Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wired's Weird Propaganda and the Most Dangerous Man in the World

Iranian Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, Wired writer Robert Beckhusen

The wizards of Wired's Danger Room blog have posted a year-end click-bait listicle identifying who they - Spencer Ackerman, David Axe, Noah Shachtman, and Robert Beckhusen - believe to be "The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World."

While Paula Broadwell starts the list for some strange reason, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan clocks in at number four (with entry author Ackerman studiously avoiding any mention of Brennan's support for kidnapping and torture or his rampant lies over the murderous drone program he oversees, or the staggering civilian death toll for which Brennan and his boss are personally responsible - maybe Shachtman should've gotten this one) and Bashar al-Assad at number two, the Danger Roomers peg Iranian Brigadier General Ghasem Soleimani (they write it as Qassem Suleimani) - head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Qods Force - as the single most dangerous man on Earth.

Beckhusen, who wrote the final entry for Wired and has a history of regurgitating ignorant propaganda, begins with a truly bizarre formulation.  "As the country most likely to spark a world war," he writes, "Iran has to be considered the most dangerous country on the planet."

Let's read that again and then unpack it.  Iran - in Beckhusen's estimation (one that he seems to think is a pretty uncontroversial assumption) - is "the country most likely to spark a world war." (emphasis added)  In fact, United States intelligence has long held that Iran maintains defensive capabilities and has a military doctrine of self-defense and retaliation, but will not begin a conflict.

In April 2010, Defense Intelligence Agency director Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess told the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, "Iran's military strategy is designed to defend against external threats, particularly from the United States and Israel. Its principles of military strategy include deterrence, asymmetrical retaliation, and attrition warfare."

Burgess' intelligence report, delivered in conjunction with his testimony, also included the assessment that Iran maintains a "defensive military doctrine, which is designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities," and that "Iranian military training and public statements echo this defensive doctrine of delay and attrition." The identical position was reaffirmed by Burgess' testimony in March 2011, during which he explained that, if attacked, "Iran could attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz temporarily with its navy, threaten the United States and its allies in the region with missiles, and employ terrorist [sic] surrogates worldwide. However, we assess Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."

This year, Burgess repeated these conclusions (which have been the consensus view of U.S. intelligence for years), reiterating that the Defense Intelligence Agency "assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict."

Iranian military commanders have even confirmed this view. "Our military warfare equipment is based on deterrent policies and strategy," said Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar in 2006, and also noted that "Iran is ready to sign a non-aggression pact with regional countries."

So what does Beckhusen mean when he claims that Iran is "the country most likely to spark a world war"?  While an unprovoked attack on Iran is widely seen as a terrible, "stupid" idea (and a war crime of obvious and unequivocal illegality) by those not of the neoconservative persuasion, and one that could potentially lead to a global conflagration, the idea that Iran would start such a war is not actually a consideration.  Even former Israeli Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy warned, "An attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years."  Note how the potential attack suggested by Levy is on Iran by an unmentioned aggressor, and not by Iran on any other country.

Maybe that's why Beckhusen wrote "spark" rather than "start."

In so doing, however, the Wired writer is effectively - in this warped thought experiment - blaming Iran for getting itself attacked by Israel or the United States.  He appears to be saying that if Iran responds to a foreign military assault, it would somehow be culpable for "sparking" a global conflict, the instigator of a new world war.  The twisted logic of such an assertion reveals a very specific perception of Iran as a perennial provocateur of violence visited upon itself.

It is apparently irrelevant to Beckhusen that Iran's wholly legal nuclear energy program is thoroughly monitored by the IAEA, an organization that continually confirms that its program has not been weaponized and admits it has no evidence Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program, or that the United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, and is not currently building nuclear weapons.  All indications are that Iran's leadership has not even made a decision to build nuclear weapons and Iranian officials have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds.

Beckhusen doesn't explain how Iran - a country with no modern military history of invading or attacking any other nation, a demonstrated refusal to respond in kind to chemical weapons attacks on its own citizens, and with a military budget of roughly 4% of what the United States spends annually, dwarfed by U.S.-backed states in the region - would be responsible for sparking a military conflict were it to be attacked.  Does Beckhusen think that by consistently offering to curb and cap its enrichment program, accepting international cooperation in its energy sector and taking significant scientific and technological steps to reduce its medium-enriched uranium stockpile in an effort to allay fears of possible militarization of its program, Iran is acting provocatively?

Are we to believe that, in the event the United States or Israel initiates a war of aggression against Iran - thereby committing the "supreme international crime" as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal - that Iran should be seen as "the most dangerous country on the planet"?

For decades now, headlines around the world have routinely speculated and asked, "Will Israel Attack Iran?" Not the other way around.

Who is currently terrorizing civilian populations and killing an extraordinary number of children in at least six foreign countries with flying robots; has an arsenal of over 5,100 nuclear warheads; is responsible for three-quarters of the global arms market, flooding the world with weapons to the tune of $66.3 billion last year alone; is itself the gun violence capital of the world; maintains the most sophisticated and lethal military on the planet and a global empire with more than 1,000 military bases and installations all over the world, and whose bought-and-paid-for legislative body stridently works to literally outlaw diplomacy and lay the groundwork for more war forever and ever?

Who begins reelection campaigns by murdering over 160 people in an aerial bombardment of an impoverished, caged, blockaded and besieged refugee population; constantly violates ceasefire agreements to commit war crimesthreatens to attack sovereign nations on a regular basis; continues an over four-decade-long illegal military occupation in order to fulfill its century-old founding settler-colonial ideology and displace, dispossess and disenfranchise its indigenous population; has a citizenry that readily accepts apartheid policies in order to maintain privileged ethnic supremacy over indigenous minorities; and has been found to be the world's most militarized nation for nearly 20 years in a row?

Who do the majority of people living in Iran's neighboring and regional nations fear the most?

It is not Iran.

Iranian officials consistently speak out against the possibility of a new war. The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, in a recent report suggesting that direct negotiations with the United States could resolve the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program and begin to lift decades of Western-imposed sanctions, stated, "One way to fend off a possible war is to resort to diplomacy and to use all international capacities," adding that, as the risk of war appears high, "it is an unforgiveable sin not to prevent it."

Meanwhile, the threats against Iran continue unabated.

Beckhusen also fails to note that in the past few months, the United States led a massive naval war game exercise in the Persian Gulf, amassing the floating firepower of nearly 30 countries just off the southern coast of Iran, and is rapidly arming its dictatorial Gulf allies with more and more weapons while replenishing the stockpiles of Israel after its eight-day bombardment of Gaza in late November.

The Washington Times recently reported, "The largest infusion of U.S. arms ever for Persian Gulf allies has shifted more toward offensive weapons at the same time that President Obama’s military strategy says it will rely more on allied firepower in any future war," and added that due to "U.S. sales of air defense-penetrating F-16s and F-15s, satellite-guided bombs and a pending order for ordnance that can burrow deep and then explode, analysts say Gulf nations could participate in a U.S. air campaign to strike Iran's nuclear sites."

Business Insider reports, "This week the U.S. Department of Defense notified Congress of a $647 million agreement to provide the Israel Air Force with 10,000 bombs — more than half of which are bunker-busters — along with 6,900 joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) tail kits, which convert unguided free-fall bombs into satellite-guided 'smart' weapons."

Yet it is not Iran that is flying drones in American airspace; it is not Iran that is engaged in cyberwar and industrial sabotage against the United States; it is not Iran that is murdering American scientists on the street in front of their families; and it is not Iran that is collectively punishing the civilian population of foreign countries in an effort to force their governments to relinquish their inalienable national rights and attempt to instigate regime change.

Beckhusen's attempt to establish Iran as the most dangerous place on Earth (a formulation lifted wholesale from Netanyahu talking points) reflects a perpetual and practically pathological predisposition in the mainstream narrative - both liberal and conservative - to view the Islamic Republic of Iran as a sinister domain of unadulterated violence and malevolence; or, as the common refrain goes: "Iran poses the greatest threat to the stability and security of the Middle East and the entire world."  Never mind that a majority of knowledgeable foreign policy and security experts consider such a statement to be not only a gross exaggeration, but a total absurdity.

Naturally, Beckhusen doesn't elaborate on his opening statement, but assumes his readers agree and moves on from there.  In making the assumption that Iran is the "most dangerous country," Beckhusen then seeks to identify "the most dangerous man in that most dangerous country," and (taking his cue from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute) hits upon General Soleimani, whom he describes as "ruthless and mysterious," just like all caricatures of nefarious Orientals.

Why is he so dangerous?  Beckhusen explains,
...if Barack Obama or Bibi Netanyahu were to strike Iran's nuclear program, it'll be Suleimani and the Quds Force in charge of taking Iran's counterattacks beyond its borders, as Iran launches waves of commando and terrorist strikes against the U.S. and its allies across the region and the world.
Yes, you read that correctly: if the elected leaders of the United States and Israel - one a Nobel Peace Prize drone murderer, the other a cartoon bomb enthusiast/racist sociopath - defy the wishes of their own citizens by launching an illegal military adventure against Iran, the "most dangerous man" in the world is the guy who would be tasked with retaliating, not the ones who actually launched the attack and started a new war. 

That's like saying you consider the polar bear at the Central Park Zoo to be the most dangerous animal in New York City because, if you punch it in the face, it might bite your hand off.

One would be hard-pressed (to use Beckhusen's verbiage) to explain how responding to an unprovoked assault (a war crime in international law) by targeting the heavily-armed, uniformed soldiers of the world's only superpower stationed halfway around the world could reasonably be considered terrorism, by any stretch of that politically manipulated term's increasingly irrelevant definition.

So, to sum up: Starting a world war? Whatever.  Responding to a military attack on your country? DANGEROUS!

By perpetuating fear-mongering propaganda about Iran, it appears that the most dangerous thing in Wired's Danger Room might actually be its own staff.

 Benjamin Netanyahu, not dangerous according to Wired's Danger Room.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Susan Rice: Israel's 'Gladiator' at the UN

Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald posted an excellent article exploring the myriad reasons why U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is awful. It's not just her "long record of cheering for US wars, including being an outspoken and aggressive advocate of the attack on Iraq," as documented by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. Or her apparent and well-documented "fondness for tyrants in Africa" and career-long destructive policies towards the continent. Or that she "holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline" and that she's invested heavily in oil companies.

Rice is a serial interventionist and militarist, precisely the type of person a Nobel laureate with a Kill List and expansive drone murder program would task with representing a nuclear-armed, imperial behemoth and international bully in a 194-member forum ostensibly founded upon multilateralism and dedicated to peace.

It came as no surprise then, considering her affinity for jingoism and selective commitment to human rights, when Greenwald reminded us that "so-called 'pro-Israel' groups have vocally supported her possible nomination due to her steadfast defense of Israel at the UN, hailing her as 'an ardent defender of major Israeli positions in an unfriendly forum,'" in the words of the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman, who apparently deems an organization that condemns crimes against humanity, colonization and discrimination as hostile to the Zionist ideology.

Such a characterization is, however, a gross understatement. Back in March, The Huffington Post revealed that the majority of Rice's time at the United Nations is spent defending Israeli colonial expansionism and institutional apartheid; shielding Israel from scrutiny over its commission of war crimes, collective punishment, aggressive militarism, and contempt for international law, including the murder of an American citizen; and working tirelessly to repeatedly oppose basic human rights, self-determination, legal sovereignty and any semblance of justice for Palestinians, even in its most symbolic forms.

It is no wonder that, after the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the status of Palestine to a non-member state, Rice angrily growled, "This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state," and noted that the United States "will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies," despite the fact that when over 130 countries vote on something, that is perhaps the definitive opposite of "unilateral."

"Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade," she shouted, bitterly adding, "And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded." What she didn't mentioned is that the reason Palestinians will remain occupied and under siege is largely due to her own government's actions.

Dubbed by HuffPo as the"Pro-Israel Courter-in-Chief," Rice is effectively AIPAC's lobbyist at the UN, a title she would surely not dispute and most likely take pride in. "Not a day goes by -- not one -- when my colleagues and I do not work hard to defend Israel's security and legitimacy at the United Nations," Rice boasted during the opening session of AIPAC's convention earlier this year. She reiterated this point before the lobbying group's National Board of Governors: "We spend an enormous amount of time defending Israel's right to defend itself and defending Israel's legitimacy throughout the United Nations system," Rice declared. "It's an issue of utmost and daily concern for the United States."

Unsurprisingly, Rice describes all efforts to hold Israel accountable for its actions and to abide by the international treaties, charters and conventions to which it is bound as "anti-Israel crap."

For her lobbying efforts, Rice has even received an award from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the ADL's Abe Foxman has praised her as a "gladiator" fighting for Israel.

Earlier today, Rice withdrew her name from consideration for Obama's next Secretary of State. In both her own letter to the President and Obama's reply, Rice's steadfast commitment to Israeli impunity and immunity was made clear. She wrote (and repeats in a Washington Post piece entitled "Why I Withdrew" which runs tomorrow) that she was proud of her "unwavering support for Israel" before pointedly mentioning her backing of the "world's newest state, South Sudan."

While Rice will not succeed Hillary Clinton as Obama's top diplomat, her next gig will surely be a professorial appointment at a Super Serious Institution of Higher Learning or a fawning, establishment think-tank with Zionist proclivities like the Saban Center or somewhere equally as grotesque (she's been at the Brookings Institution before, after all). Hell, with a pedigree like hers, the flacks at the AIPAC-affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy should be thrilled to have her. Also, with Israel's Fascist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman facing indictment and rumors circulating about his possible resignation, perhaps Netanyahu will tap her for that post in his next term so she can do Israel's bidding directly.

Still, as Greenwald put it the other day, "If it's not Susan Rice as Secretary of State, then it will be someone with an equally long record of defending US militarism and supporting the world's worst tyrants." This is undoubtedly accurate. Add to that the unconditional endorsement of Israeli ethnocracy and denial of Palestinian self-determination and human rights, of course.

While Rice is no anomaly when it comes to American officialdom, that doesn't mean the fact that she won't be Secretary of State isn't a good thing.  It is.



December 14, 2012 - Jacob Heilbrunn over at The Daily Beast has a good piece up about Rice today, entitled, "Susan Rice Didn't Deserve State Post, Let Alone Her U.N. Role."

He explains that Rice's "most distinguishing trait seems to be an eagerness to please her superiors, which is entirely consistent with how she rode the escalator to success. Want to avoid declaring that genocide is taking place in Rwanda? Go to Rice. Want to fudge the facts in Libya? Rice is there again." Furthermore, Heilbrunn writes, Rice "rarely, if ever, questions authority. Instead she has made a career out of catering to it."

Heilbrunn avoids mentioning her fealty to Israel and focuses instead on her cozy relationship with African dictators, but considering he's writing in The Daily Beast, this is to be expected.



April 26, 2013 - Susan Rice has doubled-down on her past statement that her primary job as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is to defend Israel.

On April 23, the Jewish Telegraph Agency quoted Rice saying effectively that her role as an apologist for the Israeli government is "a huge part of my work to the United Nations," during comments made last weekend at the Washington DC launch of this year's "Consultation on Conscience."

"Rice said she often works in 'lockstep' with the Israeli delegation," JTA noted, before quoting Rice directly, saying, "We will not rest in the crucial work of defending Israel's security and legitimacy every day at the United Nations."

Sounds exhausting for a delegation tasked with representing an entirely different, sovereign nation with interests of its own.  Also, this is surely a useless endeavor considering that the legitimacy of an ethnocratic apartheid state is difficult to champion, as Jacob Heilbrunn has recently made clear in The National Interest.  In his article, entitled "Israel's Fraying Image," Heilbrunn notes that "a cultural shift is emerging that could presage a reexamination of the nature of America's political ties to Israel. This shift is rooted in a mounting perception that Israel cannot be exempted from culpability..."

Of course, the explicit exemption is what Rice works so diligently to maintain day in and day out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bret v. Bushehr: More Nonsense on Iran from the WSJ

Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (left) and The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens (right)

The propagandists over at the Wall Street Journal editorial page (okay, who are we kidding, it's Bret Stephens) have posted a silly article fear-mongering about the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

The entire thing is nonsense, presenting unrealistic scenarios with no basis in fact or history. He makes claims about Iranian plutonium which have little in common with reality. He frets that "Iran is increasing the number of routes it can take to race toward a bomb" and states Iran currently has a stockpile of enriched uranium which, "with some additional enrichment" of course, would be enough "for probably six bombs." He also determines that Iran could somehow reprocess fuel rods "into weapons-grade plutonium," which could eventually be manufactured into "as many as 24 Nagasaki-type bombs." Because, sure, why the hell not?

Despite the fact that, as the New York Times reports, "the plant [at Bushehr] itself is not controversial" and fully under IAEA surveillance and safeguards, Stephens is trying to make even the most mundane aspects of Iran's nuclear program appear suspect. He obviously omits the U.S. government's own perspective on Bushehr as articulated in the past by State Department spokesman Darby Holladay, who told the press once Bushehr became operational in 2010, "We recognize that the Bushehr reactor is designed to provide civilian nuclear power and do not view it as a proliferation risk."

These views were echoed by senior State Department mouthpiece P.J. Crowley at the time. "Bushehr is designed to provide electricity to Iran. It is not viewed as a proliferation risk," he told NPR. Ian Anthony, director of the arms control and non-proliferation program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) concurred with such an assessment.

Not even Israeli officials or long-time alarmists could use Bushehr as a foil. "Our problem is with the other facilities that they have, where they enrich uranium," Uzi Landau, Israel's Minister of National Infrastructure, explained. Mark Fitzpatrick of the routinely alarmist International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has admitted, "Bushehr is not a proliferation risk as long as it is run to produce power for electricity generation," adding that "the IAEA would know if Iran tried to divert the spent fuel, before it is cooled sufficiently to send it back to Russia."

Another non-proliferation analyst, Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has granted that, while, "theoretically, any power reactor is a 'proliferation threat' in the sense that its spent fuel can be diverted from IAEA safeguards, reprocessed, and the plutonium used to make bombs," over the course of the last half-century, "no proliferator has ever diverted power reactor fuel from IAEA safeguards to make bombs in a hurry."

Even more recently, IISS's Fitzpatrick has reaffirmed that any removal of fuel from the Bushehr reactor should not be cause for much alarm (contrary to what Stephens would have us believe), suggesting that such a move - especially in full view and under strict IAEA safeguards - most likely "signifies technical trouble." Despite his own record of hysteria over Iran's nuclear program, former IAEA inspector Olli Heinonen said the spent fuel from Bushehr is "not really" a proliferation risk.

Stephens' record on Iran warmongering is legion; he has exploited every tired talking point there is to promote a Likudnik agenda of devastating economic warfare and collective punishment, the feasibility and possible necessity of an Israeli military strike on Iran, and ultimately often advocates for an aggressive policy of regime change. He reminds his readers constantly of the Israeli assaults on Iraqi and Syrian facilities, always forgetting to explain that these actions were illegal, counter-productive and condemned by nearly every government on Planet Earth. He has written that, because of Iran, Israel is in "frightful peril" and reacted to rumors that "the Obama administration may be reconsidering its military options toward Iran," by writing, "Let's hope so."

And he's been playing the alarmist game for a long time. Back on the April 15, 2006 edition of Fox News' "The Journal Editorial Report," Stephens declared, "[O]ur estimates that the Iranians are ten years or five years away from making a bomb were wildly exaggerated. They're going to be able to enrich uranium in the next year or two. So, it adds urgency to the crisis."

The best part of Stephens' new WSJ editorial is how he concludes:
These columns have been warning of the proliferation risk posed by Bushehr since May 2002. As always with Iran's nuclear ambitions, the worst suspicions come true.
Uh huh, gotcha, Bret. Tell that to the last three decades of allegations and speculation about Iran's mad dash for a bomb. Any day now, though, right?


Originally posted as an update to "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program." To read the full compendium of erroneous and alarmist predictions about non-existent Iranian nukes, go here.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Not-So-New Depths of Bill Maher's Delusion and Depravity

In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, unfunny comedian Bill Maher has once again praised Israel for its restraint in only committing rampant war crimes in Gaza rather than a full-scale nuclear genocide of a civilian population.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a lengthy post about Maher's appalling anti-Islam bigotry and staggering ignorance regarding the factual history of his favorite colonial-settler ethnocracy, Israel.  While Maher's vitriolic attacks on Muslims, grotesque caricature of Palestinians in particular and unconditional fealty to Zionist propaganda has continued unabated in the intervening years, comments made in his Jewish Journal interview - conducted just days after the Israeli military concluded its latest criminal bombardment of besieged Gaza that succeeded in murdering over 160 people, including 42 children - concisely illustrate his warped understanding of reality.

Condemning religious people for ignorance of their own doctrinal scripture, Maher says, "I think if they read the bible, especially the Old Testament, I think they would be appalled," adding that if biblical stories were decontextualized and read only as a vengeful deity "wiping these people out and ethnically cleaning [sic] them for no apparent reason, how he does things on a whim and how he's jealous; They'd go, 'This is terrible.'"

While Maher may be correct on this point, he then claims that Judaism is "certainly not as dangerous as Islam and Christianity. Those are warlike religions."  One is left to wonder if Maher knows what the Old Testament actually is.

Maher finds elements of Judaism "insane" and "funny" and, in his world, the religion seems to boil down to kooky inventions like the Shabbos Elevator which "doesn't really threaten anybody's life." 

For Maher, who seems to be channeling the myopia of Jon Stewart here, every Muslim is a brainwashed terrorist, while every Jew is just a hapless nebbish - one part Catskills-era Jackie Mason, one part whining Yiddish Bubbe.  Muslims are violent fanatics who blow things up, whereas Jews are more concerned with hikes in bus fares and guilt-tripping their children.  Never in Maher's mind could Jewish people be seen as racists, occupiers, ethnic cleansers, and colonists.  Never could they level neighborhoods, attack civilian populations with the most high-tech killing machines and chemical weapons, or discriminate against communities based solely on their religion or ethnicity.  They are victims - always - never aggressors.

It is therefore unsurprising that Maher stated, "Y’know, maybe Arabs and Jews are both crazy, but Jews save a tiny piece of their mind for science, math, and writing sitcoms. Arabs, on the other severed hand, seem to spend all their time handing down grudges from one generation to the next."

Maher has apparently never stopped to wonder what the world would be like without coffee, carpets, windmills, parachutes, soap, fountain pens, romantic poetry, algorithms, trigonometry, rose windows, pointed arches, scalpels, forceps, dissolving stitches, anesthesia, cataract surgery, cameras and the science of optics - to name just a few - all products of Arab and Muslim minds. And where would we all be without Khalil Gibran, Steve Jobs, and 1980's pop sensation Tiffany, whose last name is Darwish?

Because he is generally seen as  "liberal" in mainstream discourse, the inconsistencies and ignorance in Maher's conception of world religions and his passionate attachment to Israel are cause for concern.

To his credit, Maher is honest about his proclivities.  "I've never hid the fact that I don't think it's a conflict where both sides are equally guilty," he told Danielle Berrin, who writes the "Hollywood Jew" column for the Jewish Journal.  "I'm more on the side of the Israelis; that's why Benjamin Netanyahu did my show a few years ago, before he was Prime Minister."

Is Maher saying here that Netanyahu will only do interviews with Zionists?  Maher also neglects to mention that his interview with Netanyahu was in 2006, soon after Israel had decimated southern Lebanon for a month, killing 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounding over 4,050, and displacing about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy that deliberately contravened international law and targeted civilian infrastructure.

Maher repeatedly praised the assault in which Lebanese men, women and children were being blown to pieces, claiming that condemning Israeli war crimes (which he benignly referred to as Israel being "forced to kill people in its own defense") was the same thing as anti-Semitism.  Maher seemed blissfully oblivious to the facts, including evidence that Israel had actually instigated the conflict and willfully continued the "widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports...even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict."

At the end of his fawning interview with the once-and-future Prime Minister, Maher quotes a Jerusalem Post article: "The Foreign Ministry would do well to watch Bill Maher to learn how to sell Israel's case to a TV audience...," then asks Netanyahu, "What do you think? I could roll that way!"

Netanyahu's response? "Hey Bill, watch it, if I'm Prime Minister, you'll get the job."

Clearly, they both got their wish.

Maher's original admission that he is "more on the side of the Israelis" acknowledges that he finds Palestinians - an indigenous population that was dispossessed, displaced and all but destroyed by militarily superior Zionist forces and which has lived as refugees under perpetual occupation, deliberately denied sovereignty, self-determination and self-defense for over six decades; a people demonized, dehumanized and traumatized who are routinely condemned in their desperate resistance to subjugation, colonization and collective punishment for not taking enough care to protect the lives and collective identity of its oppressors and occupiers - far more culpable for the persistence of a century-old "conflict" than the Israelis - a nuclear-armed, superpower-backed, settler society that institutionally discriminates against the non-Jewish communities whose lives it controls.

And this guy is called "liberal"?

Maher's take on Israel/Palestine boils down to this: "It's not that complicated: Stop firing rockets into Israel and perhaps they won't annihilate you," he told Berrin.  Perhaps.  Annihilate.  That Israel might cease its occupation, blockade, night raids, airstrikes and land theft is obviously not the problem here.  No, it's the futile and frustrated reaction to such trifles that is beyond Maher's pale.  Again, one hundred years of history is erased and replaced by an invented narrative of violent Arabs endlessly attacking innocent Israeli Jews.  Maher is obviously unaware that, according to a 2009 study, "it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first" following a ceasefire, thus instigating retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza.  "Indeed," the study concluded, "it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week."  The recent Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza is no exception.

Moreover, Maher seems to be unaware that four years have passed since Israel's massacre in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, claiming that Palestinians "lost over 1,000 people" in the recent Israeli offensive.  Keeping abreast of facts, of course, isn't Maher's concern when describing a week of devastation wrought upon a caged population of 1.7 million with nowhere to run and no viable means to protect itself as Gaza gets, in Maher's words, its "ass kicked."  One can assume that, in his childhood, Maher spent many an hour kicking the asses of ants with a magnifying glass.

But all this is merely prologue to where both Maher and his interlocutor Berrin were about to go.  Berrin posed a leading question to Maher about proportionality and the vast discrepancy between Israeli and Palestinian death tolls and got the answer she was hoping for:
Its obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don't doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They'd use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don't.
Ok, ignore the hypothetical nature of role-reversal (how would an indigenous population occupy and colonize parts of its own land?) and leave aside the sheer stupidity of assuming Palestinians in Gaza would launch nuclear weapons at a state in which 20% of the population are themselves Palestinian or that Tel Aviv is roughly 50 miles away from Gaza meaning that Palestinians would essentially be dropping a nuke on themselves.  Or the weirdness of suggesting that the Palestinian goal of self-determination, statehood and equal rights in their historic homeland could be achieved by physically obliterating that very homeland and making it literally uninhabitable.  And forget that the "restraint" Maher lauds in Israel's recent round of murder is a casualty ratio of 33-1.

Maher actually contends here that Israel shows "restraint" merely by not engaging in the complete nuclear holocaust of Palestinians, a desperate refugee population Israel itself created through ethnic cleansing and continued occupation.  The fact that Israel's conventional military might and capacity for lethal destruction far surpasses that of most countries on the planet is obviously irrelevant to the HBO host, as is the tragedy that such "restraint" in late November included the murder of ten members of the al-Dalou family, including four children, crushed to death when Israel bombed their three-story home.  Such is the Israeli conception of "restraint" in Gaza and Maher's explicit endorsement of excessive Israeli force against a captive civilian Palestinian population.

Maher has said similar things before.  A few years ago he suggested that, if rockets were fired into the United States from Canada, "we would have nuked them a hundred times by now," despite the fact that the analogy literally makes no sense.  In fact, Maher's penchant for recycling material is nothing new.  On November 21, when a ceasefire was announced, Maher tweeted:
Obviously, for Maher, those "reloading" are the Palestinians and not the Israelis, who are annually gifted with $3 billion in military aid from the United States, have their own booming arms industry, and have some of the planet's most sophisticated and deadly weaponry in its own perennially loaded arsenal.  Maher used the same line on March 18, 2011 during an obsequious Real Time interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren because, hey, when it's disingenuous and not funny the first time, why not roll it out a year-and-a-half later?

Before wrapping up the Jewish Journal interview, Maher resorted to tossing out some hackneyed hasbara talking points. While it should be remembered that "the Palestinians do have gripes," he said (yes, gripes), the real threat to Israel is "becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country." Whose country? Oh, and, yeah, calling for demographic engineering isn't particularly progressive, Bill.  It's just racist.

Maher of course can't let the interview end without interjecting the mother of all hasbara canards: that Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Gaza (aka war crimes) are motivated primarily by "self-defense."  As always, the occupied indigenous refugees with homemade rockets and smuggled AK-47s are transformed into eliminationist aggressors while the colonizing occupiers armed with drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks, warships, white phosphorus and nuclear bombs are the innocent victims of senseless anti-Semitic violence.  It goes without saying that, for Maher, Palestinians are never entitled to defend themselves.

But remember, as Maher told the Jewish Journal, Judaism simply isn't a "warlike religion" like the others - despite the fact that a self-proclaimed "Jewish State" was established atop Palestine, its native inhabitants massacred or driven from the land by Zionist militias, its towns, villages, groves and orchards razed and reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs, tank treads and bulldozers.

Never mind that, during the 2008-9 massacre of Gaza known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military rabbinate actively called upon Jewish soldiers not to "show mercy" towards its "enemy," comparing Palestinians to ancient Philistines, ripe for righteous slaughter.  It disseminated material declaring "a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, through all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses," and insisting, "We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it."

Never mind that chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, made it perfectly clear that the rabbinate's goal in relation to Israeli soldiers was "to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit."  In that campaign, the Israeli military killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were non-combatant men, women and children, and wounding thousands upon thousands more in just over three weeks.  Despite the worldwide condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Rontzki remained convinced that "[i]n Israel's wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don't have sins on their hands."

Never mind that, in November 2009, rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, published The King's Torah, which "describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law)."  According to the Israeli press, "the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew" and states that, as non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature," even children are legitimate targets for murder. "One must consider killing even babies," the book says, "because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents."

Never mind that during the most recent Israeli attacks, with the Biblical moniker Operation Pillar of Cloud, Gilad Sharon, son of former Prime Minister/comatose war criminal Ariel Sharon, declared in The Jerusalem Post that - because Hamas won a majority in Parliamentary elections in January 2006 - "the residents of Gaza are not innocent," urging the Israeli military to "flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza," just like the United States decimated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  "There is no middle path here," Sharon concluded, "either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip."

Never mind that Knesset minister Michael Ben-Ari echoed Sharon's sentiments, saying, "There are no innocents in Gaza," imploring the Israeli military to "mow them!"  Referring to Gaza as the Biblical Sodom, Ben-Ari addressed soldiers directly, asserting that "there are no righteous men, turn it into rubble. Paint it red! We are worried about you and rely on you. We all do, all of the Nation of Israel," an unmistakable reference to all Jewish people worldwide, not merely citizens of the State of Israel.

Never mind that, on November 21, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that "most of the people" in Gaza killed by Israel "deserved it," falsely claiming that those killed and wounded "were just armed terrorists," when in fact the vast majority were unarmed civilians, including dozens of women, children and babies.

Never mind that more than 90% of Jewish Israelis supported Israel's November 2012 bombardment of Gaza.  Never mind that roughly 94% supported Cast Lead.  Never mind that, according to a recent study, Israel remains the single most militarized nation in the world, a distinction it has held for nearly 20 straight years.

No, no, not "warlike."  Not at all.

Back in September 2010, Maher told Larry King that, along with Saudi Salafis and the Afghan Taliban, he thought "Hamas is crazy."  When King asked how "a civilized world" should "deal with crazies," Maher replied, "I would say, first thing is don't use the Army."  Considering his obvious affinity for and justification of Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, either Maher somehow exempts the Israeli military from such a prescription or, more appropriately, he doesn't find Israel to be part of the "civilized world."  It is doubtful Maher would pick the latter option.

To make the point that Maher is uninformed on the topic of Israel and Palestine is obvious.  That his enthusiastic promotion of Zionist propaganda and apologia seems not to affect his reputation as a mainstream liberal mouthpiece is considerably more alarming.