Letters to the editor, comments, etc (2)

A sort of blog, but without any claims to regularity - and all back-to-front

(Continued fromLetters to the editor, comments, etc (1))

 

2 July 2006.

  • Under the engaging title Roots of the human family tree are remarkably shallow, an article by Matt Crenson describes the mathematical simulation which indicates that not only do we all share common ancestors, but that our last common ancestor lived relatively recently, during an interval between 3000 years prior to and the beginning of the present era. By this time, of course, H sapiens sapien was already divided up into what we call the various «races». My reaction upon reading the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

«[R]emarkably shallow», perhaps, but even more remarkably broad ! We are in fact, even more closely related to each other than we had thought ! No place for racism here - what is it the song says :

    L'Internationale
    Sera le genre humaine !

 

4 July 2006.

  • In yesterday's OpEd News>, Greg Palast and Mark Pascarella published an article entitled Stealling it (the Mexican elections) in front of your eyes in which they report on the discrepancy between the exit polls, which showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PRD leading his major opponent Felipe Calderon of the PAN, and the official notices, which called the elections too close to call. If anyone is reminded of the elections of 2000 and 2004 in the United States, just north of the Mexican border, the resemblance is perhaps not entirely fortuitous. Here below the comment I posted to the OpEd News site under the heading «Grand theft elections ?»:


I agree with Jim Prues ; looks like the gang that brought «democracy» to Iraq has decided to spread the graces and help the Mexicans with theirs (not that they don't have a certain amount of experience on their own). What I can't help wondering is whether, in case Calderon is officially declared winner despite the exit polls which point to the contrary, PRD members and sympathisers will take it lying down, as did the Democratic voters north of the border in both 2000 and 2004. Democracy has never been won without a struggle, nor can it be maintained without the willingness to engage in one....

  • On the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Professor emeritus of History at Boston Universtity Howard Zinn has published an article entitled Patriotism and the Fourth of July on AlterNet, in which he points out the distinction between patriotism as loyalty to a country embodying a certain set of ideals, and patriotism as loyalty to whatever government may be in power in that country. As he notes - and indeed, that is one of the main thrusts of his argument - Professor Zinn is not, of course, the first resident of what is now the United States to point out this distinction, embodied as it is in that very document which is the (putative) occasion for today's celebration. Below, my response to Professor Zinn's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Howard Zinn cites one of the most outstanding men the United States has ever produced, Mark Twain :

    The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: 'The King can do no wrong.' We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: 'Our country, right or wrong!' We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had -- the individual's right to oppose both flag and country when he believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it, all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism.

It would indeed be wonderful if, on this Fourth of July, enough people in the United States were to listen to Zinn and Twain so that, in accordance with that famous passage from the Declaration of Independence concerning the fate of government become destructive of the ends for which they were established, the Empire could be brought to an end and the Republic re-established. The Empire will, in any event, certainly come to an end - and I suspect sooner rather than later - but whether this will be achieved in a peaceful manner, as in the case of the USSR, or whether rivers of blood will have to flow, none of us, alas, can know. But all struggle within the US against imperial policies increases the chances for a peaceful dénouement....

 

6 July 2006.

While it should, perhaps, be observed that the profession of being a «victim» has far more accomplished practitioners than this particular community, it is to be hoped that Muslim and non-Muslim alike take the time to reflect over Professor Ramadan's piece. In particular, his last paragraph merits being cited in full :

    But all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have a duty to address the flawed discourse that perpetuates the notion of 'us' and "them'. Our societies are awaiting the emergence of a new 'we'. A 'we' that would bring together men and women of all religions and those without religion, who would undertake to resolve the contradictions of their societies. This coming together of citizens who seek to struggle together for their future, is also the best hope for isolating the extremists.» ...

  • In the commentisfree section of today's Guardian, Jonathan Steele has published a commentary entitled Europe's response to the siege of gaza is shameful, in which he points out at the very beginning the truth that has so long and so consistently been stood on its head by apologists for and supporters of the Israeli state, i e, that «[t]he Palestinians have no partner for peace. Below, my response, as posted to the commentisfree thread and to StumbleUpon :

The fox, the Greek soldier and poet Archilochos is said to have said, knows many things, the hedgehog but one - but it is a big thing. The one big thing that is missing from from Jonathan Steele's balanced yet incisive commentary* is the role of the United States in the continual war to which the terrorist state that is Israel has subjected the Palestinian people for nearly 60 years. Since 1967 the United States has, in what its leaders have, with no small help from the Israeli lobby in that country, determined were their own interests, always funded and backed Israel, no matter how vicious and stupid the latter's policies (there are some exceptions, among them King George's own father, but they are few). Does anyone really believe that Israel could ignore one UN resolution after another (Mr Hussein was a piker by comparison) without the massive support of the United States ? The head of the snake is not to be found, as some suppose, in Damascus, but in Washington....

*Here, for the interested, a link to the article by Gideon Levy, A black flag, mentioned by Jonathan Steele and published in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz on 3 July....

  • Under the title Starshade may help to find Earth-like planets, in the science section of the same issue of the paper, Alok Jha writes of a proposal to add a gigantic sunflower-like starshade to the project to build a replacement for the Hubble telescope that would, it is estimated, allow astronomers to resolve details as small as 100 km across on the planets of 10000 stars in our immediate vicinity. Although the article is not explicit here, the telescope-starshade system would probably be placed at one of the La Grange points about 1500000 km from Earth and, with the two components some 24000 km apart. Below, my reflection as posted to StumbleUpon :

Professor Cash estimates that the starshade would take six years and 400 million USD to build. Four hundred million USD - isn't that about the direct cost of a single day's US war on Iraq ? Is it not possible that spending it to investigate whether or not Earth-like planets exist in our stellar neighbourhood might just be a better way of using this money than killing people in Iraq ? If we could only see to it that Halliburton got its share ?...

 

8 July 2006.

  • Yesterday, John Esposito, introduced as professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, Washington, a Gallup senior scientist, and a former adviser to the US state department on Muslim affairs, published a commentary entitled Out of a cycle of ignorance in the commentisfree section of the Guardian. The article's subtitle, Anti-western feeling in the Muslim world isn't about our values and way of life, but what we do seemed to promise an examination of just what it is «we» do that leads large numbers of people in Muslim countries (and, of course, not only in Muslim countries) to feel fear, frustration, and rage when confronted with the foreign policies of such countries as the US, the UK, and Israel (which, of course, they are on a daily basis, as these policies are very much «in your face»). Unfortunately, that promise, if it was given, was not fulfilled. Below, the response I posted to the commentisfree thread and to StumbleUpon :

The basic problem with Professor Esposito's very Guardianish commentary is best exemplified by the two passages cited below : «We, Muslims and non-Muslims, have all been victims of global terrorism, in New York, Madrid, London, Bali and Amman.» «The conclusion? Anti-western feelings result from what we do, our policies and actions, not from our way of life.» As he nowhere in his commentary details what it is that «we» do, Guardian readers are left to infer that the conflicts that exist between «a billion Muslims» and the «west» (Professor Esposito does not capitalise the term), neither of which parties are further analysed, has to do with «global terrorism» on the one hand, of which they, of course, are the perpetrators («New York, Madrid, London, Bali and Amman»), and unfortunate errors and insensitivities in «our» foreign policy («our policies and actions»), on the other. Just wherein these errors consist and their scale are not examined. Likewise, by not defining «global terrorism», Professor Esposito manages to avoid confronting the fact that countries like the US and the UK (and, of course, that highly subsidised outpost of terrorist «westernism» in Southwest Asia, Israel) are far more accomplished and global perpetrators of terrorism (unless, of course, acts committed by state organisations are conveniently defined away) than members, free-lancing or otherwise, of such NGO franchises as Al Qaeda. If, in his geography, in addition to the cities mentioned above room were to be found for Falluja, Gaza, Baghdad, Sabra and Shatila, a meaningful dialogue might then become possible. But until liberal professors are willing to risk their positions by examining the considerable beam in the eye of the «west», we shall continue to hear the sound of one hand clapping - alas, without the satori that ought thereby to strike us....


    «Mickey Z» has published an article with the provocative title Why I Support the 'War on Terror' on the CounterBias site (also available on Mickey Z's own eponymous site, which sports the subtitle Cool Observer and a warning text to the effect that «This blog has not been approved by the Department of Homeland Security»). Below, my response, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Perhaps the concept of «terrorism» does, as Mickey Z here suggests, require closer examination. Old-fashioned as I am, I suggest making use of that hoary device of Roman forensic investigation, cui bono, i e, asking oneself for whose benefit is a crime committed, or a policy launched ? Who has done the deed, and to whom ? Who are those that profit from convincing ordinary people in countries like the US and the UK that chiliastic external forces allied with shadowy fifth columnists at home are out to get them ?...

 

11 July 2006.


  • Growing up, I learned to interpret the adage «what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander» to mean that the rules apply equally to all. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the way the world actually works, as exemplified by the reaction - or rather lack of reaction to the event portrayed in the article entitled India reports a long-range missile test published in yesterday's New York Times. I couldn't help thinking of the hysterical reaction to a round of missile tests by another country, a few days earlier. Below my reaction to the descrepancy, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Where's the outcry, folks, the outrage ? A few days ago, when North Korea, a small East Asian nation with an estimated population of 23 millions, which last was engaged in a real shooting war in 1953 (that a Peace Treaty has never been signed to replace the Armistice is due to the refusal of the US to enter into negotiations on one), and which, while never having tested a nuclear device, may or may not possess an nuclear arsenal of between six and eight warheads, tests (unsuccessfully) a long-range missile, all the Chicken Littles of the world raised an enormous clamour and screamed about the danger to «international society» and the threat to «world peace». («What world peace ?», one might reasonably ask.) Now, however, when India, a very large South Asian nation with a population some 50 times as large as North Korea's, and which since 1947 has engaged in three major and one minor war with Pakistan and one brief border conflict with China, and which, having conducted several nuclear tests, is estimated to have an arsenal of approximately 100 nuclear warheads. tests a medium-range missile and it's ho-hum, business as usual. Go figure !...

*For more on why the North Korean leadership might want to have a missile or two in its collective back pocket, interested readers are directed to Mike Whitney's recent article, North Korea and the vanishing American empire, on the Information Clearing House site....

  • Writing from Berlin three months ago in an article entitled Mozart more of a prince than a pauper, which I missed at the time of its publication, Guardian correspondent Luke Harding cites documents then on exhibition at Wien's Musikverein which indicate that it was hardly for lack of income that the composer had to scrounge off friends during his stay in the city where he died at the age of 35. Gaming debts are suspected to be the reason for his economic difficulties - in other words, the cash flow was good, but it flowed even more quickly out that it did in. Below my response, as posted to StumbleUpon :

This information is a little late in coming - not merely by three months, but by 215 years - but as it is still worth reflecting over and no one here seems to have stumbled upon it earlier, I take the liberty of posting it now. But I doubt that this new information will win out over what all of us «know» about young Wolfgang Amadeus' fate ; old legends, experience teaches us, die hard....

I must confess I reacted when I saw the headline - have the «quaint» and «obsolete» Geneva Conventions suddenly become applicable to those incarcerated at Guantanámo and generally referred to as «terrorists» (an interesting denomination, even for those prisoners who actually were captured on the battle field in Afghanistan - if you invade my country and I fight against your invasion, rifle or Kalishnikov or RPG in hand, does that make me a «terrorist» ?) and «evil people» by King George and his minions ? The US administration will, bien sûr, attempt to spin its way out of this situation with the willing help of a compliant and spineless Congress, but still, the fact that politics in the US have come to this pass is not without significance : to be required to even consult the Congress is a blow to the «unitary executive», which regarded itself above all law and all Constitutional authority. Will future historians regard this as the begining of the removal of the crown of usurpation which people like Richard Bruce Cheney have worked so hard to set upon the not-too-well-equipped head of George Walker Bush ?...

  • A couple of weeks ago, on 28 June, Physorg.com published an article with the intriguing title, The beginnings of the thinking brain, which describes how the first neurones appear in the embryonic cerebral cortex in humans as early as 31 days after fertilisation. Such articles provide food for thought, some of which is likely to transcend the boundaries of the disciplines of neurology and embryology ; below the brief response I posted to StumbleUpon :

Imagine if we could use the mental products of which these neurones are the substrate to conceive of ways to avoid our destruction, instead of hastening it !...

 

12 July 2006.

  • In a late afternoon update entitled NatWest three 'witness' found dead in today's Guardian, we are informed that the body of Neil Coulbeck, identified for the reader as «[a]former colleague of one of the 'NatWest three' bankers due to be extradited to the US tomorrow» was found in parklands next to Newgate Street in Woodford Green. And who are the 'NatWest three' ? The paper informs us that the three men are «accused of involvement in a complex fraud involving several Cayman Islands companies that US prosecutors claim was used to hide the scale of Enron's debt». Below, my reaction to the story, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Kenneth Lee Lay («Kenny Boy») died a week ago today of what we were told was a heart attack, and now Mr Coulbeck is dead by, it is reported, his own hand. Surely I can't be the only stumbler who was reminded of the fate of Stanley Motss in Wag the dog, who also died of a massive coronary. Dead men, it would seem, tell no tales, especially when the results of autopsies are subject to manipulation....

 

17 July 2006.

Dr Afrasiabi is certainly correct about the manner in which the Israeli leadership's responsibility for the wars and slaughter they have engendered in Southwest Asia is spun in US media, but alas, the difference between these latter and their European counterparts is merely one of degree - and very little, indeed, of that. As to the degree to which the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog, opinions are divided : that the Israeli leadership exploits to the full its stranglehold over the US media and the US Congress is certainly the case, but it is also the case that the political and economic leadership of the US permits this bizarre situation to continue for reasons of its own. When this dog gets wagged, its brain (?) positively delights in the sensation....

 

20 July 2006.

  • In today’s Asia Times, Gareth Porter has published an article entitled US plays a double game in which he sketches the negotiations the US administration has had with Sunni resistant leaders (Mr Gareth refers to them, inaccurately to my mind, as «insurgents»), in which, he writes, the administration «has explicitly accepted the principle that an eventual peace agreement will include a timetable for US withdrawal». My response, as posted first to the Asia Times and then in the slightly revised version below to StumbleUpon :

*Gareth Porter's analysis of the US administration's thinking regarding its war in Iraq seems right on the money to me (as does his analysis of the opposition (?) party's failure to offer the country an alternative). But when he writes that «[b]ut the evidence suggests that Bush has agreed to position the administration for an eventual peace agreement with the insurgents if that turns out to be necessary to avoid a disaster in Iraq», one must ask, «avoid a disaster» for whom ? For the Iraqi people, the Bush-Cheney war on Iraq has long been an unmitigated disaster....

*This is a slightly modified version of the letter I posted to the Asia Times upon reading Mr Porter's article....

 

23 July 2006.

  • Earlier this week, Tom Hayden published a report on Truthdig entitled Things come 'round in Mideast which describes in some detail what the editors of that publication refer to as «his own rude political awakening to the realities of Israeli and Middle East [i e, Southwest AsiaMHD] politics during the 1980s». Below, my response, as posted to StumbleUpon (I have also posted a couple of times to the Truthdig forum) :

I fully agree with Tyler MC* - this article is indeed a «must read», not only because it deals with a problem that lies at the heart of political life in the US (and what affects politics in the US affects us all, even foreigners like myself), but because Mr Hayden's article is based upon his own experience in that political life. And the postings to the forum on Truthdig are also worth reading, not least because they illustrate how the canard of «anti-semitism» is trotted out to combat any criticism of Israeli government policy. With regard to this latter, fellow StumbleUponers might be interested in this recent cartoon by Ted Rall (but the figure of the «US ambassador», who, of course, would fully and whole-heartedly collude with the «Holocaust maneouvre», would have to be replaced with one representing the «progressive forces in the USA», who, alas, are so stymied by AIPAC that they haven't a clue)....

*A StumbleUponer who introduced Hayden's article to that forum....

 

24 July 2006.

  • Under the title Israel in Lebanon: Pushing Out Arabs, Kurt Nimmo has published an important article on Uruknet which reminds us of one of the determining factors that lies behind all of Israel's wars in the region - the goal of territorial expansion and the replacement of the present population of the territories seized by one more to the liking of the those running the Israeli government and their sponsors in the United States (never underestimate the attraction of theories of racial supremacy, especially if these can be used to attain other strategic objectives). This aspect of Israeli ( and US) policy is, for reasons that become more clear for those who also read the posting immediately above, rarely discussed in the polite society that the so-called mainstream media in the United States and its cultural, military, and economic colony Europe. This, however, does not make it any the less important - on the contrary. Below, my response to Mr Nimmo's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

The present Israeli offensive in Lebanon, characterised as it is by ethnic cleansing (the forced removal under the bombing of the whole population of southern Lebanon up to the Litani River) is about a lot of things, not merely for Israel but for the global power that stands behind it - «signals» to Syria and Iran on the willingness to use military force to obtain objectives, etc, etc - but the aspect that Kurt Nimmo addresses here, the project for a «Greater Israel», «cleansed», of course, of its indigenous population, which all Israeli governments of whatever colour have embraced, sometimes more, sometimes less openly, should never be forgotten. Against this project, the prohibition on aggressive war enshrined in international law in the so-called Nürnberg Principles weighs lightly indeed. Ms Rice's task, as she travels to the region as representative of the Empire, is not, of course, to stop the implementation of the latest stage of this plan, but to facilitate it....

  • James K Galbraith has published a commentary under the title Crime and protection in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian. Below, my brief response, as posted to the thread and then to StumbleUpon :

Both those who put this lethal policy into place and those who carried it out are murderers, and should be punished as such. Of course, nothing of the sort will happen, as long as they make use, which they do, over and over again, of that shibboleth of impunity, the phrase «war on terror». Well, terror is precisely that which was unleashed on Senhor de Menezes, and war (waged by others on others, of course) the favourite pastime of these policy makers....

  • In an OpEd entitled He who cast the first stone probably didn't in today's New York Times, psychology professor Daniel Gilbert acquaints readers with recent research that shows that we are better at remembering the antecedents to our own actions than to the actions of others, but less good at remembering the consequences of our actions than those of the actions of others. Thus, we tend to believe, our own actions were caused by preceding events, while those of others are the cause of succeeding events. Below, my response to this insightful article, as posted to StumbleUpon (alas, I no longer post to the Times, which seems to have narrowed the range of permissible thought to exclude views like my own) :

These results are not to be interpreted to mean that we should not attempt to understand the degrees of responsibility for a series of events that various protagonists bear, but do show how difficult it can be to do this and how important a role the testimony of neutral observers can be. But all this assumes, of course, that neutral observers can be found and that they are not hushed up by our desire to spin events to suit our interests and our prejudices, rather than to determine the truth of the matter. The lies of commission and omission that have been and are being told with regard to the origins of the present US war on Iraq and Afghanistan, or Israel's war on Lebanon (or why not, those concerning the US war on Indochina) are examples in point. To solve this problem, the international community decided after WW II on the following principle, as enunciated by Justice Jackson on the second day (21 November 1945) of the Nürnberg Trials :

If we do not return to these principles, then the adventure of H sapiens sapiens on this planet is likely to come to an end sooner, perhaps, than many of us desire....

 

25 July 2006.

  • Stand up to US, voters tell Blair is the title of the report of a poll published in today's Guardian. Mr Blair, who is much less inclined to listen to what the ordinary people of Britain, whose representative he is said to be (but for whom, I fear, he has only contempt), than to his masters among the wealthy and powerful, will ignore this clear call for a revision of policy. But, of course, the UK's foreign policy is a matter which has deeper roots than Mr Blair's predilections ; here below is my posting to StumbleUpon :

Blair, of course, is not suddenly going to develop a backbone with respect to the US - all British governments since the end of WW II have closely aligned their policies with those of Washington, whether the residents of the UK , ostensibly their employers, have agreed or no. The position of Bush's poodle suits Mr Blair to a T, and while Mr Brown may be a different breed, his position while either be on the lap, like Mr Blair's, or barking loudly at the end of his master's leash....

  • Under the title The humanitarian urge is morphing into thirst for war, Simon Jenkins argues in today's Guardian that «Calls to send troops back into Lebanon beggar belief. We should dispatch the Red Cross, not the aircraft carriers». But, alas, he tells only half the story. Below, the response to Mr Jenkins' commentary I posted to the Guardian's commentisfree section (and to StumbleUpon)* :

In writing today's commentary, Mr Jenkin's tongue seems have been to be so far ensconced in his cheek that he risked asphyxiation. No, of course, «Western» warships should not be dispatched to Beirut's port, but to portray the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as a struggle among the peoples of Southwest Asia the outcome of which should be left to them is to assume that others, primarily the USA, but also the UK as well, are not already, as they have been for many years, strongly involved on the Israeli side. The main reason that the reagion has not known peace these last sixty years is the state of Israel's dissatisfaction with the territory it manage to gain during the war of 1947-48 (and, indeed, with the additional territory it seized in 1967, which it has not yet succeeded in depopulating of its original inhabitants and then integrating into the 78 % of the Palestine mandate it occupied twenty years earlier) and its determination to obtain more, which has unleashed the resistance of the inhabitants, whose experience of Israeli rule has not led them to desire more. But that the state of Israel has been able to continue with this policy of aggression is due less to internal factors, than to the fact that it has been supported and subsidised by the US taxpayer to the tune of more than 100 thousand million dollars. It has thus been able to build up a nuclear arsenal second only to that of the United States and Russia, and a massive military force which without these enormous subsidies, its relatively small population would never have been able to sustain. (Despite this massive military firepower, it seems to be having a hard time obtaining its tactical objectives in Lebanon, but then again, its master, the US seems also to be encountering severe difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. So can it go.) Whether or no Israel will succeed in advancing its strategic objectives, which seem to be the unleashing of a wider war in the region to include both Syria and Iran, during which much more territory (and not least, water and perhaps oil resources) might be obtained, we cannot know at present, but we should be able to draw some conclusions regarding the present round of activity by November and the US congressional elections. So yes, keep the 'Western' aircraft carriers away - but stop sending as well the armaments - the jet fighters, the bombs, the helicopters, etc, etc - and the money that sustains Israel's military effort to dominate and eliminate its neighbours. Then, perhaps, prospects for peace might just possibly arise in the region....

*An example of the kind of warfare Israel is waging in Lebanon, with the obligatory the bombing of ambulances, can be found here....

 

27 July 2006.

  • Anticipating its publication in the 14/21 August issue of the Nation, yesterday Tom Engelhardt published Jonathan Schell's Too late for empire on his indispensible TomDispatch website*. While more could perhaps be said about the recent US presidential elections than Mr Schell finds space for in his article, his point that

      It's one thing to oppose an illegitimate concentration of power in the name of a repressed majority, another to oppose power [that appears to beMHD] backed and legitimated by a majority. In the first case, it will be enough to speak truth to power; in the second, the main need is to speak truth to one's fellow citizens.

    is well made, and must be taken seriously by all who wish to modify the disasterous course of US foreign policy (which, of course, is not merely the result of the over-heated brains (?) of the leading lights of the Bush administration ; cf the position of Mr Kerry on the US war on Iraq during the election campaign of 2004, or that maintained by the egregious Ms Clinton even today, when everyone not absolutely dependent on AIPAC backing has been forced to recognise what a disaster the war on Iraq is, in particular for the Iraqi people (whom, granted, Ms Clinton does not pretend to represent, in contradistinction to other residents of the region whom she seems to represent with a vengeance), but for US power and prestige as well). Below, my response to Mr Schell's article as posted to StumbleUpon) :

An imperialism born too late, both for the United States and for its Southwest Asian proxy, Israel. The inhabitants of Indochina - not only the Vietnamese ! - could not be forced to bow their heads before US military supremacy, nor have the Palestinians faded into dust as predicted by Abba Eban and Golda Meier. But then again, there is no need for counsels of dispair or specious debates about who lost what : a Republic is far better for its citizens than an Empire for its subjects, if not for their would-be masters....

*Jonathan Schell's article is also available - without, however, Tom Engelhardt's brief introduction - on the Asia Times website....

  • Peter Dale Scott's Review of 'The One Percent Doctrine', published today on Robert Parry's Consortiumnews makes some vital points in dealing with a criticism of the workings of the Bush (or Cheney-Rumsfeld, if one prefers) administration from the point of view of the CIA. Certain people are so eager to obtain material with which to demonstrate the incompetence of the administration that they tend not to inquire too closely for what purposes this material is put forward and by whom. Mr Scott's review is a vital corrective to that kind of enthusiasm. Below, the response I posted to StumbleUpon :

An important review of an important book, which shows how distorted and distorting criticism - even justified criticism - from within the establishment can be. Both Cheney-Rumsfeld and Bush-Tenet were playing trompe-l'œil, designed to keep the public's eye off the oil (while at the same time attempting to seduce that same public with hints of lower petrol prices to come, which haven't exactly panned out), control over which was the objective for which the war was to be - and was and is - fought. And this issue is just as central today in Israel's proxy conflict in Lebanon - is Iran the real target and just how far are the unhappy warriors prepared to go to attempt to win the prize of control over Iran's enormous oil and gas reserves ?...

 

28 July 2006.


    • In an article entitled The long and warming road on his always thought-provoking workingforchange website, Geov Parrish recounts his experiences on a recent 5300 km journey across the northern tier of the United States (his fourth such) and illustrates the palpable climatic changes that have taken places during the last twelve years, as seen from the windows of the family car. Mr Parrish points to the lack of response on the part of both the present US administration and its predecessor to the clear and present danger that global warming represents to humanity, saying that the US «has gone backward while the rest of the world has started to move forward» and that «[i]t is by far the greatest of the Bush White House's many crimes against humanity»....

      Much more could be said, of course, about the efforts that have been made - or not - by both the United States and the rest of the world to deal with global warming, but it was rather another matter which here seized my attention : the juxtapostion of the phrase «the Bush White House» and the term «humanity». Below, my reflexion on seeing the terms used together in the same sentence, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    Frankly, I wonder if King George & Co would even understand the charges against them were they to be indicted, as they should be but won't, in an international court for «crimes against humanity». «War crimes» they might possibly understand - although «the decider» and his minions claim to believe that nothing is a crime if George says it isn't (and conversely, everything is a crime that George says is) - as war is a concept which they gladly entertain, at least at second hand. But «humanity» - an concept embracing the whole of H sapiens sapiens in all the species' amazing variety - the evidence suggest that they just don't get it. «Us» and «them», «good guys» and «bad guys», the «coalition of the willing» and the «axis of evil», the «raptured» and those to be «left behind» - these are the dichotomies they seem to grasp (or at least are able to manipulate), but the single, inclusive term «humanity» plain and simple seems to be beyond their mental horizons. And global warming - why just have the servant lower the thermostat on the air-conditioning, George !...

     

    29 July 2006.

    • On ZNet yesterday, Eduardo Galeano posed the obvious question : How much longer ? (it's been going on for nearly sixty years) and discussed the relations obtaining between Israel and its closest neighbour, the Palestinians and the Lebanese, on the one hand, and between that state and its sponsor, the US, on the other. Below, my brief answer to the question, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    How much longer, indeed ? Alas, the answer is all too obvious - as long as the US elite, in its own interests, both domestic and foreign, permit the Israeli leadership to act with impunity, the latter will continue to do so. Surprise, surprise....

    Dear Tom,

    As usual from your pen, a piece that introduces a shaft of light into the tunnel of obfuscation - in this case, that which surrounds «our» more technical and large-scale savagery, as distinguished from the less technical, smaller-scale savagery of «our» adversaries. One observation : you write that «[a]s the Israelis are rediscovering -- though, by now, you'd think that military planners with half a brain wouldn't have to destroy a country to do so -- that it is impossible to "surgically" separate a movement and its supporters from the air». But what if that unoccupied half of the military planner's brain is thinking that by destroying the country and its inhabitants' livelihoods, he is clearing it for «settlement» by his fellow citizens ? In this case, the damage done and the ethnic cleansing is not so «collateral» after all, but rather one of the major objectives of the air campaign. From Ben Gurion onward, the leadership of the state of Israel has never been satisfied with the 78 % of Mandate Palestine it managed to conquer in the 1947-48 war ; nor, indeed, will it be satisfied with the remaining 22 % it is in the process of incorporating, olive tree after uprooted olive tree, farm after confiscated farm. Ad astra per aspera may be an exaggeration, but ad Berytum per terrorem may seem a possibility ; after all, Israeli generals have been there before, and not everyone is capable of learning from experience....

    Henri

    • As elsewhere, there has been a great deal of discussion on Rob Kall's OpEdNews site concerning the present Israeli war on Lebanon. Rob, who proclaims what he calls his «loyalty» to Israel (Rob is a US citizen, born and bred there), has earlier stated that he will not permit what he refers to as «Israel bashing» on his site ; at the same time he has issued a call to US Jews to give Israel «tough love» to force the US to rein the former state's excesses in Lebanon, and he has been willing to publish articles which question Israeli actions there and the nature of the Israeli regimes cooperation with the United States. I have submitted an earlier version of the text below to the site as an article for publication - it will be interesting to see into which category, the «Israeli-bashing» or the «tough-love», Rob will place it, and whether it will be accepted at all*....

      * 30 July 2006 :I was not too terribly surprised to receive a message from Rob saying that his site would not publish the article, as «[w]e've had enough articles reviewing the history of the middle east». So can it go !...

    Israel's strategic objective in Lebanon - plus ça change...

    Since the days of Ben Gurion, the leadership of the state of Israel has been dissatisfied with the 78 % of mandate Palestine that they managed to conquer during the 1947-48 war ; nor have they allowed themselves to be satisfied with the remaining 22 % which they are in the process of methodically incorporating into their state, olive tree by uprooted olive tree, farm by confiscated farm, after squeezing out the original inhabitants. Thus the enormous destruction unleashed upon southern Lebanon - hardly because two Israeli soldiers were captured in the tit for tat (far more Israeli tit than Lebanese or Palestinian tat, as anyone who examines the statistics can see) that continually goes on in these parts, but because King George's attempt to redo the map of Southwest Asia provides the Israeli leadership with an opportunity to replay their failure in Lebanon after the 1982 Milkhemet Levanon invasion and occupation (think the US and the so-called «Vietnam syndrome», which the US government has been trying to exorcise ever since April 1975). It is well-known that the Israeli military has been working on plans for military operations in Lebanon – under the cover of «crushing Hezbollah» - for more than a year. Now that the time has become ripe and operations have started and air power has proved insufficient to destroy Hezbollah and the requisite bombing of a UN posting has occurred, ground troops have moved in and the half million inhabitants of the area have been ordered to leave (elsewhere this would be described as «ethnic cleansing»). But as the Israeli government protests that it doesn't intend to occupy Lebanon (and the Israeli government has never been known to dissemble – it of course, always tells its adversaries and the outside world just what it is going to do and where), no one asks the obvious question, i e, who is going to set up residence in southern Lebanon now ? Or perhaps the question is not asked because the answer is all too obvious - just look at who is occupying the Sheba farms and the Golan Heights ! If the only functioning military force in Lebanon, the Hezbollah, does not succeed in defending the country, look for Israel to occupy the south, at least up to the Litani River, a most coveted source of water for further Israeli expansion (the region was first occupied by Israel in 1978, in the operation appropriately named «Operation Litani»). «Settlements» with Israeli colonists (Uzis in hand to defend themselves from the natives, who for some strange reason seem to resent them) will be created on the model that has proved so successful in the territories occupied by Israel after 1967, and slowly, inexorably, the inhabitants of that territory will find themselves ground down and squeezed out by «settlement expansion», military posts, highways that only Israelis can use, and walls. That, at least, seems to be the plan, and while ad astra per aspera may be a bit beyond Israeli strength, now, when the US is militarily engaged in the region, ad Berytum per terrorem may just seem possible - after all Israeli generals have been there before, and it is not given to all to be able to learn from experience....

     

    30 July 2006.

    • Truthdig has opened a so-called «dig», led by Chris Hedges, former New York Times Middle East Bureau chief, under the title Israel's barrier to peace, which details the effects of the Israeli governments policies on the lives of the Palestinians who suffer the consequences. This article, which shows the fate in store for the people of southern Lebanon should Israel be successful in its endeavours there, should be read in conjunction with mine on Israel's strategy in Lebanon immediately above, which has been posted to the OpEd News (still no word on whether it has been accepted for publication), and to that on the the US military's treatment of people in Iraq by Nir Rosen, my comment upon which immediately precedes the latter. Below, the letter I forwarded to the thread devoted to Chris Hedges' shocking, but hardly (for those who have taken the trouble to follow events in the region) surprising article, and, as is my custom, copied to StumbleUpon, as well :

    A question for Chris Hedges (to whom thanks are due for his revealing, but low-key article) : You are the former chief of the New York Times Middle East Bureau. Why wasn't your article published in say, the New York Times Magazine, instead of on the Truthdig site, where it reaches only a minuscule fraction of the readers it would have had it appeared in the Magazine, and where it can be conveniently ignored by other members of the US mainstream media ? Or should this question rather be directed to NYT publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr and/or executive editor Bill Keller ? I considered forwarding it to the newspaper's so-called «Public Editor», Mr Byron Calame, who is said to be «the reader's representative», but discarded the idea, as earlier contact with Mr Calame has shown that letters concerning the really grievous breaches in the Times version of journalism, which transform it into mere propaganda, go not only unanswered, but also unacknowledged....

     

    31 July 2006.

    • Today, basic background information on Hizballah, not quite the sort of thing that one is likely to find in one's local rag - and still less on the idiot box - has been published by Lara Deeb, a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of California-Irvine, on Middle East Report Online, under the title Hizballah: A Primer. Below my response to her informative article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    Professor Deeb obviously knows her subject, and reveals here in a low-key but incisive manner the hollowness and deceit of the customary US-Israeli rhetoric which portrays Hizballah (Hizbollah, Hezbollah) as a «terrorist organisation» (compared to the US and Israel, Hizballah must be considered a rank amateur when it comes to terror). For these two excellent reasons, she will by ignored by the so-called «main-stream media» in what is called the «West», and consumers of their products will not be given the opportunity to learn from her primer. Quelle dommage - or as Mr Cheney would no doubt say, «I mean it's a damn good thing !»...

     

    1 August 2006.

    • The Independent has today, mirabile dictu, made available to all online readers a Robert Fisk article, entitled A Nato-led force would be in Israel's interests, but not Lebanon's (how long it will be available is, of course, another matter). Given that the troops would be placed on the Lebanese side of the border, not the Israeli, despite the fact that Israel is responsible for a majority of the border violations that take place here and, as we have seen, again and again, the vast majority of the deaths and injuries which take place as a consequence, it would seem unnecessary to point this obvious fact out, but alas, is not - indeed, not even Mr Fisk mentions it. Rather, he concentrates himself on the more strategic aspect of what the establishment of such a force would mean, and makes some predictions, based upon prior experience, on the outcome of stationing it in southern Lebanon. Below, my brief response, which also deals with some of these strategic aspects, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    The operative part of Robert Fisk's article is the following :

      It [i e, a NATO military force to patrol southern LebanonMHD] will come because the Israelis and the Americans want it there to help reshape the Middle East.

    In my view, also perhaps, because the United States wishes to involve other NATO countries - not least Turkey, which has wisely resisted US attempts to involve it in the Iraqi debacle - in these plans, and force them to relieve US troops that then could be used for the big one, an attack on Iran. Is there no way to stop these fools, Messers Bush and Blair and their courtiers, before they bring the whole world crashing down about our heads ?...

    • The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب

      Far from the slaughter in Southwest Asia that once again is contributing to the sale of the afternoon dailies here in Stockholm, I was inspired to write the article below by reading The American Left and the Middle East: the case of Paul Krugman. by Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, which, while it well expressed the frustration that even I, though neither Arab nor citizen of the US, feel upon reading what even the best of the so-called «liberal» columnists (and their cartoonist counterparts !) in the US corporate media have had to say on the latest of Israel's many wars, to my mind leftsome things unsaid which require saying. I first encountered this brief article on UrukNet, but The Angry Arab News Service. Below, my reflections on the article, which I hope to forward the author asap. I have discovered that Professor AbuKhalil and I have, in fact, something in common, over and above our anger over and our disgust for the manner in which the state of Israel treats its neighbours (and a large proportion of its own citizens - those with the «wrong» ethnic and religious background) - a fondness for aubergines (even though I should perhaps not go quite so far as to call them my favourite food)....

    Southwest Asia and (certain segments of) the US left

    Professor As’ad AbuKhalil, the author of this article, has put his finger on something very typical for certain sections of the US left, viz, that they «are willing to tolerate from Israel what they would never tolerate from their own American government». The example of Paul Krugman is very much a case in point - sharp-sighted as he is, Professor Krugman was among the first to puncture US government claims about Iraq as an essential threat to the United States, which must be dealt with militarily if the US nation were to survive. Such bloviation was chopped to pieces with incontrovertible facts and merciless logic. But when Hezbollah is presented as an existential threat to Israel, which must «protect» herself, thus turning the victim into the aggressor, Professor Krugman's sight becomes dimmed and his logic and wit dull. This despite the fact that - so far as I know (alas, I've been unable to read his columns and those of Bob Herbert since the New York Times started charging for the privilege), Krugman is not one of those ostensible «liberals» who support Israeli expansionism. What is happening here ? My guess is that while Professor Krugman and many intellectuals of his type are well able to see that the existence of the United States, a nation of 300 million inhabitants with a military budget greater that that of the rest of the world combined, is hardly threatened by an extremist franchise like al-Qaeda or a bankrupt country like Iraq, they still, despite the massive evidence to the contrary, regard Israel as a fragile flower, beset at all sides by great perils, whose very existence is in danger before the slightest puff of wind. Otherwise, how explain that a man like Krugman, whom I believe to be sincere (he calls, after all, for Israel to stop the bombing, not widen it), could claim that Israel, in the latest of its many wars on Lebanon, is «acting in self-defense» ? Hezbollah as an existential threat to the world's third-largest nuclear power, backed by the might of the first ?!! (Admittedly, Hezbollah does constitute an effective hindrance to the expansionist policies that all Israeli governments, without exception, have been pursued since the establishment of the state, but that is a different matter, and if I read Krugman correctly, he, unlike those governments, is willing to be satisfied with the 78 % of Mandate Palestine that the state of Israel managed to conquer in the 1947-48 war.) This is so absurd that we are forced to seek a psychological, rather than an intellectual mechanism to explain the conundrum. My hypothesis – and not knowing Professor Krugman personally, nor having access to privileged information on the matter, it must remain no more than that – is that it was the nearly total destruction of European Jewry in WW II that causes even people normally as clear-sighted as Krugman to misjudge the nature of the threat that organisations like Hezbollah or Hamas constitute to Israel and ignore the existential threat that Israeli expansionism constitutes to the Palestinian and the Lebanese people. It is also the case, of course, that were Professor Krugman to adopt a still more critical attitude to Israel’s wars than he does today and accept that they are the result, not of Israeli self-defence, but of Israeli expansionism, he would become for media like the New York Times an unpublishable non-person in the manner that Professor Chomsky has become an unpublishable non-person. But I find it difficult to believe that Professor Krugman is the sort of person who would be swayed in his opinions by a desire to retain his status as an OpEd commentator at the Times…. Is there no hope then ? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, a great deal, both for the US left and for Israel. The US left is not, in fact, not even when it comes to Southwest Asia and Israel’s role therein, the same thing as the US Right ; here, I suggest, Professor AbuKhalil has misunderstood the stiuation. There are in fact, important figures on the US left who are able to see the role that Israel is playing in Southwest Asia with clarity and 20-20 vision ; some of them, like Professor Chomsky, are well-known, at least to European intellectuals, although the corporate media in the US has succeeded in keeping their work unknown to a majority of US citizens ; others are known only to those who read the alternative media and the blogs, but the work that they are doing is preparing the ground for and may well one day bear fruit in a different foreign policy for the United States, as the international situation changes and even the establishment begins to realise that it has reached the limit of what raw military power can do and that alternatives are necessary. As for the state of Israel, were it to cease its racist policies designed to clear the remaining 22 % of Mandate Palestine and a great deal of the surrounding territories as well (there, the reason for the militarily completely irrelevant bombing of Qana, on the tenth anniversary of another Israeli massacre there) of its Arab population, so that the land and the water resources could be occupied by Israelis, a modus vivendi, instead of the current modus morendi could be found with both Hezbollah and Hamas, and the other states, and most importantly, peoples of the region. But the forces whose interests lie in maintaining the old, failed policies are strong both in the United States and Israel. The outcome of the struggle is by no means given....

     

    2 August 2006.

    • Yesterday, Robert Scheer published a «report» entitled Israel’s Dependency on the Drug of Militarism which to my mind well exemplifies the limits of US mainstream «liberalism» when it comes to critiquing the state of Israel (and, not so incidentally, supports the thesis of Professor AbuKhalil, referred to in the posting immediately above). Thus, Mr Scheer informs us that

        The alternative to such excessive violence—an authentic peace process—had been supported by every American president since Harry Truman. Yet it was abruptly abandoned, indeed ridiculed, by the Bush administration, which bizarrely believes it can re-create the Middle East in a more U.S.-friendly form. The president has framed this process with a simplistic good-versus-evil template, which has the Christian West and Jewish Israel on an unnecessary collision course with the Muslim world. Israel foolishly jumped at the tempting opportunity presented by Bush, who believes all the complex issues dividing the Middle East can be neatly summarized as the choosing of sides in a playground game called 'the post-9/11 war on terror.'

      as if all had been well with the state of Israel until the crafty Mr Bush suckered its naive leaders into drugging themselves on military power ! Much can, of course, be laid at Mr Bush's door, but to claim that he or his minions bear responsibility for the militarist nature at the heart of Israeli policy is patently absurd - they were well in place while King George was occupying himself with other, more burning matters at the Skull and Crossbones at Yale. His court has «merely» been unusually helpful in allowing Israeli strategists to live out their predelictions, but these, as all who have examined the history of the region know, date from the founding of the state of Israel and even before. Below, the response I posted to StumbleUpon, which includes that which I posted to the Truthdig thread :

    As usual with Truthdig articles and commentaries, Robert Scheer's contains much that is worth reading, but at the same time leaves unsaid much that needs saying but which, in the United States, is very difficult for a man like Mr Scheer with a reputation to preserve to say. Here below is the response I posted to the thread :
      The Israeli state's «dependency on the drug of militarism» is no accident, and did not begin with King George, although the latter must be held responsible for the manner in which his court has encouraged this, for weapons manufacturers extremely profitable addiction. The point is that from the very establishment of the state of Israel, its leaders regarded the 78 % of Mandate Palestine they had managed to conquer in the 1947-48 war as a mere starting point for the establishment of a «Greater Israel», whose boundaries were left vague and ill-defined, and varied with speaker, time, and situation, but always encompassed vital water resources, like the Jordan and Litani Rivers, as a starting point. Thus the apartheit-like domestic policies of the state, which condemn non-Jewish, in particular Arab residents to the status of third-class citizens and the still worse treatment meted out to the non-citizen (despite that it will soon be 40 years (!) since their land was occupied - during which Israel has been in continual violation of UN Security Council resolution 242 (22 November 1967), which, «emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war», calls for the «[w]ithdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict») residents in the territories captured in the 1967 war, with road blocks, house demolitions, land confiscations, roads built on their territory on which they are not allowed to travel, and the whole sad, humiliating litany, designed to empty the land of its people, that Chris Hedges* has detailed in all its poignancy. Thus the militarism and the continual wars, larger and smaller, to which the Israeli state has subjected its neighbours - who remembers whether the present war on Lebanon is the fourth or the fifth or the sixth time that Israel has invaded that land ? The reason that Israeli governments of all colours have been and are unwilling to accept that «compromise from a position of strength is more effective than seeking a pyrrhic total victory» is due to the simple fact that that «total victory», i e, the expansion of the territory controlled by the state and inhabited by its «chosen people» is the state's basic strategic objective. Not until that objective is changed will the Israeli state become weaned of its addiction to militarism, nor will there be any durable and lasting peace in Southwest Asia....

    *Cf my review of Chris Hedges' Truthdig article, dated 30 July, supra....

    • Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics and international relations at Oxford, has published an essay entitled The refugees' fury will be felt for generations to come, with the following sub text : «Israel is seeking to cast itself as the victim even as it expels the people of Lebanon and Gaza from their homes». She describes the refugees trodding the dusty roads, always at the mercy of Israeli air attacks, away from their homes, either destroyed or about to be destroyed as the Israeli state methodically goes about its work of cleansing southern Lebanon of its inhabitants. In addition to portraying the fate of the refugees, Ms Nabulsi also describes the consequences, albeit at a longer term, for the state of Israel itself :

        Israel has failed to understand that it cannot expel a people and call itself the victim; that it cannot conquer its neighbours and treat any and all resistance to that conquest as terrorism; that it cannot arm itself as a regional superpower and annihilate the institutional fabric of two peoples without incurring the fury of their children in the years that follow.

      Below my response to her article, as posted to StumbleUpon

    Events seem to correspond more and more meticulously to the pattern outlined in the analysis of the strategic objectives of the Israeli state in Lebanon, viz, the removal of its present population and its replacement of one which finds greater favour in the eyes of the Israeli government, that I posted to my website under the title Israel's strategic objective in Lebanon - plus ça change... a few days ago. If this atrocity can be permitted, not to say encouraged, under present international law, then historians will be forced to conclude that the Nazis did, in fact, win WW II after all....

     

    3 August 2006.

    • Mark Fiore has published a new animation, entitled Smarty Bombsalot on his website. I found the cartoon deeply problematic, despite its obvious good points, for reasons which I hope are made clear by the following posting to StumbleUpon :

    This otherwise excellent cartoon is vitiated by an unwillingness to consider the Israeli war on Lebanon from a perspective other than that of the Israeli state : is the bombing of Lebanon by the Israeli military an error which may or may not end up causing more people to join the cause of the militants ? The animation begins with a leading question :
      What do you do when a militant islamic group lobs rockets into your country & grabs a few of your soldiers ?

    But Hezbollah did not lob rockets into Israel until well after the Israeli military had begun bombing Lebanon. And the capture of Israeli soldiers was done only in reprisal for the Israeli capture of Lebanese by Israeli agents who act with impunity on the territory of Lebanon, as they do on the territory of Israel's other neighbours (and sometimes elsewhere, as the Lillehammar incident in Norway, in which agents working for Mossad shot and killed Ahmed Bouchikhi in 1973, demonstrates). Peace in Southwest Asia will only be attained when the state of Israel is regularly subjected to the same scrutiny given other states, and the false halo of «victimhood» status removed from its head....

    • In yesterday's Washington Post, R Jeffrey Smith published an article entitled White House proposal would expand authority of military courts, which shows how far down the slippery slope the present Imperial administration has come - or rather would like to come, as the proposal is a draught which has not, fortunately, yet been enacted into law. But given the subservience that the US Congress has exhibited with respect to the pretensions of the «Unitary Executive» and its disinclination to protect the rights of the people against ever greater incroachment at the hands of the government,the worst can be feared. The present situation in the United States not only exhibits traits reminiscent of the period of the US war on Indochina, but the gradual but seemingly inexorable erosion of liberty - first, of course, limited to those whom the government authorities claim represent a special danger, also brings to the nose a whiff of the 1930s in Germany. Here is what Mr Smith, in his carefully balanced prose, writes about the administration draught :

        The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.

      Given that the draught legislation would «allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction», if it passes the Congress there will literally be no limits on the manner in which these kangeroo courts could be used, save only the good judgement of the secretary of defense, which has not been much in evidence lately. Am I alone in detecting the stench of das dritte Reich here ? Below, my response to the article, slightly modified from the version posted to StumbleUpon :

    Is this the road down which the people of the US are going to allow themselves to be driven by their so-called leaders ? Remember Pastor Niemöller's poem, describing the experience of the Germans under the Nazis (my translation next to the German original) :

    Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.

    Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

    Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

    Als sie die Juden holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Jude.

    Als sie mich holten,
    gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.
    When the Nazis arrested the Communists,
    I was silent ;
    For I was not a Communist.

    When they gaoled the Social-Democrats,
    I was silent ;
    For I was not a Social-Democrat.

    When they arrested the trade-unionists,
    I didn't protest ;
    For I was not a trade-unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I did not protest ;
    For I was not a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    There was no one left to protest.

     

    5 August 2006.

    • Under the title It's about annexation, stupid!, Dr Kaveh L Afrasiabi has once again published an article an article which cuts through the fog of deception produced for our disenlightenment by the mainstream media (alas, not only in the United States, but here in Europe as well) at the behest (which need not even be explicitly stated) of their corporate masters. Researchers like Professors Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman have documented the manner in which this media abuses it audience by distorting the nature of the events it presents as news or background ; that this distortion is due merely to naiveté and ignorance, rather than venality and fear, strikes me as extremely implausible. Below my response to Dr Afrasiabi's article, as posted to both the Asian Times and StumbleUpon :

    Dr Afrasiabi is right on the mark again - of course it's about annexation ! Don't forget that the 1978 invasion of Lebanon was code named «Operation Litani» ! But the unwillingness of the «Western» media to report this land (and most importantly, water) grab for what it is is not due to naiveté or gullibility, but rather cynicism and fear of the professional consequences of saying what Israel, the perpetual «victim», is really out to get....

     

    6 August 2006.

    • Obviously no one to wait to get to the essential, Professor and journalist Anders Strindberg begins his article, Hizbullah's attacks stem from Israeli incursions into Lebanon, published in the Christian Science Monitor of 1 August, as follows :

        As pundits and policymakers scramble to explain events in Lebanon, their conclusions are virtually unanimous: Hizbullah created this crisis. Israel is defending itself. The underlying problem is Arab extremism.

        Sadly, this is pure analytical nonsense. Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 was a direct result of Israel's silent but unrelenting aggression against Lebanon, which in turn is part of a six-decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.

      Turning common «knowledge» on its head is a daring enterprise, but Professor Strindberg has his facts in order :

        In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon's Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?

        Hizbullah's capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict, which in turn is fundamentally shaped by realities in the Palestinian territories. To the vexation of Israel and its allies, Hizbullah - easily the most popular political movement in the Middle East - unflinchingly stands with the Palestinians.

        Since June 25, when Palestinian fighters captured one Israeli soldier and demanded a prisoner exchange, Israel has killed more than 140 Palestinians. Like the Lebanese situation, that flare-up was detached from its wider context and was said to be "manufactured" by the enemies of Israel; more nonsense proffered in order to distract from the apparently unthinkable reality that it is the manner in which Israel was created, and the ideological premises that have sustained it for almost 60 years, that are the core of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

        Once the Arabs had rejected the UN's right to give away their land and to force them to pay the price for European pogroms and the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 was made possible only by ethnic cleansing and annexation. This is historical fact and has been documented by Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris. Yet Israel continues to contend that it had nothing to do with the Palestinian exodus, and consequently has no moral duty to offer redress.

      Below, my reaction to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    The question is, what are the objectives that the Israeli strategists, who inform us that they desire something called «peace», seek to attain through these methods ? That which most of us would regard as «peace» ; i e, quiet, no shooting or military excursions across the borders, can hardly be attained by these means. It must be an entirely different kind of «peace» that Israeli strategists are seeking. To my mind - and as I have no privileged canal to the leaders or employees of the Israeli state, it is only I who am responsible for the conclusions I draw from the public actions orchestrated by these figures - the planners envisage two possible scenarios. In the first, the inhabitants of these territories - the remaining 22 % of Mandate Palestine, aka the «Occupied Territories», and Lebanon south of the Litani River - would find the economic, social, and political conditions under which they were forced to live so abominable that they would flee to other countries, leaving the land empty, ready for occupation by «a people without land» (aka the «chosen people»). In the second, the inhabitants would organise to fight their oppressors, making it possible for Israeli specialists in victimhood to claim, as they have so many times before with such great success in propaganda organs prepared to support this claim unexamined, that their innocent little state, the last refuge of the refugees of Nazi barbarism, once again entirely unprovoked has been attacked by those wicked Arab extremists, thus justifying the sort of response we are seeing today, using all that massive arsenal of modern weapons manufactured and purchased with the help of grants from the US, save only nuclear weapons and, as far as I know, poison gas. This response, with or without the complicity of NATO troops that will be brought in to patrol, mirabile dictu on the Lebanese side of the border (!) - despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of border violations take place from the Israeli side - it is hoped will suffice to empty the land so that the expansion of the state of Israel can proceed yet another step, thus fulfilling the dreams of its founders*. This, then, the nature of the «peace» they desire. Nice work if you can get it....

    *Cf, supra, the Asia Times article by Dr Kaveh L Afrasiabi I reviewed here yesterday....

     

    19 August 2006.

    • Yesterday, an article on the consequences of removing a single key species - in this case a fish called the flannelmouth characin (Prochilodus mariae) - from an environment, in this case a river in Venezuela. The lead author of the study, research associate in the department of biological sciences at Dartmouth Brad Taylor, published in Science describes the impact as «astounding» not least on carbon flow, an important measure of ecosystem function. Below, my reaction to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

     

    Will we, before it is utterly too late, realise the need for prudence in dealing with our environment ? The last couple of centuries don't exactly inspire confidence....

     

    22 August 2006.

    • Under the titillating title Mass murder in the skies : Was the plot feasible ? the Register's Thomas C Greene, reporting from Washington, walks us through the chemistry. The conclusion : rather unlikely. Or, in Mr Greene's own words :

        ...

        Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them. It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie. ... Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else. After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two. The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it. While it's true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it's unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that's about all you're likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.

        ...

      What conclusions my esteemed readers draw from the above, I cannot pretend to know, but here below, is my reaction to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    Amazing, is it not ? If one questions the official version of such events as the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy or the destruction of the WTC in New York on 11 September 2001, then one is a «conspiracy theorist», a «whacko». But if one finds it difficult to believe in such conspiracies as that allegedly hatched in Miami to bring down a skyscraper in Chicago, or that to flood the Hudson River tunnels between NYC and New Jersey, or the tremendous danger that bringing shampoo and toothpaste on a transatlantic flight represents, one is not congratulated for one's sound skepticism, but instead castigated as, if not a terrorist oneself, at the very least a sympathiser and enabler of terrorism. Talk about asymmetrical (propaganda) warfare !...

     

    25 August 2006.

    • Idag har ESA publicerat en artikel med titel Är det en stjärna? En planet? Nej en planemo! på sin webbsida, där man utifrån en tidigare oupptäckt configuration, där två kroppar av planetär storlek roterar kring varandra utan närvaro av en stjärna, berättar om en ny kategori himlakroppar, s k »planemos« eller »Planetary Mass Objects. Tillsammans med den senaste tidens diskussion om hur Pluto och liknande Kuiperbältskroppar ska kategoriseras föranledde artikeln mig att skicka några reflektioner till StumbleUpon :

    Det är inte bara Pluto och bröderna i Kuiperbältet som ställer till det när det gäller vårt hittillsvarande sätt att dela upp himlakropparna i olika kategorier, snart får vi kanske lära oss vad en »planemo« är. Som J B S Haldane uppges ha sagt, »... the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose«. Och ju bättre vi blir på att undersöka det desto konstigare tycks det vara....

    Another parallel to the failure of artificial intelligence to live up to the hype is, of course, space travel : today, nearly half a century after Sputnik, weren't we supposed at a minimum, to have colonies on the moon and Mars, (and in the more imaginative scenarios, to have discovered «drives» to take us to the stars) ? Our terrestial gravity well, however, like the complexity of neuronal systems in the brains of such creatures as C elegans, not to speak of Blattidae spp or H sapiens sapiens, has proven far more difficult to overcome than many in the field(s) had thought. But I shall go on enjoying science fiction, in which both manned space flight and intelligent robots play so important roles, for all that - for good science fiction is not about them and the future, but about us and the present....

     

    3 September 2006.


    • Yesterday, Global Research published an article entitled Behind the plan to bomb Iran by Professor Ismael Hossein-zadeh. As befits an economics professor, his analysis of a US foreign policy which on the surface seems so counter-productive (how much more democracy have you seen in Southwest Asia lately ?) is based upon tracing who they are that enjoy the profits which accrue from a policy of continual warfare. A better system for transferring wealth from the public domain to (certain) private pockets than scaring the Hell out of people and convincing them that to remain safe, they require an ever more powerful military and ever better (dearer) armaments has, of course, never been devised. And the nice thing about this particular device is that it doesn't seem to be limited by any negative feedback. Beyond a certain point, people learn that despite an inbuilt physiological need for food, eating more is not going to increase their well being, but even with a military budget (referred to, of course, as «defense») that far exceeds that of the rest of the world combined (and which is held artificially low by the use of such incredible tricks as not including the cost of on-going wars in the budget, but financing them separately by means of special appropriations), more security, which means a still larger military budget, is always needed. Below, my reflections on the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    Professor Hossein-zadeh here provides us a well-reasoned and balanced analysis of why the present administration so egregiously pursues a policy which not only is not in the interests of a majority of people in the world as a whole, but also directly inimical to the interests of a majority of the citizens and residents of the United States itself. «Follow the money !» is always good advice in trying to understand the motives which underly the actions of the powerful ; indeed, it's almost as good a rule as «Cherchez la femme !»...

     

    6 September 2006.

    • Remember the UK «red mercury» scare of 2004 ? Remember the fact that the three men arrested in September 2004 and accused of, inter alia «having an article (a highly dangerous mercury based substance) for terrorism» were all acquitted in July 2006, after having been detained for nearly two years for a non-extant crime ? No ? But you are worried about dastardly terrorists coming over dangerous substances like «red mercury» ? Well, an article by Robert Matthews entitled The red peril that doesn’t even exist in today's The First Post provides a little background to those inchoate fears. Below, my reflections upon reading the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    The important thing, of course, is not whether or not a peril exists, but whether the public - for the most part scientifically illiterate (like the vast majority of journalists) can be convinced that it exists. «Red mercury» (cf Wikipedia's instructive article*) is as good a red herring as any other. And even when court cases based on absurdities result in acquittals, the damage is done : unlike the headlines screaming of a «terrorist plot», the acquittals - which come years later (the men accused of «red mercury terrorism» were arrested in September 2004, but acquitted of a crime that didn't exist first in July 2006) - go unnoticed in the press, and in the meantime people have successfully been terrorised by the very governments which claim to protect them from «terrorism»....

    *Acknowledgement : I have corrected several spelling errors found in this article, and may therewith be considered to be an interested party....

     

    7 September 2006.

    • Ever since St Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Marquis W Childs published his Sweden, the Middle Way in the 1930s, Scandinavia, and in particular Sweden has held a special place in the heart of liberals in North America and Western Europe, people who feared and abhorred Communists, but who worried that the cruelty and excesses of capitalism could lead to a Communist revolution, which could not be suppressed simply by calling out the police or the troops. That something of this attitude survives, 70-odd years later, is shown by Professor Joseph Stiglitz' commentary in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian, entitled Making globalisation work, and which discusses what needs to be done to make globalisation work for everybody, rather than just a privileged few. Whether or not this will happen depends upon whether that privileged few see to their long-term, rather than their short-term interests (but, citing Keynes, Professor Stiglitz points out that «in the long run, we are all dead»). In the US and the UK, of course, it is the short-term interests - not least of those who profit from (others) waging war, that have won the day, with the result that, in Stiglitz' words «the US and others following its example are becoming rich countries with poor people». Thus, once again, as in the 1930s when the Great Depression harried world economy (with one notable exception, the Soviet Union), liberals in the «West» look to the Scandinavian example to save the day. Alas, they rarely seem to note how contested this example is in the Scandinavian countries themselves, and to what a slight shift in the balance of power between the two blocs could lead. Below, my response to Professor Stiglitz' commentary, as posted to commentisfree :

    «But the Scandinavian countries have shown that there is another way. Of course, government, like the private sector, must strive for efficiency. But investments in education and research, together with a strong social safety net, can lead to a more productive and competitive economy, with more security and higher living standards for all. A strong safety net and an economy close to full employment provides a conducive environment for all stakeholders - workers, investors, and entrepreneurs - to engage in the risk-taking that new investments and firms require.»

    Alas, what Professor Stiglitz - who, of course, does not reside in a Scandinavian country - doesn't seem to realise is that the policies that have characterised these countries, and which, I agree, have been largely successful in countering the downside of globalisation, are not graven in stone. The local «winners» in the globalisation process know quite well, that they can «win» even more (at least for the short term), if they don't have to pay to help the «losers». If the political parties that represent these classes and groups come to power in Sweden in the general elections to be held here on 17 September, we are definitely not going to see more of the type of investment Stiglitz recommends - rather more and more segregation in the schools with the continued weakening of the public school system and a strengthening of the a private school system financed by a «voucher» system, and a drastic dismantling of the safety net which has made the risk-taking inherent in the creation of new enterprises possible and acceptable for large segments of the population. The «Swedish model» will be abandoned for a US/UK model which is seen as more dynamic - by those who stand to profit from it. In that event, we shall probably witness more back-lash and more «crisis-driven change», even in this hitherto fairly calm segment of the globe....

     

    8 September 2006.

    • Jonathan Cook, a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, has published an article, entitled How Human Rights Watch lost its way in Lebanon and which one can't help wishing that all those whose views on the Israeli war on Lebanon's population would read with the attention it deserves - fat chance ! - on Information Clearing House, in which he not only details the intellectual summersaults which Human Rights Watch has been forced to perform in its reporting on that war, but also who the lion tamers are that have put the organisation through its paces. Inevitably, the influence of the Israeli lobby is discussed and its attack on Human Rights Watch when the latter's report pointed out the Israeli targeting of civilians, which led directly to the acrobatics, as in the following example :

        Rather than concentrating on HRW’s findings of war crimes in Lebanon -- the focus of the research -- Bouckaert [senior HRW researcher, Peter Bouckaert in a New York Times interview made after the organisation's recent report «Fatal Strikes» was released] digresses: «I mean, it's perfectly clear that Hezbollah is directly targeting civilians, and that their aim is to kill Israeli civilians. We don't accuse the Israeli army of deliberately trying to kill civilians. Our accusation, clearly stated in the report, is that the Israeli army is not taking the necessary precautions to distinguish between civilian and military targets. So, there is a difference in intent between the two sides. At the same time, they are both violating the Geneva Convention.»

        First, how does Bouckaert know that Israel’s failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets was simply a technical failure, a failure to take precautions, and not intentional? Was he or another HRW researcher sitting in one of the military bunkers in northern Israel when army planners pressed the button to unleash the missiles from their spy drones? Was he sitting alongside the air force pilots as they circled over Lebanon dropping their US-made bombs or tens of thousands of “cluster munitions”, tiny land mines that are now sprinkled over a vast area of south Lebanon? Did he have intimate conversations with the Israeli chiefs of staff about their war strategy?

        Of course not. He has no more idea than you or I what Israel’s military planners and its politicians decided was necessary to achieve their war goals. In fact, he does not even know what those goals were. So why make a statement suggesting he does?

        Similarly, just as Bouckaert is apparently sure that he can divine Israel’s intentions in the war, and that they were essentially benign, he is equally convinced that he knows Hizbullah’s intentions, and that they were malign. Whatever the evidence suggests -- in a war in which Israel overwhelmingly killed Lebanese civilians and is still doing so, and in which Hizbullah overwhelmingly killed Israeli soldiers -- Bouckaert knows better. He admits that both violated the Geneva Conventions, a failure he makes sound little more than a technicality, but apparently only Hizbullah had evil designs.

        How is it “perfectly clear” to Bouckaert that Hizbullah was “directly” targeting Israeli civilians? It is most certainly not clear from the casualty figures.

        It is also not clear, as I tried to document during the war, from the geographical locations where Hizbullah’s rockets struck. My ability to discuss those locations was limited because all journalists based in Israel are subject to the rules of the military censor. We cannot divulge information useful to the “enemy” about Israel’s myriad military installations -- its army camps, military airfields, intelligence posts, arms stores and Rafael weapons factories.

        What I did try to alert readers to was the fact that many, if not most, of those military sites are located next to or inside Israeli communities, including Arab towns and villages.

        At least it is now possible, because some army positions were temporary, to reveal that many communities in the north had artillery batteries stationed next to them firing into Lebanon and that from Haifa Bay warships continually launched warheads at Lebanon. That information is now publicly available in Israel, and other examples are regularly coming to light.

        I reported, for example, the other day that the Haaretz newspaper referred to legal documents to be presented in a compensation suit which show that the Arab village of Fassouta, close to the border with Lebanon, had an artiller battery stationed next to it throughout much of the war. A press release this week from a Nazareth-based welfare organisation, the Laborers’ Voice, reveals that another battery was positioned by an Arab town, Majd al-Krum, during the war. Arab member of Knesset Abbas Zakour has also gone publicly on the record: "During a short visit to offer condolences to the families of victims killed in Hizbullah's rocket attacks, I saw Israeli tanks shelling Lebanon from the two towns of Arab Al-Aramisha and Tarshiha."

        In other Arab communities, including Jish, Shaghour, and Kfar Manda, the Israeli army requisitioned areas to train their troops for the ground invasion of south Lebanon. According to the Human Rights Association, based in Nazareth, army officials justified their decision on the following grounds: "The landscape of Arab towns [in Israel] is similar to Arab towns in Lebanon."

        Aside from the fact that this effective use of Israeli civilians as human shields by the army outdoes any "cowardly blending" (in the words of Jan Egeland of the United Nations) by Hizbullah in Lebanon, it also makes any attempt at second-guessing the targets of the Shiite militia’s rockets futile. Unless Bouckaert was given a private audience with Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, or drove around with a Katyusha rocket team, his talk is pure hot air.

      But unfortunately, Jonathan Cook's essay has a weak point ; it fails to take up the burning question(s) : How is that the Israeli lobby has accrued such power and influence that it can determine what views and opinions are acceptable in the mainstream media ? Who has given them this power ? In whose interests ? Admittedly, an exhaustive treatment of these questions would have been far beyond the scope of the article, but to my mind, they should at least have been adumbrated. In any event, here below my response to this important article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

    A very important article by a man on the spot, which alas will go unreported by the so-called mainstream media, not merely in the United States, but also abroad. It demonstrates very clearly the contortions to which even well-meaning organisations like Human Rights Watch are constrained in order to maintain what is called their «credibility» in these media, and therewith their access to large-scale public debate (and funding). Were they to tell the plain, unvarnished truth about matters like the Israeli war on the civilian population of Lebanon (or indeed, the role of NATO in the war on Serbia in the declining years of the last century, they would, as far as the US media is concerned, become non-entities, never to be mentioned in polite society, just as Professor Chomsky has become such a non-entity. Thus, the absurd «Israel did bad things, but not deliberately, while Hezbollah did equally bad things, if not worse, and deliberately» tale that they are forced to spin. Even then, as Jonathan Cook points out, they cannot escape the ire of the Israeli lobby, for as we know Israel is constitutionally incapable of doing evil. The proof : European Nazis (of whom there were many, and not only Germans) attempted to utroot European Jewry during WW II. And those who find it difficult to accept this non-syllogistic argument are, as we frequently informed, either «anti-Semites», «Holocaust deniers», or «self-hating Jews», or (most often) a combination of all three. Che mondo cane !...

     

    13 September 2006.

    • Under the title An inconvenient truth: beware the politician in fleece clothing, Jonathan Freedland reviews Al Gore's recently released film An Inconvenient Truth in a lengthy comment in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian. Essentially, Mr Freedland is both sobered and aroused by the film :

        I am ashamed to say it took a movie to make me realise what, above all others, is surely the greatest political question of our time. An hour and 40 minutes in the cinema watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which opens in Britain this weekend, is what finally did it. Sure, I had heard the warnings and read the reports: for two decades environmental activists have been sounding the alarm. But, I confess, none of it had really sunk in the way it did after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. I can think of few films of greater political power.

      But his essential message - note the obligatory kick at Ralph Nader - is contained in the following passages :

        The film leaves a more direct political thought. You watch and you curse the single vote on the US supreme court that denied this man - passionate, well-informed and right - the presidency of the United States in favour of George W Bush. You realise what a different world we would live in now if just a few hundred votes had gone to Al Gore (rather than, say, Ralph Nader) that fateful day. But you also remember what that election turned on. The conventional wisdom held that Gore and Bush were so similar on policy - Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the pundits said - that the election was about personality. On that measure, Bush had the edge. Sure, he couldn't name any world leader, but the polls gave him a higher likeability rating. If you had to have a beer with one of them, who would you choose? Americans said Bush, every time. Even that was not enough to give Bush a greater number of votes: remember, Gore got more of those. But it got him closer than he should have been. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.

      It is followed by an exhortation to his fellow Britons not to vote for the presumably more personable David Cameron rather than the allegedly dour Gordon Brown in the next UK general election - perhaps a non sequitor, but one for which I must confess a certain sympathy, given the two leading candidates for Prime Minister in the soon to be decided general election here in Sweden. Below, at any rate, my letter to commentisfree :

    So long as men like Jonathan Freedland refuse to realise that the US presidential election of 2000, like that of 2004, was stolen by Mr Bush's consiglieri - or rather, so long as they and other in the media who are well aware of the fact refuse to act upon it for fear of losing their well-paid positions and becoming non-persons - so long will the destruction of the environment in the interests of corporate and personal profit continue unabated. The environmental struggle is mirrored by the political struggle, and the same techniques of the Big Lie and intimidation used in the one are used in the other....

    • Yesterday, David Wearing published an article entitled Britain's role in the Israeli-Hezbollah war on Information Clearing House. The title is unfortunate, as it strengthens the erroneous perceptions which the general public has gained from the best efforts of the mainstream media, that the state of Israel was making war on an organisation known as «God's Party», or Hezbollah, in order to protect its long-suffering citizens from terrorist attacks on the part of the latter. But the article itself, in which Mr Wearing details how the UK leadership has provided both material and immaterial aid which was of the greatest importance in enabling the Israeli state to carry out its brutal war upon the population of Lebanon in general and southern Lebanon in particular, deserves the widest possible readership.Below, my response to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon and to the Information Clearing House website :

    Apart from the fact that he unfortunately neglects the territorial imperative as a/the basic motive behind the Israeli state's strategy vis-à-vis Lebanon (and one which explains why the war against the civilian population was waged with the extreme cruelty that he notes in his article - Israel wants the territory and in particular the water (the Litani river), but not the population, and what is now termed «ethnic cleansing» is a procedure the state learned to exercise as early as the 1947-48 war which resulted in its establishment), David Waearing's analysis is as good as anything I've yet seen published on the political bands that permit the Israeli state to act with total impunity, despite UNO resolution after resolution. And his characterisation of the policies of the present UK government is spot on, and he provides the documentation to prove it. What he also demonstrates, and which leaves an especially bitter after-taste, is that the prospects for a change in policy after the egregious Mr Blair is finally forced to leave the premiership and the leadership of the party he has transformed in his own image, are less than negligible :
    In a famous leaked internal memo, Tony Blair called for "eye-catching initiatives" with which he "should be personally associated". The Israel-Hezbollah war no doubt falls squarely into this category. But as Westminster gossip over the diverting subject of the Prime Minister's retirement continues, no one should assume that any substantial change from the policies highlighted here will be forthcoming after Blair's departure. As polls revealed strong popular opposition to Britain's handling of the conflict, media reports informed the public of "unease", even "serious concerns" amongst members of Blair's cabinet. Yet at no point during or after the thirty-four day bloodbath did this purported "unease" move a single senior member of the British government to resign their position rather than continue their complicity in war crimes and acts of terrorism. To them, none of the horrors visited by Britain's ally on innocent Lebanese civilians represented a moral concern of greater magnitude than keeping their own job.
    Can anyone imagine Mr Brown being less ready and willing to obey the slightest wink from the regent in the White House than Mr Blair ? Perhaps he will do it less obsequiously, but do it he will, happily wagging his tail behind him....

    • Kathleen Christison has just published a vitally important article in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffry St Clair's Counterpunch, in which she develops the thesis that in the latest war on Lebanon's population, the Israeli state has overreached itself to the degree that the unquestioning support it has enjoyed in North America and Europe will now begin to fade, as more and more people in these regions begin to take a closer look at the racist nature of the state they have supported for nigh on sixty years. This in turn, the theory goes, will force the same sort of change in Israeli policies that a similar loss of support forced upon the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Ms Christison recognises that such a development is by no means inevitable, but she maintains it is possible, and by addressing the racist nature of the Israeli state and the difficulties such a state inevitably faces in the world, as she puts it, «on the other side» of that moral crossroads to which she insists we have now come, she addresses the core problem in a way that most analysts have been unwilling to do. In doing so, she has performed a great service to us all, not least to the residents of Israel - for it is only from waking from our racist dreams that we can cross over to a world in which the Nürnberg Principles reign, and the wars of aggression that have so marred the latter half of the 20th century and have maintained their hold on the beginning of the 21st, can be brought to an end. Here below the response to the article that I posted to StumbleUpon :

    Ms Christison, a former CIA analyst who according to Counterpunch has worked on Southwest Asian questions for 30 years, has now published an article which delves more deeply into the core issue of the Israeli state's relationship with its neighbours than any other I have yet seen since the latest episode in the continual - but sometimes mitigated - Israeli war to conquer Lebanon and expell its present inhabitants began two months ago. Has Israel finally overreached itself, so that in the end, despite its support from the US leadership (it is instructive to compare Richard Bruce Cheney's attitude towards Israel and its wars on its neighbours with Apartheit South Africa and its wars on its neighbours), it will be compelled by its own inner logic to come to an «FW de Klerk moment» ? In order for that to happen, that part of the rest of the world which has been willing to suppport the Israeli state no matter what its crimes - sometimes out of guilt arising from the massive murder of European Jewry during WW II, in which the list of complicit states is long and extends far outside Europe's borders, sometimes out of geostrategical considerations and the perceived need to control Southwest and Central Asia's vast reserves of hydrocarbons, and sometimes out of the simple venality of political, business, and religious leaders - will have to begin to view this state with more objective and critical spectacles. Will it happen ? Who knows ? - but it would seem to be the only possible alternative to a continual cycle of war brought on by Israeli hunger for more land and more water, which can only be obtained through ethnic cleansing of the type we witness daily in Palestine and now, once again, in Lebanon as well....

     

    17 September 2006.

    • A few days ago, Science Daily published a brief account, entitled General relativity survives gruelling pulsar test: Einstein at least 99.95 percent right, in which work carried out under the leadership of Professor Michael Kramer of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, has shown that the predictions of the general theory of relativity agree with recent observations of the behaviour of a (hitherto) unique double pulsar system, consisting of two neutron stars, PSR J0737-3039A and B, respectively, with regard to three critical parametres - gravitational redshift, Shapiro delay, and gravitational radiation and orbital decay. Accoring to the review, the parametre which provides the most precise result is the time delay, known as the Shapiro Delay, suffered by the signals as they pass through the curved space-time surrounding the two neutron stars. At approximately 90 microseconds, the ratio of the observed and predicted values is 1.0001 +/- 0.0005 - a precision of 0.05%. Not bad by anybody's standards ! Think - if the majority of the funding and not least, the intelligence devoted to scientific research were employed in furthering this kind of work, rather than weapons development, how much more we, as a species, should know about the world in which we live, and how much greater a chance of living in it a bit longer we should have ! Here below, in any event, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading the article :
    Fascinating that our ability to measure things has advanced to the point that such elusive entities as gravitational waves can be detected, even if only, as yet, indirectly. Thank you, Professor Einstein - and thank you, Galileo Galilei, who, presumably learning from the astronomers, put physics on the sound basis of measurement - remember those balls rolling down inclined planes which bored you so in secondary school ? - and thereby lay the foundations upon which the modern world was built....

     

    18 September 2006.

    • In today's Independent, Patrick Cockburn has written an article entitled Deadly harvest: The Lebanese fields sown with cluster bombs, which in some 1100 words effectively gives the lie to the claims of the Israeli state and its supporters and bagmen that the former was waging a war of self-defence, not against Lebanon, but against Hezbollah. Mr Cockburn cites a report in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz :
      Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields. 'In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs,' he said. 'What we did there was crazy and monstrous.' What makes the cluster bombs so dangerous is that 30 per cent of the bomblets do not detonate on impact. They can lie for years - often difficult to see because of their small size, on roofs, in gardens, in trees, beside roads or in rubbish - waiting to explode when disturbed.
      The consequences of this kind of warfare ? Aside from the individual tragedies - according to Cockburn some four people a day have been killed and many more wounded since (the overt) hostilities ceased, note the effect on the economic life of the villages affected :
      ... Villagers said that they were most worried by the cluster bombs still infesting their gardens, roofs and fruit trees. In the village street, were the white vehicles of the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), whose teams are trying to clear the bomblets. It is not an easy job. Whenever members of one of the MAG teams finds and removes a bomblet, they put a stick, painted red on top and then yellow, in the ground. There are so many of these sticks that it looks as if some sinister plant had taken root and is flourishing in the village. 'The cluster bombs all landed in the last days of the war,' said Nuhar Hejazi, a surprisingly cheerful 65-year-old woman. 'There were 35 on the roof of our house and 200 in our garden so we can't visit our olive trees.' People in Yohmor depend on their olive trees and the harvest should begin now before the rains, but the trees are still full of bomblets. 'My husband and I make 20 cans of oil a year which we need to sell,' Mrs Hejazi says. 'Now we don't know what to do.' The sheer number of the bomblets makes it almost impossible to remove them all.
      The strategic consequences are obvious, and just as the destruction of olive trees, roads and fields (with bulldozers, mainly, not as yet with cluster bombs) in the 22 % of Mandate Palestine which is supposed to become the territory of a Palestinian state has nothing to do with fighting Hamas, so the destruction of the basis for the livelihoods of the Lebanese has nothing to do with fighting Hezbollah. Here the sea in which the guerrillas swim, the population of southern Lebanon, is not being drained in order to get rid of the guerrillas (Hezbollah) - although that would certainly be a most welcome by-product of the strategy, were it to succeed - but rather just in order to drain the sea, so that one population can be replaced by another, more to the liking of the Israeli state's strategists. Here below the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Cockburn's article :

    Read Mr Cockburn's article, and then tell me that the Israeli state was «making war on Hezbollah» ! This flood of cluster bombs, dropped or fired in the last 72 hours before the cease fire that everyone knew was coming (but which the Israeli state, backed by the US - the same US that supplied the cluster bombs in the first place - har resisted as long as politically possible) had, of course, another purpose than putting Hezbollah fighters out of action : that of removing the population in the villages in which they were dropped by making it impossible for people to go about there daily lives without risking their lives and limbs. The name of the game is ethnic cleansing, by means of the gift which keeps on giving, long after the war is thought to be over !...

     

    20 September 2006.

    • Robert Parry has just published an article entitled Bush's empty words to the UN on his invaluable Consortiumnews, which analyses the discrepancy (surprise ! surprise !) between the words uttered by George W Bush in his recent speech at the United Nation's Organisation (where, perhaps to the surprise of his ambassador - appointed without the advice and consent of the US Senate - the top ten floors have not yet disappeared) and his actions during his reign. In closing, Parry inquires as to the reasons for the discrepancy and attempts to answer his own question :
      So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles?

      There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it.

      Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.
      Whether Bush's attitude is better characterised as «chutzpah» or as «hubris» is perhaps a moot point (I vote for the former), but here below, at any rate, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Parry's article :

    As Robert Parry points out here, King George's spin doctors' proclivity to invoke the most high-flying rhetoric and principles to justify the most despicable policies and activities is well known. But to my mind, his willingness to refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the violation of which is the one of the ground pillars of his court, before an audience which, unlike many in the US, must be fully aware of the discrepancy between his words and his actions, shows the degree to which Bush and his courtiers hold the United Nations Organisations - and the countries which comprise it - in contempt. Given that most of these countries - with a few honourable exceptions - are unwilling to directly challenge these actions and point out these contradictions, mayhap this contempt is deserved ?...

     

    29 September 2006.

    • In a perceptive and informed article entitled War in October, Geov Parrish published an analysis yesterday on his Working for Change website of the US regime's latest moves in the burgeoning «Iran crisis» which it has worked so hard to manufacture. In addition to exposing the falsity of the rhetoric that King George's speech writers have brought to bear on the issue :
      Bush purportedly spoke "directly" to the Iranian people, another favorite rhetorical device of war-conscious American presidents. Bush, in this case, assured all Iranians that their leader was betraying their trust by pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and, like them, all Bush wants is peace and democracy and freedom blah blah blah. It all sounded dreadfully familiar. (How's that peace and democracy and freedom workin' out for ya, Iraqis?) Iranians, of course, generally don't share the religious fundamentalism of Ahmadinejad and the other hardliners now running things in Tehran, but they are wildly supportive of the country's nuclear program. So Bush's real audience was not Iranians (or Iraqis or Afghans, who he also "addressed"), but us. You and me. Americans. And his message to us: when I launch this war, it is only to give Iranians what they all crave.

      Iranians, apparently, have a unique affection for having cluster bombs dropped on them.

      Bush also, in his U.N. speech, pledged himself as determined to find a negotiated way to end the problem. That's actually another bad sign. When Bush gets around to talking about negotiations, it usually means he's arrived at the point where the formality of intentionally futile diplomatic gestures must be deployed prior to attack. That message was exactly what Bush was saying for months in 2002-03, well after he'd determined to invade Iraq. It was a lie then, and, judging by the actions of his own military, it's a lie now.
      Mr Parrish also points out concrete measures which indicate, behind the rhetoric, what the court may really be planning :

      The second, disturbing report to surface last week is that, as Dave Lindorff of The Nation writes,

        "...the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1."

      The Eisenhower Strike Group has been ordered to leave next week, at least a month ahead of schedule, after having been docked for refurbishment for several years. It will take a week to reach Iran's western coast, heavily fortified with Silkworm antiship missiles. That in itself indicates the Eisenhower group's deployment is not simply a provocation or bluff. You don't put such valuable vessels within range of enemy fire unless you're there for a reason. Bush would surely love to have the Iranians fire first, but even if Tehran doesn't take the bait, all signs are that Bush is giving himself the option of launching a military strike against Iran in October.
      None of us know, of course, including King George himself (Mr Cheney might have an idea), exactly what the month of October will bring to Iran, the USA, and the rest of the world, but here below is the response to Mr Parrish's article I posted to StumbleUpon :

    The ability to fool fellow members of one's own species would seem to be much older than H sapiens sapiens - in addition to ourselves, it is found, so ethologists tell us, in our cousins, P troglodytes. Smart as we are, we have found certain algorithms to use in attempting to discern our fellows' deceit : «Follow the money !», «Cherchez la femme !», and not least, «Observe how the military (or the police or the gang members) have been deployed !» The fact that the Eisenhower Strike Group has been ordered to the Persian Gulf is not a hopeful sign, for all King George's protestations of a desire to work through diplomacy ; while it may, of course, be an attempt to bluff the Iranians to abjure their rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - to which both they and the United States are parties - it may also, given the sinking prospects of the Republican Party with regard to the fall elections in the US, be the first element of that old Republican favourite, the October Surprise. After all, King George's courtiers have, through the use of military means succeeded in their project to destroy Iraq ; all that now stands in their way (they seem to believe) to complete hegemony over Southwest Asia's (with the Israeli state in the role of proconsul) oil and gas resources - and thereby control over potential rivals, such as China - is Iran. The temptation to go to war to obtain this objective, at the same time that they thereby (they think) save themselves from an electoral debacle at home, must be very strong, indeed ! How far these people are willing to go is impossible for outsiders to determine, but one fact is clear, the more informed and aroused the people of the United States are, the greater the costs to the neo-con clique of attempting to realise their dream of a «New American Century». Don't expect any help from us Euro-weenies in stopping this madness ; as the pitiful example of the egregious Mr Blair shows, our so-called «leaders» will always, to greater or lesser degree, follow the US, no matter which madman is in charge - they don't possess the imagination to conceive of another world....