Political MoJo

War in the Middle East: Resources

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 1:05 PM EDT

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News Resources in the Region

Some "official" web sites:

Israel Defense Forces
[Note: Very current information on Israeli military actions.]

Israel Minstry of Foreign Affairs
[Current info about the conflict]

U.S. Embassy in Lebanon

Iran

Palestinian National Authority - State Information Service
[The Palestinian Authority's State Information Service includes a link to the Authority's International Press Centre with news on conflict.]

Syrian Arab News Agency


Blogs, papers, magazines in the region:

First some Lebanese blogs:

Chris Allbritton
[Blog of Time correspondent and freelancer Chris Allbritton, who's been living in Beirut for the last six months or so. He's good.]

Siege of Lebanon

BBC producer in Lebanon

Cold Desert

URShalim


Lebanese Newspapers and Magazines:

Daily Star - Lebanon

Monday Morning

Beirut News


Israeli blogs:

Treppenwitz
[popular Israeli blog]

Fundamentally Freund

Orthodox Anarchist

Israellycool

Israeli Newspapers:

Jerusalem Post

Haaretz

Yedioth Ahronoth

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Pakistan? Plutonium Reactor? Oh, Sure.

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 12:17 PM EDT

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From the annals of "Bush to Congress: Drop Dead."

The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor, but it said the White House was working to dissuade Pakistan from using the plant to expand its nuclear arsenal. ...

The acknowledgment came as arms-control experts and some in Congress expressed alarm about a possible escalation of South Asia's arms race. Some also sharply criticized the administration for failing to disclose the existence of a facility that could influence an upcoming congressional debate over U.S. nuclear policy toward India and Pakistan. ...

"What is baffling is that this information -- which was surely information that our own intelligence agencies had -- was kept from Congress," said [Henry D. Sokolski], now director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. "We lack imagination if we think that this is no big deal."(Washington Post)

This administration has given "separation of powers" a whole new meaning...

Mercury found in New York songbirds

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 11:52 AM EDT

For some time now, we have known about the mercury levels found in American lakes and streams, and, as a consequence, in fish. In 1998, biologist David C. Evers tested common loons, whose diet is made up of fish, and found significant levels of mercury in the birds. Because of the mercury, the loons became lethargic and their reproductive rates dropped.

Now Dr. Evers has gone a step farther, and has tested birds that do not consume fish. He decided to study the wood thrush, whose Northeast population has declined 45% in the last few decades. All 178 New York state wood thrushes tested by Evers last year turned out to have high levels of mercury in their blood and feathers. There is now some speculation, in fact, that mercury may be one cause of the bird's decline, not just habitat destruction, as previously assumed.

According to Dr. Evers, "If these birds are having trouble, that should be a very good indicator of a risk to our own well-being and health as well."

New York's Governor George Pataki has proposed cutting mercury emissions from the state's power plants in half by 2010.

Murder, He Retracted (Tony Snow Eats Stem Cell Crow)

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 4:00 AM EDT

In the "Whoops! What about the midterm!" category, talking/bobble head Tony Snow was made to eat crow yesterday when he said that in fact President Bush did not, as the New York Times put it, "equate embryonic stem cell research with murder…[and] apologized for his earlier assertion that Mr. Bush held that view."

"He would not use that term," Mr. Snow told reporters, adding, "The president has said that he believes that this is the destruction of human life."

Got that? "Destruction of human life"≠"murder." (And it is a good thing, too, considering that, while governor of Texas, Bush signed off on more than 150 executions.)

Moving right along, let's go back to Tony eating crow.

As of last Tuesday, Snow's parsing of the whole what?=murder issue was thus:

"The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it's inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He's one of them. The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong."

And well…who doesn't? However, things do get a bit complicated when it comes what the American public thinks of donating leftover IVF embryos for the express purpose of ending human suffering. Because, as GOP pollsters would be the first to tell you, a lot of anti-murder, pro-life, and/or just plain folks are all for research that holds out great hope of ending Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's, etc. Especially when the embryos in question were slated to be "expired" (as the euphemism goes) anyway.

To that end, On Meet the Press, White House chief of staff, Joshua B. (don't call me John. Or Michael!) Bolten, struggled (to borrow a phrase from the NYT) to explain Snow's characterization:

"It's a very complicated, very, very delicate issue," Mr. Bolten said.

By Monday, a chastened Snow apologized for having "created a little trouble for Josh Bolten…I will go ahead and apologize for having overstated, I guess, overstated the president's position."

Transcript of Snow's life-saving-research-using-discarded -embryos=murder statement follows after the jump.

Specter Bill To Sue Bush For Use of Signing Statements

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 2:30 AM EDT

Arlen Specter's wiretapping bill may leave a lot to be desired, but the senator from Pennsylvania has the right idea when it comes to presidential signing statements. He's bringing it on -- with a bill to sue George W. Bush. "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate," Specter said on the Senate floor, "which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."

This on the same day, Monday, that an American Bar Association task force found Bush's use of the signing statements -- interpreting laws as he sees fit rather than as Congress plainly intends -- "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers."

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Bush on Lebanon

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 6:42 PM EDT

President Bush on the anniversary of the assassination of former-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, February 14th, 2006:

Great challenges remain [for Lebanon], and the United States will continue to stand with the people of Lebanon as they strive to build a free and democratic future.
President Bush with Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora on the South Lawn, April 18th, 2006:
There's no question in my mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example for what is possible in the broader Middle East; that out of the tough times the country has been through will rise a state that shows that it's possible for people of religious difference to live side-by-side in peace; to show that it's possible for people to put aside past histories to live together in a way that the people want, which is, therefore, to be peace and hope and opportunity.
President Bush on July 13, 2006:
"Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life."
President Bush to reporters at the White House, July 18, 2006:
Noting that Israel had a right to defend itself, Bush said, "Sometimes it requires tragic situations to help bring clarity in the international community… And it is now clear for all to see that there are terrorist elements who want to destroy our democratic friends and allies, and the world must work to prevent them from doing so."
President Bush to Tony Blair in Russia on the UN proposed peace plan, July 17th, 2006:
"I don't like the sequence of it, his attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens…What they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over. I felt like telling Kofi [Annan] to get on the phone with [Syrian president Bashar al-] Assad and make something happen."
President Bush during weekly radio address, July 22nd, 2006:
"We're...mindful of the cost to innocent civilians in Lebanon and in Israel, and we have called on Israel to continue to exercise the greatest possible care to protect innocent lives … America remains committed to lasting peace in the Middle East."

Congress to the Rescue

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 6:13 PM EDT

WASHINGTON—While strongly supporting Israel, the Congress has decided to sit out the current war in Lebanon. The closest it came to getting involved occurred late last week in a pretty feeble debate over Lebanon, with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israeli lobby, trying to broker a "bipartisan" resolution on the conflict.

When the Republican majority leader in the House John Boehner approached Nancy Pelosi on the floor and tried to get her to sign on to a joint resolution supporting Israel, she balked, wanting it to include a phrase asking both sides to limit civilian casualties, reports the Hill. When the Republicans refused to add such language, Pelosi said she would back the resolution, but not actually sign it. So, Boehner made an end run around her — co-sponsoring the resolution, which backs Israel and commends Bush for "fully supp orting Israel as it responds to these armed attacks by terrorist organizations and their state sponsors," with Henry Hyde, chair of the International Relations committee and Tom Lantos, the California Democrat and Holocaust survivor who is the ranking minority member.
Republicans pointed out to members who wanted to add softening language, which discouraged the killing of civilians, that doing so would add legitimacy to both Hamas and Hazbollah, placing them in the same category as sovereign Israel.

Meanwhile a handful of Lebanese-American members, led by Darrell Issa of California, made a futile gesture, asking all parties to protect human life. On Monday, Congressman Nick Rahall, a Lebanese American Democrat from West Virginia, called for an immediate cease-fire. It failed.

Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also spoke out strongly against the fighting. He introduced a resolution with 23 backers including New York's Louise Slaughter and John Conyers from Michigan, calling on the President "to appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence and to commit United States diplomats to multi-party negotiations with no preconditions."

Kucinich wants Bush to send a "high-level diplomatic mission to the region to facilitate such multi-party negotiations." He urges "multi-party negotiations to begin as soon as possible, including delegations from the governments of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt; and supports an international peacekeeping mission to southern Lebanon to prevent cross-border skirmishes during such multi-party negotiations."

Specter's Out of Control

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 5:55 PM EDT

banner_photo.gifIt would be an unmitigated disaster if Congress ends up passing Arlen Specter's NSA wiretapping bill, which would allow the president to get away with breaking the law. Read Glenn Greenwald on why Specter's bill must be stopped, and then read Christy Hardin Smith on how to help stop it. Specter is often lauded in media circles as a "moderate" (or better yet, "principled") Republican; that's always been a fiction, but it would be nice if people could stop pretending he's anything other than an administration stooge.

New at Mother Jones: On the War in the Middle East

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 5:51 PM EDT

We have a couple of excellent articles up at Mother Jones today about the conflict in the Middle East. (Both come by way of Foreign Policy in Focus.) In the first, retired U.S. Army Colonel Daniel Smith writes that just as the Bush doctrine of preventive war has failed to make the United States more secure in the world (while making the world more insecure from the the U.S.), so has Israel's security strategy--responding to any provocation with the application of maximum force--failed to win it peace and security. He writes: "Perhaps the United States and Israel should try something that neither country is very good at: examining policy from the viewpoint of those who do not have overwhelming military firepower."

In the other piece, Stephen Zunes reflects on last week's congressional resolution in support of Israel, which he argues, "reveals a bipartisan consensus on the legitimacy of U.S. allies to run roughshod over international legal norms. The resolution even goes so far as to radically reinterpret the United Nations Charter by claiming that Israel's attacks on Lebanon's civilian infrastructure is an act of legitimate self-defense...despite a broad consensus of international legal scholars to the contrary.