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Thursday, May 19, 2005

U.S. Claims Over Siege Challenged

As with the siege of Fallujah six months back, U.S. claims over the siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im are being challenged now by independent sources.

As with the siege of Fallujah six months back, U.S. claims over the siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im are being challenged now by independent sources.

The U.S. military claims a ”successful” end to the weeklong operation earlier this month around Al-Qa'im, a town about 320km west of Baghdad close to the Syrian border. The operation was launched against what the U.S. military saw as the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in the town.

Iraqi civilians and doctors in the area say no foreign fighters were present in the town. Al Qa'im and surrounding areas have suffered great destruction, and many in the town population of 110,000 were killed, they say.

Abu Ahmed, a resident of Al-Qa'im, told IPS on telephone that ”all the fighters here are Iraqis from this area.”

He said continuing violations by U.S. soldiers had provoked people into confronting the occupying forces. He said troops had been raiding homes, sending women into the streets without their hijabs and entering areas where women sleep.

”The fighters are just local people who refuse to be treated like dogs,” he said. ”Nobody wants the Americans here.”

Abd al-Khaliq al-Rawi, head of communications for the local government in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Jazeera television that the fighters were all local Iraqis. ”We have not seen any outsiders. The fighters are from the area. They are resisting the occupation.”

Top of Form Al Qa'im and surrounding areas were besieged by U.S. forces for a week by about 1,000 troops backed by warplanes, tanks and helicopters as a part of 'Operation Matador'. The U.S. military claims the operation was a success in that 125 ”militants” were killed in an effort to search for followers of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But accounts of the operation from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Iraqi doctors and civilians differ greatly from those put forward by the military.

”Qa'im is still surrounded by the MNF (Multinational Forces), and we've yet to get any humanitarian workers into the city,” Daunia Pavone, programme manager for the Italian NGO consortium Solidarity told IPS in Amman, Jordan. The bombing had stopped, she said, but they did not know when it might resume and were unable therefore to send aid workers into the area.

”The Americans said they could not get inside the city,” Pavone said. ”Once the Americans surrounded the city nobody was able to get out. So we are very concerned that there are a large number of civilian casualties inside the city.”

Pavone said that about 12,000 Iraqis had left Al-Qaim, and that the rest had remained trapped inside. ”I think there will be lots of civilian casualties,” she said.

At least nine soldiers were killed and more than 40 wounded during the siege, according to the U.S. military.

The U.S. military has made no statement on civilian casualties, but witnesses say scores of innocent Iraqis were killed.

The city centre ”has been almost completely destroyed,” the director of Al-Qa'im hospital Dr. Hamdi Al-Alusi told Al-Jazeera television. He said the casualties included many women, children and elderly people, and appealed to humanitarian organisations to intervene quickly.

”Ambulances were prevented from moving and the medical teams have left the city centre because it has been destroyed,” Al-Alusi said during the siege. Water and electricity networks have been destroyed and ”there are scores of wounded people and scores of victims who cannot reach the hospital or anywhere else. We pray to god and implore the whole world to look into what happened to Al-Qa'im and adjacent cities.”

Rafa Asahab, a Syrian who lives in Abu Kemal village on the Syrian border told IPS he saw some of the effects of the siege. ”At least 100 civilians in Al-Qa'im have been killed,” he said. U.S. warplanes also entered Syrian airspace many times, he said.

Eyewitnesses said U.S. jets and helicopters also attacked surrounding Al-Karabilah, Al-Jazirah and Al-Quaydat towns. ”Medical staff confirmed the killing of civilians by helicopter gunfire,” Dr. Muhammad Abud reported on Al-Sharqiyah television. He said ambulance crews had difficulty retrieving some bodies that had been ripped apart.

Adil al-Rawi, an eyewitness in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Arabiya television during the siege that U.S. forces had shelled the hospital. ”They are using warplanes, mortar shells and tanks to shell the city indiscriminately, hurt citizens and bomb the houses with warplanes.”

Many people in the towns need medical aid, and the thousands of residents who fled need water, food, tents and blankets, Pavone said.

The siege came as violence and bloodshed continue to escalate in Iraq amidst rising opposition to U.S. forces. Tensions rose further when anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made another demand Monday that the United States withdraw from Iraq. Al-Sadr had launched a bloody Intifadah (militant uprising) against occupation forces last summer in Najaf, Hilla and the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

Last week the new Iraqi government announced a continuation of the state of emergency (excepting in the Kurdish region in the north). Emergency was declared on Nov. 7, 2004. Most of the country has remained under martial law ever since, despite elections in January this year.

Dahr Jamail
AMMAN, May 19 (IPS)

$1 Trillion Missing : Military Waste Under Fire

The Department of Defense, already infamous for spending $640 for a toilet seat, once again finds itself under intense scrutiny, only this time because it couldn't account for more than a trillion dollars in financial transactions, not to mention dozens of tanks, missiles and planes.

The Pentagon's unenviable reputation for waste will top the congressional agenda this week, when the House and Senate are expected to begin floor debate on a Bush administration proposal to make sweeping changes in how the Pentagon spends money, manages contracts and treats civilian employees.

The Bush proposal, called the Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act, arrives at a time when the nonpartisan General Accounting Office has raised the volume of its perennial complaints about the financial woes at Defense, which recently failed its seventh audit in as many years.

"Overhauling DOD's financial management operations represent a challenge that goes far beyond financial accounting to the very fiber of (its) . . . business operations and culture," GAO chief David Walker told lawmakers in March.


Though Defense has long been notorious for waste, recent government reports suggest the Pentagon's money management woes have reached astronomical proportions. A study by the Defense Department's inspector general found that the Pentagon couldn't properly account for more than a trillion dollars in monies spent. A GAO report found Defense inventory systems so lax that the U.S.

Army lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units.

And before the Iraq war, when military leaders were scrambling to find enough chemical and biological warfare suits to protect U.S. troops, the department was caught selling these suits as surplus on the Internet "for pennies on the dollar," a GAO official said.

Given these glaring gaps in the management of a Pentagon budget that is approaching $400 billion, the coming debate is shaping up as a bid to gain the high ground in the battle against waste, fraud and abuse.

"We are overhauling our financial management system precisely because people like David Walker are rightly critical of it," said Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial officer and prime architect of the Defense Department's self-styled fiscal transformation.

Among the provisions in the 207-page plan, the department is asking Congress to allow Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to replace the civil service system governing 700,000 nonmilitary employees with a new system to be detailed later.

The plan would also eliminate or phase out more than a hundred reports that now tell Congress, for instance, which Defense contractors support the Arab boycott of Israel and when U.S. special forces train foreign soldiers, as well as many studies of program costs.

The administration's proposal, which would also give Rumsfeld greater authority to move money between accounts and exempt Defense from certain environmental statutes, prompted influential House Democrats to write Speaker Dennis Hastert last week complaining that the proposals would "increase the level of waste, fraud, and abuse . . . by vastly reducing (Defense) accountability."

"The Congress has increased defense spending from $300 billion to $400 billion over three years at the same time that the Pentagon has failed to address financial problems that dwarf those of Enron," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, one of the letter's signatories.

Saying critics of the bill "were arguing for more paperwork," Hastert spokesman John Feehery said his boss would support the Bush reforms on the House floor. "The purpose is to streamline the Pentagon to become a less bureaucratic and more efficient organization . . . while also making it more accountable," Feehery said.


The debate will center around the defense authorization bill, the policy- setting prelude to the defense appropriations measure that comes up later in the session. With the House and Senate considering different versions of the transformation proposals, it will be months before each passes its own bill and reconciles any differences.

But few on Capitol Hill would deny that, when it comes to fiscal management,

Defense is long overdue for "transformation."

In congressional testimony Rumsfeld himself has said "the financial reporting systems of the Pentagon are in disarray . . . they're not capable of providing the kinds of financial management information that any large organization would have."

GAO reports detail not only the woeful state of Defense fiscal controls, but the cost of failed attempts to fix them.

For instance, in June 2002 the GAO reviewed the history of a proposed Corporate Information Management system, or CIM. The initiative began in 1989 as an attempt to unify more than 2,000 overlapping systems then being used for billing, inventory, personnel and similar functions. But after "spending about $20 billion, the CIM initiative was eventually abandoned," the GAO said.

Gregory Kutz, director of GAO's financial management division and co-author of that report, likened Defense to a dysfunctional corporation, with the Pentagon cast as a holding company exercising only weak fiscal control over its subsidiaries -- the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Today, DOD has about 2,200 overlapping financial systems, Kutz said, and just running them costs taxpayers $18 billion a year.

"The (Pentagon's) inability to even complete an audit shows just how far they have to go," he said.

Kutz contrasted the department's loose inventory controls to state-of-the- art systems at private corporations.

"I've been to Wal-Mart," Kutz said. "They were able to tell me how many tubes of toothpaste were in Fairfax, Va., at that given moment. And DOD can't find its chem-bio suits."


Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Governmental Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., said waste has become ingrained in the Defense budget because opposition to defense spending is portrayed as unpatriotic, and legislators are often more concerned about winning Pentagon pork than controlling defense waste.

"You have a black hole at the Pentagon for money and a blind Congress," Brian said.

But things may be changing.

GAO's Kutz said Rumsfeld has "showed a commitment" to cutting waste and asked Pentagon officials to save 5 percent of the defense budget, which would mean a $20 billion savings.

Legislators are also calling attention to Defense waste. "Balancing the military's books is not as exciting as designing or purchasing the next generation of airplanes, tanks, or ships, but it is just as important," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., said last week. In a hearing last month about cost overruns, Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., of the House Committee on Government Reform said: "I've always considered myself to be a pro-military type person, but that doesn't mean I just want to sit back and watch the Pentagon waste billions and billions of dollars."

But while Capitol Hill sees the need, and possibly has the will to reform the Pentagon, the devil remains in the details, and the administration aroused Democratic suspicions when it dropped its 207-page transformation bill on lawmakers on April 10 -- leaving scant time to scrutinize proposals that touch many aspects of the biggest department in government.

"We have as much problem with the process as with the substance," said said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., who co-signed Waxman's letter calling the transformation bill "an effort by the Department to substantially reduce congressional oversight and public accountability."

Defense's Zakheim counters that the reform proposals would "remove the barnacles of past practices (and provide) DOD with modern day management while preserving congressional oversight and prerogatives."

But Waxman, a critic of the administration's handling of Iraqi reconstruction contracts, called the proposals "a military wish list" to take advantage of "the wartime feeling."

"Secretary Rumsfeld is hoping to march through Congress like he marched through Iraq," Waxman said.

Tom Abate
Chronicle Staff Writer
E-mail Tom Abate at tabate@sfchronicle.com.

©2005 San Francisco Chronicle

Scott Ritter, Shares His Views on Iran's Nuclear Capabilities

Scott Ritter, a former U. N. weapons inspector spoke to a sold-out crowd last Thursday evening at Spokane’s Metropolitan Opera House. The event was co-sponsored by the Spokane group the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (P.J.A.L.S.).

A critic of the current Bush administration, how the intelligence community operates, and much of the current United States foreign policy, Ritter was involved in over 50 weapons inspection missions of Iraq from 1991 to 1998, 14 of which he was the chief inspector. He quit in 1998 because he felt he was not being allowed to do his job to the best of his ability.

He spoke on current issues including intelligence policy problems, lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, going so far as to state reasons for George W. Bush’s impeachment over the issue.

Ritter knew his audience was largely liberal, and he addressed the subject in his speech. “You and I are not cut from the same piece of wood,” he said. “I’m a conservative Republican, and you are liberals. You’re pacifists, and I’m a warrior.”

A warrior he is. Ritter was a major in the U.S. Marines during the first Gulf War. Referring to the first Gulf War, he said it was “justified” and “a worthwhile sacrifice.”

Ritter’s main topic appeared not to be the current Iraq war, but instead he gave a sense of importance to the Iran and U.S. standoff over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, stating that military confrontation “has become a political reality that will not go away.” He said that President Bush has given orders to the Pentagon to be ready for a war with Iran as early as June of 2005.

He points out that in 1976 the Ford administration made an agreement with the Shah stating that Iran needed to diversify their energy sources and not only rely on oil for energy. Ritter explained that the Ford administration, included then Chief-of-Staff Dick Cheney and then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, said it was alright for Iran to develop nuclear power for energy purposes.

“There is no indication that they are using nuclear weapons in any way other than the U.S. agreed they could. Both Cheney and Rumsfeld say it is wrong now, but in 1976 (they said) it was just.”

Ritter feels that Bush is wrongly putting U.S. soldiers’, lives in jeopardy, “if troops die in Iran it is a travesty,” and Americans reputation is on the line for “another war based on lies.” He said that “what the Bush administration did was not misinterpret the facts but they misrepresented them.”

“There is no Iranian threat, and no intelligence backs up that they do have a weapons program,” Ritter said.

He continued by saying that “when a government official lies in the performance of his duty, it is a felony and that is grounds for impeachment,” much to the delight of the crowd.

In talking about the current Iraq war, Ritter feels completely opposite of how he felt about the first war with Iraq. “When we go to war we must be sure that when we send our boys and girls off to war that all options have been expelled,” he said. “I am unsure that the cause is worthy of the sacrifice.”

Ritter said that from 1993 on, nobody has been able to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the U.S. government believed that there were 200 weapons. When he turned in a report stating that he and his group had found none and that there might not be any W.M.D.s in Iraq, he was then told that there were “12-20 and that number was used again in 2003.”

Ritter’s reasoning for the United States not wanting Iraq to be clear of weapons was because that was not the goal. The United States wanted Saddam Hussein out of power. They figured that it could be done with the sanctions that were in place for only as long as Saddam possessed weapons. If Iraq had complied with the inspectors, the soldiers would have been obligated to leave, and the United States did not want to leave until Saddam was out of power.

The reason the Iraqis stopped us from searching a certain area was not because they were hiding weapons. It was because they could not trust the credibility of the inspectors.

Ritter said that Iraqis believed that CIA operatives were involved in the inspection process “and they were right.” Iraq did not violate international law, the United States did. They didn’t have the integrity to tell the truth to the United States people,” he said.

He ended the evening by saying that the current administration “has committed crimes in the past, they are committing crimes in the present and they are planning to commit crimes in the future. It would be absurd for the people of this country not to stand up and take this country back for themselves.”

Tyler Wasson
05/19/05 "The Easterner"

© 2005 The Easterner Online

Galloway: The Man Who Took On America

How did one maverick MP manage to outgun a committee of senior US politicians so successfully? And did he make any lasting impact?

It may not have been the "mother of all smokescreens" - as George Galloway memorably described the congressional investigation into the Iraq oil-for-food scandal - but his appearance certainly underlined the mother of all culture gaps between the parliamentary traditions of Britain and America.

We tend to see politics as a public bloodsport. In the US politics is as brutal as anywhere. But the violence usually takes place off-stage, in the lobbying process, in the money game, in the ruthless manipulation of scandal. True, every four years there are presidential election candidates' "debates". But - with the exception of Bill Clinton - every recent American president would have been slaughtered weekly if he had to face Prime Minister's Questions. On the public stage, US politicians are not accustomed to serious challenge.

Take Norm Coleman. He is a smooth, upwardly mobile Republican senator who is making a name for himself at the helm of the Permanent Sub-Committee for Investigations, not least because of his call for Kofi Annan to step down as United Nations secretary general over the scandal. As Mr Coleman knows, no American politician ever lost a vote by bashing the UN.

A telegenic former big city mayor, he looks younger than his 55 years. Every senator, it is said, looks in the mirror and sees a future president. And who knows, maybe a White House run is in Mr Coleman's future. But on Tuesday, to UK and US observers alike, he looked way out of his depth, manifestly unprepared for what was coming when Mr Galloway began to testify.

Perhaps he believed that a smooth ride would be ensured by the traditional deference accorded the Senate (which is fond of referring to itself, with barely a trace of irony, as "the world's greatest deliberative body"). In fact, proceedings only served to underline the average senator or congressman's ignorance of the world beyond America, be it the underlying realities of the Middle East, or the polemical ways of British public life.

"If in fact he lied to this committee, there will have to be consequences," said Mr Coleman after the encounter, in the manner of a petulant schoolboy outgunned in an argument, but who gamely insists on having the last word, however feeble, in an attempt to retrieve his dignity.

And like the hapless junior senator from Minnesota, the US media too did not know quite what had hit it. For all its imperfections, Congress - in particular the Senate part of it - commands a rigid respect. Coverage of it tends to be strait-laced and humourless. Into this primly arranged china shop crashed George Galloway, to deliver a public broadside against US policy in Iraq, and the US system, unmatched since Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

In Britain, the prospect of such a confrontation would have sketch-writers and columnists salivating days in advance. But that is not the American way. Honourable exception should be made for the New York Post, Murdoch-owned and the nearest thing in the US to a Fleet Street tabloid. "Brit Fries Senators in Oil" was the headline on a news story that noted the "stunning audacity" of Mr Galloway's performance, how he had caught Mr Coleman and his colleagues "flatfooted" (only one of whom was left when the chairman brought the embarrassment to an end).

A brief perusal of the US press suggests that the Post's Andrea Peyser was also the only columnist to weigh in. As might be expected, she excoriated Mr Galloway as a thug and a bully, "a lefty lackey for butchers". Mr Coleman and his subcommittee had let the side down, she wrote. "Our Senators did not pipe up. Rather, they assumed the look of frightened little boys, caught with their pants around their ankles, nervously awaiting punishment." She concluded: "It's time to take the gloves off, senators. Kick this viper where it hurts."

But anyone expecting such colour in the more august broadsheets will have been severely disappointed. The Washington Post and The New York Times devoted only inside-page coverage. The Times noted that Mr Coleman, despite being a former prosecutor, seemed "flummoxed" by Mr Galloway's "aggressive posture and tone". Both singled out the MP's debating skill. It is a skill on which, alas, American politics place little premium.

Much the same went for television coverage. CNN's presenters smiled gamely as they ran clips of the juiciest Galloway invective. Plainly though, they too were bemused. This sort of thing does not occur in the US Congress - and that of course was his achievement, to turn the usual rules of such hearings on their head.

Normally, the committee members dominate proceedings, armed with investigative material furnished by their handsomely financed staff, and expect respect bordering on veneration from those they summon. When the matter at hand is as contentious as the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, most witnesses appear with a phalanx of lawyers, advising them when to "take the Fifth" and thus avoid potentially incriminating testimony.

Not so George Galloway. Not a lawyer was in sight, and even if one had been whispering in his ear, he almost certainly would not have listened. Instead, he took the battle to his accusers. Mr Coleman looked as if he had not been spoken to like that since his father caught him cheating on high school homework.

Yesterday, 12 hours after Mr Galloway left town, the legislative cultural gap was again in evidence as normal business resumed on the Senate floor. The topic could not have been more important or more venomous - a row over judicial filibusters that threatens to overturn 200 years of tradition, and bring the chamber's business to a virtual halt.

But Bill Frist and Harry Reid, the Senate majority and minority leaders, droned on as if they were introducing an amendment on the Highway Financing Bill. As usual, the cameras remained fixed on the speaker. By convention, panning shots are banned, for the simple reason that these important gentlemen would be seen delivering their Philippics to rows of empty benches. But then again, that is how America likes its formal politics; sedate, dignified, eschewing the sort of personal attack delivered by Mr Galloway.

Long, long ago, in the 1950 World Cup in Uruguay, the unfancied US scored a 1-0 victory over an all-conquering England football team. The performance on Capitol Hill of Mr Galloway (although he is anything but a Sassenach) might be seen as some belated revenge for that humiliation.

But, if truth be told, the political shock was little more noticed here - and is likely to have as little enduring impact - than that never-to-be forgotten sporting upset half a century ago.

Rupert Cornwell
05/19/05 "The Independent"

©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

Gorgeous George - An Open Letter to U.S. Democratic Elected Officials

Filed under: General, Repression & Resistance, Class — Stan @ 1:23 pm

Dear Democratic Elected Officials of the United States (with damn few exceptions),

I am writing this open letter to call your attention to the remarks made yesterday, May 17, 2005, to the United States Senate, by British MP George Galloway of the independent Respect Party. I do this because he serves as an example of why your party should be abandoned by the U.S. working class, by U.S. women, by oppressed nationalities in the United States, and by anyone who professes to be a progressive or a leftist.

George Galloway did that for which you have proven incapable; he spoke as an opposition. Since there seems to be a great dark space in the middle of your heads where the notion of opposition should be – a void filled by parliamentary molasses and the pusillanimous inabilty to tell simple truths – I suggest you all review the recordings of Galloway’s confrontation with Republican Senator Norm “Twit” Coleman to see exactly how effortless it is to stand up to these cheap political bullies. While you are at it, you can watch your colleague Carl Levin demonstrate exactly what I mean about most of you and your party, as he alternately hurls petulant cream-puff insults at Galloway and kisses Coleman’s stunned, clueless ass to give that toothy dipshit some comfort in the wake of Galloway’s verbal drubbing.

Galloway didn’t have to walk up to the docket and slap the cowboy shit out of Coleman – though I admit I still struggle with my own secret urges to do just that with most of the air-brushed, combed-over, Stepford meat-puppets who now people the United States Congress. No, all Galloway had to do was tell the unvarnished truth, and it had exactly the same effect. If Democrats had half the spine that Galloway does… if you would stop chasing your creepy little careers through the caviar and chicken-salad circuits of duck-and-cover American political double-speak, then not only would people like me not be calling for all to abandon the Democratic Party and take their fight to the streets like good Bolivians… not only that, but you’d have won the last election.

The reason Galloway was able to break from your mirror party in UK – Blair’s sell-out Labor Party – and still get elected, is that Galloway fights for his convictions and the real needs of his constituents, and doesn’t run for cover every time the bully-boys of the capitalist extablishment attempt to take him down.

Here’s a hint.

People follow those who speak plainly and fight. Aside from Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney (not surprisingly Black women who know where it goes if you let rich white men get away with giving you a bunch of shit) and a precious few others, the Democratic Party is not only just another party controlled by big capitalists; it is not even a good *capitalist* opposition party (much less a real opposition).

You don’t deserve anyone’s support, not even as a tactical matter any longer, because you end up doing ritual verbal combat then giving the “cornpone Nazis” of the Republcan Party any goddamn thing they want. That’s why Galloway rhetorically spanking that soap-opera-looking shitbird was the most satisfying thing many of us have seen in months.

That’s exactly why some of us are saying go Bolivian on their asses. Tell the Democratic Leadership Council to eat shit and die. Stop working, stop obeying, block the streets and highways, shut down the capital, and watch them choke on their own sewage. If Americans weren’t so bewildered by television, so addled and soft from junk food and cars and electronic appliances, and so addicted to their own cultural superficiality, they might begin organizing general strikes: women’s strikes, workers strikes (without union bureaucrats to calm them down), Black people strikes, Brown people strikes, info-tech strikes, eco-strikes, all working our way up to One Big Strike.

It’s a ways off, but it’s coming. Of course, there won’t be any Democrats there. They’ll be wringing their hands about their defunct careers, and conducting focus groups to see how they can shift further to the right in the next election.

And the reason this doesn’t happen is that people still hang their thin hopes on you, on electing Democrats who stab them in the back the first chance they get. But Galloway’s appearance before the U.S. Senate moved us an inch closer to the Big Strike and an inch further away from your worthless asses.

Because Galloway didn’t, as some are saying, expose the Republicans.

Someone with a full frontal lobotomy could expose a Republican politician.

He exposed the spinelessness of the Democrats.

Yours very truly,

Stan Goff

(My thanks to James Howard Kunstler for the term “cornpone Nazi.” I’ve known quite a few… even been related to some of them.)

Israel's Silent Nuclear Attack Revealed

The uranium level in the Hebron valley is ten times higher than the permitted concentration. (Feroze Sidhwa)

It was just a matter of time before the world would find out about Israel's nuclear activities in the Naqab desert. In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician at Demona nuclear plant, reported to The London Sunday Times what everybody already knew. Israel has secret nuclear weapons programs to protect itself from its neighbouring enemy countries.

Israel is not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which should put Israel in a difficult spot on the international scene, as it had always denied having any nuclear weapons programs. Nevertheless, the international community turned a blind eye to this issue. However, the issue here is not whether Israel is permitted to have such programs, but is related to the consequences of nuclear activities. More specifically, what is Israel adding to the 56 year old occupation of the Palestinian people?

The very reason for the establishment of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAAE) was the deep fears and expectations resulting from the discovery of atomic energy. Its fortunes are uniquely geared to this controversial technology that can be used either as a weapon or as a practical and useful tool. Although its practicality is commonly used all around the world, its waste management should be too. However for Israel, this environmental sound waste management seemed not necessary, and I wonder why?

There have been reports that Demona's nuclear waste is dumped in El Dahriyè, a Palestinian village, South of El-Khalil or commonly known as Hebron.1 First, big holes are dug in the ground, then the waste is dumped followed by a cement cover up, on which fake rocks are placed that are sealed with screws. The surrounding villages were not informed about these hazardous practices. Instead they learned about it through an increase of their communities' alarming health problems, which are solely caused by being exposed to nuclear radio-activity.

Doctor Thabayneh Khalil, a researcher from Hebron University reported that there is an alarming increase of radio-activity in the Southern area of Hebron that exceeds all natural radio-activity readings in the world.2

The uranium level in El-Khalil valley reaches 237 becquerel (bcq) per kilogram3, which equals about 10 times the permitted concentration, which is 25 bcq. The Thorium 232 (Th) level reaches 152 bcq where the permitted concentration level is also 25 bcq. The readings on Cesium 137 (Cs), another radio-active isotope that only emerges from nuclear explosions or nuclear activities is equivalently high.

The permitted concentration is zero, but in 5 villages South of El-Khalil, its concentration ranges from 12.4 bcq up to 30.2 bcq. The list of radio-active isotope readings is from the same range causing serious damages to the health of the villagers in the area.

From El Dahriyè village, already 452 cases have been reported having contagious and lethal bacteria. Seventy from these 452 cases have cancer.4 Regarding the cancer cases alone, in the same time frame, there has been an increase of 10% in cancer cases.

Additionally, for the past four months there has been a 300% increase of birth defects. Infertility rates, spontaneous abortions, hair loss without indication are becoming commonly prevalent. The list of reported illnesses continues, but up till now have not been reported as it should be.

Michael Shappira5, an Israeli physician confirmed that the information concerning the alarming and abnormal increase in the prevalence of leukaemia in Yatta, a village in the area is correct. The physician did not exclude that this phenomenon is related to the Israeli nuclear hazardous chemical waste that is being dumped in that area.

The same physician said that the prevalence of leukaemia in the area means probably that there is dangerous pollution in the water resources. The State of Israel is putting a lot of pressure on its resources to keep these issues secret. for the sake of the security of the state of Israel. This is however not a state issue, but clearly a global issue.

The International Community carries the responsibility to defend the Right to Life and to punish those breaching this law. In reality, however, Israel again walks freely. Do you really think this will not impact your health or the environment? Well, think again.

From the beginning of Demona's existence dumping is taking place.

Doctorate thesis title 'Radio-Active Pollution in Southern Hebron from Hebron University.

The radio-activity ratio, resulting from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the vicinity of 30 km's is similar to the readings in the Il Khalil valley.

Environmental and Development Supplement issue 7th of September 2004.

Issa Samandar, The Electronic Intifada, 19 May 2005
Ha'aretz, 25 April 2005

Occupation Will Lead to Collapse of Zionism

A fresh study by a Geneva-based institution confirms a growing consensus that Israeli land grab will be the foremost factor leading to an ignoble collapse of the Zionist colonial project.

Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), a respected Swiss human rights group warns that the continued existence of Israel on the basis of "two-states" has become a practical impossibility. And all due to the Jewish state's continuing plundering of Palestinian property.

It spells out that the rate of land confiscations underway and the continued construction of the apartheid wall - which Israel refers to as its "security barrier" - will leave Palestinian territory within the Occupied West Bank and Gaza reduced to less than eight percent of Mandate Palestine. Thus a shrunk land mass which renders it physically impossible to turn into a state.

What this means is that even the notion of a "bantustan" - a'la apartheid style homelands - is being rejected as impractical and unsustainable; apart from being wholly immoral.

Hence, the social conundrum facing Israel today is matched by its political instability. Deep divisions and tensions at boiling point over the question of "settlements", which traditionally have been regarded as one of Zionism's article of faith, is a reflection of widening cracks.

Did not the founding fathers of Zionism promise a land without borders where Jews from all over the world would be able to live without ever facing any threat of removal? Was Israel not this "promised" land? Yet, defenders of Israel are at a loss to explain why Zionism has failed to secure any of its racist ideals.

Wars of conquest or colonial domination do not provide any basis for perpetual possession of another's land. This lesson is being learnt by Israeli leaders today. Also of significance for them will be to acknowledge that the defeat of their "settlement project" in Gaza is not due to altruism; it is a direct consequence of the determination of their victims to continue struggling against occuption.

Utter desperation and sheer frustration is evident in the conduct of Israel politics. It cannot win the battle waged in the court of public opinion. Nor is it able to attract more Jewish immigrants as it did in its hey-days when "kibbutz" were all the rage. Today's reality is that the Zionist regime is bankrupt.

COHRE's findings make it clear that land-grab paradoxically adds to a physical land mass while it peels off any artificial veneer of "statehood" that Israel projects to the world.

Iqbal Jassat is Chairman of the South African-based Media Review Network (MRN).

Iqbal Jassat, The Electronic Intifada, 19 May 2005