Monthly Archives: May 2010

real chutzpah

A friend of mine messaged me this morning to find out if I knew that internationals had been killed at sea on their way to Gaza. At first I thought he was joking. There was no way things could get so sloppy so fast. Of course, I was wrong. It seems like every year Israel tries to see how far they can push the envelope in these times of globalization of information. Cast Lead was awful, and the outcry was significant considering, but it didn’t keep them from forging passports and assassinating Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

Now up to 20 internationals on a flotilla to deliver aid in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces in international waters.

Israel’s allies froze military ties and summoned its ambassadors Monday over the storming of an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, as Muslim leaders slammed the deadly raid as “criminal” and “inhuman”.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked” by the Israeli navy’s assault on a convoy carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, lawmakers and journalists through international waters towards besieged Gaza.

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Ban called on Israel to “urgently” explain itself over the raid, which Israel’s Channel 10 TV left 19 passengers killed and 36 wounded, many of them Turks.

It even seems as though some of the internationals were intentionally killed and the raid on the flotilla was used as an excuse.

Despite the fact that there is no reasonable explanation for the murder of so many in international waters, perhaps the most depressing issue is that while thousands in Istanbul tried to rush the Israeli consulate, the Palestinian response in Ramallah has been small.  Today I witnessed a protest of perhaps 60 lawyers and union members, holding pre-made signs and being careful not to block the way of traffic. Police were out in arms and watching the crowd carefully. There was no chanting because the police forbade it. It seems to me that while so many in the Western media are concerned with the “loss of rights” in Hamas controlled Gaza, nobody seems to care that the Palestinians of the West Bank – who care deeply about the issue – don’t feel comfortable protesting openly against Israeli aggression. Televisions were all tuned into Al Jazeera and everyone was discussing the issue on the street and cafes and universities, and yet…

ahlan wa sahlan

Besides the fact that settlers have spray painted out most of the Arabic and English on road signs in the West Bank, not much has changed. Things get worse bit by bit here, slow and steady wins the race. A frog in the pan. There are more Israeli flags littering the countryside. A friend’s wife has been finally denied entry to the West Bank and their family is under threat. Otherwise, the falafel and kunafa taste the same. Slight municipal improvements are visible in Nablus Old City. I’ll be focusing on the economic development while I’m here, but I won’t be constraining myself with regards to subjects on my blog.

However, I’m really soliciting some articles. I’ll be writing my experiences here and I suffer from tunnel vision. The format will change slightly, so bear with me. I’m still suffering from jet lag, so I’ll write more in a few days.

Grieving for the Dead

Despite our length of time occupying Iraq, no real voices dare speak of the hundreds of thousands dead. Even this Time writeup stops short of discussing our culture of indifference.

It is not inconsequential to kill 100,000 people. That much life suddenly and violently extinguished must leave a ragged hole somewhere in the universe. One looks for special effects of a metaphysical kind to attend so much death — the whoosh of all those souls departing. But many of them died ingloriously, like road kill, full of their disgrace, facedown with the loot scattered around them. The conquered often die ignominiously. The victors have not given them much thought.

Still, killing 100,000 people is a serious thing to do. It is not equivalent to shooting a rabid dog, which is, down deep, what Americans feel the war was all about, exterminating a beast with rabies. All those 100,000 men were not megalomaniacs, torturers and murderers. They did not all commit atrocities in Kuwait. They were ordinary people: peasants, truck drivers, students and so on. They had the love of their families, the dignity of their lives and work. They cared as little for politics, or less, than most people in the world. They were, precisely, not Saddam Hussein. Which means, since Saddam was the coalition’s one true target in all of this, that those 100,000 corpses are, so to speak, collateral damage. The famous smart bombs did not find the one man they were seeking.

The secret of much murder and evildoing is to dehumanize the victim, to make him alien, to make him Other, a different species. When we have done that, we have prepared ourselves to kill him, for to kill the Other, to kill a snake, a roach, a pest, a Jew, a scorpion, a black, a centipede, a Palestinian, a hyena, an Iraqi, a wild dog, an Israeli . . . it’s O.K.

If Saddam Hussein was a poisonous snake in the desert, and he had 1 million poisonous snakes arrayed around him, then it was good sense to drop bombs and kill 100,000 snakes and thus turn back the snake menace.

But, of course, the 100,000 Iraqis were not snakes.

To kill 100,000 people and to feel no pain at having done so may be dangerous to those who did the killing. It hints at an impaired humanity, a defect like a gate through which other deaths may enter, deaths no one had counted on. The unquiet dead have many ways of haunting — particularly in the Middle East, which has been accumulating the grievances of the dead for thousands of years.

And yet even now, self-confessed war criminals run for office in the United States on a populist platform. Are we just standing around wringing our hands? Can it be that Americans are not just callous about the body count but indeed find electoral occasions to celebrate it’s perpetuity?

the american legal system has been rotted out from the inside

How rotten is rotten?

Issue: Whether 18 U.S.C. 2339B(a)(1), which prohibits the knowing provision of “any *** service, *** training, [or] expert advice or assistance,” to a designated foreign terrorist organization, is unconstitutionally vague; Whether the criminal prohibitions in 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1) on the provision of “expert advice or assistance” “derived from scientific [or] technical … knowledge” and “personnel” are unconstitutional with respect to speech that furthers only lawful, nonviolent activities of proscribed organizations.

And now we have:

Washington (CNN) — A bipartisan group of legislators on Thursday introduced legislation in Congress to strip citizenship from any American found to be involved in terrorism.

If the Terrorist Expatriation Act passes, an American would lose citizenship if found to have provided material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization — as designated by the secretary of state — or participated in actions against the United States.

Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the bill. An identical bill is being introduced in the House by Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pennsylvania, and Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania.

….

Under the new proposed bill, the Department of State would have the ability to revoke an American’s citizenship based on a person renouncing their citizenship. The individual, Lieberman stressed, would still have the right to appeal the determination at the State Department — or take it to federal court.

When asked how the State Department would make their decision, Lieberman said a person would have declare the intent to renounce their citizenship — but added that information from other sources could also “lead the state department to make that conclusion.”

Anders said the government often makes mistakes in determining a person’s involvement in terrorism. In that case, an American citizen could be rendered stateless if they do not have dual citizenship.

Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, said the government defines “providing material support to terrorism” so broadly, “that really the most benign, innocent activity could subject the most harmless Americans to this extreme sanction.”

More on Remote Warfare

Harpers has an excellent article this month on remote warfare.

In it, I find a distinction I haven’t previously considered: the proliferation of remote warfare into nearly all conflicts. Even if not now, in forty years every nation on Earth could own a fleet of drones while the top dogs move to even more “civilized” forms of war.

My second major concern goes to the power of example that the United States is now setting with respect to the use of drones away from an acknowledged battlefield, especially in connection with targeted killings. No weapons system remains indefinitely the province of a single power. Drone technology is particularly striking in this regard, because it is not really all that sophisticated. It seems clear that other powers have this technology–Israel and Iran have each been reported to be working with it, Russia and China could obviously do so easily if they desired, and the same is probably true for Britain, France, and Germany, not to mention Japan and Taiwan, where many of the cutting-edge breakthroughs in robotics actually occur. The way America uses this technology is therefore effectively setting the rules for others. Put another way, if it’s lawful for America to employ a drone to take out an enemy in the desert of Yemen, on the coast of Somalia, in a village in Sudan or Mauretania, then it would be just as lawful for Russia, or China–or, for that matter, for Israel or Iran. What kind of world is this choice then creating? Doesn’t it invariably lead us closer to the situation in which a targeted killing will be carried out in a major metropolis of Europe or East Asia, or even the United States? And doesn’t that move us in the direction of a dark and increasingly lawless world?

After all, we do remain the world’s largest arms dealer! I strongly encourage you to read it.

Related:

Why America Will Stop Winning, part 1: Weapons

this is the new boss just like the old boss

I can’t imagine how much someone can get done in a hundred days being president, but I’ll say at this point Obama continues to disappoint.

A giant oil slick has been spewing out of the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana (still recovering from Katrina six years later), Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Vital fishing industries will be devastated and the ecosystem will be spoiled twice in ten years. Who’s to blame?

I’d suggest Halliburton, who just finished laying the final coats of paint on this rig before it exploded.

Lawsuits point to cementing in rig disaster

(AP) – 1 day ago

HOUSTON — Although no cause has been determined, oil services contractor Halliburton Inc. says it finished a cementing operation 20 hours before a Gulf of Mexico rig went up in flames.

Halliburton is named as a defendant in most of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed by Gulf Coast people and businesses claiming the oil spill could ruin them financially. In one lawsuit, two Louisiana shrimpers claim cementing contributed to the explosion.

Halliburton said Friday it had four workers stationed on the rig, performing several tasks, including cementing — a process of applying cement and water to a pipe used to prevent the wall of the hole from caving in during drilling.

According to a 2007 study by Minerals Management Service, cementing was a factor 18 of 39 rig blowouts in the gulf between 1992 and 2006.

The fact that after all the crookery in Iraq and Afghanistan, this monstrous vulture of a corporation is able to work on such sensitive infrastructure like oil rigs! Off the coast of our country! This is the corporation that kept on poisoning and electrocuting Our Troops, right? The guys who kept shoveling money into their deep deep pockets while Iraqi hospitals and schools collapsed in on themselves? And let’s not forget our deepest burning Patriot’s shame – New Orleans.

I can tell you Obama has disappointed me because even through Guantanamo is open, even though a secret ruthless war is being raged against the majority, Obama can’t even give Halliburton the pink slip. And their shoddy work continues to bankrupt America. Throw these guys in jail already! B-b-but how can he do that, you say. Well, a single man got them all up and encamped in our system, so one single man should be able to toss them out!