The UN Security Council appears to have overcome its divisions and is poised to vote unanimously for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Chances of the resolution being agreed appeared to recede earlier when new disagreements emerged in New York between Arab states and Western powers.
that's bbc on the latest. the united nations security council might take action. (they have, it's on the t.v. right now.) did they just decide israel's actions were outrageous?
and let's go through some of the u.n. comments today and comments made by u.n. members.
this is from u.n. notes on a security council briefing that took place today:
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), echoing the High Commissioner’s admiration for UNWRA’s workers in the Gaza Strip, called for immediate humanitarian access in light of the immense suffering caused by the escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. The United Kingdom called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned acts of terror and violence against civilians.
Pointing out that the majority of people affected by violence did not cross international borders, she expressed strong support for the High Commissioner’s approach to internally displaced persons, encouraging him to see what could be done, in cooperation with humanitarian partners, to enhance the cluster approach. As for the changing causes of forced displacement, the current protection framework was adequate if implemented properly.
Council members did not yet have a unified view on the concept of responsibility to protect, she said, adding that Governments should be helped in discharging their responsibility to protect civilians. The United Kingdom would welcome more regular and ad hoc briefings by the High Commissioner, and the Council should make greater use of UNHCR expertise in formulating mandates. There had been a debate within the United Nations and the international community about whether refugees should be encouraged to return only to their own places of origin, or whether they should be encouraged to go to other places. The United Kingdom needed more information on that discussion.
ABDELRAZAG GOUIDER ( Libya) said no one could appreciate UNHCR’s work more than people living in Africa and the Middle East, which had, over the past few decades, seen wars and natural disasters that had sparked large population flows. Along with protecting displaced persons and refugees, the countries concerned also faced the challenge of coping with the tensions that often arose between the displaced and local populations, as was the case with those displaced from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and other countries. The ideal solution for addressing such problems was to prevent conflict, resolve disputes and resolve tensions, ensure safety and, ultimately, provide livelihoods and jobs.
He went on to recount the disturbing events in Gaza, where the civilian Palestinian population was being displaced due to collective punishment with Nazi-like overtones. The people of Gaza could not flee and had no option but death. The Security Council remained silent while those preventing it from shouldering its responsibilities were evincing tacit approval of Israel’s operations. Libya appreciated the work carried out by UNRWA and its staff in very dangerous conditions, and hoped that the Council could quickly arrange a briefing of that Agency’s Commissioner-General. The Council should ensure that no effort was spared in protecting all civilians in conflict, including displaced persons and refugees.
now this is the united nations summary of the president of the general assembly's press conference on gaza today:
Harshly criticizing the Security Council’s delay in demanding and achieving a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly, said today that the Assembly would hold its tenth emergency special session this afternoon to pressure Israel and the United States to comply with the multitude of United Nations resolutions concerning the question of Palestine.
[It was announced later that the emergency session had been cancelled.]
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, the President lashed out at Israel’s strategy to use the United Nations to stall a ceasefire agreement until it had achieved its military objectives in Gaza. In a statement, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had described Israel’s fundamental diplomatic objective of gaining time to achieve its goals.
“Gain time for what?” Mr. d’Escoto demanded. “So that there can be more killing? So that there can be more destruction and more suffering of innocent people?” Ms. Livni’s views on the need for more time were “almost the same words uttered by (United States Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice during the (2006) Israeli invasion into Lebanon”.
The President continued: “I think that it is not unlikely that the timing of this particular incident now is precisely to be able to do whatever they want to do before ( United States) President [George w.] Bush leaves.”
He said he had received a growing number of requests from Heads of State and diplomats around the world, particularly in the last two days, to convene the emergency session to consider the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, the President declined to name those Member States when asked by a correspondent to do so.
The world, he said, was “fed up” with the inability of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council acting on the Assembly’s behalf, to fulfil its principle and founding objective of averting war and maintaining international peace and security. This afternoon’s meeting was intended to exert pressure to ensure that the Council’s legally binding resolutions were in fact implemented, and that Member States were not allowed to shirk their duty to the Organization. “ Israel should be open to resolutions not only of the Security Council ‑- which it does not care to comply with ‑- but also to resolutions of the General Assembly. After all, it owes its own existence to a General Assembly resolution. That’s more than any other country can say.”
Expressing frustration with the Council’s “dysfunctionality”, he stressed that the international community must not remain silent, and warned that a ceasefire in the current Gaza crisis would not be permanent unless the root causes of the conflict were addressed. The United Nations had created a Jewish State in 1948, but a Palestinian one was yet to be established. On the contrary, Palestinians were humiliated and discriminated against every day, and that must change.
Asked to comment on the moral obligation of the United States Secretary of State to end the Israeli invasion of Gaza, he said she must work for peace rather than block it. She must not betray the ideals of the American people and the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter, which she was obliged to uphold.
Responding to a question about what the Assembly could do specifically to end the Gaza crisis, he stressed the need to ensure that nations complied with the Charter’s call for effective, prompt action to end armed conflict. “Just because the General Assembly is accustomed to not doing very much, doesn’t mean it cannot do something. This is only the beginning of our struggle for peace in the Middle East.”
When pressed to name the countries that had called for the emergency Assembly session, the President said he had consulted with several representatives of Member States, including permanent and non-permanent Council members. Many of them had expressed their belief that a draft resolution on the Gaza crisis would be brought before the Council, where it would be vetoed.
The last meeting of the Assembly’s tenth emergency special session was held on 15 December 2006 to consider illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
and this is the u.n.'s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, director of gaza operations for u.n. relief and works agency for palestine refugees:
The need for a full and immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was becoming more desperate by the hour as continuing violence rendered humanitarian activities increasingly difficult and, in some respects, almost impossible, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said at Headquarters this afternoon.
Indeed, the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had been suspended today following the killing by Israeli tank fire of one driver and the wounding of another in a clearly marked aid convoy less than a kilometre from the Erez crossing. A second convoy dispatched to recover the body of a United Nations staffer had come under small arms fire in Gaza City during today’s three-hour lull in hostilities.
Mr. Holmes, who was joined via video link by John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, emphasized that both convoys had been the subject of careful coordination between the Agency and the Israel Defense Forces through the Israeli liaison office and had been given the green light.
“This is a very, very difficult decision for us to take,” Mr. Ging said. “The population here are in a dreadful state and really need our help, but we also have a responsibility to our staff. We cannot fly in the face of the security situation we find ourselves in.”
The accumulation of incidents against UNRWA staff and facilities, including Tuesday’s shelling of an UNRWA-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, were above and beyond the reasonable risks of a conflict zone, he continued, suggesting that the credibility of the mechanism in place to coordinate humanitarian operations with Israeli authorities had broken down. “If they give us the clearance to move, it is wholly and totally unacceptable that their soldiers on the ground are firing on our aid workers.” Until satisfactory assurances of those workers’ safety could be made, the movement of all UNRWA staff would remain frozen.
He stressed that the key to a resumption of the Agency’s humanitarian efforts was a cessation of violence on both sides. There was an urgent need to end the fighting. Israel’s around-the-clock bombardment had left Gaza’s streets largely deserted and “eerie”, given the enclave’s reputation as one of the most densely populated places on Earth. However, there was an absence of anger among Gazans. They were not anti-Israeli, but at a loss as to why the hostilities were allowed to continue.
Mr. Holmes said that another factor in the decision to suspend UNRWA operations was the fact that the transportation company employing the drivers killed and injured today was the only one authorized to handle the goods crossing at Erez or Kerem Shalom. Until a ceasefire was reached or better security guarantees were provided, that company had decided it could no longer operate. That meant that, even if the crossings were open, and even if another company were convinced to operate in Gaza, all movement of significant goods was suspended.
He reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had also decided to suspend operations. After gaining access to one residential area near Gaza City, its staffers had found 12 corpses lying on mattresses, with, in some cases, small children lying next to their dead mothers, too weak to stand up on their own. In adjacent buildings, 18 survivors, some of them wounded, had been found, in addition to three other bodies. ICRC had been shocked to discover an Israeli military post located some 80 metres from the house, yet no one had intervened in the days since the deadly attack. Rather, the rescue team had been ordered to leave the area.
He said ICRC was arguing that the situation contravened international humanitarian law, an issue that he had raised with the Israeli authorities to ensure the security of humanitarian efforts.
Turning to broader issues in the humanitarian efforts in Gaza, he said the local Ministry of Health was reporting a total of 758 fatalities since the start of hostilities. About 34 per cent, or 257, of those killed were children and 7.5 per cent, or 56, were women. There was a total of 3,100 injured people, of whom 1,080 were children and 452 women.
Although the United Nations could not independently verify those figures, they appeared credible, Mr. Holmes said, noting the rising incidence of civilian casualties, including whole families buried in houses hit in the bombardment. On the other hand, Hamas militants continued firing mortars and rockets into Israel, with total fatalities holding at 4 and more than 30 injured.
Meanwhile, the number of displaced people had risen from 16,000 yesterday to almost 20,000 today, he said. Many of them were now in UNRWA shelters, which were located in schools for the most part. As a result of the overall crisis, public health concerns were growing and hospitals were struggling without enough supplies or workers.
Fuel supplies had entered Gaza and the number of people with running water at some point during the day had increased by 300,000, he said. But sewage pumps were still not working on a widespread basis and the power plant had not been started because the damage to its delivery network was that it was pointless using the fuel until the delivery of power to the local population could be guaranteed. In addition, the Kerem Shalom, Erez and Rafah crossings open in different ways, but there was no final confirmation that some 80 trucks scheduled to enter had been able to do so.
Asked if he could state unequivocally that Israel was responsible for the incidents in questions, Mr. Ging said that, while that Israel might dispute its role in the future, it had not yet done so.
In response to several questions about the tunnel systems in Gaza and what the targeting of those networks might mean, he said he could state categorically that none of those tunnels emanated from United Nations buildings. Furthermore, the Israelis had never alerted him that such might be the case.
Responding to a question about Israel’s claims that militants had been operating out of the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, he said he was confident after visiting the site that no militants had been inside the building at the time of the bombing and no fire had come from within. However, Israel’s position on the issue had shifted to suggest that militant fire had come from the vicinity of the school rather than from inside.
Those responsible should be held accountable for the use of force as regulated by international law, he said. Had the response been appropriate and proportional? Had the duty to have a care for the civilian population within and in the vicinity of the school been discharged? Presumably, Israel accepted that, beyond the two militants they had thus far named as being among the dead, the 41 other casualties were civilians.
Responding to a question about various weapons reportedly used in Gaza, Mr. Holmes said there was no indication at present that cluster bombs were being used. Some assessments by Norway suggested that phosphorus-filled weapons were being used, but ICRC had said it had seen no evidence.
Asked where and when the United Nations had suspended humanitarian operations in the past, Mr. Holmes stressed that only UNRWA’s activities had ceased, not all United Nations humanitarian efforts. While the World Food Programme was considering a similar decision, other organizations such as the World Health Organization continued their work.
now if you read all of that - and this is why i put it in - you'll think, 'the united nations is going to do something and do it immediately!'
if you're thinking that, it is your 1st time at the rodeo.
the u.n. always wants to do something.
the american vote usually ensures that nothing ever happens. on the security council, for example, the u.s. is 1 of the permanent members. any permanent member can veto any action - just 1 permanent member saying 'nix.'
so there is always talk of supporting the palestinians in the u.n. but very little happens to match the wording.
as i said, the t.v. is saying that the u.n. supports an immediate cease-fire. but how far will the u.n. go (or be allowed to go) in order to see that take place?
this is the independent of london (and it's friday there already):
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepened yesterday when the main United Nations aid agency suspended its work in the Strip after one of its drivers was killed by an Israeli tank shell.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said it would restrict its operations after one of its lorry drivers was hurt when a convoy carrying drugs for Gaza hospitals and transferring intensive care patients to Egypt came under fire from Israeli troops south of Gaza City. Both organisations said their convoys had been co-ordinated with the Israeli military.
John Ging, operations director of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said: "We have lost confidence in the mechanism that is there. We are ... prepared to take reasonable risks in this conflict but something has to change with regard to our being able to rely on the liaison that we do with the Israeli military.
a u.n. staffer and a red crosser staffer are hurt in 2 different incidents, hurt by 1 government, and the israeli government gets away with it. always. over and over. i've seen it happen for as long as i've followed the issue.
this is from john pilger's 'Holocaust Denied' (dissident voice):
They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, “Israel’s right to exist”. They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine’s right to exist was canceled 61 years ago and the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous “Plan D” resulted in the murderous de-population of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Jewish army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as “ethnic cleansing”. Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon, “What shall we do with the Arabs?” Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, “made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, ‘Expel them’. The order to expel an entire population “without attention to age” was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world’s most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapan Party co-leader Meir Ya’ari noted “how easily” Israel’s leaders spoke of how it was “possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the roads with them because such is the imperative of strategy … who remembers who used this means against our people during the [Second World] war… we are appalled.”
Every subsequent “war” Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Schlaim, Noam Chomsky, the late Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Yuri Avneri, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein have dispatched this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. “It seems,” wrote the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on 2 January, “that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as desperate events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system… Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government , this ideology — in its most consensual and simplistic variety — has allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide].”
switching topics, the movie posts we did last night are all worth reading and this is an easy to click reference:
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
10 hours ago
Mikey Likes It!
10 hours ago
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
gaza, bette davis
10 hours ago
Clark Gable, Roland Burris
10 hours ago
10 hours ago
Oh Boy It Never Ends
10 hours ago
Like Maria Said Paz
10 hours ago
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
10 hours ago
that's it for me tonight. i know i've gone on and on about gaza for what, 2 weeks? longer? if you're a longterm reader, you know that happens when the palestinians are under attack. this really is my key issue.
let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'
Thursday, January 8, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, another US service member dies in Iraq, the UN discusses refugees, Barack attacks Social Security, and more.
Today Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, informed the UN Security Council about the refugee crisis in the world and noted that the total number of refugees falling under the UNHCR is 11 million -- up from 9 million in 2006 -- with the numbers being driven by Somalia and Iraq. The United Nations notes of his briefing, "In Iraq, UNHCR was working hard to help the Government create appropriate conditions for the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of refugees and the internally displaced, he said. Two million Iraqis were hosted mainly by Jordan and Syria, and a similar number remained displaced inside their own country. UNHCR called on the more prosperous States to offer full support to countries and organizations bearing the brunt of the Iraqi exodus. To prepare for returns, UNHCR had redeployed its represenatives for Iraq from Amman to Baghdad and established an international presence in Erbil, Mosul and Basra. Beyond security, sustainable return to Iraq would require effective action in the areas of property restitution or compensation, and full and equitable access to welfare services and public distribution systems."
Yesterday the US Department of Defense announced "the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sgt. Anthony D. Davis, 29, of Daytona Beach, Fla., died Jan. 6 in Northern Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot by enemy forces. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia." Audrey Parente (Daytona Beach News-Journal) has a strong article on Davis's life. M-NF never announced that death. The way it works -- when it works -- is that M-NF announces a death has occurred. Later, after the family has been notified, DoD issues the name of the deceased. 4223 is the current number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Repeating, 4223. Not 4213, as Eric Owles maintains in a New York Times blog post allegedly written today: "Will it be the Iraq where 4,213 American service members and an estimated 90,000 Iraqis have been killed?" Christmas Day, the death toll was 4217. When did Owles write that 'think' piece? Again, the date on it says today but today's death toll is 4223. As for 90,000? If he can't even get the US death toll correct, don't expect miracles when it comes to Iraqis. Approximately 1.3 million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. Owles is using the numbers from the laughable Iraq Body Count -- numbers embraced by Bully Boy, in case anyone forgot. SourceWatch notes of Iraq Body Count, "However, as Medialens notes: 'In reality, IBC is not primarily an Iraq Body Count, it is not even an Iraq Media Body Count, it is an Iraq Western Media Body Count'." Having tired himself out handling bad numbers, Owles steers readers this post by Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) where Ricks predicts that 2009 will be "tougher" in 2009 than it was in 2008 and that "Obama's war in Iraq may last longer than Bush's". Ricks also notes, "The recent Status of Forces Agreement also means less than it seems. For example, U.S. forces are supposed to get out of major bases in the cities later this year. But there really aren't major big bases in the cities now -- the last time I was in Iraq I was told there is really only one -- and U.S. military advisors will remain in urban outposts along with Iraiq forces. I suspect the SOFA really is most meaninful for the political help it will give Prime Minister Maliki in getting re-elected at the end of 2009 by taking the American presence off the table as a wedge issue for Iraqis."
A presence kind-of departing Iraq is the Denmark military. The Copenhagen Post reports that the last six Danish military officers have left: "The UN mandate for the force ran out at the start of the year and the Iraqi authorities have not asked the Danes to remain in the country." But the paper reports, "Between 40 and 50 members of the armed forces remain in Iraq providing security for the embassy, connected with the UN and on a Nato training mission." As Stevie Nicks once sang, "No one ever leaves, every one stays, close til the fire fades" ("Fireflies," written by Nicks, on Fleetwood Mac Live). Sidebar: Stevie joins bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham for the group's first tour which kicks off March 1st in Pittsburgh (March tour dates are up at Fleetwood Mac's site).
No one ever leaves . . . Elaine Brower (World Can't Wait) reports what happened to those who protest the illegal war in 2009. Tuesday when Congress did it's first day of 'business' (Its business, so very rarely ever the people's business), Activist Response Team staged a March of the Dead which found 70 or so activists in "white masks and wearing all black signifying the souls of those who will be haunting the criminals who are sending bombs to kill Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians and members of the military who are the lethal arm of this government's quest for empire" begam marching in the rain through DC, stopping at the Supreme Court before moving onto the Senate Hart Building where they unfurled banners in the atrium as the names of some of the dead were read out loud. The banners read "THE AUDACITY OF WAR CRIMES," "IRAQ," "AFGHANISTAN" and "PALESTINE" and "Capitol Police, who were present when the march came into the building, quickly responded to remove the words that were so hurtful to those who were guilty of committing these war crimes. Within seconds, the banners were pulled up, but it gave press and other independent media a chance to photograph it all. An everlasting message to the murderers who keep spending taxpayer dollars to kill innocent people. At that point seven people were arrested for unfurling the words of truth, but those on the ground floor of the Hart Buidling remained reading the names of the dead. The police were gathering in force, and just as a secure perimeter was formed around the masked readers, another banner announcing 'WE WILL NOT BE SILENT' was dropped. Quickly, three people were carted off by the police, and the banner was cut down." In all, 17 activsts were arrested including those 'guilty of the crime' of reading the names of the dead outloud.
Though democracy is never 'exportable' possibly the White House had such a difficult time with 'giving' it to Iraq because it wasn't to be found in much of the US? But they will try again January 31st when provincial elections are scheduled. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that yesterday's Holy day was seen as a campaign tool for "Iraq's ruling Shiite Muslim parties" and they conducted a poster war "from Baghdad to the southern city of Karbala" in anticipation of the provincial elections in "14 of the country's 18 provinces." Fadel notes that a number of voters state they will not vote for "their sects or their ethnicity" due to no progress on the ground in terms of basic services. A former school teacher, Widad Hamid, offers another reason, "Unfortunately it seems that when all is told it is Shiite support Shiite." (Hamid is Sunni.) Fadel judges the race in "the Shiite south" to be chiefly between Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance-Islamic Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and notes some were not pleased to see the Holy day co-opted by political campaigns. Basheer Aoun al Anbari states, "Under the past regime God cursed us. Now God curses us again. It upsets us that they use our religion. They did not apply what Imam Hussein symbolizes: justice." Kimi Youshino (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) observes that the "concrete blast walls make the perfect blank canvas for election posters" and that, "Judge Qasim Hasan Abodi, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission, said several candidates and political parties have been warned about defacing posters -- as well as putting them in areas off-limits for posters, including government buildings and security checkpoints." Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that many, many men celeberated the Holy day in honor of Iman Hussein -- allegedly a holiday for all Shi'ites but al-Maliki refused to allow women to participate. Allegedly, the fact that suicide bombers are women resulted in them being blocked from the ceremonies. Of course, many, many more suicide bombers are men and no one blocked them from celebrating.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Basra rocket attack that left four people wounded and 2 Diyala roadside bombing the claimed the lives of 6 Iraqi soldiers with three more wounded. Jordan's Al-Bawaba adds, "According to the AP, an official at the provincial security headquarters in Diyala province said the bombs went off simultaneously Thursday at about 2 a.m. as the patrol was in a village near Jalula." UPI notes the 6 dead and notes another "bombing occured in Rashad . . . killing two [Iraqi] soldiers and wounding two others." Reuters drops back to Wednesday to note a Mosul roadside bombing that left "two municipality cleaners" injured.
Reuters notes "the head of the Badr organisation" was shot dead outside Tuz Khumato.
Yesterday the US State Dept declared that it was supporting "a project to develop a plan for the management and preservation of the archaeological site of Babylon. Funded to nearly $700,000 this project will be carried out by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in partenrship with the IRaq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). Bablyon stands out among Iraq's rich contributions to humanity" and goes on to speak about the US "respect for the cultural heritage of Iraq." Damn shame that was nowhere to be found when Iraq's antiquities were being looted.
In the United States, the Department of Defense is in the news again. A form letter was sent out to the families of service members who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan and the letter opened, "Dear John Doe,". Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) insists this was due to a software problem -- he offers no proof for that but keep insisting if it makes you feel good. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) explains there were 7,000 form letters in all and that the miliary is blaming the subcontractor but was saying that they (the military) still "bore ultimate responsibility" for the error/insult and US Army Gen George W. Casey Jr. will be signing 7,000 form letters of apology. Bumiller notes that the military has stated either a computer glitch or human error caused the problem. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) speaks with the mother of the late US Army Sgt. Michael Carlson, 22 when he died January 24, 2005 in Iraq. Merrille Carlson states, "The indication that anyone would perceive that a hero is not significant, that they would not direct this personally to them, is shattering. While it's a simple mistake, it's a very tragic mistake." Columnist Sharon Grigsby (Dallas Morning News) suggest the military find "a few good copy editors" and concludes, "I've read The Official Line, that it was a printing error by a contractor who forgot to change the placeholder greeting. The Army should have just stuck with the apology and not tried to pass the buck."
And the Pentagon, as UPI notes, has ruled PTSD? No big woop. Certainly not worthy of a Purple Heart. Lizette Alvarez and Erik Eckhom (New York Times) report multiple excuses and minimizations but no real reasons from those who speak to them about the topic. If you read closely, you also grasp that you're seeing why so many suffering from PTSD initially refuse to seek help: The military continues to treat it as a nothing. Read the article, it's not even a 'real' wound. That's the attitude and it's why all the fliers posted in barracks won't change the reluctance of service members, as they prepare for discharge, to say, "I need help." Who needs help from something so insignificant, so minor? Military Order of Purple Heart's John Bircher III 'explains,' "There were wounds there" for 'real' injuries and that to receive a Purple Heart, "Shedding blood is the objective."That is so insulting and it backs up the culture of denial inbred in the US military when it comes to PTSD. Until it's confronted, many will not receive the treatment they need. The Pentagon's latest stunt and the remarks by so many in the article go a long way towards ensuring that PTSD is not seen as the very real war wound that it is. Again, posters in barracks and pamphlets left on tables won't change the perception of PTSD when the entire military culture from on high repeatedly insists it's not 'really' a wound. George Harris (Kansas City Star) dismisses the absurd notion that PTSD isn't worthy of a Purple heart because it's "not caused intentionally" by noting that "no one can argue that the enemy's specific intention in Iraq is to remove a soldier's arm or leg. There intention is to kill" and he notes:
The general public has long stigmatized people with mental illness. In pre-scientific times, mental illness was believed to result from demons, and in modern times some people still believe that people could control mental illness with more desire and self-control.
But severe mental illness, such as PTSD, is accompanied by actual physical changes in the brain. Brain imaging techniques are improving and revealing areas of the brain that show abnormal activity in these disorders.
Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran shares his story at Iraq Veterans Against the War:
I am Benji Lewis. I deployed to Iraq twice in 2004 and 2005 and was discharged honorably in 2007. Recently I have been involuntarily activated from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) by the U.S. Marine Corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an activation that I have been publicly refusing.
The IRR is an inactive group of service members who still have time remaining on their signing agreements and are eligible to call up in states of emergency. The current state of emergency is the open-ended Global War on Terror that includes the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Because of falling reenlistment levels, the United States is finding it difficult to procure sufficient manpower in its efforts overseas. Thus the U.S. government is finding it necessary to reactivate members from the IRR to stave off its shortage of personnel.
Another Iraq War veteran is out of the service finally. Suzanne Swift who was harassed and command raped attempted to go through channels and get help. The military did nothing. Swift self-checked out -- something any sane person would have done in her situation (a sane person might have also grabbed a gun and shot dead her or his attacker) and when her story was finally known, the military tried to silence and punish her and refused to discharge her. Monday, Veterans For Peace published an e-mail from Sara Rich (Suzanne's mother) explaining Suzanne was finally free: "December 31 marked the last official day of Suzanne Swift's active military duty. She sent me a text message after she finished handing in her signed paper work, "DONE" it read."
Turning to US politics, as Cedric and Wally pointed out last night, Barack's ready to 'tackle' that mythical Social Security 'crisis.' Patrick Murphy (WSWS) explains, "Barack Obama took the occasion of his first press appearance in Washington as president-elect to declare his determination to impose policies of budgetary austerity, including the elimination of entire federal programs and cost-cutting in the entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are of vital importance to tens of millions of elderly and poor people." Murphy goes on to warn against the impending "frontal assault on the most important components of what remains of a social safety net in the United States -- the programs that provide at least minimal retirement benefits and medical coverage for tens of millions of elderly people, as well as medical coverage for millions of low-income families." Too busy wallowing in his own filth, The 'Progressive's CEO Matthew Rothschild praises the speech and begins his long belch/gush with, "One of the things I like most about Barack . . ." Do tell, sweetie, do tell. ("Obama Hits Many High Notes in Speech on the Economy" -- no link to trash, Google it if you need a good laugh.) Hillary Is 44 ignores Matty Roth's recommended Kool-Aid (Spineless Saffrow flavored) and declares, "Obama has now revealed what his legacy is to be -- the destruction of Social Security. Ignore the flowery words, Obama is planning a great treachery. Expect PINOs to be silent." Murphy (PUMA Pac) notes, "No wonder the Wall Street Boiz gave so much money to the Precious (ooh, that soft money feels so good). Fat times ahead for them. Hats in hand for the rest of us. Thought it will be rawther amusing to watch teh BOIZ' reaction to this hard swing right." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) offers this context:
This is of course the same argument that George W. Bush made after the 2004 election, when he sought to sell off Social Security to those same "financial markets" that Obama is now trying so assiduously to soothe. No doubt, we will soon see the old scare stories that filled the media then trotted out once again, this time in "progressive" garb. But the truth remains the same: the programs are essentially sound and can be maintained with only relatively small adjustments for many decades, as far as one can reasonably project into the future. Yet it is here, on "entitlements," that Obama wants to make a "tough stand" on government spending. It will be a "central part" of his entire economic program. Getting "entitlements" under control will be one of the first major campaigns of his administration, he says, promising plans in February, just days after he moves into the White House. At the same time, he promises to expand -- to expand -- the multitrillion-dollar war machine that has literally bled the nation dry. He wants to expand a military-industrial-security complex that already devours more money and resources than every other military force on earth combined. He wants more troops, more weapons, an ever-increasing "global strike capability," an escalation of the endless, pointless "War on Terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan (for starters). He has never said a single word about "curbing government spending" on this vast conglomerate of death and destruction. He has not said a single word about rolling back even a few of American military outposts that in their several hundreds now cover the entire globe. At every point, it seems, government spending on the war machine -- including the tens of billions of dollars spent in secret each year on the various tentacles of the "national security" apparatus -- will be increased under the Obama administration.No "cutbacks" here then. No concerns that spending in this area might "grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run." Spending on death and domination is sacrosanct, the true "third rail of American politics," and Obama is not going to touch it -- except to augment it.
Also on Barack, we'll note this from ETAN:Adm. Blair Poor Choice as Director of National Intelligence, Says Rights Group Blair's History with Indonesia and East Timor Raises Questions about Likely Nominee Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391 Ed McWilliams, +1-703-899-5285 January 7 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called Adm. Dennis Blair "a poor choice for intelligence director." The group urged President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide. "During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Admiral Blair undermined U.S. policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999," said Ed McWilliams, a senior U.S. embassy official in Jakarta at the time. "While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts. As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese." "Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. "The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press U.S. Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general," said McWilliams. In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory. Background As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from February 1999 to May 2002, Blair was the highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during the final period of Indonesia's violent occupation of East Timor. During that time he undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance. In April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander of Indonesian forces, just two day after dozens of refugees in a Catholic church in the town of Liquica, East Timor were hacked to death with machetes by militia members backed by the military (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops. Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which the Indonesian military "took as a green light to proceed with the militia operation," according to Allan Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine. In fact just weeks later, refugees from the attack in Liquicia were again attacked and killed in the capital in Dili. Nairn reported that a classified cable summarizing the meeting said that Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest... [Blair] expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to... selected TNI [Indonesian military] personnel on crowd control measures." Nairn writes that the last offer was "quite significant, because it would be the first new U.S. training program for the Indonesian military since 1992." Princeton University's Bradley Simpson writes "According to top secret CIA intelligence summary issued after the [Liquica] massacre, however (and recently declassified by the author through a Freedom of Information Act request), 'Indonesian military had colluded with pro-Jakarta militia forces in events preceding the attack and were present in some numbers at the time of the killings.'" In the bloody aftermath of East Timor's independence vote, "Blair and other U.S. military officials took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the referendum in East Timor. Given the country's history, they argued, it could have been worse," reported the Washington Post's Dana Priest. U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers were among those allegedly involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor. "But at no point, Blair acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET [U.S.-funded programs] to try to stop the brewing crisis," wrote Priest. "It is fairly rare that the personal relations made through an IMET course can come into play in resolving a future crisis," he told her. Despite Blair's repeated overtures and forgiving attitude to Indonesia's military elite, they were of no help in his post-military role as chair of the Indonesia Commission at the influential Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, Blair headed a delegation of observers who intended to visit West Papua. The government refused to let them in, with the Foreign Minister declaring that "there is no need for them to come to Papua." The reason was clear: West Papua has become the new focus of Indonesian military and militia brutality and outside observers are not welcome. Though Blair's dream of renewed military engagement with Indonesia has been realized under the Bush administration, the Indonesian military's human rights violations continue, as does impunity for its senior officers. General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the 1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in elections to take place next year. ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN was a major participant in the International Federation for East Timor's (IFET) observer mission for the 1999 referendum. For more information see ETAN's web site.
the new york timeseric owles
thomas e. ricks
the los angeles timesjulian e. barnes
the washington postann scott tysonlizette alvarezerik eckholm
leila fadelsam dagherchris floyd