Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Left Behind

I hate hurricane evacuations because they amount to death sentences for about a quarter of the people--those who are left behind. A few years ago, there was one such evacuation in my town and it left behind the elderly, the sick and the poor. I would go so far as to call hurricane evacuations an abnegation of civic reponsibility.

Before laying siege to to Bint Jbeil, the Israelis dropped pamphlets on hamlets and villages ordering the people to leave, thereby condeming the sick, the poor and the elderly to death.

One decent man left on Capitol Hill

Senator Chuck Hegel is a credit to the people of Nebraska

"Mr. President, the heartbreaking massacres taking place on both sides of the Lebanese border must stop and stop now"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bombing in Palestine

Don't forget the Palestinian children maimed by US-supplied Israeli bombs.

UN Headquarters attacked in Beirut

Gallery here.

Qana bombed

Israeli warplanes struck an apartment house northeast of Tyre and massacred....children.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel targets refugees

A Jordanian cameraman for Germany's N24 TV and his driver were killed when Israel directed artillery fire at a 50-car convoy of refugees organized by the Red Cross. The convoy was evacuating the sick, elderly and others from Rmeish.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Mad Chefs of the Devil's Kitchen

The wanton and indiscriminant destruction and massacre by Israel in Lebanon is heartbreaking and infuriating. How dare the Jewish State call itself civilized? The targeting and slaying of our UN soldiers, who were doing their job. The pathetic Kofi Annan can't even stand up for us!

And now have advanced to Phase 2 of in infernal game: Provoction of Syria. Israeli jets are testing Syria's defenses near the Anti-Lebanon Mountains between Masnaa and the Syrian border crossing at Jdaïdit Yabous.

La Repubblica has a link to a video of the bombing of Tyre.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Just what is Israel up to?

Jean-François Legrain of the French think tank CNRS explains (original article in French can be found at Le Figaro).

Beyond Gaza, beyond Beirut: the true objectives of Israel

The events unfolding in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon over the last few weeks are linked by timing and, above all, by the same political considerations. Observers are nearly unanimous in recognizing the disconnect between the objectives announced by the Israeli government (to free its soldier-prisoners and to prevent rocket attacks) and the systematic destruction of Palestinian and Lebanese civilian infrastructures. An investigation is in order of the real reasons behind these long-planned military campaigns in response to acts brought about by Israeli policies.

Israel’s policies are characterized by unilateralism, an idea conceived by Ariel Sharon with the support of Labour. Based solely on balance of power, it aims to restate the dissuasive capability of the State of Israel through violence inflicted on civilian populations to impose its own solutions on the entire region while relying on the acquiescence of the international community.

To rally the world to the defense of its interests, justified as community security, the Israeli government has relied for years on the radicalization of its enemies. Thus, the evacuation of its settlers and army in 2005 was never meant to signify the end to the military occupation of Gaza but to impose a new, far more repressive form of domination even if conducted from the outside. The everyday life of a population on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe has supplied the explosive for ongoing violence; the detonator was the targeted assassinations and air strikes.

Today, like yesterday, the Israeli government conducts a policy of delegitimizing the Palestinian leadership, whether that leader is Yassir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas (Prime Minister then President of the Palestinian Authority) or Ismael Haniyyeh. It would be mistaken to think that Prime Minister Olmert seeks to topple Haniyyeh only to put Fatah and Abbas back in the saddle. No partner will do. Today’s violence diverts attention once again from the realities of the West Bank while piling up Israeli “justifications”.

The construction of the wall, which will never protect against rocket attacks and only marginally prevents suicide missions, continues at full speed. Its purpose is to provide a material demarcation for the unilateral tracing of the borders of Israel, which is determined to control water resources in the West Bank while preventing the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the real sense of the word. The announcement of a possible retreat from a few fringe settlements on the West Bank is accompanied by the intensification of colonization at its core. The violence of incursions and bombings is thus joined to the infernal condition of everyday life. The new policy of banishment of ever increasing categories of Palestinians and resident foreigners implemented over the last few months represents another aspect of this finality as summed up by Israeli researcher Tanya Reinhart: “How to end the war of 1947-1948?”

By attributing the responsibility for today’s violence to Hamas and Hezbollah alone, the international community knowingly acts as a conduit for Israeli arguments. A sinister mechanism is turning and no one knows how it will end. As in the past, it appears that the Israeli Government is driving its adversaries to commit acts that will then serve as one more Israeli justification to the international community for new initiatives that in turn will provoke fresh violence? From Hamas and Gaza we’ve migrated to Hezbollah and Lebanon. Is the finish line for this insane race really Damascus or Tehran?

As the end of George Bush’s term of office approaches, the international community is now in a phase of tense relations with Syria as well as with Iran. Will this conjuncture, now that Iraq is prostrate, be seized by the Israeli government to settle on its own terms the question of its most encumbering neighbors? If so, what will it cost to the rest of the world? Once again, the Palestinians will find themselves in “zugzwang”, as they say in chess --forced by the Israeli government to make a losing play. Will the international community let itself be swept along into this kind of strategy yet again?

Jean Legrain is a researcher for the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) /GREMMO (Research and Study Group for the Mediterranean and Middle-East) --Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée-Lyon (Orient and Mediterranean House, Lyon)

Vatican observer Giovanni Lajolo is solemn

Via La Repubblica

Lebanese PM doesn't look so happy

Via La Repubblica

Yukking it up

Chronicle of a "Dialogue des Sourds"

Via La Repubblica

Update Thursday 27 July
Here's the peril in holding unsuccessful conferences:
08:46 Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon declares that the Rome summit authorizes the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.

Paltry results. Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Alema concluded peace talks on Lebanon by congratulating local police and firemen for keeping Roman traffic away from the conference venue. But not before Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema made a silly, self-serving remark: Of course there should be a ceasefire. But Italy isn't firing at anybody!

In the background, Italy is about to withdraw its contingent from Iraq, so the country has zero credibiity with the Bush Administration and hence, with Israel. In fact, it is likely that Prodi, like Zapatero, now enjoys persona non grata status in Washington. But lack of influence does not preclude putting on an embarrasing dog and pony show and getting Condoleeza to show up for a sound bite and a photo-op. I should have liked to have seen Romano Prodi's L'Unione coalition government come out of the conference smelling like roses, but it has humiliated itself by PR overreach. This is a disaster for L'Unione.

Talk at the conference went much like this as the language transformed during the dead-end dialog that included these participant participants: Premier Romano Prodi, Foreign Massimo D'Alema, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lebanese PM Fuad Siniora, the foreign ministers of Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, France, Cyprus, Saudia Arabia, UK, Spain, Turkey, Germany and Greece, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Relations Javier Solana, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, the EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero Waldner and a Vatican observer.

10:37 Prodi optimistic on cessation of hostilities! 10:49 Uh, nevermind, what about a humanitarian corridor?

12:05 Chirac ready to lead international peacekeepers! 12:14 Yeah, but Chirac was counting on Egyptian troops, and Mubarek put the kabosh on that straight away: No Egyptian troops either to defend Lebanon or to disarm Hezbollah.

12:27 NATO peacekeeping force!. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in favor! 17:22: Germany rejects the idea outright!

12:35 Kofi Annan calls for immediate ceasefire! 14:57 Condoleezza Rices announces a downgrade to urgent!

16:22 France throws in the towel on the botched exercise. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy expressed bitterness: There was no agreement despite the fact that it had been agreed that we would work with maximum urgency toward a ceasefire. We would have prefered the word "immediate" rather than "urgent" in the communiqué at the end of the meeting.

16:54 Prodi holds a figleaf: A ceasefire is very, very close!


19:26 Israeli airstrike destroys a convoy of food and medicine dispatched by Saudi Arabia at the Lebanese border with Syria.

22:38 The White House declared the results of the Rome talks as "satisfactory" [i.e., hamstrung] and rejected that the call for an "urgent" rather than "immediate" ceasefire constituted a failure.

Jordanian and Libyan Airlifts

Lebanese troops worked diligently to fill in the craters at Beirut Internaional Airport to permit an airlift of Jordanian C-130s bringing in medical supplies and flying out the wounded to Amman.

The Khadaffi Benevolent Foundation will fly Libyan military aircraft to Syria to deliver supplies destined for Lebanon. But Israel is hitting Arab relief trucks as soon as they cross the border.

Bush less popular than Hezbollah

That's what happens to the US Presidency with BlunderBoy in charge.

Bush: 35% positive in US public opinion polls.

Hezbollah: 86.9% of Lebanese support the Shi'ite resistance.

Going after Hezbollah

You do this, you see, by bombing Palestinian refugee camps near Tyre while a peace conference on Lebanon in progress in Rome.

Israel hits UN targets again

UPDATE: Via AFP. During the course of yesterday, a direct protest was delivered to the Israeli Armed Forces after each bomb or artillery shell exploded in the vicinity of the UN's Khaim observation post; 145 shells were fired and 16 directly targeted the position. There were no Hezbollah units operating in the area. The Israelis then destroyed all communication. The UN later contacted the Israelis for permission to evacuate the dead and wounded. The UN headquarters at Naqoura was attacked this morning. --The UN's Jane Holl Lute

The Israelis were requested six time in an explicit, detailed and severe manner to stop firing --Lt. Colonel John Malloy (Ireland)

Jane Holl Lute, Deputy UN Secretary in charge of peace operations, declares that the Unifil observation post in Khaim was hit again: 21 airstrikes and 12 artillery rounds.

Don't let the Israelis give you the justification that it was an accident.

So far Israel has killed Du Zhaoyu (China), one Finn, one Austrian and one Canadian, deliberately with with meditated malice.

Also, an Israeli missile destroyed a UN relief truck on the Syrian border.

Rome talks a blind ally

The summit in Rome on Lebanon organized by Italian Foreign Minister D'Alema and Condoleeza Rice is doomed before it gets off the ground, despite the nice gold pens. Condoleeza's Israeli-conceived peace plan won't make it to first base. She wants a Hezbollah pullback as a precondition to a ceasefire. Shameful. The killing of innocent civilians throughout Lebanon by Israel must stop first.

Nabih Berri, Lebanese Assembly Speaker and leader of Amal, and Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora are on the same page: 1. A ceasefire; 2. A prisoner exchange and 3. the return of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel.

Meanwhile, more bloodmouthing from the Knesset: a threat to destroy Lebanon because Israel must survive. No, Mr. Peres, that's not the way it works.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lawless Israel Destroys another UNIFIL outpost

The brigands took aim at the UNIFIL outpost near Khaim on the eastern Lebanese border, killing at least four valiant UN monitors. And not even a condemnation from the UN. Some respect from a state that owes its existence to the UN!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lebanon refuses Catch 22 ceasefire

Lebanese President Lahoud and Assembly Speaker Nabih Berry (leader of the disarmed Shi'ite militia, Amal) have spurned Condoleeza Rice's ceasefire proposal as reported by al-Arabiya (Dubai). BTW, Berry has been designated spokesperson for Nasrallah. Condoleezza's offer is a real doozy, you might say:

Unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on July 12th (so far, so good, in terms of sanity) and a step by "influential Arab states" (this would mean Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) to persuade Syria to use its influence to release the two soldiers within 10 days (Israel has been given the green light from Washington for another 10 days of wreaking havoc and destruction on Lebanon) or Damascus will "face the consequences", which presumably means bombing (loss of all reason). Now the Catch 22: All Blood No Reason Israeli PM Olmert has declared that there is no room at the table for Syria in ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

The cards in the possession of Hezbollah

Analysis: The cards held by Hezbollah by Mouna Naïm, Lebanon Correspondent, Le Monde

Whatever the military outcome of the war opposing Hezbollah and Israel, nothing will be the same again in Lebanon even after the weapons are silenced. The main political forces are going to find themselves face to face but also before themselves and their respective share of responsibility in preventing a reoccurrence of the present situation.

At this point, the duration of the armed conflict is unpredictable. The protagonists continue to camp on their respective positions: Israel affirms that it will not cease fire until its objectives are attained. Hezbollah says it can resist the army it has begun to call a “paper tiger” indefinitely. The scope of destruction and loss of human life caused by the Israeli air force, navy and artillery is certainly considerable. But it doesn’t seem to have affected the combativeness of Hezbollah.

Different from an army, Hezbollah possess an extremely mobile guerrilla force and its combatants are familiar with terrain that they have studied for more than twenty years. Thus, they have inflicted losses on the Israeli army each time it attempts a ground incursion into Lebanese territory. But this success may not continue into the future.

How is Hezbollah guaging its victory? Through its capacity to resist “Israeli oppression”, says Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah. He is wagering that Israeli forces and the morale of the population will be worn down so that Israeli finds itself increasing pulled toward a ceasefire and negotiations. In response to its Lebanese political adversaries, who have been contesting for more than a year the right claimed by Hezbollah to constitute a state within a state and and its continued status as the last remaining armed faction, Hezbollah has always brandished the argument of dissuasion against Israel in view of the weakness of the Lebanese Army.

Nasrallah has claimed for himself the mission of liberating 45 square kilometers still occupied by Israel in the south and of returning Lebanese prisoners held by the Jewish state. He has thus anointed himself the arbiter of war and peace. He affirms that with the menacing shadow that he casts over the Jewish state, southern Lebanon will know peace and prosperity after having been on the front lines of hostilities between Palestinian forces in Lebanon and the Israeli occupation of a strip of border area.

This pledge of near paradise made to the Southerners has been shattered by the Israeli offensive. The South, as well as a good part of the rest of the country, is in tatters, to use the words of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

By taking the initiative to capture two Israeli soldiers on 12 July, Hezbollah probably knew through experience that the reaction of the Israelis would be severe. He nonetheless claims that the scope of the reaction is proof that the capture of the two soldiers was an excuse for the Jewish State to implement a long-standing plan aimed at annihilating armed resistance.

For the moment, considering the scope of the disaster wrought by the war, a single leitmotif is heard from the Israeli political class: National unity in the face of the Israeli enemy, who spares nothing and no one. But already, in words that are less and less veiled, some, like Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader and Chairman of the Socialist Progressive Party, or Saad Hariri, leader of the Future Party, declare that Hezbollah must give an accounting. They now reflect the opinion of the current political majority of which they symbolize the vanguard. The first, Mr. Jumblatt, accuses the Party of God of executing an Iranian-Syrian plan to prevent the country from recovering its independence and restoring State authority in the aftermath of the Syrian pullout and to transform the country to a battlefield against Israel.

The political majority believes that, in any case, it has been stabbed in the back by Hezbollah at a time when a national defense strategy was about to be drafted and with the fate of Hezbollah on the agenda of national dialog aiming at finding a solution since March. Such solutions are meant to be achieved through peaceful means because recourse to force against a formation representing a very large share, if not the majority, of the Shi’ite community threatens to put the country to sword and to flame and to return it to the past --something that each and everyone concerned wish to avoid at any cost.

What is certain is that today that even with a scenario of success of the Israeli offensive to crack the shell of Hezbollah, it cannot guarantee that the movement will be disarmed. That is the task of the Lebanese. But with what means, without placing in peril the unity of the country and its armed forces, will a solution be found? The rank and file of the Lebanese armed forces are Shi’ite. To avoid a bloodbath, which it has always claimed to abjure, will Hezbollah agree to disarm itself if it is strengthened in the case of a possible “victory” owing to its resistance, or in drawing the lessons of a defeat, if Israel wins?

Faced with such an impasse, the Lebanese government proposes a “radical” solution which it says will remove from Hezbollah any reason to continue to remain armed. That is, the attainment through diplomatic means of a pullout of the Israeli Army from the 45 square km swath of territory it still occupies, the release of Lebanese held prisoner by Israel and the respect of the armistice concluded in 1949 between the Land of the Cedars and the Jewish state. This would take place while awaiting a comprehensive solution of the Middle East conflict, of which not the slightest outline can been seen on the horizon.

We are not yet there, but should such a solution see the light of day, Hezbollah must place its cards on the table. Is its strategy, as has been affirmed, purely Lebanese or does it wish to continue armed struggle until the issues between Syria and Palestine and the Jewish state are resolved?

Israel attacks United Nations observation post

Israel likes to claim that is it a beacon of the Western values in a sea of savage Arabs. But the truth is that Israel is a rogue nation of lawless brigands who are no more Western than remotest Samarkand.

Today an Israeli tank targeted a UN observation post in southern Lebanon, wounding four Ghanan soldiers, who have been evacuated to a Unifil hospital in Naqura. Yesterday it caused an Italian soldier to be wounded in the stomach by a grenade and caused injury to another UN observer.

Doubtless we will hear applause from the US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who along with the Bush Administration, are the rogue state's biggest fanboys.

Israel, I renounce you as Western in the slightest aspect. Well, okay, maybe Western as in The Hundred Years War, you bastards.

Nazi-style reprisals

Israel has been a disgrace since its invasion of Lebanon the first time but now it has plunged deeper into depravity. Israel announces that for every Katyushka rocket launched by Hezbollah, it will destroy 10 apartment buildings in Beirut.

Israel is sick, fascist enclave that deserves a dismal fate.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Druze Community Welcomes Refugees

The Druze town of Aley in the Shoof Mountains has welcomed more than 36,000 refugees from Southern Lebanon. The refugees are sheltering in schools, auditoriums, hotels, private homes and administration buildings.

Hatred for Israel and disgust for do-nothing Arab states are growing by the minute throughout the country. A common sentiment is, Where's a suicide vest? Fill it with explosives and let me at the Israelis!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fidel Castro visits home of Che Guevara

Fidel Castro is in Argentina for the 30th Mercosur Summit (concluded) and has made a pilgrimage to Villa Nydia (Córdoba) to view the childhood home of Che Guevara. Before entering the building, Cuban explosives experts inspected the home, now a museum.

The official limo carrying Fidel and Hugo Chávez arrived amid blaring sirens and applause. The gathered crowd of 5,000 residents chanted "Olé, olé, olé, Fidel, Fidel" as Fidel emerged from the limo.

Via El Mundo

Farewell, My Dearest

From La Repubblica

The plight of Marjayoun

To the inhabitants of villages south of the Litani Rivier. Because of Hezbollah terrorist operations against the State of Israel are launched from inside your villages and homes, Israel will defend itself forcefully against theses operations and will enter your villages. For your safety we ask you to leave your villages as quickly as possible and go north of the Litani River. Signed, the State of Israel.
But Israel bombed the bridges over the Litani on Day One. This is forcing refugees east and through the hills towards the town of Marjayoun, which is flooded with villagers from the south. Its ramparts are being pounded by Israeli artillery as flows of refugees wending their way toward Marjiyoun are being targeted as they attempt to flee.

Israel bombs Lebanon's telecommunications infrastructure

Fifteen French and their families sheltering in the Christian port of Juniyeh were injured in the Israeli boming of the city.

The Israelis have apparently unleashed a bomb near a Catholic convent in Fatka, where hundreds of refugees, may of them French, have been welcomed. The blast blew out all the convent's windows and doors.

Israel also bombed two television and cellphone towers of Beirut and killed an employee of Lebanon's private TV broadcaster LBCI. TV towers owned by state-run Télé Liban as well as those of LBCI (on Mr. Sannince), al-Manar and the Hariri-owned Future TV were destroyed. Alfa Mobile's cellphone towers were also hit.

Telecommunications centers in nothern Lebanon --two in Fatka (in the Christian mountains of Kesrwan), Jabal Terbol and Jebel Aïtou-- were destroyed by the Israelis. These are major cellphone and television relay stations. An employee of Télé-Liban was wounded when Israelis destroyed another relay station in Fîh, in the area around Kura.

Israel has cut off the government of Lebanon from the people, as well as the people from the people. By targeting the emergency communication system, it has jeopardized evacuation, rescue and relief.

Israel targets journalists

Sound familiar?

Israeli helicopters attack Arab journalists

Israeli gunships fired missiles at vehicles carrying Al Arabiya and Al Jazira news crews. The vehicles were clearly identified as transporting reporters and cameramen with "TV" painted in big letters on the roof. The news caravan was hit on the road between were Marjayoun and Hazbaya, in southern Lebanon. The newsmen were covering fleeing refugees searching for shelter. [via La Repubblica]

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cyprus at the breaking point

In the last four days, 12,000 refugees fleeing Lebanon have debarked in Cyprus, where there are absolutely no facilities for this kind of crowd. Not enough hotels, not enough drinking water, not enough food, not enough latrines...and thousands more expected. So much for the evacuations by ferry...they dump you in Cyprus and buona notte!

This is just as irresponsible as the Israeli leaflets fluttering down on Southern Lebanon. Just where are the tens of thousands of Shi'ite villagers supposed to go? Beirut Public School No. 2?

Of course the US is losing no time in delivering more bombs

"The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon...satellite and laser-guided bombs....Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike." [via The New York Times]

Lebanon also hit by ecological disaster

If human disaster and a river of blood are not enough, Israel has caused a black tide. Millions of barrels of oil released from destroyed fuel storage tanks have formed a giant oil slick between Shekka and Sidon. This extends down three-quarters of the coastline.

Quote of the day

There are so many warships and cruiseliners in the sea in front of Beirut that it looks like a cross between the Battle of Midway and Aruba.

Patrick McGreevy via Juan Cole.

Oh, the drama!

The editor of Maariv, Amnon Dankner, plumbs new depths: We are at war with Iran!

And now Israel wants NATO, the North Atlantic Constabulary, to disarm Hezbollah.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Zapatero breaks the taboo!

In Alicante for the International Festival of Young Socialists, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero broke the "Israel is never wrong" taboo in thought and in deed. He characterized the brutal Israeli intervention in Lebanon as an overreaction and donned a Palestinian kefeya.

In no time Víctor Harel, Israeli Ambassador to Madrid, leaders of the Jewish community Mauricio Hachueland of Spain and the house fascists, the PP, began screaming "Anti-Semite"! The PP whip, Eduardo Zaplana, declared that Zapatero lost the respect of "many nations".

Source: El Mundo (Madrid)

Well, in my opinion, the "many" would be exactly 2: the US and Israel. And as Bush has already declared Zapatero persona non grata on US territory, it's safe to say the Zapatero could not be more ostracized. And any EU politician banned by Bush is certainly in my book.

Viva Zapatero!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Zion rises early in the morning

Update from Juan Cole:
They say it is a fight with Hizbullah. But then they bomb Greek Orthodox churches and milk factories far from Shiite areas. Hmmmm

Must get the killing done before noon...

12:21 Airstrike along Syrian border

12:09 Israeli airstrike on the town of Taanayel, along a highway connecting Mt. Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley

11:56 Combat in Aitarun
Israel troops clash with Hezbollah in the village of Aitarun, 3km inside Lebanese territory.

10:49 Airstrike on Bekaa

10:00 Airstrike on central Beirut

7:12 Airstrike on Salaa
10 persons, members of the same family, died under the rubble of their 2-story home in Salaa, 9km east of Tyre.

07:11 Airstrike on Srifa, dozens killed.

07:04 Airstrike on Beirut Airport
Israeli jets bombed Beirut International Airport and the suburban neighborhoods of Shuifat and the al-Hadeth-Santa Teresa intersection.

More atrocity from Israel

What Milosovich can't get away with, Israel indulges in.

For the first time since the start of the war, Israeli F-16's conducted an airstrike on the Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh in East Beirut.

In its bombardment of Srifa (1,000 inhabitants), 20 km east of Tyre, Israel has used chemical weapons. Survivors of the raid that killed 21 and wounded 30 have skin lesions and rashes on their arms, legs and face.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Portrait of Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah: Israel’s Enemy No. 1
LE MONDE | 17 July 06 | 15:14
Beirut Correspondent

It its latest portrayal of Enemy No. 1 and whom it has vowed to eliminate, the Israeli Army paints Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah as a boa constrictor prepared to swallow Lebanon and the Lebanese. Printed on hundreds of leaflets dropped by plane over Southern Lebanon, the drawing includes a text in Arabic warning against the man with a forked tongue: “Mild in appearance, poisonous in the flesh”. What makes the story stunningly ironic is that the only Arab spokesman who is taken seriously by Israeli leaders is the same Hassan Nasrallah.

For his partisans, the Hezbollah Secretary-General is first “after God and his prophets”. He is also very respected in the Shi'ite community in general. All Lebanese have a certain amount of deference for him because, they say, “He never lies and never talks to hear the sound of his own voice.” They acknowledge -at least in part- the merit of Hezbollah guerrillas for having forced the Israeli Army out of an area in southern Lebanon which it had occupied for 22 years.

Seyyed Nasrallah is also admired by large swaths of public opinion because he has shown up the “cowardliness” and “capitulation” of Arab governments. He is the condensed incarnation of three icons of the past century: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Yassir Arafat and Imam Khomeiny.

He may not necessarily appreciate the comparison to the former president of Egypt and Palestine. But the comparison to the father of the Iranian revolution must warm his heart. Khomeiny is, in some way, his spiritual inspiration. The claimed resemblance to Khomeiny and the empathy that Hassan Nasrallah commands within Arab public opinion makes him a worrisome troublemaker, who moreover is Shi’a, to governments in the region with an overwhelming Sunni majority.

He is accused not only by the United States and Israel but also by certain political factions in Lebanon of being Iran’s agent and as well as that of its ally, Syria. He vigorously denies this and, while proclaiming friendship and alliance with these two countries, displays patriotism for Lebanon that is beyond all suspicion.
Hassan Nasrallah has, moreover, an almost visceral aversion for the Jihadist movement al-Qaeda, which, in his opinion, is a perversion of Islam. He doesn’t care that Hezbollah is on a list of terrorist organizations in some Western nations: Resistance to the occupier is legitimate, he underscores.

Hassan Nasrallah is driven by unshakeable faith in the righteousness of the cause he pursues: Rejection of the occupation and all it entails. In his vocabulary, Israel is “Occupied Palestine”. But he confines the struggle of Hezbollah to Lebanon, where he hopes to be seen as the herald of liberation of the remaining occupied territories and the defender against any future Israeli aggression.

Seyyed Nasrallah has headed Hezbollah for 14 years. He rose to that position following the assassination of his mentor, Abbas Mussawi, by Israel in February 1992. The honorific, “seyyed” indicates that this 46 year-old cleric with a round face, thick beard and piercing look is a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad. Son of a very modest family in southern Lebanon, he is the father of four children. The eldest, Hadi, died a martyr’s death in southern Lebanon in 1997.


Under the leadership of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah, thanks to the raps on the snout delivered to Israel, did, undeniably, lead to Israel’s decision to accelerate its pullout from Southern Lebanon. In 2004, he also obtained the release of 30 Lebanese and 420 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and the return by the Jewish state of the remains of 60 Lebanese killed in combat. All that was granted by Israel in exchange for a colonel of the reserves captured live and the remains of three Israeli soldiers killed in 2001.

It was to free 3 Lebanese held by the Israelis that Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soliders on July 12. The three should have been included in the first exchange in 2004. But a dispute inside the Israeli government caused them to be excluded.

But did Hassan Nasrallah, who is said to be a first-rate strategist, really appreciate the balance of power of regional and international forces? Did he foresee the brutal reaction of Israel? Has he, like a poker player encouraged by success, gambled too much and now risks losing everything, including his life?

Interview with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora

LEMONDE | 17 July 06| 15:14 • Updated 17 July 06 | 15:52

It’s now Day 6 in a war with Lebanon as a theater, what do you intend to do?

We are attempting to find the means to exit this situation, weighty in its destruction and harm. We seek an immediate and total cease-fire so that we may deal with the both the consequences and the cause of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and to settle the question of Lebanese imprisoned in Israel for the last 30 years.

The government is determined to extend its exclusive authority over the whole of Lebanese territory with the help of the United Nations and our brother countries and friends, and to iron out all the problems that Israel refuses to address and that are the source of crisis and tension.

Are you saying that you share Hezbollah's demand for a prisoner exchange?

The release of Lebanese prisoners is a legitimate Lebanese demand. But why are you talking about Hezbollah alone? How could I not be concerned with Lebanese held prisoner by the Israelis? When I demand that Israel cease to violate Lebanese airspace, does that mean I’m adopting the Hezbollah point of view? Israel claims that it wants to end the arming of Hezbollah. My answer is: there is simple way of achieving this goal, and that is to resolve other problems.

Israel accuses others of terrorism while practicing it itself in more lethal forms It creates the problems then maintains them as open sores to be exploited as a means of pressure. I’d like to talk about the Lebanese whom it holds, the mines which it has planted in Lebanon and refuses to give us the location while dozens of people have killed and others maimed for years by these devices.

Israel systematically violates our airspace and territorial waters, continues its occupation of the Shebaa Farms, a 45 km2 stretch of territory that it knows belongs to Lebanon. How do you explain its behavior other than to maintain a state of tension and to pressure Lebanon? The lack of a final resolution of these endemic problems favors extremism. Quick and superficial solutions only worsen things.

We have repeatedly stated that we were not informed in advance of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and that we do not assume responsibility for this act or claim it as our own. Is the killing and destruction by Israel for the two captured soldiers acceptable?

Today there was a massacre in the village of Aitarun and in the city of Tyre. Yesterday it happened to Bayada and Mirwaheen. Are Lebanese lives worth so little?

Could you convince Hezbollah? Are you in contact with it?

There are contacts. Contacts were never interrupted and we will continue to work steadfastly on the basis of a clear position and in maintaining the spirit of Lebanese and Arab interests. We are responsible for the Lebanese people and we will commit ourselves to obtaining a cease fire, putting a stop to massacres and Israel's infernal machine. We have clear ideas, our determination is solid and we defend a just cause.

How do you judge the responsibilities of UNIFIL, which refused to admit fleeing villagers from Mirwaheen to their compound, who were later killed by Israeli targeted bombing?

We are investigating this incident. But the UN informs me that the group of villagers killed is not the group that the UNIFIL forces refused to admit, due to sufficient notification. However, we know who is guity. It is Israel. Israel committed this crime.

The UN Security Council could not reach an agreement on a ceasefire because of the attitude of the United States, who say, nevertheless, that they are friends of Lebanon.

We are their friends but their friendship for Israel is greater.

What do you think of the attitude of France?

I've spoken with Prime Minister de Villepin and Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy and informed them of our legitimate demands. We well appreciate that France is unwavering in its support for Lebanon as well as the friendship of the French Administration and people for the Lebanese.

We are grateful to President Chirac for helping Lebanon and that we are in his thoughts along with France. We are convinced that he will do everything possible to support our demands.

What about the Israeli proposal communicated to you by Italian Premier Romano Prodi that would produce a ceasefire on the condition that the Lebanese Army would be deployed in Southern Lebanon and a pullout by Hezbollah?

Let us be clear: Mr. Prodi, who is an old friend of Lebanon, simply relayed the contents of a conversation which he had with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. It was by no means an official proposal.

Interview by Mouna Naïm

Monday, July 17, 2006

Evacuations from the Lebanese Guernica

20 000 French to be evacuated to Cyprus by the 1,000-passenger ferry Iera Petra which the French government has leased.

20 000 Britons to be evacuated aboard warships dispatched from Britain: HMS Illustrious, Bulwark, St. Albans, Fort Victoria, York and Glouster. Hmm...the British are serious about evacuation! Too bad they can't get off a few torpedos at the Israeli Navy.

25 000 Australians to be evacuated by chartered bus to Syria and also by small ferry (600 passengers) to Cyprus.

30 000 Phlippinos to be evacuated by chartered bus.

40 New Zealanders, to be evacuated with the French and British.

18 000 Canadians. Tough luck but Harper is thinking it over.

20 000 Americans Maybe you too, bub, but it'll take some time.

Tony parts company with Bush

Poodle wises up! It took him long enough. Blair calls for international force to end fighting.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel using banned weapons

Lebanese military experts confirm the use by Israel of implosion bombs and white phosphorus in its airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs. Reporters have seen at the facades of at least 20 eight-story apartment houses blow off in the Haret Hreik and Bir al-Abed neighborhoods.

Meanwhile 15 thousand refugess have arrived in Tyre, which the Israelis immediately upgraded to "prime target".

Orwell award to Nicholas Burns

Beirut refugees

The US State Department's Nicholas Burns declared that the ceasefire requested by the G8 is not a ceasefire request.

You'll remember all the handwringing and condemnations when Rafik Hariri was assassinated. Half of Lebanon is up in smoke and not one word from the hypocrites and worshipers of the double standard in Washington.

Fantasy: Sheik Nasrallah is a "Bin Laden"

Only in Israel (but we note how it is inspired by "Bring-It-On" Bush:

Jerusalem: Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, former director of Shin Beit, declares Nasrallah is just like bin-Laden.

Phweeet, phweeet! Calling the Reality Police!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No converging horizons

History Unfolding's David Kaiser discusses generational legacy disconnect: the old guard in Palestine and in Israel are irrelevent. Moreover, Israel's delusion that bombing Beirut will force Arabs to disavow the armed wing of their aspirations is doomed. Washington's delusion that democracy imposed from above would induce the radicals to desist has set in motion forces that cannot be quelled within a lifetime. Kaiser suggests that the US population and their elite instead turn to introspection to save eroding institutions.

Former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who had the extraordinary talent of reading the Middle East clearly, warned that if the post-IX_XI situation weren't handled carefully, no power, Saudi or Jordanian or Egyptian, would be able to withstand the radical wave. And so, after five years in the hands of George W. Bush, it is about to come to pass.

My condolences to the Lebanese and apologies for the nefarious bond between the United States of George W Bush and Israel.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bugs and booze in the lifeboats first!

Homeland Security's database of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources included an insect zoo, a bourbon festival, a bean fest and a kangaroo conservation center. They represent examples of key assets identified in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland.... The Homeland Security assessment of New York this year failed to include Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty as a national icon or monument.

[Via CNN]

Nasrallah News Conference

Update 4: Israel shelling Beirut from the sea in a nighttime attack. UN Security Council convenes in emergency session.

Update 3: In a country of ethnic enclaves, why bomb Beirut to punish the southern Shi'ites? The billion dollar highway tunnel built by Rafic Hariri connecting Beirut Airport to the city was destroyed, as well as two landing strips at the airport. Olmert has threated to bomb the Beirut-Damascus Highway, chock full of civilian automobiles, busses and trucks fleeing the country. Israel has bombed the Lebanese Army, the only entity Lebanon has to deploy to rein in Hezbollah, at Koleat and in the Bekaa Valley.

Update 2: Thousands of tourists fleeing through Syria. Israel imposes naval blocade on Lebanese ports.

Update: Israel has destroyed all bridges linking Southern Lebanon with the north of the country. In an act of senseless overreaction, Olmert destroyed Beirut Airport. He also ordered the destruction of South Lebanon's power generation plant and shot up highways where motorists died an unexpected death. Naturally news crews got shot up, too. The Israelis then launched airstrikes in the area of Nabatyeh, Tyre and Zahrani.

Translated from an article by reporter Scarlett Hadad of L'Orient-Le Jour.

If the general atmosphere was one of joy in the immediate Hezbollah entourage, with exchanges of congratuations among militants and supporters, sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was quite sober before reporters and aware of the gravity of the situation and his responsibilities to Lebanon. Courteous and taking questions, sayyed Nasrallah hoped to send a message of confidence to the population while affirming that as far as Hezbollaah was concerned, it has achieved its objectives in taking two Israeli soldiers hostage. He is now prepared to start indirect negotiations toward a prisoner exchange. But if the Israelis choose confrontation, we are prepared to go as far as necessary and they risk some nasty surprises, affirmed sayyed Nasrallah.

While affirming that the Resistance acted on its own without informing the government, its allies or the army, sayyed Nasrallah explained that Hezbollah began planning the operation during the last prisoner exchange in January 2004 and had clearly announced the liberation of Lebanese detained in Israel as its priority. I myself said this on several occasions since the beginning of the year and for us, the plight of Lebanese prisoners is unconnected to any other issue", said the Secretary General of Hezbollah, who added that following the operation he had several contacts with Lebanese officials. His advisor for Political Affairs met with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

The sayyed, completely dressed in black, had a grim face but an assured tone when he spoke to reporters.

He began by thanking the Mujahedeen who carried operation "Kept Promise". According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah fighters had been preparing for this operation over a long period of time. They had been surveiling the area for five months and it was only yesterday that they were able to achieve their objective of taking two Israeli soldiers for a later prisoner exchange with the Jewish state. Beseiged by reporters, sayyed Nasrallah refused to release any details concerning the operation and was content to say only that the place where the kidnapping took place was unimportant. If our Mujahedeen penetrated just a few meters inside occupied territory does not matter because we are in a confrontation, said the sayyed, who neither confirmed nor denied that the operation took place inside Israeli territory.

The Secretary-General of Hezbollah rejected accusations that his organization was plunging the country, and perhaps the region, into war. This is our rationale that has prevailed since 1982: do nothing to plunge the country into war. But the fact is that war has never left our country and the region, said Nasralla, who also underscored the fact that there had never been unanimity concerning the Resistance in Lebanon in 1982 or later. From our point of view, he said, our action is consistent with the ministerial decree. Now we know that the government and the authorites in general are under enormous pressure from the international community. But we hope Prime Minister Fuad Siniora will act as his predecessor Rafic Hariri did in 1996; Hariri moved heaven and earth to defend the Resistance during Operation "Grapes of Wrath".

Nasrallah insisted that Hezbollah did not want an escalation or war, but simply to oblige the Israelis to conduct a prisoner exchange. Nasralllah affirmed that the decision to carry out the operation was decided well before the recent events in Gaza, but he recognized that the timing could have a positive effect on the plight of the Palestians in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories.

The Hezbollah Secretary General also firmly discounted an Israeli advance into Lebanese territory. They attempted a breakthrough in the al-Raheb sector, near Aïta el-Shaab. We destroyed a Merkava with its crew, he underscored. The Israelis then requested a ceasefire to remove their wounded. We replied that we wanted a global ceasefire. Nasrallah repeated that if Israel wanted to free their soldiers by bombing Lebanon, they were kidding themselves. They will only go home as part of a prisoner exchange, he declared. That is why Israeli military action will achieve nothing, unless the Israelis decide to make the whole of Lebanon pay for this operation. In that case, we are ready for the confrontaton and we shall go further than they think. Today's Lebanon is not the country of 1982 and the Resistance has changed. We have been preparing for a confrontation with Israel since May 26, 2000. I don't need to make any threats. We are sufficiently creditable.

Nasrallah asked Lebanese to put themselves in the position of the parents of prisoners held by Israel. Now is not the time for internal dissent. Once the situation cools down, then you can ask us questions or demand explanations. But today is a time for solidarity. I ask Lebanese to act responsibly and I hope no one will act so as to offer any excuse to Israel.

When asked about the positions of Syria and Iran, Nasrallah responded that they supported the Resistance. But I dont wait around for them to tell me what to do. The ball is in Israel's court. But Hezbollah is prepared for any eventuality.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another SISMI agent in trouble

Now it's Raffaele Di Troia. Good!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

History Unfolding

Visitors are invited to go over to Prof. David Kaiser's new blog, History Unfolding. Prof. Kaiser is the author of American Tragedy : Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War, a book that details the foibles, obsessions, decision-making and delusion of our leaders and generals. The book's poignant epilogue always makes me weep.

I am very excited by History Unfolding, which will offer expert analysis on US geostrategic aims as well as domestic politics. This also means that I won't have to eternally cite experts published in Le Monde, as much as I respect them.

Ft. Sam Houston on the Skids

The Black Hole of Iraq sucking dry Ft. Sam Houston (from the San Antonio Express-News)

Fort Sam has wrestled with financial woes that have dogged 179 posts worldwide. The garrison, which provides services to more than 70 tenant commands, is facing a $26 million budget shortfall this year. It's fired 100 contract workers, frozen hiring, shut off cell phones and BlackBerry devices, turned in leased cars and stopped troops from using government credit cards.

The Fort is four months behind in paying its $1.4 million/month utiliity bill for power and water; cuts are expected.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Israel will fail against Hamas

Reporter Sylvain Cypel of Le Monde confirms what we suspect: Israel attempt to dislodge Hamas from power will fail.

Q. Does the acceptance by Hamas of the text drafted by Palestinian prisoners in Israel definitively or in part settle the question of recognition of Israel by Hamas?

Yes and no. That’s not meant to be ambiguous. This text acknowledged a long-standing position held by Hamas: No to the formal recognition of a Jewish state on Islamic lands, Yes to de facto acceptance of Israel in the form of an unlimited truce. The position of Hamas is clear. Mutual recognition is not really necessary to have peace. Israel is asked to withdraw from the territories conquered in 1967 and to permit the Palestinians to build their state on the “liberated” land.

Q. Some say that Hamas is somewhat a small yet pragmatic political party with a separate armed wing, similar to other terrorist groups such as the IRA or the ETA. So how do you explain the vision of the Olmert Administration, which seems to think of Hamas a terrorist organization, without understanding the difference?

Hamas is not a Jihadist Islamic party like al-Qaeda or others, for whom Jihad is understood as the same thing across the Islamic world. It is a “territorialist” and nationalist party founded on religion. That’s a very different thing. And Hamas is not homogeneous. Its “pragmatism” is due to the fact that it has no confidence in Israeli commitment and wants to “liberate Palestine”, beginning with the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.

Ehoud Olmert’s vision corresponds to a very old inclination in Israel and his government is not the first to act as it has been acting. This position consists of denying the nationalist character of the adversary’s movement. That’s the way it was in the relationship with the PLO. Today, it’s Hamas’ turn.

History shows that Israel, after a long period of denial, always ends up accepting reality. Today the problem is worsened by the regional and international environment and the view that “Islamist terrorism" is monolithic. If Israel continues to deny the reality of Hamas as a nationalist political movement and not a merely religious organization, then it will stumble from failure to failure until it accepts the fact.

Is this fresh outbreak of war just another in a series of episodes? Or are we facing a new situation?

It is too soon to answer to this question with a "yes" or "no". I tend to think that this is "just another episode”. I think the desire of the Israeli government was to put intense pressure on Palestinian society to force them to reject Hamas following its victory in the elections. The hostage affair strongly reinforces this attitude but it does not change it. That being said, we could be seeing the beginning of an offensive to politically and militarily dismantle Hamas or at least an attempt to do so. Seeing what Hamas represents to Palestinians, it is my opinion that this attempt by Israel is doomed to failure.

But based on what you have said, I don’t see how the Israelis could trust a truce invoked by Hamas that it could break when it feels sufficiently strong or sufficiently supported, by Iran, for example. What is your opinion?

I think that the problem is not a question of “trust”. Today, trust between these two populations is dead or in the throes of death. The question is what is the alternative? Continue construction of the Security Wall and to reject self-determination to the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories? That’s not going to work. Even if Israel were to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, the Jewish state would remain politically, militarily, economically, and socially far stronger than the Palestinians and all their neighbors combined. Israelis live in fear, often founded on past memories. But previous historical examples show that all pullouts from occupied territory are followed by peace and not by an increase in violence.

The Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority have seen financial assistance from the international community dry up. It doesn’t seem to have stopped the Palestinian militias from forming and multiplying (men, weapons, and ammunition). Do you know where the money allowing them to grow and conduct operations comes from?

I don’t believe the militias are stronger there than they were two or three years ago, when a wave of attacks swept over Israel. In fact, they are weaker. It remains to be said that they are able to obtain weapons but of poor quality. (The famous Qassam rockets, for example, are home-made mortars with little effectiveness, even if noisy). I have no precise information on where these weapons come from. Some have been stolen from “official” Palestinian forces or turned over to the militias by them. The rest, in very small quantities, are stolen from Israeli soldiers. The Israeli press has occasionally suggested arms trafficking by Israeli troops but I have no confirmation of this. Last, weapons in extremely small quantities have been smuggled in to the Occupied Territories from Jordan or over the border from Egypt into Gaza.

Why doesn't the UN force Israel to withdraw?

The UN can only do what the means conferred upon it will allow. Resolutions have been adopted. But the decision-making body of the UN is not the General Assembly; it is the Security Council. There, Israel has enjoyed the protection of a US veto from any forceful decision for the last thirty-nine years.

Does the Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister have any control over the armed wing responsible for the kidnapping of the French-Israeli soldier?

There again, I can only guess. I think that the armed wing is absolutely under the control of political wing of Hamas. The sterling proof is that Hamas is able in impose truces on them in a systematic manner when they are declared and the armed wing accepts them without a hitch. Islamic Jihad, however, is another story. That being said, I have not been in Palestine for several months and I am not sufficiently informed on internal dissent or on who has the upper hand on the armed wing.

The Israeli government is ignoring the document drafted by the prisoners for now. Yet this document could indicate a change in the major ideological and political views of Hamas. Is the Israeli refusal to recognize this document a tactical decision?

To have one or a set of tactic, you first need a strategy. I am not sure that the Israeli government has one. Instead, it has a want: to separate itself with the best possible bargain with the Palestinians and by paying the lowest possible price in terms of politics and a territorial pullout. In Israel, this desire is known as “unilateral withdrawal”. The problem is to withdraw a little here there while keeping all the settlements intact and to tell the Palestinians: It’s now up to you, do what you want, declare your own state But it won’t work. Israel will find no Palestinian partner in dialog who will accept declaring a handful of disconnected cantons that are totally under Israeli control a state.

How do you interpret the kidnapping of the Hamas MPs, democratically elected by the people as well a the international community, which is calling for restraint? Is there some sort exception being made for Israel?

This has to do with “two separate weights, two separate measures”. In one sense, there is Israeli exceptionism in the international community. But in another sense, it's false. How many UN resolutions have there been or statements by Jacques Chirac on events in Chechnya? Almost none. On the one hand, people hesitate to criticize Israel but on the other, the Palestinians get more attention than many other populations.

I just read an article saying that that Israel, by not accepting Hamas in power, planned this invasion long ago and that the kidnapping of this soldier is only a pretext. What do you think?

I think the job of a military is to prepare for all eventualities. So when Israel decided to evacuate Gaza, the general staff had plans already on the table for this kind of situation. The “plan” if all went well (from the Israeli point of view) and the “plan” if all went differently.

It seems obvious to me that the current intervention was “planned” but that’s perfectly normal. There is no Machiavellian conspiracy. They went in because the circumstances indicated it.

On the other hand, I do not believe that the Israelis want to militarily reoccupy the Gaza Strip. What they want to do is to control it from the outside, with the lowest risk, and to intervene when the situation calls for it.

Since it’s been suggested that I make a parting remark, I’ll tell you a joke that’s been making the rounds in Palestine:

One Palestinian says, “What a terrible mess we’re in. If we hadn’t crossed paths with the Jews, who are the very figure of the worst of human suffering, "then the international community would have given us our state and our independence long ago and would have forced Israel to withdraw from our territories."

“Idiot”, says the other, "We’re lucky we got entangled with the Jews. If we were Tibetans, Chechens, or Kurdish Turks, who would give a damn?"

The end of the story is that they are both right.

Sylvain Cypel

Saturday, July 08, 2006

SISMI Officers Arrested

Update 2: See Laura Rozen for complete coverage.

UPDATE Sun 9 July: More arrests announced: Northern Italy chief of operations General Gustavo Pignero; former Trieste Station Chief Lorenzo Pillinini; Former Padua Station Chief Marco Iodice; and, Milan Station Chief Maurizio Regondi.

Berlusconi's gone and Prodi & Co. have frogged-marched three high-ranking military intelligence men out of SISMI for having sacrificed their country's sovereignty to the interests of the Bush Administration, the CIA and Michael Ledeen. Under arrest are: former Deputy Director Marco Mancini, Mancini's aide Giuseppe Ciorra, and Pio Pompa, aide to SISMI Director Niccolò Pollari (who, logically, would also involved).

These men are implicated in Nigergate, the assassination of Nicola Calipari and the abduction and "extraordinary rendition" of Abu Omar by the CIA from a Milan sidewalk in broad daylight.

The issue at the top of the heap at the moment is that SISMI brass had testified to Italian Parliament that Italy had nothing to do with the kidnapping of Abu Omar, when the SISMI Vice Director had coordinated the kidnapping with no less than six CIA agents. Issue number two is that SISMI brass tried to frame Premier Romano Prodi after he took office by bribing reporters and editors to publish a story in the newspaper Libero claiming that Prodi had authorized secret CIA prison flights to land in Italy.

Folks, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Italian magistrates are going to crack SISMI wide open and spill all the beans: the assassination beans, the bribery beans, the kidnapping beans, the forgery beans, the black ops beans and the undeniable fact that these men were on the CIA payroll.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Italian Military Intelligence Conducted Domestic Spying

From today's Corriere:

Change of venue sought
Disinformation on Prodi
SISMI’s secret files
Dossiers on magistrates; thousands of files and papers found in the attic of via Nazionale in Rome

by Giovanni Bianconi and Paolo Biondani

The current Premier, Romano Prodi. The former President of the National Magistrates Association, Edmondo Bruti Liberati. And many others. Judge Stefano Dambruoso, the first to open an investigation into the kidnapping of Abu Omar. These are the confirmed victims of the various SISMI activities that officials are labeling as “disinformation”, obstruction of justice, secret dossiers and domestic surveillance and wiretapping.

The chief suspect under investigation is Pio Pompa --a SISMI employee and close associate of Niccolò Pollari-- who ran a secret military spying operation out of No. 230, Via Nazionale, in the building in front of Rome police headquarters. The cabinets were overflowing with papers and data which have been seized by the authorities. Magistrates and police examining the material have found dossiers on individuals, journalists and judges on SISMI’s “Enemies List”. Among the papers and computers (at least 5), was a dossier on Premier Romano Prodi which Pompa forwarded to two Libero reporters who are now being investigated for having facilitated the kidnapping of Abu Omar.

The Deputy Director of the newspaper Libero, Renato Farina, was on the SISMI payroll: In Pompa's secret files investigators found receipts of payments. One reporter signed off on a receipt with the name "Betulla". The amounts ranged from 2,000 to 5000 euros, which in the minds of investigators, is certifiable and direct evidence of bribes paid by military intelligence. On 9 June Libero announced “revelations” on its front page: Prodi was said to have authorized the CIA prison flights via Italy while serving as President of the European Commission. The article was signed by Farina and editor-in-chief Claudio Antonelli, who is subordinate to Farina (Antonelli was introduced to SISMI as "my man”). Antonelli was questioned in behind closed doors in front an investigating magistrate. The statement about Prodi was shown to be a fabrication as no evidence was found in an international investigation.

But in Pompa’s office, investigators found the original dossier sent by Pompa to Farina containing the exact information found in the article, printed after Prodi became Premier. Another objective of the black operations run by SISMI relating to kidnapping of Abu Omar was to move the investigation from Milan to Brescia.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Obituary: André Mandouze

If more Catholics were made in the mode of André Mandouze, instead their Action Française equivalents in the US Supreme Court (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) we'd all be better off for it.

Article orginally published in Le Monde, 10 June 206

Obituary: André Mandouze, Christian intellectual, Résistance fighter and militant agitator for Algerian independence.

By Henri Tincq

André Mandouze had the good taste to publish his 20th century memoires. He did not wish to leave the task of writing the last word on his life as perennial dissident, raging academic, firey journalist, tempestuous Catholic and a militant on every barricade to anyone else. He defended anti-fascism, anti-colonialism, Algerian independence, Socialist leftism in the mold of François Mitterand, and the reforming Catholic Church of the Vatican II Council.

Full Speed To The Left, By God! This is the title of his volume of Memoirs (1962-1981) published by Cerf in 2003, summarizing his life and work. This polished Latin scholar, a Sorbonne mandarin, was also an unbowed provocateur with a firey temperament, a saintly man of faith and passion, and an irritable and angry prophet. A great admirer of St. Augustin (354-430), has was, as the Bishop of Hippo Regius (now Anaba, in Algeria) a polemicist; his unsparing pen earned him as many friends as enemies.

Born in Bordeaux on June 10, 1916, the young André Mandouze joined the resistance movements of the 1930’s against Franco and Action Française aided by a Jesuit, Antoine Dieuzayde, his “old zebra” as he called him, confessor to Catholic Student Youth (JEC). At the Ecole Normale Supérieure, where he was awarded a degree in Humanities in 1937, he claimed for himself the post of the Left’s Prince of Talas (students who attended Mass). During the Occupation, as Professor of Humanities in Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain), he is arrested for formenting a student demonstration against the projection of the film, Süss the Jew, an anti-Semite propaganda film.

He then joined the Underground to integrate Judeo-Christian solidarity networks and became close to spiritual anti-Nazi Resistance figures such as Jean-Augustin Maydieu, one of the founders of the Christian weekly Seven (banned in 1937 by the Vatican), and Jesuit Pierre Chaillet, which whom he launched The Journal of Christian Witness and became its first editor-in-chief. For him, spiritual and armed resistance is one in the same. The spiritual is the bedfellow of the temporal, he liked to say.

With the restoration of peace, Christian Witness no longer converges with his dreams of a regenerated France. He slams the door shut and flies to Algiers in January 1946, where he becomes a university professor. He knows only one thing about Algeria—that it is the birthplace of St. Augustin, a Berber through his mother, Monnica, and the Doctor in Grace to whom he dedicates his Sorbonne thesis in June 1968.

But he espouses the Algerian nationalist cause and in 1953 founds the periodical, Algerian Conscience, which is quickly condemned as seditious. André Mandouze is the first academic to agitate for Algerian independence. The called him Mandouze-fellouze (Mandouze the fellah). He is a confident of Cardinal Duval, the Archbishop of Algiers, whom the OAS calls Mohammad bin-Duval and acts as an intermediary between Pierre Mendès-France and the FLN.

In 1956, under the government of Guy Mollet, he is forced to flee Algeria and is interned in La Santé Prison for three days. But, together with other Catholic intellectuals such as François Mauriac, Louis Massignon, Henri Guillemin, Henri-Irénée Marrou (his mentor in Augustinism), and Pierre-Henri Simon, he continues to rail against torture in Le Monde, France-Observateur and The Journal of Christian Witness.

In 1981, he becomes the promugator of a thesis on Torture and Christian Conscience in Algeria, written by Alain de la Morandais.

He doesn’t go easily from Algeria. In 1963, at the request of Ahmed Ben Bella, André Mandouze begins to reorganize the university of the newly-independent country but his career as a "pied rouge" (as progressives were called), ends the project when Colonel Houari Boumediène [hmm, sounds like a US-installed dictator] assumes power. André Mandouze again takes up his professorship at Algiers University before returning to Paris where, for many long years, he commands the stage as the premier Latinist at the Sorbonne.

He will return to Algiers in April 2002 to preside, together with President Bouteflika, over a colloquium on St. Augustin, who for him symbolizes the link between African-ness and universalism. In 2003, he is responsible for the discovery of the works of Saint Augustin by... Gérard Depardieu ("my last student"), who, impassioned by Confessions, reads them aloud under the direction of Mandouze to an overflowing crowd at Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Throughout his life, this free-thinking “Catho” will cross swords with his own Church, whose compromises with Fascism and Vichy he denounces early on. He makes enemies on the Left (Maurice Clavel) and on the Right (Cardinal Daniélou, Father Bruckberger, Monsignor Lefebre), becomes the bête noire of fundamentalists, and in 1982 (in the pages of the periodical, La Lettre) fearlessly confronts the new Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Lustiger, whom he knew as confessor at the Sorbonne. The spiritual offspring of Péguy and de Mounier, André Mandouze will remain close to the Dominican Friars in the move to create an intellectually and socially engaged Christianity against the extremisms of the Right and the Communists.

A man with many connections, he will remain faithful to the inheritors of the weekly, Seven, which will reemerge as Current Times, and of the Journal of Christian Witness, which he accompanies with warmth and vigor as The World. Beginning in 1956, he is the regular host of the Petit Riche Breakfasts where Hubert Beuve-Méry, Pierre-Henri Simon, Jean Lacroix, André Frossard and Father Pierre Boisselot are in regular attendance.

But it is in his daily readings of the Gospel that this Christian, a husband and the father of seven children, that he explores its lessons of liberty and rejection of compromise. Disobedience was for him an act of faith. Among his principal works are: Intelligence and Saintliness in the Early Christian Tradition (Cerf 1962), History of the Saints and Christian Sainthood (Hachette 1986-1988, the first volume of his Memoires and From One Résistance to Another (Viviane Hamy,1998).

Henri Tincq

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Russians in Afghanistan

Yesterday, as missiles plowed into the largest NATO base in the south of the country (Kandahar), wounding ten Coalition personnel, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons declared the situation in Afghanistan to be deteriorating. At a gathering of historians in Durhan NC at the beginning of the month, economist Deepak Lal declared that the drive to end poppy production would result in a massacre --of foreign troops. The warnings abound as the Land of Eternal War engulfs its latest victims.

Update: British take two casualties in the town of Sangin, a base for counter-narcotics operations in Helmand Province, the "largest single source of opium in Afghanistan".

Article published in the 21 November 2004 edition of Le Monde (Available in the archives, subscription required).

Because, as Leonid Brezhnev affirmed in 1968, the USSR could not “remain indifferent to the fate of socialism in other countries” and, of course, “at the request” of the pro-communist government in Kabul linked to the Soviet Union by a “friendship and cooperation pact”, an airlift flown by Antonov-22’s began on Christmas Eve. Thousands of Soviet troops and heavy equipment were dispatched to the Afghan capital while, on the Central Asian border several hundred kilometers to the north, armored columns invaded the country.

Operation Squall 333 met with practically no resistance and on the evening of Thursday December 27th, 1979, all objectives were secured. President Hafizullah Amin, who had overthrown the regime of President Taraki in a bloody palace coup, was summarily executed and Babrak Karmal, who was flown into the country from Moscow, became the new Afghan “strong man”.

The perfectly executed coup d’état raised concern in the international community and, in particular, in the United States, because it was the first time that the USSR had installed a regime in power in a country outside the Soviet Bloc.

This scenario was identical to that eleven years earlier in Czechoslovakia. The events in Prague were a repetition of those in Budapest in 1956, when Khrushchev invaded Hungary. Each time, there was the same overriding concern: to restore a system conforming to the Soviet model and to install a lasting government subservient to Moscow.

Beyond its geographic sphere of influence, the URSS was accustomed to act by proxy, sending the Cubans to Angola and to Ethiopia and using the Vietnamese to invade Cambodia.

Why did the Russians act out of character, risking a dangerous international escalation, even if Washington would let it pass with a timid denunciation of "flagrant interference” before arming the resistance? The Soviets would come to regret this hasty decision which resulted from a September meeting of a handful of aging Politburo members including Brezhnev, Suslov, Gromyko, Andropov, Ustinov and Kossygin. It would be revealed later that the Soviet Army was against the intervention. It was mainly the KGB that stoked the fires. The reservations of Red Army generals were soon to be vindicated by facts on the ground. The USSR had thus entered in 1979 into a “dirty war”, which it would lose. Ten years later, on 15 February 1989, when Lieutenant Boris Gromov, Commander of the Soviet Forces in Afghanistan, crossed the frontier at Termez, he would be the last Soviet soldier to leave the country.

Ten years of war would kill a million Afghani men, women and children in a country that numbered 14 million inhabitants when the Soviets took the decision to invade. The Soviet troops would pay a heavy price: 15,000 “zinc caskets” were sent home from Afghanistan. A total of 630,000 Soviet men and officers would rotate and out of the Afghani quagmire, a traumatic experience for the Soviet Union. 50,000 troops strong in January 1980, the Soviet military contingent would number 115,000 men a year later. In ten years of combat and terror, the Red Army would never gain the upper hand and would succeed only in reinforcing the “Islamic rebellion” which Moscow had hoped to eradicate, doubtlessly because of the determination of Afghan resistance leaders to sow the seeds of Islamic radicalism in the region.


When the Soviets closed the chapter on this “colonial expedition”, five million Afghanis were in refugee camps in Pakistan and in Iran. The economy had been bled to death, agriculture devastated, the school system no longer existed and the countryside was littered with landmines. A generation of Afghanis had been sacrificed. When, after September 11, 2001, the United States would study scenarios to wipe out the Taliban and to capture Osama bin Laden, six Russian generals who had fought in the Afghan valleys and mountains would amplify their advice and warnings. We learned the lesson that the conquest of the Afghan people is an impossible mission. All those who have tried, have failed (…). When the first caskets start coming backed draped with the stars and stripes, the Americans will be bitterly recall recall Vietnam. They knew what they were talking about: Afganistan was, from many standpoints, the Vietnam of the Soviet Union.

But in December 1979, the Soviet generals were far from coming around to this point of view. They became far more obsessed with delivering a blow to what they saw as a dangerous Islamic and tribal contamination threatening to spread to the majority Muslim Republics of Central Asia than with controlling a country said to be the key to “warm water ports”.

Despite the fact that they disposed of 5000 military advisors within the Afghan Army, the situation was to slip their grasp. Since the April 1978 Revolution that had put an end to the Dourani dynasty, which had founded the Kingdom of Afghanistan in 1747, the Afghani government has been a “brother”, who, through a communist coup d’état against Prince Daoud, has seized power in Kabul. But a series of bloody palace coups would transpire due to rifts between the Khalq and Parsham factions of the DPC (Democratic and Popular Party), leaving the country with no stability.

Weakened by desertion and successive purges, the Afghan Army would no longer have the remotest chance of defeating a rebellion calling for an insurrection against an increasing oppressive "communist and anti-religious” government whose ranks would not cease to swell.

The September 1979 murder of President Taraki, who enjoyed the confidence of Moscow, and his replacement by the unstable and brutal Hafizullah Amin would precipitate events and convince Moscow to install its vassal, Babrak Karmal. He would remain in power for five and a half years -nearly a record- until his replacement by Mohammad Najibullah in May 1968. Despite the success of the Mujahedeen, the old head of the Khad, the Afghani political police, would remain in power until the departure of Soviet troops in 1992.

[Fourteen] years later, in [July 2006], as the US troops of Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO forces struggle to annihilate Islamist Taliban militias long supported by the Pakistani Army, Afghanistan justly deserves its reputation as the Land of Eternal War.

Laurent Zecchini


Started a new blog only to find that I make postings that belong here, anyway. Never say never!