Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Zionist attack on Iran and Saudi Arabian complicity.....

This reminds me of Ken Livingstone's comment when he was mayor of London "I long for the day when the Saudi royals are swinging from lampposts and are replaced by a government accountable to the people of Saudi Arabia." Maybe the ignominy of aiding a Zionist attack on Iran might bring that day closer.....

BP in the Gulf - the Persian Gulf, and Operation AJAX

BP in the Gulf - the Persian Gulf, and Operation AJAX
By Stephen Kinzer

To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club. It's great not to be the only member any more!

Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation itself. Besides, when you're filling up at a Shell or ExxonMobil station, it's hard to feel much sense of moral triumph. Nonetheless, I reserve my right to drive by BP stations. I started doing it long before this year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

My decision not to give this company my business came after I learned about its role in another kind of "spill" entirely - the destruction of Iran's democracy more than half a century ago.

The history of the company we now call BP has, over the past
100 years, traced the arc of transnational capitalism. Its roots lie in the early years of the 20th century when a wealthy bon vivant named William Knox D'Arcy decided, with encouragement from the British government, to begin looking for oil in Iran. He struck a concession agreement with the dissolute Iranian monarchy, using the proven expedient of bribing the three Iranians negotiating with him.

Under this contract, which he designed, D'Arcy was to own whatever oil he found in Iran and pay the government just 16% of any profits he made - never allowing any Iranian to review his accounting. After his first strike in 1908, he became sole owner of the entire ocean of oil that lies beneath Iran's soil. No one else was allowed to drill for, refine, extract or sell "Iranian" oil.

"Fortune brought us a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams," Winston Churchill, who became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, wrote later. "Mastery itself was the prize of the venture."

Soon afterward, the British government bought the D'Arcy concession, which it named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It then built the world's biggest refinery at the port of Abadan on the Persian Gulf. From the 1920s into the 1940s, Britain's standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British cars, trucks and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.

After World War II, the winds of nationalism and anti-colonialism blew through the developing world.

In Iran, nationalism meant one thing: we’ve got to take back our oil. Driven by this passion, parliament voted on April 28, 1951, to choose its most passionate champion of oil nationalization, Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Days later, it unanimously approved his bill nationalizing the oil company. Mossadegh promised that, henceforth, oil profits would be used to develop Iran, not enrich Britain.

This oil company was the most lucrative British enterprise anywhere on the planet. To the British, nationalization seemed, at first, like some kind of immense joke, a step so absurdly contrary to the unwritten rules of the world that it could hardly be real. Early in this confrontation, the directors of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and their partners in Britain's government settled on their strategy: no mediation, no compromise, no acceptance of nationalization in any form.

The British took a series of steps meant to push Mossadegh off his nationalist path. They withdrew their technicians from Abadan, blockaded the port, cut off exports of vital goods to Iran, froze the country’s hard-currency accounts in British banks, and tried to win anti-Iran resolutions from the United Nations and the World Court. This campaign only intensified Iranian determination. Finally, the British turned to Washington and asked for a favor: please overthrow this madman for us so we can have our oil company back.

American president Dwight D Eisenhower, encouraged by his secretary of state John Foster Dulles, a lifelong defender of transnational corporate power, agreed to send the Central Intelligence Agency in to depose Mossadegh. The operation took less than a month in the summer of 1953. It was the first time the Central Intelligence Agency had ever overthrown a government.

At first, this seemed like a remarkably successful covert operation. The West had deposed a leader it didn't like, and replaced him with someone who would perform as bidden - Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

From the perspective of history, though, it is clear that Operation Ajax, as the operation was code-named, had devastating effects. It not only brought down Mossadegh's government, but ended democracy in Iran. It returned the Shah to his Peacock Throne. His increasing repression set off the explosion of the late 1970s, which brought to power Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the bitterly anti-Western regime that has been in control ever since.

The oil company rebranded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This corporate tradition has evidently remained strong.

Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian history have been less surprised.

Stephen Kinzer is a veteran foreign correspondent and the author of Bitter Fruit and Overthrow, among other works. His newest book is Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Islam, Israeli Lobby, Chomsky and Many other Hot Topics

Discussion with Gilad Atzmon by Miriam Cotton

Introduction by Miriam Cotton

Gilad Atzmon is a world renowned saxophonist and musician with a deep political passion for humanist issues and concern for the fate of the Palestinian people. He has written extensively about the issue and been published widely. As a self-exiled, former Jewish Israeli and IDF soldier, Atzmon’s perspective within the raging public discourse on Palestine is relatively unique. His views are bitterly opposed by some among anti-Zionist Jewish groups, who accuse him of anti-Semitism and of being a ‘self-hater’.

Atzmon fiercely resists the charge of anti-Semitism and insists that he is concerned with a proper and thorough examination of the ideology of what it is to be Jewish – in particular about how the notion of the Jews as ‘a chosen people’ has led, as he sees it, inexorably to the rise of Zionism and its present disproportionate influence on world affairs.

Atzmon also takes issue with the Western Left which he believes has failed either to recognize the true extent of Zionist influence (he singles Noam Chomsky out for criticism) and of not understanding how western Marxist/socialist ideologies are incompatible with Islamic societies and therefore can be of no use to them. These and other issues are discussed with him below. There are many things in what Atzmon says below that beg further question and comment but hopefully the exchange has served to illustrate his interpretation of the Palestinian situation and to provide an insight on a less frequently aired or understood perspective.

Miriam Cotton

MediaBite (Ireland)

June 21st 2010

MC: Following the murder and kidnap of unarmed aid activists in international waters by Israel, General Petraeus has said the situation [in Gaza] is no longer sustainable. Though he was in no sense condemning what Israel had done, do you think there may be a beginning of an end to unconditional US support for Israel?

GA: It is actually the other way around. It is Israel that ditches America. Israeli leadership realises that with America in the background the Jewish state won't be able to pursue its next two lethal plans: Nakaba 2 and dismantling Iranian nuclear capacity. Israel realises that if it wants to maintain its Jews only state as a regional power, it must ethnically cleanse the rest of the Palestinians. Israel is also convinced that its only chance of surviving in the region is if it maintains a nuclear hegemony. The USA makes things difficult for the Jewish State at the moment; it tries to slow Israel down. I believe that it is Israel that is leading the conflict rather than being subject to it.

MC: But surely that assessment overlooks some important factors. Nobody can seriously doubt that the US obsession with the region is entirely to do with oil, gas and geo-strategic matters such as Russian and Chinese proximity to these resources, in particular.

GA: This is a good way to put it. However you may also wonder what American interests are, who defines these interests and who shapes them. As it happens, AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) has been pretty effective in shaping American interests; we also know that the Wolfowitz doctrine made it into Bush’s doctrine. For the last three decades Americans failed to see the clear discrepancy between cheap oil and alliance with Israel. They might start to understand it now.

MC: But the Bush family was/is an oil dynasty too - with ties to as many if not more Arabic vested interests as to the Israelis - there are many more non-AIPAC, US vested interests like these than are in AIPAC. Everything the US has done there since the beginning of its so-called 'war on terror' - and long beforehand - has been aimed at securing the Middle East and about energy and other resources.

GA: This is all true. It is also true that AIPAC won’t necessarily interfere with unrelated political matters unless it involves Zionist, Israeli or Jewish interests. However, the Jewish lobby in America and in the UK has managed to shape the English speaking Empire’s vision of its needs and interests. From an American perspective, instead of admitting that American soldiers were actually sent to fight war for Israel, they were told instead that they were sent to die in the name of moral interventionism and democracy. They were actually told that they were ‘liberating the Iraqi people’. How wonderful! The oil and Israeli interests were presented as side issues. As we know, oil prices didn’t drop after 2003. And yet, Sadam Hussein, the bitterest enemy of Israel was removed. In the long run this plan didn’t work for Israel either. Iran had become the unchallenged Muslim leading power. Inshalah it also becomes a nuclear super power soon. This would obviously deter the Israelis from accomplishing its endless imperial aspirations.

MC: There is no other country in the Middle East in which the US and its allies could position the vast military threat that Israel has been made into if they are to achieve their ambitions for the region. The realisation of Zionist ambitions for Israel was and still is a secondary consideration for the US, despite the relatively powerful Israeli lobby.

GA: I am not so sure at all. I actually think that the Zionist Lobby has managed to destroy the American empire. I argue that the Credit Crunch is in fact a Zio-Punch. I argue that Greenspan created an economy boom to divert attention from Wolfowitz’ wars. The Zionists in fact have managed to bring down every super power they cling to. Britain, France and now America. You have to allow yourself to admit that the ‘War on Terror’ was actually a Zionist led war against Islam, a battle that was there to serve Israeli interests.

MC: Israel has been funded and encouraged to develop a nuclear arsenal of several hundred warheads, while the Iranians who do not even have one, but who control a lot of oil, are deemed to be a threat to world peace. Frankly, in these circumstances the Iranians and others would be justified in thinking they need some means of defending themselves against the only real threat at present- and against those who are in fact being the most provocative as well as doing the vast majority of the killing: US-Israel.

GA: This is indeed a very valid point. From an Iranian perspective, nuclear military capacity is a defensive means. The Iranians are constantly under a nuclear threat and so are the rest of the countries in the region and beyond.

MC: Britain and America don't fight any wars that they don't want to fight - not even justifiable wars, unless there is a percentage in it for them.

GA: Are you sure about this, or is that something we all prefer to believe? As it happens both in Britain and America the political parties are funded heavily by Jewish pro Israeli lobbies. Haim Saban, the multi-billionaire Israeli fund raiser for the American Democratic Party said last year that the best way to influence America is through political funding, the media and think tanks. There you go. Even the vision of ‘American interests’ can be no more than false interests when they have been manipulated into an alignment with what are really Israeli interests. At the end of the day, it is far cheaper to by a western politician than buying a tank. It is far cheaper to recruit a ‘new friend of Israel’ than flying an F15 for one hour.

MC: Israel is essentially a creation of the British and other European powers - and the oil was firmly at the front of their minds even way back then.

GA: This is another myth that people like Chomsky want us to believe in. In fact the Balfour Declaration was there to pull America into the war. It was there to push Jewish German and Russian bankers to change their allegiance from Germany to Britain so they could fund the new American war. Amos Alon presents an embarrassing chapter in Jewish history in his monumental book The Pity of It All. In fact it worked for the British. Two months after the Declaration, America was in the war. This wasn’t about oil. It was another war funded by a Jewish political lobby.

MC: As with many other violent regimes that the US has propped up, the US doesn't care one jot what Israel gets up to with its own people so long as the commercial plan is proceeding towards its goal. The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is just one of the incidental costs that has to be paid to keep the US's bulldog in the region onside. Official US and UK statements after the attack on the aid flotilla were deplorable, with Obama for example declaring the deaths merely 'regrettable'. This was a clear signal to Turkey: do that again and this is what we will give you. Get in line.

GA: America is talking in many voices at the moment. It is confused or may even be lost in terms of foreign policy. Partially because there is a conflict between the American interests and the lobbies that gave the democrats the keys to the white house, namely AIPAC.

MC: US-Israel can no longer get away so easily as it once did with propagandising the Palestinians’ cause as a nation consisting entirely of terrorists nor cover up the increasingly blatant horrors that are being visited on them. What General Petraeus was signaling, it seems, is that a new strategy is needed - one that is less horrifying to world opinion so that they can all get on with business without attracting so much negative attention to the details.

GA: I think that General Petraeus together with his military advisers are realising that America is about to lose its grip in the Arab and Muslim world. At the end of the day, if I need your oil, I had better make friends with you rather than being caught in bed with your biggest enemy.

MC: They obviously didn’t feel that way about Iraq. They have secured what they wanted there so far and next up is Iran. At the same time, it's clear that the US has created a monster, Israel, in the Middle East that will prove much more difficult to rein in than was wanted or even envisaged in some respects.

GA: I agree with most of what you say. However, contemporary liberal democracy decisions are made by elected politicians that are bought by different kinds of ‘friends of Israel’. In America it is AIPAC and major Jewish fund-raisers such as Haim Saban whom I mentioned before, in Britain we had Lord ‘cash machine’ Levy and now the CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel). These pressure groups and individuals are there to suppress ethical reaction within the political system and beyond. However, following the last massacres in Gaza and on the Mavi Marmara, we saw a tidal wave of mass resentment towards Israel and its supportive Jewish lobbies. This is something that could lead eventually towards a cosmic shift also within politics.

MC: A different question - in the Irish version of the Sunday Times on the 6th of June there was an extraordinary article by one of Ireland's foremost journalists, Matt Cooper, which was headlined 'Israel presents a test of diplomatic skills', I kid you not. Cooper begins the piece by acknowledging the atrocity committed by Israel on the Mavi Marmara but subsequently works his way around to recommending what he calls a 'nuanced' way forward that is devoid of morality or of even basic humanity. The murders and all the previous Israeli slaughters that he has just condemned are benched - presumably in the interest of what he calls 'balanced' opinion later on in the same piece. 'Diplomacy' and Ireland’s ‘economic interests’ are invoked so as to finesse the horrific truths of what is really happening to the Palestinians out of the equation or at least into the margins. We are invited to understand the feelings of successive Israeli governments and by implication to compromise with their murderous intransigence after all. He rehearses the same jaded myth that Israel is surrounded by hostility, while ignoring the terror that it has since its incarnation routinely threatened and inflicted on its neighbours and on the Palestinians with all the might of the US military at its disposal - and says nothing at all of the huge cache of nuclear weapons which it has threatened to use against Iran, which has no nuclear weapons.

GA: It is indeed very interesting. Today we learned that Israel insists to probe its own crime. This is maybe the latest phase in Israeli manifested lunacy, arrogance or ignorance. The murderer tells the authorities, it is ok I can look into my own acts, leave it with me. ‘My parents and my cousin can review my acts.’ This is indeed a way to challenge world diplomacy. Will Israel get away with it this time? I hope not. But if it does, it is there to prove to us all again that kosher lobbies are corrupting our ethical perspectives. Considering the fatal danger of a total war invoked by Israel, our leaders do not have much time at their disposal. Israel is the ultimate danger to world peace. It must be confronted with the ultimate measures now.

MC: I don't agree that any sort of preemptive physical attack on Israel would be justified, if that is what you are referring to.

GA: I obviously do not refer to violence here but to some extreme measures of economic embargo, sanctions and cultural boycotts.

MC: To get back to the media, I'm asking what you think about the role the mainstream media has played in promoting the Israeli perspective. Senior journalists throughout the West especially, mostly talk in a register of language and from within a frame of reference that is essentially back to front on this and many other issues: the victims of outrageous Israeli aggression and illegality are described as terrorists for resisting while the most outrageous pronouncements and behaviours are 'nuanced' into an Orwellian inversion of meaning and truth – Matt Cooper-style. Unprovoked aggression is redefined as defensive action to protect ‘economic interests’ above all.

GA: As I mentioned before, Haim Saban states that influence is achieved through ‘political funding, media and think tanks’. You are concerned with media and ideology here. There is no doubt that in the English speaking empire we are facing a battle against a foreign ideology that was very successful in defining our needs, desires and notion of justice. It was also very successful in setting our notion of fear and terror. The neo-cons that were spreading the deceitful ideology of ‘moral interventionism’ via politics and media were largely Zionists with leftist roots. It is actually this ideology that signifies the horrifying shift of Zionism from the limited discourse of ‘promised land’ into global politics - namely ‘promised planet’.

You may want to ask yourself why their ideology was successful for a while, why did we let these people drag us into an illegal war and make us complicit in the murder of more than one million Iraqis. You may want to ask yourself how did the Wolfowitz Doctrine make it into American policy? I guess that ‘moral interventionism’ and ‘war against terror’ look nice on paper. It means that ‘we’ are kosher and the ‘other’ is evil. It took the West and humanity some time to realise that, in fact, we were serving an evil ideology and Zionist interests. It may also take us some time to realise that it is us who have become the darkest force around.

MC: Would you agree, that the complicit mainstream media narrative – which, as Chomsky has so clearly identified always runs in tandem with powerful economic perspectives - has been more powerful on Israel's behalf than ten AIPACs could ever have been?

GA: Not at all because as Saban makes it plainly clear, there is a continuum between the fund raiser, the think tank and the media. In terms of British politics there is an obvious ideological continuum between the Political Friend of Israel (Lord cash machine Levy) the advocates for the war within the media (Aaronovitch, Cohen) and the British neo-con think tank ( Euston Manifesto ).

MC: One of the major reasons the mainstream orthodoxy is being challenged now is because of the advent of the far more democratic, alternative media?

GA: I don’t think so. It is challenged because there is a growing fatigue for Zionist politics, a growing realisation that tribal politics left a deadly stain on British and American foreign affairs. Also, following the second Lebanon war, the Gaza massacre and the latest assault on the Mavi Marmara, there is a greater realisation that Israel is a murderous state driven by morbid enthusiasm. But there is another reason that must be stated. For very many years, the Left blocked any attempt of elaboration on global Zionism and Jewish power. As it happens, aside from the recent weakening of the Zionist cause, the Left lost power within the solidarity discourse. To a certain extent the two political phenomena are linked. As we know, The Left has unfortunately failed to garner the emerging power of Islam and its immense power within the discourse of liberation.

As a result, the Left has been left behind. It is pretty much irrelevant to the discourse. For the Left to bounce back it must learn to think ethically and make a political bond with Islamic movements and migrant communities in the West.

MC: There are a number of things in what you are saying that I would challenge. Firstly, and ironically, somewhat like the Zionists themselves, you place them front and centre of everything that is happening. To disregard the motives and influence of the many other non-Zionist groups who are equally involved with them is similar to the disregard the Zionists show for others.

GA: There is actually again a continuum that you fail to detect between the sense of chosensess that is inherent to Zionism and any other Jewish political discourse and the Zionist political practice which is relentlessly exercised around the world. Zionists do not try to control everything, I guess that they do not care much about tobacco for the time being (this is probably why we cannot smoke freely anymore) but they do care about Western foreign affairs and would use any possible means to shape them. Look at the pressure Zionist groups mount on the American administration with regard to Turkey, Iran, sanctions, attacking the Mavi Marmara and so on.

MC: Not to defend what the US/UK/EU are doing, but to define their role as you do is almost to infantilise them - it is seriously to underestimate how powerful, dangerous and manipulative they are in their own right.

GA: To be honest, they are not as clever as people seem to think.

MC: Nobody sensible thinks they are being clever about any of this, but that they are capable of uncontrolled greed backed up with equally uncontrolled violence.

GA: Actually Israeli violence is far from being ‘uncontrolled’. It is deadly and premeditated. This is the true notion of Israel’s power of deterrence. Back to your question. In fact they do it all in the open. David Miliband, who is also listed as an Israeli propaganda author, was acting against British universal jurisdiction just to allow Israeli war criminals to visit the UK. How do you explain it? Was it very clever of him? Was it very clever of David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen to advocate an illegal war while being also Jewish Chronicle (a UK Zionist outlet) writers? Was it a clever move to support a war that led to 1.5 million dead Iraqis? Is it very clever of Haim Saban to tell the American people ‘we the Jews influence your life through political funding, media, and think tanks’? The answer is no, it is not clever at all. It is an infantile arrogance that is inherent to the chauvinist identity. The success of the Zionist agenda so far has a lot to do with the fact that they operate within tolerant discourses and people like yourself and Chomsky would go out of your way to defend them with foggy ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology doesn’t hold water anymore. As you may know Chomsky is totally discredited. His lame argument against Walt and Mearsheimer, which is similar to yours, puts a big question mark over his entire life time project. This may be a shame but the good news is that the resentment towards Zionism, Israel and relentless Jewish lobbying is becoming a mass phenomenon. It exceeds the political discourse. It is a spirit, it is public and it is refreshing. This may be good news because we always wanted to be there, the only concern is that no one really controls it anymore.

MC: Where have these questions implied a defense of Zionists or Zionism? Merely to say that they are not alone in this or that they do not control what is happening in the Middle East on their own is in no way a defense either of their ideology or of their actions.

GA: To start with it is not a personal debate but and ideological one. However, I guess that failing to confront extensive Jewish lobbying is to provide Zionism with a body shield. You are talking about other American interests. What is so unique about AIPAC, David Miliband and CFI is the fact that right out in the open they promote the interests of a foreign government. Would a Muslim lobby get away with it? Could Iran or Pakistan get away with it? Would Chomsky rush to defend them as well? I really wonder.

MC: Chomsky has been a forthright critic of Israel's - was only recently prevented by the Israeli government from attending an engagement. He has made some puzzling statements but again, I think you ignore overwhelming evidence that contradicts what you say about him.

GA: I have a lot of respect for what Chomsky did along the years. However, as American activist Jeff Blankfort pointed out recently, Chomsky has been dismissing the power of the pro-Israel lobby. He opposed the BDS movement and made some efforts to “dissuade people from using the term ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel's control over Palestinian society”. Chomsky also opposes the Palestinian right of return and a one-state solution. Chomsky is in fact a liberal Zionist as well as a kibbutz enthusiast. This is enough to explain why his voice has been pushed to the margin within the Palestinian solidarity discourse. Considering his contribution on other fields of thought, it is a shame indeed.

MC: There is a lot that could and should be said in response to that but this discussion is not about Chomsky. AIPAC may be feted in Washington and London for now but it will go the way of all those who collaborate with the US in due course. As has been noted many times, US foreign policy makers think nothing of caricaturing former friends as villains when they stop being useful. The Israel-as-lone-defender-of-democracy-in- the-Middle-East myth has been forcefully sold for a long time, it's true, but seldom if ever have the economic and strategic spoils of war been so great.

GA: Why was it useful? Is it because it is true? Not really. Israel has never been a democracy - it is a racially exclusive society that managed to set up a ‘Jews only democracy’. Americans are clever enough to understand it. They went through a civil rights struggle not that long ago and in fact they still do. The deceitful image of Jewish democracy was there to create a phantasmic continuum between the USA and the Jewish State. It is obviously far more complicated to explain to the masses how exactly supporting a hawkish Jewish state in a sea of oil would make oil cheaper.

MC: Isn’t your fundamental mistake in this respect that you are confusing or ignoring much of the quite independent and equally violent avarice of the other vested interests with the extent of AIPAC’s influence, which everyone knows is undoubtedly strong.

GA: With due respect and without claiming to be free of errors, I do not think that you are pointing to any mistake in my reading of the situation. If anything, all I can see is you being reluctant to admit that we had been pulled by an extensive institutional and very dangerous lobby for more than a while. In fact, I know that you and others are holding this position because you want to believe that you are true humanists. I respect it. Indeed one of the most crucial questions we have to confront here is how to say what we think about Israel and its Jewish lobbies and still be humanists. I believe that the answer is to admit that we are confronted with an ideology that dismisses our notion of humanism, kindness and compassion. To a certain degree we are confronted here with a deep challenge: ‘how shall we perform kindness to the unkind.

This is why it is so important for me to maintain that the massacre on the Mavi Marmara was no less than killing Christ again. Regardless of the historicity of Jesus and regardless of the fact that there is NO continuum between the ancient Israelites and the contemporary Israelis, we see here a broad daylight assault on goodness and kindness. This deadly attempt was supported by the Israeli people, it was committed by their popular army and it is still supported by world Jewry except some sporadic Jews such as the Torah Jews who oppose it and obviously are highly respected for it. How do we confront it? Call for what it is. This must be our approach because as far as I can see, the Israelis and their lobbyists interpret your silence or reluctance to use the right language as weakness. If we want to help Israelis we may as well make it clear to them that we actually see through them.

MC: It is important to understand Zionist ideology and to challenge and expose what is inhumane in it. Mainstream western media has been criminally complicit in its refusal to do that. But if the Zionists never existed, the US and its EU allies would be in the Middle East right now, or at some other time, doing exactly what they are doing - as they have done for centuries in many other parts of the world that the Zionists had nothing to do with. Also there are many Jewish people in Israel who have been courageously protesting the treatment of the Palestinians by their own government for a long time and who were very vocal after the Mavi Marmara.

GA: “Many” is just slightly over the top. A Palestinian spokeswomen in London was asked in the late 1990’s what she thought of all those ‘good Jews’, those who support the Palestinians. Her answer was shockingly simple yet revealing. She said, “I admire all these beautiful and kind people, all fifteen of them”. In fact I follow their discourse and I cannot count more than eight of them. I am far from being impressed by the ‘Jews for this’ and ‘Jews for that’. I regard it as a Zionist fig leaf operation. Especially when it comes from Marxist Jews. If they are indeed Marxist, why don’t they just join the working class and fight Zionism along side the rest of us?

I will now go back to your question. What would have happened if Israel didn’t exist? Since we are dealing here with a hypothetical assumption you may have to agree that USA/UK/EU could have also used very different tactics. Britain and America in the past used diplomacy also. If you read the history of Zionism, from the very beginning Herzl was capitalizing on super- power interests in the region. This is even before oil was an issue. So you can equally argue that the way things evolved was inevitable due to the nature of Zionist political philosophy of bonding with influential powers. Israel Shahak would argue that this is the heritage of the Talmud. I argue that this is the exact meaning of the Biblical Story of Esther. In my paper From Purim to AIPAC I explore the continuum between the Bible and contemporary Jewish political lobbying.

MC: At the crudest level of all, Israel may have 500 nukes courtesy of the US, but the US arsenal and its overall military capability is many multiples of Israel’s. No contest.

GA: This is pretty irrelevant, I am afraid. America is or at least was a super power. It was engaged in a cold war. This may explain rather than justify why it has so many bombs. However Israel engaged in a territorial battle with its so called ‘enemies’. One must wonder why it needs atomic bombs at all. If Israel cares about Sderot and Ashkelon as much as it says, it would never nuke Gaza. The answer is pretty devastating. Israel possesses all those bombs because it insists on keeping the rest of the world in a constant threat. In case anyone fails to see it, the rest of the world is what we call humanity. And this is the crux of the matter. We are dealing here with a lethal collective that is driven by deadly psychosis against humanity and humanism.

MC: The Zionists have no monopoly on deadly psychosis towards other groups of people. The native American Indians have told the world a thing or two about the centuries-long psychosis of the Christian settlers there - the misery that led to mass suicides among many other horrors. It's surely fundamentally anti humanist – racist/discriminatory even - to single any one group of people out as being uniquely evil?

GA: To start with we both agree that the Zionists didn’t invent evil. In fact Zionism is an attempt to exercise some colonial barbarism in a world that has moved on from that kind of political philosophy. In short Zionists are guilty of committing colonial crimes 100 years too late. However, you make one crucial mistake here. You say “It's surely fundamentally anti humanist to single any one group of people out as being uniquely evil.” You maybe right, but Zionism is not at all a group of people, it is actually an ideology. In fact it is a racist, anti humanist ideology that must be confronted. Similarly, those who follow this ideology are succumbing to an inhuman philosophy and must be exposed, named and shamed. As you will notice in my writing, I never criticize Jews as Jews or Judaism as a religion. I concentrate on Jewish ideology, namely Jewishness that has a very particular supremacist interpretation of the Judaic core. In my writing I have managed to trace Jewishness in every modern Jewish political setting whether it is right wing Zionism, the pseudo- socialist Bund or the radical Matzpen. However, I must mention that Torah Jews are free of that fault. They draw their inspiration from the Torah and present a very unique form of tribal humanism.

MC: You say the left has failed to embrace the 'emerging power of Islam'. Left wing groups within Islam itself do not seem to be meeting with a good reception by and large.

GA: I don’t understand what you mean by Left groups within Islam. Islam is in itself a philosophy that promotes equality; it doesn’t need Left ideology and cannot integrate such an atheist precept. I guess that what you are referring to is Left groups within the Arab or Muslim world. Indeed, the entire left philosophy is Euro-centric and related to the industrial revolution. These ideas are completely irrelevant to the Near East and its understanding of struggle for liberation.

MC: Outside of Islam, the left can only offer solidarity and encouragement.

GA: I guess that what you are taking about is producing badges, scarves and caps with Palestinian flags. This is indeed nice. I always quote Lacan in that reference. Lacan says that making love is in practice making love to yourself through the other. In that sense, the Left’s notion of solidarity is in practice ‘making love to yourself at the expense of the oppressed’. I am not impressed with this concept at all.

MC: That may be true of certain types of activism but it is unfair to caricature much Left solidarity with the Palestinians like that. The Freedom Flotilla was about a lot more than producing badges and scarves. There are many journalists and activists who have made serious and effective efforts to support the Palestinians from within the left – some who have even given their lives to keeping up vital communication. And besides, the badges and scarves have served a purpose too by making sure we are not allowed to forget.

GA: As it happens I was in Athens and in Nicosia when the Flotilla left. I was working closely with the Freedom Mission, I gave talks and interviews. I was also in touch with activists in Istanbul. I can tell you that the Freedom Mission to Gaza is indeed a very refreshing move within the solidarity movement. The so-called Leftists within this movement certainly are not frightened by Islam or Hamas. They certainly respect the Palestinian democratic choice. I admire them for that and wish I could have been with them on board.

MC: To return to the Left and Islam, however justified Iran may be to perceive Israel as the real Middle Eastern threat; trade unionists are having a pretty hard time in Iran right now, for example. What is it that you think the left can or should be doing?

GA: To start with I do not talk about the Left in Iran, Iraq or Palestine. I am talking about the Left here, in Europe. The first thing to do is to accept the notion of otherness. For instance: to stand up for Hamas as a democratically elected body; to stand up for Hezbullah which presents Israel with fierce resistance; to support an Iranian nuclear project as a necessary defensive means; to support the Muslim right to love their Allah and to fight for freedom in his name. These things are rather basic and elementary. The left must also realise that Muslim migrant communities in the West are the first sufferers of cultural, social, racial and political oppression. If the Left wants to maintain ideological and ethical relevance it must join forces with these ethnic groups. It is also possible that the Western Left has already missed the train; this would mean that it belongs to history.

MC: I really cannot agree with some of what you say here. The Left is generally very aware of the need to respect cultural differences in Islam and has done more than any political grouping on either the centre or right to forge links and to challenge the discrimination suffered by migrant groups. As with Christianity, Judaism and other religions Islam has its faults.

GA: If this is the case, how do you explain the fact that the Left was so slow to accept Hamas? How many leftists support the Iraqi resistance? And what about the Taliban? Do you support any of those? I cannot agree with your statement about Islam and other religions.. You are here employing a typical liberal supremacist approach. You set yourself in an imaginary elitist position above and beyond your subject of criticism. If you want to criticize a body of thought you can only do it by means of deconstruction, by tracing inconsistency within. In order to do it you must first achieve a reasonable familiarity. This is by the way, what I try to do with Zionism and Jewish identity. I am obviously familiar enough to deconstruct different form of Jewish discourses. I am less familiar with the Judaic discourse and leave it out.

MC: There is nothing supremacist in the question – I explicitly say that all religions have their faults – but let me be clearer: women and homosexuals have been oppressed by most if not all religions to a greater or lesser extent. To criticize Islam for the same oppression in no way implies either that the problem is unique to it or that matters are perfect elsewhere.

GA: Miriam you are implying here that while Christianity and Jewish identity ‘moved on’, Islam was ‘left behind’. To be honest with you, I must admit that the dichotomy between the ‘Progressive’ and the ‘Reactionary’ is another symptom of Judaic binary opposition within the left discourse. Progressiveness is just another word for Choseness.

MC: Oppression is oppression the same as occupation is occupation.

GA: I obviously do not agree. Oppression is very complicated to define. Occupation, on the other hand, can be defined in positive terms such as territorial and legal.

MC: There is still much oppression of women and of homosexuals which cannot be explained away as mere cultural difference. Criticisng these things should not be a cultural taboo any more than criticising Zionism should be an anti-Semitic taboo.

GA: Sorry, I do not agree with you at all. There is a clear differentiation between the liberal Western discourse that celebrates individualism and the Eastern tribal discourse that values family, the community and culture. You tend to believe that you uphold some higher ethical system that allows you to pass judgment on other cultural assets that are foreign to you. You are obviously not alone. This is the nature of popular culture within the post Enlightenment discourse. I would argue instead that true tolerance is the capacity to accept even when you fail to understand. I myself obviously treat women and gays with total respect and fight for their equality within my environment. However, rather than criticising certain Islamic cultures I try to grasp its political and religious attitude towards different groups. I suggest everyone who claims to care about solidarity should do the same.

But before we move on, please let me address your last point.

As long as you argue that ‘X attitude towards Y is oppressive from a liberal perspective’, you may be correct, your argument could be valid and consistent. However, once you claim that ‘X attitude towards Y is oppressive categorically’ you produce an argument that is no different from a Neocon or moral interventionist. You basically claim to be better and more ethical than X.

These Issues are not simple. I can provide a solution but I guess that I have managed to formulate the complexity.

MC: How then is this different to your intolerance for what Zionists too would argue is their culture and belief in choseness and all that that has led to?

GA: This is very simple indeed. Zionist crimes are committed on the expense of others.

MC: You say you are a humanist. There is no humanist argument to justify the mutilation of girls’ genitalia and the lifelong misery that it causes to women.

GA: How do you know? Can’t you see that in order to make such a statement valid you have to set yourself beyond and above the human discourse? However, I obviously understand your point of view from a Western perspective. I am very suspicious of any call for moral interventionism. And just let me correct you. I do not carry the humanist flag. I am looking for the notion of humanism. As far as I can tell it is a dynamic notion. Like ethics it must be reshaped and revised all the time.

MC: I realise that not all Muslims endorse FGM. But these things are as sick as each other. Again, there are comparable evils in most if not all religions, societies and cultures – this is not to single Islam out.

GA: I am happy that you mentioned it because as far as I am aware, and I am not exactly an expert on the subject, FGM is not at all prescribed by Islam. However, just to mention that I do not remember coming across Left or Liberal criticism of similar Jewish ancient blood ritual that involves blood sucking and chopping of male infant sexual organ (Brit Mila). As it happens Jewish parents, both secular religious let a Rabbi circumcise and suck the blood of their sons when they are just 8 days old. How do you explain the fact that such a barbarian ritual takes place in our midst? Why doesn’t it provoke outrage? Why you yourself do not protest against it?

MC: It is not possible for a genuine humanist to look the other way wherever inhumanity is occurring, whoever is responsible for it. You are applying a double standard in this, I think. You defend FGM on cultural grounds but describe a comparable Jewish ritual as barbaric.

GA: It is rather obvious that when I refer to a Jewish blood ritual, I am criticising it from a western point of view by means of deconstruction. I live in the West, I tend to understand western ideology and culture and I am capable of pointing to a clear discrepancy between the human rights of a child and blood ritual. However, I am far less convinced that Western liberals possess the capacity to pass an ethical judgment regarding cultures that are remote to Western values and way of life. And yet one question remains – why is the liberal mind so concerned with FGM that is carried out in Africa, and not all troubled by a similar Jewish blood ritual that is practiced in our midst.

MC: To move on to the next question, however. That Muslims – or anyone anywhere - should be free to fight for freedom from violent invasion and occupation is axiomatic for most people, though not for pacifists of course. Invoking God for the purpose has never been anything other than a disaster, has it?

GA: Really? Here is where you tend to express your intolerance towards other’s belief. The greatest symphonies and architecture were actually created in the context of a dialogue with God. Islamic resistance that defeats Israel and Western imperialism whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza or South Lebanon is inspired by Allah. Why are you so disrespectful to God? In fact, I believe that you are failing to detect the importance of Islam within the context of Arabic and international resistance. It is peculiar but tragically rather common amongst leftists. As I said earlier on, this explains why left lost its relevance.

MC: There are a lot of unfounded assumptions in what you say but we will have to leave it there. This has been an interesting debate. We will have to agree to differ on a number of things. Thank you for the conversation.

GA: I too enjoyed it enormously and I really hope that the difference between us will lead to a further debate and many more realizations.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Australia's strategic little dots ... and the UK/USA alliance...

Australia's strategic little dots ... and the UK/USA alliance...
By Bertil Lintner

COCOS ISLANDS AND CHRISTMAS ISLAND - They are only small dots in the remote reaches of the Indian Ocean, but the Australian territory of the Cocos Islands boasts a 2,440 meter-long runway on its West Island, underscoring the lightly populated atoll's strategic importance.

The rest of West Island is a tropical paradise, replete with coconut palms swaying over white sand beaches and a crystal clear lagoon full of tropical fish. Yet there are slim choices for accommodation here and air fares on the twice-weekly flight from Perth on the Australian mainland are exorbitant.

"They don't want tourists here," laments a chef on one of the few restaurants on West Island. And "they", he suspects, are the Australian military.

Together with Christmas Island to the north, the Cocos form Australia's Indian Ocean territories. The territories give Australia - and indirectly its Western allies, including the United States - a strategic advantage in an increasingly important maritime area.

Middle Eastern oil shipments destined for China, Japan and other fuel importing Asian countries must pass through the Indian Ocean. Many analysts believe that in a potential conflict between the US and China the US navy would attempt to block these energy shipments to cripple the Chinese economy.

There are currently no military bases on either the Cocos or Christmas Island. But, as Australian defense analyst Ross Babbage wrote, in the case of an emergency, access to the territories would ''extend Australia's reach into the surrounding region for surveillance, air defense and maritime and ground strike operations. The islands could, in effect, serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers and resupply ships."

The islands, Babbage argued in his paper published by the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at the Australian National University in Canberra, are also important for signals intelligence bases in Australia proper: ''Australian ships operating in the islands' vicinity would also benefit from the local radar and other sensor coverage and, ideally, contribute ship-based radar and other sensor data to the regional surveillance network.''

Christmas Island is better known as home to Australia's detention center for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. It is located only 360 kilometers south of the Indonesian island of Java, or a third of the distance to the Australian mainland, The Cocos are even further out in the Indian Ocean, situated at 2,750 kilometers from the west coast city of Perth.

The West's enduring strategic foothold in the region also includes the strategically important British Indian Ocean Territory, which is still formally under British administration. In 1971, Britain agreed to lease until 2016 the territory's main island, Diego Garcia, to the US. Air and naval bases were subsequently built there and the US Air Force has used the facilities to refuel planes and base aircraft carriers during the 1991 Gulf War and ongoing war campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

France, another significant Indian Ocean power, currently controls the islands of Reunion and Mayotte, both of which are officially ''overseas departments'' and therefore part of both Metropolitan France and the European Union. France also holds the huge and rugged island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean, and maintains the nearby Saint Paul, Amsterdam and Crozet Islands as ''scientific territories'' with no native populations. Since 1992, France has maintained a satellite and rocket tracking station on Kerguelen and, it is believed, storage facilities for military-related equipment.

The strategic importance of the Cocos and Christmas Island - both then British possessions - became apparent during the World Wars of the 20th century. One of the first naval battles of World War I was fought in 1914 near the Cocos between the British and Germans, resulting famously in the sinking of the German cruiser SMSA Emden. Guns from the Emden were later put on display in Sydney and Canberra. Japan invaded Christmas Island and bombarded the Cocos during World War II.

Today, neither Germany nor Japan is of strategic concern to Australia or other Western powers in the Indian Ocean; China's rising presence, however, is. Analysts agree that China has legitimate security concerns in the Indian Ocean and it is seeking ways to defend its vital Middle Eastern energy shipments. China's recent involvement in the upgrading of Myanmar's naval bases in the Bay of Bengal has tilted slightly the region's balance of power, as has Beijing's assistance for the construction of a new deep-sea port at Gwadar on the coast of Pakistan.

China has also shown interest in developing the former British naval base at Trincomalee on the east coast of Sri Lanka and improving port facilities in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Although a new cold war is not imminent in the Indian Ocean, various powers in the region are closely watching each other's emerging strategic designs.

Shifting possessions
Both the Cocos and Christmas Island were part of the British colony of the Straits Settlements and therefore once governed from Singapore. By the mid-1950s, with independence for Singapore on the horizon, Britain began making preparations to transfer the islands to Australian sovereignty. In 1955, the Cocos officially became Australian, but were still ruled by in a feudal manner by the Clunies-Ross family, Scottish planters who had imported hundreds of Malays to work on their copra plantations.

It was not until 1978 that Australia forced the family to sell the islands and in 1983 the last so-called Scottish "King of the Cocos," John Clunies-Ross, was told by Canberra to leave the island after a vote endorsed full integration. Most of its 600 people are ethnically Malay and Muslim, and live on Home Island, one of only two inhabited islets in the atoll. West Island, with its airport, remains predominantly Caucasian.

Christmas Island has always been more closely connected to Singapore. Phosphate mining began there in the late 19th century using indentured workers, mostly ethnic Chinese from Singapore and Malaya. In 1957, the administration of Christmas Island, too, was transferred to Australia. Singapore received 2.9 million British pounds (US$7.8 billion at 1957 exchange rates) in compensation, a sum based mainly on the estimated value of the phosphate foregone by the soon-to-become independent city state.

Today Christmas Island's permanent population numbers about 1,500, of which 70% are of Chinese origin, 20% Caucasian and 10% Malay. There are considerably more asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in a closely guarded detention center on the easternmost tip of the island. Because of its proximity to Java, Christmas Island has become the destination of choice for boats carrying refugees from Afghanistan, the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

Asylum seekers were at first sent to centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea as part of then Australian prime minister John Howard's "Pacific solution" to the swelling refugee problem. In 2007, those centers were closed and asylum seekers are now processed on Christmas Island, an external territory located almost 1,000 kilometers to the southeast of the Australian mainland.

The immigration detention center gave Christmas Island a new lease on economic life after its main phosphate mine was closed down in 1987. An attempt was made for the first time in 1993 to attract tourists: a US$34 million casino was opened with mainly Asian gamblers arriving on a new direct flight from Jakarta.

It was closed five years later when the casino's Indonesian owner went bankrupt amid the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. The casino never reopened, despite a renewed attempt in 2004, and Christmas Island effectively died as a tourist destination. There are now only a few motels and a souvenir shop by the beach near Flying Fish Cove, the main settlement on the island. But every foreign visitor who is not an asylum seeker appears to be a novelty.

Although the question of Australia's sovereignty over its Indian Ocean territories is not in dispute, Britain's decision to hand them over to Canberra in the 1950s was not well received in Singapore. In June 1957, Lee Kuan Yew, then the main leader of the colony's independence movement, later prime minister and now Minister Mentor of the Singaporean government, stated: ''To give away all the appurtenances of Singapore before we take over is downright swindle. A few years ago they [the British] gave away Cocos Islands, now it's Christmas Island.''

At around the same time, Devon Nair, a leading Singaporean trade unionist, wrote an open letter to the British governor strongly opposing the transfer and pointed out that ''in the future'' Singapore might find the islands ''useful for defense and security'' purposes. His assessment was prophetic, but for Australia, not Singapore. Security analyst Babbage wrote that the Cocos and Christmas Island may not be ''vital'' for the defense of Australia, but they are still ''valuable and important''.

Australia does not need to station troops on either of the territories, but airports would facilitate the rapid deployment of forces in any conflict situation. In peacetime, maritime activities in the region can be and likely are being monitored from signals intelligence facilities on the islands. But if superpower rivalry, including between the US and China, ever comes to a head in the Indian Ocean, Australia will be well-placed to defend its interests and come to the military aid of its allies.

Breaking an unbreakable bond...? Or faking it all the way before one more choc and awe in the middle east....

Breaking an unbreakable bond...? Or faking it all the way before one more choc and awe in the middle east....
By Simon Roughneen

JERUSALEM - In The Great Divorce, British novelist C S Lewis attempted to allegorize about a reality he admitted he could not know but tentatively hoped to suggest. The United States-Israel relationship, to most, seems like an unbreakable bond, and any potential divorce might be regarded as unimaginable.

But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama on July 6, they will discuss a relationship that is on the rocks, despite an annual US$4 billion in aid and - in keeping with the traditional parameters of the relationship - Obama's repeated commitment to Israel's security. Stirring things up in advance, Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, spent Sunday and Monday denying media reports
that he told Israeli diplomats that a "tectonic rift" was emerging between the two countries.

The summit will be a reprise of a stillborn meeting originally scheduled for late May, which Netanyahu canceled after nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos on-board one of the six boats attempting to breach the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. In the aftermath, whatever Obama's private thoughts, he refused to join the chorus condemning Israel. But American policymakers felt themselves to be caught between a rock and a hard place, and beyond this incident, there are divergent worldviews coloring thinking in both administrations.

Much has been made of Obama's attempt to reach out to the Muslim world and his sackcloth-and-ashes pose for perceived American foreign policy sins-of-the-fathers. But in Israel, his June 2009 Cairo speech was taken as a signal that this American administration does not see Middle East geopolitics in the same light as its ally, and therefore puts Israel in danger.

It is not the first time that the two countries have quarreled, with tetchy relations apparent during the first George W Bush administration. Alon Pinkas is former Israeli consul general to the US. Speaking to a seminar of foreign and Israeli journalists at the IDC MOSSAD Herzliya last week, he argued that a turning point has been reached in bilateral relations. "In reality, US interests in the Middle East are with the Arab world. That is where the oil is, and Israel is just one small country surrounded by 290 million Arabs," he said.

That is just part of the bigger picture. Both Obama and Afghanistan-bound General David Petraeus believe that "solving" the Israel-Palestine conflict will contribute to US strategy elsewhere - particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unproven and hazy thesis that fits in well with Obama's hoped-for outreach to the Muslim world.

Again, Israelis are noting this. Dr Jonathan Fine teaches at the IDC Herzliya. Reminding the US that Israel is dealing with much the same ideological opponents in Hamas as the jihadis the US faces in Afghanistan or Iraq, he reminded Asia Times Online that America's targeted assassinations and drone warfare continue in South Asia, in greater number and to deadlier effect than during the second Bush administration. However, "the Obama effect" means that the US does not receive anywhere near the same condemnation as when Israel attacks its nearby enemies, he lamented.

Israel feels it has been sacrificed on the altar of another Obama initiative, which might otherwise be described as inherently laudable. At the recent nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, Obama endorsed a resolution that omitted any mention of Iran but specifically targeted Israel, demanding that it sign the NPT and allow inspections of its facilities. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the specifics, the disparity between including Israel and excluding Iran was glaring to Israeli policymakers.

Netanyahu has already signaled his willingness to concede in the face of international pressure by the recent announcement to ease the Gaza blockade, which the US regards as untenable. In doing so, he may have left himself vulnerable domestically, with the so-called "centrist" Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni leading the charge. She is seen by many in Washington as less hardline than the current coalition, with whispers that the US might work behind the scenes to unseat Netanyahu, who is seen as beholden to religious parties in his coalition and therefore unable to meet the US halfway on issues such as settlement expansion.

After the announcement that the Gaza blockade would be relaxed, Livni accused the Netanyahu government of making policy at the dictates of international opinion. Previously, she accused the incumbent of destroying Israel's position in world opinion, by its reaction to the flotilla. So before Netanyahu goes to the White House, it seems that Livni has her sights trained on him, irrespective of whether he aligns more closely to Obama on settlements, Gaza or Iran, or whether another row ensues.

It has been just a few weeks since US Vice President Joe Biden was humiliated in Jerusalem by the announcement that Israel plans to build 1,600 new houses in East Jerusalem. In contrast with the visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu did not during his most recent visit to the US get the customary White House Lawn press and photo-op with the US president.

He is likely to this time, though cynics might feel this is more about Obama playing to domestic politics than a reappraisal of how the US administration views Israel. Well-known foreign policy analyst Anthony Cordesman recently rationalized that Netanyahu’s government was becoming a "strategic liability" for the US, saying, "It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the US, as well as the US to Israel, and that it becomes far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of US patience and exploits the support of American Jews."

And that support will weigh on Obama's mind as he continues his introduction to what predecessor Harry S Truman described as a problem unmatched in its complexity and potential for controversy. While 78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, it seems many might be having second thoughts. With mid-term elections looming and the passage of the health-care bill tempered by spectacular losses such as Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, Obama may not want to see the relationship with Israel deteriorate on his watch, for now at least.

Old-school powerhouses in the American-Jewish lobby have rowed in behind the Israeli government and lambasted the Obama administration's cool approach to the "special relationship" between the two countries, though there are divergent views within the constituency.

Stephen M Walt co-authored The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy, a provocative take on the influence of the Jewish lobby in the US. He told Asia Times Online that there "are some new pro-Israel groups like J Street that are trying to encourage smarter policies, and there is a much more open discussion of these issues now (due in part to the rise of the Internet and the blogosphere), but the raw political power of AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] et al is still formidable."

An April survey by Quinnipiac University showed 67% of Jews as disapproving of Obama’s "handling [of] the situation between Israel and the Palestinians". In another poll, support for Obama in the Jewish community went down to 58%, a loss of 20 points on the 2008 election.

However, other data suggest that the majority of American Jewish voters are card-carrying Democrats and liberal progressives first, with Israel policy less of a priority. This makes them somewhat of an anomaly in a party whose supporters are far less likely to be supportive of Israel than Republicans. (48% among Democrats, 85% among Republicans).

Obama risks his re-election on flip of a COIN ....

Obama risks his re-election on flip of a COIN ....

Less than a year ago, General David Petraeus saluted smartly and pledged his loyal support for President Barack Obama's decision to start withdrawing United States forces from Afghanistan in July 2011.

In December, when Obama decided (for the second time in 2009) to add tens of thousands of additional American forces to the war, he also slapped an 18-month deadline on the military to turn the situation around and begin handing security over to the bedraggled Afghan National Army (ANA) and police. Speaking to the nation from West Point, Obama said that he'd ordered American forces to start withdrawing from Afghanistan at that time.

Here's the exchange, between Obama, Petraeus and Admiral
Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported by Jonathan Alter in his new book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One:
Obama: "I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?"

Petraeus: "Sir, I'm confident we can train and hand over to the ANA in that time frame."

Obama: "If you can't do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?"

Petraeus: "Yes, sir, in agreement."

Mullen: "Yes, sir."
That seems unequivocal, doesn't it? Vice President Joe Biden, famously dissed as Joe Bite-Me by one of the now-disgraced aides of General Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone profile that got him fired, seems to think so. Said Biden, again according to Alter: “In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it.”

In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the US military, however, things are rarely what they seem. Petraeus, the Central Command chief "demoted" in order to replace McChrystal as US war commander in Afghanistan, seems to be having second thoughts about what will happen next July - and those second thoughts are being echoed and amplified by a phalanx of hawks, neo-conservatives, and spokesmen for the counter-insurgency (COIN) cult, including Henry Kissinger, the Heritage Foundation and the editorial pages of the Washington Post. Chiming in, too, are the lock-step members of the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill, led by Senator John McCain.

In testimony before congress just last week, Petraeus chose his words carefully, but he clearly wasn't buying the notion that the July deadline means much, nor did he put significant stock in the fact that Obama has ordered a top-to-bottom review of Afghan policy in December. According to the White House, that review will be a make-or-break assessment of whether the Pentagon is making any progress in the nine-year-long conflict against the Taliban.

In his recent senate testimony - before he fainted, and afterwards - Petraeus minimized the significance of the December review and cavalierly declared that he "would not make too much of it". Pressed by McCain, the general flouted Biden's view by claiming that the deadline is a date "when a process begins [and] not the date when the US heads for the exits".

The right's marching orders for the president
Petraeus' defiant declaration that he wasn't putting much stock in the president's intending to hold the military command accountable for its failure in Afghanistan next December earned him an instant rebuke from the White House. Now, that same Petraeus is in charge.

The dispute over the meaning of July 2011 is, and will remain, at the very heart of the divisions within the Obama administration over Afghan policy.

Last December, in that West Point speech, Obama tried to split the difference, giving the generals what they wanted - a lot more troops - but fixing a date for the start of a withdrawal. It was hardly a courageous decision. Under intense pressure from Petraeus, McChrystal and the GOP, Obama assented to the addition of 30,000 US troops, ignoring the fact that McChrystal's unseemly lobbying for the escalation amounted to a Douglas MacArthur-like defiance of the primacy of civilian control of the military. (Indeed, after a speech McChrystal gave in London insouciantly rejecting Biden's scaled-down approach to the war, Obama summoned the runaway general to a tarmac outside Copenhagen and read him the riot act in Air Force One.)

If Obama's Afghan decision was a cave-in to the brass and a potential generals' revolt, the president also added that kicker of a deadline to the mix, not only placating his political base and minimizing Democratic unhappiness in congress, but creating a trap of sorts for Petraeus and McChrystal. The message was clear enough: deliver the goods, and fast, or we're heading out, whether the job is finished or not.

Since then, Petraeus and McChrystal - backed by their chief enabler, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican holdover appointed to his position by George W Bush - took every chance they could to downplay and scoff at the deadline.

By appointing Petraeus last Wednesday, Obama took the easy way out of the crisis created by McChrystal's shocking comments in Rolling Stone. It might not be inappropriate to quote that prescient British expert on Afghan policy, Peter Townsend, who said of the appointment: "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

On the other hand, Petraeus is not simply another McChrystal. While McChrystal implemented COIN doctrine, mixing in his obsession with "kinetic operations" by US Special Forces, Petraeus literally wrote the book - namely, The US Army/Marine Corps Counter-insurgency Field Manual.

If the COIN cult has a guru (whom all obey unquestioningly), it's Petraeus. The aura that surrounds him, especially among the chattering classes of the Washington punditocracy, is palpable, and he has a vast well of support among Republicans and assorted right-wingers on Capitol Hill, including the Holy Trinity: John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman.

Not surprisingly, there have been frequent mentions of Petraeus as a candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2012, although Obama's deft selection of Petraeus seems, once and for all, to have ruled out that option, since the general will be very busy on the other side of the globe for quite a while.

Even before the announcement that Petraeus had the job, the right's mighty Wurlitzer had begun to blast out its critique of the supposedly pernicious effects of the July deadline. The Heritage Foundation, in an official statement, proclaimed: "The artificial Afghanistan withdrawal deadline has obviously caused some of our military leaders to question our strategy in Afghanistan ... We don't need an artificial timeline for withdrawal. We need a strategy for victory."

Writing in the Washington Post on June 24, Henry Kissinger cleared his throat and harrumphed: "The central premise [of Obama's strategy] is that, at some early point, the United States will be able to turn over security responsibilities to an Afghan government and national army whose writ is running across the entire country. This turnover is to begin next summer. Neither the premise nor the deadline is realistic ... Artificial deadlines should be abandoned."

And the Post itself, in the latest of a long-running series of post-9/11[ inside job wall to wall...] hawkish editorials, gave Obama his marching orders: "He ... should clarify what his July 2011 deadline means. Is it the moment when 'you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out', as Vice President Biden has said, or ‘the point at which a process begins ... at a rate to be determined by conditions at the time', as General Petraeus testified? We hope that the appointment of General Petraeus means the president's acceptance of the general's standard."

Is the COIN cult ascendant?
It's too early to say whether Obama's decision to name Petraeus to replace his protege McChrystal carries any real significance when it comes to the evolution of his Afghan war policy. The McChrystal crisis erupted so quickly that Obama had no time to carefully consider who might replace him and Petraeus undoubtedly seemed like the obvious choice, if the point was to minimize the domestic political risks involved.

Still, it's worrying. Petraeus' COIN policy logically demands a decade-long war, involving labor-intensive (and military-centric) nation-building, waged village by village and valley by valley, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless US, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Afghan casualties, including civilians.

That doesn't in the least square with the idea that significant numbers of troops will start leaving Afghanistan next summer. Indeed, Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, who headed Obama's first Afghan policy review in February 2009, told me (for an article in Rolling Stone last month) that it's not inconceivable the military will ask for even more troops, not agree to fewer, next year.

The Post is right, however, that Obama needs to grapple seriously with the deep divisions in his administration. Having ousted one rebellious general, the president now has little choice but to confront - or cave in to - the entire COIN cult, including its guru.

If Obama decides to take them on, he'll have the support of many traditionalists in the US armed forces who reject the cult's preaching. Above all, his key ally is bound to be those pesky facts on the ground.

Afghanistan is the place where theories of warfare go to die, and if the COIN theory isn't dead yet, it's utterly failed so far to prove itself. The vaunted February offensive into the dusty hamlet of Marjah in Helmand province has unraveled. The offensive into Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and a seething tangle of tribal and religious factions, once touted as the potential turning point of the entire war, has been postponed indefinitely. After nine years, the Pentagon has little to show for its efforts, except ever-rising casualties and money spent.

Perhaps Obama is still counting on US soldiers to reverse the Taliban's momentum and win the war, even though administration officials have repeatedly rejected the notion that Afghanistan can be won militarily. Petraeus or not, the reality is that the war will end with a political settlement involving President Hamid Karzai's government, various Afghan warlords and powerbrokers, the remnants of the old Northern Alliance, the Taliban and the Taliban's sponsors in Pakistan.

Making all that work and winning the support of Afghanistan's neighbors - including India, Iran and Russia - will be exceedingly hard. If Obama's diplomats managed to pull it off, the Afghanistan that America left behind might be modestly stable. On the other hand, it won't be pretty to look at it. It will be a decentralized mess, an uneasy balance between enlightened Afghans and benighted, Islamic fundamentalist ones, and no doubt many future political disagreements will be settled not in conference rooms but in gun battles. Three things it won't be: it won't be Switzerland. It won't be a base for al-CIAda.... And it won't be host to tens of thousands of US and NATO troops.

The only silver lining in the Petraeus cloud is that the general has close ties to the military in Pakistan who slyly accept US aid while funneling support to the insurgency in Afghanistan. If Obama decides to pursue a political and diplomatic solution between now and next July, Petraeus' Pakistan connection would be useful indeed. Time, however, is running out....

Remember Vietnam...?

The debacle over General Stanley McChrystal dramatizes how military thinking dominates United States policy - look at how much of the budget the Pentagon commands - as well as the utter hopelessness of achieving anything but draining defeat from the US occupation of Afghanistan. This lesson should have been learned after Vietnam. As Yogi Berra said, it's "deja vu all over again”.

Washington handpicked Hamid Karzai to become president of Afghanistan. After serving one term, beloved by few of his fellow citizens, Karzai publicly proclaimed a lack of confidence in the ability of his US benefactors to prevail against the enigmatic Taliban. He told the media he no longer trusted the US commitment - its ability to win the war and its staying power. Indeed, he has begun to talk - perhaps even negotiate - with the very entity against which the US military has engaged for a decade, suffering more than 1,000 dead and many more wounded, both physically and mentally.

Simultaneously, to cover his bets, Karzai pretends he is grateful for Washington's generous assistance. Shocking? Never happened to us before? Hit Google and you'll find our Vietnamese Karzai.

The Vietnam parallel
In the 1950s, the Geneva Accords called for a vote for president in Vietnam. Even US president Dwight Eisenhower, in his memoirs, conceded that communist leader Ho Chi Minh would have won that election with more than 80% of the vote. To avoid this result, the United States and some allies created the Republic of South Vietnam and chose Ngo Din Diem as president. Among Diem's promoters were defense intellectuals, the neoconservatives of their day, as well as Cardinal Spellman and the Kennedy family.

Diem, a Catholic president of a newly created Buddhist country, knew that he must watch his generals - mainly non-Catholics - very carefully. As US military advisers pushed the Vietnamese military to fight aggressively against the Vietcong, the communist guerrillas in the South, Diem urged the generals to keep casualties limited - meaning no aggressive campaigns.

In early November 1963, just before John F Kennedy's assassination, some Vietnamese generals staged a coup against Diem - with tacit US approval, if not downright encouragement - and assassinated him. Diem's killers became heads of state, backed immediately by Washington. His widow, Madame Nhu, blamed the US government for the assassination: "Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies."

Karzai's Diem moment
Did Karzai read Madame Nhu's statement? After serving a first term that gave corruption a bad name, Karzai won a second term in 2009. Like Diem, whose family received key power posts, Karzai protects his own. His brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been alleged to be connected to one of the biggest narco-trafficking operations in the country. In addition, according to The New York Times, Ahmed Karzai receives "regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials".

The Times also reported, "The agency pays Mr Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr Karzai's home."

Karzai alternatively criticizes and praises the US government (which spends US$6.3 billion monthly to keep the war going). He also provokes Washington by embracing the supreme object of Washington's current hate campaign, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

During the Vietnam War, some US corporations made out like proverbial bandits by supplying the armed forces. In Afghanistan, the BP and Halliburton empires have made billions providing for the needs of NATO forces. Some Taliban groups also understand the profitable byproducts of war and collect bribes for not assaulting convoys carrying materiel to the military from Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the best-laid plans of President Barack Obama's generals have fallen short of their goals. McChrystal's much-trumpeted surge did not win the battles for Marjah. Nor does the re-conquest of Kandahar seem in the cards. The NATO allies have grown weary. The Dutch have deserted, and even the toady right-wing Canadian government will depart in 14 months. Indeed, US forces are also due to withdraw in 2011.

In 1975, congress cut off funds for US support for the Vietnam War. Those who voted for the cut asked the obvious question. What had the United States achieved after a decade of fighting and killing that left 58,000 US dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, four million Vietnamese casualties, and a land destroyed? Many now ask that same question about Afghanistan and come up with the same answer: Not much.

Public disaffection
The US public shows signs of war-weariness, even though most haven't been touched directly by the conflict. They have become tired of hearing and reading about it. Millions of Americans sing "God Bless America" at sporting events, honoring those who serve in the military. Most of those people don't volunteer or even write letters to the troops.

And still the war drags on. The elusive Taliban - accused of being in bed with Pakistani intelligence and apparently also on the couch with Karzai - have learned, like the Vietcong of old, to vanish as American troops approach. They elude the heralded "decisive battle". The old Afghan saying rings loud: "Foreign invaders may have the clock but we have time." The Vietnamese had similar sayings.

The United States was born in an anti-imperial war. We have had little success exporting our order to developing nations (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan). But we do suffer long-term negative effects from those bloody adventures. Some Americans remain permanently scarred and crippled; others never forgive or forget. The Vietnamese won and now love doing business with us. But here the analogy with Vietnam breaks down. The Iraqis and Afghanis (and many in Pakistan as well) will not claim victory. Rather, they - the families of those killed by US troops, bombs, and drones - will likely cultivate hatred for the United States for decades to come....

Obama's foreign policy [and his presidency in general] is a mess and this episode nicely pulls back the curtain on the fact. Reality is we weren't going to succeed in Afghanistan anyway, not with this administration managing a dubious strategy in accordance with an extremely foolish 'deadline' - and regardless of that, a good case can be made that McChrystal wasn't the right man for job to begin with - so this is a good thing because the truth is now out there for all to see: Afghanistan is a deadly serious puzzle that will continue to confound and resist easy explication; and that when Obama embraced this war during the primaries he very clearly revealed two things about himself, namely that he's a shameless political opportunist who is desperately ignorant and in over his head when it comes to foreign policy and war....

What may be a closer truth is that the US adventure in Afghanistan is inherently doomed and its elements, in consequence, cannot but cumulatively contribute to its failure. Put another way, Can one pursue a doomed purpose in successful stages? Well, yes, the troops can act successfully, also the supply lines and much of what happens day to day. But even these must ultimately be attached to the overall purpose since they are links, however small, to its achievement and that, by definition, is not attainable. If one stands far enough back from the whole Afghan thing one cannot fail to see that the objectives defined by Obama cannot be achieved. Quite apart from anything else, Al CIAda is no longer even in Afghanistan...., CIA/MOSSAD have shifted its false flag operations elsewhere....

The journey from the point when Obama adopted military advice and set his policy in motion to the moment when the objectives will be recognized as unattainable is progressive. Processes that are progressive start here, end there and are marked by various events like musical notation. An over enthusiastic admirer once said to a renowned composer (maybe Debussy): I cannot imagine how you manage to write so many notes. Madam, he replied, music is not the notes, it is the spaces in between. This entire Afghan undertaking is such a time/space progression between one moment of decision and its failure, and McChrystal is but one of the notes along the way....

US Warships Stationed Off Iranian Coast

US Warships Stationed Off Iranian Coast -- Disinformation Galore...

As unconfirmed reports of an imminent Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities pick up steam in the Middle Eastern media, a US-based strategic intelligence company has released a chart showing US naval carriers massing near Iranian waters.

The chart, published by Stratfor/CIA's disinformation arm par excellence.... and obtained by the Zero Hedge financial blog, shows that over the last few weeks a naval carrier -- the USS Harry S Truman -- has been positioned in the north Indian Ocean, not far from the Strait of Hormuz, which leads into the Persian Gulf. The carrier joins the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was already located in the area. The chart is dated June 23, 2010.

Read more ....

My Comment: Every time the U.S. sends a carrier fleet into (or near) the Persian Gulf, everyone writes that there is going to be an impending strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

It is not going to happen....

Two carrier fleets is an insufficient force to strike at Iranian nuclear targets. The U.S. presence in Iraq is downsizing .... and downsizing fast. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is growing, but it is (at a minimum) a 1,000 km away (one direction) from Iran's nuclear sites.

Israel's air force does not have a combined strike force to attack all of Iran's nuclear facilities .... and I do not see them striking these targets in conjunction with a U.S. strike.

I wrote about this two years ago, but for any strike against Iran to be considered inevitable, the following assets must be in place (as told to me by someone in the know).

A minimum of 4 carrier groups. A heavy bomber presence on Diego Garcia. A heavy U.S. military presence in Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar. Patriot missile batteries all over the place. Aegis equipped ships in the area. And .... most important of them all .... the political will in Washington and among our allies to conduct such an attack on Iran.

At the moment .... I do not see any of these assets in place, nor do I see any political will to do anything about it....given all the economic and financial turmoil gripping the world...

Then again .... Israel may decide to do a "hail Mary pass" and attack Iran's main nuclear facilities including the Bushehr nuclear plant , and hope that in the mess that follows it will eventually benefit them.