Wednesday, July 30, 2003

PA PROGRESS IN HALTING ATTACKS
This New York Times article reveals some of the things that the mainstream media hasn't picked up yet, claiming that the Palestinian Authority has done absolutely nothing. PA security minister Dahlan explains the situation in the West Bank and the measures he will take.

"Until now, Israel is not serious," said Mr. Dahlan, who is also playing a leading role in negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian security forces have only a limited capacity in the West Bank because of the continued Israeli presence, he said. But they were prepared to take tougher action in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces pulled back on June 29, the day the Palestinian truce was declared. "Anyone who wants to break the truce, we will take them to court," Mr. Dahlan said in an interview at his private office. The Israeli military has destroyed most Palestinian security buildings, and Mr. Dahlan is still waiting to move into a new government office.

The comments by Mr. Dahlan reflected the current state of affairs in the Middle East peace process. Violence is down sharply since the truce was announced. But each side accuses the other of failing to meet its obligations under the peace initiative, known as the road map. Israel says the Palestinians must not only prevent attacks, but must disarm, arrest and break up Palestinian factions planning violence.

But Mr. Dahlan says the Palestinians already have done much, and cannot be expected to do more unless Israel meets its requirements, which include pulling out of Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank. Even if the Israelis pull out, Mr. Dahlan said the Palestinian security forces were not prepared to track down militants in Hamas and other groups that were observing the cease-fire. "I cannot go after Hamas now while they are committed to the truce," Mr. Dahlan said. His remarks were in line with those of the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who said a confrontation with Hamas and other factions could lead to battles among Palestinian factions.

Since the truce, Mr. Sharon and Israeli security officials have acknowledged that the Palestinians have been working to halt attacks in ways they had not done since the fighting began in September 2000. Mr. Dahlan said the security forces had prevented "at least seven terror acts" coming from the West Bank during the last month, and confiscated explosives in several instances. "We take the materials, but we can't arrest them," Mr. Dahlan said. "I am a volunteer until now in the West Bank. I have no responsibilities there. I cannot arrest them because the Israelis are there."

WOLF THE CHICKENHAWK
From yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony by Paul Wolfowitz and Joshua Bolten. Quite comical.

SEN. LUGAR: because of some combination of bureaucratic inertia, political caution, unrealistic expectations left over from before the war, we do not appear to be confident about our course in Iraq. Our national sense of commitment and confidence must approximate what we demonstrated during the Berlin Airlift: a sense that we could achieve the impossible, despite short time constraints and severe conditions, risk and consequence.

[...]

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): I think you, Mr. Bolten, should be more forthright in terms of what the costs are going to be so that we have some idea, and the American people, how long, how much. I know there are some uncertainties, but I think if you can figure out a conservative number and share with us, I think it will eliminate some of the problems that you're having with some of the members of this committee and other members of Congress.

[...]

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R-RI): In the months leading up to the war it was a steady drum beat of weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction. And, Secretary Wolfowitz, in your almost hour-long testimony here this morning, once -- only once did you mention weapons of mass destruction, and that was an ad lib. I don't think it's in any of your written testimony.

And so we're seeing shifting justifications, I think, for what we're doing there.

At a hearing in May, I asked Secretary Wolfowitz the question, a lot of your answer dealt with that it will help with the peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And now there's been allegations that this will help with our war on terrorism. But we just haven't seen the proof of any linkage between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

And now, today, it's -- the testimony is over and over again about what a despicable tyrant Saddam Hussein is, who brutalizes people.

But at the same time, in Liberia, Charles Taylor has been indicated, and according to the prosecutor, he's responsible for the killing, raping and maiming of 500,000 people. And the arrest warrant issued by the U.N.-backed court in Sierra Leone charged Taylor with unlawful killing, sexual and physical violence, use of child labor and child soldiers, looting, burning and the murder of U.N. peacekeepers. And it also alleges that Taylor had a close alliance with the notorious, murderous Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. The RUF was infamous for dismembering its victims, having a "cut-hand" unit to chop off limbs, and a "burn house" unit to torch houses of suspected opponents. And Taylor once had his 13-year-old daughter publicly flogged for misbehaving in school. At the same time, Human Rights Watch is saying that Charles Taylor is one of the single greatest causes of spreading wars in West Africa.

And so all the testimony this morning, and indeed, the submission of the op eds, is about what a tyrant Saddam Hussein is, who brutalizes the people. But we're doing nothing in Liberia.

[...]

SEN. BIDEN: How much will you be requesting for the remainder of the year, if any, from the United States Congress to fund that need?

MR. BOLTEN: We don't anticipate requesting anything additional for the balance of this year.

SEN. BIDEN: What do you anticipate for '04?

MR. BOLTEN: I don't know the answer to that. Ambassador Bremer is -- has laid out a reasonably specific budget for the balance of '03, and I think he had an opportunity to discuss that with you. But even that was relatively crude, because of -- they're just getting a handle on so many of the variables that are in play right now.

SEN. BIDEN: Do you anticipate we'll be continuing to spend $4 billion a month for our troops in Iraq, for '04?

MR. BOLTEN: That's roughly what we're spending now. Looking out over the immediate term, we don't have any reason to expect a dramatic change in that number, but I wouldn't want to predict beyond the next couple of months, because the situation is so variable.

SEN. BIDEN: Don't you have to -- I mean, we're talking about the '04 budget. We're going to be voting on that in the next couple months. What the devil are you going to ask us for?

MR. BOLTEN: Well, the -- in the '04 budget -- and Senator, we've -- as you know, we've been very explicit about it -- we have not included the incremental costs of our fighting forces in Iraq, nor the costs of reconstruction. So you --

SEN. BIDEN: Why?

MR. BOLTEN: Simply because we don't know what they will be. We will --

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, come on now! Does anybody here at the table think we're going to be down below 100,000 forces in the next calendar year? Raise your hand, any one of you. You know it's going to be more than that. See, you know at least it's going to be $2-1/2 billion a month. Give me a break, will you? When are you guys starting to be honest with us? Come on! I mean, this is ridiculous. You're not even --

MR. WOLFOWITZ: Senator, to suggest that this is an issue of honesty really is very --

SEN. BIDEN: It is a suggestion --

MR. WOLFOWITZ: Oh, it isn't. It is very misleading.

SEN. BIDEN: -- of candor, of candor, of candor. You know there's going to be at least 100,000 American forces there for the next calendar year, and you're not asking us for any money --

MR. WOLFOWITZ: Senator, I don't know what we're going to have there.

SEN. BIDEN: Let me finish, please. Let me finish.

MR. WOLFOWITZ: Okay.

SEN. BIDEN: And you are not asking us for any money in next year's budget for those troops. Now what do you call that?

MR. WOLFOWITZ: Senator, there will be a supplemental request. There is no question about that. And there will be a supplemental request when we think we can make a reasonably good estimate of what will get us through the whole year, so that we don't have to keep coming up here with one supplemental request after another.

So I don't sit here and say, well, maybe the number is going to be 100,000, and then it turns out it's 120,000, and then people accuse us of being misleading or dishonest.

[...]

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): I hope you saw the same display that we saw of well-intended Iraqis who are signed up to come back, that almost looked like the Katzenjammer Kids as they tried to parade for us. They're well- meaning, they're trying hard, but boy do they need a lot of work. A lot of work.
A Biden-Wolfowitz match-up. Always fun.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Steven I. Weiss and Pinchas comment on Tom DeLay's mission to delay the peace process. It's an interesting perspective on the Logan Act, which prohibts independent adversaries from intervering in foreign policy.

Head Heeb comments with a loooooooooooong post. All three worth a look.

ANALYSIS: WHO CONVINCED BUSH?
So who convinced Bush this week? I'd have to say Ariel Sharon for several reasons.

- The Seperation Wall
On Friday, Mr. Bush called the seperation wall a "problem." He vowed to discuss the problem with Mr. Sharon, but did not state his opposition to it. On Tuesday, Mr. Bush was convinced: he dismissed a "long term fence" as "irrelevant," but called it the focus of fight terror. He also did not use the Palestinians' adoption of the term "wall" and instead used Israel's use of the word "fence."

Also, before Mr. Sharon left for Washington, he let it know that the part of the wall that will protect settlements and grab the most land will not be built for at least 6 months. Mr. Sharon thinks that in 6 months the peace process will have failed and violence will have started again. At that time, he will use the violence as an excuse to grab more land in the name of security.

- Terror groups
In Friday's speech, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Abbas for vowing to fight and end terrorism. It wasn't the most important topic and it was pushed away from the forefront. The next day, the State Department even came up with another way to end the control of terror groups (disarm military wings, leave political wings). Mr. Bush used phrases as " ending terrorists activity" but on Tuesday he changed his language. He talked about "threat of terrorist groups" and "[going]after organizations such as Hamas." He dismissed a continuation of a truce--ridiculed it, in fact--and said that "there will be no peace if terrorism flourishes. There's no peace. It's a contradiction in terms. Terrorists are against peace. Terrorists kill innocent life to prevent peace from happening. The way to make sure peace happens is for all of us to work to dismantle those who would like to kill. Those are called terrorists."

- Re-election for Bush
In the last few weeks, Mr. Bush's polls have dropped to pre-9/11 ratings. He's trying to get more support by supporting Sharon, not confronting him. He's trying to attract Jewish votes--who vote mostly liberal--and re-gaining support from the Christian right. They have been dissappointed by Bush's criticism of Sharon in 2001 regarding Jenin and 2003 regarding the attempted assassination on Hamas leader Rantassi.

Concluding, Mr. Abbas failed where Mr. Sharon succeeded. Sharon tied the built-up of the wall to terrorism and changed the overall agenda from occupation (Abbas' stand) to terrorism. Tuesday it rained compliments and praise for Mr. Sharon and Mr. Bush failed to mention the removal and freezing of settlements and outposts.

PRISONER'S RELEASE IS IN ROADMAP
Many have alleged that the release of prisoners in Israeli jails is not mentioned in the Road Map to peace. It, in fact, is mentioned. The outline of the roadmap mentions several things. The implementation of the Tenet Plan and the Mitchell Report:

In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence according to the steps outlined below; such action should be accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel. Palestinians and Israelis resume security cooperation based on the Tenet work plan to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution, and free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures. Israel takes all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life. Israel withdraws from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000 and the two sides restore the status quo that existed at that time, as security performance and cooperation progress. Israel also freezes all settlement activity, consistent with the Mitchell report.
And both the Tenet plan and the Mitchell report talk about the release of prisoners. The Tenet Plan:
Israel will release all Palestinians arrested in security sweeps who have no association with terrorist activities.
And the Mitchell Report:
The PLO also claims that the GOI has failed to comply with other commitments, such as the further withdrawal from the West Bank and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The release of prisoners is not a good-will sign, but it's a requirement of the roadmap.

Monday, July 28, 2003

TO MANY ASSUMPTIONS
Joe Katzman over at Wind of Change discusses and links to an article by Michael Totten. Let me address some of the parts I disagree with.

Suicide-bombing is spreading. In May 2003 five simultaneous attacks ripped through Casablanca, Morocco. Earlier this month two female suicide-bombers triggered explosive belts at an outdoor concert in Moscow. On the same day three Sunni Muslims blew themselves up in a Shi'ite Pakistan mosque.

From the point of view of extremists, suicide-murder pays. Apocalyptic acts like those unleashed on September 11 provoke an overwhelming military response. But small-bore acts by Palestinians against Israelis produce an opposite reaction. Endless media coverage stokes a rising public sympathy and encourages calls for appeasement and even surrender.

It is time to ask ourselves honestly: Is it possible to support a Palestinian state without encouraging terrorists elsewhere?
Mr. Totten fails to make a solid connection between the increasing amount of suicide-bombers and the terrorism occuring in Israel. I don't see how the Sunni-Shiite rift( in Pakistan) or the targeting of the House of Saud (in Saudi Arabia) are related to the Palestinian conflict. Both had different aims in different contexts. The only thing similar is techniquality: the use of suicide bombing.

Secondly, ever since Ariel Sharon has been in office, he has acted without restraint. For Sharon, it was an all-out campaign without limits, even when Mr. Bush called for him to pull out of the totally destroyed Jenin refugee camp. Under Sharon's rule, more Palestinian children have been killed, more houses were demolished and more carnage was created. To act as if, Sharon has played the nice since the beginning of the Intifada, is plain foolishness.
There are many stateless Muslims; the Chechens in Russia, the Kurds in the Middle East, the Uighurs in Eastern China, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Opinion leaders tsk-tsk the Russians, but no one holds demonstrations for the liberation of Chechnya. The Kurds are good people and they deserve their own state, but nearly everyone agrees it would only make trouble. Few even know the Uighurs exist. Meanwhile, as the Palestinians continue the jihad, the number of their supporters isn't declining. It's rising. The lesson for extremists is clear: the squeaky wheel gets greased.
I'm not sure what Mr. Totten is referring to. Terrorists trained in Afghanistan have fought everywhere: from China to Chechnya. Again, he produces no facts, no statisitics.
On July 22 Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said "Cracking down on Hamas, Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all." So the road map will likely break down. Then we can restart from scratch in a way that might actually work.

It is possible to have it both ways. We can fight and discourage terror and also work toward a two-state solution. But we can't do both at the same time. And we certainly can't make a Palestinian state the priority.
There are two reasons Abbas can't take on Hamas and the other terrorists: 1) he has no security apparatus, 2) he is heavily unpopular and 3) a show-down between the PA and the radical groups would turn into a nasty, civil war.

Look at--for example--what Colin Powell has proposed recentely. In a press conference after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, he said: "Any organization that has a terrorist component to it and supports that kind of terrorist activity cannot have a place in the peace process. Now, if an organization that has a terrorist component to it, a terrorist wing to it, totally abandons that, gives it up, and there's no question in anyone's mind that that is part of its past, then that is a different organization. But right now, Hamas still has a social wing to it that does things for people in need, but, unfortunately, its good works are contaminated by the fact that it has a terrorist wing that kills innocent people and kills the hopes of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. And I think that covers it rather well." This was in response to an earlier TV interview with Ghida Fakhry of LBC/Al-Hayat, in which Powell was asked:
QUESTION: In the last few weeks there has been relative calm, in big part due to the fact that the Palestinian militant groups have come to an agreement on a ceasefire. Will that make Washington reconsider the way it looks at these groups that it calls terrorist groups if they do pursue a political process rather than military means to achieve their goals?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have to keep in mind that even though there is a ceasefire, these organizations still have the capacity to conduct terror activities. They have not said yet that they would remove this capacity.

Prime Minister Abbas has said you cannot have in a government organizations that have power unto themselves that is not under the government. And so he has said that, not the United States, and we agree with him.

So organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, if they think they have a role to play, the role has to begin with the elimination of all capability to conduct terrorists activity. They had to stop that, to give it up.

They have to end the Intifadah, otherwise we will never develop the kind of confidence needed between the two sides, so that they could go forward into the next stages of the roadmap. And so I think, ultimately, those organizations have to foreswear the use of terror and eliminate the capability to conduct terrorist activities.
So Powell isn't directing at direct confrontation, a battle, but something along the lines of disarming peacefully. On Friday, during the press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, Bush spoke along the same lines: "It is necessary for this good man to continue to fight off the terrorist activity that creates the conditions of insecurity for not only Israel, but for the peaceful Palestinian people. In order for us to be able to make progress on a lot of difficult issues, there has to be a firm and continued commitment to fight terror."

Mr. Bush is changing away from the road map and changing the rules, so both parties can move through the same door. Whether this is a smart move is a question to be asked, and the results will have to be seen. It's to soon to judge. An AP article from that Friday, also noted that Palestinian security minister Mohammad Dahlane had at least seven hours of meetings with national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and CIA director George Tenet. Nothing conclusive was reported, but I assume there's been a strategy and this will be presented to Ariel Sharon on Tuesday.

Mr. Totton goes on:
Here's the way an effective solution might work. First, defeat terrorism. Second, nurture democracy. Third, negotiate a settlement.

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged. The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:

- Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.
- Declare "regime change" in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.
- Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.
The first two options are controversial, but Mr. Totten does not clarify what effect this is supposed to have. Mr. Bush has expressed that he's satisfied with the current leadership, especially the Prime Minister, the Finance minister and the Security Minister. Secondly, the third option has been occuring for the past years and the Palestinians paid the price for the gross human rights abuses. It will incite and invite more terrorism and the cycle of violence will continue/resume.
The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.

The second phase should focus on establishing a reformed or reconstituted leadership and bringing about a Palestinian culture accepting of peace and a two-state solution.

It should include something akin to the following:

- The establishment of the separation of powers and the rule of law.
- The creation of a democratic system of government with multiple parties and free elections. Fascist parties should be banned as they were in post-Nazi Germany.
- An education system purged of anti-Semitism and incitement to violence.
- A binding peace treaty that recognizes Israel's sovereignty.
- A formal abandonment of the "right of return," where millions of Palestinians are expected to settle in Israel.
- The most crucial detail of all will come in the third and final phase when a permanent settlement is decided. There must be a post-facto punishment for the intifada.
- No future Palestinian state should be geographically larger than the one already offered by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak in 2000. Even if the Palestinians get only one acre less in the end, the intifada must be shown to have yielded them nothing.
This all sounds good and nice, but two things bother me.

The abandonment of the right of return and the myth of the Barak offer. Mr. Totten seems to be under the impression that the Barak offer was a great offer. It was not. Besides that the Barak offer did not contain a plan for a sovereign, Palestinian state. As pointed out in this article and illustrated in the map below, it was Bush who was merely frustrated at Arafat at not solving the conflict and shifiting the blame on the Palestinians.


Secondly, the right of return is both a moral and legal right.

The Right to Return has a solid legal basis. The United Nations adopted Resolution 194: Paragraph 11 states: "...the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date... compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return. Resolution 194 was affirmed practically every year since with a universal consensus, except for Israel and the U.S. The resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirms in Subsection 2, "the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Hindering return is an act of aggression, which deserves action by the Security Council. Israel's admission to the UN were conditional on its acceptance of relevant UN resolutions including 194.

Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 reaffirms the right of every individual to leave and return to his country. Moreover, the Principle of Self Determination guarantees, inter alia, the right of ownership and domicile in one's own country. The UN adopted this principle in 1947. In 1969 and thereafter, it was explicitly applied to the Palestinian People, including "the legality of the Peoples' struggle for Self-Determination and Liberation", (GAOR 2535 (xxiv), 2628 (xxv), 2672 (xxv), 2792 (xxvi)). International law demands that neither occupation nor sovereignty diminish the rights of private ownership. When the Ottomans surrendered in 1920, Palestinian ownership of the land was maintained. The land and property of "the refugees" remains their own and they are entitled to return to it.

I conclude with a final note. PLO's main goal used to be to liberate all of historic Palestine, but that all changed. Was it a military showdown? No, it was a handshake at the White House. Now, I'm not saying that the murderous cowards should shake hands with the Israelis, but that there can be some kind of political integration and removal of the military wing. As Slate noted about Mahmoud Abbas' vague past: "[the] Palestinian-Israeli peace was always going to be built on short memories all around." Insha'llah.

UPDATE: Calpundit responds. So does Matt Yglesias.

ISRAEL'S FIGHT AGAINST INFANTS
This Guardian article had me shaken this morning. Quite disturbing if it rings true. Here are some excerpts. It describes some as collateral damage, some as indiscriminate shooting, some as purposeful targets.

The numbers are staggering; one in five Palestinian dead is a child. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) says at least 408 Palestinian children have been killed since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000. Nearly half were killed in the Gaza strip, and most of those died in two refugee camps in the south, Khan Yunis and Rafah. The PCHR says they were victims of "indiscriminate shooting, excessive force, a shoot-to-kill policy and the deliberate targeting of children".

[...]

The army offered a senior officer of its southern command to discuss the shooting of these six children over a period of just 10 weeks earlier this year. The military told me I could not name him, even though his identity is no secret to the Israeli public or his enemies; it was this officer who explained to the nation how an army bulldozer came to crush to death the young American peace activist, Rachel Corrie.

"I want you to know we are not a bunch of crazies down here," he says. At his headquarters in the Gush Khatif Jewish settlement in Gaza, the commander rattles through the army's version of the shootings: either the military knew nothing of them, or the children had been caught in crossfire - a justification used so frequently, and so often disproved, that it is rarely believed. But three hours later, after poring over maps and military logs, timings and regulations, he concedes that his soldiers were responsible - even culpable - in several of the killings.

The Israeli army's instinctive response is to muddy the waters when confronted with a controversial killing. At first, it questioned whether Huda was even shot. I described for the soldiers the scene in the classroom with blood rippling up the wall behind the child's desk.

"I don't know how this happened," says the commander. "I take responsibility for this. It could have been one of ours. I think it probably was."

The killing of Haneen is clearer in the commander's mind. "We checked it and we know that on the same day there was shooting of a mortar," he says. "The troops from the post shot back at the area where the mortar was launched, the area where the girl was killed. We didn't see if we hit someone. I assume that a stray bullet hit Haneen. Unfortunately." Doesn't he think that simply shooting back in the general direction of a mortar attack is irresponsible at best? He says not. "You cannot have soldiers sitting and doing nothing when they are shot at," he says.

[...]

He may concede his soldiers are responsible for shooting Huda and Haneen, but he denies their responsibility for the slaying of Rahman, the nine-year-old shot while hanging the flag at the security fence. "We saw the children, we saw them for sure. They always demonstrate in this area after funerals. But I don't have any report from the troops on our shooting on this occasion," he says. "We have rules of engagement that we don't shoot children."

[...]

The killing of Ali and wounding of his five-year-old brother is particularly disturbing because the commander admits there was no combat and the boys were the focus of the soldier's attention. The Ghureiz house lies on the very edge of Rafah. At the bottom of the street, an Israeli armoured vehicle and guard posts sit in the midst of a "no-go" area of tangled wire, broken buildings and mud. On the other side is the Egyptian border. "There were three kids. They were playing 50m from the house," says Ghureiz. "The Israelis fired two or three bullets, maybe more. No one could have made a mistake. They were only 100m from the children. I don't know why they did it. Ali was shot in the face immediately below his left eye. It was a big bullet. It did a lot of damage," he whispers.

"This is the first I've heard of this," says the commander. "According to the log, in the afternoon there were children trying to cross the border. The tower fired five bullets and didn't report any children hurt. Usually with children this age, we don't shoot. There is a very strict rule of engagement about shooting at children. You don't do it." But Ali is dead. "They [Palestinian fighters] send children to the fence. An older guy, usually 25 or so, gives them the order to go to the fence, or dig next to it. They know we don't shoot at children. If one of my soldiers goes out to chase them away, a sniper will be waiting for him."

Fences usually mark defined limits but, as with so much in the occupied territories, the rules are deliberately vague. There is an ill-defined ban on "approaching" the security fences separating Gaza from Israel or the Jewish settlements. "We have a danger zone 100 to 200m from the fence around Gush Katif [settlement]. They [the Palestinians] know where the danger zone is," the commander says. But many houses in Rafah and Khan Yunis are within the "danger zone". Children play in its shadow, and many adults fear walking to their own front doors.

"We have in our rules of engagement how to handle this," the commander says. "During the day, if someone is inside the zone without a weapon and not attempting to harm or with hostile intent, then we do not shoot. If he has a weapon or hostile intent, you can shoot to kill. If he doesn't have a weapon, you shoot 50m from him into something solid that will stop the bullet, like a wall. You shoot twice in the air, and if he continues to move then you are allowed to shoot him in the leg."

The regulations are drummed into every soldier, but there is ample evidence that the army barely enforces them. The military's critics say the vast majority of soldiers do not commit such crimes but those that do are rarely called to account. The result is an atmosphere of impunity. Israel's army chief-of-staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, claims that every shooting of a civilian is investigated. "Harming innocent civilians is firstly a matter of morals and values, and we cannot permit ourselves to let this happen. I deal with it personally," he told the Israeli press. But Yaalon has not dealt personally with any of the killings of the six children reported on here.

The army's indifferent handling of the shootings of civilians has even drawn stinging criticism from a member of Ariel Sharon's Likud party in the Israeli parliament, Michael Eitan. "I am not certain that the responsible officials are aware of the fact that there are gross violations of human rights in the field, despite army regulations," he said.

The case of Khalil al-Mughrabi is telling. The 11-year-old was shot dead in Rafah by the Israeli army two years ago as he played football with a group of friends near the security fence. One of Israel's most respected human rights organisations, B'Tselem, wrote to the judge advocate general's office, responsible for prosecuting soldiers, demanding an inquiry. Months later, the office wrote back saying that Khalil was shot by soldiers who acted with "restraint and control" to disperse a riot in the area. However, the judge advocate general's office made the mistake of attaching a copy of its own, supposedly secret, investigation which came to a quite different conclusion - that the riot had been much earlier in the day and the soldiers who shot the child should not have opened fire. The report says a "serious deviation from obligatory norms of behaviour" took place.

In the report, the chief military prosecutor, Colonel Einat Ron, then spelled out alternative false scenarios that should be offered to B'Tselem. B'Tselem said the internal report confirmed that the army has a policy of covering up its crimes. "The message that the judge advocate general's office transmits to soldiers is clear: soldiers who violate the 'Open Fire Regulations', even if their breach results in death, will not be investigated and will not be prosecuted."

Towards the end of the interview, the commander in Gaza finally concedes that his soldiers were at fault to some degree or other in the killing of most - but not all - of the children we discussed. They include a 12-year-old girl, Haneen Abu Sitta, shot dead in Rafah as she walked home from school near a security fence around one of the fortified Jewish settlements. The army moved swiftly to cover it up. It leaked a false story to more compliant parts of the Israeli media, claiming Haneen was shot during a gun battle between troops and "terrorists" in an area known for weapons smuggling across the border from Egypt. But the army commander concedes that there was no battle. "Every name of a child here, it makes me feel bad because it's the fault of my soldiers. I need to learn and see the mistakes of my troops," he says. But by the end of the interview, he is combative again. "I remember the Holocaust. We have a choice, to fight the terrorists or to face being consumed by the flames again," he says.

The Israeli army insists that interviews with its commanders about controversial issues are off the record. Depending on what the officer says, that bar is sometimes lifted. I ask to be able to name the commander in Gaza. The army refuses. "He has admitted his soldiers were responsible for at least some of those killings," says an army spokesman who sat in on the interview. "In this day and age that raises the prospect of war crimes, not here but if he travels abroad he could be arrested some time in the future. Some people might think there is something wrong here."

Sunday, July 27, 2003

ARAB RIVAL FOR VIAGRA
Who says Arabs are backward? The first Arab drug for impotence to hit in September!

Saturday, July 26, 2003

ON ABU MAZEN'S VISIT
This Washington Post/Newsweek interview with Abbas is quite interesing, laying out his future plans and his view of things about a future Palestinian state.

The AP reports about Mahmoud Abbas's policy towards the situation with the radical groups.

The United States "has its approach to the matter. It wants us to dismantle the radical groups. We told them that if the truce remains in place, why should we use force against our own people?" Abbas told journalists.

We have cleared up that point with the Americans. We explained what we are ready to do and what we cannot do," he said in respect to a series of meetings with US officials that were dominated by security matters.

According to sources close to the Palestinian delegation, security minister Mohammad Dahlane had at least seven hours of meetings with national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and CIA director George Tenet.
My guess is that with the almost non-existent security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority it's impossible to do almost anything. Secondly, forcefully disarming radical groups is simply impossible. The fact is that it would lead to a civil war, especially with the highly unpopular Mahmoud Abbas leading it. Self-destruction should not and will not be an option. Hopefully Mr. Bush understands this and has Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice have laid out a strategy with Dahlane. This is also addressed in the Washington Post/Newsweek interview.
Q: But the road map says that the terrorist infrastructure must be dismantled.

A: We said that we are going to have one authority which will stop the chaos of [illegal] weapons. We will have political pluralism so any faction can express its opinions freely in a democratic way.

Q: Does that mean you think you can turn Hamas and Islamic Jihad into democratic citizens?

A: Why not? . . . We will try. We have started talking with these factions about being integrated into the Palestinian society. If so, why should we go to civil war or confrontation with these people?

Q: Don't they say that they're dedicated to the extinction of the Jewish state?

[Let them] keep their slogans. I believe that if we reach the state within the '67 borders, they will live with it and will accept it. It's only 22 percent of the historical Palestine.
It's a little known fact that the public slogan is different from the slogan that's internally known. They damn well know that destroying Israel is impossible and impermissable. When Palestinian life is stable, the occupation has ended and Hamas' influence on the people through social services have ended, the support for Hamas and the like will end.

More excerpts:
Q: What are the issues you will not give in on?

A: We want our independent state. We want Israel to withdraw from the territory it has occupied since 1967. We want East Jerusalem to be our capital. We want the Israelis to remove all their settlements and we ask to find a just solution to the refugees.

Q: Are you saying that you want Palestinians to have the right of return to Israel?

A: I said we should find a just and agreed-upon solution.

Q: But you know that Israel will never agree to the right of return.

A: Why shouldn't they discuss the fate of four and half million Palestinians?

Q: To return to Israel?

A: We are not asking that four and a half million return but at least let them choose. . . . U.N resolution 194 says either return or compensation
[...]
Q: It's said the "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Are you going to miss this one?

A: We are not going at all to miss this opportunity. We are going to grasp this opportunity, but we hope that the other side has the same intention -- the Israeli side. This is exactly what we are asking for: an independent state and withdrawal to the '67 borders as President Bush said and we accepted.
Israel must choose: peace and democracy (option 1: right of return) or a racist policy to stay Jewish (option 2: no right of return).

SETTLERS OPPOSE SEPERATION WALL?
I stumbled onto this article about the settler's opposition to the seperation wall (called 'security fence') by the Israelis). But why should the settlers oppose something that promises to stop suicide bombers? Is it because it isolates the Palestinian people from the outer world? Not really.

On the one hand, they hate the idea that Israel will be separated from Judea and Samarie in the West Bank, included in the Bible as part of the promised land.

Nevertheless, if the security fence goes ahead they are desperate to be on the Israeli side, fearful that the days for Jewish settlements marooned on the Palestinian side will be numbered. Ariel, a university town with a population of around 16,000, reflects the dichotomy. "In theory I'm against the wall," Nachman, mayor here since 1978, tells AFP.

"But if the Israeli government builds the security fence despite my objections, Ariel will be included in it," on the Israeli side, because "I have the same rights as people in Tel Aviv," he points out. On Monday Israeli Defence Minister Shaoul Mofaz, told MPs from Sharon's Likud party that the fence would include Ariel on the Israeli side.But in the settlement village of Shave Shomron, a few kilometres north-west of Nablus, Jewish settlers refuse to listen to any talk of a security fence.
[...]
But "if the wall has to be built, we need to do everything to make sure the maximum number of Jews are on the inside", he stresses, recognising that his views are a paradox.
Obviously, to "be included" means to annex Palestinian land and make it part of Israel. If the wall is built, than the settlers will be be called Israelis instead of settlers, but the most disturbing is that it would be the biggest land grab. Ever.

According to the pro-peace Israeli group Gush Shalom--and I quote--"the planned wall cuts deep into Palestinian territory, incorporating into Israel about 10%-15% of the occupied territories. It will cut off villages and towns from their farmland, centres of trade, education and culture." But the main purpose of this wall is to justify occupation, or what you now can call annexation, since Israel neither recognizes the Palestinians' human rights, nor are they citizens of Israel. How in the world is the possibility of a "sovereign viable Palestinian state" possible if there's one huge 550-mile long wall in your backyards?

Gush Shalom calls it "a quiet ethnic cleansing" and I have to say I must agree. Any Palestinian that's outside of the wall will be forced to move into Palestinian areas, to make place for Jewish settlers. This is dispicable and shows Israeli intentions. If this wall is not torn down soon, my optimism about the roadmap to peace will be vaporated.

AMAZING STUFF
From Frank Sesno's interview with Max Cleland:

CLELAND: Absolutely.I did not know that there was an FBI informant in San Diego that was living with two of the hijackers, and that the FBI headquarters in Washington didn't even tell him that they should have been basically being looked at because the CIA didn't tell the FBI.

And the NSA didn't pass it on to the CIA or the FBI. They were picking up intelligence as early as 1994 about a potential attack in this country using aircraft. What we have here is a devastating indictment of the intelligence community.
[...]
CLELAND: Let's talk about that here. This commission was formed about mid-December, the 9/11 Commission. We were supposed to use the joint inquiry report as a launching pad to get into this issue of not only fixing the intelligence community, but moving beyond, and getting into what is the al Qaeda all about? What is this terrorist global network that we're fighting? A new kind of war and all that.

Well, the independent, bi-partisan commission, hello, didn't even get the stuff 'til a few weeks ago.

I'm saying that's deliberate. I am saying that the delay in relating this information to the American public out of a hearing… series of hearings, that several members of Congress knew eight or ten months ago, including Bob Graham and others, that was deliberately slow walked… the 9/11 Commission was deliberately slow walked, because the Administration's policy was, and its priority was, we're gonna take Saddam Hussein out.

SESNO: Senator, do you have any documentation or any proof to back up this very serious charge of yours that this was deliberate besides your own…

CLELAND: Well, first of all…

SESNO: …hunch or gut?

CLELAND: …it's obvious.

SESNO: No, no, no, no…

CLELAND: But… but…

SESNO: …but beyond… but beyond being obvious, let me press…

CLELAND: First of all the war in Iraq…

SESNO: …you on this…

CLELAND: Yeah, okay.

SESNO: …because this is a very serious charge you're making. If you're saying that this was deliberate what I'm asking is has anybody said anything to you, from inside the Administration to support that? Have you seen any document, any memorandum that substantiates your charge?

CLELAND: Well, just look at it. Okay? This executive summary of the intelligence inquiry… the joint intelligence inquiry, the executive summary, was available December 10th. Why did it take nine months to go over what ought to be held out of that?

Now, I'm saying that that was slow walked. I am also saying why did it take eight months to get this 9/11 Commission really cranked up and going, and the first step was to use the Intelligence Committee report as a jumping off point? Why did all of this take so long?

Because the real priority of the White House was not the 9/11 Commission — they fought it. And it was just, and it really was their interest was to delay the revelation of this report.

One of the reasons they didn't want it is they didn't want all this stuff out there.

[Ed-note: Emphasis mine]
On Iraq:
your take on Iraq. You had a bruising, bitter political contest. Is this sour grapes for you?

CLELAND: No. No. I tell you what makes me mad. Is when I see the names of those youngsters that are being killed out there every day. I say, "God help us." I've been there. I've seen this movie before.
After reading all of this, read the excerpts from yesterday's Washington Post. I have to add--that after reading both the New York Times and the Washington Post on the 9/11 commision's report--the Washington Post has done an excellent job, together with their coverage of the uranium-debacle.

On to the article...:
The White House, meanwhile, resisted efforts to pin down Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda threats and to catalogue the executive's pre-Sept. 11 strategy to fight terrorists. It was justified largely on legal grounds, but Democrats said the secrecy was meant to protect Bush from criticism.
[...]
Among the only clues cited in the report about Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda's intentions against the United States is an Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing (PDB) -- described in the report only as a "closely-held intelligence report" -- that included information "acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of [Osama] Bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives."

The PDB also said "that Bin Laden had wanted to conduct attacks in the United States for years and that the group apparently maintained a support base here." It cited "FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks," according to the report.

In a May 16, 2002, briefing for reporters, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the PDB was a historical look at bin Laden's methods dating to 1997. She characterized the briefing as an "analytic report" that summed up bin Laden's methods of operation. "It was not a warning," she said. "There was no specific time or place mentioned."

The CIA declined to declassify the PDB, and the White House, which had the authority to release it, declined to do so, citing "executive privilege." Executive privilege allows the president to withhold from public disclosure all advice and communications he receives from advisers so that they feel free to offer frank advice without fearing that it will become public.

The Aug. 6 PDB came amid a barrage of intelligence reporting indicating that al Qaeda was planning attacks, somewhere, against U.S. interests. The intelligence community has said its focus was on possible attacks overseas.

Deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley, who refused to testify before the panel but submitted written responses to questions, told the panel that the National Security Council held four deputy committee meetings between May and the end of July 2001 in an effort to adopt a more aggressive strategy vis-a-vis al Qaeda. The review was finalized Sept. 4, 2001. Bush had not reviewed the proposal before Sept. 11, Hadley wrote the panel.
[...]
CIA Director George J. Tenet said in a closed-door session on June 18, 2002, that he had told other members of the administration that his counterterrorism budget would be as much as $1 billion short each year for the next five years. "We told that to everybody downtown for as long as anybody would listen and never got to first base," Tenet told the panel.
[...]We were never able to get much of the material we requested from the National Security Council," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), former ranking member of the House intelligence committee. "The nation was not well-served by the administration's failure to provide this critical information."

Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he doubted Bush was complacent about warnings he received. "The intelligence community was providing him information. He wasn't AWOL," Goss said. "In hindsight, it might take on a little more significance . . . but it's a huge stretch to say the president had information he should have acted on."
It's plain obvious that the Bush administration tried to do several things.

Delay the report for the war in Iraq. By cooperating with the commision at a minimal and providing the commision with little or no critical information at all, the administration successfully left out incriminating information. The August 6 memo, the cutting off funds for counter-terrorism, Steve Hadley not testifying and covering for the Saudis, just shows what the administration can do and get away with it.

Friday, July 25, 2003

DELAY'S CRUSADE
While there is a lot of optimism among a lot for a success of the roadmap, the right is raising doubts. Congressman Tom DeLay will pay a visit to Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

As he travels next week through Israel, Jordan and Iraq, he will take with him a message of grave doubt that the Middle East is ready for a Palestinian state, as called for in the current peace plan, known as the road map, backed by the administration and Europe.

"I'm sure there are some in the administration who are smarter than me, but I can't imagine in the very near future that a Palestinian state could ever happen," he said in an interview today, as he prepared to leave for a weeklong official tour.

"I can't imagine this president supporting a state of terrorists, a sovereign state of terrorists," he said. "You'd have to change almost an entire generation's culture."

Instead, Mr. DeLay, one of the three most powerful Republicans in Congress, called on the administration to carry out a "Marshall plan" for Palestinian areas, with the United States paying to rebuild the economy there rather than giving aid to Palestinian leaders directly. He said he had been working hard to persuade the White House to support his plan, and intended to bring it up in separate meetings with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. He will also address the Israeli Parliament and meet with King Abdullah of Jordan.
The first thing that disturbs me is that this man is even allowed to travel to an Arab country. Remember--this is the man that called for unconditional support for Israel after Bush criticized the use of excessive force to assassinate an Hamas leader a few months back.

Secondly, unless Tom DeLay actually wants an increase in anti-Americanism and Arab anger, it would be smart to support a Palestinian state. That the occupied territories have turned into a radical terrorist stronghold should not surprise anyone after 36 years of painful occupation and more than 50 years of statelessness. Shame is the most painful emotion in the Arab culture, producing the feeling that one is unworthy to live. Helplessness and shame gave way to anger that later poured into the streets as defiance, and later on: suicide bombings. These crimes against humanity and Islam cannot be excused nor condoned, but it should not be surprising.

What DeLay is suggestings is to take over the social infrastructure that's now in the hands of Hamas. They provide social services, but at the same time teach children hatred of Jews and to blow themselves up. Palestinian's culture is not defined on terrorism, but rather on the condition they live in. If you improve the economical situation, if you improve the living standard, if you end the occupation, than you get results and you get people on your side. That's how Hamas has worked without shame for the past few years. But, I have one question. Why not implement a Palestinian state and implement this so-called "Marshall Plan." Why delay the end of misery for both sides? This "Marshall Plan" should promote moral values, democracy and non-violent strategics, but at the same time should help Palestinians. Hamas' "summer camps" give everyday Palestinian kids to enjoy protections from Israeli tanks, but this is wasted when their doctrine is teached to these poor innocent kids. This "Marshall Plan" should do exactly do the same thing, but teaching Palestinian kids the right doctrine.

Unfortunatly, USAID is an increasingly biased and unsupportive tool in helping Palestinians and therefore Palestinians rely on isolated NGOs, working in inhumane conditions.

I became optimistic today, after the visit and red-carpet treatment of Mahmoud Abbas, the US-installed Palestinian Prime Minister. Some good points have been brought up, most importantly the seperation wall (dubbed 'security fence' by Israel and 'segregation wall' by Palestinians') and the issue of releasing prisoners. Israel has been delaying the process for a while, but I expect them to come to an agreement soon enough, probably just before Sharon's meeting with Bush, as a sign of goodwill. If Sharon fails to do this, he's mainly trying to restart the cycle of violence, something happening on the Palestinian's side by Yasser Arafat.

There are three main positive points about the cease-fire: a) Palestinians get used to peace and will advocate the continuation of it, b) minimal loss of life, at least on the Israeli side, c) it creates a situation where Abbas can continue to demand concessions from Sharon. Let's just pray for Allah to continue the peace and end the violence.

VIEW OF MUSLIMS
In a New York Times poll about gay marriage, there's this unrelated but important piece of information:
Thirty-eight percent said they would not vote for a well-qualified Muslim for president, compared with 10 percent who said they would not vote for a Jew and 8 percent for a Catholic.

Still, the poll found that a slight majority of those surveyed — 51 percent — said they held a favorable view of Muslim-Americans. Twenty-four percent said they held an unfavorable view.
The right has been complaining about anti-Semitism in Europe, in particular France. Yet, it's 38% of Americans who would not vote for a Muslim President. Compare that to the 10% against a Jewish president, I say that we should start at home when it comes to intolerance of religious freedom.

I cannot blame America for holding these views, excluding mainly Zionists hardliners, the Christian right and secular atheists. It's fair to say that 9/11 and biased and an unfair coverage of Islam is to blame.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

So much for principles. The Financial Times reports that a poll finds that 74% of Jewish settlers will leave their illegal settlements in return for compenstation by the Israeli government. The settlers are Ariel Sharon (mass murderer, terrorist) biggest constituency and 66% of settlers back Sharon, even though he was criticized after vowing to freeze the building of new settlements and dismantle outposts build since March of 2001. The amazing thing is that 44% of settlers think Palestinians deserve a state. Most settlers believe in Greater Israel--Israel from the Nile to the Tigris--and are overwhelmingly fanatic Jews.

This comes after a Palestinian poll found that only 10% of Palestinian refugees want to return to their homes in present-day Israel. The pollster was attacked with eggs and other eatable vegetables, but it was obviously a sign of opposition and demonstration. I've been in favor of dropping the "right of return" later on in negotiations, because it could pose a obstacle to the formation of a Palestinian state and it would endanger the security of Israel. In return for that, I expect the removal of all settlements from Arab land. Settlements come with soldiers and outposts protecting it. It also resented strongly by Palestinians and it endangers the peace process. International humanitarian law prohibits the forcible transfer of segments of the population of a state (Israelis) to the territory of another state (occupied Palestine) which it has occupied for 36 years. This principle is reflected in Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Hopefully both sides can agree and remove these two obstacles on the road to peace.

UPDATE: Haaretz reports that Islamic Jihad and Hamas are satisfied with the Israeli decision to release, after days of footdragging. It would include 400 prisoners --most likely political prisoners-- but no decision on the criteria. Hopefully this will bolster the case of PM Mahmoud Abbas.

Senators have come out strongly against the nomination of Islamophobe and notorious Arab-hater Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace. During the meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Kennedy, Dodd and Harkin were the most vocal opponents.

The usual bigots did not stay home:

At a news conference held by Muslim and Arab-American groups following today's meeting, a Pipes supporter threatened Awad, saying, "We know who you are, watch out." (Those taking part in the news conference included representatives from CAIR, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Arab American Institute, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation.):
I thank the committee, both the Democrats and Republicans for their support against the nomination of Mr. Pipes. A man so respected by the news media, but with exceptionally anti-Islam and anti-Muslims viewpoints is not worthy such a high position.

Electronic Intifada has the scoop from the Arab American Institute.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) recalled poignant stories from his childhood of his immigrant mother. He described her as a devout woman who took pride in her heritage but was fully American. Senator Harkin indicated that he saw no contradiction in one's being proud of their ethnicity or faith and being American. He added that Cedar Rapids is home to the oldest American mosque and that the community flourishes as an example of religious diversity and co-existence. Senator Harkin went on to express his reservations about Pipes questioning the "enfranchisement" rights and "affluence" of Muslims and called Pipes a "lightning rod".
Just consider the things this man has said about "brown people" ("Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene. . . . All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.") and Islam ("This religion would seem to have nothing functional to offer."). If appointed, my guess would be that Muslims would not be allowed even for a week to breath freely after making anti-American/anti-Israel statements and publicly making just one tenth of the kind of derogatory statements Danial Pipes have made against Islam.