Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Illegitimate Egyptian Elections

Illegitimate Egyptian Elections - by Stephen Lendman


Last February, Mubarak's 30-year dictatorship ended. Another one replaced him. Egypt's military holds absolute power.


Authoritarian dominance is unchallenged. Elections are more theater than real. Egypt's multi-round complex process complicates them further. So do logistics. Understanding what to do is daunting.


The hybrid ballot lists parties and individual candidates. Voters choose from both. Candidates represent professionals and worker/farmers. Influence peddling and fraud are rife.


Egypt's process perhaps has no parallel anywhere. Voters cast three votes, including for scores of new parties and candidates they don't recognize.


Egypt's junta deliberately designed a hard to comprehend complex system despite strong opposition from participating parties.


Individual candidates will be chosen by popular vote. Party totals may not determine representation in Parliament. Party listed candidates will get seats based on how high they're listed.


At issue is controlling the process and outcome.


Vote-counting is especially prone to fraud. One of Stalin's memorable quotes was, "It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."


Some results will be announced after each round. Party list ones won't come until January.


Human rights activist Hossam Bahgat complained about Egypt's allegedly first ever "free and fair election," saying "we've opted for one of the world's most complicated electoral systems."


Of course, regime supporters call it free and fair. Independent observers see it otherwise.


Procedurally it works as follows:


  • 6,700 candidates are participating;


  • Lower House People's Assembly voting is held on November 28, 29, December 14 and January 3; 498 members are chosen for five-year terms - 454 by proportional representation, another 44 in single-seat constituencies, and 10 more members nominated;


  • Upper House Shura Council voting will be on January 29, February 14 and March 4; 264 members are chosen for six-year terms; 174 are directly elected; the president appoints the others;


  • Presidential voting will occur sometime from mid-2012 to 2013; no date was announced.

Egypt's governorates, divided into varying numbers of districts, vote on different days, further complicating the process. Cairo, Alexandria and seven other governorates began voting on November 28. The remaining 18 will vote in two later rounds.


Voters will complete two ballots, choosing a party and individual candidates. Each district will elect four to 12 party MPs. They'll also choose popularly elected ones.


In Cairo, for example, 36 party candidates will be chosen in four districts, as well as 18 popularly elected ones in nine districts.


Allocating party seats in Cairo works as follows:


  • if party A gets 50% of the vote, their top 18 candidates are chosen;


  • if party B gets 25%, their top nine ones are picked;


  • if party C gets 25%, their top nine also are seated.


Seats are divided equally between professional and worker/farmer classifications. If the top two candidates from each category win a majority of votes, runners-up will be passed over for the highest standing candidate of the alternate working class. Try sorting that out.


The process is so complicated, it's hard understanding and explaining it properly. Imagine how Egypt's voters feel. Most are flying blind.


Egypt's Anti-Democratic Tradition


Last year's parliamentary elections were corrupted by fraud, violence and repression. Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) dominated. Opposition parties won only seven seats. Another seven went to independent candidates.


Muslim Brotherhood candidates were entirely shut out. This year, they're expected to emerge dominant with less than a majority overall. Voting so far is reasonably orderly and peaceful. Of course, outcomes matter most.


Egyptians will eventually realize they've again been had like so many previous times. Entrenched junta power won't yield. Egyptians wanting civilian rule won't get it.


The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will retain power to propose and veto legislation, convene and adjourn parliament, appoint and replace the prime minister and cabinet members, and have final say on how Egypt's governed. Elected officials will serve them.


Traditional authoritarian rule runs the country. Elections don't choose those running it. They provide a veneer of democratic change, not the real thing.


During single-party elections from 1957 - 1972, candidates were screened for party loyalty. In the 1960s, dual-member constituencies were introduced with seats reserved for worker/farmers. It hardly mattered. In 1976, Anwar Sadat allowed left, center and right parties to compete. Independents could also run.


In 1979, however, candidates opposing Egypt's peace treaty with Israel faced repression and electoral fraud. Mubarak's 1984 and 1987 elections marginally improved the process. More parties could run, including ones Sadat excluded. Muslim Brotherhood candidates were allowed to run under the auspices of an allied secular party.


However, the 1984 Election Law excluded smaller parties from parliament. None getting less than 8% support won seats. Instead, their votes were added to the party receiving a plurality.


In addition, the dual-member constituency system was replaced by multi-member districts in which party lists competed. Parliament remained a bourgeoisie preserve. Opposition parties were marginalized. Generals dominate to this day.


They've run Egypt since Nasser's Free Officers Movement gained power in 1952. They have major economic interests. Real opposition isn’t tolerated. Egypt's Emergency Law enforces power. First enacted in 1958, it remained in effect since 1967, except for a brief 1980 period. In 1981, its current version was enacted.


It permits suspending constitutional rights, instituting martial law, enforcing censorship, curtailing anti-regime protests, marginalizing opposition, restricting assemblies and free movement, arrests and indefinite detentions with or without charges, trials in military tribunals, and overall extralegal police state harshness.


Amnesty International's 2010 Egypt Report said Emergency powers are used "to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offenses or involvement in terrorism."


Some are detained administratively. Others get unfair military trials. Many are tortured. Death sentences are imposed. Freedom of speech, assembly and association are restricted or denied.


Egypt's police, other security forces, and army enforce hardline control. Activists, dissidents, anti-regime Islamists, other opposition forces, and anyone perceived threatening entrenched power can be arrested, detained, tortured and/or killed.


A still in force 1996 press law criminalizes defamation insults, and libel to suppress press freedom and speech, including against bloggers. Academia isn't safe either. State authorities control appointments, promotions, and university administrations.


As a result, subtle self-censorship prevails. Opposition professors have been fired. Activist students are harassed. Women are regularly mistreated. A 2008 Egyptian Center for Women's Rights report said over 80% of women suffer public sexual humiliation from groping to criminal assaults.


Gays and other minorities are also targeted. Men accused of homosexual acts are arrested. Though religious freedom is allowed, police at times clash with Christians. Street children are especially abused. Thousands live in Cairo.


Human Rights Watch estimated over 11,000 arrests and detentions for weeks in unsanitary, hazardous conditions, "often with adult criminal detainees who abuse them." In addition, they're denied adequate food, water, bedding and medical care. So are other prisoners.


A Final Comment


Institutionalized police state power runs Egypt. Generals are in charge. Parliamentary and presidential elections won't change things. Egyptians are stuck with systemic injustice they abhor.


Their liberating struggle just began. So have others across the region. They face repressive regimes unwillingly to yield power. They'll crack down hard to keep it. Washington supports the worst of them.


Democracy's nowhere in sight. Expecting it is a foolish leap of faith. Military rule remains solid.


Only sustained activism can change things, but never easily, quickly, or without thousands of casualties on Egyptian and other regional streets.


And it can get just as nasty in America and across Europe if social justice protests reach critical mass. Hopefully it won't deter committed activism for long denied change.


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/.

At Risk Eurozone Sovereign Credit Ratings

At Risk Eurozone Sovereign Credit Ratings - by Stephen Lendman


Moody's says Eurozone crisis conditions place all member state credit ratings at risk.


It warned 87 European banks to expect downgrades. Moreover, Fitch revised America's debt outlook to negative. Nonetheless, its AAA rating is unchanged. For how long is another issue.


At the same time, Italy's La Stampa said IMF intervention will rescue the country. No source was given, and Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy's Financial Times, didn't report it. It makes the claim all the more suspect.


IMF's funding capacity gives it $387 billion to contribute. It can also raise another $250 billion from willing contributor countries and has other tools.


At issue is will IMF use all its firepower for Italy? Will member states lend it more? Will bilateral loans be sought from countries like China, and/or will the European Central Bank (ECB) supply additional funding?


Two Financial Times articles appealed to Germany to save Europe and Italians to be patriotic and buy debt.


Imagine asking Italian workers to rescue the country that sold them out. Imagine asking Germany's $3.5 trillion economy to rescue other Eurozone ones with a combined $9 trillion GDP.


It's high time solutions accepted reality. Europe's monetary union failed. Combining 17 dissimilar economies under one system was doomed from day one. It was just a matter of time and circumstances. They've now arrived.


The main issue is will anything do more than buy time? Adding more debt compounds today's crisis. Rising sovereign debt bond yields say so. So do credit rating cuts on Portugal, Belgium and Hungary with more coming.


Talk is increasing about the troubled Eurozone dissolving. UK financial regulator Andrew Bailey believes it's "within the realm of contingency planning."


Others say breaking up is an idea whose time has come. It's hard to do, but bad unions are worse. Doomsday scenarios are mentioned, including separating strong countries from weaker ones. Historically, monetary and fiscal union succeeded only in America.


Other troubled countries include Japan. It's coping with a staggering 200% debt/GDP ratio, far greater than EU economies or America. Even China's looking less rock solid. Its industrial sector contracted and export volume slowed to single-digit volume.


Contagion is spreading everywhere. It hit Greece two years ago, then Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.


Spain's economy is double the size of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined. It's mortgage, commercial loans, and other debt can bankrupt Europe. Its impact would affect nations globally. It's running out of time. It's heading rapidly for default.


Its unemployment rate is 23%. Around half of all youths can't find work. A million or more people may lose homes, the equivalent of seven million in America. Its income inequality is the highest since the EU's Eurostat (its official statistics agency) began analyzing income distribution in 1995.


Following the fall 2007 crisis, its PSOE government clashed salaries up to 15%, attacked pensions, cut child benefits, introduced destructive labor reforms, and ended banning employing contracted temp workers indefinitely.


Expect Spain's new right-wing Popular Party (PP) to pass stiffer austerity measures. As a result, anger may explode more than already. Spain's a power keg. New Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants all Spaniards working together. Punished workers may take another route.


Unemployment, homelessness, strikes and mass protests are increasing. Bond investors want no part of Spanish debt. It's priced nearly 5% above equivalent German bonds. It's nearly fourfold the 2008 peak level and beyond what triggered Greece's collapse.


Moreover, in one month, Spain's 3-month sovereign yields doubled to over 5%. Its new government won't fare better than previous ones. Names and faces may change, but problems remain and grow. If Spain defaults, it's too big to save. So is Italy, and, of course, America dwarfs them all if it falls.


Everywhere, especially in troubled sovereigns, governments spend all their resources. They're borrowing all they can get internally and abroad. Push is rapidly reaching shove. A day of reckoning too onerous to manage approaches.


Funding holes for European banks are deepening. The Financial Times said they managed to roll over just $413 billion of the $654 billion due this year. As a result, they've got a huge $241 billion funding gap. In 2012, $720 billion in debt comes due.


Europe's banking sector deleveraging problem grows greater than they're able to handle. The FT says disposal assets on their balance sheets total $3.3 trillion in the next few years. Who has pockets deep enough to absorb it?


America's in greater trouble than people realize because of extreme speculative excess. Toxic derivatives impose crushing burdens. The Comptroller of the Currency estimates banks held $176 trillion of them at the height of the 2008 debt crisis. Today, US banks hold $249 trillion, 41% more.


Moreover, America's crushing federal debt exceeds 118% of GDP. Add unfunded liabilities and it's over $120 trillion. Totals rise despite imposed deficit reduction measures and proposed new ones. Over $1 trillion added annually compounds an already unmanageable burden.


Expect international creditors to balk. Borrowing will get tougher. Economic decline will follow. A burgeoning new debt crisis will dwarf 2008. Its effects will spread globally.


Progressive Radio News Hour regular Bob Chapman believes "Europe still does not have a longer-term structural solution to its debt crisis and none is in the offing."


The Eurozone's crisis is undermining the entire continent. It has global effects. Worse yet, he learned, "the Bundesbank usually holds back bonds for market making operations." It only sold about half its latest issue. "If the crisis continues to deepen, Germany and the other eurozone nations will have to reexamine where they are headed."


Eurozone 10-year debt costs close to 7%, the highest level since the euro's creation. The 2% spread between France and Germany's unprecedented. Bond markets can't function without ECB help. Sovereign government debt is unmanageable. Increasing it makes it worse.


Italy's largest bank, Unibank, has $51 billion to refinance. Its bond yields now yield over 10%. Only the ECB can bail them out like the Fed does for Wall Street.


Besides what Eurozone countries have to refinance next year, banks have to roll $720 billion of their own at high rates. Moreover, troubled sovereigns need around $6 trillion to avoid default. Solvent countries can't provide it without going broke. Neither can the Fed, ECB or IMF.


Capital flight is also an issue. In 2011, Greek banks lost 20% of their deposits. Will Italian and Spanish ones be next? Smart money says so. World leaders grope for solutions. Good ones aren't being chosen "The situation is unsustainable," says Chapman.


If troubled Eurozone sovereigns default, or just Italy and/or Spain, "US banks cannot possibly stay solvent." Knock-on contagion will crush them. All 27 EU nations are at risk. So are others globally. "This as we predicted has no solution."


Weaker states will be cut loose. The euro will be phased out. Article 123 of the EU Treaty prohibiting ECB financing is illegal. Sticking with treaty provisions assures collapse. Germany won't abandon the system. Instead, they'll drop weaker states and hope others hold together.


Worsening conditions assure damned if you do or don't outcomes. Ordinary people will be hurt most, including in stronger nations like Germany. End game trouble's approaching at a faster clip.


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/.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Target Syria

Target Syria - by Stephen Lendman


Washington's Greater Middle East project involves waring against the region one country at a time to replace independent regimes with client ones.


Softer targets were attacked first. Tougher ones remain, notably Iran and Syria. Subduing them may involve turning the entire region into an uncontrollable cauldron, not least because China and Russia have interests to defend.


Russia maintains a strategic naval base at Tartus, Syria, its only Mediterranean location. It considers it vital protection for its Black Sea Fleet. It's being modernized to accommodate heavy warships after 2012. Russia came to stay.


Three Russian warships now patrol Syrian waters. Unofficial sources confirm it, saying Russia's there to protect strategic and national security interests, as well as prevent war.


About 120,000 Russian citizens are in Syria. Moscow's obligated to protect them the way they aided South Ossetian Russians after Georgia attacked the province in August 2008.


Provocatively, America's nuclear carrier USS George HW Bush anchored off Syria. Its Strike Group and additional vessels are conducting maritime security and support operations nearby. The US 6th Fleet patrols the area.


Meanwhile, Washington and Turkey urged their citizens to leave Syria. A November 23 US statement said "depart immediately while commercial transportation is available." Whether something's brewing isn't known. Tough talk alone doesn't suggest it. Nonetheless, it's worrisome.


Syria's being assaulted like Libya. Heavily armed insurgents are involved. Washington orchestrated everything. Neighboring countries are involved, including Israel. Syria's blamed for defending itself. Libya redux looks possible. Continued violence and escalating tensions suggest it.


An anonymous Russian intelligence official said America "is playing a very dangerous game here. One that may result in Russia taking defensive actions to protect itself, its military installation and Russian citizens."


A Russian military expert called US carriers "expensive floating targets that are vulnerable to attacks by aircraft, missiles and torpedos. They were designed for Cold War scenarios, and are less useful in establishing control of areas close to shore."


According to Pravda.ru, Center for Military Forecasts analyst Anatoly Tsyganok said Washington no longer will inform Russia about planned troop deployments.


"Apparently, it is connected with the situation in the Mediterranean Sea," he said. "One may assume that NATO will create a military group near Russia's southern borders to strike Syria."


"They will most likely raise this issue at the NATO summit in December. They will try to analyze Syria's actions in case NATO conducts a military operation against the country, like (earlier) in Libya."


Itar-Tass contributor Anatoly Lazarev accused Washington of "initia(ting) the campaign for strangling Damascus." Russia stresses dialogue for conflict resolution. "Washington obviously does not like the stand assumed by Moscow. By all appearances, it wishes to play first the Libyan and now the Syrian card" to ensure its regional interests "at all costs." Then on to new targets to control the entire region.


International Crisis Group (ICG) Comments on Syria


Founded in 1995 by World Bank vice president Mark Malloch Brown and former US diplomat Morton Abramowitz, ICG supports power, not popular interests. Comments on its Middle East Project Director Peter Harling's analysis follows below.


Titled, "Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria's Dynamics," he assessed where things now stand, saying:


"The Syrian crisis may or may not have entered its final phase, but it undoubtedly has entered its most dangerous one to date. The current stage is defined by an explosive mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged attitudes, communal polarisation and political wishful thinking on the other."


Based in Damascus, Harling's observing events firsthand. Entirely missing from current considerations, he believes, "is a sober assessment of the challenges provoked by (balance of power) shifts and the very real risk that they could derail or even foreclose the possibility of a successful transition."


Of course, it's for Syrians, not outside powers, to decide. Intervening in other nations' internal affairs is illegal. For Washington, its NATO partners, and Israel it's standard practice. Harding's analysis omitted international law issues, focusing on imperial ones instead.


Five key issues are excluded from Syria's debate, he believes, including:


  • the dominant Alawite community's fate;


  • Syrian and Lebanese ties;


  • implications of international intervention;


  • impact of the protest movement's militarization; and


  • "creeping social, economic and institutional decay."


Assad linked the Alawite community's fate to his own to assure loyalty among people who've gained little from the regime. Crisis conditions bonded them to Assad's government. The same holds for Syrian Christians.


Critically, the regime controls Damascus and Aleppo, Syria's largest city. It secured them because protests there remain peaceful. Its "divide-and-rule tactics have kept most Alawites, many Christians, as well as some Druze and Sunnis on its side."


Nonetheless, civil society segments support insurgents. The longer conflict persists, the greater the incentive for affected business, middle class, and other elements to seek ways to end it. At issue is protecting their own self-interest. They want calm to get back to business as soon as possible.


At the same time, Assad won't step down or be deposed internally. Regime officials need him. He's been instrumental in keeping support among BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other countries. He's also popular so why remove a regime prop.


As for sanctions, civilians are mostly harmed much like everywhere they're imposed. Assad said parliamentary elections will be held next February or March. Constitutional review will follow. So will presidential elections if new provisions in it say so.


If Syrians agree to test him, violence might subside but won't end as long as criminal insurgents are encouraged by Washington, Turkey and other regional states to maintain pressure.


Nonetheless, without a political solution, violence will continue. Civilians will suffer horrifically. Military intervention may follow. For now, Assad's holding firm. Violence hasn't reached critical mass to topple him. Regime change isn't imminent. Syria's military supports him. Turkey's pressure is limited, he believes.


Arab League states have no credibility whatever. They condoned Libya's ravaging, say nothing about NATO's plans to colonize another Arab state, ignore Bahraini and other regional atrocities, and brutalize their own people protesting against political, economic and social injustice.


On November 27, DEBKAfile said Syria's neighbors are preparing for potential retaliation after League members imposed sanctions. Israel moved armored brigades to its Lebanese and Syrian borders. Turkey's military is on alert. Lebanon and Jordan also responded defensively.


"Military sources in the Gulf report that 150 Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialists had landed at a military airport south of Damascus on their way to Lebanon to join Hizbollah which began bringing its rockets out of their hideouts."


Russia's supplying Syria super-advanced S-300 anti-missile systems, as well as advanced Pantsir-1 (SA-22 Greyhound) anti-air missiles and supersonic Yakhont (SS-26) missiles for targeting vessels blockading Syria's coast.


Resolution's nowhere in sight. Conditions remain fluid. War winds are blowing. Redrawing the region is planned. Arab Spring talk belies strategies to do it. Perhaps destroying it comes first.


A Final Comment


On November 27, Arab League states approved stiff anti-Syrian economic sanctions. Their 14-point plan includes travel bans on regime officials, asset freezes, blocking sale of "nonessential" commodities, halting transactions with Syria's central bank, and ending financing for Arab-funded projects in the country.


Sanctions are effective immediately. Ordinary people will be hurt most. At issue is weakening popular support for Assad to facilitate regime change more easily. In fact, people under duress usually rally behind sitting governments for support. It remains to be seen if Syrians follow suit.


On November 28, Mathaba.net reported that Kuwait's al Rai daily learned from unnamed senior European sources that Arab states, with US logistical support, will impose a no-fly zone over Syria once an authorizing Arab League charter decree is issued, calling for the protection of Syrian civilians.


With or without one, attacking a nonbelligerent state is illegal. Nations may only respond against others defensively. Intervening militarily in their internal affairs is prohibited. Nonetheless, doing it for humanitarian reasons will be invoked. It doesn't wash but may work, with or without a Security Council resolution.


America and NATO partners aren't deterred by international or statute laws. As a result, Syria is increasingly vulnerable.


According to al Rai, a no-fly ban will target Syrian artillery and military vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers. They'll be prohibited from moving freely. European sources say they'd be crippled "in less than 24 hours."


War winds are blowing stronger.


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/.

Palestinian Unity: A Threat, Says Israel

Palestinian Unity: A Threat, Says Israel - by Stephen Lendman


Palestine is sovereign territory. In 1987, Law Professor Francis Boyle drafted its Declaration of Independence. On November 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council (PNC) adopted it, affirming Palestinian statehood.


Nonetheless, Israel's illegal occupation continues. Gaza's under siege. Israeli forces attack repeatedly. Deaths and injuries result. Dozens of weekly West Bank incursions harass Palestinians ruthlessly. Numerous arrests follow. Innocent civilians are imprisoned, including children young as 10.


Peaceful protesters are assaulted violently. Settlement expansions continue on stolen land. Dispossessed Palestinians have no redress. Police state repression terrorizes millions of people. World leaders yawn and do nothing.


Last April in Cairo, Hamas and Fatah leaders proclaimed unity. Palestinians hoped it signaled rapprochement between the two sides.


Both agreed to form a transitional government soon. The two delegations, headed by Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, discussed security issues and ways to coordinate forces cooperatively. They also agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections within a year.


Despite reservations on both sides, signing ceremony comments signaled hope. Abbas suggested turning a page, saying:


"Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will. Israel is using the Palestinian reconciliation as an excuse to evade (peace. It) must choose between peace and settlement."


Based on his long collaborationist history with Israel, his commitments need to be tested. Saying and doing often differ. The jury so far is out.


For his part, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said:


"Hamas was ready to pay any price for internal Palestinian reconciliation. The only battle of the Palestinians is against Israel. Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return."


At the time, Netanyahu denounced unity, saying:


"What happened....in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism."


In fact, Israel is the region's leading purveyor of state terrorism by far. Moreover, Netanyahu, other Israeli officials, and previous ones spurn peace. Why else would decades of negotiations go nowhere.


Hopefully, Hamas and Fatah agreements will hold. On November 24, the International Middle East Media Center headlined, "Abbas, Mashal, Meet in Cairo, Affirm National Unity," saying:


Both sides affirmed "Palestinian national unity and partnership. An understanding was reached to hold legislative and presidential elections in May 2012.” Abbas said:


"I am pleased to inform the Arab and Islamic Nations that we started a new phase of partnership to best serve the Palestinian people. We deal with each other as partners."


"We have unified responsibility towards our people and our cause. We discussed the reconciliation agreement in detail, and we are pleased to say that were no disagreements on any issue."


It remains to be seen if he means it.


Mashal also signaled hope, saying:


"I want to assure everybody, these are not just words. I want everybody to wait and see the real outcome on the ground. We hope that our people, all factions, will help us in serving our cause."


Another meeting is planned for December 22 to affirm agenda details.


In response, Israeli officials condemned the agreement, calling Hamas (Palestine's legitimately elected government) a terrorist organization.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said:


"The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure."


In other words, Israel may cut off electricity, water, and other essentials in retaliation. Already, besieged Gazans lack enough food, medicines, and other basic supplies. Everything is rationed. Shortages cause harm.


Rolling blackouts happen daily for hours. Normality's denied. So are Palestinian tax revenues PA leaders need to function. A senior Israeli official said if Hamas and Fatah conclude unity, "it would make a transfer of funds impossible."


In recent weeks, Israel escalated Gaza attacks. Potentially they signal more war. In mid-November, Israel's military commander Benny Gantz warned about another large-scale operation. Palestinians take the threat seriously.


On November 27, Haaretz writer Amir Oren headlined, "Egypt turmoil may prompt Israel to strike Gaza," saying:


The possibility of a post-election Islamist Egypt raised concerns. Why isn't clear as Israel and Western nations have close ties to others. In fact, Israel's using it as a pretext perhaps to unleash what's already planned.


Timing may depend on an "intelligence assessment of likely targets, the weather, the readiness levels of regular and reserve troops and, last but not least, the situation in Egypt" if new leaders are anti-Israeli.


These and other factors affect new conflict strategies. "During Gantz's nine months as chief of staff, plans for new operations have been drawn, old plans have been revised and numerous battle-oriented discussions have been staged."


Events on the ground will dictate decisions. Preemption's a strong possibility. Israel favors it, claiming it's responding defensively when, in fact, it's committing lawless aggression - especially against soft targets like Gaza.


Meanwhile, various UK media reports suggest Israel (with US logistical support) may attack Iranian nuclear sites by yearend or in early 2012. Britain's Foreign Office believes it could come "sooner rather than later," possibly by Christmas.


In mid-November, Washington held discussions with Israel to discuss sanctions. Whether or not possible belligerence was considered isn't known. Both countries bogusly call Iran a threat. Israel wants a regional rival eliminated. America wants client states throughout the Middle East to solidify its unchallenged dominance.


Attacking Iran and/or Syria involves huge risks. The potential for general war is real. Its dangers are frightening. In her 1962 book titled, "The Guns of August," Barbara Tuchman discussed events leading to WW I and its early weeks.


Once started, things spun out of control with cataclysmic consequences, including over 20 million dead, many millions wounded, and a generation of young men lost before it ended.


The lesson is be careful what you wish for. You may get more than you bargained for. A century ago, no mass destruction weapons existed. Today's can cause nuclear winter, including by accident.


As a result, igniting another global conflict should give officials pause about the consequences for potential gains. It should also make them consider what's next if their calculations are wrong. Nonetheless, those in charge often go for broke, and let the devil take the hindmost.


Iran's military chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, addressed possible aggression on the country, vowing strong retaliation. General Yadollah Javani specifically warned Tel Aviv, saying:


"If Israel fires a missile towards our nuclear or critical facilities, it should know that every inch of Israel, including its nuclear centers, are a target for our missiles (to strike), and we have this capacity today."


Turkey was also warned. General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said if Iran is attacked, NATO's (offensive) missile shield there will be struck first.


Subduing Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya didn't go as planned, despite rhetoric claiming so. Imagine the greater challenge Syria and Iran pose, given their strength and allies.


Whether it's enough to give militarists pause is uncertain. So far, it doesn't seem so. Millions tremble at what may be coming. Everyone should!


Some Good News


With so little, savor it!


Since its founding in July 2005, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign convinced dozens of businesses to leave Israel.


Germany's Deutsche Bank divested from Elbit earlier, a company involved in building Israel's Separation Wall. Norway's government ended operations with an Israeli security firm, and Harvard divested from Israeli companies.


In late November, French banking giant BNP Paribas announced it was pulling out entirely. Claiming financial reasons masked the truth.


Pressure forced them out. PNB Paribas has many global operations, including in neighboring countries. Moreover, its Israeli one financed large French companies doing business in Israel.


Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz tried, but failed, to retain them. Word is both sides exchanged harsh words.


Maybe other large companies will follow PNB Paribas. Some day perhaps they'll all stop doing business with an apartheid state worse than South Africa's, much worse.


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/.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for December 1, 3 and 4, 2011

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for December 1, 3 and 4, 2011


Thursday, December 1 at 10AM US Central time: Paul Craig Roberts


Roberts was former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan, a Wall Street Journal Associate Editor, and holder of numerous academic appointments, including at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies.


He now prominently criticizes destructive, repressive state policies, harming people everywhere.


Saturday, December 3 at noon US Central time: Robert Abele


Abele is Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at Diablo Valley College, CA. He also authored four books, including "Democracy Gone" and "Anatomy of a Deception" about the Iraq invasion, occupation, and preparation for the next deception.


Major world and national issues will be discussed.


Sunday, December 4 at noon US Central time: Cynthia McKinney


McKinney is a former Georgia state legislator, US Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate.


She's also an internationally renown advocate for voting, civil and human rights, as well as other social justice issues.


Last summer, McKinney spent weeks in Tripoli. Discussion will focus on her experience, Libya's current situation, and other major world and national issues.

Indefinite Domestic Military Detentions

Indefinite Domestic Military Detentions - by Stephen Lendman


Congress is now considering legislative language to mandate indefinite military detentions of US citizens suspected of present or past associations with alleged terrorist groups, with or without evidence to prove it. More on that below.


The 2006 Military Commissions Act authorized torture and sweeping unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, and prosecute alleged suspects and collaborators (including US citizens), hold them (without evidence) indefinitely in military prisons, and deny them habeas and other constitutional protections.


Section 1031 of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Act contained the 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA). The phrase "unprivileged enemy belligerent" replaced "unlawful enemy combatant."


Language changed but not intent or lawlessness. Obama embraces the same Bush agenda, including keeping Guantanamo open after promising to close it, allowing torture there and abroad, and treating US citizens as lawlessly as foreign nationals.


MCA grants sweeping police state powers, including that "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever....relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission (including) challenges to the lawfulness of (its) procedures...."


MCA scraped habeas protection (dating back to the 1215 Magna Carta) for domestic and foreign state enemies, citizens and non-citizens alike.


It says "Any person is punishable... who....aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures," and in so doing helps a foreign enemy, provide "material support" to alleged terrorist groups, engages in spying, or commits other offenses previously handled in civil courts. No evidence is needed. Those charged are guilty by accusation.


Other key provisions include:


  • legalizing torture against anyone, letting the president decide what procedures can be used on his own authority;


  • denying detainees international law protection;


  • letting the executive interpret or ignore international and US law;


  • letting the president convene "military commissions" at his discretion to try anyone he designates an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," detaining them indefinitely in secret;


  • denying speedy trials or none at all;


  • letting torture coerced confessions be used as evidence in trial proceedings, despite US and international law prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions;


  • letting hearsay and secret evidence be used; and


  • denying due process and judicial fairness overall.


On May 21, 2009, Obama addressed national security and civil liberties issues, including Guantanamo detainees, military commissions, and torture.


Saying his "single most important responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe," he bogusly claimed Al Qaeda "is actively planning to attack us again (and) this threat will be with us for a long time...."


He added that uncharged detainees "who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people" (with or without evidence to prove it) will be held indefinitely without trial.


Obama's March 7, 2011 Executive Order authorized military commission trials for Guantanamo detainees with revamped procedures, despite pledging to close the prison.


Congress Considers New Freedom-Stripping Legislation


On October 17, 2011, the ACLU addressed Section 1031 of S. 1253: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, saying it "significantly curtails existing protections against indefinite detention without charge or trial."


It goes beyond previous laws by hardening them extrajudicially.


The last time Congress authorized indefinite detentions for uncharged US citizens without trial was in 1950. The Emergency Detention Act provision of the Internal Security Act authorized incarceration for those considered likely to commit espionage or sabotage.


It was never used, then repealed by the 1971 Non-Detenton Act, stating:


"No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress."


At issue was never again subjecting US citizens to lawless internment the way Japanese Americans were treated in 1942, forcing loyal citizens into War Relocation Camps.


Section 1031 of S. 1253 "would be the first exception to the statute's protections." Subsection (d) provides US citizens "little or no" indefinite detention protections domestically or abroad.


The provision refers solely to "citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States." However, the Constitution fully protects them.


"Section 1031 could cause cleared naturalized United States citizens and cleared immigrants to be sent to a foreign country, even in the absence of any wrongdoing."


Subsection (c) provides four options:


  • indefinite detention without charge;


  • military commission trials;


  • trial by another tribunal; or


  • transfer "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."


Even someone erroneously arrested and cleared of wrongdoing could be held indefinitely without charge, given non-civil trials, or sent abroad.


Post-9/11, Arab and/or Muslim Americans lawlessly experienced "roundups" because of their faith and ethnicity. Latino immigrants face similar abuse.


Section 1031 would authorize similar practices. Military forces could be used. US citizens would be terrorized, detained and held indefinitely without charge or trial, based solely on suspicions, baseless allegations or none at all.


No reasonable proof is required, just suspicions that those detained pose threats. Under subsection (b)(1), indefinite detentions can follow mere membership or support for suspect organizations.


US citizens at home and abroad could be detained. Presidents would have unchecked authority to arrest, interrogate and indefinitely detain law-abiding citizens if accused of potentially posing a threat.


Constitutional, statute and international law won't apply. Martial law will replace it. As a result, anyone for any reason or none at all could be indefinitely detained for life without charges or trial.


Section 1031 exceeds the laws of war. Its ambiguities and excesses would institute extrajudicial national security state terror. No one anywhere would be safe.


It calls "covered persons" anyone captured or detained, even unconnected to hostilities. In other words, the executive could order anyone indefinitely incarcerated on his say alone. The provision would exceed current presidential authority.


Like the companion House bill, detention would be authorized based on alleged prior associations with suspect groups. US military personnel anywhere in the world would be able to seize US citizens and others.


Anyone could be incarcerated for life with no possibility for redress. Section 1032 requires suspects held in military custody, outside constitutionally mandated civil protections.


Due process and judicial review won't apply. Police state lawlessness could terrorize anyone suspected of terrorist group ties without proof.


In other words, presidents could order anyone imprisoned for life without cause. Despotic regimes operate this way. So would America more extrajudicially than ever.


Tyranny will replace constitutional law. Middle of the night arrests could become common. No one anywhere would be safe, including unjustly accused citizens.


The ACLU calls indefinite detention without judicial review "an appalling abuse of power. We know that our government has already mistakenly detained hundreds of people on suspicion of terrorism over the past 10 years."


"Many have languished in custody for years with no way to even assert their innocence or address the evidence against them. All people are entitled to due process."


Imagine new likely power abuses, including claiming OWS protesters threaten America.


Imagine human and civil rights workers, as well as anti-war activists targeted.


Imagine anyone challenging wealth and power interests at risk.


Imagine an America more than ever not fit to live in, and nowhere to hide.


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/.

Israel: Profile of a Rogue State

Israel: Profile of a Rogue State - by Stephen Lendman


Rogue states spurn international law, treaties, conventions, and in Israel's case its own laws and Supreme Court decisions.


Daily examples offer proof, including from Ahmed el-Helah and Mariam Itani's new book titled, "The Suffering of the Palestinian Child under the Israeli Occupation," saying:


Over a million Palestinian children "live and suffer every moment of their lives under the painful reality of occupation."


Growing numbers are killed, injured, maimed, handicapped, arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. Most are impoverished and many hungry.


"What about those who have lost their parents, friends, brothers and sisters due to" continuous Israeli oppression?


"What about the children who live in fear and who suffer distress or cannot sleep, who feel unprotected in the face of a ruthless and arrogant Israeli occupation?"


They're Palestine's children, out of sight and mind to most people everywhere. Who outside Palestine understands their suffering?


Who can imagine the indifference of world leaders, supporting a ruthless, racist occupier, disdainful of human and civil rights?


Who understands enduring daily assaults, police state justice, and fear of being bombed, shot, or otherwise harmed? How do you comfort young children to hold up in the face of what adults can't tolerate?


From September 29, 2000 (the start of the second Intifada) through December 31, 2008, Palestinian children witnessed around 5,900 killings and another 35,000 Israeli caused injuries.


During Israel's war on Gaza, another 1,400 died and thousands sustained injuries, many of them permanently disabling.


Children enduring Israeli atrocities "lose their childhood and innocence, just as they lose hope and joy in their lives."


The occupation's extreme harshness causes physical and emotional problems. It also "ignite(s) the spirit of resistance and deepen(s) hatred" against a rogue oppressor disdainful of their rights.


The authors concluded saying Israel's occupation must be condemned, ended, and responsible officials "prosecute(d) in international judicial institutions for committing the most horrific and inhumane crimes against" young children, wanting only to live free like Jews.


On November 24, Haaretz writer Ari Shavit's article headlined, "Israel is becoming a bullying and violent place," saying:


"It's depressing" to see free expression compromised. It's heading perhaps toward prohibiting it altogether to quash political criticism.


"It's depressing....to make it harder for journalists to publish in-depth investigative reports." It's unacceptable to gag the media and criminalize writers exposing vital truths everyone should know.


It's frightening to see "dark forces....resolved to undermine the rule of law" and defile democratic values and justice.


Shavit calls it "the bacterium of the end that justifies the means; the disease of an agenda that bends the rules." No wonder Israel's not fit to live in, including for most Jews.


Following Palestine's UNESCO membership, Israel froze Palestinian Authority (PA) tax revenues vitally needed to operate. Doing so was lawless, malicious and vindictive.


On November 24, the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) headlined, "Israel Won't Release Funds to a Fatah-Hamas Unity Government," quoting Israel's ultranationalist Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, saying:


"Israel will not recognize it, will not negotiate with it, and will not transfer it even one dime" unless it accedes to Israeli demands. In other words, only Israel's rights matter, not Palestine's under any government.


On November 23, IMEMC said Israel again bombed Gaza and attacked Palestinian fishing boats. No injuries were reported, but terrified fishermen "suffered anxiety attacks while trying to rush back to shore."


Israel forces also invaded An-Nahda, east of Rafah with tanks and military bulldozers to destroy Palestinian land and crops. Shots were fired. Helicopters used flares. No injuries occurred.


On November 24, the Palestine News & Information Agency (WAFA) said Israeli forces used heavy military machinery to destroy Palestinian huts and wells in Idhna, west of Hebron.


Samu, Beit Awwa, Halhul, Dora, and Taffuh were also raided near Hebron. Recently released prisoners were ordered to report to Israeli intelligence for questioning. Others were targeted earlier. They'll perhaps be reincarcerated unless agree to spy on their own people. Most refuse and suffer grievously.


WAFA also said about 14 buses carrying around 1,400 settlers broke into Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Protected by Israeli forces, they performed rituals and prayers lawlessly.


An Israeli military spokeswoman called it a "coordinated entrance." Palestinians said Israeli soldier fired tear gas and stun grenades at angry residents.


Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said Jews "must restore Israeli control over the tomb because we have to do what is best for Israel." Palestinian rights don't matter. Neither do rule of law principles. Might makes right oppresses Palestinians daily.


On November 23, Israel forces raided a Palestinian school in Khirbet Susiya south of Yatta in Hebron. Its principal got demolition orders for the school, a water well and three adjacent greenhouses.


Seven teachers and 36 students are affected. After Israel demolished the school last year, it was rebuilt with bricks and tin. Lawless demolitions are official Israeli policy.


On November 23, 972mag.com headlined, "Police, protesters clash in front of Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv," saying:


Angry about anti-democratic Knesset measures, about 200 people "block(ed) King George Street in the center of the city. Police" used pepper spray. At least one arrest occurred.


Earlier in the evening a larger protest was held near where summer social justice demonstrators rallied for weeks.


Many covered their their mouths with tape or masks to symbolize opposition against Israel's war on free expression. Increasingly, Israelis know even Jews now have fewer rights on the way perhaps to losing them entirely.


On November 21 in Vienna, a closed-door IAEA meeting discussed a nuclear-free Middle East. Iran boycotted the session. Syria attended and called Israel's arsenal a "grave and serious threat."


Attending pro-Western despotic Arab League representatives declined comment. Nothing came out of the meeting, despite calls for more Israeli transparency.


Israel refused, saying transparency won't come until "the threat perception of all regional members is low." In fact, Israel alone threatens neighbors, including with nuclear weapons.


On November 24, Netanyahu criticized Arab Spring supporters, saying it reflects "moving not forward, but backward." He added that history will prove him right about the "Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, and anti-democratic wave" sweeping the region.


"Israel is facing a period of instability and uncertainty in the region....I remember many of you urged me to take the opportunity to make hasty concessions, to rush to an agreement" with Palestinians. "But I will not establish Israel's policy on illusions. There's a huge upheaval here. Whoever doesn't see it is burying his head in the sand."


In fact, Israel alone menaces regional neighbors. Democracy's disappearing at home. Arab citizens are treated like fifth column threats. Most Israeli Jews are marginalized. Israel's closest Middle East allies are despots. It's only enemies are ones it creates. It needs them to justify violence, occupation and severe repression.


Indeed anti-Israeli sentiment is increasing with good reason. Despots like Netanyahu and extremist MKs make it possible. Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz accused him of creating an Israeli dictatorship, saying:


"Orwell's world is coming to life under your government's legislation, which is aiming to enforce elements of oppression and is creating a vision of horrors the likes of which we've never seen. It is as if 1984 is here."


He referred to life inside Israel. Imagine how much worse conditions are for Occupied Palestinians, suffering horrific daily oppression.


A Final Comment


Even a broken clock is right twice daily. On November 22, so was The New York Times, giving rare op-ed space to legitimate commentary for Sarah Schulman's piece titled, "Israel and 'Pinkwashing,' " saying:


In 2005, American PR firms began a "Brand Israel" campaign, seeking to portray the Jewish state as "relevant and modern."


"The government later expanded the marketing plan by harnessing the gay community to reposition its global image."


Tel Aviv's tourism board wants the city branded as "an international gay vacation destination." Last May, "Prime Minister Netanyahu told Congress that the Middle East was 'a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted.' "


"The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation (calls) these tactics 'pinkwashing:' a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians' human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life."


Israel manipulates hard-won Israeli gay community gains for PR purposes. It also ignores Palestinian gay rights organizations, including Aswat, Al Qaws and the Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.


Improving gay rights doesn't offset gross human rights violations, especially for Palestinians without "a land to call home."


Imagine if all New York Times articles, op-eds and editorials featured journalism like this daily.


Imagine if all major media did, including television.


Imagine the better world we'd all live in instead of one plagued by social injustice, war and environmental destruction endangering everyone.


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/.