Terry Halbardier, who – as a 23-year old seaman in 1967 – thwarted Israeli attempts to sink the USS Liberty, died on Aug. 11 in Visalia, California. It took the U.S. government 42 years after the attack to recognize Halbardier’s heroism by awarding him the Silver Star, a delay explained by Washington’s determination to downplay Israeli responsibility for the 34 Americans killed and the 174 wounded. On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors. Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet. The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.
Will the Senate hold a vote less than two months before the midterm elections to authorize military strikes in Iraq? Democrats in both chambers have called for Congress to take action, but it’s a vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) almost certainly wants to avoid as he seeks to keep the upper chamber majority in his party’s hands. Democratic strategists warn that voting on a use-of-force authorization before the election could prove disastrous to Democratic candidates in tough races. “The base doesn’t want airstrikes and Democratic swing voters who tend to be more blue-collar don’t want re-involvement in Iraq. So I think many Democrats would face a challenge voting for this thing,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist. Lake said Democrats are in a box because if President Obama continues military action without congressional approval, that is likely to have political reverberations as well. “The second problem with airstrikes is that if they’re unauthorized all the controversy hurts the president’s job performance numbers, which is bad for Democrats too. You really need the president’s job performance numbers higher,” she said.
The Israeli cargo ship ‘Zim’ was set to dock in the Oakland port, on Saturday morning. But activists have claimed credit for an announced delay in the ship’s docking, and are planning to stop the ship wherever it tries to dock. The U.S. activists are following the lead of trade unionists in South Africa, who successfully blocked Israeli ships from docking on several occasions, to protest Israeli aggression against Palestinians and call for a just and lasting peace. Activists in Oakland, California are gathering Saturday to carry out direct action to stop the ship from being able to dock at the port. And, activists in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC are also planning to blockade scheduled stops in those ports.
In Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, the eighth full-length feature documentary from Brave New Foundation, director Robert Greenwald investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and top military officials warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life. Throughout Unmanned, Greenwald intersperses in-depth interviews with never-before-seen footage from the tribal regions in Pakistan to humanize those who have been impacted by our drone policy. This footage, alongside interviews with Pakistani drone survivors, describes the brutal reality of drone attacks ordered during the Obama Administration.
Bernie Sanders ends his recent column “Let’s Stand Together” with this piece of advice: “Let’s not be fooled.” Quite right. Let’s not be fooled by any politician appealing to high ideals when they are in the business of war and empire. Sanders not only defends military contracts that benefit his constituents in Vermont, he also joined the 100 to 0 vote in the Senate to give unalloyed moral and political support to the state of Israel during its most recent bombing campaign against Gaza. . . Sanders is the lone avowed socialist in Congress, though in official partisan terms he was elected as an independent. This has two practical consequences, neither good. In Congress, Sanders caucuses with the other career Democrats. And Sanders does nothing to build the base of any independent party of anti-corporate resistance. Thus any challenge he might raise against Hillary for the presidential nomination amounts, first and foremost, to a vanity campaign.
Having ditched the Yazidi rescue pretext for the new US war in Iraq, after discovering there weren’t really many Yazidis to rescue in the first place, the US has reportedly set its sights on the Anbar Province, site of some of the bloodiest US battles during the previous occupation. In an interview with Reuters, Anbar Governor Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi confirmed meetings with US diplomats and senior military officials, and secured a promise of not only air strikes against ISIS holdings in the province, but a military presence on the ground. “No date was decided but it will be very soon and there will be a presence for the Americans in the western area,” Dulaimi confirmed. ISIS controls materially all of the Anbar Province at this point. Anbar was the first major territorial gain for ISIS in Iraq, way back in January when they seized Fallujah and Ramadi, the main cities in the province. Since then, they’ve expanded, and were believed to have recently taken the Haditha Dam, one of the last sites outside their control in the province.
Although the Department of Justice does not link their new decision to undertake a broad review of police tactics to any specific incident, it comes during a wave of notable instances of police killing unarmed black men and responding with excessive force to a peaceful protest of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The DoJ is also considering reinstating a national commission to provide guidance to police policies. This move is supported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. There has been a push to stop the growing militarization of police forces and the overuse of SWAT teams for some time. At present, local police units are being inundated with free military equipment including tanks, assault rifles and vehicles designed to resist land mines. They are also being trained in military tactics. And there is also a push to hire members of the military into the police force.
Dear Colleague: Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s. Unfortunately, due to a Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus DOD equipment to state and local law enforcement; our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces. Please join me in supporting the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” before this problem gets any worse. This bill will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for. The Pentagon’s surplus property, or “1033” program, provides surplus Department of Defense military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies without charge. This program is funneling military equipment to local police in unprecedented numbers. As the ACLU points out in a new study, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing”, militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent.
President Obama used a powerful term when he authorized airstrikes in Iraq. He said that these strikes were necessary to help the Iraqi military “prevent a potential act of genocide” against the Yazidi people, thousands of whom were trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq without food or water. We agree with President Obama that the U.S. and the international community must act to prevent the mass killing of civilians. When we respond to the threat of violence with more violence, however, we strengthen rather than undermine the extremist groups that are perpetuating the crisis. The United States and others in the international community must support non-military, civilian-led approaches so that Iraqis can live in peace and stability. When we respond to violence with violence, we strengthen the extremist groups perpetuating the crisis. The question of how to respond when civilians are in danger challenges us all. In the days since the strikes began, we’ve heard from many of you who see airstrikes as the only effective choice to save these lives. It is true that U.S. airstrikes have yielded what seem to be dramatic and immediate results. While many people remain trapped on the mountain, Islamic State forces have retreated, allowing more to be rescued.
“History shows that the United States has benefited politically and economically from wars in Europe. The huge outflow of capital from Europe following the First and Second World Wars, transformed the U.S. into a superpower … Today, faced with economic decline, the US is trying to precipitate another European war to achieve the same objective.”… Sergey Glazyev, Russian politician and economist “The discovery of the world’s largest, known gas reserves in the Persian Gulf, shared by Qatar and Iran, and new assessments which found 70 percent more gas in the Levantine in 2007, are key to understanding the dynamics of the conflicts we see today. After a completion of the PARS pipeline, from Iran, through Iraq and Syria to the Eastern Mediterranean coast, the European Union would receive more than an estimated 45 percent of the gas it consumes over the next 100 – 120 years from Russian and Iranian sources. Under non-conflict circumstances, this would warrant an increased integration of the European, Russian and Iranian energy sectors and national economies.” Christof Lehmann, Interview with Route Magazine
While Benjamin Netanyahu has practically been given an anchor chair at CNN during Operation Protective Edge to pound home a narrative that almost everyone else in the world (save for 100% of US Senators) has rejected; namely that Israel is a victim of terror and not a perpetrator, telling the counter narrative is left to media outlets without ties to major corporate interest and/or ties to the duopoly here in the United States. In this interview with Dennis Trainor, Jr. of Acronym TV, Mnar Muhawesh, editor in chief of Mint Press news says she sees the role of journalism as protecting the people from the State. “The role of journalism is to inform he public and hold those in power accountable. (What we have today) is a journalism outfit that does not work in the interest of people, it is working in the interest of the government, corporations and these lobby groups.”
It is right that we mourn these deaths and those of the hundreds of young black men and women who are disproportionately targeted by police each year. According toa study which may underestimate the actual number, a black man is killed every 28 hours by either police, security guards or vigilantes. On top of that, Stop and Frisk policies target people of color and people of color are more likely to be incarcerated. It is common in the cases of shootings by police for the officers to falsely claim that the victim was armed or aggressive and for the media to falsely portray the victim as a criminal. This is an attempt to justify the use of deadly force and extrajudicial murder. However, we have a justice system to decide if and when execution is the punishment. Although that system is itself flawed, it is preferable to officers trying, sentencing and executing a person in an extra-judicial approach to ‘justice.’
Breaking news! According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has placed a hold on the transfer to Israel of Hellfire missiles, which have been fired by the Israeli air force at Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from its US-supplied fleet of Apache and Cobra helicopter gunships during Israel’s current attack. On top of that, the paper reports that all US weapons transfers to Israel will be scrutinized at “the highest levels” from now on. According to a senior Obama administration official, this decision amounts to “the United States saying ‘The buck stops here. Wait a second…It’s not OK anymore.’” This is the first time that we know of that the Obama administration has ever taken any action to curtail US weapons deliveries to Israel.
1. It’s not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of “advisors” (trained and armed to kill, and never instructed in how to give advice — Have you ever tried taking urgent advice from 430 people?). The boy who cried rescue mission should not be allowed to get away with it after the documented deception in Libya where a fictional threat to civilians was used to launch an all-out aggressive attack that has left that nation in ruins. Not to mention the false claims about Syrian chemical weapons and the false claim that missiles were the only option left for Syria — the latter claims being exposed when the former weren’t believed, the missiles didn’t launch, and less violent but perfectly obvious alternative courses of action were recognized. If the U.S. government were driven by a desire to rescue the innocent, why would it be arming Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain? The U.S. government destroyed the nation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with results including the near elimination of various minority groups. If preventing genocide were a dominant U.S. interest, it could have halted its participation in and aggravation of that war at any time, a war in which 97% of the dead were on one side, just as in Gaza this month — the distinction between war and genocide being one of perspective, not proportions. Or, of course, the U.S. could have left well alone. Ever since President Carter declared that the U.S. would kill for Iraqi oil, each of his successors has believed that course of action justified, and each has made matters significantly worse.