Saturday, January 31, 2015

GITMO Diary 1-31-2015

31, January 2015                   GITMO Diary

Following a seven-year legal battle, the diary of a GITMO prisoner has finally seen the light of day - and has gone viral. It chronicles, in eloquent style, the horrific torture that Mohamedou Ould Slahi had to endure. Like many other prisoners, he has been held for more than 14 years in an ‘ice box.’ Under extreme duress, which included the threatened gang-rape of his mother, Slahi ‘confessed’ to a crime.

He was renditioned (kidnapped) in 2001 on direct orders from former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. A new fuzzy word, ‘enemy combatants’ was construed to bypass troublesome Geneva Convention laws.

So powerful is his written his testimony that actors Colin Firth and Dominic West have published readings from his diary.

Slahi’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander; book editor, Larry Siems; and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, stated warily that Slahi is "no more a terrorist than Forrest Gump." It is apparent that Slahi is collateral damage from a war that has gone terribly awry. Much like Mandela, he bears no resentment to his torturers and has forgiven them for inflicting such terrible pain.

He was ordered released in 2010 but is still languishing in prison. It is time to release this man and allow him to return to his family in Mauritania, close Guantánamo and return it to its rightful owners – the Cuban people!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Netanyahu’s planned US Visit 1-28-2015

28, January 2015                   Netanyahu’s planned US Visit

In a serious breach of established protocol, Speaker John Boehner launched a sneak attack on the White House by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress. Jewish Voices for Peace vehemently denounced the planned visit stating that under his leadership, “the Israeli government has ramped up illegal settlement building, increasing the population of Jewish settlers by over 23%, made the biggest land grab in a generation, committed countless human rights abuses and killed thousands of civilians in the West Bank and Gaza, and done everything possible to maintain the status quo of Israeli occupation and domination”. 

Critics in Israel have also blamed Netanyahu for Israel’s growing isolation and for deteriorating relations with Washington. “It’s a huge miscalculation,” said Eytan Gilboa, a professor at Bar Ilan University.

“It’s proven again that what we export best as Israelis is chutzpah,” said Mitchell Barak, a Jerusalem political consultant and pollster. Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli columnist, said Mr. Netanyahu “lost the major benefit” of the speech because “the whole idea is now contaminated.”

Tzipi Livnia, a former foreign minister, called the planned speech “gravely irresponsible.”

Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, a centrist, was equally critical. Michael B. Oren, former Israeli ambassador to Washington, called on Mr. Netanyahu to cancel his speech to Congress. Finally, Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief denounced the event as “irresponsible.” Netanyahu should heed the advice of his many detractors and cancel his visit.

Monday, January 26, 2015

King Saud 1-26-2015

26, January 2015                           King Saud

Flags flying at half-mast; heads of State descending on Riyadh to honor King Saud who was arguably one of the greatest purveyors of terrorism in the world! President Obama praised Abdullah "as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond." What mind-boggling hypocrisy!

I wonder how Raif Badawi and his family would respond. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a 10 years prison term and a one million Saudi Riyal fine for his temerity in voicing his opposition to the government’s authoritarian rule. He is still suffering from enormous pain after his first 50 lashes. How would Saudi women respond who are forced to be completely subservient to their menfolk?

We sell billions in military weapons (some of which are routed to terrorists groups like ISIS) and provide them a military umbrella to ensure their continued rule.  In 2010, WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables which identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups. In 2011 Saudi tanks rolled into neighboring Bahrain to crush the pro-democracy movement accompanied by a deafening silence form Washington.

Like Israel, the Saudis relish the split between Congress and the White House and are eager to torpedo the rapprochement with Iran.  It is time we re-calibrate our much touted values that we flaunt so much to the world. Clearly our addiction to oil has trumped our concern for human right and the rule of law.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

IRAN 1-23-2015

23, January 2015                   IRAN

The Obama administration (and Pope Francis) deserve credit for normalizing relations with Cuba. They should now move vigorously to normalize relations with Iran. A resolution would bring Iran back into the global economy; give us a useful ally against radical Islamists who are a major threat to world order. Our media has acknowledged that Iran has been on the front lines fighting ISIS.

We are expending major military resources on degrading ISIS. Why then would we not combine our efforts in fighting a common foe?  A little over a year ago an interim deal was signed between Iran and The P5+1 which included surprise inspections of all their nuclear facilities. The world intelligence community with the exception of Bibi Netanyahu states there is no evidence that Iran is working on a Nuclear Weapon. On the contrary Israel possess between 100-200 nuclear warheads and has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, Bob Corker, stated that we should act in US interests and not necessarily in Netanyahu’s interests. Speaker Boehner seems determined to scuttle the talks by inviting the highly, polarizing divisive Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, to Washington. AIPAC is supporting this effort and is a direct threat to our functioning democracy. Boehner seems unconcerned that bypassing the White House is a serious violation of protocol by upending Obama’s diplomatic efforts. If they succeed Rouhani’s influence would be marginalized and the hardliners could regain power with devastating consequences.

Note: The P5+1 is a group of six world powers which in 2006 joined the diplomatic efforts with Iran with regard to its nuclear program. The term refers to the P5 or five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jindal should take a vow of silence 1-20-2015

20 January 2015        Jindal should take a vow of silence

Bobby Jindal seems to be suffering from a bad bout of foot and mouth disease. Following his ludicrous defense of former President Bush’s heinous torture practices, the Louisiana governor made a major faux pas by echoing Fox News assertions about Muslims in the wake of the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher Market in Paris. Jindal echoed the absurd claims of self-described terrorism expert, Steve Emerson, of Fox News that parts of Europe, including the entire English city of Birmingham (my birth place) was firmly in control of Muslims where non-Muslims feared to tread. Emerson ended up with mega doses of egg all over his face and was forced to apologize; Fox News broadcaster, Julie issued the broadest apology, directed at the people of England and France – “Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France. Now this applies especially to discussions of so-called 'no-go zones,' areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in and police supposedly won’t go. To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion." It is now time for Jindal to issue a similar apology failing which he should take a vow of silence and retire into obscurity.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Israeli Refusenicks 1-13-2015

13, January 2015                 Israeli Refusenicks

In an act of enormous courage, more and more Israelis are refusing to perform their mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Many of those who refuse are subject to opprobrium and portrayed as treacherous. Mimicking the playbook of former President Bush – “you are either with us or against us” a popular bumper sticker reads “A real Israeli doesn’t dodge the draft.”

The strong reaction of the government is indicative that their tight control of young Israelis is weakening. Open letters of ‘refusenicks” were published by a group of high schoolers, veterans of the intelligence Unit 8200, alumni and former staff members of the highly prestigious Israel Arts and Sciences Academy

Predictably, aggression towards those who refuse to be drafted is widespread. As one prominent activist Ms. Rotem, remarked “Israeli patriotism today means resisting anything which frames the occupation as normal.” Even ultra-orthodox, Haredi’s, such as Uriel Ferera, stated that the occupation was their primary reasons for their refusal.

Many other “gray refusers” in the thousands, find more subtle ways to avoid the draft by siting mental health exemptions, known as a “Profile 21.” Most who refuse the draft will lose educational opportunities and housing.

The voices are becoming louder and louder to end the occupation. The Israeli author, Amos Oz, urged politicians to act as “traitors,” and make peace. Let us hope sanity prevails and the occupation is soon ended and the siege of Gaza is lifted. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Massacre in Paris 1-9-2015

9, January 2015                        Massacre in Paris

The French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, has a long reputation of offending people of all religions which has hardly stirred much outrage - except amongst Muslims. While no religious groups are immune to violence, there is clearly a greater propensity of violent outrage from Islamist extremists. To murder innocent people, shouting “God is Great’ is surely an affront to Islam and the Creator whom they claim to worship.  

However, before we drench ourselves in a false sense of virtue we need to view past events to better understand how we, in the Western world, might have stirred the collective outrage in Muslim countries.

Islamic terrorists who have been wreaking so much havoc for the last quarter century were bred much the same way as killer bees. A few examples: In 1953 the CIA orchestrated a coup in Iran and overthrew the democratic elected government of Mosaddeq. We then trained, armed and organized young militant Muslims to help repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. When we left them twisting in the wind they turned against us. We then aided and abetted Israel in cleansing Palestinians from their ancestral land. Following 9/11 the Bush/Cheney cabal ordered prisoners to be tortured and falsely confess that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attack.  The shock and awe of Iraq resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths. We then followed Bin Laden to the caves of Afghanistan unleashing US firepower which fueled intense anger and resentment in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Response to NYT OP ED RE: Israel 1-6-2015

January 6, 2015                    Response to NYT OP ED RE: Israel

Paradoxically, the US and Israel have done a great service to the Palestinians by blocking a poorly worded resolution before the UN. The resolution had no support from the various Palestinian factions because it undercut and undermined very fundamental Palestinian rights. US efforts have failed to bring about a peaceful settlement to the conflict because of its bias and assurance that ‘we will love Israel for ever’ and continue to fund its killing machine regardless of its bad behavior. Israel is rapidly losing its legimatcy and becoming a pariah state. Tragically, the US has a diminished role and perceived to be the big bully grossly misusing its veto power and arm twisting tactics to pressure other nations to conform to its wishes. 

How long are we going to tolerate Israel’s bad behavior? Biting the hand that feeds them billions of dollars in military and economic aid, Jewish settlers attacked American consular officials who were investigating the destruction of Palestinian olive trees. It is outrageous that we continue to divert critical resources from the American public to support the Israeli military machine which violates every norm of human decency and paradoxically the basic principles of Judaism. Abandoned by much of the world, the Palestinians should vigorously remedy decades of injustice by taking their case to the International Court at The Hague and intensifying the BDS movement.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Israeli settler violence 1-5-2015

5, January 2015                  Israeli settler violence

unleashed their usual arm twisting and halted the United Nations Security Council’s resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Abandoned by much of the world, the Palestinians should now vigorously remedy decades of injustice by taking their case to the Buoyed by our official tepid responses to Israel’s disdain for international law and with the certainty that they will never be held accountable, Jewish settlers attacked American consular officials last Friday. American officials were investigating the wholesale destruction of Palestinian olive trees by the settlers. Six thousand recently planted olive saplings were uprooted, and dozens of old olive trees were destroyed by violent Jewish settlers from an illegal outpost, Adei Ad, near Turmusaya. Many of the olive saplings were ceremoniously planted December 10th, Human Rights day, under a barrage of tear gas. International outrage followed Palestinian Authority minister, Ziad Abu Ein’s, death following a violent assault by Israeli forces. Tragically this state sponsored violence follows a familiar pattern. On December 17th Palestinians were again assaulted by Israeli forces who are assigned to protect the interests of settlers in illegal outposts and settlements in the West Bank. It is outrageous that we continue to divert critical resources from the American public to support the Israeli military machine which violates every norm of human decency and paradoxically the basic principles of Judaism. Paralyzed with fear of AIPAC, the Obama administration International Court at the Hague.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Myth & Reality 1-1-2015

1, January 2015                           Myth & Reality

Modi deserves credit for stirring a moribund Indian Middle class in cleaning house – cleaning the streets of garbage and promising to build latrines for villages whose women are often harassed and often brutally assaulted while performing their morning or evening ablutions in open fields. There is a chronic need for indoor toilets and plumbing. Middle India and many ex-pats have responded warmly and enthusiastically to Modi’s laudable work ethic. He enthralled 20,000 of his countrymen in New York City bring with his message of hope and change (sound familiar?). What is profoundly disappointing is Modi’s penchant of conflating myth with fact. He falsely claimed that ancient India were pioneers of cosmetic surgery offering as proof that Karna, in the Mahabharata, was born outside his mother’s womb using genetic science. He cited further proof in the elephant-headed Ganesha being fused onto a human skull which ushered in the science of plastic surgery.

The perpetuation of myth as reality has always been appealing to an Indian population immersed in rituals and charismatic priests whose enormous influence has generated huge personal fortunes. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, warned his followers of such tendencies. Sadly, Sikhs have also often fallen prey to unscrupulous religious godmen. We Indians have such a hunger to believe in the supernatural that many of us were swept in the hysteria of Lord Ganesha’s trunk drinking milk from a spoon. Fortunately, scientists soon debunked the myth stating that such an occurrence was proof of one of the basic laws of physics. Ganesha’s trunk was merely acting as a capillary. Sales of milk rose by a staggering 30% during this period. The empiral proof of Rama existence is still shrouded in mystery. Yet many claim the Seventh avatar of Vishnu’s birthplace is Ram Janmabhoom – the precise location of Emperor Barbar built the Babri mosque. This precipitated the Muslim-Hindu rioting when both groups claimed the temple site as hollowed and sacred. What is even more disturbing is the indoctrination of young children. For example, many are being taught that the first airplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana - a swan­-shaped chariot of flowers. Modi’s home state, Gujarat seems to be on the forefront of this indoctrination. The government has introduced nine new books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues to 42,000 elementary schools across the state. Pakistan is not immune to advancing pure myths as reality. For example, the most widely read books Maut ka manzar — marnay kay baad kya hoga (tales, of scenes of life after death) illustrated with fictional stories. These fictional tales are now being incorporated into Pakistan’s mainstream education. It is time India (and Pakistan) reject myth and root their future in reverence for the ultimate reality.