Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2009

Text of Obama’s speech for his inauguration as 44th president
 
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them— that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence— the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Read Full Post »

I don’t normally blog on issues such as the war in Gaza, preferring to limit myself to issues closer to home and those that I believe in, but this time it was different.  Now that there is a temporary cessation of violence from both sides of the conflict to allow survivors some breathing room to bury their dead and to survey their shattered lives, I ask myself what made me get so caught up in the moment? The sheer brutality of the assault on defenceless civilians is what shocked me initially but as I followed the news reports online, I found a different kind of story unfolding, that of Israel’s consistent and remorseless spin-doctoring, with officials churning out the same message time and again – that Hamas is at fault for Israel’s brutality. In so doing, were they expecting the world to understand and to forgive them for their merciless attack on Gaza?  

I have always been more of a pacifist and don’t often get overly concerned with issues such as this faraway war in Gaza but as the death toll rose, I began to take notice and soon realised that Malaysian TV and newspapers just wasn’t giving enough insights into what was happening, focusing too much on our national outrage, Islam versus Jew, boycott of US and Israeli goods, the gruesome deaths  and  fund raising for Palestinians instead of the “what, why and how-come-it-was-allowed-to-happen” aspects of the war. So, I turned to the internet and, in spite of the huge amount of crap people have posted in that free-for-all communication medium, there was still a lot of information that showed that this war was the most ruthless in modern times.

With so much having been written and said by the world media and while analysts and experts dissect every aspect of the aftermath, to me it was the over-spindoctoring of Israel’s public relations machinery that made me so sick with disgust. In the age of the internet, events are harder to conceal from the world  as people post first hand experiences, photos taken from handphones and personal opinions on the internet via blogs, facebook, and emails that help to counter whatever propaganda being churned out by Israel’s powerful spokespersons unit.

For me, it was Israel’s overkill in consistently repeating the same versions of their message,  whether it was Mark Regev, or Tzipi Livni, or Avital Leibovith, that made them seem coldhearted, rehearsed and robotic and that was what shocked me most of all. In their own minds the Israelis have dehumanised the war and the death toll of Palestinian civilians meant nothing more than collateral damage. In justifying the war as an act of self-defence and by blaming Hamas, they can all sleep better at night. But the world will never forget and will never forgive them for their inhumanity.

This will be my last post on Gaza. In blogging about the war, I have learnt more about the crucial roles played by the media, humanitarian agencies and international diplomacy. I have also learnt that admidst the cruelty inflicted by man upon their fellow human beings, the true heroes of the war are the doctors who worked tirelessly to save lives as well as the aid workers who risked life and limb to rescue the injured and to bring food and other humanitarian aid to the survivors.

For the first time, I understood the importance of getting the truth out to the world and that global outrage can put an end to a senseless war that should never have happened. In my blog, I salute them as well as all those journalists who covered this humanitarian catastrophe for their courage to report the truth. In the court of public opinion, Israel has clearly lost the war, 

     

Read Full Post »

A palestinian doctor who works in Israel’s Beer Shevas Soroka hospital Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish lost three of his daughters in Israel’s attack on Gaza. He held a press conference to talk about his grief but was interrupted by an Israeli mother of three IDF soldiers who objected to what he was saying.

This Al Jazeera report shows the call Dr Ezzeldeen made to Israel’s Channel 10 TV station that was broadcast live and drew sympathy from  viewers. However, the situation seems to have changed at his press conference as shown in the above videoclip. 

If you noticed, there has always been a consistent message churned out by Israeli officials and their spokespersons, that Isreal acted in self-defence and the more than 1,000 civilian deaths was the fault of Hamas. If you hear the same message repeated often enough you will begin to believe it. This article “Mass Media Brainwashing” explains the technique used by the Nazi’s in “repeating simple-minded lies over and over for months and years, until the lies take on a life of their own.”

“The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious. The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly… it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”— Joseph Goebbels Nazi Propaganda Minister

“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” — Adolf Hitler

Read Full Post »

Al Jazeera reports that despite unilateral “ceasefire”, Israel military activity seen in Gaza

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces unilateral ceasefire

Response from Hamas representative Osama Hamdan

Reuters reports here that Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if a unilateral ceasefire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until a captured Israeli soldier is freed.

Lifting the blockade was one of Hamas’s chief demands for entering into a ceasefire.

“If the quiet holds, there will not be any problem dramatically increasing aid like food and medicine. If this quiet holds, we will work with the international community for reconstruction,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“But you can’t have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage,” Regev added. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.

Press statement from Committee to Protect Journalists (http://cpj.org) :

CPJ urges Olmert to lift Gaza press ban
January 17, 2009

Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Hakirya
Israel

Via e-mail: pm_eng@pmo.gov.il

Dear Prime Minister Olmert,

Since the Israeli military campaign began last month, international journalists have been denied independent access to Gaza. Your government has offered various explanations for its decision to ban the international press, but the primary justifications have been a professed concern for the safety of reporters themselves and a concern that the mere presence of the press could interfere with ongoing military operations.

While the Committee to Protect Journalists has never viewed these as legitimate reasons for blocking press access to Gaza, we note that the new cease-fire agreement makes them entirely obsolete. We urge your government to immediately lift the ban and allow international journalists to independently report on events in Gaza.

CPJ has raised our concerns previously with your government. On January 6, we wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to ask that your government allow international journalists into Gaza. We have also sought an explanation for the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) bombings of two buildings that house international media organizations in Gaza City.

Now that active hostilities have ceased we urge you to conduct a prompt investigation into the targeting of all media facilities in Gaza. We ask that the investigation into these incidents be prompt and comprehensive and we ask that you make your findings public.

We recognize that the situation on the ground remains tenuous, but as an organization of journalists we believe there are critical issues of international law that impact not only the work of journalists in Gaza but in conflict zones around the world.

International human rights law dictates that the press may be denied access to war zones for only the narrowest and most specific of security reasons. The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of 1995, a synthesis of international law and state practices, states that governments “may not exclude journalists … from areas that are experiencing violence or armed conflict except where their presence would pose a clear risk to the safety of others.” It adds that the “burden of demonstrating the validity of the restriction rests with the government.” A general ban clearly violates this standard.

As noted, we also call on you to provide an explanation for the IDF’s bombing of Al-Johara and Al-Shuruq towers, which house dozens of international media organizations. The two attacks, which were carried out respectively on January 9 and 15, destroyed communications equipment and injured at least three journalists. International law provides explicit protections for journalists and media installations that may not be abrogated even during military operations.       

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

Read Full Post »

(source: www.icrc.org)

17-01-2009  Interview  
Phosphorous weapons – the ICRC’s view
phyPeter Herby, head of the ICRC’s Arms Unit, outlines the rules applicable to phosphorous weapons to explain the organization’s approach to the issue.

Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s Arms Unit Has the use of white phosphorous weapons by Israel in the current conflict in Gaza been confirmed?
Yes. According to widespread media reports, images and analysis from credible experts, phosphorous weapons have been used in the conflict.

What are the rules of international humanitarian law applicable to the use of phosphorous weapons and intended to spare civilians?
Let me begin by saying that there are fundamental rules stipulating that civilians must be protected from the effects of all military operations and that attacking civilians with any weapon is categorically prohibited.

The use of weapons containing white phosphorous is, like the use of any other weapon, regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law. These require parties to a conflict to discriminate between military objectives on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other. The law also requires that they take all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians and civilian objects that can result from military operations. Attacks which cause “disproportionate” damage to civilians and to civilian objects are prohibited.

Using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon, i.e. to set fire to military targets, is subject to further restrictions. The use of such white phosphorous weapons against any military objective within concentrations of civilians is prohibited unless the military objective is clearly separated from the civilians. The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against military objectives within a concentration of civilians is simply prohibited. These prohibitions are contained in Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

In addition, customary international humanitarian law, which is applicable to all parties to any conflict, requires that particular care must be taken when attacking a military target with incendiary weapons containing white phosphorous, in order to avoid harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. If this substance is used against fighters, the party using it is obliged to assess whether a less harmful weapon can be used to put the fighters out of action.

If munitions containing white phosphorous are used to mark military targets or to spread smoke then their use is regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law.

The fact that international humanitarian law does not specifically prohibit phosphorous weapons does not imply that any specific use of weapons containing this substance is legal. The legality of each incident of use has to be considered in light of all of the fundamental rules I have mentioned. It may be legal or not, depending on a variety of factors.

Does the ICRC consider white phosphorous weapons as they have been used in Gaza to be legal under international humanitarian law?
If ICRC delegates in the field gather credible and precise evidence of violations, or if ICRC medical personnel corroborate reports by others, the ICRC would begin by discussing this with the party concerned – rather than speaking publicly – in keeping with our standard practices. We have not commented publicly on the legality of the current use of phosphorous weapons by Israel, contrary to what has been attributed to us in recent media reports.

Does the use of weapons containing white phosphorous, in particular incendiary weapons, in a populated area give rise to any specific humanitarian concerns?
Yes. White phosphorous weapons spread burning phosphorous, which burns at over 800 degrees centigrade (about 1,500 degrees fahrenheit), over a wide area, up to several hundred square metres. The burning will continue until the phosphorous has been completely depleted or until it no longer is exposed to oxygen. The weapon has a potential to cause particularly horrific and painful injuries or slow painful death. Medical personnel must be specially trained to treat such injuries and may themselves be exposed to phosphorous burns. If used against military targets in or near populated areas, weapons containing this substance must be used with extreme caution to prevent civilian casualties

Read Full Post »

If you cannot see the subtitles do the following:
1. Play the video
2. Click the triangle button at the bottom-right corner of the video
3. Click the Turn on captions button that looks like the letters CC.

I began blogging on the Gaza humanitarian crisis because, having become totally dissatisfied with mainstream media coverage, I wanted to share YouTube videoclips and official press statements that I found on the internet that gives a clearer picture of what was happening in Gaza. I have refrained from posting sensationalised violence, ideologies or malicious views as I hoped visitors would draw their own conclusions from what you see and read here.

Earlier, I had written an open letter to Malia and Sasha Obama here to express my own grief and sorrow at the senseless killing of innocents in Gaza. This was in response to President-Elect Barack Obama’s open letter to his daughters here to explain his reasons for running for the presidency. Yet, the soon to be sworn in President of the United States of America has already disappointed me and millions of others for he has steadfastly remained silent, aside from some feeble non-comments, on the issue of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and the death of more than 1,000 Palestians, including women and children.

While I don’t expect Obama to clash with outgoing President Bush on issues of foreign policy but, like the good parent that he appears to be, the least he could do is put forward a stronger statement in empathy for the senseless loss of lives. How can this heavy handed massacre of human beings even be called an act of self-defence? As Helen Thomas mentioned in my earlier post here, as President, Obama “needs a lot more courage” to speak out on Gaza. The world is waiting!

As a father, he will surely empathise with the heartwrenching grief of Dr Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, a Palestinian gynecologist living in Gaza whose three daughters Bisan, 22; Mayer, 15; and Aya, 14 were killed when the Israeli army bombed his home. His cries was telecast live via Israel’s TV as shown in the YouTube videoclip (source: here). Read the story here.             

Read Full Post »

Excerpt of Democracy Now Amy Goodman’s interview with veteran White House Correspondent Helen Thomas

Source of transcript:  www.democracynow.org Read full interview here 

helenthomas_mdHelen Thomas, served as White House correspondent for United Press International for almost sixty years and has covered every president since Kennedy. She is the most senior member of the White House press corps and is commonly referred to as “The First Lady of the Press.” Helen is currently a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers. Her latest column is called “History Cannot Save Him.”

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, what would you have asked President Bush if you got a chance yesterday? Did you expect that he would call on you?

HELEN THOMAS: No, but I wish that he had, because I would have—I mean, I would have asked a news question. I would not have gone into the nostalgia, though I’m not criticizing it, because I do think the reporters had to wrap up to find out what he really thought about himself and his legacy. But I would have asked why—why do you continue to support the killing in Gaza? And that’s what we’re doing.

I mean, you can’t remain neutral. I remember the rabbi who spoke at the Martin Luther King march on Washington. Heschel had a cameo appearance, and he said, “The greatest sin of all in the Nazi era was silence.” When you remain silent to the suffering and the incredible aggression against a people, then you are culpable.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you cover the march on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King spoke?

HELEN THOMAS: I did, I did. Not on spot, but I was there, certainly. And I was, of course, entranced with this “I Have a Dream.” And it’s amazing that I think maybe this dream is actually coming true, although I do think that President Obama, to be, needs a lot more courage.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, we’re going to break. Then we’re going to come back to this conversation. Known as the First Lady of the Press Corps, she has covered nine presidents. As of next Tuesday, it will be ten. We’ll be back with Helen Thomas in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Helen Thomas, UPI correspondent for almost sixty years now, writes a column for King Features.

When I said “First Lady of the Press Corps,” you shook your head, Helen Thomas. Why?

HELEN THOMAS: There’s no such thing. It’s nice to have a title like that, but it’s not real.

AMY GOODMAN: For many years, you threw out the first question at the news conferences. I wanted to go back to the issue of Gaza. You asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino last week about Gaza. This is an excerpt of your exchange.

HELEN THOMAS: Why is the President letting more people be killed in this situation, instead of going for a ceasefire and calling for restraint, as they have in the past, on both sides?

DANA PERINO: We are calling for a durable ceasefire. That’s what we were trying to establish.

HELEN THOMAS: But why don’t you call it today and stop people from being killed?

DANA PERINO: Well, I think, Helen, strong views are held on this by all sides. We believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, and—

HELEN THOMAS: Do the Gazans have a right to defend themselves?

DANA PERINO: I think that what the Gazans deserve is a chance to live in peace and security. What President Bush has worked for is a chance to establish a two-state solution, so that the Palestinians could have their own state, so that they could live in their own democracy. And that’s what President Abbas, who is the president of all Palestinians, has been working towards.

HELEN THOMAS: The President did not recognize their election, which was fair and square under international law, as observers—

DANA PERINO: Look, when—the President did call for the—did support the elections. And when the elections were held, I don’t think that Hamas was elected because they said, “Vote for us, we’ll take you to war” or “We’ll hold you hostage” or “We’ll send rockets into Israel every day.” But they won because they were tired—the people of—the Palestinians, people of Gaza, were frustrated with the services that they were getting from the Fatah party, which was a wake-up call for the Fatah party as well. And they have worked to try to improve what they could provide governance-wise for all of the Palestinians.

HELEN THOMAS: So knowing that, why did the US cut off all relation—all aid to the people?

DANA PERINO: We certainly have not done that to the people of Gaza. We do not deal with the terrorist organizations, of which Hamas is designated as one.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dana Perino answering Helen Thomas’s question last week.

I wanted to ask you, Helen Thomas, about Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who became a vocal critic after stepping down, a critic of the Bush administration. I interviewed him last June. He spoke about your role in the White House press corps.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think we need more Helen Thomases in the press corps, both the national press corps, even in the White House press corps, as well. She is someone who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and hold people accountable for the decisions that are made. So I think that’s important to state right up front.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott McClellan after he stepped down as press secretary. Helen Thomas, are you surprised by his praise?

HELEN THOMAS: Somewhat, having been called Hezbollah and everything else probably. Well, I mean, I suppose it’s the position that you’re trying—if you—how can you speak for the President of the United States? I mean, you cannot go off the curve. And so, everything is forgivable. And you always have to understand what position a spokesperson is in. I think it’s the toughest job in the White House being a spokesperson for the President and for American policy, which is sometimes very unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of the White House press corps? Has it changed over the decades? And what did you think of the White House press corps that covered—all of the press covering President Bush?

HELEN THOMAS: I think they lost their guts after 9/11. No one wanted to ask penetrating questions for fear of being called un-American, unpatriotic. And I think their publishers, wherever they are, maybe Wall Street and so forth, were saying, “Lay off. You know, we’re all Americans, and we have to stick together no matter what.” So I don’t think reporters should—I mean, obviously, the ideal is to seek the truth, no matter where the chips fall.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a late White House press secretary. That was Tony Snow. In 2006, you questioned him about the US response to the Israeli attack on Lebanon. This is the exchange.

HELEN THOMAS: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.

TONY SNOW: I don’t think so, Helen.

HELEN THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.

TONY SNOW: No, what’s interesting, Helen—

HELEN THOMAS: And this is what’s happening, and that’s the perception of the United States.

TONY SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you—

HELEN THOMAS: Nobody is accepting your explanation. What is restraint? You call for restraint.

TONY SNOW: Well, I’ll tell you, what’s interesting, Helen, is people have. The G8 was completely united on this. And as you know, when it comes to issues of—

HELEN THOMAS: And we stopped a ceasefire. Why?

TONY SNOW: We didn’t stop a ceasefire. Let me just tell you—I’ll tell you what.

HELEN THOMAS: We vetoed—

TONY SNOW: We didn’t even veto. Please get your facts right.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tony Snow. Your response, Helen Thomas?

HELEN THOMAS: My response is I was right to press him. I think that, you know, any world leader, no matter who’s right and who’s wrong, you stop the killing of innocent people. And all the people really are basically innocent, on all sides.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, you were born in Kentucky, your parents, Lebanese Christians. Your Arab American background, do you think that informs—or how does it inform your reporting?

HELEN THOMAS: Of course. I have a background and an understanding of what’s happened in the Middle East that a lot of people don’t have, because there’s been no interest. But why shouldn’t I project some of my feelings and so forth? I mean, I have that right, as an opinion column. But also, I hope I seek justice. And I don’t think that I go off the highway.

AMY GOODMAN: You have covered, well, starting Tuesday, ten presidents. You were the only woman on Nixon’s flight to China. What was it like to cover Richard Nixon?

HELEN THOMAS: I wasn’t the only woman. I was the only woman—

AMY GOODMAN: Only woman reporter.

HELEN THOMAS: Yes, in the print department. There was one woman in radio and Barbara Walters for TV. So, there were other women in that respect. What was—pardon me, I—what was your question?

AMY GOODMAN: What was it like to cover Richard Nixon going to China and also his demise?

HELEN THOMAS: Well, it was thrilling, because every reporter in Washington wanted to be on that trip, maybe in the whole country, because we knew it was a tremendous historical event, that it was a breakthrough, twenty-year hiatus in relations with China. Everything—nobody knew anything about what was happening, except CIA and India, and so forth, surrounding countries. So we knew that we would be really writing history. And it was really like landing on the moon. Everything was a story—what the people ate, what they looked like, what they wore, and so forth. Well, I can assure you, we had a field day for eight days.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, will you be covering the inauguration of the forty-forth president, of Barack Obama?

HELEN THOMAS: I’ll be writing a column about it and his speech and so forth, but I won’t be doing the minute-to-minute. I will be seeing what everybody else is seeing, I hope, mostly on TV.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what advice do you have for young journalists?

HELEN THOMAS: Go for it. It’s the greatest profession in the world. You’re making a real contribution to democracy by keeping people informed. And have some courage to tell the truth. I think it’s difficult at times. There are many barriers, but go for it. It’s a great, great profession.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »