The World Focuses On War Crimes And The US Continues Down The Path Of Suicidal Depravity.
Announcements: -Ralph Lopez will be in DC lobbying this week, Tues.-Fri (27th-30). Lobby your congressman to schedule him to testify before a congressional committee on "The Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy." To discuss, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 617-599-5195
Make an appointment for Ralph with your congressman and senators for this week. Say "as a constituent, Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy Project represents my views, and I would like you to meet with Ralph Lopez." Ralph will report back to you your congress member’s position on the escalation and their response to Exit Strategy. Call or email as above if you can do it.
Fact Sheet: Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy
- There is 40% - 50% unemployment in Afghanistan, and the Taliban pays $8 a day to young fighters who would rather be doing anything else. There is literal starvation taking place across the country, including in Kabul.
- 35% of Afghans are malnourished, according to the UN. Eight years after the occupation began, 1 out of 5 children still dies before the age of five, and two-thirds of the population still has no access to safe drinking water. Many children die of easily preventable or treatable disease.
- The Taliban is politically unpopular, and most Afghans are repulsed by its ideology, which is an extreme Wahabist interpretation of Islam. Many people remember the cruel punishments and executions in the National Stadium. But it is growing in strength by taking advantage of vast numbers of unemployed men.
- In 2001 the vast majority of Afghans welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban, which was a small minority which ruled mostly by fear.
- The best way to defeat the Taliban, and to decrease the danger to our troops, is with a countrywide jobs program costing about $4 billion, less than what military operations cost for 2 months. The Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), a ministry of the Karzai government, reported that governors and district chiefs unanimously agreed that unemployment is the number one driver of the insurgency.
- Work projects which pay cash by the day or week are up and running successfully in Afghanistan. The problem is there are not nearly enough of them.
- Men gather in the squares in Kabul by the thousands hoping to be hired for day labor at $4 per day. They are of all ages, and ready and willing to work.
- One Afghan government ministry, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD,) is ready and capable of managing large numbers of works projects which would hire large numbers of potential Taliban recruits. This project would include digging drainage ditches, irrigation ways, and clearing canals. This would cause mass defections in the Taliban ranks. The MRRD has set up over 25,000 Community Development Councils (CDCs,) committees at the village level, to insure that the help reaches ordinary Afghans, not corrupt warlords.
- "Building up" the Afghan National Army and Police will not by itself insure stability. Rural Afghans are often more afraid of the National Police than they are of the Taliban.
- The Taliban is not an indigenous movement to Afghanistan. The Taliban originated in Pakistani madrassas funded by the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI, in order to have a friendly or neutral country on its northern border. This was an imperative in Pakistan's contest with India.
- Afghanistan is not an Arabic country, and has no affinity with Al Qaeda, which is Arabic in origin. The Pashto and Dari languages spoken in Afghanistan are Indo-European in origin, and distantly related to English.
- To frame the debate as being solely over whether there should be more troops, fewer troops, or no troops is flawed and misleading. This ignores the economic context of the insurgency.
- A withdrawal of US troops, by the traditional means of cutting off war funding, could be made possible a by modest infusion of economic assistance which targets and reaches ordinary Afghans. Most have no desire to join the Taliban, and would rather do anything else to make a living. Once freed of their need for the Taliban's opium money, Afghans of all ethnicities will turn on the Taliban themselves, and be capable of defending themselves.
- Pentagon spokesman Col. Tom Collins said in 2007 "There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men."
- General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan told Congress in 2007 "much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to feed their families."
- General Stanley McChrystal in his recent report says there is little ideological loyalty between the local Pashtuns and the Taliban. The Taliban gain local support by capitalizing on “vast unemployment by empowering the young and disenfranchised through cash payments, weapons, and prestige."
- Starting jobs programs now in Afghanistan is not "nation-building." It is "starvation-stopping." A works program to employ vast numbers of unemployed, for two years, at $7 a day, is the first crucial step to stability and further development, guided by Afghans. It would result in small capitol savings which would jump start the Afghan economy. Afghans have suffered through 30 years of war and misery. It must stop, and the world will be rewarded with a stable and prosperous partner in the war on terrorism.
- Starting the Afghan Marshall Plan will win the war at a fraction of the cost of an extended military presence, and will leave much, much more money for Americans to create their own jobs programs here at home.
- That American Soldiers are getting killed by young men who would be willing to lay down their arm for $5 a day is a travesty.
Sources at www.jobsforafghans.org
Common Dreams (press release)
Many protesters said he should be arrested and charged with war crimes. Inside the hotel, nearly 1000 spectators paid as much as $400 to hear Bush speak ...See all stories on this topic
The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.
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We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama’s passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush’s abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability.
In Britain earlier this month, a two-judge High Court panel rejected arguments made first by the Bush team and now by the Obama team and decided to make public seven redacted paragraphs in American intelligence documents relating to torture allegations by a former prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British national, says he was tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and at a C.I.A.-run prison outside Kabul before being transferred to Guantánamo. He was freed in February.
To block the release of those paragraphs, the Bush administration threatened to cut its intelligence-sharing with Britain, an inappropriate threat that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated. But the court concluded that the actual risk of harm to intelligence-sharing was minimal, given the close relationship between the two countries. The court also found a “compelling public interest” in disclosure, and said that nothing in the disputed seven paragraphs — a summary of evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in Mr. Mohamed’s ordeal — had anything to do with “secret intelligence.”
The Obama administration has expressed unhappiness with the ruling, and the British government plans to appeal. But the court was clearly right in recognizing the importance of disclosure “for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”
In the United States, the Obama administration is in the process of appealing a sound federal appellate court ruling last April in a civil lawsuit by Mr. Mohamed and four others. All were victims of the government’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture.
In that case, the Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The ruling rejected that argument and noted that the government’s theory would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”
The Obama administration has aggressively pursued such immunity in numerous other cases beyond the ones involving Mr. Mohamed. We do not take seriously the government’s claim that it is trying to protect intelligence or avoid harm to national security.
Victims of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including Mr. Mohamed, have already spoken in harrowing detail about their mistreatment. The objective is to avoid official confirmation of wrongdoing that might be used in lawsuits against government officials and contractors, and might help create a public clamor for prosecuting those responsible. President Obama calls that a distracting exercise in “looking back.” What it really is is justice.
In a similar vein, Mr. Obama did a flip-flop last May and decided to resist orders by two federal courts to release photographs of soldiers abusing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, just in time to avoid possible Supreme Court review of the matter, Congress created an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates authority to withhold the photos.
We share concerns about inflaming anti-American feelings and jeopardizing soldiers, but the best way to truly avoid that is to demonstrate that this nation has turned the page on Mr. Bush’s shameful policies. Withholding the painful truth shows the opposite.
Like the insistence on overly broad claims of secrecy, it also avoids an important step toward accountability, which is the only way to ensure that the abuses of the Bush years are never repeated. We urge Mr. Gates to use his discretion under the new law to release the photos, sparing Americans more cover-up.
Human rights lawyers and pro-Palestinian activists in a number of European countries hold lists with names of Israel Defense Forces soldiers allegedly linked to war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Existing legislation enables arrest warrants to be issued against these officers if they enter those countries.
Lawyers in Britain and other European countries have been collecting testimonies of Palestinians and other data from Gaza since January, which they maintain proves that war crimes were committed by the IDF during the offensive. The evidence is linked to IDF officers holding ranks of battalion commander and higher, who were in command during various stages of Cast Lead.
The other nations who have lawyers collecting information on the matter include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Norway, whose laws, as well as Britain's, allow the issuance of arrest warrants against foreign citizens suspected of war crimes.
Attorney Daniel Makover from London is coordinating the efforts in Britain. One of his colleagues visited the Gaza Strip several weeks after the fighting in order to collect testimonies. Palestinians civilians also gave the legal assistant their approval, and asked that he file the suits in their name, in line with British law.
Speaking to Haaretz, Makover refused to offer details on the identity of the IDF officers or how many were listed, but said that much depends on the specific details of each case. Makover said that anyone who was involved in an incident may face criminal charges. The attorney added that there are officers who are obviously candidates for charges, and others who are less obvious, but emphasized that it depends on the facts collected on the ground.
Makover said that the Goldstone report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip will bolster the efforts of the activists, and said that some of the instances mentioned in the report were already known to the attorneys. Makover is part of an unofficial network of attorneys operating in various countries in Europe, exchanging and sharing information so that suspected officers may be arrested in those countries.
The information is often received from pro-Palestinian activists who follow Jewish or pro-Israel groups that invite IDF officers to deliver lectures. In some instances, this information is relayed to border controls. Makover said that a small number of names of IDF officers is already on a British police watch list, and that when they arrive in Britain the authorities will issue an arrest warrant that will lead to their possible detention.
A number of human rights groups are busy working to create an international organization that would enable closer surveillance of those they suspect of war crimes and torture, as well as seek warrants for their arrest.
The IDF did not wish to specify the instructions it has given to officers before they travel abroad. In practice, many of the officers who participated in the Gaza operation have been asked to consult with legal experts at the Foreign Ministry, where they are instructed how to behave abroad and where they need to lower the profile of their identity; in some cases they are advised not to visit certain countries.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: "The ministry is aware of efforts undertaken by Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm IDF officers through legal and public relations means, and is working to prevent such efforts."
A little RESPECT: Even for War Criminals?
Twenty-two were arrested for verbally challenging Olmert and raised awareness and discomfort levels in the audience by demanding he be tried for war crimes ...See all stories on this topic…
…Ali Abunimah wrote, "Crimes against humanity are defined as 'crimes that shock the conscience.' When the institutions with the moral and legal responsibility to punish and prevent the crimes choose complicit silence -- or, worse, harbor a suspected war criminal, already on trial for corruption in Israel, and present him to students as a paragon of 'leadership' -- then disobedience, if that is what it takes to break the silence, is an ethical duty. Instead of condemning them, the University should be proud that its students were among those who had the courage to stand up.
"For the first time in recorded history, an Israeli prime minister was publicly confronted with the names of his victims. It was a symbolic crack in the wall of impunity and a foretaste of the public justice victims have a right to receive when Olmert is tried in a court of law.
On September 15, 2009, the UN Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone released its report on Israel's Dec/Jan. assault on Gaza and "concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity." 
The 574- page report analyzed, "36 specific incidents in Gaza, as well as a number of others in the West Bank and Israel" conducted 188 individual interviews, reviewed more 10,000 pages of documentation, and viewed some 1,200 photographs, including satellite imagery, as well as 30 videos. The mission heard 38 testimonies during two separate public hearings held in Gaza and Geneva, which were webcast in their entirety. The decision to hear participants from Israel and the West Bank in Geneva rather than in situ was taken after Israel denied the Mission access to both locations. Israel also failed to respond to a comprehensive list of questions posed to it by the Mission. Palestinian authorities in both Gaza and the West Bank cooperated with the Mission.
"The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation." [Ibid]…
Lally Weymouth of Newsweek and The Post interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Q: What did you think of the Goldstone report?
A: I thought there were limits to hypocrisy but I was obviously wrong. The so-called human rights commission accuses Israel that legitimately defended itself against Hamas of war crimes. Mind you, Hamas didn't commit just one type of war crime. It committed four. First, they called for the destruction of Israel, which under the U.N. Charter is considered a war crime -- incitement to genocide; secondly, they fired deliberately on civilians; third, they hid behind civilians; and fourth, they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years.
And who gets accused of criminal behavior at the end of the day? Israel that sent thousands of text messages and made tens of thousands of cellular phone calls to Palestinian civilians [to warn them to evacuate]. This inversion of justice is patently absurd.
People here appear to feel the Goldstone report is very unfair, but some have called for an internal inquiry. What is your position?
We've had 26 allegations investigated. Not because of the U.N. decision but because this is our procedure. We've investigated people for wrong behavior. We've put people on trial in the past because we're a functioning democracy. We'll do it in this case too. But what the Goldstone report actually accuses Israel of is deliberately targeting civilians, which is patently false.
So you're not in favor of an independent inquiry?
We're looking into that not because of the Goldstone report but because of our own internal needs.
The best way to defuse this issue is to speak the truth because Israel was defending itself with just means against an unjust attack. Serious countries have to think about adapting the laws of war in the age of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. If the terrorists believe they have a license to kill by choosing to kill from behind civilian lines, that's what they'll do again and again. What exactly is Israel supposed to do?
That's why you think the report is so dangerous?
This gives terrorist regimes a new weapon against democracies and even against non-democracies -- it allows them to attack entire cities with weapons of mass terror and get away with it simply because they fire the rockets from populated areas. In the case of Hamas, they deliberately targeted civilians while hiding behind civilians. So our attempted surgical strikes would be attacked as [acts of] war criminals. There's a world of difference between the incidental civilian casualties that are tragic in any war and the deliberate targeting of civilians.
Now [comes] the new tactic, which is the deliberate targeting of civilians while using civilians as a human shield. A double war crime. [But] the U.N. commission in Geneva added insult to injury by condemning Israel. It's a complete inversion of the facts, which is more[or] less what this report does. It just stands truth and justice on its head. So the simplest way to deal with this [report] is to tell the truth. The United States did that with great clarity. | CONTINUED 1 2 3 4 Next >
Sri Lanka To Probe U.S. Charges Of Possible War Crimes
By Ranga Sirilal COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's president will appoint a home-grown committee to probe a US State Department report of possible war crimes ...
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COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's president will appoint a home-grown committee to probe a U.S. State Department report of possible war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka's 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers, the government said on Monday.
Sri Lanka is facing heavy Western pressure over its human rights record, which the government blames on members of the Tamil diaspora who have settled in European countries or the United States and are angry the Tigers were beaten.
The United States issued a report on Thursday detailing possible atrocities by both government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the final battle of the 25-year war, and urged Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations.
"The president had decided to appoint a home-grown committee, to look into this report and give him recommendations," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told a news conference. Sri Lanka had already rejected the report as unsubstantiated.
The decision to appoint a local panel is unlikely to satisfy the West, given Sri Lanka's long history of inquiries into rights abuse that have largely failed to hold anyone accountable.
A probe into the massacre of 17 aid workers in 2006 blamed on security forces was wound up prematurely.
Sri Lanka, with the backing of allies China and Russia, fought off Western criticism and calls to halt its offensive earlier this year. It has been adamant that its prosecution of the war was an internal matter not subject to outside scrutiny.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during an official visit to Colombo on Monday, signaled Moscow's continued backing.
"The government of Sri Lanka is fully capable using its own legal system to resolve any complaints which might emerge," Lavrov told reporters. "I don't believe that we should really discuss any agreement of procedures internationally."
Days after Sri Lanka declared the war over, the U.N. Human Rights council passed a resolution praising its victory with the backing of China, Russia and India, which defeated a European-backed draft critical of how it handled the war.
On Friday, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has suggested that an external inquiry similar to the one that looked at fighting in Gaza may need to be carried out to determine what happened in Sri Lanka.
The European Union is also considering whether to withdraw a trade preference that helps Sri Lanka's top export, garments, after finding it failed to adhere to a number of rights conventions required under the trade scheme.
The State Department report, requested by Congress, recounted allegations of government shelling of civilians during the early months of 2009 and killing of LTTE fighters who had surrendered.
It also accused the Tigers, who were listed as a terrorist organization by more than 30 countries, of recruiting children to fight and keeping thousands of Tamils as human shields by killing those who tried to flee.
COMMENTS last week that terrorists might try to pass themselves off as refugees disgusted Kevin Rudd, and rightly so. Yet, at the same time, ...
The Lowy Institute recently released a report suggesting a broad range of potential war crimes suspects from war-torn countries were at large in the community, and that little was being done by the commonwealth government to investigate these cases.
Charles Zentai may become the first successful extradition from Australia for war crimes committed during World WarII. While Dragan Vasiljkovic (former leader of the notorious Red Berets, active during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia) last month walked free after the Federal Court accepted his argument that he could not receive a fair trial in Croatia, Zentai has not been able to persuade the court that he awaits the same fate in Hungary. The Hungarian authorities want the 87-year-old extradited to face the allegation of torturing and murdering a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944.
Since prosecuting more than 800 Japanese defendants in military tribunals after World War II, Australia's record of prosecuting or extraditing war criminals has not been impressive.
In 1988, the commonwealth government amended the 1945 War Crimes Act and prosecuted three Ukrainian immigrants accused of committing war crimes during World WarII. All of these prosecutions failed, for much the same reason as trials relating to any criminal act that takes place decades before an investigation and trial: evidence is lost, memories fade, witnesses die, are too traumatised to testify or are unable to be located, offenders become old and frail, and all aspects of the reliability of evidence subjected to a criminal standard become attenuated. In war crimes cases this is accentuated by distance and cross-jurisdictional issues. All of these factors influenced the failure of the three war crimes prosecutions begun under the amended War Crimes Act in 1988.
One theme that emerges from these failed prosecutions is a persistent concern that prosecuting elderly, and often infirm, men (for they are almost invariably men), many years after the alleged crimes, is an improper imposition on the defendant and a waste of community resources. Indeed, one magistrate early on in the trial of Mikolay Berezowsky in 1992 referred with concern to the fact "the defendant is an old and feeble man". The magistrate effectively scuppered the Berezowsky trial by refusing to allow evidence to be taken of witnesses in Ukraine, instead of in an Australian court, in part because the defendant was unwell and unable to travel and could not confront his accusers face to face. The prosecution of another alleged World War II war criminal in 1992, Henri Wagner, was withdrawn after the defendant suffered a heart attack during the trial.
The government's reticence about prosecuting war criminals is no doubt motivated, at least in part, by the sheer investigative and legal complexity (not to mention cost) in finding and prosecuting war criminals. An application from Croatia for alleged war criminal Vasiljkovic dragged on for years before the court refused to approve his extradition. The government seems unprepared to try him in Australia and indications that Bosnia might apply for his extradition appear to have gone quiet.
However, there is a deeper and more troubling sentiment that seems to permeate the debate about war crimes prosecutions in this country. There was considerable support at the time for the idea that alleged war criminals such as Berezowsky and Wagner should be left to die in peace, the events with which they were charged being too old. Berezowsky was charged with killing 102 Jews, Wagner with killing about 120, including 19 children. Are these crimes that should be forgotten or forgiven? Zentai's alleged crime is no less heinous for the fact it relates to a single person. If the allegations are true, he killed an innocent teenager for no reason other than that he was a Jew.
While considerable progress has been made in the prosecution of war crimes internationally, Australia has not done enough to bring war criminals to justice. We have an obligation, morally as well as under international law, to prosecute or extradite people alleged to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. It is sufficiently egregious to turn a blind eye to the presence of war criminals in the Australian community because it is a problem in the "too hard" basket. It is unacceptable not to proceed with investigations and prosecutions out of concern that those accused are elderly and-or the crimes alleged may have occurred many years earlier.
Zentai's extradition awaits the decision of Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor and whatever further legal action may be taken thereafter. Zentai must be extradited to face these charges. An arrest warrant was issued for his part in these crimes 60 years ago and he has evaded justice for too long. If he is innocent, let him be tried and acquitted. If he is guilty, he should pay for his crime.
Gideon Boas is a senior lecturer in the Monash University law school. Until October 2006 he was a senior legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
And Then There Is This Senile Old Fool!