Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Zynga and its Lack of Political Neutrality

I am a veteran player of FarmVille on Facebook and I often find myself defending the game when former players complain about the problems that continue to plague it.  The game is owned by Zynga, who have released a number of online games that use the Facebook platform. 
In the midst of the latest Israeli attacks on Gaza, Zynga has introduced a new option to celebrate Hanukkah in FarmVille.  Whatever the general merits of including a Jewish festival in a game that supposedly is international and non-partisan,, the timing is extremely inappropriate.  

Although the so-called 'Jewish State' does not have the support of all Jews and despite the fact that almost a century of a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide towards the native Arab population has not succeeded in making it a 'wholly Jewish State', the world in general does associate menorahs and Hanukkah with Israel.

Gaza has suffered under the onslaught of the Israeli military machine as well as a brutal siege for far more than a week.  She has endured the siege for almost 2000 days and 'targeted assassinations', aka acts of murder that almost always include 'collateral damage' in the form of the slaughter of children and other civilians, are nothing new.  Nonetheless, at a point in time when the barrrage against the people of Gaza in the space of less than a week has resulted in over 150 deaths (at least 30 of them children and 3 of them journalists) and almost a thousand injuries as well as untold destruction of property, how can an online farming game that has users throughout the globe place itself in a position where it is perceived to support the Israeli State in these policies?

People may think this is a minor matter in view of the real death and destruction that is occurring in Palestine and I would agree, except that media propaganda ALWAYS plays a part in maintaining the blindfolds over the eyes of much of the general public.  Barack Obama certainly knows better and his outrageous statement that 'there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders' demonstrated his blatant disregard of the facts about the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.  On the other hand, the attacks by the Israeli military machine actually are no different from Obama's own strategy in his spurious 'war on terror'.  Obama believes that there can be 'no safe haven' for anybody the U.S. or evidently the Israeli State designates as an enemy opposed to the combined American/Israeli political interest.  Unfortunately, he appears to be blind to the fact that Israeli interests are NOT American interests in fact but are detrimental to the continuing security of the United States as well as world peace.
Zynga may not know better, but I believe those who play Zynga games have a responsibility to bring this matter to its attention.  I expect that the 'Festival of Lights'  daily gift-giving posts probably were conceived as a sort of filler between the Thanksgiving gift project and one that is scheduled for Advent and Christmas.  Even if the 'Jewish State' were not engaged in a draconian attack on the Palestinian people, however, I would question Zynga's judgement in embracing Jewish festivals when there never has been ANY recognition of Islam.   I am not entirely certain but I do not think Zynga has given any recognition whatsoever to any other religions apart from Christianity.  

Much of the world is Christian but Jews are a small minority in numerical terms, a far smaller percentage of the world population than Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus.  Furthermore, Christmas celebrations in FarmVille tend to be secular in nature, including such icons as Santa Claus or Father Christmas and Rudolph the Reindeer rather than the Holy Family.  The 'Feast of Lights' celebration, on the other hand, cannot be construed as anything but Jewish, as the gifts are such items as menorahs and dreidls.  It bothers me that we are expected to pretend that all is Jewish Light and Joy at a time when the Israelis are pounding the Palestinian people into the dust.   I always felt that farming games like FarmVille can be a positive influence in bringing people of disparate political and social opinions together as 'Neighbours' but when Zynga decides to celebrate Jewish principles at a time when the Jewish State is committing acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide, FarmVille takes on a more sinister significance.  
I call upon Zynga to wirthdraw this particular celebration or change it so that it embraces a wider group than one that is associated unfortunately currently with a brutal Occupation of a native population and an attack this week that is killing more children and civilians than any one who could be considered a 'terrorist' by any rational definition.

Friday, November 11, 2011

David Laffer and the War on Drugs

An American veteran who was involved in the first invasion of Iraq shot four people in a pharmacy in Long Island in the course of a robbery aimed to net medications for himself and his wife. He had lost his job. She evidently was going through withdrawals.

From the Washington Post:

'Laffer said he committed the robbery because he had lost his job, and his wife required not only painkillers but also blood pressure medicine, anti-nausea pills and muscle relaxants.'

He claimed that he did not intend to kill any one, that the shootings occurred when he lost control of the situation in a panic. This is no defence in law, of course, as any killing committed in the course of a felony is considered to be murder, irrespective of the mens rea of the individual.

What is interesting about this sad and rather sordid case is the national outrage that it has sparked in the U.S. both among members of the legal profession involved in the prosecution, conviction and sentencing and with respect to the general public.

The New York Post published a quote in which some one referred to David Laffer and his wife as 'diseased rats'. They threw the proverbial book at both defendants when they sentenced them but that did not suffice to diminish the fury of those who considered the crime to be more heinous than any committed by an individual who was not unfortunate enough to be addicted to drugs.

I expect that my attitude on this will be extremely unpopular but I felt I had to go on record as declaring that drug addiction is a MEDICAL PROBLEM and should not be a LEGAL issue.

Furthermore, who taught David Laffer to kill in the first place? He was a soldier in the first infamous invasion of Iraq and thus conditioned to the use of a firearm! This fact is not mentioned by any of the news articles that deal with the case.

The government tells a man that he will be a hero if he kills people. Both Iraqi invasions have been filled with incidents of mass murder of civilians by U.S. and Allied Troops. David Laffer evidently led a fairly quiet, normal life after his return from the killing fields of Iraq... until he lost his job.

No, there is absolutely NO justification for his actions whatsoever, and there are programmes, however inadequate, that exist to help drug addicts in the States when they are going through withdrawals. Even so, the vitriolic response in this case by the prosecutors, judge and general public with respect to the man and his wife is prompted by their addiction to drugs rather than the actual crimes. This can be seen in the actual quotes by individuals who award Laffer and his wife invariably with descriptions demoting them from human to 'animal'. (Not that animals are inferior to human beings in my view. Quite the contrary.)

In the same way that the so-called 'war on terrorism' refuses to deal with the underlying causes of international disgust with American foreign policies, those involved with the case of David Laffer and his wife fail even to address the spurious nature of the 'war on drugs' and its role in these killings. If David and his wife could have obtained the medications and/or drugs they needed, there would have been no robbery of the chemist and no murders. Yet, I have not seen a single article by the American press that addresses THIS topic.

It is interesting to see how the era of 'Prohibition' has been romanticised since the laws that made alcohol illegal were repealed. What is the difference between illegal alcoholic substances and illegal drugs? None whatsoever except the legislation that governs their acquisition and use. What is the difference between legal drugs and illegal drugs? None except the legislation that places them in one category or another. Why should it be so difficult to obtain LEGAL DRUGS? People can mouth platitudes about the 'dangerous' quality of certain substances but it seems to me that an adult should be responsible for his or her own safety and not be subjected to the stranglehold of the AMA. The American Medical Association is not as much concerned with the actual SAFETY of the general public as it is by financial considerations. Malpractice suits are one concern and the ability to CONTROL the dispensation of medications absolutely is another. The AMA is not about to relinquish THAT monopoly.

What if an individual could go into a local pharmacy/chemist and simply BUY whatever he or she needed at a reasonable price? It is not simply narcotics that can be prohibitively expensive but other life-saving medications, whether for heart disease or high blood pressure. There are an unconscionable number of individuals who have to choose between food and medication. The government's answer is to provide an HMO for EVERY ONE, but that is nonsense. The HMO system is beggaring the U.S. as well as placing the safety and welfare of the general public in the hands of arbitrary organisations whose sole concern is their own financial profit.

People have begun to awaken from their lethargy. Where the crimes of international banking is concerned, there are quite a few who actually have taken to the streets in protest. The 'Occupy Wall Street' may be the most famous of these, but it is not by any means the only protest.

It is time to bring down the HMO system and to loosen the control of the American Medical Association. People need to be more proactive where their own health is concerned. Doctors are NOT Gods nor even demigods unless you cede them the power of life and death. There is a saying to the effect that there is nothing a doctor hates more than some one who has access to Web M.D. and other internet sites that allow patients to research their own health issues. Well, it is time for the general public to recognise that they must curtail the power of the medical profession to give or withhold medications and to dispense sentences of life or death to lowly individuals who do not own medical degrees.

The media that has been covering the cases of David Laffer and his wife should take the opportunity to discuss the social underlying CAUSES of crimes like these rather than glorying in a holier-than-thou attitude of fury and outrage.

Monday, July 4, 2011

American Jewish ex-Marine sails on the 'Audacity of Hope'

It gives me hope when I see Jewish-Americans opposing the Israeli Occupation and its draconian measures against the Palestinian people. Although the 'leadership' in terms of politics in general has come to disgust me, individuals still light our way and give us hope that selfishness, self-interest and material gain does NOT always rule.

The following piece was written by a man named Ken Mayers, an American Jew who is an ex-Marine and who actively is opposing the Israeli Occupation's blockage of Gaza by joining others on 'The Audacity of Hope', part of the international Flotilla.

Newspaper Editor's note: As of 1 July, CNN was reporting that 'The Audacity of Hope', a U.S. ship carrying Americans, was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard near the port of Perama on its way to Gaza. This piece was written before the departure.

Ken Mayers wrote:

'Between 1942 and 1945, 21 members of my mother's extended family are known to have died in German concentration camps. Undoubtedly there were others whose place and dates of death are still unknown. Others managed to escape to Israel, where I still have family.

'So why am I going to be sailing on 'The Audacity of Hope' in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza? My reasons follow two distinct threads.

'The first thread is tied to my ethnic heritage as suggested in my opening paragraph. At a universal and abstract level, I am following this course of action because I believe the blockade is illegal under international law that prohibits the collective punishment of a population. But at a personally more specific level, it is because I believe the power elite that rules Israel has drawn too narrow an understanding from the great lesson of the Holocaust, a lesson often summarized in the slogan, 'Never again!'

The narrow understanding can be stated as 'Never again shall Jews be subjected to the persecution that culminated in the Holocaust.' A broader understanding would be, 'Never again should any people be subjected to the persecution that culminated in the Holocaust.'

'It is a tragic irony that after a millennium of confinement to the ghettos of Europe, the Jewish state turns around and creates the world's largest ghetto in Gaza by blockading its ports, controlling its air space, and with some support from Egypt, imposing tight limits on access and egress by land. But far beyond tragic was the turning of the ghetto into a killing field with Operation Cast Lead from Dec. 27, 2008, through Jan. 21, 2009. According to a B'Tselem report, '1,389 Palestinians were killed, 759 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18.'

'Since Cast Lead, the blockade of Gaza has further tightened, further delaying any substantial recovery from the devastation of the attack. Since the weapons and armaments used in the attack in large part either came from the United States or were enabled by the $3 billion annual aid given to Israel by our government, the act of attempting to break the blockade is an act of atonement.

'The second thread is tied to my service as a Marine Corps officer from 1958 to 1966 when I gave up that career in dismay with American foreign policy. It is tied to that brief career in two ways. First of all, I took an oath to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' That oath had no expiration date. I still feel bound by it and I strongly believe that our policy-makers are violating the Constitution in the carte blanche support, financial and military, that they provide to the Israeli government. The second way is another element of atonement — atoning for the support that I provided the forces of empire in those Marine Corps years.

'It has been almost exactly one year since the Israeli Defense Force attacked the ships of the first international flotilla en route to Gaza, killing nine passengers on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. We must not let the Israeli government or the American government think that stopping one flotilla settles the question for all time.'


Newspaper Editor's note: Ken Mayers, who resides in Santa Fe, N.M., is a former major in the Marines and a participant in the Gaza Freedom flotilla.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Non-Ethical Ethix Marketing

Once upon a time, they were called 'ambulance chasers'. I was rather surprised to see an advert on Facebook about the possibility of obtaining compensation for addiction to a perfectly legal and quite effective painkiller named 'Opana'.

The advert does not give the name of the company who placed it. If you go to the website, you will not see the name of the company immediately either. You will be asked to fill out a form giving your name, address as well as particulars about your 'addiction' or the 'addiction' of a family member to Opana.

In very small print at the bottom of the page is the following:

;By leaving this box checked, I agree that the information viewed is advertising and that you agree to receive future advertisements from Ethix Marketing and/or its partners.
I agree that submitting this form and the information contained therein does not establish an attorney client relationship.
I agree that the information submitted will be reviewed by more than one attorney and/or law firm.
I agree that the information that I will receive in response to the above question is general information and I will not be charged for the information. I further understand that the law for each state may vary, and therefore, I will not rely upon this information as legal advice. Since this matter may require advice regarding my home state, I agree that local counsel may be contacted for referral of this matter.
I understand that I may receive, and am willing to accept, a telephone call from a lawyer/law firm to discuss this submission.'

Well, quite frankly, the 'Ethix' corporation has to be involved in 'ambulance chasing' of the very worst sort. Addiction is such a buzz word in our society that individuals who NEED painkillers for severe pain or other legitimate medical conditions often go through hell before a physician will prescribe them, simply because of the negative social connotations and potential for legal problems.

I cannot agree with a social mentality that seeks to protect individuals from themselves. Adults are supposed to be fully capable of making their own decisions and doing their own research. Physicians should not be made liable when all they are doing is attempting to follow the Hippocratic oath by helping a patient deal with severe pain!

Addiction is not necessarily the worst fate that can befall an individual. Living in conditions of intolerable pain is far worse. Morphine and its derivatives at least are based on organic substances and their use has been documented for thousands of years. To me, synthetic substances that alter brain waves and 'block' messages from the body to the brain are far more dangerous, even though society is quite happy to allow physicians to prescribe those as an alternative to true painkillers, simply because of the possibility of 'addiction' to opiates.

There is something terribly wrong with a society that would prefer to push medications that reduce an individual's humanity by tampering with the messages that the body has developed to alert the brain to the time-honoured medications that simply alleviate pain to some extent. Opiates do not 'kill' severe pain, but they can mitigate the effects to the point where the patient can tolerate it.

While doctors remained terrified of prescribing legitimate opiates to patients, pharmaceutical sales representatives were pushing drugs like celecoxib (Celebrex) that actually killed people as an alternative. Doctors were passing these out like sweeties.

Celecoxib, which is not an opiate, has the following side effects:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; trouble breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bloody or black, tarry stools; change in the amount of urine produced; chest pain; confusion; dark urine; depression; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, or persistent sore throat; hearing loss; mental or mood changes; numbness of an arm or leg; one-sided weakness; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; ringing in the ears; seizures; severe headache or dizziness; severe or persistent stomach pain or nausea; severe vomiting; shortness of breath; sudden or unexplained weight gain; swelling of hands, legs, or feet; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual joint or muscle pain; unusual tiredness or weakness; vision or speech changes; vomit that looks like coffee grounds; yellowing of the skin or eyes.

A few people actually have died from severe GI toxicity caused by celecoxib.

Another 'preferred' alternative to opiates is even more dangerous, in my view. This is the class of drugs known as 'anti-depressants'. Pharmaceutical companies have been recommending that physicians dispense these in lieu of real painkillers, but anti-depressants can have far more negative side-effects than any CNS opiate painkiller. Furthermore, an anti-depressant CHANGES the actual personality and being of the patient where any CNS drug does not have this effect.

One of the most common anti-depressants used to treat severe chronic pain, although it is NOT a painkiller, is Sertraline (Zoloft).

Sertraline is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

In fact, although they are called 'anti-depressants', this class of drugs often promotes thoughts of suicide in patients on which some have acted to their eternal detriment.

Common side-effects include suicidal behaviour, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, rigid muscles, high fever, sweating, fast or uneven heartbeats, overactive reflexes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination; headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, confusion, hallucinations, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops.

Surely common sense would tell a physician that a patient who suffers from severe chronic pain based on a PHYSICAL CONDITION should not be placed in a position where he/she has to deal with MORE serious problems such as those listed above? Why is it better to subject a patient to this than to prescribe a simple opiate?

The answer to this is nothing more than fear generated by the word 'addiction'. Like any propaganda or prolonged brainwashing campaign, the concept of addiction has been manipulated for political and commercial reasons. The spurious 'war on drugs' plays a role in this as well.

Recently, my stepfather died in hospice from a condition which made it impossible to breathe without agony. At the end, they gave him morphine to allow him to die in peace. A member of my own family threw tantrums over this, attempting to remove him from the hospice, screaming that he should not be 'drugged'.

Impending loss of a loved one can cause people to behave irrationally but it is the climate of our society that encourages individuals to consider morphine as an evil rather than a blessing given to us by nature.

It is time to put an end to this nonsense and to rehabilitate opiates into society's good graces, not for entertainment or recreation, but for the purpose of helping individuals deal with intolerable pain. Companies like 'Ethix' are NOT ethical in the least when they continue the witch hunt against legitimate painkillers. Shame on them and shame on a society that allows media-generate hysteria to usurp common sense.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twelfth Night here but Christmas Eve in Gaza

Yesterday, one day before Christian Orthodox Christmas Eve in Palestine, Zionist missiles crashed into two United Nations schools, murdering 30 people in one of the schools and three more in the other attack. A number of children were among those who were killed. At least 55 more were injured when Zionist artillery shells landed outside a U.N. school in Gaza, according to official U.N. sources. 14,000 people had sought refuge in U.N. schools throughout the Gaza strip.

In the past 11 days, at least 640 Palestinians have been killed and 2,850 have been wounded by Zionist attacks on a fundamentally civilian population. This is a population, moreover that has suffered from decades of oppression by the Zionist entity.

Christ was a champion of the oppressed and disenfranchised and yet few in the West are willing to raise their voices against the unconscionable invasion that is occurring at this moment in Palestine and is part and parcel of an ongoing policy of genocide against the Palestinian people. I would like to be able to be inspired wholly by visions of beauty and magic, but a part of me cannot be oblivious to the carnage in Gaza. Any one in ANY land who celebrates the magic of Christmas and Twelfth Night must speak out unequivocally against the murders and destruction being committed in the name of the spurious 'war against terror'. The entire concept of 'terror' when applied to a sophisticated, highly militarised Occupation is absurd. It is tantamount to a claim that an armed bully is defending himself against 'terror' in the form of his victim. The nuclear option is in the hands of the Israelis, not the Palestinians. The wildly inaccurate rockets fired by Hamas are nothing more than a desperate attempt to make a statement to the effect that the Palestinian people refuse to be swept under the carpet, and refuse to accept the ever-expanding theft of their land. Irrespective of the pros and cons of Hamas' strategies, it is innocent people who are being killed by Israeli missile strikes and the Israeli invasion of Gaza cannot be condoned.

In this holiday season, how many of us will have the courage to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves? Every one moans about the recession and 'hard times', but what people experience in the States is nothing compared to the horror that is occurring in Gaza.

I try very hard not to post here about political issues, but this situation transcends politics and cuts to the very core of our humanity. I may love fantasy, but we all have to live in the real world.
For those who are entirely ignorant of the situation in Gaza, a recent article by Jeremy Hammond provides some salient facts:

Top 5 Lies about Israel's Assault on Gaza

By Jeremy R. Hammond

Lie #1: Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated pieces of property in the world. The presence of militants within a civilian population does not, under international law, deprive that population of their protected status, and hence any assault upon that population under the guise of targeting militants is, in fact, a war crime.

Moreover, the people Israel claims are legitimate targets are members of Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been responsible for firing rockets into Israel. These rockets are extremely inaccurate and thus, even if Hamas intended to hit military targets within Israel, are indiscriminate by nature. When rockets from Gaza kill Israeli civilians, it is a war crime.

Hamas has a military wing. However, it is not entirely a military organization, but a political one. Members of Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Dozens of these elected leaders have been kidnapped and held in Israeli prisons without charge. Others have been targeted for assassination, such as Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas official. To kill Rayan, Israel targeted a residential apartment building. The strike not only killed Rayan but two of his wives and four of his children, along with six others. There is no justification for such an attack under international law. This was a war crime.

Other of Israel’s bombardment with protected status under international law have included a mosque, a prison, police stations, and a university, in addition to residential buildings.

Moreover, Israel has long held Gaza under siege, allowing only the most minimal amounts of humanitarian supplies to enter. Israel is bombing and killing Palestinian civilians. Countless more have been wounded, and cannot receive medical attention. Hospitals running on generators have little or no fuel. Doctors have no proper equipment or medical supplies to treat the injured. These people, too, are the victims of Israeli policies targeted not at Hamas or legitimate military targets, but directly designed to punish the civilian population.

Lie #2) Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.

Israel never observed the cease-fire to begin with. From the beginning, it announced a “special security zone” within the Gaza Strip and announced that Palestinians who enter this zone will be fired upon. In other words, Israel announced its intention that Israeli soldiers would shoot at farmers and other individuals attempting to reach their own land in direct violation of not only the cease-fire but international law.

Despite shooting incidents, including ones resulting in Palestinians getting injured, Hamas still held to the cease-fire from the time it went into effect on June 19 until Israel effectively ended the truce on November 4 by launching an airstrike into Gaza that killed five and injured several others.

Israel’s violation of the cease-fire predictably resulted in retaliation from militants in Gaza who fired rockets into Israel in response. The increased barrage of rocket fire at the end of December is being used as justification for the continued Israeli bombardment, but is a direct response to the Israeli attacks.

Israel's actions, including its violation of the cease-fire, predictably resulted in an escalation of rocket attacks against its own population.

Lie #3) Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.

There has been no evidence that Hamas has used human shields. The fact is, as previously noted, Gaza is a small piece of property that is densely populated. Israel engages in indiscriminate warfare such as the assassination of Nizar Rayan, in which members of his family were also murdered. It is victims like his dead children that Israel defines as “human shields” in its propaganda. There is no legitimacy for this interpretation under international law. In circumstances such as these, Hamas is not using human shields, Israel is committing war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable international law.

Lie #4) Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.

The populations of those Arab countries are outraged at Israel’s actions and at their own governments for not condemning Israel’s assault and acting to end the violence. Simply stated, the Arab governments do not represent their respective Arab populations. The populations of the Arab nations have staged mass protests in opposition to not only Israel's actions but also the inaction of their own governments and what they view as either complacency or complicity in Israel's crimes.

Moreover, the refusal of Arab nations to take action to come to the aid of the Palestinians is not because they agree with Israel’s actions, but because they are submissive to the will of the US, which fully supports Israel. Egypt, for instance, which refused to open the border to allow Palestinians wounded in the attacks to get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, is heavily dependent upon US aid, and is being widely criticized within the population of the Arab countries for what is viewed as an absolute betrayal of the Gaza Palestinians.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been regarded as a traitor to his own people for blaming Hamas for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Palestinians are also well aware of Abbas' past perceived betrayals in conniving with Israel and the US to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government, culminating in a counter-coup by Hamas in which it expelled Fatah (the military wing of Abbas' Palestine Authority) from the Gaza Strip. While his apparent goal was to weaken Hamas and strengthen his own position, the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East are so outraged at Abbas that it is unlikely he will be able to govern effectively.

Lie #5) Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.

Israel claims it sent radio and telephone text messages to residents of Gaza warning them to flee from the coming bombardment. But the people of Gaza have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped within the Gaza Strip. It is by Israeli design that they cannot escape across the border. It is by Israeli design that they have no food, water, or fuel by which to survive. It is by Israeli design that hospitals in Gaza have no electricity and few medical supplies with which to treat the injured and save lives. And Israel has bombed vast areas of Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and other sites with protected status under international law. No place is safe within the Gaza Strip.

-Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal (, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events in the Middle East. He has also written for numerous other online publications. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Palestine Chronicle

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Illegal U.S. Mandate to Police the World

As the Presidential election looms large on the horizon, it appears to dwarf actual current events worldwide, including a new illegal U.S. invasion of another sovereign nation. In this instance, it is an invasion of Syria that the U.S. has executed on the blatantly provocative grounds that 'We are taking matters into our own hands'. By what legal mandate does the U.S. swoop down into the territory of yet another sovereign nation to kill civilians or any one else for that matter? There is absolutely no legal justification for such actions. In fact, it is an act of state-sponsored terrorism, plainly illicit and moreover, one that may have unpleasant results in terms of furthering international hostility towards the U.S.

The 'American people' appear to be oblivious of the extent to which the U.S. military, purportedly acting 'in their name', is committing acts of terrorism throughout the globe or if not oblivious, certainly are not responding to the threat to the rule of law that these actions represent.

What other war crimes will Bush commit before he leaves the White House? His determination to fabricate evidence in order to drum up public support for his outrageous invasion of Iraq is public knowledge now but the dangers represented by his attitudes have not be addressed properly. His own definition of nations including Iran and Syria as part of an imaginary 'axis of Evil' should have acted as a warning to the American people to curtail a dangerous megalomaniac willing to wage war against the entire world in pursuit of his own agenda. Yet, without ever declaring war, Bush now has escalated his international dubious 'war on terror' by invading Syria.

This sort of arrogance and lack of concern for the rule of law will not go unchallenged by the world even if the American public chooses to sweep it under the carpet. While the American public puzzles over a Presidential election consisting of two candidates who, au fond, represent similar platforms where international policy is concerned, they allow the current Executive to commit acts of state-sponsored terrorism without expressing the outrage these attacks merit. Democrat and Republican alike both in the past and in terms of their vision of the future have embraced a foreign policy that spells ultimate ruin in terms of justice and which only will encourage more hostility and retaliation against Americans.

In the context of illicit actions undertaken in the name of the 'American people', I would recommend the recent film, 'Rendition'. The title of the film refers to a common U.S. practice known as 'extraordinary rendition' whereby individuals, including American citizens are kidnapped by the C.I.A. or other government agents and sent abroad to be tortured. The practice began under Clinton's presidency but achieved greater popularity after the 11 September 'attacks'.

One such actual case is that of Maher Arar, a software engineer with dual Canadian/Syrian citizenship, who was 'detained' in September 2002 during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was held in detention on American soil for two weeks without any access to a lawyer, then deported, not to Canada, but to Syria, ironically the subject of the latest illicit American military 'strike'. Under U.S. recommendation and pressure, he was tortured in Syria as a suspected 'terrorist'.

Ultimately, Arar was held in Syria for almost a year before the Canadian government secured his release. Exonerated by the Canadian government and awarded $10.5 million in damages, the U.S. government nonetheless has removed neither him nor any of his family members from its international 'terrorist watch list'.

Another case is that of Khalid el-Masri, a German national with the same name as wan al-Qaeda operative involved with the Hamburg cell. Seized at a border chequepoint in Macedonia while on vacation, he was handed over to CIA operatives who drugged him and flew him to Afghanistan. There he was tortured and abused for months before finally convincing his captors that they had the wrong man. Without apologies or restitution, el-Masri was flown back to Europe and dumped on a lonely road in Albania. He eventually made his way back to Germany, where he continues to pursue legal action.

Countless others detained by the CIA simply have been taken to Guantanamo, where only a few have been released. Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen of Egyptian birth was kidnapped in Pakistan in October 2001 and sent to Egypt under the 'rendition' programme, where he endured electrocution, cigarette burns, and beatings for six months before being sent to Guantanamo. There he languished until 2005, when he finally was released without ever being charged.

In 2005, the media actually published information to the effect that the U.S. was maintaining a network of secret prisons throughout the world where the CIA kept and interrogated thousands of individuals never charged with any crime. Some of these facilities were alleged to be on European soil. Among other sites, a former Soviet air base in Eastern Europe was used as a detention centre where 'enhanced interrogation' techniques, otherwise known as torture, were applied. When exposed, the U.S. government quickly moved the detainees to North African facilities, safely out of reach of further investigation.

The film 'Rendition' delineates the chilling reality of these practices, and shows how even the innocent can be 'persuaded' to admit guilt when broken by tortures now known to be commonplace at U.S. facilities like Guantanamo as well.

One wonders how either of the Presidential candidates, should they be successful in gaining the vote, will address fundamental human rights issues such as 'rendition'... McCain makes much of his own detention in the past but one doubts that he would make any changes where 'rendition' or the spurious 'war on terror' are concerned. Unfortunately, one can expect no better from Obama, a man who clearly embraces the 'special relationship' with the occupiers of Palestine, stating that: 'My view is that the United States' special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.' Where Iran was concerned, he declared that 'The world must work to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons' and avowed that 'we should take no option, including military action, off the table'.

So here we have Frick and Frack, who may march beneath different party affiliations but who both have no intention of changing U.S. foreign policy in any substantial way. As long as the 'two-party system' retains its stranglehold in American politics, there is no hope of justice in terms of international affairs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

King Charles I and President Saddam Hussein

Tonight, PBS aired a programme about the trial of Saddam Hussein. There appeared to be some surprise as to the strategy of the defence, which was to deny consistently the legitimacy and jurisdiction of the tribunal. Why should this be a surprise to any one with any knowledge of history? It is the same argument used by King Charles I against Cromwell's henchmen. He simply consistently denied the jurisdiction of the court to judge him. Both Charles I and Saddam Hussein were executed. Both would have been executed whatever arguments they had put forward in courts determined to make their deaths a reality. In point of fact, both Charles I and Saddam Hussein demonstrated dignity and courage when faced with death and a staunch determination not to lend their enemies one iota of false legitimacy. Neither were fools. Neither were blinded by the desperate need that a coward has to save his skin at any price.