Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Terrorist attack in Jerusalem

There has been a terrorist attack in Jerusalem today - at 3 p.m. Israel time a bomb exploded at a bus station across the street from the Central Bus Station. One person was killed and many were wounded.

From the Jerusalem Post:
A 60-year-old woman died and 39 were injured after a bomb exploded at a bus station in central Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon. Police said the explosion took place outside Egged bus number 74 at a station opposite the Jerusalem Conference Center (Binyanei Ha'uma) in the center of town.

According to the Magen David Adom spokesperson, 39 people were injured in the attack. Three were injured seriously from the explosion itself, five moderately from shrapnel packed into the explosive device and the remainder were in light condition.

The injured were taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem, Hadassah Mount Scopus, Bikur Holim and Shaare Tzedek hospitals. All hospitals in the area were opened to receive casualties. One woman, 60, died from injuries sustained in the blast.

Police said that this was the first terrorist attack in four years that involved an explosion. Police were looking for one specific person who left the bag that contained the bomb.

There were reports that witnesses were able to identify the man who left the bag and police were searching for him. Police suspected that an explosive device inside a bag was left at the bus stop, which then exploded. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that the explosive device was between one and two kilograms and was packed with shrapnel.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Too much going on!

Perhaps this is just my problem, but I feel that too much is happening in too many places to keep track of it all. And almost all of it is unexpected. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 did anyone expect him to approve American airstrikes on another Muslim country? And that those airstrikes would begin on the eighth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War in 2003? And that there would be a loud, resounding silence from the American left?

As Michael Totten wrote today - No one could have predicted any of this in January.
We should all resist trying to predict what will happen next in the Middle East because so much of what happens makes no sense at all in advance of it actually happening.

Who would have thought two months ago that France would lead a Western military coalition, that the United Nations would pass a Chapter VII resolution authorizing the use of force against a country that was elected to its own Human Rights Commission, that Barack Obama would fire missiles at an Arab country when less than thirty percent of Americans approve, and that Qaddafi loyalists would burn Lebanese rather than American or Israeli flags in the capital?
And it's not as if the US is being consistent. Where has been our voice for the democratization of Bahrain? In Bahrain, a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the beginning of the protests in Bahrain we urged the king to stop attacking the protesters - but now, of course, he's called in troops from Saudi Arabia to support him in ruthlessly putting down the protests. I understand that the situation and location of Bahrain are different than Libya - but the principle is the same, of supporting democracy and human rights for the people of all the Arab countries. If we did not depend on oil from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, we could stand much more forthrightly for democracy.

Update - is the Arab League really supporting the attack on Libya?
The head of the Arab League has criticized international strikes on Libya, saying they caused civilian deaths.

The Arab League's support for a no-fly zone last week helped overcome reluctance in the West for action in Libya. The U.N. authorized not only a no-fly zone but also "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Amr Moussa says the military operations have gone beyond what the Arab League backed. Moussa has told reporters Sunday that "what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives." He says "what we want is civilians' protection not shelling more civilians."
But have civilians been shelled? What did Amr Moussa think would be the result of the resolution approved on Thursday? He was at the meeting in Paris yesterday where the attacks were discussed. It seems to me that he's trying to play both sides, perhaps because he's running for the presidency of Egypt. See today's report from the New York Times: "In a field of flowers, the wreckage of war in Libya." The article is about the wreckage from air attacks on Libyan loyalist troops attacking Benghazi.
Littered across the landscape, some 30 miles south of Benghazi, the detritus of the allied airstrikes on Saturday and Sunday morning offered a panorama of destruction: tanks, charred and battered, their turrets blasted clean off, one with a body still caught in its remnants; a small Toyota truck with its roof torn away; a tank transporter still on fire. But it did not end there.

For miles leading south, the roadsides were littered with burned trucks and burned civilian cars. In some places battle tanks had simply been abandoned, intact, as their crews fled. One thing, though, seemed evident: the units closest to Benghazi seemed to have been hit with their cannons and machine guns still pointing towards the rebel capital.

Friday, March 18, 2011

War in Libya

To my considerable surprise, the UN Security Council has just approved a no-fly zone in Libya, which would also permit air strikes on Libyan military defenses.
The United Nations Security Council approved a measure on Thursday authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from harm at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The measure allows not only a no-fly zone but effectively any measures short of a ground invasion to halt attacks that might result in civilian fatalities. It comes as Colonel Qaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, Libya, the rebel capital, that an attack was imminent and promised lenient treatment for those who offered no resistance.

“We are coming tonight,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets.”

Speaking on a call-in radio show, he promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away” but “no mercy or compassion” for those who fight. Explosions were heard in Benghazi early Friday, unnerving residents there, Agence-France Presse reported.

The United States, originally leery of any military involvement in Libya, became a strong proponent of the resolution, particularly after the Arab League approved a no-fly zone, something that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called a “game changer”

With the recent advances made by pro-Qaddafi forces in the east, there was a growing consensus in the Obama administration that imposing a no-fly zone by itself would no longer make much of a difference and that there was a need for more aggressive airstrikes that would make targets of Colonel Qaddafi’s tanks and heavy artillery — an option sometimes referred to as a no-drive zone. The United States or its allies might also send military personnel to advise and train the rebels, an official said.

In the most strident verbal attack on Colonel Qaddafi to date by an American official, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the Western powers had little choice but to provide critical military backing for the rebels. “We want to support the opposition who are standing against the dictator,” she told an applauding audience in Tunisia on Thursday. “This is a man who has no conscience and will threaten anyone in his way.”

The Qaddafi government responded to the potential United Nations action with threats. “Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military facilities will become targets of Libya’s counter-attack,” it said in a statement carried on Libyan television and the official news agency, JANA, Reuters reported. “The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term."

This has come as a real surprise to me. I thought the Obama administration was acting very cautiously about Libya, and had no real intention to support this UN resolution. Secretary of Defense Gates only a couple of weeks ago was pointing out that a no-fly zone was an act of war, since it meant destroying Libya's air defenses. What changed the administration's mind? And why has there been so little public discussion of this rather momentous step? Read Andrew Sullivan's Some Questions on the Imminent War. As Kevin Drum says, this is Our Shiny New War in Libya. Norm has a lot to say about Libya - Libya Now.

The Guardian live-blogged the UN vote and has some additional information. Voting for the resolution: Permanent members: United States, Britain, France. Non-permanent members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa. Abstaining: Permanent members: Russia, China. Non-permanent members: Germany, Brazil, India.

I think that if all our attention were not directed towards what is happening in Japan, this would be a much bigger public deal in the U.S. I'm watching the PBS Newshour right now, and they haven't yet addressed the UN decision.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Israelis seize boat loaded with arms intended for Gaza

One wonders what Alice Walker and the other naifs of US Boat to Gaza think about this attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza: Israel: Seized ship carried sophisticated weapons that could change balance of power in Gaza. Somehow they don't mention these things in their heartrending emails to me about the sufferings of the people of Gaza and the evil nature of the Israeli regime. Their latest missive to me was entitled "To Gaza with love" and consisted of an invitation to Americans to write letters to the people of Gaza that they would take with them on the boat. Wouldn't it be easier simply to mail them?

Further disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactor

Bad news from Japan: there have been explosions at 3 of the 4 nuclear reactors at Fukushima, and there is currently a fire at No. 4 reactor (which wasn't operating at the time of the earthquake and tsunami on Friday). Very scary article in the New York Times:
Japan faced the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident Tuesday morning, as an explosion at the most crippled of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station damaged its crucial steel containment structure, emergency workers were withdrawn from the plant, and a fire at a fourth reactor spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments....
Government officials also said the containment structure of the No. 2 reactor had suffered damage during an explosion shortly after 6 a.m. on Tuesday. They initially suggested that the damage was limited and that emergency operations aimed at cooling the nuclear fuel at three stricken reactors with seawater would continue. But industry executives said that in fact the situation had spiraled out of control and that all plant workers needed to leave the plant to avoid excessive exposure to radioactive leaks.

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.
If you'd like to hear the news directly from a Japanese broadcaster, the English service of NHK is available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv.

For information about how nuclear reactors work, see http://allthingsnuclear.org/ of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Partial meltdown in Japanese nuclear plant?

According to the Washington Post, a "Partial meltdown is likely under way at power plant" in Japan. CNN has more details:
A meltdown may have occurred at at least one nuclear power reactor in Japan, the country's chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said Sunday, adding that authorities are concerned about the possibility of another meltdown at a second reactor.

"We do believe that there is a possibility that meltdown has occurred. It is inside the reactor. We can't see. However, we are assuming that a meltdown has occurred," he said about the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. "And with reactor No. 3, we are also assuming that the possibility of a meltdown as we carry out measures," Edano said.

Edano's comments confirm an earlier report from an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, who said, "we see the possibility of a meltdown."

"There is a possibility, we see the possibility of a meltdown," said Toshihiro Bannai, director of the apan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency international affairs office, in a telephone interview from the agency's headquarters in Tokyo. "At this point, we have still not confirmed that there is an actual meltdown, but there is a possibility."
An AP story is much more illuminating about what happened at the No. 1 reactor:
TOKYO (AP) -- Inside the troubled nuclear power plant, officials knew the risks were high when they decided to vent radioactive steam from a severely overheated reactor vessel. They knew a hydrogen explosion could occur, and it did. The decision still trumped the worst-case alternative - total nuclear meltdown.

At least for the time being.

The chain of events started Friday when a magnitude-8.9 earthquake and tsunami severed electricity to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex 170 miles (270 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, crippling its cooling system. Then, backup power did not kick in properly at one of its units.

From there, conditions steadily worsened, although government and nuclear officials initially said things were improving. Hours after the explosion, they contended that radiation leaks were reduced and that circumstances had gotten better at the 460-megawatt Unit 1. But crisis after crisis continued to develop or be revealed.

Without power, and without plant pipes and pumps that were destroyed in the explosion of the most-troubled reactor's containment building, authorities resorted to drawing seawater in an attempt to cool off the overheated uranium fuel rods.

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior policy adviser to the U.S. secretary of energy, said in a briefing for reporters that the seawater was a desperate measure. "It's a Hail Mary pass," he said.

He said that the success of using seawater and boron to cool the reactor will depend on the volume and rate of their distribution. He said the dousing would need to continue nonstop for days. Another key, he said, was the restoration of electrical power, so that normal cooling systems can be restored.

Officials placed Dai-ichi Unit 1, and four other reactors, under states of emergency Friday because operators had lost the ability to cool the reactors using usual procedures. An additional reactor was added to the list early Sunday, for a total of six - three at the Dai-ichi complex and three at another nearby complex. Local evacuations have been ordered at each location. Japan has a total of 55 reactors spread across 17 complexes nationwide.

Officials began venting radioactive steam at Fukushima Dai-ichi's Unit 1 to relieve pressure inside the reactor vessel, which houses the overheated uranium fuel. Concerns escalated dramatically Saturday when that unit's containment building exploded.

It turned out that officials were aware that the steam contained hydrogen, acknowledged Shinji Kinjo, spokesman for the government Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. More importantly, they also were aware they were risking an explosion by deciding to vent the steam.

The significance of the hydrogen began to come clear late Saturday:
• Officials decided to reduce rising pressure inside the reactor vessel, so they vented some of the steam buildup. They needed to do that to prevent the entire structure from exploding, and thus starting down the road to a meltdown.
• At the same time, in order to keep the reactor fuel cool, and also prevent a meltdown, operators needed to keep circulating more and more cool water on the fuel rods.
• Temperature in the reactor vessel apparently kept rising, heating the zirconium cladding that makes up the fuel rod casings. Once the zirconium reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 Celsius), it reacted with the water, becoming zirconium oxide and hydrogen.
• When the hydrogen-filled steam was vented from the reactor vessel, the hydrogen reacted with oxygen, either in the air or water outside the vessel, and exploded.

A similar "hydrogen bubble" had concerned officials at the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in Pennsylvania until it dissipated.

If the temperature inside the Fukushima reactor vessel continued to rise even more - to roughly 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 Celsius) - then the uranium fuel pellets would start to melt.

According to experts interviewed by The Associated Press, any melted fuel would eat through the bottom of the reactor vessel. Next, it would eat through the floor of the already-damaged containment building. At that point, the uranium and dangerous byproducts would start escaping into the environment.

At some point in the process, the walls of the reactor vessel - 6 inches (15 centimeters) of stainless steel - would melt into a lava-like pile, slump into any remaining water on the floor, and potentially cause an explosion much bigger than the one caused by the hydrogen. Such an explosion would enhance the spread of radioactive contaminants.

If the reactor core became exposed to the external environment, officials would likely began pouring cement and sand over the entire facility, as was done at the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine, Peter Bradford, a former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in a briefing for reporters.

At that point, Bradford added, "many first responders would die."
The New York Times reports that in reactor no. 3 at the Fukashima Daiichi plant the nuclear fuel rods were exposed. "On Sunday morning, officials injected water and boric acid into the second reactor and released radioactive vapor to ease pressure, said Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary. The reactor’s fuel rods had become exposed, he said, which called for the extraordinary measures."

The Times also commented that the initial report by officials of the power company that owns the plant was misleading. "Late Saturday night, officials said that the explosion at Daiichi occurred in a structure housing turbines near its No. 1 reactor at the plant, rather than inside the reactor itself. But photos of the damage did not make clear that this was the case. They said that the blast, which may have been caused by a sharp buildup of hydrogen when the reactor’s cooling system failed, destroyed the concrete structure surrounding the reactor but did not collapse the critical steel container inside. This pattern of damage cast doubt on the idea that the explosion was in the turbine building."

The BBC has more on reactor no. 3 -
The plant's operator says pressure is rising inside reactor No. 3 after it lost its emergency cooling system....

The Japanese government has sought to play down fears of a meltdown at Fukushima 1, but media reports say radiation has now risen above safety limits at the plant.

On Sunday morning, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) revealed that the cooling system of a second reactor had failed....

But later Kyodo news agency quoted Tepco as saying radiation levels around the plant had risen above permissible limits....

But the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the second reactor is a different type which uses MOX (plutonium plus uranium) fuel and the consequences of a problem there are potentially more severe. Quoted by Kyodo, Tepco said the tops of the MOX fuel rods were 3m above water.

Names of family killed in Itamar released

The names of the Israeli family murdered at Itamar were released today. These are their faces (from Ynet):
 
Yoav Fogel, 11
Ruth Fogel, the mother
Udi Fogel, the father
Hadas, three months old.
Elad Fogel, 4








The names of the five family members who were killed in the West Bank settlement of Itamar were released Saturday.The victims are Udi Fogel, 37, Ruth Fogel, 36, Yoav Fogel, 10, four-year-old Elad Fogel, and three-months old Hadas Fogel.

The Fogel family was killed Friday night when a suspected terrorist broke into their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar and stabbed them all to death.

According to police, the suspect broke into the house armed with a knife and stabbed parents Udi and Ruth, along with three of their children, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas Fogel. Magen David Adom rescue services arrived at the scene and found them all dead.

The family's 12-year-old daughter, who was at a youth group activity, returned to her home at approximately midnight and her calls for the door to be opened for her went unanswered. With the help of a neighbor, they managed to open the door and came upon the horrible murder scene.
While many mourn, some depraved people rejoice. From Getty Images today, in Rafah, Gaza:

A Palestinian man distributes sweets in the streets of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on March 12, 2011 to celebrate an attack which killed five Israeli settlers at the Itamar settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fears and Hopes

I woke up this morning (actually, noon....) and turned on the computer and saw that there had been an explosion at one of the Japanese nuclear power plants that has been badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Very scary. I hope all the officials who are trying to calm the Japanese people that there won't be a nuclear meltdown are telling the truth.

When I turned on CNN to get their typical minute-by-minute coverage, one of their more witless anchors was on, telling me no more than the online NYT coverage. So much for cable news.

In Middle East news, the Arab League to officially request UN impose no-fly zone on Libya. One wonders - will the UN do anything? And if the UN Security Council does approve it - who will enforce it? The Obama administration doesn't appear very keen on getting involved in yet another war with a Muslim country. And as Secretary of Defense Gates has said, enforcing a no-fly zone does require acts of war - like destroying the Libyan air defense system.
Egyptian state television said the Arab League had decided to open channels of communication with a Libyan rebel council based in Benghazi. The League said the council represented the Libyan people, the channel reported.
The Arab League decided on Saturday that the "serious crimes and great violations" the Libyan government had committed against its people had stripped it of legitimacy, Secretary General Amr Moussa said. Earlier Saturday, Moussa called for a no-fly zone over Libya in an interview with a German magazine, ahead of the group meeting in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the proposal. "I am speaking of a humanitarian action," he said in comments to Der Spiegel released on Saturday. "It is about assisting the Libyan people with a no-fly zone in their struggle for freedom against an increasingly inhuman regime." "The Arab League can also play a role," said Moussa, who is stepping down as secretary-general after a decade, intending to contest the Egyptian presidency later this year.
European states hope the Arab League will lead the way in shaping policy, particularly over a no-fly zone, towards the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi.
In his opening remarks to an Arab League meeting Saturday, the foreign minister of Oman said, "What is needed now is Arab intervention using mechanisms of the Arab League and at the same time in accordance with international law." "Based on this we must look at various options that [the] circumstances in Libya need," he said.
Oman Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah also said that the Libyan crisis poses a threat to the stability of Arab states, and that Arab inaction on the Libyan crisis could lead to "unwanted foreign intervention" and fighting among Libyans.
And then there's the terrible terrorist attack against a family in the Israeli settlement of Itamar on the norther West Bank: Horror in Samaria: Terrorist murders family of 5
A terrorist infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Itamar, southeast of Nablus, early Saturday and stabbed five family members to death. The shocking attack occurred around 1 am as the terrorist entered the family home and murdered three children aged 11, 3, and a baby girl along with their parents. The victims were apparently sleeping as the killer came in.
Three other children at the home, a 12-year-old girl and her two brothers, aged 6 and 2, were able to escape to a nearby house and inform their neighbors of the attack.
A later article says that apparently two terrorists carried out the attack, and "Authorities also estimate that the attack was carried out by a local cell not directly affiliated with Hamas or any other organization, and that the murder was motivated by growing friction with settlers, growing incitement against the settlements on the Palestinian street, and a desire to avenge 'price tag' acts."

One of the Haaretz articles on the attack also says the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took responsibility for the attack. The English article didn't have any details, but below is my translation of the relevant Hebrew article.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, by the name of Imad Mughniyah, from the military arm of the Fatah movement, took responsibility for the terrorist attack. An announcement by the organization said that "The attack was a heroic action and a natural response to the murderous actions of the Israeli occupation against our people in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip." Despite this, the reliability of the announcement was not yet clear, because in the past the organization has rushed to take responsibility for actions that they had no connection to. Hamas expressed support for the terrorist attack, but denied that its men were involved in carrying it out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Israeli war criminal at NYU?

I'm on the email list of the "US Boat to Gaza" group, for some reason (I didn't sign up), and they've just sent an "urgent alert" that an "Israeli war criminal has been invited to speak at an American university." The university is NYU. The alleged "war criminal" is one of the Israeli commandos who landed on the Mavi Marmara (part of the Gaza flotilla) last year.

According to the Facebook site for the NYU "Students for Justice in Palestine," he was invited by students at NYU who are putting on an "Israel Peace Week" to counter the "Israel Apartheid Week" that anti-Israel students have organized. The SJP is organizing a counter-demonstration outside the hall where the presentation will occur. They write, "During that brutal attack on unarmed human rights activists nine people were killed, including a Turkish American and over fifty wounded." Yes, nine people were killed by the commandos - but they were not unarmed human rights activists. They were part of the IHH and came armed. I wrote a lot about it on my blog at that time - see my articles at Gaza flotilla.

I hope that the NYU students who have invited the speaker are aware of the opposition this has aroused among the anti-Israel organizations, and have planned accordingly.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Representative Peter King, Hypocrite

Rep. Peter King of New York, who is hosting the bogus series of hearings this week on radicalization of American Muslims, has an awkward past - he was a passionate supporter of the IRA.
Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”...

A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said.

In later years, by all accounts, Mr. King became an important go-between in talks that led to peace in Northern Ireland, drawing on his personal contacts with leaders of I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, and winning plaudits from both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, the former president and the British prime minister.

But as Mr. King, 66, prepares to preside Thursday as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee at the first of a series of hearings on Muslim radicalization, his pro-I.R.A. past gives his many critics an obvious opening. The congressman’s assertions that 85 percent of leaders of American mosques hold extremist views and that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement have alarmed Muslim groups, some counterterrorism experts and even a few former allies in Irish-American causes.

Mr. King, son of a New York City police officer and grand-nephew of an I.R.A. member, offers no apologies for his past, which he has celebrated in novels that feature a Irish-American congressman with I.R.A. ties who bears a striking resemblance to the author.

Of comparisons between the terrorism of the I.R.A. and that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Mr. King said: “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”
But the IRA did attack one of our closest allies, Britain. And in fact, his loyalty was not to the United States, but to the terrorist IRA.
He said he does not regret his past pro-I.R.A. statements. The Irish group, he said, was “a legitimate force” battling British repression — analogous to the African National Congress in South Africa or the Zionist Irgun paramilitary in British-ruled Palestine. “It was a dirty war on both sides,” he said of I.R.A. resistance to British rule....

The I.R.A. was responsible for 1,826 of 3,528 deaths during the Northern Irish conflict between 1969 and 2001, including those of several hundred civilians, said the historian Malcolm Sutton
I grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and went to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston a number of times when I was a teenager, in the 1970s. One year I saw a contingent from Noraid - Northern Irish Aid, which raised money for arms for the IRA. I didn't go back to the parade again.

Omar Barghouti, poster boy for Israel Apartheid Week

Elder of Ziyon has created some great posters to mock Israel Apartheid Week, and this one is the best. One of the leaders of the BDS movement is Omar Barghouti, who lives in Ramallah but is getting his PhD from Tel Aviv University!


 For more on Barghouti, see Richard Millett's account of a recent talk he gave in London: "Omar Barghouti: The non-Israel-boycotting Israeli boycotter."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Leftist rulers who support Qaddafi?!

Update: Another supporter of Qaddafi (3/2/11 at 10:35 pm): Louis Farrakhan has just come out in support of Qaddafi, according to a press release from the ADL.
Included among his conspiratorial messages was the allegation that "Zionists" are goading the United States into "a military offensive against Libya," whose leader, Muammar Qaddafi, he praised as "my brother" and "my friend."

"President Obama, if you allow the Zionists to push you, to mount a military offensive against Qaddafi and you go in and kill him and his sons as you did with Saddam Hussein and his sons, I'm warning you this is a Libyan problem, let the Libyans solve their problem among themselves."

Further update on Chavez (3/1/11 at 7:02 pm): An Al Jazeera blog by Imran Garda has Chavez's latest comments on Libya:
As my colleague Gabriel Elizondo recently pointed out, tiny Nicaragua has rushed to show solidarity with the man who has given it over $300 million and who still claims, “they love me, all my people are with me” despite losing almost every town and city in his country barring the capital, to the protesters. Protesters - he claims - who are being drugged by “Osama bin Laden” who has put “things in their Nescafe.” Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said Gaddafi is "waging a great battle" for his country.

Prior to February 28 there was still room for doubt as to the extent of Hugo Chavez’s support for Gaddafi. He had refused to openly weigh in on the issue, and the only evidence for his support had been a tweet of his saying “…viva Libya and its independence! Kadafi is facing a civil war!!”

Even that was open to interpretation. However, his latest take on the crisis has been unequivocal, "A campaign of lies is being spun together regarding Libya...I'm not going to condemn him. I'd be a coward to condemn someone who has been my friend."....
But the man who models himself on Latin America’s liberator Simon Bolivar, and projects himself as an heir to his legacy (and sometimes to Fidel Castro’s) - is finding himself in a changing world.
He may see himself as a leader of the global “Left” - but what left is he claiming to lead?
The enemy-of-my-enemy “Left”, of hollow, mud-slinging slogans, in support of anything or anyone who claims to oppose imperialism in all its forms in this Yankee-dominated world, no matter how monstrous his policies?
Or a principled “Left” based on respecting the values entrenched in the universal declaration of human rights, democracy and most importantly, the “Left” which places its support squarely on the part of the people tormented, rather than their tormentor.
Chavez’s open support for Gaddafi (who he presented with a replica of one of Bolivar’s swords in 2009) despite his outrageous disregard for his own people, disturbing intent to “open the arms depots” and let his country “burn,” rather than listen to the demands of Libyans, at this crucial point in the history of the region - sounds vacuous and adolescent.

In fact, it’s starting to sound like he’s been drinking some of that hallucinogenic Nescafe that Gaddafi was talking about...
Update (2/26/11 at 4:00 pm): Although I would hardly call him a leftist, Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who received Qaddafi's farcical human rights award in 2010) thinks it's all about Libya's oil, and that the UN should not impose sanctions.
"You cannot secure world peace by resorting to sanctions in each and every incident. We call on the international community to approach Libya not with concerns about oil but with conscience, justice and universal human values," Erdogan said. In an apparent reference to Western interests in oil-rich Libya, he said the region's people "are fed up with being used as pawns in oil wars".
Update (2/24/11 at 11:04 pm): Chavez has now come out in support of Qaddafi. The report is from Al Jazeera's live blog on Libya:
5:01am: Venezuela's top diplomat on Thursday echoed Fidel Castro's accusation that Washington is fomenting unrest in Libya to justify an invasion to seize North African nation's oil reserves.

Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister said:
They are creating conditions to justify an invasion of Libya.
4:27am: Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has backed Muammar Gaddafi on Twitter.  Chavez twitted:
Gaddafi is facing a civil war.
Long live Libya. Long live the independence of Libya
Original Post, 2/22/11 So, who is supporting Qaddafi these days?
The protests sweeping across Libya have created challenges for the Latin American allies of Moammar Gadhafi. Leftist governments in the Americas have long embraced him as a fellow fighter against U.S. influence in the world. Gadhafi has responded over the years by awarding the Moammar Gadhafi International Human Rights Prize [sic!] to Castro and Ortega, as well as to Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, [and] Evo Morales of Bolivia.
1. Nicaragua president Daniel Ortega called Gaddafi to express support.
Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega says he has telephoned Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to express his solidarity. Ortega says he has called several times this week because Gadhafi "is again waging a great battle" to defend the unity of his nation.
To my embarrassment now, in the 1980s I was one of the defenders of Ortega and the Sandinistas when they ruled Nicaragua.

2. Fidel Castro, who says that "unrest in Libya may be a pretext for a NATO invasion."
European governments and U.S. leaders have denounced the crackdown, but Castro used a column published Tuesday by Cuban state news media to say it was too early to criticize Gadhafi. "You can agree or not with Gadhafi," Castro said. "The world has been invaded by all sorts of news ... We have to wait the necessary time to know with rigor how much is fact or lie."
But he did urge protests of something he says is planned: A U.S.-led invasion of the North African nation aimed at controlling its oil. "The government of the United States is not concerned at all about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, perhaps in a question of hours or very short days," Castro wrote. "An honest person will always be against any injustice committed against any people in the world," Castro said. "And the worst of those at this instant would be to keep silent before the crime that NATO is preparing to commit against the Libyan people."
3. And what about Hugo Chavez?
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, has stayed mute. Bolivia came closest to criticizing the government in Tripoli, issuing a statement expressing concern over "the regrettable loss of many lives" and urging both sides to find a peaceful solution....

While Chavez has not commented publicly on the unrest in Libya, Venezuela's foreign minister issued a statement Monday saying he had phoned his Libyan counterpart to express hopes that Libya can find "a peaceful solution to its difficulties ... without the intervention of imperialism, whose interests in the region have been affected in recent times."....

Others [Venezuelan opponents of Chavez] said Chavez's silence suggests he might be trying to distance himself from his North African friend. The two leaders have had such warm ties that on Monday, rumors swept the world that Gadhafi was fleeing to Venezuela. Gadhafi took to television to deny them.
"Our garrulous president is keeping a thunderous silence," the director of the newspaper Tal Cual, Teodoro Petkoff, wrote in an editorial. "Now that the democratic rebellion has reached Libya, Chavez is looking the other way and even abandoning his disgraced 'brother.'"

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Will Libyan rebels ask for foreign intervention?

Libyan Rebels Debate Asking for U.N. Airstrikes to Dislodge Qaddafi

This is remarkable:
BENGHAZI, Libya — In a sign of mounting frustration among rebel leaders over Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s diminished but unyielding grip on power, the revolutionary council here is debating whether to ask for Western airstrikes under the United Nations banner, according to four people with knowledge of the deliberations.
By invoking the United Nations, the council, made up of lawyers, academics, judges and other prominent figures, is seeking to draw a distinction between such airstrikes and foreign intervention, which the rebels said they emphatically opposed.
“He destroyed the army; we have two or three planes,” the council’s spokesman, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, said. He refused to say if there would be any imminent announcement about such strikes, but he wanted to make it clear: “If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention.”