Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israeli soldiers were captured —not "kidnapped"

Invaluable assistance: Vierotchka

Big brother media got it wrong again! Almost universally ignored is the mounting evidence that the two Israeli soldiers were not kidnapped; they were captured inside Lebanon. [See Forbes: Israeli soldiers were captured —not "kidnapped"]

The implications are enormous. If true, then Israel is guilty of aggression —a war crime! Moreover, Israel lied! The war crime of "aggression" is in addition to crimes associated with Israel's deliberate targeting of civilians.

Crimes against humanity:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1950

Concurrently the human rights group —Human Rights Watch —has accused Israel of war crimes in connection with what it calls "...indiscriminate attacks against civilians." The new report refutes Israeli claims that Hezbollah uses civilians as human shields and states flatly that the claims are false. Previously, Human Rights Watch addressed Hezbollah conduct and condemned attacks on civilian areas.

The current report by Human Rights Watch is entitled Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon. It analyzes " ...two dozen cases of Israeli air and artillery attacks on civilian homes and vehicles." According to the report, of 153 dead civilians, 63 are children.

Given that so little reported these days is true, it is hard not to conclude that the chaotic state of the world is a result of evil people acting upon deliberate lies. People act upon what they believe to be true and nothing good comes of it. There is, however, a worse case. Some people know the truth but lie anyway and act upon what they know to be untrue.

L. Neil Smith is often credited for having said that "truth is the first casualty of war". He might have said that. But he also said something even better:
Government is waging war against the people.

—L. Neil Smith

On the home front, the Bush administration —in danger of being found guilty of war crimes itself —continues a shameless campaign to make legal after the fact the crimes that it has already committed. Under Bush, the office of Attorney General is reduced to rewriting established principles of law so that the "President" of the United States doesn't wind up in a dank cell —or even the gallows!

U.S. official pushes for 'clarity' on handling terror suspects

By Kate Zernike The New York Times
Published: August 3, 2006

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has pressed Congress to refine the definition of war crimes prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, as the Bush administration and lawmakers continue to debate the rules for treatment and trials of terrorism suspects.

Administration proposals on how to bring suspects to trial have moved closer to what some senators have said they will demand, but two hearings Wednesday on Capitol Hill foreshadowed a fight over the definition of coercive interrogation tactics.

Administration lawyers and senators also continued to clash over evidence obtained through coercion or hearsay and how to deal with classified evidence.

The Supreme Court ruled in late June that terrorism suspects must be extended the protections outlined in a provision of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, and in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

Gonzales argued Wednesday that the language of the provision, known as Common Article 3, was too vague.

And because the U.S. War Crimes Act, passed a decade ago, makes it a felony to violate that provision, he said that troops could be prosecuted for interrogation tactics considered too harsh.

Congress, he said, could "help by defining our obligations" under the provision.

Gonzales, publicly discussing the administration's new proposal for prisoner trials for the first time since the court's ruling, said it would offer legislation that included a proposal to change the War Crimes Act, to bring "clarity" in defining which violations of Common Article 3 rise to the level of war crimes.

"The surest way to achieve that clarity and certainty, in our view, is for Congress to set forth a definite and clear list of offenses serious enough to be considered war crimes," he said.

But senators said Congress should not endorse any treatment it would not want used on U.S. soldiers.

"We must remain a nation that is different from, and above, our enemies," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

The differences between the administration and the Senate were most pronounced when McCain asked Gonzales whether statements obtained through "illegal and inhumane treatment" should be admissible. Gonzales paused for almost a minute before responding.

"The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is, what does it mean?" he said.

"How do you define it? I think if we could all reach agreement about the definition of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer."

McCain, a former prisoner of war, said that using illegal and inhumane interrogation tactics and allowing the evidence to be introduced would be "a radical departure" from longstanding U.S. policy.

The court ruled in June that the military tribunals that President George W. Bush had established for suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, violated international law and were not authorized by U.S. statute.

Lawyers from the Defense and Justice departments initially tried to persuade Congress simply to approve the tribunals. By Wednesday, the administration had changed its position. "What we are considering now is a better product," Gonzales said.

He said the administration proposed enacting a new code of military justice modeled on court-martial procedures. The new proposal departs from the initial tribunals in several ways. The presiding officer would be a military judge, for example, and would rule on evidence, but not participate in the final verdict. The jury would have five members, instead of three, with 12 in death- penalty cases. Conviction would require two-thirds of the jury to agree, and unanimity in death-penalty cases.

But the proposal also departs from court-martial procedures, in that suspects would not be entitled to warnings regarding self-incrimination, or to Article 32 proceedings, which are similar to a grand jury.

It would allow the introduction of hearsay evidence that the judge ruled "reliable" and would share classified evidence with the defense counsel, but not necessarily the defendant." ...


Additional resources and updates:

Bush's War on Lebanon

Abdel Wahab

George Bush and Ehud Olmert are far removed from danger. They order the killing of Lebanese civilians and refuse to agree to a ceasefire. What sort of creatures are they by the standards of the 21st century? If they are human beings, then they must be two criminals who make war a means to exercise barbarism.

George Bush gave Ehud Olmert a new deadline to end his mission in Lebanon. However, the mission will not be accomplished. The mission is basically a figment of the imagination, and planning and hopes are useless. The US, or its dog, Israel, cannot exterminate a segment of an Arab society simply because they do not like it. This has been proven in the fight against Hamas, and it will be the case in the war on Hezbollah.

Given Washington's rejection of a ceasefire, it can no longer claim that it helps its Arab friends in the region. How can the Arab leaders convince their peoples that real benefits may accrue from the continued killing and devastation in Lebanon? Is there a policy that underlies the death and destruction? Of course not. Killing and devastation may be considered the whim of the world's sole great power in George Bush's times. Even in the world of cowboys, there is the man and the monster; and there is the wise person and the wicked one.

Bush sleeps in peace because the killing is going on in Lebanon. Moreover, John Bolton, the US envoy to the UN, has degenerated from a crude Zionist to the most obnoxious level of Zionist racism. In his opinion, the killing of Lebanese civilians should not be considered the same as the deaths of civilians in Israel. He believes that Israeli civilians who are killed are the victims of terror, while Lebanese civilians are killed in 'military operations dictated by the principle of self defense'. Bolton, once honored by some Lebanese who thought he had become sane, should be admitted into a mental hospital. But he managed to stay out of it, and qualified as Bush's envoy to the UN.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, like Olmert, was baptized as a Sharonite. Basically, they are all Sharonites who were waiting for this opportunity. They wage wars whose results are guaranteed, as though these wars were simply training courses for their pilots. No one is brothering the neo-Sharonites in their wars. Dr. Condee says a ceasefire will be implemented when the situation becomes appropriate. Therefore, she will not agree to the deployment of international forces or any procedures that would signal an end to the military operations. She is waiting for Olmert to give a sign that the mission is complete: 'We killed as many civilians as we could. We have left nothing standing. We inflicted the worst damage possible on fields and property. We denied them access to supplies and drugs. We have turned Lebanon into an 'aid agency' that is accused of inability and failure. We terrified Syria into thinking that we may attack it, too. But we have not been able to destroy Hezbollah and the Resistance. We will cease fire, and let's see what happens in Lebanon.'

In fact, all the parties saw an opportunity to seize Lebanon. The stage is set for all roles, except the role of the State. Bush has the impudence to say that he is anxious for the Lebanese State, though it is the last of his concerns, and of his criminal ally, Olmert. The Lebanese State is also the least priority for Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah itself. The State is like a decor that pleases everybody. It does not matter if the vast majority of the Lebanese counts on the State, and wants it to be established on the ruins of war. It is others who shape the destiny of the State, army and society. They all play the same game as the Israelis, who urged the Palestinian Authority to do what they themselves avoided. The Israelis crippled the Authority, and destroyed its tools that enabled it to function. The Israelis are now striking the Lebanese army, only because the Lebanese PM voiced his intention that the State should take full control of Lebanon.

On the seventh day of the Bush-Olmert campaign, the families slaughtered in the massacres are no longer able to draw the sympathy of the US President or even the British PM, although both swore that some divine revelation had beckoned them to the war against Iraq. There is no divine message to draw their attention to the crimes of Israel. ...

And from the Washington Post

Hezbollah Leader Threatens Tel Aviv


The Associated Press
Thursday, August 3, 2006; 2:37 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Hezbollah's leader offered Thursday to stop rocket attacks on northern Israel in return for an end to airstrikes throughout Lebanon.

However, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah also vowed to fire rockets into Tel Aviv if Israel strikes Beirut proper. Israeli warplanes have repeatedly bombarded Hezbollah strongholds in southern suburbs of Beirut.

Analysis: Blair rejects Israel bias

LONDON, England (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair lent his backing Thursday to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora`s seven point plan for resolving the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. It is a move apparently designed to demonstrate his evenhandedness following weeks of intense criticism within Britain of his apparent bias towards Israel.

Under a heavy media grilling at his monthly press conference, Blair attempted to fend off claims that he is taking a one-sided approach to the conflict, insisting that he had been working all along for a cease-fire and that he stood in 'complete solidarity' with the Lebanese people.

'Please don`t misunderstand me about this,' he pleaded. 'Any sentient human being could not fail to be moved by what they see, the suffering and death.'

The Existentialist Cowboy

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Bush Administration May Have Urged Israel to Attack Syria

The lead that was buried in a less interesting story from the Jerusalem Post is a credible assertion that the Bush administration may be pressuring the government of Ehud Olmert to attack Syria and, thus, start World War III.
[Israeli] Defense officials told the Post [] last week that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria. —The Jerusalem Post
Almost concurrently, English Aljazeera reports that Syria is in an increased "state of readiness", apparently in anticipation of an Israeli attack. The Israeli Jerusalem Post goes on to say that while "... Israel is not interested in opening a front against Syria" it will respond if Assad attacks Israel.
"We are continuing with our message that we are not interested in fighting with Syria," the officer said, "But we are fully prepared for a Syrian attack, in the case of which we will strike back extremely hard." —Jerusalem Post
In the meantime there are reports that Syria is on increased alert due to the possibility of an Israeli attack. Saturday's attack along a Syria/Lebanon road was said by Israel to have been an attempt to prevent weapons smuggling, presumably from Syria into Lebanon.

Allegations that Bush may be urging an attack on Syria come on the heels of widely reported assertions by American conservatives and liberals that Bush had given Olmert a "green light" to attack Lebanon. The Jerusalem Post has supported Israel's right-wing Likud party and is considered to be "conservative" media. Are Israeli officials deliberately leaking information to a "friendly" news outlet? Or —is it classic Karl Rove disinformation? If so, it risks destabilizing a region that has clearly become a tinder box already. Sophomoric Rovian tactics risk inflaming what George Will had called a "cascading escalation". Is the Bush administration so ruthless that it will risk a World War III that can only result in the utter destruction of its participants?

The possibility that Bush may be urging such an attack is widely circulated now throughout the Middle East. Whether Bush is playing a disinformation game or, indeed, planning a proxy war against both Syria and Iran, it is a dangerous game with lethal consequences, possibly World War III. Another word describes it: madness!

In the meantime, CBS News reports more tanks and troops have pushed further into Lebanon as the Security Cabinet, made up of senior ministers, decided to broaden ground operations in a resumed offensive. The United Nations Security Council will debate a cease-fire resolution this week —but will it come in time?
Some updates:

Bush Wants Wider War

by Robert Parry

George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisers saw the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah as an opportunity to expand the conflict into Syria and possibly achieve a long-sought "regime change" in Damascus, but Israel's leadership balked at the scheme, according to Israeli sources.

One Israeli source said Bush's interest in spreading the war to Syria was considered "nuts" by some senior Israeli officials, although Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has generally shared Bush's hard-line strategy against Islamic militants.

After rebuffing Bush's suggestion about attacking Syria, the Israeli government settled on a strategy of mounting a major assault in southern Lebanon aimed at rooting out Hezbollah guerrillas who have been firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel.

In an article on July 30, the Jerusalem Post hinted at the Israeli rejection of Bush's suggestion of a wider war in Syria. "Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria," the newspaper reported.

On July 18, reported that the Israel-Lebanon conflict had revived the Bush administration's neoconservative hopes that a new path had opened "to achieve a prized goal that otherwise appeared to be blocked for them – military assaults on Syria and Iran aimed at crippling those governments."

The article went on to say:

After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 – after only three weeks of fighting – the question posed by some Bush administration officials was whether the U.S. military should go "left or right," to Syria or Iran. Some joked that "real men go to Tehran."

According to the neocon strategy, "regime change" in Syria and Iran, in turn, would undermine Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that controls much of southern Lebanon, and would strengthen Israel's hand in dictating peace terms to the Palestinians.

But the emergence of a powerful insurgency in Iraq – and a worsening situation for U.S. forces in Afghanistan – stilled the neoconservative dream of making George W. Bush a modern-day Alexander conquering the major cities of the Middle East, one after another.

Bush's invasion of Iraq also unwittingly enhanced the power of Iran's Shiite government by eliminating its chief counterweight, the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. With Iran's Shiite allies in control of the Iraqi government and a Shiite-led government also in Syria, the region's balance between the two rival Islamic sects was thrown out of whack.

The neocon dream of "regime change" in Syria and Iran never died, however. It stirred when Bush accused Syria of assisting Iraqi insurgents and when he insisted that Iran submit its nuclear research to strict international controls. The border conflict between Israel and Lebanon now has let Bush toughen his rhetoric again against Syria and Iran.

In an unguarded moment during the G-8 summit in Russia on July 17, Bush – speaking with his mouth full of food and annoyed by suggestions about United Nations peacekeepers – told British Prime Minister Tony Blair "what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit."

Not realizing that a nearby microphone was turned on, Bush also complained about suggestions for a cease-fire and an international peacekeeping force. "We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government," Bush said, suggesting that the blame should fall on others, presumably Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, John Bolton, Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that the United States would only accept a multilateral U.N. force if it had the capacity to take on Hezbollah's backers in Syria and Iran.

"The real problem is Hezbollah," Bolton said. "Would it [a U.N. force] be empowered to deal with countries like Syria and Iran that support Hezbollah?" [NYT, July 18, 2006]

Strategy Meetings

Though the immediate conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was touched off by a Hezbollah cross-border raid on July 12 that captured two Israeli soldiers, the longer-term U.S.-Israeli strategy can be traced back to the May 23, 2006, meetings between Olmert and Bush in Washington.

At those meetings, Olmert discussed with Bush Israel's plans for revising its timetable for setting final border arrangements with the Palestinians, putting those plans on the back burner while moving the Iranian nuclear program to the front burner.

In effect, Olmert informed Bush that 2006 would be the year for stopping Iran's progress toward a nuclear bomb and 2007 would be the year for redrawing Israel's final borders. That schedule fit well with Bush's priorities, which may require some dramatic foreign policy success before the November congressional elections.

At a joint press conference with Bush on May 23, Olmert said "this is a moment of truth" for addressing Iran's alleged ambitions to build a nuclear bomb.

"The Iranian threat is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the stability of the Middle East and the entire world," Olmert said. "The international community cannot tolerate a situation where a regime with a radical ideology and a long tradition of irresponsible conduct becomes a nuclear weapons state."

Olmert also said he was prepared to give the Palestinians some time to accept Israel's conditions for renewed negotiations on West Bank borders, but – if Palestinian officials didn't comply – Israel was prepared to act unilaterally.

The prime minister said Israel would "remove most of the [West Bank] settlements which are not part of the major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria. The settlements within the population centers would remain under Israeli control and become part of the state of Israel, as part of the final status agreement."

In other words, Israel would annex some of the most desirable parts of the West Bank regardless of Palestinian objections. That meant the Israelis would need to soften up Hamas, the Islamic militants who won the last Palestinian elections, and their supporters in the Islamic world – especially Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

In a speech to a joint session of Congress, Olmert added that the possibility of Iran building a nuclear weapon was "an existential threat" to Israel, meaning that Israel believed its very existence was in danger.

Nuclear Face-Off

Even before the May 23 meetings, Bush was eyeing a confrontation with Iran as part of his revised strategy for remaking the Middle East. Bush was staring down Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over demands Iran back off its nuclear research.

By spring 2006, Bush was reportedly weighing military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. But the President encountered resistance from senior levels of the U.S. military, which feared the consequences, including the harm that might come to more than 130,000 U.S. troops bogged down in neighboring Iraq.

There was also alarm among U.S. generals over the White House resistance to removing tactical nuclear weapons as an option against Iran.

As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep underground.

"Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap," a former senior intelligence official told Hersh. "'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision. But we made it in Japan."

This former official said the White House refused to remove the nuclear option from the plans despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Whenever anybody tries to get it out, they're shouted down," the ex-official said. [New Yorker, April 17, 2006]

By late April, however, the Joint Chiefs finally got the White House to agree that using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, less than 200 miles south of Tehran, was politically unacceptable, Hersh reported.

"Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said.

But – even without the nuclear option – senior military officials still worried about a massive bombing campaign against Iran. Hersh wrote:

"Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President's plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran's nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States."

Hersh quoted a retired four-star general as saying, "The system is starting to sense the end of the road, and they don't want to be condemned by history. They want to be able to say, 'We stood up.' " [New Yorker, July 10, 2006]

The most immediate concern of U.S. military leaders was that air strikes against Iran could prompt retaliation against American troops in Iraq. U.S. military trainers would be especially vulnerable since they work within Iraqi military and police units dominated by Shiites who are sympathetic to Iran.

Iran also could respond to a bombing campaign by cutting off oil supplies, sending world oil prices soaring and throwing the world economy into chaos.

Israel's Arsenal

While the Joint Chiefs may have had success in getting the White House to remove the use of nuclear weapons from its list of options on Iran, the rising tensions between Israel and Iran may have put the nuclear option back on the table – since Israel has the largest and most sophisticated nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.

As Hersh reported, "The Israelis have insisted for years that Iran has a clandestine program to build a bomb, and will do so as soon as it can. Israeli officials have emphasized that their 'redline' is the moment Iran masters the nuclear fuel cycle, acquiring the technical ability to produce weapons-grade uranium."

In spring 2006, Iran announced that it had enriched uranium to the 3.6 percent level sufficient for nuclear energy but well below the 90-percent level for making atomic bombs. The U.S. intelligence community believes that Iran is still years and possibly a decade away from the capability of building a nuclear bomb.

Still, Iran's technological advance convinced some Israeli strategists that it was imperative to destroy Iran's program now. Yet to do so, Israel faces the same need for devastating explosive power, thus raising the specter again of using a nuclear bomb.

One interpretation of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict is that Bush and Olmert seized on the Hezbollah raid as a pretext for a pre-planned escalation that will lead to bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran, justified by their backing of Hezbollah.

In that view, Bush found himself stymied by U.S. military objections to targeting Iran's nuclear facilities outside any larger conflict. However, if the bombing of Iran develops as an outgrowth of a tit-for-tat expansion of a war in which Israel's existence is at stake, strikes against Iranian targets would be more palatable to the American public.

The end game would be U.S.-Israeli aerial strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities with the goal of crippling its nuclear program and humiliating Ahmadinejad.

Strangling an Axis

While U.S. officials have been careful not to link the Lebanon conflict to any possible military action against Iran's nuclear facilities, they have spoken privately about using the current conflict to counter growing Iranian influence.

Washington Post foreign policy analyst Robin Wright wrote that U.S. officials told her that "for the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East. ...

"Whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants – with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike.

"'What is out there is concern among conservative Arab allies that there is a hegemonic Persian threat [running] through Damascus, through the southern suburbs of Beirut and to the Palestinians in Hamas,' said a senior U.S. official." [Washington Post, July 16, 2006]

Another school of thought holds that Iran may have encouraged the Hezbollah raid that sparked the Lebanese-Israeli conflict as a way to demonstrate the "asymmetrical warfare" that could be set in motion if the Bush administration attacks Iran.

But Hezbollah's firing of rockets as far as the port city of Haifa, deep inside Israel, has touched off new fears among Israelis and their allies about the danger of more powerful missiles carrying unconventional warheads, possibly hitting heavily populated areas, such as Tel Aviv.

That fear of missile attacks by Islamic extremists dedicated to Israel's destruction has caused Israel to start "dusting off it nukes," one source told me.

Originally published at

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Were plans for a Middle East war escalation exposed in Bush-Blair exchange?
A microphone unintentionally left open at the July 17, 2006 G-8 summit luncheon picked up snippets of unguarded talk between George Bush and Tony Blair. While most media coverage has focused on the embarrassing, stupid and profanity-laced portions of the comments uttered by Bush, a closer examination of the transcript confirms the multinational targeting of Syria and Syrian president Bashar Assad.

It also suggests that severe Anglo-American pressure, via the UN, will continue to be applied to Syria and Iran, both of which have been broadbrushed as the"terror masterminds behind Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists".

More than an idiot’s profanity

The worldwide media, Bush’s damage control apparatus, has spun the Bush-Blair exchange, in the most deceptive Bush-friendly manner. The New York Times spun it as a "blunt call for diplomacy", while another New York Times piece refers to "wise-guy Bush’s blunt and coarse chit-chat". Other headlines hailed the performance as "straight-talking Dubya", Bush "lets fly", "curses Hezbollah actions", "Bush urges Assad to end fighting", etc. All false.
First, Bush demonstrated what seasoned observers already know: Bush is a grotesque simpleton suffering from some mental afflication, who is also a ruthless intimidator wielding violence and power without intellect, and without regard. In short, a gangster. Gangsters do not need a great intellect to successfully conduct criminal activities, or head criminal empires. (In fact, intellect gets in the way.) Bush (and Cheney) routinely speaks using profanity. ...
A blockbuster from the Washington Post:

9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon

Allegations Brought to Inspectors General
By Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2006; Page A03Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.
Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.
In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."
Although the commission's landmark report made it clear that the Defense Department's early versions of events on the day of the attacks were inaccurate, the revelation that it considered criminal referrals reveals how skeptically those reports were viewed by the panel and provides a glimpse of the tension between it and the Bush administration.

A Pentagon spokesman said yesterday that the inspector general's office will soon release a report addressing whether testimony delivered to the commission was "knowingly false." A separate report, delivered secretly to Congress in May 2005, blamed inaccuracies in part on problems with the way the Defense Department kept its records, according to a summary released yesterday. ...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Israeli Attacks Strengthen Hezbollah

Israel has taken the bait. The obvious targeting of civilians in Lebanon has only harmed Hezbollah —if at all —in a very superficial way. In the long, term Hezbollah is strengthened now that it can point to a credible Israeli threat to all of Lebanon.

As recently as April, 2005, Daniel Byman in Foreign Affairs wrote:

Most of Lebanon's ethnic and religious communities want Syria to leave, and even some Lebanese Shiites joined the recent anti-Syrian protests. Hezbollah has always tried to remain above Lebanon's communal fray, portraying itself as a resistance movement that transcends petty politics. But by opposing the cross-communal alliance against Syria, the Party of God has been undercutting its claims as a national organization.


Hezbollah can no longer use its anti-Israel campaign to win broad popular support.

Daniel Byman, Hezbollah's Dilemma

Until now!

Byman pointed out that Hezbollah had enjoyed considerable popularity throughout Lebanon and that no Lebanese government was likely to bring Hezbollah to heel in the foreseeable future. Less so now! Hezbollah seems to be alone in its suprisingly stiff opposition to the Israeli incursion; it's position is, therefore, strengthened. With more to lose on this gamble, Israel is weakened.

Byman stated, in 2005, that "...U.S. attempts to compel an independent Lebanese government to crack down on the party would likely backfire. " Had anyone considered what kind of "backfire" might be caused by a disproportionate attack on Lebanon by Israel?

By 1985, Lebanon —the most peaceful of Mediterranean countries, the region's best hope for democracy —had become very nearly synonymous with war and violence. Beirut had been called the Paris of the Middle East. Israel's incursion into Lebanon was, we were told, intended to drive out the PLO. But, in that decade, Lebanon suffered a disproportionate share of death, violence and destruction —much more so than it its neighbors Syria and Israel. Mere numbers cannot begin to tell the complete story of Israel's occupation of Lebanon, an occupation of some 20 years, an occupation from which Lebanon was just recently recovering.

Some still hold out hope that Israel will withdraw. Some still hold out hope for peace even as conservatives talk of WWIII and, in the case of George Will on ABC, a "...cascading escalation". But, realistically, there is little hope for a quick return to even the reviled status quo ante short of some acknowledgment of the privations and destruction forced on Lebanon over a period of some 30 years.

Rice visited the war zone with double talk about status quo antes and false hopes of a "lasting peace" amid an on-going crisis. It is too much, therefore, to ask of the nations of the world that they rally behind Bush who lacks a plan to rally 'round.

It is not realistic to expect that Bush —who lied about Iraq in order to attack and invade that nation —can lead the Middle East out of its morass. Bombs and firepower are no substitute for moral authority.

It cannot be hoped, therefore, that Bush's regime can act as an honest broker in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the best hope for the avoidance of a larger war is that —despite Bush, despite Rice —the international community step up to the plate to urge Israel to acknowledge its civilian Lebanese victims.

The Existentialist Cowboy

Human Rights Watch: Israeli Air Attacks Called 'War Crimes'

More voices join a rising chorus: Israel is perpetrating war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians in Lebanon. The latest group to raise the issue is Human Rights Watch which recently documented similar charges against the Bush administration in Iraq. The organization joins Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said earlier that "...war crimes may have been committed in Lebanon" by Israel.

A New York-based human rights group says the Israeli military is fully responsible for its air strike that killed nearly 60 civilians in Lebanon, calling such attacks a "war crime."

In a statement released in Beirut Sunday, Human Rights Watch said Sunday's air strike in the village of Qana was a product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign amounting to a war crime.

The statement calls on the U.N. secretary-general to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law during the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is preparing for an emergency meeting this week on the need for an immediate cease fire in the Middle East and deployment of a U.N. peace keeping force.

—VOA, Israeli Attacks [are] 'War Crimes'

UN Commissioner Arbour had warned that war crimes liability is not limited to military personnel; it applies equally to the politicians who decide, direct and approve military operations.

The specific international principles are the 1949 Geneva Conventions sought to prohibit, by international law, attacks which mainly target civilians. Article 51 of the First Protocol to the 1949 agreements (updated in 1977) states

Article 51: Protection of the Civilian Population
  • The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in all circumstances.
  • The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
  • Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
  • Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:

    • those which are not directed at a specific military objective;

    • those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or

    • those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

-Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977

UN Commissioner Arbour is a former justice of Canada's Supreme Court and a chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference [O.I.C] —an organization of Muslim-majority nations —will meet in an emergency, one-day session Thursday in Malaysia. The group will discuss an immediate cease fire and a U.N. deployment of peace keeping force.

A round up of the latest developments with regard to war crimes:

A War Crimes Tribunal May be the Only Deterrent to a Global War

The United Nations General Assembly must immediately establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) as a "subsidiary organ" under U.N. Charter Article 22. The ICTI would be organized along the lines of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established by the Security Council.

The purpose of the ICTI would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine--just as the ICTY did for the victims of international crimes committed by Serbia and the Milosevic Regime throughout the Balkans.

The establishment of ICTI would provide some small degree of justice to the victims of Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine--just as the ICTY has done in the Balkans. Furthermore, the establishment of ICTI by the U.N. General Assembly would serve as a deterrent effect upon Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz, Chief of Staff Halutz and Israel's other top generals that they will be prosecuted for their further infliction of international crimes upon the Lebanese and the Palestinians.

Without such a deterrent, Israel might be emboldened to attack Syria with the full support of the Likhudnik Bush Jr. Neoconservatives, who have always viewed Syria as "low-hanging fruit" ready to be taken out by means of their joint aggression.

The Israeli press has just reported that the Bush Jr administration is encouraging Israel to attack Syria. If Israel attacks Syria as it did when it invaded Lebanon in 1982, Iran has vowed to come to Syria's defense.

And of course Israel and the Bush Jr administration very much want a pretext to attack Iran. This scenario could readily degenerate into World War III.


How can 'terrorism' be condemned while war crimes go without rebuke?

Washington's partners in this hypocritical war on terror are given free rein to wreak their own brutal, illegal violence

David Clark
Monday July 31, 2006
The Guardian

As if we didn't know it already, the conflict in Lebanon shows that truth and war don't mix. All parties to the tragedy of the Middle East resort to disinformation and historical falsification to bolster their case, but rarely has an attempt to rewrite the past occurred so soon after the fact. Israeli ministers and their supporters have justified the bombardment of Lebanon as "a matter of survival". Total war has been declared on Israel, so Israel is entitled to use the methods of total war in self-defence. This would be reasonable if it were true, but it isn't. It's completely false. ...

Lebanon alleges war crimes

Published: Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:53 PM Doha Time

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government yesterday accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity following the deadly raid on the village of Qana, saying the US was covering up the Jewish state’s attacks on the country.

"These aggressions are crimes against humanity and war crimes in all senses of the words," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said, reading a statement after an emergency cabinet session.

"It is to hide their failure in achieving their military objectives," he said.

Asked about the US position concerning the continued Israeli attacks on Lebanon, Aridi said Washington "is covering up these aggressions."

Qana, War Crimes, and the Pending UN Resolution on Lebanon

JURIST Guest Columnist Anthony D'Amato of Northwestern University School of Law says that the Israeli air strike on Qana that killed over 60 Lebanese civilians has set the stage not only for possible war crimes prosecutions but also for a potentially-robust UN Security Council resolution imposing a UN peacekeeping force on the parties in an effort to stop the violence...

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz in Jerusalem on Sunday morning July 30th when news came in of a two-missile strike on a house in Qana, Lebanon. So far, over 60 bodies of civilians have been recovered, the majority of them children. A father of five who managed to escape lost his wife, sister, aunt, and all his children, including a two-year-old. The pinpoint accuracy of the Israeli missiles is not disputed. ...

The Existentialist Cowboy

Sunday, July 30, 2006

US middle east policy: "...a blood soaked failure"!

Israel targets Hezbollah but kills primarily civilians and UN observers. To call it "Unintended consequences" is polite. To liken it to Bush's strategy in Iraq is more accurate. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere chaos is loosed upon the world.

Things are so bad for Bush that only a catastrophe —Israel's disproportionate and tragic invasion of Lebanon —could knock Iraq, where some 100 civilians are slaughtered daily, off the front pages. If Bush thought a respite from bad Iraq news would help, he is sorely disappointed. A majority of Americans think the nation is on the "wrong track" and the fact that he is seen has having given Ehud Olmert a "green light" does not help his case. [See: Israeli Strike Kills 54]

While the world watches what George Will has called an "cascading escalation" in the middle east, Iraq itself disintegrates. "Operation Together Forward" —a joint Iraqi-U.S. military operation to restore security in Baghdad —is described by The Register Guard as "...a blood-soaked failure." There is even talk of an impending coup d'etat in Iraq. If Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite majority cannot rule Iraq, then what is to be said of the prospects for Democracy? What is to be said of Bush's rhetoric? But most significant: what is to be said of the many lies told by Bush to start the war to begin with?

There is also talk of a US backed Kurdish minority even as Sunnis take control of Baghdad. But I wonder how the Kurds —betrayed by Bush Sr —will be fooled again. Clearly —Bush never had a plan beyond bombing, attacking, invading and blowing up stuff. Quagmires, I suppose, are to heal themselves. Meanwhile, on ABC This Week, Fareed Zacharias suggested that the US is left with but one option: threatening Iraq with a withdrawal!

That bears repeating: the US presence in Iraq is such a debacle, such an utter failure, that the US —the chest-beating last remaining superpower —is reduced to threatening to withdraw. Perhaps Israel should similarly threaten Lebanon! It may be the only way left to win.

In the meantime, according to a CBS News/New York Times Poll, 62 percent of all Americans, 60 percent of all independents, and 89 percent of all Democrats disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq.

It's tempting to attribute some of that to Bush's dubious achievements in the Middle East:

  • The Bush administration has ensured that the international community will fail to stop the mayhem in Lebanon by raising the bar, false hopes, and unrealistic expectations. Now, rather, is the time for practical solutions to an immediate crisis.
  • The US has ceased to play its traditional role of "honest broker"; instead, the Bush administration arms but one side of the dispute with sophisticated rockets and powerful bombs

It's time to face the fact that Bush policies, and likewise, the policies of Ehud Olmert in Israel, are counter-productive. A couple of points:

  • Hezbollah didn't exist before Israel invaded Lebanon during the Reagan years.
  • Bush foot dragging and unrealistic insistence upon a "lasting peace" has allowed Israel enough time to devastate Lebanon though it claims Hezbollah is its target.
Israel publicly proclaims that its goal is nothing less than the complete dismantling of Hezbollah's military infrastructure —"once and for all". Aside from the fact that an air campaign alone cannot accomplish this, disillusioned millions, radicalized by the disproportionate nature of the attack in the first place, will most certainly emerge stronger and more radical. Even if Israel should succeed in crippling Hezbollah —the maximum achievable by an air campaign —a stronger, more radical party will emerge on the other side.

Nor can Hezbollah be "dismantled" by an armed invasion. Now that the hoped for cease fire has fallen apart, it is difficult to see how an emerging pattern of escalation —feeding upon its own momentum —will stop short of a disastrous march into Beirut. This option will only result in murderous urban, guerrilla warfare.

It will not render Hezbollah powerless, because it is simply impossible to eliminate thousands of small, mobile, hidden and easily resupplied rockets via an air campaign. And it will not lead the weak Lebanese government to confront Hezbollah, because the civilian casualties caused by Israel's bombing are infuriating the Lebanese population and providing fodder for Israel's enemies throughout the Muslim world.

—Philip H. Gordon, Brookings Institution

Israel should know better; it's been there before. In 1982, Israeli soldiers were greeted with flowers and candy. But the purpose then was to kick out PLO occupiers. But —alas —Israel became the occupier of Lebanon and stayed for some 18 years.

If the world is lucky, Israel will have learned a lesson and settle for something less than full victory which they've defined as the utter destruction of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, however, wins if it only thwarts Israeli objectives.

A by-product of this war has been the increasingly alarmist vocabulary even among conservative commentators. George Will —a conservative —compared the "cascading escalation" to the events which followed the killing of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.

The Existentialist Cowboy