"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Propaganda 101 - Repetition

Update [Letter to RTE]

Dear Mr. Good,

Last nights 9 O'clock News had several special reports covering the latest civilian slaughter in Qana. Scenes of children's bodies being removed from the broken building were interspersed with numerous opportunities for Israeli apologetics. In all cases they attempted to shift blame for the bombing onto Hizbullah, as if dropping bombs on a sovereign country is not a crime in itself. A day after the killing of over 50 people, mostly children, by Israeli Defense Forces an RTE report covering the massacre devoted half the coverage to Israeli justification for the bombing. We were told that it is Hizbullah's fault for attacking Israel, we were told the people were warned to leave, we were told they were used as human shields. Richard Crowley reported that Hizbullah is not only attacking from behind civilian shields, but 'effectively forcing people at gun point to stay in the villages.'

Mr. Crowley offered no evidence for this contention and no Israeli spokesperson suggested these people were held at gunpoint, effectively or not. This might have been implied, again without evidence, by the Israeli story that the people could have escaped before the building collapsed. However this version of events is refuted by eye witnesses:

"Witnesses at the scene corroborated the IDF claim that the strike on the building, which is located in the Hariva neighborhood of Qana, was carried out at 1:00 A.M. After the initial strike, some of the building's residents exited in an attempt to survey the damage, in effect saving themselves.

A few minutes later, IAF planes struck the building once again, causing the walls to collapse on the residents who did not vacate, killing them in the process."


The extent to which this sort of propaganda has infiltrated the news media is evidenced in a recent Guardian article. Where there were once Lebanese villages there is now a "Fresh ground assault on Hizbullah villages."

I have yet to see such 'open minded' reporting of Hizbullah's killing. While Israel apparently use precision guided munitions in order to minimise civilian casualties, Hizbullah fire indiscriminately, in order to terrorise. Yet the ratio of civilian to military death caused by Hizbullah gives no weight to this argument.

Jonathan Cook noted recently that "Hizbullah's rockets have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military sites across the Galilee. "....It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.

Hizbullah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage of civilian deaths as Israel -- each wants the balance of terror in its favour -- but it is nonsense to suggest that Hizbullah's goals are any more ignoble than Israel's."


The basis for the Israeli defense of the bombing is suspect. The idea that Hizbullah use Lebanese civilians as human shields is not entirely convincing. Firstly, Hizbullah's existence relies heavily on the support of the Lebanese people. Secondly, in all the bombings by Israel that have resulted in civilian casualties, and therefore elicited an excuse, there have been few if any Hizbullah fighters among the dead.

Israel has since given further justification for the attack with the release of video 'evidence' allegedly showing Hizbullah launching rockets from the Qana area. Yet the footage shows the area the rockets were launched from were not, as the building in question was, in a reasonably built up area.

Tom Clonan's article in today's Irish Times addressed this Israeli excuse:

"The type of missiles being fired by Hizbullah at Israeli cities cannot be fired from within houses, mosques, hospitals or even UN facilities as has been suggested by the IDF. Due to the massive "back-blast" caused by the rocket launchers of these missiles, they can only be fired from open ground. To fire them from within a building would result in the instant death of the missile crew and probable destruction of the missile before launch. Most of the missiles are truck-mounted and are fired - on open ground - from the backs of flat-bedded trucks or larger four-wheel-drive vehicles."


The constant repetition of the 'human shield' story may explain why the "Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir, reportedly said: "We have never had it so good. The hasbara (propaganda) effort is a well-oiled machine.""


The Israeli Minister for Justice has himself rebutted the idea that the Hizbullah force non-combatants to act as human shields:

"Asked whether entire villages should be flattened, he [Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon]said:"These places are not villages. They are military bases in which Hezbollah people are hiding and from which they are operating."

"All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,"he said."

Former Labour government adviser, David Clark, wrote in the Guardian recently, "Israel's chief of staff, General Dan Halutz, promised to "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years"
As in Lebanon, the intention is to force civilians to turn on the militias by inflicting as much pain and suffering as the Israeli government thinks it can get away with."


The man who wrote the IDF code of ethics, Professor Asa Kasher told The Jerusalem Post it may be "morally justified" to obliterate areas with high concentrations of terrorists, even if civilian casualties result.


Mary Rafferty took the definition of 'terrorism' and applied it to Israeli actions in Lebanon; "Bombing civilian populations back to the Middle Ages, to a condition where they have no electricity, no water, no sewerage, no fuel, no roads, no vehicles and are running out of food certainly qualifies as an act of state terrorism."


Which leads us back to Mr. Cowley's suggestion that Hizbullah holds civilians at gunpoint. It could be argued that Israel's bombing of major infrastructure as well as fleeing convoys of families, may in fact amount to their holding of civilians at gunpoint, yet this would I presume never be reported by RTE.

While much has been said of Hizbullah's 'indiscriminate' rocket attacks, Jonathon Cook has been alone in commenting on Israel's use of Muslim villages as human shields:

"Several Israeli armaments factories and storage depots have been built close by Arab communities in the north of Israel, possibly in the hope that by locating them there Arab regimes will be deterred from attacking Israel's enormous armory. In other words, the inhabitants of several of Israel's Arab towns and villages have been turned into collective human shields – protection for Israel's war machine."

And little has been made of Human Rights Watch's statement that:

"(The Qana attack) is the latest product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Israel Defence Forces have waged in Lebanon."


While Hizbullah's tactics are rightly criticised, Israel's own penchant for the same tactics, on a much larger scale, are rarely commented on.

It is imperative that the media make the distinction between Israeli propaganda and the reality of this conflict.

I look forward to your response.


RTE propagate the alleged Hizbullah tactic of holding the civilian population as human shields and at gunpoint in tonight's 9 O'Clock News.

While RTE went to great lengths to make clear the IDF warned people to leave, although also pointing out that they accepted that some could not, they repeated the Israeli sponsored story that Hizbullah uses the Lebanese population as human shields. As if this in some way excuses the massacre in Qana.

Further to this is the worrying development, reported by Richard Crowley, is that Hizbullah is not only attacking from behind civilian shields, but 'effectively forcing people at gun point to stay in the villages.'

He offered no evidence for this contention and no Israeli spokesperson suggested these people were held at gunpoint, effectively or not. This might have been implied, again without evidence, by the Israeli story that the people could have escaped before the building collapsed. Yet, given that Hizbullah relies on support from the Lebanese people, this sounds less than believable.
The BBC explain where this idea originated from; "Hezbollah blockaded the city before the battle began, and we now know at gunpoint forced the Lebanese residents to stay inside the city," Cpt Spielman said.

However, with Israel bombing major infrastructure as well as fleeing convoys of families, it could be argued that Israel may in fact be holding civilians at gunpoint, yet this would I presume never be reported by RTE.

While much has been said of Hizbullah's 'indiscriminate' rocket attacks, Jonathon Cook has been alone in commenting on Israel's use of Muslim villages as human shields:

"Several Israeli armaments factories and storage depots have been built close by Arab communities in the north of Israel, possibly in the hope that by locating them there Arab regimes will be deterred from attacking Israel's enormous armory. In other words, the inhabitants of several of Israel's Arab towns and villages have been turned into collective human shields – protection for Israel's war machine."

The Israeli apologies for the civilian slaughter are also at odds with the words of their Minister for Justice:

"Asked whether entire villages should be flattened, he [Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon]said:"These places are not villages. They are military bases in which Hezbollah people are hiding and from which they are operating."

Ramon said Israel has given civilians in southern Lebanon sufficient warning to leave the area, and that those left behind should be considered Hezbollah sympathizers."All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,"he said."


Another Accident

Wouldn't you think if you drop enough 500lb bombs on a civilian area you are bound to kill a few people.

Note the prominent position of the Israeli army 'explanation' for the slaughter.

RTE reports today:

An Israeli air strike has killed at least 54 Lebanese civilians, including 21 children, in the southern village of Qana.

Jacob Dallal, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said it was not Israel's intention to kill civilians.

Several houses collapsed and a three-storey building where about 100 civilians were sheltering was destroyed, witnesses and rescue workers said.

Distraught people screamed in grief and anger amid the rubble of wrecked buildings.

Israel's military said it had warned residents of Qana to leave and said Hezbollah bore responsibility for using it to fire rockets at the Jewish state.

and a few days ago:

The UN Security Council adopted a statement today expressing shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a UN outpost in Lebanon that killed four unarmed UN peacekeepers.

Israel has apologized and called the incident a mistake. UN officials said they asked Israel a dozen times to stop bombing near the post in the hours before it was destroyed.

The question is, what came first, the bomb or the press release denying all responsibility?


Friday, July 28, 2006

The Israeli Army of Lebanon

In a recent Sky News report it was suggested to the the Israeli army spokesperson being interviewed that perhaps the Lebanese government were unable to control Hizbullah. He responded that this was probably the case and that is why the Israeli army are now helping them conclude this task.

Joschka Fischer, 'a leader of the Green Party for nearly 20 years', explains in today's Irish Times how this present war offers a realistic chance for peace.

He writes that since "Hizbullah ... does not act in the interest of the Lebanese state. Rather, its interests are defined in Damascus and Tehran, where much of its arsenal originates. This ... essentially constitutes a "proxy war"."

Yet few/no-one in the mainstream press has dared to call the present Israeli 'incursions' a proxy war of US making.

He traces the cause of this war back to "the attack on a military post in Israel in which several soldiers were killed and one was abducted."

While at this stage there is nolonger need to go into detail about who did what first, FAIR have gone into some about the 'less important' events leading up to the 'escalation' kidnapping.

He continues; the Hizbullah response to Israeli shelling, "firing missiles on Haifa," means "the issue is no longer primarily one of territory, restitution, or occupation. Instead, the main issue is the strategic threat to Israel's existence."

Yet constant bombardment of Lebanese infrastructure is not a threat to Lebanon's existence? Is their existence recognised?

Which brings him keenly on to UN Resolution 1559:

"This miscalculation will become obvious as four developments unfold: Israel avoids being sucked into a ground war in Lebanon; UN Resolution 1559 - which requires the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon with the help of the international community - is enforced;today's de facto "anti-hegemon" coalition, comprising moderate Arab countries (including moderate Palestinians), is transformed into a robust and serious peace initiative; the Middle East Quartet, led by the US, becomes actively engaged for a viable solution and provides the necessary political, economic, and military guarantees to sustain it."

But what does 1559 actually call for:

["By a vote of 9 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions, the Council adopted resolution 1559 (2004), reaffirming its call for the strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout the country."

"By acting in a robust manner, [the Council] was showing its confidence in Lebanon's future, which must include its full restoration of sovereignty, and not the intensification of interference."

The resolution states:

"Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally territorially recognized borders,"

"Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,

JOHN DANFORTH (United States) said that the Security Council had consistently affirmed that it supported the full sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, free of all foreign forces.]

Therefore the resolution's primary stated function is to protect Lebanon's sovereignty, fundamentally by the removal of all foreign forces. Since it is Lebanon's choice whether to 'evict' Hizbollah, or indeed call the International community to assist in this eviction, Israel has absolutely no rights to enforce the resolution militarily, as this would constitute a breach of the resolution by Israel, not to mention it would be an act of aggression. But as I outlined at the beginning of the post, Israel makes no bones about stating it is acting within a sovereign country as a foreign +invading+ force. And obviously no-one on Sky News would dare question the legality of this.

Lara Marlowe wrote yesterday in the Irish Times: "Do Washington and Tel Aviv not see the irony in their demand for enforcement of Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of Hizbullah? Since Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions criticising Israel."

But Joschka Fischer also neglects to see the problem with Israel's invasion, or 'limited incursion' in the world of doublespeak, of Lebanon. "Israel has a key role to play here. Twice, it withdrew its troops unilaterally behind its recognised borders, namely from southern Lebanon and Gaza. Both times, Israel's land-for-peace formula resulted in land for war. Now, with Israel's existence under threat, peace with its Arab neighbours seems a more distant prospect than ever."

Therefore Israel must now remain as occupiers of a sovereign country? They certainly couldn't make the same 'land-for-peace' deals that went so horribly. So horribly indeed that they appeared to be a massive PR stunt focusing on the withdrawal, and typically not, on the resettlement in the West Bank.

While we on the periphery of the news media still argue over who started the war the irony of the mainstream media's perspective remains lost. Mary Fitzgerald, the Irish Times' promoted expert on Islam worries: "Fears are growing that a whole new generation may turn to militancy." She quotes Oraib Rantawi, director of the Al Quds Centre for Political Studies in Amman, Jordan, "Arab public opinion is seething with anger. Even those secular Arabs who would have opposed Hizbullah before, now feel they have to support them against this aggression by Israel. Anti-American sentiment is rising in a very serious and dangerous way, as is opposition to any normalisation with Israel. It puts the entire democratic process in the region in jeopardy."

So we are to believe peace in Lebanon and Palestine is being put in jeopardy by Arab Muslims, not Israeli fire power. At no point do these experts on Islam ask, "is anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise?" or "why is that those that profess they want only peace in the Middle East are the same ones who supply the weapons and the International support for the conflicts that stand in its way?"

Or "are we seeing the product of the military radicalism of the Israeli youth?"

According to GlobalResearch.org an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement was in process, based on 1967 borders, following the capture of the Israeli soldier, yet th meeting was halted by Israeli Shin Bet internal Security Service arresting Abu Tir and Abu Arafa (The Palestinian Cabinet Minister for Jerusalem Khaled Abu Arafa, and the senior Hama's Member of the Palestinian Parliament, Sheikh Muhamed Abu Tir) and warned them not to attend the meeting, under threats of detention.

"Israel simultaneously began conducting covert incursions on to Lebanese territory, provoking Hizbollah’s capture of two IDF soldiers. Credible sources confirm that the soldiers were not abducted on Israeli territory, but inside Lebanon. Like the scuppered peace negotiations, Western officials have ignored this, and misinformed the media. However, some reports corroborate the sources. Israeli officials, for instance, informed Forbes (12.7.06) that “Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel.”"

So what does the future hold?

According to General Wesley Clark--the Pentagon, by late 2001, was Planning to Attack Lebanon

"Winning Modern Wars" (page 130) General Clark states the following:

"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.

...He said it with reproach--with disbelief, almost--at the breadth of the vision. I moved the conversation away, for this was not something I wanted to hear. And it was not something I wanted to see moving forward, either. ...I left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned."


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Miller Time

Rory Miller is back in the Irish Times again, and he is on form this time:

"[Blair] has described this conflict as the "single most pressing political challenge in our world" and has pledged to make a resolution of the conflict his own "personal priority" as well as a "central priority" of British foreign policy."

and how does he intend to accomplish this?

"He has also avoided the inflammatory language that other EU leaders have employed to condemn Israel over the last six years, and his government has shown more understanding of Israeli concerns than most of its European counterparts."

Understanding Israeli concerns, that sounds like a key issue. Which explains why he now "believes that the best way to do this is to support the US position of opposing the imposition of a ceasefire on Israel."

But he is not +just+ backing the opposition to a ceasefire is he?

The Telegraph reported today:

"Britain has been used as a staging post for major shipments of bunker-busting bombs from America to Israel. The Israelis want the 5,000lb smart bombs to attack the bunkers being used by Hizbollah leaders in Lebanon."

Sounds like Tony is not hedging his bets, it's pretty obvious who his money is riding on.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Mandatory Chomsky Rebuttal

Update (and a spell check)

Letter to the Irish Times:

Dear Madam,

Maurice Foley's attempted demolition of Noam Chomsky and Co.'s letter of last Friday was a worthwhile exercise. He managed to find, albeit I presume with an amount of difficulty, several mainstream sources for that relatively unknown event Mr. Chomsky referenced, the kidnapping of two Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military.

Unfortunately, Mr. Foley's criticism is flawed. Mr. Chomsky did not say that the story hadn't been reported, he said it had 'scarcely' been reported, this is true. In order to ascertain how scarcely this crime against International Law was reported we need only compare it to the reporting of the Israeli soldiers kidnapping on the Lebanese border. An Internet search for "Israeli soldier kidnapped" gave over 8.7 million results, I challenge Mr. Foley to find even one thousandth this number devoted to the 'scarcely' reported crime.

The shame is that there many other scarcely reported crimes, Independent film maker Gabriele Zamparini has compiled a list of some of them on his blog The Cat's Dream. He asks, Did you know: “45% of those killed in Lebanon are children and of the 500,000 people who have fled to safety, some 200,000 are children”?, “Lebanon's president accused Israel on Monday of using phosphorous bombs in its 13-day offensive and urged the United Nations to demand an immediate ceasefire”?, “Israeli military has said it will destroy 10 buildings in predominantly Shia south Beirut for every rocket fired at the Israeli port of Haifa, army radio said Monday”?, “The delivery of at least 100 GBU 28 bunker busters bombs containing depleted uranium warheads by the United States to Israel for use against targets in Lebanon will result in additional radioactive and chemical toxic contamination with consequent adverse health and environmental effects throughout the middle east.”?, “[a]ccording to the Lebanese police force, the two [Israeli] soldiers were captured in Lebanese territory”? and the list goes on.

Therefore Mr. Foley's suggestion that "we care so little about Hamas attacks on Israel that they fail even to raise an eyebrow in the West" is absurd. If this were the case, how is it that an Irish Times reader could tell you exactly how many rockets Hizbollah have fired on Israel, and perhaps even where the majority of these have landed. While I doubt anyone reading this paper, or any other, can tell us how many bombs and missiles Israel have dropped on Lebanon and Palestine in the last month.

But this is, as Mr. Chomsky says, irrelevant. Israel is presently conducting two illegal and immoral wars against civilian populations, and hundreds are dead.

Yours etc...

Maurice Foley's successful demolition of Noam Chomsky and co.'s shamelessly un-footnoted letter of last Friday was a breath of fresh air. He evidenced with little effort that theirs is a misrepresentation of what has and has not been reported by the mainstream press. Citing the Observer and the LA Times he revealed the extent of Mr. Chomsky's misleading rhetoric.

The kidnapping Mr. Chomsky cites as a precedent to the much publicised kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, and therefore poses Israel as the principle aggressor, was not as he implies 'scarcely' reported, it was in fact reported by every man and his dog. The Observer, for instance, had a 50 odd word readers letter at the bottom of its letters page semi-devoted to the case. The LA Times, as well, had...I don't know, I couldn't find it.

The point Mr. Foley misses is that the word 'scarcely' doesn't mean it wasn't reported, it was, what it means is that it wasn't reported alot. It was and never will be reported that Israel's illegal capture and detention of Palestinian civilians caused the present crisis to 'escalate'.

The most important point Chomsky and co. make is that:

"Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation."

Mr. Foley's search for 'peace' through the horrors of war is doomed.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Too Many Civilians

Rory Miller is back plugging his book, 'Ireland and the Palestine Question, 1948-2004', in the Sunday Independent with a shameful piece of journalism:

"Forget the cliches and casualties, Israel's attack is for the good of all" which really doesn't require further comment.

John Lalor explains why Israel is not to blame: "And the UN has neglected to ensure the fulfilment of 1559. UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) in south Lebanon has gone so far as to even share logistics with Hezbollah terrorists. Therefore, the deaths of innocent, Lebanese is the moral responsibility of the Lebanese government and the UN. To blame Israel is but to admit to the incapability of Beirut and the UN to behave responsibly."

The Indo's editorial writer apparently didn't see these events coming: "This seemingly accidental war could spread and involve other countries in the region"

According to the San Francisco Chronicle "Israel set war plan more than a year ago" (via MLMB)

But back to the beginning. This same editorial states that Hezbollah waged war on Israel: "The war waged by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon is in defiance of the wishes of the majority in Lebanon."

Yet there is some confusion as to where these soldiers were kidnapped:

" The Israeli army confirmed that two Israeli soldiers had been captured on the Lebanese frontier." (ABC via Derek)

'Implementing our promise to free Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, our strugglers have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon,' a statement by Hezbollah said. (Yahoo News via Rich)

And leaving the best till last, the editorial continues:

"Israel's exercise of its legitimate right to self-defence involves a wholly disproportionate response, the bombing of the Lebanese army, which is not its enemy; by killing far too many civilians in its indiscriminate efforts to defeat Hezbollah, which is self-defeating; and by destroying so much of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, which is quite unnecessary."

This is typical of Western reporting. In order to criticise Israel, even slightly, they must first be allowed to kill 'too many civilians'. That must be why there is little effort dedicated to finding a solution to Palestine. They just haven't killed enough of them yet.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

A democratic Iraq?

Juan Cole is 'unsure':

In Iraq, young Shiite clerical nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr gave an incendiary sermon in which he

' predicted Israel would collapse like New York's twin towers on Sept 11, 2001, if Sunnis and Shiites join in their fight. "I will continue defending my Shiite and Sunni brothers, and I tell them that if we unite, we will defeat Israel without the use of weapons," Sadr said during a speech in the southern city Iraqi city of Kufa. '

Yes, Bush has certainly created a model democracy in Iraq. (Muqtada has 30 members in parliament, and in conjunction with the Da'wa Party, he is a king maker in the new system).


Thursday, July 20, 2006


Mary Raferty points out what 'everyone' else ignores:

"It is, of course, equally wrong that any group, be it Hizbullah or Hamas, should target and kill Israeli citizens. We have no difficulty condemning this in unequivocal and unambiguous terms as terrorism.

But terrorism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "a policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted", a description which neatly sums up Israeli activity in both Lebanon and Gaza. Bombing civilian populations back to the Middle Ages, to a condition where they have no electricity, no water, no sewerage, no fuel, no roads, no vehicles and are running out of food certainly qualifies as an act of state terrorism."

Full article at the Irish Times and here


What a difference a word makes

Dear Mr. Good, (RTE News Editor)

RTE reports today: "It is reported that Israeli soldiers are involved in clashes with Hezbollah at two places along the border with Lebanon." [1]

and yesterday: "At least 70 civilians were killed and scores injured in a series of deadly Israeli raids across Lebanon in the deadliest day since the bombardment began one week ago." [2]

The BBC reports: "Captain Eric Schneider from the Israeli Defence Force told the BBC there was heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants in two places inside Lebanon's border." [3]

Although the facts appear to back up the assertion, it is unclear from the much of the reporting I have read and heard, has Israel +invaded+ Lebanon?

On an unrelated issue and at the risk of becoming a bore, a recent UN report estimates that 100 Iraqis a day are dying as the result of violence, this figure is predicted to rise. This is the equivalent of two 7/7s every day, yet RTE and a number of the respected Irish news organisations have consistently failed to cover the issue of how many Iraqis have died as a result of US/UK invasion. Our responsibility, as a conduit for this crime, should at least extend to revealing the death toll.

Kind Regards,

Patrick Cockburn reports in the Independent today:

"The death toll has risen every month this year and totalled 5,818 in May and June. This far exceeds the number given by the Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count, a web site that compiles casualty figures based on published accounts, which said that 840 civilians died in June. Overall 14,000 civilians were killed in the first half of the year says the UN."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

State Terrorism

Latest figures:

"At least 93 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel's assault in Gaza intensified on 5 July" [RTE]

"Since the Israeli offensive began, almost 300 people have been killed in fighting inside Lebanon, the majority of whom were civilians. 25 Israelis have been killed, 13 in rocket attacks inside Israel." [RTE]


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Double Standards II


Dear Madam,

Tom Cooney explains in today's Irish Times that Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorist attack.

Given there is ample evidence to suggest that the present escalation was instigated not by the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hizbullah, but by the consistent unlawful imprisonment and shelling of civilians by Israel, are the Palestinian and Lebanese people afforded the same rights Mr. Cooney argues Israelis are guaranteed?

Mr. Cooney also writes that "Iran and Syria must shoulder direct responsibility, too." If this is the case, should those that fund the Israeli military also be held responsible for it's breaches of international law?

While Hamas and Hizbullah hold a number of Israeli soldiers hostage in an attempt to force Israel to release those they imprison, Israel's 'disproportionate' response is to hold a whole country hostage. Who is terrorising who?

Yours sincerely,

Tom Cooney writes in today's Irish Times: "First, contrary to the International Court of Justice's stance, the international community accepts that Israel has a right of self-defence under article 51 of the United Nations Charter, even though Hezbollah is not a state.
Second, Israel may hold Lebanon directly responsible for the attack.

Since 9/11, the threat of international terrorism has forced states to recognise that a state that culpably fails to prevent terrorist attacks or facilitates terrorist groups is directly responsible for the attacks. The underlying principle is that states must counter international terrorism."

The implications of this liberal interpretation of International Law, though he refuses to examine them, suggest that the Palestinian and Lebanese people* are well within their rights to resist Israeli state terrorism. They are also reasonably able to hold the Israeli people responsible for not reigning in their military. And just as Syria and Iran are held responsible for Hezbollah's attacks, the UK and the US can be held accountable for Israel's bombing.

The reluctance of many governments to accept an agreed definition of what constitutes 'terrorism' is key to Mr. Cooney’s refusal to consider the 'other side of the coin'. Yet if self defence is the issue, Lebanon and Palestine are surely well within their rights to resist Israeli attack.

But again this comes down to the fundamental basis for mainstream reporting of the conflict:

Israel does not target civilians.
Arab militants primarily target civilians.

Without a rudimentary change in approach, there can be no real improvement in reporting.

* changed from 'militants' for clarity


Better than 'the beeb' anyway

Charles Krauthammer seems to have it arse ways with his 'genocidal Islamism'.

According to Reuters Israeli rockets have "killed 176 people and wounded more than 500 ... All but 13 of them were civilians."

While the 'genocidal Islamists' have killed "Twenty-four Israelis ... including 12 civilians."

Which must scare the bejasus out of Blair and Bush, because it suggests Iranian weapons technology (they attest is being supplied to Hezbollah) is more accurate than that they have the Israelis testing.

Robert Fisk reported:

"Tony Blair, who is now also, it seems, the Minister of Root Causes, believes Syria and Iran are behind the original Hizbollah attack."

And from the World Policy Institute, some public knowledge:

"Since 1976, Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. According to a November 2001 Congressional Research Service report, Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance, U.S. aid to Israel in the last half century has totaled a whopping $81.3 billion."

While on RTE an Irish soldier who served in Lebanon said in an interview on RTE's PrimeTime that it is strange to see Israel use the methods being employed to 'rescue' the captured soldier given that any successful release of captured soldiers in the past has been primarily down to negotiation and not violence.

(Backing up the assertion that this is not the primary reason for the escalation)

He also mentioned that the bombing of the main highway amounted to blocking the flow of refugees from the conflict area. Surely against international law.

"Israeli aircraft targeted the main Beirut-Damascus highway overnight, tightening an air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon."

Michael Jansen's work over the last number of weeks has been exceptional and she deserves some mention for her candid reporting of the facts, Israel's true intentions and the reality of Israeli defense.

Yet I have seen little mention of the fact that Israel's actions in Lebanon and Gaza are completely illegal in the Irish Times, RTE being marginally better.

In the weeks since the Israel escalation, instigated under the pretence that Hamas and Hezbollah are the greater terrorists, I have heard the words Geneva Conventions only twice (once by Dr Raji Sourani, a lawyer who heads the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and once by Hikmat Ajjuri the Palestinian ambassador to Irelandand) and only a handful calls for Israel to abide by International Law (once by the Arab League, once by The Palestinian Delegate-General to Ireland, Dr Hikmat Ajjuri)

Though the EU presidency said in a statement, "Actions which are contrary to international humanitarian law can only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution." 'Aggravate' being a surprisingly friendly term to use in this situation.

The International Crisis Group 'requested' "that Israel [should] fulfil its humanitarian obligations to the Palestinians under international law."

While the present reporting of the most recent conflict in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine has not been as biased as that offered by those across the Irish Sea, it has failed by starting from these fundamental points:

a) Israel always responds to Palestinian/Lebanon aggression
b) Israel uses precision targeting, therefore minimises civilian casualties
c) The ball is in Hamas' and Hezbollah's court


Monday, July 17, 2006

Reality Bites

An unfortunate FOX News reporter gets on the wrong side of the Israeli army. Que the explanations...

Though one soon to be jobless presenter calls the soldiers 'bad guys'.


Friday, July 14, 2006

More on Cuba

The BBC report the thoughts of Cuban dissidents on George Bush's planned 'democracy':

""I really appreciate the solidarity of the United States government and people, but I think that this report is counterproductive," dissident journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe told foreign news agencies.

"I believe Cubans have to be the ones who solve our problems and any interference serves to complicate the situation.""

And according to Wikipedia:

"Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe (born November 29, 1940 ) is a journalist and economist in Havana. He had to shovel bat dung for two years after he first criticized Castro's economic policies in the 1960s. Sentenced to twenty years in Chafarina prison, Guant�namo on March 20, 2003 for his non-violent activities as a government critic."

Thanks to tjerk over at PofV for the tip.

Planning for the Re-Colonization of Cuba

by Tom Crumpacker
July 13, 2006

The Bush Administration's "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba," co-chaired by our Secretaries of State and Commerce, has presented a new report to our President this week. It's a lengthy and comprehensive plan, detailing the steps which US government and other "vital actors" will be taking to bring Cuba back into the family of overt US colonies, which now include some of the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, Kabul, and the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The Administration was roundly criticized for not having such a plan for Iraq after its conquests there. Some even claimed it was the reason for the failure of the occupation. One of the purposes of this Plan may be to forestall such criticism in Cuba's case.

Nevertheless this Plan is much the same as the one for Iraq (which was not publicly articulated beforehand.) By privatizing what used to be done publicly, it will bring Cuba into the modern, civilized world by creating a capitalist utopia where private entrepreneurs from the "international community" (mostly US corporations) and the "Cuban community abroad" (mostly US citizens), unencumbered by societal restraint, will unleash their full creative powers to save the long-suffering Cuban people from continuing poverty and tyranny, while incidentally benefiting themselves.

continued... ZNet


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jansen in the Irish Times

Interesting piece by Michael Jansen in yesterday's:

Israel engaged in another 'Battle of Beirut'

In its efforts to topple the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Israel has strengthened its enemy, writes Michael Jansen

continued... The Irish Times and here


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Repressive democracy please


Dear Dav

Thank you for your email concerning an RTE report on comments by the US Government.

The statement you mention relates to a direct quote from President Bush. What he said was quoted accurately. An interference in the text using quotation marks would have amounted to a one-sided interpretation of his comment or raised a doubt over the purity of democracy had in mind.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Good

Dear Mr. Good,

Thank you for responding. I apologise, it was unreasonable for me to suggest you could raise doubt over the purity of what President Bush professes he has in mind.

Perhaps it is the blanket media spotlight given to Mr. Bush's every word, his promises of democracy and his incessant demonising of 'unpopular regimes', notably in South America, but for me at least it has become infuriating to hear of another 'backward' nation earmarked for democracy promotion. For me too, Afghanistan and Iraq are ample proof that the type of democracy Mr. Bush has in mind may be less than pure.

I appreciate that you did not allow his description of Cuba's governance as 'repressive control' to pass without quotation marks. Thanks for your time.


RTE reports US intentions for Cuba when Castro dies. But while some quotes are too controversial to report as fact, others are taken for granted. The US intends to bring +democracy+ to a 'repressed' country. Where's the evidence?

Dear Mr. Good, (RTE News Editor)

Why is it that the word 'democracy' is not contained within quotation marks in this exert from the RTE World News page?

"US President George W Bush has said an $80 million plan to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba demonstrates that the US is committed to actively helping Cuba to move away from 'repressive control' to freedom." [1]

There are certainly different types and degrees of democracy (as well as 'repressive control') supported by the US, and indeed the West. Therefore there is absolutely no reason to believe their intentions with regards to Cuba are anything but self serving.

"The Cubans are utterly irresponsible and have no idea what good government is. Under our supervision and with firm and honest care for the future, the people of Cuba may become a useful ace."[2]

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/0711/cuba.html

2. http://www.eiu.edu/~historia/2003/cuba.htm
[Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1823 in a letter to the Spanish Ambassador ('Robert F. Smith, What Happened in Cuba? A Documentary History' pp 27-28)]

Quote courtesy of David T over at Persistence of Vision

The essay it is referenced in also contains some interested thoughts on US intervention in Cuba.


Monday, July 10, 2006

The Majority Militants

"At least 23 Palestinians, most of them militants, were killed on Thursday" (The Irish Times)

It would appear from the Irish Times' reporting of the latest Israeli military 'incursion' into Palestine that Israel is always responding to Palestinian aggression. The reporting also suggests, and maybe quite accurately, that a majority of Palestinians support the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier. But on the other hand no indication as to the support from the Israeli population for the shelling of Palestinian towns, the kidnapping of Palestinian politicians or the killing of civilians is provided.

This type of reporting is, seemingly, purposefully misleading. To maintain that Israel is simply reacting to Palestinian terrorism when the facts paint a different picture does not seem to evidence the "honest, accurate and comprehensive analysis" promised to Irish Times readers.

UK media watch organisation Media Lens commented on the Israeli kidnapping of Hamas politicians; "there is no "well-defined legal process" protecting the Hamas politicians "arrested" by the Israelis. Of what crimes have they been accused? Are we to believe that they have any rights of review or release whatever? Quite the reverse; the press reports that the subsequent bombings of empty Hamas political offices were intended as a clear signal that Hamas's leaders can be assassinated if Israel so desires."

In what has been framed as a reprisal for a Palestinian kidnapping Israel has returned the favour, yet the media reaction has been quite different. While Palestinians 'kidnap', Israel 'arrest', although it is well known Israeli detention assures prisoners no more rights than Palestinian captivity. This is consistent with the majority of media reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, it seems the liberal media will go to great lengths in order to impart some sort of legality onto Israel's crimes against humanity. The same 'gift' is not offered to Palestinians.

Therefore Jonathan Cook's observation last month; "Few readers will be aware that on June 24, the day before the "kidnapping", Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza Strip and captured two Palestinians claimed by Israel to be members of Hamas." (Guest Media Alert by Jonathan Cook, 'Kidnapped by Israel';") will, as he said, not be common knowledge to the liberal news reader. And it will certainly not be offered as an explanation for the Palestinian kidnapping.

Surprisingly, it is only a few weeks since the Irish Times reported the deaths of seven Palestinians including three children on a gaza beach. This was not described as an escalation of the conflict. In fact, the disproportionate killing of Palestinians is very rarely reported as evidence for anything, let alone the reason for Palestinian attacks.

"Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005 'til today, the estimates run between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy artillery shells have been shot and fired into Gaza. On the Palestinian side, the estimates are approximately 1,000 Kassam missiles, crude missiles, have been fired into Israel. So we have a ratio of between seven and nine to one.

"Let's look at casualties. In the last six months, approximately 80 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza due to Israel artillery firing... There have been exactly eight Israelis killed in the last five years from the Kassam missiles. Again, we have a huge disproportion, a huge discrepancy." ('AIPAC v. Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel's Assault on Gaza,' June 29, 2006; )

Most of them militants?


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Sycophant's Dream

A truely shocking report on tonight's 11:10 News, RTE 2, heaped flattery on President George Bush as he turns 60.

Ironic given the present focus on North Korea and the much ridiculed 'personality cult' of kim jong ill.

We heard about Bush's perfect health, impressive fitness, stress free look etc etc

Complete rubbish.


Monbiot on Fish

Which reminds me of a case study in the documentary 'The Corporation' (I think) of a fishing company that had completely depleted fish stocks by overfishing, resulting in the company going backrupt. They then claimed, using the evidence of an 'expert', that it was not overfishing that depleted the stocks, but an unknown and unseen predatory fish.

Watch The Corporation online here: Info Clearing House

Not Enough Fish in the Sea

We need omega-3 oils for our brains to function properly. But where will they come from?

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 20th June 2006.

The more it is tested, the more compelling the hypothesis becomes. Dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and other neurological problems seem to be associated with a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, especially in the womb(1,2,3,4). The evidence of a link with depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and dementia is less clear, but still suggestive(5,6,7). None of these conditions are caused exclusively by a lack of these chemicals, or can be entirely remedied by their application, but it’s becoming pretty obvious that some of our most persistent modern diseases are, at least in part, diseases of deficiency.

continued... George Monbiot

More here: UN


Monday, July 03, 2006

Old School Disinformation

Charles Krauthammer suggests the war in Iraq "had two political objectives in going into Iraq: deposing Saddam and replacing his regime with a democratic government." When an article begins like that, there is really no point reading on.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith warned Tony Blair in March 2003 that "regime change cannot be the objective of military action."

In March 2003 President Bush gave his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein; " We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities [WMD], Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities."

Regime change was not and could not be given as the political objective of the war. Is Mr. Krauthammer suggesting the public were duped by the coalition governments?

If the Irish Times sees a need to counter balance it's 'liberal slant' with some reactionary conservatism please bring back Kevin Myers in Charles Krauthammer's stead, he at least employed a modicum of creative flair in his disinformation.


Collective Torture

Michael Jansen writes in the Irish Times today that Palestinians are not being 'terrorised' they are being 'traumatised'. Why is it so important to make this distinction? The Irish Times' reports of arrests and kidnapping suggests the Israeli state acts in accordance with International law and the Palestinian state acts in opposition to it. This is flatly false.

The debate over whether Israeli incursions and constant bombardment constitute collective punishment is simply diversion. The Israeli Prime Minister has said that as long as the soldier remains captive, "I want no one to sleep at night in Gaza. I want them to know what it feels like."

In order to accomplish this end the Israeli army have employed tatics such as missile attacks, sonic booms, the kidnapping of Palestinian officials and thinly veiled threats of further unspecified 'consequences', all of which are in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The constant sonic booms and constant shelling are designed as the Prime Minister says, to deprive the population of sleep and instill fear. "The massive sonic boom often breaks windows, shakes entire apartment buildings and terrifies the people of Gaza."

"The Palestinian health ministry says the sonic booms have led to miscarriages and heart problems. The United Nations has demanded an end to the tactic, saying it causes panic attacks in children"

The BBC discussed the issue of sleep deprivation in 2004; "it is not like torture - it is a form of torture, a tactic favoured by the KGB and the Japanese in PoW camps in World War Two.

The British Army was also accused of using sleep deprivation to extract information from suspected IRA members in 1971.

"It is such a standard form of torture that basically everybody has used it at one time or another," says Andrew Hogg, of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture."

Palestinian civilians are being collectively punished by the Israeli army, sleep deprivation is simply the tip of the iceberg. The added threat of violence is given weight by repeated Palestinian deaths resulting from Israeli attacks. These methods are a popular interrogation method, which is criticised by human rights groups who regard it as torture. These methods are being enthusiastically employed by the Israel army against Palestinian children. Michael Jansen's strange denial of state terrorism is at odds with the reality printed on preceding pages. Palestinian civilians are being traumatised by Israeli terrorism.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Advanced Semantics - Update

RTE have re-evaluated their reporting of the present Israel-Palestine situation, slightly.


Dear Mr. Good,

RTE reports:

"Israel has given Palestinian militants a two days deadline to release a soldier kidnapped during a pre-dawn raid at an Israeli Army post near the Gaza Strip."

"Israel has denied that 64 Palestinian officials being detained in the West Bank are to be used as bargaining chips in the crisis over the capture of an Israeli soldier."

Israeli detention assures prisoners no more rights than Palestinian captivity.

Why does Israel 'detain' and Palestine 'kidnap'?

Yours sincerely,

The response was (received Friday):

"Fair point. We have put a message in our general mail to this effect.

Michael Good"

Where it was once 'kidnapped' it is now "captured."

A minuscule success, sort of.