Sunday, October 31, 2010

Israeli Police Shoot Member of Knesset

Haneen Zoubi, member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) since 2009, was shot in the back by Israeli police. She was on the June international flotilla to Gaza that the Israeli military attacked and embarrassed the Israeli government by reporting that the Israeli naval vessels had fired on the flotilla before Israeli commandos were lowered from helicopters, that two of the flotilla members killed had been shot in the head (suggesting intent to kill), and that Israeli soldiers allowed passengers to bleed to death.

Details on the highly successful Jewish extremist plot to provoke violence and the support the extremists received from the Israeli police are indeed, as Stephen Lendman pointed out, “reminiscent of Kristallnacht.” For those concerned about the struggle between the forces of democracy and fascism in Israel, the shooting by police of a member of the Knesset must surely be one of the most ominous pieces of evidence.

Of course, the incident just happened, and the evidence could go either way. Israel could launch a serious investigation of its police. Israel could clamp down on rightwing extremist Jewish demonstrations in Palestine designed to provoke violence. Israel could establish and enforce new rules to maintain the right to freedom of expression with police protection for both sides rather than police attacks on liberals. Such steps would alter the balance of evidence.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama: Secondrate Neo-Con or Master of Change?

Could Obama save his presidency by walking the talk, by--like Clark Kent--actually shedding his neo-con suit so we can see his Master of Change cloak?

If we accept the contentious viewpoint that “10 years is enough”—i.e., that 10 years of neo-con policy in Washington is enough, then what should Obama do to save his presidency?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obama: Mainstream Republican Leader

Obama, we hear, is losing his coalition - not because disappointed leftwingers are leaving; where else can they go? Obama, the quintessential neo-con light who has frittered away the last two years talking reform while walking rightwing Republican, is losing his former Republican supporters!

Just goes to show, you can't impress people by copying your opponents and then claiming you "do it better."

Obama has continued the war against political Islam, bowed low before the Israeli right wing, given up on health care as a right for all Americans, taken the side of polluters (BP), and protected Wall Street at the expense of American workers. He has avoided bringing neo-cons to court on any charges and has not even forthrightly condemned aggression, lying about the reasons for going to war, war crimes, collusion with corporate leaders despoiling the land, etc. Has the word "immoral" ever even passed his lips in the context of commenting on neo-con behavior? What is there for conservative Republicans to dislike?

He talks like a reformer, that's what. He gives neo-cons everything they could want...but talks like a hero of the people. And of course, he is the one sitting in the White House; that galls.

Since Obama is rapidly losing his credibility as a neo-con-wannabe, perhaps he should actually become what he said he was: the leader of change. Ten years is enough.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting What You Ask For

Washington's continuing military presence in Iraq, justified by al Sadr's and Iran's opposition to U.S. influence, in fact aggravates both al Sadr's anti-American tendencies and Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 Ryan Crocker is quoted today in the New York Times as follows:

I think the Iranians understand that they are not going to dominate Iraq, but I think they are going to do their level best to weaken it — to have a weak central government that is constantly off balance, that is going to have to be beseeching Iran to stop doing bad things without having the capability to compel them to stop doing bad things. And that is an Iraq that will never again threaten Iran. [Michael R. Gorcon and Andrew W. Lehren, “Leaker Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias,” 10/23/10.]

This sort of analysis is important not because some former official of the discredited neo-cons believes it but because it is representative of the standard American public line. It assumes and leads gullible Americans to assume that for Iran to defend its own national interest somehow makes Iran different from other more moral(!) countries. In fact, I do not disagree with any part of Crocker’s statement as reported above.

The problem is with what is left out. Whatever Crocker’s own view may be, the standard American government/media line takes the above argument as justification for opposing and threatening Iran as well as justification for remaining in Iraq. (And where, tell me please, is there any evidence that the U.S. government plans to do anything other than remain in Iraq? Is the military pulling out its troops? Only a fraction. Are the city-scale U.S. military bases being closed? Is the world’s largest fortress…ah, embassy…being turned into housing for Baghdad’s poor?)

To the degree that the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, its neighbor Iran will feel compelled for its own security to support its Iraqi assets and do what it can to ensure that Iraq never be used as a base for…well…for exactly what the U.S./Israeli elite repeatedly threaten: a military attack on Iran. Now shift to al Sadr. To the degree that the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, al Sadr will feel compelled to work with Iran and any other force willing to support his effort to free Iraq from U.S. control.

As long as the U.S. tries to prevent Iran’s emergence as a regional power center, Iran cannot but take advantage of its ability to undercut and trap the U.S. in Iraq. As long as the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, al Sadr will build his career on opposition to that presence.

The American military presence that is justified in Washington as a means of resisting Iranian influence instead promotes Iranian influence.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Talking With Adversaries

If the Taliban are ready to talk, Washington should listen carefully, ponder deeply, consult widely, and edge cautiously toward the door. Afghans may love their country, but it is no place for Americans. Try not to step on the flowers as you leave.
With actual talks (cover the ears of the womenfolk!) apparently starting between the Taliban (agent, or apparently so it would appear to some of the originals of the American frontier, of the devil) and the representatives of globalization/capitalism/U.S.-style middle-class capitalism/imperialism, I overheard on the radio a commentary denouncing the very idea of compromise. Evidently, though the speaker did not put it in so many words, there could not possibly, in the minds of the rational, be any room whatsoever for tolerating the concept of the world’s last superpower reasoning together with the people who actually live in the land where the U.S. military is waging war.

To avoid the issue of why Washington should not talk to people who actually live on the ground it marches across, the speaker hastened to make the bald and unsubstantiated claim that bin Laden was leader of the Taliban. It is certainly true that U.S. behavior has been pushing al Qua’ida and the Taliban into each other’s arms over the last decade, but flatly to assert that a local dissident movement and a global terrorist organization constitute a single organization is, to put it very politely, dangerously misleading. Even the speaker felt forced to admit that the Taliban was factionalized, only to slide over that admission and reach a conclusion he himself had just undermined: that no hope of compromise or progress could possibly come from talking.

Note that this speaker, evidently one of those provincials now striding so brashly across the American political landscape who puts all his faith in force as the way to solve problems, evidently believed that it was precisely the tendency of the Taliban to rely on force that made talking with them so useless.  The sad thing is that in the aftermath of a decade of being taught that Americans speak the language of force, the American provincial may understand the Afghan provincials better than I wish to admit.

So not for an instant do I anticipate either an easy chat nor a U.S. victory out of negotiations with the Taliban. But the course the U.S. has been on since 9/11, a course as yet unchanged by that Champion of Change now in the White House, is one of destruction abroad and decline at home leading into a dense fog through which I can see the shimmering vision of helicopters lifting from embassy rooftops. Spare me; once in a lifetime is enough.

The Taliban is a complex and ever-adapting group of more-or-less united local factions stuck in cooperation with an international millenarian movement. Not only has significant evidence of discord between Afghans and Arabs come to view over the years, but the logic of the situation suggests that many will find it in their interest to walk through doors should the U.S. decide to open them.

Talking will admittedly accomplish little on its own. Washington will have to bite some bullets ahead of time and temper its hubris with wisdom. The issue is not what Washington wants from the Taliban but what Washington is willing to concede, and that surely will have to start with that which most firmly pushes the Taliban into al Qua’ida’s embrace: the presence of U.S. forces on Afghan soil.

Speaking only the language of force is like voluntarily tying one arm behind one’s back at the start of a wrestling match. American provincials and American imperialists who advocate such an approach are doing their country no favor. Negotiations are explorations or, if you prefer, poker matches. Tehran’s presence at Western discussions about Afghanistan just put a new card in Obama’s hand. Now the apparent new willingness of senior Taliban officials to talk puts another card in his hand. There will be no results by election day or even by Christmas. It does not matter. Let Obama play his hand with care. And that is as far as the poker analogy goes, because this is not about “winning,” it’s not about a war of religions, it’s not about establishing American Empire whatever the provincials or imperialists may think. This is about finding two paths, one that Americans can travel and one that Afghans can travel.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Pattern of Democratic Decline

It is not about tinkering; it's about making moral judgments.

The ramparts of American democracy remain strong, if subtly undermined by long-term trends I have discussed elsewhere. The gathering hordes stand not at the walls but within and can hardly be called "hordes" at all, though they are, because a rampaging crowd of the rich is not what the term "horde" typically brings to mind. But it is the rich of America, not the poor of the world, who are focusing their energies against us. If American democracy is to be successfully defended against these, well, hordes--for they are multitudinous and they are running amok, then Americans must come to understand the context of events so they can give proper meaning to those events.