Thursday 14 July 2011

The True Cost of America's Wars

A few recent excerpts from "Talking Points" by Phyllis Bennis at the Institute for Policy Studies in the U.S. (Source: )...

The dog days of summer have socked in, with Washington’s heat and humidity made far worse by the hot air coming out of corporate board rooms and hearing rooms and White House and Capitol conference rooms, as DC’s powerful debate the budget crisis. One word, of course, largely unspoken: WAR. As in, the costs of:

The decade-long, disastrous war in Afghanistan - 98,000 U.S. troops and 100,000 U.S.-paid contractors at a cost of $122 billion just this year.

The continuing occupation of Iraq - 48,000 troops and administration pressure on Iraq to “request” they remain after the December 2011 deadline at a cost of $47 billion just this year.

The illegal and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan — killing as many as 2015 people since 2004, of whom less than 2% are militant leaders — at a cost of at least $258 million just for the drone strikes themselves.

The overall Pentagon budget (which does not count the cost of the actual wars) at a cost of $553 billion just this year.

That's just for starters. Seems like some of those here in DC so desperate to figure out how to explain to their constituents why there are no jobs, why they’re losing their homes, and why grandma’s Medicare is being cut should really be apologizing instead for continuing to wage illegal, useless wars at a cost of now trillions of dollars.
(Yes, it's difficult to conceive of one trillion, so here's a practical way to get your head around it: Sixty seconds comprise a minute. One million seconds comes out to be about 11½ days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years.)

And just a few eyeopening paragraphs from a great research summary: "The True Cost of America's Wars" by Jack A Smith (Source: )
Instead of just discussing the Pentagon budget, it is essential to also consider Washington's various other "national security" budgets. That of course includes the costs of Washington's 16 different intelligence services, the percentage of the annual national debt to pay for past war expenses, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons, additional annual spending requests for Iraq and Afghan wars, military retiree pay and healthcare for vets, NASA, FBI (for its war-related military work), etc. When it's all included it comes to $1,398 trillion for fiscal 2010, according to the War Resisters League and other sources.

It's not enough just to take note of the money Washington spent on stalemated wars of choice. It's fruitful to contemplate where our $5 trillion Bush-Obama war funding might have been invested instead. It could have paid for a fairly swift transition from fossil fuels to a solar-wind energy system for the entire U.S. — a prospect that will now take many decades longer, if at all, as the world gets warmer from greenhouse gases. And there probably would have been enough left to overhaul America's decaying and outdated civil infrastructure, among other projects.

But while the big corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy are thriving, global warming and infrastructure repair have been brushed aside. States are cutting back on schools and healthcare. Counties and towns are closing summer swimming pools and public facilities. Jobs and growth are stagnant. The federal government is sharply cutting the social service budget, and Medicare et al. are nearing the chopping block.
-Clair in Canberra

Sunday 10 July 2011

FLOTILLAS AND INTERNATIONAL LAW - Civil societies versus Israel lobbies in the US, Europe - and Australia

Introduction by Sonja Karkar, Editor, Australians for Palestine: 
While the title of the following article addresses the US  and Europe, Australia is no less guilty of responding to the Zionist lobby’s  corrupting influences.  While most of the citizenry remains oblivious to the political machinations of our government, there is a growing awareness that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.  It will only be a matter of time, and hopefully not too late, that politicians will have to account to its citizenry for allowing the Zionist lobby to warp the government’s foreign policy in such as way as to abrogate international law and the human rights conventions that are the hallmarks of civilised society.  In the meantime, activists must find ways of winning the hearts and minds of civil society to act for Palestinian human rights and their struggle for freedom and justice.  The global BDS campaign has the potential to do that non-violently through song, film, poetry, dance and art – creative ways that have already captured the imagination of millions just as much as the more dramatic actions of the freedom flotillas to Gaza.  That is where the power of change lies and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” won’t be able to stop the flood when the dam finally breaks.  Hopefully then, we will see a much saner world than one where the bomb darkens every discourse rendering our governments incapable of acting in the public good.

Civil societies versus Israel lobbies in US and Europe
by Lawrence Davidson  -  Redress  -  9 July 2011

The deadly influence of Israeli special interests groups on Western governments, especially that of the USA, means that advocates of justice for the Palestinians have only one  recourse: civil society actions such as the Gaza humanitarian flotillas.

If we persist there will come a time, as was the case with South Africa, when the power of civil society will be such that politicians and bureaucrats will see the cost of defying popular opinion as greater than defying Zionist lobbies.” (Lawrence Davidson)

Civil society movements versus corrupt politics

When it comes to the struggle against Israel’s policies of oppression there are two conflicting levels: that of government and that of civil society. The most recent example of this duality is the half dozen or so small ships held captive in the ports of Greece. The ships, loaded with humanitarian supplies for the one and half million people of the Gaza Strip, are instruments of a civil society campaign against the inhumanity of the Israeli state. The forces that hold them back are the instruments of governments corrupted by special interest influence and political bribery.

Most of us are unaware of the potential of organized civil society because we have resigned the public sphere to professional politicians and bureaucrats and retreated into a private sphere of everyday life which we see as separate from politics. This is a serious mistake.  Politics shapes our lives whether we pay attention to it or not. By ignoring it we allow the power of the state to respond not so much to the citizenry as to special interests. Our indifference means that the politicians and government bureaucrats live their professional lives within systems largely uninterested in and sometimes incapable of acting in the public good because they are corrupted by lobby power. The ability to render justice is also often a casualty of the way things operate politically. The stymieing of the latest humanitarian flotilla to Gaza due to the disproportionate influence of Zionist special interests on US and European Middle East foreign policy is a good example of this situation.

There are small but growing elements of society which understand this problem and have moved to remedy it through organizing common citizens to reassert influence in the public sphere. Their efforts constitute civil society movements. Not all of these efforts can be deemed progressive. The “Tea Party” phenomenon in the United States is a radical conservative movement that aims at minimizing government to the point of self-destruction. But other movements of civil society, in their expressions of direct action in the cause of justice, are much healthier. The worldwide movement for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning (BDS) of Israel, of which the flotilla movement is an offshoot, is one of these.

The forum of international law

The resulting struggle between the corrupt politics that keeps the West aligned with the oppressive and racist ideology that rules Israel and the civil society movement that seeks to liberate the victims of that ideology goes on worldwide and in many forums. One is the forum of international law. Presently, the debate revolves around the legality of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the effort of the flotilla movement to defy it. Let us take a look at this aspect of the conflict.

Wednesday 6 July 2011


The statement below was released today and unequivocally sends a clear message to the Zionist lobby, that complaints of “discrimination”,  “false propaganda” and “hate speech” whenever criticism of Israel is launched, is contrary to freedom of expression and political speech and that the evidence clearly shows Israel to be an apartheid state.  That this decision was reached in South Africa is significant because that country
more than any other would know exactly what are the conditions that constitute apartheid.  This should give heart to Palestinians and Palestinian activists around the world who come up against these spurious attacks in their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as they struggle for freedom against Apartheid Israel.

This afternoon, in a bold ruling defending the right to freedom of expression and political speech, the South African media watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), unequivocally dismissed all complaints relating to a radio advert that calls for the boycott of Israel and compares Israel to Apartheid South Africa.

In February this year, during the South African tour of the UK dance band,
Faithless, a radio message featuring Dave Randall (lead guitarist of Faithless) was broadcast on 5fm, a mainstream South African radio station
with over 2 million listeners.
 The advert was in support of a local group, the South African Artists Against Apartheid collective. In the advert Randall says:

“Hi, I’m Dave Randall from Faithless. Twenty years ago I would not have played in apartheid South Africa; today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on the right side of history. Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel.  I support<> “In an official complaint to the ASA, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) attacked the radio advert and alleged that the view expressed that Israel is an Apartheid State is “untrue, not supported by any evidence… and contains a lie which amounts to false propaganda”.

The SAJBD sought an order requesting the SABC to apologize for broadcasting the radio advert.

Today the ASA dismissed each and every complaint made by the SAJBD against the advert and instead ruled in favor of the submissions made by SA Artists Against Apartheid, who were represented by Webber Wentzel Attorneys. The ASA also refused to provide any sanctions in favor of the SAJBD.

Reggae DJ, “The Admiral”, and member of the SA Artists Against Apartheid collective, welcomed today’s decision:

“The ASA decision is significant due to our own history of Apartheid. The decision sends a clear message to the Zionist lobby that the time has come for an end to the baseless accusations of “discrimination” and “hate speech" whenever criticism of Israel is voiced. Calling Israel an Apartheid state is legitimate because Israel practices Apartheid. The boycott of such an oppressive regime should be supported as it was in our own Anti-Apartheid 
freedom struggle.”

South African Palestine solidarity groups have celebrated the ASA ruling claiming it as a “legal victory” for the boycott of Israel movement. Fatima Vally from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Working Group said in a press release: “This is the second major boycott of Israel decision coming
from South Africa in less than six months. The first being the historic decision by the University of Johannesburg to sever its Israeli ties. The boycott of Israel campaign is the new Anti-Apartheid Movement, and its growing rapidly.”

The SA Artists Against Apartheid collective welcomes this positive decision, an adverse ruling could have had detrimental consequences for freedom of expression in general, and Palestine solidarity in particular.

The original advert flighted on 5fm is available for viewing here:

Below is a short summary of the four main issues dealt with by the ASA.

1. Discrimination 
Responding to the SAJBD complaint that the radio advert resulted in discrimination, the ASA rejected the complaint entirely, stating that the reasonable person would clearly understand that: “[The advertisement] is a call to all listeners irrespective of their circumstances, race, gender and the like, to support the [cultural boycott of Israel] cause…if anything, it [the advert] is condemning the actions and events in Israel, rather than victimizing or castigating people of Israeli 
origin. Put differently, it is condemning oppressive actions…”

2. Freedom of expression and political speech SA Artists Against Apartheid submitted that the ASA should take into account the fact that the radio advert was a form of political speech which is protected by the right to freedom and expression under section 16 of the South African Constitution:
“Political expression is of particular importance in a democratic society because it has a bearing on each citizen’s ability to formulate and convey information, ideas and opinions about issues of public importance.

International campaigns such as the cultural boycott of Israel have a domestic implication as well, as South African citizens are entitled to express their views on the stance that should be adopted by South Africa in relation to Israel.”

3. Offensive advertising Responding to the complaint that the advertisement constituted offensive advertising, the ASA ruled that a reasonable person who is neither hypercritical nor hypersensitive: “…cannot reach a conclusion that this commercial was intended to offend. There are no calls for violence, no derogatory comments flung about, and no implication that all Israelis should be condemned. The commercial states the artists’ reason for not performing in Israel, and invites people to join in the cause promoted.”

4. The claim that Israel is an apartheid state SA Artists Against Apartheid submitted that the view that Israel is an apartheid state “is based on a sound factual matrix and the connection between apartheid South Africa and Israel has been made numerous times in the South African media. The claim is therefore justified […] “

SA Artists Against Apartheid successfully disputed the allegation that the reference to Israel being an apartheid state can only be justified by a ruling of an International Court: “The term “apartheid” is clearly not an exclusively legal term and is recognized as a descriptive term to refer to a
situation that exhibits segregation and inequality.”

The ASA noted that extensive evidence was submitted in favor of the case that Israel is an apartheid state. Some of these submissions included “reports by a UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as a copy of the International Court of Justice [ruling] concerning
the [Israeli Separation] wall in Jerusalem”. In addition substantial academic studies, newspaper articles and political cartoons (several by popular South African cartoonist, Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro) were also submitted justifying the ability to express the view that Israel is an
apartheid state.

Furthermore, sworn affidavits by Israeli Professor, Uri Davis and former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils were also attached to the SA Artists Against Apartheid submission.

Significantly, the 2009 South African government Human Sciences Research Council report, that found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid, was also an official submission.


Calling for Independence from America on the 4th of July - war protesters at Swan Island plead guilty in court then were immediately discharged by sympathetic Australian judge!

Highlighting the action of some committed friends of mine, several of which are affilated with the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand and with CPT AustralAsia: 

They pled guilty as charged in court yesterday and the sympathetic judge simply released them immediately. Would that happen in America today?  This is the lead story today in a Geelong newspaper today.  Below is a video interview of one of the leaders, Baptist pastor Simon Moyle who explains the purpose of their action:

Swan Island Afghanistan War protests to continue
Four Afghanistan War protestors have vowed to continue demonstrating outside a Swan Island military installation.

And here's a photo of the dramatic symbolic action they took at Flinders Station downtown Melbourne on the 4th of July, declaring "Independence from the United States!"  It created quite the stir!