Bulletin N° 383
Subject: ON THE GENOCIDAL BLUES.
4 January 2009
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
I was about 14 years old when my Aunt called to me as I went out the door to go bird hunting with some high school friends in South Texas: "Don't kill anything you wouldn't eat." My friends laughed and, full of high jinks, they took the opportunity to play a trick on me. I came home that evening proudly displaying half-a-dozen mud hens, which they had told me were black ducks. My Aunt was furious with me --as much at my ignorance as at my wasting the lives of these inedible birds. She broke the old shotgun I had used, and I never went bird hunting again. It wasn't that much fun anyway. . . .
Later I read Marxist books and learned that the fox which guards the chicken coop might be a red fox, or a white fox, or a black fox, or a brown one. He might be a big fox, or a small fox, a handsome one, or an ugly one. It might even be a she. In our casino-style culture it is only natural that people will want to invest in variables such as these, but for anyone who is not bitten by the gambling bug, and who is not looking for a new angle in order to place one more bet, the outcome is pretty apparent, no matter which fox gets the job. Some might call it fatalism, or defeatism; but the laws of nature seem to be for the most part true, and they inform common sense. As unseemly as it may appear, the strategies of our custodians are lethal and, no matter what their size, shape, color, or gender, they are deadly assets belonging to the owners of capital. Under these circumstances, no chicken is safe. . . .
As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I conducted some ethnological work in my home state of Texas. I studied such things as graffiti on the walls of public toilets at the Dallas Modern Art Museum which gave voice to the occasional creativity within the "chicken coop". It was a period of street poetry, when ordinary people never really thought seriously of attaching a price to their words and ideas. On the wall of one toilet stall, I remember seeing written in the blue ink of a felt-tip pen: "Here I sit all broken hearted; I came to shit and only farted." I could easily imagine the disappointed look on the face of the cowboy who wrote it. Then I looked to the right and saw written in a different hand a more high-brow poem: "She offered her honor, he honored her offer; and all night long it was on her and off her." Anonymous poets such as these offered existential encounters in the most unexpected places and public spaces in the late1960s. In this case the anal humor opposite the genital humor seemed to toll a bell in progressive-regressive rhythms, back and forth across the practico-inert. The structuralist project of defining a definitive order, appeared as a doomed endeavor, compared to Sartre's passionate descriptions of life, creativity, and chance in his book, Search for a Method(1968).
I'm told that all that occurred in another "archeological era," and that the "linguistic strata" today is beyond that threshold, but these voices had their own power, and my visit to Dallas in the 1960s left me hopeful that life would prevail over genocide in Vietnam and that diversity would flourish rather than vanish in America. The mass murders that occur periodically in Texas (including Governor George W. Bush's record-setting killing spree at the Huntsville State Prison back in the late 1990s) appear as the work of anal retentive minds, the paranoid fantasies of control freaks and sadists, who are concerned with preserving "structural integrity" at all costs; "law-and-order" enthusiasts who place their concerns for "obedience" above any love for justice and freedom. These are the prototypical concerns of fascism, and who could do a better job at providing "safety" than the paranoid administrator with his willingness to make mistakes on the side of "security" in order to avoid errors that might cause things to get "out of control."
Speaking of Foucault's writings and his analysis of the political shift from "the model of sovereignty" to "the disciplinary model," which is said to have occurred sometime after the early writings of Sartre, Gilles Deleuze explains:
When the diagram of power . . . becomes the "bio-power" or "bio-politics" of populations, controlling and administering life, it is indeed life that emerges as the new object of power. At that point law increasingly renounces that symbol of sovereign privilege, the right to put someone to death (the death penalty), but allows itself to produce all the more hecatombs and genocides: not by returning to the old law of killing, but on the contrary in the name of race, precious space, conditions of life and the survival of a population that believes itself to be better than its enemy, which it now treats not as the juridical enemy of the old sovereign but as a toxic or infectious agent, a sort of "biological danger". From that point on the death penalty tends to be abolished and holocausts grow 'for the same reasons', testifying all the more effectively to the death of man. But when power in this way takes life as its aim or object, then resistance to power already puts itself on the side of life, and turns life against power: 'life as a political object was in a sense taken at face value and turned back against the system that was bent on controlling it'.
[I]t is in man himself that we must liberate life, since man himself is a form of imprisonment for man. Life becomes resistant to power when power takes life as its object. . . . When power becomes bio-power resistance becomes the power of life, a vital power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram. Is not the force that comes from outside a certain idea of Life, a certain vitalism . . . ? Is not life this capacity to resist force?(Deleuze, Foucault, 1986, pp. 92-93)
In the 5 items below CEIMSA readers will see how a multiplicity of molecular life forces continue to resist the molar powers that seek to pulverize and homogenize all life forms, and aim at concentrating power at the very top of some imaginary pyramid. These destructive forces constitute a real power, and like all power they represent strategies, but the forces behind this power originate outside the structure of the State, and far beyond the Strata of Knowledge. If the "New Archivist" is right, the transversal intersection of the "diagram of power" (i.e. strategy) cutting through the Strata of Knowledge (i.e. literary, scientific, political, and economic learning) is likely to produce "new 'points, knots or focuses' which act in turn on the strata, but in such a way as to make change possible."(p.89) In final analysis, these essays below may help us seek an answer to the question Gilles Deleuze posses in the final chapter of his book on Michel Foucault, "Foldings, or the Inside of Thought (Subjectivization)" :
If power is constitutive of truth, how can we conceive of a 'power of truth' which would no longer be the truth of power, a truth that would release transversal lines of resistance and not integral lines of power?(pp.94-95)
The death toll in Gaza continues to rise. The carnage is everywhere – city streets, a mosque, hospitals, police stations, a jail, a university bus stop, a plastics factory, a television station. It seems impossible, unacceptable, to step back to analyze the situation while bodies remain buried under the rubble, while parents continue to search for their missing children, while doctors continue to labor to stitch burned and broken bodies back together without sufficient medicine or equipment. The hospitals are running short even of electricitythe Israeli blockade has denied them fuel to run the generators. It is an ironic twist on the legacy of Israel’s involvement in an earlier massacre – in the Sabra and Shatila camps, in Lebanon back in 1982, it was the Israeli soldiers who lit the flairs, lighting the night sky so their Lebanese allies could continue to kill.
But if we are serious about ending this carnage, this time, we have no choice but to try to analyze, try to figure out what caused this most recent massacre, how to stop it, and then how to continue our work to end the occupation, end Israel’s apartheid policies, and change U.S. policy to one of justice and equality for all.
· The Israeli airstrikes represent serious violations of international law – including the Geneva Conventions and a range of international humanitarian law.
· The U.S. is complicit in the Israeli violations – directly and indirectly.
· The timing of the air strikes has far more to do with U.S. and Israeli politics than with protecting Israeli civilians.
· This serious escalation will push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration’s plans.
· There is much work to be done.
The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip violate important tenants of international humanitarian law, including violations of the Geneva Conventions. The violations include both obligations of an Occupying Power to protect an Occupied Population, and the broader requirements of the laws of war that prohibit specific acts. The violations start with collective punishment – the entire 1.5 million people who live in the Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
Israel’s claim that it is “responding to” or “retaliating for” Palestinian rocket attacks is spurious. The rocket fire as currently used is indeed illegal – Palestinians, like any people living under a hostile military occupation, have the right to resist, including the use of military force against the occupation. But that right does not include targeting civilians. The rockets used so far are unable to be aimed with any specificity, so they are in fact aimed at the civilians who live in the Israeli cities and towns, and so are illegal. The rocket fire against civilians should be ended – as many Palestinians believe, because it does not help end the occupation, but also because it is illegal under international law. However, that rocket fire, illegal or not, does not give Israel the right to punish the entire population for those actions. Such vengeance is the very essence of “collective punishment” and is therefore unequivocally prohibited by the Geneva conventions.
Another Israeli violation involves targeting civilians. This violation involves three aspects. First, Israel claims the airstrikes were targeted directly at “Hamas-controlled” security-related institutions. Since the majority Hamas party controls the government in Gaza, virtually all the police departments and other security-related sites were hit. Those police and security agencies are civilian targets – not military. They are run by the Hamas-led government in Gaza, an institution completely separate from Gaza’s military wing that has carried out some (though by no means the majority) of the rocket attacks. Second, some of the attacks directly struck incontestably civilian targets: a plastics factory, a local television broadcasting center. And third, the incredibly crowded conditions in Gaza, one of the most densely populated sites in the world, mean that civilian casualties on a huge scale were an inevitable and predictable result. Such targeting of civilian areas is illegal.
The U.S. is also directly complicit in the violations of the Geneva Convention inherent in Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s actions – keeping Gazans locked in the Strip; closing the border crossings to almost all fuel, food, equipment and other basic humanitarian goods; preventing UN and other international human rights monitors and journalists from entering, and more – have all been backed and supported by the U.S. and others in the international community. The resulting humanitarian crisis – reaching catastrophic proportions even before the current air attacks – is partly the responsibility of the United States.
Still another violation involves the disproportionate nature of the military attack. The airstrikes have killed at least 270 people so far, injured more than 1,000, many of them seriously, and many remain buried under the rubble so the death toll will likely rise. This catastrophic impact was known and inevitable, and far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians. (It should be noted that this escalation has not made Israelis safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Saturday after the Israeli assault began, was the first such casualty in more than a year.)
Key human rights officials, particular the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Professor Richard Falk, as well as Father Miguel d’Escoto, President of the General Assembly, have issued powerful statements identifying Israeli violations of international law as well as the UN’s obligations to protect the Palestinian population. (Statements attached.) But so far there has been no operative response from the UN Security Council. The Council statement, issued 28 December, was completely insufficient, essentially equating the culpability of the Occupying Power and of the occupied population for the violence that has so devastated Gaza. And the statement makes no reference to violations of international law inherent in the Israeli assaults, or in the siege of Gaza that has so drastically punished the entire population. There is a clear need for the General Assembly to step in to reclaim the UN’s role of protecting the world’s people, certainly including the Palestinians, and not just responding to the demands of the world’s powerful.
The United States remains directly complicit in Israeli violations of both U.S. domestic and international law through its continual provision of military aid. The current round of airstrikes have been carried out largely with F-16 bombers and Apache attack helicopters, both provided to Israel through U.S. military aid grants of about $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money sent to Israel every year. Between 2001 and 2006, Washington transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts for its fleet of F-16's. Just last year, the U.S. signed a $1.3 billion contract with the Raytheon corporation to provide Israel with thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles. In short, Israel's lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military support of the United States.
Israel’s attack violated U.S. law – specifically the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits U.S. arms from being used for any purpose beyond a very narrowly-defined set of circumstances: use inside a country’s borders for self-defense purposes. The Gaza assault did not meet those criteria. Certainly targeting police stations (even Israel did not claim Gazan police forces were responsible for the rockets) and television broadcast centers do not qualify as self-defense. And because the U.S. government has confirmed it was fully aware of Israeli plans for the attack before it occurred, the U.S. remains complicit in the violations. Further, the well-known history of Israeli violations of international law (detailed above) means U.S. government officials were aware of those violations, provided the arms to Israel anyway, and therefore remain complicit in the Israeli crimes.
The U.S. is also indirectly complicit through its protection of Israel in the United Nations. Its actions, including the use and threat of use of the U.S. veto in the Security Council and the reliance on raw power to pressure diplomats and governments to soften their criticism of Israel, all serve to protect Israel and keep it from being held accountable by the international community.
Timing of Israel’s Attack on Gaza
The Israeli decision to launch the attacks on Gaza was a political, not security, decision. Just a day or two before the airstrikes, it was Israel that rejected Hamas’s diplomatic initiative aimed at extending the six-month-long ceasefire that had frayed but largely stayed together since June, and that expired 26 December. Hamas officials, working through Egyptian mediators, had urged Israel to lift the siege of Gaza as the basis for continuing an extended ceasefire. Israel, including Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, of the “centrist” (in the Israeli context) Kadima Party, rejected the proposal. Livni, who went to Egypt but refused to seriously consider the Hamas offer, is running in a tight race for prime minister; her top opponent is the further-right Benyamin Netanyahu of the officially hawkish Likud party, who has campaigned against Livni and the Kadima government for their alleged “soft” approach to the Palestinians. With elections looming in February, no candidate can afford to appear anything but super-militaristic.
Further, it is certain that the Israeli government was eager to move militarily while Bush was still in office. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can’t predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration.” The Israeli officials may or may not be right about President Obama’s likelihood of responding differently than Bush on this issue – but it does point to a clear obligation on those of us in this country who voted for Obama with hope, to do all that’s necessary to press him to make good on the “change” he promised that gave rise to that hope.
Obama and Future Optioins
The escalation in Gaza will make it virtually impossible for any serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at ending the occupation. It remains uncertain whether sponsorship of an immediate new round of bilateral negotiations was in fact on Barack Obama’s initial post-inauguration agenda anyway. But the current crisis means that any negotiations, whether ostensibly Israeli-Palestinian alone or officially involving the U.S.-controlled so-called “Quartet,” will be able to go beyond a return to the pre-airstrike crisis period. That earlier political crisis, still far from solved, was characterized by expanding settlements, the apartheid Wall and crippling checkpoints crippling movement, commerce, and ordinary life across the West Bank, and a virtually impenetrable siege of Gaza that even before the current military assault, had created a humanitarian catastrophe.
So What do We Do?
The immediate answer is everything: write letters to Congressmembers and the State Department, demonstrate at the White House and the Israeli Embassy, write letters to the editor and op-eds for every news outlet we can find, call radio talk shows, protest the U.S. representatives at the UN and their protection of Israeli crimes. We need to engage with the Obama transition process and plan now for how we will keep the pressure on to really change U.S. policy in the Middle East. We should all join the global movement of outrage and solidarity with Gaza. There are a host of on-line petitions already – we should sign them all. The U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation is compiling action calls on our website – www.endtheoccupation.org. We have to do all of that.
But then. We can’t stop with emergency mobilizations. We still have to build our movement for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions, to build a global campaign of non-violent economic pressure to force Israel to comply with international law. We have to challenge U.S. military aid that scaffolds Israel’s military aggression, and U.S. political and diplomatic support that prevents the UN and the international community from holding Israel accountable for its violations. We have to do serious education and advocacy work, learning from other movements that have come before about being brave enough to call something what it is: Israeli policies are apartheid policies, and must be challenged on that basis.
We have a lot of work to do. . . .
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer in FAQ format which many will find useful for education work in this urgent period. (www.interlinkbooks.com).
Thanks to Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign for some of the background on U.S. military aid.
Director, New Internationalism Project
Institute for Policy Studies
1112 16th Street NW #600
Washington DC 20036
tel: (1-202) 234-9382 ex 206
fax: (1-202) 387-7915
from Edward S. Herman
Date: 2 January 2009
Subject: Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State.
The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.
Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel's will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated "calls" for a "ceasefire" on "both sides"; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world's bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.
The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with "Terror". It has nothing to do with the long-term "security" of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up "war" â€“ a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn't want one of the Empire's obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.
This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash'al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world's population. The primary symbols today are Islamic â€“ the mosques, the Qur'an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.
There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat's Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.
Strip away the cliché and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world's wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.
Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the 'wretched of the earth' begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and inst! ruments of hell impossible?
The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognized borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.
It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when â€“ alone with the United States â€“ it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine, into the Diaspora and the into the spirits of the global dispossessed, or when Israel deliberately aided the newly formed Hamas movement so that it might! undermine the strength of the more secular-nationalist factions.
Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world's satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, annexing them as it built and continues to build a superstructure of bypass roads and highways over the remaining, severed cities and villages of earthly Palestine. It has annexed the Jordan valley, the international border of Jordan, expelling any 'locals' inhabiting that land. It speaks with a viper's tongue over the multiple amputee of Palestine whose head shall soon be severed f! rom its body in the name of justice, peace and security.
Through the home demolitions, the assaults on civil society that attempted to cast Palestinian history and culture into a chasm of oblivion; through the unspeakable destruction of the refugee camp sieges and infrastructure bombardments of the second Intifada, through assassinations and summary executions, past the grandiose farce of disengagement and up to the nullification of free, fair and democratic Palestinian elections Israel has made its view known again and again in the strongest possible language, the language of military might, of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation and degradation.
Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal silence of the 'international community'? What will it take to see past the lies and indoctrination to what is taking place before us day after day in full view of the eyes of the world? The more horrific the actions on the ground, the more insistent are the words of peace. To listen and watch without hearing or seeing allows the indifference, the ignorance and complicity to continue and deepens with each grave our collective shame.
The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel's demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d'etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of! Israel's reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?
The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.
Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.
from Phyllis Bennis :
Date: 28 December 2008
Subject: Richard Falk's Statement on the Gaza Crisis.
Hi all --
This is the text of Richard Falk's statement on the Gaza Crisis. Please distribute as widely as you can. Father Miguel D'Escoto, President of the General Assembly, issued a very similar statement as well.
In recent days the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Such a flurry of denunciations has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid. And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish the 1.5 million Gazans for political developments within the strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as set forth in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It is long past time when talk suffices. The UN is obligated to respond under these conditions. Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing their support politically and economically for the Israeli punitive approach, and even at this stage by passivity. In light of such persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life and in view of the emergency situation that could produce an outright humanitarian catastrophe any day, it is time to act. At the very least, an urgent effort should be made at the United Nations to implement the agreed norm of a ‘responsibility to protect’ a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity. In a similar vein, it would seem mandatory for the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.
It should be noted that the breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel had been observed for several months by both sides. The truce was maintained by Hamas despite the failure of Israel to fulfill its obligation under the agreement to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza. The recent upsurge of violence occurred after an Israeli incursion that killed several alleged militants within Gaza. It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life and health threatening character on the people of Gaza.
from William Blum :
Date: 2 January 2009
The Pentagon pushes hard for a large increase in troops for Afghanistan. Barack Obama has been calling for the same since well before the November election. Listen to the drumbeats telling us that the security of the United States and the Free World necessitates increased action in this place called Afghanistan. As urgent as Iraq 2003, it is. Why? What is there about this backward, reactionary, woman-hating, failed state that warrants hundreds of deaths of American and NATO soldiers? That justifies tens of thousands of Afghan deaths since the first US bombing attacks in October 2001?
In early December, reports the Washington Post, "standing at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the United States is making a 'sustained commitment' to that country, one that will last 'some protracted period of time'." The story goes on to discuss $300 million in construction projects at this one base to house additional American forces, erecting guard stations and towers and perimeter fencing around the barracks area, putting in vehicle inspection areas, administration offices, cold-storage warehouse, a new power plant, electrical and water distribution systems, communications lines, housing for 1,500 personnel who sustain the systems, maintenance shops, warehouses ... America's wealth bleeds out endlessly.
Back in April Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, when asked how long it would take to create "lasting stability" in Afghanistan, replied: "In some way, shape or form ... I think it's a generation." "Stability", it should be noted, is a code word used regularly by the United States since at least the 1950s to mean that the regime in power is willing and able to behave the way Washington would like it to behave. It is remarkable, and scary, to read the US military writing about how it goes around the world bringing "stability" to (often ungrateful) people. This past October the Army published a manual called "Stability Operations". It discusses numerous American interventions all over the world since the 1890s, one example after another of bringing "stability" to benighted peoples. One can picture the young American service members reading it, or having it fed to them in lectures, full of pride to be a member of such an altruistic fighting force.
For those members of the US military in Afghanistan the most enlightening lesson they could receive is that their government's plans for that land of sadness have little or nothing to do with the welfare of the Afghan people. In the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, the country had a government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women; even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women's rights in the country. And what happened to that government? The United States was instrumental in overthrowing it. It was replaced by the Taliban.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, US oil companies have been vying with Russia, Iran and other energy interests for the massive, untapped oil and natural gas reserves in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The building and protection of oil and gas pipelines in Afghanistan, to continue farther to Pakistan, India, and elsewhere, has been a key objective of US policy since before the 2001 American invasion and occupation of the country, although the subsequent turmoil there has presented serious obstacles to such plans. A planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline has strong support from Washington because, amongst other reasons, the US is eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. But security for such projects remains daunting, and that's where the US and NATO forces come in to play.
In the late 1990s, the American oil company, Unocal, met with Taliban officials in Texas to discuss the pipelines. Zalmay Khalilzad, later chosen to be the US ambassador to Afghanistan, worked for Unocal; Hamid Karzai, later chosen by Washington to be the Afghan president, also reportedly worked for Unocal, although the company denies this. Unocal's talks with the Taliban, conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society, continued as late as 2000 or 2001.
As for NATO, it has no reason to be fighting in Afghanistan. Indeed, NATO has no legitimate reason for existence at all. Their biggest fear is that "failure" in Afghanistan would make this thought more present in the world's mind. If NATO hadn’t begun to intervene outside of Europe it would have highlighted its uselessness and lack of mission. “Out of area or out of business” it was said.
In June, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives published a report saying Taliban and insurgent activity against the US-NATO presence in Kandahar province puts the feasibility of the pipeline project in doubt. The report says southern regions in Afghanistan, including Kandahar, would have to be cleared of insurgent activity and land mines in two years to meet construction and investment schedules.
"Nobody is going to start putting pipe in the ground unless they are satisfied that there is some reasonable insurance that the workers for the pipeline are going to be safe," said Howard Brown, the Canadian representative for the Asian Development Bank, the major funding agency for the pipeline.
If Americans were asked what they think their country is doing in Afghanistan, their answers would likely be one variation or another of "fighting terrorism", with some kind of connection to 9-11. But what does that mean? Of the tens of thousands of Afghans killed by American/NATO bombs over the course of seven years, how many can it be said had any kind of linkage to any kind of anti-American terrorist act, other than in Afghanistan itself during this period? Not one, as far as we know. The so-called "terrorist training camps" in Afghanistan were set up largely by the Taliban to provide fighters for their civil conflict with the Northern Alliance (minimally less religious fanatics and misogynists than the Taliban, but represented in the present Afghan government). As everyone knows, none of the alleged 9-11 hijackers was an Afghan; 15 of the 19 were from Saudi Arabia; and most of the planning for the attacks appears to have been carried out in Germany and the United States. So, of course, bomb Afghanistan. And keep bombing Afghanistan. And bomb Pakistan. Especially wedding parties (at least six so far).
Israel and Palestine, again, forever
Nothing changes. Including what I have to say on the matter. To prove my point, I'm repeating part of what I wrote in this report in July 2006 ...
There are times when I think this tired old world has gone on a few years too long. What's happening in the Middle East is so depressing. Most discussions of the everlasting Israel-Palestine conflict are variations on the child's eternal defense for misbehavior -- "He started it!" Within two minutes of discussing/arguing the latest manifestation of the conflict the participants are back to 1967, then 1948, then biblical times. Instead of getting entangled in who started the current mess, I'd prefer to express what I see as two essential underlying facts of life which remain from one conflict to the next:
1) Israel's existence is not at stake and hasn't been so for decades, if it ever was, regardless of the many de rigueur militant statements by Middle East leaders over the years. If Israel would learn to deal with its neighbors in a non-expansionist, non-military, humane, and respectful manner, engage in full prisoner exchanges, and sincerely strive for a viable two-state (if not one-state) solution, even those who are opposed to the idea of a state based on a particular religion could accept the state of Israel, and the question of its right to exist would scarcely arise in people's minds. But as it is, Israel still uses the issue as a justification for its behavior, as Jews all over the world use the Holocaust and conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
2) In a conflict between a thousand-pound gorilla and a mouse, it's the gorilla who has to make concessions in order for the two sides to progress to the next level. What can the Palestinians offer in the way of concession? Israel would reply to that question: "No violent attacks of any kind." But that would leave the status quo ante bellum -- a life of unmitigated misery for the occupied, captive Palestinian people, confined to the world's largest open air concentration camp.
It is a wanton act of collective punishment that is depriving the Palestinians of food, electricity, water, money, access to the outside world ... and sleep. Israel has been sending jets flying over Gaza at night triggering sonic booms, traumatizing children. "I want nobody to sleep at night in Gaza," declared Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, words suitable for Israel's tombstone.
Israel has created its worst enemies -- they helped create Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah in Palestine, and their occupation of Lebanon created Hezbollah. The current terrible bombings can be expected to keep the process going. Since its very beginning, Israel has been almost continually engaged in fighting wars and taking other people's lands. Did not any better way ever occur to the idealistic Zionist pioneers?
The question that may never go away: Who really is Barack Obama?
In his autobiography, "Dreams From My Fathers", Barack Obama writes of taking a job at some point after graduating from Columbia University in 1983. He describes his employer as "a consulting house to multinational corporations" in New York City, and his functions as a "research assistant" and "financial writer".
The odd part of Obama's story is that he doesn't mention the name of his employer. However, a New York Times story of 2007 identifies the company as Business International Corporation. Equally odd is that the Times did not remind its readers that the newspaper itself had disclosed in 1977 that Business International had provided cover for four CIA employees in various countries between 1955 and 1960.
The British journal, Lobster Magazine -- which, despite its incongruous name, is a venerable international publication on intelligence matters -- has reported that Business International was active in the 1980s promoting the candidacy of Washington-favored candidates in Australia and Fiji. In 1987, the CIA overthrew the Fiji government after but one month in office because of its policy of maintaining the island as a nuclear-free zone, meaning that American nuclear-powered or nuclear-weapons-carrying ships could not make port calls. After the Fiji coup, the candidate supported by Business International, who was much more amenable to Washington's nuclear desires, was reinstated to power -- R.S.K. Mara was Prime Minister or President of Fiji from 1970 to 2000, except for the one-month break in 1987.
In his book, not only doesn't Obama mention his employer's name; he fails to say when he worked there, or why he left the job. There may well be no significance to these omissions, but inasmuch as Business International has a long association with the world of intelligence, covert actions, and attempts to penetrate the radical left -- including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) -- it's valid to wonder if the inscrutable Mr. Obama is concealing something about his own association with this world.
On socialist Cuba's 50th anniversary, January 1, 2009: Notes on the beginning of its unforgivable revolution.
The existence of a revolutionary socialist government with growing ties to the Soviet Union only 90 miles away, insisted the United States government, was a situation which no self-respecting superpower should tolerate, and in 1961 it undertook an invasion of Cuba.
But less than 50 miles from the Soviet Union sat Pakistan, a close ally of the United States, a member since 1955 of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), the US-created anti-communist alliance. On the very border of the Soviet Union was Iran, an even closer ally of the United States, with its relentless electronic listening posts, aerial surveillance, and infiltration into Russian territory by American agents. And alongside Iran, also bordering the Soviet Union, was Turkey, a member of the Russians' mortal enemy, NATO, since 1951.
In 1962 during the "Cuban Missile Crisis", Washington, seemingly in a state of near-panic, informed the world that the Russians were installing "offensive" missiles in Cuba. The US promptly instituted a "quarantine" of the island -- a powerful show of naval and marine forces in the Caribbean would stop and search all vessels heading towards Cuba; any found to contain military cargo would be forced to turn back.
The United States, however, had missiles and bomber bases already in place in Turkey and other missiles in Western Europe pointed toward the Soviet Union. Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev later wrote:
"The Americans had surrounded our country with military bases and threatened us with nuclear weapons, and now they would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you; we'd be doing nothing more than giving them a little of their own medicine. ... After all, the United States had no moral or legal quarrel with us. We hadn't given the Cubans anything more than the Americans were giving to their allies. We had the same rights and opportunities as the Americans. Our conduct in the international arena was governed by the same rules and limits as the Americans."
Lest anyone misunderstand, as Khrushchev apparently did, the rules under which Washington was operating, Time magazine was quick to explain. "On the part of the Communists," the magazine declared, "this equating [referring to Khrushchev's offer to mutually remove missiles and bombers from Cuba and Turkey] had obvious tactical motives. On the part of neutralists and pacifists [who welcomed Khrushchev's offer] it betrayed intellectual and moral confusion." The confusion lay, it seems, in not seeing clearly who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, for "The purpose of the U.S. bases [in Turkey] was not to blackmail Russia but to strengthen the defense system of NATO, which had been created as a safeguard against Russian aggression. As a member of NATO, Turkey welcomed the bases as a contribution to her own defense." Cuba, which had been invaded only the year before, could have, it seems, no such concern. Time continued its sermon, which undoubtedly spoke for most Americans:
"Beyond these differences between the two cases, there is an enormous moral difference between U.S. and Russian objectives ... To equate U.S. and Russian bases is in effect to equate U.S. and Russian purposes ... The U.S. bases, such as those in Turkey, have helped keep the peace since World War II, while the Russian bases in Cuba threatened to upset the peace. The Russian bases were intended to further conquest and domination, while U.S. bases were erected to preserve freedom. The difference should have been obvious to all."
Equally obvious was the right of the United States to maintain a military base on Cuban soil -- Guantanamo Naval Base by name, a vestige of colonialism staring down the throats of the Cuban people, which the US, to this day, refuses to vacate despite the vehement protest of the Castro government.
In the American lexicon, in addition to good and bad bases and missiles, there are good and bad revolutions. The American and French Revolutions were good. The Cuban Revolution is bad. It must be bad because so many people have left Cuba as a result of it.
But at least 100,000 people left the British colonies in America during and after the American Revolution. These Tories could not abide by the political and social changes, both actual and feared, particularly that change which attends all revolutions worthy of the name -- Those looked down upon as inferiors no longer know their place. (Or as the US Secretary of State put it after the Russian Revolution: The Bolsheviks sought "to make the ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth.")
The Tories fled to Nova Scotia and Britain carrying tales of the godless, dissolute, barbaric American revolutionaries. Those who remained and refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new state governments were denied virtually all civil liberties. Many were jailed, murdered, or forced into exile. After the American Civil War, thousands more fled to South America and other points, again disturbed by the social upheaval. How much more is such an exodus to be expected following the Cuban Revolution? -- a true social revolution, giving rise to changes much more profound than anything in the American experience. How many more would have left the United States if 90 miles away lay the world's wealthiest nation welcoming their residence and promising all manner of benefits and rewards?
 Washington Post, December 25, 2008
 Reuters, April 29, 2008
 U.S. Department of the Army, "Afghanistan, A Country Study" (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 134, 136, 223, 232-3
 Globe & Mail (Toronto), June 19, 2008
 BBC News, December 4, 1997, "Taleban [sic] in Texas for talks on gas pipeline"
 Washington Post, November 23, 2001
 United Press International, July 17, 2008
 Associated Press, July 3, 2006
 New York Times, October 30, 2007
 New York Times, December 27, 1977, p.40
 Lobster Magazine, Hull, UK, #14, November 1987
 William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower”, pp.199-200
 Carl Oglesby, "Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement" (2008), passim
 "Khrushchev Remembers" (1971) pp.494, 496.
 Time magazine, November 2, 1962
 Cited by William Appleman Williams, "American Intervention in Russia: 1917-20", in David Horowitz, ed., "Containment and Revolution" (1967). Written in a letter to President Woodrow Wilson by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, uncle of John Foster and Allen Dulles.
William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at <www.killinghope.org>
Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.
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from Democracy Now!
Date: 31 December 2008
Subject: Harold Pinter, "Art, Truth and Politics".