NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: December 22

Taliban taunts US over 30,000 extra troops

Plans to double the number of US troops in Afghanistan will see them suffer the same defeat as the Soviet army, the Taliban claims.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington could send up to 30,000 more troops over the next six months. The senior US commander in the country, General David McKiernan, had previously asked for more than 20,000 soldiers to counter the increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

But Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman claiming to represent the fugitive leader Mullah Omar, said: “Russians also sent that many troops but were badly defeated.

“When the US increases its troop levels to that of the Russians, they will also be cruelly defeated.”

He added: “More troops – that means there will be more targets for the Taliban.” [continued…]

It’s Hamas who decides

What suspense, what panic ensued at the end of the week. Will Hamas extend the cease-fire or won’t it? How exactly should Khaled Meshal’s “no” be interpreted, along with Mahmoud Zahar’s “maybe” and Ismail Haniyeh’s vague mutterings? In the communities of the western Negev, quotes from Al Jazeera have become more important than what Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak have to say.

It is not the state that will determine what happens, it is the organization. And the organization decided – no more cease-fire. Ostensibly, a clear and agreed-on modus operandi has been created between Israel and Hamas. Hamas shoots – Israel closes the crossings; Hamas is quiet – Israel opens the crossings. Both sides know that military options are limited. Hamas will not bring Israel down with a few dozen Qassam rockets and Israel recognizes that at least at this stage it cannot propose more than a limited return of fire and continued sanctions.

But Hamas has a major advantage in this violent dialogue. The initiative of whether to extend the cease-fire or shoot has passed to them. Israel has been left in the position of reacting, and Hamas has scored some successes. [continued…]

Hamas: Israel can invade, by all means

Despite increasing calls among Israeli ministers of a need to launch a military operation to tackle the escalating threat of rocket attacks on the southern border, Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip seemed unperturbed, with one senior member even daring Israel to take the action.

“For three years we’ve been hearing comments about an Israeli invasion into the Gaza Strip. Israel is like a teenager who begins to smoke, chokes, then stops,” Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said during an interview with a Nazareth radio station. “If they want to [invade] – by all means.

“Even in the days of the ceasefire, Israel didn’t allow vital supplies into the Gaza Strip, and this is a callous violation,” he continued. “Israel promised to open the crossing but that never happened on the ground.” [continued…]

Will Obama press Israel to allow nuclear inspection of Dimona reactor?

One Israeli official who should be busy during the presidential reign of Barack Obama is Shaul Horev, director general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission. The new president and his choice for secretary of state, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, intend to revive international arms-control efforts, which have been on hold during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s administration. Such initiatives inevitably arouse suspicion and testiness among Israeli officials, who are anxious about the erosion of their country’s deterrent capability.

In their campaigns, Obama and Clinton promised that arms control would once again play a central role in American diplomacy. Their associates and supporters, some of whom are candidates for positions in the new administration, have repeated this message relentlessly to Israeli colleagues and acquaintances.

Last Sunday, Jim Hoagland, who writes a column on foreign affairs in The Washington Post, wrote that Obama should learn from president John F. Kennedy and call for worldwide nuclear disarmament. Hoagland’s columns generally express the consensus of the U.S. foreign affairs establishment. Kennedy was the last American president to have tried to stop the Israeli nuclear project. He threatened that there would be serious ramifications vis-a-vis U.S. support for Israel if the reactor in Dimona was not opened to frequent visits by inspectors. The pressure that Kennedy applied on the matter of Dimona was apparently one of the factors in David Ben-Gurion’s resignation in 1963. Kennedy’s assassination several months later led to a relaxation of that pressure and Israel was able to complete construction of the reactor in the Negev. [continued…]

Can Obama restore the US image in the Middle East?

… if “not being Bush” is not enough to turn around US relations with the Middle East, what will it take? A further analysis of polls, as well as focus groups I have conducted in five Middle Eastern countries, suggest that there are numerous questions about US policy in the Middle East that people there will be looking to the Obama administration to answer. The three most central ones are: (1) will the United States continue to have a dominating military presence in the region? (2) will the United States play an even-handed role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict? (3) will the United States support democratization in the region? [continued…]

Despite the optimism, Iraq is close to the edge

George W Bush, barely a month away from leaving office, flew to Baghdad last weekend for an eight-hour visit. On Wednesday, it was Gordon Brown’s turn. The arrival of president and prime minister in the Iraqi capital is part of a concerted effort to draw a line under the debacle that Iraq has become for the American and British governments. After nearly six years of occupation, Bush was keen to stress the progress he claimed had been made.

“The Iraq we’re standing in today is dramatically freer, dramatically safer and dramatically better,” he told American troops. Brown was a little more circumspect, simply declaring: “We leave Iraq a better place.” The startling actions of Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi in throwing his shoes at Bush indicates that all is not as positive as Bush would have the world believe. There is a grave danger that by overstating the good news from Iraq, both Bush and Brown are making a return to civil war more likely. [continued…]

Iraq threatens to expel Iranian rebels

Iraqi officials say they intend to expel members of an Iranian exile group living in a camp north of Baghdad that is protected by the U.S. military. The expulsion, which the Shiite-led government has long sought, is expected to become feasible once the U.N. mandate that regulates the presence of U.S. troops — and which gave the Iranian opposition group protected status — expires at the end of the year. [continued…]

Al Shabaab on the rise as Ethiopia withdraws from Somalia

Two years after invading Somalia, ousting the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) government in Mogadishu and subsequently propping up the increasingly weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Ethiopia has reiterated its commitment to withdraw its forces in the next few days.

“This week, Ethiopian troops have begun to make preparations for their withdrawal. This has not, however, prevented continuing clashes with al Shabaab forces,” an Ethiopian foreign ministry statement said, referring to an ICU splinter group that has now taken control of much of the country, AFP reported. [continued…]

Forest plan in Brazil bears the traces of an activist’s vision

Twenty years ago, a Brazilian environmental activist and rubber tapper was shot to death at his home in Acre State by ranchers opposed to his efforts to save the Amazon rain forest.

After his death at age 44, Francisco Alves Mendes, better known as Chico, became a martyr for a concept that is only now gaining mainstream support here: that the value of a standing forest could be more than the value of a forest burned and logged in the name of development.

This month, Brazil took what environmentalists hope will be a big step forward in realizing Mr. Mendes’s vision. The government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva introduced ambitious targets for reducing deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions in a nation that is one of the world’s top emitters of this heat-trapping gas. [continued…]

What motivates the torture enablers?

It is instructive to watch Major Matthew Alexander and Federalist Society kingpin David Rivkin discuss the torture issue on the Riz Khan Show:

We’ve seen this scenario played out several times in the last week, as broadcasters and newspapers around the country see the Levin-McCain Report as an opportunity to debate torture, despite the logical fallacy of this approach. (Perhaps for Christmas proper we’ll be treated to arguments for and against genocide, and on the fourth day of Christmas we’ll read the arguments for and against the practice of infanticide.) We’ve been treated to Christopher Hitchens against Michael Smerconish, Duncan Hunter against Jim Moran, and now the Alexander versus Rivkin encounter.[continued…]

The homicides you didn’t hear about in Hurricane Katrina

What do you do when you notice that there seems to have been a killing spree? While the national and international media were working themselves and much of the public into a frenzy about imaginary hordes of murderers, rapists, snipers, marauders, and general rampagers among the stranded crowds of mostly poor, mostly black people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a group of white men went on a shooting spree across the river.

Their criminal acts were no secret but they never became part of the official story. The media demonized the city’s black population for crimes that turned out not to have happened, and the retractions were, as always, too little too late. At one point FEMA sent a refrigerated 18-wheeler to pick up what a colonel in the National Guard expected to be 200 bodies in New Orleans’s Superdome, only to find six, including four who died naturally and a suicide. Meanwhile, the media never paid attention to the real rampage that took place openly across the river, even though there were corpses lying in unflooded streets and testimony everywhere you looked — or I looked, anyway.

The widely reported violent crimes in the Superdome turned out to be little more than hysterical rumor, but they painted African-Americans as out-of-control savages at a critical moment. The result was to shift institutional responses from disaster relief to law enforcement, a decision that resulted in further deaths among the thirsty, hot, stranded multitude. Governor Kathleen Blanco announced, “I have one message for these hoodlums: These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary, and I expect they will.” So would the white vigilantes, and though their exact body count remains unknown, at least 11 black men were apparently shot, some fatally. [continued…]

Katrina’s hidden race war

The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.

It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun. “I just hit the ground. I didn’t even know what happened,” recalls Herrington, a burly 32-year-old with a soft drawl.

The sudden eruption of gunfire horrified Herrington’s companions–his cousin Marcel Alexander, then 17, and friend Chris Collins, then 18, who are also black. “I looked at Donnell and he had this big old hole in his neck,” Alexander recalls. “I tried to help him up, and they started shooting again.” Herrington says he was staggering to his feet when a second shotgun blast struck him from behind; the spray of lead pellets also caught Collins and Alexander. The buckshot peppered Alexander’s back, arm and buttocks. [continued…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebooktwittermail

1 thought on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: December 22

Comments are closed.