Thursday, December 30, 2010

US Concern over Pakistani Militants' Disappearances

The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.

Thus reports the New York Times' Eric Schmitt.  Yet not even a hint of the irony and hypocrisy here about the "concerns" expressed by a country that engaged in the same practices for years, and that, under Obama, continues to wage a legal battle to preserve such prerogatives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Is Israel a Racist Country

Excellent essay in Haaretz, by Anshel Pfeffer, who concludes:

Israel, for all its faults, is not a predominantly racist or Apartheid-like country. But there has been a continuing failure of Israeli society as a whole to recognize victimhood in others; to understand that there were other genocides in the 20th century that need commemorating other than the Holocaust; that while an entire nation hopes to see Gilad Shalit returned to his family, there are 10,000 mothers on the other side who see their imprisoned sons as fighters and not murderers; and to realize that no amount of PR can ever change the impression made by 43 years of occupation of another people. These demons have been unleashed on our streets.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Iraq's New Government

Hayder al-Khoei, writing for Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog,
It is naïve to presume the next Iraqi government can make huge strides in reconciliation and work coherently as a power-sharing body. Its very existence is proof that self-centred party agendas supersede all considerations of integrity, equality and justice that all the parties claimed to champion prior to elections. However, if there are politicians in the next government who still have a conscience, they must convince all Iraqis that the political process is still the most attractive option.

But inclusion is not merely enough. Power sharing means nothing when it is not underpinned by constitutional conventions that seek to combat corruption and crime with a neutral, objective and non-sectarian agenda. Maliki must understand that a token ministry here and there is not going to solve the crisis. This shrewd move may very well keep him in power for the next 4 years, but it isn’t going to solve the corrupt political system in Iraq.
Expecting lots of happy talk from Mr. Obama's Bunch about how Iraq's new government will point the way to "success" blah blah blah.  Don't fall for it.  Nuri al-Maliki now presides over a government that has been cobbled together from diverse parties with little if any shared agenda, that continues to face the threat of extreme and frequent violence from "al-Qaeda," and that has yet to deal with festering problems in the north.

Geert Wilders' support for Israel's Colonization of the West Bank

Robert Mackey reports in the NY Times.  Says Geert Wilders, prominent Dutch right-wing advocate of Europe's need to defend itself against the "Muslim peril":
 “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and [the Israelis] are fighting our fight.” . . .   “If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next.”

Other right-wing anti-immigrant European politicos have been touring Israel, many of them representing parties with well-documented anti-Semitic , even Neo-Nazi roots.  As reported by Haaretz's Adar Primor (in an article titled "The unholy alliance between Israel's Right and Europe's anti-Semites"):
 the brightest jewel in this racist crown – Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was “Hitler’s spiritual grandson,” then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them.

Yet one of the leaders of the Settlement movement welcomes support from such a dubious source.
No skinhead cares what [Anti-Defamation League Chairman] Abe Foxman has to say, but if [right-winger leaders like] Filip Dewinter and Heinz-Christian Strache make these statements they will have real impact. For that reason I am considering appearing with them in their countries for pro-Israel rallies. I think that it is worth the risk of being defamed by Haaretz and the like if we can cause a shift in the European nationalist movements, moving them away from their traditional Jew-hatred and bringing them closer to appreciation of Zionism. I don’t think that I am naive to feel that this is a revolutionary opportunity.
It boggles the mind - and, one might conclude, undermines the credibility of the settler movement - when it aligns itself with parties that (as Mackey notes) once cooperated with the Nazi regime in rounding up Jews to be sent to death camps.

On the other hand, this is hardly the first time that the settler movement has embraced the support of non-Jewish groups whose interests by no means coincide with that of most Jews.  Thousands of Christian Zionists support the Israeli colonization of the West Bank in the hope that (as "prophesied" in the Bible) the Jewish people will succeed in building the Third Temple in Jerusalem, which is a requirement for the "End of Days" and the Second Coming of Jesus.  At that time, of course, according to "prophesy," the Jews will be swept away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Invitation to a Coup - or a Revolution - in Pakistan

The NY Times (in a piece co-authored by Dexter Filkins) is reporting that "Senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas."  As the NYT further notes, this is "a risky strategy reflecting the growing frustration with Pakistan’s efforts to root out militants there."  The AP is now reporting "NATO's deputy chief of communications, U.S. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, said there was no truth to a report published in The New York Times." - and a "senior US defense official" confirms this.

They're circling the wagons.

And as for this possible move being "risky"?  How about dangerous - and bloody stupid?!

As usual, the military seems to be all about "success" in "the mission" - which now means killing as many "bad guys" as possible, rack up higher scores, and thereby demonstrate that they (= David Petraeus, the would-be maharajah of Afpak) can achieve "victory" if only Obama backs off the impending start of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.  Underpinning all of this, of course, is the neocon-inspired doctrine that in the defense of our "freedoms" and the promotion of the "American way," the trashing of the domestic economy and infrastructure cannot be an obstacle.

But the senior military commanders seem to be oblivious to the possible long-term (or even shorter-term?) consequences of such an expanded campaign.  Such a significant ramping-up of US/NATO (= let's face it, essentially US) incursions into Pakistan - especially by Special Forces conducting surprise night-raid operations - would be viewed by an already angry Pakistani population as a huge, completely unacceptable affront to their country, as both a sovereign nation and a predominantly Muslim one.  Mr. Zardari's civilian government is very weak and extremely unpopular as is.  Pakistan has a long history of military take-overs during times of internal conflict.  The army is the single most powerful institution  - and the current head of Pakistan's military, General Ashraf Kiyani, is arguably the single most powerful  leader in Pakistan today.  The advocates for Pakistani democracy cheered the earlier removal of General Pervez Musharraf.  But neither the US military, nor President Bush, were especially pleased to see Musharraf depart, and Pakistan's pro-democracy movements reviled Bush, and the US's hypocrisy, for that very reason.  To see the civilian government toppled, and replaced by a new military dictatorship, would unquestionably arouse public, anti-American violence on a potentially massive scale.  The military would have to be called in to control it (which would divert them from the very kind of anti-al-Qaeda operations that the US has been pushing them so hard to do).

And the potential for an Islamist revolution in Pakistan as the eventual outcome is substantial.  If that were to happen, one of the US's - and Israel's - most nightmarish dreams would be realized: an Islamist, anti-US, anti-Zionist regime with an arsenal of nuclear weapons and systems with which to deliver them.

I pray that our "senior military commanders" think this through.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wonderful Discussion of Zionism and the Right to Palestine

I recommend very highly this excellent post by Philip Weiss to his always-interesting blog, Mondoweiss, as well as the responses/discussion that follow.

Weiss's essential point has to do with the secular, colonialist outlook of Zionism's godfather, Theodor Herzl, from whose Complete Diaries he quotes.  As Weiss also notes, Herzl was an admirer of Cecil Rhodes, who did so much to establish British colonialism in Africa.  And interestingly, Weiss also notes, one of Herzl's correspondents, the US ambassador to the Ottoman empire, had written Herzl in 1899 to suggest Mesopotamia as a potential location for the new Jewish homeland.

With Dubya's Compliments

After he had to can WMDs as the rationale for his expedition to Iraq, Dubya and his neocon pals switched to setting up Iraq as a new model of democracy in what Condi Rice famously referred to as the "new Middle East."

Here's what Mr. Bush helped bestow upon Iraq.

Democracy marches on.  Be careful of what you wish for.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Israel never really wanted peace

A brave and cogent essay from a professor in Hebrew University's (Jerusalem) Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.  Among his more powerful assertions:
To a great extent, Netanyahu and his cabinet are representative of Israeli society today. Public opinion polls point to increasing extremism, bordering on racism, in Jews' opinion of Arabs, as well as to alienation and a distrust of the other side's goals and intentions. Given these circumstances, it's no wonder there is no public pressure on the government to advance the peace process and that there was no significant public response to the dramatic announcement that the talks had been suspended. . . .

In the past decade, Israel has faced a number of Arab initiatives: the Arab League peace plan, Syrian offers to negotiate, Palestinian willingness to move forward and even moderate declarations from Hamas. Successive Israeli governments responded to all of them with restraint and icy indifference (with the exception of the waning days of Ehud Olmert's term as prime minister ).

Israel's listless response to these proposals cannot be understood as coincidental or circumstantial; it is a pattern of behavior. And Israel has never proffered its own initiative that would indicate a desire for peace. This leads us to the unhappy conclusion that Israel - both its government and its people - are not really interested in peace; at most, they make the sounds of peace, but that is not enough.

There is simply no reason to expect from the current Israeli government - or perhaps from any foreseeable one - a genuine push for a fair peace that would allow a viable, truly autonomous Palestinian state.  Nor does the Obama White House have the political will, the political capital, the diplomatic savvy, or the Congressional support to move Mr. Netanyahu in that direction.

Meanwhile, Israel's anti-occupation political left is on life support, the settlers in the West Bank know that Avigdor Lieberman (as well as Netanyahu himself) has their back, and the influence of Israel's old secular Zionist leadership is continually undercut by the emergence of new elements in Israeli political culture: the often rabidly anti-Arab (and barely Jewish) Russian immigrants, and the religious conservative Ultra-Orthodox, whose influence has grown markedly within the ranks of the IDF (and some of whose rabbis - including those in the IDF - have taken to enunciating Biblical justifications for taking Arab land, and lives.

And all of them, of course, are aided and abetted by the likes of Pastor Hagee and the multitudinous flocks of Christians United for Israel, who see in the dispossession and humiliation of Palestinian Arabs the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy and the "End of Days."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Demise of the "Peace Process"

Alastair Crooke (Conflicts Forum) has posted to Middle East Channel a superb essay on the demise of the "peace process."  Among his observations and reflections . . .

The peace process solution-phantasm has not only divided the Palestinians; but also shaped the political structure for the region for the last decades: polarizing the region -- on the false premise -- between those who were 'opposed' to peace and those who 'supported' peace. Many of those who were termed opposed to peace in reality were opposed more to Israel's self-referencing security-led paradigm -- than to a peaceful solution per se. . . .

Disdain and repudiation of the West's 'solutions' qua solution on Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iran has already shifted the balance of power away from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, towards an emerging northern tier -- Syria, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Qatar and now probably Iraq -- loosely termed the resistance axis. In addition to Turkey, we can expect other new players to enter the regional political arena, such as Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.  These new faces will loosen-up and further erode existing political structures, and dilute the influence of Arab states who have adhered strictly to the US and European line, in the coming more pluralist and fluid era.  

What is key here is a growing popular belief that neither Europe nor the US has -- within themselves -- the potential, the energy, to change tack and find new ways of approaching these tensions. Western solutions have taken on a dated appearance that is dissonant with the contemporary political fabric of the Middle East. Increasingly, solutions are sought from within the region. Hopes for a solution to the current crisis in Lebanon, for example, are not vested the West. They rest on internal solutions brokered across the old peace process divide, by Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

The WikiLeaks cables will reinforce this dynamic of disdain. For a Middle East already disillusioned with the western discourse, the mass leaking of documents will have its effect in the region: it does not matter whether the leaks are gossipy, related to long-suspected US ambitions, comprise wishful-thinking or are nothing new. The lack of a major revelation is not the point. What is significant is the sheer breadth and quantity -- the tsunami of leaks -- that speaks, not of grand missions or fine intentions, but of unrelenting petty cynicism and manipulation. This may not be new to its élite practitioners, but laying it out so plainly, and in full view, will undeceive profoundly the narrative of a western superior mission. . . .

The future of Iran occupies a central position in the region. Iran is, to a lesser or greater extent, an actor at all the main political fault lines of the Middle East. It is the future of Iran that has become the new pole. It is around the Iranian pole that, on the one hand, the so-called resistance axis is now grouped; and it is around the same pole, on other hand, that stand the ranks of the opposition. This regional re-shaping is displacing the poles of the erstwhile peace process as the defining component or signifier of regional politics. 

The reflection in the American looking glass therefore is, and will be, Iran. But the Iran of the looking glass is no more than the refracted image of the emergence of a new Middle East order; with newly self-confident states and movements emerging to global stature. Iran is also the reflected symbolic image, representing the wider political stirrings, symbolizing the fear of the gene of 1979 transposed into a new era; and of the end to the old era of deference.  

It is these evolutions that lie at the focus of both the Israeli and the US fears for their own futures in the region. It is these fears, refracted back at them, that they see in their diplomatic looking glass -- changes that supersede for these two states the peace process in terms of importance, or threat. Thus the iconic Israeli-Palestinian clash has become subsumed as a part of this impending collision of opposing dynamics between Iran and US/Israel -- a 'pièce de theâtre' within a bigger setting: its diminution a reflection of the new dynamics emerging here. This is a subordination that implies that the Palestinian issue is now contingent on what happens in the wider regional dynamics, rather than regional politics being contingent on the Palestinian issue. This is a significant inversion in politics.

Don't-Sell-to-the Arabs Controversy

Jeffrey Goldberg pans Robert Wright's very constructive  NYT essay (" A U.N. Plan for Israel" - and by all means check out the piece by Daniel Levy to which Wright refers) by referring to Wright's column as regular installments of   "If Those Stiff-Necked Jews Just Did as They're Told the World Would Have Peace," taking issue with Wright's reference to the Israel rabbis who recently forbade Jews to sell land to Arabs.  Goldberg notes instead that another prominent halachic authority, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, has chastised those rabbis, and insists that Rabbi Lichtenstein is much more representative of Israeli public opinion.  The other rabbis' racist view is, in his view, marginalized.

Nice to hear that, but has Goldberg forgotten that one of the parties in Netanyahu's governing coalition is Shas, an Ultra-Orthodox party that is essentially ruled by its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.  The Rabbi Yosef's very racist views - which he grounds in Scripture and Jewish law - are a matter of public record - and as the leader of a party without whose support Netanyahu's government would fall, I would hardly call him marginal to Israeli political life.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Explosive New Report on US-Nazi-Arab-Holocaust Links during WWII

As reported in the NYT, An interagency group created by Congress to work on federal records of Nazi war crimes has published a report that not only documents US assistance to Nazi war criminals in the wake of World War II, but also the Nazi regime's ties to prominent Arab anti-Zionist leaders in Palestine (specifically, Hajj Amin al-Husseini) and Iraq (Rashid Ali al-Gailani). 

In chilling detail, the report . . . elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.

In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.

On Nov. 28, 1941, the authors say, Hitler told Mr. Husseini that the Afrika Corps and German troops deployed from the Caucasus region would liberate Arabs in the Middle East and that “Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.”

The report details how Mr. Husseini himself was allowed to flee after the war to Syria — he was in the custody of the French, who did not want to alienate Middle East regimes — and how high-ranking Nazis escaped from Germany to become advisers to anti-Israeli Arab leaders and “were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism.”

“You have an actual contract between officials of the Nazi Foreign Ministry with Arab leaders, including Husseini, extending after the war because they saw a cause they believed in,” Dr. Breitman said. “And after the war, you have real Nazi war criminals — Wilhelm Beisner, Franz Rademacher and Alois Brunner — who were quite influential in Arab countries.”

In October 1945, the report says, the British head of Palestine’s Criminal Investigation Division told the assistant American military attaché in Cairo that the mufti might be the only force able to unite the Palestine Arabs and “cool off the Zionists. Of course, we can’t do it, but it might not be such a damn bad idea at that.”

“We have more detailed scholarly accounts today of Husseini’s wartime activities, but Husseini’s C.I.A. file indicates that wartime Allied intelligence organizations gathered a healthy portion of this incriminating evidence,” the report says. “This evidence is significant in light of Husseini’s lenient postwar treatment.” He died in Beirut in 1974.
That Amin al-Husseini was working with Hitler's murderous regime is hardly news, nor is it news that the coup that brought Arab nationalists into power under Rashid Ali al-Gailani favored Nazi Germany, who was, after all, the enemy of the British government that had been Iraq's overlords since 1917 - and that invaded and reoccupied Iraq after forcing Rashid Ali out of power.

However, you can expect the George Wills and Charles Krauthammers of the punditocracy to be all over this new report as new ammunition with which to smear current Arab - and European, and Latin American - resistance to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, by trying to link them directly to the hideous acts of Hitler's "Final Solution."

It's hugely important that evidence such as this be made public and disseminated broadly.  But with the "peace process" languishing, various parties exhorting Mr. Obama to put more pressure on Mr. Netanyahu's government, and the Netanyahu government still harping on Iran's nuclear "threat" as the harbinger of a second Holocaust, the timing of its appearance could hardly be worse for those who want to restore more reason and sanity to the debate.

Hillary Clinton's "Outreach to Iran"

Rami Khouri writing from Orlando, which, as he notes, is both the HQ for US Central Command and the location of Disney World:
Clinton’s suggestion that the world would benefit from “the full participation of the Iranian nation in the political, social and economic life of the region” made me feel that I was still in Disney World’s fantasy universe. Somebody should tell Clinton that Iran has participated deeply in the political, social and economic life of the Gulf, Middle East and Central and South Asian regions for approximately 3,000 years, and whisper to her that Iran has far deeper roots and shares stronger interests among Middle Eastern people and societies today than Donald Duck and Dennis Ross can ever imagine.

Obama Caves to Bibi; Cue the Grown-ups

Peter Beinart (via Paul Woodward at War in Context) on the US's decision to give up on a deal for an Israeli settlement-freeze extension.

It's now back to a kind of business as usual, with the US continuing to insist on promoting a dead-in-the-water "peace process" to achieve a going-going-gone two-state solution.   The Palestinian leadership continues to insist that there will be no more discussions with Israel until Netanyahu restores a settlement freeze (which, with the current composition of his government, he cannot - and will not - push for).  And with the drubbing he sustained in November, the increasingly precarious status of his 2012 reelection chances, and the stranglehold that a rabidly pro-Israel Congress (many of whom owe their seats to the votes of their Christian Zionist electorate and the money supplied by AIPAC and allied organizations) has on D.C. debate that might take Israel to task, Mr. Obama (and Mrs. Clinton) are about out of cards to play.

Which brings us back to Beinart, who "congratulates" Bibi for making Obama cave, but then notes (much more seriously) the ever louder crescendo building against Israel's policies - and indeed, even its legitimacy as a Jewish state - among the increasingly influential states of Latin America (among them, Brazil and Argentina, both of which have recognized legally a Palestinian state).  The NYT reports that Turkey and Israel are trying to mend their ties (but "were stuck on several issues, including whether Israel must apologize — or merely express regret — for the killings of nine Turks during a flotilla raid in May"), but the fact of the matter is that both the government and the majority of the people of Turkey have just about taken as much as they will take of Israel's high-handedness with Muslims in the Middle East.  Barring another coup by Turkey's ultra-secularist, pro-West military (whose star has dimmed significantly since the rise of the AKP government under Erdogan), the Turkey-Israel bond will never again be what it was.

What now?  Some in Israel (like the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick) are pounding even harder on the "us-against-the-world" drum in the face of the rising tide of Latin-Turkish opposition.  The implication is one of an impending Masada-doomsday scenario.  A better path forward for Netanyahu  is out there, however: dump his current coalition, bring Tzipi Livni and Kadima on-board, and empower people like his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who just last night voiced support for the partition of Jerusalem as a step toward a peace deal.

But failing that, perhaps it's time for what Beinart proposes: the US ought to step out of the way, and allow the grown-ups to take over.

Viva Brazil!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Maliki's "de-Baathification" of Iraq's Security and Intelligence services

Among the many nuggets pulled out of the latest Wikileaks dump comes more evidence that Iraq's future is pretty grim.

As McClatchy reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki fired dozens of officers from the security and intelligence services early this year and replaced them with inexperienced political officers loyal to his Shiite Dawa party."  Maliki pulled this off under the official policy of "de-Baathification" = the legal elimination of former Baath officials from the new government.  But as US sources indicate, Maliki used this as a ruse to install Shii loyalists whom he can use to ensure his personal control over the State security services.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  Saddam Hussein made very effective use of the same tactic to ensure his control over the Mukhabarat, the much feared and seemingly ubiquitous security force that Saddam packed with his own Sunni - and tribal - loyalists.

And McClatchy also reported more recently on something that's been going on for a long while: the Maliki government's shabby treatment of the Sunni "Awakening" militia that was so instrumental (probably as effective as the much-vaunted Petraeus-Bush "Surge") in at least temporarily weakening "al-Qaeda" in Iraq - and in effect, enabling Maliki to get a better foothold in Baghdad.  Once more firmly ensconced, Maliki took steps to curb the Awakening fighters; the US basically left them hung out to dry; and now most of them, though promised jobs by the regime, are on the outside looking in, feeling abandoned, disrespected, angry.

And that might also make them more likely to turn for support once again to the kind of Sunni jihadist elements that they supported early during the US occupation, and that (according to the AP) are flowing back into Iraq, with an apparent surge in financial aid that, in the view of Iraqi officials, "reflects fears by Arab states over the growing influence of Iran's Shiite-led government over Iraq and its Shiite-dominated government." 
Last year, U.S. counterterrorism officials said the number of foreigners heading to Iraq had trickled from hundreds to "tens" in what they described as a severely weakened al-Qaida in Iraq.

But a Mideast counterterrorism official said an estimated 250 foreign fighters entered Iraq in October alone. He said they came through the Syrian city of Homs, a hub for Syrian Muslim fundamentalists that is run mostly by Tunisians and Algerians. Other fighters have come from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen.

Additionally, the official said tens of millions of foreign dollars annually are funding the Iraqi insurgency, which has received about $5 billion in aid since 2007. The money comes from al-Qaida leaders, Muslims who want the U.S. to leave, and so-called 'Arab nationalists' who are eager for Sunni Muslims to regain power in Shiite-dominated Iraq.
And you can bet that a lot of that money is coming from Saudi Arabia, and not just from "jihadist" groups.  King Abdullah would love nothing more than to see the back of Iraq's current Shia-dominated regime.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Carmel forest fire as God's punishment of Israel

And this, from the leader of one of Israel's most influential political - and religious - leaders.

 Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, a powerful religious party in Israel's coalition government, said there was little doubt that the fire was sent by God to punish his chosen people for their waywardness.In his weekly sermon, the rabbi quoted a section from the Talmud, a central Jewish religious text, which proclaimed that "the fire only exists in a place where the Sabbath is desecrated".

Of course, the leader of Hamas was not to be outdone in attributing the fire to Divine retribution.


Friday, December 3, 2010

A Providential Wake-up Call for Israel?

Aluf Benn in Haaretz, on the horrific fire in the Carmel forests in Israel that killed dozens of people, and for which Israel's disaster services were, in his view, grossly under-prepared.  He even goes so far as to make the very apt analogy to the 1973 "Yom Kippur" War, which began with an Egyptian surprise attack across the Suez Canal that caught the IDF completely by surprise.  The IDF eventually prevailed after it was resupplied in an emergency operation carried out by the US.
Benn's point?  If the response to this fire was any indication, Israel is unprepared for the blowback from an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities - or, for that matter, a war with Hizbollah in Lebanon, which many in Israel and outside seem to regard as only a  matter of time.
Those with the appropriate world-view might even see the Carmel fire as a warning from the Almighty to the Israelis, or to those of their American "friends" who (channeling McCain here) call for the US to "bomb bomb Iran." On the other hand, others may see it as a Divine warning to Israel to get better prepared; shore up this deficiency.  Time will tell.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

David Ignatius "Droning On" . . .

OK, stupid pun, but in fact David Ignatius poses important questions (albeit, not as much in outrage as in a "just sayin'" tone) about the US's ramped-up use of drones in Pakistan (and, as Wikileaks has confirmed, in Yemen) to take out "bad guys." The rub? The US/CIA no longer focuses on capturing and interrogating said "bad guys," largely because of the legal and ethical hassles in holding and interrogating people now that the CIA may no longer (so we're told) round people up, take them to secret prisons located god knows where, and torture the hell out of them to get information.  That means much poorer intelligence as to what they may be up to . . . which means greater reluctance to send US troops into harm's way, since they'd be going in more blindly . . . which means, says Ignatius:
It's not that the Obama administration's limits on detention and interrogation are wrong. They have applied clear guidelines to what had been, before 2006, a murky area. The problem is that these rules, and the wariness of getting into more trouble, have had the perverse effect of encouraging the CIA to adopt a more lethal and less supple policy than before.

U.S. and Pakistani officials support drone attacks because they don't see a good alternative to combat al-Qaeda's operations in the tribal areas. I don't disagree with that view. But this policy needs a clearer foundation in law and public understanding than it has today. Otherwise, when the pendulum swings, the CIA officers who ran these supposedly clandestine missions may be left holding the bag.

In other words, it's easier, and probably cheaper (even using costly drone weaponry) to simply take 'em out, just as the Israelis have been doing with Hamas leaders (and perhaps Iranian nuclear scientists).  The fancier term is "targeted killing" - or assassination.  The Israelis have been doing this on a regular basis for years, with the US looking the other way (even while the Israelis are doing it with weapons supplied by the US.  Their operations have regularly brought a lot of collateral damage - dead civilians whose only offense was to be (a) in the area and (b) non-Israeli.  Same thing for the US's targeted killing-by-drone - or by night raid - in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which likewise kill (ooops) scores of civilians (despite, of course, our very best intentions and post-facto regrets).

So Ignatius feels it's time to pose an important question to his fellow Americans:
So ask yourself: If you don't like the CIA tactics that led to the capture and interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives, do you think it's better to vaporize the militants from 10,000 feet? And if this bothers you, what's the alternative?
Gee, David, good luck on getting a significant response to that?  Don't you get it yet?  The huge majority of your fellow Americans could give a rat's ass about offed Afghan and Pakistani old men, women, and kids.  Bothered?  Are you serious?  When was the last time that enough Americans were especially bothered about their father/brother/husband/son heroes killing locals (especially Muslim and/or dark-skinned locals) in faraway countries whose names most of them can't even pronounce. ("Eye-rack," anyone?).

"And gee, anyway, what can we do about it?"


"I know.  Let's watch Bristol dance tonight on TV!"

So, Dave, how about less of "whatcha think about this, Americans?" - and a lot more "Wake up, you bozos - and start caring about how your government's policies and actions are tarnishing that bright and shiny U S A that you all so loudly pledge allegiance to."

From Axis of Evil to the Evil Twins

Evil twins, separated at birth . . . .   thusly, does Rep. Gary Ackerman characterize North Korea and Iran.  And this from the current chair of the subcommittee on the Middle East and Asia . . .

Obama's Naivete

I'm afraid that Howard Fineman has an important point here.  Obama promised bipartisanship, building bridges.  He thinks like the community organizer and professor that he once was.  The US needs leadership like that, especially after the Dubya administration's domestic and foreign policies shot the nation in its collective gut..

But American politics has devolved to become stuck in the muck of  demonizing, gotcha', taunting, winner-take-all, take-no-prisoners knife-fighting.  I see most of that coming from the Republican side, egged on by the useful idiots of talk radio and Fox News.  Obama may be too nice a man, too cerebral a politician, to be able to fight back against thugs and demagogues.


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