White House Protest Corps


US soldier in WikiLeaks massacre video: “I relive this every day”
By Bill Van Auken
28 April 2010

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/apr2010/emcc-a28.shtml

Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, who is seen running with an Iraqi child in his arms in the video posted by WikiLeaks of a July 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad, talked to the World Socialist Web Site about the impact of this and similar experiences in Iraq.

The video, which records the shocking deaths of at least 12 individuals, including two Iraqi journalists employed by Reuters, has been viewed more than 6 million times on the Internet.

McCordEthan McCord

McCord, together with another former member of the company, Josh Stieber, have addressed an open “Letter of Reconciliation” to the Iraqi people taking responsibility for their role in this incident and other acts of violence. Both soldiers deployed to Iraq in 2007 and left the Army last year.

In the letter, McCord and Stieber said, “…we acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones.” They insisted that “the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how US-led wars are carried out in this region.”

The night before speaking to the WSWS, Ethan McCord had learned that the widow of one of the dozen men killed—the father of the two children he tried to rescue—had forgiven him and Stieber for their role in the incident.

Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, 33, told the Times of London: “I can accept their apology, because they saved my children and if it were not for them, maybe my two little children would be dead.”

Her husband, Saleh Mutashar Tuman, had arrived on the scene of the carnage caused by a US Apache helicopter firing into a crowd and attempted to aid the wounded. The helicopter opened fire again, killing him and at least one wounded man and wounding his two children, who were sitting in his van.

The widow urged the two former soldiers to continue to speak out. “I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.”

Can you explain why you and Josh Stieber wrote the “Letter of Reconciliation” to the Iraqi people?

We originally wanted it to go to the family members of those involved that day in the WikiLeaks video. Then in turn we wanted it to be more along the lines of to all Iraqi people as well. We wanted the Iraqi people to know that not everybody sees them as being dehumanized and that there are plenty of Americans and other people who care for them as human beings and wish for them to live long and happy lives and don’t agree with the war and the policies behind it.

I just found out last night that the letter was shown to the family, the children and the mother as well. She has forgiven myself and Josh and is very happy to see the work that Josh and I are doing. There was a London Times reporter who went there to see what they felt about the letter. And there is one comment from the mother that she could forgive me because if it wasn’t for me her children might be dead.

That must make you feel pretty good.

Definitely, but it doesn’t stop there for me or for Josh. We are definitely going to continue speaking out on this and do everything we can to have our voices heard about the policies, the rules of engagement and the war. As well, we are hoping to set up a trust fund for the children, as we know that they’ve had a pretty rough life afterward due to the injuries and whatnot. Hopefully, it will get them some medical care.

Could you describe the events of that day and what your platoon was doing?

It was much like many of the days in Iraq. The neighborhood we were in was pretty volatile; at least it was on the rise, with IED emplacements and with our platoons being shot at with RPGs and sniper fire. We didn’t know who was attacking us. It was never actually really clear, at least in my eyes, who the supposed “enemy” was.

We were conducting what were called knock-and-searches, where we would knock on the doors of the homes and search for documents pertaining to militias or any weapons they weren’t supposed to have or any bomb-making materials. We didn’t really find anything at all.

We were getting ready to wrap up at about one o’clock in the afternoon. We started to funnel into an alleyway and started to take small arms fire from rooftops from AK-47s. We didn’t know what was happening with the Apache helicopters. They were attached to us from another unit to watch over us for this mission, which was called “Ranger Dominance.”

We could hear them open fire, but those of us who were on the ground, outside of the vehicles, had no idea what was taking place. We couldn’t hear the radio chatter and we were pretty caught up in our own situation.

When that situation was neutralized, we were told to walk up onto the scene. I was one of about six soldiers who were dismounted to first arrive on the scene.

What did you see when you got there?

It was pretty much absolute carnage. I had never seen anybody shot by a 30-millimeter round before, and frankly don’t ever want to see that again. It almost seemed unreal, like something out of a bad B-horror movie. When these rounds hit you they kind of explode—people with their heads half-off, their insides hanging out of their bodies, limbs missing. I did see two RPGs on the scene as well as a few AK-47s.

But then I heard the cries of a child. They weren’t necessarily cries of agony, but more like the cries of a small child who was scared out of her mind. So I ran up to the van where the cries were coming from. You can actually see in the scenes from the video where another soldier and I come up to the driver and the passenger sides of the van.

The soldier I was with, as soon as he saw the children, turned around, started vomiting and ran. He didn’t want any part of that scene with the children anymore.

What I saw when I looked inside the van was a small girl, about three or four years old. She had a belly wound and glass in her hair and eyes. Next to her was a boy about seven or eight years old who had a wound to the right side of the head. He was laying half on the floorboard and half on the bench. I presumed he was dead; he wasn’t moving.

Next to him was who I presumed was the father. He was hunched over sideways, almost in a protective way, trying to protect his children. And you could tell that he had taken a 30-millimeter round to the chest. I pretty much knew that he was deceased.

I grabbed the little girl and yelled for a medic. Me and the medic ran into the houses behind where the van crashed to check whether there were any other wounds. I was trying to take as much glass out of her eyes as I could. We dressed the wound and then the medic ran the girl to the Bradley. You can hear in the video where he says, “there’s nothing else I can do here; we need to evacuate the child.”

I then went back outside and went to the van. I don’t know why. I thought both of them were dead, but something told me to go back. That’s when I saw the boy move with what appeared to be a labored breath. So I stated screaming, “The boy’s alive.” I grabbed him and cradled him in my arms and kept telling him, “Don’t die, don’t die.” He opened his eyes, looked up at me. I told him, “It’s OK, I have you.” His eyes rolled back into his head, and I kept telling him, “It’s OK, I’ve got you.” I ran up to the Bradley and placed him inside.

My platoon leader was standing there at the time, and he yelled at me for doing what I did. He told me to “stop worrying about these motherfucking kids and start worrying about pulling security.” So after that I went up and pulled security on a rooftop.

Did you face further repercussions for what you did that day?

After coming back to the FOB [forward operating base], nobody really talked about what had happened that day. Everybody went to their rooms; they were tired. Some of them went to make phone calls. And I was in my room because I had to clean the blood off of my IBA [body armor] and my uniform—the blood from these children. And I was having a flood of emotions and having a real hard time dealing with having seen children this way, as I’m sure most caring human beings would.

So I went to see a staff sergeant who was in my chain of command and told him I needed to see mental health about what was going on in my head. He told me to “quit being a pussy” and to “suck it up and be a soldier.” He told me that if I wanted to go to mental health, there would be repercussions, one of them being labeled a “malingerer,” which is actually a crime in the US Army.

For fear of that happening to me, I in turn went back to my room and tried to bottle up as much emotion as I could and pretty much just suck it up and drive on.

You had another nine months or more still to go in your tour then?

That’s right. It was a pretty long time with having to deal with the emotions, not only of that, but of many other days. What happened then was not an isolated incident. Stuff like that happens on a daily basis in Iraq.

Are there other incidents that took place in the following months of your tour that bear this out?

Yes. Our rules of engagement were changing on an almost daily basis. But we had a pretty gung-ho commander, who decided that because we were getting hit by IEDs a lot, there would be a new battalion SOP [standard operating procedure].

He goes, “If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street.” Myself and Josh and a lot of other soldiers were just sitting there looking at each other like, “Are you kidding me? You want us to kill women and children on the street?”

And you couldn’t just disobey orders to shoot, because they could just make your life hell in Iraq. So like with myself, I would shoot up into the roof of a building instead of down on the ground toward civilians. But I’ve seen it many times, where people are just walking down the street and an IED goes off and the troops open fire and kill them.

During this period were you conscious that you were suffering from post-traumatic stress?

Yes I knew, because I would be angry at everyone and everything and at myself even more. I would watch movies and listen to music as much as possible just to escape reality. I didn’t really talk to many people.

The other problem I had is that before the incident shown in the WikiLeaks video, I was the gung-ho soldier. I thought I was going over there to do the greater good. I thought my job over there was to protect the Iraqi people and that this was a job with honor and courage and duty.

I was hit by an IED within two weeks of my being in Iraq. And I didn’t understand why people were throwing rocks at us, why I was being shot at and why we’re being blown up, when I have it in my head that I was here to help these people.

But the first real serious doubt, where I could no longer justify to myself being in Iraq or serving in the Army, was on that day in July 2007.

How did you come to join the military?

I had always wanted to be in the military, even as a child. My grandfather and my uncles were military. Then September 11 happened, and I decided it was my duty as an American to join the military, so that’s what I did in 2002. I joined the Navy. In 2005, when the Army had what they called “Operation Blue to Green,” pulling sailors and airmen into the Army with bigger bonuses, I made a lateral transfer.

I had pretty much had it in my head that I was going to make a career out of the military. But going to Iraq and dealing with the Army completely changed my outlook.

What was your reaction when you saw the WikiLeaks video?

Shock. I had dropped my children off at school one morning, came home and turned on MSNBC, and there I am running across the screen carrying a child.

I knew immediately it was me. I know the scene. It is burned into my head. I relive it almost every day. It was just a shock that it was up there, and it angered me. I was angry because it was in my face again.

I had actually started to get a little bit better before the tape was released. I wasn’t thinking about it as often; it was getting a little bit easier to go to sleep. But then everything that I had buried and pushed away came bubbling back to the surface. And the nightmares began again, the anger, the feeling of being used. It all came back. It wasn’t a good feeling; it was like a huge slap in the face.

Do you think that the way you were told to forget about the kids and suck it up is indicative of the general culture in the military?

Yes, there is such a stigma placed on soldiers seeking mental health. It’s like you’re showing a huge sign of weakness for needing to speak about things or for seeking help even for getting to sleep. There’s fear of being chastised or being made fun of. So you end up self-medicating on alcohol. And as you probably know, alcohol is a depressant and just makes it worse.

I was self-medicating when I came home, and I was hospitalized in a mental institute by the Army because of my problems with PTSD and self-medication.

There were many times when I felt that I could no longer take what was going on in my head and the best thing for me to do would be to put a bullet in my head. But each time I thought about that, I would look at the pictures of my children and think back on that day and how the father of those children was taken away and how horrible it must be for them. And if I were to do that, I would be putting my children in the same position.

Do you think that the pressure to bury these problems is driven by a fear that if you are allowed to question your own experiences, it can call into question the nature of the war itself?

I was not able to talk about it, not able to get answers to like how I was feeling about this, why were we doing this, what are we doing here? It was just straight up, “You’re going to do this, and you’re going to shut up about it.”

Soldiers aren’t mindless drones. They have feelings. They have emotions. You can’t just make them go out and do something without telling them, this is why we’re doing it. And the pressure just builds up.

You hear in the video the Apache helicopter crew saying some things that are pretty heart-wrenching and cold. I’m guilty of it too. We all are. It’s kind of a coping mechanism. You feel bad at the time for what you did and you take those emotions and push them down. That’s what the Army teaches you to do, just push them down. And in a sense it works. It helps you get through the hard times. But unfortunately, there’s no outlet for that anymore, once you get out of the Army. When you get back home, there’s no one to joke around with, nobody you can talk to about these instances.

What happens to that soldier? He’s going to blow up. And when he blows up, more than likely it’s going to be on his family, his close friends or on himself. So I think that’s why soldiers end up killing themselves.

So a terrible price is being paid for this war in the US itself?

Yes, I feel that just as the Iraqis, the soldiers are victims of this war as well. Like we say in our letter to the Iraqis, the government is ignoring them and it is also ignoring us. Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do. Getting angry and calling these soldiers names and saying how callous and cold-hearted they are isn’t going to change the system.

What do you think drives this system? Why are they sent to do this?

As far as the hidden agenda behind the war, I couldn’t even begin to guess what that is. I do know that the system is being driven by some people with pretty low morals and values, and they attempt to instill those values in the soldiers.

But the people who are driving the system don’t have to deal with the repercussions. It’s the American people who have to deal with them. They’re the ones who have to deal with all of these soldiers who come back from war, have no outlets and blow up.

I still live with this every day. When I close my eyes I see what happened that day and many other days like a slide show in my head. The smells come back to me. The cries of the children come back to me. The people driving this big war machine, they don’t have to deal with this. They live in their $36 million mansions and sleep well at night.

Were you hopeful that with the 2008 election these kinds of things would be brought to a halt. Were you disappointed that they have continued and escalated?

I am not part of any party. Was I hopeful? Yes. Was I surprised that we are still there? No. I’m not surprised at all. There’s something else lying underneath there. It’s not Republican or Democrat; it’s money. There’s something else lying underneath it where Republicans and Democrats together want to keep us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am hopeful that the video and our speaking out will help. There’s the old adage that war is hell, but I don’t think people really understand just what a hell war is. Until you see it first-hand, you don’t really know what’s going on. Like I said, this video shows you an every-day occurrence in Iraq, and I can only assume, in Afghanistan. So I hope people wake up and see the actual hells of war.

The video can be viewed below:




Hands off WikiLeaks!

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/pers-j14.shtml

Pentagon officials have announced the detention of Army private Bradley Manning, as well as stepped-up efforts to locate Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks web site, in a security crackdown sparked by the release of politically damaging video of a US military massacre in Iraq.

On June 7, Defense Department officials confirmed that Manning was in confinement in Kuwait “for allegedly releasing classified information.” Three days later, Pentagon investigators told the web site Daily Beast that they were looking for Assange in connection with the Manning investigation. The Australian-born WikiLeaks founder had scheduled speaking engagements in New York City and Las Vegas last week, but canceled them, citing “security considerations.”

WikiLeaks, which solicits leaks of government and corporate criminality worldwide and makes them public to a global audience on the Internet, published a decrypted and edited version of the video footage in April, using a special web site entitled “Collateral Murder.” The original video was shot by the US military in 2007 in the course of a helicopter assault in eastern Baghdad which left some 15 people dead, including two Reuters journalists.

The video and the accompanying voiceover of radio traffic, in which American soldiers joked about exterminating Iraqis, sparked widespread international outrage and a furious counterattack by the American military/intelligence apparatus. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denounced the release of the video, although he conceded that the footage was produced by the US military and had not been doctored.

According to press accounts, Manning was detained May 26 after he made the mistake of confiding in an online acquaintance, Adrian Lamo, an experienced hacker. Manning told Lamo that, in the course of his work as an Army military intelligence analyst at Forward Operating Base Hammer, east of Baghdad, he had been able to acquire a vast stockpile of internal military and State Department documents and communications, including the original footage from which “Collateral Murder” was produced. Lamo turned Manning in to the Army and FBI.

Manning is reportedly being held at a military facility in Kuwait. Several computer hard drives taken from him arrived in Washington Thursday and are now being analyzed by government computer experts to determine what documents Manning downloaded and what he did with them.

Manning enlisted in the Army in 2007 and held a Top Secret/SCI clearance. He reportedly told Lamo that he had been looking through military and government networks for more than a year and found “incredible things, awful things… that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC.”

Besides the video which became “Collateral Murder,” Manning said he supplied WikiLeaks with a second video showing a May 2009 US air strike near the village of Garani in Afghanistan, in which more than 100 people were killed, including many children.

The main focus of the military/FBI investigation is Manning’s claim to have downloaded some 260,000 secret diplomatic cables, which he described as showing “almost criminal political back dealings.” Manning added, according to an e-mail to Lamo, “Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public.”

WikiLeaks has denied being in possession of the 260,000 secret cables. Assange has reportedly offered to help finance Manning’s legal defense.

The detention of Manning and the pursuit of Assange must be opposed by all those who defend democratic rights. The American people, and the people of the entire world, have a right to know of the crimes committed by the American military/intelligence apparatus under the orders of the American president.

The attack on WikiLeaks and its collaborators is part of a broader security crackdown by the Obama administration. As reported by the New York Times this week, the White House has decided to go ahead with the prosecution of Thomas Drake, a whistleblower at the National Security Agency, who sought to expose financial mismanagement at the NSA by providing information to a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

According to the Times article, “The indictment of Mr. Drake was the latest evidence that the Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks. In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions.”

This stepped-up crackdown on leaks came the same week as the issuance of a report by Physicians for Human Rights that doctors working for the CIA collaborated with interrogators who conducted torture of prisoners. The doctors monitored the torture sessions to make sure the prisoners did not die—so they could be interrogated and tortured further—and to refine the methods used to make them more painful and effective. The report’s title speaks for itself: “Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program.”

The Obama administration is striving to plug leaks, not out of concern that the lives of American soldiers could be endangered, as it habitually claims, but for the same reasons that motivated the Bush administration: top government officials—in the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and in the White House itself—could face war crimes charges, either in the United States or before an international tribunal, based on the evidence produced by such revelations.

Relatives of those killed in the helicopter gunship attack in Iraq criticized Manning’s detention. Nabil Noor-Eldeen, whose brother Namir was one of the Reuters employees killed in the assault, told the press, “Justice was what this US soldier did by uncovering this crime against humanity. The American military should reward him, not arrest him.”

Manning is not a criminal, but someone evidently motivated by revulsion against the crimes committed by “his” military and “his” government. The World Socialist Web Site joins with all those demanding that Manning be released without any charges being brought against him. We further demand the dropping of all efforts to investigate and suppress the activities of Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks activists.

Patrick Martin

The author also recommends:

Leaked video shows US military killing of two Iraqi journalists
[7 August 2010]

Following exposure of military massacre in Iraq: The New York Times fingers whistleblower WikiLeaks
[8 April 2010]

US soldier in WikiLeaks massacre video: “I relive this every day”
[28 April 2010]



German Activists File War Crimes Complaints Against Israel

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,700127,00.html

By John Goetz

Left Party parliamentarians Annette Groth (l.) and Inge Höger (r.)  together with human rights activist Norman Paech (c.).

Left Party parliamentarians Annette Groth (l.) and Inge Höger (r.) together with human rights activist Norman Paech (c.).

Public prosecutors in Germany are looking into a war crimes complaint filed against Israel by two members of parliament with the far-left Left Party and a human rights activist who were on board the Mavi Marmara when Israeli troops stormed it 11 days ago.

Eleven days ago, the Israeli military stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists toward the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade. Now, it has become a case for German prosecutors.

Human rights activist Norman Paech and two German parliamentarians from the far-left Left Party, Annette Groth and Inge Höger, have filed criminal complaints for “numerous potential offences, including war crimes against individuals and command responsibility … as well as false imprisonment.”

At 5:10 a.m. on May 31, the complaint reads, Höger, Groth and Paech heard from the captain of the Mavi Marmara via the ship’s loudspeaker that the Israeli soldiers who had boarded the ship as part of the commando operation were taking over control of the ship. An hour later, Israeli soldiers ordered the Germans on deck, where their backpacks and other belongings were searched. Their hands were temporarily bound.

German Jurisdiction?

It wasn’t until 9:10 p.m. that parliamentarian Annette Groth was given the possibility of contacting the German Embassy. At 2 a.m. on June 1, the Germans were brought to the airport in a prisoner transport vehicle for their flight back home.

According to international criminal law expert Florian Jessberger of Berlin’s Humboldt University, “there is cause to believe that false imprisonment was perpetrated as understood by German law.” He says that German criminal law would have jurisdiction “irrespective of the fact that the act was perpetrated on the high seas.”

German public prosecutors told SPIEGEL ONLINE that they were currently investigating whether there was enough evidence to warrant pursuing the case further.

‘Barbaric’

The Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists onboard the ship, unleashed a storm of criticism against Israel and its ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. It has also severely damaged Israel’s relations with Turkey.

The blockade began in 2007 after the Islamist militants from Hamas took over power in Gaza. Israel claims that many of those traveling with the flotilla had ties to Hamas or other terrorist groups, but the activists deny the charge.

Upon returning home to Germany, Höger told reporters that “we felt like we were in a war, like we had been kidnapped.” Her colleague Groth spoke of a “barbaric act.”



David Cameron: ‘No more UK troops for Afghan war’
June 10, 2010, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a news conference in Kabul on June 10.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=129872&sectionid=351021806
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will not send any more troops to Afghanistan amid a surge in Taliban attacks against the foreign forces in the country.

In a press conference in Kabul, Cameron said Afghanistan is his government’s most important foreign policy and national security issue.

But he underscored that sending more troops is not on the UK’s agenda.

Since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, 292 British soldiers have been killed. Polls show most of Britons want UK troops to return home immediately.

Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly based in the south of the country.

Cameron also promised to provide 98 million dollars in extra funding for the violence-wracked country. He said the money will be used to build up the Afghan army and civil services.

The British premier added that the funds will be used to help UK troops counter the threat of roadside bombs.

The occupation of the country was undertaken, supposedly, to wipe out the militancy and bring peace to the population.

However, nine years on, despite the presence of over 130,000 foreign troops, Afghanistan remains volatile and unstable.



Citizen’s Arrest of War Criminal George W. Bush: Court Case in Canada
Anti-Bush Protester Handed Fine, One-Year Probation
by Daryl Slade
// <![CDATA[//
// <![CDATA[//
Global Research, June 10, 2010
Calgary Herald – 2010-06-07

CALGARY — A Chase, B.C., man will not go to jail after being convicted of obstructing a peace officer while protesting former U.S. president George W. Bush’s visit to Calgary last year.

Provincial court Judge Manfred Delong handed a conditional discharge Monday to John Pasquale Boncore, 58, and placed him on probation for a year.

Boncore — who also goes by the name of Splitting the Sky — must make a $1,000 donation to a charity of his choice and pay a $50 victim fine surcharge as conditions of his probation.

Court heard Boncore, who wanted to have Bush arrested as a war criminal, tried to cross a line of city police officers providing security as the former president spoke at the Telus Convention Centre on March 17, 2009.

Boncore told the judge before sentencing that if being fined $1,000 “for trying to apprehend a war criminal of the Bush administration, and possibly stop torture and murder,” then “bring it on.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has worked for many years in aboriginal rights with Boncore, a former resident of Buffalo, N.Y., gave a strong character reference on the man’s behalf during Monday’s hearing.

Outside court, Clark condemned the Bush administration for “the most unspeakable aggression” since the Second World War in starting conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He insisted there shouldn’t be a problem with protesting something you believe in.

“It’s important people see that side of (Bush’s regime),” said Clark. “If (the U.S.) continued this war aggression, it’s going to be a short and difficult future for everybody.”

A defiant Boncore told the judge before sentencing he wasn’t there to incite violence but that he “(believes) in my heart that George W. Bush is a war criminal.”

Crown prosecutor Tracy Davis, who did not seek any jail time, nevertheless called Boncore’s actions that day a well-planned and deliberate action.

Defence lawyer Charles Davison had sought a discharge for his client, who had no prior criminal record and has a good standing in his community.

Delong said the issue did not have anything to do with Boncore’s beliefs but rather what he had done that day.

He called the obstruction a relatively minor offence compared to similar cases.
Global Research Articles by Daryl Slade



The Gaza Blockade Is Illegal and the Flotilla Attack Was an Illegal Act of War
June 5, 2010, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Because the blockade of Gaza itself violates international law, Israel committed an illegal act of war attacking the convoy, regardless of who attacked whom first.

June 5, 2010 |http://www.alternet.org/story/147115/the_gaza_blockade_is_illegal_and_the_flotilla_attack_was_an_illegal_act_of_war

Israeli officials claimed that the IDF commandos who killed and wounded dozens of activists on a humanitarian aid convoy bound for Gaza this week faced a potentially lethal attack, and opened fire in self-defense. Eyewitnesses on board tell a different story, saying the special forces troops fired on the ships before boarding, weren’t in fact attacked and were unrestrained in their hostility. The question of who attacked whom is irrelevant, however, according to experts in international law. The blockade itself is illegal, and therefore Israel had no right to board those ships in the first place. It renders the argument over culpability moot. Israel committed an illegal act of war attacking the convoy, regardless of who tried to draw “first blood.”

Israeli officials claim that the Jewish state is at war with Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip. On that basis, officials say Israel has a right to intercept shipping in and out of Gaza under the law of war. In an opinion piece AIPAC has been pushing to reporters this week, Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that “blockades are quite legal,” and compared the Gaza siege to the Anglo-U.S. blockades of Germany and Japan during World War Two. “Only knee-jerk left-wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute this,” wrote Gelb sneeringly. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., echoed the World War Two comparison.

The parallel is entirely false. Gaza is not an independent state at war with Israel. Gaza is occupied by Israel, and, as such, an entirely different set of international laws apply. As UC Hastings legal scholar George Bisharat explained this week, the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the ground in Gaza is immaterial, as the area remains under Israel’s “effective control” — it’s a remote occupation but an occupation nonetheless.

Under customary international law that Israel accepts as binding … a territory is “occupied” when foreign forces exercise “effective control” over it, whether accomplished through the continuous presence of ground troops or not.

Israel patrols the territorial waters and airspace of the Gaza Strip, regulates Gaza’s land borders, restricts internal movements by excluding Gazans from a “buffer zone” that includes 46 percent of the strip’s agricultural land, and controls the Gaza Strip’s supplies of electricity, heating oil, and petrol. Together these factors amount to remote but “effective control.”

According to Bisharat, this is not a matter of dispute. “The Gaza Strip remains occupied,” he wrote, “as the United Nations, the U.S. government and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all recognized.” Hamas controls the ground within Gaza, but Israel controls Gaza.

There are two important ramifications to this. First, a blockade that restricts the local population’s access to vital goods violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifies that an occupying force has a legally binding duty to protect an occupied population. Bisharat explained it like this:

Israel has authority to halt arms imports into the Gaza Strip. But it also owes a general duty of protection to civilians under its control, and has specific duties to allow them access to adequate food and medical supplies, and to maintain public health standards – duties it has deliberately violated in imposing the siege on Gaza. Currently 77.2 percent of Gaza Palestinians either face or are vulnerable to hunger …

Moreover, collective punishment is specifically barred under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that the objective of the blockade is to weaken the Gaza economy and undermine support for Hamas. That is a political, not a military, objective, and it is impermissible under international law to target innocent civilians to achieve nonmilitary goals.

The second point pertains to the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. As Bisharat notes, “Actions taken to enforce an illegal siege cannot themselves be legal.” The Israel commandos were transported 70 miles offshore, into international waters. There, they attacked a civilian vessel flagged to an allied state — a NATO member — and killed and wounded some yet unclarified number of activists whose journey was motivated by their opposition to the blockade.

It was not an act of “piracy,” because the Israeli troops were operating under the flag of a nation-state. Because the blockade violates international law, and Israel had no military justification for boarding her with special forces troops, it rather constituted an “illegal act of war.” Craig Murray, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, called the legal situation “very plain”:

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean … that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

After perpetrating an act of war on Turkey, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, among the most extreme figures to serve in any Israeli government, said of the attack: “We didn’t start this provocation, we did not send bullies with knives and metal rods to Turkey… In this case, the entire blame, all of it, from beginning to end, is that of Turkey.”

They didn’t in fact  send “bullies” to Turkey armed with “knives and metal rods”; according to Craig Murray, they sent a heavily armed special forces team to Turkey — the deck of that ship represented Turkish “soil.”

A final point. Israeli leaders say they have no animosity towards the people of Gaza. Some of Israel’s defenders have suggested that it’s relatively easy to get goods in and out of the territory; that Israel simply wants to “inspect shipments for arms.” So it’s important to note just how deeply damaging the blockade has been for the people of Gaza.

Foreign Policy Magazine compiled a large volume of information from reports issued by the United Nations and various NGOs working in Gaza. Just a few highlights:

  • Electricity: In 2006, Israel carried out an attack on Gaza’s only power plant and never permitted the rebuilding to its pre-attack capacity…. The majority of houses have power cuts at least eight hours per day. Some have no electricity for long as 12 hours a day. The lack of electricity has led to reliance on generators, many of which have exploded from overwork, killing and maiming civilians.
  • Water: Israel has not permitted supplies into the Gaza Strip to rebuild the sewage system. Amnesty International reports that 90-95 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated and unfit for consumption.
  • Health: According to UN OCHA, infrastructure for 15 of 27 of Gaza’s hospitals, 43 of 110 of its primary care facilities, and 29 of its 148 ambulances were damaged or destroyed during the war. Without rebuilding materials like cement and glass due to Israeli restrictions, the vast majority of the destroyed health infrastructure has not been rebuilt.
  • Food: A 2010 World Health Organization report stated that “chronic malnutrition in the Gaza Strip has risen over the past few years and has now reached 10.2%. … According to UN OCHA: “Over 60 percent of households are now food insecure …
  • Industry:  A World Health Organization report from this year states: “In the Gaza Strip, private enterprise is practically at a standstill as a consequence of the blockade. Almost all (98%) industrial operations have been shut down.

Israeli officials are correct that the state has a right to defend itself. Every nation does. But it has no right to commit war crimes in mounting that defense. The European Union has condemned the blockade of Gaza as a form of  “collective punishment,”  a serious violation of international law. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia’s summary of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and World War II… In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance… The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility.

Israeli officials often invoke the image of rockets reining down on Israel from Gaza as justification for their aggressive policies. While they represent a modest threat — fewer people died in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in all of 2008 than perished in a few hours during the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla — they are terrifying and constitute a war crime. Yet punishing the population rather than the militants who fired those rockets is a war crime as well. Approximately half of the population of Gaza are under 18 years of age.

Matt Yglesias noted that Israel’s defenders have described the blockade “as some kind of narrow effort to prevent arms smuggling,” but adds: “this simply isn’t what’s going on.” “The objective,” he wrote, “is to make life in Gaza miserable.”

Yglesias linked to Peter Beinart arguing that, as far as Israel’s government is concerned, “the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.”

This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch.

Beinart concluded that the deaths on the Freedom Flotilla were not the fault of the Israeli commandos who boarded those ships in the dead of night (a position I’m not necessarily endorsing), but of “the Israeli leaders who oversee the Gaza embargo, and with Israel’s American supporters, who have averted their eyes.”

For more on the status of the latest ship to head for Gaza, the Irish vessel MV Rachel Corrie, click here.



Australia: Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Adopts BDS

Australia: Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Adopts BDS

Posted by RORCoalition on Tue, 05/11/2010 – 21:00

The CFMEU (Construction Forestry, Mining and Electricity Union) national executive have a adopted a position supporting selective BDS. This means the union has become first Union in Australia to adopt a national postion on BDS.

Palestinian Resolution of the CFMEU National Executive Committee – May 12, 2010

The CFMEU National Executive in October 2009 discussed the latest state of affairs regarding the longstanding Israeli/Palestinian conflict and considered information regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) approach being adopted by some national trade union centres.

The CFMEU Executive resolved to invite the Palestinian Ambassador to Australia to address the CFMEU’s NEC and then consider our union’s approach to this matter further.

The NEC heard from Izzat Abdulhadi at its February meeting and considered the arguments for a boycott of products and goods produced in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Since that time further provocations have been forthcoming from the current aggressive Netanyahu regime including the announcement of the construction of fresh settlements during the visit of US Vice President Biden and the use of false passports (including forged Australian documents) in the Dubai killing of a Hamas official.

Most recently following the debate at the UK TUC Congress, the TUC have joined with the call for a selective consumer boycott of goods produced by Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the general banner of the global ‘BDS’ campaign. This has been assisted by recent UK Government moves to clearly label such goods as coming from occupied Palestine.

With comrades Mal Tulloch and David Forde who have just returned from a tour of the Occupied Territories during the recent APHEDA visit to Israel and Palestine furnishing us with detailed information on the Palestinian situation, the CFMEU is now in a position to adopt a considered approach on a union wide level.

In all the circumstances the CFMEU believes that a boycott of products made in the illegal settlements is justified and is the kind of solidarity action that can send a message loud and clear to the Netanyahu government.

The CFMEU further resolves that we will argue for this approach in the forums of the labour movement in Australia including the ACTU and the ALP and that we will also argue for it in international forums as appropriate.

The approach recommended on the BDS question remains one aspect of the broad solidarity and support that should be rendered to the long suffering Palestinian people until a just and lasting peace is secured with a durable two state solution.