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Friday, February 25, 2011


Governments killing peaceful protesters

The press is full of claims by the Italian Ambassador that 1,000 people (or "as many as 1000") have been (or "may have been") killed in Libya, although the Ambassador has apparently admitted that those numbers are "based on rumors," i.e., not really worthy of being reported (yet they continue to be reported, every single time the subject of people being killed in Libya comes up). That isn't to defend the killing of peaceful protesters by any means, and it is unquestionable that that is happening in Libya, though the extent of it is unfortunately polluted by the media's willingness to report rumors when our "enemies" are involved.

It's a different story with our "friends." Today, the Iraqi government, a creation of the the U.S., killed 15 peaceful protesters in that country. Although you can find many news organizations with articles about that online, we'll see how many, if any, actually make it into print tomorrow. As far as the broadcast media, so far as I've monitored not a word about that has appeared.

And if there's silence on that subject, how much more so on another country where yet another peaceful protester was killed today and many more injured - Israel. The dead person in that case was a three-year-old baby girl, which ought to make that story even more newsworthy, which, to the Western corporate media, means that much more reason to keep it quiet. Incidentally, that death comes just four days after a two-year-old baby boy was injured in the same East Jerusalem area. For that incident, with the passage of several days, we can say with certainty that it was accompanied with complete and utter silence by the Western media.

I'm in the middle of reading The Punishment of Gaza by Gideon Levy, a book I can highly recommend. One of its strengths is precisely in the personalization of Israeli war crimes - naming names and introducing us to the Palestinians, including many children, who have been killed by the Israeli military. That kind of personalization occurs routinely in the Western media when American or Israeli victims are involved, but rarely if ever when Palestinian victims are involved.

Update: The following day (today as I write this), my local paper (the San Jose Mercury News) managed to get the Iraq killings in one sentence of a "News in Brief" section, although they neutrally attributed the deaths to "clashes" between the government and protesters, with no clue that all the deaths were protesters. As for the death in East Jerusalem, nary a word.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



I've been watching Muammar Gaddafi speak via Al Jazeera. A bizarre performance if I've ever seen one. It looks like he's speaking in a dimly lit basement, constantly fussing with his clothing, ranting, etc. The U.S. government always tries to demonize its enemies by calling them "crazy", but in this particular case, it would be hard to disagree.

But, I'll note this. While the Washington Post runs editorials headlined "Moammar Gaddafi must pay for atrocities," Gaddafi has noted (twice now) how Boris Yeltsin attacked the Russian Parliament with tanks, and was not condemned by the West. Falluja was flattened, and no one paid for those crimes. People were slaughtered in Waco by the U.S. Government, without consequence. Israel has slaughtered the people of Gaza, and attacked the Freedom Flotilla, again without consequence. And I think he offered some other examples as well, it was hard to follow.

Not that Gaddafi's noting of these atrocities, and the hypocrisy accompanying the world reaction to them, mitigates in any way his atrocities (whose magnitude we don't know at this time), or will have the slightest effect on either the Libyan people nor on, if it comes to this (about which rumors circulate), a NATO "intervention" (i.e., invasion). But it does make clear the kinds of accusations the West opens itself up to with its utterly hypocritical attitude towards violence in different countries.

Update: In the coverage of Gaddafi's speech in the corporate media, I couldn't find a single reference to his indictment of atrocities by the U.S. and its allies. Quelle surprise!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Alone again, naturally

[Bonus points for getting the song allusion in the title]

Today, 14 of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council voted for a resolution declaring Israel's West Bank settlement construction illegal, a resolution which, given the unequivocal state of international law, is about as debatable as a resolution declaring the earth is not flat. Nevertheless, one bold country went where no one else dared to go, voted "no," and, in doing so, vetoed the resolution. That country as, obviously, the United States.

Before the vote went down, FAIR caught the New York Times making this preposterous statement: "The new White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said Thursday that he would not say whether the United States would invoke its rarely used veto power in the Council." In fact, the U.S. uses that "rarely used" power more than any other country; dozens of times on the issue of Israel alone. And, of course, that doesn't tell the whole story. Because the U.S. has used the threat of a veto many more times to simply prevent resolutions from coming to a vote, or to have them watered-down into meaninglessness before they do.

Explaining the U.S. veto, Ambassador Susan Rice claimed that "the veto should not be taken as an endorsement of the settlements" (r-i-i-i-ght), and that "Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians still are, as they have always been, the only way to solve the conflict between the two sides." Really, Dr. Rice? And how's that going, exactly? How many decades have those "negotiations" been going on? With what "progress," exactly?

As for that "criticism" we're told the U.S. levels against the settlements, here's an example: "White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday the United States did not "accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity." The Obama Administration has, to my knowledge, never criticized "settlements," only "continued settlement activity." Considering the extent of the existing illegal settlements, that's one heck of a difference. And even those statements are meaningless. Actions speak louder than words, and every U.S. action, from vetoing this resolution, to continuing to provide billions of dollars to Israel, says the U.S. has no more problem with what Israel is doing than it did with what Mubarak was doing in Egypt for 30 years.

Update: To no one's surprise, the U.S. was attempting to gut this resolution too before it was forced to veto it because, for once, it couldn't bend the rest of the Council to its will.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Iranian "curveball"

Two stories in today's news make for an interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand, we have the notorious "Curveball" admitting he completely made up allegations about Iraqi WMD because he wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq. And we know how "reliable" that evidence was, even at the time, thanks to the former head of the CIA in Europe:
He recalled a conversation he had with John McLaughlin, then the CIA's deputy director. "The week before the speech, I talked to the Deputy McLaughlin, and someone says to him, 'Tyler's worried that Curveball might be a fabricator.' And McLaughlin said, 'Oh, I hope not, because this is really all we have.' And I said, and I've got to be honest with you, I said: 'You've got to be kidding? This is all we have!'"
So one man, simply making allegations without the slightest actual corroborative evidence, was enough to convince the U.S. government provide sufficient cover for the U.S. to invade Iraq and cause the death of an estimated one million people, and the injury and displacement of millions more.

And then we have the second story, the latest "assessment" of Iran by the U.S. government, "informing" us that:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran's leadership is split over whether to use its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons and is immersed in a serious internal debate about how to proceed in the face of international sanctions.
Now if there were such a split and a debate going on, do you really think that anyone who was part of that debate would be talking to U.S. intelligence? Chances are about 100-1 that the "source" of this information is someone in a group like the MEK, talking to the CIA and claiming that they have a brother-in-law in Iran who knows a guy who knows a guy who told him....

The facts about Iran are these: Ayatollah Khamenei is one "power-source" in Iran. He has gone so far as to issue a fatwa against nuclear weapons. President Ahmadinejad, another source of power, has issued not a mere denial that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, but a ringing denunciation of nuclear weapons:

We have declared many times, and we declare again, that our nuclear technology is in the service of peaceful goals. We declare that mass destruction weapons are sought by those who still think in the mode of 50 years ago. Those who think that political equations and cultural and economic equations can be solved to their benefit by relying on arsenals of mass destruction weapons. Our nation is a civilized nation, a cultured nation, that relies on the faith and will of its young nationals. Our nation, in order to achieve its aspiration, relies on the thoughts and beliefs and enhanced values that lie in the Islamic culture and Iranian culture. Our nation does not elicit its power from nuclear weapons. The power of our nation is rooted in the justice of its beliefs.
Then there's the "Green Movement," who is unlikely to be part of any discussions anyway, but even more unlikely to be pushing for nuclear weapons. Could there be some in the military who feel the nation would be less likely to be attacked if it had nuclear weapons? It seems quite likely there are, since that's almost certainly a fact. But is there the slightest evidence that people holding that opinion are part of a "serious internal debate"? Given the strong statements from both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, it seems unarguable that the answer is "no."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Quote of the Day from...Justin Bieber?

"Canada's the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don't need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you're broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard's baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby's premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home." (Source)
Lest you think he's some kind of progressive, he's opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape. "Everything happens for a reason." Yes, Justin, the "reason" the woman needs an abortion is because she was raped. The "reason" a million Iraqis are dead is because the U.S. invaded their country. The "reason" the poor are getting poorer is that the rich are getting richer. There are generally "reasons" for things. That doesn't make the consequences of those actions something we just have to "accept."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Eight years is a long time - and longer for some than for others

Nearly eight years ago, I started writing this blog. Eight years is a long time. You know what else happened eight years ago. Two men, one a Russian ballet dancer and the other an Algerian who was a top-rated Italian chef in Austria, were imprisoned by the United States in Guantanamo. Like so many others, they were never charged with any crime, much less convicted. In fact, they have now been "cleared" (whatever that means exactly in the context of not ever having been charged with a crime). But they're still in Guantanamo.

Now, the Berkeley City Council is considering inviting them to come live in Berkeley. That's lovely, although I wonder if they've given any thought to the fact that the men might just want to actually go home after all this time. Well, that's their choice, of course.

What's interesting about this story isn't the Berkeley angle, at least to me. What's interesting is that, on those rare occasions when we actually learn something about the men buried alive in Guantanamo, we learn over and over again how the claim that the prisoners in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst" was, not to put too fine a point on it, unadulterated bullshit. And we learn over and over again about the atrocities that have been done in our name. Even if these particular men suffered no physical torture (and I don't know if they did or didn't), eight years of indefinite imprisonment without charges is torture in and of itself. And, by the way, that "our" doesn't just apply to Americans. It applies to anyone whose government has cooperated with these continuing human rights outrages (ones that Hillary Clinton curiously neglected to mention today), and really even anyone whose government has not vociferously objected to those outrages (which probably includes about 99% of the people reading these words).

And while we're on the subject of human rights abuses, here's something else Clinton neglected to mention today while she was preaching about freedom of speech - the fact that American journalists re-entering the U.S. can have their documents, computer, phone, and camera SD cards seized and copied without any kind of warrant or suspicion of wrongdoing. Of course that wasn't all she left out. She mentioned Iran seven times, but Bahrain not once. Bahrain, where two protesters have been killed by police and hundreds or thousands more beaten, but the King of Bahrain is a U.S. ally, so you won't be hearing any unkind words from Clinton about Bahrain until and unless the handwriting is on the wall, as it was in Egypt.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The Power of the "Cuban Lobby"

It's conventional wisdom that U.S. policy towards Israel and Cuba are the result of powerful pro-Israel (e.g., AIPAC) and anti-Cuba (e.g., CANF) groups. And there's certainly no doubt that those groups do have significant influence. But at bottom, the reason they're able to have such influence is that the cause they're lobbying for falls right in line with the needs and desires of the U.S. ruling class. That is to say, the tail isn't wagging the dog, but rather the tail is simply an integral part of the dog and, just like many dogs, the body and the tail actually "wag" together.

Is this simply an assertion? Well, it is an assertion, but to back it up I offer this article, which is the first thorough analysis I've seen of the Wikileaks cables pertaining to Cuba. And why is this relevant to the question raised in the first paragraph? Because when you read through those cables, what you'll see is a U.S. government quite literally obsessed with doing everything it can, all over the world, to undermine the Cuban Revolution in every way possible. The U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan sponsoring a "solidarity with the Cuban people" day (by which they mean the Cubans who they fantasize want to overthrow the Cuban government, not the actual Cuban people). The U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine lecturing a Ukrainian government representative because she dared to defend Cuba's human rights record. The Ambassador in Lithuania successfully pressuring the government there not to recognize Cuba. A questionnaire (!) send to the U.S. Ambassador in Estonia (and presumably to many other countries) asking such questions as "Did the host country offer or deliver humanitarian or other assistance to the Cuban people in the wake of the major damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav (August 30) and Ike (September 8)?"

Each one of these items, taken individually, is seemingly trivial. But taken together, and extrapolating to the hundreds of similar cables to and from other U.S. Embassies around the world which WikiLeaks didn't get hold of, and the U.S. determination to do everything they possibly can to overthrow the Cuban revolution becomes crystal clear.

Now why is this important? Because without WikiLeaks, none of this would be known to us or to the "Cuban Lobby." Think about that lobby. If the U.S. government maintains the blockade of Cuba, and continues to say bad things publicly about Cuba, and add in a few "extras" like continue to shield Luis Posada Carriles from extradition to Venezuela to stand trial for the mass murder of 73 people in the bombing of a Cubana Airliner, surely that would be enough to make the Cuban lobby "happy." It's highly unlikely that the Cuban lobby even knew about a public event like the one in Uzbekistan mentioned above, much less private U.S. pressure on Lithuania not to recognize Cuba or all the other things mentioned in the documents. After all, if Lithuania were to establish relations with Cuba, it would be a pretty hard case to make that that was Bush's (or Obama's or whoever's) "fault" that that happened.

The lesson to draw is clear. The policy of the U.S. government towards Cuba is the policy of the U.S. government, and the class (the "ruling class") and interests (corporate) that it represents. The interests of the "Cuban lobby" may coincide with those policies, but it is not what is really driving those policies. What is driving those policies is the same thing that led the U.S. and 16 other imperialist countries to invade Russia in 1918 in an attempt to overthrow the Russian Revolution. The same thing that led the U.S. to arm, finance, and organize the Contras in their attempt to overthrow the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. The same thing that is behind the U.S. demonization (and more) of Venezuela and Bolivia. And on and on. It's the fear (and, ultimately, the knowledge) that a fully successful socialist revolution, one allowed to develop "normally" without invasions, blockades, threats of war, and so on, would prove an irresistible example for the people of the world, including the people of the United States. It's their own interests the corporations and the ruling rich are protecting, not the interests of a handful of right-wing Cubans in Miami.


Defense "cuts"

News reports have it that President Obama is proposing "cuts to defense spending" of $78 billion. Really? Well, it's easy to propose things (like ending wars, for example) for some time in the future. How about now?

Here's the reality:

The White House proposed on Monday to spend $671 billion on the U.S. military next year, handing the Pentagon a short-term boost even as it prepares for tighter budgets in coming years.

The Obama administration budget proposal for fiscal 2012 includes $118 billion for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, on top of the base budget of $553 billion.

That base budget figure is $22 billion above the level enacted for 2010, setting a new record even as the government faces an overall freeze in federal spending.
Obama says his budget will spend $1.1 trillion less over the next ten years. That's $110 billion a year, almost exactly the amount being spent for war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. In other words, his budget could propose no cuts at all to social services if he were willing to end America's wars and occupations. How many voices will be raised in Congress or the media offering that solution? That's why we have to raise that demand ourselves in the streets on March 19 and all the time.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Obama's selective support of non-violence

Barack Obama, today:
"Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained by violence."
Apparently Obama is under the impression that the American Revolution was a tea party and that the Civil War was a giant sit-in.

Non-violent change is fine, if and when it happens. But there are times when violence becomes unavoidable if justice is to be obtained. That's simple historical fact.

By the way, there have been years of non-violent protests by Palestinians and their supporters in the West Bank and Gaza. Many, including both Palestinians, Americans (Rachel Corrie), and others, have been killed by Israel in the course of those protests. As far as I know, Barack Obama has never uttered a single word of praise for those demonstrators, or condemnation for their killers.


Media converts and blinders

I'm listening to CNN this morning, listening to people like Wolf Blitzer refer casually to Hosni Mubarak as an "autocrat," talk about his 30-year dictatorship, and talk about how the Egyptian people can now look forward to "free and fair" elections. Do you suppose that once in the his entire tenure at CNN (prior to the last two weeks, anyway) that Wolf Blitzer had referred to Mubarak as an "autocrat," or said or even implied that the election in Egypt weren't "free and fair"?

At the same time, the sudden removal of blinders from the eyes of the corporate media hasn't changed their view of the Iranian revolution (32 years ago to the day) one bit. They simply refuse to acknowledge that Iran became a democratic country 32 years ago. Of course it's an imperfect one, with theocratic approval required for Presidential candidates, for example. Is that any less or more democratic than this country, where the approval of Wall Street bankers is required instead? If they had the slightest familiarity with recent Iranian history (and the willingness to acknowledge those facts to their viewers), they would know there are different parties in the elected Majlis, different factions, some of the President's choices being approved, some being disapproved, etc. All the trappings of a bourgeois democracy. There's only one reason the media won't acknowledge that, and it's the same reason that, until the last week or two, prevented them from telling their viewers the truth about Egypt. One country is in the crosshairs of imperialism, and the other was a trustworthy lackey of imperialism. It's really as simple as that.

Update: They're licking their chops over at CNN about the prospects of overturning the Iranian revolution and bringing it into the imperialist camp.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Whispers of miss destruction

OK, the headline was a stretch to get another WMD lie out of the mouth of Donald Rumsfeld, who now claims that Saddam Hussein had a $60 million bounty on the heads (apparently, literally according to Rumsfeld) of his daughters, as well as the daughters of George W. Bush.

Admittedly this is not entirely implausible, coming (again allegedly) as it did right after the U.S. butchered not only Saddam's two sons, but also his 14-year-old grandson (just one of tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians slaughtered by the U.S., whatever you think of the "guilt" or lack thereof of Saddam's sons). However, as far as we know there is as much credible evidence to back this claim as there was to back the claims of the other WMDs, the weapons of mass destruction. That is to say, none. Which, as with those, won't prevent for one second the media from reporting that claim.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Mirror needed, badly

Today's jaw-dropping statement of U.S. government hypocrisy comes courtesy of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, commenting on the fact that jailed American Alan Gross is about to be put on trial after a year in jail:
"imprisonment without charges for more than a year is contrary to all international human-rights obligations."
How about more than nine years? What does that qualify as, exactly?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Cuba's "political prisoners"

A story in today's news sheds more light on the subject of "political prisoners" in Cuba:
Cuba's government has agreed to free four men convicted of trying to flee the island by hijacking boats, and will send them into exile in Spa. Church spokesman Orlando Marquez said Wednesday that Alexis Borges, Victor Jesus Hechavarria, Osmel Arevalos Nunez and Rodrigo Gelacio Santos are all to be let go in coming days. ...Borges is serving a 15-year-sentence for the bloody 1999 hijacking of a tourist boat in an effort to flee the country.

Borges is on a list of about 100 political prisoners maintained by Elizardo Sanchez, a well-known Cuban human rights leader.
Sorry, Elizardo (and the Western governments and media who keep repeating the charges against Cuba), being convicted of a "bloody hijacking of a tourist boat" doesn't qualify you as a "political prisoner."


The "peace process"

Tony Blair says of Hosni Mubarak:
"I've worked with him on the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians so this is somebody I'm constantly in contact with and working with and on that issue, I have to say, he's been immensely courageous and a force for good."
Nor is Blair the only one to express this idea; I've heard it many times from various members of the U.S. government and media pundits.

But here's the thing - the "peace process" has produced no progress since it began (however you want to define the beginning). Are the Palestinians closer to a state now than they were in 1949? Or 1967? No, they're further away. So the idea that Mubarak or anyone else has been helpful in the "peace process" is simply ludicrous.

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