Gaza one year on

January 1, 2010

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First of January. Janus the god of  gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. Looking backwards and forwards at the  same time.

 In December last year anti-war protestors stood together on the streets protesting against the Gaza massacre. After closing and controlling its borders, we heard news of Israel brutally bombing and then invading Gaza.

This week an email from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network reminds me of  the 1,417 Palestinians dead including 313 children and youth:

” Since the attack, which destroyed houses, wells, factories, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings, the blockade has created conditions of genocide through contamination of water supplies due to white phosphorous, raw sewage pouring into the sea, and the prevention of food, medical and other humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza. People living in Gaza are already feeling the terrible long-term effects including a huge increase in birth defects and in cancers, especially in children”.

Over the past year many of us made trips to Palestine in solidarity. To bear witness. To bring food. To film and to write the reality.

 I would have wanted to be there too. For the present – and this time – family circumstances did not and do not allow me to go the distance. I had to travel to Palestinians online instead. 

Travelled in my head each day to the month-long protest that took place at the Rafah border organised by the International Movement to Open the Border. To speak to the women who sent me messages and photographs. Posted twice, three times a day – learning there were some things that would never see the light of the mainstream press. Began to understand why no-one would pay a writer to write about it. Followed the story anyway. Days and days and months of it.

Travelled to the Palestine Trade Union solidarity conference in Liverpool. Heard the writer   Sameh Habeeb speak for the first time. He’s helping us to understand Obama, Afghanistan and Palestine:

 Obama’s failure will only increase over time. The troops in Afghanistan will be doubled, as well as the loss of lives of Americans due to this careless policy. The American-made Iraq will never exist. Palestinians will continue to be denied their inalienable rights granted by International law and a Palestinian state will not be realized in the near future.

Gazans will remain suffering under the internationally endorsed siege, with its children continuing to be killed and starved. All of this is due to American foreign policy, which is concerned with economic and material self-interest rather than humanitarian concerns. Indeed, neither Barack Obama nor the American government will solve such problems as they remain bias and supporters of the victimizers against the victims”.

Last year I started out thinking I had the freedom to write the truth as I saw and heard it.  A late night phone call from a government office shook me out of this particular day-dream.  It wasn’t that simple.

This month I read:  “the Gaza Freedom March coalition mobilised an international contingent of over 1,300 international delegates for a non-violent march alongside the people of Gaza which was planned to take place yesterday”.

I read: “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed the organisers on December 20 that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks into January, and that they will not be able to enter Gaza.  Egyptian embassies and missions heard a clear message from supporters of the march by phone, fax and email. Let the delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed”.

I’m thinking:  This place is familiar. The author of the blog GHAZAWIYYA has the following to say (see this link for the source – quote unedited).

“The Viva Palestina convoy should not have accepted to leave to Lathqiyyeh in Syria based on what Egypt demanded they do. This is not resistance. The convoy should have held on their demands despite the Egyptian regimes refusal to allow them to pass through Nweiba’.

What the Egyptian authorities are doing is to put off people, and they are succeeding in doing that as long as their is no persistence and resistance. Now, one other thing I would like to criticise Viva Palestina’s Alberawy for is his statement that the convoy is “humanitarian and in solidarity” that does not wish to pressure the Egyptian government! Not that I am for the humanitarian discourse, but, I mean isn’t it humanitarian enough for Mr. Alberawy to uncover the Egyptian regime’s injustice and corruption?

Couldn’t Viva Palestina have took advantage of this refusal by Egypt to defy this wicked and torturous regime? They should have kept the half a million dollars to support the solidarity workers in Aqaba and work on a movement to Jordan in support of a civil disobedience”. (Quote source: the blogger Natalie Abou Shakra  at GHAZAWIYYA)

Chester Stop the War Coalition Stall. Bring the Troops home from Afghanistan. Free Joe Glenton. Thursday 17th. December, 2009 Chester City Centre

At five o’clock yesterday evening, as Christmas shoppers crowded into Chester City Centre for late-night shopping members of Chester Stop the War Coalition held a stall at their traditional pitch on the Cross. It was the second stall held this month.

Petition signatures were collected and Christmas cards had been sent to Joe Glenton in prison. (see this link)

Petitions calling for the troops to be brought home from Afghanistan are to be handed over to Downing Street by members of the organisation Military Families Against the War on the 21st. December, 2009.

To sign the petition online follow this link.

Joe Glenton still in custody

December 15, 2009

I received this message today from a member of the Stop the War Coalition. It’s about Joe Glenton (see also previous posts in category Joe Glenton).

“Joe Glenton is being held in custody despite being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
 
He faces charges for refusing to go back to Afghanistan and for speaking out against the war.
 
He is woken up every morning at 6am by a loud kick on his door.
 
On learning of his disorder an army doctor told him he was still able to “run from a bullet”.
 
His wife Clare says “The support that he has been getting from the outside has made his time easier for him”.
 
According to the Ministry of Defence’s own figures, 67 soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have committed suicide.”
 
Please send a Christmas card and a message of support to Joe Glenton, Military Correction Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp, Colchester, Essex, CO2 9NU

The following email received from Bruce Gagnon today seems very important for those working in peace movements worldwide. I’m therefore re-publishing it here in full. See also this U.K. Stop the War Coalition analysis. Gagnon’s copy follows:

DECEPTIVE PROGRESSIVES CALL FOR SUPPORT OF OBAMA’S WAR

This morning I got an email from a friend who tipped me off to a conference call for “progressives” to discuss Obama’s Afghanistan speech last night.

The call announcement included this: “The narrative so far is that the left is against sending more troops and the right is for it,” said Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. “But that’s not the reality of the situation. There are reasons for progressives to take heart from much of the President’s new strategy, as well as reasons to tread carefully. We want to make sure all those voices are heard.”

This made me quite interested so I dialed in. The call began with everyone in the audience on mute as the following people make opening statements.

* Rachel Kleinfeld, CEO, Truman National Security Project
* Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project, Progressive Policy
Institute
* Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), Senior Adviser, National Security Network
* Andy Johnson, Director, Third Way National Security Program
* Lorelei Kelly, Director, New Strategic Security Initiative
* Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress
* Frankie Sturm, Communications Director, Truman National Security Project (Moderator)

Frankly I had never heard of any of these people before and I’ve been working in the “progressive movement” for the past 30 years. A couple of the organizations they work for I had heard a bit about – they are DC-based “think tanks” that usually are heavily funded by corporations to project their message.

Here is a bit of what some of them said in the opening:

Rachel Kleinfeld: “Thrilled by last night’s speech….it’s a realistic goal we have been given…dismayed that progressives don’t see that his will reduce the violence of this war.”

Jim Arkedis: Described himself as a former counter-terrorism analyst at the Pentagon…..”Think of the US like an NFL defense….by adopting this counter-insurgency strategy it essentially takes the other sides offense off the field…..this is about peace and stability.” He slammed Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who was on the news this morning criticizing the plan as being from the “far left.”

Lorelei Kelly: “Progressives need to abandon the old talking points from Iraq and Vietnam….progressives need to get inside this debate, President Obama is trying to create a new way….these policies need support….The American military is probably the most progressive agency we have today.”

One of them brought up CodePink’s recent visit to Afghanistan and subsequent statements made by Media Benjamin to say that some peace groups understand that we need to stay there and stabilize the country. Another called Obama’s plan the “full spectrum approach” that progressives must support – we “need the military” to get to a positive conclusion.

Finally they unmuted the listeners and then opened it up for “questions”. I didn’t ask a question but instead read a quote from the Robert Scheer article which came from former Marine captain Matthew Hoh where he said, “In the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan … I have lost understanding and confidence in the strategic purpose of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. … I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.”

A woman listener from West Virginia (CodePink) said she had family killed in these wars and they need to stop. A woman from Georgia said we need to end the wars. A man from upstate New York said they were organizing protests and that Obama had betrayed us.

Next they put us on mute again and told us that we could only ask questions and that we’d better be good. When they unmuted I accused them of trying to silence the voices of the people as it was clear that they only wanted us on the call to listen to the talking points put out by the White House.

I know this is true because last spring I did a couple blogs about the Obama administration daily sending out talking points to groups like these that today hosted this “conference call”. You can see one such story about this by Jermey Scahill here

One of the groups mentioned by Scahill in his article is the Center for American Progress which was represented on the call today as one of the “expert” speakers.

While on the call I quickly did an Internet search on the Truman National Security Project just to see what I could learn about them. Their advisory board stands out like a sore thumb:

Advisory Board
Madeleine K. Albright
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations

William Marshall
President, Progressive Policy Institute

William J. Perry (former Clinton Secretary of Defense)
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institute

John D. Podesta (former Clinton operative)
President and CEO, Center for American Progress

Wendy R. Sherman
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

First chance I got I read the list off and commented that it was now abundantly clear to me that this call was intended to deliver Obama team talking points to us and that they were not in the least interested in what we had to say…..these folks organizing this call came from the right-wing of the Democratic Party I said…… earlier I had strongly challenged one of them who stated that the peace movement should stop protesting and support Obama’s plan!

They couldn’t wait to finish the call and I am happy to say that it did not go as well as they had hoped. I thank Mark Roman for tipping me off and I want to warn everyone to be on the lookout for these “pseudo progressives” who will now be coming out of the woodwork to tell the public and the media that only the far-left is against Obama’s war in Afghanistan. Good “progressives” they will say are going to support Obama’s war surge.

In the old days they used to call these folks “Scoop Jackson Democrats” after the senator from Washington state who was a pro-war leader. They have wised up and now call themselves progressives and will steal the rug out from under our feet if we are not watching closely.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
globalnet@mindspring.com
http://www.space4peace.org
http://space4peace.blogspot.com/ (blog)

At a time when voices criticising the U.K’s involvement in Afghanistan could not be louder, the Wall Street Journal reports on a U.S. bid to seek up to 7,000 more troops from European Allies. See U.S. Enlists allies in new surge (Wall Street Journal).

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“I believe that there is no prospect of a military solution,” Gorbachev said in Russian through a translator in an interview in Berlin today.

“What we need is the reconciliation of Afghan society – and they should be preparing the ground for withdrawal rather than additional troops.”

See this Bloomberg news link: