Sunday, December 27, 2009

The New York Crimes:
All The Lies That Fit to Print


"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
- Albert Einstein
"The age of military attacks is over, now we've reached the time for dialogue and understanding. Weapons and threats are a thing of the past...even for mentally challenged people."
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 11/23/2009

The American political, academic, and media establishment has long been beating the drums of war with Iran and, as the author of The New York Times' latest OpEd encouraging the US bombing of that country, University of Texas professor Alan J. Kuperman has now emerged as the Keith Moon of sensational jingoism and, considering his concept of reality, morality, and legality, is probably twice as crazy.

Mr. Kuperman, in a piece published on December 23rd and titled "There’s Only One Way to Stop Iran", stridently advocates for an immediate, unilateral, unprovoked and devastating aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. He writes,
"Since peaceful carrots and sticks cannot work [with Iran], and an invasion would be foolhardy, the United States faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons."
Apparently, Mr. Kuperman's "one way" is a premeditated act of war, a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that has not threatened nor invaded any country in over two and half centuries. The "stark" choices that Mr. Kuperman proposes do not include the obvious legal answer: for US policy to abide by international law and ratified treaties guaranteeing the right of Iran to a peaceful nuclear energy program and therefore cease threatening Iran with homicidal military action.

Though Mr. Kuperman claims to believe that "negotiation to prevent nuclear proliferation is always preferable to military action," he immediately turns around to state, "We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons." He concludes with the dire warning that "Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better."

Mr. Kuperman even believes that "Iran's atomic sites might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons." His suggestions not only defy all basic logic and reason, but, more perversely, demonstrate his utter contempt for global jurisprudence, basic facts, and human life.

Despite being a highly educated scholar, Mr. Kuperman, who has a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, reveals a stunning lack of historical knowledge, a general disinterest in providing any sort of supporting evidence or documentation for his baffling assumptions, and a bewildering inability to discern truth from propaganda, all of which, unfortunately, inform his outrageous conclusions. In fact, there are so many unsubstantiated claims and outright lies packed into the relatively short article, it's an absolute wonder that The New York Times chose to print it. Has the Grey Lady laid off all its fact-checkers?

Then again, it should probably come as no surprise that the "newspaper of record" has no qualms about printing fiction masked as truth, as seen with the relentless build-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq just seven years ago.

Friday, November 6, 2009

GOLDSTONEWALLED!
US Congress Endorses Israeli War Crimes

"It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home."
- Edward Said

On the afternoon of November 3, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 867 (H.Res.867), an AIPAC-backed bill that urges both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to "oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the "Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict," referred to commonly as the "Goldstone Report." With this vote, the US Congress has not only enshrined its opposition to investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity found to be committed during last winter's Israeli massacre of over 1,400 Palestinians in the closed-off Gaza Strip, but has also affirmed its outrageous and unconscionable commitment to Israel's continuous unfettered aggression and singular unaccountability to international law, rules of military engagement, human rights, and basic morality.

In their successful effort to (yet again) shield the State of Israel from any and all scrutiny or criticism over its illegal use of collective punishment and excessive force against an imprisoned, impoverished, and defenseless civilian population, Congressional supporters of H.Res.867 sought to discredit the UN's 575-page report of meticulously-documented human rights violations. After visiting Gaza, conducting 188 individual interviews of victims and witnesses, studying more than 300 reports, submissions and other documentation including medical reports and forensic analysis of weapons and ammunition remnants collected in Gaza, amounting to more than 10,000 pages, and reviewing over 30 videos and 1,200 photographs, the Mission, led by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, concluded that "violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity" were committed by both parties (Israel and Hamas) during the Israeli assault on Gaza (A/HRC/12/48 p.423).

Goldstone's impeccable and unimpeachable credentials cannot be overstated. As a member of the South African Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, Goldstone was responsible for uncovering and publicizing allegations of the extensive violence committed by Apartheid South African security forces, paving the way for subsequent investigations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after South African democratization. He served as a judge for the Constitutional Court of South Africa, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and was a member of the International Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA), tasked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals who had emigrated to Argentina. In 2004/5, he was a member of the Volker Committee investigation into the UN’s Iraq oil-for-food program.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports that, according to a lecture Goldstone delivered in Jerusalem in 2000, he "believes bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust," which he described as "the worst war crime in the world." In Goldstone's view, the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the lessons learned by the international community in the wake of their discovery have "shaped legal protocol on war" and "constituted the basis for the concept of universal jurisdiction."

Not only this, but in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, his own daughter Nicole (once a resident of Israel) even described Goldstone, who is Jewish, as "a Zionist" who "loves Israel." Goldstone currently serves as a trustee at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, the harrowing conclusions and reasonable recommendations of the UN commission were quickly denounced by many US officials (not to mention the pathetic 'who, me?' outrage and phony self-righteousness exhibited by their Israeli counterparts), most of whom had not even read the report in its entirety; their smug derision of the dispassionate facts presented in the report made perfectly clear their intention to cover-up Israeli war crimes and, in so doing, legitimize and endorse Israel's ongoing suppression, dehumanization, starvation, occupation, and slaughter of the Palestinian people.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama vs. Ahmadinejad: A Tale of Two UN Speeches


"The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest."

– Edward L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent, 1947

We've seen this all before. A popular head-of-state addresses a crowd of diplomats and world leaders, speaking in vagueries and platitudes, expressing a desire to bring about peace and reconciliation, calling for international communication and cooperation. He signals out certain countries and warns of their intransigence and non-compliance, their disregard for international law, their threat to the rest of the world. He says nothing of his own nation's military aggression, its contempt for human rights and the lives of civilians, its support for dictatorships under the guise of promoting democracy. He defends his country's nuclear weapons agenda and encourages a racist solution to the situation in Israel and Palestine.

President Barack Obama, addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time yesterday morning, did all this. And no one walked out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Indoctrination & Education:
Who's Really Brainwashing Our Children?

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war. - Maria Montessori, physician and educator


I am certainly not in the habit of defending Barack Obama against his detractors, but the controversy drummed up by rabid right-wing hysterics over the President's back-to-school speech on Tuesday is quite simply bizarre and absurd. However, the manufactured uproar and outrage over the President's socialist/fascist/communitarianist (hey, pick an ideology, any ideology!) "brainwashing" of unsuspecting and impressionable students on one of their first days of school brings up very real and very serious concerns over both the potential and realities of aggressive government indoctrination and the abuse of open access to America's youth.

In the days leading up to Obama's fifteen-minute long, syndicated speech, the conservative netherworld was abuzz over what sort of cultish and dangerous hypnotism our Kenyan-born Commie Muslim commander-in-chief would dish out in classrooms all over the country. The paranoia and fear promoted by political and media demagogues and repeated thoughtlessly by their audience of ventriloquist dummies created a sort of dual-McCarthyism, equal parts Joe and Charlie.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

AJAX REDUX: US Heavy Meddle in Iran


Tehran | August 19, 1953


Tehran | June 13, 2009

The Western press has clearly taken a side and has successfully managed to drag its uninformed audience along with it. News reports all refer to the continuing groundswell of protest to the election results as an "unprecedented" show of courage, resistance, and people power against the government not seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

But what we have seen this past week seems to have far more in common with the events of fifty-six years ago, rather than just thirty.

In 1953, the United States government, at the behest of Britain, tasked CIA operatives Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. and Donald Wilber to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Iran, in order to put an end to the process of oil nationalization by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. This nationalism "outraged the British, who had 'bought' the exclusive right to exploit Iranian oil from a corrupt Shah, and the Americans, who feared that allowing nationalization in Iran would encourage leftists around the world." The coup d'etat, which took a mere three weeks to execute, was accomplished in a number of stages. First, members of the Iranian Parliament and leaders of political parties were bribed to oppose Mossadegh publicly, thereby making the government appear fragmented and not unified. Newspaper owners, editors, columnists and reporters were then paid off in order to spread lies and propaganda against the Prime Minister.

Furthermore, high-ranking clerics, influential businessmen, members of the police, security forces, and military were bribed, as well. Roosevelt hired the leaders of street gangs in Tehran, using them to help create the impression that the rule of law had totally disintegrated in Iran and that the government had no control over its population. Stephen Kinzer, journalist and author of All the Shah's Men, tells us that "at one point, [Roosevelt] hired a gang to run through the streets of Tehran, beating up any pedestrian they found, breaking shop windows, firing their guns into mosques, and yelling, 'We love Mossadegh and communism.' This would naturally turn any decent citizen against him." In a stroke of manipulative genius, Roosevelt then hired a second mob to attack the first mob, thereby giving the Iranian people the impression that there was no police presence and that civil society had devolved into complete chaos, with the government totally incapable of restoring order. Kinzer elaborates,
They rampaged through the streets by the tens of thousands. Many of them, I think, never even really understood they were being paid by the C.I.A. They just knew they had been given a good day’s wage to go out in the street and chant something. Many politicians whipped up the crowds during those days...They started storming government buildings. There were gunfights in front of important buildings.
After all was said and done, Prime Minister Mossadegh had been deposed and a military coup returned the monarchy to Iran by installing the pro-western Mohammed Reza Pahlevi on the Peacock throne. The Shah's brutal, tyrannical dictatorship - established, supported, and funded by the United States - lasted 26 years. In 1979, the Iranian people returned the favor.

So what have we been seeing in Iran this past week?

Whereas there is scant evidence of any actual voter fraud or ballot rigging in the recent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the popular movement we've been seeing on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere is being treated by the American media as some sort of new revolution; an energized, grassroots, and spontaneous effort to overthrow the leaders of the Islamic Republic in favor of a secular, pro-Western "democracy."

Yet, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, whereas there are surely thousands of sincere and committed activists and participants in the recent protests, what we are witnessing may very well be the culmination of years of American infiltration and manipulation of both the Iranian establishment and public.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Fraud, We Trust?



Douter de tout ou tout croire, ce sont deux solutions également commodes, qui l'une et l'autre nous dispensent de réfléchir.

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought.

- Jules Henri Poincaré, La Science et l'Hypothèse (1901)


By now, we all know the story:

Still high from Barack Obama's Cairo speech and Lebanon's recent elections that saw the pro-Western March 14 faction barely maintain its majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the mainstream media fully expected a clean sweep for "reformist" candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran's June 12th presidential election. They reported surging poll numbers, an ever-growing Green Wave of support for the challenger, while taking every opportunity to get in their tired and juvenile epithets, their final chance to demonize and defame the incumbent Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom they were convinced had absolutely no chance of winning reelection.

The turnout was a massive 85% by most estimates, resulting in almost forty million ballots cast by the eligible Iranian voting public.

Before the polls even closed, Mousavi had already claimed victory. "In line with the information we have received, I am the winner of this election by a substantial margin," he said. "We expect to celebrate with people soon." However, according to the chairman of the Interior Ministry's Electoral Commission, Kamran Daneshjoo, with the majority of votes counted, the incumbent president had taken a seemingly unassailable lead.

And so it was. Ahmadinejad won. By a lot. Some said by too much.

It didn't take long before accusations started flying, knee-jerk reactions were reported as expert analysis, and rumor became fact. As Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei congratulated Ahmadinejad on his landslide victory, calling it a "divine assessment," the opposition candidates all cried foul. Mousavi called the results "treason to the votes of the people" and the election a "dangerous charade." Karroubi described Ahmadinejad's reelection as "illegitimate and unacceptable."

The Western media immediately jumped on board, calling the election a "fraud," "theft," and "a crime scene" in both news reports and editorial commentary. Even so-called progressive analysts, from Juan Cole to Stephen Zunes to Dave Zirin to Amy Goodman to Trita Parsi to the New Yorker's Laura Secor, opined on the illegitimacy of the results. They cited purported violations, dissident testimony from inside sources, leaked "real" results, and seeming inconsistencies, incongruities, and irregularities with Iran's electoral history all with the intention of proving that the election was clumsily stolen from Mousavi by Ahmadinejad. These commentators all call the continuing groundswell of protest to the poll results an "unprecedented" show of courage, resistance, and people power, not seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

To me, the only thing unprecedented about what we're seeing in Iran seems to be the constant media hysteria, righteous indignation, and hypocritical pseudo-solidarity of the West; a bogus, biased, and altogether presumptuous and uncritical reaction to hearsay and conjecture, almost totally decontextualized in order to promote sensational headlines and build international consensus for foreign intervention in Iran.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On the Table & Off the Map:
Threats, Lies, and Iranian Elections


Eight days after Barack Obama delivered his much-touted speech in Cairo, Iranians are going to the polls to vote for their own president. Although reelection for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed to be guaranteed just a few weeks ago, there now appears to be growing potential for an upset victory by challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been running a campaign as the candidate of change.

Mousavi is no new-comer to the Iranian political stage. He held the now-defunct post of Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989 (which was, at the time, an executive position much akin to the current presidency) during Iran's brutal eight-year war with Iraq. Currently the president of the Iranian Academy of Arts, the trilingual Mousavi - Farsi, Arabic, and English - served as a presidential adviser from 1989 to 2005 and held a position on the Expediency Council, Iran's highest arbitration body.

In the American and European mainstream media, Iranian supporters of Mousavi are routinely referred to as "more educated," "better off," and "pro-Western" than their counterparts who support Ahmadinejad. The Iranian economy, which has seen rising inflation and slowed growth in the past four years, has become a major point of contention during the campaign process and recent debates. The President has been blamed for three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, diminishing Iranian prestige and reputation internationally, and Mousavi even chided him as arrogant and driving Iran toward "dictatorship."

Ahmadinejad's detractors point to all these factors as proof of his failed leadership; however, a closer look into the accusations may reveal a different story - or, at least, a different perspective.

Ahmadinejad is a populist who is seen as having "a deep sympathy for the poor" and has worked very hard to redistribute wealth across the wide range of socioeconomic tiers of Iranian society. He has helped the poor and lower middle class by increasing pensions (sometimes by more than doubling them), loans, and government workers’ wages, also increasing and maintaining financial support for the families of those killed or wounded during the Iran-Iraq War. The New York Times reports that Ahmadinejad "has also handed out so-called justice shares of state firms that are selling stock to the public, and provided low-interest loans to young married couples and entrepreneurs."

Still, opponents claim that his focus on redistribution, rather than creation, of wealth within Iran has harmed the Iranian economy and has resulted in increased unemployment, especially in Iran's vast young population. Nevertheless, his supporters disagree. “Who says Ahmadinejad created unemployment?” twenty-five year old market worker Hamid Nassiri told the Times. “It’s not true at all. He is from the people, and he attends to the people’s needs.”

In fact, even though discussion of the Iranian economy seems to be working against Ahmadinejad, Kelly Campbell of the U.S. Institute of Peace has thoroughly debunked many of the myths about Iranian economic turmoil, explaining that the country has "actually performed well in aggregate terms, with a moderate rate of growth in the last ten to fifteen years, including healthy GDP and per capita growth in investment. In the last three years, Iran's actual growth rate has averaged 5.8 percent." Kelly continues,

Nor do economic indicators support assertions by some observers that inflation is much higher than the rate stated by the Iranian government. In the last fifteen years, the consumer price index (CPI) has increased by a factor of forty-two; if the inflation rate were actually twice the reported rate, the CPI would have increased by a factor of 950. Prices have increased by a factor of five in the last ten years, not twenty, as some claim. While this rate of inflation is cause for concern, it is in line with the depreciation of the exchange rate.

[Another] myth is that Iran suffers from widespread poverty and rising inequality. The poverty rate actually declined throughout the 1990s and continues to fall, and is low by international standards—especially when compared to that of other developing countries. Government public service and social assistance programs have helped to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. In addition, economic inequality throughout Iran has remained fairly stable and does not appear to be increasing.
Over the past few years, Ahmadinejad has also courted economic alliances with a number of Latin and South American nations, promising $1 billion to help develop Bolivia's oil and gas sector, opening a trade office in Ecuador, and entering into various agreements with Nicaragua, Cuba, Paraguay, Brazil and, of course, Venezuela. Surprisingly, however, not all of these overtures have to do with oil trade. In 2007, Nicaragua received a loan of over $200 million from Iran to build a hydroelectric dam and, in August of last year, Ahmadinejad donated $2 million for the construction of a hospital. The Council of Hemispheric Affairs' Braden Webb reports that "Venezuela and Iran are now gingerly engaged in an ambitious joint project, putting on-line Veniran, a production plant that assembles 5,000 tractors a year, and plans to start producing two Iranian designed automobiles to provide regional consumers with the 'first anti-imperialist cars.'"

Ahmadinejad's inroads into Latin and South American, in order to act as "counter-lasso" to the United States, have certainly upped his anti-imperialism credentials - so much so, in fact, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the strong relations “disturbing.”

Mousavi, on the other hand, has set his sights closer to home, attacking Ahmadinejad for focusing on the Americas rather than "investing in Iran's neighboring countries...the President has obviously failed to get his priorities right.” Mousavi, on the other hand, favors increased privatization and foreign investment. "We should create an economic revolution to fight inflation," he said during a televised debate. "The private sector is a vital part of our plans to revive the country's economy." Believing that Ahmadinejad squandered excess oil revenue while in office, Mousavi insists, "The oil industry should improve. Right now our economy is solely restricted to oil exports without realizing that the oil industry is dependent on other economic sectors" and that "stable economic policies will help Iran to attract foreign investment."

As a self-described reformist, Mousavi has rallied a strong following by calling for more freedom of the press, freedom of information, more professional opportunities for women, the abolition of the so-called "Morality Police," as well as noting that "blinkered attitudes and false interpretations of Islamic teachings do not satisfy public interests and only trigger the country's backwardness." He wishes to push for more personal freedoms, lifting the state ban on private television stations, and also believes that the supervision of police and law enforcement forces should be handed over to the President, rather than remaining in the hands of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

As to Mousavi's claims that Ahmadinejad is dictatorial, the fact that Ahmadinejad has no control over Iran's military, doesn't have final say on foreign policy matters, has no power over the nuclear energy program, and has often been challenged by both the Majlis (Parliament) and Judiciary, quickly exposes those accusations as campaign rhetoric and name-calling. In fact, the Iranian legislature rejected more than two-thirds of Ahmadinejad's recommendations for ministers which resulted in it taking almost a year before his Cabinet was fully staffed. Hardly the trajectory of a tyrant.

The view from the United States appears to be that, with a Mousavi win on Friday, relations between Iran and America will improve. Mousavi clearly strikes a more conciliatory tone when discussing international affairs than does Ahmadinejad, who has always been consistent in his insistance that Iran has every legal right to enrich uranium under the protocols of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that sanctions against Iran imposed by UN Security Council resolutions are themselves illegal.

"Our country was harmed because of extremist policies adopted in the last three years...My foreign policy with all countries will be one of detente," Mousavi said after first announcing his candidacy. "We should try to gain the international community's trust while preserving our national interests." He has also said, “In foreign policy we have undermined the dignity of our country and created problems for our development."

Nevertheless, the former prime minister insists that "Iran will never abandon its nuclear right" and echoes the statements of both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad when saying, "If America practically changes its Iran policy, then we will surely hold talks with them."

It is clear that an electoral victory for Mousavi would be seen as a political victory for Barack Obama as well. It is assumed that Mousavi is more "rational and reasonable" than Ahmadinejad and would therefore be more amenable to Washington's demands, regardless of how illegal and hypocritical those demands may be. As such, he is the preferred candidate by Western analysts and politicians.

But how different would the United States treat Iran, really?

Back in 2003, soon after the invasion of Iraq, the Iranian government sent a "proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States" and the fax suggested everything was on the table - including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups." Flynt Leverett, a senior director on the National Security Council staff at the time, described the Iranian proposal as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." A Washington Post report from 2006 revealed that the document listed "a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its 'legitimate security interests.' Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, 'decisive action' against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending 'material support' for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation."

The proposal was roundly rejected by the Bush administration.

The then-government of reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami - now a Mousavi supporter - even voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment from 2003 to 2005 and still received nothing but lies and threats from the United States and its European allies. As Ahmadinejad recently pointed out, "There was so much begging for having three centrifuges. Today more than 7,000 centrifuges are turning," in turn, asking, "Which foreign policy was successful? Which one created degradation? Which one kept our independence more, which one gave away more concessions but got no results?"

Many commentators point to a new approach from Barack Obama's Washington, which they believe should be reciprocated from Tehran. Apparently, Obama's recent Cairo speech appealed to many Iranians, even government officials. Ali Akbar Rezaie, the director-general of Iran's foreign ministry's office responsible for North America commended the new tone coming from the US president, saying, "Compared to anything we've heard in the last 30 years, and especially in the last eight years, his words were very different...People in the region received the speech, from this angle, very positively, with sympathy." He added that the upcoming Iranian election would set the stage for a new chapter in US-Iran relations. "After the election we will be in a better position to manage relations with the United States," he said. "We'll be at the beginning of a new four-year period, and the political framework will be clear."

But what has Obama said to or about Iran that should prompt such positive and optimistic responses? Not a whole lot.

Exactly one year to the day before his Cairo speech, and the day after clinching the Democratic nomination for president, Obama stood before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and stated that "There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran." He said this about a country that has not threatened nor attacked any other country in centuries and harbors absolutely no ambitions of territorial expansion. The same can obviously not be said about Israel, or the United States. Obama continued,
The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.
Obama threatened Iran with ratcheted up pressure, if it did not bend to American demands - demands based on unfounded accusations and outright lies. This pressure would not be limited to "aggressive, principled diplomacy" but would include "all elements of American power to pressure Iran." Just to be clear, Obama promised his audience to "do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

In his inaugural address, Obama seemed to calm down and offered the Muslim world "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." A week later, during an interview with Al Arabiya TV, the new president reiterated his insistence that the US was now "ready to initiate a new partnership [with the Muslim world] based on mutual respect and mutual interest."

Two months later, in March, Obama addressed the Iranian people and government directly by releasing a taped message on the occasion of the Iranian New Year. The message urged a "new beginning" in diplomatic relations. Obama said,
"My Administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran, and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."
Obama's emphasis on "mutual respect" is striking considering the near constant usage of that phrase in Iranian overtures for years. Many Iranian officials, including UN ambassador Javad Zarif, former president Rafsanjani, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Assefi, have been calling for international relations based on "mutual respect." The Mossadegh Project's Arash Norouzi points out, as far back as February 2000, then President Khatami was saying, "We believe in existing alongside, and forging relations with, all countries...on the basis of mutual respect and interests." Then, in early 2004, then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi said, "We call for positive and constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual respect." In December 2007, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated, "As senior Iranian officials have reiterated, we welcome any rational approach that is based on mutual respect."

Ahmadinejad himself has used the phrase a number of times ever since he was the mayor of Tehran and running for president. More recently, in a July 2008 interview with NBC News, Ahmadinejad wondered if the United States was finally beginning "a new approach; in other words, mutual respect, cooperation, and justice? Or is this approach a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people but in a new guise?"

Some say that where Ahmadinejad is confrontational, Mousavi will be more mollifying. But Ahmadinejad has always been ready for diplomatic engagement with the United States, despite what you may hear constantly in the mainstream media. In fact, the day after Obama's Al Arabiya interview, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech in the Iranian town of Kermanshah. This is how his speech ended:
We welcome change but on the condition that change is fundamental and on a right course, otherwise the world should know, that anyone with the same speaking manner of Mr. Bush, same language of Mr. Bush, the same spirit of Mr. Bush, adventurism of Mr. Bush, even using new words to speak to the nation of Iran, the answer is the same Mr. Bush and his lackeys received over the years.

We hear that they are making plans for Iran. We in turn wait patiently, listen carefully to their words, carefully assess actions under the magnifying glass and if a real change occurs in a fundamental way, we shall welcome it.
In May, at the request of Barack Obama, the Pentagon updated its plans for using military force against Iran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that "as a result of our dialogue with the president, we've refreshed our plans and all options are on the table." So much for not advancing threats.

Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and long-time AIPACer Dennis Ross as top Iran advisor is also troubling. Clinton once threatened to "totally obliterate Iran" if it ever attacked Israel with the nuclear weapons it doesn't have and has suggested that negotiations with Iran, while doubtfully being fruitful, will be primarily useful to garner support for more “crippling” multilateral sanctions. Also, it has long been said that Ross has advocated an "engagement with pressure" strategy of dealing with Iran which, as Ismael Hossein-Zadeh explains, "means projecting or pretending negotiation with Iran in order to garner broader international support for the US-sponsored economic pressure on that country." In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, former National Security Council staff members Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett relate what Ross revealed to them regarding his cynical strategy:
In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama’s election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely. Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail? Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush’s successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. Citing past “diplomacy” would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.
They also make it clear that, "the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government — regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 — will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile."

Even more recently, during his speech in Cairo, Obama, after once again mentioning "mutual respect," said that "any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." Whereas this sounds like an unprecedented admission by a sitting US president, it's important to remember what Bush said to Charlie Gibson back in 2002 during an ABC News interview: "Matter of fact, I said this in a press conference, that it's the sovereign right of Iran to have civilian nuclear power, and I agree, and I believe that."

As Iran Affairs' Cyrus Safdari points out, "Arguably, Bush's statement is more sweeping than Obama's...compare 'may have some right' to 'has a sovereign right'." He continues,
In any case, Iran's absolute and unqualified and unquestionable right to access the full nuclear fuel cycle is based on international law and not for Obama or Bush to decide. Iran has the same rights to nuclear technology (or any other technology) as Japan, Argentina, Brazil, the USA...

Nor is it up to Iran to "prove that its aspirations are peaceful" (code words for "must give up enrichment and forever rely on us to power their economy".) Iran has signed the NPT and after years of inspections, no evidence has been found of any weapons program. The burden is therefore on Iran's accusers to prove their allegations, and not vice versa.
Meanwhile, not only is Iran's nuclear program legal, it is under heavy scrutiny by the IAEA. Just recently, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh, confirmed Tehran's continued cooperation with the UN nuclear agency while at the same time it continues its uranium enrichment activities. He told reporters, “After six years of intrusive and robust inspection and issuance of 24 reports, the director general has once again reported to the world that there is no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material or case of prohibitive nuclear activities.“

Nevertheless, Obama presented Iran on Sunday with a "clear choice" of halting its nuclear and missile activity or facing increased isolation.

Maybe the US just doesn't like Ahmadinejad, what with his deliberately being mistranslated and intentionally misquoted by Western media. Blamed for threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" (an idiom that doesn't even exist in Farsi), Ahmadinejad is constantly called a Holocaust denier for questioning why the horrific Nazi genocide of European Jews resulted in the violent displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Ahmadinejad has never threatened to attack Israel, but rather hopes that the people of Palestine can all - Jews, Christians, and Muslims - vote for whatever type of government system they are to live under. Ahmadinejad's willingness to bring up issues pertaining to Zionism without worrying about the delicate sensibilities of Western audiences has made him a pariah.

Obviously, it is seldom remembered that, in 2001, the former Iranian president and putative moderate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is now heavily supporting Mousavi's run for office, declared that, theoretically, although Israel would be destroyed by an atomic bomb, the Muslim world would only be damaged by one, opining that "such a scenario is not inconceivable." Nevertheless, the LA Times noted back in 2006, "four years later, when Rafsanjani was running for president, Washington and its European allies were eagerly hoping that he would win."

Still, hopes are that Mousavi will be more tactful in his discussion of Zionism and Israel's continued reliance on exploiting the horrors of the Holocaust for its own existential validation. Recently, when asked about his views on the Holocaust, Mousavi said: "Killing innocent people is condemned. The way the issue [Holocaust] was put forward [by Ahmadinejad] was incorrect," but continued in a manner almost identical to the incumbent president, "Of course the question could be that why Palestinians should be punished for a crime committed by Germans?"

As millions of Iranians flood to the polls today to vote, it may become clear that a vote for Ahmadinejad is more a vote for continued Iranian resistance to US influence and hegemony in the region, whereas a vote for Mousavi is a vote for possible reconciliation based on Iranian fears, American demands, and Israeli paranoia and deception.

And so, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

*****

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama's Cairo Speech, Part II
Electile Dysfunction, or Timing is Everything!

While endless analysis of Obama's nuanced words in Cairo is being conducted, it may be wise to examine when Obama chose to deliver his speech to the 3,000 invited guests at Cairo University and millions more worldwide.

Obama's overtures to the Muslim world come as the Middle East is poised for two important elections in the next week - one in Lebanon on June 7th, the other in Iran on June 12th.

Analyst Rannie Amiri explains that "due to the Lebanon’s complex, sectarian-based political framework, understanding the mechanics and dynamics behind its upcoming parliamentary vote is more complicated" than that of Iran's presidential election. There are two main political coalitions in Lebanon, dubbed March 8 and March 14. Amiri clarifies:

The March 8 Alliance is named after the date of a massive 2005 Beirut rally organized by Hezbollah that expressed opposition to its disarmament, support for Syria, and resistance to Israel. The coalition is primarily comprised of Hezbollah, Nabih Berri’s Amal party, and the secular Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of General Michel Aoun. Unlike Nasrallah and Berri who are Shia Muslims, Aoun is a Maronite Christian and thus draws support from this and other Christian constituencies.

The March 14 Alliance is also named after the date of a huge 2005 Beirut demonstration, but one decidedly anti-Syrian. It occurred exactly one month after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and heralded the beginning of the “Cedar Revolution.” This ultimately led to the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon after 29 years. March 14 is the current Western-backed, ruling coalition and is principally comprised of Sunni, Druze, and Christian parties. It is led Saad Hariri, billionaire son of Rafiq, and his Future Movement forms its largest bloc.
While the March 8 coalition wields veto power over cabinet decisions as part of the power-sharing agreement reached through the May 2008 Doha Accord and holds 58 seats in Lebanon's National Assembly, the March 14 alliance has 70 seats. Whereas Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has encouraged a stable, unified Lebanese government that represents the will of the people, saying, "...it is in the interest of Lebanon and its stability that there is understanding and partnership among Lebanese in running their country's affairs,” his opponent, Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, remarked coldly, "We will not take part in the government if the March 8 Alliance wins the elections..."

It is suggested that there are only about 30 contested seats, and therefore, "March 8 need only win an additional seven to gain the parliamentary majority." Were this to happen, it would be a frustrating turn of events for the United States, Israel, and their Middle Eastern allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, further shifting popular representation in Lebanon against Western influence and toward continued imperial and colonial resistence.

As such, the stakes are high for the Obama Administration. In the past few weeks, both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden have dropped by Beirut in order to lend their support to the March 14 faction and assure the Lebanese voters that the United States will not interfere with the upcoming elections. Oh, the irony. Clinton called for an election "fair and free of outside interference" and the White House explained that Biden's visit was meant "to reinforce the United States' support for an independent and sovereign Lebanon."

Hezbollah stated that the surprise visits by the top ranking US officials raised "strong suspicion and amounted to a clear and detailed interference in Lebanon's affairs." This fear appears to be well-founded considering the US view that continued financial and military assistance to Lebanon would be contingent on which Lebanese political faction wins on Sunday.

After meeting with Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, Biden stated, "I assure you we stand with you to guarantee a sovereign, secure Lebanon, with strong institutions" and that "the election of leaders committed to the rule of law and economic reform opens the door to lasting growth and prosperity as it will here in Lebanon." Nevertheless, Biden said that the US "will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates."

Parliamentarian Hassan Fadlallah, who is aligned with Hezbollah, was clear about his party's feelings regarding the Biden visit. "It appears that this visit is part of a US bid to supervise the electoral campaign of a Lebanese party which feels threatened politically...in light of the expected outcome of the legislative vote," he said.

Not suprisingly, neither Clinton nor Biden mentioned the numerous arrests of pro-Western Lebanese MPs on charges of spying for Israel, as well as the widespread use of voter fraud to tip the scales against Hezbollah. As American journalist Franklin Lamb reports,
Longtime Hezbollah Shia opponent, Ahmad al-As’ad has set up an anti-Hezbollah Shia organization called the Lebanese Option Gathering and has fielded 19 candidates against Hezbollah. He openly admits getting a large quotient of Saudi support to compete against Hezbollah in the south and the Bekaa and is thought to be allied with the pro-US Hariri team. As’ad knows his group cannot win and that the overwhelming number of Shia will vote for Hezbollah. His goal is not so much to get voters to vote against Hezbollah, but to keep them from voting for Hezbollah. Then when the votes are counted, Israel and the anti-Hezbollah centers can declare that “Hezbollah is losing support among its base, because it got fewer votes than in 2005 etc...”

To make this happen, As’ad operatives having been “renting” Voter ID Cards for up to $1000 each. The cards are turned over in exchange for $1000 and are to be returned on Monday June 8 after the votes are counted.
Meanwhile, in Iran, tensions are mounting as the country gears up for its tenth presidential election next week. The four candidates were vetted from a staggering 475 registered applicants - 433 men and 42 women - by the twelve member Guardians Council, tasked with scrutinizing the qualifications of candidates and approving their ability to handle the country’s affairs. While the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Secretary of State Expediency Council and former chief of Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corps Mohsen Rezaei are running on conservative and traditionalist platforms, former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi is being promoted as a "moderate" reformist candidate. The only real challenge to Ahmadinejad's re-election comes from former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who is campaigning as a “reformist who upholds the principles“ of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mousavi has been gaining support in urban areas while Ahmadinejad has rural backing locked in his favor. Mousavi has stated his commitment to the Iranian Constitution while also promoting increased access to information and a more conciliatory foreign policy. In a recent televised broadcast, he said that Iran "should move towards a state in which the government is bound to provide the citizens with any information - Military and security information should be the only exceptions," continuing that Iran's hopes for further development "is not possible without the freedom of the media and the press."

On the foreign policy front, Mousavi has held firm that the Iranian nuclear program will proceed lawfully, promising that "all the achievements, approaches and progress that have been made should not be abandoned." He articulated his desire for international diplomacy over the nuclear program, stating, "There are two issues regarding our nuclear program: the first is the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, which is in our national interests and thus cannot be abandoned. The second issue is what some countries say about possible diversions in our nuclear program. This is what we are ready to discuss with other countries."

With respect to Iran's tense relationship with the United States, Mousavi sees the new Obama Administration to be a departure from the aggressive rhetoric of the Bush past. "The US has changed its tone," he said. "Starting relations with the US is not a taboo, should they practically change their stance." This statement is consistent with the messages of Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who have both called for the US to act differently in the international arena, rather than just talking about it. Mousavi showed his tempered approach to foreign affairs - a contrast to the consistently confident posture of Ahmadinejad - by saying, "Iran is not a friend of the US, but America is an influential country in the world with great economic and military capabilities. It is right that we are a powerful nation, but our power should not lead us to act unreasonably. We can not face the US alone."

Ahmadinejad, too, has advocated for diplomacy during the campaign. "Washington's political echelons have relentlessly signaled their willingness for a dialogue with Iran's government officials," he said in late May, adding, "If the talks are held on an equal footing, we have no objection. We would like to discus a whole range of international issues." Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad was proud to mention the fact that he never resorted to "currying favor with Western countries" in order to succeed in his goals as the Iranian executive.

As debates and campaigns heat up, violence has also been introduced to the election environment. The Washington Post reported that "Five people died Monday in an arson attack on an Iranian bank in the southeastern city of Zahedan, where a suicide bombing in a Shiite mosque last week killed 25 people." The Iranian government has said that the Islamist separatist group Jundullah, which claimed responsibility for the mosque bombing and regularly carries out attacks and kidnappings in the region, receives support from the United States and is linked to al-Qaeda.

Khamenei called for stability and solidarity in the face of such needless violence. "Shiite and Sunni brothers, various ethnic groups and political and social currents should observe unity in matters related to elections or matters not related to elections," he said Monday, adding that the bombing "is awash with Israeli and US fingerprints." Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying, "The extremist groups in the region are linked with some foreign forces in Afghanistan," while Jalal Sayah, deputy provincial governor of the Sistan-Baluchistan province that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that at least three people have been arrested with regards to the terrorist attacks, adding, "According to the information obtained they planted the bomb at the behest of the United States and its allies."

So what does all this Western interference in upcoming Middle Eastern elections have to do with Obama's speech in Cairo?

A lot.

In one of the strongest parts of his speech, Obama discussed democracy and his belief in the value of self-determination. He stated his commitment "to governments that reflect the will of the people," and claimed that "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election." He continued,
...I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere...America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people."
Obviously, the United States did not recognize the legitimacy of the crushing Hamas win over Fatah in the US-backed and closely monitored 2006 Palestinian elections. Ever since its parliamentary victory, Hamas has been isolated and demonized by the West. If the operative word in Obama's statement seems to be "peaceful," he should also turn his sights on Israel.

The far-right Israeli government, lead by Netanyahu - and made more dangerous by the appointment of fascist Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister - is not subject to Obama's dictates. While Hamas is told to "play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people" by putting an end to violence, recognizing past agreements, and recognizing Israel's right to exist, the same is not demanded of Israel. The billions of dollars in US aid to Israel is not in jeopardy of being cut off depending on who runs the so-called "Jewish state." The support of the United States, militarily, financially, and diplomatically will not be re-evaluated due to Israel's continued aggression against Palestinians, threats to Iran, denial of Palestinian rights (both within Israel and in the Occupied Territories), refusal of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state, and clear contempt for international law that prohibits all settlement activity on occupied land, collective punishment, discriminatory laws, and the construction of the Apartheid Wall that separates Palestinian communities from their own land.

So, while President Obama promotes representative government in a region severely lacking in democracy, American officials, operatives, and proxies are attempting to undermine the integrity of two elections. Their efforts to influence the political outcome in both Lebanon and Iran in order to wind up with more pro-Western leadership seem to be anathema to Obama's own feelings about following "the will of the people."

Obama's Cairo Speech, Part I:
A New Beginning or The Old Hypocrisy?

On Thursday June 4, 2009 - the day before the 42nd anniversary of Israel's conquest of remaining Palestinian land, two days before the 65th anniversary of D-Day, and 425 years to the day that Sir Walter Raleigh established the first English colony in the New World on Roanoke Island - President Barack Obama delivered a much-anticipated speech that many hoped would be an unprecedented historical game-changer for US foreign policy and demonstrate a fundamental shift in America's relationship with the so-called "Muslim world."

Thousands of words could easily be written about whether or not Obama met or dashed these hopes in his wide-ranging speech at Cairo University. Did he rise to the challenge of the century with respect, grace, and compassion? Or did he take the occasion to endorse continued Israeli hegemony, American imperialism, and Western power over indigenous people and cultures?

Are we to laud his Qur'anic quotations, his denouncement of negative Islamic stereotypes, his use of the terms colonialism, occupation, and Palestine? Should we marvel at his understanding that, as a direct result of Western imperialism and the Cold War, many Muslims were "denied rights and opportunities" and that Muslim countries were "treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations"? Should we be thrilled by his acknowledgement that Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has the inalienable "right to access peaceful nuclear power" even though he never mentioned Israel by name when saying that "no single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons" and pointing out "that some countries have weapons" while "others do not." What about his extraordinary admission that "the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government"?

Should we dance the hope-and-change two-step because Obama acknowledged the "undeniable" suffering, displacement, dehumanization, and "legitimate aspirations" for dignity, opportunity, and statehood of the Palestinian people? Should we spend time comparing and contrasting the adjectives "unbreakable" with "intolerable"? Should we be encouraged by Obama's reference to Israel's "right to exist" that deliberately didn't include the usual ethnocentric qualifier, "as a Jewish state"? What about his bold rejection of on-going illegal Israeli settlement activity? His association of the Palestinian resistance to occupation and desire for "full and equal rights" to the African-American struggle against the brutality of slavery and the "humiliation of segregation"? His juxtaposition of the Palestinian narrative with that of Apartheid South Africa?

What are we to make of Obama's soaring rhetoric and inspiring calls for unified humanity? What about the staggering hypocrisy? How passionately should it be pointed out that, as Obama declared his "relentless" commitment to "confront violent extremists" who threaten the American people and his outright rejection of "the killing of innocent men, women, and children," unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, adorned with the stars and stripes, were screeching through the skies over Afghanistan and Pakistan, perhaps adding to the appalling death toll already racked up by the young Obama Administration. Should people be reminded that, just one month ago, these murderous air strikes took the lives of over 120 Afghan civilians in the village of Granai in a single day? What about the fact that, in his first 100 days, the new president has managed to create over two million Pakistani refugees?

While mentioning how the events of 9/11 traumatized the American people, claiming that the United States of America is not some "self-interested empire," and declaring that the actions of "extremists" are "irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam," Obama omitted any mention of the 700 US military bases that dot the globe or the four million Iraqi refugees created by the US invasion of that country. He said that al Qaeda has "killed people of different faiths - but more than any other, they have killed Muslims." Obama then didn't mention the one million-plus dead Iraqis that Al Qaeda didn't kill over the past six years, the same million people the United States did kill.

Obama quoted the Qur'an by saying that "whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind" and that "whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind." So then, how many mankinds have the US military obliterated in its attempt to protect Americans half a world away?

Of 9/11, Obama declared, "The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with."

Consider this: if the word "America" were changed to "Palestine" and "al Qaeda" to the "Israeli military," the president would have been talking about Israel's devastation of Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, bombardment of Gaza this past winter, and stated determination to attack Iran. Of course, these connections were not made by Obama.

In one of the most telling sections of his fifty minute speech, Obama stated that "Palestinians must abandon violence...It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered."

Obama's plea for peaceful resistance and denouncement of violence is certainly commendable, especially for a US president. But something doesn't quite seem right. He addressed these remarks only to Palestinians, once again affirming the propagandistic narrative that Arabs engage in immoral terror while Israel acts only in necessary self-defense. This is absurd. Not a single word was said about Israel's deadly attacks on the locked up and starving population of Gaza, during which the Israeli military killed over 1,400 Palestinians - 85% of whom were civilians - including over 400 children. Obama didn't feel the need to condemn the use of US-supplied missiles and bombs, white phosphorus and DIME, tanks, bulldozers, drones, and bullets to murder the sleeping children and terrified elderly of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Jabalya. Apparently, Obama doesn't feel as if Israel surrendered its moral authority by keeping Palestinians under military occupation for a quarter century, for arresting and sometimes lethally shooting those who peacefully protest against the continued annexation of Palestinian land (17 Palestinians protesting the Wall have been killed by Israeli soldiers since 2004), or for keeping thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons for years without charges or trials. Israelis who protest their state's aggressive and racist behavior are vilified; the courageous youths who refuse to serve in the occupation are imprisoned.

Nor was the irony more shameful as when Obama asked the "Palestinians to focus on what they can build," without adding that, during the Gaza assault, Israel destroyed over 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings, 20 mosques, and many schools, universities, and hospitals. Israel attacked ambulances, UN installations and shelters, food warehouses, factories, and energy plants. Clearly, although Obama called for an end to illegal settlement activity in the West Bank (and made no mention of dismantling existing Israeli colonies and outposts which are each and every one of them illegal under international law), the continued building and maintenance of Israeli checkpoints, watchtowers, Apartheid Wall, and segregated bypass highways that bisect Palestinian land was not questioned.

True, Obama did declare his support for a Palestinian state and called for Israel to recognize Palestine's "right to exist." He also mentioned Israel's stifling occupation of the West Bank and the suffocating blockade and economic siege of Gaza by saying:

...Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
These are fine words from the most powerful person on the planet and it should be the hope of all advocates of human rights and international law that Obama follows up these demands and suggestions with action. There is always the fear that lofty goals and pretty speeches serve to strengthen Israeli means to meet American ends. But, with Obama's overtures in Cairo, there may now be the possibility of a better start.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Laws of the Land?
Over the Shills and Far Away

In response to my latest article, a comment was posted by "Jack Shattuck" (probably a shill, but whatever) on OpEd News. Naturally, I replied.

Posted below is first his comment, followed by my own response. Enjoy.

*****

Israeli right to settle in Palestine under international law

posted by Jack Shattuck

The San Remo Resolution of April 25, 1920, the Mandate for Palestine conferred on Britain by the Principal Allied Powers and confirmed by the League of Nations unanimously on July 24, 1922, the Franco-British Boundary Convention of December 23, 1920, and the Anglo-American Convention of December 3, 1924 respecting the Mandate for Palestine all authorized the entire area of Palestine as ripe for settlement as the Jewish National Home. The Mandate for Palestine was subsequently incorporated as still binding under Article 80 of the UN Charter.

The San Remo Resolution on Palestine became Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres which was intended to end the war with Turkey, but though this treaty was never ratified by the Turkish National Government of Kemal Ataturk, the Resolution retained its validity as an independent act of international law when it was inserted into the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states.

The phrase “in Palestine”, another expression found in the Balfour Declaration that generated much controversy, referred to the whole country, including both Cisjordan and Transjordan (today's state of Jordan). It was absurd to imagine that this phrase could be used to indicate that only a part of Palestine was reserved for the future Jewish National Home, since both were created simultaneously and used interchangeably, with the term “Palestine” pointing out the geographical location of the future independent Jewish state. Had “Palestine” meant a partitioned country with certain areas of it set aside for Jews and others for Arabs, that intention would have been stated explicitly at the time the Balfour Declaration was drafted and approved and later adopted by the Principal Allied Powers. No such allusion was ever made in the prolonged discussions that took place in fashioning the Declaration and ensuring it international approval.

The decisive moment of change came on May 14, 1948 when the representatives of the Jewish people in Palestine and of the Zionist Organization proclaimed the independence of a Jewish state whose military forces held only a small portion of the territory originally allocated for the Jewish National Home. The rest of the country was in the illegal possession of neighboring Arab states who had no sovereign rights over the areas they illegally occupied, that were historically a part of Palestine and the Land of Israel and were not meant for Arab independence or the creation of another Arab state. It is for this reason that Israel, which inherited the sovereign rights of the Jewish people over Palestine, has the legal right to keep all the lands it liberated in the Six Day War that were either included in the Jewish National Home during the time of the Mandate or formed integral parts of the Land of Israel that were illegally detached from the Jewish National Home when the boundaries of Palestine were fixed in 1920 and 1923. For the same reason, Israel cannot be accused by anyone of “occupying” lands under international law that were clearly part of the Jewish National Home or the Land of Israel. Thus the whole debate today that centers on the question of whether Israel must return “occupied territories” to their alleged Arab owners in order to obtain peace is one of the greatest falsehoods of international law and diplomacy.

In the Anglo-American Convention of 1924, the United States recognized all the rights granted to the Jewish people under the Mandate, in particular the right of Jewish settlement anywhere in Palestine or the Land of Israel. The 1924 Convention was ratified by the US Senate and proclaimed by President Calvin Coolidge on December 5, 1925. This convention has terminated, but not the rights granted under it to the Jewish people.

That above authentic international law has been replaced by an ersatz international law composed of illegal UN Resolutions. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 are acts of genuine international law, but they have no direct application or relevance to the legal status of Judea, Samaria and Gaza which are integral territories of the Jewish National Home and the Land of Israel under the sovereignty of the State of Israel. These acts would apply only to the Arab occupation of Jewish territories, as occurred between 1948 and 1967, and not to the case of Israeli rule over the Jewish homeland. The hoax of the Palestinian people and their alleged rights to the Land of Israel as well as the farce that results from citing pseudo-international law to support their fabricated case must be exposed and brought to an end.

*****

...to which I replied:

Your Unfortunate Decision to Get Involved

My dear Mr. Shattuck,

It's lovely to find supporters of colonialism are alive and well and posting comments on OpEd News. Whereas I could go point by point and dissect your bizarre "legal" justifications for the dispossession, displacement, and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people, I'm not going to waste my time.

What I will say, however, is that your legal justifications are based solely on the premise that European colonialism and mandate control in the Near and Middle East was legal, valid, and altogether a-okay. You reference declarations, conventions, and resolutions made by one group of people (European and American colonists and imperialists) on behalf of another group of people (Zionist Jews of Europe) to deny an indigenous third group of people (Palestinian Arabs) of their rights to self-determination and sovereignty. Your arcane political proclivities are far better suited for a century ago, in the company of such notable disciplines as eugenics and racial hygiene theory. My sincere condolences about time-travel not yet being possible.

You seem to argue that the European sectioning of foreign lands is somehow justified and legal - that native land can be given away with the flick of a quill in the British Parliament. You fail to mention anything about The Great Game, or even the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, which effectively sought to slice up Arab land according to colonial whim and power sharing among European powers, namely Britain and France. Even by your inane standards of international law (which seem to be about as complex as holding a piece of paper signed by some white guy and shrugging your shoulders), the Sykes-Picot Agreement would be of vital importance.

Documents from the British National Archives, later declassified, reveal certain intentions which you leave unmentioned. For example, it becomes clear that promises of Arab independence were made to Hussein bin Ali (Sharif of Mecca) with regards to Palestine, in particular, by British officials such as Lord Kitchener among others. For instance, the minutes of a December 5, 1918 Cabinet Eastern Committee meeting clearly discuss the issue of Palestine. In attendance at the meeting were Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon (chair), General Jan Smuts, Lord Robert Cecil, T. E. Lawrence, General Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and representatives of the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Admiralty, the Wax Office, the Treasury, and your beloved Lord Balfour.

(Lord Arthur James Balfour was, of course, a notorious anti-semite. Sponsor of the 1905 Aliens Act intended in part to restrict Jewish immigration to Great Britain, Balfour was widely maligned in the British Jewish community. In fact, Balfour's later pro-Zionist efforts were decried by a Jewish member of the Cabinet as "anti-semitic in result.")

Anyway, during the Cabinet meeting in 1918, Lord Curzon stated:
"The Palestine position is this. If we deal with our commitments, there is first the general pledge to Hussein in October 1915, under which Palestine was included in the areas as to which Great Britain pledged itself that they should be Arab and independent in the future...Great Britain and France - Italy subsequently agreeing - committed themselves to an international administration of Palestine in consultation with Russia, who was an ally at that time...A new feature was brought into the case in November 1917, when Mr Balfour, with the authority of the War Cabinet, issued his famous declaration to the Zionists that Palestine 'should be the national home of the Jewish people, but that nothing should be done - and this, of course, was a most important proviso - to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.' Those, as far as I know, are the only actual engagements into which we entered with regard to Palestine." [emphasis mine]
Furthermore, an appendix of a secret memorandum, prepared by the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office and used by the British delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, clearly held:
"The whole of Palestine...lies within the limits which His Majesty's Government have pledged themselves to Sherif Husain [sic] that they will recognize and uphold the independence of the Arabs."

What you fail to mention in your dubious catalogue of decontextualized European and American accords of the early 20th Century is that, at the time of the Balfour Declaration – which is seen as some sort of legal victory and precedent for the legitimacy of Zionism by Israel apologists – the British government had absolutely no jurisdiction over the region in question. There was no Mandate, no international treaty or law granting the administrative auspices of Palestine to a member of the British government. The Balfour Declaration was not a binding agreement of any kind – it was merely a letter drafted by Lord Alfred Milner, sent to Lord Rothschild, expressing Balfour's pro-Zionist intentions at the bidding of future Israeli president Chaim Weizmann. On its own, it has no place in international law.

Not only this, but it directly contradicts (and does not take precedence over) the Anglo-French Declaration of November 1918, which pledged Great Britain's and France's commitment to "the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed" under the Ottoman rule and assistance in "the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations." The Declaration agreed "to further and assist in the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia which have already been liberated by the Allies, as well as in those territories which they are engaged in securing and recognising these as soon as they are actually established."

The document continues:
"In pursuit of those intentions, France and Great Britain agree Far from wishing to impose on the populations of those regions any particular institutions they are only concerned to ensure by their support and by adequate assistance the regular working of Governments and administrations freely chosen by the populations themselves; to secure impartial and equal justice for all; to facilitate the economic development of the country by promoting and encouraging local initiative; to foster the spread of education..." [emphasis mine]
Your argument rests on the assumption that Zionism had the legal support required to disenfranchise an entire people, a native population, and transfer sovereignty rights over to newly-arrived European immigrants of Jewish descent. This is patently ridiculous as can easily be surmised by the above documentation. Self-determination for the Arab populations of the Near and Middle East were secured in legal documentation; the "Jewish National Home" was suggested in personal correspondence.

Even Balfour himself understood the problematic incongruity his own Declaration created. As he wrote to Lord Curzon:
"The contradiction between the letters of the Covenant [of the League of Nations] and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose to even go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country though the American Commission is going through the form of asking what they are.

The Four Great Powers [Britain, France, Italy and the United States] are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, and future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right." [emphasis mine]
Clearly, those who favor colonialism, racial supremacy, and ethnic cleansing can stand over there with Balfour, Jabotinsky, and Shattuck. I'll be over here with the supporters of self-determination, equality, and human rights such as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, and Hannah Arendt.

Jack, you cite the precedent of the 1920 San Remo Conference and the resulting resolution, and yet you completely fail to actually look at the stipulations of said resolution, namely the specific references to the indigenous population of Palestine. The document agreed,
"To accept the terms of the Mandates Article...with reference to Palestine, on the understanding that there was inserted in the process-verbal an undertaking by the Mandatory Power that this would not involve the surrender of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the non-Jewish communities in Palestine..." [emphasis mine]
And also that:
"The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." [emphasis mine]


By no stretch of the imagination or the English language can these documents, arrogantly put forth by imperial and colonial powers in the attempt to divvy up the Near and Middle East between them, be regarded as the legal justification for denying the population of their own human, civil, and religious rights in deference to the Zionist project. Your clear misunderstanding, or deliberately selective reading, of these resolutions reveals your racist agenda and determination to falsify information in order to promote the ethnic cleansing, aggressive land grabs, and cultural supremacy essential to the Zionist cause. (This is clearly evident when you claim the 1920 Franco-British Boundary Agreement and subsequent 1923 caveats to be universally accepted and unchanged delineations of national borders – they are not. The boundaries established were based on colonial Mandate administration and have nothing to do with the recognized borders of future, independent states. Accordingly, you should always remember that the state of Israel was unilaterally declared independent in 1948 by a minority, immigrant population and still has no internationally recognized borders.)

Your prejudice is made even more obvious with your purposeful omission of the 1919 King-Crane Commission from your absurd analysis. The Commission, an officially US government-sponsored investigation into the desire of the indigenous Arab population of the Near East for self-determination and sovereignty following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, was conducted in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and what was then Anatolia. The Commission was created directly by President Woodrow Wilson, who was unsatisfied by the backroom dealings of the European powers. The resulting report concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Arab majority preferred an American mandate (as opposed to British or French, due to the well-known hegemonic intentions and nefarious colonialism of those European powers) with a democratically elected constituent assembly. Those interviewed believed that, in order to achieve self-sufficiency and independence, the United States was their best bet given the circumstances. (Oh, how things have changed!)

The Commission, in hopes of finding the most equitable and moral solution to the Near Eastern power vacuum, found that securing egalitarian self-determination for the native populations of what it regarded as "Greater Syria" (namely, Syria, Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza in today's terms) was of utmost importance and based its recommendations with that in mind.

With specific regards to the Zionist enterprise, already well underway, the report candidly emphasized that the only possible way to establish a Jewish state – a colonial entity reliant on enforcing a political ideology of ethnic supremacy and cultural dominance – would be through violent and military means. As a result, the Commission dismissed the moral and peaceful viability of a Jewish state, stating clearly what everyone knows: that the Zionist project demanded and anticipated "a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants to Palestine".

To be clear, the Commission found nothing problematic with continued, or even increased, legal Jewish immigration to Palestine (as part of "Greater Syria") as long as the new immigrants would regard themselves as equal citizens living alongside the native population. Still, to avoid all misunderstanding, it warned that "the erection of such a Jewish State" could never "be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."

The European colonial powers heeded none of the warnings, recommendations, or desires of the indigenous populations it hoped to rule.

Consequently, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George – who later, in 1936, referred to Adolph Hitler as "the greatest living German" - and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, drafted the provisions of the San Remo Resolution and the Treaty of Sèvres, enabling Britain to seize mandated control over Palestine and Iraq, while "giving" Syria to France (which had already ruled Lebanon since 1918).

The findings of the King-Crane Commission were deliberately suppressed and kept from the public after its completion. In 1922, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution supporting the establishment of a "Jewish National Home" in Palestine, echoing the sentiment of the Balfour Declaration. Two months later, the Commission report was released.

At the time, Edward Mandell House, President Wilson's aid, in a letter that predicted the result of the pending implementation of the suggestions of the Balfour Declaration, wrote: "It is all bad and I told Balfour so. They [the British] are making [the Middle East] a breeding place for future war."

Balfour himself knew his Declaration didn't jive with the formal treaties and resolutions that followed. He even wrote to Curzon:
"What I have never been able to understand is how [the Balfour Declaration] can be harmonized with the [Anglo-French] declaration, the Covenant [of the League of Nations], or the instruction to the [King-Crane] Commission of Enquiry."
It should also be noted that, even though you claim the Balfour Declaration gave full settlement rights to Jewish immigrants in all of Cisjordan (Palestine) and Transjordan (modern day Jordan), you are wrong. The area East of the Jordan River had long been included in the area promised to Sharif Hussein as early as 1915. Whereas Palestine and Transjordan remained a single administrative unit under British control until 1946, this was a matter of administrative convenience for the Mandate and in no way indicated any recognition of Zionist claims to the East Bank of the Jordan. In 1922, Transjordan became an autonomous political entity, formalized by an new clause added to the governing charter of the Mandate of Palestine. It subsequently became independent in 1928.

Your willful and intentional distortion of the truth is even more apparent in your refusal to include the vital 1922 White Paper in your analysis. The Paper served to clarify the British view and interpretation of the Balfour Declaration. The results are perfectly clear to anyone who takes the time to read them. Among its findings, the Paper states:
"Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become "as Jewish as England is English." His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded 'in Palestine.' In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims 'the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development.'" [emphasis mine]
Therefore, Jack, your assertion that it would be "absurd to imagine that this phrase could be used to indicate that only a part of Palestine was reserved for the future Jewish National Home" is wholly contrary to the British government's own determination.

The White Paper also states that "the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status." [emphasis mine] As such, when you claim that the state of Israel "inherited the sovereign rights of the Jewish people over Palestine," you are, quite simply, lying.

Using these arguments not only undermines your own ethnocentric motivation, but also reveals your supporting materials to be insufficient at best and totally disingenuous at worst.

(Incidentally, you should really try compiling your own research in the future, rather than cutting and pasting the bigoted writing of hacks like the laughably propagandistic Ariel Center for Policy Research's Howard Grief, who endorse racist policies in order to erase the well-established historical and cultural narratives of the Palestinian people in their ugly attempt to make reality disappear altogether so that Zionist apologists can feel less guilty about promoting and justifying ethnic cleansing and the aggressive, illegal, and immoral seizure of Eretz Yisrael. To pass off numerous paragraphs of Grief's unfortunate Policy Paper No. 147 as your own writing isn't just embarrassing, it's straight–up plagiarism. Cool it.)

Amazingly, you also attempt to use the Anglo-American Convention in defense of Zionist expansionism and land theft. Ratified by the US Senate and approved by President Calvin Coolidge, the Convention, you say, reaffirmed American support for the stipulations of the Mandate and encouraged Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Again, you fail to provide any sort of context for your documentation. The Convention was approved the year following the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924 which placed severe limitations on foreign immigration to America and established quotas based on national and ethnic origin. Widely regarded as legislation put forth due to the growing nativism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism in the US at the time, the Act was vehemently opposed by most American Jews. Do you not find it curious that the same administration that attempted to resist the increasing Jewish immigration to this country was more than happy to support immigration to a land it had absolutely no control over, half-way across the world? Your consistent use of citing racist legislation for your own propagandistic purposes is quite unimpressive.

Israel remains an unjust and expansionist remnant of aggressive colonialism in a largely post-colonial modern world. It is people like you, Mr. Shattuck, that stymie any advancement toward justice and actively seek to thwart the promotion of human rights and equality for all people. You spread lies and falsified historical references in order to proliferate disinformation and deflect reasonable criticism of the Zionist project and its horrific consequences.

Unfortunately for you and people like you, there are facts to back up the most basic truths in this world. And those facts will never be in your favor.

Hmm, I guess I did wind up dissecting your awful justifications. Go figure.

*****