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US Domestic Affairs

America’s True Believers and the Great Muslim Scare – An Analysis (9/15/2010)

The Great Muslim Scare

In the year 1951 the American working class intellectual Eric Hoffer described those he called the True Believers. These are people who are alienated from their present conditions and suffer feelings of insecurity and uncertainty about the way their lives and communities are heading. To set things straight they seek out movements, either of the right or the left, that claim to have

assured answers to problems while offering comfort and solidarity in a fellowship of like

believers. The leaders of such movements often can be demagogues who expect their followers

to be, well, true believers. The one and the many are made for each other in this regard. The

solution to problems almost always entails conspiracy theories and the confronting of enemies,

both internal and external. In generally uncertain and fearful times, more and more of the

citizenry can be pulled into such movements, attracted by leaders who are assertive in a

mesmerizing way. All societies have such true believers in them and today’s America is no

exception.

Since the end of the Cold War, communism has been replaced by a new enemy, the religion of

Islam and the billion Muslims who make it up. Even before 9/11 there was an on-going effort by

radical Zionists to focus American fears and uncertainties on the Muslim world. The 9/11

attacks seemed to be proof positive of their position and, with the media’s full cooperation,

increasing numbers of citizens began to think a new crusader war was justified. After all, did

not President Bush say that the attackers “hate our values?” In truth the terrorism that came

home to America on 9/11 was the result of decades of American foreign policies that had killed

and injured incalculably more Middle Easterners than the 2973 victims of that fateful day. But

most U.S. citizens were (and still are) unfamiliar with the realities of their country’s foreign

policies and the government, along with the media, was not about to educate them. And so the

nation entered a time of high anxiety allegedly made understandable through a mixture of

propaganda, bigotry and official lies. It was (and still is for the era continues) a time made for

true believers.

Introducing Pamela Geller

Now enter Pamela Geller, one of America’s up and coming, famous and infamous, purveyors of

Islamophobia. Essentially, Ms Geller is advocating an American crusade against Islam. She

would no doubt yell and scream that this is not so, but consider the fact that she is the one who,

almost single handedly, turned the debate over the proposed Islamic center for southern

Manhattan, the one two blocks from “ground zero,” into a clash of civilizations. Along with air

time on Fox News, Ms. Geller accomplished this via the web, from her blog, Atlas Shrugs. This

achievement must stand as a milestone in web history, though not a particularly wholesome one.

It looks very much like this lady is positioning herself to be a leader of just the kind of

movement Eric Hoffer described. Here are some of Ms Geller’s other particulars:

1. Geller is a 51 year old ex-employee of the New York Daily News (she worked in marketing)

and then, through 1994, was an associate publisher of something called The New York Observer.

After that she seems to have devoted herself to political advocacy and blogging.

2. She is co-founder of the Freedom Defense Initiative which is dedicated to stopping “Islamic

supremacist initiatives in American cities” and identifying “infiltrators of our federal agencies.”

She is also a founder of the organization Stop Islamization of America which, in the finest

Orwellian fashion, describes itself as a “human rights organization. It recently raised enough

money to place advertisements on the sides of New York City buses identifying the Islamic

religion with the 9/11 attacks. The organization’s motto is “Racism is the lowest form of human

stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.”

3. She is a pal of any number of right wing politicians known for their anti-Islamic positions such

as Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Gary Berntsen, and the Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders.

4. She is a right-wing Zionist with connections to the West Bank settler movement. This may be

the real root of her anti-Islamic sentiments.

5. And finally, Ms Geller may very well be a megalomanic. She likes to go around dressed in

superman customs and has taken to calling herself “Atlas” (after Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).

She also likes to splash around in the Atlantic Ocean wearing a Bikini, declaiming “here I am in

my chador, my burka”. When she is accused of obvious anti-Islamic statements and positions,

she gets huffy and offers a flat denial made at suspiciously high volume. It is all a “gross

misrepresentation” according to Geller (see the Geller link above for all of this). It should be

kept in mind that just because it is tough to elect a female president does not mean that there is

no American constituency for a female demagogue.

As suggested above, there are millions of Americans who may find Geller’s message attractive.

For example most of the followers of Glenn Beck, Franklin Graham, Michael Evans, Rob Grant

and the late Jerry Falwell are probably on the same page as Pamela Geller. Taken altogether they

might account for about 10% of the adult population (that is roughly 30 million people). These

are the sort of people who think that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim and that there is an

Islamic plot to take over the country and institute Sharia law. These are Hoffer’s hard core true

believers. However, there are many additional Americans who are ready to see it Geller’s way

on single issues. Again, take the Manhattan Islamic center that Geller thinks is the launching pad

for the “Islamization of America.” About one third of the U.S. do not think that American

Muslims have a constitutional right to build at that spot. One half of all Americans think it is

legal to ban Muslims from building mosques anywhere in the U.S. About 31% would be ok with

doing just that.

A Partial Explanation

How are we to understand this phenomenon? How could millions upon millions of at least

potentially sensible people stereotype an entire religion of a billion people (the vast majority of

whom disavowal the likes of Osama bin Laden) as enemies?

I suggest consulting Walter Lippman for at least part of the answer. Walter Lippman was a

Pulitzer Prize winning political commentator. He was born in 1889 and lived on till 1974.

Lippman wrote a book in 1922 entitled Public Opinion. In this work he considered the problem

of the individual’s knowledge of events and situations beyond his or her local environment. Here

is how Lippman explained what is really a universal predicament, “Each of us lives and works on

a small part of the earth’s surface, moves in a small circle….Inevitably our opinions cover a

bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe.

They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can

imagine.” Inevitably, for most, those opinions of things beyond the local will be based on

indirectly acquired information. Indeed, the further from home we look the more dependent we

are on limited and often distorted information coming from sources which we assume to be

knowledgeable but the biases of which we know little. This information underpins the “pictures

in our heads” as Lippman characterized them, and it fleshes out the superficial views upon which

make our judgments.

It is in times of high tension involving problems coming from beyond our local environment that

we become most aware of our ignorance. To compensate for that ignorance we automatically

place the unfamiliar situation within a culturally prescribed context and simultaneously turn to

others of our group whom, it is assumed, know what is going on. The primary medium that

brings us these “experts”: government officials, news pundits, academics and sometimes the likes

of Pamela Geller, is the news media in all its forms. However, as Lippman tells us “news and

truth are not the same thing.” One of the reasons for the divergence is the fact that the former is

filtered through the minds of those “in the know” and their media facilitators. Thus, Lippman

continues, we can assume that the guidance offered by the “experts” is “in some vital measure

constructed out of his [or her] own stereotypes…and by the urgency of his [or her] own interest.”

One can think of no better examples of this than Pamela Geller and Fox News.

Conclusion

We have two factors working here, one is limited and the other ubiquitous. We have the limited

but ever present subset of the population who are potential true believers. And in addition, we

have a ubiquitous ignorance of that which is going on beyond our local environment. You might

argue that, in an era of globalization and the web, this cannot be so. Unfortunately it is so. While

there might be a lot of information out there, some of it even reliable information, most people

do not seek it out nor do they necessarily have the background to recognize truth if it happens to

run counter to their culturally influenced stereotypes and favorite “news” sources. These two

factors are not uniquely American. You find them in all societies, including Muslim ones.

Regardless, they are increasingly serious and dangerous factors right here in the U.S.A.

Eric Cantor and the Provoking of American Antisemitism (An Analysis – 18 November 2010)

Zionists of all stripes incessantly complain about antisemitism. They tell us that it is on the rise

and that is why Israel is so important. They warn that when antisemitism inevitably reaches

lethal levels Israel will be the only safe haven left for world’s Jews, including those oh so

comfortable ones in the United States. The flip side of this alarmism is that the same Zionists are

forever striving to turn the warning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, Israeli

governments have behaved in such a brutal and illegal fashion toward the Palestinians that no

self-respecting ethical human being can help but be indignant and angry. And, because of

Zionist insistence that Israeli nationalism and Judaism are one in the same, half the world now

thinks it’s the Jews who are collectively responsible for the sins of the Israelis.

The Israelis are not alone in acting in a manner that can only ruin the reputation of the Jews. For

a long time American politicians have quietly allowed themselves to be dictated to by Israeli

allied organizations such as AIPAC. This corrupting process is usually hidden behind a facade

of propaganda incorrectly describing Israel as a strategic asset, the only democracy in the Middle

East, and a country sharing American values. As a consequence the public has hardly noticed as

the interests of the United States are shaped to conform to those of Israel–with very negative

results for the American position not only in the Middle East, but within the entire Muslim

world. But now the corruption has reached a new level, one so open and brazen that the

likelihood of the American public taking notice has, correspondingly, become more probable.

And, when notice is taken, the possibility of a rise in American antisemitism also presents itself.

For this dangerous turn of events we can all thank a Republican political leader by the name of

Eric Cantor. Cantor is a Congressional Representative from Richmond Virginia who is presently

competing for the position of GOP House Majority Leader. He styles himself as one of the

party’s “young guns.” So what is it that Congressman Cantor has done that may well contribute

to the a heightened level of American antisemitism? On Wednesday, November 10th Israeli

Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Washington DC for a meeting with Secretary of State Hilary

Clinton. But Cantor got to Netanyahu first and, according to the Congressman’s boastful press

release, he “stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the [Obama]

Administration ….He [Cantor] made clear that the Republican majority understands the special

relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant

upon the other.”

How do we translate this? Essentially what Cantor did was tell the leader of a foreign country

that he will protect that country from the official policies of the President of the United

States–the person charged by the Constitution to carry out the nation’s foreign policy. Actually,

the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have been supplying just this sort of protection

for a very long time. But they have always done so surreptitiously. What is different with Cantor

is that he has done this quite publically, letting us all know about it in a notice on his official

stationary.

What Eric Cantor did on November 10th was illegal. He broke the law. The Law he boasted

about violating is known as the Logan Act. This act makes it a felony for an American citizen

“without authority of the United States” to interact “with any foreign government or any officer

or agent thereof” with the intent to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the

United States. There are obviously disputes between the Obama administration and the

Netanyahu government. And here comes Eric Cantor to tell the Israeli Prime Minister that he

and the Republican Party will use the power of the House of Representatives to protect Israel

from U.S. government policy. If that is not a communication made in such a way as to influence

the behavior of a foreign power, nothing is! In addition, Cantor cannot claim ignorance of the

law, for there can be no doubt that he is aware of the Logan Act. We know this to be true

because he tried to use it against Nancy Pelosi in 2007 after she met briefly with President Assad

of Syria. Pelosi, of course, met with the Syrian government with the full knowledge and

approval of the State Department. Cantor, on the other, had no official sanction whatsoever.

So what did Cantor think he was doing on November 10th? The probable answer is that he was

not thinking at all. Men like Cantor are so imbued with the notion of a “special relationship” that

they have lost sight of the fact that Israel is a foreign country. After all, Israel has had a powerful

special interest lobby operating in this country, distributing money to politicians on both sides of

the aisle, for so long that it seems quite natural. Does Mr. Cantor realize that he can now be

hoisted by his own petard–the Logan Act?

And herein lies the risk for American Jews. What seems so natural inside the Beltway, is losing

its normalcy in the country at large. There is so much objectively unnatural about the U.S.- Israel

relationship that if the general public actually starts paying attention things might turn nasty.

There are the billions of dollars that go to a economically advanced country even when the US

economy is hurting; there are all those UN vetoes that protect the same country in its incessant

violation of international law; there is the fact that this money and protection is going to a land

characterized by racist practices that would be illegal if carried out in the United States; there is

the Israeli lobby’s involvement in the launching of the second Iraq war, and on it goes. What if

the American people get angry about all of this? Who are they going to blame? The politicians?

Probably. The Israelis and their Zionist lobby? For sure. And, because the Zionists are so

insistent that Israel and Judaism are one in the same, the public may generalize out their

discontent to American Jews in general.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Israel and its Zionist supporters, as well as the U.S.

politicians who have so long cooperated with them, have placed American Jewry in potential

jeopardy. Realization of that potential probably requires on-going economic bad times and

foreign disaster. But how far are we from that? If things get bad enough, all it would take is a

spark to reinvigorate an ancient prejudice that has long laid dormant in the U.S. I can think of

no one more qualified, in terms of sheer unthinking brazenness, to ignite that spark than

Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia. Maybe that is what it means to be a Republican “top gun.”

The Fate of America’s Justice System – An Analysis (8-1-10)

On July 28, 2010 there appeared an important and tragic story on CNN.com. Its title is “U.S.

Army Veteran in Columbia Feels Like He is Caught in a No-Fly Trap.” It is the story of a 29

year old U.S. citizen by the name of Raymond Earl Knaeble. Knaeble had been working in

Kuwait since 2006 for ITT systems, inc. In 2008 he converted to Islam and set up a web site

devoted to correcting misunderstandings about the religion among English speakers. He sought

to demonstrate that Islam is a religion of peace. Recently he flew from Kuwait to Bogota

Columbia in order to join his fiancé. He then attempted to fly to the U.S. in order to take a

physical exam prior to beginning a new job with ITT in Qatar. At that point he was barred from

boarding the airplane. It has been all downhill from there. Knaeble’s job offer was withdrawn

and he ended up stranded and penniless in Columbia. When he asked the authorities why this

was happening to him no one would tell him. However, it is obvious that the FBI has placed his

name on its notorious no-fly list. That is how he became the American equivalent of Kafka’s

Josef K in the Trial.

This tragedy raises many questions about the present status of American justice system, the

marching orders of our bureaucracies, particularly the FBI, and just what is the worth of being an

American citizen in 2010? Ever since the attacks of 9/11 there has been a serious erosion of our

standards of justice. Indeed, there seems little doubt that the national government has taken it

upon itself to selectively violate its own Constitution and laws. Thus, the government’s assertion

that it can hold American citizens and residents indefinitely without showing cause has

undermined habeas corpus. The arbitrary assertion that it can listen in on lawyer-client

discussions spells the death of that long standing and necessary privilege. And the practice of

kidnaping and torture of individuals worldwide has placed the United States in the position of

being a great power running of a world-wide terrorist operation. Allegedly, this last practice has

been suspended.

It is through the practice of such policies, among others, that the marching orders given by

Congress and the Executive to the government’s “law enforcement” and “intelligence” agencies

have been transformed. This has been accomplished by an apparent nod of approval given to the

latent lawlessness inherent in all such bureaucracies. This might sound confusing, but the truth is

that such agencies have two sets of rules that are not perfectly aligned. One set is the laws of the

land that the bureaucrats and agents are suppose to enforce and uphold. These laws are to apply

to the actions of the agencies just like they apply to the behaviors of ordinary citizens. The other

set is the package of internal customary rules of operation that are part of the culture of the

bureaucracies themselves. These are shaped by years of practice and may well allow or even

encourage the cutting of legal corners in the order to perform the agencies’ missions in the most

“effective” manner. There is a standing tension between the two sets of rules but, under normal

conditions, the rule of law should prevail. When it does not, one gets investigation and scandal.

People often lose their jobs as a result. However, after 9/11, it seems that there was a purposeful

turning of a blind eye when it came to the actions of agencies such as the FBI and CIA. All of a

sudden the government as a whole seem to adopt an unspoken position that the law should get

out of the way of the mission. The Bush Justice Department began this corrupting practice and

the Obama administration has taken up the precedent.

As a consequence we can seriously ask the question, what is the worth of US citizenship under

present conditions? Well, for Raymond Earl Knaeble, the answer is it is worth little or nothing.

In fact he would be much better off being the citizen of some other country. And he is not alone,

for U.S. citizens with close ties to the Muslim world are all at risk. Arab Americans and Muslim

Americans are now having to fight continuously for their basic rights as Americans. These

members of our communities, as well as their supporters, are constantly plagued by bigots,

hostile special interests, and what appears to be lawless bureaucrats working in agencies ranging

from local sheriffs offices to the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to FBI,

and even to the State Department. Things have gotten so bad that the Council on American-

Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a travelers alert on their web site warning Muslim

Americans of the risk of “forced exile” when traveling overseas. And here is another, personal

warning– those who travel to Israel-Palestine and end up harassed by Israeli soldiers while

visiting the Occupied Territories should know that they will find little or no sympathy, much less

assistance, from U.S. counselor officials.

According to the Social Contract theory of government put forth by John Locke (1632-1704), the

government is created to guarantee the rights of the citizens. The citizens, in turn, are obligated

to support their government by, among other things, the payment of taxes and their loyalty, as

long as those guarantees are maintained. That is why Locke describes the relationship between

citizens and their government as a contract. Since Locke’s day citizens’ rights have been

extended beyond life, liberty and property to include, in the case of the U.S., all those rights and

privileges enumerated in the Constitution. This list of rights is among the dwindling American

attributes still admired worldwide. Finally, Locke is pretty explicit about what can happen if the

government, by acting in violation of its own laws and constitution, breaks the contract. It seems

to me that since 9/11, at least parts of the U.S. government have been operating on or beyond the

line of lawlessness.

Lets finish up with the same example we began with, that of Mr. Knaeble. He is not someone

who has inadvertently fallen through the cracks. He is not like the main character in the story “A

Man Without a Country” who cursed the United States and obviously wished the nation ill. Not

at all. He is a victim of the lawless practices of a U.S. police agency. In order to perform the

mission of “fending off all possible threats to the U.S.” Raymon Knaeble, and many more like

him, have been sacrificed. This is the only conclusion that one can draw because the FBI

appears to be under no obligation, and thus unwilling, to provide any evidence, any cause, for

acting the way it does. We are just asked to trust the bureaucrats when they claim to know

something that we do not, and therefore accept that they can ruin this man’s life with impunity.

Obviously, someone has told the FBI that it can behave like the KGB.

That is where we stand, be it under Bush or Obama, and it is a serious problem for all of us.

Democratic governments should not function as enemies of their own laws. But they do so when

they run so scared that the law is sacrificed to an impossible search for perfect security. Tip

O’Neil, the famous and humorous Speaker of the House of Representatives (1977 to 1987) use

to walk around with small copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He was serious about that

document. One wonders how many of his successors have even read the document. Tip O’Neil

is dead now. Let’s hope he did not take the Constitution with him to the grave.

Feeding At The Pentagon Trough – An Analysis (8/17/10)

When Americans think about the state of their economy, what they are doing is reflecting on

their personal economic conditions. For most citizens, the economy is their pocketbooks and not

the state of the nation’s purse. This is part of what can be called “natural localism,” the fact that

almost everyone concentrates their attention first and foremost on their local environment.

Americans are particularly prone to such myopia due to the emphasis given to “me first”

individualism by their culture. Unfortunately, this orientation has proven increasingly harmful

for America’s national economy. The federal politicians are as “me first” as their constituents

and so no one seems to be able to manage the nation’s money according to national needs. A

good examination of this was put forth by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on August 11,

2010.

With the ghost of Dwight Eisenhower hovering in the background, Reich noted that the U.S.

now appears hopelessly devoted to maintaining the economic activities of the military-industrial

complex regardless of need, efficiency, or cost. Why so? Because, he tells us, almost four

million Americans are directly employed by either the military or military related companies and

corporations. This makes the military-industrial complex, “America’s biggest–and only major–

job’s program.” It also makes the entire set up politically inviolable. The distortions that result

are labeled “nuts” by Reich. Here are some examples of them:

1. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to reduce spending on private contractors by one third.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, “Buck” McKeon, protested that

this may well “weaken the nation’s defense.” Of course, it is nonsense to accuse the Defense

Secretary of weakening national defense, so what is it that Congressman McKeon is trying to

say? As Reich explains, reducing spending on contractors corresponds directly to the lose of jobs

in any number of states. Lose of jobs means loss of votes for incumbents, and that weakens

McKeon among others.

2. Mr. Gates wants to close the Joint Force Command in Norfolk, Virginia. It is superfluous and

thus an unnecessary expense. Virginia’s Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who sits on the Senate

Armed Services Committee, declared this “would be a step backward.” Of course, it is nonsense

to imply that Robert Gates wants to undermine national security by “stepping backward.” So

what is Senator Webb trying to say? As Reich explains, he is saying that the Joint Force

Command employs 6,324 people as well as 3300 private subcontractors. If Webb went along

with putting all those people out of work he would probably lose his own job as well.

3. What happens when you have a gigantic cargo jet that you no longer need? That is another of

Mr. Gates’s dilemmas. The C-17 is passe. Alas, it also keeps 34,000 people working at Boeing

and its subcontractors in no less than 40 states. The Senate thinks it is a good idea to order ten

new ones at a cost of $250 million apiece.

4. Then there is the F-25 “Strike Fighter jet.” Each one is to come with a duplicate engine it does

not need. This costs us all $2.9 billion. The Defense Secretary says this is not logical. Well, that

depends on whether you live in Indiana or Ohio. There you will find media advertisements

funded by General Electric (the engine maker) sporting GE workers in “Support Our Troops” Tshirts

complaining that the government wants to deny these two states of 4,000 engine related

jobs. The House of Representatives has recently seen fit to support duplicate engines.

The New York Times has described the situation this way, “There has been a feeding frenzy at

the Pentagon budget trough since the 9/11 attacks. Pretty much anything the military chiefs and

industry lobbyists pitched, Congress approved–no matter the cost and no matter if the weapons

programs were over budget, underperforming or no longer needed in the post-cold-war world.”

In total the U.S. spends close to a trillion dollars a year on “national defense” and “national

security” related items. There is so much redundancy, inefficiency, and sheer fluff in all of this

that Reich concludes that “national security is a cover for job security.” One could probably cut

the entire array of defense related expenditures by one quarter to one third and never lose a beat

of one’s security related heart. That would be a quarter to a third of a trillion dollars that might

be spent on schools, mass transit, health care, parks, sewers and water systems, alternative

energy, job training and retraining, low cost housing, the arts, fixing potholes, ad infinitum. In

other words, funding all the things that help make up a vibrant civilization. But the advocates for

such things, even the paid one’s in Washington, seem not to be able to compete. In March 2005,

750 scientists at the National Institutes of Health lamented that money for basic research into

infectious diseases was going instead into “bio-terror research.” Things have not improved since

then. But how many of us really care? Not the vast majority of those employed by the militaryindustrial

complex. Locked into their “me first” localism, they can proclaim that they have

theirs, and the rest of us can go to…..the unemployment lines.

What all this means, in the simplest of terms, is that in the United States there is no such thing as

national interest. The nation appears to be nothing beyond the total of its pork barrel sub parts.

And the most demanding of these are military related. If the U.S. is something more than these

parts, Congress should have identified that “thing” by now and honored it. There is no evidence

that this has happened. Of course, national interest does exist in rhetorical terms. We hear it all

the time. The phrase is always trotted out when you want to justify some demand in a way that

leaves opponents open to the charge of being unpatriotic.

In addition, this all means that the largest spending operations in the federal government are

carried on in a fashion that no competent household manager would tolerate for a minute. The

General Accounting Office, which knows what is going on and often tries to expose the

corruption of it all, is utterly incapable of changing the general way business is carried out. So

the next time you hear a politician complain about the deficit, ask him or her about the bloated

defense budget and watch them beat a hasty retreat. The next time you hear a legislator, federal,

state or local, throw up their hands and say that there is just no money for public education, etc.,

ask them about those venal defense contractors. Chances are they will stutter and shuffle and

smile like a ninny, or perhaps join you in your outrage.

But actually, the number of Americans who pay attention to all this, who think about the bigger

picture, are in the minority. Most of us are ignorant of the complexities of national politics and

content as long as our own taxes do not go up. Even the unemployed are docile, unorganized and

feeling helpless. Someday, the way we do business might cause our economic house of cards to

fall in a way that sparks a truly massive political backlash. Perhaps we have seen intimations of

that future in the multiple financial crises of the past decade. However, that time has not come.

And, the New York Times notwithstanding, the hemorrhage of monies through the open arteries

of the Senate and House Armed Services committees has yet to reach mass consciousness.

Civilization ought to mean something more than how many duplicate engines come with an F-25.

Yet, what happens when we can no longer tell the difference between the pap of special interest

propaganda and the quality of our lives? “Perhaps civilization is approaching one of those long

winters that overtake it from time to time.” That was a suggestion made by the philosopher

George Santayana in 1922. A prescient observation for our own day, despite the looming threat

of global warming.

Those Fraudulent Zionist Charities – An Analysis (June 8, 2010)

As many of you might know, the New York Times (June 5, 2010) has belatedly reported on the

massive violation of U.S. tax laws by both right-wing Zionist and Christian Zionist “charities.”

The report also emphasized that the same groups violating these laws are working overtime to

thwart an important part of President Obama’s foreign policy. The way they accomplish this dual

damage is by sending millions of dollars a year under the guise of charity to illegal Israeli

settlements on the West Bank, even as President Obama seeks to halt that same settlement

process as a major impediment to peace. There are several aspects of this story, not taken up by

the NYT report, that need looking into: 1. Why are these Zionists, Jewish and Christian, so

intent on fostering Israeli imperial expansion that they are willing to break American law? And,

2. Why has the U.S. government let them get away with it for years?

1. Many of the Americans donating millions and the Zionist front men illegally channeling their

contributions to the settlements are religious zealots. For most Americans the only such zealots

they are familiar with are the Islamic ones. Well, it is a very big world out there and religious

fanatics are to be found just about everywhere, even in the USA. Our own home-grown version

are folks who read their bibles (be they Old Testament or New) literally. It seems to make not a

bit of difference to them that the modern language versions are translations of translations of

translations going all the way back to ancient Hebrew and Greek. Such a process is something

like playing the child’s game of “telephone” with the alleged word of God.*

No matter, all those investigated by the NYT are convinced that they know what God has said

and what God wants. God gave the Israelites the “promised land” of Israel and that includes

Judea and Samaria. On the basis of this firm belief the American Jewish fanatics have

transformed themselves from, say, New Yorkers of Polish ancestry, into the imagined blood

relatives of the biblical Moses, Aaron, Solomon and David. The Christian Zionist fanatics are

determined to see the Israelis have all of the Holy land, tear down the al Aqsa mosque, rebuild

Solomon’s temple and thereby hasten Armageddon (during which most of the Jews are

slaughtered) and then, voila, we see the return of Christ.

These two groups might seem to make strange bedfellows, but they are at least temporary allies.

The NYT story makes this clear in its listing of just some of the estimated 40 charity cheating

organizations dealing with Israel. The Tennessee charity called Ha Yovel, is really a Christian

outfit “helping Jews establish permanence in the Israeli occupied territories.” The Christian

friends of Israeli Communities, Americans for a Safe Israel (Jewish), Friends of Zo Artzeinu

(Jewish), Capital Athletic Foundation (Jewish), Amitz Rescue and Security (? who knows), The

Central Fund for Israel (Jewish), the Irving Moskowitz family, the owners of Hagen-Dazs ice

cream, Jack Abramoff, the very Christian John Hagee, ad nauseam. And what do they all have in

common? None of them have any problem breaking the laws of their own country. It is easy for

them because they all believe they are doing God’s work. And God’s commands, even when

read in quite questionable translations, stand above any human law.

2. This violation of the laws regulating charitable giving has been going on for a long time. Back

in the 1940s American donors were financing the terrorist activities of the Irgun. Today,

according to the NYT, tax breaks for these sorts of activities “remain largely unchallenged and

unexamined by the American government.” When the paper contacted the Internal Revenue

Service about this, the agency “declined to discuss donations for West Bank settlements.” A

State Department spokesman, speaking anonymously, said “it’s a problem. It’s unhelpful to the

efforts that we’re trying to make.” The response I find the most revealing is the one by Daniel C.

Kurtzer who was American ambassador to Israel between 2001 and 2005. He told the NYT, that

this activity always “drove us [the diplomats] crazy.” However, it was a “politically delicate”

issue, “a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.” Now what can that possibly mean? Just

how “polite” was the company Kurtzer hung about with if criminal activity was an

unmentionable subject? The NYT piece does not give us an answer.

I will fill in this very large blank. The reason this business has gone on for years, the reason it is

unmentionable in “polite society,” the reason the IRS is silent on the issue, the reason the State

Department spokesman remains anonymous, and the reason why the whole thing is “politically

delicate” is because of the financial and political power of the Zionist and Christian Zionist

lobbies. They have proven themselves very adept at ruining political careers, making newspaper

editors eat their words, and successfully backing candidates for office who will jump to their

tune. Most in Congress are afraid of these people. The bureaucrats running both political parties

are afraid of them. The media moguls are either afraid or true believers. And the vast majority of

the voting public either sees the world through media and government smokescreens compatible

with the point of view of these criminals, or they just don’t care. In other words, lobbies are

central to our political system and these particular lobbies try very hard to run our foreign policy

in the Middle East. Most of the time they succeed.

During the Bush Jr. administration things were even worse then at present. At that time, while

these so-called charities were busily funneling millions of dollars to the settlements and paying

for such charity related items as sniper rifles, guard dogs, night vision equipment and the

questionable activities of far-right Israeli politicians, the Justice Department was methodically

closing down American Muslim charities that were guilty of no more than funding Palestinian

schools and hospitals. They claimed that these institutions were related to Hamas, but the

evidence was always indirect, indecisive, and Israeli supplied. In those days the Justice

Department was full of lawyers recruited from law schools affiliated with Christian

fundamentalist colleges. Perhaps there is a connection here.

So, the question we are left with is, do we have laws regulating charitable giving or do we not?

When it comes to Israel, the answer is we do but they are politically unenforceable. Does that

undermine President Obama’s foreign policy? You bet. But what is perhaps worse is that it

undermines the rule of law. I really do wish that I could arrange for all the politicians who are in

the pockets of the Zionists to wake up tomorrow, and understand that their hypocritical approach

to the law is no different than the behavior of policemen and judges bought off by criminal

gangs. But I can’t. How about their constituents? Can we make them understand? A lot of

people are working on that approach to the problem.

*It is to be noted that in Islam the only truly reliable version of the Quran is that written in the

original classical Arabic.

Free Speech Takes a Hit…From Washington – (An Analysis 7/21/10)

I. The Present Situation

On June 21, 2010 the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Holder [the present

Attorney General] vs. Humanitarian Law Project [HLP]. In what the New York Times called “its

most significant ruling on free speech rights in terrorism cases” the Court upheld a federal law

that defined just about any interaction with members of groups designated as “terrorist” by the

U.S. government as “material support” for criminal activities. Punishment can include a prison

sentence of 15 years. The HLP was attempting to teach members of the Turkish PKK (which is

such a designated group) how to deal with some of their grievances through accepted United

Nations channels.

More specifically, the law, which is a provision of the misnamed Patriot Act, specifies that it is

illegal to provide “training,” “personnel,” “expert advice or assistance,” and “service” to

members of designated terrorist groups. Previously, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth

Circuit had found these terms to be “unconstitutionally vague.” The Supreme Court disagreed

and by a 6 to 3 ruling decided that the law was constitutional after all. Just how radical this

decision is can be seen by the fact that it is now illegal to directly assist alleged terrorists to

change their behavior so that they cease being terrorists. At times the government’s arguments

and the response of the justices got downright silly. Thus, according to U.S. Solicitor General

Elena Kagan, who argued the government’s case, and is herself a current nominee for the

Supreme Court, it would be a criminal act to teach a member of the PKK to play the harmonica.

The clever, but decidedly unwise Supreme Court judge Anthonin Scolia agreed, observing that

terrorists who learn to play instruments might form a band and raise money for illicit causes.

Silliness aside, the First Amendment is no longer what it use to be. As the civil rights lawyer

David Cole notes, “for the first time ever, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment

permits the criminalization of pure speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity.” In other

words, for the present, the First Amendment is an emasculated facade behind which the

government operates to severely limit what the Amendment is designed to protect. Actually, this

emasculation has been going on for almost a decade and the Court has now confirmed the

“legality” of the process. Thus, this part of the Patriot Act has already been used to harass and

destroy a number of benign Muslim charities, nonviolent supporters of Palestinian rights, and

even the American lawyers of individuals charged with terrorism.

II. The Majority’s Contribution to the Erosion of Free Speech

While Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project is part of a contemporary assault on free speech, the

periodic attack on this basic right has a history almost as old as the nation itself. There were the

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the suppression of a wide range of freedoms, including speech,

during the Civil War and World War I, the heinous behavior of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s,

and now the sustained assault embodied in the “Patriot Act.” These eruptions of what can be

called anti-American behavior on the part of the American government are usually associated

with real or imagined emergencies during which the latent authoritarian proclivities of the

governing elites range free.

One of the important, though often overlooked, factors that make possible this history of assaults

on free speech is that most U.S. citizens either do not care that they occur or welcome them.

This accounts for the remarkably sparse media coverage of the June 21 Supreme Court decision

and the almost total lack of public concern. Why is this so? In truth, for the majority within a

democracy, the legal right guaranteeing freedom of speech is only an abstraction. On a daily

basis most citizens are not conscious of either the existence or the need for such a right. After

all, it is the democratic majority (as manipulated as they might be) who define accepted norms.

The speech of such a majority is by definition normative speech, and as such it is not felt to be in

need of protection.

On the other hand, freedom of speech and associated rights do become noticeable and in need of

protection when used to publically discuss and question beyond the community’s commonly

accepted norms. Not only do members of the majority not ordinarily do this, but they are often

suspicious of the minority who do. The general public may easily be led by its media and

government spokes people to see such questioners as unpatriotic troublemakers. As such these

minority elements are not viewed as practitioners of rights, but rather as abusers of them. That is

why the more the majority feels threatened, the more democratic governments will move, with

the acquiescence of the public, to legislate a limit to free speech. In the present case of the

Supreme Court decision of June 21, we can assume that the general public already feels

uncomfortable due to the often exaggerated claims of those waging the “war on terror.” So the

suppression of an alleged source of non-normative, potentially unpatriotic behavior (for instance

the efforts of the Humanitarian Law Project) is not going to draw a lot of popular concern and

opposition.

Finally, lets talk about who defended this horrible law before the Supreme Court. If it had been

the corrupt Justice Department of George W. Bush, we would all asking what else can you

expect? How very much in character for them to do this. But George W. is no longer in charge.

His relatively liberal opponents are. Yet it is apparent that when it comes to the “war on terror”

President Obama and the Democratic Congress have decided to carry forward the dangerous

legal prohibitions of Bush’s Patriot Act. The Democrats most likely fear that if they do not do

so, and there is another terrorist attack on the U.S., they are politically doomed. Thus, the

administration has made no attempt to reeducate or reorient public opinion on the question of

terrorism. In the absence of such a reorientation the security minded majority continues to view

any group designated a terrorist organization by the State Department as “radioactive,” and

President Obama is trapped into defending reactionary laws like the one that did in HLP. It is a

circular scenario.

It would seem that we are stuck with a manipulated and frightened majority who are going to

either yawn or applaud as free speech rights are trimmed back. No one in the government will

challenge this situation and so the Patriot Act will continue to define free speech rights as long as

the “war on terror” shapes normative thinking.

Is the Renown Reporter Helen Thomas a Bigot?

Helen Thomas is the dean of the White House press corp. She made a mistake the other day by

declaring that, in her opinion at that moment, the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and

return to Europe. Palestine is “not German, its not Polish” she added. Unfortunately, the whole

thing ended up on a YouTube video. As a result of this indiscretion she has lost her business

agent. Lanny Davis, President Clinton’s White House Counsel said that Thomas should be

“stripped of her honors for having crossed the line of freedom of speech.” Davis declares that

Thomas “has shown herself to be an anti-Semtic bigot.” Former White House press secretary Ari

Fleischer called on Thomas to be fired from her post and her White House press credentials

revoked. He also called her an anti-Semitic bigot. B’nai B’rith’s international President Dennis

Glick and Vice President Daneil Marlaschin accused Thomas of being an ally of Iranian

President Ahmadinejad and being part of a cabal seeking to “delegitimize Israel.”

There are several issues to be considered here.

1. Obviously Thomas was angry over the Israel’s piratical attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla and

her remarks were made in that context. Thus, at the same time she lambasted the Obama

administration for its tepid response to the murders of nine aid activists on the Mavi Marmara by

Israeli commandoes. We all make exaggerated statements during fits of anger most of which,

thankfully, do not end up on YouTube. But we also know that the vast majority of the time these

statements do not reflect our overall worldview. I once heard a respected Middle East historian,

delivering a talk at an annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association, say that the

world would be a better place if all of Israel broke off and slid to the bottom of the Mediterranean

Sea. Was this man a bigot? Hardly. He was also Jewish. And he was not a “self-hater.”

Thomas offered an apology stating that she regrets the “comments I made last week

regarding Israelis and the Palestinians.” There is no doubt that she really does regret it,

considering the hot water it put her in. She also goes on and says that “they do not reflect my

heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need

for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.” Given her fifty plus years of honest

and penetrating reporting there is no reason to doubt that this last statement represents the real

Helen Thomas–when not confronted with horrific Israeli behavior. The accusations of bigotry

and the calls for the ruination of her career are way out of proportion and, when coming from

Zionists such as Fleischer, Glick and Marlaschin they are undoubtedly opportunistic.

2. Now, since we are on the topic of bigotry, let’s consider the behavior of the Israeli Jews on this

level. After all if we are to label their critics as bigots, we should take a look at the basis for the

criticism. The bitter truth is that Israeli Jews have spent the last 65 years systematically

discriminating against Israeli Arabs and, as far as the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories go,

they have set up a system of control that smacks of apartheid. Recent surveys of Israeli Jews

show that a good number of them do not want Palestinians as neighbors or allowed to live in the

same apartment blocks as they do. Israel’s school textbooks have purposely eradicated the

Palestinian history of the place they now call the Jewish state. This discriminatory environment

is promoted by the Israeli government. This is how the Israeli journalist Mya Guarnieri describes

the situation, “The continued maltreatment of Palestinians puts every Israeli’s freedom at risk on

a daily basis. If your government disregards the rule of law, disenfranchises your neighbor and

tramples his most basic human rights, how can you expect that your own freedoms will remain

intact?” But freedom in Israel is seen, by the Jews, as a strictly ethnocentric privilege. Thus,

when Israeli Jews call Israel a “Jewish state” they mean it quite literally. This is not to say there

are not fair minded and humane Israeli Jews who know that the society they live in is seriously

perverted. There are. They are just a too small minority.

In other words, Israel as now constituted and operated is a state of active or passive bigots. That

conclusion is based on evidence (evidence backed up by most of the world’s human rights

organizations, including those in Israel). That being the case, I assert that Israel today is a racist

place and should be transformed from a “Jewish state” to a democratic secular state, a state

where all its citizens have equal rights. That does not require all of Israel’s Jews to go back to

Europe, or to be drowned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It just requires the destruction of the

ideology of Zionism.

If the folks at B’nai B’rith got hold of this I will bet dollars to donuts that they would have

conniptions and call me an anti-Semitic bigot. That seems to be the way it goes in our world.

John Ashcroft’s Immunity And the U.S. Legal System – An Analysis (October 26, 2010)

The Situation

One of the cases the Supreme Court of the United States will take up in its 2011 session is

Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd. John Ashcroft was the Attorney General under President George Bush Jr.

In that capacity he appears to have knowingly violated the U.S. Constitution (as well as

periodically forced his employees to listen to his horrendous singing voice). Abdullah al-Kidd is

a Muslim American citizen who Ashcroft illegally ordered detained through the illicit use of a

material witness warrant. Kidd was one of 70 detained in this manner. He was picked up at

Dulles International Airport after the FBI lied to a judge in order to get the warrant for his

seizure. Al-Kidd was subsequently held for long periods in a security cell where the lights never

went out.

That John Ashcroft is the criminal and al-Kidd his victim is certain. That is how the Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals sees it. That court has refused to dismiss al-Kidd’s lawsuit against

Ashcroft noting that the former Attorney General can be held personally responsible for action

“repugnant to the Constitution.” That he knowingly and criminally acted to “arrest and detain

American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because they have

committed a crime, but merely because the government wants to investigate them for possible

wrongdoing.” Ashcroft’s lawyers avoid the question of the illegality of his actions and simply

say that he is immune from lawsuits for actions he took as Attorney General. On that basis they

have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit. The Justices have now decided to consider

Ashcroft’s request.

Certainly John Ashcroft is not the first high U.S. official to reveal himself as an alleged criminal.

Nor is it the first time that high government officials have acted in an unconstitutional manner.

Right out of the starting gate , so to speak, the young United States created the Alien and

Sedition Acts (1798) through which the Federalist party sought, quite unconstitutionally, to jail

its political opponents. Andrew Jackson spit in the eye of both the Supreme Court and the

Constitution by evicting the Cherokee Indians (1838), James Polk should have been impeached

for high crimes and misdemeanors for lying to the Congress in order to start the Mexican-

American War (1846), Abraham Lincoln probably violated the Constitution by some of his

police actions during the Civil War, the raids and deportations that took place as a result of the

Red Scares of the 1920s were at least in part unconstitutional, then you have Watergate, Irangate

and now multiple potential Bushgates. Few of the politicians who ordered these criminal actions,

or those who carried out those orders, ever faced punishment.

The Position of the Obama Administration

What is interesting about the present case of Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd is that the Obama

administration has decided to make illegality acceptable by institutionalizing the concept of

immunity for highly placed men like Ashcroft. The administration will try to do this not through

legislation, but through precedent– by defending Ashcroft’s claim to immunity before the

Supreme Court. At first it seems strange that a professed liberal president such as Barack Obama

would do this. But unfortunately, it is quite consistent with the illiberal stance he has maintained

on the question of the constitutional responsibility of his predecessors in the Bush White House.

From the beginning of his presidency, Obama decided to shield them from the consequences of

their crimes. This position was initiated by the president’s “we should look forward” statement

in January of 2009. In this statement he made it clear that he did not want to pursue those who

had ordered or implemented (in this case) torture under the Bush administration. When popular

pressure forced the president to allow his attorney general, Eric Holder, to open an investigation

of the issue of torture it was arranged so the inquiry would have no teeth. Publically and up front

we were told that no one would be prosecuted whatever the outcome of the probe. That is the

last anyone has heard of Holder’s investigation of torture American style. The long and short of

this is that the principle set down at Nuremberg, to wit following orders is no excuse for criminal

behavior, will not be applied. Nor will giving the orders incur a penalty. The decision to defend

Ashcroft’s claim of immunity is in solid accord with this position.

The logic of this position, and its likely consequences, warrants close examination. If we were to

ask President Obama why he has decided to defend the immunity of alleged criminals who

happen to be high government officials, and if he were to be perfectly candid in his reply, here is

what he might say:

1. President Obama – It would be difficult for the president, or those who carry out his orders, to

act freely and as needed if they had always to worry about litigation after the fact. This is

particularly true in time of war and emergency.

My Reply – This assertion has been made by leaders of states from time immemorial. It is a

variation on the raison d’etat argument that has historically allowed all manner of bad behavior

under the guise of state interests. On the other hand, it is true that following the law can prove

inconvenient under wartime or emergency conditions. Nonetheless, in the long run, lawlessness

is much worse than inconvenience. It is to be noted that, in the American case, appointed and

elected high officials (particularly attorney generals!) are sworn to uphold the law not to

transgress it.

2. President Obama – While I have stopped the more egregious policies of the Bush

administration, I am still responsible for the safety of all American citizens and, in our modern

age, I have to be able to use all the methods, high tech and otherwise, to achieve this goal. Some

of these methods might very well prove unconstitutional (warrantless wiretaps, for instance) and

yet I must be free to use them because another 9/11 style attack must be prevented. And, if I am

to use these methods, then I can not prosecute those who have done so before me. Otherwise I

would be accused of being a hypocrite by my political foes.

My Reply – This argument juxtaposes unattainable 100% security against the traditional

freedoms that makes America the country its founders intended. Do we want to sacrifice the

latter for the illusion of the former? As James Madison once observed, “The means of defense

against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” That is the

slippery slope President Obama seems willing to take us down. It also prioritizes the president’s

political interests over the Constitution. This latter point of view can be carried further.

3. President Obama – You have to understand, that if I do not do all that is possible, be it

constitutional or otherwise, to protect the nation I put myself in mortal political danger. I open

myself to the accusation by my political rivals that I am “soft” on security or terrorism. And, if

something does happen, such as another terrorist attack, then I am politically dead.

My Reply – Well, yes, this is so. However, what is also true is that prioritizing politics above

law always leads us in the direction of corruption, or worse. By defending Ashcroft isn’t

President Obama saying it is all right to break the law if you are highly placed and so lacking in

imagination that you can not figure out a legal way of dealing with an emergency? For let us be

clear, there is no evidence that after 9/11 the unconstitutional route was the only possible route to

defend the country. Were the legal options and their constitutional variants ever seriously

itemized and discussed? The Obama administration, like the Bush operatives, have never

publically addressed this question.

Likely Consequences

If the Obama Justice Department proceeds with its plans to defend Ashcroft’s immunity claim

and if, as is likely, the Supreme Court upholds that claim, we will be left with a politically based

two tier legal system. It will set free to break the law every highly placed federal official every

time he or she can claim an emergency situation. Then, after the fact, they will cite the immunity

precedent. In the meantime, the fact that high federal officials are sworn to uphold the laws of

the land will be rendered worthless, just another bit of political hypocrisy.

So what is it that we want for America? Do we want a two tier legal system where presidents

and their appointees can break the law with impunity? Do we want a legal system where it is

accepted that citizens and residents can disappear into federal dungeons? Is it all right with us

that our fellow citizens, following the orders of the president, will torture, detain, shackle and

otherwise abuse others without any regard for law – and they too will be immune? Because,

whether they realize it or not, that is what the Obama Justice Department is arguing for when it

defends John Ashcroft.

Dwight Eisenhower once asked the question, “how far can go without destroying from within

what you are trying to defend from without?” It is time for us to ask this question about

the heinous “security” tactics of President George Bush Jr. as well as President Barack

Obama’s unfortunate willingness to defend them.

Omar Khadr, Bradley Manning and Our National Psyche – An Analysis (8/11/10)

At present there are two men sitting in prison who have never met but are nonetheless intimately

connected. One is 23 year old Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was with a group of Afghan

resistance fighters attacked by U.S. troops in 2002 (when he was 15). The second is PFC

Bradley Manning, the man who blew the whistle on the barbaric tactics used by the U.S. in both

Iraq and Afghanistan. It is their different forms of resistance to a war sold to the U.S. public as

“necessary” and “defensive” that binds their fate.

1. Omar Khadr was taken prisoner in 2002. The United States claimed he was a member of al-

Qaida and said he met Osama bin Laden when he was 10. This made him an “intelligence

treasure trove.” Al-Qaeda obliged the U.S. by describing Omar as a “lion cub” defender of the

faith. In truth neither claim is real evidence of any definite organizational connection. The

number of distinct resistence groups in Afghanistan runs into the dozens and al-Qaeda will

breezily claim every one of them. According to General James Jones, who served as Obama’s

National Security Adviser, the number of actual al-Qaeda operatives at any one time in

Afghanistan is under 100 individuals. The assertion that 15 year old Omar was one them is

problematic. But it was enough for the American government that he was with the resistance.

Having complete power over both him and his media image, he could be made into anything the

American government wanted. For instance, he is accused of throwing a grenade at American

troops despite the fact that the reports of the 2002 action are confused and contradictory. There is

no eye-witness evidence of Khadir’s behavior during the fighting. Nonetheless, one American

soldier died at the time and Omar Khadr has been charged with his “murder.”

I think it is safe to say that Omar Khadr was a participant in the resistance to American invaders

in Afghanistan. However, and this is the seminal point, no one contests the fact that he was 15

years old at the time of his capture. That made him legally a child and international law requires

that child soldiers be treated as victims of an environment beyond their control, and not as an

adult making a conscious choice to participate in a war. In other words, using a phrase that

President Obama is fond of, according to international law this was not a “war of choice” for

Omar. The Bush administration did not care for international law in general and so to get around

this particular one, among others, it quite arbitrarily proclaimed that the fighters resisting U.S.

troops in Afghanistan were not part of a “real” army and therefore not “real” soldiers. As

nonsensical as this was, it allowed the U.S. military to deny Omar Khadr all legal rights and lock

him away for eight years while they interrogated, threatened, tortured and abused him

incessantly. Not surprisingly they got a “confession” out of Omar using these tactics and a

military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay decided that the “confession” is admissible as evidence.

President Obama has made no objection to this situation. Nor, for that matter, has the Canadian

government, whose conservative majority has essentially abandoned one of its own citizens to his

fate within a lawless system. In this case, at least, the old saying that military justice is a

contradiction in terms is certainly correct.

2. Bradley Manning was an army intelligence analyst with U.S. forces in the Middle East who

became deeply disturbed by what his job revealed to him. Essentially, it made him a front row

witness to what he described as “incredible things, awful things.” This primarily entailed the

careless killing of innocent civilians. As an act of conscience he gave the website Wikileaks over

200,000 classified documents and a number of videos showing attacks on Iraqi and Afghan

civilians. Unfortunately, he confided in another American hacker who turned him into the

government. He is presently in solitary confinement at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia and

charged with, among other things, “transmitting classified information to an unauthorized third

party.” If convicted, and there seems little doubt that the military will have it any other way, he

faces 52 years in prison.

The breech of security in this case was significant enough to draw comment from Secretary of

Defense Robert Gates who asserted that what Manning had done was “grievously harmful.”

Why so? Because, “the battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially

severe and dangerous to our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our

relationships and reputation in that part of the world.” This was followed up by at least one

Republican Congressman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, asserting that Manning is traitor and should

be executed. On the other hand, Defense Department and administration spokesmen have been

trying to minimize the effect of Manning’s action by asserting that the information he made

public was “nothing new.” Just old data. It is hard to see how the government can have it both

ways. But there can be little doubt that Gates was right about one thing. The information will

“damage…our reputation in that part of the world” and elsewhere too. Those who have only now

learned what the U.S. is doing should be appalled . Those who knew all along ought to have

already been appalled.

Some Observations:

A) The government leaders who have accused both Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning of

egregious crimes would themselves be judged criminal in a world where they did not control the

flow of information. As the human rights lawyer Francis Boyle has pointed out, the war in

Afghanistan, as the one in Iraq, is illegal under international law. “Congress never declared war.

The UN Security Council never authorized it under Article 51. And the Taliban never attacked

the United States or authorized or approved such an attack.” As Stephen Lendman tells us in a

fine piece on Manning published on August 7, 2010 (see the Manning link above), “FBI Director

Robert Mueller, and CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin admitted finding no link between

the Taliban and 9/11.”

B) So what the heck are we doing in Afghanistan? What national interest is so mortally

important that it has brought Khadr and Manning to the brink of destruction for resisting and

exposing the actions of the United States? What is it that makes this a “war of necessity”

according to President Obama? Here are some of the reasons that are tossed around:

1. Somehow, despite having nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, the Taliban are now among

those “who are plotting to do so again.” According to the president, “if left unchecked, the

Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill

more Americans.” Yet, after 9/11, the Taliban proved willing to negotiate the removal of Bin

Laden from its territory. It was Bush Jr. who rejected that process. The present connection

between the Taliban (which is not a monolithic organization) and al-Qaeda is often tenuous. Yet

surely the present war with the Taliban only encourages what connection these fighters might

have with al-Qaeda. Thus, a good argument can be made that al-Qaeda can be more readily

combated by negotiating with the Taliban rather than trying, futilely, to destroy what is

essentially an Afghan liberation movement.

2. It is all about oil and control of pipelines, etc. No doubt this has something to do with our

actions, but one can compete for control of these things through commercial channels which is

cheaper and far less lethal than making war in a country that has, in modern times, never been

truly conquered and controlled.

3. It is those meddling pro-Israeli lobbies stirring up the pot. This too has some credence

especially given our special interest politics. But the Zionists are probably only minor players in

the formulation of policy for Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq is another issue altogether.

Having thought about this, it seems to me that the process of policy formulation that landed us

up to our necks in both the Afghan and Iraq quagmires was much more improvised than carefully

thought through. My feeling is that you had people, none of whom gave a fig for international

law, running around Washington for decades making policy in the Middle East from multiple

angles: Cold War ideology, economic advantage, pro-Israeli enthusiasm, and religiously driven

anti-Muslim fanaticism as well. Collectively, this produced a sixty plus year pattern of policies

that put us in bed with multiple dictators and earned us the enmity of increasingly determined

resistance movements. Finally, we got the 9/11 attacks. This, however, did not lead to any

rethinking of our behavior in the Middle East. Rather, it led to a feeling of release. The U.S. was

now justified in what almost appeared to be (at least for those in the White House) a joyful

lashing out. This was accompanied by an exercise in sheer fantasy about what military might

could accomplish in that part of the world.

If this is accurate, it is a mistake to believe that decisions made about policy in the Middle East

are coherent, logical, and long term. They are more improvised and opportunistic. They are

most often made by people who know nothing about the region and do not care about justice,

rights and law either domestic or international. In short, the entire process which has brought the

United States to its present plight is horribly short term, myopic and certainly unprincipled.

Conclusion – Does the public care?

Both Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning, as well as those who have rallied to their support, are

betting that they can arouse public sentiment in their favor. In a letter to his Canadian lawyer,

Khadr said that he wants to “show the world how unfair the system is…and show that the U.S.

will eventually convict child soldiers.” Manning’s supporters have created a “Bradley Manning

Support Network” to “Harness the outrage felt by millions” and to “raise awareness about his

arrest, charges and court-martial.” The key question is, do most Americans, much less the world,

really care?

The answer to this question is almost certainly a combination of a) no, most Americans do not

care and b) yes they do care but want these two men either put against the wall and shot or sent to

prison for the rest of their lives. On the assumption that most people are locally focused and

apolitical I conclude that all but a minority are unaware or unconcerned about these cases

because they do not seem to touch their lives. And, on the assumption that the government and

its allied mass media control the information flow, I conclude that most of the minority who are

aware and concerned share the official view that these men are dangerous enemies.

That leaves a minority of the minority who are aware of the greater implications for justice and

rights involved in both cases; who are aware of the broader contextual circumstances that led to

each man’s actions and the implications for future U.S. security implicit in those circumstances.

That minority of a minority might total “millions” as Lendman suggests, but it is probably still

far less than is needed to either obtain justice for Khadr and Manning or save the U.S. from its

own blundering and criminal policies.

Martin Peretz And The Dangers of Obsessive Love– An Analysis (9/19/10)

Peretz and The New Republic

Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of The New Republic. He acquired that position by simply

buying the magazine in 1974. Although he resold it to a group of investors in 2002, they were,

and apparently remain, his ideological soul mates for he continues to this day to be the

magazine’s executive editor.

Peretz’s New Republic is a far cry from the original magazine. The origin of The New Republic

goes back to 1914 when it was established by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippman. From the first

the magazine was liberal and progressive. Between the First and Second World Wars it took a

stand against the growing ideological enmity that bred the Red Scares and their accompanying

violations of the civil rights of Americans. In the 1950s it took a principled stand against both

Soviet tyranny and the McCarthy witch hunts. In the 1960s the magazine took a position

opposing the Vietnam War. Little of this survived Peretz’s remaking of The New Republic.

Within a year of gaining control he fired most of the staff and shifted the editorial direction

toward the center/right. The new New Republic supported Reagan’s foreign adventures,

including alliances with terrorists such as the Contras, and later both Persian Gulf Wars.

Sometimes the magazine would selectively back Democrats. It backed Al Gore (a personal

friend of Peretz) for president and waxed elegant about the likes of Joseph Liberman. One

progressive policy the magazine decided to support was universal health care. Peretz claims to

be a life-long supporter of the Democratic Party but that has not stopped the ultra conservative

National Review from touting The New Republic as “one of the most interesting magazines in

the United States.”

One of the reasons we can get this mixed bag of positions from Peretz’s New Republic is

because domestic policy is but a secondary interest of the editor-in-chief. “I care most about

foreign policy” Peretz admits, and there is one aspect of foreign policy toward which he is down

right obsessive. That aspect is U.S.-Israeli relations. In more ways than one he keeps declaring

that “I am in love with the state of Israel.” And how does he tell the world of his love? Mainly

through the pages and blog of The New Republic. He has made it into his mouthpiece, his

vehicle for declaring his abiding passion for “Zion.”

Peretz In Love

It should be made clear that Peretz’s love of Israel is no ordinary love. It is not like, say, the love

the founding fathers must have held for the new United States. No, Peretz’s love is of another

order of intensity. It is that sort of passionate and blinding love that defeats reason. For instance,

it has caused him to get Israel and the U.S. all mixed up. According to Peretz support of Israel is

a litmus test of American good citizenship, “Support for Israel is deep down, an expression of

America’s best view of itself.” I suspect that he got this sentiment from Louis Brandeis, the first

leader of the Zionist Organization of American as well as the first Jew appointed to the Supreme

Court. Back in 1918 Brandeis declared that to oppose Zionism was to be disloyal to the U.S (See

Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine, page 225, Note 23).

One fellow who failed the litmus test is Charles W. Freeman Jr., the man Barack Obama

momentarily considered for his chief of the National Intelligence Council. Peretz wrote at the

time that Freeman was utterly unsuitable for the post. Why? Because he had raised questions

about America’s uncritical support of Israel–an act which Peretz characterized as “an offense.”

By committing this “offense” Freeman had “questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only

Zionists and other friends of Israel” but also “the great swath of American Jews and Christian

countrymen who believed that the protection of Zion is the core of our religious and secular

history….” This is the way Peretz sees the world. And it is, of course, a severely distorted view.

When you get so intense about, so in love with, a foreign nation that you insist this outside entity

represents “the core of our religious and secular history” you have, as the saying goes, really gone

over the top. Peretz has turned the United States and its national interests into a suburb of Tel

Aviv.

In some of my earlier analyses I tried to show that “Zion” is in fact a racist place that does not

resemble contemporary America, but rather America before the introduction of civil rights

legislation. In today’s Israel, Arab Israelis are systematically discriminated against. Yet, a

person who loves blindly will fail to see the faults of his or her lover. He or she may well adopt

those faults as virtues and spend an inordinate amount of energy justifying the lover’s sins and

castigating all who would be critical. And so it is with Martin Peretz. One way he has shown his

perverse and obsessive love of Israel is by taking its anti-Arab line as his own. That has moved

him in the direction of bigotry.

Back on March 6, 2010 Peretz said, “I can’t imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs

turning out especially well. That is, you will say my prejudice, but some prejudices are built on

real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong” (he later edited this

statement to make it less offensive). Such wholesale stereotyping is, to use Peretz’s term, an

offense against everyone who has ever had a good Arab friend, who is successfully married to an

Arab man or women, and to the very long and successful diplomatic relations the United States

has had with such countries as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And by making this common sense

observation I have, at least strongly suggested, that what Peretz spouts is indeed wrong, and

grievously so. But there is no doubt that this nonsense reflects his true feelings. And, it is his

obsession with Israel that makes him see the world in this way.

On September 4, 2010 Mr. Peretz, again using The New Republic blog, returned to his

prejudicial ways. “But frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those

Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [leader of those seeking to create the Muslim religious center

near ground zero] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random

bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people

and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut

the sense that they will abuse.” Here, Martin Peretz presents himself as a walking and talking

example of how one is almost always wrong when one indulges in gross simplifications and

categorizations from the “gut’ or otherwise.

1. The Imam Rauf has consistently demonstrated himself to be a moderate and sensible man. He

has publically denounced radicalism in all religions and called on moderates to keep control of

the leadership of religious movements.

2. How does Peretz know that “hardly one’ of the Imam’s supporters “has raised a fuss” about

violence? Those supporters number in the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands. Has he

checked them all out?

3. The notion that “routine and random bloodshed…defines their [Muslim] brotherhood” is just

the lowest sort of stereotyping. If I asserted that the quite routine and random bloodshed caused

by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories defined the “brotherhood” of Judaism, Peretz would

go ballistic. Both statements can be properly labeled specious nonsense.

4. Martin Peretz has the First Amendment right to wonder out loud in a fashion that can only

undermine the First Amendment. He can even legally do so in an atmosphere of growing and

volatile Islamophobia, although in my estimation that is a bit like yelling fire in a crowded

theater. Such public assertions certainly puts him in the running for the title of demagogue, but

he is probably to impassioned to care. Occasionally, when he is called to task by a major

national organ like the New York Times he will back off in a sort of resentful and ill-tempered

way, like a little bully confronted by schoolmaster. But you know that he does not mean it when

he says he is sorry. You know he is insincere because, by consistently speaking first and thinking

later (if at all), he wears his feelings on his sleeve.

The Harvard Connection

This latest outburst of Mr. Peretz happens to coincide with a ceremony in his honor planned by

Harvard University. It seems that Peretz was once an assistant professor at the prestigious school

and money plus contacts have subsequently taken him beyond that to the status of a school

benefactor. We are here reminded of the recent conference on anti-Semitism held at Yale during

which radical Zionists put on a display of bigotry disguised as academic research. Now it is

Harvard’s turn to host someone who openly demeans an entire religious group. It might well be

that some of the Harvard bureaucracy are embarrassed at having to fete Peretz (though they did

choose Lawrence Summers as their president) but they seem to feel they are stuck with him, and

so they cover their position with appeals to free speech. Even Harvard has a First Amendment

right to reward a man whose stated desire is to deny the First Amendment rights of an entire

American religious minority. According to Harvard’s publically issued defense, going ahead

with the ceremony makes the place “ultimately stronger as a university” engaging in “the robust

exchange of ideas.” Well, its their party.

Conclusion

Martin Peretz is a good example of that subset of Americans whose single-minded dedication to

Israel makes them, for all intents and purposes, agents of a foreign power. Indeed, in his

willingness to pronounce his affection in the most indiscrete way, Peretz can be seen as their

spokesman. These folks get very upset when you describe them this way, but that is because

they have so mixed up America and Israel that, in their minds, there is no real difference

between the two. As the Bard once said, “love is blind and lovers cannot see what petty follies

they themselves commit.” Alas, these follies are far from petty.

I once had the dubious pleasure of appearing in a debate with Mr. Peretz. I remember him as a

small man of nervous temperament. He had a tendency to handle challenges to his position by

speaking very fast and very loudly so that you could not get a word in edgewise. Based on this

behavior “I had in my gut the sense” that he was quite capable of going hysterical. Such people

usually self-destruct over time and maybe that will be Martin Peretz’s fate. I do hope so.

The November 2010 Elections – Just Who Are We? (An analysis5November 2010)It has only been a few days since the November 2 elections and already

the media in all its forms is awash with analyses expressing hallelujahsand curses according to the political orientation of the commentator. Forinstance, on the conservative side, Chris Mathews happily suggested thatafter this election the Democratic party will only exist on the east andwest coast. On the liberal side Paul Krugman commented that “futurehistorians will probably look back at the 2010 elections as a catastrophefor America.” Perhaps both are correct.There is a more useful way of looking at this election, and that is as awindow letting us see who American voters actually are and, very likely,always have been: folks with culturally conditioned conservativeinclinations, focused on local concerns (the small picture and not the bigone), and with remarkably short historical memories. If accurate, thiswould mean that liberals, to say nothing of real progressives, are aperennial minority amongst the American voting public. My guess isthat they represent no more than 30% of the electorate and thus cannotbe expected to win a national election outright. However, under certaincircumstances, their political stand can win the temporary support of anadditional 20 plus % and place professed liberals in the White Houseand Congress.This means that the default position of most voters favors those whopreach the interests of business, low taxes, anti-welfare policies, an achauvinistic foreign policy. This seems to be so despite the fact thatsuch stands predictably lead to dangerously insufficient regulation of theeconomy, the under funding of vital services, high levels of corruption

and debt accelerating foreign adventures. Eventually, some sort of

economic and/or moral disaster results from these policies and it is then

that circumstances allow for the possibility of that other 20 plus % of the

voters to lunge to the left. It is times like these that allow for the election

of a Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. But, it must

be emphasized that this is a reactive impulse among a group of more

aware and sensitive voters to some conservative generated mess and not

a change of political heart. In a relatively short period of time those

voters return to their default position, which is usually center-right.

The election of November 2 was a good example of this sequence of

events. The mess the country finds itself in was not created by Barack

Obama or the progressive elements that so enthusiastically backed him

for president. The mess is the result of policies instituted beginning with

the Reagan administration. It is Reagan who began deregulating the

economy and driving up the national debt beyond even its Vietnam War

levels. Clinton was actually a conservative in democratic trappings (a

charade that Paul Krugman calls the “Clintonian backflip” ) who

proceeded to enhance the Reagan program by rolling back aspects of the

welfare state, undermining the American working class with NAFTA

and continuing the process of deregulation. The Bush dynasty drove the

process further and added gross moral indiscretions to the mix. By the

time Obama stood for office the economy was near collapse and the

Oval Office the source of lies and torture. It was only in the face of this

disaster that a man claiming to be a progressive desiring to institute “real

change” could be elected president. On his coattails rode the rest of the

Democratic candidates, some of whom were really conservatives known

as “blue dogs.”

The Democratic party’s professional political analysts have long

believed what I have proposed above, that most American voters are

culturally conditioned conservatives. Thus, upon election, and following

the advice of his political advisers, President Obama immediately shifted

to the center right–the political home of those 20 plus % of the

population that gave him his victory. But by doing so he put himself in a

position that demanded compromise for the sake of consensus. To get

that consensus the compromises would have to be with the Republican

minority in Congress and their primary goal was to stymie the president

and make him appear ineffective. Mitch McConnell, the Republican

leader in the Senate said that “the single most important thing we want to

achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Thus did

Obama enter into a period of frustration and minimal, often half-a-loaf,

sort of achievements. According to an AP election poll 84% of the

voters saw no improvement in the economy in the last two years and half

of those thought things were going to get worse. 40% thought Obama

had no plan for recovery. That is what compromise and consensus

building got the Democrats. And this failing strategy came at a very

high price. For to cater to the Republicans the president had to abandon

his progressive base, the 30% of the voters who were his most stalwart

supporters. No doubt the political rationale for this was the dubious

premise that these progressives had no where else to go and so would

vote for him come what may. This turned out to be a serious

misjudgment, for there was enough progressive disgust with Obama on

November 2 to drive some of them to the Green Party and cause others

to just stay home. So you see, there is always somewhere else to go.

And now we come to that other perennial political problem, the fact that

the American electorate has a short historical memory. As noted above,

Barack Obama did not create the country’s present problems. So the

notion that the voters should punish him and his party for not solving

those problems (in but a brief two year period) by voting back into office

the party that made the mess in the first place makes no sense. Makes no

sense, that is, unless a majority of the voters have no clear notion of who

is responsible for the mess beyond the generic “those politicians

presently in charge.” And, indeed, the above mentioned AP poll found

that 25% of voters in the November 2 election “blamed Obama for

causing the economic crisis.” This sort of distortion occurs when

citizens do not pay attention to the rudimentary details of recent political

history and so cannot remember events well enough to withstand media

propaganda seeking to create an altered version of reality.

Of all the problems itemized above, the most crucial is that the default

position for most American voters is a conservative one. Crack this nut,

so to speak, and the other problems become much easier to handle. How

might a liberal president do this? Two things come to mind (though

certainly many other approaches exist). First, it should be the job of

such a president, as well as his progressive supporters, to educate the

American people about how the political process now works, its money

driven and special interest aspects, as well as to clearly explain the

dangers that confront us as a consequence of these faults. Obviously, this

will take a lot more energy than is now expended in this direction. A

liberal president should weekly be on television telling people how

things really work in Washington and his vice president ought to be out

there touring the country and informing people what voting conservative

has historically meant. Over and over again (and not just now and then)

all progressives should be itemizing the obstructive and destructive acts

of the Republicans, etc. Use the “bully pulpit” and use it often. And

second, bring foreign policy into the mix. Most people pay no attention

to foreign policy because they do not think it impacts their lives, but in

truth it does. Our disastrous foreign policies, particularly since the

1960s in the Middle East and Asia, have driven up our debt and thus

contributed to our economic problems, and have made the U.S. a pariah

in the eyes of much of the rest of the world. This foreign policy mess is

a good old bi-partisan one but the president who can turn it around will

be a hero. However, it can not be done in the absence of strenuous

public education.

It is perhaps naive to think that an educational approach can help change

the political instincts of the nation. But progressives only have to aim at

changing that 20 plus % that already have proved their willingness to

move left in times of trouble. They are the target audience and perhaps

can be permanently influenced. Be it a long shot or not, it is probably

the best shot progressives have.

On President Obama’s Concept of “Looking Forward” (June 12, 2010)

Even before he had taken the oath of office, President Obama indicated that “I also have

the a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.” That turned out to be

a signal that no actions would be taken against President G. W. Bush and his cabal for the

multitude of violations of U.S. laws as well as myriad crimes against humanity.

One can speculate why Obama took this disastrous path. Was it that he did not want to

create a precedent that would tie his own hands, and those of future Presidents, to laws that

seemed too restrictive for our dangerous times? In support of this argument President Obama

said that he wanted the folks in the government, particularly the CIA, not to have to “suddenly

feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.” Was

it to protect the leaders of the Democratic party from charges of complicity in the crimes of the

Bush Republican administration? Was it fear that such an investigation would drive the far right

wing of the Republican party into violent rebellion? Maybe future historians will be able to tell

us the answer. Right now we just don’t know. However, whatever moved the President it was a

terrible decision that will come back to haunt this country again and again.

First of all, the oft used phrase, about moving ahead is one of those superficial throw

away terms that can drive thinking people to despair. What does it really mean to tell the

American people that, “we have to focus on getting things right in the future as opposed to

looking at what went wrong in the past”? With all due respect to President Obama, this is

nonsense. It implies that the President of the United States does not believe in cause and effect!

Where does he think the future comes from? What President Obama has actually done is insist

that the American people develop amnesia and trust him to proceed as if we need no reference

points to find our way “forward.”

And that is what the President appears to be doing as he gropes about in Afghanistan and

pursues ineffectual policies in respect to Israel. Thankfully, however, there are those who do

remember the immediate past with all its crimes and disasters. Thus, on June 7, 2010 Lt. General

Ricardo Sanchez, who had the misfortune of being commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq

when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke open, has called for a “truth commission” to be established

to fix responsibility and assure “accountability” for the crimes of the Bush administration.

Sanchez, who describes his own military career as a “casualty of Abu Ghraib, may well

be looking for exoneration here, but it does not matter what motivates him. The United States is

almost certainly set to repeat the mistakes of its past on and on and on to the point of both moral

and financial bankruptcy unless the American people are educated as to what is happening to

their country. A “truth commission” is one excellent vehicle to teach them about their immediate

past and how, unless they demand otherwise, it will shape our policies as we “move forward”

into the future.

But, alas, the odds are against such a commission. As with the neurotic patient who

refuses to look inward, America’s political and bureaucratic leaders are in a state of deep denial.

Last week the human rights organization Physicians for Human Rights released a report

documenting a high probability that, under the Bush Jr. administration, the CIA employed

medical doctors to “design, develop and deploy” the best combination of tortures to induce the

levels of pain and torment that would make their victims cooperative. In other words, in violation

of their own code of medical ethics and a host of domestic and international laws, these

physicians and their CIA employers, and the Bush gang that instructed them all, committed

horrible crimes against humanity. And what does the CIA have to say, now that it has a tier of

new bosses and answers to Barak Obama? A flat denial. We never did it. But then, as a

qualifying addendum, the CIA spokesman added that whatever it was that they did do, was

dutifully reviewed by the Bush Justice Department. And this is suppose to put the entire affair

behind us? Not likely. Like a nasty trauma it will rise again to bother our national life unless it

is excised in the light of day.

It is really distressing to watch your own nation self-destruct. We have produced a recent

string of Presidents who have proven themselves either out-right evil or too weak to challenge a

system tied to lobby and party interests– against which there simply is no national interest. If

someone (s) with legal and popular authority does not stand up, take a serious measure of the

past, and break with the criminal policies to which we now seem addicted, we can only expect

more wars, more retaliatory 9/11s, more financial crises, a falling standard of living and who

knows what else. The situation is bleak.

bonis nocet quisquis pepercerit malis – whoever spares the bad injures the good

On President Obama’s Concept of “Looking Forward” (June 12, 2010)

Even before he had taken the oath of office, President Obama indicated that “I also have

the a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.” That turned out to be

a signal that no actions would be taken against President G. W. Bush and his cabal for the

multitude of violations of U.S. laws as well as myriad crimes against humanity.

One can speculate why Obama took this disastrous path. Was it that he did not want to

create a precedent that would tie his own hands, and those of future Presidents, to laws that

seemed too restrictive for our dangerous times? In support of this argument President Obama

said that he wanted the folks in the government, particularly the CIA, not to have to “suddenly

feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.” Was

it to protect the leaders of the Democratic party from charges of complicity in the crimes of the

Bush Republican administration? Was it fear that such an investigation would drive the far right

wing of the Republican party into violent rebellion? Maybe future historians will be able to tell

us the answer. Right now we just don’t know. However, whatever moved the President it was a

terrible decision that will come back to haunt this country again and again.

First of all, the oft used phrase, about moving ahead is one of those superficial throw

away terms that can drive thinking people to despair. What does it really mean to tell the

American people that, “we have to focus on getting things right in the future as opposed to

looking at what went wrong in the past”? With all due respect to President Obama, this is

nonsense. It implies that the President of the United States does not believe in cause and effect!

Where does he think the future comes from? What President Obama has actually done is insist

that the American people develop amnesia and trust him to proceed as if we need no reference

points to find our way “forward.”

And that is what the President appears to be doing as he gropes about in Afghanistan and

pursues ineffectual policies in respect to Israel. Thankfully, however, there are those who do

remember the immediate past with all its crimes and disasters. Thus, on June 7, 2010 Lt. General

Ricardo Sanchez, who had the misfortune of being commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq

when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke open, has called for a “truth commission” to be established

to fix responsibility and assure “accountability” for the crimes of the Bush administration.

Sanchez, who describes his own military career as a “casualty of Abu Ghraib, may well

be looking for exoneration here, but it does not matter what motivates him. The United States is

almost certainly set to repeat the mistakes of its past on and on and on to the point of both moral

and financial bankruptcy unless the American people are educated as to what is happening to

their country. A “truth commission” is one excellent vehicle to teach them about their immediate

past and how, unless they demand otherwise, it will shape our policies as we “move forward”

into the future.

But, alas, the odds are against such a commission. As with the neurotic patient who

refuses to look inward, America’s political and bureaucratic leaders are in a state of deep denial.

Last week the human rights organization Physicians for Human Rights released a report

documenting a high probability that, under the Bush Jr. administration, the CIA employed

medical doctors to “design, develop and deploy” the best combination of tortures to induce the

levels of pain and torment that would make their victims cooperative. In other words, in violation

of their own code of medical ethics and a host of domestic and international laws, these

physicians and their CIA employers, and the Bush gang that instructed them all, committed

horrible crimes against humanity. And what does the CIA have to say, now that it has a tier of

new bosses and answers to Barak Obama? A flat denial. We never did it. But then, as a

qualifying addendum, the CIA spokesman added that whatever it was that they did do, was

dutifully reviewed by the Bush Justice Department. And this is suppose to put the entire affair

behind us? Not likely. Like a nasty trauma it will rise again to bother our national life unless it

is excised in the light of day.

It is really distressing to watch your own nation self-destruct. We have produced a recent

string of Presidents who have proven themselves either out-right evil or too weak to challenge a

system tied to lobby and party interests– against which there simply is no national interest. If

someone (s) with legal and popular authority does not stand up, take a serious measure of the

past, and break with the criminal policies to which we now seem addicted, we can only expect

more wars, more retaliatory 9/11s, more financial crises, a falling standard of living and who

knows what else. The situation is bleak.

bonis nocet quisquis pepercerit malis – whoever spares the bad injures the good

On Reality and its Alternates – (An Analysis 28 November 2010)

For those who pay attention to the battle of ideas that constantly goes on in the United States, two

people presently have center stage. One is a man whose expertise is in the creation of alternate

realities by playing fast and loose with the facts. This sort of enterprise has a long and sordid

history to it, and while this fellow is on the rabid right, the tradition has its historical

representatives across the political spectrum. There is never any lack of an audience for such

promoters of alternate realities. Usually the size of the audience can be correlated to economic

downturn, the defeat in war, and popular notions of government incompetency. The other man is

a champion of the free flow of information. He believes that the only way citizens will avoid

being swept into alternate realities, and victimized by the resulting ill conceived government

actions, is to have full knowledge of what policies are being pursued and their real consequences.

Whether most people actually want to know these details is debatable, but this fellow is adamant

that they should be available to anyone who cares to look. Now we come to the question of who

these men are and how they are perceived by the democratic government and “free” people of the

United States.

Who is Glenn Beck?

Glenn Beck, our first personality, is an undereducated radio and TV personality turned political

pundit. He was born in 1964 and has only a high school education. By his own admission Beck

spent at least fifteen of his early adult years as an alcoholic and drug addict. He became suicidal

in the mid 1990s and fantasied imitating the manner of death chosen by the singer Kurt Cobain.

He was pulled back from the brink with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. Fifteen years is a

long time to baste a young adult’s brain in mind altering substances, and I will leave it to the

reader to decide if that history qualifies such a brain for political preaching. Yet, it is as a

political wise man that millions of Americans now regard Glenn Beck.

Sporting a style of aggressive jargon that makes him a sure candidate for Eric Hoffer’s “man of

words with a grievance,” Beck throws out accusations and suppositions which, with uncanny

regularity, turn out to be wrong. However, that does not matter, for his listeners seem never to

doubt him and so there is little motivation for Beck to doubt himself. Increasingly popular, his

growing number of listeners accept him as a defender of the U.S. Constitution and traditional

American values. And from whom is he defending these things? From progressives and liberals,

socialists and secularists and all those who would destroy that mythical ideal America that exists

as an alternate reality in the minds of Beck and his followers. He characterizes all such enemies

as members of “Crime Inc.”

There is a strong naive simplicity in what Beck preaches. He espouses balanced budgets because

“debt creates unhealthy relationships.” Somehow Glenn Beck can hold mortgages and still

remain on good terms with his wife and kids, but it seems to him sinful that the government sells

more treasury bills than he feels is necessary. The government should be reduced to a minimum.

As to the country’s needy, that can be taken care of by private charity. If there is indeed such a

thing as man made global warming, that can be dealt with by the voluntary “greening” of

personal homes. What we have here is the projection of small town ways to a country of

approximately 350 million. Finally, Beck often makes demonstratively stupid antisemitic

statements which he says cannot be antisemitic because everyone knows he is a friend of the

Jews.

There have been times when Beck has confessed that he is not a political person but rather an

“entertainer.” Yet his denunciation of ubiquitous conspiracies, particularly of a leftist kind, and

his regularly articulated rhetorical question, “What’s the difference between a communist or

socialist and a progressive….? One requires a gun and the other eats away slowly” is clearly not

just show biz. And, what are we to make of the entertainment value of his repeated proclamation

that Americans are in a battle to defend the “eternal principles of God” which makes “God the

answer” to all our problems? No, whether Beck was originally playing at his “paleoconservatism”

or not, he is now so adapted to his role that what you see is what is there. The

actor has been permanently transformed into the character he plays.

It is doubtful whether Glenn Beck has ever put forth a well thought out, fact-checked, position in

his life. Yet such a failing has not prevented him from obtaining the backing of the powerful Fox

Broadcasting Company. Beck and Fox are a very good fit. Both are part of a radical right which

has now made itself appear acceptably all-American by redefining anything to the left of their

positions as neo-socialist. And, they have drawn to themselves the millions of folks who are

naive and simple conservatives living in a faux reality that defines the welfare state as

communism and President Obama as a Muslim agent seeking to impose Sharia law on places like

Oklahoma. For such folks Beck’s nonsense somehow confirms all their hopes and fears. In their

millions they are moved, weekly, to agree with whatever it is that they think he is saying.

The U.S. government has made no objection to the Fox-Beck propaganda show. Both are, of

course, protected by the first amendment. And, it is probably the case that at least some of the

elements of elected government, for instance the Republican party’s right wing majority and the

Blue Dog democrats, are in agreement with all or part of Beck’s message. The rest of the

government, the liberal democrats for instance, seem frustrated and confused. They do not know

how to respond to someone like Beck and so they hope that he will, in the end, prove a temporary

phenomenon.

Who is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange , our second personality, is an Australian born internet expert. Born in 1971, he

attended the University of Melbourne where he studied physics, mathematics and philosophy.

However, he did not stay to complete a degree. He made an early career as a computer

programmer and is the author of both free and commercial pieces of software. A strong

anarchistic strain runs through Assange’s early adult period. He was a member of a number of

relatively benign hacker organizations and the ideal of information transparency seems to have

been a strong driving force in his life from early on. All of which eventually led him to found

Wikileaks in 2006. It is Assange’s contention that government secrecy almost always harms

people and denies them the ability to make rational decisions. The press has the responsibility to

fight against censorship but has been seduced into cooperating with the system it ought to be

policing. “How is it,” Assange asks, “that a team of five people has managed to release to the

public more suppressed information…than the rest of the world press combined? It’s

disgraceful.”

There are those who see Assange as an “internet freedom fighter” and Daniel Ellsberg of The

Pentagon Papers fame, has asserted that Assange “is serving [American] democracy and serving

the rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases,

in this country.” But that is not how American and foreign intelligence agencies see Julian

Assange. Secrecy is part of their reason for being and without it they are out of a job. To them

he is a real threat. They have accused him of harming national security and putting in danger the

agents that feed them their secret information. They offer no proof of any of this and fail to

mention that the information they receive from these agents is often used to kill other people.

Assange has described a line by line review procedure used to protect “innocent parties who are

under reasonable threat” but government spokesmen disparaged this claim and just repeat their

charges against him in robotic fashion.

The U.S. government is clearly seeking the destruction of both Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

For instance, in August 2010 allegations of rape and sexual harassment were made against

Assange in Sweden. They were dismissed within 24 hours because the prosecutors found that

“the accusations lacked substance.” On 20 November 2010 an Intepol arrest warrant was issued

for Assange stemming from these same charges. Assange and his supporters say that he is being

framed. Given the record of those who are his enemies, this assertion is quite easy to believe.

Julian Assange has won several awards for battling censorship and upholding the public’s right

to know. He has appeared on a number of media venues both in the U.S. and elsewhere. The

British magazine The New Statesman included him in its list of the 50 most influential figures in

2010 and, it is reported, that he is in the running for Time Magazine’s 2010 man of the year.

Nonetheless, Assange’s loyal following is minuscule and if he becomes better known to the

public at large it is likely to be a function of the smear campaign now being waged by the

intelligence agencies. Their expertise in such covert operations is beyond question.

Beck vs. Assange and What it all Means

Glenn Beck and Julian Assange represent two options for the American state of mind. Beck is a

charlatan who preaches an alternate reality that affirms the untested, ahistorical and prejudicial

assumptions and feelings of millions of Americans. These are voting citizens who know little of

what lies beyond their neighborhoods, but know absolutely how they feel. Beck tells them that

their feelings really do correspond to the state of the world and so they avidly, loyally, listen to

him. We all like to be told that we are right. That makes Glenn Beck a source of egoreenforcement

for a significant segment of the population. Julian Assange is a real truth teller

who shatters assumptions, calls into question feelings, and would force us all to look at the

historically objective information that best represents how things are. What Assange is doing

makes no one comfortable and reinforces nobody’s ego. He stands up and speaks truth to power

but, as Noam Chomsky once pointed out, power already knows the truth. If power bothers about

the truth at all it is to keep it largely secret. To do so it seeks the real truth teller’s destruction

while leaving the charlatan free to play the Pied Piper with impunity.

This does not bode well for the future of America and perhaps the West at large. Too many

Americans, and their leaders as well, haven’t got an accurate sense of the real world. In part, that

is why the U.S. government regularly formulates domestic and foreign policies that answer the

demands of interest groups while harming the rest of us. Such policies fail in the long run. In

doing so they open political space for both charlatans and truth tellers. And here they are in the

persons of Glenn Beck and Julian Assange. Now America can choose.

On the Historical Necessity of Wikileaks – An Analysis (4 December 2010)

Historical Precedent

Given the ahistorical nature of the public mind, few people will recall that as the United States

prepared to enter World War I, American citizens were quite exercised over the issue of “open

diplomacy.” Indeed, at the time, President Woodrow Wilson made it the number one issue of

his fourteen points–the points that constituted U.S. war aims, and so the ones for which some

320, 518 American soldiers were killed or wounded in the subsequent year. Here is how the

president put it while addressing Congress on 8 January 1918. “The program of the world’s

peace…is our program” and among the fourteen prerequisites to peace is “1. Open covenants of

peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings

of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

Why did Wilson make this number one on his list of war aims? Because those Americans who

paid attention to such issues did not trust the European style of international relations. They

thought it was corrupt and tainted by narrow interest that seemed always to lead to conflict. This

was one of the beliefs that encouraged American isolationism. However, Wilson was not an

isolationist. He wanted the United States to engage in the world and take a leadership position.

He imagined that America was a morally superior nation and its involvement in international

affairs would make the world better. “Diplomacy proceeding frankly and in the public view” was

his first move in the effort to assert that idealistic American leadership. So what would

Woodrow Wilson, or for that matter the educated and aware American citizen supporting him in

1918, say about Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other U.S. officials and “pundits” running

about and insisting on the absolute need for secret diplomacy, while calling those who defy that

standard criminals? What indeed?!

Historical Need

The truth is that there has always been a gap between the interests of the general citizenry and

interests as they take shape at the level of state policy. It is within that gap that secret diplomacy

thrives. One can see this most clearly in the case of dictatorships. For instance, if you travel

about the Middle East, say to Jordan or Egypt, everyone takes it for granted that there is no

connection between the business of the people and the business of the state. The state is run by

narrow elites who make policy according to their own needs and the public plays no role and is

given little consideration. Its fate is to be lied to and manipulated. So, of course, those elites are

going to operate from back rooms and behind censored media. The person on the street knows

this to be so and accepts it because, if he or she protests, the “security” services will come after

them. They will be charged with endangering the state or framed for some other crime. And

their lives will be ruined.

But what about democracies? Well, the truth is that they too are run by political and economic

elites whose interests are rarely the same as the general public. That is why, when the

government uses the term “national interest,” one should always be suspicious. When it comes to

foreign policy this can be most clearly seen in the policies long adopted toward places like Cuba

and Israel. A very good argument can be made that the policies pursued for decades by the US

government toward these two nations is no more than product of special interest manipulation

with no reference to actual national interest or well being. Indeed, in the former case it led to an

illegal invasion of Cuba by US backed forces in 1961 and no doubt encouraged the Cubans to

allow Soviet missiles on their territory in 1962. The latter has contributed to numerous

disastrous actions on the part of the US in the Middle East out of which came the attack on

September 11, 2001. None of this is in the interest of anyone other than the elites whose semisecret

machinations lead to the policies pursued.

The difference between dictatorships and democracies are ones of style and, in a democracy, the

option to shift emphasis in terms of elite interests served, each time there is an election.

Democratic elites have learned that they do not need to rely on the brute force characteristic of

dictatorships as long as they can sufficiently control the public information environment. You

restrict meaningful free speech to the fringes of the media, to the “outliers” along the information

bell curve. You rely on the sociological fact that the vast majority of citizens will either pay no

attention to that which they find irrelevant to their immediate lives, or they will believe the

official story line about places and happenings of which they are otherwise ignorant. Once you

have identified the official story line with the official policy being pursued, loyalty to the policy

comes to equate to patriotism. It is a shockingly simple formula and it usually works. Given this

scenario, Woodrow Wilson and his notion of open diplomacy represents an historical anomaly.

When, in 1919, he arrived at Versailles for the peace conference the representatives of Britain,

France and Italy thought him a hopeless idealist. And perhaps he really was.

Incompatibility with Democracy

Whether Wilson was or was not an idealist cannot affect the fact that secret diplomacy almost

never represents the public interest. It cannot affect the fact that an honest assessment of secret

diplomacy, an honest look at what most of the time it has historically wrought, leads to the

conclusion that it is harmful. It often leads to unnecessary conflict and it undermines the

democratic process because it denies the public’s right to know what is being done in its name.

And, in a democracy, it cannot be sustained without the help of massive state lying and

propaganda.

So, what does that say about those American leaders railing against Wikileaks and crying for

Julian Assange’s head? Does it mean, to use Noam Chomsky’s characterization, that they have

a “deep hatred for democracy”? I doubt they have thought it out that far. Some of them, such as

Sarah Palin, who wants Assange hunted down like Osama bin Laden (which means, I guess,

hunted down ineffectively), Newt Gingrich, who likens Assange to an “enemy combatant,” and

Bill Kristol who wants the government to kidnap and then “whack” Assange, are personalities of

the extreme right who essentially advocate the policies of dictators. It is not hard to identify these

folks with a particular ideology and elite interest group. Others, like Senator Joseph Lieberman,

have done their utmost to shut down Wikileaks through pressuring on-line operators such as

Amazon who, until recently, have cooperated with the whistle blowing website. Lieberman has

taken it upon himself to use his political clout to determine what the entire American population

can and cannot know. Is Joe Lieberman doing all this for the public good? It is unlikely. He

does declare, with a lot of righteous indignation, that the information Wikileaks has made public

is “stolen.” Yet, as Daniel Ellsberg has suggested, Julian Assange and Wikileaks are “serving

our [American] democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy

regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.” In other words, Lieberman is on

shaky legal grounds when he throws around a word like “stolen.” But, I suspect he cares little

about this and his real motivation is probably special interest driven. Given Liberman’s history

as an obsessive devotee of Israel, would he be so fixated on Wikileaks if the Zionist state was not

embarrassingly involved in recent revelations?

Conclusion

Woodrow Wilson had it wrong about America. The United States is not a morally superior

nation and its elites have always been just as corruptible and obsessed with secrecy as any in

Europe. His plea for open diplomacy never had a chance on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. If

Wilson’s idealism was seriously wounded at Versailles, it was killed outright by the Republican

majority in the Senate which refused to ratify the peace treaty he brought home. Why? Largely

because of the desire to frustrate and ruin a Democratic president. Sound familiar?

Can one imagine circumstances in which diplomatic interaction necessities secrecy? I am sure

one can. However, those circumstances should be exceptional. They should not constitute the

norm. And, there should be clear criteria as to what constitutes such circumstances. Arriving at

those criteria should be part of a widespread public debate over a seminal right– the right to

know what your government is doing in your name. At this point you might ask, what

widespread public debate? Well, the one that supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks are

trying desperately to begin.

Our Homeland Security Dilemma – An Analysis (7-25-10)

The Washington Post just carried a three part series (published July 19, 20, 21, 2010) on “Top

Secret America,” the growing array of security services that have grown up with the “war on

terror.” According to the story, “the top-secret world the government created in response to the

terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that

no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist

within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

To some extent this scenario follows from the personalities of the men who started the process,

George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, and Donald Rumsfeld–a combination of superficiality, helter

skelter, paranoia and power madness. Eight years of building along these uncoordinated lines

gave us over 1,000 government agencies along with some 2000 allied private companies working

on “programs related to counter terrorism, homeland security and [what passes for] intelligence

in some 10,000 locations across the United States.” This has created a major, if very messy,

industry. At least 854,000 people are estimated to be employed in this vast venture. And they

pursue their goals in a fashion that is replete with “redundancy and waste.” The major products

of this industry are some “50,000 intelligence reports a year – a volume so large that many are

routinely ignored.” In other words, this might be a way for the government to subsidize the

economy and put people to work, but in terms of a coordinated and workable response to terrorist

threats it is probably nothing to brag about. No one knows if all this is really making us safer.

On the other hand, if you have a ideologically driven agenda, you are bound to be able to find

exactly what you want to hear somewhere among so wide ranging number of reports.

The inevitable tendency of the more efficient members of the Obama administration will be to

rationalize this clutter. They will want to reduce the redundancy and create a truly coordinated

intelligence “czardom.” What are the implications of such an effort? Well, let us consult an

expert on bureaucracy, Max Weber, the pioneering sociologist who laid the basis for our modern

understanding of the topic. Weber explains that modern bureaucracies “develop the more

perfectly the more bureaucracy is dehumanized, the more completely it succeeds in eliminating

from official business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational, and emotional elements

which escape calculation. This is the specific nature of bureaucracy and it is appraised as its

special virtue.” Thus, a proper bureaucracy is a system that is solely rule based. You have a job

and you do it according to the rules of the system. No doubt some of the agencies and companies

noted above work to this rule, but they are “all over the place.” Any reformed, non-redundant,

centralized “top secret America” will also have to work on this model.

But of course this is an ideal picture of the situation. Bureaucracies do not come out of the ether.

They are born within a socio-political environment while proceeding to manufacture a subculture

of their own. To put it another way, the bureaucrats get their marching orders from a

political or business elite. And the worldview of the elite comes from the socio-political

environment they live in, which in turn can make a real difference to the orders they issue. What

sort of environment shapes their outlooks? Is it the business environment of IBM, the more or

less democratic environment of the U.S. or the U.K., the religious environment of the Vatican,

the totalitarian environment of Stalin’s USSR or Hitler’s Germany, or what? Once the leaders,

seeing the world from their particular environmental vantage point, give the marching orders, the

bureaucrats will carry them out according to the impersonal, “dehumanized,” but universal

bureaucratic sub-culture described by Weber.

Unfortunately, this depiction of things means that any move toward a more efficient

security bureaucracy may very well prove to be more dangerous than the terrorism it seeks to

prevent. Making the equivalent of 1,000 secret government agencies and their 2000 private

sector allies operate in truly efficient fashion surely must multiply many fold the impact of

people monitoring our e-mails, taping our telephones, getting our names wrong as we try to

board airliners, visiting our homes to ask us about our last trip abroad or the opinions we

expressed in a recent op-ed. The list will get longer and longer as the socio-political environment

of the United States gets more paranoid.

And the bureaucrat who carries out orders will act, as Weber notes, “without regard for

persons.” He or she won’t give a fig for you or me and the circumstances in which we do what

we do. He or she will have their mission and their bureaucratic rules, all of which will be

sufficient to define right and wrong. Who does this bureaucrat look like? It is not your

neighborhood policeman helping your aged mother cross the street. He or she is more likely

some variant on Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat who just did his job according to the rules of a

very efficient bureaucracy carrying out marching orders that flowed from the socio-political

environment of Nazi Germany.

That is our dilemma. We have created for ourselves an expensive, unwieldy security

network that is already intrusive in our lives, but perhaps not as bad as it could be. If we make it

more efficient, the very nature of the beast will magnify its intrusiveness. It will certainly

become more of a threat to our way of life than al-Qaeda can ever be.

Is there a way out of this dilemma? There sure is, and that is to treat the causes of our

terror problem rather than just the symptoms. To ask what it is about our policy behavior that

contributed to the 9/11 attacks and sustains whatever terror threat is out there. And to determine

whether a change in those policies would actually make us safer while enhancing our collective

national interest. That approach, however, has been politically stymied since September 11 by

powerful special interests. And so, before our lobby controlled government will go down the

road to a true cure, its operatives will allow our democratic ideals to be displaced by an ever

growing security bureaucracy.

Overcoming AIPAC is Not Enough – An Analysis (October 1, 2010)

Two stories have recently appeared, each discussing a different approach to overcoming the

influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby that

presently has enough clout to substitute its own parochial interests for the national interest. As

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s 2007 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,

demonstrated there is a direct connection between AIPAC’s level of influence in Congress and

the White House and the recent disasters that have befallen the U.S. in the Middle East. Indeed,

the connection is one of sufficient intensity to have led to the creation in 2008 of a new “pro-

Israel, pro-peace” lobby called J Street. J Street calls for Israel to accept, “borders based on the

1967 line with reciprocally agreed land swaps,” thus allowing for a two state formula settlement.

The optimistic view here is that in the relatively near future J Street will become strong enough

to displace AIPAC and its hard line “we must keep it all” stance on the Occupied Territories.

While this prognosis might be a tad premature, the situation has progressed enough that folks

involved in this effort are now discussing tactics and approaches that might speed up AIPAC’s

demise. And so, our two stories.

The first story appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on September 26, 2010 and is entitled

“Billionaire George Soros Revealed as Mystery J Street Donor.” It is now public information

that Mr. Soros sees AIPAC as “too hawkish” and so he and his family have thrown their weight

behind the more compromising, “dovish” J Street. They have done so to the tune of 245,000

dollars a year. Soros has in fact been making these contributions since J Street’s founding in

2008. This is certainly not all the money the Washington based lobby obtains per year. J Street

has about 10,000 donors and they provide about 11 million dollars annually.

What is important is that a man like George Soros, who is dedicated to using some of his fortune

to move the world in what he feels is a progressive direction, has put his money behind the

traditional approach to influencing American policy formulation. He appears to accept as a

working assumption that interest group politics plays a central role in both domestic and foreign

policy making. Thus, if you want to change policy you have to out-lobby the fellow who is

helping to shape the one now in place. In the case of J Street this means the organization must

not only be able to win the politicians’ allegiance through reasoned argument, but be capable of

providing them with enough money to counter any AIPAC effort to unseat them in an election.

Soros knows this and his aim is to help J Street achieve this status.

The second story comes in the form of a short essay by the Irish writer Maidhc O’Cathail that

appeared in the Salem-News.com. It is entitled “The Truth Will Set U.S. Free: Breaking Israel’s

Stranglehold over American Foreign Policy.” O’Cathail quotes Philip Giraldi, who is executive

director of the Council for the National Interest (an organization critical of the American-Israel

alliance), a former CIA officer and also a contributer to The American Conservative. Giraldi’s

position is that overcoming AIPAC “must be done from the bottom up as Israel cannot be

challenged in the mainstream media, Congress, and in the White House.” The tactic here is to

convince enough American voters that “Israel is and always has been a strategic liability that has

done immense damage to the United States and its worldwide interests” so they will be led to

demand that the Congress and political parties abandon AIPAC. This has proven anything but

easy. According to Jeff Gates, a former counsel for the Senate Committee on Finance, the

present lack of transparency on the various sources of lobby money means that “the American

public is ignorant of Israel’s all-pervasive influence.”

However, this opaqueness might also be slowly dissipating. A multiplicity of advocacy groups,

both Jewish and non-Jewish, have grown up in the last ten years to publicize the brutal policies

of the Israelis and U.S. complicity in them. Despite Giraldi’s opinion that challenge in the

mainstream media is impossible, there has been movement even in this unlikely arena. For

instance, consider the relatively wide coverage of Israel’s recent decision not to extend its

settlement freeze and thereby threaten an end to the Obama administration’s efforts at peace

talks. So, unlike ten years ago, one now can find articles and op-ed pieces critical of Israel and,

by extension, AIPAC as well. And, while they do not yet appear frequently enough to create a

tipping point in public awareness they are beginning to contribute to a slow but perceptible shift

in public opinion. Even a recent poll conducted by the American Jewish organization, The Israel

Project, suggests a steady decline in the number of American citizens who feel that the U.S.

must continue to support Israel.

The truth is that the two approaches, one centered on the national capital and the other centered

on main street, have to be pursued simultaneously. And, there is now movement at both levels.

Yet the pace of change is agonizingly slow. And that fact raises the question of just how much

of Palestine will be left when AIPAC’s influence is finally overcome? If the Israelis have their

way what will be left is an emaciated Gaza and a rump area of the West Bank. Even though the

Obama administration has promoted talks and called, unsuccessfully, for a continued settlement

freeze, one suspects that it, and other foreseeable U.S. administrations, would be accepting of

such a final outcome. It should be pretty clear to anyone who cares to see, that ruination is the

preferred fate for any Middle East country that challenges either the U.S. or Israel. It is the

adage “bomb them back to the stone age” made real. If you do not believe that, just ask an Iraqi

refugee about what is left of their homeland now that the Americans have redone the landscape.

Ask someone familiar with the present state of affairs in Gaza as well as the West Bank.

Perpetual weakness and poverty is the fait accompli that Israel has in mind for Palestine on the

day when AIPAC goes by the board. On that day they plan to have taken all that they desire and

so even if Washington is persuaded to change its policies, it will no longer matter in Jerusalem.

What does all this mean for those involved in the fight against AIPAC’s influence in American

foreign affairs? It means that the goal of displacing the Israel lobby is really not sufficient. The J

Street people and those who are presently campaigning at the grass roots have argue the fate of

U.S. national interests in broader terms. For instance,

1. It must be made clear that a rejuvenation of American interests in the Middle East and Muslim

world is linked much more directly to the fate of Palestine than to Israel. If any final settlement

fails to insure the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the U.S. will be blamed and our interests

will continue to suffer whether we are still allied to Israel or not. It must be made clear that, as an

advocate for the destruction of Palestine, AIPAC advocates the destruction of U.S. interests as

well.

2. Why is this so? This is the way it is because the issue of justice is first and foremost in the

minds of a billion Muslims and that at the core of this issue stands Palestine (and not head

scarfs). If U.S. interests are to be forwarded in the lands with Muslim majorities, then the

question of Palestine must be faced honestly and objectively. This simply cannot happen as long

as a Zionist lobby has the power to monopolize policy formulation. The problem is not Hamas,

Hezbollah or Iran. The problem is Israel and its American agents. They are the ones complicit

in past disastrous policy decisions and they are the ones pushing for equally disastrous future

ones.

3. In the face of these truths, J Street presently operates as if it is afraid of its own shadow. If J

Street feels it cannot directly advocate for justice for Palestinians, then it should do so indirectly.

That is, the organization should get specific about the fact that the Israel that AIPAC so strongly

defends is in the hands of leaders who represent a harshly anti-American ethic. Men like

Avigdor Lieberman and the leaders of the Shas party are racists who want to ethnically cleanse

the Palestinians from as much territory as they can. For them this is not a matter of security, it is

a matter of religious purity. This is an utterly un-American goal. This has to be said loudly to

both the American public and the Congress.

So you see that as we move ahead we must meld the liberation of the United States from

AIPAC’s wholly negative influence with the revival of U.S. national interests in the broader

Middle East and Muslim world, and that in turn with the viable future of Palestine. All three

must be promoted as an interlinked package. If they are not, Washington will certainly some day

be free of AIPAC, but Palestine will left under the pernicious shadow of Israel. For this we will

always be blamed and our interests will always suffer.

Right Wing Thought Police – An Analysis (July 9, 2010)

The American right wing is achieving its long term goal of becoming the nation’s thought police.

They are realizing this goal through the timeless practices of extremists (be they on the right or

the left, religious or secular) which are intimidation, slander and harassment. In the past several

months conservative outbursts have ruined the careers of journalists, most of whom were of the

political center but who were indiscrete enough to say something that ran counter to the right’s

version of political correctness.

The latest victim in this on-going campaign is Octavia Nasr who for the last 20 years worked at

CNN and, up until July 7, 2010, was the network’s Middle East News Editor. She made the

mistake of expressing appreciation for Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a recently

deceased and important member of Hezbollah. What she liked about Fadlallah was his stand on

women’s rights in the Middle East. That was enough to release the dogs of war on the right. No

matter that no one who complained about Nasr knew anything about Fadlallah as a person. His

association with Hezbollah was enough. Typically, CNN caved into the attack without a

struggle. Almost immediately upon receiving the protests the network executives decided that

Nasr’s “credibility” had been destroyed. Nasr herself commented that she had learned “a good

lesson on why 140 characters [the length of her statement on Fadlallah] should not be used to

comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”

She misses the point. It is not the length of her comment, which was expressed as a private

“tweet,” that did her in. It was the fact that she expressed a considered opinion that showed

respect for a man the American right, with little or no accurate knowledge, had decided to hate.

In truth, it is CNN’s credibility that is called into doubt by this incident. But there is little new

about that.

As noted, Nasr is only the latest victim. Last month it was Helen Thomas whose 60 year career

as a journalist abruptly ended when she expressed her frustration with Israel. She said that the

Israeli Jews ought to go back to Germany and Poland. All hell broke loose on that one. No one

seemed to notice that a good many Israeli Jews are in fact going back to Germany and other

European countries. Indeed, more Jews are leaving Israel than are coming in. Also, no one

dared mention that while Helen Thomas was indulging in wishful thinking, the Israelis have

spent the last sixty years in fact making refugees of as many Palestinians as they could. But such

facts are of little interest to the right. Helen Thomas was quickly forced into retirement.

Here are the names of some other victims. The details of their cases can be had by following the

links provided by Glenn Greenwald’s piece on this same subject posted at Salon.com (July 8,

2010). David Weigel was fired by the Washington Post for expressing scorn for the likes of

Rush Limbaugh . Eason Jordon was fired by CNN for publically expressing concern about the

U.S. military’s appalling habit of shooting at journalists not officially “embedded.” Back in 2003

NBC fired Peter Arnett for remarks on Iraqi TV raising doubts about Bush Jr’s invasion of that

country. The right had accused him of treason. MSNBC fired Ashleigh Banfield for suggesting

that the American media were all becoming mimics of Fox TV. Even Phil Donahue got axed

because he was perceived as being critical of President Bush Jr.’s war. This list of notables is

only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many non-notables hit the unemployment lines

because of the revival of McCarthyite tactics by the American far right?

Why is the screaming right so effective? Is it merely the volume? No, it is more complicated

than that. Here is my explanation:

First the background:

1. In their daily lives the vast majority of Americans are apolitical. They really don’t care about

left or right politics because it doesn’t seem to have much to do with their local lives. They are,

however, the consumer audience for which the media outlets compete.

2. While inherently apolitical, this audience does not live in an apolitical media environment. In

my opinion, there is no “objective media” much less a “liberal” one. The majority of the media

outlets are one of two kinds. They are either a) overtly conservative because they are owned by

right wing ideologues who are interested in inserting their ultra-conservative worldview into the

heads of their audience (the Murdoch/Fox News bunch) or b) they are “politically neutral” media

operations (often owned by bigger businesses like Westinghouse and Disney) whose foremost

interest is making a profit (CNN and its ilk). You do also have a few left leaning media

organizations out there, mostly in print (i.e. The Nation), but they are on the fringe and don’t

reach a mass audience.

3. Since the end of World War II leftist ideas have been demonized almost out of existence in the

U.S. And, since 9/11, the “commies” have been transformed into Muslims. These simplistic

stereotypes set the parameters for correct and patriotic thinking in this country and they are

delivered to you at different levels of intensity by both the conservative and “neutral” media

systems. No matter how apolitical one might be in one’s daily local life, these notions are in

media air, so to speak. You take them in almost by osmosis. They mess with your mind without

you realizing it.

The Foreground:

1. This situation gives the political right a very big head start when it comes to shaping public

opinion and then policing the “neutral” corporate media to make sure it does not step out of line.

The right is very good at this because their leaders and spokespeople tend to be bullies and

authoritarians. On the other hand, American political liberals are really centrists who are trying

to hold together a conglomeration of different groups. That might get them votes when it counts

but it doesn’t make for principled backbone. The liberal centrists tend to be accommodating

rather than resistant to right-wing bullying.

2. The “neutral” media that is primarily concerned with the bottom line, their owners and

bureaucratic operators, readily sacrifice the principles underpinning a free press if they are seen

as hurting the company image. There are, of course, occasional exceptions to this rule (just

remember the Washington Post and Watergate) but they are rare and momentary.

3. So, you put together a for- profit, largely unprincipled “neutral” media with an aggressive

political right run by loud mouthed thugs, throw in a liberal political class that has very little

backbone, and you get the present day situation.

What I have described here is a general situation that is working at two levels. At the corporate

level the right-wing bullies seem to be in charge and regularly force the firing of those who

purposefully or inadvertently challenge them. Inside the beltway the same sort of sordid business

goes on through the pressures put upon politicians by wrathful special interests. At the popular

level the initially apolitical masses get largely right-wing influenced storylines coming through

the system described above. Over time, this of course influences their collective worldview.

However, there is another factor to watch for. This propaganda machine can be overwhelmed by

events. That is what may be happening when it comes to Middle East policy and perceptions.

For instance, the behavior of the Israeli government has been so brutal and uncompromising that

it is becoming more difficult for the U.S. media to rationalize it away. Different storylines,

coming from pro-Palestinian, Arab-American and Muslim-American movements are catching on

among select audiences, such as those on college campuses. These counter- perceptions have the

potential of spreading into the public at large. If and when we reach that stage, the “neutral” forprofit

media will have to choose between a growing skeptical consumer audience and the bullies

on the right.

Shield Laws, Wikileaks and the Public’s Right to Know

Underneath the radar screen of the average American citizen, a legislative battle is going on for

what is called a “Federal Shield Law.” This is 1. legislation that would “protect journalists from

having to reveal anonymous sources when challenged by prosecutors in federal court.” Actually,

all but ten of the Unites States have such laws operating at the state level, but as of now there is

no federal equivalent. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would establish

such a law and defined the categories of cases to which it would apply, but the Senate is yet to

act. Why not? The answer to that is WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks Affair

It will be remembered that in July 2010 WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of Defense

Department documents online, along with combat videos, concerning the conduct of the wars in

Iraq and Afghanistan. This was “classified” material leaked to the web site by a whistleblower

within the military. The documents show that the two wars were carried on with such loose rules

of engagement as to result in massive civilian casualties. Before it released the documents,

WikiLeaks reviewed them as part of a “harm minimization process demanded by our source.” As

a result it withheld 15,000 documents. Nonetheless, as a former FBI attorney put it, the

information that was released is “embarrassing, inconvenient and gets in the way of the war

effort.” Thus, ignoring WikiLeaks own vetting process, the Defense Department accused the

website of simply dumping classified material onto the web and thereby compromising the safety

of US troops and their allied informants, to say nothing of harming what is left of the US

reputation in the region.

These charges are to be taken seriously for one reason only. They come from an institution that

can legally retaliate in a way that could have dire consequences for WikiLeaks as well as that

portion of the American public desiring to know the real consequences of policies pursued in

their name. As to the substance of the charges themselves, there is much room for skepticism.

The dumping charge is untrue on the face of it. WikiLeaks did vet the material and that is why

15,000 documents were withheld. We have only the Pentagon’s word for the allegation that the

material made public endangered anyone. And the Pentagon, whose job in Iraq and Afghanistan

seems to be the endangerment of everyone, is not a source to be trusted. The only charge made

against WikiLeaks that everyone can agree on is that the organization embarrassed the American

government.

Enter the Shield Law Effort

As all this was going on US news organizations and their journalist employees were pushing hard

for the passage of a federal Shield Law. All expectations were that the Senate would pass its

equivalent of the House bill this fall. It is to be noted that the bill that passed the House last year

specifically exempted cases that had to do with both terrorism and national security. The

presiding judge on any such case can remove the Shield Law protection. In addition, the House

bill also limits protection of the Shield Law in cases having to do with classified military secrets.

Then came the WikiLeaks affair. The Senate’s linking of WikiLeaks to the Shield Law seems

puzzling. The website’s July posting clearly falls under the national security and military secrets

rubrics. So WikiLeaks would not warrant Shield Law protection under the proposed law.

Nonetheless, those opposed to the bill are using the WikiLeaks affair as a focal point for renewed

opposition to the Shield Law. Perhaps, from the perspective of those in opposition, all

whistleblowers are at best the grown-up version of the despised tattletales of their youth, at worst

they are all just traitors of one sort or another.

Supporters of the bill have responded in two ways. First, the Senate sponsor of the legislation,

Charles Shumer, Democrat from New York, is drafting new wording that would explicitly

distance the bill from WikiLeaks or similar organizations. The second, and more important

response, comes from the country’s news organizations and journalists. They are all lining up to

loudly condemn WikiLeaks. They claim that WikiLeaks is just “a drop box for leaked

documents.” It just “publishes raw data without editorial oversight.” WikiLeaks employees are

not authentic journalists because the real ones always “go through a period of consultation before

publishing sensitive material.” The fact that these assertions are demonstrably untrue seems not

to matter to either the news organizations or the journalists. Both have participated in maligning

WikiLeaks as a politically expedient tactic aimed at saving the federal Shield Law. For the sake

of that end, both groups are quite willing to throw WikiLeaks to the wolves.

What Is Really at Stake Here?

It is a sign of the superficiality of our politicians and the vested-interest orientation of American

news organizations and their journalists that they have seriously misinterpreted the importance of

the WikiLeaks affair. This is not about who is or who is not a “real” journalist. It is about the

status and future of what is supposed to be an “open” society, wherein people are accurately

informed about decisions and policies that actually, or potentially, impact their lives. It is about

the right to know and the right not to be misled.

The reason that WikiLeaks’ action in July caused such an uproar within the US government is

because public support for both the actions that initiated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and

the policies that keep them going were and are based on lies and calculated omissions in public

information. In other words, the administration of George W. Bush repeatedly misled the public

and the administration of Barack Obama not only protects those responsible, but also continues

their practices. As a result millions have been killed and maimed and nothing of lasting positive

significance has been gained. WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have taken the position

that this is not only morally wrong, but politically fatal for a country that purports to be an open

democracy. The news organizations/journalists have taken the position that they don’t give a fig

for this fatal threat as long as they can win protection in particular categories of cases that the

government itself will define.

There is a lot at stake here. Yet it bears repeating that this entire affair has gone on below the

radar screen of most citizens. The vast majority goes along with what the government says even

as they indulge in demeaning jokes about dishonest politicians. If they did not, things would be

very different. The government uses the term “national security” and the vast majority of citizens,

including the journalists, simply abdicate their right to know. They assume that these two almost

magic words denote activities that save lives rather than destroy them. Then along comes

WikiLeaks and it says no, Americans must know the consequences of the policies carried out by

their government. America, here are the facts. The result from the general public has been a

proverbial “whimper.” No “bang” has been detected. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the British

critic and lexicographer, once observed that, “about things on which the public thinks long it

commonly attains to think right.” I greatly admire Johnson, but on this he was wrong. Unless

manipulated into doing so by the mass media, the public rarely if ever thinks long about

anything. Sadly, this includes the right, much less the need, to know what is done in its name.

The National Interest Has Gone Missing – An Analysis (July 13, 2010)

An interesting commentary by Gideon Levy, entitled “A Peace Crime,” appeared in Haaretz on

July 11, 2010. It focused on comments made by Bashar Assad, President of Syria, in an

interview he gave to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir about a week earlier. In the interview

Assad said, “Our position is clear: When Israel returns the entire Golan Heights, of course we

will sign a peace agreement with it.” However, Syria wants the prospective peace to be

comprehensive and durable. “What’s the point of peace if the embassy is surrounded by security,

if there is no tourism….that’s not peace. That’s a permanent cease-fire agreement.”

To Assad’s offer can be added to that of the Arab League’s Saudi Plan. In other words, there

can be little doubt that if Israel wants peace with just about the entire Arab world it can have it in

short order. Levy is rightfully frustrated that the Israeli press and political establishment let the

Assad interview pass without so much as the blink of the eye. Levy protests, “How long must he

[Assad] knock in vain on Israel’s locked door?”

Levy’s conclusion is that “Israel does not want peace with Syria. Period. It prefers the Golan

over peace with one of its biggest and most dangerous enemies. It prefers real estate….” He is

quite right, and we can complement this situation with the recent behavior of the American

government on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Last month the Obama administration had a

real opportunity to lay that controversy to rest. Turkey and Brazil had, with the acquiescence of

Washington, negotiated a deal with Iran to have its nuclear fuel processed by a third party

country. Then, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton essentially double-crossed the Turks and

Brazilians, and chose to push through greater sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.

It does not take a genius to observe that the pursuit of national interests, defined in common

sense terms, would have led to very different behavior by the U.S. and Israeli governments. But

both failed to pursue such a course. Their doors remained locked. The question why is a

seminal one. It touches on war and peace and thus the lives of millions. So let’s look at some of

the factors that might go into an answer to this question–why was national interest not

pursued?

1. Both the U.S. and Israeli governments are democratically elected. However, normally such

governments are brought to power by votes cast on domestic issues. Foreign policy is a

secondary factor (or as often as not a non-factor) for most voters. It is to be noted that for a

minority of Israeli voters impassioned by religious zealotry, expansion into the West Bank is a

domestic issue.

2. On the rare occasions when domestic populations are brought to consider foreign issues they

do so through a media and government constructed filter. This filter is laden with largely

uncontested propaganda and biased reporting despite the “free press” environment that might

theoretically exist. Over time, reporting based on a consistently biased storyline can create a

population wide “thought collective” on a particular topic. That is, a broadly held popular point

of view created by the manipulation of public opinion (i.e. the “existential” threats from Iraq or

Iran or the assertion that all Palestinians are terrorists). In addition, there is the fact that most of

the population has little or no independent understanding about the foreign events and issues that

the media sources speaks of. Their limited interest in foreign matters also means that few will

take the initiative to go looking for non-partisan data. Lacking an independent viewpoint they

are not in a position to make a critical judgment on the reporting. Many simply assume that they

are being told the truth. Soon they are locked into an artificially created “thought collective.”

This has certainly happened in both the United States and Israel in relation to the Palestinians and

the Arab world.

3. The domestic priorities of most voters means that, in a default sort of way, foreign policy

formulation comes under the influence of small but powerful interest groups that do have serious

interests in these issues. When it comes to the Middle East, the relevant interest groups in Israel

and in the United States are allied reflections of each other. And in both cases, their influence

has not been confined to politics but has also extends to the media so as to shape the thought

collective process just laid out. The result is a melding of interest group politics and managed

popular attitudes.

4. What this adds up to is that, in practice, there is no such thing as “national interest” under the

conditions described above. Of course, in theory, it is in the interest of the whole nation of Israel

to take up the Saudi Plan and open the door to Assad’s offer. Of course, in theory, it is in the

interest of the U.S. nation to take advantage of the negotiations carried on by Turkey and Brazil

with Iran. But, alas, it is not the nation’s interests that are in guiding policy here. In both these

cases policy formulation is in the hands of special interests organized into powerful lobbies with

money and votes to influence the appropriate political elites.

In the case of Israel, foreign policy formulation is in the hands of special interests that are

ideologically committed to “real estate.” This special interest, which has both secular and

religious devotees, has been operating since before the founding of the country. That is why

Israel has never declared final borders. It might very well be that most Jewish Israeli voters

would trade land for peace if the question was put to them in a straightforward and objective

way. But it has not, is not now, and may never be so put. The question of land for peace has

been embedded in a “thought collective” that emphasizes the erroneous concept that the Arabs

are untrustworthy barbarians, and the archaic notion that all the Palestinians want to destroy

Israel. It also emphasizes the patently absurd, but widely believed, notion that Israel is

susceptible to such a fate.

In the case of the United States foreign policy formulation as regards Israel, Palestine, Iran and

often the Middle East as a whole is definitively influenced by Zionist lobbies that are either

undeclared agents of a foreign power (Israel) or ideologically driven religious zealots (Christian

Zionists). This influence is also of long standing and has only been openly challenged in the last

decade. It might take decades more before those who are contesting that influence have the

financial and political wherewithal to succeed. In the meantime, the special interests in charge

will proclaim that the threat of a “nuclear Iran” as real. This in turn will allow Israel to assert

that Iranian behavior, and not Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians, is the most pressing Middle

Eastern problem for the U.S.

The explanation given here helps us to understand why Bashar Assad can knock at Israel’s

locked door and no one in that country will bother to open it. It also helps us understand why

Obama and Clinton turned their backs on the Turkish and Brazilian efforts to negotiate a deal

with Iran. Both are reacting to the power and influence of domestic special interests. Compared

to these interests, the “national interest” does not stand a chance.

Eight American Universities Say Yes to Apartheid – An Analysis (9/26/10)

A letter from Gaza appeared on the Web dated September 24, 2010. It was from a group of

Gaza academics and students and sought to publicize the fact that eight American universities

have recently signed agreements with various Israeli universities to offer U.S. students free

semester long programs in Israel. Among the American universities participating in this venture

are Harvard, Columbia and Michigan.

The Gaza academics and students expressed shock at this turn of events. And so they might

given the fact that they are sitting in an outdoor prison of Israeli making and have seen their

educational institutions both starved of resources by an Israeli blockade and literally bombed to

rubble by Israeli warplanes. The situation in Gaza is but the worst of a bad situation for all

Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Israel proper. When it comes to education in

all of these locales apartheid policies are in place to interfere with Palestinian students and

teachers and minimize the educational experience. Actually, this is part of an unspoken strategy

of cultural genocide. Such policies are directly or indirectly supported by the Israeli academic

institutions to which the participating American universities now want to send their students.

How can these U.S. universities do this? This is certainly a legitimate question in an age when

discrimination and racism are, supposedly, no longer socially or politically acceptable. After all

Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, etc. are institutions of higher learning housed in a country that

prides itself on broad civil rights laws and all of them adhere to social equity rules. Yet here they

are climbing into academic bed, so to speak, with a state that practices apartheid against its non-

Jewish minority and is attempting to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of the

Occupied Territories.

Well, there are any number of scenarios that might lead them to this sort of hellish arrangement

and here I offer only one possibility.

1. The realm of the bureaucrat

The people in control of American universities (and perhaps all universities) are mostly

bureaucrats. Some of them are trained in the specialty field of higher education administration,

some are professors who have crossed over to an administrative career line, and some are just

folks hired from the general population pool to run sub-departments such as public relations and

accounting. They are all trained to pay lip service to various sorts of mission statements and

assessment markers, however their lives are really very insular and their goals narrow and short

term. For instance, even at the highest level, say the office of the university president, there are

usually but a few major goals, and the main one in this case is to raise money.

Somewhere in the organizational chart is an office of overseas programs (or some similar title).

It is usually a small operation with a director and a secretary. Their job is to set up exchange

programs. What they are looking for are programs at overseas schools that are roughly similar in

quality to the courses their own institution offers. That way the credits can be legitimately

transferred back home and stand in for some of their student’s degree requirements. The people

who are arranging these exchanges usually know little or nothing of the social or political

situation in the overseas institution’s country. And, they are not likely to educate themselves on

these subjects beyond some assurance that the place is relatively safe for the students that will be

participating in the exchange. It may be hard for those of us who are so focused on Israeli

apartheid to accept this, but for most of the folks in these little offices, Israel has about the same

cachet as the Czech Republic or maybe Ireland. There is a lot of ignorance at his level.

2. What else is going on?

Of course, that is not the end of the story. There are other folks out there, most of whom are

indirectly associated with the university in question. These people know that there is a war going

on against apartheid Israel, and they are not on our side. They want to counter the increasingly

effective process of “chipping away at Israel’s legitimacy.” They also have deep pockets and lots

of influence. These folks may be big donors to these universities and some of them may well sit

on the institution’s board of governors/regents.

When the president or his representative goes out to raise money these donors have what appears

to be innocuous conditions for their gifts. So they say to president x or y, “sure we will give you

half a million dollars for that new sports complex you so covet, but in return we want you to

create this exchange program with Hebrew and Haifa U.” The president thinks that this is little

enough to ask for such a generous gift, and his friend on the board of governors/regents seconds

the motion. A telephone call is made to the director of overseas programs who is given a contact

name and number at the Israeli embassy to get things rolling. And that is how it happens.

3. What comes next?

Soon enough this arrangement becomes public. You have to figure if they know about it in

Gaza, they know about in Cambridge, East Lansing and upper Manhattan. Given the times there

will probably be some sort of public protest, but the ensuing struggle will not be easy for the

following reasons:

a. The university position will almost certainly be that to shun Israel is a violation of

academic freedom, free inquiry, and the essential non-political status of learning. This sort of

argument is age old. The U.S. universities were making it when they were asked to divest from

apartheid South Africa and stop research funded by the “Defense” Department during the

Vietnam war. One can never lay this argument to rest in any final way because it represents a

cherished, if somewhat unreal, ideal.

So you point out for the one thousandth time that there is an inherent contradiction when

you take this position relative to Israeli universities just because they do not promote these

academic ideals. They are destroyers of free thought and free inquiry as far as Palestinian rights

(and particularly the right of education) are concerned. And so if the ideal of a non-political

status for learning exists anywhere in the real world, it ain’t in Israel. The whole Zionist

academic setup has been criticized by international as well as Israeli human rights organizations

for these anti-educational activities. And finally, you try to tell the university decision makers

that there is precedent for universities taking a stand against apartheid practices. At this point

you notice that they have, figuratively, clicked on their I-pods and are no longer listening.

b. Next you go to the professors of the institution and try to explain the same thing. That

is when you come to the stomach wrenching realization that most of them do not care. Most

academics are as specialized as the bureaucrats, and live their lives in just as insular a world.

They know a lot about their sub-field and very little beyond it. They are dedicated to their

families and their local communities and are, on the whole, decent people, but they are not

interested, nor are they going to hit the street, for oppressed people far away. This is particularly

true when their local news sources have been systematically libeling those people for sixty plus

years. They too will hide behind the idea of academic freedom.

It should be noted that this is not quite the same thing as Julien Benda’s “treason of the

intellectuals.” There is very little spouting of national chauvinism or the racism of Islamophobia

(except for the Zionists professors among them). No, it is just co-option into the system. It is

just natural localism–I really just want to live my life and work in my lab or library cubicle, etc. I

am reluctant to get too annoyed at my fellow academics for this attitude, because theirs is the

immemorial stance of all ordinary folks everywhere.

c. So that leaves the students, and here there is a much better chance to gather a crowd

and take a stand. There is always a socially conscious group among the youth who are willing to

fight for a good cause and risk defying the powers that be. This is because they have yet to

become ensconced in the system, bogged down with career, family, mortgage and the like. In

other words, some of them have not yet shrunk into an insular world of very local interests and

goals. And those are the people who will protest, if anyone will, at the ivy towers of Harvard,

Columbia, Michigan and the five other schools which have willed their own corruption.

4. What are the odds of victory?

Whether anyone will listen to the protesters depends on how many there are, how loud they

protest and how far they are willing to go with it. Are they willing to go into the dormitories and

spread the word? Are they willing to picket not only the ordinary centers of power on campus,

but also the admissions office when prospective students come to visit, or demonstrate on homecoming

day and at all the football games? Are they willing to hunt for donors who might say

they will not give if their institution partners with Israel? Are they willing to occupy the

president’s office and thereby risk arrest? Are they willing to keep all of this up for weeks on

end? It might take all of these sorts of activities to even have a chance at winning this contest.

And even so the odds are not good. Essentially, you have to create such a cost to the institution

in trouble and bad publicity that it outweighs that donor’s half a million dollars and/or the anger

of the fellow on the board/regents. If in the end you do not win, you have to understand that it is

not wholly a defeat. After all, you have certainly raised consciousness. In other words, you have

set the stage for the next battle and made that one a little easier to win. So you have to have the

energy to fight again and again. It is a scenario wherein youth is a definite plus.

There is another way in which the mounting a serious protest at any of these schools must

constitute a victory. And that is the fact that such a protest will demonstrate to the academics and

students in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the world has not abandoned them, that they have

allies and their struggle is now a worldwide one. In the short run, that might be the most

important victory of all.

In Conclusion

Here is quote from the American academic Richard Hofstadter, “A university’s essential

character is that of being a center of free inquiry and criticism–a thing not to be sacrificed for

anything else.” If this so (and all the leaders of the institutions involved in these exchanges will

undoubtedly agree) then why are these eight universities sending their students off to Israeli

schools that cooperate with state policies that deny just these sacrosanct pursuits to persecuted

Palestinians? Why are they sending their students to a country that seeks to silence, at all levels

of society, any free inquiry and criticism of its racist and oppressive national ideology? Why are

they cooperating with institutions that have state dictated policies (for instance, admissions

policies) that would be illegal in the United States? Do they condone such behaviors? If they

go through with these exchange programs the answer is, for all intents and purposes, yes, they

do. Essentially, they now lend themselves to the destruction of the very educational virtues they

claim to cherish.

Wikileaks Reveals the Enemy…and it’s Us – An Analysis (7/27/10)

There is the old argument put forth by the National Rifle Association that it is not guns that kill,

it is the people who pull the trigger. This, of course, is at best a half-truth. What does the NRA

think guns are manufactured for? The downing of clay pigeons? Nonsense. They are made to

kill and maim. Be the targets men or lesser animals, be they used in the course of defense or

offense, guns are designed and manufactured to inflict deadly harm.

One can say the same thing for armies. They are not put together for marching in parades. They

are designed to kill and maim on a large scale. You can change the name of that part of the

government that manages professional carnage from the Department of War to the Department of

Defense (as the U.S. government did in 1949) but it makes no real difference. Once the military

is engaged, the inevitable consequence (and the consequence clearly known to those who run the

show) is mayhem. Ask anyone who has gone through basic training about the amount of effort

given to learning how not to kill civilians. It will not be insignificant or irrelevant because,

unless the fighting is in a desert or on the moon, it is virtually impossible within the framework

of modern warfare not to kill non-combatants. Ask a platoon leader what priority he gives to

assuring that his targets are not civilians. If the answer is an honest one it will be a rare event

when such a consideration even approaches the standard priorities of achieving the mission while

“taking care of your men.” You might say that this is just how war is. Historically speaking this

is true. In terms of ethics it is a flat out indefensible position.

Just how indefensible was revealed this week by the courageous work of Wikileaks, a website

that has carried on the work began by Daniel Ellsberg when he leaked the Pentagon Papers

during the Viet Nam war. This week saw the release of 92,000 records detailing the bloody

savagery of American military action in Afghanistan. If one is old enough, this revelation brings

on a disturbing episode of deja vu. For those who lived through Viet Nam know that what these

records reveal are nothing new. It has all happened before. No doubt it will all happen again. In

fact it must happen again and again as long as war is waged as it now is.

That is why one can only feel nausea when the professionals, from military spokesmen, to

“embedded” journalists, to politicians talk of “collateral damage,” as if the pulverized bodies of

civilians that the U.S. military (and all similar armies the world over) leaves in its wake are

somehow accidents. They are not. No matter what the so-called “rules of engagement,” the

nature of the weapons used and the training of the average enlistee (which emphasizes ever more

ruthlessness as the one is brought into “special forces”) guarantees these civilian deaths. In the

modern age of warfare their fate follows like 2+2=4.

Thus, it is significant, and so revealing of our national mentality, that the savagery revealed in

the leaked reports is not what most of our leaders are focusing on. Rather, it is the accusation

that the reports suggest that the war is being lost. Thus from the White House to the Congress, to

the media talkshows, their defense is that this is old data, reflecting the state of the war prior to

the President’s introduction of a new strategy and a surge in troop strength. While I believe that

the war in Afghanistan is, just like Viet Nam, an unwinnable affair, this sort of debate misses the

point of these revelations. It is not about winning or losing. It is about utter destruction. About

the tens of thousands of human beings who have already irredeemably lost this war.

In the United States war is a massive industry. We ignored Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about

the growing military-industrial complex and so this vast interlinked network is now one of the

foundations of the U.S. economy. The vested interests involved here are of every class and every

ethnicity. To rapidly dismantle this complex risks depression for the nation. To come to a clear

recognition of this situation is like looking into the abyss. Indeed, the vast majority of people

will refuse to look. And they will support the hunting down of those who have invited them to

look (Julian Assange, co-founder of Wikileaks is now a wanted man). The government will

label them traitors, put them in prison and throw away the key.

Frederic Nietzsche tells us the parable of the death of god. A madman shows up in a

town one day and proclaims the death of god and identifies the murderers as we the people. The

implication here is that the modern age is what really did god in. Moderns have ceased to pay

anything but lip service to god and so he, she or it is really just a dead idol. We can extend the

parable to ethics. The people at Wikileaks are the madmen who have come to town to tell us that

we have no ethics. That our pitiful claim to be civilized is just an act of self-delusion because the

nature of modern warfare has murdered ethics. By the way, in Nietzsche’s story the messenger is

simply dismissed as insane. As noted above, the Wikileaks people will have a much rougher

time of it.

Finally, on Armistice Day in 1948 a colleague of Dwight Eisenhower, General Omar

Bradley, made a speech in which he said “the world has achieved brilliance without wisdom,

power without conscience….” It was not a particularly original observation for in one form or

another it has been said many times before and many times since. The implication is that

tomorrow will probably look very much like today. And so it will. As an wise swamp possum

once observed, “We have met the enemy….and he is us.”

Yale University and the Problem of Anti-Semitism – An Analysis (8/29/10)

Between the 23rd and the 25th of August, Yale University held a conference on Global

Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity.” It was sponsored by the Yale Initiative for the

Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. Therefore, this was a university event and not one

brought in from the outside to use Yale facilities. On the surface there is nothing wrong with

this. Anti-Semitism is an age old form of racism and it calls for ongoing academic study. The

problem is that this particular conference approached the subject from the ideologically driven

position of radical Zionism. In other words, many of the assumptions upon which the

conference was built were unfortunately tainted with bias. Indeed, in at least one instance (a

panel on the “self-hating” Jew), one might suggest that the event was itself promoting a

particularly virulent form of anti-Semitism. Very odd indeed.

The way you initially judge an academic conference is from the reputation of its participants and

the nature of its panels. Philip Weiss, the co-editor of the blog Mondoweiss, has looked at both

these categories and he concludes that this conference was “dedicated to the idea that any

criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.” It appears he is largely correct. Many (though not all) on the

participant list are the sort of strident supporters of Israel who confuse Zionism with Judaism

and criticism of Israel with “demonization.” Some of the panels were dedicated to problematic

issues as “Jewish Self-Hatred” and “Confronting and Combating Contemporary Anti-Semitism

in the Academy.” Itamar Marcus who was a conference keynote speaker and is also a leader of

the West Bank settler movement, lectured the participants on “The Central Role of Palestinian

Anti-Semitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity.” Putting many of the participants (regardless

of their academic credentials and affiliations) into the context created by these panels, what you

get is not an academic conference in toto. Parts of it were more like an attempt to assert ideology

as truth.

Let’s take a look at some of the assumptions that appear to be behind at least a part of the

conference.

1. Criticism of Israel/Zionism, somehow smacks of “demonization”and this constitutes a

“contemporary form of anti-Semitism.” (This seems to be the opinion of Charles Small, the Yale

Initiative director – See the Weiss link above). If you think this assertion through, you find that it

is illogical. Leaving aside the fact that not all Zionists are Jews and not all Jews are Zionists, it is

nonsensical to claim that criticism of a political state and its idiosyncratic ideology is the same as

criticism of a worldwide religion and people. The only way those at the Yale conference could

fall into this confusion is by taking Israel’s description of itself as the “Jewish state” and then

uncritically accepting that this warrants the conflation of an entire people and religion with that

state. This is an enormous leap, and one that just does not reflect reality.

Indeed, it is even logically suspect to assume that criticism of Israel or Zionism is anti-Israeli,

much less anti-Jewish! By way of analogy, one can point to the fact that there are millions of

Americans who have consistently criticized U.S. domestic and foreign policy at least since the

1960s. The only folks who accuse them of being anti-American are the fanatics on the far right.

Is that the sort of company the Yale Initiative academics want to keep? Maybe so. The Zionist

version of such fanatics certainly showed up for their conference and seemed to fit right in.

2. Public Jewish criticism of Israel is a form of self-hatred. This is one of those defensive

positions Zionists throw up to protect themselves from what they see as the most dangerous

attack of all, that from fellow Jews. You will note that when they use this epithet, they will most

often put in the proviso that to constitute “self-hatred” the criticism must be made “in public.”

What does that mean? It means that if you make the criticism in private, no non-Jew will hear it

and the Israeli/Zionist claim to represent all Jewry is not called into question. That being the

case, there is no need to intimidate the critic with nasty name calling. However, if the criticism is

make in public, non-Jews do hear it and the Israeli/Zionist claim of representation is called into

question. And, since they insist that they stand in for all Jews, that makes you, the Jewish critic,

a “self-hating” anti-Semite. In the end, this gambit is nothing but a form of intimidation used to

stifle criticism.

Yet, by persistent repetition, year in and year out, the Zionists have convinced many of their

supporters that there is something to this otherwise nonsensical assertion that those Jews who

stand against them are “self-haters.” So, you can now find Israelis who complain about the “rot

in the diaspora” and describe their Jewish critics both inside and outside of Israel as not only

“self-haters,” but also as “traitors to their people” This is what ideology taken too far can do.

The room for critical debate disappears and you start to see those who disagree as mortal

enemies.

3. Anti-Semitism plays a central role in Palestinian identity. Here I shall tell a story. I once met

Yasir Arafat. From the subsequent interaction I concluded that he was no anti-Semite. He saw

the state of Israel as an enemy because of what it did to the Palestinian people, but he did not

ascribe blame to the Jewish people as a whole. He even talked endearingly of Yitzak Rabin, his

“partner for peace.” I thought that latter opinion naive of him, but it certainly was not the mark

of an anti-Semite.

While Arafat was in forced exile in Tunisia the Israelis managed to tap his phone. There they

allegedly recorded Arafat saying some bad things about “the Jews.” I say allegedly because the

Israelis are not above having forged the whole incident. Real or false the statements appeared

the next day in the New York Times and many people said, “Aha! You see. The leader the

Palestinian people is anti-Semitic.” Assuming, for the moment, that Arafat did make the

comments, I do not find that surprising (though I do not think such the single incident would

make him an anti-Semite). Actually, what I would find surprising is if he did not occasionally

make such comments. Do the Palestinians hate all Jews? The vast majority do not. But, given

Israel’s barbarous treatment of them, and its simultaneous insistence that it is the institutional

incarnation of the entire Jewish people, it is a small miracle that most Palestinians, including

Yasir Arafat, have never fallen into the trap of blaming all of Jewry for the actions of only some

of them.

It is not the Palestinian national character that has been shaped by anti-Semitism. Rather, it is the

Israeli national character that has been shaped by a fear and loathing of all Arabs and Palestinians

in particular. If you doubt this just go to Israel and keep your ears open. There you will find that

too many of its Jewish citizens see Arabs as dirty, promiscuous, untrustworthy, and all the other

things that we Americans once ascribed to Irishmen, Italians, Poles, African Americans, and the

Jews as well. Quite frankly, I have never run into anything approaching this level of racial

animosity in an Arab country.

If this past week’s conference is indicative of anything, it is that Yale’s Initiative for the

Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism is in danger of falling from academic grace. That is, it is

in danger of ceasing to be a center for the objective study of an age old form of racism, and

instead tying itself to an ideological view of the world that is itself racist. Why are they

apparently doing so? Is it because they are funded by wealthy Zionist ideologues who have

influenced the choice of leadership and therefore the parameters of what here passes for

“research?” Maybe. Whatever the reason, if this keeps up the Yale Initiative is doomed as a

legitimate academic venture. I recommend that Yale University correct the situation or rapidly

distance itself from the entire project.