Monday, August 28, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Terror thrives on Bush blunders
Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Sometimes distance lends clarity.
I’ve spent much of August at an old friend’s Montana ranch in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains 17 miles from a town of 200. It’s as far from the everydayness of American life as it’s possible to get without sleeping on the ground. At first the silence can be almost unnerving. There’s no traffic noise, no Muzak, no omnipresent roar of airplanes overhead. During daylight, only the bawling of cows is audible above the wind. At night, coyotes sing and the Great Pyrenees sheepdogs bark gruff threats. The house dogs can hear a visitor driving up the gravel road half a mile away. There’s no morning newspaper. Telephone service is irregular, and the radio reception poor. That’s just how my friend Ansel, a literary man turned Suffolk sheep breeder, likes it. It’s 50 miles to a wireless Internet connection. In short, it’s the perfect place for the media deprivation therapy I require. I even enjoy the 1,600-mile drive from home, which involves crossing six states, two time zones and several climatological zones. What a vast, enthralling land we Americans share. The trip never fails to evoke Woody Guthrie-style effusions of patriotism.
So one morning Ansel came in from mowing pasture to say he’d heard disturbing news on the tractor radio. The British had foiled a major, 9/11-style terrorist plot. We turned on the TV, normally reserved for baseball and weather reports. Thanks to the mixed blessing of satellite TV, there’s nowhere too remote to catch CNN.
Wolf Blitzer and the gang had whipped themselves into a frenzy of terror porn. Although none of the would-be bombers arrested, British citizens all, had apparently secured tickets or passports enabling them to board transatlantic flights, the logo “Target: USA” occupied the screen all day.
Be very, very afraid. Until the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder case resurfaced to rescue them, fear-mongering was cable TV’s summer ratings builder.
Homeland Security honcho Michael Chertoff, who’d played no role in the arrests, nevertheless got lots of face time, ramping up the official U. S. government threat level to Hysterical, I think it was.
Soon the swaggering little man with the close-set, befuddled eyes appeared. Needless to say, President Bush saw in the British plot confirmation of his “war on terror.” He linked it to a “totalitarian ideology” called “Islamo-fascism,” which supposedly includes Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Sunni insurgents in Iraq, their Shiite enemies, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and fanatical followers of Osama bin Laden. Bush conjured a single, worldwide conspiracy dedicated to the destruction of freedom, justice and the American way.
Seen from afar, the stage-managed quality was doubly clear. Should the British suspects be proved guilty (doubters suspect that Pakistani agents may have obtained false information through torture), what it will show is how determined intelligence and police work trump warfare in combating terrorism.
The larger problem is that “Islamo-fascism,” as Bush portrays it, simply doesn’t exist. While satisfying to Christian fundamentalists imagining Satan, it’s otherwise meaningless. The slogan was conceived by neo-con ideologues anxious to find an opponent worthy of their own revolutionary romanticism, a virtual Hitler for their Churchillian fantasies.
But what made European fascism uniquely dangerous wasn’t merely Adolf Hitler’s hypnotic ideology. It was German militarism and hyper-nationalism run amok. Islamic extremists control none of the world’s 60-odd Muslim-majority nations. They have no army, air force or navy. They pose no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation. At worst, they’re capable of theatrical mass murder like the 9/11 attacks.
Why is anything so elementary worth saying? Because, argues James Fallows in an exhaustively reported Atlantic Monthly article, “al-Qaeda’s ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced.” Groups like it “will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.”
Polls show that perishingly few Muslims wish to live under the kind of 14th century religious dogmatism Islamic extremists extol. The only thing keeping al-Qa’ida going is U.S. strategic blunders. “The biggest series of mistakes all of these experts have in mind,” Fallows writes “is Iraq.” (He wrote his article before Israel’s ill-fated, American-backed invasion of Lebanon, another seeming confirmation of al-Qa’ida propaganda.) Indeed, most experts thought Bush’s smartest play would be to declare victory in the “war on terror” five years after 9/11, ratchet down the propaganda and return to honest broker status between Israel and the Palestinians. “America’s cause is doomed unless
it regains the moral high ground,” Sir Richard Dearlove, the former director of Britain’s secret intelligence agency, MI-6, told Fallows. Fat chance. Politically, alas, it’s a nonstarter as long as bin Laden remains at large and Bush occupies the White House.
Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."
Huffington Post: Arianna
Hillary Clinton: TIME Cover Girl, a Profile in Followership (87 comments )
In its new cover story on Hillary Clinton's "presidential ambitions," Time magazine reports that on top of 32 full-time employees and 10 Senate staffers partially assigned to it, Clinton's "political operation" now includes 13 political consultants. That seems like quite a bit of input for someone the article describes as "genuinely undecided" about running for president.But it is very much in keeping with the political profile that has emerged since Hillary transformed herself from First Lady to Presumptive Presidential Frontrunner. And that profile is unmistakably of a politician more comfortable following than leading.
There are politicians with great instincts as leaders -- those who recognize not just the crises directly in front of them, but those around the corner as well. (And these leadership instincts come from the gut, not from a multitude of consultants, strategists, and pollsters.)
And there are politicians with great instincts as followers -- those who are the first to stick their fingers in the air and notice even the slightest shift in the wind of popular opinion. (And these followership instincts are a political consultant's wet dream.)
In this second group, no one is as attuned to the zephyrs of change as Hillary Clinton. She is the quintessential political weather vane.
I wonder, did all 13 of her consultants recommend that she co-sponsor that bill banning flag burning?
And is it her baker's Dirty Dozen of consultants that has developed Hillary's strategy of refusing to debate Jonathan Tasini, her opponent in the upcoming New York primary? Of course, given Tasini's anti-Iraq war campaign, Hillary's vulnerability on the issue, and the fact that 62 percent of New Yorkers say they are more likely to vote for an anti-war candidate, this "run-and-hide" plan may be highly politically expedient -- but it doesn't say much for Hillary's leadership skills or her ability to deal with this thorny issue come 2008.
And was the Gang of 13 the driving force behind Hillary's decision earlier this month to call on Don Rumsfeld to resign? Or did she feel the antiwar wind blowing in her face and unilaterally make her bold stand -- which came only two years and nine months after Charlie Rangel called for Rummy's resignation.
. . . and only two years and three months after John Kerry, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, George Miller, Al Gore, George Will, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Max Boot, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
. . . and only one year and eight months after Joe Biden and Jon Corzine.
. . . and only one year and two months after Ted Kennedy.
. . . and only five months after Jack Murtha and Diane Feinstein.
. . . and only four months after Wes Clark, Mark Warner, and Bill Richardson.
She even trailed Trent Lott, who in December 2004 said, "I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so."
The only one she beat to the punch was Mrs. Rumsfeld.
With the latest poll showing 61 percent of Americans now oppose the war, who wants to make a wager on how many months after Jack Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq will it be before Hillary, acting on the advice of her throng of consultants, courageously stakes her political future on the call for our troops to come home?
Before she wins her primary in September or after?
Before she retains her Senate seat in November or after?
Before she announces that she's running for president in 2008 or after?
Before the 2008 Iowa caucus or after?
Before the 2008 Democratic Convention or after?
Before Election Day 2008 or after?
Before all-out civil war engulfs Iraq or after?
Before the last U.S. soldier turns off the lights on his way out of Baghdad or after?
Place your bets now.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
An officially induced panic: UK terror scare sparks wave of mini-scares
By Kate Randall
19 August 2006
More than a week after the US and UK announcements that an alleged terror plot to blow up commercial airliners flying from Britain to the US had been foiled, the official claims are unraveling. Authorities have been unable to provide any concrete evidence to back up the story that police raids and mass arrests in Britain thwarted an imminent attack that would have taken the lives of thousands of transatlantic travelers.
Significant details, in fact, have come to light that indicate the opposite. Not only has it been revealed that no bombs were actually in the process of being assembled, but none of the suspects—British-born Muslims, who at this point remain in custody without having been charged—had purchased airline tickets. Some did not even hold passports.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the government-media hysteria about the alleged plot was prompted not by security concerns, but rather by a politically motivated desire to divert attention from the growing crisis of both the Bush and Blair governments. Under conditions of a deepening military and political debacle in Iraq, growing domestic opposition to the war, a deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan, and the unfavorable outcome for the US and Britain in Lebanon, the eruption of the latest alleged terror plot has served to “change the subject,” while fostering an atmosphere of fear and panic that both governments hope will disorient the public and facilitate new attacks on democratic rights.
It is now clear that there was no imminent attack to be thwarted. But the massive provocation unleashed by Washington and London has succeeded in creating a climate of near-hysteria, at least within official circles, the media, the airline industry, and police agencies, that has spawned a string of incidents in which minor occurrences were sensationalized and reported, replete with wild claims and lurid rumors, as new “terror events.”
Under other circumstances, most if not all of these occurrences would have been handled in a routine manner. In the current climate, they became news items of national and international significance—until, by the next news cycle, the dire allegations had proved baseless.
These cases follow a common pattern: allegations are leveled by the authorities; the media swings into action to uncritically promote and embellish the official line. In short order, the initial claims are abandoned and the stories drop out of the headlines, with no accounting for the initial false reports, while the media waits with bated breath for the next “terror threat.”
New incidents are being reported with such frequency that it is difficult to keep up with them. The most recent was a bomb scare Friday aboard a charter flight from London’s Gatwick Airport headed for Hurghada, Egypt.
Police reported that a passenger had found a note in a seat pocket saying a bomb was on the aircraft. The note prompted the pilot to order an emergency landing, and the 767 jet was escorted by an Italian fighter jet to Brindisi airport in Italy. Fire engines surrounded the plane upon landing, and the passengers were disembarked. After a search of the plane turned up nothing, airport officials stood down the emergency.
A day earlier, a flight from London’s Heathrow Airport headed for Washington, DC, was diverted to Boston after a woman’s strange behavior and altercations with the flight crew prompted the pilot to order an emergency landing.
Local television stations and national cable networks interrupted regular programming for live coverage of the incident, as Air Force F15 jets escorted the plane to an emergency landing at Logan Airport, where authorities interrogated passengers and police dogs sniffed through luggage for explosives. None were found.
Some early reports on the passenger, Catherine Mayo, a 59-year-old woman from Vermont, claimed she had a suspicious note in a foreign language, and might somehow have a connection to Al Qaeda. It was also reported she was in possession of a six-inch screwdriver. Reference to the screwdriver was subsequently dropped. According to the FBI, it turned out that the potential Al Qaeda link was a vague reference Mayo had made to “being with people associated with ‘two words.’ ”
Later Thursday, it was being reported that the woman had not posed a threat and was most likely suffering from claustrophobia or a panic attack. US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said in a statement: “At this time, there is no evidence that this was a terrorist-related incident.”
Mayo was arrested and charged with interference with flight crew members and flight attendants by intimidation, and held overnight. In convicted, she faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
In another incident on Thursday, a terminal at the Tri-State Airport in West Virginia was shut down for 10 hours after two bottles containing liquids in a woman’s hand luggage reportedly tested positive for explosives residue at a security checkpoint. Airline service was suspended, and about 100 passengers and airport employees were ordered to leave the terminal.
A machine used by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners to test for explosives registered positive on the bottles, and a canine team also registered a “positive hit.” But chemical tests later that day found no explosives in the bottles, one of which contained a gel-type facial cleanser. The TSA screening procedure tests for a range of explosives residue, some of which are found in common household items.
The woman, a 28-year-old of Pakistani descent, was taken from the airport by federal authorities at 5 p.m. No charges have been filed against her.
In another bomb-scare incident, a half-mile perimeter was set up around a container terminal in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday after it was reported that bomb-sniffing dogs’ reactions had indicated that at least one container recently unloaded from a ship could contain explosives. Dozens of personnel were evacuated.
The US Customs and Border Protection Service said that an X-ray machine subsequently “revealed ‘anomalies’ in two containers from Pakistan,” although when they scanned the containers with radiation detection equipment, no radioactive material was found.
A supposed threat of terrorist attack from individuals purchasing pre-paid cell phones in bulk was the impetus for several arrests and investigations in the past week. In February and March, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent out joint bulletins alerting local police departments around the US that the profits from the resale of these untraceable phones could be used to finance terrorist organizations—or that the devices themselves could be used as detonators to trigger explosive attacks.
Two cell phone incidents in the Midwest made national news this past week. On August 11, three Texas men of Palestinian descent were arrested in Michigan after attempting to buy 80 cell phones in separate purchases of three at a time. Adham Abdelhamid Othman, 21, Maruan Awad Muhareb, 18, and Louai Abdelhamied Othman, 23, were arrested outside a Wal-Mart in Caro, Michigan, about 80 miles north of Detroit, after store employees became suspicious and notified police.
A search found that one of the men had images of the Mackinac Bridge—which links Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas—on a digital camera. From this, local authorities surmised that they were plotting to target the bridge with an explosive blast. The arrests sparked increased security on the 5-mile-long bridge, with the Coast Guard stepping up its patrols.
Prosecutors charged the men with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes—felonies with a 20-year maximum penalty. The three were each jailed on $750,000 cash bond, and held for nearly five days on the terrorism charges in Tuscola County jail.
The men told a magistrate the day after their arrest that they had bought the cell phones for resale, and that they had taken the photos of the bridge—along with snapshots of local wildlife and lakes—as tourists. By Monday, the FBI’s Detroit office had issued a news release saying the agency had no information indicating that the men had any “direct nexus to terrorism.”
On Wednesday, Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene asked for the state terrorism charges to be dismissed so the men could be turned over to federal authorities. The three appeared in a US District Court in Bay City, Michigan, on Thursday and were charged with federal fraud conspiracy and money laundering—charges unrelated to terrorism.
Similar cell-phone terror charges fizzled out in nearby Ohio on Monday. Dearborn, Michigan, residents Osama Sabhi Abulhassan and Ali Houssaiky, both 20, were arrested August 8 in Marietta, Ohio, when police found dozens of pre-paid cell phones in their car, along with $11,000 in cash. A store clerk had phoned police after the two men purchased a large number of cell phones.
Initial reports on the arrests indicated passenger lists and an airport security guide were also found. (As it turns out, Houssaiky’s mother works for Royal Jordanian Airlines and had left an outdated passenger list in the car, along with the guide.) The two were charged with soliciting or providing for an act of terrorism, money laundering and a misdemeanor charge of lying to police about what they were doing with the phones. Police claimed the men gave two accounts of why they purchased the phones.
As in the alleged threat to blow up the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan news broadcasts warned of the local terrorist connection. Media coverage took a particularly vile form in a blog by Debbie Schlussel, a local radio talk show host and occasional guest on Fox News’s “O’Reilly Factor.”
In a blog entry titled “All-American Terrorist: How Dearbornistan Boys went from Football Field to Islamic Terror,” Schlussel wrote that the two men arrested in Ohio, former students at Fordson High School in Dearborn, came from the “most Muslim-populated high school in America” and suggested that any student from Fordson should be considered “a terrorist in training.”
But the charges against Abulhassan and Houssaiky were dropped on Monday, when Ohio authorities said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them. They were released on Tuesday after spending a week behind bars, jailed separately from other inmates. Intent on pursuing whatever charges they can, Washington County Prosecutor James Schneider said his office will continue to press the misdemeanor charge.
In yet another cell phone case, police in Tucson, Arizona, have been searching for two men of Middle Eastern descent for allegedly trying to buy around 50 disposable cell phones at a local Sam’s Club store. Authorities claim the men are wanted for questioning, but not criminal charges.
Arizona’s Counter-Terrorism Information Center has advised local police departments that there is a possible increase in suspicious purchases of pre-paid cell phones, although they admit that purchasing them in such large numbers makes it unlikely that they were being purchased to detonate a bomb, as much smaller quantities—easily available without bulk purchase—would be required.
Nonetheless, KVOA television reported on the dragnet atmosphere, as police responded to a tip that two Middle Eastern men were buying a large number of cell phones at discount stores in Huachuca City, Arizona, south of Tucson:
“Huachuca City police swung into action. They set up surveillance at the Dollar General and the Family Dollar stores.
“They soon spotted the black Ford Explorer with a California license plate, the vehicle the caller told police about.
“Three people—a woman, and two men with Middle Eastern names—were detained, questioned, and later released by federal agents.”
Again, nothing to substantiate any terrorist activity connected to the cell-phone purchases.
Contradictions, anomalies, questions mount in UK terror scare
[17 August 2006]
Sunday, August 20, 2006
St. Paul Pioneer Press | 08/03/2006 | Bring back the draft so more know the consequence of war
July 27, 2006. My son phoned from Iraq this morning, the 354th morning of his deployment as a combat medic with the 172nd Stryker Brigade. The news was not good.
After a year risking his own life in the desert of western Iraq and receiving a decoration for saving the lives of others while under fire, he was scheduled to be reassigned back to the States. Two days before boarding an airplane to fly out, his reassignment home was postponed indefinitely. He is being moved to Baghdad, along with the rest of his brigade, including the ones who had already shipped back to their home base in Alaska. They now must repack their gear and head back to the inferno.
When something like this happens to a loved one, you find yourself consumed by an overwhelming sense of anger.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Warnings of a US recession and global slowdown
Three commentaries published in the Financial Times over the past week have pointed to the increasing likelihood of a US recession that would have major implications for the global economy.
In an article published on August 10 under the title “The world must prepare for America’s recession”, New York University economist Nouriel Roubini warned that while the US Federal Reserve Board may have been hoping for a “soft landing” when it decided earlier this month to halt its cycle of interest rate rises, the decision has come too late and it now confronts a recession.
“The US recession will be triggered by three unstoppable forces: the housing slowdown; higher oil prices; and higher interest rates. The US consumer, already burdened with high debt and falling real wages, will be hard hit by these shocks,” he wrote.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Mieu Bathes (Nasty Letters is on Vacation except for major Chimpo crimes)
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The insanity of pResident Simple
Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2006
In politics, it’s crucial not to be overwhelmed by irony.
Nobody knows what will happen in the Middle East. But if the U. S. and France, working through the U. N. Security Council, have succeeded in negotiating a lasting cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, the temptation will be to make jokes. How long ago was it that a (pardon my French ) rapprochement with France would have been deemed suspect by all hairy-chested, God-fearing Americans? Diplomacy may fail. Powerful forces inside the Bush administration are trying to circumvent it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, like her predecessor Colin Powell, is ridiculed as an incompetent weakling by the same geniuses who predicted a “cakewalk” in Iraq. True, Rice may not be the second coming of George Marshall, but they liked her fine when she was emitting warlike noises and “end times” gibberish.
The stakes are higher than many Americans understand. Should the ceasefire hold, French diplomats and U.N. bureaucrats will have rescued Israel and Hezbollah from a conflict both appear to have blundered into, saving countless civilian lives. A brokered peace also would confound neo-conservative zealots eager to start what Newt Gingrich excitedly calls World War III to “defend civilization.” As such, a cease-fire could mark the beginning of the end of a period of temporary insanity in American life. Or not.
Writing in the newspaper Haaretz, Israeli diplomat Daniel Levy offers a history lesson: “In 1996 a group of then-opposition U.S. policy agitators, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, presented a paper entitled ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’ to incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ‘clean break’ was from the prevailing peace process, advocating that Israel pursue a combination of rollback, destabilization and containment in the region, including striking at Syria and removing Saddam Hussein from power in favor of ‘Hashemite’ [Jordanian ] control in Iraq.”
Alas, even Netanyahu’s far-right government showed no enthusiasm. (If the U. S. Army can’t control Iraq’s Shiite militias, how could Jordan?) Similarly recalcitrant were Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, who as an army general led the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, resulting in a disastrous 18-year occupation. His military credentials in order, Sharon answered Hezbollah provocation with small-scale counter-attacks and negotiation.
Levy again: “The key neo-con protagonists, their think tanks and publications may be unfamiliar to many Israelis, but they are redefining the region we live in. This tight-knit group of ‘defense intellectuals’ —centered around [Weekly Standard editor] Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Perle, Feith and others—were considered somewhat offbeat until they teamed up with hawkish well-connected Republicans like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich, and with the emerging powerhouse of the Christian right. Their agenda was an aggressive unilateralist U. S. global supremacy, a radical vision of transformative regime-change democratization, with a fixation on the Middle East, an obsession with Iraq and an affinity to ‘old Likud’ politics in Israel. Their extended moment in the sun arrived after 9/11.”
And a catastrophic mess they’ve made of it. All save Gingrich signed a “Project for a New American Century” position paper urging an attack on Iraq years before 9/11, part of a grandiose scheme for world domination that would have credited a James Bond villain or V. I. Lenin.
Achieving high rank in President Simple’s administration, the neo-cons—no war veterans among them—convinced him that removing Saddam Hussein, a secular military dictator, was crucial to defeating al-Qa’ida religious fanatics hiding in Pakistani caves several time zones away. With a grateful citizenry strewing rose petals in their path, American liberators would turn Iraq into an Arab Switzerland.
Now they’re eager to double down on that calamitous bet. The Jerusalem
Post recently reported that Israeli defense officials received “indications from the U. S. that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.” Thankfully, sources told veteran American reporter Robert Parry, even hawkish cabinet members think that’s “nuts.” After the smoke clears, Israel, a functioning democracy, will doubtless investigate.
Since the fall of Baghdad, moreover, some neo-cons have joked that “real
men go to Tehran.” U.S. intelligence sources can find no evidence that Iran controls Hezbollah’s actions, although they arm Lebanon’s Shiite militia as surely as the U.S. sponsors Israel. Neo-cons see one last chance to achieve their megalomaniacal daydreams before the November congressional elections, provoking a war whose scale—from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas—most Americans don’t comprehend, and which couldn’t be “won” without resorting to nuclear weapons. The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh contends that the Pentagon is resisting White House pressures to plan exactly that. Daniel Levy thinks that “disentangling Israeli interests from the rubble of neocon ‘creative
destruction’ in the Middle East has become an urgent challenge for Israeli policy-makers.” Had George W. Bush heeded France in 2003, allowing United Nations inspectors to document that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction, today’s situation wouldn’t be so scary. This time, Americans need to listen.
Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Saturday, August 12, 2006
In wake of London arrests: Another attempt to terrorize the American people
By Bill Van Auken, Socialist Equality Party candidate for US Senate from New York
12 August 2006
This article is available as a PDF leaflet to download and distribute
Before all but the sparsest details of the alleged terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights have been revealed, the American people are being subjected once again to a campaign of fear-mongering and intimidation directed from the White House.
The aim of this propaganda drive, aided and abetted by the media, is to portray opposition to the war in Iraq and to the policies of the Bush administration in general as tantamount to collusion with or capitulation to terrorism and mass murder.
The administration did not even wait until the arrests were announced, but got a head-start in the form of a loathsome statement issued by Vice President Dick Cheney, who staged a rare teleconference with the media Wednesday to deliver his verdict on the Democratic primary defeat of incumbent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. The three-term senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000 lost to political newcomer Ned Lamont, who ran as a critic of the war in Iraq and attacked Lieberman for his vocal support for the war.
Cheney described the defeat suffered by Lieberman, who has been the most servile supporter of the administration’s policies within the Democratic Party, as being “of concern,” particularly “with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.”
“The thing that’s partly disturbing about it,” Cheney continued, “is the fact that the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the Al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.”
The message was clear: the majority of Connecticut Democrats who went to the polls on Tuesday and voted for an antiwar candidate provided aid and comfort to Al Qaeda.
At the time Cheney issued this provocative slur, he, like Bush, was being kept apprised of the police investigation in Britain and knew that major raids and arrests, combined with a media furor over terrorism, were in the offing.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told the press the same day that the Democrats were raising “a white flag in the war on terror.”
The exact same sentiments were echoed by Lieberman himself after the announcement of the British arrests. The senator, repudiated at the polls by the voters of his own party, is defying their verdict on his policies and running as an independent against Lamont. The support for Lamont, he declared, would be “taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.”
In between the statements of Cheney and Lieberman came a bit of fear-mongering from President Bush—broadcast live on national television from an airport tarmac in Wisconsin. “This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation,” he declared, adding, “The American people need to know we live in a dangerous world, but our government will do everything we can to protect our people from those dangers.”
Little is as yet known about the identity and ideology of the suspects in the alleged British airline bombing plot. If there is anything that smacks of incipient fascism, however, it is the despicable statements made by Cheney and Lieberman.
In the early stages of Bush’s “global war on terrorism,” the US president made the infamous statement to the world, “either you are with us or against us.” Now the same message is being delivered in unmistakable terms to the American people: political dissent and opposition—even of the mildest sort—to the administration’s policies of war abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home represent support for terrorism.
The attempt by Cheney, Bush and Lieberman to paint their opponents as terrorist dupes and accomplices is patently aimed at diverting public attention from their own criminal roles in dragging the American people into an illegal and unprovoked war based upon lies. It is further aimed at distracting public opinion from the debacle which the imperialist adventure in Iraq has produced.
This is nothing new. During the last national election, in 2004, at approximately the same point in the election calendar, the public was subjected to another terror scare. “Code orange” alerts were declared in New York City, Washington and Newark, New Jersey and special weapons teams were deployed around major financial institutions in all three cities. It subsequently emerged that the so-called intelligence that prompted the alert was three to four years old, most of it gathered from open sources on the Internet. There was no substantiation of any imminent attack.
(At the time, it was Lieberman who attacked fellow Democrat Howard Dean for suggesting a political motive behind the announcement of the alleged threat. “No one in their right mind would think the president or the secretary of homeland security would raise an alert level and scare people for political reasons,” he declared.)
What the nature of the evidence is in the present terror scare in Britain remains to be seen. People should, however, bear in mind that the record of British authorities in these matters is no better than that of their counterparts in America. Just last June there was a massive raid on a home in the Forest Gate section of east London, in which one man was shot and others physically assaulted before scores of cops in chemical weapons suits descended on the dwelling. No evidence was found and no one was ever charged.
The previous July, there was the execution-style slaying of Brazilian immigrant Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent worker whom police commanders attempted to portray as a terrorist suspect.
And in 2003, there was the so-called “ricin terror plot,” involving a supposed Al Qaeda laboratory in north London manufacturing “weapons of mass destruction” out of castor beans. The case collapsed, as it emerged that there existed no terror plot, no weapons, and no means of making them.
The full story about the present terror scare has yet to emerge. That the political conditions for such attacks exist, and that they have been exacerbated by the US occupation of Iraq and Washington’s unconditional support for Israel’s assault on Lebanon is undeniable. But given their track records, there is no reason to accept uncritically the claims of the US and British governments, and every reason to demand that their assertions be substantiated with facts.
The attempt by Cheney, Lieberman and others to exploit the news from London is an exercise in unbridled cynicism. Within the Republican camp the news of the allegedly thwarted plot was greeted with undisguised glee.
“Weeks before September 11, this is going to play big,” one White House official told the Agence France Press news agency. He added that that some Democratic candidates won’t “look as appealing” in light of these events.
The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial pages generally reflect most accurately the views within the right-wing circles that dominate the White House, seized upon the alleged plot as a justification for every crime carried out by the Bush administration, from wars of aggression, to abductions and torture, to illegal spying.
“The real lesson of yesterday’s antiterror success in Britain,” the Journal concluded, “is that the threat remains potent, and that the US government needs to be using every legal tool to defeat it.” The methods cited by the newspaper, however are patently illegal.
Millions of Americans have already drawn their own conclusions from the continuous invocation of terrorism to justify such crimes. The skepticism toward the government’s claims and distrust of its motives found expression in an opinion poll conducted in May by Zogby International, which found that 42 percent of the public believes the Bush administration has conducted a cover-up of the facts of the September 11, 2001 attacks—an event which the administration has exploited endlessly as a pretext for its policies.
The basic political context for the political attacks surrounding the Lieberman defeat and the suggestions that sections of the Democratic Party are terrorist sympathizers is the embrace by both parties of the perspective of a never-ending war on terrorism. This is the bipartisan axis of American foreign policy. The disputes between the Democrats and Republicans are largely over the best tactics for prosecuting the so-called war.
Such is the case with the current “antiwar” Democratic politician par excellence, Ned Lamont, the victor in the Connecticut primary. He does not call for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, but rather a “strategy to win,” involving the redeployment of US forces in the region in a manner consistent with Washington’s strategic goal of dominating the Middle East’s oil wealth.
Both parties have supported the sweeping changes in the structure and power of domestic security forces sanctioned by the USA Patriot Act, which, along with the Homeland Security Department, the Northern Command, military commissions and vast domestic spying programs, has erected the scaffolding of an American police state.
The Democrats have increasingly tailored their attacks on the administration’s Iraq policy in such a way as to underscore their support for the “war on terrorism,” deriding the open-ended occupation of Iraq as a distraction from the “real” war on terrorism, with some advocating that US forces be redeployed to Afghanistan, which is also spinning out of control, others calling for tougher measures against Iran and North Korea, and virtually all demanding greater resources for domestic security.
In the end, both of these parties represent a narrow financial elite, whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of the working people who comprise the vast majority of the population. The colossal social gap dividing this ruling stratum from the rest of the people leaves no room for genuine democracy in America, and gives rise to the poisonous policies of militarism abroad and police repression at home.
The struggle to end war and the conditions of poverty and oppression that ultimately breed terrorism, and to defend democratic rights, can be carried forward only through a decisive break with the Democratic Party and the entire two-party system. What is required is the independent political mobilization of the working class based upon a socialist and internationalist program that seeks to unite workers in the US with workers in the Middle East and all over the world in a common fight against the profit system.
It is to advance this perspective and program and to lay the foundations for the emergence of a new, independent mass movement of working people that the Socialist Equality Party is intervening in the 2006 elections.See Also:
Britain's airline terror plot: Questions that need to be answered
[11 August 2006]
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Looserman needs to get his ass kicked again...harder
Lieberman’s defeat and the state of American politics
By Barry Grey
10 August 2006
The response of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and the Democratic Party leadership to Lieberman’s defeat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election says a great deal about the politics of the Democratic Party and the state of American politics as a whole.
Lieberman, a three-term senator and the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000, lost by a 52 to 48 percent margin to Ned Lamont, an heir to the Lamont family fortune and multi-millionaire businessman, who ran as an opponent of the war in Iraq.
Lamont, a political unknown when he announced his decision to oppose Lieberman’s bid for a fourth term last February, made the war the central issue in his campaign and tapped into the overwhelming anti-war sentiment of Democratic voters, as well as their anger over Lieberman’s vocal defense of the war and the policies of the Bush administration more generally.
The World Socialist Web Site will, in ensuing articles, examine in some detail the politics of Ned Lamont, which are firmly rooted in the defense of American capitalism and its imperialist interests around the world, notwithstanding his criticisms of the Bush administration’s disastrous adventure in Iraq. These criticisms, it should be pointed out, reflect the views of a significant section of the American foreign policy establishment, which has come to see the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a foreign policy blunder of immense proportions.
There is no doubt, however, that Lamont’s challenge to Lieberman was a crack in the bipartisan pro-war front of the US political establishment through which popular opposition to the war could be registered in the electoral arena. Tuesday’s Connecticut primary was an unambiguous repudiation by Connecticut Democrats of the war and the war’s most prominent and strident Democratic supporter.
Lieberman’s response was to announce, in his concession speech Tuesday night, his intention to oppose Lamont in the November election by running as an independent. With this declaration, Lieberman expressed his contempt for the democratic will of the voters within his own party. Even if someone in Lieberman’s position had managed to win the primary, one would have expected him to at least give the appearance of being chastened and to make some acknowledgment of the deep and sincere opposition to his policies.
Instead, he ignored entirely the issue which was pivotal in his defeat—the war in Iraq—and cast Lamont’s victory as a triumph of “the old politics of partisan polarization.” Implicitly dismissing as illegitimate any opposition to the war, he denounced his opponent for employing “insults instead of ideas.”
“For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand,” he declared. No “the people have spoken” here! One is reminded of the ironic aphorism of Bertolt Brecht: When the people make the wrong choice, it is necessary to elect a new people.
The thrust of Lieberman’s remarks was an appeal to Republican voters. In the course of a brief speech he denounced “partisan politics” and political “polarization” at least five times. Presenting an upside-down view of Washington politics—where Democratic prostration before Bush and the Republicans is omnipresent—he spoke of the “partisan politics that has assailed Washington today.” Having conceded defeat to an opponent who attacked him for rubber-stamping the policies of the Bush administration, he made the absurd claim that “People are fed up with the petty partisanship and angry vitriol in Washington.”
He called for a “new politics of unity and purpose,” and just in case his message was not sufficiently clear, he added, “I will never hesitate to work with members of the other party if it helps me achieve solutions” and said his campaign would aim to “unite the people of Connecticut—Team Connecticut—Democrats, Republicans and Independents so we can go forward together...”
This is the man who was supported by the entire Democratic Party leadership. Former president Bill Clinton campaigned for him against Lamont, and the leadership of the Democratic Party in Congress backed him, including supposed war critics like Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
To take the measure of Lieberman and the Democratic Party as a whole, one need only compare the senator’s defiance of Connecticut’s Democratic voters with his cowardice and indifference to the theft of the 2000 election. Then, as the vice presidential candidate, he could barely manage a whimper in the face of an open, illegal and ruthless campaign by the Bush campaign and the Republican Party to block the counting of votes in Florida.
Lieberman had, by that point, already demonstrated his inveterate spinelessness before the Republican right with a fawning performance in his vice presidential debate with Dick Cheney. And when the Republicans sought to witch-hunt the Gore-Lieberman ticket and incite the military brass against it in the midst of the legal wrangling in Florida by demanding that illegal absentee military ballots be counted, Lieberman appeared on national television to support the Republican demand.
Lieberman today refuses to accept the verdict of the voters in his own party, but six years ago he accepted without protest the verdict of a Republican majority on the Supreme Court to halt the counting of votes and hand the election to George W. Bush.
No less significant was the response of the Democratic leadership in Congress to Lieberman’s defeat. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Charles Schumer, the chairman of the Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a joint statement formally supporting Lamont in the November election. They called the Connecticut primary election a referendum on George Bush, but failed even to mention the issue on which the election turned—the war in Iraq.
Similarly, Representative Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the election was a “referendum about being a rubber stamp” for the Bush administration. It showed that voters “want change, they want a new direction,” he declared. But again, he avoided any mention of the war.
Emanuel even suggested that Connecticut voters had unfairly judged Lieberman to be in the pocket of the Bush White House, and made the improbable claim that Lieberman’s decision to run as an independent would help the Democrats by bringing more voters to the polls.
None of these party leaders denounced Lieberman for defying the will of Democratic voters and running against the party’s senatorial candidate in Connecticut. When asked if he would call on Lieberman to drop out of the race, Emanuel said the decision was Lieberman’s.
These statements of official backing for Lamont only underscore the central fact that the Democratic Party leadership supports the war in Iraq and wants to exclude this single most critical issue facing the American people from the November elections.See Also:
Pro-war Democrat Joseph Lieberman defeated in Connecticut primary
[9 August 2006]
Political reporters looking to identify a new obstacle standing in the way of Democratic electoral success often find it online, where party activists and progressives congregate around liberal blogs and websites. Writing under the headline “Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for the Center” (1/29/06), Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei reported that “Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.”
Los Angeles Times reporter Ron Brownstein (6/11/06) emphasized the concern “among Democratic centrists who fear that the new activists are pressuring the party toward liberal positions that will impede its ability to build a national electoral majority.” Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz (6/11/06) underlined a similar concern, suggesting that the growing influence of such websites raised “questions about whether the often-angry rhetoric and uncompromising positions of the bloggers will drive the party too far left and endanger its chances of winning national elections.”
But the issues identified as being pushed by bloggers and Internet activists that might “complicate” a Democrat’s chances in 2008 were not actually unpopular. A more forceful critique of the Iraq War was one example—a position with majority support, if public opinion polls are any indication. When a CNN poll (6/14–15/06) asked an unusually straightforward question—“Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war with Iraq?”—the response was 54 percent opposed and only 38 percent in favor.
In another piece about the troubling influence of liberal bloggers (4/2/06), New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney wrote that the websites “have proved to be a complicating political influence for Democrats. They have tugged the party consistently to the left, particularly on issues like the war, and have been openly critical of such moderate Democrats as Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.” In the media’s peculiar political arithmetic, to move toward the majority position is to move to the left, while staking out a minority view is to be “moderate.”
Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl (5/22/06) blamed the Internet for giving a distorted impression of the range of views in the Democratic Party:
“Don’t be surprised,” Diehl concludes, “if, after all the Internet noise fades away, such ideas are at the center of the next presidential campaign.”
In fact, you can find the kind of Democrats Diehl likes on the Internet—at sites like Bull Moose, for example. It’s just that they tend to be much less popular than the sites of Democratic bloggers who—like the overwhelming majority of Democrats—oppose the war in Iraq.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The saga of Greg Maddux
Posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2006
For serious baseball fans, the game provides a daily sanctuary, a saga with more characters and subplots than Tolstoy could manage. Every day since the latest Middle Eastern war began, my friend Bill B. has taken to e-mailing me accounts of games he knows I’ve already seen. We’ve got somewhat different views about the fighting, but not about the game. In the comment line, Bill always writes, “Thank God for baseball.” Amen to that. Recently, however, my friend sent a message that tested my faith in the game’s restorative powers. It was an AP wire photo of pitcher Greg Maddux leaving the field for probably his last time in a Chicago Cubs uniform. Although he’d been shaky lately, Maddux had been his old, masterful self that day, allowing the Cardinals one run and five hits over 26/3 innings, the kind of performance that had earned him 327 wins over a brilliant 20-year career. It’s a timeless, iconic shot. We see Maddux from behind as he approaches the dugout, his cap raised in his right hand to acknowledge a standing ovation from Chicago fans, a rare gesture from a relatively undemonstrative athlete. Everybody at Wrigley Field that day knew Maddux was likely to be traded to a contender. The Cubs have had a dismal season, marred by injuries and unaccountably awful play.
Historically patronized as “lovable losers,” the team has even begun to be booed, although Wrigley’s still sold out for virtually every game. Some speculate that the catcalls are due to heightened expectations, and to resentment of multimillion-dollar salaries in the era of free agency.
It’s hard watching a $6 million ballplayer get picked off second base because he’s daydreaming.
Booing may also be related to beer sales in Wrigley Field, although that’s nothing new. During our first pilgrimage there, my family took a city shuttle bus to the ballpark. Over each seat was a sternly worded sign proscribing alcoholic beverages. Violators faced serious fines, even jail. Every adult on the bus except my wife and me seemed to be enjoying an Old Style or a Budweiser. That’s Chicago.
Then there was the time the late Harry Caray invited a pretty 14-year-old Girl Scout visiting the WGN-TV broadcast booth to come see her “Uncle Harry” again in five years. Some wondered if the legendary play-by-play man, a selfstyled “Cubs fan and Bud Man,” wasn’t sampling the sponsor’s product on the job. That was Harry.
Greg Maddux may have been the greatest pitcher the Cubs minor league system produced in more than a century of trying. He came up in 1986. During his free agent season in 1992, Maddux, then 26, went 20-10, with a minuscule earned run average of 2.18.
Even more impressive was the way he did it. Maddux never had overpowering stuff. He kept batters off balance with a combination of changing speeds, pinpoint control, guile and deception.
Maddux is one of those unusual athletes with a seeming capacity to live entirely inside the game. He sees things others don’t. A native of Las Vegas, he’s not somebody you’d want to play poker with. He’d remember every card played, know the exact odds and read you like a billboard.
Hitters never get the same at bat twice. Maddux fields brilliantly, bunts well, even hits OK for a pitcher who’s not a physical specimen. Teammates call him “Mad Dog” or “The Professor,” which pretty much tells the story. So naturally, the Cubs, being the Cubs, made no serious attempt to sign him in 1992. Instead, he went to Atlanta for 11 years in which he never won fewer than 15 games, leading the best pitching staff in baseball to several National League championships and the 1996 World Series.
When the Cubs brought him back to Chicago for the 2004 season, his signing was seen as a belated apology and a promise on the part of team management. No more lovable losers. I remember e-mailing a photo of Maddux in a Cubs uniform to every sports fan I knew, including friends in the Netherlands, France and the Isle of Wight who scarcely know the rules of baseball. From a realistic perspective, trading Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers was a no-brainer. In return, the Cubs got Cesar Izturis, a 25-year-old, switchhitting Venezuelan shortstop. A 40-yearold pitcher, even a sure Hall-of-Famer, for a young, All-Star position player ? Do it. At least Maddux didn’t go to Bill’s New York Mets, or worse, the accursed Yankees. Subjectively, however, it feels like a betrayal of the game itself. I reserve the right to hate it. Right now, I’m not sure I’m a Cubs fan anymore. The other night I watched Maddux’s first start as a Dodger. Six innings, no runs, no hits, career win No. 328. I have to say it was a thing of beauty.
Goodbye Joe, you gotta go, we won't miss ya
Lieberman loses battle over war - Yahoo! News
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Click to go to the Real Player on ICH's website
One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter
George Galloway has spoken out in support of Lebanon, saying he believes Hizbollah is justified in defending Lebanon against Israeli attacks . The Respect MP also lambasted media coverage of the war and said the UN resolution means nothing.
08/06/06 Runtime 9Minutes"
Saturday, August 05, 2006
US-Israeli war aim is to annihilate Lebanon
By the Editorial Board
5 August 2006
This article is available as a PDF leaflet to download and distribute
The sharp escalation of the attacks against Lebanon Friday have made it abundantly clear that the objective of this US-Israeli war of aggression is to demolish Lebanon as an independent and sovereign country.
The war is aimed at transforming the country into an occupied territory controlled by the US and Israel, perhaps through the medium of a NATO “peacekeeping” force. The destruction of Lebanon is being carried out quite deliberately, and with very definite designs. For Israel, it is yet again a matter of annexation of more territory. And for Washington, it is the preparation of new and even bloodier wars, directed in the first instance against Syria and Iran.
The pretense that this war is being waged to defend Israel from terrorism or even to destroy the Shiite Hezbollah movement is belied by the Israeli bombing campaign that is now striking targets and claiming victims far from the Shiite centers of south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut.
In one of the worst atrocities since the war began, an Israeli air strike claimed the lives of over 33 farm workers, blown to pieces as they loaded plums and peaches onto trucks at a farm warehouse in the far north of the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border. At least another 20 people were wounded in the attack. Most of the victims were Syrian Kurds. They were taken across the border to Syrian hospitals, because previous bombing raids had demolished roads leading to hospitals in Lebanon itself.
This massacre of farm workers followed airstrikes that systematically demolished bridges on the main coastal highway linking Beirut and the Lebanese south to the northern half of the country. Marking the first major attacks on the predominantly Christian North, these attacks served to cut the country in two and to cut off the sole remaining lifeline for relief supplies from abroad. At least five people were killed in these bombings, which were conducted during the morning rush hour, including motorists who were crushed to death as the bridges were bombed from beneath them.
In the south of Lebanon, near the Israeli border, yet another horror was reported Friday, after Israeli airstrikes demolished two homes where civilians were apparently seeking refuge from the military offensive. According to Lebanese officials some 57 people were trapped beneath the rubble of the buildings, and it was unknown how many were dead and if there were survivors.
Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes have resumed their bombings of the urban Shiite neighborhoods of southern Beirut, demolishing apartment buildings, roadways and other structures. Planes have dropped leaflets demanding that all residents of the crowded urban districts flee for their lives.
After nearly four weeks of Israeli attacks, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared in a speech broadcast to an emergency session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference convened in Malaysia, that 900 civilians have been killed in Lebanon, 3,000 wounded, and more than one million, a quarter of the Lebanese population, have been turned into internal refugees. A third of the dead, he said, were children under the age of 12.
The Israeli campaign to cut Lebanon off from the outside world while severing one part of the country from another is threatening to create a humanitarian catastrophe that could cause even more deaths than the bombs and shells being dropped on the country’s civilian population.
Israel has been enforcing a total air and sea blockade of Lebanon since mid-July. As a result, fuel supplies are running critically low, threatening to plunge the country into darkness. Fuel tankers have been turned away by Israeli warships. The most immediate catastrophic impact is that major hospitals, including ones that remained open during the civil war of the 1970s, are being forced to close because of lack of fuel and medicine, as well as the inability of staff to get to work. Medical personnel have warned that critical patients will likely die as a result of the blockade.
Throughout Beirut and the rest of the country, power outages are becoming commonplace, with some areas getting only two hours of electricity a day. Meanwhile, stores are running out of essential foodstuffs.
Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud issued a statement accusing Israel of waging a “war of starvation” against the Lebanese people. “It is an aggression that has exceeded Israel’s declared objectives. Israel has now decided to destroy Lebanon,” he said.
The effect of Friday’s bombing of the key bridges linking the north and south of the country is to accelerate this destruction by cutting off the last route for aid entering the country.
The deliberate sabotaging of any attempts at relieving the suffering of the Lebanese people threatens to have catastrophic consequences. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the contamination of drinking water due to the destruction of infrastructure and the cutoff of fuel supplies threatened south Lebanon and its displaced population in particular with the outbreak of deadly epidemics.
Lahoud’s statement is not merely an emotional denunciation of the savage Israeli attack on Lebanon, but rather an accurate appraisal of the real objectives of this war.
The Bush administration in Washington and the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Israel, have launched a war whose aim it is to smash Lebanon as a country, using mass terror to expel entire populations and to reduce the nation as a whole to the status of a semi-colonial protectorate, wholly subordinated to the interests of Washington and the Zionist regime.
The war aims are emerging out of the barbaric methods that are being employed against the people of Lebanon. For Israel, it appears increasingly likely that the objective is the annexation of a significant portion of Lebanese territory, after it has been emptied of its civilian population through the means of massacres and terror. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz has ordered the military to prepare to drive all the way to the Litani River, 15 miles north of the border. The control of this river has been a strategic objective of the Zionists since before the founding of the Israeli state.
The experience of the last 40 years have demonstrated that Israel is a state without fixed borders. The momentum of each new war expands its control over new territory to meet its supposed security needs. In Lebanon, the Israeli state is pursuing the equivalent of what was referred to under Hitler’s Third Reich as lebensraum—the killing or expulsion of populations viewed as inferior in order to repopulate their land.
For Washington, the Israeli offensive has a far broader significance. The destruction of Lebanon is seen as a stepping stone to the launching of new aggressive wars aimed at achieving “regime change” in Syria and Iran. The unconditional US support for Israel’s criminal war against the Lebanese people is driven most fundamentally by US imperialism’s strategic goal of establishing its undisputed domination of the Middle East and its oil wealth.
This was undoubtedly the same goal that motivated US support for last year’s so-called “Cedar Revolution.” That this event and the elections that followed only served to strengthen Hezbollah’s political influence was seen by Washington as an intolerable impediment to its aims, best remedied through the use of murderous military force.
The naked aims of US imperialism found expression in a column published Friday by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, one of the most consistent proponents of the Bush administration’s policy of militarism in the Middle East. “America’s green light for Israel to defend itself is seen as a favor to Israel,” he wrote. “But that is a tendentious, misleadingly partial analysis. The green light—indeed, the encouragement—is also an act of clear self-interest. America wants, America needs, a decisive Hezbollah defeat.”
Krauthammer criticized Israel not for the murderous character of its war against the Lebanese people, but rather for failing to utilize even greater force. Washington, he wrote, had “counted on Israel’s ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later.”
These are the real sentiments within the Bush administration. It wants Israel to get on with the business of mass killing in Lebanon, bringing the casualties into the tens if not hundreds of thousands to achieve US objectives.
That the brutality of this strategy is provoking massive upheavals throughout the Middle East is beyond dispute. Much of it is directed against the abject hypocrisy and criminality of the American role in planning and supporting this bloody enterprise. It should be recalled that not too many years ago official Washington and the American mass media was waging a massive campaign invoking “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo as a pretext for war in the Balkans. Now it is rushing bombs and missiles to Israel in order to facilitate the rapid cleansing of south Lebanon of its entire Shiite population through the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.
Over 100,000 marched in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad on Friday denouncing Israel and the US for the war in Lebanon and vowing to fight the US occupation. Right-wing Arab regimes such as in Jordan and Egypt have been forced to distance themselves from Washington.
And the Beirut newspaper Daily Star warned in an editorial on Friday that the war is exacerbating “the conspicuous disenchantment of large segments—perhaps majorities—of Arab public opinion with their own government policies.” It added, “The consequences are ominous in a region with so much of the world’s energy reserves, and so many governments and ordinary citizens willing to use the most awful kind of violence to achieve their goals. The signs of radicalization that continue to manifest themselves in various Arab countries, as a consequence of the war between Lebanon and Israel, must not be ignored.”
The Bush administration seems oblivious to this apparently sound advice. Having led the country into the disastrous quagmire of Iraq, it is welcoming the possibility of new wars and new terrorist attacks as a means of reinvigorating its flagging “global war on terrorism.”
The growth of mass opposition to the policies of Israel and Washington will be attributed to “terrorism,” and the pretexts will be found for new and even more terrible wars.
The ostensible opposition party in Washington, meanwhile, is vying with the administration over which of them is the most enthusiastic supporter of the Israeli war on Lebanon.
Representative of this party is Hillary Clinton, the Democratic senator from New York and leading candidate for the party’s presidential nomination in 2006.
Speaking in Buffalo, New York on Tuesday, just days after scores of people, the majority of them children, were massacred in the village of Qana, Clinton reiterated her unconditional backing for the Israeli state. The US, she said, “needs to take the lead in protecting Israel. It has to guarantee Israel’s security...whether that means putting troops in or not, I don’t know.”
Not a word of sympathy or concern for the bleeding Lebanese population passed Clinton’s lips. This attitude is not the exception, but the rule, for the entire American political establishment as well as the mass media. Atrocities that recall nothing so much as the crimes of German and Italian fascism in the 1930s—Ethiopia, Guernica, the Blitzkrieg against Poland—are treated as perfectly acceptable and understandable acts of Israeli “self-defense.”
Underlying this utter lack of morality lie the class interests of America’s ruling oligarchy, which has determined that its global interests can best be furthered through the utilization of unrestrained militarism.
In the end, American working people will be forced to pay the price for this seemingly insane policy. The costs of US militarism will be increasingly felt in the destruction of living standards and what little remains of social services for working people at home.
Moreover, the ever-widening war in the Middle East cannot be sustained much longer without the imposition of the military draft. It is highly probable that once the 2006 midterm elections are over, a bipartisan effort will be mounted—no doubt spearheaded by the Democrats—to resurrect the dragooning of American youth into the expeditionary forces that are being prepared to wage the so-called “long war” for US imperialist hegemony.
The struggle against war can be advanced only through the independent political mobilization of working people based upon a socialist program that seeks the international unification of workers in every country in a common struggle against the global financial and corporate interests that dominate the planet. The Socialist Equality Party is intervening in the 2006 elections in order to advance such an alternative.
Human Rights Watch catalogues Israeli war crimes in Lebanon
[4 August 2006]
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
By Maureen Dowd
07/29/06 "New York Times" -- -- Oops, they did it again. That pesky microphone problem that plagued George W. Bush and Tony Blair in St. Petersburg struck again at their White House news conference yesterday. The president told technicians to make sure his real thoughts would not be overheard this time, but somehow someone forgot to turn off the feed to my office. As a public service, I'd like to reprint the candid under-their-breath mutterings they exchanged in between their public utterances.
THE PRESIDENT: "The prime minister and I have committed our governments to a plan to make every effort to achieve a lasting peace out of this crisis."
"Actually, we talked about our plan to keep using fancy phrases like 'lasting peace' and 'sustainable cease-fire,' so we don't actually have to cease the fire. Condi had a great one! Didya hear it, Tony? She said, 'The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires.' Man, can she talk, and she plays piano, too!"
THE PRIME MINISTER: "The question is now how to get it stopped and get it stopped with the urgency that the situation demands. ... I welcome very much the fact that Secretary Rice will go back to the region tomorrow. She will have with her the package of proposals in order to get agreement both from the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon on what is necessary to happen in order for this crisis to stop."
"I thought it was quite clever, George, to stall by sending Condi to Kuala Lumpur for that imminently skippable meeting of marginal Asian powers. And her decision to tickle the ivories while Beirut burns was inspired. The Asians love a good Brahms sonata. And she called it a 'prayer for peace'! Just brilliant. But her idea of a series of Rachmaninoff concerts at every layover on the way to the Middle East could look too conspicuously like dawdling."
THE PRESIDENT: "Hezbollah's not a state. They're a, you know, supposed political party that happens to be armed. Now what kind of state is it that's got a political party that has got a militia?"
"Uh-oh! I mean, besides all those Shiite leaders we set up in Iraq who have THEIR own militias. Oh, man, this is complicated. What about those Republican Minutemen patrolling the Mexican border? Or Vice on a hunting trip?"
THE PRIME MINISTER: "Of course the U.N. resolution, the passing of it, the agreeing of it, can be the occasion for the end of hostilities if it's acted upon, and agreed upon. And that requires not just the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon, obviously, to abide by it, but also for the whole of the international community to exert the necessary pressure so that there is the cessation of hostilities on both sides."
"And the whole of the cosmos! We can call for an intergalactic study group to act upon and agree upon and adjudicate - George, I can keep the verbs, adjectives and conditional phrases going until these reporters keel over."
THE PRESIDENT: "My message is, give up your nuclear weapon and your nuclear weapon ambitions. That's my message to Syria - I mean, to Iran. And my message to Syria is, you know, become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace."
"It's so hard to keep all these countries straight! And which ones are in the Axis? I hate it when Condi leaves town. Tony Baloney, just blink twice when I mention a bad country and once when I mention one we like and sell arms to. And while you're at it, heel, poodle! Har-har. Play dead! You crack me up."
THE PRIME MINISTER: "I've spoken to President Chirac, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, the president of the European Union, the prime minister of Finland and many, many others."
"See? I'm no poodle. I'm here to keep the names of our allies straight. And I can stand up straight. Bush, old boy, that's not posture. That's Paleolithic Man."
THE PRESIDENT: "And so what you're seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles. For example, you know, you know, the, the, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge - emerge - scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, and those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them, and so they respond. They've always been violent. ... There's this kind of almost, you know, kind of weird kind of elitism that says: well, maybe - maybe - certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free."
"Tony, I've fallen and I can't get up!"
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Why Bush's Stupidity Is a Threat
By Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect
Posted on August 2, 2006, Printed on August 2, 2006
"We discussed a lot of issues. The Prime Minister has laid out a comprehensive plan. That's what leaders do. They see problems, they address problems, and they lay out a plan to solve the problems. The Prime Minister understands he's got challenges and he's identified priorities."
-- President George W. Bush, joint press availability with Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, July 25, 2006
The truly shocking thing about that bizarre statement is that it wasn't even in response to a question. Those were Bush's opening remarks. He did, one assumes, actually meet with Maliki. And they must have talked about something. But Bush doesn't seem to have been listening. Instead, he sounds like a college kid bullshitting in section because he didn't do the assigned reading. "We talked about security in Baghdad," Bush observed, delving into specifics. "No question the terrorists and extremists are brutal."
This sort of display would be embarrassing were it not so frightening.
Two days later, with Tony Blair standing at the adjacent podium, things went from bad to worse. One is used to hearing Bush say things that aren't true. He appears, however, from the look on his face and from the baffling nature of the untruths he uttered, to have lapsed from dishonesty into confusion. (Sheer boredom may have sent him tumbling to new depths of ignorance.) "There's a lot of suffering in the Palestinian territory," Bush mused, "because militant Hamas is trying to stop the advance of democracy."
It is? Has Bush forgotten that Hamas came to power as a result of elections that he insisted the Palestinian Authority hold? I happen to think the White House made the right call on the question of Palestinian elections -- even in retrospect, even knowing that Hamas won -- though many observers think his policy has merely backfired. Rather than defend the policy, however, Bush seems to have forgotten all about it. He returned to the theme later in the press conference: "One reason why the Palestinians still suffer is because there are militants who refuse to accept a Palestinian state based upon democratic principles."
That's absurd. The president appears to be totally unfamiliar with what is perhaps the single most-discussed topic in international politics. Nothing gets people disagreeing quite like the subject of how to apportion blame for the Palestinian peoples' considerable suffering. But absolutely nobody blames Arab militants opposed to democratic principles. Terrorists opposed to Israel's very existence? Sure. Israeli intransigence? Why not. But only someone paying no attention whatsoever would subscribe to Bush's theory.
We have, meanwhile, policies that match the intellectual cesspool of the president's rhetoric. In its statements, the White House has consistently adhered to the view that the root cause of the troubles between Israel and Lebanon is Syrian and Iranian support for Hezbollah. Thanks to the dinner roll incident at the G-8 meeting, we know this is Bush's sincere view. "You see," Bush famously explained to Blair, "the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over." He further elaborated: "I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen."
There's something of a cliché going around about Bush talking loudly while failing to brandish a stick, but in truth he's mumbling indistinctly while Israeli bombs pummel Lebanon.
If Syria is the real problem here, then, not to put too fine a point on it, someone needs to take some action of some kind related to Syria. After all, why would Syria tell Hezbollah to stop doing this shit? What combination of threats and inducements is Syria supposed to offer Hezbollah to get it to stop? And why would Syria offer them anyway? What's Kofi Annan supposed to do about this? If Bush wants to make Syria do something, he needs to do something to make it happen. Either offer Syria something, or threaten Syria somehow, or some combination of the two. The same goes for Iran. In case Bush hasn't noticed, the regimes in Damascus and Tehran aren't run by kind people looking to help the world out of the goodness of their hearts. Nor has the administration's habit of vaguely suggesting we'd like to overthrow their governments rendered either nation more likely to help us or our Israeli friends out of a jam.
There's a temptation to call this combination of inflammatory tough-guy rhetoric and feckless inaction "the worst of both worlds," but in truth the war policy being advocated by the right's more fevered voices would actually be worse than Bush's embarrassing, illogical paralysis. The real problem is that the risk of a wider regional war involving the United States remains. And if that risk becomes a reality, our country will be led into it by a president who doesn't seem to grasp what's happening.
This article is available on The American Prospect. Copyright 2006, The American Prospect.
Matthew Yglesias is a staff writer at The American Prospect.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/39770/
Quotes from Information Clearing House's Daily Email
"Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe
the responsibility for wars to those who wield power at any given time.
In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it
was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty. This is
passing the buck.
The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these
same masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war
in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their
passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the
catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anyone else.
To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them
solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to
commiserate masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small,
helpless children. The former is the attitude held by genuine freedom
fighters; the latter that attitude held by power-thirsty politicians." :
Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism
"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country
is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificually
induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda
—General Douglas MacArthur, Speech, May 15, 1951