Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fuel Oil and Fumes Spill from Power Plant Bombed by Israelis

By Rana Fil
The Boston Globe
July 28, 2006

Israel's bombing of a power plant on Beirut's southern outskirts has spawned an environmental disaster, sending thousands of tons of heavy fuel oil into the Mediterranean and spreading dangerous fumes into the air, government officials say.

Israeli forces hit the Jiyye power plant two weeks ago, setting its storage fuel tanks ablaze and cutting electricity to many areas in the capital and south Lebanon. One of the tanks exploded and fell into the Mediterranean a week ago, and another one was still burning yesterday.

The officials say Lebanon does not have enough of the foam that is used to extinguish oil fires, as most of it has been used to put out the blaze at the Beirut airport and oil stations, which also have been hit in Israeli strikes.

Fears were rising about health problems from the spill and from air pollution.

``The dark cloud that you see over Beirut and the sea carries particulate matters that enter the respiratory system and cause different types of respiratory problems," Berge Hadjian, director general of the Environment Ministry, said in an interview. ``The most vulnerable are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who have respiratory diseases like asthma."

The environmental damage elsewhere in the region was unclear. Hadjian said that depending on the winds, air pollution could reach Syria, Turkey, and Israel.

Samih Wehbe, an oil expert in the Environment Ministry, voiced more alarming worries. ``It is a catastrophe; it is something unbelievable," he said. ``The pollution of the air could reach Europe."

The tank spilled at least 10,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea. Hadjian said it was possible that winds could also carry the oil to Turkey and Syria.

In Lebanon, the spill has fouled public and private beaches from Jiyye in the south to Chekka in the north. According to the Ministry of Environment, 80 percent of the coast north of Jiyye has been contaminated. Along that coast, waves carry a black, thick layer of oil that sticks to rocks and sand.

While the beaches remain open, the government has warned people to stay away.

Gaby Khalaf, director of the National Center for Marine Sciences, said the sea needs one or two years to be ``totally cleaned."

``Today, I saw that certain species like the mollusk and the crustacean have perished," Khalaf said. ``They can't breathe or eat anymore."

Fisherman Issam Iskandarani, 60, said he noticed the black layer of oil two days ago in the Mediterranean. ``I was surprised when I saw the dead fish floating on the surface," he said. Since then, he has been moving from one place to another hoping to find a clean spot along the coast.

``Look at the fish. They are moving in a way that tells they are dying," he said, pointing his finger at the sea. ``I've been fishing for 25 years, and I know from experience that they are dying."

Environmental experts fear that if the burning tank falls into the sea, the amount of fuel spilled into the Mediterranean could reach 20,000 tons.

Private companies and the Kuwaiti government are assisting in the initial cleanup, local media have reported. But officials say that a widespread effort remains too dangerous because of the continuing threat from Israeli forces.

Hadjian estimated it would cost $150 million and take six months to a year to clean up the oil spill alone.

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company

Friday, July 28, 2006

Down the Memory Hole

July 28, 2006

In the wake of the most serious outbreak of Israeli/Arab violence in years, three leading U.S. papers—the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times—have each strongly editorialized that Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon were solely responsible for sparking violence, and that the Israeli military response was predictable and unavoidable. These editorials ignored recent events that indicate a much more complicated situation.

Beginning with the Israeli attack on Gaza, a New York Times editorial (6/29/06) headlined "Hamas Provokes a Fight" declared that "the responsibility for this latest escalation rests squarely with Hamas," and that "an Israeli military response was inevitable." The paper (7/15/06) was similarly sure in its assignment of blame after the fighting spread to Lebanon: "It is important to be clear about not only who is responsible for the latest outbreak, but who stands to gain most from its continued escalation. Both questions have the same answer: Hamas and Hezbollah."

The Washington Post (7/14/06) agreed, writing that "Hezbollah and its backers have instigated the current fighting and should be held responsible for the consequences." The L.A. Times (7/14/06) likewise wrote that "in both cases Israel was provoked." Three days and scores of civilian deaths later, the Times (7/17/06) was even more direct: "Make no mistake about it: Responsibility for the escalating carnage in Lebanon and northern Israel lies with one side...and that is Hezbollah."

As FAIR noted in a recent Action Alert (7/19/06), the portrayal of Israel as the innocent victim in the Gaza conflict is hard to square with the death toll in the months leading up to the current crisis; between September 2005 and June 2006, 144 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces, according to a list compiled by the Israeli human rights group B'tselem; 29 of those killed were children. During the same period, no Israelis were killed as a result of violence from Gaza.

In a July 21 CounterPunch column, Alexander Cockburn highlighted some of the violent incidents that have dropped out of the media’s collective memory:
Let's go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.

Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.

Now we're really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing eight civilians and injuring 32.

That's just a brief trip down Memory Lane, and we trip over the bodies of twenty dead and forty-seven wounded, all of them Palestinians, most of them women and children.
On June 24, the day before Hamas' cross-border raid, Israel made an incursion of its own, capturing two Palestinians that it said were members of Hamas (something Hamas denied—L.A. Times, 6/25/06). This incident received far less coverage in U.S. media than the subsequent seizure of the Israeli soldier; the few papers that covered it mostly dismissed it in a one-paragraph brief (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 6/25/06), while the Israeli taken prisoner got front-page headlines all over the world. It's likely that most Gazans don’t share U.S. news outlets' apparent sense that captured Israelis are far more interesting or important than captured Palestinians.

The situation in Lebanon is also more complicated than its portrayal in U.S. media, with the roots of the current crisis extending well before the July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. A major incident fueling the latest cycle of violence was a May 26, 2006 car bombing in Sidon, Lebanon, that killed a senior official of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group allied with Hezbollah. Lebanon later arrested a suspect, Mahmoud Rafeh, whom Lebanese authorities claimed had confessed to carrying out the assassination on behalf of Mossad (London Times, 6/17/06).

Israel denied involvement with the bombing, but even some Israelis are skeptical. "If it turns out this operation was effectively carried out by Mossad or another Israeli secret service," wrote Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling daily (6/16/06; cited in AFP, 6/16/06), "an outsider from the intelligence world should be appointed to know whether it was worth it and whether it lays groups open to risk."

In Lebanon, Israel's culpability was taken as a given. "The Israelis, in hitting Islamic Jihad, knew they would get Hezbollah involved too," Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at Beirut’s Lebanese American University, told the New York Times (5/29/06). "The Israelis had to be aware that if they assassinated this guy they would get a response."

And, indeed, on May 28, Lebanese militants in Hezbollah-controlled territory fired Katyusha rockets at a military vehicle and a military base inside Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes against Palestinian camps deep inside Lebanon, which in turn were met by Hezbollah rocket and mortar attacks on more Israeli military bases, which prompted further Israeli airstrikes and "a steady artillery barrage at suspected Hezbollah positions" (New York Times, 5/29/06). Gen. Udi Adam, the commander of Israel’s northern forces, boasted that "our response was the harshest and most severe since the withdrawal" of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000 (Chicago Tribune, 5/29/06).

This intense fighting was the prelude to the all-out warfare that began on July 12, portrayed in U.S. media as beginning with an attack out of the blue by Hezbollah. While Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers may have reignited the smoldering conflict, the Israeli air campaign that followed was not a spontaneous reaction to aggression but a well-planned operation that was years in the making.

"Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, told the San Francisco Chronicle (7/21/05). "By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we’re seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it’s been simulated and rehearsed across the board." The Chronicle reported that a "senior Israeli army officer" has been giving PowerPoint presentations for more than a year to "U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks" outlining the coming war with Lebanon, explaining that a combination of air and ground forces would target Hezbollah and "transportation and communication arteries."

Which raises a question: If journalists have been told by Israel for more than a year that a war was coming, why are they pretending that it all started on July 12? By truncating the cause-and-effect timelines of both the Gaza and Lebanon conflicts, editorial boards at major U.S. dailies gravely oversimplify the decidedly more complex nature of the facts on the ground.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Touching The Third Rail: Speaking Some Truth

by Jonathan Tasini
July 26, 2006

When I announced that I was entering the race for the U.S. Senate, I began with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I am not a professional politician whose sole goal is to accumulate power so I have the freedom to speak my mind and I will not be silent.

I’ve touched the “third rail” of politics in New York: the Israel-Palestine conflict, the dreadful occupation and the never-ending violence that is spinning out of control, in large part because the United States—and politicians like Hillary Clinton—continue to blindly pursue a one-sided policy in the Palestinian-Israel conflict, a policy that is causing more death and sorrow for civilians on all sides of the conflict and, ironically, is hurting the security of Israel.

From the beginning of this race, I was committed to speaking the truth, whether about the Iraq war/occupation or abusive corporate power or the corruption coursing through our political system. People are simply fed up with the pandering, the triangulation and the inability to speak the truth that is endangering our country’s future, our relations in the world and our well-being at home. We need a real opposition party, a Democratic Party with a vision that has the spine to stand for something authentic and honest.

Voters should know a little about where I come from on the issue of Israel-Palestine and the raging conflict engulfing the region today. I speak about Israel out of love and pain, in the same way that I am a deeply patriotic American who is harshly critical of our government and its behavior in Iraq—and of Hillary Clinton’s vote to send our men and women to die into an illegal, immoral war.

My father was born in then-Palestine. He fought in the Haganah (the Israeli underground) in the war of independence; my father’s cousin, whose name I carry as a middle name, was killed in that war. I lived in Israel for seven years, during which I went through the 1973 war: a cousin of mine was killed in that war, leaving a young widow and two children, and his brother was wounded. My step-grandfather, an old man who was no threat to anyone, was killed by a Palestinian who took an axe to his head while he was sitting quietly on a park bench. Half my family still lives in Israel. I have seen enough bloodshed, tears, and parents burying their children to last many lifetimes.

For that reason, I believe passionately in a two-state solution, which includes a strong, independent, economically viable Palestinian state existing along side a strong, independent, economically vibrant Israel. It is the only solution that will bring peace to the civilians who now live in fear of death raining down from above—either because of the missiles of Hezbollah or the bombs of Israeli aircraft.

I do not believe Israel is a terrorist state. I do believe that Israel has committed acts that violate international standards and the Geneva conventions. In Israel, such a statement that the military has committed acts that violate the Geneva convention and international standards and has also engaged in torture (or, as it is called, “moderate pressure”) would be a subject of debate but hardly considered novel or particularly radical. Among the many sources for the truth, beyond my personal experience, is the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem. If you visit the organization’s website, you will find condemnation of both Israeli and Palestinian violence against civilians of each side.

Here is what B’Tselem says about the current escalation: “…the organization reiterates that international humanitarian law (IHL) obligates all parties taking part in hostilities to refrain from launching attacks against civilians or against civilian objects."

"IHL requires that the combating sides direct their attacks only against specific military objectives, take cautionary measures to prevent injury to civilians, and refrain from disproportionate attacks, i.e. attacks directed against legitimate targets, but that are likely to cause excessive harm to civilian. Furthermore, IHL clearly forbids the intimidation and terrorising of civilians, as well as collective punishment."

"Over the past week, Israel has killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians in its attacks against targets in Lebanon. There is a concern that at least some of them were disproportionate attacks, which constitute war crimes. In addition, Israel has launched deliberate attacks against civilian infrastructure throughout Lebanon, such as bridges, the Beirut international airport , the electricity supply and fuel reservoirs. There is a concern that such attacks are intended to put pressure on the Lebanese Government and not to obtain a specific military advantage. If this is the case, these attacks constitute collective punishment and a grave violation of IHL. Moreover, even if these targets constitute legitimate military objects, or civilian objectives that may be used for military purposes, Israel must respect the principle of proportionality and refrain from attacks that would cause excessive harm to civilians.”

The problem is not the debate in Israel. The problem is the debate—or lack thereof—in the United States.

Senator Clinton’s spokesperson has called my comments about Israel's conduct “beyond the pale.” With all due respect, it is Senator Clinton’s behavior, lack of leadership and failure to call for a respect for international law that should be questioned by the press, the Jewish community and the voters of New York. At a time when the violence against people on both sides of the border has killed hundreds of innocent people (mostly Lebanese), Hillary Clinton has fanned the flames of the conflict by recognizing and condemning the violence only against Israelis and effectively encouraging military action. I, too, have stated clearly, from the outset, that Hezbollah’s actions violate international law. But, to ignore Israel’s actions is abhorrent, weak and cowardly.

Senator Clinton, you are no friend of Israel. A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would understand that employing collective punishment against people in Lebanon only embitters a population, possibly for generations, and that even a short-term military victory will be empty if it leaves behind a shattered country. As an article in The New York Times illustrated: “We’re not Hezbollah supporters, but we cannot excuse what the Israelis are doing,” said Rima Beydoun, a secular Shiite who owns an advertising agency. “We knew there would be repercussions, but no one expected they would be like this,” Mr. Salhab, the filmmaker, said of Shiite support for Hezbollah. “I am very critical of that part of my country, but I have to put it aside, because we are being destroyed. At this point, I can’t just say: Hezbollah, go to hell.”

A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would never have stood before the “security wall” in the West Bank, as Senator Clinton did, and praised it—even though it has been found to be illegal under international law and by the Israeli Supreme Court (which said that, if a wall needed to be built, it should not stray outside the “green line” into the occupied territories). A friend of Israel would argue strenuously that Israel’s moral fiber and its security is weakened every moment that that wall stands in its place, in violation of the law of Israel, severing families from their land, separating people and filling more people with rage and despair.

A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would deplore the collective punishment employed by the Israeli army in Gaza. As Rabbi Michael Lerner has suggested, in the wake of the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power in Gaza, “Instead of narrowly focusing on Hamas’ capacity to make war, the Israelis chose the path of collective punishment, a frequently ineffective counterinsurgency policy used to eliminate public support for resistance movements. In the height of the oppressive summer heat, Israel bombed the electricity grid, effectively cutting off Gaza’s water and the electricity needed to keep refrigeration working, thereby guaranteeing a dramatic decrease in food for the area’s already destitute, million plus population. This act was yet another violation of international law that include[d] the arrests of thousands by Israelis and the shooting of Qassams at population centers by Hamas.”

I make this offer: Senator Clinton, come out into the public arena, stop hiding behind your spokespeople and spinners and image consultants. Let’s debate the future of Israel and Palestine, publicly, on television, in front of the voters. Right now, in the coming days because the violence in the Middle East is rising. Pick the time and place.

I would end with this thought: As a Jew, I have always been proud of the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam” or “repairing the world.” I like to think that that is what brought so many Jews into the civil rights and labor movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and into the current anti-war movement—and, personally, guided me into the world of social justice work. I feel great sorrow that Israel is an occupier of another people and I believe that Israel can never be whole and can never be at peace until that occupation is ended in a just way. And I also believe that the concept of Tikkun Olam means that we must never be silent.

Copyright 2005-2006 Tasini for New York

Gore Vidal

By David Barsamian
The Progressive
July 26, 2006

Gore Vidal is a gold mine of quips and zingers. And his vast knowledge of literature and history—particularly American—makes for an impressive figure. His razor-sharp tongue lacerates the powerful. He does it with aplomb, saying, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” He has a wry sense of noblesse oblige: “There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

Now eighty, he lives in the Hollywood hills in a modest mansion with immodest artwork. I felt I was entering a museum of Renaissance art. A stern painting of the Emperor Constantine was looking down upon us as we sat in his majestic living room. A Buddha statue from Thailand stood nearby. But all was not somber. He had a Bush doll with a 9/11 bill sticking out of it on a table behind us.

His aristocratic pedigree is evident not just in his artistic sophistication but also in his locution. In a war of words, few can contend with Vidal.

“I’m a lover of the old republic and I deeply resent the empire our Presidents put in its place,” he declares.

Vidal moved gingerly and was using a cane. A recent knee operation left him less mobile. He says, “The mind is still agile but the knees have grown weak.” We sat in upholstered chairs. On a nearby table I saw the galleys of his second memoir, Point to Point Navigation. It will be out this fall. His earlier one, Palimpsest, came out in 1995.

Prolific does not even begin to describe Vidal’s literary output. He’s the author of scores of novels, plays, screenplays, essays. In 1993, he won the National Book Award for his collection of essays, United States. His recent books (he calls them “pamphlets”)—Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Dreaming War, and Imperial America—have sold in huge numbers. When I asked him what was the point of his work, he said, “I am chronicling America.” The prose, whether polemical or fictional, is elegant.

Distantly related to Jackie Kennedy, he does not romanticize JFK. “He was one of the most charming men I’ve ever known,” says Vidal. “He was also one of the very worst Presidents.”

He’s been a Democratic candidate for the House from New York and for the Senate from California. Today, he ridicules the Democrats for supineness.

He sees a certain continuity in U.S. foreign policy over the last fifty years. “The management, then and now, truly believes the United States is the master of the Earth and anyone who defies us will be napalmed or blockaded or covertly overthrown,” he says. “We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense.”

I talked with him on a hot afternoon in mid-April.

Q: In 2002, long before Bush’s current travails, you wrote, “Mark my words, he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.” How did you know that then?

Gore Vidal: I know these people. I don’t say that as though I know them personally. I know the types. I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know it’s trouble. Monkeys make trouble.

Q: Bush’s ratings have been at personal lows. Cheney has had an 18 percent approval rating.

Vidal: Well, he deserves it.

Q: Yet the wars go on. It’s almost as if the people don’t matter.

Vidal: The people don’t matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They’ve got the troops. They’ve got the army. They’ve got Congress. They’ve got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him.

Q: What do you think of the conspiracy theories about September 11?

Vidal: I’m willing to believe practically any mischief on the part of the Bush people. No, I don’t think they did it, as some conspiracy people think. Why? Because it was too intelligently done. This is beyond the competence of Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. They couldn’t pull off a caper like 9/11. They are too clumsy.

Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught?

Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars.

Q: You’re a veteran of World War II, the so-called good war. Would you recommend to a young person a career in the armed forces in the United States?

Vidal: No, but I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.

But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.

Q: You’ve called the country “The United States of Amnesia.” Is this something in our genes?

Vidal: No, it’s something in our rulers. They don’t want us to know anything. When you’ve got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry.

I was involved somewhat with Congressman Con-yers on what happened in Ohio during the last Presidential election.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and he went up there with a bunch of researchers. They went from district to district, and they found out how the election was stolen. He wrote a report that was published by a small press in Chicago. To help out, I said I’d write a preface for him on how the election was stolen. We were thinking that might help. But The New York Times and The Washington Post were not going to review the book about how we had a second Presidential election stolen. They weren’t going to admit it.

A huge number of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. You have a people that don’t know anything about the rest of the world, and you have leaders who lie to them, lie to them, and lie to them.

It’s so stupid, everything that they say. And the media take on it is just as stupid as theirs, sometimes worse. They at least have motives. They are making money out of the republic or what’s left of it. It’s the stupidity that will really drive me away from this country.

Q: When were the media better?

Vidal: They’ve never been much good. They belong to the people who own them. But they were better, the level was higher. There used to be foreign correspondents in other countries. There’s nobody abroad now. The New York Times gave up being anything except a kind of shadow of The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post is the court circular. What has the emperor done today? And who will be the under-assistant of the secretary of agriculture? As though these things mattered.

Q: What do you think of the public advertising of one’s faith among political leaders? They make a show of going to church and participating in ceremonies.

Vidal: Personally I find it sickening, and very much against what our Founders had in mind. Remember that the country was mostly founded by Brits, and England’s always gotten credit for having invented hypocrisy. So we are reflecting our British heritage when we hypocritically talk about how religious we are.

Q: Is the U.S. more like Sparta than Athens?

Vidal: We’re not so good as either. We certainly are not warlike. Spartans were based upon military service. We don’t want that. We want to make money, which I always thought was one of the most admirable things about Americans. We didn’t want to go out and conquer other countries. We wanted to corner wheat in the stock market or something sensible like that. So we are very unbelligerent. We were dragged screaming into World War I. Well, we were slightly enthusiastic about that, but we were very innocent farm people in those days. In World War II, we fought to stay out of that war. And every liberal figure in the United States from Norman Thomas on was anti-war. They were isolationists in the old populist tradition. So we never had a chance of being Sparta.

Q: Talk about the role of the opposition party, the Democrats.

Vidal: It isn’t an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.

Q: What can people do to energize democracy?

Vidal: The tactic would be to go after smaller offices, state by state, school board, sheriff, state legislatures. You can turn them around and that doesn’t take much of anything. Take back everything at the grassroots, starting with state
legislatures. That’s what Madison always said. I’d like to see a revival of state legislatures, in which I am a true Jeffersonian.

Q: Do you see any developments on the horizon that might suggest an alternative?

Vidal: Newton’s Third Law. I hope that law is still working. American laws don’t work, but at least the laws of physics might work. And the Third Law is: There is no action without reaction. There should be a great deal of reaction to the total incompetence of this Administration. It’s going to take two or three generations to recover what we had as of twenty years ago.

© 2005 The Progressive

Greek Scholar Denied Entrance into U.S.

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive
June 28, 2006

Greece may be the birthplace of democracy, but a Marxist Greek professor was recently prohibited from entering our own democracy, thus depriving us of our right to listen to his views.

John Milios teaches political economy and the history of economic thought at the National Technical University in Athens.

In January, he was invited to present a paper at a conference at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

He accepted the invitation to address the June 8-10 conference, “How Class Works.”

His visa doesn’t expire until November, and he had used it five times before to enter the United States, he says, most recently in 2003.

But this time he didn’t get in.

When he arrived at JFK on June 8, he knew something was up “from the first moment that the Border Police officer checked my passport and visa and told me that there must be some ‘technical problems’ with my papers,” he tells me by e-mail. “The Border Police kept me in a room along with other people, mostly economic immigrants, who were also having problems with their entry into the USA.”

The officers suggested that his name must have gotten confused with another one that resembled his, he says.
Milios sent a message to a member of the Greek Parliament, Alekos Alavanos, who is president of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), to which Milios belongs. Alavanos contacted the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Milios’s expulsion was front-page news in Greece.

“After five hours of waiting, I was informed by the Border Police officer that two federal agents had come to question me,” he says.

Milios says they played good cop/bad cop, with one not even introducing himself and just looking angry.

“They asked me two kinds of questions: First, rather typical questions related to who I am (name, age, profession, marital status, reason for traveling to the USA, etc). Second, questions about my political ideas and affiliations,” he says. “They interrogated me about my public (and at least in Greece) well-known political involvement.” He says they asked: “To which party I belong, what the political goals of this party are, what role do I play in this party, do I belong to the leadership or not, with what means (‘democratic or militant’!) are the party’s goals going to be accomplished, etc.”

Milios says the federal agent told him “he does not have any problem with me” and it was up to Customs. His interrogators left.

At that point, the Customs officer, who was with Milios the whole time, gave him the word. He “informed me that due to technical discrepancies, my visa should be cancelled.”

They put him on the next flight back.

“Before sending me home, they photocopied everything that I had in my wallet (including credit cards), and they took my fingerprints from all ten fingers,” he says.

Milios is outraged at his treatment.

“I find the whole incident ridiculous,” he says. “Who is afraid of my research work and ideas? Why should overseas Marxist research not be discussed with American citizens in the USA? I am startled and astonished!”

Lucille Cirillo is a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection. “Based on information provided by the State Department, Milios was determined not to be admissible into the United States,” she says.

“This seems to be another instance of ideological exclusion,” says Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the ACLU’s national security program.

He notes that Section 411 of the USA Patriot Act allows the government to bar from this country those “who endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”

“The way the government has interpreted that provision is very troubling,” he says, explaining that a State Department manual interprets this to mean that people can be excluded for “irresponsible expressions of opinion.”
Michael Zweig invited Milios to the United States. The director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at SUNY Stony Brook, Zweig denounced the exclusion of Milios.

“I am embarrassed to have to protest this unacceptable political intrusion into the flow of ideas and intellectual work across borders, a mission at the heart of any university’s purpose,” he said. “His absence was a serious loss to the intellectual life of the conference and the university.”

The American Association of University Professors wrote a letter of protest to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, citing not only Milios’s exclusion but also that of Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim scholar who was denied entry into the United States, where he had been offered a tenured position at Notre Dame

“The government’s barring entry of Professor Milios is one more instance, so the available information indicates, of the Administration’s seeming disregard for our society’s commitment to academic freedom,” wrote Jonathan Knight, the director of the AAUP’s program in Academic Freedom and Tenure.

The ACLU argues that the government’s action also infringes on all of our First Amendment rights.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment protects not only the right to speak but the right to listen,” Jaffer says. He cited former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in Lamont v. Postmaster General, who said, “It would be a barren marketplace of ideas that had only sellers and no buyers.”

For his part, Milios wants to return to the United States.

“I am very eager to come back,” he says. “I have a lot of good friends and colleagues in the USA, and I also want to participate in at least two scientific conferences in the near future.”

© 2005 The Progressive

Arrest, Death Threat, for Farmer with Upside Down Flag

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive
July 19, 2006

Dale Klyn raises beef cows in Corydon, Iowa.

For the past six years, he has been flying an American flag on his property.

But since May 21, that flag has been upside down.

He gives two reasons.

First, he’s angry at a judge for allowing a debtor of his to declare bankruptcy. The debtor, who had bought a business from Klyn on a contract and still owed him $282,000, now only has to “pay me six cents on the dollar,” says Klyn. “The judge approved that on the 18th of May. I was pretty upset about that.”

Second, he wants to show solidarity for Terri Jones.

She’s the Iowa mom who has been flying her flag upside down after her son returned from the Iraq War and committed suicide. (Klyn had never met her before.)

“When I got the Des Moines Register and read the article about Terri Jones and how her son didn’t get the medical attention he needed, I decided I’m going to support her and oppose what the judge had done and fly my flag upside down,” he says.

It got a reaction.

“I went to the local Case equipment dealer and bought some parts, and the salesman come out and he asked me why I was flying the flag upside down,” Klyn says. “So I explained it to him.”

But the salesman wasn’t sold, telling Klyn, “I’ve lost all respect for you. I’ll buy you a one-way ticket anywhere you want to go out of the country,” Klyn recalls.

Klyn says his postal worker also remarked on it.

“The mail carrier left me a personal note,” he says.

A local TV news reporter then came out and did a story on him.

“The next thing I knew I’d been charged with disorderly conduct,” he says. “I was surprised. I have the right and the freedom to do that.”

On July 6, Klyn, represented by the Iowa ACLU, met with a magistrate.

“I pled not guilty,” Klyn says. “No trial date has been set.” Terri Jones, by the way, went to court that day to support him.

“She came to my hearing," he says. “It was very kind of her.”

Alan Wilson, the county attorney who is prosecuting the case, did not return three phone messages for comment.

But Klyn’s troubles go beyond this court case.

He faces death threats from a forum on a Marine vets’ website,, which calls itself the “Marine Corps Community for USMC Veterans.”

That forum contained the following remarks from four different Marines:

“Any scout snipers live in Corydon, Iowa???”

“Corn hole ’m.”

“Fly him under it upside down.”

“If the flag is flying upside down, it means he is in trouble, right? I think we Marines should show up and get him ‘out’ of trouble.”

Says Klyn: “I view it as a threat.”

© 2005 The Progressive

Reality-Based Candidate

by Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate
July 25, 2006

Dear desperate Democrats,

Here's what we do. We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.

The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy.

Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War. Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He's no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds -- he doesn't scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.

Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.

Then why run him? Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn't triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn't have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called "unpatriotic." And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

It won't take much money -- file for him in a couple of early primaries and just get him into the debates. Think about the potential Democratic candidates. Every single one of them needs SPINE, needs political courage. What Moyers can do is not only show them what it looks like and indeed what it is, but also how people respond to it. I'm damned if I want to go through another presidential primary with everyone trying to figure out who has the best chance to win instead of who's right. I want to vote for somebody who's good and brave and who should win.

One time in the Johnson years, LBJ called on Moyers to say the blessing at a dinner. "SPEAK UP, Bill," Lyndon roared. "I can't hear you." Moyers replied, "I wasn't speaking to you, sir." That's the point of a run by Moyers: He doesn't change to whom he is speaking just because some president is yelling at him.

To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at PO Box 309, Bernardsville, NJ, 07924.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate Inc

Monday, July 24, 2006

FEMA a Disaster for Freedom of the Press

July 22, 2006

The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. “That’s just a policy.”

The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Davis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were halted by the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview was interrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the camp are “not allowed” to talk to the media.

Dekotha Devall, whose New Orleans home was destroyed by the storm, was in her FEMA-provided trailer telling the Advocate reporter of the hardships of life in the camp when a security guard knocked on the door.

“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. “Get out right now.” The guard reportedly called police to force the journalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporter from giving the interview subject a business card. “You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”

Later, at another FEMA camp in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, the reporter attempted to talk to camp resident Pansy Ardeneaux through a chain link fence when the same guard halted the interview. “You are not allowed to talk to these people,” the guard told Ardeneaux. “Return to your trailer now.” The reporter said she and an accompanying photographer were “ordered...not to talk to anyone or take pictures.”

Earlier, an interview with displaced Katrina victims by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) was halted by FEMA security guards. Tape-recording the accounts of residents of the FEMA-run Renaissance Village camp outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Goodman was approached by FEMA-hired security guards from Corporate Security Solutions who told her to “turn it off.” When Goodman explained that the resident had asked to be interviewed, she was told, “He can't. That’s not his privilege.”

At first, the resident talking to Goodman was told by the guard, “You can go get interviewed as long as it’s off post.” But when the resident offered to continue the interview outside the camp, the guard said, “Yes, you can be interviewed... if they had a FEMA representative with them, but since they don’t and do not have an appointment....” Interviews are allowed to proceed, the guard noted, when “they have the FEMA public relations officer with them.”

In concluding the segment on her visit to the camp, Goodman reported, “As we drove off of Renaissance Village, we were chased by the guards in golf carts, who said they would be taking down our license plate and that we couldn't return.”

Restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely to the press without government supervision are a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. “They cannot deny media access,” Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Advocate, saying that FEMA’s restrictions were “clearly unconstitutional … and definitely not legal.” Referring to the requirement that interview subjects have a FEMA escort, Leslie said, “That’s a standard for a prison, not a relief park and a temporary shelter.”

Timothy Matte, the mayor of Morgan City, expressed surprise that FEMA was enforcing limits on the free speech of disaster victims. “You would think the people would have the same freedom there as everyone else has,” he said.

ACTION: FEMA’s website urges citizens to report “allegations of civil liberties or civil rights abuses” to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is Richard L. Skinner.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

See Baton Rouge Advocate: “Hundreds of FEMA Trailers Stand Empty” (7/15/06) by Sandy Davis

See Democracy Now!: “FEMA's Dirty Little Secret: A Rare Look Inside the Renaissance Village Trailer Park, Home to Over 2,000 Hurricane Katrina Evacuees” (4/24/06) by Amy Goodman

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Empire Leaves Beirut to Burn

by Robert Fisk
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
July 23, 2006

In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus -- headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet -- was struck by a massive earthquake. Then, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors, ancestors of the present-day Lebanese, walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive.

Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered everyone in the city. In World War I, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine; the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain, and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of sticklike children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads ... "

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and rise from the grave and die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.

They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-colored skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis -- in some of their cruelest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside -- tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties -- 240 in all of Lebanon at the start of last week -- with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hezbollah.

I walked through the deserted city center of Beirut last week and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly colored that it blinded its own people. This part of the city -- once a Dresden of ruins -- was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered a mile away last year.

The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his inheritance is being vandalized by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last U.N. investigator to look for clues.

At the empty Etoile restaurant -- where Hariri once dined with Jacques Chirac -- I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the facade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate, and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejeweled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few meters away.

Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah, Robert, come over here," he roared and turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"

Now it is being unbuilt. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked several times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. This small jewel of a restaurant in the center of Beirut has been spared. So far.

It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been leveled and "rubble-ized" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shiite Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hezbollah, another of those "centers of world terror" that the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man; and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics; and many of Hezbollah's top military planners -- including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers 10 days ago.

But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pinpoint accuracy -- a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue -- what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?

In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well-known and prominent Hezbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or ... " And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis -- much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."

I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.

As for the huddled masses from the bombed-out southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.

Across the Mediterranean, two helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke toward the U.S. embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.

Across them all has spread a dark gray smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who
Did not perish from starvation was
Butchered with the sword;
They perished from hunger
In a land rich with milk and honey.
They died because the vipers and
Sons of vipers spat out poison into
The space where the Holy Cedars and
The roses and the jasmine breathe
Their fragrance.

And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.

I knew one of them. "Hello, Robert. Be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again, but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around to protect me.

A few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.

And why? Be sure -- the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? Then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those men had to be liquidated.

Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pajamas, her eyes -- beneath long, soft hair -- closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in 1982 while Israeli troops, as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry, watched the killings. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.

Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver, Abed, a week before last, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.

©1996-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Most Dangerous Alliance in the World

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams News Center
July 20, 2006

After getting out of Lebanon, writer June Rugh told Reuters on Tuesday: "As an American, I'm embarrassed and ashamed. My administration is letting it happen [by giving] tacit permission for Israel to destroy a country." The news service quoted another American evacuee, Andrew Muha, who had been in southern Lebanon. He said: "It's a travesty. There's a million homeless in Lebanon and the intense amount of bombing has brought an entire country to its knees."

Embarrassing. Shameful. A travesty. Those kinds of words begin to describe the alliance between the United States and Israel. Here are a few more: Government criminality. High-tech terror. Mass murder from the skies. The kind of premeditated action that the U.S. representative in Nuremberg at the International Conference on Military Trials -- Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson -- was talking about on August 12, 1945, when he declared that "no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."

The United States and Israel. Right now, it's the most dangerous alliance in the world.

Of course, Israeli officials talk about murderous crimes against civilians by Hezbollah and Hamas. And Hezbollah and Hamas officials talk about murderous crimes against civilians by Israel. Plenty of real crimes to go around. At the same time, by any measure, Israelis have done a lot more killing than dying. (If you doubt that, take a look at the website of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and its documentation of deadly events.)

In American media, the current mumbling about the need for "restraint" is little better than window-dressing for bomb-dropping. The prevalent dynamic is based on a chain of rarely spoken lies, however conscious or unconscious: none more important than the lie that a religion can make one life worth more than another; render a human death unimportant; elevate certain war-inflicted agonies to spiritual significance.

"Israel has overwhelming military superiority in both southern Lebanon and Gaza," the New York Times noted in mid-July. A pattern is deeply entrenched in U.S. media and politics: the smaller-scale killers condemned, the larger-scale killers justified with endless rationales.

Stripping away the righteous rhetoric, media manipulation and routine journalistic contortions, what remains in joint U.S.-Israeli policy is the unspoken assumption that might makes right. Myths spin around as convenient. Israel ceremoniously "withdraws" from Gaza, only to come back with missiles and troops however and whenever it pleases. The West Bank also continues to be a place of subjugation and resistance. And, as W.H. Auden observed, "Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."

The Israeli leaders who launched this month's state-of-the-killing-art air assault on Gaza and Lebanon had to know that many civilians would be killed, many others wounded, many more terrorized. The smug moral posturing that Israel's military does not target specific civilians is moldy political grist -- and, in human terms, irrelevant to the totally predictable carnage.

"There are terrorists who will blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives," President Bush said on July 13. Of course he was referring to actions by Hezbollah and Hamas. We're supposed to pretend that Israel does not also "blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives."

Israel calls itself a Jewish state, and its leadership often claims to represent the interests of Jewish people. Killers who terrorize often claim to be acting on blessed behalf of others of the faith. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus... By now, such demagoguery ought to be transparent.

In the 40th year of Israel's unconscionable occupation of Palestinian territories, Israeli leaders have their agenda. What's ours?

It should include clearly opposing the most dangerous alliance in the world.

In the United States, evading the "might makes right" core of the alliance is easy. The dodge makes dropping bombs on Lebanon and Gaza that much easier for the Israeli government. As usual, you can hear it in the weasel-worded statements from even the better politicians on Capitol Hill. You can read it in New York Times editorials. Instead of saying that aggressive war by Israel "is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy," the message is that aggressive war by Israel is accepted and embraced as an instrument of policy.

Most of all, you can hear it in the silence.

© Copyrighted 1997-2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Letter from a Young Lebanese-American Woman

by Yasmina Kamal
Informed Comment
July 20, 2006
This is an excerpt from an email posted on the blog of Juan Cole.

I now feel compelled from within to voice my own views of the recent bloody conflict. Since I have many close friends on either side of the issue, and since I grew up in a largely rural area with very little racial diversity, I understand many people may not have considered what is happening from a non-violent Lebanese-American perspective. I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent during this critical battle in my father's homeland.

My Lebanese family, entirely unaffiliated with the terrorist group of Hezbollah, lives in the southern region of Beirut, Lebanon, in neighborhoods inhabited by the Shiite, which serve as potential hideouts and headquarters for Hezbollah leaders. Their area has been shelled steadily for five days now, and we here in America watch the live footage from Beirut with dread, waiting to see members of our family racing through the crumbling streets or being carried away on ambulance stretchers.

In my opinion (and the opinion of many around the globe), the US is at fault today for not using its its powers of leadership to intervene- we are the only country who has any real influence over Israel (we sent them some $2.22 billion in military aid last year); theLebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora was in tears (as I have been, for days), appealing to the US, Israel, and the members of the G8 summit to do something to restrain the Israeli army from targeting Lebanese civilians (207 dead; more than 20 of whom are children). And yet President Bush and his administration has tried to block the G8's plan to call for a ceasefire. Of the eight countries in the G8 summit, he was the only one to oppose a peaceful resolution for both sides.

It should be known that being Lebanese does not mean that my family or I support the actions or the philosophy of the Hezbollah in any way; they are supported by Syria, using Lebanon only for its closer proximity to Israel. This terrorist group has an arm in both the military and the government, and the newborn Lebanese army (many of whom were Syrian and left the country last year when Syria withdrew from its borders) is no match for Hezbollah's money, political power and military strength. What Israel expects the Lebanese government to do is the impossible: rid its southern border of Hezbollah's influence.

With the knowledge that Hezbollah was actually born under Israeli occupancy of Lebanon to fight the Israeli Defense Forces, it is a hypocritical demand to expect the hopelessly weakened Lebanese government (now without many roads and bridges and military bases, bombed by Israel) to do in a couple of days what the Israeli government could not do in their 18-year occupation of Lebanon.

As a Lebanese-American, I oppose terrorism in all its forms. Along with most of the living and deceased civilians in Lebanon, I would like to see Hezbollah leave my father's native country. However, an anti-terrorism agenda does not give any nation the right to disregard innocent human life. We Americans do not send missiles to upstate New York to rid its southernmost cities of dangerous gangs. If military might and all-out war in the face of terrorist threats worked to end terrorism, Israel would be a peaceful country by now. Soldiers stationed in Iraq would not face the threat of violent insurgents. Afghanistan would be rid of its Taliban. These strongarm military tactics are not the most effective ways to abolish terrorism, especially in countries with weak governments and divided religious populations. Such attacks on countries ravished by extreemist groups only foster wider and more fervent support for these groups, and desire for revenge against the invading nation.

US Ambassador John R. Bolton's statement of "moral equivalence" in the Lebanon/Israel issue was a huge disappointment to me. I can't describe my horror at reading his words: "There’s certainly no moral equivalence between an act of terrorism directed at civilian population... and the tragic loss of civilian life as a consequence of military action."

That a fellow American, especially a US Ambassador with such influence and power, should be so ignorant of the Western world as to assume the responsibility of appointing moral values to slaughtered civilians, made me physically sick. If major politicians are making statements like that on live television, the American people must be in danger of developing dreadfully biased notions of this Middle Eastern crisis. In defense of my own community, I am challenging such influential and ignorant notions.

It has become painfully obvious that the precautions that Israel claims their army is taking to avoid attacks on civilian life are untrue. After all, Israel's weaponry and militarytechnology is far more advanced than that of Hezbollah, and the Israeli army has the abilityto aim their missiles to exactly pinpoint their targets. It is completely possible to avoidcivilian life in the crossfire. Of the 227 people reported killed in Lebanon, 20 areLebanese army soldiers (unrelated to Hezbollah) and only two are Hezbollah guerrillas. Thiscrisis began with two military captures (not civilian abductions) by the Hezbollah army, inmilitary-based retaliation for the hundreds of illegally-jailed Arab civilians by Israel.

What has ensued is an all-out attack on Lebanese civilian infrastructure.

Read more at Informed Comment.

Michael Franti and Spearhead to Perform at the Grassroots Festival

by the GrassRoots Festival

Rooted in 70s funk, roots reggae and hip-hop and driven by political activism, Michael Franti & Spearhead will be featured at the much anticipated 16th Annual Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance, held July 20-23 in Trumansburg NY. Spearhead will perform on Friday July 21st at 10:00 pm.

Politically outspoken frontman Michael Franti captures the ideals of the GrassRoots Festival. The event is non-profit, vehemently non-commercial, with a goal of "supporting arts, education, and the fight against AIDS" while celebrating cultural diversity through music. Franti's political messages include a staunch anti-death penalty stance, fierce concerns about the prison-industrial complex, and world peace and poverty issues.

"My role is as a storyteller and a songwriter," says Franti. "I'm somebody who is trying to keep the spirits of other people up, despite all the chaos and fear around us." After several years with critical darling The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Michael Franti released an album as a solo artist, which was praised for his insightful raps and Public Enemy-influenced beats. After disappearing for two years, Franti resurfaced in 1994 with Spearhead, a band heavily driven by funk, reggae and hip-hop; their debut album Home was followed in 1997 by Chocolate Supa Highway. Spearhead's upcoming album, Yell Fire, with an accompanying DVD (a documentary by Franti about the Iraq War, with footage shot by him in the Middle East), is to be released on July 25 and is already being lauded as one of the best albums of 2006.

Along with Spearhead, over 60 other groups will perform on four stages during the four day event, including host band, Americana roots rockers Donna the Buffalo, hit country singer John Anderson, African music legend Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited, Rajasthani gypsy-Indian fusion band Musafir, Honduran Garifuna singer Aurelio Martinez, Irish supergroup Cherish the Ladies, Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, polyethnic percussion and visual performance ensemble Cyro Baptista & Beat The Donkey, and many more. Whether you come for the day or stay for the weekend, one will see that GrassRoots is a truly unique and uplifting experience for the whole family to enjoy.

© GrassRoots Festival 1996-2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel Violates Law on U.S. Weapons in Mideast

by Thalif Deen
Inter Press Service News Agency
July 17, 2006

Israel is in violation of U.S. arms control laws for deploying U.S.-made fighter planes, combat helicopters and missiles to kill civilians and destroy Lebanon's infrastructure in the ongoing six-day devastation of that militarily-weak country.

The death toll, according to published reports, is over 200 people -- mostly civilians -- while the economic losses have been estimated at about 100 million dollars per day.

"Section 4 of the (U.S.) Arms Export Control Act requires that military items transferred to foreign governments by the United States be used solely for internal security and legitimate self-defence," says Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

"Since Israeli attacks against Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and population centres clearly go beyond legitimate self-defence, the United States is legally obliged to suspend arms transfers to Israel," Zunes told IPS.

Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Centre at the World Policy Institute in New York, is equally outraged at the misuse by Israel of U.S.-supplied weapons.

"As Israel jets bombard locations in Gaza, Haifa and Beirut, killing civilians (including as many as seven Canadians vacationing in Aitaroun), it is worth remembering that U.S. law is clear about how U.S.-origin weapons and military systems ought to be used," Berrigan told IPS.

She pointed out that the U.S. Arms Export Control Act clear states that U.S. origin weapons should not be used for "non-defensive purposes."

"In light of this clear statement, the United States has an opportunity to stave off further bloodshed and suffering by demanding that its weaponry and military aid not be used in attacks against Lebanon and elsewhere, and challenging Israeli assertions that it is using military force defensively," she added.

That would demonstrate the kind of "utmost restraint" that world leaders called for at the G8 Summit of the world's most industrialised nations, which just ended in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The 25-member European Union has said that Israel's military retaliation against Lebanon is "grossly disproportionate" to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers last week by the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which is a coalition partner of the U.S.-supported government in Beirut.

Israel has accused both Syria and Iran of providing rockets and missiles to Hezbollah, which has used these weapons to hit mostly civilian targets inside Israel.

Israel's prodigious military power -- currently unleashed on a virtually defenceless Lebanon -- is sourced primarily to the United States.

Armed mostly with state-of-the-art U.S.-supplied fighter planes and combat helicopters, the Israeli military is capable of matching a combination of all or most of the armies in most Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The air force has continued to devastate Beirut and its suburbs with no resistance in the skies during six days of incessant bombings, causing civilian deaths and infrastructure destruction.

"The Israeli Air Force now flies only U.S.-origin fighters, a mix of F-15s and F-16s, and the rest of the service's fleet is almost completely of U.S. origin," says Tom Baranauskas, a senior Middle East analyst at Forecast International, a leading provider of defence market intelligence services in the United States.

While in earlier years Israel bought from a variety of arms suppliers, with the French in particular being strong sellers to Israel of such items as Mirage fighters, over the past couple of decades the United States has developed into Israel's preponderant arms supplier, he added.

"The U.S. domination as Israel's arms supplier can be seen in the Congressional Research Service's (CRS) annual study of arms sales," Baranauskas told IPS.

He said the latest CRS survey shows a total of 8.4 billion dollars of arms deliveries to Israel in the 1997-2004 period, with fully 7.1 billion dollars or 84.5 percent coming from a single source: the United States.

A major factor in this trend was the rise in U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) -- outright U.S. grants to Israel -- which now totals about 2.3 billion dollars a year paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

By U.S. law, Baranauskas said, 74 percent of FMF assistance to Israel must be spent on U.S. military products. This U.S. assistance has now become the main source of financing for Israel's major arms procurements, especially its fighter planes.

From a historical perspective, he said, U.S. assistance to Israel during 1950-2005 has been staggeringly high: Foreign Military Financing (FMF) amounting to 59.5 billion dollars; 27 billion dollars in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mostly government-to-government arms transactions; and eight billion dollars in commercial arms sales by the private sector.

Berrigan of the Arms Trade Resource Centre said the United States is undoubtedly the primary supplier of Israeli firepower.

In the interest of strengthening Israel's security and maintaining the country's "qualitative military edge" over neighbouring militaries, the U.S. Congress provides Israel with annual FMF grants that represent about 23 percent of its overall defence budget. Israel's 2006 military budget is estimated at 7.4 billion dollars.

Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service

Eating the Amazon

by Daniel Howden
The Independent
July 17, 2006

The scars are unmistakably man made. Hard-edged squares and rectangles,hundreds of acres across, hacked and burned out of the Amazon rainforest. The dark green of the canopy is lacerated with thin red lines - the illegal dirt roads that stitch together these giant clearings.

Seen from the air, this fearful symmetry marks out the battle lines of an invasion that has seen the humble soya bean emerge as the greatest threat to the world's most important rainforest.

On the ground, what was once a thriving ecosystem supporting at least 300 tree species for every hectare, is now a wasteland. Dead roots and dry grass crunch underfoot and the breeze throws up dust from eroded soil.

Three hours' drive outside the city of Santarem in Para state, along dirt trails struck by illegal loggers, you arrive in a vast monoculture inside the Tapajos National Park. Soya fields laden with the dry brown seed pods stretch in every direction.

This is Father Edilberto Sena's parish. The fiery local priest has emerged as a fierce critic of the land-grabbers, loggers, ranchers and agrobusiness multinationals pushing further and further into the rainforest.

The Amazon basin is home to one in 10 of the world's mammals and 15 per cent of the world's land-based plant species. It holds more than half of the world's fresh water and its vast forests act as the largest carbon sink on the planet, providing a vital check on the greenhouse effect.

Brazil has overtaken the United States as the world's leading exporter of soya. The protein-rich bean has become a profitable link in the processed food chain and 80 per cent of world production is fed to livestock. Brazilian soya beans are feeding Europe's growing hunger for cheap meat substitutes, and have overtaken logging and cattle ranching as the main engine of deforestation.

Three years ago, the agrobusiness giant Cargill, the largest privately owned company in the world, opened a soya port in Santarem. And Father Edilberto has set himself on a collision course with the Minnesota multinational that he says represents the worst of rapacious capitalism. Father Edilberto has used the church-funded Radio Rurale de Santarem as a means of fighting back against the incursions of the illegal loggers, ranchers and soya farmers, who in turn supply the grain giants.

"We are small and we are fighting multinationals like Cargill - people who are using soya as a commodity. I'm sure there are at least 200,000 listening. Our objective is to educate the people, provide critical and objective news."

It is less than 18 months since another rainforest campaigner and champion of Brazil's rural poor, Sister Dorothy Stang, was murdered in broad daylight further east in Para state, in the city of Anapu. After death threats, the US-born, naturalised Brazilian nun was assassinated by gunmen allied to illegal ranchers.

"I don't need a uniform," says the outspoken priest, who eschews the Catholic garb for a green polo shirt and an indigenous necklace. "My uniform is my face and my mouth. People know I'm a priest."

Lately he has started to receive the same kind of threats that preceded the murder of Sister Dorothy. "Two months ago, some crazy, nuts guy posted on the internet that the best thing they could do with Father Edilberto Sena was to kill me.

"When I heard about this, the first moment I had a coldness in my spine."

The priest's frequent broadsides against the vested interests eating into the Amazon have made him powerful enemies, and the diocese has come under heavy pressure, he claims, to muzzle him. "The elite, they got mad at us and told the bishop to close us down."

For now, it seems the Bishop's support is holding and Radio Rurale is still on air, but Father Edilberto launched an impassioned appeal for help to international church leaders visiting the area as part of a major environmental conference organised by the Greek-based NGO, Religion, Science and the Environment. The symposium is the latest initiative by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Eastern Orthodox pope who has been preaching against the sin of environmental destruction for more than a decade.

"The Church needs to take sides," says Father Edilberto. "With what we are facing we need all the allies we can find."

Santarem, a riverside city hundreds of miles upstream into the Amazon, has found itself at the centre of the soya boom. Last year, Brazil produced more than 50 million tons of soya across nearly 23 million hectares, an area about the size of the United Kingdom. Soya production remains relatively contained within the Amazon biome, but the decision to locate a major soya port this deep into the basin is inviting a catastrophe, according to conservation groups.

In the past three years, nearly 70,000 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest have been destroyed. The smoke from burning trees pushed Brazil into the top four of global greenhouse gas producers in 2004. Despite commitments from the government of President Lula da Silva, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest continues.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Read more of this article at The Independent.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study

By Diana Jean Schemo
The New York Times
July 15, 2006

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and ore than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math.

The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.

It went through a lengthy peer review and includes an extended section of caveats about its limitations and calling such a comparison of public and private schools “of modest utility.”

Its release, on a summer Friday, was made with without a news conference or comment from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the union for millions of teachers, said the findings showed that public schools were “doing an outstanding job” and that if the results had been favorable to private schools, “there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools.”

“The administration has been giving public schools a beating since the beginning” to advance its political agenda, Mr. Weaver said, of promoting charter schools and taxpayer-financed vouchers for private schools as alternatives to failing traditional public schools.

A spokesman for the Education Department, Chad Colby, offered no praise for public schools and said he did not expect the findings to influence policy. Mr. Colby emphasized the caveat, “An overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility.”

“We’re not just for public schools or private schools,’’ he said. “We’re for good schools.”

The report mirrors and expands on similar findings this year by Christopher and Sarah Theule Lubienski, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Illinois who examined just math scores. The new study looked at reading scores, too.

The study, along with one of charter schools, was commissioned by the former head of the national Center for Education Statistics, Robert Lerner, an appointee of President Bush, at a time preliminary data suggested that charter schools, which are given public money but are run by private groups, fared no better at educating children than traditional public schools.

Proponents of charter schools had said the data did not take into account the predominance of children in their schools who had already had problems in neighborhood schools.

The two new studies put test scores in context by studying the children’s backgrounds and taking into account factors like race, ethnicity, income and parents’ educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful. The extended study of charter schools has not been released.

Findings favorable to private schools would likely have given a lift to administration efforts to offer children in ailing public schools the option of attending private schools.

An Education Department official who insisted on anonymity because of the climate surrounding the report, said researchers were "extra cautious" in reviewing it and were aware of its “political sensitivity.”

The official said the warning against drawing unsupported conclusions was expanded somewhat as the report went through in the review.

The report cautions, for example, against concluding that children do better because of the type of school as opposed to unknown factors. It also warns of great variations of performance among private schools, making a blanket comparison of public and private schools “of modest utility.” And the scores on which its findings are based reflect only a snapshot of student performance at a point in time and say nothing about individual student progress in different settings.

Arnold Goldstein of the National Center for Education Statistics said that the review was meticulous, but that it was not unusual for the center.

Mr. Goldstein said there was no political pressure to alter the findings.

Students in private schools typically score higher than those in public schools, a finding confirmed in the study. The report then dug deeper to compare students of like racial, economic and social backgrounds. When it did that, the private school advantage disappeared in all areas except eighth-grade reading.

And in math, 4th graders attending public school were nearly half a year ahead of comparable students in private school, according to the report.

The report separated private schools by type and found that among private school students, those in Lutheran schools performed best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst.

In eighth-grade reading, children in conservative Christian schools scored no better than comparable children in public schools.

In eighth-grade math, children in Lutheran schools scored significantly better than children in public schools, but those in conservative Christian schools fared worse.

Joseph McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, an umbrella organization that represents 80 percent of private elementary and secondary schools, said the statistical analysis had little to do with parents’ choices on educating their children.

"In the real world, private school kids outperform public school kids," Mr. McTighe said. "That’s the real world, and the way things actually are."

Two weeks ago, the American Federation of Teachers, on its Web log, predicted that the report would be released on a Friday, suggesting that the Bush administration saw it as "bad news to be buried at the bottom of the news cycle."

The deputy director for administration and policy at the Institute of Education Sciences, Sue Betka, said the report was not released so it would go unnoticed. Ms. Betka said her office typically gave senior officials two weeks’ notice before releasing reports. "The report was ready two weeks ago Friday,’’ she said, “and so today was the first day, according to longstanding practice, that it could come out."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Too High a Price

by The Nation
July 14, 2006

With the spreading violence in Lebanon and Gaza, the Israeli doctrine of absolute security and massive retaliation--the notion that any attack or threat of attack on Israel will be met with a disproportionate response--is again proving counterproductive to Israel's own security as well as to the larger stability of the region. It makes no sense for Israel to destroy the civil infrastructure of the Palestinians and of Lebanon in response to the kidnapping of its soldiers, or to further weaken the capacity of the governments of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority while at the same trying to hold them accountable for the actions of groups and militias they cannot reasonably control. This collective punishment of the Palestinian and Lebanese people is not only inhumane and should be condemned but also leads to more radicalization and to more chaos.

That was the lesson of the Israeli siege of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, which severely weakened its ability to govern, helping to pave the way for the political success of Hamas. And it will be the lesson of the increasing destruction of Lebanon. Indeed, the most likely casualty of the latest case of Israel's massive retaliation will be the fragile social peace and the democratically elected government in Lebanon. Ironically, the much-trumpeted Cedar Revolution, the only example of the success of the Bush doctrine that neoconservatives can still point to, could be brought down by the Likudnik policies of Israel that the neo-cons so champion. It took Lebanon more than 20 years to recover a degree of stability and civil peace after the last major incursion. How long will it take to recover from the unraveling of the stability that American and Israelis policies are helping to bring about?

It is now clear that the American and Israeli strategy of trying to isolate Hamas and Hezbollah, on the one hand, and Syria and Iran on the other, have backfired. Would the situation in Gaza have gotten so out of hand if Israel, the United States, and the European Union had tried to work with the democratically elected Hamas government from the outset? And would Hezbollah have felt the freedom to take the reckless action it took--the deplorable firing of rockets on Israeli civilians As Juan Cole points out today on Informed Comment, "A Lebanon with no Syrian troops and Hizbullah in the government was inherently unstable. With Syria gone, Hizbullah filled a security vacuum and also was less restrained."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Syria has a special responsibility to resolve this crisis. But the whole thrust of American policy of the last two years has been to reduce unconditionally Syria's influence in Lebanon so as to leave Lebanon to the Lebanese. By what logic does the Administration now seek to hold Syria accountable for the reckless action of Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon? As Cole suggests, the hasty unplanned departure of Syrian forces may have ironically given Hezbollah more freedom to act than before. A dialogue with Syria together with an effort to have a more careful planned disengagement of Syrian forces would have given the Lebanese government a better chance of establishing control over its sovereignty in southern Lebanon.

The big beneficiaries of American policy have been the more radical wings of Hamas and Hezbollah and the Iranians, who more and more look like the champions of the Palestinian people. The big losers are the so-called moderate Arab regimes, which again look helpless in the face of what is seen as Israeli aggression, and the moderate Israelis, Palestinians, and Lebanese who hoped for some normalcy of life with the prospect of peace, especially when the Hamas leadership appeared to be moving toward recognition of Israel. The United States and the larger world, too, are losers, for no one benefits from this mindless escalation of violence, particularly at a time of growing sectarian violence in Iraq and rising oil prices.

The events of the past two weeks should remind us that the peace and stability of the region is too important to be left to Israel and to Washington. There is a need for much greater and more forceful UN and European Union involvement and for the kind of diplomacy that the Europeans and the UN conducted in the late 1980s and the early 1990s that led to the mutual release of prisoners and eventually to the Oslo peace process. The UN Quartet--consisting of the UN, the United States, Russia and the EU-- has been far too deferential to the Bush Administration's failed road map strategy and it is time for more active and comprehensive G-8 and UN-led diplomacy. Secretary General Kofi Annan's dispatch of two representatives to the region is a start but it must be followed up by G-8 and UN Security Council action to rein in forces on all sides. This diplomacy should be aimed first at establishing a ceasefire and a mutual prisoner exchange and second at recognizing Hamas in Palestine and establishing talks with Syria and Iran. The United States must urgently back this diplomacy as well as make clear to Israel that it cannot support its current military action. The price it will pay in Iraq and in the region as a whole for doing so is just too large.

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Copyright © 2006 The Nation