Thursday, 28 May 2009


China says 'no thanks' to G-2

By Jian Junbo
Asia Times Online

SHANGHAI - At the Sino-European Union (EU) summit in Prague
last week, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao rejected the
concept of a Group of Two (G-2) comprising China and the
United States, saying "it is totally ungrounded and wrong
to talk about the dominance of two countries in
international affairs".

It was the first time a Chinese leader has publicly
commented on the notion of a G-2, though Wen and a number
of Chinese officials and think-tanks had cast doubt on the
practicability of past notions of a "Chimerica".

The idea of a G-2 was first forwarded by US academic
circles in 2006, but it was raised again by Zbigniew
Brzezinski, an influential specialist in international
relations and national security advisor to former US
president Jimmy Carter, in Beijing in January as the two
countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of establishing
formal diplomatic ties.

Similar to "Chimerica", which would put the US and China at
the forefront of international affairs, the idea of a G-2
grouping has attracted wide attention, especially as
Brzezinski was an advisor to President Barack Obama during
the presidential elections.

In the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in London last month, the
G-2 was floated again in the Western media and academic
circles. Then after several weeks, on the eve of this
month's just-concluded 11th Sino-EU summit, British Foreign
Secretary David Miliband predicted that over the next few
decades, China would become one of the two "powers that

He said, "China was becoming an indispensable power in the
21st century in the way [former US secretary of state]
Madeleine Albright said the US was an indispensable power
at the end of the last century". He also argued it would be
up to Europe if it wanted to change the G-2 into a G-3.

While widely discussed, the concept of a G-2 has not been
clearly defined. According to Brzezinski, G-2 described the
current reality, yet for Miliband, G-2 was a possibility in
the foreseeable future.

The exact structure of the proposed G-2 is also unclear. A
G-2 would seem to imply that the group would have the
strength, capability and will to set the agenda for
international affairs. It could be argued, as only two
countries are involved, that this would resemble world

China has neither the capacity nor the desire to become a
member of a G-2. It is true that China has the world's
third-largest economy, is the biggest creditor to the
world's sole superpower - the United States, and is one of
the five permanent members of the United Nations Security
council, and China indeed seems a big power.

However, with its huge population and wealth and
development gaps, China can also be seen as a poor,
underdeveloped country - its per capita GDP was ranked
104th globally last year by the World Bank. China is still
a developing country, and by comparison the US is far more
advanced in almost all economic sectors and in soft power
and military strength. At this stage and in the foreseeable
future, there is no match between China and the US in terms
of overall strength.

The responsibility of a G-2 member to jointly shape the
world's economy and international affairs is too far beyond
China's ability and ambitions. It is unwise for a country,
like a person, to commit itself to something beyond its
ability. That is why when Western commentators discuss the
G-2, China is inevitably suspicious of their intentions.
Many Chinese scholars fear that under a G-2, China could be
enmeshed into a structure built by the US, and required to
make more contributions to world economic and social
development than it can afford.

A G-2 would also imply a need for China to overhaul
domestic governance. As a member of G-2, China would need
to be a leader in both foreign and internal affairs, and
this has raised fears of Western intervention in China's
domestic affairs.

The grouping also goes against core principles of China's
foreign policy such as multilateralism and the desire for a
multipolar world order. For example, Wen stressed on at the
Prague Sino-EU summit the importance of China's relations
with the EU.

Another major reason for China to reject a G-2 is that it
is would not be legitimate international structure. If G-2
was built with the help of the US, then the question is who
can empower or authorize the US to do that? We can imagine
the G-2 would be refused by most countries if taken to a
global referendum. No other country, except for US, wants
to see the emergence of "pax-Chimericana". The rejection of
a G-2 does not mean China will shirk its global
responsibilities. China has welcomed the increased role it
and other big developing countries enjoy through the G-20

Even if a G-2 became a reality, it could never replace the
power, function and authority of the UN as the sole
international organization recognized by the majority of
states in the world. Although there are many problems that
the UN faces in regard to its effectiveness and
accountability, it is still the best platform for the
international community to peacefully deal with issues of
common interest.

As the US became the target of anti-Americanism in the
world after former president George W Bush started the Iraq
war in 2003, G-2 one day could also be the target of
anti-hegemony or anti-imperialist movements, affecting
China's global image.

Another reason is related to the rise of civil society as
an increasingly important factor in international
governance, especially since the end of the Cold War.
Without the participation of transnational non-government
organizations (NGOs), many international issues can not be
resolved successfully. Yet if G-2 was accountable for
international governance it could be a threat to global
civil society because as a hegemonic structure it could
limit the function and ability of other actors including
other countries, the UN and lots of NGOs.

It is self evident that a G-2 would not be good for other
countries and powers, especially rising industrial stars
like India, Russia and Brazil. All of these nations have
the ambition to compete for influence and power with both
US and China in the international arena. The idea of a G-2
is based neither upon the realities of international
politics nor on the willingness of China and the rest of
the world.

Dr Jian Junbo is assistant professor of the Institute of
International Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.


US jails men in Hamas aid case


A US court has sentenced the former heads of a Muslim
charity to 65 years in prison for providing aid to the
Palestinian group Hamas.

Shukri Abu-Baker, the charity's ex-chief executive, and
Ghassan Elashi, its former chairman, were two of five Holy
Land Foundation employees convicted last year of giving
more than $12m to Hamas.

"I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas,"
Abu-Baker told a Texas court on Wednesday, according to a
Dallas Morning News website report.

Holy Land's co-founder, Mohamed El-Mezain, who is related
to Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader, was sentenced to 15
years in jail for providing aid to the group.

The others, Mufid Abdulqader, the brother of Hamas
political leader Khaled Meshaal, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the
charity's New Jersey representative, were convicted on
three counts of conspiracy.

Odeh was sentenced to 15 years while Abdulqader, the
foundation's fundraiser, received 20 years.

'Inspired faith'

"I do acknowledge the verdict in this trial," Abdulqader
said during the sentencing hearing.

"I believe in the system. My faith has not been shaken,
it's been inspired. But it is un-American to ignore
suffering and starving women and children."

Abu-Baker and Elashi were convicted of a combined 69
charges, including supporting a specially designated
"terrorist" organisation, money-laundering and tax fraud.

Abdulqader and Odeh were convicted on three counts of

The Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity
in the US, was itself convicted on all 32 counts.

An earlier trial ended in October 2007 with one man
acquitted on 31 charges but jurors unable to agree on
verdicts for others.

'Political' case

Prosecutors said the charity was spreading Hamas's ideology
by funding schools, hospitals and social welfare programmes
controlled by the group in the Palestinian territories, and
permitting it to divert funds to the activities of

The charity's supporters countered that the government was
politicising the case as part of its so-called war on
terror and ignoring the foundation's charitable mission in
providing aid to the poverty-stricken Palestinian

Government officials had raided Holy Land's headquarters in
December 2001, and George Bush, the then US president,
later announced the seizure of the charity's assets as
"another step in the war on terrorism".

But defence lawyers said their clients had been put on
trial partly because of their family ties to members of
Hamas, such as Abdulqader's brother Meshaal, who is in
exile in Syria.

As grounds for an expected appeal, lawyers for the men are
expected to challenge testimony given by an anonymous
Israeli government agent, whose evidence was kept secret
from the defence.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Sri Lanka wards off Western bullying

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asia Times Online

The strange lineup of the member countries of the United
Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for or against Sri
Lanka at the special session of the body scheduled to take
place in Geneva on Tuesday underscores the maritime Great
Game unfolding in the Indian Ocean.

Geopolitics is drowning the lamentations over the
legitimate aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils for equity,
justice and fair play and the perennial human-rights
questions that arise when the state violates the integrity
of the individual. Control of the maritime routes of the
Indian Ocean through which 70% of total world traffic of
petroleum products passes - and half of the world's
container traffic - takes precedence over the tragic plight
of the 300,000 ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka uprooted from
their life. The focus of the world powers is on becoming
the "Lord of the Malaccas".

The special session is being convened in Geneva at the
request of 17 of the 47 members of the UNHRC, including
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,
Switzerland and Britain. Hovering in the background is the
United States. The initiative is primarily of the European
Union (EU) and it aims at forcing Sri Lanka to face charges
of gross human-rights violations in its war against the
Tamil insurgents. An UNHRC recommendation to set up an
international commission of inquiry will not mean the end
of the world, but it can be a needless headache. An UNHRC
special session has been called only on 10 previous

However, Colombo is not browbeaten. The seasoned poker
player has tabled a counter resolution titled "Assistance
to Sri Lanka in the promotion and Protection of Human
Rights". Believe it or not, the Sri Lankan resolution
commends Colombo for its victory over terrorism and
solicits funding from a grateful international community.
The 12 co-sponsors of the Sri Lankan resolution include
China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the
Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Russia, China backing Colombo The outcome of the UNHRC
special session can be foretold. The EU won't get anywhere.
It had better think of approaching the International
Criminal Court based in The Hague. But then, Sri Lanka is
not a signatory state. The "international community" can
get the United Nations Security Council to refer the case
to the ICC, in which case the ICC is mandated to summon a
non-signatory state. But then China and Russia wield veto

As soon as Colombo declared victory in the war against the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu took friendly note of it. "As
a friendly neighbor, China has kept a close eye on how the
Sri Lankan situation developed. We sincerely hope Sri Lanka
will make efforts to accomplish national reconciliation,
social stability and economic progress," Ma said.

Equally, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei
Nesterenko "welcomed" Colombo's success in "restoring
control over the entire territory of the country" and
liberating the civilians held hostage. Russia "supports the
fight of the Sri Lankan government against terrorism and
separatism and for state sovereignty and territorial
integrity" and stands ready to "strengthen further its
cooperation [with Sri Lanka] ... both in a bilateral format
and in regional and international organizations on
counter-terrorism and on other themes of mutual concern".

China and Russia will ensure that the "international
community" cannot torment Colombo. They have invited Sri
Lanka to come close to the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization as a "dialogue partner". In essence, Sri Lanka
is transforming as the theater where Russia and China are
frontally challenging the US's incremental global strategy
to establish a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
presence in the Indian Ocean region.

The US has succeeded in bringing NATO up to the Persian
Gulf region. In October 2007, NATO conducted its first-ever
naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. The alliance is
swiftly expanding its relationship with Pakistan. The
chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike
Mullen told a US Congressional hearing on Thursday, "Where
I see NATO going is increasingly towards a broader and more
in-depth relationship with Pakistan, because of the common
interests." But it is Sri Lanka that will be the jewel in
NATO's Indian Ocean crown. Russia and China (and Iran) are
determined to frustrate the US geostrategy.

US pressure won't work But the US has taken a position of
high principles - the human-rights situation in Sri Lanka.
It can block Sri Lanka's application for a US$1.9 billion
emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Sri Lankan economy is in dire straits. US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton said on May 15 that this "is not an
appropriate time" to talk about the IMF loan. She confirmed
that the US had "raised questions about the IMF loan at
this time".

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly has linked the release
of the IMF loan to Colombo allowing the UN, the
International Committee of the Red Cross and other
international aid agencies, to access the camps where
"hundreds of thousands" of internally displaced Tamils
uprooted in the fighting are sheltered.

Washington is peeved that Colombo already forgot it was the
vehement US support that enabled Colombo to launch the
military operations against Sri Lanka in 2006. But the Sri
Lankan government would say it reciprocated the US backing
by signing in March 2007 an Access and Cross Servicing
Agreement with the US that allows American warships and
aircraft to use facilities in Sri Lanka.

At any rate, the US feels snubbed that Sri Lanka spurned
its offer a few months ago to dispatch a naval force to
evacuate or provide humanitarian assistance to the Tamil
civilians trapped in the war zone. An "assessment team" of
the US Navy visited Sri Lanka with a view to work out the
range of options for the operation. But Colombo somehow
developed cold feet about the wisdom of inviting US
"humanitarian intervention". Quite possibly, third
countries might have alerted Colombo to the risks involved.

Unsurprisingly, Washington is pressuring Colombo. Kelly
said on Thursday, "The international community needs to
make an assessment of exactly what happened and consult
with the Sri Lankan government on the way forward ... we
need to take things a step at a time. We need to focus on
the humanitarian situation, and we need to focus on
starting a political reconciliation process. Once we take
those steps, we can start looking at the broader issue of
economic and trade issues [IMF loan]".

However, the US pressure tactic may not work. Like in the
case of Myanmar or Sudan, if Washington steps up pressure,
China may come to Sri Lanka's help. There is moral
muddiness all around. Simply put, a "containment strategy"
on the part of the US towards Sri Lanka becomes unworkable.
Testy times lie ahead.

On Friday, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa accused
unnamed foreign powers of having tried to stop the military
operations against the LTTE by "threatening to haul us
before war crimes tribunals" and that he was ready "to go
to the gallows".

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (who is
the president's brother) told an Indian TV channel, "If one
talks of taking our military to a war crimes tribunal,
before that you have to take US troops, UK troops, all
those troops and all those leaders, into war crimes
[tribunals]." He was angrily responding to the EU demand
for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes by Sri
Lankan army.

India-China rivalry The countries that are backing Sri
Lanka at the UNHRC special session on Tuesday have a
convergence of interest insofar as they oppose the doctrine
of "humanitarian intervention" in sovereign states. China
and India have been at the receiving end in the past on the
human-rights issue and have extended mutual support in
warding off UNHRC pressure.

But in the present context, the motives of China and India
are complex. The fact is, China has exploited Sri Lanka's
vulnerability to secure the pre-eminent status of a
"steadfast ally". China is building in Hambantota a $1
billion port that it may eventually use as a refueling and
docking station for its navy as it patrols the Indian Ocean
and protects China's sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. Jane's
Defence Weekly has reported on Chinese supplies of
ammunition and ordnance for the Sri Lankan army and navy.
The Stockholm International Peace Foundation says China
gifted Sri Lanka six F7 jet fighters last year. Chinese aid
for Sri Lanka touched $1 billion last year. China is
presently Sri Lanka's number one foreign donor, overtaking
Japan. (The US and the UK gave measly amounts of $7.4
million and $1.9 million, respectively.)

India views the Chinese inroads into Sri Lanka with
disquiet as part of a broad move into the Indian Ocean. But
India faces an acute dilemma. Delhi hopes to influence
Colombo to seek an early settlement of the Tamil problem,
which has serious implications for India's politics and
national security. But its capacity to cajole the diehard
Sinhalese nationalists to compromise and reconcile suffers
as long as China backs Colombo to the hilt. Colombo's
defiant statements to the West also hold a subtle message
for Delhi.

If Delhi tries to roll back its substantial political,
military and economic support to Sri Lanka, China will
simply step in. The lure of Sri Lanka for China cannot be
overestimated by Delhi. Colombo plays the game beautifully.
Before procuring weapons from China, Colombo first presents
the wish list in Delhi. If Delhi declines, it promptly
approaches Beijing. (This was what happened in the case of
Hambantota port, too.)

Therefore, Delhi is unsure about Washington's pressure
tactic. It has known Colombo all through as a tough
negotiator - be it on the rights of Indian fishermen or
over Kachativu Island or regarding stateless persons of
Indian origin. Colombo stonewalled for decades all Indian
attempts to mediate a settlement to the Tamil problem.

Great Game in the Indian Ocean Clearly, it is far too
simplistic to portray Sri Lanka as a mere playpen of
China-India rivalry. There is a huge geopolitical backdrop.
The US's naval dominance is declining. On the other hand,
China's navy may have more warships than the US's in the
coming decade.

In the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, noted
strategic thinker and author Robert Kaplan analyzed the
power plays in the Indian Ocean. As Kaplan wrote, the US is
"beginning an elegant decline by leveraging the growing sea
power of allies such as India and Japan to balance against

To a great extent, the US volte face on Rajapksa's war
(after having been such a strong supporter until quite
recently) stems from the strategic setback it suffered
insofar as while the American admirals had been scared away
by Sri Lanka's ethnic strife, China simply moved in. The
West finds Rajapaksa getting too close to China for its
comfort. On China's part, however, the fueling station in
Sri Lanka becomes vital for optimally using the series of
port facilities that it has lined up in Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Myanmar connecting the southern Chinese
province of Yunnan.

The naval presence in Sri Lanka becomes invaluable for
China if the planned canal across the Isthmus of Kra in
Thailand materializes connecting the Indian Ocean with
China's Pacific coast, a project that has the potential to
dramatically shift the balance of power in Asia. Therefore,
no matter what it takes, Beijing will strive to expand its
influence in Sri Lanka and help Colombo ward off US

But, having said that, the US also has a need for greater
cooperation with China. To quote Kaplan, the US "seizes
every opportunity to incorporate China's navy into
international alliances; a US-Chinese understanding at sea
is crucial for the stabilization of world politics in the
21st century". This in turn creates a compulsion for the US
to both act as a "broker" between India and China and as a
moderator of the competition between the two hugely
ambitious powers. As Kaplan put it, even as India and China
"bump into each other" in the Indian Ocean, "the job of
managing their peaceful rise will fall on the US Navy to a
significant extent".

Curiously, during a visit to Delhi on May 14, the US
Pacific Command chief Admiral Timothy J Keating dropped a
bombshell among the unsuspecting Indians by revealing that
he declined an offer recently from a top-ranking Chinese
naval official for a US-Chinese understanding to split the
seas east of Hawaii and west of Hawaii between the two

Keating went on to say that on his part, he invited China
to join the annual US-India naval exercises codenamed
"Malabar Exercises" (which strategists in Delhi fancy as
their exclusive partnership with the US), but China
declined, saying it preferred to be an observer. Kaplan was
right in saying, "There will be surely tensions between the
three [US, Chinese, Indian] navies, especially as the gaps
in their relative strength begins to close."

What all this adds up to in immediate terms is that Colombo
will be plainly dismissive of the UNHRC meet on Tuesday.
Indeed, its first instinct is to hoot with derision. The
Sinhala establishment is fully aware of Sri Lanka's immense
strategic value in the accelerating power struggle in the
Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka sits on a central theater of global
conflict and competition and will derive leverage to
reinforce its sovereignty and independence and its
strategic autonomy.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Monday, 25 May 2009


[Protesters in Luton's city centre stormed the streets wearing balaclavas]

Nine arrested after masked mob's march
against Muslim
extremists turns violent

Daily Mail
25th May 2009

Nine people have been arrested after hundreds of
anti-Islamist protesters clashed with police yesterday.

The streets of Luton descended into violence after
demonstrators, many hiding their faces behind balaclavas,
brandished England flags and chanted at officers.

A group called March for England was said to have organised
the rally as a peaceful protest against Muslim extremists.
They were joined by a local group United People of Luton.
Demonstrators gathered in George Square in Luton town
centre yesterday

Two of those arrested have been charged: one man for
possessing an offensive weapon after stones were found in
his pockets, and a woman was charged with breaching an
anti-social behaviour order.

Another man was fined £80 for a public order offence.

The other six people, all men, have been bailed without
charge pending further inquiries.

During the protest, the mob, which included teenagers and
women, held banners with slogans such as 'No Sharia Law in
the UK' and 'Respect our Troops'.

Some protesters wore masks with the horned face of Sayful
Islam, a local hardline political agitator who led Muslim
demonstrators in an anti-war protest during the Royal
Anglian Regiment's homecoming parade in Luton in March.

But chaos broke out when a crowd of around 500 ran away
from police who had been escorting the protest along its
route, and ran down side streets towards the town centre.

Officers on horseback and police dogs were deployed, and
policemen drew batons to defend themselves. Masked: A
depiction of Sayful Islam

Groups of young men in balaclavas and England shirts
chanted outside the city centre and one balacava-clad
protester held a Rottweiler on a chain, while others
clashed with police in riot gear.

One Asian man was hit across the face with a banner and
left with a bloody nose.

Police said during the disturbance three car windscreens
were smashed and a window at a take away restaurant in
Chapel Street had been broken.

Last night Luton town centre was calm as police maintained
a presence on the streets.

A spokesman for United People of Luton, Wayne King, said
many people in Luton were concerned and annoyed that the
Muslim community in the town had not taken steps to deal
with Sayful Islam's 'hate-filled preachings'.

The 24-year-old, who wore a T-shirt with the words 'No
surrender to Al-Qaeda' on it, said: 'We decided enough was
enough after the soldiers got heckled as they marched
through the town centre by the Muslim extremists.

'Our community has been racially attacked for the last 10

'A mosque in the town got set on fire a few weeks ago and
it made national news but churches in Luton are regularly
being set fire to.

'We want laws brought in to stop preachers of hate
operating here.'

Luton town centre was busy at the time of the riot with
shoppers enjoying the sunshine.

Many of those who joined in the march had been drinking in
town centre pubs.

Later on, overhead, a police helicopter monitored the
movement of the mob which at one point appeared to be
making in the direction of Bury Park, an area of Luton
where many of the town's Asian population live.

Some of the comments from the Daily Mail website
under the article

Finally--let it spread now to the rest of UK.
- Lex, San Juan, PR USA, 25/5/2009 02:44

Good for you. It is about time people fought back against these Muslim extremists, who should not be allowed to stay in this country expounding their hatred.
- Richard Clarke, Hilton Head Island. USA, 25/5/2009 02:35

this is what the government has brought this country to
when they dont listen, our troops didnt deserve the preachers reaction, if anyone should have been hit with a baton it was sayful, common sense doesnt seem to prevail anymore and has brought this country to its knees.
- frank, London, 25/5/2009 02:24

This is only the start, it had to happen. Brit's stand so much and no more, when we say no more, proceed at your peril.
- Mike, English ex pat, Khon Kaen, Thailand, 25/5/2009

Good to see someone finally standing up for England. A
shame it had to end in violence, it that because the English, due to Politcal Correctness, are the only ones who are not allowed to protest for what they beleive in though??
- Clare, Perth, 25/5/2009 02:10

I believe this is only the beginning of such protests. The Brits have been pushed to the limit by the inequal 'equality' laws created by Labour. The government should know they can only push people so far before they fight back.
- Robin A - expat, South carolina, USA, 25/5/2009 02:09

Saturday, 23 May 2009


No hope or change from Obama-Netanyahu meeting
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 21 May 2009

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office, 18 May 2009. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)

Seldom has an encounter between an American and Israeli leader been as hyped as this week's meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state.

On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side -- including the formidable Israel lobby -- are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations.

But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a "six to twelve month window" before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state "based on" the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This "state" would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led "multinational force," which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers (see "A last chance for a two-state Israel-Palestine agreement, 2009).

Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as "reasonable," "pragmatic" and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama's own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel's demand to to be recognized as a "Jewish state."

In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist, and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds.

Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another "peace process" after making a show of resisting American pressure (or extracting more American concessions or money). He knows the chances of ever getting to the stated destination are nil. Obama will not apply significant pressure, and even if he did, it is unclear on whom he would apply it, since on the Palestinian side there are no leaders ready, willing and able to carry off a second Oslo-style fraud against their people.

Obama reportedly believes peace in Palestine is the key to transforming US relations with the "Muslim world." If he were serious about this, the US would have to break with all its past policies and support peace based on democratic and universal human rights principles and equality -- something incompatible with a commitment to Israel as a "Jewish state" practicing legalized discrimination. All the signs are however that the Obama administration will push to try to force Palestinians and Arabs to accept and normalize Israel as it is and that the US will continue to underwrite a morally and politically bankrupt Zionist settler-colonial project with a permanent American military, economic and diplomatic bailout.

The real problem for US-Israeli relations is not to be found in whether Netanyahu utters the magic words "two-state solution." Rather it is that after Gaza it is impossible to keep peddling the fiction that Israel is a brave, self-reliant liberal democracy deserving of unconditional support. No matter what this administration does, this will eventually result in pressure on Israel -- such as growing American public support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006). This article was originally published by bitterlemons-international and is republished with permission.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Netanyahu can't bear to say 'two-state'

By Jim Lobe
Asia Times Online

WASHINGTON - While reaffirming the "special relationship"
between their two countries, United States President Barack
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
appeared unable to bridge major differences in their
approaches to Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts
following their White House meeting here on Monday.

While Obama said he may be prepared to impose additional
sanctions against Iran early next year if diplomatic
efforts to persuade it to curb its nuclear program failed
to make progress, he refused to set what he called "an
arbitrary deadline". Israeli officials had pressed
Washington for an early October deadline.

And while Obama repeatedly stressed the importance of a
two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Netanyahu never uttered the phrase or alluded to the possibility of a
Palestinian state during a 30-minute press appearance with
the US president after their meeting in the Oval Office.

"My view is less one of terminology than substance," he
said, adding a number of pre-conditions for any final

"If ... the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish
state, if they fight terror, they educate their children
for peace and for a better future, then I think we can come
to a substantive solution that allows the two peoples to
live side by side in security and peace," he said,
stressing that he was nonetheless eager "to resume
negotiations [with the Palestinians] as rapidly as possible
... "

Netanyahu also declined to respond to explicit calls by
Obama to both stop Israeli settlement activity in the
Occupied Territories and to address the humanitarian
situation in Gaza, which has been subject to strict
blockade by the Israeli authorities and Egypt that has
prevented any reconstruction of the territory devastated by
Israel's three-week military campaign in late December and

"Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as
well. And I shared with the prime minister the fact that
under the 'road map', under Annapolis, there is a clear
understanding that we have to make progress on settlements;
that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move
forward," Obama said during the press appearance.

"The fact is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if
they can't even get clean water at this point, if the
border closures are so tight that it is impossible for
reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then
that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term
security or a constructive peace track to move forward," he
noted, adding that Washington intended to become a "strong
partner" in any peace process.

Monday's talks, which Obama called "extraordinarily
productive", were perhaps the most widely anticipated of
any he has held with a foreign leader since his
inauguration nearly four months ago. Unlike George W Bush,
Obama has repeatedly insisted he will make a two-state
solution a top priority of his foreign policy and that he
sees such a settlement as critical to the larger goal of
stabilizing the Greater Middle East, including Afghanistan
and Pakistan, and defeating al-Qaeda and like-minded

That view was already given voice last week by Jordan's
King Abdullah, the first regional leader to visit Obama at
the White House, and will no doubt be bolstered by the
visits here next week of the beleaguered Palestinian
Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has insisted that
Netanyahu commit himself to a two-state solution, and
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama's determination to conclude a two-state settlement,
however, clearly clashes with the agenda of Netanyahu's new
right-wing government, which is not only publicly opposed
to a two-state solution but whose top priority is to
prevent Iran "by military means, if necessary" from
obtaining nuclear weapons, a capability which, according to
some senior Israeli intelligence officials, it may acquire
as soon as the end of this year.

Indeed, Netanyahu and his allies among US neo-conservatives
and other elements of the so-called "Israel Lobby" here
have argued that Israel cannot be expected to advance the
peace process when it faces the "existential" threat posed
by a nuclear Iran, particularly given Tehran's support for
Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Until
that threat is addressed, they insist, little or no
progress can be achieved on the Palestinian front.

But Obama explicitly rejected that thesis on Monday. While
recognizing "Israel's legitimate concerns" about Iran's
nuclear ambitions, he said, "If there is a linkage between
Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I
personally believe it actually runs the other way."

"To the extent that we can make peace ... between the
Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it
strengthens our hand in the international community in
dealing with the potential Iranian threat," he said.

The appearance of the two leaders before reporters followed
a lengthy private meeting which reportedly lasted a full
hour longer than anticipated, an indication, according to
retired US ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, that they
failed to agree to on key issues. In addition, the two
sides also failed to issue a joint statement summarizing
the talks, another indication of disagreement, according to

On Iran, Obama offered more details about US diplomatic
strategy than he had before. He suggested that Washington
was holding off on engaging Tehran in earnest until after
its elections next month.

After elections are completed, he said, "We are hopeful
that ... there is going to be a serious process of
engagement, first with the P5 Plus 1[the five permanent
members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] process,
which is already in place; potentially through additional
direct talks between the United States and Iran."

"We should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year
as to whether they are moving in the right direction and
whether the parties involved are making progress and that
there's a good-faith effort to resolve differences," he
went on. "That doesn't mean every issue would be resolved
by that point," he stressed.

At the same time, he stressed that the dangers posed by
Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons was such that,
without imposing an "artificial deadline ... we're not
going to have talks forever. We're not going to create a
situation in which the talks become an excuse for inaction
while Iran proceeds with developing and deploying a nuclear

He suggested that Washington would proceed to seek
international support for tougher sanctions against Iran
but did not mention possible military action, as Netanyahu
no doubt had hoped.

"I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a
range of steps, including much stronger international
sanctions, in assuring that Iran understand that we are
serious," Obama said.

In his own remarks, Netanyahu appeared to try to broaden
this formulation to include possible military action,
saying, "I very much appreciate, Mr President, your firm
commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear
military capability, and also your statement that you're
leaving all options on the table."

Jim Lobe's blog on US foreign policy can be read here
With additional reporting by Ali Gharib.


The rise and fall of Prabhakaran

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asia Times Online

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai
Prabhakaran's death circa May 19, 2009, in circumstances we
will never quite get to know, concludes a morality play.

As the curtain comes down and we leave the theater, the
spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and
can't quite figure out the reason. Something rankles
somewhere. And then we realize we have blood on our hands.

Not only our hands, but our whole body and deeper down, our
conscience - what remains of it after the mundane battles
of our day-to-day life - are also dripping with blood.

Prabhakaran's blood. No, it is not only Prabhakaran's, but
also of 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils who have perished in the
unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.

All the pujas we may perform to our favorite Hindu god,
Lord Ganesh, for good luck each morning religiously so that
we march ahead in our life from success to success cannot
wash away the guilt we are bearing - the curse of the
70,000 dead souls.

Our children and grandchildren will surely inherit the
great curse. What a bitter legacy!

A long time ago, we created Prabhakaran. We picked him up
as an urchin from nowhere. What we found charming about him
was that he was so thoroughly apolitical - almost innocent
about politics. He was a simpleton in many ways, who had a
passion for weapons and the military regimen. He suited our
needs perfectly.

Which was to humiliate the Junius Richard Jayewardene
government in Sri Lanka and teach it a hard lesson about
the dangers of being disrespectful to India's status as the
pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean. Jayewardene was too
Western-oriented and behaved as if he never read about the
Monroe Doctrine when he read history in Oxford. We didn't
like at all his dalliance with the Israelis and the
Americans in our very backyard. So, we fostered Prabhakaran
and built him up as a prick on Jayewardene's vanities -
like Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale of the Deccans.

Then, as time passed, we decided that he had outlived his
utility as we had come to develop an entirely different
outlook towards the pro-Western orientation of the Colombo
government by that time. Our egotistic leader in Delhi who
detested Jayewardene was no more in power and the new
soft-spoken leader didn't share his predecessor's strong
political antipathies.

So, we arm-twisted Prabhakaran to tone down and fall in
line with our changed priorities. But we didn't realize
that by then he had become a full-grown adult.

He resisted our blackmail and pressure tactics. When we
pressured him even more and tried to collar him, he struck
back. He dispatched assassins to India and killed our
beloved leader. And he became our eternal enemy.

Yet, we couldn't do anything to harm him. He had already
become so strong - an uncrowned king among his people. So
we waited. We are a patient lot. Who can match us in
infinite patience, given our 5,000 years of history? Our
cosmic religion gives us a unique wisdom to be patient and
stoic and to bide our time.

And then, the opportune time came. We promptly moved in for
the kill by aligning ourselves with Prabhakaran's enemies.
We armed them and trained them in better skills to kill. We
guided them with good intelligence. We plugged all escape
routes for Prabhakaran. And then, we patiently waited as
the noose tightened around Prabhakaran's neck.

Today he is no more. Believe it or not, we had no role in
his death. How and when he died shall forever remain an
enigma wrapped in a mystery. We will of course never
divulge what we know.

All that matters is that the world woke up to the death
only after the May 13 polling in the southern state of
Tamil Nadu. Otherwise, the parliamentary election results
may have gone haywire against us. Strange are the ways of
the Indian democracy.

We have had our revenge. Nothing else matters for the

What lies ahead? We will continue to make noises about a
"political solution" to the Tamil problem that Prabhakaran
championed through violent means.

Of course, let there be no doubt that we will periodically
render humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands
of Tamil civilians who have been herded into camps and may
languish there till the dust settles down. We will
demonstrate that we are indeed capable of the milk of human
kindness. After all, the Sri Lankan Tamils are part of our
historical consciousness.

But we must also be realistic. We know in our heart of
hearts that the scope for a political solution in the
fashion in which our leaders seem to suggest publicly is
virtually nil.

The Sinhalese will never allow the world to dictate to them
a political solution. More so, they will promptly and
conclusively rebuff any attempt by us to seek a role in
what they will now onward insist as strictly their internal

Always remember that Sri Lanka is one of the last bastions
of Theravada Buddhism and preserving that legacy is the
Sinhalese people's precious tryst with destiny. At least,
that is how they feel. We have to accept the weight of
their cultural nationalism.

They see Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhalese. How could
they allow us Indians who wiped out Buddhism with such
ferocity from the sub-continent interfere with their keen
sense of destiny as the custodians of that very same great
religion? Never, never.

If we try to pressure the Sinhalese, they will approach the
Chinese or the Pakistanis to balance our pressure. They are
capable of doing that.

The Sinhalese are a gifted people. We all know few can
never match their terrific skills in media management. They
have always lived by their wits.

Equally, they are fantastic practitioners of diplomacy. We
suspect that they may in fact have an edge over us on this
front, for, unlike us who are dissimulating from day to day
as if we're a responsible regional power, and dissipating
our energies in pastimes such as hunting down Somali
pirates in distant seas, they are a highly focused lot.

They have the grit because they are fighting for the
preservation of their country's future identity as a
Buddhist nation.

Only last week, they showed their diplomatic skill by
getting the Russians and the Chinese to stall a move in the
United Nations Security Council to pressure them.

The Europeans fancy they can try the Sinhalese for war
crimes. What naivety!

We asked the Sinhalese in private many a time how they
proposed to navigate their way in the coming period. They
wouldn't divulge.

But we know that it is not as if they have no solution of
their own to the Tamil problem, either. We know they
already have a blueprint.

See, they have already solved the Tamil problem in the
eastern provinces of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara.
The Tamils are no more the majority community in those

Similarly, from tomorrow, they will commence a concerted,
steady colonization program of the northern provinces where
Prabhakaran reigned supreme for two decades. They will
ensure incrementally that the northern regions no more
remain as Tamil provinces.

The Tamils will be made into a minority community in their
own northern homelands. They will have to live among the
newly created Sinhalese settlements in those regions to the
north of Elephant Pass.

All this will indeed be within Sri Lanka's "federal
structure". Sri Lanka will continue to adhere to
parliamentary democracy.

Give them a decade at the most. The Tamil problem will
become a relic of the bloody history of the Indian

The Sinhalese are good friends of India. Our elite and
their elite speak the same idiom. We both speak English
well, play golf and like chilled beer. We should,
therefore, wish them well.

As for the blood on our hands, true, it is a blessed
nuisance. But this is not the first time in our history
that we're having blood on our hands.

Trust our words. No lasting harm will be done. Blood
doesn't leave stains.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the
Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet
Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany , Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.


Cultures of Resistance

Volume One | Issue Two [PDF]

Cultures of Resistance Activism Forum is a project that aims to address the Western hostile use of language intended to restrict debate related to mainstream Islamist movements and currents. The project will explore more effective means to respond to hostile use of language - as well as explore how better to insist on extending public debate beyond its standard focus on ‘Islamist violence’ - by launching a ‘positive’ (non-defensive) discourse on Islamism. In partnership with a wide number of social activist and public campaign groups, we aim to advocate for a shift in language from the defensive to the positive; to learn how others, in different struggles, have achieved this transition; and by this means, and by gaining greater critical mass, to open space in which a discourse of rebuttal and ‘resistance’ can be developed through visual and other means to imposed narratives and stereotyping. The aim is the change the terms of debate and to move to a more directly challenging, but more widely accessible, advocacy of understanding of Islamist ideology.

Cultures of Resistance magazine is published twice a year by Conflicts Forum.

Volume One | Issue Two [PDF]

Volume One | Issue One [PDF]

Articles featured:

An Irish Republican Narrative of Resistance - Raymond McCartney

A Discourse of Demonisation - Seyed Mohammad Marandi

Introducing a New Political Discourse - Alastair Crooke

Moving Forward in South Africa - Ambassador Mohamed Dangor

Hearing the Call - Adli Jacobs

Anti-Apartheid Islam - Na’eem Jeenah

Mscnceptns of Islm - Sheikh Chafiq Jaredah

Resistance & Freedom - Raafat Murra

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Below is an excellent doc-film on Brother Malcolm.

This is a militant Islamist 'remixed' version of the 1972 film overseen by Betty Shabazz.

The remixed version is very good, although the original is better

- Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm


"My only desire is that all of our Party and people,
closely united in struggle, construct a peaceful,
unified, independent, democratic and prosperous,
and make a valiant contribution to the world Revolution."
(Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, May 10, 1969)

Writings of Ho Chi Minh

President Ho’s birthday, Ho Chi Minh
Trail anniversary

CP of Vietnam

A grand meeting was held in Hanoi on May 18 to mark the
119th anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh’s birthday and
the 50th anniversary of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Addressing the event, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu
Trong expressed the Vietnamese people’s heartfelt gratitude
toward President Ho – “the great leader of the Party and
nation, the hero of the national liberation movement and
the world cultural activist, who founded and trained the
Party and State.”

“We also remember and owe a deep debt of gratitude to our
fellow countrymen, comrades and volunteer soldiers who
sacrificed their lives on the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the
cause of national liberation,” said Mr Trong.

He thanked the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Laos,
Cambodia and many other international friends for their
whole-hearted support and effective assistance to Vietnam
during the resistance war against US imperialists.

He praised Army Corps 12 for their outstanding achievements
during the past 50 years.

Fifty years ago, Army Corps 12 (now Truong Son Civil
Engineering Corporation), was assigned to open a strategic
artery through the Truong Son Mountain Range to transport
troops and cargo to the southern front.

“Though time flies, the legend of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
still lives on as the pride of the nation and goes down in
history as a glorious feat of arms by the Vietnamese people
during the great war of resistance against US
imperialists,” said Mr Trong. “The great magnitude and
valuable lessons drawn from opening and maintaining the
trail are of practical significance not only to the past
struggle for national liberation but also to the current
cause of national construction and defence.”

The NA Chairman reviewed the tremendous achievements
Vietnam has made during the Doi Moi (Renewal) process, and
identified difficulties and challenges facing the country
in the new era.

“In the light of the Resolutions of the 10th National Party
Congress, the entire Party, people and army try our best to
overcome difficulties and challenges, accelerate national
industrialisation and modernisation and international
integration so as to lift Vietnam out of its underdeveloped
nation status and become an industrial nation by 2020,”
said Mr Trong.

He asked the army to modernise itself to become the
mainstay of the Party and State.

He presented the Military Exploit Order, second class, to
Army Corps 12 in recognition of its outstanding
achievements in building the people’s army and
strengthening national defence, contributing to the cause
of socialist construction in Vietnam.

In his speech, Minister of Defence Gen. Phung Quang Thanh
attributed the victory of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the
clear-sighted leadership of the Party and President Ho,
saying it is a bright symbol of the revolutionary heroism
of the Ho Chi Minh Era and the earnest desire of the
Vietnamese people for national independence, freedom and
unification towards socialism.

“This victory could not be achieved without great support
and effective assistance from ministries, sectors and mass
organisations as well as love and assistance from people in
Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, the Vinh Linh Special Zone
and other localities where the trail runs through. This
victory is a testimony to the special solidarity of
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the fight against the common
enemy as well as the great and effective assistance from
the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other
international friends.”

Dong Sy Nguyen, former commander of Truong Son soldiers,
recalled the glorious moments and exploits of his soldiers
50 years ago.

With a total length of nearly 20,000km encompassing
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the Ho Chi Minh Trail formed a
strategic transport artery, comprising 26 land routes on
the eastern and western parts of the Truong Son Mountain
Range, more than 1,400km of oil pipelines and a system of
6,000km long waterway transport routes.

For their outstanding achievements, many collectives and
individuals of Army Corps 12 have been awarded high
distinctions from the Party and State, including the title
“The Hero of Armed Forces”, the Ho Chi Minh Order and the
Gold Star Order.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Idealism can wait, but only a year

The Independent
Rupert Cornwell
Sunday, 17 May 2009

Two of the US President's humanitarian plans were put on hold last week after pressure from the military. While voters will excuse a degree of compromise, they will not forgive many more concessions

You can't please everyone. If Barack Obama had any
lingering illusions on that score, the past few days have
banished them. The two announcements – that he will seek to
block publication of photos depicting US military personnel
abusing prisoners, and will go ahead with revamped military
tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees – may have reassured
the right that this president is not in fact a weak,
dewy-eyed crypto-socialist about to sell out the US to

But the liberals who helped propel him to the White House
are dismayed. Did we work so hard, they ask, merely to put
another George W Bush in the Oval Office? Their suspicions
will only have been increased by Obama's decision to send
more troops to Afghanistan. Even as America's commitment in
Iraq is about to wind down, its new leader seems to be
plunging deeper into another unwinnable war.

In the process, campaign promises are being torn up.
Candidate Obama got himself into Sarah Palin-related
trouble by declaring that the military tribunals were a
travesty of justice, and that to try and improve them was
like "putting lipstick on a pig". Far from being sent to
the slaughterhouse however, the beast is now being tarted
up with bucketfuls of rouge. Evidence obtained under duress
(aka torture) will be inadmissable, and the scope of
hearsay evidence will be limited. But the pig remains a pig
– military tribunals in which defendants have notably fewer
legal rights than in a regular court of law.

The same goes for the photos. The bold Obama that ordered
the release of Bush administration memos setting out those
"enhanced interrogation techniques" in chilling,
dispassionate detail, and who seemed to be happy to go
along with the release of the photos is now getting cold
feet, yielding to his generals' arguments that to do so
would hand a propaganda coup to America's enemies.

But the true lesson of these episodes is that governing is
tough. Smooth-tongued and unflappable, Obama has thus far
made governing look easy – remarkably so, given the mess he
inherited. "What is this, an episode of The West Wing?, a
top aide mused the other day when the President had to sign
off on the new Afghanistan strategy, and deal with a
threatened North Korean missile launch, a Chrysler
bankruptcy and the flooding of the largest city in North
Dakota, all in the space of a few hours.

Yet Obama has coped. He seems to positively relish the heat
of the kitchen. But how, indeed whether, he can cope with
the poisoned legacy from the "war on terror" is another
matter. The past isn't dead, it isn't even past, wrote
William Faulkner apropos of the American South. Never have
those words rung truer than in the controversies of these
last few days. The Bush/Cheney past hangs over everything.

It is easy to preach from the sidelines. Human rights
groups were appalled by the decision to maintain the
tribunals, just as the right was dismayed by the likelihood
that the prisoner mistreatment photos would be released.
But no one expects Amnesty International to worry about US
troop safety, any more than we look to conservative
think-tanks for ringing manifestos on prisoners' rights.

And it's equally easy for a politician to make
crowd-pleasing promises about tribunals and torture at an
election meeting in New Hampshire, or in a televised
candidates' debate. But the world is a vastly more
complicated place when seen from the Oval Office, amid a
barrage of security briefings prepared by experts whose job
is to think the unthinkable seven days a week.

Obama is proving himself a pragmatist, not an idealist. In
an ideal world, there is no doubt that Obama, a former
constitutional law professor, would have the photos
published and the tribunals scrapped. Deep down, he most
certainly believes that the dozen or so Guantanamo
detainees who will face trial (out of the 241 currently
held at the prison) should go before civilian courts on the
US mainland, operating by rules set down by the US

But this is not an ideal world. At home, an American
president – even a president as popular as this one – is
less powerful than a British prime minister, a French
president or a German chancellor. He can propose, but
rarely can he dispose. The real world is full of highly
paid lobbyists, clever lawyers, and obstreperous
Congressmen who can thwart his every move.

Alas, pragmatism on its own is not enough. Obama still
enjoys vast goodwill, and a large majority of Americans
desperately want him to succeed, if only because the
consequences of another failed presidency are too awful to
contemplate. But he was also elected because of what he
promised. The public realises the conflicting pressures
upon him. Sooner or later though, it expects these promises
to be met.

The acid test will be the closure of Guantanamo Bay itself.
Obama has promised to do so by 20 January 2010, the end of
his first year in office. No reality on earth should
prevent him from meeting that deadline. Otherwise it truly
will seem as if one George W Bush has been replaced by

Thursday, 14 May 2009


"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain." "

(From a speech by MLK)

Democracy Now

[...] Your thoughts on President Obama today, the first African American president?

HOWARD ZINN: I wish President Obama would listen carefully to Martin Luther King. I’m sure he pays verbal homage, as everyone does, to Martin Luther King, but he ought to think before he sends missiles over Pakistan, before he agrees to this bloated military budget, before he sends troops to Afghanistan, before he opposes the single-payer system, which you talked about earlier in your program. He ought to ask, “What would Martin Luther King do? And what would Martin Luther King say?” And if he only listened to King, he would be a very different president than he’s turning out to be so far. I think we ought to hold Obama to his promise to be different and bold and to make change. So far, he hasn’t come through on that promise.

AMY GOODMAN: When Barack Obama was running for president, asked in the debates who would MLK endorse, who would Dr. King endorse, he said, “None of us.”

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, that’s true, because King believed—and this actually is one of the themes of our people’s history, is that you cannot depend on presidents, and you cannot depend on elections and voting to solve your problems. People themselves, organizing, demonstrating, clamoring, they are the only ones who can push the President and push Congress into change. And that’s what we have to do now with Obama. We have to point to what Obama said in the course of the campaign, when he said we not only have to get out of Iraq, we have to get out of the mindset that brought us into Iraq. Obama, himself, has not gotten out of that mindset yet. And I think we, the people, have to speak to him about that.


HOWARD ZINN: Well, these people that I saw on your program earlier who were demonstrating for the single-payer health system, which Obama is very, very reluctant to endorse, they were doing what needs to be done. They were committing acts of civil disobedience. They were going into offices where they were told to leave, and they wouldn’t leave. They were doing what we were doing during the movement against the war in Vietnam. They were doing what the black movement was doing in the South. And this is what we will need. We will need demonstrative acts which dramatize the fact that our government is not responding to what the people need and what the people want.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the alternative to war with Afghanistan and Pakistan?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, the alternative to war is to send food and medicine. I was with a taxi driver from Afghanistan, and I always start up a conversation with taxi drivers, because they know more than most news commentators. And so—not you. I’m not talking about you, Amy, of course. But he was from Afghanistan. And I said, “What do you think about Obama sending more troops to Afghanistan?” I didn’t tell him what my position was. He said, “We don’t need troops.” He said, “We need food and medicine.”

We ought to stop thinking that we must have military solutions to the problems that we face in the world. The solutions that we need are the solutions of dealing with sickness and disease and hunger. That’s fundamental. If you want to end terrorism—

AMY GOODMAN: I’m telling you, the great historian, you have five seconds.

HOWARD ZINN: If you want to end terrorism, you have to stop being terrorists, which is what war is.


The Obama Government's First Massacre

by Emir Sader
Monthly Review

One may have more or less sympathy for the new US
president, more or less believe in his words, more or less
value the change in the US government's tone when handling
its differences with other governments. But there is a
limit when it comes to judging the character of a president
and a government. That limit has now been reached, with the
massacre of at least 150 civilians in Afghanistan.

There had already been deaths, in the previous week, of
some hundreds of alleged militants at the hands of the
Pakistani Army, whose credibility is nil and makes one
suspect that the dead were largely civilians exhibited as
Taliban, in an attempt to minimally restore the army's
image. The US government can pretend to believe in that

But now the stories of the Afghan massacre are coming from
the very authorities of Afghanistan, a country occupied by
Western troops, commanded by the US. At least 150 people --
the vast majority of them women and children, a clear
indication that they were civilians – became victims of
bombings by Western troops. Nothing can hide it, nor is
there any room for doubt.

What stance will the new US president take? Consider these
deaths as "unwanted collateral damage"? Or as "risks that
come with all military conflicts"? Or as "civilians who
were human shields for terrorists"? Or "open a rigorous
investigation to establish responsibilies"? Or "offer
apology to the Afghan people for this unforgivable
mistake"? Or "order relief efforts for involuntary victims
of war"?

Nothing will serve as excuse for Obama. Massacres are and
will be inevitable as long as the war of occupation
continues in Afghanistan. Having won the Democratic Party
primaries with a generally progressive platform, Obama went
on to face his Republican opponent, who accused him of
being "soft" and unprepared to accept what he considered to
be US interests in the world -- a synonym for "endless
wars" unleashed by the Bush government against all
international law. In order to extricate himself from that
accusation, while keeping his promise to withdraw the
troops from Iraq, Obama set up an equation according to
which the US shall withdraw its troops from Iraq and
transfer them to Afghanistan.

Strange reasoning. What difference is there between the two
epicenters of "endless wars," except that in the Afghan
case, still under the impact of the attacks that it had
suffered, the US obtained the UN Security Council's
endorsement for the invasion? Is there any other difference
between the two cases of invasion and subjection of the two
peoples to foreign troops? Are the governments of these two
countries freely chosen by their peoples or are they the
occupying authorities imposed, in both cases, by force of
arms? If some element of similarity had been missing, the
Obama government's first massacre came to confirm the
absolute similarity of the two cases.

The character of a person is made clear primarily by his
actions, and so is that of a government. We know so many
cases of people personally involved in torture who
continued to be good family men. Is it possible to regard
them as persons of good character? Can contingent private
virtues absolve public vices?

For those who are carried away by the captivating smile of
Obama and the elegance of Michelle, this first massacre
should serve as the test of his character, private and
public. The Obama government will not be the same once it
becomes impossible not to see the brutality of what the
troops of his country, under his command, are doing in
Afghanistan and in Iraq. No government can remain the same
once it begins to live with such massacres as this, for
which it is directly responsible. The relatives of the
Afghan dead -- women, children, old people, their families,
and the Afghan people -- expect and deserve a word from
Obama; their deaths didn't happen because of what was done
when Obama was just a kid, but because of his government
and his decision to intensify, rather than end, the brutal
occupation of Afghanistan.


Obama drops off plan to release more abuse photos

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington May 13, 2009. (Xinhua Reuters Photo)

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama dropped off a plan to release abuse photos on Wednesday, saying that it would not bring "additional benefit" to the country.

"That's my decision to argue against the release of additional detainee photos," said Obama at a White House press conference.

"The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals," he said.

"In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger," the president added.

The Department of Defense was set to release by May 28 hundreds of photos, at request of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)citing Freedom of Information Act, showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said last month that the Obama administration had no problem with releasing the photos should the court rule so.

However, Obama argued that those photos representing conduct not accordant with the Army Manual "are associated with closed investigations of the alleged abuse of detainees in our ongoing war effort."

The publication of these photos may "only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse," he added.

"The thing that is most important in my mind is making sure that we are abiding by the Army Manual and that we are swiftly investigating any -- any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately and that they are appropriately sanctioned," Obama said. "That's my aim, and I do not believe that the release of these photos at this time would further that goal."

On the other hand, the president reaffirmed that the United States does not tolerate any abuse of detainees, which is "against our values" and "endangers our security."

Obama made the reversed decision on the release of abuse photos after top military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan expressed their concerns that publicizing the pictures could put their troops in danger.

The White House's move received applause from congressional Republicans but criticism from human rights groups.

"I agree with the president that the release of these photos would serve no purpose other than to put our troops in greater danger," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "The president made the right decision and I applaud him for it."

ACLU attorney Amrit Singh, on the other hand, blast the decision as "a mockery of President Obama's promise of transparency and accountability."

"It is essential that these photographs be released so that the public can examine for itself the full scale and scope of prisoner abuse that was conducted in its name," he said.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Covering up Israel's Gaza crimes with UN help

Hasan Abu Nimah,
The Electronic Intifada

13 May 2009

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with
Israeli President Shimon Peres at the UN in
New York, 6 May 2009. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo)

In my last article, I considered how UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon might handle the inquiry into Israeli attacks on UN facilities in the occupied Gaza Strip last winter. I hoped for the best but feared the worst given press reports that Ban had been told by the United States not to publish the report in full lest that harm the "peace process."

Unfortunately, the worst fears were fully justified as Ban published and sent to the Security Council only a 27-page summary of the 184-page document submitted to him by a board of inquiry led by a former head of Amnesty International.

Moreover, Ban rejected a key recommendation that there be a full independent investigation into numerous killings and injuries caused to UN personnel and Palestinian civilians during the Israeli assault.

The board issued the recommendation because its own mandate was specifically limited to examining just nine incidents (Israel launched thousands of land, sea and air attacks on the Gaza Strip over 22 days). The board noted that "it was not within its scope or capacity to reach conclusions on all aspects of these incidents relevant to assessment of the responsibility of the parties in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law."

These limitations meant that the board was "unable to investigate fully all circumstances related to the deaths and injuries" during several incidents including an attack in the immediate vicinity of school run by UNRWA -- the UN agency for Palestine refugees -- in Jabaliya in which dozens of people were killed, and another incident on 27 December which killed nine students from UNRWA's Gaza Training Center immediately across the road from the main UN compound in Gaza City. Other incidents mentioned included ones in which white phosphorus shells fell on UN schools and facilities and densely populated urban areas.

Now here is the crucial part, included in recommendation 11 in the published summary: "where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full investigations, and, where required, accountability." Such investigations, the summary states, should be carried out by an "impartial inquiry mandated, and adequately resourced, to investigate allegations of violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza and southern Israel by the [Israeli army] and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants."

The board of inquiry corroborated the already existing masses of evidence collected by local and international human rights organizations, eyewitness accounts from UN and other humanitarian personnel, and the legal examination by the distinguished (but vilified by Israel and the US) UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk.

And yet none of this death and destruction, not the use of white phosphorus in flagrant violation of international law, not even against the UN (if that is all the secretary-general cares about) merited any further examination.

In his 4 May letter to the Security Council accompanying the summary, Ban wrote, "I do not plan any further inquiry," adding perhaps as an excuse that "the government of Israel has agreed to meet with United Nations Secretariat officials to address the Board's recommendations, in as far as they related to Israel."

Israel, however, made its position very clear in a foreign ministry statement: "Israel rejects the criticism in the committee's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased and ignores the facts." Israel accused the board of inquiry of preferring the claims of Hamas, "a murderous terror organization and by doing so has misled the world." Would Israeli representatives say anything different when they meet the secretary-general's staff?

Ban could even have called Israel's bluff and said that since Israel did not view the current report as sufficiently thorough, he would indeed order a full, impartial inquiry as recommended.

But the reality is that Ban has learned all the "right" lessons from the past. In 1996, then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali published -- against American "advice" -- a UN report that demolished Israeli claims that its shelling on 18 April that year of the UN peacekeeping base in Qana, Lebanon, killing 106 people, was an accident. Boutros-Ghali effectively paid with his job as the Clinton Administration vetoed his bid for a second term. In 2002, after the Israeli army destroyed much of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Security Council ordered then Secretary-General Kofi Annan to carry out an investigation. But Israel refused to allow the inquiry team into the country, and so Annan, rather than going back to the Security Council to ask for its support in carrying out his mandate, simply told the investigation team to disband and go home.

Ban is taking things even further. He apparently created the board of inquiry not in order to find out the truth, but only as a political exercise to cover himself from the charge of total inaction. But the board of inquiry members did take their mandate very seriously and honestly. By rejecting their call for accountability, Ban has in effect rejected and betrayed his own mandate to uphold the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

And on what grounds did the secretary-general decide to publish only 27 pages? Most likely the rest of the report was not only damning to Israel, but would have exposed his decision to block further investigation as even more nakedly cynical.

It is especially puzzling since Ban himself had described the board of inquiry as "independent." In response to allegations he had "watered down" the document, he stated: "I do not have any authority to edit or change any wording" of its "conclusion and recommendations."

He did much more than that: he withheld 85 percent of the report! It may be true that the report is just an "internal document and is not for public release" as Ban wrote in his letter, and that the inquiry "is not a judicial body or court of law."

But the Security Council -- the UN's most authoritative body -- is not the public, and it ought at least to be able to see it even if the public cannot. Of course it is very likely that by some means or another some members of the council do have the full report, and it is likely that Israel has it as well, otherwise how did the pressures on the secretary-general not to publish it originate in the first place?

The UN Charter places on the secretary-general the responsibility to inform the Security Council of grave breaches of the charter so that it can act. Ban is actually hiding evidence of grave breaches in order to spare the Security Council the embarrassment of having to act against Israel which remains as ever the special case enjoying full impunity.

In the absence of any credible explanation for stopping even the 15 members of the Security Council from officially seeing the full report the presumption must be that Ban is engaging in a cover-up to protect Israel and therefore his own job. Equally puzzling is the acquiescence of the Security Council to this scandal. It is known that Ban's action has been prompted, or fully approved by three permanent members. Why did the 12 others keep quiet?

In Gaza, there are numerous, credible and mounting allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including testimonies published in the Israeli media from Israeli soldiers themselves. The ongoing blockade preventing the movement of basic supplies and people in and out of an occupied territory is a prima facie breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Unlike other alleged war crimes in other parts of the world, the evidence is all there requiring little effort to find, including numerous statements from Israeli leaders showing that they had the motivation and intent to harm civilians as an act of punishment or revenge.

Yet once again, when it comes to Israel, UN officials actively collude in protecting the perpetrators. How could an investigation of an aggression which involved severe war crimes, deliberate attacks on civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, usage of banned weapons, attacks on UN installations, siege and deprivation be quietly shelved upon the discretion of the secretary-general alone?

The answer may be simple, but alarmingly revealing; the office of the secretary -general carries with it so much prestige, privilege and material reward, it seems not many can resist the temptation of holding on to the job at any price even if that price is paid in innocent people's blood. The hunger for a second term requires so much obsequiousness and opportunism that the holder of this position becomes a burden rather than an asset, an obstacle to the UN functioning effectively.

It is not only Palestinians who are the victims of such outrageous and immoral actions, but the last vestiges of credibility of the UN itself. I hold -- as do most Palestinians -- enormous admiration and respect for the work of UNRWA and its personnel who remained under Israeli bombardment in Gaza risking their lives along with the communities they serve. These UN personnel also deserve better; they too are betrayed by the cowardice of those above them.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan and is republished with the author's permission.