December 2008 Archives
|Obama's Gaza silence condemned|
Despite growing pressure on Barack Obama to speak out on the crisis in Gaza, the US president-elect has remained silent on the issue.
Obama, holidaying in Hawaii, has made no public remarks on Israel's unrelenting military assault on the Palestinian territory, which has left more than 380 people there dead.
The former Illinois senator spoke out after last month's attacks in Mumbai and has made detailed statements on the US economic crisis.
But some fear that the US president-elect'sÂ reluctance to speak outÂ on the Gaza raids could be sending its own message.
"Silence sounds like complicity," Mark Perry, the Washington Director of the Conflicts Forum group, told Al Jazeera.
"Obama has said that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks but my question to him is 'does he believe that Palestinians also have the right of self-defence?'"
Support for Israel
Israel says the operation is necessary to prevent Palestinian rocket attacks on the south of the country.
And Obama repeatedly spoke out in support for Israel during his election campaign, describing the country as one of the US' greatest allies and has vowed to ensure its security.
He also visited Sderot, the Israeli town close to Gaza regularly targeted by Palestinian rocket fire, in July,Â to show his support for residents.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, has cited comments Obama made during that visit in his own justification for launching the assault.
"Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it," Barak was reported as saying on Monday.
Obama's aides have repeatedly said he is monitoring the situation and continues to receive intelligence briefings but that he is not yet US president.
But George Bush, the current US leader, has also remained silent on Israel's attacks although the White House has offered its support to Israel.
But his choice of a foreign policy team, especially Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state and Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief-of-staff, have raised doubts that much will change.
But some see his see his silence as symptomatic of caution over his own position and the power of the Israel lobby.
"He wants to be cautious and I think he will remain cautious because the Arab-Israeli conflict is not one of his priorities," Hassan Nafaa, an Egyptian political scientist and secretary-general of the Arab Thought Forum in Amman, told Reuters.
"Obama's position is very precarious. The Jewish lobby warned against his election, so he has chosen to remain silent (on Gaza)," added Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.
Protests demand change
Protesters gathered at Obama's transition office in Washington DC on Monday, and outside his holiday residence in Hawaii on Tuesday, to demand he do more.
"The Obama administration is working hand in glove with the Bush administration and...there is no reason that they can't work together to get something done," Mike Reitz, a federal government worker, told Al Jazeera at the transition office protest.
At another protest against Israel's actions in Gaza outside the White House on Tuesday, some were sceptical about Barack Obama's commitment to Middle East peace-making.
"Is this the change that you were talking about?," said Reza Aboosaiedi, a computer specialist from Iran.
"If this is the change, you have a very, very deep problem, because if you add them up with the other economic problems and other problems in America, having this kind of problem in the Middle East, I don't think he can manage it."
But others at the protestÂ still saw some hope that the former Illinois senator could make a difference.
"I would like to think that he would be more active than Bush in trying to push an agenda to bring Israel and Palestine together to have peace talks, but I don't know," said Bob Malone, a lawyer.Â
"But I'm an optimist, so I hope so."
"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support to the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime."
Harold Pinter, World Can't Wait endorser
a message from Cindy Sheehan:
With the announced increase in US troop levels to Afghanistan and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, promising after the extra 30,000 troops are sent to Southern Afghanistan that "When we get additional troops here, I think the violence level is going to go up. The fight will be tougher," I thought it would be appropriate to re-release an article that I wrote on July 13th, 2006.
I have also heard some anecdotal evidence from several people who do counter-recruitment that recruiters are targeting young people of color even more intensely now telling them that they will be "Fighting for Obama," but I haven't seen any recruitment figures since the election.
Even more urgently, Dick Cheney, et al, are all over the media, not only admitting to, but bragging about war crimes. It is time that an American administration be held criminally accountable for their war crimes, as I say in my article below*.
This is so distressing to me that we are being conditioned to see Afghanistan as the "good war" and that the flag-draped coffins that will only be viewed by the dead soldier's family and loved ones will start to stream home and the "anti-Republican-war" movement will stand down as evidenced at the recent United for Peace and Justice gathering where it was decided to do a mass protest highlighting the "economic crisis" in NYC instead of an anti-war protest on the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
A letter from World Can't Wait to the anti-war movement:
Barack Obama is sending a surge of 20,000 troops to Afghanistan.
An antiwar movement that does not move immediately to oppose the Obama doctrine of shifting the central front of the war on terror to Afghanistan, no longer deserves to be called an anti-war movement.
Millions of people voted for Obama because they thought he would end the war. Yet Obama filled his cabinet with Hillary "Obliterate Iran" Clinton, Robert Gates, James Jones and Susan Rice ("a kettle of hawks," said Jeremy Scahill).
He is not only continuing an unjust war by leaving 80,000 troops and 17 permanent bases in Iraq, and all over the region, including nuclear carrier-led task forces with enough firepower to "annihilate" any country in the region, but Obama is enlisting many progressive sections of society to support and be complicit in waging a spreading war for U.S. hegemony and imperialist expansion known as the "war on terror."
The election of the first Black president is effectively re-branding preemptive and illegal wars of aggression to make us feel good about them. Massive anti-war sentiment and action is already being transformed into flag-waving patriotism, passivity and capitulation in the face of horrors...
To socially conscious students and educators,
Bring the "We Are Not Your Soldiers" Tour to your school!
Coming to Northern California December 8-12
Contact World Can't Wait now to help make this tour happen:
sf [at] worldcantwait.org myspace.com/sfbaycantwait 415-864-5153
A nationwide effort, to reach high school students with the truth about military recruiters and the wars that they are recruiting for, and give them the arguments and tools to talk to their peers. We are looking for teachers and students to help arrange classroom presentations and school assemblies which would include:
â€¢a short presentation by a World Can't Wait youth organizer and either an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran or a military family member.
â€¢an open discussion.
â€¢a 10-minute video clip of testimony by Iraq veterans from the March 2008 Winter Soldier hearings about what they witnessed and perpetrated.
â€¢footage of high school students protesting military recruiters.
â€¢a short survey that students would take to give us all a sense of what they think.
Iraq Veteran Phil Aliff: Phil served in the US Army from 2004-2008 as a corporal with the 10th Mountain Division. After doing a tour in Iraq from 2005-2006, Aliff started the first active duty chapter of Iraq Veterans Against The War at Fort Drum. He spoke at Winter Soldier, a national event of Iraq Vets testifying to the crimes they witnessed when there were in Iraq & Afghanistan. Phil was a part of leading protests against the Bush program on college campuses, on the streets and outside the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He was featured on the radio show Democracy Now, speaking about the need for those in the military to resist the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Emma Kaplan: Youth & Student Coordinator, World Can't Wait. Emma's great grandparents were killed in Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. She has organized demonstrations against the Bush torture policy, military recruiting centers, and police brutality. She has spoken to youth at concerts, in classrooms and on campus, calling on this generation to take responsibility for the crimes their government is committing in their names. Most recently she participated in the protests in Olympia Washington where people formed human blockades to prevent stryker vehicles from being sent to Iraq.
Over 1 million Iraqis have been killed, according to John Hopkins University, 2006 and over 4 million have been forced to flee their homes. Almost 5,000 US military have been killed in combat; with tens of thousands of grave injuries. Hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in recent months by U.S. bombing raids on wedding parties, and US Special Forces have recently killed civilians in Pakistan and Syria. Iran and other countries are projected targets of the global War on Terror begun by the Bush administration. The war crime of torture is being carried out by U.S. forces under the direction of the highest levels of government.
Where are they going to get these troops to fight (and die) for all this?
They are in high school now. In high schools across the U.S. military recruiters are given free reign to prey on the youth. They pull up in their hummers, walk right into classrooms and give presentations that make war seem like a video game. They stalk students at school and at home, making false promises and even (as has been documented recently on Democracy Now!) threatening students with jail time if they decide not to enlist. In particular they target poor and rural youth, inner city youth of color and immigrant youth (with promises of citizenship). In fact, all this is mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act which requires high schools to give students' personal information over to the military.
The military reportedly has a new recruiting approach: "Obama will get the US out of Iraq."
However, many people don't know that Obama is planning to keep 50-80,000 troops in Iraq, send 10,000 more troops to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and increase the overall size of the US military by 92,000 more soldiers. Obama has been an enthusiastic supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act. When asked in one presidential debate, "Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?" Obama said "yes."
It becomes clear that if we want the crimes of our government to stop, we must bring into being a movement of resistance against them. And stopping military recruiters from preying on our youth is a key element of putting a stop to this.
Many people know that recruiters lie. They lie about the job skills training and education benefits that enlistees will never receive. Recruiters don't tell youth about the one third of female GI's that report being raped while in the service, or the post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates of the returning veterans. The U.S. armed services will spend over $5 billion dollars in 2008 for recruiting. According to the ACLU, "The U.S. military's recruitment policies, practices, and strategies explicitly target students under 17 for recruitment activities on high school campuses."
But what this tour aims to expose is an even bigger lie. What are youth being recruiting to do? Is the U.S. military of 2008 spreading freedom and democracy? What does it mean to be "patriotic" and "support the troops"? How can you prioritize the lives of people in one country, or the world? Is the military the place to be if you're looking to "have an experience," "get some discipline and structure," "give your life a purpose,"? Or is joining the military harmful to oneself and to people throughout the world?
These are the questions the tour will explore with high school students. We want to learn from the students and we know we will have many different points of view in the audience. We look forward to stirring up some debate which all too often gets doesn't happen, in the name of being "balanced" and avoiding controversy.
If you find this situation unacceptable and think that schools should be places of learning and not cheap labor depots for the U.S. military, then help bring this tour to your school! Help bring this tour to your campus and be part of awakening the consciousness and activism of a new generation struggling to figure out what to do with their lives.
"Look, death is worse than torture, but everyone except pacifists thinks there are circumstances in which war is justified. War means killing people. If we are entitled to kill people, we must be entitled to injure them." - John Yoo
In Berkeley, on Monday, December 8, at 7:00PM, the Berkeley City Council will hold a Public Hearing regarding a Resolution on John Yoo. A copy of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission's recommendation can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/65oruh (see "Attachment #1").
The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission's recommendation to the City Council presents an important call for all Americans to stand in opposition to abetting John Yoo, University of California professor and author of the "Torture Memos" which were key to the establishment of a system of state torture. This Resolution calls for John Yoo to be prosecuted for war crimes and dismissed from his position as Professor of Law at Boalt Hall. The ramifications of the Resolution ensure that torture is not tolerated in the city of Berkeley and will serve as a model for other communities' efforts to hold high administration officials of torture to account. The passage of the John Yoo Resolution presents a critical step in investigating the codification, implementation, and acceleration of the authorization of torture--a responsible step that must now be taken to call for the end of torture as a pillar for endless war.
FireJohnYoo.org, a member of the No To Torture - John Yoo Must Go Coalition, supports the Commission's John Yoo Resolution and asks organizations and individual advocates to do the same. Fire John Yoo encourages directly contacting city council members to support the Resolution, and to visibly stand and speak out against torture before the City Council on December 8th. If you are unable to attend the Public Hearing, please write a statement that can be submitted to the Council. By taking these actions, we can have an enormous impact on the direction the U.S. will take in honoring its commitment to rescind the use of torture.
People of conscience demand the removal of John Yoo, legal architect of the Bush Regime's torture policies, from the employ of the University of California. How will the community of Berkeley respond when someone asks: "What did you do during this time?" -
JD Candidate, New England School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts
Member of FireJohnYoo.org
Legal Intern, Physicans for Human Rights
Write and call Berkeley City Council Members to show your support for
recommended actions against John Yoo, Legal Advisor to the Bush
administration and author of memos giving the green light for torture:
Mayor Tom Bates mayor@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7100
District 1 Linda Maio lmaio@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7110
District 2 Darryl Moore dmoore@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7120
District 3 Max Anderson manderson@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7130
District 4 Jesse Arreguin jarreguin@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7140
District 5 Laurie Capitelli lcapitelli@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7150
District 6 Susan Wengraf swengraf@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7160
District 7 Kriss Worthington kworthington@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7170
District 8 Gordon Wozniak gwozniak@CityofBerkeley.info (510) 981-7180
The Mayor and Council Members may also be reached by mail at:
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, CA 94704.
City Council Meetings begin at 7:00 PM and take place at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
[Torture] is a specific application of the Bush Doctrine, one that in addition to the terrible consequences for Iraq, threatens to have far broader consequences for the entire earth. It is a doctrine through which the American Empire attempts to establish a new world order based on the fantasy of absolute security for itself and disregard, domination, insecurity and destruction for others. So I think it is important for us to think about the idea that it is not mere lawlessness then that lies at the core of the actions that have been undertaken by the U.S. government, but something much more threatening. It is an attempt to establish a law that will now rule the globe--an empire's law that is a form of unilaterally constituted and imposed illegitimate and unaccountable rule by a global power that attempts to perform the role of a global sovereign, declaring itself to be able to set the exception. And this has deeply draconian implications for the future of [torture as a pillar of endless] war, as much as it does for the future of legality. -Amy Bartholomew