Israeli government prepares onslaught against Palestinian people

James Cogan

More of the same: out-and-out Talmudic terror against the Palestinians.
It's been like this ever since the ethnic cleansing in 1948, the Nakba.

Tens of thousands of people across Israel and internationally assembled yesterday to mourn the three teenagers whose bodies were discovered on Monday in a shallow grave not far from where they disappeared on June 12. Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer, both 16, were kidnapped and murdered as they hitchhiked back from a religious school in Kfar Etzion, one of the illegal Israeli settlements in the Gush Etzion region of the Palestinian West Bank territory.

The Israeli regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seized on the tragic death of the young men as the pretext for escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people and strengthening Israel’s grip on the occupied territories. The Israeli government has declared that the Islamist party Hamas is responsible for the murders, without providing any evidence to substantiate the charge, which is denied by Hamas.

Early Tuesday, the West Bank homes of two Hamas members accused of involvement in the kidnapping were blown up by Israeli troops—the first such punitive demolitions since 2005. In Gaza, Palestinian sources said Israeli jets had carried out many as 40 air strikes since the bodies were found.

Qatar conference opens new stage in Syrian war

James Cogan

This is what the real friends of Syria look like.

The “Friends of Syria” meeting in Qatar on June 22 ended with a communiqué announcing that Washington and its allies will “take all necessary practical measures” to arm the right-wing Sunni-based opposition forces, which have served as their proxies in a two-year civil war to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The announcement opens up a new stage in the war, and heightens the dangers of a regional sectarian conflagration.

The communiqué of the “Friends of Syria”—the Orwellian name given to the coalition of the US, its NATO allies, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Turkey, and the Sunni states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar—can only be described as a criminal and reckless document. It proposes to supply sufficient weapons and supplies to the anti-Assad opposition to enable it to counter the Syrian military ahead of “peace talks” in Geneva. The document also hints at US and NATO military operations along Syria’s borders to prevent Shiite fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran assisting the pro-government forces—even as imperialist aid pours in for the so-called “rebels.”

Once again, the imperialist instigators of the civil war assert that Assad and his close supporters have “no role” in Syria’s future. This is a transparent attempt to foment dissent among pro-Assad forces and trigger the collapse of the government.

Plumbing the depths of hypocrisy, the communiqué expresses “strong concern” over “increasing presence and growing radicalism in the conflict” and “terrorist elements in Syria”. The “terrorists” are Sunni extremist groups, linked to Al Qaeda, that have played the leading role in the fighting against the Assad regime and have been one of the beneficiaries of the weapons sent to Syria by US allies in the region. The stepped-up flow of arms now underway will further aid their sectarian attacks on Syria’s Alawite Shiite minority.

Australia to use UN Security Council seat to support US militarism

James Cogan

Australia was elected last Friday by 140 of the 193 member-states to a temporary seat on the UN’s 15-member Security Council. The vote was held after a four-year campaign by the Australian Labor government against rival bids by Finland and Luxemburg. The decision ensures that Washington, which unquestionably played the major role in lining up the necessary votes for Australia, will have a vocal advocate for US foreign policy on the Security Council over the next two years.

From outside the Security Council, the Gillard government played a significant role in drumming up support for the no-fly zone against Libya in 2011, which was exploited by the US and the NATO powers to bombard the country and bring about the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

In her official statement hailing the vote, Prime Minister Julia Gillard wasted no time signalling the pro-US agenda that Australia will aggressively advocate once it takes its seat at the beginning of 2013. She made clear that Australia would insist that the UN “deal with the scourge of [nuclear] proliferation in our world, and particularly the circumstances in Iran and North Korea.”

Gillard’s speech to the UN General Assembly on September 26 echoed US and Israeli warnings that time was running out for Iran to answer the myriad unproven allegations about its nuclear programs. The Australian government is already supporting crippling economic sanctions against the country, and if the US does attack, Australia will undoubtedly back yet another illegal US-led war, this time from inside the UN Security Council.

Further US demands for espionage charges against Assange

Richard Phillips

While Obama administration spokesmen and the Australian government continue to insist that Washington is “not interested” in prosecuting WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence head, Dianne Feinstein, has issued another call for the Australian citizen to be put on trial.

“Mr Assange should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act [of 1917],” Feinstein told the Melbourne-based Age last week. “I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States. He has caused serious harm to US national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.”

US Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told the newspaper that “there continues to be an investigation into the WikiLeaks matter.”

Assange is currently inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, pending a response to his June 19 application for political asylum in that country. Ecuadorian embassies in the US and Britain reported last week that they had received over 10,000 email messages in support of his application.

Assange’s decision to seek asylum followed the recent UK Supreme Court rejection of his legal appeals against extradition to Sweden. The WikiLeaks editor fears that if removed to Sweden, Washington will intervene and extradite him to the US. There he would face trial, on trumped-up charges, for the “crime” of publishing hundreds of thousands documents exposing war crimes by Washington, and the intrigues of the major powers.

Defend Julian Assange

James Cogan

A critical moment is approaching in the protracted vendetta by the US government and its allies against the WikiLeaks organisation and its editor Julian Assange.

The legal avenues to prevent Assange’s extradition from Britain to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault are rapidly being exhausted. On May 30, the majority of a seven-judge bench of the British Supreme Court rejected his appeal against rulings that a Swedish-lodged European Arrest Warrant should be enforced.

Assange’s lawyers are expected to seek a re-opening of the appeal before a deadline on June 13. The British judges, however, are unlikely to accept the defence argument that their ruling was based on legal points not raised during the hearing. His lawyers could further attempt to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but that also is given little prospect of success.

Assange’s extradition to Sweden will almost certainly result in criminal charges and his detention. It would also establish the conditions for US authorities to unveil a secret grand jury indictment on charges of espionage and to file a warrant for his extradition from Sweden.

The existence of the secret indictment in Virginia in 2010 was confirmed in leaked emails by Fred Burton, a vice-president of the private intelligence company Stratfor. Burton wrote in February 2011: “Not for Pub—We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect… Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever.”

This intense hatred of Assange in US ruling circles is the product of WikiLeaks’ public exposure of the sinister machinations and crimes of the US government and governments around the world. The website published information that revealed US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as hundreds of thousands of American diplomatic cables documenting anti-democratic intrigues that go on every day in the corridors of power internationally.

The response of the US political establishment has been vicious and relentless. Assange has faced public death threats. Vice President Joseph Biden accused him of being a “high-tech terrorist.” WikiLeaks has had its Internet domains shut down and its financial operations blocked. Its employees and supporters have been subjected to state harassment and surveillance.

Alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning has been detained without charge for more than two years and is to be dragged before a military court martial in November. Manning faces life imprisonment for espionage and “aiding the enemy”, as would Assange if he were prosecuted on the same charges.

US marines desecrate Afghan dead

James Cogan

As in previous cases of military abuse, it seems the media will publicly vilify the rank-and-file troops involved in the desecration, but abstain from any commentary—let alone criticism—of the political and military establishment that created the debased climate in which this abuse took place.

A video published yesterday shows four US marines in Afghanistan urinating on the heads of three Afghan dead, joking among themselves as they desecrate the corpses. It will join the litany of images that have provided a glimpse of the inhumanity and brutality with which American soldiers are led to treat the victims of US militarism—in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

A caption identifies the marines as members of “Scout Sniper Team 4” of the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, which is based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The 3/2 Marines were last in Afghanistan between March and September 2011, as part of the Obama administration’s “surge” of 33,000 additional US troops, and were deployed in the southern province of Helmand. At least three members of the unit were killed in Helmand in June and July last year. The weather conditions in the video suggest it was also shot during the summer months.

The video—which runs for barely 50 seconds—appears to have been consciously staged, rather than being the recording of a spontaneous act. The corpses, of men aged somewhere between 20 and 40, had been placed in a line. The marines faced the camera in a semi-circle so their desecration was obvious.

There are no AK-47s or other weapons in view that would indicate the dead Afghans were armed combatants. Instead, an overturned wheelbarrow suggests otherwise. The bare feet of one of the deceased are also visible. He had been wearing the sandals typical of a farmer, not the sneakers or boots preferred by insurgents operating in the rugged terrain of southern Afghanistan.

Coming just days after an Afghan government investigation publicly accused the US military of torturing prisoners at the detention centre at Bagram Air Base, the public revelation of more abuses by American forces has provoked fury in the Obama administration. It underscores the criminality of the entire decade-long US occupation, again exposing the official lies according to which US forces are bringing human rights and democracy to Afghanistan.

Bombings heighten sectarian tensions in Iraq

Joseph Kishore & James Cogan

Earlier this month, President Obama declared that with the departure of American combat troops the US was “leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”. — Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bombings ripped through sections of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 63 people and injuring nearly 200. The attacks, which mainly targeted Shiite Muslim areas, took place in the midst of intensifying sectarian conflicts, as different factions of the Iraqi elite battle over political and economic power in the wake of the departure of US combat troops.

One of the deadliest attacks was from a suicide car bomb near the central government’s Integrity Commission building and the Christian Nuns Hospital, which killed 25 people and injured more than 60. The combined death toll from the bombings made Thursday the deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year.

The bombings followed moves by the Iraqi central government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the dominant Shiite Muslim bloc in the parliament, to politically destroy several prominent Sunni politicians.

On Monday, Iraq’s Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi, charging him with coordinating bombing attacks and running an assassination squad to target Shiite officials. Maliki is also seeking a parliamentary no-confidence vote to oust Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Multaq, the leader of a Sunni-based party.

Fuelling sectarian tensions, Maliki immediately suggested that his Sunni rivals were culpable for the blasts. He stated: “The timing of the crimes and the choice of their areas confirms again to all those in doubt the political nature of the objectives that these people want to achieve.” No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though media speculation has focused on the Sunni-dominated groups associated with Al Qaeda.

Gaddafi family members murdered by US and NATO

James Cogan

Government officials and members of the media gather at the site
of a Nato missile strike that killed Gaddafi's youngest son and
three grandchildren and wounded friends and relatives. (Tripoli,
Libya on Saturday, April 30, 2011.) (AP)

The killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren are political murders for which British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and US President Barack Obama are directly responsible. They sanctioned the missile attack on a private residence in Tripoli at which Gaddafi and members of his family had gathered on Saturday night. Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, 29, was the Libyan leader’s youngest son and a man who was not considered a member of the Libyan government. Gaddafi family friends have reported that the slain children were aged between 12 months and four-years-old.

Following the missile strike, the British commander of NATO’s military operation in Libya, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, issued a statement that was as perfunctory as it was deceitful: “We regret all loss of life, especially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of the ongoing conflict.”

In an equally mendacious statement, Cameron sought to maintain the political fiction that the attack on the one-storey residence was permissible under the terms of UN Resolution 1973. The missile strike, he claimed, was aimed at “preventing a loss of life by targeting Gaddafi’s war-making machine. That is obviously tanks and guns and rocket launchers, but also command-and-control as well.”

Cameron, on the advice of his lawyers, referred to the private residence as a “command-and-control” centre in order to evade the charge that Muammar Gaddafi had been targeted by the missile strike. The targeting of a specific individual is an assassination and, even in war, may be defined as a criminal act. The attempt to kill Gaddafi, however, is taking place without either a declaration of war by the US and European powers against Libya, or even the invocation of the provisions of the War Powers Act by the Obama administration.

It is 35 years since the US Church Report disavowed assassination and revived the long-held position of the United States government, stretching back to the American Revolution, that it was not only a criminal and barbaric policy, but a reckless one that would legitimise every government seeking to assassinate the political leadership of rival states. After close to two decades of near continuous war to offset the economic and political decline of US imperialism, all such restraints and reservations have been repudiated.

Obama’s reign of terror in Afghanistan

James Cogan

[An Afghanistan man tries to identify the bodies of civilian victims killed when US NATO troops opened fire on a civilian bus at a local hospital in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, April 12, 2010. The US NATO troops opened fire on the civilian bus early Monday in a southern Afghan city, killing four people and wounding 18, the local governor's spokesman said. Photo: AP/Allauddin Khan (The We!)]

2010 was the bloodiest year of the now nine-year conflict in Afghanistan and the tribal border regions of Pakistan. Under the command of General David Petraeus, a massively expanded US and NATO force is waging a campaign of extermination against various ethnic Pashtun and Taliban-linked insurgent movements that have not accepted the foreign invasion of their country.

Still justified with threadbare rhetoric about fighting terrorism, the occupation is in fact a neo-colonial and criminal enterprise. Its motive is to crush resistance and transform Afghanistan into a US client state in the oil and gas-rich Central Asian region. It is part of a geo-political struggle for dominance over territory and lucrative resources, both in Afghanistan itself and in surrounding states, against US rivals such as China, Russia and Iran.

Obama had made the so-called “Af-Pak War” a cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy. Since he took office in January 2009, American troop numbers in Afghanistan have been doubled to close to 100,000. Thousands of additional troops have also been sent by various NATO states, pushing the overall US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to more than 150,000. By contrast, the Soviet force that occupied the country in the 1980s never exceeded 110,000.

The escalation of the war led to unprecedented violence and brutality in 2010. Thousands of US marines were sent into major offensives against Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. In areas of Kandahar province, entire villages were razed to the ground, ostensibly to remove insurgent booby-traps. Kandahar itself, a city of 500,000, was turned into a maze of concrete blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are subjected to constant intimidation, searches and biometric eye scans.

Supplementing the offensives, there was a major intensification in US air strikes. In October, over 1,000 missions were flown, compared with 640 the year before. Every several days, ISAF is issuing a new press release hailing the slaughter from the air of another group of alleged insurgents.

Special forces death squads, tasked with assassinating or detaining alleged insurgents, have increased their operations by 600 percent under Obama. The US military claimed that between mid-September and mid-December alone, such squads carried out 1,785 raids, killed or captured 880 “insurgent leaders”, killed a further 384 rank-and-file fighters and captured another 2,361 alleged insurgents.

Another massacre of civilians in Afghanistan

James Cogan

A special forces unit completing an early morning raid on Saturday gunned down seven men in the village of Rohani Baba, in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province. Abdul Rahman Mangal, the deputy governor of Paktia, told CNN that the victims were road construction workers. A press release by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) alleges that the men were employees of a private security company.

Details of the incident remain sketchy, but the ISAF statement claims that its troops had detained an alleged arms dealer and had moved on to “investigate suspected insurgent activity” at a housing compound in Rohani Baba. The seven men, some of whom were allegedly armed, were sitting in and around an SUV. After they were ordered in Pashtun to leave the compound, one man, carrying an AK-47, began to walk toward the occupation troops. He was shot dead. Some of the other men returned fire and in the resulting gun battle, all seven were killed.

The killings point again to the murderous character of the operations being conducted by the special forces units scouring Afghanistan. The underlying philosophy of these operations is to shoot first and ask questions later. Since September, ISAF claims it has killed or captured over 368 insurgent “leaders”. American commanders boasted last month that 24 rank-and-file insurgents are also being killed or captured every 24 hours by Special Forces. It is unknown how many were actually “Taliban” and how many, like the seven men in Rohani Baba, were simply people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While ISAF claims it will “investigate” the killings, the activities of what can only be called death squads are aimed at terrorising and intimidating the Afghan population into submitting to the occupation.

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