of course South African-style sanctions, both state imposed and consumer boycotts.

But the way to avert that is simple, and mandated by the court. "Mr Sharon, tear down this wall."

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     Wednesday, July 07, 2004

      American Fundamentalist Christians Shaping Middle East Foreign Policy for USA

    Christian Zionists are growing in influence - even as they fight for policies their critics say work against peace in the Mideast.

    For these believers, it's all about fulfilling biblical prophecy
    Read Here full article by Jane Lampman in The Christian Science Monitor.

    Ray Sanders and his wife, Sharon, grew up on farms in the American Midwest, but Israel has long been their home. Their journey began in the 1970s, when they read Hal Lindsey's apocalyptic bestseller, "The Late Great Planet Earth," which laid out a scenario for the end of the world according to a literal interpretation of Bible prophecies.

    "That awakened our understanding to Israel and its prophetic role in the Last Days," Mr. Sanders explains in his spacious Jerusalem office. "That was a real paradigm shift in our lives."

    That shift spurred the couple to leave their jobs, attend Bible college in Texas, and move to Jerusalem, where in 1985 they helped found a biblical Zionist organization called Christian Friends of Israel (CFI).
    With a handful of similar groups here they are marshalling financial and moral support from evangelical Christians around the world, and particularly in the United States, to fulfill what they see as their role in an unfolding final drama.

    Christian Zionists, an Evangelical subset whose ranks are estimated at 20 million in the US, have in the past two decades poured millions of dollars of donations into Israel, formed a tight alliance with the Likud and other Israeli politicians seeking an expanded "Greater Israel," and mobilized grass-roots efforts to get the US to adopt a similar policy.

    Christian Zionist leaders today have access to the White House and strong support within Congress, including the backing of the two most recent majority leaders in the House of Representatives.

    For many Jews, the enthusiastic support of these evangelical Christians is welcome at a time of terrorism and rising anti-Semitism.

    Several Israeli leaders have called them "the best friends Israel has."

    But other Jews and Christians have begun speaking against the alliance, which they see as a dangerous mix of religion and politics that is harmful to Israel and endangers prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

    The prophecy

    For Christian Zionists, the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham and the center of His action from now to the Second Coming of Christ and final battle of Armageddon, when the Antichrist will be defeated. But before this can occur, they say, biblical prophecy foretells the return of Jews from other countries; Israel's possession of all the land between the Euphrates and Nile rivers; and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple where a Muslim site, Dome of the Rock, now stands.

    These beliefs lead to positions that critics say are uncompromising and ignore the fact that most Israelis want peace. "Pressuring the US government away from peace negotiations and toward an annexationist policy, that has a direct negative impact on the potential for change in the Middle East," says Gershom Gorenberg, a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report newsmagazine.

    Two former chief rabbis of Israel, Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliahu, recently approved a ruling urging followers not to accept money from the groups, warning that their ultimate intent is conversion of Jews. (Christian Zionists believe that during the Last Days Jews must either accept Jesus as the Messiah or perish.)

    Other Christians in the Holy Land oppose what they consider a false interpretation of Christianity that is heightening tensions here. "Christian Zionism transforms faith into a political ideology, and one that needs an enemy," says the Rev. Rafik Khoury, of the Catholic Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

    But Christian Zionists argue that Christians' role is to back Israel wholeheartedly and conform to God's message in Genesis: "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curses thee" (Gen. 12:3).

    To this end, Christian groups have sponsored the migration of thousands of Jews from Russia, Ethiopia, and other countries. They've funneled resources into social programs for Israeli communities, and they encourage churches in the US to support Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

    "We stand for the right that all the land that God gave under the Abrahamic covenant 4,000 years ago is Israel's ... and He will regulate the affairs of how Israel comes into the allotment which is hers forever," says the Rev. Malcolm Hedding, director of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), the largest of the Zionist groups with branches in 55 countries.

    Biblical Zionism rejects any effort to read the Scriptures spiritually or allegorically, Mr. Hedding says. "There is no such thing as a Palestinian," he adds.

    Christian Zionism's roots

    Christian Zionism is a more recent term for a 19th-century theology that began in England, called premillennial dispensationalism. It divides history into eras (dispensations) based on a complex interpretation of biblical texts in books such as Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation.

    Most other Christian groups view these prophecies as predictions fulfilled long ago or as visions with a purely symbolic or spiritual meaning. But premillennialists insist they will occur on earth in the future.

    Israel's creation in 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967 - in which Israel captured all of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza - galvanized premillennialists to believe the Last Days had begun.

    Mr. Lindsey's book, the nonfiction bestseller of the 1970s, popularized premillennialist teachings for millions of Americans and put Israel right at the center, says Donald Wagner, professor of religion and Middle East studies at North Park University in Chicago.

    Lindsey started a consultant business, Dr. Wagner says, which involved sessions with the Pentagon, CIA, Israeli generals, and the US Congress.

    But Lindsey wasn't the first premillennialist author to leave his mark. William Blackstone, a fundamentalist lay preacher in the US, wrote a 1882 bestseller, "Jesus Is Coming," and in 1891 organized the first campaign in support of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

    Premillennialists in the British imperial government included Lord Arthur Balfour and Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who were the first to officially promise a Jewish homeland with the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

    Christian Zionism today

    In the US, premillennialist teaching has spread through TV and radio evangelists and, most recently, the "Left Behind" novels and prophecy websites.

    Supporters range from avid believers to more passive participants who nonetheless believe in prophecy and watch for its fulfillment, scholars say. Such teaching may attract more followers in times of stress, observers suggest, as it offers one explanation for disturbing world events.

    "[Christian Zionists] create a worldview into which people walk and don't realize how big a move they've made," says Martin Marty, religious historian and co- director of the Fundamentalist Project, set up to study worldwide religious reaction to modernity. There are sincere people in the movement who pray for the conversion of Israel but don't take up the political program, he says.

    But he and others, including some Evangelicals, are increasingly concerned that many Christian Zionists have become activists whose actions could ultimately have serious - even disastrous - consequences.

    "The danger is that, when people believe they 'know' how things are going to turn out and then act on those convictions, they can make these prophecies self-fulfilling, and bring on some of the things they predict," says the Rev. Timothy Weber, president of Memphis Theological Seminary in Tennessee, and author of "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend."

    "Before the Six-Day War, dispensationalists were content to sit in the bleachers of history explaining the End-Time game on the field below, pointing out events and identifying players," Dr. Weber adds. "But after expansion of Israel into the West Bank and Gaza, they began to get down onto the field and be sure the teams lined up right, becoming involved in political, financial, and religious ways they never had before."

    A confluence of events in the 1970s and '80s set the stage for the current activism. After the 1967 war, Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants joined the international consensus that Israel should give up the occupied territories for peace; a growing Evangelical community became more politically active; and for the first time the Likud Party came to power in Israel with an aim to hold on to "Judea and Samaria" (the biblical terms for the West Bank).

    A 1978 study by an Israeli scholar on American fundamentalist churches helped spur the Likud Party's courting of Christian Zionist leaders, such as the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, according to Clifford Kiracofe, a former senior staff member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Since then, Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon have addressed Christian Zionist gatherings of thousands in Jerusalem and met with evangelical leaders and groups during trips to the US.

    Evangelical leaders began traveling to Israel and organizing tours for churches from across the US. Today a network of more than 200 pro-Israel grass-roots organizations has developed in the US, and Christian Zionist groups work to involve American congregations in prayer, financial aid, and advocacy.

    For Ray Sanders and thousands of US churchgoers, their role is to learn how best to bless Israel.

    "We take that injunction very seriously, and we want the Jewish people to realize the goodwill we have toward them, contrary to centuries of anti-Semitic history," he says. CFI runs several humanitarian projects, including a distribution center for the needy in Jerusalem, where donations from the US have provided clothing and household items for 250,000 people.

    The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which draws support from the Christian Zionist community, holds an annual Day of Prayer for Israel that last year involved 18,000 US churches. Since fundraising began eight years ago, individuals and churches have contributed about $100 million in humanitarian aid for Israeli social programs ($20 million in the past year alone), and sponsored 100,000 émigrés from Russia and Ethiopia, says Yechiel Eckstein, who founded the group with an evangelical pastor.

    "We have 350,000 donors who support this work, and we get 2,000 to 2,500 checks in the mail a day," he says of IFCJ, based in Chicago and Jerusalem. Rabbi Eckstein travels to several continents to educate congregations on the Jewish roots of Christianity and to urge advocacy for Israel. When the International Court at The Hague debated the legality of the wall Israel is building on the West Bank, he rallied a thousand Christians to march in protest outside the court building.

    Republican Party strategist Ralph Reed has joined with Eckstein to form Stand for Israel, a project to build grass-roots advocacy for Israel among US Christians.

    Christians' Israel Public Action Committee (CIPAC) lobbies Congress to oppose any limitation on Israel's action, including President Bush's peace proposal, the "road map." Richard Hellman, CIPAC head, recently called on US leaders "to desist from proposing any more plans to settle the Israel-Arab dispute."

    Americans for a Safe Israel has joined with other groups in a national One-State Solution Campaign to halt the road map, using bumper stickers and billboards displaying a White House phone number.

    Members of Congress in sympathy with the Christian Zionist point of view have taken positions contrary to administration policy, which supports a Palestinian state.

    House majority leader Tom DeLay (R) of Texas, while visiting the area, said, "I don't see occupied territory; I see Israel." Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma said Israel had a right to the land "because God said so."

    In a 2002 appearance on Chris Matthews's "Hardball" show, former Rep. Richard Armey (R) of Texas, then House majority leader, proclaimed his support for "transporting" the Palestinians to other countries.

    "In Israel, this position is regarded as somewhat like that of the Ku Klux Klan in the US," says Gorenberg. "These American figures are taking positions way to the right of the Israeli mainstream."

    Influence on US policy

    The debate over these groups is not whether they have influence on US policy but how much.

    Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine and a conservative Catholic, says their influence is overemphasized. "The administration's commitment to Israel was there from the very first day, prior to the coalition of Evangelicals the administration has cultivated for the past 3-1/2 years," he says. "Their role is only supportive."

    Others point to many instances of influence. Gary Bauer, president of American Values, for example, recalls Israel's first attempt on the life of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi in June 2003, when Mr. Bush publicly berated Israel.

    "Several Evangelical leaders took issue with the president," Mr. Bauer says. They urged others to let the White House know. "I got thousands of e-mails the next day that were copies of e-mails sent to the president. Within 24 hours, he [Bush] had modified his remarks and emphasized Israel's right to defend itself."

    The White House was publicly supportive in April when Israel's second effort to assassinate Dr. Rantisi succeeded.

    As a result of Christian Zionists' alliance with Likud governments, they now work actively with Jewish groups in the US, even though historically the two have been on opposing sides of key issues.

    "Christian Zionist groups play an increasingly important role," says Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America and a leader of the Jewish lobby, AIPAC. "In many districts where there are very few Jews, the members of the House and Senate are Israel's supporters in part because of the strong Christian Zionist lobby on Capitol Hill."

    Other observers say the Bush administration's tilt toward Israel in the Israeli- Palestinian dispute results from a coalition of neoconservatives, the Jewish lobby, and Christian Zionists - with the latter providing the grass-roots political punch as a prime Bush constituency.

    On the ground in Jerusalem

    Most worrisome to critics is the impact Christian Zionists are having - or could have - on the volatile situation here.

    Some local Christians say they feel the impact directly. Thousands of Palestinian Christians - many of whom trace their family histories back to the early church - live in Israel and the occupied territories. They've survived as a minority among Muslims and Jews for centuries.

    But because the Christian Zionist perspective is hostile to Islam and ultimately to Judaism, some now worry about its influence on their neighbors. They say some local Muslims now assume that this Western prophetic phenomenon - and its dismissal of hopes for a Palestinian state - is what all Christians believe.

    For many Christian Palestinians, Christian Zionism is disturbing because its conclusions work against their deep desire: justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.

    Many local Christians come from families who became refugees or were displaced within Israel when the state was created in 1948. Naim Ateek's family were driven from their comfortable home in the town of Beisan by the Jewish army when he was 11.

    Eventually becoming an Anglican pastor, Father Ateek says he struggled, wondering how to keep faith alive among his congregation under the hardships of military occupation. How were Christians to think about "the God of Israel"? Is God pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, or is He a God of justice for all?

    After an in-depth study of the Bible, he wrote "Justice and Only Justice," in which he explores the scriptural basis for a God of inclusiveness. God's law requires justice for both peoples, Ateek says, and there won't be peace until that is accepted by both sides.

    "If I as a Christian am not about truth, justice, peace, and reconciliation, then what is my ministry?" he asks in an interview in his book-lined office.

    Ateek joined with local leaders from the 15 Christian denominations here - from Greek Orthodox to Quakers - to found an ecumenical movement, Sabeel ("the Way" in Arabic), which now works to counter extremism on both sides of the conflict.

    It further inflames the situation, local Christians say, when other Christian groups provide resources to build and strengthen Jewish settlements on land confiscated from Palestinians.

    For example, after the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord, which called for steps toward removal of Jewish settlements, Ted Beckett of Colorado Springs, Colo., formed Christian Friends of Israeli Committees. CFOIC enables US churches to support settlers through tours, funding special projects, and ongoing partnerships. About 60 settlements have identified projects for church support, and an "adopt-a-settlement" program encourages ongoing ties.

    Sondra Baras, an Orthodox Jew who heads the program here, says she takes about 10 tour groups a month to settlements. "The Evangelical community is standing with us in such a strong way, and through financial support and visits have brought such a message of encouragement to those living here," she says.

    This spring, Sabeel tried to provide a counterweight to such developments by holding a conference called "Challenging Christian Zionism." Some 500 Christians from 31 countries came to Jerusalem to discuss ways to check the growing influence of Christian Zionism. They heard also from Jews concerned about its impact.

    "When political conflicts are framed as theological wars, we lose the ability to deal with them - the only solution is the final one," warned Jeff Halper, a professor of anthropology at Ben-Gurion University.

    Christian Zionist ties to Jewish fundamentalists are disturbing to many Israelis, the majority of whom are secular, added Dr. Halper. The most explosive possibility relates to the prophecy that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, where Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque now sit. Some Christian Zionists in America "are becoming quite involved financially and otherwise in the so-called Temple movement," says Weber.

    When he talks to Christian Zionists about the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, some say, " 'Well, this is all prophesied - it's bound to happen,' " Weber says. Some suggest perhaps an earthquake will clear the mount. One predicted that "in an Arab-Israeli war a surface-to-surface missile aimed at Jerusalem will miss and hit the Dome of the Rock."

    It's this kind of perspective that worries knowledgeable observers. Such mixing of prophecy and politics "could start World War III," says Dr. Marty.

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     Tuesday, July 06, 2004

      The CANCER in America's Middle-East Foreign Policy

    Facts, as the late President Reagan once put it, are stubborn things, and can't be erased or banished from polite discussion on account of political correctness – or, at least, not for very long. The truth is coming out: better late than never.
    -Justin Raimondo
    Read here full article by Justin Raimondo "The real reason for the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history …. "

    The stories of torture – of hooded, humiliated inmates at Abu Ghraib and other facilities – did have a familiar air, as if the Israelis were tutoring their American sock-puppets in the finer points of squeezing those ragheads until they squealed.

    Torture – of the "mild" variety – has the official imprimatur of Israel's high court, and it makes perfect sense that the Israelis would be called in as "experts" in the art (science?) of corralling and controlling crowds of irksome Arabs, but this testimony from General Janis Karpinski, former commander at Abu Ghraib, explicitly fingers the Israelis:
    "I was visiting an interrogation facility one time – not under my control, but I was escorting a four-star. And he wanted to go back and observe an interrogation that was taking place. They asked me if I wanted to go and I said no.

    So I was standing there and, you know, the usual conversation, just kind of chit-chat, there (were) three individuals there and two of them had DCU pants on, one had a pair of blue jeans on, but they all had T-shirts on. They did not appear to be military people.

    And I said to this guy who was sitting up on the counter, I said to him, 'Are you local?' Because he looked like he was Kuwaiti. I said, 'Are you an interpreter?' He said, 'No, I'm an interrogator.' And I said, 'Oh, are you from here?'

    And he said, 'No, actually, I'm from Israel.' And I was kind of shocked. And I think I laughed. And I said, 'No, really?' And he said, 'No, really, I am.'

    And – but it was – I didn't pursue it, I just said, 'Oh, I visited your country a couple of years ago and I was amazed that there's so little difference between the appearance of Israelis and Americans,' and – I really was just kind of making chit-chat at that point.

    "But it didn't strike me as unusual, I guess, until after the fact.

    And I remember making a comment to him, I said, 'Wow, that's kind of unusual.' And he said, 'No, not really.' Like that. So – I do know for a fact that at least in that one case – now, I didn't ask him for identity papers or anything. It was none of my business. But that's what he said."
    Busy, busy, busy – that certainly describes the Israelis in the bloody aftermath of our Pyrrhic victory in Iraq.

    Oh, they deny it, of course, but that's boilerplate.

    After all, Karpinski saw and spoke to one of their interrogators, who was sitting there right in front of her.

    The truth is they're swarming all over Kurdistan, fomenting trouble, siccing the Bush administration on Iran and – most importantly – Syria.

    They're even in New Zealand, of all places, stealing passports from bedridden paraplegics.

    Talk about bad public relations! But do they even care?

    Now that they've maneuvered the clueless Bush into Iraq, and forever changed the face of the Middle East, Ariel Sharon and his amen corner in this country are getting bolder, openly flying their own flag over what were previously touted as exclusively American initiatives.

    So their Kurdish allies are bellicose about the Israeli connection in speaking to Ha'aretz:
    "'The Kurdish public is not ready to take any more humiliation. As long as we thought we could persuade the Americans to support our positions, our leaders were supported by the public,' he said. 'The Kurdish public is disappointed and angry, it wants results. You in Israel talk of the greater Eretz Yisrael and here we talk of greater Kurdistan. Today our political war begins.'"
    Our war – against whom?

    In the guise of Israeli entrepreneurs, Mossad agents, according to Seymour Hersh, have infiltrated the Kurdish territories for the purpose of creating a buffer – Kurdistan – between Israel and the emerging Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi state, which is heavily influenced by the Iranians.

    The entire "handover" process, while not signaling American withdrawal, nevertheless indicates nervousness in Washington over being too closely identified with the unfolding disaster, and the Israelis see this as a bad sign.

    Is Uncle Sam going wobbly?

    That question has worried the neoconservative faction of the Right – which effectively functions as Israel's fifth column in the U.S. – and rightly so, from their perspective. That's what motivates all this activity in Kurdistan, and elsewhere. The idea is to spread the chaos, escalate the war, and make it impossible for George W. Bush to somehow pull us out the Iraqi quagmire.

    In an effort at damage control, the Israel lobby is making a concerted effort to smear whomever states the obvious: a great deal of the "intelligence" used to lie us into war came directly from Tel Aviv and was "stovepiped" into the White House by neocon White House advisors, and that, in retrospect, this war has been to the strategic advantage of one and only one nation on earth: Israel.

    Writing in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, one James D. Besser attacks "conspiracy theories" of "the fruitcake left and loony right" that "converge around theories blaming Jewish neoconservatives for an Iraq War they despise." He goes after that well-known left-wing extremist, Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), who "erupted" recently by daring to name Israel as the chief factor motivating key war proponents, and then turns to … us:
    "On the other side of the partisan divide, check out, a web site for – among others – disgruntled Republicans and libertarians like former GOP presidential contender Pat Buchanan. Here, too, a common theme is the neocon cabal that tricked the nation into a catastrophic conflict.

    Everything we know about President Bush suggests that he came into office determined to complete the work his father left unfinished in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush ended the Gulf War without removing Saddam Hussein from power. Ditto Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld."
    "Their motives were varied," avers Besser, "but Israel was never near the top of the list."

    If "Israel was never near the top of the list" when it comes to motives for this war, then how is it that Tel Aviv turns out to be the chief beneficiary in so many ways?

    As the Mossad infiltrates Kurdistan, demands recognition from the Iraqi "government," and even sends its skilled torturers to help the American occupiers subjugate and degrade their Arab charges more effectively, the demonstrable evidence that Israel's most loyal supporters led the way to war is not so easily brushed aside.

    The smear tactic isn't going to work, not this time.

    Not when prominent former government officials and military leaders, such as General Anthony Zinni, are saying:
    "I think it's the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody - everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do.

    And one article, because I mentioned the neo-conservatives who describe themselves as neo-conservatives, I was called anti-Semitic. I know what strategy they promoted. And openly. And for a number of years. And what they have convinced the president and the secretary to do. And I don't believe there is any serious political leader, military leader, diplomat in Washington that doesn't know where it came from." >
    A new book by intelligence expert James Bamford draws the same conclusions about the origins of the Iraq war, and this analysis of how we came to be embroiled in the Iraqi disaster – trenchantly summarized in an excellent piece by Jeffrey Blankfort in Left Curve – is fast becoming the conventional wisdom.

    Is Bamford a "fruitcake" of the "far left"? General Zinni may be a registered Republican, but is he really nothing short of a neo-Nazi, as neocon smear artist Joel Mowbray would have it?

    At this point, I would direct Besser's attention to a recent editorial in The Forward, a Jewish newspaper based in New York, which has a lot of years on the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and also, it seems, a greater store of wisdom:
    "As recently as a week ago, reasonable people still could dismiss as antisemitic conspiracy mongering the claim that Israel's security was the real motive behind the invasion of Iraq. No longer. The allegation has now moved from the fringes into the mainstream. Its advocates can no longer simply be shushed or dismissed as bigots. Those who disagree must now argue the case on the merits."
    Ralph Nader has it exactly right:
    "What has been happening over the years is a predictable routine of foreign visitation from the head of the Israeli government. The Israeli puppeteer travels to Washington. The Israeli puppeteer meets with the puppet in the White House, and then moves down Pennsylvania Avenue, and meets with the puppets in Congress. And then takes back billions of taxpayer dollars. It is time for the Washington puppet show to be replaced by the Washington peace show."
    American soldiers are dying every day in Iraq, while Israel annexes Kurdistan and their torturers get their jollies in American-run prisons.

    What in the name of all that's holy is going on here?

    That's a question the American people are beginning to ask, and is going to continue to provide them with some answers.

    If Besser, and others, don't like it, that's just tough.

    Facts, as the late President Reagan once put it, are stubborn things, and can't be erased or banished from polite discussion on account of political correctness – or, at least, not for very long.

    The truth is coming out: better late than never.

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