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05 October 2007

Milton Viorst on ‘The Israel Lobby’

Well done. And here's an interview from Truthdig with the authors of the book.

04 October 2007

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Imagine Peace Lighthouse

Click the link above to be taken to the site; watch the video below. Go to the site and add your message!

Lennon would have been 67 on October 9th.

Multiple-City Anti-War Rally: October 27th

Click the title of this post for more info.

The cities are: Boston, Chicago, NYC, Jonesborough (Tennessee), LA, Philly, NOLA, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle.

Here's a promo video:

Can Anyone Stop It?, By Bill McKibben in NYRB

From the October 11, 2007 issue; linked above. On some idiocy in the "anti-global-warming" crowd, along with a review of some saner folks' books.

Here's the lecture/debate between McKibben and arch-moron Bjørn Lomborg mentioned in the book. If you have trouble, here's the web page.

Juan Cole on Desmond Tutu's Uninvitation to Speak at the University of St. Thomas

Reprinted below. What comment is necessary?

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Tutu Excluded
Double Standard at the University of St. Thomas

Bishop Desmond Tutu has stood all his life for nonviolent peace-making and an end to racism. Obviously, he would be upset about the Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, and has said so.

For that stance he was uninvited from speaking at the Catholic University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

The Israel lobby strikes again, limiting what can be heard in public in the United States about those policies of Israel that are contrary to basic human rights norms.

And here is the kicker. UST is guilty of a whopper of a double standard. Two years ago, the university allowed Ann Coulter to speak on its campus.

Ann Coulter once said of Muslims, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Coulter can speak at UST. But not Desmond Tutu.

03 October 2007

Iran terror label bites deep, By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

On what it actually means to label Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp a "terrorist organization," as the Congress has done -- soon to be followed by the State Department.

Of course, since every American reads the Asia Times Online, I'm sure this analysis will get through the noise machine. No editor of any major American daily, or TV or radio news program, would ever have heard of it, I'm sure. How convenient. Here's some information on AT's readership.

Just to pick out one nugget: how many Americans, including the president of Columbia University, know this?

US and Israeli hawks don't like to hear this, but in both Bosnia-Herzegovina during the early and mid-1990s and more recently in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, the US military and the IRGC interacted positively. In Bosnia, invited by the Bosnian government under siege, the IRGC trained and armed Bosnian fighters, with the tacit blessing of the White House. They continued to provide humanitarian support even after their military role ended shortly after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which called for the exit of foreign forces.

Similarly, in Afghanistan, where the IRGC played a prominent role in supporting the anti-Taliban and anti-al-Qaeda Northern Alliance led by the late Ahmad Shah Masoud long before the US cavalry arrived in 2001, US and IRGC commanders met repeatedly both before and after Kabul's fall into the hands of the Northern Alliance.

Special report: New revelations in [Israeli] attack on American spy ship

From the Chicago Tribune, a seething hotbed of Jew-haters. Obviously. How many people even know about this USS Liberty, do you think?

I await Abe Foxman's hysterical retort.

Na'ima is threatening the Jewish majority, By Dafna Golan

Clearly, another self-hater at Haaretz.

Apparently, the entire editorial board of this well-regarded and popular Israeli newspaper would qualify as self-hating anti-Semites to the Podhoretz, et al, mentality -- viz. today's editorial, which explicitly labels the situation in Israel/Palestine as apartheid:

Where is the occupation?
By Haaretz Editorial

The occupied territories and the Palestinians living there are slowly becoming virtual realities, distant from the eye and the heart. Palestinian workers have disappeared from our streets. Israelis no longer enter Palestinian towns for shopping. There is a new generation on each side that does not know the other. Even the settlers no longer meet Palestinians because of the different road systems that distinguish between the two populations; one is free and mobile, the other stuck at the roadblocks.

While the politicians argue over dividing the land between two peoples, the public is apathetic. The people feel that the division has already taken place. The disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the evacuation of Gush Katif, the construction of a separation barrier -- the problem is solved to our satisfaction. The settlers are conducting a settlement policy of their own, taking over new areas, expanding settlements, anything to prevent a permanent solution. They are also satisfied with the status quo that relies on the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces.

The de facto separation is today more similar to political apartheid than an occupation regime because of its constancy. One side -- determined by national, not geographic association -- includes people who have the right to choose and the freedom to move, and a growing economy. On the other side are people closed behind the walls surrounding their community, who have no right to vote, lack freedom of movement, and have no chance to plan their future. The economic gap is only getting wider and the Palestinians are wistfully watching as Israel imports laborers from China and Romania. Fear of terrorist attacks has transformed the Palestinian laborer into an undesirable.

There have recently been reports of a further "upgrading" of the occupation. Sixteen crossing points between the West Bank and Israel are now being controlled by civilians instead of soldiers. On the face of it, this is an act of normalization, similar to the situation at international border crossings. But in this case a country exists only on one side. In the absence of an agreed border, there is only a security border that Israel has unilaterally established. The frustrated and frightened soldiers checking every Palestinian have now been replaced by contractors hired by the Defense Ministry.

Their job is to check people holding permits; in other words, people the civil administration, under the Shin Bet's guidance, has allowed to enter Israel. The checks are being carried out by sophisticated means, almost without human contact, in reinforced, blast-proof structures. The new method has removed a burden from IDF soldiers but has created a distancing. The contact between the soldiers and the Palestinians at the crossings, precisely because it is so traumatic, has driven the Israelis and Palestinians to seek a political solution. The stories the soldiers brought home fueled public debate. Now the soldiers are stationed only at roadblocks in the West Bank, and there is less friction. So the discourse is also minimized.

Can this situation continue indefinitely? The more Israelis see less of the occupation, the easier it becomes to ignore. In September, 33 Palestinians and one soldier were killed in operations against terror and Qassam rockets. Only in the next intifada, or after missiles are fired at Israel from the West Bank, will we once again be reminded of the occupation.

Chomsky on Drug Criminalization

Looking for Richard, Al Pacino, 1996

This should be shown in every English-speaking school in the world. Excellent introduction to Shakespeare: part documentary, part dramatization of key scenes in Richard III; often hilarious, always illuminating.

The lines used at the beginning and end of this film are from The Tempest, IV:1, spoken by Prospero, and anyone who so desires can read them at my funeral:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Here's Gielgud's version from Prospero's Books, followed by another great soliloquy from the play...

02 October 2007

Some Marx Brothers Classics

In honor of Groucho's 117th birthday...
Duck Soup, 1933

A Night at the Opera, 1935

A Day at the Races, 1937

The Bollinger/Ahmadinejad Farce, Part II

A Bed-Wetter Nation postscript

Via our friend Jonathan Schwartz, we learn that, "Wonderfully enough, on the very same day Columbia president Lee Bollinger was castigating Ahmadenijad, the dictator of Turkmenistan was speaking elsewhere at Columbia":

The NGO Freedom House gives Iran a political rights score of six, a civil rights score of six and the status of "not free." Turkmenistan gets scores of seven, seven and "not free." So why all the protesters at Ahmadinejad's speech, but nary a peep about Berdymukhammedov? Could it be because no one is agitating for war with Turkmenistan, like they are with Iran?

Note a constitutive feature of our new national propensity to pants piddling: a surrender to official authoritarianism. At Columbia, the determination of which leader who gets to be labeled a demon by the university president, and which leader gets off scot free, might as well have been made directly by the White House for all the independence of thought the administration exhibits. Meanwhile Turkmenistan's dictator, who acceded to the presidency extra-constitutionally when the former thug suddenly died, was asked at Columbia about the whereabouts of several cabinet members, allegedly disappeared by his predecessor, and rather self-implicatingly responded, "“I am positive that they are alive." Any comment, President Bollinger[?]

What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World: Interviews with David Barsamian, By Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

Hot off the presses -- today -- a new set of interviews...an excerpt with some links and layout changes courtesy of me:

DB [I assume -- could be Chomsky]: James Traub, in the New York Times Magazine, writes, “Of course, treaties and norms don’t restrain the outlaws. The prohibition on territorial aggression enshrined in the UN Charter didn’t faze Saddam Hussein when he decided to forcibly annex Kuwait.” Then he adds, “When it comes to military force, the United States can, and will, act alone. But diplomacy depends on a united front.”

NC: As Traub knows very well, the United States is a leading outlaw state, totally unconstrained by international law, and it openly says so. What we say goes. The United States invaded Iraq, even though that’s a radical violation of the United Nations Charter.

If he knows that, why doesn’t he write it in the article?

If he wrote that, then he wouldn’t be writing for the New York Times. There is a certain discipline that you have to meet. In a well-run society, you don’t say things you know. You say things that are required for service to power.

That reminds me of the story of the emperor Alexander and his encounter with a pirate.

I don’t know if it happened, but according to the account from Saint Augustine, a pirate was brought to Alexander, who asked him, How dare you molest the seas with your piracy? The pirate answered, How dare you molest the world? I have a small ship, so they call me a pirate. You have a great navy, so they call you an emperor. But you’re molesting the whole world. I’m doing almost nothing by comparison. That’s the way it works. The emperor is allowed to molest the world, but the pirate is considered a major criminal.

Eighteen Pakistani civilians were killed in a U.S. missile attack on Pakistan in January 2006. The New York Times, in an editorial, commented, “Those strikes were legitimately aimed at top fugitive leaders of Al Qaeda.”

That’s because the New York Times agrees, and always has, that the United States should be an outlaw state. That’s not surprising. The United States has the right to use violence where it chooses, no matter what happens. If we hit the wrong people, we might say, “Sorry, we hit the wrong people.” But there should be no limits on the right of the United States to use force.

The Times and other liberal media outlets are exercised about domestic surveillance and invasions of privacy. Why doesn’t that concern for law extend to the international arena?

Actually, the media are very concerned, just like James Traub, with violations of international law: when some enemy does it. So the policy is completely consistent. It should never be called a double standard. It’s a single standard of subordination to power. Surveillance is bothersome to people in power. They don’t like it. Powerful people don’t want to have their e-mails read by Big Brother, so, yes, they’re kind of annoyed by surveillance. On the other hand, a gross violation of international law—what the Nuremberg Tribunal called “the supreme international crime” that “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”—for example, the invasion of Iraq, that’s just fine.

There is an interesting and important book, which naturally has hardly been reviewed, by two international law specialists, Howard Friel and Richard Falk, called The Record of the Paper. It happens to focus on the New York Times and its attitude toward international law, but only because of the paper’s importance. The rest of the press is the same. Falk and Friel point out that the practice has been consistent: if an enemy can be accused of violating international law, it’s a huge outrage. But when the United States does something, it’s as if it didn’t happen. To take one example, they point out that in the seventy editorials on Iraq from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003, the invasion of Iraq, the words UN Charter and international law never appeared. That’s typical of a newspaper that believes the United States should be an outlaw state.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his April 4, 1967, Riverside Church speech, said, “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war.” Is that true?

You see that anywhere you look. It’s obviously true in the United States. But was the United States “at war” in 1967? King suggests it was. It’s an odd sense of being at war. The United States was attacking another country—in fact, it was attacking all of Indochina—but had not been attacked by anybody. So what’s the war? It was just plain, outright aggression.

Howard Zinn, in his speech “The Problem Is Civil Obedience,” says civil disobedience is “not our problem. . . . Our problem is civil obedience,” people taking orders and not questioning. How do we confront that?

Howard is quite right. Obedience and subordination to power are the major problem, not just here but everywhere. It’s much more important here because the state is so powerful, so it matters more here than in Luxembourg, for example. But it’s the same problem.

We have models as to how to confront it. First of all, we have plenty of models from our own history. We also have examples from other parts of the hemisphere. For example, Bolivia and Haiti had democratic elections of a kind that we can’t even conceive of in the United States. In Bolivia, were the candidates both rich guys who went to Yale and joined the Skull and Bones Society and ran on much the same program because they’re supported by the same corporations? No. The people of Bolivia elected someone from their own ranks, Evo Morales. That’s democracy. In Haiti, if Jean-Bertrand Aristide had not been expelled from the Caribbean by the United States in early 2004, it’s very likely that he would have won reelection in Haiti. In Haiti and Bolivia, people act in ways that enable them to participate in the democratic system. Here, we don’t. That’s real obedience. The kind of disobedience that’s needed is to re-create a functioning democracy. It’s not a very radical idea.

Evo Morales’s victory in Bolivia in December 2005 marks the first time an indigenous person has been elected to lead a country in South America.

It’s particularly striking in Bolivia because the country has an indigenous majority. And you can be sure that the Pentagon and U.S. civilian planners are deeply concerned. Not only is Latin America falling out of our control, but for the first time the indigenous populations are entering the political arena, in substantial numbers. The indigenous population is also substantial in Peru and Ecuador, which are also big energy producers. Some groups in Latin America are even calling for the establishment of an Indian nation. They want control of their own resources. In fact, some of them don’t even want those resources developed. They’d rather have their own lives, not have their society and culture destroyed so that people can sit in traffic jams in New York. All this is a big threat to the United States. And it’s democracy, functioning in ways that by now we have agreed not to let happen here.

But we don’t have to accept that. There have been plenty of times in the past when popular forces in the United States have caused great change. You mentioned Martin Luther King. He would be the first to tell you that he didn’t act alone. He was part of a popular movement that made substantial achievements. King is greatly honored for having opposed racist sheriffs in Alabama. You hear all about that on Martin Luther King Day. But when he turned his attention to the problems of poverty and war, he was condemned. What was he doing when he was assassinated? He was supporting a strike of sanitation workers in Memphis and planning a Poor People’s March on Washington. He wasn’t praised for that, any more than he was praised for his rather tepid, delayed opposition to the Vietnam War. In fact, he was bitterly criticized.

This isn’t quantum physics. There are complexities and details. You have to learn a lot and get the data right, but the basic principles are so transparent, it takes a major effort not to perceive them.

Palestinian refugees targeted in Iraq, Amnesty International

Full report here.

Senate Approves $150B in War Funding, AP


Senate vote: 92-3. House vote: 397-27.

Amazing, as in, not at all surprising. Of course, it's authorized, not appropriated, but I hold little hope that appropriations will be blocked.

"Iraq Will Have to Wait," Scott Ritter in Truthout

Stopping a strike on Iran is far more important right now, if only because there is something potentially to be done to prevent it.

Giuliani: "A Fate Worse than Bush"

Israel’s Toy Soldiers, Chris Hedges


NYC, the NYPD, the RNC, and Me: Fortress Big Apple, 2007, By Nick Turse

Yes, Giuliani or Bloomberg is definitely what we want...

01 October 2007

Shifting Targets, Sy Hersh

The march to Iran, continued. Interview with Hersh from Der Spiegel (in English) here.

Here's some more, from Uri Averny, and a report from Democracy Now! on "The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States" -- Iran-Contra, anyone? Remember that little event, for which Elliott Abrams was convicted (and then pardoned)?

The level of ignorance required to buy any of this hysteria about Iran is amazing. It requires a very careful education to get that stupid.

Update: Hersh on Democracy Now, 10/2. Don't freak out about Amy Goodman's face: she has a temporary facial nerve issue.

Democratic House Officials Recruited Wealthy Conservatives, By Matt Renner, t r u t h o u t | Report

File this under, "No shit?"

On Rahm Emanuel, Howard Dean, and the continuing lockdown on what grassroots Democrats actually want. Part n.

Here's n + 1: Congress Quietly Approves Billions More for Iraq War.

30 September 2007

The Third Man, Carol Reed, 1949