Political MoJo

Roundup: The War in the Middle East

| Tue Aug. 1, 2006 9:43 AM PDT

August 1, 2006

CHILDREN AS ENEMY?
Ynet News, a big Israeli news net, reports: "The Yesha Rabbinical Council announced in response to an IDF attack in Kfar Qanna that 'according to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as 'innocents' of the enemy."

"All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians,'' the statement said.

WHO RULES ISRAEL?
Military commanders in northern Israel knew nothing about Olmert's deal with Rice for a short ceasefire. And it appears they paid Olmert little heed. The Israeli press is up in arms at what they take to be Olmert's weak-kneed leadership. Yedioth Ahronoth, a mass market paper wrote, "If Israel fails in this war, it will be impossible to continue to live in the Middle East."

The paper wrote a speech for the prime minister to make to world leaders: "Gentlemen, it is time for you to understand: The Jewish state will no longer be trampled underfoot ... I serve as a mouth today for six million bombed Israeli citizens, who serve as a mouth for six million annihilated Jews, who were burnt to dust by savages in Europe ... And you, just as you did not take the matter seriously at the time, you are ignoring it now."

DEEP SIX FOR LEBANON'S ECONOMY
Economists estimate between 10 and 20 percent of the people who fled the country will never return. Many Lebanese companies will go offshore rather than risk another Israeli attack.

SHRUB ON QANA:
"And look, it's a terrible situation when innocent people lose their lives," Mr. Bush said. "And yesterday's situation was awful. We, I understand that. But it's also awful that a million Israelis are worried about rockets being fired from their, from their neighbor to the north."

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Props to Blair and Schwarzenegger

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 6:16 PM PDT

He may have gotten things disastrously wrong on Iraq, but Tony Blair is showing he's quite capable of doing the right thing on other issues -- even if it means crossing George W. Bush. The Guardian reports:

Tony Blair yesterday sidestepped the Bush administration's refusal to act on climate change by signing what was hailed as a ground-breaking agreement with California, the world's 12th largest carbon emitter, to fight global warming.

Downing Street made no attempt to disguise the fact that the deal is designed to get round Republican objections to states imposing mechanisms to cut carbon emissions. With other US states also interested or involved in carbon trading markets, the path is being opened to bring US business into international efforts to fight climate change, even though international progress has been stymied by the Bush administration's refusal to sign up to binding targets in the Kyoto protocol.

In another good move, Blair is working to create a closer link between British and American scientists working on stem cell research.

Skelton says 2/3 of brigade combat teams are unprepared

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 6:09 PM PDT

Despite George W. Bush's declaration today that the U.S. has a strong military that can deal with anything, Rep. Ike Skelton, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, recently reported.

Army readiness is in crisis. The administration has brought us here because of a lack of planning and a lack of funding. Today two-thirds of the brigade combat teams in our operating force are unready.

The Army is cutting resources for nondeployed in order to maintain front-line troops at optimum combat readiness. The Washington Times reported today that many armored vehicles and some aircraft cannot be used because of damage from both homemade explosive devices and harsh environmental elements in Iraq. The Army is prepared to repair and refurbish these vehicles, but there is no cash available to do so.

Retired Gen. John Keane says that troop morale is high, and once emergency funding is granted to make necessary repairs and replacements, everything will be fine.

Nonetheless, it is worth going back to 2000 and remembering this election quotation from George W. Bush: "When you don't keep faith with the men and women of our military, it's hard to keep them at all."

GOP to Katherine Harris in May: "Your campaign faces irreparable damage."

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 5:51 PM PDT

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"Katherine, though it causes us much anguish, we have determined that your campaign faces irreparable damage. We feel that we have no other choice but to revoke our support. The polls tell us that no matter how you run this race, you will not be successful in beating Bill Nelson."
--Confidential May 7 letter to Harris from Florida Republican Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan, obtained today by AP.

She went ahead anyway, of course. A recent poll has Harris comfortably ahead in the GOP primary race trailing Nelson by 37 percentage points in a general election head-to-head.

Libby Defense Wants a Memory Expert at Trial

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 5:04 PM PDT

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Weird:

Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby wants a memory expert to explain how he — and prosecution witnesses — may have different recollections of their conversations about a CIA officer's identity.

In a court filing Monday, defense lawyers said Libby has a right to present testimony from Robert A. Bjork, chairman of the psychology department at the University of California at Los Angeles, to correct misperceptions that jurors may have about the reliability of memory.

More on Libby here, here, and here.

The Weapons Trade as Entertainment

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 3:54 PM PDT

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Over at Tomdispatch, Frida Berrigan has a good essay on the U.S. arms trade.

Like American entertainment, American arms are a multibillion-dollar industry that leans heavily on foreign sales. In fact, the United States exported $18.55 billion in fighter planes, attack helicopters, tanks, battleships, and other weaponry in 2005. All signs point to 2006 being another banner export year. Just as in the movie, TV, and music businesses, we dwarf the competition. Russia is the next largest arms exporter with a measly $4 billion in yearly sales. In fact, U.S. arms exports accounted for more than half of total global arms deliveries -- $34.8 billion -- in 2004, and we export more of them ourselves than the next six largest exporters combined.

Given the huge payoffs and even larger payloads delivered, isn't it strange how little attention the American arms industry gets? Maybe, in some small part, that's because the industry's magazines all have the word "Defense," or some equivalent, prominently displayed on the cover -- Defense Week, Defense News -- instead of Glamour or Allure. Maybe it's because of the Pentagon's predilection for less than magnetic PowerPoint presentations, unbearably unexpressive acronyms, and slightly paunchy, very pasty, older white men in business suits. Maybe the arms trade just doesn't seek the plush of the red carpet or the jittery pulse of flashing paparazzi cameras. Or maybe, it's a business that just loves to revel in profitable anonymity.


But don't be fooled. Like Hollywood, the arms industry has sex to spare. After all, the weapons themselves are all gleaming golden curves and massive thrusting spikes; they move at breath-robbing speed, make ear-splitting noise, and are capable of performing with awesome lethality. Just ask the Bush administration if you can't fall in love with weapons this sexy and the military that wields them. And then there are the glittery galas and trade shows like the Paris Air Show -- at Le Bourget airport north of the French capital -- where generals and corporate bigwigs with power, prestige, and incomparable sums of money rub against each other amid the scandalous whispers of corporate breakups and new mergers.

Read the rest here.

(For another gauge of the arms industry's formidable power, see this classic piece, "The Military-Industrial Man," in which Chalmers Johnson shows how, in one congressional district after another, the weapons industry has bought the incumbent, leaving voters powerless to dislodge him or her.)

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John Dean on Conservatives Without Conscience

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 3:37 PM PDT

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John Dean gained fame as the former Nixon legal counsel who became the star witness in the Watergate prosecution. Now he's back in the spotlight with a new book that claims the Republican party is being run by extremist "conservatives without conscience." On Sunday Dean told Mother Jones Radio why he's optimistic that the party can move back to the center. Check it out here.

"There were 15 of my family in our house, and now many of them are dead."

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 2:08 PM PDT

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Dahr Jamail has filed a new dispatch from Lebanon. Over the weekend he visited a number of hospitals in the south and interviewed civilian victims of the fighting. He writes:

Returning from traveling to Sidon on Saturday, I was emotionally exhausted, physically sick from what I saw.

The first hospital I visited with two photographer friends was the largest in the south, Hamoudi Hospital. After asking permission, we were taken to several rooms of patients there.

In the first room, I met 77 year-old Mousa Sif, an old man who sat on the end of his bed, his eyes expressing a mixture of shock, fatigue, grief and sadness. "The second day of the war the Israelis bombed my home," he told me.

He, his family and several neighbors had gone to the UN building nearby their home, seeking shelter, but the UN people sent them back to their home.

"We were bombed by the Israelis during our trip to the UN, then on our way back home, several of the vehicles were hit," he told me wearily, "Then they bombed our home. There were 15 of my family in our house, and now many of them are dead."

Read the rest here.

Roundup: War in the Middle East

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 1:33 PM PDT

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CHARGES WAR CRIMES
Human Rights Watch is accusing both Israel and Hezbollah of war crimes. "The Israeli attack early Sunday 'is the latest product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have waged in Lebanon over the past 18 days, leaving an estimated 750 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians,'" the New York-based HRW said in a statement datelined "Beirut Sunday," as reported by AFP.

"Today's strike on Qana, killing at least 60 civilians, more than half of them children, suggests that the Israeli military is treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone," said Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director.

"The appalling loss of civilian life in Qana underscores the need for the U.N. secretary general to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the current conflict,'' Roth said. Israel's consistent record of not distinguishing between combatants and civilians amounts to a war crime, he said.

HRW cited an Israeli military statement issued Sunday that said responsibility for the Qana attack "rests with the Hezbollah" because it has used the area to launch "hundreds of missiles" into Israel, and asserted it had warned residents of Qana several days in advance to leave the village.

"Just because the Israeli military warned the civilians of Qana to leave does not give it carte blanche to blindly attack," Roth said. "It still must make every possible effort to target only genuine combatants."

HRW said that even if Israeli military claims of Hezbollah rocket fire from the Qana area were correct, Israel remained under a strict obligation to direct attacks only at military objectives, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidental loss of civilian life.

The watchdog organization said its researchers have been in Lebanon since the onset of the current hostilities on July 12 and have documented dozens of cases in which Israeli forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

BUSH'S HOPE
In his Saturday radio address, President Bush spoke of his hopes for peace in the Middle East and that while the fighting is "painful and tragic," it also presents an opportunity for change.

"This approach will demonstrate the international community's determination to support the government of Lebanon, and defeat the threat from Hezbollah and its foreign sponsors,'' Bush said.

"This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic, yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region,'' said Bush.

"Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound - for our country and the world.''

On Sunday, before the White House T-ball game got underway, Bush again remembered the children. "You know, as we listen to our national anthem, it reminds us how blessed we are to live in a land where our boys and girls can grow up in a peaceful world. And on today, our hopes for peace for boys and girls everywhere extends across the world, especially in the Middle East. Today's actions in the Middle East remind us that the United States and friends and allies must work for a sustainable peace, particularly for the sake of children.

BUSH: UN PEOPLE " BUNCH OF DRUNKS"
Maurie McNarn, an Australian general who led that country's forces in Iraq, told the Australian he vetoed mass bombing in Iraq during the 2003 invasion because it would unnecessarily killed civilians. On one occasion he nixed a US plan to drop huge non-precision bombs on Baghdad, causing one angry US Air Force general to call the Australian a "pencil dick."

McNarn says that George W. Bush himself vetoed involving the United Nations in Iraq in summer of 2003: '"The UN can't manage a damn thing,' Bush told Aussie Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, recalling his visit to Kosovo, where the President found the UN personnel to be 'a bunch of drunks.'"

SAY WHAT?
"There's a Hezbollah training camp in Paraguay, there is a group in North Carolina, we caught a cell crossing the border."
---Newt Gingrich, erstwhile GOP presidential candidate, currently running #3 in the polls, in a discussion of World War III conservative bloggers last week.

Applying for Asylum? It's a Crap Shoot

| Mon Jul. 31, 2006 11:55 AM PDT

A new report out from the Transactional Records Clearinghouse, Syracuse University, finds that asylum applications are handled extremely uneventy by immigration judges.

TRAC's Immigration Judges report, released July 31, 2006, shows vast differences in the rate at which the nation's 200-plus immigration judges decline hundreds of thousands of applications for asylum in the United States. In one recent period, for example, while ten percent of the judges denied asylum in 86% or more of the their decisions, another ten percent denied asylum in only 34% of theirs. The Immigration Court, a branch of the Justice Department, asserts in a mission statement that it is committed to the "uniform application of the immigration law in all cases." Yet at one end of the scale was a Miami judge who turned down 96.7% of the asylum requests. At the other end was a New York judge who rejected only 9.8%.