Friday, August 06, 2010

In NY harbor, Palestinian-Americans take leadership role in US campaign for Gaza

by Philip Weiss on August 6, 2010 · 35 comments

Last night I joined a three-hour cruise on New York harbor that served as a fundraiser to send a U.S. boat to Gaza in October. This morning I have three strong impressions of the event: 1, the great widening that is taking place on the issue on the American left-- the issue has found a political home; 2, Chris Hedges's spiritual speech on the issue; 3, the strong presence of Palestinian-Americans on the boat, and indeed their increasing role in the intellectual/political leadership on the issue.

1. The excitement. You had 400 people jamming a boat on a Thursday night, many of them putting off their weekend trips to country houses, and when the pails came out, they coughed up thousands more dollars. One man called out a $5000 donation, a woman quickly followed with $2500. The artist Emily Henochowicz, who lost her left eye to Israel militarism, was in the crowd and gave two pieces of art to be auctioned. $3000, $2000, they went for. But I am no materialist. I had the good feeling that the issue has passed out of the leftwing cadre that I associate it with and has gained broader political footing in the wake of the flotilla outrage, amid other signs of widening, from Robert Mackey's fresh blog to the recent stories about Henochowicz to Roger Cohen's outspokenness to Andrew Sullivan's journalistic crusade to Paul Krugman and Peter Beinart's weariness with the ancien Israel lobby. There were young hipsters with tattoos in the crowd. I listened to a Fox News reporter interviewing Ann Wright of Code Pink and badgering her to tell him what Israel should do to deter rocket attacks from Gaza. His shrill manner seemed to me desperate. He knows that Americans are getting sick of the Israeli endless-security justification for aggression (which of course the Washington Post purveys this morning, they have not gotten the news). My favorite sign on the boat was a a black placard that said simply, This Is News.

2. I've never seen Hedges in action, he spoke like a churchman; I believe he is the closest thing to a blue-eyed transcendentalist in the Emerson Melville Thoreauvian tradition that you will find anywhere these days. It is amazing to think that this guy was recently a New York Times reporter, amazing to consider what he may have been suppressing to perform that role. For instance, he quoted "my friend" Rev. Jeremiah Wright (the chickens coming home to roost 9/11 sermon) and Edward Said and Rachel Corrie lovingly. The Said quote was savage/knowing: It was about intellectual courage, it was about recognizing those moments when one wants to turn away from the truth because describing it will endanger prestige, invitations, honorary degrees, access. And no truth is more dangerous to professional progress, Said said, than the great injustice of Palestine, which has left many people "hobbled, blinkered and muzzled." Talismanic words.

But Hedges' own incantatory rhetoric deserves quotation. He began by saying that he had no doubt, based on an encounter he had with a hasbara informant when he was in Jerusalem for the Times, that a paid informant for Israel/the lobby was in our company and so he wanted to pass the other side a message.

"I would like to remind them that it is they who hide in the darkness, we are in the light." And now their moment is coming to an end. "The arc of the moral universe is long... You may have commandos who descend on ropes... we have only our hands, our hearts, our voices... But note this, note this well: it is you who are afraid of us, not us who are afraid of you... When there is freedom in Gaza, we will forgive you..."

He spoke of war crimes and Palestinian ghettoes, he said that targeted assassinations are "extrajudicial murders," and "the peace process means the cynical one-way route to crushing the Palestinian people." Wowie zowie. Time to look at the Hedges archive at the Times!

"To be a Christian," he said, means to "speak in the voice of Jeremiah Wright, Edward Said, and Rachel Corrie." Then he invoked many Jewish prophets, from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky to Norman Finkelstein, and ended with the pronouncement that we must know the Israeli militants for what they are, terrorists.

3. The Palestinian-American presence.

A number of Palestinians spoke, Joel Bitar, Remi Kanazi the poet, playwright Ismail Khalidi, and Lamis Deek of al-Awda.They are all very attractive young people, with strong American components or roots; Kanazi, for instance, was raised in a small Massachusetts town and had very little Arab/Palestinian consciousness till after 9/11.

The discovery by these young people (and let me leave Deek out, she was politicized long ago) of their people's suffering is moving. Khalidi spoke of the recognition that Palestinians have of other Palestinians on streets from Amsterdam to New York: "we survive and exist in some dark exile... healing from catastrophe to catastrophe, we sing and dance."

Kanazi was more emphatically political, and disturbing. His declamatory line about Iraqi deaths: "If I had a dollar for every Iraqi who had died since 2003, I'd be a millionaire..." His denunciation of Obama on Gaza: do not pretend that "his 22 days of silence was golden." And on Palestine/Israel: "You can stay here with us, but only as equals... it's not that you're Israelis, it's that you're wrong."

As the Statue of Liberty loomed green and perfect high above us, Khalidi quoted June Jordan saying, We are the ones we have been waiting for; and there was about the Palestinian presence last night a sense of American liberation. I felt that these people were excited to be recognized in an American venue, without judgment, and that this long-withheld recognition had allowed them to let out deep griefs and angers that, say, professors Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi were required to restrain when they addressed the same matters. There was talk of the dispossession that began 63 years ago; and I am sure that several of these Palestinians do not accept the existence of Israel. Myself, I am conflicted about these questions (and indeed a friend said later that the anger at times made her uncomfortable), but I find my own intellectual/political struggle less interesting/important than the presence of young Palestinian-Americans. My struggle is a Jewish one; and the important thing about last night is that smart Jews are willing to yield center stage on this matter after many years of monopolizing it. We want to be there, we were there in good number, Amy Goodman, Jane Hirschmann, Max Ajl, etc. But consider that Emily Henochowicz, a Jewish hero, did not speak (I think she is a shy person), and Palestinian-Americans did. This is a spiritual reckoning and a moral one, but in the end it is essentially political. And while I am wary of any policy built on diasporic emotion, our country can make no progress until the Palestinians whom Palestinians choose to represent them are granted expertise and authority in the American discourse. It's that simple. (And it is also the answer to the Fox News guy's hectoring; any people will respond with violence to dispossession and occupation; these are in the end political questions).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL A call to the President of the United States


A call to the President of the
United States

A few days ago, an article was published that really contained many facts related to the oil spill that occurred 105 days ago.

President Obama had authorized the drilling of that well, trusting in the capacity of modern technology to produce oil, which he wished to make abundantly available, thus freeing the United States from its dependence on foreign supplies of that product vital to current civilization. Its excessive consumption of oil had already given rise to energetic protests from environmentalists.

Not even George W. Bush had dared to take that step given the bitter experiences suffered in Alaska with a tanker that was transporting extracted oil there.

The accident was caused in the search for that product so desperately needed by the consumer society, which the newer generations inherited from preceding ones, the difference being the unimagined speed at which everything moves these days.

Scientists and environmentalists have presented theories related to disasters that occurred hundreds of millions of years ago with the so-called methane mega-bubbles responsible for colossal tsunamis that swept across a large part of the planet, with winds that reached twice the speed of sound and waves that rose to 1,500 meters in height, wiping out 96% of living species.

They have expressed the fear that, in the Gulf of Mexico – which for some cosmic reason is the region of the planet where carsic rock separates us from the vast layer of methane – that layer could be perforated in the desperate search for oil with the cutting-edge technical equipment available today.

With respect to the BP oil spill, news agencies are reporting:

"…The EPA (Environment Protection Agency) has officially stated is on record that Rig No.1 is releasing methane, benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases. Workers there now wear advanced protection including state-of-the-art, military-issued gas masks."

Events of enormous significance are occurring with unusual frequency.

The first and most immediate is the risk of a nuclear war in the wake of the sinking of the sophisticated flagship Cheonan which, according to the government of South Korea, was the result of a torpedo fired from a submarine of Soviet make – both manufactured more than 50 years ago – while other sources inform the only possible and non-detectable cause: a mine placed by the intelligence services of the United States on the Cheonan’s hull. The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was immediately blamed.

Added to this strange event, some days later came Resolution 1929 of the United Nations Security Council, ordering the inspection of Iranian merchant ships within a time limit of no more than 90 days.

The second, which in part is already producing its devastating effects, is the progressive advance of climate change, the effects of which are even worse, giving rise to the condemnation contained in the documentary Home, directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand with the participation of the world’s most eminent ecologists; and now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a few miles from our homeland, which is generating all kinds of concerns.

On July 20, a cable from the EFE news agency referred to a statement by the now well-known Admiral Thad Allen, coordinator of and responsible for the battle against the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, who "stated that he had authorized BP, owner of the well and responsible for the spill, to continue for another 24 hours with the tests that it is conducting to determine the solidity of the ‘Macondo’ structure after the installation 10 days ago of a new containment dome."

"According to official data, there are close to 27,000 abandoned wells on the Gulf seabed…"

"Ninety-two days after the accident on the BP platform, the U.S. government’s principal concern is that the underground structure of the well is damaged and that crude is leaking via the rock and will end up flowing out at multiple points of the seabed."

It is the first time that an official statement has mentioned the fear of oil beginning to flow from wells that are no longer productive.

Readers interested in the issue are setting about sifting the sensationalist aspects from the scientific data. For me, there are events that do not have a satisfactory explanation. Why did Admiral Allen state that "the government’s principal concern is that the underground structure of the well is damaged and that crude is leaking through the rock and will end up flowing out at multiple points of the seabed?" Why did BP state that it cannot be blamed for the crude that appeared 15 kilometers from the damaged well?

We would have to wait for another 15 days that it would take to perforate the auxiliary well, which has an almost parallel trajectory to the one that originated the spill, at a distance of less than five meters from the other one, according to the Cuban group that is analyzing the problem. Meanwhile we must wait like well-behaved children.

If they are so confident about the parallel well, why didn’t they implement that measure earlier?

What will we do afterward if that measure fails like all the rest have?

In a recent interchange that I had with a person who is extremely well informed about the details of the accident, due to his country’s interests, I learned that, given the characteristics and the situation around the well, in that case there is no risk there of a methane emission.

July 23: no news whatsoever appeared on the problem.

The 24th: the DPA agency affirmed that, "a prominent U.S. scientist has accused the British BP oil corporation of bribing experts investigating the black tide in the Gulf of Mexico to delay the publication of data, according to the BBC television network," but did not relate that immorality to any damage to the structure of the seabed and emissions of oil and unusual methane levels.

July 26: the principal London press media – the BBC, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and others – reported that "a BP board meeting would make a final decision today on whether its CEO, Tony Hayward, is to go, for his mismanagement of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

For their part, Notimex and El Universal, of Mexico, published that BP "had not made any decision on changes among its directors, and adds that a directors’ meeting is planned for this afternoon."

The 27th: news agencies informed that the executive president of BP had been dismissed.

July 28: Twelve cables and 14 countries, including the United States and a number of its most important allies, drew up embarrassing statements given the divulgation, by the Wikileaks organization, of secret documents on the war in Afghanistan. Although "Barack Obama admitted that he was ‘concerned’ about the leak… he noted that the information is old and does not contain anything new."

That was a cynical statement.

"The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, said that the documents are evidence of war crimes committed by the U.S. forces."

They so accurately evidenced them that they have shaken U.S. secretiveness to the foundations. They talk of "civilian deaths that were never made public." It has created conflicts among the parties involved in those atrocities.

On the risks of methane gas emanating from wells that are not in production, total silence.

July 29: an AFP cable informs on the unimaginable: Osama Bin Laden was an agent of the U.S. intelligence services: "… Osama Bin Laden appears in secret reports published by Wikileaks as an active agent, present and adulated by his men in the Afghan-Pakistani area."

It was known that, during the Afghanis’ fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Osama cooperated with the United States, but the world supposed that, in his fight against foreign invasion, he accepted the support of the United States and NATO as a necessity and that, once the country was liberated, he rejected foreign interference by creating the Al Qaeda organization to combat the United States. Many countries, Cuba among them, condemn his terrorist methods that do not exclude the death of countless innocent victims.

What a surprise for world public opinion now to discover that Al Qaeda was a creation of the government of that country.

That was the justification for the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and one of the motives, among others, for the subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq by the military forces of the United States. Two countries in which thousands of young Americans have died and a large number of them have been mutilated. Between the two, more than 150,000 U.S. soldiers are committed for an indefinite period and together with them, members of units of the militaristic NATO organization, and other allies like Australia and South Korea.

On July 29, a photo was published of a 22-year-old U.S. citizen, Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst, who leaked 240,000 classified documents to the Wikileaks website. There has been no statement as to his guilt or innocence. However, nobody can touch one hair of his head. The members of Wikileaks have sworn to make the truth known to the world.

The Brazilian theologian Frei Betto published an article datelined July 30, titled "Cry of the earth, clamor of the peoples."

Two paragraphs express the essence of its content. "The ancient Greeks had already noted: Gaya Earth, is a living organism. And we are the fruit of her, engendered in 13.7 billion years of evolution. However, in the last 200 years we have not known how to take care of her, but have transformed her into merchandise, from which it is hoped to obtain the maximum profit."

"Today all forms of life on the planet are threatened, including the human race (two-thirds of the world population is surviving below the poverty line) and Earth herself. Avoiding the anticipation of the Apocalypse demands questioning the myths of modernity – as market, development, uninational state – all of them based on instrumental reason."

For its part, that same day AFP published: "The People’s Republic of China 'does not approve of the unilateral sanctions’ adopted by the European Union against Iran, Jiang Yu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, stated today."

Likewise Russia delivered an energetic protest condemning the sanction of that region, closely allied to the United States.

July 30: an AFP cable notes that the Israeli defense minister stated: "The sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN… will not make it suspend its uranium enrichment activities in search of the atomic bomb."

August 1: an AFP cable notes "High-ranking military chief of the Guardians of the Revolution warned the U.S. today against a possible attack on Iran."

"Israel did not discount military action against Iran in order to halt its nuclear program."

"The international community, headed by Washington, recently intensified its pressure on Iran, accused of seeking to equip itself with nuclear weapons via a covert civil nuclear program."

"Javani’s affirmations preceded a statement from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, who assured this Sunday that a U.S. plan of attack on Iran is in place to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

August 2: an AFP news report similar in content to those of other news agencies informed:

"’I have to travel to New York in September to take part in the UN General Assembly. I am prepared to sit down with Obama, face to face, man to man, before the media in order to find the best solution,’ Ahmadinejad affirmed during a speech broadcast by state television."

"But President Ahmadinejad warned that the dialogue will have to be based on mutual respect.

"’If they believe that they can wave a wand and tell us that we have to accept everything that they say, that will not happen,’ he added. The Western powers ‘do not understand that things have changed in the world,’ he added."

"’You are backing a country that has hundreds of nuclear weapons but you are saying that you want to stop Iran, which could possibly have them some day…’"

The Iranians have stated that they will fire 100 rockets against every one of the U.S. and Israeli ships that are blockading Iran, as soon as they inspect any Iranian merchant ship.

In that way, when Obama gives the order to comply with the Security Council resolution, he will be decreeing the sinking of all the U.S. warships in that area.

Never before has such a dramatic decision fallen upon a president of the United States. He should have foreseen that.

On this occasion, for the first time in my life, I am addressing United States President Barack Obama:

You must know that it is in your hands to offer humanity the only real possibility of peace. Only on one occasion can you make use of your prerogatives by giving the order to fire.

It is possible that later, on the basis of this traumatic experience, solutions might be found that will not lead us once again to this apocalyptical situation. Everybody in your country, including your worst adversaries of the left or the right, will doubtless be grateful to you, and also the people of the United States, who are not in any way guilty of the situation created.

I ask you to deign to hear this appeal that I am conveying to you in the name of the Cuban people.

I understand that a rapid response cannot be expected, nor would you ever give one. Think it through well, consult your specialists, ask your most powerful allies and international adversaries for their opinion on the matter.

I am not interested in honors or glories. Do it!

The world really can be liberated from nuclear weapons and also conventional ones.

The worst of all the variants will be nuclear war, which is already virtually inevitable. PREVENT IT!

Fidel Castro Ruz
August 3, 2010
6:00 p.m.



vfp logo

Our organizations represent veterans and military families. We have personally carried the burden of the war in Afghanistan, along with wars past. We are glad that the truth about the war is getting out to the public with the recent 92,000 documents on Wikileaks. Hopefully, this will inspire a massive outcry against this war that is wreaking so much destruction to our exhausted and demoralized troops and their families while draining our national coffers.

Obama administration officials are trying to spin events in their favor. Their words must be carefully examined. On the one hand, in an effort to downplay the significance of the release, we are told the documents contain no new information.

On the other hand, some high ranking members of the U.S. military are trying to: 1) intimidate anyone else from doing the same thing and 2) turn public opinion against whoever leaked the current documents. Towards those goals, we are told that grievous harm will surely come to many Afghans and U.S. military personnel - if not now then certainly later.

A more damning statement could hardly be imagined than this one from Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "The truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."

While we certainly do not wish to see one additional person put at risk in this tragic, wrongheaded war, we must state the following as clearly as we can.

As veterans and families with members in the military, we consider statements like Admiral Mullen's to be nothing more than calculated attempts to turn public attention away from the real problem - the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan that has already caused the deaths and injuries of many thousands of innocent people all the while millions of Americans are jobless and face foreclosure or eviction.

This suffering in Afghanistan and this bleeding at home will continue as long as our troops remain in that country. Congress must stop funding this war. We must bring our troops home now, take care of them properly when they return and pay to rebuild the damage we have caused to Afghanistan.

# # #

Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace: Exposing the true costs of war and militarism since 1985.

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the fall of 2002.

Iraq Veterans Against the War is a national organization comprised of active duty, guard, and reserve troops and veterans who have served since 9/11. We call for immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations to the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning service members.

It Wasn’t a War

Kate Perkins interviews Norman Finkelstein about the “Gaza massacre,” the Goldstone Report, the public turn against Israeli policy, and the difference between “of” and “in.”

Source: Gurnica

The career of radical political scholar Norman Finkelstein might be described as a sort of heroic painting-into-a-corner. The son of Holocaust survivors, his life’s work has been dedicated to exposing the hypocrisy, ideology, and violence that sustains the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The dimensions of his emphatic anti-Zionism, expounded over the course of six meticulously researched and often polemical books on Israel, Palestine, and the legacy of the Holocaust, have made him a pariah in the mainstream and a hero amongst supporters of Palestinian liberation.

The high controversy around Finkelstein’s politics has penetrated university walls on more than one occasion, making his academic career fraught with defensive, uphill battles. I first met Finkelstein in 2007, in the eye of a storm of controversy surrounding his academic status at DePaul University. Despite his prolific and highly influential body of critical scholarship—and after first having been approved for tenure at DePaul by both department and faculty committees—Finkelstein’s tenure had ultimately been denied—minority dissenters had campaigned successfully against his appointment. Flanked by a supporting cast of speakers including Tariq Ali, Tony Judt, and Noam Chomsky (via satellite), Finkelstein stood before some one thousand six hundred people in the University of Chicago’s packed Rockefeller Chapel to make the case for academic freedom. Contrary to his reputedly prickly demeanor, he appeared extraordinarily collected and calm, his heavy brow furrowing only slightly over sharp, dark eyes as he prepared to publicly address the charges against him. (The university’s final word on the matter was that Dr. Finkelstein’s reputation for outspoken criticism of Israel and of Israeli apologists like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz made Finkelstein unfit for tenure at DePaul, a school of “Vincentian values.”)

It was the culmination of a long struggle to advance his radical political critique of Israel and of the American Israeli lobby from within the academy. Now an independent scholar, Dr. Finkelstein remains a leading voice of dissent against the pro-Israel policies that underwrite an apartheid regime enforced by egregious war crimes and human rights violations. In This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, his first book since departing from DePaul—he argues that Israel’s November, 2008 invasion of Gaza, which decisively ended a fragile ceasefire brokered by Egypt that June, marked the beginning of an unprecedented decline in public support for Israel. The book’s epilogue is devoted to the Goldstone Report, a document authored by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone that describes the damning conclusions of a U.N.-commissioned investigation into the Gaza invasion, including charges of war crimes against Israel.

In the wake of the bloody attack on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla, Finkelstein’s argument has been affirmed as Israel wages a round of diplomatic gestures in response to an unprecedented international outcry. I spoke to Dr. Finkelstein by phone about the implications of diminished international support for Israel, the damning conclusions of the Goldstone Report on the 2008 invasion of Gaza, and what the turning tide of public opinion means for a peace process that has, historically, looked more like a state of war.

—Kate Perkins for Guernica

Guernica: This Time We Went Too Far looks at Israel through the lens of international public opinion—specifically, a severely damaged public perception of, and support for, Israeli policy after its invasion of Gaza beginning in November of 2008. How substantial is that change in public perception, and to what extent does it give critics of Israel a new kind of traction with respect to influencing policy?

Norman Finkelstein: There’s no question that public opinion is changing, and if you’re a person of the left, your goal is presumably to try to mobilize public opinion to affect elite policy; and I think now there are unusual, unprecedented opportunities to do so. Whether anything will come of it, well, that’s the challenge. It’s not enough for public opinion to shift; it then requires marshalling that public opinion, harnessing it, for it to have a political impact.

There are many issues, as everyone knows, in the United States on which public opinion leans very much to the left of elite policy, but that’s because public opinion hasn’t been turned into a political force. Having said that, it’s nonetheless a significant part of the battle to get public opinion on your side, before you try to harness it, and that part of the battle, it seems to me, we’re closer to winning now. Public opinion in the United States has shifted significantly, not just outside but also within the Jewish community.

If you are, as I am quite frequently, speaking at college campuses in the United States, it’s quite clear that support among Jews for Israel has dried up.

Guernica: How do you interpret this shift in public opinion, and what in particular do you see as being its most revealing indicators? Is it that the basis for dissent has morphed in some unprecedented way, or is there a kind of quantitative momentum to it that could be attributed to new critics, former supporters of Israeli policy becoming increasingly unwilling to defend its actions?

Norman Finkelstein: There’s no question—and all the poll data bear it out—that there’s a significant disaffection, or what’s called in the literature on the subject a “distancing” of American Jews from Israel. In particular, the younger generation, the under-thirty generation. If you are, as I am quite frequently, speaking at college campuses in the United States, it’s quite clear that support among Jews for Israel has dried up. You’ll find there is a handful of people that you might call the Hillel faithful, who will still have some public events in support of Israel, but barely anybody shows up for them, and when critics of Israeli policy speak, the “Hillel faithful” no longer really show up to protest, to demonstrate, to shout down, to hand out leaflets, because they realize how isolated they are.

Now, beyond the under-thirty generation, there are other significant indicators. Probably the most widely discussed recently was the defection of Peter Beinart, who was until recently Editor of The New Republic, which is a fanatically pro-Israel publication. Beinart wrote an article for The New York Review of Books saying how support for Israel is drying up among American Jews. The article received an absolutely huge amount of attention within the Jewish community precisely because Beinart is an orthodox Jew, not to mention that he used to be a senior editor at TNR. So this is what you would call a defection, and an influential one, at the hard core of support for Israel.

There are many other everyday indications, though, of American public opinion changing toward Israel. American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. By “liberal,” I mean, basically, support for the rule of law, support for human rights, support for peace; and on all those counts—rule of law, human rights, peace—Israel’s record has become indefensible. Israel has become a lawless country with demonstrated contempt for human rights and, probably, at least in terms of visibility, the most warmongering country on earth today. So, for American Jews, who are overwhelmingly liberal—80 percent voted for Barack Obama, by far the highest percentage of any ethnic group apart from African Americans. And when you factor in income, it’s quite astonishing what percentage voted for Obama as compared to, say, Latinos, of whom about 63 percent voted for Obama and within which demographic income is much lower. And that’s because American Jews are, by and large, liberal; and it’s become impossible to reconcile Israeli policy with liberal values.

Nearly the whole of Israeli society managed to convince itself that the Israeli commandos were victims of a premeditated lynching on the Mavi Marmara.

Guernica: And the turn away from Israel that you’re describing, the “distancing” that marks the shift in public opinion, is something you and others have cited as comparable to that of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. By the end of apartheid there, though, it was clear that the domestic resistance movement—organized dissent within South Africa—was as important to ending the apartheid regime as the international pressure, insofar as the domestic resistance was able to effectively harness the momentum the anti-apartheid movement gained from international boycotts. I wonder what you would say about the state of dissent within Israel, and whether you read it as having undergone, or as being near to experiencing, a shift parallel to that of international public opinion since the 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, of course, South Africa wasn’t freed of Apartheid until 1994, so I’m not implying that we’re at the endgame by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, the attitudes of the Israeli elites are pretty close to those of the South African whites during the years of international boycotts—this hunkering down, this belief that they’re the victims, the whole world is against them, that there’s a double standard, that they’re the victims of propaganda and conspiracy, and basically a complete contempt for international opinion. That’s basically where Israel is right now.

Judging from what I read in translation (a lot is now available in translation), the state of Israeli dissent is not a pretty picture. Nearly the whole of Israeli society managed to convince itself that the Israeli commandos were victims of a premeditated lynching on the Mavi Marmara. Israel launched a violent commando raid in the dead of night against a humanitarian convoy in international waters and executed nine of the passengers. It takes a peculiar talent in these circumstances to turn yourself into the victim.

As Israel becomes like South Africa, it’s increasingly becoming a pariah state, being excluded from culture at large. The other day, an Israeli friend wrote to me, “Can you believe it? They excluded us from a gay pride parade in Spain! We can only march as individuals!” She was so incensed at the absurdity of this. And I just felt like reminding her that for the past three years, Israel won’t admit toys into Gaza. But there is this anger as the momentum gathers, as Israel is being slowly but surely excluded here and there. My friend’s way of expressing this was, “The world’s noose is tightening around us.” But, no—Israel is tightening the noose around itself.

We have to be careful though not to reduce everything to [divestment]. It may acquire more significance, but I think the major fronts right now are international law and nonviolent civil resistance.

Guernica: It does seem to be an increasingly unavoidable dynamic between Israel and the rest of the world. For example, there’s the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an international effort to force Israel to change its policies, which has expanded significantly since it emerged in 2005, not just in membership, but in its cultural dimensions—sports, the academy, consumerism, as well as its political-economic aspects. You don’t give much attention to BDS in This Time We Went Too Far, though, and I’m wondering what your view of that movement is. What, in your view, are the most significant indicators that the so-called Gaza War had an unprecedented and directly negative effect on the international perception of Israeli policy?

Norman Finkelstein: I think there are several strands of popular resistance and popular mobilization occurring. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is one. I don’t see it as being the main one, currently, except at some moments and some junctures it has the most salience; for example, if some popular or prominent musician decides not to perform in Israel on behalf of the BDS cause, but it’s just one of several strands of resistance.

A second, major strand is the mobilization of international law to force Israel to conform to what Israel’s apologists now call a “lawfare,” which in their minds is the same as warfare, but instead of military weapons, it involves the use of the law as a weapon. This was most prominently expressed during the mobilization of the Goldstone Report. There have been many examples of it, mostly taking the form of the international community exercising what’s called universal jurisdiction, where, when Israeli officials want to visit this or that country, they’re threatened with being held there for past violations of international law. So there’s serious concern among Israelis that their generals and their officials are not free to travel even in places like the UK, because they may be served with papers for having committed war crimes.

A third strand of demonstrated dissent consists in the various forms of nonviolent resistance that have emerged, as demonstrated in the villages that are being destroyed by the wall that Israel is building. Now there are popular mobilizations that are occurring along the fence and so-called “buffer zone” that Israel has created in Gaza. Then there is, of course, the form of nonviolent resistance carried out on the aid flotillas, and in particular there has of course been an enormous international reaction to the recent attack by Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara.

We have to be careful though, I think, not to reduce everything to BDS; it’s one of several strands, but probably the least significant, in my opinion. It may acquire more significance, but I think the major fronts right now are the international law and the nonviolent civil resistance.

Guernica: I want to return to the Goldstone Report, which you mentioned just now with respect to the impact of international law on Israeli policy. That report, of course, detailed the results of the UN fact-finding mission led by international jurist Richard Goldstone; it was an investigation into Israel’s conduct in, and basis for, the 2008 Gaza offensive that officially ended the ceasefire agreement brokered in Cairo in June of that year. You dedicate the epilogue of This Time We Went Too Far to the Goldstone Report, and you seem to interpret the effect of its public disclosure as amounting to something like a decisive lifting of the rock on the gruesome conduct of the Israeli military. Even so, Tariq Ali published an article in the New Left Review describing the Goldstone Report, essentially, as a whitewash, since it tones down the far more damning Palestinian eyewitness accounts detailed in the appendices of the findings. How would you respond to that argument?

Norman Finkelstein: Yes, I read that article. Of course, Tariq’s a friend of mine—he’s a terrific guy! But, look—for those who bothered to read it—the Report was really incredibly damning. It did limit itself in what it undertook to examine. It did not examine the legality of Israel’s attack on Gaza. There’s a distinction in international law between what’s called the justice of a war, and the justice in a war. The justice of a war basically refers to the question whether there is a right to attack in the first place. Justice in a war is concerned with whether the fighting happens in accordance with the international laws of war. In Goldstone’s report, he did not discuss the question of whether Israel’s attack was legitimate. He discussed the question of how Israel fought the war. I think his conclusions were pretty much as damning as they could get. He says that Israel launched a deliberately disproportionate attack “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.” I don’t know how much further he could go; he’s very clear in stating that all the evidence points to one conclusion—that Israel’s attack was designed, premeditated, orchestrated by the highest levels of Israeli society, that the senior-most officials of the Israeli military were involved in state terrorism, designed to terrorize the civilian population. That’s a pretty tough assessment.

Israelis themselves have said it wasn’t a war. People allow themselves to slip into this language, and it’s not even used by Israelis.

Guernica: State terrorism—and yet the Israeli invasion Goldstone investigated is still commonly referred to as the Gaza War.

Norman Finkelstein: Right—it wasn’t a war. Israelis themselves have said it wasn’t a war. People allow themselves to slip into this language, and it’s not even used by Israelis. As one Israeli I quote in the book said, “It’s a big mistake for Israel to say it ‘won’ the war, when there was no war. There were no battles…no military enemy in the field.” One Israeli soldier after another testified that they never saw an enemy in the field. And yet soldier after soldier kept using the same words, testifying that Israeli forces “used insane amounts of firepower.” How do you describe a situation where the attacker is using “insane amounts of firepower,” but there’s no military enemy? That’s not a war. That’s a massacre.

Guernica: Right, but describing it that way—as a massacre—would seem to address the justice of a war, rather than what you’re saying the Goldstone Report confined itself to detailing, that is, the justice in a war.

Norman Finkelstein: That’s debatable, but the upshot of the Report is an explicitly damning assessment that has had an unprecedented effect on public support for Israeli policy.

Guernica: To what extent, in your view, has the Obama administration’s comportment toward Israel since the Goldstone Report and, in particular, since the attack on the Mavi Marmara, reflected the American public’s diminished support for Israel?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, I think it’s too soon to expect a substantial change in elite opinion. Public support has to be mobilized effectively to change policy. You could say that there’s been some progress, at the lowest or ground level, public opinion. But pressure then has to be exerted on Congress; and then there’s the highest level, where policy is actually made, the executive branch. It’s very tough; and there’s no reason to be pessimistic, but without a distinct and visible mobilization of public opinion, there’s no reason to be excessively optimistic.

There have been some—I don’t want to call them ‘shifts,’ but there has been some movement in the Obama administration, mostly because they are concerned about losing Turkey. A new configuration of power is emergent in the Middle East—how substantial it is, and whether it will be able to withstand U.S. pressure, I can’t say—but clearly a new configuration of power is beginning to emerge along the axis of Iran-Turkey-Syria and, you might argue, Lebanon—versus the grouping of the regime leftover from the British Mandate period, which has been taken over by the U.S. and includes Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Iraq, although it’s not yet clear where Iraq fits into the picture. The U.S. is definitely concerned about this configuration of power, which is reminiscent of what in the nineteen sixties was called the ‘radical Arab regimes,’ back then headed by Nasser in Egypt, and Syria. Nowadays these regimes are less about the rhetoric, but they have substantial economies, and they’re well entrenched.

After the flotilla attack, some of the most influential, elite policy analysts, including Anthony Cordesman, who was a complete apologist for Israel after the Gaza massacre, came out swinging. Cordesman said that Israel has to bear in mind that it’s becoming a serious liability for the United States. For someone of that influence, that’s a significant shift; he’s saying that Israel is causing us trouble, and of course, he had Turkey in mind. So to that end, I think that at the elite level, we’ll begin to see some movement at the level of diplomacy and power-balancing. But what that indicates is that right now the U.S. isn’t reacting directly to popular pressure; it’s reacting directly to state pressure.

Then again, state pressure itself is a consequence of popular outrage. Erdogan’s very strong reaction to the flotilla bloodbath was itself the result of an accumulation of popular outrage. He spoke out very strongly against the Gaza invasion in an exchange with Shimon Peres—I think it was at Davos in 2009, during the Gaza massacre—that reflected the influence of the Turkish population’s overwhelming disapproval with Israel’s behavior in Gaza and elsewhere. So it’s not so easy to isolate these things as exclusively a state-to-state dynamic.

Guernica: What about Israel’s official state response to the Goldstone Report?

Norman Finkelstein: Israel hasn’t issued any formal response, because officially, it doesn’t recognize the Goldstone Report. It has issued some very substantial reports—by now, you could say it’s issued three—two very large reports, and one smaller report, on what actually happened and also on their progress in investigating war crimes allegations. The bottom line is that none of these reports have satisfactorily responded to the claims of the Goldstone Report, and none of these reports are very convincing. For example, with regard to Israel’s targeting of hospitals, Israel claimed that there were Hamas militants seeking refuge in the hospitals. But over and over again, international human rights investigations have shown that there is no evidence for that claim. Furthermore, these international human rights investigations have consistently found that the violent attacks on civilian infrastructures were carried out after Israeli forces had secured and controlled the area. These findings conclude that none of this damage was being inflicted by what in international law is called military necessity. As Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out in its last report, called “I Lost Everything,” HRW obtained satellite imagery both of what the area looked like before Israel took over and of what it looked like after. The preponderance of destruction occurred after they took over the area. And the case of the civilian deaths—almost all civilian deaths occurred where there was no military fighting going on, according to reports issued by both HRW and Amnesty International. The vast majority of civilian deaths occurred in places and situations where there was no fighting. Israel’s claims, in defense, that Hamas used civilians as human shields, have across the board been shown to be baseless by all the reports on human rights groups’ findings. There’s no evidence that Hamas engaged in human shielding during the Gaza massacre whatsoever.

As far as the justice of the invasion, which the Goldstone Report doesn’t address: during the period of the ceasefire, around October of 2008, there was one reported rocket attack on Israel. Remember, we’re not talking about roman candles and firecrackers. These are not military “rockets” and mortar; they’re the most primitive sorts of weapons. Those were not Hamas, but rather what Israel called “rogue terrorist organizations.” There’s no question that Hamas was, as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs put it, “careful to maintain the ceasefire.”

The ceasefire lasted until November 4, 2008, despite the fact that Israel had explicitly violated its terms of the ceasefire: Israel was supposed to gradually lift the blockade of Gaza in return for Hamas ceasing rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. Well, Hamas ceased its rocket and mortar attacks, but Israel didn’t lift the siege of Gaza. Then, on November 4th, while everyone in the U.S. was watching the presidential election unfold, Israel went in and attacked Gaza, killing six Palestinian militants and knowing full well that it would provoke rocket attacks, giving them a pretext to launch the invasion.

Guernica: The pretext being a typical basis for the kind of disproportionate violence Israel has exerted in the name of self-defense. The same rhetoric about security and self-defense has been trotted out by Israel after the attack on the aid flotilla, and provoked significant admonishments even from international apologists for the Gaza invasion, like Cordesman, as you mentioned earlier. Do you see, or expect to see, Israel changing its rhetoric in response to the increasing condemnations it’s facing?

Norman Finkelstein: I think Israel is going to try to prove that it has met all the demands of the international community, and that there’s no reason any longer for there to be any hostility directed toward Israel. They’re going to claim that they lifted the blockade, even though they won’t have done that. But in fact there are significant limitations to the lifting of the blockade; most crucially, Israel is still blocking any exports from Gaza, which means that the economy can’t resume there. If as a result of the crippled economy there has to be an increase in aid flotillas, what we can expect to see from Israel is another propaganda war—Israel is going to claim that these flotillas are unnecessary, just as they claimed before the attack on the Mavi Marmara that anyone who wanted to could just deliver any goods and that Israel would transport them to Gaza. Well, that was a complete lie. But they’ll continue to use arguments like that, and the propaganda war will be a new, or rather renewed, realm in the battle between popular resistance and the Israeli government.

For a time, though, things had been looking quite promising: it was popular resistance that was leading, and state actors who were lagging behind. State action was being set by popular resistance, namely the flotillas, and not by states. The so-called Quartet—Blair, et al—they were reacting to the initiatives of popular resistance. Now, they’ll try to recuperate and lead again, and it’ll depend on us to escalate the pressure, such that we remain a step ahead of policy elites, such that we’re leading and we’re determining, the next move.

From Iraq Veterans Against the War: Wikileaks documents reveal "the everyday squalor and carnage of war"

Debate continues about the massive number of Wikileaks documents released last week providing detailed field reports from the front lines in Afghanistan. While much of the public discussion is focused on the source of the leak and whether it was a justifiable act, we here at IVAW feel that the media should be focusing on something else.

What stands out to us at IVAW is the regular, seemingly commonplace occurance of civilian death depicted in the body of Wikileaks documents.

These documents reveal the truth about the bloody battle for Afghanistan, characterized by lengthy and repeated deployments by our troops and exposure to human trauma by both soldiers and Afghan people on a mass scale. With all the talk of timetables for withdrawal, we know that the human trauma of these wars has no end in sight. Yet, this trauma is too often sanitized by the time it reaches the public view.

That is why IVAW is partnering with the Institute for Public Accuracy to expose the details of incidents depicted in the leaked field reports by Wikileaks.

In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange put out a call: "We really need the public, other journalists and especially former soldiers to go through this material and say, 'Look, this connects to that,' or 'I was there. Let me tell you what really happened. Let me tell you the rest of the detail.' And over the next few days, we'll be putting up easier- and easier-to-use search interfaces, the same ones that our journalistic teams use to extract this data."

These search tools will allow any soldier or veteran to look through the trove of documents on Wikileaks and find reports of incidents they were involved in to check for their accuracy and provide more details.

IVAW members are answering the call to humanize these 'war incidents.' Right now, we are mobilizing our membership to look through the relevant Wikileaks materials, and provide additional information for the public. Four members have already come forward with their stories and are speaking to members of the media.

On Monday, the Netherlands became the first NATO ally to remove all of its troops from Afghanistan. At a time when the global public is increasingly turning against the war, your donation today will help us continue this important work.

The White House and the Pentagon are decrying this latest leak as potentially endangering the lives of those presently on the ground in Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated recently that Wikileaks and its leak source "might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family." Yet, he does not question the blood on the hands of our government from the thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan.

When Wikileaks released its "Collateral Murder" video in April that depicted the killing of Reuters journalists and other civilians, IVAW members Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord who served in that unit spoke out. And before that, IVAW members told their stories through our Winter Soldier testimonies. As veterans who have to live with what we were part of in Afghanistan and Iraq on a daily basis, speaking out about it is our solemn duty. By doing so, we hope that other soldiers will come forward and do the same.

Your help today will allow more soldiers and veterans to continue changing the Afghanistan war from an abstraction to a reality for the American and global public.

Thank you for your support.

In Solidarity,

Iraq Veterans Against the War

So please tell me again: What's the war about?

The Anti-Empire Report

So please tell me again: What's the war about?

When facts are inconvenient, when international law, human rights and history get in the way, when war crimes can't easily be justified or explained away, when logic doesn't help much, the current crop of American political leaders turns to what is now the old reliable: 9/11. We have to fight in Afghanistan because ... somehow ... it's tied into what happened on September 11, 2001. Here's Vice-President Joe Biden: "We know that it was from the space that joins Afghanistan and Pakistan that the attacks of 9/11 occurred." 1

Here's Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC): "This is the place [Afghanistan] we were attacked from 9/11." 2

Rep. Mike Pence, the third-ranking House Republican, asserted that the revelations in the Wikileaks documents do not change his view of the Afghan conflict, nor does he expect a shift in public opinion. "Back home in Indiana, people still remember where the attacks on 9/11 came from." 3

Here's President Obama a year ago: "But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans." 4

And here is the president, two days after the release of the Wikileaks documents, referring to Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the region from which the 9/11 attacks were waged and other attacks against the United States and our friends and allies have been planned". 5

Never mind that out of the tens of thousands of people the United States and its NATO front have killed in Afghanistan not one has been identified as having had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001.

Never mind that the "plot to kill Americans" in 2001 was devised in Germany and Spain and the United States more than in Afghanistan. Why hasn't Washington bombed those countries?

Indeed, what actually is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? A room with some chairs? What does "an even larger safe haven" mean? A larger room with more chairs? Perhaps a blackboard? Terrorists intent upon attacking the United States can meet almost anywhere, with Afghanistan probably being one of the worst places for them, given the American occupation.

There are many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the ones still living — who deeply resent the US presence there and the drones that fly overhead and drop bombs on their houses, their wedding parties, their funerals, their life. As in Iraq, the American "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan regularly, routinely, and conspicuously creates numerous new anti-American terrorists.

The only "war of necessity" that draws the United States to Afghanistan is the need for protected oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea area, the establishment of military bases in this country that is surrounded by the oil-rich Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf regions, and making it easier to watch and pressure next-door Iran. What more could any respectable imperialist nation desire? Oh, did I mention that the military-industrial-security-intelligence complex and its shareholders will be further enriched?

But the war against the Taliban can't be won. Except perhaps by killing everyone in Afghanistan. The United States should negotiate the pipelines with the Taliban, as the Clinton administration tried to do, without success, then get out, and declare "victory". Barack Obama can surely deliver an eloquent victory speech.

USrael and Iran

If and when the United States and Israel bomb Iran (marking the sixth country so blessed by Barack Obama) and this sad old world has a new daily horror show to look at on their TV sets, and we then discover that Iran was not actually building nuclear weapons after all, the American mainstream media and the benighted American mind will ask: "Why didn't they tell us that? Did they want us to bomb them?"

The same questions were asked about Iraq following the discovery that Saddam Hussein didn't in fact have any weapons of mass destruction. However, in actuality, before the US invasion Iraqi officials had stated clearly on repeated occasions that they had no such weapons. I'm reminded of this by the recent news report about Hans Blix, former chief United Nations weapons inspector, who led a doomed hunt for WMD in Iraq. Last week he told the British inquiry into the March 2003 invasion that those who were "100 percent certain there were weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq turned out to have "less than zero percent knowledge" of where the purported hidden caches might be. He testified that he had warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a February 2003 meeting — as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in separate talks — that Hussein might have no weapons of mass destruction. 6

In August 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told American newscaster Dan Rather on CBS: "We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons." 7

In December, Aziz stated to Ted Koppel on ABC: "The fact is that we don't have weapons of mass destruction. We don't have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry." 8

Hussein himself told Rather in February 2003: "These missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations [as to range] in Iraq. They are no longer there." 9

Moreover, Gen. Hussein Kamel, former head of Iraq's secret weapons program, and a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, told the UN in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its banned missiles and chemical and biological weapons soon after the Persian Gulf War. 10

There are yet other examples of Iraqi officials telling the world that the WMD were non-existent.

If you don't already have serious doubts about the mainstream media's devotion to questioning the premises and rationales underlying American foreign policy, consider this: Despite the two revelations on Dan Rather's CBS programs, and the other revelations noted above, in January 2008 we find CBS reporter Scott Pelley interviewing FBI agent George Piro, who had interviewed Saddam Hussein before he was executed:

PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?

PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the '90s, and those that hadn't been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.

PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?

PIRO: Yes.

PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade? 11

Would it have mattered if the Bush administration had fully believed Iraq when it said it had no WMD? Probably not. There is ample evidence that Bush knew this to be the case, as did Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein did not sufficiently appreciate just how psychopathic his two adversaries were. Bush was determined to vanquish Iraq, for the sake of Israel, for control of oil, and for expanding the empire, though it hasn't all worked out as the empire expected; for some odd reason, it seems that the Iraqi people resented being bombed, invaded, occupied, and tortured.

The result of Bush's Iraqi policy can be summed up by saying that it would be difficult to cite many other historical examples of one nation destroying another so completely, crushing and perverting virtually every aspect of their society and humanity.

Now Israel presses Washington relentlessly to do the same to Iran — not that the US necessarily needs much prodding — primarily because Israel is determined to remain the only nuclear power in the Middle East; this despite Iran telling the United States and the world many times that it is not building nuclear weapons. But if Iran is in fact building nuclear weapons, we have to ask: Is there some international law that says that the US, the UK, Russia, China, Israel, France, Pakistan, and India are entitled to nuclear weapons, but Iran is not? If the United States had known that the Japanese had deliverable atomic bombs, would Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been destroyed? Does USrael believe that there is not already enough horror and suffering in the news?

In what could be part of the preparation for an attack on Iran, 47 members of the House of Representatives recently put forth a non-binding resolution declaring Iran to be "an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel". To illustrate this threat, the resolution quoted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on several occasions avowing sentiments like: "God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism" ... calling for "this occupying regime [Israel] to be wiped off the map" ... "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation" ... "I must announce that the Zionist regime, with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion, and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene" ... "Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started".

Pretty damning stuff, isn't it? N'est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? But there's a lot less here than meets the eye. Notice that it doesn't quote Ahmadinejad in a single specific, explicit threat of an Iranian attack upon Israel or the United States. No mention or indication that "I" or "We" or "Iran" is going to do any of this, carry out any act of violence. And I would say that that's because it's not what he meant. In another quote, which the resolution fails to cite, the Iranian president in December 2006 said: "The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom." 12 Obviously, the man is not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place very peacefully. Furthermore, in June 2006, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated: "We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any state.13 Why didn't the authors of the congressional resolution quote that one?

I think that one can derive a better understanding of the Iranian president's statements by seeing them as metaphor, as bragging, as wishful thinking, as well as poor translation (for example: "wiped off the map" 14), coming from a man foolish enough to publicly claim that there are no gays in Iran.

But more significantly, the resolution offers no reason why Iran actually would attack Israel or the United States. What reason would Iran have to use nuclear weapons against either country other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? Indeed, the very same question could have — and should have — been asked before the invasion of Iraq. Of the many lies surrounding that invasion, the biggest one of all was that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein had had those weapons of mass destruction the invasion would have been justified.

With all the lies exposed about the American Iraqi misadventure, I and many others had allowed ourselves the luxury, the hidden pleasure, of believing that the United States government and media had learned a lesson which would last for some time. They'd been caught and exposed. But it's the same all over again with the lies about Iran and Ahmadinejad. (No, he's not even a Holocaust denier.)

In any event, Israel probably doesn't believe its own propaganda. In March of last year, the Washington Post reported: "A senior Israeli official in Washington" has asserted that "Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation." 15 This was the very last sentence in the article and, according to an extensive Nexis search, did not appear in any other English-language media in the world.

And earlier this year we could read in the Sunday Times of London: "Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, 75, a war hero and pillar of the [Israeli] defence establishment, believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons. The views expressed by the former director-general of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission contradict the assessment of Israel's defence establishment and put him at odds with political leaders." 16

If any country in this world is a threat to use nuclear weapons with remarkably little regard for the consequences it's Israel. Martin van Creveld, an Israeli professor of military history, and loyal Israeli citizen, remarked in 2002: "We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that this will happen before Israel goes under." 17 Think of the closing scene of "Dr. Strangelove". That's Israel sitting astride the speeding nuclear missile waving the cowboy hat.

There's no business like show business

She played Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor.

And accompanied the one and only Aretha Franklin.

A gala benefit performance in Philadelphia.

At the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Before 8,000 people.

And they loved it.

How many of them knew that the pianist was a genuine, unindicted war criminal?

Guilty of crimes against humanity.

Defender of torture.

With much blood on her pianist hands.

Whose style in office for years could be characterized as hypocrisy, disinformation, and outright lying.

But what did the audience care?

This is America.

Home of the Good Guys.

She was fighting against the Bad Guys.

And we all know that the show must go on.

So let's hear it, folks ... Let's have a real all-American hand ... Let's hear it for our own darling virtuoso ... Miss Condoleezza Rice!


  1. State Department Documents and Publications, March 10, 2009
  2. Face the Nation, CBS, July 4, 2010
  3. Washington Post, July 27, 2010
  4. Talk given by the president at Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, August 17, 2009
  5. White House press release of Obama's remarks of July 27, 2010
  6. Associated Press, July 28, 2010
  7. CBS Evening News, August 20, 2002
  8. ABC Nightline, December 4, 2002
  9. "60 Minutes II", February 26, 2003
  10. Washington Post, March 1, 2003
  11. "60 Minutes", January 27, 2008. See also: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR] Action Alert, February 1, 2008
  12. Associated Press, December 12, 2006
  13. Letter to the Washington Post from M.A. Mohammadi, Press Officer, Iranian Mission to the United Nations, June 12, 2006
  14. See Anti-Empire Report, October 1, 2008, second part
  15. Washington Post, March 5, 2009
  16. Sunday Times (London), January 10, 2010
  17. Originally in the Dutch weekly magazine, Elsevier, April 27, 2002, pages 52-3; picked up in many other international publications

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at