Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision
by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, 2 Feb (IPS) - CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 18 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."

A seat at the table

Proposed legislation in Congress would set up camps for U. S. citizens

By the Editor from news agency sources

A bill proposed by Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings would set up a series of emergency centres on U. S. military installations.  House Resolution 645 provides that no fewer than six such centres will be built and would give emergency aid, housing and relief services for citizens during a time of disaster or national emergency.  

Even though the intend of the bill sounds humanitarian, the provision listed in Section Two, Paragraph B-4 raises the most questions.  The wording reads…

    (4) to meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

To read the text of the entire bill, click here:

The wording of the bill doesn't define 'appropriate needs', nor does it specify why the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for administration of the bill's various provisions.

Some commentators wonder about the bill's true purpose in the same breath that they talk about recession-related riots in Lithuania, Greece and other western countries.  There is concern that the move to return combat-ready military units to the U. S. is a step towards making these centres 'concentration camps' for American citizens.

Writing on this legislation, Representative Ron Paul says that the bill would supplement other 'emergency powers' granted to the federal government since 9/11 and be the mechanism for imposing martial law.  Paul says some questions need to be asked…

'With this in mind, it appears as if these so called national emergency centers will be used in a national emergency but only if the national emergency requires large groups of people to be rounded up and detained. If that isn't the case, than why have these national emergency facilities built in military installations?'

Al Jazeera announces launch of free footage under Creative Commons license

On January 13, 2009, Al Jazeera Network announced the world's first repository of broadcast-quality video footage released under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution (CC By 3.0) license. Select Al Jazeera video footage will be available for free to download, share, remix, subtitle and eventually rebroadcast by users and TV stations across the world with acknowledgment to Al Jazeera, marking the first time that video footage produced by a news broadcaster is released under the CC By 3.0 license, which allows for both commercial and non-commercial use. You can access the repository online at

They both proved that anybody can grow up to be president!

Gaza Doctor Says Death Toll Inflated

Is there more to the figures than meets the eye?

YNet News asks:

What really is behind the numbers reported on the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip? Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported Thursday that a doctor working in Gaza's Shifa Hospital claimed that Hamas has intentionally inflated the number of casualties resulting from Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

"The number of deceased stands at no more than 500 to 600. Most of them are youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter," according to the newspaper article....

A Tal al-Hawa resident told the newspaper's reporter, "Armed Hamas men sought out a good position for provoking the Israelis. There were mostly teenagers, aged 16 or 17, and armed. They couldn't do a thing against a tank or a jet. They knew they are much weaker, but they fired at our houses so that they could blame Israel for war crimes."

The reporter for the Italian newspaper also quoted reporters in the Strip who told of Hamas' exaggerated figures, "We have already said to Hamas commanders – why do you insist on inflating the number of victims?"

These same reporters mentioned that the truth that will come out is likely to be similar to what occurred in Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin. "Then, there was first talk of 1,500 deaths. But then it turned out that there were only 54, 45 of which were armed men," the Palestinian reporters told the Italian newspaper.


Gazans say Israel used them as human shields

The Israeli soldiers outside Majdi Abed Rabbo's home were after the three Hamas fighters holed up next door, and they wanted Abed Rabbo...

EZBT ABED RABBO, Gaza Strip — The Israeli soldiers outside Majdi Abed Rabbo's home were after the three Hamas fighters holed up next door, and they wanted Abed Rabbo to be their point man.

For the next 24 hours, Abed Rabbo said, the soldiers repeatedly forced him to walk through the battle zone to see whether the militants were dead or alive.

Abed Rabbo wasn't alone. Eight other residents in this northern Gaza Strip neighborhood told McClatchy Newspapers in separate interviews that Israeli soldiers had conscripted them to check homes for booby traps, to smash holes in the walls of houses so that soldiers could use them as escape routes or to try to pull dead Palestinian militants from the rubble.

Conscripting Palestinians during the recent fighting in Gaza would appear to violate not only international law, but also Israel's court-imposed ban on using civilians as human shields.

"The laws of war make it clear you must distinguish between civilians and combatants and you cannot force a civilian to take on a combat role," said Daniel Reisner, a legal scholar who spent nearly a decade as the head of the Israeli military's international law department. "Using a human shield is illegal."

On one...

Why Are We Still at War?

by Norman Solomon

William McKeen sits at the grave of his best friend, Kevin Lucas.
At Arlington National Cemetery, William McKeen sits at the grave of his best friend, Kevin Lucas. (Photo: Getty Images)

    The United States began its war in Afghanistan 88 months ago. "The war on terror" has no sunset clause. As a perpetual emotion machine, it offers to avenge what can never heal and to fix grief that is irreparable.

    For the crimes against humanity committed on September 11, 2001, countless others are to follow, with huge conceits about technological "sophistication" and moral superiority. But if we scrape away the concrete of media truisms, we may reach substrata where some poets have dug.

W.H. Auden: "Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."

Stanley Kunitz: "In a murderous time / the heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking."

    And from 1965, when another faraway war got its jolt of righteous escalation from Washington's certainty, Richard Farina wrote: "And death will be our darling and fear will be our name." Then as now came the lessons that taught with unfathomable violence once and for all that unauthorized violence must be crushed by superior violence.

    The US war effort in Afghanistan owes itself to the enduring "war on terrorism," chasing a holy grail of victory that can never be.

    Early into the second year of the Afghanistan war, in November 2002, a retired US Army general, William Odom, appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program and told viewers: "Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It's a tactic. It's about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we're going to win that war. We're not going to win the war on terrorism."

    But the "war on terrorism" rubric - increasingly shortened to the even vaguer "war on terror" - kept holding enormous promise for a warfare state of mind. Early on, the writer Joan Didion saw the blotting of the horizon and said so: "We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of Sept. 11 to justify the reconception of America's correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war."

    There, in one sentence, an essayist and novelist had captured the essence of a historical moment that vast numbers of journalists had refused to recognize - or, at least, had refused to publicly acknowledge. Didion put to shame the array of self-important and widely lauded journalists at the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS and National Public Radio.

    The new US "war on terror" was rhetorically bent on dismissing the concept of peacetime as a fatuous mirage.

Report: U.S. troops exposed to 231 shock incidents

U.S. troops in Iraq suffered electrical shocks about every three days in a two-year period surrounding the electrocution death of a Shaler Green Beret, according to an internal Defense Contract Management Agency report obtained by the Tribune-Review.

The 45-page document -- a high-level request for corrective action generated last fall -- found that Texas-based military contractor KBR Inc. failed to properly ground and bond its electrical systems, which contributed to soldiers "receiving shocks in KBR-maintained facilities on average once every three days since data was available in Sept. 2006."

The agency determined that KBR "failed to meet basic requirements to identify life-threatening conditions on tanks, water pumps, electrical outlets and electrical panels."

The report adds that government search results of a KBR-maintained database revealed that 231 electrical-shock incidents occurred in the period from September 2006 through July 31, 2008 -- indicating that the activity continued long after the death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, who suffered cardiac arrest after stepping into his Baghdad shower on Jan. 2, 2008.

Records show Maseth was electrocuted when he turned on the water that flowed through metal pipes. The Army Criminal Investigation Division recently determined Maseth's death was negligent homicide, rather than an accident as previously reported.

The Army named KBR and singled out two unidentified company supervisors for potential criminal liability. As yet, no charges have been filed.

Obama oasis


By Bill Press

 Barack Obama has only been president since Jan. 20, but he's already learned a powerful lesson: Bipartisanship is a myth. At least, it's a myth at this time in Washington, with this gang of negative, out-of-touch, calcified Republicans led by the clueless John Boehner.

 God knows he tried. Even before being sworn in as president, Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with House and Senate Republicans. In his first week in office, he invited Republican leaders to the White House. But he didn't stop there. In a gesture seldom seem in partisan-bound Washington — how often did George W. Bush go to Congress to meet with Democrats? — Obama drove up to Capitol Hill to have lunch with Republican members.

 Both in his speeches and actions, Obama's extended the hand of bipartisanship to Republicans. And how did they respond? By stabbing him in the back. When his $819 billion stimulus package came up on the House floor, not one Republican voted for it. Not one. So much for bipartisanship.

 Obama's wasting his time seeking bipartisanship. Not that it's not a worthy goal. In fact, that's just what the American people want: for leaders of both parties to put aside their differences, sit down together, and get to work solving problems. And, clearly, working in a bipartisan manner is what Obama wants. But not Republicans. They chose, instead, to reject the will of the American people, ignore the grave economic crisis facing the nation, and slap, not shake, the hand of friendship Barack Obama extended across the aisle.

 Why? Because Republicans care more about their party than their country.

Naked Republican Goons 33 1/3: The Final Insult

I really didn't want to write about the charmless debauchery of House Republicans again so soon, but when acute legislative events mix with the GOP's chronic yahooism, what's a helpless commentator to do?

It was shortly after 5 p.m. Central, and there on the screen was MSNBC's David Shuster quizzing Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, about the pending economic stimulus vote.

Then to split screen: Van Hollen on the right, the House floor on the left, upon which stood 432 representatives who were, in fact, already voting, as indicated by the superimposed and accumulating number columns.

So, asks Shuster of Van Hollen, what do you think? (The former was unaware the voting had already begun.) How much Republican support will you get this evening? Oh, says Van Hollen -- Republican Nay-to-Yea votes, 117-0, said the screen -- well gee that's hard to say with any precision -- Republican votes, 130-0 -- but I'm sure -- Republican votes, 155-0 -- that we'll get some reasonably respectable level of Republican support -- Republican votes, 172-0 -- because this vote, this issue, these perilous times are so soberingly momentous.

Commercial break, I flip to C-Span: Republican Nays, 177; Yeas, 0.

They had gone and done it; they had gone and shown themselves to be complete asses.

The totality of House GOP swinishness caught everyone off-guard, although it's difficult in retrospect to imagine why. For this is what they've trained and studied for: uniform infantilism, especially whenever the country cries out for mature governance and some -- any -- semblance of bipartisan compromise and cooperation.

Each House GOPer had his or her little militant manual firmly in hand -- their very own prized edition of Mein Dummkampf, penned by the macroeconomically ignorant likes of the party's Rush Limbaughs and dedicated to their stormtrooping baboon-corps of Sean Hannitys.