Friday, December 1, 2017

ICC Prosecutor Requests Investigation Into U.S. Military, CIA for Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan

ICC Prosecutor Requests Investigation Into U.S. Military, CIA for Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan

Fatou Bensouda asked judges to authorize an investigation of reported human rights abuses in Afghanistan, including allegations of rape and torture by the U.S. military and CIA.

By Mike Corder
The Associated Press

November 21, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - NETHERLANDS -The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges Monday to authorize an investigation of reported human rights abuses in Afghanistan, including allegations of rape and torture by the U.S. military and CIA, crimes against humanity by the Taliban and war crimes by Afghan security forces.

The announcement marked the first time ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has gone after Americans for alleged war crimes and sets up a possible showdown with Washington. The United States is not a member state of the court, but its nationals can be charged with crimes committed in countries that are members.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it was reviewing Bensouda’s authorization request, but opposes the International Criminal Court’s involvement in Afghanistan.

“Our view is clear: an ICC investigation with respect to U.S personnel would be wholly unwarranted and unjustified,” the State Department said.

“More broadly, our overall assessment is that commencement of an ICC investigation will not serve the interests of either peace or justice in Afghanistan.”

As well as alleged crimes by American troops in Afghanistan, Bensouda wants to investigate the activities of CIA operatives in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan and other countries that are court members.

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Bensouda said in a summary of her request that “information available provides a reasonable basis to believe” that U.S. military personnel and CIA operatives “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

She added that the Taliban and its allies are suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes “as part of a widespread and systematic campaign of intimidation, targeted killings and abductions of civilians” perceived as supporting the government or opposing the Taliban rebels.

Afghan security forces are, in turn, suspected of involvement in “systematic patterns of torture and cruel treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan detention facilities, including acts of sexual violence,” Bensouda said.

This article was originally published by The Star -
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Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan: Dead On Arrival?

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan: Dead On Arrival?

Trump's peace plan will be highly favourable to Israel and dismissive of the Palestinians

By Richard Silverstein
November 21, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - From almost the first day of his presidency, US President Donald Trump bragged that he would solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Among his claims was that he could do what no US president had done. He called it "the ultimate deal".
By now, most of the world knows Trump is an empty braggart and that his boasts have almost no connection to reality.

A vague plan

But over the past week or so the New York Times and Israeli media have reported that a Trump peace plan is indeed taking shape. Sources have been vague about the exact contents of the plan though one common feature to every report is that the US will recognise a Palestinian state as part of the overall deal.
Beyond the recognition of a state, the deal would offer Palestinians almost nothing further
Last week, the Israeli news show Hadashot laid out the provisions of the peace plan that had been leaked to it. Beyond the recognition of a state, the deal would offer Palestinians almost nothing further. Jerusalem would not be accepted as Palestine's national capital. 
No settler would have to evacuate a single settlement, let alone an entire settlement. Israel would hit a payday in terms of getting almost all of what it's demanded and failed to get from previous US administrations.
The US would recognise most of Israel's stated security needs, including for the ongoing presence of Israeli forces along the Jordan border, the TV report added.
It said Netanyahu, for his part, was pushing for the retention of overall Israeli security control in all Palestinian territory. This is a position Netanyahu has publicly demanded, and which, if granted, would underline that the Palestinians would not be gaining full sovereignty.
The New York Times earlier reported that under the provisions of the agreement Israel would open trade with the Arab world and its airlines would be permitted to overfly Gulf airspace. Arab states, says the Times, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan "could add their own commitments, like overflights by Israeli passenger planes, visas for business people and telecommunications links."
There would be "land swaps", but considering that no settlements or settlers would be removed, it's unclear what land would be swapped and why. Or as the Times of Israel summarised the Hadashot report: "The borders, however, would 'not necessarily' be based on the pre-1967 lines."

False assumptions

Why, you might ask, would any Palestinian agree to such a deal? Well, apparently Trump and Netanyahu believe that Arabs are so venal that they will sell their birthright for a few billion Saudi petrodollars.
Sunni Arab states and others would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance for the Palestinians under the plan, to help encourage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the deal, the report said.
I would venture to say that if you asked any Palestinian whether, if offered a choice, he would prefer to be personally wealthy over his nation achieving full recognition and sovereignty, we would know what the answer would be.
Such a strategy follows a longstanding false assumption by Israel and the US that the Palestinian problem is an economic one at its root, and not political. Secretaries of state and Israeli prime ministers have touted improvements to the Palestinian economy as the way to resolve the overall conflict for many years. 
This is a false and insulting premise. But in case you're wondering how or why the plan was leaked now... remember that Netanyahu faces four separate corruption scandals. He's been interrogated for the sixth time by Israeli police this week.
Netanyahu is desperate to change the subject. What better way to do that than by leaking to the Israeli public that he might achieve what no other Israeli leader has ever achieved: lasting peace with Israel's Arab neighbours.
An op-ed published by Al Jazeera dismissed the offer to the Palestinians as not only demeaning, but also a repudiation of the Saudis' own 2002 peace plan:
…The Kushner deal will not do even minimum justice to the Palestinian national project. While the deal offers strategic gains to Israel, such as ending a Saudi Arab boycott, it offers only tactical gains for the Palestinians, such as financial assistance, prisoners' release, and a silent, partial freeze of settlement activities outside the large settlement blocs.
The Kushner deal will practically fragment the Saudi-sponsored 2002 Arab Peace Plan that offered Israel full normalisation in return for full withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967. By pressuring Abbas to accept the deal, the Saudi leadership is undermining its own initiative, accepting to partially normalise relations with Israel in exchange for an alliance against Iran.

Saudi message to Abbas

Though the US has suggested that one way in which its approach is different than previous peace plans is that neither party will be pressured to agree. There will be no threats.
This claim has already been belied by two separate media reports of threats being made against the Palestinians if they reject the deal.
In the first instance, Israeli media reported that when King Salman summoned Abbas to Riyadh for talks last month, apparently the Palestinian leader pointed out that the deal being offered was less than any Palestinian could accept. The Saudis were having none of it and presumably told him that if he rejected the deal they would make his life a living hell. He should, in that event, resign.
Presumably, that would enable the Saudis to install a more quiescent figure like Mohammed Dahlan, now comfortably ensconced in Dubai, who would do their bidding. In fact, according to Al Jazeera's op-ed, none other than Dahlan himself "happened" to have been invited to Riyadh at the same time Abbas was there. The Saudi message to Abbas was clear: If we can't get you to do what we say, we'll find someone who will.
We've come to see the outlines of what a Trump deal would involve: The provisions would be highly favorable to Israel and dismissive of the Palestinians
Considering that they'd just successfully forced the Lebanese premier, Saad Hariri, to resign, the Saudis thought this would intimidate Abbas. But the leader of the Palestinian Authority realises if he sells out the Palestinian cause history will make a mockery of him.
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Last week, the State Department "miraculously" dusted off an obscure 1994 law declaring that, if the Palestinians call for the International Criminal Court to investigate Israeli war crimes, the US must close the PLO mission in Washington DC
The US has noted that Abbas' speech to the UN General Assembly last autumn did just that: It called for the ICC, which now included Palestine among its members, to hold Israel accountable for the massive loss of civilian life in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

Trump's deal: A sham

Unspoken in these reports was the not so subtle threat that the US would close the mission if the PA rejected the Trump peace plan.
Though Abbas isn't known for having much political spine, the PLO's former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat didn't miss a beat in responding that if the US did close the Palestinian diplomatic facility, that the PA would cut off all communication with the US. That would certainly put a crimp into Trump's peace plan.
Creating a viable Palestinian state at this stage is impossible without enormous Israeli concessions and this Israeli government isn't going to do that
- Prof Stephen Walt, Harvard University 
Through all this we've come to see the outlines of what a Trump deal would involve: the provisions would be highly favourable to Israel and dismissive of the Palestinians. The urge of the latter to summarily reject the deal would be mitigated by overwhelming pressure from the Saudi royals to accept it.
Frankly, despite the near universal consensus from Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia that this deal is a good one; and despite the enormous pressure they can bring to bear on the Palestinians to accept it - I don't see how they can pull this off.
The US may be banking on the universal acclaim they expect from the world to finally see a serious peace plan accepted by almost all the parties to the conflict. But I'd bet that the world will see through the proposed agreement as a sham being perpetrated on the Palestinians. Stephen Walt, the Belfer Professor of international relations at Harvard University, told me:
"It is hard to believe that Kushner, Friedman and co. are going to come up with a deal that would work, because creating a viable Palestinian state at this stage is impossible without enormous Israeli concessions (reversing 40 years of policy) and this Israeli government isn't going to do that." 

Iran factor

Middle East observers have noted another long-term factor favouring an agreement: Iran. Both Israel and the Saudis see Iran as a far more formidable, intractable obstacle than the Palestinians are. They believe if they can solve the smaller problem (Palestine) the world will look far more favourably on their aggressive approach to confronting Iran and Hezbollah.
"The Arabs and the Israelis are facing two enemies, Iran and terrorism, and they must form an alliance to confront them," a western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But this alliance cannot be established without resolving the Palestinian issue; Saudi Arabia cannot work openly with Israel in the face of Iran before solving the Palestinian issue, and having the Palestinians themselves involved directly in such an axis."
Though Trump's negotiators have declared they won't attempt to force the parties to adhere to a timeline or a deadline to resolve the matter, a Israeli media report indicates Trump has plans to introduce the plan publicly as early as January.
- Richard Silverstein writes the Tikun Olam blog, devoted to exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state. His work has appeared in Haaretz, the Forward, the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times. He contributed to the essay collection devoted to the 2006 Lebanon war, A Time to Speak Out (Verso) and has another essay in the upcoming collection, Israel and Palestine: Alternate Perspectives on Statehood (Rowman & Littlefield).
Palestinians 'freeze' meetings with US over office row: The Palestinians have frozen all meetings with the United States after it decided to close their representative office in Washington, officials said Tuesday.

Who Gets to Push the Nuclear Button?

Who Gets to Push the Nuclear Button?

Who Gets to Push the Nuclear Button?
Paul Craig Roberts
William Binney is the former National Security Agency (NSA) official who created NSA’s mass surveillance program for digital information. He says that if the Russian government had conspired with Trump, hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer, or in any way influenced the outcome of the last US presidential election, the National Security Agency would have the digital evidence. The fact that we have been listening to the unsubstantiated charges that comprise “Russiagate” for more than one year without being presented with a scrap of evidence is complete proof that Russiagate is entirely fake news.
The fake news originated with CIA director John Brennan and FBI director Comey conspiring with the DNC in an effort to discredit and unseat President Trump and at a minimum prevent him from damaging the vast power and profit of the military/security complex by normalizing relations with Russia.
Consider what this means. The directors of the CIA and FBI made up a totally false story about a newly elected President and fed the lies to the presstitutes and Congress. The presstitutes never asked for a drop of evidence and enlarged the Brennan/Comey lie with a claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia had interfered. In actual fact, a handful of carefully selected people in three of the agencies had prepared, perhaps under duress, a conditional report that had no evidence behind it.
That it was fake news created to control President Trump was completely obvious, but corrupt security officials, corrupt senators and representatives, a corrupt DNC, and corrupt media used constant repetition to turn a lie into truth.
Here is Binney:
See also:
Having shoved Trump into the militarist camp, his enemies have turned on Trump as an unstable, volatile person who might push the button. Senator Bob Corker (R, TN) and Senator Chris Murphy (D,CT) are using the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to portray President Trump as a quixotic person who shouldn’t have his finger on the nuclear button. We have gone full circle, from Trump who wants to defuse nuclear tensions to Trump who might push the button.
If Senators Corker and Murphy were really concerned and not just orchestrating a new way to attack Trump, they would bring out the fact that Russiagate is a hoax that has made nuclear war more likely. As I have pointed out, Washington has convinced Moscow that Washington is planning a surprise nuclear attack on Russia and also collecting Russian DNA for a tailored Russian-specific bio-weapon. I cannot think of anything more likely to trigger nuclear war than the escalated tensions that Russiagate is preventing Trump from reducing. See:
For the record, contrary to the erroneous assertions of “nuclear experts,” the president cannot simply order a nuclear attack. The president either has to accept a Joint Chiefs war plan and order a launch when the military is ready or he has to accept the advice of his national security adviser to launch in retaliation for incoming enemy ICBMs. If a president simply ordered a nuclear strike, he would be ignored.
If it is not the president who must make the nuclear decision, who is it to be? The military? We should be thankful that that was not the case when the Joint Chiefs pressured President John F. Kennedy to approve a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
The question who should have launch authority is an easy one to answer. No one.
If nuclear missiles are incoming, launching does not protect you. You are already going to be destroyed. Why destroy the other side of the world in an act of revenge. It is pointless.
There is no such thing as a preemptive strike that prevents retaliation.
Nuclear war is an act of insanity. Nothing can justify it.
The purpose of diplomacy is to prevent war. However, ever since the Clinton regime attacked Serbia, US diplomacy has been used to cause wars. During the 16-years of George W. Bush and Obama the US destroyed in whole or part seven countries, killing and maiming millions of peoples and producing millions of refugees. Not a single one of these wars was justified. Everyone of these wars was based in lies. The last US government that showed any respect at all for truth was the George H. W. Bush administration.
Before launching each of these acts of unprovoked aggression, Washington demonized the leader of the country. To get rid of one person, Washington did not flinch at murdering large numbers of people and destroying the infrastructure of the country. This tells you that Washington has no morality. None. Zilch. Therefore, Washington is capable of launching a preemptive nuclear strike. Back when nuclear weapons were puny by today’s standards, Washington nuked two Japanese cities while Japan was trying to surrender. That was in 1945, a lifetime ago. Whatever bits of morality that still existed then are long gone.
Today a CNN editor-at-large named Chris Cillizza, published online an article titled, “There’s a massive moral vacuum in the country right now.” At last, I thought, a presstitute has realized that Washington’s constant nuclear threats against other countries shows a complete disrespect for the life of the planet and indicates a moral vacuum. But no, the presstitute is talking about sexual harassment, especially that of Roy Moore in the 1970s. And it is all Trump’s fault. How can he lead when he harasses women himself?
President Trump intended to normalize relations with the other major nuclear power. He has been prevented from doing so by the military/security complex, the DNC, and the presstitutes.
Cillizza says sexual harassment is a “very big” consequence of Trump’s election. I am left wondering if CNN’s editor-at-large considers nuclear war to be as serious as sexual harassment.