Saturday, April 18, 2009

Report: Israel Preparing Assault on Iran's Nuclear Sites

We've known this from some time. They wanted the subservient Bush administration to attack. But George W. was not willing to go that far. Now the Israelis are willing to go alone. President Obama better have a response. The repercussions will be great. Will he allow the Israeli lobby to soften him up to just an attack.

The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government, the Times of London reported.

Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.

Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.

“Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” one senior defense official told the Times.

Officials believe that Israel could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tons of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.

And, of course, you can forget about peace in the Middle East:
Palestinian leaders asked the American envoy to the Middle East on Friday to press Israel’s new government to accept the notion of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and other Palestinian officials met with the envoy, George J. Mitchell, at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah a day after Mr. Mitchell held talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s conservative-leaning prime minister, and other Israeli leaders.

Mr. Netanyahu, who took office last month, has refused to explicitly support Palestinian statehood, and says that the new government is still formulating its policies. He told Mr. Mitchell that it was time for “new approaches and fresh ideas,” and said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a condition Palestinian negotiators have long refused to meet.

But Mr. Mitchell said after the meeting in Ramallah that “a two-state solution is the only solution,” and that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East was “in the national interest of the United States,” as well as in the interests of Palestinians and Israelis.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Abbas aide and veteran Palestinian negotiator, said in a statement on Friday that the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state before negotiations was “an admission by Netanyahu that he cannot deliver on peace” and a stalling tactic. He noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization had already recognized the state of Israel while Mr. Netanyahu “refuses to even mention a Palestinian state.”

Palestinians contend that recognition of Israel’s Jewish character would negate Palestinian refugees’ demand for the right of return and would be detrimental to the status of Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of the population.

In Gaza, two top leaders of Hamas, the Islamic group that holds power there, made their first public appearances since Israel’s military offensive that ended in mid-January. Ismail Haniya, who leads the Hamas government in Gaza, and Mahmoud Zahar, a senior official, preached at separate mosques.

Apparently in a challenge to the rival Palestinian Authority leaders as they met with Mr. Mitchell in the West Bank, Mr. Zahar said in his sermon, “We cannot, we will not, and we will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form,” Reuters reported.

Is it lip service or is the President really interested in Palestinian-Israel peace. That will be the test for him. Can he or will he stand up to the powerful Israel lobby in Washington:
The U.S. Middle East envoy says the Obama administration will exert "great energy" in pursuit of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Envoy George Mitchell says a comprehensive Middle East peace is not only in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians and other countries in the region, but is also important to the United States and people around the world.

He spoke after meeting Saturday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, the latest stop on his Middle East tour.

An Egyptian state-run news agency (MENA) quotes Mr. Mubarak as saying there is no alternative to the two-state solution.

While the United States has been promoting the two-state solution, Israel's new government has expressed concerns about the idea of Palestinian statehood.

Obama Betrays Supporters in Torture/War Crimes Cases

President Obama has shown himself different than the typical politician on many issues. But he is no different when it comes to important matters like holding those who break our laws and subvert our constitution responsible. Many of his biggest supporters are appalled that the President would refuse to bring the Bush gang responsible for their shocking violations of U.S. and International law.

An Austrian newspaper quotes the U.N.'s top torture investigator as saying President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.

Manfred Nowak is quoted in Der Standard as saying the United States has committed itself under the U.N. Convention against Torture to make torture a crime and to prosecute those suspected of engaging in it.

Obama assured CIA operatives on Thursday they would not be prosecuted for their rough interrogation tactics of terror suspects under the former Bush administration.

Let it go:
Former U.S. president George W. Bush knew what he wanted from his pliant justice department officials – a green light to treat 9/11 terror suspects roughly – and they were eager to oblige. Government lawyers whose job it was to be the president's conscience "employed twisted and macabre legal reasoning to authorize the unspeakable," says David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and contributor to the New York Times.

Americans got a depressing eyeful of the fallout from that unholy alliance this week when President Barack Obama ordered the justice department to release an inch-thick set of memos from 2002 to 2005 that authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to use a range of brutal coercive techniques. The memos shed light on "a dark and painful chapter" in U.S. history, Obama said.

[...]Many Americans are convinced that Bush and his coterie winked at CIA torture. Now Obama is telling the public, essentially, to let it go. But in the end Obama may not have the last word.

Even supporters in the media, Like Keith Olbermann, are appalled at Obama's amorality. Read the complete transcript of the Countdown host's special comment:
...the president's revelation of the remainder of this nightmare of Bush Administration torture memos. This President has gone where few before him, dared. The dirty laundry — illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destroying — is out for all to see.

Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but half-way. And, in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still. Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging these science-fiction-like documents, you said that:

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.

"But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.

Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not "spent energy" but catharsis.

This NY Times letter to the editor gets it right:
I find it hard to believe that a man as intelligent as Mr. Obama, who once taught constitutional law, would equate the pursuit of justice with retribution. It makes it appear as if his decision is one of political expediency.

If holding the C.I.A. operatives accountable for violating federal or international laws is retribution, then the prosecution of ordinary citizens for crimes is also retribution.

The president does not have the authority to be selective about who should or should not be charged with a crime, and he has made a grievous error by confusing the pursuit of justice with retribution or retaliation.

If the president reached his conclusion not to prosecute because the C.I.A. agents were merely following orders, I would remind him that that defense did not hold up at the Nuremberg trials. Those involved must be tried and held accountable regardless of the political consequences.

The Left that fought Bush's neo-Fascist policies are now outraged by Obama's seeming condoning of the abuses of the previous administration:
Amnesty International said the release of the documents was welcome, but condemned the decision to block prosecutions.

"The Department of Justice appears to be offering a get-out-of-jail-free card to individuals who, by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's own estimation, were involved in acts of torture," said executive director Larry Cox. "No civilized definition of 'reasonable' behavior can ever encompass acts of torture. Torture has long been recognized to be a violation of both national and international law, and no single legal opinion, no matter from what source, can change that."

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit agency founded by attorneys who worked for the civil rights movement of the 1960s, also panned the decision not to prosecute.

"It is one of the deepest disappointments of this administration that it appears unwilling to uphold the law where crimes have been committed by former officials," the organization said.

The center is pushing for prosecutions of high-level officials in the Bush administration.

"Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high-level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted," the center said.

"Government officials broke very serious laws: For there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again."