Saturday, March 29, 2008

To Live and Let Lie:
Brain Washing and Iran Bashing

"They've [Iran] declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people - some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world."
- George W. Bush

"Obviously, [Iran is] also heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons grade levels."
- Dick Cheney

"[It is] common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate."
- John McCain

"The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone [in Baghdad] yesterday, for example...were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets."
- David Petraeus

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
- Joseph Goebbels

What is really horrifying about the above quotes is the fact that only Goebbels is telling the truth.

In the week surrounding the fifth anniversary of the illegal US invasion of Iraq, it seemed like the Bush administration (its lapdogs and successors included) could talk of only one thing: Iran. Redirecting the focus from one disastrous occupation to the next ill-conceived invasion was the clear game plan of the Cheney gang. They trotted out all the greatest hits: devious nuclear ambitions, the threat to our beloved Israel, Iraqi insurgents doing Iran's violent bidding, and even a new one by Senator John McCain that made him sound like he spent five and a half years inside Paris Hilton, rather than the Hanoi Hilton. In the short span of two days, McCain repeated the erroneous claim that Iran has been training Sunni "insurgents" four different times, exposing his deliberate conflation of two completely separate (and disparate) entities, his apparently dazzling stupidity and accelerating descent into the dark abyss of senility, and his deep misunderstanding of even US-based propaganda. Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report explains,

When John McCain got confused yesterday [March 18, 2008] about Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda, his campaign issued a statement insisting that McCain “misspoke and immediately corrected himself.”

The explanation is far less plausible when McCain makes the same mistake and pushes the same bogus argument four times in two days.

This time, in a statement from his campaign honoring the fifth year anniversary of the war, McCain wrote:

“Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism. The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable. Al Qaeda and Shia extremists — with support from external powers such as Iran — are on the run but not defeated.”

For those keeping score at home, McCain 1) made the claim on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show; 2) repeated the claim at a press conference in Jordan; 3) repeated the claim again at the same event (before Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear that he was wrong); and 4) in a written statement. He “misspoke”? Hardly.
This guy is a serious contender for President of the United States? Yup, sure is. And he'll probably win, too, considering Hillary and Obama are busy tearing each other apart and doing Karl Rove's job for him. Clearly, foreign policy is not McCain's forte (I think, however, cruise-ship shuffleboard and Brylcreem comb overs are), despite what he and his friends might say. With the repetition of these definitely false statements regarding any sort of relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran, McCain fully conflates the two opposing sides of the Iraqi civil war, Shiite and Sunni, into one single anti-American entity (possibly led by Jeremiah Wright?) with the same deft logic that Rainier Wolfcastle's character McBain employs when battling against "Commie-Nazis."

But McCain is just one of many idiots determined to demonize and proliferate lies about Iran in the hopes of starting another armed conflict in the Middle East. On March 20, Bush said that Iran had publicly and openly declared its nefarious nuclear intentions, despite basic common sense and all evidence to the contrary. The statement is just plain wrong. It is patently untrue. Bush claimed,
"The problem is the (Iranian) government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because one, they've hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now. Who knows?"
We know. Anyone who's researched, written, or read the CliffsNotes of the recent NIE report knows. So why doesn't Bush know? He does. He's just too busy lying to care. Robin Wright, writing for the Washington Post, clarifies,
Experts on Iran and nuclear proliferation said the president's statement was wrong. "That's as uninformed as [Sen. John] McCain's statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It's just not true. It's a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran," said Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.

Others said it is unclear whether the president believes what he said or was deliberately distorting Iran's position.

"The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon. There's plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions. But it's troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country," said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the State Department until last year and now at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center.
And so, with the help of General David Petraeus' claims last week that Iran was behind the missile attack on Baghdad's US-controlled health spa known as the Green Zone (single shred of proof notwithstanding), the American public continues to be fed lie after lie after lie about Iran. In fact, with its systematic policy of containment and sanctions, and now officially with the March 20th announcement by the US Treasury's FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), the US is already technically at war with Iran. Tokyo-based economic and financial analyst John McGlynn states that the US "has declared two acts of war: one against Iran's banks and one against any financial institution anywhere in the world that tries to do business with an Iranian bank." He explains,
To summarize to this point: (1) the March 20 advisory represents a US declaration of war by sanctions on Iran and a sanctions threat to the international banking community, (2) the US has various unilateral financial sanctions measures at its command in the form of executive orders and Patriot Act Section 311 and (3) the BDA-North Korea sanctions were, at least in retrospect, a test run for Iran.

If the US succeeds, an international quarantine on Iran's banks would disrupt Iran's financial linkages with the world by blocking its ability to process cross-border payments for goods and services exported and imported. Without those linkages Iran is unlikely to be able to engage in global trade and commerce. As 30% of Iran's GDP in 2005 was imports of goods and services and 20% was non-oil exports (World Bank and other data), a large chunk of Iran's economy would shrivel up. The repercussions will be painful and extend well beyond lost business and profits. For example, treating curable illnesses will become difficult. According to an Iranian health ministry official, Iran produces 95% of its own medicines but most pharmaceutical-related raw materials are imported.
What can be done about this? Well, for one, learning the facts rather than believing state-spouted and media-parroted nonsense is a good start. But, other than that, there is one clear cut way to stop the bellicose rhetoric and put an end to the tyrannical and genocidal reign of terror of the past seven years (and it's not by electing one of three new nightmares, each of whom is determined to pursue the same belligerent policies). The answer is simple: Impeachment.

If you roll your eyes at the mere mention of the word, it just goes to show how deeply indoctrinated we all have become to letting aggressive imperialism proceed unabashedly, unashamedly, and unchecked. The men running and ruining the world are criminals in the truest sense of the word and on a scale unprecedented in US history. Ralph Nader and George McGovern seem to understand this. Obama and Clinton, not so much. If you don't know what impeachment is really for, familiarize yourself with Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution. (Spoiler: It doesn't mention blowjobs.)


The West vs. Iran:

A Simple Story of Good vs. Evil?

Karel Beckman | 17 March 2008

It does not take much expertise to understand that the current tightness of the oil market is in large part due to the situation in Iran and Iraq. As is well-known, Iran and Iraq have the highest proven oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. Iran also has the highest proven natural gas reserves after Russia. But oil and gas production in both countries remains far behind their capacities. The case of Iraq is too well-known to require elaboration. But Iran also produces much less oil and gas than it could. The main reasons are the U.S.-led sanctions regime and the international economic boycott of Iran.

The consequences for the Iranian energy industry have been devastating. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) observes [.pdf], Iran's oil production has declined from 6 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil in 1974 to 3.8 million BPD in 2006. "Iran's oil fields need structural upgrades including enhanced oil recovery (EOR) efforts such as natural gas injection," states the EIA. "Iran's fields have a natural annual decline rate estimated at 8 percent onshore and 10 percent offshore, while current Iranian recovery rates are 24-27 percent, 10 percent less than the world average. It is estimated that 400,000-500,000 bbl/d of crude production is lost annually due to reservoir damage and decreases in existing oil deposits." The Iranian government aims to boost its oil production to 5 million BPD, but the EIA does not believe a production increase will happen at least through 2012. As the agency notes, to increase its production, "Iran will need foreign help." In natural gas the situation is in many ways even worse. More than 60 percent of Iranian proven natural gas reserves have not been developed. Iran hardly exports any gas at all.

Of course, the Iranian government also bears responsibility for the abject state of the oil industry. Since hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, investment conditions for private foreign companies have worsened. The Iranian policy of keeping out Western companies is, in fact, the mirror image of the Western policy of sanctions. Both policies seriously hamper Iranian economic development. To break this deadlock, what the West needs to do is to stop treating Iran as its worst enemy, put an end to sanctions, and instead encourage business and political relations as much as possible. That way the position of the hardliners inside Iran would be undermined and the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East would be greatly enhanced.

Ending Tyranny

Such a policy of "détente" is exactly the opposite of current Western policy toward Iran. Although the threat of U.S. military action has receded, the American government remains on a collision course with Iran. It has repeatedly said that "nothing is off the table." The Democratic opposition in Congress fully supports this confrontation policy, as does the EU. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has even upped the ante recently by saying that the U.S.-Iranian "standoff" is "the world's greatest crisis" and that the world is confronted with a "catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

The U.S. and Europe continue to insist that Iran end its uranium enrichment program, which they claim is part of an Iranian plan to develop an atomic bomb. They have persuaded the Security Council of the United Nations to join in this demand. Iran refuses to give up enrichment. The fact is that Iran is acting within its rights. It is entitled under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue enrichment of uranium. The NPT requires that member countries cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose task it is to see to it that their nuclear projects are used for peaceful purposes only. Iran does so, and the IAEA has repeatedly stated that it has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. There is thus no legal basis for instituting sanctions against Iran, as the Security Council has done – let alone for tightening these sanctions or taking military action against Iran.

Indeed, it is not Iran but rather the U.S. that is acting in violation of the NPT. The treaty requires the owners of nuclear weapons to assist the other signatories in developing their own peaceful nuclear energy programs. In fact, the U.S. is boycotting Iran and is supporting three countries – India, Pakistan, and Israel – that have developed atomic bombs while opting out of the NPT. These three countries surround Iran. The NPT also requires the U.S. and other signatories to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Instead, the Bush administration is modernizing and expanding the American nuclear arsenal. As of the year 2000, the U.S. nuclear arsenal comprised 5,400 multiple-megaton warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers, a further 1,670 "tactical" nuclear weapons, plus some 10,000 nuclear warheads stored in bunkers (Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire, 2004, p. 64).

Many argue that Iran is a special case. It is not considered a "normal" country, because it is supposedly run by a bunch of mad, fanatical mullahs who would not hesitate dropping an atomic bomb if they had one. This image of Iran is apparent in the rhetoric employed by Western leaders. Bush has said that "Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere" and that Iran is "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism." Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has claimed that Iran is "the greatest enemy of peace in the world." In a speech he made in several Gulf countries, Blair said that the world is engaged "in a monumental struggle between those who believe in democracy and moderation, and forces of reaction and extremism." In this epic contest, Iran is ideological enemy number one, Blair stated. Public opinion in Western countries largely seems to have accepted this view of the Iranian regime as evil, irrational, and unpredictable.

World Peace

How "evil" is Iran really? Although Tony Blair does not acknowledge it, Iran is a democracy, of sorts, whereas the Gulf states that are supported militarily and politically by the U.S. and the UK, not to mention Saudi Arabia, are not. Iran is hardly a perfect democracy; its unelected clergy are in many ways the ones who rule the country. The Iranian government also frequently tramples on human rights: it violates freedom of speech, imprisons people for their views, and does not allow many social freedoms that we take for granted. Such evils should be opposed, of course. But the same can be said of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China, yet those countries escape being labeled part of the "axis of evil." Iranians also have the freedom to move in and out of their country and interact with people abroad, with not too many restrictions. For these reasons alone, Iran can by no stretch of the imagination be called a totalitarian country.

More to the point is that Iran cannot credibly be called a threat to "world peace." The Iranian regime has never invaded another country, initiated a war, or tried to impose its rule by military means on other nations. It is equally false to claim, as President Bush has done, that Iran "is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism." Iran has always opposed al-Qaeda, it does not sponsor terrorist acts in Western countries, and it has never supported the Taliban, even though Bush has claimed that it does. Iran does support Hezbollah and Hamas, but these are groups that fight against what they believe to be the repressive policies of Israel.

Military-Industrial Complex

Conversely, we may ask, how "good" is the United States really? Is the U.S. a force for "moderation and democracy" in the world? Unfortunately, the historical record does not bear this out. Since the end of World War Two, the U.S. has supported dozens of murderous dictators both financially and militarily: for example, Joseph Mobutu of Zaire, Augusto Pinochet of Chili, Suharto of Indonesia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, the shah of Iran, Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, and dictatorships in Greece, Portugal, Pakistan, Egypt, and many other countries. In 1954 the CIA sabotaged the elected government in Guatemala. The U.S. invaded Panama in 1989, killing 3,000 to 4,000 civilians. It trained and supported death squads in El Salvador. It supported the Taliban, brought the Ba'ath Party to power in Iraq, and sold material for chemical weapons to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Why has U.S. foreign policy been so much at odds with the high-minded moral ideals touted by its leaders? In my view, this must be ascribed to the fact that within the U.S. a huge military-industrial-bureaucratic complex has come into existence over the last decades, fed by hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, which has created a policy dynamic of its own, based on its own financial and political interests rather than on any "democratic" ideals. This complex has seriously corrupted the American political system, the one having become so intertwined with the other that its ruling elites effortlessly job-hop back and forth. To give one example, as former CIA officer Philip Giraldi pointed out last year, "at least 43 former employees, board members, or advisers for defense contractors are currently serving or have recently served in policy-making positions in the Bush administration." To mention just a few examples, former undersecretary of defense and World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz worked as a consultant for Northrop Grumman, maker of the B2 bomber and other weapon systems; Gordon England, former secretary of the Navy, was executive vice president at General Dynamics, producer of the Abrams tank and the Trident submarine; former secretary of state Colin Powell served on the board of Gulfstream Aerospace, a weapons supplier to Kuwait and other Gulf states; Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, sat on the board of arms producer Lockheed; and Powell A. Moore, former assistant secretary of defense, was vice president for legislative affairs at Lockheed. American military contractors not only fund politicians on a grand scale, they also give financial support to universities, research institutions, and the media. In many cases they own television networks, film studios, newspapers, and so on. When similar connections are observed in Russia, Western commentators are quick to point out the "corruption" of the Russian system, but they ignore the same situation in the U.S.

The U.S. military-industrial-bureaucratic complex is not confined to the borders of the United States. As historian Chalmers Johnson has documented, the U.S. has over the last decades created a worldwide "empire of military bases." "Not including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts," Johnson writes, "we now station over half a million U.S. troops, spies, contractors, dependents, and others on military bases located in more than 130 countries, many of them presided over by dictatorial regimes that have given their citizens no say in the decision to let us in." The U.S. seems to have fallen into the trap that former U.S. president and Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his famous, prophetic farewell speech in 1961, in which he coined the term "military-industrial complex." Eisenhower warned that the U.S. "must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex."

Coup D'Etat

When it comes to Iran, the U.S. and the UK have never shown any interest in supporting "freedom" and "democracy." Since the start of the century, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP, had an exclusive concession to Iranian oil. In 1947, Iranian oil workers went on strike against the atrocious conditions under which they had to work (no vacation, no sick leave, no disability compensation, no electricity, no running water). The British broke the strike by force, leaving dozens of strikers dead. The Iranian parliament then called for the renegotiation of the concession – a proposal promoted by the highly popular politician Mohammed Mossadegh. As the company resisted tooth and nail and tensions rose, the Iranian parliament in 1951 approved a new proposal by Mossadegh, who was soon elected prime minister by the parliament, to nationalize the oil assets. The shah, Reza Pahlavi, felt he had no choice but to sign the bill into law. The British reacted by organizing a boycott of Western oil companies against Iran, which led to a severe economic crisis. Then, Britain, with the encouragement of elderly statesman Winston Churchill, engineered a coup d'etat against Mossadegh in 1952, which failed. At that time Iran was still looking for support from the United States, where Mossadegh was a highly popular figure. (In 1951 Mossadegh had been declared "Man of the Year" by Time magazine!) When Eisenhower became president in 1952, the British managed to convince the Americans to support them. In a joint British-American coup organized by the CIA in 1953, Mossadegh was ousted and jailed. The exiled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was brought back to Iran. He immediately went on to brutally repress his political opponents, sentencing hundreds of Mossadegh's supporters to death. As oil historian and Eni strategist Leonardo Maugeri observes in his new book, The Age of Oil, "A dictatorial regime then replaced the only democratic and – paradoxically – Western-oriented experience Iran would ever know."

For the next 25 years the U.S. faithfully supported the regime of the shah, who was no force for "democracy and moderation." The shah's Savak, notes British Middle Eastern expert and veteran journalist Robert Fisk, was the most notorious and murderous secret police force in the Middle East – "its torture chambers among the Middle East's most terrible institutions." None of this mattered to the U.S. and other Western countries, since the shah, as Fisk notes, was "the guardian of our oil – during his regime, international oil companies exported 24 billion barrels of oil out of Iran." U.S. support for the shah was so strong that "a permanent secret U.S. mission was attached to Savak headquarters," where the tortures took place. Ironically, in view of the current nuclear conflict with Iran, the U.S. in those days did its best to push nuclear power stations upon the shah. The shah's nuclear ambitions were aborted only when the Iranian people rose up against his regime in 1979.

The story of American wrongs against Iran does not end there. A year after the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The Reagan administration decided immediately "to do whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing the war. The U.S. gave $5.5 billion in "loans" to Saddam to buy arms. Shipments from the U.S. and other Western countries to Iraq included bacterial cultures to make weapons-grade anthrax (The Sorrows of Empire, pp. 223-224). In 1984, the president's special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, visited Baghdad to show his support for Saddam. When Saddam carried out his infamous mass murder of the Kurds in Halabja on March 16, 1988, with Western-supplied chemical weapons, the American government incredibly put the blame on Iran (see A Poisonous Affair by Joost Hiltermann). The Iranians by that time had complained to the UN Security Council many times about the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iranian troops, but the Council did not see fit to condemn Saddam.

Rebellious Province

The current conflict – the U.S.-Iranian standoff, as Sarkozy has it – cannot be understood without reference to this historical context. On the one hand, Iran is what it is today in large part as a result of Western policies: the Iranian people turned to radical Islam as a liberating force because the so-called forces for moderation and democracy supported the tyranny of the shah; they turned to socialism and state intervention as the result of abuses and exploitation by Western oil companies.

On the other hand, the U.S. singles out Iran as a "force of evil" not because it has, in fact, such an evil regime, but because Iran refuses to subject itself to American military, political, and economic interests – because it resists America's striving for world hegemony. With a bit of exaggeration Iran might be called a rebellious province of the U.S. global empire. As a Shi'ite, Persian nation, Iran is also of course a threat to the regional hegemony of America's most important ally, Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab Gulf states.

Clearly there is no moral or historical justification for the current U.S. and Western policy of confrontation toward Iran. What is more, it is counterproductive. It favors the hard-liners and extremists inside Iran and makes it difficult for pro-Western voices to be heard. What should be done is to reverse this policy. The EU in particular should take the lead in ending all sanctions against Iran and welcoming that country back into the international community. This would give moderate forces inside Iran a great boost. Then, who knows? "Regime change" might come about after all – peacefully, and by the Iranian people's own choice. The threat of nuclear war would disappear, and the world would be a safer, better place – with more oil and gas to boot.

This piece originally appeared in the European Energy Review.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Years

Pushing thru the market square,
so many mothers sighing
News had just come over,
we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us,
earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet,
then I knew he was not lying

- Five Years by David Bowie, 1972

If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had been born the day the United States began illegally bombing Iraq, he'd have already composed his Andante and Allegro in C by now. Then again, were he born in Iraq five years ago, chances are he'd be an orphaned refugee by now. Or, quite possibly, would have already been slaughtered by US troops or Blackwater employees eager to spread freedom with automatic weaponry.

There is so much to say and still no way to say enough. I urge everyone to familiarize yourselves with the Iraq Veterans Against the War project, Winter Solider. The project features testimonies from US soldiers who have served in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and have come home to give an "accurate account of what is really happening day in day out, on the ground." These courageous men and women are truly heroes.

Below is the Winter Solider preview video. Please go here to watch the numerous tragic and heartbreaking testimonies.


Monday, March 17, 2008

The Difference Between Wright and Wrong

With the revelation of a number of videos showing "controversial" sermons made by Barack Obama's good friend, spiritual mentor, and African American Religious Leadership Committee adviser, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the American lack of self-awareness was once again revealed in all its shameful and embarrassing glory.

It has been made very clear, time and time again, that outspoken and incendiary voices are not to be tolerated in the democratic presidential process (save for the bigoted views of your average Huckabees, Thompsons, Romneys, and McCains, with the added endorsements of serial racist and chronic hate-spewer John Hagee), and with the recent dismissal of Samantha Power from the Obama campaign and Geraldine Ferraro from the Clinton team, we can see how this process seems to mandate a playing field where everyone pretends to be respectful of one another and no one actually says anything important or substantial. The candidates themselves are supposed to remain judicious with their viewpoints and not stray too far (if at all) from an Americocentric vision of the world. Statements regarding the illegal invasion of Iraq are allowed, but must not ever include such crazy and anti-US words like "illegal" or "invasion." It's always a "war" and it was always just and right and correct to murder well over a million Iraqis (over eight-hundred thousand deaths have been reported and documented, though the actual numbers are substantially higher), displace about 5 million from their homes, and wound millions more. These figures continue to grow every day and are seldom, if ever, mentioned.

No no, it is the troops that need our help and care and who deserve a safe return from the killing fields. It is only the deaths of American soldiers and lack of safety for Western 'diplomats' that has turned Americans (and their representative politicians) against the 2003 invasion. Absolutely nowhere on either Clinton or Obama's sites (I didn't bother to check McCain's) are the words "Iraqi casualties" mentioned and only Obama even refers to America's "moral and security responsibility to confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis" of its millions of refugees (the result of American invasion and occupation). Basically, American deaths are sad and terrible and wrong and therefore should stop, but Iraqi deaths seem not to register in any way within the consciousness of our supposed leaders (or the general public for that matter).

It is with this mentality that any comment critical of America is viewed as treasonous, inflammatory, and downright evil by the mainstream media, the misinformed (i.e. average) voter, and the brainwashed hysteric (see: Bible Belt resident). Critique of the American system, awareness of its historic inequities, and knowledge of its past century of aggressively imperial foreign policy is not only looked down on by the American public, any mere mention of these issues are shunned and the speaker ostracized. Obviously, as it stands, America can do no wrong. Whatever else happens in this world, America remains altruistic, honorably noble, and a protector of freedom. The United States is, in the eyes, minds, and hearts of its inhabitants, a beacon of justice and liberty. A shining "city upon a hill," as John Winthrop put it. Essentially, America finds itself much like a young Indiana Jones, alone and without help, clutching the stolen Cross of Coronado, and shouting idly for any sign of his compatriots in a desolate Monument Valley. Upon hearing no reply, Indy, and America too, calmly concedes without the slightest hint of irony, "Everybody's lost but me."

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke the truth quite often during his sermons in years past. He spoke passionately about the injustice for African-Americans in this country as well as about less domestic issues regarding the United States' drive for hegemony across the globe. The recent publicity of some of his less complacent statements has signaled his ridicule in the media and public domain and his immediate abandonment by Barack Obama. Apparently, American feelings are too important to be riled up by silly things such as the "truth" and "historical awareness." We Americans are far too sensitive about how great we are that calling us out on our dastardly deeds and complete complicity in the current state of the world and injustice done unto others on a constant basis (and paid for with our hard work and tax dollars) is always frowned upon. The lesson is: If you wish to voice dissent, please do it as quietly and dispassionately as possible; that way, you're easier to ignore while we heat up some more HotPockets and watch America's Next Top Fluffer.

On one occasion in 2003, reported on ABC News, Rev. Wright repudiated the United States for its unfair treatment of black people, stating,

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
I find nothing incorrect, dubious, or vile in any of these statements. Anyone who knows anything about the racial inequities in America would conclude the same thing. Alas, panic set in to the Obama campaign with the release of this news, and immediately distanced itself from the pastor by denouncing his accurate views as "inflammatory rhetoric." Meanwhile, it is Rev. Wright who has been speaking the truth and who has revealed himself as far more cognizant than his presidential candidate disciple of American imperial blowback. A mere six days after the events of September 11, 2001, Rev. Wright was preaching from the pulpit about the root causes of anti-imperial backlashes, stating in full clarity of vision,
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
Now, for Wright to say these things to his congregation does not make him anti-American in as much as criticizing Zionism is in no way promoting anti-Semitism. He is simply aware of real historic factors that play a large part in America's dealing with the world as a whole and its own citizens at home. Wright is not anti-American. He doesn't speak out against people, but against governmental, military, and socio-economic practices that harm people, people that may or may not be American. He questions American policies here and abroad and preaches a social gospel that informs his followers of a reality that truly cannot be compared with the blind racism and ethnocentrism found in most Southern, white megachurches. In short, Wright is not wrong.

And yet again, Barack Obama can be counted on to show his complete lack of dignity and spine by feeling compelled to "vehemently disagree" and "strongly condemn" his pastor's statements, adding in an article for the Huffington Post, "I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies." How can anyone who is supposed to be the champion of international diplomacy claim that anything negative said about the United States must be ignored and blown off as absurd? This country has problems! Serious problems! And turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to the discussion of such issues is patently unacceptable.

Obama countered Wright's 9/11 statements with this cute bit of American idolatry and total absence of historical insight, "The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification...It sounds like he (Rev. Wright] was trying to be provocative."

Indeed, we truly are in deep, deep trouble regardless of who winds up winning the presidency come November.

Friday, March 14, 2008

If You Won't Bomb Iran for Us,
We'll Find Someone Else Who Will:
The Early Retirement of Admiral Fallon

The ebb and flow of this country's attention span and awareness of certain issues, directly controlled by the mass media's 'wash-rinse-repeat' tactics, is no more apparent than when considering news coverage of the potential (possible? probable? inevitable?) US attack on Iran.

For a long time, we were told repeatedly that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was a lunatic fanatic with his finger on the proverbial button, inciting anti-American and anti-Israeli violence across the globe. Ok, so that wasn't at all true. Then we heard that Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called to physically destroy Israel. Again, not true (though both of those lies still accompany each and every mention of the Iranian President in the US and Israeli media - in fact, it seems to have become somewhat of a epithet). Then there were British hostages. Nonsense. Then baseless and proofless accusations of Iranian IEDs being used in Iraq to harm our benevolent, civilian-killing, foreign country-occupying US soldiers. Then bogus claims of a nuclear weapons program, followed by two (now three) sets of US-bullied UN Security Council sanctions. Then came the NIE report, discrediting the allegations of Iranian weaponization of nuclear energy, so there was a trumped up speed boat incident in the Strait of Hormuz (damn you, Filipino Monkey!).

After the third set of UN sanctions, Iran continues to pursue its wholly legal right to achieve nuclear energy and does so while unveiling the utter hypocrisy of Security Council actions and exposing the true source of trouble in this world. Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament on March 5th, not only called for "a special committee for total nuclear disarmament" but stated:

Developing military doctrines based on preemptive attacks and imposing illegal sanctions clearly contradict the terms of the UN charter...Today, the international community is deeply concerned about the production of thousands of nuclear warheads at the arsenals of some nuclear countries.

Imposing illegal and unjustifiable sanctions against other countries, using international organizations for serving the interests of certain powers, making baseless accusations against other countries under the pretext of alleged concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, distorting reality to accuse other countries of breaking disarmament agreements, and misleading public opinion [have worried the global society].

Today, having veto power and possessing nuclear weapons have become a means of bargaining for the illegitimate rights of some powers.
Of course, this speech was not reported on in any way in the US media. A foreign official speaking the truth...a truth that contradicts the lies of the American government? An Iranian suggesting universal act that would include the US and Israel (and the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea)? Naturally, that can't be reported here. As far as we are led to believe, all Iranians must be busy at work, hunched over thousands of their own spinning centerfuges, eagerly rubbing their hands together, and salivating over the possibility of World War III. In this absurd Strangelovean fantasy, the Iranians in question (which is all of them) are most likely wearing burkas or turbans (or both?), carrying AK-14s, and speaking Arabic...all because Americans are pretty stupid.

Still, the US public opinion seems to be generally against attacking Iran for no reason other than further imperialism and US/Israeli hegemony, despite all three remaining presidential candidates keeping the Iranian demonization machine in full throttle, and as a result the issue of bombing Iran has dropped out of the new for a little while. So, with everyone's attentions preoccupied with pictures of Obama dressed like a Hibachi chef, the fact that Roger Clemens has never heard the word vegan, dutifully ignoring the Israeli murders of over a hundred and fifty Palestinians, and now focusing squarely on Ashley Dupre's MySpace and Facebook pages, the Bush administration has moved one step closer to attacking Iran by removing, what appeared to be, the highest-ranking obstacle to their sinister plans.

A lot of hubbub has surrounded the early retirement of Admiral William Fallon, the top military official of United States Central Command in the Middle East, this week. The claims that Fallon was forced to retire from active service due to his previous statements regarding his preferred avoidance of war with Iran, which many see as directly at odds with the aggressive military policies of his commander-in-chief, seem well-founded regardless of what the Washington spinbots are trying to say. Fallon first attracted attention when asked about a potential US attack on Iran, by stating, "Not on my watch" and by opposing the troop "surge" in Iraq. Since then he has urged straightforward diplomacy with the Iranian government, which is obviously a serious threat to Bush's bellicose dreams. A recent article in Esquire, written by former professor at the Naval War College and ex-Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett, further exposed Fallon's dissenting beliefs on Middle East military plans and, in the piece's opening lines, placed the Admiral at the forefront of US policies in the region:
If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it'll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it'll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance.
The article continues to place Fallon and the Bush cabal at odds and is eerily prescient of what quickly followed the piece's publication:
So while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon -- and apparently Fallon alone -- to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."

What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."

Those are fighting words to your average neocon -- not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."

How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?

The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.

Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon's statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.

Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon's caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way.
Apparently, this article cast too much doubt on Fallon's willingness to launch an unprovoked attacked on Iran, and as a result he was swiftly and effectively removed from his post (though this reasoning is obviously denied by the White House as are the allegations that the US is furiously planning for an attack). Naturally, a high-ranking commander who urges "restraint and diplomacy" when dealing with a country with which the Bush administration is obviously intent on picking a military fight, is not long for this world.

Journalist Mark Thompson, in his article for Time, while believing that Fallon's 'retirement' was due wholly to the incompatability of his views with those of the administration that signed his paychecks, ends the piece with somewhat of an optimistic coda to the story:
The betting inside the Pentagon is that despite Fallon's departure, war with Iran is no more likely next month than it was last month. The U.S. military, its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, could only engage in an air war against Iran's nuclear sites. The ramifications of attacking a third Muslim nation since 9/11 are so extreme, military officers believe, that no President would launch such a war in his final months in office.
I wonder when any ramifications and rationale have ever made their way into the previous decisions of the Bush administration and if an attack on Iran is truly out of the question, now or in the future (judging from the rhetoric of McCain, Clinton, and Obama).

As the Esquire piece itself asks, "Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?" The answer, unfortunately as always, is clear.


Iran Crisis Nearing Climax

By Bill and Kathleen Christison

Time after time we have heard statements from Israeli officials, spokesmen of the Israel lobby in the U.S., and Israel’s supporters in Congress that Iran “must” never obtain nuclear weapons. On March 3, 2008, all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus nine of the ten non-permanent members approved a new round of sanctions against Iran. Chalk up the final vote of 14-0 with one abstention (the Muslim nation of Indonesia) as another victory at the U.N. for the Israel-U.S. partnership.

The spectacle of the five “permanents” in the antiquated Security Council hierarchy -- all of whom refuse to eliminate their own nuclear weapons -- adopting a double standard with respect to Iran does not, of course, raise more than a peep in the mainstream media of the U.S. Iran, a nation of proud people in a neighborhood of proud peoples, sees only absurdity in the discrimination against it when the nearby nations of India, Pakistan, and Israel have all developed their own nuclear weapons without the U.S. stopping them. Israel’s nuclear weapons program particularly sticks in the Iranian craw, because Iranians know that Israel, an enemy but a far smaller country, acquired nuclear weapons over 40 years ago, considerably earlier than either India or Pakistan. Most Iranians also know that Israel accomplished this only with public and/or private aid from the U.S. It’s all seen as just one more example of the U.S. favoring Israel and picking on Iran.

The issue of the moment is not even actual production of nuclear weapons by Iran, but the “enrichment” of natural uranium so that it contains a higher percentage of one particular uranium isotope, U-235, than is found in nature when the ore called “uranium” is first mined. Such enrichment provides the single most-difficult-to-obtain product used in most nuclear weapons. (In the natural state, the raw ore contains other uranium isotopes as well, and usually has by volume less than one percent U-235. When concentrated to around three percent U-235, the product is widely used in common forms of nuclear power reactors. When concentrated to much higher levels -- 90 percent is the figure often cited -- the product becomes the “weapons-grade” material used in nuclear weapons. The equipment used in this “enrichment” process is not only complicated to build, manage and maintain; it also requires large amounts of electric power to operate. But all of this is within the capabilities of numerous nations and, probably increasingly, some subnational groups as well.)

Iran now possesses, has tested, and is using all the equipment required, and it has the necessary electric power, to produce enriched uranium. It claims it has already reached an enrichment level of around four percent U-235 in early tests. It also claims that it does not want nuclear weapons and will use the enriched uranium only to produce larger amounts of electric power for the nation in a series of nuclear power plants. But if one chooses to believe that Iran really wants nuclear weapons, another element comes into the equation: the ease with which an enrichment operation can be converted to produce weapons-grade uranium. Various Western experts commonly believe that if a nation or group is capable of going from less than one percent to a three or four percent enrichment level, then the technical difficulties of moving from three or four to 90 percent enrichment are not at all major.

The actual design and manufacture of the explosive device, and then of a deliverable weapon, would not be a simple task, but neither would it be terribly difficult. Precise estimates of the time the entire process might take are generally useless. There are too many variables. All such estimates depend heavily on the types of delivery systems available, the degree of targeting accuracy demanded, and the redundancy, or lack, of safety features assumed necessary to prevent unauthorized or accidental use. But for Iran, a simple guess of three or four years probably would be in the ball park.

While the U.S. and other nations demand that Iran cease all production of enriched uranium, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that came into effect in 1970 does not prevent anyone from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. Iran, as already noted, claims that is all it is presently doing, and there is no hard evidence to the contrary. The U.S., however, and most other signatories of the treaty who already possess nuclear weapons have made no serious efforts to work toward global nuclear and general disarmament as called for in the NPT. The treaty, of course, has no timetable or deadlines in it. But the fact that the major powers who signed the treaty have not even begun multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament in 38 years gives Iran a good excuse, if it needs one, to abrogate its participation in the treaty. Some day Iran may do just that. The fact that Israel, India, and Pakistan, who have refused to sign the treaty from the start, have now become known nuclear powers, gives leaders in Teheran yet another excuse to get out of the NPT if it wishes.

While some U.S. empire builders talk about the need to change the global system, the world today is still composed of legally independent states where nationalism is the dominant force underlying relationships among states. In such a world, it is logical to assume that Iranian leaders either already secretly want nuclear weapons or will soon come to want them. They will not indefinitely accept that the smaller state of Israel has any greater right to nuclear weapons than they have. Nor will they even accept that the much larger U.S. has a greater right to such weapons. Short of being forced abjectly to surrender to the U.S.-Israeli partnership, no Iranian government leaders could accept such views.

The possibility of negotiating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East (including Israel), or even, conceivably, a nuclear-free world, is often suggested as the only true final solution to the Middle East’s or the entire globe’s nuclear dilemma. And the people who make such suggestions can often cite polls or surveys showing that a majority of people everywhere support these ideas. The tragedy is that at the moment there is simply not enough trust among the governments of the globe, or even within one region thereof. Take the United States alone, or the U.S.-Israel partnership. It is inconceivable that the present government of either partner would be able even to begin negotiations on eliminating its nuclear weapons, no matter what the possible benefits might be. The same would apply to China, Russia, Britain, France, India, and Pakistan to greater or lesser degrees.

Even in this time of distrust, however, the U.N. should set up a permanent conference of ambassador-level experts on Disarmament and Global Crises. Once it is up and running, spokespeople for this conference should direct public attention on a daily basis to the relationship between arms spending and the three major crises facing the globe -- the energy, climate, and water crises that will make it increasingly necessary for the peoples of the world to work together in overcoming the crises and drastically cutting back the outrageous and wasteful military expenditures of too many nations. The immediate task of the conferenceshould be to define areas of agreement and disagreement on disarmament and on the other three issues in different regions of the world. The chairperson should be a very senior U.N. official, and the unusual feature of the conference -- its permanence -- should receive great emphasis on every public occasion.

It is likely that before long new and unforeseen developments will occur in one or more of the three crises that will intensify thinking among at least some people about the wastefulness of present military spending. Costly new difficulties in any of the three areas might even lead in fairly short order to a rolling snowball of global opposition and disgust over new nuclear spending. No one can foresee how great will be the changes in daily life caused by the three crises but we should, as best we can, work to make the changes add to rather than detract from harmony among the world’s peoples. We should all specifically try to use these crises to encourage everyone to think first as citizens of the world, only second as citizens of a particular nation or region.

But none of this deals with the present -- or with the remaining months of Bush’s presidency. Since the present group of Republicans and copycat Democrats in Congress refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney, the danger of a war against Iran instigated by the U.S. and Israel remains real. The overextended state of U.S. ground forces, and Bush’s probable willingness to treat at least small nuclear weapons as ordinary weapons, mean that a war would possibly not be a ground war at all, but would begin with large air attacks and early use of nuclear weapons. While the longer term results of using nuclear weapons would be utterly disastrous, both for the world and for the U.S., the immediate results might be seen as a quick and cheap victory for the U.S. If the apparent military victory occurred before the November 2008 U.S. election, it would probably guarantee a Republican electoral victory. Given Bush’s interest in his own place in history, such a scenario could easily appeal to his gambling instincts.

Noise, and lots of it, seems to be the only weapon we have to make it less likely that such a scenario actually happens. Let’s make that noise, do it globally, and do it every day. Pound out the message through every medium we can access, including music and literature, that ordinary people around the world DO NOT WANT THE U.S. AND ISRAEL TO KILL A SINGLE PERSON IN IRAN, regardless of the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 35 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Make War, Not Love:
A How-To Guide for Avoiding Impeachment

It is truly the evidence of a grim reality and the troubling state of our society when powerful, arrogant, and adulterous men face harsher scrutiny and penalties than those well-known and proven to be, not only the most corrupt, pathologically deceptive and imperialistic, but guilty of the very highest crimes and most treasonous misdemeanors in this nation's almost 232 years. The latter characters promote bigotry and fear, commit and encourage genocide, torture, and ethnic cleansing, and destroy the civil and human rights of millions of this world's citizens with impunity and without any sort of retribution, regret, or remorse. The former folks, the ones who cheat on their wives with overweight interns and high-priced hookers, are the ones who get impeached.

With the recent news of New York State governor Eliot Spitzer's ridiculously boneheaded indiscretions, especially in light of his past efforts to strengthen laws against prostitution with the added bonus of stiffening penalties (pun intended?) for the Johns involved in these escort rackets, the only question I can really raise is this:

Are we to believe that whenever someone with a high level of authority, be it say political or religious, rails adamantly against something, the real message is that he is actually guilty of that very thing he admonishes?

Let's see here: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Yes, indeed he did. People like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, who notoriously and viciously lash out against homosexuals and same-sex marriage are, in fact, totally gay. Mark Foley, who fought aggressively against child abuse, molestation, and exploitation, was actually a big fan of pedophilia. Does this mean that soon we will all find out that Alan Dershowitz is actually Palestinian? Now, wouldn't that turn his ethnic-supremacist face red?

If the opposite is often true in regards to the passionate principles of many politicians, does that mean that when George Bush speaks of the 'War on Terror,' he's really aware that he has been waging a war of terror?

Spitzer was warned by New York Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco, earlier this week, that "If he does not resign within the next 24 to 48 hours, we will prepare articles of impeachment to remove him." And Spitzer resigned today, effective Monday March 17th. These threats of impeachment against a man who betrayed the trust of his family and community by paying (a whole heap of money) for sex, or the actual impeachment process over a sitting president lying about getting a blowjob, seem to signal one thing in American politics: The fist-pumping, hoarse-throated calls for impeachment and resignation are apparently reserved for adulterous and secretive sexual acts committed by elected politicians.

We can put things in official Clue terms to see what's really going on here:

NY Governor in DC hotel room with a hooker.


US President in Iraq with an illegal occupying army.
One of these actions is an impeachable offense. The other, it seems, isn't.

The Benefits of Decimation Over Copulation

This country has far more of a problem with the sexual behavior rather than the imperial behavior of its political leaders. Apparently being a member of the Emperor's Club VIP is an offense too great to recover from, whereas actually attempting to be an emperor isn't really that bad. Lying a country into an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation that, a week from today, will enter its sixth year isn't impeachable. Banging "Kristen," the prostitution agency's "petite, pretty brunette," for $4,300 during a trip to Washington DC on February 13th is impeachable. And yet, throughout all this, impeachment proceedings are nowhere close to being discussed for Dick Cheney and the other architects of the imperialism and genocide committed by this country and the utter destruction of the Constitution over the past seven years by anyone other than perhaps Congressman Robert Wexler.

Obama, Clinton, and McCain can travel around the country talking about maintaining a substantial troop presence (of varying, however minor, degrees depending on who's speaking) in Iraq, praising the past and ensuring the future decimation of Afghanistan, all with the twinkling-eyed and tittering excitement of a potential bombing of Iran. Obama, our supposed 'anti-war' candidate is the one advocating the redistribution of military personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan and has oft-repeated his belief that the invasion of Afghanistan was, in fact, a rational and just decision. None of the three remaining candidates has said, unequivocally, that s/he will refuse to engage militarily with Iran and all have maintained that "all options remain on the table." But when pressed on his own views about the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, Obama stated that impeachment in their case is 'unacceptable.' He elaborated,
"I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president's authority."
Did I miss something in the past seven years? Proven lies, countless scandals, the gross neglect of an entire US city's population after a natural disaster, obstructing justice, sanctioning torture, illegal spying, bombing, invading, and occupying, murdering, fear-mongering, committing grievous war crimes, and threatening to do it all over again apparently aren't enough to be deemed 'breaches of executive authority,' according to someone running for the position of having that exact same authority? Sounds great, at least we'll know what to expect from the new guard.

Basically, in this glorious nation we call home (whilst trying our best to keep the bile from rising up our gullets as we do so), it is perfectly clear that getting laid by a hooker is worse, far worse, than getting paid by Halliburton. American society must be so desensitized to violence, that waging war on foreigners isn't seen as that big a deal. But extra-marital affairs?! Oh heavens no! Not from someone we're supposed to respect! How dare he! Why couldn't he just be a good boy and murder some Muslims?

No one dies when Eliot Spitzer makes a bad decision to call an escort service. It is a personal tragedy for him and his family, a real way to ruin a good life. But the bad decisions, the aggressive policies, and the active crusades of this past administration have affected the lives of millions, if not billions, of people on this planet and have directly and deliberately killed, wounded, displaced, and destroyed millions more. The obliteration of two countries and continued annihilation of human lives and the destruction of entire families, all due to illegal invasions, seems to me to be a much more punishable offense. If only George Bush had fucked a whore while on one of his alcohol-fueled cocaine binges of yore, this world might just be a safer place today.

Alas, it seems that too much time is spent scrutinizing other people's handjobs and not enough time examining each other's bloody palms.


Friday, March 7, 2008

On Gaza, a Yeshiva, and the Opening Shots of the Third Intifada

This past week, the world has certainly seen a severe and horrific escalation of violence and brutality in Palestine/Israel. What is most striking to me, though, is how differently the news media reports Israeli deaths in contrast to Palestinian deaths. It should go without saying that any type of murder, from military incursion to machine gun and sniper fire to rubber bullets to air raid bombings to rocket fire to deliberate starvation to suicide attacks and so on, is terrible and deserves international condemnation. The killing of children, women, and men is always a tragedy, whenever and wherever it occurs. What should also been acknowledged, I think, is that certain lives are not more precious than others, despite what the media may lead you to believe.

Last weekend, over 130 Palestinians, about a quarter of whom were children, were killed by Israeli Occupation Force operations in Gaza and finding any real news coverage about it from the mainstream news outlets proved oddly difficult. Later in the week, it appeared that only British news sources even reported on the recent findings that living conditions in Gaza itself has reached a 40-year low, the worst since Israel first occupied the territory in 1967. Then yesterday, a gunman killed eight Israeli students at a school in West Jerusalem and the story has blanketed the network, cable, radio, and print news sources ever since - with big, sprawling headlines rife with cries of "terror" and "carnage" and "savage attack." Stating that 130 versus 8 is worse isn't the point. Any single death is awful. As citizens of the world, we should all agree on that. But what should not be ignored, and all too often has been and continues to be, is the fact that Palestinians and Israelis do not live their lives on an equal footing, these are not two even sides that both engage in hostile and violent exchanges, each claiming self-defense and a right to exist. Palestine is an occupied territory. It is occupied by the Israeli army and has been for over forty years. (The actual existence of "Israel" for almost sixty years is another topic altogether, but would only serve to further my point.) Palestinians are currently a population of open-air prison inmates, subject to the will, disdain, discrimination, and violence of the Israeli government and military. To argue that "militants" targeting civilians is more devious and nastier than a uniformed army firing sophisticated missiles into civilian neighborhoods of a besieged and starving refugee camp reveals a bias that is rampant and common in this country today.

As Ali Abunimah, so succinctly puts it,

The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are "terrorism," while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against "terrorism." But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.
What is most unfortunate, besides the tragic loss of life, about the recent events at the Mercaz Harav seminary is that, not only will it serve to justify more horrendous attacks by Israel upon Palestinians, but it may wind up being used as a justification for Israel's militaristic society as a whole. The school itself, located in the Kiryat Moshe quarter of Jerusalem, demonstrates the melding of Israeli nationalism and the Jewish religion than furthers the rampant militarism of Zionist ideals, under the guise of patriotism and piety. The gunman responsible for the eight Israeli deaths yesterday was himself gunned down by students at the school. The fact that students themselves were carrying weapons at a religious seminary speaks to how deep the Zionist synergy of Judaism and soldiery permeates, and quite possibly defines, Israeli society.

(Incidentally, an Arab professor at Sapir College in Sderot was recently dismissed from his job for requesting that a student - who also serves in the Israeli military - not bring his gun to and refrain from wearing his uniform in his class. The situation caused such an uproar that the college president, Zeev Tzahor, wrote to the professor demanding an apology, in which "you must refer to your obligation to be respectful to the IDF uniform and the full right of every student to enter your classroom in uniform." When Prof. Hassan refused to meet this demand due to his view that all uniforms, be they Israeli, Fatah or Hamas, are symbols of violence and therefore not welcome in his classroom, the college began proceedings to dismiss him. You can read all about this in Jonathan Cook's article, Academic Freedom? Not for Arabs in Israel.)

Another important piece of information to note is that the Mercaz Harav seminary stands at the very center of the Zionist ideological movement. BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports that "the school is at the heart of the settler movement in the occupied West Bank [which] may have been the reason why it was targeted. Many of its students are on special courses that combine religious study with service in combat units in the Israeli army."

Judith Norman of Jewish Peace News cogently and concisely articulates the tragedy and context of these recent events:
As has been widely reported, a gunman in Jerusalem opened fire at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva yesterday, killing 8 students (most of them children) and wounding at least 9. At a time like this, there are two different sets responsibilities to the victims: one is to mourn the brutal deaths of these boys and young men. At the same time, we need to work to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, which requires us to understand the context in which this act of terrorism occurred. Failing to understand this atrocity within the overall context of the occupation reinforces the right-wing line that Palestinian violence is motivated simply by anti-Semitism, blood hatred, or Biblical feuds.

Although the gunman’s specific motives are unclear, this killing comes at a moment that the New York Times somewhat delicately describes as a time of “tension”. Israel’s latest attack on Gaza has left over 130 Palestinians dead, half of them civilians. Just yesterday, a 20 day-old infant was buried after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. Another contextualizing factor is the nature of the yeshiva where the attack took place, a key institution in the militant settlers’ movement, which has been stealing land from Palestinians in the occupied territories for decades, believing God intended the land for Jews.

These horrific killings are utterly unjustifiable, and Hamas’ praise for the operation is both contemptible and chilling. It is important not to let this sort illegitimate act of terrorist violence obscure the legitimate and urgent grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation and in exile. It is vital to keep this in mind, because whatever the specific motivations of the gunman might have been, terrorist violence like this is almost always a symptom of Israel’s expansionist policies and is unlikely to end until the occupation is over.
In conjunction with George Bush's declaration of a new 'peace process' and the promise of a lasting solution by the end of this year, it appears that 2008 may in fact be a year of increased bloodshed and the further destruction of hope for both Palestinians and Israelis. Justice is a rare commodity in a supposed struggle for existence and security and a rise in violence and vengeance will see a corresponding decrease in rationality, sympathy, and understanding. The occupation will intensify and become more brutal and dehumanizing, a besieged and displaced people will suffer more than they already have, a resistance movement will grow and gain momentum through both violent and non-violent acts, a deeply militarized and colonial culture will feel victimized and seek revenge by excessive force. Animosity will solidify and future generations of both sides will continue to learn hate and distrust. Hundreds, if not, thousands more will die. And still there will be no justice, no peace, and no hope. A mutually declared and enforced ceasefire is the very first step of a very difficult process of ending the occupation. As long as Israel continues to infiltrate the Occupied Territories, killing dozens of men, women, and children, the Palestinian resistance will not stop fighting, nor should it. One of these sides has the full and unconditional backing of the world's most dominant and destructive superpower, the other doesn't isn't allowed to control its own water supply. One side feels victimized by history and has, in turn, been victimizing others for sixty years. A lot needs to change before Palestine will be free and Israelis will feel safe...and almost all of it is ideology, mostly in the form of religious colonialism and frustrated nationalism.

But in the meantime, let's not forgot, it is not Israel that is occupied, it is Palestine. This need not be about "us" or "them" (whomever you happen to identify with)'s about everyone. And, at this rate, we're all going to lose.


For more insightful commentary and analysis, including information on the newly-leaked covert US government's plan to overthrow the legitimate Palestinian leadership and instigate a civil war, please read the following articles:

03.07.08 - A Defeated Policy, Not a Defeated People by Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada

03.07.08 - Islamic Organisation Condemns Jerusalem Attack report by IC Publications

03.06.07 - The Gaza Bombshell by David Rose, Vanity Fair (April 2008 issue)

03.05.07 - To Blame the Victims... by Seumus Milne, The Guardian (UK)


The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege
Press Release, March 7, 2008

Bloodshed does not compensate for bloodshed - Ceasefire Now!

The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege calls for an immediate end to the killing and violence, on both sides of the conflict. Bloodshed does not compensate for bloodshed, and revenge is no solution.

Any attack on, wounding or killing of unarmed civilians - as happened in the attack on the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva as during the IDF attacks and bombings of Gaza and in the shooting of missiles at Sderot, Ashkelon and the Western Negev - must end forthwith.

It is the civilians on both sides who are exposed to harm and who pay the full price for the manoeuvres of the political and military leaderships. We call upon the leaderships, of both sides, including all organizations and parties, to cease all violence immediately.

We call upon the international community and the world public opinion to firmly demand an end to the mutual killing and bloodshed.

In order to achieve that, we call for a full and mutual ceasefire, as a first step negotiating an end to the occupation and an end to the conflict between the two peoples, to a full peace which is the only hope for our future.


Monday, March 3, 2008

There's No Business Like Shoah Business

©Latuff 2006

Genocide is happening. There was a massacre this weekend. Innocent people are being slaughtered daily. Murder is not 'collateral damage.' And the world does nothing, except spin the reporting so that 112 dead Palestinians is a fair trade for 3 Israelis. So that bombs fall indiscriminately on homes, killing entire families in a moment. Widespread murder with impunity while the world decries rocket fire that has caused a few scratches. Men, women, and children dead at the hands of a brutal occupying army. The Israeli government promised a holocaust, and they're delivering.

Omar Barghouti of the Electronic Intifada reports,
On Friday, 29 February 2008, Israel's deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in Gaza with a "holocaust," telling Israeli Army Radio: "The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

This date will go down in history as the beginning of a new phase in the colonial conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, whereby a senior Israeli leader, a "leftist" for that matter, has publicly revealed the genocidal plans Israel is considering to implement against Palestinians under its military occupation, if they do not cease to resist its dictates. It will also mark the first time since World War II that any state has relentlessly -- and on live TV -- terrorized a civilian population with acts of slow, or low-intensity, genocide, with one of its senior government officials overtly inciting to a full-blown "holocaust," while the world stood by, watching in utter apathy, or in glee, as in the case of leading western leaders.

For an Israeli leader who is Jewish, in particular, to threaten anyone with holocaust is a sad irony of history. Are victims of unspeakable crimes invariably doomed to turn into appalling criminals?
Abused children often grow up to, in turn, abuse their own children. The offspring of racists usually become racists themselves. From this terrible cycle there seem to be few ways out. Whereas abuse victims can seek help from psychotherapy and support groups, the case of nation-states is somewhat different. Help needs to come from external forces, such as international involvement (perhaps in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and worldwide condemnation.

(It is startling to realize how little is said about an Israeli leader threatening a new shoah upon an oppressed and occupied people, while a brand new set of sanctions has been placed upon the peaceful nation of Iran - a country that, at the absolute worst, is trying to arm themselves against an imminent attack by the world's two most aggressive and militaristic powers, who have surrounded Iran with hostile regimes, nuclear weaponry, and ground troops, but is much more likely to be legally pursuing its UN-approved right to gain alternative energy. President Ahmadinejad was misquoted as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map," causing a hysterical uproar that has since affected the economy and international reputation of the entire country, whereas not a peep is heard in the US media about the actual articulation - and past, present, and future indications of intention and implementation - of a real holocaust visited upon a harassed, forcibly displaced and relocated, disenfranchised and demonized refugee population by an Israeli official.)

Alas, news reports on what is actually happening are hard to find. Yesterday, browsing the websites of CNN, BBC, and MSNBC one would have had to delve a bit to find any mention of the current situation in Gaza. And even when an article could be located, the headline often betrayed an Israeli bias. Article titles often mentioned the Israeli "anti-rocket offensive" and the Palestinian "suspension of peace talks." We are supposed to believe that a victimized Israel is forced to kill civilians in a noble attempt to stop the evil Arabs from firing rockets at its innocent citizens. Israel's hands are tied, we are told. Civilian casualties are "the price of war," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says. The major media buries Palestinian death tolls while shouting that Abbas has halted peace talks - yet another way to blame Palestine for Israel's actions. "They're the ones that don't want peace," Israel seems to scream as they disregard the constant Hamas ceasefire offers and fire missiles into apartment buildings and wipes out entire families.

And still, the focus remains on what the Palestinians are doing wrong. A BBC report today states that "neither the international appeals nor the Israeli crackdown stopped the barrage of rockets. More than 25 were launched on Sunday, and at least two more reached the city of Ashkelon on Monday after the Israeli withdrawal."

Yes, you read that correctly, 25 Palestinian rockets fired at Israel is called a barrage, but a weekend when over 100 people lose their lives by bomb and gunfire is referred to as a "military operation" and a "campaign in response to the firing of rockets from Gaza." Israel killed more than four times the number of rockets that were fired by Palestine. They didn't kill four times the number of people (for each Israeli killed, Israel killed about 40 Gazans and injured hundreds more), mind you, they killed four times the number of rockets fired. I repeat: the Israeli Occupying Forces murdered about four people for each individual rocket fired at Sderot and Ashkelon. How's that for what the EU called a "disproportionate use of force" by Israel?

A report by The New York Times clearly shows how spin is utilized in order to paint the Palestinians as crazy extremists and Israelis as frightened, shivering innocents:
The increase in violence started Wednesday when five members of the Qassam Brigades were killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza. Israeli military officials said that the squad had intended to carry out a special operation against Israel, possibly involving infiltrating the border and capturing a soldier.

Militants in Gaza responded by firing barrages of rockets at Sderot, killing an Israeli civilian, the first such fatality in months. On Thursday they started launching longer-range, manufactured Katyusha-style rockets at Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials described the firing of the longer-range rockets as a serious escalation of the conflict, and they mounted a ground and air campaign in northern Gaza that left more than 60 Palestinians dead on Saturday.

In Gaza City on Sunday, two more bodies were pulled out of a house that was bombed by the Israeli air force the day before, bringing the number of fatalities there to six. One member of the family was known to be a member of the Qassam Brigades. Ahed Atallah, a family member who was not in the house at the time, said that only he and a married sister had survived.

Late Sunday afternoon, militants fired two more missiles into Ashkelon, one of which damaged a house, the police said. The residents escaped unharmed.

Three hours earlier, Meram Levy, 30, a mother of two young children, was carrying shards of broken glass out of her apartment after a longer-range rocket had landed outside before dawn on Saturday, shattering all the windows.

"At night I'm very scared," Ms. Levy said. She and her husband are now sleeping in shifts, she said, to listen out for the alert on the city's new public address system.

The popular Ashkelon marina was also hit by a rocket on Saturday afternoon, lightly wounding two local residents. Pini Biton, who owns a restaurant at the marina, said the militants in Gaza had "crossed all the red lines." The outdoor cafes and bars there were empty at lunchtime Sunday, despite the fine weather.

The fact that the rockets had reached Ashkelon made Israelis realize that "they can get anywhere," Mr. Biton said.
So, as we can see, Palestinians are militants out for revenge and Israelis are scared shop-owners just trying to live in peace. The blindness to such bias and bigotry is astounding and catastrophic. In a new article, journalist Rami Almeghari reports,
Fourteen Israelis have been killed by the crude rockets since Palestinian resistance began firing them in 2001, while approximately 300 Palestinians were killed just in the few months since the renewed peace process was declared in Annapolis in November of last year. Nearly 5,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed since 2000, all "terrorists" in the eyes of Israeli intelligence chief Yuval Diskin.

Though he may have passed on, the words of deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ring ever true thirty years since he uttered them: "Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us and from seeing the justice on our faces. They seek to hide the terrorism and tyranny of their acts, and our own posture of self-defense."
As long as Israel is seen as a perpetual victim (by themselves and the rest of the world) rather than the actual pursuer and perpetrator of hostilities and genocide, there will be no justice. And in the place of justice, there will be only death.


Self-Deception and ‘Restraint’ in Israel

by Gideon Levy | Haaretz | 3 March 2008

Even yesterday evening, after the IDF already had killed about 50 Palestinians, at least half of them unarmed, and including quite a number of women and children, Jerusalem continued to claim, “At present there will be no major ground operation.” It’s incredible: The IDF penetrates the heart of a crowded refugee camp, kills in a terrifyingly wholesale manner, with horrible bloodshed, and Israel continues to disseminate the lie of restraint. Two days earlier Israel killed more Palestinians than have been killed by all the Qassams over the past seven years. Among the dead were four children and an infant. The next day Israel killed another five boys. And who is the victim? Israel. And who is cruel? The Palestinians.

This victimhood is not new, nor is our self-deception. The current lie: ‘restraint.’ Israel is demonstrating ‘restraint’ in the face of the Qassams; this assertion continues to spur the commentators and security experts to urge it to embark on the anticipated ‘major operation.’ But this operation began long ago. It reached its peak yesterday.

Our desperate attempt to have our cake and eat it, too, to claim that there is no ‘major operation’ at a time when the IDF is killing dozens every day, is nothing new. It has existed since the days of the ‘enlightened occupation’ and ‘purity of arms,’ through ‘the major operation that has yet to begin’ - all of them impossible desires. A senior minister who was asked last week about the siege on Gaza replied: ‘Occupation of Gaza is less moral.’ In this way, we have once again established ourselves a relative and distorted values system, with no absolute morality, only a double standard. Behind every action of ours in Gaza, even the terrible one this weekend, hides an option that is even worse. The fact that we are not yet carrying it out helps us to present ourselves in a positive light, to boast how moral we are.

During the past two years, we have killed almost 900 Gaza residents. About half of them were people who did not take part in the fighting. That is how restraint looks. At a time when we are counting the Qassams and their victims, in Gaza they are counting the dead. Presenting things as though we have not yet entered Gaza or “beaten the hell out of Gaza” is meant to deceive. Yes, more can be done.

Imagine if the Palestinians were to kill dozens of Israelis, including women and children, in one week, as the IDF did. What an international outcry we would raise, and justifiably. Only in our own eyes can we still adhere to our restrained, forbearing image. All the talk about the ‘major operation’ is designed to achieve only one goal: to show it is possible to be even more violent and cruel.

That is an extremely pathetic consolation. The siege, the assassinations and the raid this weekend are terrifying enough. The claim that as opposed to them, we do not intend to kill children and citizens, is also overused and deceptive. The gun sights of Israeli weaponry are sophisticated. If the Palestinians had Apache helicopters and sophisticated drones like ours, we can assume that they would choose more strategic targets than the yard of a hospital in Ashkelon or a parking lot in Sderot. The Qassam is the weapon of the poor and helpless.

In the South, a war of attrition is taking place between the strong and the weak. It will not be stopped by military means. It is therefore surprising and depressing to see the uniform chorus of the residents of the Western Negev, city dwellers and kibbutzniks, the direct victims, in favor of the IDF’s pointless fighting. How is it that in the entire South, not a single different voice can be heard, calling for a change in direction? How is it that no group of Sderot residents, yes, they of all people, is shouting in protest? Demonstrating in the city squares, not in favor of more of the same, but in favor of a different, much more promising approach? After all, they are the ones who are paying the heavy price, and they should be the first to see what the residents of the center of the country cannot see.?

The residents of Sderot, and now Ashkelon as well, have to look and see beyond the fence that is meant to protect them, and is imprisoning their neighbors. To understand that as long as things are so bad there, things will be bitter for them as well. That as long as we don’t talk to them, nothing will change. They, who know that every assassination is followed by the ‘Color Red’ Qassam alert, fear and anxiety, who know that dozens of assassinations have not improved their lives at all, that the present raid will not help either, should be the pioneers who bring about the change we need?

A large operation is now at its height. It has not helped at all so far; it will never help. Neither will the siege, the assassinations, the raids or the bombings. Perhaps the good will originate from the South, and someone there will call for something else?