Monday, June 06, 2016

February 1, 2006, Fox News, Transcript: Hispanic Democrats Respond,

February 1, 2006, Fox News, Transcript: Hispanic Democrats Respond,

WASHINGTON —  The following is a translated transcript of a Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address given by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke in Spanish.


Good evening. My name is Antonio Villaraigosa. I'm Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. And I'm a Democrat. But I'm not just here tonight as a spokesman for my party.

I'm here as a concerned father and as a proud American.

I'm here tonight to talk about a future in which more Americans have the same opportunity that my family had.

I'm here to say that our country's best days are ahead of us.

But I'm also talking to you tonight because I'm concerned about the direction our country is headed in.

I'm worried that too many hardworking Americans are earning less and losing faith.

And I'm concerned that we're not investing enough in our children and in our economic future.

In the end, it really doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. It doesn't matter what part of this country you come from, or what language your family speaks at home. It doesn't matter whether you get to work in a fancy car or on the bus.

We are all part of one American family.

This is a great country. And we've always been strongest when we've fought hardest for one another.

Democrats are committed to bringing our country back together as the family that we should be.

We had hoped to hear the same from the President tonight.

Instead we heard the same defense of the very policies that have divided this country over the last five years.

So, let's talk about the real state of the union.

Next month, because of the reckless policies of this administration, America's national debt will rise to nearly $8.2 trillion dollars. I am here tonight to say: we are mortgaging our children's futures, and it is morally wrong.

Today, 46 million Americans and 39 percent of Latinos, many of whom work full-time at the hardest jobs, don't have access to health insurance. We can't be a healthy nation if we don't face this challenge once and for all.

Today, 6 million children are on the verge of failing out of school; and eleven million Americans can't read a bus schedule or fill out a job application. It is time to put the issue of fixing our public schools to the front and center of the national debate.

Under this administration, 4 million people have fallen from the working class into the ranks of the poor. And the new jobs that are being created pay less than the ones we've lost. We need an aggressive national strategy to build the skills of our workforce and to promote America's competitiveness in the global economy.

Our troops are serving bravely in the Middle East, but Americans are increasingly divided and doubtful about the objectives of this mission. We owe it to our men and women in uniform and to the families awaiting their safe return to present a clear and credible plan to complete the job and bring them home.

The truth is that together, America can do better. And it starts with restoring our sense of national community.

My mother, Natalia, taught me this. A women of indomitable spirit. A single mother who raised four kids in East Los Angeles. Who rode the bus nearly every day of her life. Who worked two jobs just to put me and my siblings through college.

In her quiet way and in her infinite grace, she taught us all the things worth knowing. She taught us about working hard. About the obligation we all have to create a better life for our kids. And about a set of values that says that there is nothing — nothing in the world — as important as family.

And as we grew up, we came to understand that the obligations that she talked about extend beyond our doorsteps. And beyond our neighborhoods. That the child who doesn't finish high school, that the small business owner trying to make their dreams come true, that the mother looking to provide affordable quality health care for her children-they are our family too.

Democrats want to end the Culture of Corruption and bring honesty and integrity back in government.

Democrats want a health care system that will cover everybody.

Democrats want a strong public education system.

Democrats want to create jobs and make America energy independent.

Democrats want comprehensive immigration reform that respects our neighbors, makes America safer and stronger, and that gives hardworking people who play by the rules a greater opportunity to realize the American Dream.

Democrats want a strong national security based on telling the truth to our citizens, our soldiers, and our allies.

Above all, Democrats want to unite this country again.

We need your voices and your vision. And above all, we need your participation.

We are all in this together. And as Coretta Scott King reminded us, God bless her soul, we are all Americans. Thank you. God bless America. God bless you all.

May 19, 2011, New York Times, Court Filings Assert Iran Had Link to 9/11 Attacks,  by Benjamin Weiser and Scott Shane,

Two defectors from Iran’s intelligence service have testified that Iranian officials had “foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks,” according to a court filing Thursday in a federal lawsuit in Manhattan that seeks damages for Iran’s “direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history.”

One of the defectors also claimed that Iran was involved in planning the attacks, the filing said. The defectors’ identities and testimony were not revealed in the filing but were being submitted to a judge under seal, said lawyers who brought the original suit against Iran on behalf of families of dozens of 9/11 victims.

The suit’s allegation that Iran had foreknowledge of the attacks is hard to assess fully, given that the defectors’ testimony is being filed under seal.

The suit contends that Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization with close ties to Tehran, helped Al Qaeda in planning the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and in facilitating the hijackers’ training and travel. After the attacks, the suit contends, Iran and Hezbollah helped Qaeda operatives escape, providing some with a safe haven in Iran.

The question of an Iranian connection to 9/11 was raised by the national 9/11 commission and has long been debated. Al Qaeda, which adheres to a radical Sunni theology, routinely denounces the Shiite sect that holds power in Iran, and the terrorist network’s branch in Iraq has often made Shiites targets of bombings. But intelligence officials have long believed there has been limited, wary cooperation between Al Qaeda and Iran against the United States as a common enemy.

The lawsuit also names as defendants Iranian officials and ministries, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, among others. The families’ lawyers have asked for a default judgment against the defendants, which have not mounted a defense. Even if there were such a judgment, legal experts say it would not be easy to collect monetary damages.

In their court papers, the lawyers assert that Imad Mugniyah, as the military chief of Hezbollah, was a terrorist agent for Iran, and that he traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2000 to help with preparations for the 9/11 attacks.

Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah leader killed in 2008, also was accused of a role in 9/11. Credit Hussein Malla/Associated Press

Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah leader killed in 2008, also was accused of a role in 9/11. Credit Hussein Malla/Associated Press
Mr. Mugniyah, who was killed in 2008, had been accused by American officials of planning a series of major terrorist attacks and kidnappings, including the 1983 bombings of the United States Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

The 9/11 commission report said there was “strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of Al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.” The report also said there was circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of the hijackers into Iran in November 2000.

But the commission said that it had “found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack,” and that the “topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.”

Thomas E. Mellon Jr., a lawyer for the families, said the suit, first brought in Washington in 2002 and later moved to Manhattan, sought to do that investigation.

Ellen Saracini, whose husband, the United Airlines pilot Victor J. Saracini, was killed when his plane was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, said she became involved with the suit because she wanted answers. “We now know,” she said, “who assisted Al Qaeda — Iran did — and we want our American justice system to find Iran accountable.”

The lawyers’ filing included reports of 10 specialists on Iran and terrorism, including former 9/11 commission staff members and ex-C.I.A. officers. “These experts make it clear that 9/11 depended upon Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda in acquiring clean passports and visas to enter the United States,” Mr. Mellon said.

But the expert reports do not in most cases seem to go as far as the defectors in contending Iran had foreknowledge of the attacks.

The filing says the defectors worked in Iran’s Ministry of Information and Security “in positions that gave them access to sensitive information regarding Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.” It says they have reason to fear for the safety of themselves and their families “should their identities and the content of their testimony be revealed publicly.”

Benjamin Weiser reported from New York, and Scott Shane from Washington.

July 19, 2004, Sydney Morning Herald, We can't prove Iran-Sept 11 link: CIA,

May 21, 2011, New York Times - Sydney Morning Herald, Iran accused if September 11 role, by Benjamin Weiser and Scott Shane,

December 21, 2001,, THE SECRET WAR; Pre-9/11, we fought a covert war on American soil – against Israel, , by Justin Raimondo,

December 21, 2001,, THE SECRET WAR; Pre-9/11, we fought a covert war on American soil – against Israel, , by Justin Raimondo,

THE SECRET WAR Pre-9/11, we fought a covert war on American soil – against Israel

You really have to hand it to the Israelis: they are nothing if not blatant. Their response to Fox News reporter Carl Cameron's devastating exposé of Israel's massive spy operation in the US can hardly be repeated with a straight face. Mark Regev, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington is quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying:
"The report on Fox News contains no quoted source, it has in no way demonstrated anything more than anonymous innuendo, and should be regarded accordingly. Israel does not spy on the United States of America."
Gee, Mark, does the name Jonathan Pollard ring a bell?


Naturally, the law enforcement sources who utilized Cameron's investigation to voice their concerns didn't dare allow their names to be used: as Cameron related in his report, any question regarding the possibility of Israeli spying in the US is "career suicide" for those who dare raise it. Question: is it also career suicide for journalists to raise it?

I have seen a few news items reporting on the Cameron exposé, but, given the implications and scope of what we're talking about here, the answer is, apparently, yes. For Cameron and Fox News are not merely saying that the Israelis have been conducting a "sprawling" spy operation in the US, involving the massive penetration of our communications systems and government agencies. As Cameron so diplomatically put it in the first segment of his four-part investigation:

"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it."


In other words: Israel's passive complicity made the worst terrorist attack in American history possible. One would think that the sheer enormity of such a charge would provoke a storm of outrage from Israel's many defenders in the media: the columnists, the think-tankers, the publicists who dote on Ariel Sharon's every word. But, no: instead, there is an ominous, one might almost say a guilty silence.


It's frightening, really, when you think about it. Here, after all, is a reporter's dream: a heretofore-undiscovered angle on the biggest story of our time. Yet no one will touch it. Why? It couldn't be because you'd need an army of researchers: you don't. All that's necessary is internet access, and, of course, the miracle of Google: anyone can go to and type in the appropriate words and phrases, such as "Israelis detained," or, better yet, "Israeli art students" along with the word "detained." Go ahead: do it, and see what happens….


Okay, so you did it and came up with a whole slewof news stories, published mostly in local newspapers, telling different variations on a single, very bizarre story: In locations as diverse as DallasSaint Louis,Kansas, Atlanta, New York, and Findley, Ohio, groups of young people describing themselves as Israeli art students suddenly descended on federal office buildings and no less than 36 Department of Defense facilities. They seemed particularly active in the state of Texas: in Dallas, one "student" was found wandering the halls of a federal facility with a floor plan in his hands. Say, what?

Starting in the third week of January, reports began to pour in to the National Counterintelligence Center (NCC) about "suspicious visitors to federal facilities." The NCC's bimonthly report for March 2001 states:
"In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings."


The NCC described these people -- supposedly working for an outfit known as "Universal Art, Inc." -- as "aggressive" in attempting to gain access to federal facilities, and reported that two had been arrested for having counterfeit work visas and green cards. Then this stunner: "These individuals have also gone to the private residences of senior federal officials under the guise of selling art." Now wait just a friggin' minute, dude – stop right there!


Okay, so we're talking about some nine months before The Day, and mysterious "art students" are following high government officials home – that is, when they aren't trying to break in to Defense Department facilities, staking out DEA offices, and hanging around the federal prosecutor's office in Dallas. We've already had numerous terrorist scares, at this point: remember the New Year's hysteria, and there were all those frantic warnings by various "anti-terrorist" commissions and study groups. The NCC report posits the existence of two groups of "art students":
"One group has an apparently legitimate money-making goal while the second, perhaps a non-Israeli group, may have ties to a Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalist group."

So, this was the first ominous sign of the terrorist onslaught to come – or was it? The NCC's speculation that these "art students" were Bin Laden's boys turns out not to have been correct. They were Israelis, alright, except for a few Latin Americans. Not only did they carry forged immigration papers, in some cases, but also at least one we know about failed a polygraph test when he denied spying for Israel.


With some 140 picked up before 9/11, and some 60-plus afterward, we have no idea how many of these "art students" were sent back to Israel to pursue their "studies." All we know is that those let go were kept for months, and others – according to Fox News, those identified as Israeli agents – are still in custody, perhaps sharing a nice cozy cell with detainees from Arab countries. I'm sure they have a lot to talk about….


The Arab detainees, as we have seen, have been the subjects of a national controversy between civil libertarians and the Bush administration. We have John Ashcroft denouncing those who would spread the "false fear" of a police state as "aiding the terrorists," while on the other hand Arab-Americans and the ACLU are rallying opposition to the round-up. But when it comes to the Israeli detainees, there is no controversy, virtually no mention of it in the national media, no nothing. Jewish groups are not rallying to the defense of these poor defenseless "art students," held without bail and without lawyers, for the most part, in very uncomfortable and worrisome circumstances. Doesn't anybody find this odd?


What's significant about this story is, first, that it amounts to the biggest spy operation in the US since the days of the Cold War, and, secondly, that it provides some context for understanding the mystery of 9/11. To most of us, that horrific event was a bolt out of the blue, with no prelude, no precedent, and no way to anticipate that the best days of our lives could turn into the worst. But the view from inside the US Government must have looked a whole lot different, i.e. far more threatening. Yet the threat seemed to be coming, not from Bin Laden, but – incredibly – from the Israelis, who, not content with having gained access to our phone system and federal wiretaps, were penetrating American military and government targets. Law enforcement authorities were in the midst of a massive crackdown on the Israelis, when, suddenly, they were hit – from the other direction.


We are being kept in the dark about so many things, these days, but this, it seems, is too important to be kept secret for long. If we are going to be asked to give up our liberties, our peace of mind, and even our lives in an apparently eternal "war on terrorism," then Americans at least have a right to know who their enemies are. Yes, we know the evil Bin Laden is responsible for the murder of 3000 innocent people – but we still don't know how they managed to pull off such a well-organized and spectacular display of murderous skill, unassisted by any state sponsor.


Much has been said – but nothing proved – about the alleged role of Iraq in all this. But to anyone who has seen or read through parts one, two, three and four of the Fox News investigative report, it seems clear that the most active state intelligence agency in the US prior to the twin towers attack was not the Iraqis, but the Mossad. Carl Cameron informs us that a North Carolina Israeli spy coven is suspected of renting an apartment in California "to spy on a group of Arabs who the United States is also investigating for links to terrorism." What were they doing – and, most importantly, what did they know about the planning and execution of the 9/11 atrocity?


In the months preceding 9/11, a secret war was being waged on American soil, a silent struggle from coast to coast – not an undercover battle between us and Muslim terrorists, but one pitting US law enforcement agencies against one of our closest allies.Make of that what you will. For until the US government comes clean, and Congress investigates, we'll never even have a chance to start asking the right questions.

PA Radio Implies Israel Behind Jerusalem Bombing Date: 4 September, 1997

September 4, 1997,, PA Radio Implies Israel Behind Jerusalem Bombing; What the Palestinian Authority is telling it's own people about the latest murders, by Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

PA Radio Implies Israel Behind Jerusalem Bombing

Date: 4 September, 1997

The following is IMRA's English translation of part of intelligence expert Yigal Carmon's "Palestinian Media Review":

Radio PA 16:30 September 4:

Response of the Secretary of the Presidency of the PA, Tayeb Abdul Rahim to the attack in Jerusalem:

"The President himself is following after the details along with all his advisors and senior people... We still haven't received information from the Israeli side regarding the incident. We are waiting for information."

"In my opinion, the one who carried out this incident, or the terrorist attack, doesn't want Mr. Albright coming to the region and doesn't want the diplomatic process to succeed..."

"As I said, I have many questions, many suspicions, since this action and its results achieve the goals of those who do not want the peace process to continue and do not want to fulfill the obligations of the interim stage and renew the negotiations on the permanent solution."

January/February 2001, Washington Report, Congress Watch; A Conservative Total for U.S. Aid to Israel: $91 Billion—and Counting, by Shirl McArthur,

January/February 2001, Washington Report, Congress Watch; A Conservative Total for U.S. Aid to Israel: $91 Billion—and Counting, by Shirl McArthur,

Pages 15-16

Congress Watch

A Conservative Total for U.S. Aid to Israel: $91 Billion—and Counting

By Shirl McArthur

With the turmoil surrounding the presidential election essentially freezing Congress into inaction, this is probably a good time to take another look at aid to Israel. The common figure given for U.S. aid to Israel is $3 billion per year—$1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. As impressive as this figure is, however, since it represents about one-sixth of total U.S. foreign aid, the true figure is even more remarkable. It is difficult, however, to arrive at an exact number. Much of the money the U.S. gives Israel is buried in the budgets of other government agencies, primarily the Defense Department (DOD). Other subsidies come in a form that isn’t easily quantifiable, such as the early disbursement of aid, which allows Israel to gain (and the U.S. taxpayer to lose) the interest on the unspent money.

This year’s appropriations bills for FY 2001, which began Oct. 1, 2000, include, in addition to the $2.82 billion in economic and military foreign aid to Israel, an additional $60 million in so-called refugee resettlement and $250 million in the DOD budget, plus $85 million imputed interest, for a total of at least $3.215 billion. In addition, on Nov. 14, 2000, President William Clinton sent a special request to Congress for an additional $450 million in military aid to Israel in FY 2001, plus $350 million for FY 2002.

The package also included $225 million in military aid for Egypt and $75 million in security assistance for Jordan. The $450 million for Israel is not included in these calculations, because it is unclear at this writing whether Congress will approve the package in the current political climate.

Calculating Total U.S. Aid

Unquestionably, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II. Estimates for total U.S. aid to Israel vary, however, because of the uncertainties and ambiguities described above. An Oct. 27, 2000 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, using available and verifiable numbers, gives cumulative aid to Israel from 1949 through FY 2000 (which ended Sept. 30, 2000) at $81.38 billion. On the other hand, last year the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs estimated total aid to Israel through FY 2000 at $91.82 billion.

The CRS number surely is too low, because, although it does include such things as the old food-for-peace program, the $1.2 billion from the Wye agreement, and the current subsidy for “refugee resettlement,” it does not include money from the DOD budget, on the grounds that those funds are for joint research and development projects. Nor does the CRS figure include estimated interest on the early disbursement of aid funds. Last year’s Washington Report estimate imputes an amount for “other aid” (including the DOD) that may no longer be valid, based as it is on a thorough study of three representative years. While this year’s estimate is more conservative, the results are still shockingly high.

To the CRS number of $81.38 billion through FY 2000 can be added (with details to follow):

• $4.28 billion from the DOD; and

• $1.72 billion in interest from early disbursement of aid, for a total of $87.38 billion through Sept. 30, 2000. To that can be added the $3.22 billion detailed above, giving a grand total of $90.6 billion total aid to Israel through FY 2001. Approval of Clinton’s special request for $450 million more in military aid would push the number over $91 billion.

Defense Department Funds

A search going back several years was able to identify $3.423 billion in specific DOD line items appropriated to Israel. Since that figure includes only the programs that were uncovered, it is reasonable to add 25 percent, or $856 million, to account for what was not found. The largest items in the DOD budget were $1.3 billion for the cancelled Lavi attack fighter project; $628 million for the ongoing Arrow anti-missile missile project; and $200 million for the completed Merkava tank. The fact that the U.S. military was not interested in the Lavi or the Merkava for its own use and has said the same thing about the Arrow would seem to invalidate the argument that these are “joint defense projects.”


Israel began receiving early disbursement of U.S. economic aid in 1982, and of military aid in 1991. It would be inaccurate to simply apply the rate of interest to the amount of aid, because it has to be assumed that the aid monies were drawn down over the course of the year. In 1991 it was reported that Israel earned $86 million in interest on the economic aid money deposited in the U.S. Treasury. Since the period from 1982 to 1991 was a time of relatively high interest rates, the figure of $860 million (86 x 10) seems a reasonably conservative estimate for those 10 years. For the nine years since 1991, a 6 percent rate was applied to one-half of the economic aid, for a total of $324 million over the past decade.

On the military aid, the 6 percent rate was applied to one-half of the military aid for the 10 years it has been disbursed early, for a total of $540 million.

Some Comparisons

The impressive numbers for U.S. aid to Israel become even more so when they, and the attached conditions, are compared with other Middle East countries. The roughly $3.3 billion in annual aid compares with some $2 billion for Egypt, $225 million for Jordan, and $35 million for Lebanon. Aid for the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not earmarked, but has been running at about $100 million. Furthermore, aid to the PA is strictly controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and goes for specific projects, mostly civil infrastructure projects such as water and sewers.

On the other hand, the U.S. gives Israel all of its economic aid directly in cash, with no accounting of how the funds are used. The military aid from the DOD budget is mostly for specific projects. Significantly however, considering current events, one of those projects was the development of the Merkava tank, which has been encircling and firing on Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza.

The only condition the congressional foreign aid bill places on military aid to Israel is that about 75 percent of it has to be spent in the U.S. In contrast with other countries receiving military aid, however, who purchase through the DOD, Israel deals directly with U.S. companies, with no DOD review.

Special mention should also be made of the details of the Wye agreement. All of the $400 million going to the PA under the agreement is economic aid, whereas all of the $1.2 billion for Israel is for military projects and programs. These include $40 million for armored personnel carriers and $360 million for Apache helicopters, again significant considering current events.

Loans, The “Cranston Amendment,” and Loan Guarantees

Currently, Israel owes the U.S. government almost $3 billion in economic and military loans. Direct government-to-government loans are included in the above numbers for total aid, because repayment of several loans has been “waived” by the U.S. Israeli officials are fond of saying that Israel has never defaulted on a loan from the U.S. Technically, this is true. The CRS report, however, notes that from FY 1994 through FY 1998 $29 billion in U.S. loans have been waived for Israel. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider all loans to Israel the same as grants.

There seems to be much confusion about the so-called “Cranston Amendment,” named after the California senator who sponsored it in 1984. The amendment said, simply, that it is “the policy and intention” of the U.S. to give Israel economic aid “not less than” the amount Israel owes the U.S. in annual debt interest and principal payments.

Since official economic aid to Israel has always been considerably higher than the annual debt repayments, this is something of a non-issue. Furthermore, since the amendment is simply a statement of policy and intent, it may not be legally binding. In any event, although the amendment was included in every aid appropriations bill through FY 1998, it has not been repeated in the FY 1999, 2000, and 2001 appropriations bills.

The amount of U.S. government loan guarantees to Israel was not included in the above numbers, because they have not cost the U.S. any money (yet), although they are listed as “contingent liabilities” (that is, they would become liabilities to the U.S. should Israel default). Nevertheless, they unquestionably have been of tangible financial benefit to Israel. The major loan guarantees issued by Washington have been $600 million for housing between 1972 and 1990; the much publicized $10 billion for Soviet Jewish resettlement between 1992 and 1997; and some $5 billion for refinancing military loans commercially. Currently, the total U.S. contingent liability for Israeli loans is about $10 billion.

The Neeman Agreement

After Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress in 1996 that he wanted to reduce the level of U.S. economic aid to Israel, Israeli Finance Minister Yaacov Neeman met with members of Congress in January 1998 to negotiate the details. After much backing and forthing, they reached agreement that Israel’s then-$1.2 billion in economic aid would be decreased annually, beginning FY 1999, by $120 million, and the $1.8 billion in military aid would be increased by half that, or $60 million.

As a little-reported part of the deal, the amount of military aid that Israel was allowed to spend in Israel would be increased by $15 million per year. From FY 1988 through 1990 Israel was allowed to use $400 million of its $1.8 billion U.S. military aid in Israel. Beginning in FY 1991 that was increased to $475 million. As a result of the Neeman agreement, beginning in FY 1999 the aid appropriations bill gave the amount to be spent in Israel as a percentage of the total, rather than a stated amount. This maneuver helped hide from U.S. defense contractors the fact that the U.S. direct subsidy to their Israeli competitors was being increased by $15 million per year. For FY 2001 the stated percentage works out to $520 million. None of this is included in the above figures, because it does not represent a direct cost to the U.S. taxpayers. It is clearly an indirect cost, however, in terms of lost tax revenue and lost business for American companies. X

Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.


Arab Americans Lose Ground in Congress

While Arab-American candidates broke even in the 2000 elections for the House of Representatives, a major loss was suffered in the Senate, where the only Arab-American senator, Michigan Republican Spencer Abraham, was narrowly and unexpectedly defeated by former Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Stabenow had a neutral score in this magazine’s Congressional Report Card (August/September issue), with one positive and one negative mark, although she did sign the letter to President Clinton urging the delinking of the economic sanctions against Iraq from the military sanctions.

In the House, Arab-American Reps. John Baldacci (D-ME), Chris John (D-LA), Ray LaHood (R-IL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and John Sununu (R-NH) all were re-elected. In addition, Republican newcomer Darrell Issa was easily elected in California. Issa’s victory offset the narrow defeat of Democrat Steve Danner in Missouri for the seat previously held by retiring Rep. Pat Danner (D-MO).

Other re-elected representatives sympathetic to issues important to Arab Americans include Reps. David Bonior (D-MI), John Conyers (D-MI), Tom Davis (R-VA), John Dingell (D-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Bob Ney (R-OH), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Unfortunately, a champion of Arab-American issues was lost when Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA) failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Other congressional election news included the surprise defeat of Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), who was the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. Although he was widely considered a good friend of Israel, Gejdenson’s report card was only slightly negative, with no positive and one negative mark. He is expected to be replaced as ranking Democrat on the committee by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), also considered a strong friend of Israel. A Holocaust survivor, Lantos might be expected to be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians living under the heel of a brutal occupying power, but his report card showed one positive and two negative marks. Lantos also signed the letter to Clinton urging the president to “stand firm” in keeping the economic sanctions on Iraq. —S.M.

November 24, 2001, The Baltimore Sun, Israelis may have planted fatal bomb; Commandos behind 'grave mishap' that killed boys, sources say,

November 24, 2001, The Baltimore Sun, Israelis may have planted fatal bomb; Commandos behind 'grave mishap' that killed boys, sources say,

JERUSALEM - An explosive that killed five Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip on Thursday had probably been planted there by Israeli army commandos to target militants who launch mortars into Jewish settlements, Israeli military sources said yesterday.

A senior army commander called the incident a "grave mishap" and said that such tactics are being re-evaluated. The source said investigators have found "serious fault" with the undercover unit that placed the device along a path near a school.

Israeli government officials declined to accept responsibility publicly but did order an investigation. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed his "regret over the human tragedy" and "the loss of innocent lives."

The dead children were all part of the extended Astal family, one of the largest clans in the Khan Younis refugee camp, an impoverished and volatile community in the southern Gaza Strip that abuts the army-patrolled fence-lines guarding two groups of settlements.

Israeli politicians protested yesterday in unusually harsh terms how the army targets suspected militants, methods that include assassinations and leaving live bombs along paths.

"It's a residential area," said parliament member Yossi Sarid, head of the opposition Meretz Party. "What kind of bombs do you place in an area where school children walk by?"

Tensions ran high in Khan Younis yesterday as thousands of people marched in a funeral procession, holding up the five bodies draped with red-and-green Palestinian flags and shooting volleys of gunshots into the air.

Clashes broke out later, during which Palestinian police said a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier outside a local cemetery. In retaliation, a Palestinian militant fired a mortar into the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, damaging a home.

The deaths come just days before U.S. envoys are scheduled to arrive to push both sides into a cease-fire, and Thursday's incident will probably be brought up by Palestinian officials.

"It's unbelievable how insensitive it is to leave devices to explode on a road," said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator who said he plans to meet with the U.S. delegation Wednesday in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "What kind of commanders do they have? What kind of anger allows them to do such a thing? It's all the more reason that we need the Americans here. We don't want to talk. Let them come and see for themselves what the Israelis are doing."

The five children - two pairs of brothers and a distant cousin - were killed as they walked to their boys school, which is sponsored by the United Nations. One of the youths apparently kicked the device, which was hidden under a bush in a tomato field.

The powerful explosion blew a crater into the ground and sent shards of clothing and books hundreds of feet. At first, Israeli and Palestinian officials thought the child had kicked an Israeli tank shell that had been fired by the army days earlier, but did not initially detonate.

But yesterday, Israeli officials conceded that an elite undercover unit had recently infiltrated the area, which is under Palestinian control, and planted a bomb along a dirt path that is used by militants to attack two nearby Jewish communities.

The Gush Katif settlement comes under daily gunfire and mortar attacks, launched from a field near the Abdullah Siam boys school, in the Khan Younis refugee camp. Ben-Eliezer said that the explosion "occurred in an open, uninhabited area from which firing had frequently been directed at Israeli communities and army positions."

But the children were killed about 200 yards from the school, along what they said is a path used by students every day, and within sight of an army watchtower that looms over the field and guards the Jewish settlers.

The dead children were identified as Mohammed Na'im Astal, 14; his brother, Akram Na'im Astal, 7; Aniz Idris Astal, 11; his brother Omar Idris Astal, 14; and Mohammad Sultan Astal, 12, a distant cousin.

The placing of such explosive devices is not a new tactic for the Israeli army, but it is not something members of the army typically discuss publicly. Sources said the devices are often equipped with triggers and set off by remote control to avoid killing unintended targets.

Israeli army sources said it is still possible that the device was a Palestinian mortar round left behind by militants, but they also admitted that that was unlikely.

Although the army has said it fired numerous tank shells into the area during clashes over the past two weeks, officials discounted that theory as well yesterday. They said that the shells are designed to explode upon impact and that if one failed to detonate when it hit the ground, it could not go off from being kicked.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor, from the Center Party, called the deaths "appalling and horrible" and added that if Israel is indeed responsible, "it cannot be accepted, and should be regretted even more. If it turns out a mistake was made, then the truth should be told and an apology should be made."

Israeli state-run radio, in an unusual move, urged yesterday that the nation's top rabbinical leaders send letters of apology and condolences to the families of the five children. The radio statement was read against a backdrop of sorrowful music.

Copyright © 2001, The Baltimore Sun

November 24, 2001