Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lap Bomber stories

There are a number of stories from passengers about the Nigerian kid who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. There is this from Kurt Haskell of Newport Michigan:
I was on this flight today and am thankful to be alive. My wife and I were returning from an African safari and had this connecting flight through Amsterdam. I sat in row 27, which was 7 rows behind the terrorist. I got to see the whole thing take place and it was very scary. Thanks to a few quick acting people I am still alive today.
For those of you talking about airline security in this thread, I was next to the terrorist when he checked in at the Amsterdam airport early on Christmas. My wife and I were playing cards directly in front of the check in counter. This is what I saw (and I relayed this to the FBI when we were held in customs):

An Indian man in a nicely dressed suit around age 50 approached the check in counter with the terrorist and said "This man needs to get on this flight and he has no passport." The two of them were an odd pair as the terrorist is a short, black man that looked like he was very poor and looks around age 17(Although I think he is 23 he doesn't look it). It did not cross my mind that they were terrorists, only that the two looked weird together. The ticket taker said "you can't board without a passport". The Indian man then replied, "He is from Sudan, we do this all the time". I can only take from this to mean that it is difficult to get passports from Sudan and this was some sort of sympathy ploy. The ticket taker then said "You will have to talk to my manager", and sent the two down a hallway. I never saw the Indian man again as he wasn't on the flight. It was also weird that the terrorist never said a word in this exchange. Anyway, somehow, the terrorist still made it onto the plane. I am not sure if it was a bribe or just sympathy from the security manager.

FBI also arrested a different Indian man while we were held in customs after a bomb sniffing dog detected a bomb in his carry on bag and he was searched after we landed. This was later confirmed while we were in customs when an FBI agent said to us "You are being moved to another area because this area is not safe. Read between the lines. Some of you saw what just happened."(The arrest of the other Indian man). I am not sure why this hasn't made it into any news story, but I stood about 15-20 feet away from the other Indian man when he was cuffed and arrested after his search.
The Dutch are investigating.
Then there is this from Patricia Keepman from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
They were sitting about 20 rows behind Abdulmutallab, in a center aisle with her husband and daughter a row ahead of her and their two new adopted children, a six-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy.

Her daughter said that ahead of them was a man who videotaped the entire flight, including the attempted detonation.

"He sat up and videotaped the entire thing, very calmly," said Patricia. "We do know that the FBI is looking for him intensely. Since then, we've heard nothing about it."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gaza - a year later

It has been a year. From B'tselem:
Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, the Israeli military carried out an attack on the Gaza Strip named Operation Cast Lead. The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so. Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was on the verge of collapse prior to the operation. According to UN figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left homeless.

A year after the slaughter of Gaza the misery of the people of Gaza continues. The Telegraph under the rather surreal headline "Gazans still angry one year on from Israeli offensive" describes the heartbreaking tragedy of one family (h/t John Caruso)

In a clearing at the northeast end of the Gaza Strip, amid a sea of drab canvas tents and half-cleared war detritus, a small, carefully tended flowerbed stands out amid dismal surroundings.

For the man who planted it, the blooms represents both an escape from the squalor of forced homelessness and a reminder of his once beloved garden. But it is the straggly red rosebush in the middle that is of special significance.

Until a year ago, Kamal Awaja would often spend the hour before dusk in his garden, teaching his six children the names of the trees and flowers, and encouragiong each one to pick a shrub as their own. Ibrahim, his nine-year-old son, chose the red rosebush.

But a year ago today, everything changed as Israel launched its military offensive against the Hamas militants who run Gaza. After a week of fierce fighting, the gun-barrel of a tank smashed through the family's living room window, forcing them to flee to nearby fields as their house was demolished.

Then, as they crept back at dawn to salvage warm clothes, Israeli soldiers opened fire. Both Awaja parents were wounded, and Ibrahim was hit fatally, dying in his father's arms as he tried to rescue him.

But reliving her son's death a year later, there is another, more harrowing detail that preys on Mrs Awaja's mind. She says that as she hid behind a wall while her husband limped away to find help, Israeli soldiers used Ibrahim's corpse, which was lying in a road, as target practice.

One wonders the level of inhumanity and dehumanization that allows the soldiers of the "most moral army" to use a nine year old child's body for target practice. The slaughter carried out by the Israelis has been followed by an inhuman blockade.

One year after the operation began, extensive areas in the Gaza Strip have yet to be rebuilt. Israel’s sweeping prohibition on the entry of construction materials prevents the rebuilding of houses that were destroyed and damaged, and more than 20,000 persons continue to live in overcrowded conditions in rented apartments, with relatives, or in tent camps. The prohibition also prevents rehabilitation of the infrastructure that was damaged: 90 percent of Gazans suffer electricity black-outs for four to eight hours a day, a result of the damage to infrastructure and of the severe shortage of industrial fuel. Some ten thousand Palestinians in the northern section of the Gaza Strip have no access to running water, and 80 million liters of raw and partially-treated sewage flows daily into open areas. The health system is unable to function properly due to the lack of medical equipment, and seriously ill patients have difficulty receiving necessary medical treatment.

A man who lost two daughters and his home can't visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza's borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses.

Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless,and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. Untreated sewage pours into the Mediterranean.

The UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) in Gaza told the BBC that public health was suffering as a result of inadequate and unsanitary water supplies, and there had been a rise in infant mortality.

While the lives of Gazans are mired in misery there are some hopeful signs. The global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign modeled on the campaign against apartheid South Africa is slowly gaining some momentum. More and more people are becoming aware of the plight of the Gazans and some are doing something about it. Just today the Viva Palestina organized convoy of 99 vehicles carrying supplies has begun entering Gaza. And then there are the (sadly few) brave voices from within Israel itself. Here is Gideon Levy:
One way or another, the year since December 27 was a year of shame for Israel, greater shame than any other time. It is shameful to be Israeli today, much more than it was a year ago. In the final tally of the war, which was not a war but a brutal assault, Israel's international status was dealt a severe blow, in addition to Israeli indifference and public blindness to what happened in Gaza.
Today it is more shameful to be an Israeli because the world, as opposed to Israelis, saw the scenes. It saw thousands of dead and injured taken in the trunks of cars to something between a clinic and a primitive hospital in an imprisoned and weakened region one hour from flourishing Tel Aviv, a region where the helpless had nowhere to run from Israel's arsenal. The world saw schools, hospitals, flour mills and small factories mercilessly bombed and blown up. It saw clouds of white-sulphur bombs billowing over population centers, and it saw burned children.
And then there was the Goldstone report. Ben Gurion said “it is not important what the Goyim say but what the Jews do.” In this case the person making the case against Israel is not a Goy. It is a well respected jurist and a zionist to boot. In spite of the US condemnation of the report, Goldstone is not going away. It has changed international perception about Israel in ways that were inconceivable just a short time ago. So who knows, maybe there will be a better tomorrow. One can always hope.


Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss has a summary of summaries of the state of Gaza today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Aftonbladet's "blood libel"

In the summer of 1992, Ehud Olmert, then minister of health, tried to address the issue of organ shortage by launching a big campaign aimed at having the Israeli public register for postmortal organ donation. Half a million pamphlets were spread in local newspapers. Ehud Olmert himself was the first person to sign up. A couple of weeks later the Jerusalem Post reported that the campaign was a success. No fewer than 35 000 people had signed up.
While the campaign was running, young Palestinian men started to disappear from villages in the West Bank and Gaza. After five days Israeli soldiers would bring them back dead, with their bodies ripped open.
Donald Bostrom, Aftonbladet, August 17, 2009 (Translation)
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel urged the Swedish government on Sunday to condemn an article in a Swedish newspaper last week accusing the Israeli Army of harvesting organs from Palestinians wounded or killed by soldiers.
Mr. Netanyahu told ministers at a cabinet meeting on Sunday that the article, published in the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet, was “outrageous” and compared it to a “blood libel,” referring to medieval anti-Semitic accusations that Jews ritually killed gentile children and collected their blood.
Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli finance minister, said: “Whoever does not distance himself from a blood libel such as this may not be so welcome now in Israel. We have a crisis until the government of Sweden understands otherwise.”
“Israel is under assault,” said Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office. The Aftonbladet article, he said, was part of a “premeditated campaign to vilify the State of Israel.” He added that anti-Semitic blood libels had led in the past to pogroms and attacks against Jews. “We cannot afford to turn the other way.”

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, August 23, 2009
Allegations that Israel plunders and trafficks Palestinians' organs are ugly, false, and harmful to peace efforts. No less dangerous—such libels spread.

Rational and responsible editorial judgment would have discarded Mr. Bostrom's surreal story at the outset. Such judgment would also have considered the real world effects of inciting yet more enmity in a volatile conflict, stoking misconceptions and raising greater hurdles to reconciliation.

But Aftonbladet's view of the parties involved appears strikingly crude, perceiving a realm populated by evil stick-figure Israelis preying mercilessly on romanticized Palestinian "stone-throwers." One cannot in this context forget Aftonbladet's unsavory pro-Nazi sentiments during the Hitler regime. This past seems to have done little to inoculate the paper against related bigotries today.

In an age of diminishing communication barriers, when false images and ideas can mislead hundreds of millions of people in minutes, it is more important than ever to reinforce the tenets of honorable journalism, and to expose malfeasance for all to see.

Behold, Aftonbladet.

Andrea Levin, Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2009

Israel has admitted that pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others without the consent of their families – a practice that it said ended in the 1990s, it emerged at the weekend.

The admission, by the former head of the country's forensic institute, followed a furious row prompted by a Swedish newspaper reporting that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to use their organs – a charge that Israel denied and called "antisemitic".


Israel's health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission. "The guidelines at that time were not clear," it said

Ian Black, Guardian, December 20, 2009

... may I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit, but all new ratings are warned that if they wake up in the morning and find toothmarks at all anywhere on their bodies, they're to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up. And, finally, necrophilia is right out.
Vice Admiral Sir John Cunningham, Monty Python's Flying Circus

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let the show begin

Asif Ali Zardari is president because the US leaned on Musharraf to grant him and his wife (and many others) amnesty from corruption charges through a presidential directive called the National Reconciliation Ordinance. The legality of the NRO has always been in question. No more it seems as the Pakistan Supreme Court has just declared it unconstitutional.
Pakistan's Supreme Court declared on Wednesday that an amnesty that had protected politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari, from corruption and criminal charges, was unconstitutional.

The 17-judge court invalidated the National Reconciliation Order, saying in its ruling that the amnesty "seems to be against the national interest" and "violates various provisions of the Constitution."


The supreme court said its ruling revived all cases that had been suspended or withdrawn under the amnesty.

Zardari still has immunity due to his role as president. But many of his supporters do not. Look for lots of negotiations.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blackwater's assasination list

Given that the Pakistani Taliban have begun blaming the worst civilian bombings on Blackwater, this is not going to help.
In a stunning revelation, US private security service agency, Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, has claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency had asked the agency to kill Pakistani nuclear scientist, A Q Khan.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Prince said the CIA had asked the Blackwater to eliminate Khan, however, authorities in Washington “chose not to pull the trigger.”

"Dr Khan’s inclusion in the target list would suggest that the assassination effort was broader than has previously been acknowledged," Prince said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

War is Peace

Whatever it is I am against it listens to Obama's speech so you don't have to. A true humanitarian is WIIIAAI.

We’re getting to the end, so let’s bring out some of that ol’ Obama inspirational magic: “So let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.” And then the soldier who sees he’s outgunned calls in an air strike and blows her and her child to pieces.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sebastian Rotella - "journalist"

I just watched Sebastian Rotella being interviewed by Lehrer on the News Hour. (I had a bunch of scare quotes in the previous sentence but it seemed like I would have to put scare quotes around everything). The interview was about the charging of David Coleman Headley in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Rotella said that Headley had been trained in Afghanistan and as proof that he received extensive training in Afghanistan/Pakistan Rotella pointed to Headley's "ability" to walk into a Danish newspaper under the pretense of buying advertisement for his business. Why an American businessman needs to be trained to walk into a newspaper to purchase advertisement for his business, and why this training needed to be provided in Afghanistan or Pakistan, were questions whose answer only Rotella knows - and which Lehrer did not care to ask. I don't know what Headley is - he seems to have a rather checkered past - but I think I have a very good idea of what Rotella and Lehrer are not.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Murder at Guantanamo

When the Bush administration and the Pentagon, in the person of Rear Admiral Harry Harris, classified the apparent suicide of three prisoners at Guantanamo as asymmetrical warfare they were justifiably ridiculed. It turns out the truth is much more disturbing. A group at Seton Hall studied the report generated after two years by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and exposed the ridiculousness of the idea that these three committed suicide.

The new study exposes how the NCIS report purports that all three prisoners on the prison's Alpha Block did the following to commit suicide:

• Braided a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing.
• Made mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards they were asleep in their cells.
• Hung sheets to block the view into the cells.
• Stuffed rags down their own throats well past a point which would have induced involuntary gagging.
• Tied their own feet together.
• Tied their own hands together.
• Hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling.
• Climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around their necks and release their weight, resulting in death by strangulation.

The study also notes that there has never been any explanation of how the three bodies could have hung in the cells, undiscovered, for at least two hours, when the cells were supposed to be under constant supervision by roving guards and video cameras.


It is not even clear that it would be physically possible for the prisoners to commit suicide consistent with these facts. One of the Seton Hall study's authors, law student and former sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division Paul W. Taylor, stated: "We have three bodies and no explanation. How is it possible that all three detainees had shoved rags so far down their own throats that medical personnel could not remove them?

One of the murdered three, Yassar Talal Al Zahrani, was seventeen years old when he was picked up by the US.