September 28, 2006

Hands Off Hugo Chavez

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently tried to hype "concerns" about Venezuela's military, saying, "I don't know of anyone threatening Venezuela, anyone in this hemisphere."

It's laughable, but you can count on the corporate media to fall in line, and print such statements without question.

So, it's left up to bloggers to remind people of the fact that the US CIA and the military have overthrown numerous Latin American governments in recent decades, remind people that senior US officials, like Elliot Abrams of Iran Contra fame, have been linked to people involved in the 2002 coup who tried to overthrow the elected Venezuelan government, remind people that the US now has a formal military doctrine of preemptive war and has used that doctrine in Iraq, remind people that Venezuela has oil resources that are on par with Saudi Arabia.

It's plain to see that the US is waging a propaganda war against Venezuela, and likely is engaging in covert military activities.

Venezuela is not a threat if we don't threaten Venezuela. But, if the US tries to destabilize Venezuela, then it has a right to defend it's national security interests. People can criticize his style, but Chavez is popularly elected, more than can be said of George Bush.

Related Links:
Chavez Buying Votes

Venezuela Analysis Web Site

September 13, 2006

Haaretz: Cluster Bomb Article

Just in case Haaretz buries this article....

When rockets and phosphorous cluster
By Meron Rapoport

"In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs, what we did there was crazy and monstrous," testifies a commander in the Israel Defense Forces' MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) unit. Quoting his battalion commander, he said the IDF fired some 1,800 cluster rockets on Lebanon during the war and they contained over 1.2 million cluster bombs. The IDF also used cluster shells fired by 155 mm artillery cannons, so the number of cluster bombs fired on Lebanon is even higher. At the same time, soldiers in the artillery corps testified that the IDF used phosphorous shells, which many experts say is prohibited by international law. According to the claims, the overwhelming majority of the weapons mentioned were fired during the last ten days of the war.

The commander asserted that there was massive use of MLRS rockets despite the fact that they are known to be very inaccurate - the rockets' deviation from the target reaches to around 1,200 meters - and that a substantial percentage do not explode and become mines. Due to these facts, most experts view cluster ammunitions as a "non-discerning" weapon that is prohibited for use in a civilian environment. The percentage of duds among the rockets fired by the U.S. army in Iraq reached 30 percent and the United Nations' land mine removal team in Lebanon claims that the percentage of duds among the rockets fired by the IDF reaches some 40 percent. In light of these figures, the number of duds left behind by the Israeli cluster rockets in Lebanon is likely to reach half a million.

According to the commander, in order to compensate for the rockets' imprecision, the order was to "flood" the area with them. "We have no option of striking an isolated target, and the commanders know this very well," he said. He also stated that the reserve soldiers were surprised by the use of MLRS rockets, because during their regular army service, they were told these are the IDF's "judgment day weapons" and intended for use in a full-scale war.

The commander also said that at least in one case, they were asked to fire cluster rockets toward "a village's outskirts" in the early morning: "They told us that this is a good time because people are coming out of the mosques and the rockets would deter them." In other cases, they fired the rockets at a range of less than 15 kilometers, even though the manufacturer's guidelines state that firing at this range considerably increases the number of duds. The commander further related that during IDF training exercises hardly any live rockets are fired, for fear that they would leave duds behind and fill the IDF's firing grounds with mines.

After being discharged from his reserve duty, the commander sent a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and protested the number of cluster rockets fired in Lebanon, which "perhaps the generals forgot to mention." "As far as the duds are concerned," he wrote, "we have no control over who is hurt. Sooner or later they will explode in people's hands." He has yet to receive a response from the defense minister.

At the same time, soldiers are reporting that they fired phosphorous shells, which are supposed to be used by the IDF for marking or setting fire to areas, in order to start fires in Lebanon. The artillery commander says he saw trucks with phosphorous shells en route to artillery batteries in the North.

A direct hit from a phosphorous shell causes severe burns and a painful death. Around a year ago, there was an international scandal after a television crew presented harsh pictures of the charred bodies of Iraqis injured by phosphorous bombs during the course of the American attack on the city of Fallujah.

International law prohibits the use of weapons that cause "excessive damage and unnecessary suffering," and many experts feel that phosphorous is included in this category. The International Red Cross determined that international law prohibits the use of phosphorous against humans. The American "Book of War," published in 1999, which sets down the rules of war for the American army, states: "The ground war law prohibits the use of phosphorous against human targets." The pact on prohibiting or limiting flammable weapons bans the use of phosphorous against civilian targets and against military targets found amid large civil populations.

The IDF Spokesperson said: "International law does not contain a sweeping ban on the use of cluster bombs. The Conventional Weapons Pact does not stipulate a ban on the use of inflammatory weapons (i.e., phosphorous - M.R.), rather it only offers rules for organizing the use of this weapon. For understandable operational reasons, the IDF will not comment on a detailed listing of the weaponry at its disposal. The IDF uses only methods and weapons that are permitted according to international law. The firing of artillery in general, including the firing of artillery to demolish a target, was initiated in response to firing at the State of Israel only." The defense minister's bureau said in response that it had yet to receive an inquiry on the matter of firing cluster rockets.

September 12, 2006

Arnold's Blood

According to AP.....

The recording of Arnold Schwarzenegger was made during a speech-writing session in the governor's office last March. In it, he and his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, speculate lightheartedly about the ethnic background of state Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia.

After they chat about whether she is Cuban or Puerto Rican, Schwarzenegger says: "They are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

According to Arnold's logic one would reflect on Arnold's Austrian blood and how that parallels his authoritarian tendencies. See how stupid that sounds Arnold?

September 7, 2006

Take it to a Higer Level

It's a very simple message in these times of a coming debacle of the crumbling plutocratic rule. People around the World know the King has no clothes. It's a moment in history when freedom loving people need find the inner discipline to take it to a higher level of commitment to civics in their own setting.

In Mexico, it appears another election was stolen (closer this time). The legitimacy of the governing institusions are in question. There is talk of a parallel government.

In the US, it appears a couple elections were stolen. The governing institutions have lost their legitimacy: The Congress is controlled by the extreme wing of the Republican Party, and Democrats are jsut as beholden to monied interests in order to be competative in an electoral system that generates huge profits for media conglomerates that charge monopoly rates for political advertizements. The US Supreme Court says this is all "constitutional" and trying to fix the obvious problem is "unconstitutional." The executive branch is above the law.

In New Orleans, some people in public housing were displaced even though their homes were not flooded. They have since been locked out of their homes so that a small number of people can cash in on the high-priced real estate.

And the farce in Lebanon. "Israel was acting in self-defense." Are we to believe this?

With the plutocratic system delegitimized, what are the people to do? Take it to a Higher Level.

A Strategy:

This strategy has three prongs, and is intentionally generic:

1) Address the issues of the Day: Each community faces urgent crises that must be addressed, such as proposed corporate plans that will bring immediate harm to people. Some time must be invested in addressing these issues.

2) Address Mult-generational Struggles: Slavery didn't end until the end of the civil war in about 1865. People were struggling to end slavery in 1810, 1820 decades before major changes came about. We face a similar struggle today against consolidated power, often stored in the form of corporations controlled by the plutocracy. Some time must be invested in this multi-generational struggle to revoke constitutional "rights" from corporations.

3) Identify New Social Structures: It isn't sufficient to simply criticize the current system. Workable alternatives need to be developed and implemented.

It is within this strategic framework that the common people need to take their civic duties to a higher level.

September 3, 2006

Lebanon Relief Reflects Damage Inflicted by US/Isreal

The following Relief was provided by UNHCR to the 40 most devastated villages in the Nabatiye and Tyre districts between August 14 and August 31, 2006 [1]:

Blankets:......... 31,158
Mattresses:........ 6,110
Tents:............. 2,798
Lamps:............. 6,122
Cooking Stoves:.... 2,600
Diapers:.......... 13,455
Kitchen Sets:...... 3,257
Jerry Cans:....... 11,924
Bars of Soap:...... 6,620
Plastic Sheets:.... 8,497

One can't help but think that Israel should pay for this rather than international tax payers who fund the United Nations operations.

... and the reports keep coming in:

World vision has replaced more than 6,800 water storage tanks destroyed in 40 villages in Majayoun and Bent Jbail districts affecting 45,000 people. [2]

Mercy Corps provided food kits to 3,500 families in Baalbek District, as well as textbooks and clothing to 598 orphaned children. [2]


[1] USAID August 31, 2006 Situation Report on Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency.

[2] USAID October 27, 2006 Situation Report on Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency.

September 2, 2006

US Prohibitions on Isreali Use of Cluster Bombs

Updated February 4, 2007

The US has sold cluster bombs to Israel since the 1970s, except for a six year period during the Regan Administration after the Congress determined that Israel had violated US prohibitions on their use.

Photo Credit and narrative, See Note [3]

The US State Department has recently launched an inquiry into Isreal's use of US made cluster bombs to determine if they have violated US prohibitions during their assault on Lebanon in July/August 2006.

What are the US prohibitions on Israel?

There are at least two US arms export frameworks, distinct from other internatinal laws, for which the US has direct oversight:

1) A secret bilateral agreement with Isreal that addresses cluster munitions specifically, and

2) The Arms Export Control Act, which requires foreign governments that receive American weapons to use them for legitimate self-defense.

The US State Department is responsible for oversight of both of these, with additional oversight from Congress on the second. [1]

With regard to (1), the secret agreement on cluster munitions likely addresses a) requirements for Israel to properly informed the United States about its use of the weapons, and b) limitations of use on strictly military targets. [2]

"News accounts over the years have said that [the bilateral agreement] require that the munitions be used only against organized Arab armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973." [2] This is supported by a report in Haaretz in which Israeli reserve soldiers expressed that they "were surprised by the use of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), because during their regular army service, they were told these are the IDF's "judgment day weapons" and intended for use in a full-scale war. [4]

In other words, because of the grave downsides of these weapons, their use seems to be limited to a scenario in which Israel risks being overrun by an invading force. If this characterization is correct, Israel's recent use of cluster munitions in civilian-populated villages is likely a violation of this secret bilateral agreement.

With regard to (2), the threshold question is whether or not the situation constituted "self-defense."

An honest analysis of the conflict must conclude that it was an aggressive war of choice by Israel, using Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers as an excuse. The integrity of Isreal to exist was not threatened, despite Hezbollah's Kytusha rocket attacks in response to Israel's assault on the Lebanese infrastructure. Only a very liberal view of "self-defense" envisioned in the US Arms Export Control Act could justify the use of cluster munitions in this case.

Critics of this view can argue shades of gray on whether or not Israel violated these prohibitions; however, given the terrible legacy caused by unexploded cluster munitions, the interpretation of compliance should not be liberal, but strict; operating in the grey zone should be considered a violation. In this technical view, and in any ethical view, Israel's current use of cluster munitions is clearly in the wrong.

Given a pattern of misuse of cluster munitions by Israel, the US should ban any further sales to Israel. For an article on Israel's recent use of cluster munitions on Lebanon SEE: Lebanon Damage: Indiscriminant Cluster Bombs


According to the January 30 headlines of DemocracyNow! "On January 29, 2007 State Department spokesperson Sean McCormick acknowledged that Israel likely violated US arms export agreements when it dropped cluster bombs among villages in Lebanon."

Marc Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, continues, "As a comparison in the war in Iraq in 2003, the United States over three weeks dropped 2 million cluster sub-munitions. Israel in the war in Lebanon dropped 4 million in three days. It dwarfs any use of cluster bombs prior. You can take Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and put them together and you’re not going to come close to what happened in southern Lebanon."


[1] "Under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and executive order, the Secretary of State is responsible for policy direction and oversight of all arms transfer functions, and for controlling commercial exports of defense articles and services on the U.S. Munitions List." Norman A Wulf, Acting Assistant Director of Nonproliferation and Regional Arms Control, February 24, 1994. Web LINK

[2] New York Times, David Cloud, August 26, 2006. Web LINK

[3] "The M-270 rocket launcher fires US-made M-26 rockets. Each rocket disperses 644 M-77 "bomblets" over an area roughly 350 feet by 650 feet. Each individual M-77 is essentially a small grenade. When deployed from a rocket, these bomblets can be devastating against light-skinned vehicles, such as trucks with mounted artillery rocket launchers, and absolutely deadly for troops out in the open. The rockets are generally fired in salvos and can ravage one-third of a square mile. The United States used the M-26 to great effect in the 1991 Gulf War. It is the ideal weapon to engage Hezbollah fighters firing artillery rockets. As soon as the Israelis detect the location from which Hezbollah has launched rockets, they can obliterate an area too big for the launcher or crew to flee.

Of course, the potential for civilian casualties is high. The M-26 is an indiscriminate weapon by design. The most enduring problem with such cluster munitions is that the entire batch does not always explode. Afghanistan and Iraq are both littered with tiny bomblets that -- to this day -- are maiming and killing civilians." Source: Stratfor: Web LINK

[4] Haaretz, Sept. 11, 2006Web LINK

Lebanon Damage: Indiscriminant Cluster Bombs

Updated August 28, 2008

The US Disaster Assistance Response Team Reports that the
presense of unexploded ordinance continues to be the most
significant security concern in the conflict-affected areas
of Lebanon.

- US Government Situation Report, Lebanon, 9/5/06 [6].

The US/Israeli assault on Lebanon in July/August 2006 inflicted awsome damage See: Lebanon Damage Report 2006. A special concern was Israel's use of cluster bombs, which are bombs, missles or artillary shells filled with many smaller bomblets (submunitions). The small bomblets are dispersed over a wide area before they explode individually.

Photo source and narrative [1]

Cluster bombs are indiscriminant in two regards. First, they spread over large areas (multiple football fields) killikng or maiming anyone in that area, including civilians. Second, a percentage of the small bomblets do not initially explode, remaining live to explode later when disturbed by farmers or curious children.

For these reasons the US has placed prohibitions on Israel's use of US-made cluster bombs. In addition to these prohibitions, there are international prohibitions.[3]

Update: On January 29, 2007 the US State Department issued a statement indicating it was likely that Israel had violated US arms export agreements in its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon the summer of 2006.

Between the August 12 cease fire in Lebanon and September 9, the United Nations reports 14 civilians have been killed and 66 people injured by cluster bomblets.[2] For example, in the village of Aitta Shaab near the Israeli boarder three children, Sukna, Hassan and Merwa, aged 10 to 12, paused before a curious object. Sukna picked it up. The terrifying blast flung her to the ground, thrusting metal shards into her liver. Hassan's abdomen was cut open. Merwa was hit in the leg and arm. "We thought it was just a little ball," said Hassan with a hoarse whisper in the intensive care ward at Tyre's Jabal Amel hospital. [4]

Update, August 28, 2008: Since the war ended, twenty-seven civilians and thirteen bomb disposal experts have been killed. Over 200 civilians have also been injured by the unexploded ordnance. [9]

Israel faces numerous charges of war crimes. One centers on their indiscriminant use of cluster bombs.

UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said, "What's shocking, and I would say to me completely immoral, is that 90 per cent of [Israel's] cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution." Egeland notes the cluster bombs have affected large residential and farming areas and could be on the ground for years. "Colleagues in the UN Mine Action Co-Ordination Centre have undertaken assessments of nearly 85 per cent of bombed areas in South Lebanon have identified 359 separate cluster bomb strike locations that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets." [5] This figure has now risen to at least 450 sites.[2]

A UN report said American cluster munitions found included 559 M-42’s, an anti-personnel bomblet used in 105-millimeter artillery shells; 663 M-77’s, a submunition found in M-26 rockets See description; and 5 BLU-63’s, a bomblet found in the CBU-26 cluster bomb. Also found were 608 M-85’s, an Israeli-made submunition.

Haaretz reported that an IDF commander in the unit responsible for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), like that in the photo to the right, said his battalion commander estimated the IDF fired some 1,800 cluster rockets on Lebanon during the war and they contained over 1.2 million cluster bomblets. The IDF also used cluster shells fired by 155 mm artillery cannons, so the number of cluster bombs fired on Lebanon is even higher.

The Haaretz article continues, "the United Nations' land mine removal team in Lebanon claims that the percentage of duds among the rockets fired by the IDF reaches some 40 percent. In light of these figures, the number of duds left behind by the Israeli cluster rockets in Lebanon is likely to reach half a million." This is consistent with reports by IDF reservists who report some of the missles were fired at ranges closer than specified by manufacturer guidlines, which leads to more unexploded bomblets. [7]

The MRLS commander said, "In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs, what we did there was crazy and monstrous." [7]

As of October 27, 2006, nearly $6 million in US tax-payer dollars have been spent on demining and clearing of unexploded ordinance in Lebanon. [8]


[1] Federation of American Scientists Web LINK

[2] United States Government Situation Report, Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency, USAID citing various sources, September 1, 2006.

[3] 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which states: “Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Although Israel is not a signatory to this protocol, the protocol is considered "customary international law" that applies to all nations. See Indiscriminant Attack

[4] Declan Walsh, August 22, 2006.

[5] UPI, Heather Murray, August 30, 2006 Web LINK

[6]United States Government Situation Report, Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency, USAID citing various source, Index of reports by date.Web LINK

[7] Haazretz Article published on about September 11, 2006.

[8] USAID Lebanon Situation Report, October 27, 2006. Web LINK

[9] DemocracyNow! Headlines, "Shortage of Funding Halts Mine Sweeping in Lebanon"
August, 25, 2008.

See Also

New York Times, David Cloud, August 26, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, Ana Nogueira, August 23, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 25, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 30, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 28, 2008. "Shortage of Funding Halts Mine Sweeping in Lebanon"