Vowing not to be bullied, nation cancels trade pact preemptively and offers US human rights training
30-year-old Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who embarrassed the US government by revealing details of vast Internet and phone surveillance programs, has requested asylum from Ecuador.(Photo: scmp.com) *
The clear message from the Ecuadorean government on Thursday is that it would not be bullied or ‘blackmailed’ by the US government over the possible asylum of Edward Snowden.
At a government press conference held in Quito, officials said the US was employing international economic “blackmail” in its attempts to obtain NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but that such threats would not work.
Snowden, who remains inside an airport terminal in Russia, has become a flashpoint between Ecuador and the US after confirmation that the 30 year-old intelligence contractor has sought asylum in the Latin American country.
On Wednesday, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the US threatened to deny Ecuador preferential trade status if it accepted Snowden’s application for political asylum after he leaked a trove of classified documents that revealed details about the NSA’s vast surveillance programs in the US and abroad.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,” Menendez said in a statement from Washington. “If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador’s duty-free access under GSP and will also make sure there is no chance for renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Trade preferences are a privilege granted to nations, not a right.”
But on Thursday, Ecuador nullified the US threats—and made it clear it would not be intimidated by the global superpower—by proactively cancelling the trade agreement.
“Ecuador unilaterally and irrevocably renounces these preferential customs tariff rights,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at the news conference.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” he said.
Alvarado, who called threats from the US over trade arrangements a form of “blackmail,” said Ecuador’s government would not only willingly accept the loss of approximately $23 million in trade benefits, but in addition would offer a gift, in the form of an aid package of the same amount, that would be directed to provide human rights training in the United States.
According to reports, Ecuador indicated the money could be used to help the US address its recent problem with torture, illegal executions, and the attacks on the privacy of its citizens.
As Agence France-Presse reports, the trade agreement between Ecuador goes back decades:
The United States is Ecuador’s main trade partner, buying 40 percent of the Andean nation’s exports, or the equivalent of $9 billion per year.
The preferential trade program was set to expire on July 31 unless the US Congress renewed it. The arrangement, which dates back to the early 1990s, originally benefited four Andean nations and Ecuador was the last country still participating in it.
And Reuters adds:
Never shy of taking on the West, the pugnacious Correa last year granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help him avoid extradition from Great Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault accusations.
The 50-year-old U.S.-trained economist won a landslide re-election in February on generous state spending to improve infrastructure and health services, and his Alianza Pais party holds a majority in the legislature.
Ecuadorean officials said Washington was unfairly using the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which provides customs benefits in exchange for efforts to fight the drug trade, as a political weapon.
The program was set to expire at the end of this month.
In light of the recent political asylum granted to Julian Assange by Ecuador in their London Embassy, and the threat by the U.K. to invade the Embassy to capture Assange and extradite him to Sweden , on August 16th a group of people gathered at the Ecuador Mission to the U.N. in NYC to express their support.
Bringing flowers they were most cordially received. They engaged in dialogue with the staff and extended sentiments of solidarity and friendship with Ecuador .
Commentary by and Photos © by Bud Korotzer
whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks.
The corporations and banks, apparently, don’t like the rabble hearing the truth. Especially if it’s about them or the the diplomats they own.
WikiLeaks is going to stop publishing secrets and may go dark all together with no funds to continue operations due to the blockade.
After releasing tens of thousands of confidential U.S. government cables, WikiLeaks needs $3.5 million over the next year to continue operating, Assange said.
Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks in December 2010 after the United States criticized the organization’s release of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables from its embassies all over the world.
In the 24 hours before credit card donations were blocked, the organization said it had received $135,000. Now, it is receiving on average about 7,000 euros ($9,700)a month.
Assange said there were no lawful grounds for the blockade by Bank of America Corp, Visa Inc, MasterCard Inc, eBay Inc unit PayPal and Western Union Co, which he said had cost Wikileaks 95 percent of its revenue.
“If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade, given our current levels of expenditure, we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the year,” Assange told a news conference.
Peter Dejong/Associated Press Shamai K. Leibowitz in 2002. He leaked secret transcripts.
Leak Offers Look at Efforts by U.S. to Spy on Israel
WASHINGTON — When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.
Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.
In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein offered a rare glimpse of American spying on a close ally.
He said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009, but he recalled that there were about 200 pages of verbatim records of telephone calls and what seemed to be embassy conversations. He said that in one transcript, Israeli officials discussed their worry that their exchanges might be monitored.
Mr. Leibowitz, who declined to comment for this article, released the documents because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous, according to Mr. Silverstein.
While the American government routinely eavesdrops on some embassies inside the United States, intelligence collection against allies is always politically delicate, especially one as close as Israel.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation listens in on foreign embassies and officials in the United States chiefly to track foreign spies, though any intelligence it obtains on other matters is passed on to the C.I.A. and other agencies. The intercepts are carried out by the F.B.I.’s Operational Technology Division, based in Quantico, Va., according to Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence writer who describes the bureau’s monitoring in a book, “Intel Wars,” scheduled for publication in January. Translators like Mr. Leibowitz work at an F.B.I. office in Calverton, Md.
Former counterintelligence officials describe Israeli intelligence operations in the United States as quite extensive, ranking just below those of China and Russia, and F.B.I. counterintelligence agents have long kept an eye on Israeli spying.
For most eavesdropping on embassies, federal law requires the F.B.I. to obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret at a federal courthouse in Washington. If an American visiting or calling an embassy turns up on a recording, the F.B.I. is required by law to remove the American’s name from intelligence reports, substituting the words “U.S. person.” But raw transcripts would not necessarily have undergone such editing, called “minimization.”
Mr. Silverstein’s account could not be fully corroborated, but it fits the publicly known facts about the case. Spokesmen for the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Israeli Embassy declined to comment on either eavesdropping on the embassy or Mr. Leibowitz’s crime. He admitted disclosing “classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States,” standard language for the interception of phone calls, e-mails and other messages by the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency, which generally focuses on international communications.
Mr. Leibowitz, now in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house in Maryland, is prohibited by his plea agreement from discussing anything he learned at the F.B.I. Two lawyers who represented Mr. Leibowitz, Cary M. Feldman and Robert C. Bonsib, also would not comment.
Mr. Silverstein, 59, writes a blog called Tikun Olam, named after a Hebrew phrase that he said means “repairing the world.” The blog gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations. He said he had decided to speak out to make clear that Mr. Leibowitz, though charged under the Espionage Act, was acting out of noble motives. The Espionage Act has been used by the Justice Department in nearly all prosecutions of government employees for disclosing classified information to the news media, including the record-setting five such cases under President Obama.
Mr. Silverstein said he got to know Mr. Leibowitz, a lawyer with a history of political activism, after noticing that he, too, had a liberal-minded blog, called Pursuing Justice. The men shared a concern about repercussions from a possible Israeli airstrike on nuclear facilities in Iran. From his F.B.I. work from January to August of 2009, Mr. Leibowitz also believed that Israeli diplomats’ efforts to influence Congress and shape American public opinion were excessive and improper, Mr. Silverstein said.
“I see him as an American patriot and a whistle-blower, and I’d like his actions to be seen in that context,” Mr. Silverstein said. “What really concerned Shamai at the time was the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, which he thought would be damaging to both Israel and the United States.”
Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago. But he was able to retrieve three posts from April 2009 from his computer and provided them to The New York Times.
The blog posts make no reference to eavesdropping, but describe information from “a confidential source,” wording Mr. Silverstein said was his attempt to disguise the material’s origin.
One post reports that the Israeli Embassy provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration. Another describes calls involving Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington to discuss the views of members of Congress on Israel. A third describes a call between an unnamed Jewish activist in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy about an embassy official’s meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who was planning an official trip to Gaza.
Mr. Silverstein said he remembered that embassy officials talked about drafting opinion articles to be published under the names of American supporters. He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.
At his sentencing, Mr. Leibowitz described what he had done as “a one-time mistake that happened to me when I worked at the F.B.I. and saw things which I considered were violation of the law, and I should not have told a reporter about it.”
That was a reference to Israeli diplomats’ attempts to influence Congress, Mr. Silverstein said, though nothing Mr. Leibowitz described to him appeared to be beyond the bounds of ordinary lobbying.
Mr. Leibowitz, 40, the father of 6-year-old twins at the time of sentencing, seems an unlikely choice for an F.B.I. translation job. He was born in Israel to a family prominent in academic circles. He practiced law in Israel for several years, representing several controversial clients, including Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader convicted of directing terrorist attacks on Israelis, who Mr. Leibowitz once said reminded him of Moses.
In 2004, Mr. Leibowitz moved to Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington, where he was a leader in his synagogue. Mr. Silverstein said Mr. Leibowitz holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.
In court, Mr. Leibowitz expressed anguish about the impact of the case on his marriage and family, which he said was “destitute.” He expressed particular sorrow about leaving his children. “At the formative time of their life, when they’re 6 years old and they’re just finishing first grade, I’ll be absent from their life, and that is the most terrible thing about this case,” he said.
While treated as highly classified by the F.B.I., the fact that the United States spies on Israel is taken for granted by experts on intelligence. “We started spying on Israel even before the state of Israel was formally founded in 1948, and Israel has always spied on us,” said Mr. Aid, the author. “Israeli intercepts have always been one of the most sensitive categories,” designated with the code word Gamma to indicate their protected status, he said.
Douglas M. Bloomfield, an American columnist for several Jewish publications, said that when he worked in the 1980s for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, he assumed that communications with the embassy were not private.
“I am not surprised at all to learn that the F.B.I. was listening to the Israelis,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources because I don’t see Israel as a threat to American security.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 7, 2011
An article on Tuesday about a leak prosecution involving the disclosure of transcripts of F.B.I. eavesdropping on the Israeli Embassy in Washington gave an outdated location for the secret court that approves such wiretaps. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court moved to the federal courthouse in Washington in 2009; it is no longer at the Justice Department.
Palestine, peace, Wikileaks and Gitmo crimes
Prepared by Antony Loewenstein
The last month has seen a continuation of the Arab revolutions. NATO-backed Libyan rebels continue to struggle against once Western foe then friend Gaddafi forces. A majority of post-Mubarak Egyptians profoundly mistrust American intentions in their country. Hamas and Fatah reconciliation may be on the cards (but caution is required). Egypt says it is about to open its closed Gaza border. Syria remains in turmoil. Throughout it all, the Obama administration has been flat-footed and desperate to show vision when all the US really knows is backing autocrats who guarantee “stability”.
In Australia, there has been a ferocious debate over imposing a boycott on Israel – much more on this below – and what’s been clear is the major disconnect from public debate (Arabs largely excluded) with the reality in Palestine itself. Israel’s occupation continues to deepen in the West Bank along with growing Israeli racism and yet most politicians and journalists speak about a “peace process”. Zionism is killing its own off-spring.
In other news:
– My investigation for Australian magazine New Matilda on the Greens Party, its embrace of BDS against Israel and electoral fortunes. After an intense campaign of smearing by the Murdoch press and silence by the Zionist lobby and Jewish community, my response for the publication is here. The Murdoch attacks continued but it was a clear lesson in how the corporate press and political forces react when anybody dares challenge apartheid Israel.
– Interview on Sydney’s 2SER Radio explaining why the BDS movement is vital to remind people that Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine.
– My review in Sydney’s Sun Herald of recent books about Wikileaks.
– My story for Australian magazine Crikey on the lack of Arab voices in the Australian debate over Israel/Palestine and BDS.
– Story in Sydney Morning Herald over the Marrickville BDS council meeting in Sydney (here were events on the night) plus my appearance on ABC Radio AM and audio of my speech plus SBS TV News. Here’s video footage of my speech and an interview in the pro-settler Jerusalem Post.
– Interview in the Australian on Australia’s immigration detention and the flawed privatised system of British multinational Serco.
– Appearance on ABCTV News 24 on human rights in China, Wikileaks revelations about abuses in Guantanamo Bay and the UN war crimes report on Sri Lanka.
– Article on ABC online about the revelations in the Wikileaks-released Guantanamo Bay files and what they say about Western “values”.
– My first book, the best-selling My Israel Question, has just been released as an e-book and is available via the Kindle, iBook and other formats. The title is currently being translated into Arabic and Indonesian and will be released in various nations over the coming 12 months. My second book, The Blogging Revolution , is also being updated, in light of the Arab revolutions, and will be released in Australia, India and globally later this year.
It is morbid imagination to expect members of the Egyptian armed forces to fall in love with the killers of their fathers and forefathers who fell in battle with Zionism on Palestinian and Egyptian soils.
Some Israeli officials have voiced surprise at revelations published by Wikileaks showing that the Egyptian military continues to view the apartheid Israeli regime as the primary strategic threat facing Egypt.
This is despite the passage of more than 30 years since the signing of the Camp David peace treaty between the two states in 1979.
According to the revelations, American diplomats have been frustrated as the Egyptian army continued to retain the erstwhile military doctrine which viewed Israel as the enemy.
The US, which is often at Israel and beck and call, has been trying to convince leading Arab states that their enemy is Iran and Sunni Islamist movements, such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, not Israel which committed a virtual genocide in Gaza two years ago and is constantly trying to kill the prospects of Palestinian statehood by keeping up the construction of Jewish colonies on stolen Arab land.
One leaked file quoted an unnamed American diplomat as saying that “the US has sought to interest the Egyptian military into expanding their mission in ways that reflect new regional and transnational security threats, such as piracy, border security and counterterrorism.”
However, Egypt reportedly resisted the flagrant American intervention in shaping the Egyptian strategic military doctrine, with one high-ranking Egyptian army commander stressing that Israel was still targeting Egypt in a variety of ways, including having plans for the possible re-occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.
Well, it is an expression of daring audacity on the part of these arrogant American diplomats to expect the sons of Egypt to morph themselves into Israel lovers and forget the tens of thousands of Egyptians, civilians and servicemen, who were murdered by Israel.
The Egyptian people are not about to forget the massacres of Bahr el Bagar school, the Abu Za’abal factory, and the massacre of Egyptian POWs at the instruction of Ariel Sharon in addition to the indiscriminate bombings of Egyptian civilian areas during the so-called war of attrition prior to the 1973 war.
It is true that Egypt , mainly due to economic and other reasons, had to sign the infamous peace treaty at Camp David, which only formally ended the state of belligerency between Israel and largest and most powerful Arab country. But it is also true that the vast majority of Egyptians continued to hate Israel as a hostile and criminal entity despite all American inducements and bribes to create good chemistry between Egyptians and Israelis.
In the final analysis, it would be a form of morbid imagination to expect Egyptians, who nearly on a daily basis watch Zionist thugs and terrorists murder, terrorize and savage their coreligionists and brethren in Palestine and destroy their homes, bulldoze their farms, and expel them form their places of residence.
It is morbid imagination to expect members of the Egyptian armed forces to fall in love with the killers of their fathers and forefathers who fell in battle with Zionism on Palestinian and Egyptian soils.
It is even more morbid to expect the Egyptian armed forces to abandon their old doctrine and adopt a new one based on the unnatural and mendacious assumption which views other Arabs and Muslims, not Israel, which usurped Palestine and expelled its people to the four corners of the world, as the enemy.
Egypt and its kind-hearted people may not be going through the best of times. But what is in the heart is in the heart, and no amount of Kafkaesque metamorphosis would succeed in deviating the needle of the Egyptian people’s compass away from its natural direction.
I know that Israelis can easily visit Egypt, dine in its restaurants and bask on its beaches. But it is also true that these Israelis who do so are often met with inimical eyes and sullen hostility wherever they go. I also know that these Israelis, especially those who would reveal their identity, never feel secure or at peace. This is why they stop speaking Hebrew in public and often claim to be Italians or other Europeans.
To be sure, Israel itself never came to view Egypt as a non-hostile state. In fact, one exaggerates little by saying that Israel continues to view Egypt as constituting the main strategic threat facing Israel. Yes Israel feels the threat is dormant, but it is real.
Moreover, it would be foolhardy on the part of Egyptian strategic planners to ignore or dismiss intelligence reports suggesting that Israel is constantly acting to destabilize and weaken Egypt in a variety of ways.
These include, inter alia, encouraging some expatriate Copts to rise up against the central government, encouraging Nile-basin countries such as Ethiopia to undermine Egyptian interests, keep Egyptian-Iranian relations in the worst possible state, and constantly threatening to instigate Congress, which is tightly controlled by the Jewish lobby, to press for reducing or cutting off US economic and military aid to Egypt if the Egyptian regime doesn’t behave according to script.
A few years ago, Avigdor Lieberman, the thuggish Israeli foreign minister, went as far as threatening to bomb the Aswan Dam. This is what he said in public. One would wonder what he might have said in private.
Another point, which really illustrates both the temerity and naivety of many American diplomats, is the belief that cordial relations between Israel and an Arab-Muslim country are possible as long as the Palestinian plight remains unresolved. This is probably the reason the Americans couldn’t bring themselves to understand the recent turnabout in the Israeli-Turkish relations.
Finally, I have one advice to the self-absorbed American diplomatic community. Don’t take Arab and Muslim peoples for granted, don’t overlook the feelings of millions of Arabs and Muslims as this myopic approach would eventually boomerang onto you.
Were we the first to ask?….
Bloggers claim WikiLeaks struck deal with Israel over diplomatic cables leaks
The lack of information damaging to Israel in the cables released by WikiLeaks has provided fodder for conspiracy theorists.
PARIS – It was only a matter of time before conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to suggest that Israel is behind the publication of the WikiLeaks trove – and is manipulating the information coming out to help Israeli interests.
“Where is the real dirt on Israel?” these conspiracy theorists – messaging back and forth in the blogosphere – are asking one another.
“The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between WikiLeaks’ … Assange … with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public,” wrote Gordon Duff, an editor of the anti-war website Veterans Today, who frequently opines about what he believes is Israeli’s secret influence over world events.
Speaking to Haaretz, Duff added that “it sticks out like a sore thumb that WikiLeaks is obviously concocted by an intelligence agency. It’s a ham-handed action by Israel to do its public relations.”
Meanwhile, Al Haqiqa, an Arabic language webzine, citing disgruntled WikiLeaks volunteers, adds more details to the conspiracy, suggesting that this “secret agreement” between Assange and “the Mossad,” which allegedly took place in Geneva, involved Assange’s promise not to publish any document that “may harm Israeli security or diplomatic interests.”
“The Israel government, it seems, had somehow found out or expected that the documents to be leaked contained a large number of documents about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-9 respectively,” adds an anonymous blogger on IndyMedia. “These documents, which are said to have originated mainly from the American embassies in Tel Aviv and Beirut, were removed and possibly destroyed by Assange, who is the only person who knows the password that can open these documents, the sources added.”
Remy Ourdon, who is in charge of the WikiLeaks project for Le Monde – one of the five international newspapers that were given advance copies of the cables by Assange – counters that it is incorrect to claim there are no cables of interest about Israel.
“Not everything has come out yet,” he tells Haaretz. “There are tens of thousands of cables and many surprises still coming. There is almost no country which does not have some cables emanating from it.”
Moreover, stresses Ourdon, contrary to the conspiracy theorists’ charges, Assange is not in control of which cables WikiLeaks publishes – that is determined solely by what the person who obtained the cables was able to access and pass along.
Other observers offer an alternative explanation for the lack – so far – of many insightful cables out of Israel. For example, Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem (1993-1997 ) suggests, on facebook, that it might have something to do with the level of information being offered out of the country.
“The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has been so out of the loop for the last six years that their reporting is about what you read in the Israeli press (probably where they get most of their information ). .
“There’s a channel U.S. embassies use for very sensitive information and I don’t think WikiLeaks has those cables. As for Tel Aviv, the last two ambassadors have not been risk-takers and have had a very low profile. I doubt they have been willing to rock the boat, and may not have had much, if any, inside information.”
What would be more interesting, Abington persists, is the reporting from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. “Where is that reporting?” he asks.
“Stay tuned,” says Ourdon.
Wikileaks is the only story in town
Compiled by Antony Loewenstein
The last month has been rightly consumed with Wikileaks. Its significance for the political and media elites is huge, challenging the overly cosy relationship between the two. US media academic Jay Rosen recently wrote an essay entitled, “From Judith Miller to Julian Assange“, in which he argued that “the watchdog press died; we have this [Wikileaks] instead.”
There are so many angles to the story and I’ve been involved as a media spokesman for the coalition to defend Wikileaks in Australia and the demand for a free and fair judicial process for Julian Assange. This strikes at the heart of modern democracies; the open flow of information and those powers who would rather not see that happen. Many in the media resent Assange as an outsider, a man who hasn’t played the game and challenges their own failings in holding governments to account in times of upheaval.
We are living through a profound, era-defining moment.
– US website Mondoweiss article about the relationships between Israel and brutal Middle East regimes revealed in Wikileaks.
– Signatory on major petition to Australian government re Wikileaks and Julian Assange alongside Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer, MPs and countless others.
– Interview in Spanish Catalan publication about the Wikileaks controversy and the need to defend freedom of speech.
– Interview with Sydney Morning Herald online over Wikileaks and the Australian government’s wrong-headed attitude towards the leaks.
– Interview with BBC World Service on Wikileaks, censorship and the importance of whistle-blowing in a healthy democracy.
– Article on ABC Unleashed about Wikileaks exposing the incestuous relationship between corporate media and governments.
– News story in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph about the large Sydney rally supporting Wikileaks in which I spoke about the responsibility to protect freedom of speech (also in Al-Jazeera English, Australia’s Channel 10 TV News and Green Left Weekly.). Photos here. There was another major Sydney rally in support of Wikileaks the week after in which a number of us spoke in defence of publishing information. Police brutality was order of the day.
– Interview on Russia Today satellite TV channel on Wikileaks.
– Asked to sign a US-based petition alongside Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and Glenn Greenwald in support of Wikileaks.
Visit Antony’s Blog AT
“I want people to see the truth…regardless of who they are…because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” – Bradley Manning
“Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.” – George Bernard Shaw
Ever since WikiLeaks became a household name this past summer, following the release of 77,000 secret U.S. documents relating to the ongoing occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, many American politicians and pundits have been calling for blood. Despite then-top military commander General Stanley McCrystal’s own admission in March of this year, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has “shot an amazing number of people” even though “none has ever proven to be a threat,” the ire resulting from the activities of WikiLeaks is directed at the whistle-blowers themselves, rather than at those actually implicated in war crimes as shown by the leaked documents.
In their eternal allegiance to government secrecy, aggressive imperialism, and American exceptionalism, numerous WikiLeaks’ critics have been outraged over the publication of U.S. government documents. While accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of everything from espionage to terrorism to treason (Assange isn’t a U.S. citizen), they hold him responsible for the deaths of both soldiers and civilians and have even publicly suggested and supported threats to assassinate him.
The U.S. State Department claimed that the release of classified cables would “at a minimum…place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals” and Attorney General Eric Holder stated his belief that “national security of the United States has been put at risk. The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described these hysterical reactions to WikiLeaks release as “fairly significantly overwrought” due to the continuing slow and calculated release of over 251,000 previously secret and classified U.S. diplomatic cables (fewer than 1,500 cables have been released so far). Still, there are increasing calls not only for Assange’s indictment, but also explicitly for his murder.
On November 29, Fox News‘s Bill O’Reilly declared on air that those responsible for the leaked documents are “traitors in America” and that they “should be executed,” adding “or put in prison for life,” as a dismissive afterthought.
The next day, Bill Kristol, in a The Weekly Standard article entitled “Whack WikiLeaks,” urged the United States government to “neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are” and hoped for a glorious, unified bipartisan effort “to degrade, defeat, and destroy WikiLeaks.” One need only recall what Senator Lindsey Graham said in early November about “neutering” the Iranian government to get an idea of what Kristol is talking about.
Sarah Palin chimed in on Facebook, writing that Assange “is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” who should be “pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.” This very urgency was mentioned in a presidential debate in October 2008 by Palin campaign opponent Barack Obama, who made the following promise to Americans: “We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.” One can assume that Palin meant that the WikiLeaks founder should be hunted with a similar kind of lethal force and not that he should simply be left alone to die peacefully from kidney failure in the mountains of Tora Bora nine years ago while his family is quickly placed under the protection of the FBI and flown to a secure location. But then again, it’s Sarah Palin.
On the same day, another 2012 Republican presidential hopeful wished for the assassination of Assange. Former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee, speaking at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library, told reporters, “Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.” Huckabee, who was signing copies of his new children’s book, “Can’t Wait Till Christmas!” at the time, was presumably referring to U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing WikiLeaks with the classified documents and is currently being held in intense solitary confinement the brig at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. Manning has been locked up in Quantico or five months now, after spending two months detained in a military jail in Kuwait. Manning, like Assange, has not been convicted of any crime. Kids, Christmas, and Capital Punishment. Thanks, Mike!
Fox News national security analyst Kathleen McFarland urged the United States to declare WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, kidnap Assange, and try him in a military tribunal for espionage. Furthermore, McFarland, who served in the Pentagon under the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and is currently a “Distinguished Adviser” at the Iran-hating/Israel-advocating think tank The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, agreed with Huckabee that Manning should be charged and tried as a traitor for exposing American war crimes, criminal negligence, and diplomatic duplicity. “If he’s found guilty,” she wrote, “he should be executed.”
Also on November 30, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) – whose contradictory motto reads Securing America, Strengthening Israel – addressed the WikiLeaks release by musing whether the U.S. government would “try to hang Manning from the nearest tree?”
In a post on the right-wing website Red State on December 1, a commenter by the moniker “lexington_concord” fantasized about Julian Assange receiving the Abe Lincoln treatment. “Under the traditional rules of engagement he is thus subject to summary execution” he writes, “and my preferred course of action would be for Assange to find a small caliber round in the back of his head.”
The following day, Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner published a vitriolic attack on Assange, whom he accused of being “an anti-American radical who wants to see the United States defeated by its Islamic fascist enemies.” Other goals Kuhner ascribed to Assange included the humiliation of America “on the world stage, to drain it of all moral and legal legitimacy – especially regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Kuhner wrote that Assange “is aiding and abetting terrorists in their war against America,” and suggested that the Obama administration “take care of the problem – effectively and permanently” by treating Assange as an “enemy combatant” and “the same way as other high-value terrorist targets.” It is no surprise, therefore, that Kuhner’s column was entitled “Assassinate Assange.”
Though it may seem strange that a Montreal native like Kuhner is disappointed that “America is no longer feared or respected,” he is not the only Canadian to harbor such violent visions of Assange’s murder. Tom Flanagan, a senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said plainly on the Canadian TV station CBC, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”
Speaking with Chris Wallace on Fox News, former House Speaker and paid Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said on December 5 that “Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed is terrorism. And Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism.” As such, Gingrich suggested, “He should be treated as an enemy combatant and WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively.” If recent history is any indication, as an enemy combatant Assange would most likely be either murdered in his own country by U.S. soldiers and air strikes or kidnapped, tortured, and indefinitely imprisoned in inhumane conditions without charge or trial.
On December 6, Fox News commentators Bob Beckel and Bo Dietl followed suit. Speaking on the Fox Business show “Follow The Money,” Beckel, who was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Carter administration and Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign manager, angrily wished for U.S. Special Ops forces to kill Assange, declaring, “A dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor, a treasonist [sic], and he has broken every law of the United States. And I’m not for the death penalty, so…there’s only one way to do it: Illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” Dietl, former NYPD detective and current Chairman of the New York State Security Guard Advisory Council, concurred with Beckel, saying, “this guy’s gotta go.” He then coined a brand new euphemism for assassination by suggesting that the United States should “immune him,” before making a finger gun and childlike shooting sound.
But the public advocacy, even if merely rhetorical, for the assassination of Assange is by no means new.
This past summer, after the Afghanistan memos were released, neoconservative jingoist Marc Thiessen wrote in The Washington Post that “WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise” which is responsible for “getting people killed.” Thiessen continued,
“Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.”
Intelligence and military assets don’t sound too judicial. Thiessen also urged the government to “disable the system [Assange] has built to illegally disseminate classified information,” apparently insinuating that The Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel should all be shut down and the internet turned off. If that’s not what he meant, it doesn’t make any sense.
On July 29, Right Wing News‘ John Hawkins posted an article subtlely entitled “The CIA Should Kill Julian Assange,” in which he wrote:
“In Assange’s case, he’s not an American and so he has no constitutional protection. Moreover, he’s going to get a lot of people killed. Can we do anything legally about someone from another country leaking this information? Maybe not. Can we have a CIA agent with a sniper rifle rattle a bullet around his skull the next time he appears in public as a warning? You bet we can — and we should. If that’s too garish for people, then the CIA can kill him and make it look like an accident.
“Either way, Julian Assange deserves to die for what he’s done and he should be killed to send a message loud enough to convince other people not to publish documents like this in the future.”
Hawkins couldn’t be more wrong. Not only are American citizens protected by the U.S. Constitution, non-citizens are protected as well. The Fourteenth Amendment holds that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Moreover, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the principle that the Constitution applies both to Americans and to foreigners, was upheld and affirmed in an 1886 ruling by the Supreme Court on the case Yick Wo v. Hopkins. The Court’s decision read:
“The fourteenth amendment to the constitution is not confined to the protection of citizens. It says: ‘Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ These provisions are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality; and the equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws…The questions we have to consider and decide in these cases, therefore, are to be treated as involving the rights of every citizen of the United States equally with those of the strangers and aliens who now invoke the jurisdiction of the court.”
Nevertheless, after this most recent WikiLeaks disclosure of secret diplomatic cables, Hawkins posted a follow-up on Townhall called “5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange,” in which he repeated his claim that because “Julian Assange is not an American citizen…he has no constitutional rights,” concluding that “there’s no reason that the CIA can’t kill him.” Hawkins added that, even though Assange “may not be in Osama Bin Laden’s league, nor is he using the same methods,” WikiLeaks and Al Qaeda’s motivations are the same, namely, “to do as much damage to the United States as humanly possible.” Hawkins then suggested that “Assange is an enemy of the American people,” presumably not taking into account those Americans who may not want to be lied to about its own government’s war crimes authorized by its leaders and committed by its soldiers and intelligence agencies, in addition to the espionage emanating from its hundreds of embassies and consulates worldwide. Hawkins, blissfully ignorant about his own government’s actions, declares that “our country will be safer when he’s dead,” as “the first step towards convincing other nations that they can trust us again would be make this a better world by removing Julian Assange from it.”
After the WikiLeaks release of nearly 400,000 documents relating to the U.S. occupation of Iraq this October, former State Department senior adviser and Fox News contributor Christian Whiton urged Barack Obama to “designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them,” while warmonger extraordinaire Jonah Goldberg wrote an OpEd in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Why Is Assange Still Alive?” After opening with “a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?,” Goldberg suggests that WikiLeaks “is going to get people killed” and “is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb.”
As such, from the comfort of his computer keyboard, Goldberg once again courageously wonders, “Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?” lamenting that Assange was not “a greasy stain on the Autobahn already.”
This violent talk of extrajudicial murder should come as no surprise to American audiences. Pundits and politicians have long looked to assassination as a legitimate tactic in dealing with undesirable or frustrating persons who either disobey imperial diktat or openly oppose American hegemony.
Back in 2006, Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who will chair the House Committee on Foreign Affairs come January, was caught on camera saying, “I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people.”
This past August, journalist Gary Baumgarten ruminated on what would happen in Iran if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been assassinated. Two months later, far-right Knesset minister Aryeh Eldad called for such an assassination while Ahmadinejad was visiting Lebanon.
These are no idle threats. In early 2007, law professor Glenn Reynolds posited in a post on the right-wing website Instapundit that, with regard to alleged Iranian involvement in resistance activity in Iraq, the United States “should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian [sic] atomic scientists, [and] supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran.” Reynolds continued,
“[T]o be clear, I think it’s perfectly fine to kill people who are working on atomic bombs for countries — like Iran — that have already said that they want to use those bombs against America and its allies, and I think that those who feel otherwise are idiots, and in absolutely no position to strike moral poses.”
The fact that not a single Iranian official in recent memory has ever threatened to build nuclear weapons, let alone use them “against America and its allies,” is besides the point. So is the fact that the United States has explicit laws against political assassination. The point is that Reynolds, a law professor, was calling for the willful murder of Iranians – government officials, religious leaders, scientists and academics – who have never been charged with or found guilty of any crime and who pose absolutely no threat to the United States or its citizens.
Less than a month earlier, in January 2007, a senior Iranian nuclear physicist and professor at Shiraz University working at the uranium enrichment facility at Isfahan, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, was found dead in his apartment. While some publications attributed his death to an explosion in his laboratory, other reports claimed he was assassinated by the Mossad, Israel’s foreign spy agency, using “radioactive poisoning.”
In addition, the day after Reynolds posted his assassination wishlist, a bomb explosion killed at least 18 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan. Responsibility for the bombing was subsequently claimed by the Iranian separatist group Jundallah, which has carried out numerous terrorist attacks in the region and has financial ties to the United States. Since then, at least 164 Iranians have been murdered in similar actions undertaken by Jundallah, the most recent occurring just today, December 15, when at least 38 worshippers celebrating the holiday Ashura were killed, and over 50 wounded, in a suicide bombing outside a mosque in the city of Chabahar.
In November of this year, the U.S. State Department finally designated Jundallah as a terrorist organization.
On September 22, 2010, twelve people were killed and at least 80 injured in a bombing at a military parade in the West Azerbaijani city of Mahabad in northwest Iran. The Kurdish separatist group Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), which also has connections to the United States and Israel, may have been behind the attack.
Early this year, on January 12, 2010, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a 50-year-old Iranian nuclear physicist and professor at Tehran University, was killed outside his home “when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded as he left for work.” The blast, which shattered nearby windows in northern Tehran’s Qeytariyeh neighborhood, was activated by a remote trigger. Ali Mohammadi was a lecturer and researcher with “no prominent political voice, no published work with military relevance and no declared links to Iran’s nuclear program.” The New York Times reported that Ali Mohammadi taught neutron physics and “was the author of several articles on quantum and theoretical physics in scientific journals.” Experts agree the victim “was not involved in the country’s nuclear program,” that his writing, given its highly abstract nature, has “virtually no military applications and that “nuclear physicists interested in bomb-making would have no interest in these papers.”
But calls for the assassination of Iranian scientists didn’t stop there. This past July, former CIA operative, death squad and genocide enthusiast, and current neocon blowhard, Reuel Marc Gerecht penned an article for The Weekly Standard entitled “Should Israel Bomb Iran? Better safe than sorry.” In addition to advocating the illegal and immoral murder of thousands of Iranians because their country’s defiance of U.S. and Israeli demands to relinquish its inalienable rights, Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Zionist Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, kvetched, “If the Israelis (or, better, the Americans under President Bush) had struck Iran’s principal nuclear facilities in 2003 and killed many of the scientists and technical support staff, Khamenei’s nuclear program likely would have taken years, even decades, to recover.”
On November 29, 2010, as American pundits and politicians were busy calling for the murder of Julian Assange, two separate but connected incidents occurred. Two of Iran’s top nuclear scientists were attacked on their way to work by “men on motorbikes who attached bombs to the windows of their cars” and then detonated them from a distance. One of the scientists, Dr. Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering department of Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, was killed. Shahriari had published dozens of esoteric conference reports and peer-reviewed articles on nuclear research and is said to have managed a “major project” for the country’s Atomic Energy Organization. The Guardian reported that “Shahriari had no known links to banned nuclear work, but was highly regarded in his field.” His wife was injured in the attack. The other scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, and his wife were also wounded.
“They’re bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to design a bomb,” an anonymous U.S. official who assesses scientific intelligence told The New York Times. “They’re both top scientists.”
Both Dr. Mohammadi, who was assassinated in January, and Dr. Shahriari were associated with a non-nuclear scientific research unit known as Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) which is based in Jordan and operating under United Nations auspices.
The day after the attacks on Shahriari and Abbasi, Yossi Melman, the senior terrorism and intelligence commentator for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, reported on the connection between the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable release, the assassination of Iranian scientists, and the appointment of a new head of the Mossad, all of which occurred the same day. Melman wrote:
“They are part of the endless efforts by the Israeli intelligence community, together with its Western counterparts including Britain’s MI6 and America’s CIA, to sabotage, delay and if possible, to stop Iran from reaching its goal [sic] of having its first nuclear bomb.”
Melman, who publicized the mysterious death of Hosseinpour in 2007, stated that, regarding the new attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, “it is obvious…that Israel was behind it.”
Less than two weeks later, on December 12, the Washington Post‘s new neoconservative, warmongering columnist Jennifer Rubin made a number of suggestions about how the United States should “deal” with Iran’s nuclear program. In addition to supporting Iran’s small opposition movement and beginning to “make the case and agree on a feasible plan for the use of force,” Rubin wrote, in back-to-back bullet points,
“Second, we should continue and enhance espionage and sabotage of the Iranian nuclear program. Every nuclear scientist who has a ‘car accident’ and every computer virus buys us time, setting back the timeline for Iran’s nuclear capability, while exacting a price for those who cooperate with the nuclear program. Think of it as the ultimate targeted sanction.
Third, we need to make human rights a central theme in our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy regarding Iran.”
As Salon‘s Justin Elliott summarized, “Rubin wants the United States to make human rights a central theme in its Iran policy — and to indiscriminately assassinate civilian scientists,” continuing that “even the U.S. State Department referred to these attacks as acts of terrorism, which would make them antithetical to any serious concept of human rights.”
This is certainly not the first time Rubin, who has written that “nearly all wisdom” can be found in the Torah (and the first two Godfather movies), has contradicted herself within the span of a sentence or two. In her very first Washington Post blog, Rubin declared her ideological belief in “American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a secure and thriving Jewish state, defense of freedom and human rights around the world, enforced borders with a generous legal immigration policy, calling things by their proper names (e.g. Islamic fundamentalism), and recapturing vocabulary (a “feminist” is not the same as a pro-choice activist).” How one can believe simultaneously in “freedom and human rights” and a “secure and thriving” heavily-militarized and inherently discriminatory ethnocracy is unclear, unless of course the “world” doesn’t include Palestinians. Also, so long as things are being “called by their proper names” and vocabulary is being “recaptured,” writers like Rubin, Reynolds and Gerecht should undoubtedly be labeled as what they are: Zionist apologists who advocate the murder of innocent people to advance their own political and ideological agendas; in other words, they are proponents of terrorism.
Perhaps the single most striking aspect of these public death threats – whether clandestine assassination or carpet-bombing air strikes – leveled by notable American analysts and officials is that the United States currently has a specific program in place dedicated to extrajudicially murder U.S. citizens who do this exact thing.
The Obama administration has authorized the targeted killing of Muslim cleric and American national Anwar al-Awlaki. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Awlaki “was the imam at a Virginia mosque attended by U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting spree in November, and said in interview in the fall that he counseled Maj. Hasan before the attack. Investigators say he also had incidental contact with two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Nevertheless, the paper continued, “There is no indication Mr. Awlaki played a direct role in any of the attacks, and he has never been indicted in the U.S.”
The Times (UK) reported in April that following “the Christmas Day airliner plot, US and Yemeni officials said that Mr al-Awlaki had met the suspected bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear.” Even though absolutely no evidence has ever been presented in a court of law to substantively link Awlaki with terrorist acts, an unnamed U.S. official has told the press, “Al-Awlaki is a proven threat. He’s been targeted.”
So far, the only “proof” given are the words of the U.S. government. On December 7, Reuters reported that “U.S. officials have described al-Awlaki as having a leadership role in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula…he has urged attacks on the United States in Internet videos and writings.”
Urging attacks in Internet videos and writings? Most of the staunch advocates of assassinating both Awlaki and Assange, not to mention encouraging an unprovoked American or Israeli assault on Iran, have strong connections – and career histories – with U.S. government foreign policy and the military establishment. Their influence of public and official discourse cannot be taken lightly, nor can it be passed off as inconsequential or merely rhetorical. After all, this is exactly what preceded the invasion and occupation of Iraq – with many of the same cheerleaders we hear today.
So, if that’s all it takes to condemn people to death without a trial and authorize drones to bomb their alleged whereabouts, how should North Korea react to the call of the aforementioned Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds to “nuke ’em. And not with just a few bombs,” in response to the current escalation of hostilities between North and South Korea? By this standard, at what point should the Washington punditry start watching the skies over the Potomac for signs of Iran’s newly-acquired UAV, the Karrar?
Yet, wishful thinking or even vocal advocacy of violence, however abhorrent and appalling, is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court, in 1969, addressed this exact issue in the case Brandenburg v. Ohio when it concluded:
“…the mere abstract teaching…of the moral propriety or even moral necessity for a resort to force and violence, is not the same as preparing a group for violent action and steeling it to such action…A statute which fails to draw this distinction impermissibly intrudes upon the freedoms guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It sweeps within its condemnation speech which our Constitution has immunized from governmental control.”
Recently, however, the United States hasn’t worried much about due process and proof of criminal action or direct involvement in terrorist activities before issuing death warrants. For instance, according to the FBI itself, Osama bin Laden is still not accused of participating in or planning the 9/11 attacks, yet he is still wanted “dead or alive” by our government in connection with that terrible act.
Back in October, Jonah Goldberg expressed some doubts about the efficacy of assassinating Julian Assange:
“Assange is essentially hiding behind his celebrity and the fact that it wouldn’t do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web. Even if the CIA wanted to take him out, they couldn’t without massive controversy. That’s because assassinating a hipster Australian Web guru as opposed to a Muslim terrorist is the kind of controversy no official dares invite.
That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.”
According to Goldberg, the difference between killing Assange and Awlaki is not just that it is illegal for the U.S. government to assassinate people; rather, the difference is that one is an obnoxious white Australian while the other is a scary brown Muslim. While both damage the reputation and oppose the hegemonic domination of the United States using the power of words and the internet, the same rules don’t apply to both of them. The murder of one (the U.S. citizen, no less) is a no-brainer, while the murder of the other would be controversial. Still, in response to a FOIA request, the CIA recently refused to “confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence” of “current or previous plans to assassinate Julian Assange.”
Land of the free, home of the brave.
During the 2008 campaign, presidential hopeful Barack Obama stated, “Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.”
It is unlikely that, back then, Obama anticipated that in a mere two years, “those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms” would included himself, senior officials in his administration, and the bloodthirsty Beltway.
Last Wednesday, December 10, marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic assassination of John Lennon. As always, his words ring as true today as they did when he wrote them:
I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted
All I want is the truth
Just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
by neurotic, psychotic
All I want is the truth
Just give me some truth
– Gimme Some Truth, 1971
*Nima Shirazi is a writer and musician from New York City. His political commentary is published on his website, Wide Asleep in America.com. His analysis of United States policy and Middle East issues, particularly with reference to current events in Iran, Israel, and Palestine, can also be found in numerous other online and print publications.
The news about the tragic “wildfires” in Northern Palestine is a reminder of several facts:
1) the areas was forested by non-indigenous conifers after uprooting indigenous trees and destroying the terraced landscape and ethnically cleansing over 50 villages from the area that is now supposedly “forested”. Ecologically very destructive behavior done for political purposes to wipe out the ancient landscape and make the area Jewish European. Few people remained from one village but rebuilt a new village nearby and are prevented from going back to their own village which is now an Israeli “artist colony” (see)
2) Over the past few decades Israel acquired hundreds of the most advanced fighter aircrafts with no aircraft to fight wild-fires.
4) Even amidst this tragedy, the racist and most right wing government of Israel refuses to admit any culpability for its failure to protect its citizens and wants to merely advance Zionism (hence the bizarre statement of Netanyahu that the tragedy will bring Turkey and Israel together!).
The whole world is talking about the Wikileaks leaking of previously classified US documents. Now I personally am skeptical about the selective leaking of documents that show only a tiny whiff of scandal for Israel. Most US foreign policy communication with world leaders and diplomats has been about protecting Israeli war crimes and strengthening Israeli positions. This is known to be true of both public communication and secret communications (e.g. already declassified material from the Truman era). So I would be excused to be skeptical when 300,000 documents are released and only few of them deal with Israel. Much of them deal with how various actors (especially western leaning Arab dictators) dutifully tell their masters in Washington (themselves beholden to the Israel-first lobbyists) that Iran is indeed the new Nazi Germany or the new Soviet Union.
2) That they are psy-ops that are calculated by the US and Israeli
governments to do a small amount of exposure of sensitive material but a lot of confusion among public opinions in the world (in Europe and Arab
countries) to change the focus from the disastrously failing policies in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. (I saw such analysis in Arab
media e.g.but little of it in Western progressive media).
Here is another analysis by Jonathan Cook: Wikileaks and the New Global Order “At work here is a set of global forces that the US, in its hubris, believed it could tame and dominate in its own cynical interests. By the early 1990s that arrogance manifested itself in the claim of the “end of history”: the world’s problems were about to be solved by US-sponsored corporate capitalism. The new Wikileaks disclosures will help to dent those
assumptions. If a small group of activists can embarrass the most powerful nation on earth, the world’s finite resources and its laws of nature promise a much harsher lesson.”
I disagree with many aspects of Fisk’s analysis below but it is witty and worth reading. Now We Know. America Really Doesn’t Care about Injustice in the Middle East.
Political fires are raging and spin doctors in governments are trying hard
to contain the fires and change the subject but the real solution for most
of our problems remain obvious to most people: free Palestine — end
Come visit us in Palestine this Christmas season.
Gaza government: WikiLeaks exposé confirms our claims
By Jared Malsin
My report on Hamas’ reaction to the WikiLeaks documents:
Among the documents was a claim by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israel consulted Egypt and the PA in the lead-up to the winter war. Barak is quoted in the cable saying both Egyptian and PA officials rejected offers to assume control of Gaza after a defeat of Hamas.
Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab Al-Ghusain told Ma’an that “All the information that came from WikiLeaks [is] not new for us. We said that before, actually, even about the war on Gaza and the information we got that the Palestinian Authority and Egypt knew before about the war.”
“It’s not new, it’s just confirming what we said in the past, actually. So we’re not surprised with it,” he said at his Gaza office.
Asked about the revelation of America’s plans to gather meticulous intelligence on Hamas and PA officials and institutions, Ghussain said, “Sure, we know that America is a part of what is going on.”
He said Israel and the US were “both cooperating against the resistance. Sadly we say that always the US is going on the side of Israel and is helping Israel without being objective. The US should have a more balanced situation.”
He added: “Everybody knows that Hamas came through elections and through democracy, and always the US was singing about democracy. What about what happened in Palestine with the election?”
In Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas denied Monday that Israel approached him prior to the 3-week assault, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead.
Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, also disputed Barak’s account. “We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war,” Erekat told The Associated Press. But “there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war.”
WikiLeaks obtained an archive of more than a quarter-million secret US diplomatic cables, and released some of them to news organizations for publication Sunday.
Barak’s statement claiming PA and Egyptian foreknowledge was perhaps the most consequential revealed in the documents as far as the Israeli-Palestinian question is concerned.
The document is a report on a conversation between US Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Gary Ackerman, and Barak in June 2009.
In the report, US officials quoted Barak as saying the “GOI [Government Of Israel] had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.
“Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both,” the document states.
A separate cable lays out a “national human intelligence collection directive” asking US personnel to obtain “Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members.”
The cable demands “biographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and HAMAS leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside.”
Top 10 Wikileaks Palestine Nuggets
Qatar’s Prime Minister met with Senator John Kerry and discussed a variety of issues including Qatar’s views on the Palestinian issue. At the time, the Prime Minister suggested proximity talks which were ongoing between the Israelis and Palestinians would waste time – in his estimate 4-6 months. He also emphasized that negotiations without Hamas are unlikely to be fruitful since the “Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.” To no one’s surprise, Qatar’s PM was not keen on the role Egypt has been playing in the region. Egypt, which has “no end game” in mind when it comes to brokering Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks, is like a doctor relying on only one patient for business: “the physician is going to keep the patient alive but in the hospital for as long as possible.”
Egypt’s head of General Intelligence Omar Suleiman would provide little evidence to suggest the Qatari leader’s criticism of their biased brokering was untrue. In a conversation with U.S. General Patreaus he stated that “Egypt’s three primary objectives with the Palestinians were to maintain calm in Gaza, undermine Hamas, and build popular support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. ” Suleiman also stated that Egypt would continue to be committed to Palestinian reconciliation. “It is hard,” he said, “but I am always optimistic. I consider myself a patient man, but I am loosing [sic] patience.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) just before becoming prime minister again and forming the current Israeli coalition government. When describing “his approach to ‘economic peace’ with the Palestinians, Netanyahu suggested he would cut through bureaucratic obstacles to Palestinian economic development to build a ‘pyramid’ from the ‘bottom up’ that would strengthen the Palestinian Authority, and offer the Palestinians a viable alternative to radicalism.” He also indicated he wasn’t interested in a sovereign Palestinian state emerging in the West Bank, but rather “an agreement over territory,settlements and ‘refined’ Palestinian sovereignty without an army or control over air space and borders.” Further evidence of Netanyahu’s stance, which he states is not unlike Livni’s, is described in a cable about a meeting between Netanyahu and a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) in late April 2009. He states “A Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without control over its air space and electro-magnetic field, and without the power to enter into treaties or control its borders. Netanyahu concluded that he and opposition leader Tzipi Livni ‘only disagree about the name,’ i.e. the two-state solution.”
An Israeli assessment of Palestinian leadership: “Of particular interest throughout the meetings was the subject of the Palestinian political situation. It was widely agreed that President Abbas is currently in a weakened political state, and Israeli officials generally cast a dour assessment of Abbas’s future. In one exchange, Amos Gilad stated his opinion that Abbas will not survive politically past the year 2011. Gilad further stated that Abbas is facing unprecedented criticism within the Palestinian Authority over his handling of the Goldstone report, and that this, coupled with a stubborn HAMAS, has weakened Abbas considerably. The Israelis said the perception in the Arab world was that the U.S. had encouraged Abbas to take difficult positions on Goldstone and settlements only to walk away from him. ASD Vershbow queried Gilad over measures that could be taken to bolster Abbas. Gilad responded by stating that Israeli-Palestinian peace discussions need to be resumed immediately, but without preconditions, and that both parties need to seek further cooperation on a range of issues — specifically on the security sector front. Gilad expressed optimism over the current atmosphere in the West Bank, citing improvements in the security and economic spheres, and further stated that the reduced Israeli Defense Force (IDF) footprint in the West Bank has made conditions ripe for advancing the relationship.”
This cable, from a 2007 meeting between U.S. Congressmen and Netanyahu, sheds light on Netanayhu’s strategy vis-a-vis Hamas and Fatah: “Netanyahu said Abbas was a ‘nice man who means well,’ but he added that Israel and the U.S. should focus on ‘bringing down Hamas’ through an ‘economic squeeze’…Netanyahu predicted that Palestinians would vote for Abbas if they believe that he can deliver the money. He suggested putting in place an ‘economic squeeze with an address,’ so that Hamas would receive the popular blame.”
Israel-PA consultations before Israeli assault on Gaza? According to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in this cable: “the GOI had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas. Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both.”
7. Europeans, particularly the French,are not pleased with their role in peace process: “A sense of frustration and ambition informs the French approach toward the Middle East peace process: they are frustrated that they must rely on the USG and on stubborn parties in the region to end a conflict whose persistence adversely affects their national interests, and they are ambitious to play a larger role in the peace process, in order to facilitate a successful outcome and to enjoy the prestige that such a role would earn them. As a case in point, last week Kouchner had to cancel a planned visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in part because of the continuing tension there, and in part because of Israel’s refusal to allow him to visit a French hospital in Gaza.”
Germans suggested using Goldstone Reports at UNSC as leverage over Israel’s policy of home demolition: “Heusgen said that Germany ‘perceives this differently’ and thought Netanyahu needed ‘to do more’ in order bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. With Palestinians in East Jerusalem getting notices from Israeli authorities that their houses will be destroyed, it would be ‘suicide’ for President Abbas to move under the current circumstances. Heusgen said he could not fathom why Netanyahu did not understand this. He suggested pressuring Netanyahu by linking favorable UNSC treatment of the Goldstone Report to Israel committing to a complete stop in settlement activity. Gordon said that making a direct linkage between the two would almost certainly be counterproductive, but agreed that it was worth pointing out to the Israelis that their policy on settlements was making it difficult for their friends to hold the line in the UNSC. Heusgen said this certainly would be an issue when Netanyahu and ‘half of his cabinet’ visit Berlin on November 30 for bilateral government consultations.”
UAE reaction to Hamas 06 election victory: The UAE ‘felt the Muslim Brotherhood rally behind Hamas’ after its electoral victory in the Palestinian territories, and that the Hamas victory should be a lesson to the West. UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid sounded a note of optimism when he told Secretary Rice February 23 that Hamas, ‘with some pressure,’ would understand the need to respect the will of the international community.”
Israel loves cooperation with PA: Amos Gilad “noted that Israeli-PA security and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and described Palestinian security forces as the ‘good guys.”
The world thinks like us
WikiLeaks boosted Israel by revealing that most world leaders share our views
Had WikiLeaks didn’t exist, Israel would have had to invent it. The massive leak of US diplomatic documents produces a clear, unequivocal picture: The whole world, and not only Israel, is terrified by the Iranian nuclear threat.
Israel largely unscathed
Some media outlets indeed tried to make a big deal out of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s supposed order to US diplomatic staff to spy after senior UN officials. However, scrutinizing the documents makes it clear that this had to do with concerns about close cooperation between some UN officials and Hamas Hezbollah. This theme had been frequently raised by Israel too.