Dear Israel: Better Propaganda, Please

Daniel Ayalon (Wikimedia Commons)

In the lead-up to Israel’s attack on the “Free Gaza” flotilla that left at least nine dead and dozens more wounded, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon claimed that the basic supplies being brought by the more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists–medicine, wheelchairs, construction material–were simply not needed, as “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” a phrase repeated ad nauseam by Israeli press officials. The mission was not a humanitarian one, Ayalon said, but rather “a provocation intended to delegitimize Israel.”

The statement ignored, as it must, the reality on the ground. According to a spokesman for the UN relief agency in occupied Palestine, “There is a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip,” which is to be expected when 1.5 million people are held in a de facto prison, barred from traveling to and trading with the outside world, forbidden the privilege of a functioning economy and faced with severe bombing whenever a car backfires in southern Israel.

But it’s one thing for reality and evidence to contradict state propaganda. That’s the case more often than not. How about when propaganda explicitly contradicts itself?

IDF spokesman Col. Moshe Levi–not one of Israel’s better propagandists, though I’ll concede he has a tough job–proclaimed Tuesday that Israeli soldiers had “been working non-stop for the last 24 hours examining the cargo holds of the three large cargo ships, and I can say with great assurance that none of the equipment on board is needed in Gaza. (more…)

White House Outlines Objections to House Defense Bill – No Mention of Guantanamo Lawyer Investigation

(Photo Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t, Adapted From: El_Enigma, kylelocket / flickr)

In a formal “Statement of Administration Policy” (pdf) released today, President Obama lays out a number of objections to H.R. 5136, the defense authorization bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee last week, even threatening to veto the legislation if Congress does not remove a provision he claims would “seriously disrupt” the Defense Department’s F-35 program and his administration’s plans to purchase 42 of the jet fighters. Notably absent from the list? Any mention of language offered by Florida Republican Jeff Miller — and unanimously approved by the Democrat-controlled panel — that calls on the Pentagon Inspector General to “conduct an investigation of the conduct and practices of lawyers” representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a measure that has been condemned by civil libertarians and others familiar with how legal systems are supposed to work.

As American Bar Association President Carolyn Lamm put it in a letter sent this week to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “The American system of justice depends on the essential role of lawyers in counseling their clients,” which “includes providing zealous and effective counsel, even to those accused of heinous crimes against this nation in the name of causes that evoke our contempt.” In a sane country, this wouldn’t be controversial.

Writing earlier today, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald noted that, despite its approval by the House Armed Services Committee, several barriers remain to the Gitmo provision ultimately becoming law, including a forthcoming House floor vote, a markup in the Senate “and then, if it makes it that far, the President’s signature.” But as Greenwald noted, if the language is to be purged from the bill, “Democrats are going to have to insist on its removal. It remains to be seen if they are willing to do that.”

One Democrat unwilling to insist on its removal? Barack Obama, whose administration appears more concerned with its ability to buy expensive fighter planes than ensuring Gitmo lawyers aren’t harassed and intimidated.

New Military Clandestine Directive Short on Oversight… By Design

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Apparently, you can hide your lying eyes (photo: the|G|™)

The Obama administration has approved covert military operations in a wide number of Middle Eastern countries, The New York Times reports, including in Somalia, Yemen and Iran (not to mention the long-running, kinda sorta covert war in Pakistan). As former National Security Council staffers Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett note, Obama’s move marks a particularly dramatic “intensification of America’s covert war against Iran” — a war that, because it is being run out of the office of General David Petraeus (praise be upon him) and CENTCOM, is “not subject to the same congressional oversight and reporting requirements as the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The Leveretts observe the approach is “powerfully reminiscent” of the Bush administration, which likewise sought to evade formal congressional oversight of its covert war against Iran even as the Democratic Congress authorized $400 million to conduct the operations, reportedly including support for the Pakistan-based terror group Jundullah, or Army of God.

In 2007, I asked then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) about those operations and reports the Bush administration was seeking to avoid the oversight of his panel. Surely, with an unpopular war further dragging down a more unpopular Republican administration, Rockefeller would be champing at the bit to take on a Bush/Cheney effort to gin up another war and (more importantly to a senator) evade his personal congressional fiefdom, even if for purely partisan or egotistical reasons — “I’m a United States senator, god damn it!” — right?

Not so much:

DAVIS: I wonder if you’ve heard some of these news reports that the Bush administration is backing extremist groups in Pakistan to launch attacks against Iran? Are you familiar with those news reports?

ROCKEFELLER: I’ve seen no intelligence that would verify that.

DAVIS: Reports quote administration officials as saying this is going on and it’s being done in a way to avoid oversight of the Intelligence Committee. Is there any way—

ROCKEFELLER: They’ll go to any lengths to do that, as we’ve seen in the last two days [during hearings on warrantless wiretapping].

DAVIS: Is there anything you could do in your position as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee to find answers about this, if it is in fact going on?

ROCKEFELLER: Don’t you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I’m Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me. (more…)