The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

More Arms For Destroying Syria | Moon of Alabama

Today “officials” are telling U.S. papers that Obama is “moving toward sending lethal arms to Syrian rebels”.

This is just political theater. These papers are conveniently forgetting their own reporting on Syria. The destruction of Syria with the help of jihadist groups has been planned since 2007. The U.S. has been sending arms to the insurgents from the very beginning. It has also run an extensive media campaign to support the insurgency. The U.S. exports grain and other food as “aid” to Syria which is then distributed by extreme radical al-Nusra cells. The first arms to Syria came from the black market, then from Libyan stockpiles, then arms were flown in from Croatia. All by or through U.S. secret services. The deliveries were made by the CIA from its large station in Benghazi, as well as through its stations in Turkey and Jordan. The groups those arms went to were vetted by the CIA and there is evidence that these weapons have also gone to takfiri jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra. There is definitely no reluctance in official U.S. circles to arm anyone, no matter how radical there polices are, who is willing to destroy Syria.

In the end it does not matter whether the arms the CIA delivers are coming from Libyan, Croatian or U.S. stocks. It does not matter to which groups these arms are flowing to. More arms will only have one effect. The further destruction of Syria which the U.S. had planned for from the very beginning of its campaign.

Why Noam Chomsky Can Sound like a Broken Record | Corey Robin

From ABC News (h/t Ali Abunimah)

The U.S. State Department, which spends millions of taxpayer dollars a year on the Honduran National Police, has assured Congress that money only goes to specially vetted and trained units that don’t operate under the direct supervision of a police chief once accused of extrajudicial killings and “social cleansing.”

But The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the “Tiger,” who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

With 91 murders per 100,000 people, the small Central American nation is often called the most violent in the world. An estimated 40 percent of the cocaine headed to the U.S. — and 87 percent of cocaine smuggling flights from South America — pass through Honduras, according to the State Department.

The allegations against Bonilla, along with other concerns about police and military killings, prompted the U.S. Congress to freeze an estimated $30 million in Honduran aid last August. Most has been restored under agreements with the U.S. Department of State over the monitoring of Honduran operations receiving U.S. money.

Dozens of U.S. Congressmen, Leahy chief among them, have been raising concerns for many years about abuses of authority and human rights violations by the Honduran police, a force of 14,000 officers that is considered among the most corrupt in the world.

The AP reported on Sunday that two gang-related people detained by police in January have disappeared, fueling long-standing accusations that the Honduran police operate death squads and engage in “social cleansing.” It also found that in the last three years, Honduran prosecutors have received as many as 150 formal complaints about death squad-style killings in the capital of Tegucigalpa, and at least 50 more in the economic hub of San Pedro Sula.

The country’s National Autonomous University, citing police reports, has counted 149 civilians killed by police in the last two years, including 25 members of the “18th Street” gang, one of the largest and most dangerous in the country.

Eagerly awaiting all the denunciations of Honduras’s human rights record — and US support of it — from the liberals and conservatives who spilled so much ink, and vented so much spleen, on the (by comparison) veritable paradise of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which of course receives no military aid from the US at all and in fact was the target of a US-supported coup. Eagerly awaiting a “haunting” piece of reportage from Jon Lee Anderson. Eagerly awaiting…oh Christ, what’s the point?

I mean seriously, folks: are you surprised Chomsky can sound like a broken record? The guy has been doing God’s work for over a half-century, confronting this kind of deep corruption, moral and political, in our chattering classes. How would you sound after 50 years? I’d have simply given up.

Here’s a thought: if you don’t like the record, change it.

Police Death Squads in Honduras - Then and Now | Upside Down World

… In remarks to World Politics Review, Bertha Oliva, founder of the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH) called for

“a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Honduras,” ahead of the country’s 2013 presidential elections. “It is also important that important actors in the U.S. are monitoring the situation, to help moderate the behavior of the revived death squads, which are alive and extremely active in Honduras right now.”

Oliva also noted that “there is ‘more focused and targeted violence and more complete impunity’ in Honduras now than when she founded the group,” and that the June 2009 coup against the democratically-elected government of Manuel Zelaya had resulted in “an intensification of violence that is growing dramatically.”

… [E]xtra-judicial killings of drug suspects in the Moskitia region – and infamously of four civilians – have raised questions over protocol, procedure, chain of command and the precise nature of U.S. government cooperation with Honduran police and military forces in anti-drug trafficking efforts elsewhere in Honduras. It was “vetted” police that were involved in the killings of the civilians. A recent report [PDF] from Rights Action examines the activities of death squads in the Bajo Aguan region as well.

CEPR’s Alex Main explained to World Politics Review’s Catherine Cheney that vulnerable sectors with no known links to drug trafficking are the object of increasing attacks:

Opponents of the government or of powerful figures linked to the government have also been victims of what appear to be targeted assassinations, Main said, as have journalists, gay rights activists and others.

According to press materials from the State Department and Honduran press reports, the U.S. government is committing an additional $10.3 million to help train and equip police, including for anti-gang activities, for a total of $16.3 million.

Deep budget cuts won't impact Israel aid: Hagel | Al Akhbar

New secretary, same as the old secretary: 

The Pentagon’s new chief held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday and pledged to ensure massive US budget cuts enacted last week have no effect on funding for military assistance to Israel, officials said.

"Secretary Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued US support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

zeitvox:

An advertising drive is expected to take Washington D.C by storm on Monday as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine call on the United States to halt $30 billion of military aid to the Jewish state.
“At a time when the sequester is cutting billions of dollars from programs to help those in need, it is grotesque that AIPAC is lobbying Congress this week for ever-increasing amounts of military aid to Israel, especially as these U.S. weapons are used by Israel—in violation of U.S. laws—to abuse Palestinian human rights” …   >continue<
“I believe my distinguished colleague from Vermont is thinking of mules…”

zeitvox:

An advertising drive is expected to take Washington D.C by storm on Monday as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine call on the United States to halt $30 billion of military aid to the Jewish state.

“At a time when the sequester is cutting billions of dollars from programs to help those in need, it is grotesque that AIPAC is lobbying Congress this week for ever-increasing amounts of military aid to Israel, especially as these U.S. weapons are used by Israel—in violation of U.S. laws—to abuse Palestinian human rights” …   >continue<

“I believe my distinguished colleague from Vermont is thinking of mules…”

Kerry says US releasing millions in aid to Egypt | The Guardian

After demonstrating their commitment to human rights and democracy:

CAIRO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration is rewarding the Egyptian government with financial aid because of Cairo’s promises of economic and political reforms.

Kerry says the U.S. is providing $190 million immediately as part of a larger pledge of $450 million over time.

Kerry says the money reflects Egypt’s “extreme needs” and President Mohammed Morsi’s commitment to satisfying conditions to close a $4.8 billion package of International Monetary Fund loans.

Kerry also says that a separate $60 million is for a new fund to provide direct support to Egyptian entrepreneurs and young people.

The announcement of the aid came after Kerry’s meeting Sunday with Morsi.

I meant their commitment to pay off the IMF. Scratch the first comment.

And another condition - Morsi must maintain the “special relationship” with Israel:

American officials said earlier that Kerry planned to stress the importance of upholding Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel, cracking down on weapons smuggling to extremists in the Gaza Strip and policing the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula while continuing to play a positive role in Syria’s civil war.

The 'both-sides-are-awful' dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government | Glenn Greenwald

… [T]his “both-sides-are-hideous” mentality is not what drives the actions of the US government. Quite the contrary: the US government is as partisan and loyal a supporter of one side of this conflict as one can possibly be. So if people want to rail against anyone who has convictions about one side or the other - [Charles] Pierce: “The only people who make me more ill than the two active sides in this endless slaughter are the people far from the killing grounds who are so very goddamn sure they know what to do … I hate the cheering squads over here today” - then the place to begin is with the US government, the Obama administration, whose unstinting, multi-faceted support for and enabling of Israel is central to all of this.

Pierce does say that “I wish American arms and American dollars weren’t being used to demolish entire impoverished neighborhoods,” but in the next breath asks: “People are waiting for the president to do something, but what is to be done?” But he answered his own question: the US need not be, and should not be, such an active, one-sided participant in this aggression. That one should vehemently condemn rocket attacks on civilians and bombs on Tel Aviv buses outside of an Israeli military facility does not mean sanctioning the years-long fueling of the Israeli side of this conflict by the US government.

If one wants to try to wash one’s hands of this entire matter by declaring both sides equally culpable, that’s fine. But doing so requires an acknowledgment that the US government is doing nothing of the sort. It is fueling, funding and feeding the Israeli war machine, and, with its own militaristic conduct, is legitimizing the premises of Israeli aggression.

This is exactly what I was referencing when I wrote on Saturday that one must stop pretending that the US is some sort of helpless, uninvolved party in this war between two distant, foreign entities. That is complete fiction. If an American citizen really wants to advocate for neutrality on the ground that both sides are equally horrible and they’re sick of the whole conflict and wish it would all just go away, then the place to begin with that advocacy is US government policy which, as unpleasant as it might be to face, has long been, and remains more than ever, a key force that drives the bloodshed. [++]

Israel-Gaza Ceasefire Comes with Pledge from Obama to Seek More Defense Aid for Israel | Kevin Gosztola

[…] The blockade or siege of Gaza was not part the terms of the ceasefire. Hamas leaders had pushed for that to be included in the ceasefire. Both Egyptian and Hamas leaders had included that in the ceasefire proposal sent to Israel yesterday. Israel rejected that along with a demand that targeted assassinations of people like Hamas leaders end. The bombing of Gaza re-intensified until less than twenty-four hours later there was this announced ceasefire.

As the New York Times reported, Clinton flew to Egypt yesterday to “consult with Egyptian officials in contact with Hamas” and, after this meeting, the demand for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza was entirely absent from the announcement and unmentioned as something that would be specifically addressed in the days ahead.

The statement from President Barack Obama’s administration that was given to the press indicated the administration would “use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.” President Obama would also seek ”additional funding for Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs.” According toHaaretz, this was part of conversations that led Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide to give a ceasefire “a chance” to possibly help “stabilize” the situation “before exerting more force.”

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released in March of this year detailed, “The Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency’s FY2013 request for joint U.S.-Israeli co-development is $99.8 million which is $6 million below the President’s FY2012 request. However, according to one source, ‘Though the administration’s request for missile defense monies has dropped somewhat in recent years—from $121.7m. in 2011 to $106.1m. in 2012 to 2013’s $99.8m.—during each of those cycles, Congress has consistently increased the final allocation.” In July, Obama approved $70 million more in aid for Iron Dome.

Essentially, the Obama administration is providing Israel with an incentive to restore nothing more than the status quo. The status quo is what is fueling the cycles of violence. The blockade, arbitrary detention and the policies of apartheid, including issues over water and food distribution, freedom of movement, etc, should be understood as part of what creates an environment where Palestinians are moved to respond to Israel with violence. [++]

text of the agreement

Obama Administration’s Complicity in Permitting Israel to Escalate Its Bombing of Gaza | Kevin Gosztola

From 1998 to 2005, the United States accounted for the vast majority of Israel’s arms transfer agreements, which according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) added up to $9.1 billion out of $9.5 billion worth of agreements. In 2012, the US sent $3.1 billion in military aid and is expected to continue to send that amount to Israel each year until at least 2018.

The complicity of the United States and its role in perpetuating violence is critical. The government’s propensity to side with Israel (in this instance, the Obama administration), contribute millions of dollars in military aid per day and disregard the Israeli naval blockade, its occupation, its policy of arbitrary detention, the settlements and the tension and suffering created over issues of water distribution, border rights and freedom of movement only makes everything worse and fosters a climate where the world is more likely to see violent resistance from Palestinians.

Following Operation Cast Lead, Amnesty International reported, “After the start of the current conflict and reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law by the IDF in Gaza, the US authorities continued to authorize large consignments of US munitions, including white phosphorus munitions, to Israel.” Not only did Amnesty International call for the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Hamas but it called for an arms embargo on ”all parties to the conflict.” This, of course, was completely disregarded by the Obama administration.

Sara Roy, senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, wrote in June 2009, months after Operation Cast Lead:

…Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers.This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it.. The Israeli occupation—now largely forgotten or denied by the international community—has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006. Although economic restrictions actually increased before Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, the deepened sanction regime and siege subsequently imposed by Israel and the international community, and later intensified in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, has all but destroyed the local economy. If there has been a pronounced theme among the many Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who I have interviewed in the last three years, it was the fear of damage to Gaza’s society and economy so profound that billions of dollars and generations of people would be required to address it—a fear that has now been realized.

….In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.

One powerful expression of Gaza’s economic demise—and the Gazans’ indomitable will to provide for themselves and their families—is its burgeoning tunnel economy that emerged long ago in response to the siege. Thousands of Palestinians are now employed digging tunnels into Egypt—around 1,000 tunnels are reported to exist although not all are operational. According to local economists, 90 percent of economic activity in Gaza—once considered a lower middle-income economy (along with the West Bank)—is presently devoted to smuggling.

Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs.According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.

Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006… [emphasis added]

All of the above should be considered a “precipitating” factor in the current cycle. To the extent that this continues, extreme violence from factions of Palestinians is guaranteed to occur. [++]