Monday, January 31, 2011

Revolutionary Change in Egypt: Internal or Made in USA?

Revolutionary Change in Egypt: Internal or Made in USA? - by Stephen Lendman

US imperial policy includes regime change, affecting foes as well as no longer useful friends. Past targets included former Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos, Iran's Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, among others. According to some reports, Mubarak is next - aging, damaged and expendable.

George Friedman runs Stratfor, a private global intelligence service. On January 29, he issued a special Egypt report, saying:

On January 29, "Egypt's internal security forces (including Central Security Forces anti-riot paramilitaries) were glaringly absent" after confronting protesters forcefully for several days. Army personnel replaced them. Demonstrators welcomed them.

"There is more (going on) than meets the eye." While media reports focus on reform, democracy and human rights, "revolutions, including this one, are made up of many more actors than (Facebook and Twitter) liberal voices...." Some are, in fact, suspect, using social network sites for other than purported reasons.

Like Iran's 1979 revolution, "the ideology and composition of protesters can wind up having very little to do with the" behind the scenes political forces gaining power. Egypt's military may be preparing to seize it. Former air force chief/civil aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq is new prime minister, tasked with forming a new government, and intelligence head Omar Suleiman is Egypt's first ever vice president under Mubarak, effectively second in command.

Moreover, Defense Minister Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi "returned to Cairo after a week of intense discussions with senior US officials." He heads the Republican Guard, responsible for defending major government and strategic institutions, the symbols of entrenched power. Also back is Lt. General Sami Annan. Both men with others "are likely managing the political process behind the scenes."

As a result, expect more political changes, military commanders apparently willing to give Mubarak time to leave gracefully, but not much as unrest won't subside until he's gone.

Egypt's military is key as "guarantor of regime stability." It's never "relinquished its rights to the state" no matter who's president, made easier with popular support, unlike the hated police. But it's not a monolithic force, nor can it shake its history of mid-level commanders like Gamal Abdel Nasser seizing power. In 1981, Islamists and junior officers assassinated Anwar Sadat, elevating Mubarak to the presidency.

"The history of the modern Egyptian republic haunts Egypt's generals today. Though long suppressed, an Islamist strand exists amongst the junior ranks of Egypt's modern military." It could include "a cabal of colonels," seeing a chance to seize power to address longstanding grievances, especially regarding US and Israeli policies, or perhaps promise change but maintain continuity.

So far, no coup d'etat signs have emerged. While Egypt's military remains disciplined under a chain of command, "those trying to manage the crisis from the top cannot forget" their country's history of successful mid-level commander coups. Given Egypt's growing instability, another one is possible.

Washington and Israel are maneuvering for control. Egypt's fate, believes Friedman, "lies in the ability of the military to not only manage the streets and the politicians, but also itself."

He also said plainclothes Egyptian security forces are destroying public property, media reports blaming it on protesters. It also bears repeating - an overt police presence is absent, and military forces aren't stopping demonstrations or enforcing curfews, appearing to back (or at least not oppose) dissident groups instead.

Omar Suleiman's Role

On January 29, New Yorker writer Jane Mayer headlined, "Who is Omar Suleiman? saying:

Well-known in Washington, he's poised to become president after Mubarak. As intelligence chief, he was CIA's "point man in Egypt for renditions," the agency's snatch and grab policy against "terror suspects from around the world," sending many to Egypt, perhaps to disappear as Marjorie Cohn explained in her book "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law," quoting a former CIA agent saying:

"If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear (after torture and interrogation) - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt," a place of no return for many, Suleiman in charge as impresario.

America Backing Regime Change?

On January 28, London Telegraph writers Tim Ross, Matthew Moore and Steven Swinford headlined, "Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising," saying:

For the past three years, regime change plans have been ongoing, according to WikiLeaks released documents, accessed through the following link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html

Dated February 2008 from the US Cairo embassy to Washington, they "disclose the extent of American support for" Mubarak opponents, saying "Egyptians need to replace the current regime with (the appearance of) a parliamentary democracy. Under undisclosed US control, of course, "several opposition forces - including the Wafd, Nasserite, Marama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim brotherhood, Kifaya and Revolutionary Socialist movements - have agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to (a new order), involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled (September) 2011 presidential elections."

Though previously supporting Mubarak, the documents show US supporting backing forces while publicly praising him as an important ally. They also revealed regular contact with opponents throughout 2008 and 2009, planning regime change, but not what protesters have in mind.

In June 2006, the National Security Network (NSN) was established "to revitalize America's national security policy (by) developing innovative national security solutions (to counter) emerging threats...."

Arab populations have long heard variations on Washington's theme, repeated in a NSN January 27 press release, saying: "The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region."

In other words, democracy is messy and unreliable. Dictatorships are much easier to control, and when one despots proves unreliable or outlives his usefulness, replace him with another, perhaps smoothed by transitional authority.

Mubarak's time has passed. Business as usual is planned. Democratic rhetoric masks it, the same kind US audiences hear from leaders flouting it at home and abroad.

Comments on The Angry Arab News Service

Edited by Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, it provides daily commentaries on regional events. On January 29, it cited "Comrade Joseph" saying:

"I am very worried that the Americans have taken over the direction of the Egyptian revolution. Let us remember that all possible candidates to replace Mubarak (are US) handpicked....including (ElBaradei) as well as Army chief of staff Anan, or anyone else for that matter. Obama has proven once more that" America is the Arab world's strongest anti-democracy ally.

As a result, Arabs must be vigilant and "very cautious (about) what happens next. (America) wants to mortgage the freedom of all Arabs" to secure Western and Israeli interests.

Responding, AbuKhalil expressed less concern, saying: "there is (only) so much that the US can do to control the situation." However, he sees a "US coup at the top" because America and Israel want regime continuity without Mubarak. What follows depends on "how hard (Egyptians) press. (He) think(s) that they won't be fooled, even if the process of change take(s) a while, a year or more."

However events play out, they face formidable Washington and Tel Aviv adversaries, waging wars to solidify power, especially in strategically important places.

A Final Comment

Unless America plans war or wants foreign adversaries vilified, rarely ever do US media report overseas news, especially like Middle East uprisings. Notably, little about Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen or Algeria was covered. But Egypt's turmoil is main-featured on television and in print. Moreover, coverage includes unheard of pro-opposition views, meaning official Washington supports them.

In addition, though protesters want Mubarak out, anti-American signs aren't evident or reports of Washington's longstanding pernicious influence. Reform, however, requires ending it. Otherwise, new faces will continue old policies leaving deep-rooted hardships unaddressed.

In other words, everything will change but stay the same. Regional turmoil, especially Egypt's, will only reshuffle the deck to look different when, in fact, neoliberal exploitation will persist, covert forces well positioned to assure it.

Moreover, skilled Western and regional media will keep US and foreign audiences fooled, assuring support for new Washington favorites thought different from old ones, when, in fact, they're the same.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Political Prisoner Ameer Makhoul Update

Political Prisoner Ameer Makhoul Update - by Stephen Lendman

A previous article discussed him in detail, accessed through the following site:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/10/israels-persecution-of-ameer-makhoul.html

Following former prime minister Ariel Sharon's dictum that, "This is our land, and we'll settle it and build on it in order to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state," Palestinians have been ruthlessly persecuted, imprisoned, or slaughtered in gross violation of international laws.

Ameer Makhoul is one of many thousands of victims, vilified for being Muslims in a Jewish state. An Israeli citizen, human rights activist, and head of the internationally recognized Ittijah NGO for Palestinian empowerment, he also chairs the Public Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners within the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in Israel. Besides championing human rights, he also supports the global BDS movement, what many believe is perhaps the most effective nonviolent tactic against Israeli lawlessness, and another reason for his targeting.

In May 2010, he was arrested on spurious charges of spying for Hezbollah, Israel's way to silence a respected Palestinian. At the time, attorney Hussein Abu Hasin said accusations were so vague and wide-ranging that emails, Internet chats or phone conversations with anyone about anything could be used as a pretext to prosecute for communicating with a "state enemy," whether or not true and regardless of the right to speak freely with anyone.

On May 6, his ordeal began when about 20 Israeli police and security forces arrested him at 3:10AM, ransacked his apartment, confiscated his computers, cell phones, various documents, maps, and other possessions. At the same time, his Haifa office was raided for other potentially "incriminating" evidence, a Shin Bet warrant saying only that "secret information" justified it for "security reasons," when, in fact, none whatsoever existed.

Makhoul was detained incommunicado at Petah Tikva for interrogation. Under an initial gag order, the Israeli media couldn't write or discuss anything about his case.

He endured 12 days of brutal interrogation, including torture and sleep deprivation. After three weeks, he was charged with espionage, helping an enemy (Hezbollah) in time of war, contact with a foreign agent, and other spurious charges, all of which he denied.

On June 14, prosecutors claimed "secret evidence" against him, withheld from his lawyers for "security reasons." In addition, all attorney conversations were wiretapped, and despite requesting medical help from the Association of Physicians for Human Rights, it was repeatedly denied.

He remained imprisoned, a Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul established on September 8 to defend him. Comprised of dozens of Jewish and Arab figures, it took collective responsibility because:

-- his arrest signified what he represents, not just himself, and it was done to warn other activist Israeli Arabs; and

-- charges against him were entirely spurious, his targeting to silence a respected, powerful, effective political voice for all Arab Israeli citizens.

On September 16, he was charged in Haifa District Court, even though Israeli prosecutors said his home and office computers, cell phones, other possessions, and transcripts of about 30,000 wiretapped phone conversations revealed no evidence of espionage.

On January 30, Haaretz writer Jack Khoury headlined, "Israeli Arab who spied for Hezbollah jailed for nine years," saying:

His "lawyers struck a plea bargain with the prosecution in October 2010, in which they asked for a reduced sentence of seven years, while the prosecution (wanted) 10....the maximum sentence for the charges against him."

The ruling accused him of supplying "intelligence to a Hezbollah agent on Shin Bet installations in the Haifa region and on Mossad offices in the center of the country. (Also, that he attempted) to pass on information about a military base and sought details about the residence of Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin."

His fellow activist Omar Saeed earlier struck a plea bargain in August, under which he was charged with "working for an illegal organization, a crime that carries a punishment of several months' jail-time."

On January 30, Amnesty International (AI) headlined, "Palestinian Human Rights Activist Jailed in Israel," saying:

Makhoul's "jailing is a very disturbing development and we will be studying the details of the sentencing as soon as we can. (He's) well known for his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel and those living under Israeli occupation. We fear that this may be the underlying reason for his imprisonment."

Philip Luther, AI's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, expressed concern that he was tortured and abused after his May 6 arrest, was isolated for 12 days, had no contact with counsel, and a media gag order prevented discussion of his case. Moreover, under Israeli law, people can be charged with espionage even if information passed on is publicly known or if no harm was intended or caused.

In addition, his alleged confession was extracted by torture, meaning none of it is credible or admissible. Also, what he allegedly passed on was publicly known. He, in fact, was targeted for his activism and prominence, not any alleged crimes. His sentencing came at a time Israel is increasingly targeting human rights activists, accused by some MKs of being "anti-Israeli" and unpatriotic because of their support for Palestinian justice. Makhoul heroically did it. He'll now serve nine years in Israel's gulag, perhaps brutalized until released after which he vowed to continue public activism.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revolutionary Middle East Change

Revolutionary Middle East Change - by Stephen Lendman

Democratic Middle East birth pangs may have legs enough to spread regionally, including in Occupied Palestine.

Officially launched in Cairo in 1959, the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) offers hope, driven by a commitment for Palestinian liberation. With more than 100 chapters and over 100,000 members, it's organized rallies, political debates, cultural programs, and other initiatives to spread truths about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Perhaps inspired by events across the region, on January 27, its press release headlined, "Palestinian students claim right to participate in shaping our destiny," saying:

"....(I)n order to reassert our inalienable rights, (we) claim our right to democratically participate in the shaping of our destiny. We begin a national initiative to campaign for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (the PLO's legislative body) on the clear understanding that only a reformed national representative institution, that includes all Palestinians, those struggling in the homeland and those struggling in exile, can create a representative Palestinian platform, and restore the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."

If popular uprisings offer democratic hope in Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and Egypt, why not Palestine freed from occupation!

Currently, Egypt is the epicenter of regional change, and since the 1978 Camp David Accords, the linchpin of US Middle East imperial policy. However, under Mubarak's brutal dictatorship, perhaps its day of reckoning has arrived, Robert Fisk saying:

What's wrong is visible and clear. "The filth and the slums, the open sewers and the corruption of every government official, the bulging prisons, the laughable elections, the whole vast, sclerotic edifice of power has at last brought Egyptians on to the streets....This is not an Islamic uprising - though it could become one - (it) is just one mass of Egyptians stifled by decades of failure and humiliation."

Even New York Times writer Michael Slackman noticed, headlining his January 28 article, "Egyptians' Fury Has Smoldered Beneath the Surface for Decades," saying:

"The litany of complaints against Mr. Mubarak is well known....The police are brutal. Elections are rigged. Corruption is rampant. Life gets harder for the masses as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Even as Egypt's economy (grew, so did) people living in poverty...."

Around half its 80 million people are impoverished, living on $2 a day or less. Unemployment is high, especially for youths. In contrast, "walled compounds spring up outside cities with green lawns and swimming pools." It's a nation "where those with money have built a parallel world of private schools and exclusive clubs, leaving the rundown cities to the poor."

Wesleyan University Professor Anne Mariel Peters says "The whole system is seen as (Mubarak's) fault. People do believe (he's) the absolute dictator."

They remember the hypocrisy of his 1981 inaugural address, saying:

"We will embark on our great path: not stopping or hesitating, building and not destroying, protecting and not threatening, preserving and not squandering."

Instead, he solidified absolute power. According to American University Professor Diane Singerman:

"Once you hollow out civil society and repress the unions and you concentrate so much power around your hands, you are vulnerable and it becomes the flip side of stability. I think he is hated for good reason: the constant humiliation, the over-the-top sort of need to control everything, the excessive force."

For three decades, absolute power, cronyism, corruption, and repression defined his rule, including its Emergency Law power to arrest anyone without charge and detain them indefinitely. According to the International Federation for Human Rights:

It grants "broad power to impose restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, movement or residence; the power to arrest and detain suspects or those deemed dangerous, and the power to search individuals and places without the need to follow the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code."

It's how despotism works, violating "rights guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution, which provides for personal freedom in article 41, the inviolability of private homes in article 44, (and) freedom of movement and residence in article 54."

It also let Mubarak censor or shut down critical publications as well as try suspects in military tribunals convened to convict, not exonerate. As a result, many thousands of political opponents, activists and Islamists languish in prisons, many tortured, others killed.

Some compare his regime to the last days of Iran's Shah, including mass poverty and unemployment, repression, cronyism and corruption, near universal contempt for Egypt's ruling class, a capitalist dictatorship, a leadership with no legitimacy, anger for allying with Washington and Israel, and a profound sense of humiliation.

In 2005, the Egyptian Movement for Change (EMC - a coalition of leftists, Nasserists and Islamists) held a series of Cairo demonstrations, criticizing Mubarak publicly, including calling for him to step down. Since then, demands have grown for ending Emergency Law powers, letting judges supervise elections, raising wages, allowing independent unions, redistributing land to poor farmers, and other democratic reforms.

However, no broader movement for change emerged, and Mubarak neutralized dissent by allowing public criticism and privately owned opposition newspapers. According to one EMC member, however: "We were given a license to scream and vent, but what good did it do?"

Until now, most Egyptians remained quiet, largely because Mubarak's intimidation includes the omnipresent state security in neighborhoods, on campuses and wherever opposition might emerge. In addition, the hated Interior Ministry has an army of informers, targeting leftists, human rights activists and Islamists. It's one of Mubarak's most powerful tools, along with the army supported by generous Washington aid.

After 30 despotic years, his day of reckoning has arrived, human rights activist Ghada Shabandar, saying:

"Egyptians are sick and tired of being corrupted and when you live on 300 pounds a month (about $51), you have one of two options: you either become a beggar or a thief. The people sent a message: 'We are not beggars and we do not want to become thieves.' "

Youth Movement co-counder Asmaa Mahfouz added: "We want to fight corruption. These are all things that we have agreed on" besides demanding Mubarak go.

Mass Protests Continue

On January 29, Al Jazeera headlined, "Thousands in Cairo defy curfew," saying:

Anti-Mubarak protests include (t)ens of thousands of people" on Cairo streets, demanding he go. Defying the 4PM - 8AM curfew, soldiers haven't intervened. Some, in fact, said that "the only way for peace to come to the streets of Cairo is for Mubarak to step down."

Similar crowds again massed in Alexandria, Suez and other cities. At least three more killings were reported. "The Egyptian cabinet meanwhile has formally resigned, (and) Ahmed Ezz, a businessman and senior (ruling party) figure....also resigned (as) Planning and Budget Committee" chairman.

Protestors, however, want regime, not cabinet change. Reuters reported that police used live fire at protesters. A military officer said troops would "not fire a single bullet on Egyptians," adding that the only solution is "for Mubarak to leave."

Scores of deaths have been reported, including 22 in Cairo, 23 in Alexandria and 27 in Suez. Moreover, on Friday alone, over 1,000 were injured, and many hundreds have been arrested.

Under house arrest, Mohamed ElBaradei told Al Jazeera that protests would continue until Mubarak goes followed by systemic political changes. He also called his midnight speech "disappointing" and expressed similar sentiment about Washington's response, while saying change must be internal.

Obama Expresses "Partnership" with Egypt's Government and People

Obama, in fact, expressed hollow people support while allying strongly with Mubarak's dictatorship, saying:

"(T)hose protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek. (The) United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we've cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region."

Washington, in fact, supplies nearly $2 billion in aid annually, mostly to repress dissent and assure Mubarak remains a reliable imperial ally. Obama also ignored decades of tyranny that fed up Egyptians demand end. Moreover, he expressed support for human rights on the same day WikiLeaks released cables disclosing US complicity in his use of torture and assassinations of political opponents.

At his January 28 briefing, White House press secretary was asked if Obama's support for Mubarak is unchanged. His response:

"Well, we are - again, we're monitoring a very fluid situation....this is not about picking a person or picking the people of a country."

Then asked what's next if legitimate grievances aren't resolved, he said: "(T)his is a situation that will be solved by the people of Egypt."

In other words, Washington unconditionally supports Mubarak. Egyptians must solve their own problems, America is complicit in causing.

Commenting on January 28, London Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall said "Washington needs a friendly regime in Cairo more than it needs a democratic government," adding that backing authoritarian rule is "pragmatic" for the same reasons Saddam Hussein was supported in the 1980s and numerous other despots today.

He also called "the balancing act performed by (Obama) and (Secretary of State Clinton) excruciating to watch," against "a backdrop of street battles, beatings, tear gas, flying bricks, mass detentions and attempts to shut information networks...."

An aroused Mohamed ElBaradei said:

"If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer."

Regular Live Coverage

Providing live updates, the Guardian quoted London School of Economics Professor Fawaz Geges calling events:

"the Arab world's Berlin moment. The authoritarian wall has fallen - and that's regardless of whether Mubarak survives or not. The barrier of fear has been removed. It is really the beginning of the end of the status quo in the region....Mubarak is deeply wounded. He is bleeding terribly. We are witnessing the beginning of a new era."

Other regime changes are likely, while Mubarak clings momentarily to power. His likely successor may be spy chief Omar Suleiman, named vice president, a newly created post never tolerated during three decades of his rule. Foreign Policy magazine ranked him the region's most powerful intelligence official, ahead of Mossad's Meir Dagan.

Ahmed Shafiq, former civil aviation minister and air force commander, was named prime minister. Egyptians reject them, demanding clean sweep changes, removing all despotic vestiges.

On Saturday, Army vehicles protected wealthy compounds in Cairo suburbs, five-star hotels, and government ministries.

According to City University, London Professor Rosemary Hollis:

"I think it will take a couple of days to organize (Mubarak's) departure if it happens. It's going to be a messy process and there will probably be (more) bloodshed. I don't think (you'll see) a war with the army on one side and the people on the other. (It) has to decide" which side to back. "It's one of those moments where....individual lieutenants and soldiers" choose which course to take. Splits in the ranks may occur. An interim government is likely. "The question is what replaces it."

Maan News said:

"Palestinian officials in Ramallah offered no comment on the Friday events in Egypt. (In Gaza), Palestinians have been watching the unrest in Egypt attentively, and while civilians say they are pleased with the prospect for change, demonstrations in the north and southern Strip on Friday (focused on condemning) the PA and PLO for" leaked Palestine Papers revelations.

"Gaza's Hamas-run government, like their compatriots in the West Bank, remained mum on the situation." Gazans agree that regime change is positive.

On Friday, Israel's daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said a "revolution in Israel's security doctrine" could follow, according to a defense ministry official.

On January 29, Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer headlined, "In Egypt, protesters and soldiers declare: The army and the people are one," saying:

"(M)ilitary officers stationed in the area embraced the protesters, chanting" the above slogan "hand in hand." Hoisted on protesters' shoulders, they removed their helmets, chanting, singing, and saying we've already crossed the point of no return. "Game over," read signs. Haaretz columnist Amos Harel called it an "intelligence chief's nightmare." Netanyahu instructed all ministers and officials to stay silent, a senior one saying:

"Israel is in no way interested in involving itself in Egypt's affairs, and therefore we have received clear instructions to keep a low profile in the Egyptian matter." Clearly, they're concerned. According to Harel:

"(C)hanges could even lead to changes in the IDF and cast a dark cloud over the economy....If the Egyptian regime falls....the riots could easily spill over to Jordan and threaten the Hashemite regime. On Israel's two long peaceful borders, there will then prevail a completely different reality."

On January 30, in his first public comment, Netanyahu said:

"We are following with vigilance the events in Egypt and in our region....at this time we must show responsibility and restraint and maximum consideration....Our efforts have been intended to continue to preserve stability and security in our region. I remind you that peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for over three decades," adding that efforts will be made to "ensure that these relations will continue to exist."

On January 29, an Amnesty International (AI) action alert said:

"Thirty years of repression is spilling onto the streets of Egypt in the forms of tear-gas, blood and bitter demonstrations. For four days, Egyptian protesters have suffered at the hand of (Mubarak's) security forces."

AI's fellow Egyptian activists want "their voices heard at various Egyptian embassies and consulates. We intend to do all we can to make that happen....That is why we're asking (support) to place an urgent call to" Egypt's Washington embassy at 202-895-5400, then press 1 to speak to a real person on repressive conditions.

"(D)on't take 'no' for an answer." Demand respect for human rights. "Help us make (the) embassy's phone ring off the hook" for democracy and justice!

Saturday evening, protesters again defied curfew orders. Soldiers aren't intervening in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez or elsewhere. Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood leader, Hamman Saeed, warned the Egyptian unrest will spread, toppling other Arab regimes allied with America.

Conditions remain fluid. Millions demand change and intend getting it. Mubarak's era has passed. Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy spoke for many saying, "We've waited for this revolution for years. Other despots should quail. Change is sweeping through the Middle East...." It remains to be seen what follows. Follow-up articles will explain more.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Middle East Intifadas

Middle East Intifadas - by Stephen Lendman

Initially in Tunisia, popular revolt spread regionally across North Africa and the Middle East, erupting in Algeria, Jordan, Egypt and Yemen. On January 27, Al Jazeera reported revolutionary fervor in Egypt, saying:

"On Thursday, protesters hurled petrol bombs at a fire station in Suez, setting it ablaze. They tried but failed to (torch) a local" Mubarak-controlled National Party office. Near Giza, on Cairo's outskirts, police attacked hundreds of protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. In Ismailia, the scene repeated, police using similar tactics to disperse crowds. Ahead of expected massive Friday protests, Cairo was uncharacteristically quiet.

On January 28, Al Jazeerah headlined, "Fresh protests erupt in Egypt, saying:

Following Friday prayers, "angry demonstrators demand(ed) an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year presidency....(d)etermined protesters," vowing to "carry on until their demands are met."

In Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Mansoura and Sharqiya, "protesters streamed out of mosques shortly after prayers," chanting anti-Mubarak slogans.

On Thursday night, former IAEA Director General and National Alliance for Change founder Mohamed ElBaradei returned home, saying he's ready to lead "transition" if asked. In a late 2010 Al Masry Al Youm interview, he expressed support for an opposition alliance saying:

"I hope in the next phase we will have a united opposition, the NAC, the Al-Wafd party, the (Muslim) Brotherhood, the Gabha (Democratic Front party) - we need everyone. And of course we need to link the young people with the labor unions and the elite with the young people."

On Friday, he reportedly was "prevented from moving freely by security forces." AP reported water cannons doused him, and supporters who tried shielding him were beaten.

So far, seven are reported dead. Well over 1,200 were arrested, yet protesters aren't deterred.

An international press freedom group said journalists were being beaten and arrested. Al Jazeera reported four French reporters apprehended. An AP photographer was attacked. The London Guardian said ElBaradei was "detained." Earlier on Friday he said Mubarak's regime was on its "last legs."

A CNN crew had its camera smashed. Vodafone said cell phone service was suspended "in selected areas." Internet service was also shut down. In Cairo and other cities, harsh crackdowns continued with tear gas, rubber bullets, some reported live fire, water cannons, sound bombs, beatings and arrests.

London Guardian correspondent Jack Shenker called Cairo a "war zone." WikiLeaks released a cable from US Egyptian ambassador Margaret Scobey saying:

"Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders."

Former US Middle East diplomat Aaron David Miller said:

"It's one thing when this happens in Tunisia, a marginal Arab state, but you're now talking about one of the two or three pillars of American security in the region being confronted with the ripple effects of a wave."

Graeme Bannerman, former US State Department Policy Planning Staff Middle East analyst said:

"Popular opinion in the Middle East runs so against American policies that any change in any (regional) government....that becomes more popular will have an anti-American and certainly less friendly direction towards the US which will be a serious political problem for us."

A circulated flyer said:

"Without beating around the bush or postponing or playing us for fools and without more false promises, we, the people of Egypt, demand all of our long forgotten rights to be granted and this time there is no turning back....we have learned our lesson....we have finally broken free of all fears."

On January 25, Egypt's "day of wrath," copies circulated, containing specific political and economic demands, including:

-- salary and pension increases;

-- financial aid for unemployed workers;

-- canceling the law of emergency, empowering authorities to arrest people without warrants;

-- demanding Mubarak's ouster and his son, Gamal, prevented from succeeding him;

-- dissolving Egypt's fraudulently elected parliament;

-- holding free democratic elections; and

-- banning Egyptian exports to Israel, mainly its natural gas.

From Alexandria, Dr. Ashraf Ezzat called Egypt's events "historic," perhaps signaling the end of repressive Mubarak rule and the nation's "addiction to Authoritarianism."

Events are fast-moving and breathtaking. Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood refused to take part in street protests. That changed, the group saying it participated on Friday to control them.

On January 28, New York Times writers David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell headlined, "Clashes in Cairo Extend Arab World's Days of Unrest," saying:

Pouring out of mosques after noon prayers, "thousands of demonstrators....across Cairo and other Egyptian cities....intensified their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak...." Police confronted them violently, Reuters reporting:

"Dozens of people were wounded as police and demonstrators fought running street battles in Cairo on Friday in unprecedented protests against" Mubarak's three-decade rule. "Witnesses saw dozens of Egyptians bruised, bloodied and fainting." Medical sources reported at least five deaths and hundreds wounded.

"Snatch squads of plain clothes security men dragged off suspected ringleaders." Friday was the largest, bloodiest day so far. Reuters said, for the first time, army forces were on streets, but it wasn't clear what role they'll play. In Cairo's Tahir square, people encircled a military vehicle, shaking hands with soldiers, and chanting, "The army and people are united. The revolution has come."

On January 29, Al Jazeera headlined, "Protesters back on Egypt streets," saying:

"Similar crowds were gathering in the cities of Alexandria and Suez....They are calling for regime change....The latest protests reflected popular discontent with Mubarak's midnight address, where he announced that he was dismissing his government but remaining in power."

On Saturday, Cairo streets again looked like a war zone. Army forces replaced police. People embraced them as allies. Events are fluid and bear watching.

So far, protests show no signs of abating. Across the region, events are truly breathtaking. Long-suffering people taste change and demand it. They've never had a better chance than now, but getting it won't be quick or easy.

Popular Revolt in Yemen

On January 27, New York Times writers Anthony Shadid, Nada Bakri and Kareem Fahim headlined, "Waves of Unrest Spread to Yemen, Shaking a Region," saying:

On Thursday, thousands "took to the streets of Yemen (where) secular and Islamist Egyptian opposition leaders vowed to join large protests expected Friday as calls for change rang across the Arab world."

At issue - ending Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule. From 1978 - 1990, he was president of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). Since then, he chaired the Presidential Council of the Republic of Yemen (North and South Yemen).

Throughout Sanaa, the capital, thousands demanded he go, protesters chanting, "Enough being in power for 30 years! Gone in just 20 years," referring to Tunisia's Ben Ali. Earlier demonstrations preceded Thursday's mass one against a hated ruler of one of the world's poorest nations where half the population lives on less than $2 a day. Wealth distribution is extreme. Governance is notoriously corrupt and brutal. Chronic hunger is a major problem. Illiteracy tops 50%, and perhaps unemployment matches it.

Journalist Patrick Cockburn once called Yemen:

"a dangerous place. Wonderfully beautiful, the mountainous north of the country is guerrilla paradise. The Yemenis are exceptionally hospitable....humorous, sociable and democratic, infinitely preferable as company to the arrogant ignorant playboys of the (rich regional) oil states."

The capital Sanaa dates back to the 6th century BC Sabaean dynasty. However, it's power is limited, given the strength of tribes, clans, and influential families in a society very much a gun culture and prone to direct action.

On average, Yemenis own three guns per person in a nation of 23 million people, including one or more automatic weapons, like an AK-47 as well as heavier arms. Yemeni Professor Ahmed al-Kibsi once told a British reporter: "Just as you have your tie, the Yemeni will carry his gun," and isn't at all shy about using it.

As a result, "Yemen has all the explosive ingredients of Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan," so US entanglement there may become another quagmire, besides others in the region already, compounded by explosive revolutionary fervor.

Aided by Washington and Saudi Arabia, Saleh is waging repressive war against northern Shia tribes, causing thousands of deaths and many more displaced. In addition, he's fighting armed secessionists in the South.

The New York Times calls Yemen "a haven for Islamic jihadists and the site of what amounts to a secret American war against leaders of a branch that Al Qaeda has established there."

What's at stake? At most, Yemen has four billion proved barrels of oil reserves and modest amounts of natural gas, hardly a reason for war. More important is its strategic location near the Horn of Africa on Saudi Arabia's southern border, the Red Sea, its Bab el- Mandeb strait (a key chokepoint separating Yemen from Eritrea through which three million barrels of oil pass daily), and the Gulf of Aden connection to the Indian Ocean.

In late 2009, Saudi forces bombed and used tanks against Yemen. In addition, a rebel group called the Young Believers said US jets launched multiple attacks in Yemen's northwest Sa'ada Province. Britain's Daily Telegraph reported US Special Forces train Yemen's army, and operate covertly on their own. The CIA also operates freely, using death squads and daily drone attacks.

Unlike Tunisia's spontaneous uprising, an opposition coalition organized Yemen's protests, hoping for US backing whether or not possible. However, once unleashed, popular anger has a life of its own, inspired for the same reasons as in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, and Tunisia - deep poverty, mass unemployment, high food and energy prices, repression, and governments unresponsive to popular needs.

On January 27, Al Jazeera headlined, "Anti-government rallies hit Yemen," saying:

"Tens of thousands (demanded change), call(ing) for an end to" Saleh's government. In Aden, a 28-year old unemployed man, Souad Sabri, self-immolated, protesting economic hardships. Medical officials said he was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

Saleh is also accused wanting to hand power to his son, Ahmed, head of the elite Presidential Guard. In a January 23 television address, he denied it, saying "We are a republic. We reject bequeathing" the presidency. However, after decades of strongman rule, street protesters believe otherwise, wanting a clean sweep for change.

One banner read "Game over." A student shouted "We want change like Tunisia." Despite Yemen's largest protests since Saleh got power, security forces have mostly kept a low profile. According to a government spokesman:

"No major clashes or arrests occurred, and police presence was minimal. The government strongly respects the democratic right for a peaceful assembly."

On January 20, independent reports disagreed, saying clashes and gun battles erupted in Aden, injuring at least seven people. Government forces used tear gas and live fire to disperse protesters. Dozens were detained, including Tawakul Karman, a prominent human rights activist, accused of organizing anti-government demonstrations. Later released, she told CNN International that a Tunisia-inspired revolution was ongoing.

On January 28, Hakim al-Masmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post told the BBC that people no longer will put up with widespread poverty, and that protests will likely continue because people believe "all chances of a dialogue with the ruling party are vanishing."

Uprising in Jordan

On January 28, Al Jazeera headlined, "Thousands protest in Jordan," saying:

As in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen, mass protests "demand(ed) the country's prime minister step down, and (that) the government curb rising prices, inflation and unemployment."

Denouncing Prime Minister Samir Rifai, many shouted, "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians." Protesters were joined by members of the Islamic Action Front and the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing. According to Professor Ibrahim Alloush:

"We're demanding changes on how the country is now run," accusing officials of impoverishing working people, and imposing regressive taxes, forcing them to pay proportionally more than they can afford. He also accused parliament of complicity with the prime minister. As a result, "This is what had led people to protest in the streets because they don't have venues for venting how they feel through legal means."

Jordanian demonstrations will likely continue as so far they're doing in Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Egypt. Other eruptions may follow, including perhaps in the West Bank against repressive PA enforcers, serving Israel, not Palestinians.

Note: During Israel's 2006 Lebanon war, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice infamously told the Lebanese people they were experiencing "the birth pangs of a new Middle East." Relatives of the dead, the injured and displaced weren't amused. Today, in contrast, popular uprisings, for the first time, may produce real democracies that never before existed. Events are fast-moving and breathtaking. Only time will show how they play out.

A Final Comment

Unlike America's major media, Al Jazeera provides important coverage of world events, including, of course, in the Middle East. On January 27, however, New York Times writers Robert Worth and David Kirkpatrick headlined, "Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration," saying:

Middle East uprisings have a common thread "uniting them: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel whose aggressive coverage has helped propel insurgent emotions from one capital to the next." Calling it "Al Jazeera's moment," it helped "shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments" and Israel since established 15 years ago.

"That narrative has long been implicit in the channel's heavy emphasis on Arab suffering and political crisis, its screaming-match talk shows, even its sensational news banner and swelling orchestral accompaniments."

George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch was quoted saying:

"The notion that there is a common struggle across the Arab world is something Al Jazeerah helped create. They did not cause these events, but it's almost impossible to imagine all this happening without Al Jazeera."

The Times writers accused it of "tailoring its coverage to support Hezbollah (and) Hamas," Tunisia's uprising, earlier sympathy for Saddam Hussein, and most recently against Israel and PA authorities in the "Palestine Papers."

"There is little doubt that Al Jazeera takes sides in the Palestinian dispute." In fact, it produces credible journalism unlike The New York Times and rest of America's MSM, supporting wealth and power, imperial lawlessness, tinpot dictators like Mubarak, Ben Ali and many others, and corrupt US politics under both parties. They deliver managed news, not truth on what people most need to know. Thankfully, they can access AlJazeera and other alternative media sources online to find out, what growing numbers now do regularly.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Salah Hamouri: One of Thousands of Israeli Political Prisoners

Salah Hamouri: One of Thousands of Israeli Political Prisoners - by Stephen Lendman

In March 2005, French/Palestinian Hamouri was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for allegedly co-conspiring with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) members to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ultra-Orthodox Shas party's spiritual leader and former Israeli Chief Rabbi. At age 91, he's very much alive as of January 25, 2011, Israel National News saying he recently visited President Shimon Peres "in a 'shiva' call," offering condolences for his wife's recent passing.

Based on secret Israeli intelligence, no proof, Hamouri was sentenced to seven years in prison after accepting a plea bargain. Over a two-year period, an Israeli military court convened over 20 times on his case. According to Claude Lefort, a pro-Palestinian activist and president of France's AFD support committee, judges (on April 14, 2008) told him to plead guilty or face 14 years in prison. Though innocent of all charges, his lawyer, Leah Tsemel, advised him to do it after he initially denied all charges.

In October 2008, a National Committee to support him was established, co-chaired by Hind Khoury and Stephane Hessel. Lefort acts as coordinator. In May 2009, Hamouri was made an honorary town of Grigny citizen, and the mayor of Bourg-en-Bresse supports him. In addition, other French cities formed committees on his behalf, declaring him a political prisoner, an innocent man convicted without proof.

In early 2009, Israel denied his request for early release on good behavior. On June 8, 2009, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid headlined, "France to Israel: Free man who plotted attack on Ovadia Yosef," saying:

"French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner appealed to Israel for clemency...The unusual request was made after pro-Palestinian groups lobbied" for him, comparing his captivity to IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas as a prisoner of war. At the time, a Netanyahu spokesman said legal aspects were being reviewed. A response would follow. As of now, he's still imprisoned.

Hamouri's Background

On December 3, 2008, the web site Liberte Pour Salah provided biographical and other information. Aged 25, he was born in Jerusalem. His father, Hassan, is a local restaurateur. His mother, Denise, is a Bourg-en-Bresse native. Salah holds a French passport, registered at Jerusalem's Consulate General of France.

Israeli harassment way predated his current imprisonment. It began on September 30, 2001 when he was arrested, isolated for two months in Jerusalem's Moskobieh interrogation center despite being aged 16 at the time, then imprisoned for five months for posting "anti-Israeli propaganda" at school.

In February 2004, he was again baselessly arrested in Bethlehem, then held in administrative detention for four months. On March 13, 2005, his current confinement began, now a decade-long ordeal. His scheduled release date is November 21, 2011, but anything is possible in Israeli custody, especially for liberation activists.

Numerous past articles discussed Palestinian political prisoners, several accessed through the following links:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2008/08/torture-as-official-israeli-policy.html

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/03/palestinian-political-prisoners.html

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/israels-barbaric-solitary-confinement.html

Though illegal (with no allowed exceptions) under international law and Section 277 of Israel's 1977 Penal Law, most Palestinians detained, including children, are tortured, often brutally despite being innocent.

Incarceration conditions for all detainees are horrific, especially for those held in isolation. If sustained long enough, it destroys the human spirit, psyche, mind and body, producing symptoms ranging from severe anxiety, nightmares and confusion to profound despair, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

As a political weapon, Israel imprisons, tortures and isolates thousands of Palestinians, punishing them for being Muslims under Jewish occupation, especially liberation advocates. Moreover, according to the Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association, Israeli authorities detained over 650,000 Palestinians since 1967, including around 40% of all males. Anyone, anytime can be arrested, charged, imprisoned with or without charges. Activists are especially targeted, subject to repeated harassment and arrests like Hamoudi.

Besides freely used torture, imprisonment involves:

-- severe overcrowding;

-- poor ventilation and sanitation;

-- no change of clothes or adequate amounts;

-- wooden planks with thin mattresses for beds, some infested with vermin; blankets are often torn, filthy and inadequate; hot water is rare and soap is rationed;

-- threadbare tents at the Negev Ketziot military detention camp, exposing detainees to extreme weather conditions, and in summer, to vermin, insects, scorpions, parasites, rats, and other reptiles;

-- tents at Megiddo and Ofer besides its oil-soiled hangers;

-- isolation for many in tiny, poorly ventilated confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel, family members or other prisoners;

-- no access to personal cleanliness and hygiene, including restricted facilities, forcing prisoners to urinate in bottles in their cells;

-- inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and dietary requirements;

-- poor medical care, including lack of specialized personnel, mental health treatment, and denial of needed medicines and equipment; as a result, many suffer ill health; doctors are also pressured to deny proper treatment, some later admitting it;

-- extreme psychological pressure to break detainees' will;

-- widespread use of torture, abuse, cruel and degrading treatment;

-- women and children treated like men;

-- NGOs like Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and the ICRC deterred from providing aid; and for all detainees

-- imposed conditions linking visits:

"with the overall security situation, requiring that prisoners must not be security prisoners and that persons applying for visits must not have a security record, requiring that visitors be first-degree relatives and that brothers or sons applying for visits must be under the age of 18."

Israel treats Palestinians brutally, subjecting them to prohibited treatment under international law, including torture. Hamouri is no exception, despite strong support (including from the French Jewish Union for Peace and hundreds of individuals globally) as well as diplomatic efforts to free him.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicago's Mayoral Election: Rahm Emanuel's Eligibility At Issue

Chicago's Mayoral Race: Rahm Emanuel's Eligibility At Issue - by Stephen Lendman

On February 22, Chicago's mayoral primary will be held. If no candidate gets over 50% of the vote, an April 5 runoff will follow, the winner's term running from May 16, 2011 - May 18, 2015. Democrats dominate city politics. The last Republican mayor ("Big Bill" Thompson) left office in 1931. The Great Depression ended their rule when Anton Cermak took over, built a strong constituency among African Americans, and consigned Republicans to small pockets on the city's far northwest side and suburban areas post-war.

Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. (current incumbent leaving office after six terms) ran Chicago like Republicans for over 43 of the last 55 years. If elected, so will Emanuel as a previous article explained, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/09/from-hizzhonor-to-dishonor.html

His Background

Born in Chicago, his political career began in a number of capacities in local and national politics, including:

-- Democrat Paul Simon's 1984 election;

-- in 1988, as political director for the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and

-- senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley's first 1989 campaign, helping him become Bill Clinton's finance director in 1992.

He joined his 1991 primary campaign, worked in his "War Room," and served as senior advisor from 1993 - 1998. Initially he was Assistant to the President for Political Affairs but was fired for his profane, abrasive style, rubbing many around him the wrong way. It earned him the nickname "Rahmbo."

Nonetheless, he recouped by lobbying Congress for NAFTA, worked to reinvent Clinton as a centrist, and became a leading White House strategist. Politico called him "a consistent voice for anti-crime measures, welfare reform and other initiatives that pushed against liberal orthodoxy," besides being one-sided for Israel and pro-business, essential credentials for aspiring politicians.

From 1999 - 2002, he was managing director for the Chicago investment bank firm Dresdner, Kleinwort, Wasserstein, earning a reported $18 million, a near impossible feat for a newcomer leaving some to ask how. After being elected to Congress, he left, his first term beginning on January 3, 2003.

In 2005, he was named Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair, heading fundraising efforts to increase the party's congressional representation, saying in his new role "winning is everything." On November 6, 2008, Obama named him chief of staff. With the nation facing economic depression, he told the Wall Street Journal:

"You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is that's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." He didn't mean populist ones.

In Congress, he was the fourth ranked House Democrat. A hawk, neoliberal, and pro-Israeli hard-liner, now deceased Chicago activist/investigative reporter, and founder and chairman of the Citizens Committee to Clean up the Courts, Sherman Skolnick, called him the "acting deputy chief for North America of Mossad."

His father, Benjamin Emanuel (changed from Auerbach in 1936 by his grandfather Exekiel), a Jerusalem-born pediatrician, was involved, pre-1948, with smuggling weapons to the Irgun. The terror group, headed by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, conducted regular massacres and targeted assassinations, including the infamous 1946 King David Hotel bombing, killing 91 and injuring dozens more.

Emanuel is as hard line as his father, dismissive of Palestinian interests, and in 1991, served as a civilian IDF volunteer during the Gulf War. It's believed he holds dual citizenships, a dubious status for any US politician, especially influential ones.

In Congress and as chief of staff, he supported Israel's illegal belligerency and occupation, as well as being shamelessly pro-war and neoliberal. He's for business, not populist interests, his abrasive style alienating him from anyone with opposing views.

He's also a prominent Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) member, the far-to-the-right-of center organization Ralph Nader calls "corporatist (and) soulless," ideologically like Republicans. He and the DLC are anti-populist, anti-labor, anti-welfare, pro-business, strongly for US imperialism, militarism, global wars, and world dominance. Nader explained that:

"To the DLC mind, Democrats are catering to 'special interests' when they stand up for trade unions, regulatory consumer-investor protections, a preemptive peace policy overseas, pruning the bloated military budget now devouring (the federal budget), defending Social Security from Wall Street schemes, and pressing for universal health care coverage. So right-wing is the DLC....that even opposing Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy....is considered ultra-liberal and contrary to winning campaigns."

DLC members are hardline against rights for Blacks, Hispanics, Latino immigrants, Muslims, labor, the poor, consumer protections, populism, progressivism, environmental protection, peace and those for it, prosecuting corporate criminals, honest elections, and democratic governance.

As mayor, Emanuel will govern accordingly. However, though far ahead in the polls, his residency status is at issue. A lower court ruled him eligible. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the decision 2 - 1. Appealed to the state Supreme Court, it ruled unanimously for Emanuel on January 27, letting him run for mayor.

On January 25, Chicago Tribune writers Jeff Cohen, Annie Sweeney and Hal Dardick headlined, "State Supreme Court gives Emanuel a reprieve," saying:

Letting his name stay on the ballot, it will soon decide his eligibility to run. "The developments capped a whirlwind 24 hours (that began) when the Appellate Court" ruled against him, "send(ing his) legal team scrambling to save his candidacy for Chicago's top office as opponents rushed to pick off potential supporters."

Illinois Law and Legal Opinions Ahead of the Supreme Court Decision

Seven justices ruled. Legal experts believed quickly. Long-time Chicago appellate attorney, Steve Merican, said "justices will give an answer in anywhere from 12 hours to a few days, though it's impossible to know for sure. But the fact that they took it early clearly is a positive for Emanuel."

He and other experts said, its options were as follows:

-- reinstating Emanuel regardless of legal residency, saying the Appellate Court overreached by interfering with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners' decision; or, more likely,

-- issuing a "landmark ruling" on the matter, setting a precedent that could have national implications.

However, doing so was considered no guarantee for Emanuel. According to Mike Rathsack, an American Academy of Appellate Lawyers fellow:

"Underneath this all is probably the worry in the (Emanuel) camp that the court could affirm, with a holding that they are just following the law, and they can only deal with what the Legislature enacted, not what (it) intended to enact."

In their Supreme Court filing, Emanuel's lawyers called the Appellate decision arbitrary. They argued that by requiring candidates to be physically present, and failing to say if government service takes precedence, it blocked someone like Obama from running for local politics.

Their filing states:

"Illinois has proudly provided the federal government with some of the most talented public servants in our nation's history. (They) include two presidents (Obama and Lincoln), who under the Appellate Court's decision could not return to Illinois following their presidencies and continue their public service as elected officials."

In fact, Illinois residency law dates from 1818, the same year it became a state, affirming candidate eligibility only for qualified voters who've "resided in the municipality at least one year preceding the election or appointment."

Previously, however, aspirants who moved away could demonstrate an intention to return by leaving their voter registration and driver's license unchanged as Emanuel did. Moreover, legal experts said courts never dismiss candidates' intentions out of hand.

According to Chicago attorney Michael Dorf, an election law expert:

"We've all been working under this absolute presumption based on cases of the last 50 years that intent was really the key. But the appellate court got rid of intent totally."

Ohio State University Law Professor Edward Foley, head of the school's election law program, called the decision striking, saying:

"There is a general theme in election law that when in doubt, you err on the side of democracy. If there is any doubt about the understanding of the statute, you interpret it so that you let the voters decide."

Nonetheless, both state and municipal codes leave some questions unanswered. For example, the latter says people who've been away performing military service remain eligible, and no one loses residency for engaging in "business of the United States."

According to Dorf, however, these provisions apply to voting, not office seeking, muddying the waters even more. He said the law specifically requires physical residency for at least 12 months without defining it or specifying the exact number of days. Nor does it say if maintaining voting eligibility is enough or what precisely is the "business of the United States." Nonetheless, Dorf expects a Supreme Court reversal, letting Emanuel run. Others agree.

Illinois law differs markedly from federal law, letting candidates run for Congress without establishing residency. In 2004, Maryland resident Alan Keyes was Obama's Republican Senate opponent. According to University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Kent Redfield, "About the only time (he) spent in Chicago was changing planes at O'Hare."

Early voting begins on January 31. Polls open on February 22. Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, most experts believed Emanuel's eligibility would be affirmed, though Steve Merican said his lawyers "have the tougher row to hoe" making their case. "It's not an easy question. The majority (Appellate) opinion and the dissent both contained good rationale and good legal reasoning. It's not (a) slam dunk for either side." Smart money, however, picked Emanuel who'll likely be Chicago's next mayor, the office he's long sought.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Political Prisoner Ahmad Sa'adat Update

Political Prisoner Ahmad Sa'adat Update - by Stephen Lendman

A previous article discussed his background, activism and status in detail, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/07/ahmad-saadat-palestinian-prisoner-of.html

Extensive information on him can be found on:

http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/

As General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), he was sentenced in 2002 to 30 years in prison "for a range of 'security related' political offenses," including his prominence in a prohibited organization.

For over 40 years, Israel targeted him relentlessly, subjecting him to numerous arrests, torture, false imprisonments, and isolation for opposing occupation and wanting Palestine liberated.

On December 28, 2008, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Israel's harshest political punishment, though illegal under international law. Refusing to recognize the court's legitimacy, he calls himself "a prisoner for freedom."

For nearly 700 days (since March 19, 2009), he's been held in isolation with no family visits, reading material, or contact with counsel, friends or fellow prisoners. On October 24, 2010, his status was extended another six months until April 21, 2011 "barred from human contact."
The campaign to free him asks people of conscience everywhere to speak out, demanding he and other political prisoners be released.

Even in isolation, he's not silenced. In a statement issued on January 15, he supported Tunisia's liberating struggle against "a system of injustice, abuse and exploitation," urging democratic forces unite to press for legitimate demands.

A January 15 statement on the 9th anniversary of his PA kidnapping headlined, "We Will Not Forget and Will Not Forgive," saying:

"Today, the campaign in solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat (demands) accountability and punishment (for) perpetrators of this crime...." Moreover, it rejects PA "cooperation with the enemy....under the pretext of 'protecting the supreme interests of the Palestinian people (and) upholding our commitment to signed agreements.' "

"Meanwhile, every day, our people suffer from occupation, poverty and siege. It is the duty of leaders and true (patriots) to protect the Palestinian people and their land, resist the settlers, and champion the people and their resistance, as Ahmad Sa'adat" did so heroically and continues doing under harsh isolation conditions.

On January 19, around 25 Dublin (socialist republican) "eirigi" protesters held a candlelight vigil in front of the Israeli embassy, highlighting the treatment and ongoing hunger strike of Sa'adat and Hamas leader Jamal Abu Al-Haija. In solidarity with both men, they pledged to keep focusing on their status, saying:

"We in Ireland understand only too well the seriousness of the situation when you have no option left but to use your body as a weapon" for justice. They added that Palestinian supporters worldwide "will hold the Zionist regime directly responsible for the well being" of both men and all other Palestinian political prisoners.

On January 21, the Campaign in Solidarity with Sa'adat, in collaboration with French allies, "condemned French Foreign Minister Ms. Michelle Alliot-Marie (during her Gaza visit), and demanded" she apologize for calling Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's detention a "war crime," while ignoring the thousands of illegally held Palestinian prisoners, including young children.

Sa'adat in His Own Words

Refusing to be silenced, one of many Sa'adat quotes affirmed that:

"I too possess a will obtained from the justice of our cause and the determination of our people to reject any decision from (Israel's) 'kangaroo court,' and to preserve a logical and cohesive balance, and to continue my determination to resist your occupation alongside the sons and daughters of our people, in spite of the limited space that you impose on my already-limited movement as a 'prisoner for freedom.' "

The Friends of Ahmad Sa'adat, a "new international network for coordination of support and solidarity activities" urges activists everywhere united for Palestine's liberation "to come together, network, and coordinate in order to educate and mobilize people around the world to work for him and all illegally held Palestinian political prisoners." More information is available through the following link:

http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/friends.html

In solidarity, get involved for justice denied him and many others out of sight and mind to most people.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

America's Dire State of the Union

America's Dire State of the Union - by Stephen Lendman

Like last year, Obama's address was empty rhetoric, signaling business as usual with a twist - more than ever embracing reactionary extremism, promising harder than ever hard times on Main Street.

Last year, an earlier article discussed his first State of the Union address, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/01/obamas-outreach-to-americans-empty.html

Results again this time were predicable. Democrats loved it. Time magazine called the Republican response "frosty," saying "Stand-up comics call it a tough crowd."

Released prior to the address, Rep. Paul Ryan's response stressed "work(ing) with the President to restrain federal spending," saying "(o)ur debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis."

His message was clear - reward the rich, soak working Americans, and fund America's war machine generously, an agenda enjoying bipartisan support, very much so by Obama clearly signaled in rhetoric and policy.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's response following Obama was also predictable, saying:

"What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation, and litigation that kills jobs and hurts the middle class....Today the federal government is simply trying to do too much....The circumstances of our time demand that we....restore and proper, limited role of government at every level."

Like Ryan and Obama, he's pro-business, pro-elitist, pro-war and anti-populist, but so are most Democrats - together responsible for harder than ever hard times for working Americans they plan to worsen, not ease.

Predicable Media Response

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham said, "There (were) least three moments where (Obama) expressed explicit humility." He and ABC News host George Stephanopoulos called his speech Reaganesque. NBC's Matt Lauer and Washington Post columnist Tom Shales also stressed humility, Shales saying, "Obama does have the ability to snatch humility from the jaws of hubris." He also mentioned his "directness, candor (and) neighborliness."

MSNBC's Chris Matthews caalled Obama "seductive" while Rachel Maddow said his address was "more of a CEO-style pep talk/prayer to the free market, to the nation building in our own nation." She added that he defined the political center "not so much by what's wrong with both sides, but by what Mr. Obama likes from each party's wish list." Other MSNBC hosts and analysts also expressed strong support.

So did Washington Post columnists Anne Komblut and Scott Wilson headlining, "State of the Union 2011: 'Win the future,' Obama says," adding:

"President Obama sought to rouse the nation from complacency....urging innovation and budget reforms that he said are vital to keep the United States a leader in an increasingly competitive world."

WP columnist Eugene Robinson headlined, "Hard to argue with Obama's State of the Union address," calling it "eloquent, post-partisan, (and) unit(ing)-not....divid(ing)."

A New York Times editorial headlined, "The State of the Union," saying:

"Mr. Obama's speech offered a welcome contrast to all of the posturing that passes for business in the new Republican-controlled House....At times, (he) was genuinely inspiring with a vision for the country to move forward with confidence and sense of responsibility. Americans need to hear a lot more like that from him."

Nation magazine writer John Nichols headlined, "Obama's 'One Nation' Speech: A Little FDR, A Little Reagan, A Lot Like Ike," saying:

While he wasn't entirely progressive, he was "far less deferent to conservative demands than had been predicted just a few days ago," stressing "One Nation" unified "behind a 'winning the future' agenda."

In contrast, Fox News hosts and guests panned his address, as well as through Fox Nation's live chat while he spoke, sharing largely critical Twitter comments.

A Wall Street Journal editorial raised doubts about a business friendly president, saying:

His address "can't erase the fact that in his first two years (he) has overseen an historic expansion of government," including increasing federal spending "to as much as 25% of the economy from a modern average between 20% and 21....A better economy requires policies that reward work and innovation, while letting capital flow to the companies and individuals with the best ideas."

Writer Robert Scheer's assessment was accurate, saying:

"What is the state of the union? You certainly couldn't tell from that platitudinous hogwash (Obama) dished out Tuesday evening....he was mealy-mouthed in avoiding the tough choices that a leader should delineate in a time of trouble....He had the effrontery to condemn 'a parade of lobbyists' for rigging government after he appointed (JPMorgan Chase's) top" one as new chief of staff."

His speech "was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and a debt that spiraled out of control while the government wasted trillions" bailout out rogue bankers that caused the economic crisis. Our nation is "divided between those who agree with Obama that 'the worst of the recession is over,' and the far greater number in deep pain" he's ignoring.

A Reality Check

As a candidate, Obama promised change, a new course, progressive reforms, addressing people needs, ending US imperial wars, assuring a better future for working Americans, and much more he reneged on in office.

As a result, hope became disillusion, frustration, and anger for growing millions facing harder than ever hard times, including lost homes, jobs and futures knowing what pundits and politicians won't say - that Obama (like most Democrats and Republicans) represents business as usual, a reality speeches can't change.

State of the Union rhetoric aside, his agenda embraces:

-- power and elitism over popular needs;

-- austerity and harder than ever hard times for suffering millions, including middle class Americans targeted for destruction;

-- the worst of predatory capitalism, including freeing business from regulatory restraints;

-- generous tax cuts for corporate America and the rich;

-- rewarding Wall Street and other corporate favorites at the expense of Main Street;

-- cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social benefits;

-- sacrificing full-time high-paying good benefits jobs for part-time low-paying ones without them;

-- increasing unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and despair for growing millions getting little or no government aid;

-- crushing unions;

-- destroying public education by making it a business profit center;

-- letting oil giants and other corporate predators pollute freely;

-- continuing America's imperial wars;

-- planning more perhaps to divert public anger from dire economic conditions at home; and

-- letting public need reach levels unseen since the Great Depression, pretending he cares when he doesn't.

That's the real state of the union. For growing millions, it's dire, desperate, worsening, and repressive with no public agenda for progressive reforms and promised change because bipartisan support rejects them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Mass Street Protests in Egypt

Mass Street Protests in Egypt - by Stephen Lendman

An August 2009 Council on Foreign Relations Steven Cook report headlined, "Political Instability in Egypt," saying:

Facing possible instability, (m)ost analysts believe that the current Egyptian regime will muddle through its myriad challenges and endure indefinitely (with) enough coercive power to ensure" it.

It's also "entering a period of political transition. President Hosni Mubarak is (81) and reportedly" ill. His (46 year old) son Gamal "is evidently being groomed to succeed him." However, the "process could prove difficult."

"Thus, while Egypt on the surface appears stable, the potential for growing political volatility and abrupt discontinuities (ahead) should not be summarily dismissed."

Cook suggested two possible scenarios:

-- contested succession resulting in military intervention; or

-- "an Islamist push for political power."

One indicator to watch for, he suggested, would be "the number of protestors in the streets....in response to a leadership transition," not public anger against high unemployment, extreme poverty, and Mubarack's dictatorship, inspired by mass protests ousting long-time Tunisian despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, what some observers thought impossible until it happened and began spreading across the region. More on that below.

US Government Responses

Note: Egypt is the largest, most significant Arab state, vital to US regional interests. After Israel, it receives more aid than any other nation, nearly $2 billion annually. Around two-thirds is for military use, including repressing dissent. The rest is economic for neoliberal reforms, including privatizing state resources.

Washington worries that Egypt's uprising may grow if not stopped. It won't tolerate revolutionary change that potentially could spread globally, including on US streets where millions face depravation levels unseen since the Great Depression.

Yet a January 25 White House press release said:

"As we monitor the situation in Egypt, we urge all parties to refrain from using violence, and expect the Egyptian authorities to respond to any protests peacefully. We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."

A same day PJ Crowley State Department statement said:

"We are monitoring the situation in Egypt closely. The United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly of all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully."

Secretary of State Clinton added:

"Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."

Don't be fooled. Her message is harsh and clear. Washington tolerates no dissent and will help Egypt crush it brutally. In fact, working with local police, Washington does it domestically against global justice and other protests, including during 2000 and 2004 presidential political party conventions brutally.

Media and Analyst Responses

On January 25, New York Times writers Kareen Fahim and Mona-El-Naggar headlined, "Violent Clashes Mark Protests Against Mubarak's Rule," saying:

"Tens of thousands of people demanding an end to (his) 30-year rule....filled (Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and other Egyptian streets), in an unusually large and sometimes violent burst of civil unrest that appeared to threaten the stability of one of" America's closest regional allies.

Amr Hamzawy, Carnegie Middle East Center research director said:

"The big, grand ideological narratives were not seen today. This was not about 'Islam is the solution' or anything else." It's about people fed up with a repressive, corrupt dictatorship, wanting democracy, jobs and poverty relief. It's about Mubarak denying them for decades.

Protest organizers coordinated online for a "Day of Revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment," on a day honoring police used by dissidents to protest their brutality.

Drivers and others joined protesters, chanting, "The people want the downfall of the regime....Freedom, freedom, freedom!"

According to American University of Cairo Professor Mustapha Makel al-Sayyid:

"I think it is the beginning of (broader social unrest). Some of the demonstrators are still in (Cairo's) Tahrir (Square) and said they will not leave until their demands are met by the government." After police forced them out, al-Sayyid added, "Their demands will not be met....but they will not give up."

On January 26, London Independent long-time Middle East observer Robert Fisk headlined, "A new truth dawns on the Arab world," saying:

"(T)he Egyptian people are calling for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a (Hezbollah-allied) prime minister....Rarely has the Arab world seen anything like this....(A)cross the Middle East, we are waiting to see the downfall of America's friends. In Egypt, Mr. Mubarak must be wondering where he flies to. In Lebanon, America's friends are collapsing....We do not know what comes next." Neither does Washington and regional despots, perhaps arranging their own safe havens.

On January 25, Al Jazeera headlined, "Egypt protesters clash with police," saying:

Some "hurl(ed) rocks and climb)ed) atop an armored police truck" chanting anti-Mubarak slogans. Police responded with water cannons, tear gas, and attacking crowds with batons. Several deaths were reported and dozens of arrests. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh called the protests "unprecedented," especially after authorities warned about not emulating Tunisia, and Egypt bans all demonstrations without permits rarely given - never for large numbers.

Egyptian blogger Hossam El Hamalawy spoke for many saying:

"We want a functioning government. We want Mubarak to step down. We don't want emergency law. We don't want to live under this kind of oppression anymore. Enough is enough. Things have to change and if Tunisia can do it, why can't we?"

Online, a domino effect spread similar sentiment. El Hamalawy said Facebook organizers wrote:

"People are fed up with Mubarak and his dictatorship and his torture chambers and his failed economic policies. If Mubarak is not overthrown tomorrow then it will be the day after. If it's not the day after it's going to be next week."

Egypt's state-owned Al Ahram quoted Said Hossam Zaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman saying Egyptian demonstrations aren't new, without explaining state restrictions or Mubarak's policy to target dissent. Instead he said:

"It is incumbent on everyone to realize that there is a new law against terrorism, which replaces the emergency law applied until now, but what should be emphasized is that people who want to go out to the streets to voice their demands" may do it.

Wednesday night, January 26, Al Jazeera reported "running clashes throughout Cairo." More protests are expected as demonstrators show "no signs of stopping so far."

Al Ahram also said 90 were arrested in Cairo, more elsewhere, and many others targeted for investigations perhaps leading to imprisonment, torture and death. An independent lawyer coalition reported six deaths and said at least 1,200 were detained. For sure many more will be as protests continue.

On January 25, University of Wisconsin Professor Seif Da'Na headlined, "The Mideast: 'A New Era' from Cairo," saying:

"Repercussions of the Tunisia example will be deep and significant and will be felt throughout the region. The uprising signifies not only the failure of the neoliberal model that Arab regimes pursued, but also the futility of political oppression to enforce this model in the long run. The event signifies the beginning of a new era that must be seen as a process of change and might lead to the creation of a new region."

Possibilities are, in fact, breathtaking and broad, embracing political, economic, and social demands "signifying the dead-end of a system that employed excessive political oppression to enforce destructive neoliberal economic policies. Privatizing the public sector essentially reversed the post independence economic achievements of these countries," creating inequality and intolerable conditions for most people. Now they're reacting, inspired by early Tunisia successes that continue demanding ouster of all former government officials.

Most interim cabinet members, including acting Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, are regime holdovers. For days, police showed restraint. On January 24, they changed tactics with tear gas, razor wire barriers, and other measures against protestors refusing to disperse, defying curfew orders by camping out peacefully all night, demanding a new government.

Twenty-two year-old Othmene spoke for others, saying; "We will stay here until the government resigns and runs away like Ben Ali." Teachers and civil servants went on strike joining them, assuring protests continue.

Potentially the entire region is affected. Other protests erupted in Algeria, Yemen and Jordan, at times met with deadly force. On January 22, AP said over a dozen people were killed in Algiers, Algeria's capital. Protesters said dozens more were injured. Said Sadi, head of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), said the group's leader, Othmane Amazouz, was arrested.

On January 21, RCD, the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), and four trade unions formed a national democracy movement for change.

In a region with endemic poverty, Yemen is the Arab world's poorest country with extreme depravation and youth unemployment levels, an explosive mix fueling unrest. On January 22, around 2,500 demonstrated at the University of Sanaa. Others occurred in Aden, Lahj and elsewhere. Police and military forces responded repressively with tear gas, live fire and mortars, arresting dozens and causing at least one death.

On January 21, thousands protested in Amman and other Jordanian cities demanding "bread and freedom," as well as ouster of government officials, chanting: "(Prime Minister Samir) Rafia, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow!"

Throughout the region, common interests drive protests, including state repression, mass unemployment and poverty, rising food and fuel prices, malnutrition, and for some starvation, a neoliberal caused catastrophe erupting regionally for change.

Today, in the Middle East. Tomorrow perhaps globally given growing levels of human depravation everywhere, including in developed countries like America.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lebanon's Hezbollah-Led Government

Lebanon's Hezbollah-Led Government - by Stephen Lendman

It's official, or nearly so, Haaretz, on January 25 headlining, "Hezbollah's PM pick wins majority backing as Hariri supporters hold 'day of wrath,' " saying:

Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati, a Sunni billionaire, became new prime minister after getting 68 votes, a majority in Lebanon's 128-member parliament. Caretaker PM Saad Hariri got 60. As a result, Hezbollah "is now in position to control Lebanon's next government. The move has set off angry protests and drew warnings from the US that its support could be in jeopardy."

"Sunni blood is boiling," chanted protestors. Burning Mikati pictures, they said they won't serve in a coalition government, adding that anyone allying with Hezbollah is a traitor. After being appointed, he said:

"I extend my hand to everyone....This is a democratic process. I want to rescue my country....My actions (as PM) will speak for themselves."

"I affirmed to the president that cooperation will be complete between us to form a new government which the Lebanese want, a government to maintain the unity of their country and their sovereignty, achieve the solidarity of its people, protect the coexistence formula and respect the constitutional rules."

However, nothing in Lebanon is ever simple, especially with Washington and Israel often intervening politically, economically and/or violently.

Commenting briefly, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Washington has "great concerns about a government within which Hezbollah plays a leading role," adding that relations and Washington-supplied aid will be affected.

On January 25, Reuters headlined, "Clinton warns Hezbollah-backed government may alter US ties with Lebanon," saying:

She accused Hezbollah of "coercion, intimidation, (and) threats of violence to achieve its political goals," adding, (o)ur bottom lines remain as they always have been. We believe that justice must be pursued and impunity for murder ended. We believe in Lebanon's sovereignty and an end to outside interference. As we see what this new government does, we will judge it accordingly."

In fact, no nation matches Washington's worldwide lawlessness, waging imperial wars for global dominance and increasing repression of its own people at home.

Yet White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said:

"It is hard to imagine any government that is truly representative of all of Lebanon would abandon the effort to end the era of impunity for assassinations in the country (referring to Mossad's 2005 Rafiq Hariri killing falsely blamed on Hezbollah). In the meantime, we call on all parties to maintain calm."

America designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization, meaning aid is automatically suspended. In the past five years, it's been $1.2 billion, and the Obama administration requested $246 million more this year.

Hezbollah supporters dismissed US concerns, saying Lebanon's power shift will be conciliatory and peaceful. According to Hassan Khalil, publisher of the left of center Al Akhbar:

"Mikati is not coming to power by force, a coup or by civil unrest. (It's by Lebanon's) parliamentary system. (Moreover, (f)unding from the United States is limited and will not disturb the balance of power," if cut off.

According to American University of Beirut Professor Hilal Khashan, however:

Lebanon's parliamentary arithmetic may be less important than securing sectarian consensus, saying:

"If most of the Sunni community doesn't accept Mikati's designation, we have a problem. If they are unhappy, that would violate the spirit of the constitution," arguing that he risked "political suicide" if he tries forming a government opposed by Hariri supporters who consider him a tool of a Hezbollah "coup."

On January 23, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah pledged to include political rivals in a coalition government, saying:

We seek a "national partnership in which all parties will participate. We respect everyone's right to representation."

Middle East analyst Franklin Lamb believes Mikati's appointment is a "done deal," substituting "sunni billionaire #2 (for) #1." Though street protests erupted, they "won't amount to all that much and the army will break up rowdy demos." Anger will subside. There's "not much the Obama administration can do. (S)treet pressure (might) close the US embassy, (but Washington) has almost no options since it will not squeeze Israel, so it gifts another Middle East country to the rising other empire," suggesting Iran, closely allied with Hezbollah.

Despite Hariri's March 14 coalition boycott threat, some members may break ranks, shifting loyalties to assure current benefits aren't lost, thus aiding a new government's formation.

On January 24, New York Times writer Isabel Kershner headlined, "A Hezbollah-Run Lebanon, but No Panic in Israel," saying:

Some analysts "said it was not necessarily an immediate cause for alarm." According to Tel Aviv University's Professor Eyal Zisser, the change is largely "semantic," and for Bar-Ilan University's Professor Efraim Inbar:

Though "the Heabollization of Lebanon" is worrisome, it's "not like they will start shooting at us tomorrow. They are busy now with internal affairs."

According to vice prime minister Silvan Shalom, however, a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon is "a very, very dangerous development," adding it's like having "an Iranian government on Israel's northern border."

An unnamed Israeli official said:

"We are concerned about Iranian domination of Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah. We are not going to give the other side any excuse whatsoever to initiate an escalation along the border," no matter that Hezbollah doesn't "initiate." It responds defensively as international law allows to repeated Israeli provocations.

Retired General Giora Eiland perhaps suggested more coming, saying:

"If Hezbollah is behind the government, it will be much easier to explain to the international community why we must fight against the State of Lebanon."

In a January 25 editorial, headlined "Any misstep could imperil Lebanon," Beirut's The Daily Star called "none" of Lebanon's "handful of options" going forward "very promising," adding:

New Prime Minister Mikati is less conciliatory than partisan. "As such, the faction would never have named (him or anyone else) unless their man agreed to (rescind) cooperation with the (UN-backed) Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), (as well as reverse) other decisions or policies of the previous Cabinet which did not accord to March 8's liking (the coalition, including Hezbollah)."

As a result, the "country is a powder keg, and any misstep could have unforeseeable and tragic consequences."

Profile of Najib Mitaki

A Tripoli-based MP before becoming prime minister, he's also a billionaire businessman. In 1982, he and his brother, Taha, founded Investcom, a telecommunications company, transforming an enterprise into an empire with investments in the Middle East, Europe and Africa before selling to South Africa's MTN Group in 2006 for $5.5 billion.

He also co-founded the M1 Group, a multi-billion dollar privately owned financial and industrial conglomerate with interests in telecommunications, real estate, transport, oil and gas.

Since 1998, he's been an MP, public works and transportation minister, and past prime minister briefly in 2005 after Rafik Hariri's assassination.

Although considered pro-Syrian, he promotes consensus. He also supports philanthropic causes, and was involved with the "Beirut Pact," a socio-economic project to improve Lebanon's developmental standards, including working for regional economic parity.

Detailed information on Lebanon's current status can be accessed through the following links:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/turmoil-in-lebanon.html

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/druze-leader-jumblatt-backs-hezbollah.html

As developments warrant, further updates will follow.

A Final Comment

A previous addressed former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/obama-embraces-military-commissions.html

Charged under 284 counts of involvement in 1998 attacks on US embassies in East Africa, his New York civil court trial exonerated him on all charges, save one count of conspiracy used when no evidence exists to convict. It seemed a stunning victory for the defense.

On January 24, however, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced him to life in prison without parole saying, despite no corroborating evidence:

"Mr. Ghailani knew and intended that people would be killed as a result of his own actions and the conspiracy he joined. The very purpose of the crime was to create terror by causing death and destruction."

His lawyers will likely appeal. However, before conservative justices in today's climate of fear, Ghailani stands little chance because it's the wrong time to be Muslim in America, judged guilty by accusation.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.