Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You're Not Free and Independent Unless We Say You Are, Got It?!

While I've been away in sunnier climes, much has happened in the world, it seems. Ralph Nader is running for president, Fidel Castro has stepped aside in Cuba, and Kosovo has declared "independence."

The reactions to the latter two events by the government of the United States speaks volumes of the hypocrisy by which standards of "freedom" and "liberty" are defined in this country. Apparently, only "we" are allowed to determine who is allowed to be "free" and who does not deserve that particular privilege. Can the US have permanent military bases in your new country? Yes? Ok, then you can be "free." Do you have oil under our sand, you silly goose? You do? Ok, we'll set you free as long as we can occupy you. Occupation's not freedom, you say? Your whole family has been killed and you have been forced to flee your home and abandon your job and possessions in order to stay alive? You live in a constant state of fear and horror? Hey wait, don't you have a blue smudge on your thumb? That's what we call freedom for you, so don't fret, you're free. And if that doesn't fill you with pride and comfort, we'll be happy to kill you too.

Here's an excerpt of a new piece by Robert Fantina (click on the link for the whole article) entitled, "A Fiasco Waiting to Happen: Castro, Bush and Cuba":
With the surprising news of Fidel Castro's resignation as Cuba's president after a reign of forty-nine years, U.S. President George Bush made an even more astounding statement. In response to Mr. Castro's announcement, Mr. Bush said he was committed to "help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

One is left practically speechless by that pronouncement. Does Mr. Bush think the people of Cuba are now filled with bright-eyed hope? Does he believe that they look at 'the blessings of liberty' he has bestowed on Iraq, and dream of the same? Do they long to have their infrastructure destroyed, essential services disrupted, their families torn apart in the middle of the night? Do the look forward to the need to flee their nation for the relative safety of a refugee camp in whatever other country might be willing to let them in? This is what Mr. Bush has brought to formerly peaceful and sovereign Iraq.

Perhaps Mr. Bush feels that Cubans ignore Iraq, and look to that shining light of freedom and democracy only ninety miles off their northern shore. There the upper class and wealthy can enjoy health care, something all Cubans already have. Walking through any U.S. street, pedestrians are accosted by the homeless, begging money for food, liquor or drugs. This too would be an unfamiliar sight to most Cubans. Those with sufficient monies in the United States can afford to send their children to private schools, which are at least equal to the education that is government-provided in Cuba.

But Mr. Bush did not stop there. Not content with astounding his listeners with his desire to bestow his bizarre brand of 'the blessings of liberty' onto the unsuspecting Cuban people, whether they want it or not, Mr. Bush went on. In the same speech he said: "Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections, and I mean free, and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

One might think that in a 'true democracy,' the voters speak. If two or more candidates are running for the same office, and one receives more votes than any of the others, it might be reasonable to assume that that candidate would win that office. Does Mr. Bush forget his own infamous pseudo-election in 2000? Does he not recall that his major opponent in that election, former Vice President Al Gore, garnered more votes than he? Perhaps Mr. Bush himself is attempting "to foist off as true democracy" his own 'election' to the presidency.

[To read the entire article, click here]

Turning to Kosovo's declaration of independence, it's baffling to try and comprehend how the US government could immediately support the partitioning of a foreign, sovereign, UN-member state but wouldn't even let Staten Island secede from New York City when everyone involved wanted it to (let alone allow the Confederacy to go their own, mint-julep sippin', slave-ownin' way). Why are some places allowed to secede and not others? Why do some places get the USA stamp of freedom approval while others languish under US-sponsored occupations and US-allied monarchies that oppress separatist and resistance movements? And, perhaps most importantly, why are we witnessing the increased promotion of partition and separation, instead of unification and federation? Is American hegemony just based on the 'divide and rule' principle? In what sort of warped, globalized world is ethnic cleansing and geographic division the preferred method to achieve harmony and stability? I suppose everyone should just surround themselves with the tallest and strongest walls they can, to fully promote xenophobic homogeneity and the American-Israeli mentality of "good fences make good neighbors."

Welcome to Planet Solitary Confinement and TV Dinner Tray World Peace.


Kosovo and the Question of Palestine
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 February 2008

No peace with partition. (Nidal El-Khairy)

Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence has produced a range of reactions among Israeli and Palestinian observers that reveal their anxieties about their respective situations.

An editorial in the Israeli daily Haaretz called on the Israeli government to immediately recognize Kosovo, arguing that "the struggle of the persecuted Kosovar people for independence is reminiscent of the struggles by other nations for the right of self-determination." Of course Haaretz was not talking about the Palestinians, but about the "State of Israel, which was established in the wake of the Jewish people's struggle for self-determination" ("Recognize Kosovo," Haaretz, 18 February 2008).

By identifying Israel with the supposed underdog, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Haaretz implicitly recognizes that there are indeed some striking similarities though not ones it would acknowledge. Kosovo, like Israel, was illegally severed by force of arms from another country against the wishes of the majority population of the whole territory. Both entities came into being and can only survive with the sponsorship and support of the Great Powers of the day who sustain them in violation of international law because it suits their imperial interests. Furthermore, both entities are animated by a virulent ethno-nationalism that is fundamentally incompatible with the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that they claim to have come into being to uphold. In this sense, Kosovo is the latest in a collection of Western-backed pseudo-states that also includes the Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.

Haaretz's desire to recognize Kosovo flows not merely from selfless concern for the oppressed, but is also explicitly opportunistic. First, doing so would please Washington (Israel's main sponsor), and second it provides a "unique opportunity" to "prove that the Jewish state is not an enemy of the Muslims" -- though Haaretz was careful to note that Albanians in Kosovo are 'good' Muslims "who ha[ve] not identified with extremist Islamic tendencies and ha[ve] kept a distance from Israel's opponents in the Arab world."

A radically different Israeli view by Haaretz columnist Israel Harel echoes the position expressed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 1999 when NATO forces bombed Serbia and then occupied Kosovo under the pretext of protecting ethnic Albanians in the province from abuses and ethnic cleansing by Yugoslav authorities. (These reports were greatly exaggerated to justify the war. By contrast massive ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Serbs by Albanians since 1999 and NATO inaction to stop it is well-documented.)

For Harel, Israel should identify with Serbia. "Muslims of Kosovo constitute an absolute majority of the population," Harel worries, "and the same is true for the Galilee Arabs," his dismissive term for Palestinian citizens of Israel living in their native towns and villages in the north of the country. Lamenting Israel's failure to "Judaize" the Galilee, he repeats right-wing claims that the Palestinians inside Israel are an ungrateful fifth column receiving too many resources from an over-generous and "impotent" Israeli state. Ignoring the decades of racial, legal and economic discrimination, land confiscation and forced displacement that Palestinian citizens of Israel have suffered and continue to endure, he charges that "Israeli governments have resigned themselves to the blatant, unconcealed separatist actions of the Galilee Arabs" ("Kosovo is already here," Haaretz, 21 February 2008).

Harel cites as evidence of this "separatism" the claim that "Arab intellectuals and public officials have compiled documents known as 'The Vision,' in which they reject Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people." In fact, the various documents that Harel seems to be referring to have set forward explicitly democratic, inclusive constitutions for a unitary state in which all citizens have equal rights regardless of religion or ethnicity. These Palestinian "vision" documents are more than anything an appeal against the narrow ethno-nationalism and separatism of Zionism and in favor of universal values.

So far, the Israeli government has not recognized Kosovo's independence and has indicated that it is unlikely to take a stand on the issue in the near future.

Kosovo also presents dilemmas from a Palestinian perspective. John Whitbeck, an international lawyer and former legal advisor to Palestinian negotiators, pointed out the obvious hypocrisy of the Western justifications for recognizing Kosovo: "The American and EU impatience to sever a portion of a UN member state (universally recognized, even by them, to constitute a portion of that state's sovereign territory), ostensibly because 90 percent of those living in that portion of the state's territory support separation, contrasts starkly with the unlimited patience of the US and the EU when it comes to ending the 40-year-long belligerent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip" ("If Kosovo, Why not Palestine?" The Jordan Times, 20 February 2008).

Whitbeck advocates that "the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, accepted as such by the 'international community' because it is perceived as serving Israeli and American interests," seize the opportunity and declare independence for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza if "this leadership truly believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that a decent 'two-state solution' is still possible." To give teeth to this initiative, Whitbeck suggests that Palestinian leaders make clear that if the world fails to recognize and support their state, they will dissolve the Palestinian Authority and seek a one-state solution in all of historic Palestine.

Yaser Abed Rabbo, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah Palestinian Authority, made international headlines by suggesting that if negotiations with Israel continued to go nowhere, "we have another option," which is to follow the example of Kosovo. "Kosovo is not better than Palestine," he asserted.

Abbas and his other chief lieutenants, Ahmed Qureia and Saeb Erekat quickly jumped on Abed Rabbo, assuring the world that they would do no such thing -- they would instead stick to the very "negotiations" that have been going on for fifteen years and that they acknowledge have made no progress. This makes perfect sense. As Whitbeck noted, these leaders are merely clients of the US and the EU. They will never bite the hand that feeds them.

What they recognize -- and were forcefully reminding Abed Rabbo -- is that the only principle that applies in such cases is that you do what your sponsors say and it is they, not you who decide the law. The Albanian leaders in Kosovo only acted when their US-EU sponsors told them to, and Abbas and his cronies will do the same.

So what if anything can observers of the Palestine conflict conclude from the events in Kosovo? Despite growing anger in Serbia, Western officials and prominent Balkans "experts" have blithely assured us that Serbs will soon get over the severing of their country, lured by the promise of being absorbed into the EU's ever-expanding capitalist empire. Their optimism seems curious, given that nine years of NATO occupation in Kosovo and a decade-and-a-half of heavy NATO and EU presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not succeeded in producing long-term stability.

Imposed partitions in Palestine, Ireland, India, Cyprus and -- it is to be feared -- Iraq have one thing in common: they are always justified by their advocates with the claim that though perhaps less than ideal, they at least have the advantage of finality and clarity, and once the initial unpleasantness passes, everything will settle down into a new normality. As Israel's founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion notoriously said of the Palestinian refugees six decades ago, "the old will die and the young will forget."

But in every case, such partitions have generated new conflict, injustice and ethnic cleansing and have reinforced nationalism and irredentism. What are the chances that Serbia will prove to be the exception?

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).


For a response to Abunimah's article, go here to check out a letter written to and posted by Electronic Intifada.


Monday, February 18, 2008

No Country For Bold Change
Or, why the 2008 Oscars and Election are the same thing

I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. You can say it's my job to fight it, but I don't know what it is anymore. More than that, I don't want to know.

A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He would have to say, "O.K., I'll be part of this world."
- Ed Tom Bell

How fitting is it that this year's Academy Awards will be a near identical exercise to this year's Presidential Election? Barring any political equivalent of a writers' strike (in the form of another phony attack on US soil that will sink the country into the dark re-runs of martial law and the suspension of civil rights), November's election will most likely bestow a lofty honor upon a once impressive recipient for a recent effort that is wholly undeserving of the praise heaped upon it...just like next weekend's Oscar ceremony.

Before I continue this post, let me first state for the record that I am, and have for the past seventeen years or so, the biggest Coen Brothers fan I know. I have seen all of their films (yes, even The Ladykillers - which would have made Herbert Lom roll over in his watery grave) and I own all but one of their films (yes, not The Ladykillers - which would make Peter Sellers roll over in Herbert Lom's watery grave) and know their work well enough to know that Fargo, though a fine movie, isn't even in their top 50%. Yes, I adore the Coens and think their talent far exceeds that of most of their contemporaries. That said, No Country For Old Men should not win them their first Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, even though it will. It's just not that great. Seriously. The Coens will be awarded the highest of highest entertainment accolades for (as Martin Scorsese did last year) their previous merits and past glories, rather than on the strength of their most recent achievement.

The truth of the matter is, as with American politics, the field of potential honorees is so bleak and uninspiring that it seems that the Academy (and American people) have to choose from a collection of, at best, mediocre "lesser evils." Sure, No Country is engaging, energetic, and entertaining. So is Obama. But that doesn't mean it's actually great. Far from it, the film's story is so full of holes that I spent the last half-hour of the movie wondering why Tommy Lee Jones' character wasn't killed in the El Paso motel room. Just because a movie has a big budget, a stylized production, clever editing, and snappy one-liners doesn't mean it's brilliant. Same goes for Barack Obama's campaign.

In the past few months, I have heard critics and friends alike laud this film to no end, throwing around superlatives like "masterpiece," "tour-de-force," and "cinematic perfection" with less discrimination than Peter Travers at a free Tarantino screening. Simply put, I don't get it.

No, no, no, I get the movie. I follow the plot and understand the characters as well as I possibly could and have seen it more than once so as not to accidentally miss anything. What I don't get is the praise. I'm watching the same movie as everyone else and everyone seems to love it, but I don't. I see through it. If Anton Chigurh is a man of such principled determination, why is he still after the bag of money after killing his employer Stephen Root? When was he called in to assist in the drug-deal-gone-wrong in the first place and why do the Mexicans have a transponder of their own? Why do the Coen Brothers feel the need to resort to old tropes like the dopey deputy and the ornery mother-in-law? Aren't they better than that? The answer is, I believe, yes. But not with this film. The same goes for Obama.

The constant refrain I hear from people when I raise chronology issues and inconsistent motivation questions regarding No Country is that the "plot isn't important" and that when I state that I thought the Sheriff Bell character was mostly superfluous I'm "missing the point." But I'm not missing anything. I get it. The futility of goodness, and even meaning, in a violent and disturbing world. Violence begets violence, revenge begets revenge and so forth. If one engages in human interaction, one is sure to be discouraged and disappointed. And ain't that the truth when it comes to our political process? Yes, I understand the movie. I also have problems with it. Do I think linear plot is as important as philosophical meanderings? Yes, I do. Do I think it's the worst movie ever made, no of course not. Nor do I believe that Obama is the worst person ever. But I certainly have problems with him.

I believe that, at the core, he is probably not a very bad man. In the past he worked as a community organizer in inner-city Chicago, vocally opposed an illegal, imperial war and stated that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." But in recent months he has voted to fully fund the on-going occupation in Iraq, has threatened to bomb Pakistan, believes troop levels in Afghanistan should be increased, has followed Bush's bellicose lead by calling Iran "one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace," and urged the UN not to condemn Israel for their barbaric siege on the innocent civilian population of Gaza. Are lofty ideals like "change" and "hope" more important than actual policy and substance? I don't think so. But is he better than Hillary? Sure. Does that make him good? No.

(No Country For Old Men, I admit, is a better film than There Will Be Blood which, just like the Clinton campaign, is an impressively massive and pretentiously self-possessed production that rests upon meticulous, fastidious, and painstaking direction which is ultimately overshadowed by the flamboyant performance by its fervid, uncontrollable, and sanctimonious leading man. And we all know that Bill isn't content with drinking only his own milkshake either.)

Obama's campaign relies on the merits of its past laurels, just as Sunday night's Oscars will go to Joel and Ethan for their previous work, not this last film (then again, why do we care what the Academy thinks? Raging Bull didn't win Best Picture and The Third Man wasn't even nominated). It's basically the same as saying, "hey, you were good once and we hope you're good again." In lieu of better choices (and all but shutting out what I think was the cinematic Dennis Kucinich of 2007, The Kite Runner, unable to get any real attention due to its subject matter, even though everyone who actually saw it loved it), the Academy will award No Country with its most prestigious honor on Sunday, just as this country will elect Barack Obama to its highest office in November...with or without my blessing.

And all that means is that we should all hope that better work lies in their (and our) future.

But for the time being, I simply can not forgive the current missteps from an otherwise impressive, if not exemplary, career. I would not have voted for the Coens this year were I in the Academy, just like I did not vote for Obama in the primary.

It just doesn't feel right. And I just can't put my soul at hazard.


W.A.i.A will be on vacation until next week. Hopefully Cheney won't bomb Iran while I'm away.



Friday, February 15, 2008

Feb 15th: Happy John Frum Day!

"The truth will set you free,
but first it will make you miserable."
- James A. Garfield

When trying to discuss the situation in Israel/Palestine with people I know, I often find that I might have an easier time converting them to a bizarre South Pacific cargo cult than getting them to care about what's going on in the Middle East. The general apathy of Americans about the plight of oppressed people around the world is staggering, especially in situations where the United States itself is responsible for or directly supports the oppression (even in terms of the war in Iraq, American public opinion turned against the occupation once the casualty rates of US troops sky-rocketed, not because of the invasion and genocide of the Iraqi people).

Kathleen and Bill Christison have written a new article about this kind of disinterest that you should all read.


Talking to a Wall

Palestine in the Mind of America

by Kathleen and Bill Christison | Counterpunch
14 February 2008

You would think that showing maps clearly delineating the truncated, obviously non-viable area available for a possible Palestinian state and showing pictures that define Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories would have some kind of impact on an audience of astute but, on this issue, generally uninformed Americans. We recently spoke to a small foreign affairs discussion group and devoted much of our presentation to these images of oppression -- images that never appear in the U.S. media -- in the probably naïve hope of making some kind of dent in the impassive American attitude toward Israel's 40-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

But our expectations that these people would listen and perhaps learn something were sadly misplaced. Few among the elite seminar-style discussion group seemed concerned about, or even particularly interested in, what is happening on the ground in Palestine-Israel, and the event stands as starkly emblematic of American apathy about the oppressive Israeli regime in the occupied territories that the United States is enabling and in many instances actively encouraging.

The maps that we displayed of the West Bank, prepared by the UN and by Israeli human rights groups, clearly depicted the segmented, disconnected scatter of territorial pieces that would make up the Palestinian state even in the most optimistic of scenarios -- Palestinian areas broken up by the separation wall cutting deep into the West Bank; by large Israeli settlements scattered throughout and taking up something like 10 percent of the territory; by the network of roads connecting the settlements, all accessible only to Israeli drivers; and by the Jordan Valley, currently barred to any Palestinian not already living there, making up fully one-quarter of the West Bank, and ultimately destined for annexation by Israel.

The maps make it clear that even the most generous Israeli plan would leave a Palestinian state with only 50-60 percent of the West Bank (constituting 11-12 percent of original Palestine), broken into multiple separated segments and including no part of Jerusalem. The photographs, taken during our several trips to Palestine in recent years, depicted the separation wall, checkpoints and terminals in the wall resembling cages, Palestinian homes demolished and official buildings destroyed, vast Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land, destroyed Palestinian olive groves, commerce in Palestinian cities shut down because of marauding Israeli settlers or soldiers.

We have shown maps and pictures like these myriad times before, but have never been received with quite such disinterest. Here was a group of mostly retired U.S. government officials, academics, journalists, and business executives, as well as a few still-working professionals -- all ranging in political orientation from center right to center left, the cream of informed, educated America, the exemplar of elite mainstream opinion in the United States. Their lack of concern about what Israel and, because of its enabling role, the U.S. are doing to destroy an entire people and their national aspirations could not have been more evident.

The first person to comment when our presentation concluded, identifying herself as Jewish, said she had "never heard a more one-sided presentation" and labeled us "beyond anti-Semitic" -- which presumably is somewhat worse than plain-and-simple anti-Semitic. This is always a somewhat upsetting charge, although it is so common and so expected as to be of little note anymore. What was more noteworthy was the reaction, or lack of it, among the rest of the assembled, who never disputed her charge but spent most of the discussion period either disputing our presentation or trying to find ways to accommodate "Jewish pain."

Our brief conversation with this woman progressed in an interesting fashion. We tried to engage her in a discussion about what exactly was one-sided in our depiction of the situation on the ground and what she would have liked to see to make it "two-sided." She did not answer but indicated that she thought whatever Israel did must be justified by Palestinian actions. "Someone had to have started it," she said. We laid out a little history for her, noting that the first action, the "who-started-it" part, could be traced back to Britain's Balfour Declaration pledge in 1917 to promote the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, at a time when Jews made up no more than 10 percent of the population of Palestine. Then we came up to the 1947 UN partition resolution, which allotted 55 percent of Palestine for a Jewish state at a time when Jews owned only seven percent of the land and made up slightly less than one-third of the population.

Her answer was, "Well, but it wasn't Jews who did this." We disabused her of this and briefly detailed the deliberate Zionist program of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population conducted during 1947-48 war, as described by several Israeli historians, including particularly Ilan Pappe, whose The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is based on Israeli military archives. Her eyes actually began to bulge, but she held her tongue. Apparently deciding that she had no way of refuting these facts, she finally decided that going back in history was of no utility -- a common Zionist dodge -- and that Israel had not been established in any case to be a democracy but was a haven for persecuted Jews and as such has every right to organize itself in any way it sees fit. The moderator finally called on others who wanted to speak, and the discussion moved on.

But not very far. The talk now circled, for over an hour, around what passed for profound discussion: around someone's curious remarks about Zeitgeist, someone else's equally curious insistence that there was "something out there that no one would talk about" that was influencing the situation, a few remarks about Palestinians as terrorists and how even if Israel made peace with the Palestinians Hamas would still try to destroy it, a lot of talk about how to accommodate Jewish pain and, taking off from this, a psychologist's attempt to draw an analogy between Jews who live in fear of persecution and the rape victims she counsels who live in constant fear that they will be raped again or worse.

A few people did ask interested questions about the situation on the ground and about various aspects of Israeli policy. After the discussion had centered for quite a while on Jewish pain, one person pointed out that Palestinians too feel pain and live in fear, but no one else picked up on this. No one challenged the first speaker's personal charge of anti-Semitism against us, and in the end there was almost no mention of the destructive Israeli practices that had been the subject of our presentation.

We had occasion to email several of the participants the next day. In one message, we lodged a mild complaint with the three group organizers about the fact that the charge of anti-Semitism was allowed not only to stand but to set the tone for much of the discussion, with no refutation of the substance of the charge by anyone except us. In another message, sent to a man who had expressed puzzlement over why the Jewish vote was thought to be important in U.S. elections, we forwarded without comment an article from Mother Jones about Barack Obama's difficulties with the Jewish community and his concerted effort to demonstrate his bona fides by pledging fealty to Israel and justifying Israel's siege of Gaza.

Finally, to the psychologist, we wrote a comment on her analogy between Jews and rape victims, observing that as a psychologist she undoubtedly did not encourage her rape victim clients to perpetuate their fear or adopt an aggressive attitude toward other people, but most likely gave them tools to help them regain trust and move beyond fears for their personal safety. This kind of restorative therapy for Jews has never been employed, we noted, but on the contrary Israeli leaders and American Jewish leaders have encouraged Jewish fears, along with an aggressive, militaristic Israeli policy toward its neighbors.

These were all gratuitous overtures by us, but they were not inappropriate or uncivil. Yet not one of these people saw fit to answer our missives or even acknowledge their receipt -- indicating, we can only assume, the general level of unconcern among Americans about the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, including the siege and starvation imposed on Gazans. Then, too, the lack of response probably reflects feelings on the part of most attendees that we are somehow responsible for having involved them in a discussion that turned out to be fairly unpleasant for them.

Why is this interesting to anyone but us? Because this in-depth discussion with a small but representative group of intelligent, thinking Americans is indicative of a broad range of U.S. public opinion on foreign policy issues, and their level of disinterest in the consequences of U.S. policies is quite disturbing. The self-absorption evident during this meeting, the general "don't-rock-the-boat" posture, the overwhelming lack of concern for the victims of Israeli and U.S. power amount to a license to kill for the U.S. and its allies. The same unconcern allowed the United States to get away with killing millions of Vietnamese decades ago; it gives license to mass U.S. killing in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is the reason Democrats still, after seven years of Bush administration torture and killing around the world, cannot fully separate themselves from Republican militarism. It gives Israel license to kill and ethnically cleanse the entire nation of Palestine.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence officer and as director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis.


Also read this article from the Arab Association for Human Rights, as posted on the Electronic Intifada:

02.14.08 - "I feel as if I were living in South Africa" (by Saady Abu-Hatoum)


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rand Corp. Report to US Gov't:
Try Exporting To Your Colonies
What You Don't Have Here At Home

In a new report commissioned by the Pentagon, the nonprofit research organization The Rand Corp. suggests that instead of focusing on the escalation of troop levels in order to combat insurgents, the US government should attempt actual "nation-building" techniques. The snickering irony behind all of this is that the conclusion of the report is essentially that what Iraq (and Afghanistan) needs is a stable, functional government that discourages religious extremism and that invests itself heavily in the rule of law. Where the US could possibly find a model for this form of national administration, I do not know, but they'd better start looking.

A CNN article states that because,
The U.S. military is seriously deficient in meeting "the threat of Islamist insurgencies"...The United States should instead focus its priorities on improving "civil governance" and building "local security forces," according to the report, referring to those steps as "capabilities that have been lacking in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The report essentially concludes what thinking people have known all along:
"U.S. military intervention and occupation in the Muslim world [is] at best inadequate, at worst counter-productive, and, on the whole, infeasible."
The Rand report mentions a number of areas toward which the US should put its energy in an effort to actually help in Iraq. The list of goals set out by the study sound like the campaign platforms of leading candidates for our own presidency, which doesn't bode well for our own country. The CNN piece explains,
Looking at some 90 conflicts since World War II, the report concludes that establishing "representative, competent and honest" local government is the way to go...To beef up counterinsurgency efforts, local governments must develop "job training and placement of ex-combatants; an efficient and fair justice system, including laws, courts and prisons; and accessible mass lower education," it says.
So what is needed exactly? An honest government? Provide job training and placement for the desperate and disillusioned? Maintain a fair justice system? An accessible and effective public education system? Seems like the United States might not be the best role model for this sort of work. Where's Sweden when you need 'em?

In ideal circumstances, the report would serve as some kind wake up call to government officials, as it is sprinkled with all sorts of delightful revelations and The More You Know hypotheses which have now become some of my favorite new daily affirmations, such as "Massive military interventions against insurgencies usually fail" and, as stated by Rand report co-author John Gordon, "Foreign forces cannot substitute for effective local governments, and they can even weaken their legitimacy."

In reaction to his own findings regarding the potential infrastructure goals of the US government, David C. Gompert (the report's lead author and a senior fellow at Rand) said,
"When it comes to building these and other civil capabilities abroad, the United States is alarmingly weak. To fix this problem, the federal government will need a dramatic increase in civilian capabilities, new organizational arrangements, and more flexible personnel policies."
The report, which was commissioned with the hope of finding ways to counter the dreaded "insurgency," speaks about fighting the Iraqi resistance with non-military methods, mentioning the need for more money in foreign aid, more civilian professionals, and help from U.S. allies and international organizations, such as NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations in areas such as "building education, health and justice systems, and training police and "military forces that perform civilian police duties."

In what I can only assume was the saddest part of the report for people like Mike Piazza, Toby Keith, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and Jon Voight, CNN notes that "Pro-America" themes should be dropped "in favor of strengthening local government" and emphasizing the failure of jihadists to meet people's needs.

Now, here's the tricky thing about those wacky jihadists and insurgents: they actually like Iraqis and don't like United States soldiers shooting up their neighborhoods and killing their families. Weirdos. The public opinion in Iraq does not favor the US troops, nor should it. They bombed, invaded, destroyed, and occupied a foreign country and instigated, encouraged, and aided in the subsequent genocide. Apparently, they don't want us there.

The Rand Corp. report might have been better off consulting a new piece by Uri Avnery, in which he writes,
For me, the main lesson is this: from the time the general public embraces the rebels, the victory of the rebellion is assured.

That is an iron rule: an insurgency supported by the public is bound to win, irrespective of the tactics adopted by the occupation regime. The occupier can kill indiscriminately or adopt more humane methods, torture captured freedom fighters to death or treat them as prisoners of war - nothing makes a difference in the long run. The last of the occupiers can board a ship in a solemn ceremony, like the British High Commissioner in Haifa, or fight for a place in the last helicopter, like the last American soldiers on the roof of the American embassy in Saigon - defeat was certain from the moment the insurgency had reached a certain point.

The real war against the occupation takes place in the minds of the occupied population. Therefore, the main task of the freedom fighter is not to fight against the occupation, as it may seem, but to win the hearts of his people. And on the other side, the main task of the occupier is not to kill the freedom fighters, but to prevent the population from embracing them. The battle is for the hearts and minds of the people, their thoughts and emotions.

That is one of the reasons why generals almost always fail in their struggle against liberation fighters. A military officer is the least suitable person for this task. All his upbringing, his whole way of thinking, all that he has learned is opposed to this central task. Napoleon, the military genius, failed in his effort to vanquish the freedom fighters in Spain (where the word guerrilla, little war, was originally coined), no less than the most stupid American general in Vietnam.

An army officer is a technician, trained to fulfill a particular job. That job is irrelevant to the struggle against a liberation movement, in spite of its superficial appropriateness. The fact that a house-painter deals with colors does not make him into a portrait painter. An outstanding hydraulic engineer does not become a skilled plumber. A general does not understand the essence of a national insurgency, and therefore does not come to grips with its rules.

For example, a general measures his success by the number of enemies killed. But the fighting underground organization becomes stronger the more dead fighters it can present to the public, which identifies with the martyrs. A general learns to prepare for battle and win it, but his opponents, the guerrilla fighters, avoid battle altogether.
Though Avnery is not speaking specifically about the situation in Iraq, the ideas are wholly applicable and would have saved Gompert and Gordon a heap of time and money. As Avnery concludes, so must we all:
After all, the end is not in doubt. The only question is how much more killing, how much more destruction, how much more suffering must be caused before the occupiers arrive at the inescapable conclusion.

Every drop of blood spilt is a drop of blood wasted.

For the real state of Iraq, please read this piece by Scott Ritter, who is more qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable about this stuff than anyone I've ever read:

Iraq’s Tragic Future

by Scott Ritter | Truthdig | 5 February 2008

Mohammed Salman sits in the rubble of what used to be a book market in Baghdad. His brother died in the explosion. (AP photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Any analysis of the current state of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq that relied solely on the U.S. government, the major candidates for president or the major media outlets in the United States for information would be hard pressed to find any bad news. In a State of the Union address which had everything except a “Mission Accomplished” banner flying in the background, President Bush all but declared victory over the insurgency in Iraq. His recertification of the success of the so-called surge has prompted the Republican candidates to assume a cocky swagger when discussing Iraq. They embrace the occupation and speak, without shame or apparent fear of retribution, of an ongoing presence in that war-torn nation. Their Democratic counterparts have been less than enthusiastic in their criticism of the escalation. And the media, for the most part, continue their macabre role as cheerleaders of death, hiding the reality of Iraq deep inside stories that build upon approving headlines derived from nothing more than political rhetoric. The war in Iraq, we’re told, is virtually over. We only need “stay the course” for 10 more years.

This situation is troublesome in the extreme. The collective refusal of any constituent in this complicated mix of political players to confront Bush on Iraq virtually guarantees that it will be the Bush administration, and not its successor, that will dictate the first year (or more) of policy in Iraq for the next president. It also ensures that the debacle that is the Bush administration’s overarching Middle East policy of regional transformation and regime change in not only Iraq but Iran and Syria will continue to go unchallenged. If the president is free to pursue his policies, it could lead to direct military intervention in Iran by the United States prior to President Bush’s departure from office or, failing that, place his successor on the path toward military confrontation. At a time when every data point available certifies (and recertifies) the administration’s actions in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere (including Afghanistan) as an abject failure, America collectively has fallen into a hypnotic trance, distracted by domestic economic problems and incapable, due to our collective ignorance of the world we live in, of deciphering the reality on the ground in the Middle East.

Rather than offering a word-for-word renouncement of the president’s rosy assertions concerning Iraq, I will instead initiate a process of debunking the myth of American success by doing that which no politician, current or aspiring, would dare do: predict the failure of American policy in Iraq. With the ink on the newspapers parroting the president’s words barely dry, evidence of his misrepresentation of reality begins to build with the announcement by the Pentagon that troop levels in Iraq will not be dropping, as had been projected in view of the “success” of the “surge,” but rather holding at current levels with the possibility of increasing in the future. This reversal of course concerning troop deployments into Iraq highlights the reality that the statistical justification of “surge success,” namely the reduction in the level of violence, was illusory, a temporary lull brought about more by smoke and mirrors than any genuine change of fortune on the ground. Even the word surge is inappropriate for what is now undeniably an escalation. Iraq, far from being a nation on the rebound, remains a mortally wounded shell, the equivalent of a human suffering from a sucking chest wound, its lungs collapsed and its life blood spilling unchecked onto the ground. The “surge” never addressed the underlying reasons for Iraq’s post-Saddam suffering, and as such never sought to heal that which was killing Iraq. Instead, the “surge” offered little more than a cosmetic gesture, covering the wounds of Iraq with a bandage which shielded the true extent of the damage from outside view while doing nothing to save the victim.

Iraq is dying; soon Iraq will be dead. True, there will be a plot of land in the Middle East which people will refer to as Iraq. But any hope of a resurrected homogeneous Iraqi nation populated by a diverse people capable of coexisting in peace and harmony is soon to be swept away forever. Any hope of a way out for the people of Iraq and their neighbors is about to become a victim of the “successes” of the “surge” and the denial of reality. The destruction of Iraq has already begun. The myth of Kurdish stability-born artificially out of the U.S.-enforced “no-fly zones” of the 1990s, sustained through the largess of the Oil-for-Food program (and U.S.-approved sanctions sidestepped by the various Kurdish groups in Iraq) and given a Frankenstein-like lease on life in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and occupation-is rapidly unraveling. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, present-day Iraqi Kurdistan has been exposed as an amalgam of parts incompatible not only with each other but the region as a whole.

Ongoing Kurdish disdain for the central authority in Baghdad has led to the Kurds declaring their independence from Iraqi law (especially any law pertaining to oil present on lands they control). The reality of the Kurds’ quest for independence can be seen in their support of the Kurdish groups, in particular the PKK, that desire independence from Turkey. The sentiment has not been lost on their Turkish neighbors to the north, resulting in an escalation of cross-border military incursions which will only expand over time, further destabilizing Kurdish Iraq. Lying dormant, and unmentioned, is the age-old animosity between the two principle Kurdish factions in Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). As recently as 1997, these two factions were engaged in a virtual civil war against one another. The strains brought on by the present unraveling have these two factions once again vying for position inside Iraq, making internecine conflict all but inevitable. The year 2008 will bring with it a major escalation of Turkish military operations against northern Iraq, a strategic break between the Kurdish factions there and with the central government of Baghdad, and the beginnings of an all-out civil war between the KDP and PUK.

The next unraveling of the “surge” myth will be in western Iraq, where the much applauded “awakening” was falling apart even as Bush spoke. I continue to maintain that there is a hidden hand behind the Sunni resistance that operates unseen and uncommented on by the United States and its erstwhile Iraqi allies operating out of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The government of Saddam Hussein never formally capitulated, and indeed had in place plans for ongoing active resistance against any occupation of Iraq. In October 2007 the Iraqi Baath Party held its 13th conference, in which it formally certified one of Saddam’s vice presidents, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as the supreme leader of the Sunni resistance.

The United States’ embrace of the “awakening” will go down in the history of the Iraq conflict as one of the gravest strategic errors made in a field of grave errors. The U.S. military in Iraq has never fully understood the complex interplay between the Sunni resistance, al-Qaida in Iraq, and the former government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam may be dead, but not so his plans for resistance. The massive security organizations which held sway over Iraq during his rule were never defeated, and never formally disbanded. The organs of security which once operated as formal ministries now operate as covert cells, functioning along internal lines of communication which are virtually impenetrable by outside forces. These security organs gave birth to al-Qaida in Iraq, fostered its growth as a proxy, and used it as a means of sowing chaos and fear among the Iraqi population.

The violence perpetrated by al-Qaida in Iraq is largely responsible for the inability of the central government in Baghdad to gain any traction in the form of unified governance. The inability of the United States to defeat al-Qaida has destroyed any hope of generating confidence among the Iraqi population in the possibility of stability emerging from an ongoing American occupation. But al-Qaida in Iraq is not a physical entity which the United States can get its hands around, but rather a giant con game being run by Izzat al-Douri and the Sunni resistance. Because al-Qaida in Iraq is derived from the Sunni resistance, it can be defeated only when the Sunni resistance is defeated. And the greatest con game of them all occurred when the Sunni resistance manipulated the United States into arming it, training it and turning it against the forces of al-Qaida, which it controls. Far from subduing the Sunni resistance by Washington’s political and military support of the “awakening,” the United States has further empowered it. It is almost as if we were arming and training the Viet Cong on the eve of the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War.

Keeping in mind the fact that the Sunni resistance, led by al-Douri, operates from the shadows, and that its influence is exerted more indirectly than directly, there are actual al-Qaida elements in Iraq which operate independently of central Sunni control, just as there are Sunni tribal elements which freely joined the “awakening” in an effort to quash the forces of al-Qaida in Iraq. The diabolical beauty of the Sunni resistance isn’t its ability to exert direct control over all aspects of the anti-American activity in Sunni Iraq, but rather to manipulate the overall direction of activity through indirect means in a manner which achieves its overall strategic aims. The Sunni resistance continues to use al-Qaida in Iraq as a useful tool for seizing the strategic focus of the American military occupiers (and their Iraqi proxies in the Green Zone), as well as controlling Sunni tribal elements which stray too far off the strategic course (witness the recent suicide bomb assassination of senior Sunni tribal leaders). 2008 will see the collapse of the Sunni “awakening” movement, and a return to large-scale anti-American insurgency in western Iraq. It will also see the continued viability of al-Qaida in Iraq in terms of being an organization capable of wreaking violence and dictating the pace of American military involvement in directions beneficial to the Sunni resistance and detrimental to the United States.

One of the spinoffs of the continued success of the Sunni resistance is the focus it places on the inability of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to actually govern. The U.S. decision to arm, train and facilitate the various Sunni militias in Iraq is a de facto acknowledgement that the American occupiers have lost confidence in the high-profile byproduct of the “purple finger revolution” of January 2005. The sham that was that election has produced a government trusted by no one, even the Shiites. The ongoing unilateral cease-fire imposed by the Muqtada al-Sadr on his Mahdi Army prevented the outbreak of civil war between his movement and that of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and its militia, the Badr Brigade.

When Saddam’s security forces dissolved on the eve of the fall of Baghdad in March 2003, the security organs which had been tasked with infiltrating the Shiite community for the purpose of spying on Shiites were instead instructed to embed themselves deep within the structures of that community. Both the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade are heavily infiltrated with such sleeper elements, which conspire to create and exploit fractures between these two organizations under the age-old adage of divide and conquer. A strategic pause in the conflict between the Mahdi Army and the U.S. military on the one hand and the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade on the other has served to strengthen the hand of the Mahdi Army by allowing time for it to rearm and reorganize, increasing its efficiency as a military organization all the while its political opposite, the SCIRI-dominated central Iraqi government, continues to falter.

Further exacerbating the situation for the American occupiers of Iraq is the ongoing tension created by the war of wills between the United States and Iran. The Sunni resistance has no love for the Shiite theocracy in Tehran, or its proxies in Iraq, and views creating a rift between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade as a strategic imperative on the road to a Sunni resurgence. Any U.S. military strike against Iran will bring with it the inevitable Shiite backlash in Iraq. The Shiite forces that emerge as the most independent of the American occupier will be, in the minds of the Sunni resistance, the most capable of winning the support of the Shiites of Iraq. Given the past record of cooperation between the Mahdi Army and the Sunni resistance, and the ongoing antipathy between Sunnis and SCIRI, there can be little doubt which Shiite entity the Sunnis will side with when it comes time for a decisive conflict between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, and 2008 will be the year which witnesses such a conflict.

The big loser in all of this, besides the people of Iraq, is of course the men and women of the armed forces of the United States. Betrayed by the Bush administration, abandoned by Congress and all but forgotten by a complacent American population and those who are positioning themselves for national leadership in the next administration, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who so proudly wear the uniform of the United States continue to fight and die, kill and be maimed in a war which was never justified and long ago lost its luster. Played as pawns in a giant game of three-dimensional chess, these brave Americans find themselves being needlessly sacrificed in a game where there can be no winner, only losers.

The continued ambivalence of the American population as a whole toward the war in Iraq, perhaps best manifested by the superficiality of the slogan “Support the Troops,” all the while remaining ignorant of what the troops are actually doing, has led to a similar amnesia among politicians all too willing to allow themselves to seek political advantage at the expense of American life and treasure. January 2008 cost the United States nearly 40 lives in Iraq. The current military budget is unprecedented in its size, and doesn’t even come close to paying for ongoing military operations in Iraq. The war in Iraq has bankrupted Americans morally and fiscally, and yet the American public continues to shake the hands of aspiring politicians who ignore Iraq, pretending that the blood which soaks the hands of these political aspirants hasn’t stained their own. In the sick kabuki dance that is American politics, this refusal to call a spade a spade is deserving of little more than disdain and sorrow.

While the American people, politicians and media may remain mute on the reality of Iraq, I won’t. There is no such thing as a crystal ball which enables one to see clearly into the future, and I am normally averse to making sweeping long-term predictions involving a topic as fluid as the ongoing situation in Iraq. At the risk of being wrong (and, indeed, I hope very much that I am), I will contradict the rosy statements of the president in his State of the Union address and will throw down a gauntlet in the face of ongoing public and media ambivalence by predicting that 2008 will be the year the “surge” in Iraq is exposed as a grand debacle. The cosmetic bandage placed over the gravely wounded Iraq will fall off, and the damaged body that is Iraq will continue its painful decline toward death.

If there is any winner in all of this it will be the Sunni resistance, or at least its leadership hiding in the shadow of the American occupation, as it continues to exploit the chaotic death spiral of post-Saddam Iraq for its own long-term plan of a Sunni resurgence in Iraq. That the Sunni resistance will continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will be able to stop it is unlikely. And so, the reality that the only policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces continues to hold true. And the fact that this option is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and incomprehensibly, for many more years. That is the one image in my crystal ball that emerges in full focus, and which will serve as the basis of defining a national nightmare for generations to come.

Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including “Iraq Confidential” (Nation Books, 2005) , “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).

On Truth & Empire

In case you missed it, when asked recently by minion Chris Wallace of FoxNews why he thought Barack Obama has made it so far in his campaign when "people don’t know what he stands for," resident George W. Bush stated, without the slightest hint of irony, but with all the poise and acumen of a prophetic wizard,
“You’re the pundit. I’m just a simple president.”
Maybe he's finally beginning to figure some stuff out. Nah, probably not. Just dumb luck. And I mean dumb.

In response to Bush's comment regarding Obama's platforms that the "only foreign policy thing I remember he said was he’s going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad", the Illinois Senator's campaign scored a point by countering, “Barack Obama doesn’t need any foreign policy advice from the architect of the worst foreign policy decision in a generation."

Anyway, in these dwindling days of this Imperium Americana, we might as well educate ourselves as to what has been actually going on in this world at the hands of our beloved nation for the past sixty to hundred years. So read the articles below and then read Stephen Kinzer's heartbreaking and revelatory book, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Oh yeah, and then get acquainted with the books and articles of Chalmers Johnson and The American Empire Project.


Why They Hate Us

The Whining Empire

Sheldon Richman | Counterpunch | 6 February 2008

What's more obnoxious than a person who constantly whines about the real and imagined injustices committed against him while ignoring his own injustices against others?

A country that does the same thing.

One of the great myths accepted by the American people is that historically, the United States -- more precisely, the U.S. government -- has been a gentle giant, powerful and rich but entirely peaceful and well-meaning, and slow to anger when wronged. The truth is nearly the diametric opposite.

We often hear American politicians and commentators reciting a list of "terrorist" acts committed against the "United States." It typically includes the 1982 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 bombing of U.S. Air Force housing in Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen. Reciting this string of attacks supposedly demonstrates, without further argument, that the United States has been the major victim of violence on the world stage -- unprovoked violence perpetrated by "Islamofascists" because we are free and represent democracy. Indeed, it is widely believed that the attacks on September 11, 2001, were in part the result of "our" failure to retaliate for those unprovoked earlier attacks.

But this is sheer balderdash. The attacks, while often criminally misdirected, were hardly unprovoked. They were not bolts out of the blue. On the contrary, they were seen by the perpetrators as retaliation against the world's dominant imperial power.

The last century-plus of U.S. foreign policy has largely been a story of aggression and empire-building. American presidents have intervened and interfered in every region of the world, not in self-defense, but in the name of U.S. "national interest," which in reality means the interest of well-connected corporations and their ambitious political agents who felt appointed by history to bring order to the world. In the view of the policy advocates, the best interests of America, as they conceived them, and the best interests of the people of the world coincided. Of course the people of the world were given no say in the matter. What was in their interest was decided for them by American policymakers and their foreign agents.

Most Americans haven't gained by this approach to foreign affairs -- in fact, they have paid dearly in money and lives. But not as dearly as those on the receiving end of that policy. For all the pious moralizing about democracy and human rights, American foreign policy has treated foreign populations like garbage, beginning with the brutal repression of the Filipino uprising against American colonial rule from 1899 to 1902. That war and its related hardships killed 250,000 to a million Filipino civilians and 20,000 Filipino rebels. In other words, foreigners have been regarded as highly as the Indians were.

How many Americans know that?

Intervention and blowback

Since that time American presidents have intervened, directly or by proxy, in countless places, including Cuba, Haiti, Colombia (Panama), Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. On many occasions American administrations have engineered regime changes (sometimes with assassinations) to install leaders friendly to "American interests." Rarely has intervention occurred without the murder of innocent civilians, degrading hardship for survivors, and arms and (taxpayer) money for repressive "leaders." The paradigm is the 1953 intervention in Iran, when the CIA helped drive an elected, secular prime minister from office so the autocratic shah could be restored to power. His brutal U.S.-sponsored repression of the Iranian people finally provoked an Islamic revolution in 1979, creating an anti-American theocracy that has been a thorn in the side of U.S. presidents ever since.

Coincidence? Of course not. Americans may be ignorant or forgetful; the victims seldom are.

To this day we routinely hear references to the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy and the 444 days the American hostages were held. Rarely do those references mention that the flare-up of violence followed a quarter century of cruel dictatorship, in which torture was a state policy -- all sponsored by U.S. administrations. One can criticize the embassy seizure and the holding of hostages. But it is wrong to think that America was an aggrieved party. But that's how it works in big-power politics. An imperial force can wreak all kinds of havoc in a weaker foreign country, but there is no outrage in the domestic population until the victims strike back, usually with pathetically meager force compared with what the aggressive power employed.

Iran was neither the first nor the last case of "blowback," the CIA's term for what happens when a foreign operation explodes in one's own face. Indeed, American foreign policy from the end of the 19th century onward can be viewed as a series of blowbacks.

None of this means that innocent American civilians deserve to be killed or injured in retaliation for the government's conduct. The American people did not "invite" the 9/11 attacks. Not even the U.S. government did that, if by "invite" we mean "sought" or "welcomed." Arguing that issue is a distraction from what really matters.

The point is that U.S. policy in the Middle East was bound to create victims who sooner or later would want revenge. That they were less than discriminating in whom they sought revenge against does not alter that fundamental fact. To comprehend is not to excuse. If a victim of a crime goes on to commit a crime himself, that should not be a reason to ignore the initial crime. A country keeps itself safe from terrorism first by not forcibly imposing itself on others.

Every imperial power has been the target of what is called "terrorism." But this term itself should make us suspicious. To be sure, horrific crimes against innocents are included under that label. But one must ask how legitimate the concept is in light of the fact that applying it to any U.S. conduct is impermissible virtually by definition. Something is wrong when the United States in the eyes of many Americans is incapable of committing terrorism, but any resistance to U.S. impositions is condemned with that term. Who controls the definitions controls the future.

How many Americans have any inkling of the crimes -- yes, crimes -- their government has committed against foreign people in their name over the last century? Most don't know and don't care -- and that's fine with their rulers because when vengeful foreigners assault American civilians (unjustifiably) or military occupiers, U.S. leaders and jingoist supporters can say, "America was the victim of another unprovoked attack. Why do they hate us?"

Anyone who is the least bit familiar with history will know the answer. It doesn't take much effort to learn the truth. Reputable scholars and journalists have turned out a library full of books in the last six years documenting the U.S. government's record as an international bully. There's no excuse for ignorance.

Let's stop whining and get curious. As Walt Kelly's Pogo put it, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog "Free Association".


America in the Time of Empire

Chris Hedges | Truthdig | 26 November 2008

All great empires and nations decay from within. By the time they hobble off the world stage, overrun by the hordes at the gates or vanishing quietly into the pages of history books, what made them successful and powerful no longer has relevance. This rot takes place over decades, as with the Soviet Union, or, even longer, as with the Roman, Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires. It is often imperceptible.

Dying empires cling until the very end to the outward trappings of power. They mask their weakness behind a costly and technologically advanced military. They pursue increasingly unrealistic imperial ambitions. They stifle dissent with efficient and often ruthless mechanisms of control. They lose the capacity for empathy, which allows them to see themselves through the eyes of others, to create a world of accommodation rather than strife. The creeds and noble ideals of the nation become empty cliches, used to justify acts of greater plunder, corruption and violence. By the end, there is only a raw lust for power and few willing to confront it.

The most damning indicators of national decline are upon us. We have watched an oligarchy rise to take economic and political power. The top 1 percent of the population has amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, creating economic disparities unseen since the Depression. If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president, we will see the presidency controlled by two families for the last 24 years.

Massive debt, much of it in the hands of the Chinese, keeps piling up as we fund absurd imperial projects and useless foreign wars. Democratic freedoms are diminished in the name of national security. And the erosion of basic services, from education to health care to public housing, has left tens of millions of citizens in despair. The displacement of genuine debate and civil and political discourse with the noise and glitter of public spectacle and entertainment has left us ignorant of the outside world, and blind to how it perceives us. We are fed trivia and celebrity gossip in place of news.

An increasing number of voices, especially within the military, are speaking to this stark deterioration. They describe a political class that no longer knows how to separate personal gain from the common good, a class driving the nation into the ground.

“There has been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of forces in Iraq, recently told the New York Times, adding that civilian officials have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”

The American working class, once the most prosperous on Earth, has been politically disempowered, impoverished and abandoned. Manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. State and federal assistance programs have been slashed. The corporations, those that orchestrated the flight of jobs and the abolishment of workers’ rights, control every federal agency in Washington, including the Department of Labor. They have dismantled the regulations that had made the country’s managed capitalism a success for ordinary men and women. The Democratic and Republican Parties now take corporate money and do the bidding of corporate interests.

Philadelphia is a textbook example. The city has seen a precipitous decline in manufacturing jobs, jobs that allowed households to live comfortably on one salary. The city had 35 percent of its workforce employed in the manufacturing sector in 1950, perhaps the zenith of the American empire. Thirty years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Today it is 8.8 percent. Commensurate jobs, jobs that offer benefits, health care and most important enough money to provide hope for the future, no longer exist. The former manufacturing centers from Flint, Mich., to Youngstown, Ohio, are open sores, testaments to a growing internal collapse.

The United States has gone from being the world’s largest creditor to its largest debtor. As of September 2006, the country was, for the first time in a century, paying out more than it received in investments. Trillions of dollars go into defense while the nation’s infrastructure, from levees in New Orleans to highway bridges in Minnesota, collapses. We spend almost as much on military power as the rest of the world combined, while Social Security and Medicare entitlements are jeopardized because of huge deficits. Money is available for war, but not for the simple necessities of daily life.

Nothing makes these diseased priorities more starkly clear than what the White House did last week. On the same day, Tuesday, President Bush vetoed a domestic spending bill for education, job training and health programs, yet signed another bill giving the Pentagon about $471 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. All this in the shadow of a Joint Economic Committee report suggesting that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been twice as expensive than previously imagined, almost $1.5 trillion.

The decision to measure the strength of the state in military terms is fatal. It leads to a growing cynicism among a disenchanted citizenry and a Hobbesian ethic of individual gain at the expense of everyone else. Few want to fight and die for a Halliburton or an Exxon. This is why we do not have a draft. It is why taxes have not been raised and we borrow to fund the war. It is why the state has organized, and spends billions to maintain, a mercenary army in Iraq. We leave the fighting and dying mostly to our poor and hired killers. No nationwide sacrifices are required. We will worry about it later.

It all amounts to a tacit complicity on the part of a passive population. This permits the oligarchy to squander capital and lives. It creates a world where we speak exclusively in the language of violence. It has plunged us into an endless cycle of war and conflict that is draining away the vitality, resources and promise of the nation.

It signals the twilight of our empire.

Chris Hedges is the former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and a senior fellow at The Nation Institute.


Of Hubris and Atrocities

Why Do They All Hate America?

Brian Cloughley | Counterpunch Weekend Edition | 22/23 September 2007

Many years ago there was a song called "Why do we all love Australia" which was a bit of a spoof although funny and to the point. The main thing was that it was ironic and encouraged people to laugh at themselves, which does us all good from time to time. But there is nothing funny or ironical about a major international matter of the moment: Why do they all hate America?

It isn't good for the world to have such a hate figure. Recent and current actions by Washington haven't bound nations together, as fear and loathing of an outsider sometimes do. There is no benefit from the world-wide perception that the America of Bush and Cheney is astonishingly arrogant. And the problem is that this arrogance has created and continues to spawn an unknown but obviously large number of fanatics who want to destroy a country whose leader revels in displaying an insolent and unjustified superiority.

Consider the absurd contention in Washington that it is entirely the fault of Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki that his country is an ungovernable shambles. "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is unable to govern his country effectively and the political situation is likely to become even more precarious in the next six to 12 months, the nation's intelligence agencies concluded in a new assessment", announced the LA Times on August 24. Of course the man can't govern the country. Nobody can govern the country so long as US troops and their mercenary comrades swagger round the place acting as a law unto themselves. Here's an AP report of August 31:

"Everybody was pretty much upset," [Sergeant Sanick] Dela Cruz told the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan. "We were smoking outside . . . for whatever reason Staff Sergeant Wuterich made this comment that if we ever got hit again we should kill everybody in that vicinity, sir, to teach them a lesson." . . . . Dela Cruz testified that he saw Wuterich shoot the five men by the car, then follow up with close-range chest shots to make sure they were dead. Dela Cruz said he too fired at the men.

Wuterich has previously said he shot the men because they were running away from the scene of the bomb blast. Military rules at the time allowed Marines to kill those seen fleeing in this way. But Dela Cruz claimed the men were "just standing around," some with their hands interlocked on their heads. "Those men [were] not running, sir," Dela Cruz testified. "Some of them had their hands up."

"Some of them had their hands up". How could ANY soldier kill an unarmed man with his hands up? Who trained and motivated the man who killed a defenseless human being? Who was in command of the soldiers who did this? The American people must ask why they should tolerate a regime that authorizes the shooting in the back of a terror-stricken civilian fleeing a bomb blast. (The report's caveat "at the time" is meaningless. Nothing has changed in the Rules of Engagement.) And it's even worse when you consider the filthy money-grubbing gung-ho mercenaries who, among other things, are responsible for the security of US diplomats.

When Blackwater's thugs killed eleven Iraqi civilians a few days ago it wasn't just bizarre and indefensible: it was yet another example of such action. Prime Minister Maliki said on September 20 that there had been six other instances of murder by Blackwater's band of brutes, all of which had been reported to US officials. No action had been taken.

". . . the Americans told us to turn back," [Mr Jabir] said. "They shouted 'Go' 'Go' 'Go.' . . . When we started turning back, the Americans began shooting heavily at us. The traffic policeman was the first person killed." The shooting set off a panic, Jabir said, with men, women and children diving from their vehicles, trying desperately to crawl to safety. "But many of them were killed," he said. [He saw a] "boy jump in fear from one of the minibuses. He was shot in his head. His mother jumped after him and was also killed." Suddenly, Jabir felt two bullets strike his back -- one pierced his left lung and the other lodged in his intestines." ­ AP September 20.

Make no mistake: there is no law in Iraq other than that imposed, tolerated or endorsed by the US occupation force that is not accountable to any Iraqi government orders or decisions.

The people of Iraq detest American rule. The government of Mr Maliki can say anything it likes. It can even pass laws. But nothing it says or tries to do will have the slightest effect on the country. There is only one government in Iraq, and that is the imperial regime of the invader (except for the independent north where Kurds are running their own affairs and conducting US-tolerated ethnic cleansing as regards Arabs). Soldiers and mercenaries care nothing for Iraq's own laws. They follow the orders of their demented leaders in Washington who despise and deride (and have almost destroyed) international conventions intended to make it easier for us all to live together on what has become a truly horrible planet, courtesy of Bush and Cheney. Consider another imperial exercise of power in Baghdad:

US forces have released seven Iranians who were detained in a swoop on a hotel in Baghdad, Iraqi officials say. The men were seized overnight from one of the main hotels in the capital and led away blindfolded and in handcuffs. The Iranian embassy in the city said the men were helping rebuild electricity power stations in Iraq. (BBC, August 29, 2007.)

Who ordered US soldiers to blindfold, handcuff and detain foreigners who were in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government? The fact that they were released is proof that nothing they were doing was of assistance to those fighting against occupation troops. There is no point in trying to guess what was in the minds of US commanders in Iraq when they gave orders for the snatch-job. Their myopic, self-defeating operation was in line with Bush-Cheney policy as sent down the line to the forelock-tugging generals: all Iranians are Bad Guys, so go get them. And the result, as could be predicted by anyone who is not George Bush or a US general, is that more and more Iranians and Iraqi Shias think, with justification, that the Bush Administration understands only force and doesn't care a toss about any sort of law, be that national or international ­ or even its own legal system, politicized and debased as it has become. So what is the US commander in Iraq, General Petraeus, doing about the situation?

Do you remember Art Buchwald's wonderful column in 1969 about the US generals' reaction to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam? (A year before I arrived there, incidentally, having believed all the propaganda we were fed at the time. This makes me feel sorry for young officers presently in Iraq: I was in a similar situation, fellas. I was a sucker, too.)

Part of the Buchwald column read:
Dateline: Little Big Horn, Dakota. General George Armstrong Custer said today in an exclusive interview with this correspondent that the Battle of Little Big Horn had just turned the corner and he could now see light at the end of the tunnel. "We have the Sioux on the run", General Custer told me. "Of course we'll have some cleaning up to do, but the Redskins are hurting badly and it will only be a matter of time before they give in."
Is the wonderful General Petraeus (My name's Petraeus, what's YOUR hobby?) going to turn the corner in Iraq? Or is the corner going to turn him into a Custer? He wrote an Op-Ed piece in a national newspaper in support of the Republican Party's presidential candidate, an act of blatant and indefensible political sniveling. Petraeus is the very model of the Cold War Warrior. He favors military confrontation over diplomacy. And it's military confrontation that Bush-Cheney America is all about.

It isn't just President Putin and his government and people who realize that Washington has gone out of control by surrounding Russia with anti-missile systems and increasing its military footprint in as much of a threatening circle as it can. The latest instance of needless provocation is Washington's arrangement for "military facilities" (not BASES of course) in Romania, adding to the scores of existing US military airfields and troop staging posts that directly menace Russia. Naturally Putin has reacted to such arrogance. Bush-Cheney picked a quarrel with Russia, and nobody would care if it were only their personal problem. But they have insulted and aggravated a world power of immense importance, adding to the rapidly growing number of America-haters.

Then there is the amazingly idiotic US announcement of a 30 billion dollar military support program for Israel over the next decade. Has nobody in Washington got any idea just how much resentment and hatred this proclamation caused in the Islamic world? It is regarded as contemptuous spurning of the Muslim community, irrespective of the other billions to be given to rich oil-producing Arab countries. The process is only transfer of money from American taxpayers to US weapons' manufacturers, but in international political terms it is disastrous.

The State Department could have made it clear to the White House that cash for Israel would send an incendiary message. In fact it is probable that State's professionals did warn that there would be uproar and reaction. But since the time that State was right in its advice about the war on Iraq it has been distrusted and reviled by the warniks. The Secretary of State has become a joke and one of her Under Secretaries, Nicholas Burns (a career officer, alas), has sold his soul to the Company Store and declared that the 30 billion dollar endorsement of the nuclear-armed Israeli military machine "says to the Iranians and Syrians that the United States is the major power in the Middle East and will continue to be and is not going away."

What right has America (or any other country) to trumpet itself so imperiously as "the major power" anywhere in the world? In fact, most people very much want the United States to cease meddling in the Middle East because its influence, activity and undeviating support of Israel have produced nothing but chaos.

We don't have to ask: "Why Do They All Hate America?"

It's obvious.

Brian Cloughley is a former army officer who writes on political and military affairs. His website is


Monday, February 11, 2008

The Return of 'Muskeljudentum'
and Murder as State Policy in Israel

So, is this really the season of change? With Obama scoring more political victories this weekend over Hillary, including grabbing a spoken-word Grammy over Bill, is this country so "hope" happy that it refuses to actually pay attention to the rest of the world? Remember folks, he's not president yet and, in the meantime, there's a lot of terrible stuff going out there...but don't let that distract you from your Fashion Week and celebrity autopsy news.

I wonder if anyone remembers this simple quote, by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this past November during the Annapolis Conference charade:
"If the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then the State of Israel is finished."
Now just read that again. Maybe one more time, so it actually sinks in. Did he really say that if there is an anti-Apartheid resistance against the current system of disenfranchisement in Israel, then Israel will cease to exist? This one sentence may be the most important, revealing, and self-aware statement by any member of the Israeli government since Ben-Gurion said to Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, in 1956:
“If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
...or perhaps this choice bit of wisdom from military commander Moshe Dayan in 1967:
“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either… There is not a single place in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”
Regardless, let's take this Olmert quote apart and put it back together before moving on. It is a commonly held belief that Israel is the Middle East's only democracy and therefore it is a natural ally to the United States. What Olmert reveals so tellingly in his terrified, demographically threatened statement is that Israel, by virtue of currently not adhering to a one person-one vote system of government, Israel is able to maintain its selective democracy. This system, he admits, is the only possible way for Israel, in its current form, to exist. So, disenfranchisement means survival for Israel and a South African-style resistance ensures its demise. And which side is the United States on? The one that favors South African-style Apartheid or South Africa-style democracy?

Too extreme, you say? Recall that when South African prime minister John Vorster — who had been jailed for his membership in the fascist Ossewabrandwag organization in South Africa that had sided with Hitler – made a state visit to Israel in 1976, Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, praised “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and declared both countries were threatened by “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.” Ah, to be united in ideology, hopes, and dreams with an Apartheid regime! No wonder Israel does its very best to decry all associations and connections between its policies and those of the racist South Africa state of yore. Until now, it seems. Just as South Africa wished to be a White Supremacist state, Israel now wishes to be recognized, specifically, as a Jewish state. To define what "kind" of state a nation is, based upon a religious and cultural distinction, inherently implies that all citizens or residents who do not fit that qualification are not equal in the eyes of the state, thereby legalizing discrimination of all kinds.

Olmert qualified his amazing statement with the following words:
"The Jewish organisations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents." long as equal rights aren't being asked for by the people without them, Jewish Americans and organizations won't be bothered with the fact that democracy doesn't exist in Israel. But once people start asking, and the truth comes out, Israel might have to start answering some important questions. Questions like, "Wait, why don't you support democracy and equal voting rights for all your residents?"

Meanwhile, flashing back to the present, the siege of Gaza continues despite appeals from Human Rights organizations both within Israel and around the world condemning the collective punishment of innocent civilians. Is it too much to ask for a little justice? Where do we go from here when the truth is so plain?

Apparently, Israel has its own ideas about what its next step should be. Please read the following article by Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah.


Israel's "Next Logical Step"

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 11 February 2008

Israeli border police take position during a protest against the Israeli wall in the West Bank village of al-Khader, 8 February 2008. (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)
"The next logical step" for the Israeli government "will have to be a decision whether to target the top political leadership" of Hamas. So said an Israeli official quoted in The Jerusalem Post. Tzahi Hanegbi, a senior member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, echoed the call, arguing that "There's no difference between those who wear a suicide suit and a diplomat's suit." Following a cabinet meeting on 10 February, Israel's Interior Minister Shimon Sheetrit specifically called for the execution of Ismail Haniyeh, the democratically-elected Hamas prime minister, and added that for good measure "We must take a neighborhood in Gaza and wipe it off the map."

Last September, Yossi Alpher, the co-founder of the European Union-funded publication Bitterlemons, wrote an article advocating "decapitating the Hamas leadership, both military and 'civilian.'" Alpher, a former special adviser to Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak when the latter was prime minister, worried that Israel would "pay a price in terms of international condemnation," for "targeting legally elected Hamas officials who won a fair election," but that overall it would be well worth it.

Executing democratically-elected leaders may require more chutzpah than even Israel has shown, but the possibility and its disastrous consequences have to be taken seriously given Israel's track record. Israel executed Hamas' elderly, quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound co-founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in 2004, followed shortly afterwards by the execution his successor as the movement's leader, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

Aside from the United States, Israel is the only country where the murder of foreign leaders is openly debated as a policy option.

Israeli official propaganda presents all its recent actions as defensive and necessary to stop the rockets fired by Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But if Israel's goal was to achieve calm and a cessation of violence, the first logical step would not be to contemplate new atrocities, but to respond positively to Hamas' repeated ceasefire proposals.

When it was elected in January 2006, Hamas had observed a unilateral ceasefire for more than a year. After the election, Hamas' leaders offered a long-term total truce, tentatively following the political path of other militant groups including the Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose 1994 ceasefire paved the way for the peace agreement in Northern Ireland. (In December, US President George W. Bush received Martin McGuinness, former second in command of the IRA, and now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, at the White House.)

Last December, Haaretz reported that Hamas had secured the agreement of all factions to end rocket fire on Israel, provided Israel reciprocated. Hamas was also engaged in indirect negotiations for the release of Palestinian political prisoners in exchange for an Israeli prisoner of war held in Gaza.

Olmert rejected the December ceasefire offer. "The State of Israel," he said, "has no interest in negotiating with entities that do not recognize the Quartet demands." In other words there could be no ceasefire until Hamas unilaterally accepted all of Israel's demands before negotiations could even begin.

The problem was not that Israeli officials did not believe Hamas could deliver. Barak was reported to be in favor of considering a hudna -- a renewed truce, and a "senior Israeli security official" told Haaretz that "There's no doubt that Hamas is capable of forcing a let-up on Islamic Jihad and the other small factions in the Strip ... It won't be a 100 percent decrease, but even 98 percent would be a big change." ("Olmert rejects Hamas cease-fire offer," Haaretz, 25 December 2007).

If even Israel believed that Hamas could reliably enforce a truce, why does it refuse to accept one? Why has it refused to engage with Hamas, as American and British policy-makers did with the IRA?

For Israel the potential that Hamas could turn to politics presents a threat, not an opportunity. Israel has no interest in facing Palestinian leaders who are at once committed to basic Palestinian rights, capable of delivering, and enjoy popular legitimacy and support.

So instead of engaging with Hamas, the US and Israel announced a complete boycott which was intended to turn the Palestinian population against the movement.

At the same time, the peace process show relaunched in Annapolis last November, followed by the international donors meeting in Paris where pledges of cash were showered on the Palestinian Authority to elevate the unelected, Israeli-backed Ramallah "government" of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad in the eyes of Palestinians. With this renewed patronage and prestige, Abbas and company were to be pushed to sign a deal giving up Palestinian refugee rights and agreeing to a Palestinian Bantustan under permanent Israeli domination.

Of course much more than Hamas stands in the way of the fulfillment of this Israeli fantasy. The Palestinian people would unite against such a deal. But Hamas is the most visible and well-organized obstacle.

Rather than breaking under pressure, Hamas has made some impressive tactical gains, even as Gaza's agony increases. Even the dubious opinion polls that come out of EU-funded non-governmental organizations showed Hamas enjoying an upsurge of support after the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border. But with Israel and its backers steadfast in refusing to grant Hamas a political role, not even in operating the border crossings, the movement has no way to translate these tactical victories into strategic gains. Except for one: in the arena of world public opinion.

Israel and Egypt, the two countries most responsible for the blockade of Gaza, were deeply embarrassed by the popular surge that temporarily broke the siege. No recent event has done as much to bring attention to the plight of Palestinians and expose Israel's crimes to international scrutiny. But one such action is not enough; already, Israel and Egypt with support from the quisling regime in Ramallah, the EU and the US are trying to reimpose the blockade. (In a repulsive echo of Yitzhak Rabin's infamous order to Israeli soldiers during the first Intifada to break the bones of Palestinians, Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit promised to do the same to Palestinians if they continued to enter Egypt.)

Some Hamas leaders appear to understand the necessity and indeed the risks of mass, nonviolent resistance. "The next time there is a crisis in the Gaza Strip, Israel will have to face half a million Palestinians who will march toward Erez [crossing with Israel]," said Ahmed Yousef, a senior advisor to Ismail Haniyeh. "This is not an imaginary scenario and many Palestinians would be prepared to sacrifice their lives." Properly planned, repeated mass actions of this kind could galvanize public opinion in Arab and European countries and even North America forcing some governments to abandon the pro-Israel consensus.

But here is where the great danger lies: with its escalation in Gaza and refusal to accept a ceasefire, Israel may be trying to provoke more rocket attacks and force Hamas into abandoning its political strategy altogether to provide the needed pretext to "decapitate" the organization. Unfortunately, there are signs that Hamas is jumping into the trap.

Some Hamas political leaders appeared to have been taken by surprise when the movement's military wing took credit for a suicide attack inside Israel for the first time since 2004. The attack in the Israeli town of Dimona on 6 February killed an elderly woman as well as the bomber. As a consequence of Israel's and the "international community's" rejection of all of Hamas' political initiatives, those within the organization advocating a resumption of full-scale armed struggle may be gaining the upper hand.

If they make such a tragic miscalculation, Israeli leaders may breathe a sigh of relief. After all, Israel is much more comfortable with rockets falling on Sderot, than it would be with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians marching on the checkpoints in Gaza or the West Bank.

The next logical step is for all Palestinian leaders still loyal to their people's cause to work together to mobilize the population, not to gain factional advantage, but to expose Israeli apartheid to a sustained and irresistible surge of people power.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).


Here are some other great articles by Abunimah. Please read them.

01.24.08 - Top EU official backs Israel's crimes in occupied Gaza

01.21.08 - Where does it end?

12.30.07 - Democracy: An existential threat? (by Abunimah and Omar Barghouti)

11.29.07 - The One-State Declaration (various undersigned)

10.29.07 - Engaging Hamas and Hizballah

10.17.07 - The show goes on...and on

09.21.07 - Dehumanizing the Palestinians

08.27.07 - What do Palestinians really think?

08.10.07 - Mahmoud Abbas' war against the Palestinian people

07.18.07 - Overcoming the conspiracy against Palestine

06.21.07 - In search of justice in the Middle East

06.07.07 - It's not just the occupation

05.31.07 - Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide

05.30.07 - Israel's house of horrors

05.14.07 - A political marriage of necessity: A single state of Palestine-Israel


For some more information about Democracy and Apartheid in Israel, please read the following:

02.07.08 - The fate of the two-state solution hangs on Jerusalem (by Mousa Qous)

01.28.08 - Alarm bells sound over "Jewish state" (by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani)

01.21.08 - Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State (by Serge van Erkelens)

12.19.07 - The End of Israel? (by Hannah Mermelstein)

11.20.07 - Why Israel Has No "Right to Exist" as a Jewish State (by Oren Ben-Dor)

11.15.07 - The Deadly Dance for Peace (by Sonja Karkar)

11.13.07 - The One-State Reality (by Ben White)

10.02.07 - States or People?: The Right to Exist (by Sonja Karkar)

09.25.07 - Israel's Agenda For Ethnic Cleansing and Transfer (by Victoria Buch)

09.21.07 - The Zionist Question (by M. Shahid Alam)

09.14.07 - Palestine: Democracy not Zionism (by John V. Whitbeck)

08.02.07 - Report from the Land of Apartheid (by Stanley Heller)

07.20.07 - A Racist Jewish State (Ha'aretz editorial)

06.26.07 - Divide and Rule, Israeli-Style (by Jonathan Cook)

04.25.07 - Israel's choice: "Jewish only" or democratic? (by Sonja Karkar)

03.15.07 - Israel's Right to be Racist (by Joseph Massad)

10.18.06 - Apartheid: Ancient, Past and Present (by Anthony Lowstedt)

10.10.06 - Does Israel's "Right to Exist" Actually Exist? (by Scott Burchill)