"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Syria Out of Lebanon and Israel Out of Syria

This is a moment of truth for all belligerent parties in the Middle East. Hariri's assassination has once again focused the world's attention on the need to get some major Levantine matters resolved and soon. The quickest solution to these 'complex problems' is to shed all complexity and keep it simple. Get Syrian forces - including intelligence operatives - out of Lebanon. And compel the Israelis to remove all settlements and end the occupation of the Golan Heights.

With the pressure mounting on Syria to immediately implement Security Council resolution 1559, Damascus should accept that now is the time to put aside pride and demand a concurrent implementation of UN resolution 242, which obliges Israel to return the Golan. It is understandable that the Syrians do not want any comparisons made between the two resolutions. The Syrians entered Lebanon at the invitation of an internationally recognized Lebanese government and no Syrian settlements have ever been planted on Lebanese soil. On the other hand, Israel's belligerent occupation and subsequent annexation of the Syrian Golan has been exposed as a vulgar expansionist project - as evidenced by the dozens of Jewish settlements that have been built on expropriated native land.

As always, the Syrians are sensitive about their pan-Arab credentials. But it's time to wake up and smell the Turkish coffee. The Arab League simply doesn't matter. It only exists because bureaucracies are easy to set up and difficult to dismantle. Today, the League is no more than a building in downtown Cairo where nostalgic Arabs can go to reminisce about what could have been if they were not so prone to tribalism. The only time The Arab League has ever proven effective was when George 'daddy' Bush skillfully manipulated it to get Arab armies to join desert Storm.

Despite public protestations to the contrary, virtually every Arab country in the Gulf was involved in the American invasion of Iraq - including Saudi Arabia. They were certainly aware that a monstrous civil war could be ignited and that Iraq might never emerge intact. The Gulf Sheiks willingly took the risk that Saddam's inheritors in Baghdad might look to Tehran for future guidance. Did it bother them that an infinitely larger and more permanent American military presence would be established in the Gulf? Hardly. As far as they were concerned, it would only mean more protection for their oil plantations and more intimate relations with the 'Big White Father' in Washington.

Despite continuing official denial, the Egyptians were the first to make a separate peace with Israel. Hosny Mubarak makes no apologies about putting 'Egypt First'. And the politicians in the Maghreb have their own domestic worries. As for the Palestinians, they gave up on Pan Arab rhetoric a generation ago. They know better than to depend on their 'Arab brothers' - except for the occasional miserly handout or a statement endorsing the non-existent 'beace brocess' - worded to cater to the sensibilities of America's neo-con lords.

Pan-Arab posturing aside, what Damascus needs is a little frank soul searching about the roots of its 'Lebanese' troubles. It should be recalled that Syria's intervention in Lebanon in 1976 was coordinated with Henry Kissinger - on the promise that it would improve the chances of securing the liberty of the Golan Heights. That Syrians took the bait. Both Syria and Lebanon eventually paid a heavy price for falling into Kissinger's trap and Damascus still has troubles owning up to that catastrophic mistake.

All this is old history and it is best to avoid bringing up such messy matters - even if they are part of the public record. It is best to move on. This is Syria's moment to publicly state that its national interests revolve around three major demands - a complete and immediate end to Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, security guarantees against further aggression from Tel Aviv and a stable Lebanon that is also immune from Israeli adventurism. The key to success is to keep matters simple - and avoid being lured into complicated 'step by step' endless back roads using old 'road maps' that lead to dead ends. If Bush is so impatient, let him get the ball rolling on both the Lebanese and Syrian fronts.

The American Likudniks have Damascus figured out. They can always count on Syria to let pride take precedence over national interests. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to link the Israeli occupation of the Golan to a Syrian retreat from Lebanon. But it takes Syria's stubborn sense of honor to pretend that these two problems are disconnected. At the end of the day, Lebanon will become fully independent. The question is whether we shall simultaneously witness the liberation of Syrian lands from Israeli occupation. That outcome is entirely dependent on Syria's willingness to take assertive and bold moves - even at the cost of losing its Pan-Arab credentials on the streets of Cairo or Beirut.

It's no state secret that Lebanon is being held hostage to give the Syrians a little leverage in dealing with the Israelis. The wisdom of Syria's strategy would only make sense if America or Israel really cared. They don't. Damascus can count on the Bush administration to uphold the Kissinger tradition. George Bush will demand all kinds of immediate Syrian concessions without so much as mentioning the Golan Heights.

Detractors will point out that America's sudden interest in Lebanon is driven by the 'Bush Sharansky' doctrine. Granted. Only this time, America is posturing as a defender of the will of the United Nations. The Syrians can offer to implement a four-digit resolution (1559) in exchange for the immediate implementation of two outstanding three-digit resolutions (242 and 338). They should leverage the French connection. If Bush is not serious, Chirac certainly is. If Bush sees the developments in Lebanon as a welcome distraction from his troubles in Baghdad, Chirac has a deep and genuine interest in bringing peace to the Levant.

It goes without saying that Syrian credibility can be greatly enhanced by a transparent and rapid investigation leading to the capture of those responsible for assassinating Rafiq El Hariri - a personal friend of Chirac.

Damascus needs to abandon its passion for gamesmanship. Since 1974, they have scrupulously abided to the truce with Israel - even when the Israelis have attacked the Syrian heartland. In subsequent negotiations sponsored by Clinton, Barak played Damascus like a fiddle without ever intending to reach an agreement. Israel's only goal was to derail implementing Oslo and put the Palestinians on the back burner. Sharon has found all kinds of excuses for refusing to even initiate a dialogue with Bashar El Assad.

So, what has Damascus gained from three decades of patiently waiting for the 'international community' to reward their good behavior by compelling Israel to return stolen Syrian property? Nothing, unless you want to count the constant Israeli maneuvers to get Washington to put Syria in the doghouse.

It just might be that the best Syrian effort to get a just resolution to its Israeli problems might result in the independence of Lebanon and no forward movement on the Golan Heights. It is even probable that George Bush will take his marbles and walk away if the Syrians and Europeans demand linkage. But my gut instinct tells me that Chirac really wants to push both issues and demand accountability from all the belligerents - including the ones in the White House. The best course for Bashar is to make a large bet before the casino closes down and George Bush finds other distractions. He can begin by demanding a four-digit UN resolution linking 1559 to 338 and 242. This will certainly hurt Syrian pride, but it might do wonders for his country and the region.

Ahmed Amr is an American and the former editor of NileMedia.com. His writings have focused on the mass media’s iron grip on the state. He is currently roaming the planet in search of an honest newspaper.

Copyright © IAhmed Amr. All rights reserved. http://world.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/13440/

Camilo Mejia: Regaining My Humanity

Conscientious objector Camilo Mejia: "I was a coward not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place."

In March 2004, 28-year-old Sgt. Camilo Mejia turned himself in to the U.S. military and filed an application for conscientious objector status. On May 21, he was sentenced to one year in prison for refusing to return to fight in Iraq. He was released from prison on Feb. 15, 2005.

I was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 and returned home for a two-week leave in October. Going home gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts in order and to listen to what my conscience had to say. People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors – the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man decapitated by our machine-gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son.

I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who were further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying army.

And I realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We weren't helping the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people didn't want us there. We weren't preventing terrorism or making Americans safer. I couldn't find a single good reason for having been there, for having shot at people and been shot at.

Coming home gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and moral obligation. I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq.

By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being. I have not deserted the military nor been disloyal to the men and women of the military. I have not been disloyal to a country. I have only been loyal to my principles.

When I turned myself in, with all my fears and doubts, it did it not only for myself. I did it for the people of Iraq, even for those who fired upon me – they were just on the other side of a battleground where war itself was the only enemy. I did it for the Iraqi children, who are victims of mines and depleted uranium. I did it for the thousands of unknown civilians killed in war. My time in prison is a small price compared to the price Iraqis and Americans have paid with their lives. Mine is a small price compared to the price humanity has paid for war.

Many have called me a coward, others have called me a hero. I believe I can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who have called me a hero, I say that I don't believe in heroes, but I believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

To those who have called me a coward I say that they are wrong, and that without knowing it, they are also right. They are wrong when they think that I left the war for fear of being killed. I admit that fear was there, but there was also the fear of killing innocent people, the fear of putting myself in a position where to survive means to kill, there was the fear of losing my soul in the process of saving my body, the fear of losing myself to my daughter, to the people who love me, to the man I used to be, the man I wanted to be. I was afraid of waking up one morning to realize my humanity had abandoned me.

I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an infantry squad in combat and we never failed to accomplish our mission. But those who called me a coward, without knowing it, are also right. I was a coward not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty, a moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier. All because I was afraid. I was terrified; I did not want to stand up to the government and the army – I was afraid of punishment and humiliation. I went to war because at the moment I was a coward, and for that I apologize to my soldiers for not being the type of leader I should have been.

I also apologize to the Iraqi people. To them I say I am sorry for the curfews, for the raids, for the killings. May they find it in their hearts to forgive me.

One of the reasons I did not refuse the war from the beginning was that I was afraid of losing my freedom. Today, as I sit behind bars I realize that there are many types of freedom, and that in spite of my confinement I remain free in many important ways. What good is freedom if we are afraid to follow our conscience? What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions? I am confined to a prison but I feel, today more than ever, connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.

For general comments and questions, email or write to: The Free Camilo Committee, c /o Maritza Castillo, 201 178 Drive #323, Miami, FL 33160. freecamilo@freecamilo.org

Israel Threatens To Attack Syria

JERUSALEM: Israel has attacked Syrian targets in the past and will do so again if it feels this will stop Damascus-based groups from attacking Israeli targets, a senior defense official said Sunday, accusing Syria of being behind a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said an Israeli attack will “send a message to (Syrian President Bashar) Assad” that he must clamp down on Islamic groups based in Damascus.

Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also blamed Syria for Friday’s bombing, but stopped short of threatening to attack.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said the United States is currently leading “an initiative” against Syria, and Israel has to allow it to do so. Israel has attacked Syrian installations after accusing Damascus-based Islamic groups of masterminding, coordinating and overseeing attacks in Israel.

Sharon presses Abbas: Israeli leader Ariel Sharon demanded on Sunday the Palestinians smash militant groups after a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, saying he would freeze peace efforts and take military action if they did not heed his call.

Addressing his cabinet in forceful tones, the prime minister said leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in Syria ordered the attack that killed four Israelis on Friday, violence that shattered a de facto truce that had raised hopes for peace.

Sharon, hammering out Israel’s bedrock conditions for resuming talks on a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, said the time had come for Abbas to confront militants rather than try to co-opt them.

“There will not be any diplomatic progress, I repeat, no diplomatic progress, until the Palestinians take vigorous action to wipe out the terror groups and their infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority’s territory,” Sharon said.

He said Abbas’s “immediate test” after the bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub was to act against Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the first deadly Palestinian attack in Israel since November. The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the bombing and said it had arrested three suspects in the West Bank on Saturday.

Syria backs peace efforts: Syria said on Sunday it supported Palestinian peace efforts with Israel and a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv contradicted its policy.

“Syria has been supporting the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in creating an environment that would allow for peace and the creation of a Palestinian state and we will continue to do so,” a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

“This operation harms the efforts of the Palestinians (for peace) and gives Israel a pretext to bash the peace process ... it contradicts Syrian policy,” the official said. On Saturday, Damascus denied any link to the bombing and said the Damascus office of Islamic Jihad had been closed. agencies

Daily Times

U.S. Urges Judge to Dismiss Suit on Chemical Use in Vietnam War

"The implications of plaintiffs' claims are astounding," the government's filing said, "as they would (if accepted) open the courthouse doors of the American legal system for former enemy nationals and soldiers claiming to have been harmed by the United States Armed Forces" during war.

The Justice Department is urging a federal judge in Brooklyn to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at forcing a re-examination of one of the most contentious issues of the Vietnam War, the use of the defoliant Agent Orange.

The civil suit, filed last year on behalf of millions of Vietnamese, claimed that American chemical companies committed war crimes by supplying the military with Agent Orange, which contained dioxin, a highly toxic substance.

The suit seeks what could be billions of dollars of damages from the companies and the environmental cleanup of Vietnam.

In preparation for legal arguments scheduled for today in United States District Court in Brooklyn, Justice Department lawyers filed a brief last month that described the suit as a dangerous threat to the president's power to wage war and an effort at a "breathtaking expansion" of the powers of federal courts.

Though the case drew little attention when it was first filed, it has become an important test of the reach of American courts, drawing worldwide interest and setting off a fierce debate among international-law experts.

"The implications of plaintiffs' claims are astounding," the government's filing said, "as they would (if accepted) open the courthouse doors of the American legal system for former enemy nationals and soldiers claiming to have been harmed by the United States Armed Forces" during war.

One of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Constantine P. Kokkoris, said in an interview that the Justice Department's argument was misplaced because the government had not been sued in the case. He said the lawsuit raised questions about the conduct of the corporations that were limited to their supplying what he called contaminated herbicide.

The chemical companies argue that they produced Agent Orange following government specifications and that its use in Vietnam was necessary to protect American soldiers. They have long argued that there is no clear link between exposure to Agent Orange and many of the health problems attributed to it.

The judge, Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, said last year that the case, a class action on behalf of what could be four million Vietnamese, faced many legal hurdles.

But during a hearing in March he said it raised important issues and "has to go forward seriously," suggesting that it might eventually need to be decided by the United States Supreme Court.

He asked from the bench whether precedents concerning the treatment of makers of Zyklon B, the hydrogen cyanide gas used in Nazi death camps, might be applicable to the claims against the companies that supplied Agent Orange to the military.

After World War II, two manufacturers of Zyklon B were convicted of war crimes and executed.

Agent Orange was widely used in Vietnam, often to clear jungle that American officials said gave the enemy cover. Its use was discontinued in 1971. But it has survived as a confounding legal issue.

In 1984, after years of court battles, seven American chemical companies paid $180 million to settle a class action suit by American Vietnam veterans who claimed that it caused cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

Judge Weinstein, who also presided over those cases, said in a series of controversial rulings at the time that the veterans would have had grave difficulty proving a link between their health problems and Agent Orange. Some scientists say the link would be easier to prove today.

Because of the federal government's legal immunity, it was not part of the 1984 settlement and was not named as a defendant in the new suit on behalf of the Vietnamese.

Thousands of pages of legal arguments have been filed in preparation for today's arguments, including experts' opinions and friend-of-the-court briefs.

International law experts have weighed in on both sides on the central issue, whether Agent Orange should be considered a "poison" that was barred during warfare by international law.

George P. Fletcher, an international law professor at Columbia University, wrote on behalf of the Vietnamese that "in warfare it is permissible 'to stand and deliver'- to look the enemy squarely in the eye and shoot him - but not to look the other way and then use dioxin" to poison his food, land and water.

But, writing for the chemical companies, W. Michael Reisman, an international law expert at Yale, concluded that no treaty or principle of international law that was accepted by the United States during the Vietnam era declared herbicides to be poisons barred during warfare.

"There was no prohibition on the use of herbicides as a military instrument," he wrote.

Published: February 28, 2005
NY Times

Hollywood's Revenge

"Million Dollar Baby" is Hollywood's revenge for not feeling able to give the Oscar for Best Picture to "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's an even worse movie than Fahrenheit. And, unlike Fahrenheit, it's not even filling movie houses.

Charlotte Allen points out that even though MDB is doing only so-so at the box office ("Because of Winn Dixie," a family-friendly movie about a dog, has almost the same weekly gross, despite having been in the theaters for only ten days), it was destined to win big at the Oscars. She and her sister-in-law both bet on it in advance of last night:

"[B]oth of us knew our Hollywood, and we predicted, quite accurately, that the cinema elite would find irresistible this oh-so-serious Clint Eastwooder with its doubly politically correct whammy of female boxing and plug for euthanasia. For 1999, Hollywood handed a 'Best Actor' award to Michael Caine for playing a friendly neighborhood abortionist in The Cider House Rules, another picture that hardly anyone wanted to see either before or after the Academy Awards show but that pushed a cause dear to West Coast liberals' hearts. That's the way Hollywood is.

Like "The Cider House Rules," MDB has an all-too-obvious agenda. That's why the elite so liked these two movies--they preached their gospel.

Think of Medea being rewritten to argue for increased after school programs, or Romeo and Juliet transformed into a play about the need for more publicly-funded teen suicide hotlines. That's about how artistic MDB is.

MDB is preachier than any televangelist on Sunday morning TV.

February 28, 2005 | 4:50 p.m.