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Friday, September 30, 2016

TGIF: Shimon Peres and 9/11

The death of former Israeli prime minister and president Shimon Peres (age 93), the last major figure of Israel's founding generation, has brought an outpouring of tributes for a man who reputedly had, as President Obama put it in his eulogy, "the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect."

Unfortunately, the Polish-born Peres's life did not display such a capacity. Many Palestinians and Lebanese suffered and died because of him. Considering his prominent role in the founding of the self-declared State of the Jewish People, this should go without saying. Israel was established largely by Europeans on land from which three-quarters of a million Muslim and Christian Palestinian Arabs were expelled. Others were massacred by Zionist paramilitary forces, one of which Peres worked for. The year before Israel declared independence (1948) largely on Palestinian-owned land, Peres was put in charge of personnel and weapons acquisition for the paramilitary force called Haganah. This systematic ethnic cleansing is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. Hundreds of former Arab villages were destroyed to make room for Jewish villages. Zionist and Israeli leaders were not shy about acknowledging this. In their view Jewish land had to be redeemed and restored to its rightful owner -- the Jewish People -- and the "exiled" had to be in-gathered, no matter the cost to others. This was the Zionist project.

As a member of the Labor Party, Peres also played important roles in creating Israel's Mideast monopoly nuclear-weapons arsenal (unlike Iran it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and does not permit international inspections) and in building illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after the June 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Before that war, he helped administer military rule over the remaining Palestinian Arabs inside Israel. He also forged Israel's military and nuclear alliance with apartheid South Africa.

In 1995 Peres, who maintained that the Palestinians had victimized themselves, became prime minister after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish fanatic for entering into the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Rabin, like some other Israeli leaders, feared a loss of a Jewish majority in Israel and so favored a rump Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank. Rabin, Peres, and Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize for this dubious agreement.) In his campaign for prime minister a year later against Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres (who was also defense minister) sought to establish his hawkish credentials by launching a war against Lebanon (which Israel had devastated and occupied for nearly 20 years beginning in 1982). Peres named his war Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk:

"The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.

"A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that 'we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.'

"It was a lie. The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.

"This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana."

Fisk was an eye-witness to the atrocity. "When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire."

Over 100 civilians were killed. Fisk continued:

"There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as 'just a bunch of Arabs' ("arabushim" in Hebrew). 'A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,' he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: 'I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [Israeli] army or for civilians….'"

This atrocious record -- hardly the record of a humanitarian -- has been cited in critical obituaries of Peres. (Besides Fisk's see critical obits here and here.) But much less noted was Peres's role in helping to pave the road to 9/11.

What possible role could Peres have played in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon? Recall Peres's cynical election-year onslaught against Lebanon and the massacre in Qana. It was his Operation Grapes of Wrath that radicalized key individuals who would plan and carry out those attacks.

As Middle East scholar Juan Cole wrote:

"In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage [of the destruction]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation–with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center."

Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, reported:

"On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque. It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response."

The Egyptian Atta was the leader of the cell in Hamburg and then in the United States without whom the hijacking of airplanes on 9/11 almost certainly could not have happened.

Atta was not the only one moved to action. Investigative reporter James Bamford told Scott Horton that Osama bin Laden "frequently mentioned Qana during those times. It was a very inflaming incident in terms of his own development of his hatred for the United States, and as well for other people throughout the Middle East.”

In his 1996 declaration of war against the United States, bin Laden wrote that among other crimes perpetrated against Muslims, "The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory.... All of this and the world watch and hear, and not only didn't respond to these atrocities, but also with a clear conspiracy between the USA and its' [sic] allies and under the cover of the iniquitous United Nations, the dispossessed people were even prevented from obtaining arms to defend themselves.... The youths hold you responsible for all of the killings and evictions of the Muslims and the violation of the sanctities, carried out by your Zionist brothers in Lebanon; you openly supplied them with arms and finance."

Lebanon and Qana, as we see were not the jihadis' only grievances against the United States, but Peres's war was one more count in a long bill of indictment against the United States, whose government has underwritten the Israeli military to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Peres would have had no way of knowing that five years later his war would produce such a dramatic act of revenge against the American people. But that should not lessen our condemnation of him. His mission in life -- Zionism -- required the degradation and destruction of the indigenous people who did not fit into his vision. It was inevitable that some kind of vengeful backlash would result. As usual, the victims were innocent bystanders. Perpetrators like Peres get to die of old age.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

No Thanks on the Favorite World Leader Thing

Oh so now we're all supposed to have a favorite world leader? Include me out.

You're Disqualified!

Helping to destroy several countries isn't disqualifying for the presidency. Being an authoritarian narcissist ignoramus isn't disqualifying either. But failing to recognize, apart from any context, the name of a Syrian city (which sounds like "a leppo") or failing to have the name of an admirable world "leader" on the tip of one's tongue -- now that's disqualifying! What Johnson qualified for? Presiding over a scaling back of the state. For the pundits, of course, that job is not worthy of consideration, nor is any candidate for it.

Johnson's Gaffe

The latest Johnson "gaffe" is a nonstory. The headlines say he couldn't name a world leader  -- MSNBC: "Johnson Struggles to Name One Foreign Leader." No -- he was asked to name the foreign leader he most looked up to. He thought and finally came up with a former Mexican president, but the name Vicente Fox eluded him. Big deal. (Fox has criticized the drug war.)

Having to struggle to think of a leader you admire is a good thing, by the way. Watch the segment in which he discusses foreign policy with Chris Matthews, then tell me why he doesn't put Clinton and Trump to shame.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Debate" Observations

I thought the debate was pretty boring. We've heard and seen this all before.

Trump let Clinton get away with saying that tax cuts caused the Great Recession. It was housing policy, including her hubby's (and Andrew Cuomo's).

Trump forswore the first use of nuclear weapons while vowing to take nothing off the table, including the first use of nuclear weapons.

The pundits think Trump made a strong showing in the first segment of the "debate." That's when he was going on about how trade "steals" manufacturing jobs from Americans. If you must identify the "thieves," they are robots.

Clinton let Trump get away with lying about a fictitious job-drain via NAFTA. Jobs increased and exports to Mexico and Canada are at historic highs. As noted above, robots "stole" most of the jobs.

Trump thinks it's unfair that the US government doesn't use a VAT (value-added tax) to raise the price of Mexican imports while Mexico does so with American imports. In other words, he's asking, why can't America mistreat its consumers the way Mexico mistreats its consumers?

If Trump were more savvy I'd say he secretly supports TPP: it protects American IP (bad in my view), zeroes out tariffs on American manufactured and agricultural goods (good), and targets China (bad). For Trump, what's not to love?

One candidate last night promised to work with high-tech companies to stop ISIS from radicalizing people over the Internet. It was Clinton.

Possibly to be continued...

Friday, September 23, 2016

TGIF: Neither Democracy nor Elitism

Whenever we libertarians point out democracy's perverse incentives (as I do here) we risk being accused of elitism. However, those who assume that the only alternative to rule by the people is rule by an aristocracy reveal a tragically incomplete awareness of the choices before us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trump's Stop-and-Frisk Policy

I suppose Trump intends stop-and-frisk for the nation of Chicago only.

Update: Trump now says that under his stop-and-frisk policy, the police would take people's guns. According to The Hill, Trump said during an interview on Fox:
Basically, they will, if they see — you know, they are proactive and if they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person, and they will look, and they will take the gun away.

US Rewards Israel's Bad Behavior

Benjamin Netanyahu has been perhaps the most anti-Palestinian Israeli prime minister in a large rogue's gallery dedicated to driving the aggrieved Palestinians out of the land they and their ancestors have lived in and worked for millennia. This oppression -- which has included ethnic cleansing, savage war on the people of the Gaza Strip, routine brutality and humiliation, and expanding illegal Jewish settlements on land conquered through aggressive war -- has been underwritten and encouraged by the U.S. government since 1948. It has been rare indeed for an American president to express opposition or even irritation with an official Israeli act of brutality -- and even then the consequences have varied between the symbolic (and short-lived) and nonexistent. The lip-service calls for Israel finally to leave occupied Palestinian land (the two-state solution), like President Barack Obama's latest, count for nothing because no one believes the U.S. government is an honest broker that cares about injustices against the Palestinians. (Obama did not mention the Palestinians in a meeting with Netanyahu this week.)

It is no exaggeration to say that the U.S. government rewards Netanyahu for his regime's bad behavior. For example, as Zaid Jilali reports at The Intercept, "Shortly before Netanyahu took office, 474,000 Israeli settlers were living in these territories. By the end of 2014, the last time the Israeli government released comprehensive statistics on the matter, that number had grown to around 570,000." Yet U.S. military aid to Israel not only continues; it increases.

Israel's rulers have no intention of recognizing the rights of Palestinians to their lives, liberty, and property. Past efforts that appeared conciliatory, such a Yitzhak Rabin's Oslo Accords, were actually aimed at thwarting proposals to have the Palestinians in the occupied territories become citizens of the self-declared state of the Jewish People (the one-state solution). The other alternative to the two states, formal apartheid, is deemed as politically inexpedient.

Today the U.S. government continues to stand firmly in Israel's corner, regardless of what the right wing says. The U.S. government has given Israel more than $3 billion a year in military aid for decades, though this basic assistance was often exceeded for alleged special reasons. Now the Obama administration has agreed to pay Israel a record $38 billion over 10 years. Much of this money, unsurprisingly, benefits the American military-industrial complex, and soon all of it will go to American firms.

Ironically Israel probably has never been so secure (which is not to say it ever faced an offensive existential threat). The Palestine Liberation Organization, Arab League, Iran, and arguably Hamas long ago offered to recognize Israel. (Netanyahu moved the goalpost by demanding that they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People.) The chaos in the Levant serves the Israeli state's interests, which is why Netanyahu has long been receptive to American neoconservative proposals to undermine secular Arab governments with the anticipation that jihadists would prosper in the resulting instability. Top Israeli officials have not been shy about expressing their preference for violent Sunni sectarians (yes, al-Qaeda) over Shiite Iran and its secular Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad. (Until recently, Obama has shared that preference to an extent.) This is telling in light of the incontrovertible fact that Iran, which has an old Jewish community that freely practices its religion, is no threat to Israel whatever. Iran has had no nuclear-weapons ambitions and has signed a strict anti-nuclear-weapons agreement with the West in order to have decades-old sanctions lifted. Israel, meanwhile, is the Middle East's monopoly nuclear-weapons state, which (unlike Iran) refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus (again unlike Iran) is subject to no international inspections. Moreover, recently leaked emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell reveal that Israel's 200 nuclear warheads are targeted at Iran. It is Israel that threatens Iran, not vice versa. (See my writings on Iran here.)

The upshot is that no good grounds exist for U.S. military aid to Israel, much less a significant increase. Nevertheless, instability and the invention of an Iranian threat are useful to the powers that be because the more dangerous the Middle East appears, the more forgiving Americans are likely to be about Israel's daily dehumanization of the Palestinians.

Israel of course remains an American political football, with Democrats and Republican trying to outdo each other in their slavish allegiance to the (so-called) Jewish State. (Zionism is nationalism masquerading as Judaism.) Republicans, with Donald Trump leading the way (his AIPAC speech rivals that of the most fanatical Zionist), brand Obama the most anti-Israel president ever -- which one can see is an absurd lie. So it's no surprise that Republican Senators pledge to increase aid to Israel over its record level. (For the typical complaints about the new aid package, see this.) Meanwhile, a big group of Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, joined Republicans (88 senators in all) in signing a letter published by AIPAC, the chief Israel lobby, urging Obama to veto any "one-sided" UN Security Council resolutions regarding "settlements or other final status issues." The letter said such resolutions would "make it more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict," but that concern is phony since Israel has repeatedly scuttled negotiations by insisting that it has a right to keep taking the very Palestinian land that is supposedly the subject of negotiations. According to Haaretz, the senators' letter was "initiated and sponsored" by AIPAC, "apparently spurred by the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem and Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer." Israel and its American lobby fear that after the U.S. election Obama might move for a Security Council resolution on Israel-Palestine.

The American ruling elite's support for Israel is driven by imperial political and economic interests, as well as electoral financial considerations. But it aligns neither with the freedom and security of the American people (a growing number of American Jews do not identify with Israel) nor with the cause world peace and justice.

Recommended reading:
Jeremy R. Hammond, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Jeremy R. Hammond, The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination
Jeremy R. Hammond, The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel
David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East
Ilan Pappe, Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine
Sheldon Richman, "On Israel's 'Right to Exist'"
Sheldon Richman, "'Ancient History': U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention"
Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People
Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland
For an attempt at a libertarian justification for the founding of the state of Israel (failed in my view), see Walter Block, Alan G. Futerman, and Rafi Farber, "The Legal Status of the State of Israel: A Libertarian Approach"
For critiques of this paper, see Jeremy R. Hammond, "Top Ten Things That Piss Me Off About Anti-Palestinian Libertarians"; "On Libertarianism and the Jews’ 2,000 Year Old Claim to Palestine"; and "On Libertarianism and Land Ownership in Historic Palestine"
Hammond debated Farber on the Tom Woods Show. Listen here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nothing to See There. Move Along

Shall we have heightened government monitoring of Americans who visit countries bombed by the United States?

Cable Noise Network

You could watch CNN all day (and the others, I surmise) and never see domestic terrorism associated with US wars in the Muslim world.


Have You Seen This Man?

An American-born man, Barack Hussein Obama, is wanted for questioning in connection with the continuing destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia, and genocide in Yemen. He's regarded as extremely dangerous and is at all times accompanied by heavily armed men. He may be wearing a Nobel Peace Prize medal.

If you see him, exercise caution.

Do not call the authorities.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Regarding the Presidential Debates

I want to make sure I understand this: The nonpartisan commission created and run by the Republican and Democratic parties won't include anyone but the Republican and Democratic candidates in the debate because the other contenders, who theoretically could win 270 electoral votes, did not meet its arbitrary polling threshold, a gauge that is almost entirely in the hands of the corporate news media. Is that it?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Right and Wrong

Trump is right in thinking the system is rigged. He's wrong in thinking it's rigged against him.

Happy Constitution Day!

It's a good day to read America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.

TGIF: Trade Is a Labor-Saving "Device"

Updated Sept. 22, 2016
Democratic politics makes savvy people stupid, at least when they act politically. This has long been demonstrated, and it applies both to voters and policymakers. Several things account for it: the impotence of one vote, the consequent futility and hence wastefulness of acquiring information, the dispersal of the costs of government, and the resulting theatrical mood-setting farces called election campaigns.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


15 Years

Today is the 15th anniversary of the day that thousands of American noncombatants paid the domestic butcher's bill for US foreign policy. Shame on every interventionist.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

NATO and Its Problems

I recently discussed NATO with Adam Camac on his Wake Up Call Podcast.