Archive for the ‘military’ Category

The Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara wasn’t Gaza-bound, and the Israelis knew it. Or did they? Needed: Israeli cooperation with an independent investigation

October 25, 2010

 


The Turkish newspaper
Hurriyet reports that the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship carrying supplies for blockaded Gaza, had altered their course to avert a diplomatic crisis.

“During our departure, we said we were going to Gaza, but the coordinates that we gave were to Egyptian territorial waters. Everyone was aware of our course to [the Egyptian port] El-Arish,” Bülent Yıldırım, the head of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, said today. “The situation required us to go there.” He added that the U.S. ambassador in Ankara was notified, and told Israeli authorities.

Hurriyet is a credible source, not a mouthpiece for the Turkish government—far from it: it has been so critical of the government and so set on exposing corruption that the Erdogan government, in its most anti-democratic action, is trying to put Hurriyet and its sister publications out of business.

In the same edition the paper reports that the Israeli military chief of staff testified before the Israeli commission investigating the incident that Israeli commandoes fired live ammunition only after the Turks fired first, an account in stark opposition to a recent U.N.-commissioned report into the raid, which said there was “no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship.” (more…)

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Duty, Honor, Country calls, Petraeus answers

June 24, 2010

General David Petraeus had it made. For the past twenty months he has led United States Central Command, with responsibility for actual and potential military operations from Egypt to Pakistan. He has lived the luxurious life of a four-star general at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa—one of the most prestigious, glamorous, and comfortable assignments the U.S. military has to offer. After spending most of the last ten years separated from his family on assignments on Bosnia and Iraq—the last two as commander of the multi-national force there—he was on the verge of retirement, praised as America’s greatest general, perhaps the greatest since the glory days of MacArthur, Patton, and Eisenhower.

Then General Stanley McChrystal invited a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine to live with his command in Afghanistan for weeks, where the reporter chronicled for the world the contempt that McChrystal and his senior staff had for the President and his national security team. Obama fired McChrystal and asked Petraeus to take a demotion, going from McChrystal’s boss to his replacement. And going from palatial four-star housing with his wife in Tampa to battlefield accommodations in Afghanistan.

Petraeus said yes sir, once again answering his country’s call. His coming service as commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan may enhance or may diminish his reputation as a great general. There’s no doubt, however, that it will remind America of the meaning of the West Point ethic: Duty, Honor, Country.

Read The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World

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What’s the true story of the blockade-running Mavi Marmara and the Israel Defense Force: What happened off Gaza? Who to believe?

June 13, 2010

There are two dramatically different stories of the botched May 31 incident that cost at least ten lives and poisoned relations between Israel and Turkey, and perhaps damaged the relations of both with the United States.

In one version, Israeli forces attacked a peaceful group that was trying to deliver humanitarian relief to the besieged people of Gaza; in the other, violent extremists, in league with Hamas, surrounded themselves with naïve civilians while attacking Israeli forces exercising a legal search of a ship attempting to run a legal blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

We won’t know the true story for a long time. The best that could happen would be an objective and unbiased inquiry, but that won’t happen. As George Orwell said, “History is written by the winners.” The Israelis won, and they released video showing Israeli commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters and being attacked with what appear to be metal pipes.

The people on the Mavi Marmara took videos, too. All have been confiscated by the Israeli forces, all except one, snuck past the Israelis by San Francisco-based activist Lara Lee, available here. It records sixty minutes, starting about 30 minutes before the commandos boarded the ship. The dialog is mostly in Turkish, perhaps five percent in English. A brief and admittedly amateur analysis of the video is posted on the website of the United States Naval Institute, here.

Like any government that covers up evidence, Israel is damaging its credibility. Israel’s friends and impartial observers will believe Israel has much to hide, else why would they be hiding so much.

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Israel should apologize to Turkey for the loss of life aboard the Mavi Marmara

June 8, 2010

“We’re sorry.”

Magical words.

When a U.S. C-130 reconnaissance aircraft collided several years ago with a Chinese MIG that had been closely tailing it, the MIG crashed into the sea and the C-130 made an emergency landing in China. The Chinese government delayed releasing the crew, and it looked like a serious threat to U.S.-China relations when the Chinese ambassador paid a call on Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“We demand an apology,” said the ambassador. “We’re sorry,” replied Powell. “You’re sorry?” “Yes, we’re sorry,” Powell repeated

The ambassador was taken aback. “I must talk to Beijing,” he explained and left the State Department. Two hours later he was back with Powell. “Can you regret the loss of life?” he asked. This was a no-brainer for the intrepid Secretary of State.

“Yes, we’re sorry and we regret the loss of life.”

“I can assure you, the American airmen and the wreckage of the plane will be returned immediately,” the Chinese ambassador responded.

And so ended a potentially dangerous confrontation between the United States and China. Two magical words.

If only somebody as sensible as Powell could influence the Israeli government. Israel is about to suffer a costly—and possibly irreversible—breach in relations with Turkey, the only Muslim country it counts as an ally. (more…)

Israel’s policy on Palestinians and their supporters: An eye for a tooth

June 3, 2010

The Bible says “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand.” (Exodus, 21:23) The Israeli government has long since amended this commandment. Israel’s policy appears to be eye for tooth.

Israel’s latest military action was to interdict an attempt to run an Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The blockade-running flotilla sailed from Turkey with humanitarian supplies. It was stopped by Israel Defense Forces, who subdued the crews, killing ten of them, seized the boats and supplies, and brought the 700 activists, mostly Turkish, to Israel. The Israeli government said it would deport almost all of them within the next two days, but about 50 would be held for investigation into their part in the violence at sea.

It was another great victory for the once vaunted Israel Defense Forces over unarmed civilians. Here’s the recent scorecard of deaths:

· 2010 Gaza blockade incident: Israelis 0, Turks (and a few others) 10

· 2008-9 Gaza invasion: Israelis 13, Palestinians 1300

· 2006 Lebanon invasion: Israelis 162, Lebanese 1035

Israel asserts the right of self defense, and clearly some of the people they killed were fighting against Israel, including against the civilian population. But most opinion inside Israel is that the vast majority of those killed by the IDF have been unarmed non-combatants.

Israel’s relentless war on Palestinians and those who support them (more…)

Two follow-ups: Muslims near Ground Zero in New York City, and Connecticut voter reaction to Blumenthal’s lies

May 27, 2010

First the good news: The New York Times reports that a Manhattan community board voted 29-1, with ten abstentions, to approve a proposed Muslin community center two blocks from Ground Zero. The board’s vote is advisory, but the Times notes that the vote is a measure of community sentiment. Score one for New Yorkers and one for tolerance.

And the bad news: A Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut voters showed only 33 percent were less likely to vote for Richard Blumenthal after he lied about serving as a Marine in Vietnam. Sixty-one percent said it doesn’t make a difference. And some indecipherable four percent said they were more likely to vote for him because of his lie. Sadly, 54 percent bought Blumenthal’s claim that he merely misspoke about his military service, while only 38 percent said he lied. Thumbs down for Connecticut.

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Kagan was wrong to oppose military recruiting, her defenders are getting it wrong

May 11, 2010

President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan is expected to breeze through the Senate, largely because of the absence of a “paper trail” –written opinions that a nominee who is a judge would have left for inspection. For example Republican opposition to Sonia Sotomayor crystallized around her opinion in the New Haven firefighter suit, which was wrongly characterized as Sotomayor favoring unqualified minorities over hard-working qualified whites. Kagan has left no signed opinions to be swift-boated about.


Her only sin, it appears, is to have refused to allow Harvard Law School, which she headed, to cooperate with military recruiters because the military discriminated against gays with its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy.


Administration officials give an energetic lawyerly defense of Kagan’s position: she didn’t draft the policy and it was in place before she became dean. The military was allowed to recruit at Harvard, they just couldn’t get help from the law school’s career services office.


Kagan explains that DADT discriminates against gays. Surely it does. She opposes it. So does JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and probably the 90 percent of the military under the age of 25. So do I. So what.


DADT is not—and never was—merely anti-gay policy of bigoted generals. It was the law of the land, enacted in 1993 to prevent President Clinton from allowing openly gay people to serve. When Harvard—and Kagan—opposed cooperation with military recruiters they were opposing legitimate national defense activity, being carried out in accordance with the law.


Or perhaps Harvard policy trumps law? I hope that’s not the explanation of a Supreme Court nominee. Stay tuned.

Read The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World

Arizona governor signs harsh anti-illegal immigrant law

April 23, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer today signed into law what President Obama had just called an irresponsible act that “threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The new law makes it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork and requires police, if they have reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country illegally, to determine their immigration status. It also bars people from soliciting work as day laborers.

The President made his remarks at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty military people. He acknowledged that the Arizona action resulted from “our failure to act responsibly at the federal level,” as he called for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

So we now wait and see whether the new law increases or decreases the security of the people of Arizona. To her credit, Gov. Brewer spoke forcefully about her determination not to tolerate racial profiling by police officers. On the other hand, when a reporter asked her what an illegal immigrant looked like, she answered simply, “I don’t know.”

She said she signed the law to combat the “murderous greed of drug cartels, drop houses, kidnappings, and violence.” We can expect that the murderous greedy drug kingpins will no longer congregate in Wal-Mart parking lots looking for day labor.

Read The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World

Admiral Mullen’s a hero in the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” battle

February 27, 2010

Until 1993 homosexuals were banned from the U.S. military, and military investigators worked hard to search out and discharge closet gays and lesbians. Then in 1993 Congress passed the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law (aka DADT) to prevent President Clinton from opening the military to gays and lesbians.

The law frees the military from the obligation to search out and discharge homosexuals (“Don’t ask”), while prohibiting service members from disclosing their homosexuality (“Don’t tell”).

Now the Obama administration has set out to do away with DADT, and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. The Secretary of Defense has started a year long study into how to best implement the change. America’s military leadership recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (more…)