Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Olbermann's Special Comment on Condi Rice

Condoleeza Rice recently made a comment about how the excitement around Barack Obama's candidacy showed how far blacks had come in America. I'd have to agree with her for once but, at the same time, her remarks made me think of a Chris Rock routine, "The Black Progress Chart". I can just picture it in my mind:

"Barack Obama runs for President? Moooooovin' on up!"

"Condi Rice speaks in public? Sliiiiidin' right back down!"

Some folks think I'm too hard on Dr. Rice but, I'm telling you, it just ain't so. Kieth Olbermann gives us just one more reason why.

Partial Transcript:

But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake. On the Sunday morning interview show "Of Broken Record" on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph, which if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation would've gotten the writer an "F" - maybe an expulsion.

"If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present: "... it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

The secretary's résumé reads that she has a master's degree and a Ph.D in political science. The interviewer should have demanded to see them, on the spot. Dr. Rice spoke 42 words. She may have made more mistakes in them than did the president in his State of the Union Address in 2003...


"The resolution that allowed the United States to" overthrow Hitler?

On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department - your office, Secretary Rice - and 90 minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the chief of the department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier, and the Germans simply piled on.

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs. They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier.
The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, "We're at war." It was in all the papers. And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russians were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950s. As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!


"It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do! We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown! It was called the Marshall Plan.


Gen. George Catlett Marshall!

Secretary of state!

The job you have now!


The prosecution rests.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Bush Compares Himself to George Washington

Abandoning any pretense of not being a complete joke, the High Lord & Protector of the Realm today compared his war on terrah with the American Revolution, I shit you not.

A fake president and an actor impersonating George WashingtonPresident Bush honored the 275th birthday of the nation's first president on Monday, likening George Washington's long struggle that gave birth to a nation to the war on global terrorism.

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," said Bush, standing in front of Washington's home and above a mostly frozen Potomac River.

"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

With his characteristic disregard for the stomachs of those gathered in attendance, Bush then took a moment to pose for the above photograph with a fellow presidential impersonator.

Also typical of his administration, the actors on hand portraying colonial soldiers were not provided with adequate armor (read, "hot air-sickness bags") they so desperately needed for their hazardous mission.


The Fraud of War: Taking the Bait

Last month the Washington Post ran this bit of head-slapping idiocy by Liz Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, flogging the strictly Dickly meme that opposition to Maximum Ruler's "troope surge" is unpatriotic, helps the terrorists and is hurting the troops. To be sure, the piece is barely worthy of the bottom of a bird cage and I certainly can't fault anyone who feels moved to slam her for this literary vomit. Volumes could be written to dismantle her deceitful straw-man arguments and, I have to admit, the idea of doing so is very tempting.

However, some responses are more useful than others. In fact, some well-intentioned responses can not only miss the mark but actually serve to advance Ms. Cheney's position. For example, I found a piece in Consortium News written in response to Ms. Cheney entitled, "Who Helps the Terrorists?" by Robert Parry.

To make a long story short, Parry cites purportedly intercepted letters released by the Pentagon in July 2005 as the foundation of his otherwise valid argument that the Iraq war is counterproductive (mistake) . Reportedly taken during the raids that killed Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the letters are said to have been written to him by Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri.

I outlined my problem with his approach in the comments section of his post. However, because I found his post several days after it was published my response was late. As such, he probably hasn't even seen it, which would explain his non-response. Because of that, I am reposting my response here for posterity (corrected for grammar and style) and as a springboard for future anti-war rants...


I read your post and thought about blogging it myself. But upon fact-checking I decided not to and here's why.

I followed your link to a previous Consortium News post entitled, "Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold" which, in turn, links to the infamous "Atiyah Letter" you reference here. From that letter you've excerpted the following passage"...
Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.
...and claimed that by "the war" Atiyah is referring to our war in Iraq. I don't believe that conclusion is clear at all given the context of the sentence. Here is the same excerpt presented in context...
The most important thing is that you continue in your jihad in Iraq, and that you be patient and forbearing, even in weakness, and even with fewer operations; even if each day had half of the number of current daily operations, that is not a problem, or even less than that. So, do not be hasty. The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day. Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission. The best acts are those that last, however few they may be, provided that we guard against mistakes building up and that we have integration in the jihadist enterprise. The only thing that you have to fear is yourselves and your own mistakes, not your enemy. By God, your enemy will never defeat you as long as you are patient and steadfast, not having caused damage that is great or frequent; and you seek help in God. It is the grace of God and the grace of the Supporter, and the Almighty will not neglect us. "Now surely the help of God is nigh".
Within that context it would appear to me that "the war" being referenced here is Atiyah's jihad, not the US campaign in Iraq. It is the continuance of this jihad that suits Al Qaeda's interests.

This conclusion is further supported in the earlier "Zawahiri Letter" that you also quoted in "Al Qaeda's Fragile Foothold". The passage you quoted...
"The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal."
...was written within a very different context than you seem to suggest. In it, Zawahiri is describing his vision of the jihad in 4 proposed stages, the first of which is very clearly to expel the US from Iraq. I quote from the translated text of that letter:
So we must think for a long time about our next steps and how we want to attain it, and it is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

There is no doubt that this amirate will enter into a fierce struggle with the foreign infidel forces, and those supporting them among the local forces, to put it in a state of constant preoccupation with defending itself, to make it impossible for it to establish a stable state which could proclaim a caliphate, and to keep the Jihadist groups in a constant state of war, until these forces find a chance to annihilate them.

The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.

The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.
As you can see, according to this letter the jihad will continue even after the primary goal of expelling the US is achieved. So, again, it's the continuance of the jihad, not the US occupation, that is said to be in Al Qaeda's interests. So you can see why I have some problems with your conclusions.

Before I go, I'd like to add that these are not the ravings of some right-wing flamer. I'm very much on your side here and agree with you 100% about the war and the damage it will do to the world. I just don't believe you're approaching the subject from the right angle in this case.

It seems to me that you may have taken the bait and inadvertently led your readers to a series of documents that actually support the Bush Administration's position.

That alone wouldn't be a bad thing necessarily if it were still the truth. But the possibility that these letters are forgeries, black propaganda planted for our amusement and befuddlement, has been raised... more than once, in fact. So, it can be argued that we're doing ourselves no favors by basing our anti-war arguments on these documents. Please take note.

I usually enjoy your work and hope you do continue to fight the good fight.

Take care and please excuse the lengthy response. I'm long-winded.

Now, clearly I have no problem with Parry's contention that the war in Iraq does more to further Al Qaeda's cause than anyone in the US "mainstream", right or left, seems willing to admit. This is clearly the case and it's an argument that needs to made forcefully.

However, there's a danger in making the case carelessly. By seizing upon "intelligence" that consists of what I am convinced are forged documents, Parry has unwittingly planted the exact seed in his own readers that BushCo wants planted. That alone wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if it were still a seed of truth, but the strong possibility that these documents are forgeries mitigates that possibility almost completely in my mind.

What's more, he simultaneously discredits his own case against the war by misunderstanding and misquoting what those forged documents actually say. That he did it on a prominent "net roots", alternative media site like Consortium News, no less, only doubles the pain.


Indications of Forgery

If there are any lingering doubts about these documents being forgeries, if the links in the above comments are not convincing enough, there is more.

Just last week NPR ran an unrelated segment on Morning Edition entitled, "The Partisans of Ali: The Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split", the first in a series detailing the history behind the Sunni-Shiite schism in Islam. In it correspondent David Shuster covered some of the history which, coincidentally, highlights the more damning anomalies in those letters.

For instance, the "Zawahiri Letter" contains a reference to "the grandson of the Prophet Imam al Hussein Bin Ali" as "Imam". The funny thing about that reference is best explained in Shuster's report. Describing the turmoil in Islam that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Shuster reports:

"There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession," says Augustus Norton, author of Hezbollah: A Short History. "That is to say, who is the rightful successor to the Prophet?"

Most of the Prophet Muhammad's followers wanted the community of Muslims to determine who would succeed him. A smaller group thought that someone from his family should take up his mantle. They favored Ali, who was married to Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah.


The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph.

Eventually, Ali was chosen as the fourth caliph, but not before violent conflict broke out. Two of the earliest caliphs were murdered. War erupted when Ali became caliph, and he too was killed in fighting in the year 661 near the town of Kufa, now in present-day Iraq.

The violence and war split the small community of Muslims into two branches that would never reunite.

The war continued with Ali's son, Hussein, leading the Shia. "Hussein rejected the rule of the caliph at the time," says Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival. "He stood up to the caliph's very large army on the battlefield. He and 72 members of his family and companions fought against a very large Arab army of the caliph. They were all massacred."

Hussein was decapitated and his head was carried in tribute to the Sunni caliph in Damascus. His body was left on the battlefield at Karbala. Later it was buried there.

It is the symbolism of Hussein's death that holds so much spiritual power for Shia.

So we see here that Hussein was never a recognized Caliph in the Sunni tradition, a fact underscored by his beheading at their hands. So it seems unlikely that Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian Sunni -- a strict, fundamental extremist at that -- would refer to the Shiite martyr Hussein as "Imam". He's more likely to regard Hussein as a heretic.

But wait, there's more:

The Shia called their leaders imam, Ali being the first, Hussein the third. They commemorate Hussein's death every year in a public ritual of self-flagellation and mourning known as Ashura.


The significance of the imams is one of the fundamental differences that separate the two branches of Islam. The imams have taken on a spiritual significance that no clerics in Sunni Islam enjoy.

"Some of the Sunnis believe that some of the Shia are actually attributing almost divine qualities to the imams, and this is a great sin," Gause says, "because it is associating human beings with the divinity. And if there is one thing that's central to Islamic teaching, it is the oneness of God."

That sucking sound you hear is all the credibility of the letters in question leaving the building. These anomalies, taken in conjunction with the Pentagon's public admission, that it had been intentionally planting manufactured propaganda about Zarqawi lead to only one reasonable conclusion. The letters are forgeries.

Have we learned nothing from the well-documented campaign of fraud that led us into Iraq in the first place? Did the forged Niger documents, hyped as evidence of Saddam's alleged attempts to procure uranium, teach us nothing? Perhaps I should spell it out.

YOU CANNOT TRUST ANY PRONOUNCEMENTS FROM THE US GOVERNMENT REGARDING THE WAR. DO NOT ACCEPT THEM AT FACE VALUE. The most you can do with them is to try to glean whatever morsels of truth may exist between the lines but it is probably best to just disregard them completely.

And why is no one curious about who forged those Niger documents anyway? Shouldn't we want to know that?

But I digress.


Iraq: The Hidden Story

A British news team explores the underreported side of the conflict in Iraq.

I've added this one to the side bar as a Web Gem.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Decoding White House War Spin

I've been tossing this thing around in my head for some time now, trying to figure a way to summarize all the propaganda surrounding Dear Leader's glorious march to another war in a single post. I've not been successful thus far, such a mess it is. Then along comes The Daily Show to once again show us how it's done:

...and here:

Once again, unfortunately, these clips come with an expiration date. To view these after March 15th follow this link to Crooks & Liars.

See also two recent articles by Rosa Brooks' on the subject:

Insurgents: They Buy American

The Dubya Vinci Code


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Posting Delayed by Category 5 Propaganda Hurricane

Every time I think I'm ready to post something comprehensive about the selling of our next big war-for-no-reason-at-all I find myself knocked down and overwhelmed by another gust of hot air. We are being inundated at this time by a barrage of amazingly transparent propaganda accompanied by almost no common-sense analysis.

It is truly breathtaking to watch the machine at work, I must admit and I will be commenting on this warmongering nonsense soon. I've simply been taken aback by the sheer scale of the propaganda at the moment. I find it deeply disturbing.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Daily Show on Obama's Candidacy

The Daily Show's "Senior Black Correspondent", Larry Wilmore, breaks down the Obama Presidential run...

Unfortunately, this clip comes with an expiration date of March 12, 2007. To view the clip after this date visit Crooks & Liars here.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Putin Cites US' Excessive Use of Force

Once again Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked controversy for daring to tell the truth about US foreign policy, an unforgivable sin.

We all remember July of last year when Putin landed a shot right between the eyes of the American President in a response to US criticism of his commitment to democracy. It was a real knee-slapper.

This past weekend he was at it again. At a security summit in Munich Putin addressed a gathering of world leaders with a strong critique of current US policy, the transcript and video of which are available online:

Putin on the blitzThis conference’s structure allows me to avoid excessive politeness and the need to speak in roundabout, pleasant but empty diplomatic terms. This conference’s format will allow me to say what I really think about international security problems. And if my comments seem unduly polemical, pointed or inexact to our colleagues, then I would ask you not to get angry with me. After all, this is only a conference. And I hope that after the first two or three minutes of my speech Mr Teltschik will not turn on the red light over there...

Uh oh...

It is well known that international security comprises much more than issues relating to military and political stability. It involves the stability of the global economy, overcoming poverty, economic security and developing a dialogue between civilisations.

This universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

These words remain topical today. Incidentally, the theme of our conference – global crises, global responsibility – exemplifies this.

Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.

unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either.

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen
aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

For readers wondering what Putin means by this reference to a "unipolar" world, look no further than these comments made by our stunningly counterproductive Secretary of State, the perennially overrated Dr. Condoleeza Rice, to a 2003 gathering of the International Institute forHell's Midwife Strategic Studies in London. Rice attempts to sell the imposition US hegemony to an international audience by dressing it up as "a world united by common values". Coming from the administration of "you're either with us or against us", its disdainful dismissal of "Old Europe" and this, Dr. Rice's comments read more like "If you people would just shut up and fall in line we'd have unity".

Volumes could be written in response to the Orwellian and Manichean constructs in this speech, but I'll strain to limit my comments to Condi's wonderful "not unipolar" concept. She explains...

We are rapidly closing the book on centuries of European conflict, and opening a new, more hopeful chapter in which Europe is whole, free, and at peace for the first time in its history. Next year, ten European nations will join the European Union; seven will join NATO. Russia is our partner. Lingering conflicts, such as those in the Balkans, are being put to rest.

This confluence of common interests and common values creates a historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great power rivalry that has bedeviled the world since rise of Instead of repeating the historic pattern in which great power rivalry exacerbates local conflicts, great power cooperation can now solve conflicts.

In recent months some have questioned whether this is possible -- or even desirable. Some argue that Europe and America are more divided by differing worldviews than we are united by common values. More troubling, some have spoken admiringly -- almost nostalgically -- of “multipolarity,” as if it were a good thing, to be desired for its own sake.

The reality is that “multi-polarity” was never a unifying idea, or a vision. It was a necessary evil that sustained the absence of war but it did not promote the triumph of peace. Mulit-polarity is a theory of rivalry; of competing interests -- and at its worst -- competing values.

We have tried this before. It led to the Great War -- which cascaded into the Good War, which gave way to the Cold War. Today this theory of rivalry threatens to divert us from meeting the great tasks before us.

Why would anyone who shares the values of freedom seek to put a check on those values?

Democratic institutions themselves are a check on the excesses of power. Why should we seek to divide our capacities for good, when they can be so much more effective united?

Only the enemies of freedom would cheer this division. Power in the service of freedom is to be welcomed, and powers that share a commitment to freedom can -- and must -- make common cause against freedom’s enemies. This is not a description of a unipolar world. As the President’s National Security Strategy states, “there is little lasting consequence that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of allies and friends.”
Rice asks why would people of shared values want to put a check on the implementation of those values. I think I can answer to that one. I suspect it has something to do with the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I'm under no illusions that the intentions of Rice and her ilk are good at all, mind you. But I think this principle does factor into the equation somewhere. Every despotic force in the history of the world rose to prominence on the promise of advancing some shared value, which was then perverted, diverted and eventually betrayed in the interest of attaining and retaining power. That's why, Madame Secretary.

So, although "power in the service of freedom" is to be welcomed, there are no guarantees that once that power is granted it will always be used to that end. That's why, Madame Secretary.

But I digress. Getting back to Mr. Putin, we left off with his allusion to "aspirations to world supremacy". I wonder what he's talking about? :

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.


I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.

Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

And with which results?

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

There's a not-so-hidden warning contained within Putin's message. It's one the US, in all its super-power glory, would do well to heed. That is that the world has never, in its entire history, stood still for the imposition of domination by any single nation-state no matter how strong. Like the systems of evolution (think Jurassic Park) "life finds a way" to prevent it. I think we're beginning to see the process at work already. A particularly prescient article I read years ago, one that I like to refer to from time to time, descibes it to a tee. The author describes the process as "the global red-lining of America":

In self-defense, the world will be forced to reorganize itself, to create new mechanisms of trade and security in place of the institutions that the Bush men are deliberately savaging. The Americans will be left out of these arrangements…

A kind of international redlining will increasingly make itself felt, but not seen. The Bush men believe they are willing into existence a New American Century, while in reality they are creating an America-phobic planet in which the U.S. has earned an invisible but powerfully consequential non-favored nation status. Having invented the concept of globalism, the United States will be consigned to pariah status - and shrink, until it learns to live by human norms and scales.

Think about the many ways we're seeing this process play out in the world every day. New alliances we never thought possible are being formed all around us. Plates are shifting. The ground beneath us is churning to restore some counterbalance to what is increasingly being viewed as an American threat to world peace. There will be a multi-polar world whether we like or not. It's up to us to decide whether we want to be one of many working in true cooperation or a single isolated aggressor state beset on all sides by the rest of the world. This is the condition to which Bush and his cronies threaten to reduce us.


Monday, February 12, 2007

A Brief Reminder About the Libby Trial and the Coming Attack on Iran

Before this gets completely lost in the shuffle of our inexorable drive towards another war, I thought I should at least make a passing reference to this well-documented but little discussed fact. The very people who are now telling us that the supposed nuclear weapons threat posed by Iran is the most important thing in the world right now are the same people who saw fit to blow the cover of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, who's main area of concentration was on, guess what, WMD proliferation issues in Iran.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries
grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.

The Libby trial has revealed, in detail that would be shocking if we hadn't already been numbed beyond the capacity to feel shock by this administration, that there was a concerted effort to blow this agent's cover for purely political purposes (as opposed to some frivolous purpose like protecting the nation or something).

So how do we reconcile this? On the one hand we have a White House that tells us that Iran's nuclear program poses the gravest of threats to the safety of the US and the world. On the other hand, they seem to have felt perfectly at ease tossing out the window a CIA operation to counter Iran's efforts, outing not just Ms. Plame, but her entire under-cover operation, endangering the lives of any agents or cooperating individuals known to be associated with her and spoiling those assets for any future operations that may start up.

So, it seems Iran's programs are important enough to start a war over today, but they're not so important that we'd want to protect federal agents working to track them or anything. No, we can feel free to sacrifice them to BushCo's political calculus.

I find that so interesting. Maybe folks should talk about that more.



Sunday, February 11, 2007

Palestine & Apartheid

Is there any space left for Palestians?Whenever the subject of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is raised much is made of what is called "Israel's right to exist" and the justification for its actions in light of this right. But much less is made of either the Palestinian right to exist or the fact that Israel is largest military power in the "middle-east" region today while Palestine has no military to think of. With that in mind, a brief glance at the map of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory since 1967, pictured here, gives a clear picture of exactly whose existence is truly imperiled.

After studying this map closely imagine if someone decided to build a system of long continuous walls for the purpose of cutting off the most valuable of these areas represented by the red dots from the rest of the country, like so (the brown part goes to Israeli settlers in this scenario):

What kind of viable, livable, autonomous and sovereign country would be left for Palestinians? Who really faces an immediate existential threat?

Via The Black Commentator comes this relevant follow up to the previous posts on Palestine and Apartheid...

At a 1 December 2006 Palestine Center briefing, William Fletcher discussed the similarities and differences between Israeli-occupied Palestine and apartheid-era South Africa focusing on the logic, objectives and strategy of settler states. He also addressed the opposition to Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, and urged a continued mobilization around the issue of Palestine.

“Two Walled Cities: Jerusalem and Johannesburg, Apartheid and Palestine”
Transcript of Remarks by William Fletcher
“For the Record” No. 269 (19 December 2006)

Thank you and it’s an honor and a pleasure to be here.

When I was invited, I was asked to speak in terms of what was called “Two Walled Cities: Jerusalem and Johannesburg.” I thought that was a very good metaphor to look at the issue of apartheid and the occupation. But before but I get into that, I want to preface it by actually
speaking about some differences between Israeli-occupied Palestine and apartheid-era South Africa, in fact, a very dramatic difference.

Within a few months of my taking over as President of TransAfrica Forum in January 2002, I received a call from none other than the Israeli Embassy congratulating me on the appointment. This came as an incredible shock. I said to myself, do they know who I am? They then went on to propose a meeting with me to discuss a cultural program that the Israeli Embassy wished to jointly sponsor with TransAfrica Forum that focused on Ethiopian Jews. The meeting never
happened. They called me and claimed that someone on their staff had gotten sick. I guess they’re still sick because the meeting was never rearranged. But in any case, I concluded that they probably did a little investigation and just said that there wouldn’t be much of a point to having the meeting.

I raise this for two reasons. One is that I never received a congratulatory call from an Arab Embassy. And this is not an attack on Arabs, but it is something I’ve noticed in terms of the unwillingness or inability to carry out outreach in the USA in order to promote an Arab viewpoint. The Israelis, on the other hand, are phenomenal in terms of outreach. The South Africans during the apartheid era were not. I’ll get into that in a second, and it’s a very, very big difference in the approaches of the two countries. So the approach of the Israelis really does contrast remarkably with the approach that the South African apartheid regime took towards the whole notion of developing allies and constituencies externally. The Israelis have always had an active outreach program, and while they have consistently portrayed themselves to be victims, they have done so in a way that constantly seeks international support. Interestingly, other settler states like South Africa and Australia took a very, very different view when it came to this matter and did not, by and large, seek non-governmental constituencies, even though both of these other settler states, in their own ways, portrayed themselves as victims. The South African apartheid regime obviously had a close alliance with the United States but did not spend a lot of time trying to cultivate a relationship in the United States. The slight exception to this was the effort, backed by the Reagan administration, to promote the South African-aligned Angolan movement of Jonas Savimbi (called the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola [UNITA]) in the USA in connection with certain right-wing African American churches. Even here, however, while UNITA was aligned with South Africa, it was not the South Africans who were trying to develop a constituency in the USA.

The logic of both Israel and apartheid-era South Africa can be found in their common origins as settler states. In both cases, the settlers created myths, semi-religious or explicitly religious, including that God had provided the land for them and that the land was unoccupied upon arrival, a very, very common theme in every settler state, whether it’s the United States, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. In both cases, the settlers portrayed themselves to be victims against natives who were described as
semi-barbaric and/or intolerant. Given the permanent state of siege, every settler state aggression came to be described as a defensive act, an approach also common with the United States. By way of example, for South Africa, incursions into Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe or anywhere else always against alleged terrorists were justified as alleged defensive actions.

For the settler state, there is a zero sum calculation when it comes to the natives. This does not necessarily mean that the natives must be annihilated, but it does mean that the natives can never be allowed to prevail. In this context, one can look at Jerusalem and apartheid-era Johannesburg as emblematic of settler strategy and the settler state as a whole. Though there are significant differences between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, for example, the religious significance of Jerusalem, the settler approach in both cases with these cities shared much in common. In the case of Jerusalem, the entire city has been
seized by the settlers who have no intention of sharing it with the Palestinians. The settler plan is one of driving out the Palestinians through a combination of intimidation and inconvenience, otherwise known as psychological warfare. By inconvenience I mean the painful difficulties encountered by Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem.

Johannesburg, however, was constructed to be for whites only. Blacks could enter the city
during the days to work but had to clear out at nightfall unless they had explicit permission to stay. Blacks lived in what can only loosely be described as suburbs or townships, the most well known being Soweto, which is an acronym for South-West Township. It’s not a name in and of itself. Security, as in occupied Palestine, was ever present in Johannesburg and Soweto. Blacks carried passes and travel was always limited. Johannesburg stood as a top of the line First World city while townships like Soweto were Third World and often-quite marginal.

The walls in the case of Johannesburg were actually around Soweto and other townships as opposed to being around Johannesburg itself. In fact, one of the remarkable things in going to Soweto is that there is only one road and gate in and out. As apartheid crumbled, so too did much of Johannesburg. Whites left the city in mass and they abandoned their often-luxurious high rises to squatters or general squalor. They retreated to their nearly always heavily militarily guarded and gated communities. And there was a remarkable reversal that unfolded. Whites would be in the city by days, and then they would be in their communities at nights. But they would not stay in Johannesburg during the evening.

The apartheid plan was for the removal of blacks from the best of land. In this case, it followed the model that was established by the British in Ireland in the 1500s when they drove the Irish out of the best lands in the north and forced them south and settled the north with Welsh, Scots and some poor English. It also follows what we see in other settler states, such including the
United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and obviously Israel.

Yet each settler state has handled its indigenous population somewhat differently. In Australia,
New Zealand and the United States, there was an overt effort at extermination. Case in point, there are no Tasmanians left on this planet. Not only were the indigenous removed from the land, they were removed from the living. In Ireland, South Africa and to some extent Canada, the premium was placed on the removal of the natives from the land and their socio-political marginalization. In the case of Palestine, I’d argue, a bit of both seems to be underway, though the emphasis seems to be on the removal from land.

In both the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories and apartheid-era South Africa, the settler state wishes (or in the case of South Africa, wished) to make the situation so inhospitable that the indigenous people leave on their own. It combines violent coercion with what can be described
as hassling, or what I said earlier, psychological warfare. In the case of South Africa, the apartheid regime created those fictitious homelands like the Transkei and Ciskei. These were actual large territories with limited resources and limited anything with the exception of sources of entertainment such as Sun City. The key land always remained in the hands of the whites. The Occupied [Palestinian] Territories are replicating this pattern. And just as the apartheid regime presented itself to the world as visionary by allegedly “liberating” the homelands, so too do the Israelis in their vision of a Palestinian state or statelet. The situation raises some uncomfortable strategic questions. For the black South Africans, the struggle was not one to build legitimate and self-sustaining homelands. The objective was not to take over the Transkei and Ciskei and make those viable states. It was instead to destroy apartheid and create a democratic South Africa. In that sense, it’s interesting to see discussions under way in the Palestinian movement regarding the viability of the two-state solution in light of what Israeli practice has been.

Finally, the Holocaust separates Israel from apartheid-era South Africa largely in terms of the perspective of the rest of the world. The treatment received by the Boers (what are now known as Afrikaaners), in the original British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war, may have helped to shape Afrikaaner consciousness, but it had little impact on the way that the rest of the world viewed the Boers as a people or their efforts to eventually justify the apartheid state. The Holocaust, however, shuts down much discussion. This is not helped by comments such as the contradictory and rhetorically provocative, if not stupid, statements by the Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad questioning the reality of the Holocaust. Yet the Holocaust, a horrific act committed by one group of Europeans against another, is presented in a white supremacist framework in order to trump any and all discussions regarding Palestinian sovereignty and the legitimacy of any settler state.

The struggle against apartheid carried with it many valuable lessons for the Palestinian movement. Yet I would suggest that the struggle of the First Nations, or the Native Americans (here in the USA), also carries invaluable lessons. The First Nations in the United States and Canada were demonized, dehumanized and, ironically, romanticized by the settler state. The settler myth was used to justify continuous expansion, the breaking of treaties, murder and land removal—actually the removal of the people from their land. The settler state justified its atrocities by reference to what eventually came to be known as the “facts on the ground.” In other words, from the standpoint of the settler, it does not ultimately matter whether ‘we’, that is the settler, robbed ‘you’ of your land and dignity. ‘We,’ meaning the settler, possess all the cards. That is, the settler possesses all or most of the weapons and, therefore, from the standpoint of the settler, the game is over and, as the bumper
sticker says, “Things just happen.”

Thank you...

William Fletcher is Belle Zeller Visiting Professor at Brooklyn College-City University of New York and former President and Chief Executive Officer of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating and advocating for policies in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

This “For the Record” transcript may be used without permission but with proper attribution to The Palestine Center. The speaker's views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jerusalem Fund.

To read the question and answer session that followed Mr. Fletcher's speech, click here.


"Surging" Into a Self-Sustaining Loop

Whenever I read Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque I get a strange feeling of deja vu, as if I'm reading my own thoughts penned by a better writer. Writing about the latest Milleresque propaganda -- crying out for Iranian blood -- splashed across the pages of the New York Times, Floyd touches on a point about the "surge" that I've been stuck on for some time. Floyd writes:

But what's most notable about the unsourced story is the way it -- and the White House -- are now trying to conflate the Iranians with the Iraqi insurgency, in much the same fashion as they merged Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the public mind. Here, the trick is to focus on Iran's alleged supply of IEDs to Iraq's Shiite militias, talking of their deadly effectiveness against American soldiers -- while scarcely noting the fact that the overwhelming number of attacks against the "Coalition of Aggression" come from the Sunni insurgents. What then are the headlines, the soundbites for the public? Iran... IEDs... deadly... insurgency... kill Americans." The intended effect, of course, is to convey the impression that Iran is driving the Iraqi insurgency that is now killing Americans in record numbers.

But the story is also significant for what it doesn't spell out, but clearly implies. Assuming for a moment the highly unlikely possibility that the Bushist security organs are actually telling the truth or even something like it in this instance -- given their repeatedly demonstrated propensity to lie and lie and lie again when the Bossman wants a war -- we are left with an extraordinary claim by the Bush Administration: that their own allies have turned against them and are now killing American soldiers with sophisticated weapons.

For who are the "Shiite militias"? They are the armed wings of the political factions that now run the Bush-backed Iraqi government, elected in an electoral process designed by the Bush Administration that guaranteed the rise of these extremist sectarian armed cliques to power. The Shiite militias ARE the Iraqi government -- or at least, they are part of that government's many contentious factions. If they have power, if they operate with impunity -- with or without weapons supplied by the long-time allies in Iran, with which most of the Iraqi Shiite factions have a relationship going back decades -- then it is because these factions have been and are now being empowered, armed, funded, trained and supported by the Bush Administration.

This is what the Bushists are tacitly admitting when they claim that the Shiite militias are fragging their ostensible American allies with Iranian weapons. They are saying that even the factions "liberated" and empowered by the American invasion are now attacking and killing U.S. soldiers, with even more virulence than the Sunni insurgents. They are saying that Bush is now "surging" more soldiers into a situation where every single armed faction in the Iraqi conflict is targeting and killing Americans, including those factions armed and funded by the Americans themselves.

This is a remarkable confession. And it represents yet another of the many overwhelming reasons to bring Bush's bloody Babylonian escapade to a halt without further delay. The most compelling reason, of course, is the fact that the invasion was a war crime from the word go and every second that it continues is a furtherance and compounding of that original sin. But even by the viscera-smeared lights of the war's own proponents, to have reached the place where the very people you have empowered are killing your troops is surely the end of the road.

What's wrong with this picture?


Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraq Redux

The 'W' is for 'War'!Gary Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud upon which much of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was based, has written an extensive essay for Vanity Fair dealing with the parallels between the propaganda leading to the invasion of Iraq and what we're hearing today about Iran. I don't have much to add because Unger lays it all out so plainly. I'll let this extended excerpt speak for itself. All emphases, of course, are mine...

From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq

The same neocon ideologues behind the Iraq war have been using the same tactics—alliances with shady exiles, dubious intelligence on W.M.D.—to push for the bombing of Iran. As President Bush ups the pressure on Tehran, is he planning to double his Middle East bet?

by Craig Unger March 2007

In the weeks leading up to George W. Bush's January 10 speech on the war in Iraq, there was a brief but heady moment when it seemed that the president might finally accept the failure of his Middle East policy and try something new. Rising anti-war sentiment had swept congressional Republicans out of power. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had been tossed overboard. And the Iraq Study Group (I.S.G.), chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, had put together a bipartisan report that offered a face-saving strategy to exit Iraq. Who better than Baker, the Bush family's longtime friend and consigliere, to talk some sense into the president?

By the time the president finished his speech from the White House library, however, all those hopes had vanished. It wasn't just that Bush was doubling down on an extravagantly costly bet by sending 21,500 more American troops to Iraq; there were also indications that he was upping the ante by an order of magnitude. The most conspicuous clue was a four-letter word that Bush uttered six times in the course of his speech: Iran.

In a clear reference to the Islamic Republic and its sometime ally Syria, Bush vowed to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies." At about the same time his speech was taking place, U.S. troops stormed an Iranian liaison office in Erbil, a Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq, and arrested and detained five Iranians working there.

Already, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on the war in Iraq. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of people have been killed. Countless more are wounded or living as refugees. Launched with the intention of shoring up Israeli security and replacing rogue regimes in the Middle East with friendly, pro-Western allies, the war in Iraq has instead turned that country into a terrorist training ground. By eliminating Saddam Hussein, the U.S.-led coalition has sparked a Sunni-Shiite civil war, which threatens to spread throughout the entire Middle East. And, far from creating a secular democracy, the war has empowered Shiite fundamentalists aligned with Iran. The most powerful of these, Muqtada al-Sadr, commands both an anti-American sectarian militia and the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

"Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn't happened," says the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, an influential conservative who backed the Iraq invasion. "And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president's neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, 'Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.' But after you've lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?"

By now, the story of how neoconservatives hijacked American foreign policy is a familiar one. With Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld leading the way, neocons working out of the office of the vice president and the Department of Defense orchestrated a spectacular disinformation operation, asserting that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction posed a grave and immediate threat to the U.S. Veteran analysts who disagreed were circumvented. Dubious information from known fabricators was hyped. Forged documents showing phony yellowcake-uranium sales to Iraq were promoted.

What's less understood is that the same tactics have been in play with Iran. Once again, neocon ideologues have been flogging questionable intelligence about W.M.D. Once again, dubious Middle East exile groups are making the rounds in Washington—this time urging regime change in Syria and Iran. Once again, heroic new exile leaders are promising freedom.

Meanwhile, a series of recent moves by the military have lent credence to widespread reports that the U.S. is secretly preparing for a massive air attack against Iran. (No one is suggesting a ground invasion.) First came the deployment order of U.S. Navy ships to the Persian Gulf. Then came high-level personnel shifts signaling a new focus on naval and air operations rather than the ground combat that predominates in Iraq. In his January 10 speech, Bush announced that he was sending Patriot missiles to the Middle East to defend U.S. allies—presumably from Iran. And he pointedly asserted that Iran was "providing material support for attacks on American troops," a charge that could easily evolve into a casus belli.

"It is absolutely parallel," says Philip Giraldi, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist. "They're using the same dance steps—demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies.
It is Iraq redux..."
This is but a sample. I strongly recommend reading the article in its entirety. At the risk of seeming redundant...


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Budgeting for a Permanent Occupation

"Bush's new budget asks for an astounding $745 billion in defense spending. Will Congress give it to him?"

I've decided to stay.Continuing on our occupation theme, Ari Berman at The Nation magazine has written a very relevant piece about the new budget released by His Majesty this week.

Need proof that George W. Bush is not planning to withdraw US troops from Iraq on his watch? Just look at his latest budget.

The Bush Administration will ask Congress for
$100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan this year--on top of the $70 billion already allocated--and $145 billion for 2008. Why ask for the money if you're not planning to use it?

Administration officials, according to the Washington Post, "warned that
even more money will probably will be needed." The Los Angeles Times says the military wants "even larger defense budgets."

Are you kidding me?

The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan aren't even included in the $481 billion the Pentagon demands for 2008, a 10 percent raise over this year. Total these figures up and Bush is asking for roughly $745 billion in defense spending, a higher number, when adjusted for inflation, than the entire cost of the Vietnam War.

Just pause and consider the size of that number.
Three-quarters of a trillion dollars and Osama bin Laden is still at large, the Taliban are regrouping in Afghanistan and the US military is stuck in a civil war in Iraq.

"We have the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, but we are losing to an opponent in Iraq that spends less over an entire year than what we spend in one day," says Winslow Wheeler, a longtime defense expert at the Center for Defense Information.

That sounds about right to me. They're budgeting for increased expenses over the next 2 years while, at the same time, telling us that "the surge" should improve things within 60-90 days and allow us to begin drawing down troops by the summer.

Why is that? Maybe it has something to do with the part they're not telling us. This couldn't have anything to do with the PNAC-inspired "core mission" of fighting and decisively winning "multiple, simultaneous multi-theatre wars" (Iran anyone?), could it? It wouldn't have anything to do with an "essential element of US strategy" that "transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein" would it? Hmmm....

Yeah, I think it does.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rule By Decree

I quote him again:

Does this man look 'unpopular'?"As anyone who studies the behavior of the U.S. empire during the last century discovers a common factor; every time the US are going to attack someone, they don’t do it right away, they start by preparing the terrain of their internal public opinion, one of the things that worries them the most....That way, when they launch the attack, they obtain the support of a big part of their internal public opinion. Almost all media in the country support them... they look for allies in Europe, from the U.N., they start preparing the terrain..."

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela
February 20, 2005

I was scanning news stories on the internet a couple of days ago when I ran across the following headline:

The report describes how the Venezuelan congress has ostensibly given it's President, Huge Chavez Frias, dictatorial powers to "rule by decree". Well, that certainly does sound like an alarming development when it's put that way. As if to ensure your alarm, the reporter begins as follows:

Convening in a downtown plaza in a session that resembled a political rally, lawmakers unanimously gave Chavez sweeping powers to legislate by decree and impose his radical vision of a more egalitarian socialist state.

"Long live the sovereign people! Long live President Hugo Chavez! Long live socialism!" said National Assembly President Cilia Flores as she proclaimed the "enabling law" approved by a show of hands. "Fatherland, socialism or death! We will prevail!"

The law gives Chavez, who is beginning a fresh six-year term, more power than he has ever had in eight years as president, and he plans to use it during the next 18 months to transform broad areas of public life, from the economy and the oil industry in particular, to "social matters" and the very structure of the state.

His critics call it a radical lurch toward authoritarianism by a leader with unchecked power — similar to how Fidel Castro monopolized leadership years ago in Cuba.

"If you have all the power, why do you need more power?" said Luis Gonzalez, a high school teacher who paused to watch in the plaza, calling it a "media show" intended to give legitimacy to a repugnant move. "We're headed toward a dictatorship, disguised as a democracy."

Oh, things certainly seem dire down there for each and every American trapped inside a Venezuelans body, screaming to get out, doesn't it? "It's the end of democracy", we're led to believe.

Of course, buried near the bottom of the story is this surprisingly reasonable statement from one State Department official in nearby Columbia:

"It's something valid under the constitution," said Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters in Colombia. "As with any tool of democracy, it depends how it is used," he added. "At the end of the day, it's not a question for the United States or for other countries, but for Venezuela."

What happened here? Did someone forget to fax the day's theme to this guy? What does he mean it's "valid under the constitution?" How are we supposed to paint Chavez as an anti-constitutional tyrant if we've got this guy down there citing facts about the Venezuelan constitution? Isn't he "emboldening the enemy"?

Let's delve further into this because I think we may be on to something. Eric Wingerter has penned what seems to be the definitive breakdown of what's behind this "enabling law" in Venezuela and the shrieking "rule by decree" headlines we're seeing in the US news media.

Mr. Wingerter, what say ye?

Did you hear that President Chavez is going to Rule by Decree for the next 18 months? The very idea evokes a picture of a not-too-distant South American past, one in which all-powerful executives live out their capricious whims and mete out brutal retribution against political enemies. It's all so dramatic and perverse and larger than life. Somewhere Andrew Lloyd Webber is already mapping out the musical score.

But in this case, it's just not true. Of course, if you've been reading the newspapers lately, you'd have a hard time figuring that out. The Miami Herald headline blares: "Chavez Granted Power to Rule by Decree." Time Magazine asks "Is Chavez Becoming Castro?" And those are the restrained ones. The right-wing rags have headlines like "A Dictatorship Rises," and "Hugo Chavez Kills Democracy." So you'd be forgiven for not getting the nuances in this storyline.

Here's what's actually happening: The Venezuelan assembly is poised to pass a law that will give the executive branch greater leeway to establish norms on a certain range of issues. Most of these involve guidelines for the president's own cabinet-level agencies. In other words, the Venezuelan version of the IRS will map out the country's tax structure; the Transportation department will devise its own strategic plan for public transit nationwide, etc. This represents a shift of certain powers from the legislative branch to the executive, to be sure, but on paper they don't seem to stray too far from the powers that the executive branch in the United States already has. has a full listing of the ten issue areas that are affected.

It is important to note that this type of power-transfer is allowed under the Venezuelan constitution of 1999, which expressly permits the President to issue executive orders specifically within these issue areas. Of course, the constitution continues to guide the country's overall legal framework, which is to say that no "decree" can supercede constitutional law.

What's more, this "enabling law" is not new to the current constitution. Venezuela's previous constitution allowed for similar powers shifts to the executive, and you can be sure that past presidents took advantage of this authority on multiple occasions throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's.

OK, so it's not anything new and, contrary to rumor, Chavez hasn't been granted the power to "rule by decree" at all. Yet here we are being subjected to these screaming headlines described above in virtually every corner of the US media if not the world.

I find that particularly interesting because the nature of these new powers -- i.e. executive branch agencies being granted the right to write the rules governing their particular area of responsibility independent of legislative approval -- sounds eerily familiar.

Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation
[Registration req'd; Alternative link]
Published: January 30, 2007 [New York Times]

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.


Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies’ efforts to protect the public.

Typically, agencies issue regulations under authority granted to them in laws enacted by Congress. In many cases, the statute does not say precisely what agencies should do, giving them considerable latitude in interpreting the law and developing regulations.

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review “any significant guidance documents” before they are issued.


Peter L. Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the executive order “achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government.”

“Having lost control of Congress,” Mr. Strauss said, “the president is doing what he can to increase his control of the executive branch.”

So, in what way does this differ from what is being done in Venezuela, one might ask. Allow me to suggest some important distinctions:

1) In Venezuela the measure is temporary, with the powers set to expire after 18 months. Not so in the US where the change is permanent.

2) In Venezuela the measure was adopted after a vote of the duly-elected representatives in that nation's legislature. In the US it happened by Executive Order, quietly and without the consultation of any other branch of government -- a decree, if you will.

3) In Venezuela the measure applies to a President who does not subscribe to a Unitary Executive Theory, unlike the President of the United States.

One can only wonder why a temporary legislative measure in the distant land of Venezuela sets off more alarm bells and feigned concern for the state of democracy than does the odious Unitary Executive Theory, the avowed philosophy of its own President, in the American news media.

Is that sulfur I smell?


Bush Seizes Power While Media Fixates on Chavez
Eric Wingeter on Chavez' "Rule by Decree"


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Carter Defends "Peace, Not Apartheid"

The awful truthI'm a little late posting this one but it's worth a look anyway. Former President Jimmy Carter appeared on NPR recently to defend his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Carter has predictably come under attack from supporters of Israel's government and its policies over his use of the term "Apartheid". Carter defends himself well against these attacks and certainly doesn't seem to need my help. But, as you listen to the interview in its entirety (I highly recommend that you do) consider how instructive this whole episode is on the nature of the Israel/Palestinian debate in America.

Carter presents a valid and important argument that for years has been considered fairly obvious outside of the United States. In fact, as has been noted elsewhere, he may not have gone far enough, censoring himself as a preemptive measure against these kinds of attacks. For instance, Carter insists in the NPR interview that nothing in his book suggests that Apartheid is practiced inside of Israel but that it is very much the case in the Palestinian territories Israel occupies. He bends over backwards (too far, in my opinion) to portray the domestic policies of Israel as democratic and fair, limiting his critique to it's behavior in Gaza and the West Bank.

Nevertheless, inside the US he is being vilified as, of all things, an anti-Semite, consistent with the well-worn construct that any criticism of Israel's government, regardless of its accuracy, is tantamount to launching a second Holocaust. In the firestorm that has erupted Carter's main point -- that peace is impossible if the legitimate, long-standing grievances of the Palestinian people continue to be ignored and literally paved over -- is completely obscured by all the hand-wringing over the use of the word "Apartheid".

In observing any debate, even if one is not up-to-speed on the issue at hand, there are things one can look for in order to ascertain which side is being, shall we say, less-than-candid and which isn't. And the Lord said "Ye shall know them by their fruits".

The fruits in this case are the methods used by Carter's critics to carry their side of argument, the vast array of intentional fallacies designed to obscure the weakness of their position. Using these techniques they have managed to remove the merits of his arguments from the discussion completely. From their perspective there is a good reason for this. Carter's arguments are unassailable. So, instead they've chosen obfuscation and fallacy as their primary weapon, focusing on a single word as a springboard for ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments.

With these tools they've managed to create a media environment in which all the focus is on whether Israel is exactly like South Africa, or whether Carter is anti-Semitic. These are, of course, wholly irrelevant but they serve the purpose of diverting attention away from facts that, again, are already considered well-established in the rest of the world but don't serve the interest of continuing the status quo.

These cynics are aided in no small part by the US media's long-standing embargo against any suggestion that Palestinians are rational human beings who are actually suffering unjustly under a 40-year Israeli occupation that denies them the basic human rights and dignity we ourselves insist upon. Only in such a media environment, built on a foundation of fallacy, can a situation in which the land is being literally pulled out from under the Palestinians' feet, where Palestinians are literally being walled off from their own homes, workplaces, families and assets be described as a threat to Israel's existence and not that of the Palestinians.

I have long argued privately that the use of such tactics represents an tacit admission by the user not only that their argument is weak on merit but that they know it and don't care. They don't want peace. They want Apartheid and they'll say anything to keep it. They'd just prefer you call it something else.

See also:

Carter Wins Applause at Brandeis


Friday, February 02, 2007

We Don't Need to Escalate

A voice from the past. Is anyone listening? What's going on?