News You Need For Nov 23, 2010


Lieberman: ‘Crazy’ North Korean regime must be stopped

‘Enormous retaliation to come if N.Korea attacks again,’ says South Korean President; US, Russia, China condemn attack that left 2 marines dead.

North Korea’s bombardment of a South Korean Island, which left two dead and thirteen wounded, shows that it is “necessary today, more than in the past, to stop and to topple this crazy regime, and to stop their proliferation and provocations,” Foreign Minster Avigdor Lieberman said at a Jerusalem press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Lieberman, with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, said North Korea is part of an axis of evil that includes Syria and Iran, and that there is close cooperation between them in the sphere of nuclear and missile technology.

“I think that North Korea is, as we see, a threat not only for their part of the world, but also for the Middle East and the entire world,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman said that a “bad message” is being sent. If the international community “cannot stop, cannot suffocate this crazy regime,” then how could it deal with Iran, he asked.

Frattini said, “We should all condemn this North Korean attack.”

Seoul will unleash an “enormous retaliation” should North Korea attack again, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday following the attack.

The UN Security Council also announced it would be holding an emergency session in the wake of the incident.

The United States added its voice to the strong reactions, calling on North Korea to “halt its belligerent action,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in Washington. He reaffirmed that the US is “firmly committed” to South Korea’s defense, and to the “maintenance of regional peace and stability.”

North Korea bombarded the South Korean island near their disputed western border with artillery, setting buildings ablaze and killing at two soldiers after warning the South to halt military drills in the area, South Korean officials said.

South Korea said it returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response, and said the “inhumane” attack on civilian areas violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never negotiated.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered his government to “Make preparations so that we can react firmly, should any unexpected event occur,” he announced at a press conference Tuesday. He added, “I ordered them to do their utmost to gather information.”

China, which is the North’s economic and political benefactor while maintaining robust commercial ties with the South, called for calm.

“We express our concern over the situation. The situation is to be verified,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regularly scheduled media briefing in Beijing. He called on both Koreas without naming them “to do more to contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula.”

Russia also issued a response to the escalating situation. A foreign ministry said, “It’s important that this does not lead to an aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula,” AFP reported.

Britain also condemned the “unprovoked” North Korean attack Tuesday. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “The UK strongly condemns North Korea’s unprovoked attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.” He added, “Such unprovoked attacks will only lead to further tensions on the Korean peninsula.”

The German foreign minister also issued a condemnation of the attack.

The skirmish came amid high tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.

The North’s artillery struck the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population and which has been the focus of two previous deadly battles between the Koreas.

Two South Korean marines were killed, three were seriously wounded and 10 slightly wounded, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. Island residents were escaping to about 20 shelters in the island while sporadic shelling continued, the military official said.

The firing came during South Korean military drills in the area. North Korea’s military had sent a message to South Korea’s armed forces early Tuesday to demand that the drills stop, but the South continued them, another military official said. North Korea said that the drills were the cause of the escalation.

During the drills, South Korean marines on the island shot artillery toward southern waters, away from North Korea, the official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing military rules.

The North’s premeditated bombardments struck civilian areas and were “inhumane atrocities,” military official Lee Hong-ki said. There are about 30 small islands around the Yeonpyeong, and tension runs high in the area because of its proximity to North Korea. Yeonpyeong is known for its crab fishing.

After the North’s barrages, South Korea responded by firing K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzers, military officials said, but declined to say whether North Korean territory was hit.

YTN TV said several houses on Yeonpyeong were on fire and that shells were still falling on the island, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of the coast. The station broadcast pictures of thick columns of black smoke rising from the island, which has a population of 1,200 to 1,300. Screams and chaotic shouts could be heard on the video.

The existence of North Korea’s new uranium enrichment facility came to light over the weekend after Pyongyang showed it to a visiting American nuclear scientist, claiming that the highly sophisticated operation had 2,000 completed centrifuges. Top US military officials warn that it could speed the North’s ability to make and deliver viable nuclear weapons.

The military tensions between the two Koreas also comes amid a visit to the region by US special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth. He held talks with South Korean officials Monday and was also scheduled to meet officials in China.

Elior Chen in court.
Elior Chen disciples charged with up to 20 years in prison
Four men tortured children, feeding them feces and locking them in suitcases; one has been in a coma since 2008 after severe beating.
David Kugman, 24, one of Elior Chen’s four disciples, was charged with 20 years in prison on Tuesday for severely abusing a Jerusalem woman’s children. Two others, Avraham Maksalchi and Shimon Gabai, will spend 17 years in prison.

The Jerusalem District Court charged Kugman, Maksalchi and Gabai with shaking children, handcuffing them, feeding them feces, starving them and locking them in suitcases. In one case, Kugman tied a child to an electric oven, and did not move him until his skin began to peel. He then poured alcohol and salt on the child’s wounds. Maksalchi tortured children with hammers and suffocated them using scotch-tape.

Of all the incidents included in the indictment, the most severe was perpetrated by Kugman on March 12, 2008, not long before the affair was uncovered.

According to the indictment, Kugman entered the room of A., the youngest of the children, at 5 a.m., when the child was still asleep. He “stood him up on his legs and began beating him with force, punching him many times in his face and head, as he had been accustomed to doing throughout the period covered by the indictment. At some point, A. collapsed in Kugman’s arms and lost consciousness.”

The child has remained in a coma ever since.

Another disciple, Ro’i Tzoref, was charged with two and a half years, because he played a smaller role in the acts, having left Chen’s yeshiva in 2007.

The judge presiding over the case said that the disciples “challenged the basic understanding that children need to be protected.”

The children’s mother divorced their father in 2007 and married Chen, even though he was already married. The abuse of the children began while she still lived in her own house, but became much more severe after January 2008, when she moved with her children to Chen’s home in Betar Illit.

Chen is standing trial separately, and the mother, identified as M., has already been tried, convicted and sentenced with five years in prison for her part in the affair. She is due to appear as a state’s witness in Chen’s trial

Followers of Israeli ‘rabbi’ accused of child abuse sentenced for complicity
The four were convicted of severely abusing eight children under Chen’s orders two years ago; one of the children remains unconscious to this day.
Jerusalem District Court sentenced Tuesday four disciples of self proclaimed Rabbi Elior Chen to lengthy prison sentences, after they were convicted of child abuse earlier this year.
 
Elior Chen and (from left): Shimon Gabai, David Kugman and Avraham Mascalchi Elior Chen, second from right, with three of his followers (from left): Shimon Gabai, David Kugman and Avraham Mascalchi.
Photo by: Reproduction

The four were convicted in February of severely abusing eight children. David Kugman- the central defendant in the case – was sentenced to 20 years in jail; Avraham Mascalchi and Shimon Gabai were sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Ro’i Tzoref was sentenced to 30 months in prison after the court ruled that he played a minor part in the abuse.

The child abuse affair was uncovered two years ago, when a child Chen had been treating was taken to the hospital unconscious. Once the story became public, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel. He is now on trial at the Jerusalem District Court.

Chen, who called himself a rabbi, told his disciples the abuse was necessary to “purify” the children, all members of one family. As a result, the children were severely beaten, burned, locked in suitcases and forced to eat their own feces, among other acts; one child remains in a coma to this day as a result.

In her ruling, Judge Nava Ben-Or called the case “incomprehensible,” adding that Israel has never before known anything like it.

For instance, Mascalchi, 25, was convicted of burning the fingers of one child, taping his mouth shut, stuffing him into a suitcase and leaving him there for some time. Kugman, 24, was convicted of tying up the children and then beating them. He also held one child to an electric heater, causing burns so severe that the child needed a skin transplant.

Two of the four defendants denied all the charges against them. The other two admitted to some, but claimed that they were helpless under Chen’s “magical” influence.

The mother of the eight children, who remains unnamed, was sentenced in May to five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning and tying up her children.

Chen’s trial is currently taking place in Jerusalem.

Iran temporarily halts uranium enrichment at Natanz nuclear facility
Diplomats suspect shut-down due to technical problems resulting from computer worm.

Iran has temporarily ceased uranium production in its nuclear facility in Natanz, apparently due to a series of major technical problems.

Diplomats in Vienna said they had no specifics regarding why Iran had shut down production of thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium. But suspicions focused on the Stuxnet worm, the computer virus thought to be aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, which experts last week identified as being calibrated to destroy centrifuges by sending them spinning out of control.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility in 2008.
Photo by: AP

Iran says its enrichment efforts are geared only to make nuclear fuel but the program has aroused international concerns because it can be re-engineered to produce uranium for nuclear warheads.

But, there have been hints that the program is beset by technical problems. Even a brief shutdown of the thousands of enriching machines would be the strongest documentation to date that the program – Iran’s nuclear cornerstone and a source of national pride – is in trouble.

The country has continued to enrich despite increasingly strict UN sanctions imposed in reaction to its nuclear defiance and has stockpiled enough material for more than two nuclear bombs should it chose to turn it into weapons-grade uranium.

Unease has been fed by Tehran’s refusal to accept nuclear fuel from abroad, the covert origins of its enrichment activities and stonewalling of efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to probe allegations that it tried to develop components of a nuclear weapons program.

Since being revealed eight years ago, Iran has expanded its enrichment activities to the point where it now runs about 8,500 centrifuges at Natanz in central Iran. But after initial rapid growth, Iranian enrichment capacity has stagnated in recent years. Tehran has taken hundreds of centrifuges off line over the past 18 months, prompting speculation of technical problems.

A U.N official close to the IAEA said a complete stop in Iran’s centrifuge operation would be unprecedented to his knowledge but declined to discuss specifics. He, like two like two senior diplomats from IAEA member countries who told the AP of the incident at Natanz, asked for anonymity because the information was confidential.

The three officials spoke on the eve of the planned release of a confidential IAEA update on Iran – the latest report by the Vienna-based agency to its 35-nation board on its attempts to get an overview of Tehran’s nuclear activities. The diplomats said it would again focus on Tehran’s refusal to heed UN Security Council demands to stop enrichment.

That report will come less than three weeks before planned talks between Iran and the world’s five powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – designed to reduce concerns about Tehran’s nuclear agenda.

Iran’s enrichment program has come under renewed focus with the conclusion of cyber experts and analysts that the Stuxnet worm that infected Iran’s nuclear program was designed to abruptly change the rotational speeds of motors such as ones used in centrifuges. Such sudden changes can crash centrifuges and damage them beyond repair.

No one has claimed to be behind Stuxnet, but some analysts have speculated that it originated in Israel.

Iran: Computer worm didn’t harm nuclear program
Stuxnet worm suspected to have caused technical problems, forcing shutdown of thousands of centrifuges used for enriching uranium.
Iran‘s nuclear chief says a malicious computer worm known as Stuxnet has not harmed the country’s atomic program.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi says details about the virus became known only after Iran’s “enemies failed to achieve their goals.”

Salehi’s remarks on Tuesday came a day after diplomats told The Associated Press in Vienna that Iran’s nuclear program has suffered a recent setback, with major technical problems forcing the temporary shutdown of thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium.

The diplomats said they had no specifics on the nature of the problem that in recent months led Iranian experts to briefly power down the machines they use for enrichment — a nuclear technology that has both civilian and military uses.

But suspicions focused on the Stuxnet worm, the computer virus thought to be aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, which experts last week identified as being calibrated to destroy centrifuges by sending them spinning out of control.

Iran says its enrichment efforts are geared only to make nuclear fuel but the program has aroused international concern because it can be re-engineered to produce uranium for nuclear warheads.

There have been hints that the program is beset by technical problems. Even a brief shutdown of the thousands of enriching machines would be the strongest documentation to date that the program — Iran’s nuclear cornerstone and a source of national pride — is in trouble.

Iran’s enrichment program has come under renewed focus with the conclusion of cyber experts and analysts that the Stuxnet worm that infected Iran’s nuclear program was designed to abruptly change the rotational speeds of motors such as ones used in centrifuges. Such sudden changes can crash centrifuges and damage them beyond repair.

No one has claimed to be behind Stuxnet, but some analysts have speculated that it originated in Israel.

Iran nuclear expert David Albright said it was impossible to say what would cause a disruption strong enough to idle the centrifuges but “Stuxnet would do just that.

Netanyahu to name new Mossad chief ‘in next few days’
PM to appoint replacement for veteran spymaster Meir Dagan, due to step down at the end of the year.
The race to lead the Mossad began in earnest on Tuesday as the Prime Minister’s Office announced it would name a replacement for current spy chief Meir Dagan in the coming days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week came under media fire as some commentators accused him of stalling over the appointment, with time running out before Dagan’s term expires at the end of the year.

Meir Dagan- Tomer Appelbaum Mossad chief Meir Dagan seems confident his term will be extended.
Photo by: Archive: Tomer Appelbaum

“The prime minister has been carrying out consultations and plans to announce his decision in the next few days,” Netanyahu’s bureau said in a statement.

Intense speculation has thrown up several names as possible candidates: Amos Yadlin, who this week completed his term as head of military intelligence, is thought a frontrunner, as is Yuval Diskin, due to step down as head of the Shin Bet security service in May.

Another contender is Dagan’s former deputy and head of operations, known to the public only as ‘T’. A long-serving Mossad offer, T recently left the organization on sabbatical – but resigned on his return when Dagan would refuse to designate him as his successor.

Early in his career, T served as the Mossad’s liaison with the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Sayaret Matkal commando unit, where he was a close confidant of Netanyahu’s brother Jonathan, who commanded the force until he was killed in Israel’s raid on a hijacked airliner at Entebbe in Uganda in 1976.

A fourth name to surface is Hagai Hadas, previously Dagan’s number three and now Netanyahu’s representative in negotiations to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured by Hamas militants in 2006.

Netanayhu is believed to be concerned that if a new Mossad chief is appointed from outside the service, several departmental heads could resign, and has recently held meetings with them in an apparent attempt to convince them to stay.

Mosul’s Muslims prevent terrorist attack on Christian family
NINEWA / Aswat al-Iraq: A Group of Iraqi Muslim people in northern Iraq’s Mosul city, have succeeded to prevent a group of terrorists from attacking a Christian family in Al-Bakr district, east of Mosul on Sunday, a Ninewa Province’s media source said on Monday.

“Ninewa’s Governor, Athel al-Nujeifi, was informed about the details of the incident of an attack against a Christian family in East Mosul’s al-Bakr district, during his visit to the area, which pointed out that (Muslim) citizens have deterred armed men and forced them to escape away from the district,” the source said.
He added that Ninewa Governor had “highly appreciated the attitude of the said people, who stood to the side of their Christian brothren and defended them, reaffirming Ninewa Province’s keenness to guarantee necessary protection for all minorities, including Christian brothren, reiterating necessity to protect Christians must also be by the people themselves, before the security bodies.”

Ninewa Province had witnessed several terrorist attacks against Christians, that claimed the lives of many of them, at a time when the security bodies had warned against any attempts to plant chaos and anarchy, through targetting Christians in Mosul, the capital of Ninewa.

In Baghdad, a number of Christian homes had been taret for several rocket and explosive charges attacks over the past few months, that killed and injured dozens of people and caused damage to many houses.

A group armed men had broken through the Lady of Salvation Chruch in central Baghdad’s Karrada district last month, took several worshippers hostage, followed by an attack by security forces to liberate the hostages, thing that killed 58 people, including 5 of the attackers and 7 security elements, whilst the other victims had been from the hostages.  The number of injured people had reached 75, including 15 army and police men.

Al-Qaeda Organization had announced responsibility for the attack on the Church, threatening to make Christians targets for fresh attacks.

Mosul, the center of north Iraq’s Ninewa Province, is 405 kms to the north of Baghdad.

US Intelligence Thwarted Attack on Iran
by Ray McGovern, consortiumnews.com
Why should George W. Bush have been “angry” to learn in late 2007 of the “high-confidence” unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier? Seems to me he might have said “Hot Dog!” rather than curse under his breath.

Nowhere in his memoir, Decision Points, is Bush’s bizarre relationship with truth so manifest as when he describes his dismay at learning that the intelligence community had redeemed itself for its lies about Iraq by preparing an honest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. As the Bush book makes abundantly clear, that NIE rammed an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut rolling toward war.

Nowhere is Bush’s abiding conviction clearer, now as then, that his role as “decider” includes the option to create his own reality.

The Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has missed that part of the book. And hundreds of Dallas “sheriffs,” assembled to ensure decorum at the Bush library groundbreaking last week, kept us hoi polloi well out of presidential earshot.

But someone should ask Bush why he was not relieved, rather than angered, to learn from U.S. intelligence that Iran had had no active nuclear weapons program since 2003. And would someone dare ask why Bush thought Israel should have been “furious with the United States over the NIE”?

It seems likely that Bush actually dictated this part of the book himself. For, in setting down his reaction to the NIE on Iran, he unwittingly confirmed an insight that Dr. Justin Frank, M.D., who teaches psychiatry at George Washington University Hospital, gave us veteran intelligence officers into how Bush comes at reality – or doesn’t.

“His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth. … He lies – not just to us, but to himself as well. … What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt – for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him…. So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand.” (See “Dangers of a Cornered Bush.”)

Not Enough Sycophants

When the NIE on Iran came out in late 2007, Bush may have pined for his sycophant-in-chief, former CIA Director George Tenet, and his co-conspirator deputy, John McLaughlin, who had shepherded the bogus Iraq-WMD analysis through the process in 2002 but had resigned in 2004 when their role in the deceptions became so obvious that it shamed even them.

Tenet and his CIA cronies had been expert at preparing estimates-to-go – to go to war, that is. They had proved themselves worthy rivals of the other CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in cooking intelligence to the White House menu.

On Iraq, they had distinguished themselves by their willingness to conjure up “intelligence” that Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller described as “uncorroborated, unconfirmed, and nonexistent” after a five-year review by his panel. (That finding was no news to any attentive observer, despite Herculean – and largely successful – efforts by the FCM to promote drinking the White House Kool-Aid.)

What is surprising in the case of Iran is the candor with which George W. Bush explains his chagrin at learning of the unanimous judgment of the intelligence community that Iran had not been working on a nuclear weapon since late 2003. (There is even new doubt about reports that the Iranians were working on a nuclear warhead before 2003. See “Iranian Nuke Documents May Be Fake.”)

The Estimate’s findings were certainly not what the Israelis and their neoconservative allies in Washington had been telling the White House – and not what President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were dutifully proclaiming to the rest of us.

Shocked at Honesty

Bush lets it all hang out in Decision Points. He complains bitterly that the NIE “tied my hands on the military side.” He notes that the Estimate opened with this “eye-popping” finding of the intelligence community:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

The former president adds, “The NIE’s conclusion was so stunning that I felt it would immediately leak to the press.” He writes that he authorized declassification of the key findings “so that we could shape the news stories with the facts.” Facts?

The mind boggles at the thought that Bush actually thought the White House, even with de rigueur help from an ever obliging FCM, could put a positive spin on intelligence conclusions that let a meretricious cat out of the bag – that showed that the Bush administration’s case for war against Iran was as flimsy as its bogus case for invading Iraq.

How painful it was to watch the contortions the hapless Stephen Hadley, national security adviser at the time, went through in trying to square that circle. His task was the more difficult since, unlike the experience with the dishonestly edited/declassified version of what some refer to as the Whore of Babylon – the Oct. 1, 2002, NIE on WMD in Iraq, this time the managers of the Estimate made sure that the declassified version of the key judgments presented a faithful rendering of the main points in the classified Estimate.

A disappointed Bush writes, “The backlash was immediate. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad hailed the NIE as a ‘great victory.’” Bush’s apparent “logic” here is to use the widespread disdain for Ahmadinejad to discredit the NIE through association, i.e., whatever Ahmadinejad praises must be false.

But can you blame Bush for his chagrin? Alas, the NIE had knocked out the props from under the anti-Iran propaganda machine, imported duty-free from Israel and tuned up by neoconservatives here at home.

How embarrassing. Here before the world were the key judgments of an NIE, the most authoritative genre of intelligence analysis, unanimously approved “with high confidence” by 16 agencies and signed by the Director of National Intelligence, saying, in effect, that Bush and Cheney were lying about the “Iranian nuclear threat.”

It is inconceivable that as the drafting of the Estimate on Iran proceeded during 2007, the intelligence community would have kept the White House in the dark about the emerging tenor of its conclusions. And yet, just a month before the Estimate was issued, Bush was claiming that the threat from Iran could lead to “World War III.”

The Russians More Honest?

Ironically, Russian President Vladimir Putin, unencumbered by special pleading and faux intelligence, had come to the same conclusions as the NIE.

Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in early October 2007:

“We don’t have information showing that Iran is striving to produce nuclear weapons. That’s why we’re proceeding on the basis that Iran does not have such plans.”

In a mocking tone, Putin asked what evidence the U.S. and France had for asserting that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons. And, adding insult to injury, during a visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, 2007, Putin warned: “Not only should we reject the use of force, but also the mention of force as a possibility.”

This brought an interesting outburst by President Bush the next day at a press conference, a bizarre reaction complete with his famously tortured syntax:

Q. “Mr. President, I’d like to follow on Mr.–on President Putin’s visit to Tehran … about the words that Vladimir Putin said there. He issued a stern warning against potential U.S. military action against Tehran. … Were you disappointed with [Putin's] message?”

Bush: “I – as I say, I look forward to – if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those. … And so I will visit with him about it.”

Q. “But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?”

Bush: “I think so long – until they suspend and/or make it clear that they – that their statements aren’t real, yes, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it’s in the world’s interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian – if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

“But this is – we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding world war III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously, and we’ll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat.”

Can’t Handle the Truth

In his memoir, Bush laments: “I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was. … Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.” Spelling out how the Estimate had tied his hands “on the military side,” Bush included this (apparently unedited) kicker:

“But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Thankfully, not even Dick Cheney could persuade Bush to repair the juggernaut and let it loose for war on Iran. The avuncular vice president has made it clear that he was very disappointed in his protégé. On Aug. 30, 2009, he told Fox News Sunday that he was isolated among Bush advisers in his enthusiasm for war with Iran.

“I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues,” Cheney said when asked whether the Bush administration should have launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran before leaving office.

Bush briefed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the NIE was released. Bush later said publicly that he did not agree with his own intelligence agencies. (For more on the Bush memoir’s conflicts with the truth, see “George W. Bush: Dupe or Deceiver?”)

And it is entirely possible that the Iran-war juggernaut would have been repaired and turned loose anyway, were it not for strong opposition by the top military brass who convinced Bush that Cheney, his neocon friends and Olmert had no idea of the chaos that war with Iran would unleash.

There’s lots of evidence that this is precisely what Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and then-CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon told Bush, in no uncertain terms. And it is a safe bet that these two were among those hinting broadly to Bush that the NIE was likely to “leak,” if he did not himself make its key judgments public.

Whew!

What About Now?

The good news is that Cheney is gone and that Adm. Mullen is still around.

The bad news is that Adm. Fallon was sacked for making it explicitly clear that “We’re not going to do Iran on my watch,” and there are few flag officers with Fallon’s guts and honesty. Moreover, President Barack Obama continues to show himself to be an invertebrate vis-à-vis Israel and its neocon disciples.

Meanwhile, a draft NIE update on Iran’s nuclear program, completed earlier this year, is dead in its tracks, apparently because anti-Iran hawks inside the Obama administration are afraid it will leak. It is said to repeat pretty much the same conclusions as the NIE from 2007.

There are other ominous signs. The new director of national intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is a subscriber to the Tenet school of malleability. It was Clapper whom former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put in charge of imagery analysis to ensure that no one would cast serious doubt on all those neocon and Iraqi “defector” reports of WMD in Iraq.

And, when no WMD caches were found, it was Clapper who blithely suggested, without a shred of good evidence, that Saddam Hussein had sent them to Syria. This was a theory also being pushed by neocons both to deflect criticism of their false assurances about WMD in Iraq and to open a new military front against another Israeli nemesis, Syria.

In these circumstances, there may be some value in keeping the NIE update bottled up. At least that way, Clapper and other malleable managers won’t have the chance to play chef to another “cooked-to-order” analysis.

On the other hand, the neocons and our invertebrate president may well decide to order Clapper to “fix” the updated Estimate to fit in better with a policy of confrontation toward Iran. In that case, the new director of national intelligence might want to think twice. For Clapper could come a cropper. How?

The experience of 2007 showed that there are still some honest intelligence analysts around with integrity and guts – and with a strong aversion to managers who prostitute their work. This time around, such truth-tellers could opt for speedy, anonymous ways of getting the truth out – like, say, WikiLeaks.

This article appeared first on ConsortiumNews.com.

EU: Despite Promises, Israel Never Eased Gaza Blockade
Still Blocking Construction Materials, Exports
by Jason Ditz, antiwar.com
Israel has expressed outrage tonight following complaints from European Union Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton that they had failed to live up to their commitments to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Israel grudgingly announced the easement of the blockade in the wake of the May attack on a Gaza bound aid ship, an attack which killed a number of aid workers. Despite the pledge successfully calming criticism of the blockade for a time, Israel kept the system largely in place, including blocking the UN from building schools in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein slammed the complaints, saying that Israel has done all they intend to do but that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” a claim which Israeli officials have been making since the blockade began.

Israel’s blockade has included a number of bizarre restrictions, including a blanket ban on chocolate and cardamom. Though Israel appears to have eased these bans somewhat, the more pressing issues of construction material, still banned after Israel destroyed half the strip in 2009, and a blanket ban on all exports, remain in place.

National Insecurity
American Jews haven’t stood up for Jonathan Pollard. That might finally be changing.

–Editor’s note–Whenever anyone of the “gentile persuasion” suggests that Jews (by nature of the rearing they receive in their synagogues, shuls and shtetls) nurse “divided loyalties”, a hurricane of screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth in evitably ensues. However, the evidence is overwhelming that this is indeed the case, and no better proof of it exists than in the push to have this mass murderer Jonathon Pollard released from prison. Remember–IF HE WERE A MUSLIM and anyone of whatever ‘persuasion’ were kvetching for his release, such an advocate  would be lucky that the only negative thing occuring to them would be social condemnation.

 

–Jonathan Pollard, who is now marking his 24th year in prison, has earned the dubious record of serving the longest prison term in American history for spying for an ally. Convicted of espionage in 1987, Pollard was the suburban American Jewish dream turned nightmare: a good, middle-class, high-achieving boy turned traitor. The son of a college professor, smart enough to graduate from Stanford, patriotic enough to be hired to work in naval intelligence, he made a criminal decision to betray his country to help Israel.

And yet new petitions on his behalf have recently begun to circulate, and gain momentum, both in the U.S. Congress and the Israeli Knesset. This is, in large measure, because Pollard’s situation rests on a contradiction: He was guilty of a reprehensible crime, and yet he has been treated abominably. One of the most infamous Jewish criminals in modern times, he is also the victim of the worst act of official American anti-Semitism in our lifetimes. With his round face and shoulder-length hair, Pollard today still looks more like a perpetual grad student than an arch criminal, but he has suffered severely. He has served hard time, mostly in maximum-security prisons, spending years in lockdown 23 hours a day. Websites pleading his case detail his medical ailments, noting that he has “developed diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-glaucoma, and arthritis while in prison.”

From the moment he was sentenced, there were people in the Jewish community—and beyond—who believed Pollard had been unjustly punished and who fought for his release. But they were few and far between, and they often made the wrong case for him. This newest round of argument on Pollard’s behalf is different. For starters, many of his champions have been careful not to lionize him. Rather, they focus on correcting what Judge Stephen Williams, who filed a dissent in one of Pollard’s failed appeals, deemed “a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Most surprisingly, on September 27, 2010, a former assistant secretary of Defense confirmed many people’s decades-long fears that, at some point, the case had turned personal—and poisonous. Without explaining what prompted him to break his silence, Lawrence Korb, who served in the Pentagon in Reagan’s first term, wrote President Barack Obama: “Based on my first-hand knowledge, I can say with confidence that the severity of Pollard’s sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.”

Decades into this tragic and pathetic tale, American Jewry’s continuing allergy to defending Pollard says more about our communal fears and the price we are willing to pay for social and political acceptance than it does about Pollard and his crimes.

***

On November 21, 1985, FBI agents arrested Pollard, 31 at the time, just outside Israel’s embassy in Washington. Since June 1984, Pollard had been routinely removing sensitive documents from the Naval Intelligence Support Center on Friday afternoons, passing them to his Israeli handlers for Xeroxing, and blithely returning them on Monday mornings. When first interrogated by the FBI, Pollard called his wife. After he worked the word “cactus” into the conversation, their designated SOS code word, Anne Henderson-Pollard scurried about their house—with a neighbor’s help—sanitizing it. The neighbor subsequently gave the FBI a 70-pound suitcase filled with secret documents, reflecting the volume of Pollard’s activities and sloppiness.

Despite transferring thousands of documents to his Israeli handlers, Pollard failed to gain asylum at the embassy on that day in 1985. Backpedaling furiously, Israel first labeled Pollard a rogue agent, as his handlers worked out of a shadowy organization called Lekem, the Defense Ministry’s Bureau for Scientific Relations. The department, headed by the legendary Mossad man Rafi Eitan, was disbanded shortly after Pollard’s arrest. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995—long after such a move could have done him any good. And it wasn’t until 1998 that Israel finally acknowledged what everyone knew: Pollard had been an authorized agent spying for Israel.

An American Jew’s arrest as an Israeli spy was upsetting enough for American Jews. But Pollard’s defense made the affair excruciating. Minimizing the thousands of dollars he earned, the diamond-and-sapphire ring the Israelis gave him, and his efforts to shop American secrets to South Africa and possibly Pakistan, too, Pollard portrayed himself as a Zionist idealist. Anti-Semites bullied him as a child, he recalled. He claimed that the documents he smuggled out, so crucial to Israeli security, should have been shared freely. And, using a most obnoxious and threatening term, he said a “racial obligation” compelled him, as a Jew, to defend the Jewish state.

Suddenly, amid Ronald Reagan’s resurgence of hard-bodied patriotic machismo, in the age of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo and Clint Eastwood’s tough-guy “make my day” taunt, a balding, mustachioed, jowly-faced American Jewish nerd in glasses was betraying the red, white, and blue for the blue and white. Pollard’s crimes epitomized Zionism-run-amok, with the ideological implications of Jewish tribal solidarity pushed to its extreme.

“I feel my husband and I did what we were expected to do, and what our moral obligation was as Jews, what our moral obligation was as human beings, and I have no regrets about that,” Anne Pollard said defiantly on 60 Minutes shortly before being sentenced, one of many arrogant, self-destructive moves the couple made back then. While stirring up the terrifying “dual loyalty” charge—far more terrifying to Jews than to Irish-Americans and other hyphenated Americans—the Pollards defined every Jew’s ultimate loyalty as being to the Jewish state. Desperately repudiating the charge, the prominent academic Jacob Neusner would declare America to be the true “promised land.”

This American Jewish skittishness regarding Pollard was particularly surprising because by the 1980s American Jews were thriving in America’s suburban meritocracy. Some American Jewish superstars were accented immigrants like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel. But most American Jewish success stories were 100 percent American. Speaking unaccented English, they were supposed to be unscarred psychologically, unapologetically American.

***

American Jews had been here before. Three decades before Pollard made headlines, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s arrest, trial, and conviction as Soviet spies for stealing atomic secrets rendered the American Jews’ nightmare scenario in pinkish hues. But in the 1950s, American Jews were greener, more marginal. Julius Rosenberg represented the intellectual, foreign-born, New York Jew as Communist, at a time when Communism was disproportionately popular among Jews.

With the Rosenbergs—as with the Pollards—the rightness of finding them guilty was often confused with the wrongness of their punishment. The zeal with which they were prosecuted, the way Judge Irving Kaufman presided over their trial, and Ethel Rosenberg’s unjust execution along with her husband, all suggested something deeper in both the American Jewish psyche and the larger American political culture. The American legal establishment particularly enjoyed prosecuting these treasonous Jews, while many American Jews leapt to prove their own loyalty—at the Rosenbergs’ expense.

Just as in the Rosenberg case, the judge presiding over Pollard’s sentencing was swayed to render too harsh a punishment—a decision that kicked up new waves of suspicion and anxiety.

In an effort to keep his wife out of prison, Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of espionage. His wife, Anne, then 26, pleaded guilty to the milder charge of illegally possessing classified documents. In return, the prosecutor asked the judge to punish Pollard with a “substantial number of years in prison.” During the sentencing phase, one voice proved damningly influential. In a secret 46-page-pre-sentencing “damage-assessment memorandum” sent to the judge—and an additional four-page memo that was recently declassified—Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger made a fierce argument. “It is difficult … to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel,” wrote Weinberger, before adding—malevolently and unnecessarily—that Pollard’s “loyalty to Israel transcends his loyalty to the United States.”

Judge Aubrey Robinson Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sentenced Jonathan Pollard to life in prison and his wife to five years. (After Anne Henderson-Pollard served three-and-a-half years, she was paroled. Jonathan Pollard divorced her so she could rebuild her life without him.) The sentence was surprisingly harsh. By comparison, in 1987 Sgt. Clayton Lonetree, who’d been seduced by a Soviet agent, became the first Marine ever convicted of espionage. His crimes compromised agents and the American embassy in Moscow. Yet a military court—under Weinberger’s direct authority—sentenced Lonetree to 30 years in prison, and he eventually served nine years. Richard Miller, an FBI agent who spied for the Soviets in the 1980s, served 13 years. Spies for other allies, like Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Egypt, and the Philippines, served anywhere from two to four years, with maximum sentences of 10 years. Pollard’s extreme sentence—along with the continuing refusal to free him–has raised questions about official American anti-Semitism and whether Pollard is enduring harsher punishment for the crime of being an American Jew spying for Israel.

Given that neither Weinberger nor Robinson ever explained their actions, the Pollard case remained shrouded in this noxious mystery. Years later, Weinberger would skip over the case in his memoirs and, when asked about the omission, would dismiss the Pollard case as a “very minor matter.” But it’s clear that his accusation that Pollard committed “treason”—and harmed the nation—had a devastating impact.

In his recent letter, Lawrence Korb suggested that Weinberger, his former boss, had exaggerated the damage Pollard caused and that an anti-Semitic bias distorted the case. From the start, some speculated that Weinberger, who had Jewish grandparents but was a devout Episcopalian, sacrificed Pollard to exorcise his own ancestral demons. There was something about this pudgy, sloppy, unapologetic Jewish spy for Israel that repulsed Weinberger. Weinberger was also one of the Reagan Administration’s leading Israel skeptics. Caught in a power struggle with the pro-Israel Secretary of State George Shultz, Weinberger usually viewed the Jewish state as more albatross than asset.

More benign observers guessed that the secrets Pollard spilled did more damage to U.S. interests than Pollard or the Israelis suggested. Perhaps, some argued, Russian spies secured key codes thanks to Israeli-based KGB agents. Others assumed Pollard received instructions from a higher-level mole who remains unexposed. After Aldrich Ames’ arrest for spying in 1994, some speculated that Weinberger and others may have blamed Pollard for the damage Ames had actually caused, including the deaths of as many as 10 CIA assets. The author John Loftus and others theorized that Ames, who was a top CIA counter-intelligence official, probably pinned his own crimes on Pollard. In 1995, Moment magazine editor Hershel Shanks would quote Loftus quoting naval intelligence “sources” who admitted that “90 percent of the things we accused [Pollard] of stealing, he didn’t even have access to.”

***

After Pollard’s sentencing, New York Times columnist William Safire warned that Pollard encouraged “anti-Semites who charge that Jews everywhere are at best afflicted with dual loyalty and at worst are agents of a vast fifth column.” Issuing a personal declaration of independence from Israel, Safire proclaimed: “American supporters of Israel cannot support wrongdoing here or there. In matters of religion and culture, many of those supporters are American Jews, but in matters affecting national interest and ultimate loyalty, the stonewalling leaders of Israel will learn to think of us as Jewish Americans.”

But one keen observer of American Jewry, the political scientist Daniel Elazar, noticed that it was American Jews—and not their non-Jewish neighbors—who were actually raising the dual-loyalty specter, “apparently in the hope of preventing the issue from surfacing by raising the charge in order to deny it. Even more frequently, it was raised by Jews in the media, most of whom were highly assimilated but still apparently needed to demonstrate their ‘bona fides’ as Americans.” Elazar concluded: “The level of American Jewish insecurity is astounding.”

American Jews still viewed themselves and their community as on probation in the United States, with their ultimate acceptance conditional on good behavior. This pathology would be stated clearly, if unconsciously, years later, by one of the highest-ranking Jews in American history, who served his country nobly as director of naval intelligence from 1978 to 1982 and yanked Pollard’s security clearance—temporarily—years before the spying began. Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro sounded like a scared yid when discussing Pollard. Annoyed at fringe American Jewish groups that defended Pollard, Shapiro told the Washington Post in 1998: “We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have somebody screw it up … and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me.”

All minorities want to celebrate their tribal successes as reflecting the best of their people without being tarred when one of their own acts poorly. And given the torturous history of anti-Semitism, American Jews feel this intensely. We circulate lists of Jewish Nobel prize winners, delighting in each American Jewish success, using Jewish achievements to validate our rich but complex Jewish baggage. And while we reserve the right to cringe when a Bernard Madoff becomes the modern face of the greedy Jew or a Jonathan Pollard becomes the modern face of the traitorous Jew, we also reserve the right to object when our neighbors make similar leaps from the one bad apple to the whole bunch.

Nearly two years after Pollard’s arrest, with the sentencing returning the case to the headlines, the Israeli academic Shlomo Avineri zeroed in on this American Jewish insecurity—and inconsistency. Writing in the Jerusalem Post, first condemning Pollard as a traitor and his own government as clumsy, Avineri mocked the “nervousness, insecurity, and even cringing” of American Jews. Playing the role of the abrasive Israeli—or biblical prophet—Avineri wrote: “Today, American Jewish leaders by their protestations of over-zealous loyalty to the United States at a moment when no one is really questioning it, are saying that America in the long run is no different from France and Germany. When you have to over-identify, there is no other proof needed that you think that your non-Jewish neighbors are looking askance at your Americanism. You are condemned by your own protestations of loyalty and flag-waving.” At a time when Israel’s actions made it unpopular with many American Jews, Avineri’s aggressively Zionist analysis only exacerbated tensions.

***

The controversy–and speculation–peaked during the Wye River negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in October 1998. Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first round as Israel’s prime minister, lobbied hard for Pollard’s release. President Bill Clinton seemed set to free him as a sweetener to Israel until the CIA director, George Tenet, threatened to resign. Such power politicking against a spy who had been imprisoned for over a decade reinforced both camps’ speculation. Those who fear anti-Semitism say this irrational move reflects a deep aversion in the WASP-iest bastions of the American government. Those who believe Pollard did more damage than we know insist that the usually mild-mannered Tenet had a good reason to be so rigid.

To Israeli settlers, Pollard’s case symbolizes the anti-Semitism of even benign non-Jewish polities such as the United States and the weak-kneed appeasement policies of successive Israeli governments, which have failed to free Pollard. The most popular pro-Pollard bumper sticker in Israel simply appeals for Pollard to come home “haBaytah,” but a few years ago one poster challenged: “BUSH: FREE YOUR CAPTIVE.” This poster not only targeted a good friend of Israel’s, George W. Bush, but it pictured Pollard with the young Israeli Hamas is holding, Gilad Shalit. The implicit comparisons, between the innocent Shalit and the guilty Pollard, as well as between the democratic United States and the terrorist-state Hamas, were offensive. While the right’s support has sustained Pollard emotionally, it may have made his get-out-of-jail card even harder to get. The Israeli right is unpopular with both the American Jewish community and the American political establishment, making Pollard even more unappealing.

***

However unappealing he may be, the time has come to free Jonathan Pollard—not as some sop to Israelis but as a matter of justice. Holding an individual hostage to the vagaries of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process is cruel and unusual punishment. The Pollard case has become a question of justice, American-style, unrelated to American-Israeli relations. And justice when applied too zealously becomes unjust. For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil-rights organizations have taught that we take up certain criminals’ cases not because we like the criminals or excuse their crimes but because, at a certain point, it becomes the right thing to do.

Imagine another case in which an accused man served a disproportionately long sentence after being tried in a court where direct pressure was applied by the secretary of Defense for reasons that may well have been mistaken or personally motivated. If there was another such case, one imagines that it would attract lots of attention from the ACLU and other groups concerned with the civil liberties of Americans. So why are they silent? More to the point, why are we silent?

If the Pollard case represents the worst of American anti-Semitism, then, by historic standards, anti-Semitism American style is mild indeed. Still, that American Jews, despite their long record of defending the underdog, still hestitate to champion Pollard’s release now, suggests that we—like Jonathan Pollard—remain victims of the “astounding” insecurity Elazar witnessed two decades ago.

Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University in Montreal and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, is the author of six books on American history and Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today.

 

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  1. #1 by Perry L on November 23, 2010 - 6:29 pm

    “Poor Jonathan Pollard the victim of American anti-Semitism”…yes a whole new “bloody flag” to wave over this cretin re-enforcing the message of Israel to American Jews in 2010 – 2011 “Come ‘home’ to Israel it’s not safe for you anywhere else”.

  2. #2 by frank on November 23, 2010 - 8:34 pm

    Let Isreal free the thousands of Palestinians in its jails and they can have the persecuted Mr. Pollard

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