It would be dangerous for Obama to play with the fine print on settlements

It would be dangerous for Obama to play with the fine print on settlements

By The Daily Star

Whether or not it’s true, or is confirmed or denied, or not, it’s a very worrying indication that the Obama administration’s much-trumpeted “new” Middle East policy is becoming a well-known case of the same old, same old. An agreement is reportedly being fashioned by which Israel will complete work on already-begun settlements and avoid the wrath of the White House, which had promised a definitive end to the activity.

What was once a clear, blanket statement of policy by the American president is headed toward becoming a caricature of the jokes

about contracts and insurance policies – as in, check the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.

It appears to be face-saving deal, to allow the president to have his way in the end, while allowing the Israeli prime minister to wriggle out of the scenario of taking office on the most extreme of pro-settlement agendas and then being forced to end settlements by his most fervid supporters.

It doesn’t matter how this reported agreement was cooked up, who the deal-makers were in the White House, or if it marks the absolute ascendancy of Ehud Barak over Avigdor Lieberman on foreign policy issues.

Some reports have cited Western officials as acknowledging the deal is in the works, while justifying the arrangement as a way to avoid “hardships” for people and businesses involved in contractual obligations to finish the construction activity.

But this isn’t a financial issue; it’s extremely political and has a humanitarian dimension. Playing around with the fine print in this fashion means playing around with Palestinians’ homes, land, livelihoods and communities. Boosting the settlements in any way – allowing more land to be taken, more homes to be built, more cementing of an illegal presence – hurts the cause of the Palestinians, and only increases their dispossession. Negotiating over peace when you have

to less and less to negotiate over doesn’t serve the Palestinians’ interests, and they were promised something very different by the Obama administration.

As for repercussions in the wider region, such a move plays into the hands of extremists, and any other interpretation would be silly. Anyone in the Middle East who supports a US-sponsored “peace process” under such conditions has to explain why the supposedly fair mediator behaves this way.

The utter illegality of the Israeli settlements and their importance in the peace process is not a side issue. Earlier this year, Haaretz leaked a secret government document indicating that the scope of Israel’s settlements is much greater than commonly assumed today.

Obama has insisted on solving the Palestine-Israel issue because he knows that extremists benefit so much from its intractability.

Making exceptions on the settlement issue might seem like a case of playing with the fine print, but it’s really just playing with fire.

to less and less to negotiate over doesn’t serve the Palestinians’ interests, and they were promised something very different by the Obama administration.

As for repercussions in the wider region, such a move plays into the hands of extremists, and any other interpretation would be silly. Anyone in the Middle East who supports a US-sponsored “peace process” under such conditions has to explain why the supposedly fair mediator behaves this way.

The utter illegality of the Israeli settlements and their importance in the peace process is not a side issue. Earlier this year, Haaretz leaked a secret government document indicating that the scope of Israel’s settlements is much greater than commonly assumed today.

Obama has insisted on solving the Palestine-Israel issue because he knows that extremists benefit so much from its intractability.

Making exceptions on the settlement issue might seem like a case of playing with the fine print, but it’s really just playing with fire.

Anti-Taliban tribal leader shot dead in Khyber

Anti-Taliban tribal leader shot dead in Khyber

PESHAWAR: A tribal elder who was raising a lashkar against the Taliban has been killed, said an official on Wednesday, in the latest attack against figures opposing the Islamist rebels. Malik Zardad Khan, 55, was kidnapped on Tuesday, and his bullet-riddled body was found early on Wednesday in Tirah valley in Khyber Agency, local administration official Rehan Gul Khattak told AFP. “He was organising a lashkar against the Taliban and consulting other tribal elders,” said Khattak.

Waziristan residents asked to shift

Waziristan residents asked to shift

LAHORE: South Waziristan Agency’s political administration has asked the residents of the areas where a military operation is underway to shift to safer places, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday. The channel said tribes residing in Ziarat Ray, Toormandi, Sevay and Madi Jan had been directed to shift to safer areas, such as Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, within 48 hours.

Obama’s Drones Continue Pakistan’s Work, 48 killed

[So this is Gen. Kayani’s war, huh, surround the bad guys, plant the American tracking devices and send in their  drones?]

Two US drone attacks kill 48 militants

Missiles hit Taliban’s training centre, convoy in SWA

By Mushtaq Yusufzai & Irfan Burki

PESHAWAR/WANA: Forty-eight militants were killed and several others injured in two separate attacks by US spy planes in the troubled South Waziristan Agency (SWA) on Wednesday. However, some reports quoting officials of law-enforcement agencies and political administration put the death toll in the two attacks at 58.

According to sources, besides the tribal militants, the dead also included four Arabs and seven Uzbeks.It was the deadliest attack for the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants after June 23 in which 80 people, mostly militants, were killed in two attacks on a training camp and funeral ceremony of Taliban commander Khwaz Wali Mehsud near Makeen.

“Almost 90 per cent of the militants travelling in the convoy were killed in the drone attack,” said an official of law-enforcement agencies based in the troubled region. Pleading anonymity, he said it was a huge loss for the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants.

He said the militants in the Mehsud-inhabited areas of South Waziristan had been reduced to their hideouts and caves in the mountains due to continuous flights of the US spy planes and frequent attacks on their locations.

There are also reports that senior militant commanders, including their leader Baitullah Mehsud, have fled their troubled tribal region due to continuous flights of the US drones. In the deadly attack, the drones targeted a convoy of the Taliban militants near Janata village of Srarogha Tehsil, killing 40 militants.

Sources close to the militants said that a convoy of pick-ups was carrying militants from Ladha to Srarogha for a meeting of militant commanders when it came under attack. They said three drones were flying over the region during the attack.

The drones fired seven missiles and destroyed all the five vehicles on the spot. There were also reports that bodies of the slain militants were seen lying for about two hours at the spot as the drones were still hovering over the area, frightening militants of the adjoining villages.

When the drones disappeared, militants reached the spot and retrieved the bodies of their slain colleagues. Earlier, sources from the restive tribal region said eight militants were killed and 12 others injured in the first drone attack at a training camp of the militants at Karwan Manza village of Ladha Subdivision. They said two US drones were seen flying over the area during the attack.

The sources said the building was being used for training the newly-recruited militants. Militant sources told The News by telephone that 150-200 recruits used to gather at the camp everyday for physical training and use of sophisticated weapons.

Senior commander of Baitullah Mehsud group, Noor Wali Mehsud, was reportedly running the camp — located in the mountains, about one kilometre of the scenic Kaniguram Valley. He, however, remained safe. The drones fired six missiles at the camp that razed it to the ground. The Taliban confirming the drone attack at the training camp, however, denied losses to their men.

House Dems: Panetta testified CIA has misled Congress repeatedly

House Dems: Panetta testified CIA has misled Congress repeatedly

WASHINGTON (CNN) — CIA Director Leon Panetta recently testified to Congress that the agency concealed information and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001, according to a letter from seven House Democrats to Panetta made public Wednesday.

Seven House Democrats say CIA Director Leon Panetta recently testified that the CIA has misled Congress.

Seven House Democrats say CIA Director Leon Panetta recently testified that the CIA has misled Congress.

The letter to Panetta, dated June 26, was published on the Web site of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California.

“Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week,” said the letter, signed by Eshoo and six other House Democrats — Reps. John Tierney of Massachusetts, Mike Thompson of California, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Adam Smith of Washington and Janice Schakowsky of Illinois. Read the signed letter on Rep. Eshoo’s Web site

The letter contained no details about what information the CIA officials allegedly concealed or how they purportedly misled members of Congress.

On February 11, 2003, CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate committee that U.S. intelligence indicated al Qaeda planned to attack targets in the United States and in the Middle East, perhaps with chemical weapons or radioactive materials.

On May 15 of this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading Congress in a secret briefing she received in 2002. Pelosi said the CIA failed to inform her and others at the briefing about harsh interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects.

The CIA responded that Pelosi was told about the harsh techniques, including waterboarding, at the classified 2002 briefing.

However, the June 26 letter from the seven House Democrats noted that Panetta told CIA employees in a letter dated May 15 — in response to the Pelosi allegation — that it was not CIA policy to mislead Congress.

“Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values,” the House Democrats quoted Panetta’s letter as saying.

The letter from the House Democrats asked Panetta to correct his May 15 statement “in light of your testimony.”

Asked about the Democrats’ letter, CIA spokesman George Little said Panetta “stands by his May 15 statement.”

“This agency and this director believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. Director Panetta’s actions back that up,” Little said in a statement. “As the letter from these … representatives notes, it was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees.”

The Democrats’ letter became public the night before the House is scheduled to vote on an intelligence spending measure that includes a provision to expand the number of House and Senate members privy to the kind of secret briefing that Pelosi received.

The White House opposes the provision to expand the number of briefing participants from the current eight to 40 members of Congress.

A White House memo warned President Obama’s senior advisers would recommend a veto of the bill if it contained the expanded briefing provision.

War for Ever More?

War for Ever More?

July 8, 2009, 5:47PM

The war in Iraq is supposedly winding down (though this is in part a matter of definition). The war in Afghanistan is heating up and has extended to Pakistan. AfriCom is a secretly booming endeavour; as is strategic military operations throughout Latin America. George W. Bush put us on a permanent war footing, and President Obama is continuing that policy.

How long has it been since you have heard a discussion of peace? It has become a rare commodity over the last decade – perhaps decades. The only political discussion of peace was during the last campaign was Dennis Kucinich being laughed out of candidacy with his “Department of Peace.” It has been so long since any serious discussion of “peace on Earth” that I would guess that for many peace isn’t even a thought. In the U.S. – and perhaps the rest of the world – we have become so inured to war that we seem to think it is an inevitable and natural state.

I am not going to make an argument that the world does not have a history of warfare. However, I do not believe that a history of warfare proves the argument of the natural inevitability of war. War is a choice. As a choice, it means that humans could make different choices.

There is a good reason why even thoughts of peace seem to have fled the public dialog. Namely, that there is big money in weapons and war. I highly recommend Mother Jones’s special report “Shock and Audit” which is an analysis of the Defense Budget and where it is going. The short story is that more and more dollars are going to “defense” spending. A significant portion of this financing growth is the continued expansion of U.S. global military presence (see MoJo’s interactive map Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide).

So the path we are on does not seem to be focusing on peace, but focusing on endless, global, military conflict. Still, there seems to be (at best) muted complaints about framing our present and future within the context of endless war. The horror of that does not seem to sink in. I believe this is due to the spinning of war technology. U.S. war technology development seems to be headed towards involving fewer soldiers and more “remote” technologies. While this may reduce the number of U.S. troops lost and permanently injured, it definitely does not lessen the footprint of those wars where it tromps.

The remote technologies range from robotic weapons platforms patrolling streets, to weaponized drones flying overhead, to space-based laser (and energy) weapons platforms which can strike anywhere on the planet. Since the video game-esque presentation of the first Iraq War (Desert Storm), the U.S. public has been sold a bill of goods about “smart” weapons and “precision” weaponry. What is kept as distant as possible is that these weapons are neither “smart” or “precise,” and that civilians are constantly on the receiving end of them. Obama has apparently embraced the defense establishment hype and has expanded the “drone” attacks across Afghanistan and Pakistan – and also expanded the non-combatant toll of those weapons.

The other major area of development is the creation of the super soldier (or as the DoD prefers to call them – “future war fighters”). This line of pursuit engages in various degrees and types of technologies that either meld “war fighter” and machine externally (through robotics) or internally (through nanotechnology and the implantation of weapons and systems control devices in the “war fighter”). Another line of development is to improve the war fighter through biotech and genetic options which would allow things from rapid muscle repair/recovery to being able to digest cellulose (from boxes to grasses) so that time in the field without resupply can be extended.

Instead of discussing where we are going, our leaders continue to create more incentives to grow the military investment. The “military-industrial complex” is increasingly diverse and more an more private contractors take over former military tasks – from food services, to strategic monitoring, to mercenary forces. We are rapidly becoming (if we are not already) an economy with the war complex at its hub.

In his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower’ spoke of the dangers of the war machine that had been created (See end of article for quote and video). He stated that we must guard against this powerful military industry dominating our society. We have failed to heed that warning. Instead, through careful manipulation and strategic rhetoric we have not only come to embrace the war machine, but to accept the “need” for it, and the naturalness of war.

Perpetual war has become completely merged with a fatal belief in “capitalism.” We have been sold an ideology that idolizes the “benefits” of capitalism – particularly its “efficiencies” driven by “free market competition.” Meanwhile, government is presented as “bloated,” “wasteful,” and “corrupt.” We are led to believe in the inherent “badness” of government combined with the assumption that “business” is self-regulating. While the debacle of the current global economic meltdown should have debunked the myth of “efficiency” and market “self-regulation,” it apparently has not. There is little broad public discussion of the fact that the economic meltdown is the result of monopoly capitalism seeking the most “profit” imaginable while “free market” governmental believers turned a blind eye to regulating or controlling the “excesses” of capitalism.

Perhaps because this lesson is being missed, or perhaps because the connection is not made, we are incentivizing permanent war. More and more privatization of the military leads to more incentives (profits) from never ending war. Just as privatizing jails and prisons creates an environment to “grow the market” (increase the number of prisoners and the length of detentions), so privatizing the military creates an environment for more war.

Government is not a business. The activities it engages in (in part) are to address social needs that are not necessarily profitable. Increasingly, it needs to engage in meeting social needs that are dangerous when placed in the private market sphere. We are seeing this with the argument about health care, and we should be discussing it in relationship to defense (and other charges of government). Instead, where the concerns about capitalism occur, it is to pose government as a necessary competitor to the private sphere. This is an underlying argument of the “public option” in health care reform. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that the U.S. government has been argued to be a necessary competitor to bring U.S. industry back to competitive capitalism. In part, it shows how weak the monopoly barriers have become that the only agency big enough to offer corporate competition is the government of the United States.

The expansion of militarism and imperialism (soft or blatant) is following the same course with looming disastrous consequences. We need to seriously discuss the reality of perpetual war and the profit driven industry that is being created. We need to challenge the rhetoric of never ending conflict and that we can engage in “neat” wars. They are not, and never will be “neat.” They will always bear the costs of blood and life, deadly environments, and decimation of human connection and community.

A peace movement arose under the whip of the “war on terrorism.” It seems to have gone back to sleep with the election of Barack Obama. While there are numerous fronts on which people are struggling right now, it is critical that the peace movement be highly visible and loud. Obama and Congress are expanding the financing of the defense industry. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still being supplemented by “emergency” funding despite promises they would be transparently included in the federal budget.

We have a world at stake with the crises of energy, environmental destruction, and climate chaos. We need each other to meet these challenges if we are going to survive. We have the best bases in the world to come together peacefully than at any time in human history – our very survival. I firmly believe that our ability to successfully meet these challenges rests in peace – not war. We have a choice to make – peace or assured destruction (which will be profitable for a few).