Posts Tagged ‘Middle-East’

Call me elitist, but there’s something to the supposed 80/80 rule in advertising and therefore the lack of public intelligence or, more benignly, people’s gullibility or ignorance. Many of my friends seem to fall into the latter categories when they blithely vote for Labor in Australia believing it will give the conservative writing of history a break, only to be disappointed when finding out that history is still treading common ground. (Just think of Gillard continuing the Northern Territority intervention policy or clawing back through attacks on live-saving cures, childcare centre rebates and long-term unemployed the millions lost by not attacking the international super-profiting mining companies).

The great illusion called democracy that strips everything, from education to press bites to politicians’ words, down to a bunch of outright lies and truth distortions is most dangerous at the hearth of the demon’s kitchen: the United States of America. Just think of elections that gave birth to such presidencies as the 4oth (Reagan) or the 43rd (Bush). Elections in America generally are lethal time bombs for hundreds of thousands of innocent people outside the empire.

In that context now think of kooky Miss USA pageant owner and reality TV addict Donald Trump . He already shares with Dubya a history of having bankrupted companies (could he bankrupt the nation too?) and of buffoonesque behaviour (although he might not be as dumb as Bush). Now we can add with certainty that he is equally as as dangerous and lethal to the innocent. Just take this interview with CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley:

Trump: “Somebody said, what would be your theory or what would you do in terms of Libya? I’d do one thing. Either I’d go in and take the oil or I don’t go in at all. We can’t be the policeman for the world.”

Crowley: “You’d just take their oil?”

Trump: “Absolutely. I’d take the oil. I’d give them plemty so they can live very happily. I would take the oil. You know, in the old days, Candy …”

Crowley: “Well, wait, we can’t go …”

Trump: “Candy, Candy, in the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation is yours.”

Sounds like Iraq mark II. And would the dumb American public fall for it again? There’s no way we could say with certainty: “NO”.

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The West and in particular the US like supporting dictatorships when they can economically and in terms of strategic power benefit (and those two objective are often synonymous). One way to support dictatorships is to sell them biliions of dollars worth of weapons, and America’s support of Egypt over the last few days has been highlighted in this regard by the Egyptian police’s use of teargas produced in the US. The Ars Technica article below by Nate Anderson looks at what those teargas canisters contain and what the health effects are.

 

A protestor holds a used tear gas canister (Atlantic)

 

If you’ve been watching any coverage of the Egyptian protests, you’ve no doubt seen the tear gas plumes as canisters are shot at protestors—often to be picked up and hurled back moments later. Many of those tear gas containers falling on the bridges and streets of Cairo aren’t local products, however; they come from Jamestown, Pennsylvania, home of Combined Tactical Systems.

Several reporters in Egypt have commented on that fact this week. ABC News ran a story on the gas today in which it quotes a protestor saying, “The way I see it, the US administration supports dictators.”

It’s no secret that Egypt is one of the largest recipients of US foreign military funding, much of which is designated to purchase US-made weapons; it’s just that Americans don’t often see Egyptians holding empty tear gas canisters stamped “Made in USA” up to a TV camera.

 

But what’s in those canisters?

A wide array of shiny new canisters

 

The US government requires most chemical compounds to have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) outlining the ingredients, the risks of contacting those ingredients, and cleanup procedures in case of an accident. Combined Tactical Systems helpfully makes puts these MSDS files on its website.

The tear gas grenades and canisters are largely filled with a fuel mixture that burns to disperse the tearing agent. The Model 5220 CN Smoke grenade (PDF), for instance, has a small starter mixture of potassium nitrate, silicon, and charcoal. This in turn in used to light the “CN smoke”—a form of tear gas.

The CN smoke is 71 percent fuel, made up of potassium chlorate, magnesium carbonate, nitrocellulose, and… sucrose. The other 29 percent of the smoke is the tearing agent, chloroacetophenone, which has been around for nearly a century and causes severe irritation of the mucous membranes. (Combined Tactical Systems also sells the commonly used “CS smoke” tear gas version, which is powered by chlorobenzalmalononitrile.)

A tear gas cartridge spec sheet

 

Both kinds of tear gas have a “pungent odor,” according to the MSDS. Those handling them should wear a “full face respirator with organic filter cartridge” and should “wash thoroughly after handling.”

That’s because, as the protestor went on to tell ABC, “Your eyes tear up a lot so you can’t see, and you feel like you’re suffocating. You can actually breathe but you feel like you are suffocating so you try to run, but when you run you inhale more.”

As the MSDS puts it, rather more clinically, the gases cause “tearing of eyes, irritation of respiratory tract and mucous membranes,” and asthma may be “aggravated by exposure.”

The number is shocking and sobering. It is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited in the US media, yet it is based on a scientific study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.


Iraq Deaths Estimator

Sign the petition telling Congress that about a million Iraqis have likely been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Help us expose to Congress the true costs of war.

A study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then. The death counter provides a rough daily update of this number based on a rate of increase derived from the Iraq Body Count. (See the complete explanation.)

The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in September 2007. Opinion Research Business estimated that 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed violently since the US-led invasion.

This devastating human toll demands greater recognition. It eclipses the Rwandan genocide and our leaders are directly responsible. Little wonder they do not publicly cite it. You can use the simple HTML code above to post the counter to your website to help spread the word.

Add your name to the petition telling Congress that about a million Iraqis have likely been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Help us continue this important work with a tax-deductible contribution.

See the list of some folks we know have posted the counter.

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If you want to remind visitors to your site of the awful human costs of continued war, you can post the Iraqi Death Estimator on your website. To get the code go to Just Foreign Policy.

Lia Tarachansky speaks to Nancy Youssef, Pentagon Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Youssef speaks about a list recently released by Pentagon, identifying that 14% or 74 former detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center are “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities.” Following to story of former inmate #798, Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil who after imprisonment for 6 years in the Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay was found back on the list in spite of the allegation, Youssef says, being baseless. She says that, “It’s not really clear who compiles that list and how they determine who’s a suspected terrorist and who’s a confirmed one. As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth list that they’ve released, and there are a lot of inconsistencies. The list is not complete. They say that there are 74 people suspected or confirmed as returned to terrorism, but the names listed is only partial ones.”

Bio

Nancy Youssef is McClatchy Newspapers’ chief Pentagon correspondent. She spent the past four years covering the Iraq war, most recently as Baghdad bureau chief. Her pieces focused on the everyday Iraqi experience, civilian causalities and how the US’ military strategy was reshaping Iraq’s social and political dynamics. While at the Free Press, she traveled throughout Jordan and Iraq for Knight Ridder, covering the Iraq war from the time leading up to it through the post-war period.

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Israeli soldiers involved in the attacks on Gaza at the start of this year claim that they were ordered to fire, regardless of the risk to civilians. Israel banned journalists from its invasion of Gaza in December and January, making it hard to verify allegations of indiscriminate firing, the use of phosphorous bombs, and forcing Palestinians to be human shields. Now an Israeli human rights group has produced a disturbing account of what it says happened in Gaza, as told by soldiers.

This Channel 4 clip is already a few days old but it’s good to get a reminder of how the anti-Semitic Nazi State of Israel operates (even though I find it hard to cope with having to listen to Mark Regev).

Noam Chomsky’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

chomskyJune 2009 was marked by a number of significant events, including two elections in the Middle East: in Lebanon, then Iran. The events are significant, and the reactions to them, highly instructive.

The election in Lebanon was greeted with euphoria. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gushed that he is “a sucker for free and fair elections,” so “it warms my heart to watch” what happened in Lebanon in an election that “was indeed free and fair — not like the pretend election you are about to see in Iran, where only candidates approved by the Supreme Leader can run. No, in Lebanon it was the real deal, and the results were fascinating: President Barack Obama defeated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.” Crucially, “a solid majority of all Lebanese — Muslims, Christians and Druse — voted for the March 14 coalition led by Saad Hariri,” the US-backed candidate and son of the murdered ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, so that “to the extent that anyone came out of this election with the moral authority to lead the next government, it was the coalition that wants Lebanon to be run by and for the Lebanese — not for Iran, not for Syria and not for fighting Israel.” We must give credit where it is due for this triumph of free elections (and of Washington): “Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians in 2005 — and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri killing — this free election would not have happened. Mr. Bush helped create the space. Power matters. Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.”

Two days later Friedman’s views were echoed by Eliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign relations, formerly a high official of the Reagan and Bush I administrations. Under the heading “Lebanon’s Triumph, Iran’s Travesty,” Abrams compared these “twin tests of [US] efforts to spread democracy to the Muslim world.” The lesson is clear: “What the United States should be promoting is not elections, but free elections, and the voting in Lebanon passed any realistic test….the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hezbollah’s claim that it is not a terrorist group but a `national resistance’…The Lebanese had a chance to vote against Hezbollah, and took the opportunity.”

Reactions were similar throughout the mainstream. There are, however, a few flies in the ointment.

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Part 2 of Nader Hashemi on Iranian Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s fatwa in which the Ayatolla suggests that the country’s Supreme Leader, its government and some of its institutions are illegitimate, and calls on Iranians to fight oppression. Nader Hashemi in this video answers questions relating to the democracy movement.

Nader Hashemi is Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver He has a PhD from the University of Toronto

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