Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How grown-ups do politics

For the benefit of Messers Olmert, Bush, Cheney, Dr Rice, and many others, here's how the grown-ups do diplomacy.


Jimmy Carter, doing what
64 per cent of Israelis want to see done, but what their government and the oh-so "pro-Israeli" US government refuses to do: talking to Hamas.

For the uninitiated, talking to people is how armed conflicts are brought to a conclusion. The alternatives are trying to (a) obliterate your enemy, or (b) demand their total surrender and keep the killing going until they accept.

Since Carter has secured Hamas' consent to any future agreement between Israel and the PLO that resulted in a Palestinian state on the legitimate international borders, and that was ratified by the Palestinian public in a referendum, I think we can deduce that Carter's way works.

Of course, the comparison is a little unfair. Carter wants peace. The US and Israeli government want victory, and apparently don't much care how many people die before they get it (and they definitely don't want a return to the legitimate borders- they want to
keep what they stole). But Carter's efforts have now exposed those governments' belligerence for all to see. They pretended they didn't have a "partner for peace" and their bluff has now been called.

See also Carter being interviewed by the BBC's Jeremy Paxman
here. Paxman is not afraid to put the boot in when unimpressed with an interviewee. Carter's opponents have tried to paint him as beyond the pale for his peace efforts this past week. The gentle ride he gets from this branch of the Western establishment suggests that the need to talk to Hamas is becoming a mainstream position. US-Israeli rejectionism is becoming less and less tenable.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Renouncing Violence

"So we got hold of just some [10 year old] Palestinian kid nearby, we knew that he knew who it had been [a 15-year-old throwing stones]. Let's say we beat him a little, to put it mildly, until he told us. You know, the way it goes when your mind's already screwed up, and you have no more patience for Hebron and Arabs and Jews there.

"The kid was really scared, realising we were on to him. We had a commander with us who was a bit of a fanatic. We gave the boy over to this commander, and he really beat the shit out of him ... He showed him all kinds of holes in the ground along the way, asking him: 'Is it here you want to die? Or here?' The kid goes, 'No, no!'

"Anyway, the kid was stood up, and couldn't stay standing on his own two feet. He was already crying ... And the commander continues, 'Don't pretend' and kicks him some more. And then [name withheld], who always had a hard time with such things, went in, caught the squad commander and said, 'Don't touch him any more, that's it.' The commander goes, 'You've become a leftie, what?' And he answers, 'No, I just don't want to see such things.'

"We were right next to this, but did nothing. We were indifferent, you know. OK. Only after the fact you start thinking. Not right away. We were doing such things every day ... It had become a habit... "

And the parents saw it. The commander ordered [the mother], 'Don't get any closer.' He cocked his weapon, already had a bullet inside. She was frightened. He put his weapon literally inside the kid's mouth. 'Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don't bug me. I kill. I have no mercy.' So the father ... got hold of the mother and said, 'Calm down, let them be, so they'll leave him alone.'"
Former Israeli soldier, speaking anonymously to The Independent (many similar tesimonies can be found here).

"It seems to me that what Hamas needs to do is pretty clear. Renounc[ing] violence would be a good step towards showing you actually want peace"
US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

The Israeli military receives around $3billion a year in state aid from Dr Rice's


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2nd worst President ever?

A recent poll of 109 US historians showed 61 per cent viewing George Bush as the worst President ever, and a practically unanimous 98 per cent describing his administration as a failure.

Said one:

"No individual president can compare to the second Bush. Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large"

Its tempting in light of this to view the post-Bush era as offering the prospect of some form of redemption for the United States government, least implausibly under the Presidency of Barack Obama. But as Clive Crook implies, this is not a good election to win, precisely because of this expectation that the end of Bush will be the end of the problems he created. In fact, the end of Bush will be the start of a hard process of paying the costs of his presidency; both for imperialists and for the victims of imperialism.

For example, it is highly unlikely that any Democratic President will raise taxes on America's wealthy to anything like the extent required to offset (a) the estimated trillions lost on the Iraq war and (b) the credit binge of the last 8 years. Probably much of the fiscal belt-tightening will be borne by the middle and lower classes, who will also be suffering from the US mortgage crisis and from the recession more generally. The next President will either have to continue Bush's fiscal recklessness or - and this is far more probable - be the person who makes the US public pay the consequences of that recklessness. Having to choose between being an idiot and being the bad guy is not a good position to be in.

The other main reason this is not a good election to win is Iraq. The "surge" of extra US troops into Iraq was supposed to reap political benefits for the US project. Without those having materialised, the escalation has served only to press the pause button on (the very worst of) a conflict which, as we've seen in Basra and Baghdad recently and as we will probably see in Kirkuk sooner rather than later, is a long way from being over. Much bloodletting will take place on the next President's watch, and their ability to blame it on Bush will diminish rapidly as time passes.

More broadly, Bush is passing to his successor a strategic catch-22 where failure appears to be the only option for the American Empire. I am assuming that, whoever wins the election, the central assumption that the US has the divinly-ordained right to run the world (provide "leadership" as its called) will continue to define US policy, albeit with some tactical modification. In that case, the bind the next President will be in is this: leave Iraq and you abandon a key square on the oil and gas chessboard to (at least) one of your bitterest rivals (Iran definitely, plus Russia and China in all likelihood); stay, and you continue to lose an unwinnable war, and continue to pay the fiscal consequences of doing so in a time of economic calamity.

In short, there is real scope for the next Presidency to end up being one that is seen as a very serious failure, and not entirely through fault of its own. A variety of disastrous consequences from the administration of Bush the Worst will be reaped by (in descending order of tragedy from high to zero) the people of Iraq, the people of the United States and the imperial project of the US governing class. Bottom line: this will not all be over come January 2007.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Its pro-Israel to talk to Hamas

Oh yes it is.

Paul Woodward at War in Context makes an excellent point. Since the majority of Israeli citizens support the idea of talking to Hamas, how can it be 'anti-Israel' to do so? Is it not the US and Israeli governments, and any others (like the UK) supporting the vicious and brain-dead policy of isolating and ignoring the Palestinians' elected representatives, who are being 'anti-Israel'? When you oppose the will of the Israeli majority (let alone their interests) which Israel are you supporting?

Ex US President Jimmy Carter has made the impeccably 'pro-Israel' decision to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal next week. Its a move that's to be applauded. Only dialogue is going to end the conflict. Israel and its supporters should know by now that the Palestinians can not be beaten with violence, starvation or any other blunt instrument. 60 years after the Deir Yassin massacre - the defining moment of the campaign of ethinic cleansing that brought Israel into existence - the Palestinians are still there, stubbornly insisting on their humanity in the face of all attempts to erase them. If not for the sake of basic morality then at least for the sake of cold-blooded imperial pragmatism, its time for the US and its client to face reality, talk to the Palestinians' respresentatives, and bring this squalid episode of history to a sensible conclusion.
See also on this, Tony Karon's "Jimmy Carter and the Art of Growing Up".

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

Martin Luther King was assasinated 40 years ago today.

Most people know of Dr King's early battles against discrimination in the Southern states, but fewer are aware of how his thinking developed in the latter part of his life. By 1967, Dr King was tying his critique of racism in American society into a broader social critique that encompassed the role of Western economic and state power - then imposing itself as ruthlessly on Vietnam as it is today in Iraq.

This was crystallised in his awesome speech of April 1967, at the Riverside Church, Manhatten.

King said that the US was in Vietnam, not to liberate it, but "to occupy it as an American colony". He roundly condemned his government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today". The Vietnamese, he said, "must see Americans as strange liberators", describing the US record of denying Vietnamese independence, including support for "one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem [for Iraq, read former US-UK favorite Saddam Hussein]"

He continued:

"Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy....They watch as we poison their water...They wander into the hospitals, with at least 20 casualties from American firepower for each Viet Cong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children...How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem, and charge them with violence while we pour new weapons of death into their land?....Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases...We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers"

And then King went further, identifying the war as "but a symptom of a far deeper malady...[a] pattern of suppression". He warned that "We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy...When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered". Describing "the Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them", King warned that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death".

Lets be under no illusions. King would have been sickened by the Iraq war, and would have seen through the nonsense of "liberal interventionism" in an instant. Members of the political class on both sides of the Atlantic will spend today, in their public utterances, trying to borrow a part of the great man's legacy for themselves. But how many among them would be able to give a speech like the one King gave at the Riverside Church?

Rest in peace.

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