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Archive for September, 2010

Foreign Affairs

Vice President Biden Supports the Israelis (June 2, 2010)

On June 2 while in Iowa for a Democratic Party function, Vice President Joe Biden commented on the Israeli attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla. Biden has always been a strong supporter of Israel so no one should be surprised at the tone of his remarks. What is important here are all the things that our Vice President is willing to set aside to maintain his Zionist credentials. Things like international law, historical accuracy and logic. Here is some of what he said.

“You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not…but the truth of the matter is Israel has a right to know…whether or not arms are being smuggled in.” I guess Mr. Biden has not noticed that in none of the statements issued by Israel have they claimed that they stopped the Aid Flotilla because they believed it was carrying weapons to Gaza. So that part of our Vice President’s statement is misleading and out of place.

The VP continued, “I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest.” I want to call attention to this word “absolute.” The truth of the matter, to use Biden’s phrase, is that no country now has any such “absolute right.” We seem to have a Vice President who is unaware of things such as the Hague Conventions which set down limits for the making of war and the Geneva Conventions which regulate the treatment of civilians, prisoners and other non-combatants during war. Indeed, ever since the end of the 19th century and particularly since the end of the World War II, the whole direction of international law has been to eliminate this notion that states have “absolute rights.”

And, of course, a good argument can be made that the Gaza Aid Flotilla was not a threat to Israel’s security interest. It was carrying only humanitarian aid, a fact verified by the countries from which the ships set sail. Israel’s government knew this to be the case, but Jerusalem has distorted the notion of security to such an extent that it deems anything going into Gaza that is not cleared by Israel as a de facto threat. Yet when things are sent to Gaza through Israel vital civilian necessities arrive in dribbles so as to purposely maintain a million plus human beings at subsistence level. This, by the way, is a violation of international treaty regulations on the maintenance of a blockade during wartime. So, even if Israel sees itself at war with Hamas, the manner in which they maintain the blockade of Gaza renders it illegal.

But Mr. Biden, the man who is a heartbeat from the Presidency, seems utterly oblivious to these factors. Thus, he continued, “Here you go, You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship–if you divert slightly north you can unload and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza. So what’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?” But then he contradicts himself, stating that the US, and the whole world, is now putting “pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering.” Well that is the “big deal” Mr. Biden, you have to use pressure. So, why would you think it is a problem that the flotilla did not want to go to Ashdod? The truth of the matter is, the goal of the Israeli blockade is to not get things into Gaza. This is a situation that has been documented by every respectable human rights organization on the planet

The VP carries on, “Well, its legitimate for Israel to say, I don’t know what’s on that ship.” But the Israelis did know what was on the ships. And even if they did not, they are not allowed to find out by playing the role of pirates on the high seas. But along with everything else, Biden seems oblivious to international law.

Biden’s final bit of wisdom comes when he tells us that if the flotilla had been allowed to reach Gaza and unload its humanitarian supplies “Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse, and sell it.” Now how does he know that? Did he pick it up on Fox TV? Did he learn it from the CIA? Or has he been spending his time reading an AIPAC briefing book? Again, the truth of the matter is that Hamas is renowned throughout the Muslim world for its honesty, lack of corruption, and dedication to the charitable dictates of Islam. The very last organization in the Middle East to do such a thing as Biden suggests would be Hamas.

Once upon a time, when federal government officials made scheduled public remarks touching on foreign policy those remarks were cleared by folks with expert knowledge in the State Department. I have a feeling that procedure has lapsed, or a least is being ignored by the Vice President. If you know your history and the facts on the ground, it is embarrassing to listen to a leader talk such nonsense. But then, Mr. Biden wasn’t talking to those who are knowledgeable. He was talking to the great multitude who are not. And that is the scariest part of all.

US Zionists Attack Gaza Flotilla Participants and Turkey – An Analysis (June 17, 2010)

Part I

On Monday June 14 five elected Democratic Representatives, all from New York, got together to vilify the Gaza aid flotilla participants. By doing so Anthony Weiner (NY 9th district), Charles Rangel (NY 15th district), Carolyn Maloney (NY 14th district), Eliot Engel (NY 17th district) and Jerrold Nadler (NY 8th district) all vied with each other for the distinction of being the furthest out of touch with reality. In pursuit of this distinction here is some of what they said.

All of them agreed that there certainly ought to be an investigation of the events surrounding the flotilla. However, that investigation should not be of Israel’s actions, which the Representatives unanimously agreed were legal and justified. No, the investigation should be of the flotilla participants themselves who were infiltrated by terrorist activists sponsored by the Turkish charity IHH which allegedly has ties to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Their proof? Well, they really didn’t have any, but they are sure the Israelis do. In the meantime no foreigner connected with the flotilla should be allowed to enter the United States where they are intent to spread propaganda and do the country harm.

Representative Maloney insisted that IHH once plotted to blow up the LA airport (an old and unsubstantiated allegation) and that the flotilla wasn’t trying to help suffering Palestinians but rather was attempting to get weapons to Hamas (it has been definitively demonstrated that there were no shipments of weapons on any of the flotilla ships).

Representative Weiner equated the flotilla with a hypothetical ship sailing from Yemen full of anti-American activists plotting an attack on Brooklyn or Queens. (This leaves me wordless.)

Representative Rangel said that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was just like the US blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. (As I recall there was no attempt to half starve the people of Cuba due to the presence of Soviet missiles).

Representative Nadler asked the small crowd gathered to hear the group how they would feel if New York was under missile attack from New Jersey. Wouldn’t each of those missiles constitute war crime? He continued to say that Israel should never had let the flotilla participants go, particularly the ones we know are terrorists because they had $10,000 in their pockets. (Having grown up in norther New Jersey I can assure Rep. Nadler that he has nothing to fear from that direction. As to the oft cited $10,000, there might well have been an effort to bring badly needed foreign currency into Gaza. Thanks to Israeli barbarism there are nearly an infinite number of things that those dollars could have been used to purchase (perhaps cement). Since Rep. Nadler is fond of analogies, I might ask if he or his family contribute to the B’nai B’rith? There have been allegations that some B’nai B’rith funds regularly find their way to illegal Israeli settlements. If they do make such contributions, what does that say about the Nadlers?)

Representative Engel affirmed that “the flotilla was out to do no good” and its participants should not be allowed to come here and “spill their…hatred and terrorist rhetoric.” (We are not informed how Rep. Engel knows the flotilla was out to do ill. Perhaps he got it out of an AIPAC briefing book. But we are informed that he definitely does not like President Obama because he is too “wishy washy” when it comes to Israel)

Actually, the allegations issued by the five Representatives so closely mimicked statements coming out of Israel that one wonders if the five were not, on this occasion, acting as agents of a foreign power. But that is probably going too far. These Representatives all come from districts with high concentrations of Zionist voters. And, since their voters are fervent believers in the rightness of all that Israel does, how can their elected politicians disagree? Indeed, they are politically required to publically agree, and do so regularly. Things like proof and accuracy are irrelevant. Their reward is the filling of their election coffers with more than adequate monies from various Zionist sources. For them this is not about foreign policy. It is very much a domestic affair.

Part II

However, these five politicians are allied to others who are very much concerned with US foreign policy. Their allies are neo-conservatives such as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Robert Pollock, Stephen Schwartz and Daniel Feith. One might recognize some of these names from the world wide harm most of them did while serving in one capacity or another under President George W. Bush. Now they have turned their ire on Turkey’s government for sponsoring the Gaza aid flotilla and orchestrating international criticism of Israel. It makes no difference to these men that Israel illegally attacked the aid flotilla and murdered one American and eight Turkish nationals.

Using various neo-conservative organs such as the Wall Street Journal, the National Review and the Weekly Standard, as well as a think tank called the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), these individuals and others now picture Turkey as “representing a major element in the global panorama of radical Islam” (Schwartz in the Weekly Standard). Its government leaders, such as Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu, are now “demagogues appealing to the worst elements in their own country and the broader Middle East” (Pollack in the Wall Street Journal).

Hyperbole comes naturally to these fellows as does general destruction and mayhem. However, my favorite accusation from this quarter comes from a report issued by JINSA which says “Turkey, as a member of NATO, is privy to intelligence information…the security of that information (and Western technology in weapons in Turkey’s arsenal) is suspect. The United States should seriously consider suspending military cooperation with Turkey as a prelude to removing it from the [NATO] organization.” There is no proof that I know of that this is anything but ideologically driven speculation by the folks at JINSA. What this bit of advice does tell us though is that JINSA and other neo-conservative “intellectuals” are hypocrites with remarkably short historical memories.

Turkey has never betrayed any US secrets and has never compromised US military technology. Not so Israel. In 1993 the US government discovered that Israel had sold two billion dollars worth of hi-tech US military equipment to China. It was the same James Woolsey who is now attacking Turkey who, as director of the CIA in 1993, told the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that the Chinese “hope to tap Israeli expertise for co-operative development of military technologies.” And indeed, the Israeli Defense Ministry Director General at that time, David Ivri, confirmed that “there are security relations [between Israel and China].” Allegations that Israel had once again compromised US security by selling US military technology to China reappeared in 1996. As late as 2006 there were renewed accusations that the Israeli military contractor, Emit, had illegally exported advanced drones to China. Clearly the neo-cons are worrying about the wrong country.

Conclusion

The primary reason way both the New York Congressional Representatives, and their neo-conservative allies can get away with these horrible distortions of reality is that their non-Zionist audience, that is the American people in general, are deeply ignorant of the facts about Israeli behavior and US foreign policy in the Middle East. In regard to these topics the people live in a “closed information environment” manipulated by the government and mainstream media. What really paves the road to hell is not “good intentions,” but rather the vast ignorance that allows propaganda to do its insidious work. That is what is going on here.

An analysis – Gaza and American Popular Opinion (May 9, 2010)

There is a new poll out that asked Americans “who was to blame for the Gaza flotilla deaths?” The poll claims that 49% of Americans think that “pro-Palestinian activists” are to blame for the results of May 31’s confrontation. According to this poll only 19% blame the Israelis and 32 % are not sure. It is important to note that the poll was conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a “conservative public opinion polling firm” founded by Scott Rasmussen who, among other activities, served as a paid consultant for the 2004 George W. Bush campaign.

Polls are notorious things. Like other forms of statistics, they can be manipulated quite easily. And, Rasmussen has been criticized for sometimes wording his poll questions like a courtroom attorney seeking to “lead the witness.” Another poll conducted on line by Time Inc. asked the question “was Israel justified in raiding the Gaza aid flotilla?” and registered 69% saying no and 31% saying yes. Nonetheless, I must confess that the Rasmussen poll strikes me as generally accurate. I can not know that for sure, of course, but let us say the findings do not surprise me. Why do I feel that way?

Most people are naturally local. What I mean is that we concentrate our interests and live out our day to day lives within a relatively local sphere. For most of us it is in the local environment that we find our work, our schools, our families and friends. For these reasons we know a lot about the local environment. We can usually make reasoned judgments on issues and claims about that environment because we have first hand knowledge of it. However, the further we get from the local environment the less we know first hand. And, the less we pay attention, feel connected, or care about what is happening. That means, when it comes to events beyond our local sphere we have to depend on others for information. Those others might tell us the truth or they might not. Most often the others are made up of media and government representatives.

When it comes to the Middle East, Americans have been at the mercy of media and government manipulation for a very long time. That manipulation, among other factors, has long ago confirmed a majority of Americans in their pro-Israeli point of view. Thus, as late as February 24, 2010 the Gallup organization reported a poll showing “support for Israel in the U.S. at 63% record high.” The good news is that “record high” claim, if true, represents an unsustainable peak. I strongly suspect that our national pro-Israeli point of view has been eroding. Perhaps the Time poll reflects this as well as that 32% unsure figure in the Rasmussen poll. In addition, the rate of erosion is likely to accelerate. Why should this be the case?

There are relatively few reasons why people choose to pay attention to non-local happenings, but a big one is if they believe that those events have the potential to impact their local lives. Since September 11, 2001 Americans have been focused on the Middle East for just that reason. Since that time we have been in a “war against terror.” Whatever one might think about that “war,” Israel’s behavior is certain to be popularly measured against that effort. Since 9/11 a series of revelations have snuck into the popular media calling in doubt the worth of our alliance with Israel and these have gotten respectable play. Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace Not Apartheid, Mersheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby, the myriad questions irresistibly raised during the Obama-McCain presidential campaign, and now the Gaza blockade culminating in the May 31 massacre. The common popular notion of Israel as a “strategic ally” is no longer an automatic assumption. Indeed, if the US-Israeli alliance ever becomes a nationwide voting issue (for more than the religiously fanatic) I do not think it will survive.

The concept of natural localness is not just American. It is a universal orientation. That means all peoples are subject to the same kind of media and government manipulation on issues beyond their own backyard. To what extent it works is a function of many things such as the ability to relate the propaganda message to local lives, consistency of the propaganda over time, the cultural compatibility of the positions set forth by the propaganda, the saturation level, the allowed level of debate and counter messages, etc. This way of seeing things helps explain not only America’s popular perceptions of recent events but also those of the Israelis.

One of the most baffling problems for those of us who support the Palestinians and the efforts to break the Gaza blockade has been what the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has called “the deadly closing of the Israeli mind.” We have all witnessed the official and popular Israeli refusal to accept any responsibility for what most of the world sees as an illegal assault on an humanitarian aid ship in international waters. But for the Israelis it is all self-defense. Period. This flows from a deeply inbred conviction that all Palestinians (indeed all Arabs) and anyone who allies with them are out to destroy Israel. And, therefore, the only acceptable peace requires the Palestinians to be in enclaves completely controlled by Israel – something like the Gaza ghetto.

This is an extreme example of natural localness wherein an entire population has become convinced that only it understands the truth and the rest of the world is deluded. Populations are particularly susceptible to this level of mass delusion during periods of collective stress, such as wartime. Israel has believed itself at war and threatened with national destruction for over sixty years. In a quite literal sense it has collectively been driven crazy in the process. Thus, it would seem that while Americans are finally breaking loose from their “Israel is just like us,” and a “strategic asset” point of view, the Israelis are still tied hand and foot to an out of date worldview that is fast becoming suicidal.

John Mearsheimer’s Sinking Ship – An Analysis (July 1, 2010)

John Mearsheimer, co-author of the The Israel Lobby, posted a essay on June 29, 2010 entitled “Sinking Ship” on the website of The American Conservative. It is an insightful piece that predicts the long-term demise of both Israel and its American Zionist lobby. His time line for the lobby seems to be about ten years. I agree with much of what Professor Mearsheimer has to say. However, I would like to add to it my own observations and concerns. Here are some of them.
1. Professor Mearsheimer interprets the Gaza aid flotilla debacle as an indication that Israel is “addicted to using military force yet unable to do so effectively.” If force fails, the only answer the Israeli leadership seems to have is to use even greater force. Thus, its approach to its foreign policy problems is to hit out repeatedly and ever harder. In the case of the Palestinians,
Mearsheimer believes that this policy of force has been going on so long that “it is almost impossible for [for the Israelis] to break the habit” It all adds up to “a disastrous course that [Israel] seems incapable of reversing.” Thus, Israel is just about the only country on the planet where the national press is constantly speculating on where country’s “next war will be.” Yet none of this militarism really works and the country’s problems only get worse.
Mearsheimer has correctly identified the consciously cultivated militaristic nature of the Israeli nation. From the beginning of the Zionist movement there was a desire to create the “new Jew.” This would be someone who consciously repudiated the ghetto villages of the Pale and there alleged passivity. Instead of the tinkers of the Eastern Europe, the new Jew of Israel would be a warrior. This was Israel’s way of realizing in practice the slogan “never again.” The result was a national thought collective of Spartan, or perhaps Prussian, nature. Unfortunately, there is no room in the modern world of nuclear armaments for a latter day Sparta or Prussia. It is no accident then that, as Mearsheimer notes, respondents to a 2010 worldwide opinion poll done by the BBC said Israel was among the top three countries in the world exercising the “most negative influence.” In this poll Israel outranked North Korea.
2. Israel is not only characterized by a cultivated militaristic outlook. It is has also produced a cultivated an imperialistic racism. Thus, Mearsheimer notes that Israel’s leaders are obviously “not interested in allowing the Palestinians to have a viable state in Gaza and the West Bank, but instead are bent on creating a ‘Greater Israel’ in which the Palestinians are confined to a handful of impoverished enclaves.” The logical end here is that “Greater Israel” will be an “apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.” Already, as Jimmy Carter has observed, “the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than human beings.” Just like a Sparta or a Prussia, the modern world is unlikely to long tolerate a new racist apartheid state, particularly one that claims to be a truly Western country. Already Israel is becoming more isolated. In truth its only remaining connection to the West has nothing to do with common values, or the Holocaust, or even fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. It is the strength of lobby politics in the democratic countries combined with the distortions of a bias media that keeps Israel connected. But a combination of bribery, blackmail and illusion does not constitute a reliable long term basis for a country’s foreign relations.
3. Presently bribery, blackmail and illusion works best in the United States. Mearsheimer tells us that “for decades Israel’s supporters have striven to shape public discourse in the U.S. so that most Americans believe the two countries’ interests are identical.” Even when they are not identical, “most of the key individuals and institutions in the [American Zionist] lobby have sided with Israel” exposing the fact that they are “primarily concerned about Israel’s interests, not Americas.” Professor Mearsheimer correctly senses the dangerous nature of this fact. The fact that these Americans now function, for all intents and purposes, as agents of a foreign power could someday result in a “wicked backlash against Israel’s supporters as well as Israel.” In the long run, the American Zionist lobby cannot maintain its influence while Israel moves swiftly toward apartheid status and keeps using war as its main mode of foreign relations. Mearsheimer notes that already there is open debate over whether Israel is damaging U.S. interests in the Middle East. Of course the answer to this question is an obvious yes to any objective observer. It is obvious that America’s support for Israel is a prime reason for the enmity felt by millions of Arabs and Muslims toward Washington. Barring catastrophe, Mearsheimer gives the Lobby another ten years of life.
4. It is the catastrophe element in the equation that worries me. Mearsheimer sees Israel as a “sinking ship.” Apartheid is just its final stage of its national death. But neither most of Israel’s citizens (who Mearsheimer tells us “view the Palestinians with contempt if not hatred”) nor their Lobby operatives will voluntarily change course. For the next ten years, if we go with Mearsheimer’s time line, AIPAC and its allies will maintain enough of an influence with Congress and the American political parties to maintain the fatal alliance between the U.S. and Israel. That means we are still in a period of time when, if the Israeli ship sinks, it may well take us down with it.
The key element in this catastrophic picture is Israel’s “addiction to the use of force.” Thus Mearsheimer tells us “there is a danger that Israel might attack Iran…which could have terrible consequences for the United States….But Netanyahu might do it anyway if he thinks it is good for Israel, even if it is bad for the United States.” We have tied ourselves hand and foot to a nation whose leaders have little regard for our own interests. Indeed, through their Lobby operatives they have corrupted our own political system so that, even in the face of this fact, we seem unable to break the relationship. If Israel attacks Iran they will use that corruption to force our government’s support of their action and drag us into their war. The resulting destruction will almost guarantee another 9/11 attack.
It is one of the real problems of human nature that once you have a strong tradition in place it usually takes catastrophe to break it. Thus, the scenario described above might very well shock the U.S. public enough to force an end to our “special relationship” with Israel. But how much damage will already be done? What will be left of our domestic freedoms in the wake of this experience? What will be left of America’s ability to “lead” in the world? Not much. On the other hand, what will be the status of the American Jewish community? How much home grown anti-Semitism will erupt in the midst of Professor Mearsheimer’s feared “wicked backlash”? And what about organized Judaism itself? The scenario described above may well be its death knell too.
All of this is sort of like a bad dream. Millions of people sleepwalking in the vicinity of a very steep and deep cliff. The dreamer can see the danger but all his warning shouts are of no avail. Will they all walk off the cliff or won’t they? We don’t know. The dream is not over.

Ambassador Oren’s Invisible Israel – An Analysis (October 21, 2010)

Michael Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States. This means he stands in a line of
foreign diplomats who are often quite out of the ordinary. For one thing they may well be ex-
Americans. Oren (nee Bornstein) was born in upstate New York and grew up in West Orange,
New Jersey. He switched countries in 1979. For another, Israeli ambassadors do not hesitate to
engage in public debates aimed at swaying American public opinion. Actually, this is very undiplomatic
behavior and you don’t see the ambassadors from China, Russia, the United
Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay or Liechtenstein, ad finem, doing that sort of
thing. Yet Oren has done this several times by sending op-eds to the New York Times. On
October 13 he did so again with one entitled, “An End to Israel’s Invisibility.”
It is an odd title, for if there is one thing Israel is not, it is invisible. But the ambassador is
arguing from a peculiar point of view. Essentially, he claims that the Palestinians have yet to
officially acknowledge that Israel is a “Jewish state.” For Oren it is the Jewish aspect of Israel
that remains “invisible.” As odd as this sounds, the ambassador’s complaint echos a current
theme across the political spectrum in Israel. At the same time that he put out his op-ed, Ari
Shavit, the center right contributor to Haaretz, published a piece that made a similar argument
but extended the failure of recognition accusation to Europe and beyond. It appeared on October
14 and is entitled “The Core of the Conflict.”
All of this might appear as something of a mystery. Doesn’t the entire world already know that
Israel is a “Jewish state?” Oren, however, expresses profound insecurity over the issue. “The
core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the refusal to recognize Jews as a people,
indigenous to the region and endowed with right of self-government.” Here Mr. Oren, who is
certainly not “indigenous to the region,” is practicing a bit of plagiarism by taking a long
standing Palestinian argument and asserting it as an Israeli one. Thus, for 62 years the
Palestinians have claimed that the core of the conflict is the refusal of Israel to recognize them as
indigenous to the region and endowed with the right of self-government. At this point the
mystery takes another twist. For Oren insists that this recognition of the Palestinians has already
been pledged by Israel and now it is the Palestinians’ turn to reciprocate. “Just as Isreal
recognizes the existence of the Palestinian people with an inalienable right to self-determination
in its homeland, so, too, must the Palestinians accede to the Jewish people’s 3,000 year
connection to our homeland and our right to sovereignty there.” No doubt the first part of this
sentence is a reference to the Oslo Accords, which the Israelis have spent at least the last ten
years describing as a dead and buried. So are we to believe that the ambassador now takes this
pledge seriously? Hardly. The assertion of recognition of Palestinian rights is but a weak red
herring. The only way the Israelis recognize the existence of the Palestinian people is by evicting
them daily so as to clear the way for their illegal colonization of conquered land. Finally, why
should millions of Palestinian refugees buy into the ambassador’s insistence that “Jewish right to
statehood is a tenet of international law”? Every one of Israel’s governments has made a
profession of violating international laws such as those embodied in the Geneva Conventions.
So, this claim is simply hypocritical . Why should anyone give credence to Israel’s assertion that
it be accorded rights it has systematically denied others?
So, what is going on here? Why, at this particular time, do we get an evidently improvised
emphasis on Israel as a “Jewish state?” Perhaps we should see it as a negotiation tactic. If you
can get the Palestinian Authority to buy into this recognition you automatically negate, at least in
prospective treaty terms, the right of return. And indeed, the Israelis have come pretty close to
pulling off this gambit. Thus, Mahmoud Abbas stated on October 17 that once the Palestinians
have a state of their own in the lands occupied by Israel after 1967, they will “end all historic
claims against Israel” within the 1967 borders. One would think that if the Israeli government is
serious about the Jewish recognition issue they would take Abbas up on this offer and negotiate
non-stop to close the not very large gap between the two positions. To date there has been no
move in that direction. That certainly undermines the negotiating tactic argument and supports
those who say the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not designed
to shape negotiations, but to end them.
That last interpretation might have some truth to it, but I do not think it tells the whole story.
There is still another way of interpreting the recognition theme that is presently being promoted.
A suggestion of this alternative motivation comes in the Shavit piece mentioned above. Shavit
offers “seven reasons why the demand to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people
is a legitimate one.” None of them are any more convincing than Oren’s arguments, but one does
stand out as revealing. Shavit claims that the recognition being demanded will cause a halt to
the assault on the legitimacy of Israel. It will stop a process that has caused “Ehud Olmert’s
Israel” to be seen as less legitimate than “Yitzhak Shamir’s Israel.” Shavit describes this process
as an “avalanche” implying that he sees the attack on legitimacy as getting worse as time goes
by.
What this means is that the present emphasis on Israel as the Jewish state is aimed not only at
complicating negotiations with the Palestinians, but also at undermining the growing boycott
movement that seeks to isolate Israel and call into serious question the legitimacy of a state
designed exclusively for one ethnic or religious group. The efforts of Oren, Shavit and others
are testimony to the fact that the boycott movement is working, and the Israeli government
knows it.
To tell the truth, Oren and Shavit have it wrong about Israel. It is not a Jewish state. Rather it is
a Zionist state. For 93 years (counting from 1917 and the Balfour Declaration) the Zionists have
sought to make the two synonymous. But they are not the same. Judaism is a religion that, at its
best, demands tolerance and acceptance of the other. Zionism is a political ideology the ethnic
exclusiveness of which leads, almost inevitably, to apartheid. More and more Jews are coming
to understand this and that too is part of Shavit’s feared avalanche. In the end it is the practice of
Zionism, and not lack of recognition of its alleged Jewishness, that is causing Israel’s legitimacy
crisis. Demanding that the Palestinians, or indeed the whole world, call Israel the Jewish state cannot mask its real nature.

Obama Plays the Fox – An Analysis (22 November 2010)

The Gamble
On Saturday, 20 November a State Department spokesperson announced that the United States
government is actively negotiating with Israel the price of a proposed 90 day cessation of
settlement activity on the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). It is reported that the Israelis
are demanding two things be given them free of charge: twenty stealth fighters (worth $3 billion
dollars)and the release of the spy, Jonathan Pollard. On this latter demand it is to be noted that
in a letter to President Obama, 39 Democratic members of Congress asked that the President
grant Pollard clemency. These are the things that Israel has asked for. Then there are the things
that the White House has offered voluntarily: among them is a promise to veto any Security
Council resolutions hostile to Israel which is, after all, standard operating procedure for
Washington and, more significantly, not to ask the Israelis for any further settlement freezes.
The question that immediately comes to mind is, if the U.S. has not been able to broker an
Israeli-Palestinian peace in the past 43 years (counting from 1967), what does this president think
he can get done in 90 days? A lot of observers think that his offer to Israel is just another craven
act of submission by a weak president. But I am not so sure. So here is my take on the situation.
The official line set down by the Palestinian “leader” Mahmud Abbas is that the Palestinian
National Authority will not renew negotiations with Israel until there is a halt to settlement
construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Obama is obviously gambling that he can get
Abbas back to the table without a freeze in East Jerusalem and that 90 days is enough time for
the two parties to set down a preliminary border that would then smooth the way to a final
settlement. How does he plan to do this?
Playing the Fox
It is not to hard to see what is going on here. The President of the United States (playing
Machiavelli’s fox) is setting out to ensnare the ersatz President of Palestine who, as usual, has
been completely cut out of the present discussions between the U.S. and Israel. As to the near
future, here is scenario for which Obama may aim:
First: The price of this brief settlement moratorium will be finalized in a written document. The
Israelis will probably get their stealth fighters but are unlikely to get Pollard. The aircraft are
traditional, if expensive, give aways. But giving up Pollard has always been adamantly opposed
by the American intelligence services and no previous president has risked the serious
demoralization of those agencies by doing so. Obama will probably not take that risk either, but
then, I would be hesitant to bet on this.
Second: Netanyahu will get his security cabinet to approve the U.S. incentive package by
negotiating abstentions from those, such as the representatives of Shas, who do not want to vote
for the deal.
Third: The Americans will go to Abbas (who is already feeling the walls closing in on him) and
demand that he come back to the table. Abbas is so dependent on Washington for everything
from the salaries of his bureaucrats to the guns used by his militia that he would have to dig
pretty deep into his soul to find any principle to stand on. Maybe he too will ask for an incentive
package to ease the way around a principled stand, and perhaps he will be thrown some sort of
bone.
Fourth: Having been dragged kicking and screaming (at least for public appearance sake) back to
the table, Abbas and his negotiators will then be trapped. They will be officially tied to a 90 day
clock. They will agree to a deal within that time period or, having seriously embarrassed
President of the United States (who has pledged himself to seek no further delays in settlement
activity), they will be abandoned, which has always been the threat from Washington. It is a
lose-lose deal and Abbas probably knows it. But he is not Yasser Arafat and, in the end, despite
loud protests, he is unlikely to have the courage to just walk away.
Legacies
In this scenario President Obama is motivated by an obsessive drive to be the man who settles the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, if accomplished, it will be a very messy sort of settlement
considering that Hamas is out of the loop and Abbas really does not represent most of the
Palestinians. Indeed, Abbas’s probable fate is not to die in bed. Nonetheless, the settlement,
such as it is, will be Obama’s legacy and simultaneously it may allow him, as Juan Cole has
suggested, to outmaneuver the unscrupulous Republican opposition in the House. Also, he
certainly believes it will help him become a two term president.
If Obama can accomplish this (and many things can go wrong with this scenario) there will be an
“official agreement” under cover of which the United States and Europe can abandon those
Palestinians not confined to the Palestinian “state.” They will declare the problem solved and
treat in a ferocious manner any party, such as Hamas and Palestinian refugee groups, who say
otherwise. Thus, the West Bank Palestinians will “officially” get bantustans which the West
will call a state. And then a long war of attrition will be waged against the “terrorists” and
“spoilers” who would upset the “peace” settlement. This too will be part of Obama’s legacy.
Who Am I?
What are we to make of this possible strategy? Well, it is a testimony to where political
“realism” can take you. And, that is most likely how President Obama sees himself, as a realist.
The New York Times editorial writer Paul Krugman has quoted Obama’s political adviser, David
Axelrod, as describing the president’s present state of mind, “We have to deal with the world as
we find it.” This, of course, is a mask behind which stands a president who has never really been
a fighter. Rather, he has always been a “realist” following on the maxim that politics is the art of
the possible. Obama seems not to realize that what is possible has something to do with where
he decides to draw the line, lay down a principled stand beyond which he will not go. As
Krugman observed, the president has always believed in the magical possibilities of consensus
building. Alas, he does not seem to care very much with whom he builds consensus or what it
gives us once arrived at.
So President Obama is not a visionary. That sort of rhetoric he leaves to his speech writers. He
is a rather naive fox. He sets snares for others and perhaps he senses the snares laid out for him
by his adversaries. However, he does not have the lion-like qualities that Machiavelli tells us a
leader must have to fend off the wolves. Rather than fight wolves he prefers to bargain with
them. The wolves in this case are the Israelis and those who now lead the Republican party. So
this is Obama’s problem, he is an articulate and clever man, but not a courageous one. Such men
do not usually win against the wolves. They do not achieve real answers to our problems. They
only produce feeble, short-lived consensus. That is a road that can only circle back upon itself.

President Obama’s Ahistorical World – An Analysis (9/25/10)

On September 23, 2010 it was President Obama’s turn to take the podium at the United Nations. There was a world of problems for him to draw on but, not unexpectedly, he chose to concentrate on the Middle East. Thus, as has been the case with almost every President since John Kennedy, Mr. Obama is also trying his hand at cutting the Gordian Knot and drinking the sea dry. That is he is trying his hand at making peace between Israel and Palestine. Will he succeed where all others have failed? Not likely, and his speech at the UN points to one reason why. His approach is ahistorical and, at least publically, ignores the context from which all this strife has emerged.
This is not unusual for President Obama. From the beginning of his administration he has ignored history. His most notable early example was when he refused to investigate the prima facie war crimes of his predecessors, crimes which the Nuremberg prosecutors would have easily recognized. Instead he proclaimed a new day. We will look forward he said, and not backward. It was a foolish statement for such a reportedly bright man, for where does he think the new day
and the fresh future come from? The present and the future are built on the past. With all due respect, only the very near sighted can suppose that they can defy historical gravity and float
above it all, sublimely free of all roots.
So now President Obama takes the podium in New York and tells us the following:
1. Obama: “Make no mistake: the courage of a man like President Abbas–who stands up for his people in front of the world–is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.”
A. Historical Context: “President” Abbas is a heartily disliked fellow who helped usurp power from the legally elected government of Palestine. The United States under George Bush Jr. helped him do so. Thus, the Abbas’s regime, internally supported by little else than the remnants
of Fatah, is now in control of the West Bank and cooperates with the Israeli occupation army. Given such an historical record Abbas cannot “stand for his people in front of the world” except in the propaganda picture painted by his American ally. Abbas’s regime is wholly dependent on U.S. and European money and American weapons and military training. We can surmise two probable reasons why Abbas is presently sitting at the table with the Israelis:One – the Obama administration has twisted his arm, perhaps by threatening to abandon him if he does not “negotiate.” They probably hope they can pressure him into signing a “peace” deal that no other Palestinian leader would ever touch. What “courage” Abbas has, at least to this point, does not go so far as to stand up to the Americans on whom he is so dependent. Two – the Obama administration has promised him support, whatever that might mean. This same level of dependency means Abbas must conveniently forget history–that such promises coming from Washington have always been worthless.
2. Obama: “If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that come with their own state [and] Israelis will never know the certainty and security that come
with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence.” A. Historical Context: The Palestinians have been struggling for a state of their own for at least 75 years. They have been betrayed by outsiders so often that it defies reason to believe that any America president truly cares about their pride and dignity. After so many years of struggle facing a foe who, by the way, has never cared a fig about “stable neighbors” or “coexistence” or even about “security” (which Israel equates with being armed to the teeth by the U.S.) the Palestinians have been able to find “pride and dignity” in one thing only–resistance.
3. Does President Obama know any of this? If so does he understand it? It is questionable for he next tells us that killing Israelis is not resistance and “it will do nothing to help the Palestinian people?” Oh. Well then, what will? What has? What can? A. Historical Context: Only someone devoid of historical knowledge and context concerning the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict can possibly believe that it is the Palestinians who presently, as a strategy, go out of their way to target “innocent women and children.” What isolated incidents of
this sort you can find pale in comparison with the behavior of the ally Washington arms and protects. There is a recent B’Tselem report entitled, “Void of Responsibility: Israeli Military Policy Not to Investigate killings of Palestinians by Soldiers.” It demonstrates that the Israelis have been killing innocent Palestinians with impunity. Historically, they have been doing so from a time before President Obama was born. Against this tireless brutality, Palestinian attacks
on imperialist settlers and firing rockets devoid of warheads from that open air prison of Gaza that Israel has created, are tragic expressions of despair. And, sadly, historically, they are the only source of “pride and dignity” Israel and the United States have left to the Palestinians.
Finally, it would take enormous hypocrisy for Obama, or any American leader whosoever, to point a moral finger at the Palestinians. Their hands are much too bloody to stomach anything like that.
4. Obama: “It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakable opposition of the United States.” A. Historical Context: Well, speak for yourself Mr. President. You certainly do not speak for a fast-growing number of people worldwide whose efforts in this regard you cannot stop. And it is
this effort, this movement of civil society both within and without the U.S., that has the best chance of bringing down the racist regime to which you pledge such solidarity. Ideally, what will it be replaced with? Well, U.S. leaders are always saying they want to see more democracy in this world. And that is what Israel needs. It needs the Zionist government to be replaced with something truly democratic that will support real civil and political rights for all Israelis, regardless of religion. So, one can only hope that standing against those “chipping away” at Zionist racism puts President Obama on the wrong side of history. It was Oscar Wilde, a man who had his own confrontation with a vicious discriminatory social system, who once said, “A set of assumptions committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle.” And so it was on September 23 in New York. After so many years of tragedy we still witness our political leaders working from assumptions that are suicidal. That destroy justice and prolong oppression.

Are We Replaying Iraq…..in Iran? – An Analysis (July 18, 2010)

On July 15, 2010 Time Magazine carried an article entitled, “An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.” According to the piece, the point man for this growing belligerency is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. It is to be noted that when the same Robert Gates served the infamous
George W. Bush (the year was 2008), he actually helped talk that president out of attacking Iran. At the time we were bogged down in Iraq and so yet another war in the Middle East was, according to Gates, “the last thing we need.” Now it is 2010 and we are bogged down in Afghanistan. No matter, Mr. Gates appears to have changed his mind. Or perhaps, he has been instructed to do so. “I don’t think we’re prepared to even talk about a nuclear Iran….We do not
accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.” All of this is mighty strange. First of all, there is no supportable evidence that Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons. UN inspections and even US intelligence reports fail to support this conclusion. This being the case, why does Robert Gates speak as if a nuclear Iran is imminent?
One possibility is that he and others in Washington are working from assumptions based on what the U.S. would do if it was in Iran’s shoes. To understand this better we can ask what Mr. Gates and President Obama would do if, magically transformed into Iran’s leaders, they were
confronted with the following questions and answers?
Who backed Saddam Hussein in his war on Iran? The United States. Who attacked Iraq and then blamed much of the resistance coming from Shia quarters on Iran? The United States. Who has virtually surrounded Iran with potentially hostile military bases? The United States. Who has very likely abetted violent terror attacks by some of Iran’s minority groups? The United States. Who now speaks of Iran in tones remarkably similar to those used for Iraq prior to invasion of that country? The United States. Who speaks almost daily of launching a military attack on Iran? America’s number one “ally” Israel. Who characterized Iran as one of the three “rogue” states making up the axis of evil? The United States. And finally, and perhaps most
relevant to our present situation, which one of those three “rogue” states has not been invaded or threatened with attack by the United States? The one with the nuclear weapons (North Korea).
The Defense Secretary does not have to be a genius to assume that, despite the lack of hard evidence, Iran might very well seek to be nuclear armed. Because that is almost certainly what Washington would do if it was in Tehran’s place. At this point someone ought to stop and ask why the United States cares if Iran has one or two or
three nuclear warheads for defensive purposes? In modern times Iran has never invaded or even attacked another country unless it was attacked first. The whole notion that Amadinejad wants to
“wipe Israel off the map” is a Zionist propaganda story based on a mistranslated speech. It is on the same level as the neo-con tale about Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti infants out of incubators.
Also, given the description above, the U.S. could easily help remove most of the fears that might be driving Iran in a nuclear direction. That is because those fears are mostly a function of American policies. Just a month or so ago Washington actually had an opportunity to lay this
whole nuclear controversy to rest when Turkey and Brazil succeeded in negotiating third party enrichment for Iran’s nuclear fuel. Obama failed to pursue it. Instead, he has sent Robert Gates out to talk touch. To tell us that the “military option is back on the table.” Time Magazine also informs us that U.S. Army Central Command “which is in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East” has “made real progress in planning targeted air strikes [against Iran].” And, perhaps the scariest part of all this, “Israel has been brought in to the planning process.”
There is something not right about this. We are missing a vital piece to this puzzle. I want to say that I usually do not believe in reducing complicated issues to one simple cause. But I must confess, that when I think about our present situation relative to Iran, my mind is taken back to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israeli Lobby, and particularly to the 32 pages they devote to showing what a great role the American Zionists and their neo-con allies played in getting George W. Bush, the Congress, and much of the American public so hyped up with lies and distortions that we all ran right off the cliff into a disastrous war. How many Americans remember that? How many news reporters, who like to pretend to be professional journalists,
point this out to their readers and listeners? On both accounts it seems the answer is precious few. Our incredibly short historical memory is a serious problem and it means that our history can repeat itself.
The Time article tries to soften its message by asserting that President Obama is still “skeptical…about a military strike.” It implies that Obama knows that such an action would “unify the Iranian people” and also “unify much of the world including Russia and
China…against a recowboyfied U.S.” We might add to this that Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon would likely explode in an anti-U.S. and anti-Israel frenzy. The Persian Gulf oil lanes would turn into a battle ground and Hezbollah would likely proceed to make northern Israel
uninhabitable. Even if this assessment of an aware and skeptical Obama is accurate, surely the president is still playing with fire when he helps sustain the Iran nuclear hype. So we must ask why he risks
scaring the American public in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration? If we follow the Mearsheimer and Walt line, and I think there is something to it, the most likely answer is that he seeks to mollify the American Zionists so as to politically neutralize them through the November elections. After all, given the power of the American Zionist lobby, Middle East foreign policy has been converted to domestic political policy. If Obama is in fact hyping the Iran nuclear issue for domestic political gain, it is a foolish strategy. The Zionist lobby will work very hard against Obama and the Democrats come
November whatever tact he takes on Iran. He is also setting himself up for the accusation of being soft on the Iranians when, hopefully, he does not follow through on Gates’s belligerent talk. This may, unfortunately, come back to bite him in the next presidential election. It would be much wiser to tell the truth about both Iran and Israel. Tell the American people that Iran is no real threat to the United States, but Israel and its Zionist operatives always have been and still are a great threat. They have drained us of much national treasure, they have corrupted our Congress and political parties, and they contributed to our unnecessary but horridly bloody invasion of
Iraq. And now they want us to attack Iran. Morton Klein the fanatical leader of the Zionist Organization of America wants you to believe that a nuclear Iran will give atomic weapons to terrorists. To avoid this Washington will be forced into an “unending series of concessions”
amounting to “nuclear blackmail” (Philadelphia Inquirer July 17, 2010). There is not a shred of evidence for this assertion and a lot of evidence that suggests it is absolutely wrong. The Shia Iranians fear and dislike the Sunnis of Al Qaeda. They have cooperated with the U.S., even under the Bush administration, in the “war against terrorism.” And, they have their own terrorist problems that encourages them to continue to aid us in this regard. But, Mr. Klein and his Zionist cohort, are not interested in facts. They are interested in solidifying the fraying American alliance with Israel. Scare tactics serve their purpose, just as they did in the case of Iraq. And Obama seems to be going along with this fraudulent campaign. It is a dangerous situation. It bears repeating that Americans have short historical memories and are easily manipulated by the media and government spokesmen who supply most of them with
“the news.” If history does repeat itself, don’t blame Iran. More accurately you can blame the American Zionists and their new partners in propaganda, the Obama administration.

Shelby Steele Tells Us What is Wrong with Ourselves and the Middle East – An Analysis in Two Parts (June 21, 2010)

Part I
Who is Shelby Steele? He is one of a relatively small group of African American political conservatives. Like the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who also falls into this category, Steele has been well compensated for his anomalous right wing opinions. He is a
“senior fellow” at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution – The West Coast’s fortress ofconservative thought. Steele, whose degrees are in sociology and English, is apparently also an amateur, arm chair
psychologist. He doesn’t like the American concept of affirmative action because those who take advantage of it are allegedly robbed of a sense of personal responsibility. How can one ever achieve a “culture of excellence and achievement” if someone gives you a boost up? Anyway, Steele is sure that the only reason the liberals enacted affirmative action was to assuage their “guilty consciences.” This outlook reflects an age-old American myth that every kid can be
president and a millionaire as well if he or she puts their mind to it. It is also the same outlook that kept poor relief at a starvation level in the 19th century so as not to rob the indigent of an incentive to get ahead. Mr. Steele has now turned his psychological crystal ball on the Middle East. In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed published June 21, 2010, entitled “Israel and the Surrender of the West” he tells us that the worldwide opinion condemning Israel’s attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla is just a manifestation of a “sanctimonious and meddling voice” that reminds him of a “school marm” scolding Israel for “yet another infraction of the world’s moral sensibility.” As “silly” as world opinion is on the issue of Israel, Steele sees a deeper pathology lying behind
it. He has decided that there is a “chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world’s oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: the Jews are being scapegoated again.” The most interesting part of Steele’s diagnosis comes when he tries to explain why this is happening. It turns out that liberals are going after Israel in order to deny their own Western history of moral crimes. Progressives want to show the rest of the world that the West is are no longer imperialist, or racist, or xenophobic. According to Steele in his psychologist role, liberals and progressives must demonstrate this so that they can see themselves as moral people. “Today,” Mr. Steel tells us, “the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring
constant dissociation with the sins of the Western past.” And since, in the distorted liberal Western mind, Israel has come to represent “shock troopers from a largely white First World nation” it is now just “bad manners” and “political incorrect” to say anything good about the
Zionist state (which he assures us is actually quite a nice place).
How about the other side, the Palestinians and the Muslims of the Middle East? Well, they have played the Western progressives for fools. The liberals all fail to understand that all these Arabs and Muslims are “driven to militancy and war not by legitimate complaints against Israel or the West but by an internalized sense of nferiority….and the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred.”While explaining this he even insinuates that the Palestinians are after nuclear weapons! I will spare the reader several more paragraphs of Mr. Steele’s attempt to put more than one billion Muslims on the couch.
Part II
There is a strong correlation between Shelby Steele’s understanding (perhaps misunderstanding
is the better word) of the plight of the African American and the plight of the Palestinian.
Somehow he has gotten it into his head that both groups are obsessed with the notion of
victimhood. He thinks they both secretly like being victims because it gives them the moral high
ground. And from there they start demanding compensation. The African Americans want
affirmative action and the Palestinians want a state, and they both want someone else, who they
claim is the victimizer, to give it to them. Then, when they don’t get what they think is their due,
they become hate filled. This, he explains, is “one of the world’s great problems today.”
This interpretation of history, and evaluation of present conditions, is right out of the American
right wing world view. There is nothing new about it except Mr. Steele’s incredible attempt to
use it on the Palestinians and large portions of the Muslim world. It is seriously flawed first and
foremost because it is ahistorical. In the case of African Americans Shelby Steele’s analysis
simply assumes that those who have suffered centuries of discrimination can get ahead as if they
are operating on an even economic and social playing field. The historical truth is that their has
never been an even playing field and there is none today. And its just not African Americans.
Steele represents an outlook that denies any societal responsibility to the poor no matter who they
are. He just has an ethnic affinity toward scolding black folk–like a school marm. One can
easily imagine him yelling, “stop your whining and pick yourselves up by those proverbial
bootstraps.” Alas, if only it was that easy.
And what about his assessment of American progressives/liberals? He thinks their humanistic
impulses come from a guilty conscience. Now how does he know that is so? Well he really
doesn’t know, he just kind of senses it that way. There is no historical evidence for this
stereotyping of progressive sentiments. There is, in fact, a long philosophical tradition that sees
society as a communal place where there exist communal responsibilities. This goes beyond the
concepts of communism or religious charity. It goes back to notions of extended kinship and the
cultivation of empathy, sympathy and brotherhood. Concepts with distinct survival value.
And finally we come to Shelby Steele’s quite amazing assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Once more what strikes one right away is the ahistorical nature of his assertions. What
is his evidence that all the hostility directed toward the West and particularly the US and Israel,
is a function of some region wide inferiority complex? He gives none. And all of Israel’s history
of expansion, ethnic cleansing, de facto and de jure discrimination, supported at least since 1967
by billions of American dollars and some of the most destructive weaponry ever made, all that
just doesn’t enter into Steele’s mental world. Indeed, he denies it outright. “This, of course, is
not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not oppress or occupy….”
My own humble, and completely amateur psychological opinion, is that Shelby Steele needs
serious long term therapy. This should be combined with a mandatory four year college program
as a history major with a dual concentration in American post Civil War history and the history
of the modern Middle East. In the meantime no one should take him seriously, particularly the
readers of the Wall Street Journal.
Stop whining, he says, pick yourself up by the proverbial bootstraps. Look at those Jews. They
were even more discriminated against that Blacks, and they were able to get ahead. Of course,
now I am psychoanalyzing Steele. But he opened himself up for it.

On the Issue of Other People’s National Sovereignty — An Analysis (30 October 2010)

Dr. Susan Elizabeth Rice (D. Phil. Oxford, 1990) is United States Ambassador at the United
Nations. She is a professional diplomat and foreign policy consultant as well as a protégée of
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Rice, who is unrelated to Condolezza Rice, had a
reputation of being a free thinker and a stubborn defender of what she thought to be proper and
right. This tendency to be independent of mind meant she had trouble with other older career
diplomats when, in the second Clinton administration, she served as Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs. No doubt she soon learned that, in the world of diplomacy as in most well
established bureaucracies, too much independent thinking makes you a square peg surrounded by
round holes. In the long term one either conforms or leaves for a more accommodating career
(usually in academia). It appears that Dr. Rice has done the former.
Evidence of this choice came on 28 October 2010 when Ambassador Rice stepped out of the UN
Security Council chamber in New York and began scolding the Syrian government for a “flagrant
disregard” of Lebanese sovereignty. Syria is supposedly doing this by “continuing to provide
increasingly sophisticated weapons to Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah….” Dr. Rice’s
charge is only superficially true and that is where she left it. For instance, she omitted the
context of the situation and the whole recent history of the country of Lebanon. She made no
mention of Lebanon’s right wing factions and the role of the United States and France in
supporting their continuing divisive independence. She did not deem to mention that Lebanon’s
horrible history of civil wars was finally brought to an end only with Syrian intervention. And,
she did not tell of Hizbollah’s role as protector of the country’s majority Shi’ite population as
well as defender of the entire nation from the rapacity of the United States’ main ally, Israel.
No, she did not put things in perspective, but rather got her orders from Washington to play the
sovereignty card and thereby distort things for the sake of a highly partisan American position.
And so, like a good soldier, she carried out those orders. She is now an official team player.
And what of those who gave the orders? No doubt Jeffrey Feltman, the pro-Israel Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, had a hand in this. He too has made a career of
disregarding the context of situations. The question I would like to ask both Ambassador Rice
and Secretary Feltman is, when did the United States government start taking seriously any
state’s sovereignty other than its own or its allies? Neither could answer this question seriously
(at least not in public) for to do so would reveal that they are loyal agents of a government that
practices a murderous hypocrisy. For example, consider just a few recent historical events (there
are of course many more) involving the U.S. and the issue of other people’s national sovereignty.
1. On 4 August 1964 President Lyndon Johnson told the American people that U.S. naval ships
had twice been attacked in international waters by the North Vietnamese navy. As it turned out
Johnson’s address was knowingly inaccurate and misleading. There had been only one
engagement and not two, and the real engagement had come about as a result of U.S. sponsored
and supported South Vietnamese commando attacks along the North Vietnamese coast.
Nonetheless, the announcement was used to get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution out of Congress and
this led to the dramatic escalation of what would become the Vietnam War. Johnson, who
imagined he was in a fight with international communism , would have scornfully laughed if, at
that time, anyone had mentioned the sacrosanct nature of Vietnamese sovereignty (North or
South). It was irrelevant as he proceeded to set the U.S. on a course that largely destroyed
Vietnam and killed approximately two million of its people.
2. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan began a covert program to support the overthrow of the left
leaning democratically elected government of Nicaragua. This involved military and financial
aid to the Contras, a coalition of right wing guerrilla groups that became known for their brutality
and human rights violations. By 1986 the Congress had forbade any further aid to the Contras
just because they were such barbarians. But Reagan, just like Johnson, was sure he was in a fight
with international communism, and so he continued to aid the Contras illegally and this led to the
Iran-Contra Affair. In the process, Reagan never gave serious thought to Nicaraguan
sovereignty. An estimated fifty thousand people died as a result of Reagan’s Contra policy.
3. From 1998 through 2004 both the Clinton and Bush administrations built up the claim that
Iraq possessed dangerous levels of weapons of mass destruction (wmd) despite the fact that
United Nations weapons inspectors deployed in Iraq could never find them. The truth is that Iraq
had given up its wmd programs in the mid 1990s and both administrations had intelligence
evidence of that fact. Nonetheless, they chose not to credit that information and instead persisted
in misleading the American people. By doing so they gained support for an embargo of Iraq that
cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children. Finally, in March of 2003,
using scare tactics that again involved alleged wmds, the Congress was brought to support
President Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Only in April of 2005, with the U.S. in control of the country
and having completed an exhaustive hunt for such weapons, did the CIA report that nothing of
significance was to be been found. As with Vietnam, Iraq was invaded on a contrived pretext
and its sovereignty was a none issue. Subsequently Iraq was largely destroyed and civilian deaths
probably exceed half a million.
Just what sort of career is it that leads its practitioners to follow the orders of those promoting
policies that kill millions? In other words, just what have Dr. Rice and Mr. Feltman gotten
themselves into? These are very serious questions for they and their bosses are the Pied Pipers
the general population invariably follows, and sometimes right off a high cliff. How does this
happen to Rice, to Feltman, and to us? Here are some possible answers:
A. We have never grown out of our in-group/out-group view of things. There is a “hard-wired”
evolutionary aspect to this. As the cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley reminds us, “our
[evolutionary] forebears had a tendency to treat members of out-groups…with contempt and
sometimes murderous aggression” (see his short book, Emotions: A Brief History, 2004, p. 29).
He represents this as an instinctual tendency. Yet, human beings are not necessarily slaves to
these impulses and, if we chose, we can control them. But to do so is made all the harder by the
fact that government bureaucracies and military organizations, among many others, function as
profoundly persuasive in-groups. They encase their employees and members in lines of
command and concepts of loyalty that turn them from independent thinking beings into the
followers of commands–the tools of someone else’s thinking. Of course, we do not normally
think of our government and our military in this way. But both history and sociology suggests
that they do shape our behavior in just this sort of dangerous fashion. For we are communal
creatures and this is one of the costs of being so, unless we control the tendency toward in-group
myopia. It is exactly this myopia that both Susan Rice and Jeffrey Feltman have bought into.
B. The majority of people are easily manipulated due to their wholly understandable but
nonetheless dangerous ignorance of matters beyond their local sphere. How do you know that
this or that out-group is dangerous? How do you know that Syria is a threat to Lebanese
sovereignty or that Hezbollah is a “terrorist organization”? The vast majority of us know it
because our government officials and media spokespersons tell us so. We assume that these
people actually know what they are talking about, that they have no hidden agendas, that they do
not lie or mislead us. How many of us consider the possibility that they, the officials and
spokespersons, have themselves been misled or corrupted by special interest groups and lobbies?
Some of us do, but not enough to matter. Most of us assume the honesty of the “experts” or just
never really think about this problem at all. And, it is this naive act of faith, that the rest of us
have bought into.
None of this represents a new problem. Indeed, it is age old, but that is no excuse. To the extent
that the above propositions are true, we must face facts and seek ways to moderate their impact.
There are many tools to this end. One of them is education of which we could make much better
use in teaching our children to value tolerance and diversity, just as we now teach them to value
nationalism and patriotism. But first there has to be a general recognition of the need to do so.
Will that ever come about? I have no prophetic answer to this question, but there was a 19th
century Russian poet who once said that “providence has given human wisdom the choice
between two fates: either hope and agitation, or hopelessness and quiescence.” I vote for the former.

The Presbyterian Church and Israel – An Analysis (July 11, 2010)

On Saturday July 10, 2010 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church ended its annual
meeting, held this year in Minneapolis. One notable achievement of the gathering was the
approval, by a vote of 558 to 119, of a 172 page report on the conditions in Israel-Palestine. The
approved report called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel if that country continues its colonization of
the Palestinian West Bank. This is a strong position from which the Presbyterians will have
difficulty retreating when, after September 2010, Israel almost certainly speeds up its illegal
settlement process.
However, the report is not all good news. The previous 2004 call by the Presbyterian Church for
selective divestment from Israel and its corporate suppliers was allowed to lapse, and while the
report called for an end to the Gaza blockade in terms of civilian imports, it recognized Israel’s
“security need” to maintain a blockade on weapons. So, when you put the Presbyterian’s
previous stand together with this year’s resolution, you might say that they have taken two steps
forward and one step backward.
Even though the overall momentum is forward, we might ask why the small step backward? The
answer is an intense six year long campaign by American Jewish Zionists to pressure the
Presbyterians to change their increasingly critical stand on Israel. The most recent phase of this
lobbying campaign was headed up by Ethan Felson, the assistant executive director of the Jewish
Council for Public Affairs. Felson sees a Zionist victory in the facts that the Presbyterians
dropped the issue of divestment from this year’s report and recognized Israel’s right to blockade
weapons from Gaza. There are also minority elements within the Presbyterian leadership who
are actively pro-Israel. The Rev. Susan Zencka complained about an attitude that saw “Palestine
as good” and “Israel as bad.” This she felt “misquotes the Jewish voice.” Rev. Zencka sees
herself as one of the Presbyterians who are “long term friends of the Jewish community” and
fear that the General Assembly’s position puts that friendship in jeopardy.
In terms of institutional relations, local churches to local synagogues so to speak, she is quite
correct. Here is how the deterioration of relations has taken place. After World War II many
local American Protestant churches, among them the Presbyterians, reached out to their
neighboring Jewish synagogues. This may have been motivated by feelings of “Christian guilt”
following the Holocaust. Whatever engendered it, a process of regular cross denominational
meeting, workshops, discussion groups and the like began at the local level with the goal of
establishing better understanding of each group by the other. Some of these interactions have
now lasted for decades. Simultaneously, the institutions governing American Judaism became
more and more integrated with Zionist nationalism. After 1967 this process accelerated until, as
we see today, institutional Judaism, in the U.S. as elsewhere, is essentially an offshoot of Israel
and its nationalist ideology. Then, starting in the early 1990s, the national organizations of some
American Protestant denominations, including the Presbyterians, began sending delegations to
Israel-Palestine to find out what was really going on there. They were particularly, though not
solely, concerned for the fate of Palestinian Christians. What they found deeply disturbed them
and a movement, at a national level, began to disassociate various Protestant denominations
from and condemn Israeli policies and practices toward the Palestinians. As this movement
developed, local Jewish leaders in dialogue with local Protestants protested and warned that
years of beneficial interaction were now in danger because of the anti-Israel actions at the
national level of the Protestant churces. The result was pressure from local Protestant leaders
upward to their national governing institutions to back off from their criticisms of Israel.
It is to the credit of the Presbyterian General Assembly that the retreat, so heralded by the
Zionists, is really a minor one. And, aspects of that retreat, such as the dropping of divestment,
are almost certainly temporary. For the immediate future is quite predictable. The Presbyterian
position as of now is that the Church condemns aid (all aid) to Israel if it continues to expand its
illegal colonies on the West Bank. There is no way that the Netanyahu government is going to
permanently stop this expansion. It is ideologically committed to it and a powerful part of its
political base is demanding it. When it does start again (probably is September) what will the
Presbyterians do? They are not powerful enough to get the U.S. government to actually end aid
to Israel. The greatest probability is that its General Assembly will be led to revisit boycott and
divestment. The local churches will also be forced to revisit the issue. Some will quietly state
their disagreement with their national leadership and try to continue their friendly relations with
the synagogues. Others will quietly allow that relationship to drop away. Or, perhaps, a small
number of synagogues will break with their own national Zionist leadership and become
independent operations thus allowing them to retain their ties with the Presbyterians. There are
many possibilities.
A process that is two steps forward and one step backward is to be expected when we are moving
away from a position that has been so solidly pro Israel for so long. The important point is that
the solidity is dissolving and movement in a pro Palestinian direction is now taking place. To
use a child’s metaphor, Humpty Dumpty has fallen from his wall and all the King’s horses and
men cannot put him back together again. The campaign to breakdown the American alliance
with Israel is gathering momentum and there is no reversing it. There will be occasional steps
backward, but the general direction forward will continue until finally the United States is no
longer a partner to this particular case of injustice.

Thomas Friedman on Turkey – An Analysis (July 5, 2010)

Thomas Friedman was traveling in Turkey last month from where he wrote columns for the New
York Times. I want to look at his column entitled “Letter from Istanbul, Part 2″ (published on
June 18 – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/opinion/20friedman.html). It is based on four
questions allegedly asked of him by Turks he met. According to Friedman “these questions will
tell you all you need to understand about the situation here [in Turkey].” When a journalist with
a record of biased reporting tells you he has “all you need to understand” all kinds of warning
flags should go up, and so we are going to go at him in a very critical fashion. Also, I too have
recently traveled in Turkey (in May of this year) and talked to a lot of Turks. So I too can claim
insight into “the situation here.”
Friedman’s four questions: 1. Do you think we are seeing the death of the West and the rise of
new world powers in the East? 2. Would you mind not quoting me by name because the Turkish
government would retaliate against me? 3. Is Israel backing the PKK as the Erdogan
government claims? 4. Do you think Obama will punish Turkey for its negative vote on Iran
sanctions in the Security Council?
In his response to these questions Friedman tells us that 1. Turkey is a rising economic
powerhouse that is “entitled to play an independent geopolitical role. But how Turkey rises
really matters – and [Prime Minister] Erdogan definitely has some troubling Hugo Chevez-
Vladimir Putin tendencies. 2. I never visited a democracy where more people whom I
interviewed asked me not to quote them by name for fear of retribution by Erdogan’s circle–in
the form of lawsuits, tax investigations or being shut out of government contracts. The media
here is rampantly self-censored.”
My response to Friedman on 1 and 2: Well, who has Thomas been speaking to? All of the folks
he describes are probably secular Turks, all of whom seem to be prospering. I too met many
Turks who were critical of the present government’s sympathy for Islam. None of them
described any real fear of retribution or desire for anonymity when I told them that I would take
their opinions back to the U.S. Is their occasional retribution? No doubt there is, but that is not
particularly Turkish, Islamic, or a function of Erdogan’s governing style. It is what happens
wherever parties and factions compete for power. The real goal is to minimize it. In fact, if
Friedman had bothered to compare the number of such cases reported under this government
against those that happened under previous secular oriented or military governments he would
find a decline in the such occurrences. The comparison with Hugo Chevez (who is trying to
reform a country that was utterly ruined by a U.S. backed, corrupt plutocracy) and Vladmir Putin
(who runs a sham democracy) are ridiculous. To be fair Friedman must really compare apples
and apples. So, to the extent that any Turkish government is or has filed punitive lawsuits,
conducted tax investigations, or shut businesses out of government contracts, you would want to
compare it to, say, the United States under George Bush Jr. I think present day Turkey would
come out looking pretty good given such a comparison. And as for media self-censorship.
Particularly when it comes to the Middle East, the U.S. media takes first prize in this category.
Friedman continues: 3. Prime Minister Erdogan is indulging in conspiracy theories when it
comes to Israel and the PKK. He describes Erdogan’s accusation that there is a connection here
as “an insane notion.” My response: Not so fast, Mr. Friedman. The BBC has reported (along
with video proof) that Israeli mercenaries are training Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq and
Seymour Hersh has reported the same in the New Yorker magazine. There is every reason to
believe that this military training is going on with the approval of the Israeli government . These
Kurds might be used against Iran or Turkey or both. What is “insane” is to think that the PKK is
not benefitting from such training.
And 4. Friedman on possible U.S. “punishment” of Turkey. He advises that the U.S. should
“draw red lines” for the Turks but otherwise let “Turkish democrats” take the lead in the ongoing
struggle for Turkish identity. My response: I would remind Mr. Friedman that the
“drawing of red lines” usually alienates the party they are aimed at, almost never inhibits
behavior, and often is a step toward increased conflict. Also, the majority of democrats in
Turkey are the ones who elected Prime Minister Erdogan. The other Turks, the ones Friedman
mistakes for the “Western” democrats, have often backed military coups.
Friedman adds to all this his judgment that Prime Minister Erdogan is supporting “one of the
most radical forces in the region” (he means the legally elected government of Palestine –
Hamas) because his Justice and Development Party is slipping in the polls. He also tells us that
such support of Hamas has “alarmed moderate Muslim forces in Turkey.” I am sorry Thomas, I
saw no sign of this. In fact if there is one thing that unites both secular and religious Turks, it is
their near unanimous dislike of Israeli brutality and support for its victims.
Finally, Thomas Friedman declares that Turks are now fighting for the soul of their nation and
that battle is about to be “joined in a much more vigorous way.” He asserts that secular and
moderate Islamic forces now realize that their Prime Minister is out to remake Turkey in an
Islamic fundamentalist way. All this is gross exaggeration. Prime Minister Erdogan is not a
dictator, Turkey is not on the road to fundamentalism a la Iran, and the government’s opposition
to Israel is principled and popular. Mr. Friedman most likely went to Turkey with preconceived
ideas and spoke mostly to those who would tell him what he wanted to hear. I guess he figured
that was “all he needed to understand the situation.”

The United States Tries to Bully Turkey – An Analysis (June 27, 2010)

The popular image of the experienced diplomat is a gentleman (most of them are men) who is
conservatively dressed and speaks, in public at least, in a manner that matches his clothes. That
is he speaks carefully and logically, leaving little to the imagination lest there be
misunderstanding or unnecessary offense given. You would not mistake the experienced
diplomat for a bully or a blackmailer.
If this is an accurate picture of a veteran diplomat, we can justifiably ask how Dr. Philip Gordon
keeps his job. Gordon is Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian
Affairs. As such he is chief U.S. diplomat when it comes to Europe as a whole. According to an
Associated Press report of June 26, 2010, Gordon has rebuked America’s long standing ally
Turkey with bullying words and a hint of blackmail. For instance:
1. “We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but this needs
to be demonstrated.” And just why does it need to be demonstrated? Because “Turkey…did not
abstain but voted no [in the Security Council on the issue of new sanctions against Iran] and I
[Philip Gordon] think Americans haven’t understood why.”
A. Surely Dr. Gordon is being disingenuous. Which Americans “don’t understand”
Turkey’s position? As Gordon should know the vast majority of his fellow citizens pay
no attention to foreign policy, America’s much less others, and therefore would not know
what he is talking about. Those relatively few who do pay attention would know that in
the past few months Turkey and Brazil were able to broker a deal for third party
refinement of Iran’s nuclear fuel. This arrangement was negotiated with the knowledge
and acquiescence of the White House and State Department. Washington, in essence,
double crossed the Turks when it insisted on new sanctions. Both Turkey and Brazil
understandably balked at this and voted no in the Security Council. So just what is the
basis for the Assistant Secretary’s complaint? Perhaps someone ought to ask Hilary
Clinton.
2. There is a second issue. Dr. Gordon seems not to approve of Turkey’s “rhetoric” following the
Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara. This also is a very strange complaint. What would U.S.
rhetoric be like if some other country had killed nine (instead of just one) of its citizens in the
process of an illegal attack on an American ship in international waters? No doubt Gordon and
his bosses would be threatening war. But, alas, the country which did the killing was Israel and
so my comparison does not fit. Most readers will know that Israel can and does kill Americans
with impunity. Just ask the survivors of the USS Liberty or the family of Rachel Corrie. Is Philip
Gordon now insisting that Israel be allowed to kill Turks with impunity as well?
A. And, what does the Assistant Secretary mean when he says that if Turkey continues on
its present course it will “make it harder for the U.S. to support some of the things that
Turkey would like to see us support.” Do we detect a bit of blackmail here? What things
is he talking about? Is the U.S. government going to remove the PKK from its list of
terrorist organizations and start supplying it, as we did with the Taliban back in the
1980s, with advanced weaponry? Or perhaps we would just arrange to facilitate the
Israelis doing so.
3. Ankara has sought to explain its position. As its ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan, has
said, “Turkish officials have explained repeatedly their reasons for the Security Council vote” as
well as their anger with the Israel. Yet all Gordon can do is keep repeating that “Turkey’s
explanations have not been widely understood.” As far as I know Turkish officials speak very
good English. So what could the real problem be?
A. We are led back to our earlier question. Just which Americans do not, or refuse to, get
Turkey’s meaning? I think the answer is pretty clear. Dr. Gordon is fronting for the
those members of Congress who have, as the Associated Press puts it, “lashed out and
warned of consequences for Ankara” due to their refusal to support the new Iran sanctions
and their angry words toward Israel. And who are these Congressmen? They are
supporters of Israel, everyone.
Since everyone seems to be giving the Turkish government advice, I will too. Forget about
demonstrating your loyalty to the United States in the way Dr. Gordon demands. It would
require you to become the obedient servant of an American Congress that has abdicated its
political will to a powerful Zionist special interest. To go this route obviously requires that you
too sell your national soul. Turkey must define and defend its national interests according to its
own lights. As with all nations that possess a strong sense of their own history and place in the
world, Turkey can only go so far in accommodating partners and allies. Only Ankara, and not a
faction of American Zionist Congressmen, can draw that line. Turkey has been through tough
times with the U.S. before. During the crisis over Cyprus in the 1970s it was the Greek-
American lobby that led Congress by the nose, demanding that the Turks abandon their
countrymen on Cyprus. Turkey weathered that storm successfully. Now it is the Zionist lobby. Turkey can weather this storm as well.

Victory in Iraq? – An Analysis (August 26, 2010)

John McCain Says We Won
Back in July 2010 Senator John McCain told Geoff Millard, board chairman of Iraq Veterans
Against the War, that his organization was irrelevant. “You’re too late. We already won that
one” was McCain’s comment. Senator McCain has never defined exactly what he meant by
winning. Nor, for that matter, have the various media outlets that follow his line. Nevertheless,
they certainly want to convince the American people that their nation has won a war in Iraq. If
you walk down the street of your home town and ask people what winning in Iraq means here is
some of the things you might hear:
1. We successfully got rid of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorship
2. We defeated the regular Iraqi army that was fielded against our forces
3. We have successfully brought democracy to Iraq
4. We prevented Saddam Hussein from developing and using weapons of mass destruction
5. We destroyed Al Qaeda’s ability to use Iraq as a stage for terrorist attacks against the U.S.
Numbers 1and 2 are true and constitute the classical definitions of “winning” a war. If anyone
had pushed John McCain to define his terms he may well have fallen back on these traditional
criteria for success. Number 3 is highly questionable. After our invasion, we configured
elections for Iraq which were then held in the midst of a civil war. It is now apparent that the
Iraqi people are so divided, both ethnically and in terms of religious sects, that the electoral
process has only led to stalemate. The most recent elections (March 2010) have not produced a
conclusive winner and the various Iraqi parties have not been able to negotiate a stable coalition
government. The resulting political vacuum has once more opened the door to civil war, and
terrorist attacks on civilian targets are on the increase. Numbers 4 and 5 are false and always
have been. They are two major variants on the lies fed to the American Congress and people by
the administration of George W. Bush.
The End (Victory) is Suppose to Justify the Means
Winning a war is an end that allegedly makes the consequences of fighting it worthwhile. What
are the consequences of U.S. fighting in Iraq that are supposedly justified by victory? Or, to use
an old British naval saying, what is the “butcher’s bill?”
According to the Brookings Institute’s Iraq index as well as other sources, here are some of the
results “justified” by victory: somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million Iraqi civilians have
been killed. If we were to build a memorial wall with the names of all these dead Iraqis (as we
should), it wwould stretch from one end of Washington DC to the other. No one has an accurate
estimation of the Iraqi injured. In comparison about 4400 U.S. soldiers have been killed and
32,000 injured. Over 2 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes. The unemployment
rate in Iraq, depending on the area, ranges as high as 60%. Over 20% of Iraqi children are
malnourished. The number of Iraqis now living in slum conditions is about 53% of the
population. An estimated 40% of all Iraq professionals have fled the country. Electricity and
water services are intermittent. Health care facilities are wrecked and services are inadequate.
Educational services have been so disrupted that many of Iraq’s wartime generation are semiliterate.
And these facts speak only to the U.S. invasion and occupation. It is to be remembered
that the invasion followed upon years of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of additional
Iraqis while crippling the country’s economy.
In the classical model of modern war, the winner is suppose to help put all of this back together
after the fighting stops. Thus, as was done after World War II, the winner installs a new and
friendly government in the defeated country and then assists that government in rehabilitating the
economy. Allegedly, the defeated country is thereby transformed into a better place for all the
survivors. This way the defeated become an ally of the conqueror rather than a continuing
enemy.
This has not happened in Iraq. The United States has given the Iraqi government 802,000 pieces
of used military and military related equipment, and has allowed (through incompetence or
corruption) various contractors (including some Iraqis) to steal around 8 billion dollars worth of
“aid” funds. There are allegedly “provincial reconstruction teams” among the American forces
still in Iraq, but their impact has been and will be minimal relative to the need. To date, that is
about it. While American “combat forces” are now withdrawn into Kuwait, 50,000 U.S. troops
(one-third of the total force) are still in Iraq to “fight terrorism” and we still maintain over 90
military bases in the country. This force will be supplemented over time with private
mercenaries hired by the State Department.
So, What Does Winning Really Mean?
So, what does Mr. McCain’s victory really amount to? We invaded a country and overthrew its
dictator. Americans (largely unaware of the mayhem listed above) might take pride in that
accomplishment if it were not for the fact that we did so on false pretenses. In other words, we
initiated war on the basis of lies rather than actual self-defense. Such an action constitutes the
most serious of international crimes. It is the one for which the Nazi leaders were tried at
Nuremberg. According to the position taken by President Obama, no American will be held
accountable in U.S. courts for the commission of this of crime or the additional war crimes that
ensued from it. Having gone to war based on lies, we destroyed the country of Iraq. The present
caretaker government is made up of people who, at best distrust us, and at worst hate our guts.
That any future Iraqi ruling establishment should be our ally is highly doubtful. More likely it
will eventually align itself with Iran. Having put our own United States into a trillion dollars
worth of debt, in part to fight the war in Iraq, we have not committed ourselves to any serious
effort to put the wreckage back together. Most Americans probably feel no moral responsibility
to do so. In their localism, they lament their own dead, but seem incapable of lamenting those
they have killed. That is your victory.
Obviously Senator McCain, in claiming that we have won in Iraq, has not gone one millimeter
beyond the most simplistic, and therefore utterly misleading, criteria for victory. Nor will he
ever do so. Much of the American public, over time, may well adopt his narrow frame of
reference. If their chosen source of information is the mass media, how could it be otherwise?
You might argue that there is plenty of counter information on the Iraq war out there, specifically
on the Web. How about Wikileaks, et.al.? It is there all right, but it is not accessed by the
majority of U.S. citizens. They use the Web primarily to correspond with their friends and to
shop. As to the world beyond their local environment, it is the world created for them by Fox,
CNN, and the like.
Toward the end of his life the English poet John Dryden (1631-1700) observed that “even victors
are by victories undone.” This is probably the case with America’s “victory” in Iraq. One might
remember that when the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam, Southeast Asia did not implode. It may
not play out that way in the Middle East. Our alleged triumph has served to destabilize not just
Iraq but that entire region, and will have to pay the piper for many years to come.