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BP, Obama and the Gulf - A Disaster Foretold by Vijay Prashad FULL ARTICLE
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"... searingly honest, intensely acute portrayals.” —NOAM CHOMSKY
- OLIVER STONE RESPONDS TO ATTACK FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES’ LARRY ROHTER
- FIGHTING TALK: THE NEW PROPAGANDA
- A FLASH OF LIGHT
- WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM AND WHY I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT NCLB
- THE NEW FACE OF POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST - ERDOGAN RISING?
- WHO IS AFRAID OF A REAL INQUIRY?
- THE ASSAULT ON THE GAZA FLOTILLA: KILL A TURK AND REST
- OBAMA'S TIMIDITY AND DEATHS AT SEA
- OF TURKS AND GREEKS
- AS THINGS GET WORSE IN PAKISTAN, THE OPTIMISM CONTINUES TO SOAR
- JUSTICE KAGAN?
- PASSING ON THE RISK TO THE TAXPAYER - WHEN THE BANKS OWN THE CONGRESS
- ANY HOPE FOR BRITAIN? ELECTION 2010
- THE SCAMS OF GOLDMAN SACHS
- TRUTH HAS FALLEN AND TAKEN LIBERTY WITH IT
- FARCE OR TRAGEDY? PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL IN DAMASCUS RUN BY FAMILY OF
- IDF ORDER WILL ENABLE MASS DEPORTATION FROM WEST BANK
- SEX AND SANCTITY - REALLY SAFE SEX
- CONGRESS, ISRAEL AND U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY
- SENATOR DODD, PUT BACK THAT WALL!
- WHITE LIE
- THE COUNTRY IS GETTING MUGGED
- THE NEW JIM CROW
- LOGIC, RATIONALITY AND BELIEF
- DUBIOUS IN DUBAI
- WHITHER INDIA AND PAKISTAN?
- SIBEL EDMONDS: THE TRAITORS AMONG US
- WAITING FOR GODOT
- GATES STRIKES OUT IN PAKISTAN
July 7, 2010
OLIVER STONE RESPONDS TO ATTACK FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES’ LARRY ROHTER
Echoes of the Run-up to the Iraq War
The following letter was sent to The New York Times:
Larry Rohter attacks our film, “South of the Border,” for “mistakes, misstatements and missing
details.” But a close examination of the details reveals that the mistakes, misstatements, and
missing details are his own, and that the film is factually accurate. We will document this for each
one of his attacks. We then show that there is evidence of animus and conflict of interest, in his
attempt to discredit the film. Finally, we ask that you consider the many factual errors in Rohter’s
attacks, outlined below, and the pervasive evidence of animus and conflict of interest in his
attempt to discredit the film; and we ask that The New York Times publish a full correction for these
1) Accusing the film of “misinformation,” Rohter writes that “A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia,
flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes. . .” But the narration does not say that the flight is
“mostly” over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true. (Source: Google Earth).
2) Also in the category of “misinformation,” Rohter writes “the United States does not ‘import more
oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation,’ a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia
during the period 2004-10.”
The quote cited by Rohter here was spoken in the film by an oil industry analyst, Phil Flynn, who
appears for about 30 seconds in a clip from U.S. broadcast TV. It turns out that Rohter is mistaken,
and Flynn is correct. Flynn is speaking in April 2002 (which is clear in the film), so it is wrong for
Rohter to cite data from 2004-2010. If we look at data from 1997-2001, which is the relevant data for
Flynn’s comment, Flynn is correct. Venezuela leads all OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, for
oil imports in the U.S. over this period. (Source: US Energy Information Agency for Venezuela http:
//www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUSVE2&f=A and Saudi Arabia http:
3) Rohter tries to discredit the film’s very brief description of the 1998 Venezuelan presidential
“As “South of the Border” portrays it, Mr. Chávez’s main opponent in his initial run for president in
1998 was “a 6-foot-1-inch blond former Miss Universe” named Irene Sáez, and thus “the contest
becomes known as the Beauty and the Beast” election.
But Mr. Chávez’s main opponent then was not Ms. Sáez, who finished third, with less than 3
percent of the vote. It was Henrique Salas Romer, a bland former state governor who won 40
percent of the vote.”
Rohter’s criticism is misleading. The description of the presidential race in the film, cited by Rohter,
is from Bart Jones, who was covering Venezuela for the Associated Press from Caracas at the time.
The description is accurate, despite the final results. For most of the race, which began in 1997,
Irene Sáez was indeed Chavez’s main opponent, and the contest was reported as “Beauty and the
Beast.” In the six months before the election, she began to fade and Salas Romer picked up
support; his 40 percent showing was largely the result of a late decision of both COPEI and AD (the
two biggest political parties in Venezuela at the time, who had ruled the country for four decades)
to throw their support behind him. (See, for example, this 2008 article from BBC, which describes
the race as in the film, and does not even mention Salas Romer: http://news.bbc.co.
Rohter’s description makes it seem like Saéz was a minor candidate, which is absurd.
4) Rohter tries to frame the film’s treatment of the 2002 coup in Venezuela as a “conspiracy
theory.” He writes:
“ Like Mr. Stone’s take on the Kennedy assassination, this section of “South of the Border” hinges
on the identity of a sniper or snipers who may or may not have been part of a larger conspiracy.”
This description of the film is completely false. The film makes no statement on the identity of the
snipers nor does it present any theory of a “larger conspiracy” with any snipers. Rather, the film
makes two points about the coup: (1) That the Venezuelan media (and this was repeated by U.S.
and other international media) manipulated film footage to make it look as if a group of Chavez
supporters with guns had shot the 19 people killed on the day of the coup. This manipulation of the
film footage is demonstrated very clearly in the film, and therefore does not “ [rely] heavily on the
account of Gregory Wilpert” as Rohter also falsely alleges. The footage speaks for itself. (2) The
United States government was involved in the coup (see http://southoftheborderdoc.com/2002-
venezuela-coup/ and below).
Ironically, it is Rohter that relies on conspiracy theories, citing one dubious account in particular
that he argues we should have included in the film.
5) Rohter accuses us of “bend[ing] facts and omit[ting] information” on Argentina, for allowing “Mr.
Kirchner and his successor — and wife — Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to claim that “we began a
different policy than before.”
“In reality, Mr. Kirchner’s presidential predecessor, Eduardo Duhalde, and Mr. Duhalde’s finance
minister, Roberto Lavagna, were the architects of that policy shift and the subsequent economic
recovery, which began while Mr. Kirchner was still the obscure governor of a small province in
This criticism is somewhat obscure and perhaps ridiculous. The Kirchners were in the presidency
for five out of the six years of Argentina’s remarkable economic recovery, in which the economy
grew by 63 percent. Some of the policies that allowed for that recovery began in 2002, and others
began in 2003, and even later. What exactly are the “bent facts” and “omitted information” here?
6) Rohter tries to make an issue out of the fact that the logo of Human Rights Watch appears for a
couple of seconds on the screen, during a discussion of Washington’s double standards on human
rights. The film doesn’t say or imply anything about HRW. Most importantly, in his interview with
Rohter, HRW’s Americas director José Miguel Vivanco backs up exactly what the film does say, that
there is a double standard in the U.S. that focuses on allegations of human rights abuses in
Venezuela while ignoring or downplaying far graver, far more numerous, and better substantiated
allegations about human rights abuses in Colombia: “It’s true that many of Chávez’s fiercest critics
in Washington have turned a blind eye to Colombia’s appalling human rights record,” says Vivanco.
7) Rohter attacks co-writer Tariq Ali for saying that “The government [of Bolivia] decided to sell the
water supply of Cochabamba to Bechtel, a U.S. corporation.” Rohter writes: “In reality, the
government did not sell the water supply: it granted a consortium that included Bechtel a 40-year
management concession . . .”
Rohter is really reaching here. “Selling the water supply” to private interests is a fair description
of what happened here, about as good for practical purposes as “granting a 40-year management
concession.” The companies got control over the city’s water supply and the revenue that can be
gained from selling it.
Rohter’s animus and conflict of interest: We gave Rohter an enormous amount of factual
information to back up the main points of the film. He not only ignored the main points of the film,
but in the quotes he selected for the article, he picked only quotes that were not fact related that
could be used to illustrate what he considered the director’s and co-author’s bias. This is not
ethical journalism; in fact it is questionable whether it is journalism at all.
For example, Rohter was presented with detailed and documentary evidence of the United States’
involvement in the 2002 coup. (see http://southoftheborderdoc.com/2002-venezuela-coup) This was
a major point in the film, and was backed up in the film by testimony from then Washington Post
foreign editor Scott Wilson, who covered the coup from Caracas. In our conversations with Rohter,
he simply dismissed all of this evidence out of hand, and nothing about it appears in the article.
Rohter should have disclosed his own conflict of interest in this review. The film criticizes the New
York Times for its editorial board’s endorsement of the military coup of April 11, 2002 against the
democratically elected government of Venezuela, which was embarrassing to the Times. Moreover,
Rohter himself wrote an article on April 12 that went even further than the Times’ endorsement of
“Neither the overthrow of Mr. Chavez, a former army colonel, nor of Mr. Mahuad two years ago can
be classified as a conventional Latin American military coup. The armed forces did not actually take
power on Thursday. It was the ousted president’s supporters who appear to have been
responsible for deaths that numbered barely 12 rather than hundreds or thousands, and political
rights and guarantees were restored rather than suspended.” – Larry Rohter, New York Times, April
These allegations that the coup was not a coup – not only by Rohter — prompted a rebuttal by
Rohter’s colleague at the New York Times, Tim Weiner, who wrote a Sunday Week in Review piece
two days later entitled “A Coup By Any Other Name.” (New York Times, April 14, 2002)
Unlike the NYT editorial board, which issued a grudging retraction of their pro-coup stance a few
days later (included in our film), Rohter seems to have clung to the right-wing fantasies about the
coup. It is not surprising that someone who supports the military overthrow of a democratically
elected government would not like a documentary like this one, which celebrates the triumphs of
electoral democracy in South America over the last decade.
But he should have at least informed his readers that the New York Times’ was under fire in this
documentary, and also about his own reporting: in 1999 and 2000 he covered Venezuela for the
Times, writing numerous anti-Chavez news reports. The media’s biased and distorted reporting on
Latin America is a major theme of the documentary, one which Rohter also conveniently ignores in
is 1665-word attempt to discredit the film.
We spent hours with Rohter over the course of two days and gave him all the information he asked
for, even though his hostility was clear from the outset. But he was determined to present his
narrative of intrepid reporter exposing sloppy filmmaking. The result is a very dishonest attempt to
discredit the film by portraying it as factually inaccurate — using false and misleading statements,
out-of-context, selective quotations from interviews with the director and writers, and ad hominem
attacks. The Times should apologize for having published it.
June 30, 2010
FIGHTING TALK: THE NEW PROPAGANDA
By Robert Fisk
Source: The Independent
Journalism has become a linguistic battleground – and when reporters use terms such ‘spike in
violence’ or ‘surge’ or ‘settler’, they are playing along with a pernicious game, argues Robert Fisk.
Following the latest in semantics on the news? Journalism and the Israeli government are in love
again. It's Islamic terror, Turkish terror, Hamas terror, Islamic Jihad terror, Hezbollah terror, activist
terror, war on terror, Palestinian terror, Muslim terror, Iranian terror, Syrian terror, anti-Semitic
But I am doing the Israelis an injustice. Their lexicon, and that of the White House – most of the time
– and our reporters' lexicon, is the same. Yes, let's be fair to the Israelis. Their lexicon goes like
this: Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror,
terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror.
How many times did I just use the word "terror"? Twenty. But it might as well be 60, or 100, or 1,000,
or a million. We are in love with the word, seduced by it, fixated by it, attacked by it, assaulted by it,
raped by it, committed to it. It is love and sadism and death in one double syllable, the prime time-
theme song, the opening of every television symphony, the headline of every page, a punctuation
mark in our journalism, a semicolon, a comma, our most powerful full stop. "Terror, terror, terror,
terror". Each repetition justifies its predecessor.
Most of all, it's about the terror of power and the power of terror. Power and terror have become
interchangeable. We journalists have let this happen. Our language has become not just a debased
ally, but a full verbal partner in the language of governments and armies and generals and
weapons. Remember the "bunker buster" and the "Scud buster" and the "target-rich environment"
in the Gulf War (Part One)? Forget about "weapons of mass destruction". Too obviously silly. But
"WMD" in the Gulf War (Part Two) had a power of its own, a secret code – genetic, perhaps, like
DNA – for something that would reap terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. "45 Minutes to Terror".
Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political
leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship
between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House
and State Department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the Foreign Office and the
Ministry of Defence, between America and Israel.
In the Western context, power and the media is about words – and the use of words. It is about
semantics. It is about the employment of phrases and their origins. And it is about the misuse of
history, and about our ignorance of history. More and more today, we journalists have become
prisoners of the language of power. Is this because we no longer care about linguistics or
semantics? Is this because laptops "correct" our spelling, "trim" our grammar so that our
sentences so often turn out to be identical to those of our rulers? Is this why newspaper editorials
today often sound like political speeches?
For two decades now, the US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the
words "peace process" to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed
the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people. I first
queried this expression, and its provenance, at the time of Oslo – although how easily we forget
that the secret surrenders at Oslo were themselves a conspiracy without any legal basis.
Poor old Oslo, I always think. What did Oslo ever do to deserve this? It was the White House
agreement that sealed this preposterous and dubious treaty – in which refugees, borders, Israeli
colonies, even timetables – were to be delayed until they could no longer be negotiated.
And how easily we forget the White House lawn – though, yes, we remember the images – upon
which it was Clinton who quoted from the Koran, and Arafat who chose to say: "Thank you, thank
you, thank you, Mr President." And what did we call this nonsense afterwards? Yes, it was "a
moment of history"! Was it? Was it so?
Do you remember what Arafat called it? "The peace of the brave". But I don't remember any of us
pointing out that "the peace of the brave" was used by General de Gaulle about the end of the
Algerian war. The French lost the war in Algeria. We did not spot this extraordinary irony.
Same again today. We Western journalists – used yet again by our masters – have been reporting
our jolly generals in Afghanistan, as saying their war can only be won with a "hearts and minds"
campaign. No one asked them the obvious question: Wasn't this the very same phrase used about
Vietnamese civilians in the Vietnam War? And didn't we – didn't the West – lose the war in Vietnam?
Yet now we Western journalists are using – about Afghanistan – the phrase "hearts and minds" in
our reports as if it is a new dictionary definition, rather than a symbol of defeat for the second time
in four decades.
Just look at the individual words we have recently co-opted from the US military. When we
Westerners find that "our" enemies – al-Qa'ida, for example, or the Taliban – have set off more
bombs and staged more attacks than usual, we call it "a spike in violence".
Ah yes, a "spike"! A "spike" is a word first used in this context, according to my files, by a brigadier
general in the Baghdad Green Zone in 2004. Yet now we use that phrase, we extemporise on it, we
relay it on the air as our phrase, our journalistic invention. We are using, quite literally, an
expression created for us by the Pentagon. A spike, of course, goes sharply up then sharply
downwards. A "spike in violence" therefore avoids the ominous use of the words "increase in
violence" – for an increase, of course, might not go down again afterwards.
Now again, when US generals refer to a sudden increase in their forces for an assault on Fallujah
or central Baghdad or Kandahar – a mass movement of soldiers brought into Muslim countries by
the tens of thousands – they call this a "surge". And a surge, like a tsunami, or any other natural
phenomena, can be devastating in its effects. What these "surges" really are – to use the real
words of serious journalism – are reinforcements. And reinforcements are sent to conflicts when
armies are losing those wars. But our television and newspaper boys and girls are still talking
about "surges" without any attribution at all. The Pentagon wins again.
Meanwhile the "peace process" collapsed. Therefore our leaders – or "key players" as we like to
call them – tried to make it work again. The process had to be put "back on track". It was a train, you
see. The carriages had come off the line. The Clinton administration first used this phrase, then the
Israelis, then the BBC. But there was a problem when the "peace process" had repeatedly been put
"back on track" – but still came off the line. So we produced a "road map" – run by a Quartet and
led by our old Friend of God, Tony Blair, who – in an obscenity of history – we now refer to as a
"peace envoy". But the "road map" isn't working. And now, I notice, the old "peace process" is
back in our newspapers and on our television screens. And earlier this month, on CNN, one of
those boring old fogies whom the TV boys and girls call "experts" told us again that the "peace
process" was being put "back on track" because of the opening of "indirect talks" between Israelis
and Palestinians. This isn't just about clichés – this is preposterous journalism. There is no battle
between the media and power; through language, we, the media, have become them.
Here's another piece of media cowardice that makes my 63-year-old teeth grind together after 34
years of eating humus and tahina in the Middle East. We are told, in many analysis features, that
what we have to deal with in the Middle East are "competing narratives". How very cosy. There's no
justice, no injustice, just a couple of people who tell different history stories. "Competing
narratives" now regularly pop up in the British press.
The phrase, from the false language of anthropology, deletes the possibility that one group of
people – in the Middle East, for example – is occupied, while another is doing the occupying. Again,
no justice, no injustice, no oppression or oppressing, just some friendly "competing narratives", a
football match, if you like, a level playing field because the two sides are – are they not? – "in
competition". And two sides have to be given equal time in every story.
So an "occupation" becomes a "dispute". Thus a "wall" becomes a "fence" or "security barrier".
Thus Israeli acts of colonisation of Arab land, contrary to all international law, become
"settlements" or "outposts" or "Jewish neighbourhoods". It was Colin Powell, in his starring,
powerless appearance as Secretary of State to George W Bush, who told US diplomats to refer to
occupied Palestinian land as "disputed land" – and that was good enough for most of the US media.
There are no "competing narratives", of course, between the US military and the Taliban. When
there are, you'll know the West has lost.
But I'll give you an example of how "competing narratives" come undone. In April, I gave a lecture
in Toronto to mark the 95th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, the deliberate mass
murder of 1.5 million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turkish army and militia. Before my talk, I
was interviewed on Canadian Television, CTV, which also owns Toronto's Globe and Mail
newspaper. And from the start, I could see that the interviewer had a problem. Canada has a large
Armenian community. But Toronto also has a large Turkish community. And the Turks, as the Globe
and Mail always tell us, "hotly dispute" that this was a genocide.
So the interviewer called the genocide "deadly massacres". Of course, I spotted her specific
problem straight away. She couldn't call the massacres a "genocide", because the Turkish
community would be outraged. But she sensed that "massacres" on its own – especially with the
gruesome studio background photographs of dead Armenians – was not quite up to defining a
million and a half murdered human beings. Hence the "deadly massacres". How odd! If there are
"deadly" massacres, are there some massacres which are not "deadly", from which the victims walk
away alive? It was a ludicrous tautology.
Yet the use of the language of power – of its beacon words and its beacon phrases – goes on
among us still. How many times have I heard Western reporters talking about "foreign fighters" in
Afghanistan? They are referring, of course, to the various Arab groups supposedly helping the
Taliban. We heard the same story from Iraq. Saudis, Jordanians, Palestinian, Chechen fighters, of
course. The generals called them "foreign fighters". Immediately, we Western reporters did the
same. Calling them "foreign fighters" meant they were an invading force. But not once – ever –
have I heard a mainstream Western television station refer to the fact that there are at least
150,000 "foreign fighters" in Afghanistan, and that all of them happen to be wearing American,
British and other NATO uniforms. It is "we" who are the real "foreign fighters".
Similarly, the pernicious phrase "Af-Pak" – as racist as it is politically dishonest – is now used by
reporters, although it was originally a creation of the US State Department on the day Richard
Holbrooke was appointed special US representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the phrase
avoids the use of the word "India" – whose influence in Afghanistan and whose presence in
Afghanistan, is a vital part of the story. Furthermore, "Af-Pak" – by deleting India – effectively
deleted the whole Kashmir crisis from the conflict in south-east Asia. It thus deprived Pakistan of
any say in US local policy on Kashmir – after all, Holbrooke was made the "Af-Pak" envoy,
specifically forbidden from discussing Kashmir. Thus the phrase "Af-Pak", which completely avoids
the tragedy of Kashmir – too many "competing narratives", perhaps? – means that when we
journalists use the same phrase, "Af-Pak", which was surely created for us journalists, we are doing
the State Department's work.
Now let's look at history. Our leaders love history. Most of all, they love the Second World War. In
2003, George W Bush thought he was Churchill. True, Bush had spent the Vietnam War protecting
the skies of Texas from the Vietcong. But now, in 2003, he was standing up to the "appeasers" who
did not want a war with Saddam who was, of course, "the Hitler of the Tigris". The appeasers were
the British who didn't want to fight Nazi Germany in 1938. Blair, of course, also tried on Churchill's
waistcoat and jacket for size. No "appeaser" he. America was Britain's oldest ally, he proclaimed –
and both Bush and Blair reminded journalists that the US had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with
Britain in her hour of need in 1940.
But none of this was true. Britain's oldest ally was not the United States. It was Portugal, a neutral
fascist state during the Second World War, which flew its national flags at half-mast when Hitler
died (even the Irish didn't do that).
Nor did America fight alongside Britain in her hour of need in 1940, when Hitler threatened invasion
and the Luftwaffe blitzed London. No, in 1940 America was enjoying a very profitable period of
neutrality, and did not join Britain in the war until Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl
Harbour in December 1941. Similarly, back in 1956, Eden called Nasser the "Mussolini of the Nile". A
bad mistake. Nasser was loved by the Arabs, not hated as Mussolini was by the majority of Africans,
especially the Arab Libyans. The Mussolini parallel was not challenged or questioned by the British
press. And we all know what happened at Suez in 1956. When it comes to history, we journalists let
the presidents and prime ministers take us for a ride.
Yet the most dangerous side of our new semantic war, our use of the words of power – though it is
not a war, since we have largely surrendered – is that it isolates us from our viewers and readers.
They are not stupid. They understand words in many cases – I fear – better than we do. History, too.
They know that we are drawing our vocabulary from the language of generals and presidents, from
the so-called elites, from the arrogance of the Brookings Institute experts, or those of those of the
Rand Corporation. Thus we have become part of this language.
Over the past two weeks, as foreigners – humanitarians or "activist terrorists" – tried to take food
and medicines by sea to the hungry Palestinians of Gaza, we journalists should have been
reminding our viewers and listeners of a long-ago day when America and Britain went to the aid of
a surrounded people, bringing food and fuel – our own servicemen dying as they did so – to help a
starving population. That population had been surrounded by a fence erected by a brutal army
which wished to starve the people into submission. The army was Russian. The city was Berlin. The
wall was to come later. The people had been our enemies only three years earlier. Yet we flew the
Berlin airlift to save them. Now look at Gaza today: which Western journalist – since we love
historical parallels – has even mentioned 1948 Berlin in the context of Gaza?
Instead, what did we get? "Activists" who turned into "armed activists" the moment they opposed
the Israeli army's boarding parties. How dare these men upset the lexicon? Their punishment was
obvious. They became "terrorists". And the Israeli raids – in which "activists" were killed (another
proof of their "terrorism") – then became "deadly" raids. In this case, "deadly" was more excusable
than it had been on CTV – nine dead men of Turkish origin being slightly fewer than a million and a
half murdered Armenians in 1915. But it was interesting that the Israelis – who for their own political
reasons had hitherto shamefully gone along with the Turkish denial – now suddenly wanted to
inform the world of the 1915 Armenian genocide. This provoked an understandable frisson among
many of our colleagues. Journalists who have regularly ducked all mention of the 20th century's
first Holocaust – unless they could also refer to the way in which the Turks "hotly dispute" the
genocide label (ergo the Toronto Globe and Mail) – could suddenly refer to it. Israel's new-found
historical interest made the subject legitimate, though almost all reports managed to avoid any
explanation of what actually happened in 1915.
And what did the Israeli seaborne raid become? It became a "botched" raid. Botched is a lovely
word. It began as a German-origin Middle English word, "bocchen", which meant to "repair badly".
And we more or less kept to that definition until our journalistic lexicon advisors changed its
meaning. Schoolchildren "botch" an exam. We could "botch" a piece of sewing, an attempt to repair
a piece of material. We could even botch an attempt to persuade our boss to give us a raise. But
now we "botch" a military operation. It wasn't a disaster. It wasn't a catastrophe. It just killed some
So, given the bad publicity, the Israelis just "botched" the raid. Weirdly, the last time reporters and
governments utilised this particular word followed Israel's attempt to kill the Hamas leader, Khaled
Meshaal, in the streets of Amman. In this case, Israel's professional assassins were caught after
trying to poison Meshaal, and King Hussain forced the then Israeli prime minister (a certain B
Netanyahu) to provide the antidote (and to let a lot of Hamas "terrorists" out of jail). Meshaal's life
But for Israel and its obedient Western journalists this became a "botched attempt" on Meshaal's
life. Not because he wasn't meant to die, but because Israel failed to kill him. You can thus "botch"
an operation by killing Turks – or you can "botch" an operation by not killing a Palestinian.
How do we break with the language of power? It is certainly killing us. That, I suspect, is one reason
why readers have turned away from the "mainstream" press to the internet. Not because the net is
free, but because readers know they have been lied to and conned; they know that what they watch
and what they read in newspapers is an extension of what they hear from the Pentagon or the
Israeli government, that our words have become synonymous with the language of a government-
approved, careful middle ground, which obscures the truth as surely as it makes us political – and
military – allies of all major Western governments.
Many of my colleagues on various Western newspapers would ultimately risk their jobs if they were
constantly to challenge the false reality of news journalism, the nexus of media-government power.
How many news organisations thought to run footage, at the time of the Gaza disaster, of the airlift
to break the blockade of Berlin? Did the BBC?
The hell they did! We prefer "competing narratives". Politicians didn't want – I told the Doha
meeting on 11 May – the Gaza voyage to reach its destination, "be its end successful, farcical or
tragic". We believe in the "peace process", the "road map". Keep the "fence" around the
Palestinians. Let the "key players" sort it out. And remember what this is all about: "Terror, terror,
terror, terror, terror, terror."
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June 25, 2010
A FLASH OF LIGHTNING
By Uri Avnery
Source: Gush Shalom
NIGHT. UTTER darkness. Heavy rain. Visibility close to nil.
And suddenly – a flash of lightning. For a fraction of a second, the landscape is lit up. For this split
second, the terrain surrounding us can be seen. It is not the way it used to be.
OUR GOVERNMENT’s action against the Gaza aid flotilla was such a lightning flash.
Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world is concerned. But for that instant, the
real landscape around us could be seen, and it looked frightening. Then the darkness settled down
over us, Israel returned to its bubble, the world disappeared from view.
This split second was enough to reveal a dismal scene. On almost all fronts, the situation of the
State of Israel has worsened since the last flash of lightning.
The flotilla and the attack on it did not create this landscape. It has been there since our present
government was set up. But the deterioration did not start even then. It began a long time before.
The action of Ehud Barak & Co. only lit up the situation as it is now, and gave it yet another push in
the wrong direction.
How does the new landscape look in the light of Barak’s barak? (“barak” means lightning in
THE LIST is headed by a fact that nobody seems to have noticed until now: the death of the
In all the tumult this affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust was not even
mentioned. True, in Israel there were some who called Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a new Hitler”, and
some Israel-haters talked about the “Nazi attack”, but the Holocaust has practically disappeared.
For two generations, our foreign policy used the Holocaust as its main instrument. The bad
conscience of the world determined its attitude towards Israel. The (justified) guilt feelings – either
for atrocities committed or for looking the other way – caused Europe and America to treat Israel
differently than any other nation – from nuclear armaments to the settlements. All criticism of our
governments’ actions was branded automatically as anti-Semitism and silenced.
But time does its work. New tragedies have blunted the world’s senses. For a new generation, the
Holocaust is a thing of the remote past, a chapter of history. The sense of guilt has disappeared in
all countries, except Germany.
The Israeli public did not notice this, because in Israel itself the Shoah is alive and present. Many
Israelis are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and the Holocaust has been
imprinted on their childhood. Moreover, a huge apparatus ensures that the Holocaust will not
disappear from our memory, starting from kindergarten, through ceremonies and memorial days, to
organized tours “there”.
Therefore, the Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political
instrument. Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.
THE CENTRAL pillar of our policy is our alliance with the United States. To use a phrase dear to
Binyamin Netanyahu (in another context): it’s “the rock of our existence”.
For many years, this alliance has kept us safe from all trouble. We knew that we could always get
from the US all we needed: advanced arms to retain our superiority over all Arab armies combined,
munitions in times of war, money for our economy, the veto on all UN Security Council resolutions
against us, automatic support for all the actions of our successive governments. Every small and
medium country in the world knew that in order to gain entrance to the palaces of Washington, the
Israeli doorkeeper had to be bribed.
But during the last year, cracks have appeared in this pillar. Not the small scratches and chips of
wear and tear, but cracks caused by shifts of the ground. The mutual aversion between Barack
Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu is only one symptom of a much deeper problem.
The Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset last week: “For the US, we have ceased to be an asset
and become a burden.”
This fact was put into incisive words by General David Petraeus, when he said that the ongoing
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The later soothing messages did not erase the significance of this warning. (When Petraeus fainted
this week at a Senate hearing, some religious Jews viewed it as divine punishment.)
IT IS not only the Israeli-American relationship that has undergone a fateful change, but the
standing of the US itself is changing for the worse, a bad omen indeed for the future of Israeli
The world is changing, slowly and quietly. The US is still by far the most powerful country, but it is
no longer the almighty superpower it had been since 1989. China is flexing its muscles, countries
like India and Brazil are getting stronger, countries like Turkey – yes, Turkey! – are beginning to
play a role.
This is not a matter of one or two years, but anyone who is thinking about the future of Israel in ten,
twenty years must understand that unless there is a basic change in our position, our position, too,
IF OUR alliance with the US is one central pillar of Israeli policy, the support of the vast majority of
world Jewry is the second.
For 62 years, we could count on it with our eyes shut. Whatever we did – almost all the world’s
Jews stood at attention and saluted. In fire and water, victory or defeat, glorious or dark chapters –
the world’s Jews did support us, giving money, demonstrating, pressuring their governments.
Without second thoughts, without criticism.
Not anymore. Quietly, almost silently, cracks have appeared in this pillar, too. Opinion polls show
that most American Jewish young people are turning away from Israel. Not shifting their loyalty from
the Israeli establishment to Israel’s liberal camp – but turning away from Israel altogether.
This will not be felt immediately either. AIPAC continues to strike fear into Washingtonian hearts,
Congress will continue to dance to its tune. But when the new generation comes to man key
positions, the support for Israel will erode, American politicians will stop crawling on their bellies
and the US administration will gradually change its relations with us.
IN OUR immediate neighborhood, too, profound changes are underway, some of them beneath the
surface. The flotilla incident has exposed them.
The influence of our allies is decreasing constantly. They are losing height, and an old-new power
is on the rise: Turkey.
Hosni Mubarak is busy with his efforts to pass power to his son, Gamal. The Islamic opposition in
Egypt is raising its head. Saudi money is trumped by the new attraction of Turkey. The Jordanian
king is compelled to adapt himself. The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hisbollah-Hamas is the rising
power, the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.
BUT THE most important change is the one that is taking place in international public opinion. Any
derision of this reminds one of Stalin’s famous sneer (“How many divisions has the pope?”)
Recently, an Israeli TV station showed a fascinating film about the German and Scandinavian female
volunteers who flooded Israel in the 50s and 60s to live and work (and sometimes marry) in the
kibbutzim. Israel was then seen as a plucky little nation surrounded by hateful enemies, a state
risen from the ashes of the Holocaust to become a haven of freedom, equality and democracy,
which found their most sublime expression in that unique creation, the kibbutz.
The present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world, male and female, who
would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim, can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing
for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza, which touches the hearts of many young people. The
pioneering Israeli David has turned into a brutish Israeli Goliath.
Even a genius of spin could not change this. For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel
every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting
at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters
executing “targeted eliminations”, and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas.
Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes.
When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel
becomes a monster. The more so since the Israeli propaganda machine is successfully
suppressing any news about the Israeli peace camp.
MANY YEARS ago, when I wanted to ridicule the addiction of our leaders to the use of force, I
paraphrased a saying that reflects much of Jewish wisdom: “if force does not work, use brains.” In
order to show how far we, the Israelis, are different from the Jews, I changed the words: “If force
doesn’t work, use more force.”
I thought of it as a joke. But, as happens to many jokes in our country, it has become reality. It is
now the credo of many primitive Israelis, headed by Ehud Barak.
In practice, the security of a state depends on many factors, and military force is but one of them. In
the long run, world public opinion is stronger. The pope has many divisions.
In many respects, Israel is still a strong country. But, as the sudden illumination of the flotilla affair
has shown, time is not working in our favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the
region – which means making peace with our neighbors – as long as we are as strong as we are
If force doesn’t work, more force will not necessarily work either.
If force doesn’t work, force doesn’t work. Period.
June 23, 2010
WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM AND WHY I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT NCLB (NO
CHILD LEFT BEHIND)
By Diane Ravitch
Source: The Nation
When I joined the administration of George H.W. Bush in 1991, I had no preconceived ideas about
choice and accountability. "Choice" meant vouchers, a cause that had been rebuffed repeatedly in
state referendums and by the courts; the issue had never gotten my attention. "Accountability" was
one of those platitudinous terms that everyone used admiringly but no one did anything about. My
abiding interest, then and now, was curriculum—that is, the knowledge that is purposefully taught
in subjects like history, geography, the arts, literature, civics, science and mathematics. I believed
that American schools should have a coherent curriculum so that teachers would know what they
are expected to teach and children would have continuity of instruction, no matter where they lived.
However, after I left the administration in 1993, I supported the nascent charter school movement,
even going to Albany, New York, to urge legislators to adopt a law permitting such schools to be
created in the state. I supported merit pay as a form of accountability, on the assumption that
teachers whose students are more successful should be paid more than their peers. I supported
testing, expecting that better information would help to pinpoint where improvement was needed. I
was affiliated with conservative think tanks, including the Manhattan Institute, the Thomas B.
Fordham Foundation and the Hoover Institution. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) legislation in 2001 and President George W. Bush signed it in 2002, I applauded.
In my new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice
Are Undermining Education, I describe how I came to repudiate my support for choice and
accountability, though not for curriculum reform, which I still believe is necessary and valuable.
Some news accounts have said I did a U-turn, but in fact I was really reverting to the time before I
jumped on the bandwagon of organizational change and accountability, the time when I knew that
the only changes that matter are in the classroom and in children's lives. Reaching this conclusion
was not an overnight conversion but rather the result of watching how the policies of choice and
accountability played out in reality. I began to re-evaluate my views as early as 2004, as I watched
the implementation of mayoral control in New York City, with its heavy emphasis on accountability
Many people have told me that I should have known better, and they are right: I should have. But I
didn't, and I am trying to make up for it now.
NCLB made accountability the nation's education policy. It used to be the case that educators could
more or less ignore federal education policy, because it seldom touched their classrooms. Thanks
to NCLB, this is no longer the case. Now federal policy affects every school. In my book I define the
governing philosophy of NCLB as "measure and punish." I conclude that this approach, which uses
accountability as a stick to threaten schools, has failed.
The law requires that every state test every student from grades three to eight in reading and
mathematics, then disaggregate each school's scores by race, limited English proficiency, disability
and low-income status. The law mandates that every student in every group must reach 100
percent proficiency by 2014. Every state is left to choose its own test and define proficiency as it
wishes. If only one group in a school fails to make steady progress toward that goal, the school
faces increasingly severe remedies and sanctions. First, the school will be put on notice; then all
students in the school (including those who are doing well) will be offered the choice to go to a
different school. In the third year, low-income students will be offered free tutoring after school. If
the school does not meet its projected target over five consecutive years, it may be privatized or
handed over to state control or charter managers; its staff may be fired, it may be closed or it may
be restructured in some other way. Currently, about one-third of all public schools in the nation—
more than 30,000—have been stigmatized as failing because they did not make what the law calls
"adequate yearly progress."
At the same time that NCLB told states to set their own standards, Congress directed them to
participate in the federal tests, known as NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress),
which serve as an external audit of their claims. (Some cities also take the NAEP exams but do so
voluntarily, to learn how they compare with the rest of the nation.) Since NAEP is administered to
samples of students, no one knows in advance which students will take it, so no one can prepare
for it and no one has any incentive to cheat or game the system.
By demanding that all students reach proficiency by 2014, NCLB incentivized states, districts and
schools to cheat and game the system. That is the direct outcome of high-stakes testing. Some
states have lowered their testing standards, thus making it easier for students to be rated
"proficient." Consequently, many states now claim dramatic improvement in their test scores, but
these gains are not reflected on the tests given every other year by the federal government. In
Texas, where there was supposed to have been an educational miracle, eighth-grade reading
scores have been flat for a decade. Tennessee claimed that 90 percent of its students were
proficient in 2007, but on NAEP only 26 percent were.
In contrast, progress on the NAEP tests has been meager. Billions have been invested at the
federal and state levels in testing and test-preparation materials. Many schools suspend
instruction for months before the state tests, in hopes of boosting scores. Students are drilled on
how to answer the precise types of questions that are likely to appear on the state tests. Testing
experts suggest that this intense emphasis on test preparation is wasted, because students tend
to learn test-taking techniques rather than the subject tested, and they are not likely to do well on a
different test of the same subject for which they were not prepared.
Despite the time and money invested in testing, scores on NAEP have increased slowly or not at all.
In mathematics the rate of improvement was greater before NCLB was passed. In reading there
have been gains in fourth grade, but the national scores for eighth graders were essentially the
same in 2009 as they were in 1998.
It is not only the sluggish improvement in test scores that is troubling. Nor is it the frequency with
which states and districts manipulate the scoring of the tests to produce inflated gains. The
biggest victim of high-stakes testing is the quality of education. As more time is devoted to reading
and math, and as teachers are warned that the scores in these subjects will determine the fate of
their school, everything other than reading and math gets less time. This is what doesn't count:
history, literature, geography, science, the arts, foreign languages, physical education, civics, etc.
So, the emphasis on accountability for the past eight years has encouraged schools to pay less
attention to important subjects and inflate their test scores by hook or by crook. NCLB's remedies
don't work, its sanctions don't work and the results are unimpressive. Why members of Congress
and Washington think tanks continue to defend this toxic law is a puzzle.
The other popular nostrum of our day is "choice," which has captured the imagination of big
foundations and many wealthy business leaders. Vouchers still have fervent proponents, even
though only 30,000 students use them, and there is slight evidence of their effectiveness.
Vouchers have been replaced by charters as the vehicle for promoting free-market reforms. What
was but an idea in the late 1980s is a full-blown movement today, with 1.5 million students enrolled
in 5,000 charter schools.
Charter schools receive public money but are privately managed. Unlike regular public schools,
they operate free of most rules and regulations. More than 95 percent of charter schools are
nonunion. When the state comptroller in New York sought to audit the state's charter schools, they
sued to block him, claiming that they should be trusted to do their own audits.
Charters vary widely in quality. Some are excellent, some are abysmal, most are somewhere in
between. The only major national evaluation of the charter sector was carried out by economist
Margaret Raymond at Stanford University. Her study was funded by the staunchly procharter Walton
Family Foundation, among others; yet she found that only 17 percent of charters outperformed a
matched public school. The other 83 percent were either no better, or they were worse. On the
NAEP exams in reading and mathematics, students in charter schools perform no better than those
in regular public schools, whether one looks at black, Hispanic or low-income students, or students
in urban districts.
Yet charter schools have passionate advocates, certainly on the right and also from a group called
Democrats for Education Reform. Some charters are run by for-profit firms, some by nonprofits, and
some are managed by community-based organizations. Their business model often involves a high
turnover of teaching staff, because teachers are expected to work long hours, sometimes sixty to
seventy hours weekly, plus be available by cellphone at all hours to their students. This works
because so many charters are nonunion schools, but it is difficult to see how this model could be
replicated. Not only does it preclude teachers' unions; it precludes a teaching profession in which
teachers expect to make a career of teaching and have families.
The media like to focus on a star charter school, as though one extraordinary school is typical. The
teachers are young and enthusiastic; the children are in uniforms and well behaved, and they all
plan to go to college. But such stories often overlook important factors about charters: one, the
good charters select students by lottery, and thus attract motivated students and families; two,
charters tend to enroll a smaller proportion of students who are limited–English proficient,
students with disabilities and homeless students, which gives them an edge over neighborhood
public schools; and three, charters can remove students who are "not a good fit" and send them
back to the neighborhood school. These factors give charters an edge, which makes it surprising
that their performance is not any better than it is.
The original vision of charter schools in 1988, when the idea was popularized, was that they would
be created by venturesome public school teachers who would seek out the most alienated
students, those who had dropped out or those who were likely to do so. The teachers in these
experimental schools would find better ways to reach these students and bring what they'd learned
back to the regular public school. The fundamental idea at the beginning of the movement was that
charter schools would help public schools and enroll students who needed extra attention and
Now the charter sector sees itself as competition for the public schools. Some are profit-driven;
some are power-driven. In some cities, charter chains seek to drive the public schools out of
business. In Harlem, which has a heavy concentration of charter schools, the regular public
schools must market themselves to students and families; they typically have a budget of $500 or
less for fliers and brochures. The aggressive charter chain that competes with them has a
marketing budget, according to the New York Times, of $325,000. The expansion of charters has
been mightily underwritten by hedge-fund managers, the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and
Edythe Broad Foundation and other major benefactors.
Just at the point where I had made an ideological break from my past support of accountability and
choice, the Obama administration came into office. I expected that Obama would throw out NCLB
and start over. But, on the contrary, his administration has embraced some of the worst features of
the George W. Bush era. Obama's Race to the Top competition dangled $4.3 billion before cash-
hungry states. To qualify for the money, states had to remove any legal barrier to the expansion of
charter schools. States also had to agree to create data systems making it possible to evaluate
teachers by their students' test scores. And they had to pledge to "transform" or "turn around" low-
Each of these elements is an echo of Bush's policies. The expansion of charters fulfills the dreams
of education entrepreneurs and free-market advocates, who would dismantle public education if
given the chance. Judging teachers by test scores is wrongheaded because students' scores are
affected not only by what the teacher does but by such important factors as poverty, student
motivation and family support. Yet only teachers will be held accountable. "Turning around" low-
performing schools is a euphemism for NCLB-style punishments: if scores don't go up, schools are
closed, privatized, turned into charters or handed over to the state. When Rhode Island authorities
announced their intention to fire the staff at the only high school in Central Falls, their decision
was hailed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama. I thought the decision was
meanspirited and wrong. Last year the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education
sent a team to the same school and said it was making progress. Why not build on that progress?
Why fire the staff without evaluating anyone? (Recently a deal was reached to rehire the entire
staff; it includes conditions such as a longer school day and more after-school tutoring.)
Obama's emphasis on evaluating individual teachers by students' test scores has set off a frenzied
effort by states to rewrite their laws in hopes of snaring some of the federal billions. The
legislature in Florida recently passed legislation that would have denied tenure to new teachers,
based 50 percent of teachers' salaries on gains in student scores, removed any credit for teachers'
experience and education, and funded testing of all subjects by cutting 5 percent from the budget
of every school district. Teachers and parents rallied and persuaded Governor Charlie Crist to veto
the bill, probably ending his career in the Republican Party. Similar measures are moving through
other state legislatures, cheered on by think tanks in Washington.
In my book I gather the evidence that persuaded me that accountability and choice are not likely to
improve American education. Accountability, narrowly focused as it is, dumbs down education.
Choice may enfeeble public education by draining away the best students and leaving what
remains to the remnants of the public education system.
None of the policies that involve testing and accountability—vouchers and charters, merit pay and
closing schools—will give us the quantum improvement that we want for public education. They
may even make matters worse.
We need a long-term plan that strengthens public education and rebuilds the education
profession. We need better-educated teachers who have degrees in the subjects they teach; we
need principals who are themselves master teachers, since they are the ones who evaluate and
support the teachers; and we need superintendents who are knowledgeable educators, since they
make crucial decisions about curriculums, instruction and personnel.
We must ensure that every student has the benefit of a coherent curriculum, one that includes
history, literature, geography, civics, science, the arts, mathematics and physical education. And we
must attend to the conditions in which children live, because their ability to attend school and to
learn is directly influenced by their health and the well-being of their families.
June 18, 2010
THE NEW FACE OF POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST - ERDOGAN RISING?
by Patrick Cockburn
Ever since Israeli commandos stormed a ship carrying aid to Gaza killing nine activists, the face of
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the man who led denunciations of the raid – has
been prominent on front pages and television screens across the Middle East.
The bloody fiasco has led to a crucial change in the balance of power in the Middle East, greater
than anything seen in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the Arabs of their
most powerful ally.
While Muslim states were always going to praise any leader who confronted Israel, Mr Erdogan's
personal role is one that will have lasting significance across the region. With his leadership,
Turkey is once more becoming a powerful player in the Middle East to a degree that has not
happened since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.
Turkey was the driving force behind attempts to denounce the raid at a regional summit that ended
yesterday in Istanbul. It received the backing of 21 of the members of an Asian summit but the
crucial 22nd member, Israel, blocked any mention of the raid in an end of summit declaration.
Israeli commentators are hopeful that Turkish belligerence is a passing phase and there will be no
permanent damage to their country's relations with Turkey. Yet Mr Erdogan has received strong
backing for his strong stance following the deaths of his countrymen on board the Mavi Marmara
At a rally in Beirut, thousands of Lebanese waved Turkish flags and nine coffins draped in the red
banner were displayed to honour the Turkish flotilla dead. "Oh Allah, the merciful, preserve
Erdogan for us," protesters chanted, using language often reserved for Hizbollah's popular leader
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who has praised Mr Erdogan's stance.
With a population of 72 million and the second largest armed forces in Nato after the US, it is
surprising Turkey had not been a major role in the Middle East before now.
In a televised address on the Israeli raid, Mr Erdogan said "this daring, irresponsible, reckless,
unlawful, and inhumane attack by the Israeli government must absolutely be punished. Turkey's
hostility is as powerful as its friendship is precious."
Such threats from other Middle East leaders could be ignored because their regimes are too shaky
and unpopular for them to do much more than cling to power. But Turkey is different because
politically, diplomatically and militarily it has been rapidly growing in strength.
In relations with Iraq, Iran, Syria and its other neighbours it is playing a central role for the first time
since Kemal Ataturk, the first President of modern Turkey. In Iraq, for instance, the US depends on
Turkey to increase its influence and counterbalance Iran as 92,000 US troops withdraw over the
next 18 months.
It is not clear how far Mr Erdogan will go this time to assert Turkey's leadership in the Middle East
and take advantage of Israel's fiasco. His track record is as a man who is quick to take advantage of
others' mistakes. But he likes to pick his moment and is careful not to overplay his hand. He has
done this with great skill in domestic politics in his confrontations with the Turkish army leadership
who used to determine Turkey's foreign policy.
Mr Erdogan, the son of a coastguard official, was born in Rize on the Black Sea in 1954. He moved
with his family to Istanbul when he was 13. He reputedly sold lemonade and sesame buns in
working-class districts of the capital while attending religious schools. Tall and strongly built, he
became a professional footballer while obtaining a degree in management at Marmara University.
He acquired a reputation for piety, saying his prayers before each football match. But from an early
stage he was involved in politics. He had met Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Islamic Welfare
party, when he was at university and became leader of the party's youth wing in Istanbul.
His rapid rise was interrupted by military coups of which there have been four in Turkey since 1960.
After the coup of 1980 he lost his job in the capital's transport authority when he was ordered to
shave off his moustache – seen as a sign of excessive Islamic fervour – and refused.
An able orator and political organiser, he rose through the party ranks and became mayor of
Istanbul at the age of 40, running the city between 1994 and 1998. He was regarded as an honest
and efficient administrator.
The army forced Islamic Welfare out of power and Mr Erdogan served four months in prison for
reciting an Islamic poem which contained the allegedly inflammatory lines: "The mosques are our
barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers."
Mr Erdogan decided along with other young Islamist political leaders that the army and the Turkish
establishment would never let them take power unless they showed themselves pro-Western and
pro-capitalist. They formed the Justice and Development Party, the AK, in 2001 which won the
general election the following year.
Supporters for the new party were newly rich but pious businessmen in Anatolia as well as the
peasantry and the poor of the cities. In power, Mr Erdogan was able to justify reduction in the
power of the military as a reform made necessary by Turkey's application for EU membership. He
was aided by a sustained economic boom during which foreign capital, encouraged by its EU
application, poured into Turkey and the economy grew at an average rate of 7 per cent up to 2007.
Careful to avoid making enemies unnecessarily, Mr Erdogan placated the US after the Turkish
parliament refused to allow US troops to invade northern Iraq from Turkey in 2003.
Generally, Mr Erdogan has come off the winner in a series of skirmishes with "secularists" over
issues such as women wearing headscarves. He patiently waited for the army leadership to make a
mistake, which they did in 2007 when they tried to prevent the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul,
becoming president. A General Staff website threatened military action if parliament voted for Mr
Gul and Mr Erdogan called a snap general election in which the AK won an overwhelming 47 per
cent of the vote.
Since 2007 Mr Erdogan's government has gone far in bringing the military under civilian control.
There has been a prolonged investigation into an alleged plot by junior officers to launch a coup,
some 49 officers being arrested earlier this year. The present crisis in relations with Israel may
further weaken the authority of older and more senior officers, seen as the protagonists of strong
links to Israel and the US.
The Israeli wars in Lebanon in 2006 and 2008 made Israel unpopular in Turkey. Mr Erdogan walked
out of a session at Davos because he was not given enough time to respond to Israeli President
Shimon Peres' justification for bombing Gaza. Back in Turkey his walk out was vastly popular. His
strength then, as now, is that the majority of Turks agree with him.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for
June 16, 2010
WHO IS AFRAID OF A REAL INQUIRY?
Source: Gush Shalom
If a real Commission of Inquiry had been set up (instead of the pathetic excuse for a commission),
here are some of the questions it should have addressed:
1. What is the real aim of the Gaza Strip blockade?
2. If the aim is to prevent the flow of arms into the Strip, why are only 100 products allowed in (as
compared to the more than 12 thousand products in an average Israeli supermarket)?
3. Why is it forbidden to bring in chocolate, toys, writing material, many kinds of fruits and
vegetables (and why cinnamon but not coriander)?
4. What is the connection between the decision to forbid the import of construction materials for
the replacement or repair of the thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged during the Cast
Lead operation and the argument that they may serve Hamas for building bunkers – when more
than enough materials for this purpose are brought into the Strip through the tunnels?
5. Is the real aim of the blockade to turn the lives of the 1.5 million human beings in the Strip into
hell, in the hope of inducing them to overthrow the Hamas regime?
6. Since this has not happened, but – on the contrary – Hamas has become stronger during the
three years of the blockade, did the government ever entertain second thoughts on this matter?
7. Has the blockade been imposed in the hope of freeing the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit?
8. If so, has the blockade contributed anything to the realization of this aim, or has it been counter-
9. Why does the Israeli government refuse to exchange Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian
prisoners, when Hamas agrees to such a deal?
10. Is it true that the US government has imposed a veto on the exchange of prisoners, on the
grounds that it would strengthen Hamas?
11. Has there been any discussion in our government about fulfilling its undertaking in the Oslo
agreement - to enable and encourage the development of the Gaza port - in a way that would
prevent the passage of arms?
12. Why does the Israeli government declare again and again that the territorial waters of the Gaza
strip are part of Israel’s own territorial waters, and that ships entering them “infringe on Israeli
sovereignty”, contrary to the fact that the Gaza Strip was never annexed to Israel and that Israel
officially announced in 2006 that it had “separated” itself from it?
13. Why has the Attorney General’s office declared that the peace activists captured on the high
seas, who had no intention whatsoever of entering Israel, had “tried to enter Israel illegally”, and
brought them before a judge for the extension of their arrest under the law that concerns “illegal
entry into Israel”?
14. Who is responsible for these contradictory legal claims, when the Israeli government argues
one minute that Israel has “separated itself from the Gaza Strip” and that the “occupation there has
come to an end” – and the next minute claims sovereignty over the coastal waters of the Strip?
15. Questions concerning the decision to attack the flotilla: When did the preparation for this flotilla
become known to the Israeli intelligence services? (Evidence on this may be heard in camera.)
16. When was this brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the
Cabinet, the Committee of Seven (in charge of security matters) and the IDF Chief of Staff? (ditto)
17. What were the deliberations of these officials and institutions? (ditto)
18. What intelligence was submitted to each of them? (ditto)
19. When, by whom and how was the decision taken to stop the flotilla by force?
20. Is it true that the secretary of the cabinet, Tzvi Hauser, warned of the severe consequences of
such action and advised letting the flotilla sail to Gaza?
21. Were there others who also advised doing so?
22. Was the Foreign Ministry a full partner in all the discussions?
23. If so, did the Foreign Ministry warn of the impact of such an action on our relations with Turkey
and other countries?
24. In light of the fact that, prior to the incident, the Turkish government informed the Israeli
Foreign Ministry that the flotilla was organized by a private organization which is not under the
control of the government and does not violate any Turkish law – did the Foreign Ministry consider
approaching the organization in order to try to reach an agreement to avoid violence?
25. Was due consideration given to the alternative of stopping the flotilla in territorial waters,
inspecting the cargo for arms and letting it sail on?
26. Was the impact of the action on international public opinion considered?
27. Was the impact of the action on our relations with the US considered?
28. Was it taken into consideration that the action may actually strengthen Hamas?
29. Was it taken into consideration that the action may make the continuation of the blockade more
30. Questions concerning the planning of the action: What intelligence was at the disposal of the
planners? (Evidence may be heard in camera.)
31. Was it considered that the composition of the group of activists in this flotilla was different from
that in earlier protest ships, because of the addition of the Turkish component?
32. Was it taken into consideration that contrary to the European peace activists, who believe in
passive resistance, the Turkish activists may adopt a policy of active resistance to soldiers
invading a Turkish ship?
33. Were alternative courses of action considered, such as blocking the progress of the flotilla with
34. If so, what were the alternatives considered, and why were they rejected?
35. Who was responsible for the actual planning of the operation – the IDF Chief of Staff or the
Commander of the Navy?
36. If it was the Navy Commander who decided on the method employed, was the decision
approved by the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister?
37. How were the responsibilities for planning divided between these?
38. Why was the action undertaken outside of the territorial waters of Israel and the Gaza Strip?
39. Why was it executed in darkness?
40. Did anyone in the navy object to the idea of soldiers descending from helicopters onto the deck
of the ship “Mavi Marmara”?
41. During the deliberations, did anyone bring up the similarity between the planned operation and
the British action against the ship “Exodus 1947”, which ended in a political disaster for the British?
42. Questions concerning the action itself: Why was the flotilla cut off from any contact with the
world throughout the operation, if there was nothing to hide?
43. Did anyone protest that the soldiers were actually being sent into a trap?
44. Was it taken into consideration that the plan adopted would place the soldiers for several
critical minutes in a dangerously inferior position?
45. When exactly did the soldiers start to shoot live ammunition?
46. Which of the soldiers was the first to fire?
47. Was the shooting – all or part of it – justified?
48. Is it true that the soldiers started firing even before descending onto the deck, as asserted by
49. Is it true that the fire continued even after the captain of the ship and the activists announced
several times over loudspeakers that the ship had surrendered, and after they had actually hoisted
50. Is it true that five of the nine people killed were shot in the back, indicating that they were
trying to get away from the soldiers and thus could not be endangering their lives?
51. Why was the killed man Ibrahim Bilgen, 61 years old and father of six and a candidate for mayor
in his home town, described as a terrorist?
52. Why was the killed man Cetin Topcoglu, 54 years old, trainer of the Turkish national taekwondo
(Korean martial arts) team, whose wife was also on the ship, described as a terrorist?
53. Why was the killed man Cevdet Kiliclar, a 38 year old journalist, described as a terrorist?
54. Why was the killed man Ali Haydar Bengi, father of four, graduate of the al-Azhar school for
literature in Cairo, described as a terrorist?
55. Why were the killed men Necdet Yaldirim, 32 years old, father of a daughter; Fahri Yaldiz, 43
years old, father of four; Cengiz Songur, 47 years old, father of seven; and Cengiz Akyuz, 41 years
old, father of three, described as terrorists?
56. Is it a lie that the activists took a pistol from a soldier and shot him with it, as described by the
IDF, or is it true that the activists did in fact throw the pistol into the sea without using it?
57. Is it true, as stated by Jamal Elshayyal, a British subject, that the soldiers prevented treatment
for the Turkish wounded for three hours, during which time several of them died?
58. Is it true, as stated by this journalist, that he was handcuffed behind his back and forced to
kneel for three hours in the blazing sun, that he was not allowed to go and urinate and told to “piss
in his pants”, that he remained handcuffed for 24 hours without water, that his British passport was
taken from him and not returned; that his laptop computer, three cellular telephones and 1500
dollars in cash were taken from him and not returned?
59. Did the IDF cut off the passengers from the world for 48 hours and confiscate all the cameras,
films and cell phones of the journalists on board in order to suppress any information that did not
conform to the IDF story?
60. Is it a standing procedure to keep the Prime Minister (or his acting deputy, Moshe Yaalon in this
case) in the picture during an operation, was this procedure implemented, and was it implemented
in previous cases, such as the Entebbe operation or the boarding of the ship “Karin A”?
61. Questions concerning the behavior of the IDF Spokesman: IS it true that the IDF Spokesman
spread a series of fabrications during the first few hours, in order to justify the action in the eyes of
both the Israeli and the international public?
62. Are the few minutes of film which have been shown hundreds of times on Israeli TV, from the
first day on until now, a carefully edited clip, so that it is not seen what happened just before and
63. What is the truth of the assertion that the soldiers who were taken by the activists into the
interior of the ship were about to be “lynched”, when the photos clearly show that they were
surrounded for a considerable time by dozens of activists without being harmed, and that a doctor
or medic from among the activists even treated them?
64. What evidence is there for the assertion that the Turkish NGO called IHH has connections with
65. On what grounds was it stated again and again that it was a “terrorist organization”, though no
evidence for this claim was offered?
66. Why was it asserted that the association was acting under the orders of Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when in fact it is close to an opposition party?
67. If it was in fact a terrorist organization known to the Israeli intelligence services, why was this
not taken into account during the planning of the operation?
68. Why did the Israeli government not announce this before the attack on the flotilla?
69. Why were the words of one of the activists, who declared on his return that he wanted to be a
“shahid”, translated by official propaganda in a manifestly dishonest manner, as if he had said that
he wanted “to kill and be killed” (“shahid” means a person who sacrifices his life in order to testify
to his belief in God, much like a Christian martyr)?
70. What is the source of the lie that the Turks called out “Go back to Auschwitz”?
71. Why were the Israeli doctors not called to inform the public at once about the character of the
wounds of the injured soldiers, after it was announced that at least one of them was shot?
72. Who invented the story that there were arms on the ship, and that they had been thrown into
73. Who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons – when the
exhibition organized by the IDF Spokesman himself showed nothing but tools found on any ship,
including binoculars, a blood infusion instrument, knives and axes, as well as decorative Arab
daggers and kitchen knives that are to be found on every ship, even one not equipped for 1000
74. Do all these items – coupled with the endless repetition of the word “terrorists” and the
blocking of any contrary information – not constitute brainwashing?
75. Questions concerning the inquiry: Why does the Israeli government refuse to take part in an
international board of inquiry, composed of neutral personalities acceptable to them?
76. Why have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense announced that they are ready to
testify - but not to answer questions?
77. Where does the argument come from that soldiers must not be called to testify – when in all
previous investigations senior officers, junior officers and enlisted men were indeed subjected to
78. Why does the government refuse to appoint a State Commission of Inquiry under the Israeli law
that was enacted by the Knesset in 1966 for this very purpose, especially in view of the fact that
such commissions were appointed after the Yom Kippur war, after the Sabra and Shatila massacre,
after the podium of the al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire by an insane Australian, as well as to
investigate corruption in sport and the murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff (some fifty
years after it occurred!)?
79. Does the government have something to fear from such a commission, whose members are
appointed by the President of the Supreme Court, and which is empowered to summon witnesses
and cross-examine them, demand the production of documents and determine the personal
responsibility for mistakes and crimes?
80. Why was it decided in the end to appoint a pathetic committee, devoid of any legal powers,
which will lack all credibility both in Israel and abroad?
And, finally, the question of questions:
* What is our political and military leadership trying to hide?
June 9, 2010
THE ASSAULT ON THE GAZA FLOTILLA
KILL A TURK AND REST
By Uri Avnery
On the high seas, outside territorial waters, the ship was stopped by the navy. The commandos
stormed it. Hundreds of people on the deck resisted, the soldiers used force. Some of the
passengers were killed, scores injured. The ship was brought into harbor, the passengers were
taken off by force. The world saw them walking on the quay, men and women, young and old, all of
them worn out, one after another, each being marched between two soldiers…
The ship was called “Exodus 1947”. It left France in the hope of breaking the British blockade,
which was imposed to prevent ships loaded with Holocaust survivors from reaching the shores of
Palestine. If it had been allowed to reach the country, the illegal immigrants would have come
ashore and the British would have sent them to detention camps in Cyprus, as they had done
before. Nobody would have taken any notice of the episode for more than two days.
But the person in charge was Ernest Bevin, a Labour Party leader, an arrogant, rude and power-
loving British minister. He was not about to let a bunch of Jews dictate to him. He decided to teach
them a lesson the entire world would witness. “This is a provocation!” he exclaimed, and of course
he was right. The main aim was indeed to create a provocation, in order to draw the eyes of the
world to the British blockade.
What followed is well known: the episode dragged on and on, one stupidity led to another, the
whole world sympathized with the passengers. But the British did not give in and paid the price. A
Many believe that the “Exodus” incident was the turning point in the struggle for the creation of
the State of Israel. Britain collapsed under the weight of international condemnation and decided to
give up its mandate over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this
decision, but the “Exodus” proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
* * *
I AM not the only one who was reminded of this episode this week. Actually, it was almost
impossible not to be reminded of it, especially for those of us who lived in Palestine at the time and
There are, of course, important differences. Then the passengers were Holocaust survivors, this
time they were peace activists from all over the world. But then and now the world saw heavily
armed soldiers brutally attack unarmed passengers, who resist with everything that comes to hand,
sticks and bare hands. Then and now it happened on the high seas – 40 km from the shore then, 65
In retrospect, the British behavior throughout the affair seems incredibly stupid. But Bevin was no
fool, and the British officers who commanded the action were not nincompoops. After all, they had
just finished a World War on the winning side.
If they behaved with complete folly from beginning to end, it was the result of arrogance,
insensitivity and boundless contempt for world public opinion.
Ehud Barak is the Israeli Bevin. He is not a fool, either, nor are our top brass. But they are
responsible for a chain of acts of folly, the disastrous implications of which are hard to assess.
Former minister and present commentator Yossi Sarid called the ministerial “committee of seven”,
which decides on security matters, “seven idiots” – and I must protest. It is an insult to idiots.
* * *
THE PREPARATIONS for the flotilla went on for more than a year. Hundreds of e-mail messages went
back and forth. I myself received many dozens. There was no secret. Everything was out in the
There was a lot of time for all our political and military institutions to prepare for the approach of
the ships. The politician consulted. The soldiers trained. The diplomats reported. The intelligence
people did their job.
Nothing helped. All the decisions were wrong from the first moment to this moment. And it’s not yet
The idea of a flotilla as a means to break the blockade borders on genius. It placed the Israeli
government on the horns of a dilemma – the choice between several alternatives, all of them bad.
Every general hopes to get his opponent into such a situation.
The alternatives were:
* To let the flotilla reach Gaza without hindrance. The cabinet secretary supported this option. That
would have led to the end of the blockade, because after this flotilla more and larger ones would
* To stop the ships in territorial waters, inspect their cargo and make sure they were not carrying
weapons or “terrorists”, then let them continue on their way. That would have aroused some vague
protests in the world but upheld the principle of a blockade.
* To capture them on the high seas and bring them to Ashdod, risking a face-to-face battle with
activists on board.
As our governments have always done, when faced with the choice between several bad
alternatives, the Netanyahu government chose the worst.
Anyone who followed the preparations as reported in the media could have foreseen that they
would lead to people being killed and injured. One does not storm a Turkish ship and expect cute
little girls to present one with flowers. The Turks are not known as people who give in easily.
The orders given to the forces and made public included the three fateful words: “at any cost”.
Every soldier knows what these three terrible words mean. Moreover, on the list of objectives, the
consideration for the passengers appeared only in third place, after safeguarding the safety of the
soldiers and fulfilling the task.
If Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff and the commander of the navy did not
understand that this would lead to killing and wounding people, then it must be concluded - even
by those who were reluctant to consider this until now – that they are grossly incompetent. They
must be told, in the immortal words of Oliver Cromwell to Parliament: “You have sat too long for any
good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God,
* * *
THIS EVENT points again to one of the most serious aspects of the situation: we live in a bubble, in
a kind of mental ghetto, which cuts us off and prevents us from seeing another reality, the one
perceived by the rest of the world. A psychiatrist might judge this to be the symptom of a severe
The propaganda of the government and the army tells a simple story: our heroic soldiers,
determined and sensitive, the elite of the elite, descended on the ship in order “to talk” and were
attacked by a wild and violent crowd. Official spokesmen repeated again and again the word
On the first day, almost all the Israeli media accepted this. After all, it is clear that we, the Jews, are
the victims. Always. That applies to Jewish soldiers, too. True, we storm a foreign ship at sea, but
turn at once into victims who have no choice but to defend ourselves against violent and incited
It is impossible not to be reminded of the classic Jewish joke about the Jewish mother in Russia
taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve the Czar in the war against Turkey. “Don’t
overexert yourself’” she implores him, “Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…”
“But mother,” the son interrupts, “What if the Turk kills me?”
“You?” exclaims the mother, “But why? What have you done to him?”
To any normal person, this may sound crazy. Heavily armed soldiers of an elite commando unit
board a ship on the high seas in the middle of the night, from the sea and from the air – and they
are the victims?
But there is a grain of truth there: they are the victims of arrogant and incompetent commanders,
irresponsible politicians and the media fed by them. And, actually, of the Israeli public, since most
of the people voted for this government or for the opposition, which is no different.
The “Exodus” affair was repeated, but with a change of roles. Now we are the British.
Somewhere, a new Leon Uris is planning to write his next book, “Exodus 2010”. A new Otto
Preminger is planning a film that will become a blockbuster. A new Paul Newman will star in it – after
all, there is no shortage of talented Turkish actors.
* * *
MORE THAN 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson declared that every nation must act with a “decent
respect to the opinions of mankind”. Israeli leaders have never accepted the wisdom of this maxim.
They adhere to the dictum of David Ben-Gurion: “It is not important what the Gentiles say, it is
important what the Jews do.” Perhaps he assumed that the Jews would not act foolishly.
Making enemies of the Turks is more than foolish. For decades, Turkey has been our closest ally in
the region, much more close than is generally known. Turkey could play, in the future, an important
role as a mediator between Israel and the Arab-Muslim world, between Israel and Syria, and, yes,
even between Israel and Iran. Perhaps we have succeeded now in uniting the Turkish people
against us – and some say that this is the only matter on which the Turks are now united.
This is Chapter 2 of “Cast Lead”. Then we aroused most countries in the world against us, shocked
our few friends and gladdened our enemies. Now we have done it again, and perhaps with even
greater success. World public opinion is turning against us.
This is a slow process. It resembles the accumulation of water behind a dam. The water rises
slowly, quietly, and the change is hardly noticeable. But when it reaches a critical level, the dam
bursts and the disaster is upon us. We are steadily approaching this point.
“Kill a Turk and rest,” the mother says in the joke. Our government does not even rest. It seems
that they will not stop until they have made enemies of the last of our friends.
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to
CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
June 2, 2010
OBAMA'S TIMIDITY AND DEATHS AT SEA
by Ray McGovern
A chief lesson to learn from President Barack Obama’s recent unwillingness to stand up to Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Lobby is that such timidity can get people killed.
Casualty figures are still arriving in the wake of Israel’s Sunday night-Monday morning commando
attack on an unarmed flotilla trying to bring relief supplies to the 1.5 million Palestinians crowded
into Gaza. Already, at least nine civilian passengers aboard the ships are reported killed, and
Yet, seldom has an act of aggression been so well advertised in advance. Israel had made clear
that it would use force to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza and heard no stern protest from
President Obama, who apparently could not overcome his fear of Israel’s legendary political clout.
Earlier this year, Obama did criticize Israel’s continued settlement of Palestinian areas and
Netanyahu’s resistance to hold meaningful peace talks, but the President has failed to back up his
words with firm action or resolve.
For that reason, Netanyahu was left convinced that Israel could do what it wished, including
dropping commandos by helicopters onto crowded ships and after an apparent clash with civilians
on one of the ships, ordering the use of lethal force.
Then, Netanyahu could expect that America’s Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) – with leading
figures like Wolf Blitzer who built his journalistic career by working for the Jerusalem Post – would
finesse the murderous assault into something reasonable and possibly even tilted sympathetically
toward the Israeli troops.
Early on, CNN began repeating the Israeli “explanation” for its attack on the high seas, parroting
the Jerusalem Post which reported that “militants were killed” after they set upon Israeli naval
commandos who boarded one of the six ships Monday morning at two o’clock.
The commandos “were met with strong resistance from men armed with bladed weapons and the
situation degenerated into a massacre when one of them grabbed the weapon of a soldier and
opened fire,” said the Jerusalem Post, quoting Israeli military sources.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that the relief convoy organizers had a “radical Islamic
anti-Western orientation,” and that Israeli “naval forces were attacked with metal clubs and knives,
as well as live fire,” though there were no reports of Israeli deaths. The IDF statement continued:
“The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose,”
adding that the Navy then used riot dispersal methods, which include live fire, according to JTA,
the global news service of the Jewish people.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed the organizers of the convoy for the violent outcome,
and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told a news conference why that was so: “The
organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent, and unfortunately, the results were
So, you see, the Israeli military resorted to violence only in self-defense. Right.
On Monday, President Obama spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone about
the incident. Afterwards, the White House said Obama had expressed “deep regret” over the
deaths, but declined further comment, citing “the importance of learning all the facts and
circumstances” as quickly as possible.
However, don’t count on the timid Obama or his Likud-leaning advisers — much less the FCM — to
question the Israeli version.
We are likely to get an “explanation” worthy of the late Alexander Haig as to why the slaughter may
well have been “justified.” Haig’s death in February brought to mind comments he made about a
brutal incident on the night of Dec. 2, 1980, shortly after Ronald Reagan’s election victory.
In rightist-ruled El Salvador, government security forces stopped four American churchwomen in
their mini-van and were ordered to kill them. The soldiers first raped the women and then executed
them with high-powered rifles.
Reagan’s foreign policy team decided to treat the rape-murder as a public relations problem, best
handled by shifting blame onto the victims. And so, the women were deemed not nuns, but
After becoming Reagan’s first Secretary of State, Haig told Congress that “the nuns may have run
through a roadblock or may have accidentally been perceived to have been doing so, and there
may have been an exchange of fire.”
In just a few weeks, the American women had gone from being innocent victims to “political
activists” to armed insurgents – although knowledgeable U.S. government officials conceded there
was no evidence to support Haig’s shoot-out speculation. As an intelligence analyst at the time, I
knew of Haig’s inclination to make up stuff.
Watch for the same thing to happen to the international “activists” who were killed and wounded in
the incident off Gaza. I don’t watch the FCM anymore (it’s just too much for my Irish temper), but I’m
told that Israel-friendly pundits are already spinning faster than the famous centrifuges in Iran.
Uncle Remus’s Wisdom
“He Don’t Say Nothin’,” as Uncle Remus put it, with improper grammar but with an accurate
understanding that by not saying anything you can often convey a powerful or dangerous message.
As a presidential candidate, Obama was careful to say nothing about the brutal Israeli blockade
against the 1.5 million people in Gaza, about to enter its fourth year. As president-elect he stayed
mum as the Israelis attacked densely populated Gaza, killing some 1,400 Gazans.
As President, he has backed down at every significant moment when Netanyahu thumbed his nose
at Obama or at Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama knew about the “Freedom Flotilla” and its plan to bring supplies to Gaza. And he had to be
aware of Israel’s threats to attack the relief ships. But, like Uncle Remus’s B’rer Fox, Obama “don’t
Quite the contrary, Obama’s pro-Zionist White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who recently
vacationed in Israel and met with Netanyahu last Wednesday, extended an invitation for a working
visit at the White House. Netanyahu was to visit Obama on Tuesday after a four-day visit to Canada.
On Monday morning, Netanyahu canceled out of a gala dinner to be held in his honor in Ottawa and
nixed the visit to Washington. He said he hoped that both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
President Obama “understand that Israel has a great security problem.”
However, according to Craig Murray, a former British ambassador and Foreign Office specialist on
maritime law, the commando raid in international waters was more than just a security problem; it
was a violation of international law and the Law of the Sea.
"Possibility one," Murray wrote, "is that the Israeli commandoes were acting on behalf of the
government of Israel in killing the activists in international waters. The applicable law is that of the
flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred," in this case Turkey.
"In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory. So ... Israel is in a position of war with Turkey,
and the attack by Israeli commandos falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime," Murray
"Possibility two is that, if the killings were not military actions authorized by Israel, they were then
acts of murder and fall under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of
war with Turkey, it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.
"It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation and to initiate any prosecutions.
Israel would be obliged by law to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution."
Getting Away With Murder
But the fatal incident off the Gaza coast was not the first time Israel had used lethal force against a
nearly defenseless ship at sea. The attack on the “Freedom Flotilla” was reminiscent of the attack
on the USS Liberty during Israel’s Six-Day War against three of its Arab neighbors.
The war started on June 5, 1967, when Israel carried out an unprovoked Blitzkrieg attack. What is
my source for “unprovoked?” Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who 15 years later
“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not
prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with
ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
Three days into the war, Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats turned their firepower on the intelligence
collection ship USS Liberty in international waters after the Israelis had identified it as a U.S. Navy
The Israelis later insisted they had lost track of the ship and that the strafing was an accident in the
fog of war. However, U.S. intelligence intercepted Israeli conversations at the time, indicating that
the Israeli mission was to sink the ship and leave no survivors.
Israeli commandos clad in black were about to land from helicopters and finish off what remained of
the Liberty crew when Seaman Terry Halbardier (later awarded the Silver Star) slid over the
Liberty's napalm-laden deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.
Israeli forces intercepted the SOS and quickly broke off the attack. But 34 of the Liberty crew were
killed and over 170 wounded.
To avoid exacerbating bilateral tensions, the U.S. Navy was ordered to cover up the deliberate
nature of the attack, and the surviving crew was threatened with imprisonment, if they so much as
told their wives. When some of the crew later called for an independent investigation, they were
hit with charges of anti-Semitism.
One of the surviving crew of the USS Liberty, decorated Navy veteran Joe Meadors, was with the
“Freedom Flotilla” when it was attacked. Meadors is past president of the USS Liberty Veterans
The State Department tells us that Joe Meadors survived this latest Israeli attack. At last word, he
sits in an Israeli jail.
Another incident occurred on March 16, 2003, when 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, an American
volunteer serving in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement was run over by an Israeli
Army bulldozer after a prolonged face-off in full view of several of her volunteer colleagues.
Rachel was trying to prevent the bulldozing of a Palestinian home where she had been staying.
The apparent message the Israelis wanted to convey in killing Rachel Corrie was that international
volunteers would no longer be exempt from the brutal treatment accorded young Israeli volunteers
who tried to stand up, as Rachel did, for decent treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.
The FCM’s excitement over President George W. Bush’s eagerly anticipated “shock-and-awe”
bombing of Iraq three days later pushed what limited coverage there was about Rachel’s murder to
the back pages. The Israelis claimed the killing was an inadvertent mistake, like the shoot-up of the
The courageous Rachel was very much with the Freedom Flotilla in spirit. One of the ships in the
convoy bore the name “Rachel Corrie.”
Israel cannot hide behind “inadvertence” this time, although its spin-masters are already doing
their best to smear the civilians on the ships with buzzwords, calling them “terrorists” who
“ambushed” and tried to “lynch” the Israeli commandos.
These P.R. tactics may work with the American FCM and neocons in Washington – and by extension
the TV-watchers in the United States – but patience with Israel in the international community is
Much of this has to do with Gaza, including the Israeli attack from Dec. 17, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009, as
well as the three-year blockade that began when Hamas won Palestinian elections and became the
governing party in Gaza.
Israel and the U.S. government deem Hamas to be a terrorist organization, though some other
countries regard it more as a resistance movement fighting against Israeli occupation.
Yet, regardless of how one feels about Hamas, Israel’s harsh blockade of Gaza and last year’s
military assault are widely seen as inflicting a humanitarian disaster on the Palestinian people.
Has Netanyahu Gone Too Far?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reacted strongly to the Israeli attack on the relief
ships, the largest of which sailed from Turkey. According to one report, Turkey has served warning
that Turkish Navy ships will escort future relief convoys to Gaza.
Erdogan has had it with Israeli mistreatment of Muslims in his eastern Mediterranean
neighborhood. On Jan. 29, 2009, at the economic summit in Davos, he leveled harsh criticism to
Israeli President Shimon Peres’s face, labeling Gaza “an open-air prison.”
Erdogan angrily cited “the sixth commandment — Thou Shalt Not Kill,” adding, “We are talking
about killing” in Gaza. Erdogan’s one-and-a-half-minute tirade was captured on camera by the BBC.
Five days before Erdogan’s outburst, the Brazilian government also condemned Israel’s bombing
of Gaza and its effect on the civilian population as a “disproportionate response.”
It seems to have been the atrocity in Gaza that galvanized the successful joint effort by Turkish
Prime Minister Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to defy Israel by getting
Iran to agree to transfer fully half of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for further processing,
rendering it unusable for a nuclear weapon.
Defy Israel? you ask. If Israel believes that low-enriched uranium is an essential part of an
“existential threat” to Israel from eventual nuclear weapons in Iran, would the Israelis not be
delighted at Iran’s agreement to send half to Turkey? Good question.
If the truth be told, Israel cares a lot less about Iran’s uranium that it does about forcing “regime
change” in Tehran. Netanyahu does not want any agreement with Iran; he wants sanctions against
Iran, and eventually a military conflict.
And this twin wish is shared by American neocons who remain influential in the Obama
administration and in the FCM.
The pro-Israeli hardliners appear to be the ones running U.S. policy on the Middle East, not Obama,
who seems only nominally in charge. Unusually clear proof of this came when the Brazilians
released a letter revealing that Obama had personally encouraged the Brazilian and Turkish
leaders to pursue the kind of deal they were able to work out with the Iranians.
Thus, the leaders of Brazil and Turkey were surprised when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
other administration spokespeople trashed the tripartite Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal and pressed ahead
with a new round of sanctions.
And the President? Did he step up and acknowledge encouraging Brazil and Turkey to seek the
uranium deal? Well, he don’t say nothin’.
While Americans continue to be starved of real information from the FCM, people around the world
are able to view with disdain the degree to which Washington dogs are wagged by Israeli tails.
When I suggested five years ago before a Capitol Hill hearing chaired by Rep. John Conyers that
Israel was right up there, together with oil and military bases, as comprising the real rationale for
war on Iraq, I, too, was called anti-Semitic. But the evidence has always been as clear as it is
An inadvertent remark by former British Prime Minister Blair has provided insight — straight from
the horse’s ass, I mean, mouth.
In early February 2010, the British press revealed that Blair, testifying to the Iraq war commission in
the U.K., offered the following account of his discussions with Bush in Crawford, Texas, in April
2002. That’s when Bush said war was the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein, and Blair
But Blair’s remarks revealed that Israeli concerns were a major part of the equation and that Israeli
officials were involved in the discussions. Thus, Blair:
“As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq
or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact,
I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of
us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this."
It is a safe bet that Hillary Clinton’s Likud-friendly lieutenants and their new junior partners in
London are busy conferring with Tel Aviv right now about how to handle the PR challenge caused
by the upstart leaders of Turkey and Brazil with the temerity to work out a deal with Tehran. (Never
mind that Obama personally asked them to do it.)
How does one make into a bad thing Iran’s agreement to ship half its uranium out of the country,
even if additional steps might still be needed to assure the world that Iran is telling the truth when
it says it isn’t building a nuclear bomb?
More and more people around the globe are seeing Obama as subservient to the Likud Lobby,
perhaps not as enthusiastically as Bush was, but still unwilling to put action behind his occasional
words of dissatisfaction.
Important players in the Middle East, as well as increasingly assertive countries like Turkey and
Brazil, conclude that the policies and behavior of Tel Aviv and Washington are virtually identical.
And then there is the $3 billion or so that the United States gives Israel each year that enables the
Israelis to arm themselves to the teeth. It is understandable, then, that many will blame Washington
for what happened in the dark of night, on the eve of Memorial Day, on the high seas.
The likely results are three-fold:
--On Memorial Day next year, there may well be hundreds more “fallen heroes” to honor, killed by
Muslim and other “militants” who make no distinction between what the U.S. had done in Iraq and
Afghanistan and what Israel does in Gaza and the occupied West Bank — and add Lebanon and
Syria, for good measure.
As Gen. David Petraeus pointed out earlier this year, the unresolved Arab-Israeli “conflict foments
anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel” and thus puts U.S. troops
at greater risk.
“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with
governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the
Arab world,” Petraeus said. “Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to
--The linking of U.S. support with Israeli actions enhances the incentive of terrorists to ply their
dark arts in the United States.
While it is difficult to find a measure of objectivity in official U.S. government documents on this
topic, every so often there is a slip between cup and lip. There was such a slip on Sept. 23, 2004,
for example, when the Pentagon-sponsored U.S. Defense Science Board issued a formal report
“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority
voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against
You will not be surprised to find out that the board’s report was generally suppressed in the FCM,
as were the following, more specific, examples:
“By his own account, KSM’s [9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s] animus toward the
United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent
disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” [9/11 Commission Report, July 22, 2004, page
And what motivated Dr. Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, the 32-year-old Jordanian physician of
Palestinian origin, who on Dec. 30, 2009, detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA site in eastern
Afghanistan, killing seven American CIA operatives? According to his brother, al-Balawi “changed”
during the three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed some 1,400 Gazans.
When al-Balawi volunteered to treat injured Palestinians in Gaza, he was arrested by Jordanian
authorities, his brother said. It was after that arrest that al-Balawi allowed himself to be “recruited”
to spy on al-Qaeda for the CIA.
Quickly, it became payback time for Americans and Jordanians whom he associated with Israel.
Christmas underpants bomber Abdulmuttallab also is reported to have been particularly outraged
by Israel’s slaughter of the 1,400 Gazans at the turn of 2008-09 and Washington’s defense of Israel’s
That Israeli actions in Gaza acted as catalysts to al-Balawi’s and Abdulmuttallab’s determination to
exact revenge on the U.S. is hardly surprising — the more so in view of Washington’s efforts to
suppress the findings of the UN-commissioned Gaza investigation by Justice Richard Goldstone.
His report concluded that:
“The blockade policies implemented by Israel against the Gaza Strip, in particular the closure of or
restrictions imposed on border crossings in the immediate period before the military operations,
subjected the local population to extreme hardship and deprivations that amounted to a violation
of Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. …
“Israel has essentially violated its obligation to allow free passage of all consignments of medical
and hospital objects, food, and clothing that were needed to meet the urgent humanitarian needs
of the civilian population …
“The Mission concludes that the conditions resulting from deliberate actions of the Israeli forces
and the declared policies of the Government with regard to the Gaza Strip before, during, and after
the military operation cumulatively indicate the intention to inflict collective punishment on the
people of the Gaza Strip.
“The Mission, therefore, finds a violation of the provisions of Articles 33 of the Fourth Geneva
It is no secret that this goal enjoys high priority on Netanyahu’s agenda. It could be stopped in its
tracks by a public warning from President Obama — but all signs point to his bending to neocon
advice to shy away from a showdown.
The fact that world leaders consider Netanyahu a clear and present danger to peace in the region
is showed by the way the leaders of Turkey and Brazil moved at an accelerated pace to draw the
Iranians into the kind of deal that Obama personally had advocated, before being overruled by
Clinton and Democratic neocons.
The urgency of the Turkey-Brazil initiative came through in the words of Brazilian President Lula da
Silva, who could hardly have been more explicit:
“We can't allow to happen in Iran what happened in Iraq. Before any sanctions, we must undertake
all possible efforts to try and build peace in the Middle East."
A Green Light
Netanyahu listens only to Washington, when he listens at all. Following the bloody attack on the
Freedom Flotilla, I imagine he will now get at most a mealy-mouthed “please-don’t-do-this-again”
from the White House, together with an Al-Haig made-up excuse about an “exchange” of fire.
If that proves to be the case, Netanyahu is altogether likely to consider that Israel has a green light
to provoke hostilities with Iran, with the full expectation that the United States will jump right in to
help the non-ally ally finish the job.
Non-ally ally? Sorry, despite what you hear from Obama, Congress and the whole Washington
Establishment, Israel is not an ally of the United States. Webster’s (and international law) define ally
as “a state associated with another by treaty.”
There is no mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel. (Washington has broached the idea
to Israel from time to time, but Israel has said no thanks. Treaties, you see, require internationally
recognized borders, and Israeli leaders avoid that subject like the plague.)
NATO member Turkey, on the other hand, is a U.S. ally. This could make things very awkward if
Turkey sends its warships to accompany the next convoy trying to lift the siege of Gaza. It is
possible that Washington may have to choose between a real ally and a synthetic one, if shots are
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour
in inner-city Washington. As an Army infantry/intelligence officer and later a CIA analyst, he spent
almost 30 years in intelligence work. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
May 27, 2010
OF TURKS AND OF GREEKS
By Nikos Raptis
As a Greek young man I was drafted to serve in the Greek Army. So, I was ordered to sing the usual
"martial" songs that soldiers-in-training sing all over this unfortunate planet. The songs I was
supposed to sing had words as the following examples: "Sofia, Sofia is our dream...", "I have a
sister that is called Northern Epiros...", etc, etc. "Sofia" was and is the capital of Bulgaria. "North
Epiros" was and is part of Albania. At that time, early 1950s, the "owner" of the Greek army was
General James Alward Van Fleet, of Coytesvill, N. J. and of the US Army. The term "owner" is
definitely not an exaggeration.
Panagiotis Kanelopoulos was a Greek intellectual-politician who even today is revered by
moderates of the Greek right. When Van Fleet visited a Greek military camp in the late 1940s,
Kanelopoulos, addressing him, said: "General, here is your army!" Of course Kanelopoulos was a
"patriot" (handing the army of his country to a foreign state). However, that very moment Greeks
were executed, under the supervision of Van Fleet, because they were "traitors", that is leftists!
[Parenthesis: However, besides the army one has to take care of the economy. "Top secret State
Department memoranda...show clearly that the future of Greek economic development lay
exclusively in the hands of the American planners... Dated August 4, 1949, the subject of one
memorandum was 'Capital Investment in Greece for Economic Development'... Parts of the
conversation [in the memorandum] are highly illuminating. George C. McGhee, the Coordinator of
Aid to Greece and Turkey, remarked that 'it would be necessary to bear constantly in mind the
political consequences of negative decisions on Greek industrial development projects. It might
be desirable to reduce the doses of American aid to Greece, so that the standard of living would
gradually be brought down to a level which the economy of the country could support. However,
this process would have to be carried out gradually and very carefully to avoid violent or
unfavorable political reaction in Greece. It would have to be accompanied by some plan for large
scale emigration...' Further along in the memorandum, still another astonishing remark by another
State Department official appeared: 'Mr., Dort commented that Greece will achieve economic
viability at some level, and we do have to decide what that level will be.' " (Memorandum 868.6463/8-
449, N.A., pages 2 and 3. Theodore C. Kariotis, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. VI, No. 4, Winter
1979, p.91, 92). Again this was written more than a half century ago and this "process", of bringing
"down" the "standard of living" has been going on up to this very moment! Also, note that Turkey is
included in the memorandum But, this is not what this article is about. It is about the ordinary Turks
and the ordinary Greeks. About the present revolt in Greece, the death of the three bank
employees, Merkel, etc there should be a future Commentary by me, after the ashes will settle
down. End of the parenthesis]
Back to the "lyrical" environment of the Greek army. These songs about Bulgaria, Epirus, etc were
sung as ordinary melodies. Today, the "patriotic" songs of the Greek army are sung in the staccato
rendition of the... US Marines! Whether this was "copied" from Hollywood films or from other US
"cultural" sources is irrelevant. What is relevant is the content of the songs. About 6 weeks ago,
during the annual military parade for the March 25 Greek National Holiday (our 4th of July) the
"Navy SEALS" sung the following patriotic martial song: "They are called Albanians. They are called
Afghans. Our cloths will be made with their hide." Of course, in Greek the rhyming was excellent.
A few remarks: 1. "Mr. R.S. Barham's father owned a money purse made of his hide." Nat Turner's
hide. Nat was a black Resistance fighter in the US, in 1831. 2. Ilse Koch (the "bitch of Buchenwald")
owned a lamp shade made of human hide. 3. Erik Prince the owner and "creator" of "Blackwater"
(now named "Xe") learned his "art", of killing women and children, with the US "Navy SEALS".
So, if the young Greeks for generations were conditioned almost from their infancy to invade
Bulgaria and Albania one can imagine what these children were taught about the... Turks! That is,
the barbarians par excellence.
"It must not be thought that the Turks at the time of the capture of Constantinople were wild
barbarians: their beautiful capital at Bursa was testimony to their skill in the arts and architecture.
Also, the Ottomans and the Byzantines had been neighbours for over a century and there had been
many cultural and indeed matrimonial exchanges, and even occasional reciprocal military help and
alliances." It was impossible in my time that the information in this paragraph from a book such as
the book "Everyday life in Ottoman Turkey" of 1971, by Raphaela Lewis could be accessible to me
through the official Greek educational system. It is still impossible.
Also, what I never learned through the official Greek educational system is why the Ottomans
lasted in Greece for four centuries. Here is an explanation: "Much of the land was held by
[Christian!] monasteries and absentee landlords, and as the Turkish conquerors 'liberated' it and
turned it over to the destitute peasants they were hailed as deliverers." [Lewis, p. 13]. Then when
the Turks left, after 1821, the Christian monasteries grabbed back the land. To this day a great part
of the choicest Greek land belongs to the monasteries. A few miles from my place there is the
"Monastery of Pendeli" at the foot of the Pendeli mountain. The mountain that offered the Greeks
the marble to build the Parthenon. Now, this monastery started selling [!!!] the land to the Greeks [!]
after the Second World War. The owned surface was and is vast. Also, the money earned by the
representatives of God on earth was and is vast. As a matter of fact one of the main economic
scandals of the present economic crisis in Greece is the "Vatopedi" scandal. "Vatopedi", of course,
is a monastery in northern Greece.
My official indoctrination against everything Turkish started at the age of 7, in 1937, at the first
grade of the Greek elementary school. It continued and was intensified after the Second Word War,
in 1945, under the tutelage of the US through the axiom "Divide and rule". To secure the Middle
East oil Greece and Turkey should be enemies.
There is an odd personal story from that time. In 1939 there was an 8-Richter quake in the city of
Erzincan in Turkey. There were 40,000 deaths. At the time in Greece there was a pro-Nazi
dictatorship by Metaxas, a dwarfish dictator, a former officer of the Greek Corps of Engineers. For a
not so strange reason, Metaxas decided to send help to the Turks, the enemies. Thus, there was a
nationwide collection of money to help the Turks. Of course, the populace knew that most of the
money would be diverted to the dictatorship. It had already happened with the collection of money
for the Air Force. [To this day in the Greek language there is the expression "for the Air Force";
meaning money stolen from the people for false claims]. Anyway, for each donation a small sticker
of a Turkish flag was applied to the lapel of the donor. For no obvious childish reason, I collected
about a dozen of discarded little Turkish flags and stuck them on my chest. For quite a few days on
my way to school, when passing by the house of a rather psychotic man, in his early twenties, I had
to sprint to avoid the bastard who chased me shouting "Hey you Turk." I was nine years old. It
seems that psychotic persons absorb the indoctrination shit more easily than normal ones.
Then I grew older. In 1958, while at the University of Illinois, as a graduate student in Civil
Engineering, one afternoon I started talking to a girl, a Turkish foreign student. She was friendly
and I was friendly. Then, up came her brother, a student of geology, and he was hostile. Was it to
protect the "honor" of his sister or was it because I was Greek? My estimate: because I was Greek.
About 15 years later, one morning my wife and I were standing at a traffic light at the sidewalk at the
Paradeplatz in Zurich. On my right side stood three young men talking and waiting also for the
green light. I started talking to them and I asked them if they were Turks. They said that they were
and I told them that we were Greek and using the Turkish word "kardes" (brothers) I told them we
were brothers. One of the three was very friendly and almost hugged me. The other two were
That there was and is nationalistic indoctrination on the other side, the Turkish side, against the
Greeks is a given. Also, that there are assholes in any given population, is also a given. However,
the role of the US in the post-WWII life of the two peoples is paramount. Both countries have been
governed by local elites that were proxies of the US. Both countries were strangled by US-backed
dictatorships, when needed by the US elite, is also part of their recent history. That the police or
military torturers in both countries were trained in the US is also a sad truth for the Christian
people of America. However, it was an association of democratic lawyers of New York that made
public the names of the Turkish torturers and the names of their American instructors more than 30
years ago! In Greece two of the most brutal, US-trained, torturers were executed in the streets
On May 22, 1947, a Saturday, in Kansas City, "[w]ith a pledge that the United States will act, as well
as talk,..., President Truman signed the Greek-Turkish aid bill in his emergency executive office in
the Hotel Muelbach... He declared that the legislation constituted 'a vigorous effort to help create
conditions of peace' in the world... The President regards [the law] as the keystone of the Truman
Doctrine to protect free peoples of the world in their right to select their own governments free of
compulsion from within or without..." [Harold D. B. Hinton, The New York Times, May 22, 1947].
Of course, "peace" has been reigning in the world since then: Greek Civil war (with the use of
Napalm by Van Fleet immediately after the announcement of the "Doctrine"), Korean War, Vietnam
War, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.
Also, the US "protected the right" of the Iranian people to select the Shah through the efforts of
Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy's grandson, of the Greek people to select Karamanlis as Prime Minister
[see below], of the Chilean people to select the disgustingly barbarous Pinochet, etc, etc.
This was what Truman meant by promising to "act, as well as talk"!
These were the post-World War II "acts" of the Christian West. "In 1918, after the end of WWI, the
heads of the victor states: Clemanceau (of France), Lloyd George (of Britain), Wilson (of the US),
and Orlando (of Italy), gathered in Paris and started bargaining to divide the spoils of the war. The
arrogance, the scheming ,the subverting of one another of these (vacuous) men is monumental.
Early in the war these European allies had agreed that after the war Turkey would be divided
among them. So, the Italians proceeded to occupy the coast of Asia Minor, which included the
coastal port of the city of Smyrna (Izmir). The British and the French used the (more than eager)
"patriotic" Greek elites to stop the Italians, allowing them to dispatch the Greek army to occupy
Smyrna, in 1919. To justify this act to the British Parliament, Lloyd George stated: 'The Greeks are
the people of the future for the Mediterranean East... They are excellent sailors (and they) will
become a naval power. They will be the first guardians of the great route that secures the unity of
the Commonwealth', (Meaning the route to the Middle East oil)." [See, my ZNet Commentary,
"Greece: 'The Odd Man Out' ", of April 22, 2002].
I think that up to now there has not been a serious study of the role of "hate" in the development
of the Western Christian societies. It seems that it is time to start thinking about such a study. The
hate planted between the Turks and the Greeks after the Smyrna affair is still cultivated by the US.
Instruments for this have been in Turkey the "Grey Wolves" and in Greece the neo-Nazis, who
already entered the Greek Parliament.
Of course, as mentioned above, the assholes (a.k.a. "conservatives") of both peoples contribute to
this hate. Take, for example, a civil engineering colleague of mine: He is adamant that in any
confrontation between Greeks and Turks, the Greeks will be victorious. When I stated that the
Greeks number only ten million versus the seventy millions of the Turks, his answer was that "the
Greeks have mettle". This is at the assholes level. However, the real world is different.
Years ago, another civil engineering colleague of mine married the daughter of the Chief of Staff
of the Greek military forces who was chummy with the Chief of Staff of the Turkish military forces
(obviously, both chosen by the US). So, the Turk invited the newly married Greek engineer, to build
an extensive road-network in eastern Turkey, as if there were not Turkish engineers to do that. My
colleague retuned to Greece a millionaire and went on building military airfields in Greece for NATO
(i.e. for the US)!
However, what really made me erase any traces of the indoctrination against the Turks instilled in
my childhood was the praise by Noam Chomsky of the Turkish people; the ordinary Turks.
Also, the efforts of Mikis Theodorakis, the great Greek composer, were very effective in bringing
the ordinary Greeks closer to the ordinary Turks. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago a Turkish
little girl sent a letter to Mikis wishing him to "never die!" So, that more music could come out of
That the Greeks and the Turks lived side by side for four centuries cannot be ignored. The last
name "Karamanlis" (uncle) of the Prime Minister chosen by the US, in the early 50s to "administer"
Greece for the US, is Turkish! "Kara" means black in Turkish. Therefore, Karamanlis means: the
"Black Ali". [By the way,the younger Karamanlis, the Amherst educated nephew, Prime Minister of
Greece for the last six years, who is thought to be responsible for the corruption and the economic
woes of Greece, has not been heard for the last 8 months. They tell us he is "hiding"].
A brief search in the phone directory of Athens revealed the following:
- There are about 43,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Turkish prefix "kara".
- There are about 20,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Muslim prefix "hadji"
. Of course these Greeks are fervent Christians!
- There is an unknown (but vast) number of entries of Greeks with last names ending with the
Turkish suffix "oglou", which is the ending of a great percentage of the Turkish last names.
The population of Athens is around 4 million people, about half of the total population of Greece.
That is one in 40 Greeks has a Turkish last name!
Compare that to my last name, "Raptis", which means "tailor" in Greek. My ancestors were real
tailors. There are only about 2,000 entries. That is one in 2,000 Athenians has this name!
Finally the most recent and devastating "blow" against the Greek-Turkish enmity, came through a
Turkish serial on the Greek TV; "1001 Nights" ( "1001 gece" in Turkish).
People of my age (born in 1930), have been raised with the "help" of the products of Hollywood.
Even at the age of 7 as kids we used to call the game of "cops and robbers" the "stek'aman" game.
Which is how the ever present expression "stick 'em up" in the American westerns sounded to the
ears of the Greek kids. Then, as adults up to the early 1960s, it was Hollywood and almost nothing
The serial "1001 Nights" started on Greek TV early in 2010. Although I had not watched a fictional TV
program for almost 40 years I was impressed, in passing, by a few scenes of the Turkish serial. I
followed all the 90 episodes of the serial for three months.
Here is my evaluation of it:
Let us start with the reasonable admission that even a fictional movie reflects, to a certain degree,
the society it describes. Otherwise, it would not "sell". Especially, to the people it describes.
The story of "1001 Nights" follows, mainly, the lives of two rich Istanbul families. An upper-class
one, whose members are university educated professionals and one whose members come from
lower classes but now are rich as business owners.
The most prominent characters of the serial are:
- "Scheherazad", a young architect. Actress: Berguzar Korel. The epitome of the ideal womanhood
on earth. Honest, proud, and kind. She has demolished the "synthetic", surgically and chemically
produced "blond" of Hollywood. One fervently expects that the actress is the same in her private
- "Onur", a young Harvard-educated economist. Actor: Halit Ergenc. A no-nonsense, rational, and
honest male. The same expectation holds for his private life.
- "Nadide", the middle-aged wife of a rich businessman. Actress: The Bulgarian-born Tomris Incer.
[It is a good thing that the Greek army of my time did not invade Bulgaria. It might have "influenced"
the career of one of the best actresses we have ever seen!]
- "Burhan", the businessman with roots in the lower classes, husband of "Nadide". The "patriarch"
of the family. A remnant of the socio-religious burden of the old Mediterranean societies of yore.
Who ultimately lets his rationality conquer.
[Note: It is fair to say that the rest of the cast consisted of excellent actors:
- "Benu", a Berlin educated architect. Actress: Ceyda Duvenci. An extremely kind and honest young
woman with a burdened background of an alcoholic mother and a rather problematic father.
- "Kerem", a Berlin educated civil engineer. Actor: Tardu Flordun. A mild and kind person, with the
usual human frailties, but ultimately honest and courageous.]
All the above rich humans, in the story, have reached to a common conclusion: Money is shit. What
counts is the contact between humans. Especially, with one's companion in life.
In an unexpected way "1001 Nights" has overwhelmed a quite significant part of the Greek
population. A Greek-American lady had to make a trip to New York and she pleaded with me through
a friend to copy on DVDs the episodes that she would miss during her trip.
What was in the serial (besides the above truism about money) that had such an effect on the
- The politeness and the dignity in the everyday behavior of the Turks. Greeks are a deeply impolite
people. To test this, all one has to do is stay in a queue at the checkout of a supermarket. Where,
some customers (especially ladies) drop and leave their used "Kleenex" in the supermarket
basket, for the benefit of the next customer.
[Parenthesis: Of course, such behavior allows foreigners, even former German Nazi pigs visiting
Greece as tourists, or Vietnam war mass-murderers from Texas, to feel superior to the uncouth
- The humanity of the Turkish society of ignoring, in raising an infant or a child, whether it is a
bastard, or someone else's child, or of an unwed mother, etc. Compare that to the US tea party
"Palinbans" who ignore the living humans and fight to preserve the onanistic sperm of some
Alaskan fisherman, while some young murderer in Nevada aims his drone so as to dismember an
Afghan infant, with the blessing of Obama, his wife, and Rush Limbaugh.
- That even the invocation of the Deity is done in an abstracted, matter-of-fact, serious manner not
in the fanatic, almost psychotic, and saccharine manner of "let-us-love-Jesus" of not only the
"Palinban" Americans but of normal Americans.
- The art involved in the serial: The amazing use of the human eyes. It is a bit strange that for an
entire century film-makers did not understand the communicative importance of the eyes between
humans to the degree that the director of "1001 Nights", Kudret Sabanci, did. The dominant means
of expression and of communication in the serial has been the human eyes, speech is secondary. It
seems that Korel (Scheherazade) and Ergenc (Honur) where chosen for their expressive eyes.
Then, there is the music, by Kirac. It is not only the original compositions that have appealed to the
Greeks, but also the variations or adoption intact of Music by Bach, Bethoven, and Mikis
Theodorakis at crucial points of the story. One of the most incredibly beautiful cinematic scenes
ever filmed of a man on a horse, is Honur on a horse, in the woods under the strains of Bach's
"Peasant Cantata". Compare that to John Wayne on a horse, etc, etc.
- The personality of Tomris Incer (the Bulgarian born actress), wife of the rich businessman
patriarch in the serial. Greek women were absolutely charmed with her, even though women, in
general, are a bit "scrupulous" about their judgment of another woman. Incer, as the wife is "the
salt of the earth"!
The Greeks have repeatedly demanded that the serial be repeated many times so that those that
missed episodes could catch up.
A couple of days ago the serial was "bought" [?] by one of the major Greek TV channels from the
present broadcaster and will begin from episode one, for one more time!
One more development is that US film-makers are in trouble, at least in Greece. After "1001 Nights",
Greeks cannot stand any US film product even for a second.
However, the most important outcome from the serial is the realization by Greeks of how close the
two peoples are. Even the sound of the exclamation a person utters when raising a baby in the air
is identical in both peoples; "opa!"
By now it is certain that the Turks have understood that Europeanization or Americanization of their
people is undesirable. The same holds for progressive Greeks.
What then? There is a way out. Of what we know, the human adventure in sizable communities
started in Turkey, at Catal Huyuk about 8,000 years ago. The next step was in Bagdad, of George W.
Bush, emigrant of Texas and destroyer of that part of human heritage. Then followed Egypt, Crete,
If these are the roots of humanity, then why not let them nourish once more a healthy tree. A vision
for a healthy human society away from Palin, Merkel, Sarkozy, Tony the Blair, etc, could be the
creation of a "Community" (possibly of Communes) that starts from Albania, Greece, Turkey, Iraq,
Iran,Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, for the time being. Which will include Egypt and Jordan after
they are liberated from US occupation. This can spread to other "Communities" of the planet; Africa,
Asia, etc. A chimera? Not so fast! The knife of the West has almost reached the bone of humanity.
To finish this long article. During the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-1944) the people of Athens
were dying of starvation in the hundreds of thousands. Then a ship with cereals arrived in Pireus,
the port of Athens, that helped stop the deaths. It was a Turkish ship by the name of "Kurtulus".
Even at that time, the Quisling authorities did not translate the Turkish word "kurtulus" for us: it
means "salvation" in Turkish.
I was one of the saved. I was 11 years old.
May 19, 2010
AS THINGS GET WORSE IN PAKISTAN, THE OPTIMISM CONTINUES TO SOAR
By Robert Fisk
A few days ago, I was driving around Lahore, its population still shattered by the suicide bombers
who blew themselves up next to two army trucks, killing 18 Pakistani soldiers and 48 civilians. The
civilians, of course, were the usual "collateral damage" – the bad guys have even adopted our own
obscene expression for unintended casualties – and they paid the price for Pakistan's continuing
war against the Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan on behalf of America's "war on terror". Indeed,
the conflict here is primarily between the army and the Taliban. I couldn't help noticing that the
street where the bombs exploded is in the RA Barracks area of Lahore – and it took a time before I
discovered that RA stands for Royal Artillery. Yes, our imperial ghosts continue to stalk this place
while America's more recent empire ensures that its people suffer as they did under the Raj. Will
freedom at midnight never come?
Yet far more outrageous was Richard Holbrooke's cocky, overconfident performance on CNN just
three days later. Things are getting better on the "Af-Pak" scene, he told the world – how I hate
these infantile expressions ("Af-Pak", "strategic depth", "spikes" and "surges") and al-Qa'ida is
"under great pressure after losing key members of its leadership". Ten to 12 al-Qa'ida leaders had
been "eliminated" over the past year – mostly in pilotless drone attacks on Pakistani territory, it
should be added, which cost 667 lives in 2009 alone. Pakistan's civilians have paid the price in
revenge attacks that usually target the Pakistani army: 322 Pakistanis killed and more than 500
wounded in 15 suicide bombings in the first 70 days of this year. The Pakistani army now has two
divisions in Swat and several more in south Waziristan and Mr Holbrooke would like to see them
move into north Waziristan as well, although – he generously agrees – that will be up to the
commander of the Pakistani army.
So that's it, folks. Just like Bushy and Blair of Kut-al-Amara on Iraq, it's the same old story. The
worse things get, the greater the optimism. If it's bad, it's getting better. By last year, Pakistan's
dead since 2001 – from suicide bombers, Pakistani army operations, inter-tribal battles and Nato
drone attacks – reached a total of 12,632 (with 12,815 wounded). Not bad, huh? And the overall
political situation in Pakistan – where the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has just appealed to
the Taliban to stop bombing Lahore on the grounds that residents hate the Americans (and ex-
dictator Pervez Musharraf) just as much as they do – is "much better now", according to Dickie
Holbrooke. After all, the Pakistani military is no longer in Pakistan's "complicated" politics. We shall
I can recall sitting on the lawn one evening this week with Imran Khan – among the most honest of
Pakistan's politicians (there aren't many, I promise you) – as dusk fell over the Margalla mountains.
And Imran was raging. "My God, these people in Waziristan, they are wonderful, beautiful people
and what are we doing to them? The army fire their artillery 20km from their target, and they're told
they are shooting at 11 Taliban people and then they fire and the army announce that 11 Taliban
have been killed. We are killing our own people. This has to stop." But there's not much point in
thinking that Obama and his dotty secretary of state care a damn. They are lost.
Why, only a few months ago, la Clinton was bitching about Israeli prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's refusal to stop building settlements following Obama's "reach-out" – another of those
bloody phrases – to Muslims. She meant all settlements, she said. Illegal settlements, "legal"
settlements, outposts, whatever the Israelis liked to call it. And when Netanyahu offered his
ridiculous "freeze" on just West Bank Jewish colonies for a mere six months – not in Jerusalem,
mark you – off la Clinton trotted to the Arab League to publicise this extraordinary and
"unprecedented" offer by the land-grabbers of the Netanyahu government.
Now she is huffing and puffing again. Joe Biden turns up in the land to which the United States has
donated almost £200bn over the past decade in the hope of getting the Israelis and Palestinians to
talk to each other again – and Netanyahu's government announces another 1,600 Jewish homes in
East Jerusalem. Biden, of course, should have jumped back on his plane and flown back to
America. Hasn't the US, after all, registered 39 vetoes to protect its little Middle Eastern Prussia in
the UN? No way. The timing of the statement – the timing, mark you – was "unhelpful". Netanyahu
said he didn't know about the announcement in advance – which, if true, suggests we should all
believe in Father Christmas and fairies at the bottom of the garden.
But what does la Clinton do? Not appreciating that Biden and she and Obama have been treated by
the Israelis with the contempt they deserve, she rants on the phone to Netanyahu about the
"affront" and the "insult" of the timing of the announcement. But this is preposterous.
The affront and the insult were not caused to la Clinton or Obama. So self-regarding is this
wretched woman that she could not grasp that the real affront and insult were being endured by
the Palestinians – who are again being driven from their homes and dispossessed so that
Netanyahu's Israeli colonists can move further into east Jerusalem. La Clinton should have asked
Netanyahu how he could inflict such punishment on innocent Palestinians – but she thought that
she and Obama were the victims.
My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Obama's pitiful envoy George Mitchell will be
replaced by a tougher man – and who better than Dickie Holbrooke, the tough guy who knows how
to handle "Af-Pak" and will know how to handle Netanyahu? Why, it's not so long ago that he
produced "peace" in Bosnia at Dayton, Ohio – one S Milosevic being an honoured guest – while
telling a pleading delegation of Kosovo Muslims to get lost. Nothing should get in the way of peace
in Bosnia. So the Kosovars departed to endure their own ethnic cleansing when Nato went to war
with Serbia. You may remember that we were fighting this war to get the Kosovo Albanians back
into their homes – even though most of them were in their homes when our USAF and RAF warriors
started their bombing campaign against Serbia.
But who cares? Things are getting better in Pakistan. It's only the Americans who are upset about
Netanyahu. One thing at a time. That's what Holbrooke told the Kosovo Muslims. Al-Qa'ida are on
the run. And they expect us to believe all this guff.
May 12, 2010
Arshad M Khan
A decision that will affect the lives of many for a very long time, three decades and more possibly,
requires careful, extremely careful consideration. Haste is also the most charitable reading of
President Obama's nomination of Solicitor General Kagan to the Supreme Court. We, therefore,
exclude the fact that they were together on the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School, that
Larry Summers his economic advisor appointed her Dean at Harvard Law School when he was
President of Harvard, a post from which he himself was forced to resign, that she was part of the
Clinton administration with a host of colleagues now serving in the present executive branch.
It is reminiscent of President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers when then Senator Obama rightly
raised concerns about her lack of judicial experience. He noted the absence of a legal trail which
would therefore require careful scrutiny of the nominee. And, as in that case, there are a host of
other better qualified candidates, notably Judge Wood whose record of opinions in the public
interest coupled with the ability to turn her judicial colleagues around has marked her as
outstanding. President Obama has called Ms. Kagan a consensus builder but her kind of
consensus seems to represent surrender. For example, she agreed with the indefinite detention
of Guantanamo prisoners allowing broad Presidential power. She differed from Bush/Cheney in
that they read it in the Constitution and she claimed Congressional authorization. Both threw
habeas corpus out of the window, a position later reversed by the Supreme Court. It is the kind of
hair splitting in support of executive authority by judges that have buttressed many a dictatorship.
Not only is Ms. Kagan without judicial experience but her performance as the government's
advocate before the Supreme Court has been surprisingly disappointing. In many instances, far
from displaying a quick, sharp legal mind, she has limped along supported by sympathetic justices.
Moreover, her experience is limited to academia and consulting with Goldman-Sachs, the treasure
trove of ex-Clintonites. She has never been elected to political office or benefited from the kind of
real world experience that an Earl Warren could bring to the court.
If her nomination is successful, the court will comprise six Catholics and three Jews. For the first
time in our history the majority population of our country will not have a representative. As a
minority subgroup also without a representative, I can personally sympathize with them. But that is
a small matter. If it is fair that minorities be represented - as with the last nominee, and I heartily
agreed with that choice - then surely the majority needs representation. The void turns democracy
on its head and is yet another sign, added to the many that have emanated from Congress, that our
democracy is beginning to display telltale hairline cracks in its foundation.
May 7, 2010
PASSING ON THE RISK TO THE TAXPAYER - WHEN THE BANKS OWN THE CONGRESS
By Ralph Nader
Source: Eurasia Review
A society not alert to signs of its own decay, because its ideology is a continuing myth of progress,
separates itself from reality and envelops illusion.
One yardstick by which to measure the decay in our country’s political, economic, and cultural life,
is the answer to this question: Do the forces of power, which have demonstrably failed, become
stronger after their widely perceived damage is common knowledge?
Economic decay is all around. Poverty, unemployment, foreclosures, job export, consumer debt,
pension attrition, and crumbling infrastructure are well documented. The self-destruction of the
Wall Street financial giants, with their looting and draining of trillions of other people’s money, have
been headlines for two years. During and after their gigantic taxpayer bailouts from Washington,
DC, the banks, et al, are still the most powerful force in determining the nature of proposed
“The banks own this place,” says Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), evoking the opinion of many
members of a supine Congress ready to pass weak consumer and investor protection legislation
while leaving dominant fewer and larger banks.
Who hasn’t felt the ripoffs and one-sided fine print of the credit card industry? A reform bill finally
has passed after years of delay, again weak and incomplete. Shameless over their gouges, the
companies have their attorneys already at work to design around the law’s modest strictures.
The drug and health insurance industry, swarming with thousands of lobbyists, got pretty much
what they wanted in the new health law. Insurers got millions of new customers subsidized by
hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars with very little regulation. The drug companies got their
dream—no reimportation of cheaper identical drugs, no authority for Uncle Sam to bargain for
discount prices, and a very profitable extension of monopoly patent protection for biologic drugs
against cheaper, generic drug competition.
For all their gouges, for all their exclusions, their denial of claims and restrictions of benefits, for
all their horrendous price increases, the two industries have come out stronger than ever
politically and economically. Small wonder their stocks are rising even in a recession.
The junk food processing industry—on the defensive lately due to some excellent documentaries
and exposes—are still the most influential of powers on Capitol Hill when it becomes to delaying for
years a decent food safety bill, using tax dollars to pump fat, sugar and salt into the stomachs of
our children, and fighting adequate inspections. Over seven thousand lives are lost due to
contaminated food yearly in the US and many millions of illnesses.
The oil, gas, coal and nuclear power companies are fleecing consumers and taxpayers, depleting
and imperiling the environment, yet they continue to block rational energy legislation in Congress
to replace carbon and uranium with energy efficiency technology and renewables.
Still, even now after years of cost over-runs and lack of permanent storage for radioactive wastes,
the nuclear industry has President Obama, and George W. Bush before him, pushing for many tens
of billions of dollars in taxpayer loan guarantees for new nukes. Wall Street won’t finance such a
risky technology without you, the taxpayers, guaranteeing against any accident or default.
Both Democrats and Republicans are passing on these outrageous financial and safety risks to
Congress, which receives the brunt of this corporate lobbying—the carrot of money and the stick
of financing incumbent challengers—is more of an obstacle to change than ever. In the past after
major failures of industry and commerce, there was a higher likelihood of Congressional action.
Recall, the Wall Street and banking collapse in the early 1930s. Congress and Franklin Delano
Roosevelt produced legislation that saved the banks, peoples’ savings and regulated the stock
From the time of my book, Unsafe at Any Speed’s publication in late November 1965, it took just
nine months to federally regulate the powerful auto industry for safety and fuel efficiency.
Contrast the two-year delay after the Bear Stearns collapse and still no reform legislation, and what
is pending is weak.
Yet the entrenched members of Congress, responsible for this astonishing gridlock, are almost
impossible to dislodge even though polls have Congress at its lowest repute ever. It is a place
where the majority is terrified of the corporations and the minority can block even the most anemic
legislative efforts with archaic rules, especially in the Senate.
Culturally, the canaries in the coal mine are the children. Childhood has been commercialized by
the giant marketers reaching them hour by hour with junk food, violent programming, video games
and bad medicine. The result—record obesity, child diabetes and other ailments.
While the companies undermine parental authority, they laugh all the way to the bank, using our
public airwaves, among other media, for their lucre. They can be called electronic child molesters.
We published a book in 1996 called Children First!: A Parent’s Guide to Fighting Corporate
Predators in the Media. This book is an understatement of the problem compared to the worsening
of child manipulation today.
In a 24/7 entertained society frenetic with sound bites, Blackberries, iPods, text messages and
emails, there is a deep need for reflection and introspection. We have to discuss face to face in
living rooms, school auditoriums, village squares and town meetings what is happening to us and
our diminishing democratic processes by the pressures and controls of the insatiable corporate
And what needs to be done from the home to the public arenas and marketplaces with old and new
superior models, new accountabilities and new thinking.
For our history has shown that whenever the people get more engaged and more serious, they live
better on all fronts.
Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.
May 5, 2010
ANY HOPE FOR BRITAIN? ELECTION 2010
by Afshin Rattansi
I can think of no better context in which to view the run-up to Election Day here, on May 6, May
than Brian de Palma’s film, “Redacted.” That film, ignored by the Oscars but a winner in Venice, tells
the story of the gang-raping and killing of a young girl in Iraq. Her mother, father, and 5-year-old
sister were also killed. And the killing continues today in Iraq, as it does in the country that ordered
Britain to war - 18 U.S. veterans kill themselves each day. Government statistics are probably more
accurate in the U.S. For instance, we know that a couple of hundred thousand American veterans
are homeless. In the UK, official statistics show that, overall, the number of total homeless people
sleeping rough in England is currently 464. Charities say the figure is deliberately misleading so as
to fit in with the governing Labor Party’s target of “eliminating all rough sleepers” (sic) within the
next year and a half. That the Department for Communities and Local Government can be so
misleading is symptomatic of a government that is filled with ministers who have been lying since
Tony Blair came into office in 1997, way before the “dodgy dossier” and made-up stories of uranium
from Niger destined for Saddam Hussein.
Idiotic targets for crime reduction, hospital waiting times, educational aptitude were a defining
policy for New Labor and its disgraced think tanks which picked them as a universal panacea for
the public sector. They merely led to forged and eccentrically derived statistics. Labor raced to
contract services out to private corporations which simultaneously advised and bankrolled the
party. Gordon Brown, who as Chancellor signed the checks for the terrible war in Iraq, says the war
was worth it. He has no statistics for dead Iraqis. And the Iraq mantra of the PM and his cabinet
shuts down debate on the BBC – the state broadcaster which lost its chairman and director-general
over the suicide of WMD expert, David Kelly.
It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the BBC no longer reports on the war in Iraq. It is not an
issue. Matthew Taylor whom I interviewed with my co-host Yvonne Ridley on our weekly program,
Rattansi & Ridley, and who was chief adviser to Tony Blair in the dying days of his premiership said
as much. And though the third party, the Liberal Democrats, currently enjoying a surge of support
after live party leaders’ debates, was against the Iraq war, they are not mentioning it much either.
The second debate which was billed as about foreign policy rapidly deteriorated into talk of ruling
class economic policy. Each of the three neoliberal parties has the same attitude to the national
debt of the UK. Even though the annual deficit is lower than it was for much of the nineteenth
century, let alone between 1945 and the 1960s, all three leaders bow to the markets and rating
agencies without a second thought. For them, there is only the orthodoxy that the national debt is
too high to sustain government bond sales.
We have generations, now, of economists who have learned their profession not in the shadow of
Keynes but of towers of glass and steel in the City of London. For journalists and economics
pundits, this is not the time to increase the deficit through investment in infrastructure and making
things. Instead, this is the time for cuts in public expenditure because bond traders demand it – all
based on mistaken algorithms and formulae about risk. If the next government actually cuts
expenditure to the orders of the bankers, it will surely lead to civil unrest on the streets of Britain.
And it is astounding that the party leaders do not realize that civil unrest will not impress the bond
Ironically, it was the Governor of the Bank of England who put his finger on it when his comments
at a private lunch were leaked by U.S. economist, David Hale. Governor Mervyn King warns that the
victor in the general election will be forced into austerity measures that will keep that party out of
power for a generation. Britain’s finance minister cheerfully says that should Labor win, there will
be cuts which are “deeper and tougher” than those carried out by Margaret Thatcher in the early
1980s. In a country riven by thirteen years of Labour’s relentless increase of the gap between rich
and poor, we can look forward to the commissioning of costly government inquiries into the
reasons for violence in the ghettos of the poor.
How poor has it become in Britain? During the Glasgow East by-election, a few media outlets
reported that life expectancy in one ward was 54 – lower than in North Korea or Iraq. Years of Labor
policies that ended with the bailout debacle have left the Sunday Times Rich List showing the 1,000
richest have seen fortunes jump by 30 per cent, the largest surge on record. This because of Labor’
s decision to inject billions into the bankers’ pockets – the same billions which will be cut from
government social programs after the election. The combined wealth of the top 1,000 equals a third
of the entire national debt.
Labor’s own report shows that the class divide now opens up amongst children as young as 3.
Such is the state of the national education system that the National Equality Panel equates a month
of cognitive development to one hundred and fifty dollars of parental wealth. Income inequality is
among the highest in the developed world and is now the worst since the Second World War.
Fascism is on the upturn – aided by national disgust at what seems like an entire political class
fiddling their finances. Fascist candidates have now won seats in the European parliament and the
three parties vie for which can be toughest on immigration, ignoring the obvious – that concerns
about immigration are merely a symptom of Labor’s disastrous economic management. The Prime
Minister even stole an old fascist slogan – “British Jobs for British People” – and proudly proclaims
what he sees as a great achievement : fewer and fewer people want to move to Britain.
The brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan increase the threat of a terrorist attack in Britain.
There is doubtless a minority of outraged members of marginalized religious groups keen to
avenge the industrial scale rape, murder and pillage of what they see as Muslim lands. The reaction
has been Britain’s own Patriot Act which re-introduced the hated “sus” laws that allow police to
‘stop and search’ without “reasonable suspicion”. All 17 judges at the European Court of Human
Rights decided that Labor’s section 44 of the Terrorism Act was a serious violation of the right to
privacy. Gordon Brown is fighting the decision. The Conservatives whose “sus” laws led to the
1981 Brixton riots support it and pledge to cut the need for police to write anything down when
they stop someone on the streets with unreasonable suspicion.
Add to this the continuing privatization policies that in one sector have led to hunger strikes in
corporate prison camps and the growing subsidies for Britain’s largest manufacturer – the arms
company BAE Systems - and Britain is set for a myriad “morbid symptoms” after this general
Afshin Rattansi is a former chief risk analyst at a leading Lloyd’s of London underwriter. He has
since helped to launch and develop television networks, working in journalism at the BBC Today
programme, CNN International, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera Arabic, the Dubai Business Channel,
Press TV and The Guardian. His quartet of novels, “The Dream of the Decade” is available on
Amazon.com. He is co-host and executive producer of “Rattansi & Ridley” which broadcasts
internationally on Press TV. He can be reached at email@example.com
April 28, 2010
THE SCAMS OF GOLDMAN SACHS
by Dean Baker
Source: The Guardian
Last year, Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid
wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that
smells like money." It turns out that Mr. Taibbi was far too generous in his assessment of the huge
Since that time we have learned that Goldman played a central role in helping Greece to hide its
government budget deficit from the European Union, the financial markets, and the public at large.
Goldman sold complex swaps to Greece in which it paid the Greek government for future revenue
streams on items like airport landing fees. This was in effect a loan, but the swap allowed the Greek
government to avoid entering the borrowed money on its books as a loan, which would have raised
its budget deficit above the euro zone limits. Today of course Greece’s financial meltdown is
threatening the stability of the euro.
Just last month Goldman was sued for sex discrimination by a former vice-president who claims
that she was put on the “mommy track” after taking a maternity leave. She was fired as she was
about to start a second leave. (In fairness to Goldman, Wall Street is still for the most part an all-
But the big news is Goldman’s indictment for putting together a collaterized debt obligation (CDO)
from mortgage-backed securities that were expected to fail and then marketing it to its clients as a
good investment. The central allegation is that in early 2007, hedge fund manager John Paulson
recognized that the housing bubble was starting to collapse.
This meant that many mortgages would go bad. The subprime mortgages, in which homeowners had
little or no real collateral, and were facing resets to higher interest rates, were especially
vulnerable. Paulson worked out a deal with Goldman in which he would pick the mortgage-backed
securities that were put into the CDO. Paulson would then bet that the CDO would go bad, by taking
out credit default swaps (CDS) on the CDO. A credit default swap is effectively an insurance policy
where the issuer makes up a loss if an asset goes bad.
Goldman was left with the other side of Paulson’s deal, finding suckers to buy this huge piece of
junk. It would have been hard to find buyers for this CDO if investors knew that Paulson had
deliberately constructed it as a piece of junk to short. Therefore, according to the SEC charges,
Goldman concealed Paulson’s role in constructing the CDO. Goldman allegedly told investors that
the CDO was constructed by neutral parties, rather than letting them know that the assets were
picked by a hedge fund manager who was taking a short position.
Of course Paulson won his bet, the CDO he put together really was trash. He made nearly a billion
dollars on this particular bet, which involved buying CDS from AIG. AIG was unable to pay off its bet,
so Paulson got his money courtesy of the taxpayers when the government stepped in to bailout
AIG. Goldman was also buying CDS to bet against the CDOs it was putting together, although it is
not clear that it had bet against this particular CDO. In any case, it clearly profited from the issue
since Paulson paid Goldman $15 million for its services.
Goldman’s conduct in this deal can be framed using an analogy from Phil Angelides, the head of the
Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Angelides noted that Goldman has bought CDS on the CDOs
that it had issued and sold. He compared this to selling a car with bad brakes and then buying
insurance on the car. In fact, Goldman effectively cut the brake lines, sold the car to unsuspecting
customers and then bought the insurance policy.
In fairness to Goldman, there is no reason to believe that they are any less ethical than any of the
other big Wall Street actors, just more effective. The other big banks do the same sorts of deals,
even if they aren’t able to pull off quite as many scams as Goldman.
All of this should drive home the urgency of both breaking up the big breaks and some serious
financial reform. The folks who should have been clamping down on this behavior were all
Goldman’s friends, starting with then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who had just left his
position as Goldman CEO to take the job.
Even if we put in place a better regulatory structure, as long as financial regulation is a
conversation between friends, it will not be serious. We need to kill the Goldman vampire squid
along with the rest of the species. Only when we have reduced these monsters to a manageable
size can be confident that they will be effectively regulated.
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the
author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits:
Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.
April 21, 2010
TRUTH HAS FALLEN AND TAKEN LIBERTY WITH IT
by Paul Craig Roberts
There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed
in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class,
race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.
Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it,
and little ability to recognize it.
Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being
branded “anti-American,” “anti-semite” or “conspiracy theorist.”
Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign
contributions control government.
Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence
Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.
Today many whose goal once was the discovery of truth are now paid handsomely to hide it. “Free
market economists” are paid to sell offshoring to the American people. High-productivity, high
value-added American jobs are denigrated as dirty, old industrial jobs. Relicts from long ago, we
are best shed of them. Their place has been taken by “the New Economy,” a mythical economy that
allegedly consists of high-tech white collar jobs in which Americans innovate and finance activities
that occur offshore. All Americans need in order to participate in this “new economy” are finance
degrees from Ivy League universities, and then they will work on Wall Street at million dollar jobs.
Economists who were once respectable took money to contribute to this myth of “the New
And not only economists sell their souls for filthy lucre. Recently we have had reports of medical
doctors who, for money, have published in peer-reviewed journals concocted “studies” that hype
this or that new medicine produced by pharmaceutical companies that paid for the “studies.”
The Council of Europe is investigating the drug companies’ role in hyping a false swine flu
pandemic in order to gain billions of dollars in sales of the vaccine.
The media helped the US military hype its recent Marja offensive in Afghanistan, describing Marja
as a city of 80,000 under Taliban control. It turns out that Marja is not urban but a collection of
And there is the global warming scandal, in which NGOs. the UN, and the nuclear industry colluded
in concocting a doomsday scenario in order to create profit in pollution.
Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.
Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories
finish the job.
I remember when, following CIA director William Colby’s testimony before the Church Committee in
the mid-1970s, presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan issued executive orders preventing the
CIA and U.S. black-op groups from assassinating foreign leaders. In 2010 the US Congress was told
by Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, that the US now assassinates its own citizens in
addition to foreign leaders.
When Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US citizens no longer needed to be
arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of a capital crime, just murdered on suspicion alone of
being a “threat,” he wasn’t impeached. No investigation pursued. Nothing happened. There was no
Church Committee. In the mid-1970s the CIA got into trouble for plots to kill Castro. Today it is
American citizens who are on the hit list. Whatever objections there might be don’t carry any
weight. No one in government is in any trouble over the assassination of U.S. citizens by the U.S.
As an economist, I am astonished that the American economics profession has no awareness
whatsoever that the U.S. economy has been destroyed by the offshoring of U.S. GDP to overseas
countries. U.S. corporations, in pursuit of absolute advantage or lowest labor costs and maximum
CEO “performance bonuses,” have moved the production of goods and services marketed to
Americans to China, India, and elsewhere abroad. When I read economists describe offshoring as
free trade based on comparative advantage, I realize that there is no intelligence or integrity in the
American economics profession.
Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money. The transnational or global U.S.
corporations pay multi-million dollar compensation packages to top managers, who achieve these
“performance awards” by replacing U.S. labor with foreign labor. While Washington worries about
“the Muslim threat,” Wall Street, U.S. corporations and “free market” shills destroy the U.S.
economy and the prospects of tens of millions of Americans.
Americans, or most of them, have proved to be putty in the hands of the police state.
Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil
liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil
liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves. Many
also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from
exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free.
Most Americans are unlikely to hear from anyone who would tell them any different.
I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week’s first outside
columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News
Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for
newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York
Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the
American “mainstream media.”
For the last six years I have been banned from the “mainstream media.” My last column in the New
York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
representing New York. We addressed the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a
conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate
was launched. No such thing could happen today.
For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper
as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of
the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush’s wars of aggression, the order came down to
Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.
The American corporate media does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest
groups that empower the government.
America’s fate was sealed when the public and the anti-war movement bought the government’s
9/11 conspiracy theory. The government’s account of 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence.
Nevertheless, this defining event of our time, which has launched the US on interminable wars of
aggression and a domestic police state, is a taboo topic for investigation in the media. It is
pointless to complain of war and a police state when one accepts the premise upon which they are
These trillion dollar wars have created financing problems for Washington’s deficits and threaten
the U.S. dollar’s role as world reserve currency. The wars and the pressure that the budget deficits
put on the dollar’s value have put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Former
Goldman Sachs chairman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is after these protections for
the elderly. Fed chairman Bernanke is also after them. The Republicans are after them as well.
These protections are called “entitlements” as if they are some sort of welfare that people have
not paid for in payroll taxes all their working lives.
With over 21 per cent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs,
GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington’s greatest
commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the “war on
terror,” the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of
The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their
course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.
Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S.
Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by
CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
April 19, 2010
FARCE OR TRAGEDY? PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL IN DAMASCUS RUN BY FAMILY OF
By Haris Hashmi
Source: The News
The new Pakistani ambassador to Syria, appointed by President Zardari, has summarily sacked the
entire staff and faculty of the Pakistan International School in Damascus and appointed almost all
his immediate family members for a collective monthly salary of $38,000 (Rs3.2 million).
The sacked teachers and staff members of the school run by the embassy, who were removed for
no reasons and without any prior notice, have been compelled to go into litigation against the
Pakistan Embassy, The News has learnt.
The Pakistan International School in Damascus is run by the embassy of Pakistan but within five
months after the arrival of new ambassador, Aminullah Raisani, in September 2009, the
management and faculty of the school was changed altogether without giving any reason and the
school was stuffed with the relatives of the ambassador.
According to the list of newly inducted teachers Saeeda Yasmeen Raeesani has been appointed as
Principal. She is sister of the ambassador and is drawing $6,500 per month as salary while the
previous principal Syed Tauseef Bokhari was getting $2,500. Another sister, Ms Abbas, has been
appointed as Urdu teacher for $3,500 per month.
Two daughters, Amna Aminullah Raeesani and Quratulein Aminullah Raeesani, have been appointed
as teachers. These two are getting $3,000 per month as salary while the school was paying only
$1,700 for the same job to previous teachers.
Mohammad Ishaque, brother-in-law of the ambassador, has been appointed as accountant for
$3,500 per month while the same job was previously with one Imran for just $900 a month.
Attique-ur-Rehman and Syed Muhammad Ali, ambassador’s nephews, have been appointed as
business teachers for $3,000 a month while the same job was done for $1,500 only before
Nayla Atiq, granddaughter of ambassador’s sister, is working as Maths teacher for $3,000 a month
while her predecessor was drawing $1,700 a month as salary. Ali Abdullah, the son-in-law of
ambassador’s sister, and Muhammad Ahsan Shafique, ambassador’s cousin, have been appointed
as teachers for $3,000 a month while their predecessors were drawing $1,500 a month.Another
cousin of the ambassador, Rasheed Chattha, has been appointed as biology teacher for $3,500 a
month while previously Ms Manal Sileman was doing the same job for $1,500 a month.
Ms Manal Sileman, one of the Syrian teachers of the Pakistani school who has been sent home
without giving any notice and without any reason, while talking to The News from Damascus on
phone said that it was strange that an ambassador instead of running the affairs of the embassy
was keen in the business of the school.
She lamented that the ambassador has imported Chinese shoes and made it mandatory for every
student to purchase those shoes at much higher rates. She said that the school was being ruined
as the new incompetent teachers have been hired for more than double the salaries the previous
faculty was getting.
Another teacher Saad al Hassan said that he has gone to the court with a heavy heart because he
has served the school and Pakistan and now the court will issue an order against the Republic of
He said that he has respect for the Pakistani nation but because of a few people he has been
compelled to go into litigation against the embassy and according to the Syrian laws the Pakistan
Embassy in Damascus could be heavily penalised.
Saad said that the school was rated among the best in Damascus and the elite, including the
foreign minister of Syria and deputy foreign minister, had started sending their kids to the Pakistan
International School of Damascus but with the advent of new administration many have opted for
other schools in the city.
He said that last year the school won eight gold medals in the Cambridge examination and the
income of the school in 2006 was US$2,042,400 per annum and it rose to $4,774,000 per annum in
2009 with the number of students almost doubled i.e. from 600 to 1,100.
Ambassador Aminullah Raisani was too busy to talk to this correspondent ......
April 14, 2010
IDF ORDER WILL ENABLE MASS DEPORTATION FROM WEST BANK
By Amira Hass
A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the
deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on
charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.
When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become
criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.
Given the security authorities' actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be
targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip -
people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children - or those born in the West Bank or abroad
who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born
spouses of Palestinians.
Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups
from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli
The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as "a
person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit." The order takes the original
1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally
staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states - Jordan,
Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
The order's language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be
applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly
ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the
judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.
The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue
warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and
Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.
Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request
to delay the order, given "the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a
tremendous number of people."
According to the provisions, "a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area
without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable
justification." Such documentation, it says, must be "issued by the commander of IDF forces in the
Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf."
The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in
force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The
provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and
disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and
The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given
area, he "may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written
deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he
The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce
sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally
but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence
of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year
The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for
the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.
The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based
on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even
visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.
According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation,
since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since
2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were
citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the
Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their
homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special
authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full
Another group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to
the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several
In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA
distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of
Palestinians, however, remained classified as "illegal sojourners," including many who are not
citizens of any other country.
The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that
limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The
new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion
of people from their homes.
The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response, "The amendments to the order on preventing
infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders
and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in
the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts' defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria.
The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal
sojourners in Judea and Samaria."
April 7, 2010
SEX AND SANCTITY - REALLY SAFE SEX
by Farzana Versey
Just when the Catholic Church is dealing with a frisky priest and a young Indian godman has been
caught on camera in a sleazy video with some female devotees, the Supreme Court of India makes
a supposedly progressive pronouncement. All’s well? Not quite. It uses god.
The verdict would have incensed the rightwing political organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad
(VHP) anyway, but now they can add a religious flavour to their protest. The courts had cited the
example of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha to corroborate its judgment on live-in relationships.
The protestors are angry: "The observation made by it (apex court) regarding Radha-Krishna has
hurt the sentiments of billions of Hindus. We request the Supreme Court that it should withdraw
this comment from the final verdict.”
Nobody quite knows the statistics about hurt sentiments, but these things work. The more worrying
aspect is the Supreme Court decriminalising live-in relationships by stating, "If two people, man
and woman, want to live together, who can oppose them? What is the offence they commit here?
This happens because of the cultural exchange between people."
I don’t think there is any obfuscation that living-in between man and woman is not for cultural
exchange, but to share lives and a bed. By using the example of Radha-Krishna, it makes it
legitimate for one community and pretty much leaves out atheists.
Besides, the idea of Krishna is based on several myths and his relationship with women constitutes
merely one of them.
The cult of Krishna, although utterly charming in its joie de vivre – the ras leela is based on the
concept of letting go of inhibitions, is not empowering for women. “If the gopikas could do their
duty to their husbands, tend their families and above all be totally devoted to me all the time, you
can do the same thing. Do your duty. I shall not leave you any time,” said he to Meera in one of her
Meera, who was married to Rana Bhojraj, was platonically committed to Lord Krishna, even sleeping
with the idol. She argued with her spouse, “Krishna is the only Purusha and all of us are women. I
am no more Queen than you are King. There is only one King and my life belongs to him.”
The process of a legal discussion on live-in relationships began when the South Indian actress,
Khushboo, spoke about pre-marital sex. She was threatened and there were several cases filed
But the controversy predates this.
In 2003, the Justice V. S. Malimath panel had recommended that women in live-in relationships must
get wife status. It was covertly regressive. While seemingly taking into account “practical realities”,
it in fact was legitimising bigamy and adultery. It may have sought to provide for benefits to the
‘other woman’, but would take away from the rights of the first wife as financial assets would have
to be split, not to speak of the emotional conflict. It was merely giving license to men to flaunt their
Another point in the ‘progressive’ report mentioned that if the live-in arrangement was for a
reasonably long period, without clearly providing a time-frame, then a man would be deemed to
have married the woman according to the customary rites of either party. One would like to know
which party’s rites would hold supreme -- the man’s, for the onus of providing will be on him, or the
On an altogether different note, live-on relationships are essentially an urban phenomenon and a
choice two adults make to live outside of an institutional set-up. Has it struck the eminent members
of the legal panel that such independent women might not want the stifling status of a wife?
And they might most certainly not desire a halo.
Contemporary sexuality is increasingly dependent on a holy version of daily living. There is
currently a buzz about an online ‘halal’ sex shop that makes sure that the erotica available does not
go against Islamic tenets. Its Dutch founder, Abdelaziz Aouragh, got 70,000 hits in the first week and
one can be reasonably certain it is curiosity that is driving people rather than any real need. He
claims it is the first erotic webshop for Muslims. This is assuming that Muslims have not used other
means and every Muslim consults the Sharia before his or her hormones start working. Apparently
our young entrepreneur, who believes he is catering to married couples (how is one to ensure
that?), thinks it is an alternative to sites that focus on “pornography and the extravagant side of
A report states that the home page of El Asira, which means society in Arabic, shows a grey street
with a line drawn down the centre, inviting women to enter on the left and men on the right. If this
is about couples, then should they not be together? And, does the site recognise gender remotely?
Inside, there is an array of products, including lubricants and tablets, that claim to act as
aphrodisiacs. Needless to say, all ingredients are permitted by Islam. “Most of the other products
out there have pictures of naked people or foul language—it was very difficult to find ones that I
could use in my business,” said the site’s owner.
Clerics are happy because they do not sell sex toys. Suddenly, we are being told that Islam has
been quite open about sexuality. This is not news. Islam does give rights to women over pleasure.
This site does not have dildos.
The moot point, however, is that individuals who would and should choose their form of sexual
discovery, and may well be within personal acceptable limits without causing any social nuisance,
are now forced to look upon their satisfaction as canonised fables.
We live in interesting times where those who are marketing the sexual panacea through a seraphic
prism are unable to see the rot in various houses of god. The devil certainly is not in the retail.
Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based author-columnist. She can be reached at kaaghaz.kalam@gmail.
March 30, 2010
Congress, Israel and U.S. National Security
By Ralph Nader
On July 10, 1996, at a Joint Session of the United States Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu received a standing ovation for these words: “With America’s help, Israel has grown to
be a powerful, modern state. …But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-
standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: we are going to achieve economic
independence. We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of
gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel.”
Since 1996, the American taxpayers are still sending Israel $3 billion a year and providing assorted
loan guarantees, waivers, rich technology transfers and other indirect assistance. Before George
W. Bush left office a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel stipulated an
assistance package of $30 billion over the next ten years to be transferred in a lump sum at the
beginning of every fiscal year. Israel’s wars and colonies still receive U.S. taxpayer monies.
What happened to Mr. Netanyahu’s solemn pledge to the Congress? The short answer is that
Congress never called in the pledge.
In the intervening years, Israel has become an economic, technological and military juggernaut. Its
GDP is larger than Egypt’s even though Israel’s population is less than one tenth that of the Arab
world’s most populous nation. The second largest number of listings on America’s NASDAQ
Exchange after U.S. companies are from Israel, exceeding listings of Japan, Korea, China and India
combined. Its venture capital investments exceed those in the U.S., Europe and China on a per
Israel is arguably the fifth most powerful military force in the world, and Israel’s claims on the U.S.’s
latest weapon systems and research/development breakthroughs are unsurpassed. This
combination has helped to make Israel a major arms exporter.
The Israeli “economic miracle” and technological innovations have spawned articles and a best-
selling book in recent months. The country’s average GDP growth rate has exceeded the average
rate of most western countries over the past five years. Israel provides universal health insurance,
unlike the situation in the U.S., which raises the question of who should be aiding whom?
Keep in mind, the U.S. economy is mired in a recession, with large rates of growing poverty,
unemployment, consumer debt and state and federal deficits. In some states, public schools are
shutting, public health services are being slashed, and universities are increasing tuition while
also cutting programs. Even state government buildings are being sold off.
Under U.S. law, military sales to Israel cannot be used for offensive purposes, only for “legitimate
self-defense.” Nonetheless, there have been numerous violations of the Arms Export Control Act
by Israel. Even the indifferent State Department has found, from time to time, that munitions such
as cluster bombs were “likely violations.”
Violations would lead to a cut-off in aid but with the completely pro-Israel climate in Washington,
the White House has never allowed such findings to be definitive.
The same indifference applies to violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits aid to
countries engaging in consistent international human rights violations. These include the
occupation, colonization, blockades and military assaults on civilians in the Palestinian West Bank
and Gaza, regularly documented by the highly regarded Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as well
as by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu visits President Barack Obama after the recent Israeli
announcement of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem made while Vice President Joe Biden
was visiting that country.
The affront infuriated New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, who wrote that Mr. Biden should
have packed his bags and flown away leaving behind a scribbled note saying “You think you can
embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no
consequences? You have lost total contact with reality.”
Friedman, a former Times Middle East correspondent, concluded his rebuke by writing: “Palestinian
leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and serious about working toward a
solution as any Israel can hope to find.”
But until a few days ago, the U.S. government had no levers over the Israeli government. Cutting
off aid isn’t even whispered in the halls of Congress. Raising the issue would further galvanize
Israel’s allies, including AIPAC.
The only lever left for the U.S. suddenly erupted into the public media a few days ago. General
David Petraeus told the Senate that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has foreign policy and
national security ramifications for the United States.
He said that “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism
for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S.
partnerships with governments and peoples in the Area of Responsibility…Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda
and other military groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
A few days earlier, Vice President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel that “what you’
re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and
What Obama’s people are publically starting to say is that regional peace is about U.S. vital
interests in that large part of the Middle East and, ultimately, the safety of American soldiers and
As one retired diplomat commented “This could be a game-changer.”
Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.
March 28, 2010
SENATOR DODD, PUT BACK THAT WALL!
The Most Vital Ingredient in Wall Street Reform Goes Missing
By Pam Martens
Last Fall, it was all about the wall: financial bigwigs like former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker,
former Citigroup co-CEO John Reed, Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, all espoused
reestablishing the legal barrier between the derivatives casino that masquerades today as Wall
Street and commercial banks holding insured deposits.
It made good sense: the wall goes up in 1933, America becomes the premier financial center for 66
years. The wall comes down in 1999, the financial system collapses exactly 9 years later with the
precise characteristics of the massive Wall Street swindles that occurred in the late 1920s when
there was also no wall.
But the wall has now gone missing in the current financial reform bill advanced out of the Senate
Banking Committee by its Chairman, Senator Christopher Dodd. Equally noteworthy, the historic
1933 legislation that built the essential wall between flim-flam securities salesmen and Aunt Tilly’s
insured bank account, commonly known as the Glass-Steagall Act, has gone missing itself from the
internet. To underscore how extraordinary this is, if you put “Glass-Steagall Act” in the Google
search box, it brings up 220,000 hits. And, yet, it is next to impossible to find the actual text of the
legislation on the internet.
The Glass-Steagall Act (officially known as the Banking Act of 1933, Public Law 66-73, or H.R. 5661) is
one of the most important pieces of financial legislation ever passed in this country. In addition to
walling off the predators of Wall Street, it is less commonly known that Glass-Steagall created the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to
implement the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, and dramatically revised the Federal
Reserve Act to prevent Wall Street perversions rooted out in the investigations conducted by the
Senate Committee on Banking and Currency from 1932 to 1934. Given its landmark status and
current attention, one would expect it to be available in a flick of a keystroke on any search engine.
The for-profit on-line law repositories offer only what’s left of the Act in the U.S. Code after its
bones were picked clean by the Gramm- Leach- Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Services
Modernization Act of 1999). Case law offers a few sentences dealing with the separation of
securities firms and national banks. Wikipedia has no link to the text of the legislation, clearly
because its editors couldn’t find one. The FDIC, created under the Act, says on its web site you can
drop in to its Library in Washington, D.C. if you’d like to look at the legislation. Cornell Law’s
massive on-line library has this to say when you click on the Law:
Unfortunately, public sources of the Statutes at Large leave a lot out. The Library of Congress has
mounted volumes 1-18 (to 1874) as part of its American Memory collection. The Government
Printing Office took responsibility for the Statutes in 1875, but has only made electronic versions
available from 1995 onward (volumes 109 and up).
The National Archives offers a digital copy of the first and last page of the document. (I sensed a
tad of condescension in the suggestion that Americans can be placated with a title page and a
signature page while the guts of our legislation are reserved for the lobbyists.) I sent an email to
the National Archives asking for the full legislation. The following response arrived a few days
later from an archivist , Jane Fitzgerald:
“We have just received your email inquiry regarding digital images of
the rest of the Banking Act of 1933. Unfortunately, the Banking Act of 1933 (Public Law 73-66 of
June 16, 1933) consists of a total of 45 pages in length and we currently only have existing images
of the first and signature pages.
“Black and white scans of the remaining pages may be ordered for $35.00 a page…”
To get a copy of public legislation from a publicly funded institution would cost $35.00 x 43 pages or
$1505.00. Welcome to the new reality of wealth, privilege and access in America. I responded with
another email requesting that the full document be made immediately available to the public at no
charge, noting that:
“The text of the Banking Act of 1933…will help shine the light forward for our current Congress.
That's what historical documents are for: to guide us toward a future devoid of the horrific mistakes
of the past. Locking away this document and charging $35 a page insults the mandate of the
National Archives. In fact, it is abhorrent to a participatory democracy.”
Thus far, I have not heard back from the National Archives. After four days of web searching,
phone calls, and emails with no results, I had an epiphany. I remembered where I had once
accessed rare documents from the 1930s. I located the full legislation on line with no charge
involved for printing the document or downloading it. I copied it from the site and will be happy to
email the Act to anyone who sends me an email with the subject line, “Save Glass-Steagall From
Extinction.” (I hesitate to give out the web location for fear the repository that has given the
legislation a home will suffer a buyout by Wall Street shortly upon the news leaking out. I say this
only half jokingly.)
What’s in this legislation that’s worthy of vanquishing it from the annals of history? Each section
reveals how Congress had to police with new laws a Wall Street functioning as organized crime on
steroids. And it leads a direct path of inquiry to the 12,000 pages holed up in the National Archives
where the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency took two years of testimony under oath from
1932 to 1934 from the captains of illicit finance, received 1375 completed questionnaires from stock
exchange members, subpoenaed cancelled checks from members of the financial press who had
been bribed by Wall Street players, and obtained “preferred lists” where public office holders were
routinely bribed with hot stock offerings.
In other words, it highlights the type of in-depth investigation our current Congress has not done
as it stumbles around in the dark writing reform legislation with no evidentiary support for what it
needs to reform.
Wall Street honchos who want the Federal Reserve to remain as their coddling regulator
particularly fear public attention to Section 20 of the Glass-Steagall Act. This is a verbatim quote
from that hard-to-locate original legislation:
“After one year from the date of the enactment of this Act, no member bank shall be affiliated in any
manner described in section 2(b) hereof with any corporation, association, business trust, or other
similar organization engaged principally in the issue, flotation, underwriting, public sale, or
distribution at wholesale or retail or through syndicate participation of stocks, bonds, debentures,
notes, or other securities.” [Italic emphasis added.]
This pesky passage might now renew questions as to whether the Federal Reserve Board broke
the law in 1998 when it approved the merger of a massive securities firm (Travelers/Salomon Smith
Barney) with a member bank holding insured deposits (Citibank). That institution is now a welfare
ward of the taxpayer. Salomon was an investment bank engaged in underwriting all the kinds of
securities forbidden by Glass-Steagall to become affiliated with a member bank; Smith Barney was a
brokerage firm engaged in the public sale of the securities not allowed under Glass-Steagall to be
affiliated with a member bank. The Fed blew off these serious matters with the following statement
in its letter approving the merger:
“…Travelers controls several domestic subsidiaries that cannot be affiliated with a Bank under
Section 20 of the Glass-Steagall Act (12 U.S.C. 377). These companies engage in securities
underwriting and dealing activities, distributing shares of open-end mutual funds, and controlling
open-end mutual funds. Travelers has committed to conform the activities of these companies to
the requirements of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Board’s orders and interpretations there under,
including the limitations on the amount of revenue derived from securities underwriting and
dealing activities, on consummation of the proposed transaction in accordance with the
requirements of this order.”
The Federal Reserve approved the merger on September 23, 1998. Glass-Steagall was not
repealed until November 12, 1999. In between, Smith Barney’s army of stockbrokers did not stop
selling securities to the public and the firm’s proprietary mutual funds continued to be distributed
to the public.
If the Federal Reserve brazenly and knowingly ignored the law in acquiescence to a serial
misfeasor, why should Americans trust it to have any role whatsoever in bank regulation and,
especially not appropriate, a Consumer Financial Protection Agency housed under the Fed as
envisioned by Senator Dodd’s proposed legislation.
Last November, Senator Dodd called the Fed an “abysmal failure” in terms of its regulation of banks
and consumer protection. His draft bill at that time correctly stripped the Fed of banking and
consumer oversight. Today, Senator Dodd’s bill elevates the “abysmal failure” Fed to trusted
guardian of the largest and most dangerous banks in the country alongside oversight of a
consumer protection agency. Senator Dodd had his facts impeccably correct in November. Who or
what changed Senator Dodd’s mind in the ensuing four months?
Once the Travelers/Citicorp merger created Citigroup, other Wall Street firms had to buy insured
depositor banks in order to compete against the massive pools of money housed under the Citi
umbrella as it was allowed to gobble up bank after bank. The Fed set this doomsday machine in
motion and the taxpayers are now footing the crushing bill to shore up zombie securities firms on
top of staggering investment losses, job losses, foreclosures and growing homelessness.
Consumers were promised one-stop shopping at these behemoths; they ended up in the role of
busboys at the predator’s ball.
In 1998 when the barbarians were charging the wall, 425 individuals testified in person or in writing
to the Federal Reserve on the application by Travelers and Citicorp to merge to create Citigroup. A
small number correctly predicted this financial calamity would result. That same small number wasn’
t getting cash from Citicorp or Travelers. The majority of politicians and nonprofits who testified in
favor of the proposal were recipients of largesse from one or the other of the corporations.
Why was the Federal Reserve Board conducting hearings on a proposal that was patently illegal
under existing law? To mute public outrage over the brazenness of that detail alone, the press
was fed the following story line: don’t focus on the bold violations of law under the Glass-Steagall
Act, focus instead on the Bank Holding Company Act which allows a two-year window for Travelers
to divest its insurance subsidiaries; an eventuality that Citigroup correctly bet would be moot if it
could get its Washington insiders like Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to muscle through repeal of
Glass-Steagall before the two-year deadline arrived.)
The Federal Reserve may have also felt empowered by the stunning editorial in the New York
Times on April 8, 1998, putting white hats on the pirates and dubbing financial concentration and
repeal of investor protection law a good thing that “could actually protect naïve investors.” The
New York Times had not only sipped the Citigroup Kool Aid and found it pleasing, it was adding new
flavors of its own to the packaging:
“Congress dithers, so John Reed of Citicorp and Sanford Weill of Travelers Group grandly propose
to modernize financial markets on their own. They have announced a $70 billion merger -- the
biggest in history -- that would create the largest financial services company in the world, worth
more than $140 billion… In one stroke, Mr. Reed and Mr. Weill will have temporarily demolished the
increasingly unnecessary walls built during the Depression to separate commercial banks from
investment banks and insurance companies.”
“Increasingly unnecessary walls?” Citibank had a history of money laundering for dictators.
Salomon Smith Barney was the successor firm responsible for rigging the two-year Treasury note
auction and “yield burning,” another illegal maneuver involving Treasury securities and municipal
bonds. Those walls were all that stood between one criminal culture with insured deposits
merging with more creative criminals. Fused together, they took their widow and orphans’
passbooks and conjured up rigged research, subprime mortgage securitizations, credit default
swaps, auction rate securities, Dr. Evil trades, and Enron off-balance-sheet debt bombs.
The New York Times continues:
“Some consumer advocates oppose the merger because, they fear, financial behemoths inevitably
threaten ordinary consumers. But one-stop financial shopping could actually protect naive
investors. Under current laws such investors can be pulled in contradictory directions by bankers
offering retirement accounts, insurance agents offering annuities and securities dealers offering
mutual funds. An institution that sells all these products can steer customers toward the product
that best serves their needs…A collapse in the company's securities and insurance operations
could drag down its commercial bank. But that will happen only if Federal regulators fall sound
Did the Federal Reserve fall sound asleep? Or was it compromised to begin with? As for steering
customers toward the product that best serves their needs, for the last eight decades Wall Street
has incentivized through its broker commission structure its goal of selling what it needs to dump
on the public irrespective of what best serves the public’s needs. The only hope of changing that
reality is a regulator with teeth and a mighty wall that separates speculation and risk taking from
savings earmarked for safety.
The similarity of the dynamics of the 1929 crash and the 2008 crash is reflected in this passage from
the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency in 1934, Report No. 1455:
“The Banking Act of 1933, enacted on June 16, 1933, was promulgated to effect a complete
severance of the commercial and investment banking functions and to eradicate many of the
abuses disclosed at the hearings before the Senate subcommittee…The hearings disclosed, on the
part of many bankers, a woeful lack of regard for the public interest and a proper conception of
fiduciary responsibility. Personages upon whom the public relied for the guardianship of funds did
not regard their position as impregnated with trust, but rather as a means for personal gain. These
custodians of funds gambled and speculated for their own account in the stock of the banking
institutions which they dominated; participated in speculative transactions in the capital stock of
their banking institutions that directly conflicted with the interest of these institutions which they
were paid to serve; participated in and were the beneficiaries of pool operations;… availed
themselves, as directors of private corporations, of inside information to aid them in transactions
in the securities of these corporations; caused to be paid by the banking institutions to themselves
excessive compensation; had voted to themselves participations in management funds and
substantial pensions; and resorted to devious means to avoid the payment of their just
Government taxes…Far from having a detrimental, subservice effect upon the banking institutions
of the country, the investigation performed the wholesome function of exposing the ills and evils
of banking conditions and the perpetrators of these wrongs, with a view to the elimination of both
the undesirable practices and personalities.”
Senator Dodd, members of Congress, you know what you have to do. Put back the wall, then on to
real Senate investigations under oath.
Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no security position, long or short, in any
company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Uri Avnery
THIS COMING Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Israel will consider an application by a group of
Israeli citizens to compel the Interior Ministry to register them as belonging to the “Israeli nation”.
The Israeli Interior Ministry recognizes 126 nations, but not the Israeli nation. An Israeli citizen can
be registered as belonging to the Assyrian, the Tatar or the Circassian nation. But the Israeli
nation? Sorry, no such thing.
According to the official doctrine, the State of Israel cannot recognize an “Israeli” nation because it
is the state of the “Jewish” nation. In other words, it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest
and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American,
Hungarian or Argentine nations.
THIS MESS started 113 years ago, when the Viennese Journalist Theodor Herzl wrote his book “The
State of the Jews”. (That’s the true translation. The generally used name “The Jewish State” is false
and means something else.) For this purpose he had to perform an acrobatic exercise. One can say
that he used a white lie.
Modern Zionism was born as a direct response to modern anti-Semitism. Not by accident, the term
“Zionismus” came into being some 20 years after the term “Antisemitismus” was invented in
Germany. They are twins.
In Europe and the Americas another modern term was flourishing: Nationalism. Peoples which had
been living together for centuries under dynasties of Emperors and Kings wanted to belong to
nation-states of their own. In Argentina, the USA, France and other countries, “national”
revolutions took place. The idea infected almost all peoples, big, small and tiny, from Peru to
Lithuania, from Colombia to Serbia. They felt a need to belong to the place and the people where
they lived and died.
All these national movements were necessarily anti-Semitic, some more, some less, because the
very existence of the Jewish Diaspora ran counter to their basic perceptions. A Diaspora without a
homeland, dispersed over dozens of countries, could not be reconciled with the idea of a
homeland-rooted nation seeking uniformity.
Herzl understood that the new reality was inherently dangerous for the Jews. In the beginning he
cherished the idea of complete assimilation: all the Jews would be baptized and disappear in the
new nations. As a professional writer for the theater, he even devised the scenario: all Viennese
Jews would march together to St. Stephen’s cathedral and be baptized en masse.
When he realized that this scenario was a bit far-fetched, Herzl passed from the idea of individual
assimilation to what may be called collective assimilation: if there is no place for the Jews in the
new nations, then they should define themselves as a nation like all the others, rooted in a
homeland of their own and living in a state of their own. This idea was called Zionism.
BUT THERE was a problem: a Jewish nation did not exist. The Jews were not a nation but a religious-
A nation exists on one level of human society, a religious-ethnic community on another. A “nation”
is an entity living together in one country with a common political will. A “community” is a religious
entity based on a common faith, which can live in different countries. A German, for example, can
be Catholic or Protestant; a Catholic can be German or French.
These two types of entity have two different means of survival, much as different species in nature.
When a lion is in danger, it fights, it attacks. For that purpose, nature has equipped it with teeth and
claws. When a gazelle is in danger, it runs. Nature has given it quick legs. Every method is good, if
it is effective. (If it were not effective, the species would not have survived to this day.)
When a nation is in danger, it stands and fights. When a religious community is in danger, it moves
elsewhere. The Jews, more than any others, have perfected the art of escape. Even after the
horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Diaspora has survived and now, two generations later, it is
IN ORDER to invent a Jewish nation, Herzl had to ignore this difference. He pretended that the
Jewish ethnic-religious community was also a Jewish nation. In other words: contrary to all other
peoples, the Jews were both a nation and a religious community; as far as Jews were concerned,
the two were the same. The nation was a religion, the religion was a nation.
This was the “white lie”. There was no other way: without it, Zionism could not have come into
being. The new movement took the Star of David from the synagogue, the candlestick from the
Temple, the blue-and-white flag from the prayer shawl. The holy land became a homeland. Zionism
filled the religious symbols with secular, national content.
The first to detect the falsification were the Orthodox Rabbis. Almost all of them damned Herzl and
his Zionism in no uncertain terms. The most extreme was the Rabbi of Lubavitch, who accused
Herzl of destroying Judaism. The Jews, he wrote, are united by their adherence to God’s
commandments. Doctor Herzl wants to supplant this God-given bond with secular nationalism.
When Herzl originated the Zionist idea, he did not intend to found the “State of the Jews” in
Palestine, but in Argentina. Even when writing his book, he devoted to the country only a few lines,
under the headline “Palestine or Argentina?” However, the movement he created compelled him to
divert his endeavors to the Land of Israel, and so the state came into being here.
When the State of Israel was founded and the Zionist dream realized, there was no further need for
the “white lie”. After the building was finished, the scaffolding should have been removed. A real
Israeli nation had come into being, there was no further need for an imaginary one.
THESE DAYS Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, is running a TV ad showing selected past
issues. The day the State of Israel was founded, the giant headline announced: “Hebrew State!”
“Hebrew”, not “Jewish”. And not by accident: at that time, the term “Jewish state” sounded
decidedly strange. In the preceding years, people in this country had got used to making a clear
distinction between “Jewish” and “Hebrew”, between matters that belonged to the Diaspora and
those belonging to this country: Jewish Diaspora, Jewish language (Yiddish), Jewish Stetl, Jewish
religion, Jewish tradition - but Hebrew language, Hebrew agriculture, Hebrew industries, Hebrew
underground organizations, Hebrew policemen.
If so, why do the words “Jewish state” appear in our Declaration of Independence? There was a
simple reason for that: the UN had adopted a resolution to partition the country between an “Arab
state” and a “Jewish state”. That was the legal basis of the new state. The declaration, which was
drafted in haste, said therefore that we were establishing “the Jewish state (according to the UN
resolution), namely the State of Israel”.
The building was finished, but the scaffolding was not taken down. On the contrary: it became the
most important part of the building and dominates its facade.
LIKE MOST of us at the time, David Ben-Gurion believed that Zionism had supplanted religion and
that religion had become redundant. He was quite sure that it would shrivel and disappear by itself
in the new secular state. He decided that we could afford to dispense with the military service of
Yeshiva bochers (Talmud school students), believing that their number would dwindle from a few
hundred to almost none. The same thought caused him to allow religious schools to continue in
existence. Like Herzl, who promised to “keep our Rabbis in the synagogues and our army officers
in the barracks”, Ben-Gurion was certain that the state would be entirely secular.
When Herzl wrote of the “state of the Jews” he did not dream that the Jewish Diaspora would
continue to exist. In his view, only the citizens of the new state would henceforth be called “Jews”,
all other Jews in the world would assimilate in their various nations and disappear from view.
BUT THE “white lie” of Herzl had results he did not dream of, as did the compromises of Ben-
Gurion. Religion did not wither away in Israel, but on the contrary: it is gaining control of the state.
The government of Israel does not speak of the nation-state of the Israelis who live here, but of the
“nation-state of the Jews” – a state that belongs to the Jews all over the world, most of whom
belong to other nations.
The religious schools are eating up the general education system and are going to overpower it, if
we don’t become aware of the danger and assert our Israeli essence. Voting rights are about to be
accorded to Israelis residing abroad, and this is a step towards giving the vote to all Jews around
the world. And, most important: the ugly weeds growing in the national-religious field – the fanatical
settlers - are pushing the state in a direction that may lead to its destruction.
TO SAFEGUARD the future of Israel one has to start by removing the scaffolding from the building.
In other words: burying the “white lie” of religion-equals-nation. The Israeli nation has to be
recognized as the basis of the state.
If this principle is accepted, what will the future shape of Israel – within the Green Line - be like?
There are two possible models, and many variations between them.
Model A: the multi-national one. Almost all the citizens of Israel belong to one of two nations: the
majority belongs to the Hebrew nation and a minority to the Palestinian-Arab nation. Each nation will
enjoy autonomy in certain areas, such as culture, education and religion. Autonomy will not be
territorial, but cultural (as Vladimie Ze’ev Jabotinsky proposed a hundred years ago for Czarist
Russia). All will be united by Israeli citizenship and loyalty to the state. The inbuilt discrimination of
the Arab minority will become a thing of the past, as well as the “demographic demon”.
Model B: the American one. The American nation is composed of all US citizens, and all US citizens
constitute the American nation. An immigrant from Jamaica who acquires US citizenship
automatically becomes a member of the American nation, an heir to George Washington and Abe
Lincoln. All learn at school the same core program and the same history.
Which of the two models is preferable? In my view, Model B is much better. But it would depend on
a dialogue between the Hebrew majority and the Arab minority. In the end, the Arab citizens will
have to decide whether they prefer the status of equal partners in a general Israeli nation, or the
status of a recognized, autonomous national minority in a state that acknowledges and cherishes
their separate culture, side by side with the culture of the majority.
In four days, the Supreme Court will decide whether it is prepared to take the first step in this
March 17, 2010
THE COUNTRY IS GETTING MUGGED
Ask the Chamber of Commerce: Why is Too Much Not Enough?
By BILL MOYERS and MICHAEL WINSHIP
Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in
exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does
corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be,
how many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life? After all, as billionaire movie
director Steven Spielberg is reported to have said, when all is said and done, "How much better
can lunch get?" But since greed is not self-governing, hardly anyone raking in the dough ever
stops to say, "That's it. Enough's enough! How do we prevent it from sweeping up everything in its
path, including us?"
Look at the health care industry saying to hell with consumers and then hiking premiums - by as
much as 39% in the case of Anthem Blue Cross in California. According to congressional
investigators, over a two-year period Anthem's parent company WellPoint spent more than $27
million dollars for executive retreats at luxury resorts. And in 2008, WellPoint paid 39 of its
executives more than a million dollars each. Profit before patients.
This week, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry's lobby,
announced they'd be spending more than a million dollars on new television ads justifying their
Speaking at their annual policy meeting in Washington - and without a trace of irony - AHIP's
president and CEO Karen Ignagni declared, "The current debate about rising premiums has
demonstrated that, in fact, we have a health care cost crisis in this country. Unfortunately, the path
that has been followed is one of vilification rather than problem solving."
Beg pardon? You're lamenting a health care cost crisis and raising your premiums? Isn't that like
the guy complaining there's an obesity epidemic in America while ordering a double Big Mac with
Of course, a million is a mere bagatelle in the shadow of the $544 million that was spent on lobbying
by the health sector last year, plus more than $200 million in advocacy ads. And a million's just the
curtain raiser to what will be spent in these final weeks of health care reform debate. Two weeks
ago, The Washington Post reported, "Washington interest groups have burst back into action in
hopes of bolstering or defeating a new Democratic push on health-care reform legislation, sparking
another wave of rallies, lobbying efforts and costly advertising campaigns."
This in spite of the projection that over ten years the Obama plan would plop an additional $336
billion into the insurance companies' pockets - in the form of subsidies given to those who can't
afford to buy health insurance on their own.
Okay, this is getting weird: We're going to help the poor by enriching their exploiters?
But apparently even that won't satisfy big business' voracious appetite for more. On Tuesday,
Employers for a Healthy Economy, a coalition of 248 business groups, led by the U.S Chamber of
Commerce, and including construction and manufacturing interests, as well as health insurance
companies, said that over ten days they will spend up to $10 million on ads aimed at putting the
screws on members of Congress to vote against health care reform.
Goodness knows, it isn't just because their profit margins may dwindle. No, according to Neil
Trautwein, vice president of the National Retail Federation, one of the trade associations involved,
"These bills are job killers. Retail simply cannot afford any higher benefit costs or burdensome
mandates." (Never mind that extrapolating from baseline forecasts made by the U.S. Department of
Labor's Employment Projections Program, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank,
projects that health care reform possibly could create an average of as many as 400,000 new jobs a
But beyond the health care fight, and perhaps far more significant in the long run, this effort is just
one more example of life, Pandora-style. The Company has arrived, only it's called the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, and it's got its sights on anything that moves, damn the natives, full speed ahead.
During 2008, 86% of contributions from the chamber's political action committee went to GOP
candidates. The conservatives have found their Avatar, AKA Frankenstein.
Of course there is not actually a Chamber of Commerce, at least the way we might imagine it. This is
no confederation of congenial, small town business groups that pass out maps of Main Street and
souvenir key rings. The chamber in question is a front group. Yes, yes, it reports a membership of
three million businesses, but tax records indicate that in 2008 a third of its contributions came from
19 companies paying between $1 million and $15.3 million. Don't hold your breath: the chamber is
not required to reveal who those 19 are.
The March 8 edition of the Los Angeles Times reports that "internal documents suggest the
organization's treasury is filled in substantial part by contributions from a couple dozen major
corporations most affected by Washington policymakers."
Got it? Predators who prey together stick together.
With all that cash, the Times notes, "The chamber spent more than $144 million on lobbying and
grass-roots organizing last year, a 60% increase over 2008, and well beyond the spending of
individual labor unions or the Democratic or Republican national committees. The chamber is
expected to substantially exceed that spending level in 2010."
This elite organization of oligarchs has been emboldened by the Supreme Court decision in the
Citizens United case, which now allows corporations to spend freely on political campaigns right up
until Election Day, and by the chamber's recent success contributing a million dollars for ads
supporting Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
What's more, writes the Los Angeles Times, "Using trade associations such as the chamber as the
vehicle for spending corporate money on politics has an extra appeal: These groups can take large
contributions from companies and wealthy individuals in ways that will probably avoid public
So with the spring comes anonymous greed run rampant. "In the past a lot of companies and
wealthy individuals stood on the sidelines" of politics, a corporate lawyer at Washington's
influential law firm Covington & Burling told the Times.
"That cloud has been lifted," he said.
As the sun sets on democracy.
No wonder demonstrators outside that health insurance meeting in Washington this week
surrounded the hotel with yellow crime scene tape.
The entire country is being mugged.
THE NEW JIM CROW
How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste
By Michelle Alexander
Friday, March 12, 2010
Michelle Alexander's ZSpace Page
Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the
United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been
celebrating our nation's "triumph over race." Obama's election has been touted as the final nail in
the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.
Obama's mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that "the land of the free" has finally
made good on its promise of equality. There's an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his
appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for
you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust
us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.
Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand.
Racial caste is alive and well in America.
Most people don't like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the "era of colorblindness"
there's a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have "moved beyond" race.
Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:
*There are more African Americans under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation
or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
*As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement
laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly
deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during
slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass
imprisonment of black fathers.
*If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas
have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are
part of a growing undercaste -- not class, caste -- permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class
status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally
discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as
their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.
Excuses for the Lockdown
There is, of course, a colorblind explanation for all this: crime rates. Our prison population has
exploded from about 300,000 to more than 2 million in a few short decades, it is said, because of
rampant crime. We're told that the reason so many black and brown men find themselves behind
bars and ushered into a permanent, second-class status is because they happen to be the bad
The uncomfortable truth, however, is that crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass
incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the
last few decades -- they are currently at historical lows -- but imprisonment rates have consistently
soared. Quintupled, in fact. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs.
Drug offenses alone account for about two-thirds of the increase in the federal inmate population,
and more than half of the increase in the state prison population.
The drug war has been brutal -- complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers,
and sweeps of entire neighborhoods -- but those who live in white communities have little clue to
the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of
color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at
remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely
to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth. Any notion that drug use among African
Americans is more severe or dangerous is belied by the data. White youth, for example, have
about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African
That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation's prisons and jails, overflowing
as they are with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, African Americans comprise 80%
-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison.
This is the point at which I am typically interrupted and reminded that black men have higher rates
of violent crime. That's why the drug war is waged in poor communities of color and not middle-
class suburbs. Drug warriors are trying to get rid of those drug kingpins and violent offenders who
make ghetto communities a living hell. It has nothing to do with race; it's all about violent crime.
Again, not so. President Ronald Reagan officially declared the current drug war in 1982, when drug
crime was declining, not rising. From the outset, the war had little to do with drug crime and nearly
everything to do with racial politics. The drug war was part of a grand and highly successful
Republican Party strategy of using racially coded political appeals on issues of crime and welfare to
attract poor and working class white voters who were resentful of, and threatened by,
desegregation, busing, and affirmative action. In the words of H.R. Haldeman, President Richard
Nixon's White House Chief of Staff: "[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a
system that recognizes this while not appearing to."
A few years after the drug war was announced, crack cocaine hit the streets of inner-city
communities. The Reagan administration seized on this development with glee, hiring staff who
were to be responsible for publicizing inner-city crack babies, crack mothers, crack whores, and
drug-related violence. The goal was to make inner-city crack abuse and violence a media
sensation, bolstering public support for the drug war which, it was hoped, would lead Congress to
devote millions of dollars in additional funding to it.
The plan worked like a charm. For more than a decade, black drug dealers and users would be
regulars in newspaper stories and would saturate the evening TV news. Congress and state
legislatures nationwide would devote billions of dollars to the drug war and pass harsh mandatory
minimum sentences for drug crimes -- sentences longer than murderers receive in many countries.
Democrats began competing with Republicans to prove that they could be even tougher on the
dark-skinned pariahs. In President Bill Clinton's boastful words, "I can be nicked a lot, but no one
can say I'm soft on crime." The facts bear him out. Clinton's "tough on crime" policies resulted in
the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. But
Clinton was not satisfied with exploding prison populations. He and the "New Democrats"
championed legislation banning drug felons from public housing (no matter how minor the offense)
and denying them basic public benefits, including food stamps, for life. Discrimination in virtually
every aspect of political, economic, and social life is now perfectly legal, if you've been labeled a
But what about all those violent criminals and drug kingpins? Isn't the drug war waged in ghetto
communities because that's where the violent offenders can be found? The answer is yes... in
made-for-TV movies. In real life, the answer is no.
The drug war has never been focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. Federal
funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the
agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses. What gets rewarded in this war is sheer
numbers of drug arrests. To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local
law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from
drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the
The results have been predictable: people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, non-
violent drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of
five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling
activity. In fact, during the 1990s -- the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war --
nearly 80% of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug generally
considered less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class white
communities as in the inner city.
In this way, a new racial undercaste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time -- a
new Jim Crow system. Millions of people of color are now saddled with criminal records and legally
denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for and, in some cases, died for.
Affirmative action, though, has put a happy face on this racial reality. Seeing black people graduate
from Harvard and Yale and become CEOs or corporate lawyers -- not to mention president of the
United States -- causes us all to marvel at what a long way we've come.
Recent data shows, though, that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African
Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and
uprisings swept inner cities across America. Nearly a quarter of African Americans live below the
poverty line today, approximately the same percentage as in 1968. The black child poverty rate is
actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third
World countries. And that's with affirmative action!
When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our "colorblind" society creates without
affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure -- the structure of
racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.
This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of
caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.
Michelle Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of
Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). The former director of the Racial Justice Project of the
ACLU in Northern California, she also served as a law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S.
Supreme Court. Currently, she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of
Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. To listen to a TomCast
audio interview in which Alexander explains how she came to realize that this country was bringing
Jim Crow into the Age of Obama, click here.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a
steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in
publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project, author of The End of Victory Culture, and
editor of The World According to Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire.]
March 10, 2010
LOGIC, RATIONALITY AND BELIEF
Arshad M. Khan
A man searching for a lawyer to represent him had a simple question: What is two plus two? The
first lawyer looked him straight in the eye and answered four. The second examined him
searchingly, then answered three. The third narrowed his eyes in a penetrating gaze and replied
five. The fourth simply smiled and asked, what do you want it to be?
Careful logic and too much rationality gets in the way of lawyering - the defending attorney might
begin to accept the prosecution argument and vice versa. No, it is the lawyer's job to make black
appear gray, then lighter and lighter through subtle tweaking of logic until all of a sudden it is
white. The blackest blackguard is transformed into a cherub; the perpetrator becomes victim.
This President came into office with an earnest belief in the Americanness of all Americans. He
maintained that political, ethnic and religious divisions were superficial and media inspired, that, at
heart, we shared the core values of hard work, decency, tolerance, practicality, the get-with-it-and-
get-it-done uniqueness of our country, all being largely responsible for our success as a nation;
that when it came to a crunch we would pick, rationally, and with reason, the best course for our
country as a whole.
Unfortunately, the Congress is choc-a-bloc full of lawyers, not accountants or engineers, for
example, where logic is essential, but lawyers who have coalesced into islands sustained by
beliefs, and no evidence, logic or rational discourse can draw them away from them. The situation
is repeated in the general populace. News channels catering exclusively to extremes allow people
to listen only to views repeating their own, within their comfort zone, reinforcing their indubitable
correctness without regard to fact, discussion or even a peek at the opposing side.
Thus, for some, government is bad, as is regulation. Forget the fact that when we had deregulation
of the Savings & Loans, we had the S & L crisis and bankruptcies costing the taxpayer $387 billion.
We went on to strip banking regulations and now have the banking crisis costing trillions and the
bills are still coming. The banks made so much money after they realized the key to the pot of gold
lay in the halls of Congress that they have a lobbying operation with a budget larger than many
third world countries. No matter the misery in the country, many people still believe all regulation
Or, take health care. Any form of government-run program is bad. Forget the fact that senior
citizens are on Medicare including many vociferously opposed to government-run programs. The
fact that Medicare is one of the government's largest efforts is compartmentalized in another part
of the brain. Why not Medicare for all? If you disagree and if you are over 65, why have you not
surrendered your Medicare card?
Or since the early eighties, Muslims are bad. First, all Palestinians were terrorists; Palestinians
were Muslim; ergo Muslims were bad. Forget the fact that nearly a quarter of Palestinians are
Christian including the late Yasser Arafat's wife, as well as Hanan Ashrawi one of their leading
activists. Forget the fact that the most recalcitrant of the PLO's member groups was the Christian-
led PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and it refused to join the PLO in its peace
process with Israel. Forget the fact that Muslims ruled a multicultural Spain with the three
Abrahamic religions existing peacefully side by side, or that when Christians conquered the land,
the Jews and Muslims were driven out with the Jews receiving sanctuary in Muslim-ruled lands.
Or, ..., take your pick. Forget history, forget logic, forget facts, the comfort zone has the warmth of
the finest 900 FP down from the finest eider ducks.
March 3, 2010
DUBIOUS IN DUBAI
FROM TIME to time I ask myself: what would happen if the world’s governments decided to abolish
all their spy agencies simultaneously?
True, it would be a great blow to the authors and movie producers who make their living from
secret service stories. Their products would lose their appeal.
It would be a disaster for the huge army of fans which gobbles up spy adventures, the enthusiastic
consumers of books and movies about superhuman heroes like James Bond and super-devious
geniuses like John La Carre’s Smiley.
But what would be the real damage if Washington stopped spying on Moscow and Moscow stopped
spying on Washington, and both on Beijing? The result would be a draw. Immense sums of money
would be saved, since a large part of the efforts of every spy agency is devoted to obstructing the
intrigues of the competition. How many diseases could be overcome? How many hungry people
fed, how many illiterates taught to read and write?
The popular books and movies celebrate the imaginary successes of the intelligence agencies.
Reality is much more prosaic, and it is replete with real failures.
THE TWO classic intelligence disasters occurred during World War II. In both, the intelligence
agencies either provided their political bosses with faulty assessments, or the leaders ignored
their accurate assessments. As far as the results are concerned, both amount to the same.
Comrade Stalin was totally surprised by the German invasion of the Soviet Union, even though the
Germans needed months to assemble their huge invasion force. President Roosevelt was totally
surprised by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though the bulk of the Japanese Navy took
part in it. The failures were so fantastic, that spy aficionados had to resort to conspiracy theories to
explain them. One such theory says that Stalin deliberately ignored the warnings because he
intended to surprise Hitler with an attack of his own. Another theory asserts that Roosevelt
practically “invited” the Japanese to attack because he was in need of a pretext to push the US into
an unpopular war.
But since then, failures continued to follow each other. All Western spy agencies were totally
surprised by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the results of which are still hitting the headlines
today. All of them were totally surprised by the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the defining
events of the 20th century. They were totally surprised by the fall of the Berlin wall. And all of them
provided wrong information about Saddam Hussein’s imaginary nuclear bomb, which served as a
pretext for the American invasion of Iraq.
AH, OUR people say, that’s what’s happening among the Goyim. Not here. Our intelligence
community is like no other. The Jewish brain has invented the Mossad, which knows everything
and is capable of everything. (Mossad – “institute” – is short for the “Institute for Intelligence and
Really? At the outbreak of the 1948 war, all the chiefs of our intelligence community unanimously
advised David Ben-Gurion that the armies of the Arab states would not intervene. (Fortunately, Ben-
Gurion rejected their assessment.) In May 1967, our entire intelligence community was totally
surprised by the concentration of the Egyptian army in Sinai, the step that led to the Six-Day war.
(Our intelligence chiefs were convinced that the bulk of the Egyptian army was busy in Yemen,
where a civil war was raging.) The Egyptian-Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, completely
surprised our intelligence services, even though heaps of advance warnings were available.
The intelligence agencies were totally surprised by the first intifada, and then again by the second.
They were totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution, even though (or because) they were
deeply imbedded in the Shah’s regime. They were totally surprised by the Hamas victory in the
The list is long and inglorious. But in one field, so they say, our Mossad performs like no other:
assassinations. (Sorry, “eliminations”.)
STEVEN SPIELBERG’S movie “Munich” describes the assassination (“elimination”) of PLO officials
after the massacre of the athletes at the Olympic Games. As a masterpiece of kitsch it can be
compared only to the movie “Exodus”, based on Leon Uris’ kitschy book.
After the massacre (the main responsibility for which falls on the incompetent and irresponsible
Bavarian police), the Mossad, on the orders of Golda Meir, killed seven PLO officials, much to the
joy of the revenge-thirsty Israeli public. Almost all the victims were PLO diplomats, the civilian
representatives of the organization in European capitals, who had no direct connection with
violent operations. Their activities were public, they worked in regular offices and lived with their
families in residential buildings. They were static targets – like the ducks in a shooting gallery.
In one of the actions – which resembled the latest affair – a Moroccan waiter was assassinated by
mistake in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. The Mossad mistook him for Ali Hassan Salameh, a
senior Fatah officer who served as contact with the CIA. The Mossad agents, including a glamorous
blonde (there is always a glamorous blonde) were identified, arrested and sentenced to long
prison terms (but released very soon). The real Salameh was “eliminated” later on.
In 1988, five years before the Oslo agreement, Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the No. 2 in Fatah, was
assassinated in Tunis before the eyes of his wife and children. Had he not been killed, he would
probably be serving today as the President of the Palestinian Authority instead of Abu Mazen
(Mahmoud Abbas). He would have enjoyed the same kind of standing among his people as did
Yasser Arafat - who was, most likely, killed by a poison that leaves no traces.
The fiasco that most resembles the latest action was the Mossad’s attempt on the life of Khalid
Mishal, a senior Hamas leader, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Mossad
agents ambushed him on a main street of Amman and sprayed a nerve toxin in his ear – that was
about to kill him without leaving traces. They were caught on the spot. King Hussein, the Israeli
government’s main ally in the Arab world, was livid and delivered a furious ultimatum: either Israel
would immediately provide the antidote to the poison and save Mishal’s life, or the Mossad agents
would be hanged. Netanyahu, as usual, caved in, Mishal was saved and the Israeli government, as
a bonus, released Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the main Hamas leader, from prison. He was “eliminated” by
a hellfire missile later on.
DURING THE last weeks, a deluge of words has been poured on the assassination in Dubai of
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, another senior Hamas officer.
Israelis agreed from the first moment that this was a job of the Mossad. What capabilities! What
talent! How did they know, long in advance, when the man would go to Dubai, what flight he would
take, in what hotel he would stay! What precise planning!
The “military correspondents” and “Arab affairs correspondents” on screen were radiant. Their
faces said: oh, oh, oh, if the material were not embargoed…If I could only tell you what I know…I can
tell you only that the Mossad has proved again that its long arm can reach anywhere! Live in fear,
oh enemies of Israel!
When the problems started to become apparent, and the photos of the assassins appeared on TV
all over the world, the enthusiasm cooled, but only slightly. An old and proven Israeli method was
brought into play: to take some marginal detail and discuss it passionately, ignoring the main issue.
Concentrate on one particular tree and divert attention from the forest.
Really, why did the agents use the names of actual people who live in Israel and have dual
nationality? Why, of all possible passports, did they use those of friendly countries? How could they
be sure that the owners of these passports would not travel abroad at the critical time?
Moreover, were they not aware that Dubai was full of cameras that record every movement? Did
they not foresee that the local police would produce films of the assassination in almost all its
But this did not arouse too much excitement in Israel. Everybody understood that the British and
the Irish were obliged, pro forma, to protest, but that this was nothing but going through the
motions. Behind the scenes, there are intimate connections between the Mossad and the other
intelligence agencies. After some weeks, everything will be forgotten. That’s how it worked in
Norway after Lillehammer, that’s how it worked in Jordan after the Mishal affair. They will protest,
rebuke, and that’s that. So what is the problem?
THE PROBLEM is that the Mossad in Israel acts like an independent fiefdom that ignores the vital
long-term political and strategic interests of Israel, enjoying the automatic backing of an
irresponsible prime minister. It is, as the English expression goes, a “loose cannon” – the cannon
of a ship of yore which has broken free of its mountings and is rolling around the deck, crushing to
death any unfortunate sailor who happens to get in its way.
From the strategic point of view, the Dubai operation causes heavy damage to the government’s
policy, which defines Iran’s putative nuclear bomb as an existential threat to Israel. The campaign
against Iran helps it to divert the world’s attention from the ongoing occupation and settlement,
and induces the US, Europe and other countries to dance to its tune.
Barack Obama is in the process of trying to set up a world-wide coalition for imposing “debilitating
sanctions” on Iran. The Israeli government serves him – willingly – as a growling dog. He tells the
Iranians: The Israelis are crazy. They may attack you at any moment. I am restraining them with great
difficulty. But if you don’t do what I tell you, I shall let go of the leash and may Allah have mercy on
Dubai, a Gulf country facing Iran, is an important component of this coalition. It is an ally of Israel,
much like Egypt and Jordan. And here comes the same Israeli government and embarrasses it,
humiliates it, arousing among the Arab masses the suspicion that Dubai is collaborating with the
In the past we have embarrassed Norway, then we infuriated Jordan, now we humiliate Dubai. Is
that wise? Ask Meir Dagan, who Netanyahu has just granted an almost unprecedented eighth year
in office as chief of the Mossad.
PERHAPS THE impact of the operation on our standing in the world is even more significant.
Once upon a time it was possible to belittle this aspect. Let the Goyim say what they want. But since
the Molten Lead operation, Israel has become more conscious of its far-reaching implications. The
verdict of Judge Goldstone, the echoes of the antics of Avigdor Lieberman, the growing world-
wide campaign for boycotting Israel – all these tend to suggest that Thomas Jefferson was not
talking through his hat when he said that no nation can afford to ignore the opinion of mankind.
The Dubai affair is reinforcing the image of Israel as a bully state, a rogue nation that treats world
public opinion with contempt, a country that conducts gang warfare, that sends mafia-like death
squads abroad, a pariah nation to be avoided by right-minded people.
Was this worthwhile?
February 28, 2010
WHITHER INDIA AND PAKISTAN?
Arshad M. Khan
The worst enemy Northern American gray wolves can encounter is a neighboring pack. Yes, they
are territorial, and yes, they are merciless to a neighbor straying on to their territory. This genetic
trait, deeply embedded, probably predating wolves and other fauna, continues in us. We learned
survival is eased in numbers. We formed groups, then tribes, then nations, coalesced by racial,
religious, national affinities, and fought when threatened territorially. We still do. Not much has
In the world outside Africa, humans are descended from a particular strain of Africans, resulting in
Africa itself having greater genetic diversity than the rest of us. We are the same, yet we manage
to differentiate. On the Indian subcontinent, religion exploited as a colonial wedge became a
murderous differentiator in 1947. Over sixty years later, we are unable to shed this unhappy
colonial legacy despite the horrific example of Sri Lanka and the expensive heartbreak of beautiful
All of this comes to mind as the India and Pakistan Foreign Secretaries have met. Bureaucrats both
and not cabinet members as might be assumed by those unfamiliar with the nomenclature, they
have limited policy leeway and simply repeated governmental mantra.
There is a certain smugness in the Indian media about India's economic progress. Yet if one
compares per capita income, Pakistan is not that different (per capital GNI of $1070 versus $980)
and it certainly does not suffer from an epidemic of farmer suicides. In fact if one travels to one or
the other, it is difficult to see any difference. And culturally, there is hardly any. One does notice a
generally better fed populace in Pakistan perhaps reflected in life expectancy (68 versus 62 for
men and 66 versus 65 for women).
India and particularly elements of the more jingoistic press need a strong dose of reality. Those
wanting to teach Pakistan a lesson seem oblivious to the estimated hundred nuclear weapons it
possesses. Moreover, the prevailing winds - from west to east - are not to India's advantage, and a
bomb exploding above ground on Pakistan's side of the Wagah border is likely to decimate
Amritsar. War between nuclear-armed states is unthinkable. There is, therefore, no alternative but
The attack on Bombay was horrific and a testament to the ignorance of the attackers, who focused
it on the hotel built in response to British discrimination against the local population. But terrorism
is a tactic, and asking Pakistan to fight terrorism is like asking a country to fight artillery barrages or
infantry charges. The underlying causes and the plight of Kashmiris must never be mentioned.
This ostrich approach to diplomacy is unlikely to be successful.
Both countries need a strong dose of self- examination -- and soon -- because impending issues
and foreseeable future existential threats stemming from scarce water resources portend the
unthinkable. Those who say Pakistan is a small country might pause to consider a hundred, or, by
that time, a possible two hundred nuclear weapons in the hands of an extremist government -- a
not unlikely election outcome in times of scarcity.
Given the on-again, off-again nature of relations between the two countries, there is a readily
available basket of confidence building measures. That aside, the real festering sore needing
treatment first and foremost is the religious intolerance and discrimination in both countries. It
exists both outside and within the main religious traditions and is at the core of major friction. As a
first step then, what is needed is a hate crimes law and legislation against religious, racial and
caste discrimination along the lines of existing laws in the USA. It would punish with extra severity
crimes rooted in bigotry; it would also punish hate speech and the unfettered demagoguery of a
certain type of politician capitalizing on fear and hatred. Such a law could be the basis of a first
treaty becoming effective in both countries when the treaty is signed. It would be in the interests
of both countries for it would clearly go a long way to redress the grievances of Muslims in Kashmir
and the rest of India as well as the under-represented ethnicities in Pakistan.
Second, the two countries need to address the long term or eventual bilateral status. One idea is
to examine the European Community template and aspire towards an economic union. India being
the more powerful partner must be sensitive to the fears and needs of a smaller Pakistan, not
unlike Germany in the European model. Kashmir might well have to become temporarily an
autonomous region within the community until trust and almost borderless travel - as in Europe -
make such issues an anachronism of the past.
Both India and Pakistan suffer from extreme rural poverty where 85% live on less than a half dollar
a day. The ability of urban middle and upper class eyes to look past this sea of misery might well be
a self-defense mechanism but corrective lenses are surely necessary. Why not require two years
of national volunteer service from graduating university students. They could be grouped in
teams, each to assess, develop and execute projects to improve living conditions in their assigned
village. Now here's the kicker: Each team should consist of participants from both countries in
proportion to their respective total pools available.
There are many confidence building measures and they should be employed but few better than for
the young to get to know each other and work together towards a worthwhile goal. As numerous
examples and studies have shown, micro development rooted at village level is the quickest
surefire way to improve rural quality of life. Add the young volunteers from both countries and
there might well be hope for the future.
Feb 24, 2010
SIBEL EDMONDS: THE TRAITORS AMONG US
SIBEL EDMONDS HAS NAMED NAMES. WHY ISN’T THE MEDIA REPORTING THE STORY?
by Brad Friedman
for HUSTLER MAGAZINE – March 2010
SIBEL EDMONDS, a former FBI translator, claims that the following government officials have
committed what amount to acts of treason. They are lawmakers Dennis Hastert, Bob Livingston, Dan
Burton, Roy Blunt, Stephen Solarz and Tom Lantos, as well as at least three members of George W.
Bush’s inner circle: Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Marc Grossman. But is Sibel Edmonds
“Absolutely, she’s credible,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told CBS’s 60 Minutes when he was
asked about her in 2002. “The reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI
have corroborated a lot of her story.” Edmonds’s remarkable allegations of bribery, blackmail,
infiltration of the U.S. government and the theft of nuclear secrets by foreign allies and enemies
alike rocked the Bush Administration. In fact, Bush and company actually prevented Edmonds from
telling the American people what she knew—up until now.
John M. Cole, an 18-year veteran of the FBI’s Counterintelligence and Counterespionage
departments, revealed the panic of upper-echelon officials when Edmonds originally started talking
back in 2002. “Well, the Bureau is gonna have to try to work something out with Sibel,” Cole said an
FBI executive assistant told him at the time, “because they don’t want this to go out and become
But they couldn’t “work something out with Sibel” because, it seems, she wasn’t looking to make a
deal. Edmonds says she was looking to expose what she believed to be the ugly truth about the
infiltration of the U.S. government by foreign spies. They were enabled, Edmonds claimed, by high-
ranking U.S. officials and insider moles planted at nuclear weapons facilities around the nation.
“Everybody at headquarters level at the Bureau knew what she was saying was extremely
accurate,” Cole said recently. “They were trying to figure out ways of keeping this whole thing quiet
because they didn’t want Sibel to come out.”
Her under-oath testimony for the Ohio Election Commission, given in a recent videotaped
deposition, is both shocking and horrifying. (Edmonds was the star witness for Congressional
candidate David Krikorian in connection with a formal complaint initiated by Representative Jean
Schmidt [R-Ohio]. Challenging her in 2008, a Krikorian flyer had accused Schmidt of accepting
“blood money” from Turkish interests to help block a House bill recognizing Turkey’s genocide of
Armenians in 1915.) The deposition was allowed to proceed by the Obama Administration, which
chose not to invoke the draconian and little-known “State Secrets Privilege” to gag her, as the
previous administration had done, twice.
Edmonds testified that Congressman Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), a former Speaker of the House,
was involved in “several categories” of corruption on behalf of Turkish agents, according to
information she claims to have heard while translating and analyzing FBI counterintelligence
wiretaps recorded from 1996 through 2002. She mentioned his “acceptance of large sums of
bribery in forms of cash or laundered cash” coupled with the ability “to do certain favors…make
certain things happen for… [the] Turkish government’s interest.”
Edmonds also alleged, on the public record, Hastert’s use of a “townhouse that was not his
residence for certain not very morally accepted activities” and said that “foreign entities knew
about this. In fact, they sometimes participated in some of those…activities in that particular
The allegations against Hastert include accepting some half-million dollars in bribes. While several
FBI sources have corroborated Edmonds’s account, the best Hastert’s attorneys could do was offer
a nondenial denial to the charges. But the proof, as they say, may be in the post-Congressional
pudding. As Edmonds had predicted years earlier, Hastert—who left Congress in 2007—now makes
$35,000 a month lobbying his old colleagues as a registered foreign agent for the Turkish
Former Congressman Bob Livingston (RLouisiana), who was set to become Speaker prior to Hastert
until evidence of a sexual affair was revealed by Larry Flynt, was described in Edmonds’s
deposition as having participated in “not very legal activities on behalf of foreign interests” before
leaving office in 1999. Afterward, she said, Livingston acted “as a conduit to…further foreign
interests, both overtly and covertly,” and also became both a lobbyist and “an operative”
representing Turkish interests.
According to Edmonds, Representative Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)—likely to run for a U.S. Senate seat
in 2010—was “the recipient of both legally and illegally raised…campaign donations from…Turkish
entities.” Edmonds also claimed that hard-right Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana), who was
instrumental in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, carried out “extremely illegal activities”
and covert operations that were “against the United States citizens” and “against the United
Edmonds named allegedly traitorous Democrats too. She said that former New York Congressman
Stephen Solarz, now also a lobbyist, “acted as conduit to deliver or launder contributions and other
bribe[s, including blackmail] to certain members of Congress.” And, according to Edmonds, the late
Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) was said to have been involved in “not only…bribe[ry], but
also…disclosing [the] highest level protected U.S. intelligence and weapons technology
information both to Israel and to Turkey [and] other very serious criminal conduct.”
The most overtly salacious of the allegations involved Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois),
who is “married with…grown children, but she is bisexual,” according to Edmonds. The FBI
whistleblower described how Schakowsky was “hooked” by Turkish agents into having a lesbian
“sexual relationship with one of their spies,” and “the entire episodes of their sexual conduct was
being filmed because the entire house…was bugged…to be used for certain things that they
wanted to request.”
Edmonds noted, however, that she didn’t “know if she [Schakowsky] did anything illegal
afterwards” since Edmonds was fired by the FBI before learning what came of that particular setup.
The Turks, she said, intended to get at Schakowsky’s husband, lobbyist Robert Creamer, who in
April 2006 began serving five months in prison (and 11 months of house arrest) for check-kiting
and failing to collect withholding tax.
Schakowsky’s office has vehemently denied the allegations. As head of the U.S. House Intelligence
Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, Schakowsky might be expected to hold
hearings on any of the former FBI employee’s revelations but she has not. She has also refused
Edmonds’s challenge to take a polygraph test and has not yet sued her for libel, as the
whistleblower has challenged her to do.
Edmonds’s most disturbing allegations, however, may be against high-ranking appointed officials in
the Bush Administration. Elaborating on testimony she laid out in her sworn deposition, Edmonds
told American Conservative magazine’s Phil Giraldi—a 17-year CIA counterterrorism officer—very
specific details of alleged traitorous schemes perpetrated by top State and Defense Department
officials. As already noted, these included Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and, perhaps most notably,
former Deputy Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, the third-highest-ranking official in the
Bush State Department.
Edmonds said that Feith and Wolfowitz were involved in plans to break Iraq into U.S. and British
protectorates months prior to 9/11. She also claimed that the duo shared information with
Grossman on how to blackmail various officials and that Grossman had accepted cash to help
procure and sell nuclear weapons technology to Israel and Turkey—and, from there, on to the
foreign black market. There the technology would be purchased by the highest bidder, such as
Pakistan, Iran, Libya, North Korea or possibly even al-Qaeda.
Additionally, Edmonds claimed that Grossman, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey before taking his
State Department post, had tipped off Turkish diplomats to the true identity of covert CIA operative
Valerie Plame Wilson’s front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, a full three years prior to
their being publicly outed by columnist Robert Novak. That in itself, according to George H.W. Bush,
would be an act of treason carried out by “the most insidious of traitors.”
Former CIA counterterrorism officer Giraldi summed up Edmonds’s disclosures to me in blunt
terms: “This was a massive coordinated espionage effort directed against United States nuclear
secrets engineered by foreign agents who successfully corrupted senior government officials and
legislators in our Congress. It’s that simple.”
According to a declassified version of a 2005 Department of Justice Inspector General’s report,
Sibel Edmonds’s allegations are “credible,” “serious” and “warrant a thorough and careful review
by the FBI.”
Perhaps more damningly, the FBI’s John Cole recently confirmed a key element of Edmonds’s
claims when he revealed the existence of “the FBI’s decade-long investigation” of the State
Department’s Grossman. Edmonds claimed that Grossman was perhaps the top U.S. ringleader for
the entire foreign espionage scheme. The probe, Cole added, “ultimately was buried and covered
Cole, who now works as an intelligence contractor for the Air Force, not only finds Edmonds “very
credible,” but also confirms the “ongoing and detailed effort by Turkey to develop influence in the
United States” through a number of illegal means.
“Turkish individuals would ask for favors—ya know, ‘You help me out, and I’ll help you out’—and
basically what would happen is the elected official would either receive money or some kind of
gift,” Cole explained. “Or, if it was a government employee, I’ve seen it where after they retired,
they get these very lucrative positions with a Turkish company, or whatever the country may be.”
As noted, Hastert now works for Turkey, and Grossman now works for a Turkish company and as a
lobbyist—no doubt raking in a pretty penny from both. Hastert and Grossman repeatedly ignored
requests to comment on these charges.
The mainstream U.S. media, however, apparently remain uninterested in investigating any of it. Not
even after Cole himself called for a “Special Counsel” to investigate and prosecute. So what the
hell is going on here?
Giraldi believes that, as with companies such as AIG and GM becoming “too big to fail,” the size
and success of this massive national security espionage scandal has simply become too big to bust.
He told me, “You have to look at Marc Grossman being part of a much bigger operation in terms of
the Israelis and the Turks obtaining influence over our legislators and over a number of senior
government officials at the Pentagon and State Department. Because this thing was so big, and it
affected both Democrats and Republicans, I think the U.S. government is terrified of opening up
this Pandora’s box.”
Giraldi added, “The people in Congress and in the Justice Department who should be investigating
this…and also in the media—because the media is tied hand and foot to government—this is all
part of one big, you know, conspiracy, if you want to look at it this way. And, essentially, this is a
story that they don’t want to get out.”
So why, exactly, isn’t the media covering Sibel Edmonds, whom the ACLU once described as “the
most gagged person in the history of the U.S.,” now that she is finally able to tell her story? It’s a
story, after all, that the legendary 1970s whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has deemed “far more
explosive than the Pentagon Papers.”
“If we had an effective mainstream media that was going after this story, that would make it come
out,” Giraldi noted. “But we don’t have an effective media.” He then pointed out one more reason
for the media’s reluctance to dig into this story: “According to Sibel, Grossman actually bragged
that he would get from the Turks the information that they wanted to appear in an article. He would
write it up, and he would fax it over to the New York Times, and they would print it just as he had
written it under somebody else’s byline.”
Guess we won’t expect any coverage of this scandal from the New York Times, “the paper of
record,” any time soon. And if a story isn’t covered by the Times, and thereafter picked up by
everybody else, did it really happen? Given the complicity of the media with regard to Sibel
Edmonds, it would appear the government never even needed to invoke the “State Secrets
Privilege” in the first place.
As of this writing, HUSTLER stands to be the largest, most “corporate” U.S. outlet in which these
startling, now-public, on-the-record disclosures have been reported. The moral: Pull off a large
enough crime, and it becomes too big to do anything about.
February 17, 2010
WAITING FOR GODOT
Arshad M. Khan
AT least a dozen or more of the top banks are bankrupt. Yet they are busy declaring record profits.
How is that possible? It's quite simple. In December 2008, they pushed Congress to put the screws
on the accountants' rule-making body the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change
the mark-to-market rule governing the banks investments in securities. Instead of reality-based
accounting where the securities are valued at their market price, we are now in la-la-land
accounting. The securities remain on the balance sheets of these banks at purchase price, the
losses to be recognized only when they are sold.
Like waiting for Godot, these banks are waiting for their loan bundles which include loans based on
subprime mortgages to rise again in price -- an unlikely prospect since many of these mortgages
are in default. The banks will be waiting and waiting and waiting .... . In the meantime, they keep
declaring record profits without increasing lending because these funds are used to shore up
shaky balance sheets.
All of this comes to mind because the President has recently been touting the benefits of the
stimulus package in saving two million jobs. To be fair, the original problem is not his doing. Yet
his response, a sort of patch-work, keep-it-going approach has increased the fragility of the
economy. Keeping bankers and their captive economists as advisors blinkered the course of
action. A clean breast of it by the banks and a FDIC take over would have purged the system. But
that's a tall order when all the significant legislative committees are lathered in financial industry
funds. So we got little taps on the wrists and a few screams at executive pay, and business is back
as usual while we wait for the other shoe (or perhaps an anvil on the head this time) to drop.
In the eighties after the deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry, many of these S&Ls
invested in riskier high-interest projects and rewarded their senior ranks handsomely -- for a time.
Eventually, the law of averages caught up with them and they went bust leaving the taxpayer to
foot the $387 billion bill. There were over a thousand criminal prosecutions then and numerous
convictions and jail terms. This time the subprime frauds have been obvious, the banks and the
rating agencies complicit, the losses in the trillions and not a single prosecution. Not one! Zilch!
Zippo! How times have changed?
February 10, 2010
GATES STRIKES OUT IN PAKISTAN
OBAMA'S AFPAK POLICIES IN DISARRAY
Source: Juan Cole.com
(1/24/2010) -- Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates's trip to Pakistan this weekend has in many
ways been public relations disaster, and I think it is fair to say that he came away empty-handed
with regard to his chief policy goals in Islamabad. Getting Pakistan right is key to President Barack
Obama's policy of escalating the Afghanistan War, and judging by Gates's visit to Islamabad, Obama
is in worse shape on the AfPak front than he is even in Massachusetts. Since he has bet so heavily
on Afghanistan and Pakistan, this rocky road could be momentous for his presidency.
In one of a series of gaffes, Gates seemed to admit in a television interview that the private
security firm, Blackwater, was active in Pakistan.
The Pakistani public has a widespread resentment against US incursions against the country's
sovereignty (64% say the US is a danger to the country's stability). But it also has a sort of paranoid
obsession with Blackwater, which they suspect of covert operations to disrupt security in the
country (i.e. they blame Blackwater for bombings that Americans see as the work of the Taliban).
Thus, Gates's statement produced a media frenzy. (Jeremy Scahill has alleged in The Nation that
Blackwater is in fact in Pakistan in a support role to CIA drone attacks in the country's mountainous
Northwest on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets).
Dawn, a relatively pro-Western English daily, quoted the exchange, saying Gates was asked by the
interviewer on a private television station,
' "And I want to talk, of course, about another issue that has come up again and again about the
private security companies that have been operating in Iraq, in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan. . .
Xe International, formerly known as Blackwater and Dyncorp. Under what rules are they operating
here in Pakistan?"
' "Well, they're operating as individual companies here in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq
because there are theatres of war involving the United States."
The Urdu press concluded that he had admitted Blackwater is active on Pakistani soil, while noting
denials from the US embassy in Islamabad that that was what Gates had meant. The News, the
mainstream English-language sister of Jang, was also insistent that Gates had let the cat out of the
Gates had one strike against him, since he came to Pakistan from India. Moreover while in New
Delhi he clearly was a traveling salesman for the US war materiel industries, who would like to pick
up some of the $60 billion India is planning to spend on weapons in the next few years. During the
Cold War, the US had mainly supplied Pakistan's military, and had been lukewarm to India, which
Washington felt tilted toward Moscow. The current shift of US strategy to wooing India to offset
growing Chinese power in Asia is taken by some Pakistanis as a demotion.
Then, he encouraged a greater Indian role in Afghanistan, including, according to the Times of
London, possibly in training Afghan police. Pakistan considers Afghanistan its sphere of influence
and the last thing it wants is a role for Indian security forces in training (and perhaps shaping the
loyalty) of Afghan police. Germany is currently in charge of the police training program, but India is
afraid that in the next few years NATO will depart, and that Pakistan will then redeploy its Taliban
allies to capture the country for Islamabad's purposes. India is also concerned about significant
Chinese investments, as in a big copper mine, in Afghanistan. So New Delhi is considering the
police training mission.
In addition, Gates had praised Indian restraint in the face of the fall, 2008 attack on Mumbai
(Bombay) by the Pakistani terrorist organization, the Lashkar-i Tayyiba [Army of the Good]. He
warned the Pakistani leadership that India's forbearance could not be taken for granted the next
time. That is a fair point, but it is not the sort of thing you say publicly on your way to Islamabad from
Delhi if you want to be received as an honest broker. Pakistanis feel that India has inflicted many
provocations on them, too, not least of which was the Indian security forces' often brutal
repression in Muslim-majority Kashmir, where thousands have died since 1989 in a separatist
movement with which Pakistanis deeply sympathize. (Pakistani guerrilla groups also did routinely
slip into Indian Kashmir in support of local separatists).
Prominent members of the Pakistani Senate denounced Gates for setting up Pakistan as a sort of
patsy and hostage to communal violence in India, and of fomenting a Washington-New Delhi
'conspiracy' against Islamabad. What if some Indian terrorist group carried out an attack in India?
wasn't Gates giving New Delhi carte blanche, they asked, to blame Pakistan for it even in the
absence of any evidence, and then to launch a war of aggression on Pakistan with the incident as a
The LAT said that "Gates, on the first day of a visit here, urged government officials to build on
their offensives against militants . . ."
In fact, Gates was careful not to over-emphasize such demands, but there was a general public
perception that he was doing so. The editorials in Urdu newspapers on Jan. 23, which the USG
Open Source Center analyzed, complained bitterly about this further demand. Express sniffed that
the US should establish security in Afghanistan and then everything would settle down in
Pakistan's northwest. Khabrain rather cleverly pointed out that Pakistan has concentrated on
limited territory in fighting its Taliban, which is wiser than the US policy of opening several fronts at
once and getting bogged down.
Jang, which is mildly anti-American, said,
Describing Robert Gates' pro-Indian statements irresponsible, the editorial says: "It is believed that
the political and military leaderships of Pakistan, with one voice, have made it clear to Gates and
the titanic-size delegation accompanying him that in the present circumstances, it is not possible
for Pakistan to accede to the persistent US demands of 'do more' and to further expand military
operations in the tribal areas, because Pakistan not only has to secure the areas that it has taken
control of from the militants but also has to strengthen and stabilize its position there."
Then the Pakistani military spokesman came out and flatly told Gates that the Swat and South
Waziristan campaigns were it for now. The BBC reports, 'Maj Gen Abbas, head of public relations for
the Pakistan army, told the BBC: "We are not going to conduct any major new operations against
the militants over the next 12 months. . . The Pakistan army is overstretched and it is not in a
position to open any new fronts. Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan
and Swat." '
To be fair, the Pakistani military committed tens of thousands of troops to these two campaigns, in
Swat and South Waziristan, and is in fact attempting to garrison the captured areas so as to prevent
the return of the Pakistani Taliban. In the past two years, the Pakistani army has lost over 2,000
soldiers in such fighting against Taliban in the Northwest, a little less than half the troops the US
lost in its 6-year Iraq War.
The Pakistani military campaigns of the past year, however, have not targeted those radical groups
most active in cross-border raids into Afghanistan-- the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar's Old Taliban,
the Haqqani Network of Siraj Haqqani in North Waziristan, or whatever cells exist in Pakistan of the
largely Afghanistan-based Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party) of Gulbadin Hikmatyar. Washington worries
that the effectiveness of its own troop escalation in Afghanistan will be blunted if these three
continue to have havens on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. And, Pakistani Prime Minister
Yusuf Raza Gilani worries that the US offensive in Afghanistan will push thousands radicals over
the border into Pakistan, further destabilizing the country's northwest.
Gates made a clumsy attempt to mollify Pakistani public opinion over the very unpopular US drone
strikes on suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban cells in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
of Pakistan, by offering the Pakistani military 12 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones of its
own. But the Pakistani military pointed out that the outdated RQ-7 Shadow UAV's on offer were
unarmed and merely for aerial reconnaissance, and maintained that Pakistan's arsenal already
contained such drones.
Gates addressed the Pakistani cadets at the National Defense University, attempting to emphasize
that he wanted more of these future officers to study in the US, and that Pakistan is in the driver's
seat with regard to the anti-Taliban counter-insurgency campaign. Its message was largely missed
in the civilian Urdu press.
Does it matter? One sometimes see Americans dismiss Pakistan as "small" or "unimportant." Think
again. Pakistan is the world's sixth-largest country by population (170 million), just after Brazil (200
million). It is as big as California, Oregon and Washington state rolled together. Pakistan's 550,000-
man military is among the best-trained and best-equipped in the global South. Pakistan has within it
a middle class with a Western-style education and way of life (automobiles, access to internet and
international media) of some 37 million -- roughly 5 million families. (Pakistan has over 5 million
automobiles now and is an emerging auto producer and market, with auto production at 16 percent
of its manufacturing sector). If we go by local purchasing power, it is the world's 27th largest
economy. It is a nuclear power with a sophisticated if small scientific establishment, and produced
a Nobelist in physics.
Gates went to Pakistan to emphasize to Islamabad that the US was not again going to abandon it
and Afghanistan, as it had in the past. Pakistan, he wanted to say, is now a very long-term ally of
Washington. He hoped for cooperation against the Haqqani, Taliban and Hizb-i Islami guerrillas. He
wanted to allay conspiracy theories about US mercenary armies crawling over Pakistan,
occasionally blowing things up (and then blaming the explosions on Pakistanis) in order to
destabilize the country and manipulate its policies.
The message his mission inadvertently sent was that the US is now increasingly tilting to India and
wants to put it in charge of Afghanistan security; that Pakistan is isolated; that he is pressuring
Pakistan to take on further counter-insurgency operations against Taliban in the Northwest, which
the country flatly lacks the resources to do; and that Pakistani conspiracy theories about
Blackwater were perfectly correct and he had admitted it.
In baseball terms, Gates struck out. In cricket terms, Gates was out in the most embarrassing way a
batsman can be out, that is, leg before wicket.
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