Thursday, April 28, 2005


Sgrena interview on Democracy Now

Thanks to my wonderful friend Marilyn for telling me about this interview. It is a must read!!! I print out only a few salient passages. full interview

AMY GOODMAN: Did you get permission, did Calipari get permission to drive on the road to the airport?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Of course, I was there when they called. They called the Italian, because there is an official that is linked to the Americans. And this Italian general spoke to the Captain Green, that is the American one, telling him that we were on this road and that they were aware that we were on that road. And this happened at least 20-25 minutes before the shooting.

AMY GOODMAN: This road…

GIULIANA SGRENA: They knew that we were on this road.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that they knew?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I know because I was there when the agent called the Italian one, the general that is in charge for the communication with the Americans, and this general did a testifying, telling that he was there with the Captain Green, and Captain Green was immediately informed about our traveling to the airport. And the Captain Green didn’t say no, so I think that he’s right. And he’s a general. I don’t think that this general made a wrong, false testifying.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying Calipari spoke to -- this was an Italian or US general?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The Italians, they can’t speak to the Americans directly. There is a man, a special man, a general that is in charge for the communication with the American commanders. It’s impossible for an agent, an Italian agent, to speak with the Americans directly. I knew the rules because I was there many times. And I know that every time always in Iraq there is an Italian that is in charge for the communication with the Americans. And in this time, in this moment, was a general that was there speaking with the Commander Green that was the correspondent, American one. So I knew about that. And in all the newspaper, Italian newspaper, was published that. So there is no problem of communication. Commander Green knew about our presence on that road. If he didn’t inform the mobile patrol, we don’t know. But he knew, the commander, the American commander knew about it.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush. Do you have a demand of the US President, the American President?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No. I want only the truth. But they don’t seem to be interested to find the truth about what happened in Baghdad that night.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you go back to Iraq?


AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like there is a cover-up? Do you feel that the investigation has been covered up?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, of course. They don’t want the truth. They don’t want to tell the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: What would make them tell the truth?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t really know. Maybe if the Americans, they press the American government to tell the truth. Because, if the Americans, they don’t mind; we are small, we are Italians, we are few Italians, what we can do? I think that it is important that the Americans, they press their government to tell the truth, because it’s in the interest also of Americans, the truth. Not only of Italians, I think. So if you make actions with press on the government, you, maybe you can do something for us.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you were in Iraq, as a reporter, before you were captured, what do you think was the most important story for us all to understand?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I was looking around to see what the people were thinking about. And overall, I was interested in Fallujah. But when I went to interview some people from Fallujah, I was kidnapped. Some people were not interested in my story about Fallujah, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you have to say about Fallujah? What did you discover?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Just stories. I have not a scoop about Fallujah, just stories.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go to Iraq to begin with? It was a dangerous place. You knew that.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, I knew. But I am a journalist. I went to Somalia. I went to Afghanistan. I went to Algeria. I went every places. And I went to Iraq also. I can’t go only where the places are not dangerous. It is our work that is dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you regret having gone to Iraq?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, I don’t regret.


PSYOPS - defence related propaganda and the Iraqi war

I would bet that most of us wouldn’t think that a bombing was a psychological tool in warfare. We see it as a very simplistic thing, where there is a supposed military target and once it is either destroyed or captured, it is under control of the forces that have done the bombardment. Well, according to the Rand Organization, a non-profit group that is an offshoot from Douglas Aircraft, it’s all part of the big picture and important to correctly manoeuvre it. In case you are wondering, this is what Rand does:

“RAND's research agenda has always been shaped by the priorities of the nation. With roots in the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, the early defense-related agenda evolved — in concert with the nation's attention — to encompass such diverse subject areas as space; economic, social, and political affairs overseas; and the direct role of government in social and economic problem-solving at home.

Today, RAND's work continues to reflect and inform the American agenda. While one part of RAND works to define the emerging epidemic of
obesity among Americans, another has just detailed future directions of the military aircraft industry. While one division analyzes the problem of substance abuse among high school students, another develops simple steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from the harmful effects of potential terrorist attacks.”

“Integrate Psychological Operations (PSYOP) with Strategic Air Attacks. To maximize the psychological effects of air operations against strategic targets, such operations must be closely integrated with a supporting PSYOP campaign. The thematic content of the PSYOP leaflets and broadcasts should directly or indirectly reinforce the psychological message or messages that the bombing is attempting to convey. This will require close coordination between the Air Force officers planning and conducting the air campaign, and the Army personnel who will be mostly responsible for the design and dissemination of the PSYOP messages.

In past conflicts, such close integration has sometimes been lacking, in that both the content and the dissemination of PSYOP messages have failed to support adequately the psychological objectives of the strategic bombing operations.”

But, just what IS PSYOP? In the extremely interesting article Mind Games by Lt. Col. Steven Collins, found on the NATO site, we learn this:

“Perception management includes all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action. Of special interest in the case of Operation Iraqi Freedom are public diplomacy, the deliberate attempt to persuade foreign audiences of the content and wisdom of one's policies, intentions and actions, and PSYOPS, the use of activities, predominantly media, to influence and persuade foreign audiences.”

“While public diplomacy at the strategic level generated mixed results at best, the employment of PSYOPS within Iraq at the military operational and tactical level was more successful. The use of mass media like radio, leaflets, and targeted media like e-mails against key decision-makers, and loudspeakers during ground operations, seems to have had an important impact.

More than 40 million leaflets were dropped on Iraq before the first attack on 20 March, and another 40 million plus were dropped during the campaign. Some leaflets threatened to destroy any military formation that stood and fought, while others encouraged the Iraqi populace and military to ignore the directives of the Baath Party leadership. In retrospect, they did seem to have the effect intended.”

“During the conduct of the military campaign, the Coalition attempted favourably to shape the world-wide perception of the conflict by a variety of measures, including that of "embedding" reporters with military units scheduled to deploy. Although initially controversial, the decision to embed was, in retrospect, a brilliant move for several reasons. First, reporters who wanted to be embedded were forced to undergo a mandatory mini-boot camp, which gave many their first appreciation of the challenges faced by the average soldier. Second, embedding created an inevitable bond between reporters and the units they covered. And third, embedding made sense because it ensured the safety of the reporters and gave the world its first "real-time coverage" of a battlefield. Because of the fluid nature of Iraqi Freedom, many more reporters would likely have been killed and captured had they been allowed to roam the battlefield freely.”

The very, very interesting site Psywarrior has a section on the Iraqi war and the PSYOP campaign, complete with photos of the most popular leaflets. Here are a few examples of the text, (to see the images, you should visit their site, a treasure chest of information):

“Coalition forces support the people of Iraq in their desire to remove Saddam and his regime. The Coalition wishes no harm to the innocent Iraqi civilians.”

IZD-070 pictures an oil refinery with a father and child at the upper left. The text is “The oil industry is your livelihood! Your family depends on your livelihood.” The back of the leaflet depicts and Iraqi family looking at a burning oil refinery. The text is “If the oil industry is destroyed, your livelihood will be RUINED! Help to prevent the sabotage of the Iraqi oil industry! Your family depends on it!”

"The noble people of Iraq are not the target of Coalition military operations! The target of Coalition military operations is the ruthless regime!" The back shows four photos of happy Iraqi children at the left. Text at the right is "Do not interfere with Coalition forces. Stay in your homes. Coalition forces will establish a curfew for your protection. Stay tuned to information radio for updates."

"The Coalition does not wish to destroy your landmarks." On the left side, Coalition aircraft attack two Iraqi tanks on the road. The text is "The Coalition will destroy any viable military targets." Text on the back is "Coalition forces do not wish to harm the noble people of Iraq. To insure your safety, avoid area occupied by military personnel."

This is one I particularly adore:

“Coalition Forces respect and abide by the Geneva Convention. We will not tolerate mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians.”


Australian handout IZL-006 depicts Coalition armor, helicopters, and vehicles on the front. The text is:
Coalition forces are here. Coalition forces will outnumber you. Leave now. You cannot win.

The back depicts a dead Iraqi at top and a destroyed building at bottom. Text on the back is:
Leave this area now. You do not have the capability to fight Coalition forces. If you resist, you will die.

On 15 June Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Ayers, Commander of the 9th PSYOP Battalion was quoted as saying:
The Army’s Psychological Operations force in Iraq is the largest in U.S. history. There are eleven PSYOP companies and almost 1000 PSYOP personnel in the country or in support roles in the United States.

Radio and loudspeakers are other tools. An interesting note:

“The Associated Press reported on April 23 that U.S. troops were blasting AC/DC’s "Hell's Bells" and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of enemy gunmen.

Unable to advance farther into the city, an Army psychological operations team attached to the Marine battalion here sends out messages from a loudspeaker mounted on a Humvee. Among the selections blasted was Jimi Hendrix.

They've also used the loudspeaker to shout insults at the enemy in Arabic, including "You shoot like a goatherd," in an effort to provoke them into attacking. Other messages included taunts like, "May all the ambulances in Fallujah have enough fuel to pick up the bodies of the mujahadeen." The message was timed for an attack moments later by an AC-130 gunship that pounded targets in the city.

When the firing stopped, they played sound effects of babies crying, men screaming, a symphony of cats and barking dogs and piercing screeches.”

And that is only the PSYOP used to influence the Iraqis.. in a further post, the PSYOP used on those of us who are outside the arena.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Italians refuse to sign conclusion on Calipari killing

The results of the "mixed" commission investigating the killing of the Italian agent and the serious injuring of the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and another Italian agent are to be released tomorrow. There has been a lot of anticipation in the press, and it seems as though the US will find no fault with the soldiers who shot and killed Calipari, and that the two Italians on the committee were not investigators at all, but merely "witnesses" to a unilateral investigation. The US judging the US, in other words. It seems as though the Italians have refused to sign the final document, because they do not accept its conclusion....

From Il Diario:

The work of the bilateral commission that is investigating the killing of Nicola Calipari is blocked. The investigation is concluded, but the disagreement between Italians and Americans impeded the arrival at a conclusion.

“At the present time, there is no recognition of responsibility”, sustain the US representatives that were cited by the network NBC which had obtained a copy of the first rapport. This means that the soldiers who on the evening of 4 March fired at the car of the SISMI, killing Nicola Calipari and injuring the reporter of il manifesto who had just been liberated, (as well as a second individual being injured), will not be incriminated and will not undergo any kind of trial. Four seconds after having fired warning shots in the air, the US soldiers decided to open fire. A sufficient interval, according to the commission, that respects the engagement rules.

The two representatives nominated by the Italian government the Ambassador Ragaglini and General Campregher, have refused to undersign these conclusions and ask that at least some error, misunderstanding, omission or negligence (even unintentional) that brought the soldiers to fire against the car of the SISMI to be recognised.

It seems that the US have admitted that the Toyota Corolla in which Calipari was travelling was not moving at high speed, but rather at 40-50 Km and hour, the same speed declared by the functionary of the SISMI who survived the shooting.

But the Americans continue to insist that before the opening of fire there was an intimation to halt, while the Italian survivors deny this version. Calipari had purposely decided to not inform the US Command in order to not put the liberation of Giuliana Sgrena at risk. full article (in Italian)

Monday, April 25, 2005


Perception Management - selling the Iraq war to Americans

In How to Sell a War, the Rendon Group Deploys Perception Management in the Iraq War, we read:

"The visual images, of course, are what most people will remember. But it is worth asking whether the toppling of Saddam was as spontaneous as it was made to appear. If this scene seemed a bit too picture-perfect, perhaps there is a reason. Consider, for example, the remarks that public relations consultant John Rendon—who, during the past decade, has worked extensively on Iraq for the Pentagon and the CIA—made on February 29, 1996, before an audience of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician,” Rendon said. “I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager.” He reminded the Air Force cadets that when victorious troops rolled into Kuwait City at the end of the first war in the Persian Gulf, they were greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags. The scene, flashed around the world on television screens, sent the message that U.S. Marines were being welcomed in Kuwait as liberating heroes.

“Did you ever stop to wonder,” Rendon asked, “how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?” He paused for effect. “Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then.”

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether Rendon or any other PR specialist helped influence the toppling of Saddam’s statue or other specific images that the public saw during the war in Iraq. Public relations firms often do their work behind the scenes, and Rendon—with whom the Pentagon signed a new agreement in February 2002—is usually reticent about his work. But his description of himself as a “perception manager” echoes the language of Pentagon planners, who define “perception management” as “actions to convey and (or) deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.

… In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover, and deception, and psyops [psychological operations].”

The paradox of the American war in Iraq, however, is that perception management has been much more successful at “influencing the emotions, motives, and objective reasoning” of the American people than it has been at reaching “foreign audiences.” When we see footage of Kuwaitis waving American flags, or of Iraqis cheering while U.S. Marines topple a statue of Saddam, it should be understood that those images target U.S. audiences as much, if not more, than the citizens of Kuwait or Iraq. It became obvious within days of the toppling of the statue that although the Iraqi people largely welcomed the dictator’s downfall, they were not as eager to throw bouquets of flowers at American soldiers as the scene at Firdos Square seemed to suggest.

In Nasiriyah, some 20,000 people rallied to oppose the U.S. military presence on April 15, only six days after the statue fell. “Yes to freedom, yes to Islam,” they chanted. “No to America, no to Saddam.” In other protests, crowds chanted, “No, no, Chalabi” in opposition to Ahmed Chalabi, the U.S.-backed head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). Newsweek interviewed a high-ranking U.S. military officer who said he was stunned when he began talking to Iraqis, even anti-Saddam locals, about Chalabi’s credibility. “It’s astonishing how little support he has,” the officer said. “I’m afraid we’re backing the wrong horse.”


Unilateral Disengagement Plan and Settlers - some basics

Under the disengagement plan as adopted on 6 June 2004, the IDF will remain on the Gaza-Egypt border and may engage in further house demolitions to widen a 'buffer zone' there (Art 6). Israel will continue to control Gaza's borders, coastline, and airspace, and reserves the right to undertake incursions at will (Art 3.1). Gaza will also remain dependent on Israeli water, communication, electricity, and sewage networks (Art 8); existing customs arrangements with Israel (whereby imports from Israel to Gaza are not taxed, exports from Gaza to Israel are taxed, and Israel collects customs duties on foreign products entering Gaza) will remain in force and the Israeli currency will continue to be used (Art 10). For these reasons, and because Israel will not accept a Palestinian sovereign authority in Gaza at this time, foreign observers have argued that legally speaking, the disengagement will not constitute an end to Israeli control (see, for example, statement by Human Rights Watch and extensive legal analysis by the Harvard International Humanitarian Law Research initiative (free registration required). Read here for more.

What is Sharon’s “Unilateral Disengagement”?
Father Alphonse de Valk, c.s.b., priest of the Congregation of St. Basil and editor Catholic Insight

The plan for Unilateral Disengagement from Gaza (from here on called “U.D.”) envisages the removal of 7500 Jewish settlers in Gaza to be finished by the end of 2005. They are to be resettled on the West Bank. Any violence from Gaza thereafter will be punished by the cutting off of telephones, water, and electricity (April 29). Israel will complete the encirclement of Gaza with a wall. It will maintain a patrol road along the border of Egypt, as well as three settlements in the north of the strip to act as a barrier against attacks on Israel proper. It will continue to control all land, sea and air entrances.

After the completion of the wall around the West Bank, Israel will expel all Palestinians living “illegally” in Israel—tens of thousands of them, according to Sharon. And Israel will also maintain the “right to selfdefence,” i.e., to “hunt terrorists” in both Gaza and the West Bank (Sharon, April 2).

As the title “Unilateral” indicates, there is no question of Israeli dialogue with the Palestinians or, for that matter, with anyone else. Under this plan there is no place for Palestinian sovereignty of any kind other than the administration of a series of semi-destroyed, rundown slums.

Observation: If Sharon’s Unilateral Disengagement is a step forward on the road to a peace settlement and reconciliation, one wonders what a step backwards would mean.

Maia Carter Hallward writes in What does it mean to disengage?

"Disengagement sends a signal. It says we do not want to talk to you or interact with you in any way. This sentiment is echoed in the separation barrier and in the legal restrictions on (non-settler) Israelis entering the Occupied Territories or Palestinian-controlled areas. In Hebrew, the Gaza plan is not called disengagement, but rather “withdrawal” which is another mis-nomenclature. According to the plan, Israel remains in control of the borders, the coast, and airspace. It reserves the right to destroy existing settlement infrastructure and to re-enter Gaza at any time deemed necessary for security reasons. In exchange, it rids itself of the governance headache of 1.5 million restless, poverty-stricken, caged-up Palestinians and receives accolades (and lots of money!) from the international community for the “hard work” of removing a small number of Gaza settlers, most of whom are quality of life (not ideological) settlers and willing to leave for compensation."

Her article is particularly interesting because she expresses deep empathy with the emotional aspects of the settlers who will have to leave. On the one hand, I felt, "Hey, they are getting paid to leave land that was not even their property." But, I must admit that even if my own personal view is that these people are given far too much as it is, and should thank their lucky stars that they were not expelled the way Palestinians have been, and still are being, the matter is of importance in the Israeli view, and has to be at least understood.

In Bitterlemons Roundtable Discussion, dealing with the issue of the settlers who may stay behind, Yossi Alpher says:

"On the other hand, the experiment the settlers are volunteering for (those who would remain ed note) has important potential implications for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Today we are preparing to remove 8,000 settlers in what is liable to be a violent and highly traumatic operation. Yet tomorrow, in order for any sort of Palestinian state to emerge, we will have to remove at least another 50,000. Today, the settlement blocs and East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods continue to expand. Tomorrow, the prospect of locating territory with which to compensate a Palestinian state for settlement bloc annexation by Israel becomes increasingly daunting."

Hassan Asfour says:

"Despite the fact that the world considers all settlements illegal and illegitimate, there is no doubt that the subject of settlements will be the source of much complication in final status negotiations. Among the different ideas for solving this thorny issue there is one that surfaces from time to time: can settlers be accepted as Palestinian citizens in a future state of Palestine?

The question seems intriguing on the surface, and some may immediately respond in the positive. My answer is an unequivocal no.

My objection is not to individuals or a people; we would not reject any Jew who rejects Israel's aggressive nature and becomes a Palestinian citizen. The objection is to consolidating facts that were established by force and aggression. Accepting any settler to stay in his present abode would be tantamount to a whitewash of this immoral and shameful enterprise.

But in addition to the theoretical and moral considerations there are practical ones. Israel operates on the premise that it has the right to intervene to protect any Jew wherever he may be and whatever his citizenship. Imagine the Israeli interference in a Palestinian state next to Israel, on land Israelis, deep down, consider is rightfully theirs.

We must also consider the reality that if a number of Jewish settlers remain, they must live among their Palestinian neighbors.
In theory, despite different religious and educational practices, this ought not be a problem had the presence of these settlers come about in a framework of coexistence. But it didn't. The settlers are present as a result of Israeli aggression. Let me be clear: my objection is not to the idea of coexistence with Israel or Israelis. My objection is to the idea of rewarding the aggressor. The settler and the racist dimensions of the settlement movement, more than almost anything else in this conflict, epitomize aggression."

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Ilan Pappe - In Support of the Academic Boycott

To boldly go
By Ilan Pappe

The Guardian 20 April 2005


I appeal to you today to be part of a historical movement and moment that may bring an end to more than a century of colonisation, occupation and dispossession of Palestinians. I appeal to you as an Israeli Jew, who for years wished, and looked, for other ways to bring an end to the evil perpetrated against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, inside Israel and in the refugee camps. I devoted all my adult life, with others, creating a substantial peace movement inside Israel, in which, so we hoped, academia will play a leading role.

But after 37 years of endless brutal and callous oppression of the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and after 57 years of colonisation and dispossession of the Palestinians as a whole, I think this hope is unrealistic and other means have to be looked at to end a conflict that endangers peace in the world at large.

Violence and armed struggle have also failed, and they can't be easily condoned by people like myself who are basically pacifists at heart. Historical examples, such as in South Africa and Gandhi's movement in India, prove that there are peaceful means for achieving an end to the longest oppression and violation of human rights in the last century. Boycotts and outside pressure have never been attempted in the case of Israel, a state that wishes to be included in the civilised democratic world. Israel has indeed enjoyed such a status since its creation in 1948 and, therefore, succeeded in fending off the many United Nations' resolutions that condemned its policies and, moreover, managed to obtain a preferential status in the European Union. Israeli academia's elevated position in the global scholarly community epitomises this western support for Israel as the "only democracy" in the Middle East. Shielded by this particular support for academia, and other cultural media, the Israeli army and security services can go on, and will go on, demolishing houses, expelling families, abusing citizens and killing, almost every day, children and women without being accountable regionally and globally for their crimes.

Military and financial support to Israel is significant in enabling the Jewish state to pursue the policies it does. Any possible measure of decreasing such aid is most welcome in the struggle for peace and justice in the Middle East. But the cultural image in Israel feeds the political decision in the west to support unconditionally the Israeli destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. The message that will be directed specifically against those academic institutes which have been particularly culpable in sustaining the oppression since 1948 and the occupation since 1967, can be a start for a successful campaign for peace (as similar acts at the time had activated the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa).

Calling for a boycott of your own state and academia is not an easy decision for a member of that academia. But I learned how the concerned academic communities, worldwide, could mobilise at the right moment when I was threatened with expulsion by my own university, the University of Haifa, in May 2002. A very precise and focused policy of pressure on the university allowed me, albeit under restriction and systematic harassment, to purse my classes and research, which are aimed at exposing the victimisation of the Palestinians throughout the years. This is a particular important avenue, as I am the only one who does it in my own university, and one of the few who does it in the country as a whole, and also because the university has a large community of Palestinian students, who are prevented by draconian regulations from expressing
their anger and frustration at what had been, and is, done against their people. These students have felt totally isolated since the university established close links with the security apparatuses in the country. The fact that the university is closely connected to the security services - by providing postgraduate degrees - is by itself not a crime, but as these are the agencies that exercise on a daily basis the occupation in the Palestinian areas, their presence in the campus means academia is significantly involved in perpetuating the evil.

As I learned from my own case, outside pressure is effective in a country where people want to be regarded as part of the civilized world, but their government, with their explicit and implicit help, pursues policies which violate every known human and civil right. Neither the UN, nor the US and European governments, and societies, have sent a message to Israel that these policies are unacceptable and have to be stopped. It is up to the civil societies, through organisations like yours, to send messages to Israeli academics, businessmen, artists, hi-tech industrialists and every other section in that society, that there is a price tag attached to such policies.

I thank you in advance for your support. Should you decide to embark on the bold policy suggested, you empower me and my friends who will, I am convinced of this, be able to build together with our Palestinian comrades a just basis for peace and reconciliation in Palestine.

* Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the department of political science in Haifa University and the chairman of the Emil Touma institute for Palestinian studies in Haifa.


Academic Boycott of Israeli Universities takes off!

In years of efforts to make Israel conform to international law by just asking, a small group of persons developed an organised plan of boycotts, beginning with an academic boycott. This is the first effort of its kind (it was successful in beating South African Apartheid, so it's imperative to try in Israel).

From Omar Barghouti, one of the organisers:

Here's the link to the best news in a decade - it's official the 46000-strong teacher union in the UK has voted to boycott Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University:

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

P.O.Box 1701, Ramallah, Palestine

22 April 2005 Putting the Israel Boycott on the Agenda

The Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the UK voted in its Council meeting today to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities and to disseminate to all its chapters our Call for Boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This historic decision, which sets a landmark precedent, stands as a major achievement in the struggle to attain a just peace in our region. Finally, boycotting Israeli institutions, as a morally and politically sound response to Israel's crimes, is on the mainstream agenda in the west; and no one can ignore it now.

For years, Israeli academics have by and large served in the occupation army, thereby participating in, or at least witnessing, crimes committed on a daily basis against the civilian population of Palestine. They have hardly ever publicly denounced Israel's occupation, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, or its adamant denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. This constitutes collusion. After this ground-breaking AUT decision, all these aspects of Palestinian suffering and the complicity of Israel's academics in perpetuating them have now become part of the ongoing debate on Israel's record of oppression and abuse of human rights. The AUT today gave voice to the hitherto voiceless civil resistance against Israel's racist and colonial policies. For this, the AUT should be commended.

Aside from passing the boycott motions, the debate itself about Israel's oppression and the collusion of Israeli academic institutions in it and the extensive media coverage that ensued have played a significant role in educating many around the world about the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and equality.

The taboo has been shattered, at last. From now on, it will be acceptable to compare Israel's apartheid system to its South African predecessor. As a consequence, proposing practical measures to punish Israeli institutions for their role in the racist and colonial policies of their state will no longer be considered beyond the pale. Israeli academic institutions will no longer be able to share in the crime while enjoying international cooperation and support. Most importantly, Israel will start losing its so far assured impunity, its exceptional status as a state above the law, a country that considers itself unaccountable before the international community of nations.

We applaud the AUT for its vision and its moral commitment to a just peace in Palestine.

Founding CommitteePalestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Whereas Israel's colonial oppression of the Palestinian people, which is based on Zionist ideology, comprises the following:

· Denial of its responsibility for the Nakba -- in particular the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem -- and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees and displaced stipulated in and protected by international law;

· Military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967, in violation of international law and UN resolutions;

· The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa;

Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence,

Given that all forms of international intervention have until now failed to force Israel to comply with international law or to end its repression of the Palestinians, which has manifested itself in many forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton destruction and the racist colonial wall,

In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott,

Recognizing that the growing international boycott movement against Israel has expressed the need for a Palestinian frame of reference outlining guiding principles,

In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

4. Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies;

5. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

6. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Marines disembark in Israel

From the Jerusalem Post Marines storm ashore in Nitzanim by Arieh O'Sullivan

Hundreds of US Marines riding hovercrafts stormed ashore the beaches of Nitzanim Wednesday as part of joint maneuvers being quietly held between the US and Israeli militaries.

The Marines simulated an armed assault from the sea while IDF forces maneuvered inland until the two forces met.

Military sources said the operation was code named "Kaya Green." Troops were delivered by LCVs (hovercrafts) which also unloaded Humvees.

The Marines of the Sixth Fleet specialize in extraction operations to evacuate US personnel and conduct such exercises periodically in Israel.

"These are highly specialized operations that require constant training," said a source familiar with the maneuvers.

The IDF refused to release more details in keeping with a policy dictated by the United States to minimize reports of Israeli-US military cooperation.

The IDF Spokesman issued a laconic statement saying only that the exercise was with the US Sixth Fleet and "part of the on-going cooperation between the two armies."

But military sources said the joint exercise was being spearheaded on the IDF side by the Ground Forces Services. Soldiers participating on the Israeli side included troops from the IDF's non-commissioned officers' course. The exercise also apparently involved a large convoy of US military vehicles moving along the coast.


General Closure On The West Bank

General closure on the West Bank In accordance with a decision by the political echelon and in light of the security assessment, a general closure will be imposed on the WestBank, effective tonight and for the duration of the Passover holiday.
Throughout the duration of the closure humanitarian cases will behandled and approved by the District Coordination and Liaison offices.

So, you're thinking, Jewish Holiday = Palestinian Punishment and you are once again correct. What does the General closure (temporary, but unilaterally enforced and only against the Palestinian people, and not the Jewish settlers in Occupied Palestinian Territory) mean?

An article on Movement restrictions says,

Every city and most towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been placed under internal closure during the current intifada. While the internal closure system began as an ad hoc network of checkpoints and blockades, over the last three years it has become increasingly formalised, resulting in a system whereby Palestinians are subjected not only to prolonged delays but also to daily harassment and humiliation.

Starting in May 2002, a new permit system was introduced whereby Palestinians in the West Bank are now required to obtain permits from the Israeli authorities to travel from one city to another. Thousands of teachers, merchants, businesspeople, etc. who reside in places other than where they work have been negatively affected by these restrictions. This has contributed to the destruction of the Palestinian economy. Checkpoints, roadblocks and permit requirements have also impaired the ability of medical personnel as well as the sick and wounded to reach hospitals and clinics resulting in some cases in death. This has particularly been the case for those who are residents of outlying villages. Clearly such movement restrictions have a grave impact on fundamental human rights such as the rights to work, education, and health.

More on closures here and here, where it is written: “It is impossible to overemphasize the catastrophic effect of closure on health care. Given that permission is needed to leave one's village in Jenin district to access the hospital in Jenin, if there's an emergency--a child is wounded; a woman goes into labor--it's too late to apply for permission. You have to take your chances at getting lucky with the soldiers on duty at the checkpoint. Free access to medical care is therefore nonexistent. According to Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committee figures, at least 100 people have died because the Israeli army prevented them from crossing checkpoints to access hospitals. All of this is said to exist for "security reasons," but according to Israeli writer Baruch Kimmerling Ariel Sharon's aim is to finish what he started in Lebanon in 1982--"politicide" (Kimmerling's word) against the Palestinian people, terminating their viability as a political entity. In this view "general closure" and "internal closure" enforce a government policy driven by the desire to retain all the settlements, especially those in the resource-rich West Bank.”

Thursday, April 21, 2005


US soldiers in Iraq - wounded and hidden

In Salon, we find a few interesting articles on Iraq. One called The invisible wounded says this: ”Injured soldiers evacuated to the U.S. never arrive in the light of day -- and the Pentagon has yet to offer a satisfactory explanation why.”

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of
Operation Truth, an advocacy group for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, said the nighttime-only arrivals of wounded, along with the restrictions on coffin photos and other P.R. tactics, are designed to hide from the public the daily flow of wounded and dead. "They do it so nobody sees [the wounded]," Rieckhoff said. "In their mind-set, this is going to demoralize the American people. The overall cost of this war has been … continuously hidden throughout. As the costs get higher, their efforts to conceal those costs also increase."

There was still some daylight when the Starlifter's wheels hit the ground, but it was dark when soldiers carrying stretchers began to descend from the plane. One by one, about 10 stretchers were slowly carried down the ramp and loaded into racks in the buses. It was hard to see the condition of the wounded. A soldier in a wheelchair followed. Then came the walking wounded.

It's easy to imagine any number of reasons for taking off from Germany late in the day, which, in turn, would result in evacuations arriving in the United States at night. The flight from Germany in a C-141 can take up to 10 hours, and there is a six-hour time difference with the United States. The Air Mobility Command's off-the-record explanation did not, however, account for the consistent arrivals of nighttime flights. And its written response was vague: "Missions are scheduled to depart [Germany] in compliance with airfield operational restrictions, allowing patients a restful night before the long trans-Atlantic flight, and giving medical personnel sufficient processing time for those patients who may require special handling/treatment."

John Pike, the director of, a defense information Web site, has spent a great deal of time trying to tease out the difference between facts and Pentagon spin. He said it is odd that the Pentagon hasn't done a good job of explaining the late-night flights. "It is puzzling because there are perfectly sensible explanations for this, but those are not the explanations being offered," Pike said. "And the explanation being offered makes no sense. It makes no sense."

Pike and veterans' advocate Rieckhoff both said the Pentagon has employed a raft of techniques to manage domestic perceptions of the war. The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines "perception management" as "actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators" to influence "emotions, motives, and objective reasoning." Although the dictionary describes such techniques only as they apply to foreign audiences, the Pentagon has come under fire for employing some pretty aggressive techniques at home, too.

President Bush himself has garnered some criticism for deciding not to attend the funerals of fallen soldiers, opting for private meetings with their families instead.

I think the Operation Truth site is really very interesting. I read a few stories that Iraq war veterans wrote, including the one at the top of the page today, where little children are encouraged to run alongside the Humvees to get a lollipop, and sometimes, even get run over...


Guess who said it?

To What Extent Is a 'Two-State Solution' the Proper Formula for Resolving the Arab-Israeli Conflict?

This is a sensitive question, especially since the idea of a "two-state solution" has now become widely accepted as the pathway for resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But given demographic trends, is it actually realistic to believe that there is adequate space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea for two, independent, viable states? For example, the area of the Gaza Strip is 365 square kilometers; it contains today a population of about 1.3 million Palestinians. That figure will double in one generation. Is it possible to imagine that, when 2.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza in the year 2025, they will be able and willing to focus their national energies -- economically, culturally, and so on -- within this limited space? Perhaps it is neither wise nor just to premise the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on this assumption.

Answer: Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Giora Eiland.
On May 7, 2004, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland of the Israel Defense Forces addressed The Washington Institute's Nineteenth Annual Soref Symposium. General Eiland is Israel's national security advisor.


we want a nuclear free Europe, USA permitting

The Al-Awda Italia list has printed out an endless list of American military bases and facilities on Italian soil. One hundred and thirteen of them. One hundred and thirteen pieces of the USA, operating in complete sovereignty, are located on our soil. As Susanne wrote, this is how they liberated us. If that weren’t bad enough, The US stores its nuclear weapons here: we’re talking about Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not some Starbucks caffès.

A Belgian site, For Mother Earth, writes: The United States is currently the only country to store nuclear weapons on the territory of other nations. There are currently nuclear weapons stored in the following countries in Europe.
The Netherlands
United Kingdom

Until recently, US nuclear weapons were also stored in
Greece. The information on this page is based on the 1998 NRDC report Taking Stock.
The more recent report
U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe by Hans M. Kristensen of the Natural Resources Defence Council, uses a range of sources to create a catalogue of American nuclear weapons that are currently deployed in Europe through NATO.
There are 480 such weapons.

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino writes in Forgotten Nukes: American Nuclear Weapons in Europe,

So nuclear life goes on in Europe, despite the dramatic change of the political climate in the last 10 years. And nuclear life in Europe is not that easy. Keeping a nuclear infrastructure in 7 different NATO countries is costly for both the US and the host countries. Besides cost, there are also security problems and organizational complexities that require efforts that many would probably consider worthless, when confronted with the very limited number of weapons involved. Security problems do in fact arise, as shown by the following example.

The US performs regularly "Local Nuclear Surety Inspections" (LNSI) at all the nuclear sites. The overall rating of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) - Aviano (Italy) - in a LNSI made in January 1996 was "unsatisfactory" and, particularly, security was rated "unsatisfactory". The same Wing only "fared a little better" in the next inspection of Feb. 28, 1996.

It is easy to be convinced that the burden of keeping few tactical nuclear weapons dispersed in 7 European countries greatly outweighs any possible advantages. So it has been reported that officials in the US Dept. of Defense have stated or implied that the utility of the US tactical nuclear weapons located in Europe is totally marginal if not zero, and that these weapons cannot be removed only for political reasons or, in other words, since the other NATO countries want them.

I believe that there is a significant amount of truth in this point of view and I would like to elaborate on this subject by making few remarks on why NATO countries may be reluctant to eliminate nuclear weapons from their territories.

For the non-nuclear members of NATO that host US nuclear weapons, this is the only opportunity they have to be in direct contact with some significant aspects of nuclear operations. The Air Forces of the host countries are probably proud of sharing with the Americans, some concrete aspects of the training in nuclear bombardment, even if this sharing concerns only a handful of people.

Forty years of (often misleading) debate about the American nuclear umbrella, left many European politicians and military people convinced that the physical presence of even few nuclear weapons in their territories, gives a protection against attack with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

The structure that regulates the presence of American nuclear weapons in NATO countries is a complex one. First of all, there are "Agreement for co-operation on uses of atomic energy for mutual defense purposes" signed by the US and each individual country.. These are unclassified bilateral treaties (signed in the years 1955-1962) that set the framework for the classified bilateral agreements. These include a "program of co-operation" that defines the rules for the deployments of nuclear weapons in the territory of the host countries and for the training of the armed forces of the host countries in the field of nuclear operations, a "stockpile agreement" that deals with the location, the responsibilities and the cost-sharing for the nuclear deposits. The structure described above goes back to the early sixties and it is not known how much of it has been amended. But is obvious that any modification requires a multilateral consensus or a bilateral one if only one country, besides the US, is involved. This gives the system a low degree of flexibility.

In recent times the public opinion in Europe has shown very little concern for the risks and the political consequences deriving from the presence of American nuclear weapons. Government of NATO countries face very little opposition to the residual nuclear structure based in their territories. Most media simply ignore the fact that some nuclear bases still exist in Europe. And even when this fact is brought to the public attention, as in the discussion on the extension of NATO, it is quickly forgotten. For many, the end of the cold war simply implies that the risk of nuclear war is over.

We can collectively represent all the arguments above as political-bureaucratic inertia. This helps explaining why in front of a forty-fold reduction of American nuclear weapons deployed in Europe since the mid-sixties, we had no reduction at all of the number of countries that host the same weapons. This situation would be harmless - or "only" a waste of money - if no political consequence or no risk were associated to the existence of a residual American nuclear arsenal in NATO countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

So, there are 480 (at the very least) American nuclear weapons sitting in many corners of Europe. That might sound like a lot, but take a look at this statistic from Nuclear Weapon Archive:
“Since the invention of nuclear weapons, the U.S. has built about 70,000 warheads, and dismantled about 58,000 of them with most of the nuclear materials being recycled into new weapons. The U.S. currently has about 12,500 weapons in existence, but only 8700 (approx.) are in active service. The remaining 3800 or so are retired weapons either awaiting dismantlement, making up part of the inactive reserve, or both. Some counts give somewhat lower numbers for operational weapons (e.g. 7200), but the weapons making up this differential are simply "in storage", have not been transferred to reserve status, and are in full operational condition. At its numeric peak in 1967, the U.S. arsenal had some 32,500 warheads.”

And this:

“The Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty was held at the United Nations in New York 11-13 November 2001. The United States of America did not send any representative, official or unofficial, to participate in the conference even though it is a signatory of the CTBT.”

They care a lot….

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Veterans of Future Wars

Thanks to Simon and Ardeshir for forwarding this shocking article. I could not get the attached link to work either time it was sent to me, so, I went to look up Point Blank, which is an independent Des Moines Iowa newspaper. Perhaps they have at the moment decided to pull the article, which is a shame, and in that case, I'm printing it in its entirety.

From :

Soldier boy

In an effort to increase its ranks for coming wars, the U.S. military is recruiting - and paying - children as young as 14 years old for future combat duty.

By Tim Schmitt

Colin Hadley spends most of his days after school skateboarding or playing Halo II on his new X-Box with friends. He sleeps until noon or later on weekends and rarely, if ever, does any schoolwork outside the classroom, where he pulls down solid C's and a few D's - just enough to get by. He's the typical 15-year-old American boy: cocksure in demeanor, certain the world revolves around him, and confident that life is going to serve him well.

And he's the new "target of interest" for U.S. military recruiters who've begun signing up boys as young as 14 for military service, which they will be required to begin when they turn 18.

"It's a sweet deal," says Hadley, who boasts that he bought his X-Box with the enlistment bonus he received after signing up last month. "I don't have to do hardly anything for three years, but they're paying me now.

"Hadley's windfall was made possible under the Pentagon's "pre-enlistment program" that was quietly authorized last month in an effort to ensure the number of military troops available for combat remains steady for at least the next few years. The conditions of the program are simple. A young man who is at least 14 years old and has a parent's permission can enlist in the U.S. military, but will not report to duty until he reaches the legal age. The future soldier agrees to remain "physically and mentally fit" and to undergo annual physical examinations at the Military Entrance and Processing Station (MEPS). In exchange, the government provides him a $10,000 sign-on bonus that is paid in yearly installments of $2,500 until the age of 18, at which time any remaining balance is given to the recruit.

And while waiting to report to duty at 18, the new recruits are paid a modest stipend and allowed access to funds granted veterans for education. Because combat duty is a requirement of enlistment, the program is currently open only to young men, and it has been authorized for only three years, so Congress will have to renew the program again in 2008.

"The program is still in the early stages, but we're certain it will prove a valuable tool for the U.S. military while providing future soldiers with much-needed financial assistance so they can start planning for the future now," says Lt. James Pederson, a spokesman for the U.S. Pentagon's Office of Recruitment and Retention.

With the war in Iraq still taking a toll, and potential conflicts on the horizon in Iran, North Korea, Syria, the Philippines and elsewhere, the U.S. military is faced with a shortage of manpower not seen in decades.The Army National Guard met only 56 percent of its recruiting quota in January, and the Marine Corps fell short of its recruiting goal that month for the first time since 1995. The Army missed its February recruiting goal by 27 percent, and the numbers for March and April are not expected to improve. And though the Bush administration has explored the idea of re-instituting the draft, the idea has been met with such widespread resistance that doing so seems unlikely.

So the mighty U.S. military has been left with declining rolls during a time of war when the need for warm bodies is at a premium. The result has been a loosening of enlistment requirements and the offering of more incentives to fill the void.

"More and more of our troops are choosing to leave service when their enlistment period comes to an end, and the number of new recruits entering military service is at a 20-year low," says Pederson. "We've had to become more and more creative in our efforts to fill the ranks of departing soldiers, and that's meant reaching out to new target groups and making them offers they simply can't refuse.

"Currently, the National Guard is offering enlistment bonuses of up to $15,000 for new members, who may also receive matching funds to be used as a down payment on a new home. In addition, the Army announced last week that it is raising the maximum age for new recruits by five years, up to 39. It has also increased by 33 percent the number of recruiters on the street and has developed a sales pitch to appeal to parents who otherwise might not approve of their child's enrollment.

"We're going to appeal to the patriotism of parents," says Pederson. "Parents have to understand that their children are needed in a time of war and that sacrifices need to be made for the good of the nation."

Tom Hadley recognizes this need, and when he heard of the pre-enlistment program, convinced his son that it was in his best interest to sign up.

"There aren't a lot of opportunities for poor or working class kids in this country right now, so this program is a blessing," says Tom. "Colin can spend the next couple years just being a kid and save a few bucks for school, and after his four years of military service he'll come out ahead. I'm proud of my son for making such a wise decision and standing up for his country.

"Carla Bloomer agrees with Tom that poor children have few options, but rankles at the suggestion that selling military service to a child is an answer to the problem. And she didn't even know this was an issue until she learned a recruiter had talked to her 14-year-old son and convinced him to sign up.

"He's not smart enough to make a decision like that at this point in his life," she says. "That recruiter came in and played to his teenager's sense of invincibility and know-it-all attitude and convinced him this was the best thing for him to do. In the end, I had to give in and let him sign up."

After he signed the paperwork, however, Bloomer took a closer look at the contract and was even more disturbed by what she learned. The small print reveals that the $350 monthly stipend her son receives is actually an advance on his $250 per month combat pay and $100 per month hardship duty pay."What they've done is guarantee that my son will go to war when he's old enough," says Bloomer. "They're paying him for it now so he can't back out later."

Her son, Richard, admits he wasn't aware of the source of the payments he's receiving, but adds that he's not worried about it either.

"At least I'm getting paid now," he says. "Hell, I might get killed my first week out and then I'd get nothing. At least I can enjoy it now."

But it may not be that simple. According to Pederson, the money paid out in the pre-enlistment program is an advance on pay, which will need to be paid back if the soldier is unable to serve in combat for any reason.

"If a recruit is incapacitated or killed before two years of service have been completed, half of the funds paid to him pre-service will need to be returned to the U.S. government," he says. "That's still very generous, considering we could ask for reimbursement of funds for the entire period of incomplete service.

"But this provision has not sat well with some citizens who have petitioned the government to repeal this section. U.S. Rep. Dennis Caster introduced a bill in the last session that would make any repayment of the pre-paid funds strictly voluntary, but it never made it out of committee.

And once these kids sign up under this program, they are committed to serving in a combat zone and face strict punishment if they refuse duty when they come of age. If any refuse to show up for duty they will be charged with desertion in a time of war and be subject to military court martial, which, theoretically at least, could result in the death penalty.

"We expect our recruits of all ages to honor their commitment," says Pederson. "We are expending resources to guarantee their future service and will do whatever is necessary to make sure they live up to their pledge."

The very concept of the pre-enlistment program is frightening to those who've spent years in active opposition to violence and militarization. Katherine Beck, Iowa coordinator for the National Peace and Justice Alliance (NPJA) for the past 15 years, says this program is indicative of the Bush administration's refusal to consider peaceful alternatives to war.

"There is no question that this president wants to keep the country in a state of war, and there seems to be no one willing to stop him - not Congress, not the U.S. Senate, no one," she says. "We're now paying children - poor children mainly - to give up their childhood and commit to fighting, killing and, possibly, dying in future wars. That is nothing short of pure evil."

But Pederson says the pre-enlistment program is really not that much of a change from recruitment methods that have been in place for the past few years. With passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, the military was guaranteed access to the nation's public schools for recruiting purposes.

According to the Office of Recruitment and Retention, the U.S. military was denied access to public schools on 19,228 occasions in 1999. But since the passage of No Child Left Behind, these schools have no choice but to let them in.

"This allows us to send our professionals into schools to share information about the benefits of military service to young people, just as colleges and other businesses are allowed, encouraged even, to visit with students and do the same thing," says Pederson.

But Karen Foss, the mother of a 14-year-old at Lincoln High School, says the intensity of the recruiting focused on her son took her by surprise. "I don't think most parents realize how much time and energy they (recruiters) spend on these kids," she says. "I was shocked when I found out that they were calling my son at home and visiting with him outside the classroom without my knowledge."

And Foss is quick to point out that she comes from a family with a long history of military service (her grandfather was at Iwo Jima and her dad earned two purple hearts in Vietnam) and that she's a registered Republican who supported the war in Iraq.

"This is just too much, though," she adds. "These are children they're after." Staff Sgt. Gary Lindell, an Army recruiter working out of the office on Army Post Road says it's common practice for recruiters to reach out to school-age kids wherever they can.

"The initial meeting with kids in the schools is just the first step in a long process," says Lindell. "We take advantage of the access we've been granted to build a relationship with students and then build upon that."

Lindell has taken small groups of students out for pizza and met with them over sodas and snacks at an area coffee shop frequented by teens. He uses these meetings to tell the kids about the advantages of military service.

"It's important that they know they can make a real difference in the world," he says. "I tell them about the opportunity to travel, the chance to earn money for college, the medical benefits and the feeling of pride that comes with serving your country. It's an important tool to reach these kids before they are influenced by outside forces who lack understanding of the U.S. military's worldwide goals," he adds. "These kids understand the need for a strong military and haven't had their thoughts corrupted by unpatriotic ideas."

Foss' son, 14-year-old Tyler, and his best friend, 15-year-old Matthew Biehn, met with Lindell several times but declined to sign on despite the benefits Lindell told them about. Last month, Lindell arranged another meeting with the boys at a South Side coffee shop and brought along fellow recruiter Sgt. Lindsey Reas. After meeting with Reas several times Tyler decided to join the pre-enlistment program, and once he did, Biehn signed on as well.

"I didn't even know the recruiter was talking to him until he told me he wanted to sign up," says Karen. "His father, whom I divorced several years ago, agreed to let Tyler join, so there was nothing I could do to stop him. I'm fairly confident that they brought a young woman recruiter in to close the deal with these boys. They're in the throes of puberty and would pretty much do whatever a pretty girl asks them to. I just don't think it's fair."

Reas refused to entertain that notion and said the final incentive for these two boys came when she pointed out the number of comic books $350 per month could buy. And in fact, when Tyler and Biehn agreed to discuss their enlistment, they arranged a meeting at a comic store where they promptly dropped more than $50 each for new releases."They give us a lot of money for doing nothing," says Tyler. "If we have to go to war later, it won't be that bad anyway. She (Reas) gave us a copy of an Army video game that lets you see what it's really like. If you know what you're doing, you probably won't get hurt or killed."

The game Tyler refers to is a free one available at that the army has developed as a recruiting tool. The site boasts that the game allows players to "Experience realistic training missions and see what it takes to become part of America's Army team." Local recruiters will also provide free copies of the game on CD to anyone interested, especially the young boys who generally play such games.

Despite Karen's concerns, the recruiters are within their rights to talk to the kids without parental permission or knowledge. Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act enables recruiters to gain personal information about students - home addresses, phone numbers, extracurricular activities - from school records. The only time parental involvement is required is when it comes time to sign the papers.

"Yeah, we talk to the kids," says Lindell. "But it's not like we're kidnapping them and making them do this. They make an informed decision based on the facts we give them."

In the short time the program has been in place, at least 10,763 young men aged 14-16 have joined the pre-enlistment program. Of those, at least 94 hail from Iowa, which boasts the second highest rate of participation (per-capita) in the nation, falling only behind Mississippi.

These new recruits have begun chatting on the Internet and sharing thoughts on their upcoming service on message boards and have started an informal organization of members called VFW - Veterans of Future Wars.

It's an accurate title, too. Pederson says these new recruits will be required, after completing boot camp and two weeks of additional training, to serve in combat zones. The very nature of the war on terror, he explains, ensures that the United States will be in a state of armed conflict with some enemy or another for many years to come."We will most definitely be at war with someone for the next decade, at least," he says. "And our recruitment programs are an effort to ensure the safety of all American citizens and to protect the American way of life."

Beck, director of the NPJA, disagrees, and says this is indicative that we as a country have reached a level and acceptance of war that may be difficult to turn away from.

"That parents are allowing and encouraging their children to sign up under this program is troubling and shows a real lack of understanding of what's happening in the world," she says. "By committing our children to wage war, we are committing our society to a path of violence and oppression and militarism that will be impossible to sustain and that will further alienate us from the rest of the world."

Still, Pederson says the program is a necessary step.

"Is it unfortunate that we have to recruit children to serve in battle? Absolutely," he says. "But most countries have had children soldiering for centuries. We're just leveling the playing field."

Saturday, April 16, 2005


"all necessary means"

UN Resolution 1546, which sanctioned the end of the Occupation of Iraq (sic), and the placement of control to an Interim Government, has a very peculiar clause to it. It's been bothering me all day, since I have been reading papers on the scandalous conclusion of the US Commission that was investigating the assassination of Italian agent for SISMI, Nicola Calipari, and the injuring of kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena and another officer of SISMI. They are placing the guilt on the person killed! Well, out of 300 others killed this way, AT LEAST there is a commission looking into it (sic). Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

Well, in Resolution 1546, there is the clause that the US troops can use "all necessary means" to enforce law and security. What does that term mean? Does anyone have a clear idea on it? Does it mean random shooting? Is that all part of the deal, so that the abuses are considered part of the UN Resolution, and not a violation of international law? And, if this is so, the entire "commission" is a charade to begin with and just kept the Italians quiet during election time, thinking that something was being done to bring about some justice....

Trying to find an answer, (I still haven't, but hope someone can help me) I did find quite a good article on the Malet Street Gazette. Here's a short excerpt:

If there is any fundamental debate about the legal basis for the use of force in Iraq, the real issue is not whether legal precedent now exists for such action, but realizing that the United Nations has delegated powers to its members to unilaterally use "all necessary means."

While the rule of the law is the cornerstone of international law, and while that rule’s application is sufficient evidence to show that the US invasion of Iraq had legal grounds within the context of the United Nations Charter, the issue of whether the US led invasion was a just or moral one is well beyond the scope of legality.
If there ever was a war that had a legal basis devoid of moral authority, it is the US led war on Iraq. Evidence is now mounting from the 9/11 Commission, The Butler Report and the news media that show that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were presented with a wide range of intelligence. Reports show that Bush and Blair selectively presented (and still do) a skewed set of facts to make the case of imminent threat by Iraq where no such threat existed.

While the US and Britain may pass the test of a legality for invading Iraq, sadly, facts discovered by the 9/11 Commission and The Butler Report show the moral poverty of sending troops into harms way when such action was a preordained policy decision that used the United Nations not for legal cover, but as a moral cover for zealots within the Bush administration.

The moral cover sought by the Bush Administration was not a plea to the UN that a legal basis existed to invade Iraq, but an illusion cast before the world press. That illusion was reflected by mirrors that made the pretense of appearing before the General Assembly and Security Council, calling for international action, in and of itself a sham desire for diplomacy.


fighting drug addiction among Palestinians

Christian Elia writes in Peace Reporter about the work of Shain Hussuei, who, against the greatest of odds, has created a non-governative organisation to help Palestinians overcome drug addiction. This article is extremely interesting, and is worthy of reading in its entirety, to discover an aspect of life and community support that is entirely unknown in the "outside world". I quote but one paragraph, which puts a political perspective on this situation:

"In many countries of the world, when you talk about the war against drugs, journalists and commentators point the finger at government policies. This raises an issue particular to Palestine in the fight against drugs because Palestine has no government.

Shain works only in Jerusalem and so has no statistics on the West Bank or Gaza Strip. But he has strong opinions, if only with regard to Jerusalem. “Here it’s not a matter of having a government or not having a government,” says Shain. “It’s a political problem and however you look at it the Israeli government is to blame, because an occupying power is supposed to provide services. In Jerusalem the situation is worse because these people are directly controlled by the government in Tel Aviv.”

The director is harsh in his criticism. He emphasizes that “no part of our work is supported by government policy. We struggle to convince addicts to deal with their problem openly, but the government created clinics available only to those with a Jerusalem ID card. This excludes thousands of Palestinians from therapy. We’re trying to win the fight against addiction, but the Israel military does nothing to stop drug deals. Just take a walk around and you’ll see. The military doesn’t think twice about arresting the father of a family whose papers aren’t in order or a kid who throws a stone, but they don’t do a thing to halt the drug trade.

Their lack of interest is almost criminal and it has to make you wonder. It’s as if widespread drug addiction provided a kind of social control. They’d rather have a bunch of people high out of their minds than a group of citizens protesting in the street for their rights. And to top it off, they don’t help a bit with the final step of our program, which is to help addicts regain some self-esteem through the dignity of a job. Almost all Palestinians of working age are unemployed and there’s no government plan in sight that’s going to help.”

The already bleak situation has grown worse in recent years both in terms of quantity and quality with the rapid spread of new drugs. Our conversation has managed to avoid one problem in particular: HIV infection. Shain shows us to the door with a bitter smile. “There are so many problems and we don’t have any statistics on AIDS,” says the director. “It’s difficult to confront the head of the family here let alone get information on something like that. But we’ll get there, even if we have to do it alone.” Maybe it’s because Shain is someone who’s actually made it through or maybe it’s just because he’s too big to contradict, but in the end you almost believe him."

Friday, April 15, 2005


welcome to the blogosphere Simon!

Just wanted to give a warm welcome and plug to my friend Simon who's just opened up his blog today (after hearing me badger him to do so for some time!) A great interview with Gilad Atzmon and an interesting article on Central Asia's Kyrgyzstan.

Simon Jones Blog


counter-kidnapping during Beslan kidnapping

The other day, a national newspaper, La Repubblica, published an article in its Friday Supplement "Il Venerdì della Repubblica" an article which left me in a state of shock. Not that I couldn't imagine what the Chechyna situation was like, but it published the account of Enrico Piovesana who discloses that during the seige of Beslan, Russian soldiers held two hundred innocent Chechynan civilians hostage in a military base. They were forced to never disclose this as well. So far, the article has not yet been translated into English, but it seems as if they have many articles translated into English, and it might just be a question of days before this appears in English on the site Peace Reporter. In the meantime, I am placing a link to another one of their articles on the practice of arresting and torturing Chechynan civilians. here.

Chechnya - 08.4.2005
Kidnapping for Profit
Third in a series of reports from the Chechen Republic

Before returning to work, Lida tells us, “Ninety per cent of the male population of Chechnya has been tortured, and since the Dubrovka Theatre and the Beslan School terrorist attacks, the soldiers have been kidnapping and raping women too.”

Thursday, April 14, 2005


US GIs cleared in "friendly fire" killing of Italian agent

Online Journal article

Bush administration clears US troops in slaying of Calipari and wounding of Sgrena
By Wayne Madsen

March 15, 2005—The Bush administration took specific legal steps that cleared a U.S. Special Forces assassination team in Iraq from any future criminal proceedings arising from their assassination of Italian SISMI intelligence number two man Nicola Calipari.

Calipari, the deputy head of SISMI and an experienced Iraqi expert, was accompanying freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad International Airport when their Toyota Corolla was fired on by well-trained U.S. sharpshooter assassins. Calipari was on the phone to the office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome, where his wife also works, when he was shot in the head. Sgrena and the driver, a Carabiniere officer, were injured in the attack.

Pentagon officials claim the car was speeding past a checkpoint and that shots were fired only into the engine block. The Italians claim the interior light in the car was on, the car was traveling at only 30 miles per hour, and prominently displayed the Italian flag. Italian intelligence officials also believe that the Americans identified the Italian vehicle because National Security Agency systems had intercepted Calipari's cell phone signals and triangulated its specific location.

The legal protection for the American assassination team stems generally from the refusal of the Bush administration to recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC), but more recently and specifically from a new counterintelligence doctrine outlined by National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave, who was once a member of Ronald Reagan's National Security Council staff. That strategy, announced by Van Cleave at a March 5 speech at Texas A&M University in College Station, calls for "attacking" foreign intelligence services by using counterintelligence operations. The immunity from ICC jurisdiction, the new counterintelligence strategy, the Pentagon's approval of special assassination teams in Iraq and elsewhere, as well as approval of a CIA "Worldwide Attack Matrix," now authorizes U.S. military forces and intelligence agents to assassinate those deemed a threat to the United States.

Calipari and Sgrena, according to well-placed Italian sources, had irrefutable evidence of U.S. war crimes in the siege of Fallujah, involving the use of napalm, mustard gas, and nerve gas.
Sgrena works for the Italian daily, Il Manifesto.

Calipari's intelligence collection efforts and previous hostage rescue missions in Iraq were supplemented by assistance from the Vatican's own intelligence services, which maintained close ties to Eastern Catholic members of Saddam's government, including former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. Calipari's brother is a well-connected monsignor in the Vatican Secretariat.

Calipari maintained liaison with Iraqi resistance fighters, who were formerly members of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, to secure Sgrena's release. This did not sit well with the Bush administration.
According to Italian sources, the ex-Republican Guard members have worked with Italian intelligence to combat the alleged al Qaeda and Abu Musad Al Zarqawi "terrorists" who took Americans, Italians, and others hostage. The Bush administration and its neo-conservative architects of the Iraq war do not want it widely known that the Iraqi resistance is split between ex-Republican Guards, who have worked with the Italians, and fanatic Islamists.

The U.S. hit team wanted to kill Calipari and Sgrena because they had intimate knowledge of the Iraqi resistance and how some loyalists of the U.S.-supported Iraqi regime may have cooperated with the alleged Zarqawi forces to seize Western hostages and decapitate them on videos for propaganda purposes. Many of the beheading videos show masked men who do not appear to be extremist Muslim Iraqis or even Arabs from their build, stance, sporting of jewelry, and, in one case, speaking Russian.

According to Italian sources, the ex-Republican Guardsmen view the alleged Zarqawi and his alleged al Qaeda allies as "monsters," but also know that the ex-Republican Guard members, many of whom are secular Muslims, had nothing to do with the hostage taking and beheadings as often claimed by neoconservatives in the Bush administration.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based journalist and columnist, and the co-author of "America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II."


Zionists make up statistics about Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes

One of the things I love about blogging is finding other blogs! I just found a new one tonight, Recidivist Journals, (by someone who is apparently a fan of EN!) which printed this extremely interesting post:


Mohammed Abed - Blaming the Victim

An editorial by Mohammed Abed in The Badger Herald has some interesting points to make about the campaign that Israel supporters use of blaming the victim. Here are a few excerpts: (also highly recommended reading is his article on Divestment

"In the early 1980s, Israel declassified state documents pertaining to its establishment in 1948, and for the first time, researchers were able to bring ‘acceptable’ evidence to bear on the debate over the creation of the Palestinian refugee ‘problem’ (as if the narrative of nearly a million human beings was not enough).

The work done by these researchers gave substantial if not overwhelming support to the Palestinian narrative concerning the events of 1948. Over a very short time, by force of arms, terror, and massacre, Zionist forces succeeded in driving the indigenous population out of their homes and into neighboring countries.

Covering up crimes of this magnitude is no easy task. To adequately cope with unwanted scrutiny and pressure from the international community, the Israeli government and propaganda system adopted the strategy of ‘blaming the victims.’ The idea was to shift moral culpability for these crimes onto the Palestinians themselves (the victims) by constructing a number of myths about the events of 1948."

He deftly debunks the “Barak’s Generous Offer” Myth:

"So, in return for giving up their right to return to their historic homeland, their right to share Jerusalem, and 40 percent of 22 percent of their historic homeland, the Palestinians get a formalization of the 35-year-old occupation of their lands, and a spatially non-contiguous state that cannot have free economic relations with any other country but Israel, since the areas annexed to Israel are along the outer boundaries of the West Bank, that is, the areas bordering other Arab countries like Jordan.

Movement of people and goods from one “Bantustan” or “autonomous area” to the other is controlled by the occupying colonial power, and the population of these areas function as a source of cheap labor for the Israeli labor market."

His comments about the criminal actions taken against Palestinian civilians, who Israel tries to push off as terrorists are very interesting:

"To get an idea of the kind of policy adopted toward civilians by the Israeli Occupation Forces, one need look no further than the pages of The Boston Globe.

Dan Ephron, Globe correspondent in Jerusalem reports (Nov. 4, 2000) on the findings of the Physicians for Human Rights delegation: “American doctors who examined Israel’s use of force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have concluded that Israeli soldiers appeared to be deliberately targeting the heads and legs of Palestinian protestors, even in non-life-threatening situations.”

This is confirmed by articles in the Israeli Press. In The Jerusalem Post of Oct. 27, 2000, in an article entitled “Nahshon Battalion Ready for Urban Warfare,” Arieh O’Sullivan interviewed an Occupation Force Soldier: “I shot two people … in their knees. It’s supposed to break their bones and neutralize them but not kill them,” says Sgt. Raz, a sharpshooter from the Nahshon battalion. “How did I feel? … Well actually, I felt pretty satisfied with myself,” the 20-year-old soldier confides. “I felt I could do what I was trained to do, and it gave me a lot of self-confidence to think that if we get into a real war situation I’d be able to defend my comrades and myself.”

The logic behind this is that the killing of civilians must proceed slowly in order to avoid unwanted attention from the international community, but maiming them, and putting them out of commission will do nicely thank you.

In the pages of the same Jerusalem Post Article, it is stated that “the overall IDF strategy is to deprive the Palestinians of the massive number of casualties the army maintains Palestinians want in order to win world support and consolidate their fight for independence.”

Finally, the Israeli Occupation Forces apparently attempted to minimize civilian casualties by fighting “hand-to-hand combat” in the Jenin refugee camp last April (2002). One wonders what the options were. Carpet bombing?"

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