Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Greece Refuses to Host US Weapons Shipment to Israel

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 15, 2009

Democracy Now/GuardianUK/Reuters

greek-flagMeanwhile, the US has been forced to cancel a weapons shipment to Israel after the Greek government refused to allow it to pass through its ports. The US says it will seek an alternative site.

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guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 January 2009

The Pentagon has suspended the delivery of a shipload of munitions to Israel after international concern that it could be used by Israeli forces in Gaza.

The German-owned cargo vessel, Wehr Elbe, under charter by the US Military Sea lift Command, is currently in Greek waters with its transponder tracking turned off to prevent its location being identified.

Amnesty International has written to the foreign secretary, David Miliband, asking him to make “urgent approaches to the US, German and Greek governments to prevent this, or any pending or future shipments of weaponry until it can be verified that they will not be transferred to the Israeli Defence Forces or other parties to the conflict in Gaza.

“We urge you to ensure that no EU member state will allow their ports or other facilities to be used to transit these or any other weapons to any of the parties to this conflict.”

The Wehr Elbe, owned by the Hamburg company Oskar Wehr, arrived outside the Greek port of Astakos on 1 January, where it was due to transfer its 1,000 containers to another vessel for delivery to Ashdod in Israel.

But after a two week stand-off, amid local protests in Greece, it moved out into the Mediterranean two days ago and disappeared off tracking websites.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the contract for the munitions had been arranged last summer and approved in October. He said the munitions were due to be delivered to a US pre-positioning depot in Israel for US forces. But he added: “If the government of Israel requests munitions they can do so direct to the US government under the Foreign Military Sales programme.”

He said the ship’s journey had been delayed due to “safety concerns” about unloading the cargo at Ashdod and that other arrangements were being made by the Military Sealift Command’s European office in Naples.

The letter to Miliband, from Amnesty’s director, Kate Allen, calls “for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons and munitions and other military equipment will not be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director, Malcolm Smart, said: “The last thing that is needed now is more weapons and munitions in the region, which is awash with arms that are being used in a manner which contravenes international law and is having a devastating effect on the civilian population in Gaza.”

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Reuters

ATHENS/WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Greece’s opposition accused the ruling conservatives on Tuesday of allowing U.S. arms shipments to Israel via a Greek port for over a year, despite the government’s denials.

The U.S. military said on Monday it cancelled the shipment of 325 containers of ammunition from the western Greek port of Astakos to a U.S. stockpile in Israel, citing safety concerns at the Israeli port of destination due to the conflict in Gaza.

However, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday the transport had been cancelled at the request of the Greek government. Reports of the shipment had provoked a media outcry in Greece, where Israel’s 18-day-old offensive in Gaza is deeply unpopular.

“I think the Greek government has some issue with the offloading of some of that shipment in their country and we are finding alternative means of getting that entire shipment to its proper destination in Israel,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

He said the decision to replenish the stockpile, which can be accessed by Israel with U.S. permission, had been taken long before the outbreak of the Gaza conflict. Morrell said he did not know if Israel currently had access to the weapons cache.

Greece’s opposition PASOK party submitted questions to parliament asking whether U.S. arms shipments to Israel via Astakos, which it said dated back to September 2007, had been approved by the government.

“Did the foreign ministry and other relevant ministries approve these shipments or was Greek and international law replaced by practices that weaken the sovereignty of this country?” read the PASOK statement.

Greece’s Communist party and a left-wing coalition have called demonstrations at Astakos for Wednesday and Thursday.

PASOK said the alleged shipments were organised by a Greek-based detachment of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command with the permission of Greek authorities. It called for all the related documentation to be made public.

Greece’s ruling New Democracy party has said in recent days it has not allowed supplies to the Israeli army to pass through Greece. It went further on Tuesday by saying it had not given permission for any U.S. arms shipments bound for Israel.

“The Greek side didn’t allow such a transport,” said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, asked about the latest cargo. A shipping tender issued on Dec. 31 by the U.S. military, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, showed the destination of the cargo was the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry say 971 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive which Israel launched on Dec. 27 with the stated aim of ending militant rocket fire from Gaza. On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rockets have died. (Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and Stefano Ambrogi in London, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

The Myth of Sanitary War

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 1, 2009

toonbombbigThere is a myth circulating in the mainstream media that Israel’s missiles are finding their targets with surgical precision.

The lie entails comparing something like the 250-pound GBU-39 “smart bomb” to a surgeon’s knife. A small side-note: the United States Congress approved the sale of this bomb to Israel. Actually, they approved the sale of 1,000 of these bombs to Israel. Second side-note: Your tax dollars bought the bombs.

So-called “rational adults” argue that this horrible, destructive device, which has enough explosive power to decimate six feet of reinforced concrete, is exactly the same as the precision guaranteed between a doctor’s steady hand, a blade, and a patient’s flesh.

It’s generous to call this myth stupid. It’s probably fairer to call it dishonest. Of course a bomb can’t be smart, or precise, primarily because of its very nature as a bomb – a tool of mass destruction. This is like the difference between if I punch you in the face or I slam you with a wrecking ball. You may get up after I deck you, but the wrecking ball will turn you into a human stain. I may also knock over a few buildings whilst trying to thwart you because a giant tool of destruction doesn’t offer any precision. That’s also the difference between a ground invasion and aerial bombing. The whole idea of using a bomb or a missile instead of 100,000 ground troops is to cause maximum damage with minimal casualties on the side of the bomb-dropping or missile-firing country.

That’s why we’re seeing all of these terrible images coming out of Gaza of bloodied children, slain doctors, and hundreds of young men, who may or may not have been fighting for Hamas. “Smart bombs” and “smart missiles” did this damage because a huge explosion causes unplanned consequences. Shrapnel goes flying. Other buildings topple from the impact. The wrong buildings are bombed. Some bombs don’t detonate until much later when a curious child pokes it, thinking it’s a toy.

The myth of sanitary war isn’t reserved just for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is used in most western-backed offenses. This lie extends past “smart bombs” and addresses the very parameters of war itself. In our interconnected world, the lines of good guy and bad guy are blurred.

America sends billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, and has almost single-handedly built Israel’s arsenal that is now massacring Gaza’s residents. Meanwhile, Hamas uses Katyusha rockets built in China.

In a way, the war in Gaza is a microcosm of a stand-off between the superpowers. Separate ideologies sparked the proxy war, of course. America viciously (and unquestioningly) defends its pro-Western ally, and therefore supplies the old girl as she attempts to “defend” herself, and China’s interests are profit-oriented.

Still, it’s difficult to make the argument that this is a sanitary war when a quarter of the casualties are Palestinian civilians and the bombs, missiles, and rockets themselves are supplied by foreign superpowers.

Israel does herself a disservice by engaging in offenses that will guarantee the deaths of many innocent civilians. Sanitary war is impossible, and just as America lied that its “smart bombs” would spare innocent Afghanis and Iraqis, so Israel lies that her precision missiles will spare innocent Palestinians.

Join November5.org and Create Real Change

Posted in activism, environment by allisonkilkenny on November 11, 2008

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Join November5.org, the citizen group that serves as a Congressional watchdog.

Update from Nov5:

We are off to a great start. In the 5 days since we launched November5.org, nearly 10,000 of you have signed up for this effort!

Getting our country back on track by using the leverage we can exert over Congress is an approach that naturally fits with third party and independent voters, as well as many who voted for Democrats and Republicans. Millions of us realize that we must now put our shoulders to the wheel of justice and push harder than ever.

If we all move fast to get our friends and family involved, we could have 1000 active and organized citizens in each Congressional district in 2009. To do this, we need you to encourage people to sign up today by forwarding this link: www.november5.org.

Remember to emphasize to others that what will make November5 different from many other similar efforts is that we will have no allegiance to any political party. We want to create a non-partisan mechanism to get problems solved. Action will result when members of Congress hear loud and clear from their constituents back home. This will not be about raising big money for expensive television ads during the Super Bowl. It will involve using tried and true organizing techniques – and all the local creativity we can muster – to make sure that our Representatives respond to our voices, district by district, person by person.

We want to focus on the victories – big and small – that we can achieve. Too much citizen advocacy involves sending emails or letters to Washington, D.C. We need a return to raising our voices on the ground “back home,” where Congressional elections are decided.

High on our list is a plan to pass privately-delivered, publicly-funded health care. This approach would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the current for-profit system, enough to provide coverage for every American. After all, how can you be civically active if you are worried about your health care? Many organizations do great work on this issue (see Physicians for a National Health Program), but there is a need for much more citizen muscle behind it. That’s where we’ll come in.

Other issues we are looking at include: new regulation of Wall Street, a $10 living wage, the elimination of unnecessary weapons systems that cost tens of billions, a strong drive for investment in solar, wind, and conservation – against coal and nuclear – and a federal law requiring paper ballots and establishing uniform rules for ballot access for all candidates.

Soon, we will email you with more details on how this website will enable you to organize in your district, and on how we will keep building November5 in the coming weeks.

Now, though, it all comes down to getting all of the people who agree with the basic approach of shifting our focus to Congress in 2009 signed up for November5. This is the critical building phase and we all have to do everything we can to get the word out.
Onward for Justice, 

The November5 Team Five Things You Can Do Right Now: