Florida Support works to stop the executions in Florida and to work for alternatives to the death penalty. Florida Support will work to prepare information for media and update the public on what is really happening in Florida. Florida Support also works on international related issues
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Survivors in Lebanon: 'What am I going to do?
POSTED: 1054 GMT (1854 HKT), August 30, 2006
By Arwa Damon CNN
TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- In a village not far from Tyre, mine-clearing teams worked to destroy unexploded bombs, mortars and other weaponry scattered across the landscape.
"Do you think there will be another war again?" a young girl said as she ran up to me, her pink sunhat flopping in the breeze.
Her mother smiled dryly. "See what even the children are saying?" she said. "Their innocence is gone."
More than two weeks after a cease-fire in the 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the effects of the war are seen in everyone here in Lebanon, in their faces, their expressions, their voices. Even their smiles. (Watch a young boy tour his devastated home -- 2:47)
In Nabatiye, I spoke with a group of men talking about the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict just meters away from a flattened building. The men said that no matter how many civilians were killed, no matter how much was destroyed, Lebanon would rebuild.
But that optimism is not echoed across all of Lebanon, not even across all the south, as people are forced to deal with all they have lost.
Just down the street was Ahmad Failaili, a 75-year-old women's clothing shop owner and dressmaker. His hands were covered in thick dust as he cleared away bits and pieces of his shop -- his livelihood reduced to a skeleton of a store.
He explained it is the fourth time he has had to rebuild. "This is the worst," he said.
His shop was not targeted, but severely damaged by the multiple bomb strikes nearby. The clatter of machinery clearing the devastation made it hard to hear what he was saying. (Watch Lebanon try to rebuild -- 2:57)
"You know, a young woman died over there," he said. Then he paused and looked at me: "She was maybe about your age, looked like you, she was just having coffee with her friends."
Stuck in traffic with a coffin
Standing on a hilltop in Qana, we watched 65-year-old Salim Amer survey what was left of his home -- a crater.
In the rubble he found traces of the life he and his family once had there. "I built this home for my children," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do next."
Even if he rebuilds, his view is now the newly built memorial for the 29 civilians killed in Qana, wooden planks temporarily stuck into cement. If he builds a new home, his children and his descendents will look at that memorial and remember the war.
At a makeshift crossing over the Litani River, traffic was clogged because the main bridge had been bombed. A woman named Madlene cried over her grandmother's coffin inside a hearse stuck in the traffic.
She paused to talk with us for a few moments, expressing her grief, apologizing for her sorrow and inability to articulate all that she wanted to say.
"The children, don't they (the West) see the children, the families?" she said in English. "When you see what Israel has done, then you understand why Hezbollah made what it makes."
The traffic started to move, and she turned and walked behind the hearse, her shoulders hunched, up the dirt hill that is now a crude passageway across the Litani.
'Be strong for the children'
Just outside of Marjeyoun, there was a surreal sight. Bright blue and purple camping tents were pitched, the kind a child would use to play pretend camp in the backyard. Only here they stand out amid the rubble.
This is now home for the Yassin family. The tents are pitched on what is left of their front patio. Five-year-old Mehdi seemed jubilant as he took us on a tour of his former home.
"Come see my room," he said as he scampered over bits of rubble, broken glass and collapsed doorways. He found his stuffed Tweety Bird, which was almost as big as he is. It was under one of the beds among the debris of his bedroom, but he discarded Tweety almost instantly.
"Look, here and here and here," he said, pointing out all the other devastated buildings around him.
His father, Mohammad, was still in shock. "What am I going to do? How am I going to feed my family? I spent all our savings on a hotel in the mountains," he said, as he carried 2-year-old Ali on his shoulders.
His wife, Raiya, stared at her old living room as her eyes filled with tears. "We are trying to be strong for the children," she said. "But inside we are dead."
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
WATADA WATCH: An appeal for letters and calls to Gen. Dubik
Tuesday, 29 August 2006
On Monday, an appeal was launched by Thank You Lt., an organization of friends and family supporting Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer in the U.S. military publicly to refuse deployment to Iraq on the grounds that the war there is illegal. -- You are asked to take the time to write and/or call the office of Lt. Gen. James Dubik, Fort Lewis's commanding general, to urge him not to bring court-martial proceedings against Lt. Watada. -- The authority to make this decision lies in Gen. Dubik's hands. -- His address and telephone number appear below....
TELL FORT LEWIS: "NO COURT-MARTIAL FOR LT. WATADA!"
Lt.August 28, 2006
The future of Lt. Watada’s court-martial is now in Fort Lewis General’s hands. Your phone calls and letters today could make a difference. Forward this urgent action alert to friends.
On August 17, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada succeeded in placing the war on trial during an Article 32 pre-trial hearing in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington. The investigating officer recommended that Lt. Watada be referred to a general court-martial on all charges -- including five charges for political speech.
Fort Lewis’s Commanding General, Lieutenant General James Dubik makes the final decision on whether to proceed to court-martial on any or all charges. Take a moment today to phone and write Lt. Gen. James Dubik and respectfully request “no court martial for Lt. Watada.”
Use your own words, but a suggested message would be:
"Along with tens of thousands, I support Lt. Ehren Watada’s right to refuse an illegal war. I ask that you not bring court martial proceedings against him. If there is a court-martial this fall, I look forward to visiting Ft. Lewis and letting you know how I feel in person."
Lt. Gen. Dubik can be reached via his aide Lt. Colonel Kamper at 253-967-0022, and/or call the Ft. Lewis switchboard at 253-967-1110.
Commanding General Fort Lewis and I CorpsLt. Gen. James M. DubikBldg 2025 Stop 1Fort Lewis WA 98433
When writing, please consider a handwritten letter on stationary (if available) posted via express or priority mail for additional impact and timely delivery. We expect that Lt. Gen. Dubik will issue his decision next week, but there is no required timeline. Do not delay and take action today. The contact address and phone numbers for Lt. Gen. Dubik may change over the course of this action alert, so check www.ThankYouLt.org for these and other updates.
Help Lt. Ehren Watada put the war on trial!
Your donation toward Lt. Watada's defense is urgently needed.
Order Thank You Lt. Watada stuff: t-shirts, buttons, posters, stickers, postcards and more.
Friends and Family of Lt. Watada
CASE NO: 1:06-CR-59-DLH-CSM
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NORTH DAKOTA
CASE NO: 1:06-CR-59-DLH-CSM-_____________________________________________________________
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
DECLARATION OF FRANCIS A. BOYLE
Pursuant to 28 USC 1746, Francis A. Boyle declares under penalty of perjury:
1. I am a professor of law at the University of Illinois, at Champaign, Illinois. I hold both a Juris doctor magna cum laude and a Ph. D. in Political Science from Harvard University.
2. I am an expert in International Law and foreign policy. I have studied, read, and written extensively in these areas, and have been qualified as an expert witness in several courts across the country. I have also taught in the field of criminal law. My resume is attached to this declaration and incorporated by reference.
3. I offer this declaration in support of the Motions to Dismiss the charge of malicious destruction of property (18 USC 1361) and in establishing the content and application of the laws of war to elements of the offense charged and in support of justification defenses including necessity and crime prevention.
4. I am aware that expert opinion on points of law is ordinarily not permitted in court. Opinion of published international legal scholars is an important exception to that rule. The Statute of the International Court of Justice provides that questions of international law shall be determined by resort, inter alia, to “the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations...” Id., Art. 38 (1) (d). An integral part of the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty and thus equivalent to a federal statute as Supreme Law of the Land, this rule of evidence is applicable in federal court. The Supreme Court expressed the same opinion in The Paquete Habana, 175 US 677, 700 (1900). Cf. Fed. R. Crim. P. 26.1 (ordinary Rules of Evidence do not apply to determination of foreign law).
5. In the implementation of foreign policy, the current Administration has threatened to use nuclear weapons and was on June 20, 2006, actively threatening to use the Minuteman III, E-9 at issue in this case. Because this threat or use of 300 kilotons of heat, blast and radiation are uncontrollable and because the threat or use of this weapon is for a “first-strike,” the Minuteman III, E-9, on June 20, 2006 was not merely unlawful, but actually criminal. This conclusion is elaborated in paragraphs 6-15 below.
6. The body of federal law which governs these matters includes rules and principles of international law. International law is not “higher” or separate law; it is part and parcel of the structure of U.S. federal law. The Supreme Court so held in the landmark decision in The Paquete Habana, 175 US 677, 700 (1900), recently reaffirmed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, (U.S. Supreme Court, No. 05-1846. Argued March 28, 2006—Decided June 29, 2006). Thus international law must be considered along with Congressional statutes, Constitutional law, administrative law, federal common law, Rules of Court, military law, the laws of war, incorporated state law and any other pertinent body of law, whenever it applies according to the pertinent rules of supremacy, parallel construction, and choice of law.
7. International law, as part of US law, includes the laws of war. Under the fourth Hague Convention, various types of weapons are absolutely prohibited under all circumstances. For example, no nation may use a weapon which causes unnecessary suffering to human beings. Second, the use of poison or poison weapons is flatly prohibited by the Hague Regulations, by the Geneva Protocol of 1925, and by the US Army Field Manual 27-10 on the Law of Land Warfare (1965) and the US Department of the Air Force Pamphlet on “International Law -- The Conduct of Armed Conflict and Air Operations” (AFP 110-31, 1976). The United States is bound as a party to each of these. Third, a nation may not adopt methods or tactics of warfare that fail to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Because of the inevitable effects of the explosion of the Minuteman III, E-9, each of these rules prohibits its use. Other provisions of international law, moreover, prohibit destruction of the natural environment, another inevitable consequence of the explosion of any nuclear weapon including the Minuteman III, E-9.
8. The most recent and most authoritative summary of the current and binding laws of war as applied to any threat or use of nuclear weapons is found in the International Court of Justice Opinion, Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons , 8 July 1996. As further explained in my recent book The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, the Minuteman III is in a category of nuclear weapons that is, ipso facto, incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, is uncontrollable in space or time and causes unnecessary suffering. Thus any threat or use of the Minuteman III, E-9 was illegal and criminal.
9. The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal made explicit that violations of the laws of war are criminal and that individuals are punishable for committing war crimes. In addition, the Nuremberg Charter defined crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. The former basically consist of waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of a treaty or other international obligation. It is also important to note that the Nuremberg Charter articulates inchoate crimes as well, such as the planning or preparation and conspiracy to commit a crime against peace, a crime against humanity or a war crime.
10. These provisions apply equally in times of formal peace as in times of war.
11. The various scenarios developed by the United States Government for the use of nuclear weapons cannot be accomplished without violating international law, including the laws of war. The plans for targeting of US nuclear weapons are found in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (“SIOP”), which lists the targets to be destroyed in a number of nuclear and non-nuclear countries. To employ these weapons, as is currently planned, would clearly violate the Nuremberg Principles, in that the concept of a crime against humanity specifically prohibits such wanton destruction.
12. I am aware from my reading and study, including the Nuclear Posture Review (January, 2002) and the National Security Strategy (September 2002) as well as fact sheets and reports published by the Air Force specifically related to the Minuteman III, that US nuclear policy includes on-going threats of a “first-strike” made “believable” by maintaining the Minuteman III at a high-alert rate (above 98 percent), prepared for launch on short notice. I am further aware from my reading and study that a high degree of accuracy of the Minuteman III is crucial to a first strike.
13. Any first use of nuclear weapons would, for that reason alone, violate the United Nations Charter and the Hague Convention No. III of 1907, prohibiting the opening of hostilities without a formal declaration of war. And any use of even one nuclear weapon such as the Minuteman III, E-9 in any circumstance whether in response or defense would violate the principles of necessity and proportionality because it cannot be used within the intransgressible rules and principles of humanitarian law.
14. Since the threat or use of the Minuteman III, E-9 is inherently criminal under international and US law, anything used to facilitate its operation is an instrument of a crime.
15. The judgment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal meted out severe punishment in 1946 against individuals who, acting in full compliance with domestic law but in disregard of the limitations of international law, had committed war crimes as defined in its Charter. 6 FRD 69 (1948). (That Charter has been enacted as a law of the United States, 59 Stat. 5144 (1945). By implication, the Nuremberg judgment privileges all citizens of nations engaged in war crimes to act in a measured but effective way to prevent the continuing commissions of those crimes. The same privilege is recognized in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, “General Principles of Law Recognized by All Civilized Nations,” which has been adopted as a Treaty by the United States. In my opinion, such action certainly could include non-violent exposure, inspection and symbolic disarmament of sites of ongoing war crimes.
16. In the present day, there has been a breakdown in the Constitutional principle of checks and balances which implements the separation of powers; most notably neither Congress nor the courts have been willing to ensure that the Executive Branch act within the laws that limit methods and means of the threat or use of military force. The fact that Minuteman III missiles exist and that their use is actively threatened on high alert reflects the stubborn refusal of the US to abide by its own fundamental laws of war and to proceed with negotiations for nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. In spite of years of in which these Defendants have participated in citizens petitions, letters, referendums, civil cases, requests for criminal prosecution and the recent decisions on these questions with the full participation of the United States before the International Court of Justice, the US flouts its responsibility to abide by the laws of war, laws to which we are fundamentally bound. Under these circumstances , where redress within traditional channels is refused and ineffective, domestic criminal law coincides with the “Nuremberg privilege” mentioned in the preceding paragraph to afford a justification for seeming violations of domestic criminal laws in an effort to prevent the war crimes outlined above.
17. In my opinion the charge brought against these defendants in these circumstances must be dismissed. This prosecution for malicious destruction of property must be dismissed because the court may not apply the general protection of property statute in a way that ignores or abrogates the fundamental laws of war. In these circumstances, where the alleged “property” is part of an illegal and criminal threat of use of a weapon of mass destruction these defendants acted lawfully and reasonably to prevent the most egregious and fundamentally prohibited of all crimes, war crimes.
18. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. I am prepared to testify under oath and answer questions on these and related matters.
Signed this _28_____ day of
August 2006, at Champaign, Illinois
FRANCIS ANTHONY BOYLE
Francis A. Boyle
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA
(personal comments only)
Monday, August 28, 2006
Rev. Jackson: Syria To Assist Negotiations
Meanwhile, the US civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson is in the Middle East as part of ongoing talks for a hostage exchange. In Damascus Sunday, Reverend Jackson said Syria was prepared take part in a negotiated solution.
Rev. Jesse Jackson: “(Syrian President Bashar Assad) supports the finding of their status and their release -- the Israelis, Lebanese, and Syrians -- but they are not in his direct control. He uses influence and appeal. At the end we find out what their status is and ultimately their release. And his influence, we think, is positive and substantial."
Nasrallah Says He Regrets Soldier Captures
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has admitted he would not have ordered last month’s capture of two Israeli soldiers had he known Israel would have responded as it did. In an interview with Lebanese TV, Nasrallah said: "We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude… Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it."
August 28, 2006 at 08:43:35
International Law Authority Rips Bush Policies
by Sherwood Ross
BUSH POLICIES ARE "ONGOING CRIMINAL ACTIVITY"UNDER U.S. AND WORLD LAW, LEGAL SCHOLAR SAYS
By Sherwood Ross
If anyone knows anything about international law it's Dr. Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he's more than a little ticked off at the moment at President Bush.
Dr. Boyle's credentials are little short of amazing.He was the expert who drafted the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 --- approved unanimously by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
Boyle has also served as legal counsel for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, the Blackfoot Nation of Canada, and as Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations.He has written eight books including "Destroying World Order"(Clarity Press) and "Defending Civil Resistance Under International Law."
Now he's written an article with a ring of urgency, saying the House of Representatives "must impeach President Bush for war, lying about war, and threatening more wars."The Bush Administration "demonstrates little if any respect for fundamental considerations of international law, international organizations, and human rights, let alone appreciation of the requirements for maintaining international peace and security," Boyle asserts."What the world has watched instead is a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international legal order by a group of men and women who are thoroughly Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign policy and domestic affairs,"
Boyle wrote in "The Long Term View: a Journal of Informed Opinion" published by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Claiming President Bush's policies "represent a gross deviation from those basic rules of international deportment and civilized behavior" the U.S. once stood for, Boyle said America's foreign policies today "constitute ongoing criminal activity under well-recognized principles of both international law and U.S. domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles."
Boyle termed it a "great irony" in that six decades ago the U.S. participated in the prosecution of Nazi officials "for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that members of the Bush Jr. administration currently inflict upon people all around the world."Boyle also charged the Administration with "grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare, torture, disappearances, and assassinations."The international legal authority pointed out that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides that treaties "shall be the supreme Law of the Land" and that this "Supremacy Clause" applies to international executive agreements by the President such as the 1945 Nuremberg Charter.As an example,
Professor Boyle noted that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales when White House Counsel authorized the CIA to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogation, "a practice that contravenes the Geneva Conventions---and subsequently led to widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib."The torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Boyle goes on to write, makes President Bush accountable under U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 as he is Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.The alternative to impeachment of President Bush and his accomplices, Boyle writes, "is likely to be an American Empire abroad, a U.S. police state at home, and continuing wars of aggression to sustain both --- along the lines of George Orwell's classic novel 1984.
Sherwood Ross is a reporter who covers military history and political issues.
Reach him at email@example.com
Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, as a publicist in the civil rights movement, and as a wire service columnist. He is author of "Gruening of Alaska."
Sunday, August 27, 2006
August 21 , 2006
Measured Amid the Wreckage
Israel's "Proportionate Response"
By KATHY KELLY
Upon arrival in Beirut in early August, 2006, Michael Birmingham met Abu Mustafa. Michael is an Irish citizen who has worked with Voices campaigns for several years. Abu Mustafa is a kindly Lebanese cab driver.
Having fled his home in the Dahiya neighborhood which was being heavily bombed, Abu Mustafa was living in his car. Abu Mustafa joked that he sometimes went back to his home in the already evacuated area of the Dahiya, just to take a shower or sometimes a proper nap. His family was living with relatives in a safer area. Toward the end of the war, Israeli bombs blasted buildings quite near his home. He tore out of the suburb in his cab and made that his home until we met him again on August 15th. hundreds of people, including parents walking hand in hand with toddlers, process silently along streets lined by wreckage. Even the small children looked extremely sad and grim.
Before the “Shock and Awe” bombing of Iraq in 2003, a contingent of peace activists living in Baghdad hung huge banners at various locales stating, “To bomb this place would be a war crime.”
On Dahiya’s streets, we saw the sequel, banners that said “Made in the U.S.A.” in Arabic and English, detailing U.S. complicity in manufacturing and shipping the weapons that demolished homes, gas stations, shopping malls, overpasses, clinics, the town square, ….block after block of ruin.
On the fourth floor of a five-story apartment building, a father and his daughters scooped up successive loads of broken glass and pitched them onto the sidewalk below. They called out a warning before each load came crashing down. You have to start somewhere.
On August 17 and 18, two men, both named Mohammed and both in their twenties, took Michael, Ramzi Kysia, Farah Mokhtarazedei, and me to towns and villages south of the Litani River. In each of the towns we visited, we saw appalling wreckage. Nowhere could we see military targets.
In Sriefa, the town center was almost completely destroyed. Residents told us that five or six F-16s bombed the area on July 19th, destroying ten houses, many of them three story buildings. We stared at the rubble, spotting household items, - a child’s high chair, a weaving loom, a toy plastic television.Neighbors had buried nine corpses in shallow graves when it was too dangerous to be outside for any length of time. On the outskirts of Sriefa, as a handful of women and youngsters watched, workers exhumed the bodies and placed them in plastic body bags which were then wrapped in green shrouds and laid in wooden coffins. Workers sealed the lids and then wrapped the coffins in flags. These slain men were communists. The flags bore dual symbols for Lebanon and the Lebanese communist party.
Later, we watched a long funeral procession pass, carrying 25 of the 40 people killed in Sriefa. Uniformed men, marching, led the procession. Women followed, clutching one another in grief, next boys bearing flags, and finally the coffin-bearing vans, each with pictures of the brothers, fathers, and sons that would be buried.
Abbas Najdi stopped to talk with us on a street in Sriefa and then invited us to his home. During the bombing, his wife and children left Sriefa, but Abu Abbas, age 78, decided to stay. He wanted to watch over his home and the family’s sole source of income, the “tabac” which was carefully stored in a shed below the second story where they lived. Fortunately, he had decided to sleep on the ground floor during the first night of bombing. The back part of his home, their sleeping room, took a direct hit. Debris from a collapsing building across the street blocked the Najdi family’s front door, trapping Abu Abbas inside for two days. Neighbors eventually freed him. Abu Abbas’s left leg was injured by flying glass, but he felt very lucky to have survived at all. Unluckily, his entire tabac crop was burnt, the harvest of one year’s labor.
Before we left the Najdi family, one of the daughters, Zainab Najdi, a University student, stood to say goodbye and then laughed. "My pants are falling down," she explained, still graceful as she pulled them up. "I am 'daifah'” --the Arabic word for thin or weak. Her loose clothes disguised how thin she is, but when we embraced, I could nearly encircle her waist with my hands.
On the morning of the 18th, explosions awakened us. I thought the cease fire had ended. Our hosts reassured us that the Lebanese army was blowing up explosives. In the garden outside the home where we stayed, the local Hezbollah municipal leader spotted three unexploded cluster bombs. We had nearly driven over two cluster bombs lying on the road the previous day. The sound of each blast destroying hideous bombs was oddly comforting. You have to start somewhere.
Many people we talk to in Lebanon understand that the majority of Israelis urged their government to fight this war once it began. Did the proponents of war, in Israel, understand that there is no sign of a military target in the villages of southern Lebanon where homes, schools, clinics, grocery stores and children’s playgrounds have been destroyed?
On August 18th, Anthony Cordesman published a working draft of a report called “Preliminary Lessons of Israeli-Hezbollah War.” I read excerpts of it in commentary written by Helena Cobban. Cordesman, a seasoned military strategist, writing about the Israeli Air Force bombardment of Lebanon, remarks that “the air campaign continued to escalate against targets that often were completely valid but that sometimes involved high levels of collateral damage and very uncertain tactical and military effect. The end result was to give the impression Israel was not providing a proportionate response, an impression compounded by ineffective (and often unintelligible) efforts to explain IAF actions to the media.
I honestly don’t understand. Why is a target completely valid if it involved high levels of collateral damage, that is to say high levels of civilians who are maimed and killed, of civilian infrastructure ruined, of families rendered homeless, penniless, jobless and hungry? Cordesman states that there was uncertain tactical and military effect. Before completing the draft, I wish that Mr. Cordesman could stand for just five minutes at one intersection in the small city of Bint Jbail. He would see certain usage of conventional military weapons used against a civilian population. He would see certain evidence of a war crime. Turn in one direction and you see the remains of a school building, some desks and chairs still aligned in careful rows, visible because a whole side of the building is demolished. In another direction, a damaged stadium. Next to it, a field where 30 rockets killed a flock of sheep. One man managed a chuckle, telling us that 2 million dollars was spent to kill these sheep, that these must have been the most costly sheep in all of Lebanon. On the 27th and 28th of July, 100 bombs fell between two mosques in Bint Jbail within 11 minutes. At one point, the Israelis bombed for 11 hours straight. Then there was a break and they bombed for 21 hours until most of the town was completely destroyed.
It’s estimated that about 60,000 people lived in Bint Jbail. Of what military value, as a target, is a school, an entire block of residences, a town square, a favorite swimming hole? Why is it strategically valuable to drop many hundreds of cluster bombs that fall in gardens and along roadsides between small farming villages?
The residents of Bint Jbail and other southern Lebanese cities as well as those who lived in the Dahiya and in Baalbeck had jobs, homes, and basic securities just a little over a month ago. Now, billions of euros and other currencies, along with ingenuity, resources, talents, will be directed toward aid and recovery. Such aid might have been helping relieve suffering elsewhere in the world had this war not “escalated.”
Both legally and rationally, you cannot say “everyone living there is Hezbollah. You can’t just walk away from the appalling damage and say, they were warned. Or can you? Can a state get away with it, backed up by other world bodies?
If that’s the case, then ordinary people bear a grave responsibility to demand that leaders own up to war crimes. Yes, finding a proportionate response to war crimes when so much power is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, many of them reckless and dangerous leaders of the United States and Israel, is a daunting task. But let’s think of the people finding courage to return and rebuild, let’s think of those trying to demine and clear out the cluster bombs, let’s think of the parents trying to help children orient themselves to a vastly insecure world. With them, we might acknowledge, you have to start somewhere.
Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness. Her book, Other Lands Have Dreams, is published by CounterPunch/AK Press. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 25, 2006
Revelations from the Watada Court Martial
A Religious Movtive for Iraq War Deceptions?
By CHRIS MOORE
Shockwaves from what more and more critics are saying was a Bush administration program to entangle the United States ever deeper into Middle East politics by deceiving the country into the Iraq war continue to reverberate through American society.
Testimony in the recent court-martial of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who has been charged with refusing to join his brigade's deployment to Iraq, speaking contemptuously of the president and committing acts unbecoming an officer, has shone yet another spotlight on the possibly illegal means by which the administration secured the introduction of thousands of American troops into the Mideast under the pretext of eliminating Iraqi weapons of mass destruction from the hands of terrorists.
'Most of the hearing was consumed by defense testimony, with three witnesses attacking the Bush administration's approach to the war and asserting that an officer could justifiably refuse to participate,' said a Seattle Times account of the court-martial.
"There was no authorization from the U.N. Security Council ... and that made it a crime against the peace," said Francis Boyle, a University of Illinois professor of international law, who said the Army's own field manual required such authorization for an offensive war.
Boyle, an outspoken critic of the administration policy in Iraq, went into considerable detail about the rules for war as detailed in the Army Field Manual. He accused the administration of using fraudulent means to persuade Congress to authorize the war, twice-failing to get U.N. Security Council authorization for the war and then allowing war crimes to occur.'
Watada's case may be bolstered by a new book by Thomas E. Ricks, a military reporter for the Washington Post. Titled 'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq,' Ricks' book says the Bush administration deceived the American public about the existence Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that the administration claimed could one day be used against America--weapons that an exhaustive post-invasion search failed to turn up.
'It already is abundantly apparent in mid-2006 that the U.S. government went to war with Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information - about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda's terrorism - and then occupied the country negligently,' Ricks writes.
In a review of 'Fiasco' for the Seattle Times, Bruce Ramsey takes note of Ricks' venture into fleshing out the psychological motives that might have animated Bush and his Iraq war policy makers: 'Ricks profiles Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, an early champion of belligerency, and reveals how Wolfowitz's family's losses in the Holocaust shaped the way he thinksRicks argues that Bush and his senior advisers wanted a fight, and deceived themselves as well as the public about Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction.' '
This isn't the first time Wolfowitz's name has come up in relation to the allegedly deceitful use of his government employment on behalf of the pursuit of a personal vendetta or agenda. According to a 2004 report in Asia Times by Jim Lobe, 'Wolfowitz was investigated in 1978 for providing a classified document on the proposed sale of a US weapons system to an Arab government to an Israeli official via an [Israel lobby] AIPAC staffer.
'In 1992, when he was serving as under secretary of defense for policy, Pentagon officials looking into the unauthorized export of classified technology to China found that Wolfowitz's office was promoting Israel's export of advanced air-to-air missiles to Beijing in violation of a written agreement with Washington on arms re-sales.'
Douglas Feith, who served under Wolfowitz in the run up to the Iraq war, also has a checkered past of covert dealings on behalf of Israel. He was removed from his position as a Middle East analyst in the National Security Council in 1982 when he came under suspicion by the FBI for passing classified material to Israeli embassy officials, reports say.
In 2004 respected scholar James Petras took critical note of the large number of committed Jewish nationalists working in the Pentagon under Wolfowitz and elsewhere within the Bush administration and found that they were the driving force behind the Iraq war:
'Wolfowitz, Feith, [Elliot] Abrams, [Richard] Perle, [Michael] Rubin et al were the most zealous promoters of the war against Iraq. They worked closely with other Zionist ideologues like Bush speechwriter David Frum to promote the notion of 'axes of evil,' to engage in a sequence of wars against Muslim regimes hostile to Israeli colonial policy in Palestine and beyond. Wolfowitz, Feith set up the parallel 'intelligence' agency (the Office of Special Planning) run by fellow Zionist Abram Shulsky using [Ahmed] Chalabi to provide phony data on Iraq to precipitate that war. An army of 'Israel First' academic and journalist ideologues wrote, spoke and acted to justify the US attack on Iraq as the first part of a regional war to destroy any and all regimes critical of Israeli expansionism.'
Certainly President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were well-aware of the record of shady dealings on behalf of Israel by Wolfowitz, Feith and other Jewish nationalists eventually hired by the administration. Federal agencies perform exhaustive security clearance checks on all recruits to national security-sensitive areas of the government prior to their employment, which means that the administration knew exactly what it was getting when it brought them into service--and likely waived any national security concerns raised.
In fact, given Bush's apparent Christian Zionists religious beliefs (a recent Nation magazine report says that the White House holds secret Middle East policy meetings with dispensationalist Christians who believe that "supporting Israel's expansionist policies is 'a biblical imperative'"), Wolfowitz and Feith's staunch Jewish nationalist credentials and their reported history of attempting to advance that country's interests through the co-opting of U.S. government resources on behalf of the Israeli agenda may well have been the exact characteristics the administration was looking for in those to whom it planned to entrust the formulation of America's foreign policy.
In his testimony before the court-martial hearing, Lt. Watada's expert witness Francis Boyle didn't go into details about the motives of the Bush administration's deceitful Iraq war initiative, only that the administration used fraudulent means to persuade Congress to authorize the war. To be fully effective, future critics may need to establish the administration's motives as well. The Christian Zionist/Jewish nationalist religious/ethnic loyalties to Israel held by top administration officials may well be a good place to start.
Chris Moore writes for Libertariantoday.com.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Cluster bombs lie in wait for Lebanese children
Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:21 AM BST
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent
BINT JBEIL, Lebanon (Reuters) - Like a small black football, it lies in the dirt not far from Haitham Daaboul's front door in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil.
It looks innocuous, but a careless kick from a passing child would detonate this cluster bomb, one of thousands of unexploded devices Israel scattered over the towns, villages and hillsides of south Lebanon during its 34-day war with Hizbollah fighters.
The bomblets can maim or kill. In war time, they might hit guerrillas firing rockets. Now with a shaky truce in force, they lie where they fell, creating random minefields over wide areas.
"We can't let the children go outside. There are many cluster bombs in the streets," said Daaboul's wife Nadia.
"We've told them to be frightened of things shaped like a ball, a plate, anything, even stones in the street," she said.
"It's a real pain. The children are asking 'how can we live like this? When can we go out? When can we have a normal life?'"
The Daabouls and their four children are living with a score of relatives in a house they rented after returning to the shattered town after an August 14 truce halted fighting.
Bint Jbeil saw some of the fiercest battles of the war, forcing almost all the townsfolk to flee. The Daaboul family odyssey took them from one makeshift shelter to another around the southern city of Tyre and eventually to Beirut.
"Their life has changed," Nadia, a slim 28-year-old woman in a headscarf, said of her children. "They used to wander all over Bint Jbeil -- to the market, the playground, their grandfather's house. Now they are caged in.
SHELL ON BALCONY
Down the street, an unexploded shell lies on the balcony of a building overlooking a bombed stadium -- it's hard to imagine how Bint Jbeil's 4,000 people can pick up their lives while so many deadly leftovers from the war carpet the landscape.
Children are at particular risk from cluster bombs, such as the one that was lying in wait for 10-year-old Hassan Tahini and his cousin in the border village of Aita al-Shaab.
"We were walking without paying attention, we saw something, but we didn't know it was a bomb," said Tahini from his hospital bed in Tyre. "We saw a little bit of it sticking out of the earth. We said to ourselves, 'it's a toy, so what?'
"We trod on it. It exploded and we flew two or three metres through the air," he said. "God saved me."
Tahini spent two days in intensive care at Tyre's Jebel Amel hospital, along with his 12-year-old cousin Sikni, with multiple wounds to his small intestine, liver and stomach.
Both will survive, said Nasser Farran, the surgeon who has treated them and a dozen other recent cluster bomb victims.
The United Nations has confirmed 249 Israeli cluster bomb strikes across south Lebanon and says the bomblets have killed eight people and wounded at least 38 since the truce.
"It's a huge problem," said Tekimiti Gilbert, operations chief of the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre in Lebanon.
He said he had "no doubt" that Israel's use of cluster bombs violated international law which bans the use of such munitions in civilian areas.
Israel denies using the weapons illegally and accuses Hizbollah of firing rockets into Israel from towns and villages.
NERVES IN PIECES
The five-week war claimed 1,200 lives, mostly civilians, in Lebanon. At least 157 Israelis, mainly soldiers, were killed.
In Bint Jbeil, Nadia chain-smokes and says her nerves are shot trying to deal with cooped-up children 24 hours a day.
"Every time a plane goes over, the children are afraid. At any sound, they jump. They aren't sleeping at night," she said.
On the cement floor of a dark room, some of the younger boys play listlessly with toy guns, planes and rockets.
The stresses of war on families like the Daabouls are replicated among thousands of civilians in south Lebanon.
Among aid groups trying to respond is Save The Children, which plans to launch programmes soon to teach children about the dangers of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance.
"We also want to set up safe spaces where children can play, paint, do drama or sing," said Ribka Amsalu, the group's emergency health adviser in Tyre. "It's a way for them to express themselves and their emotions, and to be children."
Save The Children can also provide school materials to enable formal education to continue even where school buildings have been physically destroyed, Amsalu said.
The three-storey school that the Daaboul's 12-year-old daughter Zainab used to attend on the outskirts of Bint Jbeil is a ruined shell, with all its walls torn away, revealing desks and chairs still laid out in rows in a third-floor classroom.
Daaboul's music store was pulverised by Israeli bombing, like the rest of Bint Jbeil's market area, now a wasteland of flattened buildings, broken masonry and twisted steel.
The 37-year-old shopkeeper's home fared a bit better.
Clothes spill from a collapsed washing machine hit by shrapnel, but plates and glasses lie intact on kitchen shelves.
Dust and debris below a hole gouged in the roof cover teddy bears and furniture. The television set has survived. So has the framed photo of a youthful Daaboul as a Lebanese army conscript.
"The house can be repaired, but if we can't finish it before winter we'll have to rent something in Beirut," his wife said.