Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Phantom Menace:
Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program

"To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary."
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Facts rarely get in the way of American and Israeli fear-mongering and jingoism, especially when it comes to anti-Iran propaganda. For nearly thirty years now, U.S. and Israeli politicians and analysts, along with some of their European allies, have warned that Iranian nuclear weapons capability is just around the corner and that such a possibility would not only be catastrophic for Israel with its 400 nuclear warheads and state-of-the-art killing power supplied by U.S. taxpayers, but that it would also endanger regional dictatorships, Europe, and even the United States.

If these warnings are to be believed, Iran is only a few years away from unveiling a nuclear bomb...and has been for the past three decades. Fittingly, let's begin in 1984.

An April 24, 1984 article entitled "'Ayatollah' Bomb in Production for Iran" in United Press International referenced a Jane's Intelligence Defense Weekly report warning that Iran was moving "very quickly" towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986.

In response, a U.S. Department of State spokesman was reportedly quick to point out the official government belief that "it would take at least two to three years to complete construction of the reactors at Bushehr," adding that the light water power reactors at the Bushehr plant "are not particularly well-suited for a weapons program." He also noted that "we have no evidence of Iranian construction of other facilities that would be necessary to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel."

Two months later, on June 27, 1984, in an article entitled "Senator says Iran, Iraq seek N-Bomb," Minority Whip of the U.S. Senate Alan Cranston was quoted as claiming Iran was a mere seven years away from being able to build its own nuclear weapon.

In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title "Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb," in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.

The next year, in 1988, Iraq issued warnings that Tehran was at the nuclear threshold.

Citing a recent Jane's Defense Weekly assessment, the trade journal Nuclear Developments reports on May 15, 1990, that Chile, Iran, South Korea, and Libya are already capable of producing nuclear weapons.

A Los Angeles Times report from January 27, 1991 stated that officials in the George H.W. Bush administration and non-proliferation analysts "have grown increasingly worried" that Iran was engaged in "secret efforts to buy nuclear technology and build nuclear weapons." The report noted, however, "that any nuclear threat from Iran would be years, perhaps a decade, away," and quoted a "State Department official" as saying, "They're doing basic research and development. From a technical standpoint, they're very far away."

By late 1991, Congressional reports and CIA assessments maintained a "high degree of certainty that the government of Iran has acquired all or virtually all of the components required for the construction of two to three nuclear weapons."

On October 13, 1991, Cairo-based Al Ahram reports that Iran has purchased five tactical nuclear missiles from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Later reports claim Iran only bought three such warheads.

On October 31, 1991, Elaine Sciolino reported for The New York Times that "an American intelligence assessment has concluded that at least some of Iran's revolutionary leaders are intent on developing nuclear weapons." The report quotes Anthony Cordesman, a military expert and author of "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East," as saying, "There is no doubt that Iran is pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and seeking to obtain long-range missiles from North Korea and to develop them in Iran."

On November 21, 1991, The Los Angeles Times reported on testimony delivered by Assistant Secretary of State Edward P. Djerejian to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, during which the Bush administration official was said to be "convinced that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons," despite the fact that Iran had "opened its facilities to international inspection."

A January 18, 1992 report about nuclear proliferation in The Economist suggested that "Iran may have snapped up a couple of tactical nuclear warheads at bargain prices in the Central Asian arms bazaar."

A report by the U.S. House Republican Research Committee, released in early 1992, stated with "98 per cent certainty that Iran already had all [or virtually all] of the components required for two to three operational nuclear weapons made with parts purchased in the ex-Soviet Muslim republics," and suggested Iran would acquire these weapons by April 1992.

In March 1992, The Arms Control Reporter reported that Iran already had four nuclear weapons, which it had obtained from Russia. That same year, the CIA predicted that Iran was "making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," then later changed their estimate to 2003.

On March 26, 1992, The Jerusalem Report, noting that "Israel keeps a wary watch on Teheran's march to the Bomb," predicted that, "[b]y the year 2000, Iran will almost certainly have the Bomb."

In Congressional testimony delivered on March 27, 1992, then-Director of the CIA Robert Gates stated, "We judge that Tehran is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon capability. Barring significant technical input from abroad, however, the Iranians are not likely to achieve that goal before the year 2000."

According to The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith in an article published March 28, 1992, Gates told the panel that Iran was also engaged in "the development of poison gas warheads to place atop Scud missiles" and that "the country's 'relatively crude' chemical weapons program is expected to produce such warheads within a few years. 'We also suspect that Iran is working toward a biological warfare capability,' he said."

A May 1992 report in The European claims that "Iran has obtained at least two nuclear warheads out of a batch officially listed as 'missing from the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan.'"

On May 28, 1992, Agence France Press reported that Israeli president Chaim Herzog had warned of "attempts by Iran and its allies to spread fundamentalism" in former Soviet republics. Herzog added, "The threat is all the more real as some elements linked to this fundamentalism are trying to seize nuclear weapons. Fundamentalist extremism plus weapons of mass extinction are the recipe that is bound to lead to disaster."

On June 14, 1992, the Daily Mail reported on Israeli claims that "nuclear experts from the former Soviet Union are helping Iran to build atomic bombs," quoting a "top Israel defence official" as saying, "If nothing is done to stop the Iranians they are certain to have atom bombs within a few years."

The Washington Post reported on June 15, 1992, that Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger had said that unless "Iran's intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not 'disrupted,'" it would "become a nuclear power by the end of the decade."

On June 22, 1992, Ethan Bronner, reporting from Tel Aviv, wrote in The Boston Globe that Israeli "[i]ntelligence assessments here say that Iran will have nuclear weapons by the end of the decade."

On August 5, 1992, international wire services reported on a newly-release study by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center "warned that unless Western nations halt the flow of such [duel-use nuclear] technology, Iran is likely to produce its first nuclear bomb within five or six years."

Speaking on French television in October 1992, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned the international community that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999. Peres declared that Iran posed the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East "because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism."

The following month, on November 8, 1992, the New York Times reported that Israel was confident Iran would "become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped." A "senior army officer" in Israel told the paper that "the Iranians may have a full nuclear capability by the end of the decade." The Times stated, "For Israel, a sense that the region's nuclear clock is ticking."

After the November 1992 release of a new National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran "is making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," CIA head Robert Gates addressed the imminent threat in an interview with the Associated Press. "Is it a problem today?" he rhetorically asked, "probably not. But three, four, five years from now it could be a serious problem."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg's Anti-Boycott Bluster & Blunder

"The gradual abolition of the slave trade: or leaving of sugar by degrees in 1792"
by Isaac Cruikshank

Earlier this week, Indypendent journalist and frequent Mondoweiss contributor Alex Kane noted:
"As the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continues full-steam ahead in its efforts to force Israel to comply with international law, pro-Israel hawks are increasingly attempting to link the movement to anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany-era policies."
The latest example of this disingenuous and intellectually dishonest smear campaign comes (unsurprisingly) from Jeffrey Goldberg, the former IDF prison guard, unabashed warmonger, and Zionist apologist and propagandist, who recently cheered the New Israel Fund for, in his words, leaving the "BDS swamp."

Despite Goldberg's claim to be "running a campaign on this blog against the cheap deployment of Nazi imagery in argument-making," he does just that, stating that "it's a fair analogy" to liken the boycott of Israeli goods to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933, explaining that "the BDS movement, like no other anti-Israel propaganda campaign, has sent chills down the collective Jewish spine precisely because economic boycotts have been, throughout history, used to hurt Jews."

Kane, in his cogent response, accurately points out many of Goldberg's errors. For example, Kane notes that the BDS campaign is not a "European-centered campaign," as Goldberg writes, but rather is "a Palestinian-led civil society movement that has spread to the Western world." He also points out that Goldberg is "guilty of conflating Israel with Judaism, and Jews with Israelis," continuing:
"The BDS movement is not an economic boycott directed against Jews; it is a boycott movement directed against the State of Israel, which labels itself the Jewish State, because of its flagrant violations of international law and its continued occupation of Palestinian land."
As per the Nazi analogy, Kane writes that while "Nazi Germany instituted a blanket boycott...directed at a persecuted minority just because of their religious faith...[t]he BDS movement is targeting a state, asking Israel to comply with their obligations under international law, because of their unjust and oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people."

But this is not the limit of Goldberg's spurious claims and specious equivalency. What could - and should - also be addressed is Goldberg's blanket contention that "economic boycotts have been, throughout history, used to hurt Jews."

This statement follows Goldberg's pattern of labeling any and all human rights efforts as "anti-Semitic" whenever they happen to address war crimes, contempt for international law, rampant and aggressive discrimination, land and water theft, ethnic cleansing, and collective punishment routinely committed by the Israeli government and military and widely supported (or ignored, or justified) by the Israeli public.

Goldberg not only traffics in knee-jerk emotional blackmail, as usual - yelling "Nazi!" in a crowded blogosphere - but also relies on a very selective historical memory regarding the history of boycotts and campaigns to educate the public about ongoing injustice and mobilize it against such atrocities.

Even leaving the most obvious, and historically recent, connection of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa to the BDS call aside, Goldberg's contention still falls flat.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If Words Could Kill:
Those Bloodthirsty Americans and Their Death Threat Duplicity

"i want people to see the truth...regardless of who they are...because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public." - Bradley Manning

"Assassination is the extreme form of censorship." - George Bernard Shaw

Ever since WikiLeaks became a household name this past summer, following the release of 77,000 secret U.S. documents relating to the ongoing occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, many American politicians and pundits have been calling for blood. Despite then-top military commander General Stanley McChrystal's own admission in March of this year, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has "shot an amazing number of people" even though "none has ever proven to be a threat," the ire resulting from the activities of WikiLeaks is directed at the whistle-blowers themselves, rather than at those actually implicated in war crimes as shown by the leaked documents.

In their eternal allegiance to government secrecy, aggressive imperialism, and American exceptionalism, numerous WikiLeaks' critics have been outraged over the publication of U.S. government documents.  While accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of everything from espionage to terrorism to treason (Assange isn't a U.S. citizen), they hold him responsible for the deaths of both soldiers and civilians and have even publicly suggested and supported threats to assassinate him.

The U.S. State Department claimed that the release of classified cables would "at a at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" and Attorney General Eric Holder stated his belief that "national security of the United States has been put at risk. The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described these hysterical reactions to WikiLeaks release as "fairly significantly overwrought" due to the continuing slow and calculated release of over 251,000 previously secret and classified U.S. diplomatic cables (fewer than 1,500 cables have been released so far).  Still, there are increasing calls not only for Assange's indictment, but also explicitly for his murder.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Balfour and After:
Discussing the Declaration on NPR

Jonathan Schneer, an expert in British history and author of a new book about the Balfour Declaration, was the featured guest on today's Leonard Lopate Show on NPR. It was a very interesting and wide-ranging discussion that lasted about 30 minutes.

Here is Lopate's introduction:
November 2nd marked the 93rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the statement that put imperial support behind the aspirations of a small group of British Zionists in 1917. But, while the British were giving Jews a mandate to settle in Palestine, Prime Minister Lloyd George was secretly promising the land to the Ottoman Empire and some members of his government were simultaneously supporting the rise of Pan-Arabism. In his new book, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Jonathan Schneer, a specialist in modern British history at Georgia Tech, explores the complicated history behind the document.
Schneer says that the British government believed that issuing the Balfour Declaration would help them win the ongoing World War. He continues,
Essentially, the leader of British Zionism who was a Russian chemist named Chaim Weitzmann, who later becomes the first president of Israel, persuaded the British governing elite that Jews represented a very powerful, if subterranean, force in world affairs. And, having persuaded them of that, he persuaded them, as well, that most Jews were Zionists and he also warned them that Germany was courting Zionists, and therefore the British concluded, as Weitzmann wanted them to conclude, that they should make an offer to Zionists which would win their support and win it for the British in World War I, and so they promised them Palestine in the Balfour Declaration.
Schneer also points out early on in the discussion that "Weitzmann's genius was to play upon preexisting anti-Semitic stereotypes held by some among the British governing elite in order to get them to make the promise," continuing that Weitzmann "let them think that Jews would wield important influence in the United States and helped persuade President Wilson that American should enter the war and helped to finance it, and also that Jews were very important in Russia and would keep Russia in the war if they could be bribed with the promise of Palestine."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy:
Defensive America's Contempt for Full Court, Press

"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity." - André Gide

"WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world." - James Moore

Sixty-two years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, "only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security." Lieberman's call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,
"Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website."
Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

But Lieberman hasn't stopped there. A few days ago, the Senator suggested that the New York Times could potentially be charged with violating U.S. law by publishing the leaked diplomatic cables. "To me, New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," Lieberman said, during an interview with Fox News. "And whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department," he continued.

Direct connections can, and should, be made to the 2006 revelations in the New York Times about the Bush administration's widespread domestic surveillance program, when then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested that "the government has the legal authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information."

In addition to being a perfect example of the exploitation of state power to protect unflattering, revealing, and possibly damaging information about the government, Lieberman's censorship crusade is also amazingly ironic considering statements he has made in the past regarding internet freedom. Lieberman is a member of the less than nine-month-old "Global Internet Freedom Caucus," founded in late March 2010 by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) in an effort to further demonize countries that occasionally push back against American imperialism and hegemony.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Peratis and Kulick's Propaganda Paralysis:
With Progressive Zionists Like These, Who Needs Likudniks?

On November 11, an event entitled "Jewish Perspectives on the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions Movement" was held at the Church of Gethsemane in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It featured four speakers, all of whom self-identify as Jewish, debating the effectiveness of the BDS campaign in the struggle for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Rather than post a review of the event, which I attended, and which Rob Buchanan covered in his Mondoweiss overview of the panel discussion, I have limited my reactions to a number of truly erroneous, and thereby substantially revealing, comments made by both anti-BDS participants Kathleen Peratis and Gil Kulick during their presentations and in the subsequent Q&A.

Although both Peratis and Kulick made sure to distance their own comments from the officially advocated policies of J Street, it was clear that their own beliefs echo those of the organization exactly. Whereas both Jewish Voice for Peace's Rebecca Vilkomerson and Adalah's Hannah Mermelstein approach the Israel/Palestine issue as one of righting an historic injustice that continues unabated in violation of basic human rights and international law, both Peratis and Kulick view a Jewish state of Israel as historic triumph, legitimate in its concept and inception. To them, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the dispossession, displacement, and disenfranchisement of an indigenous people from their homeland at gunpoint by a colonial settler movement is not worthy of scrutiny or reevaluation, let alone redress and compensation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nasr, Thomas, Sanchez...Itzkoff?

I stumbled across a recent interview by New York Times arts writer Dave Itzkoff of "Mad Men" creator and show-runner Matthew Weiner the other day and found one part particularly interesting. At one point, Itzkoff, while questioning Weiner about the show's development (and historical atmosphere) over the past four seasons, addresses the role - or lack thereof - of minorities in the show's cast and plot:
Itzkoff asks: "We’re now well into 1965 on the show, and there are no major black characters, no characters who are any kind of racial minority -"

Weiner cuts him off: "Do Jews count as racial minorities? Because there have been a lot of Jews on the show."

Itzkoff responds: "I don’t think so."
When comparing this exchange with the lead up to the widely-reported Rick Sanchez quote - the one that got him fired from CNN - one can see many similarities. When radio host Pete Dominick argued that "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was just as much a minority as a Cuban-American, Sanchez replied: "C'mon, how is he a minority?" to which Dominick explained, "He’s Jewish."
Sanchez: "Yeah, very powerless people!"

Dominick: "Whoa."

Sanchez: "He's such a minority. I mean, you know. Please. What? Are you kidding?...To imply that somehow they - the people in this country who are Jewish - are an oppressed minority...yeah."
Strangely enough, Dominick then attempted to analyze the traumatized Jewish mind, claiming that, in his opinion, "every Jewish person" lives in "constant fear in the back of their head that [they] should resist the Holocaust." Moreover, Dominick explained that, due to the Jewish "history of oppression," Jews in the United States "can relate to oppression" and to the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in America.

Sanchez, somewhat bewildered by Dominick's suggestion, replied, "So, just because someone’s Jewish means they are not capable of being prejudicial, is that what you’re trying to tell me?"

Dominick then backtracked.

So, why is it that Sanchez has been ridiculed and fired for saying essentially the same thing Dave Itzkoff said to Matthew Weiner? Was Weiner offended that, in Itzkoff's estimation, Jews (namely American Jews) do not constitute a "racial minority"? Perhaps he was - after all, he's the one who classified them as such (unsurprising, considering he's a proud Zionist) - yet never was there any outrage over Itzkoff's statement. Not that there should have been, of course. But this may be yet another example of who is "allowed" to discuss such topics and who is not in the mainstream media.


Friday, October 8, 2010

A British Exchange: Comments & Replies

My latest article regarding the double standards of the US' new unilateral sanctions against Iran was reposted on Indymedia UK, among other sites. In response, a comment was posted which, though a bit condescending in its tone, raised some important issues that I subsequently addressed in a comment of my own. What followed was a civil back-and-forth between the commenter, alka, and myself that I believe contains a great deal of valuable information.

The complete exchange is reposted below.


Two points
04.10.2010 18:38

A United Nations Security Council resolution is described as 'illegal'. What law is it breaking? Are all Security Council resolutions illegal, or just the ones you don't like?

Second - the United States can trade with whoever it wants to trade with, and if it doesn't want to trade with Iran, so be it.

- - - - -

Two Answers
05.10.2010 06:38


Thank you for your close reading of the article and for your comments. Please allow me to address your questions:

1. The notion that the UNSC resolutions regarding Iran's nuclear program is illegal is not based on my personal feelings about Iran or selective readings of international law. It is simply a matter of fact. No document whatsoever, including the UN Charter, the articles of the NPT, cooperation agreements between the UN and the IAEA, the Safeguards Agreement between Iran and the IAEA, and the IAEA Statute itself, authorizes the UN Security Council to enforce Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Remember, the IAEA is its own entity, not under the auspices or legal framework of the United Nations. It has a legal relationship with the UN, but is not an arm of the organization.

However, the IAEA is authorized (perhaps even required) to "report" certain matters to the Security Council. The purpose of this authorization has nothing to do with UNSC-backed enforcement of IAEA Safeguards; rather, it is to inform the UNSC that, in the opinion of the IAEA, there may be reason to believe a country's (in this case, Iran's) nuclear program is, in the words of Article 39 of the UN Charter, a "threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression." It follows that, if the Security Council determines that a "threat...etc" exists, it may then, legally, take action against Iran such as adopting resolutions and implementing non-binding "provisional measures" (Article 40), authorize and implement non-military action against Iran (Article 41) if the provisional measures do not yield results, and even authorize military action "to maintain or restore international peace and security" (Article 42) if the previous measures prove inadequate.

The UNSC has never determined Iran to be a "threat to peace," has never found Iran to be in "breach of peace," and has never accused Iran any "act of aggression." The very first resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program (1696) was enacted ONLY "under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations," thereby skipping Article 39 altogether. Article 39 is never even mentioned in the resolution (or any subsequent resolution). In fact, the following resolutions have all simply been "authorized" under Article 41 as "giving effect" to the previous resolutions, but never cite Article 40 in their own right and never once - NEVER ONCE - reference Article 39, which is required for any actions taken after it to be legitimate.

As such, none of the resolutions are, in fact, legally binding on Iran since they all lack the vital element - initial authorization via Article 39 of the UN Charter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

International Flaw:
With New Iran Sanctions, POTUS Calls Tehran's Kettle Black

"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

- Samuel P. Huntington

"By alleging Iran has some problems, America’s problems aren’t resolved. Just alleging that Iran has a problem is not going to resolve Mrs. Clinton’s problems for her."

- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking with Charlie Rose, May 3, 2010

On Wednesday afternoon, in a joint press conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner announced that the United States had imposed a new set of unilateral sanctions, including a travel ban and freezing of assets, against a number of top-ranking Iranian officials whom it accused of "serious and sustained human rights abuses" since the presidential election last year. The measure, which comes less than four months after the UN Security Council's latest illegal resolution and the Obama administration's last round of economic sanctions, was enacted via an Executive Order signed into effect last night by the President.

This marked, as Clinton pointed out, "the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses." Every US administration since Carter's has issued unilateral sanctions against Iran due to its continued opposition to US imperialism and insufficient deference to American diktat. However, the sanctions have previously been justified using the pretense of Iran's alleged "active support of terrorism," its totally legal and fully monitored nuclear energy program, as well as the wholly fabricated notion that "the actions and policies of the Government of Iran constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States" and required "the declar[ation of] a national emergency to deal with that threat." This last hysterical claim was introduced by the Secretary of State's Presidential husband back in 1995.

This time around, Hillary Clinton stated, with regard to the eight government officials specifically targeted by the new order, "on [their] watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed. Yet the Iranian Government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses, to hold to account those responsible and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens. And Iran has failed to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Apparently, the United States' own recent history regarding the invasion and occupation of two foreign countries, the kidnapping, indefinite detention without charge, and the physical and psychological torture of thousands of people, including at places like Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib (where prisoners were raped by their American captors) is irrelevant to the administration's finger-pointing charade and ongoing demonization campaign against Iran. Prisoners held by the United States in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, in addition to being "chained to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for days on end," have also been beaten to death by their interrogators. Of the fifteen soldiers charged with detainee abuse ranging from "dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter," all but three have been acquitted. Those three received written reprimands and served, at most, 75 days in prison for their crimes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Thin Green Line:
It's Not Just the Settlements (or the Occupation), Stupid!

"Before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived...We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house."

- Moshe Dayan, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, speaking at the funeral of an Israeli farmer killed by a Palestinian in April 1956

The public debate over the Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was reignited recently with the news that the illegal West Bank colony of Ariel would soon be opening its newly-constructed, multi-million dollar cultural center and would host performances by several of Israel's leading theater companies in its auditorium, built - tragically - by the very Palestinian construction workers that Israel has occupied and dispossessed. The announcement marked the first time these notable Israeli drama groups would be performing outside of the 1949 Armistice Line in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Within days of the report, over 50 Israeli actors, directors, playwrights, and producers had signed onto a letter addressed to the boards of Israel's repertory theaters declaring their refusal to perform in Ariel, which is the fourth largest settlement in the West Bank. The letter stated:
"We wish to express our disgust with the theater's board's plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel. The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line."
Condemnation and outrage were quick to come from the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing what he called the "international delegitimization assault" on Israel through academic, cultural, and economic boycotts and stating, "The last thing we need now is an attempt of boycotts from within." Other ministers chimed in with their own often fascist statements, all implicitly (some explicitly) treating the militarized and messianic Jewish communities in the Palestinian West Bank as part of Israel, which they are not. (Though, this should hardly be surprising considering that Netanyahu himself referred - with a straight face and utter contempt for international law - to Ariel as the "capital of Samaria" and an "indisputable" part of Israel during a visit to the colony early this year. Additionally, Israel's racist, child-beating Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who openly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, lives in the illegal West Bank settlement of Nokdim.)

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called the boycott letter "unthinkable" and "a case of unfounded hatred," before suggesting that the government withdraw funding from theater companies which refuse to perform in Ariel. He also expressed his desire for the dissenting performers to be fired. "I hope that those who fail to fulfill their contracts will be removed from the theater," he said, continuing, "There's a limit to everything." Everything, that is, according to Steinitz, except decades upon decades of land theft and apartheid.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The "Peaceful Majority" Report:
A Rejoinder to A German's View on Islam

Last month, I was forwarded an email containing an article entitled "A German View on Islam," which has apparently been circulating the internet for a few years now under various titles and attributed to various authors. Many sites credit a Dr. Emanuel Tanay ("a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist") with penning the piece, others state that a right-wing blogger from Canada named "Paul" wrote it.

Regardless of who is responsible for this ignorant and offensive screed, the article, which has been posted on numerous anti-Muslim websites, claims that "fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history."

Needless to say, I was surprised to receive this piece (seemingly four years after it was first written and disseminated) via the mailing list of a reputable peace and justice organization.

At the time I wrote a response, but never wound up forwarding it widely as it dovetailed with another piece I had written recently. I've finally gotten around to posting it here (with some minor updates). The issue is still just as relevant now as it was last month, especially with the added and accumulating racist vitriol we've seen lately regarding the Park51 Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When the Truth is Inconvenient:
A Preview of 'Countdown To Zero'

[NOTE: I have not seen this film yet. It is a "preview," not a "review." I reserve the right and welcome the opportunity to retract or revise the advance conclusions I have made. Believe me, I want to be wrong about this stuff.

But I'm not holding my breath.


A new documentary, directed by Lucy Walker and produced by Lawrence Bender, entitled Countdown To Zero, is set for wide release on July 23, 2010. The film has been heavily publicized and promoted for many months now and is surely already a heavily-favored Oscar contender.

Though the stated goals of the film, exposing the horrifying danger of nuclear weapons and reducing the planet's nuclear stockpile to zero, are noble and necessary indeed, some ideas promoted within the film - which can be gleaned solely from the film's trailer and recent interviews with film contributor Valerie Plame and producer Lawrence Bender - appear to ominously echo the same sensational claims made about Iraq's non-existent WMD, this time about the United States' favorite scapegoat, Iran.

Countdown To Zero acknowledges that there are currently an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world, spread among nine nations. Though I have not yet seen this film, I am confident that it omits some vital information when mentioning these nuclear-armed countries and their stockpiles, namely that the list consists of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (The United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom), the only three states on earth to refuse to become signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Israel, Pakistan, India), and the only country to have ever withdrawn its membership from the Treaty (North Korea).

Additionally, the film states that Israel only has about 80 nuclear bombs, in stark contrast with many estimates that put its nuclear arsenal somewhere between 200 and 400 warheads.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Hope' Floats:
Hey Hollywood, Time to Put Your Money Where Your Morality Is

A coalition of nearly twenty U.S.-based human rights and peace groups has joined the global justice community and numerous foreign governments in vowing to send more humanitarian aid ships to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza this coming Fall. The coalition, united under the mantle US To Gaza, includes activist organizations such as CodePink, Jews Say No, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Jewish Voice For Peace.

In the wake of the deadly Israeli raid on an international flotilla carrying over 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and hundreds of civilian passengers, during which nine activists were murdered (if not outright executed) by Israeli commandos in international waters, the global call to end the US-backed Israeli siege has grown even more forceful.

Later this year, boats from Europe, Canada, South Africa, India, and the Middle East are expected to set sail for Gaza once again. US To Gaza, which states on its website that "America pays for the blockade with our tax dollars; Americans must join together to end this collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians," aims to add a vital American element to this new Freedom Flotilla.

The U.S. boat, which will be named The Audacity of Hope (irony intended), is expected to carry an American peace delegation of forty to sixty passengers and will join its international flotilla partners en route. But purchasing a suitable ship, securing a sailing crew, obtaining the needed licenses and registration, gathering tons of humanitarian aid, and sailing for Gaza is a costly endeavor. It is estimated that at least $370,000 needs to be raised from private donors in the next month for the U.S. ship to become, not merely hopeful audacity, but a necessary reality.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup Domination & Entertaining the Empire:
One Aim Changes Everything

"Our situation is like a football match. The superpower countries are the players, and we are just the ball to be kicked around."

- A young Pakistani civilian,
North Waziristan

The Great Game is indeed alive and kicking. This summer's World Cup tournament is providing yet another way for the United States to project its power across the globe, though not as a result of the American national team's action on the pitch.

Rather, this year, the subjugation will be televised.

While the presence of U.S. Marine Corps recruiting advertisements at each and every commercial break is perhaps mundane at this point, far more surprising is the frequent, scripted announcement by various British and Scottish play-by-play commentators on ESPN that "we'd like to welcome our men and women in uniform, serving in over 175 countries and territories, watching today's 2010 FIFA World Cup match on AFN, the American Forces Network." Other various comments have also been made about how proud the ESPN color men are of the American troops, what a fine job they are doing, and that the commentators are "glad to have them with us" and "sincerely hope [the soldiers] are enjoying the broadcast."

Beyond the surreal fact that announcers from the UK, like Adrian Healey, Martin Tyler, and Ian Darke, are eagerly praising American soldiers and sailors during the broadcast as their own ("our brave men and women..."), how can the rest be said with a straight face or without the most shameful sense of hypocrisy? That there are US troops stationed in over 175 countries around the world is a stunning fact in itself - although well-known by now if you've been paying attention at all for the past decade. At this point, there's probably an 'App' for that.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ridiculest:
Bill Maher's Cultural Supremacy and Religious Hierarchy

Bill Maher makes no secret of his contempt for religion. Via his comedy routines, his political commentary, his film Religulous, and his duties as host of Politically Incorrect and now HBO's Real Time, Maher has long warned of the dangers and exploitation of organized religion and how incompatible dogma and doctrine are with the scientific enlightenment of modern society.

Inadvertently and less eloquently paraphrasing Voltaire, who once wrote that "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities" and that religious fanatics "are sick men in delirium who want to chastise their doctors," Maher has said that the belief in religion, which he calls "a neurological disorder," in our society "stops people from thinking" and "justifies crazies." In a 2008 interview with Larry King, Maher stated that religion is "the ultimate hustle."

Maher's critique (or outright bashing) of religious doctrine, dogma, and zealotry is admirable - or would be, if only he weren't such an arrogant hypocrite. While Maher himself claims to be "an equal opportunity offender" who thinks that "all religion is stupid and dangerous," he clearly believes that some faiths are more equal than others. Even though his condemnation of Christianity, notably Catholicism, has won him the animus of bible-thumping bigots like Catholic League head William Donahue and he has excoriated the intolerance of Pat Robertson and reveled in the death of Jerry Falwell, Maher has consistently saved his most virulent attacks for Islam and its followers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

'Néjàd Vu, All Over Again:
The Media, 'Pretext,' Context, & 9/11

Despite a nearly endless barrage of reporting on Iran's nuclear energy program, the US government's push for a new round of sanctions, and on-going efforts to foment regime change in the Islamic Republic, all had been relatively quiet on the Ahmadinejad front in the Western press for some time.

Until now.

The mainstream media's favorite scapegoat, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, resurfaced on Saturday amidst reports that he called the attacks of September 11, 2001 "a big lie." According to the immediate and rabid response of virtually every Western news network around, this was simply the latest insane claim of the same raving madman who has previously threatened to wipe a foreign state off the map and denied the Holocaust.

Yet, as with those other mistranslated or misunderstood statements, this new claim hardly stands up to even the most cursory scrutiny, as it has been reported with little accompanying context and comparison. According to a translation by Reuters, Ahmadinejad, addressing the staff of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, stated that, "The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan." PressTV translated the President as saying that the circumstances of 9/11 were a "big lie intended to serve as a pretext for fighting terrorism and setting the grounds for sending troops to Afghanistan."

Most of the press, including CBS, Huffington Post, and Fox, ran with an Associated Press report by Ali Akbar Dareini entitled, "Iran's Ahmadinejad: Sept. 11 attacks a 'big lie'" while CNN and Ha'aretz reprinted the AP with some slight variations like using the headline "Ahmadinejad Calls 9/11 'A Big Fabrication'."

Robert Mackey, writing for The New York Times editorialized that Ahmadinejad told Iranian intelligence officials that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City was "staged."

By reporting that he called 9/11 a "lie" or "fabrication," the press has completely subverted the meaning of Ahmadinejad's actual statement. Headlines and ledes like the ones printed by the mainstream media give the intentionally misleading interpretation that Ahmadinejad claimed that 9/11 didn't actually happen. But the full quote obviously reveals something quite different. The events of 9/11 - that hijacked airplanes were flown into buildings, killing tens of hundreds of people - is not questioned or denied by Ahmadinejad in these statements. The attacks, in and of themselves, are not debated or disputed. What Ahmadinejad says is that the event itself was the result of, as PressTV reports, a premeditated "scenario and a sophisticated intelligence measure," that was subsequently used as an excuse to justify the so-called "War on Terror" and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On the Recent Executions in Iran

Recently, a friend asked the following, completely valid, question:

"What do you have to say about the reports of these protesters being executed?"

My short answer is this:

I don't approve of any form of capital punishment and wish that nobody were condemned and put to death, anywhere.

My longer, more pertinent answer is this:

The two young men who were executed at the end of January, Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, had nothing to do with the post-election protests. Even though almost EVERY single news outlet and human rights group has claimed that the men were arrested in the aftermath of the June 12th reelection of President Ahmadinejad, it's not true. Amazingly enough, in the English speaking press, the truth had to come from the US gov't-run Voice of America (of all places!) which, on January 30th, reported:
"Both [opposition] leaders [Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi] noted that the executed men 'were arrested months before the June 12 election and their cases had nothing to do with post-election events.'"
That's coming directly from the leaders of the anti-Ahmadinejad movement! Apparently, the two condemned and executed men were found guilty of numerous things - a verdict I disagree with because I don't think the accusations warrant a death penalty, or that any charges do - including moharebeh, which means "taking up arms against Iran's Islamic system," inciting violence and insurrection, and being members of an organization called Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (also known as Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, Iran Monarchy Committee, Iran Royal Association, or Tondar), which is an anti-government terrorist group based mainly in Los Angeles that advocates for the forceful overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the restoration of Iranian monarchy, namely the deposed Pahlavi dynasty. Tondar has committed a number of violent acts in Iran, including the 2008 explosion of a mosque in Shiraz where 12 people were killed and over 200 injured, and has been accused of carrying out the recent (January 2010) assassination (via remote controlled motorcycle bomb) of Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at Tehran University, although the group itself denies any responsibility.

The claims that Ali-Zamani and Rahmanipour were detained and convicted for their involvement in post-election actions is bogus since both men were arrested well before the June 2009 election for their connection to the 2008 mosque bombing and were both in prison during the election and subsequent fallout.

In an article, disingenuously titled "Iran 'executes' two over post-election unrest," the BBC even quotes Rahmanipour's lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, saying as much: "He was arrested in Farvardin [the Iranian month covering March-April] - before the election - and charged with co-operation with the Kingdom Assembly."

Nevertheless, the White House felt the need to condemn the execution of the two men tried and convicted of sedition. "We see it as a low point in the Islamic Republic's unjust and ruthless crackdown of peaceful dissent," Bill Burton, deputy press secretary for the White House, told reporters. "Murdering political prisoners who are exercising their universal rights will not bring the respect and legitimacy the Islamic Republic seeks," he continued. "It will only serve to further isolate Iran's government in the world and from its people."

Apparently, according to Obama's administration, it is every Iranian's sovereign right - or perhaps, duty - to work with separatist groups, funded by the United States, to commit violent acts against the Islamic Republic. This is now classified as "peaceful dissent."

So, my final answer is this:

While the death penalty is bad, demonizing, misinformed and deliberate anti-Iranian propaganda spread rapidly and rabidly by the Western press may be far, far worse.


Friday, February 5, 2010

A Plea Grows in Brooklyn:
An Open Letter to District 11

An Open Letter to the Concerned Constituents of New York's 11th Congressional District:

By now, I am sure you are well aware of the appalling and unconscionable retraction of Brooklyn congresswoman Yvette Clarke's signature from two recent Dear Colleague letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding lifting the illegal siege of Gaza and permitting Palestinians to travel between the Occupied Territories. Whereas I was proud of Ms. Clarke's initial stance and courage to be one of the very few who signed onto the letters, I am absolutely outraged by this sudden reversal.

For the past year or so, Ms. Clarke, Democratic representative of New York's 11th District, has been one of the very few humane politicians on the issue of Palestine. She did not sign onto a bogus, seemingly pro-ethnic cleansing bill (H. Con. Res. 111) entitled, "Recognizing the 61st anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel," and was one of only 36 legislators to cast a "no" vote on the AIPAC-written Congressional call to dismiss and bury the findings of the Goldstone Report. Nevertheless, it appears that a meeting with a group of local ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders on February 1 has led Ms. Clarke to regret her support for those two letters.

After this meeting, Ms. Clarke released an Open Letter to her constituents, in which she claimed to "understand how important the safety and security of Israel is to my constituents and the close ties that many share with the great Jewish State [sic]" and regretted adding her signature to the two letters, which she now amazingly concludes, "do not reflect my record with regards to Israel." She goes on to write that the letters "have a provocative and reactionary impact, as they do not provide a complete, and therefore accurate, picture of the situation. They also do not offer a constructive and two-sided balanced solution to the issues facing the region."

Within her despicable "apology" are even the repeated lies about the "threat" that Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and has not attacked any country in over two centuries, now poses to the colonial-settler, expansionist, aggressive, and nuclear-armed garrison apartheid state of Israel. "Israel finds itself confronted with a belligerent Iran that is not only rapidly pursuing nuclear weapons, but also rearming Hezbollah and Hamas which sit on Israel’s northern and southern borders respectively," she writes. "Given the multi-faceted security threats that Israel faces, I added my name to a letter to President Obama encouraging him to adhere to the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding signed between then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledging $30 billion in security assistance over the next 10 years." How's that for a "balanced" view of Iran's (totally legal) nuclear program (which is constantly subject to intrusive monitoring by the IAEA) and the "constructive" use of American tax dollars at a time of extreme economic hardship here in the United States?

In her sniveling, belly-crawling retraction, Ms. Clarke essentially concludes that the letters she originally signed "are uneven in their application of pressure and do not sufficiently present a balanced approach/path to peace." Her cowardice is revealed in full, as she continues, "Please know that I will continue to be the strong and unwavering supporter of the State of Israel as I have been throughout my entire public life while working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to ameliorate human suffering wherever it may exist." Apparently, that suffering is no longer extended to Palestinians when Ms. Clarke is threatened by a gang of Brooklyn Zionists.