A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

Americans Should Not Remember 9/11


The memory of 9/11 should be buried in a time capsule and sent to the earth’s core to be forever forgotten.  As we approach September 11, 2011, what happened 10 years ago should be blocked from the Nation’s conscience.  At the very least, if not, then we should also remember what we did and have done since 9/11.

We have invaded two countries whose governments had nothing at all to do with the events of that day.  We oversaw the assassination of one country’s president/ruler/leader and attempted to kill or murder another.  We fostered an entire administration of international war criminals who went about justifying everything that before 9/11 we opposed and fought against ourselves.  We re-elected a president who was responsible for the plunder of the national treasury at the hands of greedy, despotic bankers who felt no remorse nor sense of responsibility to the welfare or anyone but themselves.  We became cannibals on September 11, 2001, turning against ourselves, engaging in demagoguery and hatred that haven’t been seen since the days of Reconstruction; pitting one religious community against another in nonsensical, fabricated assertions that are not even remotely connected to reality.  We have exaggerated the political differences among us to heights of disrespect and rude discourse to the point the Nation’s interests are no longer important, only partisan political gains.  Whereas just 5 short years ago we were demanding the country respect its president, we now heap scorn upon him with sophomoric imagery becoming of elementary illiterates and all this under the gaze of an omnipotent media which spun the corporate line to make it palatable to an angry country that wanted nothing more than blood…….anyone’s blood, even the blood of innocents.

We will be regaled with images and orchestral music evoking the pain and suffering we experienced that day, while our own war criminals’ victims have no place in our national conscience  and the crimes which they suffered go unpunished.  We were once a nation that demanded justice, yet we willingly want to see our criminals spared that process.  We no longer have leaders who inspire us, we elect and want leaders who frighten and anger us, who push us towards hatred of our fellow citizens who are different than us because of faith or skin color.  We have gone backwards in time…..to the time of our primal ancestors who killed their brothers for no apparent reason than jealousy or envy and that seems to be ok with a great many of us who want to “remember” 9/11.

I want to forget 9/11 and  all that because our country is greater than all the things previously mentioned in this piece.  Born out of hope and struggle we achieved greatness until we started remembering 9/11 at which time we fell out of Grace.  We cannot continue down the paths we started on 9/12 without negative consequences, yet we seem to not even consider what those consequences are, focusing instead on our suffering while ignoring what we have reaped on others.  In other words, we’ve become a country of cry babies….bellyaching about every perceived injustice we’ve had while forgetting about our own criminality.

I want no part of remembering 9/11 because I remember everything that happened after 9/11 and it was/is just as much a nightmare for me as the events on that awful day.  But unless we as a Nation make amends for what happened on 9/11 and beyond there will be more 9/11s, not by unknown, foreign, dark skinned people with funny names invading our shores, but rather at the hands of people we elect to office, or listen to or watch on our ever present media, or our neighbors unemployed for years with no sign of hope, or business people who either want more or don’t have enough and on and on it goes.  I want no part of that America and I want no part of anything that brings it on.  I want to forget 9/11.

Obama’s well wishing to the Muslim world


President Obama’s remarks on the advent of Ramadan

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I want to extend our best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God.  This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared.  But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere.  For all of us must remember that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.

These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.   Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality.  And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country. And today, I want to extend my best wishes to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world – and your families and friends – as you welcome the beginning of Ramadan.

I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.

May God’s peace be upon you.

That said, my wish list is for  President Obama to keep his word about Guantanamo Bay and the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq so that Muslims in those places can have “peace”.

Bush and Blair lied intentionally


So says Tariq Aziz in a moment of candor that we’ve all come to know is correct.  That lie led to the total destruction of Iraq and the United States and allowed for the propaganda against Islam and Muslims all over the world which has further plunged America into an abyss of poverty and weakness.

We’ve heard a lot of claims about recidivism of Guantanamo Bay detainees much of it hyped to keep Gitmo Bay open. One of the questions I’ve never seen asked is if the people placed in Gitmo Bay are the worst of the worst, why isn’t recidivism 100% instead of the more reliable 4% to the exaggerated 20%?  It would appear terrorists dedicated to their cause plucked from their homeland would relish the opportunity to return to battle.  This guy,Izatullah Nasrat Yar imprisoned at Gitmo for 5 years,  however has decided to take the battle to the enemy to a higher level. Let’s hope such attempts at change will go down better than the offense which originally put him in Gitmo Bay, which was another lie…..they just seem to follow the efforts of the US government around wherever it goes.

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Historical Revisionism-Changing the meaning of Words


wordsPeople are fond of saying words have meaning, and indeed that’s true.  Perhaps this notion of changing the use of words to serve a political purpose is something that’s been going on in America for some time, I don’t know, but with the onset of the war on terror, the politicization of words, applying them or changing them to mean something else and with a different value has been stark.  The first instance that comes to mind is the use of the word “insurgent” in place of the word “resistance fighter” because the latter signified opposition to American imperialism which in all of its form and substance is intended to be benign and beneficial for the people on whom it is imposed while the former was meant to signify an illegal opposition to authority, in this case ours.  Of course that is a subjective application of words, with a definite western leaning lexicography and Americans eventually applied  the term to all who fought against American and Iraqi forces on the ground which by default meant they were enemies of the State.  It was a nifty trick which seeped into our consciousness and made it possible for us to feel good about ourselves while fueling a rage for a people we went both to liberate as well as fight.

Now comes word of the change from the use of the word “torture” to “enhanced interrogation”. In an attempt to deny history the chance to note the United States as a country that used torture, which is in and of itself criminal,  many in media are now using words that don’t signify American culpability in criminal behavior.  Glen Greenwald does an excellent job dismantling this bizarre slow evolution from an America that used torture, and lied, to forge a new Iraq to a country that “interrogated: suspects,  and I strongly recommend you read his piece here and here.  That the media seems to be in lock step with this idea that torture doesn’t apply to what America does, but only to what our enemies do is nothing less than historical revisionism that puts the proponents of that idea on the same level as those who question the Holocaust or those who assert present day America has the right to its exceptionalism; meaning the United States is somehow  “above” or an “exception” to the law, even those laws which it drafts and codifies.  The people who accept  and pass on this change in the meaning of torture versus interrogation have made a mockery of themselves and the institutions they work for, ignoring all the treaties and laws the country has signed which obligates it to follow as well as  prosecute those among us who break these laws.   Any claim America has to moral relevancy or legitimacy is diminished each time we change the meaning of words through omission or otherwise to further political agendas that are not at all based in fact.  It is only a matter of time, as America becomes increasingly engaged in wars of aggression, before the same rationale and language will be used by America’s enemies  against us as they straddle and cross lines of legal and illegal behavior.

More Iranian, US intrigue


I strongly encourage you to run over to Consotiumnews. com to read the article, Iran Divided & the ‘October Suprise.  Niqnaq’s blog also carries it here.  It contains some interesting observations about today’s major players on the Iranian scene, as well as revelations that there was an October surprise meeting between the at the time aspiring Reagan administration and Iranians officials.  These  Reagan officials wanted to thwart the Carter reelection in 1980 while at the same time appearing to be hawks when it came to Iran, a typical neocon ‘slight of hand’ deception. There is also the explicit charge that George H.W. Bush did indeed meet with the Iranians in Paris, despite constant denials to the contrary.

While the article  covers “old news” it gives insight into why some people in Iran think and react the way they do to today’s events unfolding in Iran.

Neo-Conservatives are bad for America


neocons+straussIt’s been extraordinary watching how neocons have made everything up, down, everything black, white and everything evil, good and back again.  In the process they have managed to weaken America, tarnish her image in the world community and imperil the world.  In my wildest of conspiratorial dreams, I surmise they are responsible for the election of Barack Obama in order to undo some of the damage they have done, but they have not kept themselves out of the policy making apparatus of government; they are rather firmly entrenched there and have installed gate keepers at every door of the branches of government.  Rahm Emmanuel in the executive, and policy wonks at State, two previously mentioned here on the pages of Miscellany101.  They are not working in the best interests of the US; American interests take a back seat to interests feuled by tribalism and history they want to rewrite in order settle old scores at the expense of an unconcerned and uninitiated American public.  Sure most of it is based on OIL, oil, Israel and logistics, but personal aggrandizement and wealth also play a part in their deception.

So while going through my daily reading I wandered on this article which reinforced these notions above.  What picqued my interest and aggravated my anger was the explicit statement that Saddam wanted the help of America and would have entered into a defense pact with the US in order to defend him against Iran.  That’s not altogether surprising since Saddam fought the Iranians before in the 80s for eight years, at no expense to US personnel or materiel.  Saddam wanted to talk to Bush about that and if he had been successful in pitching the idea all the American lives killed and money wasted at great expense to the country could have been avoided with an even better policy result!  But Bush was convinced to ignore Saddam’s overtures, no doubt with the blessings of the many neocons entrenched in his government who advised against such acceptance.  Instead these people using fascist tactics of deception and the increased powers of the state  got Bush to promote the lie of WMDS and consequently,  America has  installed  a pro-Iranian regime, and destabilized one of the largest Arab speaking countries of the region.  All this happened because neocons have been pitching the idea of regime change to Democrats and Republicans alike since the mid 90s.

They have managed to pitch war at the expense of peace before, when they similarly got Bush to ignore Iranian attempts at rapprochement with America in 2003.  Now a second US administration is being led by the nose with the help of a belligerent ally, Israel, that wants a war and ostensibly drag America into it, with a country that wants peace and is willing to  make major concessions towards that aim.  Such a war would not be in the interests of America and could prove to be more costly than even the Iraq debacle.  The authors of American government advised this country in its infancy from foreign entanglements and that advice still reverberates throughout time but there are few in government who are able to hear it because of the noise being made by neoconservatives and their spin doctors.  The fact that Obama has further embraced them, making government positions a revolving door for the enemies of America to spin, deceive and escalate and involve this country in military adventures means there isn’t much that has changed with his election.  It’s time for Americans to show neocons the door.

America’s Iran jones


What is it with US policy makers that they have to go off and antagonize Iran at every chance they get, even when it’s not necessary?  Two threads have appeared in news stories today centered around Iran with this trend as if to anticipate and undermine what Obama is going to say in a letter he’s putting together to send to that country’s leaders.

Before getting onto those two themes, let me say I’ve always been distressed at how government has this seamy undercurrent that works to under cut what official Washington is doing, and both the official and unofficial seem to like the give and take in this relationship of setting, revising, ignoring, cancelling policy.  It would seem to me once you get  your marching orders from the CiC you take them and run with them, not go off and rub his nose in them with your own pronouncements, but that’s what it seems Robert Gates, Defense Secretary has done.

When U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran of “subversive activity” in Latin America Tuesday, it raised the question whether he is trying to discourage President Barack Obama from abandoning the hard-line policy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran he has favored for nearly three decades.

In his Senate armed services committee testimony Tuesday, Gates said Iran was “opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on.” Gates offered no further explanation for what sounded like a Cold War-era propaganda charge against the Soviet Union.

Gates has made no secret of his skepticism about any softening of U.S. policy toward Iran. In response to a question at the National Defense University last September on how he would advise the next president to improve relations with Iran, Gates implicitly rejected what he called “outreach” to Iran as useless.

Gates’ 1992 sabotage of the Bush plan for reciprocating Iran goodwill relied in part on making public charges against Iran that created a more unfavorable political climate in Washington for such a policy.

It will be interesting to see what Obama’s reaction to all this political posturing Gates is making so early in the Administration’s efforts towards rapprochement with Iran. We will  be able to take measure of Obama depending on his response; if he lets Gates continue with his “subversive” activity he can be viewed as a weak President undeserving of a second term, the nation’s trust, or respect of his “underlings”.  If he kicks Gates out so soon after asking him to stay on as Defense Secretary he’ll find himself facing criticism for not being a stable administrator or able to hold his people in check, preferring to give in to his impetuous side and getting rid of them whimsically.  The perfect damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The second salvo against Obama comes from of all places the Likud party’s boisterous and wrong Benjamin Netanyahu who says the Iranian nuclear weapons are more a problem than the global economy.  Netanyahu is great for hyperbole, probably something he picked up as a result of his public school education in Cheltenham, Pa. back in the day.  This we expect from Bibi who likes to somehow challenge the masculinity of America’s leaders by questioning their ability to take on his enemies for his benefit.  Using his typical adroit slight of foot maneuvers he turns everything that has to deal with anything into Iranian nukes.

Asked about achieving peace in Gaza, Netanyahu swiftly turned his answer to Iran, which he said is in a “100-yard dash” to get nuclear weapons.

*snip*

“We have had two wars with two Iranian proxies in two years and Persia has now two bases on the eastern Mediterranean,” said Netanyahu, referring to this month’s brutal fighting in Gaza against Hamas and Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“I think we are going to have to deal with neutralizing the power of the mother regime,” he said. “The Hamas stronghold would be about as important, if Iranian power was neutralized, as Cuba was when the Soviet Union became irrelevant.”

What Netanyahu doesn’t tell you about his metaphor  is while the Soviet Union became irrelevant because American ideas triumphed a military dictatorship without the US having to fire a single shot at the Soviet Union, Iran’s leadership and in fact all of that country has to be laid to waste militarily, according to the Netanyahu school of thought in order for his enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, to become irrelevant. Typical.  In any event, this kind of bluster is to be expected from this quarter, and Obama would do well to ignore it and press on with his agenda, not that of an intractable and petulant “ally”.  Unfortunately, he can’t so easily dismiss Netanyahu, and if Gates continues with his own agenda as well, it might be even more difficult.  Bush may be gone, but the neocons are still lurking and haven’t given up hope of re-establishing themselves in policy making  positions or of somehow influencing policy.

Like shooting fish in a barrell and other analogies


The Israelis are continuing to pound the defenseless population of Gaza and there’s little hope that will stop short of any international intervention.  The reasons for the continued attacks are the operation that left one Israeli soldier dead earlier this week, when a mine or IED went off killing him and wounding others.  It’s significant to point out that Hamas did NOT claim responsibility for this breach of the truce, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Israelis from keeping the borders closed and bombing southern Gaza for this latest breach.  Moreover another added benefit of this return to hostilities is Israel gets to implore the mantra of being a victim and or self righteous indignation at those who question their retaliation in order to  keep headlines such as these off the main pages of newspapers.

The Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. The rescue team found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.

However, all that is not enough to obscure the reality of what Israel has done and is now doing.  In a very well written essay by Norman Finkelstein entitled, Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Initiative”,  the reasons and motivations for the continuing violence against the Palestinians is laid out in rather stark detail with quite alot of foresight into what is driving the Israelis.

The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”

Israel’s “larger concern” in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.”

As Israel targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and U.N. sanctuaries, as it slaughtered and incinerated Gaza’s defenseless civilian population (one-third of the 1,200 reported casualties were children), Israeli commentators gloated that “Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first—a second chance to get it right,” and that this time around Israel had “hurled [Gaza] back,” not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s.

Electricity is available only for a few hours a day”; that “Israel regained its deterrence capabilities” because “the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the [2006] Second Lebanon War”; and that “There is no doubt that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is upset these days….There will no longer be anyone in the Arab world who can claim that Israel is weak.”

The justification put forth… in the pages of the Times for targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure amounted to apologetics for state terrorism. It might be recalled that although Hitler had stripped Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher of all his political power by 1940, and his newspaper Der St?rmer had a circulation of only some 15,000 during the war, the International Tribunal at Nuremberg nonetheless sentenced him to death for his murderous incitement.

Beyond restoring its deterrence capacity, Israel’s main goal in the Gaza slaughter was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian moderation.  For the past three decades the international community has consistently supported a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict that calls for two states based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 border, and a “just resolution” of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation.  The vote on the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution, “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine,” supporting these terms for resolving the conflict in 2008 was 164 in favor, 7 against (Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau), and 3 abstentions.  At the regional level the Arab League in March 2002 unanimously put forth a peace initiative on this basis, which it has subsequently reaffirmed.

Hamas was “careful to maintain the ceasefire” it entered into with Israel in June 2008, according to an official Israeli publication, despite Israel’s reneging on the crucial component of the truce that it ease the economic siege of Gaza.  “The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations,” the source continues. “At the same time, the [Hamas] movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it.” Moreover, Hamas was “interested in renewing the relative calm with Israel” (Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin).

The Islamic movement could thus be trusted to stand by its word, making it a credible negotiating partner, while its apparent ability to extract concessions from Israel, unlike the hapless Palestinian Authority doing Israel’s bidding but getting no returns, enhanced Hamas’s stature among Palestinians.  For Israel these developments constituted a veritable disaster. It could no longer justify shunning Hamas, and it would be only a matter of time before international pressure in particular from the Europeans would be exerted on it to negotiate. The prospect of an incoming U.S. administration negotiating with Iran and Hamas, and moving closer to the international consensus for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict, which some U.S. policymakers now advocate, would have further highlighted Israel’s intransigence.  In an alternative scenario, speculated on by Nasrallah, the incoming American administration plans to convene an international peace conference of “Americans, Israelis, Europeans and so-called Arab moderates” to impose a settlement.  The one obstacle is “Palestinian resistance and the Hamas government in Gaza,” and “getting rid of this stumbling block is…the true goal of the war.”

In either case, Israel needed to provoke Hamas into breaking the truce, and then radicalize or destroy it, thereby eliminating it as a legitimate negotiating partner.  It is not the first time Israel confronted such a diabolical threat—an Arab League peace initiative, Palestinian support for a two-state settlement and a Palestinian ceasefire—and not the first time it embarked on provocation and war to overcome it.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated in early December 2008 that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce “harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement.” Translation: a protracted ceasefire that enhanced Hamas’s credibility would have undermined Israel’s strategic goal of retaining control of the West Bank.  As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.” Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext.  On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back. “Last week’s ‘ticking tunnel,’ dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers,” Haaretz reported in mid-November was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm’s way.  It is impossible to claim that those who decided to blow up the tunnel were simply being thoughtless.  The military establishment was aware of the immediate implications of the measure, as well as of the fact that the policy of “controlled entry” into a narrow area of the Strip leads to the same place: an end to the lull.  That is policy—not a tactical decision by a commander on the ground.

After Hamas predictably resumed its rocket attacks “[i]n retaliation” (Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center), Israel could embark on yet another murderous invasion in order to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive.

The historical context of this conflict is illuminating; that Israel repeatedly has foiled every attempt at peace with its neighbors the Palestinians is clear today, despite the elaborate claims and provocations to the contrary.  It’s for this reason I have chided the present Obama administration by saying this handwriting is on the wall; unless a strong Western government says to the Israelis it won’t fall for or accept their spin in the face of repeated attempts by the Palestinians towards peace  Israel must face being outed for the pariah it really is…if such an unequivocal statement isn’t made, Israeli genocide and atrocities against the Palestinians will continue and even escalate.  The present escalation of the conflict is a clear example.

Will Israel open up a front in Lebanon?


The Israelis have already started their false flag operations in the south of Lebanon.

Lebanese army and international forces bolstered troop numbers, stepped up patrols and declared a state of alert Thursday after an early-morning rocket attack on Israel from southern Lebanon threatened to widen the ongoing Gaza Strip conflict.

The rocket fire, which struck a nursing home and slightly injured at least two civilians, resurrected memories of the destructive 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah, an ally of the Gaza-based militant group Hamas.
There was no claim of responsibility for the rocket attack. Hezbollah and the major Palestinian organizations based in Lebanon denied any role. Only one small group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, would neither affirm nor deny any part in the attack.

The area the missiles were launched from is outside the sphere of influence of  Hezbollah, well south of the Litani River, the line of demarcation setup in UN Resolution 1701. The rabid politicians of the Israeli government want to involve Lebanon in order to strike at Hezbollah and Iran.  Of course they want the US to do the latter…..Iran is far too formidable for Israel alone.  They also want to discredit the UN by underscoring how ineffective it is in preventing the missile attacks from Lebanese soil and avoid having to deal with the Lebanese government which is the party responsible for southern Lebanon.  Israel always seems to demand recognition from others, while not giving it to its neighbors and it wants to blunt criticism from the UN because of the crimes being committed in Gaza.  Curious that…

Meanwhile, Israel true to form, continues to violate Lebanese airspace, and this is no doubt an attempt to get the Lebanese to open fire on Israeli aircraft, while claiming Hezbollah has “rearmed”.   There’s no question Israel will attack Lebanon.  Whether it will be of the same magnitude as 2006 will probably depend on the US response to Gaza.  Already there is talk of how the US had to resupply the Israeli war machine and if the killing continues there forcing more supplies in the face of international opposition, the US may decide to stop the resupply to curb Israel’s appetite for blood.

The Liberator’s reception in Iraq


Take that!

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric


I wish it was George W. Bush saying that statement in the title above, but it isn’t.  Instead it’s a US military officer who served on an intelligence team responsible for interrogating Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaida operatives and who says quite succinctly in a Washington Post editorial that torture cost American lives in the Iraqi campaign.   Even though Bush didn’t utter those words he surely knew of the successes those teams had in Iraq where torture wasn’t employed while still achieving very good results

The methods my team used are not classified (they’re listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of “ruses and trickery”). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.

*snip*

Our new interrogation methods led to one of the war’s biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi’s associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader’s location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.

I know the counter-argument well — that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that’s not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, “I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That’s why I decided to cooperate.”

Why didn’t Bush lead the way and instruct his military on the best way to conduct interrogation? Nothing is as it seemed with this Administration; they knew before waging the war that the reasons they gave for it were lies; likewise they knew this war wasn’t being waged to benefit the Iraqis, rather it was to cause their utter humiliation and destruction as a powerful society.  Torture became a means to that end.  Bush surely read and or heard the cries of many within his Administration that torture was not consistent with American military policy yet it continued under his watch.  Is it any wonder why there are some who think Bush should be tried for war crimes? Count me among them!

Bush wants history to see him as a liberator of millions


Reading news like the above headline is hazardous to ones health and possessions.  After laughing until I nearly died I attacked my computer with a rage I haven’t felt since Bush was re-elected in 2004.  Indeed, Bush has been so obsessed with his “legacy” that he has done nothing for the country in the 8 years he’s been in office except liberate us of our hard earned money, and our constitutional freedoms!

“I’d like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace,” Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House Friday.

“I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values.”

He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, “that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package.”

Starting with Iraq, he liberated them of their money too, to the tune of $20 billion or more for services his occupation forces and or no bid contractors never delivered, laid waste to their country on a scale that Saddam Hussein could never approach, his army simply wasn’t that good or that dangerous, and has the population of the country burning or defaming his image and demanding US forces leave.  Afghanistan isn’t much different.  Even the US appointed leader of that country has abandoned his American sponsors and turned to the Taliban offering them help and support.  Let’s not forget the freed citizens of those two countries who have since fled their homes because of the strife rained down on them by American occupation; George Bush liberated them of their homes too.

But the biggest benefactors of Bush’s liberation have been the American people…..to the tune of $8.5 trillion! American economists are grim about the prospects of the US government spending that amount of money which amounts to about 60% of US GNP to bailout companies and their managers for their bad business practices.  The US congress, has abrogated its responsibility turning over the cash without any oversight and leaving the decision making to a Bush appointee, Treasury secretary, who dispenses the money in any way he sees fit; he has seen fit to only give back to the taxpayer, the original source of that money , $800 billion, the rest going to only God knows where.  All this, mind you, under George Bush’s watch.

The reference Bush made to liberating came in an interview he did with his own SISTER and recorded as part of an oral history program known as Storycorps, and it goes without saying no one but her could take such pronouncements seriously. In my wildest dreams I could see Doro, reaching over the table where she sat with her brother and slapping him across the face while shouting, ‘snap out of it’ for surely Bush is delusional or high on some mind altering substance.  Once again, I’m reminded of how as a private citizen George W. Bush ruined all of h is business ventures and that has now been extended to the United States of America as well.  Gee, thanks George, now get lost!

The war in Iraq- a boondoggle for everyone but Iraqis


There’s money to be made in war.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.  We cloak war’s death and destruction in patriotic terms and speak of the nation’s interests, but war and especially this last Iraqi war is waged for no other reason than economic gain.  The costs in human lives on both sides is immeasurable, but some hope to make up for it by stealing the wealth of nations, theirs, ours and anyone else.  So I’m particularly upset but not surprised to read that even people in the US military were making off with big bundles of cash.

A federal jury in Trenton, N.J., today convicted U.S. Army Col. Curtis G. Whiteford and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael B. Wheeler of conspiracy to commit bribery and interstate transportation of stolen property, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division announced.

*snip*

According to testimony at trial before U.S. District Court Judge Mary L. Cooper, Whiteford and Wheeler conspired from December 2003 to December 2005 with at least three others—Robert Stein, at the time the comptroller and funding officer for the CPA-SC; Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who owned and operated several companies in Iraq and Romania; and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bruce D. Hopfengardner—to rig the bids on contracts being awarded by the CPA-SC so that more than 20 contracts were awarded to Bloom. In total, Bloom received more than $8.6 million in rigged contracts. Testimony revealed that Bloom, in return, provided Whiteford, Harrison, Wheeler, Stein, Hopfengardner and others with more than $1 million in cash, SUVs, sports cars, a motorcycle, jewelry, computers, business class airline tickets, liquor, promise of future employment with Bloom and other items of value.

Meanwhile all that supposed good will we had planned for the Iraqis, the good will that would replace Saddam’s repressive rule, still has not reached fruition.  Iraqis are still in the dark, with their electrical capacity below pre-war levels.

US supported Iraqi government responsible for Christian oppression


Politics do make strange bedfellows and especially in Iraq. Try to keep up.  Christians in Iraq are blaming the Iraqi government and in particular their inability to protect them from continued violence in Iraq for the exodus of Christians from Mosul. I thought the surge was working, but evidently not for Iraqi Christians. What I found very interesting was that Shi’ite Muslims are coming to the aid of their fellow Iraqi Christians.

Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, sent some of his most senior aides from the holy Shiite city of Najaf to Baghdad to meet with church leaders in an expression of solidarity…..

One of Mr. Sadr’s representatives at the meeting, Sheik Muhanned al-Gharrawi, said that he had just spoken to Mr. Sadr by telephone and that he was instructed to convey a message from his leader: “We will not hesitate to turn into human shields for our Christian brothers if need be.”

Another Shiite cleric, Hazem al-Araji, said that some of the families that had fled Mosul to predominantly Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain, northeast of the city, sought the protection of his movement.

“We told them that we cannot provide military help but that we will exert pressure on the government,” Mr. Araji said.

He added that his movement would send trucks with food, mattresses and blankets to aid displaced families.

The Christian military might of the US isn’t helping Iraqi Christians, but Shiite Iraqi muslims are?

Trying to keep score


This last week has been really fun to watch with so much going on.  I’m sure other bloggers have written about the shenanigans but here are my two cents concerning the political fiasco call the presidential campaign. The McCain campaign tried to capitalize on “Joe the Plumber” until it was learned he was closely related to the Keating scandal which McCain played a major role.

Turns out that Joe Wurzelbacher from the Toledo event is a close relative of Robert Wurzelbacher of Milford, Ohio. Who’s Robert Wurzelbacher? Only Charles Keating’s son-in-law and the former senior vice president of American Continental, the parent company of the infamous Lincoln Savings and Loan. The now retired elder Wurzelbacher is also a major contributor to Republican causes giving well over $10,000 in the last few years.

Opps! You have to ask yourself what was the Obama campain thinking when they let their candidate get sandbagged by an obvious political hack.  Why was Obama walking through this guy’s neighborhood?  Dumb and dumber, I suppose.

William Buckley’s son Chris has come out endorsing Obama and has had to quit his post as a contributing writer on the National Review as a result.  Conservatives, or rather the truest party loyalists among them, those I consider brain dead and members of THE REPUBLICAN PARTY can’t stand the idea that a born and raised conservative doesn’t see anything conservative about their present party.  They forget, those on the National Review, how their publication’s founder distanced himself from Bush and his foray into Iraq, pretty much declaring himself a heretic from his own magazine and the modern day conservative right neocon cabal.

“With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

The conservative right has also distanced itself from Palin’s choice as the vice presidential nominee.

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for?

*snip*

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

You betcha’!

Republicans: Party of Sleaze and Racist/Ethno baiters


It didn’t take long for the Republicans to descend to the depths of sleaze and racialism when it comes to the economic problems affecting our country.  They’ve been wallowing around in the basement of racism and Islamophobia for the last eight years, frightening people with their ‘there’s a terrorist around every corner’ mantra.  For a very brief moment I thought they would take the high ground about our economic woes and say something like it’s time to tighten our belts, work together to solve this because  bigger government is not the answer.  For awhile they came across making that point,

It’s absurd, and at its heart, it’s un-American, in the sense that America exists precisely because of our desire to rein in government and make it accountable to the people…….Only in a panic, in which Congressional leadership abdicates its role to keep executive power in check, would any American Congress agree to surrender its Constitutional mandate for oversight. And that panic may be taking place now.

Well that sounds so very, very good and it’s a spot on analysis of what’s happening with this Administration’s attempts to push through as quickly as possible measures that would make the executive more distant and removed from the Constitution and more powerful than the Founding Fathers ever envisioned.  But……..well let’s just say, the problem with the above pronouncement is it’s totally against everything THE REPUBLICAN PARTY has stood for these last eight years.  Republicans may believe what was written by the author quoted above, but the party’s position is much more blatant in scope and encompassing in power.  There hasn’t been a single initiative undertaken by THE PARTY which was designed to limit ITS power.  Everything was done to increase power and the economic bailout is just another in a long series of power grabs.  Again, blogger and constitutional lawyer Glen Greenwald does an excellent job citing the hypocrisy of THE PARTY in his blog which I encourage all to read.

I’ve been watching Republican Party politics from the vantage point of a state that welcomed and endorsed and then elected one of the biggest race baiters of all times. He’s passed on now so I won’t speak ill of the dead, but Jesse Helms honed race baiting to a science that got him elected to the US Senate six times and in the process passed on that skill to THE PARTY which has gradually adopted it over the years.  Well, it’s come to fruition.  Leaving the high road of less government, THE PARTY descended to claiming the problem with the economy is because of black people and the employment of people of color in the banking sector.  Yup, you heard it right.  Minorities are the reasons why the United States is in the situation it’s in now.  Oh, and we have to blame Clinton in there somewhere.  Why all the drubbing Clinton gets from Republicans eight years after leaving office, it’s amazing he would say anything nice about John McCain, but that’s for another blog.  Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) citied an article which appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, which states

Clinton saw homeownership as a way to open the door for blacks and other minorities to enter the middle class.

Though well-intended, the problem was that Congress was about to change hands, from the Democrats to the Republicans. Rather than submit legislation that the GOP-led Congress was almost sure to reject, Clinton ordered Robert Rubin’s Treasury Department to rewrite the rules in 1995.

The rewrite, as City Journal noted back in 2000, “made getting a satisfactory CRA rating harder.” Banks were given strict new numerical quotas and measures for the level of “diversity” in their loan portfolios. Getting a good CRA rating was key for a bank that wanted to expand or merge with another.

Loans started being made on the basis of race, and often little else.

“Bank examiners would use federal home-loan data, broken down by neighborhood, income group and race, to rate banks on performance,” wrote Howard Husock, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute.

*snip*

From 1995 to 2005, a Harvard study shows, minorities made up 49% of the 12.5 million new homeowners.

The problem is that many of those loans have now gone bad, and minority homeownership rates are shrinking fast.

Fannie and Freddie, with their massive loan portfolios stuffed with securitized mortgage-backed paper created from subprime loans, are a failed legacy of the Clinton era.

So, there you have it.  Minorities defaulted on their home loans and that’s why banks and investment houses are going under.  Opps….that’s why banks are going under.  There’s this snippet from The National Review Online which takes things a step further by implying that banks that hired a racially diverse staff were the types of banks that failed.  Minorities aren’t good at math and computing, so goes the theory. Now my question is how does a federal government that’s spending billions of dollars a month on the occupation of two foreign countries, one of which had absolutely nothing to do with the tragic events of 911, come up with $700 billion to bail out ANYONE!?? One could make the proposition that it is us who need a bail out, but that’s another crisis which will surely be solved by increased federal power, spending and risks to the public.  Suffice it to say, one of the plans being tossed around will increase the national debt to $11.3 trillion.  (What’s a few trillion among tax payers?)

So we’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in THE REPUBLICAN PARTY’s opposition to the initial Bush bailout plan and instead chosen to draw lines according to race and divisiveness.  Guess that comes natural for the GOP.

Bush doublespeak


President Bush appeared before the UN for his last speech there and said somethings that left me scratching my head at the audacity and hypocrisy of it all.  He claims the UN has extraordinary potential and is needed more now than ever before, yet he was the same president who declared the world body  irrelevant if it didn’t agree to his invasion of Iraq.  He chided the organization has to be on the lookout for inefficiency and corruption, bloated bureaucracies, which must be streamlined, yet news from Iraq a country he has occupied for the last five years is that more than $13 billion has been lost, misplaced, misspent or otherwise unaccounted for through elaborate fraud schemes and to date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq. It’s sad to see a public official utter such irresponsible statements before the world community.

Words have meaning or maybe they don’t


Iraqis seem to have a better appreciation for the English language than American policy makers, so when it’s said ‘the two countries have agreed that timetables should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country’, all that’s left for the Iraqis is to set a date.  Not so say the Americans.  Look at the hedging and dodging:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States and Iraq have agreed to a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country.

Appearing with her Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari (HOH’-shayr zuh-BAH’-ree), Rice acknowledged at their joint news conference Thursday that the two parties have not yet finalized the deal. She said it close [sic] at hand, however.

Rice called her talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “very good and fruitful” and said an agreement is near that would “solidify the significant gains” in security in Iraq over the last year.

Meanwhile the Iraqi prime minister is on record saying there is a fixed date.

The US has agreed to withdraw all troops from Iraq by 2011, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said yesterday…”There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” said Mr Maliki yesterday, speaking at a gathering of tribal leaders in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The US has hung its acceptance of any agreement on the word “aspirational” which has now appeared in several stories which talk about the agreement.  What the Iraqis don’t understand is that “aspirational” means conditions which have to be negotiated, such as immunity for American troops or mercenaries from prosecution for crimes committed in Iraq, the number of military bases and their location allowed in Iraq, etc before any agreement can be cemented.  That reality is something the Iraqis probably hadn’t counted on.  Surprise! The Bush administration has never really wanted to be tied down to a date for withdrawing troops because they don’t want to leave for years to come.  Being an occupier means they can “negotiate” this point much more from a position of strength.  After all, what’s Iraq going to do, kick the US out?