Category Archives: War crimes

Fifteen years of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/05/the-15-year-u-s-war-in-afghanistan-barely-gets-mentioned-even-when-nato-airstrikes-massacre-30-civilians/
Salpon.com, Nov. 5, 2016
The 15-year U.S. war in Afghanistan barely gets mentioned, even when NATO airstrikes massacre 30 civilians
The U.S. war continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, yet Clinton and Trump never even discussed it
Ben Norton

At least 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan on Thursday. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

The site of the attack, in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, was near the remnants of a hospital bombed by NATO forces almost exactly one year before.

These new casualties come just after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan entered its 16th year. The ongoing conflict, which gets little coverage in the media and has hardly been mentioned in the presidential campaigns, is one of the longest conventional wars in U.S. history, and has taken an enormous toll on the South Asian country’s civilian population.

Airstrikes were called in on Thursday after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban militants and U.S. and allied Afghan forces in the northern village of Buz Kandahari.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Amarkhil called the attack “a horrible incident,” Reuters reported. Afghan villagers brought the bodies of the slain civilians into the nearby city of Kunduz and held angry protests.

“These bodies you see here are either children or women, they are not Taliban. All innocent children and women killed here — look at the bodies there,” a resident told Reuters.

Two U.S. soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

This latest attack took place roughly three miles from the center of Kunduz, where NATO forces bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

Last year’s attack killed another 30 civilians, including 14 hospital workers. A hospital nurse said there “are no words for how terrible” the bombing was, noting that “patients were burning in their beds.”

The U.S. military’s version of the story changed multiple times, and was full of contradictions. Ultimately, no U.S. officials lost their jobs because of the attack.

Doctors Without Borders called the hospital bombing a war crime. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights similarly said it could have been a war crime.

The medical humanitarian group, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, emphasized that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months.” Yet its facility was repeatedly bombed for more than 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The Kunduz hospital was the only large medical facility in all of northeastern Afghanistan, yet MSF was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.

Millions of Afghans have had their lives permanently changed by the U.S. war, which marked its 15th anniversary on Oct. 7 — an unpropitious date that came and went with little attention in the media, and virtually no acknowledgment by major American politicians.

More than a decade of nonstop war has pushed Afghanistan to the brink of catastrophe. And things are getting worse, not better.

At least 220,000 Afghans were killed in the first 12 years of the war, in a conservative estimate, according to a report by the Nobel Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Since 2012, Afghan civilian casualties have increased, with children making up a growing portion of victims. The violence in 2015 was the worst since the U.N. began tracking the casualties.

In the first nine months of 2016, 2,562 Afghan civilians were killed, including more than 600 children, and another 5,835 were injured, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
A graph released by the U.N. mission shows how civilian casualties have gradually risen in the past several years.

http://media.salon.com/2016/11/casualties-afghanistan-un.jpg

A May report by Amnesty International noted that the number of Afghans “who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country, where they live on the brink of survival,” has doubled in just over three years.

At least 1.2 million Afghans are displaced within their country — a rise by some 240 percent since 2013. Another roughly 2.6 million Afghans are refugees, stuck outside of their country’s borders.

Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Yet the European Union, which has backed the NATO war in Afghanistan that has displaced so many people, made a deal to send Afghan refugees to Turkey, in a plan experts said is illegal and immoral.

Even child refugees are not spared. From 2007 to 2015, the United Kingdom deported 2,018 unaccompanied children to Afghanistan — in another program human rights officials have warned is illegal.

None of this is to mention the enormous costs of the war for U.S. taxpayers. Numerous reports estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost at least $1 trillion. That is money that could have been invested in social services, health care, infrastructure, education and so much more.

The war drags on. President Obama promised countless times that he would end it in 2014. Instead, he has extended it multiple times.

The Taliban was itself a product of U.S. war. In order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia trained, armed and funded extremist Islamist militants, giving birth to the extremism that haunts the region today.

While fighting between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces escalates, Obama nears his last days in office. Neither Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate for U.S. president, nor her opponent Donald Trump has presented a strategy for ending the war. The Afghan people, meanwhile, cannot wait. They are dying, suffering, losing their homes and loved ones.

As Nicholas Haysom, the U.N.’s secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, put it in February, mere statistics do not “reflect the real horror of the phenomenon we are talking about.”

“The real cost we are talking about in these figures,” Haysom continued, “is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieve for lost children, the children who grieve for lost parents.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

Dania Khalek,  The Intercept,  28 September 2016

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”

U.S. sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into the country nearly impossible. Even when a transaction is legal, banks are reluctant to process funds related to Syria for risk of incurring violation fees. This has given rise to an unofficial and unregulated network of money exchanges that lacks transparency, making it easier for extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected. The difficulty of transferring money is also preventing aid groups from paying local staff and suppliers, which has “delayed or prevented the delivery of development assistance in both government and besieged areas,” according to the report.

Trade restrictions on Syria are even more convoluted. Items that contain 10 percent or more of U.S. content, including medical devices, are banned from export to Syria. Aid groups wishing to bypass this rule have to apply for a special license, but the licensing bureaucracy is a nightmare to navigate, often requiring expensive lawyers that cost far more than the items being exported.

Syria was first subjected to sanctions in 1979, after the U.S. designated the Syrian government as a state sponsor of terrorism. More sanctions were added in subsequent years, though none more extreme than the restrictions imposed in 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

In 2013 the sanctions were eased but only in opposition areas. Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZA banker stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on August 25, 2011. US sanctions have forced Syria to stop all transactions in US dollars, with the country turning completely to euro deals, the governor of the Central Bank Adib Mayaleh told the AFP during an interview. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

A man stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on Aug. 25, 2011.

Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care. The August email from a key U.N. official warned that sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent. The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system. Medicine-producing factories that haven’t been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency, the email said.As one NGO worker in Damascus told The Intercept, there are cars, buses, water systems, and power stations that are in serious need of repair all across the country, but it takes months to procure spare parts and there’s no time to wait. So aid groups opt for cheap Chinese options or big suppliers that have the proper licensing, but the big suppliers can charge as much as they want. If the price is unaffordable, systems break down and more and more people die from dirty water, preventable diseases, and a reduced quality of life.

Such conditions would be devastating for any country. In war-torn Syria, where an estimated 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, the sanctions are compounding the chaos.

In an emailed statement to The Intercept, the State Department denied that the sanctions are hurting civilians.

“U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people,” said the statement, which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in 1990s. The U.S. continued to rationalize the Iraq sanctions even after a report was released by UNICEF in 1999 that showed a doubling in mortality rates for children under the age of 5 after sanctions were imposed in the wake of the Gulf War, and the death of 500,000 children.

“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers,” the U.S. statement on Syria continued. “He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it.”

Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of KobaneRamadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

Photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Humanitarian concerns aside, the sanctions are not achieving their objectives. Five years of devastating civil war and strict economic sanctions have plunged over 80 percent of Syrians into poverty, up from 28 percent in 2010. Ferdinand Arslanian, a scholar at the Center for Syrian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, says that reduction in living standards and aid dependency is empowering the regime.“Aid is now an essential part of the Syrian economy and sanctions give regime cronies in Syria the ability to monopolize access to goods. It makes everyone reliant on the government. This was the case in Iraq, with the food-for-oil system,” explained Arslanian.

“Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq,” argues Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “But there’s pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you’re doing something,” he added.

Despite the failure of sanctions, opposition advocates are agitating for even harsher measures that would extend sanctions to anyone who does business with the Syrian government. This, of course, would translate into sanctions against Russia.

“The opposition likes sanctions,” says Landis. “They were the people who advocated them in the beginning because they want to put any pressure they can on the regime. But it’s very clear that the regime is not going to fall, that the sanctions are not working. They’re only immiserating a population that’s already suffered terrible declines in their per capita GDP,” he added.

Read the report:

Hum Impact of Syria Related Res Eco Measures 26 May 2016, 40 pages

Top photo: A Syrian Red Crescent truck, part of a convoy carrying humanitarian aid, is seen in Kafr Batna on the outskirts of Damascus on Feb. 23, 2016, during an operation in cooperation with the U.N. to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians.

Update: September 30, 2016

The wording of a paragraph about U.S. tactics in Syria and Iraq has been altered to clarify that the U.S. used a strategy of airstrikes against Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah when they were controlled by ISIS forces

Yes, Netanyahu, Let’s Talk About Ethnic Cleansing

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.741296
Opinion // Yes, Netanyahu, Let’s Talk About Ethnic Cleansing

Turning Israeli settlers into victims is the prime minister’s most staggering act of chutzpah yet. The only mass ethnic cleansing that took place here was in 1948, when some 700,000 Arabs were forced to leave their lands.
Gideon Levy, Sep 10, 2016 9:48 PM

Israel knows a thing or two about ethnic cleansing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows a thing or two about propaganda. The video he posted on Friday proves both points. Here’s the real thing — yet another record for Israeli chutzpah: The evacuation of settlers from the West Bank (which has never happened, and presumably never will) is ethnic cleansing.

Yes, the state that brought you the great cleansing of 1948 and that has never, deep in its heart, given up on the dream of cleansing, and that never stopped carrying out methodical microcleansings in the Jordan Valley, in the South Hebron Hills, in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and in the Negev, too — that state calls the removal of settlers ethnic cleansing. That state compares the invaders of the occupied territories with the children of the land who clung onto their lands and homes.

Netanyahu proved once more that he is the real thing, the most authentic representative of the “Israeliness” that created reality for itself: Turning night into day, shamelessly and without any sense of guilt, without inhibition.

In Israel, many people, perhaps a majority, will buy these goods. The settlers of the Gaza Strip became “expellees,” their removal “deportation.” Not only is an aggressive and violent action — settlement — legitimate, but its agents are victims.

The Jews as victim. Always the Jews, only the Jews. An Israeli prime minister less brazen and arrogant than Netanyahu would not dare to utter the term “ethnic cleansing,” given the plank in his own eye. Few propaganda campaigns would dare go so far. Yet occasionally, reality intrudes.

And the reality is razor-sharp. The only mass ethnic cleansing that took place here was in 1948. Some 700,000 human beings, the majority, were forced to leave their homes, their belongings, their villages and the land that had been theirs for centuries. Some were forcibly expelled, put on trucks and removed; some were intentionally frightened into fleeing; still others fled, possibly unnecessarily. They were never allowed to return, save for a few, even if only to recover their belongings.

Being barred from returning was worse than the expulsion. It is what proved that the cleansing was intentional. Not a single Arab community remained between Jaffa and Gaza, and all the other areas are scarred with the remains of villages, the vestiges of life. That is ethnic cleansing — there’s no other term for it. More than 400 villages and towns were wiped off the face of the earth, their ruins covered over by Jewish communities, forests and lies. The truth was concealed from Israeli Jews and the descendants of the deportees were forbidden to commemorate them — neither monument nor gravestone, to paraphrase Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

The number of settlers now exceeds the number of expellees. They invaded a land that was not theirs, with the support of successive Israeli governments and the opposition of the entire world, and they knew that their enterprise was built on ice. They and the Israeli governments not only crudely violated international law, which earns no respect in Israel. They also broke Israeli law, with the support of a subjugated judiciary.

Land theft is even a violation of the law practiced in Israel and the territories. When Israelis, and the world, began to become accustomed to this situation, to accept it as inevitable, along comes the prime minister and takes his chutzpah up one more level: The settlers are actually victims. Not the ones they expelled, not the ones they disinherited of their land. In the reality according to Netanyahu, the settlements that were built for the purpose of precluding arrangements with the Palestinians are not an obstacle, and he equates them with the she’erit haplita — the remnants of the Palestinians that remained in Israel, to borrow a term from the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Language can be twisted to any use, propaganda to any moral perversion. Farewell, reality, you’re not relevant here anymore.

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

by Joy Gordon

in Ethics and International Affairs 04/2006

Joy Gordon is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University. She received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale and a J.D. from Boston University. Prior research interests include Latin American political thought. Her recent work is in Third World and leftist critiques of Western theories of human rights. Currently, she is writing a book on economic sanctions and their role within the larger context of international governance.

ABSTRACT

Economic sanctions are emerging as one of the major tools of international governance in the post-Cold War era. Sanctions have long been seen as a form of political intervention that does not cause serious human damage, and therefore does not raise pressing ethical questions. However, the nature of sanctions is that they effectively target the most vulnerable and least political sectors of society, and for this reason they must be subject to ethical scrutiny.This essay looks at sanctions in the context of three ethical frameworks: just war doctrine, deontological ethics, and utilitarianism. It argues that sanctions are inconsistent with the principle of discrimination from just war doctrine; that sanctions reduce individuals to nothing more than means to an end by using the suffering of innocents as a means of persuasion, thereby violating the Kantian principle that human beings are “ends in themselves”; and that sanctions are unacceptable from a utilitarian perspective because their economic effectiveness necessarily entails considerable human damage, while their likelihood of achieving political objectives is low
A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions (PDF Download Available). Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/229658377_A_Peaceful_Silent_Deadly_Remedy_The_Ethics_of_Economic_Sanctions [accessed Jul 23, 2015].

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/05/quantum-mechanics-israeli-totalitarianism-150507072609153.html

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
 
Source: Al Jazeera

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18732/racism-is-the-foundation-of-israels-operation-prot

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
Jul 30 2014, by Joel Beinin

On 30 June Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Knesset faction of the ultra-right wing ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, a key member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, posted on her Facebook page a previously unpublished article written by the late Uri Elitzur. Elitzur, a pro-settler journalist and former chief-of-staff to Netanyahu, wrote:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Shaked’s post appeared the day the bodies of three abducted settler teens­—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach—were discovered. It has since received more than 5,200 “likes.”

For over two weeks, Netanyahu and the media whipped the country into a hysterical state, accusing Hamas of responsibility for abducting the teens without providing evidence to support the claim and promoting hopes that they would be found alive, although the government knew that the boys were likely murdered within minutes of their abduction. Their deaths provided a pretext for more violent expressions of Israeli anti-Arab racism than ever before.

The viciousness of Mordechai Kedar, lecturer in Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, was even more creative than Shaked and Elitzur’s merely genocidal proposal. “The only thing that can deter terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them,” he said, “is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” As a university-based “expert,” Kedar’s heinous suggestion is based on his “understanding” of Arab culture. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” he explained, hastening to add, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts.”

Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem “normal.” The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as “enlightened” and “democratic” to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip—1.8 million people, mostly descendants of refugees who arrived during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and have been, to a greater or lesser extent, imprisoned since 1994.

Conciliatory gestures, on the other hand, are scorned. Just two days after Shaked’s Facebook post, Orthodox Jews kidnapped sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from the Shu‘afat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and burned him alive in the Jerusalem Forest. Amir Peretz (Hatnua) was the only government minister to visit the grieving family. For this effort he received dozens of posts on his Facebook page threatening to kill him and his family. Meanwhile, vandals twice destroyed memorials erected to Abu Khdeir on the spot of his immolation.

The international community typically sees the manifestations of Israel’s violent racism only when they erupt as assaults on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Lebanon. But Israel’s increasingly poisonous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim public culture prepares the ground of domestic public opinion long before any military operation and immunizes the army from most criticism of its “excesses.” Moreover, Israeli anti-democratic and racist sentiment is increasingly directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of the population.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Is Our Home) Party made his political reputation on the slogan “No Loyalty, No Citizenship”—a demand that Palestinian Israelis swear loyalty oaths as a condition of retaining their citizenship. Since 2004 Lieberman has also advocated “transferring” Palestinian-Israelis residing in the Triangle region to a future Palestinian state, while annexing most West Bank settlements to Israel. In November 2011 Haaretz published a partial list of ten “loyalty-citizenship” bills in various stages of legislation designed to “determine certain citizens’ rights according to their ‘loyalty’ to the state.”

While Lieberman and other MKs pursue legal channels to legally undermine the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis, their civil rights are already in serious danger. In 2010 eighteen local rabbis warned that the Galilee town of Safed faced an “Arab takeover” and instructed Jewish residents to inform on and boycott Jews who sold or rented dwellings to Arabs. In addition to promoting segregated housing, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, tried to ban Arab students from attending Safed Academic College (about 1,300 Palestinian-Israelis are enrolled, some of whom live in Safed). The rabbinical statement incited rampages by religious Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs,” leading Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to dub Safed “the most racist city” in Israel. In Karmiel and Upper Nazareth—towns established as part of Israel’s campaign to “Judaize the Galilee”—elected officials have led similar campaigns.

Palestinian Israeli Knesset members receive regular verbal abuse from their Jewish “colleagues.” For example, Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Alliance), who participated in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli naval commandos attacked, killing nine Turks (one of whom also held US citizenship), has been particularly targeted. In the verbal sparring over the murder of the three teens Foreign Minister Lieberman called her a “terrorist.” Not to be outdone, Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.” Other Knesset members—some from putatively “liberal” parties—piled on. [Update: Yesterday—29 July—Hanin Zoabi was suspended from Knesset].

Violence against Arabs in and around Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem” is particularly intense. Much of it is the work of Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Defense League, banned in Israel in 1994 and designated a terrorist organization by the FBI in 2001, and several similar groups regularly assault and harass Arabs. The day of the funeral of the three abducted teens, some two hundred Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” The previous evening, hardcore fans of the Betar Jerusalem football club, known as La Familia, rallied chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”  The same chant is frequently heard at games of the team, which is associated with the Likud and does not hire Arab players. Hate marches, beatings and shootings of Arabs, and destruction of their property, long common in the West Bank, have become regular events in Israel-proper in the last month.

The citizenship-loyalty bills, Safed’s designation as “the most racist city,” the attacks volleyed at Palestinian elected officials, and mob violence against Arabs all took place before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. The operation—more aggressively dubbed “Firm Cliff” in Hebrew—constitutes Israel’s third assault on the Gaza Strip since 2008. As of yesterday, 29 July, the Palestinian death toll in that operation has reached over 1,200, the great majority of them civilians. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died. Israeli security officials sardonically call these operations “mowing the lawn” because well-informed observers know that Hamas cannot be uprooted and is capable of rebuilding its military capacity. There is no long-term strategy, except, as Gideon Levy put it, to kill Palestinians. Major General (res.) Oren Shachor elaborated, “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.” And what might deter Israel?

[This piece originally appeared in a special weeklong series on the Stanford University Press blog, and is reposted here in partnership with SUP blog. The entire ten-part series can be found on the SUP blog.]

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/palestinian-recourse-to-the-international-criminal-court-the-time-has-come/

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Human rights group B’Tselem will petition Israel’s supreme court after advert was deemed to be ‘politically controversial’
in Jerusale
The Guardian,
Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights organisation which listed the names of some of the scores of children killed in Gaza since the conflict began 17 days ago.

B’Tselem‘s appeal against the decision was rejected on Wednesday. It intends to petition Israel‘s supreme court on Sunday in an effort to get the ban overturned.

The IBA said the ad’s content was “politically controversial”. The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims’ names.

In its appeal, B’Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. “Is it controversial that the children [aren’t] alive? That they’re children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public’s knowledge.”

In a statement, the human rights group said: “So far more than 600 people have been killed in bombings in Gaza, more than 150 of them children. But apart from a brief report on the number of fatalities, the Israeli media refrains from covering them.” By Thursday morning, the death toll in Gaza had exceeded 700.

B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”

Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days, and more than 70,000 children had been forced to flee their homes. There has also been a spike in the number of premature births.

“The shocking number of children being killed, injured, or displaced in Gaza demands an unequivocal international response to stop the bloodshed,” Save the Children said. “Entire families are being wiped out in seconds as a result of the targeting of homes.”

Dr Yousif al Swaiti, director of al-Awda hospital, said: “We have witnessed many premature births as a result of the fear and psychological disorders caused by the military offensive. The number of cases of premature births per day has doubled, compared to the average daily rate before the escalation.”

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the United Nations Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

René Provost

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the United Nations Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

30 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 577 (1992)

(Introduction)

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990 was a bold political move that sent shockwaves through the community of nations and triggered an international reaction which some have viewed as the dawn of a ‘New World Order.’ From the start, the United Nations (the “U.N.”) was at the center of the reaction against this illegal use of force, condemning the invasion in unmitigated terms the same day it occurred. The U.N. proved successful in channelling efforts which eventually resulted in the liberation of Kuwait.

My focus here is on the use of a food blockade by the U.N. Security Council against Iraq and occupied Kuwait. The use of starvation as a weapon is regulated by a number of international humanitarian norms, some conventional and others customary. In this article, I analyze the legal and factual background of the food blockade, and then assess its compliance with international humanitarian law. I conclude that the U.N., the members of the Security Council, and the countries that participated violated several mandatory humanitarian norms in enforcing the food blockade.

Read the entire article here:

starvation-provost

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings on Belgrad

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings

Amnesty International, April 23, 2009

Aftermath of NATO bombing, Aleksinak, Yugoslavia, 28 May 1999

Ten years on, no-one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television building that left 16 civilians dead. Sixteen civilians were also injured during the air attack on 23 April 1999 on the headquarters and studios of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) in central Belgrade.

Those killed included a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, a programme director, three security guards and other media support staff. An estimated 200 staff are thought to have been working in the building at the time.

“The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime,” Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert said.

NATO officials confirmed to Amnesty International in early 2000 that they targeted RTS because of its propaganda function, in order to undermine the morale of the population and the armed forces.

“Justifying an attack on the grounds of combating propaganda stretches the meaning of ‘effective contribution to military action’ and ‘definite military advantage’. These are essential requirements of the legal definition of a military objective – beyond acceptable bounds of interpretation.

“Even if NATO genuinely believed RTS was a legitimate target, the attack was disproportionate and hence a war crime,” Sian Jones said.  

NATO officials also confirmed that no specific warning of this particular attack was given, even though they knew many civilians would be in the RTS building.

The raid was part of NATO’s “Operation Allied Force” against the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999. Approximately 500 civilians were killed and 900 injured during the course of the conflict.

Many of these casualties were caused by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and a failure to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.

In several attacks, including the Grdelica railroad bridge on 12 April 1999, the road bridge in Lužane on 1 May 1999 and Varvarin bridge on 30 May 1999, NATO forces failed to suspend their attack after it was evident that they had struck civilians. In other cases, including the attacks on displaced civilians in Djakovica on 14 April 1999 and Koriša on 13 May 1999, NATO failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties.

“Civilian deaths could have been significantly reduced during the conflict if NATO forces had fully adhered to the laws of war,” said Sian Jones. “Ten years on, no public investigation has ever been conducted by NATO or its member states into these incidents.”

Amnesty International recommended as early as 2000 that the victims of violations committed by NATO receive redress. Yet the victims of the RTS bombing and their relatives have never received any redress or reparations, including compensation, despite proceedings in domestic courts in Serbia and further applications to the European Court of Human Rights (Banković and others v Belgium and others and Markovic v Italy), which ruled the cases inadmissible.  

Many of the problems that undermined compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in “Operation Allied Force” – such as lack of clarity in the command structure and decision-making processes on target selection, divergent understanding among national contingents of applicable international law – persist in the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan.

“It now appears that NATO has failed to learn from the mistakes of Operation Allied Force. If anything, NATO appears to have taken a step backward in transparency, releasing less information about attacks it carries out in Afghanistan than it did during Operation Allied Force,” said Sian Jones.

“The most powerful military alliance in the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection of civilians according to international humanitarian law. It must be held accountable for any violations of that law.”

War Crimes as Policy

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/31/war-crimes-as-policy-2/
Weekend Edition May 31-Jun 02, 2013
The CIA: Keepers of the Hit Lists
War Crimes as Policy
by DOUGLAS VALENTINE and NICOLAS J.S. DAVIES

In February the Guardian and BBC Arabic unveiled a documentary exploring the role of retired Colonel James Steele in the recruitment, training and initial deployments of the CIA advised and funded Special Police Commandos in Iraq.

The documentary tells how the Commandos tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi men and boys.  But the Commandos were only one of America’s many weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Along with US military forces – which murdered indiscriminately – and various CIA funded death squads – which murdered selectively – and the CIA’s rampaging palace guard – the 5,000 man strong Iraq Special Operations Forces – the Commandos were part of a genocidal campaign that killed about 10% of the Sunni Arabs of Iraq by 2008, and drove about half of all Sunnis from their homes.

Including economic sanctions, and a 50 year history of sabotage and subversion, America and its Iraqi collaborators visited far more death and destruction on Iraq than Saddam Hussein and his regime.

For the last few weeks, American pundits have been cataloguing the horrors.   They tell how the Bush and Obama regimes, united in the unstated policy of war crimes, probably murdered more than a million Iraqis, displaced around five million, and imprisoned and tortured hundreds of thousands without trial.

A few have further explained that the dictatorial administrative detention laws, torture, and executions that characterize the occupation are still in place under Prime Minister Maliki.   The prime minister’s office, notably, is where the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau is currently ensconced.

All of this meets the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention, and violates multiple articles of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantee protection to civilians in time of war.   But the responsible Americans have gone unpunished for their war crimes, not least of which was falsifying intelligence about Iraq’s non-existent weapon of mass destruction as a pretext for the invasion.  British legal advisors repeatedly warned their government that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression, which they called “one of the most serious offenses under international law.”

For anyone familiar with the CIA, this was predictable.  But the US Government, through secrecy and censorship, destroyed much of the hard evidence of its war crimes, making it harder to prove.   And the media is content to revise history and focus public attention on front men like Steele, rather than the institutions – in particular the CIA – for whom they work.

History, however, provides contextual evidence that what happened in Iraq amounts to a policy of carefully planned war crimes.  Indeed, the CIA modeled the Iraqi Special Police Commandos on the Special Police forces it organized and funded in Vietnam.  In November 2000, Counterpunch published an article describing how Congressman Rob Simmons, while serving as a CIA officer in Vietnam, created the Special Intelligence Force Unit (SIFU) on which the Iraqi Special Police Commandos are very likely modeled.   This is only one of many historical examples of the CIA’s modus operandi.

There are other examples.  As we were reminded by the Guardian, Steele headed the U.S. Military Advisor Group in El Salvador (1984-1986), where US advised units were responsible for thousands of cases of torture and extra-judicial killing.  They operated in rural and urban areas, but wherever they operated, they were directed against anyone opposing US policy – usually leftists.

The CIA’s death squads in El Salvador were periodically moved from one administrative cover to another to confuse investigators.  The CIA played this shell game with its Special Police Commandos in Iraq as well, rebranding them as the “National Police” following the exposure of one of their torture centers in November 2005.  In its finest Madison Avenue marketing traditions, the CIA renamed the Commandos’ predatory Wolf Brigade as the “Freedom Brigade”.

In Vietnam, the CIA built an archipelago of secret torture centers to process the hundreds of thousands of detainees kidnapped by its mercenary army of “counter-terror” death squads.  All around the world, CIA officers and their Special Forces lackeys teach torture techniques and design the torture centers, often hidden at military posts.   This is well known.

Major Joe Blair, the Director of Instruction at the School of the Americas (1986-9), described the training the U.S. gave to Latin American officers as follows: “The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse…false imprisonment…threats to family members… and killing.  If you can’t get the information you want, if you can’t get that person to shut up or to stop what they’re doing, you simply assassinate them, and you assassinate them with one of your death squads.”

In 2000, the School of the Americas was rebranded as “WHINSIC”, but, as Blair testified at a trial of SOA Watch protesters in 2002, “There are no substantive changes besides the name.  They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

General Paul Gorman, who commanded U.S. forces in Central America in the mid-1980′s, defined this type of warfare based on war crimes as “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”‘

Another problem, apart from historical amnesia, is that each war crime is viewed as an isolated incident, and when the dots are connected, the focus is on some shadowy character like Steele.  The Guardian made an attempt to connect Steele to Petraeus and Rumsfeld, which again, is commendable.  But the fact is that the entire National Security State has been designed and staffed with right-wing ideologues who support the unstated US policy of war crimes for profit.

We know who these security ideologues are.  The problem is, they regularly have lunch with the reporters we trust to nail them to the wall.

For example, on 17 March 2013, CNN talking head Fareed Zakaria had Donald Gregg on his show to discuss North Korea.  Zakaria introduced Gregg as President Bush the Superior’s national security advisor in the 1980s, but did not mention that Gregg, while a CIA region officer in charge in Vietnam, developed the “repugnant” form of warfare based on war crimes described by General Gorman above, or that he oversaw its application in El Salvador through a back-channel “counter-terror” network.

Gregg’s plan, used by Steele in El Salvador and then Iraq, requires US advisers to coordinate civilian security services (like the Iraqi Special Police) with military intelligence and civil affairs units to provide death squads and military units with information on the location of guerrillas, whose hideouts are bombed by U.S. warplanes, then ravaged in My Lai-style cordon and search operations in which counter-terror hit teams hunt enemy cadres in their homes.

In Vietnam, Gregg and his CIA companions – many of whom migrated to El Salvador – put together a chart of VC political cadres from “battered” detainees.  They’d force the detainees to point out on a map where their comrades were hiding.  Then the CIA officers would take the detainees up in a helicopter to point out the hiding places on the ground.  A Special Forces or CIA paramilitary unit would then snatch the cadre and bring them to region’s secret torture center, run by a CIA-paid and owned Special Police officer – the kind of guy Steele and before him Congressman Simmons advised.

“We brought guys in from the national prison to flesh out the reports,” Gregg told me about one particular operation.  “We had guys analyzing reports, marking photographs, putting the pictures together on the wall, and then photographing that.  That led to 96 people in the organization.  Using military intel, we took photos of the houses where they lived… then took the photos back to the helicopter where we had the 23 people, who were hooded, and they circled the faces of the cadre. ”

There’s more historical evidence, of course, but this is the plan the CIA exported to El Salvador, and that Steele employed, with some modifications, in Iraq.

After finishing with Gregg, Zakaria took a commercial break and returned with Paul Wolfowitz, Bush the Inferior’s Deputy Secretary of Defense and proponent of the Iraq War.

ZAKARIA: “How do you think about as an American policy maker, the issue of – was it worth the price in American lives and treasure? By some estimates $1 trillion.

WOLFOWITZ: “I would like as much as anyone to be able to say, let’s forget about the Persian Gulf. Let’s forget about the larger Middle East.  But that part of the world isn’t leaving us alone. Al Qaeda isn’t leaving us alone. Pakistan isn’t leaving us alone. I think our interests and our values would be advanced if we stick with it.”

Zakaria did not ask Wolfowitz what he meant by “leaving us alone.”  He simply said, “Paul Wolfowitz, pleasure to have you on.”

War Criminals Wave Press Passes

Given the history of America’s genocidal wars in Vietnam and Central America, it is unfortunate that the Guardian limited itself to establishing that Steele and his administrative boss, General David Petraeus, and his boss Donald Rumsfeld, underwrote systematic torture and extrajudicial killing.

What needs to be stressed is that thousands of Americans, including political bosses like Wolfowitz, and scores of journalists with access, knew that the CIA-owned Ministry of Interior had more than a dozen secret prisons, and they knew what went on in them – as one Iraqi general told the film-makers, “drilling, murder, torture – the ugliest sorts of torture I’ve ever seen.”

Likewise, the composition of and operations of Special Police death squads, an American interviewee said, “were discussed openly, wherever it was, at staff meetings,” and were “common knowledge across Baghdad.”

It is a testament to the power of U.S. “information warfare” that this policy of war crimes comes as a surprise to the general public.   Such is the power of National Security State insiders David Corn and Michael Isikoff, who happily turn the policy of calculated war crimes into the “hubris” of a handful of sexy mad patriots whom the Establishment is glad to sacrifice on the pseudo-altar of public theatre.

Certainly people have to be reminded, and the young have to learn, that America’s long-standing policy of war crimes for profit cannot exist without the complicity of the mainstream media, who exploit our natural inclination to believe the best of “our” leaders and especially of our soldiers.  As George Orwell wrote in 1945, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Belligerent nationalism is often understood as the essence of what it means to be a “patriotic” American, and this veneration for the nation is taught to all budding reporters at journalism schools, along with the Code of Silence.   Which is why, when insider Seymour Hersh reported that the CIA and Israel were training U.S. Special Forces assassination teams for deployment in Iraq, on the CIA’s Phoenix program model, he described it in a bloodless manner that made it seem necessary and, at worst, a mistake.

But war crimes are not a mistake; they are a “repugnant” and thoroughly intentional form of warfare.

Hersh quoted a former CIA station chief as saying, “We have to resuscitate Iraqi intelligence, holding our nose, and have Delta and agency shooters break down doors and take them”—the insurgents—“out.”

Hold our noses, Hersh suggested, and commit war crimes.  And when Amy Goodman interviewed him about it, she did not ask if what he described constituted a policy of war crimes.  And when Zakaria looked at Wolfowitz, he failed to question him about the war crimes he plotted and committed.

All this psychological warfare is waged in the name of morale – to make us, and our journalists, feel good about our belligerent nationalism – about being complicit in the war crimes perpetrated by the Perles, Frums, and Feiths.

After the CIA death squads eliminated the senior leadership of the Iraqi government, they eliminated “mid-level” Baath Party members, the middle class of Iraq.   Cover was provided by Newsweek, which quoted an army officer who said, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free.  We have to change that equation.”

How did they do this?  In one case, U.S. forces held a general’s three sons as hostages to persuade him to turn himself in.  Then, instead of releasing his sons as promised, they staged an elaborate mock execution of his 15-year-old youngest son, before torturing the general himself to death.

All of it covered up.  Not one victim featured on TV.

If you were to believe the New York Times – the newspaper of record – it doesn’t know the names of the senior CIA officers in Iraq behind these sorts of barbaric practices.   Or publishers and editors may claim that the Intelligence Identity Protection Act prevents them from naming names, but they could easily describe the jobs, and tell us what’s being done.   They could finesse the law.  But they don’t even do that, and that’s the Big Secret upon which the policy of war crimes utterly depends.

The Times conceals the simple truths that undermine our so-called “democracy.”   Truths, like how the CIA nurtured the exile leadership it installed in Iraq, and organized and funded the Ministry of Interior as its private domain, replete with a computerized list of every Iraqi citizen and every detail of their lives.

The Times could at least describe the CIA as “Keeper of the Hit Lists: Blackmail Central.”

But the Times won’t, because it’s a family affair.  As we well know, the Iraqi National Congress was headed by Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA-sponsored source on the myth of weapons of mass destruction, hand-delivered to Times reporter Judy Miller, now a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Chalabi’s lies, and Miller’s dutiful reporting of them, were the pretext for the war on Iraq.

What is never mentioned is that the INC was founded and funded by the CIA, and that another of its leaders was the exiled General Hassan al-Naqib, whose son, Falah al-Naqib, then became the CIA’s handpicked Interim Interior Minister in Iraq and appointed his uncle General Thavit to lead the Special Police Commandos.

Times reporters undoubtedly lunch with Uncle Thavit and his CIA case officer.

The Times doesn’t explain the CIA’s precious methods of dominance: that any American working for the Interior Ministry, or prime minister’s office, was reporting to a publicly acknowledged administrative boss, usually in the military or State Department, and secretly to a CIA case officer, his operational boss.   Or that every unit in the Special Commandos had a CIA case officer handing out hit lists to its American “Special Police Transition Team”.  Up to forty-five Americans, mostly Special Forces, worked with each Iraqi unit.  These teams were in round-the-clock communication with their CIA bosses via the Special Police Command Center, and there is no record of the Special Police ever conducting operations without U.S. supervision, even as they massacred tens of thousands of people.

Every militia and Iraqi Special Forces unit had a CIA case officer doing likewise.  Every Iraqi politician and ministry officer has a CIA case officer too.  And Times reporters drink with these advisors inside the Green Zone.  It’s the secret that enables atrocity.

American journalists do not report the truth.   Consider their deference to the Interior Ministry’s CIA advisor Steven Casteel after his Special Police Commandos launched their reign of terror in Baghdad.   Hersh’s sanitized reports of a Phoenix-style terror campaign in Iraq were conveniently forgotten and instead they regurgitated Casteel’s black propaganda – that all atrocities were either rumor or innuendo or perpetrated by “insurgents in stolen police uniforms.”

Forget about what Hersh said about “mistakes.”  Such an explanation was as ludicrous as General Petraeus claiming that the Iraqis formed the Special Police Commandos on “their own initiative.”

Knight Ridder did not mention that Casteel had managed DEA operations in Latin America and been the DEA’s Chief of Intelligence before being sent to Iraq, or that the CIA has controlled the DEA’s overseas targeting for 40 years, on a purely political basis.  Casteel had served as a CIA lackey in Latin America, attacking left wing drug traffickers and letting right wing traffickers flourish, supporting the CIA sponsored Los Pepes-AUC death squads who were responsible for about 75% of civilian deaths in the Colombian civil war over the next 10 years.

To its credit, Knight Ridder did investigate Commando atrocities, and might have uncovered the whole story, except that its Iraqi reporter, Yasser Salihee, was shot and killed by an American sniper in June 2005.  And while it had sufficient evidence to debunk Casteel’s cover story, it instead blamed the abuses on infiltration of the good guy Commandos by bad guy “Shiite militias”.

After the exposure of the al-Jadiriyah torture center, journalists reported that heads would roll.  But a major CIA asset, Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi, maintained command of the National (formerly Special) Police, undermining the reforms promised by the new Interior Minister, Jawad al-Bulani.

Asadi remains in that position, his forces embedded and deeply implicated in persistent human rights abuses in Iraq, where prisons are still rife with rape, torture, executions (judicial and extra-judicial) and disappearances.  During Arab Spring demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad in March 2011, demonstrators spotted Asadi on a rooftop directing snipers as they shot peaceful protesters in the square below.

The Guardian and the BBC made a good start, but US journalists need to break the Code of Silence and launch an ongoing investigation into the full extent of U.S. command and control of the Special Police Commandos and all the other death squads and torture centers the United States brought to Iraq.  The investigation must seriously examine the roles of the CIA and of US Special Forces, including the secret Joint Special Operations Command and the “Nightstalkers” who worked with the Wolf Brigade in 2005.  The investigation must lead to accountability for each and every war crime committed.

American journalists were glad to demonize Saddam Hussein for his war crimes – real and imagined. Now they need to identify and humanize the up to 1,800 dead bodies that piled up every month in Baghdad, and to follow up with Iraqi human rights groups like the Organization for Follow-Up and Monitoring, who matched 92% of the bodies of execution victims with names and descriptions of people detained by US-led Interior Ministry forces.

America’s ruling National Security State, under the Obama regime, has expanded, through the CIA, “covert” paramilitary operations from 60 countries in 2008 to 120 nations.  If we are ever to have a whiff of true democracy, we need our journalists to reveal the extent to which the CIA commands and controls these operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we need them to explain, on a daily basis, how the National Security State corrupts intelligence and “news” for the same racist imperial purposes that have defined US foreign policy since the Vietnam War.

Doug Valentine is the author of five books, including The Phoenix Program, and “A Crow’s Dream,” his first book poems.  See www.douglasvalentine.com or write to him at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq (Nimble Books: 2010), with a foreword by Benjamin Ferencz, a chief investigator and the only surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and the founding father of the International Criminal Court.  Nicolas’ writing about American war crimes has been published by Alternet, Huffington Post, Z Magazine and warisacrime.org.  You can reach 8im at peacetopower@aol.com

This article originally appeared in the April issue of CounterPunch magazine.

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the UN Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the UN Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

by René Provost

30 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 577 (1992)

Introduction

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990 was a bold political move that sent shockwaves throught the community of nations and triggered an international reaction which some have viewed as the dawn of a “New World Order.”  From the start, the United Nations was at the center of the reaction against this illegal use of force, condemning the invasion in unmitigated terms the same day it occurred. The U.N. proved successful in channelling efforts which eventually resulted in the liberation of Kuwait.

My focus here is on the use of a food blockade by the U.N. Security Council against Iraq and occupied Kuwait. The use of starvation as a weapon is regulated by a number of international humanitarian norms, some conventional and others customary. In this article, I analyze the legal and factual background of the food blockade, and then assess its compliance with international humanitarian law. I conclude that the U.N., the members of the Security Council, and the countries that participated violated several mandatory humanitarian norms in enforcing the food blockade.

Read the entire article HERE

Read also Elias Davidsson:  Economic Oppression as an International Wrong or as a Crime Against Humanity (dealing inter alia with the legal aspects of starvation as a weapon)

If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/15/global-justice-nato-libya

If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya
Liberia’s Charles Taylor has been convicted of war crimes, so why not the western leaders who escalated Libya’s killing?


Seumas Milne
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 May 2012 22.20 BST  Comments (494)

Libya was supposed to be different. The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan had been learned, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy insisted last year. This would be a real humanitarian intervention. Unlike Iraq, there would be no boots on the ground. Unlike in Afghanistan, Nato air power would be used to support a fight for freedom and prevent a massacre. Unlike the Kosovo campaign, there would be no indiscriminate cluster bombs: only precision weapons would be used. This would be a war to save civilian lives.

Seven months on from Muammar Gaddafi’s butchering in the ruins of Sirte, the fruits of liberal intervention in Libya are now cruelly clear, and documented by the UN and human rights groups: 8,000 prisoners held without trial, rampant torture and routine deaths in detention, the ethnic cleansing of Tawerga, a town of 30,000 mainly black Libyans (already in the frame as a crime against humanity) and continuing violent persecution of sub-Saharan Africans across the country.

A year after the western powers tried to make up for lost ground in the Arab uprisings by tipping the balance of the Benghazi-led revolt, Libya is in the lawless grip of rival warlords and armed conflict between militias, as the western-installed National Transitional Council (NTC) passes Gaddafi-style laws clamping down on freedom of speech, gives legal immunity to former rebels and disqualifies election candidates critical of the new order. These are the political forces Nato played the decisive role in bringing to power.

Now the evidence is starting to build up of what Nato’s laser-guided bombing campaign actually meant on the ground. The New York-based Human Rights Watch this week released a report into the deaths of at least 72 Libyan civilians, a third of them children, killed in eight separate bombing raids (seven on non-military targets) – and denounced Nato for still refusing to investigate or even acknowledge civilian deaths that were always denied at the time.

Given the tens of thousands of civilians killed by US, British and other Nato forces both from the air and on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen over the last decade, perhaps Nato commanders prefer not to detain themselves with such comparative trifles. And Human Rights Watch believes that, whatever the real number of civilians directly killed by Nato bombing, it was relatively low given the 10,000-odd sorties flown.

But while Nato’s UN mandate was to protect civilians, the alliance in practice turned that mission on its head. Throwing its weight behind one side in a civil war to oust Gaddafi’s regime, it became the air force for the rebel militias on the ground. So while the death toll was perhaps between 1,000 and 2,000 when Nato intervened in March, by October it was estimated by the NTC to be 30,000 – including thousands of civilians.

We can’t of course know what would have happened without Nato’s bombing campaign, even if there is no evidence that Gaddafi had either the intention or capability to carry out a massacre in Benghazi. But we do know that Nato provided decisive air cover for the rebels as they matched Gaddafi’s forces war crime for war crime, carried out massacres of their own and indiscriminately shelled civilian areas with devastating results – such as reduced much of Sirte to rubble last October.

There were also Nato and Qatari boots on the ground, including British special forces, co-ordinating rebel operations. So Nato certainly shared responsibility for the deaths of many more civilian than its missiles directly incinerated.

That is the kind of indirect culpability that led to the conviction last month of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, in the UN-backed special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. Taylor, now awaiting sentence and expected to be jailed in Britain, was found guilty of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. But he was cleared of directly ordering atrocities carried out by Sierra Leonean rebels.

Which pretty well describes the role played by Nato in Libya last year. International lawyers say legal culpability would depend on the degree of assistance and knowledge of war crimes for which Nato provided cover, even if the political and moral responsibility could not be clearer.

But there is of course simply no question of Nato leaders being held to legal account for the Libyan carnage, any more than they have been for far more direct crimes carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only Briton convicted of a war crime over the bloodbath of Iraq has been Corporal Donald Payne, for abuse of prisoners in Basra in 2003. While George Bush has boasted of authorising the international crime of torture and faced not so much as a caution.

Which only underlines that what is called international law simply doesn’t apply to the big powers or their political leaders. In the 10 years of its existence, the International criminal court has indicted 28 people from seven countries for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Every single one of them is African – even though ICC signatories include war-wracked states such as Colombia and Afghanistan.

That’s rather as if the criminal law in Britain only applied to people earning the minimum wage and living in Cornwall. But so long as international law is only used against small or weak states in the developing world, it won’t be a system of international justice, but an instrument of power politics and imperial enforcement.

Just as the urgent lesson of Libya – for the rest of the Arab world and beyond – is that however it is dressed up, foreign military intervention isn’t a short cut to freedom. And far from saving lives, again and again it has escalated slaughter.

STL’s Cassese: Resignation Likely Sign of Infighting Not Ill-Health

http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/stl%E2%80%99s-cassese-resignation-likely-sign-infighting-not-ill-health

STL’s Cassese: Resignation Likely Sign of Infighting Not Ill-Health

Judge Cassese had informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon two weeks ago about his intention to resign from his position due to differences between Bellemare and some of the Tribunal’s judges. (Photo: Haytham al-Moussawi)
By: Omar Nashabe [1]


Published Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The resignation of Judge Antonio Cassese as president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is the latest in a string of resignations likely prompted by a power struggle between prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and STL judges.

An official statement issued from the Hague indicated that President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Antonio Cassese resigned due to ‘health reasons.’ It is telling that in his leaving remarks, Cassese said, “For two-and-a-half years I have endeavored to steer the STL through difficult waters efficiently and fairly.” On 23 April 2009, a few days after the STL began its operation, Cassese explained some of the difficult circumstances to al-Akhbar:

At the time, Cassese said in a recorded statement: “I morally feel that I am suffering from duality. Even more, I feel disturbed when I notice that we are undertaking selective justice.” Cassese was referring to the indifference by the international community towards the prosecution of crimes in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Gaza, among others. Cassese announced Monday that he does not feel he is “able to provide the leadership that the Tribunal requires and deserves.” He added that the decision to step down as president was difficult for him personally, “but it was the correct choice for the Tribunal.”

The president of the STL has a wide range of responsibilities, including oversight and ensuring effective functioning of the Tribunal and the proper administration of justice, as well as representing the STL in its relationship with the US, the UN, and other entities. Nevertheless, the criminal cases have not yet reached the stage of public trials. Thus, most of the problems that Cassese faced are related to the proper administration of justice in the preliminary stages.

This stage has witnessed many tensions between prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and his colleagues. The resignation of British Registrar of the STL Robin Vincent in 2009 was the first sign of disagreements between the prosecutor and several of the judges and court officials. Vincent resigned because Bellemare insisted on raising the investigation team’s budget and designating an office for external communication exclusively for himself. Vincent said he resigned because these practices did not meet “the highest international standards in the field of criminal justice.” (Resolution 1757/2007)

This was followed by tension between Bellemare and Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen, prompting the prosecutor to refuse answers to Fransen’s questions surrounding his case. Bellemare also appealed Fransen’s decisions to provide former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed with necessary documents for the prosecution of those behind al-Sayyed’s arbitrary detention. According to a source in the Hague close to Bellemare, tensions increased after Bellemare lost all the appeals he had filed to the Appeals Chamber. Bellemare even expressed dismay over Cassese to STL staff, openly questioning whether Cassese understood the Tribunal’s jurisdiction only extended to the case of Rafiq Hariri and not that of Jamil al-Sayyed.

A Temporary Compromise

In a phone interview with al-Akhbar, a New York based UN official said that Judge Cassese had informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon two weeks ago about his intention to resign from his position due to differences between Bellemare and some of the Tribunal’s judges.

According to the source, Cassese also passed on to Ban a complaint that Judge Fransen had filed against the prosecutor. Ban discussed this matter with UN officials in New York. He decided that losing Bellemare or Cassese during “this historical stage of the first tribunal on terrorist crimes” might lead to the erosion of what is left of the Tribunal’s credibility. The UN source says that Ban decided to adopt a temporary compromise. This compromise required Cassese to step down as President of the Tribunal due to ‘health reasons,’ and continue to serve as a judge of the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber, despite his alleged health issues. On the other hand, Bellemare would stay in his position backed by international support, as today he constitutes the vanguard of ‘the war on terrorism’ by targeting Hezbollah.

Resignations Rapid and Mysterious

In addition to the resignation of the Registrar Robin Vincent, the difficult circumstances Cassese mentioned upon his resignation coincided with the resignation of a large number of the Tribunal staff, notably David Tolbert (September 2009), who resigned a few weeks after he was appointed successor to Vincent. Other resignations followed, such as that of the head of public relations Peter Foster, the prosecutor’s spokesperson Radiya Ashouri (May 2010) and her successor Henrietta Aswad (September 2010).

Furthermore, the director of the Department of Investigation in the prosecutor’s office announced he had no plans to renew his contract, and left the Hague on 28 February 2010. Four months before that (November 2009), Judge Howard Morrison resigned, following the resignation of Tribunal spokesperson Susan Khan a few days before. Fatima al-Issawi, her successor, in turn resigned on 11 December 2010.

Resignations are not uncommon in international criminal tribunals, but in the case of the STL, they have been happening at a quick pace and under mysterious circumstances.

The New President David Baragwanath

The Tribunal’s judges unanimously elected Judge Sir David Baragwanath from New Zealand as president of the STL and Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber, after his nomination by Vice-President Ralph Riachy and Judge Cassese. “Public confidence in the Tribunal requires that we adhere strictly to the rule of law,” said Judge Baragwanath upon his election, similar to what Bellemare said the day he was appointed as a prosecutor. He added: “The people of Lebanon are entitled to receive from our Tribunal the highest standards of justice delivered without fear or favor, affection or ill-will. Essential among its elements is the presumption of innocence, expressed in the twin rules that the onus of proof lies on the prosecution; and that proof of every element charged must be beyond reasonable doubt.”

Baragwanath joined the STL in March 2009. In 2010, he was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his experience as a judge on the Court of Appeal.

Baragwanath attended Auckland Grammar School, University of Auckland Law School, and he is a Rhodes Scholar who earned a Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University. He began his career as a member of the lawyers’ syndicate in New Zealand and was appointed the Queen’s Counsel in 1983. He assumed the tasks of prosecution and defense in major criminal cases, notably complicated murder and fraud trials.

From 1996 to 2001, Baragwanath headed the New Zealand Law Commission. In 2004, he was appointed head of the Committee on Rules at New Zealand courts. He was a permanent member of the New Zealand Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2010. In addition to his judicial work, Baragwanath has lectured and published writings on national and international human rights issues, constitutional matters, the rule of law, and international judicial cooperation. He has taught at Cambridge University, Queen Mary-University of London, University of Hong Kong, and University of Manitoba.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Omar Nashabe
Tags

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Source URL: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/stl%E2%80%99s-cassese-resignation-likely-sign-infighting-not-ill-health
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[1] http://english.al-akhbar.com/author/omar-nashabe
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War Crimes & the Bombing of Libya

War Crimes & the Bombing of Libya
Dispatches From The Edge
Conn Hallinan May 16, 2011

According to the New York Times (5/16/11), Gen. Sir David Richards, “Britain’s top military commander,” is proposing that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) target Libyan “infrastructure,” including electrical power grids and fuel dumps, in government
held areas.

Frustrated by the two-month old stalemate, Gen. Richards told the Times that “The vice is closing on [Muammar el-] Qaddadi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military activity.” The British are playing a major role in the bombing campaign, and Gen. Richards was in Naples, the command center for the war in Libya, when he talked with the Times.

The Times went on to write, “The General suggested that NATO should be freed from restraints that precluded attacking infrastructure targets.”

Let us be clear what “infrastructure” means: “The fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants and schools”(Random House Dictionary, Second Edition).

Now let’s see what the 1977 Protocol Addition to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 say on the business of attacking “infrastructure.”

“In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

Part IV, Section I, Article. 48
“It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuff, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works…”

Article 54
“It is prohibited for the Parties to the conflict to attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities…”

Article 59
In short, you can’t bomb power plants, electrical grids, water pumping plants, or transport systems that service the civilian population, even if the military also benefits from them. As Article 50 states: “The presence within the civilian population of individuals that do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian
character.”

The pressure to step up the bombing and widen the delineation of targets reflects the fact that the war has turned into a stalemate. “We need to do more,” Gen. Richards told the Times, “If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Qaddafi clinging to power.”

That last statement appears to be a violation of United Nations Resolution 1973, which called for “protection of civilians,” a “no-fly zone,” “sanctions,” a “freeze of assets” and an “arms embargo.” Nowhere does 1973 mention regime change and getting rid of Qaddafi.

So are we being dragged into a war whose goals violate UN Resolution 1973, and whose means violate the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts?  It is hard not to answer that question in anything but the affirmative.

 

How to give mass murderes a good conscience

Israeli pilot describes ‘good strike’ that killed 15 Gazans in 2002

A crewman involved in the assassination of Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh recently spoke with students about the controversial incident

By Amira Hass,
January 14, 2011

The airmen who bombed the home of a Hamas military leader in 2002 did not know or did not want to know the identity of their target before the strike, according to T., one of the crewmen directly involved, who spoke recently with students at a secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv.

The July 22 bombing of the home of Salah Shehadeh, who had headed Hamas’ military wing, in the densely populated Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City, killed a total of 15 people, including Shehadeh and his assistant. The other victims included eight children ‏(ranging in age from less than a year to 14 years old‏) and three women.

Haaretz acquired a recording of the discussion held with T. at the BINA Center in Tel Aviv, and for the first time is reporting testimony from one of the direct perpetrators of the assassination.

On December 19, 2010, T. participated in a discussion titled “The Limits of Obedience,” part of a series called “The Military in a Democratic State,” held jointly by the yeshiva and the IDF Staff and Command School.

After preparing and training for a number of days, T. said, “They authorized the takeoff… We took off from the Hatzor airbase. It takes two minutes from Hatzor to Gaza … flight time. Two minutes after takeoff we are told ‘go and wait over the sea.’

“That means west, a great deal out, in the dark, so that there is no noise,” T. continued. “This [kind of] person can smell planes, can hear them coming and escape… So we wait over the sea for 50 minutes. Then they tell us: ‘approval for strike.’ I say ‘fantastic.’

“You must have seen the movies … that’s what it looks like. We move east, then west, strike, the house goes down, collapses … We don’t see anything around … at that height you cannot see very much. I have a television screen when I look at the target. I strike using night vision, land and wait for the base commander…

“[He] tells me that it was Salah Shehadeh, and I say ‘good,’” T. said. “I have no idea who or what he’s talking about. We carried out a good strike, alpha − that’s what it’s called in air force talk − and that’s it. [After that] we went to sleep.

“The next day, actually the same day, they tell us that the strike killed Salah Shehadeh, his wife, his daughter, his son and others… The commander of the pilots called us all in for a talk about ethics, the first one I’d ever heard about…”

During the discussion in Tel Aviv, T. asked the teenagers, who are themselves, preparing for their military service, the following question: “Had I known that 14 other people were with him … what should I have done?”

“War criminals” leak strikes at heart of Israeli society

“War criminals” leak strikes at heart of Israeli society

By Paul Larudee

23 November 2010

Paul Larudee considers the implications for Israel and its armed forces of the leaking of the details of 200 Israeli military personnel who participated in the invasion of Gaza of 2008-09, which resulted in the murder of more than 1,400 people, primarily civilians, including over 340 children.

”Instead of asking why some groups or individuals in Israeli society are willing to take great risks to hold that society accountable for its actions, Israel prefers to blame the problem on treacherous, self-hating, anti-Semitic Jews, and to instill fear and hatred as the means for preventing Israelis from examining their consciences.”(Paul Larudee)

When unknown elements in Israel leaked the name, rank, identification number and other information about two hundred Israeli military personnel who reportedly participated in the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza, the effect was sudden and profound, according to sources in Israel.

Although the first site on which the  leaked information appeared was taken down by the host, it has continued to circulate via email, and has appeared on a number of other sites. The Israeli military and other Israeli agencies are reportedly doing all they can to shut down every site on which it appears, and to prevent it from “going viral”. At least one popular blog that links to the site has received a record number of death threats.

“The root of the problem, according to the sources in Israel, is a poorly kept secret — namely, that it is hard to serve in the Israeli military without committing war crimes, because such crimes are a matter of policy.”

What is so special about the list? As several critics have pointed out, it doesn’t even state the crimes that the listed individuals are alleged to have committed.

The root of the problem, according to the sources in Israel, is a poorly kept secret — namely, that it is hard to serve in the Israeli military without committing war crimes, because such crimes are a matter of policy. What Israeli soldier has not ordered a Palestinian civilian to open the door to a building that might house armed militants or be booby-trapped? Who has not denied access to ambulances or otherwise prevented a Palestinian from getting to medical care, education or employment?

Some, of course, have gone much farther, and deliberately targeted unarmed civilians (as in the “buffer zones” along the border of the Gaza Strip), tortured detainees, and have either ordered or participated in massive death, injury and destruction at one time or another. These acts have all been heavily documented by numerous credible agencies, such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Goldstone Commission, Human Rights Watch, and B’tselem.

What has been missing in large measure is accountability. To be sure, isolated victories have been won, usually with great effort. Within Israel, token trials and punishment, such as the conviction of the shooter of British human rights volunteer Tom Hurndall, continue to provide a thin cloak of respectability to the Israeli justice system. Beyond Israel’s control, however, senior Israeli officials have been forced to avoid travel to an increasing number of countries for fear of law-enforcement action. Nevertheless, ordinary Israelis had not yet been made to feel directly subject to such pressures.

The publication of the list of 200 changes everything. The list contains the names of a few high-ranking officers, but many of those named are in the lower ranks, all the way down to sergeant. The effect is to make ordinary Israelis concerned that they, too, may be subject to arrest abroad, and without the protection that well-connected higher officials might enjoy. They know what they have done, or been ordered to do, or have ordered others to do, and they suspect that they may be held accountable by foreign laws, over which their government has little control.

Many Israelis already fear that an anti-Semitic world is looking for an excuse to shut down the Zionist experiment. It is therefore not a great leap to believe that they could become pawns — or scapegoats — in the rising chorus of voices speaking out for Palestinian rights and against Israeli abuses.

Coupled with this is the Israeli addiction to vacationing abroad, which is a national obsession and almost a right, in the mind of many.  The result is that suddenly, with the release of the list of 200, the prospect of being held accountable outside Israel is no longer an abstraction, to be dealt with at the level of diplomats, government policy and the news stories. It hits home.

“…it [the list of 200] may cause soldiers to begin to question policy and orders far more than in the past, because of the way it may affect them personally. The debate is already taking place around the question, ‘Can I be held responsible?’”

This has serious consequences for Israeli society.  It potentially increases the number of youths who will try to avoid the military, the rates of emigration and immigration, and other patterns of commitment to Israel and its military. Most of all, according to the sources, it may cause soldiers to begin to question policy and orders far more than in the past, because of the way it may affect them personally. The debate is already taking place around the question, “Can I be held responsible?”

The answer to that question could potentially determine whether it will be possible to mount a massive offensive against a population that has no effective military forces, as in Gaza, or where saturation bombing, cluster munitions and depleted uranium might be used, as in Lebanon.  This is potentially a daunting prospect for Israeli military commanders, and some sources in Israel believe that the publication of the 200 has already had that effect.

More likely, however, it is premature to make such a call.  It seems unlikely that Israel will succeed in putting the genie back in the bottle with regard to the list of 200. It is already leaping from one place to another in cyberspace, via website and email (although Israel seems to have been temporarily successful in banning it from Facebook). However, will it generate further research and release of information on the potential offences committed by the named individuals, and will it lead to further publication of such lists?

According to the sources in Israel, the military and perhaps other agencies have gone into high gear to track down the source of the leaks.  This is a typical Israeli response to the problem. Instead of asking why some groups or individuals in Israeli society are willing to take great risks to hold that society accountable for its actions, Israel prefers to blame the problem on treacherous, self-hating, anti-Semitic Jews, and to instill fear and hatred as the means for preventing Israelis from examining their consciences.

Israeli war criminals had better hope for Palestinian amnesty

Israeli war criminals had better hope for Palestinian amnesty

By Gilad Atzmon

25 November 2010

Gilad Atzmon argues that the publication of the names and other details of 200 Israeli war crimes suspects who participated in the onslaught against Gaza in 2008-09 is a clear warning that every Israeli complicit in this and other outrages, and not just senior commanders and leaders, is liable for the crimes committed by the state and its army.

A few days ago, British Chief of Defence Staff General David Richards admitted that victory in Afghanistan is unachievable. “In conventional war,” said Richards, “defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolized by troops marching into another nation’s capital.”

It took a few years for the British military elites to admit that the war in Afghanistan cannot lead anywhere. Indeed, a valuable lesson to learn from mid to late 20th century warfare is that conventional military might cannot easily defeat civilian mass resistance.

It is interesting to reflect, too, that although the Jewish state has pursued a “strategy” of occupation for 62 years, for some reason the penny has still not dropped. The Israelis are still convinced that they can knock down the resilient Palestinians using siege, indiscriminate killing, carpet bombardment and chemical warfare.

“Bearing in mind that Israel considers itself to be a ‘Jews-only democracy’, it follows that every Israeli Jew is complicit in a colossal war crime against a civilian population.”

The results are pretty obvious. Bearing in mind that Israel considers itself to be a “Jews-only democracy”, it follows that every Israeli Jew is complicit in a colossal war crime against a civilian population.

But it goes further. More and more Israeli soldiers of all ranks are directly involved in an endless list of crimes: some stop pregnant women from receiving urgent medical attention , while others drop bombs on populated neighbourhoods; some use children as human shields, while a few perform executions of peace activists. And others just feed the cannons with white phosphorus shells.

The perpetrators of these crimes are actually liable to prosecution under  universal jurisdiction. They can be detained anywhere around the world. They may end their lives in jail.

However, a few brave Israelis must be very concerned about the moral condition of their state because a few days ago, a document identifying  200 Israeli soldiers suspected of war crimesleaked out of Israel. It made it to the internet. The list included the names, ranks, military posts, pictures and addresses.

The people who leaked the information and put it on the net stated that the names that followed were

the direct perpetrators, agents for the state of Israel that in Dec-Jan 2008- 09 attacked scores of people in the besieged Gaza. The people listed … held positions of command at the time of the attack; therefore, not only did they perform on behalf of a murderous state mechanism but actively encouraged other people to do the same. They bear a distinctive personal responsibility. They range from low-level field commanders to the highest echelons of the Israeli army. All took an active and direct role in the offensive.

On 17 November I picked up the story and posted on my website a link to the site that originally published the list – a site called “Israeli War Criminals”. The following day I was falsely accused by Israel’s  Channel 10 and a few Israeli blogs as being the man behind the publication of the names and the faces.

Needless to say, this didn’t make me overwhelmingly popular in Israel. My email inbox looked like an Israeli war zone, and one of my recent  YouTube clips that was screened by the Israeli TV soon became a platform for vile Israeli ugliness.

“It all reminded me of why I had denounced my Jewishness and left Israel. It rang a bell. It reminded me why I decided years ago never to step foot in that doomed place ever again.”

It all reminded me of why I had denounced my Jewishness and left Israel. It rang a bell. It reminded me why I decided years ago never to step foot in that doomed place ever again. The Israelis were desperate and angry. They needed someone to blame. And after all, “blaming someone” is far easier than admitting that something is systematically and fundamentally wrong at home.

On 19 November, the Israeli news channel managed to get hold of me. They were trying to trace the whistleblower. I obviously couldn’t help them, nor would I like to help them. As far as I am aware, no one knows who the people behind the publication of the list are. Though initially the Israelis claimed that the list was fabricated and included many names that had nothing to do with the crimes in Gaza (2008-09), the Israeli media soon admitted that the list was leaked from an Israel Defence Force (IDF) source and was probably genuine.

I tried to point out to the Israeli Channel 10 researcher that the publication of the list is the best thing that has happened to Israel for years. The list is a clear signal for future Israeli combatants. It is there to suggest to them that unethical conduct may bear some heavy and direct consequences. Such recognition is vital for Israelis so they can start to amend their path and find a way to live in peace with their neighbours.

One may also find it strange that in the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” a list of 200 suspected war criminals is leaked – and the entire media is chasing a whistleblower instead of engaging with the real story. It shows clearly a society that is rapidly drifting away from any form of recognition of international law, let alone ethical awareness.

“…in the so-called ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ a list of 200 suspected war criminals is leaked – and the entire media is chasing a whistleblower instead of engaging with the real story.”

However, I know very well why the Israelis are so furious. People around the world do not realize that, for Israelis, the Jewish state is nothing but a prison. As much as the Israelis claim to love their state, there is nothing they love more than leaving it behind, and I guess that the Israelis are starting to grasp the true meaning of the delegitimization of their state. It is now reaching a point of no return, and it has become personal, because the people on the list will have to think twice before they set foot on a plane.

Interestingly, the people who published the list used a tactic that was used by Jewish and Zionist organizations after World War II. Instead of chasing leaders and military commanders, the Nazi hunters had collated information about ordinary people – the low ranking officers, the soldiers, the guards – ordinary people who had perpetrated crimes against humanity. This tactic proved effective in incriminating generations of Europeans as vile anti-Semites. After the war, European guilt was quickly translated into Zionist power.

Clearly, the people behind the leaking of the “Israeli War Criminals” list are letting Israel taste its own medicine. By listing 200 soldiers of all ranks, the message is clear: Israeli society itself is deeply sick. It is not just the people at the top, it is actually the very ordinary ones. Rather than Israel – it is actually the “Israeli”. The malaise seems to be deeply imbued in the society and its culture.

In the case of Germany and other European nations, it was Israel and Jewish leaders who were given the choice of whether they wanted to forgive or withhold forgiveness. It was the Israelis and Jews who, tentatively and conditionally, gave European nations a kosher amnesty.

I guess the fate of Israel is similar. Yet, now it is the Palestinians and only the Palestinians who can save the Israelis from themselves and their brutality. It is only the Palestinians who are entitled grant a pardon to Israeli criminals. The more crimes Israel commits in the present – the more Israelis are dependent on the Palestinians’ future kindness.

Once a truth and reconciliation commission for Israeli war crimes is founded in Palestine, it will be the Palestinian people who decide who to pardon.

Families of Gaza flotilla victims accuse Israel of war crimes

Families of Gaza flotilla victims accuse Israel of war crimes in The Hague Delegation representing 300 activists files complaint over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which left 9 activists dead.

By The Associated Press

 

http://www.haaretz.com/misc/writers/the-associated-press-1.237

and Danna Harman <http://www.haaretz.com/misc/writers/danna-harman-1.288434

 

Turkish lawyers representing pro-Palestinian activists filed a complaint Thursday with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accusing Israel of committing war crimes in May when its troops raided a boat trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

 

It was unclear whether the prosecutor would agree to pursue the case or whether the court has jurisdiction. But the filing reignited an issue that has severely strained Israel’s relations with Turkey, previously its strongest ally in the Muslim world, and keeps Israel on the defensive over

its much-criticized Gaza blockade.

 

A delegation representing some 300 activists and a Turkish nongovernment organization submitted the complaint to the prosecutor’s office in The Hague seeking an investigation into the May 31 raid.

 

Nine Turkish citizens, including 19-year-old Furkan Dogan who had dual U.S.-Turkish nationality, were killed during the melee after Israeli troops rappelled from helicopters onto the deck of the ship Mavi Marmara before dawn.

 

“I have confidence the international court and the prosecutor will take this case,” said Ahmet Dogan, Furkan’s father.

 

Israel has said its troops fired live ammunition only after they were attacked by activists with clubs and metal bars and they felt their lives were in danger.

 

Attorney Ugur Sevgili said the victims want Israel investigated for torture, inhuman treatment, the taking of hostages and other violations of the Geneva war crimes convention.

 

“We demanded from the prosecutor to initiate an investigation and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime,” Sevgili said. We didn’t mention any Israeli soldiers or any Israeli politicians. We just told them that we believe war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.”

 

The court, which began work in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, receives hundreds of complaints every year, but so far has filed indictments against 17 war crimes suspects – all of them involved in African conflicts.

 

Dogan, speaking outside the court’s headquarters, said he thought politics might get in the way of justice.

 

“I believe that people who killed my son will be prosecuted. However, this case also has international and political dimensions,” he said.

 

A UN-appointed panel of human rights experts, chaired by a former judge of the international court, found last month that Israel violated human rights law during its interception of the flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli blockade for three years.

 

Israel rejected the panel’s findings, which it said were biased and one-sided, and said the UN Human Rights Council that appointed the panel is heavily weighted in the Palestinians’ favor.

 

The court normally intercedes only if the country involved is among the 114 nations that have endorsed the court’s founding treaty. Israeli is not a signatory, but the ship was flying the flag of the Comoros Island, which is a member of the court.

 

Sevgili said he expected the Comoros to support the victims’ application to the court or file its own complaint.

 

The prosecutor also may initiate an investigation even if the accused country does not belong to the court – but only if he determines that the country is unable to launch its own credible investigation of human rights abuses.

 

Among the complaints submitted and presumably pending in the prosecutor’s office is an application by the Palestinian Authority 18 months ago asking for a war crimes investigation into Israel’s brief yet deadly 2008 war in Gaza.

Truth – Justice – Peace