Antiwar.com’s Week in Review | August 19, 2011
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IN THIS ISSUE
- Obama tells Assad to step down
- Unrest in Israel-Palestine
- Violence spreads in Iraq as U.S. considers staying
- Libya unstable as intervention goes on
- Is Afghanistan impervious to the surge?
- Drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia
- Miscellaneous news from the empire
- What’s new at the blog?
- Antiwar Radio
Syrian Regime On Its Way Out?
After months of violent suppression, President Barack Obama on Thursday called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. In the months since pro-reform Syrians rose up against the regime, Assad has committed acts that United Nations investigators say “may amount to crimes against humanity,” but it’s clear from the Obama administration’s record throughout the Middle East’s Arab Spring that this was not a motivating factor in calling for his resignation. Heavy U.S. sanctions followed by European sanctions aimed at the Syrian oil and financial sectors are expected to place added pressure and isolation on the Assad regime, but so far Western powers have not threatened military intervention.
Reports indicate that Syrian forces have killed almost 2,000 people, and tens of thousands have fled, mostly to neighboring Turkey. After weeks of attacks on Hama, Homs, and other cities, the latest round of attacks focused on the port city of Latakia, where Syrian forces opened fire on residential neighborhoods and a Palestinian refugee camp. As tanks continued to pour into the city, people were rounded up and put in a soccer stadium while homes were bulldozed.
Bus Attacks, Airstrikes, and a Looming U.N. Vote
Fighting has mounted this week in Israel-Palestine. In response to a rocket attack from Gaza that hit no actual target and killed no one, Israel on Tuesday conducted at least five airstrikes over Gaza, killing at least two and wounding several others. Later in the week, in a series of apparently coordinated Palestinian attacks in southern Israel, men opened fire on a passenger bus containing both civilians and soldiers. Following that, when more Israeli troops rushed to the scene, they drove over a roadside bomb. Eight were killed and dozens wounded. That night, Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes over Gaza, killing six and wounding a number of others. Four others, members of Egypt’s security forces, were killed in the airstrikes that flowed over the Egyptian border.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this week that he was ready to accept a U.S. veto in his bid for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. In preparation for the September vote, Israeli authorities are bracing for mass street protests, stockpiling anti-riot equipment, and arranging for an increased military presence in the West Bank.
While on a trip to Israel with dozens of other congressmen, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that economic and budgetary challenges in the U.S. would not have any effect on aid to Israel, despite more illegal settlements being approved this week. However, one bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would halt aid to Israel in light of human rights violations throughout the occupied territories.
Violent Ramadan in Iraq
After months of pressuring the Iraqi leadership to accept an extended U.S. troops presence, the White House this week said it would “certainly consider” any “requests” to keep troops in Iraq past the deadline. Days later, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted the U.S. would have a “long-term” relationship with Iraq no matter what. Meanwhile, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, said publicly that a total U.S. pullout would improve the country’s security dramatically.
For the second year in a row, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has been particularly violent, with dozens of attacks that killed scores and wounded hundreds across the country. In addition, Turkish airstrikes aimed at the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) hit Kurdish Iraq on multiple occasions. At the blog, John Glaser lamented recent news that Iraqis are being asked to pay the U.S. part of the costs of the war and occupation for the past several years.
Libya Smart Power Is More War
Anonymous U.S. officials told news outlets this week that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is preparing to flee the country and that he and his family could flee to Tunisia within the “next few days.” This news, the reliability of which has been doubted, came after casualties and fighting in Zawiya rose sharply after rebel factions nearly captured it and declared Tripoli surrounded.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touted the lengthy Libyan war as “smart power.” She insisted that the U.S. was “wisely building coalitions” in the war and had managed to “get other people on the field.” So far it doesn’t seem to be making much difference in the war, which was stalemated when the bombing campaign started in mid-March and remains stalemated to this day.
The Enduring Insurgency
A chaotic spate of killings and violence this week signaled an enduring insurgency in Afghanistan that Obama’s surge has failed to pacify. Over 24 people were killed in a series of suicide attacks and roadside bombs in western Herat province on Thursday. Four guards were killed when militants blew up a minivan packed with explosives, and a roadside bomb in Helmand killed one British soldier. Early in the week, 25 people were killed and 37 were wounded after a militant assault on an Afghan governor’s compound.
More evidence of corruption arose this week when the U.S. military estimated $360 million in U.S. tax dollars has ended up in the hands of the Taliban, criminals, and power brokers with ties to both. Such news is not unprecedented, but it is difficult to swallow for Americans who object to their tax dollars funding the same groups the U.S. military has been trying to defeat for the past decade.
The Drone Wars Develop
Pakistan: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded to criticism of the drone war in Pakistan this week, claiming that the strikes “defend our country” and “protect our national security.” Meanwhile, the State Department held firm on cutting aid to Pakistan for as long as that country resists full cooperation with the U.S. drone program, among other issues. Terrorism in Pakistan has also been rising.
Yemen: At least 14 tribesmen were killed in an explosion in North Yemen that was blamed on al-Qaeda, though it never claimed responsibility. Houthi rebels later blamed the attack on the U.S. Meanwhile, violence between militant factions and government forces continued in the south, with scores dead and many wounded. The Yemeni opposition unified to form a National Council to choose a new government.
Somalia: Internal rifts in the militant group al-Shabab were reportedly responsible for some setbacks in battles this week. Meanwhile, just over a month after declaring its formal independence from Sudan, the South Sudanese government joined the African Union and quickly offered its help to the AU in occupying Somalia.
Miscellaneous News From the Empire
Defense spending: The members of the so-called supercommittee – the group of six Republicans and six Democrats tasked with producing a deficit-cutting plan – represent states where the biggest military contractors build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters, and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers, a conflict of interest that makes serious cuts to defense budgets increasingly unlikely. In comments that started with “I’m not saying we should be exempt,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta united to insist that neither of their departments could bear any serious budget cuts, as cuts would “undermine national security.”
Guantanamo’s indefinite detentions: A Kuwaiti who was tortured and has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for almost a decade fears, as do many others, that he will never see a courtroom or the outside world ever again.
The drug war: U.S.-trained Guatemalan forces are tied to drug gangs in Mexico and are increasingly responsible for violent crimes throughout the region. At the blog, John Glaser details how this is typical for the region, now and in the past, and also how U.S. imperialism in Latin America leads to military-style central control. Glaser also draws attention to a renewal of a privately contracted five-year global counternarcotics program valued at upward of $15 billion. Meanwhile, Blackwater has been hired to fight the drug war in Afghanistan.
What’s New at the Blog?
John Glaser’s post on Obama’s forthcoming anti-WikiLeaks, pro-secrecy executive orderwas featured on the WikiLeaks websiteWikiLeaks Central. Matt Barganier wrote of the noninterventionist tilt to the Ames Straw Poll results in Iowa last weekend, while Coleen Rowley documented the large and active Come Home America antiwar constituency that attended the straw poll events. Jeremy Sapienza criticized NATO’s attempt undermine Afghan traditional governance and discussed the media bias that emphasizes enemy crimes while ignoring allied crimes. John Glaser blogged about our insistence on applying military solutions to every problem, the looming energy focus in the Americas and what it means for imperial policy, the misleading arguments about Israeli settlements from Elliot Abrams, war propaganda, and unreported U.S. crimes in El Salvador.
Justin Raimondo feared another U.S. war in the Middle East after the announcement from Obama that Assad should step down. Nebojsa Malic criticized the empire’s policies in the Balkans. Philip Giraldi analyzed presidential hopeful Rick Perry’s ties to neocons. Kelley Vlahos drew attention to the Muslim community’s peaceful reaction to the England riots. Ivan Eland decried the media’s whitewashing and marginalization of Ron Paul.
Scott Horton had Karen Kwiatkowski on to discuss her bid for Congress and how to convince Americans that the empire needs to be reined in. Pepe Escobar discussed the Syrian protests and the potential for Assad to go down. David Swanson talked about the military-industrial complex and the pro-war establishment. Chris Hellman examined the massive wealth spent on national security budgets. Jason Ditz explained recent developments in America’s wars in Iraq and Libya. And Jeremy Sapienza discussed the September U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood.
Antiwar.com Development Director Angela Keaton will have a booth at the 2011 Liberty Political Action Conference in Reno, Nev., Sept. 15-18 and will speak on a panel about the antiwar movement.
Keaton will also be speaking at L.A. vs. War: Art for Peace in the Hope Era, Sept. 9-11. Other participating organizations include Code Pink and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Keaton will also discuss ComeHomeAmerica.us and the new peace movement in a breakout event at this year’s Libertopia in San Diego, Oct. 21-23. Libertopia is an annual festival of peace, freedom, music, community, and ideas that will change the world. Keaton will give a 30-minute speech and a 15-minute Q&A at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21.