Student Forcibly Expelled to Gaza - 6th in 10 Days

The Palestine Telegraph

A Palestinian student has been handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly expelled to the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops just two months before she was due to graduate from university.

Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the "Container" checkpoint took her identity card and that of another passenger with a Gaza address.

After six hours of waiting, soldiers told her she would be taken to a detention centre in the southern West Bank, and she was handcuffed and blindfolded, she said.

"The driving took longer than it should have and I started to think something was wrong. I started to wonder, what are they doing to me?" After the car stopped and the blindfold was lifted, Ms Azzam saw she was at the Erez crossing to Gaza.

It was the sixth known forced return to Gaza of Palestinians stopped at the "Container" checkpoint - which is between Bethlehem and Abu Dis - in 10 days, according to the Israeli human rights group Gisha. Israel has also been preventing family reunifications in the West Bank for Palestinians with relatives living in Gaza, in effect forcing people to relocate to the Strip.

The steps are part of an Israeli policy of treating Gaza and the West Bank as two separate entities, thereby undermining the coherence of Palestinian claims for a state encompassing both territories. The 1993 Oslo agreement stipulates that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are to be treated as one territorial unit.

Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli defense ministry official, said the reason for Ms Azzam's deportation was that she was "staying illegally" in the West Bank.

"We are talking about a Gaza citizen who requested permission to study in the area of Judea and Samaria and received a negative answer," he said.

"In 2005, she was given a permit to visit Jerusalem for four days and she remained afterwards [in the West Bank] without any permit. Her entire period as a student was based on deceit and was against the law."

Sari Bashi, head of the Israeli Gisha human rights group, who tried to intervene on Ms Azzam's behalf, said she was assured by military lawyers on Wednesday that the student would not be deported to Gaza and that the rights group could seek a judicial review in the morning.

"The military misled us," Ms Bashi said. "There is a violation here of the right to access education, the right to freedom of movement and the right to choose one's place of residence within one's own territory."

The army did not respond to a request for comment.

Brother Jack Curran, vice president for development of Bethlehem University, termed the expulsion "a disgrace". "This is not about politics. It's about a young person finishing her degree. Since 2005 she has been studying as a good student. No one is a winner from this."

Robert Fisk’s World: The truth about the Middle East is buried beneath the headlines

by Robert Fisk

News bureau chiefs in Cairo know who their local spies are but can’t dismiss them

Amira Hass was spot on when she said last week that her lifetime women's award was an award for failure. The West Bank correspondent of the Israeli paper Haaretz eloquently explained herself on al-Jazeera's English channel. She received an award for failure, she said, because despite all the facts that she and her journalistic colleagues had explained about Israeli occupation in Palestine, the world still did not understand what occupation meant and still used words like "terror" and "war on terror". Amira was absolutely correct. Most of our Western press and television are as gutless as ever when they have to participate in what Noam Chomsky described as "the manufacture of consent".

Once government and editors and television management have decided on the "story", you can be sure that an Israeli "wall" will become a "security barrier" or a "fence", a pro-Western Arab dictator a "strongman" and "occupied" Israeli territory will become "disputed"; the unjustly treated will thus become generically violent, brutality softened and occupation legalised. Fred Halliday of the LSE is coming out next June with a book called Shocked and Awed about the artillery and minefields used in the battlefield of language. The "War on Terror" – yes, let's give this trash the capital letters it deserves, as in "South Sea Bubble" – has given us "Gitmo" and "extraordinary rendition" ("extraordinary" indeed!) and imported, as Halliday observes, perversions of imported words such as "jihad".

But I think the problem goes further than this. It's not just a White House-State Department-Pentagon-CNN-Downing Street-Defence Ministry-BBC military-political-journalistic complex. Our masters prefer us not to tangle with the bad guys as well as good guys. Years ago, a Time magazine reporter in Cairo packed his note-book with facts about the routine Egyptian police torture of prisoners. But the US ambassador in Cairo persuaded the bureau chief to hold off because he understood that Mubarak was going to "crack down" on such abuses. Ho ho! Time didn't run the story and, of course, the abuses got worse. Shortly afterwards, jail guards were forcing Egyptian prisoners to rape each other.

And nothing has changed. The big Western news agencies which have headquartered their Middle East offices in Cairo are as loath to touch these stories today as they were more than a decade ago. It's just the same in that other friendly Muslim ally of ours, Turkey. But let's start in Cairo. When the "peace process" – remember that tacky phrase? – was about to reach fruition almost 15 years ago, the big wire agencies poured millions into new offices and staffs in Mubarak's gleaming capital of democracy. And what happened? As usual, the Egyptian Mukhabarat security agencies inserted their own lads into the bureaux – or blackmailed Egyptian reporting staff – to spy on the journalistic output. All bureau chiefs in Cairo know who their local spies are. But, of course, they can't dismiss them.

Nor can they report the news that their "news" agency is supposed to be telling us about. The mere hint of an anti-Mubarak story – I am omitting from this the courageous coverage of the shameful behaviour of the cops in mauling and beating female as well as male protesters during the anti-Mubarak "Enough movement's demonstrations – and the Ministry of Information will be calling in the relevant bureau chief for a chat. Even a formal Egyptian denial won't do you much good. There will be serious consequences if there is a repeat. Closing down the bureau, perhaps, having wasted all those millions on installing the office in the first place?

Which is why almost all Cairo-datelined coverage of police savagery in Egypt contains only reports on London-issued protests from Amnesty or Human Rights Watch, followed by the necessary Egyptian condemnation of the human rights groups. In other words, the investment in such Western news bureaux has now become more important than the news for which the original investment was made. But let's move to my old favourite, Turkey.

Now we all know that the Armenian genocide of 1915 was a fact of history, that one and a half million Armenian men, women and children were raped, knifed, burned and shot to death by the Ottoman Turks. But I was reminded of the historical depths of this first holocaust of the last century when a friend of mine, Catherine Sheridan, gave me a leather-bound book from her late husband Don's library. It's called Syria, the Holy Land and Asia Minor by John Carne Esq, printed by Fisher, Son and Co of Newgate Street, London, in 1836. And what did Mr Carne Esq see at Antioch?

"Among those visited by the cruelties of the Greek revolution was an Armenian lady of Constantinople, a young and handsome widow, whose husband was recently murdered... dejection and sorrow were stamped on her pale... features... the blow had been too sudden and ruthless; her home, her husband, her love, to all of which her heart clung intensely, were cruelly taken..." Her husband, of course, was a victim of the Greek war of independence against the Ottoman Turks – the same war during which Lord Byron died at Missolonghi in 1823. So Armenians were being murdered almost a century before their genocide; and indeed were slaughtered by the tens of thousands towards the end of the 19th century, again before the genocide.

So how do our defenders of the Western press refer to the Armenian genocide? Here is Reuters on 13 October this year, referring to "hostility stemming from the First World War mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Armenia says it was genocide, a term Turkey rejects". And here's the Associated Press next day: "Armenia and many historians say Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians early in the last century, a charge that Turkey denies."

Can you imagine the uproar if Reuters referred to the "mass killing" of Jews by Germans with the words: "Jews say it was a genocide, a term right-wing Germans and neo-Nazis reject." Or if AP were to report that "Israel and many historians say German Nazis committed genocide against Jews in the Second World War, a charge (sic) German right-wingers, etc, deny". It would be an outrage. But no one, of course, is going to close the Reuters or AP bureaux in Berlin. In Ankara and Istanbul bureaux, however, it's clearly another matter. Well, I suppose those staff could always ask to be transferred to their Cairo offices – where they can indulge in the same kind of sophistry.

No, Chomsky was wrong. It's not about consent. It's about the manufacture of social, political and historical denial. The motto is familiar and simple: always give in to the bully.

On extremists, moderates, and us

by Laila El-Haddad

As mentioned in my previous post, I took up the invitation to participate in a panel of “progressive” Israel/Palestine bloggers/writers/activists Monday. The space for the program was offered by J Street, but the panel itself was not affiliated with them (they did not even include it in the official program of events). Both were independent of one another, an odd relationship which came characterize the session itself. I was unsure what the nature of the session was supposed to be-or for the entire conference for that matter.

In any case, the panel included an impressive list of some 12 bloggers (academics, writers, and so on) including Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss, Helena cobban, Max Blumenthal, Brian Walt, Sydney Levy and so on.

I arrived a few minutes late to a packed conference hallways and overflowing room, and snaked my way to the front. I have to admit, for the first 15 minutes or so, I felt oddly out of place as I tried to sort things out.

When I was asked to introduce myself and speak a little about Gaza, I really didn’t know what to say besides how disconnected and remote I have come to feel. “So say that” suggested Richard Silverstein “because ultimately that is what a siege and total blockade intends to achieve, what occupation does”. And so I did. My father stood silently by in the back of the room. I referred to him, to both my parents, to my family, to everyone in Gaza;

How hard it was simply to live there, and then, to leave, or return. You are always feeling like a stranger, always feeling dislocated. Now more than ever. The only thing linking me are pictures and memories. I read the news and I feel so far away.

And then the others chattered, mainly about the role of J Street, was it bad, was it good, did it have potential, the lesser of two evils…and on and on.

Half an hour in, I was silent, still wondering what I was doing there. Then Ray Hanania spoke via webcam, in the nauseating meaningless expressions that could be uttered by anyone from Ariel Sharon to Ghandi “we must isolate the extremists on both sides and reach out to the moderates in order ot achieve peace, and we all know that is based on the vision of two-states for two people’s… blahbity blahbity blah…”.
“Ray” one of the moderators confessed, “you make it so easy for Jews to speak to you”.

ok, I’d had enough. I shook my head, raised my hand and just sort of let it all out: “I’m sorry I really have to say something here. I’ve been quietly listening to what everyone has been saying for 20 minutes now- feeling confused and very much out of place, as I listen to people talking about moderates and achieving peace and …I just have to ask: What is everyone talking about? This is not real. What two states? What ‘peace’? Are we living on different planets? Has anyone seen a map of the West Bank lately? Of the settlements? Do you know what the settlements have done? what the wall looks like? Everyone is speaking about “two states”, about an independent viable palestine as if that’s real. As though it were something just within our reach. And all I can think about is Gaza. My parents. My husband, a refugee, who can’t even go back with me when I was able to go back. The West Bank. Jerusalem. This is not real anymore. I’m really not understanding what we’re doing here, and where I fit in to all of this, and what everyone is talking about.”

The conversation was way behind. Step off the tracks and take a look around, I thought.

“We can’t continue to speak like this, its an illusion people. I really also have to protest this dichotomous notion of there being extremists and moderates-who is the extremist here? Are Ray, and others, suggesting that President Abbas and the PA are the moderates? that they are the ones to reach out to? Let me let you in on a little secret: Most Palestinians dont’ support Abbas. I certainly don’t consider him my president-his term expired in January. Where are all the other Palestinian voices? I am an observant Muslim; I also support a democratic one state solution; but I’m not Fateh or Hamas or anything else- I’m certainly pro-justice; do you consider me an extremist then? The palestinian political spectrum is very diverse and pluralistic-its high time we recognized that and include these other voices in the conversation.”

But of course, that would not be very convenient, would it?

Anyway I’d said my piece. There were appluase and whatnot, and the conversation continued. I never did receive a response form Hanania, since based on his conversations on his radio programs, I would be considered among the “fringe”, a voice that the Palestinain leadership does not WANT to include in its conversation;

But if Jon Stewart’s valiant conversation with Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer last night is any indication, perhaps that is getting ready to change, at least as far as the US media is concerned (ok that’s a stretch, but it was a good start!)

Shot after photographing the Gaza sea

by Eva Bartlett

On 4 October, Ashraf Abu Suleiman, a 16-year-old from Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, went to the northwest coast town of Sudaniya to visit an ill school friend. The teen then went to the sea, where he rolled up the legs of his pants, waded into the water and enjoyed the late summer morning. He took some photos of the sea and of the area around him, intending to play with the photos later on Photoshop, a hobby he and his father share.

Minutes later, Ashraf was running in blind terror as Israeli soldiers in a gunboat off the coast began shooting at Palestinian fishermen. He was hit by an Israeli soldier’s bullet which bore through his neck and grazed his vertebrae, fracturing C-4 and C-5, leaving him bleeding on the ground and unable to stand up.

“They were shooting at Palestinian fishermen in hassakas [small fishing vessels],” he said of the Israeli soldiers in the gunboat. “Some of the bullets were hitting near where I stood. I started to run north. I didn’t think about where to run, I just ran.”

He estimates he ran for a few minutes, soon approaching the northern border before an Israeli soldier’s voice shouted over a megaphone for him to stop. Seeing an Israeli military vehicle in the distance ahead, Ashraf was afraid that the soldiers north of him would start shooting. He kept running, hoping to take cover behind a low hill nearby.

Then he was grounded, one of the bullets hitting him in the neck.

The Ma’an news agency reported, “an Israeli military spokeswoman says soldiers identified a ’suspicious Palestinian man’ approaching the border fence, and fired warning shots in the air. After the Palestinian ignored warning shots, the spokeswoman said, the army fired at and lightly injured him.”

At least eight Palestinians have been killed and at least 33 injured in the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” along Gaza’s border since the 18 January ceasefire. Three of the killed and 12 of the injured were minors, including many children.

The “buffer zone” was imposed by Israeli authorities about a decade ago, initially at 150 meters and now while Israeli authorities say the no-go zone runs 300 metres from the boundary between Gaza and Israel, it ranges up to two kilometers in some areas. The buffer zone renders off-limits approximately 30 percent of Gaza’s most fertile agricultural land, as well as the land adjacent to it. Israeli authorities warn that anyone entering that area is subject to being shot by the Israeli army.

“I don’t know how close I was, maybe less than 400 meters from the fence,” Ashraf said.

Three Israeli soldiers approached him on foot, Ashraf explained. “An Israeli soldier kicked me in the mouth and told me to stand up. I couldn’t, my legs wouldn’t move.”

According to Ashraf, an Israeli soldier dragged him by his arms over the rough ground. After another kick to the face, he was put on a stretcher and carried across the northern border to a waiting Israeli jeep.

After they checked his identity via computer, Ashraf said that the Israeli soldiers told him: “You’re 16 years and one month old. You’re a student.” Although the soldiers realized that he was harmless, they continued to treat him with contempt.

“They put me in a jeep and we drove for a while, maybe 20 minutes, I don’t know exactly. Then they transferred me to an Apache helicopter and flew me to a military base near Erez. I don’t know the name but I know it wasn’t so far from Erez. There was a small clinic there where they gave me a little first aid,” he said, recalling that this treatment was at least 30 minutes after his injury.

“They put some gauze and bandaging on my neck wound,” Ashraf said. He then was made to wait as a Palestinian medic negotiated his return to a Gaza hospital.

Hassam Ghrenam, a Palestine Red Crescent Society medic and ambulance driver, had approval to cross into Israel for two medical cases unrelated to Ashraf. While on the Israeli side, Ghrenam saw Ashraf and requested to take him back to Gaza.

Ashraf explained that Ghrenam wanted to bring three other men, to transfer him carefully as medical procedure dictates. The Israeli soldiers refused the request and Ashraf had to wait for more than an hour until the soldiers finally relented.

“There were maybe 30 Israeli soldiers around us. The ambulance driver kept saying, ‘he’s critical, very critical, take him to Israel,’ but the soldiers just pointed their guns at him and did nothing,” Ashraf explained.

Ghrenam noted that there was blood and signs that Ashraf was beaten or kicked in the face. According to Ghrenam, “The Israelis only put a bandage on his wound, no neck collar, no proper treatment. I immediately put a neck collar on him. Injuries to the neck and spinal cord can lead to paralysis.”

At the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, Ghrenam passed Ashraf to a waiting Red Crescent ambulance which immediately transferred the youth to Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital. He is now in the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital, and doctors and Ashraf’s parents wait to see whether his fractured vertebrae will heal well enough so he can walk again.

Ashraf’s father is not optimistic. “Every day we wait I feel like his life is withering. I’m worried about his future.”

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who arrived in Gaza in November 2008 on the third Free Gaza Movement boat. She has been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement and documenting Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. During Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, she and other ISM volunteers accompanied ambulances and documenting the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.


The Holocaust In Cambodia

by John Pilger

John Pilger recalls the stricken society he found in Cambodia in 1979 which he described in his epic dispatches and documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia He reminds us that the Pol Pot horror emerged from the bombing ordered by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, and that Cambodia was again "punished" when its liberators came from the wrong side of the cold war and the Thatcher government send special forces to train the Khmer Rouge in exile

The aircraft flew low, following the Mekong River west from Vietnam. Once over Cambodia, what we saw silenced all of us on board. There appeared to be nobody, no movement, not even an animal, as if the great population of Asia had stopped at the border.

Whole villages were empty. Chairs and beds, pots and mats lay in the street, a car on its side, a bent bicycle. Behind fallen power lines lay or sat a single human shadow; it did not move. From the paddies, lines of tall wild grass followed straight lines. Fertilised by the remains of thousands upon thousands of men, women and children, these marked common graves in a nation where as many as two million people, or more than a quarter of the population, were “missing”.

At the liberation of the Nazi death camp in Belsen in 1945, The Times correspondent wrote: “It is my duty to describe something beyond the imagination of mankind.” That was how I felt in 1979 when I entered Cambodia, a country sealed from the outside world for almost four years since “Year Zero”.

Year Zero had begun shortly after sunrise on April 17, 1975 when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge guerrillas entered the capital, Phnom Penh. They wore black and marched in single file along the wide boulevards. At one o’clock, they ordered the city abandoned. The sick and wounded were forced at gunpoint from their hospital beds; families were separated; the old and disabled fell beside the road. “Don’t take anything with you,” the men in black ordered. “You will be coming back tomorrow.”

Tomorrow never came. An age of slavery began. Anybody who owned cars and such “luxuries”, anybody who lived in a city or town or had a modern skill, anybody who knew or worked with foreigners, was in grave danger; some were already under sentence of death. Out of the Royal Cambodian Ballet company of 500 dancers, perhaps 30 survived. Doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers were starved, or worked to death, or murdered.

For me, entering the silent, grey humidity of Phnom Penh was like walking into a city the size of Manchester in the wake of a nuclear cataclysm which had spared only the buildings. There was no power, no drinking water, no shops, no services of any kind. At the railway station trains stood empty at various stages of interrupted departure. Personal belongings and pieces of clothing fluttered on the platforms, as they fluttered on the mass graves beyond.

I walked along Monivong Avenue to the National Library which had been converted to pigsty, as a symbol, all its books burned. It was dream-like. There was wasteland where the Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral had stood; it had been dismantled stone by stone. When the afternoon monsoon rains broke, the deserted streets were suddenly awash with money. With every downpour a worthless fortune of new and unused banknotes sluiced out of the Bank of Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge had blown up as they fled.

Inside, a cheque book lay open on the counter. A pair of glasses rested on an open ledger. I slipped and fell on a floor brittle with coins.

For the first few hours I had no sense of even the remains of a population. The few human shapes I glimpsed seemed incoherent, and on catching sight of me, would flit into a doorway. A child ran into a wardrobe lying on its side which was his or her refuge. In a crumbling Esso filling station an old woman and three emaciated infants squatted around a pot containing a mixture of roots and leaves, which bubbled over a fire fuelled with paper money: such grotesque irony: people in need of everything had money to burn.

At a primary school called Tuol Sleng, I walked through what had become the “interrogation unit” and the “torture and massacre unit”. Beneath iron beds I found blood and tufts of hair still on the floor. “Speaking is absolutely forbidden,” said a sign. “Before doing something, anything, the authorisation of the warden must be obtained.”

After a while, one sound had a terrible syncopation: rising and falling day and night. Without milk and medicines, children were stricken with preventable disease like dysentery. It seemed that the very fabric of the society had begun to unravel. The first surveys revealed that many women had stopped menstruating.

What compounded this was the isolation imposed on Cambodia by the West because its liberators, the Vietnamese, had come from the wrong side of the cold war, having driven America out of their country in 1975. Cambodia had been the West’s dirty secret since President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger ordered a “secret bombing”, extending the war in Vietnam into Cambodia in the early 1970s, killing hundreds of thousands of peasants. “If this doesn’t work,” an aide heard Nixon say to Kissinger, “it’ll be your ass, Henry.” It worked in handing Pol Pot his chance to seize power.

When I arrived in the aftermath, no Western aid had reached Cambodia. Only Oxfam defied the Foreign Office in London, which had lied that the Vietnamese were obstructing aid. In September 1979, a DC-8 jet took off from Luxembourg, filled with enough penicillin, vitamins and milk to restore some 70,000 children -- all of it paid for by Daily Mirror readers who had responded to my reports and Eric Piper’s pictures in two historic issues of the paper which sold every copy.

Following on from the Mirror, on October 30, 1979, ITV broadcast Year Zero: the silent death of Cambodia, the documentary I made with the late David Munro. Forty sacks of post arrived at the ATV studios in Birmingham, with £1 million in the first few days. “This is for Cambodia,” wrote an anonymous Bristol bus driver, enclosing his week’s wage. An elderly woman sent her pension for two months. A single parent sent her savings of £50. People expressed that unremitting sense of decency and community which is at the core of British society. Unsolicited, they gave more than £20 million. This helped rescue normal life in faraway country. It restored a clean water supply in Phnom Penh, stocked hospitals and schools, supported orphanages and re-opened a desperately needed clothing factory.

Such an extraordinary public outpouring broke the US and British governments’ blockade of Cambodia. Incredibly, the Thatcher government had continued to support the defunct Pol Pot regime in the United Nations and even sent the SAS to train his exiled troops in camps in Thailand and Malaysia. Last March, the former SAS soldier Chris Ryan, now a best-selling author, lamented in a newspaper interview “when John Pilger, the foreign correspondent, discovered we were training the Khmer Rouge in the Far east [we] were sent home and I had to return the £10,000 we’d been given for food and accommodation”.

Today, Pol Pot is dead and several of his elderly henchmen are on trial in a UN/Cambodian court for crimes against humanity. Henry Kissinger, whose bombing opened the door to the nightmare of Year Zero, is still at large. Cambodians remain desperately poor, dependent on an often seedy tourism and sweated labour.

For me, their resilience remains almost magical. In the years that followed their liberation, I never saw as many weddings or received as many wedding invitations. They became symbols of life and hope. And yet, only in Cambodia would a child ask an adult, as a twelve-year-old asked me, with fear crossing his face: “Are you a friend? Please say.”


The War Condolences Obama Hasn’t Sent

by Amy Goodman

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Chancellor Keesling died in Iraq on June 19, 2009, from “a non-combat related incident,” according to the Pentagon. Keesling had killed himself. He was just one in what is turning out to be a record year for suicides in the U.S. military.

In August, President Barack Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, saying, “[T]here is nothing more sobering than signing a letter of condolence to the family of [a] serviceman or -woman who has given their life for our country.” To their surprise, Jannett and Gregg Keesling, Chance’s parents, won’t be getting such a letter. Obama does not write condolence letters to loved ones of those who commit suicide in the theater of combat. [After making inquiries, the Keeslings discovered that this was not because of an oversight. Instead, it’s because of a longstanding U.S. policy to deny presidential condolence letters to the families of soldiers who take their own lives.]

Jannett told me: “Chancellor was recruited right out of high school, and this was something he was passionate about, joining the military. I wanted him to go to college, but he said that he wanted to be a soldier.” Gregg added: “We had doubts about him joining. ... When the war broke out in 2003, when many of us were trying to retreat, Chancy decided, ‘This is my duty.’ ... But once he did his first tour ... his marriage broke up during that deployment.”

Chance was very troubled during his first tour of duty in Iraq, although he performed admirably by all accounts. At one point he was put on a suicide watch and had his ammunition taken away for a week. After Iraq, Chance declined a $27,000 reenlistment bonus and transitioned to the U.S. Army Reserves, hoping to avoid another deployment. He sought and was receiving treatment at a Veterans Affairs facility. Gregg said, “We sat down as a family, and we said, ‘President Obama is going to be elected, and President Obama will end this war, and you won’t have to go.’ ” But then his son’s orders to deploy came again.

Current laws prevent transfer of mental health information from active-duty military to the reserves, so Chance’s commanders did not know of his previous struggles. Last June, troubled again, he sent his parents a dire e-mail, mentioning suicide. Jannett recalled: “I spoke to Chancellor the night before he died for about four minutes. And as always, he wore a really tough exterior. ... But what he did tell me that night is that he was going to have a very long, difficult day. His conversation was quite brief. Normally he would say that he loves me, and he would say goodbye. But this time he simply hung up.”

The next morning, Gregg said, Chance “locked himself in the latrine and took his own life, with his M-4 ... our grief is deep. The letter won’t stop [our pain]—we’ll still be hollow inside for the rest of our lives, but the acknowledgment from the president that our son gave his life in service to the causes of the United States is important to us.”

The Pentagon admits to a mounting suicide crisis in its ranks. Numbers of acknowledged suicides have steadily climbed, from fewer than 100 in 2005, by one report, to nearly 200 in 2008, with a like number among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Gregg Keesling said that when he and Jannett went to Dover Air Force Base to greet Chance’s coffin, a master sergeant encouraged him to speak out, saying: “I’m greeting a suicide body almost every day. There’s something going on.”

The Keeslings credit Maj. Gen. Mark Graham with helping them through their grief, and working to reduce the stigma of suicide within the military. One of Graham’s sons committed suicide in 2003, while studying as an Army ROTC cadet in college. His other son, also in the Army, deployed to Iraq months later and was killed by a bomb not long thereafter. But the GI Rights Hotline, which advises active-duty soldiers on options for leaving the military, says outside psychological professionals can help suicidal soldiers obtain a medical discharge: “The military wants to know whether the patient can perform their duties without causing trouble, embarrassment or expense. His or her welfare is distinctly less important.”

The United States is engaged in two intractable, massive military occupations, with no end in sight. Obama should certainly write letters of condolence to the Keeslings and to others whose loved ones have found that the only sure way to end the living hell of war, or to escape the horror of its aftermath, is to kill themselves. But an immediate withdrawal from the wars Obama inherited is the only way to stem the bleeding.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback.

Israeli forces demolish tent of evicted family in Sheikh Jarrah

International Solidarity Movement

On Wednesday 28 October, around 50 armed police and border police cordoned off a road in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and, as ordered by the Jerusalem Municipality, demolished a tent, where the Gawi family has been living since they were forcibly evicted from their home on 2 August 2009. The destruction occurred despite the presence of a delegation of members of the European Parliament led by the Vice President Luisa Morgantini.

At 10.15am, the Israeli forces surrounded the tent where a member of the Gawi family was preparing breakfast holding her two year old daughter. Supported by only a few people who were present in the area at this time, she tried to gather at least some of the family’s belongings and verbally protested the violent destruction of their only shelter as the police tore the tent down and confiscated everything that was left. A few mattresses and bedding were thrown in a pile on the pavement, while the tent and other belongings were loaded on a truck. Within minutes, after the police left, the family with the help from the neighbours erected another tent, providing at least minimum shelter for them.

By the time the Israeli forces completed the demolishion, a group of about 80 activists, journalists and palestinians arrived, along with a group of UN workers and members of the European Parliament, to express solidarity witht the evicted family. The Israeli police returned and issued a warning over the loudspeaker that anyone who doesn’t leave the area within five minutes will be arrested. They then ripped down the newly erected marquee, loaded it on a truck and left the area.

At the end the members of the Gawi family thanked friends and supporters for their solidarity and called on all human beings to stand with them in their resistance. The Gawi family, together with the Hannoun family, who are also living on the street nearby after they were evicted from their home, have vowed to continue their struggle to regain their houses from the Israeli settlers and intend to erect another tent whilst they continue to sleep opposite their home and in full sight of the illegal settlers who often abuse and harass them.


The Gawi and Hannoun families, consisting of 53 members including 20 children, have been left homeless after they were forcibly evicted from their houses on 2 August 2009. The Israeli forces surrounded the homes of the two families at 5.30am and, breaking in through the windows, forcefully dragged all residents into the street. The police also demolished the neighbourhood’s protest tent, set up by Um Kamel, following the forced eviction of her family in November 2008.

At present, all three houses are occupied by settlers and the whole area is patrolled by armed private settler security 24 hours a day. Both Hannoun and Gawi families, who have been left without suitable alternative accommodation since August, continue to protest against the unlawful eviction from the sidewalk across the street from their homes, facing regular attacks from the settlers and harassment from the police.

The Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families, all refugees from 1948, who received their houses from the UNRWA and Jordanian government in 1956. All face losing their homes in the manner of the Hannoun, Gawi and al-Kurd families.

The aim of the settlers is to turn the whole area into a new Jewish settlement and to create a Jewish continuum that will effectively cut off the Old City form the northern Palestinian neighborhoods. Implanting new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is illegal under many international laws, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The plight of the Gawi, al-Kurd and the Hannoun families are just a small part of Israel’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from East Jerusalem.

Settlers and army attack farmers in Qaryut, leaving five wounded

International Solidarity Movement

At around 8am, on Tuesday 27 October, olive farmers from the village of Qaryut, south of Nablus, were physically assaulted by settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Shilo. At least two Palestinian children were injured by the settlers, one sustaining an injury to his arm and the second one to his foot. When the Israeli forces arrived, they allowed the settlers to leave the scene, as the soldiers started attacking the Palestinians. One man was hit in the back of his head by a soldier’s rifle, only to find himself detained. The Palestinian farmers were ordered to stop picking and return to Qaryut.

Shortly afterwards, however, the village was raided by the army. Fearing that their fathers, husbands and sons would be arrested, the local women formed a human chain around them. The Israeli army responded to this non-violent act of resistance by showering the women with pepper-spray and hiting them with their rifles. It was at this time that Wegdan Mohammad Khalid, a 42 year old woman from Quryat was hit in the back with a rifle butt by an IDF soldier. She was taken to the emergency room at the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, suffering from great pains in her back. According to Red Crescent medics, at least five Palestinians were treated for injuries during the morning.

In spite of the heroic, non-violent resistance by the women of Quryat, the army managed to arrest one Palestinian and detained him at the police station in Shilo. Following the arrest, a large congregation of Palestinian men and women assembled near the settlement, demanding his release. For several hours, the villagers stood in solidarity with the detained man and were repeatedly pushed around by the Border Police, who prevented them from getting closer to Shilo.

The attack occured on one of the limited dates the District Coordination Committee (DCO) has allocated to Qaryut for picking olives. Today’s events will thereofre have a significant economic impact on the village, as they have been left with a very little time to pick the remaining olives. The DCO dates in theory allow Palestinians to pick their olives in a safe environment, as the army is obliged to protect them from violent settlers on days that have been allocated to them. It is very unlikely that a new date will be given to the village.

Tragic and pointless as this incident was, Palestinian farmers are regularly subjected to such harassment. In April of this year, 900 dunums of land were stolen from the village for the construction of roads solely for the benefit of the army and illegal settlers. While this is defended as ‘necessary for logistics’, there are already reports of the land being used for agriculture by the settlers. Qaryut is surrounded on three sides by these illegal settlements and as such finds itself in a very difficult situation.


War Is a Hate Crime

by Chris Hedges

Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. So is violence against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the bizarre culture of identity politics, there are no alliances among the oppressed. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, passed last week, was attached to a $680-billion measure outlining the Pentagon’s budget, which includes $130 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democratic majority in Congress, under the cover of protecting some innocents, authorized massive acts of violence against other innocents.

It was a clever piece of marketing. It blunted debate about new funding for war. And behind the closed doors of the caucus rooms, the Democratic leadership told Blue Dog Democrats, who are squeamish about defending gays or lesbians from hate crimes, that they could justify the vote as support for the war. They told liberal Democrats, who are squeamish about unlimited funding for war, that they could defend the vote as a step forward in the battle for civil rights. Gender equality groups, by selfishly narrowing their concern to themselves, participated in the dirty game.

“Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who did not vote for the bill, when I spoke to him by phone. “To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally, has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn’t. Worse yet, it finds other ways to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war itself.”

The brutality of Matthew Shepard’s killers, who beat him to death for being gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates, spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously popular—as if it is not part of government. The military values of hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves devoted to maximizing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.

Klaus Theweleit in his two volumes entitled “Male Fantasies,” which draw on the bitter alienation of demobilized veterans in Germany following the end of World War I, argues that a militarized culture attacks all that is culturally defined as the feminine, including love, gentleness, compassion and acceptance of difference. It sees any sexual ambiguity as a threat to male “hardness” and the clearly defined roles required by the militarized state. The continued support for our permanent war economy, the continued elevation of military values as the highest good, sustains the perverted ethic, rigid social roles and emotional numbness that Theweleit explored. It is a moral cancer that ensures there will be more Matthew Shepards.

Fascism, Theweleit argued, is not so much a form of government or a particular structuring of the economy or a system, but the creation of potent slogans and symbols that form a kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. The “core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure,” Theweleit wrote. And our culture, while it disdains the name of fascism, embraces its dark ethic.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, interviewed in 2003 by Charlie Rose, spoke in this sexualized language of violence to justify the war in Iraq, a moment preserved on YouTube:

“What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ ” Friedman said. “ ‘You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna let it grow? Well, suck on this.’ That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.”

This is the kind of twisted logic the killers of Matthew Shepard would understand.

The philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, in words gay activists should have heeded, that exclusive preoccupation with personal concerns and indifference to the suffering of others beyond the self-identified group made fascism and the Holocaust possible.

“The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people,” Adorno wrote. “What is called fellow traveling was primarily business interest: one pursues one’s own advantage before all else, and simply not to endanger oneself, does not talk too much. That is a general law of the status quo. The silence under the terror was only its consequence. The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others, for the fact that only very few people reacted. The torturers know this, and they put it to test ever anew.”

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

Nobel Prize winner asks Obama to help Chagossians

The 2008 Nobel Literature Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio has asked Barack Obama to help Chagossians return to their homeland.

In a letter to the Nobel-peace-prize-wining US president, the French-Mauritian writer asked Obama to authorize the return of Chagossians to Diego Garcia, L'express.mu reported.

The Chagossian people were the habitants of Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomon Islands, as well as parts of the Chagos Archipelago, like Egmont and Eagle Islands.

Mostly coming of an African heritage, Chagossians were brought by the French from Mauritius as slaves in 1786.

"I would draw your attention to an injustice that has lasted forty years. I mean the deportation of people Chagossians," reads the letter published in the French newspaper Le Monde on Oct. 17, 2009.

"These unfortunates were forced to abandon their homes and their property in dire conditions. To those who refused to obey the militia responded with the threat," Le Clézio wrote in his letter.

Leader of the Chagos Refugees Group Olivier Bancoult said he was very touched by Le Clezio's initiative, adding that Obama could bring change to the situation of Chagossians.

The Chagos Archipelago was split off from the Colony in 1965 to form the British Indian Ocean Territory where anyone without a permit was prohibited from residing in the islands.

Between 1967 and 1973, the Chagossians were expelled by the British government, first to the island of Peros Banhos and then to Mauritius.

Some authorities believe their forced and illegal expulsion and dispossession was to establish an American air and naval base on Diego Garcia, where a small group of UK military personnel is stationed as well.

Insanity and the Nobel Peace Prize: Obama and the Rule of Law

by Felicity Arbuthnot

"The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse." Edmund Burke, 1729-1797.

"Oh God! That men should put an enemy in their mouths and steal away their brains." Othello, William Shakespeare, 1546-1616.

Ten months of an Obama Administration seems an eternity away from the hope he had inspired in so many.

"Let's seek a better world in our time", said Obama, as he travelled Abraham Lincoln's path to the January 20th inauguration - coincidentally paraphrasing Winston Churchill's speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri (5th March 1946) where he was introduced by President McClure.

As the President-to-be headed for Washington, to swear the oath on a bible used by Lincoln, did he ponder on Lincoln's: "With malice toward none; with charity for all"?

In the inaugural address Barack Hussein Obama vowed: "To the Muslim world, we seek a way forward, based on mutual respect." The following day, he stated: "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstone of this Presidency." On 24th January, the (London) Independent opined: "With a stroke of the pen, Mr. Obama halted his predecessors ... policy to (bend) the U.S. Constitution and international legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions."

Eight days in, he told Al-Arabiya: "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that Americans are not your enemy" (as he prepared to send thousands more troops to cull humanity in the villages and valleys of Afghanistan.)

Reality chrystalised thirteen days in. On 2nd February, an unamed official stated that some of the tactics of George W. Bush's "Crusade", sorry, "anti-terror" frenzy, needed retaining : "Obviously you need to preserve some troops. You still have to go after the bad guys ... if done within certain parameters it is an accetable practice."

R.I.P., "The rule of law, touchstone .." of the forty fourth Presidency.

The "folly bordering on insanity" of the Afghan invasion has entered it's body-littered eigth year. The gulag that is Bagram (and its counterparts dotted around the globe) remain. The uncharged, condemned, rotting in Guantanamo, may be moved to rot in prisons in the US. Will the world know if any go missing to be spirited into the limbo of another unknown destination? It is also reported that some may be sent to Saudi Arabia, where an Obama spokesman said in chilling Orwell-speak : "Excellent re-education facilities" have been developed.

In Iraq, pogroms, liquidations, summary executions, incarcerations, infanticide, rapes and depravities continue unabated, either at the hand of, or generated by, the U.S. invasion. Unsurprising that Roget's definition' under "killer" include : "slayer" and "soldier."

"Yes we can", now resonates with irony rather than hope, as sabres are also rattled against Iran; Pakistan is bombed by U.S. drones, in indiscriminate liquidations of families, villages, markets - and last month, the poorest of the poor incinerated or blown to infinity, as they syphoned gasoline from two mired tankers, to be bombed by U.S. 'planes. Witness Mohammed Daud described: "Hands, legs and body parts" strewn far and wide.

(In a further oratorial coincidence, "Yes we can", was the rallying cry of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, of the United Farm Workers Union who adopted the phrase for their demands during Chavez twenty four day hunger strike in 1972: "Se, se puedo.")

The slogan has certainly been taken to heart. A little over a month ago, the President of the United States and former President of the Harvard Law Review, in the words of Chris Floyd: "... took a moment out of his busy day to sign an 'execute order'. That is, he ordered American agents to kill a man without any legal procedure whatever: no arrest, no trial, ... no defence and no warning," Quite an "I can."

In an illegality of breath taking scale, on 24th September, reportedly in a multi-forces operation, which included US Navy Seals, six U.S. helicopters invaded Somali air space and attacked vehicles near the coastal town of Barawe seemingly killing Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a twenty eight year old Kenyan Muslim and six others. Nabhan was alleged by the U.S. to have been involved in an attack on a hotel and Israeli airliner in 2002. Some reports have connected him to the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Naturally he is "believed to have connections with" a member of a terrorist group, Al-Shahab, which, inevitable "is believed" to have links with the ultimate bogeyman, al-Qaeda.

So no prosecution, trial, no reading of rights, no defence lawyer. A pile of allegations, six summary executions, illegal entry to a sovereign state (whatever its chaotic realities) two kidnappings, all topped off with a bit of body snatching. The dead and two reported to be alive, were flown to an American war ship off the coast and have not been heard of since.

"The U.S. has not provided official details on the raid or the number of people killed or where the bodies were taken." (1)

Inspite of demands from a cross section of Muslim leaders demanding the bodies back from the Obama Administration, including The Council of Imams and the Preachers of Kenya Organising Secretary, Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, seemingly no response has been forthcoming. Nabhan's Mother, Aisha Abdallah has begged for her son's body.

The President who understands and vowed to "communicate" with the Muslim world, who spent his formative years in a Muslim country, had a Kenyan Muslim father and played on both when, seemingly, it helped enhance his inclusive credentials on the road to election, ordered a gangster-style summary execution of a Kenyan Muslim and others in this foray at the wheel of the ridiculous "war on terrorism", with still over four months to go to his first anniversary in the White House.

In 1995, President Clinton signed Presidential Directive 39, which states:

"If we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbours a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of subjects by force may be affected without the cooperation of the host government." Afghanistan is seemingly a tragic example. The US as global judge, jury and executioner, as ever. And it was always said Obama was a quick learner.

And was "cooperation" even sought from Somalia? No bets on that.

On 9th of October President Obama was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for: "..his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

It was Tom Lehrer who said that: "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." Obama is a good runner up. Having said he was "humbled" to be nominated, he returned to discussing whether to send forty five thousand troops to the graveyard of empires (and Afghans) or, reports have suggested, even sixty five thousand.

And it was the day America bombed the moon.

"Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared", at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame." Amnesty International 1996. (3)

(1) Al Jazeera, 16th September 2009.
(2) Rogue State, William Blum, 2002, Spearhead (updated edition.)
(3) Quoted William Blum, as above.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Felicity Arbuthnot

Islands of shame

by Glyn Ford and Richard Gifford

The Chagossians are continuing their fight after being cheated of their birthright.

The British Government’s decision before the summer to fight the exiled Chagos Islanders – the former inhabitants of Diego Garcia and the surrounding archipelago – in the European Court of Human Rights shows once more that racism and colonialism are alive and well in the hearts of Foreign and Commonwealth Office bureaucrats.

Dismissing the European Court’s suggestion of a “friendly settlement” with this uniquely exiled population of British citizens, the FCO has denied any wrongdoing and even claimed that the islanders have no human rights at all. The hypocrisy is evident in the concurrent insistence that: “We do not defend the morality of what was done in the 1960s and 1970s”. Yet they are turning the screw on the same policy of victimising poor, black and marginalised people who have been robbed of their homeland.

The FCO claims are so false that they border on lies. They are deployed to mislead the European Court. For example, the claim is that it was not really the British who expelled the islanders from their own country, but the plantation company. That firm was acting as the agent of the United Kingdom. The claim is that the islanders really wanted to leave. The fact is that they were duped into signing forms (without translation or explanation) renouncing their rights.

David Vine’s book, Island of Shame, published by Princeton University Press, sets the record straight on this revisionist version of history and explains the duplicity, bribery and concealment with which the project was conceived in Washington, accepted by Harold Wilson’s Government in hock to the United States and perpetuated by subsequent administrations on both sides of the Atlantic. This was done in full knowledge of the fact that the rights of the islanders – who had been there since the plantations started in the 1780s using former slaves – were being denied.

This shameful chapter in imperial history involves the arbitrary and cruel removal of the Chagos Islanders in the early 1970s in exchange for a secret payment of $14 million from the Pentagon. This enabled the United States to develop Diego Garcia as a base to aid in its domination of the third of the globe centred on the Indian Ocean.

The islanders saw none of this money. They were forced to abandon their homes, watch their dogs being killed and then were dragooned onto overcrowded ships to be dumped on the docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

They had children to feed but no money and no homes. Some of them – perhaps the stronger– were reduced to theft and prostitution and ended up in prison. The Chagos Islanders have a higher proportion of people in prison than America’s one in every 100 of its citizens. Weaker Chagossians became victims of the slow death caused by drugs and alcohol. A few took the short cut of suicide. One mother in despair doused herself in petrol before burning herself to death. She left five young children.

Today, two generations later, the Chagossians are still fighting for justice and the right to return to their islands. They’ve lost some court cases and won others. Crucially, the Law Lords ruled against them in 2008. Now they await the final judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.

Why was all this allowed to happen? In the 1960s, Washington’s view was that the threat posed by international communism was real and growing. Meanwhile, the empires of European countries were disintegrating as their component parts sought and achieved independence. After independence, these new nations either tended towards the left or – at best, as far as the US was concerned – were unhelpfully neutral. For the White House, American security was no longer coupled with the possession of territory. Security was a function of access to economic markets and a guaranteed supply of the sinews of power – oil and other raw materials – without which American factories would grind to a halt. The answer was the “Strategic Island Concept” – a global network of frontier forts to envelope the world under a US military umbrella that threatened enemies and protected friends.

In 1894, the US helped to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy in the interests of white settlers and got Pearl Harbour even before annexing the territory in 1898. When Japanese dreams of empire were threatened with strangulation by America’s financial siege that could have bankrupted the country, the US won Okinawa and Guam in the resulting conflict. The only missing piece of the jigsaw was the Indian Ocean.

Diego Garcia and its coral reefs fitted the bill perfectly: isolated, the property of a pliant ally and with a seemingly negligible population. There were a few hitches and delays in Washington. Not everyone recognised the need to project US forces even further, particularly with American troops already bogged down in a war they couldn’t win in Vietnam But finally it was all systems go.

Plans for Diego Garcia included a nightclub, a movie theatre and a gym. It was just necessary to clear the islands of their indigenous residents. Britain bribed and coerced Mauritius into ceding the islands before independence. This country did the US’s dirty work.

The means were redolent of racism in its basest form. In misleading the United Nations Decolonisation Committee eight days after the detachment of Chagos to form a new and fake colony to present to the US, Britain’s man at the UN, one FDW Brown, stated that there were only 1,500 “labourers” who, following “consultation”, would be “resettled”.

In fact, the population was permanent and descended from the original inhabitants 200 years before and so qualified for self-determination under the UN Charter. Brown lied to make his case to the only international body with the power to prevent forced relocation. There had been no consultation with the islanders. There was no resettlement scheme of any kind to help with their deportation to foreign countries, Mauritius and the Seychelles. They weren’t even given the right to be in the Seychelles and had to find extortionate sums for work permits as Chagossian “foreigners”. Mauritius and the Seychelles did nothing to help them. They had been bribed to keep quiet.

Contrast the treatment of the Chagossians with the respect shown by Brown to the Falkland Islanders in that same speech to the UN committee. He said: “This is a small but prosperous community, enjoying a high standard of living, of people of great character and vitality. There is no ground whatever for suggesting that their wishes to this question of their own future should simply be set aside and yet that seems to the tenor of some of the speeches in this debate.

“It has been suggested that this population is somehow irrelevant and that it has no claim to have its wishes taken into account. Some surprising arguments have been advanced in support of this that the people are transient, that there are no births or deaths on the islands, that the people have been planted there by Britain rather than being of indigenous stock and that many of them are employed by the Falkland Islands Company”.

What Brown neglected to say was that the Falkland Islanders were white and the Chagossians were black.

The governor of Chagos, Sir Bruce Greatbach, was more overt in his description of the Chagossians: “It is important when dealing with the problem of the Ilois from Chagos to appreciate what type of people they are. They are extremely unsophisticated, illiterate, untrainable and unsuitable for any work other than the simplest labour tasks on a copra plantation. This is not altogether surprising, as they have spent all their lives on remote islands.”

This was the reasoning advanced to justify the removal of the Chagossian from their homeland. In the annals of colonial arrogance and ignorance, Sir Bruce figures large.

Yet it was all so unnecessary. The justification claimed was that clearance of the islands was needed for security reasons. However, in Okinawa the local population resides right up to the fences of the US bases where pre-emptive strikes were due to be launched against North Korea in 1994.

The nonsense and injustice of the situation is typified by the scores of yachts of the rich and famous anchored around Diego Garcia and by the hundreds of non-US workers from the Philippines and elsewhere who service the needs of American military personnel in the island’s nightclubs and bars.

One can only wonder what the Status of Forces Agreement between Britain and the US has to say about third country nationals on the islands and whose laws they have to obey on what is still a British colony and overseas territory of the European Union.

Unfortunately, to date, the European Commission has not been particularly helpful. We must hope that the European Parliament’s new development committee can do something to change this.

Meanwhile, as the British Foreign Office seeks to distance itself from the “morality” of history, the same disregard for human rights evident when a black and indigenous people were cheated out of their birthright can be seen with the permission given for this closed and secret British territory to be used for the “special rendition” of suspects by the CIA.

Glyn Ford is a former Labour MEP and Richard Gifford is the legal representative of the Chagos Refugees Group

Diego Garcia Military Base: Islanders Forcibly Deported

by Sherwood Ross

In order to convert the sleepy, Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia into a dominating military base, the U.S. forcibly transported its 2,000 Chagossian inhabitants into exile and gassed their dogs.

By banning journalists from the area, the U.S. Navy was able to perpetrate this with virtually no press coverage, says David Vine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University and author of “Island of Shame: the Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia(Princeton University Press).”

“The Chagossians were put on a boat and taken to Mauritius and the Seychelles, 1,200 miles away, where they were left on the docks, with no money and no housing, to fend for themselves,” Vine said on the interview show “Books Of Our Time,” sponsored by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

“They were promised jobs that never materialized. They had been living on an island with schools, hospitals, and full employment, sort of like a French coastal village, and they were consigned to a life of abject poverty in exile, unemployment, health problems, and were the poorest of the poor,” Vine told interview host Lawrence Velvel, dean of the law school.

Their pet dogs were rounded up and gassed, and their bodies burned, before the very eyes of their traumatized owners, Vine said.

“They were moved because they were few in number and not white,” Vine added. The U.S. government circulated the fiction the Chagossians were transient contract workers that had taken up residence only recently but, in fact, they had been living on Diego Garcia since about the time of the American Revolution. Merchants had imported them to work on the coconut and copra plantations. Vine said the U.S. government induced The Washington Post not to break a story spelling out events on the island.

“Through Diego Garcia,” Vine pointed out, “the U.S. can project its power throughout the Middle East, and from East Africa to India, Australia and Indonesia. With Guam, the island is the most important American base outside the U.S.” He said U.S. bases now number around 1,000, including 287 in Germany, 130 in Japan and Okinawa, and 57 in Italy.

“Bases have been essential tools of U.S. military and economic power since not long after independence,” Vine pointed out. “We had bases all the way to the Pacific. After the Civil War, the U.S. began to acquire coaling bases in the Pacific.”

Although the Chagossians were forcibly removed in 1971, they still hope to return, Vine says, and refer to their period of exile as one of “profound sorrow.” Vine says they would be happy to live on the unused eastern portion of the island and work at the base but the U.S. instead “imports contract labor from other areas so they can send them home when the job is done.” The island’s exiled survivors and their descendants today number about 5,000.

Long off limits to reporters, the Red Cross, and all other international observers and far more secretive than Guantánamo Bay, many long suspected the island was a clandestine CIA "black site" for high-profile detainees, Vine wrote in a related article. Journalist Stephen Grey's 2006 book “Ghost Plane” documented the presence on the island of a CIA-chartered plane used for rendition flights. On two occasions former U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey publicly named Diego Garcia as a detention facility. And a Council of Europe report named the atoll, along with those in Poland and Romania, as a secret prison.

The island became “a major launch pad” for the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Vine said. In addition to its capacious harbor, the island readily supports some of the largest U.S. warplanes, including Air Force B-52s, B-1Bs and B-2s. Two years ago, the Pentagon awarded a $32 million contract to add a submarine base to the island’s arsenal.

Diego Garcia had been a British possession until 1966, when London allowed the U.S. to use it as a military base in exchange for cancelling a $14-million British debt for a military hardware purchase. Some idea of the size of the base may be conveyed by the fact it is said by the Pentagon to contain 654 buildings.

In a related article about Diego Garcia, Vine has written: “With support for the Chagossians' struggle growing in both the United States and Britain at the same time that revelations about a secret CIA prison are spreading, the United States must finally act to remedy the damage done by another Guantánamo damaging too many lives and undermining its international legitimacy. The United States must allow the Chagossians to return and assist Britain in paying them proper compensation; the United States must close the detention facilities and open Diego Garcia to international investigators; the United States must end the painful irony that is a base the military calls the ‘Footprint of Freedom.’"

Sherwood Ross is a media consultant to the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com


Israel accused of denying Palestinians access to water

by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Up to 200,000 families have no running water, damning Amnesty report says

Israel is accused today of denying the West Bank and Gaza access to adequate water through a "total" and "discriminatory" control that enables its own people to consume four times as much as the Palestinians.

An Amnesty International report paints a picture of many Palestinian families struggling – and often failing – to secure enough water for drinking, cleaning, and agriculture while Israelis, including residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, have all they need for lush, irrigated farmland, swimming pools and gardens.

Amnesty also suggests that taxpayers in countries who donate aid to the Palestinians are facing unnecessarily high costs to meet severe water shortages because their governments are unwilling to challenge "the most unreasonable" restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinian access to the regionally scarce resource.

It claims the 450,000 settlers who have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War in 1967 consume as much as or more than the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. It says the overall Palestinian per capita consumption of 70 litres per day compares with the WHO recommended level of 100 litres and Israeli consumption of 300.

The report adds that between 180,000 and 200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities – especially in the Israeli controlled "Area C" which comprises 60 per cent of the West Bank – have no access to running water. According to Amnesty, the Israeli military "often" prevents them from accessing rainwater – for example by destroying water-harvesting cisterns or even confiscating water tankers.

At the same time the report highlights the unequal distribution of water from the mountain aquifer which is the principal groundwater resource for both communities, most of which is located in the West Bank, and from which Israel draws 80 per cent. It also points out that using water for Israel's supplies from the River Jordan – as Jordan does, and Syria and Lebanon do further upstream – before the river reaches the West Bank, deprives Palestinians of any access to the river's water.

The report is critical of past mismanagement by the Palestinian Water Authority and says the international donors sometimes lack coordination in funding water-related projects in the occupied territories. But the bulk of the report blames Israeli restrictions and repeated refusals to grant permits for wells and other installations.

While the Oslo accords in the mid-Nineties agreed a highly unequal distribution, the report suggests the disparities have worsened since then. Instead of challenging restrictions, international donors – among which the principal governments are those of the US and Germany – choose to divert "significant funds" to short-term projects such as repairing war damage or funding tanker shipments at many times the cost of piped supplies.

In Gaza, the report says 90-95 per cent of the water from the coastal aquifer which has traditionally supplied it, is now unfit for human consumption. It adds that Israel's refusal to allow water to be exported from the West Bank to Gaza, now compounded by the embargo on materials for infrastructure development and repair, have brought Gaza's water and sewage system to "crisis point."

Donatella Rovera, author of the Amnesty report, called for an end to the restrictions and added that Palestinians were allowed "only a fraction" of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the West Bank, while "the unlawful Israeli settlements receive virtually unlimited supplies".

Israel's water authority complained the report was "biased and incorrect" and said it had met its obligations under the Oslo agreement while Palestinians were not distributing water efficiently.

It also challenged the Amnesty figures and said the real gap was 408 litres per head in Israel and 287 litres for the Palestinians. But Amnesty said last night that Israeli figures did not take account of desalinated and treated water consumed by Israel, or the 35 per cent of leakage from the Palestinian water supply caused by Israel's failure to build new infrastructure. Amnesty said its own figures showed a slightly smaller gap than that identified by the World Bank.

Aisha and Hafez Hereni: 'We save every drop, but it's never enough'

*Aisha and Hafez Hereni live in the small village of Tuwani, located in the Southern Hebron Hills. The village is not connected to a pipe network, and so they rely on rainwater, stored in cisterns, and water delivered at great expense by tankers.

The cisterns are often soiled by Israeli settlers, Aisha says – they have found nappies and dead chickens in the supply. With the family's goats a key food source, and five children, the need for an adequate supply is critical. "We save every drop, but it's never enough," Aisha goes on. "It is a daily struggle."

Nearby Israeli settlements are fully plugged in to the water network; indeed, one water conduit passes through Tuwani on its way to an illegal settlement. The Israeli army has denied the village permission to tap into that supply, despite a prolonged drought. And in July this year, soldiers delivered a stop work order for a large cistern that could have greatly eased delivery costs by providing a long-term storage option. "We spend a lot of money on water and we never have enough," says Hafez. "They are trying to force us out of the area by all means. Taking our land is one way and limiting our access to water is another way."


Uri Avnery's Column: “Where Have All the Friendships Gone…"

by Uri Avnery

ACCORDING TO a Chinese saying, if someone in the street tells you that you are drunk, you can laugh. If a second person tells you that you are drunk, start to think about it. If a third one tells you the same, go home and sleep it off.

Our political and military leadership has already encountered the third, fourth and fifth person. All of them say that they must investigate what happened in the “Molten Lead” operation.

They have three options:
to conduct a real investigation.
to ignore the demand and proceed as if nothing has happened.
to conduct a sham inquiry.

IT IS easy to dismiss the first option: it has not the slightest chance of being adopted. Except for the usual suspects (including myself) who demanded an investigation long before anyone in Israel had heard of a judge called Goldstone, nobody supports it.

Among all the members of our political, military and media establishments who are now suggesting an “inquiry”, there is no one – literally not one – who means by that a real investigation. The aim is to deceive the Goyim and get them to shut up.

Actually, Israeli law lays down clear guidelines for such investigations. The government decides to set up a commission of investigation. The president of the Supreme Court then appoints the members of the commission. The commission can compel witnesses to testify. Anybody who may be damaged by its conclusions must be warned and given the opportunity to defend themself. Its conclusions are binding.

This law has an interesting history. Sometime in the 50s, David Ben-Gurion demanded the appointment of a “judicial committee of inquiry” to decide who gave the orders for the 1954 “security mishap”, also known as the Lavon Affair. (A false flag operation where an espionage network composed of local Jews was activated to bomb American and British offices in Egypt, in order to cause friction between Egypt and the Western powers. The perpetrators were caught.)

Ben-Gurion’s request was denied, under the pretext that there was no law for such a procedure. Furious, Ben-Gurion resigned from the government and left his party. In one of the stormy party sessions, the Minister of Justice, Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, called Ben-Gurion a “fascist”. But Shapira, an old Russian Jew, regretted his outburst later. He drafted a special law for the appointment of Commissions of Investigation in the future. After lengthy deliberations in the Knesset (in which I took an active part) the law was adopted and has since been applied, notably in the case of the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

Now I wholeheartedly support the setting up of a Commission of Investigation according to this law.

THE SECOND option is the one proposed by the army Chief of Staff and the Minister of Defense. In America it is called “stonewalling”. Meaning: To hell with it.

The army commanders object to any investigation and any inquiry whatsoever. They probably know why. After all, they know the facts. They know that a dark shadow lies over the very decision to go to war, over the planning of the operation, over the instructions given to the troops, and over many dozens of large and small acts committed during the operation.

In their opinion, even if their refusal has severe international repercussions, the consequences of any investigation, even a phony one, would be far worse.

As long as the Chief of Staff sticks to this position, there will be no investigation outside the army, whatever the attitude of the ministers. The army chief, who attends every cabinet meeting, is the largest figure in the room. When he announces that such and such is the “position of the army”, no mere politician present would dare to object.

In the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”, the law (proposed at the time by Menachem Begin) stipulates that the Government as such is the Commander in Chief of the Israel Defense Forces. That is the theory. In practice, no decision at variance with the “position of the army” has ever been or will ever be adopted.

The army claims to be investigating itself. Ehud Barak represents – willingly or unwillingly – this position. The cabinet has postponed dealing with the matter, and that’s where things stand today.

ON THIS occasion, the spotlight should be turned on the least visible person in Israel: the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, the ultimate Teflon-man. Nothing sticks to him. In this debate, as in all others, he just is not there.

Everybody knows that Ashkenazi is a shy and modest man. He hardly ever speaks, writes or speechifies. On television, he merges into the background.

This is how he looks to the public: an honest soldier, without tricks or ploys, who does his duty quietly, receives his orders from the government and fulfills them loyally. In this he differs from almost all his predecessors, who were boastful, publicity-crazy and loquacious. While most them came from famous elite units or the arrogant Air Force, he is a grey infantry man. The Duke of Wellington, seeing the huge amount of paperwork in his army, once exclaimed: “Soldiers should fight, not write!” He would have liked Ashkenazi

But reality is not always what it seems. Ashkenazi plays a central role in the decision-making process. He was appointed after his predecessor, Dan Halutz, resigned after the failures of Lebanon War II. Under Ashkenazi’s leadership, new doctrines were formulated and put into action in the “Molten Lead” operation. I defined them (on my own responsibility) as “Zero Losses” and “Better to kill a hundred enemy civilians than to lose one of our own soldiers”. Since the Gaza war did not lead to a single soldier being put on trial, Ashkenazi must bear the responsibility for everything that happened there.

If an indictment were issued by the International Court in The Hague, Ashkenazi would probably be accorded the place of honor as “Defendant No. 1”. No wonder that he objects to any outside investigation, as does Ehud Barak, who would probably occupy the No. 2 place.

THE POLITICIANS who oppose (ever so quietly) the Chief of Staff’s position believe that it is impossible to withstand international pressure completely, and that some kind of an inquiry will have to be conducted. Since not one of them intends to hold a real investigation, they propose to follow a tried and trusted Israeli method, which has worked wonderfully hundreds of times in the past: the method of sham.

A sham inquiry. Sham conclusions. Sham adherence to international law. Sham civilian control over the military.

Nothing simpler than that. An “inquiry committee” (but not a Commission of Investigation according to the law) will be set up, chaired by a suitably patriotic judge and composed of carefully chosen honorable citizens who are all “one of us”. Testimonies will be heard behind closed doors (for considerations of security, of course). Army lawyers will prove that everything was perfectly legal, the National Whitewasher, Professor Asa Kasher, will laud the ethics of the Most Moral Army in the World. Generals will speak about our inalienable right to self-defense. In the end, two or three junior officers or privates may be found guilty of “irregularities”.

Israel’s friends all over the world will break into an ecstatic chorus: What a lawful state! What a democracy! What morality! Western governments will declare that justice has been done and the case closed. The US veto will see to the rest.

So why don’t the army chiefs accept this proposal? Because they are afraid things might not proceed quite so smoothly. The international community will demand that at least part of the hearings be conducted in open court. There will be a demand for the presence of international observers. And, most importantly: there will be no justifiable way to exclude the testimonies of the Gazans themselves. Things will get complicated. The world will not accept fabricated conclusions. In the end we will be in exactly the same situation. Better to stay put and brave it out, whatever the price.

IN THE meantime, international pressure on Israel is increasing. Even now it has reached unprecedented proportions.

Russia and China have voted in favor of the endorsement of the Goldstone report by the UN. The UK and France “did not take part in the vote”, but demanded that Israel conduct a real investigation. We have quarreled with Turkey, until now an important military ally. We have altercations with Sweden, Norway and a number of other friendly countries. The French Foreign Minister has been prevented from crossing into the Gaza Strip and is furious. The already cold peace with Egypt and Jordan has become several degrees colder. Israel is boycotted in many forums. Senior army officers are afraid to travel abroad for fear of arrest.

This raises the question once more: can outside pressure have an impact on Israel?

Certainly it can. The question is: what kind of pressure, what kind of impact?

The pressure has indeed convinced several ministers that an inquiry committee for the Goldstone report has to be set up. But no one in the Israeli establishment – no one at all! – has raised the real question: Perhaps Goldstone is right? Except for the usual suspects, no one in the media, the Knesset or the government has asked: Perhaps war crimes have indeed been committed? The outside pressure has not forced such questions to be raised. They must come from the inside, from the public itself.

The kind of pressure must also be considered. The Goldstone report has an impact on the world because it is precise and targeted: a specific operation, for which specific persons are responsible. It raises a specific demand: an investigation. It attacks a clear and well-defined target: war crimes.

If we apply this to the debate about boycotting Israel: the Goldstone report may be compared to a targeted boycott on the settlements and their helpers, not an unlimited boycott of the State of Israel. A targeted boycott can have a positive impact. A comprehensive, unlimited boycott would – in my opinion – achieve the opposite. It would push the Israeli public further into the arms of the extreme Right.

The struggle over the Goldstone report is now at its height. In Jerusalem, the rising energy of the waves can be clearly felt. Does this portend a tsunami?


Does Military Service Turn Young Men into Sexual Predators?

by Penny Coleman

Every day, for four years as a West Point cadet, Tara Krause lived and worked alongside the men who had gang-raped her.

Still, she managed to graduate in 1982. She served as a field artillery officer during the Cold War and was attached to the 518th Military Intelligence Brigade during the Gulf War. In what she calls "an act of incredible self-destruction," she married a three-tour Vietnam vet in 1985 and, for the next eight years, lived "the private hell of his PTSD."

"Suicidal behavior, violence and degradation were common threads of daily life," she told me. She survived only because when he put his gun to her head one day, it finally gave her the courage to flee. "Like Lot's wife," she says, she struggles not to look back.

It's been almost 30 years since the rape, and Krause says she still "dance(s) the crushing daily struggle" of her own PTSD: "The nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks, cold sweats, suicidal thoughts, zoning out, numbing all emotion and desperately avoiding triggers (reminders) -- I have become a prisoner in my own home."

Krause is rated 70 percent disabled by the Veteran's Administration and has been in treatment at the Long Beach [Calif.] VA for the past six years.

For all the work she has done to heal her own injuries, she still has no answer for the question: "How do you get a group of Southern white teenagers, all of whom were Eagle Scouts, class presidents, scholars and athletes, to be capable of raping a classmate?"

The question deserves an answer, and not a simplistic one. A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the Gulf War found that almost 8 in 10 had been sexually harassed during their military service, and 30 percent had been raped.

Yet for decades, in spite of the terrible numbers, the military has managed with astonishing success to get away with responding to grievances like Krause's with silence, or denial, or by blaming "a few bad apples." But when individual soldiers take the blame, the system gets off the hook.

And it can be shown that the patterns of military sex crimes are old and widespread -- for generations, military service has transformed large numbers of American boys into sexual predators.

So it seems reasonable to ask if perhaps there is something about military culture or training or experience that can be identified as causative, and then, perhaps, changed.

The correlation is difficult to dismiss. The majority of veterans behind bars today are there for a very specific type of crime: violence against women and children. That fact has held true since the first Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) surveys of veteran populations in the nation's prisons in 1981, and there is evidence that those surveys only identified a much older problem.

The orgy of demonization, however, that both fueled and justified the disgraceful neglect of veterans in the aftermath of Vietnam makes this an especially fraught issue to take on.

But -- without making any excuses for behaviors that cause irreparable harm to those who are victimized -- there is little hope of change unless the tacit complicity of military institutions and culture is acknowledged. And that complicity most certainly did not begin recently.

World War II is remembered as a crucible and a coming-of-age ritual for the baby-faced boys it turned first into men and then into the "greatest generation."

The butchery, the civilian atrocities, the summary executions, the appalling racism and the breakdown of hundreds of thousands of soldiers have been largely erased from communal memory. And so have the rapes perpetrated by American soldiers on our female enemies and allies alike.

In August and September 1944, when the fighting eased, French women were raped by their American liberators at three times the rate of civilian women in the U.S. And during the final drive through Germany in March and April 1945, more than 900 German women were raped by American soldiers, causing Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to issue a directive to Army commanders expressing his "grave concern" and instructing that speedy and appropriate punishments be administered.

According to Madeline Morris, the Duke University law professor and military historian who uncovered that lurid fragment of history, those numbers are almost certainly on the low side.

"Rape is particularly likely to have been undercounted because it is less serious than murder," Morris explains, "it is reputedly the most underreported violent crime, even in the domestic context, and it was perpetrated in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) almost exclusively against non-Americans."

Those women, especially German women, could not easily have found the courage -- or the opportunity -- to file complaints.

The memories of rape brought home by World War II soldiers surely changed their lives forever.

"What does rape do to the rapist?" is a question Krause has struggled with for 20 years. "Somewhere out there is that Rotarian, happy grandfather, son-done-good, solid citizen. Does he block it out, does he remember, does he feel a shred of guilt? Is it truly done with impunity?"

It is important to note that during World War II, according to Morris' research, patterns of violent crime in the United States' civilian population underwent sharp changes as well.

"While civilian murder and non-negligent manslaughter rates decreased 7.5 percent from prewar rates, aggravated assault rates increased substantially (19.9 percent), and forcible-rape rates increased dramatically (by more than 27 percent) above the prewar average."

Similarly, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, BJS statistics show a 42 percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25 percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault.

Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed -- including violent crimes overall -- decreased, but once again, mirroring Morris' World War II data, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault showed daunting increases.

The first BJS survey of incarcerated veterans found that two-thirds of those veterans had been convicted of rape or sexual assault. In military prisons as well, the report noted, "sexual assault was the most common offense for which inmates were held … accounting for nearly a full third of all military prisoners."

That chilling aspect of soldiers' criminal behavior held true in subsequent BJS surveys.

In 2000, veterans in state and federal prisons and local jails were twice as likely as non-veterans to be sentenced for a violent sexual crime. In the 2004 survey, 1 in 4 veterans in prison were sex offenders (1 in 3 in military prisons), compared to 1 in 10 incarcerated non-veterans.

Chris Mumola, author of the two most recent BJS reports, points out that "when sex crimes are excluded, the violent-offense incarceration rate of non-veterans is actually greater than the incarceration rate of veterans for all other offenses combined (651 per 100,000 versus 630 per 100,000)."

In fact, when sex crimes are excluded, adult male veterans are over 40 percent less likely to be in prison for a violent crime than their non-veteran counterparts. The same holds true for property crimes, drugs and public disorder -- the rates are much higher rates for adult men without military experience.

"The one notable exception to this pattern," Mumola says, "is sex assaults, including rape."

The Veterans' Health Administration has adopted the term military sexual trauma (MST) to refer to severe or threatening forms of sexual harassment and sexual assault sustained in military service.

Their records for 2007 show that 22.2 percent of female veterans and 1.3 percent of male vets (from all eras) who used the agency's health services screened positive for MST. That represents a daunting increase of about 65 percent for both men and women over the agency's 2003 data.

And the small percentage of men is somewhat misleading; the 2007 percentages translate into 45,564 women and 47,719 men whose injuries forced them to acknowledge their victimization and to seek help from the VA.

Some of that increase can perhaps be attributed to a 2005 congressional directive requiring the VA to improve its rate of screening returning soldiers for MST, but given that almost 90 percent of veterans don't (or can't) use VA health care services, it seems safe to assume that the actual numbers are considerably higher.

Those are just the numbers for veterans.

In 2008, the Pentagon received more than 2,900 sexual assault reports involving active-duty service members. That represents a 9 percent increase from 2007, a 26 percent increase in combat zones. Almost a third of those reports involved rape, and more than half involved aggravated sexual assault.

In a dazzling display of unapologetic spin, the increase was called "encouraging," an indication of more reports rather than more assaults. It offered no evidence to back up that interpretation, save that the department "encourages greater reporting to hold offenders accountable for this crime."

That seems an unlikely incentive given that only 10 percent of the 2008 complaints led to a court-martial (compared to a civilian rate of 40 percent). The rest received minor punishments, almost half were dismissed, and the report acknowledged that 90 percent of sexual assaults in the military aren't reported at all.

Rape occurs almost twice as frequently in the military as it does among civilians, especially in wartime.

When a 2008 House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee subpoenaed Kaye Whitley, director of the DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), to explain what the department was doing to stop the escalating sexual violence in the military, her boss, Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, ordered her not to appear.

Only after the department was threatened with a contempt citation was Whitley made available to the committee. She then sought to reassure the members that DoD is conducting a "crusade against sexual assault," and itemized all of the heroic measures the agency was planning to implement in the very near future -- efforts that somehow, despite explicit directives and deadlines from Congress, the agency had not managed to launch at the time.

Tia Christopher, women veterans coordinator at Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, holds Dominguez, not Whitley, responsible for flouting congressional directives.

"I heard him claim that the reason sexual assaults are so high in the military right now is the hip-hop influence. I don't need to spell out why I found that so offensive. I fault Dominguez for not recognizing that it is a leadership issue."

Christopher loves the military and calls it "a really beautiful machine" when it is working correctly. But she is a rape survivor, and she feels doubly betrayed by her superiors in the Navy. "They can respond to other situations, why not to sexual assault?"

Christopher was 18 when she joined the Navy, training to be a cryptologist. The night she was raped, she had been drinking.

"Underage drinking," she notes, "is a big issue in the military. It gets you an Article 15, and it's 100 percent guaranteed that you will be prosecuted for collateral misconduct. It is far more likely that you will get in trouble for collateral misconduct [from drinking alcohol] than for raping someone. So I destroyed all the evidence. I bleached my sheets and scrubbed myself up and didn't come forward until two weeks later. I wanted to keep my military career, and I thought I could just get through it.

"But I saw him every day. I mustered with him. He would follow me into the chow hall and sit across from me while I ate. I stopped eating, couldn't concentrate, started failing my courses. And I started having flashbacks, hallucinating. I thought I saw him everywhere."

Christopher finally realized she needed help, but the female petty officer she first spoke to got her chief involved and, as the report went up the chain of command, her nightmare just got bigger.

"In my case, there were witnesses. They heard my head hit the wall in the barracks room, but they were drinking [underage], too."

Her commanding officer promised them all immunity if they agreed to testify on her behalf, and then reneged on the deal.

"It ended up that they all got in trouble, and [her rapist] got off." (In 2006, Christopher's attacker was expelled from the military for another rape.)

"The last few months that I was in the service, I was assigned to X Division, mopping the stairs, cleaning the heads, picking hair out of the drains. It was my job to vacuum the different chief's offices, and these sleazeballs would say things like, 'Hey, Christopher, bend over when you're sweeping.' Or, 'Hey Christopher, let me see them titties.' When you come forward about a rape, basically you are just a slut."

Christopher left the military in 2001, and it took her a long time to get her life back together. She still has panic attacks, flashbacks, trouble sleeping. But, with help from a women's psychotherapy group at the Seattle VA, and the rich support from sympathetic colleagues at Swords to Plowshares, she has developed a lot of coping skills.

After seven years, and some good therapy, she feels strong enough to manage her advocacy and policy work.

"I've testified before the California state Legislature, and I was invited to testify before Congress. I speak out about MST as much as I do so other women don't have to. This is not just my job. There is no way I would ever give my clients to the media. I remember what it was like, being fresh out of the service and going through that trauma."

Lisa Pellerin, who has facilitated sex-offender programs for the New York State Department of Corrections for six years, believes that "everyone has the potential to be a sex offender. It depends on how they have been conditioned. When they are in the military, supporting the brotherhood is the most important thing. Soldiers do what they feel they have to do because they don't want to be seen as weak or unable to perform.

"Sexual abuse has always been about power and control. If you are exposed and desensitized to certain sexual behaviors, they become normalized."

One of the most basic conditioning strategies military training uses to destabilize a recruit's inherent disinclination to kill is the inculcation of a dehumanized enemy. Soldiers are taught that "we" are the good guys; "they" are the "others." "They" are easier to kill because they are not us. They are also easier to despise. "Others" -- the nips, the gooks, the hajis -- come and go, but ever reliable and constant is "the girl."

Even in this new 20 percent female military, misogynist marching rhymes (aka jodies) are still used, and drill instructors still shame recruits with taunts of pussy or sissy, faggot or girl. Patty McCann, who signed up with the Illinois National Guard when she was 17 and deployed to Iraq when she was 20, still feels betrayed when she remembers her drill sergeant yelling, "Does your pussy hurt?" and "Do you need a tampon?"

A culture that encourages violence and misogyny, says Helen Benedict, attracts a disproportionate number of sexually violent men: half of male recruits enlist to escape abusive families, a history that is often predictive of an abuser.

But whatever attracts them, and wherever they come from, this is about a system plagued by rot, and not about a few bad apples. American veterans embody the inevitable, predictable blowback from that rotten system.

It is both unjust and disingenuous to focus on what our soldiers have become without talking about what we have become: A society that romanticizes its warriors, demonizes its veterans and devalues its women.

"Did I serve my full enlistment?" Christopher says. "No. But that's because some shitbag sailor who shouldn't have been wearing the uniform came into my life. Why is that my issue?

"This is a leadership issue."