22 July 2006


Paul Craig Roberts claims that Israeli soldiers are engaged in ethnic cleansing in Lebanon. I do hope that the lesson of Auschwitz (for at least some small portion of humankind) was something more substantive than that it is better to be on top. Of course, stories of wartime atrocities are bait for the caring. What evidence confirms/ disconfirms Roberts' assertion? Will Iran be drawn into the war? Stay tuned.

21 July 2006


Please sign this petition...

Ward Churchill


a sign of things to come?

Hey, I'm just askin', I make no sure claims to knowledge. But global warming racks up a few piddling death tolls across the states that voted for Bush, and a few outages happen in a Kerry state, and here it's only July. It will be worse next year, too. Meanwhile the cult members in charge plan more wars.

This article is a popular one in news rolls this week. Of course, what does it matter, when compared with our roles as bureaucrats? It's just the ecological collapse of the world we and our children have to live in, nothing important you see.

20 July 2006


Early in the Star Trek, The Next Generation series, a fictional alien entity called "The Borg" was shown to television viewers. The Borg, as the Wikipedia entry proclaims, is controlled by a "hive mind" in which a single consciousness envelops a multitude of bodies.

The thing that was fun about the Borg, though, is that whenever the Starship Enterprise was being attacked by the Borg, the Borg drone confronting the Enterprise would always say some combination of the words "Resistance is futile" and "you will be assimilated."

It seems like "the Borg" might make an appropriate metaphor for political life as it occurs today. The powers-that-be, although clearly possessing distinct bodies and sometimes even distinct personalities, seem to have a "hive mind" at times. Now, the Borg mentality exists to a wide extent within political entities, and cannot merely be blamed on the US Congress, supporters of the Israel lobby, or for that matter Muslims or Christians or the Left or Right or people of any stripe. People are people -- people are not the prosthetic units of the Borg as portrayed on Star Trek. Within each and every person is a spirit of freedom, always threatening to escape from its ideological cage.

But the hive mentality does, however, curiously seemed to have emerged as such in the Congressional voicings of opinion on Israel's merciless bombing of Lebanon, seemingly marking Congress as a product of assimilation. Support Israel -- condemn enemies of the Jewish state.

They are doubtless all afraid of being called "antisemites," which is a name some people give for anyone who does not support all of the actions of the state of Israel 100 percent of the time. (Now, of course there are plenty of real antisemites in the world -- I don't like them either -- but that's not what this is about.) Be assimilated -- don't be an "antisemite."

Another variation of this was given by Tony Snow in a question-and-answer session with reporter Helen Thomas.
HELEN THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.

TONY SNOW: What's interesting, Helen --

HELEN THOMAS: And this is what's happening, and that's the perception of the United States.

TONY SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you --
Now, outside of the hive-mind, if you read renegade news sources like Counterpunch or Zmag or even Alternet, you find a wide variety of perspectives, hardly any of which are to be equated with the "Hezbollah view." Take, for instance, that of Zeev Maoz' article in Alternet. Maoz, whose curriculum vitae reveals years of Israeli military service, suggests, contrary to Tony Snow's assertion that "Hezbollah is responsible", that Israel is responsible for creating the conditions for the existence of Hezbollah, and that the existence of Hezbollah is itself a blowback from previous Israeli policy:
The Hizballah, one of Israel's most bitter enemies, is an unwanted child of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, a reaction of Lebanese Shiites to the megalomaniac plan of Menahem Begin and Ariel Sharon to impose upon the Lebanese people a Christian-dominated state. Hassan Nasrallah, the extremist leader of the Hizballah replaced the more moderate Abbas Mussawi, who was assassinated by Israel in February 1992.
Maoz uses this observation to support an argument that the Israeli government pursues a strategy against Hezbollah based on an incorrect choice of tactics:
Israeli resort to disproportionate force is predicated on a conception of "escalation dominance," a flawed notion that the massive force can reduce the motivation of its adversaries to attack Israeli targets. Israelis still subscribe to the notion that if a problem cannot be solved by force, it would be solved by applying greater force. The current conflict demonstrates again that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) lost its capacity to stage surgical operations. It is covering for its incompetence in managing low-intensity warfare by applying massive area bombardments of questionable strategic value, and of unquestionably huge diplomatic damage.
But this matters not to the Borg: the point is to repeat the slogan of "Israel's right to exist," over and over again. Do tell us, O Borg, that Zeev Maoz is an "antisemite" who doesn't care about said nation's right to exist.

A footnote: Robert Blecher, stationed in Jerusalem, commented to Zmag that he thinks the current Israeli attack/ invasion of Lebanon is motivated by office politics, rather than by the low-level kidnapings routine which has been going on between Israel and Hezbollah for quite some time now:
The increased aggressiveness of Israeli military action over the past months, and especially the last weeks, stems from a shakeup in the balance of power within the Israeli government. Among the most influential arms of the IDF is the Operations Department, which is possessed of a long-term vision that, in accordance with institutional interests, is premised upon the use of military power to achieve political goals. Representatives of this department, even before the disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, complained that unilateral concessions would erode Israel's "deterrent capacity." Ariel Sharon, then prime minister, was unmoved by this argument, since his long military career had taught him that the invocation of the ostensibly neutral notion of "deterrence" was a stratagem to force the treatment of political problems though military means. For years, he himself had used the same technique to inveigh against initiatives of the political echelon. Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, by contast, are inexperienced in military matters, and as a result, according to a source in Israeli military intelligence, they did not fully appreciate how the demand for "deterrence" can be used to shift the internal balance of power in favor of the military. When the Operations Department harped on the need to reestablish Israeli "deterrence," especially in the wake of the soldiers' capture, the civilian leadership was convinced to hew to the IDF's line. This subtle but crucial change brewing inside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv explains something about the enormous extent of the destruction wreaked on Lebanon in the wake of Hizballah's cross-border raid.
I am waiting for the US Congress to pass a resolution, any day now, endorsing "Israel's right to office politics."

19 July 2006


An article in Znet by Ilan Pappe has an intriguing premise:
Imagine a group of high ranking generals who simulated for years Third World War scenarios in which they can move huge armies around, employ the most sophisticated weapons in their disposal and enjoy the immunity of a computerized headquarters from which they can direct their war games. Now imagine that they are informed that in fact there is no Third World War and their expertise is needed to calm down some of the nearby slums or deal with soaring crime in deprived townships and impoverished neighborhoods. And then imagine - in the final episode in my chimerical crisis - what happens when they find out how irrelevant have their plans been and how useless are their weapons in the struggle against the street violence produced by social inequality, poverty and years of discrimination in their society. They can either admit failure or decide none the less to use the massive and destructive arsenal at their disposal. We are witnessing today the havoc wreaked by Israeli generals who opted for latter course of action.
And, given the impotence of the government before these generals, who knows how far they'll go? Damascus? Tehran?

This article bears comparison to the thesis of Gabriel Kolko's The Age of War, a book about American history. Kolko imagines high-tech weaponry to be a sort of intoxicant -- the more high-tech weaponry a nation's military possesses, the more likely it is to presume that political problems can be solved by bombing enemies into the Stone Age or through other such strategies of conventional warfare. Kolko's primary examples for this behavior are the US involvement in Vietnam, and the military actions the US fought afterward. Perhaps his thesis applies to the IDF, as well.

18 July 2006


Molly Ivins is merely alarmed about the newest manifestation of casino capitalism, the hedge fund, but her most recent article has an attractive name...

Foreigners are getting out of Beirut now, as the "offensive" is said by the Israelis to take weeks, as this is being depicted in the Western press as an escalating conflict...

17 July 2006


Rahul Mahajan, former Green Party candidate, has a post in his blog Empire Notes which draws out some interesting implications of the current war in Lebanon.

To review: Mahajan thinks there are two reasons for Israel's current war on Lebanon: 1) the "newly elevated principle of unilateralism" grants Olmert and the IDF the privilege of "doing what they want" to enemies, so that rather than the ongoing negotiations and prisoner-swaps, we have all-out war, and 2) "last year's Cedar Revolution" left Lebanon without Syrian security for its borders, so Hezbollah isn't being restrained by the Syrians. The Lebanese, well, if the Lebanese had any power before last week to restrain Hezbollah, they sure don't have it now.

Let's start with Reason number 2. So who is going to provide security for Lebanon, if the US and the Israelis continue to demonize Syria while destroying infrastructure in Lebanon? The Israelis? As the Angry Arab says on Democracy Now:
I tell you that the entire population of South Lebanon stands behind Hezbollah, whether you like it or not. My 14-year-old nephew has been raised by secular leftists, like my family is, and yet he is now a passionate, enthusiastic supporter of Hezbollah. So when Israel said they want to drive them away from South Lebanon, what are they going to do? We're talking about extermination of them?"
I imagine Lebanon becoming another Palestine, a constant punching-bag for the IDF.

Reason number 1 has scary implications too. Unilateralism means "we can ignore you if we want." But as unilateralism is accompanied by increasing violence, more and more people will be saying "I will not be ignored," regardless of how many other countries' titular heads line up behind US-backed Israeli "unilateralism." As the Angry Arab says, once again
There was a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo two days ago, and the minutes were leaked to the Arabic press, including to As-Safir, among others, and there was a clear intention. The Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, as well as the Saudis, primarily the Saudis, are participating in this campaign in order to disarm and weaken Hezbollah. What they don't know, however, is this is going to have reverberations that is going to affect their own stability.

Just yesterday, a group of Saudi dissidents, intellectuals from inside the country, may of whom are Shiite, released a strong denunciation of the policies of the Saudi government. Inside Egypt yesterday, a large group of the most well known Egyptian writers, intellectuals, leftists, released another statement denunciating the position of the Egyptian government, and there were demonstrations in Jordan about that. So, of course, they are part of the conspiracy that I speak of. The Arab governments are working side-by-side with the United States and with the Israelis.
Now, it's hard to read from the press releases on the Arab League meeting (here's one from Agence France-Presse that says very little) if the Angry Arab is right about a conspiracy, or not. One thing is clear; unilateralism is not a policy that can be gotten away with indefinitely. The current order is not stable. Good luck with that.