Sunday, September 29, 2013

Students storm Egyptian controlled Gaza Rafah crossing gate

Hundreds of angry Palestinian students who have been stranded for days at Rafah crossing on Sunday stormed the gate of terminal from the gaza side.

The students stormed their way towards the Egyptian side but the Palestinian security forces manning the terminal blocked them, eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency.

The students were infuriated over the seemingly endless hours of waiting due to the frequent closure of the terminal by Egyptian authorities.

"If we do not travel this week, our university will expel us, and our residence would consequently expire," one of the students who stormed the gate told AA.

Hundreds of Palestinian students trying to travel to their universities abroad have been stranded at the crossing for days in hopes of getting through the terminal, gaza's only gateway to the outside world as all other points into or out of the coastal enclave remain blocked by Israel.

Around 5,500 Palestinians are on wait lists to cross into Egypt but the Egyptian side only allows few Palestinians through, said Maher Abu Sabha, director of borders in the gaza government. More



Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory

Book Review: The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory

"To write more truthfully about the Nakba is not just to practice a professional historiography; it is also a moral imperative of acknowledgement and redemption." The Palestine Nakba: decolonising history, narrating the subaltern, reclaiming memory' (Zed Books, 2012) dismantles the myths structured by Zionism and sustained by an acquiescing narrative, furthering recognition of Palestinian legitimacy which surpasses remembrance.

Nur Masalha's research provides a meticulous framework through which the Palestinian struggle for memory exceeds the conventional definition of resistance tainted by the enforced oblivion of Palestinian narrative. Through analysis of various academic works which are compared and contrasted to various Palestinian narratives, Masalha elevates subaltern memory to prominence, highlighting a continuous rupture exacerbated by euphemisms which attempt to diminish the Palestinian problem.

The various memory conflicts expounded upon in the book stem from Israel's insistence upon manipulating Palestinian history in an attempt to thwart Palestinian consciousness, not only within the dispersed national dimension. The international support which Zionism harbours enables the occupying power to maintain the endorsed alienation from Palestinian existence and memory, which is erroneously supported in the West through a selective discernment of what constitutes genocide, thus displacing Palestinian history while supporting Zionist ambiguity and denial of the Nakba. The collaboration both at the Zionist governmental and academic levels portrays a reinvention of Jewish historiography 'divorced from collective memory' as the obsession of rewriting history in order to construct the fabrications of Jewish nationhood strive to eliminate the authenticity of Palestinian memory, hence the importance of reversing the traditional approach to history by returning to the subaltern memory – a component which is particularly vital in securing the Palestinian narrative which has already suffered appropriation and destruction of archived historical material.

Zionist historiography justifies Jewish independence by expounding upon oriental stereotypes, thus promoting Palestinian displacement and the elimination of the indigenous population in order to maintain the myth of the barren land. The Nakba, described by Israel as the war of liberation, is relegated to a segment of history within the Israeli narrative which is either denied or else misrepresented in a manner which seeks to divest Palestinians not only of their legitimate rights to land, but also of their existence. The settler-colonial memory supported by the Plan Dalet created colonial terminology which justified the occupation supported by imperialism. The justifications endorsed and promulgated by Israel reflect the lack of anti-colonial debate to the point of distortion concerning the actual commencement of the colonisation of Palestine which liberal Zionists claim had started in 1967. Masalha, however, traces the origins of colonisation back to 1882, when the concept of forced transfer had already formed part of Zionist ideology. Marginalising Palestinians by declaring them a segment of the Arab population furthered their displacement in terms of historical visibility enhanced by Zionist manipulation of language supporting a fictitious common history among settlers while justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians through the colonising of remnants of indigenous memory.

The imposition of Jewish collective memory designed by Zionism is a focal issue through which the colonisation of Palestinian identity and collective memory can be challenged through subaltern memory and the processes through which it ensured remembrance remained enshrined within a resistance which protected its people from the sequence of oblivion. The subaltern has presented a challenge to Zionist efforts to appropriate Palestinian territory. Toponymy, the destruction of Palestinian sites and their reinvention into places of allegedly Jewish significance aided by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the demolishing of villages in an attempt to invalidate Palestinian claims, massacres, internal forced displacement and the millions of Palestinian refugees have been minimised within the Zionist narrative to strengthen the alleged connection "between the days of the biblical Israelites and the modern Israeli state". However, the intention to construct a state upon remnants of Palestinian territory is challenged by the strength of Palestinian memory. Despite eradication of Nakba discourse from Israeli debate which intentionally fails to associate the violence unleashed upon Palestinians as pertaining to Palestinian memory, Palestinians have struggled from the periphery for their right to memory within a context which the Israeli narrative deems obsolete.

Masalha highlights the urgency expressed by Palestinians in asserting their historical memory in various mediums of dissemination. With a discrepancy between Israeli and Palestinian narratives regarding documented collective memory, Palestinians have embarked upon a process of unification within various experiences of the Israeli occupation which reflects the colossal predicament of refugees. Israel's vast archives and destruction of Palestinian documents led to unjustifiable claims of Palestinian memory as unreliable, hence the importance of asserting oral tradition to reconstruct the ostracised history, particularly the atrocities of the Nakba. Masalha states that "The overall bias towards Israeli 'archives' and the lack of sufficient attention given to Palestinian oral history have contributed to silencing the Palestinian past ... As is the case with other subaltern groups, refugee oral testimony is a crucial source for recovering the voice of the victims of ethnic cleansing and for constructing a more comprehensible narrative of the experience of ordinary Palestinian refugees". The urgency also reflects the necessity to rapidly depart from the colonial perspective in a manner through which Palestinians are able to author their own history, as well as counter Israeli perspectives that Palestinians should acknowledge responsibility for the Nakba.

The continuity of trauma necessitates the validation of oral history within Palestinian collective memory, in order to challenge the conventional Israeli historiography supplemented at various levels including education, by Israel's security agency, Shin Bet. Palestinian oral history is disassociated from any ideological project, however it should be allowed the space to flourish and challenge the manipulation of discourse through recollection of Palestinian trauma. Exposing Israeli patriotism as a force intent on the obliteration of the indigenous population in turn provides the initial deconstruction of oblivion processes which tend to have further ramifications than the obvious process of forgetting. Indifference plays an integral role in the dynamics of oblivion – recognition of subaltern memory significantly challenges the exclusion of the Nakba from any political platform including the alleged peace process. Masalha's arguments for a coherent counter hegemony that dispels Zionist manipulation of language, history and memory, based upon recognition of the Nakba and efforts to maintain its protection against denial especially with the international community portray the need to comprehend and maintain a wider commitment to the Palestinian struggle against Zionist and imperialist oblivion. More


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Human Rights Watch urges Israel to stop displacing Bedouins

Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Israel to stop trying to displace Bedouin families in the West Bank, where the army last week manhandled European diplomats on an aid mission.

“The Israeli military should end its unjustified attempts to forcibly remove a decades-old community,” the New York-based watchdog’s Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement.

“Israeli forces didn’t just rough up diplomats, they demolished every single building in Makhul and ordered the residents to leave and never come back,” he said.

The army on September 16 demolished property built by the Palestinian Bedouin in the Jordan Valley village after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled they had been erected without building permits and declared the area a “closed military zone”.

Mahul is in an area of the West Bank under full control of the army, which rarely issues building permits.

The move forced out 10 families, including 16 children, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Israeli troops on Friday then manhandled a group of European diplomats trying to deliver tents to residents of the demolished homes.

The troops forcefully dispersed the French, British, Irish, Spanish, Swedish and Greek diplomats who had accompanied aid workers to Makhul.

An Israeli court temporarily suspended any further demolitions on Tuesday following the incident, HRW said.

Major Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), told AFP that Makhul demolition orders were first issued in 2009.

“In 2009 the civil adminstration issued demolition orders for this area and gave the population there an opportunity to come to the civil administration’s committees in order to prove that they are living on their land, to legalise the place,” he said.

“After not doing that for two or three years the civil administration issued again demolition orders and they appealed to the court,” Inbar said.

“The court heard both sides and decided that the orders were correct and that the population there lived in an illegal way… therefore the civil administration came and demolished the tents in that area.”

However, HRW said that under international humanitarian law, the forced transfer of civilians in an occupied territory is a “prosecutable war crime”.

Israel has destroyed more than 500 Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank and mostly Arab east Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, displacing 862 people, according to OCHA. More


Friday, September 20, 2013

Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid

KHIRBET AL-MAKHUL, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

French diplomat Marion Castaing

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.

"They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity," French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

"This is how international law is being respected here," she said, covered with dust.

The Israeli army and police declined to comment.

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel's high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union's political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

"It's shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments," said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.

"(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren't being protected," he said.

In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

"What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they're obligated to respect international law," the unnamed EU diplomat said. More


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Phone Companies Paid Millions to Cooperate with NSA

Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a joint statement this week regarding admissions by senior intelligence officials that they did not fully understand the entirety of the NSA’s bulk collection programs.


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court released a previously classified opinion this week asserting the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) controversial bulk phone log collection program. The 29-page opinion, written by Judge Claire V. Eagan, is the most extensive explanation yet for the massive program, defending the practice on the grounds that it is sanctioned by a provision of the Patriot Act, and that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment since it does not eavesdrop on contents of phone calls. Judge Eagan, a 2001 George W. Bush appointee assigned to the FISA court this year by Chief Justice Roberts, wrote that “any decision about whether to keep it was a political question, not a legal one.” Jameel Jaffer, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was unconvinced by the court’s opinion, saying the opinion “only confirms the folly of entrusting privacy rights to a court that hears argument only from the government.”

The ACLU isn’t the only one not reassured by Judge Eagan’s opinion on the program’s legality.Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a joint statement this week regarding admissions by senior intelligence officials that they did not fully understand the entirety of the NSA’s bulk collection programs. After revelations that intelligence officials routinely mislead the FISA court and consistently violated the court’s orders, the Senators argue that, “[i]f the assertion that ineptitude and not malice was the cause of these ongoing violations is taken at face value, it is perfectly reasonable for Congress and the American people to question whether a program that no one fully understood was an effective defense of American security at all. The fact that this program was allowed to operate this way raises serious concerns about the potential for blind spots in the NSA’s surveillance programs. It also supports our position that bulk collection ought to be ended.”

Judge Eagan’s opinion also revealed that no telecommunications company has ever challenged the legality of an NSA surveillance request. While technology companies like Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft have all filed petitions with the FISA court to disclose records proving their objection to the programs, the NSA pays AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars for their willing compliance. Matthew Aid argues this means that these private companies “now actually do much of NSA’s SIGINT collection work, for which NSA pays them tens of millions of dollars every year. And the irony is that we American taxpayers pay for this through a series of surcharges, fees and taxes tacked on to our AT&T, Verizon and Sprint long-distance telephone bills.” A Verizon executive went so far as to say tech companies were “grandstanding” in public about their aversion to cooperating with the NSA. However, despite the controversy surrounding the NSA’s surveillance practices, President Obama’s review panel created specifically to reform the NSA’s programs did not discuss making any substantive changes during the panel’s first meeting.

In non-NSA news, while the NSA has the budget to pay telecommunications companies $278 million for user data, the FBI is facing serious government spending cuts. The agency has long agonized over the anticipated budget cuts, and recently decided that the bureau will be forced to shut down their headquarters and nation-wide offices for 10 days over the course of the next year. “Besides the short-term effect on morale, response time and focus on the mission, this will degrade the capabilities of the bureau in the long term as well,” according to former FBI deputy director Tim Murphy. “I think the long-term impact is not being considered by those having this budget debate in Congress. Mistakes will be made down the road because of these cuts, and they will be able to be traced back to these cuts.”

The ACLU is challenging the CIA’s refusal to release any documents on its use of drones in targeted killings. Since the ACLU submitted a FOIA request to the CIA for use of drones for such practices, the CIA has continually refused to list or describe any documents in its possession –in direct opposition to a federal court’s orders. The CIA is not only ignoring the federal courts on the basis that releasing any information would endanger national security, it is continuing to engage in what an appeals courts calls a “pattern of strategic and selective leaks at very high levels of the Government,” prompting the ACLU to state in its brief, “[i]ndeed, the CIA’s response is so obviously deficient that one can only assume that the CIA’s goal is not to prevail on this motion but simply to delay as long as possible the day on which the agency will finally be required to explain what documents it is withholding and why.” More


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Resolving the Syrian Chemical Weapons Crisis: Sunlight and Shadows By Richard Falk

The Putin Moment: Not only did Vladimir Putin exhibit a new constructive role for Russia in 21st statecraft, spare Syria and the Middle East from another cycleof escalating violence, but he articulated this Kremlin initiative in the form of a direct appeal to the American people.

There were reasons to be particularly surprised by this display of Russian diplomacy: not since Nikita Khrushchev helped save the world from experiencing the catastrophe of nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 by backing down and agreeing to a face-saving formula for both superpowers, had Moscow distinguished itself in any positive way with respect to the conduct of international relations; for Putin to be so forthcoming, without being belligerent, was particularly impressive in view of Obama’s rather ill-considered cancellation only a few weeks ago of a bilateral meeting with the Russian leader because of Washington’s supposed anger at the refusal of the Russian government to turn the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, over to the United States for criminal prosecution under American espionage laws; and finally, considering that Putin has much blood on his hands given past policies pursued in relation to Chechnya and in the autocratic treatment of domestic political opposition, it was hard to expect anything benevolent during his watch. And so Putin is emerging as a virtual ‘geopolitical black swan,’ making unanticipated moves of such a major character as to have the potential to transform the character of conflict management and resolution in the 21st century. It should be understood that Putin could have stayed on the sidelines, and benefitted from seeing Obama sink deeper and deeper into the Syrian quagmire, and instead he stepped in with a momentous move that seems to have served the regional and global interest.

Putin has explained in a coherent manner in his opinion piece that was published in the NY Times on September 11th attacks) that his approach to Russian foreign policy relies on two instruments: soft power and economic diplomacy. He acknowledged American leadership, but only if exercised within a framework of respect for international law and the UN Charter. And he appropriately took issue with Obama’s sentiments expressed a night earlier to the effect that America in its leadership role had a unique entitlement to use force to overcome injustice in situations other than self-defense and even without authorization by the UN Security Council. It was Putin, perhaps disingenuously, who claimed (quite correctly) that such a prerogative was “extremely dangerous.” He rejected Obama’s pretension that a unilateral discretion with respect to the use of force could be inferred from American exceptionalism. Whether disingenuous or not, the requirement of a Security Council authorization for non-defensive uses of force, while sometimes preventing a peacekeeping response by the UN to certain tragic situations of civil strife and humanitarian crisis overall contributed to finding diplomatically agreed upon solutions for conflict and enabled the UN (unlike the League of Nations) to persist despite severe tensions among its dominant members. Let hope that this Putin vituoso exhibition of creative diplomacy prompts his counterpart in the White House to explore more diligently soft power opportunities that will better protect American national interests, while simultaneously serving the global interest in war prevention and the rejection of militarism, and might also have the added benefit of reversing the steady decline of American credibility as a benevolent global leader ever since the end of the Cold War.(without invoking the symbolism of the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11

Constitutional Balance: Perhaps what might be of even greater importance than averting an ill-considered punitive attack on Syria, is the grounding of recourse to war on the major republican premise of Congressional authorization. There is little doubt that here the efficient cause and anti-hero was David Cameron, who turned to Parliament to support his wish to join with Obama in the attack coalition despite the anti-war mood in British public opinion. Cameron was politically spared by the vote of the House of Commons to withhold authorization. It is hard to believe that Obama’s decision to seek authorization from the U.S. Congress was not a belated realization that if Britain deferred to its Parliament as an expression of constitutional democracy, it would be unseemly for the United States to go to war without the formal backing of Congress. Of course, the Putin initiative saved Obama from the near certain embarrassment of being turned down by Congress, which would mean that either he would follow in Cameron’s and face savage criticism from his hawkish boosters or insist upon his authority as Commander in Chief to act on his own, a prerogative that seems constitutional dubious to support a bill of impeachment. Beyond this, theWar Powers Act that would seem to require some emergency justification for the presidential bypassing of Congress in the context of a proposed military action. Hopefully, we are witnessing, without an accompanying acknowledgement, the downfall of the ‘imperial presidency’ that got its start during the Vietnam War. The governmental pendulum in the United States may have started to swing back toward the separation of powers and checks and balances, and thus be more in keeping with the original republican hopes of limited executive authority, especially in relation to war making. This renewal of republican constitutionalism, combined with growing populist skepticism about military adventures abroad, might make this Syrian crisis of decision a welcome tipping point, reversing the unhealthy subordination of Congress in war/peace situations during the last half century and anti-democratic disregard of the views of the citizenry. More

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Angola: Head of State appoints Ecocide Convention Work Team

The Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos Wednesday in Luanda ordered the setting up of a Work Team to study and draft proposals for incorporation in the country’s legal system of the Ecocide Convention, Angop learned from an official source.

Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos

Ecocide is defined as the destruction or degradation of various ecosystems in a certain territory, through human action or others, putting at stake the full development of the resources by the population.

The United Nations has decided to discuss, approve and promote among the member states an International Convention against the Ecocide, aiming to protect the earth and its living species against the evil and hold legally accountable the institutions, organisms, organisations and their leaders found responsible for the phenomenon.

Internally, the Executive is required to set up national mechanisms of combat against the ecocide, promotion of the enforcement of the law and regulation of the cooperation with the international organisms and organisations involved in the protection of the environment, its technical assistance and exchange of information.

The just appointed Work Team is coordinated by the minister of Environment and includes representatives of the ministries of Energy and Water, Interior, Oil and National Defence.

According to the source, The Work Team is expected to conduct a deep study on the Ecocide Convention draft, by analysing the impact the phenomenon might have on the country’s legal system.

It is also the Work Team’s duty to create a legal framework for the country’s economic development, promote and facilitate international cooperation and provide technical assistance to prevent the ecocide, the source said.

The body is also tasked with arranging and promoting inter-sectoral programmes of information, publicity and social awareness, through environmental education campaigns and identifying and protecting the communities based in threatened areas. More


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Texas approves renaming slave trade as “Atlantic triangular trade”

The Texas Board of Education’s conservative members went on the deep end. As the one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the country, the board changed and re-wrote the history books. Smaller states who have no textbook buying power would essentially have to read and study the new Texas version of history.

Tools of “Atlantic Triangulation Trade”

The changes are ideological and distort history, but conservative Board of Education argue they are correcting a long-standing liberal bias in education. Read the running history of this very interesting “culture war” here and if you want details, read the exact changes here.

One of the most controversial changes is to deny the slave trade. The Texas Board of Education wants to refer to the slave trade as the “Atlantic triangular trade”. What the he** is the “Atlantic triangular trade”? What do you call the millions of African-Americans whose ancestors came here as slaves? Descendants of triangulates?

Capitalism can only be referred to as “free enterprise system”, largely because of the negative connotations of the word “capitalism”. Personally I don’t think there is anything wrong with capitalism but they should consider teaching that unfettered greed can be bad for society.

The board has diminished Thomas Jefferson’s role in history because of his belief in the separation of church and state. Students also are required to learn that America’s founding documents were influenced by various intellectual traditions, “especially biblical law,” and principles laid down by Moses. From the tenor of the changes, the board approved the foundation for a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. It would be kinda like Iran, only it would be the right Christian kind. Social conservatives, creationists and religious fanatics who dominate the Texas State Board of Education want to redefine the Constitution as an explicitly Christian document and highlight the role of God in the establishment of the US.

The board approved dropping references to a landmark court case that barred schools from segregating Mexican American students. Joseph McCarthy’s campaign against suspected communists is now to be toned down. Like McCarthy was just a curious senator, right?

The amendments also cast the United Nations in a critical light, with students asked to evaluate whether the UN and its committees undermine US sovereignty – a tune for conservatives. Students would be required to learn about the “unintended consequences” of Title IX, affirmative action, and the Great Society, and would need to study conservative icons like Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority.

Maybe we should add that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction so we had to spend trillions on an unnecessary war in Iraq? Nah… that will never make it.

In fact, in the transcripts of the board discussions, they specifically did not want to include President George W. Bush’s controversial 2000 election outcome nor the election of the first African American President Barack Obama. On the other hand, the board added positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the GOP’s Contract with America.

The board will not even listen to Rod Paige’s plea to reconsider the changes. Paige is the first African-American to serve as education secretary… President George “Dubya” Bush’s education secretary.

More than 1,200 historians and college faculty members from across the nation have signed a petition calling the standards academically shoddy.

The Texas Board of Education voted today his week and approved all of the changes. More



6 Corporations Making Money From U.S. Aid to the Brutal Egyptian Military

The $1.3 billion sent to Egypt's armed forces every year functions as a major subsidy program to American military contractors.

Most of the tanks, tear gas and bullets used to brutally clear the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo in mid-August were bought with American money. While there are a number of reasons why the U.S. continues to allocate an annual $1.3 billion in cash for the Egyptian military—Israel, access to the Suez Canal and counter-terrorism cooperation—the profits that go to American weapons companies are a major incentive.

Since 1979, the glue that has stuck the Pentagon and Egyptian military together has been cash. In total, America has given the Egyptian military nearly $42 billion since 1948, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Under the terms of the Foreign Military Financing deal struck with Egypt, the vast majority of the arms equipment the country buys is American. Currently, an estimated 80 percent of the Egyptian military's weapons purchases are covered by American military aid.

Here's how the financing system works: the money allocated for the military aid gets sent to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Then, it gets delivered to a trust fund at the Treasury Department, and is finally given to military contractors who make the tanks and bullets that have transformed the Egyptian armed forces into one of the most powerful forces in the Middle East.

This system benefits some of the most powerful American military companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

“It’s clearly a major subsidy program for these companies,” said Shana Marshall, an expert on military aid to Egypt and associate director and research instructor at the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University. “It’s kept open their production line when they would have otherwise been closed down and it’s a source of really reliable profits for them.”

In the aftermath of the military's massacre of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, these defense contractors are closely watching the unfolding debate about U.S. aid to Egypt. But they have little reason to worry.

While reports about the Obama administration reviewing the U.S. military aid package have emerged in recent weeks, there is little chance of an U.S. aid cut off, despite the fact that American law mandates one if a coup is implemented.

Every time someone mentions a suspension of aid or rethinking the aid program, they send a team of defense industry lobbyists to Capitol Hill to knock on doors to make sure that there’s no suspension of the aid program,” said Marshall.

Further complicating any talk of an aid cut-off is the fact that contracts to provide equipment to the military extend far into the future. Penalties for breaking those contracts would be inflicted on the U.S. taxpayer.

So these military contractors will continue to rake in cash from the U.S.-Egypt relationship for the foreseeable future. Here's a look at six of them.

1. Lockheed Martin

The Maryland-based military company is a tried-and-true customer of the U.S. military. With gross profits of $2.7 billion in 2011, Lockheed Martin is one of the most cash-rich military companies. The vast majority of those profits come from U.S. government contractors to provide fighter jets, missile defense and more. It 's also benefited handsomely from the Egypt-US relationship.

In 2010, Lockheed Martin inked a $2.5 billion deal with the U.S. military to provide 20 F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military. Fourteen of the jets have been delivered to Egypt; under the terms of the deal, the remaining six are to be delivered by December 2014. But in the wake of the Egyptian military's violence against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, the Obama administration announced it would delay the delivery of the remaining jets. While it was a punitive measure in response to human rights violations, in the grand scheme of things it's only a symbolic step, given that it's a temporary suspension and that the vast majority of U.S. military equipment will continue to be sent to the country.

The $1.3 billion sent to Egypt's armed forces every year functions as a major subsidy program to American military contractors.

A month after the fighter jet deal was reached, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary in Florida was awarded a $46 million contract to provide night vision sensor systems for Apache helicopters for Egypt.

2. General Dynamics

This major military company has also benefited from the Egyptian-American military relationship. Specifically, it is the source for key parts needed to build Egypt's M1A1 tanks, a vehicle that the U.S. has delivered to the country since the late 1980s. In total, Egypt's military has acquired more than 1,000 of these tanks—far more than the armed forces actually need—for over $3.9 billion.

Since 1992, General Dynamics has provided components for tank kits for M1A1 vehicles. In 2011, the U.S. military awarded the company a $395 million deal to provide these tank kits to Egypt. The parts are shipped to a production facility in Egypt—an example of how the military relationship with the U.S. also benefits Egyptian military engineers and provides some jobs for Egyptians. (Other contracts have similar arrangements, where some of the production of military goods occurs in the U.S. and the other portion occurring in Egyptian factories.) The deliveries of these specific tank kits will take place from July 2013-January 2016.

In 2012, General Dynamics signed another contract, this time for $37 million, related to M1A1 tanks.

3. L-3 Communications

Known for its prowess in the production of communications, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment for the U.S. government, L-3 Communications brings in billions of dollars in profits each year. Some of the money comes from its contracts with the U.S. military to provide Egypt communications equipment.

This year, L-3 Communications was awarded a $10.5 million contract to provide high-frequency transceivers for Egypt's military.

In 2010, L-3 Communications received even more benefits from the U.S. aid package to Egypt. The company made $24 million to assemble a sonar system for the Egyptian navy. “ L-3's sonar provides long range and detection capability under the harshest of sea state conditions, and we are honored to provide the Egyptian Navy with our high-performance solution,” crowed Jerry Ozovek, the president of L-3's Ocean Systems.

4. General Electric

General Electric has its hands in everything: energy, computers, digital cameras—and U.S. military contracting, specifically in the aviation field.

In August 2013, General Electric signed a $13.6 million deal with the U.S. Air Force to give Egypt's air force “service life extension kits” for the F110 jet fighter engine used in the Lockheed Martin-produced F16s.

Orders like these translate into stable employment for years,” a GE spokesman told an Ohio newspaper.

5. Exelis

While this company is a relatively small name in the world of military contractors, Exelis does well for itself. The Virginia-based company made nearly $6 million last year. The Washington Postdescribes it as specializing in “electronics and communications equipment such as radios, as well as technical services such as cybersecurity and intelligence offerings.”

This year, it inked a $24 million deal with the U.S. Navy to produce “six radio frequency repeater systems for the government of Egypt.”

6. Boeing

Boeing is the second largest military contractor in the world. Its relationship with the Egyptian military stretches back years.

In 2000, Boeing agreed to upgrade 35 of Egypt's Apache helicopters for $400 million. Nine years later, Boeing signed a $820 million contract to provide more Apache aircraft. The U.S. is set to deliver some of the remaining helicopters from that 2009 deal next month.

And in 2010, Boeing signed yet another contract to provide Apache helicopters, this time for $22.5 million. More



Syria: Obama’s Surprising (and Confusing) Latest Moves by Richard Falk

President Obama’s August 31st remarks from the White House Rose Garden will long be remembered for their strangeness, but the final interpretation of their significance will have to await months if not years.

Richard Falk

There are three dimensions, at least, that are worth pondering: (1) seeking Congressional authorization for a punitive military attack against Syria in support of the treaty prohibition on recourse to chemical weapons in an armed conflict; (2) reconciling any endorsement of an attack by Congress with United States obligations under international law and with respect to the United Nations and its Charter; (3) assessing the degree to which American war making prerogatives continue to operate within an unacceptable domain of American exceptionalism.

In framing the issues at stake Obama set forth the fundamental policy choices in a rather incoherent manner:

  • First of all, he asserted that on the basis of evidence available to the United States Government, that the Assad regime was without doubt responsible for the massive chemical weapons attack of August 21st directed at the Ghouta residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus, and causing over 1,000 civilian deaths, including several hundred children. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, clearly articulated the grounds for skepticism about this American construction of the Ghouta atrocity. He put forward a strongly worded request that the allegations be confirmed by the release of convincing evidence. This is a reasonable demand. Many around the world have questioned why Assad would launch such a provocative attack to coincide with the arrival of UN inspectors, and when the battlefield balance was tipping in favor of the Damascus regime. All along such important figures in the Obama administration, especially John Kerry and Joe Biden, have arrogantly dismissed the relevance of any information provided by the UN inspection team. In light of the gigantic deception relating to Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) arsenal, which was more politely described long after the event as an ‘intelligence failure,’ it would have been appropriate for Washington to admit that it has a credibility problem in winning governmental and popular support for an attack on Syria. Its refusal to acknowledge such an issue merely deepens suspicions.
  • Secondly, Obama informed listeners that “..after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” He added that he made this decision “as Commander-in-Chief on what I am convinced are our national security interests.” This conclusion was explained to rest on the importance of punishing such a crime against humanity and deterring future recourse to chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction by Syria, as well as sending a message to Iran and North Korea about America’s readiness to use force to uphold such norms of international law.
  • Thirdly, there was no effort in Obama’s remarks to show why, absent a UN mandate, the United States in coalition with a few other countries, had the legal authority to attack a sovereign state in a circumstance other than self-defense.
  • Fourthly, although the decision against involvement by the British Parliament was noted, there was no consideration as to whether such an outcome should bear on American policy. Nor was the German or Italian unwillingness to join in the attack noted, nor that of the Arab League. But the French support was duly appreciated, including a dig at the United Kingdom, by reminding his listeners around the world that it was France that was America’s “oldest ally.” (It is worth noting that the roles of these two European friends were directly reversed in the context of the Iraq War; then, it was the French more conservative led government that opposed participation, while now a socialist leader in Paris supports an attack against Syria).
  • Fifthly, and in the most dramatic passage in the speech, Obama announces that because the United States is a proud democracy he has made “a second decision: I will seek the authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress” by calling for a debate and vote. No mention is made of a time frame, nor how he would react in the event that authorization was not forthcoming. Such an eventuality would set up a potential tension between his duties to uphold national security and an obligation of deference to a decision by Congress on the vital matter of authority to wage war. Obama touched all the bases by saying, “Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.” In effect, there is no constitutional legal requirement to obtain Congressional authorization, but doing so will create a more effective response. But what if authorization is withheld? Or Congress is split with approval by the Senate, and disapproval by the House?
  • Sixthly, there is an implicit endorsement of American exceptionalism. After saying that the case for an attack will be made internationally, as well as domestically, Obama reaffirms a national prerogative of illegal unilateralism. He uses this phrase: “But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.” That is no matter that others disagree, the United States alone has the duty to act as it sees fit. It is correctly presumed that such discretion is not vested in other sovereign states. Otherwise the world would be in flames. In effect, Syria, Iran, North Korea are bound by international law, as interpreted by the United States, while the United States and its closest allies are guided by assessments of their national security interests.

It is this double standard that is at the core of American exceptionalism, and also underpins the debate as to whether it is more instructive to view the United States as ‘global leader’ or ‘imperial power,’ or possibly some blend;

There is something rather sinister about announcing an intention to strike a vulnerable country with which the United States is not at war, coupled with the announcement that the needed military capabilities are in place, but will not be used until convenient; in effect, a lethal strike against Syria can take place at any point from now on until a time weeks or months from now, depending only on the workings of the internal American political process and the disposition of its Commander-in-Chief. If this is deemed to be in the interest of the Syrian people, I would like to know how.

Even if the controversy as to the facts is ignored, and theproblems associated with double standards as to the relevance ofinternational law to the use of force, there are some other reasonsfor concern about the approach adopted by PresidentObama:

  • It denies constitutional status to the request for Congressionalauthorization, making it a discretionary presidential judgment callthat is not necessitated by the Constitution, but is an expressionof Obama’s belief in democratic procedures. To not rest thisrequest on the Constitution itself is a missed opportunity, andthus amounts to yet another reassertion of excessive authority bythe Executive Branch of government;
  • Itmakes no effort to assess what would be of benefit to the people ofSyria, and rather makes the case for a narrow strike as acombination of punishing (without intending to displace) the Assadregime and abstract American national security interests in itsself-appointed role as preventing the use and spread ofWMD;
  • Itfails to advocate in a serious manner a diplomatic approach toending the violence of the conflict by calling for a second Genevaconference with the full participation of Iran that would deal withregional peace and security issues, as well as the war inSyria;
  • Itundermines the authority of the UN and international law by vestingin the U.S. Government the final word on when it is appropriate touse international force in non-defensive modes and fails to makewar a matter of ‘last resort’;
  • It draws an overly sharp a distinction between this incidentinvolving chemical weapons and other massacres that have occurredduring the course of two years of strife in Syria; regardless ofthe weaponry deployed both forms of violence are crimes againsthumanity that deserve a serious and effective response, ifavailable.


It is as yet possible that Congress will rescue Obama from havingto respect a red line he ill-advisedly proclaimed a year ago. Itwould be ironic if this one time the anti-Obama Republicans savedhim from the worse foreign policy excess of hispresidency!

It is possible that Obama will be pushed by pro-interventionists tooverride a Congressional failure to give authorization. It is alsopossible that Congress will authorize, and public opinion stronglyoppose. And we are left to wonder whether Congress canconstitutionally authorize a use of force that violatesinternational treaty law. Of course, we would be unlikely to findout given the passivity of the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes tochallenges directed at legally dubious foreign policy and nationalsecurity matters.

All of the above suggests that the revitalization of Americanrepublicanism requires, as a matter of urgency, a constitutionalconvention with an explicit mandate to restore the separation ofpowers and checks and balances in relations to war/peace issues.The U.S. Government has longed strayed from this vital pillar ofrepublican democracy.

Nothing would do more to restore confidence in the United States asa global leader! Such a momentous event will not happen withoutmassive grassroots pressure; it will never be decreed from onhigh.

A final word of blurred appreciation: CNN talking heads are veryfond of referring to Obama as epitomizing ‘the reluctant warrior.’And reluctant he is, but also warrior he has been, and continues tobe, casting a rather dark shadow over the Nobel Peace Prizedecision process. The reluctance is articulated over and over againin his words and sometimes reflected in his policies, and certainlyseems sincere. And such reluctance may be credited, at leastsubconsciously, with this welcome move to broaden the domesticauthorization process with respect to this non-defensive use ofinternational force. Obama would deserve less ambiguous praise ifhe had recognized the role of Congress prior to the decision of theBritish Parliament. And prior the many demands from Congress for agreater role gathering political momentum.More



I question how the international community can discipline a States Party to the United Nations for acting unilaterally? States that carry out drone strikes, committing extra-judicial killings, allegedly as part of their war on terror, a 'war' that the said state may be at least partially responsible for causing.

There has to be accountability, or as Richard Falk points out; Obama reaffirms a national prerogative of illegal unilateralism. He uses this phrase: “But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.” That is no matter that others disagree, the United States alone has the duty to act as it sees fit.

The international community must uphold the Rule of Law, the United National and all International Organizations have an obligation to uphold the Rule of Law. The mandate of the Geneva Conventions must be upheld. I argue that it is a human right for all states to be held accountable and for there to consequences for illegal actions. Editor