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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shame on the ADL

The Anti-Defamation League has come out against the building of an Islamic center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero because it will hurt the feelings of the survivors of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Why would it hurt their feelings? The perpetrators of the attacks are said to represent an extreme distortion of true Islam. If so, why this meddling with mainstream Muslims?

The ADL says it exists to fight bigotry. Well, not this time. I finally agree with Paul Krugman: The ADL's position is "Shameful — and stupid."

BTW, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich also oppose the building of the center. Figures.

TGIF: National Insecurity

There’s a country that earlier generations might not recognize in which the national government’s criminal investigative agency can execute its own warrants without court approval; present them to private companies and demand information about people who are not necessarily suspected of criminal wrongdoing; and — if that were not enough — forbid those companies from telling anyone — not even the target of the investigation.

The country I have in mind is not a Latin American banana republic or a Middle Eastern dictatorship. It’s the United States of America.

Read the rest of "TGIF: National Insecurity" here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All in Favor?

All in favor of giving Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, say aye.

$37 Billion More for War

The House, of course, voted to sink $37 billion -- that's thirty-seven thousand million dollars -- more into maintaining the Empire's evil operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seventy more Democrats than last time voted against the spending. Twelve Republicans did too. (More Republicans than Democrats voted for the bill.) At that pace U.S. forces will be killing Afghans and Iraqis for another two years.

“The president is taking a wise and balanced approach in Afghanistan, and it deserves our support,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat and majority leader.

Do people still buy this shit?

Where is the pro-peace, anti-Empire party? When will Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich get together and begin to rally antiwar folks across the political spectrum? The time is now!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remember Furkan Dogan

Furkan Dogan was the 19-year-old American fatally shot five times by Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara headed for Gaza -- without a peep from the Obama administration, which has time to get involved with everything else happening in the world. Dogan was a bright young man with a promising future. But because he was defying Israel and had a Muslim-sounding foreign name, he is apparently unworthy of notice. The congressman in the New York district in which his family lived had no comment.

Read Roger Cohen's op-ed, "The Forgotten American," here.

Op-ed: Government Has Run Amok Since 9/11

Those who understand the exploitative nature of big government suspected that the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks had little to do with the security of the American people and much to do with power and money. Still, the magnitude of the scam, as revealed by the Washington Post last week, is astonishing.
Read the full op-ed here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stop the Lies! Stop the Aggression!

The massive documentation about the bloody occupation of Afghanistan, made available by Wikileaks, once against makes abundantly clear that the government -- no matter who's in power -- will lie shamelessly to the American people in pursuing the Empire's objectives. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way. The truth is deadly to its aims, so the truth must be kept from the people.

Well, the truth is now out. Your move, people.

Heroes Walk Among Us

Bravo, Wikileaks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Other than That, How's It Going?

[A] report by an independent international think tank, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, has found that the number of civilians being killed in the violence has increased, the number of attacks is rising and the counter-insurgency strategy is showing no sign of succeeding.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Bibi & Obama Show

I presume Barack Obama's Likud membership card is in the mail. No doubt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has seen to it. After all, Obama has now paid his dues. After a few idle negative statements about expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank/East Jerusalem, Obama caved at the slightest push-back from the Israel lobby -- election year, you know -- and now he's apparently fine with them. He went from saying the settlement expansion "could end up being dangerous [!]" to saying, "I think that he [Netanyahu] is dealing with a very complex situation in a very tough neighborhood." We can be sure that Netanyahu will not permanently stop the expansion and Obama will not take any action -- such as cutting off the money -- to bring that about. (Even Gen. David Petraeus fears the lobby.) "[T]he pace of settlement building in the West Bank has been barely affected by the 10-month freeze, due to end in September," Jonathan Cook of The National writes.

Obama also quickly folded on the matter of Israel's signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. ("Israel has unique security requirements.") Everyone knows Israel has upward of 600 nukes, but the official position is to neither confirm nor deny their existence. That's known as "nuclear ambiguity."

The security relationship between the Obama administration and Israel is said to be stronger than ever -- the Pentagon, the Israelis, and at least some neoconservatives agree. More military aid is in the works, on top of the annual $3 billion transfusion.

Netanyahu has expressed concern that U.S. forces may someday leave Iraq but he need not worry: That day is no doubt far off. Even after "withdrawal" there still will be 50,000 troops, bases, and an embassy the size of a small country.

The one thing Netanyahu apparently hasn't gotten (yet) is Obama's promise to bomb Iran back to the stone age because of its nonexistent nuclear weapons program. (Iran, unlike Israel, is regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.) Thank goodness U.S. military leaders are reluctant to take on another mission, which would kill many innocent people and perhaps light up the rest of the Middle East. The military is stretched rather thin after all.

Netanyahu applauded the new UN and U.S. sanctions against Iran -- isn't that an act of war? -- so that probably means any attack has been postponed for a year or more.

What's remarkable is that the President and Prime Minister managed to keep straight faces when they said a nuclear Iran would be intolerable. Is hypocrisy no longer a vice? The allegations about an Iranian weapons program are completely unsupported, but still I have to wonder: Is it so mysterious that Muslim countries are uneasy with Israel as a nuclear monopolist? You'd think that Israel had never launched a war against a neighbor. And last I checked, the U.S. military had Iran virtually surrounded. But never mind.

So far no word from Obama about the continuing brutality against the Gazans in their open-air prison camp (oh sure, he's pleased a few more goods are getting in, as if that addresses the matter), the death of the American citizen on the Mavi Marmara at the hands of Israeli commandos, or the wall being built through the West Bank that divides Palestinian homes from Palestinian farmlands and creates myriad other hardships.

Obama praised Netanyahu for his alleged willingness to negotiate with the approved Palestinian "leaders" (Hamas excluded, of course). But you have to keep in mind that when Israeli politicians say they favor a two-state solution, or "land for peace," they do not mean a real independent homeland for the long-abused Palestinians but rather a series of Bantustans within an essentially apartheid state under Israeli control. This is the point of the wall and the expansion of settlements. Obama seems okay with that.

In regards to Netanyahu's true views on dealing with the Palestinians and the United States, see this article and video. The video of Netanyahu proves, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy said, that he is a "con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes."

So the "special relationship" endures. And yet, is all that talk about shared values really valid? In theory America belongs to all Americans, all its citizens. But Israel -- in theory and practice -- belongs not to all holding Israeli citizenship (which includes Arabs) but only to the "Jewish people" wherever they may be -- which means (according to Israel's view of things) I -- born in Philadelphia, residing in Arkansas -- have a better claim to full Israeli citizenship than a Palestinian whose family has lived in Jerusalem for a millennium or more. How can that make sense?

(The Knesset has given at least preliminary approval to a bill to make denying Israel's status as a Jewish State a crime punishable by imprisonment. The cabinet will consider a resolution to force new citizens to take a loyalty oath to Israel as the Jewish State.)

Let's not forget that the American taxpayer is the enabler and underwriter. None of this could be going on without massive U.S. infusions of money.

And some people think "they" hate us for our freedoms.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gen. Petraeus's Local Defense Initiatives

What about Gen. Petraeus's new Local Defense Initiatives, which he has imposed on the supposed president of the supposedly sovereign country of Afghanistan?

A.N.S.W.E.R (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) calls it fomenting civil war. Here's the organizations analysis. Choice quote:
The Petraeus strategy calls for putting 10,000 job-hungry Afghan villagers on the Pentagon payroll. They will be given money and guns so that they can form militias and shoot and kill other members of their village who are asserted to be either pro-Taliban or opposed to the U.S./NATO occupation.
This can't end well.

American Exceptionalism

Commenting on a Washington Post report that Iran may be trying to "influence the U.S. role here in Iraq," the inestimable Arthur Silber at Once Upon a Time writes:
I've tried very, very hard, but I simply can't get my brain to absorb how ungraspably evil this is. Imagine that Iran -- a country that is actually there in the Middle East and actually surrounded by U.S. troops and a huge number of weapons of endless variety, and which has to endure regular threats of destruction of all kinds including complete annihilation, if Iran does not do exactly as the U.S. demands, even though the U.S. has no conceivable right to make any such demands whatsoever -- might try to influence events happening right next door. And never you mind that the U.S. has no damnable right to be in Iraq at all and never had such a right, and that the U.S. invasion and unending occupation thus constitute a monstrous series of war crimes.
There's really nothing more to say, is there?.

Left, Right, or What?

Even if libertarianism is neither left nor right, it could have left and right wings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bumbling Intervention

Interesting reporting via Fred Kaplan of Slate:

David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Gen. Petraeus and author of Counterinsurgency, among other highly regarded books and essays on the subject, thinks that what the Afghan people want—and what the Taliban are doing a much better job at supplying than the Afghan government—is justice.

Where the Taliban have strongholds, they've set up courts, they issue property deeds, they even have ombudsman's offices where people can file complaints and get responses.

"There's nothing like that in the official Afghan system," Kilcullen says. "If you show up at an Afghan police station with a complaint, they'll beat you up for bothering them. If you take someone to an official court, it takes months to get a judgment, and it will go to the guy who pays the biggest bribe. The Taliban courts take a half-hour, they're free, and the Taliban locals enforce the agreement."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scott Horton and Me

The indispensable Scott Horton interviewed me the other day on the indispensable Antiwar Radio. Hear it here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

TGIF: Can America Afford an Empire?

The fiscal question is whether, in the face of the huge national debt and multiyear trillion-dollar budget deficits, we can afford a “defense” establishment more befitting an empire than a republic. That’s not the only question, however. We must also ask if a society that claims to value free enterprise can long endure the economic disfigurement that inevitably accompanies a large military-industrial complex?
The rest of TGIF is here.

Monday, July 05, 2010


For Crimes Against Humanity

(Not only Cheney, of course. And I'm including members of the current administration.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A New Look at the "Jewish People"

Allan Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism reviews a significant book that has been a bestseller in Israel and was translated into English last year: The Invention of the Jewish People, by Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University. It is now out in paperback with new material by the author.

Here's Brownfeld's summation:
Shlomo Sand has, in many ways, normalized Jewish history. Instead of the implausible myth of a unique nation with a special destiny — expelled, wandering and finally restored to its “homeland” — he has shown us the history of the Jews as a religious group, incorporating men and women of a variety of backgrounds [as a result of mass conversions], joined together by a common religious belief and commitment, not an ethnic identity. The largely imaginary Jewish past constructed by Zionists beginning in the 19th century, has provoked much conflict and, as he shows, is largely an invention.
Where did the idea of Jewish peoplehood come from? Sand traces it to two developments in the mid-nineteenth century: secularization with its eclipse of religious faith and rising German nationalism.

Challenges to the idea that Jews constitute a single ethnic group or people are not new. Rejection of a Jewish peoplehood was at the foundation of Classical Reform Judaism, which held that Judaism is a religious community with a common faith, culture, and set of rituals. Moreover, many have written similarly in the past. As Sand explains:
I encountered scarcely any new findings — almost all such material had previously been uncovered by Zionist and Israeli historiographers. The difference is that some elements had not been given sufficient attention, others were immediately swept under the historiographers’ rug, and still others were "forgotten" because they did not fit the ideological needs of the evolving national identity. What is amazing is that much of the information cited in this book has always been known inside the limited circles of professional research, but invariably got lost en route to the arena of public and educational memory. My task was to organize historical information in a new way, to dust off the old documents and continually reexamine them. The conclusion to which they led me created a radically different narrative from the one I had been taught in my youth.
The implications for the Palestine-Israel conflict are profound. To put the matter briefly, on what grounds can the Land of Israel be said to be more mine than that of a Palestinian Arab whose family has lived there for a thousand years?

For details on the controversy see the Wikipedia entry here. Sand responds to critics at his website here.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Michael Steele Sees the Light ... for a Moment

Better late than never, but the GOP chairman has got much closer to the truth than most of his colleagues, at least briefly:
Well if [Obama is] such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan. Alright? Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan without committing more troops.
Then the uproar followed, with lead necon Bill Kristol calling for Steele's resignation because he had dissed the troops. (That escaped me.)

So Steele issued -- ahem -- a clarification:
[F]or the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus' confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye further clarified that "nowhere did Steele say or suggest that (a) we shouldn't be there, (b) we can't win or (c) he didn't support the surge."

I think Steele is saying that you should never fight a war in Afghanistan because you'll never win it. But should you find yourself in one anyway, you should win it.

I'll leave this to smarter people to sort out.

When Is Torture Not Torture?

When the U.S. government says it's not.

Glenn Greenwald brings to our attention a study by Harvard Kennedy School students (pdf) showing that waterboarding was routinely described as torture for 100 years by the nation's four highest-circulation newspapers. This stopped only when the Bush administration declared that waterboarding isn't torture.

What was that about an adversarial press?

More on Immigration

I'm sick of all the pro-immigration articles showing how good immigrants can be for us. It's not that the arguments are wrong. They're just not terribly relevant to the essential issue -- the freedom of people to move without permission, unmolested by governments or private individuals. Emphasizing how good immigration is for us implies that later if we change our minds about this we might restrict or end immigration.

The facts indeed show that immigrants tend not to commit real crimes to their numbers and that they're not net tax consumers but, again, that is a secondary point at best. The possibility that a Pennsylvanian might commit a crime (or terrorism) in New Jersey wouldn't justify preventing Pennsylvanians from moving to New Jersey. If someone commits a crime, that's the time to act against that person. If immigrants use tax-funded services, that's no worse and no better than citizens using them. Let's get rid of tax-funded services -- taxation, actually -- not migration. I don't understand some people's priorities.

It's also bad strategy to get defensive about assimilation. True, every charge thrown at Mexican immigrants about their alleged unwillingness to assimilate was said about the Irish, Poles, Germans, Jews, Asians, and so on. There are built-in incentives to learn English. But our focus should be on individual rights. If people want to come here, keep themselves, maintain their cultures, and speak their original language -- it's their right to do so. They no under obligation to accommodate us.

TGIF: Border Control Bogey

As if we weren’t already aware, the current occupant of the White House yesterday proved himself every bit the social engineer his predecessors were. Health insurance, energy, the financial industry, education, nation building – in each area and more the head of the executive branch, Barack Obama, has embraced the dominant bipartisan doctrine which proclaims that government planners know best and mere people — interacting according to the principles of consent, cooperation, and competition — know nothing. What would we do without our “leaders”?

And so it comes as no surprise that we see the same doctrine applied to nullify the right of people to move freely – that is, immigration.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

"As Warped and as Evil as It Gets."

72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process (which is what a habeas hearing is) -- after years of being in a cage without charges -- have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained. These are people who are part of what the U.S. Government continues to insist are "the worst of the worst" who remain, and whose release is being vehemently contested by the Obama DOJ.
That's from Glenn Greenwald's May 28 post. He reminds us that the Bush administration and Congress specifically forbade habeas corpus hearings for Guantanamo detainees, many of whom were swept up in raids in Pakistan without any evidence of wrongdoing. It took the Supreme Court to knock that prohibition out of the Military Commissions Act.
Think about what that means, what the people who voted for that (including 12 Democratic Senators) tried to do: had the Supreme Court not struck down that provision by a 5-4 vote in Boumediene, all of these innocent people would continue to be denied any rights of judicial review, and would unjustly languish in prison indefinitely. The people who voted for the Military Commissions Act, and the 4 Supreme Court Justices who sought to uphold it, knowingly acted to deny scores of innocent prisoners any opportunity for judicial review. That's as warped and as evil as it gets.

...It's commonplace to label something a travesty of justice, but who can deny that knowingly imprisoning innocent people for years and years while scheming to deny them all judicial review is a disgrace of historic proportions?
Read the full post. Individual lives have been ruined by this heartless U.S. policy. The stain on America will never be removed.

Afghanistan in Light of the Coming Presidential Campaign

In thinking about Afghanistan, let's step back a moment: Barack Obama is up for reelection in November 2012. He won't want to go into that campaign being called "the man who lost Afghanistan -- the central front in the war on terror." So between now and then, expect a lot of PR about how things are beginning to improve now that Gen. David Petraeus is in charge of NATO forces.

It will all be lies. Innocent Afghans will be killed, along with U.S. troops. Any Afghan who objects to the U.S. occupation will be branded "Taliban." Millions of dollars -- from drugs and the U.S. taxpayers -- will find their way into foreign bank accounts. Everyone will be cutting their own deals. Pakistan will be disrupted by drone attacks. And new "terrorists" will be recruited and determined to kill Americans.

Why? So Barack Obama can "serve us" for another four years.