Monday, March 12, 2007
Give Me Liberty
No previous American law has been as subversive as the Military Commissions Act of 2006
by Nat Hentoff
March 9th, 2007 3:13 PM
" If Americans win a war [against terrorism] and lose the Constitution, they will have lost everything. "
-– Lance Morrow, Time, March 30, 2003
"We cannot allow this [Military Commissions] Act to stand. It violates some of the most basic principles upon which human rights are founded. And we must not rest until it is no longer the law of the land in our country. "
– Amnesty International, February 2007
Ours is the oldest constitution in the world, and for more than 200 years it has survived many grave assaults from one or more of our three branches of government. For example, in 1798, only seven years after the First Amendment was included in the Constitution, Americans, under the Alien and Sedition Acts, were put in prison for holding the president up to ridicule.
The Bush administration has cumulatively done more profound damage to our founding document than any previous administration. And because the president has placed John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, it may be years before we regain some of our privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment—and other of our suspended liberties.
But Bush's most wide-ranging assault on who we are as Americans is the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which he signed on October 17, 2006. As I have detailed in previous columns, this law—rushed through by the then-Republican-controlled Congress—annuls two previous Supreme Court decisions on our treatment of prisoners suspected of terrorism. It so expands the definition of "unlawful enemy combatants" (a Bush term unknown in international law) that it can also imprison longtime legal immigrants here—and American citizens—as "enemy combatants" without charge.
Only the president decides who can be held as an "unlawful enemy combatant"—and he is also in charge of the "alternative" interrogation techniques that can be used to extract evidence from them.
Moreover, the MCA prevents the use of the Geneva Conventions against any American interrogators or other personne. However, there are in our laws specific references to the Geneva Conventions—which the MCA now violate.
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (June 2006), the Supreme Court ordered the president to adhere to these very Geneva Conventions (of which we are a signatory) with regard to all our prisoners—including "unlawful enemy combatants." All sentences against them, ordered the Court, must be handed down by a "regularly constituted" U.S. court that "provides all the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
Congress overturned that Supreme Court ruling in the Military Commissions Act. And on February 20, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld the section of the Act that strips all prisoners at Guantanamo of any habeas corpus access to our courts. They will be tried only by military tribunal, which will not permit them to see any classified evidence against them or contest evidence obtained just by hearsay. Nor can they confront the primary witnesses against them.
In her dissent to that D.C. Circuit Court decision (Lakhdar Boumediene, et. al. v. George W. Bush, et. al.), Judge Judith Rogers also pointed to the new law's permitting of "coercive interrogation" of detainees (which often turns out to be a euphemism for torture). But the common law, wrote Judge Rogers, "has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years."
However, we Americans have descended even farther from being "a civilized nation" in sections of the MCA described on findlaw.com by Joanne Mariner, Human Rights Watch's invaluable director of their Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program. Reading this, you may get a horrifying sense, as I have, of how deeply this administration has desecrated the core of our justice system: due process (fundamental fairness).
Keep in mind, as Mariner adds, that the MCA also allows the CIA to continue its "renditions" (kidnapping suspects to be tortured in other countries) and permits the agency to resume operating its own secret prisons ("black sites") around the world.
"The MCA," Mariner writes about prison treatment, "contains several provisions that are meant to bar the public [We the People] from ever hearing direct testimony about the CIA's abusive methods. These provisions allow the government to protect the 'sources, methods or activities by which the United States acquired evidence' if these practices are classified." Characteristically, the Bush administration insists "that all 'alternative' interrogation procedures are classified"—including "coercive" methods. (Emphasis added.)
Prisoners who have been tortured—and pressured not to reveal these classified "alternative" practices used on them—will, however, want to tell their lawyers. However, Mariner continues, the attorneys won't be able to report to the outside world any of these "classified" abuses, including the torture that their clients have told them about. Prisoners' lawyers "must turn over all their notes and documents," Mariner reports, "before they leave Guantanamo, and they can only speak about the information they have obtained from their clients after it undergoes classification review."
Therefore, none of us will know how the "evidence" used against these prisoners was extracted.
The president often declaims about the "American values" that we are defending—and which will hopefully inspire other nations. On his watch, as the MCA shows, this is what these values have become!
Rather than wait to find out whether a majority of the John Roberts Supreme Court will agree that these are indeed the values to which we must resort to prevail over the terrorists, some members of Congress are working on bills to truly Americanize the Military Commissions Act. Next week: What their changes involve. One of the proposed bills, introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, couldn't be more aptly titled: "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International is so justifiably alarmed by the Military Commissions Act that "Amnesty International groups in Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and Japan are mobilizing their members and governments to help create global pressure to reverse the MCA and end other human rights abuses, including shutting down Guantanamo Bay."
Amnesty International is also, of course, mobilizing its members in this country. You don't have to be a member to write—or otherwise urgently contact your representatives and senators. New Yorkers might start with Senators Clinton and Schumer, neither of whom are in the forefront of this legislation to bring back what we used to stand for around the world.
Monday March 12, 2007
The decision to establish Africom, as the command will be known, reflects the Bush administration's primary reliance on the use of force to pursue its strategic interests. Among the key goals for the new command, for example, is the assurance of oil imports from Africa, which have assumed much greater importance given the hostility to the US presence in the Middle East.
Central to Africom's mission will be tracking and crushing the growing terrorist hot spots in the vast, neglected regions with large Muslim populations, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. Bush described the new military command as a vehicle to "promote our common goals of development, health, education and economic growth". Is that what huge military bases accomplish for countries whose populations are seething with anger? Hardly.
Africom will instead militarise American relations with Africa, and militarise numerous African countries. It will also tilt these countries' policies towards the use of force. And it will inflame Muslim passions and create more angry militants opposed to a US military presence in their country or region. The command's establishment will also provide the US with new bases from which to project force into the oil-providing Middle East.
The misguided reliance on force is shown by the disastrous results of the US forcibly toppling the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in Somalia with the muscle of the Ethiopian army. In a smaller-scale reprise of the Iraq catastrophe, the military victory in January was swift, but the plan to install a client regime has quickly gone awry and a fierce insurgency is already under way.
The relative peace the ICU had brought Somalia has been shattered, and the arrival of an African Union force mandated by the UN security council will further exacerbate and internationalise this crisis. In Iraq's case, both the UN and the region resisted sanctioning a multinational occupying force, but it's much easier to get your way over Africa, with the continent too weak to resist US dictates.
The Somalia war also made a hitherto stable Kenya a frontline state in the "war on terror" after it was pressured by the US to allow its territory to be used by American forces, and also because it handed over genuine refugees and suspected ICU supporters and fighters to Somalia, where they faced torture and death.
The kidnapping of Britons in Ethiopia may be a consequence of the exacerbated pressures that confront Addis Ababa, already beset by revolts against its ruthless repression of minorities.
Once again, Bush has embarked on an ostensibly legitimate mission - greater security for America and Africa, and fighting terrorism - with methods that will accomplish the opposite. After the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is madness to believe that military might can curb terrorism unless its political and social causes are addressed.
· Salim Lone, who was spokesman for the US mission in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, is a columnist with the Daily Nation in Nairobi, Kenya
Fuck every politician who blows the Israel Lobby.
Fuck all the cocksucking killers who support the terror state known as USreal.
Their time is gonna come....
Posted in mparent7777 on Mon, 2007-03-12 10:01. mparent7777's blogSubmitted by URL
P.S. Fuck Cheney.
Cheney: A withdrawal from Iraq could damage Israel
Zionists target WUFYS for criticizing israel
When you make waves, you make enemies . . .
extremely malicious ones.
I was expecting a baseless attack on my reputation, a warantless smear of anti-semitism or otherwise, but I was not expecting two anti-terrorism detectives to come knocking at my door to investigate an accusation that my site is funded by or funds Hamas.
Not only is the accusation outrageous because it's a LIE, but also far from a routine cry of anti-semitism, the 'anonymous female caller from Brooklyn' who claimed to be 'a former friend of mine' was aiming to land me in federal prison for a very, very long time.
This was a very malicious plot. But, also a stupid one, as the accusation is obviously patently false.
As a 'former friend,' she knows enough about me to be absolutely certain that her accusations are false, and that a few dozen years in prison would destroy not only my life but the lives of those dependant on me.
But, then again, 'anonymous tips' are the perfect avenue for cowards to launch their malicious attacks on political victims, without fear of being held accountable for their lies.
Of course, I have no way of knowing for certain 'who' this anonymous caller is. But, suffice it to say that I have strong suspicions about who 'she' might be.
And if I ever come across evidence that the person I suspect indeed made these accusations, then she will be staring at a major defamation lawsuit, not unlike the one that the Wiesenthal Center lost in Paris recently.
Finally, I have one last thing to say to this 'former friend' of mine and anyone else who seeks to silence critics of israel through smears, defamation, and threats of physical violence and imprisonment - for every critic that you silence, a thousand more will follow in their footsteps.
We have remained silent for too long.
We will not give up.
The Truth is Eternal.
Posted in qrswave on Mon, 2007-03-12 01:57. qrswave's blogSubmitted by
Sunday March 11, 2007
After the January World Economic Forum I expressed some concern about the remarkable optimism - nay, complacency - manifested there about the course of the world economy. Earlier in the month I had quoted Herb Stein, an adviser to President Nixon in the 1970s (on economics, not burglary or cover-up). The quotation was: 'If something can't go on forever, it will probably stop.'
An alert reader challenged the 'probably' (which originated via an American economist 'correcting' Professor Wynne Godley, who had used the quotation without 'probably'), and sent me an article written by Stein himself, in which 'probably' does not appear, and 'cannot' (rather than 'can't') does.
You pays your money and you takes your choice. It often happens with famous quotations. Incidentally, Stein quotes Nixon as having once said: 'Honesty may not be the best policy, but is worth trying once in a while.' That may explain quite a lot. Anyway, Stein tells us that 'Stein's Law' was first pronounced in the 1980s, and elaborates thus: 'This proposition, arising first in a discussion of the balance-of-payments deficit, is a response to those who think that if something cannot go on forever, steps must be taken to stop it - even to stop it at once.'
The implication, I take it, is that policymakers don't necessarily have to do anything about what will stop anyway. One does not know whether former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had this in mind when saying last week about the so-called 'carry trade' (the huge amounts of money converted from yen to other currencies to take advantage of differentials between interest rates, which have driven the yen down and made Japanese exports more competitive than ever) that 'at some point it's got to turn'. But recent shenanigans in the financial markets seem to indicate that riskier investments are not as popular as they were.
So far, most of my fellow commentators seem to be relaxed about stock markets and the outlook for the world economy, and dismissive of Greenspan's assessment that there is a possibility of a US recession later this year.
The difference between Greenspan now and Greenspan when the great man was chairman of the Fed is that he can now say what he thinks, as opposed to what he thinks he ought to say. The reason for the insouciance of many financial market operators and commentators is that there is an assumption that the central banks (considered all-powerful except by central bankers themselves) can be relied upon to bail the US and other economies out as soon as trouble appears. There is empirical evidence for this in the past decade, and it is quite a contrast with the pre-Keynesian days of the inter-war years.
This is all very well as long as the central banks do not panic about inflation. There has been precious little reason to do so in recent years, because the weakening of the unions and the impact of 'globalisation' have together produced what is known in the trade as a 'benign' inflationary environment. Why, in Japan they have even been trying, without much tangible success, to inject a little inflation into the system.
As Professor Lord Desai puts it in his compulsively readable Marx's Revenge - The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism: 'Democratic power can push the bargaining strength of the worker up to a certain point. If it threatens profitability too much, then capital withdraws or migrates .... Social-democratic parties everywhere [at the end of the 1980s] saw that restoration of profitability mattered once capital became mobile. But once it had become mobile, it demanded co-operation from the workers, not conflict. And it got that co-operation.'
It has become clear in recent months that trade unions are beginning to think they have been far too co-operative. One sees this in the bitter outbursts about the behaviour of hedge funds, private equity groups and senior corporate executives by such models of moderate trade unionism as John Monks, former general secretary of the TUC and now representing the much wider group of European trade unions.
One also sees it in the sporadic outbursts of discontent about low wage deals, not least in the UK public sector. But apart from the factors highlighted by Desai (whose book was published in 2002), we have witnessed the additional disinflationary factor in recent years of the remarkable influx of Continental workers to the UK - and not just from eastern Europe. French is rapidly becoming London's second language.
The small inflationary bubble of recent months has been associated with the lagged impact of earlier rises in the price of energy. Now the prospect is of lower energy prices later this year, and, according to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, there is the possibility of quite a sharp fall in inflation. Yet there continue to be noticeable worries among central bankers about 'asset bubbles' - not least in housing.
A vogue phrase among financial regulators has been 'the underpricing of risk'. The convenient reaction to recent upheavals in the financial markets is that there has been a 'healthy and necessary correction'. Has been? All over? One wonders. The problem with the modern phenomenon whereby it is assumed that the central banks will always bail the system out is that there is an inherent bias in favour of bubbles and the traditional excesses of capitalism. There is an uneasy feeling in the air that all is not quite right.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
By Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA)
“The State of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law and the Palestinian people have to be able to develop serenely their own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future”. (Pope Benedict XVI)
Never far from the surface of the Israel/Palestine conflict is the issue as to which should take priority, namely security considerations or the rule of law and the protection of human rights. In this context, it is appropriate to be reminded of an important international protocol that sets limits to the legitimate use of force by an occupying power.The 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which relates to the protection of civilians in wartime, is the primary legal document governing the Occupied Palestinian Territories.Under this convention civilians are given special protection in a number of areas. For example, Article 3 explicitly prohibits violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,mutilation, cruel treatment and torture. Article 27 guarantees respect for persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices and their manners and customs. Finally, Article 147 explicitly prohibits amongst other things, the unlawful deportation or transfer or imprisonment of persons and the extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity.12 Just as the possibility of peace hinges on an end to wanton terror so also does it hinge on a full acceptance of the appropriateness of this protocol as a means of regulating the use of state power in the Occupied Territories. For Palestinians, Israel’s refusal to recognise the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the situation in the West Bank and Gaza alongside the continued use of collective punishment, detention without trial and extra-judicial killings is a matter of the deepest concern.
The conclusions of this paper were signalled at the outset in the passage quoted from the 2002 report of the Catholic Bishops of North America and Europe, namely that only a just peace with the Palestinians will offer security to Israel and release its people from the weight of anxiety that hangs on them. Unfortunately, the situation in the intervening four years has if anything exacerbated the conflict.
We can only reiterate that a just compromise – and a solution is always going to be a compromise between conflicting series of rights – will only be found if and when the needs of the weak take priority over the wants of the powerful and both sides have the courage and the far-sightedness to hear the other’s voice and to recognise each other’s rights.
In the face of the tragic cycle of violence in the Middle East we call on the international community to continue in its efforts, hearing both ‘voices’, to help broker a workable peace that acknowledges the rights of all sides in the conflict. We also call on all people of goodwill to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s urgent appeal for faithful and persistent prayers for peace:
“May the Lord illuminate hearts and may no one evade their duty to construct peaceful coexistence, recognising that all [persons] are brothers [and sisters], whatever the people to which they belong.”
Monday, March 12, 2007; A03
The conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week gave Americans a chance to pick at the scab of what has become a favored obsession -- the debate over the motives of the Bush administration in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
The contours of that debate are straightforward. Opponents of the war believe passionately that President Bush, his neoconservative allies and a complicit Congress deliberately misled the nation into war. Supporters of the president and the war concede that mistakes were made, especially on the question of whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but say this involved no attempt to hoodwink the nation.
Antiwar groups declared that the Libby trial laid bare the Bush administration's smear campaign to discredit a war critic -- and said they hope Libby is just the first in a long line of officials to be punished. Supporters of the administration and the war declared the trial showed that Bush had done nothing to mislead the nation and that war opponents are being paranoid.
What is interesting about the clash from a psychological perspective is not that supporters and critics disagree, but that large numbers of people on both sides claim to know the motives of people who disagree with them. When was the last time you heard people say that those who disagree with them on the Iraq war are well-meaning, smart, informed and thoughtful?
A wide body of psychological research shows that on any number of hot-button issues, people seem hard-wired to believe the worst about those who disagree with them. Most people can see the humor in such behavior when it doesn't involve things they care about: If you don't care about sports, for example, you roll your eyes when fans of one team question the principles and parentage of fans of a rival team.
"We are really bad about putting ourselves in other people's places and looking at the world the way they look at it," said Glenn D. Reeder, a social psychologist at Illinois State University who recently conducted a study into how supporters and critics of the Iraq war have come to believe entirely different narratives about the war -- and about each other. "We find it difficult to grant that other people come to their conclusions in good faith if they reach a conclusion that is different than ours," he said.
When Reeder and his colleagues asked pro-war and antiwar Americans how they would describe the other side's motives, the researchers found that the groups suffered from an identical bias: People described others who agreed with them as motivated by ethics and principle, but felt that the people who disagreed with them were motivated by narrow self-interest.
There were also large differences in how the groups perceived Bush's motives. Nearly three-quarters of the people who supported the war believed that Bush was thinking about self-defense when he launched the invasion of Iraq. By contrast, fewer than 2 in 5 Americans who opposed the war were willing to grant that Bush was thinking of self-defense. Fully 70 percent of the people who supported the war said Bush was aiming to do good; only 27 percent of people who opposed the war believed that the president's motives were about doing good.
When Reeder asked the pro-war and antiwar volunteers whether they thought Bush had a hidden motive, the numbers flipped. Only 11 percent of the supporters of the president and the war said they could see a hidden agenda, whereas 50 percent of the people who opposed the war said it was plain as day that Bush had a hidden (and nefarious) motive.
It is important to note that the experiment does not establish which version of Bush's motives is true. It is possible, in other words, that everything you believe about Bush's motives is true and everything that your opponents believe is false. But a number of studies suggest people ought to be cautious about such conclusions. Studies have found, for example, that people believe that those who disagree with them are less informed and that those who agree with them are better informed. On issues in which information is widely available, people concede that their opponents are knowledgeable but insist that their conclusions are self-serving and biased.
Another study found that liberals and conservatives not only overestimate their opponents' partisan motives on questions such as abortion and same-sex marriage but also overestimate the partisan motives of people on their own side.
"Partisans within ideological groups tended to view themselves as atypical vis-a-vis their group: atypical in their moderation, in their freedom from bias, and in their capacity to 'see things as they are in reality' even when that reality proves to be ideologically inconvenient or 'politically incorrect,' " Harvard Business School researcher Robert J. Robinson and his colleagues concluded.
All this can be amusing, but the consequences are obvious. If you believe that you are a patriot but that those who disagree with you about the Iraq war are self-interested zealots intent on destroying America, what can you possibly have to discuss with them?
Reeder said he has very strong beliefs about the Iraq war, but reminds himself when he gets too heated that he might be falling victim to the very biases he studies. I asked the psychologist where he stands on the war. He declined to say. "I have done my job," he said, "if partisans on both sides think I disagree with them."
Monday, March 12, 2007; A13
Last month President Bush told Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan that he must be more aggressive in hunting down al-Qaeda and the Taliban along his country's border with Afghanistan. During his recent visit to Islamabad, Vice President Cheney echoed the claim that al-Qaeda members were training in Pakistan's tribal areas and called on Musharraf to shut down their operations. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett also expressed concern recently about suspected terrorist safe havens.
Clearly, the pressure is on. Western leaders are finally beginning to recognize that Musharraf's regime has been unsuccessful in taming the Taliban, which has regrouped in the tribal areas of Pakistan while the military regime has given up trying to establish order on the Afghan border. At the same time, the regime has strategically chosen to help the United States when international criticism of the terrorists' presence becomes strident. The arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a top Taliban strategist, by Pakistani authorities late last month is a case in point. The timing, right on the heels of American and British pleas for renewed toughness, is too convenient. Akhund was arrested solely to keep Western governments at bay.
There are other political calculations in all of this. For too long, the international perception has been that Musharraf's regime is the only thing standing between the West and nuclear-armed fundamentalists.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Islamic parties have never garnered more than 13 percent in any free parliamentary elections in Pakistan. The notion of Musharraf's regime as the only non-Islamist option is disingenuous and the worst type of fear-mongering.
Much has been said about Pakistan being a key Western ally in the war against terrorism. It is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid -- the Bush administration proposed $785 million in its latest budget. Yet terrorism around the world has increased. Why is it that all terrorist plots -- from the Sept. 11 attacks, to Madrid, to London, to Mumbai -- seem to have roots in Islamabad?
Pakistan's military and intelligence services have, for decades, used religious parties for recruits. Political madrassas -- religious schools that preach terrorism by perverting the faith of Islam -- have spread by the tens of thousands.
The West has been shortsighted in dealing with Pakistan. When the United States aligns with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, it compromises the basic democratic principles of its foundation -- namely, life, liberty and justice for all. Dictatorships such as Musharraf's suppress individual rights and freedoms and empower the most extreme elements of society. Oppressed citizens, unable to represent themselves through other means, often turn to extremism and religious fundamentalism.
Restoring democracy through free, fair, transparent and internationally supervised elections is the only way to return Pakistan to civilization and marginalize the extremists. A democratic Pakistan, free from the yoke of military dictatorship, would cease to be a breeding ground for international terrorism.
Indeed, Pakistan's return to democracy is essential to America's success in South and Central Asia, as well as in the Middle East, as democratization is an integral part of fighting terrorism. Wouldn't it therefore be prudent to tie aid money to genuine political reform?
Pakistan must take steps toward hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the "ungovernable" tribal and border areas -- which were once successfully governed by democratically elected civilian governments. The regime must also stop its intimidation tactics of recent weeks, which include brutal murders, assassination attempts and other attacks on opposition party members.
Of course Musharraf's regime, to legitimize its coup and divert attention from the institutionalized corruption of the military, accuses Pakistan's secular, democratic parties of corruption. But according to Transparency International, 67 percent of the people believe the regime is corrupt, surpassing the rate for past civilian governments. Musharraf's regime has lasted twice as long as any civilian government in Pakistan. Yet not one of its ministers or key political supporters has been investigated.
The National Accountability Bureau has persecuted opposition leaders for a decade on unproven corruption and mismanagement charges, hoping to grind them into submission. However, when politicians accused of corruption cross over to the regime, the charges miraculously disappear. Musharraf's regime exploits the judicial system as yet another instrument of coercion and intimidation to consolidate its illegitimate power. But the politics of personal destruction will not prevent me and other party leaders from bringing our case before the people of our nation this year, even if that could lead to imprisonment.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush said, "The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security: We must."
This holds true for countries in South and Central Asia as well. Now is the time to force Pakistan's government to make good on its promise to return to democracy.
The writer is chairwoman of the Pakistan People's Party and served as prime minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. She lives in exile in Dubai.
By Chan Akya
The past two weeks have provided us with a tantalizing glimpse of what lies ahead for the US economy, with the blow-up in subprime mortgages helping to unravel market confidence around the world. Global equity declines have wiped out some US$2.5 trillion of wealth, the conversion of which to consumption implies a fall of between 1% and 2% of global gross domestic product.
That kind of decline cannot be made good by growth improvements in China or India; indeed, the decline hits these countries quite hard unless they can diversify their own sources of growth.
In a previous article,  I wrote the following:
Dependent on the munificence of strangers like no other superpower in history, a US decline is unstoppable. That said, the surge in the value of Chinese stocks underlines the desperation rather than genius of global investors ...
If the sting of a scorpion surprises a burglar, he is caught between the need to scream, risking capture, or silently bearing the pain before gingerly withdrawing into the night. Much the same logic rules the financial markets these days, where the poor returns to be had in the US markets have driven many investors to search for alternatives, even if these appear overvalued themselves. This global epidemic of pseudo-logic will end in tears for many investors, but at least the people with the real savings have the ability to recover, which the US economy appears to lack.
Both parts of this scenario have come about, namely an obvious decline in global stock markets, which was prompted both by economic concerns in the United States and maladroit financial-markets regulation by China. 
Borrowers and ultimate lenders
It is a good old rule of banking that when you borrow $1 million from the bank and cannot repay, you are in trouble, but if you borrow $100 million from the bank and cannot repay, the bank is in trouble. In the above scenario, linkages through the global financial system mean that Asian banks and investors were holding a substantial portion of risk linked with the poor borrowers in the US. These are the same people whose inability to repay prompted the bankruptcy of some specialist firms that lend money to poor Americans, in turn touching off the crisis described above for global equity markets.
My point in repeating the story is to highlight the fact that the other shoe has not dropped yet - ie, Asian lenders who suffered losses from buying these securities are unlikely to purchase other US obligations until a clearer picture of the economy emerges. This translates to a withdrawal of liquidity from US financial markets, adversely affecting the prospects for the rest of the year. Americans, who are used to consuming more than they produce, will have to reverse course. The result will be akin to a fat person going on a bread-and-water diet for six months: painful, but necessary.
The likely pain of the adjustment for Americans will depend much on how quickly the rest of the world goes into recession with the US. It is important to note that any "lag" will only make the US recession more painful for Americans. For example, if only the US economy goes into recession, then oil prices will likely remain near current levels, which, combined with a falling US dollar, will keep inflation too high for any interest-rate cuts. Without such cuts, which would help to reduce monthly mortgage payments for Americans, it is likely that more people will have to declare bankruptcy, which feeds the vicious cycle of falling stock markets.
In contrast, if the rest of the world catches the recession fever from the US right away, oil prices will fall and central banks around the world can cut rates. As I explain below, the second scenario is not likely, therefore the US will have to endure a painful recession all alone.
Readers looking at this week's mild recovery in asset prices should be cognizant of this risk. I expect further downturns for US equity markets in coming weeks and months; it is likely that the widely watched Dow Jones average will close this year below the level of 10,000 from about 12,200 currently as investors adjust downward their earnings expectations as well as the multiple of earnings they are willing to pay for owning shares. In turn, this would prompt declines in other stock markets around the world, particularly in South America, whose economy, if not its politicians, depends almost entirely on US economic growth.
Why the US will stand alone
In past crises, such as the 1987 stock-market crash or the recession in the early 1990s that sank the administration of president George H W Bush, the US could depend on the munificence of strangers. In particular, the world's sole superpower attracted enough money from risk-averse investors to refloat its economy. That time has, however, come and gone as developing countries no longer "need" to buy US government bonds. Indeed, as I argued in a previous article,  they are better served by investing in physical assets such as commodities directly rather than diverting their savings to the low-return US markets.
In addition to the economic rationale of protecting their own growth, the world's investors are also not interested in US assets for political reasons. A quick look at the world's largest repositories of savings shows the extent of the problem: Middle Eastern investors will buy anything as long as it is not American, while Asian investors are likely to be scared off by recent losses on mortgage holdings. Other countries such as oil-rich Venezuela and Russia explicitly use their reserves as diplomatic tools.
With friends like these ...
Perhaps a diversion to consider the fragile reputation of America's politics is necessary here. The lost war in Iraq has failed to make the US government honest - indeed, the opposite appears to have happened. Like an alcoholic on the run from his treatment clinic, wrecking drink cabinets, Vice President Richard Cheney stomped into the capitals of US allies as the unapologetic face of the most unpopular US administration in recent history.
In so doing, he caused more damage to America's friends than its enemies could possibly inflict in a one-week window. To name just two, Cheney's visit has virtually guaranteed Prime Minister John Howard's re-election defeat in Australia,  and rendered precarious the position of Pakistan's unelected President General Pervez Musharraf, who had the indignity of being admonished by the petulant "veep".
At home, the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby has added another layer of concern for the besieged White House, while the poor treatment of its war veterans in hospital will likely depress even diehard Republicans. That leaves the field wide open for a Hillary assault on the presidency next year. I expect that on her way, Senator Clinton will put into play everything that the Republicans stood for, including free trade and a measured approach to China.
This is where the Asian response becomes critical. Expecting no help from the American consumer is one thing, but also to confront political assaults is an entirely different matter. The upshot is that Asian countries will be forcefully cajoled into allowing their currencies to appreciate against the US dollar in coming months, with people like US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging action (as he did this week) sooner so that these countries do not have to confront something worse later on, viz a Hillary presidency.
China has the most to lose from a currency appreciation. In addition to the accounting losses on its foreign-exchange reserves, the country will also have to set aside money to rescue its banks, whose bad debts will mount precariously when the economy suddenly lurches from export orientation to domestic consumption. The only reason to rush this through now is that waiting a few more months would make the eventual impact worse for both the US and China.
1. The thief and the scorpion, Asia Times Online, January 13.
2. India 1, China 0, ATol, March 3.
3. Sun Tzu's art of investing, ATol, February 10.
4. Newspoll survey conducted March 2-4.
Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd.
talk2action ( at ) earthlink.net
In the first chapter of his 1964 book entitled "The Far Left", founder of the "Christian Crusade" Billy James Hargis wrote:
The entire left-wing movement is of the devil. As Christians, the first way in which we can recognize the devil and his presence is that he is a liar. He speaks lies, he uses lies, his conspiracy is built on lies. Hear the words of Jesus and His controversy with the Jews: "Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do....
consider: Pastor John Hagee, to address perhaps 1/2 of the Senate, has written that the Nazis functioned as God's "hunters" to drive surviving Jews to settle in Israel. By Hagee's moral calculus, anti-Semitism directed against Jews living outside Israel, and even their mass murder, will help fulfill a "divine plan" if those action drive surviving Jews to flee to Israel where, per Hagee's religious beliefs, they will mostly die in the Mideast conflict Hagee envisions and lobbies for.
In Hargis' day such ideas were considered to lie on the political fringe alongside KKK, neo-nazi, and John Birch ideology.
Now, over 40 years later, the mainstreaming of beliefs very similar to those of Hargis has advanced so far that a Christian leader - who alleges a vast satanic "secular humanist" conspiracy against Christian America, blames Jews for the Holocaust, says Hitler's Nazis were doing God's work, places gays, the ACLU, and Islamic terrorists together on the side of absolute evil, calls liberal Jews "poisoned" and "spiritually blind" and states that he hopes for a catastrophic conflict that will kill most Jews in Israel and maybe most Jews on Earth - will be addressing, this Sunday evening, at this year's AIPAC Washington convention, perhaps 1/2 of the US Senate and 1/3 of the US House Of Representatives ; this will amount to an historic advance towards the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism.
"Featured speakers will include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader John Boehner - as well as Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni....
This year's Policy Conference will include all of the elements that traditionally make the event a can't-miss experience for anyone committed to ensuring the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Key American and Israeli elected officials and thinkers will address plenary sessions, and the top leadership of Congress will be on hand for the Gala Banquet -- a one-of-a-kind celebration which annually draws half of the Senate and a third of the House." - AIPAC descriptions of 3-day Washington DC convention
Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United For Israel, a new and nominally "pro-Israel" American national political lobbying group, has built a career on aggressive support for hard right to fringe right Israeli politics and is now making inroads towards convincing the mainstream American Jewish community that he and CUFI are the best tactical allies Jews and Israel can expect to find.
This Sunday, March 11th, Pastor John Hagee will make an evening address at a the American-Israel lobby AIPAC's star-studded yearly convention which AIPAC's website says may be attended by a substantial fraction of the US Congress and Senate. When not lobbying Washington politicians John Hagee can also be found wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and preaching from a white and blue throne (for the colors of the Israeli flag) to his 20,000 church members, organized into 12 "tribes" named after the original 12 Tribes of Israel, at Hagee's San Antonio, Texas based megachurch.
But a close analysis of Pastor John Hagee's views seems to indicate that Pastor Hagee holds beliefs about liberal Jews that mirror sentiments to be found on conspiratorial websites promoting the debunked Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion and also the beliefs of the KKK and American Neo-Nazi groups such as Christian Identity. John Hagee also blames the Holocaust on Jews themselves and states that Nazi persecution of Jews was God's way of driving Jews to Israel, seems to blame Jews for the death of Jesus Christ, holds that Jews cannot get into heaven, calls liberal Jews "poisoned" and "spiritually blind", believes that the preemptive nuclear attack on Iran that he advocates will lead to a Mideast conflict that will kill most Jews in Israel and perhaps also lead to the Nuclear destruction of the East and West coasts of the United States of America, and meets frequently with top leaders of the GOP and with contenders for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
"In this struggle, we are not alone; for the battle is but a renewal of ancient hostilities between the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Satan... loyal followers of Jesus Christ who make up the Church of Christ have every reason to believe that they are not alone as atheistic Communism launches its bitter attack against the Church, Christ, and God Himself" - Billy James Hargis, "The Far Left", 1964
"Our children are being taught a religion which is the rival and opposite of Christianity. It is called Secular Humanism and it is permeating every inch of the American fabric." - KKK Website, 2007
"The Babylonian Talmud is the most vehemently hateful literature in the world, directed against Jesus Christ and Christianity, and therefore, viciously at war against the true Israel of God ... the White Race. Besides this demented preoccupation with the destruction of racially pure Christians, the jewish religion (or criminal code) is obsessed with the most pornographic perversions known to man.....
Most hyphenated judeo-Christians believe that the God of judaism is the same monotheistic God of Christianity and the Old Testament. Double-talk is the part and parcel of Talmudic judaism, which Christ called the "Synagogue of Satan"....
This is your basic run of the mill atheism and foundation for all pagan pantheisms. It's also called 'dialectical materialism', and 'secular humanism'." - "Christian Identity" associated Pastor Mark Downey, from "Why We Hate The Jews
"This phase of the PROTOCOLS went into effect in America, when John Dewey, the father of the modern education movement, began to inculcate American education with the Jewish-led, Secular Humanist Movement.
This Satanic teaching abandons 2,000 years of Western Christian civilization and launches a vicious attack against everything have been taught that was dear and sacred. If vou want to understand Secular Humanism read the Jewish Talmud then think of every evil which is opposed to Christianity and you will come close to the correct answer." - Brig. Gen. Gordon "Jack" Mohr, C.P.D.L., part 6 of "The Satanic Counterfeit, ("A review of THE PROTOCOLS OF THE LEARNED ELDER'S OF ZION; the Communist textbook PSYCHOPOLITICS, and Henry Ford, Sr's, THE INTERNATIONAL JEW, placed in historical perspective.")
"It is a war of light vs. darkness, of Christ vs. antichrist, the Word of God vs. secular humanism. There will be a winner and a loser! To the winner go our children and our grandchildren. There is no compromise with the enemy. There is no neutrality in this war!" - Pastor John Hagee, 2006, July-August issue of Cornerstone Ministries church magazine.
Many on the American Christian right feel that an alleged "satanic", "secular humanist" conspiracy has sought for decades to undermine traditional American morality and drive "God" from public life. When CUFI Founder John Hagee addresses a star-studded audience this Sunday evening at this year's American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, this will represent a major advance towards the mainstreaming of crypto-antisemitic conspiracy theories alleging a vast, "satanic secular humanist" conspiracy against Christianity and America; if Pastor John Hagee can write, in a bestselling book that has sold over 1.1 million copies, that anti-Semitism and the Holocaust are the Jews' fault and that Nazis were doing God's work, does anti-Semitism carry much stigma anymore ? What can be said about the fact that, as the founder and representative of CUFI, a lobby that advocates for foreign policy measures he thinks may kill most Jews on Earth, Pastor John Hagee will be addressing what is widely cast as the premier "Pro-Israel" political lobby in America ?
Are such attitudes now acceptable to organizations entrusted with the ongoing battle against anti-Semitism such as the Anti Defamation League, whose head Abraham Foxman told The Jewish Week that "there is a role" for Pastor John Hagee at the AIPAC summit because of Hagee's support for Israel ? Most reports on CUFI fail to go into the nature of that support, and almost none, it would seem, examine the stated and written beliefs of Pastor Hagee and CUFI's executive board in any detail at all.
In an ongoing series here on Talk To Action, I've written about the underlying structural anti-Semitism (see installments 4, 3, 2, 1) inherent among American Christian Zionist views which support a "strong" Israel, oppose all Israel peace negotiations with Palestinians that would make land concessions, rhetorically demonize and antagonize the Muslim world, label Islam as a "wicked" religion and slander Mohammed, and hope that an American or Israeli attack on Iran will touch off a widespread conflict leading both to the Rapture and to the death of most Israeli Jews or even most Jews worldwide.
"The Prophet Jeremiah... paints a vivid picture of the human agents God intended to use to bring the Jewish people back to Israel:
'But now I will send for many fisherman', declares the Lord', 'and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.'
I believe this indicates the positive comes before the negative.....
First, God sent the fisherman to Israel. These were the Zionists, men like Theodore Herzl who called for the Jews of Europe and the World to come to Palestine and establish the Jewish state. The Jews were encouraged to escape while there was still time....
[Then] God sent the hunters. The hunter is one who pursues his target with force and fear. No one could see the horror of the Holocaust coming, but the force and fear of Hitler's Nazis drive the Jewish people back to the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have-Israel.... I am stricken with awe and wonder at his boundless love for Israel and the Jewish people..."
( "Jerusalem Countdown", paperback edition, pages 132 and 133 )
"It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day....
How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.... it rises from the judgment of God uppon his rebellious chosen people." ( "Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude To War", paperback edition, pages 92 and 93 )
note: quotes above from 2007 paperbck edition of "Jerusalem Countdown". pagination varies among the 3 or more editions of this book.
In the words of Winston Churchill to Adolph Hitler, "we demand absolute surrender!" He would settle for nothing less than total victory! Let us learn that lesson from America's greatest generation. America should never send her troops into battle without the clear objective of total victory. Today the Church of Jesus Christ is in a culture war for the soul of this nation. It is a war of light vs. darkness, of Christ vs. antichrist, the Word of God vs. secular humanism. There will be a winner and a loser! To the winner go our children and our grandchildren. There is no compromise with the enemy. There is no neutrality in this war!...
The Allies came together in unity to crush the Axis power - why can't the church do that? We are in a culture war for America. The homosexuals are out of the closet - why can't the church of Jesus Christ get out of the closet? The A.C.L.U. is organized, funded and fighting day and night for "freedom from religion - no freedom of religion." Terrorist cells around the world are willing to strap bombs around their bodies to advance their cause. They are all unified! This is a call to arms to every Bible Believer in America... [ emphasis mine ] - Pastor John Hagee, July-August 2006 edition, Cornerstone Church Magazine
Continued at Talk To Action
On Friday, FBI Director Robert Mueller stated that he was the one in charge and should be held accountable for the apparent misuse of an important, yet intrusive law enforcement tool: national security letters. Absolutely, he should be held accountable. This Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has not served our republic well. From missteps related to prisoners of war, torture, political pressure on district attorneys, to arrogant abuse of power related to national security, including violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and this recent misuse of authorities under the Patriot Act, the chief law enforcement office of the United States has bungled his job.
The cornerstone to this great nation is the law. We are in our second Cold War, an ideological struggle with religious criminals who seek to dominate an entire ancient religion for their own personal agenda. Civilization can only win this struggle by holding fast to the rule of law, using it as the ultimate weapon against those who seek to harm us. When we step away from that principle we begin to move down a very dark path indeed.
Both Gonzales and Mueller admitted publicly that members of our FBI broke the law. Those who did should be appropriately dealt with under the law. Yet the report hints of systemic problems, lack of oversight, sloppy administration and follow-up. It even appears that there was some intent to under-report the use of national security letters. This is a leadership and management issue at the highest level.
As a former senior inspector general in the Department of Defense and someone who has lead and managed federal and international organizations, large and small for over three decades, I know when an agency is poorly led. The FBI and the Justice Department are poorly led. This recent report by the Inspector General of that department shows this fact.
New leadership is needed in the Justice Department. As these violations of law and policy were under the watch of Robert Mueller, he should resign. No one is above the law, not even the Director of the FBI.
Congress should show leadership, as well and oversee more closely the Attorney General. The term “trust, but verify” is so apt here to ensure that the rule of law is followed in our own Justice Department. How many times can you forgive, overlook, or second-chance conduct that clearly steps away from a document that boldly declared centuries ago: “We the people of the United State, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice…”
David M. Crane is a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, and former founding Chief Prosecutor for the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone (2002-2005). He previously spent over 30 years in US federal government service as a Senior Inspector General, Department of Defense, Assistant General Counsel of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Waldemar A. Solf Professor of International Law at the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s School.
Democracy doesn't mean just majority rule. There is no intrinsic value in the bare fact that more people favour one particular party or policy than another. Democracy is a value worth fighting for - it makes power legitimate - only when it means government through the majority on behalf of and for all the citizens. In a new book I argue that the conditions of genuine democracy are far from met in the US, the UK and other mature self-styled democracies.
These conditions can easily be set out in very abstract terms. Government must respect human rights, it must respect religious freedom and other forms of freedom of conscience, it must distribute its wealth so as to give everyone a fair stake in its economy and, above all, it must conduct its elections and other political procedures argumentatively so that each citizen is treated as someone worth convincing not just outvoting.
The United States fails by all these standards, and Britain does not do much better. We fail most dramatically in the character of our politics. Our politicians treat us as ignorant consumers; they entertain us with slogans and sound bites rather than arguments. In America, a very pessimistic explanation of this degraded politics is now fashionable. Americans are supposedly divided into two radically opposed cultures: the red culture that wants its religion public, drinks beer, lives in the middle, and votes Republican, and the blue culture that keeps its religion (if any) private, drinks white wine, lives on the coasts and votes Democratic. Genuine argument requires some common ground from which argument can start, and the conventional wisdom now holds that these two cultures are so fundamentally divided, in every respect, that there is no common ground. Politics is doomed to be war by other means.
I don't agree with this pessimistic conclusion. There are two very basic ethical principles that I believe are firmly part of western culture now and that are shared across the allegedly unbridgeable political divide. These hold, first, that it is objectively important that a human life, once begun, succeeds rather than fails, and, second, that each person has a non-delegable personal responsibility for identifying and pursuing success in his or her own life. If we all accept those basic principles, then we can reconstruct political argument as an argument about which political policies pursue the most attractive interpretation of these basic ethical requirements.
I think we need a distinctly liberal interpretation, which includes an understanding of human rights that makes our treatment of many terrorist suspects a violation of those rights. There are two general models of religion and politics - a choice between a religious state that tolerates dissent and a secular state that tolerates religion - and I believe that the basic principles, properly understood, require the secular state. To this end, I have explored a scheme for judging whether the level of a community's redistribution of its wealth through taxation is legitimate - in my view taxation in the United States and in Britain is illegitimately low.
The quality of political debate in the United States and Britain could be improved by, for example, a mandatory course in contemporary political issues in all secondary schools in which the most divisive issues are discussed against the background of the best rival arguments. This is the kind of argument our countries now lack.
Ronald Dworkin will be talking about his new book, Is Democracy Possible Here?, on Wednesday 14th March in discussion with Charles Moore, at The Newsroom, Guardian and Observer Archive and Visitor Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA. Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm.
If you would like a ticket please email firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 13th March. Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
Misery tempts Palestinian Christians to flee
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent Mon Mar 12, 7:57 AM ET
Despairing of life under Israeli occupation, many Palestinian Christians are moving abroad, threatening their ancient links to Bethlehem and the land where Jesus was born.
"There is a real fear that 50 years down the road, the Holy Land will be without Christians," said Mitri Raheb, 45-year-old pastor of the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.
Pressures on majority Muslims are just as daunting -- and many of them also leave -- but dwindling Christian communities look more precarious as the young and dynamic pull up roots.
Christians have migrated from Bethlehem and nearby Beit Jala and Beit Sahour for over a century, mainly to Latin America, the United States and Canada, to escape successive wars and crises.
Bethlehem governor Salah al-Tamari said there was no way of tracking accurately how many Christians and Muslims had left since the eruption of Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2000.
"There is no business, no freedom of movement," he said. "We depend on tourism, which is being demolished. Sometimes we receive 1,500 tourists a day but none of them stay the night. They visit the Nativity Church and leave, so we don't benefit."
A towering concrete wall is closing in on Bethlehem as part of a barrier that Israel is erecting, which it calls a defense against suicide bombers from the occupied West Bank. Much of it has been built on Palestinian land.
"Once it's finished there will be only three gates leading in and out of Bethlehem," said Raheb. "Bethlehem will basically be a four-square-mile (10-square-km) open prison."
"This wall has separated many people from each other," said Hiyam Abu Dayyeh, a Christian social worker. "What kind of life is this if you can't feel free or move in your own country?"
Now unemployed, she hopes to leave Beit Jala for Germany, which she visited often when she was working for the church.
"Many people are without work and without hope," she said. "People are completely exhausted. If it stays like this, Palestine will be a big psychiatric hospital."
About 50,000 Christians live in the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war -- east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another 110,00 reside in Israel.
The aid-dependent Palestinian economy took a devastating hit when international donors decided to boycott a Hamas government formed after the Islamists won an election in January 2006.
Violent infighting between Hamas and the once-dominant Fatah faction has driven Palestinians closer to breaking point.
Two-thirds of the population now live in poverty, according to the British charity Oxfam, with more than half unable to meet their families' daily food requirements without assistance.
Palestinian Christians are generally better off than other segments of society, but they too have felt the pinch.
"We used to be six people working in the restaurant and we were always busy. Now we are two and we sit here doing nothing," said Maher Rabie, who runs a small pizzeria in Beit Jala.
He took a loss of 30,000 shekels ($7,000) last year to keep it open. He says he might return to the United States, where he lived for 12 years, if the summer does not bring better times.
"Actually we don't have an economy any more. It's finished," he said. "The last five years were hell on earth. Sometimes we say if we go to hell in future, we already know what it's like."
Rabie and his wife Rania have three boys in school aged 8, 14 and 16. "We think of what kind of future we can provide for them if this situation persists," the 47-year-old father said.
LOSS OF HOPE
Christian leaders say they face no religious persecution from the Palestinian Muslim majority or from Israel.
Bernard Sabella, a Palestinian sociologist at Bethlehem University, estimates that 50 to 75 Christian families a year are leaving Jerusalem or the West Bank for new lives abroad, down from a peak of 200 to 250 families in 2002 and 2003.
He said most cited similar motives to Muslim migrants -- political conditions, unemployment and lawlessness, although discomfort with rising Muslim militancy was a factor for some.
"As Christians we want to be part of this society," he said, pointing to the cultural richness, variety and ancient roots of the church communities living in the cradle of Christianity.
The median age of Palestinian Christians is now 37, against 19 in the general population. "If our young people leave, we are in a disaster," Sabella said.
Many Christians have languages, educational skills, money and family links abroad -- factors that make migration easier. But church leaders want to anchor them in their homeland.
"We are asking the world to help Palestinian Christians stay in their country," said Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, pleading for assistance with education, job creation and housing and with Christian institutions that could serve Palestinians in general.
Christian entrepreneurs who returned from lives in exile in the 1990s -- when it seemed that the Oslo interim accords with Israel might bring peace, prosperity and Palestinian statehood -- are now losing hope.
"It's getting tougher and tougher every day," said Elias Samaan, a 45-year-old who set up a carpentry business after moving to Beit Jala from the United States in 1992.
"We're really thinking about leaving again, leaving everything -- our house, our work, our business, our land."
WASHINGTON, March 11 — A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.
Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia have all reported declines in enrollment and traced them to the new federal requirement, which comes just as state officials around the country are striving to expand coverage through Medicaid and other means.
Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide “satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship,” which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver’s license.
Some state officials say the Bush administration went beyond the law in some ways, for example, by requiring people to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.
“The largest adverse effect of this policy has been on people who are American citizens,” said Kevin W. Concannon, director of the Department of Human Services in Iowa, where the number of Medicaid recipients dropped by 5,700 in the second half of 2006, to 92,880, after rising for five years. “We have not turned up many undocumented immigrants receiving Medicaid in Waterloo, Dubuque or anywhere else in Iowa,” Mr. Concannon said.
By ROBERT PEAR
"German Catholic Bishop visiting Israel and the Occupied Territories on 5 March compared Israel’s oppression
of Palestinians with Nazi oppression of Jews at Ghetto Warsaw." (Warsaw ghetto left, and Ramallah ghetto)
© By Khalid Amayreh, for thepeoplesvoice.org
“I fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on the top they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath. I regret this situation very much because my sympathy has always been on their side.” Harry Truman
When a conscientious German Catholic Bishop visiting Israel and the Occupied Territories on 5 March compared Israel’s oppression of Palestinians with Nazi oppression of Jews at Ghetto Warsaw, Israeli apologists got furious.
Gregor Maria Franz Hanke of Eichstatt couldn’t suppress his rectitude and human decency when he was brought face to face with the affronting ugliness of the “separation wall” which has already morphed Palestinian population centers into modern-day concentration camps.
Upon seeing the misshapen creature, which is as ugly and as deformed as the Nazi-like mentality that gave birth to it, the German bishop said the following:
"This morning we saw pictures of the Warsaw ghetto at Yad Vashem and this evening we are going to the Ramallah ghetto."
Unfortunately, we don’t have many religious leaders, let alone politicians, who are willing to call the spade a spade, especially when it happens to be in Jewish hands.
But this man said it as it is , preferring to be at ease with his conscience at the expense of standing accused and vilified by the holocaust cult.
There are many reasons and motives for western flaccidity toward Israel and Zionism. Some westerners believe that the holocaust, which was perpetrated by Europeans, should justify anything and everything Israel does to the Palestinians, including crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
Many other westerners, especially North Americans, are simply scandalously ignorant of the Nazi-like nature of the Israeli state. Others know the facts very well, but are too cowardly and dishonest to speak up for fear of Zionist intimidation and retaliation. Others are simply malicious and believe that Israel, by virtue of being powerful militarily, has the right to pursue Nazi-like policies in order to serve its goals and interests. This is the same folk who would have embraced the Third Reich soul and heart because power is their God and “realism” is their religion.
I believe that people like the honorable bishop and all other free-minded voices that speak up in defense of truth, that don’t flinch from calling the spade a spade and refuse to cringe or cower in the face of evil, are the salt of mother earth and the crème de le crème of humanity. It these sporadic candles of light that keeps our world from plunging into moral nihilism.
Hence, we must salute them for their courage and morality and never allow ourselves to betray them or let them down. We must seek to emulate them in their courage and honesty and moral defiance in the face of evil, because in the final analysis life itself is a moral stand and is too short to be squandered and exhausted in the zigzags of political correctness. The
“By the passage of time, man is indeed in a state of loss, except for those who believe, and do good deeds, and counsel each other to truth and counsel each other to patience.”
Of course, the bishop of Eichstatt is not inventing anything. He simply saw this diabolical, gigantic structure meandering around Palestinian population centers all over the West Bank, from Jenin in the north to Dahiriya in the south, cutting of neighbor from neighbor, and creating ghettos congested with poverty, misery, hunger and oppression.
In fact, had the bishop gone a little deeper and a little further, the overwhelming ugliness of Israel’s shame would have shocked him even further. I am saying this because Israel has not stopped at merely converting Palestinian towns and villages into virtual detention camps, but went many steps further by making sure that the tormented souls in these ghettos are constantly and relentlessly hounded and surrounded.
Indeed, not a day passes these days without the Israeli occupation army and the Gestapo-like Mishmar Gvul (Border Police) carrying out several raids into Palestinian towns and villages. During these criminals rape-like forays, innocent people are killed, injured and arrested, and their property is destroyed.
This writer witnessed an incursion at the village of al-Kum, 20 kilometers west of Hebron on Saturday, 10 March.
Around 2: a.m., numerous Israeli troops and paramilitary policemen stormed the small village (pop. 3000), placed it under curfew amid loud explosions of stun grenades meant to terrorize the people. Then the forces spread all over the village, vandalizing property and smashing glass and turning furniture upside down. After that, the mostly undisciplined soldiers used an elderly man, in his early 70s, as a human shield. Then they raided the local mosque, arrested three young men in their early mid 20s and left seven hours later.
Around the same time, a Palestinian driver who reportedly transferred Palestinian laborers into East Jerusalem was beaten to death by the grandchildren of the Holocaust. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli Border Policemen ganged up on the man, identified as 32-year-old Wael Yousef Karawi, beat him on the head with the butts of their rifles, causing him a massive brain hemorrhage. The man collapsed and died on the spot. Then a few hours later a mendacious statement coming out of the Israeli mill of lie claimed that the man died of “natural causes.”
A day earlier, another poor Palestinian worker was killed in Gaza as he sought to enter Israel to find work. Israel has been starving Palestinians en mass by preventing them from accessing work and food. This manifestly criminal policy is carried out by barring Palestinians from fishing off the Gaza shore “for security reasons.” Today, as I write this piece, an Israeli naval patrol opened fire on two fishermen, injuring them both. More to the point, Gazans are not allowed to travel abroad for work or even medical treatment, because the so-called “border terminal” between Gaza and Egypt (Gaza’s only exit to the outside world) is kept closed by Israel nearly all the time for no reason other than tormenting an already thoroughly tormented people.
Non the less, Israel still has the audacity to tell the world that it has ended its occupation of Gaza. You see God’s lying people.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli occupation army murdered two people in Nablus, including a young boy who hurled a stone toward (not on or at but toward) an Israeli Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) rampaging through the streets of the city. The other man was shot dead as he stood at his rooftop to fix a TV antenna. Responding to charges of cold-blooded murder, an Israeli army spokesperson said rather tersely that the “incident is being investigated.”
Of course, this is a lie, nothing is being investigated, and even if there was an investigation, it would blame the victims and declare the killers ‘innocent of any wrong doing” because they acted in accordance with outstanding army instructions.!!!! Well, even the Gestapo and SS were also acting in accordance with outstanding army instructions.
In the meantime, the Israeli state keeps swelling its dungeons and detention camps with young Palestinians. The declared reason is “security,” but the real reason is to keep as many Palestinians as possible behind bars in order to use them as bargaining chips in any prospective negotiations with the inherently weak Palestinian Authority.
According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources, the Israeli army rounds up an average of 15-20 Palestinians per days. Now the number of Palestinian detainees and internees in Israeli jails and detention camps stands at 10,000-11,000.
On Friday, 9 March, an Israeli military court sentenced Hebron MP Hatem Qafisha, to six months of “administrative detention,” without charge or trial. The six months are renewable depending on the mood of the Shin Beth officer in charge of the Hebron region. There are Palestinian detainees who have been languishing in Israeli dungeons for 80 or even 90 months without charge or trial. Usually, the mantra of security is always ready to be evoked in defense of the Nazi-like justice system.
In fact, Qafisha has already spent 93 months in Israeli jails first for “harboring extremist views” and second for “competing in legislative elections under the banner of a terrorist organization,” a clear allusion to Hamas.
Well, didn’t Israel and the United States consent to the participation of Hamas in the elections which took place in 2006? If so, why arrest these people, including democratically-elected lawmakers, cabinet ministers, and even the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik, and dumping them in detention camps for lengthy terms? If they have committed any crime, let them be tried before a genuine court of law, not before the court of the occupation for which a Palestinian is guilty even if proven innocent…just as the Nazi courts viewed Jews as guilty even proven innocent.
Are the Zionists the Nazis of our time? Are the Israeli army and police the Wehrmacht and Gestapo of our time? This is a question for Jews to answer. Maybe they will come to the realization that this sick and sickening state is corroding their humanity. Just maybe. (end)
March 12, 2007 © Copyright March 12, 2007 by Khalid Amayreh - email@example.com This article originates on http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org - Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this credit, © By Khalid Amayreh, for thepeoplesvoice.org, is attached and the title and text remain unchanged.
By Ben Fenton
Tony Blair's first envoy to Iraq, banned from publishing his own book on the crisis there, has used a roundabout route to make sharp criticism of the British and American governments for failing to study history before invading the country in 2003.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a former ambassador to the United Nations, says American politicians ignored the lessons of British disasters, failed to delegate proper authority to commanders on the ground and lacked imagination in their leadership.
He has run into official Foreign Office objections to his own book, The Cost of War, but makes trenchant observations in his introduction to a reissue of the book Tigris Gunboats by Wilfred Nunn.
It is a history of the 1914-17 expedition to capture Baghdad by a British expeditionary force for which Nunn led the naval contingent.
Sir Jeremy writes that it was an appallingly bloody campaign, fought against the Ottoman Turkish army in which Britain suffered 40,000 men killed, wounded or captured in a few months.
Eventually Baghdad was taken, but the capture proved nothing but a heartache for the invaders.
"The victory of March 1917 left the British owning the territory of Iraq after the war," writes Sir Jeremy. But it brought them "many years of trial and distress in trying, first through colonial occupation and then through intrusive diplomacy, to stabilise a nation that has rarely in its history remained both united and peaceful.
"Is it too churlish to ask whether the leaders of a more modern administration might have profited from studying this experience?
"It now transpires that many individual American officers did try to learn from Iraq's earlier history.
"But other considerations closer to home were weighing on the top-level decision-makers; there was little delegation of real authority to those in the theatre who could see what the local conditions required; the different parts of the military and civilian systems were out of tune with each other; and the limitations of the use of force were poorly understood.
"That meant that a sense of common purpose was missing after the ousting of Saddam Hussein, which was not the case nine decades earlier."
Sir Jeremy adds: "Neither the British Government in 1917 nor the Coalition in 2003 really understood what they were taking on when they assumed control of Baghdad."
By Ahlam Akram
I do not want to flame the emotions, but I am here to present facts and to address you so that together we can think of a way to save our people.
I am not going to argue whether or not Israel has the right to exist, because Israel is internationally recognised and because there is a law that gives a squatter the ownership when he takes over an empty house.
But let's not forget that those houses were not empty; yet Israel is a fact today.
Based on the international acceptance of modern states, Israel has earned an acknowledgement of its existence. However, Israel is at risk of losing sympathy as it continues its brutal military occupation which is condemned by international law and which is brought into all our homes by TV pictures.
You ask me about the role of Zionism and the establishment of the Jewish state.
Do I care about it?
I cannot say I do. I know that Zionism started in 18.. something, long before the Jewish tragedy of the holocaust; and that anti Semitism and the holocaust together have drawn sympathy for Israel.
But do I care about Jewish people?
Yes I do. And some of them have become close friends who I care about like I care about members of my own family.
But I also understand and know that there was a nakba - a catastrophe - which culminated in the expulsion of the Palestinian people through acts of terrorism and barbarism, documented by Jewish writers like Avi Shliem and Benny Morris. Indeed, according to Benny Morris there were 18 more massacres perpetrated by Jewish forces between 1947 and 1949 than what is generally known.
People, who had nothing to do with the tragedy of the Jewish holocaust, still suffer a continuous tragedy even now. Those people - my people – those from whom I originally came prior to my own exile and subsequent emigration. My family still lives under the threat of being expelled for no crime whatsoever except that they were born Palestinians and demand their equal rights.
So to ask me to understand Zionism is like asking a rape victim to understand the rapist. We are survivors of that horror.
And for us, how did we see Zionism?
It was and remains a racist ideology that allows Jews from anywhere in the world to go to today's Israel, which is still Palestine in our souls, and to claim superior rights to the land at the expense of the indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians. Using military governments to carry on discriminatory racist policies and settle by force, Jews have come from all over the world in the remaining 22 % that should belong to us in the West Bank and Gaza.
What is happening in the occupied territories is but a violation of Israel’s own declaration of independence which states that the country –Israel- will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex. And that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language education and culture, safeguard the holy places of all religions and be faithful to the principles of the charter of the United Nations.
Although I can empathise with Jewish fears today from any threat of repeat of such a horrible genocide as the holocaust was, I cannot condone this fear. For today the State of Israel is strong. It possesses the fifth strongest army in the world and is a nuclear power. It also has the support of the entire West and above all the support of the United States.
I believe that God created the land for all His people and we the Palestinians are not of a lesser God. Yet, for some people, Zionism was about creating a just, progressive and humane society based on "Jewish” values and the need to feel safe as a nation. But the reality is that the right wing fundamentalist Zionism has overrun any idea of a progressive and humane society based on "Jewish" values.
Where and how can I see Jewish values while the Palestinian trauma goes on and on under the pretence of national security and the constant fear from the repetition of the trauma? Israeli exaggeration makes it justifiable and acceptable to expel, torture, and oppress my own loved ones.
Is it the desperate need to have a national identity that keeps the militarisation of that identity? Is it that desperate need that is causing over determination and rigidity of identity and leading to the fortification of the settlement and of the soul?
From a psychoanalytical point of view, the human identity is always unstable, on the move capable of transformation. And after 60 years I do truly wonder why must Israel cling to the 'victim' status? Isn't it time to heal and move on?
Israel and the Jews around the world had the chance to stand up to the values of their declaration of independence and to stun the world with their moral adherence to international law, if not to maintain the claim of highest moral values then for self preservation. Israel is at risk as long as it continues its occupation of the West Bank–Gaza and its people.
Israeli Governments have violated the international law, but most importantly the moral grounds that earned Jews international sympathy. Israel is perusing an implicit ethnic cleansing policy, ridding itself from all the international obligations and acting as an occupying power.
When Avigdor Lieberman publicly calls for "Transfer", which means total expulsion of all non Jewish people including Israeli citizens with non Jewish origins; what does that means if not ethnic cleansing?
The besieging of Palestinian cities and villages and the continuous increase of settlements buildings are other manifestations of ethnic cleansing. There are 600 checkpoints and only 24 of them are between Israel and Palestine; the rest are inside the Palestinian occupied land.
Then there is the wall which is 650 kilometres long and the green line which is only 315 kilometres long. The wall or the barrier takes 53% of Palestinian water resources. The cost of water for the Palestinians is four times higher than in the illegal Israeli settlements even though settlers consume 600 CM while Palestinians consume only 140 CM. East Jerusalem, the occupied part of the city, represents 45% of the Palestinian economy. In 1975 the Israeli High Court ruled that no one can live in the old city except Jews. And there are hundreds of other examples of the brutality of the occupation……
So you ask me how I feel about Zionism and Jewish State? We are all enslaved in the 2,500 year-old concept of nation state.
In an interdependent world, today’s biggest threats are poverty and fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism and extremism; Neo-conservative evangelism that encourages Jews to go back to the biblical land so that the Christ returns; and the Israeli settler ideology that gives him the exclusive right to the land as a biblical right.
Today it is our responsibility to safeguard our global future, to work together and support the rights of both people for a two states solution.
The conflict is between two different people with different national identities and aspirations, and each of the two people places the highest value on a national state of their own.
After separating the two people - perhaps after 100 years, although I hope less - movement from the two states to a federation or a confederation could happen. Such a transition is beginning to be seen, in spite of the discrimination and oppression in today's Israel – where Palestinian citizens, together with their Jewish fellow citizens are effectively and peacefully demanding their rights in an equal civil society – a "Sikkoun organisation". I hope for co-operation and good neighbourly relations, governed by international norms between the two countries; yet perhaps it is too daring to dream of a confederation similar to the European Union.
It is time to end the bloodshed and we should do that from the perspective of our responsibility to common humanity. Israel needs to be saved from its own policy through mobilising international public opinion against the criminal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Occupation Authorities.
More independent Jewish voices are needed at this stage, and a European contribution might be of a great value to change US policy that sympathises with the Israeli side. Europeans should stop thinking that they are not equal to the US and participate actively in shaping the Middle East.
What is needed is a political solution that truly conforms to universal human rights and international law; a solution that will restore to Israel the spirit it has lost, and guarantee the security and safety for Jews everywhere, and equally, not less, also for Palestinians everywhere.
God knows that we have committed the unforgivable. Then let us consider the words of the Algerian-French/Jewish-Arab philosopher Jacques Derrida: “only when it is impossible to forgive, can forgiveness take place. Now that we have gone beyond all limits, let us begin to forgive by using the skills and wisdom that God bestowed on us to build a better future for ALL our children: a future of mutual acknowledgement and mutual respect, equality and forgiveness”.