The Saboteurs in the Obama Adminstration


rossThis is really a no brainer.  Why would the President of the United States embark on a policy of rapprochement with Iran, declare they have a right to peaceful nuclear technology and appoint someone, nay rather create a position called special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia and give it to someone who is expressly against your stated goals?  Doesn’t anyone see that as grooming a policy to fail?  Well that’s what has taken place in the appointment of Dennis Ross to the above mentioned position.  Ross’ name is also prominently displayed here on the website of a group called United Against Nuclear Iran where he, along with Richard Holbrooke, is even congratulated on being appointed to the Obama administration.    It really makes one wonder if all this talk of change is so much window dressing, when the real nuts and bolts of policy is still being decided by the Democrats‘ answer to the neocons of the Bush administration.

Widely viewed as a cog in the machine of Israel’s Washington lobby, Ross was not likely to be welcomed in Tehran–and he wasn’t. Iran’s state radio described his appointment as “an apparent contradiction” with Obama’s “announced policy to bring change in United States foreign policy.” Kazem Jalali, a hardline member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, joked that it “would have been so much better to pick Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert as special envoy to Iran.” More seriously, a former White House official says that Ross has told colleagues that he believes the United States will ultimately have no choice but to attack Iran in response to its nuclear program.

One has to shake one’s head at Obama’s inability to distance himself from the perpetual forces for war in order to implement the progressive initiatives articulated in his Cairo speech.  It is quite possible such key appointments like the Ross and Holbrooke appointments will lead America into another war, abroad and on the political front at home.  Why this is apparent to everyone but Obama is simply incredible! This isn’t change, this is business as usual.

The Darfur Deception


by Muhammad Idris Ahmed
Darfur ProtestIn Errol Morris’s 2004 film The Fog of War, former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recalls General Curtis LeMay, the architect of the fire-bombings of Japan during WWII, saying that “if we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” LeMay was merely articulating an unacknowledged truism of international relations: power bestows, among other things, the right to label. So it is that mass slaughter perpetrated by the big powers, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, is normalized through labels such as “counterinsurgency,” “pacification” and “war on terror,” while similar acts carried out by states out of favor result in the severest of charges. It is this politics of naming that is the subject of Mahmood Mamdani’s explosive new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.

Like the Middle East, parts of Africa have been engulfed in conflict for much of the post-colonial period. While the media coverage in both cases is perfunctory, in the case of Africa it is also sporadic. To the extent that there is coverage, the emphasis is on the dramatic or the grotesque. When the subject is not war, it is usually famine, disease or poverty — sometimes all together, always free of context. The wars are between “tribes” led by “warlords,” that take place in “failed states” ruled by “corrupt dictators.” Driven by primal motives, they rarely involve discernible issues. The gallery of rogues gives way only to a tableau of victims, inevitably in need of White saviors. A headline like “Can Bono save Africa?” is as illustrative of Western attitudes towards the continent as the comments of Richard Littlejohn, Britain’s highest-paid columnist, who wrote at the peak of the Rwandan genocide “Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.”

Darfur is the conspicuous exception to this trend, though Rwanda did enter Western vocabulary after the 1994 genocide. This, Mamdani argues, is primarily due to the efforts of one organization — the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) — whose advocacy has been central to turning this into the biggest mass movement in the United States since the anti-Vietnam mobilization, bigger than the anti-apartheid movement. While the mobilization did have the salutary effect of raising awareness about an issue otherwise unknown to the majority of US citizens, its privileging of acting over knowing renders this less meaningful. Indeed, the campaign’s shunning of complexity, its substituting of moral certainty for knowledge, and its preference for military solutions, precludes the very end that it purports to strive for. Invoking what it claims are lessons of the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwanda genocide, it combines slogans such as “never again” with the battle cries of a new “good war”, such as “boots on the ground”, and “out of Iraq and into Darfur”. Mamdani contends that SDC is not a peace movement, it is a war movement.

The SDC was established in July 2004 through the combined efforts of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish World Service. It has since been joined by a broad spectrum of political and religious organizations, a gaggle of celebrities and prominent intellectuals. It has spawned student chapters all across the country that range from the high school to university levels. Led by an advertising executive, it is the only organization capable of bringing together such unlikely partners as the Reverend Al Sharpton and author Elie Wiesel, actor George Clooney and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. If the signature activity of the anti-Vietnam war movement was the teach-in, for the SDC it is the advertising campaign. The expert has been replaced by the celebrity, the campaigner by the advertising agent. With an annual budget of $14 million the SDC employs the DC-based PR firm M+R Strategic Services (M&R) for its publicity. While M&R boasts a clientele comprising mainly green and humanitarian non-profits, in 2002 it was exposed by PR Watch for using its progressive credentials to greenwash DuPont, one of the world’s leading polluters. The centrality of propaganda to the SDC’s success was underscored by the fact that in the period between Spring 2007 and January 2008, the president of M&R Bill Wasserman also served as Save Darfur’s executive director.

The apparent diversity of the SDC’s affiliates also obscures the fact that its agenda is mainly driven by Zionist organizations and the Christian Right. However, Mamdani pays scant attention to the composition of the SDC even though he devotes a whole chapter to its politics and methods. As The Jerusalem Post reported ahead of the SDC’s rally in Washington on 30 April 2006, it is “[l]ittle known … that the coalition, which has presented itself as ‘an alliance of over 130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations’ was actually begun exclusively as an initiative of the American Jewish community.” It noted that even in 2006 that coalition was “heavily weighted” with a “diverse collection of local and national Jewish groups.” The Washington Post reported the same day that “[k]eeping the peace within the diverse Save Darfur Coalition has not been easy” due to tensions, in particular, between evangelical Christians and the mostly Muslim Darfuri immigrants. The Sudanese immigrants also objected to the lineup of speakers which, according to the paper, included “eight Western Christians, seven Jews, four politicians and assorted celebrities — but no Muslims and no one from Darfur” (two were eventually added at the last minute). Ned Goldstein has suggested in his investigation of the Zionist interests behind the SDC that Darfur is being deployed as a strategic distraction from Israeli crimes against the Palestinians (most recently at the UN anti-racism conference). The salient feature of the SDC propaganda is to paint the conflict as war between “Arabs” and “Africans” and to label the violence “genocide.”

The genocide debate hinges on two factors: numbers and identity. For mass violence to qualify as genocide the killing has to be on a large enough scale, and the intent to eliminate a discrete racial, ethnic, or religious group has to be established. Mamdani argues that in order to sustain its claim of genocide, the SDC has inflated casualty figures and racialized the conflict.

The mortality figure of 400,000 has become a staple of SDC propaganda even though it has been repeatedly discredited. In 2007, the British Advertising Standards Authority chided the SDC (and the Aegis Trust) for breaching “standards of truthfulness” in its use of the figure for its UK advertising campaign. The number had already been challenged when a panel convened by the US Government Accountability Office in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences concluded that of the six estimates they studied, the figures presented by the SDC were the least reliable. The most reliable estimate was the study carried out by the World Heath Organization-affiliated Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) that had recorded 131,000 excess deaths at the peak of the conflict of which only 30 percent were due to violence. The violence had dropped sharply after January 2005; this, Mamdani avers, was due mainly to the intervention of African Union peacekeepers. By 2008, the total deaths for the whole year had dropped to 1,500. These numbers are far lower than what constitutes an emergency according to the UN, let alone genocide.

The conflict began as a civil war in 1987-89, driven less by race or ethnic rivalries than by a struggle for land and resources — it pitted the mostly nomadic landless Arabs against the mostly sedentary Fur peasants. Compounded by Khartoum’s botched attempt at land reform during the 1990s, turning it into a party to the civil war, the simmering conflict erupted into a full-scale insurgency in 2003. This eventually led to the government’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign where it turned to nomadic tribes from Darfur and Chad to serve as proxies.

Mamdani identifies three causes as having contributed to the conflict. First, is the history of colonial rule wherein the British went about a project of retribalizing Darfur through a system of native administration which created tribal homelands and introduced a principle of discrimination that privileged “natives” over “settlers.” This led to the dispossession of nomadic tribes, especially the camel nomads of the north. The tribal identities were further solidified through a census that required each registrant to choose a “race”; a written history that presented Arabs as “settlers” from the Middle East; and laws that gave preferential treatment to whoever was deemed a “native”. This narrative also allowed the British colonizers to present themselves as merely following the precedent of an earlier Arab colonization.

Drought and desertification was the second contributing factor. The Sahara’s southern rim expanded by 100 kilometers, forcing nomadic tribes further south and eventually to encroach on the lands of the sedentary Fur tribes.

Finally, the civil war in neighboring Chad where opposition groups armed by Cold War rivals — the US, France and Israel on one side, and Libya and the Soviet Union on the other — had frequently taken refuge in Darfur, leading to a proliferation of weapons and militias. Mamdani explains that the Western powers were involved in the conflict long before the Sudanese government was; and Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist regime wasn’t even in power at the time.

The Arab-versus-African narrative obscures the fact that since at least the British colonial era, Arabs have been Darfur’s most deprived constituency. “If Darfur was marginal in Sudan,” writes Mamdani, “the Arabs of Darfur were marginal in Darfur.” Contrary to the British historiography — whose assumptions have since been reproduced in 20th century nationalist writings — most Arabs arrived in Sudan as refugees fleeing persecution in Mamluk Egypt. Moreover, the diffusion of Arab culture was more a consequence of commerce than of conquest. Mamdani demonstrates that “Arab” is not a racial, ethnic, or cultural identity. It is an assumed political identity that is more a reflection of preference and power than of genealogy. For example, former slaves once freed would become Fur in Darfur, and Arab in Funj, the Sultanate in riverine Sudan where Arabs dominated. To be an Arab in Darfur therefore signifies nothing so much as weakness. The conflict in Darfur today is as much between Arabs (the Abbala camel nomads against the Baggara cattle nomads) as it is against the relatively privileged Fur and Massalit, and the less privileged Zaghawa. The SDC however emphasizes the north-south axis of the conflict that pits Arab against Fur and ignores the south-south Axis which pits Arab against Arab.

The Darfuri rebels likewise defy easy classification. When the insurgency began in 2003, there were two major groups — the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) — they have now split into 26. JEM, which is the largest rebel organization, has an Islamist orientation and draws its inspiration from Hassan al-Turabi, the influential Sudanese Islamist and one time ally of Omar al-Bashir. In contrast, the SLA is secular-Africanist with ties to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the South (led by the late John Garang). Before the split between the Islamists in Khartoum, the government had employed Darfuri Islamists led by future JEM founder Khalil Ibrahim for its counterinsurgency in the south. (Ibrahim opposed the power-sharing agreement that ended the war in the south.) However, according to Sudan scholar Alex de Waal, both organizations learned “to characterize their plight in the simplified terms that had proved so effective in winning foreign sympathy for the south: they were the ‘African’ victims of an ‘Arab’ regime.” The government’s response to the insurgency was at first a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation, followed by the arming of a proxy force comprising nomadic militias, many of them from Chad, who have come to be known as the Janjawid. The consequences were devastating, with large-scale bloodletting and the displacement of 2.5 million people.

Khartoum’s use of proxies to quell an insurgency and the resulting death and displacement parallel US policies in Iraq, where ethnic-sectarian militias have been deployed against the mostly-Sunni insurgency. Yet, unlike Iraq, where in excess of a million have died according to the lates ORB poll, and five million displaced, the violence in Darfur has been labeled a genocide. Darfur has also spawned domestic mobilization in the US on a scale for which there is no parallel in the case of Iraq. Mamdani argues that this is due to the fact that Iraq requires Americans to act as citizens, with all the responsibility and complicated political choices it entails, whereas Darfur only requires them to act as humans where they choose to take responsibility out of a sense of philanthropy. He notes that “In Darfur, Americans can feel themselves to be what they know they are not in Iraq: powerful saviors.” As the Nigerian writer Uzodinma Iweala observed, “It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption.” In adopting the language of good and evil, Mamdani observes, the SDC has acted as “the great depoliticizer” in precluding political reconciliation in favor of a moral (read military) solution.

In Saviors and Survivors, Mamdani emphasizes regional over international solutions. Western modes of conflict resolution in Africa resemble nothing so much as the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programs: “Those who made decisions did not have to live with their consequences, nor pay for them.” The Western emphasis on the humanitarian crisis in lieu of a political solution merely prolongs the conflict. By contrast, the AU’s approach is both humanitarian and political. The African Union’s (AU) intervention in Darfur had been largely successful in reducing the violence, yet its operation was undermined by Western powers that failed to deliver the support they had pledged when the AU brokered the N’DJamena ceasefire agreement in April 2004. It was also vilified in SDC propaganda. Mamdani asserts that much of the foot-dragging was to discredit the AU so that the notion of an African solution for an African problem could be discredited. The aim was to “blue hat” the AU forces and bring them under Western command. In a Washington Post op-ed pointedly titled “Stop Trying To ‘Save’ Africa,” Iweala asked, “How is it that a former mid-level US diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?”

The recent International Criminal Court case has further entrenched the Khartoum government in its defiant stance. Criminal prosecutions during an ongoing conflict merely exacerbate matters, Mamdani argues. More so when the adjudicating body has a demonstrable record of bias. The model for justice must be the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than Nuremberg — survivors’ justice rather than victors’ justice. The well-being of surviving multitudes must not be subordinated to the imperative of punishing individual perpetrators. Mamdani offers a trenchant critique of what he calls the “New Humanitarian Order,” which has supplanted traditional colonialism and turned human rights into the new pretext for intervention. The “international community”, which Mamdani argues is nothing more than a “post-Cold War nom de guerre for the Western powers”, has created “a bifurcated system whereby state sovereignty obtains in large parts of the world but is suspended in more and more countries in Africa and the Middle East” reducing citizens to wards in “an open-ended international rescue operation”.

The Obama Administration already appears to be making a break with its predecessor’s approach and has ordered a review of its Sudan policy. Scott Gration, the new envoy, has already visited Khartoum and Darfur, as has John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the case of the Bush Administration, the SDC was able to mobilize Congress against the State Department that was seeking a political resolution modeled on the power-sharing agreement that ended the longstanding conflict in the south. It remains to be seen how much the Obama Administration is able to resist the formidable lobbying power of the SDC. While Mamdani maintains that the aim of the SDC is to induce the US government to intervene militarily in Sudan, it appears that the real interest of its core organizations is to perpetuate the conflict so as to continue using the image of the Arab as the perpetrator to distract from the regional reality of the Arab as the victim.

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The shape of things to come


Israel is NOT a democratic state, and the people who live there are not interested in democracy.  In the “old days” saying that made one an enemy of America, or at the least, a place to be colonized and brought democracy, but our special relationship with Israel simply doesn’t allow such solutions be applied to the Israeli problem.  What is surely a sign of things to come is this news coming from that troubled country

A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land” in a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.   Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in Galilee, a local “loyalty oath” similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-Right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.   Other Jewish communities in the central Galilee — falling under the umbrella of a regional council known as Misgav — are preparing similar bylaws in response to a court petition filed by an Arab couple hoping to build a home in Misgav.

Reading the article at the link above is like being taken back into the early 1900s in American history.  The language used to justify such racist actions is steeped in fear and bigotry from a group of people who promised, at least indirectly, never to be apart of such action and or speech again.  How quickly they’ve forgotten and how pathetic their reality has become.  America should not enable such “hate speech” any longer.

The Republican Party-Uncle Tom’s Cabin


uncle-tom-cabinThe political movement of the Right is showing itself to be increasingly a party of irrelevance and antiquity.  Whereas once, it’s titular head, President George W. Bush made such proclamations against all who opposed the ideas coming from that Party, the party’s ideas themselves have cast it in the very same light, a party that is not progressive, has nothing to offer but fear of the exaggerated differences in people within its own country.  The latest ramblings of its head, Michael Steele are indicative of the direction of the party.  In one of those, ‘I can’t believe he just said that’ moments, Steele made this assertion

And apparently, the comments that she made that have been played up about, you know, the Latina woman being a better judge than the white male is something that she has said on numerous occasions. So this was not just the one and only time it was said. They’ve now found other evidences and other speeches, Trip, that she has made mention of this, this fact that her ethnicity, that her cultural background puts her in a different position as a judge to judge your case. And God help you if you’re a white male coming before her bench.

This was an obvious reference to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Why an African-American head of the Republican Party would utter a remark like that is astonishing at best, racist and pandering to the racist element which he heads, at worst! It might have very well been the same thing said about his selection to be the Party head, and was certainly said about the success of the Obama candidacy by some of the people of the party Steele now represents. On its face it is abhorrent and a page from the play book of FEAR, but it is also untrue.

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decision making.

It’s unfortunate an African American male, one some have considered at one time in American history at the very bottom of the social hierarchy in America, would resort to the very rhetoric that was used to deny him equal opportunity, especially when that rhetoric is so blatantly  misleading and incorrect. To do it in today’s America when symbolically speaking such outbursts give meaning to movements of hatred and violence between Americans is irrational and petty.  Steele should know better and because he doesn’t that  makes him irrelevant along with his Party.

Escort Services and the FBI


sexLaw enforcement in this country is getting increasingly bizarre.  First we had the FBI deciding they wanted to invade the religious houses of worship of Muslims with informants who offered drugs and money to desperate, illiterate, down on their luck marginal followers of Islam all in order to make sensational busts with outrageous claims of terror, murder and mayhem.

Now we have a branch of the federal government in the call girl business.

One “hobbyist” described “Michelle” as having a “really great body, beautiful face and (being) dressed to kill.”

Another said “Monique” was into “water fun (and) slip sliding bodies” and charged about $160 for a one-hour session.

Both statements, posted on a Web site that rates escorts, describe in more explicit terms the experiences of customers — or “hobbyists” — with women of Executive Playmates, an escort service suspected by the San Antonio Police Department of generating about $150,000 a month from prostitution between 2005 and 2007.

The department raided the escort service’s central location and one of its hubs in October 2007 and found Executive Playmates employed more than 300 women who serviced about 2,000 customers, law enforcement sources said.

The list of customers includes doctors, lawyers and others of important social standing, but the names are being withheld because of the ongoing investigation.

Many found the service online or in newspaper ads. Its operations extended into Austin and briefly into the Rio Grande Valley.

The department has described the prostitution case as the largest in San Antonio since the 1980s.

The raid drew headlines and was the leading story on local television newscasts when it happened. But authorities have since been silent.

Because the case involves money laundering and organized crime, police turned over their findings months ago to federal prosecutors. But the information has sat at the U.S. attorney’s office with little movement.

A San Antonio Express-News investigation found fewer than 10 people — including the suspected operator, Samuel “Sammy” Flores Jr. — may end up being charged later this year.

Federal law enforcement sources said the case could be complicated because Flores, 38, was working as an informant for the FBI at the time of the bust. The sources said they suspect that has delayed charges in the escort-service case.

Can we get the government to defend and protect the Constitution for a change?  Hat tip to Xymphora.

Why do we have government agencies if they don’t work?


DHSThe Department of Homeland Security warned of extremists elements in our country with the potential to wreck havoc in our society; the right was up in arms and cried foul and someone from some hate group walked into the Holocaust Museum in the backyard of DHS and killed a guard!!  What good is Homeland Security?

Oh sure, they are one of the biggest government agencies, outspending the Justice and State departments, and during the Bush years we were told they were essential to the safety and well being of America.  During their lifetime they have expanded a terrorist watch list which numbers into the hundreds of thousands, many who are innocent and probably don’t even know their names are there; elevated risk levels and the blood pressures of scores of Americans with faulty terror level alerts that usually panned out to be nothing at all or based on tortured confessions from rendered suspects we’ve never heard nor seen, and all this at a considerable expense to the taxpayer.  Yet, an 88 year old man can walk down a city street in Washington, DC with a rifle, and into a government building and shoot and kill someone employed there.

The guy is a former felon, 88 years old, used a rifle in this attack, had an internet history of making incendiary comments and lived in the greater metropolitan Washington, DC area and all that the federal government has to offer couldn’t save that police officer from this guy’s dementia.  I could understand the federal government not being able to follow all 12 or 14 911 hijackers……you could argue there were just too many for the government to keep up, but one guy with a history in the heart of the government……  Basically this means the government is not the instrument we should trust or turn to in order to protect us in our daily lives.  It cannot do this, despite the promises it makes to the contrary; and all those right leaning individuals who are now slamming Obama with claims that he’s made the country unsafe for us, ask them what did their Department of Homeland Security do for Stephen Johns, the guard killed by that pathetic gunman on Wednesday, June 10?