Empire Burlesque
Squeeze Play: Israel Keeps Gaza on Near-Starvation Diet
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 12 July 2009 20:56

As we noted a few days ago, Israel's creation of a "Warsaw Ghetto" in Gaza continues apace, using control of the food supply as a primary weapon against the civilian population. Haaretz takes up the case again in a new story:

Every time Gazans sit down for a meal, they face a depressing reality. The selection of foods available to them is dictated almost entirely by a harsh policy imposed by the Israeli government, which, as of late, has even refused to allow such innocuous-seeming foods as pumpkins, pasta or beans to cross the border.

The goal behind Israel's tight control of Gazans' dietary regime is definitely not improving their health. Rather, the government argues that allowing "luxury" foods into Gaza would only add to the popularity of Hamas' leaders, enabling them to better feed their constituency. But, in the eyes of many observers, Israel's policy of limiting foods that enter the Strip is almost tantamount to starvation, and comes dangerously close to collective punishment, both of which are not only illegal and immoral methods to use in pursuit of Israeli security, but also do little to improve that security.


It is in fact, in law, in truth and in reality collective punishment, not just "dangerously close" to it. It is an all-out, astonishing brazen war crime -- a clear echo of Nazi policies on provisioning the Jewish ghettos in Poland after the Germans conquered the country. But let's move on:

Indeed, what long-term Israeli interest is served by having pregnant women and children suffer anemia, which causes well-documented damage to fetal and juvenile development? Limiting their access to iron does not improve Israeli security. Rather, it constitutes a gross violation of our own basic human values and the morality of Israeli society.

Can the experts please explain: Why does the Health Ministry recommendation for the diet of Israeli infants and toddlers - "soft fruit such as bananas and avocado, cooked chicken and beef, and cheese cubes" - not apply to Palestinian children? These particular items are all strictly forbidden from entering Gaza, while rice and a limited selection of meat and produce are the only food items in fact allowed to enter.

Several months ago, ministry officials approached the United Nations to consult with them about their dietary plan for the Gaza Strip. The UN officials - as one might guess - politely told them to go to hell, refusing to have anything to do with such a policy. The Israelis then turned to a Health Ministry dietician, whose advice might have led to the present policy according to which, as Israeli officials have stated, "the minimal requirements for the sustenance of Gaza Strip residents are being observed without inflicting a humanitarian disaster."

The participation of medical experts in drawing up the menus for Palestinians in Gaza - if they knew what policy their advice would help produce - is a grave violation of medical ethics.


What the Israelis are doing in Gaza is precisely what the Americans and British did for years in Iraq: not an open genocide, with machine-gun squads and extermination camps, but the deliberate degradation of a people, seeking to cripple not only their political, military and economic power, but also the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of future generations. Every expert in child development will tell you how vitally important proper nutrition -- not to mention a stable, secure environment -- is to the development of a child's body and personality. And Nazi experts of yore could have told us how the social, emotional and psychological functioning of adults can also be degraded and destroyed by prolonged captivity in harsh, humiliating conditions of constant fear and incessant hunger. The Nazis could tell us this because they practiced it against the Jews of Europe.

This kind of degradation is what the Anglo-American elites inflicted on Iraqis before the 2003 invasion-- and they are still inflicting on them each and every day of the continuing occupation of the broken land, as the Washington Post reports. Israel, having less ground to cover and fewer captives to degrade, are able to act with even greater intensity and deliberation in Gaza than their Western mentors' pre-war strangulation of Iraq.

And of course the United States is very much a full partner in the ghettoization of Gaza. The deliberate, scientific calibration of cruelty being applied there by the Israelis would not be taking place without the indispensible financial and material support -- and political cover -- that the United States provides to Israel. The degradation of the people of Gaza -- and above all, the children of Gaza -- goes on because the administration of President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress of the United States do not want to stop it. 

 
Hunger Games: Western Terror Warriors Spurn Their Innocent Victims
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 00:17

So now there is no money left for the Syrian refugees created by the civil war fomented and fanned for years on end by Western governments. (Who, bizarrely, then prosecute any of their citizens who go off to fight in the war their governments promote as a noble and worthy cause.) For want of $64 million — the amount of money the US spends in an eyeblink on its drone campaigns and death squads, the kind of money that’s just chump change for, say, oligarchs who prowl the world destabilizing governments and monetizing misery for their own pockets — the UN says it must halt a vital support program for Syrian refugees.

What is happening in Syria is sickening and surreal. Almost all of the public discourse surrounding this vast and vile slaughterhouse has been completely divorced from reality. The critical work of As’ad AbuKhalil, the “Angry Arab,” has been one of the very few places where one can thread the labyrinth of bullshit that all sides in this shameful conflict spew forth.

Today, AbuKhalil points us to this pertinent piece by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian:

Western governments are tiring of Muslim wars. They are also tiring of their victims. The UN is reported to have run out of money to relieve the refugee tide now spreading across the Middle East. Some 4 million people are living in camps reliant on the UN’s World Food Programme, not to mention other camps caused by wars in Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. A million Syrians have fled to Lebanon and a million to Jordan, creating new desert cities of indolence and disease.

Now the cash vouchers that supply liquidity to the camps and sustain food supplies are to end. Some £500m has been pumped into the Jordanian camps by the UN alone and money has run out. Food rations are to be cut and host governments, facing an apparently ceaseless human migration, are starting to close their borders. The means by which the world relieves such suffering are seizing up. …

The US, Britain and Nato played a major part in disrupting the region, indulging in “wars of choice” in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. For a decade they toppled regimes and either fought or backed insurgents with bombs and troops. Peace they did not bring.

There was always money for military action. America spent $3tn fighting in Iraq. Britain spent £40bn on Afghanistan alone, under the obscene rubric of “humanitarian intervention”. David Cameron yearned to go to war in Syria. Yet Britain’s eagerness for war contrasts with an aversion to the consequences, whether frantic young Afghans in Calais camps, Libyans adrift in the Mediterranean or Iraqi translators desperate for asylum.

What is happening across the “Arc of Conflict” that now takes in the Middle East, the Horn of African and North Africa (and penetrating ever deeper into the African continent) is almost beyond description. It is a madhouse engineered by the most “advanced,” "sophisticated" and “enlightened” “democratic” governments in the world. They have gone into country after country and reduced them to howling chaos — Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya (and the countries now groaning from the knock-on effects from these inhumane interventions, such as Mali, Nigeria and Kenya). They do it for profit. They do it for the political and personal (and who knows, the psychosexual) aggrandizement of the pathetic wounded souls who spend their days climbing the blood-greased pole of power. (And who are then cheered and served by the even more pathetic lickspittles in our national media and political circles.) None of it — not a single bit of it — is related in the slightest way to the peace, prosperity or “national security” of the people they purport to represent.

We live in a time when the entire system of government in the “enlightened” West is based on lies. Not just the usual hypocrisies and the all-too-human falling short of a nation’s professed ideals, but on knowing, deliberate, cold-blooded lies. There is no way that Barack Obama or David Cameron actually believe their policies are helping their own people or the people they are “liberating” or “aiding” in their murderous campaigns, or that they are advancing the ideals of freedom and humanitarianism. While they may be moral cretins, they are too intelligent, too educated, too aware to fool themselves on these points. They know they are serving a monstrous system of elite domination, a system that doesn't give one good goddamn how many refugees it creates, or how many of these non-entities wither and die because of their policies. And our leaders serve this system gladly, eagerly; “man, they did make love to this employment.”

So let the refugees die. Who cares? The main thing is that the war goes on — in Syria, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Afghanistan, where the hell ever. Who cares? None of these nations matter. None of these people matter. Nor do the “folks at home.” Barack Obama and David Cameron — and all of their wanna-be successors — know that their policies are simply creating more terrorists, more extremism, more violence, more repression.

They know this, all of them, across the whole “Anglosphere” political class. They know it. But they do not care. So let us return this disregard to them. Let us not care what happens to them. Let us not fret about, OMG, which “team” of murderers and moral idiots is gonna win at the next election? We already know who will win: the profiteers of death and domination.

 
Cage Match: Gitmo Case a Snapshot of America’s Imperial Soul
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 01 December 2014 01:04

Andy Worthington asks a burning question: “Why is Shaker Aamer still at Gitmo?” And after detailing the case of Aamer — an innocent man sold to the American security forces by the human traffickers who partnered with the CIA in Afghanistan, a man who was cleared for release from the American concentration camp seven years ago — Worthington suggests the likely answer:

Aamer knows too much about the torture regime at Gitmo, and has been too vocal in standing up for fellow prisoners throughout his illegal captivity — and has made it clear he will continue to speak out against the inhumane conditions in the camp.Worthington’s piece should be read in full, but here are a few excerpts:

Imagine being imprisoned, year after year, despite having been told that your captors had undertaken a high-level review process and no longer wanted to hold you?

At the United States’ detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, is facing just that situation. More than seven years ago, the George W. Bush administration approved Aamer for release from the detention facility. Five years ago, the high-level interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Barack Obama when he took office, also approved him for release (PDF) and told him he would be freed, along with 125 others, once the necessary arrangements were made.

When releasing its illegal captives, the United States insists that its victims’ home countries (or some other country) will be willing to take them. As Worthington notes, for seven years, the British government has been calling for Aamer to be returned to the UK, his home country. Thus even by the perverted rules of the American concentration camp system, there should be no bar to Aamer’s released. He’s been cleared by the Bush administration; he’s been cleared by the Obama administration; his home country stands ready to welcome him, and has continually called for his release. So why he is still be held captive? Worthington writes:

We know that Aamer has been an eloquent defender of prisoners’ rights from the moment he was handed over to the U.S. by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had traveled with his family to provide humanitarian aid. We know that he has been a leader in the prison, because of his outspoken criticism of conditions at Guantánamo, and has tales of torture and abuse to share with the world.

Perhaps this fear of embarrassment is the only thing preventing the United States from ending Aamer’s 13-year imprisonment and allowing him to rejoin his wife and children in Britain.

A man sold into captivity by crooks working with spies to facilitate the vast, endless expansion of America’s imperial war state (a plan laid out years ago by some of the top leaders of the American elite, as we have noted here so often before): this is the reality of the American state. This is what we are now, this is what we do. Yet people still get exercised, on both left and right, over the question of which bloodstained murderer will preside over this slaughterhouse of human values for the next four years. They still think this is the democracy they were taught about in school. They still think that if we can just get the right peachy-keen person in charge of this world-ravaging war machine, then all will be well. I confess that I can no longer fathom such wilful blindness to reality, such utter moral idiocy.

 
Keep the Change: Obama Backs Bush's Political Prisoner Operation
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 16:25
We all know about the vaunted -- not to mention shameless -- "continuity" between the Bush and Obama administrations in foreign policy and "national security," with Bush's generals, and even Bush's Pentagon honcho, still running -- and expanding -- the Terror War under Barack Obama's orders, while he also wages legal war in the courts to uphold Bush's authoritarian perversions of the Constitution, and defend the war criminals in Bush's gulag -- some of whom Obama has elevated to even greater heights of power.

But surely there is some real "change" going on elsewhere in government, isn't there? How about at the throughly rotted Justice Department, where Bush cronies turned federal law into a partisan weapon, even jailing opposition political figures on trumped-up charges, like the worst kind of third-rate, tinpot tyranny? Surely Obama and his highly progressive Attorney General, Eric Holder, are going to clean out the fetid swamp of lawlessness at Justice, aren't they?

Er, no.

As Scott Horton notes at Harper's, the Obama Justice Department has just fired a courageous federal attorney who had sent a letter to the highly progressive Holder detailing more of the unbelievably brazen machinations of Karl Rove's cronies who put former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in prison on specious charges after a trial before a highly partisan, interest-conflicted judge. As Horton reports:

In a nine-page June 1, 2009 letter to her boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, Tamarah Grimes, a member of the Justice Department team that prosecuted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, itemized an astonishing list of acts of misconduct by her colleagues as they developed what they called “the Big Case.”

  • [These included]: Two key witnesses were cajoled, coached, and pressured to change their testimony to better support the charges. This specifically included the key evidence given by one witness on which Siegelman was convicted. But, as Grimes notes, the witness in fact had no recollection of the events–he was pressured to recount them in a way that suited the prosecutors....
  • Members of the prosecution team communicated directly with a pro-prosecution juror while the case was pending and afterwards...
  • Every aspect of the case was overseen by U.S. Attorney Canary. She had nominally recused herself from the case because her husband, a friend of Karl Rove and the most prominent G.O.P. elections advisor in Alabama, was advising a campaign against Siegelman for which the prosecution provided essential grist.

Eight days after submitting these meticulously documented complaints, many of which echo concerns stated by others in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Montgomery, Grimes received a reply of sorts. She was fired. Grimes notes in a press release that she was informed of her dismissal in a letter from Terry Derden of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.

Read the whole post for more dirty details. Horton goes on to note that just as Obama has promoted top Bush officials intimately involved in CIA torture, he has also retained "the clever consigliere of the Bush Justice Department, who amazingly continue to control all aspects of the case involving Siegelman five months into a new Democratic administration (including Leura Canary, who is still on the job in Montgomery)." As Horton puts it: "The Justice Department’s conduct looks increasingly like a Sicilian mob group: you commit the crimes the bosses order and you keep quiet about it, or the consequences will be fearsome."

That's very true; but it doesn't just apply to the Justice Department. The whole imperial court is run more and more like a crime syndicate, with periodic battles to determine which faction will be in charge of divvying up the loot. The Chicago gang has temporarily supplanted the Texas boys, but both pay obesiance to the big bosses back East, with the Bush-Obama "bailout" plans funneling trillions of dollars of public money to the mob kings of Wall Street. And of course, in classic gangster fashion, our bipartisan foreign policy elite use murder, violence -- and the constant threat of murder and violence -- to impose their will on the global neighborhood.

In any case, Don Siegelman remains a political prisoner of the United States of America -- unlike former Republican senator Ted Stevens, whom the Obama Justice Department swiftly released due to prosecutorial misconduct that comes nowhere near the brazen fixing of Canary and her crew.

As it (almost) saith in the Scriptures: They cry 'change, change,' but there is no change.
 
Conquest Non-Interruptus: Keeping the Boot on Iraq's Neck
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 11:28
To paraphrase our question from the other day, when is a withdrawal not a withdrawal? When it is a continued occupation. The indispensible Dahr Jamail reports on the reality behind the media hoopla over the putative pullout of American troops from Iraq's cities [see original for links]:

We have passed the June 30 deadline that, according to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on November 17, 2008, was the date all US forces were to have been withdrawn from all of Iraq's cities. Today, however, there are at least 134,000 US soldiers in Iraq - a number barely lower than the number that were there in 2003. In addition, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified on June 9 that the United States would maintain an average of at least 100,000 troops in Iraq through fiscal year 2010.

The SOFA is a sieve, and the number of US military personnel in Iraq is remaining largely intact for now. Add to the 134,000 US soldiers almost the exact number of military contractors (132,610 and increasing), 36,061 of which, according to a recent Department of Defense report, are US citizens.

While the military and most corporate media would like you to believe that from now on no US soldiers will step foot in Iraqi cities, US military patrols in them are ongoing and will continue. In addition, there has been an assumption that all US military bases within Iraqi city limits would be moved. For example, US Army Forward Operating Base Falcon, home to 3,000 US troops, is clearly within the city limits of Baghdad. But US military officials, working with Iraqis in the US-supported Iraqi government, have other ideas. "We and the Iraqis decided it wasn't in the city," a military official told the Christian Science Monitor. Thus, city lines are redrawn, to the convenience of the US military, to render certain bases and forward operating bases "outside" of Iraqi cities.

While military commanders claim to have handed over 142 military outposts around Iraq to the Iraqis, US troops will continue to occupy 320 other outposts around Iraq. Meanwhile, the Democratically controlled Congress just passed a war-spending bill that allocated over $100 billion more for the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military (and military contractors) in Iraq is busily expanding and augmenting new bases in rural areas of Iraq. In fact, they are even building new bases in Iraq.


To recap: Invasion-level numbers of U.S. troops still in Iraq, along with an almost equal number of mercenaries -- who are not covered in the SOFA. U.S operations continuing in the cities; thousands of U.S. troops still stationed there. Hundreds of U.S. bases still covering the conquered land -- with plans and appropriations to build even more. Yes, that's the kind of "withdrawal" that only a militarist could love.

Jamail makes a further important point: the policies now being pushed by the Obama Administration and the American-backed Maliki regime are pointing in one direction: the balkanization of Iraq:

Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that Iraq is further down the road of Balkanization, a plan that Biden has supported for years -to have Iraq split into three rump states. There is already evidence for this - for as Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan have been forced to return home due to funding to support them having been cut due to the Maliki regime pressuring hosting countries, as well as the UN, to have them return. Those returning have been unable to return to their homes. Instead, they are being forced to relocate to either Sunni or Shia areas. Moreover, the Iraqi government has been making no effort to help them return to their original homes, which indicates the Maliki regime is interested in supporting the Balkanization of Iraq.


He rightly notes the long-term yearning of Vice Putz Joe Biden to shatter Iraq into pieces. In this, Joe is merely putting himself squarely in the mainstream of our progressive liberal interventionists. We wrote about these humanitarians back in 2007, in the middle of the sacred "surge":

And so the strategy behind the "surge" becomes clear: A united, independent Iraq cannot be allowed to exist, because such a state would not permit a permanent American military presence nor sign away the nation's oil wealth. Therefore, Iraq must be torn apart -- by sectarian strife, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and "counterinsurgency" warfare. And violence must continue until this shake-out is completed, in order to justify the continuing American presence.

While Bush pursues ethnic cleansing by stealth in Iraq -- or rather, pursues it quite openly, but just doesn't call it ethnic cleansing -- the Democrats and their outriders, the "liberal hawks" (or "humanitarian interventionists" or "Wilsonian idealists" or whatever tag they're wearing these days) are championing the policy in the public sphere. The idea of a three-way split of Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds has long been mooted in some quarters -- Joe Biden and "liberal" intellectuals like Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith were early enthusiasts -- and it is now gaining force within the foreign policy "clerisy" that Glenn Greenwald and Arthur Silber have been dissecting in recent days. Firedoglake points us to the incisive commentaries of Reidar Visser, "an actual expert on the regional aspects of Iraq and its history," who has lately been debunking the deeply ignorant and murderously arrogant "partition" proposals of Galbraith and others.

Visser takes aim at one of the most hideous of these proposals: "The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq," by respected "scholars" Michael O'Hanlon and Edward Joseph. When I first read of these gentlemen's work, I thought it must surely be a parody, a take-off on the deadly serious, genocidal fantasies of Philip Atkinson, who, on a website hardwired to the rightwing power grid of Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey and Dick Cheney, called for Bush to nuke Iraq, repopulate it with Americans and declare himself President-for-Life. The O-Hanlon-Joseph piece for the highly respectable Brookings Institution partakes of that same kind of murderous fantasy. As Visser notes:

...using cool academic language, the authors review the nuts and bolts of relocating somewhere between 2 and 5 million Iraqis in order to create new ethnic federal entities. Snippets from this part of the report probably speak best for themselves: “we advocate where possible dividing major cities along natural boundaries” (p. 16); “on the actual day of the relocation operation, Iraqi and US-led coalition forces would deploy in sufficient numbers to look for snipers, cover the flanks of the civilian convoys, inspect suspicious vehicles for explosives and conduct similar tasks” (p. 17); and finally, on p. 24, “this [internal border] control system would place some burdens on Iraq’s internal trade and other aspects of its economy. It would complicate the efforts of individuals to cross from one region to another to visit family and friends. For the most part these burdens would be bearable. For individuals or businesses that need to make frequent crossings across Iraq’s new internal borders, or those willing to pay for the privilege, an EZ pass system [sic] might be developed to expedite movements for those with important and regular business to conduct.”

"On the actual day of the relocation operation...." Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by "Iraqi and US-led coalition forces." Actually it's not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like "The Sorrow and the Pity," "Shoah," and "Schindler's List." Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the "relocations" of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the "Trail of Tears," the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.

These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O'Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: "For the most part these burdens would be bearable."

I have a suggestion for Mr. O'Hanlon. I propose that he subject himself to such a regimen, then come back and tell just us how "bearable" it is. He doesn't even have to move five million Iraqis under armed guard to participate in this experiment: he can go to Palestine right now, where the people already live under his kind of "soft partition." Let him try it on for himself, just for a few months -- not the lifelong sentence he proposes for the Iraqis. We can even give him an "EZ Pass" to expedite any "important business" he needs to do.


This is the brutal, arrogant, oblivious mindset that Barack Obama very deliberately brought into the inner circles of his White House, choosing Joe Biden as his vice president and giving him great influence in foreign policy. When it comes to the enduring bipartisan consensus in support of violent imperial domination, the only "change" Obama has wrought is the new decor in the Oval Office.

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 8 of 132