Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sign The Petition: Make McCain Disavow His Dishonest Obama Ad

BusinessWeek's web site posted revealing commentary by David Kiley (7/28/08) on the McCain ad criticizing Barack Obama for cancelling a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to visit wounded troops. Kiley explained, "Obama’s cancellation of a visit in Germany to visit wounded U.S. troops has been adequately explained: that his campaign was advised by the Pentagon that since Obama was on a campaign trip and spending campaign resources, it would be viewed as using the wounded as props whether cameras were allowed in the hospital or not."

The McCain ad claims that "John McCain is always there for our troops." Really? See my post, "If It's For Our Veterans, McCain's Against It," on McCain's joining George Bush in opposition to the Webb Amendment to expand benefits for veterans. Click here to visit Veterans for Common Sense on "McCain's Voting Record: He Does Not Support Our Troops And Veterans.

Had Obama visited the troops, McCain was also ready with an ad criticizing him for doing so! More from Kiley: "What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie."

The lies don't stop there. Despite McCain's endorsement of the drilling-for-oil scam that would do nothing to ease immediate costs at the pump, he blames his opponent for high prices: "And USA Today wrote an editorial about last week’s ad scam from McCain, blaming Obama for higher gas prices. The paper wrote: “Even by the elastic standards of political ads, this is more than a stretch. It’s baloney. It’s also a marker on the path toward the kind of simplistic, counterproductive demonizing that many expect will poison the fall campaign.”

Of course, when you are as beholden to the oil industry as John McCain, you must resort to nonsensical schemes as a substitute to a viable energy–especially alternative energy–policy. See AOL News (7/28/08), "Media Shocker: Oil Industry Backs McCain" and Huffington Post: "Oil Industry Floods McCain With Cash After Offshore Drilling Reversal" (7/27/08).

McCain's recent ad on Obama's successful trip to Europe and the Middle East flashes images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in an attempt to paint the Democratic candidate as a vacuous celebrity. This sophomoric effort reveals the vacuousness of the McCain campaign. Besides the oil drilling hoax and his recent adoption of Obama's timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq, what does McCain have to say about the issues? He stands for failed Bush policies, including the continuation of tax cuts for the wealthiest and opposition to any semblance of universal health care. MCain has put up a false front as a straight talker and as one who disdains negative campaigning, including the tactics used against him by George Bush in South Carolina during the 2000 primary.

The above video is paid for by Robert Greenwald for Brave New PAC. After you view it, click here to join thousands to send a message to Senator McCain under the heading, "Make McCain Disavow His Dishonest Obama Ad."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

OK On God, Guns And Gays? You're Hired!

Count on the Bush administration to politicize every aspect of government to the point that it results in complete corruption. We saw it with the weakening of FEMA, whose handling of the Katrina disaster was a disaster in itself, despite President Bush's assurances that "Brownie is doing a heckuva job." Of course, conservatives following the Reagan line that government is the enemy have no problem in setting up government agencies for a fall. The concept of government of, by and for the people is discarded for cronyism and patronage.

Bush administration-style governance was fully evident in the way civil service laws were violated in filling nonpolitical jobs. The New York Times (7/29/08) details how "Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions, picking less qualified applicants for important nonpolitical positions, slowing the hiring process and damaging the department's credibility, an internal report concluded on Monday."

The report focused on the misconduct of aides to Gonzalez, including Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson. The hiring "criteria" they employed showed a clear bias for selecting conservatives who were personally loyal to Bush:

• A longtime, acclaimed prosecutor was passed over for a counterterrorism post because his wife is an active Democrat. Instead, a less-experienced Republican was hired.
• Another prosecutor was rejected on suspicion of lesbianism.
• A Republican lawyer was received favorably at his interview because he had the right positions, according to Goodling's notes, on "god, guns + gays."
• They searched the Web to learn about an applicant's background regarding the key words "abortion," "homosexual," "Florida recount" and "guns."
• Regarding a conservative female lawyer, Goodling noted her views as "pro God in public life" and "pro-marriage, anti-civil union."

Ms. Goodling testified before Congress in May 2007 on her actions. What did she have to say about her blatantly partisan hiring practices? She may have "crossed the line" at times in considering political views of applicants.

The Justice Department report "...also found that White House officials were actively involved in some hiring decisions." Gonzalez professed to be unaware of the hiring practices of Goodling and her aides. The Times, in an editorial "There Was Smoke-And Fire" (7/29/08), stated "...what about Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, whose memory went so conveniently fuzzy under questioning by Congress? It strains credulity to believe that a functionary like Ms. Goodling could act so brazenly unless she knew that she was doing what her bosses wanted." The editorial was also critical of current Attorney Michael Mukasey, who, beyond saying that the illegal activity won't happen again, does not seem to be determined " investigate crimes committed in his own department and to punish the offenders."
A follow-up Times article, "For White House, Hiring Is Political" (7/31/08), pointed more explicitly to White House involvement: "...the White House's political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of 'priority candidates' who had 'loyally served the president.' " In a follow-up message, the White House stated, "We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible." The report was the subject of a Senate oversight hearing on Wednesday. 

The Justice Department and FEMA, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's discounting of global warming--all are examples of an administration that used government agencies for its own political and ideological ends, leaving a legacy of corruption and demoralization that will be a challenge to overcome.

Note on video clip: Headzup's depiction of Monica Goodling shows her stating that she was inspired in her actions by "God's Law, not man's law." Goodling went to Pat Robinson University, where presumably she learned to associate a love of God with a love of guns and a disdain for gays.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sign Petitions Against Israel's Development of Maskiot Settlement

The Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has approved the construction of 20 new housing units at Maskiot, in the Jordan Valley deep in the West Bank. According to Haaretz (7/24/08), the move comes "despite a pledge to the U.S. to halt construction at the site." Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to grant authorization soon.

Isabel Kershner writes in The New York Times (7/25/08), "Israeli officials and settler leaders hold that Maskiot was established in the 1980s by Nahal, a youth- and agriculture-oriented branch of the army that founded many settlements in Israel and the occupied territories to bolster security, intending to turn them into civilian settlements." In this way, the move is viewed as "the expansion of an existing settlement."

Clearly, the development is a violation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's pledge to cease all settlement construction, including building new settlements and expanding existing ones beyond their confines. The settlement's value in terms of security is doubtful; populated by civilians, it would have to be defended rather than being a first line of defense. Kershner writes that the " housing is intended for families of a former Gaza settlement, Shiryat Hayam. To persuade them to leave Gaza peacefully, the army promised to keep them together. At least eight of the families are already living in Maskiot in trailers."

The fact that Maskiot is located so deeply in the West Bank makes it all the more troublesome in terms of the peace process. It's nowhere near the settlement blocs that Israel hopes to keep in negotiations with the Palestinians, supposedly as part of a land swap. According to the Times, "The Palestinians have said they are ready for minor land swaps along the 1967 boundary separating Israel and the West Bank. But Maskiot is far from that boundary, on the opposite side of the West Bank, near Jordan's border." Saeb Erekat, veteran Palestinian negotiator and aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, stated, "This is destroying the process of a two-state solution. I hope the Americans will make the Israelis revoke the decision." Olmert has not given the plan final approval.

Ami Isseroff, technical writer and programmer who lives in Rehovot, Israel, asks pertinent questions in MidEastWeb, which he directs: "After...putting so much energy into convincing people that Israel is willing to be reasonable about territorial concessions and to make room for a viable Palestinian state, does it make any sense to do the opposite? To risk Israel's relations with the US in order to put one settlement on the map?"

Join two peace groups that are taking a stand against this violation of Israel's international commitments, a violation that makes a two-state solution all the more difficult:

Click here to join Brit Tzedek v'Shalom: The Jewish Alliance for Justice & Peace: "Tell Bush: Israel must not violate settlement commitments!"

Click here to join Americans for Peace Now: "Write Secretary Rice: Tell her that America needs to hold Israel to its commitments to freeze settlement activity."

The AP photo above of new mobile homes at Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, 2/15/08, is by Dan Balilty.

Monday, July 28, 2008

McCain: Timetable? I Didn't Say What You Heard Me Say

After you watch the video above, travel two posts down and watch the video showing John McCain telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the 16-month timetable is "pretty good" as long as it's based on "conditions on the ground"–Barack Obama's position exactly. The post below also includes an excerpt from Obama's essay "My Plan for Iraq," in which he refers to "tactical adjustments" and consultations "with commanders on the ground."

Back now to the video above: are we experiencing an auditory hallucination when we hear John McCain say to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "It's not a timetable, as I said... I didn't use the word timetable"? Didn't we hear McCain use that word in his interview with Blitzer?

McCain is trying to obfuscate the issues, first by pretending that he alone is concerned with "conditions on the ground," then by denying that he used the word "timetable"–a word that clearly indicates that he has moved closer to Obama's position.

Interesting, too, that McCain raises the specter of "Iranian influence" in Iraq–a concern that was brought about only through the invasion that McCain supported. The eight-year Iran-Iraq war made clear that the two countries were bitter enemies.

McCain also denies that Obama was correct in originally viewing the war as fraught with negative consequences. Stephanopoulos stated, "...there was also a fundamental difference about the original decision to go to war. He said that it would inflame the Muslim world, it would become a big tool for Al Qaeda; you said and you wrote that it would lessen antipathy in the Muslim world and that we'd be greeted as liberators. Wasn't Senator Obama right about that?" McCain answers, "I don't believe so. We were greeted as liberators." The ethnic cleansing, population displacement, roadside bombs against our troops and, yes, increased Iranian influence and jihadi recruits that the war brought about all argue against McCain's simplistic assessment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Michael Mukasey's Torturous Legal Perspectives

Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave a torturous answer to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-Rhode Island) question during confirmation hearings on October 17, 2007, regarding whether waterboarding is constitutional. Instead of directly answering the question, Mukasey gave an answer described by Whitehouse as a "hedge" and "purely semantic": "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional." After Mukasey stated, "I don't know what's involved in the technique," Whitehouse explained it clearly–yet Mukasey gave the same circular argument.

At that point, everyone watching the hearings could conclude that, like his predecessor Alberto Gonzalez, Mukasey would act not to defend the Constitution but to support the Bush administration's violations of it.

An editorial in today's New York Times, "Mr. Mukasey's Justice" (7/27/08), confirms that the Michael Mukasey we saw at the confirmation hearings has remained true to form. The editorial recounts a recent speech in which Mukasey criticized Supreme Court rulings on detainees by demanding that Congress pass legislation that would "sharply reduce the possibility that any Guantanamo prisoner could have a fair hearing":

"Mr. Mukasey offered six principles that should drive such legislation–including keeping secrets secret, limiting prisoner's access to evidence, and not inconveniencing the military. The nation's chief law enforcement officer never mentioned the rule of law or justice.

"Mr. Mukasey said Congress should allow the government to introduce secret evidence at habeas corpus hearings and limit prisoners' rights to introduce testimony or call witnesses. He derided the notion that detainees should get 'a full dress trial.' He even expressed doubt that prisoners needed to attend their hearings."

Mukasey included the usual fear-mongering about releasing individuals into society who pose a threat, denying the fact that "Many prisoners in Guantanamo have been proved to be no threat, and were not detained under anything like battlefield conditions. More than 20 are now languishing there after being cleared for release, including Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs."

The editorial points out the motivations behind the administration's stance: "What the administration fears is that the hearings for any prisoner will reveal how much abuse has been meted out by American interrogators and how thin and tainted the evidence is against most of the Guantanamo prisoners."

Regarding the latter point, a Times article, "U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guantanamo Detainees" (6/21/04), makes clear the administration's exaggeration of both the threat posed by the detainees and the value of their intelligence:

"In interviews, dozens of high-level military, intelligence and law enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East said that contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda. They said only a relative handful–some put the number at about a dozen, others more than two dozen–were sworn Qaeda members or other militants able to elucidate the organization's inner workings."

A CIA study in September 2002 suggested that many of the detainees "appeared to be low-level recruits who went to Afghanistan to support the Taliban or even innocent men swept up in the chaos of the war..." In addition, military officials described the evidence against many detainees as "sparse."

The administration may have an added reason to fear prisoner hearings: the revelation that many have been held for no reason.

It is this administration's illegal practices that Michael Mukasey is defending, not surprising given his shielding of the White House at confirmation hearings. One can appreciate the difficulty of his position. If, after all, he accurately and directly stated that waterboarding is torture and unconstitutional, he would be implying that the administration has violated the Constitution. Such a statement would uphold the law, presumably the job description of "the nation's chief law enforcement officer."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

McCain: 16-Month Timetable Now "Pretty Good"

Senator John McCain, in an interview conducted by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, called the 16-month timetable "pretty good" as long as it was based "on conditions on the ground."

McCain denied that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki would ask the U.S. to withdraw in the next 16 months, before giving his qualified approval of the withdrawal plan.

Not only is this plan Barack Obama's, but Obama offered the same qualifications regarding conditions on the ground! In his New York Times essay "My Plan for Iraq" (7/14/08), Obama wrote, "In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably have to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were deployed safely, and our interests protected."

In effect, the same John McCain who spoke out against Barack Obama for setting timetables has now embraced his Democratic rival's proposal. This is a major concession, especially from a candidate who constantly touts his foreign policy and military experience and sought to draw a firm contrast between his stance on Iraq and Obama's. Couldn't one even call this a collapse of the most important foreign policy position of McCain's candidacy?

Let's not forget that this is also the same John McCain who made the outrageous comment that Barack Obama "would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign," questioning Obama's patriotism and his concern for the troops. Does McCain, as he moves closer to Obama's position, now question his own patriotism?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Documents Detail CIA "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" Performed In Our Name

The New York Times reports (7/25/08) that the American Civil Liberties Union obtained interrogation logs that the Central Intelligence Agency was required to record if it used waterboarding and other harsh techniques.

The documents "add details to the picture of exchanges between the C.I.A and the Justice Department over the legal status of the C.I.A.'s methods." The documents were heavily redacted.

An important marker of the Bush administration's embrace of torture is evident in the observation, "For decades before 2002, the United States had considered several of the methods to be illegal torture."

The Bush administration always finds a way to make the illegal newly legal. If major telecommunications companies illegally helped the administration to spy on Americans, why, let's pass legislation to make it suddenly legal. If certain methods were considered illegal torture in the past, let's reconsider the concept of torture itself. Here the mental gymnastics become truly breathtaking.

The article states, "Another document is one dated August 1, 2002, from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department that is believed to describe in detail the methods the C.I.A. was using on Abu Zubaydah, A Qaeda logistics specialist captured in Pakistan in 2002. A memorandum released earlier, signed on the same date by the head of the counsel's office, Jay S. Bybee, is already public and said that no method was torture unless it produced pain equivalent to organ failure or death" (italics mine). That, of course, leaves a great deal of leeway to inflict pain.

Equally amazing, " section describes a loophole stating that an interrogator would not violate the law against torture unless he has a 'specific intent' to cause pain" (italics mine). The August 2002 document affirms this "loophole": "Based on the information you have provided us, we believe that those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe physical pain or suffering."

Exactly how does on measure the "specific intent" of the interrogator? Is there any way short of reading the interrogator's mind? Doesn't this loophole open the door to the interrogator's causing physical pain or suffering and then claiming, "Oops! It wasn't my intent to cause physical pain or suffering"?

Jamel Jaffer, A.C.L.U. lawyer who has tracked interrogation practices, said that the documents "supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the C.I.A. to torture prisoners in its custody." Jaffer also said that the redactions appeared designed to "protect senior officials."

The AC.L.U. has made the memorandums available so that we can read about the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the C.I.A., with the collusion of the Justice Department, have been using in our name. Click here to read the memorandums.

Click here to read the entire article.

Sign The Petition To Fire Michael Savage For Calling Autism "A Fraud, A Racket"

Nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Michael Savage has a history of outrageous, hate-filled remarks, well documented by the audio archives of Media Matters. That he has a national audience composed of people who spend time regularly listening to him is a sad commentary on our times.

Recently Savage outdid himself in his cruel comments when he belittled autism as "a fraud, a racket" and characterized an autistic child as "...a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."

The sound clip above reveals Savage's profound ignorance of a neurological condition that affects thousands of children and the families that care for them and fight to gain adequate care.

I urge you to sign the online petition to fire Michael Savage by clicking here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pastor Hagee Said Holocaust Part Of God's Plan–Yet Lieberman Affirms Ties And Compares Hagee To Moses

According to Haaretz (7/23/08), Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman received a 40,000-signature petition from J Street (see link on this page) urging him not to speak to Pastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel–yet Lieberman did just that.

John McCain repudiated Hagee's support after the pastor said that "God allowed the Holocaust to happen because it led to the creation of Israel" (a Haaretz paraphrase of Hagee's comments).

As recounted in The New York Times (5/22/08), Hagee stated that the Book of Jeremiah's passage, "...the hunters should hunt them" referred to the Jews as the hunted: "If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust, you can't see that." As a result of being "hunted" in Europe, according to Hagee, the Jews returned to Israel. Hitler, according to this warped view, was playing a part in God's plan.

Those comments, according to Lieberman, were no reason not to cut ties with Hagee, who has also made anti-Catholic and anti-gay statements. "The bond I feel with Pastor Hagee and each and every one of you is much stronger than that, and so I am proud to stand with you tonight," Lieberman stated.

In the most outrageous comments of all, Lieberman compared Pastor Hagee to Moses (see video above).

Not surprisingly, the group that Lieberman stands with "opposes giving land to the Palestinians."

It all adds up to one more reason to sign the Lieberman Must Go petition to remove the Connecticut senator from his position within the Democratic Caucus in 2009. Click here to sign the petition.

Click here to read the entire article.

Nicholas D. Kristof: "Tough Love For Israel?"

In my post below entitled "The Kind of Friend Israel Needs by Yossi Beilin," I referred to Beilin's article in The Forward in which he criticized Bush for, in part, allowing Israel at the Annapolis summit "not to put on the table any of of the core issues of its conflict with the Palestinians, thereby failing to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, which promises normal relations between the Arab world and Israel if Jerusalem makes peace with its neighbors." Beilin states that the next president "will succeed...if he understands that the joint interest of his country and Israel is reaching peace between Israel and its neighbors." He concludes, "Israel's true friend, in other words, is no Bush. It is, rather, a friend of peace in the Middle East."

Nicholas Kristof, writing in The New York Times (7/24/08), makes a similar point in his commentary "Tough Love For Israel?" Following Barack Obama's recent trip to the Middle East, Kristof reflects that the next president must be more engaged in Middle East peacemaking, including taking a firm stance on Israeli policies that do not help the peace process:

"If Israel were to stop the settlements, ease the checkpoints, allow people in and out more freely and negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights and with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal, then peace might still elude the region. But Israel would at least be doing everything possible to secure its long term future, rather than bolstering Hamas.

"If there is no two-state solution, there will be a one-state solution–and given demographic trends, that will mean either the end of Israeli democracy or the end of the Jewish state. Zionists should be absolutely clamoring for a Palestinian state.

"...the failures of Palestinian leadership have been legion. At the moment, though, Israel has its most reasonable partner ever–Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas–and it is undermining him with its checkpoints and new settlement construction.

"Peace-making invariably involves exasperating and intransigent antagonists and unequal steps, just as it did in the decades in which Britain struggled to end terrorism emanating from Northern Ireland. But London never ordered air strikes on Sinn Fein or walled in Catholic neighborhoods. Over time, Britain's extraordinary restraint slowly changed attitudes so as to make the eventual peace impossible.

"I hope that Mr. Obama, as a candidate or as a president, will be a true enough friend of Israel to say all this, warmly but firmly."

Click here to read the entire article

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Straight Talker McCain Forgets His Lines On Birth Control

John McCain, who voted against a Senate proposal requiring insurance companies to cover birth control just like they cover Viagra, squirmed in discomfort when asked if that was still his position. The "straight talker" couldn't remember his vote and said that he hadn't thought about it–even though he voted on it!

McCain is also against women's reproductive rights and would appoint the type of Supreme Court judges who want to restrict, if not eliminate, a woman's right to choose. I hope that Hillary supporters who may still be angry about the primaries remember this and vote for the presidential candidate, Barack Obama, who is more sympathetic to women's health care needs.

Consider the bind that McCain's policies, which represent mainstream Republican stances, put upon women, especially those at the lower end of the economic scale:

1. He is against health insurance companies covering birth control.
2. If a woman becomes pregnant, he's against her having the option of abortion.
3. If a woman gives birth, he's against her and her baby having access to universal health care.

When it comes to women's health care and John McCain, think about Groucho Marx when he sang, "Whatever it is, I'm against it!"

Pregnancy, of course, is a medical condition and birth control is preventive care. Women's access to it shouldn't be determined by their economic status. Of course, those women who can't afford it are not among the major contributors to Republican campaigns–nor are they the ones who benefit from Republican economic policies.

The ad above is part of Planned Parenthood's "Know McCain" campaign, the purpose of which is "to educate voters about John McCain's anti-choice and anti-women's health care record." Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said, "The more women know about McCain, the more they see that John McCain is out of touch on women's health care. This ad is a powerful visual showing that John McCain has no answer when it comes to women's health."

Click here for more information on the Planned Parenthood Action Fund TV Ad.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lieberman Must Go

Remember Zell Miller? He's the former Georgia Senator who, though nominally part of the Democratic party, supported George Bush over John Kerry in 2004. Miller delivered a keynote convention speech in which he strongly criticized the Democrats, including Kerry and Ted Kennedy.

Today we have a new Zell Miller: Joseph Lieberman. He lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont who, unlike Lieberman, was opposed to the war in Iraq. Lieberman ran as an independent and won, declaring that he would caucus with the Democrats and give them a slight majority, 51-49. Since then, he has become an enthusiastic supporter of John McCain at rallies, talk shows and conference calls. While the U.S. is already involved in two wars, Lieberman stated that "...we have to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians."

Does it make sense for Lieberman to serve as Democratic chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee? A new campaign, Lieberman Must Go, says no. It has delivered 43,000 signatures that it collected online to the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, urging the leadership to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship and rank in the caucus (New York Times, July 8, 2008). The goal is for Lieberman to stay on committee now, when the Democrats need his vote, but to dismiss him in November 2009, when, one hopes, the party wins more seats.

Tired of Joe Lieberman's continued efforts against the Democratic party? Click here to add your signature to Lieberman Must Go.

The video above is from the Lieberman Must Go website. It is a production of Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films.

Monday, July 21, 2008

British Panel Doubts U.S. on Torture

In my post "More U.S. Adventures with 'The Dark Side' " below, I cited one of the Canadian lawyers of Guantamo detainee Omar Khadr, who felt that his client would not receive just or humane treatment by the Americans. The Times of July 21, 2008, had another article on this theme, "British Panel Doubts U.S. on Torture." The Bush administration's use of torture, including waterboarding and the controversies surrounding Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, has tarnished our reputation to the point that we are hearing voices from allied countries who simply don't trust that we will treat prisoners humanely.

I'm reminded once again of the practice of extraordinary rendition, sending prisoners to countries that knowingly practice torture despite "reassurances." How many would completely trust the reassurances of the Syrian government, for example? The shocking realization is that the U.S. is increasingly viewed the same way. The Bush administration has done more damage to our international reputation and our ideals of justice than any other. It has placed our own soldiers in a more perilous situation should they be held by hostile forces. It has weakened our own protests against the unjustifiable practices of other nations. And it has employed torture techniques that may yield information based purely on a wish to stop the pain. We have a long way to go before we restore our international standing, including among our allies.

The article follows:

"Britain should no longer rely on assurances that it does not torture terrorism suspects, an influential parliamentary committee said in a report released Sunday.

"Britain had previously taken these assurances at face value, but after the C.I.A. acknowledged using waterboarding techniques on three detainees, Britain should change its stance, according to the report, by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

"The foreign secretary, David Miliband, old Parliament in April that the technique, in which suspects are tied down and water is poured over their hooded faces to simulate drowning, amounted to torture.

"Given the clear differences in definition, the U.K. can no longer rely on U.S. assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assumptions in the future," the report said."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maliki Backs Obama Timetable As McCain Camp Spins Into Stratosphere

Two days ago, I wrote about the Bush Administration's joining international talks with Iran. Today I'm reading about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's agreement with Barack Obama's 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

Suddenly the ideas that Obama has been espousing, ideas that John McCain has been criticizing as defeatist and naive, are being adopted on the international stage. Could it be that Obama is onto something with his focus on diplomacy and gradual withdrawal from Iraq?

The McCain campaign's response was anything but "straight talk": "John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground," said McCain senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann–as if Obama is against talking to military advisers. "Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor."

Clearly Maliki did not affirm the views of McCain–and the use of the buzz words "victory and honor" indicate that the McCain campaign is stretching to put a positive spin on what is an awkward endorsement of Obama's plan. As it is, withdrawing from a conflict that never should have started by adopting a timetable agreed to by the president of Iraq is far from dishonorable.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Handsome Johnny," Richie Havens, Woodstock 1969: Lessons For 2008

Let's take a look back at Richie Havens' Woodstock performance of anti-war song "Handsome Johnny," a song that has proven prophetic and, unfortunately, relevant today. At one point, Havens sings, "Still marching, Still marching." We can now add to his list of conflicts the war in Iraq, another unnecessary major military adventure, so costly in lives and treasure, after Vietnam (Havens forgets the Vietnam lyric, but it's in the original song. In this performance, he cites Korea and then Birmingham.) Toward the end of the song, Havens asks, "What's the use of singing this song? Some of you are not even listening." Among those not listening were the neocons, who lamented "the Vietnam syndrome"–the country's reluctance to enter another conflict launched on false premises. They thought that with the Iraq war, initiated through hyped intelligence, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee (see my June 14 post, "The Truth About the Iraq War"), the nation would overcome its "hangup" about sending young people in harm's way for dubious reasons. And specifically among those not listening was George Bush, who stated that the lesson of Vietnam was, "We'll succeed unless we quit"-not "Let's not attack countries that have not threatened us." As a result of the mind-set and deception of the neocons, who avoided combat when their turn came, we're in another brutal conflict that did not have to be.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Time For Some Of That McCain "Straight Talk"

So the Bush administration  has sent William J. Burns, a third-ranking State Department official, to join international talks in Paris with Iran. This is quite a change for an administration that equated talking to "terrorists and radicals" as appeasement.

In an editorial "A Seat at the Table" (July 18, 2008), The New York Times states, "...we hope this means that Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are learning the lessons of seven years of failed foreign policies built almost completely on isolating and attacking America's adversaries."

Hasn't the administration implicitly adopted, at least in this case, Barack Obama's stance on engaging diplomatically with our enemies? Hasn't that stance been criticized by John McCain? Shouldn't Mr. McCain now speak out against the administration's "naivete" and "appeasement"? Mr. McCain, after all, has not learned the lessons of the past seven years–but at least he'd be burnishing his image as a "straight talker."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports (July 10, 2008) that "...a majority of Americans supports Obama's position that the United States should talk with Iranian leaders. A Gallup poll...showed large majorities of Democrats and independents support having the president meet with leaders of countries that are enemies of the United States."

That being so, shouldn't Mr. McCain now condemn the stance of a majority of Americans? One of McCain's economic advisers, Phil Gramm, got on the straight talk express and called the United States "a nation of whiners" in a "mental recession." Shouldn't Mr. McCain follow suit by calling America "a nation of appeasers"?

Samir Kuntar: A Murderer, Not A Freedom Fighter

Samir Kuntar, 46, is among the five prisoners recently released by Israel into Lebanon. The prisoners were swapped in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped on July 12, 2006 in a Hezbollah cross-border raid and who subsequently died, probably through being badly wounded in the ambush. The attack led to the month-long war between Israel and Lebanon.

Kuntar and the other prisoners were greeted by Lebanese president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament at the Beirut airport. The government declared a national holiday. Kuntar received a hero's welcome in a Hezbollah rally in a southern suburb of Beirut attended by tens of thousands who chanted his name.

What did Kuntar, a Lebanese Druse, do to be imprisoned at the age of 16 for the next 30 years?On April 22, 1979, he landed in a small boat in Nahariyah with three other fighters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. According to The New York Times (July 16, 2008), "The four men killed a policeman and broke into an apartment building and kidnapped a young father, Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. Mr. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering Mr. Haran in front of Einat, then turning to the child and crushing her skill against a rock with the butt of his rifle."

This is the man hailed as a freedom fighter by Hezbollah and its supporters.

Kuntar, though, is no freedom fighter. He is a murderer, plain and simple. There is no justification, political or otherwise, for the murder of a father in front of his young daughter, and the brutal murder of that daughter. His actions did not advance the just cause of Palestinian nationhood; indeed, they were part of a cycle of violence and revenge that has plagued the region for so long. And within that cycle, his actions were particularly heinous. What's more, he shows no sign of regret for the crimes he committed as a youth.

Those of us who have long been against the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and who want to see a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel, base our stance on human rights and self-determination, values we must apply consistently. Kuntar does not exemplify those values in any way. His murders, based completely on nationality and ethnicity–especially in the case of an innocent child–must be condemned as the product of a genocidal impulse.  His overwhelmingly positive reception gives rise only to dismay, especially in a region where the hope for peace is so fragile. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Obama New Yorker Cover: Is This Successful Satire?

In a word, no.

The New Yorker is a liberal-leaning magazine that's been sympathetic to Barack Obama. The image presented here of a militant couple with a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall and the American flag burning in the fireplace is clearly a reflection of the fear-mongering regarding the presumptive Democratic president elect. It brings to mind the nonsensical rants of talk show hosts like Michael Savage, who referred to Obama as an "Afro-Leninist," and it also reminds us of Internet rumors that Obama is a Muslim (and if that were true, which it isn't, would that be something to be held against him?).

The problem with the cover is that the target of the satire–those who have slandered Obama–is not made clear. They're offstage, and all we see is the nightmare they've been propagating. If the artist brought a right-wing blogger or talk show host into the picture, it would have had the context needed for true satire. As it is, the satire falls flat and The New Yorker, albeit not by design, fed into the malicious slanders of Obama.

Note that the cartoon includes the hand gesture famously cited by news anchor E.D. Hill as possibly being a "terrorist fist jab." Only in the alternative universe of FOX News, a Republican propaganda center posing as a news channel, can such a definition be posed–without a hint of satire.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Imperial President Is Watching You–And Has The Power To Lock You Up Indefinitely

The Imperial Presidency, the grand project of Dick Cheney to enable the executive branch to completely dominate the legislative and judicial branches of government, marches on, according to articles in The New York Times and Newsweek.

According to the Times, "President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detention of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-4 decision." This decision is in accord with the administration's belief that "...a 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force after the Sept. 11 attacks granted the president the power to detain people living in the United States."

Such absolute power clearly concentrates too much power in one individual's hands. These broad, poorly defined legal boundaries open the door to more executive abuse.

Jonathan L. Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU school of law was deeply disturbed at the ruling: "This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country–citizen or legal resident–and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial."

Considering the incompetence and lack of judgment of George Bush and his disastrous legacy of Iraq and Katrina, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, one must ask: how is it that this president was granted the power to indefinitely detain any citizen? How have the other branches of government allowed this? How shocked would we be a decade or two ago had we known what would come to pass?

Newsweek, in the article "Uncle Sam Is Still Watching You," describes "...the most sweeping part of the secret surveillance activities ordered by President Bush after 9/11: the National Security Agency's collection of phone records and other personal data on millions of U.S. citizens." Such "data mining" had the full support of MCI, AT&T and Sprint, all of which were recently granted immunity for invading the privacy of their own customers. It gets worse: "...requests for call records grew into the thousands...without court oversight, the demands for these and other personal data ultimately sparked fierce protests from the Justice Department itself." With little oversight or debate, "...the NSA's computers have access to–and crunch–wire transfers, bank transactions and reams of other personal data collected by the Treasury department, says a former top official."

Reading this, do you feel safer–or invaded?

How have the Republicans, who are always spouting rhetoric about "big government," backed such massive government intrusion? And how have so many Democratic senators, including the presumptive presidential candidate, backed the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years?

It's more important than ever to learn about and support those legal groups dedicated to defending civil liberties: the ACLU, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Links to all three are on this page.

The Bush caricature from The Nation is modeled after Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad Magazine, whose slogan was "What, me worry?" The Nation's depiction of Bush wears a button that reminds us to "Worry"–an appropriate sentiment considering the powers invested in this Imperial President.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Far Rite Records: Meet The Neocons

"They launched preemptive war. They sanctioned torture. They're conducting illegal surveillance." Now you can relive their greatest domestic and foreign disasters in one amazing collection, "Meet The Neocons."

"Operation Sandman": More Sleep Deprivation Torture

The post "More U.S. Adventures with "The Dark Side" below mentions the "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation technique endured by Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. Today's New York Times focuses on this "softening up" method as it was applied to Guantanamo prisoner Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden. In Hamdam's case, the cute euphemism for sleep deprivation wasn't "frequent flyer," but "Operation Sandman." Hamdam's lawyers stated that prosecutors indicated that he remained in the program for 50 days. Joseph M. McMillan, one of Hamdam's attorneys, termed such an experience "torture." The article states that "It was the latest in a series of recent accusations about the use of sleep disruption in the past at the detention camp here."

Also most disturbing, "A May report by the Justice Department inspector general said American military interrogators appeared to have collaborated with visiting Chinese officials at Guantanamo Bay to disrupt the sleep of Chinese Uighur detainees, waking them every 15 minutes the night before their interviews by the Chinese."

Tibet, Tiananmen Square, the jailing of dissidents: the Chinese human rights record is abysmal. Yet how far has America strayed from its ideals of justice when it is collaborating with the Chinese in the abuse of prisoners?

Click here to read the article

Barack Obama: "My Plan For Iraq"

Barack Obama, in "My Plan For Iraq" (New York Times, July 14), provided his strategy for a phased withdrawal over 16 months. He reiterated his opposition to the war: "I believe that it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks." He describes the steps he would take to withdraw: leaving a residual force in Iraq for limited missions, going after remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting U.S. service members, training Iraqi security forces.

Obama's withdrawal plan and timetable can be debated; the important point is his goals and their contrast with McCain's: "Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we have no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face." The Bush/McCain desire to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq-say, about 100 years-would again inflame the Muslim world, just as our military presence in Saudi Arabia did. It would also undermine any chance of the Iraqi government's fostering its own sovereignty.

Equally important is Obama's determination to conclude this disastrous military adventure: "...for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender. It's not going to work this time. It's time to end this war."

That last line gave me chills. Amen!

Click here to read the article

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ed Schultz Takes Cliff May To Task

Kudos to progressive talk show host Ed Schultz for taking to task Cliff May, president, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and former director of communications for the Republican National Committee. Schultz was outraged by May's statement on CNN that "left-wing blogs" like "the Daily Kos and some of those on the left...would like to see the America defeated in Iraq." Schultz justly questions the meaning of "winning" in Iraq and our misguided mission, and expresses outrage about the right wing tactic of equating antiwar sentiment with a lack of patriotism.

More U.S. Adventures with "The Dark Side"

More damning reports are coming out on the U.S.'s use of torture and abuse. Jane Mayer, who covers counterterrorism for the New Yorker, is coming out with a book, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals." In it she exposes Red Cross investigators' conclusions "that the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes..." The Red Cross, according to Mayer, declared in its report that methods used on Al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah were "categorically" torture, "...illegal under both American and international law." Red Cross representatives interviewed Zubaydah and other detainees, and Mayer "writes that several C.I.A. officers...confirmed parts of the Red Cross description."

In a separate story, "a secret Canadian government report indicates that Omar Khadr, a Canadian who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba since he was 16, has been abused by his interrogators," according to his military lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler. Classified documents turned over to Khadr's Canadian lawyers state that the detainee, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, "was moved to a new cell every three hours for three weeks," a practice known as the "frequent flyer program," in a bid to make him "more amenable." Khadr was described as "in tears or on the verge of crying during interrogations." The disruptions and the interrogations were considered ineffective. Kuebler stated that "It's shameful that the Canadian government is continuing to allow this to go on." Nevertheless, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not ask for Khadr's return to Canada, which "...sought assurances that...Khadr...will be treated humanely." Lawyer Dennis Edney stated that Khadr would not receive just or humane treatment by the Americans: "The fact that today's revelations don't finally lead to the government's agreement to seek his repatriation, well, it defies belief."

The Bush administration has been known to practice of extraordinary rendition, sending prisoners to countries that knowingly practice torture despite "reassurances." That practice alone has tarnished the reputation of the U.S. How much more has our reputation been damaged when we are the ones abusing, and when a detainee's captivity by the U.S. is itself a source of controversy?

The Case of the Fulbright Three

Israel's not allowing three Palestinian students from the Islamic University of Gaza to take advantage of their Fulbright scholarships by barring them from leaving Gaza for the U.S. has led American consular officials to drive to the Gaza border to interview them. While Israel contends that they have ties to Hamas, "American officials who asked for details of those links were given only general statements about family ties." If the State Department does not find reason for alarm, they will grant the students visas and pressure Israel to allow them to attend graduate studies in engineering and computer science.

The U.S., which is certainly not sympathetic to Hamas, would not be taking these steps if the students were involved in terrorist activities. If Israel can't give its closest ally more than vague explanations, it has a moral and strategic reason to let them out. The moral case to let three scholars conduct their studies and not hold them against their will is an obvious one. Why strategic? Enabling students to pursue educational opportunities is exactly what is needed for them to help build a productive society and to turn away from terror and extremism. Isn't that what Israel wants?

Click here to read the article

The Kind of Friend Israel Needs by Yossi Beilin

Knesset member and former deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin, writing in The Forward, states that President Bush, whose warm feelings for Israel are unmistakable, nevertheless has "inflicted enormous damage on Israel." Among Bush's destructive actions:

• Contrasting himself from Clinton by disengaging from the peace process.
• Conducting a war in Iraq that strengthened Iran.
• Backing the Road Map, a non-starter that was used by both sides to avoid progress and "neutralized other global players" who might have had a positive effect while the U.S. was inactive.
• Supporting Sharon in a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which weakened Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and strengthened Hamas and its strategy of armed struggle.
• Demanded that "Sharon allow Hamas to participate in the elections for the Palestinian Parliament," contradicting the Oslo Accords' prohibition of terrorist groups taking part in elections.
• Permitting Israel to continue the war in Lebanon longer than it needed "before pushing for a cease fire..." at a "strategic price."
• Permitting Israel to avoid dealing with core issues at the Annapolis Summit and "failing to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, which promises normal relations between Israel and the Arab world if Jerusalem makes peace with its neighbors."
• Failing to support Israel's ongoing talks with Syria.

The list clearly contradicts Bush's image as a friend of Israel. Indeed, Jimmy Carter clearly was a better friend by advancing the Israeli-Egyptian peace accords and by attempting to communicate honestly in "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" (see review below) the price both Israelis and Palestinians continue to pay with the occupation. Yet it is Carter who is reviled by some as hostile to Israel.

Beilin concludes, "The next American president will have to work hard to repair the damage done by our faithful friend in the White House... Israel's true friend, in other words, is no Bush. It is, rather, a friend of peace in the Middle East.

Click here to read the article

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lurching With Abandon by Bob Herbert

The always on-target Bob Herbert recently expressed dismay that Barack Obama is "...not just tacking toward the center. He's lurching right when it suits him, and he's zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash." Among the dismaying lurches cited by Herbert:

• "...pandering to evangelicals by promising not just to maintain the Bush program of investing taxpayer dollars in religious-based initiatives, but to expand it. Separation of church and state? Forget it."

• "...agreeing with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas that the death penalty could be imposed for crimes other than murder. What was the man thinking?"

• "...his decision to support an electronic surveillance bill that gives retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The senator had previously promised to filibuster the bill if it contained the immunity clause."

• "...his support of the Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms."

• "There's even concern that he's doing the Obama two-step on the issue that has been the cornerstone of his campaign: his opposition to the war in Iraq. But the senator denied that any significant change should be inferred from his comment that he would 'continue to refine' his policy on the war."

Obama appeared to be a new type of politician, one not bound to the traditional pandering. His constant opposition to the war, to cluster bombs, to the nonsensical "gas tax holiday" distinguished him from both Clinton and McCain. And, of course, he's still a far superior candidate to McCain, whose policies on the war, tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and health care represent a third Bush term. Still, it's dismaying to see Obama playing the fearful Democratic game of "Republican Lite." He may be alienating more of his supporters, whom he's taking for granted, than gaining independents and conservatives, as Herbert points out. What we need is a clear contrast from the disastrous foreign and domestic policies of the past eight years that have been embraced by McCain.

Click here to read the article

The Spies Who Love You!

Mark Fiore presents a more positive view of the expansion of federal surveillance and the phone companies that wiretapped their own customers on behalf of the Bush administration. Why, all they want is to make us feel warm and snuggly! Perhaps we should feel grateful that the phone companies' previously illegal actions have been suddenly rendered legal by an appreciative Senate. See the link on this page for more brilliant cartoons and social commentary by Mark Fiore.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Liberty Weeps

From "Thoughts on Democracy" at the Wolfsonian Museum, Florida International University, Miami, through December 7. Artists reinterpret Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" in a way that suggests, according to a review in the New York Times, "that trust in American ideals is giving way to fear and uncertainty about how they are exploited.... Many of the artists interviewed said they felt that now was not the time to depict American greatness, as Rockwell did, but rather to caution people about the risks of complacency."  This is the perfect image following the Senate's approval of expansion of federal surveillance powers and legal immunity for phone companies, including AT&T, Verizon and others, that cooperated in the National Security Agency's wiretapping program. The wiretapping took place without a court order, in clear violation of customers' privacy rights. As happens so often with the Bush administration, the Constitution is violated, laws are broken and Congress is called upon to declare that the illegal is now legal. Perhaps the biggest shame of all is the caving of so many Democrats to Bush's spying, interrogation tactics, military tribunals and war spending.

Got Democracy?

In the midst of an idyllic boat trip in Oxford, England, I came upon a depiction of the infamous image of torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib. The caption pointedly asks, "Got Democracy?" Above and to the left of the image is "," the web site of Amnesty International, which, along with Human Rights Watch, has fought for human rights and against torture throughout the world. Links to both organizations are on this page.

Belated Book Review: Palestine Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter, Simon & Schuster, 2006

President Jimmy Carter's "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" caused a national furor when it appeared in 2006. David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committe called the book "outlandishly titled." Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said, "The title is to de-legitimize Israel, because if Israel is like South Africa, it doesn't really deserve to be a democratic state."

Foxman misconstrues the title. The author makes clear that his critique is not with Israel per se, but with Israel's non-democratic policies in the occupied territories: "It became increasingly clear that there were two Israels. One encompassed the ancient culture and moral values of the Jewish people... The other existed within the occupied Palestinian territories, with policies shaped by a refusal to acknowledge and respect the basic human rights of the citizens." If Carter's aim is to de-legitimize Israel, one must assume that that is the aim of prominent Israelis who have used the term apartheid in describing a situation in which one group, by virtue of ethnicity and nationality, enjoys rights and privileges that the other does not.

Israelis seem more willing to openly debate relations with the Palestinians–and the concept of apartheid as it applies to these relations–than do American Jewish leaders. Author A.B. Yehoshua said, "I expected American Jews, who were raised on democracy, to know very well that the moment there are settlements here, it will eventually lead to an apartheid state." B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center For Human Rights In The Occupied Territories (see link on this page), states in its web site, "Israel has established in the Occupied Territories a separation cum discrimination regime, in which it maintains two systems of laws, and a person's rights are based on his or her national origin. This regime...brings to mind...the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

Peace activist Yossi Sarid wrote in Haaretz of the roadblocks, inspections, licenses, permits, arbitrary seizure of land, privileges in water use and use of cheap, hard labor, concluding, "...what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid, and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck–it is apartheid."  A Haaretz editorial finds Carter's use of the term appropriate: "The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years."  Former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair stated in Haaretz, "In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day."

Lest one think that these are only voices from the left, even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert employed terms that would be scandalous if they were uttered by an American politician. According to ABC News, "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said...that creation of a Palestinian state is a vital Israeli interest, and that failure to reach a peace agreement could plunge Israel into a South African-style apartheid struggle. Such a scenario, he said, would mean 'the state of Israel is finished.' "

If some are tempted to discount the Palestinians cited by Carter as purveyors of propaganda, they should heed the Israeli individuals and institutions he cites. Again, according to B'Tselem, "In addition to punitive demolitions, Israel had razed even more Palestinian homes in 'clearing' operations, plus houses that Israel claimed were build without a permit. All this destruction was on Palestinian land."

Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti enumerated to Carter the ways that Israelis acquired Palestinian lands, including purchase, seizure "for security purposes," claiming state control of former Jordanian-held land, "taking" under carefully selected Arabic customs or ancient laws, and "claiming as state land all that was not cultivated or specifically registered as owned by a Palestinian family." (In this regard, one should read "West Bank Sites on Private Land, Data Shows," New York Times, March 14, 2007. According to Peace Now, "32.4 percent of property held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is private" and "...the data shows a pattern of illegal seizure of private land...")

The expropriation of land is relevant when considering the wall being built to separate the West Bank from Israel. Objections to the barrier come from the fact that it intrudes "deeply into the West Bank to encompass Israeli settlement blocs and large areas of other Palestinian land." The International Court of Justice, Carter reminds us, based its negative ruling on the wall on the illegality of an occupying power "transferring any parts of its civilian population into territories seized by military force."

Chiding Palestinians for "following policies of confrontation and inflexibility," Carter states that they have "alienated many moderate leaders in Israel and America and have not gained any of their territory or other basic rights." There are times, though, when he shows a lack of even-handedness. Regarding the July 2000 negotiations between Clinton, Barak and Arafat at Wye Plantation, Maryland, Carter states, "There was no possibility that any Palestinian leader can accept such terms and survive..." While Arafat had the right to reject Israel's opening bid, his failure to make a counter-offer showed a lack of seriousness about the negotiations. Carter concludes the book by stating, "Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace... All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel's right to live in peace under these conditions." Fair enough–but this passage does not mention the specific, crucial fact that Hamas rules Gaza while denying the basic acceptance of Israel that was agreed upon by the Palestinian Authority.

Still, Carter provides a valuable service by encouraging Americans to debate issues in the same terms employed by many Israelis, including whether Israel's policies in the territories resemble apartheid. In this necessary and courageous book, he offers an honest examination of the ongoing violation of a nation's human rights by an occupying power–a reality that must be acknowledged and overcome if the peace process is to have any chance of success.