Friday, February 2, 2007

Israel Colonization is the Primary Obstacle to Peace

Editor's note: Join me over at the other blog(see new articles below first).
Friday, February 2, 2007

By Matthew Taylor

It is heartening to learn that many readers of the Daily Planet understand the reality of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Others say they plan to approach Jimmy Carter’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, with an open and inquisitive mind. Below, I respond to Dan Spitzer’s and Rachel Neuwirth’s criticisms of my Jan. 9th op-ed on the subject.

Mr. Spitzer’s letter is littered with ad hominem attacks, in which he insinuates that I am not one of “the sharpest nails in the shed,” that I smoke opiates, and that former President Carter is a “Peanut Brain.” I fail to see how such comments are useful or relevant.

Mr. Spitzer’s letter does not respond in any substantive measure to the central thesis of both Mr. Carter’s book, and my op-ed: that “the primary obstacle to peace is Israel's unending colonial project.”

The closest Mr. Spitzer comes to a response is his inaccurate assertion that I “parrot Palestinian propaganda without any substantiation.” Perhaps Mr. Spitzer might choose to re-read my op-ed, in which I offer a specific, personally witnessed instance of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. I saw Israel’s army bulldoze a Palestinian man’s home for one reason: in order to build a road only Israeli colonizers are allowed to access. In one fell swoop, this action combines the crimes of land theft (colonization) with forced dislocation of the inhabitants (ethnic cleansing) and the building of Jewish-only public works projects (Apartheid).

Such home demolitions are systemic Israeli policy, and are extensively documented by Israeli watchdogs such as Rabbis for Human Rights ( Home demolitions are a key part of the stated plan of many Israeli political leaders past and present: to confiscate as much of the West Bank as they can get away with.

Here’s what Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights had to say about a recent such home demolition in December of 2006:

“Little Yousef is again homeless, and shortly his sister will again come home from school to discover that the home she left in the morning is now rubble…. This time the family was all alone with their tears. I was not there to stand in front of the bulldozers and nobody from the RHR staff was able to get through the cordon of border police protecting the demolition…. I have promised Ahmed Musa Dari that this is not the end. We will not abandon him and his family. If we simply express our anger, the Mayor [of Jerusalem] will still have succeeded and will continue to harden his heart. He will have been mistaken if you leave the message not only that you are outraged but that you are contributing to the rebuilding of 10 homes and demanding that your country’s officials take action.”

Asherman requests letters and phone calls to the mayor of Jerusalem, and donations to help rebuild homes. Visit the RHR website for more information at:

Other instances of Israel’s ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and colonization project in the West Bank have been documented ad nauseam by Israeli human rights organizations such as B’Tselem ( and Machsom (“Movement Barrier”) Watch ( To find out more about the Palestinian women who have given “birth” to stillborn babies at movement barriers because they are denied the ability to travel to a hospital, simply visit B’Tselem’s website, listed above, and type in the search terms: Palestinian pregnant checkpoint. Similarly, B’Tselem reports that “The shortage of drinking water [for Palestinians] can cause dehydration and the inability to maintain proper hygiene and thus lead to illness,” whereas Israelis have enough to fill swimming pools.

To clarify: according to Carter, Apartheid applies only to Israel’s policies in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories: East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Strip. However, for at least some Palestinians in pre-1967 Israel, the term is quite relevant. A significant number of Palestinian villages inside Israel are “unrecognized” and are officially denied “any basic services such as running water, electricity, proper education and health services and access roads—constituting a gross violation of human rights.” (See the “Association of 40” at They don’t even appear on a map. Further, Bedouins have been subjected to the worst forms of Israeli oppression, including on Jan. 9 of this year the destruction of an entire Bedouin village, Tawil Abu Jarwal in the Negev, documented by the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (

Mr. Spitzer makes a number of inaccurate claims, including that I cite a “fabricated quote.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement imploring the colonizers to “grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements” appears in Carter’s book—Agence France Presse is the source. It is a matter of extensive public record that Sharon was a fervent supporter of Israel’s illegal colonies during his entire career.

Mr. Spitzer refers to Israel’s wall, which unilaterally steals Palestinian land. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the wall is illegal and must be dismantled. If its purpose were Israel’s security, it would be built on the 1967 border—but it cuts deep into the West Bank and has permitted, for example, Mod’in Illit to expand at a furious pace on stolen Palestinian farmland.

Mr. Spitzer’s claim that the West Bank and Gaza are “Palestinian ruled” are patently false. Both are under a nearly 40-year-old Israeli military occupation! The Palestinian Authority cannot possibly “rule” (or even govern) a land over which it has no real sovereignty. Gaza is now the world’s largest open-air prison, and the Israeli air force bombs civilian population centers at will, killing 200 civilians in November 2006 alone, half women and children. The West Bank is being sliced up into territorially discontiguous “Bantustans,” a Swiss cheese surrounded by a sea of illegal Israeli colonies.

Mr. Spitzer attempts to change the subject and avoid dealing with the realities of Israel’s systematic dispossession of the Palestinian people by raising the specter of the election of Hamas, a movement that arose in 1988 as a response to 21 years of illegal occupation and colonization. While Hamas’ tactics are deplorable, they are also comprehensible as a desperate and misguided response to oppression. Mr. Spitzer’s comments are a misleading “blame the victim” approach. Statements by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya indicate that Hamas appears inclined to recognize Israel in exchange for a full withdrawl to the 1967 borders and a two-state resolution to the conflict.

To backtrack for a moment, it would undoubtedly have been best for all involved parties had Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon listened to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ repeated pleas following Abbas’ election in January of 2005 to meet and negotiate a final status agreement. However, Sharon refused to do so because his intention was not to achieve a just peace, but to steal as much West Bank land as he could—which is precisely what he did. By refusing to meet with Abbas, Israel helped guarantee the election of Hamas a year later, the outcome it claims it least desired. But does that give Israel the political cover it needs to further ignore Abbas as a partner for peace and steal more land?

In short, Israel has chosen—and continues to choose—colonization instead of peace. Uri Avnery’s analysis at Gush Shalom ( is well worth a read.

One development that offers tremendous hope is Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli and Palestinian warriors who have set down their guns and are working together to end the occupation and all forms of violence. Read about their movement at and in the latest issue of PeacePower, available online at

Perhaps Mr. Spitzer, and interested readers, might wish to spend time researching the matter first-hand by visiting both Israelis and the Palestinians in the West Bank. For American Jews, Birthright Unplugged is a Jewish-led organization that offers guided tours of the West Bank ( Or visit Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, a Palestinian nonviolent activism organization that offers opportunities to live with Palestinian families ( In film, John Pilger’s insightful documentary “Palestine is Still the Issue” is now available online at

I find Rachel Neuwirth’s commentary quite unsettling. She is the President of Middle East Solutions, which proposes a “win-win peaceful outcome” to the conflict: the ethnic cleansing (“resettlement”) of Palestinians from historical Palestine, and their removal to a new “Palestinian state” in Saudi Arabia. This “Plan for Arab-Israeli Reconciliation,” as she puts it, is outlined at

Ms. Neuwirth’s claim that I did not engage “in the slightest effort at fact finding” is obviously false—as mentioned, I have seen Israel’s Apartheid activities with my own eyes. Neuwirth changes the subject from Israel’s current oppression of Palestinians (the main point of Carter’s book) to interpretations of a colonial document issued ninety years ago. She neglects to mention that the document in question specifically states: “Nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Her assertion that the entirety of Palestine “was exclusively allocated to the Jewish nation by international law” could not be more inaccurate—the mandate called for a “homeland” for the Jewish people, but not one that was “exclusive” (or one that would involve the expulsion or mistreatment of the current population).

Finally, Mr. Spitzer and Ms. Neuwirth both attack UC Berkeley’s Peace and Conflict Studies program (PACS). Mr. Spitzer claims that it is “laughed at” by “most responsible UCB professors.” I’m not sure which UCB professors he has spoken to, or what his criteria is for determining whether or not a professor is “responsible,” but I perceive our program to be held in extremely high esteem. Students have initiated several well-regarded projects recently, including PeacePower, a nominee for UTNE Reader’s “Best New Publication of 2006,” and the Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center (, a student-led program that addresses student conflict on campus. I am a co-founder of both.

PACS has been described as a “mission major,” akin to the Department of Public Health. Just as Public Health seeks to eradicate all forms of disease, PACS seeks to eradicate all forms of violence. As Susan Collin Marks of Search for Common Ground says, “violent conflict destroys everything.” Someday, Palestinian children and Israeli children will grow up together, love each other, and be sisters and brothers together. It is up to us to start a nonviolent movement to make that possible, is it not? As Yonatan Shapira of Combatants for Peace has said, we must liberate Palestinians from Israel’s occupation, and free Israel from its role as an occupier.

Matthew Taylor is a fifth-year Peace and Conflict Studies student at UC Berkeley, editor of PeacePower magazine (, and Jewish.

America fighting militia trained, equipped by U.S.

Posted on Thu, Feb. 01, 2007

Mahdi Army gains strength through unwitting aid of U.S.

McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed.

"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."

The Bush administration's plan to secure Baghdad rests on a "surge" of some 17,000 more U.S. troops to the city, many of whom will operate from small bases throughout Baghdad. Those soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so that American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city.

The problem, many soldiers said, is that the approach has been tried before and resulted only in strengthening al-Sadr and his militia.

Amid recurring reports that al-Sadr is telling his militia leaders to stash their arms and, in some cases, leave their neighborhoods during the American push, U.S. soldiers worry that the latest plan could end up handing over those areas to units that are close to al-Sadr's militant Shiite group.

"All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they'll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It'll be called the `Day of Death' or something like that," said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.' That's what they preach. And it will be their victory."

Quinn agreed.

"Honestly, within six months of us leaving, the way Iranian clerics run the country behind the scenes, it'll be the same way here with Sadr," said Quinn, 25, of Cleveland. "He already runs our side of the river."

Four senior American military representatives in Baghdad declined requests for comment.

Al-Sadr's success in infiltrating Iraqi security forces says much about the continued inability of American commanders in Iraq to counter the classic insurgent tactic of using popular support to trump superior military firepower. Lacking attack helicopters and other sophisticated weapons, al-Sadr's men have expanded their empire with borrowed trucks and free lunches for militiamen.

After U.S. units pounded al-Sadr's men in August 2004, the cleric apparently decided that instead of facing American tanks, he'd use the Americans' plans to build Iraqi security forces to rebuild his own militia.

So while Iraq's other main Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade, concentrated in 2005 on packing Iraqi intelligence bureaus with high-level officers who could coordinate sectarian assassinations, al-Sadr went after the rank and file.

His recruits began flooding into the Iraqi army and police, receiving training, uniforms and equipment either directly from the U.S. military or from the American-backed Iraqi Defense Ministry.

The infiltration by al-Sadr's men, coupled with his strength in Iraq's parliament after U.S.-backed elections, gave him leeway to operate death squads throughout the capital, according to more than a week of interviews with American soldiers patrolling Baghdad. Some U.S.-trained units carried out sectarian killings themselves, while others, manning checkpoints, allowed militiamen to pass.

Al-Sadr's gunmen got another boost in 2005 and 2006 when American commanders handed over many Baghdad neighborhoods east of the Tigris River to Iraqi units, transitions that often were accompanied by news releases that contained variations of the phrase "Iraqis in the lead."

"There's been a lot of push to transition to Iraqis so you can show progress, but have you secured the area?" said Capt. Aaron Kaufman, a Washington, Iowa, native who works for a unit that acts as a liaison between U.S. and Iraqi forces in the Shiite enclave of Kadhamiya, across the river from east Baghdad. "I think the political pressure has hurt. ... You're wishing away, you're assuming away enemy activity, and you hurt yourself doing that."

In hindsight, many American officers said there was too much pressure to give Iraqi army units their own areas of operation, a process that left Iraqi soldiers outmanned, outgunned and easy targets for infiltration and coercion.

"There was a decision ... that was probably made prematurely," said Lt. Col. Eric Schacht, a 42-year-old battalion commander in east Baghdad from Glen Mills, Pa. "I think we jumped the gun a little bit."

Al-Sadr's militia has taken advantage of the chaos.

Iraqi soldiers, for example, often were pushed into the field by Iraqi commanders who didn't give them adequate food, clothing or shelter, said Etienne, a 1st Infantry Division platoon leader.

Etienne was on patrol one day when he saw Iraqi soldiers eating fresh vegetables and meat. The afternoon before, the same soldiers had complained that they had only scraps of food left. Who'd brought them their meal? It had come courtesy of Muqtada al-Sadr.

"Who's feeding the Iraqi army? Nobody. So JAM will come around and give them food and water," Etienne said. "We try to capture hearts and minds, well, JAM has done that. They're further along than us."

There's been ample evidence - despite claims to the contrary by American and Iraqi officials - that the death-squad activity isn't isolated to a few troops loyal to al-Sadr.

In the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Zafrainyah, an entire national police brigade was sent to be retrained last year- and much of its leadership was replaced - after its officers kidnapped 24 Sunnis, took them to a meat-processing plant and killed them.

Last month, four members of a neighborhood council in Etienne's sector - a mixed Sunni-Shiite area that abuts an al-Sadr stronghold - were leaving a meeting when national police trucks pulled up and men in Iraqi military uniforms piled out.

They grabbed the four men in broad daylight. One of the council members struggled. He was shot in the head and left to die on the street.

The remaining three were blindfolded and driven to a house. One of the four, a Shiite, listened as his two Sunni colleagues begged for their lives between beatings.

"They were pistol-whipping them and kicking them," Etienne said. "Finally, he heard the sound of a drill."

When the man's blindfold was taken off, he found that he was covered with the blood of his two friends, who were slumped over dead with drill holes in their heads.

"It was (al-Sadr's militia). They were trying to figure out who's who, and killing Sunnis," Etienne said. "They borrowed the vehicles from their friends in the Iraqi army and police who are Mahdi-affiliated."

A patrol from Etienne's company stopped by a Sunni neighborhood in east Baghdad last week. Two days earlier, three 60 mm mortar rounds fired from a nearby Shiite area, presumably by al-Sadr's militiamen, had hit a group of children who were playing on a rooftop. Two children died, and another lost most of a leg. A funeral tent stood empty in the middle of the street.

A soldier with a U.S. Army tactical human-intelligence team - who goes only by his last name, Brady, because of the sensitivity of his work - gathered a group of Sunni men to ask about neighborhood security.

One of the men, who said his name was Abbas al Dulaimi, asked, "When the Mahdi Army comes here, why does the Iraqi army help them shoot people?"

"I was behind a car at the checkpoint on the bridge. I saw an Iraqi army soldier open the trunk," said another man, who gave only his first name, Ahmed. "There were two men in there. The driver showed the soldier his Mahdi Army ID, and the soldier saluted him and let him drive away."

Brady didn't contradict any of the accounts. He took careful notes, shaking his head sympathetically at their stories of an Iraqi army gone astray.

He handed out a business card with a cell phone number to call in case of another Mahdi Army attack.

"We will send Iraqi army units that we trust," Brady said.

Abbas al Dulaimi stared at Brady, a blond man sitting in a circle of Iraqis, and spoke as if he were explaining something to a child.

"But if the Mahdi Army comes in here," Abbas al Dulaimi said, "they will come with the support of the Iraqi army."

Brady didn't contradict him.

Hillary fails to 'perform' for pro-Israel crowd

Fri, 2007-02-02

Hillary takes an unexpected nose dive before an audience of rabid zionists at Times Square.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew grumbles at a pro-Israel dinner in Times Square last night when she encouraged "engaging" with Iran before taking stronger action to keep it nuke-free.

Clinton said she wasn't sure "anything positive would come out of it" and she didn't know if it was "the smartest strategy to take," but added, "There are a number of factors that I think argue for some attempt to do what I have suggested."

She called for a better understanding of how Iran "really functions," warning actions beyond sanctions could increase danger in the region.

"I also want to send a message, if we ever do have to take more drastic action, to the rest of the world that we exhausted all possibilities," said Clinton, who earlier rapped President Bush for refusing to engage Tehran.

Clinton's remarks at the Marriott Marquis were met with little applause, and after she left the stage, several people said they were put off by the presidential candidate.

"This is the wrong crowd to do that with," said one person at the dinner, noting the pro-Israel crowd wanted to hear tougher rhetoric.

Geez - what on earth was she thinking? That she represents the American people, or something quaint like that?

Cheer up, Hillary - you may have lost your war-mongering audience, but you retained a smidgeon of your self-respect.

It's really not much, but you can always build on it.

qrswave's blog

Holocaust II

The most offensive aspect of the gloom-and-doom scenario is how antithetical that analysis is to the fundamental tenets of Zionism. The purpose of Zionism was to establish a strong sanctuary for Jews in the historic homeland. That sanctuary exists. Israel is, according to the analysts, the 4th strongest military power in the world and it is a nuclear power.

Washington DC, February 2, 2007

MJ Rosenberg

You know you are in trouble when it takes former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to dispel some of the gloom about the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel. But that is what happened at last month's Herzliya Conference on National Security. The annual conference has become the most prestigious venue in Israel for discussions of Israeli and global security by high-ranking political leaders, military figures and academics.

Netanyahu said: "I am optimistic, and my optimism is not baseless, because I understand our capabilities….”

His remarks (surprising coming from someone who regularly utilizes apocalyptic rhetoric about Iran) were a dose of reality in a political scene that has become increasingly dominated by gloom-and-doom fantasies replete with references to the imminence of a second Holocaust.

The fear, of course, is that Iran is on the verge of producing nuclear weapons and will, if in possession of them, use them almost immediately to destroy Israel.

Netanyahu's statement was a reminder that Israel is far from helpless. It is a strong military power and, although he would not say this in so many words, reportedly has 200 atomic weapons of its own.

A nuclear attack on Israel by anyone would be suicidal and there are few, if any, governments in the world that would be willing to sacrifice millions of its own people to eliminate its enemies. (Those who argue that Iranians or Muslims in general – unlike Westerners -- would happily see their cities destroyed and their children consumed in a nuclear jihad are talking nonsense. The Mullahs themselves are calculating and dangerous; they are not suicidal. And it is they, not Pres. Ahmadinejad, who call the shots).

Nevertheless, Israel’s powerful deterrent is continually being downplayed by those who insist that the Israeli state is essentially as vulnerable as the Jews of Europe were in 1939.

Of the dozens of articles and speeches which express that fear, one stands out. It is by Benny Morris, one of Israel's top historians who made his name by exploring the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem. He is no right-winger (although he has moved rightward lately) which makes his words especially significant.

In an essay in the "Jerusalem Post," called "This Holocaust Will Be Different," Morris offers this prediction.

"One bright morning, in five or 10 years, perhaps during a regional crisis, perhaps out of the blue, a day or a year or five years after Iran's acquisition of the Bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session, under a portrait of the steely-eyed Ayatollah Khomeini, and give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by then in his second or third term, the go-ahead.

"The orders will go out and the Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, and probably some military sites, including Israel's half dozen air and (reported) nuclear missile bases….

"With a country the size and shape of Israel (an elongated 20,000 square kilometers), probably four or five hits will suffice: No more Israel. “

For Morris, this horrific denouement is the result of policy choices that have already been made. "The buildup to the second holocaust (which, incidentally, in the end, will probably claim roughly the same number of lives as the first) has seen an international community fragmented and driven by separate, selfish appetites - Russia and China obsessed with Muslim markets; France with Arab oil - and the United States driven by the debacle in Iraq into a deep isolationism. Iran has been left free to pursue its nuclear destiny and Israel and Iran to face off alone."

The most distressing part of Morris's analysis (or prophecy) is its utter fatalism. “America will do nothing. Iran will get the bomb. Iran will use it on Israel. Israel will be destroyed. It's all inevitable.”

He does not even propose ways for Israel to avert this catastrophe.

Like most of the gloom-and-doom school, Morris believes that the only thing motivating Iranian policy is the desire to eliminate Israel. But Iran’s dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship is about much more than Israel. In fact, it is primarily about the United States. That is why many believe that negotiations would be productive. In negotiations with the United States, Iran can demand recognition and security guarantees from Washington while we can demand an end to nuclear bomb development, an end to their meddling in Iraq, an end to support of Hezbollah and endorsement of negotiations as a means to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is why American politicians are not jumping on the war-is-the-only-option bandwagon. As former Senator John Edwards recommended in his speech at Herzliyah. "Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons." We “need to support direct engagement with the Iranians….It is a mistake strategically to avoid engagement with Iran."

Or as Sen. Hillary Clinton says: “We have to keep all options on the table, including being ready to talk directly to Iranians should the right opportunity present itself. Direct talks, if they do nothing else, lets you assess who's making the decisions -- what their stated and unstated goals might be. And willingness to talk sends two very important messages. First, to the Iranian people, that our quarrel is with their leaders, not with them; and second, to the international community, that we are pursuing every available peaceful avenue to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.”

But the gloom and doomers disagree. Moderate Israeli writers Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren wrote, in a story in last week’s New Republic that “negotiations between the West and Iran….would be the worst of all options.” Why? Because the timing is wrong. “The time to have negotiated with Iran…was immediately after the initial U.S. triumph in Iraq, not now, when the United States is losing the war. Under these circumstances, negotiations would only buy the regime time to continue its nuclear program.”

For me, the most offensive aspect of the gloom-and-doom scenario is how antithetical that analysis is to the fundamental tenets of Zionism. The purpose of Zionism was to establish a strong sanctuary for Jews in the historic homeland. That sanctuary exists. Israel is, according to the analysts, the 4th strongest military power in the world and it is a nuclear power.

Pretending that Israel's situation in 2007 is like that of the Jews of Europe in 1939 is absurd and a desecration of the memory of the Six Million. Would anyone argue that the Holocaust would have taken place if Polish Jews had both nuclear weapons and a way to deliver them to Berlin? Of course not.

It was Jewish powerlessness that made the Holocaust possible, powerlessness that ended following Israel's establishment, the advent of the Israel Defense Forces and the development of Israel's nuclear deterrent.

If the existence of a militarily strong nuclear Israel, a nation 6 million strong, with an army second to none, has left Jews in as precarious a situation as 60 years ago, then Zionism was a failure and the existence of Israel is fundamentally worthless.

As a lifelong Zionist, I obviously do not accept that premise. Having come of age following the Six Day War, I simply cannot buy into the idea that Israel cannot accomplish what it needs to in order to secure its survival. Those who argue otherwise have either given up on Israel or are trying to scare either the fellow Israelis or Americans into a military strike at Iran before all other options have been tried.

Enough is enough. If we have learned anything from the Iraq war or the summer war on Israel’s northern border, it should be that wars, no matter what the intention of their architects, have unintended consequences and sometimes unimaginable ones.

Those who hold out the terrifying image of Israel reduced to dust by Iran as a means to produce a willy-nilly rush to war could, perversely, be setting the scene for the catastrophe they most fear. The gift of prophecy can be a wonderful thing if it helps avert disaster. However, the ritualistic invoking of the Holocaust, the suggestion that Israel is militarily helpless, and self-fulfilling prophecies of doom, are deeply offensive -- except of course to one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Can’t you just see him as he reads Benny Morris, the Herzliyah transcripts, and the New Republic cover story? I can. And he’s laughing.

MJ Rosenberg is the Director of Israel Policy Forum's Washington Policy Center. If you have colleagues or friends who would appreciate receiving this weekly letter, or you would like to unsubscribe, send an e-mail to:


M.J. Rosenberg works in Washington supporting US efforts to advance an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Previously, he worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was editor of AIPACs weekly newsletter Near East Report. After the signing of the Oslo Accords, Rosenberg broke with the AIPAC position and became a strong advocate of the "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Editor's note: The "two-state solution" will no longer work, therefore will never happen. Israel has changed the reality on the ground with the Wall, making the two-state solution physically unworkable. One state, Jews and Arabs together, is the only viable solution and Israel is not about to let that ever happen.

The U.S. is saying it is working to advance an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, when it is clearly not.

No Defense Against Persecution

Sarah Shields

February 01, 2007

Sarah Shields teaches Middle East history at UNC/Chapel Hill.

“Has anyone told you that you look like Gandhi?” my companion asked Professor Sami al-Arian. Al-Arian was sitting behind a plastic wall, wearing striped prison clothes and speaking into two telephones.

It was easy not only to see the resemblance, but also to feel it. Dr. al-Arian has a strikingly similar smile, Gandhi-like eyes and the same lean frame as he finished the first week of his hunger strike. More remarkable, after being both prosecuted and persecuted, he maintains his confidence in the rule of law, the American system of justice and the basic goodness of his persecutors. And he has come through it all with his good nature and sense of humor, despite his weakening condition.

Dr. Sami al-Arian has now spent four years in jail, three of those in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. In December 2005, despite years to prepare the case against him, and an estimated $80 million dollars of American tax money to pursue it, Dr. al-Arian was acquitted of eight of the 17 charges against him, including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad, conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization (two counts), mail fraud (two counts) and obstruction of justice (two counts). After agreeing in a plea bargain to a single charge in exchange for being released and deported, more than a year after his acquittal he is still imprisoned. We visited him at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, where he is being held for contempt of court for refusing to testify in an unrelated matter.

The United States government was deeply embarrassed after this acquittal in a high-profile trial that was to have been a showcase for the USA PATRIOT Act. After being imprisoned under conditions condemned by Amnesty International, in lock-down 23 hours a day for 37 months before his trial, regularly shackled and strip-searched, denied religious services, refused adequate access to the documents necessary to prepare his defense (tens of thousands of pages of transcripts from years of electronic surveillance), after being brought into the courtroom heavily shackled and treated as a terrorist, al-Arian was gracious in victory.

For Sami al-Arian, the jury’s verdict reinforced the confidence he had always held in both the United States and her system of justice. Addressing the court, he thanked his attorneys and his adopted country:

This process, your Honor, affirmed my belief in the true meaning of a democratic society, in which the independence of the judiciary, the integrity of the jury system and the system of checks and balances are upheld, despite intense political and public pressures ... It's also my belief that an impartial and conscientious jury, as well as principled judicial rulings that uphold the values of the constitution, are the real vehicles that win the hearts and minds of people across the globe, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to the government arguing that a retrying Dr. Al-Arian “following the recent acquittal of all serious charges lodged against him would appear to be pointless and vindictive.”

As the government refused to preclude a retrial, and with exhausted attorneys and inadequate funds to pursue a defense against the remaining counts (on which two jurors remained unconvinced), the defendant decided to conclude a plea deal. Dr. Al-Arian pled guilty to one of the remaining charges against him solely in order to be finished with his ordeal. He agreed to deportation in return for the termination of all legal proceedings against him, and what Al-Arian believed was a good-faith commitment relieving him of the obligation to testify against others.

U.S. District Judge James Moody seemed unswayed even by the arguments of the prosecutors, and sentenced Dr. al-Arian to another 11 months jail, to be completed in April 2007. But it seems the government is unwilling to carry out this agreement.

In October 2006 U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg asked a grand jury to subpoena Professor al-Arian to testify in a case involving a Muslim think-tank. Pointing out that testifying had been explicitly deleted from the plea bargain, with the specific consent of the prosecutors in Florida, he refused. As he explained it to us last week, his refusal comes from two places. First, he considers it inconsistent with his faith and his values to testify. Second, he anticipates that any testimony would be used to create new “facts” to re-arrest him. His fear seems well-founded. At a hearing in 2000, a government attorney asked whether Dr. al-Arian believed that Islam could only be liberated through violence. Professor al-Arian’s response, of course, was “No.”

One of the 17 counts against him in 2003 was perjury: The government contends he lied when responding that violence was not required to liberate Islam.

Responding to being placed in civil contempt, al-Arian pointed out that he had “no contempt whatsoever for this honorable court, but all the respect in the world for it.” It seems, instead, that it is the government that has contempt for the legal system al-Arian has relied upon and admired for decades. Instead of respecting the plea agreement, Kromberg referred to it as a “bonanza.” Despite having been found guilty of nothing by a U.S. court, Judge Moody and Kromberg persist in their belief in al-Arian’s culpability. It appears that Kromberg’s attitude is based in part on Sami al-Arian’s religion.

Attorney Jack Fernandez requested that Kromberg delay al-Arian’s transfer to Virginia until the end of Ramadan. Fernandez quoted Kromberg’s response in an affidavit, "If they can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury, all they can't do is eat before sunset. I believe Mr. al-Arian's request is part of the attempted Islamization of the American justice aystem. I am not going to put off Dr. al-Arian's grand jury appearance just to assist in what is becoming the Islamization of America." Gordon Kromberg has denied a request to recuse himself in this case.

It was both Sami al-Arian’s religious faith, and his faith in our system of government that got him arrested in 2003. Al-Arian actually believes what we say about freedom of worship, and has spent years trying to inform Americans about Islam. Stunned by the events of 9/11, he agreed to talk with Bill O’Reilly about Muslim responses to the tragedy. To his surprise, the FOX News host attacked him , relentlessly interrogating him about an investigation dating back to 1993, in which al-Arian had been found blameless years earlier.

Within days, Professor al-Arian had been fired from the University of South Florida, where he had taught for 15 years, despite his tenure. As opposition mounted, and the American Association of University Professors threatened sanctions against the University of South Florida, the university’s president got the help she needed: the FBI resurrected the old allegations and al-Arian was arrested.

It appears now that, despite being exonerated by a jury of his peers, Sami al-Arian has been found guilty—guilty of being a Muslim and a Palestinian. In the years since 9/11, more and more Muslims and Arabs have been accused of terrorism, their lives put on hold, their families divided, their freedom denied. In the face of new legislation suspending habeus corpus and stripping even U.S. citizens of their rights to a swift and fair trial, Professor al-Arian’s experience is a frightening foreshadowing of the futures of those who would count on American freedoms of religion, speech and dissent.

Dr. al-Arian continues to have faith in our system and in our country. He told the court at his sentencing:

As I leave I harbor no bitterness or resentment. Looking back at my three decades in America, I'm indeed grateful for the opportunities afforded to the son of stateless Palestinian refugees in a foreign country, while denied such opportunity in his country of origin and the countries where he was born or raised. I'm grateful that my five wonderful children were born and raised in a society that provided them with freedom and equal opportunities in order to reach their potential.

Sami al-Arian’s children, and my children, need the American system of justice to prevail. Time is running out for Professor al-Arian as he continues to refuse food to protest the injustice of his continuing imprisonment. Time is running out for justice if Americans refuse to insist on the enforcement of our constitution.

National Intelligence Estimate Released - Things Look Bad, Very Bad: Full Text

PDF link for NIE report


Intelligence Report Predicts Worsening Cycle of Violence

Accused 'terrorist' Salah acquitted of charges

Accused terrorist Salah acquitted of charges

February 1, 2007

Mohammed Salah, the only U.S. citizen to be designated an international terrorist, was acquitted Thursday of terrorism-related charges - a rejection of the federal government's claim that he helped lead the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

The dramatic conclusion of Salah's three-month trial capped a novel-worthy story 14 years in the making.

Salah was captured by Israeli authorities in 1993 and accused of serving as a Hamas military commander, and he’s been dealing with the aftershocks ever since.

Salah, 53, of Bridgeview, was convicted of lesser charges of obstruction of justice for lying about his alleged Hamas links in a 2000 lawsuit. But he brushed that aside and basked in the glow of beating the main charge of racketeering conspiracy, which could have landed him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Tears streaming down his face, he bear-hugged defense attorneys and vigorously shook hands with dozens of well-wishers and spectators.

Top officials of the FBI and U.S. attorney's offices in Chicago huddled quietly and watched the celebration unfold.

"We are not terrorists," Salah said afterward in the teeming courthouse lobby with his 8-year-old son Ibrahim perched on his shoulders. "We are a great people who are helping the United States. We just have to thank our lawyers and everyone else. I have to thank everyone who helped my family put food on the table."

Salah's co-defendant, former university professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar, of Virginia, also was acquitted of racketeering charges but convicted of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt.

The lesser charges against Ashqar stem from his refusal to testify about Hamas before a federal grand jury despite a grant of immunity.

Both men remain free on bond. They’re scheduled to be sentenced June 15. Defense attorneys said they plan on requesting probation for them.

The trial, which began in October, touched on the ancient blood feud between Arabs and Jews and immersed jurors in a world of shadowy Israeli intelligence agents, suicide bombings, illicit money-runners and shifty overseas operatives speaking in code.

"We've never prosecuted a case like this," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said after the verdict. "I don't know if there will ever be another case prosecuted in this district with facts like these."

In an indictment announced in 2004 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, Salah was accused of delivering laundered money to Hamas militants in the Occupied Territories and recruiting a pair of local men for terrorist training.

Ashqar faced allegations that he served as a behind-the-scenes Hamas strategist and communications link between operatives in the U.S. and abroad.

Hamas, which is dedicated to the eradication of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state, is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Salah and Ashqar, both natives of the Occupied Territories, were never directly tied to any violence, but they were accused of breaking U.S. laws to help Hamas.

The case against Salah was built around a series of incriminating statements he gave to agents of Israel’s Shin Bet security service after his capture at a military checkpoint in January 1993.

He was held without charges and interrogated over a period of nearly two months in Israel -- and defense attorneys repeatedly told jurors during the trial that Salah was tortured into saying what the Shin Bet wanted to hear.

A pair of Shin Bet agents involved in the interrogation, testifying under fake names in a courtroom cleared of the public, insisted that Salah’s confession was not coerced. But prosecutors admitted the Shin Bet in the early 1990s generally used harsh interrogation tactics considered by many human-rights observers to be torture.

The Salah prosecution drew the ire of civil rights activists and the Muslim community centered around the Bridgeview mosque where he has long worshipped.

Salah’s alleged work for Hamas took place well over a decade ago, and he ultimately spent nearly five years in an Israeli prison for it. A charge that Salah specifically supported terrorism was dismissed by prosecutors shortly before trial.

The racketeering charge alleged that Salah kept his 1990s-era Hamas status intact by lying in his written response to a 2000 lawsuit that was filed by the parents of a Jewish teen killed in a West Bank terrorist attack.

Critics have characterized the case alternately as a heavy-handed appeasement of Israel, a desperate bid to prosecute a terrorism case in the post-9/11 world, or both.

Ashqar defense attorney William Moffitt -- who compared his client to famous freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X -- told jurors there should be nothing illegal about resisting an armed occupation.

The long-running violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and who’s most to blame for it, was a constant theme throughout the trial. While prosecution witnesses testified about the horror of Hamas suicide bombings, defense witnesses said many more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in the conflict and described the deplorable living conditions in the Occupied Territories.

"Maybe the government will get it through its head that this conflict is not going to be settled in the criminal courts of the United States," Moffitt said.

Prosecutors praised the jurors, who deliberated for 14 days, for their hard work and said the fact that both defendants were convicted of something means the government didn’t lose the case.

"We believe that we proved our case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury disagreed," Shapiro said. "We are still convinced of what we alleged in this case." After the verdict, jurors told the judge they didn't want to meet with reporters and issued a joint statement saying they based their verdict "solely on the facts as applied to the law."

Several jurors reached at home Thursday evening declined to comment. Hickory Hills resident Tahanee Hasan, whose father is a friend of Salah, said she has attended the trial since November.

A network of phone trees was set up to alert Salah's supporters that a verdict had been reached, and they began streaming toward the downtown Dirksen Federal Building after learning of it Thursday afternoon.

"Our entire community has been watching this," Hasan said.

As it was for much of the trial, the hallway outside U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve's 12th-floor courtroom was packed with spectators hoping to snag a seat inside. Salah, who was allowed to await the verdict at home, warmly greeted the crowd when he arrived.

"You always have hope," he said quietly, hands spread, before entering the hushed courtroom to learn his fate.

A muted exclamation rose from the courtroom gallery when the "not guilty" verdict on the first count of the indictment was read. The mood became subdued when guilty verdicts on the remaining minor charges were read, but defense attorneys quickly declared victory after jurors filed out.

"This is a great day for justice," attorney Michael Deutsch said. "I think the jury rejected this idea that you can criminalize a political movement through (racketeering laws)."

Salah supporters swarmed the lobby of the courthouse for more than an hour after the verdict and were gradually herded outside.

Before heading home, Salah and about a dozen others arranged themselves in two rows - men in the first row, women in the second - and knelt on the snowy granite tarmac beside the federal building to pray.

"This case is not just for Muslims; it's for everyone," Salah shouted as the last few supporters and onlookers slipped away afterward. "We love you all."

Contributing: Jonathan Lipman

Ex-national security adviser warns that Bush is seeking a pretext to attack Iran

A political bombshell from Zbigniew Brzezinski

By Barry Grey in Washington DC
2 February 2007

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser in the Carter administration, delivered a scathing critique of the war in Iraq and warned that the Bush administration’s policy was leading inevitably to a war with Iran, with incalculable consequences for US imperialism in the Middle East and internationally.

Brzezinski, who opposed the March 2003 invasion and has publicly denounced the war as a colossal foreign policy blunder, began his remarks on what he called the “war of choice” in Iraq by characterizing it as “a historic, strategic and moral calamity.”

“Undertaken under false assumptions,” he continued, “it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean principles and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.”

Brzezinski derided Bush’s talk of a “decisive ideological struggle” against radical Islam as “simplistic and demagogic,” and called it a “mythical historical narrative” employed to justify a “protracted and potentially expanding war.”

“To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

Most stunning and disturbing was his description of a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran.” It would, he suggested, involve “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [Emphasis added].

This was an unmistakable warning to the US Congress, replete with quotation marks to discount the “defensive” nature of such military action, that the Bush administration is seeking a pretext for an attack on Iran. Although he did not explicitly say so, Brzezinski came close to suggesting that the White House was capable of manufacturing a provocation—including a possible terrorist attack within the US—to provide the casus belli for war.

That a man such as Brzezinski, with decades of experience in the top echelons of the US foreign policy establishment, a man who has the closest links to the military and to intelligence agencies, should issue such a warning at an open hearing of the US Senate has immense and grave significance.

Brzezinski knows whereof he speaks, having authored provocations of his own while serving as Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. In that capacity, as he has since acknowledged in published writings, he drew up the covert plan at the end of the 1970s to mobilize Islamic fundamentalist mujaheddin to topple the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan and draw the Soviet Union into a ruinous war in that country.

Following his opening remarks, in response to questions from the senators, Brzezinski reiterated his warning of a provocation.

He called the senators’ attention to a March 27, 2006 report in the New York Times on “a private meeting between the president and Prime Minister Blair, two months before the war, based on a memorandum prepared by the British official present at this meeting.” In the article, Brzezinski said, “the president is cited as saying he is concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the action.”

He continued: “I’ll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to the New York Times: ‘The memo states that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.’

“He described the several ways in which this could be done. I won’t go into that... the ways were quite sensational, at least one of them.

“If one is of the view that one is dealing with an implacable enemy that has to be removed, that course of action may under certain circumstances be appealing. I’m afraid that if this situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, and if Iran is perceived as in some fashion involved or responsible, or a potential beneficiary, that temptation could arise.”

At another point Brzezinski remarked on the conspiratorial methods of the Bush administration and all but described it as a cabal. “I am perplexed,” he said, “by the fact that major strategic decisions seem to be made within a very narrow circle of individuals—just a few, probably a handful, perhaps not more than the fingers on my hand. And these are the individuals, all of whom but one, who made the original decision to go to war, and used the original justifications to go to war.”

None of the senators in attendance addressed themselves to the stark warning from Brzezinski. The Democrats in particular, flaccid, complacent and complicit in the war conspiracies of the Bush administration, said nothing about the danger of a provocation spelled out by the witness.

Following the hearing, this reporter asked Brzezinski directly if he was suggesting that the source of a possible provocation might be the US government itself. The former national security adviser was evasive.

The following exchange took place:

Q: Dr. Brzezinski, who do you think would be carrying out this possible provocation?

A: I have no idea. As I said, these things can never be predicted. It can be spontaneous.

Q: Are you suggesting there is a possibility it could originate within the US government itself?

A: I’m saying the whole situation can get out of hand and all sorts of calculations can produce a circumstance that would be very difficult to trace.

U.S. Says Iran Meddles in Iraq but Is Delaying Release of Data

February 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — President Bush’s national security advisers have ordered a delay in publication of evidence intended to support Washington’s contention that Iran supplies lethal technology and other aid to militias in Iraq, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The decision was described by officials who were struggling to explain why American officials in Baghdad have twice canceled plans to present the evidence, delays that have raised questions about the quality of the intelligence.


AIPAC to hold annual meeting in - Turkey

On April 15 İstanbul will host an important gathering of one of Washington's most powerful lobbies: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC, which holds its annual meeting in a different country each year, will hold its annual meeting in İstanbul this year. Two officials came to İstanbul to arrange the program and choice of venue. The officials also met with İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş about security measures for the event. The influential group has considerable sway on US-Israel relations and US policy and has called itself "America's pro-Israel lobby."


POLITICS-US : Iraq War Opponents Follow the Money
Aaron Glantz
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.


POLITICS-US : Iraq War Opponents Follow the Money
Aaron Glantz
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.

Iran official says allows U.N. cameras at key atom site

Fri Feb 2, 2007 10:08 AM EST

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official said on Friday Tehran had allowed the installation of surveillance cameras at a complex where it is set to begin expanding enrichment of nuclear fuel.

The official, who declined to be identified further, spoke after diplomats in Vienna, where the U.N. atomic watchdog is based, said Iran had refused to let U.N. inspectors set up cameras at the underground section of the Natanz complex.

He also denied some reports abroad that Iran had begun installing 3,000 centrifuges to step up uranium enrichment. "It has not started yet," he said. Enriched uranium can be used to run power plants or to detonate atomic bombs.

The United Nations has slapped sanctions on Iran's nuclear program for defying demands to stop enriching uranium, a process Tehran insists is aimed only at generating electricity.

The West suspects the Islamic Republic is striving to build atomic bombs behind the facade of a civilian energy program. International Atomic Energy Agency investigations have found no proof of bombmaking, but raised many questions.

Tehran has invited six ambassadors from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of developing nations for a "transparency" visit to Iranian nuclear facilities on Saturday, although they are not due to see the centerpiece Natanz installation.

They will instead tour a uranium-conversion facility near the central city of Isfahan, where the uranium hexafluoride gas is made for feeding into centrifuge enrichment machines. They may also visit a heavy water reactor project at Arak.

NAM diplomats said Iran invited the envoys, accredited to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, to show openness about its program. Washington says simply showcasing Iran's nuclear activities would not build confidence abroad.


The IAEA conducts inspections of Natanz and other Iranian nuclear facilities to try to verify that work is not being diverted to making nuclear bombs, which the West fears. Iran denies such intentions.

"The installation of cameras has taken place in Natanz. We have cooperated with the IAEA based on the safeguards and we will continue to do so in the framework of cooperation and treaties," the Iranian official told Reuters.

"The installation of monitoring systems and surveillance is taking place correctly and in the past days, the monitoring system has been strengthened and there is no problem regarding this issue between Iran and the agency," he said.

The official said he was referring to Natanz's underground hall, where 3,000 centrifuges are set to be hooked up. The complex includes a small, above-ground centrifuge research facility that is under steady IAEA camera surveillance.

Asked about the Iranian official's denial, a Vienna diplomat familiar with IAEA operations reaffirmed that Iran had caused a holdup with camera preparations at the underground plant.

"But it's not a fait accompli. There have been contacts to resolve the matter," the diplomat told Reuters on Friday.

An Iranian news agency, however, said plans to expand work at Natanz might bring "limited changes" in the way inspectors carried out their work, including camera installation.

Student news agency ISNA said the decision to move from research at Natanz to industrial-level work "will naturally have some limited changes in the way the inspectors inspect and install cameras, and in some of the agency's technical and legal regulations." ISNA did not elaborate or give a clear source.

The major expansion of centrifuge capacity is part of plans to ramp up from experimental research, purifying token amounts of uranium, to so-called "industrial-scale" enrichment.

It would not be illegal for Iran to refuse to allow cameras to be hooked up in the subterranean centrifuge hall because nuclear work has not yet commenced.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna)

Hamas, Fatah say they’re trying for another truce

Palestinian Truce Collapses as 13 Killed, 170 Hurt in Clashes


2 February 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university on Friday, setting buildings on fire and dealing a sharp blow to Hamas’ prestige as a new round of heavy fighting erupted between the two factions throughout the Gaza Strip. Fifteen people, including four children, were killed.

With a total of 22 killed and 245 wounded since Thursday afternoon, Gazans huddled in their homes to escape the crossfire. Hospital officials said were running out of blood to treat the wounded.

On Friday afternoon, leaders of Hamas and Fatah said they had agreed in principle to a new cease-fire, but needed more meetings to work out the details of a pullback of forces, who were battling in the streets with mortar shells, rockets and heavy guns. The deal was announced after a meeting at the Egyptian embassy.

“We, the leaders of the two groups, agreed with God’s help on a cease-fire,” said Nizar Rayan, a regional Hamas leader, after the meeting. “The measures that will be taken on the ground will be discussed in the next few hours.” A Fatah spokesman, Abdel Hakim Awad, confirmed agreement was reached in principle.

An earlier truce unravelled after just two days.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in internal violence since Hamas won parliamentary elections last year and formed a Cabinet. In the wake of the election, established its own militia, as a counterweight to the security forces controlled by President Mahmoud abbas. The forces have fought repeatedly in the streets.

In another effort to end the fighting, Abbas was to travel Tuesday to Saudi Arabia for talks with Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, on forming a national unity government, said Jamal Shobaki, Palestinian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Previous rounds of talks have ended in failure and often led to new waves of bloodshed.

On Friday afternoon, in an attack fraught with symbolism, Fatah forces raided a Hamas stronghold, the Islamic University in Gaza City, setting fire to two buildings and sparking a heavy firefight with Hamas forces. Masked men in black uniforms ran through the campus and took up positions on the roof of the school’s mosque.

The university was also a target during a 1996 crackdown on Hamas by the Preventive Security Service, which found weapons and explosives inside the university compound.

Hamas gunmen vowed revenge, and hours later, group members attacked two buildings of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Quds University at two separate locations in Gaza, Palestinian security officials said. A witness said gunmen fired mortar rounds at the lone building at the Gaza City campus, then doused it with fuel. Smoke rose from the building as gunmen clashed outside.

The raid Friday on Islamic University was the second in two days. On Thursday, Fatah said it had burst into the campus and arrested seven Iranian citizens, while an eighth committed suicide. The security official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He offered no proof.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a Fatah-affiliated militant group, said it had carried out the raid of the university with the security forces and accused Hamas of using the campus to manufacture and distribute weapons.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan denied the presence of Iranians at the university and called charges that it was used for military purposes “ridiculous.”

“The university has absolutely no business in politics, or military work,” he said.

In other violence, 50 officers from Abbas’ presidential guard surrounded the Hamas-led Interior Ministry on Friday and exchanged fire with Hamas gunmen guarding the building. Outside of Gaza City, Hamas militants launched mortar shells at a Fatah training base in an attack that wounded 30 recruits, security officials said. One shell missed the base, hitting a nearby house and wounding two children inside.

Three members of the Presidential Guard were killed in Friday’s fighting.

The roads of Gaza were nearly empty, sealed off by makeshift roadblocks of rubble and garbage. Only masked security officers, some with hand grenades clipped to their ammunition vests, were visible in the streets. The sound of gunfire mixed with the call to prayer, but the mosques were mostly empty for Friday afternoon prayers as people stayed at home in fear.

Health officials appealed for blood donors. Ambulances had come under fire and one rescue worker was lightly injured by a ricocheting bullet, they said. A Red Crescent hospital near a security base in Gaza City was hit in crossfire and its windows and gates were pocked by bullet holes.

Hamas gunmen blew up the Fatah-affiliated Voice of Labor radio station in the northern town of Jebaliya after a five-hour siege, according to Rasem Bayri, who heads the Palestinian Federation of Laboor Unions. The Hamas fighters pulled down a Palestinian flag flying on the roof of the building and put up a green Hamas flag, Bayri said.

The latest clashes began Thursday when Hamas gunmen ambushed an official convoy guarded by the Fatah presidential guard in the Bureij refugee camp and hijacked two trucks filled with tents, medical kits and toilets, security officials said. The United States and some Arab countries had pledged to give equipment and training to the security forces loyal to Abbas.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed two armed Palestinians near the West Bank city of Ramallah early Friday. Palestinian security officials said the men were police officers on a routine patrol. The army said two armed men in civilian clothes approached troops on an overnight raid, and the soldiers opened fire when the men refused to put down their weapons.

Some prominent Americans are courageously speaking up against Zionism and deserve the thanks of Arabs

Arabs must listen

Ibrahim Nafie

Former US president Jimmy Carter is locked in fierce battle with the Jewish lobby. Since his recent book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, Carter has become the whipping boy of the Israel lobby and the neo-cons. He appeared in several debates with pro-Israel lobbyists and lectured at Jewish institutions to explain his point of view, but his calm composure failed to bring him anything but slander and abuse. Israel's supporters have accused Carter of lying, of stealing maps and documents, of hunger for publicity, and -- guess what -- racism and anti-Semitism.

Despite the vilification, Carter has stayed the course. A few days ago, he lectured at Brandeis University, a dominantly Jewish institution. Carter talked about his book, saying that his choice of the term "apartheid" was meant to be thought-provoking, for he wanted people to think carefully about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. He added that he used the term "just" 28 times in his book because a peace settlement has to be just in order to last. Israel's policy towards the Palestinians was undermining peace in the region, he stated.

In his talk to Brandeis University students, Carter recalled his earlier political career, noting that when he ran for senate, governor of Georgia, and president of the United States, his rivals would take the occasional personal jibe at him. But not once, he said, was he ever called a liar, a bigot and a coward, or accused of plagiarism and anti-Semitism. "It hurts," he admitted.

The campaign against Carter shows how powerful the Zionist lobby is. It also shows that prominent figures are not afraid to speak up anymore. Two political scientists, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have spoken about the control of the media and think tanks by the Israeli lobby. Their remarks made them the target of attacks, but they didn't retract their views.

I believe that people such as Carter, Walt and Mearsheimer are giving valuable support to Arab rights. They work from inside the system, offering calm arguments and sober views. This is something we miss in the Arab world, where opinions are often tainted with emotion.

Those Americans who tell it as it is, despite Zionist pressures, deserve our thanks and appreciation. Arab civil groups and study centres need to invite those people to give lectures here. We need to learn from them and thank them. Would an Arab organisation invite Jimmy Carter so that we may discuss his views and listen to his advice?

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

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Kosovo says Yes to UN plan but Serbia says No

February 2, 2007
By Ellie Tzortzi and Matt Robinson

BELGRADE/PRISTINA (Reuters) - United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Friday unveiled a plan to set the breakaway province of Kosovo on a path to independence, an outcome immediately welcomed by Kosovo Albanians and rejected by Serbia.

Ahtisaari's proposal did not mention the word "independence" or address the loss of Serbia's sovereignty over the territory. But both sides said this was clearly what it implied.

"Kosovo will be sovereign like all other countries," said Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu after meeting Ahtisaari in Kosovo's capital Pristina, where there were celebrations.

Prime Minister Agim Ceku, a former guerrilla in the 1998-99 Kosovo Liberation Army which fought the forces of the late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic, said the document "is very clear for Kosovo's future".

After a meeting in Serbia, President Boris Tadic agreed that the plan "opens up the possibility of independence". But Tadic said he told the envoy: "Serbia and I as its president will never accept the independence of Kosovo."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has condemned Ahtisaari for "anti-Serb bias", and took the lead in rejecting his plan in advance, refusing even to meet the envoy on Friday.

The plan gives Kosovo access to international bodies usually reserved for sovereign states and to use its own flag, anthem and other symbols.

"The settlement provides for an international representative to supervise the implementation," Ahtisaari told a news conference. The NATO-led peace force "will continue to provide a safe and secure environment ... as long as necessary".

It includes measures to "promote sustainable economic development including Kosovo's ability to apply for membership in international financial institutions", he added.


Ahtisaari declined several opportunities to address the issue of Kosovo's ultimate status, saying this would be settled by the United Nations Security Council once he formally presented his plan, following a last round of consultations.

He said the diametrically opposed positions of the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians were "extremely fixed", but he was allowing them "one more chance" to find compromise.

Invitations would be sent for a meeting in Vienna on Feb. 13 and it would be up to Serbs and leaders of Kosovo's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority to decide whether to turn up.

The former Finnish president mediated months of largely fruitless talks in 2006. "Maybe they have had enough," he said. "I can't force anyone to participate."

There was no point in waiting for a new government to be formed following Serbia's inconclusive election last month, he said. "Whether it's now or a little bit later, the same people would be on either side of the table."

"The final process starts when the plan enters the Security Council," Ahtisaari said, indicating that could be next month.

The European Union urged both sides to respond "positively and constructively" to Ahtisaari's proposals. The U.S. State Department said the proposal "is fair and balanced. It is a blueprint for a stable, prosperous and multi-ethnic Kosovo".

The poor landlocked province of two million is cherished by Serbs as the medieval homeland of their nation.

Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since 1999 when NATO bombing forced Milosevic to withdraw troops accused of killing 10,000 Albanians during a counter-insurgency war. About 100,000 ethnic Serbs remain. Some predict violence and secession, and both NATO and the U.N. mission have made contingency plans for a crisis.

"There is nothing more we can do," said Kosovo Serb accountant Milica Knezevic, "there's no life for us here."

President Tadic has told Serbs Kosovo might already be lost.

Kostunica says he will never accept this and is urging all parties in the next government to solemnly pledge that Serbia will cut ties with any country recognising the province as an independent state, including major Western powers.

(Additional reporting by Beti Bilandzic, Monika Lajhner, Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade and Matt Robinson in Pristina)

Copyright © 2006 Reuters

Afghan amnesty vote angers UN

An Afghan’s Path From Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect
Declan Walsh in Islamabad
Friday February 2, 2007
The Guardian

The Afghan parliament has approved an amnesty for warlords and others accused of war crimes, possibly including the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The vote drew sharp criticism from human rights groups, the United Nations and some parliamentarians who insist that the perpetrators of rape, murder and other atrocities must be brought to justice. "This is not a law, this is about more power for the mujahideen. Millions of Afghans will be unhappy," said Shukria Barakzai, a parliamentarian who stormed out of the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house, in protest.

The resolution called for national reconciliation and criticised human rights reports that "name and shame" alleged war criminals. But analysts said it does not have the force of law, which would require the consent of the upper house and President Hamid Karzai.

Syed Mustafa Kazmi, who voted in favour, said the vote would foster unity. But the UN said: "No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations, other than the victims."

"Afghans will see this as a sign that their parliament is more concerned with protecting its own members than the people," said Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch.

Many of those facing serious accusations are influential members of parliament or the government. Faced with a Taliban insurgency in the south, President Karzai has appeared shy of taking them on.

Afghan amnesty vote angers UN

An Afghan’s Path From Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect
Declan Walsh in Islamabad
Friday February 2, 2007
The Guardian

The Afghan parliament has approved an amnesty for warlords and others accused of war crimes, possibly including the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The vote drew sharp criticism from human rights groups, the United Nations and some parliamentarians who insist that the perpetrators of rape, murder and other atrocities must be brought to justice. "This is not a law, this is about more power for the mujahideen. Millions of Afghans will be unhappy," said Shukria Barakzai, a parliamentarian who stormed out of the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house, in protest.

The resolution called for national reconciliation and criticised human rights reports that "name and shame" alleged war criminals. But analysts said it does not have the force of law, which would require the consent of the upper house and President Hamid Karzai.

Syed Mustafa Kazmi, who voted in favour, said the vote would foster unity. But the UN said: "No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations, other than the victims."

"Afghans will see this as a sign that their parliament is more concerned with protecting its own members than the people," said Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch.

Many of those facing serious accusations are influential members of parliament or the government. Faced with a Taliban insurgency in the south, President Karzai has appeared shy of taking them on.

Building by White House Ordered to Empty

Friday February 2, 2007 3:31 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal building near the White House was evacuated for about a half hour Friday because of a bomb scare, interrupting the White House's morning press briefing.

The White House Conference Center on Jackson Place is serving as the temporary offices of several of President Bush's press aides as well as reporters covering the president.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto had begun his 9:30 a.m. briefing for reporters when he was interrupted by Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel and a security officer. Stanzel said everyone must leave the building.

A car checked by a bomb-sniffing dog had tested positive, Stanzel said. Later, Secret Service spokeswoman Kim Bruce said nothing amiss was found in the vehicle, which was driven by a State Department contractor and had been stopped at the entrance to the White House complex.

During the investigation, nearby streets were blocked off, but the White House itself wasn't evacuated.

Beyond Oral Sex: The Bush Investigations

Tomgram: Swanson and Schwarz, The New Investigation Season

At the moment, the spectacle of the I. Lewis Libby trial, of the den of thieves falling out, of the unraveling of old administration war stories, and of the possibility that, in the near future, the Vice President might appear in the witness stand for a grilling all occupy Washington's center stage along with a restless Congress, filled with unnerved representatives of the President's own Party, increasing numbers of whom are, by now, painfully aware that they are dealing with the delusional over the disastrous -- and have little idea what, exactly, to do about it.

In just the last week, Vice President Cheney has termed administration policy in Iraq a shining light in the firmament of war and peace-making ("Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes…"); the President has praised some of the best units in Iraqi Army for "beginning to show me something" -- as it turns out, how to muff a military operation; various members of the administration and top military figures have been issuing threats of increasing intensity against Iran while the situation in the Middle East goes from worse to worse yet; and, on the bright side, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, one of our commanders in Afghanistan, managed to hail the new year of 2007 in that embattled land this way: "I'd also like to say that this year's going to be a great year, as last year was, for detention operations in [sic] the United States."

And just imagine, the Congressional investigatory season hasn't even begun to gear up yet. It's in this spirit that I asked David Swanson, the ever energetic fellow who presides over, among a small empire of oppositional organizations, and writes regularly for, and Jonathan Schwarz to take a look ahead at what's in store for the American people in the coming months from their newly elected (or reelected) representatives -- what's likely to be investigated, what's not; what matters and why. Tom

Beyond Oral Sex

The Bush Investigations
By David Swanson and Jonathan Schwarz

The last time Congress was controlled by the party in opposition to the White House, we all learned more than we cared to know about the uses of cigars. This time the need for investigations is much more serious. The Democrats are talking fast and furious about doing them, but they're not talking about doing the right ones -- and a month into their tenure, they've barely discovered where the bathrooms are.

As humorist Bob Harris enjoys saying about the Bush administration, "It's like a new Watergate every day with these people." Congress could probably spend three decades profitably examining the last six years of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, they'll have to do severe triage to select the areas of malfeasance where investigations will most benefit the country.

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed that the public (despite very little help from ABC News or the Washington Post) has it right. A majority picked the "should" option in response to both of these questions:

"Do you think Congress should or should not hold hearings on how the Bush administration handled pre-war intelligence, war planning, and related issues in the war in Iraq?"

"Do you think Congress should or should not hold hearings on how the Bush administration has handled surveillance, treatment of prisoners and related issues in the U.S. campaign against terrorism?"

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Congress is gearing up to investigate whether Halliburton might have cheated on its contracts a little. Hello?

Of course we need to investigate the war profiteers. But our top priority has to be the fraud that launched the war to begin with. Most readers of this article know it was fraud, but a third of the country still doesn't and won't until it's on their televisions for several days in a row. And unless there is accountability for it, the next president may feel free to lie us into a war of his or her choosing. In fact, unless there is enough exposure and accountability, the current war may never end.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller has pledged to finish a long-stalled investigation focused on the 2002-03 campaign for the invasion. However, it's unclear how deeply he'll dig, or what he'll do if the Bush administration simply refuses to cooperate.

In the House, the office of Intelligence Committee Chair Silvestre Reyes says he doesn't plan to investigate the misuse of intelligence on Iraq. In fact, staffers in his and other House offices say a decision was made by the party leadership and/or committee chairs not to "look backwards." (Some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus we spoke to this week were unaware of this, assumed Reyes would do the investigation, and said they would file Resolutions of Inquiry if he does not.)

The Democrats also appear hesitant to use their subpoena power in the investigations they do plan. Some offices have told us they hope to uncover the truth without having to use subpoenas and that they see this as desirable. Others have said that subpoenas are frowned on because of the need for comity.

When we heard this, we thought the staffer to whom we were talking had said "comedy" -- and in fact that might have been more appropriate. During the Clinton administration, of course, comity and collegiality were nowhere to be found, and Republican subpoenas rolled up Pennsylvania Avenue piled on flatbed trucks. (The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee alone issued over a thousand.)

Hopefully this Democratic reluctance is feigned for PR purposes, and they understand that there's no possible way they'll get the necessary information out of the Bush administration by asking nicely. In any case, they may have motivations beyond a wish to keep things friendly. If they issue subpoenas and the administration refuses to comply on the grounds of executive privilege, they'll have to file a lawsuit or back down. And if they file a lawsuit, there's no guarantee they'll win, particularly given the increasing conservative nature of the judiciary. This would be the worst of both worlds: They wouldn't get the information, and they would have established a precedent condoning executive secrecy.

But if this is their view, then they may be surrendering before the fight begins. Congress can win any battle with the executive branch as long as it has an informed public opinion behind it. And that's where we come in -- progressives need to teach politicians that they'll be rewarded for doing the right thing and conducting these investigations.

War Lies

Incredibly enough, four years after it happened there has been no genuine investigation of the farrago of propaganda used to sell the Iraq war.

Republicans have done their best to confuse the issue, claiming that it has, in fact, been investigated and the Bush administration has been exonerated. Nope. Indeed, until today the issue has been almost completely stonewalled. Here's how it's worked:

At first, the Bush administration tried to prevent any investigation at all. When no WMD turned up in Iraq by summer 2003 that became politically impossible. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) -- chaired by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas -- then promised they'd look into it. But the terms of the investigation were limited to the quality of intelligence produced by the CIA and the rest of the Intelligence Community. Crucially, there was to be no examination of the main issue: whether the Bush administration had presented the intelligence honestly to Congress and the public.

Then, in early 2004, David Kay (who ran the CIA's Iraq Survey Group sent in search of Saddam's stores of WMD) resigned, telling Congress that "we were almost all wrong" about Iraq's supposed arsenal. This forced Roberts to accept a "Phase II" to the committee's investigation. It was slated to examine many subjects; most important, "whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information."

At the same time, Bush was forced to appoint what came to be known as the "WMD Commission." However, as the commission later stated, the President "did not authorize us to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence they received from the Intelligence Community on Iraq's weapons programs."

In June 2004, four months before the Presidential election, the SSCI released its Phase I report. It laid blame for the whole debacle at the feet of the intelligence agencies, insisting that they hadn't been pressured by the administration. When the WMD Commission report came out in March 2005, Roberts said he intended to drop Phase II because "we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence" -- and, in any case, further investigation was useless "in a post-election environment."

Resistance from some Democrats forced Roberts to backtrack and officially recommit himself to Phase II. But to date, despite the release last year of reports on several of the less contentious aspects of the Phase II study, the stonewall has held: There has been nothing at all on how the Bush administration made its case for war. (According to a recent interview with Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D-WV], the pressure on Roberts came directly from Dick Cheney.)

The question today is: What do Democrats intend to do about this now that they control both houses of Congress? It's unclear whether the Democratic leadership has a thought-out strategy. Rockefeller has vowed the Intelligence Committee, which he now chairs, will finish the Phase II investigation by this summer. He's also indicated a willingness to use his subpoena power if necessary.

Nevertheless, the administration will strongly resist a serious inquiry -- and D.C. media mandarins will sneer at any such attempt by the Democrats. The Washington Post columnist David Broder has already learnedly explained, based on no evidence whatsoever, that "the public's moved past" the pre-war lies. Others, like Gloria Borger of U.S. News & World Report and CBS, have barely been able to stifle their yawns at the idea of an actual investigation. The worst outcome would be a limp completion of the Phase II report, after which the subject would be declared closed once and for all. The best outcome would be a serious, coordinated investigation by the House and Senate of the whole stinking mess.

If the Democrats take the second path, there are literally hundreds of basic questions Congress has never asked. For instance:

* What was the Bush administration's thinking on Iraq before 9/11?

In 2004, investigative reporter Russ Baker spoke to Bush family friend and author Marty Herskowitz. Based on lengthy conversations he had taped with Bush for a planned ghosted biography, he claimed then-Governor Bush "was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999." According to Herskowitz, the perspective of people around Bush was that wars were useful politically and that presidents should: "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade." It certainly would be something to see Herskowitz testify on this under oath in front of a congressional committee.

Then there's Paul O'Neill's account of National Security Council (NSC) meetings when he was Treasury Secretary. According to O'Neill, Bush's first National Security Council meeting on January 30, 2001 focused on Iraq -- and, at this meeting, CIA Director George Tenet said the Agency's intelligence was so poor "we'd be going in there blind." At a February 1, 2001 meeting, participants were given a document entitled "Political-Military Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: "[W]hat we really want to think about is going after Saddam...Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests."

According to O'Neill, Tenet told the President on May 16, 2001, "[I]t was still only speculation whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was starting any weapons-building programs." Videotapes and/or detailed transcripts of these NSC meetings certainly exist, and there's no reason Americans shouldn't see them (except, of course, for the certain constitutional crisis the administration would provoke to prevent that from happening).

Moreover, all this jibes with what senior policymakers were saying at the time. On February 24, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated publicly: "Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." And on July 29, 2001 Condoleezza Rice told CNN: "...Let's remember that [Saddam's] country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." What intelligence were these statements based on?

* Was the intelligence community pressured?

According to the SSCI Phase I report and the WMD Commission, the CIA and other agencies came to their conclusions of their own remarkably free will. To create this narrative, however, the reports had to overlook some glaring contradictions.

For instance, two books -- James Bamford's A Pretext for War and Lindsay Moran's Blowing My Cover -- describe what seems to be the same incident in which an anonymous CIA source claims administration pressure on the Agency "was blatant." The source reported that his or her boss told a group of fifty analysts that "if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so." Neither Bamford, nor Moran was contacted for the previous investigations.

Meanwhile, an anonymous former CIA agent has filed a lawsuit against the Agency, claiming he'd been punished for providing unwelcome intelligence on Iraq. Or at least it appears to be Iraq -- much of the complaint has been redacted. The complaint states that the plaintiff "served as primary collection point for Near Eastern WMD programs." According to New York Times reporting on the suit, the agent says he was told by an informant in 2001 that Iraq had abandoned its nuclear-weapons program years before. After complaining that this (and other information) was ignored, he was made the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. Nothing about this appears in the Phase I or WMD Commission report.

* Did the administration plan to create a false pretext for war?

According to Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Bush authorized a covert CIA program for Iraq in February 2002. Among other things, it included a scheme to "stage a phony incident that could be used to start a war. A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border. They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way. If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by U.S. fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by UN edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war." Needless to say, Congress has never investigated this.

Likewise, we know from a leaked British memo that Bush was talking about other possible pretexts in early 2003. In the memo's language, Bush told Blair, "The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours... If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach" of U.N. resolutions requiring Iraq's cooperation with the ongoing weapons inspections.

And this barely scratches the surface. Why did the Bush administration lie about Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamel, who told the U.S. in 1995 that Iraq had no remaining banned weapons or programs? Why did Secretary of State Colin Powell fabricate parts of intercepted statements by Iraqis in his UN presentation that proved so crucial to the coming invasion? Why did Powell blatantly ignore what he was being told by the State Department's intelligence staff? What happened to the CIA's secret pre-war interviews with thirty Iraqi WMD scientists, all of whom claimed Iraq was clean of weapons of mass destruction or programs to produce them? All this and much more would be examined by any serious investigation. Here are a few of the documents that might be subpoenaed:

* the complete October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq;

* the records of National Security Council meetings on Jan. 30, Feb. 1, and March 16, 2001;

* the records of Cheney's spring 2001 meetings with top oil executives for his Energy Task Force;

* the CIA's Senior Executive Memorandum of January 12, 2002 on Hussein Kamel;

* the records of Bush's late July 2002 budget discussions on Iraq with Legislative Affairs Assistant Nicholas Calio;

* the records of the July 20, 2002, U.S.-U.K. intelligence conference at CIA headquarters, the basis for the Downing Street Memo statement that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy";

* the October 2002, one-page NIE summary that (according to journalist Murray Waas) told the White House of doubts that the infamous aluminum tubes were, in fact, part of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program;

* the January 2003 National Intelligence Council memo that (as reported by the Washington Post) declared the purported Niger-Iraq-yellowcake connection was "baseless and should be laid to rest";

* the records of CIA plans to create a pretext for war: DB/Anabasis, authorized by Bush on February 16, 2002;

* the U.S. records of the January 31, 2003 Bush-Blair meeting at the White House;

* the British records of early 2003 conversations between British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Colin Powell, described by Philippe Sands in his book Lawless World, plus any records from the U.S. side;

* the complaint filed by a CIA agent in Doe v. Goss claiming he'd been punished for providing unwelcome intelligence;

* the records of the White House Iraq Group, established in August 2002 to market the future invasion to the American public;

* the August 2004 memo showing Bush may have proposed bombing al Jazeera.

The committees to focus on to get this done are the House and Senate Intelligence Committees (chaired by Rep. Silvestre Reyes [TX] and Sen. Rockefeller [WV], respectively); House and Senate Armed Services (Rep. Ike Skelton [MO] and Carl Levin [MI]); and House Oversight and Government Reform (Henry Waxman [CA]).

War Corruption

When it comes to investigating fraud and corruption during the war, the obvious place to start is with the numerous no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel. Henry Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be launching hearings on this next week. Three less obvious but equally important areas to investigate are:

1. Where did the money come from to begin secret preparations for the invasion of Iraq?

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack contains a largely overlooked bombshell: In the summer of 2002, Bush took money appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan and other programs and -- with no Congressional notification -- used it to upgrade Kuwaiti airfields and create a new "distribution capability" of pipelines so the invasion force would have fuel available while sitting close to the Iraqi border. This was a blatant violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution ("No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law"). It was certainly an impeachable offense (if anyone cares). According to Woodward, the amount was $700 million; the Congressional Research Service (CRS) later corrected that figure, raising it to $2.5 billion. CRS, however, ruefully noted that it "could not obtain details on this spending."

2. Who decided to build permanent military bases in Iraq? When did they make that decision? What was their thinking behind doing so? And how is it that they are still being built despite the fact that Congress prohibited further spending on them?

In October 2006, both houses of Congress passed a bill with an amendment forbidding the use of funds to continue building permanent bases in Iraq. However, according to the most recent reporting (in the American Prospect), the Army continues to construct four huge super bases in different regions of Iraq, with "absolutely no public scrutiny." Since the administration hasn't told them otherwise, the Pentagon plans to occupy the bases indefinitely and is building an extensive communication system to link them to each other as well as to bases in Qatar and Afghanistan. When were these bases first approved? Why are they still being built illegally?

3. Is the Bush Administration trying to privatize Iraq's oil for the benefit of U.S. and British corporations?

The Mideast oil industry, including Iraq's, underwent a wave of nationalizations in the 1970s. But behind the scenes the Bush administration has been shepherding towards passage a new law that appears to return Iraq's oil to its pre-1972 status, when it was essentially controlled by companies such as Shell, Mobil, Standard Oil, and British Petroleum.

With that law expected to go before the Iraqi parliament in March, Congress urgently needs to investigate questions such as: How have the Bush administration and U.S. corporations influenced the restructuring of Iraq's oil industry? To what degree has the influence worked directly to the benefit of U.S. corporations? What are the likely outcomes of the draft law for the Iraqi economy and economic development?

The committees to focus on for investigations of war corruption are House Oversight and Government Reform (chaired by Rep. Waxman); House and Senate Appropriations (Rep. David Obey [WI] and Sen. Robert Byrd [WV]); House and Senate Armed Services (Rep. Skelton and Sen. Levin); and House and Senate Judiciary (Rep. Conyers [MI] and Sen. Patrick Leahy [VT]).

War Crimes

Beyond the lies and manipulations that took us to war, and the corruption that has dominated the war, there is a third broad area that needs to be investigated -- but much of which won't be without serious public pressure on Congress. This is the area of war crimes: the targeting of civilians, hospitals, ambulances, and journalists; the use of illegal weapons; the detentions, extraordinary renditions, abuse, torture, ghost prisoners, the setting up of a global network of secret CIA prisons, and murder.

Investigations into extraordinary rendition and torture -- in Iraq and elsewhere -- will likely be led by Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy has already indicated he's willing to do what's necessary to investigate these issues, including subpoenaing administration records. In particular Leahy plans to procure a 2002 memo written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which is believed to list approved interrogation techniques. It's unclear what Leahy will do if the administration simply refuses his committee's subpoenas.

It's even less clear who, if anyone, will push for investigations into war crimes committed in Iraq. The Bush administration has been concerned since 9/11 that administration officials might be at risk of prosecution under the 1996 U.S. War Crimes Act--which enumerated sentences including the death penalty for U.S. officials who violate the Geneva Conventions. An early 2002 memo by then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales therefore recommended that Bush take steps to preempt any possible prosecution by declaring that members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not covered by the Geneva Conventions. The memo also urged Bush to hold open similar "options for future conflicts" in the "war on terrorism." And Bush has done so: His administration stated in 2004 that non-Iraqis captured in Iraq were not covered by the Geneva Conventions. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has given the CIA permission to secretly move Iraqi citizens out of the country for interrogation -- in what a former senior military attorney has called "conduct that the international community clearly considers in violation of" the Geneva Conventions.

These actions should be investigated by the Judiciary Committees of Congress as part of their examination of rendition and torture. Meanwhile, other possible war crimes -- such as the Haditha massacre, the siege of Fallujah, support of Shiite death squads, and the use of depleted uranium could plausibly be investigated by many committees (including Armed Forces, International Relations, and Veterans Affairs), so that if one committee declines to examine what occurred, others may be persuaded to do so.

The committees we need to focus on for getting war-crime investigations underway are House and Senate Judiciary (chaired by Rep. Conyers and Sen. Leahy), House Armed Services (Rep. Skelton and Sen. Levin), House Veterans Affairs (Rep. Bob Filner [CA]), House International Relations (Rep. Tom Lantos [CA]) and Senate Foreign Relations (Sen. Joe Biden [Del]).

All these investigations are badly needed, not just for the sake of accountability but because the truth will end the war. Bush can continue his crusade only because most of the grim reality of Iraq remains in the shadows. Dragging it out into the sunlight is up to us.

David Swanson, co-founder of the coalition, works for, which is funding pro-impeachment candidates. Each one has committed to making the introduction of articles of impeachment his or her first act in office. Swanson also works for, which is giving people tools to help make sure their votes are counted. A former newspaper reporter, he was the press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign.

Jonathan Schwarz was a media consultant for the 2004 Kucinich presidential campaign. His website is A Tiny Revolution.

Copyright 2007 David Swanson and Jonathan Schwarz