Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 31, 2009

This U.S. Aid Offer Is Disgraceful

The United States will make an emergency contribution of 20.3 million U.S. dollars for humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, the White House announced on Friday.

Consider:

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2008 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $77 million.

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In 2007, the United States increased its military aid to Israel by over 25%, to an average of $3 billion per year for the following ten year period (starting at $2.550 billion for 2008, growing by $150 million each year)

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The Israel Air Force used a new bunker-buster missile that it received recently from the United States in strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday

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Israel destroyed 41 mosques in Gaza, says ministry
According to official reports, Israel has also destroyed 35 UNRWA and governmental schools.
Israelis destroyed 25,000 homes in Gaza, Palestinians say
Estimates put Gaza damage at $1.5-2 billion.

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On the 29th January the United Nations launched an appeal for $613 million to help people affected by Israel’s three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which killed some 1,300 Palestinians, injured more than 5,300, 34 per cent of them children, and caused widespread damage and destruction

And the U.S. offers a pathetic $20 million.

Have they no shame?

Posted by b on January 31, 2009 at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

January 30, 2009

Conditions For Nationalizing Banks

There are lots of calls to nationalize the banks and a while ago I supported to do such along the  'Swedish Model'. But I am getting less fond of this by each day. With nationalization the taxpayer takes over the risk of losses of these entities and may get a possible, but unlikely, upside.

The Swedes could do so because their authorities knew that the losses were restricted to the amounts of normal loans made to consumers and companies during a bubble. Sum all loans up and you have the maximum risk. The upside was in the continuity of normal economic activities and the downside was calculable as fraction of the annual GDP.

But since the early 1990s the banking system 'innovated' quite a bit and the possible losses are now not restricted to normal consumer and commercial loans on overvalued assets, but result from very different financial beasts.

From the Comptroller of the Currency - Administrator of National Banks this third quarter 2008 report (pdf):

• Net current credit exposure [of U.S. commercial banks] increased 7% from the second quarter to $435 billion, a level 73% more than the $252 billion exposure of a year ago.
• The notional value of derivatives held by U.S. commercial banks decreased $6.3 trillion in the third quarter, or 3%, to $175.8 trillion.
• Derivative contracts remain concentrated in interest rate products, which comprise 78% of total derivative notional values. The notional value of credit derivative contracts increased by 4% during the quarter to $16.1 trillion. Credit default swaps comprise 99% of credit derivatives.

Okay - derivatives in "interest rate products" are the mass behind the big number and may still be seen as somewhat reasonably. But how sure are we about future interest rates and the value of "interest rate products"  when the U.S. will need to borrow $2.5 trillion this year and the rest of the world will need about the same amount? Will interest rates be negative or high in the positives for those borrowing and those who pony up the money for the governments to spend on rescuing banks?

(I for one am unlikely to buy bonds for the purpose of losing money.)

So the $176 trillions are indeed a frightening number. But the report also says:

The notional amount of a derivative contract is a reference amount from which contractual payments will be derived, but it is generally not an amount at risk.

Gosh - thanks, that's good. But then, how big is the risk?

[B]ecause the credit exposure is a function of movements in market rates, banks do not know, and can only estimate, how much the value of the derivative contract might be at various points of time in the future.

Now there you see my problem. The Swedes could estimate reasonably the maximum of  the possible losses for the taxpayers when their government sized the banks.

Within today's international banking system it is impossible to even evaluate how big maximum losses for this or that bank could be. (For a wonkish example on how such derivative trades can blow up to even huger losses unexpectedly click here.) The only number we have is the hopefully top number, the notional value, and prudence demands to use that number if nothing else reliable is available.

Is $175.8 trillion is the maximum number here? Certainly a lot could be canceled out if you find and own the buyer and seller of 'insurance' and 'neutralize' their bets. Maybe $80 trillion less then. Some of these derivative contracts would turn out to be profitable contracts in the end? Subtract another $40 trillion of risk. Some contracts might be fraudulent and can be canceled in court? Subtract those too.

You will still end up with a huge amount of taxpayer money at risk that is a multiple of the annual U.S. GDP of some $14 trillion. Should the taxpayers want to take the risk responsibility for an amount of that size? For what?

Willem Buiter presents an alternative.

Found new "good banks," capitalize them with taxpayer money and let them take over the normal task of lending to consumers and commerce by granting favorable conditions. Regulate them strictly and, in a few years, privatize them. Meanwhile stop all state support for the existing banks. If they go bankrupt let deposit insurance click in for small savers, but let the rest of the mess fall in a normal court supervised bankruptcy.

I like that idea, but I fear the social/economic consequences of the short, disorderly and brutal phase that would occur when the big banks fail and believe it will be politically impossible to implement this.

My solution is a different one. I have called for all credit default swaps to be declared null and void four month ago. It may be too late for that by now to save the financial system that keeps the real economy going.

If one wants to save the real economy now, the banks will have to be nationalized in a kind of 'Swedish model'. But the risk to do so is much too high as long as those hundreds of trillions, mostly derivative swaps, stay in the books of these entities.

So my conditions for nationalizing banks is to clear them from any of these insane derivatives that are impossible, according to the Comptroller of the Currency, to be valued. Declare those obligations null and void and then nationalize.

Only then nationalize.

Posted by b on January 30, 2009 at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Where Is The Left?

In the fourth quarter U.S. sunk more than 5% annualized. (The headline number is smaller because it counts build up of inventory as positive) Unemployment is increasing rapidly and house prices are still in free fall.

But there is also good news. Exxon Mobile made $45 billion in profits last year and Obama may give another $2 to $4 trillion to insolvent bank owners and a tax cut to Exxon share owners.

The stimulus bill will include too little stimulus but lots of useless tax cuts and pork. Obama "compromised" with the Republicans over it so well that no Republican voted for it. The few liberals who understand that they got played hate it.

As Sterling Newberry points out

Obama isn't a Democrat giving things up to get Republican votes, he's a conservative mugging liberals for a conservative agenda that includes:

1. War in Afghanistan
2. Paulson's version of TARP where taxpayers buy all bad assets.
3. Slash social security and Medicare
4. Tax Cuts
5. No Comprehensive Health Care, but huge subsidies for Health Insurance companies instead.

Taken as a whole, Obama is offering small concessions to the left, in return for trillions of dollars that are coming directly out of the pockets and veins, of ordinary people.

In France the people at least go on strike and take to the streets. What goes as the "left" in the U.S. seems to stay bent over just waiting to get screwed again.

It's amazing.

Posted by b on January 30, 2009 at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (86)

January 29, 2009

U.S. General Craddock Orders Illegal Killing

According to the German SPIEGEL, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) U.S. General John Craddock directed the troops in Afghanistan "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan."

He did not qualify that by saying only those drug producers where evidence proves that they are financing the resistance or the Taliban. If ISAF would follow the order that would be open warfare by its troops on the large part of the Afghan population that lives by farming opium.

Craddock's direct subordinate is the German army general Egon Ramms who commands the NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum in The Netherlands and the ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

Ramms rejected the order, in writing, as illegal.

That alone would not be astonishing. Ramms recently gave an interview in the German magazine Stern (in German) about ISAF's mission (my translation):

Q: Where is what the U.S. military leadership refers to as the "kinetic aspect": the fighting and killing of the Taliban?

It can be no end in itself to bomb villages or to shoot at civilians. We shoot back when we are attacked. In essence, we only need to control the population centers were the people are concentrated. We do not need to cover the whole country side, but project security where the majority of the people live.

Q: How does this relate with the American dispatches which take pride to present the figures of how many insurgents they killed?

That contradicts any humanitarian thinking. We kill insurgents not as an end in itself! The counting of fatalities or the dispatches about them are the wrong approach.

That allegedly had his boss, U.S. General Craddock, miffed. The recent order and its rejection could be seen as a fight in that context.

But the Craddock order was also rejected by U.S. General David McKiernan, the commander on the ground responsible for ISAF and the separate U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

A classified letter issued by McKiernan's Kabul office in response claims that Craddock is trying to create a "new category" in the rules of engagement for dealing with opposing forces that would "seriously undermine the commitment ISAF has made to the Afghan people and the international community ... to restrain our use of force and avoid civilian casualties to the greatest degree predictable."

Craddock's order is clearly illegal with regards to international law. There is no U.N. mandate to fight drugs by military means in Afghanistan and there are binding political decisions by all ISAF participant countries to not touch the drug business when it is not directly financing the Taliban.

The U.S. recently widened its rule of engagement for its separate, non-ISAF force in Afghanistan. But Craddock's boss, Secretary of War Gates limited that to cases where evidence is available:

"And I have signed off on a change in the rules of engagement for our own forces that essentially say the same thing. If we have evidence that the drug labs and drug lords are supporting the Taliban, then they're fair game."

Politicians in German and Afghanistan are up in arms about the Craddock order and politicians in other ISAF countries will surely follow. But instead of reacting to the outrage and the political damage it does to the coalition and the Afghanistan operation, Craddock now ordered a leak investigation.

A motive for that leak? Didn't Petraeus want the SACEUR job?  My bet is Craddock will be retired pretty soon.

Posted by b on January 29, 2009 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

A Remarkable Speech

Who recently said this?

Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion.

Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state's omnipotence is another possible mistake.

True, the state's increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent.

The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.

Not that I totally agree with the above graphs, but in total, I find it to be a quite remarkable speech.

Now tell: Who did you think said the above before you clicked this link?

Posted by b on January 29, 2009 at 07:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

A Carrier Group To Attack Somalia

The U.S. supported Ethiopian army has finally retreated from Somalia and the Al-Shabab group has taken the city of Baidoa, the seat of the U.S. installed provisional war-lord government.

Meanwhile a lot of military ships are cruising the Somali coast to prevent the Somali coast guard/pirates from taking cargo ships for ransom. Even the Japanese are joining the party.

Economically this does not make any sense. With more of 20,000 ships passing the Gulf of Aden each year, a few captured ships will slightly increase the insurance premium for passing the area. But that hardly justifies to have over 20 expensive navy ships with thousands of sailors protecting it. There were 293 acts of piracy worldwide last year. Only 111 of them took place at the Somali coast. Yes, the area is important for world trade, but others with even more pirate action are too without getting this much attention.

Is this just a show of force by everyone to impress competing nations? Maybe.

The U.S. has so far not taken any real action in the area. But that may well change. The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is on its way to the area and it carries a very unusual number of helicopters.

The new wing configuration has two full squadrons for a total of about 19 aircraft, with their leadership aboard, all under the carrier air wing and strike group commander. These helicopters are heavily armed and will take over missions such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and supporting SEALs or other special operations troops.

I doubt that a carrier with so many helicopters is the best platform to fight piracy. A few smaller ships with one or two helos each could cover a much bigger area. But a carrier strike group may well be an asset for land attacks on targets in Somalia.

Steve Clemons muses about such an endeavor:

In the period between President Obama's November 2008 victory at the polls and his taking office on January 20, 2009, members of Obama's transition team began talking to military planners about various options that might be available for dealing with Somali pirates.
...
But the source recounted to me that those asking for the development of these option plans seemed more focused on whether a low-cost, low loss-of-American lives action could be quickly taken in a strike against pirates because of the need to demonstrate that Americans could still strike hard and achieve their military and political objectives.

The source worried that in my source's opinion, there was perhaps not enough consideration of what it might be like to potentially open yet a third active military front in that region.

military front."Kill some people to show the world Obama has balls? Sure, but patrolling against pirates is not an "active military front." Special operations on ground targets would constitute one.

So I expect the fighting piracy theme will now be used as a fig leaf to justify attacks on Al-Shabab and other groups that might take power in Somalia against the wishes of Washington DC.

For lack of intelligence such attacks by the U.S. will fail to hit these groups but kill a lot of innocent people. Nothing new here. Just another "crappy little country" again throw against the wall.

Posted by b on January 29, 2009 at 02:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (104)

January 28, 2009

Obama Has No Afghanistan Strategy

There was a lot of talk about a new Obama strategy in Afghanistan. But according to War Secretary Gates' yesterday testimony, there is none.

McClatchy:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday outlined a complicated and at times contradictory set of goals for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, in a Capitol Hill appearance that highlighted the challenges the administration faces in devising a new U.S. strategy there.

Giving his first congressional testimony under his new boss, President Barack Obama, Gates called the Afghan army and police the "exit ticket for all of us," yet he conceded that the Afghan government is too poor to support those forces long term.

The envisioned Afghan army and police force will cost $4 billion a year while the total Afghan GDP is $800 million. That somehow does not look sustainable. 

According to the NYT, Obama's administration now sees Karzai as the main problem:

Mr. Karzai is now seen as a potential impediment to American goals in Afghanistan, the officials said, because corruption has become rampant in his government, contributing to a flourishing drug trade and the resurgence of the Taliban.
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They said that the Obama administration would work with provincial leaders as an alternative to the central government, and that it would leave economic development and nation-building increasingly to European allies, so that American forces could focus on the fight against insurgents.

It was the U.S. who pressed for a centralized government in Afghanistan, against its tradition. Now the Afghan president constitutionally appoints the governors. How does it now expect to be able to work around Karzai with those governors, when he can fire them any day? Oh - simple - let's install a new puppet ...

Leaving economic development (and the bill for it) to Europeans will not work either. It is impossible to implement development during ongoing uncoordinated military operations.

Asked about more development in Afghanistan Gates said:

“If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served under Mr. Bush and is staying on under Mr. Obama, told Congress on Tuesday.

Valhalla is where the dead warriors go to serve Odin. Did Gates really mean that or is he lacking education? Then again sending more soldiers to Afghanistan is certainly a way to create a lot of new Valhalla denizens.

Mr. Obama is preparing to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan over the next two years, perhaps to more than 60,000 from about 34,000 now. But Mr. Gates indicated Tuesday that the administration would move slowly, at least for now. He outlined plans for an increase of about 12,000 troops by midsummer but cautioned that any decision on more troops beyond that might have to wait until late 2009, given the need for barracks and other infrastructure.

The same NYT piece accuses NATO of not "fulfilling its promises." Imagine then how Gates' backtracking on U.S. commitments will be received in other countries. Those expectations are high. The Globe and Mail writes:

As Canadian troops wait for an influx of as many as 60,000 U.S. soldiers this year, senior military officials have quietly adjusted their goals. In western Kandahar province's Zhari district, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, the key word is "holding" territory.

60,000 (mistakenly) expected, 12,000 to come - somehow those U.S. allies, who are now barely holding ground, may be miffed about that?

Back to the NYT:

Mr. Gates added that the United States should focus on limited goals. “My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the United States and our allies, and whatever else we need to do flows from that objective,” he said.

This is a stupid argument. "Terrorists and extremists" do not need Afghanistan as a base. The 9/11 pilots were trained in the United States, not in Afghanistan. So how is this whole Afghanistan issue supposed to make sense?

What I perceive is that the Obama administration now sees Afghanistan as the 'tar baby' that it is and that Bush left to them. It can not really let it go, but it will also not commit the resources, civil and/or military, to better the situation there. It will simply prolong the quagmire.

The overextended forces there will simply try to hold ground and fight to preserve their lines of communication by bombing civilians. That will certainly not work. The resistance will increase and the retreat will become inevitable. The U.S. commander there demanded 30,000 more troops, Obama/Gates will send 12,000, reduce development commitments and shun the president they installed there.

That is not a strategy, but a mess that will end with lot of dead people and a retreat under fire.

Posted by b on January 28, 2009 at 07:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

January 27, 2009

Hamas vs. Likud Charter

In many of the Internet discussion I read throughout the recent war on Gaza, Zionist hasbara fighters claimed that it is impossible to talk with Hamas because its charter, written in 1988, calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. That charter is of course irrelevant and the use of the charter argument by pro-Zionists is nonsense.

Several times, last back in November, Hamas leader Haniyeh said publicly that Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state with 1967 borders and thereby will effectively recognize Israel. So from Hamas' site, a solution of the conflict is possible.

But there is another charter in play and I have not seen that mentioned in those Internet discussion.

The Likud charter from 1999 as available on www.knesset.gov.il says:

The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.
...
The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.

Judea and Samaria are the West Bank. I am not aware of any refutation of that charter.

Likud is likely to win next month' election in Israel. Its leader Netanjahu promisses to extend the Zionist settlements in the West Bank.

This against international law, the roadmap and other peace plans.

So while using Hamas charter in an argument as being an obstacle to peace is clearly bogus, it is obviously justified to point to Likud's charter as the real issue.

So why have I never seen this used as an argument in the discussion? Maybe people just do not know. If that is the case, please spread the word.

Posted by b on January 27, 2009 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

EU Restricts Saakashvili

Earlier this month I suspected another try by Georgia's lunatic leader Saakashvili to regain South Ossetia and Abchasia. There were several reports of unexplained Georgian troop movements near the borders of those territories.

It seems that the EU military mission, which observes the ceasefire in Georgia, also sensed something, applied pressure and moved to restrict Saakashvili's capacity to incite new border skirmish adventures:

The Georgian Defense Ministry and EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) signed a memorandum on January 26 stipulating “certain restrictions” to the movements of the Georgian armed forces in the vicinity of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian administrative borders, EUMM said.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by Defense Minister, Davit Sikharulidze and EUMM head, Hansjörg Haber, also stipulates the Georgian MoD to give advance information to EUMM.

Someone clearly said "stop that nonsense" and the Saakashvili government had to agree.

Posted by b on January 27, 2009 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

January 26, 2009

Moves To Iran Negotiations

This could become interesting ...

IRNA: Ex-German chancellor to embark on four-day Iran trip on Feb. 19

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is to embark on a visit to Iran from February 19 through 22, dpa cited Schroeder's office in Berlin as saying on Monday.

The trip is "closely coordinated with the (German) foreign ministry," the spokesperson of the foreign ministry Jens Ploetner told the press in Berlin.

One can be certain that this was also closely coordinated with the Obama administration. I find it unlikely that Schröder would sign on for this if there were not some hope for real talks.

Meanwhile there are reports in German business papers about a crack down on German credit guarantees for business with Iran. Oh well - those guarantees count for only 15% of German trade with Iran and, if push comes to shove, no Germany party will dare to really crack down on trade and jeopardize domestic jobs for U.S. policy preferences.

Meanwhile the current EU lead nation Czechia pushes for direct U.S. Iran talks:

"I always believed it was senseless to ignore your opponent," [Czech Foreign Minister] Schwarzenberg added.

Susan Rice, the new U.S. envoy to the UN, seems to be on board:

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The new US ambassador to the UN said Monday that Washington was committed to direct, "vigorous" diplomacy with Iran ...
...
"Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council and its continued refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase," Rice added.

A lot depends on who in the Obama administration will get the job to talk with Iran. Neocon Dennis Ross tried through controlled leaks to make himself U.S. Czar for Middle East and chief negotiator with Iran policy. His intend, as an arch-Zionist, was of course to let any negotions fail and thus to prepare for a U.S. attack on Iran. The attempt for the Czar job failed. His role, if he gets any at all, has not yet been defined.

Sane folks like Pat Lang speak up against him.

But with the Czar job gone he tries again to get at least the chief-negotiator-with-Iran part. As Jim Lobe points out, another of Ross' organisations has already congratulated him for a new job in the State Department he does not have yet. Let us hope he never gets one.

Or if he has to have one, why not make him ambassador to Katmandu?

Posted by b on January 26, 2009 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

The Costly New Supply Route To Afghanistan

On December 21 I wrote:

NATO is negotiating with Russia over opening a new supply route through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. plans a different route through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
...
I doubt that the effort will succeed. Russia will have a say in this no matter how much bribes the U.S. is willing to pay the dictators of those countries.

An additional supply route to Afghanistan without Russia is not possible. Such a solution will have to be negotiated.

But astonishingly last Tuesday the NYT reported this:

Faced with the risk that Taliban attacks could imperil the main supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan, the United States military has obtained permission to move troop supplies through Russia and Central Asia, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in the Middle East, said on Tuesday.
...
The general had previously visited Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to discuss the issue.

“There have been agreements reached, and there are transit lines now and transit agreements for commercial goods and services in particular that include several countries in the Central Asian states and also Russia,” he said.

Had I missed all the negotiations? No. Russia did not know about the deal Petraeus announced:

MOSCOW, January 22 (Itar-Tass) - Russia did not permit the United States and NATO to transit military supplies across the country to Afghanistan, Russian Military Representative to NATO General of the Army Alexei Maslov told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

“No official documents were submitted to Russia’s permanent mission in NATO certifying that Russia had authorized U.S. and NATO military supplies transit across the country,” he said ...

Neither did Turkmenistan:

Turkmenistan has issued a swift denial of a report in a Russian newspaper alleging Ashgabat would provide training camps and logistical support for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

It seems like Petraeus screwed up with his remarks. You do not announce a deal when there is no deal yet. Russia of course  has conditions:

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, for the first time made an explicit link between the restoration of ties and giving the alliance transit routes across Russia and neighbouring states to ship supplies into Afghanistan.

"If our joint business in this Council goes well and after its informal session we agree on the resumption of the Council's activities, I do not exclude that this transit will start working at full capacity," Interfax news agency quoted Rogozin as saying.

Today the first 'inofficial' meeting between Russia and NATO after the little Georgia war took place:

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said after the two-hour meeting that the envoys from Russia and NATO's 26 nations had focused on areas of common interest, "with Afghanistan coming up frequently."

"There was a very positive discussion, a very positive spirit, with no recriminations or any desire to dredge up past disagreements," he said.

But that is still not enough. I doubt that Russia will agree to a supply route without at least some feel for the new administration and especially its stand on missile defense in eastern Europe and on NATO expansion, both directed against Russia.

And after the U.S. broke its promiss made at the end of the cold war to not expand NATO, Russia may this time well ask for something more formal. Hillery Clinton and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov are expected to have phonecall today and may meet soon.

Expect this to play out a bit longer. For Russia the issue is not urgent. For the U.S. the planed expansion of the war in Afghanistan is to 90% impossible without the supply route through Russia. Petraeus' faux pax made the urgency clear.

Russia will of course use this to its best interest. It now has the U.S. by the balls. Once the supply route is established but could get closed anytime Russia is miffed, the grip will only tighten. The price the U.S. pays for the supply route will ever increase.

Posted by b on January 26, 2009 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)

January 25, 2009

The First Days In Office

Afghan president: US forces killed 16 civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday.

U.S. raid kills Iraqi man, woman in their bed

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi couple was killed in their bed Saturday morning as their daughter slept between them when U.S. forces raided their home.

Obama endorses missile attacks

WASHINGTON, Jan 24: Hours after US missiles killed 22 people in Fata, President Barack Obama convened a meeting of his top national security advisers and endorsed the decision to continue drone strikes into Pakistan.

Posted by b on January 25, 2009 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Fear Of Standing Up To Israel

by Tangerine
lifted from a comment

Malooga had a long top post about the Zionist control of US policy here.

I wanted to add something.

Outside, or rather around, the actions and methods described in the post, there is a potent fear of standing up to Israel, of offending Jews, or even daring to imagine that one could treat ‘them’ like everyone else, or argue against their demands, or tell them get over it already etc. Israeli / Jewish exceptionalism is accepted, it is part of the culture.

That is the reason why it is so important for Israel to maintain the very particular status of the Holocaust, to render it holy and other-worldly; to enforce a view of Jews as victims of continuing, grave, overt or subterranean anti-semitism (this acts on Jews themselves, particularly the expats who then may adhere to the ‘safe haven’ idea, even if they don’t consider that relevant to themselves personally.) Israel and its lobbies, clout, have accomplished this by forcing others to adopt anti-racist, anti-anti-semitic, anti-revisionist, anti-negationist, etc. laws, stances, opinions, views, etc., and generally obliging others to treat Jews as special, thus separate.

Israel fears attacks on this dimension perhaps more than anything else.

It also is apprehensive of any movement, any shift, in any direction because it finds itself in the paradoxical position of having to defend, uphold, exaggerate the existence of anti-semitism, while ostensibly objecting to it and acting to eliminate it. Jews are at the same time exceptional people with a unique past, but must be treated like everyone else. A similar double image exists for Israel itself: an extraordinary country with status or privileges like no other, yet, the only normal ‘capitalist democracy’ in the Middle East.

Example. One occasion, public and typical: Saturday is traditionally (and still by law) a working day in Switzerland. Schools and all educational institutions ran activities on Saturday morning. In 1993 (iirc, my son was 7 I think) Saturday morning school, to 16 years, was dropped, but all higher education, apprenticeship to doctoral level, continued, on occasion, to run ‘obligatory’ activities on Saturday, for practical reasons.

In 1995, the anti-racist laws were voted in. A few years later, the Jewish lobby woke up and ...oh yes... tried to get Saturday school banned. The Swiss law contains a provision that states refusing public service to someone because of their ethnicity, religion, provenance (etc.) is punishable by... - the idea was that Jewish students were being refused the opportunity to take exams (typically often scheduled on a Saturday) because they were not allowed to accept the service offered.. that Saturday school was racist, anti-semitic, that Jewish students required special treatment (in fact forbidden by the same laws)...and on and on it went.

I was amazed to see high officials, figures of authority, politicians, on the ground teachers, students, secretaries, my neighbor, take this crackpot proposal seriously and argue clumsily for a Jewish exception. Passions ran high ... finally the demand died mysteriously and was never mentioned again. Everyone breathed a exhausted sigh of relief. All through this nothing was heard from the Jewish students themselves. (The very few orthodox ones were accommodated anyway.)

By the way, the Swiss Commission that votes on suspending military sales to foreign countries voted during the Gaza invasion NOT to suspend delivery to Israel, to my astonishment - they have done it often in the past.

Posted by b on January 25, 2009 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

January 24, 2009

OT 09-04

The last open thread filled up pretty fast ...

New & views ...

Posted by b on January 24, 2009 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (96)

Down And Up - Rough Seas

Cruiseship Balmoral leaving the Spanish port La Coruna on January 20.


Photo by José Ricardo Rodriguez Montero - bigger


Photo by José Ricardo Rodriguez Montero - bigger

More here, here and here and one before that ride started.

BBC:

Two passengers have been taken to hospital with broken bones after a cruise ship from Kent was hit by 50ft waves in the Bay of Biscay.

Posted by b on January 24, 2009 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Where Do These Surpluses Come From?

The Economist via Paul Kedrosky is discussing the imbalance of the global economy and includes this tale of a miracle:

In 1996, the year before the Asian financial crisis began, economies designated by the IMF as emerging, developing and newly industrialised ran a collective current-account deficit of $78 billion. Over the next decade this turned into a surplus of several hundred billion dollars (see chart 1), with China and oil exporters accounting for almost all of the increase in the past three or four years. Much of the turnaround is mirrored in a widening American deficit. (The world’s sums do not add up. Statisticians are unable to offset the recent burgeoning surpluses with deficits elsewhere: according to the IMF, in 2007 the surpluses exceeded the deficits by $265 billion.)

So in one year alone $265 billiones surplus were somehow created out of nowhere?

If anyone has an idea how that works please let me know. It certainly would help to pay the rent.

Posted by b on January 24, 2009 at 05:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

January 23, 2009

Prince Turki's Threats

The Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal is pretty high up in pecking order of Saudi Arabia. He was chief of Saudi intelligence, ambassador to the UK and Ireland and ambassador to the US. He left that job when he learned that Prince Bandar was talking policy with Cheney behind his back. Even though he is no longer in a official foreign policy role, I doubt that he would publish this op-ed in the Financial Times without the nod from the very top:

Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk.
...
If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact – especially its “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia – it will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

That is a strong shot across the bow for Obama. There follows some advice what Obama should do and then this part which I wonder about:

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over “this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children” in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom’s primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed in the region.

So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. When Israel deliberately kills Palestinians, appropriates their lands, destroys their homes, uproots their farms and imposes an inhuman blockade on them; and as the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel.

As I read it there are three threats contained therein:

  1. That Saudi Arabia could leave the alliance with the U.S.
  2. The possibility of an alliance with Iran
  3. Unleashing the mob in form of another Al Qaida

But how real are these threats? Yes, the Saudis could unleash some Jihadis and finance their adventure in some foreign country. But would the Saudis ever leave the U.S. alliance camp? Would they ever really cooperate with Iran?

Posted by b on January 23, 2009 at 08:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

January 22, 2009

From Policy Intention To Legal Justification

The Nazis took great care to justify their measures by law and other legal means.

In April 1933 a law for "reorganization of the civil service” cleansed the civil services from socialists and communists as well as Jews. In late 1933 a law on “criminals by habit” introduced a legal framework for concentration camps. The "Blood Protection Law" of 1935 legalized race discrimination against Jews and gypsies. Later laws and legal decrees legalized the outright extermination of people based on race, belief, sexual preference and other categories (chronological index).

In all of these cases first the policy was thought up, then legal opinions were established to justify the policies. Laws were created to have a legal basis for the policy implementation. These where needed because some people would not follow the policies without better justifications and legal protection.

Defendants at the Nuremberg court said they acted within those laws or followed legal orders. The judges did not swallow those justifications as the laws and orders clearly contradicted basic humanitarian ethics.

The Bush administration acted in similar ways. A policy was thought up and then a bogus legal opinion was written to justify even a obviously illegal policy. When someone made a stink, Congress was pressed to implement a law that would legalize the deeds. Thus when the policy intention was to torture, Yoo wrote a memo justifying torture and Congress later mangled that into a law that gave the CIA legal backing to continue to torture. The pattern was also followed with FISA. The intention was to listen to any communication. Then legal justifications were written to allow for that. When some folks blew a whistle, and the policy became public knowledge and outrage followed, Congress was pressed to establish the illegal stuff as legal through a law and to even give the telcos retroactive immunity. When no one in the U.S. made a stink, like over renditions, the step of introducing a justifying law was not deemed necessary.

The Israeli Defense Forces seem to follow the same pattern. Establish an intention and a policy, than have someone come up with a legal justification:

The idea to bombard the closing ceremony of the Gaza police course was internally criticized in the Israel Defense Forces months before the attack. A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the IDF's international law division and the military advocate general were undecided.

After months of the operational elements pushing for the attack's approval, the international law division gave the go-ahead.

Commentary to the Geneva Convention generally considers policemen to be "protected persons" under the convention. To target them was illegal. Continues Haaretz:

In spite of doubts, and also under pressure, the division also legitimized the attack on Hamas government buildings and the relaxing of the rules of engagement, resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties.

"Hamas government buildings" are first of all government buildings, for example hospital and schools. As far as they are needed for the public life and are not used as military positions they must also be protected.

In the division it is also believed that the killing of civilians in a house whose residents the IDF has warned might be considered legally justified, although the IDF does not actually target civilians in this way.

Oh really? The IDF even told civilians to go into a house only to then bomb the house.

Many legal experts, including former international law division head Daniel Reisner, do not accept this position. "I don't think a person on a rooftop can be incriminated just because he is standing there," he said.

But again the legal opinion was not formed as a neutral legal opinion based on some accepted normative ethics or basic law, but was drawn up to justify an intended policy, in this case obviously indiscriminate killing of civilians, despite its obvious illegality.

"The army knows what it wants, and pressure was certainly brought to bear when legal advisers thought that something was unacceptable or problematic," an operational military source said.

According to a senior official in the international law division, "Our goal is not to tie down the army, but to give it the tools to win in a way that is legal."

Does anyone believe the Nuremberg judges would have accepted such nonsense as legal?

Posted by b on January 22, 2009 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

Domestic Spying

Back in December 2005 I tried to explain how the NSA spying program likely functioned:

The system taps into general communication lines like international telecommunication satellite links and analyzes all traffic going through such lines.

The system listens to and processes communication in realtime. It is preconfigured with specific phone numbers, email addresses and/or keywords. An evolved Echelon may include speaker recognition.   

If a specific communication matches one of the preconfigured criteria, i.e. includes a specific number, keyword or voice, it is recorded in a large storage facility.

Database mining technologies and automated statistic methods are used to find patterns within and between the recorded communications. The discovery of such patterns may lead to further investigation or may modify the system's sensitivities.

If what Russ Tice asserts on yesterday's Keith Olberman's show is correct, as I believe it is, my piece three years ago was aiming far too low.

I believed that all international communication meta-data was sniffed at to weave out calls and network connections that were than monitored and analyzed content wise.

According to Tice that was done to all U.S. domestic communication too.

Also according to Tice this was used to spy on special groups like journalists.

I am sure that an investigation will find that other special group includes politician and organized groups like ACLU and that such surveillance was used to blackmail.

The surprise is that despite these efforts some kind of regime change was still able to happen.

What is going to happen now?

Posted by b on January 22, 2009 at 06:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

January 21, 2009

OT 09-03

So Britain is also bankrupt?

Open Thread ...

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

Rolf Verleger: Gaza: The Bad, Bad Neighbor - (Revised Version)

In comments here Parviz pointed to this piece written in German and Sabine kindly translated it to English. It is by Rolf Verleger, a German psychology professor and Jewish activist. The original was published on January 5 in the German magazine Hintergrund.
---

Update note: Rolf Verleger asked me to post his revised version of the piece. The old version in English is available here. His revisions in the German version were adopted to the English one by me and posted below on January 22, 9:00am EST. - b.

Update II: A revised translation was posted  below on January 30, 7:00am EST. -b.
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GAZA: THE BAD, BAD NEIGHBOUR

What would you do – the Israeli historian Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – if your neighbour constantly threw stones and Molotov cocktails at your apartment? Wouldn't you eventually pick up a gun and put an end to such activity? And if this neighbour surrounded himself with his children so you couldn’t attack him, wouldn't you then use a gun with telescopic sights? Didn’t Hamas behave in Gaza just like this neighbour when it fired rockets at Israeli cities? Therefore, wrote Professor Oz-Salzberger, Israel’s current war against Gaza was a just war.

With such an example, one can indeed get across plenty of things with considerable clarity. For simplicity, let us call you and the family terrorized by the bad neighbour the landlord, and let us now look at the curious circumstances in the apartment house. The neighbouring apartment is Gaza.

1) Three years ago you took away your neighbour’s key.

Without your approval as landlord, your neighbour’s family is not allowed to leave the apartment, either for work or for study, or for travel or for shopping. Without your approval as landlord, your neighbour receives no mail, nothing to eat, no electricity, no gas and no visitors: the apartment is locked, you as the landlord have the key, and your bad, bad neighbour is locked in. All this since 2006, almost three years ago.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

What was the mistake made by the bad, bad neighbour and his friends in the other apartment house? They had voted for the wrong party!

And this, despite the fact that you were so nice to the neighbour four years ago in 2005, when you voluntarily moved off his balcony with the seaview which you’d taken away from him earlier. Of course, you didn’t deign to give your neighbour a word or a look when you moved out. And you also demolished the balcony furniture. Whatever would become of us if we actually talked with our neighbours? And now you tell the whole world that you have vacated the balcony. But you don’t mention that you still have the key to the apartment.

2) Two years ago you sent a gang of thugs to your neighbour.

In 2007, you and your North American friends from the Homeowners' Association quartered a bunch of thugs in the neighbour’s apartment, the Mohammed Dahlan gang. This gang was supposed to deprive your bad neighbour of his apartment. However, nasty as he is, the bad neighbour defended himself successfully. And you were pretty bitter about it. Afterwards you tried to make everybody believe that the bad neighbour had violently and illegally taken control of his apartment without any reason. You yourself were surprised at how many journalists spread this lie.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

3) You have not invoiced the running costs correctly.

For years you, as landlord, have collected duties and taxes due to your neighbour, but have not paid them to the neighbour completely and on time.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

4) You have already killed many people from the neighbour’s apartment.

That was in 2006. There were hundreds of dead in the neighbour’s apartment. Fortunately the wind did not come from the south, otherwise the stench would have reached your apartment.

Thereupon, your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

5) You took your neighbour’s work and car away.

Once the neighbour used to go fishing. You stopped that. He once had factories. Those you bombed in 2006. He practised agriculture. You ruined that by forbidding exports. He once had an airport – built with funds from the European Union. You broke that up: bad neighbours don’t need airports. The bad neighbour who only wants to shoot should not fish, should not work, should not till the fields, should not travel. Your bad neighbor should shoot at you so you can shoot back.

And that is what he did.

6) Courts confirmed the neighbour’s case.

Ignorant non-locals, alleged experts in Neighborhood Law, like Amnesty International, UN experts, Nobel peace prize winners unanimously say that your action as landlord towards your neighbour violates law and justice. Fortunately these people have no police to enforce their so-called law and justice. As Stalin already asked, ‘How many divisions has the Pope?’

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

7) For years you have driven your bad neighbour’s friends out of their apartments.

Unfortunately the bad neighbour still has telephones and mobiles. Thus he learns every day how his friends and relatives who live in the West Bank apartment houses are being driven out of their apartments. One of the ways you have of doing this is building a big wall, meant basically for your protection – at least that is what you claimed in your building application. But actually you built this wall not around your apartments, but right through the apartments of your bad neighbour’s friends. What do they need two living rooms for? One is quite sufficient. In the other one your friends could live – demented Americans who are so forgetful that already after only one day of living in somebody else’s apartment claim this to be their true home. And if the relatives of your bad, bad neighbour, in their own little apartment, have to go through a security check on their way from the living room to the bathroom, what is the problem? In the end, all of life is a waiting-room! And who ever demonstrates peacefully against it may get the Ossietzky Peace Prize in Germany, but at home will get tear gas again, and with bad luck may get shot for security reasons while demonstrating. Naturally, some friends of your bad neighbour went to court on account of the partition through their apartment. The then Foreign Minister of Germany, a complacent man named Fischer, called that ‘not helpful’. Naturally, your bad, bad neighbour won the case, but again, naturally, there are no police to enforce the law.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

8) You took possession of the neighbour’s house sixty years ago.

A long, long time ago your neighbour's grandfather was the owner of the whole house. At that time your grandparents came into the house, in despair, persecuted; it was a good shelter against the storm. Soon they built a house in the courtyard; after all, the courtyard did not belong to anybody, did it? The fact that the others were no longer getting from one house to another – did that matter so much? After all, they were only Arabs. Occasionally a few humanistic weirdos came by, named Ahad Ha’am, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, and a few more, who said one should live with those house owners in peace, but, in the name of Marx and Bakunin, these Arabs were certainly too primitive for living together in communal flats, and one cannot be friends with such yokels. And later when Marx was no longer in fashion, one said: for God’s sake, these Arabs have the wrong religion, what do they actually want here in this Holy House? There are enough other houses; they can go elsewhere.

And then, from 1947 on, your parents took away most of the apartments from the parents of your bad, bad neighbour, when these fled in fear, panicking in the face of the armed terror of your parents. And now many descendants of these people live in this one apartment, in the most densely populated spot on earth, in Gaza. Well, just why is it so densely populated?

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

And therefore the German Chancellor and Professor Oz-Salzberger said: The exclusive responsibility for this war rests on your bad, bad neighbour.

9) Concluding remarks

In 1890 when the first Zionists came to what is today Israel, they were fleeing discrimination, pillage and murderous pogroms in the Russian czarist empire, and searching for a free, self-determined life they were not allowed to live in their old homeland. This was not a conflict of good against evil, but rather the struggle for a piece of land that was home to the Palestinian Arabs and at the same time appeared as the only possible homeland to the immigrants.

The struggle was won by the Jewish side, at the price of a constant state of war. However, a peace plan has been on the table for a long time. It consists of the Two-State Solution, with Israel’s borders those of 1967, and a mutually acceptable regulation of the problem of the Palestinian refugees, and a mutually acceptable agreement on Jerusalem. This was proposed to Israel in 2002 by the member states of the Arab League and recently reconfirmed. Israel does not agree, because it cannot decide whether it would rather keep the illegally occupied land on the West Bank and extend it. As long as Israel does not say ‘yes, we’d rather have peace, and end the occupation,’ there will be no peace.

The position of Germany in this conflict is ambivalent. But can the fact that we European Jews were victims of a great injustice that was perpetrated by Germany give the Jewish state the right to commit injustice to others now? Do German politicians really believe that it is a compensation for the murder of my Jewish relatives that Israel now can do anything it wants, without limits and without restraint?

On the contrary, it would do Israel infinite good if it could be shown the way out of its fantasy position of eternal victim and become, like every other state, part of a network within an international system of law. This means that the occupation of the West Bank, the years-long siege of Gaza and the mass murder of the inhabitants of Gaza since the 27 December 2008 should give rise to sanctions and boycotts. The European Union should assess Israel on its progress in observing international law and human rights, just as it does – justifiably or not – Serbia and Turkey. And a legal assessment in the cases of Olmert, Barak and Livni should take place in the same way as those of Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic – in The Hague.

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This text, in its German original, will soon appear in the new edition of the book by Rolf Verleger "Israels Irrweg. Eine jüdische Sicht" ("Israel’s wrong way. A Jewish view", PapyRossa-Verlag, Cologne). It was first published in a slightly changed version on January 5, 2009 at www.hintergrund.de.

The author: Prof. Dr. Rolf Verleger is a psychologist at the University of Lübeck. He helped to build up the Jewish Community in Lübeck and the Jewish State Association of Schleswig- Holstein and he has been the delegate of the State Association in the Central Council of the Jews in Germany since the year 2006.

Translated from German: Marie and Peter Voss, Munich.

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 07:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

Billmon: Obama at the Plate

Billmon:

What the supposed cynics like to call "all that Kumbaya shit" (but which the real cynics, like yours truly, suspect is a cooly executed strategem to grab the upper partisan hand by monopolizing the bipartisan label) was almost wholly lacking. Gone missing was the by-now customary reference to states that are neither red nor blue, but united. Previous promises to be the president even of those who did not vote for him were not repeated.
...
At this point, though, the message is not clear. I thought I heard what I thought I heard; the talking heads think they heard something rather different -- a moralist scolding Washington for its wicked ways, rather than pragmatist signaling his intention to lower the boom on any adversary who block his path too long or too unreasonably.
...
If our new president really aspires to fix a broken economy, provide national health care, find alternative energy sources, restore the rule of law, withdraw from Iraq, win in Afghanistan (we could argue about that last one, but these are his priorities, not mine) and otherwise remake America -- or at least get a start on the process during his first term -- at some point soon he'll need to become a lot more explicit about what he is willing to do to his fellow politicians, as well as with them, to make it happen.
Obama at the Plate

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 03:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

The Never Changing Way of Life?

At the Earth Summit in 1992, George H.W. Bush forcefully declared, "The American way of life is not negotiable."
It's the End of the World as We Know It, Baltimore Chronicle, Aug. 3, 2004

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My principle focus as vice president has been to protect the American people in our way of life
Transcript: Vice President Cheney on 'FOX News Sunday', Dec. 222, 2008

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We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.
Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 2008

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 03:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 20, 2009

MoA Exclusive: Islamic Suicide Geese

The mainstream media told us last week's emergency landing of the American Airline plane in the Hudson river was due to bird-strike by a flock of Canada Geese.

That was a lie.

We can now reveal and prove, with photographic evidence from inside Iran sources, that the perpetrators of this event were not Canada Geese. These were undercover geese agents from Iran's Islamic SAVAK secret service, leading Pasdaran suicide terrorist geese, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, on their deadly mission.

Their plan, masterminded in secret sessions by the Iranian terror mullahs, was for the suicide terrorists to down the American Airlines plane and to kill all passenger and crew members by throwing themselves into the air intakes of both plane engines at the same time. The assumption was that, robbed of all engine power, the pilot would be unable to glide the plane towards a safe landing but would crash in a densely populated New York.

After infiltrating into Canada by air, the Pasdaran suicide geese and their Islamic SAVAK terrorist leaders disguised themselves as Canadians and slipped camouflaged as Canada Geese flock past stringent U.S. border control through the U.S.-Canada border. They rested near Detroit before taking on their deadly mission.

With the Iranian secret service agents navigating the route, the suicide terrorist geese were led timely into the flight path of the American Airlines Airbus. When the navigators spotted the plane they gave signal for  the Pasdaran suicide terrorist geese to dive into plane's air inlets.

The attack succeeded as planed. Both engines were hit, the lunatic and very young Pasdaran suicide killers each found 72 virgins reserved for them (it is said they were disappointed that all those virgins were in their 80s) and the plane lost all power.

But a miracle happened in the airspace of the United States of America and the heroic pilot manged to glide the plane into the Hudson without crashing. All passenger were picked up alive by New York harbor ferries.

Unfortunately the secret service geese navigator escaped unharmed.

Moon of Alabama has received irrefutable secret photographic evidence from inside Iran that shows extremist-Islamic Iranian mullahs supervising the training of the Pasdaran suicide terrorist geese and indoctrinating them before sending them onto their deadly mission.


Two Iranian Mullah geese supervising the suicide training of the 1/15 attackers (MoA exclusive)
bigger


Now we all need to ask how long will it take President Obama to follow up on this new indisputable evidence and order an all out attack on these lunatics Islamic mullah terrorists and their 80 million (minus Parviz (btw - thanks for the pic)) Iranian supporters?

Posted by b on January 20, 2009 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

The Anointment

There seems to be some kind of weird event in Washington DC today.

When other countries change their government, there is usually a special parliament session, a press conference and some dinner arrangement.

But there is either demand for a royal anointment event for the person taking the job of a self proclaimed leader of the free world, or the show is needed to create authority that would otherwise be missing. Or maybe both?

Anyway.

The following is by Hannah K. O'Luthon as posted in a comment here.Please add your own criteria in the comments. Writes HKO'L:

In a few hours BHO will take the oath of office, and assume the burden of transforming hope into achievement.

To avoid both partisan adulation and factional disdain in discussing his presidency, it seems useful to propose a few benchmarks for judging of success or failure. Since events will certainly condition the new president's range of effective possibilities, it is clear specific administration goals may undergo recalibration in the face of unexpected obstacles or opportunities. Thus, while the benchmarks are intended to be sufficiently explicit as to permit evaluation of success or failure, that evaluation will itself be influenced by events, and should not be effected with draconian rigor.

Obama's much repeated vow to bring change to American polity will, thanks to his predecessor, have ample scope for implementation, but the following five fundamental criteria might provide an evaluative framework. The subheads represent specific items for evaluation.

Obviously, others will have differing or more specific criteria, so those cited below are not intended to be exhaustive. About a year from now it might, however, be interesting to measure performance against promise.

  • - Restoration of government by law rather than presidential decree. (Constitutionality)
    a. Explicit end of tolerance for torture; prosecution with due process for the officials accused.
    b. FISA revisited; protection against invasion of privacy, TIA abandonned
    c. End to persecution of (American) Moslem activists (not terrorists) Al-Arian, Maher Al Ahar, etc.,
    d. Integrity of the election process
    e. Elevation of political discourse between government and opposition

  • - Foreign Policy: Will there be a clear modification in the goals and execution of American foreign policy?
    a. End occupation of Iraq
    b. End war in Afghanistan
    c. Talks with Iran given greater prominence
    d. Begin a more balanced policy with respect to the Israel-Palestine issue
    e. Rapprochement with "leftists" in Latin America, and Latin America in general
    f. End of Militarization of Foreign Policy and beginning of retreat from imperial overreach;
    g. Distancing from mercenaries, PMC's
    g. Dialing down of overblown rhetoric on terrorism, "freedom", etc.

  • - Economy
    a. Preventing or mitigating failure of GM, Chrysler, Ford, and other major industrial concerns.
    b. Preventing or mitigating the collapse of major financial institions
    c. Job creation aiming at full employment, or at least reduced unemployment
    d. Regulatory reform
    e. Greater transparency in government contracts
    f. Clean Energy initiatives

  • - Social Justice
    a. Major Health care reform
    b. Educational opportunity for all
    c. Women's issues and rights
    d. Tax reform in favor of the middle class
    e. Immigration un-demonized
    f. End to air traveller regimentation and humiliation

  • - Envirnoment and Quality of Life
    a. Multilateral agreements (towards Kyoto II)
    b. Green energy
    c. Drug trafficking in U.S., and abuse of pharmaceuticals
    d. Mileage and pollution standards (enforced)
    e. Support for non-military research
  • Posted by b on January 20, 2009 at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (96)

    January 19, 2009

    Helmut Schmidt: Six steps to curb speculation

    Last week Helmut Schmidt, former German finance minister and chancellor who just celebrated his 90th birthday, published a longer piece (in German) on the financial crisis.

    The headline asks: How can we escape the depression trap?

    In the first part Schmidt explains why the financial crisis happened and why the international steps taken so far are, by far, not enough and come to slowly to lower the risk of a possible depression. The lost trust in financial institutions, Schmidt says, is the greatest factor contributing to the slump of the real economy and hinders any eventual recovery.

    For the second part over to Schmidt as translated by me:

    /begin of excerpt/

    Six steps to curb speculation

    Today's focus of governments and parliaments in many countries is to rescue some banks with extensive guarantees by taking over their non-performing assets and through the purchase of new shares (called nationalization). At the same time, central banks use similar means. This is in most cases useful, even as the states budgets plunge into egregious deficit, and although the unorthodox and enormous increase in money supply in dollars and sterling establishes future threats. But this alone will not restore confidence in the reliability of financial markets nor will the many national 'economy and investment programs' achieve such.

    Because of the risk of depression the networked global economy can not wait years for the healing of the financial markets! Therefore, I think it is appropriate that the G-20-states urgently implement some very drastic steps. Considered for implementation by law or regulation must be these:

    1. All private financial institutions (including investment banks, mortgage banks, investment and pension funds, hedge funds, equity trusts, insurance companies, et cetera.) And all marketable financial instruments are to be put under the same banks- and financial supervisory authority. 
    2. The financial supervisory authority sets equity-minima for all sectors of the private financial institutions. 
    3. For all financial institutions any activities outside of their own balance sheet (and the profit and loss account) are prohibited and punishable. 
    4. All financial institutions will be prohibited, under threat of punishment, from dealing in any financial derivatives and certificates, that are not approved and listed at an accredited exchange. 
    5. All financial institutions are by punishment prohibited to sell any futures and options on securities and financial instruments it does not possess at the time of the sale. This is to make speculation on falling prices ('short selling') more difficult. 
    6. Financial deposits and loans in favor of companies and individuals registered in tax and regulation havens are prohibited under penalty.

    Obviously the leaders of the international financial industry will protest against such laws with sophisticated arguments. Obviously some radical market-oriented governments will give in to these protest, since they are already in the awkward situation to need the experience and expertise of the hitherto offenders. Therefore there is the question whether the 16 European countries in the Euro zone should implement this on their own.

    /end of excerpt/ 

    The last third of Schmidt's piece is about the implementation of stimulus packages and the need for more global cooperation on these issues.

    Probably needless to say is that Schmidt certainly favors such a Euro-realm solution for financial re-regulation as any more global solution is unlikely to come early enough to prevent a depression.

    Also probably needless to say is that I agree with Schmidt on this about 95%. 

    What is your take on this?

    Posted by b on January 19, 2009 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

    Bush Pardons

    Two questions:

    1. Who will Bush pardon? (there are no leaks so far, so I wonder ...)
    2. If Obama can take pardons back will he do so?

    Posted by b on January 19, 2009 at 08:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

    January 18, 2009

    Gaza Song - We Will Not Go Down!

    Thank to Parviz for the link.

    We will not go down
    In the night, without a fight
    You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
    But our spirit will never die
    We will not go down
    In Gaza tonight
    Photo comparison

    Posted by b on January 18, 2009 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (81)

    Ceasefire and Score

    So the Israelis announced a ceasefire under the condition that the Palestinians in Gaza stop launching rockets. After shooting 17 rockets and mortars at Israel today, to make sure the world gets who won this war, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others also declare a ceasefire which will end if the IDF does not retreat from Gaza within a week and if the blockade is not lifted.

    While it will withdraw the troops, Israel is unlikely to lift the blockade, except for too few 'humanitarian' transports, before the election in February.

    The tunnels will be rebuild and the Bedouins will continue to resupply Gaza as long as Gaza has some money which it will get one way or another. Only now more than before.

    The U.S. and other 'western' nations signed an MoU with Israel about the Egyptian border with Gaza and the Egyptian dictator said he will ignore it.

    The situation on the ground after the war will thereby be the same as it was before the war.Except for all those needlessly dead and wounded.

    So what is the score.

    John Mearsheimer's headline is right Another War, Another Defeat. The Observer editorializes A pointless war has led to a moral defeat for Israel. Colonel Lang says this is was An inevitable outcome in Gaza and he predicted it, as I did on January 2.

    While Israel waged an unprecedented propaganda campaign around this war and had significant help of the 'western' mainstream media, a lot of people in this world are in rage about its brutal onslaught and now (again) aware of the plight of the people in Gaza. This seems to include a significant number of Jewish people who before this campaign supported Israel and are now turning against it.

    Israel's relations to other countries have suffered a setback that will last a long time. Qatar and Mauritania who had good diplomatic relations with Israel have frozen these. More important, the Turkish president and its prime minister have spoken harshly against Israel. Turkey was the only country in the area with friendly relations with Israel. That is over. The proposed oil, gas and water pipeline from Turkey to Israel is now a dead project.

    The war was costly for Israel. Not only because it had to call in reservists which left a lot of the economy dormant but also because of effective boycotts in Jordan, the UK and the Scandinavian countries. The international product barcode number for Israel is 729. People now check for those number on products and will not buy anything where the barcode starts with 729.

    Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas have been exposed as the payed Israeli collaborators the are and lost a lot of standing. While Hamas has shown resilience and gained in support.

    The war aim of lifting the electability of Livni and Barak might have been achieved (I doubt their poll numbers will hold) but it is still likely that the Likud nuts will come ahead in the next Israeli election. The Israeli public wants more war and their next government is likely to start another one.

    After losing in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008/9 losing another one might be the only way for the Israeli people to learn that war is not an answer to legitimate demands.

    Posted by b on January 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

    'Ethnic Cleansing' Gaza?

    Are Israel and others preparing to move a significant number of people from Gaza to Egypt? I only have two data points for that right now, but they are disturbing.

    Levi of Jews Sans Frontieres writes:

    Meanwhile I have just received an email saying that there are rumours of an impending ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Rafah into Egypt.

    Prof. As'ad AbuKhalil, aka The Angry Arab, has a picture up which shows a row of big tents set up on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border and asks.

    Does anybody have information on this?

    Ahdaf Souif sent me this from (Egyptian) Rafah (I cite with her permission): "Outside the general Hospital in Egyptian Rafah a city of tents has sprung up. I counted 200. But the soldiers there told me they have many more and can set them up immediately. They said the beds and furnishings for all the camps are ready. I was also told that other camps are being set up, in el-Arish and other locations. I was told these camps were being set up for “the Palestinian refugees.” Where will they come from? From Gaza. When? When they open the border. Officers then arrived and insisted that we leave immediately. Any information we wanted we could get from the headquarters of the Second Army in Ismailia. A soldier added that some TV stations had been here already – but they were with the Army."

    Has anyone additional information on this?

    What would be the consequences of such very dirty 'cleansing'?

    Posted by b on January 18, 2009 at 03:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

    January 17, 2009

    The Obama Is Lincoln Picture

    Obama presents himself in the inauguration as Lincoln:

    Barack Obama is borrowing a page from history even as he sets a new marker for America, boarding a train in sunny, icy Philadelphia for a ride to the city of presidents along the same route Abraham Lincoln took nearly 150 years ago.

    and

    Barack Obama, a self-professed follower of Abraham Lincoln, would not only take the oath of US presidency swearing in on the Bible used by the former President, but will also have on his lunch menu that afternoon the food eaten by Lincoln after his inauguration.

    Hmm - Lincoln:

    At the outset of the Civil War, without Congressional authorization, Lincoln raised troops, appropriated funds, suspended habeas corpus in Maryland and ignored a ruling by Chief Justice Roger Taney ordering the release of a man arrested for aiding the rebellion. Later, Lincoln extended the suspension of habeas corpus to include the entire North. Under his authority as Commander in Chief, the military arrested thousands, most of them accused of actively aiding the Confederacy, but some of nothing more than criticizing Administration policies. The most notorious was Clement Vallandigham, a Congressman from Ohio, convicted by a military tribunal of disloyalty for a speech opposing the draft. Lincoln ordered him deported to the Confederacy.

    Okay, Lincoln may have had good, higher reasons to do all that. But that is what everyone claims, be them Bush, bin Laden or Olmert. Usually the winner gets to write the history. He will always take care to let the deeds shine as just and necessary, even if alternative action might have provided a better outcome. Was what Lincoln did really necessary and just?

    It could be that Obama will follow Lincoln's way not only in train riding and lunch choice but also in breaking the law for something more important. FDR did some nasty stuff like the supreme court packing plan that I would have supported even, as I believe, it would have been unconstitutional. I probably would support Obama in doing something similar.

    But as Obama sets himself into the picture as another Lincoln, we should be aware that this might also include also the darker sides Lincoln had and that the tools of suppression are readily available.

    Posted by b on January 17, 2009 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

    Billmon: Worth It

    Billmon:

    I guess the son of bitch was telling the truth for once. It WAS worth it -- to him and his cronies.
    Worth It

    Posted by b on January 17, 2009 at 02:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

    January 16, 2009

    The Weird Smuggling MoU

    The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is in Washington allegedly to sign a memorandum of understanding on weapon smuggling into Gaza.

    I find this a bit weird. What is the reason the U.S. should be involved in any anti-smuggling effort between Egypt and the occupied territory in Gaza? If the U.S. asks France to stop smuggling between Syria and Iraq would that not be seen as a joke?

    Haaretz yesterday had an outline of the MoU:

    Israel is asking for a number of guarantees from the Americans:

    • A U.S. declaration calling on the international community to deal with the smuggling of arms from Iran to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
    • Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. for identifying the sources of weapons, with focus on the network linking Iran, the Persian Gulf and Sudan.
    • An international maritime effort along the smuggling routes to find ships carrying weapons to the Gaza Strip, possibly with the involvement of NATO.
    • An American and European commitment for the transfer of technologies to Egypt that will help it uncover tunnels.
    • Plans for the economic development of Rafah, with particular emphasis on the Bedouin to undercut the financial motivation for building and operating tunnels.

    Isn't that funny.

    The first point is to assert that Iran is guilty, while the second point is to find out who is guilty.

    Acting on the third point would be against the law of the sea unless there is a U.N. Security Council resolution on the issue which will never come.

    The fourth point is a request for ground penetrating radar to detect tunnels. Commercial GPR works up to 15m deep from the surface under optimal conditions. Tunnels dug deeper will not be detected by them.

    The fifth point may bring additional income to the tunnel diggers. It will not replace their current trade.

    In all, this sounds a bit of a stunt and I wonder what Livni really wants in DC.

    Also on the Gaza rockets. Two weeks ago the Jerusalem Post reported that the longer range Hamas rockets are from China.

    The Grad-model Katyusha rockets that were fired into Beersheba on Wednesday were manufactured in China and smuggled into Gaza after the Sinai border wall was blown up by Hamas in January, defense officials said.
    ...
    The three countries that manufacture Grad-model Katyushas are China, Russia and Bulgaria.
    ...
    From China, the rockets make several stops before reaching Gaza. In many cases, officials said, they are bought by Iran or Hizbullah and then transferred to Sinai.

    In some instances, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has learned of weapons that came from Yemen and Eritrea, were moved to Sudan, then north to Egypt, and finally smuggled into Gaza.

    According to those defense officials the rockets are not made in Iran and never seem never to touch Iran or Lebanese ground. They do not know who pays for them ('bought by Iran or Hizbullah') but assert they take about the longest possible smuggling route touching all countries that are on Israel's current enemy list.

    But how does that fit with the first MoU assertion?

    Posted by b on January 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

    Everything you wanted to know about how Zionists control US policy

    by Malooga

    I was recently asked to answer the following question: In the original post there is mention of Israel controlling US policy. How exactly does that work?

    The short answer is this: A highly influential and extremely well bankrolled collection of groups directs energy simultaneously in a number of directions: Political, media, academic, inter-faith, and other areas, in order to create consent for Israel's policies and to sway politicians to support those policies. The rest of this article examines this process in greater detail, primarily through the words of academics who have studied it for years.

    To my mind, Israel's actions, and the extent to which they are enabled by the power of the Zionist lobby is -- or at least should be -- the central moral question confronting Jewish people worldwide, and especially in the US.

    To the extent that it isn't, is the clearest indication of the moral degeneration, and ironically, the existential purposelessness which Zionism -- as an answer -- has provided to the Jewish people.

    There are no two words which I find more distasteful than "Never Again" -- whether it comes from a Zionist, or my girlfriend. In the case of a Zionist, it is because of the sheer hypocrisy it entails; in the case of my girlfriend, because of its adamantine certainty. (OK, just injecting a little humor into a humorless topic.)

    Israel's actions should be of equal concern to any human concerned with Justice and minimizing human suffering, especially Americans and Europeans whose governments support these unjust and genocidal polices, which potentially threaten to escalate and consume the entire world

    Because of this, I have followed this topic very closely over the years (I produced and syndicated the first radio program dedicated to covering Palestine from the Palestinian perspective.) – so, rather than deluge people with sources, I will stick with four primary ones: Edward L. Bernays, to help us understand how power is wielded, the seminal paper on the Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and similar studies and observations by academic James Petras, and activist Jeffrey Blankfort.

    First off, everyone knows that Chomsky is, in many ways, my intellectual godfather. But Chomsky is completely wrong on this issue, just as he is on 9-11. Many lite-Zionists seek to deflect attention away from Israel and Jews, and towards some abstract faceless conception of US State power.

    I have written a lot about understanding power lately, but more as subsidiary to other issues, like understanding Obama. In reality, the topic deserves its own extended post and comments thread to fully flesh out my concepts. However, in the interests of time and space, let me be as brief as possible.

    I do believe in the primacy of structural analysis in understanding the actions of Power. But Chomsky concentrates too much on executive power, at the expense of other types of power: Congressional, Judicial, and, especially, organizational.

    It was Edward L. Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, in his groundbreaking 1928 book, “Propaganda” who first develops the theory by which opinions are formed among people and power is wielded. It is as incumbent for anyone who struggles for any cause whatsoever to read this book, as it is incumbent upon one who seeks to understand Christianity to read the Bible. Here are some brief excerpts:

    It is the purpose of this book to explain the structure of the mechanism which controls the public mind, and to tell how it is manipulated by the special pleader who seeks to create public acceptance for a particular idea or commodity.

    THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

    We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society...

    It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government, and its framers seem not to have pictured to themselves the existence in our national politics of anything like the modern political machine. But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.

    In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time...

    As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented...

    When the Constitution was adopted, the unit of organization was the village community, which produced the greater part of its own necessary commodities and generated its group ideas and opinions by personal contact and discussion directly among its citizens. But to-day, because ideas can be instantaneously transmitted to any distance and to any number of people, this geographical integration has been supplemented by many other kinds of grouping, so that persons having the same ideas and interests may be associated and regimented for common action even though they live thousands of miles apart.

    It is extremely difficult to realize how many and diverse are these cleavages in our society. They may be social, political, economic, racial, religious or eth- ical, with hundreds of subdivisions of each. In the World Almanac, for example, the following groups are listed under the A's:...

    Present-day politics places emphasis on personality. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality. A charming candidate is the alchemist's secret that can transmute a prosaic platform into the gold of votes.

    The public is not made up merely of Democrats and Republicans. People to-day are largely uninterested in politics and their interest in the issues of the campaign must be secured by coordinating it with their personal interests. The public is made up of interlocking groups —economic, social, religious, educational, cultural, racial, collegiate, local, sports, and hundreds of others.

    When President Coolidge invited actors for breakfast, he did so because he realized not only that actors were a group, but that audiences, the large group of people who like amusements, who like people who amuse them, and who like people who can be amused, ought to be aligned with him...

    The political campaign having defined its broad objects and its basic plans, having defined the group appeal which it must use, must carefully allocate to each of the media at hand the work which it can do with maximum efficiency.

    The media through which a political campaign may be brought home to the public are numerous and fairly well defined. Events and activities must be created in order to put ideas into circulation, in these channels, which are as varied as the means of human communication. Every object which presents pictures or words that the public can see, everything that presents intelligible sounds, can be utilized in one way or another.

    At present, the political campaigner uses for the greatest part the radio, the press, the banquet hall, the mass meeting, the lecture platform, and the stump generally as a means for furthering his ideas. But this is only a small part of what may be done. Actually there are infinitely more varied events that can be created to dramatize the campaign, and to make people talk of it. Exhibitions, contests, institutes of politics, the cooperation of educational institutions, the dramatic cooperation of groups which hitherto have not been drawn into active politics, and many others may be made the vehicle for the presentation of ideas to the public.

    But whatever is done must be synchronized accurately with all other forms of appeal to the public. News reaches the public through the printed word— books, magazines, letters, posters, circulars and banners, newspapers; through pictures—photographs and motion pictures; through the ear—lectures, speeches, band music, radio, campaign songs. All these must be employed by the political party if it is to succeed. One method of appeal is merely one method of appeal and in this age wherein a thousand movements and ideas are competing for public attention, one dare not put all one's eggs into one basket.

    In March of 2006, the intellectual world was set aflame by the London Review of Books publishing an edited, but still quite substantial version of the paper by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby.” Here are some excerpts:

    So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America’s support for Israel, how are we to explain it?

    The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. We use ‘the Lobby’ as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that ‘the Lobby’ is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ emotionally attached to Israel.

    Jewish Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organisations in the Lobby, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party’s expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo peace process. The bulk of US Jewry, meanwhile, is more inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups – such as Jewish Voice for Peace – strongly advocate such steps. Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both favour giving steadfast support to Israel.

    They then go on to methodically detail just who those groups are and how they wield power.

    Not surprisingly, American Jewish leaders often consult Israeli officials, to make sure that their actions advance Israeli goals. As one activist from a major Jewish organisation wrote, ‘it is routine for us to say: “This is our policy on a certain issue, but we must check what the Israelis think.” We as a community do it all the time.’ There is a strong prejudice against criticising Israeli policy, and putting pressure on Israel is considered out of order. Edgar Bronfman Sr, the president of the World Jewish Congress, was accused of ‘perfidy’ when he wrote a letter to President Bush in mid-2003 urging him to persuade Israel to curb construction of its controversial ‘security fence’. His critics said that ‘it would be obscene at any time for the president of the World Jewish Congress to lobby the president of the United States to resist policies being promoted by the government of Israel.’

    Similarly, when the president of the Israel Policy Forum, Seymour Reich, advised Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to ask Israel to reopen a critical border crossing in the Gaza Strip, his action was denounced as ‘irresponsible’: ‘There is,’ his critics said, ‘absolutely no room in the Jewish mainstream for actively canvassing against the security-related policies . . . of Israel.’ Recoiling from these attacks, Reich announced that ‘the word “pressure” is not in my vocabulary when it comes to Israel.’

    Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington ‘muscle rankings’.

    The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals like Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, former majority leaders in the House of Representatives, all of whom believe Israel’s rebirth is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda; to do otherwise, they believe, would be contrary to God’s will. Neo-conservative gentiles such as John Bolton; Robert Bartley, the former Wall Street Journal editor; William Bennett, the former secretary of education; Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former UN ambassador; and the influential columnist George Will are also steadfast supporters.

    The US form of government offers activists many ways of influencing the policy process. Interest groups can lobby elected representatives and members of the executive branch, make campaign contributions, vote in elections, try to mould public opinion etc. They enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence when they are committed to an issue to which the bulk of the population is indifferent. Policymakers will tend to accommodate those who care about the issue, even if their numbers are small, confident that the rest of the population will not penalise them for doing so....

    The Lobby pursues two broad strategies. First, it wields its significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the executive branch. Whatever an individual lawmaker or policymaker’s own views may be, the Lobby tries to make supporting Israel the ‘smart’ choice. Second, it strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates. The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy.

    A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: ‘My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.’ One might think that the No. 1 priority for any congressman would be to protect America. There are also Jewish senators and congressmen who work to ensure that US foreign policy supports Israel’s interests.

    Another source of the Lobby’s power is its use of pro-Israel congressional staffers. As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, ‘there are a lot of guys at the working level up here’ – on Capitol Hill – ‘who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level.’

    AIPAC itself, however, forms the core of the Lobby’s influence in Congress. Its success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. Money is critical to US elections (as the scandal over the lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s shady dealings reminds us), and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the many pro-Israel political action committees. Anyone who is seen as hostile to Israel can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to his or her political opponents. AIPAC also organises letter-writing campaigns and encourages newspaper editors to endorse pro-Israel candidates.

    There is no doubt about the efficacy of these tactics. Here is one example: in the 1984 elections, AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, who, according to a prominent Lobby figure, had ‘displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns’. Thomas Dine, the head of AIPAC at the time, explained what happened: ‘All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.’

    AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill goes even further. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member, ‘it is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts.’ More important, he notes that AIPAC is ‘often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes’.

    The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, ‘you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.’ Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, ‘when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: “Help AIPAC.”’

    Thanks in part to the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections, the Lobby also has significant leverage over the executive branch. Although they make up fewer than 3 per cent of the population, they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates ‘depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money’. And because Jewish voters have high turn-out rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, presidential candidates go to great lengths not to antagonise them.

    Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.

    When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers . . . are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning – without much evidence – that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’

    This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.

    During the Clinton administration, Middle Eastern policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organisations; among them, Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of research at AIPAC and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001; and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits the country. These men were among Clinton’s closest advisers at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favoured the creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel. The American delegation took its cues from Ehud Barak, co-ordinated its negotiating positions with Israel in advance, and did not offer independent proposals. Not surprisingly, Palestinian negotiators complained that they were ‘negotiating with two Israeli teams – one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag’.

    The situation is even more pronounced in the Bush administration, whose ranks have included such fervent advocates of the Israeli cause as Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis (‘Scooter’) Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser. As we shall see, these officials have consistently pushed for policies favoured by Israel and backed by organisations in the Lobby.

    The Lobby doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.

    The Lobby’s perspective prevails in the mainstream media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is ‘dominated by people who cannot imagine criticising Israel’. He lists 61 ‘columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification’. Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticise Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favours the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.

    ‘Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me,’ Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn.

    Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times, which occasionally criticises Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but is not even-handed. In his memoirs the paper’s former executive editor Max Frankel acknowledges the impact his own attitude had on his editorial decisions: ‘I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert . . . Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognised, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective.’

    News reports are more even-handed, in part because reporters strive to be objective, but also because it is difficult to cover events in the Occupied Territories without acknowledging Israel’s actions on the ground. To discourage unfavourable reporting, the Lobby organises letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts of news outlets whose content it considers anti-Israel. One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets 6000 email messages in a single day complaining about a story. In May 2003, the pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organised demonstrations outside National Public Radio stations in 33 cities; it also tried to persuade contributors to withhold support from NPR until its Middle East coverage becomes more sympathetic to Israel. Boston’s NPR station, WBUR, reportedly lost more than $1 million in contributions as a result of these efforts. Further pressure on NPR has come from Israel’s friends in Congress, who have asked for an internal audit of its Middle East coverage as well as more oversight.

    The Israeli side also dominates the think tanks which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy. The Lobby created its own think tank in 1985, when Martin Indyk helped to found WINEP. Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel, claiming instead to provide a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, it is funded and run by individuals deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda.

    The Lobby’s influence extends well beyond WINEP, however. Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). These think tanks employ few, if any, critics of US support for Israel.

    Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William Quandt, a former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings’s coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Studies, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre’s director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus.

    Where the Lobby has had the most difficulty is in stifling debate on university campuses. In the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process was underway, there was only mild criticism of Israel, but it grew stronger with Oslo’s collapse and Sharon’s access to power, becoming quite vociferous when the IDF reoccupied the West Bank in spring 2002 and employed massive force to subdue the second intifada.

    The Lobby moved immediately to ‘take back the campuses’. New groups sprang up, like the Caravan for Democracy, which brought Israeli speakers to US colleges. Established groups like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Hillel joined in, and a new group, the Israel on Campus Coalition, was formed to co-ordinate the many bodies that now sought to put Israel’s case. Finally, AIPAC more than tripled its spending on programmes to monitor university activities and to train young advocates, in order to ‘vastly expand the number of students involved on campus . . . in the national pro-Israel effort’.

    The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report remarks or behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel. This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars provoked a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report ‘anti-Israel’ activity.

    Groups within the Lobby put pressure on particular academics and universities. Columbia has been a frequent target, no doubt because of the presence of the late Edward Said on its faculty. ‘One can be sure that any public statement in support of the Palestinian people by the pre-eminent literary critic Edward Said will elicit hundreds of emails, letters and journalistic accounts that call on us to denounce Said and to either sanction or fire him,’ Jonathan Cole, its former provost, reported. When Columbia recruited the historian Rashid Khalidi from Chicago, the same thing happened. It was a problem Princeton also faced a few years later when it considered wooing Khalidi away from Columbia.

    A classic illustration of the effort to police academia occurred towards the end of 2004, when the David Project produced a film alleging that faculty members of Columbia’s Middle East Studies programme were anti-semitic and were intimidating Jewish students who stood up for Israel. Columbia was hauled over the coals, but a faculty committee which was assigned to investigate the charges found no evidence of anti-semitism and the only incident possibly worth noting was that one professor had ‘responded heatedly’ to a student’s question. The committee also discovered that the academics in question had themselves been the target of an overt campaign of intimidation.

    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is the efforts Jewish groups have made to push Congress into establishing mechanisms to monitor what professors say. If they manage to get this passed, universities judged to have an anti-Israel bias would be denied federal funding. Their efforts have not yet succeeded, but they are an indication of the importance placed on controlling debate.

    A number of Jewish philanthropists have recently established Israel Studies programmes (in addition to the roughly 130 Jewish Studies programmes already in existence) so as to increase the number of Israel-friendly scholars on campus. In May 2003, NYU announced the establishment of the Taub Center for Israel Studies; similar programmes have been set up at Berkeley, Brandeis and Emory. Academic administrators emphasise their pedagogical value, but the truth is that they are intended in large part to promote Israel’s image. Fred Laffer, the head of the Taub Foundation, makes it clear that his foundation funded the NYU centre to help counter the ‘Arabic [sic] point of view’ that he thinks is prevalent in NYU’s Middle East programmes.

    No discussion of the Lobby would be complete without an examination of one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-semitism. Anyone who criticises Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy – an influence AIPAC celebrates – stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-semitism, even though the Israeli media refer to America’s ‘Jewish Lobby’. In other words, the Lobby first boasts of its influence and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. It’s a very effective tactic: anti-semitism is something no one wants to be accused of.

    Europeans have been more willing than Americans to criticise Israeli policy, which some people attribute to a resurgence of anti-semitism in Europe. We are ‘getting to a point’, the US ambassador to the EU said in early 2004, ‘where it is as bad as it was in the 1930s’. Measuring anti-semitism is a complicated matter, but the weight of evidence points in the opposite direction. In the spring of 2004, when accusations of European anti-semitism filled the air in America, separate surveys of European public opinion conducted by the US-based Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that it was in fact declining...

    The story begins in late September 2001, when Bush began urging Sharon to show restraint in the Occupied Territories. He also pressed him to allow Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to meet with Yasser Arafat, even though he (Bush) was highly critical of Arafat’s leadership. Bush even said publicly that he supported the creation of a Palestinian state. Alarmed, Sharon accused him of trying ‘to appease the Arabs at our expense’, warning that Israel ‘will not be Czechoslovakia’.

    Bush was reportedly furious at being compared to Chamberlain, and the White House press secretary called Sharon’s remarks ‘unacceptable’. Sharon offered a pro forma apology, but quickly joined forces with the Lobby to persuade the administration and the American people that the United States and Israel faced a common threat from terrorism. Israeli officials and Lobby representatives insisted that there was no real difference between Arafat and Osama bin Laden: the United States and Israel, they said, should isolate the Palestinians’ elected leader and have nothing to do with him.

    The Lobby also went to work in Congress. On 16 November, 89 senators sent Bush a letter praising him for refusing to meet with Arafat, but also demanding that the US not restrain Israel from retaliating against the Palestinians; the administration, they wrote, must state publicly that it stood behind Israel. According to the New York Times, the letter ‘stemmed’ from a meeting two weeks before between ‘leaders of the American Jewish community and key senators’, adding that AIPAC was ‘particularly active in providing advice on the letter’.

    By late November, relations between Tel Aviv and Washington had improved considerably. This was thanks in part to the Lobby’s efforts, but also to America’s initial victory in Afghanistan, which reduced the perceived need for Arab support in dealing with al-Qaida. Sharon visited the White House in early December and had a friendly meeting with Bush.

    In April 2002 trouble erupted again, after the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield and resumed control of virtually all the major Palestinian areas on the West Bank. Bush knew that Israel’s actions would damage America’s image in the Islamic world and undermine the war on terrorism, so he demanded that Sharon ‘halt the incursions and begin withdrawal’. He underscored this message two days later, saying he wanted Israel to ‘withdraw without delay’. On 7 April, Condoleezza Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, told reporters: ‘“Without delay” means without delay. It means now.’ That same day Colin Powell set out for the Middle East to persuade all sides to stop fighting and start negotiating.

    Israel and the Lobby swung into action. Pro-Israel officials in the vice-president’s office and the Pentagon, as well as neo-conservative pundits like Robert Kagan and William Kristol, put the heat on Powell. They even accused him of having ‘virtually obliterated the distinction between terrorists and those fighting terrorists’. Bush himself was being pressed by Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals. Tom DeLay and Dick Armey were especially outspoken about the need to support Israel, and DeLay and the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, visited the White House and warned Bush to back off.

    The first sign that Bush was caving in came on 11 April – a week after he told Sharon to withdraw his forces – when the White House press secretary said that the president believed Sharon was ‘a man of peace’. Bush repeated this statement publicly on Powell’s return from his abortive mission, and told reporters that Sharon had responded satisfactorily to his call for a full and immediate withdrawal. Sharon had done no such thing, but Bush was no longer willing to make an issue of it.

    Meanwhile, Congress was also moving to back Sharon. On 2 May, it overrode the administration’s objections and passed two resolutions reaffirming support for Israel. (The Senate vote was 94 to 2; the House of Representatives version passed 352 to 21.) Both resolutions held that the United States ‘stands in solidarity with Israel’ and that the two countries were, to quote the House resolution, ‘now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism’. The House version also condemned ‘the ongoing support and co-ordination of terror by Yasser Arafat’, who was portrayed as a central part of the terrorism problem. Both resolutions were drawn up with the help of the Lobby. A few days later, a bipartisan congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission to Israel stated that Sharon should resist US pressure to negotiate with Arafat. On 9 May, a House appropriations subcommittee met to consider giving Israel an extra $200 million to fight terrorism. Powell opposed the package, but the Lobby backed it and Powell lost.

    In short, Sharon and the Lobby took on the president of the United States and triumphed. Hemi Shalev, a journalist on the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, reported that Sharon’s aides ‘could not hide their satisfaction in view of Powell’s failure. Sharon saw the whites of President Bush’s eyes, they bragged, and the president blinked first.’ But it was Israel’s champions in the United States, not Sharon or Israel, that played the key role in defeating Bush.

    But Mearsheimer and Walt's work, as powerful as it is, was criticized by some for “pulling their punches,” by describing the Lobby as just another lobby, if a more powerful than most. Additionally, their research was based upon the prior work of more radical intellectuals who have been largely excised from corporate coverage because of their critical views of the lobby -- among them Jeffery Blankfort and James Petras.

    In addition to describing the structure and workings of the lobby in detail, they critically examine boycotts and divestment strategies, concluding that they are the only workable first option towards disempowering the lobby, and halting Israel's genocidal policies.

    Petras has written two books on what he calls the “Zionist Power Configuration,” and produces an annual scorecard of its status and accomplishments. Here is some of what he had to say for 2008:

    The strategy of the Jewish state is the complete Zionization of Palestine, the takeover of land, water, offshore gas (estimated to be worth $4 billion dollars) and other economic resources and the total dispossession of the Palestinian people... Recently Israel, through the ZPC in the US, has engaged in a comprehensive, intense and highly charged political, diplomatic, economic and military campaign to isolate and ultimately destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran as a political counterweight to its ambitions in the Middle East (“Israel: Iran building Nuclear Arms”, Aljazeera February 12, 2008). The principal propaganda tool of the ZPC and its Israeli patrons is to claim Iran represents a ‘military threat’ to Israel, Iraq, the Gulf oil producers and the US. This outlandish charge is repeatedly made by ZPC ideologues. According to the 2008 edition of the International Institute of Strategic Studies Military Balance, Iran’s total defense spending for 2006 was nearly 55% less than Israel despite having ten times the population of the Jewish state and facing hundreds of US- supported terrorist incursions across its borders. Per capita, Israeli military expenditures were 17 times more than Iran ($1,737 per Israeli – not counting US direct military assistance – versus $110 for each Iranian citizen). It is widely acknowledged that Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons capable of striking Iranian population centers while Iran has none. Israel receives over $3 billion US dollars a year in direct US military aid, including the most advanced offensive military technology – while Iran receives no foreign military aid and has little defensive technology. According to US Budgetary Hearings, from 2009 to 2018 Israel will receive a $30 billion dollar package of direct foreign military financing from the US, while Iran will receive nothing from any foreign state...

    The second task of the ZPC in pursuit of Israel’s agenda is to ensure no major political candidate debates or questions Israeli genocidal policies toward the Palestinians and its military ambitions in the Middle East. In the US Presidential election of 2008, the ZPC’s role is to ensure that all major candidates endorse, support and promote the Israeli political agenda, despite its genocidal policies (see Gideon Levy, “The Lights have been turned off”, Haaretz February 4, 2008) and repudiation of international law. The ZPC has imposed on all Presidential candidates Israel’s bellicose posture toward Iran, and its explicit policy of liquidating Hamas political leaders. According to Israeli Minister of Housing and construction, Zeev Boim, “all members of Hamas political leadership are involved in terrorist acts against Israel…so they must be liquidated.” (Israeli Army Radio- Galei Tzahal, February 9, 2008 cited in Haaretz).

    The third task of the ZPC is to use their strategic positions in the White House, Treasury, Pentagon and State Department to undermine Iran’s economy, politically isolate it and provoke internal and external confrontations...

    The ZPC is made up of all the major Jewish organizations, pro-Israel plutocrats, media barons and government officials who are Israel Firsters. In the face of the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe imposed by Israel’s food and energy blockade of Gaza, and its thorough repudiation of the terms of the Annapolis peace negotiation the Zionist power configuration had its work cut out for it in selling the Israeli genocidal agenda as a defensive, justifiable policy of a peace-loving democracy. The second task of the ZPC was to overcome the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran which refuted Israeli and White House propaganda painting Iran as a nuclear threat. The Israeli state propaganda machine went on an all out assault of the NIE, claiming to have superior knowledge of hidden Iranian research programs – without providing a shred of reliable evidence. Once the Israeli state defined its position to the NIE, the entire leadership of the Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO), all the major Zionist- controlled propaganda centers (‘think tanks’) and an army of Israel-First academics (self-styled ‘intelligence experts’) and ideologues deluged the print and electronic mass media with attacks on the NIE report, echoing and citing the rhetoric and claims of the Israeli state. The White House and Congress (with few exceptions) followed the line of the ZPC, downplaying and distorting the NIE, escalating their bellicose rhetoric and pressure for sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council and among the EU and NATO countries. The success of the ZPC in sustaining US confrontational policies against Iran, and forcefully selling the Israeli policy to the US political elite even against the findings and report of all the US intelligence agencies is a measure of the decisive power of the ZPC over US Middle East policy. Never in the entire history of the US has a small and economically insignificant foreign power wielded so much influence over Washington in a strategic region through its overseas representatives over and against the advice of America’s entire intelligence establishment.

    The key to Zionist power is its ability to leverage and multiply its influence through non-Zionist congressional, media, pension fund managers, state and municipal officials and a host of trade union, academic and other notables and civic organizations. Strategically placed Zionists focused on the single issue of Israel, bring to bear the economic and organizational resources of their 1 million affiliates, supporters and media publicists on targeting policy makers in all relevant fields. The targeted individuals and organizations representing many millions of American Gentiles and non-Zionist Jews usually capitulate to the pressure or payoffs or are persuaded to follow the lead of the aggressive focused Zionist zealots. The propaganda value of having non-Zionists with a mass organizational base carrying out Israeli policies is immense. Leveraging the ‘others’ allows the pro-Israel liberal ideologues to obfuscate, downplay and dilute the real power of Israel and the ZPC in the making of US Middle East policy. As a consequence, we find what I call ‘mish-mash’ analyses which argue that “The Zionist pro-Israel lobby (sic) is only one of many groups and interests influencing US Middle East policy”. In other words, Zionist leveraged politicians are given a degree of autonomy and attributed a set of interests, which effectively hides Zionist initiatives, pressures and tactical leverage.

    In 2008 Zionist direct and leveraged power is manifested in several decisively important areas of US politics, especially in foreign policy.

    The ZPC and the Presidential Elections

    All of the major presidential candidates have slavishly followed the most extreme pro-Israel positions promoted by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. John McCain, the Republican front-runner declares his unconditional support for Israel’s territorial expansion, settlements and genocidal policy toward Gaza. According to the Jewish weekly, The Forward (February 13, 2008), “On Israel,…McCain has been uncharacteristically conventional. He offers unqualified support, expressed in years of public statements…” The same article emphasizes how in 2006 McCain capitulated to Zionist pressure in a matter of days by recanting his position on Israel returning to its 1967 borders: “I’ve never held the position that Israeli should return to the 1967 lines and that is not my position today.” On February 7, 2008 McCain defined US-Iranian policy on strictly Zionist terms: “Those (Democratic) senators won’t recognize and seriously address the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions to our ally Israel in the region.” (McCain’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, February 7, 2008, quoted in Haaretz February 10, 2008). In 2007, McCain happily echoed Israeli demands to bomb Iran with the vulgar and sinister new refrain to an old Beach Boys rock song… “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb…Bomb-bomb Iran”.

    Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have supported every major position and demand of the ZPC: Both have pledged unconditional support for Israel; they have backed Israel’s genocidal policies against Gaza, the expansion of settlements and the total takeover of Jerusalem. Hillary Clinton urges recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – contrary to the United Nations, the European Union and even the Bush Administration’s position. Zionist ideologues are among the top foreign policy and Middle East advisers of all three top contenders for their party’s presidential nomination. The public record reads Zionist decisive influence over the next US President’s Middle East policy. The only possible deviation is Obama’s statement that he is willing to negotiate with the Iranian government – a policy that the Bush regime, in part, already practices at a lesser official level via meetings in Iraq. For his minor discrepancy from the Zionist war rhetoric toward Iran, Obama was chastised by Malcolm Hoenlein, head of the CPMAJO (Haaretz January 18, 2008). To compensate for talking too much about ‘change’ which worries the paranoid Jewish leaders, like Hoenlein, Obama went out of his way to blame the civilians living in Gaza for the Israeli campaign to starve them into surrender and called on them to revolt against their democratically-elected Hamas government. The ZPC is the only major national political-social apparatus, which engages in a comprehensive, persistent and intensive campaign to direct US foreign policy into a full-scale (diplomatic, military and economic) confrontation with Iran.

    Silencing Potential Critics of the ZPC

    Almost every major centrist, leftist or progressive journal, weekly magazine, radio and web site has refused to discuss the singular influence of the ZPC over the Presidential candidates’ Middle East policy - a further indication of the reach and influence of the ZPC. The best indication that the ZPC is not ‘just another lobby’ as Mearsheimer and Walt claim, or a simply another bellicose neo-conservative current of opinion, is found in their slavish adherence to the Israeli state’s policies, even when they blatantly defy and repudiate the rightwing policies of President Bush. At Annapolis (November 2007) President Bush called on Israel to cease building new settlements in order to further peace negotiations. Exactly three months later Israel announced plans to build over 1,000 (1,250) new Jews-only homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem (BBC News, February 12, 2008). The Daily Alert propaganda sheet of the CPMAJO immediately endorsed the Israeli position and set in motion its major lobbyists, op-ed ideologues and media ‘experts’ to justify Israel’s crass repudiation of its agreement with President Bush.

    Rather than confront this flagrant, highly public, unilateral and shameful Israeli repudiation of its agreement with the White House, President Bush , Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Gates all played ‘Mickey the Dunce’. White House press secretary, Dana Perino, claimed she had not seen the report about Israel’s plans to build new apartments in East Jerusalem – though it was ‘news’ in all the mass electronic and print media. In fear of the ZPC, Perino responded as if the entire affair was simply a problem for the Palestinians: “But obviously, there is no doubt that an announcement of that sort (building 1,125 new Jews-only segregated apartments) would make the Palestinians concerned” (Santa Barbara News-Press February 12, 2008).

    Zionist Power: Treasury Department

    Within the government, the principal architect and key operative of the US worldwide campaign to strangle the Iranian economy is a top Treasury Department official, Stuart Levey, a zealous Zionist and key agent of the ZPC in the executive branch. Levey has successfully browbeat the reticent, persuaded the gullible and teamed up with co-thinkers who control state, municipal and private pension funds to withdraw investments from any enterprise which deals with Iran. Levey is a major architect of the Treasury’s economic sanctions policy, which Washington has promoted in the United Nations Security Council. Levey’s policies have succeeded in blocking Iranian private bank transactions. They have received the support of the White House and the National Security Council despite the NIE report, which found that Iran was not engaged in a nuclear weapons program. Mohamed El Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency have confirmed the position of the NIE (Associated Press, February 23, 2008). Unlike Levey, the NIE and the IAEA are agencies, which are not influenced by the Zionist power configuration.

    Nevertheless, the Israeli demands (pushed by the ZPC) for further sanctions based on unfounded claims of continued nuclear arms programs trumps the NIE and IAEA intelligence findings. The White House, France, England and Germany demand new and harsher sanctions against Iran. Never in the history of Israeli influence over US Middle East policy has the pro-Israel power configuration so much influence as it has today: The US government (President to Congress to Presidential hopefuls) repudiate its own intelligence agencies in favor of the ‘intelligence’ claims of a foreign power. Never has the US Treasury Department been so influenced by Israel Firsters, like Stuart Levey, Daniel Glaser and their colleagues in putting the interests of Israel above and beyond the interests of the major US and European oil companies.

    At every AIPAC meeting since 2004, in every publication of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations over the past 5 years, in each and every state and citywide conference of Jewish community councils, every effort has been made to promote US military action or economic sanctions against Iran. In fact, the ZPC escalated its campaign against Iran after the NIE was published and intensified their campaign in favor of Israel’s fabricated ‘intelligence claims’ (Daily Alert, November 2007 – February 2008). The dual power position of Israel Firsters in key policy positions and civil society defines their influence over US Middle East policy.

    The International Dimension

    The US ZPC has been immensely aided in securing its bellicose anti-Iranian agenda by the appointments of prominent Zionists to key foreign policy positions in England and France. David Milliband, the British Foreign Minister, has close family ties with Jewish settlers from Britain colonizing the occupied West Bank. During a visit to Israel, he spent several days with Israeli officials and an evening with his relatives, while totally ignoring the issue of the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza suffering from Israel’s genocidal blockade. Milliband has been a fierce defender of keeping the ‘military option on the table’, heightening economic sanctions against Iran and is an unconditional supporter of Israel’s brutal policy preventing the shipment of food and fuel from reaching the suffering people of the Gaza strip.

    Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister is a lifelong zealous Zionist who, upon taking office, pronounced himself in favor of a military attack on Iran ‘if negotiations fail’. As the new Foreign Minister, Kouchner went to US occupied Iraq and praised the occupation and puppet ‘government’ despite the over 1 million civilian deaths and 4 million destitute refugees which has resulted from the invasion and occupation. Kouchner (appointed by French President Sarkozy – under pressure from the Zionists), like president Bush gave strong backing to any Israeli ‘military pre-emptive action’ (offensive military assault), though a strong negative reaction from the French public forced him to tone down his overt support of Israeli military actions.

    With such powerful political allies and co-thinkers in the American, French and British governments and the controlling role of the ZPC over US policymakers in the United Nations, it comes as no surprise that Israel received no reprimand for its daily murders and abductions of civilians and Palestinian officials in Gaza and the West Bank. Zion power prevents the UN from even applying its own basic international principles to prosecute crimes against humanity, including torture and collective punishment. Since its founding in the late 19th century and its spread to the US, especially after WWII, organized Zionism has never been so influential in so many spheres of government and had so much control over US Middle East policy as it possesses today. Most major pro-Israel Jewish leaders in moments of candor have publicly acknowledged that they are at the pinnacle of influence, to the effect that ‘we have never had an administration as favorable to Israel as under President Bush.’ Certainly this is an understatement that speaks to an underlying truth : Never has the US engaged in a very costly Middle Eastern war to benefit a foreign power; never has the US deliberately prevented big oil companies from signing billion dollar oil contracts by imposing economic sanctions on Iran in order to weaken a regional opponent of Israel.

    The Show Must Go On

    Not only does the ZPC directly influence US policy against Palestine, Iraq and Iran, but it has extended its campaign against ‘third parties’, countries like China which have economic relations with Sudan (a Muslim nation with an independent foreign policy which supports Palestinian rights). To an overwhelming degree, the propaganda campaign behind the so-called “Darfur genocide campaign’ is the Israeli state and its political apparatus in the US, namely the ZPC. Most of the media celebrities, led by prominent Hollywood Zionist director Steven Spielberg, have engaged in an exercise of selective moral indignation – supporting Israel, while ignoring its starvation blockade of Gaza, supporting the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq while attacking China for its ‘immoral’ oil contracts with the Sudan. The CPMAJO has focused on the Darfur ‘genocide’ because by doing so it favors the brutal separatists in southern Sudan, armed and advised by Israel, as a means of depriving pro-Palestinian Sudan of a large oil rich region in the south of the country. The Darfur campaign deliberately and systematically excludes any mention of the Israeli Supreme Court’s approval of Israel’s food and fuel blockade and deliberate prevention of the movement of medical personnel in Gaza and the West Bank, its approval of Israel’s practice of torture (‘forceful interrogations’), armed assaults on the vital infrastructure and civilian population centers of Gaza.

    Hollywood’s Darfur sideshow is a sham propaganda effort at selective humanitarian concern, which does not deviate a millimeter from the official line promoted by the Israeli state and publicized in the US by the Daily Alert, the principle bulletin of the ZPC....

    From January to the middle of February 2008, Israeli had killed, wounded and arrested nearly a thousand Palestinians, mostly but not exclusively from Gaza. Over half of those killed, arrested and wounded were unarmed civilians, the rest include Hamas and PLO security officials, militia members and anti-colonial resistance fighters. Of the 700 primitive rockets and shells launched from Gaza, not a single Israeli Jew was killed and fewer than a dozen suffered serious bodily harm. Only a contract farm laborer from Ecuador died on the Israeli side from the rockets.

    In a speech to Jewish-American leaders in mid-February, Prime Minister Olmert spelled out the gist of Israel’s totalitarian strategy. According to the BBC News (February 18, 2008) “Mr Olmert said, ‘Israel had a free hand to respond and attack anyone who has any kind of responsibility. This applied to everyone, first and foremost Hamas,” (my emphasis). The entire leadership of the major Jewish organizations, whole-heartedly approved the use of unrestrained and unlimited violence (a ‘free hand’) against the entire Palestinian population (‘any kind of responsibility’), which would include individuals who transport, feed, educate, shelter, vote for or interact with Hamas, their family members, friends, neighbors – 99% of the residents of Gaza. Giving priority to targeting ‘first and foremost Hamas’ includes several hundred thousand voters who elected Hamas in free and democratic elections.

    The ZPC has succeeded in securing the near unanimous US Congressional support for Israel’s mass arrests and daily assaults on Gaza, even when a few mass media outlets published photos of Israeli colonial soldiers parading eighty arbitrarily arrested Palestinian civilians bound and blindfolded to notorious Israeli interrogation centers (BBC News February 18, 2008) for unlimited detention with no legal guarantees against physical and psychological torture.

    The ZPC has swamped the US mass media with praise of Israel’s cross border assassinations, such as the international political murder of Hizbullah leader, Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Syria (Daily Alert February 15, 2008). Reproducing articles from the Israeli press (Jerusalem Post, Haaretz) and Zionist think tanks and weeklys (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New York Jewish Week, YNET News, CAMERA, New York Sun, and Middle East Strategy at Harvard) the Daily Alert has provided legitimacy to international assassinations by official state-directed death squads thereby extending the violence and counter-violence throughout the world. This is a fact recognized by the US FBI and Israeli officials. Heads of the Israeli international secret police, the MOSSAD, openly acknowledge the role of Israeli assassinations in provoking terrorist reprisals by putting a world-wide alert to Jews to avoid Islamic and Arab countries as well as locations where “there is a high concentration of Israelis” (Prime Minister’s Office, reprinted in the Daily Alert February 15, 2008). The Israeli practice of staging international assassinations of opposition leaders in major cities will not only invite retaliation against Israelis and Jews but also endanger sites in the US and EU, for tolerating these acts of state-sponsored terror. In other words, Israeli terror invites terrorist counter attacks like September 11, 2001. Israel, by provoking a new round in the Palestinian ‘war through global terror’ and the US and EU by embracing an Israeli car bomb assassination in Damascus endanger Western lives everywhere. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, their publicists and op-ed ideologues in the mass media are opening the entire Western world to terrorist attacks. By supporting Israeli terror and increasing the chance of Muslim reprisals, the ZPC strengthens the repressive structure of a growing police state in the US. (The ‘professional’ killing by Israeli operatives of a major figure in Damascus, Syria raises the question of the role of Israeli operatives in the as-yet unsolved series of car bomb assassinations in Lebanon – given Israel’s desire to maintain a state of internal tension in that country.) The brilliant and precocious Ivy League academic apologists of each and every act of official Israeli state-sponsored international terror apparently dissociate these acts of assassination from likely reprisals in our country and the consequent further destruction of our remaining precarious democratic freedoms. Could it be that Zionist American intellectuals welcome more US police state agencies and laws in order to prosecute a rising number of Americans who are critical of Zionist influence over the American political process? They might do well to recall that police state structures and laws could be used against them in the future.

    Here's a selection from Petras' latest article The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers, Apologists and Arms Suppliers:

    From the moment that the Israeli Government decided it would destroy the newly elected Hamas government and punish the democratic electorate of Gaza with starvation and murder, the entire Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) in the US, including the PMAJO, pulled all stops in implementing the Israeli policy. The PMAJO encompasses the fifty-two Jewish organizations with the largest membership, with the greatest financial clout and the most influential backers. The most prominent lobbyist within the PMAJO is AIPAC, which has over 100,000 members and 150 full-time operatives in Washington actively pressuring the US Congress, the White House and all administrative agencies whose policies may relate to the interests of the State of Israel. However Israeli political extends far beyond its non-governmental agencies. Over two score legislators in the Congress and over a dozen senators are committed Zionists who automatically back Israel’s policies and push for US funding and armaments for its military machine. Top officials in key administrative positions, in Treasury, Commerce and the National Security Council, senior functionaries in the Pentagon and top advisers on Middle East affairs are also life-long, fanatically committed Zionists, who consistently and unreservedly back the policies of the State of Israel.

    Equally important, the majority of the largest film, print and electronic media are owned or deeply influenced by Jewish-Zionist media moguls who are committed to slanting the ‘news’ in favor of Israel. The composition and influence of the ZPC is central to understanding three main characteristics of Israel’s power: (1) Israel can commit what leading United Nations and international human rights experts have defined as ‘crimes against humanity’ with total impunity; (2) Israel can secure an unlimited supply of the most technologically advanced and destructive weapons and use them without limit on a civilian population in violation of even US Congressional restrictions and (3) scores of almost unanimous United Nations condemnations of the construction of genocidal apartheid barriers against a native population, starvation embargoes and the current extermination campaign in Gaza are always vetoed by the US representative...

    The ZPC played a major role in all stages of Israel’s extermination campaign against Gaza including a sustained propaganda effort. The ZPC orchestrated a massive successful campaign through the extensive network of American mass media, which it controls and influences. It fabricated an image of the Hamas administration in Gaza as a terrorist organization, which allegedly seized power through violence – totally denying its rise to power through internationally supervised, democratic elections and its defense of its electoral mandate against a US-Israeli backed PLO military takeover. The entire Zionist Jewish leadership backed Israel’s land grabs, its ghetto wall around Palestinians, the hundreds of road blocks, the Jewish settlers violently taking over Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the criminal, genocidal Israeli economic embargo on Gaza designed to systematically starve the Palestinians into submission. Throughout the two years of this Israeli extermination campaign, American Zionists played a major role in leading the servile US government at home and abroad in backing each totalitarian measure: The vast majority of local synagogues became bully-pulpits defending the starvation and degradation of 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza caged on all sides by deadly force...

    The Zionist-controlled US print media, in particular the New York Times and the Washington Post, systematically fabricated an account that fit perfectly with Israel’s official line defending its massive assault on Gaza: Omitting any historical account ….

    The Conference of President of the Major American Jewish Organizations, and the vast majority of Jewish communal groups and congregations, gave enthusiastic and unanimous support to Israel’s total war...

    A close reading of the most important propaganda organ of the PMAJO, The Daily Alert (TDA), during the first 5 days of Israel’s assault, reveals the propaganda tack taken by the leadership of the pro-Israel power configuration. TDA systematically worked to achieve the following:

    1.Exaggerate the threats to Israel by the Palestinian missiles from Gaza, citing 4 Israeli deaths, while omitting any mention of the 2,500 Palestinian dead and wounded and the total destruction of their economy and living conditions (without safe water, electricity, food, cooking fuel, medicine and heat in the winter).

    2.Promote Israel’s military assault as ‘defensive’, directed at eliminating Hamas rocket attacks while omitting mention of Israel’s clearly stated purpose of destroying all civil organizations, social welfare agencies, educational facilities, medical clinics and public security institutions connected in any way with the elected Hamas government and any auxiliary agencies.

    3.Cite select statement from Israel’s allies and clients (Washington, the US media, Germany and the UK) blaming Hamas for the conflict without mentioning the vast majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Israel’s brutality.

    4.Reproduce Israeli slanders against any and all international human rights leaders and organizations that condemn the Jewish state’s policy of genocide against the native Palestinians. In this regard, TDA is the foremost ‘genocide denier’ in the United States and, perhaps outside of Israel, in the world.

    5.Repeatedly cite Israeli political and military leaders’ claims of acting ‘with restraint’, ‘safeguarding civilians’, and ‘targeting military objectives’, even in the face of reports and images of mass civilian destruction and loss of life documented in the vast majority of (non-US) Western media.

    6.Defend every Israeli bombing mission, every day, every hour, of every building, every home, and every economic, religious and educational institution in Gaza as ‘defensive’ or a ‘reprisal’, all the while quoting some of the most notorious, unconditional, perennial apologists of Israeli violence as if they were unbiased intellectuals, including Benny ‘Nuke Tehran’ Morris, Marty Peretz and Amos Oz.

    7.The Daily Alert quotes US writers, journalists and editors who praise and defend Israel’s ‘total war’ without identifying their long-standing affiliation and identification with Zionist organizations, giving the false image of a wide spectrum of opinion behind the assault. Never has even the most moderate Jewish or Gentile critic of Israel’s massive extermination campaign appeared in any issues of The Daily Alert.

    The principle American Jewish organizations have bombarded the US Congress, influencing, intimidating and purchasing the craven so-called ‘representatives’ of the American people, the media and public notables with lies in defense of Israel’s total war to exterminate a people.

    Jeffery Blankfort has been bravely criticizing Israel and standing up for the Palestinians his entire adult life. (In order to understand the differences between his position and Chomsky's, see this article: The Chomsky/Blankfort Polemic.) Here is a little of what he says:

    S.C. – Do you think that other countries have their equivalent of AIPAC?

    Jeffrey Blankfort : AIPAC is very unusual because while it is a registered lobby for Israel, it does not have to register as a foreign lobby. And that gives it a unique situation in the country. In every hearing in the Congress that involves Middle East issues, you have staff members of AIPAC sitting in these committee hearings. No other lobbies, foreign lobbies, have this privilege. And they also write the legislation that Congress passes regarding the Middle East. For example, the recent Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was passed a couple of years ago and which lead to what we see in Lebanon and Syria today was written by AIPAC which later bragged about it. It is not a secret. The only people that pretend they don't know it is the Left. It's on AIPAC's website, it is in their publications. AIPAC also provides interns - young, bright Jewish college students to work in the offices of members of Congress. They go to a member of Congress and say: "We have this young person who is interested in working on Capitol Hill, they will come one year and they will work in your office." No member of Congress is about to refuse a volunteer.

    Also AIPAC has a special foundation that provides free trips for members of Congress to Israel. Last year over a hundred members of Congress went to Israel, on a free trip, paid for by this foundation. Now there is a big debate about such trips in Congress paid for by various lobbies, but I do not believe that anything is going to happen there that would negatively affect AIPAC. Congress will make an exception when it comes to Israel. What is interesting is we have a country to the South of us called Mexico. Mexico is far more important to the United States, to our economy, and also there are many more people of Mexican-American extraction than Jews.

    There are thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who work here and are responsible for growing and picking the farm produce in the United States. And yet we don’t have Congressional delegations going to Mexico, we don’t have Congress talking about the importance of Mexico. If they go to Mexico, they go for a vacation, and yet here the focus is on Israel simply because of two things: money and intimidation. The Democratic Party has for years relied on wealthy Jewish donors for the majority of its contributions. AIPAC itself does not give money. AIPAC coordinates where the money should go, so if you are a wealthy Jewish donor and you want to do something to help Israel’s cause, AIPAC will let you know where to give it. Also, around the country, there are now about three dozen political action committees or PACs that exist only to give money to candidates who support Israel. None of them are identified by a name that has anything to do with Israel; so here in California we have something called the Northern Californians for Good Government”. You have in St.Louis, Missouri, the St. Louisans for Good Government. The biggest one is called the National PAC, NPAC. Then you have the Hudson Valley Political Action committee, Desert Caucus, et cetera.

    If you look at the name of these committees, you have no idea what they are for, whereas the other lobbies identify themselves by their special interest. Why not Jewish supporters of Israel? But even more important for Democrats, and for some Republicans, is the money contributed by individual Jews. For example, in 2002, an Egyptian-born Israeli, named Haim Saban, who came to the United States and made billions of dollars with a Saturday morning children's program, gave $12.3 million dollars to the Democratic party, which was only about a million and a half dollars less than the arm manufacturers political action committees gave to the both political parties.

    Now, this is just one man. And also Haim Saban, who founded the Saban Institute at the Brookings Institute which deals with Israeli issues,is also a big supporter AIPAC, and he funds events in Washington where AIPAC trains college students for pro-Israel advocacy. University campuses are a main battleground for the Jewish forces lobbying for Israel they have come together as the Israel Campus Coalition, 28 organizations, including AIPAC with Israel at the top of their agenda.

    Today, a main lobby focus is to get to the colleges campuses to stop divestment programs directed towards Israel. They also are trying to influence the next generation of community leaders who are in the universities at the moment to act in Israel's behalf.

    Someone here at MOA earlier (can't remember who, but thanks) linked to this extraordinary wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Blankfort from San Francisco Independent Media Center. I highly recommend that the time be taken to read the entire article. He spends a lot of time analyzing how the left is corrupted or mislead into non-productive paths and what are effectively, reactionary positions. Here is an excerpt about the lobby:

    It isn't just the money, however. Money is very important, but it's the way they approach politicians. AIPAC, for example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the only foreign lobby that isn't required to register as a foreign agent. They hold regional meetings around the country, at which they invite supervisors, mayors, city council people, public officials from the area, to come to these luncheons and dinners, where the speaker will be a US Senator or some very important government official, who will come into town, unknown to the media, with no notice to the media. He or she will make no other speeches, give no press conferences, and will leave. It will be reported in the local Jewish paper, but it will not be reported in the state where the person lives, except perhaps in the Jewish press there. And there's no interest in the media in following up why, for example, Senator Christopher Dodd, when he comes to San Francisco, or Mario Cuomo when he speaks out in Danville, why does he not have a press conference and talk to the media here.

    In any case, they go to this meeting, and they, these Congress people . . I'm speaking from knowledge here because I joined AIPAC and I went to one of these luncheons and I saw what was going on there. And I said, my god, this is brilliant!! They have all the leading political figures from Northern California at the meeting, from whose ranks will come the next member of Congress, no doubt.

    What happens after AIPAC leaves, then the Jewish Federation, or some local Jewish organization, maybe it's the Koret Foundation, will then send local supervisors, city council members, mayors, and so on, on all expense paid trips to Israel. They meet the Prime Minister, whoever it is, the Defense Minister, and so on, of both political parties, they take a trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, to Massada, where Jews supposedly committed suicide in Roman times, to the West Bank, where they may meet a House Arab, and they come back here knowing that they have good friends, important friends, in the Jewish community.

    These people who go into politics, all of them are ambitious. So they know that if they want to run for office, it's not just a matter of money. It's a matter of personal acquaintances. And there are certain instances where I believe people are promoted to run for office by the Lobby, and so in a sense they become the Lobby's employee from the get-go. Take Sen. Daniel Inouye, the one armed bandit from Hawaii. His first job was selling State of Israel Bonds. He doesn't list that in his official biography, but the Jewish press has written about that. And he has been one of the foremost supporters of Israel. Tom Daschle from North Dakota is another. They seem to have been promoted into running for office.

    You also have something else called blackmail, which the Left never considers as a reason for somebody doing something. But the Anti-Defamation League is a major spying organization, the largest private spying organization in the country. They spied on me. In the Bay Area, in Northern California, they spied on twelve thousand individuals, about 600 hundred organizations. Every organization, progressive, ecological, NAACP, the Asian Law Caucus, Filipino groups, Irish Northern Aid, all of them, and Jewish groups as well, progressive Jewish groups. Why do they do this? Information is important. They don't get information just gratuitously and pay people to do that.

    I was spied on, but nothing compared to a politician. So, for example, Congressman, Tom Harkin, of Iowa, who was on the Board of Directors of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, was visited one day by a member of the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC, and sent his employees home, and the next day, Harkin, soon to run for senator, is all for Israel, totally for Israel. What did they do? Did they offer him money? I doubt it. They probably found something out about Congressman Harkin. They'd given Congressman Harkin reasons why he should be pro Israel and how they would make him a US Senator, perhaps, and afterward they gave him a lot of money through campaign contributions.

    I know of another case of a progressive congressman who never would criticize Israel and who had something serious to hide, and if I knew that, so would the Israel Lobby. They have people working on this 24/7. There are many people who think that in Britain, Tony Blair is being blackmailed to support the United States. There is no good reason for the British to support the United States. Materially, they gain nothing. Their corporations have made nothing from the war. And given the British public school education, photographs could have been taken . . . there's a very good likelihood that Blair might be being blackmailed. People try to find all kind of reasons for people's actions and there may be no other political reasons than self survival.

    These are all aspects, so AIPAC has this job, this role, of directing funds to various politicians who support them. Also, even if they don't give money, the threat of them giving money to an opponent is there. So in August, 1989, a pro Israel congressperson told Morton Kondracke of the New Republic that it's not out of affection for Israel that Israel gets three billion a year and that there's no debate on the floor of Congress. It's the fear that if you do so, you will wake up the next morning to find that your opponent has a half a million dollar war chest to use against you. That was '89. Today, the war chest would be larger. So there are these threats.

    Also something that isn't generally known is the use of political consultants. There's an organization that's called Committee for an Effective Congress or something like that which is part of the lobby.

    It was started by Eleanor Roosevelt and is is one of a number of consultant groups. What these consultant groups do is go to a young Congress person. They'll loan them money. They'll also provide them with a databank of their district, critical information on each voter. This is a very expensive proposition if you want to do it on your own. These groups tend to be Zionists. So you're running for office and they come to you, and they want to take care of you, and suddenly you're in their embrace.

    Cynthia McKinney resisted AIPAC from the very beginning. One of the things they did with her, and with Earl Hilliard, who also criticized Israel, was to redraw their districts. When the Democratic Party, or the Republicans who have their own consulting groups, the members of Congress go to these groups because they have all the data. There was a congressman named Gus Savage in Illinois. Savage had a problem. He was a critic of Israel. He supported the Palestinians. And he gave a talk in which he listed and gave all the names of all the Jews outside the Chicago area who were giving money to his opponent's campaign. That, of course, was "anti-Semitic." And the Washington Jewish Week ran a headline entitled "Savaged Savage." Talk about racist, huh? And he was defeated. What they did was they redrew his district. And they did the same with Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney to get certain voters who supported them out of their district. And, of course, they got no support from the Democratic party.

    It's interesting because the Democratic Party, as I said, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Israel Lobby. And anyone who thinks that things can change by supporting an individual Democrat, other than McKinney, maybe, is crazy.

    The head of the Democratic Party Senate campaign, the one who determines where the money is going to go, is Charles Schumer, an open, leading, Jewish Zionist from New York. For the House, it's Rahm Emmanuel, who, when he was working for Bill Clinton as a high level staff member, took time off during the first Intifada to do volunteer work in Israel for the Israeli Defense Force. His family is Israeli. He says he's not. In any case, here you have two Jewish Zionists, one running the Democrats' House campaigns and one running the Senate campaigns, determining who is going to get the money in the 2006 election. It's flagrant. And yet you can't discuss this on the Left, because they'll say that sounds like anti-Semitism, or say that, "it's not important that they're Jewish," like it's not important that the Pope's Catholic. This is what we're dealing with.

    And out here in San Francisco, we have Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Whip, and Tom Lantos, one of the most important persons on the House International Relations Committee. He's the ranking Democrat, and also serves Israel as a diplomatic representative in countries where Israel has no diplomatic relations, according to the Jerusalem Post. We see major political events against the Iraq war, even for Palestine here, and yet do we hear criticism of Pelosi or Lantos?

    Just before 9/11, Steve Zeltzer and I, the Labor Committee on the Middle East no longer existing, decided we would picket of Tom Lantos, who was being given the Jewish National Fund's Man of the Year award at the Fairmont Hotel, the Jewish National Fund being the organization that took over the Palestinian land and the villages in 1948. They plant trees on Palestinian land where the trees have been uprooted. They tear out Palestinian trees in order to plant Jewish trees.

    So we decided to have a picket. It was right after the Durban conference on racism. At a meeting at the Arab Cultural Center, I asked one of the leaders of ANSWER, "Will you endorse this picket of Tom Lantos?"

    And she looked at a fellow ANSWER official there, and, kind of hesitant, asked "What do you think?"

    And he said, "I think we have to."

    So we had the picket, and about 65 people turned up. One person turned up from ANSWER, and it was that person. He turned up at the end of the picket. You'll never hear criticism of local the Democratic Party from ANSWER and ANSWER has to answer for that.

    There was a big turnout for Nancy Pelosi speaking at the Marina Middle School some months back. Global Exchange was there, as was the ISO, but not ANSWER. Nancy Pelosi is one of the most important politicians in the United States, and she's supportive of the war. She also has acknowledged that she knew about the government wiretapping. She knew about the phone lists being turned over. She's admitted that. Are we going to see a picket or protest against Nancy Pelsosi?

    Even when Global Exchange had a picket of her at the Fairmont Hotel against the war in Iraq, I had to get a hold of a microphone to remind people that she's been supporting Israel against Palestine, and pledging her loyalty to Israel every year, and I passed out copies of a speech she had made at an AIPAC convention, in which she pledged her loyalty and America's loyalty to Israel a half a dozen times.

    There should be some kind of law about that, when a Congress person pledges her allegiance to a foreign country, but when it comes to Israel there's what I call the "Israeli exception." But here we are, in what used to be a progressive community, and Tom Lantos gets no criticism whatsoever. The Labor Council supports him because he's good on labor issues, and he's good on some other human rights issues. He's also very good on pets and animal rights. He just put out some legislation on animal rights. But he is one of the main proponents of the war in Iraq and the war against the Palestinians.

    He was heavily and directly involved in the phony incubator story back in 1991, in which his Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which is actually not a part of Congress . . . it's not an official part of Congress, it's housed in the headquarters of the Hill and Knowlton PR firm in Washington, brought in a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldier coming in and taking Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, throwing them on the floor and taking the incubators back to Iraq, where they didn't have any incubators, obviously, and it turned out the story was a total fabrication. The so-called nurse was the Kuwait ambassador's daughter and hadn't even been in Kuwait. John MacArthur wrote about it in Harper's and the New York Times. Bob Scheer wrote about it in the LA Times. There was no follow up on this, no demand from the Left to follow up on this.

    If people in Lantos' own district and Pelosi's own district don't take these people on, how can we expect anybody around the country to do it? The Left is a total failure in San Francisco, an utter failure. It's a betrayal of the Iraqis. Forget the slogans. Forget "No Blood for Oil!" Forget "End the Occupation!" They have betrayed the Palestinians and the Iraqis because they haven't dealt with the political figures in this community who are responsible for the present situation.

    Politics is local. And it may appear to give you some good credits or props to picket George Bush, but we have to deal with the issues here.

    The failure to put any kind of pressure on Pelosi, over the years, even for her support of fast track on NAFTA is extraordinary.

    She's good on the Gay issues, on AIDS, of course. In San Francisco she would be. This does not take courage. This is smart politics. She was good on opposing aid to the Contras, but I asked her, when she was running for office the first time, if she would support aid to the Contras if aid to Israel was tied to it, and she said she would. She'd support the appropriation. I made a flyer out of it.

    In conclusion, a small, wealthy, highly organized, and unprecedentedly powerful group of people are leading the world – largely against their will – down a very destructive and risky path. Only by understanding the ways and means by which this is being accomplished can we hope to staunch their power and stop their plans.

    Posted by b on January 16, 2009 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

    No Miracle Here

    A plane went down on the Hudson river after losing power due to bird strike.

    The cabin air intake and outlet valves closed and prevented a premature sinking. The emergency exits opened. The rescue slides inflated and functioned as rescue rafts as they are supposed to do.  All passengers could escape.

    The pilot did as he was trained to do in many simulator sessions of emergency landing on water. The conditions for that were near perfect. There were lots of rescue staff nearby.

    The technology worked as it was supposed to do. The pilot and crew did what they had been trained to do. The condition were in favor of a fast and easy rescue.

    But the Globe & Mail is headlining 'A miracle on the Hudson'. The BBC has a Tale of miraculous airline escape. Bloomberg says US Airways Pilot Averts Tragedy With ‘Miracle’ New York Landing. Sky News believes the Crash Pilot Is Hero Of The Hudson

    Some machine just provided me hot coffee. Is that miraculous too and the operator a hero?


    Posted by b on January 16, 2009 at 05:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

    January 15, 2009

    On Hamas' Performance In Gaza

    There is some discussion in the thread below about the performance of Hamas as a military force.

    Hamas never was a military organization. It is and was a social movement with an attached small military wing. Think Sinn Féin and IRA maybe.

    I tried to answer the question about the possible military Hamas performance on January 5 discussing actual Hamas' fighter numbers:

    In 2006 Hizbullah in Lebanon was said to have 600 to 1,000 active fighters and some 5,000 reservist. Given the size of Gaza I estimate that there are probably 200 to 400 active Hamas fighters in Gaza with less than 1,000 reservists and people in training.

    Hamas has lots of people in its social/political functions. But it only has very few fighters in a tightly closed guerrilla force. While Israel has spies within the social Hamas movement, note how it brags about attacks enabled by these on the higher political functionaries, it seems to have little intelligence access to the military wing.

    But such a small force, with obviously no access to modern weaponry, can only do so much.

    The point for Hamas military wing is not to kill IDF troops, but to demonstrate that they can continue to lob rockets on Israel. That is their only available method to press on Israel to lift the devastating inhuman total blockade of Gaza. As long as Hamas and other organizations launch rockets, and miraculously they still can, they have won as Israel has thereby not achieved the main stated goal of its operation.

    Meanwhile the Israelis shoot at anything that moves and, when perceiving anything as "threat", bomb the hell out of it before moving forward.

    McClatchy had a good story one the "rules of engagement" the Israeli forces are under (somehow that one quickly vanished from their homepage): Israeli soldiers say they have OK to use tough tactics in Gaza

    When Israeli soldiers saw a suspected suicide bomber riding a bike towards them, they moved quickly. As the man ducked into a building for safety, Israeli soldiers said they used a bulldozer to bring the walls down on top of him.

    So a suspected "suicide bomber" "ducks to safety". Why? Afraid of death?

    "We came in very strong," said Yehuda, a battalion commander with Israel's Givati infantry regiment. "Our doctrine is to take over our assigned positions, purging any resistance and then fanning out as required, repeating the process."
    ...
    "With all the regret over the harm to innocent people, I'm not prepared for a soldier of mine to get killed because of a terrorist who is hiding in a house with civilians," an unnamed Israeli officer told Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "Hamas brought this on its own civilians."

    Sure, and the Nazis just had to have gas chambers because Jews resisted their lunatic policies?

    If there's been any major surprise for Israeli soldiers in Gaza, it has been the relatively weak resistance they've faced from Hamas.
    ...
    Gaza militants have fired more advanced rockets at southern Israeli cities. Soldiers said, however, that they haven't faced Hamas fighters armed with significant new weapons.

    A lot of the prewar propaganda was Israeli hyping about the tens of thousands of Hamas fighters and all the sophisticated weapons it was supposed to have. That was just that - hype and propaganda to justify the obliteration of the people in Gaza and to kill off the social movement, once nurtured by Israel as counterweight to the "terrorists" PLO, that became inconvenient to its plans.

    Sitting on his hospital bed with a broken wrist and burns across half his face, [Israeli army sergeant] S. said Hamas had failed in its efforts to emulate Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon who'd put up a surprisingly effective fight against Israeli forces in 2006.

    "You can't compare it," he said. "Hezbollah is a much more organized army. Hamas, they usually run away."

    The sergeant does not understand the Hamas operation.

    They will harass the Israeli force if needed and where possible without losing capacity. But the main aim of Hamas is to keep the pressure on Israel by launching rockets.

    The Israelis are working with a theory that they need to kill 25% of Hamas fighters to end its "system". The theory itself is a largely false and lousy application of system dynamics in social fields (I tried such an SD application on economic systems in my never finished doctoral thesis and found that it does not apply in the social realm at all.)

    So far the Israelis have killed so far maybe 1,500-5,000 people in Gaza. Given the indiscriminate killing they use those are "only" 0.1%-0.35% of the population there. Half of those kids. The percentage on the small population of Hamas fighters might be a bit higher, but not near anything of the 25% they plan to achieve.

    To kill 25% of Hamas' military wing, absent of a decisive intelligence break, 25% of all people in Gaza would have to be killed. Maybe even more as Israel does not know who is in that military wing and obviously does not know enough on where they hideto prevent them from operating.

    Hamas of course has for years analyzed the Israeli military thinking and adopted to counter it.

    Do not trust the Israeli media. They are censored by law on any military issue. Do not trust the Hamas media. They need to keep up their people's will by any means.

    BBC and Al Jazeera try and partly succeed to lift the current fog of war a bit. But they can only do so much. What really happens now will only be publicly known later on.

    For now the quite lousy Hamas rockets and mortars landing on Israeli ground are the real numerical measure of the fight. There are still 20-30 of those incoming each day.

    Given the size and ruthlessness of the Israeli campaign, Hamas, on that count, has already won.

    The fight is about the blockade which resulted in at least half of the 750,000 children in Gaza being under nourished and the rockets are the only way to break that state. The bodycount, while emotionally devastating for everyone, is not the issue at all.

    Posted by b on January 15, 2009 at 04:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

    They Will Not Forgive, They Will Not Forget

    Gideon Levy:

    The public's shocking indifference to these figures is incomprehensible. A thousand propagandists and apologists cannot excuse this criminal killing. One can blame Hamas for the death of children, but no reasonable person in the world will buy these ludicrous, flawed propagandistic goods in light of the pictures and statistics coming from Gaza.
    ...
    The children of Gaza who survive this war will remember it.
    ...
    A child who has seen his house destroyed, his brother killed and his father humiliated will not forgive.

    Posted by b on January 15, 2009 at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

    January 14, 2009

    Obama/Clinton On Nonexisting Iranian Nuke Programs

    We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; ...
    National Intelligence Etimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (pdf), Dec 3, 2007

    ---

    [W]e have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah, but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
    Exclusive Interview with President-Elect Barack Obama, Jan 11, 2009

    ---

    As we focus on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians; that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and sponsorship of terror, and persuades both Iran and Syria to abandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regional actors; that strengthens our relationships with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, with Turkey, and with our partners in the Gulf to involve them in securing a lasting peace in the region.
    Hillary Clinton's Statement at Senate Confirmation Hearing, Jan 13, 2009

    ---

    CLINTON: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Obviously, the incoming administration views with great concern the role that Iran is playing in the world, its sponsorship of terrorism, its continuing interference with the functioning of other governments and its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
    ..
    We are not taking any option off the table at all, but we will pursue a new, perhaps different approach that will become a cornerstone of what the Obama administration believes is an attitude toward engagement that might bear fruit.
    Senate Confirmation Hearing: Hillary Clinton , Jan. 13, 2009

    Perhaps different approach?

    Posted by b on January 14, 2009 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

    U.S. Admits Torture

    A high Defense Department functionary admits for the first time that the U.S. indeed tortured. Not that anybody had doubt over that, but this makes it official.

    The piece was written by Bob Woodward which makes it an authoritative record.

    But what is the intend of Crawford in spilling the beans now?

    The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

    "We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

    Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

    Crawford say she I sure that al-Qahtani is guilty and dangerous but can not be prosecuted. So this could be a ploy to gain public support for, or put pressure on Obama to keep Gitmo open and the people there in purgatory.

    There may be an additional motive:

    The harsh techniques used against Qahtani, she said, were approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "A lot of this happened on his watch," she said.
    ...
    Crawford said she does not know whether five other detainees accused of participating in the Sept. 11 plot, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, were tortured. "I assume torture," she said, ...
    ...
    "I think the buck stops in the Oval Office."

    Could this be a base to get Rumsfeld or even Bush in front of a court? Crawford would not have made this interview without the consent of Sec.Def. Gates. Is Obama behind this?

    Posted by b on January 14, 2009 at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

    Rice vs. Olmert

    As documented in an earlier post Olmert said on Monday about Sec. State Rice:

    "She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.
    ...
    "I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

    "I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour."

    The essence of that account is likely true.

    On Tuesday the U.S. State Department spokesperson responded:

    QUESTION: Yeah. Given Prime Minister Olmert’s comments yesterday, why should – why should anyone still – or why should anyone not believe that Israel is controlling U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East?

    MR. MCCORMACK: ... What I can tell you is that the quotes as reported are wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation – just 100 percent, totally, completely not true. ...

    The White House response is noticeable softer:

    Q Tony, President -- Prime Minister Olmert says that it was a phone call from him to President Bush that forced President Bush to ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to change the U.S. position on the resolution working its way through -- on Gaza at the U.N. Security Council. Is that --

    MR. FRATTO: Look, I think I've seen some of the reporting on this. I want to say that some of what we've seen is not accurate. I'm not going to get into discussing -- I know the State Department has done that and Secretary Rice was asked about it last night. And I don't really have more to add to it. But there is --

    Q When you say reporting on this, I mean, these are actually Olmert's words. I mean, he actually said this.

    MR. FRATTO: Yes, there are inaccuracies.

    Q In what Olmert said?

    MR. FRATTO: Yes.

    Today Olmert keeps pushing:

    Ehud Olmert's bureau maintained on Wednesday that the outgoing prime minister had correctly described diplomatic moves that led to last week's United Nations resolution on a truce in Gaza, despite a United States rejection of his account.

    Such public dispute between the dog and the dog handler (you decide who fits what role) is extremely rare in the diplomatic realm.

    What happened behind the scene? What did Rice do to deserve such a public dress down by Olmert? Why is the White House not responding stronger? And why is Olmert keeping the hassle alive?

    I do not see how Olmert or Israel could win anything through this. People in the old and new administration will take note how support for Israel, which Rice has given in abundance, is thanked.

    What do I miss?

    Posted by b on January 14, 2009 at 05:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

    January 13, 2009

    The Catholic Orangemen of Togo

    The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known is a new book by former British ambassador Craig Murray.

    Because the British mercenary and war-profiteer Tim Spicer  threatened an expensive libel lawsuit the commercial publisher of the book refrained from distributing it.

    Murray has now published the book himself and made it available for free on several Internet sites. You can download your copy from MoA here (zipped pdf, ~1 megabyte).

    But reading an even amusing book on the screen is tiresome and Craig Murray deserves to make some money too. You can buy your printed copy from him directly (scroll down) for lousy £ 18 which even includes a £ 1 charity donation.

    The books blurb says:

    Craig Murray's adventures in Africa from 1997 to 2001 are a rollicking good read. He exposes for the first time the full truth about the "Arms to Africa" affair which was the first major scandal of the Blair Years. He lays bare the sordid facts about British mercenary involvement in Africa and its motives. This is at heart an extraordinary account of Craig Murray's work in negotiating peace with the murderous rebels of Sierra Leone, and in acting as the midwife of Ghanaian democracy. Clearly his efforts were not only difficult but at times very dangerous indeed. Yet the story is told with great humour. Not only do we meet Charles Taylor, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jerry Rawlings and Foday Sankoh, but there are unexpected encounters with others including Roger Moore, Jamie Theakston and Bobby Charlton! Above all this book is about Africa. Craig Murray eschews the banal remedies of the left and right to share with us the deep knowledge and understanding that comes over 30 years working in or with Africa. Gems of wisdom and observation scatter the book, as does a deep sense of moral outrage at the consequences of centuries of European involvement: even though he explains that much of it was well-intentioned but disastrous.


    Buy it here and post your review in the comments.

    Posted by b on January 13, 2009 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

    OT 09-02

    News & views ... open thread ...

    Posted by b on January 13, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (111)

    Billmon: Flushing the Cheney Administration Down the Memory Hole

    Billmon: Flushing the Cheney Administration Down the Memory Hole

    I have a strong hunch the political-media complex (i.e. the Village) is going to want to move fairly quickly to the post-Soviet solution I described earlier -- skipping right over the perestroika and glasnost to get directly to the willful amnesia and live-in-the-moment materialism of mid-1990s Russia.

    Which means, in turn, that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Feith and the whole noxious crew are about to get flushed straight down the memory hole: banished fairly quickly from public discussion and corporate media coverage -- in much the way the Iran-Contra scandal (go ahead, Wiki it) was almost immediately forgotten or ignored once it became clear that the fix was in. America apparently had its big experiment with truthtelling and reform in the post-Watergate era, and the experience was so unpleasant that nobody (or nobody who counts) is willing to go there again.

    Posted by b on January 13, 2009 at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

    January 12, 2009

    Tail, Dog, Wag

    The U.S., together with France, had authored the recent UN Gaza ceasefire resolution but then, in the evening of January 8 between 9:15pm and 10:15pm, was the only one to abstain from it. How come?

    Julian Berger wrote for The Guardian on January 9:

    The US change of mind came at the last moment, as a result of White House intervention following a call from Olmert. Rice was overridden and in the final vote, the US abstained. In her remarks afterwards, Rice made clear she backed the resolution, saying the US "fully supports" its goals, text and objectives.

    Aluf Benn for Haaretz reported yesterday:

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice supported the UN Resolution and assisted with its formulation. Livni was in contact with Rice in an attempt to soften its wording.

    At the last minute, at 3:30 A.M., Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also intervened with a desperate phone call to President George W. Bush, requesting that the United States veto the resolution. Bush refused, simply instructing Rice to abstain from the vote.

    Now Olmert gives his version of that day:

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday.

    "She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.
    ...
    The United States, Israel's main ally, had initially been expected to voted in line with the other 14 but Rice later became the sole abstention.

    "In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Olmert said

    "I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

    "I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour."

    Bush was in Philadelphia on January 8 talking about the no child left behind sham between 11am and 12am. The time difference between Israel and U.S. eastern is -7 hours. If Olmert called at 3:30 that would have been 8:30pm in Washington DC, not during any official speech in Philadelphia, but right before the Security Council meeting.

    So Olmert is exaggerating his influence here - he did not get Bush to interrupt a speech, but he did get him to change a UN vote..

    But the essence is clear. Israel called and the U.S. president did as he was told to do.

    Dog, Tail, Wag, whatever ...

    Posted by b on January 12, 2009 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (82)

    The Ukraine Lost The Gas Dispute

    The Ukraine did not pay for some of the natural gas it received last year from Russia and did not agree to a more market oriented higher price for future deliveries. Russia therefore stopped to deliver the gas the Ukraine needs. The Ukraine then siphoned gas off the transit pipelines that go from Russia through the Ukraine to other European countries.

    Alarmed as some of its members are very dependent on reliable gas delivery from Russia the European Union stepped in. While the U.S. reliably accused Russia in this game the EU effectively took the Russian side.

    It negotiated for monitor teams to watch over the transit lines in the Ukraine and pressured Ukraine to sign up to such a deal. Russia insisted that such an agreement must be in writing and fully signed before it would revive gas delivery.

    While the Ukraine verbally committed to such an agreement, it tried to fudge the deal at the last minute it by attaching a signing statement:

    At issue was a handwritten phrase that Ms. Tymoshenko wrote beside her signature early Sunday morning, after the document had already been signed by Mr. Putin. In English, she wrote, “with declaration attached.”

    Ms. Tymoshenko’s declaration, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, said that Ukraine had not been guilty of stealing gas from the export pipelines, a statement essentially asking Moscow to backpedal on the allegation that had underpinned its justification for halting shipments to Europe.

    One wonders who asked Ms. Tymoshenko to do such a stupid stunt. And why in English and why leaking it to the NYT?

    A similar trick has been tried by the Georgian president Saakashvili in the ceasefire agreement mediated by Sarkozy last summer. The Russians did not fall for it then and they did not fall for it this time. Medvedev insisted on a clean contract.

    The EU put even more pressure on the Ukraine and this morning the signing statement was retracted from the deal:

    The new version followed a phone call between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and will be separate from a handwritten declaration from the government of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko that hours earlier caused the Russian side to threaten to pull out of the deal.

    “Barroso has spoken to Timoshenko and they have agreed to separate the two documents,” commission spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny in Brussels said late yesterday. “On one side the declaration and on the other side the terms of reference.”

    Now the EU countries will again get das from Russia. The pipelines will be controlled by EU monitor teams and the Ukraine will not be able to steal from the Russian deliveries without international notice.

    The Ukraine itself will still not get any gas unless it agrees to price changes and comes up with the arrears. Its ability to pressure Russia is now about zero. Its standing with the EU and those people freezing in Eastern Europe has sunken to a new low.

    The U.S. strategy of pushing the Ukraine onto the EU and NATO has for now failed. This is a big win for Russia and a win for the European Union which has again shown its ability to help single member states.

    Timoshenko, Yushchenko and their U.S. supporters have lost big time.

    Posted by b on January 12, 2009 at 04:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

    January 11, 2009

    An Appropriate Gaza Cartoon

    “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Matan Vilnai, the [Israeli] Deputy Defence Minister said.
    Israel threatens to unleash 'holocaust' in Gaza, London Times, March 1, 2008

    In an appropriate answer to Israel's current implementation of that threat, Norway's biggest newspaper VG on January 8 printed this cartoon which would be an awful car sticker (via annie in comments and Daily Norway).


    bigger

    This one and this one from the same source are also appropriate.

    ---

    Parviz in comments asked to promote this: If Americans knew. While most Americans might not know,  I believe the relevant people do know. Anyway, it is a good try.

    Posted by b on January 11, 2009 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

    New Colonialism in Africa

    In two stories the Financial Times this weekend reports on a new colonial endeavor by U.S. investors that will likely stay unreported in u.S. mainstream media. The first gives the facts and the second some backlground. You should read them both. These links may stop you at the FT's pay curtain but you can use this one and this one and click through from there.

    From the first piece :

    A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa’s biggest private land deal.

    Philippe Heilberg, a former Wall Street banker and chairman of New York-based Jarch Capital, told the Financial Times he had gained leasehold rights to 400,000 hectares of land – an area the size of Dubai – by taking a majority stake in a company controlled by the son of Paulino Matip.
    ...

    In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr Heilberg is gambling on a warlord’s continuing control of a region where his militia operated in the civil war between Khartoum and south Sudan.

    “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York. He refused to disclose how much he had paid for the lease.

    Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company that counts on its board former US state department and intelligence officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and expert on Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and under former president Bill Clinton at the White House.

    It is unknown who owns the leased land, certainly not the warlord's son, but it is fertile and near the White Nil and there are certainly people living there today and for generations who have rights to their land.

    An political connected outfit like Jarch will not make such an investment when it is not sure that it can push the U.S. government to protect it.

    Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, and have yet to be clarified in a planned land act.
    ...
    Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.

    “If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is any value,” he said, adding that he was also in contact with rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.

    Now ask yourself why the U.S. is fighting terror in Somalia.

    Who might have financed the tanks and other weapons from the Ukraine with destination to South Sudan and captured by Somali pirates?

    And who finances the Safe Darfur campaign that wants the U.S. to militarily intervene in Sudan?

    Mr. Heilberg, Joe Wilson and the investors who pay them are obviously ruthless about the consequences of their enterprise. But it is certain that this will end in war which will have to be endured by the people living on the fertile land Mr. Heilberg leased.

    Why is such behavior still or again considered legal?

    Posted by b on January 11, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

    January 10, 2009

    Israel Has Lost The War

    Swoop:

    One State Department official told us: “We are increasingly concerned that Israel wins all the battles but is losing the war.”

    It is well too late for such concern.

    As Tony Karon writes: The War Isn’t Over, But Israel Has Lost

    [T]o borrow from the casual callousness of Condi Rice during the last such display of futile brutality, we are witnessing, again, the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Israel failed in 2006, just as in 2002 and 1982. This time, they tell us, will be different.
    ...
    The Israelis — and their backers in the American political establishment — appear incapable of grasping that which is empirically obvious: Hamas and its ilk grow stronger every time Israel seeks to eliminate them by force.

    But of course Israel continues to do what it does best: increase its useless violence:

    The Israel Air Force has dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip warning residents that it plans to escalate its two-week-old offensive.
    ...
    The notice says Israel is about to begin a "new phase in the war on terror." It says it will "escalate" an operation that already has killed more than 800 Palestinians.

    What do the Israelis think the people in people in Gaza will do with such notices but wipe their asses with them?

    The IAF has bombed anything that can be bombed by now. The IDF can try to go into the cities. Many IDF soldiers would die in those. The election would then certainly be lost for Livni and Ehud Barack as the Israeli public abhores casualties on its own side.

    The only realistic option for Israel by now is to sue for a cease-fire with Hamas. But then - realism is something that seems to be not koscher, or it is simply scarce supply in Israel and in Washington DC.

    Posted by b on January 10, 2009 at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (89)

    Billmon: Closing the Books on an Economic Disaster

    Billmon:

    While we can't total up the damage from the current recession or even the current financial crisis, since both are still ongoing, with the release of December's unemployment numbers we can at least start to draw a line under the Bush presidency -- to the American economy what Hurricane Katrina was to New Orleans, or Doug Feith's Pentagon was to Iraq.
    ...
    Closing the Books on an Economic Disaster

    Posted by b on January 10, 2009 at 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

    January 09, 2009

    Is Saakashvili Again Trying War?

    In August the Georgian president Saakashvili ordered an attack on the renegade South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers there. He did not expected the obvious Russian answer that routed his forces within days. He did expect U.S. support which did not come. South Ossetia and another province, Abkhasia, then declared themselves independent.

    But Saakashvili has not given up on them and there are signs that he is preparing for a new immediate attempt to regain South Ossetia or at least launch a provocation.

    Thanks to Bush he may well again believe that he now really has U.S. support for that. But Bush will soon be gone, so maybe now is the right time to do ... something.

    The opposition in Georgia is demanding new elections, the economy is in trouble and government changes are critizised:

    [S]uccessive cabinet reshuffles have left unscathed powerful Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, whom Subari has implicitly accused of presiding over a death squad that operates outside the law. And Bacho Akhalaya, a Merabishvili protege who is believed to have provoked a prison riot in March 2006 by his sadistic treatment of prison inmates, has been promoted to deputy defense minister.
    ...
    [O]n December 23, Saakashvili assured the Georgian population that the country is on the road to recovery, and that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will "be liberated far sooner than people think."

    "Far sooner" ...

    In late December a Georgian parliamentary commission whitewashed Saakashvili's of his responsibility for the August conflict. That does give him some space in interior politics.

    Bush gave him additional strong backing with a Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the U.S.:

    Saakashvili has hailed the US-Georgia treaty as a "historic" move that will allow the two countries' relations to progress towards a new stage.

    "The United States has never before said that Georgia is its strategic partner," he said on December 22.

    The signing was supposed to take place on January 4 but that was moved to today:

    Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, and U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, signed on January 9 in Washington a charter on strategic partnership between the two countries.
    ...
    “The U.S. supports and will always support Georgia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, as well as its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” [Rice] continued. “
    ...
    “This is a historic day for my country,” Vashadze said. “The Charter… strengthens close strategic partnership between Georgia and the United States and stresses that countries, undersigning this legal instrument, share vital interests in strong, prosperous, independent, sovereign, territorially integral Georgia. ...”

    The treaty is controversial in Georgia as its content has up to now not been released.

    According to an opposition party Saakashvili is also having talks with the U.S. about a military base in Georgia.

    Now notice the dates. The agreement was supposed to be signed on January 4. Also on January 4 the Abchazian government reported movement of Georgian troops at its borders. Georgia denied such.

    Late December there were reports of movement near South Ossetia:

    Tbilisi has [..] deployed tanks and Cobra armored vehicles near the South Ossetian border, the locals warned later [on December 29].

    On January 6 South Ossetia raised again alarm:

    South Ossetia Press Ministry warns that Georgia and foreign advisors are planning a large-scale operation in South Ossetia

    The South Ossetian Press and Social Communication Ministry declared on Monday that a major offensive is being planned by Georgian and foreign forces to strike at Russian servicemen in South Ossetia and this Republic´s security, defence and law enforcement authorities.

    Then Saakashvili again:

    Speaking with journalists on January 7, after attending an Orthodox Christmas mass in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Saakashvili said: “The Patriarch [Ilia II] spoke on two important issues – the one is that Georgia, the Georgian people want peace, but not at the expense of giving up of our territories – this is a very important, fundamental concept, which is a foundation of our national policy.

    Today:

    The Defense Ministry of South Ossetia said Friday Georgia was moving troops towards its border, the republic's information and press committee said.

    The committee cited South Ossetian Deputy Defense Minister Ibragim Gasseyev as saying that four Georgian armored vehicles and 16 trucks had approached the village of Mereti, Gori district.

    "Considering that each vehicle has at least 20 people, Georgia has moved at least 300 people to Mereti," Gasseyev said.

    With a new 'strategic agreement' backing him and the immediate problem of the commission report behind, Saakashvili seems to get adventures again.

    There is one slight problem with a new war but even that might be an advantage. It is winter.

    Gazprom supplies Georgia with gas from Russia, but Georgia seems to be unwilling to forward some of that gas to South Ossetia as it is supposed to. If Saakashvili tries something nasty, Gazprom might well have 'technical problems' supplying Georgia.

    On the other side winter closes the tunnel between South Ossetia and Russia. That tunnel is the only route for possible re-enforcement of Russian troops in South Ossetia and the open tunnel was the reason why Saakashvili lost his little war back in August. A blocking force on the border to Abkhasia could prevent re-enforcement by that route. A U.S. Navy frigate just visited Poti and likely still in the Black Sea  ready to stand by.

    Also now Bush is still there. Action within the next few days would get at least rhetorical backing from him.

    So will Saakashvili now give it another try just before Bush is gone?

    Posted by b on January 9, 2009 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

     
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