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Yes, I Can! Now I’m Pro-bama! Barack Me, Obamadeus!!!

April 1, 2008

I’ve finally come around. I have seen the light and recognize that the only hope for our nation and the world rests upon the shoulders of that inspiring, passionate young Kenyan-Hawai’ian-Kansan Senator from Illinois. I have been won over by his progressive patriotism; his refusal to pander to the flag-pin wearing and pledge of allegiance empty gesture gestapo; his fierce commitment to change while making sure that everything will stay exactly the same.

Meanwhile, Obama’s audacity to dream for a just future and see the best in this nation’s worst helps make each and every white liberal from here to Berkeley feel less guilty about being white and not having any black friends. The next president can now be our black friend! It’s basically a win-win situation for everyone (as long as you don’t count 95% of the world). And I’ve come to embrace that hope.

Maybe it’s Obama’s bizarrely intense insistence that he’s not Muslim that has made me see things a bit more clearly than I used to. As the multhiethnic, multiracial, multinational candidate for unity, peace, and understanding, it’s certainly a relief that Obama so adamantly and unequivocally distances himself from twenty percent of the world’s population, including millions of Americans. Personally, I just thank gawd that someone named Barack Hussein Obama can be just as xenophobic as the rest of the American ignorami.

Maybe it’s Obama’s stature as the “anti-war” candidate that has influenced my dazzling about-face. I mean, isn’t this the guy who refuses to ever utter the words imperial, aggressive, or illegal when describing the actions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? This is the guy who has called any consideration of impeachment “unacceptable.” Obama is my beloved presidential peacenik because he, as Paul Street reports,

has reassured the U.S. foreign policy establishment of his willingness to stay firmly within the spectrum of acceptable imperial opinion by voicing strong support for the U.S.-led bombing and invasion of Afghanistan that followed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to Obama throughout the current ongoing contest, one of the main problems with George W. Bush’s “mistake” (the Democratic presidential front runner never calls it a crime or immoral) of invading Iraq was that it has “diverted” U.S. military resources that should have been dedicated to the smart and just war in (on) Afghanistan. Like other official “doves” on the “bad war” in Iraq, he was a hawk on the supposedly “good war” in Afghanistan.

It really is comforting to hear that acting against the will of the world or the authorization of the UN by relentlessly bombing the civilian population of a sovereign country (an act that would undoubtedly yield substantial casualties) was the right thing to do and that, in Obama’s own words to ABC on March 3rd, the president “responded properly when it came to Afghanistan.”

Is this why I now love Barack Obama? It can’t just be his enthusiasm for the first illegal invasion and occupation of the Bush administration, can it? No way. There’s so much more, I almost don’t know what to mention first. Almost.

I think what everyone really loves about Obama is his stalwart position against what everyone likes to call the “war” in Iraq – seems a bit more like an illegal invasion and subsequent brutal and never-ending occupation to me – but, hey, semantics schmemantics, right? Why split hairs when discussing aggressive American imperialism based on a web of dizzying lies and fabrications? Obama and his giddy supporters really like to tout his anti-war credentials ad nauseum, stating that their (and now my) candidate had opposed the war from the start. They like to reference Obama’s October 26, 2002 speech at Daley Plaza in Chicago when he supposedly spoke out against the impending Iraq invasion (a speech that was removed from Obama’s website once he became a viable presidential candidate). At the time, Obama was a State Senator and seemed to recognize that Iraq posed no threat to the United States, yet also revealed his belief that wars should be fought against “terrorism” and “intolerance” and that “even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”

Even a successful war? I guess that the lack of evidence for any rationale or legal authority for the US to invade another country, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and International Law, weren’t enough to make Obama denounce the looming invasion, but rather that even though there was the potential for a “victory” (over what remains unclear and unspoken), the cost for such a win would be hard on the American people and might illicit unforeseen reactions. Throughout this speech, Obama repeats one point at least five times. He states, over and over again, that he does not “oppose all wars,” but only “rash” and “dumb” ones. He, apparently, is a big fan of well-reasoned wars. And personally, that’s what I like to see in our peace candidate. I mean, I like peace, but don’t like being called a wuss. I hate being associated with the radical, far left, hippie crowd. The pinko tree-huggers that don’t like neoliberal economics and question how great this country is and always has been (as long as you weren’t a Native American, a black person, had a vagina, or lived in Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, Samoa, Yugoslavia, every single country in Central or South America, Iran, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Congo, Angola, Somalia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Bosnia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq). So, self-proclaimed liberals, don’t worry about seeming too dissident. Obama helps you feel nice and secure in your pretend pragmatism and phony progressiveness, and his 2002 speech “against” the “war” was no different.

As Paul Street explains, “It was not a Left oration. Calling Bush’s imminent war “dumb” but not criminal or immoral, it deleted the illegal and petro-imperialist ambitions behind the Iraq invasion being planned in Washington . It said nothing about the racist nature of the administration’s determination to conflate Iraq with 9/11 and al Qaeda. It argued that invading Iraq would be a foreign policy mistake – something that would likely not work for American power – but NOT that it would be a brazenly imperialist transgression certain to kill untold masses of innocent Iraqis.”

But, in truth, no one really wants an “anti-war” president when they can so easily have an “anti-this particular war at this particular time because it wasn’t ‘successful’ and over a million Iraqis have been murdered, about five million Iraqis have been displaced either within Iraq or have fled to other countries, four thousand US troops have been killed, and the cost of the occupation will soar to over three trillion dollars when all is said and done, and oh yeah, and public opinion is against the war now so I guess I am too” president. Actually, Obama doesn’t tend to mention the Iraqi dead or cite any moral reasons for opposing the invasion of Iraq. I just threw that in there because I believe he truly cares, though keeps forgetting to say anything. He’s very busy after all.

Actually, what I really like about Obama’s “anti-war”ishness is that, when asked what he would have done had he actually been in a political position to vote on the Iraq Resolution, the Senator told the New York Times on July 26, 2004, “What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case [for authorizing the president to declare war, instead of abiding by the Constitution] was not made.” Granted, this isn’t a solid admission that he would have voted to yes on that particular resolution, but he does make clear that had he been “privy to Senate intelligence reports,” like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Daschle, Chuck Schumer, and the sixty-nine other senators who voted yes, he may have made a different decision.

This Times interview, as Paul Street reports, “came one day before Obama delivered the speech that is widely credited for creating his overnight national notoriety – his famous Keynote Address to the 2004 Democratic Convention. That’s the speech where Obama referred to Americans as ‘one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.'” Street continues,

The national narcissism and militarism that lay at the heart of Obama’s Keynote Address was more quietly evident when Obama discussed the terrible blood costs of the Iraq occupation purely in terms of “the more than nine hundred [U.S.] men and women – sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors – who won’t be returning to their hometowns. I think,” Obama said, “of the families I’ve met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists.”In the part of The Speech that came closest to directly criticizing the Iraq invasion, Obama suggested that the Bush administration had “fudged the numbers” and “shad[ed] the truth” about why “our young men and women” were “sent into harm’s way.” He added that the U.S. must “care for [soldiers’] families while they’re gone, tend to the soldiers upon their return, and never go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.”

What, morally cognizant listeners were left to wonder, about the considerably larger quantity (well into the tens of thousands) of Iraqis who had been killed and maimed and who lost income as a result of the criminal U.S. invasion of their country by the summer of 2004? What about the massive harm U.S. forces were ordered to inflict on Iraqis, considerably greater than the damage they experienced?

It is hardly a “war,” moreover, when the most powerful military state in history attacks and colonially occupies a weak nation it has already devastated over decades of military assault and even deadlier “economic sanctions.”

“Securing the peace” was a morally impoverished and nationally arrogant, self-serving way for Obama to describe the real White House objective in Iraq by the summer of 2004: to pacify, by force when (quite) necessary, the outraged populace of a nation that understandably resented a brazenly imperial invasion it saw (with good reason) as driven by the United States’ desire to deepen its control of Iraqi and Middle Eastern oil.

And “shade the truth” didn’t come close to doing justice to the high-state deception – the savage, sinister, and sophisticated lying – that the Bush administration used and is still using to cover their real agenda, understood with no small accuracy by the people of Iraq.

Obama’s comment about never “going to war” without the resources to “win” and to keep the world’s “respect” evaded the critical question of the invasion’s unjust nature. What, after all, was the leading problem with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union ? Was it that he we went in without the capacity to “win” and thereby lost global esteem or was it that he launched a monumentally criminal, racist and mass-murderous war of imperial aggression that killed millions of Russians, Germans and other Eastern and Central Europeans?!

Ok, ok, ok. Enough about Iraq! Seriously, is it really that important anyway? Probably not. So, moving on to other things I now love about Obama, let’s talk about his voting to continue funding the occupation of Iraq every single time war budget bills were brought to the floor of the Senate. Or his interest in keeping thousands and thousands of US soldiers in Iraq even after his famed “withdrawal” in order to protect the gigantic US embassy/permanent military base and carry out “anti-terrorism” operations. Oh wait, sorry. That’s about Iraq again. My bad. How about his voting to reauthorize the Patriot Act in July of 2005, thereby continuing to support the utter destruction of American civil liberties and authorizing the spying on American citizens under the guise of fighting those wily terrorists. Or maybe it’s the fact that he voted to confirm Condaleezza Rice as Secretary of State, voted against Alberto Gonzalez’s confirmation, and didn’t show up the vote either way on Michael Mukasey. Maybe it’s because he calls Joe Lieberman his Senate mentor. Maybe it’s because of his hawkish stand on Iran and Pakistan and his interest in taking troops out of Iraq in order to put them back into Afghanistan. Maybe it’s because he loves to talk tough about not taking money from lobbyists, even though he actually does. No wait, it’s because you think he’s in favor of stopping nuclear proliferation and dismantling of America’s nuclear weaponry whereas he’s actually in bed with the nuclear industry and wants more nuclear capabilities! Maybe it’s because he doesn’t rule out the use of mercenaries unaccountable to US or international law in America’s violent foreign campaigns. Maybe it’s because he is opposed to universal health care, praises the anti-social and destructive free market economy, and opposes gay marriage, stating that “I’m a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”

Speaking of Obama being a Christian, did you know that he’s not a Muslim? Like really, definitley not? Oh, did we cover that already? Well, not in these terms: Obama has taken such pains to show himself to be an unshakeable friend of Israel that he really doesn’t want anyone to think he’s a Muslim. Obama loves Israel so much that apporved of the brutal and illegal Gaza seige and keeping proclaiming how staunch his support is for that racist, Aparteid state. Any champion of civil rights and tolerance might balk at supporting a state that claims to be both “democractic and Jewish” in the same breath, but not my man Barack. Quite the contrary, Obama has done his damnedest to pander to pro-Israel apologists by condemning only Palestinian and Arab terrorism and refuses to accept that the troubles in the Middle East have anything to do with the Zionist theft of Palestine and subsequent subjugation of an entire people for over 60 years, instead blaming solely “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

As a quick refresher on Zionism’s own ideology, Joe Mowrey reminds us that,

Zionism is the political ideology which promotes the exclusivity of Jews in Israel over any other racial, religious or ethnic group. Zionism, by definition, is racism. Israel, with the full support and funding of the United States, flagrantly violates international law and engages in the systematic ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Palestinian people as well as in the establishment of an apartheid system, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but in Israel proper. The illegal colonization of Palestinian lands is an international crime and a model of institutionalized racism which is without equal any where in the world in that it is so widely ignored and even encouraged by the majority of so-called civilized nations. More importantly, what is largely forgotten in the little discussion there is of illegal settlement activities being practiced by Israel, is that the settlements themselves are racially exclusive. Jews only need apply. Palestinians aren’t even allowed to drive on the same roads as the Israelis in the Palestinians’ own territory. I wonder how Mr. Obama would respond if Canada decided to build huge whites-only cities in U.S. territory. I wonder if he would be willing to refrain from driving on a series of Canadians-only roads connecting those illegal colonies. It would only be a security precaution, after all, and Canada is such a stalwart ally or ours.

But, at least, Obama is clear-headed, even-handed, and open-minded enough to know that Israel has absolutely no role in Middle East affairs or the ever increasing drive toward Western militarism, colonialism, occuaption, and imperialism in the region.

Oh wait, I know I know! What made me turn the corner on the Obama campaign must have been his universally (read: corrupt media and historically unaware American public) lauded race speech, entitled “A More Perfect Union,” delivered on March 18, 2008 in, Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. How fitting. Barack really brought the ol’ house down with this one. He fully denounced Rev. Wright’s lucid and very true comments about American racism and foreign policy blowback, stating that his pastor expresses “a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with American above all that we know is right with America.” Words like this inspire me (even though it’s curious that Obama has not felt the need to distance himself from Martin Luther King, Jr., who, as William Blum reminds us, “vehemently denounced the Vietnam War and called the United States ‘the most violent nation in the world.'”) I am very glad I don’t have to feel bad about this country’s systematic racism, even though, as Paul Street writes,

Sorry, but white racism is in fact endemic in the United States, even if the U.S. has stopped being what Wright calls (in one of the clips circulated by presumed Obama enemies) “the US of KKK.” As Obama certainly knows quite well, anti-black racism is deeply rooted in how U.S. real estate and labor markets operate, how the U.S. education system functions, how home mortgages are marketed, how credit is extended, how the U.S. criminal justice system works, how economic development is directed, how health care is structured, and much more. There’s a vast body of research (I have produced some of it) showing persistent systematic anti-black discrimination and bias in the schooling, feeding, training, hiring, promoting/demoting, healing, insuring, serving, reporting, patrolling, monitoring, arresting, sentencing, incarcerating, transporting, empowering, representing, funding, evaluating, assisting, analyzing, judging, televising, praising, punishing, rewarding, shaming. birthing, killing, and burying of the American people. Multidimensional institutional and societal racism remains deeply woven into the fabric of the nation’s institutions and daily life.What Obama really means to say is that many, maybe most white folks no longer see it as politically correct to be openly race-prejudiced in the U.S. He also means to convey that white America is now much less consciously and intentionally racist than it used to be.

And that’s good enough for me. I’ve always been a fan of letting injustice off easy and finally I have a candidate that allows me to feel good about that trait of mine. I can finally be proud to live in a land where the “hope” and “change” candidate for president can say, with a straight face, “I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies.”

Dissent truly is over-rated and because of this, I stand with Obama. I stand with Obama now and I stand with Obama until midnight tonight, at which point April Fools Day will be over and I can go back to having the slightest bit of self-respect, morality, and good judgment.

Barack, I’m not fooled. But it’s good for you that everyone else is.

*****

To Live and Let Lie: Brain Washing and Iran Bashing

March 29, 2008


“They’ve [Iran] declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people – some in the Middle East. And that’s unacceptable to the United States, and it’s unacceptable to the world.”
– George W. Bush

“Obviously, [Iran is] also heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons grade levels.”
– Dick Cheney

“[It is] common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”
– John McCain


 

“The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone [in Baghdad] yesterday, for example…were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets.”
– David Petraeus

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
– Joseph Goebbels

What is really horrifying about the above quotes is the fact that only Goebbels is telling the truth.

In the week surrounding the fifth anniversary of the illegal US invasion of Iraq, it seemed like the Bush administration (its lapdogs and successors included) could talk of only one thing: Iran. Redirecting the focus from one disastrous occupation to the next ill-conceived invasion was the clear game plan of the Cheney gang. They trotted out all the greatest hits: devious nuclear ambitions, the threat to our beloved Israel, Iraqi insurgents doing Iran’s violent bidding, and even a new one by Senator John McCain that made him sound like he spent five and a half years inside Paris Hilton, rather than the Hanoi Hilton. In the short span of two days, McCain repeated the erroneous claim that Iran has been training Sunni “insurgents” four different times, exposing his deliberate conflation of two completely separate (and disparate entities, his apparently dazzling stupidity and accelerating descent into the dark abyss of senility, and his deep misunderstanding of even US-based propaganda. Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report explains,

When John McCain got confused yesterday [March 18, 2008] about Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda, his campaign issued a statement insisting that McCain “misspoke and immediately corrected himself.”The explanation is far less plausible when McCain makes the same mistake and pushes the same bogus argument four times in two days.

This time, in a statement from his campaign honoring the fifth year anniversary of the war, McCain wrote:

“Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism. The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable. Al Qaeda and Shia extremists — with support from external powers such as Iran — are on the run but not defeated.”

For those keeping score at home, McCain 1) made the claim on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show; 2) repeated the claim at a press conference in Jordan; 3) repeated the claim again at the same event (before Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear that he was wrong); and 4) in a written statement. He “misspoke”? Hardly.

This guy is a serious contender for President of the United States? Yup, sure is. And he’ll probably win, too, considering Hillary and Obama are busy tearing each other apart and doing Karl Rove’s job for him. Clearly, foreign policy is not McCain’s forte (I think, however, cruise-ship shuffleboard and Brylcreem comb overs are), despite what he and his friends might say. With the repetition of these definitely false statements regarding any sort of relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran, McCain fully conflates the two opposing sides of the Iraqi civil war, Shiite and Sunni, into one single anti-American entity (possibly led by Jeremiah Wright?) with the same deft logic that Rainier Wolfcastle’s character McBain employs when battling against “Commie-Nazis.”

But McCain is just one of many idiots determined to demonize and proliferate lies about Iran in the hopes of starting another armed conflict in the Middle East. On March 20, Bush said that Iran had publicly and openly declared its nefarious nuclear intentions, despite basic common sense and all evidence to the contrary. The statement is just plain wrong. It is patently untrue. Bush claimed,

“The problem is the (Iranian) government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because one, they’ve hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now. Who knows?”

We know. Anyone who’s researched, written, or read the CliffsNotes of the recent NIE report knows. So why doesn’t Bush know? He does. He’s just too busy lying to care. Robin Wright, writing for the Washington Post, clarifies,

Experts on Iran and nuclear proliferation said the president’s statement was wrong. “That’s as uninformed as [Sen. John] McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true. It’s a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran,” said Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.Others said it is unclear whether the president believes what he said or was deliberately distorting Iran’s position.

“The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon. There’s plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions. But it’s troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country,” said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the State Department until last year and now at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center.

And so, with the help of General David Petraeus’ claims last week that Iran was behind the missile attack on Baghdad’s US-controlled health spa known as the Green Zone (single shred of proof notwithstanding), the American public continues to be fed lie after lie after lie about Iran. In fact, with its systematic policy of containment and sanctions, and now officially with the March 20th announcement by the US Treasury’s FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), the US is already technically at war with Iran. Tokyo-based economic and financial analyst John McGlynn states that the US “has declared two acts of war: one against Iran’s banks and one against any financial institution anywhere in the world that tries to do business with an Iranian bank.” He explains,

To summarize to this point: (1) the March 20 advisory represents a US declaration of war by sanctions on Iran and a sanctions threat to the international banking community, (2) the US has various unilateral financial sanctions measures at its command in the form of executive orders and Patriot Act Section 311 and (3) the BDA-North Korea sanctions were, at least in retrospect, a test run for Iran.If the US succeeds, an international quarantine on Iran’s banks would disrupt Iran’s financial linkages with the world by blocking its ability to process cross-border payments for goods and services exported and imported. Without those linkages Iran is unlikely to be able to engage in global trade and commerce. As 30% of Iran’s GDP in 2005 was imports of goods and services and 20% was non-oil exports (World Bank and other data), a large chunk of Iran’s economy would shrivel up. The repercussions will be painful and extend well beyond lost business and profits. For example, treating curable illnesses will become difficult. According to an Iranian health ministry official, Iran produces 95% of its own medicines but most pharmaceutical-related raw materials are imported.

What can be done about this? Well, for one, learning the facts rather than believing state-spouted and media-parroted nonsense is a good start. But, other than that, there is one clear cut way to stop the bellicose rhetoric and put an end to the tyrannical and genocidal reign of terror of the past seven years (and it’s not by electing one of three new nightmares, each of whom is determined to pursue the same belligerent policies). The answer is simple: Impeachment.

If you roll your eyes at the mere mention of the word, it just goes to show how deeply indoctrinated we all have become to letting aggressive imperialism proceed unabashedly, unashamedly, and unchecked. The men running and ruining the world are criminals in the truest sense of the word and on a scale unprecedented in US history. Ralph Nader and George McGovern seem to understand this. Obama and Clinton, not so much. If you don’t know what impeachment is really for, familiarize yourself with Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution. (Spoiler: It doesn’t mention blowjobs.)

*****

The West vs. Iran:A Simple Story of Good vs. Evil?Karel Beckman | 17 March 2008

It does not take much expertise to understand that the current tightness of the oil market is in large part due to the situation in Iran and Iraq. As is well-known, Iran and Iraq have the highest proven oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. Iran also has the highest proven natural gas reserves after Russia. But oil and gas production in both countries remains far behind their capacities. The case of Iraq is too well-known to require elaboration. But Iran also produces much less oil and gas than it could. The main reasons are the U.S.-led sanctions regime and the international economic boycott of Iran.

The consequences for the Iranian energy industry have been devastating. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) observes [.pdf], Iran’s oil production has declined from 6 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil in 1974 to 3.8 million BPD in 2006. “Iran’s oil fields need structural upgrades including enhanced oil recovery (EOR) efforts such as natural gas injection,” states the EIA. “Iran’s fields have a natural annual decline rate estimated at 8 percent onshore and 10 percent offshore, while current Iranian recovery rates are 24-27 percent, 10 percent less than the world average. It is estimated that 400,000-500,000 bbl/d of crude production is lost annually due to reservoir damage and decreases in existing oil deposits.” The Iranian government aims to boost its oil production to 5 million BPD, but the EIA does not believe a production increase will happen at least through 2012. As the agency notes, to increase its production, “Iran will need foreign help.” In natural gas the situation is in many ways even worse. More than 60 percent of Iranian proven natural gas reserves have not been developed. Iran hardly exports any gas at all.

Of course, the Iranian government also bears responsibility for the abject state of the oil industry. Since hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, investment conditions for private foreign companies have worsened. The Iranian policy of keeping out Western companies is, in fact, the mirror image of the Western policy of sanctions. Both policies seriously hamper Iranian economic development. To break this deadlock, what the West needs to do is to stop treating Iran as its worst enemy, put an end to sanctions, and instead encourage business and political relations as much as possible. That way the position of the hardliners inside Iran would be undermined and the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East would be greatly enhanced.

Ending Tyranny

Such a policy of “détente” is exactly the opposite of current Western policy toward Iran. Although the threat of U.S. military action has receded, the American government remains on a collision course with Iran. It has repeatedly said that “nothing is off the table.” The Democratic opposition in Congress fully supports this confrontation policy, as does the EU. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has even upped the ante recently by saying that the U.S.-Iranian “standoff” is “the world’s greatest crisis” and that the world is confronted with a “catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.”

The U.S. and Europe continue to insist that Iran end its uranium enrichment program, which they claim is part of an Iranian plan to develop an atomic bomb. They have persuaded the Security Council of the United Nations to join in this demand. Iran refuses to give up enrichment. The fact is that Iran is acting within its rights. It is entitled under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue enrichment of uranium. The NPT requires that member countries cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose task it is to see to it that their nuclear projects are used for peaceful purposes only. Iran does so, and the IAEA has repeatedly stated that it has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. There is thus no legal basis for instituting sanctions against Iran, as the Security Council has done – let alone for tightening these sanctions or taking military action against Iran.

Indeed, it is not Iran but rather the U.S. that is acting in violation of the NPT. The treaty requires the owners of nuclear weapons to assist the other signatories in developing their own peaceful nuclear energy programs. In fact, the U.S. is boycotting Iran and is supporting three countries – India, Pakistan, and Israel – that have developed atomic bombs while opting out of the NPT. These three countries surround Iran. The NPT also requires the U.S. and other signatories to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Instead, the Bush administration is modernizing and expanding the American nuclear arsenal. As of the year 2000, the U.S. nuclear arsenal comprised 5,400 multiple-megaton warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers, a further 1,670 “tactical” nuclear weapons, plus some 10,000 nuclear warheads stored in bunkers (Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire, 2004, p. 64).

Many argue that Iran is a special case. It is not considered a “normal” country, because it is supposedly run by a bunch of mad, fanatical mullahs who would not hesitate dropping an atomic bomb if they had one. This image of Iran is apparent in the rhetoric employed by Western leaders. Bush has said that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” and that Iran is “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has claimed that Iran is “the greatest enemy of peace in the world.” In a speech he made in several Gulf countries, Blair said that the world is engaged “in a monumental struggle between those who believe in democracy and moderation, and forces of reaction and extremism.” In this epic contest, Iran is ideological enemy number one, Blair stated. Public opinion in Western countries largely seems to have accepted this view of the Iranian regime as evil, irrational, and unpredictable.

World Peace

How “evil” is Iran really? Although Tony Blair does not acknowledge it, Iran is a democracy, of sorts, whereas the Gulf states that are supported militarily and politically by the U.S. and the UK, not to mention Saudi Arabia, are not. Iran is hardly a perfect democracy; its unelected clergy are in many ways the ones who rule the country. The Iranian government also frequently tramples on human rights: it violates freedom of speech, imprisons people for their views, and does not allow many social freedoms that we take for granted. Such evils should be opposed, of course. But the same can be said of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China, yet those countries escape being labeled part of the “axis of evil.” Iranians also have the freedom to move in and out of their country and interact with people abroad, with not too many restrictions. For these reasons alone, Iran can by no stretch of the imagination be called a totalitarian country.

More to the point is that Iran cannot credibly be called a threat to “world peace.” The Iranian regime has never invaded another country, initiated a war, or tried to impose its rule by military means on other nations. It is equally false to claim, as President Bush has done, that Iran “is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” Iran has always opposed al-Qaeda, it does not sponsor terrorist acts in Western countries, and it has never supported the Taliban, even though Bush has claimed that it does. Iran does support Hezbollah and Hamas, but these are groups that fight against what they believe to be the repressive policies of Israel.

Military-Industrial Complex

Conversely, we may ask, how “good” is the United States really? Is the U.S. a force for “moderation and democracy” in the world? Unfortunately, the historical record does not bear this out. Since the end of World War Two, the U.S. has supported dozens of murderous dictators both financially and militarily: for example, Joseph Mobutu of Zaire, Augusto Pinochet of Chili, Suharto of Indonesia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, the shah of Iran, Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, and dictatorships in Greece, Portugal, Pakistan, Egypt, and many other countries. In 1954 the CIA sabotaged the elected government in Guatemala. The U.S. invaded Panama in 1989, killing 3,000 to 4,000 civilians. It trained and supported death squads in El Salvador. It supported the Taliban, brought the Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq, and sold material for chemical weapons to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Why has U.S. foreign policy been so much at odds with the high-minded moral ideals touted by its leaders? In my view, this must be ascribed to the fact that within the U.S. a huge military-industrial-bureaucratic complex has come into existence over the last decades, fed by hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, which has created a policy dynamic of its own, based on its own financial and political interests rather than on any “democratic” ideals. This complex has seriously corrupted the American political system, the one having become so intertwined with the other that its ruling elites effortlessly job-hop back and forth. To give one example, as former CIA officer Philip Giraldi pointed out last year, “at least 43 former employees, board members, or advisers for defense contractors are currently serving or have recently served in policy-making positions in the Bush administration.” To mention just a few examples, former undersecretary of defense and World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz worked as a consultant for Northrop Grumman, maker of the B2 bomber and other weapon systems; Gordon England, former secretary of the Navy, was executive vice president at General Dynamics, producer of the Abrams tank and the Trident submarine; former secretary of state Colin Powell served on the board of Gulfstream Aerospace, a weapons supplier to Kuwait and other Gulf states; Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, sat on the board of arms producer Lockheed; and Powell A. Moore, former assistant secretary of defense, was vice president for legislative affairs at Lockheed. American military contractors not only fund politicians on a grand scale, they also give financial support to universities, research institutions, and the media. In many cases they own television networks, film studios, newspapers, and so on. When similar connections are observed in Russia, Western commentators are quick to point out the “corruption” of the Russian system, but they ignore the same situation in the U.S.

The U.S. military-industrial-bureaucratic complex is not confined to the borders of the United States. As historian Chalmers Johnson has documented, the U.S. has over the last decades created a worldwide “empire of military bases.” “Not including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts,” Johnson writes, “we now station over half a million U.S. troops, spies, contractors, dependents, and others on military bases located in more than 130 countries, many of them presided over by dictatorial regimes that have given their citizens no say in the decision to let us in.” The U.S. seems to have fallen into the trap that former U.S. president and Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his famous, prophetic farewell speech in 1961, in which he coined the term “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower warned that the U.S. “must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex.”

Coup D’Etat

When it comes to Iran, the U.S. and the UK have never shown any interest in supporting “freedom” and “democracy.” Since the start of the century, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP, had an exclusive concession to Iranian oil. In 1947, Iranian oil workers went on strike against the atrocious conditions under which they had to work (no vacation, no sick leave, no disability compensation, no electricity, no running water). The British broke the strike by force, leaving dozens of strikers dead. The Iranian parliament then called for the renegotiation of the concession – a proposal promoted by the highly popular politician Mohammed Mossadegh. As the company resisted tooth and nail and tensions rose, the Iranian parliament in 1951 approved a new proposal by Mossadegh, who was soon elected prime minister by the parliament, to nationalize the oil assets. The shah, Reza Pahlavi, felt he had no choice but to sign the bill into law. The British reacted by organizing a boycott of Western oil companies against Iran, which led to a severe economic crisis. Then, Britain, with the encouragement of elderly statesman Winston Churchill, engineered a coup d’etat against Mossadegh in 1952, which failed. At that time Iran was still looking for support from the United States, where Mossadegh was a highly popular figure. (In 1951 Mossadegh had been declared “Man of the Year” by Time magazine!) When Eisenhower became president in 1952, the British managed to convince the Americans to support them. In a joint British-American coup organized by the CIA in 1953, Mossadegh was ousted and jailed. The exiled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was brought back to Iran. He immediately went on to brutally repress his political opponents, sentencing hundreds of Mossadegh’s supporters to death. As oil historian and Eni strategist Leonardo Maugeri observes in his new book, The Age of Oil, “A dictatorial regime then replaced the only democratic and – paradoxically – Western-oriented experience Iran would ever know.”

For the next 25 years the U.S. faithfully supported the regime of the shah, who was no force for “democracy and moderation.” The shah’s Savak, notes British Middle Eastern expert and veteran journalist Robert Fisk, was the most notorious and murderous secret police force in the Middle East – “its torture chambers among the Middle East’s most terrible institutions.” None of this mattered to the U.S. and other Western countries, since the shah, as Fisk notes, was “the guardian of our oil – during his regime, international oil companies exported 24 billion barrels of oil out of Iran.” U.S. support for the shah was so strong that “a permanent secret U.S. mission was attached to Savak headquarters,” where the tortures took place. Ironically, in view of the current nuclear conflict with Iran, the U.S. in those days did its best to push nuclear power stations upon the shah. The shah’s nuclear ambitions were aborted only when the Iranian people rose up against his regime in 1979.

The story of American wrongs against Iran does not end there. A year after the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The Reagan administration decided immediately “to do whatever was necessary and legal” to prevent Iraq from losing the war. The U.S. gave $5.5 billion in “loans” to Saddam to buy arms. Shipments from the U.S. and other Western countries to Iraq included bacterial cultures to make weapons-grade anthrax (The Sorrows of Empire, pp. 223-224). In 1984, the president’s special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, visited Baghdad to show his support for Saddam. When Saddam carried out his infamous mass murder of the Kurds in Halabja on March 16, 1988, with Western-supplied chemical weapons, the American government incredibly put the blame on Iran (see A Poisonous Affair by Joost Hiltermann). The Iranians by that time had complained to the UN Security Council many times about the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iranian troops, but the Council did not see fit to condemn Saddam.

Rebellious Province

The current conflict – the U.S.-Iranian standoff, as Sarkozy has it – cannot be understood without reference to this historical context. On the one hand, Iran is what it is today in large part as a result of Western policies: the Iranian people turned to radical Islam as a liberating force because the so-called forces for moderation and democracy supported the tyranny of the shah; they turned to socialism and state intervention as the result of abuses and exploitation by Western oil companies.

On the other hand, the U.S. singles out Iran as a “force of evil” not because it has, in fact, such an evil regime, but because Iran refuses to subject itself to American military, political, and economic interests – because it resists America’s striving for world hegemony. With a bit of exaggeration Iran might be called a rebellious province of the U.S. global empire. As a Shi’ite, Persian nation, Iran is also of course a threat to the regional hegemony of America’s most important ally, Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab Gulf states.

Clearly there is no moral or historical justification for the current U.S. and Western policy of confrontation toward Iran. What is more, it is counterproductive. It favors the hard-liners and extremists inside Iran and makes it difficult for pro-Western voices to be heard. What should be done is to reverse this policy. The EU in particular should take the lead in ending all sanctions against Iran and welcoming that country back into the international community. This would give moderate forces inside Iran a great boost. Then, who knows? “Regime change” might come about after all – peacefully, and by the Iranian people’s own choice. The threat of nuclear war would disappear, and the world would be a safer, better place – with more oil and gas to boot.

This piece originally appeared in the European Energy Review.

*****

Five Years

March 21, 2008

Pushing thru the market square,
so many mothers sighing
News had just come over,
we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us,
earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet,
then I knew he was not lying

– Five Years by David Bowie, 1972

If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had been born the day the United States began illegally bombing Iraq, he’d have already composed his Andante and Allegro in C by now. Then again, were he born in Iraq five years ago, chances are he’d be an orphaned refugee by now. Or, quite possibly, would have already been slaughtered by US troops or Blackwater employees eager to spread freedom with automatic weaponry.

There is so much to say and still no way to say enough. I urge everyone to familiarize yourselves with the Iraq Veterans Against the War project, Winter Solider. The project features testimonies from US soldiers who have served in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and have come home to give an “accurate account of what is really happening day in day out, on the ground.” These courageous men and women are truly heroes.

Below is the Winter Solider preview video. Please go here to watch the numerous tragic and heartbreaking testimonies.

*****

The Difference Between Wright and Wrong

March 17, 2008

With the revelation of a number of videos showing “controversial” sermons made by Barack Obama’s good friend, spiritual mentor, and African American Religious Leadership Committee adviser, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the American lack of self-awareness was once again revealed in all its shameful and embarrassing glory.

It has been made very clear, time and time again, that outspoken and incendiary voices are not to be tolerated in the democratic presidential process (save for the bigoted views of your average Huckabees, Thompsons, Romneys, and McCains, with the added endorsements of serial racist and chronic hate-spewer John Hagee), and with the recent dismissal of Samantha Power from the Obama campaign and Geraldine Ferraro from the Clinton team, we can see how this process seems to mandate a playing field where everyone pretends to be respectful of one another and no one actually says anything important or substantial. The candidates themselves are supposed to remain judicious with their viewpoints and not stray too far (if at all) from an Americocentric vision of the world. Statements regarding the illegal invasion of Iraq are allowed, but must not ever include such crazy and anti-US words like “illegal” or “invasion.” It’s always a “war” and it was always just and right and correct to murder well over a million Iraqis (over eight-hundred thousand deaths have been reported and documented, though the actual numbers are substantially higher), displace about 5 million from their homes, and wound millions more. These figures continue to grow every day and are seldom, if ever, mentioned.

No no, it is the troops that need our help and care and who deserve a safe return from the killing fields. It is only the deaths of American soldiers and lack of safety for Western ‘diplomats’ that has turned Americans (and their representative politicians) against the 2003 invasion. Absolutely nowhere on either Clinton or Obama‘s sites (I didn’t bother to check McCain’s) are the words “Iraqi casualties” mentioned and only Obama even refers to America’s “moral and security responsibility to confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis” of its millions of refugees (the result of American invasion and occupation). Basically, American deaths are sad and terrible and wrong and therefore should stop, but Iraqi deaths seem not to register in any way within the consciousness of our supposed leaders (or the general public for that matter).

It is with this mentality that any comment critical of America is viewed as treasonous, inflammatory, and downright evil by the mainstream media, the misinformed (i.e. average) voter, and the brainwashed hysteric (see: Bible Belt resident). Critique of the American system, awareness of its historic inequities, and knowledge of its past century of aggressively imperial foreign policy is not only looked down on by the American public, any mere mention of these issues are shunned and the speaker ostracized. Obviously, as it stands, America can do no wrong. Whatever else happens in this world, America remains altruistic, honorably noble, and a protector of freedom. The United States is, in the eyes, minds, and hearts of its inhabitants, a beacon of justice and liberty. A shining “city upon a hill,” as John Winthrop put it. Essentially, America finds itself much like a young Indiana Jones, alone and without help, clutching the stolen Cross of Coronado, and shouting idly for any sign of his compatriots in a desolate Monument Valley. Upon hearing no reply, Indy, and America too, calmly concedes without the slightest hint of irony, “Everybody’s lost but me.”

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke the truth quite often during his sermons in years past. He spoke passionately about the injustice for African-Americans in this country as well as about less domestic issues regarding the United States’ drive for hegemony across the globe. The recent publicity of some of his less complacent statements has signaled his ridicule in the media and public domain and his immediate abandonment by Barack Obama. Apparently, American feelings are too important to be riled up by silly things such as the “truth” and “historical awareness.” We Americans are far too sensitive about how great we are that calling us out on our dastardly deeds and complete complicity in the current state of the world and injustice done unto others on a constant basis (and paid for with our hard work and tax dollars) is always frowned upon. The lesson is: If you wish to voice dissent, please do it as quietly and dispassionately as possible; that way, you’re easier to ignore while we heat up some more HotPockets and watch America’s Next Top Fluffer.

On one occasion in 2003, reported on ABC News, Rev. Wright repudiated the United States for its unfair treatment of black people, stating,

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

I find nothing incorrect, dubious, or vile in any of these statements. Anyone who knows anything about the racial inequities in America would conclude the same thing. Alas, panic set in to the Obama campaign with the release of this news, and immediately distanced itself from the pastor by denouncing his accurate views as “inflammatory rhetoric.” Meanwhile, it is Rev. Wright who has been speaking the truth and who has revealed himself as far more cognizant than his presidential candidate disciple of American imperial blowback. A mere six days after the events of September 11, 2001, Rev. Wright was preaching from the pulpit about the root causes of anti-imperial backlashes, stating in full clarity of vision,

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

Now, for Wright to say these things to his congregation does not make him anti-American in as much as criticizing Zionism is in no way promoting anti-Semitism. He is simply aware of real historic factors that play a large part in America’s dealing with the world as a whole and its own citizens at home. Wright is not anti-American. He doesn’t speak out against people, but against governmental, military, and socio-economic practices that harm people, people that may or may not be American. He questions American policies here and abroad and preaches a social gospel that informs his followers of a reality that truly cannot be compared with the blind racism and ethnocentrism found in most Southern, white megachurches. In short, Wright is not wrong.

And yet again, Barack Obama can be counted on to show his complete lack of dignity and spine by feeling compelled to “vehemently disagree” and “strongly condemn” his pastor’s statements, adding in an article for the Huffington Post, “I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies.” How can anyone who is supposed to be the champion of international diplomacy claim that anything negative said about the United States must be ignored and blown off as absurd? This country has problems! Serious problems! And turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to the discussion of such issues is patently unacceptable.

Obama countered Wright’s 9/11 statements with this cute bit of American idolatry and total absence of historical insight, “The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification…It sounds like he (Rev. Wright] was trying to be provocative.”

Indeed, we truly are in deep, deep trouble regardless of who winds up winning the presidency come November.

If You Won’t Bomb Iran for Us,We’ll Find Someone Else Who Will:The Early Retirement of Admiral Fallon

March 14, 2008

The ebb and flow of this country’s attention span and awareness of certain issues, directly controlled by the mass media’s ‘wash-rinse-repeat’ tactics, is no more apparent than when considering news coverage of the potential (possible? probable? inevitable?) US attack on Iran.

For a long time, we were told repeatedly that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was a lunatic fanatic with his finger on the proverbial button, inciting anti-American and anti-Israeli violence across the globe. Ok, so that wasn’t at all true. Then we heard that Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called to physically destroy Israel. Again, not true (though both of those lies still accompany each and every mention of the Iranian President in the US and Israeli media – in fact, it seems to have become somewhat of a epithet). Then there were British hostages. Nonsense. Then baseless and proofless accusations of Iranian IEDs being used in Iraq to harm our benevolent, civilian-killing, foreign country-occupying US soldiers. Then bogus claims of a nuclear weapons program, followed by two (now three) sets of US-bullied UN Security Council sanctions. Then came the NIE report, discrediting the allegations of Iranian weaponization of nuclear energy, so there was a trumped up speed boat incident in the Strait of Hormuz (damn you, Filipino Monkey!).

After the third set of UN sanctions, Iran continues to pursue its wholly legal right to achieve nuclear energy and does so while unveiling the utter hypocrisy of Security Council actions and exposing the true source of trouble in this world. Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament on March 5th, not only called for “a special committee for total nuclear disarmament” but stated:

Developing military doctrines based on preemptive attacks and imposing illegal sanctions clearly contradict the terms of the UN charter…Today, the international community is deeply concerned about the production of thousands of nuclear warheads at the arsenals of some nuclear countries.

Imposing illegal and unjustifiable sanctions against other countries, using international organizations for serving the interests of certain powers, making baseless accusations against other countries under the pretext of alleged concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, distorting reality to accuse other countries of breaking disarmament agreements, and misleading public opinion [have worried the global society].

Today, having veto power and possessing nuclear weapons have become a means of bargaining for the illegitimate rights of some powers.

Of course, this speech was not reported on in any way in the US media. A foreign official speaking the truth…a truth that contradicts the lies of the American government? An Iranian suggesting universal disarmament…an act that would include the US and Israel (and the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea)? Naturally, that can’t be reported here. As far as we are led to believe, all Iranians must be busy at work, hunched over thousands of their own spinning centerfuges, eagerly rubbing their hands together, and salivating over the possibility of World War III. In this absurd Strangelovean fantasy, the Iranians in question (which is all of them) are most likely wearing burkas or turbans (or both?), carrying AK-14s, and speaking Arabic…all because Americans are pretty stupid.

Still, the US public opinion seems to be generally against attacking Iran for no reason other than further imperialism and US/Israeli hegemony, despite all three remaining presidential candidates keeping the Iranian demonization machine in full throttle, and as a result the issue of bombing Iran has dropped out of the new for a little while. So, with everyone’s attentions preoccupied with pictures of Obama dressed like a Hibachi chef, the fact that Roger Clemens has never heard the word vegan, dutifully ignoring the Israeli murders of over a hundred and fifty Palestinians, and now focusing squarely on Ashley Dupre’s MySpace and Facebook pages, the Bush administration has moved one step closer to attacking Iran by removing, what appeared to be, the highest-ranking obstacle to their sinister plans.

A lot of hubbub has surrounded the early retirement of Admiral William Fallon, the top military official of United States Central Command in the Middle East, this week. The claims that Fallon was forced to retire from active service due to his previous statements regarding his preferred avoidance of war with Iran, which many see as directly at odds with the aggressive military policies of his commander-in-chief, seem well-founded regardless of what the Washington spinbots are trying to say. Fallon first attracted attention when asked about a potential US attack on Iran, by stating, “Not on my watch” and by opposing the troop “surge” in Iraq. Since then he has urged straightforward diplomacy with the Iranian government, which is obviously a serious threat to Bush’s bellicose dreams. A recent article in Esquire, written by former professor at the Naval War College and ex-Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett, further exposed Fallon’s dissenting beliefs on Middle East military plans and, in the piece’s opening lines, placed the Admiral at the forefront of US policies in the region:

If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance.

The article continues to place Fallon and the Bush cabal at odds and is eerily prescient of what quickly followed the piece’s publication:

So while Admiral Fallon’s boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century’s Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it’s left to Fallon — and apparently Fallon alone — to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: “This constant drumbeat of conflict…is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

What America needs, Fallon says, is a “combination of strength and willingness to engage.”

Those are fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to “nuclear holocaust.”

How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?

The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.

Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.

Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don’t want a commander standing in their way.

Apparently, this article cast too much doubt on Fallon’s willingness to launch an unprovoked attacked on Iran, and as a result he was swiftly and effectively removed from his post (though this reasoning is obviously denied by the White House as are the allegations that the US is furiously planning for an attack). Naturally, a high-ranking commander who urges “restraint and diplomacy” when dealing with a country with which the Bush administration is obviously intent on picking a military fight, is not long for this world.

Journalist Mark Thompson, in his article for Time, while believing that Fallon’s ‘retirement’ was due wholly to the incompatability of his views with those of the administration that signed his paychecks, ends the piece with somewhat of an optimistic coda to the story:

The betting inside the Pentagon is that despite Fallon’s departure, war with Iran is no more likely next month than it was last month. The U.S. military, its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, could only engage in an air war against Iran’s nuclear sites. The ramifications of attacking a third Muslim nation since 9/11 are so extreme, military officers believe, that no President would launch such a war in his final months in office.

I wonder when any ramifications and rationale have ever made their way into the previous decisions of the Bush administration and if an attack on Iran is truly out of the question, now or in the future (judging from the rhetoric of McCain, Clinton, and Obama).

As the Esquire piece itself asks, “Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?” The answer, unfortunately as always, is clear.

*****

Iran Crisis Nearing Climax

By Bill and Kathleen Christison

Time after time we have heard statements from Israeli officials, spokesmen of the Israel lobby in the U.S., and Israel’s supporters in Congress that Iran “must” never obtain nuclear weapons. On March 3, 2008, all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus nine of the ten non-permanent members approved a new round of sanctions against Iran. Chalk up the final vote of 14-0 with one abstention (the Muslim nation of Indonesia) as another victory at the U.N. for the Israel-U.S. partnership.

The spectacle of the five “permanents” in the antiquated Security Council hierarchy — all of whom refuse to eliminate their own nuclear weapons — adopting a double standard with respect to Iran does not, of course, raise more than a peep in the mainstream media of the U.S. Iran, a nation of proud people in a neighborhood of proud peoples, sees only absurdity in the discrimination against it when the nearby nations of India, Pakistan, and Israel have all developed their own nuclear weapons without the U.S. stopping them. Israel’s nuclear weapons program particularly sticks in the Iranian craw, because Iranians know that Israel, an enemy but a far smaller country, acquired nuclear weapons over 40 years ago, considerably earlier than either India or Pakistan. Most Iranians also know that Israel accomplished this only with public and/or private aid from the U.S. It’s all seen as just one more example of the U.S. favoring Israel and picking on Iran.

The issue of the moment is not even actual production of nuclear weapons by Iran, but the “enrichment” of natural uranium so that it contains a higher percentage of one particular uranium isotope, U-235, than is found in nature when the ore called “uranium” is first mined. Such enrichment provides the single most-difficult-to-obtain product used in most nuclear weapons. (In the natural state, the raw ore contains other uranium isotopes as well, and usually has by volume less than one percent U-235. When concentrated to around three percent U-235, the product is widely used in common forms of nuclear power reactors. When concentrated to much higher levels — 90 percent is the figure often cited — the product becomes the “weapons-grade” material used in nuclear weapons. The equipment used in this “enrichment” process is not only complicated to build, manage and maintain; it also requires large amounts of electric power to operate. But all of this is within the capabilities of numerous nations and, probably increasingly, some subnational groups as well.)

Iran now possesses, has tested, and is using all the equipment required, and it has the necessary electric power, to produce enriched uranium. It claims it has already reached an enrichment level of around four percent U-235 in early tests. It also claims that it does not want nuclear weapons and will use the enriched uranium only to produce larger amounts of electric power for the nation in a series of nuclear power plants. But if one chooses to believe that Iran really wants nuclear weapons, another element comes into the equation: the ease with which an enrichment operation can be converted to produce weapons-grade uranium. Various Western experts commonly believe that if a nation or group is capable of going from less than one percent to a three or four percent enrichment level, then the technical difficulties of moving from three or four to 90 percent enrichment are not at all major.

The actual design and manufacture of the explosive device, and then of a deliverable weapon, would not be a simple task, but neither would it be terribly difficult. Precise estimates of the time the entire process might take are generally useless. There are too many variables. All such estimates depend heavily on the types of delivery systems available, the degree of targeting accuracy demanded, and the redundancy, or lack, of safety features assumed necessary to prevent unauthorized or accidental use. But for Iran, a simple guess of three or four years probably would be in the ball park.

While the U.S. and other nations demand that Iran cease all production of enriched uranium, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that came into effect in 1970 does not prevent anyone from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. Iran, as already noted, claims that is all it is presently doing, and there is no hard evidence to the contrary. The U.S., however, and most other signatories of the treaty who already possess nuclear weapons have made no serious efforts to work toward global nuclear and general disarmament as called for in the NPT. The treaty, of course, has no timetable or deadlines in it. But the fact that the major powers who signed the treaty have not even begun multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament in 38 years gives Iran a good excuse, if it needs one, to abrogate its participation in the treaty. Some day Iran may do just that. The fact that Israel, India, and Pakistan, who have refused to sign the treaty from the start, have now become known nuclear powers, gives leaders in Teheran yet another excuse to get out of the NPT if it wishes.

While some U.S. empire builders talk about the need to change the global system, the world today is still composed of legally independent states where nationalism is the dominant force underlying relationships among states. In such a world, it is logical to assume that Iranian leaders either already secretly want nuclear weapons or will soon come to want them. They will not indefinitely accept that the smaller state of Israel has any greater right to nuclear weapons than they have. Nor will they even accept that the much larger U.S. has a greater right to such weapons. Short of being forced abjectly to surrender to the U.S.-Israeli partnership, no Iranian government leaders could accept such views.

The possibility of negotiating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East (including Israel), or even, conceivably, a nuclear-free world, is often suggested as the only true final solution to the Middle East’s or the entire globe’s nuclear dilemma. And the people who make such suggestions can often cite polls or surveys showing that a majority of people everywhere support these ideas. The tragedy is that at the moment there is simply not enough trust among the governments of the globe, or even within one region thereof. Take the United States alone, or the U.S.-Israel partnership. It is inconceivable that the present government of either partner would be able even to begin negotiations on eliminating its nuclear weapons, no matter what the possible benefits might be. The same would apply to China, Russia, Britain, France, India, and Pakistan to greater or lesser degrees.

Even in this time of distrust, however, the U.N. should set up a permanent conference of ambassador-level experts on Disarmament and Global Crises. Once it is up and running, spokespeople for this conference should direct public attention on a daily basis to the relationship between arms spending and the three major crises facing the globe — the energy, climate, and water crises that will make it increasingly necessary for the peoples of the world to work together in overcoming the crises and drastically cutting back the outrageous and wasteful military expenditures of too many nations. The immediate task of the conferenceshould be to define areas of agreement and disagreement on disarmament and on the other three issues in different regions of the world. The chairperson should be a very senior U.N. official, and the unusual feature of the conference — its permanence — should receive great emphasis on every public occasion.

It is likely that before long new and unforeseen developments will occur in one or more of the three crises that will intensify thinking among at least some people about the wastefulness of present military spending. Costly new difficulties in any of the three areas might even lead in fairly short order to a rolling snowball of global opposition and disgust over new nuclear spending. No one can foresee how great will be the changes in daily life caused by the three crises but we should, as best we can, work to make the changes add to rather than detract from harmony among the world’s peoples. We should all specifically try to use these crises to encourage everyone to think first as citizens of the world, only second as citizens of a particular nation or region.

But none of this deals with the present — or with the remaining months of Bush’s presidency. Since the present group of Republicans and copycat Democrats in Congress refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney, the danger of a war against Iran instigated by the U.S. and Israel remains real. The overextended state of U.S. ground forces, and Bush’s probable willingness to treat at least small nuclear weapons as ordinary weapons, mean that a war would possibly not be a ground war at all, but would begin with large air attacks and early use of nuclear weapons. While the longer term results of using nuclear weapons would be utterly disastrous, both for the world and for the U.S., the immediate results might be seen as a quick and cheap victory for the U.S. If the apparent military victory occurred before the November 2008 U.S. election, it would probably guarantee a Republican electoral victory. Given Bush’s interest in his own place in history, such a scenario could easily appeal to his gambling instincts.

Noise, and lots of it, seems to be the only weapon we have to make it less likely that such a scenario actually happens. Let’s make that noise, do it globally, and do it every day. Pound out the message through every medium we can access, including music and literature, that ordinary people around the world DO NOT WANT THE U.S. AND ISRAEL TO KILL A SINGLE PERSON IN IRAN, regardless of the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence officer and as director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 35 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

*****

Make War, Not Love:A How-To Guide for Avoiding Impeachment

March 12, 2008

It is truly the evidence of a grim reality and the troubling state of our society when powerful, arrogant, and adulterous men face harsher scrutiny and penalties than those well-known and proven to be, not only the most corrupt, pathologically deceptive and imperialistic, but guilty of the very highest crimes and most treasonous misdemeanors in this nation’s almost 232 years. The latter characters promote bigotry and fear, commit and encourage genocide, torture, and ethnic cleansing, and destroy the civil and human rights of millions of this world’s citizens with impunity and without any sort of retribution, regret, or remorse. The former folks, the ones who cheat on their wives with overweight interns and high-priced hookers, are the ones who get impeached.

With the recent news of New York State governor Eliot Spitzer’s ridiculously boneheaded indiscretions, especially in light of his past efforts to strengthen laws against prostitution with the added bonus of stiffening penalties (pun intended?) for the Johns involved in these escort rackets, the only question I can really raise is this:

Are we to believe that whenever someone with a high level of authority, be it say political or religious, rails adamantly against something, the real message is that he is actually guilty of that very thing he admonishes?

Let’s see here: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Yes, indeed he did. People like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, who notoriously and viciously lash out against homosexuals and same-sex marriage are, in fact, totally gay. Mark Foley, who fought aggressively against child abuse, molestation, and exploitation, was actually a big fan of pedophilia. Does this mean that soon we will all find out that Alan Dershowitz is actually Palestinian? Now, wouldn’t that turn his ethnic-supremacist face red?

If the opposite is often true in regards to the passionate principles of many politicians, does that mean that when George Bush speaks of the ‘War on Terror,’ he’s really aware that he has been waging a war of terror?

Spitzer was warned by New York Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco, earlier this week, that “If he does not resign within the next 24 to 48 hours, we will prepare articles of impeachment to remove him.” And Spitzer resigned today, effective Monday March 17th. These threats of impeachment against a man who betrayed the trust of his family and community by paying (a whole heap of money) for sex, or the actual impeachment process over a sitting president lying about getting a blowjob, seem to signal one thing in American politics: The fist-pumping, hoarse-throated calls for impeachment and resignation are apparently reserved for adulterous and secretive sexual acts committed by elected politicians.

We can put things in official Clue terms to see what’s really going on here:

NY Governor in DC hotel room with a hooker.

vs.

US President in Iraq with an illegal occupying army.

One of these actions is an impeachable offense. The other, it seems, isn’t.

The Benefits of Decimation Over Copulation

This country has far more of a problem with the sexual behavior rather than the imperial behavior of its political leaders. Apparently being a member of the Emperor’s Club VIP is an offense too great to recover from, whereas actually attempting to be an emperor isn’t really that bad. Lying a country into an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation that, a week from today, will enter its sixth year isn’t impeachable. Banging “Kristen,” the prostitution agency’s “petite, pretty brunette,” for $4,300 during a trip to Washington DC on February 13th is impeachable. And yet, throughout all this, impeachment proceedings are nowhere close to being discussed for Dick Cheney and the other architects of the imperialism and genocide committed by this country and the utter destruction of the Constitution over the past seven years by anyone other than perhaps Congressman Robert Wexler.

Obama, Clinton, and McCain can travel around the country talking about maintaining a substantial troop presence (of varying, however minor, degrees depending on who’s speaking) in Iraq, praising the past and ensuring the future decimation of Afghanistan, all with the twinkling-eyed and tittering excitement of a potential bombing of Iran. Obama, our supposed ‘anti-war’ candidate is the one advocating the redistribution of military personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan and has oft-repeated his belief that the invasion of Afghanistan was, in fact, a rational and just decision. None of the three remaining candidates has said, unequivocally, that s/he will refuse to engage militarily with Iran and all have maintained that “all options remain on the table.” But when pressed on his own views about the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, Obama stated that impeachment in their case is ‘unacceptable.’ He elaborated,

“I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president’s authority.”

Did I miss something in the past seven years? Proven lies, countless scandals, the gross neglect of an entire US city’s population after a natural disaster, obstructing justice, sanctioning torture, illegal spying, bombing, invading, and occupying, murdering, fear-mongering, committing grievous war crimes, and threatening to do it all over again apparently aren’t enough to be deemed ‘breaches of executive authority,’ according to someone running for the position of having that exact same authority? Sounds great, at least we’ll know what to expect from the new guard.

Basically, in this glorious nation we call home (whilst trying our best to keep the bile from rising up our gullets as we do so), it is perfectly clear that getting laid by a hooker is worse, far worse, than getting paid by Halliburton. American society must be so desensitized to violence, that waging war on foreigners isn’t seen as that big a deal. But extra-marital affairs?! Oh heavens no! Not from someone we’re supposed to respect! How dare he! Why couldn’t he just be a good boy and murder some Muslims?

No one dies when Eliot Spitzer makes a bad decision to call an escort service. It is a personal tragedy for him and his family, a real way to ruin a good life. But the bad decisions, the aggressive policies, and the active crusades of this past administration have affected the lives of millions, if not billions, of people on this planet and have directly and deliberately killed, wounded, displaced, and destroyed millions more. The obliteration of two countries and continued annihilation of human lives and the destruction of entire families, all due to illegal invasions, seems to me to be a much more punishable offense. If only George Bush had fucked a whore while on one of his alcohol-fueled cocaine binges of yore, this world might just be a safer place today.

Alas, it seems that too much time is spent scrutinizing other people’s handjobs and not enough time examining each other’s bloody palms.

*****

On Gaza, a Yeshiva, and the Opening Shots of the Third Intifada

March 7, 2008

This past week, the world has certainly seen a severe and horrific escalation of violence and brutality in Palestine/Israel. What is most striking to me, though, is how differently the news media reports Israeli deaths in contrast to Palestinian deaths. It should go without saying that any type of murder, from military incursion to machine gun and sniper fire to rubber bullets to air raid bombings to rocket fire to deliberate starvation to suicide attacks and so on, is terrible and deserves international condemnation. The killing of children, women, and men is always a tragedy, whenever and wherever it occurs. What should also been acknowledged, I think, is that certain lives are not more precious than others, despite what the media may lead you to believe.

Last weekend, over 130 Palestinians, about a quarter of whom were children, were killed by Israeli Occupation Force operations in Gaza and finding any real news coverage about it from the mainstream news outlets proved oddly difficult. Later in the week, it appeared that only British news sources even reported on the recent findings that living conditions in Gaza itself has reached a 40-year low, the worst since Israel first occupied the territory in 1967. Then yesterday, a gunman killed eight Israeli students at a school in West Jerusalem and the story has blanketed the network, cable, radio, and print news sources ever since – with big, sprawling headlines rife with cries of “terror” and “carnage” and “savage attack.” Stating that 130 versus 8 is worse isn’t the point. Any single death is awful. As citizens of the world, we should all agree on that. But what should not be ignored, and all too often has been and continues to be, is the fact that Palestinians and Israelis do not live their lives on an equal footing, these are not two even sides that both engage in hostile and violent exchanges, each claiming self-defense and a right to exist. Palestine is an occupied territory. It is occupied by the Israeli army and has been for over forty years. (The actual existence of “Israel” for almost sixty years is another topic altogether, but would only serve to further my point.) Palestinians are currently a population of open-air prison inmates, subject to the will, disdain, discrimination, and violence of the Israeli government and military. To argue that “militants” targeting civilians is more devious and nastier than a uniformed army firing sophisticated missiles into civilian neighborhoods of a besieged and starving refugee camp reveals a bias that is rampant and common in this country today.

As Ali Abunimah, so succinctly puts it,

The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are “terrorism,” while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against “terrorism.” But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.

What is most unfortunate, besides the tragic loss of life, about the recent events at the Mercaz Harav seminary is that, not only will it serve to justify more horrendous attacks by Israel upon Palestinians, but it may wind up being used as a justification for Israel’s militaristic society as a whole. The school itself, located in the Kiryat Moshe quarter of Jerusalem, demonstrates the melding of Israeli nationalism and the Jewish religion than furthers the rampant militarism of Zionist ideals, under the guise of patriotism and piety. The gunman responsible for the eight Israeli deaths yesterday was himself gunned down by students at the school. The fact that students themselves were carrying weapons at a religious seminary speaks to how deep the Zionist synergy of Judaism and soldiery permeates, and quite possibly defines, Israeli society.

(Incidentally, an Arab professor at Sapir College in Sderot was recently dismissed from his job for requesting that a student – who also serves in the Israeli military – not bring his gun to and refrain from wearing his uniform in his class. The situation caused such an uproar that the college president, Zeev Tzahor, wrote to the professor demanding an apology, in which “you must refer to your obligation to be respectful to the IDF uniform and the full right of every student to enter your classroom in uniform.” When Prof. Hassan refused to meet this demand due to his view that all uniforms, be they Israeli, Fatah or Hamas, are symbols of violence and therefore not welcome in his classroom, the college began proceedings to dismiss him. You can read all about this in Jonathan Cook’s article, Academic Freedom? Not for Arabs in Israel.)

Another important piece of information to note is that the Mercaz Harav seminary stands at the very center of the Zionist ideological movement. BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports that “the school is at the heart of the settler movement in the occupied West Bank [which] may have been the reason why it was targeted. Many of its students are on special courses that combine religious study with service in combat units in the Israeli army.”

Judith Norman of Jewish Peace News cogently and concisely articulates the tragedy and context of these recent events:

As has been widely reported, a gunman in Jerusalem opened fire at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva yesterday, killing 8 students (most of them children) and wounding at least 9. At a time like this, there are two different sets responsibilities to the victims: one is to mourn the brutal deaths of these boys and young men. At the same time, we need to work to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, which requires us to understand the context in which this act of terrorism occurred. Failing to understand this atrocity within the overall context of the occupation reinforces the right-wing line that Palestinian violence is motivated simply by anti-Semitism, blood hatred, or Biblical feuds.

Although the gunman’s specific motives are unclear, this killing comes at a moment that the New York Times somewhat delicately describes as a time of “tension”. Israel’s latest attack on Gaza has left over 130 Palestinians dead, half of them civilians. Just yesterday, a 20 day-old infant was buried after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. Another contextualizing factor is the nature of the yeshiva where the attack took place, a key institution in the militant settlers’ movement, which has been stealing land from Palestinians in the occupied territories for decades, believing God intended the land for Jews.

These horrific killings are utterly unjustifiable, and Hamas’ praise for the operation is both contemptible and chilling. It is important not to let this sort illegitimate act of terrorist violence obscure the legitimate and urgent grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation and in exile. It is vital to keep this in mind, because whatever the specific motivations of the gunman might have been, terrorist violence like this is almost always a symptom of Israel’s expansionist policies and is unlikely to end until the occupation is over.

In conjunction with George Bush’s declaration of a new ‘peace process’ and the promise of a lasting solution by the end of this year, it appears that 2008 may in fact be a year of increased bloodshed and the further destruction of hope for both Palestinians and Israelis. Justice is a rare commodity in a supposed struggle for existence and security and a rise in violence and vengeance will see a corresponding decrease in rationality, sympathy, and understanding. The occupation will intensify and become more brutal and dehumanizing, a besieged and displaced people will suffer more than they already have, a resistance movement will grow and gain momentum through both violent and non-violent acts, a deeply militarized and colonial culture will feel victimized and seek revenge by excessive force. Animosity will solidify and future generations of both sides will continue to learn hate and distrust. Hundreds, if not, thousands more will die. And still there will be no justice, no peace, and no hope. A mutually declared and enforced ceasefire is the very first step of a very difficult process of ending the occupation. As long as Israel continues to infiltrate the Occupied Territories, killing dozens of men, women, and children, the Palestinian resistance will not stop fighting, nor should it. One of these sides has the full and unconditional backing of the world’s most dominant and destructive superpower, the other doesn’t isn’t allowed to control its own water supply. One side feels victimized by history and has, in turn, been victimizing others for sixty years. A lot needs to change before Palestine will be free and Israelis will feel safe…and almost all of it is ideology, mostly in the form of religious colonialism and frustrated nationalism.

But in the meantime, let’s not forgot, it is not Israel that is occupied, it is Palestine. This need not be about “us” or “them” (whomever you happen to identify with)…it’s about everyone. And, at this rate, we’re all going to lose.

*****

For more insightful commentary and analysis, including information on the newly-leaked covert US government’s plan to overthrow the legitimate Palestinian leadership and instigate a civil war, please read the following articles:

03.07.08 – A Defeated Policy, Not a Defeated People by Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada

03.07.08 – Islamic Organisation Condemns Jerusalem Attack report by IC Publications

03.06.07 – The Gaza Bombshell by David Rose, Vanity Fair (April 2008 issue)

03.05.07 – To Blame the Victims… by Seumus Milne, The Guardian (UK)

*****

The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege
Press Release, March 7, 2008

Bloodshed does not compensate for bloodshed – Ceasefire Now!

The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege calls for an immediate end to the killing and violence, on both sides of the conflict. Bloodshed does not compensate for bloodshed, and revenge is no solution.

Any attack on, wounding or killing of unarmed civilians – as happened in the attack on the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva as during the IDF attacks and bombings of Gaza and in the shooting of missiles at Sderot, Ashkelon and the Western Negev – must end forthwith.

It is the civilians on both sides who are exposed to harm and who pay the full price for the manoeuvres of the political and military leaderships. We call upon the leaderships, of both sides, including all organizations and parties, to cease all violence immediately.

We call upon the international community and the world public opinion to firmly demand an end to the mutual killing and bloodshed.

In order to achieve that, we call for a full and mutual ceasefire, as a first step negotiating an end to the occupation and an end to the conflict between the two peoples, to a full peace which is the only hope for our future.

*****

THE NEW HOLOCAUST: There’s No Business Like Shoah Business

March 3, 2008

©Latuff 2006

Genocide is happening. There was a massacre this weekend. Innocent people are being slaughtered daily. Murder is not ‘collateral damage.’ And the world does nothing, except spin the reporting so that 112 dead Palestinians is a fair trade for 3 Israelis. So that bombs fall indiscriminately on homes, killing entire families in a moment. Widespread murder with impunity while the world decries rocket fire that has caused a few scratches. Men, women, and children dead at the hands of a brutal occupying army. The Israeli government promised a holocaust, and they’re delivering.

Omar Barghouti of the Electronic Intifada reports,

On Friday, 29 February 2008, Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in Gaza with a “holocaust,” telling Israeli Army Radio: “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

This date will go down in history as the beginning of a new phase in the colonial conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, whereby a senior Israeli leader, a “leftist” for that matter, has publicly revealed the genocidal plans Israel is considering to implement against Palestinians under its military occupation, if they do not cease to resist its dictates. It will also mark the first time since World War II that any state has relentlessly — and on live TV — terrorized a civilian population with acts of slow, or low-intensity, genocide, with one of its senior government officials overtly inciting to a full-blown “holocaust,” while the world stood by, watching in utter apathy, or in glee, as in the case of leading western leaders.

For an Israeli leader who is Jewish, in particular, to threaten anyone with holocaust is a sad irony of history. Are victims of unspeakable crimes invariably doomed to turn into appalling criminals?

Abused children often grow up to, in turn, abuse their own children. The offspring of racists usually become racists themselves. From this terrible cycle there seem to be few ways out. Whereas abuse victims can seek help from psychotherapy and support groups, the case of nation-states is somewhat different. Help needs to come from external forces, such as international involvement (perhaps in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and worldwide condemnation.

(It is startling to realize how little is said about an Israeli leader threatening a new shoah upon an oppressed and occupied people, while a brand new set of sanctions has been placed upon the peaceful nation of Iran – a country that, at the absolute worst, is trying to arm themselves against an imminent attack by the world’s two most aggressive and militaristic powers, who have surrounded Iran with hostile regimes, nuclear weaponry, and ground troops, but is much more likely to be legally pursuing its UN-approved right to gain alternative energy. President Ahmadinejad was misquoted as threatening to “wipe Israel off the map,” causing a hysterical uproar that has since affected the economy and international reputation of the entire country, whereas not a peep is heard in the US media about the actual articulation – and past, present, and future indications of intention and implementation – of a real holocaust visited upon a harassed, forcibly displaced and relocated, disenfranchised and demonized refugee population by an Israeli official.)

Alas, news reports on what is actually happening are hard to find. Yesterday, browsing the websites of CNN, BBC, and MSNBC one would have had to delve a bit to find any mention of the current situation in Gaza. And even when an article could be located, the headline often betrayed an Israeli bias. Article titles often mentioned the Israeli “anti-rocket offensive” and the Palestinian “suspension of peace talks.” We are supposed to believe that a victimized Israel is forced to kill civilians in a noble attempt to stop the evil Arabs from firing rockets at its innocent citizens. Israel’s hands are tied, we are told. Civilian casualties are “the price of war,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says. The major media buries Palestinian death tolls while shouting that Abbas has halted peace talks – yet another way to blame Palestine for Israel’s actions. “They’re the ones that don’t want peace,” Israel seems to scream as they disregard the constant Hamas ceasefire offers and fire missiles into apartment buildings and wipes out entire families.

And still, the focus remains on what the Palestinians are doing wrong. A BBC report today states that “neither the international appeals nor the Israeli crackdown stopped the barrage of rockets. More than 25 were launched on Sunday, and at least two more reached the city of Ashkelon on Monday after the Israeli withdrawal.”

Yes, you read that correctly, 25 Palestinian rockets fired at Israel is called a barrage, but a weekend when over 100 people lose their lives by bomb and gunfire is referred to as a “military operation” and a “campaign in response to the firing of rockets from Gaza.” Israel killed more than four times the number of rockets that were fired by Palestine. They didn’t kill four times the number of people (for each Israeli killed, Israel killed about 40 Gazans and injured hundreds more), mind you, they killed four times the number of rockets fired. I repeat: the Israeli Occupying Forces murdered about four people for each individual rocket fired at Sderot and Ashkelon. How’s that for what the EU called a “disproportionate use of force” by Israel?

A report by The New York Times clearly shows how spin is utilized in order to paint the Palestinians as crazy extremists and Israelis as frightened, shivering innocents:

The increase in violence started Wednesday when five members of the Qassam Brigades were killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza. Israeli military officials said that the squad had intended to carry out a special operation against Israel, possibly involving infiltrating the border and capturing a soldier.

Militants in Gaza responded by firing barrages of rockets at Sderot, killing an Israeli civilian, the first such fatality in months. On Thursday they started launching longer-range, manufactured Katyusha-style rockets at Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials described the firing of the longer-range rockets as a serious escalation of the conflict, and they mounted a ground and air campaign in northern Gaza that left more than 60 Palestinians dead on Saturday.

In Gaza City on Sunday, two more bodies were pulled out of a house that was bombed by the Israeli air force the day before, bringing the number of fatalities there to six. One member of the family was known to be a member of the Qassam Brigades. Ahed Atallah, a family member who was not in the house at the time, said that only he and a married sister had survived.

Late Sunday afternoon, militants fired two more missiles into Ashkelon, one of which damaged a house, the police said. The residents escaped unharmed.

Three hours earlier, Meram Levy, 30, a mother of two young children, was carrying shards of broken glass out of her apartment after a longer-range rocket had landed outside before dawn on Saturday, shattering all the windows.

“At night I’m very scared,” Ms. Levy said. She and her husband are now sleeping in shifts, she said, to listen out for the alert on the city’s new public address system.

The popular Ashkelon marina was also hit by a rocket on Saturday afternoon, lightly wounding two local residents. Pini Biton, who owns a restaurant at the marina, said the militants in Gaza had “crossed all the red lines.” The outdoor cafes and bars there were empty at lunchtime Sunday, despite the fine weather.

The fact that the rockets had reached Ashkelon made Israelis realize that “they can get anywhere,” Mr. Biton said.

So, as we can see, Palestinians are militants out for revenge and Israelis are scared shop-owners just trying to live in peace. The blindness to such bias and bigotry is astounding and catastrophic. In a new article, journalist Rami Almeghari reports,

Fourteen Israelis have been killed by the crude rockets since Palestinian resistance began firing them in 2001, while approximately 300 Palestinians were killed just in the few months since the renewed peace process was declared in Annapolis in November of last year. Nearly 5,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed since 2000, all “terrorists” in the eyes of Israeli intelligence chief Yuval Diskin.

Though he may have passed on, the words of deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ring ever true thirty years since he uttered them: “Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us and from seeing the justice on our faces. They seek to hide the terrorism and tyranny of their acts, and our own posture of self-defense.”

As long as Israel is seen as a perpetual victim (by themselves and the rest of the world) rather than the actual pursuer and perpetrator of hostilities and genocide, there will be no justice. And in the place of justice, there will be only death.

*****

Self-Deception and ‘Restraint’ in Israel

by Gideon Levy | Haaretz | 3 March 2008

Even yesterday evening, after the IDF already had killed about 50 Palestinians, at least half of them unarmed, and including quite a number of women and children, Jerusalem continued to claim, “At present there will be no major ground operation.” It’s incredible: The IDF penetrates the heart of a crowded refugee camp, kills in a terrifyingly wholesale manner, with horrible bloodshed, and Israel continues to disseminate the lie of restraint. Two days earlier Israel killed more Palestinians than have been killed by all the Qassams over the past seven years. Among the dead were four children and an infant. The next day Israel killed another five boys. And who is the victim? Israel. And who is cruel? The Palestinians.

This victimhood is not new, nor is our self-deception. The current lie: ‘restraint.’ Israel is demonstrating ‘restraint’ in the face of the Qassams; this assertion continues to spur the commentators and security experts to urge it to embark on the anticipated ‘major operation.’ But this operation began long ago. It reached its peak yesterday.

Our desperate attempt to have our cake and eat it, too, to claim that there is no ‘major operation’ at a time when the IDF is killing dozens every day, is nothing new. It has existed since the days of the ‘enlightened occupation’ and ‘purity of arms,’ through ‘the major operation that has yet to begin’ – all of them impossible desires. A senior minister who was asked last week about the siege on Gaza replied: ‘Occupation of Gaza is less moral.’ In this way, we have once again established ourselves a relative and distorted values system, with no absolute morality, only a double standard. Behind every action of ours in Gaza, even the terrible one this weekend, hides an option that is even worse. The fact that we are not yet carrying it out helps us to present ourselves in a positive light, to boast how moral we are.

During the past two years, we have killed almost 900 Gaza residents. About half of them were people who did not take part in the fighting. That is how restraint looks. At a time when we are counting the Qassams and their victims, in Gaza they are counting the dead. Presenting things as though we have not yet entered Gaza or “beaten the hell out of Gaza” is meant to deceive. Yes, more can be done.

Imagine if the Palestinians were to kill dozens of Israelis, including women and children, in one week, as the IDF did. What an international outcry we would raise, and justifiably. Only in our own eyes can we still adhere to our restrained, forbearing image. All the talk about the ‘major operation’ is designed to achieve only one goal: to show it is possible to be even more violent and cruel.

That is an extremely pathetic consolation. The siege, the assassinations and the raid this weekend are terrifying enough. The claim that as opposed to them, we do not intend to kill children and citizens, is also overused and deceptive. The gun sights of Israeli weaponry are sophisticated. If the Palestinians had Apache helicopters and sophisticated drones like ours, we can assume that they would choose more strategic targets than the yard of a hospital in Ashkelon or a parking lot in Sderot. The Qassam is the weapon of the poor and helpless.

In the South, a war of attrition is taking place between the strong and the weak. It will not be stopped by military means. It is therefore surprising and depressing to see the uniform chorus of the residents of the Western Negev, city dwellers and kibbutzniks, the direct victims, in favor of the IDF’s pointless fighting. How is it that in the entire South, not a single different voice can be heard, calling for a change in direction? How is it that no group of Sderot residents, yes, they of all people, is shouting in protest? Demonstrating in the city squares, not in favor of more of the same, but in favor of a different, much more promising approach? After all, they are the ones who are paying the heavy price, and they should be the first to see what the residents of the center of the country cannot see.?

The residents of Sderot, and now Ashkelon as well, have to look and see beyond the fence that is meant to protect them, and is imprisoning their neighbors. To understand that as long as things are so bad there, things will be bitter for them as well. That as long as we don’t talk to them, nothing will change. They, who know that every assassination is followed by the ‘Color Red’ Qassam alert, fear and anxiety, who know that dozens of assassinations have not improved their lives at all, that the present raid will not help either, should be the pioneers who bring about the change we need?

A large operation is now at its height. It has not helped at all so far; it will never help. Neither will the siege, the assassinations, the raids or the bombings. Perhaps the good will originate from the South, and someone there will call for something else?

*****

The Abominations of the Obama Nation

March 1, 2008

It seems that every time Barack Obama does something that would gain him a little bit of respect in my eyes, it’s followed up by something else that’s totally abhorrent. And that’s really frustrating.

Early this week on Democracy Now!, Samantha Power, Obama’s senior foreign policy advisor, spoke with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez about some of Barack’s platforms. Whereas it was good to see that a candidate had such a lucid and knowledgeable advisor, it struck me that Obama’s biggest claim to the false label of “progressivism” is his stated willingness to meet with world leaders without any pre-conditions whatsoever – a stance that has gained him a fair share of criticism by the more racist, xenophobic, and bellicose elements of this country. As Powers states about Obama,

He doesn’t think that meeting with the president of the United States is a reward you get for good behavior. He thinks that by being in the room, you actually identify whether there are sources of agreement.

Yes, sure, great. Whoopty-doo. He thinks that talking to world leaders is the duty of a United States president. Fantastic. I agree with him (because it is). But this makes him stand out as liberal? Willing and able diplomacy is now the benchmark for being a progressive (how progressive is leaving all military options ‘on the table’ during these unconditional talks)?

I really don’t think that this standpoint should be the cause of such celebration when Obama’s actual positions speak to much more of the same violent and aggressive foreign policy that we’ve had for the past decade and a half.

Obama’s fan base seems to relish his so-called “progressive” status among the remaining candidates, but he deserves that label as much as Crassus could have been called the peacenik of the First Roman Triumvirate. Just because Curly was more endearing to the audience and had better comic timing than Moe or Larry (or Shemp), doesn’t mean they’re not all of them Stooges. And yes, in this example, Mike Huckabee is, of course, Shemp.

Willingness to meet with foreign leaders aside, I wonder how Obama continues to inspire the gaggles of giddy go-getters who are so enthusiastic about his campaign. Are they actually listening to him, or are “hope” and “change” the newest form of earplugs – wadded up buzz words that stuff up people’s concha like cotton balls so that the sounds of real policy can’t enter the ear canal for decoding?

At a time when the United States is the unquestionable greatest threat to (and active destroyer of) world peace and its closest ally one of the foremost perpetrator of human rights violations as well as being a brutal occupying force responsible for the deaths of over 200 people (including many women and children) since the resumption of “peace talks” three months ago, it seems a bit unconscionable to ramp up aggressive rhetoric against a country like Iran, which has not threatened or attacked any other nation in hundreds of years and is legally allowed to develop nuclear energy. The obvious pandering of Obama to Israel and against Iran is striking, especially at a time when Iran could almost single-handedly stabilize Iraq and Israel is truly pursuing a strategy best described as Neo-Shoahism in Gaza. As the ever-brilliant Kathleen and Bill Christison point out,

Obama has taken an extremely immoral stand on the Palestinian-Israeli issue by, among other positions, actually applauding Israel’s siege and starvation of 1.5 million innocent Gazans, and by mourning Israel’s losses to Palestinian rocket fire (12 people in seven years) without bothering even to mention the approximately 2,600 Gazans killed by Israeli rocket fire, airstrikes, and assassinations in those same seven years.

It seems that Obama’s reactions to personal attacks, as well as international ones, are always a bit off the mark. In response to the appalling “accusations” of his being a Muslim (which apparently is now a crime by American standards), Obama has not considered the notion that such an attack on his character should not actually even be an attack on anyone’s character, whether the allegations are true or not. Rather, he has done everything in his power to prove his devout Christianity and bolster his solidarity with the American (and Israeli) Jewish community, constantly reaffirming his fundamental opposition to the Palestinian Right of Return while stating that, to him, Israel’s own security is “sacrosanct.” He has never addressed the fact that at the heart of the Obama-is-a-Muslim “smear” campaign against him is really the confirmation that the United States is truly a deeply racist and bigoted country. Obama should condemn the attack, not because it gets his personal history and religious affiliations wrong, but because it inherently, implicitly, automatically, and categorically assumes that being praying in a mosque or potentially being inspired by the words of Mohammad is on par, if not worse, than being accused of pederasty, adulterous gang rape, flip-flopping or, as in Shemp’s preferred circles, atheism and evolution. Naomi Klein, in an excellent new piece in the Nation, explains,

[Muslims] are watching their culture used as a crude bludgeon against Obama, while the candidate who is the symbol of racial harmony fails to defend them. This at a time when US Muslims are bearing the brunt of the Bush Administration’s assaults on civil liberties, including dragnet wiretapping, and are facing a documented spike in hate crimes.

Obama should really respond to racist propaganda by condemning the propaganda for being racist, not by disassociating himself with the victims.

Basically, I’m still waiting to hear a single compelling argument for actually voting for Barack Obama come November…something other than “He’s not Hillary.”

(By the way, on the heels of an illuminating article by Jeremy Scahill regarding Obama’s refusing to rule out the continued employment of private security contractors in Iraq, Clinton has just announced that she is now co-sponsoring legislation to “ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq.”)

*****

Count Me Out

The Obama Craze

By Matt Gonzalez | Counterpunch | 29 February 2008

Part of me shares the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. After all, how could someone calling themself a progressive not sense the importance of what it means to have an African-American so close to the presidency? But as his campaign has unfolded, and I heard that we are not red states or blue states for the 6th or 7th time, I realized I knew virtually nothing about him.

Like most, I know he gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I know he defeated Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race; although it wasn’t much of a contest (Keyes was living in Maryland when he announced). Recently, I started looking into Obama’s voting record, and I’m afraid to say I’m not just uninspired: I’m downright fearful. Here’s why:

This is a candidate who says he’s going to usher in change; that he is a different kind of politician who has the skills to get things done. He reminds us again and again that he had the foresight to oppose the war in Iraq. And he seems to have a genuine interest in lifting up the poor.

But his record suggests that he is incapable of ushering in any kind of change I’d like to see. It is one of accommodation and concession to the very political powers that we need to reign in and oppose if we are to make truly lasting advances.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

Let’s start with his signature position against the Iraq war. Obama has sent mixed messages at best.

First, he opposed the war in Iraq while in the Illinois state legislature. Once he was running for US Senate though, when public opinion and support for the war was at its highest, he was quoted in the July 27, 2004 Chicago Tribune as saying, “There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage.
The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.” The Tribune went on to say that Obama, “now believes US forces must remain to stabilize the war-ravaged nation ? a policy not dissimilar to the current approach of the Bush administration.”

Obama’s campaign says he was referring to the ongoing occupation and how best to stabilize the region. But why wouldn’t he have taken the opportunity to urge withdrawal if he truly opposed the war? Was he trying to signal to conservative voters that he would subjugate his anti-war position if elected to the US Senate and perhaps support a lengthy occupation? Well as it turns out, he’s done just that.

Since taking office in January 2005 he has voted to approve every war appropriation the Republicans have put forward, totaling over $300 billion. He also voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her complicity in the Bush Administration’s various false justifications for going to war in Iraq. Why would he vote to make one of the architects of “Operation Iraqi Liberation” the head of US foreign policy? Curiously, he lacked the courage of 13 of his colleagues who voted against her confirmation.

And though he often cites his background as a civil rights lawyer, Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in July 2005, easily the worse attack on civil liberties in the last half-century. It allows for wholesale eavesdropping on American citizens under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts.

And in March 2006, Obama went out of his way to travel to Connecticut to campaign for Senator Joseph Lieberman who faced a tough challenge by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. At a Democratic Party dinner attended by Lamont, Obama called Lieberman “his mentor” and urged those in attendance to vote and give financial contributions to him. This is the same Lieberman who Alexander Cockburn called “Bush’s closest Democratic ally on the Iraq War.” Why would Obama have done that if he was truly against the war?

Recently, with anti-war sentiment on the rise, Obama declared he will get our combat troops out of Iraq in 2009. But Obama isn’t actually saying he wants to get all of our troops out of Iraq. At a September 2007 debate before the New Hampshire primary, moderated by Tim Russert, Obama refused to commit to getting our troops out of Iraq by January 2013 and, on the campaign trail, he has repeatedly stated his desire to add 100,000 combat troops to the military.

At the same event, Obama committed to keeping enough soldiers in Iraq to “carry out our counter-terrorism activities there” which includes “striking at al Qaeda in Iraq.” What he didn’t say is this continued warfare will require an estimated 60,000 troops to remain in Iraq according to a May 2006 report prepared by the Center for American Progress. Moreover, it appears he intends to “redeploy” the troops he takes out of the unpopular war in Iraq and send them to Afghanistan. So it appears that under Obama’s plan the US will remain heavily engaged in war.

This is hardly a position to get excited about.

CLASS ACTION REFORM:

In 2005, Obama joined Republicans in passing a law dubiously called the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) that would shut down state courts as a venue to hear many class action lawsuits. Long a desired objective of large corporations and President George Bush, Obama in effect voted to deny redress in many of the courts where these kinds of cases have the best chance of surviving corporate legal challenges. Instead, it forces them into the backlogged Republican-judge dominated federal courts.

By contrast, Senators Clinton, Edwards and Kerry joined 23 others to vote against CAFA, noting the “reform” was a thinly-veiled “special interest extravaganza” that favored banking, creditors and other corporate interests. David Sirota, the former spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, commented on CAFA in the June 26, 2006 issue of The Nation, “Opposed by most major civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this Big Business-backed legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop “frivolous” lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill’s real objective was to protect corporate abusers.”

Nation contributor Dan Zegart noted further: “On its face, the class-action bill is mere procedural tinkering, transferring from state to federal court actions involving more than $5 million where any plaintiff is from a different state from the defendant company. But federal courts are much more hostile to class actions than their state counterparts; such cases tend to be rooted in the finer points of state law, in which federal judges are reluctant to dabble. And even if federal judges do take on these suits, with only 678 of them on the bench (compared with 9,200 state judges), already overburdened dockets will grow. Thus, the bill will make class actions ? most of which involve discrimination, consumer fraud and wage-and-hour violations ? all but impossible. One example: After forty lawsuits were filed against Wal-Mart for allegedly forcing employees to work “off the clock,” four state courts certified these suits as class actions. Not a single federal court did so, although the practice probably involves hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.”

Why would a civil rights lawyer knowingly make it harder for working-class people ( Or the people of Hunter Point suing Lennar) to have their day in court, in effect shutting off avenues of redress?

CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATES:

Obama has a way of ducking hard votes or explaining away his bad votes by trying to blame poorly-written statutes. Case in point: an amendment he voted on as part of a recent bankruptcy bill before the US Senate would have capped credit card interest rates at 30 percent. Inexplicably, Obama voted against it, although it would have been the beginning of setting these predatory lending rates under federal control. Even Senator Hillary Clinton supported it.

Now Obama explains his vote by saying the amendment was poorly written or set the ceiling too high. His explanation isn’t credible as Obama offered no lower number as an alternative, and didn’t put forward his own amendment clarifying whatever language he found objectionable.

Why wouldn’t Obama have voted to create the first federal ceiling on predatory credit card interest rates, particularly as he calls himself a champion of the poor and middle classes? Perhaps he was signaling to the corporate establishment that they need not fear him. For all of his dynamic rhetoric about lifting up the masses, it seems Obama has little intention of doing anything concrete to reverse the cycle of poverty many struggle to overcome.

LIMITING NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES:

These seemingly unusual votes wherein Obama aligns himself with Republican Party interests aren’t new. While in the Illinois Senate, Obama voted to limit the recovery that victims of medical malpractice could obtain through the courts. Capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases means a victim cannot fully recover for pain and suffering or for punitive damages. Moreover, it ignored that courts were already empowered to adjust awards when appropriate, and that the Illinois Supreme Court had previously ruled such limits on tort reform violated the state constitution.

In the US Senate, Obama continued interfering with patients’ full recovery for tortious conduct. He was a sponsor of the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation Act of 2005. The bill requires hospitals to disclose errors to patients and has a mechanism whereby disclosure, coupled with apologies, is rewarded by limiting patients’ economic recovery. Rather than simply mandating disclosure, Obama’s solution is to trade what should be mandated for something that should never be given away: namely, full recovery for the injured patient.

MINING LAW OF 1872:

In November 2007, Obama came out against a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872. The current statute, signed into law by Ulysses Grant, allows mining companies to pay a nominal fee, as little as $2.50 an acre, to mine for hardrock minerals like gold, silver, and copper without paying royalties. Yearly profits for mining hardrock on public lands is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion a year according to Earthworks, a group that monitors the industry. Not surprisingly, the industry spends freely when it comes to lobbying: an estimated $60 million between 1998-2004 according to The Center on Public Integrity. And it appears to be paying off, yet again.

The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 would have finally overhauled the law and allowed American taxpayers to reap part of the royalties (4 percent of gross revenue on existing mining operations and 8 percent on new ones). The bill provided a revenue source to cleanup abandoned hardrock mines, which is likely to cost taxpayers over $50 million, and addressed health and safety concerns in the 11 affected western states.

Later it came to light that one of Obama’s key advisors in Nevada is a Nevada-based lobbyist in the employ of various mining companies (CBS News “Obama’s Position On Mining Law Questioned. Democrat Shares Position with Mining Executives Who Employ Lobbyist Advising Him,” November 14, 2007).

REGULATING NUCLEAR INDUSTRY:

The New York Times reported that, while campaigning in Iowa in December 2007, Obama boasted that he had passed a bill requiring nuclear plants to promptly report radioactive leaks. This came after residents of his home state of Illinois complained they were not told of leaks that occurred at a nuclear plant operated by Exelon Corporation.

The truth, however, was that Obama allowed the bill to be amended in Committee by Senate Republicans, replacing language mandating reporting with verbiage that merely offered guidance to regulators on how to address unreported leaks. The story noted that even this version of Obama’s bill failed to pass the Senate, so it was unclear why Obama was claiming to have passed the legislation. The February 3, 2008 The New York Times article titled “Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate” by Mike McIntire also noted the opinion of one of Obama’s constituents, which was hardly enthusiastic about Obama’s legislative efforts:

“Senator Obama’s staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, and we could see it weakening with each successive draft,” said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Ill., where low-level radioactive runoff had turned up in groundwater. “The teeth were just taken out of it.”

As it turns out, the New York Times story noted: “Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.”

ENERGY POLICY:

On energy policy, it turns out Obama is a big supporter of corn-based ethanol which is well known for being an energy-intensive crop to grow. It is estimated that seven barrels of oil are required to produce eight barrels of corn ethanol, according to research by the Cato Institute. Ethanol’s impact on climate change is nominal and isn’t “green” according to Alisa Gravitz, Co-op America executive director. “It simply isn’t a major improvement over gasoline when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.” A 2006 University of Minnesota study by Jason Hill and David Tilman, and an earlier study published in BioScience in 2005, concur. (There’s even concern that a reliance on corn-based ethanol would lead to higher food prices.)

So why would Obama be touting this as a solution to our oil dependency? Could it have something to do with the fact that the first presidential primary is located in Iowa, corn capital of the country? In legislative terms this means Obama voted in favor of $8 billion worth of corn subsidies in 2006 alone, when most of that money should have been committed to alternative energy sources such as solar, tidal and wind.

SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH CARE:

Obama opposed single-payer bill HR676, sponsored by Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers in 2006, although at least 75 members of Congress supported it. Single-payer works by trying to diminish the administrative costs that comprise somewhere around one-third of every health care dollar spent, by eliminating the duplicative nature of these services. The expected $300 billion in annual savings such a system would produce would go directly to cover the uninsured and expand coverage to those who already have insurance, according to Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Obama’s own plan has been widely criticized for leaving health care industry administrative costs in place and for allowing millions of people to remain uninsured. “Sicko” filmmaker Michael Moore ridiculed it saying, “Obama wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan-the same companies who have created the mess in the first place.”

NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT:

Regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement, Obama recently boasted, “I don’t think NAFTA has been good for Americans, and I never have.” Yet, Calvin Woodward reviewed Obama’s record on NAFTA in a February 26, 2008 Associated Press article and found that comment to be misleading: “In his 2004 Senate campaign, Obama said the US should pursue more deals such as NAFTA, and argued more broadly that his opponent’s call for tariffs would spark a trade war. AP reported then that the Illinois senator had spoken of enormous benefits having accrued to his state from NAFTA, while adding that he also called for more aggressive trade protections for US workers.”

Putting aside campaign rhetoric, when actually given an opportunity to protect workers from unfair trade agreements, Obama cast the deciding vote against an amendment to a September 2005 Commerce Appropriations Bill, proposed by North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, that would have prohibited US trade negotiators from weakening US laws that provide safeguards from unfair foreign trade practices. The bill would have been a vital tool to combat the outsourcing of jobs to foreign workers and would have ended a common corporate practice known as “pole-vaulting” over regulations, which allows companies doing foreign business to avoid “right to organize,” “minimum wage,” and other worker protections.

SOME FINAL EXAMPLES:

On March 2, 2007 Obama gave a speech at AIPAC, America’s pro-Israeli government lobby, wherein he disavowed his previous support for the plight of the Palestinians. In what appears to be a troubling pattern, Obama told his audience what they wanted to hear. He recounted a one-sided history of the region and called for continued military support for Israel, rather than taking the opportunity to promote the various peace movements in and outside of Israel.

Why should we believe Obama has courage to bring about change? He wouldn’t have his picture taken with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom when visiting San Francisco for a fundraiser in his honor because Obama was scared voters might think he supports gay marriage (Newsom acknowledged this to Reuters on January 26, 2007 and former Mayor Willie Brown admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle on February 5, 2008 that Obama told him he wanted to avoid Newsom for that reason.)

Obama acknowledges the disproportionate impact the death penalty has on blacks, but still supports it, while other politicians are fighting to stop it. (On December 17, 2007 New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill banning the death penalty after it was passed by the New Jersey Assembly.)

On September 29, 2006, Obama joined Republicans in voting to build 700 miles of double fencing on the Mexican border (The Secure Fence Act of 2006), abandoning 19 of his colleagues who had the courage to oppose it. But now that he’s campaigning in Texas and eager to win over Mexican-American voters, he says he’d employ a different border solution.

It is shocking how frequently and consistently Obama is willing to subjugate good decision making for his personal and political benefit.

Obama aggressively opposed initiating impeachment proceedings against the president (“Obama: Impeachment is not acceptable,” USA Today, June 28, 2007) and he wouldn’t even support Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s effort to censure the Bush administration for illegally wiretapping American citizens in violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In Feingold’s words “I’m amazed at Democrats cowering with this president’s number’s so low.” Once again, it’s troubling that Obama would take these positions and miss the opportunity to document the abuses of the Bush regime.

CONCLUSION:

Once I started looking at the votes Obama actually cast, I began to hear his rhetoric differently. The principal conclusion I draw about “change” and Barack Obama is that Obama needs to change his voting habits and stop pandering to win votes. If he does this he might someday make a decent candidate who could earn my support. For now Obama has fallen into a dangerous pattern of capitulation that he cannot reconcile with his growing popularity as an agent of change.

I remain impressed by the enthusiasm generated by Obama’s style and skill as an orator. But I remain more loyal to my values, and I’m glad to say that I want no part in the Obama craze sweeping our country.

Matt Gonzalez is a former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is running on Nader’s ticket as a vice presidential candidate.