Al Jazeera English: Israeli electioneering gathers pace

by matttbastard

Related: JPost: Likud, Kadima escalate mutual attacks:

The Likud and Kadima parties intensified their attacks against each other on Sunday after the cease-fire took effect in the Gaza Strip, formally ending Operation Cast Lead and restarting the election campaign.

The first polls taken after the cease-fire took effect indicated that the Right in general and the Likud in particular had been helped by the war.

A Channel 2/Ma’agar Mohot poll predicted that the Right-Center bloc would win 65 seats and the Left-Center bloc 55. A Channel 10/Dialog poll put the divide at 64-56. The first poll predicted a 31-23 Likud victory over Kadima, while the latter said Likud would win 29-26.

The Channel 2 poll found that 36 percent of Israelis wanted Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to become prime minister, 21% preferred Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and 14% Labor chairman Ehud Barak.

In an effort to build on its lead, the Likud announced Sunday night that it would begin a new campaign under the slogan, “Netanyahu: Strong on security, strong on the economy.” The party will make a decision in upcoming days about whether to also renew its negative campaign with the slogan “Tzipi Livni: Out of her league.”

[...]

On a visit to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, Netanyahu was careful to offer veiled criticism of the cease-fire while extolling the virtues of the IDF.

“We have a strong people and a strong military that dealt a harsh blow to the Hamas, but unfortunately the work is still not done,” Netanyahu said. “The Hamas still controls Gaza and will still try to smuggle weapons into Gaza via the Philadelphi Corridor. We cannot show weakness against Hamas and its Iranian supporters. We need a strong, unwavering, persistent hand until the threat is eliminated.”

Elsewhere: Eyal Press, blogging at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ pad, on the “generational rift” in the US that was exposed by the War in Gaza between “the likes of Alan Dershowitz and William Kristol” and “a growing circle of young Jewish bloggers: Spencer Ackerman, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Dana Goldstein.”

Also see Beijing York and (she’s back!) Godammitkitty on Gaza, Israel and the subjectivity of ‘terrorism’ and Faiz Shakir of Think Progress, who details how Israel is readying the post-war propaganda battle for international public opinion.

Flashback: Haaretz:

The Foreign Ministry has created a special task force to prepare for the aftermath of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza operation. The team will submit proposals for two of the army’s main concerns – Iran and Hamas taking control of Gaza’s postwar reconstruction, and the harm the offensive might cause to Israel’s image abroad.

One of the task force’s missions is to draft recommendations for the Strip’s rehabilitation. The ministry hopes to avoid a situation similar to the one in southern Lebanon after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. There, Iran sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to transfer to families whose homes had been destroyed, burnishing the militant group’s reputation among the population.

The goal is to allow the Palestinian Authority, as well as Arab and international entities, to lead reconstruction efforts and funding, taking credit for Gaza’s rehabilitation in place of Hamas or Iran.

The task force will also be charged with repairing damage to Israel’s image abroad as a result of the Gaza operation. The working assumption is that Israel has suffered a blow to its image in the West in the wake of heavy civilian casualties in the Strip.

Israeli officials believe after the fighting stops and foreign journalists are allowed entry into the territory that negative sentiment toward Israel will only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges.

h/t Alison @ BnR

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A Violent Collision Between Rhetoric and Reality

by matttbastard

(video courtesy CSPANJunkie)

Apparently Rafah-based freelance journalist and teacher Fida Qishta was otherwise occupied and didn’t get Secretary Rice’s helpful reminder re: ‘responsibility’ before filing the following dispatch to the Graun:

I wake up at 7am after an Israeli F-16 attack. Our house is shaking. We all try to imagine what has happened, but we want to at least know where the attack was. It is so scary. We try to open the main door to our flat, but it’s stuck shut after the attack. I have to climb out of the window to leave the house. I am shocked when I find out our neighbour’s pharmacy was the target. It is just 60 metres from our house. They targeted a pharmacy. I still can’t believe it.

[...]

The Israeli army is destroying the tunnels that go from Rafah into Egypt. For the past year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. From our house we can hear the explosions and the house is shaking.At night we can’t go out. No one goes out. If you go out you will risk your life. You don’t know where the bombs will fall. My mother is so sad. She watches me writing my reports and says: “Fida, will it make any difference?”

Before the attack started we got some food aid from the EU. It’s not much, but it’s enough, we’re not starving. But some of our friends have nothing. My mum warns me: “Fida, don’t leave the house, it’s too dangerous outside.” Then she goes out to share our food with the neighbours who have nothing.

Just  remember: it’s actually Hamas (and only Hamas) that has, in the words of Secretary Rice, “held the people of Gaza hostage”.

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I Think We Have An Emergency

by matttbastard

image management!

(Flickr, all rights reserved)

Shorter Tzipi Livni: “I don’t care how much it costs — find me the person who  salvaged Brit Brit’s image and get them on the payroll ASAP!”

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CP: Torture Continues in Afghanistan Under Canada’s Watch

by matttbastard

Awesome:

An agreement between Canada and the Afghanistan government has not stopped the torture of Afghan detainees after Canadian troops hand them over to Afghan security forces, the Federal Court of Appeal heard Wednesday.

A lawyer for human-rights groups that want to extend Canadian human-rights protection to the detainees told court the agreement reached in February has not ended abuses that came to light in 2007.

“It is our submission it is not working,” lawyer Paul Champ told a court tribunal. “There are still human-rights abuses in Afghanistan.”

Champ later said investigations by UNICEF and the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission have found recent evidence of torture in Afghanistan.

But he said it has been impossible to obtain information from the Canadian Forces about the treatment of prisoners they hand over to Afghan police.

In other news, the Little Eichmanns in Kandahar finally received new boots.

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Got Somethin’ Stickin’ In My Eye

by matttbastard

The Washington Post reports today that (forcedly) retired General Eric Shinseki has been tapped by President-elect Obama to lead Veterans Affairs:

Shinseki, a 38-year veteran, is best known for his four years as Army chief of staff, and in particular his response to congressional questioning in February 2003 about troop levels necessary to protect a presumed military victory in Iraq.

Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” could be necessary, an assessment that was at odds with the announced determination of Pentagon leaders.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reacted by telling reporters that Shinseki’s estimate “will prove to be high,” and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz called the assessment “way off the mark.”

Three years later, Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command and the chief architect of U.S. military strategy in Iraq, told the same Senate committee, “General Shinseki was right.”

James Fallows calls the pick “karmic justice”, while Booman says that after frustrating Democratic partisans with his conciliatory gestures to the outgoing presidency, “Obama has finally delivered a finger-in-the-eye moment to the Bush administration.”  Regardless, Shinseki is an excellent choice.  As Jonathan Singer puts it:

If Shinseki brings the type of focus and willingness to speak truth to power to the Veterans Affairs that he did to the military, he is going to make a real positive difference in the lives of those who greatly deserve better treatment from our government and be a very solid addition to Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Indeed.  Plus, it’s nice to finally see someone in Washington getting rewarded for being, um, right about something–especially after getting forced out of his position as Army chief of staff for choosing integrity over short-term self interest.  And, as Fallows (who wrote about Shinseki extensively for both the article and subsequent book Blind into Baghdad) reveals, “[d]espite being unfairly treated, despite being 100% vindicated by subsequent events, Shinseki kept his grievances entirely to himself.”

A finger in the eye?

Maybe.

Karmic justice?

You betcha.

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Quote of the Day: John McCain and “the Power of War”

by matttbastard

John McCain has been said to have neoconservative inclinations; to critics, this suggests a commitment to the unilateral deployment of military force to bring about a democratic transformation in once-hostile countries. The question of whether he’s a neocon, however, is not entirely relevant; McCain has advisers from both the neocon and realist camps, and he’s too inconsistent to be easily labeled. In one area, though, he has been more or less constant: his belief in the power of war to solve otherwise insoluble problems. This ideology of action has not been undermined by his horrific experience as a tortured POW during the Vietnam War, or by the Bush administration’s disastrous execution of the Iraq War. All this is not to suggest that McCain is heedlessly bellicose or reflexively willing to send U.S. soldiers into danger; he is the father of a marine and a Naval Academy midshipman, James McCain and John S. McCain IV, whose service he rarely mentions. And he opposed, presciently, keeping the Marines in Beirut in 1983, just before their barracks were bombed. But his willingness to speak frankly about the utility of military intervention sets him apart from his opponent. Senator Obama, though certainly no pacifist, envisions a world of cooperation and diplomacy; McCain sees a world of organic conflict and zero-sum competition.

- Jeffrey Goldberg, The Wars of John McCain

Related: Matt Bai takes a deeper look at how Vietnam has affected McCain’s view of international relations; Matthew Yglesias believes that, contra conventional wisdom, Obama holds an advantage over McCain in the foreign policy arena, and should, accordingly, campaign from a position of strength; former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke says whomever comes out on top in November will, come January, “inherit a more difficult set of international challenges than any predecessor since World War II.”

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Gone Till November

by matttbastard

Cliff Schecter dissects The Maverick’s shoddy record on veterans’ affairs legislation:

In 2005, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), now chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that would have increased veterans’ medical care by $2.8 billion in 2006. He also introduced another bill that would have set aside $10 million for “readjustment counseling services” — a program to provide a wide range of counseling, outreach and referral services for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to ease their readjustment back into society. (This program was started in 1979 for Vietnam veterans, so one would think McCain is quite familiar with it.)

But McCain — and other Republicans who are more concerned with using government funds for tax cuts for multimillionaires or for corporate subsidies to oil and gas companies — voted this effort down.

The following year, Akaka requested $1.5 billion for veterans’ medical care and an additional $430 million for the Department of Veteran Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. But, once again, McCain voted against these proposals, while offering no measures of his own, and without pushing his party to help U.S. veterans.

In 2005, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) saw their respective veteran amendments killed. These amendments would have funded additional medical care and readjustment counseling for Iraq veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse disorder. McCain voted “no” on both.

In 2005, and again in 2006, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) proposed legislation that would have indexed veterans’ healthcare benefits to take into account the annual changes in inflation and veterans’ population. She proposed paying for the indexing by restoring the pre-2001 top tax rate for income more than $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy. One guess as to how McCain voted.

In early 2006, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) proposed an amendment for additional funding to shore up the collapsing infrastructures at veterans’ hospitals around the country. The bill would have mandated a minor rollback in the capital gains tax cuts that the Bush administration has given to the richest one-fifth of 1 percent of Americans. McCain, presumably more concerned about the 100-plus lobbyists associated with his campaign than the health of veterans, opposed this amendment.

Not long after, in February 2007, the Washington Post exposed horror stories about the crumbling infrastructure at Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

In February 2006, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sponsored an amendment that would have rolled back capital gains tax cuts so that much-needed equipment for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan could be purchased. McCain and the Republican leadership made sure those tax cuts stayed in place, and, as a result, the troops didn’t get what they needed.

Finally, in June 2006, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) authored a bill — S. Amdt. 4442 — “to require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq, encourage the people of Iraq to provide for their own security, and achieve victory in the war on terror.”

It received 13 votes. Needless to say, McCain’s wasn’t one of them.

McCain was also noticeably absent on two measures that members of both parties should be able to embrace.

The Homes for Heroes Act — which Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced in April 2007 — would have helped provide housing for low-income veterans and helped tackle the problem of homelessness among America’s military veterans. The bill died, though the House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill in July; its companion version still awaits a new vote in the Senate.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 — introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) — restores the old GI Bill and provides returning troops with the more robust educational benefits enjoyed by the men and women who served in the three decades following World War II. Although this bill did not initially make it to vote, it was incorporated into the new GI bill that the Senate — absent McCain, who was at a fundraiser in Caliornia — passed in May.

(Read the whole damn thing or the terrorists Russians win.)

Now, wait a minute. I’ve got news for you and your lyin’ eyes–John McCain loves veterans more than a rap kid loves breaks (and they crush on him MSM stylez, too):

Yeah! Fuck y’all and your so-called “facts”, hippies–McMaverick has the American Legion on his jock! PS: noun! Verb! POW!

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Hamdan Gets 5.5 Years (Plus Time Served)

by matttbastard

Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald reports from beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay:

In a stunning rebuke, a six-member U.S. military jury Thursday ignored a Pentagon prosecutor’s plea for a 30 years-plus term and ordered Osama bin Laden’s driver to 66 months in prison.

With credit for time served given by the judge, that means Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen will be sent back to the general detainee population of Camp Delta by January, and eligible to return home.

[...]

In court, Hamdan’s longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.

Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.

”What happened — despite the system — is justice,” said Swift.

[...]

After the jury’s verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:

“I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.”

”God willing,” the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.

The judge continued: “And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.”

Then the detainee said it again: “Inshallah.”

Allred replied in Arabic. “Inshallah.”

Touching. I’m sure the LGF set is already calling for the head of ‘Judge Dhimmi.’ But, despite the Spielberg-esque conclusion to the first U.S. military tribunal since WWII, happy endings aren’t necessarily in the script, as noted by the Washington Post:

It is unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he finishes serving his remaining time, because military prosecutors and military commissions officials have argued they have the ability to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, until the end of hostilities in the so-called war on terror.

Warren Richey of the CS Monitor quotes Linda Malone, director of the Human Rights and National Security Law Program at William and Mary Law School:

“The overriding problem is that the Bush administration has said that [Hamdan] will be held until the war on terror is over, regardless of what sentence he gets,” Professor Malone says. “It is almost Kafkaesque that regardless of what the sentence might be and whatever credit he is given [for his prior detention], they are saying they are going to hold him until the war ends – and everyone knows that is virtually limitless.

I truly hope any future habeas corpus petition proves successful. But to call this outcome “justice”? With all due respect, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, that word doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Updated: Next on the ‘worst of the worst’ list: Bin Laden’s personal stylist *cough*.

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Hamdan Guilty of ‘Material Support’, Acquitted of More Serious Conspiracy Charges

by matttbastard

Hey, it only took seven years, but justice has finally been perverted served:

Salim Hamdan was found guilty of providing material support for terrorism at a Guantanamo military commission today, but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks and murder American soldiers. So let me get this straight: After seven years and numerous court challenges including two Supreme Court rulings, the Bush administration finally stumbled its way to its first conviction in a military commission for a crime that is routinely handled in federal courts. Is this is the best they can do?

Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver, not Osama bin Laden. He never denied that he was bin Laden’s driver. It would have been an open and shut case of material support for terrorism in federal court. Hamdan could have been securely locked away years ago, but the Bush administration chose to pursue the risky path of an untested military commissions system.

Now, come on. I was under the impression Hamdan was a bloodthirsty terrorist (the worst of the worst!!1one) hell-bent on destroying the pillars of Western civilization. His conviction means the world is now a safer place, right?

The worst aspect of this whole episode is that the Bush administration has completely devalued the concept of a war criminal. War crimes should be reserved for the most serious offenses and war crimes trials are extraordinary. Charles Taylor is a war criminal. Radovan Karazdic is a war criminal. Salim Hamdan is a chauffer. He is clearly guilty of the crime of material support for terrorism. But now he has been elevated to the status of warrior, legitimizing al Qaeda terrorists’ belief that they are waging a holy war against the United States and our allies.

Well. I’m comfortable declaring this little long term experiment in post-9/11 homeland insecurity an unqualified success. Heck of a motherfucking job.

Related: Statement on the Hamdan decision from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:

“Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all developed nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.

The trial will not create finality – the decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world. This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with one goal: to seek out the truth.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court. For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here.

and the ACLU:

After a trial filled with overwhelming constitutional and procedural flaws, a jury of military officers today found Salim Hamdan guilty of providing material support for terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union has been at Guantánamo Bay observing the Hamdan proceedings, which lacked the fundamental legal safeguards found in traditional U.S. courts or military courts governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The following can be attributed to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:

“Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantánamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice. The judgment against Hamdan undoubtedly will be challenged in legitimate courts, but there is no appeal from the judgment of future generations. This system was devised to permit the prosecution of alleged wrongdoing by detainees, while continuing to cover up the wrongdoing by government interrogators. Trials that are shrouded in secrecy and tainted by coercion are the very antithesis of American justice.”

The following can be attributed to ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner, who observed the trial:

“In the strange world of Guantánamo justice, even if Hamdan had been acquitted on all charges, he would have been detained indefinitely. Nowhere else in the U.S. justice system can someone be held for life regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted of a crime. Today’s outcome represents nothing more than an illusion of justice. It is time to shut down these commissions and put an end to this shameful chapter in American history.”

As part of its John Adams Project, a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU is sponsoring expert civilian counsel to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel of some Guantánamo detainees.

More information on the John Adams Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/johnadams

(both statements h/t FDL).

Also see this trip down memory lane from Think Progress: “[t]oday marks seven years since the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” (See the memo here.)”

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