Thursday, May 31, 2007
Courtesy Of: The Jerusalem Post
By MATTHEW WAGNER
May. 30, 2007 21:24
Updated May. 31, 2007 10:13
All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has written in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.
The letter, published in Olam Katan [Small World], a weekly pamphlet to be distributed in synagogues nationwide this Friday, cited the biblical story of the Shechem massacre (Genesis 34) and Maimonides' commentary (Laws of Kings 9, 14) on the story as proof texts for his legal decision.
According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals.
In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets.
The former chief rabbi also said it was forbidden to risk the lives of Jews in Sderot or the lives of IDF soldiers for fear of injuring or killing Palestinian noncombatants living in Gaza.
Eliyahu could not be reached for an interview. However, Eliyahu's son, Shmuel Eliyahu, who is chief rabbi of Safed, said his father opposed a ground troop incursion into Gaza that would endanger IDF soldiers. Rather, he advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Kassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian life.
"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."
In the letter, Eliyahu quoted from Psalms. "I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them."
Eliyahu wrote that "This is a message to all leaders of the Jewish people not to be compassionate with those who shoot [rockets] at civilians in their houses."
By Andrei Kislyakov
UPI Outside View CommentatorMoscow (RIA Novosti)
May 30, 2007
Military dictionaries say that what distinguishes war from peace is the massive use of weapons. But today this interpretation is desperately obsolete. The goal of a war of the future will not be to seize enemy territory but to deal surgical strikes against sensitive targets.
International borders are not violated, large-scale use of ground troops and armor is becoming a thing of the past, and the role of strategic aviation is diminished. The traditional nuclear triad is being replaced with non-nuclear high-accuracy weapons with different basing modes.
In turn, this implies the presence of numerous satellite-based reconnaissance, warning and targeting systems that themselves require protection. This factor alone makes the development of space weapons inevitable.
This series of articles deals with work on orbital combat systems, modernization of strategic arms and development of entirely new types of weapons.
Space weapons are weapons and auxiliary systems designed for deployment and use in space. They consist of different types, principles of action and designations. It is necessary to divide them into active and passive elements. The latter include satellite systems for reconnaissance, communications and target indication that have been used by many countries for a long time.
The more dangerous type, however, is the active element, which can be used for anti-ballistic missile defense, radio-electronic warfare, orbital bombing of any territory with nuclear and non-nuclear warheads, and anti-satellite weapons.
The main types of space-based assault weapons are of four kinds:Nonetheless, such stations will not be developed in the near future, but automatic systems will.
First, there are intercontinental ballistic missiles. Their warheads are put into what is called the "staging orbit." In the event of a crisis and a command to destroy targets, the multiple-warhead-dispensing mechanism comes into action. This basing mode was suggested for the American MX ICBM when Soviet-U.S. tensions reached their peak in the early 1980s.
Second, there are ground-, air- and space-launched anti-satellite missiles.
Third, there are directed energy weapons, including chemical and X-ray lasers and beams.
Fourth, there are electronic weapons: pulse generators of powerful radio waves for radio-electronic warfare and magnetic-field-generated and plasma compression pulses.
The main point to bear in mind is that space-based weapons allow comprehensive control over Earth's surface. The appearance of permanent manned military stations in near-Earth orbit is only a matter of time.
They will be equipped with weapons based on new physical principles. Moreover, there is evidence that a system has already been sent into space equipped with missiles and lasers capable of destroying satellites in low, medium and stationary orbits.
The military rivalry in space between the Soviet Union and the United States in the late 1950s took two forms: anti-missile defense and action against a potential enemy's space-based systems.
In the United States, work in both areas saw mixed results but without any obvious conflicts between the people involved, whereas in the Soviet Union it was dominated by good old-fashioned behind-the-scenes clan struggle.
Russia Cannot Rival US In Arms Race Says AnalystWashington
(AFP) May 30 - Russia may have test-fired a new rocket and warned of an "arms race" due to US missile shield plans in Europe -- but analysts say a repeat of the Cold War bomb scramble is unlikely.
"I doubt very much ... that the Russians are going to rush ahead and build a whole bucket load of these kind of missiles," Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, told AFP.
She was referring to Moscow's announcement on Tuesday that it had successfully tested a RS-24 rocket, a new multiple warhead ballistic missile designed to overcome air defense systems.
"I think they would like to show the United States and the rest of the world that they are not impotent in the face of US missile defense," she added, saying Russia was "posturing" on the "political issue" of missile defense.
Russia is locked in a diplomatic battle over US plans to expand its missile defense shield into central Europe.
The United States says the system, involving a planned radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland, would defend Europe against potential threats from Iran and North Korea, while posing no threat to Russia.
But Russia is furious at the plans.
Its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused the United States of sparking a new arms race. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had earlier described Russian concerns as "ludicrous."
"There is nothing ludicrous about this issue because the arms race is starting again. Strategic stability is being damaged," Lavrov told reporters Wednesday after a meeting of G8 foreign ministers near Berlin.
But US analysts doubt Russia has the means to take part in such a race.
"Russia's nuclear forces will continue to shrink, even with this new missile and its warheads," said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a specialist security think-tank in Washington.
The Russian ministry of defense refused to reveal the characteristics of the new missile but said it was designed to replace the Soviet-era RS-18 and RS-20 rockets.
"This test clarifies the message that Moscow has minimal assured destruction capabilities even with US military dominance and missile defenses," Krepon said.
Political scientists Keir Lieber of Notre Dame University in Indiana and Daryl Press from the University of Pennsylvania detailed what they said was Russia's declining post-Cold War military clout last year in the journal Foreign Affairs.
"Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated," they wrote. "What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use."
"Unless they reverse course rapidly, Russia's vulnerability will only increase over time," they added.
"With the US arsenal growing rapidly while Russia's decays and China's stays small, the era of MAD (mutual assured destruction by nuclear weapons) is ending -- and the era of US nuclear primacy has begun."
"Arms-racing was a cold war phenomenon," said Krepon. "We are now living in a world of power disparities, which means asymmetric responses, not arms racing."
Moscow also may have other priorities beyond building stocks of weapons, Theresa Hitchens of the Center for Defense Information said.
The Russians "have got petrodollars coming in right now but they are trying to invest in lots of different things, particularly their space programs," she said.
When it comes to building more rockets, "the Russians are going to have to make some choices where they want to spend their money. I don't really think that President (Vladimir) Putin wants a new Cold War with the United States."
(Andrei Kislyakov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)
Source: United Press International
Source: Agence France-Presse
SPACEWARPentagon Reaffirms Right Of US To Deny Adversaries Use Of Space
Some say lack of due process in kidnappings and detention at secret prisons amounts to war crimes
By Michael Bilton
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
PORTSMOUTH, England — A plane lands in darkness and is directed to a far corner of an airfield, well out of public view. A group of men described as "masked ninjas" — wearing black overalls and hoods with slits for their eyes, nose and mouth — descend the aircraft steps and make their way to a nearby airport building. Inside a small room the detainee is waiting under armed guard, perhaps already blindfolded. He is immediately hooded as a process known as a "twenty-minute takeout" begins. Soon he is aboard the plane, on his way to another country to be harshly interrogated and possibly tortured.
That is what happened to two Egyptian asylum seekers in Sweden on December 18, 2001, and to numerous other terrorist suspects since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Events like this rarely happened before 9/11, but many sources claim that the CIA began frequent use of the practice almost immediately afterward. Now its pattern is familiar and so is its odd name: "extraordinary rendition."
The United States has never acknowledged such renditions, but the CIA's activities have been extensively studied and documented by European and other governments, as well as organizations that monitor human rights violations. One such inquiry, by Sweden's parliamentary ombudsman, was set in motion when the Egyptian asylum seekers were swept away — and Sweden landed in hot water with the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Extraordinary rendition may be a new term, but it is not a new practice — the English did it in the 17th century, shipping prisoners to Scotland to be tortured. Secret prisons are not a recent invention either. Britain ran such a camp holding Nazi prisoners at Bad Nenndorf, Germany, after World War II.Human rights advocates and some legal scholars argue that extraordinary renditions are violations of international law, with some characterizing them as war crimes.
Evidence of ill treatment there was kept secret for 60 years. America also had a secret postwar camp known only as "P.O. Box 1142" at Fort Hunt next to the Potomac River in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. There, former U.S. interrogators have now disclosed, more than 3,400 Nazi prisoners were kept "off the books" in violation of the Geneva Conventions while they were interrogated about vital technical intelligence that could be useful to America.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the United States captured terrorist suspects overseas and "rendered" them back to the U.S. or to a third country to face trial. The CIA's extraordinary renditions reported to have occurred after 9/11 are quite different. What makes them extraordinary is that there is no judicial proceeding or due process of law; after the kidnapping, terrorist suspects simply disappear into a system of secret prisons for long-term detention and interrogation, sometimes accompanied by torture.
For example, Professor Jordan J. Paust of the University of Houston, a former U.S. Army lawyer who is an expert on international law, has presented a formal analysis asserting that U.S. government leaders and those who planned or took part in extraordinary renditions could be prosecuted for committing war crimes.
The program began after the 9/11 attacks; within a week, President Bush signed a classified presidential "finding" authorizing an unprecedented range of covert operations, including capturing terrorists in foreign nations and what the Washington Post characterized as "the expenditure of vast funds to coax foreign intelligence services into a new era of cooperation with the CIA." A portent of what was about to be unleashed came when Vice President Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will.
We've got to spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion."
Foreign intelligence services — including those inside the European Union — worked closely with their CIA counterparts in hunting those suspected of planning the 9/11 attacks or being al Qaeda members. According to journalist Stephen Grey's respected chronology of known renditions before and after 9/11, terrorist suspects were being picked up under the new programs within weeks of the planes crashing in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Reports indicate that these men were tracked down, handed over to CIA special operations teams and then flown to secret detention centers where harsh techniques were used in their interrogation.
This article examines three thoroughly documented extraordinary renditions.
Sweden Criticized By U.N. Panel
Soon after 9/11, Swedish security police lodged objections to applications for asylum from two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed El Zari. Even before the Swedish government officially decided to return them to Egypt, a report by the Swedish ombudsman relates that the CIA offered use of an aircraft so the men could be expelled the moment a formal order was issued.
According to this report — which was based in large part on interviews with and documentation provided by Swedish security officials — at midday on December 18, 2001, CIA officials told their Swedish counterparts there would be no room on the plane for the Swedish security police.
When the Swedes objected, the CIA relented but insisted that a security check would have to be conducted on the two detainees at Bromma Airport near Stockholm. That being Swedish territory, the Swedes believed they were in charge of the deportation of two men from their country. It did not turn out that way.
A few hours after the expulsion order was official, the men were arrested. They arrived at Bromma about 8:30 p.m. Swedish counterterrorism officers and CIA officials were present, along with the security police.
"Just before 9 p.m. the American plane touched down," according to the ombudsman's report, "Officer Y went to speak to the occupants of the plane. These included, in addition to its crew, a security team of seven or eight, among them a doctor and two Egyptian officials. Officer Y informed the American officials that A. [Agiza] and E.Z. [El Zari] were waiting in the vehicles parked in front of the police station [at Bromma Airport] and the Americans were taken to them.
"The security team, all of whom were disguised by hoods around their heads, then went up to the vehicles in which A. and E.Z. were sitting. One of the men was taken first to the police station by the team. Inside the station, in a small changing room, the American officials conducted what they had referred to as a security check.
"According to reports, a doctor was present in the changing room. When the check had been completed, the second man was sent for and the same procedure repeated.
"The inquiry has revealed that this security check comprised at least the following. A. and E.Z. were subjected to a body search, their clothes were cut to pieces and placed in bags, their hair was thoroughly examined, as were their oral cavities and ears. In addition they were handcuffed and their ankles fettered, each was then dressed in an overall and photographed. Finally loose hoods without holes for their eyes were placed over their heads. A. and E.Z. were then taken out of the police station in bare feet and led to the aircraft.
"In addition, K.J. lawyer has reported that E.Z. said that the security team had forced him to lean forwards in the changing room and he had then felt some object being inserted into his anal cavity. Afterwards he was equipped with a diaper. According to K.J., E.Z. then felt calmer, as if 'all the muscles in his body were slack.' E.Z. was, however, fully conscious for the entire journey.
K.J. has added that E.Z. was blindfolded and placed in a hood and also forced to lie in an uncomfortable position on board the aircraft. …
"According to … witnesses, the security team conducted the security inspection rapidly, efficiently and professionally. The members of the team did not speak to each other but communicated using hand signals. …"
A Council of Europe inquiry obtained data from Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control agency, showing that the aircraft involved was a Gulfstream 5 executive jet with the call sign N379P, owned by Premier Executive Transport Services. The plane had set out on a prearranged two-day trip from the United States to board the two detainees in Sweden, take them to Egypt and then return to the U.S. after a brief refueling stop in Scotland.
This Eurocontrol data indicated that the executive jet that day covered many thousands of miles. It took off from Dulles International Airport during the early hours of December 18, flew direct to Cairo and collected two Egyptian officials; after refueling, it immediately headed for Sweden. The plane was on the ground at Bromma for just 65 minutes before heading back to Egypt.
According to the Swedish ombudsman's report: "Just two representatives of the Security Police were on board the plane: officer Y and the civilian interpreter. The original intention had been for three people to accompany the plane to Egypt but late in the day they were informed by the captain of the plane that there was only room for two from the Swedish Security Police. A. and E.Z. were placed at the rear of the plane, each lying on a mattress to which they were strapped. Their handcuffs, ankle fetters and hoods were not removed during the flight to Egypt.
"The transport log drawn up by officer Y contains the following entry: 'They were kept under observation for the entire time and the guards were changed every other hour. The doctor in the escort inspected them all the time. … [T]he body-search at the airport and the use of handcuffs and fetters was at the express order of the captain of the aircraft. In addition, it was noted that the explanation for requiring A. and E.Z. to wear hoods was that this was a policy that had been laid down on the basis of the events of September 11, 2001, about the transport of
deportees with terrorist links.
"At about 3 a.m. the plane landed at Cairo. A. and E.Z. disembarked and were received by Egyptian officials. They were then driven off in a transit bus."
Despite Egypt's diplomatic assurance to Sweden that the two men would be treated humanely, Human Rights Watch says, based on testimony subsequently given by one of the two men, that they were subsequently tortured. U.N. Committees later decided Sweden had violated the Geneva Conventions by sending the men to Egypt.
"Egypt's promise not to torture was a mere fig leaf for the Swedish authorities," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, an independent non-governmental advocacy organization. "Transferring people to countries where they face torture violates international law, regardless of what empty promises a country gives… The U.N. committee noted that Egypt had a well-documented history of torture abuses, especially when dealing with terrorism suspects. It said that Egypt's routine use of torture, in combination with interest in Agiza by the U.S. as well as Egypt, should have led to a 'natural conclusion' that he was at risk of torture upon return."
Egypt — a key ally of the United States — has long been the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, after only Israel. Its secret police are notorious for their brutality during interrogations. The U.S. State Department noted in a 2002 human rights report their frequent torture of prisoners, during which people were stripped, blindfolded, suspended from the ceiling or door frame with their feet just touching the floor; beaten with whips, fists, metal rods; subjected to electric shocks; and doused with cold water.
Canada Apologizes To Citizen
Canadian citizen Maher Arar was born in Syria in 1970 and emigrated to Canada as a teenager, settling in Montreal. In September 2002, he visited Tunisia with his family and was returning home to Canada via the United States. At New York's Kennedy International Airport he was arrested, strip-searched and then held in an immigration detention center for 12 days. On October 8, he was told he was being deported to Syria. Shackled, he was taken to New Jersey, put on an executive jet and flown to Jordan. The next day, blindfolded, he was driven across the border to Syria and taken to Far Falestin, the notorious detention center run by the Syrian military intelligence.
Witnesses to a Commission of Inquiry in Canada testified what they and Arar experienced in Far Falestin: "[They] closed the cell door. It was like a grave, exactly like a grave. It had no light. It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep. It was seven feet high." Arar told the Commission he met the person he later discovered was the head interrogator, identified as George Salloum, and gave this account:
Salloum introduced him to "the chair" — a torture device capable of breaking a detainee's back.
Arar could hear fellow prisoners screaming with pain. Soon he was receiving the same treatment. He was beaten about his body, four lashes with a two-foot-long electric cable that had been shredded. Then he was asked questions. The torture would stop and start, getting worse and worse. He admitted being trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan only because he had decided to "say anything" necessary to avoid torture. He was constantly warned that "tomorrow will be worse." He slept only two or three hours a night, on a cold concrete floor, known to his guards only by his cell number: Two.
Arar reported that he and other detainees were doused with cold water and had the soles of their feet beaten with thick black plastic cables. Another detainee told investigators that he was ordered to undress, except for his underwear. Interrogators then poured cold water on his body while he stood. He was then laid on the floor and, as interrogators trained a fan on him, more cold water was poured over him. They asked him to raise his legs from the knee and started beating him with black rubber cables.
Arar confessed to membership in al Qaeda, even though the Canadian Commission of Inquiry subsequently found that he had absolutely no connection with the organization or terrorism. After 10 months and 10 days of detention, he was transferred to Sednaya Prison, also in Syria, where he reported that conditions were "like heaven" compared with Far Falestin. On October 5, 2003, he was released from custody after signing a "confession" given to him by a Syrian prosecutor. He has since been awarded $8.9 million in damages (and an official apology) by the Canadian government but remains on a U.S. terrorist watch list.
How The CIA's Cover Was Blown
The aircraft used to transfer detainees from one country to another were supposed to be part of a clandestine CIA operation, but a sloppy mistake blew their cover and helped European investigators create a comprehensive record of renditions.
One frequently used aircraft was Gulfstream N379P, whose trips included delivery of Agiza and El Zari to Egypt. The company that owned it, Premier Executive Transport Services, was a CIA front whose officers had post office box addresses where 325 fictitious names also were registered. The plane's connection began to emerge when another of its renditions got under way at 2:40 a.m. on October 23, 2001, at a little-used terminal at Karachi International Airport in Pakistan.
A 27-year-old Yemeni man, Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, had been apprehended by the Pakistan intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was taken blindfolded and in chains to be handed over to the CIA. Suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, he had been reported missing for three weeks from Karachi University, where he was studying microbiology. He was flown from Pakistan to Jordan and then promptly disappeared.
What gave this transfer significance was the clumsy way in which it was handled. According to Pakistani sources, an airport official at the Karachi airport demanded a landing fee from the CIA plane. The crew refused. ISI agents then instructed airport staff that they would pay the fees, and the plane took off. But the incident created a minor stir that drew attention to the Gulfstream, which had been tucked away in a quiet corner of the airport so as not to be conspicuous.
On October 26, 2001, Masood Anwar, a Pakistani journalist with The News in Islamabad, wrote how Mohammed claimed he had been flown out of the country aboard a plane bearing tail number N379P. Those details ricocheted via the Internet among spy-hunters, bloggers and plane-spotting enthusiasts curious about precisely how the newly declared war on terrorism was being conducted.
Research by human rights groups, journalists and European governments subsequently revealed that the CIA had operated some 30 aircraft disguised by the use of companies like Premier Executive Transport Services and in other ways. Other aircraft were leased to operating companies and their subsidiaries. Eurocontrol data showed that 32 such aircraft made at least 1,245 stopovers in the various European countries.
Dozens of flights went to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. was detaining terrorism suspects. European investigators believed many of the flights were for extraordinary renditions.
Eurocontrol data show the CIA planes made the following stopovers between October 2001 and the end of 2005: 76 in Azerbaijan; 72 in Jordan; 61 in Egypt; 52 in Turkmenistan; 46 in Uzbekistan; 40 in Iraq; 40 in Morocco; 38 in Afghanistan; and 14 in Libya.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Defense Department (DoD) has just declassified a report from their Inspector General (OIG) looking at the various investigations that the Department has conducted into repeated claims of detainee abuse--a.k.a. "torture" and "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment"--banned by international and United States law.
The report documents that the various DoD "investigations were, individually and in total, inadequate:
Allegations of detainee abuse were not consistently reported, investigated, or managed in an effective, systematic, and timely manner. Multiple reporting channels were available for reporting allegations and, once reported, command discretion could be used in determining the action to be taken on the reported allegation. We did not identify any specific allegations that were not reported or reported and not investigated. Nevertheless, no single entity within any level of command was aware of the scope and breadth of detainee abuse.
Perhaps the most important information in this report, however, is that it provides further documentation that psychologists were central to the development of the abusive interrogation paradigm developed at Guantanamo and migrated to Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. In particular, the OIG provides concrete evidence that techniques developed in the US military's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program to help US troops at high risk of becoming POWs evade capture and resist breaking under abusive interrogations were systematically imported to Guantanamo and, less systematically, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the report describes:
"DoD SERE training, sometimes referred to as code of conduct training, prepares select military personnel with survival and evasion techniques in case they are isolated from friendly forces. The schools also teach resistance techniques that are designed to provide U.S. military members, who may be captured or detained, with the physical and mental tools to survive a hostile interrogation and deny the enemy the information they wish to obtain. SERE training incorporates physical and psychological pressures, which act as counterresistance techniques, to replicate harsh conditions that the Service member might encounter if they are held by forces that do not abide by the Geneva Conventions." (p. 23)
As part of the SERE program, trainees are subjected to abuse, including sleep deprivation, sexual and cultural humiliation, and, in some instances, waterboarding, described by one SERE graduate thus:
"[Y]ou are strapped to a board, a washcloth or other article covers your face, and water is continuously poured, depriving you of air, and suffocating you until it is removed, and/or inducing you to ingest water. We were carefully monitored (although how they determined these limits is beyond me), but it was a most unpleasant experience, and its threat alone was sufficient to induce compliance, unless one was so deprived of water that it would be an unintentional means to nourishment.
Former Air Force officer and now psychoanalyst Eric Anders described his SERE training experience thusly:
"I remember a variety of sadistic abuses, often in the form of mind games and humiliation. It was a horrible experience, but I imagine it might have prepared me to be in the position some of the Iraqi prisoners have unfortunately found themselves in."
Central to SERE is the role of psychologists. A psychologist is required to be present during certain aspects of the process, such as waterboarding as a "safety officer," to stop the training if (s)he perceives the trainee is being overly-traumatized.
In 2005, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported evidence that interrogators at Guantanamo were being trained in SERE techniques; they were "reverse engineering" the resistance techniques in order to figure out how to break down detainees. While Mayer reported suspicions, direct evidence of SERE involvement at Guantanamo was lacking for another year, till, in July 2006 Salon's Mark Benjamin, in Torture Teachers reported documentary evidence that SERE was, indeed, taught at Guantanamo.
In addition to documentary evidence that SERE techniques were taught at Guantanamo, Benjamin pointed out the similarities between what is done to US troops during SERE training and what was done to US detainees:
"There are striking similarities between the reported detainee abuse at both Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and the techniques used on soldiers going through SERE school, including forced nudity, stress positions, isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and exhaustion from exercise."
Michael Otterman, in his marvelous and very disturbing new book, American Torture, put together then extant evidence of SERE reverse-engineering. Though the use of SERE techniques at US detention facilities was hardly in doubt after the reporting of Mayer, Benjamin, and Otterman , it was not clear until the OIG report whether the use of the techniques was intentional or inadvertent, a result of widespread exposure to them by US personnel during training.
The new OIG report resolves this question, containing as it does official admissions that SERE was, indeed systematically taught at Guantanamo and in Iraq.
"Counterresistance techniques taught by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency [the agency responsible for SERE training] contributed to the development of interrogation policy at the U.S. Southern Command. According to interviewees, at some point in 2002, the U.S. Southern Command began to question the effectiveness of the Joint Task Force 170 (JTF-170), the organization at Guantanamo that was responsible for collecting intelligence from a group of hard core al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
Counterresistance techniques were introduced because personnel believed that interrogation methods used were no longer effective in obtaining useful information from some detainees. On June 17, 2002, the Acting Commander, Southern Command requested that the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) provide his command with an external review of ongoing detainee intelligence collection operations at Guantanamo Bay, which included an examination of information and psychological operations plans.
The CJCS review recommended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Science Unit, the Army's Behavioral Science Consultation Team, the Southern Command Psychological Operations Support Element, and the JTF-170 clinical psychologist develop a plan to exploit detainee vulnerabilities. The Commander, JTF-170 expanded on the CJCS recommendations and decided to also consider SERE training techniques and other external interrogation methodologies as possible DoD interrogation alternatives" (pp. 24-25).
As a result of this review, SERE was introduced at Guantanamo. Notice that psychologists were key to this process:
"On September 16, 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency co-hosted a SERE psychologist conference at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 [the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo] interrogation personnel. The Army's Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation techniques and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools.
The JTF-170 personnel understood that they were to become familiar with SERE training and be capable of determining which SERE information and techniques might be useful in interrogations at Guantanamo. Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team personnel understood that they were to review documentation and standard operating procedures for SERE training in developing the standard operating procedure for the JTF-170, if the command approved those practices. The Army Special Operations Command was examining the role of interrogation support as a " Sere Psychologist competency area" (p. 25, emphasis added.)
For those of opposed to the participation of psychologists in abusive interrogations, this document contains the first definitive proof that the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), consisting at that point of psychologists and psychiatrists (later, the military announced that they preferred psychologists for this role), were deliberately trained in abusive SERE techniques.
According to the OIG report, SERE psychologists were apparently not directly involved in individual interrogations. Rather, their role was to train those conducting or supervising the interrogations:
"On September 24, 2002, a Joint Personnel Recovery Agency representative at the SERE conference recommended in a conference memorandum report to his Commander that their organization "not get directly involved in actual operations." Specifically, the memorandum states that the agency had "no actual experience in real world prisoner handling," developed concepts based "on our past enemies," and assumes that "procedures we use to exploit our personnel will be effective against the current detainees." In a later interview, the Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency stated that his agency's support to train and teach "was so common that he probably got 15 similar reports [memoranda] a week" (p. 25).
Indeed, the report documents that SERE instructors went to Guantanamo and provided training:
"On at least two occasions, the JTF-170 requested that Joint Personnel Recovery Agency instructors be sent to Guantanamo to instruct interrogators in SERE counterresistance interrogation techniques. SERE instructors from Fort Bragg responded to Guantanamo requests for instructors trained in the use of SERE interrogation resistance techniques" (p. 26).
These efforts led to a October 11, 2002 memorandum and legal brief requesting approval of a selection of these SERE techniques. This request led to December 2, 2002 approval of many of these SERE-based techniques by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
All evidence is that these SERE techniques continued to be used, with active participation of the BST psychologists. For example, it is well documented (see the interrogation log) that the chair of the Guantanamo BSCT team, psychologist Major John Leso participated in the abusive interrogation (a.k.a. torture) of prisoner 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani.
A July 14, 2004 memo from the FBI to the Army Criminal Investigation Command documents the effects of this interrogation on al-Qatani:
"In September or October of 2002 FBI agents observed that a canine was used in an aggressive manner to intimidate detainee __ after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months. During that time period, __ was totally isolated (with the exception of occasional interrogations) in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in the corner of a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end). It is unknown to the FBI whether such extended isolation was approved by DoD authorities."
SERE In Iraq and Afghanistan
According to the report, these SERE techniques "migrated" to Afghanistan and Iraq:
"Counterresistance interrogation techniques in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operation derived from multiple sources that included migration of documents and personnel, the JTF-Guantanamo Assessment Team, and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency" (p. 26, emphasis added).
The report also provides direct evidence that SERE techniques were deliberately brought to Iraq.
"The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency was also responsible for the migration of counterresistance interrogation techniques into the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. In September 2003, at the request of the Commander, TF-20, the Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency sent an interrogation assessment team to Iraq to provide advice and assistance to the task force interrogation mission. The TF-20 was the special mission unit that operated in the CJTF-7 area of operations" (p. 28).
In fact, TF-20 was a 40-person special forces unit, with its own "private aviation unit" tasked with capturing or killing former Iraqi Baath leadership and resistance leaders ("high value targets"). TF-20 was accused of being "trigger happy," leading to innocent civilian deaths. Those captured by TF-20 were, according to the OIG report, subject to SERE techniques.
In Iraq it also appears that SERE staff got to participate directly in interrogations:
"The Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, explained that he understood that the detainees held by TF-20 were determined to be Designated Unlawful Combatants (DUCs), not Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW) protected by the Geneva Convention and that the interrogation techniques were authorized and that the JPRA team members were not to exceed the standards used in SERE training on our own Service members. He also confirmed that the U.S. Joint Forces Command J-3 and the Commanding Officer, TF-20 gave a verbal approval for the SERE team to actively participate in "one or two demonstration" interrogations" (p. 28).
It appears that TF-20 were so brutal in their application of SERE techniques that there was disagreement between SERE and TF-20 staff regarding the appropriateness of using the SERE-based techniques:
"SERE team members and TF-20 staff disagreed about whether SERE techniques were in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. When it became apparent that friction was developing, the decision was made to pull the team out before more damage was done to the relationship between the two organizations. The SERE team members prepared After Action Reports that detailed the confusion and allegations of abuse that took place during the deployment" (p. 28).
American Psychological Association Rresponse
With the release of the OIG's report, it is now irrefutable that both SERE psychologists and Guantanamo BSCT psychologists were involved in the development of these forms of interrogation abuse, forms of interrogation that clearly constitute psychological torture and were illegal under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and various US laws until the 2006 Military Commissions Act granted immunity to those who had previously broken these laws during the "Global War On Terror."
Since psychologists became aware that their profession was being utilized to teach and conduct abusive interrogations, there has been a movement among them to ban participation in abusive interrogations. In response, the American Psychological Association (APA), the main psychologist professional organizations adopted a resolution condemning torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and forbidding members to participate in abusive treatment.
However, like the Bush administration, the APA is always against torture and abusive treatment but never actually sees it. Thus, the APA has never expressed concern as reports have come flooding out suggesting that abuse treatment (whether formally "torture" or merely "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment") is common in US detention facilities holding so-called enemy combatants. Neither has the APA expressed concern at the repeated reports of psychologist participation in abusive interrogations. Rather, they have attacked the critics of psychologist abuse. In a statement that he probably now regrets for making so obvious his contempt for those shedding light on psychologists' role in abusive interrogations, the 2006 APA President, Gerald Koocher, wrote: "A number of opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars have continued to report on alleged abuses by mental health professionals."
However, the APA, like other health provider professional organizations felt the heat as these reports escalated. Thus, in June 2005 they convened a Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), clearly designed to provide a rubber stamp on the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations.
After 2_ days of deliberations this Task Force concluded:
"It is consistent with the APA Code of Ethics for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation- or information-gathering processes for national security-related purposes. While engaging in such consultative and advisory roles entails a delicate balance of ethical considerations, doing so puts psychologists in a unique position to assist in ensuring that such processes are safe and ethical for all participants."
Of course, the value of a Task Force report depends upon the composition and expertise of the membership of that Task Force. So who did the APA see fit to include on its Task Force?
Strangely, when the report was released, it did not include a list of members; its authorship was, rather, anonymous. When members asked who was on the task Force, they were told the membership was confidential. (For the record it should be noted that the PENS membership, while kept from the public and the broader Association membership, was, in fact, released to the APAs Council of Representatives) When, a year later, the membership was finally published by Mark Benjamin in Salon, it was revealed that six of nine voting members were from the military and intelligence agencies with direct connections to interrogations at Guantanamo and elsewhere; the conclusion of the task Force's deliberations was obviously foregone.
Especially relevant, given the revelations in this newly-released OIG, at least two of the members of this Task Force had direct SERE connections. Captain Bryce E. Lefeve had served at the Navy SERE school from 1990 to 1993 before joining the special forces and becoming the "Joint Special Forces Task Force psychologist to Afghanistan in 2002, where he lectured to interrogators and was consulted on various interrogation techniques." (Criously,, he has "lectured on Brainwashing: The Method of Forceful Interrogation".)
But perhaps most disturbingly, on the task force was Colonel Morgan Banks. His biography states that "[h]e is the senior Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Psychologist, responsible for the training and oversight of all Army SERE Psychologists, who include those involved in SERE training. He provides technical support and consultation to all Army psychologists providing interrogation support. His initial duty assignment as a psychologist was to assist in establishing the Army's first permanent SERE training program involving a simulated captivity experience."
Given what the OIG's report reveals about the central role of SERE in the development of US abusive interrogation techniques, as well as revelations regarding other PENS members, it appears ever more likely that the APA appointed some of this country's top torturers to formulate its policy on participation in abusive interrogations. The PENS report lacks any credibility. If the APA maintained a shred of decency, they would take the opportunity provided by the release of the OIG report to admit that they made a mistake in creating the PENS Task Force and would immediately set aside the PENS report and begin a new open discussion of the facts and the ethics involved in participation in national security interrogations.
In addition, if the APA were really concerned about ethics and decency, they would join the call by Physicians for Human Rights and by bioethicist Steven Miles for an independent Congressional (or Congressional sponsored) investigation into detainee abuse and the role of psychologists and other health professionals in that abuse.
For only a full investigation can clear up the question of exactly what types of abuse went on in the US detention facilities and exactly what role did psychologists and other health professionals play in these abuses.
If, as the APA repetitively states as if a mantra, its policies are based upon "our belief that having psychologists consult with interrogation teams makes an important contribution toward keeping interrogations safe and ethical," then the APA would surely want an investigation to reveal any abuses that occurred so as to help prevent future abuses. Of course, if, despite the mountains of evidence, psychologists truly are innocent of involvement in detainee abuse, only a full investigation could clear the air.
Unfortunately, I don't expect the APA to set aside the PENS report nor to endorse an independent investigation of detainee abuse. All evidence is that, from the beginning, APA actions have had one goal in mind, to maintain psychologist involvement in interrogations at all cost. After 9/11, the APA sought to show the government that psychologists were key players in "homeland security" [see Making psychological research a priority for countering terrorism]. To eschew involvement, abuse or not, would be to forsake the access and influence for which they have fought so hard.
Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice web site and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog.
Exit From Iraq Should Be Through Iran
Linking Forces With Iran Could Minimize The Costs Of Withdrawal From Iraq
By William E. Odom
29 May 2007
WASHINGTON: Increasingly bogged down in the sands of Iraq, the US thrashes about looking for an honorable exit. Restoring cooperation between Washington and Tehran is the single most important step that could be taken to rescue the US from its predicament in Iraq.
Understanding Why Requires Some Historical Reflection.
Since the mid-1950s, US policy in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region was implicitly based on three pillars – Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the British withdrew, Washington established nervous but lasting ties with Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the US built strong relations with the shah of Iran. After 1948, when it recognized the new state of Israel, the US slowly became a guarantor of that new state's survival. London's role in the entire region became marginal, especially after the Suez crisis in 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower abruptly stopped the joint British-Israeli military operation to seize the Suez Canal.
Thus by preventing any of the three camps from overrunning the other, the US provided regional stability.
Whether American leaders employed this strategy by design or by trial and error is arguable. At the time, they were more concerned with the Soviet challenge, trying to organize the so-called "northern tier," i.e., with Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, as a barrier to Soviet influence. They probably did not foresee they had undertaken an equally demanding task of sublimating two major intra-regional quarrels, virtually irresolvable ones.
Although the Arab-Israel quarrel is well known, the Persian-Arab quarrel is poorly understood.
Iran has long made claims on territories on the Arab side of the Gulf and especially with Iraq over the Shatt-al-Arab waterway at the mouth of the Tigris River. The Sunni-Shiite religious fissure reinforces Persian-Arab animosities, but no less important is the old sense of cultural superiority among the Iranians toward the Arabs.
By keeping strong diplomatic ties in all three camps, the US maintained regional stability with limited military power.
Unfortunately, this strategy collapsed with the fall of the shah in Iran in 1979. President Jimmy Carter confronted a dilemma:
either to abandon the Persian Gulf region, where the Soviet Union was trying to exert more influence, or to restore the old balance by projecting considerable US military power into the region. He chose the latter, what was known as the Carter Doctrine after Soviet forces intervened in Afghanistan. The US Central Command, although it was only one aspect of Carter’s “Persian Gulf Security Framework,” became its most visible part. Started in the spring of 1979, it became operational in early 1981.
As a planner on the National Security Council (NSC) staff at the time, I soon realized that restoring ties with Iran, whether in a year or two, or a decade, or much longer, had to be the US goal. Only thus could the US lower its military costs. Moreover, Iran shared strong interests with the US that its revolutionary fervor had obscured. President Carter understood this. So did President Ronald Reagan, although his NSC staff’s attempts to re-establish informal ties were ill-designed and clumsily executed.
All subsequent presidents understood it until George W. Bush. By placing Iran on the "axis of evil" list, threatening to change its regime, he abandoned this strategy outright. Had he not done so, he might have secured tacit Iranian support for his invasion of Iraq, given Tehran's desire for revenge against Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980.
Meetings just started between US and Iranian envoys could reestablish the basis for regional stability that existed until 1979 and may be the best hope for containing the chaos that the US invasion of Iraq is unleashing. Unless the US convinces Iran to play a cooperative role, the conflict will spread. Indeed, fear of sectarian violence spreading is why the Saudi leadership, usually supportive of Washington, recently called the US occupation of Iraq illegal.
Thus the US footing in the Arab camp has been eroding. If that continues, the cost in increased US military power to maintain Israel’s ultimate security will soon be beyond US means. A rapprochement with Iran, therefore, is the key to restoring regional stability as the US withdraws from Iraq.
Can it be reached? Yes, if the US is willing to pay the price of dropping its "all sticks" policy for stopping Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Put plainly, the US has two choices: It can have an Iran with nuclear weapons that refuses to cooperate on many shared interests. Or it can have an Iran with nuclear weapons that is willing to cooperate.
Tehran has as much interest in stability in both Iraq and Afghanistan as does Washington. Both oppose Al Qaeda. Iran needs US oil-production technology. Greater Iranian oil and gas production benefits the US. Iran's ties with Russia are without historical precedent and strained.
The US could offer more and better technologies than Russia provides Iran. Iran's record for spreading radical Islamic political movements is more limited than is generally realized. In fact, beyond Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a few terrorist groups trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and directed toward Israel and Iranian émigrés in Europe, it has behaved conservatively, especially in Central Asia and the Muslim parts of the Caucasus.
Iran was hostile to the Taliban in Afghanistan. And it does not like the radical brands of Islam that Pakistan sponsors with Arab money in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Iran realizes that although its influence in Iraq has increased immensely, it faces limits. Once US forces leave Iraq, even Shiite Iraqis will view Persians with suspicion. Moreover, Iran – like Turkey, Iraq and Syria – does not want an independent Kurdish state. US cooperation will be required to prevent that.
Only nuclear weapons and Hezbollah remain obstacles to US-Iranian tacit cooperation. And Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons if it is determined to do so, although not in less than a decade. The nation is less likely to go all the way to exploding a nuclear device if it has good ties with Washington than if it does not. Improved relations with the US will inexorably reduce Iranian hostile policies toward Israel.
Iran can’t help but observe the examples that the US has set with India's and Pakistan's nuclear-weapons programs. After opposing both for years, Washington essentially embraced both countries once they acquired nuclear weapons. The lesson for both Iran and North Korea is simple: acquire nuclear weapons and the US will not only stop threatening "regime change," but will also seek good relations.
Effectively the US has demolished the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran might settle for a security guarantee against an Israeli nuclear strike, but its fears of Pakistani nuclear capability are probably more acute – especially as Al Qaeda, hiding in Pakistan, is dedicated to the destruction of Iran's Shiite-controlled regime and openly calls on the US to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
Once this is understood, the makings of a deal are straightforward. The matter of Israel and Hezbollah can probably be sublimated if Washington preemptively drops the nuclear issue, along with its threat to change the regime in Iran.
The old "double-straddle" strategy may once more be feasible, and most parties in the region will be the beneficiaries, allowing the US to begin the long road back to restoring its credibility as a regional balancer. The US has no better way out of the cul-de-sac in Iraq. And even then, the US needs European and Asian allies to help.
Lieutenant General William E. Odom (Retired), US Army, is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988, and his most recent book, “America’s Inadvertent Empire,” co-authored with Robert Dujarric, was published in 2004 by Yale University Press.
Rights:© 2007 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization
Iran Befriends Iraq
Washington’s Iraq Dilemma: Why Engaging Iran Is a Good Idea
Iran-Saudi Arabian Embrace: A New Beginning?
Walking on Eggshells in Tehran
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The United States is falsely accusing Tehran of supporting Iraqi militias in stoking violence in Iraq as a pretext for a military intervention in the Islamic republic, a leading British think-tank has said in a report.
In its report, the British American Security Information Council or Basic has pointed out that there was no hard evidence to link Iran with Iraqi militancy.
"Whatever the true nature of Iranian military action in Iraq, few independent analysts believes Tehran is playing a decisive role in the sectarian warfare and insurgency."
The report said given the close ties between Shia Muslim in Iran and Iraq, which has a dominant Shia population in the south, Iran's close relations with Shia Iraqis were "legitimate acts of foreign relations and cross-border movements of people", and it was outrageous to portray it as Iranian involvement in the Iraqi militants' violent campaign against American and British occupational forces.
It said the Bush administration's clandestine efforts to highlight the "threat" from Iran could be part of a strategy to find a "scapegoat" for its own failure in Iraq and is seen as a replay of the American-British campaign against Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
"If Tehran can be cast as a source of regional instability in the eyes of the international community, then the US administration's hand will be strengthened as it seeks support for stronger measures to oppose Iranian nuclear ambitions," the report said.
29 May 2007 10:00:42
GENEVA, May 29 (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights investigator criticised Israel on Tuesday for violating international law in the Gaza Strip through a "disproportionate" use of force and killing of civilians.
John Dugard, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said that the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into the southern Israeli town of Sderot was also illegal.
More than 50 people had been killed and 180 wounded in Israeli air strikes in the past two weeks, many of them civilians, he said. Palestinian militants had fired more than 270 rockets into Sderot, killing two Israelis and injuring 16.
"The indiscriminate firing of rockets into Sderot violates international humanitarian law. So does Israel's response as it fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants and is a disproportionate use of force," Dugard said in a statement.
Israel's "extrajudicial killings" were "illegal under international humanitarian law" and seemed to fail to meet even the minimum requirements laid down by Israel's Supreme Court last December, according to the U.N. envoy.
...Dugard also said that more than 40 people arrested last year, including more than 30 Palestinian members of Hamas, "still remain in Israeli custody with no prospect of release or being brought to trial".
"Arrests of this kind are clear acts of collective punishment, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and undermine the peace process," said Dugard, a South African jurist who has served in the independent post since 2001.
He called on the so-called Quartet -- the United States, the European Union (EU), Russia and the United Nations, which meets on Wednesday in Berlin -- to advance the peace process in a "fair and even-handed manner".
Dugard repeated that the Quartet was ignoring human rights violations by Israel, including military incursions and arrests in the West Bank, new settlements and construction of a wall in Palestinian territory, roadblocks, and withholding of taxes.
The Quartet must treat both parties equally and accord equal recognition to both sides, according to the envoy.
By Ronnie Kasrils
May 21, 2007 11:59
Travelling into Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza Strip, which I visited recently, is like a surreal trip back into an apartheid state of emergency.
It is chilling to pass through the myriad checkpoints -- more than 500 in the West Bank. They are controlled by heavily armed soldiers, youthful but grim, tensely watching every movement, fingers on the trigger. Fortunately for me, travelling in a South African embassy vehicle with official documents and escort, the delays were brief.
Sweeping past the lines of Palestinians on foot or in taxis was like a view of the silent, depressed pass- office queues of South Africa’s past. A journey from one West Bank town to another that could take 20 minutes by car now takes seven hours for Palestinians, with manifold indignities at the hands of teenage soldiers.
My friend, peace activist Terry Boullata, has virtually given up her teaching job. The monstrous apartheid wall cuts off her East Jerusalem house from her school, which was once across the road, and now takes an hour’s journey. Yet she is better off than the farmers of Qalqilya, whose once prosperous agricultural town is totally surrounded by the wall and economically wasted. There is only one gated entry point. The key is with the occupation soldiers. Often they are not even there to let anyone in or out.
Bethlehem too is totally enclosed by the wall, with two gated entry points. The Israelis have added insult to injury by plastering the entrances with giant scenic posters welcoming tourists to Christ’s birthplace.
The “security barrier”, as the Israeli’s term it, is designed to crush the human spirit as much as to enclose the Palestinians in ghettoes. Like a reptile, it transforms its shape and cuts across agricultural lands as a steel-and-wire barrier, with watchtowers, ditches, patrol roads and alarm systems. It will be 700km long and, at a height of 8m to 9m in places, dwarfs the Berlin Wall.
The purpose of the barrier becomes clearest in open country. Its route cuts huge swathes into the West Bank to incorporate into Israel the illegal Jewish settlements -- some of which are huge towns -- and annexes more and more Palestinian territory.
The Israelis claim the purpose of the wall is purely to keep out terrorists. If that were the case, the Palestinians argue, why has it not been built along the 1967 Green Line border?
One can only agree with the observation of Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, who has stated: “It has become abundantly clear that the wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers.”
The West Bank, once 22% of historic Palestine, has shrunk to perhaps 10% to 12% of living space for its inhabitants, and is split into several fragments, including the fertile Jordan Valley, which is a security preserve for Jewish settlers and the Israeli Defence Force. Like the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is effectively a hermetically sealed prison. It is shocking to discover that certain roads are barred to Palestinians and reserved for Jewish settlers. I try in vain to recall anything quite as obscene in apartheid South Africa.
Gaza provides a desolate landscape of poverty, grime and bombed-out structures. Incon- gruously, we are able to host South Africa’s Freedom Day reception in a restaurant overlooking the splendid harbour and beach. Gunfire rattles up and down the street, briefly interrupting our proceedings, as some militia or other celebrates news of the recovery from hospital of a wounded comrade. Idle fishing boats bob in long lines in the harbour, for times are bad. They are confined by Israel to 3km of the coast and fishing is consequently unproductive. Yet, somehow, the guests are provided with a good feast in best Palestinian tradition.
We are leaving through Tel Aviv airport and the Israeli official catches my accent. “Are you South African?’ he asks in an unmistakable Gauteng accent. The young man left Benoni as a child in 1985. “How’s Israel?” I ask. “This is a f**ked-up place,” he laughs, “I’m leaving for Australia soon.”
“Down under?” I think. I’ve just been, like Alice, down under into a surreal world that is infinitely worse than apartheid. Within a few hours I am in Northern Ireland, a guest at the swearing in of the Stormont power-sharing government of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
Not even PW Botha or Ariel Sharon were once as extreme as Ian Paisley in his most riotous and bigoted days. Ireland was under England’s boot for 800 years, South Africa’s colonial-apartheid order lasted 350 years. The Zionist colonial-settler project stems from the 1880s. The Israeli ruling class, corrupt and with no vision, can no longer rule in the old way. The Palestinians are not prepared to be suppressed any longer. What is needed is Palestinian unity behind their democratically elected national government, reinforced by popular struggles of Palestinians and progressive Israelis, supported by international solidarity.
South Africa’s stated position is clear. The immediate demands are recognition of the government of national unity, the lifting of economic sanctions and blockade of the Palestinian territories, an end to the 40-year-old military occupation and resumption of negotiations for a two-state solution.
On a final note, the invitation to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as head of a national unity government was welcomed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and will be dealt with by our government.
As they say in Arabic: “Insha ’Allah [God-willing].”
Ronnie Kasrils is Minister of Intelligence
By Prof. Rami Zurayk
Monday, 28 May 2007, 9:21 amk
The past 48 hours were very eventful in Lebanon, and set the stage to what promises to be a critical development in the protracted Lebanese conflict. The most important political event was the TV address by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on the Occasion of Liberation Day, which commemorates the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon on May 25, 2000.
Nasrallah made many significant points, which deserve to be analyzed at length because they provide an insight on the possible evolution of the political and security situation in the country and in the region.
However, the crux of the speech, which he left for the very last, was his clear statement of the position of Hizbullah vis a vis the siege of the Palestinian camp of Nahr el Bared and the events surrounding it.
Nasrallah unequivocally stated that, for Hizbullah, the army was extremely important, as it is the last "impartial" institution in the country (the quotes are mine), and that the breakdown of the army would inevitably lead to the political meltdown of Lebanon. He declared the army a "red line".
But Nasrallah also went on to indicate that the Palestinians in Lebanon were another "red line", in clear reference to the shelling by the army of the Nahr el Bared Palestinian camp and the ensuing exodus of tens of thousands of people to the neighboring Beddawi camp, where they live today in squalid conditions.
By equating the army with the Palestinians in Lebanon, Nasrallah went out on a limb, and put his party, the Shi'a, and the whole opposition in a vulnerable position. The army expressed its dismay at Nasrallah's position, and the government forces were quick to react by accusing Hizbullah of purposely weakening the army, and of standing on the side of "foreigners" against the Lebanese.
In the currently divided Lebanon, the army has become a key player, as the two opponents (government and opposition) line up their pawns for a further set of their power game. The army has so far remained a wild card, but has been leaning more towards the opposition than towards the Government. It is not sure how Hizbullah's statement will be translated by the army's leadership. It is also unclear what this will mean in terms of realignment, especially in light of the significant military aid the army has recently received from the US and the other US-aligned Arab countries.
Clearly, Nasrallah has taken a very risky step. Nasrallah's statement was received with much relief by the population in the Palestinian camps. It provided a much needed political, human and moral support at a time where being Palestinian in Lebanon is a real curse. People in the camps felt that someone with political weight in Lebanon was finally interceding in their favor, and that their human rights situation might slightly improve.
Few Lebanese fully perceive the extent of the hardship under which the Palestinian live in Lebanon. Many have for them a particularly vicious form of racist hatred.
Others see them as an annoyance and a potential source of trouble. But most of the time, when they are quietly tucked into their camps, they are simply disregarded. In Lebanon, there are 400,000 people (one tenth of the population) living under extreme material and human hardship, which have completely slipped out of the ethical radar. Lebanon, a nation always praising itself on its significant contribution to "civilization", lives in denial of their existence.
Except when the injustice spills out of the camps into their own little world.
The events taking place in the Nahr el Bared camp have revealed the extent of the discrimination to which Palestinians are subjected in Lebanon . The fighting between the Lebanese army and Fateh al Islam, a small group of radical Islamic militants of various nationalities, has resulted in the army siege of the camp of Nahr el Bbared (40,000 people) for 7 days and counting, its indiscriminate shelling in order to dislodge the militiamen, and the displacement of up to 20,000 people.
The displaced have sought refuge in the neighboring camp of Beddawi, creating a human tragedy in which poverty is compounded by displacement. In the Beddawi camp, the poor have now to cater for the need of the poorer, in overcrowded conditions where deprivation and destitution have become the norm. And while, in the past 5 days there has been an exponential increase in the number of camera-happy media types invading people's privacy far beyond what is reasonably acceptable for a fair coverage, this has not translated into an equivalent amplification of humanitarian aid.
Some Grassroot groups from Beirut and the Beddawi camp, however, have been quick to move.
Since the first day of the fighting, small groups that were active during the displaced crisis caused by the Israeli war on Lebanon of July 2006, have regrouped and started to organize, raise funds, purchase essential goods and deliver them to the 6,000 families of refugees in the Beddawi camp, as well as to the 350 families that have reached the Beirut camps of Shatila and Burj el Barajneh. However, the fund raising and logistical capabilities of these groups are very limited, and fall very short of addressing the needs of all. Their spending capacity is of a few thousands of dollars per day, while the needs are in the order of several hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. I work with one of these groups, the Nahr el Bared Relief Campaign ( www.nahrelbareddonations.blogspot.com ).
Besides the grassroots groups and the slow moving giants, political aid is also being received by the camp refugees. The Future Movement of Mr. Hariri has been a donor, although its aid has been focusing on strengthening the grip of the PLO Fatah movement, aligned with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, on the camps population. Moreover, in a move to support its statement with actions, Hizbullah sent yesterday a convoy of 12 trucks of essential goods. It is unclear which Palestinian side was at the receiving end, but it was not our local grassroot partners.
Rami Zurayk is a Professor of Ecosystem Management, American University of Beirut. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the American University of Beirut. Interested in food, farming and rural society?
You can view more of Prof. Zurayk's work at http://www.landandpeople.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Memorandum on the planned US Air base at Kleiaat, Bibnin Akkar, Lebanon, site of proposed US Air base Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee Camp.
On July 14, 1982, (Bastille Day) the late Bashir Gemayel sat with Ariel Sharon, Raphael Eytan, and Danny Yalon at the French flag draped Le Chef Restaurant in Achrafieh, east Beirut for one of their working lunches.
As was by now their habit, the Israelis were inclined to pressure their recently anointed selection for Lebanon's next president. They were there to present a request for one more favor from the handsome 'golden boy' of the Phalange movement, as their army tightened its noose around west Beirut.
There was a good chance they would succeed . After all, Basher was beholden to the Zionists, for their many 'considerations', including the arms for drugs arrangements, the weapons skimmed from what the US reflectively shipped to Israel on demand, the intelligence sharing and assassinations of Palestinians who Bashir could not abide. The trio lunching with him that day, under the celebratory French flags in this Francophone neighborhood could easily destroy Bashir Gemayel and he knew it.
Yet, despite their intimidating talk, the self described 'cream of the IDF', exhibiting what Bashir had often explained to his nerdy younger brother Amin, who, unexpectedly was to become his successor as President of Lebanon, and to some of his aids, was a case of 'congenital arrogance' erred that day.
They seriously underestimated the Palestinian hating, Muslim despising, would be phonetician Prince, Le sheik Bashir. In misjudging the charismatic Maronite, the Israeli trio had failed to appreciate that, on any day of the week, the average Lebanese is rather more sophisticated, clever, descent, and patriotic than many Israeli or American politicians give them credit for.
Sharon pulled out a piece of paper from his chest pocket, as one Phalange security person who guarded the restaurant door recalls, and shoved it across the table to Basher. Written on it was Israel's 'one last request' which contained one word: Kleiaat
The Israelis studied Bashir's face for a sign of his reaction as he picked up the small piece of paper. Bashir, appearing to suppress a yawn, had heard this 'one last request' hustle many times and had long felt contempt for what he called "these pressure lunches." Yet, former alter boy that he was, the martyred, and still much loved Lebanese patriot, pressed his lips together and listened politely as is the Lebanese custom, as Sharon expounded on the details.
Bashir, fuming inside and about to erupt in anger as he had sometimes done previously when he felt squeezed by Sharon, instead smiled at the anxious trio. He leaned forward and whispered with a voice they still say in his Bekfayya neighborhood, would make women swoon: 'you will not be disappointed, my dear friends".
Sharon was delirious with Bashir's response and slapped him on the back, a gesture of friendship that the former parish crucifer found deeply offensive.
Returning to his Achrafieh Headquarters, bounding up the stairs to his office to meet with aids, where less than two months later, he would die from an assassins' bomb which would level the building and killed and wounded more than 200, Bashir bellowed as he entered his office, "An Israeli air base in Lebanon? Those crazy sons of bitches won't get one grain of sand from Kleiaat"
Nearly 25 years to the day later, some well informed sources within the Palestinian community as well as, Sunni, Shia, and Christian political analysts, agree on one point. In a coma as he may be, but Ariel Sharon may still get that one last favor he coveted.
As residents of Bibnin Akkar, less than two miles from the site of the proposed US base and the Lebanese daily newspaper Aldiyar speculate, construction of a US air base on the grounds of the largely abandoned air base at Klieg in northern Lebanon may begin late this year. To make the project more palpable, it is being promoted as a 'US/NATO' base that will serve as the headquarters of a NATO rapid deployment force, helicopter squadrons, and Special Forces units.
The base will provide training for the Lebanese army and security forces fighting Salafi, Islamist fundamentalists and other needs.
The Pentagon and NATO HQ in Belgium have given the project which, will sit along the Lebanese-Syrian border, using this vast area "as a base for fast intervention troops", a name. It is to be called The Lebanese Army and Security training centre".
Kleiaat, a nearly now abandoned small airport, was used by Middle East Airlines for a period for commuter flights between Beirut and Tripoli. Residents of the area report than during the Civil War (1975-1990) a commuter Helicopter service was also operated due to road closures.
The proposed base was measured by this observer to be roughly two and one-half miles down the beach from Nahr al-Bared Palestinian Camp. Both share pristine Mediterranean beachfront. Kleiaat is an expanse of gently undulating sandy dunes covered with long prairie grass and brush.
Despite opposition from Lebanon's anemic environmental movement, that argues that the pristine area should be left to its many varieties of birds and wildlife, the local community is watching closely.
Not much activity is going on as of May 29, 2007. About 20 Quonset huts, some recently driven stakes, no evidence of heavy equipment or building material. The three man army outpost fellows appeared bored and did not even ask for ID as I toured the whole area on the back of a fine new BMW 2200cc motorcycle courtesy of one of the local militia sniper guys who until two days ago was firing into Nahr al-Bared until the Lebanese army stopped him after the PLO leadership complained.
Lebanese entrepreneurs at Bibnin Akkar, a Sunni community loyal to the Hariri's, and who will be the chief financial winners from the project, see opportunities with thousands of new construction and related jobs coming. One kind fellow who hooked me up last night to intermittent internet via a jerry rigged dial up arrangement on one of his shop's two computers envisages running a fine new internet café with at least 50 wireless computers. Hotels, restaurants and businesses of various sorts are planning expansions to meet the demand of the expected workforce.
Who will not benefit from the building boom will be the 40,000+ Palestinians from Nahr al-Bared which is literally next door to the anticipated project These refugees, who were driven from their homes a in Palestine in 1948 and 1967, from Tal-Al-Zattar by the Phalangists in 1975, and others who came as a result of Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1993, 1996, and 2006, will gain no work from Kleiaat. The reason is that the 70 top trades and professions in Lebanon are denied to the Palestinians under Lebanese law.
Even if the 20,000 Palestinians displaced by the current conflict with Fatah al-Islam are allowed to return, which I expect will be the case, and even if Palestinian fears that the Camps will be demolished are unrealized, as I believe, they will remain destitute, according to UNWRA who considers 10,000 of them 'special hardship cases".
As reported by the NATO headquarters in Brussels, as well as by residents in Bibnin Akkar on May 28, 2007, an American-German-Turkish military delegation toured and surveyed Akkar region. US Embassy 'staff' have reportedly visited Kleiaat airport earlier this year to look over the site. David Welch also had a quick look at the site during his recent visit.
A Lebanese journalist who opposes the base commented on May 28, 2007, "The Bush administration has been warning Lebanon about the presence of Al Qaeda teams in northern Lebanon. And the base is needed to deal with this threat. Low and behold, a new "terrorist group" called Fatah al-Islam appears near Kleiaat at al-Bared camp".
The Pentagon argues that the military base will contribute to the development and the economic recovery in the region, advising the Lebanese government to focus on the financial aspect and positive reflection on the population (95% Sunni) of the region.
Contenders for the billion dollar project, according to the Pentagon procurement office could be Bechtel and Halliburton and other Contractors currently doing projects in Iraq.
The martyred Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, saw potential for the Kleiaat airport as well. But he opposed a US air base. Instead, Hariri, which the green grocer who sells fruits and vegetables to the Lebanese army patrolling the Tripoli-Syria four lane road in front of Nahr al-Bared, commented, " Rafik Hariri, may he rest in peace, loved Lebanon. But he never saw a piece of real estate he didn't want to develop!" Hariri envisaged a billion dollar Free Commercial Zone and a port, despite Syrian opposition, and had investors lined up before he was murdered.
Damascus was opposed to the Hariri dream because the new Port and Free Zone would drain the revenues from the nearby Syrian Port at Lathikiya.
According to Washington observers watching developments, the base has been pushed by elements in the office of the US Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the urging of Israeli operative Elliot Abrams. AIPAC can be expected to do the necessary work in Congress and with House Foreign Affairs, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Armed Service committees hermetically sealed by stalwarts of the Israel Lobby, it can be expected that it will be added as a rider to an unsuspecting House bill coming along.
"We need to get this base built as quickly as possible as a forward thrust point against Al Qaeda and other (read Hezbollah) terrorists", according to AIPAC staffer Rachael Cohen. Asked if Israel will offer training and advisors to the Lebanese army, Ms. Cohen replied, "we will see what we will see, Lebanon, smezzanon its not about them, its about stopping the terrorists stupid!"
"The question for Lebanon is whether the Lebanese people will allow the base to be built. Few in North Lebanon doubt that Israel will have access to the base " according to Oathman Bader, a community leader who lives in Bahr al-Bared but has fled to Badawi.
Fatah al-Islam and their allies have pledged martyrdom operations to stop the project, according to the Fatah Intifada, the group that expelled Fatah al-Islam from their camp on November 27, 2006.
According to a columnist at Beirut's Al-Akbar newspaper," a US project like that would split Lebanon apart. No way will Lebanon allow it. Probably every group in Lebanon would oppose it , from the Salafi, Islamists fundamentalist to moderate Sunnis to Hezbollah. Can you imagine the Syrian reaction?"
Commenting on this project, one Arab-American from Boston, doing volunteer work at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital, Safad, noted:
"Hopefully the US pro Middle East peace, pro-Palestinian, and pro-Lebanon organizations with better phone and internet connections that exist locally, will join the opposition in Lebanon to this base and fight it in Congress. Welch and the US Embassy in Beirut should be questioned about it"
Dr. Lamb can be reached at: email@example.com