Thursday, February 1, 2007
U.S. troops kept Iraqi brains in the fridge for trophies
Feb 1, 2007
A cousin of mine who served in Vietnam and today still suffers from PTSD told me that his unit would sever the heads off the Viet Cong they killed and line them up on the hoods of their jeeps when returning to their camp. The number of heads would be the measure of their "bravery, courage and performance" in the line of duty. They were trophies. You can bet your ass they had "productive" days in the battlefields. Napalm was even more certain to guarantee a good day's work. How quickly have we forgotten the lessons of the past?!? You would think Viet Nam had never happened, the way this Administration gets away with MURDER, pure and simple. Pelosi, get your gun, hon!
Vic continues to have recurring violent nightmares till this day about that whol experience, and his mental health issues apparently so affected his wife that she flipped out and wound up in the mental hospital herself years ago, never to recover. He, himself, vanished, perhaps into the streets with the rest of our war-damaged youth of that period. War destroys our own families, not just the "enemy's". Beware the spoils of "victory".
War is ugly, but such outright atrocities are absolutely hideous. Violence is the very feature of human life that gives material proof of the lack or loss of a civilized society. America ought to feel deeply shamed by this goon in the Oval Office.
Clearly, we are on a very slippery slope on both the foreign and domestic fronts. The class war at home continues, with the Republicans still clinging to their greedy policies on behalf of their wealthy and corporate constituents.
No minimum wage is as morally wrong as shooting our own citizens through the head. One wonders if that might not in fact be more merciful and compassionate of the neocons than simply letting the worst-off of our wage slaves suffer slowly and so painfully -- no food, no shelter, no clothing, no healthcare. Where is justice? Where is peace and good will? Where?
Toto, we're not in America anymore, are we? Yikes !!!
Y'all >>> "Teach Your Children Well", Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
This is madness!
I wrote last September that Bush was gearing up for war with Iran, as evidenced by the moving up of the deployment date of the carrier group headed by the recently re-fueled and re-armed USS Eisenhower, some of whose crewmembers had leaked that its mission was to attack Iran.
At the time, there was considerable skepticism expressed about the article, which appeared in the Nation’s online edition.
Now, four months later, it is widely assumed in Europe that the U.S. is planning to attack Iran, and even in the U.S., members of Congress are openly talking about their concern that Bush is planning to attack Iran.
Does anyone think this is lunacy?
The U.S. is deeply mired in a losing war in Iraq, and is also losing Afghanistan to a resurgent Taliban. The Pentagon is scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to come up with the measly 21,500 additional troops Bush has vowed to send to Iraq, and the 4000 troops that his commanders in Afghanistan are asking for.
Iran, meanwhile, poses no immediate threat to the U.S. But it does have a huge, battle-hardened army, much better equipped than Saddam Hussein’s rag-tag troops, and equipped with some very sophisticated weaponry courtesy of Russia and China. Any U.S. forces that went into Iran could expect to take heavy casualties, and could hardly hope to conquer a nation with a population bigger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined—a population that, unlike Iraq’s—can be expected to rise as one against a US invasion.
Even if Iran is meddling in Iraq, it hardly seems like attacking that country is likely to put a halt to that kind of thing. Indeed, attacking Iran would be more likely to lead to an escalation of Iranian efforts to hobble U.S. forces in Iraq—something Tehran could easily do through its Iraqi Shia allies.
Nor would attacking Iran put an end to that nation’s nuclear program, which is spread out, carefully hidden, and in many cases located in underground bunkers. Nuclear experts agree that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only slow down its efforts, not end them, and moreover, would encourage the country to redouble its efforts to get the Bomb and achieve the kind of protection against future attack that countries with the bomb have.
Oh. I haven’t mentioned the economic disaster part, have I?
Iran is the second largest oil producing country in the world, and it borders the entire eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, through which a third of the world’s oil passes every year. If it was attacked, all of Iran’s oil, and most of the oil produced by Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, would be taken out of circulation indefinitely. Oil prices would soar way past $100/barrel, and maybe past $200 a barrel, causing a U.S. and a global depression.
So why are we even talking about this?
We’re talking about this because the President of the United States, the Vice President, and the neoconservative political gang that has brought the nation six years of war, destruction and Constitution-wrecking, is under attack, and this cabal of madmen and mad women has decided that chaos, death and destruction offers the best hope of salvation.
We are, it appears, about to witness the American equivalent of Hitler’s suicide orders to the German people as he scurried to his bunker in Berlin.
What to do? The answer is simple.
It is time for the Congress, and the American people, to act.
If Senators and Representatives pass a resolution barring the use of any military forces against Iran, or the expenditure of any funds for war against Iran, Bush will not be able to push the country over the precipice. American military leaders would have reason to ignore any orders that would put them in violation of the law of the land.
This would be a historic moment—a reassertion by Congress of its Constitutional primacy in matters of war and peace.
Members of Congress should follow up that move by initiating impeachment proceedings against this whacko immediately.
Congress must not duck its patriotic duty. President Clinton was impeached for a little blowjob. This president wants to blow a hell of a lot more than an intern.
An attack on Iran would be an international crime under the Nuremberg Charter, which calls the invasion of a country that doesn’t pose an immediate threat a “Crime Against Peace.” But even aside from such matters, anyone with a lick of sense knows that it would be crazy to go into another even larger war while the American military is completely tied down in two other desperate situations.
The whole Bush administration has clearly gone stark raving mad, and is willing to sacrifice the nation for its own short-term gain.
This cannot be allowed to happen.
No War against Iran!
Impeach the President now!
Grandmothers for Peace Sentenced to Federal Prison
Thursday, February 01 2007 @ 12:25 AM EST
More than a dozen Fort Benning protesters sentenced to federal prison
BBSNews 2007-02-01 -- By Bill Quigly. Cathy Webster, a grandmother living in Chico California, organized "A Thousand Grandmothers for Peace" to protest in November 2006 against the torture-training School of the Americas (SOA) (now called the Western Institute of Security Cooperation or WHINSEC) located at Ft. Benning Georgia.
|Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) seal. |
Image Credit: WHINSEC. Accessed 2007-01-31.
SOA-WHINSEC has been the subject of international criticism since it was disclosed that torture manuals were used in the training of Latin American military personnel. Amnesty International USA called for the closing of the school, an investigation into the human rights atrocities committed by its graduates, an apology to its victims and reparations.
This week a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia sentenced Ms. Webster to 2 months in federal prison for stepping through a hole in the fence onto the grounds of Ft. Benning to carry her protest to the doors of the SOA-WHINSEC.
Two other Grandmothers for Peace were also sentenced to federal prison for the nonviolent protest – Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse NY and Val Fillenwarth of Indianapolis IN.
The three grandmothers were part of a group of 16 human rights activists, ages 17 to 71, who were on trial in federal court in Georgia this week. Fifteen of the activists were given federal prison sentences of one to six months.
Alongside the grandmothers were five inspiring college students: Melissa Helman of Ashland WI, Martina Leforce and Nathan Slater from Berea KY, Graymon Ward of Raleigh NC and Whitney Ray of Grinnel, IA. All were all arrested and prosecuted for trespass as well. Four were also sentenced to prison.
Ms. Webster told the judge "You will notice that increasingly, it is the elders who are speaking out and acting boldly and authoritatively to bring understanding of what justice, kindness, generosity and compassion mean in a world weary of the endless conquest and dominance mindset of nations."
Ms. Webster estimated that over 1000 grandmothers participated in the November protest organized by School of Americas Watch which was attended by nearly 20,000 people. The annual protest commemorates the thousands who have died at the hands of the graduates of the SOA-WHINSEC, which used and taught from publicly disclosed torture manuals in its training of Latin American military personnel.
The grandmothers and the rest of the 16 protestors will join over 250 other activists who have spent a collective 92 years in prison and dozens of years on federal probation for prior nonviolent civil disobedience at the gates to Ft. Benning and the SOA-WHINSEC.
For more on the human rights activists going to federal prison and more on the campaign to close the SOA-WHINSEC, see www.soaw.org.
Bill Quigley is a law professor as well as Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill has been an active public interest lawyer for over 25 years. Bill has served as counsel with a wide range of public interest organizations on issues including public housing, voting rights, death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights and civil disobedience.
WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (IPS) - Senior Congressional Democrats are brushing off questions about cutting off funding for the Iraq war, and indicate they will do little to forcefully stop President George W. Bush from sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.
On Wednesday, after returning from a trip to Iraq, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sidestepped questions over whether she would try to scuttle Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, calling it "the one last chance" that the U.S. war in Iraq will "succeed".
Likewise, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he would focus his energies on passing a bipartisan, symbolic resolution opposing the so-called "surge" -- a move President Bush has already said he would ignore.
One non-binding measure that appears to be gaining traction is sponsored by a Republican, John Warner of Virginia, and asserts that while Congress "disagrees with the 'plan' to augment" U.S. troops, legislators should not cut off or reduce funding for the military presence in Iraq.
"Two years ago, it seemed pretty lonely. Now every politician wants to be seen on television saying something bad about President Bush's handling of the war," Dr. Rusti Eisenstadt, an activist and professor of U.S. history at Hofstra University, told IPS. "The key now is to get [Congress] to do something instead of hiding behind non-binding resolutions."
Activists are setting their sights on a request President Bush is likely to submit to Congress next week for an estimated 100 billion dollars more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Peace groups would like to see Congress vote against that measure, a move they see as more important than any progressive piece of legislation introduced in Congress this year.
"We are looking at a lot of things that are happening in the Congress right now, from a Senate resolution that opposes an escalation (sending more troops to Iraq) but will allow a war to continue, to other bills out there that talk about bringing the troops home and de-funding the war, but which George Bush can veto," said Nancy Lessing of the group Military Families Speak Out.
"The one thing that we see that can end this war is if Congress votes no money on the appropriation that's going to come before them," she added.
"Legislation is so that Congress has cover," added Michael McPherson, executive director of Veterans for Peace. "The bottom line is that we want the troops to come home and we need it to be defunded. All the other stuff is just a game."
Previous votes have been extremely lopsided, with the vast majority of the House and almost every member of the Senate supporting continued funding. Already, Congress has approved more than 380 billion dollars for the war in Iraq, according to a report from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit think tank specialising in issues of peace, justice and the environment.
The Institute says if that money had not been spent on the war, it could have been used to build 2.9 million units of affordable housing in the United States or paid for 62 million scholarships to university students.
Activists take some solace, however, in the fact that the Democrats' good showing at the polls in November means Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha now chairs a key House of Representatives committee that must approve the president's request.
Murtha, a decorated Marine Corps veteran with close ties to the military establishment, shocked many in Washington last year when he came out for a "redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq and said the presence of U.S. soldiers there has increased the level of violence in Iraq rather than calming it.
At a press conference this week, Murtha said he would not approve the latest request for 100 billion dollars in war funding without "extensive hearings" that are slated to begin Feb. 17.
"We're going to check every cent that is spent by the United States government," Murtha said.
Analysts expect Murtha to eventually vote to approve the war funding, but with conditions attached.
At a hearing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in January, Murtha said those conditions could include that no money be allocated for an escalation unless the military can meet normal "readiness" levels.
"We should not spend money to send people overseas unless they replenish the strategic reserve," Murtha told that hearing. "If he wants to veto the bill," Murtha said of Bush, "he won't have any money."
Tom Andrews, a former Democratic Congressman from Maine who is close to Murtha, told IPS other conditions for further funding of the Iraq war could include closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and bulldozing the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Dr. Rusti Eisenstadt of Hofstra believes any increase in members of Congress voting against funding the war will make an impact.
"People forget that Congress did not vote to stop funding the war in Vietnam until after all the American troops had already left," Dr. Eisenstadt said. "Instead what happened was that every year more and more members of Congress voted against the war and that pressured President Richard Nixon to pull more and more troops out every year."
"When President Nixon took office, there were half a million U.S. troops in Vietnam," she said. "By the end of his first term it was down to 35,000."
--Landmark Legal Foundation Nominates Rush Limbaugh for 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, 02-01-2007
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Bush acknowledged that as early as “September/October” 2006, he realized a major change was needed in Iraq:
WSJ: Was there a moment in the war when you said we have to make a major change in the way we’re doing things in Iraq?
GWB: Yes, there was.
WSJ: When was that?
But even after Bush realized that a major change was needed — in the weeks just prior to the midterm elections — he continued to knowingly mislead the American public and claim U.S. was “winning” in Iraq and that the strategy was “working”:
QUESTION: Are we winning?
BUSH: Absolutely we’re winning. … We’re winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle, right now, is Iraq. [10/25/06]
BUSH: But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work. That’s what I believe. [10/25/06]
QUESTION: But just to be clear: When the commanders on the ground tell the president, in the large picture, we are stepping closer to chaos, he believes that can also be a picture of winning?
SNOW: Yes. [11/1/06]
BUSH: We’ve got a lot going for us. We got a strategy that helps us achieve victory, and we got a military that is the finest military any country has ever assembled. [11/3/06]
Previously, Bush acknowledged lying about Rumsfeld’s resignation for political purposes in the lead-up to the elections.
|Wednesday, January 31, 2007|
12:15:22 PM comment [ 0]
CITIZENS’ HEARING ON THE LEGALITY OF U.S. ACTIONS IN IRAQ:
The Case of Lt. Ehren Watada
JANUARY 20-21, 2007
Tacoma, Washington, USA
In an unprecedented two-day Citizens' Hearing held over January 20-21, more than 600 citizens joined a distinguished tribunal panel in listening to testimony about the legality of the US invasion of Iraq. The Citizens' Hearing was convened to present evidence that Lt. Ehren Watada would have presented in his February 5 court martial on the question that the military ruled barred from entry on Jan. 16 - the question of the Iraq War's legality. Lt. Watada has repeatedly asserted that because the Iraq War is illegal, it is his duty to refuse orders to deploy. He is the Army's first commissioned officer to take such a stand.
Panel Chair David Krieger asserted: "If Lt. Watada cannot get a full hearing about the war's legality in a military trial, then his case should at least be presented in the court of public opinion. This Citizens' Hearing was about giving Lt. Watada's position equal time."
Testifiers included experts in military policy, international law and war crimes:
* Daniel Ellsberg Military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War;
* Denis Halliday Former UN Assistant Secretary-General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid;
* Richard Falk Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University;
* Antonia Juhasz Policy-analyst and author on U.S. economic policies in Iraq;
* John Burroughs Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy Executive Director;
* Benjamin G. Davis Assoc. Prof. of Law, University of Toledo; expert on law of war;
* Francis Boyle Professor of international law at Univ. of Illinois (video).
* Marjorie Cohn National Lawyers' Guild President; Thomas Jefferson law school (video)
Other testifiers were military veterans, and others directly affected by the Iraq War:
* Ann Wright Retired Army Colonel and State Department official;
* Darrell Anderson Army 1st Armored Division in Baghdad & Najaf; awarded Purple Heart;
* Harvey Tharp Former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq;
* Geoffrey Millard 8 years in Army National Guard; awarded 13 medals;
* Dennis Kyne 15 years as Army medic & drill sergeant; trained in NBC warfare;
* Chanan Suarez-Diaz Former Navy hospital corpsman; Purple Heart and valor commendation;
* Stacy Bannerman Military Families Speak Out; author of "When the War Came Home"
* Eman Khammas Iraqi human rights advocate (video).
The format of the Citizens’ Hearing (convened at The Evergreen State College Tacoma campus) resembled that of a congressional hearing. A panel of citizens heard the testimony, examined witnesses, and will issue a fact-finding report. The Panel focused on the legality of the war, whether the invasion of Iraq constituted a "crime against peace,” whether the military occupation of Iraq constitutes a "crime against humanity," and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders that may lead to “war crimes.”
The 12-member Citizens’ Hearing Panel includes veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as more recent veterans. It will include a military family member, Gold Star family member, and high school student (representing youth of military age). The Panel will also include a government leader, religious leader, labor union member, and health care worker. Half of the Panel members are military veterans.
Many of those who testified, most of whom would have been called to testify at the court martial if the judge had allowed that evidence, agreed that Lt. Ehren Watada had not only the right to refuse to deploy to Iraq in an illegal war, but had a duty to do so. Whether violations of the Nuremberg Principles or the US Constitution, some testifiers asserted that Lt. Watada should be recognized for his courage rather than undergoing a Court Martial.
Panelist Rich Moniak from Juneau, Alaska, whose son served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said during the deliberation: "The testimony presented to me highlighted how this war has failed the Iraqi people and placed our soldiers at risk of being accessories to war crimes."
Law professors Benjamin G. Davis and Richard Falk agreed that there are clear legal grounds on which the war is illegal. Falk, citing the sections of the US Army Field Manual, emphasized that international law is applicable to the behavior of US soldiers in a times of war and that soldiers have the duty to refuse unlawful commands. Davis sharply criticized the decision of the military judge to not hear Watada's full defense, stating that Americans have a right to have their defense heard.
The most compelling testimony came from former members of the US military, including five veterans of Iraq. According to Ann Wright, a former Army Colonel and US diplomat who served three and a half decades for the US government, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell created the preconditions that led to torture. She added: "We must
ensure that members of the US military are not put in the position of being ordered to carry out crimes against humanity."
Darrell Anderson, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, talked about a situation he was involved in when orders were issued to "shoot everyone" regardless of whether they were civilians, including children. He stated that they used, what he called, "excessive force." He said: "I realize it was my duty as a soldier to refuse this illegal war."
According to Chanan Suarez-Diaz, who also received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, the psyched up emotions among the troops resulted in US soldiers taking "trophies" of brain matter from Iraqis they killed and putting such in their refrigerators on base.
Immediately following the closing statements, the panel retired to discuss the testimony, consulting the US Army Field Manual, the Nuremberg Principles, and Article Six of the U.S. Constitution. They discussed the testimony until well into the night. Panelist Staughton Lynd, an attorney who holds a PhD in history from Columbia University, said: "The overpowering testimony from Iraq veterans highlighted the conditions that soldiers on the ground are facing."
Russell W. McNutt, a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, stated: "I was exposed to a lot of knowledge. The soldiers who served in Iraq that we heard from were facing the dirty end of war. In urban warfare there are no definite boundaries, in different instances the enemy can be in front of you or behind your back. There is a lot of tension about who is a civilian and who is an insurgent. Under those circumstances, instantaneous decisions must be made in responding to threats. Time to exercise discretion is limited, but every effort should be made to ensure innocent bystanders are not injured through the use of deadly force."
Tribunal organizer Zoltan Grossman commented: "It is the command structure, rather than individual soldiers, that puts enlisted personnel in the position where they feel they have to commit war crimes to survive. The command structure is ultimately responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity. For example, testimony indicated that the dehumanization of Arabs through the use of racial slurs comes from a systematic training process, not only from
individual soldiers' prejudices or fears."
Elizabeth Falzone, whose cousin was killed while serving in Iraq, reflected: "The Citizens' Hearing provided a real venue for citizens to hear from soldiers who are returning from Iraq. Hearing from them and more from family members is especially important with the "surge", and the repeat deployments that we're seeing."
The Citizens' Hearing and the distinguished panel will release the full report prior to Lt. Watada's court martial, including the panel's final statement and excerpts from the testimony. Interviews with panelists or testifiers can be arranged through Cindy Sousa at 206-734-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are now video and audio clips on the web site:
http://www.wartribunal.org/testimony.htm, and more will be available.
Information about Lt. Ehren Watada's case, his February 5th Court
Martial and the mobilization leading up to it, is at http://www.thankyoult.org
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CITIZENS’ HEARING
TO DONATE ONLINE: The Church Council of Greater Seattle is the 501(c)3 fiscal agent for the Citizens' Hearing. To donate online, go to the Church Council of Greater Seattle: http://www.churchcouncilseattle.org Go to ‘give’ then click on “Donate Now Through Network for Good” button to reach the secure site. Then choose “Designate a Fund” and put “Citizens’ Hearing.”
TO DONATE BY MAIL: Checks can be made payable to CCGS, but be sure to put “CITIZENS’ HEARING” in the subject line. The CCGS will receive and disburse the funds (which meet IRS criteria as a tax-deductible charitable contribution). Checks should be mailed to: The Church Council of Greater Seattle, Attn.: Citizens’ Hearing, 4 Nickerson, Suite 300, Seattle WA 98109.
Cindy Sousa email@example.com
Panel Editorial Staff:
Ellen Finklestein firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoltan Grossman email@example.com
Rob Crawford firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Mosqueda email@example.com
Audio/Visual and Web Design:
"The best way to protect the lives of courageous young people who serve in the military is to avoid war-making itself. One cannot kill an idea with a gun, but only with a better idea. If people believe that law is better than war, they must do all they can to enhance the power of law and stop glorifying war."
--Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz
"The Nuremberg judgment, encoded into international law, is sharp and clear. Aggression is the 'supreme international crime,' differing from others in that it encompasses all the evil that follows; all the evil. The US-UK invasion of Iraq is a textbook example of aggression, as defined by US Justice Robert Jackson in opening the Tribunal, also encoded into international law. Justice Jackson's final words were also sharp and clear. We are handing those convicted at Nuremberg a "poisoned chalice," and if we sip from it, we must be judged by the same principles, or else the proceedings are no more than farce. One prime responsibility of an aggressor is to hold the perpetrators accountable. If state power is unwilling to meet this responsibility, it falls to others to do so: to the citizens of the country carrying out the crimes, more than any others."
Is now the time to talk peace in the Mideast?
Condoleezza Rice and others cite a new climate, but some say Friday's meeting has more to do with political motivations.
The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON - The Quartet of powers seeking to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ends a hiatus in peacemaking efforts with a meeting in Washington on Friday. But it comes at what would seem to be a particularly unpromising moment.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations for talks on how to get negotiations toward a final settlement moving again – even as rival Palestinian factions battle each other in Gaza, and Israel founders under a weak and scandal-torn government.
Neither Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert nor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – who is locked in battle with a government run by the militant Hamas organization – would seem to be in the kind of position needed to make hard choices and painful compromises.
And even before the Quartet meets, cracks are appearing in its position, with Russia calling for a lifting of the freeze on international aid to the Palestinian government. The freeze was a response to Hamas's election victory last year and was designed to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel, give up violence, and accept past peace-process accords.
Yet Secretary Rice and other Western leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, insist this is a moment of opportunity. Rice, just back from a Middle East trip, speaks of a "change of environment" and "realignment" that "clarifies" the way forward, separating the advocates for peace from the forces for turmoil.
In particular, she and other US officials speak of a new willingness of Sunni Arab regimes – increasingly alarmed by Shiite Iran's growing clout in the region – to work together and with Israel to push the peace process forward.
But many experts in the region, while applauding any renewed effort to resolve the conflict, don't see the opening some leaders are talking about, and they worry that the timing is based more on the tangential needs of players such as the Bush administration.
"Nothing has changed over recent weeks or months to suggest any hopes for a major breakthrough, so I can't see that [the calling of the Quartet meeting] has anything to do with improved prospects," says Bernard Reich, a Middle East expert at George Washington University in Washington. "But the Palestinian issue remains connected to everything else in the region, so we have no option but to try to do something about it."
Others see the current US push for progress as responding more to political motivations than to encouraging facts on the ground.
"The motivation for [moving] now is that this administration is in its last two years, and the question is, What has it accomplished for US foreign policy?" says Stephen Cohen, national scholar at the Israel Policy Forum in New York. "This is particularly important for Condoleezza Rice, who wants to have a future in US foreign policy and politics."
Indeed, for most of its first term and into the second, the Bush administration said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not "ripe" for dedicated US diplomacy. President Bush did call for a Palestinian state "living side by side in peace" with Israel in 2002, but horizons for achieving that goal have been pushed off into the distance.
Now the United States is not just playing catch-up as it revives the peace process, analysts say, but is acting from a more difficult position.
"If they had really focused on this back in 2002 and moved with some vigor and balance on the Palestinian situation, there would have been a better chance for progress," says Michael Hudson, an expert in US regional diplomacy at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
"It's a pretty terrible moment for any progress," he says, noting the difficult straits the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are in, and the perceived weakness of the US. "Bush is not seen to be in a position to press ahead for something to get done, and the Democrats also tend to be uncritically pro-Israel on this issue."
Beyond that, Mr. Hudson says the US is now encumbered by a much worse image in the region. "The US is seen so broadly as an expansionist colonial power as the result of Iraq that its good offices are not to be trusted," he says.
The controversy over Israel's use of US-supplied cluster bombs in last summer's war with Hizbullah in Lebanon is one current example of the kinds of issues that continue to tarnish the US standing in the region, analysts say. Such issues also complicate the domestic political environments for the region's Sunni Arab regimes that might be open to greater cooperation with the US and Israel, they add.
The emergence of such a "coalition" will depend on US actions, says Mr. Cohen of the Israel Policy Forum. "We need to be careful to make a distinction between potential coalitions and actual," he says. "Whether it happens depends on US behavior."
For example, he says Sunni Arab regimes are watching not just for US action in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but for assurances that the US will not forsake Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
Even more skeptical, Mr. Reich of George Washington University says the scenario of Sunni Arabs teaming up with Israel over Iran may be what Rice considers "logical," but not what Sunni regimes are ready for. "The Saudis, for one," he says, "aren't just going to set up the alliance implied in this 'realignment.' "