Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mchrystal Retires as Four Star General

McChrystal has decided to retire after being relieved of his duties as commander in Afghanistan. However normally he would simply receive a pension as a three star general. The rules are that a general must serve two years at a given rank before retiring with a pension at that rank. McChrystal served only one year before he handed in his resignation. However Obama always generous with taxpayer money and anxious to please the military who often regard him with some uneasiness has seemingly waived the rules for McChrystal. McChrystal was after all Obama's choice. McChrystal will have to survive on a mere $12,475 per month. However, one can bet that McChrystal will not fade away and just enjoy his newfound leisure. He can busy himself writing memoirs, or become a military expert on one of the big TV chains or even buy out Xe (Blackwater) and resume a life at doing what he loves.

McChrystal informed the Army of his planned retirement on Monday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why did McChrystal want to be fired?

The only reasonable explanation of McChrystal and his staff's actions is that he wanted to be fired. McChrystal allowed Michael Hastings a reporter for the anti-war magazine Rolling Stone tag along with them for about a month. Hastings was able to record all sorts of intimate details of the goings on of McChrystal and his staff. He also recorded remarks that were insulting to many important U.S. politicians, including Joe Biden, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Holbrooke, and on and on. The McChrystal staff called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), I Suck At Fighting. This is the force that McChrystal commands.
When Hastings subsequently penned a long article for Rolling Stone repeating remarks that obviously involved insubordination nevertheless McChrystal did not contest anything said in the article. He surely must have known that Obama would really have no choice but look like a complete wuss or have him fired or resign.

The question now becomes why did McChrystal want to be fired. No doubt there are other possibilities but here is my view. McChrystal believes that the Afghan policy is failing. He wants to get out before this becomes obvious to everyone and a complete disaster. Pakistan and Afghanistan are not waiting either. They are negotiating as to how they can make peace with the insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

McChrystal realizes things are not working out. He has called Marjah a bleeding ulcer. He has been unable to sell troops on the idea that they should be very cautious about killing civilians even if it means more casualties for them. But he has not been able to win hearts and minds of the Afghans either. At a meeting with elders they made it clear that they did not want an offensive in Kandahar. He had to postpone it. Obama wants to begin a withdrawal next year while the COIN strategy takes years if not decades. Better to get out now and take a swipe at those you don't like on the way out the door.

Now Obama is left to go on with the costly mess led by the reliable Bush General Petraeus and pursuing the same failing COIN strategy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wikileaks founder in hiding..

No doubt authorities would like to question him about his relationship to Bradley Manning who is alleged to have given Wikileaks numerous classified documents. Wikileaks is supposed to release another blockbuster video of an attack last year in Afghanistan but so far it has not appeared. This is from the Washington Post.

Wikileaks founder in hiding, fearful of arrest
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has gone into hiding, fearful of arrest by U.S. authorities, an Icelandic parliamentarian confirmed Friday.

“He’s just been following events in the U.S., and State Department press conferences and so forth, and they have been trying to get hold of him," Birgitta Jonsdottir, a close supporter of Assange in the Icelandic Parliament, said. “And obviously Julian Assange does not necessarily want to have a chapter written about any leaks.”

Authorities are interested in locating Assange following reports that an Army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, recently transferred a huge volume of classified files to Wikileaks. Manning is now in military custody.

Meanwhile, Assange's whereabouts are “a mystery,” Jonsdottir told ABC World News for a segment to be broadcast Friday night, “but we’re in touch every day.”

Asked whether the Wikileaks founder was fearful of arrest, Jonsdottir said, “Yes, very much so.”

Jonsdottir also added to widespread speculation in recent days that Wikileaks was about to release a new video, this once showing an alleged “massacre” of Afghan civilians in a U.S. airstrike.

She called it “worse than the Iraqi one,” referencing the video Wikileaks previously released showing a U.S. helicopter attack on Iraqi citizens that caused an international uproar.

“Hopefully” it will be released “very soon,” Jonsdottir said. “But for security reasons we choose not to give the exact time when we expect to publish it.”

“We’ll see what happens,” she said, “but something’s coming soon.”

In a recent e-mail to supporters, Assange said “the Garani massacre, which we are still working on, killed over 100 people, mostly children.”

Jonsdottir said the Icelandic Parliament last night “unanimously” passed legislation that would create an “international safe haven” for national security whistleblowers.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

UN Correspondents'Assoc. has flap with Israel over Flotilla presentation

If this is covered in the press at all it will just be to note Israel's objection to the presentation as being unfair. However as the exchange shows between the group and the Israeli mission, the Israelis were given an opportunity to present their film but only if they agreed to take questions a requirement of such presentations. The Israelis refused. This is from aljazeera.

Flotilla flap at the UN
By Kristen Saloomey in

Israel has engaged in a war of words with the United Nations Correspondents Association which hosted an event during which a passenger on board the Mavi Marmara was allowed to show a video that was shot as Israeli commandoes raided the aid ship.

The Israeli mission to the UN took aim at UNCA in a letter dated June 17. It says Israel was denied the opportunity to present its point of view to UN journalists and demands an apology.

"Offering UN media facilities to screen video produced by a one-sided activist while actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time is severely unethical," Israeli spokesperson Mirit Cohen wrote in her complaint.

Cohen had asked to show a five minute film put together by the IDF right after a screening of footage smuggled out of Israel by Brazilian-American activist Iara Lee.

She told the Israeli press that she was asked to reschedule at the last minute.

But UNCA president, Giampaolo Pioli, fired back.

… It was you who turned down our offer to screen your Israeli film and make your statement directly before or after Ms. Lee's presentation, you who refused to take the stage alongside Ms Lee to present your side of the story, you who declined to take questions from UNCA journalists - a requirement for all UNCA presentations.
Pioli forwarded the following email exchange to UN correspondents.

Email exchange between Pioli and Cohen from June 10:

From Mirit Cohen:
Please find bellow the link to the short film from the IDF spokesperson unit re the events on the Mavi Marmara, which we ask to screen today after the other film. We will make a short statment as well."
Thank you,

Mirit Cohen.

From Giampaolo Pioli:

Dear Mirit

We must show the IDF film after the Q and A with Iara Lee

UN correspondent will attend your event and you will have the same Q and A time.


From Mirit Choen:

That won't going to happen, I'm sorry. It's only five minutes that I insist to screen right after her film as a comment. If you won't allow it the Israeli mission will consider to send a formal letter of complaint to the SG and you should know that the Israeli press going to write about this saga.

Please let me know what you decide.

From Giampaolo Pioli:

Dear Mirit,

Do you think it would work to show your film and make your statement at 10 minutes before 4pm (1550)? we can send out an email now to all UNCA members so that we get back-to-back film showings. The advantage is that you would get the first word.

We would like to repeat our request that you take questions. UNCA members agreed after a problematic climate change event last year that everyone using UNCA as a forum for presentations must take questions. If you do not, that's up to you, but you will get a few questions thrown at you and there's nothing we can do to stop that.

Please let me know asap if you can live with that.



From Mirit Cohen:

Thanks Giampaolo,

But I have to admit that I am exhausted from all this process and we won't take part at this one sided event.

Thank you anyway and I do hope for a better co-operation in the future.


The complaint from the Israeli Spokesperson:

Dear Mr. Pioli,

I write this letter of complaint to officially protest your mishandling of the events surrounding the screening of footage by Ms. Iara Lee on 9 June 2010 at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Offering UN media facilities to screen video produced by a one-sided activist while actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time is severely unethical. In the current circumstances, your decision to ban the Permanent Mission of Israel from offering any feedback or comment during the aforementioned screening ensured that the reporters invited to the event would be offered only part of the story rather than a more complete set of facts so that they themselves could have made an informed analysis of the events in question. Furthermore, the fact that you cancelled the participation of the Permanent Mission of Israel only two hours prior to the commencement of the screening raises grave doubts as to the reasons behind this decision.

I have shared these concerns with you directly, though I believe that the members of the UN Correspondents Association deserve a more comprehensive set of facts regarding the events that took place onboard the Mavi Marmara on 31 May 2010. As such, I have decided to share with the members of UNCA the footage prepared by Israel.

In conclusion, I certainly expect that you will look into the decision that led to Israel’s non-participation in the event on 9 June. Furthermore, I expect an official apology from you and your association regarding this mistake. I – along with fair-minded journalists – expect that you as the President of the United Nations Correspondents Association would exercise responsible journalistic practices and demonstrate a commitment to balanced and objective news.

Thank you for attention to this unfortunate matter.


Mirit Cohen

Spokesperson, Mission of Israel to the UN

UNCA's response:

Dear Ms Cohen,

Your letter of protest came as a surprise to members of the United Nations Correspondents Association. It is factually incorrect and distorts the exchanges that took place on June 10 (not June 9) between UNCA and your mission.

Contrary to your claim, at no time were we "actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time" to the screening of footage by Ms. Iara Lee at United Nations Headquarters in New York. You know very well that that's not what happened. Even more preposterous is your insinuation that we have some kind of ulterior motive: “(T)he fact that you cancelled the participation of the Permanent Mission of Israel only two hours prior to the commencement of the screening raises grave doubts as to the reasons behind this decision."

Instead it was you who turned down our offer to screen your Israeli film and make your statement directly before or after Ms. Lee's presentation, you who refused to take the stage alongside Ms. Lee to present your side of the story, you who declined to take questions from UNCA journalists - a requirement for all UNCA presentations.

What was your reason for turning down our offers? You were tired out by our discussions during which you raised your voice with me and rejected all of our proposals for how you could participate. As you put it in your email: "I have to admit that I am exhausted from all this process and we won't take part at this one sided event." (see our email exchange below).

UNCA sees no reason to apologise. UNCA Executive Committee members behaved fairly and professionally, offering both sides the chance to present their version of what happened on May 31. We wanted a balanced event but you were not willing to take part in one. Your approach to our organisation was both undignified and unprofessional. If anyone is owed an apology it is the United Nations Correspondents Association.

We hope to have better co-operation in the future based on mutual respect.


Giampaolo Pioli

UNCA President

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eric Prince puts Blackwater (Xe) up for sale.

Eric Prince has always been annoyed by the bad publicity that his firm has gained. He claims that performance does not count in Washington just politics. While Blackwater was for the most part successful in protecting its clients it did so in a way that could hardly be called a good performance. It was involved in killing innocent people and managed to make it and to some degree the U.S. an object of hatred in the areas it works. At the same time it often charged outrageous prices. As a result it is subject to lawsuits, criminal investigations and a tide of negative publicity. Some performance. In fact only Prince's Pentagon connections probably has saved the firm this long. So Prince is right that politics rather than performance counts. But finally the connections are being disconnected so Prince might as well sell before it gets worse. This is from the NYTimes.

Founder Puts Blackwater Security Firm Up for Sale

WASHINGTON — Burdened by lawsuits, criminal investigations and negative publicity stemming from its private security work in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blackwater Worldwide is being put up for sale, the company has announced.

Times Topic: Blackwater Worldwide
Blackwater, which changed its name to Xe Services and brought in new management last year in order to remake its image, is pursuing a sale in part because that overhaul has failed to change perceptions of the company, most critically inside government, which is its main customer.

Erik Prince, the former member of the Navy Seals and heir to an automotive fortune who founded Blackwater, said in a statement given to The Associated Press late Monday that making the decision to sell the company was difficult, but that he no longer wanted to deal with the intense criticism the business has faced.

“Performance doesn’t matter in Washington, just politics,” Mr. Prince said.

A separate statement from the company’s headquarters, in Moyock, N.C., said, “Xe’s new management team has made significant changes and improvements to the company over the last 15 months, which have enabled the company to better serve the U.S. government and other customers, and will deliver additional value to a purchaser.”

In March, Xe Services sold its aviation division, Presidential Airways, to the AAR Corporation, which is based in Illinois. Among the company’s largest remaining assets is the 7,000-acre compound it operates at its headquarters, which includes shooting ranges, driving courses and other facilities for military and law enforcement training.

The effort to sell the company comes in the wake of intense legal scrutiny of its past management.

In April, five former Blackwater executives, including its past president, Gary Jackson, who had served as Mr. Prince’s most trusted lieutenant, were indicted on federal weapons charges. Separately, the Justice Department has opened an inquiry into whether Blackwater officials sought to bribe Iraqi government officials in order to continue to operate in Iraq after a 2007 shooting involving Blackwater guards in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed. Manslaughter charges brought against five of the guards were dismissed last year, but the Justice Department is appealing the decision.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Noam Chomsky on Israel and the Gaza Flotilla Attack

Chomsky as usual is his usual truculent self when it comes to Israel. Although he himself he is Jewish he has been a consistent caustic critic of Israeli policy. He is so hated and feared it seems that he was not allowed in to Israel to give a speech.
Chomsky gives a bit of history noting that the boardings are not new but have been ongoing and tolerated by the U.S. and Europe. As to the issue of Hamas rockets and stopping them Chomsky points out that there was a truce and Hamas wanted to extend it but Israel would not agree. This is from CommonDreams.

Noam Chomsky on Israel and the Gaza Flotilla Attack: "Sheer Criminal Aggression, with no Credible Pretext"
CHICAGO, Illinois - June 2 - Professor Noam Chomsky, renowned foreign policy analyst and bestselling author of Hegemony and Survival and most recently of Hopes and Prospects (Haymarket Books) offered the following statement to Egypt's Al-Ahram regarding Israel's justification for it's attack on humanitarian aid boats headed for Gaza and the broader context regarding the economic blockade which the activists aboard the ships were attempting to break. Chomsky, who is Jewish, was recently detained at the Israeli border and barred from entering the West Bank for a planned speaking engagement, provoking an international debate, and outrage over the issue of free speech in Israel.

Hijacking boats in international waters and killing passengers is, of course, a serious crime. The editors of the London Guardian are quite right to say that "If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a Nato taskforce would today be heading for the Somali coast." It is worth bearing in mind that the crime is nothing new.
For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats in international waters between Cyprus and Lebanon, killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes bringing them to prisons in Israel including secret prison/torture chambers, sometimes holding them as hostages for many years.

Israel assumes that it can carry out such crimes with impunity because the US tolerates them and Europe generally follows the US lead.
Much the same is true of Israel's pretext for its latest crime: that the Freedom Flotilla was bringing materials that could be used for bunkers for rockets. Putting aside the absurdity, if Israel were interested in stopping Hamas rockets it knows exactly how to proceed: accept Hamas offers for a cease-fire. In June 2008, Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire agreement. The Israeli government formally acknowledges that until Israel broke the agreeement on November 4, invading Gaza and killing half a dozen Hamas activists, Hamas did not fire a single rocket. Hamas offered to renew the cease-fire. The Israeli cabinet considered the offer and rejected it, preferring to launch its murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead on December 27. Evidently, there is no justification for the use of force "in self-defense" unless peaceful means have been exhausted. In this case they were not even tried, although—or perhaps because—there was every reason to suppose that they would succeed. Operation Cast Lead is therefore sheer criminal aggression, with no credible pretext, and the same is true of Israel's current resort to force.

The siege of Gaza itself does not have the slightest credible pretext. It was imposed by the US and Israel in January 2006 to punish Palestinians because they voted "the wrong way" in a free election, and it was sharply intensified in July 2007 when Hamas blocked a US-Israeli attempt to overthrow the elected government in a military coup, installing Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan. The siege is savage and cruel, designed to keep the caged animals barely alive so as to fend off international protest, but hardly more than that. It is the latest stage of long-standing Israeli plans, backed by the US, to separate Gaza from the West Bank.

These are only the bare outlines of very ugly policies, in which Egypt is complicit as well.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Israel and the Tacitus Principle

This is a long detailed blow by blow critique of Israel's defense of its actions against the Freedom Flotilla. As the lead paragraph points out Israel depends upon audacity to defend itself once its crime has been exposed. This is from this site.

The Tacitus Principle: How Israel and its Apologists Defend the Indefensible

If there is one piece of ancient wisdom that has never lost even a bit of its validity over the centuries, it is Cornelius Tacitus' axiom that, “Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” Indeed, this appears to be the underlying principle of the US-Israeli PR campaign that has been launched in the wake of the almost universally condemned Israeli commando raid on the unarmed Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which carried aid to the Gaza Strip in an effort to break the siege that has strangled the 1.5 million people there since 2007.

The facts of the attack are fairly uncontroversial. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla consists of several multinational, civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid for the population of the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege in some form or other since 1991, a siege that was tightened to the point of denying basic humanitarian supplies after the elected Hamas government defeated a US-Israeli coup attempt led by Muhammad Dahlan in 2007. The ships were inspected before leaving port, and found to contain only humanitarian aid, much of it medical and reconstruction supplies banned under the US-Israeli embargo.

On 31 May, in international waters, Israeli warships and helicopters surrounded the flotilla, and executed a late-night commando raid on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, killing at least 16 people (a figure that has been revised in subsequent reports without explanation or comment to 9 dead) and wounding at least 30, according to Israeli news reports that were broadcast before Israeli military censors issued a gag order preventing further reporting.

According to a 28 May Maariv article found by Max Blumenthal, this raid was premeditated, having been planned “detail by detail” as much as a week in advance. Everything aboard the ship, including footage of the Israeli attack shot by journalists travelling with the flotilla, has been confiscated. Only a few of the passengers abducted by the Israeli Navy were initially released; the majority were held incommunicado until 2 June, and denied access to lawyers and the media.
How to Lie With Sources:
Terrorist Charities and Bogus “Intelligence Reports”

Israel and its apologists have used the head start given them by the military gag order to propound a rather different version. For the purposes of this article, I will rely primarily on the fairly typical sampling that can be found in two press releases of the Israeli PR outfit The Israel Project (courtesy of Doug Henwood):

The first of these press releases – New Ship Headed for Gaza despite Israeli Prohibitions (2 June 2010 – “New Ship…”) – is decorated with a photo of “Anti-Israel activist Rachel Corrie” burning what is supposed to be an American flag. While one might rightly ask why it matters that a young woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during a non-violent attempt to prevent a house demolition seven years ago apparently burned a US flag sometime prior to that, this question is never squarely addressed. The idea, it seems, is to use innuendos about the “illegal flotilla” and unsupported assertions about the “global jihadi ties” of those on board (who even named one of their ships after a known flag burner!) in hopes that the buzzwords used will cause readers to suspend the operation of whatever critical faculties they have.

Having thus set the stage, New Ship… informs us that the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was, suspiciously enough, “filled with hundreds of Turks”. These flag burner-loving Turks, with their “global jihadi ties”, we learn, carried out a “pre-meditated [sic] attack” on Israeli soldiers who boarded their ship.

Although at least four of the nine activists who died [of natural causes, of course] on the Mavi Marmara May 31 are thought to be Turkish nationals, Israel has not yet released the names and nationalities of those killed in the clash. The Turkish ship was backed by the Insani Yardim Vakfi - “humanitarian relief fund”), or IHH, an Islamist Turkish group. The incident occurred after Israeli Navy personnel attempted to stop the ship from illegally entering Gaza and were attacked by the self-described human rights activists with knives, clubs and other weapons. About 400 of the 700 people participating in the six-vessel flotilla were Turks.
The passengers on the Turkish boat, are “self-described” human rights activists, more than half of whom, the press release once again makes a point of emphasising, were from Turkey (presumably out of fear that the Turks might do to Gaza what they did to Germany – i.e., rebuild it), and backed by the “Islamist Turkish group” İnsanı Yardım Vakfı (Humanitarian Relief Fund or IHH). To support its claim that the IHH is an Islamist group, New Ship... cites to a 1 June Washington Post article, which has only the following to say about the IHH:

Flotilla organizers, from the Turkish nongovernmental organization IHH, or Humanitarian Relief Fund, said they were transporting 6,000 tons of cement, more than 2,000 tons of iron, 100 prefabricated houses, 500 wheelchairs, medical equipment, wood and glass for building, electric generators and food.
Real bad dudes, clearly. It bears repeating that this is the only reference to the IHH in the article, which does not even assert, let alone prove, that the IHH is an “Islamist group”. While this might give a critical reader cause to question the honesty of New Ship... as a whole, the press release was not written for critical readers.

Later on in New Ship..., additional sources are cited for the claim that:

In 2006, a study conducted by the Danish Institute for International Studies showed that the IHH was involved in planning an al-Qaeda attack againstLos [sic] Angeles International Airport in 1999. The IHH reportedly acquired forged documents, enlisted operatives and delivered weapons to al-Qaeda in preparation for the attack, which was ultimately foiled.

The Danish study also cites a French intelligence report which stated that in the mid-1990s the IHH sent a number of operatives into war zones in Muslim countries to get combat experience. The report said that the IHH transferred money and “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.

Strangely enough, New Ship… does not link to the Danish study, which is available online, but to a page on the website of the Israeli Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, headed up by Col. (ret.) Reuven Erlich, which describes itself as "an NGO dedicated to the memory of the fallen of the Israeli intelligence community”. The page, which is replete with assertions and devoid of direct quotes or anything else in the way of substantiation, also does not link to the Danish study, though it does provide an image of the title page and of part of a paragraph from the relevant section (without reproducing the source citations). Those interested can find the report at: (page 15)

The evidence for the claim that the IHH was “involved in planning an Al-Qaeda attack againstLos Angeles [sic] International Airport in 1999” is that a French magistrate by the name of Bruguière “testified that IHH had played ‘[a]n important role’” in the plot.

The ”French intelligence report” supporting the remainder of the claim turns out to be a motion filed in a French court: “Requisitoire [sic] Definitifaux [sic] aux Fins de Non-Lieu. De Non-Lieu partiel. De Requalification [sic]. De Renvoi devant le Tribunal Correctionnel, de mantien [sic] sous Controle [sic] Judiciaiare [sic] et de maintien en Detention [sic]” (Final Motion Concerning Dismissal, Partial Dismissal, Reclassification, Remand to the Criminal Court, Continued Judicial Supervision, and Continued Detention). This is, it bears emphasising, the only source cited for these claims in the Danish think tank’s report.

In other words, apart from grossly falsifying a press report, the press release cites the website of a think tank connected to the Israeli intelligence community, which itself cites no sources except for a Danish think tank’s report that bases the claims on an unsupported assertion by a French judge and moving papers filed in court, which the press release helpfully misrepresents as an “intelligence report”. QED.

To further bolster claims that those aboard the aid flotilla were dangerous terrorists, the Israel Project reports that:
a number of flotilla activists discussed the possibility they might die and become “martyrs” in the course of attempting to reachGaza [sic] in their vessels before they had even set out. The organizers held a press conference in the Turkish city of Antalya before the flotilla sailed, tasking all the participants to write their wills before departing. Walid Al-Tabtabai, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, was among those who wrote a will before leaving on the flotilla.

Similarly, in its follow-up press release, European Officials Rushed to Judgment and Condemned Israel’s Attempts to Stop Illegal Flotilla (3 June 2010), the Israel Project claims that Turkish passenger
Benginin told his family just before joining the flotilla: "I am going to be a shahid; I dreamt I will become a shahid – I saw in a dream that I will be killed." And Iritilmis reportedly told a friend before departure, “He was devoted to this activity, and always dreamt about becoming a shahid,”

translating the Turkish expression şehit düşmek (to be killed) as “to become a shahid”, presumably for maximum effect. In other words, then, the damning evidence is that some people on board the flotilla were concerned that they might not survive an encounter with the Israeli Navy.

Perhaps sensing that even its target audience will not immediately grasp the horrors that might ensue if the people of the Gaza Strip were allowed access to concrete, New Ship... helpfully adds that “Hamas [the elected government] has in the past used [concrete] to build bunkers” like those one finds in Sderot, leading, presumably, to an untenable “bunker gap”. Even assuming this is true, one might be forgiven for doubting that there is anything particularly nefarious about building air-raid shelters in an area that has been subjected to extensive aerial bombardment.
How to Lie with Sources II:
“This Was Not a Love Boat – This Was a Boat of Hatred”

In a further effort at creating the impression that the humanitarian nature of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is pretextual, New Ship... selectively quotes from a 2 June article in the right-wing Jerusalem Post to the effect that:
In the meantime, Iran-backed Hamas on Wednesday (June 2) was preventing Israel from delivering humanitarian aid from the flotilla toGaza [sic]. Israel dispatched eight truckloads of the aid to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza on June 1 after the ships were escorted to the port city of Ashdod. Said a Hamas official, "We refuse to receive the humanitarian aid until all those who were detained aboard the ships are released."

The authors of New Ship…, apologists for “US-backed Israel”, might have mentioned that the unnamed official of democratically-elected Hamas (whose name and title, Minister of Social Welfare Ahmed Al-Kurd, are quoted in the JP article, but suppressed in New Ship…) is further quoted in the very same JP article as saying:
"We also insist that the equipment be delivered in its entirety."

Kurd said that Israel's decision to allow a number of wheelchairs to be delivered to the Gaza Strip was a "deception," claiming that the batteries that operate them had been removed, making them useless.

Clearly, this press release is not meant to be taken seriously.

This all comes to a crescendo with a quote from none other than US-backed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who considers the flotilla an “unprecedent attack of hypocrisy”, because "The purpose of the flotilla wasn’t to enter [sic] goods to Gaza – which we allow anyway, on a daily basis – the purpose was to break the naval blockade.” The purpose of the blockade, the indignant Netanyahu proclaimed, is to “stop weapons from entering Gaza”. Amira Hass of the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz helpfully provides examples of the sort of dangerous ordnance the blockade keeps out:
The Defense Ministry is refusing - on security grounds, it says - to reveal why Israel prohibits the import into the Gaza Strip of items such as cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, french fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks empty flowerpots and toys, while allowing cinnamon, plastic buckets and combs.
One might object that it is hardly hypocritical to launch a flotilla for the purpose of breaking the naval blockade when that has in fact been the stated purpose of the flotilla all along, but it seems reasonable to defer to Netanyahu’s expertise in the field of hypocrisy.
“We are of course sorry for the lost [sic] of lives,” Netanyahu goes on, “but our soldiers were in life danger and were defending themselves from being lynched.”
It is worthwhile at this point to remember what “lynching” actually is. An exhibit currently touring the US, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, provides us with examples:
(1) Bennie Simmons, or Dennis Simmons, accused of the murder of sixteen-year old Susie Church, was taken from prison guards in Anadarko, Oklahoma. His killers led him to a nearby bridge and hanged him from the limb of a cottonwood tree flourishing by a stream."

The Negro prayed and shrieked in agony as the flames reached his flesh," reported a local newspaper, "but his cries were drowned out by yells and jeers of the mob." As Simmons began to lose consciousness the mob fired at the body, cutting it to pieces. " The mobsters made no attempt to conceal their identity," remarked the Enfaula Democrat, "but there were no prosecutions."

(2) Tampa had built a flourishing cigar manufacturing industry by providing liberal incentives to manufacturers. The unionizing of workers and the violence erupting from strikes threatened the town's economy. Two Italian immigrants were accused of union sympathy and of shooting J. F. Esterling, a bookkeeper for the West Tampa cigar factory. City fathers were alarmed that an "American" would be subjected to attack. While the "conspicuous" immigrants, neither one of which was recognized previously as strikers, were being taken to a safer jail in a horse-drawn hack, a mob separated them from a suspiciously modest guard consisting of one deputy sheriff and fireman. The mob fled in automobiles, a luxury afforded by only the elite in Tampa, which suggested that they were "men with boiled shirts, high collars, diamonds, and kid gloves."

Conspicuously absent from these accounts is any reference to the victims being highly trained, armed special-forces operatives executing a late-night raid. Indeed, it seems that the hallmark of a lynching is that the victim is unarmed, alone, and completely helpless, and usually ends up burnt at the stake or hung from a tree amidst much merrymaking.

Quite apart from the absurdity of using the term “lynch” to describe alleged “attacks” on special forces soldiers raiding a civilian vessel, there is something distinctly sickening about this appropriation of one of the signal atrocities of modern African American history. One wonders how Netanyahu or his many spokespersons and media flacks would react if one of the Mavi Marmara passengers were to refer to the Israeli raid as a “pogrom”.
An Arsenal Rivalled Only by Bob Vila
The Israeli military have since made a major media production of the “weapons" discovered on board the ship as part of the “pre-meditated [sic] attack” on those defenceless commandos.

The “weapons” recovered include “metal rods, slingshots, knives, smoke torches, wrenches, electric saws, gas masks, and molotov [sic] cocktails”. The photographs do not show the “smoke torches” or Molotov cocktails, and what the IDF claims are slingshots are photographed in such a way that it is not actually particularly clear what they are. Gas masks, of course, are not weapons at all. They are breathing apparatus used in environments with contaminated air (and thanks to the Israeli destruction of the main sewage treatment plant, there is plenty of that in Gaza). Flares are standard safety equipment on any ship (for SOS signalling if radio communication is impossible), and are indeed often required in order to obtain a certificate of seaworthiness.

The remainder are children’s toys, kitchen utensils, and run-of-the-mill tools that one will find in any well-equipped home.

When examining these photos, it is important to keep in mind that we are forced to take the IDF's word on them. We have no independent information whatever on this matter. The Israeli military have had unfettered, uncontrolled, unmonitored access to the ships, and have not only a strong interest in finding something to create the perception that their attack was justified but also a track record of lying about these matters.

The same caveats apply to the videos released by the IDF. The first thing worth noting is that none of them is longer than approximately 20 seconds. More importantly, the time stamps have either been obscured or removed altogether, making it impossible to establish a chronology based on them. In one, which the IDF claims was somehow “censored” from the Mavi Marvara’s live satellite feed, we see nothing but what appears to be a fight in a room someplace (how one censors a satellite feed in real time during an armed attack is anyone’s guess). Nothing in the video allows the viewer to determine when or where the footage was shot – we have to take Israel’s word for it.

The other videos are shot in infrared at such a great distance that the people appear to be small dots or vague silhouettes. It is impossible to tell who’s who, let alone what anyone is doing. This is tacitly acknowledged by the fact that the IDF has placed captions by some of the dots, explaining what these particular dots were supposed to be doing. Without them, there would be no way of knowing at all – again, we have to take their word for it. Again, there is not a single identifying detail visible in these videos – we see a large boat and the silhouette of a helicopter, but no markings. These, too, could have been shot anywhere and at any time (or, given the image quality, created as part of a first-year computer graphics course).

Footage of the killings of the activists on board is, of course, conspicuously absent from this heavily edited collection of cinematic vignettes, which might even have been shot during IDF exercises preparing for the raid given the lack of identifying detail and the absence of timestamps from the majority of the footage.

Further doubt is cast on this version by another Jerusalem Post article, dateline 4 June 2010, which relies entirely on unnamed Israeli military sources, including two anonymous members of the Israeli elite unit who claim to have been involved in the raid on the Mavi Marmara. The new version put forth in the article, a significant escalation of prior claims, appears to have been issued in response to the interviews with survivors of the Israeli attack that are now readily available. The article reads like an IDF press release, with no non-IDF sources quoted and no questions whatever raised about the statements reported.

In this version, the attacking Israeli commandos were “attacked” by “mercenaries”, a description the JP uncritically accepts on the basis that it is the terminology used by the IDF.

The article drips with admiration for the “well-built”, “soft-spoken” anonymous IDF soldier, who basis his claim that those on board the Mavi Marmara were “without a doubt terrorists” on the fact that he could see “the murderous rage in their eyes”. This is a particularly impressive diagnostic feat given that the IDF claims that “all the mercenaries wore gas masks”.

An Israeli officer allegedly involved in the raid, identified only as “T.” “fills in the blanks” left by the account of S. (a true disciple of Marcus Aurelius who is “stingy with words”) as follows:

T. said he realized the group they were facing was well-trained and likely ex-military after the commandos threw a number of stun grenades and fired warning shots before rappelling down onto the deck. “They didn’t even flinch,” he said. “Regular people would move.”

If this is true, the IDF is holding out on us. The available footage, far from showing people who “didn’t even flinch”, looks like a free-for-all, with people milling about in all directions. All of the "evidence” that those on board the Mavi Marmara were “mercenaries” or “terrorists” is of basically the same character. Of note, however, is T.’s admission that the attacking commandos were firing (“warning shots”, allegedly) before they even boarded the ship.

Similarly absent from the footage made available is anything to confirm that “The attackers [sic] had already seized two pistols from the commandos, and fired repeatedly at them." The JP also uncritically reports the suspicions of the Israeli military that “the group did have some guns of its own”, but does not see fit to point out that this contradicts prior versions (which claimed, at the most, that guns were “stolen” from the attacking commandos) and is based solely on the result of an investigation by unnamed IDF “forensic experts” that has irreparably tainted the scene (it is not for nothing that suspects are generally not allowed unsupervised access to crime scenes).

S. is reportedly being considered for a "medal of valor” for the “remarkable job” he did.

Meanwhile, post mortems performed in Turkey showed that five of those killed on the Mavi Marmara were shot in the head, one from point-blank range. “One casualty, a 19-year-old dual national Turkish-American citizen named Furkan Dogan, was found to have bullet wounds in his head and multiple bullets in his body, [medical examiner Haluk] Ince said.”

In the eyes of the insufficiently reverent, evidence like might help to explain why S. “does not look like a hero”, in the words of the JP article.

The “Illegal” Flotilla

Before addressing the legal issues, let us return to the undisputed facts:

The Gaza flotilla was in international waters en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, when it was surrounded by the Israeli Navy. The Israeli military then proceeded to carry out an armed attack on at least one of the ships with the equivalent of US Navy SEALS, who boarded the Mavi Marmara by force and proceeded to kill sixteen passengers and injure over thirty. The flotilla was then hijacked and taken to Israeli territory, where the abducted passengers and crews were held incommunicado.

New Ship… repeatedly describes the flotilla as “illegal”, because it "violate[d] Israeli law” to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip. This claim puts Israel and its apologists in a rather awkward position. The official Israeli position, rejected by all international organisations and international law specialists, is that Gaza is not occupied, although Israel retains effective control over Gaza by land, sea, and air, has cut off all direct contact with the outside world, attacks the territory at will, and is exploiting natural gas deposits found in Gaza’s coastal waters. Even more importantly, Gaza is not a separate political entity; it is part of what in international law is referred to in the singular as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, which includes the indisputably occupied West Bank. As such, the specific modality of Israeli control does not matter. The Gaza Strip is part of the territory that has been under Israeli occupation since June 1967.

If Gaza is not occupied, however, how does Israeli law apply to Gaza, which is not a part of Israel? This argument ultimately serves only to point up Israel’s duplicity over the (long since resolved) issue of whether it is occupying Gaza (it is).

More importantly, both the Fourth Geneva Convention (art. 64) and the Fourth Hague Convention (art. 43) prohibit an occupying power imposing its laws on the occupied territory, and no state may apply its domestic laws to a foreign ship in international waters.

Another tack that Israel’s apologists have taken is to quote selectively from official naval warfare manuals, such as the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea. As the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) points out on its web page dedicated to this Manual, “[t]he Manual is not a binding document. In view of the extent of uncertainty in the law, the experts decided that it was premature to embark on diplomatic negotiations to draft a treaty on the subject.” In other words, the Manual is what is known in law as a “restatement”, a helpful summary of generally accepted principles and commentary that does not, itself, have force of law.

While less patently ridiculous than the argument that Israeli law has any applicability on the high seas or the Gaza Strip, the naval warfare manuals are what is known in international humanitarian law as jus in bello, i.e., provisions applicable to how warfare is to be conducted. As such, they presume that warfare has already been found to be lawful in a specific case. This bootstrapping argument assumes a matter that must first be proven.

A blockade is, uncontroversially, an act of war. As such, it falls within the general prohibition on the use or threat of military force set forth in Art. 2(3) and (4) of the UN Charter:
3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
The UN Charter (Art. 51) provides one exception to this general prohibition, which is at the core of modern international law: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Accordingly, acts of war are presumptively illegal. The burden to establish their legitimacy is always on the state asserting a right to use or threaten military force. In order to carry this burden, states must prove that they have exhausted peaceful means (or that no peaceful means are available).

Thus, the first question is: Is Israel under armed attack? The only thing that could potentially be considered an armed attack within the meaning of Art. 51 are the attacks with crude, homemade rockets emanating from Gaza, which have, between 2001 and 2008, altogether claimed fewer lives within Israel (16) than an average month’s traffic fatalities (37 based on 2008 figures). Thus, for our purposes, Israel can be considered to be under armed attack, ineffectual as it is.

The next question is: Are peaceful means available? This, too, must be answered in the affirmative. One obvious option would be to end the occupation altogether, in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 242 and decades of General Assembly resolutions near-unanimously (US, Israel, and the odd Pacific atoll opposed) affirming that Palestinians are entitled to full sovereignty over all territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and calling for a “just solution” to the refugee problem, based on the legal principle that refugees are entitled to return to their homes or seek compensation, at their option. In other words, the first peaceful means that should be considered is for Israel to cease defying international law and the consistently expressed demands of virtually the entire world.

Some may object at this point that this might be too much legality for the delicate, unwritten Israeli constitution. Are there any other peaceful options available to Israel – short of living up to all of its legal obligations – to achieve its stated aim of ending the rocket attacks?

Again, the answer is: Yes. Prior to the Israeli “Cast Lead” massacre of Winter 2008-2009, Hamas had agreed to a cease fire with Israel. Despite Israel’s refusal to observe the ceasefire (it kept the siege in place – an act of war), rocket attacks from Gaza all but stopped from 19 June 2008 (when the ceasefire took effect) until 4 Nov 2008, when Israel violated the ceasefire with a deadly attack deep inside the Gaza strip. Nonetheless, the elected Hamas government remained willing to offer Israel a ten-year ceasefire even after Israel had killed 1,400 overwhelmingly unarmed people and laid waste to the Gaza Strip in a month-long massacre.

In other words, far from exhausting peaceful means that have proven successful in the past, Israel has steadfastly refused to consider such means at all. Accordingly, Israel can claim no legal right to impose a blockade of any kind on the Gaza Strip, let alone one that specifically targets foodstuffs, school supplies, and materials desperately needed in order to repair the devastation wrought during Israel’s 2008-2009 rampage.

Because Israel can claim no legal right to impose a blockade on the Palestinians of Gaza, moreover, the US-backed Likud-Israel Beitenu regime in Israel (to use one of the preferred grammatical constructions of the Israel Project press releases) certainly cannot assert a right to enforce such a blockade on third parties. This is particularly true in light of Israel’s duty under Art. 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to "facilitate [relief actions] by all the means at its disposal" and to "permit the free passage of [relief] consignments and [...] guarantee their protection," a duty, it is worth noting, that would apply even if Israel could lawfully impose a blockade.

Let us return, then, to the undisputed facts. In order to enforce a blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israeli special forces carried out a late-night raid on an unarmed, civilian humanitarian relief convoy in international waters that sought free passage to territory Israel occupies. It is alleged that those on board the Turkish Mavi Marmara resisted this armed attack using whatever materials were available (most of which can be found in any proper kitchen, tool shed, or garage in the world). Approximately sixteen passengers were killed by the Israeli attackers (though current press reports have reduced the figure – without explanation or comment – to nine), and the remainder were taken, by force, to Israeli territory and held there incommunicado.

As we have seen, Israel has no legal justification either for its blockade or for the attack on the Mavi Marmara, let alone for hijacking the convoy on the high seas (which constitutes an act of war against the countries whose flags the ships were flying).

But what of the alleged “lynching” of the armed Israeli special forces soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara? Leaving aside the patently offensive and absurd term, this act patently constitutes an armed attack – on a civilian vessel, no less – within the meaning of Art. 51 of the UN Charter. Because of the immediacy of the threat, Turkey (and, indeed, any NATO state under the "collective self-defence" variant in conjunction with Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Charter) would have been entitled to use proportionate force – e.g., by dispatching a warship – to defend the vessel. Barring that, those on board would have been entitled to respond to the Israeli attack using the same weapons that the Israeli troops carried.

In other words, even if we accept as fact the Israeli account of a “lynching” of soldiers who boarded a civilian vessel by force, all this would mean is that those on board the Mavi Marmara used substantially inferior means to ward off (unsuccessfully) an armed, illegal attack on their ship that killed their comrades.

In short, the official US-Israeli line does not hold up to even elementary scrutiny. The central claims either cannot be proven or are directly contradicted by the evidence adduced to “substantiate” them. One could be shocked by the contempt that these propagandists show for their intended audience (the media), if it were not so clearly justified.


Facebook loses more users in Europe last quarter but is growing elsewhere

Facebook finds its user base had gone down in Europe the company reported as it announced its third-quarter earnings. This is the second qu...