Commentary

When NATO Leaves, Don't Forget Libya

Now that the UN Security Council has cancelled its authorization for the NATO mission in Libya, October 31 is expected to mark the end of the West's (overt) military involvement in the country. With this end, so too will likely follow the end of media and public interest. Without a zany dictator to hunt down and kill, the story that will begin to unfold will lack the Hollywood-esque adventure and intrigue that the former story enjoyed. It will also be a story that the mainstream media won't want America to know. But this story will be just as important—if not more important—for Americans to understand than the story that came before, especially with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the background, facilitating a general awakening to the influence of corporations on US policy. If the mainstream media gets its way, however, most Americans will continue to sleep comfortably in their beds at night, consoled by the belief that the United States did its part in freeing a people from oppression and tyranny.

Unfortunately, the only “people” for whom NATO and the United States intended to make Libya free were fellows like ConocoPhillips, Coca-Cola, Total, Occidental, Caterpillar and Halliburton. And now that Qaddafi is gone, they must be celebrating in the streets—or, rather, the Street. Occupiers: beware.

Some claim that the US had no economic interest in intervening in Libya since, after he abandoned his nuclear ambitions and after the US removed sanctions on his country, Qaddafi was “our man.”

The evidence, however, doesn't seem to support such a strong claim. While some US companies were able to break into the Libyan economy, some were thwarted, and it seems that everyone, to some extent, was disappointed.

NATO Mission In Libya: (Possibly) Hijacked Yet Again?

On Saturday, NATO Secretary General Fogh Rassmussen made a preliminary announcement that operations in Libya were going to end October 31. Confirmation of the departure date was supposed to occur at a meeting of the alliance today. However, that meeting has been delayed until Friday because Mustafa Abdel Jalil, leader of Libya's transitional government, has asked NATO forces to stay until the end of the year. The reason? To help keep pro-Qaddafi forces from causing trouble for the fledgling government.

And why not, right? The original UN mission has already been hijacked once. NATO was approved to provide a no-fly zone in order to protect civilians, an authorization which itself was founded on rather thin evidence that Qaddafi intended to massacre the inhabitants of Benghazi. The mission which NATO wound up pursuing, including offensive strikes on pro-Qaddafi forces, can pretty much be summed up as regime change. And now, if it does stay in Libya until the end of the year, NATO's mission will be distorted for a second time to protecting the transitional government.

Shalit is Free. Lift the Siege of Gaza Now.

In the world of principle and international law, the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza - which until now blocks Gazans from traveling to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and blocks Gazans from exporting, farming, fishing, and otherwise earning their living - is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars the use of "collective punishment" against a civilian population living under occupation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross - a key guardian of the Fourth Geneva Convention - has stated this clearly. As Voice of America reported:

"The International Committee of the Red Cross says Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip breaks international law. The humanitarian agency said Monday that the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans 'collective punishment' of a civilian population. "

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 - on the Red Cross website - says: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited...Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

"Protected persons" are defined in Article 4: "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

All US Troops Leaving Iraq; Now, Let's Bring Them Home From Afghanistan

Earlier today, President Obama announced that all US troops except for about 150 attached to the US embassy will leave Iraq by the previously agreed upon deadline of December 31.

This is welcome news. Until this month, the US was in negotiations with the Iraqi government to leave thousands of US troops in the country indefinitely. The snag in the plan was the non-negotiable (from the US perspective) stipulation that US soldiers who remained be granted legal immunity. Apparently, members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own coalition could not stomach the demand.

Now that he has been forced to accept an immediate withdrawal, Obama is spinning this as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. But Obama won't be able to claim this particular achievement until he removes all contractors from the country. While the President did not address the issue of contractors in his speech, it is being reported that around 9,500 contractors--including 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 "general life support" contractors--will remain in Iraq after the remaining US troops depart.

So, while the roughly 39,000 US troops left in Iraq are coming home, over 9,000 contractors will remain.

Woolsey and Payne Coddle Dictator in Bahrain

Folks who claim that it doesn't matter who we elect to represent us in the House of Representatives or how we press them once they get there should be compelled to confront a new piece of evidence: a report from Bahrain of a recent meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation and representatives of Wefaq, the largest political party in Bahrain. The report illustrates a key political fact about the world in which we live: some of the most progressive Congressional districts in the country, districts that won't elect a Republican unless the Democratic incumbent is caught red-handed in a major crime the week before the election, are represented by people who, when the curtains of big media are drawn, oppose the basic human rights that most Americans take for granted.

People in these Congressional districts could, if they wished, be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights. The key obstacle to this development isn't ideology or corporate power per se. It's the lack of effective channels for communicating to voters what their Representatives in the House are doing on foreign policy issues. This lack is of course a symptom of corporate domination of the media. But the media isn't totally under the control of corporations, and thanks to the internet, we can now communicate with each other for free. So this problem could be solved through effective organization, and every progressive district in the country could be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights.

Report: Wefaq (Bahrain opposition) meeting with US congressional delegation

This is a report from Bahrain of a meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation and democracy activists in Bahrain.

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*Wefaq meeting with the congressional delegation*

On 17/10/11, 5 Wefaqi members, A.Jalil Khalil, Jassim Hussain, Jameel AlJamri, Matar Matar and Amal Habib met with the congressional delegation visiting Bahrain. The delegation included U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega(D-AS), Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ). We explained thoroughly the situation in Bahrain and introduced Manama document.

The response of the delegation did not meet our expectation as it did not show enough understanding for the legitimate demands for reform . They started their speech by saying that Bahrain is an important strategic ally to US which is running short of friends in the region, and that the fifth fleet presence in Bahrain is vital to US which might not have any other alternative in the region. Then they were very critical of Wefaq boycotting the elections and being out of the system now, and without asking or listening to the reasons why Wefaq decided to boycott they asked Wefaq to find a way to cooperate with the new MPs who are, as they said, mixed Shia and Sunni and are neutral, to find ways to change within the system.

Instead of talking about reconciliation and dialogue between the opposition and the government which was mentioned by President Obama in his last speech, they showed full support to Bahrain government steps. They stressed on side issues and found it excuses for not supporting democracy in Bahrain.

US Troop Deaths in Afghan War Under Obama Now Twice That Under Bush

US Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush. Click here to learn more.

This weekend marked a new milestone for the war in Afghanistan: the number of US troops killed in the war since President Obama took office is now twice the number that were killed during Bush's term, according to icasualties.org and our US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush web counter. That means that two-thirds of the total US troop deaths have occurred in the last two years and eight months, which accounts for roughly a third of the duration of the war to date.

1728 US troops have died in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, with 1153 of those deaths having occurred since President Obama's inauguration. 575 US troops died in Afghanistan during President Bush's term in office.

We've all heard the argument before: Bush ignored Afghanistan, Obama did what he promised by escalating the war, and since more troops means more deaths, we shouldn't be surprised by the increased death rate.

Back in June, when US deaths in Afghanistan under Obama reached 1000, I wrote a piece about this argument. I'm not going to address it further here, because there are more pressing issues of concern than looking to the past.

Palestine, Farming, U.S. Aid, and the Arab Spring: A Conversation with Rami Zurayk

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then "#occupy" protesters around the world this weekend just gave the Arab Spring an Academy Award. Of course the chain of inspiration of freedom and justice seekers is unending in history, but there's no question that the Arab Spring opened a new chapter which is inspiring people to protest for justice worldwide.

No doubt at this historical moment many people in the U.S. will be preoccupied, as they should be, more with how #occupywallstreet is going than with how the Arab Spring is going. But we still have reason to pay some attention to the Arab Spring.

Drawing inspiration from outside our immediate environment sometimes allows us to leapfrog over the crusty preconceptions of our historical surroundings. One thing #occupywallstreet, like the Wisconsin uprising, has had in common with Cairo has been an explicit appeal for solidarity to the "security forces." In Cairo, they chanted: "The army and the people are one hand!" In Madison, the conduct of the mobilization for public employee rights defeated efforts of the Walker administration to split the police politically from other public employees. Today #occupy protesters are telling police, "You are the 99%!" You could look at the police as armed employees of the state who have to follow orders to "maintain public order," or you could look at them as public employees who are largely unionized members of the working class and who often have a lot of discretion in how they interpret their mandate to "maintain public order." Not arresting protesters is a perfectly legitimate tool for keeping the peace, and most police officers and officials know that well. As mom told us when we were little, honey usually beats vinegar.

Garamendi lays out areas where left-leaning budget hawks align w GOP & libertarian cost-cutters

This is an echo of a post by Jen DiMascio, which is here: http://t.co/rQFFUcMi

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"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown

Pressure is building on the Obama administration to delay a proposed arms sale to Bahrain, which brutally suppressed its pro-democracy movement and continues to squash dissent, the Washington Post reports.

The Pentagon wants to sell $53 million worth of armored Humvees and anti-tank missiles to Bahrain, a plan slammed by human rights groups, who want the U.S. to end its silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.

This week, five Senators - Sens. Casey, Durbin, Cardin, Menendez, and Wyden - weighed in against the arms sale in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton: