Monday, January 26, 2009

389 years ago


Hate. Remorse. Forgiveness

Years after racial strife in Rock Hill, 2 whites apologize to 5 blacks

- The Herald

Next to a lunch counter that was segregated for so long sat a table of two white people and five black people

The conversation quickly took the group back to Jan. 31, 1961.

Elwin Wilson, one of those white men, had come that day to that very lunch counter four steps from where he was now, wanting to pull one of those black men off of the stool he was sitting on. He wanted to give a beating.

Photo 5:        Coleman, had been just outside, among so many, wanting to scream racial epithets.

But 48 years later, Wilson, now 72, and Coleman, in his mid-60s, wanted something entirely different from these five black people.

They wanted forgiveness.

These black men and women -- just a few of the folks known as the "Friendship Nine" and the "City Girls" -- have been honored in museums.

They have been apologized to by politicians.

Photo 2:        Their names are etched on stools at that lunch counter.

But never before had any of the white men from that day in 1961 asked to meet any of them, and sit down with them where it all started and apologize for hating them.

So, David Williamson and Willie McCleod, Phyllis Hyatt and Elsie Springs, and for sure Patricia Sims, didn't skip a beat to forgive.

Williamson said words that he and the other men and women protesters have said for decades.

"We accept your apology," Williamson said. "We forgave everybody a long time ago."

Greetings from Gitmo


60 Minutes: Is Israel's free ride almost over?

By Jane Stillwater

Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" ran a segment on Israel and Palestine, and for the most part they did a good job of covering some of the very real issues there. But according to segment host Bob Simon, "Demographers predict that within ten years Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote." What? Democracy is not a good option?

Although Simon struggled valiantly with presenting a fair view of the so-called "settler" situation on the West Bank, there were a couple of scenes on that subject that made me almost want to laugh. Instead of showing us footage of the thousands of modern (by American standards) condos that have been built on Palestine's West Bank so that we could get real-life glimpses into the lives of some of these so-called "settlers" as they hung out on their verandas, sipped coffee in their posh living rooms or watched their big-screen TVs, Simon showed us footage of some grubby woman in a headscarf as she wandered around on some rock pile out in the middle of nowhere, wielding a pickax.

This woman had obviously never seen a pickax before in her life. This woman appeared to be straight out of central casting.

But here's one scene that "60 Minutes" left out, as described to me by a reliable American reporter currently in Gaza:

Gaza woman: "I have ten children."

Israeli Defense Force soldier: "Pick out five of them to be shot."

Gaza woman: "I cannot do that."

IDF soldier: If you don't, then I will." Soldier then picks out five children randomly and shoots them.

Long term soil devastation in Gaza due to use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium

Losses are huge in the Gaza Strip with many of the devastated population still in tears, some little kids afraid to return to school today.
The environmental effects will continue to be uncovered for years on lands that become less fertile with each invasion and home demolition.
The Agriculture Minister in the Gaza Strip noted today that the Israeli military continues to target farmers on their lands near the boundary lines. Many people are unable to reach the fields. He added on Saturday that in the Mediterranean just off the Gaza coast Israeli naval ships continue to open fire on fishermen, preventing them from working.
Financially speaking it is clear that reconstruction costs in the Strip are around two billion. The Ministry of Agriculture says that another 170 million USD is needed for that sector alone.
Agriculture Minister Mohammad Al Agha told a press conference in Gaza City today that nearly a thousand water wells were destroyed along with 60 percent of the Strips total agricultural land. Included in the 170 million figure needed is the cost for reconstruction to the fishing industry in the Mediterranean Sea.
Massive destruction [was] caused in the agricultural and fishing sector of the Gaza Strip through bulldozing thousands of acres and destroying wells, agriculture and poultry and livestock farms, fishing ports and fishing boats, and canning and packaging plants.
Al Agha said that the Israeli military use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium have a direct impact on agriculture and public health as the length of stay of these toxic substances in the soil will continue to create disastrous results.

The Torch is Passed


Israeli soldiers will get legal backing in any war crimes cases

Israeli military personnel will get full legal backing if war crimes charges are brought against them after the campaign in Gaza, the Israeli Prime Minister has said.

An estimated 1,300 Palestinians died during the three-week battle. Doctors in Gaza claim that 700 of them were civilians and that many were children.

Israel is facing increasing calls at home and abroad to hold independent investigations into allegations that its troops fired into civilian areas and at people carrying white flags, refused to treat wounded Palestinians or allow their evacuation, and killed medics trying to treat the injured.

The army has opened its own inquiry into whether white phosphorus shells were used illegally against built-up civilian areas.

"The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the Gaza operation," Ehud Olmert said during a cabinet meeting yesterday.

Is Afghanistan going to be Obama's Iraq?

The US could find itself isolated as the conflict goes on

By Kim Sengupta and Raymond Whitaker

A soldier on patrol in Afghanistan last week. Up to 30,000 more US troops may be sent in by the summer

President Barack Obama is facing warnings that the US risks repeating some of its errors in Iraq as the new administration turns its focus to Afghanistan, where Nato forces are engaged in a conflict which has already lasted longer than the Second World War.

Having received a briefing on his first day in office from General David Petraeus, the top US commander in the region, Mr Obama is preparing to meet his military chiefs to decide on the size and shape of the Afghanistan reinforcements he promised during his election campaign. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said just before Christmas that up to 30,000 more troops could be sent by summer, nearly doubling the size of the US force in the country. Britain, the next largest contributor in the 41-nation international force, has fewer than 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, which means American dominance of the campaign against the Taliban is set to increase.

"There are fears that this could become a US war rather than a Nato one," said Christopher Langton, senior fellow for conflict at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. "With other Nato members already planning to scale back, the US could find itself isolated. Rather than being an international operation, it would become another 'coalition of the willing', as in Iraq – though with the crucial difference that the Afghan mission has had a United Nations mandate throughout."

Obama-Wan Kenobi #1

Presidential power ... Obama doll takes on Vader

Obama’s new foreign policy team prepares escalated bloodletting in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Patrick Martin

In a series of meetings and public appearances Wednesday and Thursday, and with the first military strikes of his administration, President Barack Obama has given a clear signal that he plans intensified bloodshed in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the US escalates its military intervention in Central and South Asia.

Missiles fired from unmanned Predator drones struck two targets inside Pakistan Friday morning, killing at least 18 people. As is always the case with such exercises in remote-controlled murder, US officials claimed they were targeting Al Qaeda, although even US media accounts admitted that the majority of those killed were local residents.

Three missiles struck the village of Zharki in North Waziristan, killing ten people, of whom five were described by US "security sources" as Al Qaeda militants. A few hours later, another missile hit a house in South Waziristan, killing eight people whose identities were not known.

The strikes were the latest in a series of more than two dozen such attacks since last August, and Pentagon officials said they had carried out the attacks under existing authority from the outgoing Bush administration, while keeping the new president fully informed of the action.

The death toll from the missile campaign, according to Pakistani government figures, numbers at least 263 people. Even US government officials claim only a handful of those killed had any ties to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

The attacks on sovereign Pakistani territory are blatant violations of international law, which the regime in Islamabad protests verbally, while continuing to accept billions in US subsidies to the country's military.

'US strike' on Pakistan kills 21

Pakistani paramedics treat a victim of a missile attack.
The death toll from two suspected US missile strikes in Pakistan -- under President Barack Obama -- has risen to 21, security officials say.

Intelligence officials said eight people including five militants of Arab origin died in the missile strike at a house near Mir Ali, the main town in North Waziristan districts near the Afghan border.

Hours later another suspected US drone fired two missiles into a house in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing seven people.

"Six bodies of local tribesmen were found in the rubble of the house which was destroyed in a US missile strike on Friday just outside the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan district," an official was quoted by AFP as saying.

The attacks were the first since US President Barack Obama took office Tuesday.

Obama-Wan Kenobi #2

The real reason Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich

During Eric Holder's confirmation hearing, Arlen Specter scolded the attorney general-designate, but no one mentioned Israeli pressure.

By Joe Conason

NewsFrom beginning to end, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Eric Holder's nomination as attorney general observed the ban on candid discussion of the main objection to confirming him. The forbidden topic: the real reason behind the pardon of Marc Rich eight years ago, a controversial action that Holder reviewed as deputy attorney general -- and that he failed to oppose for reasons he did not mention.

In an editorial that appeared on the morning of the hearings, the Washington Post urged the Senate to question Holder "closely" on the Rich matter. But it is difficult for senators (and editorial writers) to ask pertinent questions when they are completely ignorant of the real background and motivations of the players in the case. Even now, the true machinations behind the Rich pardon cannot be discussed honestly -- perhaps because they implicate the government and the security services of the state of Israel.

Sitting quiet and grave before the committee, Holder listened as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., one of the leading windbags of our time, held forth on how dreadful Rich is and how awful the pardon was. The fugitive trader, who still lives in Switzerland, had "a reprehensible record," Specter said -- alluding to reports that Rich did business in Iraq and Iran. The Pennsylvania Republican demanded to know how Holder could possibly have recommended a pardon for such an odious figure.

No doubt Holder was advised by the president-elect's transition team not to argue with Specter or anyone else about Rich. He must have been told not to talk about the foreign-policy issues that heavily influenced his view of the Rich decision. So he offered a meek mea culpa, took his lumps from Specter, and promised that his mistakes had made him a better man. Considering that his objective is to get through the hearings without undue stress, that was probably the wisest course. Telling the truth would only have inflamed the Republicans and the press, while creating unwanted drama for Obama.

Still, it would have been a refreshing change from the usual confirmation minuet if instead of humbly apologizing, Holder had tartly instructed the buffoonish Specter, his fellow senators, the press, and the public about the actual circumstances of the Rich affair. He might have started with the fact that continuous lobbying on Rich's behalf from the highest Israeli leaders and their American friends -- among whom Specter no doubt counts himself -- became even more intense in the days before Clinton left office. He could have noted that such pressures coincided with Clinton's efforts to conclude a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. And he could have explained to Specter that Rich's deals in Iran and Iraq were often related to his other role -- as an asset of the Mossad who gathered intelligence and helped to rescue endangered Jews from those regimes.

It is clear that Holder and his colleagues in the Justice Department had ample reason for concern over the proposed pardon, in part because pardoning a fugitive violated precedent. But for the Post to call him "the pardoner" in a front-page headline directing readers to the editorial was grossly unfair. Clinton had sole constitutional discretion to grant the pardon, and he would have done so whether Holder liked it or not.

But Holder understood that there were deeper reasons why the pardon was likely to be approved, which had nothing to do with the political and charitable contributions of Rich's ex-wife, the Manhattan socialite Denise Rich. The New York Times offered just a hint in a front-page story that appeared shortly after the Holder nomination was announced. Only at the very end did the Times mention the pressure from "the Israelis" that had persuaded Holder not to oppose the pardon -- as he told Beth Nolan, then the White House counsel.

Placed in its international context, that remark puts an entirely different coloration on Clinton's decision and on Holder's forbearance.

Obama Should Worry About the Bush Family Tentacles Undermining His Plans

By Russ Baker, AlterNet. Posted January 22, 2009.

Bush may be gone, but his influence -- and the forces that put him in office -- aren't.

As George W. Bush leaves office and Barack Obama takes over, we are in danger of missing the opportunity for change our new president has promised -- unless we come to grips with what the great historian and Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin called our "hidden history," not just of the past eight years but of the past half-century and more. 

President Obama will face a staggering array of challenges, most, if not all, of which stem from the policies of Bush. But efforts at reform will fall short if we fail to probe and confront the powerful forces that wanted this disastrous administration in the White House in the first place -- and that remain ready and able to maintain their influence behind the scenes today.

Like most people, I took the failings of George W. Bush at face value: an inattentive, poorly prepared man full of hubris, who committed colossal blunders as a result. Then I spent five years researching my new book, Family of Secrets and came to see that the origins go much deeper. This backstory is getting almost no attention in the talking-heads debate over the Bush legacy. Yet it will continue to play, affecting our country and our lives, long after Bush leaves office.

A more profound explanation for the rise of George W. Bush came as I studied the concerted effort  to convince the public that he was  independent of, and often in disagreement with, his father. The reason for this, it turned out, was that exactly the opposite was true. W. may have been bumptious where his father was discreet, but in fact the son hewed closely to a playbook that guided his father and even his grandfather.

Over much of the last century, the Bushes have been serving the aims of a very narrow segment from within America's wealthiest interests and families -- typically through involvement in the most anti-New Deal investment banking circles, in the creation of a civilian intelligence service after World War II, and in some of that service's most secretive and still-unacknowledged operations.

Through declassified documents and interviews, I unearthed evidence that George W. Bush's father, the 41st president of the United States, had been working for the intelligence services no less than two decades before he was named CIA director in 1976. Time and again, Bush 41 and his allies have participated in clandestine operations to force presidents to do the bidding of oil and other resource-extraction interests, military contractors and financiers. Whenever a president showed  independence or sought reforms that threatened entrenched interests, this group helped to ensure that he was politically attacked and neutralized, or even removed from office, through one means or another.

We are not dealing here with what are commonly dismissed as "conspiracy theories."  We are dealing with a reality that is much more subtle, layered and pervasive -- a matrix of power in which crude conspiracies are rarely necessary and in which the execution or subsequent cover-up of anti-democratic acts become practically a norm.

Obama-Wan Kenobi #3