Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rearranging the deck chairs

Prof. Walt's discussion (click above link) is over the Obama administration's recent pronouncements on the settlements. We essentially agree but he's more polite and erudite about it than I.

In my view this is a lot of heat without much light. Big wow! The US is finally getting tough on the Israelis - woo hoo! What amounts to a simple reiteration of long standing US policy vis a vis the illegal Israel colonies (sorry, can't call them settlements - too dignified - lets call a spade an effing shovel) in the West Bank to generate this kind of twittering (not the electronic kind - the old fashioned OMG did you hear what he said cocktail party kind) just shows how low the bar has sunk. This is pitiful. The notion that the Obama administration is getting all steely eyed is nonsense. Look, the Israeli power structure of Labor/Kadima/Likud are no more interested in peace than Phillip Morris is interested in getting out of the tobacco business. The status quo is too profitable and besides making tons of money at US taxpayer expense the goal is to completely cleanse Eretz Israel of non-Jews leaving a democracy for one religious group. Tell me how that is so much different than Iran?

It started in '48 with the official stated policy of Ben-Gurion and the Zionists to cleanse the land of Palestinians (mainly Muslim and Christians while enlisting the Druze for inside assistance) and everything that has occurred since has been in the furtherance of that goal. Witness the current cleansing of East Jerusalem and the presence of 300,000 rabid fundamentalists in the West Bank. I'll believe that the administration is finally getting tough on these right wing war criminals when we withhold a couple billion dollars of the several billion we ship over there each year. Now that would make front page news.

And while he's at it he should get tough on our own right wing war criminals.

Still its better than Bush - which is about the same thing as saying its better than nothing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's wrong with a Bi-National State?

Two questions for Mr. Walt regarding his latest blog post - today at

1) What's wrong with a bi-national democracy? Many believe its the only solution that's likely to last. True it would require that Israel not be a "Jewish" state, which on the face of it is as racist as making the US or any other democracy a "insert name of religion here" state. If you want to be a theocratic parliamentary republic, fine, you will engender much opposition - but don't call yourselves a democracy and claim to share American values.

2) As the goal of the Israeli power structure and its allies such as AIPAC in the US and elsewhere is to continue the ethnic cleansing it began in 1948 what could conceivably entice Israel to make peace w/the Palestinians?

The Israeli power structure has ever been interested in peace w/the Palestinians. Yes, they made peace w/Egypt & Jordan and would like a treaty w/Syria and Lebanon because these are existing nations with armies and land from which to launch attacks. But the goal has always been to drive the Palestinians out of Eretz Israel. Read Ilann Pappe's "Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine." Plan Dalet was conceived to force as many Palestinians out of Palestine as possible. There is an article in this month's National Geographic describing the Arab Christian exodus from the Middle East and specifically the West Bank because Israel makes life intolerable spurring emigration. Its working!

Bibi will bide his time waiting for Obama's popularity to wane (which it will) and then launch a new attack on the Palestinians either in Gaza or the West Bank or both. He may even bomb the Iranians. Obama will be hobbled and unable to do anything. New settlements will be built, the wall will be longer and higher and generally magnify the defacto apartheid system in Gaza and the WB eventually passing on to the next government an Israel with fewer Palestinians than when he took over. This is the goal. Gradual depopulation leaving lebensraum for the Jews.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Newt Gingrich: neo-neo-conservative vs. Stephen Walt: of the realist school of foreign policy.

In these two articles, (links below) one reporting on a speech Newt Gingrich gave to AIPAC just yesterday and the other from Stephen Walt (at left), a well known Harvard professor of international relations, both Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama are accused of endangering Israel. Just who are we supposed to believe?

Gingrich accuses Obama of endangering the security of Israel and says the Obama adminstration is "weak" like the Carter administration. No mention of course that Carter actually brokered peace with Egypt, Israel's most credible external foe, which is galaxies beyond what any Republican administration has accomplshed in the arena. In the latter Walt posits that Netanyahu endangers the security of Israel by being too intransigent and if this stubbornness continues will lead to a much less favorable outcome for the Israelis.

If we look a little deeper, supposedly Newt is positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2012 and one could be forgiven for thinking he's buttering some bread here and pledging fealty to AIPAC. Given the fact that the USA resoundingly rejected an intellectually and morally bankrupt not to mention failed right wing philosophy last November shouldn't that give us some kind of clue as to the validity of this particular argument? Walt, well known as one of the dynamic duo that penned "The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy" with John Mearsheimer, examines the case from an academicians perch with the freedom that his position allows.

Newt labels Obama's policy of constructive engagement with Iran a "fantasy" and "very dangerous" for Israel. Newt goes on and likens "... negotiations with the current Iranian regime to negotiating with Adolf Hitler, and called for "enforcing the disruption of gasoline supplies until the Iranian economy broke, the ayatollahs were ousted and a new regime was in place without a single shot fired." That earned thunderous applause." Well of course given the audience. Shades of Cheney's "we don't want the smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud" Newt is just as dangerous, maybe even more so because he's really quite intelligent and well spoken.

On the other hand Walt says that... "The prime minister [Netanyahu] and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide." Not to mention the fact that Iran hasn't invaded any countries lately unlike the good 'ol USA and its "coalition of the willing."

Who in their right mind actually believes Israel faces an existential threat from anyone let alone from Iran? As Walt says... "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said some remarkably foolish things about the Holocaust and repeatedly questioned Israel's legitimacy (as in his oft-mistranslated statement about Israel "vanishing from the page of time"), but he's never threatened to murder millions of Israelis (and Palestinians) with nuclear weapons. Just last weekend, he even told ABC's George Stephanopolous that if the Palestinians reached an agreement with Israel, then Iran would support it. Moreover, as Roger Cohen has noted, there is no evidence that Ahmadinejad has any particular animus toward Iran's own Jewish community. Despite his many offensive statements, in short, Ahmadinejad is not Adolf Hitler and we are not living in the 1930s." Contrast that with what Newt said yesterday at AIPAC where he "called for a military strike to destroy missiles in Iran and North Korea." How many innocents does he think he will kill doing that and what unintened consequences will ensue? Just who are the aggressors here?

According to the US government and the IAEA Israel "possesses between 75 and 400" nuclear warheads and chemical and bilogical wepaons capability as well.


The myth of an Israel facing destruction from 40 million Arabs every day is just that. Who would attack it? Egypt is at peace with Israel and Jordan, brokered by the Clinton administration, made peace in 1994. Lebanon is powerless and Syria is not a credible military threat. The USA guarantees Israel's security and Iraq conveniently neutralized. The occupation is a cancer that eats at the soul of Israel.

So what does Obama really want? I don't think anyone could find anything that suggests anything other than he (and the rest of the international community) wants is for Israel, as the far more powerful actor in this drama, to be a mensch and honor its many commitments and implement the central platform of the seemingly dozens of peace plans it has signed up for in the last 40+ years, which of course, is the oft mentioned two-state solution. As for Netanyahu his disdain for the plan is well known and in order to prevent an open split with the USA he prevaricates and obfuscates imposing new conditions on the Palestinians.

Me thinks Mr. Gingrich & Mr. Netanyahu engage in some garden variety right wing prestidigitation in an attempt to distract our attention from the real issues.
Here's the Jerusalem Post article on Newt:

Here is Walt's post on the Foreign Policy magazine website:

Read them both and let me know (if you wish and can take a few minutes) which is the more logical argument of the two.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Reason for Torture - looking for justification to invade Iraq

Wonder why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month? What could he have possibly told us on the 180th time that he didn't on the 100th time? (BTW - that works out to over 6x a day for a month). Turns out the administration; Bush, Cheney, Rice, Tenet etc. were looking for reasons to invade Iraq and hoped waterboarding KSM would force him to say al-Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots. After 183 times in one month he didn't. This despite the well known proclivity for persons under torture to spill whatever beans they think the torturers want to hear just to stop the pain. 183 times!

So after looking for 6 years and going through millions of Iraqi documents no evidence has ever been found that indicates there was operational cooperation beteen Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Not to mention the massive efforts to find the proverbial WMD. But that didn't stop the Bushites from the messianic, illegal and immoral crusade to find non-existent evidence and when none was to be found to simply manufacture it.

From a McClatchy story on the Senate report released just yesterday. "A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq. "While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Why "pressure to produce ties?"The Downing Street Memo states "the intelligence and facts were being fixed" around the policy.

The news here is that, finally, US Government documents are coming to light that prove the Bush Administration deliberately and with malice aforethought fabricated evidence to support its rationale for invading Iraq; thereby killing 4000+ (and counting) Americans (more than the 9/11 attacks) and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, displacing 2m+ of them in the process. If this is proved and I predict it will be beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the crime of this young century and in my opinion ranks with the 9/11 attacks.

We have no choice but to follow all the evidence wherever it leads. If not we encourage more of this behavior by Democrats and Republicans, it doesn't matter which party, what matters is the abuse of power, privilege, position and the breaking of laws. This is not about retribution or revenge, its to reaffirm the Constitutional principle that no person is above the law. We have a chance to redeem our republic. If we don't we take several more steps down the slippery slope to despotism. "When the president does it its not illegal." That's a dictator (or a crook) speaking, not a president.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Forget all about the poor and homeless we've got to set the market free

The title of this post is a line from a song I wrote during the Reagan years the title of which is also the name of this blog: "Talk About America."

I really hope Chris Hedges is wrong but there's a 50-50 chance he isn't.

The next time we feel like scapegoating poor Mexican or Central American laborers or one of our fellow citizens who bought too much house with a loan their bank told them they "qualified for" just dust off this little treatise. Some choice passages include:

Hints of our brave new world seeped out Thursday when Washington's new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s. It turns out that Wall Street, rather than Islamic jihad, has produced our most dangerous terrorists. We will see accelerated plant and retail closures, inflation, an epidemic of bankruptcies, new rounds of foreclosures, bread lines, unemployment surpassing the levels of the Great Depression and, as Blair fears, social upheaval.

The economic collapse has exposed the stupidity of our collective faith in a free market and the absurdity of an economy based on the goals of endless growth, consumption, borrowing and expansion. The ideology of unlimited growth failed to take into account the massive depletion of the world's resources, from fossil fuels to clean water to fish stocks to erosion, as well as overpopulation, global warming and climate change. The huge international flows of unregulated capital have wrecked the global financial system. An overvalued dollar (which will soon deflate), wild tech, stock and housing financial bubbles, unchecked greed, the decimation of our manufacturing sector, the empowerment of an oligarchic class, the corruption of our political elite, the impoverishment of workers, a bloated military and defense budget and unrestrained credit binges have conspired to bring us down. The financial crisis will soon become a currency crisis. This second shock will threaten our financial viability. We let the market rule. Now we are paying for it.

The corporate thieves, those who insisted they be paid tens of millions of dollars because they were the best and the brightest, have been exposed as con artists. Our elected officials, along with the press, have been exposed as corrupt and spineless corporate lackeys. Our business schools and intellectual elite have been exposed as frauds. The age of the West has ended. Look to China. Laissez-faire capitalism has destroyed itself. It is time to dust off your copies of Marx,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

does this mean prices will go down at Fry's?

Another capitalist crook bites the dust, now if we only had the guts to go after the bankers.

"One company, Phoebe Micro Inc., sold Fry's $80 million worth of goods between 2003 and 2008. The firm gave Fry's a $4 million discount, the IRS said, but paid Siddiqui's company $24 million."

If the $76m worth of merchandise can be further discounted $24m then by my reckoning Fry's can discount the product (this one anyway - others maybe more maybe less) another 30% and maintain margin. Should be a class action suit to force Fry's to rebate their customers who suffered economic loss due to this fraud? Apparently it failed to provide sufficient oversight to their management employee - among other things this is what Sarbanes-Oxley was created to do.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Israel's Lies: By Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman writes in the London Review of Books:

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

2 state or bust?

Probably the most cogent analysis of the situation I've read in a very long time. I'm especially taken by this passage:

"Particularly misguided and damaging has been the oft-repeated demand that Palestinians offer territorial concessions that match the "painful concessions" Israel's leaders have said they are prepared to make. It is a formulation that reveals a profound misunderstanding or deliberate distortion of the history of this conflict, one that will inevitably produce a one-sided outcome that is unjust and untenable. Palestinians have not asked Israel to make territorial concessions--i.e., give up any of the territory Israel controlled between the armistice agreement of 1949 and the 1967 war--nor has Israel ever indicated it would under any circumstances consider doing so. What Palestinians have asked is that Israel return Palestinian territory on which Israel has illegally established settlements and to which it has transferred its own population, in violation of treaty obligations and international law. To describe the return of illegally expropriated Palestinian territory as Israeli "concessions" is to compromise the Palestinian case before negotiations even begin.

Indeed, it is only Palestinians who have made painful concessions. As a condition for Israel's acceptance of the Oslo Accords, the PLO formally agreed to recognize the legitimacy of territory acquired by Israel in the war of 1948. It is a concession that reduced by fully one half the territory originally assigned to the Arab population of Palestine by the UN partition plan of 1947. Given that major Palestinian territorial concession, any new initiative that does not provide that negotiations begin at the pre-1967 armistice line and expects Palestinians to relinquish (other than in equal land swaps) even more of the 22 percent of the territory that has been left them will be stillborn."

And before dismissing this fellow as some fanatic antisemitic raver on the order of say er uh... Jimmy Carter... know that the author is:

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Israel needs its version of Al Jazeera"

As if PR were the answer. If the IDF hadn’t killed so many innocent civilians over the years Israel wouldn’t need a “special” media outlet to put lipstick on its policies. Truthful objective reporting would be all that was necessary. “Buying” the Hamas line has nothing to do with it. Stop the killing, the oppression and close down the illegal “settlements” and the negative stories will stop. It’s simple. To paraphrase Bill Clinton “It’s the Occupation Stupid” and until Israel truly ends it, not like the ersatz “pull-out” from Gaza, the world will increasingly view Israel, as it did South Africa, as a pariah nation. America, the last bastion of uncritical support for Israel is slowly waking up to the horror that is the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel: get out while you still have time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

IDF Targeting Civilians

"Israeli soldiers fired on a group of residents leaving their homes on orders from the military and waving white flags, according to testimony taken by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem."

"Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, declared that he would press forward with an "iron fist"."

That's obvious... and the assertions of the IDF apologists that the IDF goes out of its way to avoid killing innocent civilians wear more thin with each passing day.

The report continues...

"In Gaza, Munir Shafik al-Najar told B'Tselem that members of his extended family started trying to leave their homes after the Israeli army began demolishing buildings in the area of Kuza'a, close to the Israeli border with south-eastern Gaza. Mr Najar said the Israeli soldiers were using gunfire to signify that residents should leave, but then started shooting "indiscriminately".

He testified that his relative Rawhiya had stepped out of the family-owned building, one of whose walls had been destroyed by a bulldozer, expecting her family to follow, but she was shot. The military subsequently attacked another group escaping leaving two more of his relatives dead. The military said late last night that it had found the claim to be "without foundation".

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why do they hate us?


The Cost of War

Disturbing photos of the innocent victims of the conflict. Sensational? Yes, but we are so desensitized we need to be reminded every so often of the horror. We wonder why they hate us? See these photos and wonder no more.

There is no existential threat to Israel yet thousands of innocent Palestinians die each year

Its mystifying to me how great numbers of American Jews who self-identify as liberals and honestly espouse liberal causes in the USA and around the world (vote or campaign for Obama, support the ACLU, oppose apartheid in South Africa etc.) yet when it comes to the Palestinian question make a hard right turn and parrot a right wing closet fascist like Benjamin Netanyahu and his terrorist turned politician mentor Menachim Begin.

Robert Scheer a great American (and Jewish) liberal writes in his latest piece on (click on the above link for the full text)

"Where are the voices that reflect the uncompromising morality of Einstein’s generation of Jewish intellectuals willing to acknowledge fault and humanity on both sides of the political equation?"

In a letter to the NYT Eistein clearly stated his views on Begin and his organization the:

“Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” The letter urged Jews to shun Begin, arguing, “It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.”

The standard rejoinder as to why the hard right turn is that the Arabs want to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea. Scheer writes:

Why is it that there is such widespread acceptance, beginning with the apologetic arguments of President Bush, that whatever Israel does is always justified as necessary to the survival of the Jewish state?

It is not.

While the Hamas rocket attacks are reprehensible, they are also an ineffectual challenge to Israel’s enormous security apparatus, and the severity of Israel’s response to them is counterproductive. Clearly, the very existence of Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, seriously challenged by anything the Palestinians did. Not back in 1948, when Israel was established as a state with insignificant Palestinian military resistance, nor at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt, Syria and Jordan fought Israel."

Israel has nukes and America to back it up. No Middle Eastern group or country can defeat Israel as long as this is true. Fuggedaboudit. Killing innocent Arabs only makes the situation worse and creates more terrorists. How many Islamic terrorist attacks were there in the west before the 1967 6-Day War?

There is a much more robust debate in Israel over this question than there is here in the USA. One has only to look to groups such as Peace Now, the Ha'aretz newspaper and B'Tselem to see that. But try to have the same level of debate in the USA as Jimmy Carter or John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt did and the charges of antisemitism and being pro-terrorist inevitably follow. Its intellectually and morally bankrupt to stifle debate like this. A few voices like Scheer do exist but they are relegated to the fringe and rarely does on hear them in the mainstream media.