- Sign Up
JFP 8/30: 14 US dead in Afghanistan since Saturday
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 30 August 2010 - 5:33pm
Just Foreign Policy News
August 30, 2010
Help the UN respond to the Pakistan flood catastrophe
The quickest way to donate $10 to UNHCR's relief effort is to text "SWAT" to 50555 from your cell phone. If you want to donate more, you can do it here:
"Palestinian Gandhi" Convicted for Protesting; U.S. Silent
The European Union protested the conviction of Abdallah Abu Rahmah for organizing protests against the separation barrier in Bilin. The U.S. government is silent; U.S. newspaper columnists failed to protest; except for CNN, the U.S. press hasn't even reported the news.
Why Should the Senate Fund "Enduring" U.S. Military Bases in Afghanistan?
The Pentagon is planning military construction for years of U.S. combat in Afghanistan. The Senate could refuse to fund; in 2008, Congress rejected a similar Pentagon request for "long term" military construction in Iraq. Urge your senators to oppose construction of long-term U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
Bacevich: Washington Rules
Andrew Bacevich's book, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War," is a call for Americans to reject the Washington consensus for permanent war.
Get the book
September 24th: JFP "Virtual Brown Bag" with Andrew Bacevich
Help Support Our Work
Your donation helps us educate Americans and create opportunities to advocate for a just foreign policy.
1) Seven US service members were killed by two roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan on Monday, the New York Times reports. Fourteen US service members have been killed in Afghanistan, mostly in the south, since Saturday.
2) 17 million Pakistanis have been affected by the floods that began a month ago, CNN reports. The floods have claimed 1,600 lives, a toll expected to rise. The U.N. said Friday it is increasingly concerned about flood-driven malnutrition among children. "The flooding has surrounded millions of children with contaminated water," said a UNICEF official. "Most have nothing else to drink. We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition."
3) President Karzai's chief of staff said he is not sure the government is "on a path to success" in securing the country against the Taliban and it could fail altogether if the US does not significantly alter its strategy, the Washington Post reports. Mohammad Umer Daudzai called on the international forces to stop invasive night raids on residents' homes and to distance their soldiers from "the daily life of the people." Karzai thinks NATO forces should remain at current levels for at least two more years, Daudzai said.
4) U.S. optimism about a quick defeat of Afghan insurgents in Helmand has given way to more sober assessments, Tony Perry reports in the Los Angeles Times. As the death toll steadily climbs, Marine Commandant Gen. Conway warns it could take as long as five years to defeat the Taliban. The massive assault in February on Marja has not lived up to the U.S. prediction that it would prove a "tipping point" for the province; The vaunted "government-in-a-box," a promise to establish a government in Marja as soon as the fighting stopped, was largely a flop, Perry says. Conway expects Marines to be in Helmand province until 2014 or 2015.
5) An Administration spokesman said President Obama will signal a shift in focus from the Iraq War to the war in Afghanistan in his Oval Office speech Tuesday night, AP reports.
6) The end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq may increase pressure on the Pentagon to trim spending, Reuters reports. The Pentagon is pushing for at least 1 percent real growth in coming years in its "top line" budget, the total amount spent on non-war operations. Military spending has roughly doubled in real terms since the Sept. 11 attacks. Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion on the two wars alone since 2001 while spending has also skyrocketed in the core defense budget. Obama's budget for 2011 called for $548.9 billion for the Defense Department's base budget - excluding the wars - a real increase of 1.8 percent in purchasing power over the sum appropriated in fiscal 2010.
7) Proponents of larger military budgets have been demanding that military spending be pegged to a fixed percentage of US GDP, notes Josh Rogin for Foreign Policy. But critics say there is no logic to guaranteeing the Pentagon a fixed percentage of US economic output. OMB's director for national security spending Steve Kosiak, in his prior role at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, once said that "there is no analytical basis" whatsoever for pegging military spending to GDP.
8) To introduce a story of "progress" into media coverage, Gen. Petraeus's command claimed last week that the Taliban is suffering from reduced morale in Marjah and elsewhere, despite evidence that the population of Marjah still believes the Taliban controls that district, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. But the news media ignored the command's handout, which NATO could not substantiate.
9) More than 60 Israeli actors, playwrights and directors have signed a letter refusing to take part in productions by leading theatre companies at a new cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, the Guardian reports. The letter says the new centre in Ariel would "strengthen the settlement enterprise." Writing in Haaretz, Gideon Levy backed the actors' stance. "Yes, there is a difference between legitimate, sovereign Israel and the areas of its occupation," he wrote. "Yes, there is a moral difference between appearing here and appearing there in the heart of an illegal settlement … built on a plot of stolen land, in a performance designed to help settlers pass their time pleasantly, while surrounded by people who have been deprived of all their rights."
10) Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of the religious Shas party in Israel's government, said God should strike the Palestinians and Palestinian President Abbas with a plague, Reuters reports. Prime Minister Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments; the US said Yosef's comments were "inflammatory."
11) Last month Iraqi authorities shut down the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, David Bacon reports for Truthout. Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets. A US Embassy said the US was "looking into" the issue.
12) Putting a stop to the murders of journalists in Honduras and resolving the sloppy investigations of killings should be a condition for the country's re-acceptance into the Organization of American States, the Miami Herald argues in an editorial.
1) Seven U.S. Soldiers Die in Afghan Attacks
Rod Nordland, New York Times, August 30, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Seven American service members were killed by two roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan on Monday, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The two bombings were unrelated, officials said, with one killing five service members and the other killing two. Fourteen American service members have been killed in Afghanistan, mostly in the south, since Saturday.
Witnesses near Kandahar City reported seeing a large blast strike an American military convoy on Monday afternoon on Highway 1, just west of the southern city, which has been the focus of stepped-up American military operations in recent months. An American armored vehicle was completely destroyed.
2) UN: Flooding has displaced 1 million more in Pakistan
U.N. is increasingly worried about flood-driven malnutrition among children
U.N. official says a "colossal disaster is getting worse"
About 1 million additional people have been displaced in Sindh province, the U.N. says
Authorities have ordered evacuations in the Indus River delta
CNN, August 27, 2010
Islamabad, Pakistan - Flooding has displaced an additional 1 million people in Pakistan's Sindh province in the past two days, according to new U.N. estimates released Friday. "We have more people on the move, to whom we need to provide relief. An already colossal disaster is getting worse and requiring an even more colossal response," said Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Giuliano said rains have forced the evacuation of an estimated 1 million people in southern Sindh in the past 48 hours or so. "The magnitude of this crisis is reaching levels that are even beyond our initial fears, which were already leaning towards what we thought would be the worst. The number of those affected and those in need of assistance from us are bound to keep rising. The floods seem determined to outrun our response," he said.
The U.N. also said Friday that it is increasingly concerned about flood-driven malnutrition among children. "The flooding has surrounded millions of children with contaminated water," said Karen Allen, deputy representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan. "Most have nothing else to drink. We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition."
Acute malnutrition was high in much of Pakistan even before the floods. For instance, 27 percent of children under 5 in Baluchistan province were malnourished, as were 17 percent of children in Punjab, according to the U.N.
A hospital in Sindh is overrun with people suffering from waterborne illness; two children share each bed and more are on the floor. A doctor at the hospital said there are "not enough resources because of huge population ... coming to this hospital."
Remat Chacher, a farmer in Sindh, escaped the floodwaters with his wife and two children earlier this month. But then his 3-month-old daughter Benazir got sick. "She started to get fever and couldn't keep anything down ... lots of belly pain," said Ulla, the infant's mom.
A few days later, the same symptoms struck the Chachers' son, 2-year-old Wazira. Both children died on the way to the hospital, with Wazira weighing just 8 pounds and Benazir weighing 2 pounds.
Floodwaters have started to recede across Pakistan, but in the Indus delta, the potential for more flooding remained high, especially given high tides in the Arabian Sea, where the Indus spills out.
Already, more than 17 million Pakistanis - from the Chinese border in the north to the mouth of the Indus in the south - have been affected by the monsoon floods that began a month ago.
To date, Pakistan's unfolding tragedy has claimed 1,600 lives, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. That number is likely to rise as more drowned bodies are discovered in receding waters.
3) Top Karzai Aide Says U.S. Must Alter Its Strategy
David Nakamura and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Sunday, August 29, 2010; A15
Kabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff said Saturday that he is not sure the government is "on a path to success" in securing the country against the Taliban and that it could fail altogether if the United States does not significantly alter its strategy in fighting the nine-year-old war.
In a rare extended interview, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, who usually plays a behind-the-scenes role at the presidential palace, said he was speaking out because media reports of worsening U.S.-Afghan relations are "taking up a lot of our time" and have had a damaging effect on the fight against a growing insurgency.
While stressing that the Karzai government is committed to a significant NATO troop presence, Daudzai called on the international forces to stop invasive night raids on residents' homes and to distance their soldiers from "the daily life of the people," a sharp divergence from Gen. David H. Petraeus's strategy of having soldiers embedded in communities. The coalition policies have undermined Karzai's authority and Afghan sovereignty, Daudzai said, and led to "blame games" between the two sides.
In a meeting with Petraeus last week, Daudzai said that he was blunt with the U.S. military commander. "I said, 'General Petraeus, winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans is not the job of a soldier. That's the job of an Afghan,' " Daudzai said.
On Saturday, Daudzai disputed the allegations that Karzai aides were on the CIA payroll, stating flatly that none of the 500 palace employees is taking money from any foreign intelligence agency. "I know nobody is paid here by the CIA," he said. "Of course, people are paid by the United States. The whole government is paid, one way or the other, by the United States. That's different. I'm saying none of the 500 are paid by CIA. None."
Such allegations directly imperil U.S. and Afghan forces in the field, Daudzai added, because the Taliban use the media reports to suggest that the Karzai administration is a "puppet" government that is not looking out for the public interest. "This is what Taliban is preaching, in villages, to Afghan youth," he said. "They say, 'Who is President Karzai? He is a puppet of the United States, and everybody around him is paid by the CIA. So there is no government; it's an occupied country, and let's go and fight them.' "
Daudzai said that anonymous aides do not speak for the president and that Karzai is not calling for a drawing down of U.S. or international forces. To the contrary, Daudzai said, the president thinks that NATO forces should remain at current levels for at least two more years, beyond the July 2011 timeline President Obama has suggested that the drawing down could begin.
What Karzai wants, rather, is for Western forces to take a less-active role in engaging with residents, leaving such interaction to Afghan army, police and government officials. "We want, as part of that review, for the international forces to gradually take distance from the daily life of people," Daudzai said. "Because people are getting tired with the way they are behaved with."
Daudzai described a recent evening when he headed home from the palace only to be caught in a time-consuming traffic check by international troops. "That's not their job. . . . That's the Afghan police job," he said. "Or in the rush hour, going into the market with these heavy cars, not letting anybody overtake them. Or on the main highways, they go on the wrong day. Like, for instance, on New Year's Day, everybody goes out for a picnic, then you see a huge NATO convoy comes on that day and blocks the whole road."
4) Marines In Afghanistan Prepared For A Long Haul
A year since the U.S. troop buildup began with battalions descending on the Helmand River Valley, optimism about a quick defeat of the Taliban has given way to more sober assessments.
Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2010
Forward Operating Base Dwyer - If Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Oratowski was intimidated about briefing three visiting generals as he headed out on another overnight patrol chasing the Taliban, he didn't show it. "We're ready to go," the 23-year-old from Camp Pendleton said brightly, his enthusiasm seemingly undimmed by the fact that he had spent most of the last 60 days in the heat, danger and uncertainty of Helmand province.
A few hours later, he was dead from a Taliban roadside bomb.
As the three generals watched the next day, Oratowski's casket was loaded aboard a C-130 to begin its journey home. The cargo plane lumbered down a runway that didn't exist just a few months ago and lifted heavily into the southern Afghanistan sky.
Next to the runway, earthmovers pushed mountains of gravel for other construction projects at the base here, projects to expand the "footprint" of the Marines as they settle in for a long battle for Helmand.
A year since the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan began with battalions of Marines descending on the Helmand River Valley, optimism about a quick defeat of the insurgents after early small-scale routs has given way to more sober assessments.
As the death toll steadily climbs, the top Marine warns that it could take as long as five years to defeat the Taliban and help the Afghan government establish a credible presence.
The massive assault in February on the Taliban-run town of Marja has not lived up to the U.S. prediction that it would prove a "tipping point" for the province. Two battalions of Marines are still assigned to protect Marja, but Taliban fighters spread messages of terror at night and plant bombs, killing Marines and villagers.
The provincial and national governments provide only a trickle of services. The vaunted "government-in-a-box," a promise to establish a government in Marja as soon as the fighting stopped, was largely a flop. "I think Stan McChrystal over-promised in regards to government-in-a-box," Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway said, referring to the Army general who was then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Even as President Obama talks of beginning a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan next July, in Helmand, the talk is of "trend lines" and "metrics" rather than a quick knockdown.
In a series of meetings with Marines of all ranks, Conway said he expected Marines - whose numbers have doubled, to 20,000, in Helmand in the last 14 months - to be here until 2014 or 2015. Be prepared for a second or third tour, he said.
5) Obama Iraq speech to signal shift to Afghan focus
Mark S. Smith, Associated Press, Thursday, August 26, 2010; 4:43 PM
Vineyard Haven, Mass. - With his Oval Office speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will signal a shift in America's focus from the Iraq War to the war in Afghanistan, his spokesman said Thursday.
Administration officials have portrayed the 8 p.m. EDT speech as an important pivot point from a war that candidate Obama said should never have been fought to a conflict that President Obama sees as vital to the nation's security.
Previewing the speech as Obama vacationed on Martha's Vineyard, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Obama also wants to thank U.S. troops who've fought bravely in Iraq.
Burton said the Oval Office address "commemorates an important milepost in American history." He said Obama will use the occasion to speak "directly with the American people about what our mission is in Afghanistan (and) the fact that more of our efforts and focus are now on fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan."
6) Iraq Drawdown May Raise Pressure On Defense Budget
Pentagon wants to grow spending, despite record deficit
Presidential commission may take aim at defense spending
Phil Stewart, Reuters, 30 Aug 2010 12:00:26 GMT http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N29267405.htm
Washington - The end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq may increase pressure on the Pentagon to trim spending, giving ammunition to lawmakers who have long wanted to take aim at the massive defense budget.
Given mounting concern over the giant U.S. budget deficit, those drawdowns could be potent political arguments for advocates of making defense cuts part of the overall effort to trim federal spending.
Tackling defense spending has been a politically taboo topic since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, but that may be changing, analysts say. "We're about to enter into a glacial shift in thinking about the size of the defense budget. And the wars (are) no longer the iron-clad protection that the budget increasers had," said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.
The Pentagon fiercely opposes cuts and is pushing for at least 1 percent real growth in coming years in its "top line" budget, the total amount spent on non-war operations. While spending on the Iraq war is declining, costs for the Afghan war are reaching record highs.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has voiced concern that Congress may attempt to trim defense spending, has pre-emptively unveiled job cuts and the closure of an entire military command. But savings from such "efficiencies" would be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget.
Proponents of reducing overall defense spending include many Obama Democrats, who are increasingly wary about the cost of the unpopular, nine-year-old Afghan war and who are applauding Obama's attempts to bring the Iraq war to an end.
But even some conservative Republicans, mindful of the deficit, are taking a close look at military spending, which has roughly doubled in real terms since the Sept. 11 attacks. Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion on the two wars alone since 2001 while spending has also skyrocketed in the core defense budget.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn told Reuters that the Pentagon was wrong to think it would be immune to broader efforts to reduce federal spending and tackle the deficit, steps he said were needed regardless of the Iraq drawdown. "There's no question of waste at the Pentagon," Coburn said. Asked about Pentagon hopes to dodging the budget ax indefinitely, Coburn said: "Well, that isn't going to happen... you better be prepared because it isn't going to happen."
Obama's budget for 2011 called for $548.9 billion for the Defense Department's base budget, a real increase of 1.8 percent in purchasing power over the sum appropriated in fiscal 2010 for activities excluding Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots.
The Defense Department accounts for 19 percent of U.S. federal spending and roughly half of the country's non-mandated, discretionary spending.
7) Get Ready For Another Debate Over Pegging Defense Spending To GDP
Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, August 27, 2010
In the raging debate over defense spending, there's one argument proponents of larger defense budgets have been pushing for years. They believe defense spending should be pegged to a fixed percentage of America's annual gross domestic product.
But for those who advocate for defense budget reform, the logic of tying the amount of money the United States spends on national security to the performance of the civilian economy has never been clear. Defense spending should be based on the perceived threats and what's needed to combat them, critics of this approach argue. Moreover, they say, the GDP figure is simply not a good measure of what the government can afford, considering the massive national debt and various other pressures on the overall budget.
"Why the number of tanks and ships the Pentagon buys should be tied to the number of Big Mac meals sold at McDonald's is a complete mystery to me," said Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Strauss Military Reform project at the Center for Defense Information.
The Office of Management and Budget's director for national security spending Steve Kosiak, in his prior role as vice president at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, once said that "there is no analytical basis" whatsoever for pegging defense spending to GDP.
In other words, the argument for pegging defense spending to GDP is simply an effort to ensure that defense budgets keep rising in perpetuity. As entitlement spending puts more pressure on the budget, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, military leaders and their congressional allies are concerned that competition for federal dollars will grow. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen have come out in support of a peg.
They argue that the country can afford it, especially when compared with defense spending as a share of GDP during past conflicts: 13-14 percent during the Korean War, 7-9 percent during the Vietnam War, and 37-38 percent during World War II.
A debate over the peg concept erupts each year in Congress. Last year Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ and Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, introduced a joint resolution that would require the defense base budget to equal 4 percent of GDP, at a minimum. Democrats routinely reject the idea.
"I find absolutely no logic whatsoever in using [the 4 percent] number as a starting point," said Democrat Dave Loebsack of Iowa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, at the time. "I don't think it makes any difference what percent of our GDP was devoted to the military in 1953."
For fiscal 2010, the Department of Defense requested $533.8 billion in regular funding, or 3.6 percent of an estimated GDP of $14.6 trillion, according to OMB figures. By 2015, the Pentagon would have to request $764 billion in defense funding, not including the wars, to get to a number that will equal 4 percent of what OMB estimates will be a $19.2 trillion GDP that year. And what if GDP doesn't rise as quickly as predicted or even goes down? Would defense budgets tied to GDP then stay flat or go down as well?
Today, the Commerce Department slashed its estimate of second quarter GDP growth from 2.4 percent to 1.6 percent. Technically, this would mean that defense spending had instantly increased as a share of GDP, even though not one more dollar for defense was actually given, Wheeler pointed out. "The advocates of using share of GDP to measure the adequacy of our defenses are surely celebrating this improvement in the nation's security," said Wheeler. "All others should, of course, feel safer. Don't you?"
8) Media Didn't Buy Petraeus Command's Story of Low Taliban Morale
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Aug 30
Washington - In an effort to introduce a story of "progress" into media coverage, Gen. David Petraeus's command claimed last week that the Taliban is suffering from reduced morale in Marjah and elsewhere, despite evidence that the population of Marjah still believes the Taliban controls that district.
But the news media ignored the command's handout on the story, which did not quote Petraeus.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Aug. 25 news release quoted German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, the ISAF spokesman, as citing intelligence reports of "low insurgent morale, which is affecting their capability across the country."
The release claimed that the Taliban commander in Marjah district, Mullah Niamat, "openly acknowledged to his fellow insurgents that the Taliban is losing Marjah and their chances of winning are poor."
The release cited "intelligence reports" as saying the Taliban leader's assessment was "based on battle losses" and "increased resentment of the insurgent methods by average Afghans".
In response to a request from IPS for details that would substantiate the claim, however, ISAF was unwilling to do so.
The allegation about Marjah is contradicted by a report of a survey conducted by the London-based International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) showing that the population of Marjah still regarded the Taliban as being in control of the district five months after U.S. troops began occupying it.
The ICOS report, is based on 522 interviews with men in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in July - 97 of which were in Marjah district. It shows that 88 of the 97 interviewed in Marjah believe the Taliban controlled the district, whereas only 9 perceive the government as being in control.
If the population of Marjah is "resentful" of Taliban tactics, moreover, they are evidently far more resentful of U.S. tactics in the district. Asked whether the military operation by U.S.-NATO forces in their area was "good or bad for the Afghan people," only 1 of the 97 people said it was good; the other 96 said it was bad.
The alleged admission of incipient defeat by Mullah Niamat and the refusal to provide any direct quotes or other specifics recall another alleged statement by an adversary used by Petraeus's staff in Iraq to make a key political point.
On Jul. 2, 2007, Petraeus's spokesman in Iraq, Gen. Kevin Bergner, told reporters that a Hezbollah detainee, Ali Musa Daqduq, had revealed to interrogators that he been tasked with organizing "special groups" in Iraq for Iran.
The story of Daqduq's alleged admission was part of a larger charge by the U.S. command in Iraq that Iran had organized and was arming and training Shi'a militia groups that had allegedly broken away from Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army.
But Bergner provided no direct quotes from Daqduq to reporters. And in May 2008, another public affairs officer, Col. Donald Bacon, told Associated Press in an e-mail that the Hezbollah operative had actually told interrogators that his role in Iraq was to "assess the quality of training and make recommendations on how the training could be improved."
In fact, as military and intelligence officials privately admitted to pro-war blogger Bill Roggio, the term "special groups" was not an Iranian designation at all; it was created by the U.S. command and applied to any Mahdi Army military commanders and troops who refused to cooperate with the U.S. military.
Both episodes illustrate efforts by the military command to shape the media narrative surrounding the war, as advocated by Petraeus in his 2006 army manual on counterinsurgency.
Noting that the media "directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counterinsurgents", Petraeus referred to "a war of perceptions between insurgents and counterinsurgents conducted continuously using the news media."
Petraeus urged counterinsurgency war "leaders" to carry out "information operations" to "obtain local, regional and international support for COIN operations".
9) Israeli actors to boycott new West Bank theatre
60 actors, writers and directors argue that performing in occupied territories would legitimise illegal settlements
Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Sunday 29 August 2010
Jerusalem - Dozens of Israeli actors, playwrights and directors have signed a letter refusing to take part in productions by leading theatre companies at a new cultural centre in a West Bank settlement, prompting renewed debate over the legitimacy of artistic boycott.
More than 60 have joined the protest over plans by Israel's national theatre, the Habima, and other leading companies to stage performances in Ariel, a settlement 12 miles inside the West Bank. The letter, to Israel's culture minister, Limor Livnat, says the new centre for performing arts in Ariel, which is due to open in November after 20 years in construction, would "strengthen the settlement enterprise".
"We want to express our dismay with the intention of the theatres' managements to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel and hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in the city, as in any other settlement." Israel's theatre companies should "pursue their prolific activity inside the sovereign territory of the state of Israel within the boundaries of the Green Line".
Gideon Levy, a leading liberal Israeli commentator, backed the actors' stance. "Yes, there is a difference between legitimate, sovereign Israel and the areas of its occupation," he wrote in today's Haaretz, which first reported the story. "Yes, there is a moral difference between appearing here and appearing there in the heart of an illegal settlement … built on a plot of stolen land, in a performance designed to help settlers pass their time pleasantly, while surrounded by people who have been deprived of all their rights."
Ariel, home to almost 20,000 people, was founded in 1978 deep in the West Bank. Israel wants it to remain on its side of any border resulting from peace negotiations with the Palestinians. All settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law.
10) Abbas, Palestinians should die: Israeli rabbi
Reuters, Sun Aug 29, 6:03 pm ET http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100829/ts_nm/us_palestinians_israel_rabbi
Jerusalem - An influential Israeli rabbi has said God should strike the Palestinians and their leader with a plague, calling for their death in a fiery sermon before Middle East peace talks set to begin next week.
"Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this earth," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of the religious Shas party in Israel's government, said in a sermon late Saturday, using Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's popular name. "God should strike them and these Palestinians - evil haters of Israel - with a plague," the 89-year-old rabbi said in his weekly address to the faithful, excerpts of which were broadcast on Israeli radio Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments and said Israel wanted to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians that would ensure good neighborly relations. "The comments do not reflect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's view or the position of the government of Israel," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
The United States said Yosef's comments were "inflammatory" and an impediment to peace efforts.
11) Is the US Pulling the Plug on Iraqi Workers?
David Bacon, Truthout, Friday 27 August 2010
Early in the morning of July 21, police stormed the offices of the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, the poverty-stricken capital of Iraq's oil-rich south. A shamefaced officer told Hashmeya Muhsin, the first woman to head a national union in Iraq, that they'd come to carry out the orders of Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to shut the union down. As more police arrived, they took the membership records, the files documenting often-atrocious working conditions, the leaflets for demonstrations protesting Basra's agonizing power outages, the computers and the phones. Finally, Muhsin and her coworkers were pushed out and the doors locked.
Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets from bank accounts to furniture. The order says the ministry will determine what rights have been given to union officers, and take them all away. Anyone who protests, it says, will be arrested under Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.
So ended seven years in which workers in the region's power plants have fought for the right to organize a legal union, to bargain with the electrical ministry, and to stop the contracting-out and privatization schemes that have threatened their jobs.
The Iraqi government, while seemingly paralyzed on many fronts, has unleashed a wave of actions against the country's unions that are intended to take Iraq back to the era when Saddam Hussein prohibited them for most workers, and arrested activists who protested. In just the last few months, the Maliki government has issued arrest warrants for oil union leaders and transferred that union's officers to worksites hundreds of miles from home, prohibited union activity in the oil fields, ports and refineries, forbade unions from collecting dues or opening bank accounts, and even kept leaders from leaving the country to seek support while the government cracks down.
At the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, an official says mildly, "We're looking into it. We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way." Meanwhile, however, while the U.S. command withdraws combat troops from many areas, it is beefing up the military and private-security apparatus it maintains to protect the wave of foreign oil companies coming into Basra to exploit the wealth of Iraq's oil fields.
12) Stop killings of Honduran journalists.
Editorial, Miami Herald, Aug. 27, 2010
Honduran radio reporter Israel Zelaya Díaz was found dead Tuesday night on the side of a rural road in San Pedro Sula, making him at least the eighth journalist killed in that country this year.
If past killings are any guide, his murder will go unsolved. A Committee to Protect Journalists' examination of the cases shows a "pattern of botched and negligent investigative work" - that's if you consider exhuming a body three months after a murder to conduct an outdoor graveside autopsy an "investigation." That was the treatment given to Nahúm Palacios Arteaga, a TV reporter killed in March.
That month proved to be the deadliest for Honduran journalists: One died each week. Disc jockey Luis Antonio Chévez was killed a month later, a murder that - if linked to his work - would raise the death toll to nine.
This string of senseless killings comes at an awkward time for Honduran President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo. Just seven months on the job, Mr. Lobo is struggling to achieve international acceptance for his country. Rival truth commissions are running parallel investigations into the 2009 coup that preceded his election, and activists are still waiting for justice in murder cases linked to last year's crisis.
Mr. Lobo is eager to peddle the public image that Honduras is back in business after the June 2009 upheaval crippled the nation's economy for seven months. As long as that nation's journalists continue to live under a cloud of fear and uncertainty, Mr. Lobo's hopes for his country are bound to remain unfulfilled.
If Mr. Lobo really wants to improve Honduras' image, he should start by making the journalists' killings a priority and end Honduras' shameful record of sloppy investigations. Inept investigators must be re-trained and provided adequate resources.
Human Rights Minister Ana Pineda suggests the murders are a natural byproduct of the "climate of insecurity created by organized crime and common crime in Central America." While Honduras has the highest per capita murder rate in the world, such comments by top ministers suggest the government may want to sweep the cases under the rug.
There's no evidence that the journalists were victims of a government death squad, Pineda stresses. Without a rigorous investigation, such blanket statements lack credibility. And even if true, that's no reason to downplay the killings.
The unsolved murders suggest a deeper breakdown of law and order and undermine Honduras' desire to put last year's political violence behind it. Several countries in the region have yet to recognize Mr. Lobo's presidency, and at this rate they're not likely to do so.
Putting a stop to the murders of journalists and resolving the pending cases should be a condition for acceptance in regional groups such as the Organization of American States.
Just Foreign Policy
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.