Monday, July 31, 2006

US - ISRAELI UN RESOLUTION HYPOCRISY

US - Israeli UN Resolution Hypocrisy - by Stephen Lendman

Two nations stand out above all others as notorious serial abusers of UN resolutions - the US and Israel. Over the last half century, the US has used its Security Council veto many dozens of times to prevent any resolutions from passing condemning Israel for its abusive or hostile actions or that were inimical to Israeli interests. It's also voted against dozens of others overwhelmingly supported by the rest of the world in the UN General Assembly. By its actions and with 6% of the world's population, the US has thus arrogantly ignored the will of nearly all the other 94% to support its client state even when Israel had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity the rest of the world demanded it be held to account for. In the words of one UK observer using a baseball analogy: "Only the USA could have a World Series and not invite the rest of the world."

The Israeli record on UN resolutions over that same period is far worse. With full US support for its actions, it's flagrantly and with little or no pretense routinely ignored over five dozen UN Resolutions condemning or censuring it for its actions against the Palestinians or other Arab people, deploring it for committing them, or demanding, calling on or urging the Jewish state to end them. Israel never did or intends to up to the present, including the mass slaughter and destruction it's now inflicting on the people of Lebanon and the Palestinians in their Territories that Israel illegally occupies and attacks whenever it wishes. It does so with impunity using any contrived pretext it can get away with to deny the Palestinians any chance ever for a viable sovereign independent state and to avoid a political solution with them it won't ever tolerate.

UN Resolutions As Examples of US and Israeli Hypocrisy

Consider now three UN Resolutions as examples of gross hypocrisy - one Israel and its US paymaster and benefactor support and two others both countries do not so they ignore them. In September, 2004, the Security Council passed UN Resolution 1559, cosponsored by the US and France, that called on Syria to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon and stop intervening in the Lebanese political process. It also demanded all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias (aimed mainly at Hezbollah, of course) disarm and disband (meaning surrender). Following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in February, 2005, Syria bowed to international pressure and complied fully with the resolution by April. In so doing, it ended its 29 year occupation of the part of the country it controlled which excluded the rest in the South under Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) control that Israel maintained after its invasion of Southern Lebanon in 1978 and again in 1982. Hezbollah's military resistance wing did not comply. Had it done so, it would have left itself and the Shia third of the Lebanese population dependent on it defenseless against the Israelis. The Lebanese government and its small and weak security forces had no power to force Hezbollah's compliance and were unable to do it.

Hezbollah was born out of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the oppressive occupation that followed. It's a popular resistance movement, much like and in the same spirit as the French Resistance freedom fighters the Nazis called terrorists, formed to resist their illegal occupiers and expel them. Ever since, it's continued as an effective resistance force against the Israelis that finally withdrew from Lebanon in May, 2000 but maintained its occupation of the 25 square kilometer area of South Lebanon known as Shebaa Farms it never relinquished after seizing it in the 1967 war. Hezbollah, the Lebanese people and its government demand Israel give it back as well as cease its frequent hostile cross-border incursions, unjustifiable abductions, repeated violations of the country's airspace as well as end its current brutal assault and invasion of their country once again. To continue being an effective resistance force, Hezbollah remained armed, has every right to do so in its own self-defense whatever resolutions the UN passes, and will continue resisting Israeli oppression until it ends. It's now doing it against a vastly superior IDF invasion force in South Lebanon far more effectively than the Israeli government is willing to admit.

Now consider UN Resolutions 465 and 476. The Security Council unanimously adopted UN Resolution 465 in March, 1980 that addressed Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights. Among other provisions in it, it condemned Israel's policy of "setting parts of its population and new Immigrants in those territories (and said doing so constituted) a flagrant violation of the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East." It called on the government of Israel to "dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease....the establishment, construction and planning of (new) settlements in the Arab territories since 1967, including Jerusalem."

In the last 26 years, Israel has flagrantly violated this resolution and still continues to build new settlements illegally in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The US supports and funds the Israeli government enabling it to do it, and the UN and world community have taken no action to bring Israel into compliance which it could do by imposing sanctions severe enough to force Israel to stop new settlement construction, dismantle the existing ones and make restitution to the Palestinians and Syrians for the harm caused them.

The Security Council also passed Resolution 476 in June, 1980. Like Resolution 465, it, too, reaffirms the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories ongoing since the 1967 war. It went on to condemn Israel for its continued refusal to do it or to comply with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions demanding it does. It repeated provisions detailed in Resolution 465 and reaffirmed its determination in the event of Israeli non-compliance to examine practical ways to get it to do so. Israel never complied, and the UN never took action to see that it did. Also, by its reinvasion of Lebanon now and its unending occupation of the Shebaa Farms area it's held since 1967, Israel is also in violation of UN resolution 425 and nine additional ones demanding the withdrawal of its forces from South Lebanon. The net effect of UN action - many relevant and high-sounding words and speeches amounting to nothing, at least when it concerns Israel.

The Hypocrisy of the US Congress

Now consider a further gross hypocrisy. On July 20, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly 410 - 8 to unconditionally endorse Israel's illegal aggression against the Palestinians and people of Lebanon. Earlier in the week, the US Senate passed a similar resolution by voice vote, but added a worthless and outrageous clause that "urges all sides to protect innocent civilian life and infrastructure." The House version showed no such disingenuous delicacy, and in language Orwell would love, actually praised Israel for "minimizing civilian loss" ignoring the obvious evidence to the contrary.

Along with its arrogance, the Congressional resolution violated the UN Charter by unjustifiably claiming Israel has the right of self-defense guaranteed it under Article 51 and thus has just cause to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure and kill innocent civilians to do it. Once again, Orwell would approve. These House and Senate resolutions are compelling evidence of both parties' unconditional support for Israel whatever it does. They also show the Bush administration's utter contempt for all international laws and norms and its unconditional endorsement of Israel when it violates them as it did so egregiously in its outrageous attack on a civilian target in Qana on July 30 killing 60 or more innocent men, women and at least 37 children.

The Congressional resolution also unjustifiably accused, and by implication condemned, Lebanon for failing to observe UN Resolution 1559 by not disbanding and disarming Hezbollah and allowing it instead to amass thousands of rockets and other weapons. It also criticized the legitimate integration of Hezbollah into the Lebanese government where it's represented by 11 democratically elected lawmakers in the Parliament and two ministers in the country's cabinet. The Congressional resolution ignores the fact that UN Resolution 1559 calls only for Hezbollah's armed militia to be disarmed and disbanded, regardless of how unreasonable that demand is.

For Lebanon's failure to enforce UN Resolution 1559, including provisions not even in it, the US Congress, in effect, gave Israel its approval to destroy the country and kill many hundreds of its people. At the same time, Israel never complied with UN Resolutions 465 and 476 demanding it withdraw from the Occupied Territories and Golan Heights it holds illegally, UN Resolution 425 and nine others making the same demand it remove its forces from all Lebanese territory, and all the dozens of other UN resolutions Israel routinely violates or disregards.

The US Congress, UN, world leaders and most Arab states remain committed to Israel overtly or tacitly. They've done it despite Israel's many violations including the crime of aggression in its ongoing brutal assaults on Lebanon and the Occupied Territories that it falsely and disingenuously claims to be a justifiable response to the capture (not kidnapping) of three of its soldiers, a minor provocation at most. At the same time, the Congress and world leaders remain silent refusing to condemn Israel for its failure to comply with UN Resolutions 465, 476, 425, nine similar ones. and all the other UN resolutions against it for the past half century.

The message is clear. When it comes to the UN, the US runs the show, and no substantive or significant action can be taken with teeth unless it approves - especially when it applies to Israel, in part, because of the power of the Israeli lobby in the US. Also, all actions of a valued US client state are quite acceptable, even when they violate the UN Charter and international law, so long as they serve Washington's interests. Israel's illegal aggression in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories clearly do. In spite of it, the US, as de facto ruler of the world, has given the Israelis carte blanche to run amuck and commit the supreme war crime with impunity. In the kind of world Orwell understood, Israel's mass killing and destruction is in the US's imperial interest, especially in the strategically important Middle East where oil is central to all else, so its scorched-earth policy is quite acceptable and may go on unabated and end only when the two allies decide to stop it. It doesn't matter what the law is or that the innocent are paying the supreme price for its violation.

Peacekeeping Hypocrisy

A brief word about still more hypocrisy. The US, UK and Israel have called for a robust international military force (Israel appears to want a NATO run one) to serve as "peacekeepers" in South Lebanon once Israel ceases its aggression and allows it to come in. No one is considering the wishes of Hezbollah, the people of South Lebanon it serves or the Lebanese government. Only Israel and its US and UK allies are to be allowed to decide or whatever other countries Israel is willing to allow in the decision-making loop. It's also undiscussed publicly what Israel really has in mind, how oppressive the Christian South Lebanon Army (SLA) was when it acted as Israel's occupying enforcer after 1978 or how ineffective the current UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been since it was first put in place in 1978 and never succeeded in establishing peace or security.

So what's really going on? After just days on the ground inside Lebanon, the IDF is finding the going very rough. It's already admitted to taking significant losses with dozens of its soldiers killed and hundreds more injured in intense fighting with a determined and resilient Hezbollah force as committed now to expelling an invading Israeli force as it was in the 1980s and 1990s when it succeeded in doing it. Clearly the IDF is struggling and taking more losses than it's willing to continue sustaining. So it wants instead to have a proxy army it can control come into South Lebanon, again act as its enforcers, engage Hezbollah in confrontation if necessary and have it do its killing and dying for it. Will Hezbollah and the people of South Lebanon now allow it in when they were unwilling to accept their SLA and UNIFIL occupiers in the past? Not a chance, Israel and the US know it, and yet both countries are going through the charade of trying to convince the world, the Lebanese people throughout the country, and its government that they will. Once the fighting ends, the IDF likely will withdraw and an occupying force acceptable to Israel will move in to serve in its place. It will be as unwelcome as the others that preceded it and eventually it will be driven out. But before it is, many more will die and suffer, and the long struggle of the Lebanese people and Palestinians as well in the Occupied Territories will go on unresolved.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

THE CRIME OF LEBANON AND PALESTINE - ARE IRAN AND SYRIA NEXT? - PART II

The Crime of Lebanon and Palestine - Are Iran and Syria Next?: Part II - by Stephen Lendman

On July 26, Aljazeerah reported a story headlined - "Israeli invasion of Lebanon planned by neocons in June (2006)." It was done at a June 17 and 18 meeting at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado at which former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky met with US Vice President Dick Cheney. The purpose was to discuss the planned and impending Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invasions of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. Cheney was thoroughly briefed and approved the coming assaults - before Hamas' capture of an IDF soldier on June 25 or Hezbollah's capturing of two others in an exchange first reported as occurring in Israel and now believed to have happened inside Lebanon after IDF forces illegally entered the country.

Following the Colorado meeting, Netanyahu returned to Israel for a special "Ex-Prime Ministers" meeting in which he conveyed the message of US support to carry out the "Clean Break" policy officially ending all past peace accords including Oslo. At the meeting in Israel in addition to Binyamin Netanyahu were current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres.

Aljazeerah also reported that after the Colorado AEI conference Natan Sharansky met with the right wing Heritage Foundation in Washington and then attended a June 29 seminar at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia sponsored by the Middle East Forum led by US Israeli hawk Daniel Pipes. Sharansky appeared there with Republican Senator Rick Santorum who on July 20 was hawkishly advocating war against Syria, Iran, and "Islamo-fascism" in an inflamatory speech at the National Press Club attended by a cheering section of supporters composed of members of the neocon Israel Project, on whose Board Santorum serves along with Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and Virginia Republican Representative Tom Davis.

Aljazeerah reported further that in a published interview in the Spanish newspaper ABC on July 23, Syrian Information Minister Moshen Bilal warned Israel that his country would enter the Lebanon conflict if Israel launched a major incursion into the country. He said: "If Israel makes a land entry into Lebanon, they can get to within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of Damascus. What will we do? Stand by with our arms folded? Absolutely not. Without any doubt Syria will intervene in the conflict." Bilal said his country wanted above all a ceasefire "as soon as possible" combined with a prisoner exchange and explained he was working with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos with whom he had met in Madrid. Bilal also criticized the US saying it was "unjustifiable (that) the superpower is not working for a rapid ceasefire." He rejected claims by Washington that
Syria had armed Hezbollah (which contradicted an earlier admission by the Syrian defense minister that his country did supply some arms to Hezbollah), saying it offered "moral support" but not financing for "any resistance."

The Aljazeerah report also cited the work of former intelligence officer and now author/writer James Bamford who wrote about "going after Syria (and then Iran) in accordance with the 'A Clean Break' war for Israel agenda" in his book A Pretext for War published in 2004 which concentrated on the abuse of the US's intelligence agencies to invent reasons to attack Iraq. If Bamford is right, Syria may soon be drawn into this conflict, and if so, will Iran be next?

Another Report Believes the "War With Iran is On"

Iran may indeed be next (and Syria too) according to UK political scientist, human rights activist and writer Nafeez Ahmed in an article published in OpEd News on July 23 titled: "UK Govt Sources Confirm War With Iran Is On." In it, Ahmed writes: "In the last few days, I learned from a credible and informed source that a former senior Labour government Minister, who continues to be well-connected to British military and security officials, confirms that Britain and the United States 'will go to war with Iran before the end of the year.' "

Ahmed goes on to say that in similar fashion to the lead-up to the March, 2003 Iraq invasion, current war plans may change and the scheduled time for it be begin may be postponed. But he quoted Vice President Dick Cheney in an MSNBC interview over a year ago saying Iran is "right at the top of the list (of) rogue states (and) Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel (so) Israel might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards." What the Vice President claimed the Iranians said was false (the Iranian president was deliberately misquoted), and he neglected to mention the immediate mass death and destruction that would result from this "act," and the resulting calamity from destroying commercial nuclear reactor and facilities sites that would spread devastating irremediable toxic radiation over a vast area making those territories uninhabitable forever and eventually killing an unknown number of people living there from the cancers and other diseases they will eventually contract from the deadly contamination.

Ahmed goes on to discount the possibility of Israel taking the lead in an assault against Iran saying it prefers to be a "regional proxy force in a US-led campaign." And he reports that writer Seymour Hersh quotes a former high-level US intelligence official saying that despite the increasing disaster in Iraq, overall "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah-we've got four years, and we want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism." Hersh has been on and off in what his sources are telling him about the likelihood of war with Iran so it may be uncertain what conclusion he now has as of this article's publication. But whatever it is, it's clear it can change in an instant as things in the Middle East are so fluid.

Nafeez's article also reported an analysis of the Monterey Institute for International Studies on the likely consequences of a war against Iran in which, if it happens, the US said it would use "bunker-buster mini-nukes." The language is deceptive as these are powerful nuclear bombs. The Institute painted the dire possibility that an extended conflict with Iran could catastrophically spin out of control with irreversible consequences for the global political economy. It would affect energy security, relations with other nations like China and Russia concerned about their own access to energy supplies in the region, and the US "dollar-economy" that would be under pressure, greatly harmed and even potentially threatened with collapse.

If this scenario is possible, why then would US, UK, Israeli, and other Western leaders who see what's going on, be willing to take the risk? Ahmed states what a growing number of knowledgeable observers now believe - that the Western, mainly US, so-called neoliberal imperial freewheeling "free-market" model is failing and may collapse short of a desperate "Hail Mary" military solution to try to save it even though the chance for success at best would be uncertain and in some views unlikely. And if it fails, the result may be an unimaginable social, political and economic calamity.

The fate of the corrupted neoliberal model may be what's now at stake. That model is already unraveling in Latin America where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is proving his alternate Bolivarian participatory democracy is overwhelmingly popular and working. It's based on a government serving the people by providing essential social services, especially to the poor and desperate ones most in need of it. Chavez's success has made him a symbol of hope and a hero in the region and beyond, it's allowed his form of governance to spread to Bolivia, and there's every reason to imagine and hope it will continue spreading unstoppably because people in other Latin countries are beginning to fight for it. It's all greatly alarmed the ruling authority in Washington that views Chavez as the threat it most fears, even above Iran - a powerful good example that will spread unless the US acts forcibly to stop it, which clearly is its plan.

Apparently though, with the conflict raging in the Middle East, including in Iraq, the US attention is focused there as well as on the upcoming mid-term elections in which Republicans fear they will lose their control of the Congress because of their geopolitical failures that have turned the public against them. Politicians never accept defeat without a determined fight to prevent it including assuming the added risk of expanding an already out-of-control conflict in the Middle East to one or more countries in it hoping to convince a doubting public it's only being done to protect our national security. Up to now, an unknowledgeable and naive public has bought the story, and with enough effective packaging of a new contrived Iranian and Syrian threat, likely may do it again. If it happens, the potential calamitous consequences may be enormous and unimaginable, and the likely disaster will only be worse if Iran is attacked with nuclear weapons. The world, indeed, is holding its collective breath with no clear idea yet what may unfold or what will result if the worst happens - a nuclear terror-war against Iran.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 24, 2006

THE CRIME OF LEBANON AND PALESTINE - ARE IRAN AND SYRIA NEXT?

The Crime of Lebanon and Palestine - Are Iran and Syria Next? - by Stephen Lendman

By any interpretation of international law, Israel today is committing massive and egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity against the defenseless people of Palestine and Lebanon. It's doing it with the full support and encouragement of the US and willful compliance of the West, most of the Arab world, the UN and the dominant corporate media worldwide acting as cheerleaders for the mass killing, crippling destruction, and immiseration of innocent civilians in Lebanon and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Israel falsely claims its duel assaults are in response to Hamas' capture of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier near Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah, on June 25 and Hezbollah's cross-border incursion on July 12, killing eight IDF soldiers in the exchange that followed and taking two others prisoner.

The three soldiers were captured, not "kidnapped" as falsely reported. But nearly 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians were forcibly abducted, are now held in indefinite detention in Israeli prisons, many administratively without charge, and are grievously abused or tortured according to Amnesty International and B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights monitoring group. Amnesty, in fact, reported in 1998: "By Israel's own admission, Lebanese detainees are being held as 'bargaining chips;' they are not detained for their own actions but in exchange for Israeli soldiers missing in action or killed in Lebanon (during the Israeli occupation there). Most have now spent 10 years in secret and isolated detention (and many are still there or have been replaced by other abductees)." The "civilized world" rails about the three IDF prisoners of war, yet is unconcerned about 10,000 Arab victims because they're Muslims, not white enough, and no criticism of Israel is allowed or tolerated publicly for whatever it does. Still, no nation claimed it had a right to declare war on Israel to free its prisoners unjustifiably held nor would the world community tolerate it if one did.

But that's just what Israel did and is getting away with it with the full support of the US and world community. Clearly the events of June 25 and July 12 in no way justify Israel's right to wage all out retaliatory war, and in doing it Israel is grievously violating international laws and norms. Nonetheless, it's known Israel planned to wage them long before it got the pretexts to do it. Both "wars" were planned well in advance, Israel intended to wage them all along and only needed an excuse to do it in each case. Had not Hamas and Hezbollah obliged (insignificant as their provocations were), Israel would have "manufactured" pretexts as it's done in the past to execute the plans it had in mind. The result since has been the mass suffering and death of innocent men, women and children (in numbers far greater than reported as they always are) who always pay the greatest price when conflicts begin.

But that's part of Israel's plan as their strategy is always to deliberately inflict great pain on the civilian population of its targets hoping the people affected will blame their ruling authorities for it and turn against them. In Palestine and Lebanon that means Hamas and Hezbollah that Israel intends making every effort to destroy. The strategy never worked before, and it won't now as evidenced by how events are now unfolding. Instead of turning the people in the Occupied Territories and South Lebanon against Hamas and Hezbollah, both these authorities are gaining support in response to Israel's extreme and unjustifiable reign of terror that eventually will come back to haunt it and its US ally as it always does.

Israel's Plan Is to Wage a Scorched-Earth Reign of Terror Similar to What the US Is Doing in Iraq

Israel responded quickly and overwhelmingly to the Hamas and Hezbollah provocations. It initiated "Operation Summer Rain" against Hamas and the Palestinians and "Operation Change of Direction" against Hezbollah and the people of Lebanon. Both IDF assaults continue unabated so far through intensive attacks from the air and on the ground.

It's not the purpose of this article to document the carnage inflicted thus far in each conflict area. It's been brutal, unrelenting and excessive involving suspected use of illegal weapons including chemical agents, depleted uranium (DU) munitions that will leave deadly irremediable toxic radiation forever over the areas struck and beyond, and white phosphorous bombs and shells, known as Willy Pete, that burn flesh to the bone and can't be extinguished by water that only makes it worse when used. The IDF is also reportedly testing in real time some new terror weapons, possibly for the first time. One of them is a thermobaric bomb reported being used freely across Lebanon. This bomb contains polymer-bonded or solid fuel-air explosives in its payload. It also has a fuse munition unit (FMU) used on the nose of Israeli artillery shells able to penetrate buildings, underground shelters and tunnels creating such a blast pressure that all the oxygen is sucked out from the spaces and the lungs of anyone in the vicinity. The Lebanese, and likely the Palestinians as well, are their lab rats with consequences to them too horrible to imagine.

Much of this is being well covered daily with graphic pictures of destroyed bodies (including of young children) in the alternative media online, in print, on Aljazeera and in other independent media sources uncorrupted by their governments or corporate affiliations. Sadly, as usual, it's impossible to have any understanding of what's going on or why through the US corporate media, so-called US National Public Radio and TV that have sunk as low as Fox News in their corrupted one-sidedness, and the "vaunted" and "venerable" BBC that's about as bad. As it always is, especially in time of war, the first casualty is truth that's being suppressed in the mainstream and replaced with Israel and US-friendly propaganda.

Nonetheless, those seeking alternative sources of news and information to learn and understand the truth know that Israel's response to two minor incursions against it has been disproportionate in the extreme. But it's part of Israel's long-standing strategy to provoke conflict deliberately, to get the PLO in the past and Hamas and Hezbollah today to respond, falsely label them "terrorists" for doing it, and then claim a justifiable right to strike back with brute force in "self-defense" that's, in fact, an act of aggression. It's always done to avoid a political solution with them which Israel has no intention of accommodating ever. In executing its current plan, the IDF has now maliciously and willfully attacked innocent civilians in Palestine and Lebanon and created a humanitarian disaster in both countries. The world response to these atrocities has been tepid, shameless and disgraceful, and hundreds of thousands of defenseless people are paying a dreadful price as a consequence. Israel is being allowed and even encouraged to get away with murder and mass destruction, and most world governments through their acquiescence are, de facto, willing co-conspirators. As a result, nothing is being done to help the innocent victims whose suffering continues daily with no letup.

Israel's assaults on the Occupied Territories and Lebanon were planned well in advance with the full knowledge and approval of the US. It was reported earlier this year in Israel's Maariv daily that the events now underway in Gaza and the West Bank were in the works for months. It was explained in an interview the paper did with IDF Southern Command General Yoav Galant, responsible for Gaza, who said that "we (Israel) have a plan to (re) occupy the Strip" (and) "We are in advanced states of preparing forces for readiness" to do it in response to "increased (Palestinian) attacks." Another IDF official confirmed what the general said and added that the IDF completed its training to reenter Gaza and informed its soldiers to prepare and be ready for orders to move in. Neither the general or other IDF official explained, however, that the Palestinian "attacks" were with crude weapons and only in response to Israel's daily assaults against them with the most sophisticated weapons the IDF has other than its nuclear ones.

The story in Lebanon is very similar and the predictable outcome from Hezbollah's justifiable responses to Israeli instigated intermittent conflict, cross-border incursions, freewheeling abductions, and repeated violations of the country's airspace. It's brought us to where we are now and Israel's plan and intent to destroy Hezbollah as a political entity as well as the military strength it's built up since the IDF withdrew from South Lebanon six years ago.

Hezbollah publicly admitted receiving military aid from Iran and Syria in the Arab press, and the Syrian defense minister confirmed his country helped supply some of it. This was just reported on July 21 by Matthew Kallman of the San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service - a most unexpected venue. Kallman quotes Israeli professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University who said: "In a sense, the preparation (for the Lebanon assault) began in May, 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board." The professor forgot to mention that Hezbollah attacks were justifiable and in response to frequent Israeli cross-border ones against them, the Lebanese people and the Palestinians, as explained above. It's called self-defense, but not by the Western media or this Israeli professor.

Kallman reported further that over a year ago a senior Israeli IDF officer (unidentified) began giving "PowerPoint presentations" off the record to US and other officials and unnamed journalists and think tanks explaining the plan now underway "in revealing detail." The officer described a three week campaign to destroy Hezbollah's "long-range missiles," rocket launchers and weapons stores, its command and control centers, and disrupt transportation and communication in the country. He said IDF ground forces in large numbers would then invade Southern Lebanon in the third week of the campaign to destroy targets identified through reconnaissance but not to remain on a long-term basis. It turned out the IDF did it after 10 days and are now in the south of the country.

Kallman also quoted Eran Lerman, a former colonel in IDF intelligence who said the Israeli military debated how to accomplish what it's now undertaken. There were two sides. "One is the air power school of thought, the other is the land-borne option......the air force concept is very methodical....and slower to get results. A ground invasion that sweeps Hezbollah in front of you is quicker, but at a much higher cost in human life and requiring the creation of a presence on the ground." Moshe Marzuk, former head of the Lebanon desk for Israeli Military Intelligence, added "Israel has learned from past conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.....that a traditional military campaign (on the ground) would be counter-effective. A big invasion is not suitable here. We are not fighting an army, but guerrillas.....If we are to be on the ground at all, we need to use commandos and special forces." So far, the script outlined above is playing out about as planned. But Kallman was also told what any military observer knows well. The best of plans don't always work out as intended which the daily Haaretz military analyst, Daniel Ben-Simon, indicated when he said: "I have no idea how this movie is going to end."

No one does, but it's the purpose of this article to address why these operations were undertaken, what Israel and its US ally hope to achieve by them, and what may follow next, hard as that may be to know. Still, it's important to try as the danger of an expanded conflict is possible with untold consequences should it happen.

Israel's Intent and Goals and Those of Its US Ally

The US is always fully aware well in advance of any significant operation Israel intends to undertake. As that small but powerful nation's paymaster and benefactor, Israel wouldn't dare under most circumstances not keep its most valued ally fully in the loop and most concerned about having its full compliance. That's rarely ever a problem though as both nations share a common interest in the Middle East. For Israel it's primarily security against potentially hostile neighbors, its intent to assure pro-Israeli regimes in the region, and its ability to expand its undeclared borders beyond where they now are to wherever it's able to do it and get away with it. Israel already controls the choicest parts of the West Bank, the Syrian Golan Heights it captured in the 1967 war and never returned, and the 25 square kilometer Shebaa Farms area of South Lebanon it never relinquished after seizing it as well in the 1967 war. It's maintained its occupation of both areas after the end of hostilities with Syria nearly 40 years ago and its withdrawal from Lebanon in May, 2000, 22 years after it first invaded this defenseless country.

Like Israel, the US also has a clear interest in the Middle East that's elementary to a grade schooler with any intelligence. The region has about half the world's acknowledged oil reserves and for over half a century has been viewed by US officials as a treasure of almost unimaginable strategic and economic value. That view has prevailed at least since the historic meeting on the USS Quincy in early 1945 near the end of WW II between Franklin Roosevelt and Saudi King ibn Saud to begin a relationship that would later assure US access to Saudi oil and the beginning of its dominance in the region in return for this country's agreeing to provide security for the monarchy.

Ever since, the US has pursued a policy to establish and support client states in the region and to conduct hostile covert actions or wage war to install them in nations important enough like Iraq where they didn't exist. Despite our rhetoric concerning the Middle East or anywhere else, this country has no interest whatever in removing dictators or establishing democracies. It's only interest everywhere, but especially in countries with great strategic importance, is to have in place client states run by leaders subservient to US wishes and aims. Independent-minded leaders like Saddam, the Iranian Mullahs and President Mahmoud Armadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and three-time democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, beloved by the great majority of his people, are prime targets for regime-changing removal by force if necessary - only because they chose to run their countries independently of US authority. Imperial powers like the US never tolerate that.

Israel's well-planned actions against Hamas and the Palestinians and Hezbollah and the people of Lebanon are part of the same regime-changing strategy. In the Occupied Territories it's to destroy Hamas as an independent-minded political entity and replace it with a compliant one like Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas willing to serve Israel's interests and not those of the Palestinian people. In South Lebanon, it's essentially the same thing - to destroy Hezbollah as a political and resistance force, remove its resilient threat to Israeli hegemony in the region, and replace it with an Israel-friendly Lebanese government in full control of the country.

The Evolution of Israeli-Hamas Relations

Israel wasn't always hostile to Hamas it now views as an enemy it intends to destroy. In the 1980s, the Israeli government lent it support to check the growing authority and legitimacy of the PLO that had suspended retaliatory attacks and wanted to pursue a political solution with Israel that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir at the time explained Israelis would never agree to and, in fact, said he went to war with Lebanon in 1982 to prevent. But once established, Hamas rose in prominence largely due to its well organized and effective social service network that provides such essential services as food assistance, health care, education, daycare and other charitable aid to Palestinians in great need of them. But Hamas also has a military or resistance wing that has engaged in attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in retaliation for Israel's war of attrition against the Palestinian people that's caused decades of immiseration with little relief or outside support to offset it.

Because of that, Israel was horrified when the January, 2006 election didn't turn out the way it thought it had carefully arranged and Hamas won a clear majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Without the larger than life figure of Yasser Arafat to lead it, the Palestinian people finally rejected the dominant Fatah party and its post-Oslo history of corruption and subservience to Israeli authority. From the start, it was clear Israel had a single aim - to destroy Hamas as a political entity by any means. The Ehud Olmert led Kadima government planned it, the IDF trained in preparation for it, and it just awaited a convenient pretext to initiate what began on June 25.

The Hezbollah Story

The Hezbollah story is quite similar. It was born out of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the oppressive occupation that followed. Hezbollah was formed to resist the occupation, expel the Israelis, and it remained an effective opposition force to Israel ever since. It's major base of support is in the Southern Lebanon Shiite region and Northern Beka'a valley it controls that's up to one-third of the population. It's also likely supported by the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees in the country who live in overcrowded camps, struggle to achieve their basic needs, have no legal rights, and get no government aid or protection. Hezbollah is also a major political force and is represented by 11 lawmakers in the Lebanese Parliament and has two government ministers in the country's cabinet. But it also maintains a military wing as a needed deterrent to Israeli oppression that up to now has been the only effective force against it in the region. That's why Israel's aim has always been to eliminate Hezbollah and now initiated on July 12 what looks like all out war, the reinvasion of Lebanon that followed on July 22, and possible occupation of the country ahead if it decides that's what's needed to achieve it. It never was able to do it before and likely won't succeed now whatever strategy it follows. But Israel is determined and seems intent to follow the strange and doomed to fail policy of "always wrong but never in doubt." It won't be any different this time, but once again Israel appears to be repeating past mistakes and making its victims pay the harsh price for them.

Throughout Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon in 1980s and 90s that price was severe indeed, but Hezbollah's committed resistance nonetheless finally succeeded in getting the IDF to withdraw from the country in May, 2000. After 22 years of failing to subdue a resilient South Lebanon, it's hard to believe Israel is once again willing to try and in so doing inflict mass death, suffering and destruction on the innocent people throughout this country that are no match for the IDF militarily in a head-on confrontation. But it goes unreported and undiscussed in the mainstream that if Israel really wanted to end retaliatory attacks against its territory and people, the easy sure way to do it is to stop provoking the Palestinians and Hezbollah by attacking them first. The fact that it hasn't done it shows it won't and doesn't want to because in a state of peace and calm it would be unable to avoid the political solution it never intends to negotiate in good faith.

Israel instead prefers to continue the policy it began against Lebanon in 1968 when the IDF conducted terror raids and military aggression against the country that included attacking the Beirut airport and destroying 13 civilian planes on the ground claiming it was in retaliation for an attack by Lebanese trained Palestinians targeting an Israeli airliner in Athens. IDF incursions into Lebanon continued in the 1970s against the PLO including the major invasion into Southern Lebanon, the "Litani River Operation." It was launched in March, 1978 to establish an occupation zone that Israel put the Christian South Lebanon Army (SLA) in place to man when it withdrew its forces weeks later.

But Israel reinvaded the country in June, 1982 in force with intent to stay, remaining until Hezbollah forced it to withdraw in May, 2000. Before it did, however, the IDF managed to kill about 18,000 mostly innocent civilian Lebanese and Palestinians. Yet, despite the carnage, the IDF was unable to destroy Hezbollah which resisted effectively including against Israel's April, 1996 17 day "Operation Grapes of Wrath" that accomplished nothing but more death and destruction. Today, Hezbollah under its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is stronger than ever and is gaining support beyond its Shiite base and near autonomy in the South in response to the Israeli inflicted atrocities committed in the current conflict. It now remains to watch and speculate where this conflict is heading.

The Road from Palestine and Lebanon May Lead to Iran and Syria

The US and Israeli plan may be to escalate the current Palestinian and Lebanese conflicts and extend them to Iran and Syria. It's a real possibility and the most serious threat at this time with all its potentially dreadful consequences. Whether it will or won't happen only high-level insiders in both countries know for certain, and even they may be unsure until the current conflicts play out further. If it's undertaken, this added escalation will have unknown hazards for all involved combined with the increasing out-of-control conflict in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan fast heading in the same direction. At this time, whether the Washington neocons in charge of things, the Pentagon and the Likudnik spin-offs in the Olmert Kadima party are willing to risk going further is anyone's guess.

The Threat to Iran

The future is uncertain, but what is known is that a number of reports circulated earlier this year and in 2005 that the Bush administration signed off on a "shock and awe" nuclear attack against Iran to destroy its entirely legal commercial nuclear program based on the unproved claim Iran is using it to develop and produce nuclear weapons. Among other places this was reported by journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine recently. Hersh went further saying Israel has called Iran a "major threat" that "must be stopped" from developing these weapons. In a subsequent article Hersh then reported these plans are off the table because of strong resistance to them inside the Pentagon. But it's hard to believe this is so given the position of the hard-liners in charge in Washington and Israel determined to pursue regime change in both Iran and Syria and replace the current leaderships there with pro-Western ones who'll dutifully serve their obedient role of subservient client states.

Israel also has long had designs on Iran that have been known at least since October, 2003, when the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the Mossad (the country's intelligence gathering and covert action and counterterrorism agency) had marked six Iranian nuclear facilities as targets for an Israeli pre-emptive air strike. It added that then Israel Prime Minister Aeriel Sharon called Iran "the greatest danger to Israel" and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said "Iran calls for Israel's annihilation (and) We must do our utmost under US guidance to delay or eliminate the prospect of the extremist regime (in Tehran from) securing weapons of this sort." It went on to report "a special unit of Mossad received an order...to prepare a detailed plan to destroy Iran's nuclear sites Mossad believes (have) reached an advanced stage....." The completed Mossad plan was then "delivered to the Israeli Air Force, (to) carry out the strike."

As far as we know, the US is also making plans and has since 2004 been committing hostile acts against Iran by flying unmanned aerial surveillance drones across its airspace and has infiltrated special forces reconnaissance teams secretly into the country "to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic minority groups" according to Seymour Hersh in his reporting. The Iranians are well aware of these activities and are likely doing all they can to thwart or counteract them. They also understand quite well what's at stake for them - that the US and Israel are planning regime change by whatever means they think will work and are using the falsely claimed threat of Iran's perfectly legal commercial nuclear program as the pretext to pursue it. The rest of the world so far seems willing to go along with this duplicitous scheme as well as the dominant corporate media once again dutifully performing their customary cheerleading role of support for whatever operations the US and Israel intend to conduct, legally justified or not. The public as usual is largely in the dark and has no idea what's going on or what's at stake.

Target Syria - Also under Threat

Syria, along with Iran, is also part of the same apparent US - Israeli scheme to escalate the Middle East conflict further. Both countries are Hezbollah allies and, as mentioned above, are known to have provided it arms, something no nation does more of than the US and often to empower unstable, undemocratic regimes that jeopardize global security. But that's portrayed as perfectly acceptable when it's done by the world's only superpower and for whatever reason it has in mind. It's another story, entirely, however, when a smaller nation does it, especially if that country is not a US client state and the arms it supplies goes to a source the US and its allies wish to keep them from, even if their intended use is only for self-defense.

Thus, while there's a vast world arms trade for legal and nefarious purposes the public generally hears little or nothing about, it's another story when the arms suppliers are Iran and Syria, their transactions or aid are quite proper, but the recipients are Hezbollah and Hamas, sworn enemies of the US and Israel. The US claims Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terrorism and says Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist entities. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, just that the US says it is to justify whatever action it and its Israeli ally have in mind. There's now a systematic demonization campaign under way to claim both countries have armed Hezbollah to conduct "unprovoked terror attacks" against Israel and thus provide justifiable cause for Israel and the US to retaliate. Again, truth is not the issue, only what the US and Israel say is true.

Also, in March, 2006 the UN Security Council took the unprecedented step, aimed at Syria, of approving a resolution to establish a hybrid tribunal for a political crime. It will consist of 2 Lebanese and three international judges to try the killers of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri that will allow an international judgment to take precedence over Lebanese law. From the start, the finger of guilt was pointed at Syria, but so far there's been no evidence uncovered to prove it.

But by unjustifiably associating Syria with the Hariri killing and accusing it of supplying Hezbollah with arms for claimed "terror" attacks, the US and Israel have now put the mark of Cain on this nation making it easier to attack it. It's never hard finding a pretext to act when there's enough determination to do it. Both the US and Israel have had lots of practice finding them where they exist or inventing or provoking them when they don't. The recent Iraq "now you see 'em, now you don't" WMDs come to mind as an invented one that destroyed a nation. Iran and Syria are quite aware of this and are doing all they can to ward off a similar fate. Still they know full well, if the US and/or Israel act against them forcibly, they and their people will pay a painful price. And the region will as well if the Arab street explodes as one or two more countries in it go up in flames to further the imperial aims of two rogue terrorist states allowed to go unchecked by a complicit world community hoping to benefit from the scraps left for it in the carnage or too timid to stand up for what's right.

What May Lie Ahead - The Potential Danger Is Great

There's much at stake in the Middle East for both the US and Israel including the very real possibility that the duel Israeli offensives with US support and aid may make an already impossible situation even worse. It also seems strange to some that the most extreme elements in the US administration, Congress and among their influential supporters now appear to see a chance to undo or at least ameliorate the political and military disaster the US has suffered in Iraq and likely one ahead in Afghanistan as that country is rapidly descending into a growing out-of-control conflict as well. The alternative and more sensible view unheard in the mainstream is that two or three wrong decisions don't make a right one. But that's a consideration those in charge in the US and Israel probably never thought of, and it's not the role of their corporate media allies to tell them. Their job is only to report what government officials say.

It's clear at this time of great potential danger, a lot more than that is needed. The Arab street in the region and Muslim one around the world may be ready to explode if two more of its states are attacked by the US and/or Israel with support or compliance of the West and its own leaders. It will be even more likely to happen if nuclear weapons are used which is now planned against Iran to destroy targeted facilities below ground. Whatever the perceived gains may be from this aggressive adventure, the potential dangers of undertaking it seem so daunting and the odds for ultimate success so long, it's hard to understand why any sensible leader would risk taking them. But it's quite possible George Bush and Ehud Olmert intend to try. No one knows how this will play out if they do, but the world now holds its collective breath waiting to find out.

There's no need for breath-holding to know one near-certain outcome of this conflict and another likely one. Just as Hezbollah was born out of the rubble of Lebanon in the 1980s, so too will one or more new resistance groups rise out of Lebanon's carnage today and the daily killing, destruction and intensified immiseration in Palestine. It's a simple law of physics - Newton's Third Law that there's no action without reaction. And it follows that the more extreme the action, the more proportionally similar the reaction. Israel is sure to achieve its goal to incite the continued conflict and violence it needs to avoid the political solution it won't now tolerate. But in the long run, this high risk strategy may prove Israel's undoing as no nation can survive and prosper on conflict and war without end or for just cause. Unless the Jewish state can find a way to coexist peacefully and justly with its Palestinian people and Arab and Persian neighbors and abandon the sure to fail path it's now on, it's very survival is in doubt and so is that of those it targets. Time for more breath-holding. Stay closely tuned.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

DEMOCRACY, MEXICAN STYLE - PART II

Democracy, Mexican Style - Part II - by Stephen Lendman

There's much happening in Mexico in the aftermath of the nation's most contentious election ever, but it began many months before the first vote was cast. The popularity of leftist opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) scared the ruling National Action Party (PAN) enough to get them to try to deny him the right to run for president in the election just concluded. In April, 2005, a commission of four members of the Chamber of Deputies (Mexico's Congress) held there was sufficient cause to suspect Obrador committed a crime when he ordered the construction of a service road to a hospital ignoring a judge's order against doing it. Obrador said he was just widening the road and stopped when he learned of the court order. The full Chamber ignored his explanation and then voted to strip him of his government immunity from prosecution so he could be indicted, have to stand trial and be constitutionally barred from holding or running for high office. The transparent scheme didn't work because the people of Mexico wouldn't tolerate it and turned out in mass street protests to support him.

That mass support succeeded in getting the ruling PAN to back down from its attempt to keep Obrador off the ballot but not in the shoddy campaign tactics they decided to use against him. Because of his popularity, Obrador was a serious candidate who would likely win easily in a fair election. But there's nothing fair about Mexican politics where the notions of dirty tricks and hardball tactics could have been invented. From early on in the campaign, the Mexican corporate media and ruling business-friendly right wing parties attacked Obrador viciously as an evil twin of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, falsely accusing him of receiving campaign funds from the Venezuelan President and being guilty of corruption during his time as mayor of Mexico City. The ads also accused him of being a "danger" for Mexico. In addition, government instigated street violence in an attempt to break a teachers strike in Oaxaca and to disrupt events in San Salvador Atenco created tension, stoked fear and were effectively used as political and PR tools to turn enough of the public against Lopez Obrador to erase his once insurmountable lead in the polls to a slim one on election day - an advantage easily overcome with the shenanigans the ruling party had in mind to use to assure its candidate won.

But Lopez Obrador was lucky PAN officials and their conspiratorial Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) allies didn't intend for him what state officials plotted and pulled off against two other noted state adversaries in the past who paid dearly. General Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican peasant rebel leader who supported agrarian reform and land redistribution in the battles of the Mexican Revolution (a Mexican Simon Bolivar), was assassinated by government troops in 1919. Then in March, 1994, leading opposition candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio met the same fate on the campaign trail in Tijuana. Obrador survived the shabby scheme to keep him off the ballot, was able to run as the opposition candidate, and only paid the price of a defeat at the polls (so far) in an election clearly stolen from him.

At this point Lopez Obrador is not going gentley "into that good night." Given the clear election irregularities, he's demanded the ballot boxes be opened and all votes be recounted manually. He has every right to ask for that and more with what already is known about the fraud committed against him. The preliminary vote totals were manipulated to show PAN candidate Felipe Calderon would be the winner, initially 3 million votes were never counted and only in hindsight 2.5 million of them were added to the totals, 900,000 supposedly void, blank and annulled ballots were declared null, discarded and never included in the official totals, 700,000 additional votes disappeared from missing precincts, thousands of voters were denied their franchise in strong Obrador precincts and much more.

In addition, it was learned that Felipe Calderon's brother-in-law Diego Hildebrando Zavala wrote the vote-counting software, and it's already been hacked. This new discovery is especially disturbing as whoever controls the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) computer systems can manipulate the vote process, control which votes get counted, which ones don't, and what the final vote tally will be. The opportunity and temptation for fraud was therefore in the hands of the declared winner's close family member and ally with every reason to believe he'd take full advantage. Why wouldn't he and the ruling party as well given the history of Mexican elections and the underhanded and hardball tactics the country's entrenched power interests are known to use. They'd never be willing to give up what they've always had an iron grip on and won't if they can get away with their scheme. But the way to stop them is with a full, vote-by-vote independently supervised manual recount and do it before any cast, counted or discared votes are manipulated or destroyed. That's the only antidote for computer fraud as well as to be able to salvage and include in the total as many of the known uncounted and valid discarded votes as possible. It all sounds like Florida, 2000 deja vu all over again, but we know how that one turned out.

Still, Lopez Obrador said he'll contest the election and demand a full recount. If he follows through on his challenge, he'll have to await a ruling by the Electoral Tribunal, known as Trife, which has until September 6 to consider his case. The new president takes office on December 1 so it's possible the electoral challenge will succeed. In the past, Trife has reversed some local elections including one in Obrador's home district of Tabasco in 2000, but it's very unlikely to reverse this one given the overwhelming pressure against it which in Mexico may include real and intimidating physical threats officials take very seriously.

The people of Mexico may have other ideas though. As many as 500,000 Obrador supporters (the corporate media lied and reported 100,000) held a mass protest demonstration against the announced election outcome in Mexico City's huge Zocalo plaza on July 8 to demand a full recount. The huge crowd chanted "No to fraud," and "You're not alone," as Lopez Obrador announced plans for a "national march for democracy" to begin on July 12 in each of Mexico's 300 election districts, converging in Mexico City on July 16, again in the Zocalo. He also accused President Fox of violating Mexican law that stipulates a president can't endorse or campaign for a candidate which the PAN did by running government sponsored advertisements touting its achievements. He went on to call President Fox a "traitor to democracy" and said the "stability of the nation" is at risk if a full vote recount isn't taken. Mr. Obrador also told an assembled news conference "I am going to defend our victory. This isn't over." The people of Mexico who support him certainly hope so.

The July 2 elections were also to elect members of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies. According to the official IFE count on July 7, the PAN won 206 of the 500 seats, followed by For the Good of All coalition consisting of the PRD and smaller Workers Party (PT) and Convergence Party with 160 seats. The Alliance for Mexico comprised of the PRI and small Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM) won 121 seats. An incomplete final count in the Senate projected the PAN with 53 seats, 38 for the PRI coalition, 36 for the PRD coalition and 1 for PANAL.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 07, 2006

DEMOCRACY, MEXICAN STYLE

Democracy, Mexican Style - by Stephen Lendman

What do these presidential elections all have in common: Mexico, 1988, US, 2000, US, 2004, Colombia and Peru, 2006 and the just concluded Mexican election on July 2? In each case, the outcome was "arranged" and known in advance before voters went to the polls. They're what economist and media and social critic Edward Herman calls "Demonstration Elections" - the characterization and title he gave his 1980s book analyzing and documenting sham elections in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Vietnam. Professor Herman is an expert, and although his book was written over 20 years ago, it's clear little has changed except for the added sophistication gained since then in the ability of officials to make elections turn out the way they wish. The same fraud occurs in many countries, and Professor Herman might have included many others besides the ones he chose but had he done so he'd have had to have written a book with no end.

Elections that only appear democratic happen throughout the developing world wherever the US has a strategic interest, which these days means everywhere. But they also happen in at least some developed countries, most notably the last two US presidential elections. We know it thanks to the superb investigative work of UK based journalist Greg Palast who analyzed those elections and documented how each was stolen in his important new book Armed Madhouse. Palast went on to state his belief that based on information he's uncovered the plans are now in place to steal the 2008 US presidential election, and he explains how it'll be done. It's in his new book, reviewed in detail and can be read at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

With this sort of "democracy" in America, what could we expect south of the border where longtime Mexico observer and writer John Ross says the fine art of election theft was perfected. It certainly was in evidence on July 2 as that election just completed with final results announced on July 6 looked just like the one held there in 1988 when Cuauhtemoc Cardinas (son of the country's last leftist president from 1932 - 38) ran against the US choice Carlos Salinas of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that dominated Mexican politics as a virtual dictatorship for over 70 years until it lost the 2000 presidential election to current President Vincente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). Both these parties represent wealth and power so it's of little consequence to the US which of them runs the Mexican political system.

In 1988, Salinas was declared the winner with 51% of the vote in an election Cardenas clearly won. To achieve victory, the PRI never counted the votes from thousands of voting stations, stole and burned the contents of selected ballot boxes, falsified voter tally sheets and falsely claimed computers tabulating votes had crashed and couldn't be restored for 10 days following the election by which time Salinas was declared the winner. Following the announcement, few people believed it, and hundreds of Cardenas' supporters were killed in political violence opposing it in street protests over the next few years.

At this time, there's no way to know what will happen next following the just-announced final vote count. After the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) reported the final count on July 6 showing ruling PAN candidate Felipe Calderon with a small but insurmountable lead, opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) rejected the official count as "flawed." He called on his supporters to take to the streets in a mass show of strength on July 8 in both Mexico City's historic central square as well as around the country to protest the announced result and demand a ballot-by-ballot recount. At present, with 99.91% of votes counted, Calderon was said to have 35.87% of the votes to Obrador's 35.32%. But with the ruling authority in charge of the vote count, a miss, as they say, is as good as a mile, and that one-half percent difference is more than enough to likely assure another election theft.

Why? In claiming he won the Sunday election, Lopez Obrador cited many clear irregularities including manipulating preliminary vote totals, initially never counting 3 millions votes and then in hindsight only counting 2.5 million of them, ignoring 900,000 supposed void, blank and annulled ballots declared null, discarded and never included in the official totals, also never counting over 700,000 additional votes from missing precincts, denying the right to vote to many voters in strong Obrador precincts, and much more. As a result, Obrador announced "We have decided to challenge the election process and to ask the Electoral Court of the judicial branch of the federation for a recount of the votes because we cannot accept the results" officially announced by the IFE. Obrador said he will ask that the ballot boxes be opened and all votes be recounted. Campaign advisor Federico Arreola added "Building a democracy has cost a lot in this country and we are not going to give it up easily. There is no reason for Lopez Obrador to back out or defend a system that he doesn't belong to." He might have also added there's no reason to accept an election result contrary to the voice of the Mexican people that no doubt will show they spoke for Mr. Obrador as their president and not Felipe Calderon if an honest tabulation of votes is made.

The procedure going forward now is that the Federal Electoral Institute will submit the final vote count to the Electoral Tribunal for approval on Sunday, July 9. Lopez Obrador then has four days to present his case for a recount. The Tribunal, known as Trife, then has until September 6 to issue a ruling. The new president takes office on December 1 so it's possible the electoral challenge could change the result as now known. Trife has in the past reversed some local elections, but it's very unlikely it will reverse this one given the overwhelming pressure on it which in Mexico may include real and intimidating physical threats officials take seriously based on past history. Also, according to Mexico expert George Grayson of the US College of William & Mary, Virginia, the rules for the Tribunal's decision are vague - "It's going to be somewhat like the US election in 2000, where you have the Supreme Court justices voting without clear guidelines." If Grayson is right, look for lots of commotion and probable violence ahead but in the end the people of Mexico will again be denied their democratic right to elect the president of their choice - just the way it now is in the US. So much for democracy. In Mexico it's democracy, Mexican style which is the same way it works for their dominant northern neighbor - none at all.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

IT'S TIME TO END THE "LAST TABOO" AND HOLD ISRAEL ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS ACTIONS

It's Time to End the "Last Taboo" and Hold Israel Accountable for Its Actions - by Stephen Lendman

The "Last Taboo" was the title of eminent Palestinian-born writer, scholar and activist Edward Said's essay written shortly before his death in September, 2003. It was also the title of distinguished author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger's chapter about Palestine in his important new book Freedom Next Time that's reviewed and can be read at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Said explained his title in what he wrote: "The extermination of the Native Americans can be admitted, the morality of Hiroshima attacked, the national flag (of the US) publicly committed to flames. But the systematic continuity of Israel's 52-year oppression and maltreatment of the Palestinians is virtually unmentionable, a narrative that has no permission to appear." It appeared boldly and courageously in Pilger's book, and it's long past time for it be prominent in the mainstream as well to finally expose Israeli crimes and demand they end. It's especially important now as Israel just began an intensive military assault against the defenseless people of Gaza, which, before it ends, may result in many deaths, great destruction of property and an overwhelming humanitarian disaster even beyond the one already existing in The Occupied Territories.

Few people anywhere have suffered more or longer than the beleaguered Palestinians. For nearly four decades they've lived under a harsh and unending Israeli occupation of their land. They've endured a continued assault to seize it, a loss of their personal and economic rights and a denial of any chance for justice or their very humanity. These courageous people remain isolated in their own land with little support from the outside. Yet it's never broken their spirit as they continue their heroic efforts to survive and struggle to gain their freedom.

The Israeli Assault on Gaza

This article documents events in besieged and now reoccupied Gaza since the Palestinians responded to continued Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) attacks against them by striking at an Israeli military post near Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah, on June 25 killing two IDF soldiers, injuring several others and capturing a third. The Israeli response was swift and deadly but has not yet been unleashed fully as the IDF decides when to enter Gaza full force to launch an assault against the defenseless people there already under seige. The Palestinian strike followed a series of bloody June Israeli attacks on Gaza including the widely reported beach shelling that killed 8 Palestinians and injured 32 others including 13 children. The Israelis admitted shelling the beach but denied responsibility for the deaths. They falsely claimed a Palestinian planted mine killed the civilians there despite the forensic evidence clearly proving otherwise. The corporate media reported the Israeli version of events but ignored the evidence refuting it preventing the public from knowing the truth. It also never reported that the so-called Israeli Gaza withdrawal of its 8,500 settlers in 21 settlements last August wasn't that at all. That staged media event was little more than the resettlement of Gaza's Jewish residents to new homes in Israel proper and the West Bank on other seized Palestinian land. Furthermore, the IDF didn't withdraw. It merely redeployed away from the settlements it was guarding to new positions on the border. Gaza continued to be under de facto occupation and sealed off whenever the IDF wished, as it's now done, and along with the West Bank remains one of the world's two largest open air prisons.

The Palestinian June 25 raid was its response to continued IDF daily attacks against Gaza throughout June that killed about 30 people, injured many more and caused much destruction of property. Following the incident, the IDF launched "Operation Summer Rain" that included closing all border crossings, sealing off the territory to restrict movement in and out including humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine, and surrounding the territory awaiting orders to launch a major assault which it's now begun. The IDF has also stepped up its artillery shelling that has gone on continually for months. It's been firing 200 - 300 or more shells per day into northern Gaza, many close to civilian homes. It's also launched round the clock air attacks with F16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships firing air-to-surface missiles and dropping one-ton bombs on civilian facilities; it's conducting mock air raids; and it's aircraft are breaking the sound barrier over Gaza at low altitudes deliberately inflicting eardrum shattering and terrifying sonic booms against the helpless people.

In addition, air strikes destroyed the three main bridges in the Gaza Valley cutting off the northern part of the Strip from its center and southern parts, preventing vital transportation from moving normally to provide essential needs to the people. The bombardment also destroyed the main pipe providing water for the Nusairat and al-Boreij refugee camps and knocked out the Strip's only electricity generation plant cutting off power for 80% of the population and preventing water pumps and sanitation facilities from operating. These actions increase the likelihood of a growing humanitarian crisis becoming worse with food shipments, medical supplies and other essentials cut off which may lead to starvation and a major health disaster. They're also a form of collective punishment against Gaza's civilian population which is a violation of international law according to the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Israel now and in the past has routinely ignored this Convention, including article 33 under it that prohibits reprisals against protected persons and their property. The world community so far has yet to take notice or speak out against what's ongoing other than weak-kneed and disingenuous calls by world leaders and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for both sides to show restraint. It's hard finding the right words to respond properly to such an outrageous statement, what little else has been said, and most importantly to what hasn't been but should be.

Israeli warships also went further committing a hostile act by entering Syrian airspace and buzzing President Bashar al-Assad's home in Latakia in a deliberately provocative act before being intercepted and forced to turn back. This illegal incursion reflects Israel's continued hostility toward Syria's leadership which it accuses of harboring and supporting Hamas leaders the IDF has targeted for assassination. It may signal further Israeli action to come, with the Bush administration's full support, against a government both countries see as an enemy. An ominous sign of such potential action came in a veiled threat Israel just made against Syria vowing to strike against "those who sponsor" the Palestinian resistance.

The West Bank hasn't been spared either as the IDF conducted nearly 50 incursions into Palestinian communities, razing farmland, raiding homes, seizing five of them for military sites and arresting dozens of civilians including children. In addition, on June 29 the IDF arrested most of the Hamas leadership including eight cabinet ministers, 25 PLC members from the Change and Reform Party affiliated with Hamas, and other Hamas officials claiming they were responsible for the assault against its military post. All these actions are further illegal collective punishment reprisals against Palestinian civilians as are Israeli threats to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas leaders. Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov of The Australian, in fact, reported on July 1 that in a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Israel threatened to kill democratically elected Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if the captured Israeli soldier isn't released. The Prime Minister now fears for his life and has gone into hiding. What will it take to finally get world leaders to take note, show a semblance of courage and rectitude, speak out forcefully against this outrageous threat, and condemn Israel for what it's now inflicting on nearly four million defenseless civilians living under its oppressive heel.

This is a particularly desperate time in the lives of the 1.45 million Gazans who live in 140 square miles of the most densely populated place on earth. Daily life for them has been almost unbearable as they've had to endure continued Israeli oppression without letup. With only their spirit to enable them to resist and armed with little more than rocks, small arms and crude homemade rockets, they're pitted against the world's fourth most powerful military assaulting them at will. The toll has been devastating.

The IDF Assault on Gaza Was Planned Well in Advance

What's now unfolding in Gaza was planned months ago by the Israelis. They've just been waiting for a plausible excuse to unleash it. The capturing, not kidnapping, of one of their soldiers as a POW provided it. So far the US, world community and UN Secretary General support the Israeli action by their near silence. And nothing is said in the major media to condemn a clear crime or report anything about the 9,000 or more Palestinian civilians forcibly arrested, now held in indefinite detention and grievously abused or tortured by the only country in the world to effectively legalize torture according to Amnesty International (the US, of course, now also has). Many of those in custody are political prisoners held administratively without charge, and Israeli human rights monitoring group B'Tselem reports Israel's use of torture is widespread and routine against them.

It must be asked why world leaders aren't speaking out to condemn this practice. International law on it is explicit and long-standing. It forbids the use of any form of torture or degrading treatment under any circumstances. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlawed it in 1948. The Fourth Geneva Convention then did it in 1949 banning any form of "physical or mental coercion" and affirming detainees must at all times be treated humanely. The European Convention followed in 1950. Then in 1984 the UN Convention Against Torture became the first binding international instrument dealing exclusively with the issue of banning torture in any form for any reason.

Israel ignores international law (as does its US ally), treats all Palestinians it holds in detention with contempt, and feels free to abuse them at will. The dominant media in the West pay no attention and have no interest. These are the ones John Pilger calls "unworthy victims" in his new book Freedom Next Time. The Israeli soldier, on the other hand, is a "worthy" one, and reports or just hints of his mistreatment would be headline news. He also deserves lengthy front page coverage in our newspaper of record The New York Times which names him so we all know and displays his picture. No Palestinian warrants any attention at all in the Times or the rest of the corporate media. They all remain nameless and faceless.

What's now unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank has been in the works for months. Since the staged summer, 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the IDF has been training for a large-scale incursion and reoccupation of the territory. This was reported earlier this year in Israel's Maariv daily in an interview the paper did with IDF Southern Command General Yoav Galant whose unit is responsible for Gaza. He clearly stated the IDF would employ "more aggressive military activity.......including (re)occupying the Gaza Strip......as a result of increased (Palestinian) attacks." The general may have forgotten to explain those "attacks" with crude weapons were Palestinian responses to daily Israeli attacks on them with the most sophisticated weapons the IDF has short of nuclear ones. He also forgot to explain how Gazans have suffered as a result of these attacks and near daily killings as well as from the effects of a near forty-year brutal occupation of their territory. The general, however, was very clear that "we (the IDF) have a plan to (re)occupy the Strip" (and) "We are in advanced states of preparing forces for readiness." Another IDF official added that "The only way Israel can stop the rockets is by occupying Gaza. It is elementary. The leadership knows it." The official explained further that in recent weeks the IDF completed its training to reenter Gaza and informed its soldiers to prepare and be ready for orders to move in.

It's quite true that the Palestinian resistance has fired about 250 crude homemade rockets from Gaza into Israel in recent months. It's also true these have been in response to the many thousands of unprovoked IDF artillery shells fired at them as well as frequent air attacks and other assaults against them. Little of this is ever reported by the western corporate media, especially in the US, and never with any context to explain the true situation on the ground. It's also not reported that the IDF trained to be ready to react once it got an excuse to do it which the June 25 incident gave it. And it would never be reported or even considered that if the Israeli leadership and IDF seriously wanted to end retaliatory attacks against them including suicide bombings, an easy way to do it would be to stop attacking defenseless Palestinians. The fact that it hasn't shows it won't and doesn't want to. Those "elementary" considerations are never reported or suggested in the mainstream. Apparently the dominant media never thought of it, but their mission isn't to think. It's only to report what government officials say.

The Gaza Assault Bears Similarity to Lebanon in 1982

The ongoing Israeli assault against Gaza may be following the same pattern as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to destroy the PLO leadership that resulted in the deaths of about 18,000 mostly Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Back then Israel needed a pretext to invade to counter the growing respectability the PLO was gaining by observing a cease-fire and preferring to pursue negotiations instead of terror attacks. This was a catastrophe for the Israeli government as it threatened to undermine its hardened position to oppose any political settlement which it could only prevent by portraying the PLO as terrorists. To do it Israel had to find a way to get the Palestinians to reengage in terrorism or at least to defend itself to make it look like terrorism.

Why would the Israeli government then or any other one want to do this? It would seem logical to assume they all would prefer peace and security to continued conflict. Sadly, it didn't then, never did earlier, hasn't since, and clearly doesn't now. The reason why goes to the root of Zionists' aims, especially the most extreme ones. Many Zionists want all the land of "Eretz Israel," the biblical Jewish homeland many Jews believe God gave to the 12 tribes of Israel. It includes much more than present day Israel and the Occupied Territories - Lebanon, most of Syria, part of Egypt and a large portion of Jordan.

Unlike other countries, Israel has no fixed borders - deliberately. It's been that way so Israeli governments have lots of wiggle room to establish them one day as they choose or are able to do. Most important is the plan to include as part of Israel the ancient lands of "Judea" and "Summaria," the West Bank biblical parts of Israel the Palestinians call the Occupied Territories and claim as their homeland. Israel has maintained the pretense of being willing to allow the Palestinians an independent state. But by refusing to negotiate seriously and continuing to encroach on Palestinian land with new and expanded settlements as well as erecting its "separation" wall, it's clear Israel's real intent is to seize all the land it wants for its own use leaving the Palestinians only some isolated bantustan-like less valuable parts.

Beginning with the negotiations leading to the Oslo Accords and their so-called Declaration of Principles, Israel never negotiated in good faith with the Palestinians. From Oslo, Israel got what it wanted - a Palestinian surrender to recognize its right to exist, end the armed struggle against it, and allow it to continue colonizing the Occupied Territories. In return, the Palestinian leadership got nothing more than the right to be Israeli enforcers to control its restive population - in other words, to accept its subjugation in return for no rights or benefits except for some special privileges the leadership got as its reward for selling out its people. The Palestinian people never got what they most wanted - a viable and independent state of their own in the Occupied Territories, with established borders and its capitol in East Jerusalem, and the right of their refugees to return to their homeland, a right all Jews everywhere have and which UN Resolution 194 guarantees to all refugees as well as Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Various other Geneva Conventions also affirm this right, clearly establishing in international law the absolute and universal "right of return."

Israel never accepted this right for Palestinians and needs to avoid a political solution to deny it to them. That position was explained by its Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in the 1980s when he admitted his nation went to war with Lebanon because there was "a terrible danger....not so much a military one as a political one." But Israel couldn't attack without good reason to do it. It found none so it manufactured one after the terrorist Abu Nidal organization attempted to assassinate the Israeli Ambassador to the UK in London. The Israelis blamed it on the PLO that had nothing to do with it. It also went unnoticed or reported that the PLO had been at war with the Nidal group for years. It didn't matter, and the western media, particularly in the US, reported that the "Operation Peace for Galilee" Lebanon invasion was undertaken to protect Israeli civilians from PLO attacks even though there were none. Who would know the difference except the people living there, and the western media don't speak to them unless it's to affirm Israeli positions.

The situation today in Gaza bears similarity to 1982. Israel was horrified when Hamas won a clear majority of the seats in the January, 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Without the larger than life figure of Yasser Arafat to lead it, the Palestinian people finally rejected his Fatah party and its long record of corruption and subservience to Israeli dominance. Since the election, the Olmert led government has clamped down hard on Hamas, calling it a terrorist organization. It's refused to negotiate with it, withheld Palestinian tax revenues, and succeeded in getting an international political boycott of the democratically elected Hamas government as well as most outside aid to it cut off. All this has created an unbearable hardship on the already desperate Palestinian population.

It didn't matter that Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire, wanted negotiations and was willing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state provided Israel gave the Palestinians equal recognition, was willing to return to the pre-1967 borders, released Palestinian prisoners and stopped killing and abusing Palestinians without provocation. Israel refused and, in fact, was as concerned about the Hamas cease-fire as it was about the one the PLO observed in 1982 which Prime Minister Shamir explained was the reason Israel invaded Lebanon. Back then, the provocation was the incident in London against the Israeli Ambassador and today it's the capturing of an Israeli soldier. These are hardly reasons for going to war unless the Israelis planned to wage one anyway and only needed a reason to do it. The reasons for Israeli actions today are much the same as in 1982 - to destroy the Hamas-led government as it did the PLO then and to reinstitute one again subservient to its wishes. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) is that kind of leader, has always been in his past dealings with Israel, and is the one Olmert wants to lead a future Palestinian government or someone just like him.

The current situation in Gaza also has echos of the IDF's Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002. It included Israel's infamous assault against the people of Jenin, a city of 35,000, retaliating against suicide bombings that occurred during the Second Intifada that began after Knesset member Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the holy Al Aqsa Mosque in September, 2000. The suicide bombings, in turn, began in response to extreme Israeli violence against the Palestinians which by March, 2002 Amnesty International reported had killed over 1,000 of them including more than 200 children. During that Operation, Israeli forces invaded and attacked all West Bank cities causing an unknown number of civilian casualties and deaths. But the harshest assault occurred in April, 2002 against Jenin, including its refugee camp. The IDF cut the city off from any outside help, destroyed hundreds of buildings (many with people inside buried under the rubble), cut off power and water plus food and other essential needs from the outside, refused to allow any help to enter the city (including medical aid), and killed an unknown number of mostly civilian Palestinian men, women and children. No Israeli was ever held to account for these crimes.

Conditions in Jenin today remain grave as they do throughout the Occupied Territories as Palestinians now await the full impact of what an IDF reoccupation may inflict on them. As mentioned above, the Lebanon invasion killed many thousands of innocent Lebanese and Palestinians. It also resulted in what noted British journalist and Middle East expert Robert Fisk called "one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century." He referred to what happened at the Sabra and Shatila camps when Israeli Defense Minister at the time Ariel Sharon in command of the IDF sent a proxy Lebanese Phalange militia force into the camps and allowed them to massacre as many as 3,000 or more innocent mostly civilian men, women and children. Beyond a brief and unconvincing censure for his actions, Sharon never was held to account for his crime and, of course, later became Israeli Prime Minister serving until Ehud Olmert succeeded him after his disabling stroke.

It now remains to be seen what the final result of the current Israeli assault against Gaza, the West Bank and the Palestinian leadership will be. It may be some time before we know as it's just beginning. But if the Lebanon and Jenin experiences are examples to go by, many innocent Palestinian lives will be lost, and the state of the Palestinian people will only get far worse before it ever has a chance to become better. Will the world community finally take note and act to stop a likely impending slaughter. The past record indicates it won't. It's the purpose of this writing to demand it does so and quickly and to hold a criminal Israeli leadership accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity against the long-suffering Palestinian people who deserve the same freedoms as all Israelis and everyone else.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.