“Peace Process,” cont’d

Everything was reversed recently.

On Friday, April 9, Palestinian forces demolished several Israeli housing shelters built for the poor, using EU funds.

“On April 9, three of some 18 residential structures were demolished” [in] an area outside the sprawling settlement of Maale Adumim…

The tin huts, used to house Israelis made homeless by severe winter weather at the beginning of the year, were “partially funded by EU member states,” the official said.

Palestinian authorities issued demolition orders on all 18 structures in February, the official said.

Palestinian forces arrested and detained an Israeli who tried to defend his home from an invasion by Palestinian activists. According to news sources, the 46-year-old Israeli

was detained by Palestinian forces after a group of Palestinian activists entered his home. …

His brother … was wounded during the incident, which began when the Palestinian activists entered their homes and began beating the brothers as well as members of their families.

When the two attempted to respond, Palestinian forces who were on the scene came to the aid of the Palestinian activists and continued the assault, Amro said.

Palestinian forces detained the Israeli man during the incident, while his brother was evacuated from the scene by an ambulance and taken to Hebron Hospital, where doctors said his wounds were “moderate.”

A Palestinian military spokeswoman did not have any information regarding the incident.

Palestinian activists routinely threaten and harass local Israelis in Hebron’s Old City in an effort to force them to hand over their properties.

Palestinian militants shot an Israeli civilian on Friday.  According to a spokesman for the Palestinian forces, the man tried to climb the border fence, so the soldiers shot into the air as a warning, and then took aim at the Israeli and shot him in the legs.

A Palestinian spokesperson said that during a protest at the border east of Khan Younis, an Israeli demonstrator attempted to climb the border fence.

Palestinian militants fired warning shots in the air, and afterwards fired at the protester’s lower extremities, the spokesman said.

“A hit was confirmed,” he added.

The severity of the protester’s injury was not immediately clear.

Scores of Palestinian activists mobbed and beat up three Israeli youths on Friday in Jerusalem. The youths sustained injuries from clubs and knives, and one had a head gash requiring 15 stitches.

Dozens of Palestinian activists assaulted three Israeli youths late Friday. …

The three young men, all in their early twenties, sustained injuries after the activists assaulted them with clubs and knives, according to one of their fathers.

One of the young men was wounded in the forehead and needed 15 stitches.

The three youths had arrived in the area to withdraw money from an ATM, he said. After a Palestinian activist knocked on their car window, they attempted to return to the car to drive away.

However, the activist prevented them from doing so ….

Over thirty Palestinian activists then surrounded the Israelis and began to assault them.

An Israeli prisoner, convicted of participating in military activity against Palestinians and currently serving a life sentence in Palestinian prison, has begun a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his confinement.

An Israeli militant serving multiple life sentences in a Palestinian prison has declared an open-ended hunger strike in protest at his solitary confinement, an Israeli  prisoner support group said on Sunday.

During the Passover holiday, Palestinian authorities have decided to shut down Israel’s primary supply route, drastically affecting Israel’s economic and commercial activity. According to the authority that coordinates the

the entry of goods into Israel, [the] crossing will be closed Monday and Tuesday but will resume operating on Wednesday.

[He] added that the crossing was operating normally on Sunday, however, and construction material … as well as fuel and domestic-use gas were being allowed in.

 

Posted in "Peace Process" | 1 Comment

More Money in Politics: Open the Floodgates (McCutcheon Decision)

The Times reports:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics. …

The court’s 88-page decision reflected sharply different visions of the meaning of the First Amendment and the role of government in regulating elections, with the majority deeply skeptical of government efforts to control participation in politics, and the minority saying that such oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy. …

In a dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the majority opinion a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to “the number infinity.”

“If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

Juridical matters aside, there are basic conceptual flaws in the claims made by the McCutcheon decision, which builds off of the Citizens United ruling. If money equals speech, then, on First Amendment grounds, it cannot be constrained. But money is distributed throughout society in extremely unequal ways, while political speech, conventionally defined, resides in equal proportion among individuals.

The Times continues:

In his written opinion, Justice Breyer said Wednesday’s decision would allow “a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.”

This means that individuals, if they have enough cash to contribute to a campaign, can wield enormous power over candidate positions and over electoral outcomes. A recent, flagrant example of this is Chris Christie’s apology to a major campaign funder, Sheldon Adelson, who objected to the terminology Christie used when describing a trip to the Middle East. The point is that Sheldon holds the power to control Christie’s use of language because, in his capacity as a major funder, he holds a key to electoral success.

This is the opposite of democracy, in which individuals hold equal power to influence political outcomes, independent of their personal wealth. Following this reasoning, the Supreme Court decision is a major blow to democracy.

If we seek a stronger democracy, the US desperately needs strong reform of the funding system to restore political outcomes to democratic processes, not funding processes.

The Times editorializes:

like other rulings by the Roberts court that have chipped away at campaign-finance regulations in recent years, the McCutcheon decision is less about free speech than about giving those few people with the most money the loudest voice in politics. …

As former Senator Alan Simpson testified in an earlier campaign-finance case, “Who, after all, can seriously contend that a $100,000 donation does not alter the way one thinks about — and quite possibly votes on — an issue?”

In short, the McCutcheon decision brings us further in the direction of a government for, of, and by the wealthy.

Posted in Business Interests--The Real Purpose of the State | 1 Comment

Funding Transparency: A Tea Party Idea Worth Supporting

David Hale, who just lost a primary challenge to a Republican incumbent, proposed that politicians sport the logos of their major funders, so that we can see whose interests they represent. He lost.

From Hale’s campaign site:

Rockford, IL — If elected to Congress I will introduce legislation that requires the US Congress to list with Logo on their Official Congressional Websites their PAC donors. It would require a side bar, or a bottom bar with clear distinction of all of their PAC donors with logos who have donated more than 2500 dollars in aggregate to their campaign within the previous 4 election cycles. This would include special interests like Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, AFL-CIO, NEA, Soros Funds, CPUSA, Citibank, AIG, Raytheon, DuPont, General Electric etc., and a link to an appendix with their PAC Donor contact information or a link to the FEC Website to the specific donations from those PACs.

“Its only fair that we the people know who is donating to our Congressional Representatives in the House and Senate,” said David Hale. “If Congress truly wants to be transparent they will readily pass such an act and put their PAC money where their website is.”

Posted in Business Interests--The Real Purpose of the State | Leave a comment

Abolishing Privacy: The NSA’s MYSTIC program

The Washington Post has published details about a NSA program that records literally every phone conversation in an entire country.

The country in question is not named by the Post. What we do know is that the NSA’s intention is clearly to abolish the possibility of privacy.

Obama has consistently defended the NSA by claiming that is has rigorous procedures in place for respecting privacy and protecting civil and human rights. These assertions have been continually proven to be false.

The Washington Post:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place . . . .

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned. . . . 

Some of the documents provided by Snowden suggest that high-volume eavesdropping may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already. . . . .

Ubiquitous voice surveillance, even overseas, pulls in a great deal of content from Americans who telephone, visit and work in the target country. It may also be seen as inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.”

Posted in Surveillance State | 1 Comment

“Cruise Missile Liberals”

Media Lens usefully critiques liberal interventionists advocating a US war front in Syria:

Despite hundreds of years of conflict, the documentary record, and the West’s disastrous ‘humanitarian’ wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the Pew Research Journalism Project found last September that ‘the No. 1 message’ on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera, was ‘that the U.S. should get involved in the conflict’ in Syria.

The surprise failure to achieve that war has been a festering wound in the psyches of cruise missile liberals everywhere ever since.

In the New York Times last month, establishment intellectual Michael Ignatieff, one-time favourite of the Observer and BBC, commented that the near-certainty that Russia would veto any UN authorisation of air power meant ‘stopping the war in Syria will stretch domestic and international legality. But if legality is not stretched, the killing will go on indefinitely… Above all, using force would make the president “own” the Syrian tragedy. So far he has tried to pretend he doesn’t have to.’

International law needs to be ‘stretched’ – more accurately, broken – so that Obama can ‘own’ the Syrian conflict; by right, presumably, of his might.

Ignatieff’s compassion for the many civilian victims in Syria quickly made way for more ‘pragmatic’ concerns:

‘The fact is he owns it already. American inaction has strengthened Russia, Hezbollah and Iran. It has turned Syria into the next front in the war with Islamic extremism. And it has put in jeopardy the stability of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey and risks leaving a failed state next door to Israel.

‘If the president already owns the deadly consequences of inaction, it is only prudent now to back diplomacy with force so that the consequences do not become deadlier still.’

Like all cruise missile liberals, Ignatieff portrays himself as a man of peace reluctantly forced to endorse war as a last resort. In March 2003, the Guardian gave him space to write:

‘I don’t like the company I am keeping, but I think they are right on the issue… Bush is right when he says Iraq would be better off if Saddam were disarmed and, if necessary, replaced by force.’

There was no real moral argument:

‘The problem is not that overthrowing Saddam by force is “morally unjustified”. Who seriously believes that 25 million Iraqis would not be better off if Saddam were overthrown?’

In fact people far more knowledgeable than Ignatieff believed exactly that of Iraq in 2002 and 2003. No rational person can doubt it now after one million post-invasion deaths.

Posted in "Just War", humanitarian intervention | 3 Comments

Peace Process, cont’d

Haaretz reports on ongoing ethnic cleansing:

Ateret Cohanim, a religious Zionist organization that buys properties in the Old City and elsewhere in East Jerusalem in order to settle Jews there, says it has bought a “significant portion” of a building at the heart of the commercial district in East Jerusalem.

In an email to supporters, Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim-Israel Daniel Luria said the group had purchased more than 1,000 square meters in “a very large and strategic building” situated across from the Old City (in the area between Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate).

Photographs attached to the email show the structure, which is located at the end of Salah al-Din Street. Built under Jordanian rule, it is home to East Jerusalem’s only full-service post office as well an Israeli police station. One picture showed the renovations being carried out on the interior of the building. Luria wrote that it would be used as an education center, with housing for pre-army yeshiva students.

From Maan:

Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib for the 66th time on Wednesday, leaving dozens of people in the open despite heavy rains.

A large number of Israeli police and bulldozers surrounded the village in the early morning and demolished all of the residential steel structures.

“Israeli occupation forces raided the village at 6:15 a.m. and demolished its houses for the 66th time,” one of the residents, Aziz al-Touri, told Ma’an.

“Under such conditions and with this heavy rain and severe cold, we tell Israeli officials that what you did is a crime against humanity. But no matter what you do, we will never give up our right in al-Araqib, the land of our fathers and grandfathers.”

Huffington Post reports on a recent atrocity:

Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed Jordanian judge on Monday at the Allenby bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank after reportedly arguing with Israeli border guards on his way back to Amman from the West Bank. Official Israeli statements claimed that the judge “tried to seize the soldier’s weapon when he was shot and killed.” Jordanian press reported on eyewitness accounts that contradicted the Israeli version of events and said that the judge “was never physically threatening the soldiers,” and “was unarmed when he was shot from a point-blank range.” The Jordanian Ministry of Justice identified the man as Ra’ed Zu’eiter, 38, a judge in the magistrates court in Amman.

Consider how Israel would respond if the situation were reversed, and Palestinian militants shot dead an unarmed Israeli judge. Further details from Reuters:

From Reuters:

An official in Amman, briefed on yesterday’s incident, said he believed Mr Zeiter was killed by a “trigger-happy young soldier” who had been pushing passengers boarding a bus at Allenby. This had led to a heated argument with the judge, he said.

Mr Zeiter was buried today in the West Bank city of Nablus, where his family came from, his body wrapped in both a Palestinian and a Jordanian flag.

“From the Israeli account, we think there was an altercation .. and the (soldiers) hit him and pushed him to the floor. His dignity could not accept the humiliation and insult,” said the judge’s father, Alaa Zeiter.

Mohammed Sharif Zaid, a 34-year-old merchant from the West Bank who had been at the crossing with Mr Zeiter, told Reuters that an argument had started after controls at an Israeli checkpoint.

“Raed and the soldier quarreled for some reason that I did not understand and pushed one another … I got onto the bus and a minute later I heard one gun shot followed by three shots.”

The passengers were then ordered back off the bus and saw Mr Zeiter lying on the ground. Mr Zaid did not see the metal rod with which Zeiter had allegedly threatened the soldiers. The Israelis said there were no surveillance camera images of the incident.

Hours after Mr Zeiter’s death, Israeli soldiers ambushed and shot dead a Palestinian teenager who, the military said, had been throwing rocks at passing Israeli cars. …

“Israel regrets the death of Judge Raed Zeiter yesterday at the King Hussein (Allenby) bridge and expresses its sympathies to the people and government of Jordan,” Mr Netanyahu’s office said, adding it was committed to its peace treaty with Jordan.

Hours earlier, the Israeli military had issued a statement denouncing Mr Zeiter as a “terrorist”, saying he was killed after attacking security personnel with a metal bar, trying to seize a gun and attempting to strangle a soldier.

Born in the Palestinian Territories, Mr Zeiter (38) had a doctorate in international law and worked as a judge in an Amman magistrates court. He was married and had two young children.

As a matter of interest, note how the incident was initially reported in the international press:

“The terrorist ran toward soldiers yelling ‘Allahu akbar’ attempting to seize their weapons,” the Israeli military said. “The soldiers felt an immediate threat to their lives and fired toward his lower extremities. The suspect then began to strangle a soldier and the force resorted to firing again.”

Posted in "Peace Process" | Leave a comment

Raising the Minimum Wage, cont’d

From EPI:

One common myth perpetuated by opponents of raising the minimum wage is that increasing it will mostly benefit young workers who will use the money to support discretionary spending.  The reality is much different: Among workers who would be affected by raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, the average age is 35 years old, and more than a third (34.5 percent) are at least 40 years old.  In fact, minimum-wage workers are often bread-winners, with families who depend on their earnings.

The average low-wage worker who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase is responsible for half (50 percent) of his or her family’s income (ranging from 33 percent in New Hampshire to 60 percent in Louisiana). Nationally, nearly one in five children (19 percent) has a parent who would be affected by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 (ranging from 11 percent in Alaska to 26 percent in Texas). While some minimum-wage earners are young workers looking for some spending money, the majority are adults working to put food on their families’ tables.

Posted in Inequality in US | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surveillance State, cont’d: TURBINE

Today, from the Intercept:

Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process. …

the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.” …

The intelligence community’s top-secret “Black Budget” for 2013, obtained by Snowden, lists TURBINE as part of a broader NSA surveillance initiative named “Owning the Net.”

The agency sought $67.6 million in taxpayer funding for its Owning the Net program last year. Some of the money was earmarked for TURBINE, expanding the system to encompass “a wider variety” of networks and “enabling greater automation of computer network exploitation.” …

One implant, codenamed UNITEDRAKE, can be used with a variety of “plug-ins” that enable the agency to gain total control of an infected computer.

An implant plug-in named CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, for example, is used to take over a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations taking place near the device. Another, GUMFISH, can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs. FOGGYBOTTOM records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords used to access websites and email accounts. GROK is used to log keystrokes. And SALVAGERABBIT exfiltrates data from removable flash drives that connect to an infected computer.

It is increasingly obvious what former NSA whistleblowers had in mind when they went public with claims like the one by William Binney, who warned that we were extremely close to producing “a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Posted in Surveillance State | Tagged | Leave a comment

Free Markets? Analysis by Chomsky

 

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From 1997:

Posted in Free markets? | Leave a comment

RT host on Ukraine–Inspiring Independence (Updated)

Abby Martin has my nod for inspiring journalism for this unequivocal statement of editorial independence.

Speaking on her usual RT show in no uncertain terms, she condemned Russia’s use of state power to determine Ukraine’s political future. It is hard to imagine someone making so brazen a statement in the US media condemning, say, the Iraq War on the third day of the US invasion.

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“RT toes a perspective of the Russian foreign policy, just as the entire [US] corporate media apparatus toes the perspective of the US establishment.”

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For follow-up on how US dissidents or anti-invasion positions were handled in the US media, see, for example, Anthony DiMaggio’s thoroughly-researched book Mass Media, Mass Propaganda. On the same topic, see the below, where Phil Donahue discusses his firing on MSNBC for his having not toed the establishment line (further sources here):

 

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UPDATE

For comments on Liz Wahl’s even more sensationalist resignation from the show in protest over its putative uneven coverage of the Ukraine crisis, see Jay Pinho‘s impressive critique. Among numerous points, Pinho argues that Wahl’s move is less about courage or integrity than self-promotion. For him, her manifesto “reads more like a checklist of patriotic cliches than a plausible justification for quitting one’s job on a live television show.” Moreover,

there is little courageous about Wahl’s pronouncement. And the timing, coming just two days after her colleague Abby Martin’s more measured criticism of Russian foreign policy — statements that did not, as it turned out, culminate in a melodramatic abdication of the anchor’s perch — is certainly interesting, to say the least. Perhaps strangest of all, however, is Wahl’s apparently sudden epiphany as to RT’s source of funding.

Glenn Greenwald has commented on the matter here, pointing out, among other things, the stunning hypocrisy of US officials:

Enthusiastic supporters of a wide range of other U.S. interventions in sovereign states, both past and present and in and out of government, are equally righteous in their newfound contempt for invasions – when done by Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry – who stood on the Senate floor in 2002 and voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq because “Saddam Hussein [is] sitting in Baghdad with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” and there is “little doubt that Saddam Hussein wants to retain his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” – told Face the Nation on Sunday: “You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”

… American invasions and occupations of nations halfway around the world are perfectly noble, but Russian interference in a part of a country right on its border is the supreme act of lawless, imperial aggression.

… Even now, how many American TV hosts on the major networks and cable outlets report on the types of American killings described in the first three paragraphs of this interview with Hamid Karzai, or the ongoing extinguishing of innocent human lives by President Obama’s drone attacks, or the pervasive chaos and suffering left in the wake of the NATO intervention in Libya that they almost universally cheered, or the endless brutality of the West Bank occupation and Gaza domination by the U.S.’s closest Middle East ally, or, for that matter, U.S./EU interference in the very same country that Russia is now condemned for invading?

Posted in Ukraine, US News, Sadly Broken | Leave a comment

Drones, cont’d

No courts are necessary.

If the government doesn’t like what (it thinks) you say or do, it can, apparently, just kill you. No evidence or judicial process necessary. All the state has to do is first relabel you: not a criminal but a “terrorist.” Then you are fodder for the cannon, according to the new age of fiat assassination coming out of the State Department.

The US has already assassinated four of its own citizens. Here is how the White House Press Secretary justified it:

“I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.”

Now the government appears to be trying to mainstream the process, by moving it into the Pentagon (from the CIA) and edging it slowly into public view via strategic leaks.

From Friday (New York Times):

Mr. Shami, a militant who American officials say is living in the barren mountains of northwestern Pakistan, is at the center of a debate inside the government over whether President Obama should once again take the extraordinary step of authorizing the killing of an American citizen overseas.

It is a debate that encapsulates some of the thorniest questions raised by the targeted killing program that Mr. Obama has embraced as president: under what circumstances the government may kill American citizens without a trial…. 

As it was in Mr. Awlaki’s case, the Justice Department has been enlisted to evaluate whether a lethal operation against Mr. Shami is legally justified, but it appears that the Obama administration remains divided on the issue. Several officials said that the C.I.A. has long advocated killing Mr. Shami, and that the Pentagon, while initially reluctant to put him on a target list, has more recently come to the C.I.A.’s position. … American officials said that as part of the new rules ordered by Mr. Obama, the Pentagon, rather than the C.I.A., is supposed to carry out any lethal strike against an American overseas

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“Peace Process,” cont’d

Life continues in the Territories while Secretary Kerry extends America’s “leadership” in another decade of negotiations.

From Ma’an:

Two young Palestinian football players shot by Israeli forces last month have learned that they will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, according to doctors.

Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best.

Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank on Jan. 31.

Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint.

Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them.

The pair was subsequently were taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, where they underwent a number of operations to remove the bullets.

Medical reports said that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot.

This is part of a pattern of targeting Palestinian soccer players. From Dave Zirin, at The Nation:

Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties….

Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.”

The IDF is apparently shooting fish in a barrel. B’Tselem reports a spike in IDF shootings at the perimeter fence.

Since mid-December 2013, the number of live-fire casualties near the fence has been on the rise. In the ten weeks from 20 December 2013 to date, B’Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah has documented the injury of 55 individuals near the fence: 43 were injured by live fire; 10 by rubber-coated metal bullets; and two were hit in the head by a teargas canister. Figures published by OCHA also indicate that since mid-December there has been a sharp increase in the number of incidents in which civilian were injured by live gunfire near the Gaza perimeter fence.

Here is one example (B’Tselem):

Amneh Qdeih, 57, a resident of the town of Khuza’ah, was killed on Friday, 28 February 2014. She died of a gunshot wound to her abdomen fired at her when she approached Gaza’s perimeter fence. Her relatives told B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh that Qdeih, who was mentally ill, had been at a family wedding in the town of Khuza’ah, not far from the perimeter fence in the southeastern Gaza Strip. She did not return home with the rest her family, and when they realized she was missing, they began searching for her. At around 10:00 PM, her family heard gunshots, saw the light flares in the sky and noticed an ICRC jeep near the fence. At around 6:00 AM, they found Qdeih’s body close to the perimeter fence, directly across from an Israeli military watchtower. Qdeih had sustained a gunshot wound to her abdomen. It is not clear whether she was killed instantaneously or bled to death for hours. The IDF Spokesperson told Israeli daily Haaretz that an IDF force fired at a person who was approaching the perimeter fence in the southern Gaza Strip and did not heed their calls to halt. The unit reported it had a confirmed hit on the target. The IDF Spokesperson did not explain why Qdeih was not given medical treatment that might have saved her life.

Palestinians face a severe water crisis (B’Tselem):

Even those people in the West Bank who are hooked up to the water grid do not have the pleasure of running water year-round; most residents place large water-storage containers on their roofs. In addition, 113,000 people are not hooked up to the water grid at all, so they are forced to spend much money on the high-priced water carried by water trucks. The situation in the Gaza Strip has more to do with quality than with quantity. Over 90% of the water in Gaza is unfit for drinking.

On the same subject, an open letter from a villager in the West Bank (Ha’aretz):

We live from day to day, never knowing when the next expulsion will come. But even in the midst of this uncertain life, one of the major difficulties we have is the same thing that angered you so much when Mr. Schulz spoke about it: water.

For generations, my family and community have lived mainly on the natural water reservoirs on our land. These are wells that my ancestors dug in the hard ground, and on rainy days we collect our year’s supply of water in them. The State of Israel, which has complete control over Area C, treats us differently from our settler neighbors and refuses to connect us to the water infrastructure. We have two options: buying water or pumping it from our wells. Does that sound simple?

Access to 70 percent of our water wells is currently blocked. Demolition orders hang over our heads. To reach the wells, we need a special permit from the Israeli army. When we are lucky enough to obtain a permit, we must deal with violent attacks by settlers, who keep us from the water by force. Dozens of attacks have taught us to be careful. My children know not to go near the area by themselves lest the settlers come. When the army arrives, it disperses us and the settlers, and sometimes arrests a few of us, but in any case we cannot draw water that day. The water pipe that belongs to the settlement of Susya passes through our private land, beneath our homes, but we have no access to the water.

We can buy water in tanks, but we pay 35 shekels (about $10) per cubic liter for water from the nearby city of Yatta. (You certainly know that you, like every Israeli, like every settler, pay less than 9 shekels for the same amount). One-third of my family’s monthly expenses go for water, but unlike the Palestinians in the southern Hebron Hills, we are lucky because we live near a road. The inhabitants of the more distant villages pay more than NIS 50 per cubic liter of water.

Merely asking about these matters in front of the Israeli government provokes a scandal (Ha’aretz):

In a speech delivered in his native German to Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday, [European Parliament President Martin] Schulz said, “A Palestinian youth asked me why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water and a Palestinian just 17. I haven’t checked the data. I’m asking you if this is correct.”

After the walkout, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett demanded an apology from Schulz for his “lies.”

Amira Hass offers further reflections (Ha’aretz):

Water discrimination is another governmental tool being used to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically.

In the West Bank, tens of thousands of families expend huge amounts of time, money and emotional and physical energy just to take care of basic things like showers, laundry, and washing floors and dishes. When there’s no water in the toilet cistern, even family visits become rare.

… The time, money and energy that go into obtaining water come at the expense of other things on both the personal and community level: enrichment classes for the children, a computer, family outings, industrial development projects, tourism development, organic agriculture, political and social activity.

And:

* The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure.

B’Tselem offers further statistics and analysis on the Water Crisis.

Children are being arbitrarily arrested and detained, in violation of human rights law (Ma’an):

Israeli forces detained 31 children in the Palestinian territories throughout the second half of February, according to a report by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information.

Figures from the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ affairs show that there are 187 Palestinians under the age of 18 currently held in Israeli jails.

Some 5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of October 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Settlement construction volume doubles (Agence France Presse):

Starts on new settlement building in the occupied West Bank increased by 123.7 percent last year, Israeli government data showed on Monday.

The release by the Central Bureau of Statistics came hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet at the White House with President Barack Obama, who has strongly criticised settlement construction.

“We have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg published on Sunday.

… Monday’s data showed work began on 2,534 settlement housing units in 2013 compared with 1,133 the year before.

Posted in "Peace Process", Israel-Palestine Conflict | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine

The Arabist has the relevant comment, insofar as US policy is concerned:

“You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext,” Mr Kerry told the CBS program Face the Nation.

He goes on to comment:

“When Bush and Cheney are put on trial for Iraq, I’ll take note of John Kerry.”

I will provide more links and commentary on the Ukraine crisis here soon. The major things to consider are that:

a) the US and Western powers have “meddled” as much as Russia in the affair (see the relevant phone conversations by Victoria Nuland and the visits by major US political figures in support of the opposition, as well as the EU and IMF decisions to try to pressure Ukraine away from Russia and toward Europe);

b) Russia has major military and economic interests in Ukraine, both positive and negative (preventative) ones, and Ukraine represents a major market for whoever controls it (EU or Russia);

c) Americans need to understand the proximity of Ukraine to Russia, and think about how they would take it if Russia were meddling with Mexico or Haiti, and sending its top diplomats there and offering to bankroll the country on condition of economic loyalty. Americans would likely be extremely upset at an such development, and this might help them understand the Russian position.

More will soon follow here, because there is much more to say.

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Venezuela

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Wealth Inequality in the US, and Rising

Today’s Times reports on the extreme wealth of a media baron:

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch has paid more than $57 million for the top four flours of One Madison, a steel and glass luxury condominium tower in downtown Manhattan, according to people briefed on the sale.

My friends make fun of the way I occasionally caricature the ostentatiously wealthy, referring, for example, to wealth upward-redistribution policies as helping a rich man buy his fourth yacht and install a helipad next to his private jet.

But I’m barely joking. Inequality in the US is extreme, worse than any European country, approaching the level of Russia. The concentration of wealth, and the level of its redistribution, is a way of measuring the relative justice of a society, the level of its democracy, and effectiveness of power dispersion mechanisms.

It has been sad to note in recent decades as the US slides backwards, moving through history in the wrong direction. While total wealth in the country grows, various policies ensure that it gets sucked up at the very top. Hence, worker wages in real terms have been stagnant for over three decades; downward redistribution techniques such as entitlements have been reduced; while upward redistribution mechanisms have been increased, such as the lowering of top tier tax rates. The result is ever-more severe inequality. The consequences on US society are continued, and ever more severe, devastation.

****

Some references on US inequality

Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz:

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran.

… But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever.

… When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

… The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.

See also, his interviews here:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/4/7/nobel_economist_joseph_stiglitz_assault_on

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/6/joseph_stiglitz_on_the_price_of

Inequality in the US (6 min.)

Research Paper on same topic:

Shows that Americans overwhelmingly (92%) reject the US distribution system when given the option of a more equitable system:

http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf

Documentary: The One Percent, by Jamie Johnson (heir of the Johnson and Johnson fortune) (1:16:00)

Wealth Gap in America–Some charts

https://politicalcrumbs.wordpress.com/wealth-gap-in-america/

A recent Gallup poll makes the same point

http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/20/poll-two-out-of-three-americans-dissatisfied-with-income-wealth-distribution/

Income inequality in US worst since pre-Great Depression (Huffington Post):

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

The richest Americans were hit hard by the financial crisis. Their incomes fell more than 36 percent in the Great Recession of 2007-09 as stock prices plummeted. Incomes for the bottom 99 percent fell just 11.6 percent, according to the analysis.

But since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits and stock prices: 95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.

That compares with a 45 percent share for the top 1 percent in the economic expansion of the 1990s and a 65 percent share from the expansion that followed the 2001 recession.

Walmart heirs enjoy an enormous slice of the pie (EPI):

… between 2007 and 2010, while median family wealth fell by 38.8 percent, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73.3 billion to $89.5 billion. …

In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30.5 percent of all American families.

And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.

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How business controls government: Comcast merger

From this morning’s New York Times:

“Win-win situation for American businesses,” said the statement from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

It was the start of what Comcast executives acknowledge will be a carefully orchestrated campaign, as the company will seek hundreds of such expressions of support for the deal — from members of Congress, state officials and leaders of nonprofit and minority-led groups — as it tries to nudge federal authorities to approve the merger.

But what the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce did not mention in its statement praising the transaction was that it had collected at least $320,000 over the last five years from Comcast’s charitable foundation, which is run in part by David L. Cohen, the Comcast executive who oversees the corporation’s government affairs operations.

It is a hint, critics say, of just how sophisticated Comcast’s lobbying machine is, an enterprise that, like the company itself, reaches across the United States and has more than 100 registered lobbyists in Washington alone.

That team, as of the end of last year, featured five former members of Congress. But it also included Meredith Attwell Baker, who left the Federal Communications Commission in 2011 to help lead Comcast’s internal lobbying office in Washington — just five months after she voted to approve a big deal for Comcast, its takeover of NBCUniversal.

… The merger with NBC offers a case study of how central a role this network of nonprofit groups can play when the company is seeking regulatory actions by the government, particularly the F.C.C., which weighs a commitment to local communities and diversity when making its decision.

The F.C.C. case file on the merger with NBC includes at least 54 groups that Comcast has donated money to — including small entities like the Centro de la Familia de Utah and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel — that wrote letters to the agency in 2010 urging it to approve the transaction, or signed an agreement with Comcast endorsing it, according to a review of the file by The Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times. Comcast highlighted most of the letters on its own website.

These groups received at least $8.6 million from the Comcast Foundation over nearly a decade through 2012, not including other donations from the corporation directly, the analysis found.

The correlation between giving and support for its deals extends to Congress: 91 of the 97 members of Congress who signed a letter in 2011 supporting the Comcast NBC merger received contributions during that same election cycle from the company’s political action committee or executives.

Posted in Business Interests--The Real Purpose of the State, Contempt for Democracy | Leave a comment

Effects of a minimum-wage hike

A scholarly study cited by EPI restates the well-known fact that minimum-wage increase stimulates the economy, while also increasing the social welfare of lowest-tier workers. EPI summarizes:

Based on the economic multiplier effect that results from putting additional income in the hands of lower-income workers, raising the minimum wage will likely have a modest but positive impact on job creation, leading to an additional 85,000 net new jobs when fully phased in. Lower-income earners spend their income more immediately, more completely, and more locally, than do higher income earners, and therefore generate more economic activity.

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Jeremy Scahill on Obama “lemmings”

Scahill, 13:20 and following, points out that it is right-wing libertarians, not centrist liberals, who have been militant about protecting civil liberties in the US, and resisting current attacks on political freedoms.

“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m a journalist. I don’t consider myself a member of either of those parties, and they don’t speak for me.  … The vast majority of hate mail that I get today is from hard-core partisan Democrats who are nothing more than lemmings for the White House. … When you watch MSNBC, it’s like watching one big Obama-for-America meetup. And when you watch Fox News, it’s full of conspiracy theories about the scary black Marxist Manchurian candidate who wants to resurrect Chairman Mao and put him in charge of our economy.”

Party Democrats, according to Scahill, “have largely checked their consciences at the door of the Obama presidency.” We are seeing that “we only actually have one party in this country when it comes to national security policy and to war policy.”

Scahill adds, “We are living in a moment when the man in the White House won the Nobel Peace prize, is a constitutional lawyer by training, and is presiding over a global assassination program.”

 

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New NSA Revelations: What Julian Assange Has to Fear

The most recent batch of classified NSA documents disclosed by Snowden reveal shocking facts about the criminalization of dissident speech by the US security state.

It has been revealed by journalists at The Intercept that the NSA sought to put a media publisher on a “manhunting” list for the mere publication of content it disapproved of.

The NSA files just leaked reveal that elements within the NSA sought to get a publishing institution (Wikileaks) classified as a “malicious foreign actor,” a category normally reserved for the likes of al-Qaeda and other elements actively perpetuating real violence against the US. This designation would let the US security agencies by-pass the normal judicial (and constitutional) checks on targeting and surveilling not only the publishing institution but all elements associated to it, including US citizens.

In the reaction of a Cato Institute spokesman quoted by The Intercept,

“All the reassurances Americans heard that the broad authorities of the FISA Amendments Act could only be used to ‘target’ foreigners seem a bit more hollow […] when you realize that the ‘foreign target’ can be an entire Web site or online forum used by thousands if not millions of Americans.”

Another civil rights activist cited in the same article asks:

“How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” […] “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link.” […] “We may be tempted to see GCHQ [Britain’s equivalent of the NSA] as a rogue agency, ungoverned in its use of unprecedented powers generated by new technologies,” he says. “But GCHQ’s actions are authorized by [government] ministers. The fact that ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systemic failure in the rule of law.”

It is worth recalling that the NSA’s official task is to protect the American public by gather “foreign intelligence signals.” NSA officials defend their mandate by claiming that it guards against terrorist attacks. Given this, it is shocking to find the agency targeting political speech, media outlets, and civil liberties instead–none of which, obviously, represent a threat of violence against the US public.

Assange’s attorney, Michael Ratner, assesses the situation thus:

“He [Assange] has every reason to heavily fear what would happen to him in this country, in the United States, if he were to be ever taken here. […]

“When people cross borders who are associates with WikiLeaks, they get stopped. They get surveilled all the time. […]

“The manhunt timeline, I think, is incredibly significant, considering that the manhunt is an effort to locate, find and destroy—in some cases, kill—kill people.

Assange’s statement on the revelation, published by The Intercept, is especially pertinent: “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”

It is ironic, in regard to the aggressive persecution of dissident political speech, that the US is finding itself in the company of North Korea and China. Take this passage from a 2010 New York Times article:

“WikiLeaks, a nonprofit organization, has rankled governments and companies around the world with its publication of materials intended to be kept secret. For instance, the Army’s report says that in 2008, access to the Web site in the United States was cut off by court order after Bank Julius Baer, a Swiss financial institution, sued it for publishing documents implicating Baer in money laundering, grand larceny and tax evasion. Access was restored after two weeks, when the bank dropped its case.

“Governments, including those of North Korea and Thailand, also have tried to prevent access to the site and complained about its release of materials critical of their governments and policies.”

James Goodale, former attorney for the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers publication, had this to say last March:

“The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening. […]

“Now if Assange is convicted, it might be a conviction for […] gathering the news, for asking questions, for getting stories. So he’ll go to jail for doing what every journalist does. […]

“[Obama’s approach to journalism is] antediluvian, conservative, backwards. Worse than Nixon. He [Obama] thinks that anyone who leaks is a spy! I mean, it’s cuckoo.”

“Why we’re so concerned about the prosecution of Assange is what he did is the same as what the Times did in the Pentagon Papers, and indeed what they did with WikiLeaks. The Times published on its website the very same material WikiLeaks published on its website. So if you go after the WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process. “

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“Humanitarian” intervention in Syria?

The prospect for another US war front is rearing its head in Syria. The pretext, predictably, is humanitarian.

What one has to ignore in order to take this pretext seriously is the actual historical record of US interventions in the last 50 years, including those launched purely on putative “humanitarian” grounds. The record leads to an altogether different set of conclusions than those advanced by today’s popular humanitarian interventionist advocates, Samantha Powers in the leading role. Rob Prince, professor at the Korbel School of International , is full of acumen on this point as he critiques a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times which advocates US intervention:

Calling for military intervention as a way to end or at least reduce the bloodshed in Syria does pull at certain ethical heartstrings. But it is, at best, a desperate appeal, and at worst, quite frankly, a cynical move meant to give cover to a not especially humane long term geo-political considerations.  

Indeed perhaps the sorriest assumption of their argument is that the United States can save the day and end the humanitarian tragedy in Syria by  riding in on its white heavenly horse filled with Cruise missiles, drones. Are they forgetting Washington’s long record of supporting totalitarian regimes in exchange for oil in the Middle East and elsewhere, and whose involvement in the Syrian tragedy is, incidentally, far from innocent?

One must make a distinction between `humanitarian intervention’ in times of war, and military intervention using humanitarian pretexts. The latter actually has a very long and sordid history going back several hundred years and has been used by virtually every colonial and neo-colonial military intervention and massacre. It is nothing new, although lately, through the thinking of certain American intellectuals (Samantha Powers and others) it has been given a new intellectual gloss.

Pulling out the `humanitarian’ pretext has become more in fashion in this post Cold War era when the United States can no longer argue that countering `the Soviet threat’ is a pretext for political and military intervention. Even during the Cold War, the United States would frequently invoke a humanitarian pretext (intermingled with anti-communism) for its Third World interventions, C.I.A. coups, whatever. The bodies of hundreds of thousands of Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Guatamaltecas, Nicaraguans Salvadoreans, liter the fields and oceans as evidence of the results of that policy.

Pulling out the `humanitarian’ pretext has become more in fashion in this post Cold War era when the United States can no longer argue that countering `the Soviet threat’ is a pretext for political and military intervention. Even during the Cold War, the United States would frequently invoke a humanitarian pretext (intermingled with anti-communism) for its Third World interventions, C.I.A. coups, whatever. The bodies of hundreds of thousands of Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Guatamaltecas, Nicaraguans Salvadoreans, liter the fields and oceans as evidence of the results of that policy.

I think Prince is right about the essential point above, that humanitarianism is merely a pretext, proffered to get the public to accept the use of the military for a set of priorities that are not, in fact, humanitarian. And, moreover, that the actual record of interventions, including so-called humanitarian ones, demonstrates gross negligence with human life and a long series of unmitigated humanitarian catastrophes. This record alone belies any claims by the state to harbor humanitarian priorities. If there is not a single record of such an instance in the past, but a long record of duplicity and deception in this regard, then we should know what to do with the present claims of humanitarian militarism.

Here is Prince’s list of normative priorities in relation to negotiations going forward:

1. That the international community could and should call on all parties to initiate an immediate multi-sided cease-fire. Of course pressure from outside allies would be key. If it is that the Russians and Iranians would hold the Syrian’s to task, it would also be expected that the United States, the Saudis would hold their allies on the ground to the same standard.

2. The recruiting, training, arming of all foreign mercenaries should end.

3. Assuming that the cease-fire could be established, than a massive humanitarian aid program, directed by the United Nations, supported by a Security Council resolution should be implemented as soon as possible

4. The Geneva Peace Process has to be actively supported. Frankly, as we (Kazerooni and Prince) have stated on our radio program, in our op-eds for the past three years, in public forums, etc. there can be no military solution to the Syrian crisis. It can only be resolved politically and diplomatically.

5. The Geneva negotiations should center on talks between the Assad government and the legitimate Syrian opposition. By the latter is meant, those domestic opponents to the regime, whose grievances against the government are long-standing (and genuine) and whose roots in Syrian society are organic and undisputed. Such negotiations need to be pursued without preconditions beyond maintaining the ceasefire.

6. The Obama Administration has to be more engaged in the multi-lateral Geneva peace negotiations. While Washington made an important decision by not going to war last September, it seems to be essentially paralyzed in moving the negotiating process. Once again, it is time for Obama to once again show the political courage he showed the world in September by pressing the United States to negotiate seriously in Geneva and not let his domestic political opponents Syrian policy (neo-conservatives, AIPAC) once again gain the upper hand.

For further comments on the concept of interventionism and just war theory, see here and here. For the record on the 2011 “humanitarian” intervention in Libya, see the relevant category at right on this blog.

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