30 January 2017

On trial: Lebanon’s corrupt justice system

Middle East Eye

In front of Beirut’s military tribunal, located just down the street from the Lebanese capital’s National Museum, is a statue of a helmeted soldier holding the scales of justice.
Globally speaking, the military is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating matters of fairness and truth. Think Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, or pretty much any other aspect of the US war on terror, and the verdict quickly presents itself: soldiers aren’t exactly arbiters of justice.
But in Lebanon, the obstacles to military justice have become ever clearer with the release of a new report by Human Rights Watch on an ongoing Lebanese tradition of trying civilians in military courts.
Among the focuses of the report are Lebanese protesters facing up to three years in prison via military court trial, as well as children reportedly tortured during pre-trial interrogations.
Not that there is a surplus of justice to be had outside the confines of Lebanese military tribunals. Indeed, “Lebanese law” is often a contradiction in terms: the justice system is haphazardly wielded primarily against the country’s have-nots, while those with the proper elite credentials and sectarian political connections remain largely immune to prosecution. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

20 January 2017

Assessing Obama: Foreign Policy


As the follow-up act to George W. Bush, Barack Obama was supposed to restore the United States to the fold of respectable nations whose leaders did not devise such foreign policy goals as “smokin’ ’em out.”
Particularly given Obama’s campaign pledge to engage in dialogue with traditional American enemies like Iran and Cuba — both included in the Axis of Evil-plus-three configuration marketed during the Bush era — optimistic sectors of the international community predicted the advent of a humane, benevolent superpower.
The naïveté of such thinking was rather evident from the get-go; now, at the end of Obama’s reign, it’s glaringly obvious. Consider the recent calculation by the Council on Foreign Relations that the United States “dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries” in 2016 alone — an estimate the authors acknowledge is “undoubtedly low.”
In February 2015, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that Obama’s covert drone strikes on territories where the United States is not officially at war had already “killed almost six times more people and twice as many civilians than those ordered in the Bush years.”
Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba and his nuclear deal with Iran have been hailed by fans as landmark achievements and alleged evidence of his status as peacemonger-in-chief. Often lost in the celebrations, however, is the fact that both locales are still targeted with sanctionsthat undeniably constitute “war by other means.”
In Cuba, Obama might have bolstered his ethical credentials by fulfilling his promise to close Guantánamo, thereby terminating the US occupation of Cuban territory and ending a symbol of America’s global impunity.
In the Middle East, efforts to defuse the nuclear issue would have been less blatantly hypocritical if Obama hadn’t also approved a $38 billion military aid package to Israel, the largest in US history.
This is the same Israel that happens to maintain a nuclear arsenal and grants itself immunity from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Beyond some jabs at Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama has not allowed the Israeli military’s recurring slaughter of Palestinian civilians to get in the way of his principled commitment to Israel’s right to “self-defense.”
The full extent of the fallout of Obama’s rule, of course, remains to be seen. But for one particularly troubling hint as to his legacy-in-progress, one need look no further than Medea Benjamin’s recent remarks in the Guardian: “The twisted legal architecture the Obama administration has constructed to justify its interventions, especially extrajudicial drone killings with no geographic restrictions, will now be transferred into the erratic hands of Donald Trump.” Call it teamwork. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

19 January 2017

Lindsay Lohan: America’s next jihadist?

Middle East Eye

The Washington, DC-based newspaper and website The Hill self-identifies as “the premier source for policy and political coverage, reporting on every aspect of the business of Washington and the campaign trail... delivering solid, non-partisan and objective reporting".

Indeed, only a very serious and objective publication would have recently opted to run an opinion piece by Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, titled “Lindsay Lohan may have made her worst life choice yet".
Predictably, the disastrous choice involves Lohan’s alleged conversion to Islam, which Spencer argues she has undertaken with no regard for the fact that “so many converts to Islam end up as jihad terrorists” bent on committing “mass murder".
Listed examples include John Walker Lindh and Adam Gadahn - the latter killed in a US drone strike - who “discovered Islam through rap music and black grievance theater (neither were black, but both wished they were)".
In addition to the risk of turning to terrorism as compensation for black envy, it seems, conversion to Islam also entails numerous other hazards. Spencer poses the critical question of whether Lohan is “prepared to venture out in public with everything covered except her face and hands” - a requirement, as we all know, of every Muslim female in the world.
In short, it’s unclear whether The Hill’s editors were, in fact, conscious at the time Spencer’s rant was authorised for publication on 17 January. However, retroactive warning bells apparently went off, and the piece was subsequently removed, eliciting the complaint from Spencer that “the Left-fascists at The Hill have caved in to pressure from Leftist and Islamic supremacist neo-brownshirts.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

05 January 2017

Blackwater founder returns to save Europe from refugees

Middle East Eye

Starting the new year off with a bang, the Financial Times has just published a dispatch by Erik Prince, notorious founder and former CEO of the private security contracting firm Blackwater, the outfit responsible for projects such as the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of Iraqi children and other civilians.

The company has undergone a series of rebranding efforts over the years as an apparent means of distancing itself from overtly toxic connotations.
Prince’s Financial Times bio discreetly identifies him as simply “a former US Navy SEAL [and] executive chairman of Frontier Services Group,” a Hong Kong-headquartered entity.
According to its website, FSG offers “security and logistics services in frontier markets”.
In an investigation by The Intercept, Prince’s activities at FSG were reported to include endeavouring to sell weaponised crop dusters in Africa as part of “what one colleague called his ‘obsession’ with building his own private air force”. As with many of Prince’s operations, a facade of legality has often proved elusive.
Suffice it to say that the Financial Times isn’t racking up huge points on the ethical front by promoting a man whose modus operandi has essentially been to make a killing off of killing. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.