New video from Israeli attack on Gaza humanitarian flotilla

Democracy Now! is previewing exclusive video from Israel’s attack on the Free Gaza humanitarian flotilla.  Here’s a synopsis of the new video:

In a Democracy Now! exclusive we bring you a sneak preview of previously unseen raw footage from the Mavi Marmara that will be formally released at a press conference at the United Nations later in the day. The footage shows the mood and the activities on board the Mavi Marmara in the time leading up to the attack, and the immediate reaction of the passengers during the attack. We are joined by filmmaker and activist Iara Lee, one of the few Americans on the Mavi Marmara ship. Her equipment was confiscated but she managed to smuggle out an hour’s worth of footage.

Oh, and no sarcasm from me today.  I’m leaving that to the brilliantly talented Arthur Silber, whose biting essay on the topic is featured below the videos.

A Friendly Note to Many of Israel’s Defenders

Arthur Silber

June 08, 2010

From the sickeningly rancid, foully infected underbelly of the Outraged Furor! over Helen Thomas’s violation of The Sacred Rules Concerning What Is Permissible to Say About Israel, there is one “argument” offered by Israel’s defenders that might be among my favorite debating tactics of recent years.

In their efforts to prove beyond all dispute that Thomas is a vicious anti-Semite who loathes every Jew who has ever lived and longs for the day when every single one of them is dead, these defenders of notably horrifying and murderous State terrorism gleefully spit out: “It’s just like saying, ‘Hey, all you Black Americans! Go back to Africa!’ And we all know what it would mean if someone said that!”

I’ve heard and read this a huge number of times in the last several days. I am forced to admit that the comparison is staggering in its power. It makes the point with concision, and the historic parallels are overwhelming. To review briefly, and despite the very painful familiarity of these facts: significant numbers of Africans voluntarily, indeed enthusiastically, migrated westward and took over large parts of the eastern seaboard of what was then the United States beginning in the mid-1800s. They were able to do this because they had the unending support in a multitude of forms of the most powerful Nation-States of the time. The Africans claimed that a special dispensation from … well, something or other … ordained that the land mass designated by the name “United States” was uniquely theirs. The Nation-States that made possible the Africans’ conquest and domination agreed.

In the ensuing century and a half, the Africans slaughtered most of those they found living in the United States, beginning in the eastern states and then steadily continuing their campaign of murder and destruction across the continent. The few survivors fled further and further west. The Africans inexorably pursued them, all still with the backing of certain immensely powerful Nation-States. Eventually, the Africans drove the remaining previous inhabitants of the United States into just three or four very small areas in (what were then called) Arizona and New Mexico. From that point on and continuing to the present, the Africans forbade virtually anyone and anything from moving into or out of these impossibly restricted areas. Although it is rarely talked about or admitted, people will eventually acknowledge, when pressed, that the Americans forced to remain in these concentration camps must endure conditions that are among the most nightmarish on earth.

Given this history, well-known to every young school child in the world, it is indeed exactly the same to say that the Israelis should “get out of Palestine” and to demand that the Africans should “get out of the United States.” The argument is unanswerable to a degree that causes me profound embarrassment and distress. I greatly resent having the pathetic shabbiness of my views revealed in this manner.

But perhaps I might offer an exceedingly minor piece of unsolicited and doubtless unwanted advice to many of those who regularly defend Israel’s systematic State terrorism, extended entirely free of charge and only because I’m a hell of a sweet guy:

You don’t need to work at making yourselves stupid. Seriously.

On a related note: it is not “brave” or “courageous” of you in the slightest degree to side with unanswerable power, or to act as enforcers of permissible speech. To the contrary, that decision is one of the least courageous choices imaginable. It is also remarkably, astonishingly … well, stupid. But I’ve told you that you don’t need to work at that.

I have a number of other, considerably more complex points I want to make about this Helen Thomas episode. I’ll get to all that in the next day or so. But I came across this particular “argument” several times again this morning. So I wanted to get this out of the way.

For me, one of the more gut-wrenching aspects of today’s monstrous culture, a culture that kills each and every manifestation of empathy, understanding and compassion with relentlessly systematic determination, is the combination of unending destruction, cruelty, violence and murder with the most abysmally wretched depths of stupidity.

In certain respects, that is my own personal nightmare. And so, so many people work with such diligence to make it real every single day. They needn’t work at that, either, and I desperately wish they would stop.

Assuredly, they will not.


41 dead civilians in Yemen. New evidence points to U.S.

Images of missile and cluster munitions point to US role in fatal attack in Yemen

Amnesty International


Unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblet -  the Tomahawk BGM-109D cruise missile would have carried 166 of these (full details below).

Unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblet – the Tomahawk BGM-109D cruise missile would have carried 166 of these (full details below).

Part of propulsion unit of BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile.

Part of propulsion unit of BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile.

Part of BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile, probably fuel tank section.

Part of BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile, probably fuel tank section.

Amnesty International has released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children.

The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida.

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful. The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

The Yemeni government has said its forces alone carried out the attack on al-Ma’jalah, the site of an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in al-Mahfad district, Abyan Governorate.

Shortly after the attack some US media reported alleged statements by unnamed US government sources who said that US cruise missiles launched on presidential orders had been fired at two alleged al-Qa’ida sites in Yemen.

“Based on the evidence provided by these photographs, the US government must disclose what role it played in the al-Ma’jalah attack, and all governments involved must show what steps they took to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries,” said Philip Luther.

The photographs enable the positive identification of damaged missile parts, which appear to be from the payload, mid-body, aft-body and propulsion sections of a BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster submunitions (bomblets) which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150m away. An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.

A further photograph, apparently taken within half an hour of the others, shows an unexploded BLU 97 A/B submunition itself, the type carried by BGM-109D missiles. These missiles are known to be held only by US forces and Yemeni armed forces are unlikely to be capable of using such a missile.

Amnesty International has requested information from the Pentagon about the involvement of US forces in the al-Ma’jalah attack, and what precautions may have been taken to minimize deaths and injuries, but has yet to receive a response.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen, when most states around the world have committed to comprehensively ban these weapons,” said Mike Lewis, Amnesty International’s arms control researcher.

“Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards. All governments responsible for using them must urgently provide assistance to clear unexploded munitions.”

Neither the USA nor Yemen has yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty designed to comprehensively ban such weapons which is due to enter into force on 1 August 2010.

A Yemeni parliamentary committee that investigated the 17 December 2009 attack reported in February that 41 people it described as civilians had been killed. In its report the committee said that on arrival at the scene of the attack in al-Ma’jalah it “found that all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture.”

It said the committee “found traces of blood of the victims and a number of holes in the ground left by the bombing… as well as a number of unexploded bombs”, and that one survivor told the committee that his family, who were killed although they had committed no crime, were sleeping when the missiles struck on the morning of 17 December 2009.

In its report, the Yemeni parliamentary committee said the Yemeni government should open a judicial investigation into the attack and bring to justice those responsible for the killings of civilians, but no such investigation is known to have been held as yet.

The committee reported statements by the Abyan Governorate authorities that 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida were also killed in the attack, but said it had been unable to obtain information confirming this and was able to obtain the name of only one of the 14 from the Abyan authorities.

Image 1, additional details: The Tomahawk BGM-109D cruise missile would have carried 166 BLU 97 cluster bomblets, which are designed to scatter over a wide area, acting indiscriminately when used in civilian areas. Many also fail to explode on impact, as in the photograph above, but may explode if disturbed, making land dangerous for communities to use for months or years after attacks.