To assist in a crime makes one a criminal by any legal standard. And the biggest crimes of all are war crimes, since they kill en masse and showcase the cruelest form of human behavior.
The fact that Israel is actively committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip is not open to debate, since a cursory glance at the conflict obviously exposes them in practice.
The two most glaring war crimes Israel is committing — as defined by the Geneva Convention — are the concepts of “collective punishment” and “necessity and proportionality.”
Under collective punishment, a warring party cannot respond to an attack by waging war on the attacker’s community, as is clearly happening in Gaza. The clearest proof that collective punishment is being used is that a 1,000 Gaza homes have been destroyed and the majority of the casualties are civilians.
Under “necessity and proportionality” a warring party must only use the amount of force necessary to defeat the opponent; disproportional force is a crime. So, for example, if Hamas fires wimpy rockets that kill virtually no Israelis, then it is “disproportionate” for Israel to rain massive bombs, missiles, and artillery to reduce large sections of Gaza to rubble. Even Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the Israel attack a “deliberately disproportiate form of collective punishment.”
It is also a specific war crime to deliberately attack civilians, and especially to attack facilities treating the wounded. But Israel has attacked al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza four times, according to Reuters. The latest shelling of al-Aqsa killed 4 and wounded 70.
Even the pro-western Human Rights Watch has denounced Israel for committing war crimes:
“Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.”
Obama’s aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes is also closed to debate, since his administration stands guilty from the very beginning of the conflict by shielding Israel from international political pressure, hiding its war crimes by deliberately misrepresenting what is happening, and giving political space for the war to continue by not intervening directly.
It was a blatantly laughable lie when Obama said that his government was “using all means” to achieve a ceasefire early in the conflict.
The U.S. influence over Israel is tremendous, and Obama could have ended the conflict in the first hour by simply declaring, “If Israel does not stop its attack on Gaza, the U.S. will refuse further military and financial assistance and sever all diplomatic and political ties.” War over.
Instead of taking this action, or any action for that matter, Obama sat on the sidelines. In fact, Obama deliberately waited until the end of the second week of the war to even send his Secretary of State John Kerry to broker a ceasefire deal. Of course, Obama could have come himself.
Obama further assisted in Israeli war crimes by repeatedly justifying Israel’s right to commit them, deceitfully placing all Israel’s actions under the big umbrella of “self-defense.” Again, war crimes are war crimes and were purposefully created to trump any excuse of self-defense.
After ten days of a brutal bombing campaign an Israeli ground invasion was announced, which everyone knew would intensify the bloodshed. This would have been a key moment for the U.S. government to finally intervene. But instead, as ABC News reports:
“President Barack Obama said Friday that he encouraged Israel’s leader to minimize civilian deaths in its ground push into Hamas-ruled Gaza, while letting him know that the U.S. supports Israel’s right to self defense.”
A statement like this can be interpreted to mean only one thing: a green light to continue the massacre.
When John Kerry was finally sent to the Middle East to broker a peace deal, he was still making excuses for Israeli’s war crimes. USA Today reports:
“Kerry also blamed the latest wave of violence on what he called Israel’s “legitimate” efforts to pursue and punish those who last month kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank.”
Again, bombing a whole city because three Israeli teens were killed is disproportional collective punishment — war crimes. There is also no evidence that Hamas is responsible for the death of three Israeli teens, which it has denied since day one.
The colossally disproportionate aspect of the war has been continually smoothed over by the Obama administration, which consistently lumps Palestinian and Israeli civilian deaths evenly together, as if they were happening with equal frequency. But in reality the 550 Palestinians that have been killed and 3,500 wounded are mostly civilians, while the few dozen Israeli’s who’ve died have been mostly soldiers.
How dangerous are the Hamas rockets that the Obama administration endlessly talks about? CBS news recently reported:
“Hamas also fired 50 more rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv, causing no injuries or damage.”
This has been the story of the conflict in which Obama has justified the complete destruction of the Gaza Strip by continually saying “no nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders.”
Obama’s muted language about Israel’s aggression can be compared to the recently shot down Malaysian jet, for which Obama summoned his “outrage” while instantly blaming the pro-Russian Ukrainians, though without a shred of evidence.
But most of the world believes Israel’s actions are outrageous, an opinion not allowed to be expressed at the United Nations, thanks again to the Obama administration, which used its clout to sterilize Israel’s actions by limiting the UN’s statement on the conflict.
Specifically, the Obama administration used its influence over the UN Security Council to limit its statement to “serious concern” about civilian casualties on “both sides” of the conflict, thus white washing the nature of events and providing the aggressor with invaluable political breathing space.
The Obama administration has also assisted Israeli War Crimes by continually blaming Hamas for not agreeing to the Egyptian brokered ceasefire agreement. Hamas is the elected government of the Gaza Strip, and thus has a right to not agree to a ceasefire agreement. But of course Hamas’ not agreeing to the Egyptian agreement does not justify a continual Israeli blitzkrieg of the Gaza Strip, though the Obama administration’s logic implies exactly this.
Lastly, the Obama administration has consistently lied about the origins of this bloodbath. The three dead Israeli teens were not the cause of this conflict, but the pretext, which the Israeli government consciously exploited to promote war among the Israeli population.
The real cause of the war was the recent alliance between the Palestinian Authority — which governs the West Bank — and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip. This alliance gave the Palestinians their strongest hand in bargaining with Israel in perhaps decades, which was enough to spark a new round of massacres from the Israeli government in an effort to re-balance the bargaining table.
This ongoing bloody dynamic continues in large part because the U.S. government allows it. The vast majority of people across the world are denouncing Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians, and so too must U.S. citizens denounce their government’s criminal actions in assisting Israeli war crimes.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The US sanctions against Iran have cost Washington as much as USD 175 billion dollars in losses for not doing business with the Islamic Republic, a Washington-based think-tank has found.
“The United States is by far the biggest loser of all sanctions enforcing nations. From 1995 [when the US imposed trade embargo on Iran] to 2012, the US sacrificed between USD 134.7 and USD 175.3 billion in potential export revenue to Iran,” the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) concluded in a report.
During the same period, the report said, the United States lost 51,000 to 280,000 jobs a year due to the sanctions slapped on Iran.
“Texas and California are likely the biggest losers in terms of lost employment, due to their size as well as the attractiveness of their industries to Iran’s economy,” it said.
The US sanctions also cost the European economies billions of dollars in losses through the 2010-2012 period.
“In Europe, Germany was hit the hardest, losing between USD 23.1 and USD 73.0 billion between 2010 and 2012, with Italy and France following at USD 13.6-USD 42.8 billion and USD 10.9-USD 34.2 billion respectively,” it said.
The think-tank recommended that the US government consider lifting sanctions against Iran as nuclear negotiations are under way between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the Unites States, Britain, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.
“Decision-makers must… ask themselves if the cost of sanctions to the US economy is worth shouldering if other options do exist,” it said.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
She didn’t quite put it in those words, but it’s essentially what she’s saying: that the U.S. government would contact the New York Times and tell them that publishing this, that or the other story would ‘help the terrorists’. And that the New York Times would take those threats seriously and bring the story to a halt (even if they did eventually work out that the U.S. government’s intentions may not always have been entirely honourable).
Here’s a quote from an interview Abramson recently gave to Cosmopolitan :
‘Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story . . . You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security . . . Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, ‘you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X’ and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility . . . But you do listen and seriously worry . . . Editors are Americans too . . . We don’t want to help terrorists’.
Interesting, as well, that Abramson seems to be suggesting that being ‘against terrorists’ – or at least, people who the U.S. government claim are terrorists – is somehow an inherent part of being an American, like it’s a national religion or something.
Which for the political and media classes, I suppose it is – except when it comes to the terrorism of the U.S. government and its allies, in which case being ‘against terrorism’ is blasphemous.
White House Spokesperson Insists Obama Is The Most Transparent President In History, Because… Visitor Logs!
The rather astoundingly named Josh Earnest is the recently appointed press secretary of President Obama, and he’s kicked off his tenure with quite a whopper: insisting that, despite complaints from basically every corner, President Obama really is “the most transparent President in history.” As you may recall, President Obama promised upon election that he would be “the most open and transparent” President, and one of his first orders of business in the White House was to promise the same.
Of course, as many folks have been documenting for years, the reality has been anything but. The Obama administration has been ridiculously secretive for years, when it comes to FOIA requests, literally setting records in denying them. The NYT’s former executive editor, who has covered many administrations, has directly noted that the Obama administration was the most secretive she could recall. Even federal judges have regularly dinged the administration for refusing to hand over documents required by law. As Stephen Colbert has noted, the administration is really only good at the most transparent bullshit legally allowed.
In fact, just as Mr. Earnest was insisting that the Obama administration was so damn transparent, Mother Jones had a good article about how often the Obama administration was making use of the “state secrets privilege” to get lawsuits tossed out, such as in various no fly list challenges. In 2008, then candidate Obama insisted that the use of the state secrets privilege by the government was dangerous. But, now that he’s in charge, he’s quick to use it himself:
In 2008, Obama griped that the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege “more than any other previous administration” and used it to get entire lawsuits thrown out of court. Critics noted that deploying the state secrets privilege allowed the Bush administration to shut down cases that might have revealed government misconduct or caused embarrassment, including those regarding constitutionally dubious warrantless wiretapping and the CIA’s kidnapping and torture of Khaled el-Masri, a German car salesman the government had mistaken for an alleged Al Qaeda leader with the same name. After Obama took office, his attorney general, Eric Holder, promised to significantly limit the use of this controversial legal doctrine. Holder vowed never to use it to “conceal violations of the law, inefficiency, or administrative error” or “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency of the United States Government.”
Despite this promise, Obama continued to assert the privilege to squelch cases about Bush-era abuses. In one instance, the Justice Department scuttled a lawsuit brought by a man who claimed he had been kidnapped by the CIA and had his penis and testicles cut with a scalpel in a Moroccan prison. And now Obama is broadening the use of this legal maneuver: In the past 18 months, the Obama administration has twice cited state secrets to prevent federal courts from considering lawsuits challenging its use of the no-fly list.
So, given all this evidence that the Obama administration is incredibly secretive, what could Earnest’s reasoning possibly be? Well, you see, President Obama has released his visitor logs at the White House. Because, you know, that’s what everyone really means when they talk about White House transparency.
Earnest noted that previous administrations had “gone to the Supreme Court” to prevent the release of White House visitor information, but that the Obama administration “releases it voluntarily on the Internet on a quarterly basis.”
“Reporters for years clamored to get access to fundraisers the president hosted or attended that were hosted in private homes,” Earnest continued. “Reporters now have access to those when this president goes to a private home.”
So, the President has made a few tiny concessions to transparency on issues that really don’t matter at all, but has doubled down on secrecy on the things that do actually matter.
Sure, I know that the Press Secretary’s job is to basically cover for the President and do whatever possible to defend the White House’s claims, no matter how bogus, but wouldn’t the world be better off if there were actually a tiny bit of honesty from such folks? They could admit that they’ve tried and failed. They could say that transparency promises seemed easier from the outside, but turned out to be more difficult in reality. They could admit that it’s still a work in progress. Any of those would at least acknowledge reality. Pretending reality isn’t reality doesn’t convince anyone. In fact, it just appears to be yet another example of the very non-transparency that everyone’s complaining about in the first place.
In a letter to President Obama, 38 journalism groups criticized his administration for severely limiting access to federal agencies and a general politically-motivated suppression of information despite the president’s pledge of historic transparency.
Led by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the groups said that efforts by government officials to curb free-flow of news and information to the public has reached a peak during the Obama administration following a similarly stifling culture during prior president George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House.
“Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees,” wrote SPJ president David Cuillier. “This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.”
Cuillier added that while agency personnel are kept mostly off limits to journalists, they are ”free [to] speak to others — lobbyists, special-interest representatives, people with money — without these controls and without public oversight.”
The groups said that Obama’s recent lamentations of a growing cynicism of government were peculiar given his administration’s broad efforts to shroud official action and policy maneuvers in secrecy, all of which “undermines public understanding of, and trust in, government,” the letter reads.
“You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration – politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in,” wrote Cuillier.
The administration has previously dismissed similar sentiment from other journalism and watchdog groups, including the White House Correspondents’ Association.
The letter cites examples of alleged information censorship, including officials repeatedly blocking reporters’ requests to talk with specific agency staff, long delays in answering questions that disregard reporters’ deadlines, officials’ proclivity for offering information anonymously or “on background,” and federal agencies completely blackballing of certain journalists who write critically of them.
“In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists — and the audience they serve — have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote,” the letter stated.
The groups recommended that the president should encourage all federal agencies and their public employees to speak freely with reporters. In addition, they called for an ombudsman to keep track of any suppression efforts.
“Create an ombudsman to monitor and enforce your stated goal of restoring transparency to government and giving the public the unvarnished truth about its workings,” the letter said. “That will go a long way toward dispelling Americans’ frustration and cynicism before it further poisons our democracy.”
In March, journalists at the Associated Press reported that their research indicated that the US government has withheld more information than ever under the authority of President Obama. Their findings were based mainly on how difficult it is to successfully request documents from the White House through the US Freedom of Information Act.
In addition, the Obama administration has been criticized for using the punitive, World War I-era Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers who leak classified government information to journalists, in effect chilling press freedoms.
Going after government officials for corruption has not been a priority of the U.S. Department of Justice under President Barack Obama, compared with his predecessors.
Cases of public corruption that have been prosecuted are down this year versus what they were last year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
TRAC also reports that the number of public corruption prosecutions is noticeably down during the Obama administration when compared to those pursued under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
As of July 2014, the Justice Department has filed 302 corruption prosecutions, putting the agency on a pace of 518 for this year.
If this rate holds up, the total would represent an 18.6% decline from 2013, when there were 636 prosecutions.
The drop is even sharper when the Justice Department numbers are put up alongside those from 2004 (down 32% when there were 760 cases under Bush) and 1994 (down 27% when 711 were reported under Clinton).
TRAC says public corruption referrals sent from federal agencies to Justice have averaged 1,674 during the past five years. This total is about the same as under Bush (1,663 referrals).
“The number of prosecutions, however, has fallen under Obama because a smaller percentage of these referrals (39.5%) ends up being pursued by prosecutors,” TRAC states. “So far during FY 2014 only about one out of every three (34.0%) were prosecuted. During the Bush years, 41.6 percent of the official corruption referrals resulted in prosecution.”
To Learn More:
Official Corruption Prosecutions Decline Under Obama (TRAC Reports)
Ever since the horrors of submarine warfare became a key issue during World War I, submarines have had a sinister reputation. And the building of new, immensely costly, nuclear-armed submarines by the US government and others may soon raise the level of earlier anxiety to a nuclear nightmare.
This spring, the US government continued its steady escalation of research and development funding for the replacement of its current nuclear submarine fleet through one of the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in American history — the phasing-in, starting in 2031, of 12 new SSBN(X) submarines. Each of these nuclear-powered vessels, the largest submarines the Navy has ever built, will carry up to 16 Trident ballistic missiles fitted with multiple nuclear warheads. All in all, this new submarine fleet is expected to deploy about 1,000 nuclear warheads — 70 percent of US government’s strategic nuclear weapons.
From the standpoint of the US military, nuclear-armed submarines are very attractive. Capable of being placed in hidden locations around the world and remaining submerged for months at a time, they are less vulnerable to attack than are ground-launched or air-launched nuclear weapons, the other two legs of the “nuclear triad.” Moreover, they can wreak massive death and destruction upon “enemy” nations quite rapidly. The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014 explained that the US Navy’s future fleet would “deliver the required presence and capabilities and address the most important war-fighting scenarios.”
From the standpoint of civilians, the new Trident submarine fleet is somewhat less appealing. Strategic nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons in world history, and the use of only one of them over a large city could annihilate millions of people instantly. If the thousands of such weapons available to the US government and other governments were employed in war, they would incinerate most of the planet, reducing it to charred rubble. Thereafter, radioactivity, disease, nuclear winter, and starvation would end most remaining life on earth.
Of course, even in an accident, such weapons could do incredible damage. And, over the years, nuclear-armed submarines have been in numerous accidents. In February 2009, a British and a French submarine, both nuclear-powered and armed with nuclear missiles, collided underwater in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the two vessels were fitted with state-or-the-art detection equipment, neither spotted the other until it was too late to avert their collision. Fortunately, they were moving very slowly at the time, and the damage was limited (though enormously expensive to repair). But a sharper collision could have released vast quantities of radioactive fuel and flung their deadly nuclear warheads across the ocean floor.
In addition, when the dangers are so immense, it is worth keeping in mind that people, like the high-tech nuclear submarines, are not always infallible or reliable. Submarine crews — living in cramped quarters, bored, and isolated for months at a time — could well be as plagued by the poor morale, dishonesty, drug use, and incompetence found among their counterparts at land-based nuclear missile facilities.
Taxpayers, particularly, might be concerned about the unprecedented expense of this new submarine fleet. According to most estimates, building the 12 SSBN(X) submarines will cost about $100 billion. And there will be additional expenditures for the missiles, nuclear warheads, and yearly maintenance, bringing the total tab to what the Pentagon estimated, three years ago, at $347 billion. The expected cost is so astronomical, in fact, that the Navy, frightened that this expenditure will prevent it from paying for other portions of its shipbuilding program, has insisted that the money come from a special fund outside of its budget. This spring, Congress took preliminary steps along these lines.
People might be forgiven for feeling some bewilderment at this immense US government investment in a new nuclear weapons system — one slated to last well into the 2070s. After all, back in April 2009, amid much fanfare, President Barack Obama proclaimed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” This was followed by a similar commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world made by the members of the UN Security Council, including five nuclear-armed nations, among them the United States. But, as this nuclear weapons buildup indicates, such commitments seem to have been tossed down the memory hole.
In arguing for the new Trident submarine fleet, US military leaders have pointed to the fact that other nations are maintaining or building nuclear-armed submarines. And they are correct about that. France and Britain are maintaining their current fleets, although Britain is on the verge of beginning the construction of a new one with US assistance; Israel reportedly possesses one; China is apparently ready to launch one in 2014; India is set to launch its own in 2015; and Pakistan might be working to develop one. Meanwhile, Russia is modernizing its own submarine ballistic missile fleet.
Even so, the current US nuclear-armed submarine fleet is considerably larger than any developed or being developed by other nations. Also, the US government’s new Trident fleet, now on the drawing boards, is slated to be 50 percent larger than the new, modernized Russian fleet and, in addition, far superior technologically. Indeed, other nations currently turning out nuclear-armed submarines – like China and Russia — are reportedly launching clunkers.
In this context, there is an obvious alternative to the current race to deploy the world’s deadliest weapons in the ocean depths. The nuclear powers could halt their building of nuclear-armed submarines and eliminate their present nuclear-armed submarine fleets. This action would not only honor their professed commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world, but would save their nations from making enormous expenditures and from the possibility of experiencing a catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude.
Why not act now, before this arms race to disaster goes any further?
A broad moral gulf separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death; we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion. That is the secret of our strength. -Benjamin Netanyahu, at the funeral of three slain Israeli teenagers.
Israel shows no morality, no mercy, and no compassion for Palestinians. Israel’s strength is not a mystery. Their power is dependent on their belief that they are God’s Chosen, on sophisticated weaponry, US tax dollars, and bipartisan Congressional support of Zionism that renders any “peace process” a charade.
During the funeral, right-wing protestors screamed for blood, “Death to Arabs.”
“There is no forgiveness for murderers of children,” said Israeli Economy Minister Naphtali Bennett. “Now is a time for actions, not words.” And action it was, has been for years, and is. Without due process, the Israeli military exploded family homes of two suspects—an uncivilized reaction that continues a cycle of retribution. Go door-to-door, terrorizing men, women, and children. Destroy homes. Bomb them. Strike Gaza. Don’t investigate to determine who’s responsible for the kidnapping and deaths of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar. And announce with chutzpa, as Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Avalon just did, that settlements will be built to memorialize the three slain teens. Yes, they’d have taken this measure regardless, any excuse, but now it’s exceedingly opportune—exploiting the deaths of the young as a sacrosanct right to seize more land.
Of course Barack Obama issued a statement:
As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth.
Interesting. Seems Obama’s forgotten Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the teenager and US citizen on his Kill List, incinerated in a CIA-led drone strike. Obama can’t imagine the indescribable pain that this young man’s parent (singular) feels. That’s singular because the boy’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki also was on Obama’s Kill List and droned two weeks before the death of his son. The attack in Yemen on Oct 14, 2011 that killed the young al-Awalaki also killed his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians as they sat in a restaurant. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16, the same age as two of the Israelis, but the murder of al-Awlaki was, well, sensible, to Obama.
Earlier today, Tuesday, I was in the lobby of my building where a TV is tuned daily to CNN. I stopped to view the faces of the three Israeli teenagers.
In May, two Palestinian teenagers were shot and killed in separate incidents by Israeli troops. Later, film from a surveillance camera was examined, providing evidence that neither teen posed a threat. Did world leaders speak to this horror? Call for justice? Of course not. Never do we see the faces of Palestinian children kidnapped and killed by the IDF—at least not on mainstream news networks. Nor do we see the wretchedness, the inhumanity, of Gaza.
Identical to American exceptionalism’s sadism, Israel’s violent acts are legitimized by righteousness and a response to the aggressor’s (?) viciousness.
The message is hypocritically clear: Some lives are more valuable than others. We hear the cries of the Jewish parents, the family members, their friends, and we feel their suffering. But let us understand that mothers and fathers, whether they’re Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian, Yemini, in the lands ravaged by US greed, anywhere, love their children as much as we love ours. Let us love not only the children of those we call our allies and our own but all children. Let us value all life.
Let us value all life was supposed to be the closing sentence in this piece. I should start over, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just add more paragraphs.
The death of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian, has been reported by US mainstream news venues. On Wednesday morning, the teenager was kidnapped, his burned body found a couple of hours later—apparently a reprisal killing. His cousin has demanded that the Israeli police and Israeli government do what they did in Hebron: “Demolish and blow the settler houses who have done this crime.”
Netanyahu, fearful of individual retaliations, this time has called for an investigation, issuing a statement that Israel is a country of laws and “Everyone is ordered to act according to the law”—despite the lawlessness unleashed after the kidnapping of the Israeli teens and further lawlessness after their bodies were discovered. Despite no inquiry to determine who killed them but instead a rampage of terror against the Palestinians.
Reading a New York Times article, I gasped that a Facebook group was created to promote revenge for the deaths of the Israeli teens. A photo was posted of two girls, holding a sign: “Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values!”
This is eye for an eye. And everyone will be blind.
Havana – The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) denounced the U.S.-imposed fine against the French bank BNP Paribas as an outrage against state sovereignty and the rules of free trade and international law.
A MINREX statement warns that with this new fine, the government of President Barack Obama has gone further than all his predecessors, accumulating penalties that exceed $11 billion USD against scores of entities, applied under many different sanctions regimes.
According to the statement, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice and the state of New York imposed a record fine on June 30 of $8.97 billion USD against the French bank BNP Paribas, for disobeying Washington’s unilateral sanctions regimes against many countries.
In the specific case of Cuba, this bank institution is accused, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, of having processed thousands of transactions with the island’s entities, totaling more than $1.7 billion USD.
This fine, the largest imposed in history by the U.S. government for violations of its blockade on Cuba and current sanctions against third countries, violates the rules of International Law, and is described as an extraterritorial and illegal application of U.S. legislation against a foreign entity.
MINREX said that as a Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the European Union is being negotiated, it might be asked whether this is how the U.S. government intends to continue treating its allies.
BNP Paribas joins a long list of U.S. and foreign financial, trade, economic and other entities that have been the object of punitive measures, in the context of the worsening of the blockade and, especially, the financial persecution of Cuba.
Once again, the U.S. government has ignored the overwhelming international rejection of this criminal and failed policy against our nation, the Ministry said, qualifying the fine as an outrage against state sovereignty, and the rules of free trade and international law.
On Wednesday, June 25th, the Financial Times published an essay by Francis Fukuyama. He is the famed US political scientist, a “neoconservative” apostate and author of The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. The title of his op-ed is “ISIS risks distracting US from more menacing foes”. I first read it in the middle of the night on my “smartphone” and found it confusing. What was the writer getting at? I did not notice the byline. Then I did, and was less confused. Fukuyama is conflicted and his ideas are sometimes contradictory. So you factor that in. No problem. He has had a checkered past, but haven’t we all?
Fukuyama started out as a “neoconservative” during the Reagan Presidency, working alongside such disturbing characters as Paul Wolfowitz and I. Scooter Libby, who were later to become famous, wild-eyed propagandists in the G.W. Bush Administration, aka the Cheney Regency. In the aftermath of 9/11, Fukuyama–like all true blue Neocons and “liberal interventionists”–promoted the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq on bogus grounds. The purported aim was to depose Saddam Hussein and install “democracy” in his place.
You may recall that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and possessed no WMD at the time of those attacks. There were no al-Qaeda, no terrorism, and no terrorists inside Iraq prior to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Later, when the occupational phase of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” became an instant fiasco–and the whole rotten enterprise was revealed to be a scam based upon breathtaking lies emanating from the very top–Fukuyama broke with his fellow Neocons. He became a critic of the Regency and the Neocons, and has since then taken a more nuanced approach to world affairs.
Although he no longer communicates with Dr. Paul “Mass Destruction” Wolfowitz, Fukuyama was on the steering committee of the legal defense fund for I. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and top “national security” adviser, when Libby got mixed up in the Regent’s campaign to smear Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the husband of CIA agent Valerie Plame whose undercover assignment was WMD. Wilson had the temerity to point out in a July 2003 New York Times op-ed that Iraq had not, in fact, imported “yellow cake” uranium from Niger to build an A-bomb. Ergo, there was no mushroom cloud on the horizon. Ergo, Dick Cheney’s biggest WMD whopper was clarified and exposed to the light of day. At that point Fukuyama must have figured that his friend Libby, the factotum, was falling on his sword for his all-powerful boss, and deserved a break.
Like most big-picture essays, especially those aimed at the general public, Fukuyama’s present effort in the FT is predicated upon hallowed and widely accepted assumptions about American history and America’s place in the world. Many of these assumptions are dubious, fictive and, in some cases, ridiculous. Accordingly, Fukuyama’s conclusions are necessarily suspect. Since he is a savant, he should know better. Perhaps he does know better, but has not the time nor the inclination to correct the authorized version of history and current events. It might upset certain people or further confuse them. Better to embrace the received, conventional wisdom, and use it whenever possible to advance one’s own ideas.
Fukuyama’s first mistake, in my view, is taking the foreign policy pronouncements of Barack Obama seriously, at face value, and worthy of analysis. Certainly at this stage, it does not matter what Obama says. In truth, it never has. Yes, I realize that Obama presides over the lone surviving superpower, but this outlandish circumstance by itself is a red flag and requires that all issues relating to US foreign policy be considered with a jaundiced eye. White House credibility in world affairs is shot, and has been shot for decades. Dishonesty and wholesale deception did not start with Barack Obama. He has simply continued the trend, and taken it to the next level, like G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton did before him.
What the current occupant of the White House brings to the table is salesmanship and fantasies. Obama is a master at speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Whatever sounds good, go with it. He’s a talker. I recall in particular his 2008 US presidential campaign sortie through Israel and Europe, and especially his enraptured, grandiose speech at Tiergarten Park Berlin on July 24th of that year. That speech boils down to flapdoodle, and its messianic quality is all the more remarkable, because Obama was still a private citizen. The day before, his idealism ran in a different direction. He was shamelessly pandering to Ariel Sharon’s successor, PM Ehud Olmert, in Tel Aviv, while giving the Palestinians short shrift and the shaft. John McCain had performed a similar routine four months previously.
In the article in question, Fukuyama critiques Obama’s recent commencement address at West Point on May 28th. The White House hyped it as a major foreign policy speech. It fell flat with Fukuyama. He calls Obama’s approach “wrong-headed”. Too much concern about terrorism and the Middle East and not enough focus on the authentic “menacing foes”–Russia and China. He states, “The extremism of ISIS will in the end prove self-defeating. By contrast, allies the US is sworn to defend are now threatened by industrialized nations with sophisticated militaries.” Say what?!
Fukuyama appears to imply that America needs real enemies to confront, not phantoms. Yet it was a phantom threat that he and his cohorts were hot to confront when it came to Saddam Hussein. The blowback from that misadventure is incalculable. Fukuyama goes on to conclude, “The poles established by the neoconservatives on the one hand and isolationists on the other present false choices. Real strategy always has to lie somewhere in between.” In sum, Fukuyama does not want Washington to get sidetracked. Hmm. May I humbly suggest that the US has been hopelessly sidetracked for at least a century.
Fukuyama begins by paying homage to World War II, which global bloodbath remains the primary justification for all US foreign policy initiatives since 1945. It is the holy grail for the Neocons, along with their flamboyant hero, Winston Churchill. It is key to the modern-day, bipartisan attitude of American exceptionalism. Colonel Andrew Bacevich makes the central importance of the Second World War clear in a recent fascinating interview with Bill Moyers.
Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power, does not fault America’s entry and success in the Second World War, but he does deplore the use to which it has been put to empower a host of ill-advised US foreign policy adventures in the aftermath. My problem, on the other hand, is with the Second World War itself and with its progenitor, the Great War of 1914-18. If we accept them as sacrosanct, legitimate undertakings by Washington, then we lend credence to the myth of American exceptionalism, which has turned out to be a dangerous, self-destructive idea.
Consider an alternative narrative in which America’s entry into both world wars was unnecessary, ill-advised, and brought about by chicanery in service to a private agenda. The idea of American exceptionalism began with Woodrow Wilson, not with creepy neoconservative ideologues. Wilson ran for a second term in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war!” Yet, Wilson appears to have already decided to join England on the western front in France. Washington’s official neutrality was a sham from the start. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned in protest to Wilson’s hypocrisy in June 1915.
In the background, English propaganda was beating the drums to drag America into the war. America’s official entry into the Great War in April 1917 meant that the British Empire was saved from near-certain defeat at the hands of the German army and the Central Powers. It meant the rise of fascism and the success of communism in Russia. It meant the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the execution of the Balfour Declaration in Palestine. It meant, inevitably, a second European conflict on a grander scale, caused by the injustices of the first conflict, as embodied in the Paris peace treaty. In short, it was a ghastly blunder.
Did Wilson make the right decision? In hindsight, absolutely not. He deceived the American people in 1916, and was then taken to the cleaners by Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau at the Paris peace conference in 1919. He then suffered a nervous breakdown, then a stroke, and died a broken man. Did Franklin Roosevelt act wisely when he hectored England, France and Poland in the summer of 1939 not to negotiate with Germany over Danzig, thereby assuring the outbreak of a European war? Probably not. He acted recklessly. Did Roosevelt do the right thing by provoking the Empire of Japan to attack US armed forces in the Pacific in 1941 so that he could jump into the war in Europe, a war he felt responsible for instigating behind the scenes? Again, no. His conduct can easily be regarded as treason. It was certainly deceitful.
We can’t unwind history, of course, but we can see its consequences, set the record straight, and not live in a dream world. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, these were not unselfish wars to make the world safe for democracy. That was a cover story. These were wars for economic advantage on the part of Washington and London, and were fought to maintain the prestige of the near-bankrupt British Empire–and then replace it with the American empire. They were at variance with the dictum delivered by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1821 that America, “… goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
Fukuyama assumes, instead, that both global wars of the twentieth century were non-fraudulent and for a good cause, on which foundation Washington has built a better world. This is the conventional view. He believes the struggle to improve humanity should continue in the aftermath of the Cold War. He takes it for granted that the US is entitled–as the indispensable and exceptional nation–to intervene everywhere on earth at its discretion, and has a responsibility plus the resources to do so. To imagine otherwise is isolationism. This vagary constitutes in large measure the mindset of Washington’s foreign policy establishment. It is delusional and grounded in hubris.
Overlaying this Wilsonian mistake is the self-evident, post Cold War fact that Washington–the White House, the Senate, the Congress and both political parties–have, for all intents and purposes, been hijacked by agents of the Israel Lobby, to wit, the Neocons and their “liberal interventionist” fellow travelers. It is a perfect storm. We are witnessing the bloody results today in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine. The fake nuclear crisis with Iran is another dangerous byproduct. Humanity has not profited thereby. Now Fukuyama proposes what amounts to a new crusade against Russia and China, leaving the “war on terror” behind. Alas, he appears not to be joking.
PATRICK FOY is an essayist and short story writer. He graduated from Columbia University, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. His work can be found at www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.
Copyright 2014 Patrick Foy.
It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment, led by the Peace Laureate, has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia. The mainstream media (MSM) have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT, Nov. 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment.
The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by rightwing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated-regime-change flavor. They also increased in level of violence. The sniper killings of police and protesters in Maidan on February 21, 2014 brought the crisis to a new head. This violence overlapped with and eventually terminated a negotiated settlement of the struggle brokered by EU members that would have ended the violence, created an interim government and required elections by December. The accelerated violence ended this transitional plan, which was replaced by a coup takeover, along with the forced flight of Victor Yanukovich.
There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings of both protesters and police were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich. Most telling was the intercepted phone message between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Upton in which Paet regretfully reported compelling evidence that the shots killing both police and protesters came from a segment of the protesters. This account was almost entirely suppressed in the MSM; for example, the New York Times never mentioned it once through the following two months. It is also enlightening that the protesters at Maidan were never called “militants” in the MSM, although a major and effective segment was armed and violent—that term was reserved for protesters in Eastern Ukraine, who were commonly designated “pro-Russian” as well as militants.
There is also every reason to believe that the coup and establishment of a right wing and anti-Russian government were encouraged and actively supported by U.S. officials. Victoria Nuland’s intercepted “fuck the EU” words express her hostility to a group that, while generally compliant and subservient, departed from neocon plans for a proper government in Kiev headed by somebody like “Yats.” So she would surely have been pleased when the EU-supported February compromise plan was ended by the violence and coup. The U.S. support of the coup government has been enthusiastic and unqualified, and whereas Kerry and company delayed recognition of the elected government of Maduro in Venezuela, and have strongly urged him to dialogue and negotiate with the Venezuelan protesters—in fact, threatening him if he doesn’t — Kerry and company have not done the same in Ukraine where the Kiev government forces have slowly escalated their attacks on the Eastern Ukraine, but not on “protesters,” only on “militants!”
The Kiev government’s military is now using jets and helicopters to bomb targets in the East and heavy artillery and mortars in its ground operations. Its targets have included hospitals and schools, and as of June 8 civilian casualties have been in the hundreds. A dramatic massacre of 40 or more pro-Russian protesters in Odessa on May 2 by a well-organized cadre of neo-Nazi supporters, possibly agents of the Kiev government, was an early high point in this pacification campaign. No investigation of this slaughter has been mounted by the Kiev government or “international community” and it has not interfered in the slightest with Western support of Kiev. In parallel the MSM have treated it in very low key. (The New York Times buried this incident in a back page continuation of a story on “Deadly Clashes Erupt in Ukraine,” May 5, which succeeds in covering up the affiliation of the killers.) Kerry has been silent, though we may imagine his certain frenzy if Maduro’s agents had carried out a similar action in Venezuela. Recall the “Racak massacre,” where the deaths of 40 alleged victims of the Serb military created an international frenzy; but in that case the United States needed a casus belli, whereas in the Odessa case there is a pacification war already in process by a U.S. client, so MSM silence is in order.
It is an interesting feature of media coverage of the Ukraine crisis that there is a regular focus on alleged or possible Russian aid, control of and participation in the actions of the protesters/militants/insurgents in Eastern Ukraine. This was evident in the Times’s gullible acceptance of a claim that photos of insurgents included a Russian pictured in Russia, later acknowledged to be problematic (Andrew Higgins, Michael Gordon and Andrew Kramer, “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia,” NYT, April 20, 2014); and in another lead article which was almost entirely speculation (Sabrina Tavernise, “In Ukraine Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints,” NYT, June 1, 2014.). But this interest in foreign intrusion in Ukraine affairs, with the implication of wrong-doing, does not extend to evidence of U.S. and other NATO power aid and control. Visits by Biden, Cain, Nuland and intelligence and Pentagon figures are sometimes mentioned, but the scope and character of aid and advice, of U.S. “fingerprints,” is not discussed and seems to be of little interest. It is, in fact, normalized, so that as with the aid plans in which Russian proposals are “bludgeons” but U.S.-EU plans are “constructive and reasonable” the double standard is in good working order here as well.
Isn’t there a danger that Russia will enter this war on behalf of the pro-Russian majority of the eastern part of Ukraine now under assault? Possibly, but not likely, as Putin is well aware that the Obama-neocon-military-industrial complex crowd would welcome this and would use it, at minimum, as a means of further dividing Russia from the EU powers, further militarizing U.S. clients and allies, and firming up the MIC’s command of the U.S. national budget. Certainly there are important forces in this country that would love to see a war with Russia, and it is notable how common are political comments, criticisms and regrets at Obama’s weak response to Russian “aggression” (e.g., David Sanger, “Obama Policy Is put to Test: Global Crises Challenge a Strategy of Caution,” NYT, March 17, 2014). But so far Putin refuses to bite.
In response to this pressure from the powerful war-loving and war-making U.S. constituencies, Obama has been furiously denouncing Russia and has hastened to exclude it from the G-8, impose sanctions and penalties on the villain state, increase U.S. troops and press military aid on the near-Russia states allegedly terrified at the Russian threat, carry out training exercises and maneuvers with these allies and clients, assure them of the sacredness of our commitment to their security, and press these states and major allies to increase their military budgets. One thing he hasn’t done is to restrain his Kiev client in dealing with the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Another is engaging Putin in an attempt at a settlement. Putin has stressed the importance of a constitutional formation of a Ukraine federation in which a still intact Ukraine would allow significant autonomy to the Eastern provinces. There was a Geneva meeting and joint statement on April 17 in which all sides pledged a de-escalation effort, disarming irregulars, and constitutional reform. But it was weak, without enforcement mechanisms, and had no effect. The most important requirement for de-escalation would be the termination of what is clearly a Kiev pacification program for Eastern Ukraine. That is not happening, because Obama doesn’t want it to happen. In fact, he takes the position that it is up to Russia to curb the separatists in East Ukraine, and he has gotten his G-7 puppies to agree to give Russia a deadline to do this, or face more severe penalties.
This situation calls to mind Gareth Porter’s analysis of the “perils of dominance,” where he argued that the Vietnam war occurred and became a very large one because U.S. officials thought that with their overwhelming military superiority North Vietnam and its allies in the south would surrender and accept U.S. terms—most importantly a U.S. controlled South Vietnam—as military escalation took place and a growing toll was imposed on the Vietnamese (see his Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam). It didn’t work. In the Ukraine context the United States once again has a militarily dominant position. On its own and through its NATO arm it has encircled Russia with satellites established in violation of the 1990 promise of James Baker and Hans-Dietrch Genscher to Mikhail Gorbachev to not move eastward “one inch,” and it has placed anti-missile weapons right on Russia’s borders. And now it has engineered a coup in Ukraine that empowered a government openly hostile to Russia and threatening both the well-being of Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the control of the major Russian naval base in Crimea. Putin’s action in reincorporating Crimea into Russia was an inevitable defensive reaction to a serious threat to Russian national security. But it may have surprised the Obama team, just as the Vietnamese refusal to accept surrender terms may have surprised the Johnson administration. Continuing to push the Vietnamese by escalation didn’t work, although it did kill and injure millions and ended the Vietnamese alternative way. Continuing and escalating actions against Russia in 2014 may involve a higher risk for the real aggressor and for the world, but there are real spinoff benefits to Lockheed and other members of the MIC.
For those who wondered what happened to Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former campaign advisor and mealy-mouthed White House press secretary, he has resurfaced in the private sector. He is the co-founder of Incite Agency, an upscale public relations firm. Apparently, going from an underpaid shill for the White House to an overpaid shill for Corporate America was a seamless (and guiltless) transition.
Gibbs’ public relations company’s first major assignment is going to be a real whopper. Hold on to your seat. Incite Agency is going to launch a national public relations campaign aimed at destroying America’s teachers’ unions. It’s true. Gibbs and company have announced that they will be preparing the groundwork for lawsuits across the country, challenging tenure and other teachers’ job protection.
When you consider that Obama has surrounded himself with anti-union people (Rahm Emanuel, Arne Duncan, Eric Holder, et al), this vile announcement should come as no surprise, not to people who’ve been paying attention. Still, the naked audacity and venality of the move caught some of us off-guard. We’re reminded of that Lily Tomlin line: “I worry that no matter how cynical I become, it’s never going to be enough.”
If people out there—say parents—were truly and sincerely opposed to school teachers receiving tenure, believing that union protection somehow contributed to “substandard education” (which every study ever conducted has refuted), one could almost forgive their ignorance. Not knowing the facts, all that these good people want is a decent education for their kids, for America’s kids, and no one should ridicule that.
But this anti-teacher campaign has nothing to do with improving education. It has as much to do with that as “designer water” has to do with improving people’s health. Some ambitious guys simply got together and figured out a way to get people to reject municipal water. By pretending that plastic water was somehow better than tap (even though municipal standards are higher), they were able to carve out a new market. Getting people to pay for something they could otherwise get free is no small feat.
These same guys (the ones who want more toll roads and want to charge fees for walking on hiking trails) now want to privatize America’s public education system. The prospect of millions of families willing to pay for something that they could otherwise get free has these covetous money-grubbers positively drooling. This would be a bonanza for the ruling class. But it’s tricky. It’s a big move. How do they pull off something like that?
Obviously, they can’t compare resumes or backgrounds or certification. Obviously, they can’t mention the fact that public school teachers are required to have not only a college degree but a teaching credential. They can’t mention it because of the embarrassing fact that private school teachers aren’t required to have either.
Private school teachers require less certification and are paid less. Yet these entrepreneurs want people to believe private schools somehow attract the best teachers. That argument wouldn’t work for doctors. You couldn’t convince people that the best physicians were the ones with the least education and lowest salaries. So how do they convince them that privatization is a smart move? They do it by demonizing the labor unions that represent the teachers.
Given that there is a massive public relations smear-job loose upon the land, it is incumbent upon the AFL-CIO to respond in kind. The House of Labor has money to spend. They need to spend it wisely. Instead of blowing it on futile organizing drives (e.g., Wal-Mart), they should focus their energy on speaking frankly with the American public. Convince them that they’re being played for suckers. There is still time.
David Macaray is a labor columnist and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor, 2nd Edition). email@example.com