Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thank You For Explaining Yourself Mrs. Clinton

If you are a human rights activist, a peace activist or a person sympathetic to the principles by which such people are guided, then you should read Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Hillary Clinton, published in The Atlantic today.  If you are none of the above, but rather a person who wants to see the end of US foreign interventionism and war-making under the guise of “peace-making and Democracy” then Mrs. Clinton has made the clearest statement to date that she is not seeking your vote. Perhaps she considers you merely naïve and then hopes that if you listen to her long enough you will be persuaded to see things her way.

 Oh Mercy, another presidential election looms. 

 Once again, US citizens will be placed within a propagandized media spectacle that pits one set of elitist, top-down political strategies against another (the word doctrine would incorrectly connote material differences), without ever including an analysis and understanding of the gap between actual voters’ opinions and the stated policies.  Alternatives beyond the two standard options on offer will be cast aside by the networks and corporate media in general and dismissed.  Perhaps a charismatic third party figure will be given some exposure for their People-Magazine-appeal, but then ultimately, they will be punditized out of the game.

 Once the absurdities of the primary process are completed, the talking heads, using their powers of armchair discernment, will place the emphasis of the election on the purported qualities of leadership and political skill of the candidates.  When discrepancies between stated policy positions and large majorities of American opinion become apparent, this will be placed in the context of political gamesmanship and “winning them over,” not of addressing the problem of unfulfilled democracy; a challenge in a sporting event to be overcome, not a reason to stop and question the legitimacy of the policies being advanced.  The issue of complexity, a problem for a nation state with a diverse and changing population, will be consigned to the “too difficult to explain” category.

 Mrs. Clinton, responding to the suggestion that Americans are wary of more “international commitment-making,” said “You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

 This is precisely the kind of elitist thinking that has brought so much bewilderment to America and so much grief to the world.  I am not talking about comparing the decisions of Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, but rather, the underlying attitude and posture of such a statement.  In the world of power elites, the People’s opinion – their will – is at best a secondary consideration of policy making.  Mrs. Clinton offers a continuation of a top-down, paternalistic form of nation-state governing which offers lip service to the idea of a democratically formed plebiscite, but in fact, looks down on citizens as simply naïve or unaware of what their nation’s interests actually are. It’s as if to say “they hold those views because we haven’t done a good job convincing them that we are right.”  This turns the democratic process into a battle of salesmanship and propaganda at the expense of all else.

 Mrs. Clinton’s comment shows her offering a vision that goes back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann and the propaganda system they put in place to justify US entry into the catastrophe of WWI at a time when Americans had no interest in it. 

 The same could be seen in the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations to justify war in Vietnam under the carefully crafted and fear-generating propaganda of the Cold War.  The Reagan Administration held a similar attitude when justifying slaughter in Latin America as the US armed and trained death squads who wiped out entire indigenous communities and murdered priests, nuns and archbishops, all in the name of Cold War valor.   In the interview, Mrs. Clinton identifies these atrocities and war crimes as “things we’re not proud of” and seems to ascribe them to necessity as part of an “over-arching” policy that places US power at the center of world affairs: Textbook American Exceptionalism.  We cause lots of really bad things to happen, but our intentions are good.  Never mind the crisis of trust this has created around the world or our own violations of international law.

 With regard to the human catastrophe in Gaza, Mrs. Clinton muddled her way though a rambling defense of Israel and its “right to defend itself.”  Not a mention of the massive civilian casualties directly caused by Israeli bombing or a recognition of the clear violations of international and human rights law.  Her unimaginative logic is a carbon copy of Netanyahu’s own: the death and maiming of hundreds of civilians is the fault of Hamas.  No acknowledgement that most of the weapons used, some proscribed under the International Weapons Convention, were supplied by the United States.  No acknowledgement that Israel broke the ceasefire by sending troops into Gaza in June to destroy buildings and kill people before a single Hamas rocket was fired in July.  No acknowledgement that Gaza has been illegally isolated by force, cut off from water supplies and blockaded economically so that children are suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.  No acknowledgement that the Palestinian’s modest demands – and end to the brutal blockade – are not being met.  No acknowledgement that UNESCO believes that the IDF intentionally targeted civilians.

 In short, Mrs. Clinton took the easy way out: suck up to Netanyahu and AIPAC and secure J Street support now, before a GOP candidate can outflank you.  In this calculus the prescribed messaging must be clear: I am a “friend of Israel.”  The translation of such niceties is this: I support Israel unconditionally, not matter what they do.

 Mrs. Clinton went on to conflate the resurgence of European anti-Semitism with opposition to Israeli policies.  In an awkwardly crude twist of logic she claimed that all of this outrage across the world against Israeli aggression and cruelty is due to the cleverness of Hamas and their having “stage-managed” the invasion and the coverage of the atrocities that took place.  Never mind that this internationally isolated but democratically elected group is no match for the Israeli media system and its censorship laws or the well-funded political organizations in the US supporting Israeli policies.  The whole affair is simply the fault of Hamas.  The likelihood that Anti-Semitism is being fueled by the continued brutalization of Palestinians as suggested by Rabbis Michael Lerner and Henry Siegman among others, is not given any notice.

 She distinguishes herself from her former boss by suggesting that she will bring into play the “over-arching US policy” that must be missing despite the fact that an over-arching policy is in place and has been for decades.  It is an over-arching, one-sided policy that favors Israeli dominance and occupation over Palestinian basic rights.

 Congress, just before its summer recess, approved a $225 million package to aid Israel’s already-US-funded Iron Dome missile defense system.  The US has converted past Israeli loans for military equipment into grants.  Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid.  The relentless expansion of illegal settlements, which have dramatically shrunk Palestinian land and resources and cut off the West Bank from Gaza, is called “unhelpful,” but no policy change is ever made by the US with regard to Israeli violations of the UN Charter or Humanitarian Law.  No money is ever withheld or called into question.  If ever there was an over-arching policy, the one in place is it.

 When asked about the continued military occupation and brutalization in the West Bank, Mrs. Clinton staunchly defended the Israeli Prime Minister’s right to carry on.  The fact that Israel is illegally occupying land there seems to not concern her.  The rights of occupied peoples under international law, and their legal right to resist is apparently not legitimate to her and their plight not a consideration.

 With regard to Iran, Mrs. Clinton takes a similar hawkish line.  She forcefully aligns herself with neoconservatives who hold that Iran does not have the right to a nuclear program.  “I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment,” Clinton said. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right.”

 In fact, as Mrs. Clinton surely knows, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has the clear right under international law to enrich uranium.  She is also aware that Israel, known to possess some of the most sophisticated nuclear weaponry and delivery systems on the planet, is not a signatory to the treaty, placing them outside of international law, an outlaw nation.

 For the Former Secretary of State, President Obama is apparently too soft, despite his radical escalation of drone warfare bringing death to innocent civilians and the extrajudicial killing of American citizens abroad.

 So, Hope and Change came and went.  It appears now, that hope has been deferred, if not obliterated.  The well-crafted rhetoric of the pre-election Obama campaign appears to have been replaced by this putative Democratic nominee and a retrograde movement toward get-tough American Empire to outflank those on the right.  Kind of like Netanyahu.

 We must give her credit for her forthrightness.  For those on the Left, consider yourselves dismissed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Post Modern World is Surreal

The death toll in Gaza has now reached at least 1,800 people, mostly civilians.  Despite the “pause” in fighting just announced by the Israeli government, the Israeli Military went ahead and bombed the entrance to what is now the seventh UN relief center, killing nine children and one adult.

With regard to the breaking of the ceasefire, blamed on Hamas by the US and Israel using dubious reports, the Israeli’s now admit that Lt. Hadar Goldin was not kidnapped at all, but rather had died during an Israeli attack on Rafah.  Tweets from the Qassam Brigade, early on the morning of July 30th describe the location and circumstances of the battle and note that Israeli soldiers were killed during the attack.  Israel also admits their troops had moved two kilometers into Rafah just before the ceasefire announcement and some reports from on the ground, indicate they were 2.5 kilometers inside of Rafah.  The tweets from the Qassam brigade came at 7:30AM.  This was, of course, before the ceasefire was in place.

The US President, literally going off half-cocked, revealed the deep American bias by rushing to the press with a condemnation of the kidnapping that didn’t happen as “barbaric,” but has done nothing to condemn the slaughter of civilians in UN-protected safe zones and relief centers, until being forced to after the latest attack and pleadings from the UN.  The UN Relief Agency (UNRA) reports it had given Israeli authorities its specific Geo coordinates before the invasion began and more than 30 times afterward and have pleaded with them to stop shelling the UN centers.

The New York Times has admitted that they have been running their stories by the Israeli Military Censor prior to publication.  Their Israel bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, is seen and heard later in this otherwise charming video produced by her husband Gary Rudoren for his parents 60th wedding anniversary, meeting in a luxury hotel with Abraham Foxman, leader of the Anti-Defamation League and referring to him affectionately as her “personal defamation protector.” Gary Rudoren, before entering the room where his wife and Foxman were meeting indicates, “This is where she is working.”  The meeting is not listed in her official meeting itinerary.  Mrs. Rudoren has defended the censorship practice with preposterous syllogistic logic, using foreigners' obedience to local traffic ordinances as an analogy.

BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen, the most experienced BBC reporter in the region, was withdrawn by the BBC after reporting that he had seen no evidence of Hamas using civilians as human shields.  This was apparently too much of an offense to the status quo narrative.  His last Tweet on July 22nd shows his exasperation with the civilian death toll.

The circumstances of this conflict appear to be meeting the requirements for Genocide under international law, as have certain statements by members of the Netanyahu government and in the Israeli Knesset.

In the latest attack on a UN Relief Center, aerial bombardment that it is  now inconceivable to consider an accident, 10 people were killed.  UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has called the attack a “criminal act.”  Christopher Gunnes, head of UNRA, from on the ground, has categorically stated that there was no evidence of Hamas members being in or near the UN school.  The White House, now under enormous pressure from the UN, was forced to call the attack “disgraceful.”  Gunnes also notes that many of the civilians killed by bombing had already left their homes at the urging of the Israeli Military, being led to believe that they would be safer, only to then be bombed and killed in what has now become a general slaughter zone.  Eleven of Gunnes’s UNRA colleagues have also been killed.

Award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohamed Omer, whose family is from Rafah, speaking on Democracy Now!, describes the utter desperation of the citizens there and the fact that the International Red Cross is not returning phone calls from Rafah residents.  He further reports that aid agencies have not been able to enter Gaza and that ambulances in Rafah are not able to move within the city to retrieve the wounded and seek safe haven as they desperately try to find places to bury their dead before the next bombs fall.  The Israelis, in a cynical move, announced a seven-hour pause in bombing, but excluded Rafah.

Meanwhile in Cairo, the democratically elected members of the Palestinian delegation are meeting with Egyptian officials seeking an agreement for a ceasefire.  The Israelis have refused to participate.  It appears as though they believe, based on past experience, (recall the illegal invasion of Gaza in 2008), that they can get away with murder once again.

We have moved into an Orwellian state of affairs, where double standards of law and humanity have become the established norm with the complicity of major media organizations and the United States Government.  The purpose of this seems clear: to prevent a crisis of conscience in decent and honorable people, who would otherwise scream with outrage at the hidden reality that sits before us in broad daylight.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sorting through the Refuse of Destruction

--> So where can the truth be found in corporate media with regard to the current catastrophe in Gaza?
Well, we have to go to the Irish Times to find a closer approximation to the truth in mainstream press, although even this article is missing key facts, like the time of day of the IDF attack on Rafah, before the most recent and aborted ceasefire and the death of Lt. Hadar Goldin in that same attack.

The reported post-ceasefire kidnapping of Goldin that didn't actually happen was the pretext for resuming the one-sided war on the part of Israel.  President Obama, on dubious reporting from Israel, went on to describe the event that never happened as "a barbaric act," but hasn't used any words close to that to describe the bombing of UN Relief Centers, Hospitals and UN-run schools where hundreds of women and children have been killed as a direct result of aerial bombardment by the Israeli Air force.   

Has the New York Times reported the circumstances of the ceasefire breakage?  Unsurprisingly, the answer is No.

In fact, as we now know, the Times' August 1st article regarding the events around the ending of the ceasefire was false and that the Times updated its story after the fact, when it became clear there were inconsistencies in the initial reports, which had been vetted with the Israeli military’s censor.  Yes the Times has admitted to complying with the censor.

Response to the updated report came from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has been critical of the NYT practice of its correspondents complying with Israeli Military Censors and has asked the Times to come clean on its use of this practice in the past.  As Commondreams points out, the Times has been questioned on this and apparently, its bureau chief in Israel, Jodi Rudoren, has admitted that the Times has complied with gag orders imposed by the Israeli government on its own journalists.  See a report on this by media critic Greg Mitchell here, complements of  The Times proceeded to defend the practice with the absurd analogy of observing traffic laws in foreign countries.

It is my view that Netanyahu, based on all of his pre-election public rhetoric, has not changed his view that there can never be a Palestinian state anywhere within Eretz Israel.  He has chosen to violate the the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Principles to carry out his extermination of Hamas, but also of any Palestinians proximate to them. He has not recognized the democratic election in Gaza and instead has punished the innocents of Gaza for practicing their democratic rights under international law.  In a sick irony that defies words, he has chosen the final solution and the US is party to it.  With billions in annual US military and foreign aid support in place and past military loans to Israel being converted to grants, the US Congress saw fit to approve a pre-recess $225M bill for expansion of the Israel "Iron Dome" system. While leaving important domestic legislation stalled, Congress has shown its willful denial of the catastrophe at hand.  In an even sicker irony that would leave one laughing were the present savagery not so acute, MIT scientist Dr. Theodore Postal has rigorously demonstrated that the Iron Dome system actually does not work as described and its effectiveness is approximately from 0 to less that 5%, with the best measurements yielding a figure closer to zero.

What people are actually seeing on repeated television loops showing aerial explosions are the Iron Dome munitions exploding alone in the sky in what amounts to a $205M, US-funded fireworks exhibition.  This is physics, not politics and here, our anti-science right wing of Congress cannot be made the easy target for Liberals, since the pre-recess vote was 395 – 8. The plank in the eye is much too large.

The truth is buried deep in our information-rich society, but the larger system of obfuscation is stronger than ever.  One can only hope that the human conscience and natural curiosity can overcome the distortions that aid and abet our preexisting biases.

George Orwell has been with me as I dig through the mire of distortion to get to the bottom of things during this horrendous humanitarian catastrophe and I must quote him hear for some edification.  Political language, he wrote " designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Carthago delenda est

I had a dream. The Israeli Prime Minister was lecturing his cabinet on the lessons of the Punic Wars. He quoted the Roman orator and senator Cato from the period preceding the Third Punic War, "Carthago delenda est" (Carthage must be destroyed).  He then closed the meeting.

In dreamland his appearance began to change with laurel appearing on his head, fine leather sandals on his feet and then a tunic over braccae to complete the transformation.

The delusional projection of history was complete in his mind. "Gaza delenda est."

Then I awoke.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Realpolitik and Moral Inversion

In mystical moments, while struggling with disturbing questions of desperate humanity in the face of Realpolitik, I find myself talking to Hannah Arendt and George Orwell, two writers who understood the underbelly of insidious power all too well. 
These casualty numbers are coming from Palestinian aid workers and relief agency reports, but a review will be done in the end to corroborate and finalize estimates.
Israel is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention among others and is also violating the International Weapons Convention.

Today's New York Times story on the kidnapping of an IDF soldier at Rafa as a pretext for ending a just-announced ceasefire, per usual, obscures important facts and questions.  What is an IDF soldier doing at the border of Egypt and Gaza; a place not accessible from Israel?  What is Egypt's role?  What about the timing of the announcement?  The Israelis had recently bombed the Rafa area, killing hundreds of civilians with DIME munitions, horrific weaponry that Doctors without Borders has indicated leave untreatable wounds and cause severing of torsos and limbs. The Tungsten alloy compounds contained in these munitions have been studied by the US Armed Services scientists and found to cause neoplastic transformations (carcinomas) in human tissue.  Documented evidence by Human Rights Watch and other organizations has already shown the IDF using White Phosphorous in offensive weapons in the 2008 invasion of Gaza.  White Phosphorous is a chemical allotrope whose use in offensive weapons is proscribed under The Laws of War.

UNICEF has claimed that Israel is intentionally targeting children, since all GEO coordinates for safe, internationally recognized refugee centers and temporary hospitals have been published for the IDF at least 17 times during the conflict.  If UNICEF is correct, then Netanyahu and his colleagues are in the same category as Slobodan Milosevic.  Under normal democratic governing and international law that would mean they would be put on trial at the Hague.  Ironically, the legal principles written into the international law come directly from the Nuremberg Principles, which themselves were taken from the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi war criminals after WWII. The moral inversion created by successive Likud governments defies description even by the most skilled ironist.  On the other hand, history shows that the prosecution of war crimes is only undertaken by the victors against the vanquished.