Posts tagged ‘Middle East’

04/13/2012

Close Persian Gulf Region Bases

How many military bases does the United States really need for national security purposes in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding region? The following, which excludes any lingering unclassified facilities in Iraq, is just a partial list of our presence in the area.

KUWAIT
Army: Camp Arifjan
Air Force: Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base
Air Force & Army: Ali Al-Salem Air Base (since 1991)
Army: Camp Buehring (NW)
Army: Camp Virginia
Navy: Kuwait Naval Base

BAHRAIN
Navy: Manama Naval Base
Air Force: Sheikh Isa Air Base
Air Force: Bahrain International Airport

SAUDI ARABIA
Air Force: Eskan Village

QATAR
Air Force: al-Udeid Air Base
Camp al-Saliyah

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Navy: Fujairah Naval Base
Navy: Jebel Ali Seaport
Air Force: al-Dhafra Air Base

OMAN
Air Force: Masirah Air Base
Air Force: Thumrait Air Base
Seeb International Airport (dual use)

DJIBOUTI
Navy: Camp Le Monier

TURKEY
Air Force: Incirlik Air Base

ISRAEL
Army: Dimona Radar Facility
Navy: Port of Haifa (6th Fleet)

INDIAN OCEAN
Navy: Diego Garcia

AFGHANISTAN
Marines: Camp Dwyer
Marines: Camp Leatherneck
Marines: Camp Rhino
Marines: FOB Delhi
Marines: FOB Delaram
Marines: FOB Fiddler’s Green
Marines: FOB Geronimo
Marines: PB Jaker
Air Force: Bagram Airfield
Air Force: Shindand Airbase
Air Force: Kandahar International Airport

KYRGYZSTAN
Air Force: Manas Air Base

UZBEKISTAN
Termez Air Base Khanabad

KAZAKHSTAN
U.S. military presence

TAJIKISTAN
NATO presence

Advertisements
12/20/2011

Iraq: Bush’s War Was A Total Waste

After nearly nine years, the War in Iraq ended, with the names of 92 Wisconsinites who died there, printed in the Wis. State Journal. While 89 returned in body bags under President Bush: 9 (2003); 23 (2004); 18 (2005); 16 (2006); 15 (2007); and 8 (2008); three died while Obama was President: 2 (2009) and 1 (2010).

The War in Iraq (2003-11) actually started with the Gulf War (1991) surrender document, which required the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps Major, and his team, searched for, and destroyed weapons, over a seven year period (1991-98). When Ritter resigned in 1998, he announced Iraq had been disarmed.

Despite the disarmament, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, and 15 others wrote a letter to President Clinton in 1998 saying the removal of Saddam Hussein through a pre-emptive strike “needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.” In response, Clinton announced the U.S. cannot allow Iraq to acquire nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, as he declared a regime change policy, and started bombing suspected Iraqi sites.

Under President Bush, a Defense Dept. strategy for pre-emptive War in Iraq was approved in Aug. 2002. Despite a National Intelligence Estimate, dated Oct. 2002, which reported: “Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon, or sufficient material to make one,” Bush declared at a State of the Union in Jan. 2003: Iraq tried to acquire uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger. He said: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Although Bush conceded on March 12, 2003, there was no evidence to link 911 to Iraq, officials constantly implied there was a connection, leading the NY Times to report 42% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 911.

Bush’s team scared many uninformed Americans in March 2003 by conjuring up images of a “mushroom cloud,” and by spreading the ridiculous notion Saddam Hussein had rockets capable of delivering chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons to the U.S.

The disciples of Bush whipped up crazy ideas, like Iraq could be defeated in one week. Richard Pearle, chair of the Pentagon Defense Policy Board, said in 2002: “Support for Saddam will collapse with the first whiff of gunpowder.” Less optimistic Defense officials predicted the war may last for “months.”

The Bush Administration argued Americans would be welcomed. Vice President Chaney said on Meet the Press on March 16, 2003: “We will in fact be greeted as liberators.” Military planners said the occupation will result in “flag-waving crowds hugging British and American soldiers.” Rush Limbaugh repeated the propaganda.

Bush’s people believed a large ground force would not be needed, as Rumsfeld said we could invade with relatively few troops, supported by air support. Rumsfeld rejected advice from senior military officials, who said a larger army would be required.

Congressman James Moran of Virginia, one of the few to speak the truth as to why the U.S. was about to go to war, said on March 13, 2003: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”

Bush tried to obtain UN Sec. Council Resolution to make his war look legitimate, but the level-headed Jacques Chirac of France wisely threatened a veto, as others also voiced opposition. Bush finally abandoned his attempt to gain UN approval on March 17, 2003.

Cowboy Bush nevertheless went it alone, and issued an ultimatum on March 19, giving Saddam and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq, or face war. He amassed 210,000 U.S. troops: including 150,000 in Kuwait, 10,000 in Saudi Arabia, and 50,000 at sea. American teams studied plans to find hidden weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as Halliburton, a company run by Cheney from 1995 to 2000, looked forward to making billions on post-war contracts.

Once the war started, the search for WMD became a top priority. Gen Tommy Franks said there were 2,000 to 3,000 possible weapons sites. When no hidden stockpiles were found, the military initially said some areas were not yet accessible. Gen. Myers reassured us on March 31: “there is no doubt they have chemical weapon loaded in artillery shells.” Chief Warrant Officer Gonzales, a member of a weapons team, said on April 16: “we’re not going to find just a smoking gun, but a smoking canon; it’s just a matter of time.” “It’s going to take time,” Rumsfeld repeated, on April 19, fabricating a story “they buried things,” and “used underground tunnels.” Later, Rumsfeld admitted Iraqis will have to find them, because “the inspectors didn’t find anything, and I doubt we will.” Bush nevertheless reassured Americans on June 10 he was convinced Iraq had WMD, and proof would be found. Press Sec. Fleisher advanced the ridiculous argument those who say Iraq does not have WMD have the burden of proof.

Meanwhile, Scott Ritter re-appeared in April 2003 to say I told you so: “I don’t see how these weapons could exist,” because the unconventional arms Iraq possessed were destroyed or degraded. Joe Wilson, a former Ambassador, came forward in July 2003, to say for 8 days in 2002, he was in Niger investigating reports of an attempted weapons sale, and found nothing but forged documents and fraudulent intelligence. British Prime Minister Tony Blair finally admitted on July 11, he no longer believed WMD would be uncovered, causing Bush on July 12 to shift blame to others, suggesting CIA Director Tenet approved the Jan. 2003 reference to obtaining nuclear weapons materials from Niger.

David Kay, the man who headed the U.S. weapons search, told Congress on Sep. 29, no WMD were found and we were all wrong. Ritter wrote a piece on Feb. 6, 2004 entitled, “Not Everyone Got it Wrong on Iraq’s Weapons,” challenging Kay’s assertion “we were all wrong.” Rolf Ekeus, another weapons inspector, declared Iraq was fundamentally disarmed as early as 1996. Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector just before March 2003, said his team found no evidence of WMD. By 2004, it was clear Bush had relied rumor, speculation, exaggeration, and falsification to lead the U.S. into war. Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Bush knowingly did it.

If U.S. troops had vacated Iraq after the Statue of Saddam Hussein was knocked down in Baghdad on April 10, 2003, or when Bush declared an end to hostilities on May 1, or when he landed on the Aircraft Carrier Lincoln near San Diego on May 2, or as soon as Hussein was captured on Dec. 15, 2003, perhaps the war would have been easy, but Bush made the additional mistake of occupying Iraq.

When 10,000 Shiites and Sunni Muslims joined hands through the streets of Baghdad on May 20, 2003, to oppose the U.S. occupation, fair warning was given. U.S. officers soon reported unexpected resistance, while Americans were bing lied to and told Iraq would not become another long 8-year struggle, like the one in Vietnam.

It did not take long before the brass changed their story as to how long the war would take. Gen. Myers said:  “Nobody ever promised a short war.” Deputy Defense Sec. Wolfowitz said it would take at least 6 months to create a new government. Ari Fleisher said they were a year away from turning over control.

Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, then triggered a guerilla war by issuing a decree on May 20 banning all Baath Party members from public sector jobs. Rumsfeld had to admit in July 2003 “we are still at war,” as he predicted attacks against U.S. forces would grow more vicious. Not enough troops were available to maintain order, or to guard supply lines, and once again Rumsfeld had to admit he might need more than 147,000 troops.

Instead, tours for enlisted men were extended indefinitely. Our troops became tired of patrolling hostile Iraqi streets in the extreme heat in search of an invisible enemy. It became unsafe for them to venture off post. Many accused the Pentagon of dishonesty with regard to their length of stay and mission. Finally, Rumsfeld adjusted the duration of the war saying: “We will be there as long as it takes.”

Well, we stayed nearly 9 years. We lost a lot of lives, and took a lot more. We destroyed a lot of property. We spent billions. After 9 years, it is really not a stretch at all to say, Bush’s war was a total waste.

12/16/2011

Gingrich-Republicans Wrong on Palestine

Former Congressman Gingrich incorrectly suggested the word “Palestine” was not commonly used until 1977, Palestinians are an “invented people,” and their “right of return” to Palestine, now illegally occupied by Israel, is based on a false story. Other Republicans have also harbored twisted views on the Mideast, including Santorum, who thinks, “the West Bank is Israeli land,” Romney who believes it’s wrong to criticize Israel for illegally erecting settlements in occupied Palestine, Perry who said the Palestinian request for statehood is a travesty, and Bachmann who complained when Obama said Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders. All of these Republicans need to learn some history.

Palestinians have continuously lived in Palestine for thousands of years. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Israel are all on land previously known as Palestine, an area ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire for 402 years (1516-1918). Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880, and as of 1893, 95% were Arab. In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), without first consulting the Palestinians, in which he promised a homeland for the European Jews in Palestine.

Once WWI ended, the League of Nations gave Britain a formal mandate to govern Palestine (1920). They in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to start settling among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine grew from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from Arab Palestinians grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews of Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. UN Res. 181 partitioned Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). Because the Jews were only 33% of the population, but received 55% of the land, the Palestinians rejected the plan, triggering a civil war (1947-48).

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks by Jewish militants, caused the British to give up on Palestine. As they were leaving the country, Israel declared independence, which caused the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab nations around Palestine tried to stop the formation of a new Jewish state, but failed. Israel proceeded to destroy 420 Arab villages, and seized lands that had been assigned to the Arabs, as 700,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring states. Homeless Palestinians lived in caves and makeshift tents, in the winter of 1948-49. Following a 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs, at least initially, refused to accept Israel’s UN based right to exist.

U.S. foreign policy under Republican President Eisenhower (1953-61) took a middle course, as Israeli requests for military equipment were denied. Israel was persuaded to return to the 1949 borders after the Suez War (1956), by a U.S. threat to cut off aid.

Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and West Bank (Jordan), started in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The UN Assembly censured Israel (99-0, 20 abstentions), and the Security Council found their seizure of lands illegal. The UN ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242). To this day, Israel has never fully complied.

Following the 1967 war, Israel ignored international law, and started building settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The UN warned Israel in 1968 against changing Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252). They reminded Israel in 1971, it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel in 1971 to relinquish control over East Jerusalem.

The U.S. made a major foreign policy change in 1972, when they started vetoing UN Resolutions critical of Israel. The shift in U.S. policy came about through campaign contributions supplied by the Israeli Lobby to both parties. Without the help of the U.S., the Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, as Israel had superior firepower supplied by the U.S. The UN continued to demand withdrawal (Res. 344).

Progress was made in 1978 following talks between President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Begin, and Egypt’s President Sadat, as Israel withdrew from the occupied Sinai, back to the pre-1967 Egyptian border, under the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979).

When the right-wing Likud Party however gained power in 1980, they reversed the process, by escalating settlement construction on Arab lands. As they imposed Israeli law in the occupied Golan Heights (1981), the UN declared it null and void, as a violation of civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions (Res 497).

Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said as early as 1985, he would accept Israel’s UN right to exist, if only they would return to the pre-1967 borders.

President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, and Jordan’s King Hussein, made progress with another agreement in 1994, but the process stalled in 1995, when an Israeli extremist assassinated Rabin, and Netanyahu lifted the ban on new settlements in 1996.

Israel also damaged the peace process by building a Wall in and around occupied East Jerusalem, which now separates Arabs from each other. The International Court of Justice ruled the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the deportation of civilians by Israel to construct the Wall, amounted to an annexation and a violation of international law, under the 4th Geneva Convention (2004). Although Israel was ordered to remove the Wall, they ignored the court, and declared it their new West Bank border (2006).

While Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they closed off all land, sea, or air access to that Palestinian territory, and made prisoners of the 1.5 million Palestinians who reside there. Today, Israel maintains strict blockades around Gaza, and continues to occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

President Carter, a person we should all listen to with regard to the Mideast, correctly said the U.S. squandered international prestige, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands.

President Obama also showed leadership in 2011, when he asked Israel to stop building illegal settlements and to end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders. He said Palestinians suffered the humiliation of occupation, and have a right to govern themselves in a sovereign state. He requested a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces.” “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.

Although Netanyahu agreed: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state” and the solution is “two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state,” he rudely lectured Obama, saying Israel cannot defend the old 1967 lines. The truth is the current borders are the ones that caused nothing but conflict and violence for 44 years, and are the lines that are indefensible.

The problems in the Mideast will never be solved as long as aspiring American leaders ignore the truth of what has happened there over the past 94 years. They at least have to get the facts straight. This Republican crowd, running for President in 2012, has an awful lot to learn about Palestine and the Mideast before they could even begin to be ready for the White House.

08/26/2011

North Africa/Mideast: More Rulers To Go

Now that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have thrown out their dictators, who is next? The answer is: any leader who has been in office for more than 10 years should be packing his bags, and the most senior among them should be getting on the bus first.

YEMEN: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 31 years, should get on board. He solidified control in 1978 by executing 30 military officers, who he believed conspired against him. He was “elected” in 1983, and every five years afterward, with such large margins, they were suspect. After the 1999 election, he extended his term from five to seven years. In 2005, he promised not run again in 2006, but did anyway, and claimed 77% of the vote. During the Arab Spring, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2013, offered to resign, but then did not. After suffering wounds in a bomb blast in June 2011, he returned. Get on the bus Saleh!

SYRIA: Even though Bashar Assad has ruled Syria for only 11 years, his father controlled the country for 29 years, from 1971 through 2000, and the Assad family has had a grip over the Syrian people for 40 years. Although Bashar was “elected” in 2000 and 2007, no opposition was allowed, and his rule lacks legitimacy. The bus driver has a reserved seat with Bashar’s name on it.

SUDAN: Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan in a military coup in 1989. After disbanding his revolutionary council, he made himself president in 1993. He received only 75% of the vote in 1996, even though he was the only candidate on the ballot. In 2000, he won 86%, another suspicious tally. Bashir has been known to imprison political opponents. After 22 years without change, it’s time for Omar to take his bags to the bus station.

CHAD: While in Chad’s military in 1990, Idriss Deby toppled the government and made himself president in 1991. He claimed 69% of the vote in 1996, and 63% in 2001, but the electoral process was criticized by international observers. Worse yet, Deby removed a constitutional two-term limit in 2005, which allowed him to be re-elected in 2006. He took 64% of the vote in a boycotted contest. After 21 years, Deby should get on board.

While other long-term leaders in other parts of the world must also go, there is a momentum in North Africa and the Mideast that  should continue. Let’s do what we can to remove these dictators.

05/26/2011

Israel’s Netanyahu Offers Little Hope

If I was a Palestinian, this is what I would have heard, as Israeli Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress.

He said Israel will not vacate the occupied territories by returning to the 1967 lines. “The border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

He said certain occupied areas will be annexed by Israel. “650,000 Israelis, who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv. These areas, as well as other places of critical and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinian refugees, who had been driven from their homes, that there will be no right to return, and they will have to reside somewhere other than within Israel itself. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinians, and the entire Islamic faith, the City of Jerusalem will never again be divided between Jews and Muslims, as it once was. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

He told the people of Gaza, Israel will never work with their elected leaders, people they chose in free, fair, and open elections.

He told the UN, a body to which Israel owes its very existence, and an organization that includes every nation on earth, that Israel will not accept a UN remedy. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the UN will not bring peace.”

As he stated his uncompromising positions, he acknowledged it “would be difficult for the Palestinians,” and then also said, we must “find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians.”

To his credit, Netanyahu said: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state…I publically committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state.”

Although he said “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” and later repeated: “I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise,” the part of the speech he left out was what, if any, compromises he would actually make.

The problem with Netanyahu, and the Orthodox Likud Party, is their reliance on the Old Testament, instead of the UN Charter, and modern international law. He resorted to the Bible: “in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers…This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel…Abraham…No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year-old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

Netanyahu’s 4,000-year claim to the occupied territories, based on who was there first, has no basis. Even if Abraham had led the Jews to Canaan in 1900 BC, the Canaanites were already there, since they arrived in 3000 BC. Today, the land would belong to the Arab descendants of Canaanites, who were there 5,000 years ago. Oh, by the way, if we are going to start using this type of logic, then Florida belongs to the Seminoles, the Iroquois own New York, and Texas has to be turned over to the Apache Indians.

Netanyahu failed to mention in his speech that after the Jewish Kingdom was established (1006 BC), many others subsequently conquered and occupied the area, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslim Arabs (since 7th Century), and Turks (1516-1918). The modern Jewish state, which is what we are talking about, did not come into existence until 1948.

Israel needs a new leader who has his head is in the 21st Century, and who respects the rule of international law. Once they find such a person, only then may there be a hope for a real and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

05/25/2011

Palestinian State Must Be Contiguous

To create a lasting peace for Israel, any new Palestinian state must be established as a single territorial unit, meaning the borders must be contiguous. The two parts of Palestine (Gaza and West Bank) must have land-based link, which must be clearly included in any “land swaps” that will define the ultimate borders.

The Palestinian Corridor should be from Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip (northeast), to Dura, in the West Bank (southwest). It should include a high-speed rail link, with no stops in between, so Israel will have no security reason to stop or interrupt service. The corridor should include a 2-lane highway on each side of railway.

The world has previously made the mistake of physically dividing peoples and nations, in situations that have led to war.

Britain made a mistake when they created Pakistan, by locating the western part on one side of India, and the eastern half, 900 miles away, on the other side (1947). The distance between the two parts made Pakistan unmanageable, and caused East Pakistan to secede. Although an independent state of Bangladesh emerged, it was not until after Britain’s error first took the lives of millions in the Pakistan Civil War and Indo-Pakistan War (1971).

The allies made a mistake after WWI (1919), when they separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany, and transferred to Poland some German-speaking territories, near the Danzig Corridor. The lack of a sovereign connection between the two parts of Germany gave hardliners like Hitler a platform, upon which to rationalize an invasion of Poland in WWII, in which millions died.

The allies again made an error after WWII (1945), when they divided Berlin, located entirely in the Soviet Zone, into four sectors, occupied by the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia (1945). The only way the U.S., Britain or France could access their parts of Berlin, was to travel through the Russian Sector. When the Soviets cut off the highway to Berlin (1948), war was narrowly avoided, as the U.S. landed one supply plane with food every minute, for 318 days straight, to finally break the blockade.

It would be a mistake to create a new Palestinian state with Gaza and the West Bank physically separated by Israel. To prevent future roadblocks and conflict, any peace agreement must make the two parts contiguous, by creating a permanent and irrevocable easement between them, known as the Palestinian Corridor.

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/23/2011

Obama’s Historic Mideast Speech

President Obama delivered a historic speech on May 19, 2011, in which he first addressed the two wars President Bush started, by saying 100,000 troops have already returned from Iraq, and U.S. soldiers and will soon be coming home from Afghanistan.

Obama next referred to the peaceful changes in Tunisia and Egypt, during the Arab Spring, and the ongoing revolts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. He reaffirmed U.S. support for self-determination, the freedoms of speech and religion, peaceful assembly, equality for men and women, and voting rights. He said journalists must be respected, and an open Internet access must be allowed, since legitimate democracy needs an informed citizenry.

Obama condemned Libya’s Col. Qaddafi for launching a war against his own people; advised Syria’s Assad to stop shooting at demonstrators; and asked President Saleh of Yemen to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.

While Obama reasserted a U.S. commitment to Bahraini security, he boldly admonished the royal family for using brute force, making mass arrests of Shiites, and for destroying their Mosques. He told them to release political prisoners and engage in dialogue.

Finally, Obama showed great courage, as he suggested that Israel stop building illegal settlements, and end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders.

In his historic speech, Obama lamented: “The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate…The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome… The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace…Endless delay won’t make the problem go away.”

Obama told Israel and the world, the Palestinians have suffered “the humiliation of occupation,” and have not lived “in a nation of their own…The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” Obama noted “Israeli settlement activity continues,” as he bravely suggested the coordination of a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces…”

Obama simultaneously warned the Palestinians they will never realize independence by denying the right of Israel to exist, as he said: “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”

Obama correctly concluded a lasting peace will involve two states, Israel, as a Jewish state, and Palestine, as the homeland for the Palestinians. This is almost exactly what the UN has been saying for 44 years: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

During the past 44 years of violence, Israel has illegally occupied Palestine, and it’s about time a strong American President directly suggested giving peace a chance by retreating to the 1967 borders. It is not only the right solution, it’s the only one that has a chance.

04/13/2011

Gaza and Israel: What’s It All About?

The news again reported that Israeli aircraft and tanks pounded the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli bus. Although we have heard this kind of news for the past 63 years, many still have no idea why the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting each other for so long.

The Gaza Strip and Israel both occupy an area in the Mideast that was previously known as Palestine. It was ruled for 400 years by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1518-1918). In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, in which he promised to give the Jewish people a national homeland in Palestine, even though the overwhelming majority of people living there were Arabs (1917).

After Turkey surrendered, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern Palestine (1920). The English in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to settle among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine rose from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from the Arab Muslims grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities against the Jews in Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The UN partitioned the British mandate in Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). The Palestinians however rejected it, and a civil war began (1947-48).

As the British were about to leave Palestine, Israel declared independence, and triggered the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab countries around Palestine tried to stop the creation of Israel, but failed. Israel seized land that had been assigned to the Arabs and made refugees out of 700,000 Palestinians. Following the 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs refused to acknowledge the new country. After another Arab-Israeli War (1967), Israel built settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of several UN Resolutions.

Progress was made later as self-rule was granted in Gaza (1993) and Israel transferred some control to the Palestinian National Authority (1994). Although Israel later re-entered Gaza during an Intifada (1999-00), they withdrew again when Mahmud Abbas was elected Palestinian Authority president (2005).

Israel however continued to confine the Palestinians of Gaza by maintaining strict controls over their maritime, air, and land borders. One major complaint today is that the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are effectively prisoners in their own land. The border controls have made their economy desperate at times, which explains why the Palestinians continue to lash out at Israel.

Another complaint is the refusal of Israel to let the Palestinians choose their own leaders, without consequence. When elections were held in 2006, Hamas won, but Israel refused to accept the outcome, even though the process was free, fair and democratic.

Over the last 40 years, the UN Security Council has not acted to correct the situation, because the Israeli lobby controls the U.S. Congress, through campaign contributions supplied by special interest groups. The U.S. vetoed 42 UN Resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, and there is little hope the U.S.-Israeli arrangement will change any time soon. Even the 911 attacks, which were the direct result of the unconditional U.S. support for Israel, did not wake up the American public.

So the violence in the Middle East continues. Disproportionate air and ground attacks are made in response to occasional rocket fire from Gaza, and nothing ever changes. Hopefully, someday, the people in the Mideast themselves will see that the tactics of the past have not worked, and that they need a new approach.

04/05/2011

Koran, Bibles and Book-Burning

While the confused Newt Gingrich worried recently the U.S. could become an atheist country dominated by radical Islam, an extremist pastor in Florida conducted a Koran burning, which caused Muslim mobs in Afghanistan to kill westerners.

I don’t know who is crazier: Gingrich, the pastor, or the Muslims?

While it’s not likely the U.S. will become atheist any time soon, it wouldn’t be so bad. How many Atheists have conducted book-burnings, or have rioted because of one? As to their cousin, the Agnostic, there again wouldn’t be anything to worry about, since they just ask questions and admit they don’t know. Is that so bad?

Fortunately, non-believers have the Constitution to protect them against radicals like Gingrich and the pastor, who apparently would create a Christian nation. The founders wanted to avoid the religious wars that wrecked Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries. They separated religion from state, as they wrote: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the U.S.” (Art. VI). They added in the 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They also gave people like the demented Florida pastor a Free Speech right to burn the Koran, a right that would also apply to Bible-burning.

What is hard to understand is why anyone would want to burn a holy book, and why book-burning would be taken so seriously that it would cause innocent people to die. The Koran and the Bible are just books. The first Bible was not printed until Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1456. When the Prophet Muhammad founded Islam in the 7th Century, there were no printed books. The same was true when Christianity started. And much of what is contained in the holy books wasn’t even written, until years after the alleged events.

The Florida pastor, Newt and the Muslims should all reflect upon the origins of their beliefs. Did they research religion and pick the one that made the most sense? Not likely. They probably inherited their beliefs from their family, or perhaps their culture. The beliefs of most people are consistent with those of their culture. This is why Mexicans are Catholic; Chinese are Buddhists; Indians are Hindus; Israelis are Jews; and Saudi Arabians are Muslims. Have you ever met a Saudi Arabian Lutheran?

Religion is like language. I speak English, because I was raised in Wisconsin. The people of France speak French, and those in Italy speak Italian. Like language, people inherit religion. The point is, if you were born in the U.S., you were probably raised Christian. If you were born in Afghanistan, you are most likely a Muslim. That’s just the way it is, and it is simply not worth a book-burning, or a riot that leads to death.