Monthly Archives: June 2010

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King Abdullah can be a true partner for President Obama because this popular Saudi monarch has those rare qualities sorely missing in today’s leaders: honesty and reliability.

When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited President Barack Obama Tuesday at the White House, the American president met with a world leader who is of consequence on the global scene. Whether the challenge is climate change, homelessness resulting from man-made and natural disasters, the fight against religious extremism, a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or stabilizing crude oil prices, King Abdullah has offered his out-stretched hand of partnership to the world. President Obama should reach out to the reform-minded King and form a new partnership with the Saudi monarch that takes into account the new challenges of the 21st century.

King Abdullah can be a true partner for President Obama because this popular Saudi monarch has those rare qualities sorely missing in today’s leaders: honesty and reliability.

King Abdullah says what he means and means what he says. For example, on the issue of good governance within the Arab world, he does not shy away from telling his fellow Arab leaders about their shortcomings because he is viewed as the wise elder-statesman of the Muslim world.

On Feb. 14, 1945, President Roosevelt laid the foundations of US-Saudi relations with King Abdullah’s father, King Abdul Aziz, on board the USS Quincy. That relationship was — for the most part — based on energy and security. Saudi Arabia would provide an uninterrupted flow of crude oil to the US while America’s security umbrella would guarantee the security of Saudi Arabia.

Sixty-five years later the challenges facing both the US and Saudi Arabia require a new strategic bargain between Washington and Riyadh. While the presidents of the US, Russia and China wield tremendous military, political and economic power, King Abdullah can arguably play an equally significant, albeit different, role from President Obama, Russian President [Dmitry] Medvedev or Chinese President Hu Jintao.

On at least four key issues King Abdullah wields more influence than China and Russia. First, a Marshall plan for Gaza and the West Bank. While much of the press has focused on the recent flotilla incident off the waters of Gaza, the broader issue is how the Gaza Strip can be decoupled from the terrorists of Hamas.

In partnership with the US, the King can lead this Marshall plan (emaar-al-amal in Arabic, or the hope of rebuilding) that can be the prelude to the two-state solution envisioned by President Obama.

Second, King Abdullah is committed to tackling the pressing issue of global climate change and has offered billions in research to help save our planet.

The King views the challenge of global warming in the context of mankind’s moral obligation to save the earth. It is no surprise that according to his daughter, the King’s favorite music is the sound of rain. The King is an environmentalist at heart.

President Obama cannot have a better partner than King Abdullah to tackle the scourge of carbon emissions.

Third, fighting extremism and the cancer of religious inspired terrorism is something the Saudi monarch has no rival on the global stage. Shortly after becoming King, he delivered a speech in Makkah about his vision for the Muslim world: “Fanaticism and extremism cannot grow on an Earth whose soil is embedded in the spirit of tolerance, moderation and balance. Good governance can eliminate injustice, destitution and poverty.” While opponents — religious zealots with little or no education — use Islam as a tool to attack the West, King Abdullah believes that “We are progressives (taqaddumiyun) by virtue of our Islam”.

In short, as the custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, the King has the religious authority to challenge the extremists within the Muslim world.

Imagine for a moment what the consequences would be if, instead of King Abdullah, the Muslim world was led by [Iranian leader] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when the Dutch cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad came out. Indeed, as Iran’s despotic rulers create the arc of instability in the region, King Abdullah has created an arc of stability; one the American president would be wise to acknowledge, embrace and promote.

Fourth, establishment of a rapid response force to respond immediately to natural disasters worldwide is a concern near and dear to the Saudi monarch.

He sees homelessness as inexcusable, and here, too, President Obama can offer US logistical support in creating a Saudi-US joint disaster relief team to help victims around the world.

Is Saudi Arabia a genuine democracy? No.

Nonetheless, President Obama does not need a democratic Saudi Arabia to tackle some of the issues his partner can offer. While some may express frustration with the pace of the King’s reform agenda, there is little doubt that it is anchored in a vision never before seen from the royal family.

In recognition of the enormous potential a new strategic bargain between the US and Saudi Arabia offers, King Abdullah should be invited to lay out his vision of peace, stability and religious tolerance to a joint session of the US Congress. – SG

* S. Rob Sobhani, Ph.D., is president of Caspian Energy Consulting and author of the book “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: A Leader of Consequence.” This is an edited version of the article reproduced from The Hill newspaper.

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Old-school powerhouses in the American-Jewish lobby have rowed in behind the Israeli government and lambasted the Obama administration’s cool approach to the "special relationship" between the two countries, though there are divergent views within the constituency.

JERUSALEM – In The Great Divorce, British novelist C S Lewis attempted to allegorize about a reality he admitted he could not know but tentatively hoped to suggest. The United States-Israel relationship, to most, seems like an unbreakable bond, and any potential divorce might be regarded as unimaginable.

But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama on July 6, they will discuss a relationship that is on the rocks, despite an annual US$2 billion in aid and – in keeping with the traditional parameters of the relationship – Obama’s repeated commitment to Israel’s security. Stirring things up in advance, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, spent Sunday and Monday denying media reports

The summit will be a reprise of a stillborn meeting originally scheduled for late May, which Netanyahu canceled after nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandoes onboard one of the six boats attempting to breach the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. In the aftermath, whatever Obama’s private thoughts, he refused to join the chorus condemning Israel. But American policymakers felt themselves to be caught between a rock and a hard place, and beyond this incident, there are divergent worldviews coloring thinking in both administrations.

Much has been made of Obama’s attempt to reach out to the Muslim world and his sackcloth-and-ashes pose for perceived American foreign policy sins-of-the-fathers. But in Israel, his June 2009 Cairo speech was taken as a signal that this American administration does not see Middle East geopolitics in the same light as its ally, and therefore puts Israel in danger.

It is not the first time that the two countries have quarreled, with tetchy relations apparent during the first George W Bush administration. Alon Pinkas is former Israeli consul general to the US. Speaking to a seminar of foreign and Israeli journalists at the IDC Herzliya last week, he argued that a turning point has been reached in bilateral relations. “In reality, US interests in the Middle East are with the Arab world. That is where the oil is, and Israel is just one small country surrounded by 290 million Arabs,” he said.

That is just part of the bigger picture. Both Obama and Afghanistan-bound General David Petraeus believe that “solving” the Israel-Palestine conflict will contribute to US strategy elsewhere – particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unproven and hazy thesis that fits in well with Obama’s hoped-for outreach to the Muslim world.

Again, Israelis are noting this. Dr Jonathan Fine teaches at the IDC Herzliya. Reminding the US that Israel is dealing with much the same ideological opponents in Hamas as the jihadis the US faces in Afghanistan or Iraq, he reminded Asia Times Online that America’s targeted assassinations and drone warfare continue in South Asia, in greater number and to deadlier effect than during the second Bush administration. However, “the Obama effect” means that the US does not receive anywhere near the same condemnation as when Israel attacks its nearby enemies, he lamented.

Israel feels it has been sacrificed on the altar of another Obama initiative, which might otherwise be described as inherently laudable. At the recent nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, Obama endorsed a resolution that omitted any mention of Iran but specifically targeted Israel, demanding that it sign the NPT and allow inspections of its facilities. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the specifics, the disparity between including Israel and excluding Iran was glaring to Israeli policymakers.

Netanyahu has already signaled his willingness to concede in the face of international pressure by the recent announcement to ease the Gaza blockade, which the US regards as untenable. In doing so, he may have left himself vulnerable domestically, with the so-called “centrist” Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni leading the charge. She is seen by many in Washington as less hardline than the current coalition, with whispers that the US might work behind the scenes to unseat Netanyahu, who is seen as beholden to religious parties in his coalition and therefore unable to meet the US halfway on issues such as settlement expansion.

After the announcement that the Gaza blockade would be relaxed, Livni accused the Netanyahu government of making policy at the dictates of international opinion. Previously, she accused the incumbent of destroying Israel’s position in world opinion, by its reaction to the flotilla. So before Netanyahu goes to the White House, it seems that Livni has her sights trained on him, irrespective of whether he aligns more closely to Obama on settlements, Gaza or Iran, or whether another row ensues.

It has been just a few weeks since US Vice President Joe Biden was humiliated in Jerusalem by the announcement that Israel plans to build 1,600 new houses in East Jerusalem. In contrast with the visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu did not during his most recent visit to the US get the customary White House Lawn press and photo-op with the US president.

He is likely to this time, though cynics might feel this is more about Obama playing to domestic politics than a reappraisal of how the US administration views Israel. Well-known foreign policy analyst Anthony Cordesman recently rationalized that Netanyahu’s government was becoming a “strategic liability” for the US, saying, “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the US, as well as the US to Israel, and that it becomes far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of US patience and exploits the support of American Jews.”

And that support will weigh on Obama’s mind as he continues his introduction to what predecessor Harry S Truman described as a problem unmatched in its complexity and potential for controversy. While 78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, it seems many might be having second thoughts. With mid-term elections looming and the passage of the healthcare bill tempered by spectacular losses such as Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, Obama may not want to see the relationship with Israel deteriorate on his watch, for now at least.

Old-school powerhouses in the American-Jewish lobby have rowed in behind the Israeli government and lambasted the Obama administration’s cool approach to the “special relationship” between the two countries, though there are divergent views within the constituency.

Stephen M Walt co-authored The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy, a provocative take on the influence of the Jewish lobby in the US. He told Asia Times Online that there “are some new pro-Israel groups like J Street that are trying to encourage smarter policies, and there is a much more open discussion of these issues now (due in part to the rise of the Internet and the blogosphere), but the raw political power of AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] et al is still formidable.”

An April survey by Quinnipiac University showed 67% of Jews as disapproving of Obama’s “handling [of] the situation between Israel and the Palestinians”. In another poll, support for Obama in the Jewish community went down to 58%, a loss of 20 points on the 2008 election.

However, other data suggest that the majority of American Jewish voters are card-carrying Democrats and liberal progressives first, with Israel policy less of a priority. This makes them somewhat of an anomaly in a party whose supporters are far less likely to be supportive of Israel than Republicans. (48% among Democrats, 85% among Republicans).

Simon Roughneen is a foreign correspondent. His website is www.simonroughneen.com.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.

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"The union will inevitably attract more investment in Saudi and create more jobs for the local population in Saudi Arabia itself. This may come at the expense of smaller … states, which see further Saudi domination as a risk to their economic growth," said Ghanem Nuseibeh at risk consultancy Political Capital.

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RIYADH
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia faces a challenge to keep a planned Gulf
monetary union rolling as the economic power of fellow oil exporters
rises, limiting the appeal of the project.

The kingdom, the Arab world’s biggest economy, is leading efforts
for a closer integration in the world’s top oil exporting region. Riyadh
believes that a monetary union with Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain will help
boost Gulf trade as well as grant Sunni-led monarchies greater leverage
on the world stage.

But
rivalry among members of the bloc has dealt several setbacks to the
single currency project, which has been in the works for almost a decade
and seems at least five years away.

“The appeal of the union has lessened as some countries weigh their
options,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi
Credit Agricole.

“Qatar and the
UAE are becoming bigger economies… for them the option of going alone
could be more attractive. One of the challenges will be to convince
those, who are outside to opt to participate and those who participate
not to opt out,” he said.

Saudi
Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is seen to benefit the most as
the closer integration could help create jobs for its growing national
population of 18 million.

“The
union will inevitably attract more investment in Saudi and create more
jobs for the local population in Saudi Arabia itself. This may come at
the expense of smaller … states, which see further Saudi domination as
a risk to their economic growth,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh at risk
consultancy Political Capital.

Cash-rich Qatar, whose economy more than doubled over the past five
years, is vying for more regional influence.

The weight of both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on the
six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council’s GDP rose to 36 percent in 2009,
from 29 percent in 2005, mainly at the expense of Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI DOMINANCE

The project
suffered a blow last year when the UAE, the second biggest Arab economy
and a key Gulf trade hub, withdrew over Saudi Arabia’s insistence to
host the joint central bank.

Oman, by far the Gulf’s least dependent country on oil and most
diversified economy, dropped out in 2006.

The UAE and Oman have repeatedly said rejoining the union was not on
the cards. The GCC chief indicated chances were higher if a strong
single currency was launched.

A
source familiar with the matter said there were no talks between Saudi
Arabia and the UAE on re-entering the project despite officially voiced
hopes it and Oman would come back.

“Smaller countries, with the exception of Bahrain, all fear a
Saudi-dominated future,” said historian Christopher Davidson.

“Saudi Arabia must bring the smaller
neighbours into its union, otherwise they remain a security and
political liability in its own backyard, thus making it very difficult
… to face a future where it will have to compete with Iran and Iraq,”
he said.

An appointment of
Saudi central bank governor to head the Gulf monetary council in March
underscored the kingdom’s grip, further reducing the odds of either the
UAE or Oman’s comeback.

LACKING COMMITMENT?

The four countries launched with fanfare
the forerunner for a joint central bank in March, but declined to
reveal a roadmap for the single currency, after missing the 2010
deadline.

Since then, regular
expert meetings have showed little progress to align monetary policies
or harmonise financial laws, while a debt crisis in the euro zone slowed
the drive further.

“It
(political will) is a bit limited … and the current problems of the
euro zone are a welcome excuse to take it even slower,” said Eckart
Woertz from Dubai’s Gulf Research Centre.

Kuwait’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the Gulf needed to draw
lessons from the European debt crisis.

Another big hurdle is a lack of reliable and timely economic data in
families-dominated Gulf countries, which questions their commitment to
the project, designed to emulate the euro zone.

Kuwait’s plan to stick to pegging its
dinar to a currency basket for the foreseeable future also raised
attention as other three countries favour their currency links to the
U.S. dollar.

A lack of
clear-cut benefits from the Gulf union, unlike in Europe, is of little
help to speed up the sluggish progress. As a result, the single currency
is not expected to be launched any time soon with the GCC itself seeing
it unlikely by 2015.

“I don’t
see any benefit from a Gulf monetary union,” Nahed Taher, CEO of
Bahrain-based Gulf One investment bank, told Saudi daily al-Eqtisadiah.
“We are already linked to one at the present time and do not need
further unification.”

The Saudi
central bank governor, Muhammad al-Jasser, praised in April the Gulf
currency’s benefits, such as boosting trade between the four members, he
then put at $15 billion.

This
accounts for a tiny fraction of total trade even after the 2003 launch
of a customs union, whose completion is now threatened by a row on how
to distribute receipts, though they are nowhere near oil revenues.

“The common currency is unlikely to
promote trade and investment substantially beyond levels that would have
normally occured,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at EFG-Hermes.

(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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Thus has Obama made America complicit once again in Israel’s barbaric war crimes. Just as the US Congress voted to deep-six Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s war crimes committed in Israel’s January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Obama has deep-sixed Israel’s latest act of barbarism by pretending that he doesn’t know what has happened.

As I write at 5pm on Monday, May 31, all day has passed since the early morning reports of the Israeli commando attack on the unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and there has been no response from President Obama except to say that he needed to learn “all the facts about this morning’s tragic events” and that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had canceled his plans to meet with him at the White House.

Thus has Obama made America complicit once again in Israel’s barbaric war crimes. Just as the US Congress voted to deep-six Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s war crimes committed in Israel’s January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Obama has deep-sixed Israel’s latest act of barbarism by pretending that he doesn’t know what has happened.

No one in the world will believe that Israel attacked ships in international waters carrying Israeli citizens, a Nobel Laureate, elected politicians, and noted humanitarians bringing medicines and building materials to Palestinians in Gaza, who have been living in the rubble of their homes without repairs or medicines since January 2009, without first clearing the crime with its American protector. Without America’s protection, Israel, a totally artificial state, could not exist.

No one in the world will believe that America’s spy apparatus did not detect the movement of the Israeli attack force toward the aid ships in international waters in an act of piracy, killing 20, wounding 50, and kidnapping the rest.

Obama’s pretense at ignorance confirms his complicity.

Once again the US government has permitted the Israeli state to murder good people known for their moral conscience. The Israeli state has declared that anyone with a moral conscience is an enemy of Israel, and every American president except Eisenhower and Carter has agreed.

Obama’s 12-hour silence in the face of extreme barbarity is his signal to the controlled corporate media to remain on the sidelines until Israeli propaganda sets the story.

The Israeli story, preposterous as always, is that the humanitarians on one of the ships took two pistols from Israeli commandos, highly trained troops armed with automatic weapons, and fired on the attack force. The Israeli government claims that the commandos’ response (70 casualties at last reporting) was justified self-defense. Israel was innocent. Israel did not do anything except drop commandos aboard from helicopters in order to intercept an arms shipment to Gazans being brought in by ships manned by terrorists.

Many Christian evangelicals, brainwashed by their pastors that it is God’s will for Americans to protect Israel, will believe the Israeli story, especially when it is unlikely they will ever hear any other. Conservative Americans, especially on Memorial Day when they are celebrating feats of American arms, will admire Israel for its toughness.Here in north Georgia where I am at the moment, I have heard several say, admiringly, “Them, Israelis, they don’t put up with nuthin.”

Conservative Americans want the US to be like Israel. They do not understand why the US doesn’t stop pissing around after nine years and just go ahead and defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. They don’t understand why the US didn’t defeat whoever was opposing American forces in Iraq. Conservatives are incensed that America had to “win” the war by buying off the Iraqis and putting them on the US payroll.

Israel murders people and then blames its victims. This appeals to American conservatives, who want the US to do the same.

It is likely that Americans will accept Israeli propagandist Mark Regev’s story that Israelis were met by deadly fire when they tried to intercept an arms shipment to Palestinian terrorists from IHH, a radical Turkish Islamist organization hiding under the cover of humanitarian aid. This explanation is crafted to allow Americans to sink back into their stupor.

Americans will never hear from the US media that Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan declared that the aid ships were carefully inspected before departure from Turkey and that there were no terrorists or arms aboard:

“I want to say to the world, to the heads of state and the governments, that these boats that left from Turkey and other countries were checked in a strict way under the framework of the rules of international navigation and were only loaded with humanitarian aid.”

Turkey is a US ally, a member of NATO. Turkey’s cooperation is important to American’s plan for world hegemony. Turkey now realizes that the Israeli state is comprised of total evil. Erdogan must wonder about the morality of Israel’s American protector. According to a report in antiwar.com, the Turkish government declared that “future aid ships will be dispatched with a military escort so as to prevent future Israeli attacks.”

Will the CIA assassinate Erdogan or pay the Turkish military to overthrow him?

Murat Mercan, head of Turkey’s foreign relations committee, said that Israel’s claim that there were terrorists aboard the aid ships was Israel’s way of covering up its crime. Mercan declared:”Any allegation that the members of this ship is attached to al-Qaeda is a big lie because there are Israeli civilians, Israeli authorities, Israeli parliamentarians on board the ship.”

The criminal Israeli state does not deny its act of piracy. Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters: “This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.”

Americans, and their Western European puppet states and the puppet state in Canada, will be persuaded by the servile media to buy the story fabricated by Israeli propaganda that the humanitarian aid ships were manned by terrorists bringing weapons to the Palestinians in Gaza, and that the terrorists posing as humanitarians attacked the force of Israeli commandos with two pistols, clubs, and knives.

The ignorant Americans will swallow this story without a hiccup.

Paul Craig Roberts has had careers in scholarship and academia, public service, and journalism. He served in the Congressional staff and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. From 1971 until 2004 he was associated with the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he was a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles.

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The fact that Iran has reached out to vocal opponents of the United States in the region, namely Venezuela, Cuba, among others, along with traditionally close allies of Washington, has also raised alarm bells. Based on this view, Iran’s expanding presence in the Americas constitutes a direct threat to US and regional security, a recurring theme in official US policy circles.


Brazil’s decision, along with fellow non-permanent United Nations Security Council member Turkey, to vote against the latest United States-led efforts to impose harsher sanctions against Iran on June 9 aimed at stymieing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, reflects a sea-change in global geopolitics characterized by a decline in US power and the return of multi-polarity.

Brazil’s refusal to support UN Security Council Resolution 1929 came on the heels of a successful joint Brazilian-Turkish attempt to win Iranian agreement on May 17 to enter into a uranium exchange pact designed to allay concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and to avert a more serious escalation of regional tensions.

Brazil’s bold drive to inject itself into the center of one of the most contentious issues in international affairs, coupled with its move
to join Turkey in overtly challenging the dominant US-led diplomatic paradigm when it comes to dealing with Iran, are emblematic of Brasilia’s aspirations of achieving a great-power status commensurate with what it perceives to be its true diplomatic, economic and military strength.

Brazil’s venture into Middle East diplomacy should therefore be considered in the context of its steady ascent to international prominence. Brazil’s diplomatic defense of Iran, however, also highlights the significance of Tehran’s bond with the South American powerhouse.

While many observers continue to marvel at Brazil’s emerging stature as a player in Middle East diplomacy, another significant, albeit far less understood, geopolitical trend with major implications occurring in the US’s backyard in the Western hemisphere has grabbed headlines in recent years.

Iran has undertaken its own ambitious mission in recent years to expand its influence across Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where it has traditionally maintained little or no meaningful diplomatic, economic or military presence until fairly recently. The expanding Iranian-Brazilian interface, as well as Iran’s growing multifaceted contacts with Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Guyana, among a host of other nations in the Americas, reflect Iran’s commitment to assert itself as a player in its own right in the Americas.

Reports of Tehran’s ties to Islamist militants allegedly operating in the region and their sympathizers within the region’s Middle East diaspora and local Muslim communities continue to dominate the treatment of Iran’s inroads into the Americas in media and foreign policy circles.

Not surprisingly, many followers of Middle East and Latin American and Caribbean affairs continue to view Iran’s foray into the Americas through a security prism. Iran’s track record of exporting its revolutionary Islamism throughout the greater Middle East in the 1980s and 1990s, argue many observers, including its support for Islamist militants opposed to the US-led status quo in the region, and Iran’s support in Lebanon of Hezbollah, which is implicated in attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s, should to serve as the template on which to assess Tehran’s intentions in the Americas.

The fact that Iran has reached out to vocal opponents of the United States in the region, namely Venezuela, Cuba, among others, along with traditionally close allies of Washington, has also raised alarm bells. Based on this view, Iran’s expanding presence in the Americas constitutes a direct threat to US and regional security, a recurring theme in official US policy circles.

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern over what he described as Iran’s “subversive activity” in the region during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 27, 2009. Prior to embarking on her February 28 to March 5, 2010, tour of regional capitals, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opined before the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Sub-committee that Iran would be “at the top” of her agenda during her trip.

An April 2010 report by the US Department of Defense also stated that members of the Quds Force (Jerusalem), an elite special operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), are also present in the Americas, especially in Venezuela.

The argument that Iran’s growing presence in the Americas constitutes a security threat, however, fails to acknowledge the pragmatism guiding Iran’s activities in the region, not to mention the open arms in which Tehran is being received.

The flurry of high-level bilateral meetings between Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his counterparts in places such as Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia in recent years, with reciprocal visits by regional leaders to Tehran that culminated in a range of political, economic, energy, cultural, military and scientific agreements, are a case in point.

In addition, diplomatic exchanges and growing business contacts between Iran and partners in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru and Mexico, coupled with the opening of new Iranian embassies, also illustrate the rapid development of the Islamic Republic’s relations with the region.

Data issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2009 and analyzed by the Latin Business Chronicle concluded that the volume of trade between Iran and the wider region topped an estimated US$2.9 billion, approximately triple the trade volume between 2007 and 2008; Brazilian trade with Iran came in at $1.3 billion during the same period, a dramatic 88% increase from 2007.

Brazil is Iran’s largest source of exports from Latin America. The Iranian Red Crescent Society also dispatched tons of disaster relief aid and a team of doctors following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 this year. Iran has also promised hundreds of millions in economic aid and low-interest loans to Nicaragua, Bolivia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Forward defense diplomacy
Myriad factors drive Iran’s strategy in the Americas. As a country that continues to be subject to a sustained US-led campaign to isolate it in the international arena, Iran has made it a strategic priority to cultivate a wide network of bilateral relations to undermine attempts to box it in.

Iran has also worked diligently to shore up its diplomatic clout in the face of threats of attack by the United States and, in particular, Israel, over its nuclear program. In this context, Iran’s strategy to expand its ties to the Americas serves two main purposes: first, it allows Iran to better insulate itself and critical sectors of its society – especially its economy – from an increasingly rigid sanctions regime, thereby allowing it to weather US pressure to change its behavior; second, by cultivating a diverse network of relationships, including relations predicated on lucrative business dealings and delicate diplomacy with governments that have fallen out of favor with Washington, Iran works to ensure that as many of countries as possible have a vested interest in continued dealings with Iran.

This aspect of Iran’s strategy enables it to count on the support of countries that would previously have had no direct stake in whether Iran is placed under sanctions. A policy of diplomatic diversification, in essence, guides Iran’s approach to the Americas.

The heavy US military presence in the greater Middle East has also profoundly shaped Tehran’s strategic calculus when it comes to its strategy toward the Americas. The existence of a US-led alliance network composed of a nuclear-armed Israel and pro-US Arab regimes has left Iran, for all intents and purposes, hemmed in and potentially vulnerable to attack.

Iran’s eastern and western frontiers, for instance, are flanked by tens of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, as well as a growing US military footprint in neighboring Pakistan.

The regional landscape is also dotted by US military bases and a robust deployment of naval forces in the Gulf. United States security guarantees for Iran’s neighbors add another level of anxiety in Tehran. United States strategy toward Iran is designed to contain and ultimately undermine Iranian influence through a policy of strategic encirclement.

With this in mind, Iran’s inroads into the Americas represent a form of forward defense diplomacy, essentially a means through which the Islamic Republic can counter the United States by effectively employing soft power in a region considered by Washington to be in its own exclusive sphere of influence.

Return of revolution
Iran’s push into the Americas would have never have materialized without the active encouragement of eager partners in the region. Yet how did the Islamic Republic manage to win so much goodwill from the Caribbean to the Southern Cone?

Iran’s diplomatic achievements cannot be understood without taking into account the tectonic shift to the left that saw an eclectic mix of leftist populists of various stripes take over the reins of power throughout the hemisphere beginning in the late 1990s. United in their skepticism toward US foreign policy and eagerness to charter independent paths for their countries away from the neo-liberal economic orthodoxies preached by Washington, the rise of a new revolutionary politics determined to defy the US-led status quo in the region has provided Iran with a receptive audience for its overtures and an ample supply of friends.

A new form of revolutionary politics in the Americas imbued with an anti-imperialist discourse directed toward the United States has meshed well with Iranian foreign policy. Despite the Shi’ite Islamist character of the clerical regime, Tehran has adopted a realistic approach in its diplomacy toward the Americas that emphasizes anti-imperialism, popular struggle, social justice and the preservation of national independence and sovereignty through South-South solidarity.

Iran has also effectively used institutions such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to make inroads among NAM members in Latin America. The overlap between the revolutionary discourse out of Tehran and regional capitals such as Brasilia, Caracas, La Paz, Havana, Managua and Quito, for instance, is remarkable, thus providing Iran with valuable diplomatic cover on a range of issues, especially its nuclear program.

Iran has honed its skills as a source of resistance in the Middle East, where it is joined by Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas in Gaza (and occasionally Turkey and Qatar) in a front of resistance against US allies Israel and the bloc of pro-US Arab regimes led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Iran is comfortable in this role.

The overextension of US forces and diplomatic resources to the greater Middle East and East Asia and the emphasis on counter-terrorism in recent years has also relegated Latin America to the proverbial sidelines in terms of foreign policy and security priorities in Washington, thus providing Iran, along with other players such as China and Russia, with ample room to maneuver. This confluence of circumstances is sure to encourage greater contacts between Iran and Latin America in the coming years.

Chris Zambelis is an author and researcher with Helios Global, Inc, a risk management group based in the Washington, DC area. He specializes in Middle East politics. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Helios Global, Inc.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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The Israeli military has also overtly claimed that members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were linked to Al-Qaeda. Tel Aviv put out a press release on June 2, 2010 making such claims to the international media.

The attack and murder of international humanitarian activists, aid workers
and a journalist by the Israeli military on the Mavi Maramara on May 31, 2010 in
international waters is an unjustifiable act of aggression. It can be
interpreted as either an act of piracy or as an act of war. Nor is this type of
behaviour on the part of Israel new.

Israel could never justify forcefully stopping an international convoy of
ships going to the Gaza Strip to help relieve the Palestinian people. This is
why Tel Aviv deliberately instigated fighting with unarmed civilians on board
the Mavi Maramara, fabricated evidence, and has hereto tried its best to portray
the international group of civilians or some of its members as violent
extremists.

False Israeli claims about Weapons on the Gaza Freedom
Flotilla

Tel Aviv has turned reality on its head and tried to portray itself as the
victim of the unarmed civilian group of international humanitarians, aid
workers, and activists as the aggressors. Israeli officials have released
pictures of standard ship equipment and kitchen knives collected from the Mavi
Maramara. They claim that these were weapons

being carried or smuggled by violent extremists. Even vests with clear Red
Crescent symbols used by doctors, medics, and humanitarian workers of the
International Red Cross and Red Crescent were presented by Israeli officials as
proof that the members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were violent extremists.

The Guardian (Connolly, 3 June 2010) in an interview with Henning
Mankell, the Swedish writer, gives an account of how the Israelis were
categorizing anything that they could as a weapon:

“The soldiers checked the boat and one soon returned saying they had found
weapons, Mankell said. ‘I have 24 witnesses to this, he showed me my razor, a
one-time use razor, and a box cutter he’d found in the kitchen,’ Mankell
said.”

The passengers onboard the Mavi Maramara were defending themselves and not
out to kill the so-called Israeli commandos. Picture evidence proves that the
Israeli account is false. The passengers even gave medical aid to the Israeli
commandos they captured. The pictures were on a chip hidden by a passenger so
that the Israelis would not destroy the evidence.

False Israeli claims about Al-Qaeda links to the Gaza Freedom
Flotilla

The Israeli military has also overtly claimed that members of the Gaza
Freedom Flotilla were linked to Al-Qaeda. Tel Aviv put out a press release on
June 2, 2010 making such claims to the international media.

When asked by reporters Max Bluementhal (3 June 2010) and Lia Tarachansky
what evidence the Israeli military had to support its Al-Qaeda claims, Israeli
military officials replied that they had no evidence and that they were simply
told by Benjamin Netanyahu’s advisors of Israel’s National Security Council that
the activists onboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla had ties to Al-Qaeda. Later this
was retracted and taken off the webpage of the Israeli military.

Caught Red Handed: Israel Doctored the Audio Evidence

The Israeli military also released a doctored audio transmission in which
unknown voices say “Shut up, go back to Auschwitz” and “We’re helping Arabs go
against the U.S., don’t forget 9/11 guys.” Upon the release of the Israeli
evidence, the organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla strongly refuted the
Israeli claim as doctored propaganda.

Firstly, the first release by Israel had no responses except a male voice
saying “Negative. Negative.”

Secondly, in the second audio transmission the male individual(s) who made
the comments never identified himself (themselves), but Israeli officials have
confirmed that the response came from the Mavi Maramara.

Thirdly, from studies of these organizations, there is a standard radio
response that humanitarian workers and activists have been systematically using
when coming into contact with Israeli military vessels under which they identify
themselves, state their intentions as humanitarians, and tell the Israelis they
are peaceful and pose no threat. This standard response can be heard in the
unedited Israeli version of the audio in which the speaker Huwaida Arraf also
identifies herself as speaking for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

In the recording Arraf clearly says:

“Israeli Navy, this is the Freedom Flotilla. We are comprised of six motor
vessels carrying only passengers and humanitarian aid destined for the Gaza
Strip. We do not carry anything that constitutes a threat to your armed forces.
Therefore, you are not justified in using any force against us. The blockade of
Gaza is illegal under international law. We have permission from the Gaza Port
Authority to enter. We repeat, we do not constitute a threat to your armed
forces. You are not just..[radio interruption; the word she is using is
“justified”] to threat unarmed civilians. Over.”

Following the well documented work of Huwaida Arraf and of these humanitarian
organizations one would know that this has roughly been their standard response
to the Israeli military. In the doctored Israeli releases almost all of this is
cut out. All you hear in English is “Shut up, go back to Auschwitz”(unknown male
voice), “We have permission from the Gaza Port Authority to enter” (Huwaida
Arraf), and “We’re helping Arabs go against the U.S., don’t forget 9/11 guys”
(unknown male voice) as an answer to the Israelis.

Fourthly, there is a big problem with the Israeli claim. Arraf was on the
Challenger I and not onboard the Mavi Maramara. Many journalists caught on to
this. Arraf makes things clear in an interview with Mya Guarnieri (6 June
2010):

“‘I was on the radio the whole time there was any communication,’ Arraf told
Ma’an. ‘Mine was the only boat in which I answered and not the captain and they
all answered in a very professional manner.’ Arraf told Ma’an that
while she might have spoken of having permission from the Gaza Port Authority on
a previous attempt to break the blockade, she is certain that she did not say it
on Monday morning.”

The voice of Arraf was added from somewhere else. The audio is an extract
from a past radio transmission. Under pressure, the Israeli military (5 June
2010) was forced to admit in an official press release that it had released an
edited audio transmission to the international press and the world. In what
amounted to little more than a failed coverup, the Israeli military (5 June
2010) press release states:

“This transmission had originally cited the Mavi Marmara ship as being the
source of these remarks, however, due to an open channel, the specific ship or
ships in the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ responding to the Israeli Navy could not be
identified.”

While cutting out substantial and important points, the Israelis claimed that
they edited and shortened the audio tape for listeners to understand. This is
clearly false when the audio transmissions are studied.

In what amounts to a disgraceful bungle, the audio tapes were clearly
doctored by the Israelis to frame the humanitarians onboard the Gaza Freedom
Flotilla as violent bigots. The Israeli serviceman talking on the radio does not
even say the exact same things in the different versions of the so-called
transmissions. Before he says: “This is the Israeli Navy.” Yet, in the so-called
unedited version the Israeli serviceman says “This is Israeli Navy,” with the
word “the” missing. Moreover, even though the Israelis now claim they used an
open line, no one else on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla heard any of these
comments.

(Consult the IDF Press Release at the end of this text and the audio
files
)

Concluding Remarks

In the words of Haaretz, one of Israel’s major newspapers:

“The Israeli propaganda machine has reached new highs its hopeless frenzy. It
has distributed menus from Gaza restaurants, along with false information. It
embarrassed itself by entering a futile public relations battle, which it might
have been better off never starting. They want to maintain the ineffective,
illegal and unethical siege on Gaza and not let the ‘peace flotilla’ dock off
the Gaza coast? There is nothing to explain, certainly not to a world that will
never buy the web of explanations, lies and tactics” (Levy, 30 May 2010).

The Israeli government is lying and, from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, this has
been proven time and time again. Tel Aviv deliberately invoked Al-Qaeda, the
horrors of Auschwitz, and the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001 to demonize
the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, but in so doing it has revealed its machinations and
fabrications. If this is the behaviour of Tel Aviv when dealing with a few
hundred international activists and humanitarians, one can only imagine the
treatment millions of Palestinians face under Israeli occupation.

Israel is the aggressor. It was the party that attacked the international aid
ships and their civilian passengers. The passengers that fought back did so to
protect themselves. Also, Israeli servicemen systematically attacked journalists
and confiscated all recording devices to prevent the people onboard the ships
from exposing Israeli aggression against unarmed civilians in international
waters.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is at a crossroad. What happened to the Mavi
Maramara and the rest of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the international waters
of the Mediterranean Sea is akin to the 1976 Soweto Riots that ended Apartheid
in South Africa. A historic and very real opportunity is before us. The Gaza
Strip and the Palestinians need urgent humanitarian aid. Not only do the
Palestinians need to be saved from the brutal Israeli occupation, but the
Israelis need to be saved from themselves too and the madness that is strangling
their society. It is also from the example of the Palestinian people that the
seeds of democracy will spread in the Middle East and in Arab countries.

Ordinary citizens across the globe will have to lead the way. Governments can
not be depended on. It is time for the “Second Superpower,” which is the power
of the people, to bring much needed change.

0 8

This role increasingly puts the Israelis at odds with their chief benefactors, the US government, and the political elites of Western Europe. While generally kept under wraps, this mutual antipathy has been on the increase, lately, as the Israelis drop their “Western” mask. The result has been a series of confrontations: the Israeli insistence on building new settlements in defiance of an American-sponsored peace plan, the ambushing of an American Vice President as he visited the Jewish state, the very real hatred for President Obama exhibited by the growing far-right in Israeli politics, and a series of high-profile attempts to penetrate America’s security firewall. To say nothing of the Israeli “art students” who flooded the US in the months prior to 9/11, and the post-9/11 revelation by Fox News – hardly the American al-Jazeera – that, as Carl Cameron put it:

One of my readers, in the comments section below, wrote the following in response to my last column on Israel’s hijacking of the Gaza flotilla:

“Again I ask the question: What do the Israelis have on our politicians that makes them such whores? Dirty pictures? Threats of withholding campaign contributions? It’s really embarrassing as well as infuriating to see congress with its collective pants down around their legislative ankles just waiting for Israel to do it again.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

Well, actually, there is a lot wrong with that, but, in any case, what’s the answer to this question? Again and again Israel has outraged the world, and even many of its most dedicated supporters, by its actions: multiple invasions of Lebanon, “incursions” into Gaza and the West Bank, the ever-expanding settlements, the vicious racism and tribalism that characterizes the present ultra-rightist government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes the openly racist and fascist party of the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman – the list of Israel’s sins is a long one, and that’s going back but a few years.

Even when the Israelis blew up a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, a military reconnaissance vessel that was monitoring Israeli troops movements prior to the Six Day War, Washington went along – in public – with Tel Aviv’s fairy tale claiming it was an “accident.” This disgrace is repeated, today, as the beaten and battered Americans who lived to tell the tale of what happened aboard the flotilla return to bear witness to Israeli brutality. An American citizen is killed, and Washington looks the other way. The ghost of Rachel Corrie is not surprised. Nor am I. Because the Israelis, after all, are our enemies.

Forget the fact that without aid from the US the Israeli settler colony would sink like a stone. Ignore the ritualistic paeans to the “special relationship,” regularly mouthed by politicians in both countries who know their lines by heart. And pay no attention to the propaganda that regularly depicts US-Israeli relations as a mutual admiration society founded on “shared values” and the love of liberal democracy.

Established in the wake of the Holocaust, and created by survivors of that horrific orgy of mass murder, the basis of Israel’s founding was and is the idea that Jews are not safe in this world. Not anywhere: no, not even in the United States. The premise behind this view is that everyone is a potential enemy, to be kept at arm’s length, at best, and to be crushed underfoot, at worst.

The lawlessness and brutality that we saw in the attack on the flotilla is inherent in the nature of Zionism, which, after all, came to birth at a time when the world was rife with nationalism of the most virulent sort. Liberal friends of Israel look on in horror as the Jewish state evolves into a combination of South Africa under apartheid and the new North Korea. Yet ideology has its own inexorable logic: it’s hardly an anomaly that the early followers of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the leading figure in what is today the ruling party in Israel, were attracted to and full of praise for the “blood and iron” doctrine of Mussolini – and the feeling was mutual. Not for nothing did Il Duce allow Jabotinsky’s “revisionist” faction to set up a training camp in Italy for its naval fighters in the Irgun, the forerunner of today’s IDF.

We’re shocked when survivors of the flotilla attack testify to what happened, and the autopsy reports are coming in: one shot four times in the head, others shot and killed at very close range, execution-style. Yet Israel has shown what it is capable of many times: the hijacking of the Gaza flotilla was just the most recent occurrence in a string of incidents stretching back years: the kidnapping of Mordecai Vanunu, the assassination squads that roam the world in search of Israel’s enemies, the bombing of Western diplomatic and cultural facilities in Egypt to make it look as though the Arabs were responsible (the Lavon incident), not to mention the long history of Israeli aggression against its neighbors and its indigenous Arab population.

These are not the actions of a Western liberal democracy, but of a frenetic and fanatic regime that resembles nothing so much as the legendary Order of Assassins, the 12th century adherents of the Nizari Ismaili Shiite sect whose leaders sent out their murderous minions to dispose of enemies with such deadly effectiveness that their name became synonymous with violent death. Netanyahu is the modern day Old Man of the Mountain.

This role increasingly puts the Israelis at odds with their chief benefactors, the US government, and the political elites of Western Europe. While generally kept under wraps, this mutual antipathy has been on the increase, lately, as the Israelis drop their “Western” mask. The result has been a series of confrontations: the Israeli insistence on building new settlements in defiance of an American-sponsored peace plan, the ambushing of an American Vice President as he visited the Jewish state, the very real hatred for President Obama exhibited by the growing far-right in Israeli politics, and a series of high-profile attempts to penetrate America’s security firewall. To say nothing of the Israeli “art students” who flooded the US in the months prior to 9/11, and the post-9/11 revelation by Fox News – hardly the American al-Jazeera – that, as Carl Cameron put it:

“Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.

“There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’”

If the Israelis are capable of this – standing pat while information they held could have prevented the worst terrorist attack in American history – then they’re capable of anything. And the US government knows it, which is one good reason why we don’t dare cross them, at least openly, unless it can’t be avoided. They can kill Americans, steal our biggest secrets, and laugh in our faces without fear of retaliation – because we’ve nurtured a Frankenstein monster that is perfectly capable of turning on its creator, and doing considerable damage in the process.

Another good reason why we literally let them get away with murder is their political power in this country: the soft underbelly of America’s defenses against foreign incursions is the ability of foreign-backed lobbyists to undermine – and shape – US policy. A long and dedicated state-sponsored campaign to embed their agents of influence at the center of American political and social life has paid off quite handsomely. On the left as well as the right, their partisans tirelessly promote the Israeli government line – and don’t hesitate to rebuke their own political leaders whenever they show signs of straying from the narrow path of righteousness.

And who can blame them? After all, their physical existence, as well as their political independence as a nation-state, depends wholly on the lifeline of American subsidies (a little detail fake “libertarian” Rand Paul seems to have left out of his statement on Israel.)

The martial spirit that infuses Israel’s myrmidons with such passion is born of a sense of embattled isolation pulsing at the heart of the Zionist project. Surrounded by enemies, perpetually in “existential” danger, the Jewish state exists simultaneously as a consummate bully and a helpless victim: thus the odd argument coming out of Tel Aviv that their commandos were brutalized by those nasty, stick-wielding Turkish “terrorists,” who had the temerity to fight back. The Israelis released a video, which dominated the Western media coverage, of those awful Turkish “terrorists” beating commandos, omitting what happened in the moments before – live fire coming from helicopters – and after (nine execution-style deaths, and many injuries.)

To the hard line Israeli nationalist – a disagreeable species firmly in control of the government in Tel Aviv, now and for the foreseeable future – everyone is an enemy, but especially the Americans, who, to be sure, hold the fate of the Jewish state in their unreliable hands. What if, some day, we elect a President with some balls, one unafraid of the Lobby and willing to stand up for America? What if we elect a Congress that isn’t nearly as eager as this one is to kowtow to AIPAC and apologize for Israeli state terrorism? What if, one day, the aid spigot is turned off?

Israel’s national paranoia is not limited to the Israelis, per se, but also afflicts their American amen corner to such an extent that every criticism of Israel is portrayed as an anti-Semitic plot. For example, the above-cited Fox News story is never disputed, or even quoted: it is simply dismissed as vile “anti-Semitism.” Is Carl Cameron – a Fox News reporter once considered friendly to the Bush White House – an anti-Semite? Is Fox News “anti-Israel”? And what about the rest of Cameron’s fascinating and detailed four-part report, which not only avers the Israelis were watching and aware of the 9/11 hijackers, but also exposes an extensive spy operation and systematic industrial espionage in the US?

Disguised as ill feelings toward Barack Obama, the rabid anti-Americanism on the rise in Israel may seem bizarre, on the surface: why hate your best friend? Yet this development is perfectly understandable. How would you like it if your “best friend” supported you, protected you, succored you, and gave you everything you needed and wanted, so that eventually you were lost in his all-encompassing embrace? At some point, if you had any kind of character, you’d come to resent it – and even hate it, whilst hating yourself for allowing it.

The “special relationship” is a poisonous and deeply dysfunctional relationship, which benefits one party at the growing expense of the other. Sooner or later it will end, but how? With an open break, perhaps even a violent conflict – remember how Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen refused to rule out shooting down an Israeli jet crossing Iraqi airspace en route to Iran? Or, more probably, with a covert Israeli action of some sinister sort? In any event, you can be sure that Washington greatly fears the answer to that question.

0 7

srael is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

From 2007


On October 16, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Israel Lobby’s bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This legislation requires the US Department of State to monitor anti-semitism world wide.

To monitor anti-semitism, it has to be defined. What is the definition? Basically, as defined by the Israel Lobby and Abe Foxman, it boils down to any criticism of Israel or Jews.

Rahm Israel Emanuel hasn’t been mopping floors at the White House.
As soon as he gets the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, it will become a crime for any American to tell the truth about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and theft of their lands.

It will be a crime for Christians to acknowledge the New Testament’s account of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be a crime to report the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on the White House and Congress, such as the AIPAC-written resolutions praising Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza that were endorsed by 100 per cent of the US Senate and 99 per cent of the House of Representatives, while the rest of the world condemned Israel for its barbarity.

It will be a crime to doubt the Holocaust.

It will become a crime to note the disproportionate representation of Jews in the media, finance, and foreign policy.

In other words, it means the end of free speech, free inquiry, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Any facts or truths that cast aspersion upon Israel will simply be banned.

Given the hubris of the US government, which leads Washington to apply US law to every country and organization, what will happen to the International Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the various human rights organizations that have demanded investigations of Israel’s military assault on Gaza’s civilian population? Will they all be arrested for the hate crime of “excessive” criticism of Israel?

This is a serious question.

A recent UN report, which is yet to be released in its entirety, blames Israel for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises in Gaza. The Israeli government has responded by charging that the UN report is “tendentious, patently biased,” which puts the UN report into the State Department’s category of excessive criticism and strong anti-Israel sentiment.

Israel is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

It was the Israeli press that published the pictures of the Israeli soldiers’ T-shirts that indicate that the willful murder of women and children is now the culture of the Israeli army. The T-shirts are horrific expressions of barbarity. For example, one shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a crosshairs over her stomach and the slogan, “One shot, two kills.” These T-shirts are an indication that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is one of extermination.

It has been true for years that the most potent criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians comes from the Israeli press and Israeli peace groups. For example, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Jeff Halper of ICAHD have shown a moral conscience that apparently does not exist in the Western democracies where Israel’s crimes are covered up and even praised.

Will the American hate crime bill be applied to Haaretz and Jeff Halper? Will American commentators who say nothing themselves but simply report what Haaretz and Halper have said be arrested for “spreading hatred of Israel, an anti-semitic act”?

Many Americans have been brainwashed by the propaganda that Palestinians are terrorists who threaten innocent Israel. These Americans will see the censorship as merely part of the necessary war on terror. They will accept the demonization of fellow citizens who report unpalatable facts about Israel and agree that such people should be punished for aiding and abetting terrorists.

A massive push is underway to criminalize criticism of Israel. American university professors have fallen victim to the well organized attempt to eliminate all criticism of Israel. Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at a Catholic university because of the power of the Israel Lobby. Now the Israel Lobby is after University of California (at Santa Barbara,) professor Wiliam Robinson. Robinson’s crime: his course on global affairs included some reading assignments critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Israel Lobby apparently succeeded in convincing the Obama Justice (sic) Department that it is anti-semitic to accuse two Jewish AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, of spying. The Israel Lobby succeeded in getting their trial delayed for four years, and now Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges. Yet, Larry Franklin, the DOD official accused of giving secret material to Rosen and Weissman, is serving 12 years and 7 months in prison.

The absurdity is extraordinary. The two Israeli agents are not guilty of receiving secrets, but the American official is guilty of giving secrets to them! If there is no spy in the story, how was Franklin convicted of giving secrets to a spy?

Criminalizing criticism of Israel destroys any hope of America having an independent foreign policy in the Middle East that serves American rather than Israeli interests. It eliminates any prospect of Americans escaping from their enculturation with Israeli propaganda.

To keep American minds captive, the Lobby is working to ban as anti-semitic any truth or disagreeable fact that pertains to Israel. It is permissible to criticize every other country in the world, but it is anti-semitic to criticize Israel, and anti-semitism will soon be a universal hate-crime in the Western world.

Most of Europe has already criminalized doubting the Holocaust. It is a crime even to confirm that it happened but to conclude that less than 6 million Jews were murdered.

Why is the Holocaust a subject that is off limits to examination? How could a case buttressed by hard facts possibly be endangered by kooks and anti-semitics? Surely the case doesn’t need to be protected by thought control.

Imprisoning people for doubts is the antithesis of modernity.

0 7

Iran’s case against Israel was bolstered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued enthusiasm for the Gaza blockade, and by Tel Aviv’s recent arrogant dismissal of a conference of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories, which called on Israel to join a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Nor has Obama’s push for stronger sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council hurt them.

Iran’s Green movement is one year old this Sunday, the anniversary of its first massive demonstrations in the streets of Tehran. Greeted with great hope in much of the world, a year later it’s weaker, the country is more repressive, and hardliners are in a far stronger position – partly thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sanctions hawks in the Barack Obama administration.

If, in the past year, those hardliners successfully faced down major challenges within Iranian society and abroad, it was only in part attributable to the regime’s skills in repression and sidestepping international pressure. Above all, the ayatollahs

benefited from Israeli intransigence and American hypocrisy on nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.

Iran’s case against Israel was bolstered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued enthusiasm for the Gaza blockade, and by Tel Aviv’s recent arrogant dismissal of a conference of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories, which called on Israel to join a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Nor has Obama’s push for stronger sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council hurt them.

And then, on Memorial Day in the United States, Israel’s Likud government handed Tehran its greatest recent propaganda victory by sending its commandos against a peace flotilla in international waters and so landing its men, guns blazing, on the deck of the USS Sanctions. Wednesday’s vote at the United Nations Security Council on punishing Iran produced a weak, much watered-down resolution targeting 40 companies, which lacked the all-important imprimatur of unanimity, insofar as Turkey and Brazil voted “no” and Lebanon abstained.

There was no mention of an oil or gasoline boycott, and the language of the resolution did not even seem to make the new sanctions obligatory. It was at best a pyrrhic victory for those hawks who had pressed for “crippling” sanctions, and likely to be counter-productive rather than effective in ending Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. How we got here is a long, winding, sordid tale of the triumph of macho posturing over patient and effective policymaking.

Suppressing the Green movement
From last summer through last winter, the hardliners of the Islamic Republic of Iran were powerfully challenged by reformists, who charged that the June 12, 2009, presidential election had been marked by extensive fraud. Street protests were so large, crowds so enthusiastic, and the opposition so steadfast that it seemed as if Iran were on the brink of a significant change in its way of doing business, possibly even internationally.

The opposition – the most massive since the Islamic revolution of 1978-79 – was dubbed the Green movement, because green is the color of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad, among whom losing presidential candidate Mirhossein Moussavi is counted. Although some movement supporters were secularists, many were religious, and so disarmingly capable of deploying the religious slogans and symbols of the Islamic republic against the regime itself.

Where the regime put emphasis on the distant Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Levant, Green movement activists chanted (during “Jerusalem Day” last September), “Not Gaza, not Lebanon. I die only for Iran.” They took their cue from candidate Moussavi, who said he “liked” Palestine but thought waving its flag in Iran excessive.

Moussavi likewise rejected Obama administration insinuations that his movement’s stance on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program was indistinguishable from that of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. He emphasized instead that he not only did not want a nuclear weapon for Iran, but understood international concerns about such a prospect. He seemed to suggest that, were he to come to power, he would be far more cooperative with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Israeli government liked what it was hearing; Netanyahu even went on Meet the Press last summer to praise the Green movement fulsomely. “I think something very deep, very fundamental is going on,” he said, “and there’s an expression of a deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom, certainly for greater freedom.”

Popular unrest only became possible thanks to a split at the top among the civilian ruling elite of clerics and fundamentalists. When presidential candidates Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and their clerical backers, including Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanaei and wily former president and billionaire entrepreneur Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, began to challenge the country’s authoritarian methods of governance, its repression of personal liberties, and the quixotic foreign policy of Ahmadinejad (whom Moussavi accused of making Iran a global laughingstock), it opened space below.

The reformers would be opposed by Iran’s supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who defended the presidential election results as valid, even as he admitted to his preference for Ahmadinejad’s views. He was, in turn, supported by most senior clerics and politicians, the great merchants of the bazaar, and most significantly, the officer corps of the police, the basij (civilian militia), the regular army, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Because there would be no significant splits among those armed to defend the regime, it retained an almost unbounded ability to crackdown relentlessly. In the process, the IRGC, generally Ahmadinejad partisans, only grew in power.

A year later, it’s clear that the hardliners have won decisively through massive repression, deploying basij armed with clubs on motorcycles to curb crowds, jailing thousands of protesters, and torturing and executing some of them. The main arrow in the opposition’s quiver was flashmobs, relatively spontaneous mass urban demonstrations orchestrated through Twitter, cell phones, and Facebook.

The regime gradually learned how to repress this tactic through the careful jamming of electronic media and domestic surveillance. (Apparently the IRGC now even have a Facebook Espionage Division.) While the opposition can hope to keep itself alive as an underground civil rights movement, for the moment its chances for overt political change appear slim.

Nuclear hypocrisy
Though few have noted this, the Green movement actually threw a monkey wrench into Obama’s hopes to jump-start direct negotiations with Iran over its enrichment program. His team could hardly sit down with representatives of Khamenei while the latter was summarily tossing protesters in filthy prisons to be mistreated and even killed. On October 1, 2009, however, with the masses no longer regularly in the streets, representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany met directly with a representative of Khamenei in Geneva.

A potentially pathbreaking nuclear agreement was hammered out whereby Iran would ship the bulk of its already-produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) to another country. In return, it would receive enriched rods with which it could run its single small medical reactor, producing isotopes for treating cancer.

That reactor had been given to the Shah’s Iran in 1969, and the last consignment of nuclear fuel purchased for it, from Argentina, was running out. The agreement appealed to the West because it would deprive Iran of a couple of tons of LEU that, at some point, could theoretically be cycled back through its centrifuges and enriched from 3.5% to over 90%, or weapons grade, for the possible construction of nuclear warheads. There is no evidence that Iran has such a capability or intention, but the Security Council members agreed that safe was better than sorry.

With Khamenei’s representative back in Iran on October 2, the Iranians suddenly announced that they would take a timeout to study it. That timeout never ended, assumedly because Khamenei had gotten a case of cold feet. Though we can only speculate, perhaps nuclear hardliners argued that holding onto the country’s stock of LEU seemed to the hardliners like a crucial form of deterrence in itself, a signal to the world that Iran could turn to bomb-making activities if a war atmosphere built.

Given that nuclear latency – the ability to launch a successful bomb-making program – has geopolitical consequences nearly as important as the actual possession of a bomb, Washington, Tel Aviv and the major Western European powers remain eager to forestall Iran from reaching that status.

As the Geneva fiasco left the impression that the Iranian regime was not ready to negotiate in good faith, the Obama team evidently decided to respond by ratcheting up sanctions on Iran at the Security Council, evidently in hopes of forcing its nuclear negotiators back to the bargaining table. Meanwhile, Netanyahu was loudly demanding the imposition of “crippling” international sanctions on Tehran.

Washington, however, faced a problem: Russian Prime Minister and eminence grise Vladimir Putin initially opposed such sanctions, as did China’s leaders. As Putin observed, “Direct dialogue … is always more productive … than a policy of threats, sanctions and all the more so a resolution to use force.”

Moreover, the non-permanent members of the council included

Turkey and Brazil, rising powers and potential leaders of the non-permanent bloc at the council. Neither country was eager to see Iran put under international boycott for, from their point of view, simply having a civilian nuclear enrichment program. (Since such a program is permitted by the NPT, any such Security Council sanctions on Iran represent, at best, arbitrary acts.)

By mid-May, Obama nonetheless appeared to have his ducks in a row for a vote in which Russia and China would support at least modest further financial restrictions on investments connected to the IRGC. Many observers believed that such a move, guaranteed to fall far short of “crippling”, would in fact prove wholly ineffectual.
Only Turkey and Brazil, lacking veto power in the council, were proving problematic for Washington. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey leads the Justice and Development Party, which is mildly tinged with Muslim politics (unlike most previous strongly secular governments in Ankara). Viewing himself as a bridge between the Christian West and the Muslim world, he strongly opposes new sanctions on neighboring Iran. In part, he fears they might harm the Turkish economy; in part, he has pursued a policy of developing good relations with all his country’s direct neighbors.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has led a similar charge against any strengthened punishment of Iran. He has been motivated by a desire to alter the prevailing North-dominated system of international relations and trade. Popularly known as “Lula”, the president has put more emphasis on encouraging South-South relations. His country gave up its nuclear weapons aspirations in 1980, but continued a civilian nuclear energy program and has recently committed to building a nuclear-powered submarine. Having the Security Council declare even peaceful nuclear enrichment illegal could be extremely inconvenient for Brasilia.

On May 15, Erdogan and Lula met with Ahmadinejad in Tehran and announced a nuclear deal that much resembled the one to which Iran had briefly agreed in October. Turkey would now hold a majority of Iran’s LEU in escrow in return for which Iran would receive fuel rods enriched to 19.75% for its medical reactor. Critics pointed out that Iran had, by now, produced even more LEU, which meant that the proportion of fuel being sent abroad would be less damaging to any Iranian hopes for nuclear latency and therefore far less attractive to Washington and Tel Aviv. Washington promptly dismissed the agreement, irking the Turkish and Brazilian leaders.

Meanwhile, throughout May, a conference of signatories to the NPT was being held in New York to hammer out a consensus document that would, in the end, declare the Middle East a “nuclear-free zone”.

Unexpectedly, they announced success. Since Israel is the only country in the Middle East with an actual nuclear arsenal (estimated at about 200 warheads, or similar to what the British possess), and not an NPT signatory, Tel Aviv thundered: “This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical … It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation … Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”

The hypocrisy in all this was visibly Washington’s and Israel’s. After all, both were demanding that a country without nuclear weapons “disarm” and the only country in the region to actually possess them be excused from the disarmament process entirely. This was their gift to Tehran. Like others involved in the process, Iran’s representative to the IAEA immediately noted this and riposted, “The US … is obliged to go along with the world’s request, which is that Israel must join the NPT and open its installations to IAEA inspectors.”

A windfall for hardliners: The flotilla assault
With the Tehran agreement brokered by Turkey and Brazil – and signed by Ahmadinejad – and Israel’s rejection of the NPT conference document now public news, Obama’s sanctions program faced a new round of pushback from China.

Then, on May 31, Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship heading for Gaza. They threw stun grenades and fired rubber-jacketed metal bullets even before landing, enraging passengers, and leading to a fatal confrontation that left at least nine dead and some 30 wounded. An international uproar ensued, putting Israel’s relations with Turkey under special strain.

The Mavi Marmara assault was more splendid news for Iran’s hardliners at the very moment when the Green movement was gearing up for demonstrations to mark the one-year anniversary of the contested presidential election. Around the Israeli assault on the aid flotilla and that country’s blockade of Gaza they were able to rally the public in solidarity with the theocratic government, long a trenchant critic of Israeli oppression of the stateless Palestinians.

Green leaders, in turn, were forced to put out a statement condemning Israel, and Khamenei was then able to fill the streets of the capital with two million demonstrators commemorating the death of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.

The flotilla attack also gave the hardliners a foreign policy issue on which they could stand in solidarity with Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Arab world generally, reinforcing their cachet as champions of the Palestinians and bolstering the country’s regional influence. There was even talk of sending a new Gaza aid flotilla guarded by Iranian ships.

Because Turkey, the aggrieved party, is at present a member of the Security Council, this fortuitous fillip for Iran has denied Obama the unanimity he sought on sanctions. Finally, the incident had the potential to push international concern over Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program and that country’s new assertiveness in the Middle East into the background, while foregrounding Israel’s brutality in Gaza, intransigence toward the peace process and status as a nuclear outlaw.

In the end, Obama got his watered-down, non-unanimous sanctions resolution. There is no doubt that Netanyahu’s reluctance to make a just peace with the Palestinians and his cowboy military tactics have enormously complicated Obama’s attempt to pressure Iran and deeply alienated Turkey, one of Wednesday’s holdouts in the Security Council.

His election as prime minister in February 2009 turns out to have been the best gift the Israeli electorate could have given Iran. The Likud-led government continues its colonization of the West Bank and its blockade of the civilian population of Gaza, making the Iranian hawks who harp on injustices done to Palestinians look prescient. It refuses to join the NPT or allow UN inspections of its nuclear facilities, making Iran, by comparison, look like a model IAEA member state.

Juan Cole is the Richard P Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and director of its Center for South Asian Studies. He maintains the blog Informed Comment. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

(Copyright 2010 Juan Cole.)

( Tomdispatch)

0 4

“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.


In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran. To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.

“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.


The four main targets for any raid on Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.

The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles (2,250km) from Israel; the outer limits of their bombers’ range, even with aerial refuelling. An open corridor across northern Saudi Arabia would significantly shorten the distance. An airstrike would involve multiple waves of bombers, possibly crossing Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Aircraft attacking Bushehr, on the Gulf coast, could swing beneath Kuwait to strike from the southwest.
Passing over Iraq would require at least tacit agreement to the raid from Washington. So far, the Obama Administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Military analysts say Israel has held back only because of this failure to secure consensus from America and Arab states. Military analysts doubt that an airstrike alone would be sufficient to knock out the key nuclear facilities, which are heavily fortified and deep underground or within mountains. However, if the latest sanctions prove ineffective the pressure from the Israelis on Washington to approve military action will intensify. Iran vowed to continue enriching uranium after the UN Security Council imposed its toughest sanctions yet in an effort to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, which Tehran claims is intended for civil energy purposes only. President Ahmadinejad has described the UN resolution as “a used handkerchief, which should be thrown in the dustbin”.
Israeli officials refused to comment yesterday on details for a raid on Iran, which the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has refused to rule out. Questioned on the option of a Saudi flight path for Israeli bombers, Aharaon Zeevi Farkash, who headed military intelligence until 2006 and has been involved in war games simulating a strike on Iran, said: “I know that Saudi Arabia is even more afraid than Israel of an Iranian nuclear capacity.”

In 2007 Israel was reported to have used Turkish air space to attack a suspected nuclear reactor being built by Iran’s main regional ally, Syria. Although Turkey publicly protested against the “violation” of its air space, it is thought to have turned a blind eye in what many saw as a dry run for a strike on Iran’s far more substantial — and better-defended — nuclear sites.

Israeli intelligence experts say that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are at least as worried as themselves and the West about an Iranian nuclear arsenal.Israel has sent missile-class warships and at least one submarine capable of launching a nuclear warhead through the Suez Canal for deployment in the Red Sea within the past year, as both a warning to Iran and in anticipation of a possible strike. Israeli newspapers reported last year that high-ranking officials, including the former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have met their Saudi Arabian counterparts to discuss the Iranian issue. It was also reported that Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, met Saudi intelligence officials last year to gain assurances that Riyadh would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets violating Saudi airspace during the bombing run. Both governments have denied the reports.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new…cle7148555.ece

0 10

Repercussions of the Israeli attack seem to hit at the heart of what President Obama in mid – April declared as a “vital national security interest of the United States,” i.e. solving the Arab – Israeli conflict.

The attack in the international waters of the
Mediterranean in the
early hours of May
31 by an elite force of the Israeli navy on the
Turkish – flagged Mavi Marmara
civilian ferry crammed with more than 700 international activists, including
several Americans, carrying 100 tonnes of cargo including concrete,
medicines and children’s toys, and leading five smaller vessels of the Free Gaza
Flotilla, which left eight Turks and a U.S. citizen of Turkish origin dead and
wounded several others, has cornered the United States in a defensive diplomatic
position to contain the regional and international fallout of the military
fiasco of the “Operation Sky Wind” its Israeli regional ally launched against
the flotilla; it “puts the United States in an extremely difficult position,”
Marina Ottaway wrote in a report published by
Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace
on May 31.
 

Containing angry Arab reaction and adverse repercussions
on Arab – U.S. relations was most likely on the agenda of U.S. Vice President
Joe Biden’s meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Red Sea resort
of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. However Biden is the least qualified to allay Arab
anger for being the most vocal among U.S. officials in “legitimizing” Israel’s
blunder. The Gaza flotilla episode has dispelled the benefit of doubt the Arab
allies have given to President Barak Obama’s promises of change in U.S. foreign
policy in their region. To regain Arab confidence it needs more than U.S.
official visits whether by Biden or by a better choice because at the end of the
day politics is not about “good intentions”, but is rather about “good deeds,”
according to the Egyptian veteran political analyst Fahmy Howeidy.

Despite a pronounced belief to the contrary by U.S.
Senator Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the head
of Israel’s Mossad, Meir Dagan, was more to the point when he said last week
that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a
burden.” Earlier this year CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus told the
Senate Armed Services Committee that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question
limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples
in CENTCOM’s area of operations and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes
in the Arab world.” Israel seems determined to complicate Petraeus’ mission
further.

Washington has found its diplomacy faced with an Israeli
fait accompli to be involuntarily embroiled in what the Israeli media harshly
criticized as a tactical failure, which engulfed the U.S. administration in the
roaring Arab and Muslim anger to be accused of being a partner to the Israeli
adventure, thus fueling anti – Americanism in the same arena where the
administration is doing its best to defuse and contain the anti – Americanism
that was escalated by the invasion of Iraq in 2003, i.e. among U.S. regional
allies. Once more, the Free Gaza Flotilla episode “will raise questions —not for
the first time—over whether (Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu can be a
dependable partner for the United States,” Michele Dunne wrote in a Carnegie
Endowment report.

Ironically, the fiasco of the Israeli “Operation Sky
Wind” has created a snowballing conflict not between Israel and its
self-proclaimed arch enemy Iran, but with Turkey, traditionally Israel’s only
regional friend, a key regional power, a NATO member, a U.S. ally and a hopeful
of EU membership, as well as with the U.S. – allied camp of Arab and Palestinian
moderates, whom both Israel and the United States endeavor to recruit in a
unified anti – Iran front and who are their partners in the U.S. – sponsored
Arab – Israeli “peace process, which Washington is now weighing in heavily to
resume its Palestinian – Israeli track.

Israel is not
making U.S. life easier in the region. “That’s it, Israel. Put your best friend
on the spot, with stupid acts of belligerency, when hundreds of its sons and
daughters are dying fighting your avowed enemy. It is time Israel realized that
it has obligations to the United States,” wrote Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at
the mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington
(CSIS). Stephen Walt, a Harvard international-relations
professor and co-author of the 2007 book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign
Policy,”
agreed. Professor of International Relations at New York
University, Alon Ben Meir, concluded in American Diplomacy on May 10th: “The
Netanyahu government seems to miss-assess the changing strategic interests of
the United States in the Middle East, especially in the wake of the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.”

However official Washington so far acts and speaks in a
way that would contain adverse fallout of the Free Gaza Flotilla episode on
bilateral relations with Israel, otherwise it would make a bad situation worse
if one is to remember that the episode made Netanyahu cancel a summit meeting
with Obama – after he was forced to cut short his visit to Canada – that was
scheduled specifically to mend bilateral fences. But the motion which was
unusually “personally” presented to the Israeli Knesset by the opposition
leader, Tzipi Livni, for a no-confidence vote in Netanyahu’s government on
Monday because, as she said, “the current government doesn’t represent the State
of Israel to the world” and hurts “ties with the United States” made public what
the U.S. administration has been trying to keep away from the spotlights. Trying
to defuse the repercussions of Israel’s blunder, the U.S. leaned on Israel
“quite a lot” to release hundreds of Turkish peace activists who were on board
of Mavi Marmara, Turkey’s Deputy Under Secretary for public
diplomacy Selim Yenel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Fueling anti –
Americanism among Arabs and Muslims is absolutely not in the interests of the
United States, but this is exactly what current Israeli policies boil down to.
Soaring Israeli – U.S. relations further was the first casualty of the Israeli
attack.

Disrupting U.S. regional strategic plans was the second
U.S. interest threatened by the attack. Both sides of the Arab and Turkish –
U.S. alliance find themselves now on the opposite side of the Arab – Israeli
conflict, which was on the verge of an historic breakthrough on the basis of the
U.S. – sponsored so –called “two – state solution”, which enjoys the support of
the major world powers thanks only to all of them being on the same side. The
U.S. – led Middle East camp seems now fractured and divided. The opposite camp
led by Iran and Syria seems more confident and united. The U.S. position is
weaker and their stance is stronger. Washing seems to loose the initiative in
the region to its adversaries thanks to Israel initiating a conflict with U.S.
moderate allies. For Israel and its U.S. advocates this should flash a red
light.

In this context, U.S. presidential peace envoy to the
region, George Mitchell, who unfortunately was already in the region trying,
unsuccessfully yet, to overcome the adverse reaction of these same allies to
other Israeli blunders, should have lamented his Israeli bad luck and regretted
his mission. General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mousa, said that
“everything” is now left “hanging in the air,”, including mainly the Palestinian
– Israeli “proximity talks,” the focus of Mitchell’s mission.

In the wider context, the emergency meeting of the Arab
foreign ministers in Cairo on June 2 was in direct opposition to the U.S. stance
vis-à-vis the Israeli attack, in terminology, perspective and demands, but
specially as regards the U.S. – Israeli justifications for continuing the
blockade of Gaza. To make their message for lifting the siege clear, Mousa was
scheduled to visit Gaza next week. Without naming the U.S., they stressed that
the continued support to Israel “by some states” and giving “immunity” to its
disrespect of international law “in a precedent that threatens the whole
international system .. is a big political mistake.” They reiterated that the
Arab Peace Initiative “will not remain on the table for long.” 60 percent of
Arabs now believe Obama is too weak to deliver a peace agreement, according to a
recent poll conducted by YouGov and quoted by The Christian Science monitor on
June 4.

The Arab hard core of the U.S. assets of moderates is
the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); in a statement, they condemned
the attack as an act of “state terrorism.” Kuwait, a member, stands among them
as an instructive example of how Israel is fueling anti – Americanism. This
country which hosts some twenty thousand U.S. troops on reportedly one third of
its territory in support of the U.S. – led “Operation Iraqi freedom” had sixteen
of its citizens on board of the Israeli – attacked Mavi Marmara. In response, in a vote by
consensus
the Kuwaiti parliament in which the cabinet ministers are
members recommended withdrawal from the Arab Peace Initiative. With Iran across
the Gulf and the explosive situation across its northern borders with Iraq, the
echo of General Petraeus’ warning reverberates louder here.

Thirdly, the Israeli attack has split the Turkish and
U.S. NATO allies into opposite sides of the international ensuing divide. Ankara
found itself in a head to head diplomatic clash not with Israel, but with the
U.S. in the United Nations Security Council, the Geneva – based UN Human Rights
Council and the emergency meeting of NATO, where Washington acted as Israel’s
mouthpiece and attorney. Turkey is now for the first time experiencing the U.S.
double standards and pro – Israel biased policy, which the Arabs have been
victims for decades. It might be interesting to note here that both Turkey and
Greece, two U.S. and NATO allies, have set aside their historical hostility to
each other to publicly disagree with the U.S. in their defense of breaking the
Israeli siege of Gaza. “The US response to Israel’s disproportionate use of
violence against innocent civilians constitutes a test case for US credibility
in the Middle East,” wrote Suat Kiniklioglu, the Turkish ruling party’s deputy
chairman.

In the same Carnegie Endowment’s report, director of the
Middle East Program Marina Ottaway expected potential adverse repercussions
beyond the Middle East. “In addition to the predictable Arab reaction, … there
has been a harsher than normal response from European countries. This could
potentially reopen U.S. tensions with Europe that developed during the Iraq war
and have slowly begun to heal under the Obama administration,” she
wrote.

How could any sensible observer interpret this adverse
fallout on U.S. foreign relations and on Arab and Turkish – U.S. relations in
particular as only the result of bad luck or an unintentional Israeli tactical
mistake? The only other interpretation to justify Israel’s resort to bloody
force is that Israel could no more tolerate a regional united Turkish, Arab and
U.S. peace front, supported by the world community.

By aborting an international peace mission sponsored by
moderate Arab and regional states, Israel sends a clear message that it wants
them out of the game and prefers instead to deal only with pro – violence
players, which vindicates a popular Arab belief, established over decades of the
conflict, that Israel understands only the language of force.

Israel knows very
well that its belligerency has been all along the main source of regional anti –
Americanism. The U.S. knows it too. Repercussions of the Israeli attack seem to
hit at the heart of what President Obama in mid – April declared as a “vital
national security interest of the United States,” i.e. solving the Arab –
Israeli conflict. By escalating militarily and responding disproportionately,
the extremist right – wing government of Israel is premeditatedly acting with
open eyes to preempt the evolution of a united regional and international front
in consensus on a two –state solution for the conflict; the best way to split
the already burgeoning consensus is to fuel regional anti – Americanism as a
tested ploy to disintegrate whatever Arab, Turkish and U.S. front might develop
to pressure it into yielding to the dictates of peace.

U.S. traditional
pro – Israel diplomacy has been all along playing in the hands of Israeli
extremists, but this time against declared strategic U.S. interests.
Nonetheless, Washington acts as if on intent to pursue a self – defeating
policy; its biased foreign policy and double standards are antagonizing regional
allies, but more importantly contributing to Israel’s fueling of regional anti –
Americanism.      

Iran had no role
whatsoever in the peaceful mission of the Gaza free Flotilla. Spotlight was kept
focused on major Turkish, Arab and European civilian peace activists, who came
from Europe, United States, Australia, and Turkey; major Arab input came from
Kuwait, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, all of them U.S. allies. Even Syria,
which is accused of being an ally of Iran, has kept relatively a low profile in
the whole episode and had no role in the mission either, although it spearheaded
the opposition to the U.S. role in the aftermath during the emergency meeting in
Cairo of the Arab foreign ministers. Israel could in no way authentically claim
the flotilla mission had any Iran connection to justify its high seas blunder.
Neither the organizers would allow any such role. Co-founder of the Free Gaza
Movement’s 69-year-old U.S.-born engineer, Greta Berlin, was quoted by AP on
June 4 as saying the group has shunned donation offers from Iran and said the
group doesn’t accept donations from radical groups or states. Similarly, the de
facto government of Hamas in Gaza has shunned a suggestion by the commander of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to provide “protection” for future similar
flotillas.

 

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in
Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli – occupied Palestinian
territories.

0 11

Whenever the gang that has seized power in Israel wants to move forward their agenda — their plan to use American lives to dominate not only the Middle East but Central Asia — they reach into their bag of tricks.

Sometimes it’s a simple story: “rockets from Gaza” or another phony Bin Laden audiotape. However, too often, as we have learned time and time again, something very bad happens at just the right time. Some imaginary terrorist group with no planning ability, no logistics, and no influence or history of being able to move men or material shows up in New York, Detroit, London, Dubai, Madrid or Mumbai. The signature is always the same: help through airports, high quality documents and timed perfectly to advance the Israeli agenda. This time, with two stolen nuclear weapons in play, bombs built by South Africa and Israel available for detonation in a shipping container at any American or European port, we wonder, “Would Israel really go this far?”

The stolen nukes are part of the original ten weapons, Uranium-235 based, built by Israel in South Africa. The first one was tested on Sept. 22, 1979 in the Indian Ocean and discovered by an array of sensors and satellites. The Israeli lobby in the US suppressed an American reaction and kept the story out of the press. However, as the story of these nuclear weapons is now established fact and subject of a recent speech by President Obama, denial is a waste of time. But what President Obama wasn’t told when he thanked South Africa for destroying these weapons is that three of them “went missing.”

While six weapons were shipped to the US and destroyed, three were in British hands but were hijacked, we were told initially, by Saddam Hussein and later Syria. This was the real reason for the invasion of Iraq. This was a useful story that killed off a rival of Israel’s — a useful lie that also killed 5,000 Americans.

Israel also told us Syria had them but we didn’t buy it. Then, Israel convinced the US that these bombs might show up in Gaza and be smuggled through tunnels into Israel. America agreed to support turning Gaza into a prison camp with us building the wall around it, using the Army Corps of Engineers.

This is another lie. The bombs have been in Israel all along, for the past 18 years — except for one that mysteriously exploded in North Korea.

Israel has been trying to hang that one on Pakistan. They are also setting the stage for nuclear terrorism by spreading continual stories about terrorists having access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It isn’t to get America to go in and seize it. Pakistan has a one million-man army, highly trained and well equipped. Not only are terrorists not going to get Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the United States isn’t up to the task either. Pakistan has never lost nuclear material but America has — several times. But that is another story.

Some time ago, Israel began preparing the US for a nuclear weapon to be detonated in a shipping container. Through Israeli assets in the US, starting with Sens. Schumer, Waxman, Lieberman and McCain, to the mainstream media, to Chertoff, to the storytellers of Hollywood, the story has been planted in the minds of every American. “America can’t protect her ports.” “A ‘loose nuke’ can be used at any time.” “Billions need to be spent on Israeli technology to protect America.” “A weapon is ready to be unleashed at any time…”

The continual stories, the daily fabrications that Israeli security forces feed America’s intelligence network are never seen by most Americans. First, we are told Saddam has them. Then, Israel says Syria has them. Then, Israel tells us Syria sent them to Lebanon. Then, we are told they are in Iran. Then, we are told Hezbollah has them and is trying to smuggle them into Israel from Lebanon. Then, Israel tells us that they are on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on a Turkish ship, loaded by “Islamic extremists.”

There is one way to really secure the world from nuclear blackmail. The world must demand that Israel give up her nuclear weapons. The world must demand regime change in Israel. Not since the end of WWII has any government represented as severe a danger to world peace as the current extremist regime that has hijacked power in Israel, turning it into a military dictatorship.

When things were going well for Israel, with America “eating out of her hand,” the only terror attacks we had were the joke in Times Square and the Detroit “crotch bomber” — all dripping with the Mossad signature. Now, with the free people of the world descending on Israel like avenging angels, it is time to worry.

Israel, arms merchant to the world, with billions of dollars of weapons sales, has a long history of working with weapons of mass destruction. Along with the nuclear plants in South Africa and the bomb facility at Dimona, poisons, diseases and toxic gasses of every kind were developed for years. The Israeli-South African “axis of evil” churned out filth of every kind, sold to the highest bidder. The South African Truth Commission has made the records public for any to see—but nobody is looking. Having that kind of power in the hands of sociopaths can have dire consequences—acts of murder and piracy, unanswered questions about why the Mossad was in place filming 9/11, or where the missing nuclear weapons are.

 

— Gordon Duff is the senior editor of Veterans Today.

0 7

Netanyahu’s US trip is to be reorganized "at the earliest opportunity", but both men will approach it warily. This week’s meeting was paradoxically seen as an opportunity to "kiss and make up."


IHS Global Insight Perspective says: Though the
Israel’s deadly raid on Gaza aid ship sparked international
condemnation, the Middle East state is however suffering from the blow
that it dealt the flotilla.

In a week when the United States had
been preparing to patch up strained relations with Israel, the latter is
mired in a new diplomatic crisis following the deaths of 10 activists
on board an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

 

Significance

Israel
is already suffering the diplomatic fallout from last year’s
fake-passport scandal and its policy on settlements, which have
undermined US-led efforts to restart peace talks.

 

Implications

Although
Israel sought to justify its use of force by alleging that passengers
on the vessel were armed, many questions remain unanswered and an
international investigation appears unavoidable. The deaths have
triggered protests in cities across the Middle East and Europe.

 

Outlook

Israel’s
relations with more moderate governments in the region such as Turkey,
Egypt, and Jordan are now acutely strained, and with a drawn-out
investigation in prospect the incident will loom over any peace efforts
for months to come.

 

Fatal Interception

Israel
is once again picking its way through a diplomatic minefield as
international condemnation of Monday’s deadly raid on a vessel carrying
aid to the Gaza Strip continues to grow. The deaths occurred when an
Israeli elite commando force stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was
carrying some 700 activists and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid. It was
the lead ship in a six-vessel “Freedom Flotilla”. Ten activists were
killed during the fighting and scores more were injured. Israeli
officials said that troops were attacked with knives, sticks, and axes
as they were lowered onto the ship’s deck from helicopters, forcing them
to retaliate in self-defense. The flotilla was in international waters
at the time but Israel says it has the right to search any Gaza-bound
ships and combat weapons smuggling. Questions remain over whether more
could have been done to prevent the loss of so many lives. Critics argue
that the heavily armed naval commando unit – Shayetet 13 – should have
been able to physically overpower the activists without firing.

A
media blackout imposed by Israel has meant that only minor details of
the events have been made available, a move which itself reflects
Israeli concerns to limit the fallout from the crisis. However, even the
skilled spokespersons at the Israeli Foreign Ministry may have trouble
with damage limitation this time, given the scale and international
nature of the incident. Following the raid the ship was taken to the
Israeli port of Ashdod where injured activists were taken for treatment
and some were prepared for deportation. Hospitalized activists are being
held under military guard, according to the Jerusalem Post. The fate of
the majority of activists (from over 32 countries) has still not been
confirmed. According to the International Press Institute several
foreign journalists covering the events were arrested at the port.
International publicity surrounding has been heightened by the fact that
a number of prominent figures were among the passengers on board the
flotilla. These include Swedish author Henning Mankell, Northern Irish
Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, and three German MPs.

 

International
Response

The international response to the incident has
been one of condemnation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he
was “shocked” by the killings. European leaders have also made strongly
critical statements; British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that
“the British government deeply deplores the loss of life” and urged
Israel to act with “restraint”.

Similar sentiments were echoed by
German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also urged Israel’s prime minister
to lift the Gaza blockade on humanitarian grounds. The United States
also called for restraint but stopped short of calling for a full
international investigation into the incident, stressing instead that
Israel should launch its own internal investigation. Protests against
the storming of the vessel were seen across cities in Europe and the
Middle East, with large demonstrations held in Turkey, Egypt, and
Jordan. These are Israel’s only three allies in the region, and many
demonstrators were heard calling for the severing of diplomatic ties and
the withdrawal of ambassadors from Israel.

Meanwhile, thousands
of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets to
protest. Several skirmishes were reported at border checkpoints in the
West Bank. A young female American activist was one of around two dozen
injured. Israel’s Arab community also staged a national strike.
Meanwhile, two men from Gaza were shot dead by Israeli troops as they
tried to infiltrate Israel.

 

Uproar in Turkey

The
outcry in Turkey has been great, not only because many of the
casualties are believed to have been Turkish, but also because existing
resentment among supporters of the ruling conservative Justice and
Development Party (AKP) against Israel’s policies toward the
Palestinians has been sharpened. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
sharply criticized the Israeli government on several occasions in the
past, and some AKP voters may interpret the raid as a form of Israeli
retaliation.

Turkey currently has a temporary seat on the UN
Security Council and will use this to make its outrage heard. Erdogan
has condemned the raid as an act of “inhumane state terrorism” making it
clear that the two countries’ traditional alliance is in jeopardy. The
situation should be seen in the context of Turkey’s wider maneuvers to
boost its role in world affairs. The recent nuclear fuel-swap deal
brokered with Iran and Brazil was hailed by the Turkish government as a
great success but it left most permanent UN Security Council members
cold.

Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu may use the
flotilla raid to increase Turkey’s international clout. The incident is
also likely to be used as a rallying cry for AKP supporters ahead of
the 2011 parliamentary polls and the controversial referendum on the new
Turkish constitution later this year. Israeli-Turkish relations
therefore look unlikely to improve until after 2011.

 

Acute
Dilemma for US

The raid once again draws attention to
the uneasy relationship between the current US administration and the
Israeli government. Since taking office, President Barack Obama and his
Cabinet have been at pains to underline their staunch support for
Israel, but a string of controversies has severely tested the former’s
patience. Lately these have included the poorly-timed Israeli
announcement that it was stepping up construction in occupied
territories and an assassination in Dubai (widely blamed on Israel).
Obama is performing a very difficult juggling act as he tries to appear
an honest broker in the Middle East who can bring the sides together for
a renewed peace effort. Strong US support for Israel also complicates
relations with allies in Europe, and now particularly with Turkey. So
far, the United States has been careful in its comments about the raid,
its criticism more muted than that heard from European foreign
ministers.

Obama apparently expressed “deep regret” at the loss of
life during a phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu and
recognized “the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances”
as soon as possible. Obama has been spared a testy encounter and photo
opportunity with Netanyahu this week following the latter’s decision to
abandon his scheduled visit to Washington, DC. However, Obama faces a
huge dilemma, as to take a tougher line with Israel would bring him into
conflict with the hugely powerful pro-Israel lobby. Many prominent
Democrats take pride in their support for Israel, including
Vice-President Joe Biden and Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel – even
if their appreciation for Netanyahu is less fullsome. The United States
currently supports the Gaza blockade officially, but it is reported in
the New York Times on Tuesday that there are serious internal
misgivings. Gaza’s status has generally been ignored as world powers
have focused on bringing Israel and the Palestinian government of the
West Bank to an agreement, but this now looks untenable.

Netanyahu’s
US trip is to be reorganized “at the earliest opportunity”, but both
men will approach it warily. This week’s meeting was paradoxically seen
as an opportunity to “kiss and make up.”

 

Outlook
and Implications

For Israel the incident has likely
caused long-lasting damage to an already-tarnished international
reputation. Its leverage with the United States is diminished, and it is
likely to face even greater pressure to change its policy on
settlements. These have been hampering US efforts to resuscitate the
long-stalled peace process. Questions will remain over whether more
could have been done to prevent the loss of so many lives, and criticism
of the Gaza blockade will grow around the world.

Critics of the
blockade argue that by preventing legitimate cross-border trade, illicit
trade has been encouraged and Hamas’ rule strengthened. Israel disputes
this assessment, arguing that Hamas has been weakened by Gazans’
frustration with their situation. Israeli officials’ attempts to make
this case, and to defend the handling of the flotilla, have cut little
ice beyond the country’s staunchest supporters, however. A lengthy
international investigation is likely to draw out the crisis.

(Sara
Hassan, James Auger and Grace Annan contributed to this analysis)

0 5

Was the Civil War essential to ending slavery when many states had already abolished it by legislation and every nation in the hemisphere ended it without a civil war, save for Haiti?

Since America became a nation, four of her greatest generals
have served two terms as president: George
Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and Dwight David
Eisenhower.

Not one of these generals led America into a new war.

Washington was heroic in keeping the young republic out of the
wars that erupted in Europe after the
French Revolution
, as were his successors John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson.

Jackson, arguably America’s greatest soldier – who won the Battle
of New Orleans, which preserved the Union, and virtually annexed
Florida – resisted until his final days in office recognizing the Republic of Texas, liberated by his
great friend and subaltern Sam Houston.

Jackson wanted no war with Mexico.

Eisenhower came to office determined to end the war in Korea. In
six months, he succeeded – and kept America out of the raging war in
Indochina.

Of the men who led us into our 19th century wars – the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the
Civil War and the Spanish-American War – only one, William McKinley, was
a soldier who had seen combat.

McKinley had enlisted at 17. In 1862, he was with the Union army
at Antietam, the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil.

Though derided as having “the backbone of a chocolate eclair” by
the bellicose Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley confided to a friend before
going to war with Spain: “I have been through one war. … I have seen
the bodies piled up. I do not want to see another.”

James Madison, who took us into the War of 1812, which came close
to tearing apart the Union; James Polk, who took us to war with Mexico
and gave us Texas to the Rio Grande, the Southwest and California; and
Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation in its bloodiest war, were
politicians. Lincoln had served three months in the Illinois Militia in
the Black Hawk War, but he never saw action.

America was led into the world wars by Woodrow Wilson, a
professor, and Franklin Roosevelt, a politician. Harry Truman, who took
us into Korea, had captained an artillery battery in France in 1918.
John F. Kennedy, who led us into Vietnam, had served on a PT boat in the
Solomons. George H.W. Bush, who launched Desert Storm, was one of the
youngest Navy pilots to fight in the Pacific war.

While Americans this Memorial Day put flags out for all of their
war dead, the arguments do not cease over the wisdom of the wars in
which they fought and died.

In the grammar and high schools we attended in the 1940s and early
1950s, they were all good wars, all just wars, all necessary wars.
Perhaps that is how it should be taught to America’s children.

Yet, if the Revolution was a great and good cause, men fighting
for freedom and nationhood, the War of 1812, where we were a de facto
ally of Napoleon, seems a less noble endeavor. For among our motives was
seizing Canada while the Mother Country was diverted.

Though deplored today, the Mexican War was not an unjust war.

Far from stealing Mexican territory after our victory, we paid
for it, and the Mexicans, five years later, agreed to the Gadsden
Purchase and offered to sell us Baja California. The greed was in Mexico
City.

As for America’s Civil War, this quarrel will never end. Did not
the South have the same right to secede from the Union as the 13
colonies did to secede from England? Did Lincoln have the right to use
blockade and invasion to drive Old Dixie down? His predecessor, James
Buchanan, did not think so.

Was the Civil War essential to ending slavery when many states
had already abolished it by legislation and every nation in the
hemisphere ended it without a civil war, save for Haiti?

The Spanish-American War, begun over a falsehood – that Spain
blew up the USS Maine in Havana harbor – ended with American soldiers
and Marines fighting for years to deny Filipinos the freedom for which
our fathers fought in the Revolution. Cuba was liberated, but the
Philippines, 10,000 miles from Washington, was annexed. That was an
imperial war.

In 1917, we declared war on Germany “to make the world safe for
democracy.” And our major allies were four of the largest empires on
Earth: the British, French, Russian and Japanese. We deposed the Kaiser,
and got Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and World War II.

As a result of these world wars, all the Western empires fell,
and Western Civilization began its inexorable advance to the grave.
Impending bankruptcy aside, not one Western nation has a birth rate that
will enable its native-born to survive many more generations. We did it
to ourselves.

About Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and the presidents who
fought those wars, LBJ, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush – the divisions
are still deep and emotions raw. Today is not the time to re-fight
them, but to honor and pray for the patriots who, throughout our
history, did their duty, fought and died in them. Requiescat in pace.