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Book review: Miko Peled sets the record straight on Palestine’s dispossession August 11, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Roger’s note: the other day I posted the video of a talk given by Miko Peled, the son of a military Zionist family, who underwent a dramatic transformation in his life through soul searching (and truth searching) inspired by interaction with the Palestinian community.  The result was an abandonment of the official Israeli government and AIPAC narrative about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which paints the Israelis as victims and their aggression as self-defence.  In a sense, most of us are in the same boat as Peled.  Through the educational system, the mass media and government propaganda, we live with myth as reality, illusion as truth.  Edward Bernays, the father of American public relations, invented the Big Lie; Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels perfected it; and it has come to be the every day reality around the globe. This it true in spades for Israeli people, with their universal conscription, compulsory home shelters, and  the desperate and deadly terrorist attacks that serve to reinforce the myth.

Here is a review of Peled’s memoir, written by a Palestinian journalist, a textured, compelling and balanced evaluation of Peled’s journey from true believer in the Israeli occupation to advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinian peoples.

 

29 November 2012

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My review of The General’s Son, byMiko Peled, cannot be separated from what I’ve come to know about the author. After all, this book is about Peled’s own life, and his journey to a new understanding of the conflict that has defined so many of our lives. It is a narrative of the author’s transformation from an ardent Zionist, born into a revered military Israeli family, to a human rights activist and advocate of asingle binational state.

In addition to reading this book, I attended one of Peled’s lectures and watched another online, and I’ve had a chance to speak with him in person and at some length. At each of these junctures, my reaction to his narrative changed to some degree.

I first picked up this book when I was asked to conduct a live interview with the author in New York. The initial parts, although told from the vantage of reflection, are replete with Zionist myths and verbiage spanning the full spectrum of hard-line Zionism to Zionism-light. Although Peled has made it clear in his lectures that he rejects Zionism, there is equivocation on this point in The General’s Son.

This is perhaps not surprising since he wrote the book over an extended period of time in which Peled was undergoing a process that unhinged fundamental assumptions about his own identity. But this means that the reader is left with phrases like “revival of Jewish national homeland” (26), “his generation fought so hard so that ours could live in a democracy” (58), “heroic missions” (105), and “my people fought so hard to win it back” (119).

More than 100 pages into the book, I was annoyed enough to beg out of my commitment to interview Peled because, as I told his publisher, I didn’t think I was the best person to interview her client if she was looking for me to be a promoter of his book. The publisher suggested I read on. She thought I would change my mind by the end of the book. I agreed, and to some extent my attitude softened, but not to the extent she promised. It was not until the last few pages of the book, when I found the single sentence I had been waiting to read (without realizing that I had been waiting for it), that I felt open to meeting the author. I’ll get to that.

Father of peace?

Peled gives us a personal glimpse of a man that many of us Palestinians could not figure out whether to love or hate. It is clear that many Palestinians loved Matti Peled, Miko’s father, the Israeli general who was one of the chief architects of our ethnic cleansing. Matti Peled was a Zionist who later became an Arabist and actively worked to restore the rights of persecuted Palestinian individuals. In fact, many notable Palestinians referred to him as “Abu Salam” (Father of Peace), although we are told that his motivation mostly stemmed from a desire to “preserve” the moral fabric of Israeli society.

Miko understandably treats his father’s memory with reverence and highlights the man who actively sought peace and co-existence, rather than the war-maker. He presents the reader with the general who was well ahead of his time, one of the earliest advocates of the two-state solution, a prescient man with eerily accurate predictions of popular Palestinian resistance that would turn Israel into a brutal and despised occupier.

The younger Peled tells us of the general who reached out to the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) when his country wouldn’t and who formed a sincere friendship with Issam Sartawi, a senior member of the PLO. All of that is true, but there are holes, too, in this projection. For example, Miko tells us that his father wrote an article lamenting the loss of Ariel Sharon’s “military genius” when the latter was not appointed chief of staff (117).

Matti Peled wrote that Sharon “combined the unique quality of being a brilliant military man, an admired leader and he knew how to organize his command so as to achieve the best possible results on the battlefield.” This article was written in 1973, long after Sharon’s brutal exploits became well known. After all, Ariel Sharon’s massacre in the village of Qibya in 1953 provoked an international outcry, and surely Matti Peled was already well-acquainted with Sharon’s form of “military genius.”

It is clear, however, that the general had a change of heart, not quite to the extent that his son would many years later, but a significant change nonetheless. Interestingly, this does not seem to have been passed on to his children in his lifetime, at least not to his son, Miko. In fact, the author tells us very little about his relationship with his father and one gets the impression that the general was a remote father, impatient with his family, and too absorbed in the affairs of the state to indulge the predilections of the heart.

Thus, the anti-Arab racism suffused in Israeli textbooks and codified in the social milieuwent unchallenged in Miko’s life until he was an adult mourning for his niece, Smadar, who was killed by a suicide bomber not much older than she.

Remarkable journey

To the reporters gathered at her home, Smadar’s mother (Miko’s sister), professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan, blamed the Israeli government’s “megalomania” for her daughter’s death and the death of the suicide bombers. Although she is mentioned infrequently in Miko’s narrative, Nurit emerges from the pages as a woman of great strength and moral fortitude, and a mother in the truest sense.

Miko’s attempt to understand his sister’s reaction pushes him to reach out to Palestinians in his own town of San Diego, California. His first step was a Palestinian/Jewish-American dialogue group, and he took it with no small measure of fear. In fact, both he and his wife were afraid for his life to be in the home of a middle class Palestinian family in suburbia, USA. And when he was there, his wife called a few times to make sure he was okay.

I do appreciate the author’s honesty and respect his willingness to unveil such racist attitudes, but I admit, reading this part reminded me of the white woman who tenses her body and clutches her purse at the sight of a Black man, sure that the man’s only thought is how to rape and rob her. But Peled pushed through that ignorance and pulled his family with him to a sense of brotherhood, even deference, toward Palestinians. That’s a remarkable journey.

It is inspiring and enlightening to read the unfolding of one man’s path to liberate himself from racist ideologies, to disavow the privilege accorded to him because it comes at the expense of those who do not belong to his religion. I imagine it cannot be an easy path.

The critical eye can discern some stumbles in this journey and recognize certain “baby steps” the author takes to internalize the truth. One such example occurs when Miko is confronted by a Palestinian narrative diametrically opposed to what he has known his whole life. He then learns that objective, recorded historical fact supports the Palestinian narrative, not his. So he writes the following: “The willingness to accept another’s truth is a huge step to take. It is such a powerful gesture, in fact, that contemplating it can make you want to throw up.”

In reality, however, it is not so difficult to accept the truth of other human beings when we seek to understand. The truly difficult part, I imagine — the part that makes you want to throw up, perhaps — is the willingness to accept that what you’ve believed your whole life is, in fact, a lie. That is the personal triumph that Miko Peled clearly achieved. He dismantled a lifetime of racist assumptions and replaced them with something more human and tender.

Turning point

Miko Peled was born in Jerusalem and grew up believing the Holy Land was his rightful ancient homeland. He believed that his own personal lineage extended thousands of years in Jerusalem, even though he was clearly aware that his grandparents arrived in Palestine from Eastern Europe. In describing the friendships he forges with various Palestinian individuals, he speaks of being “sons of the same homeland” and creates a parity with regard to the depth of their roots in that land.

Peled aligns his sense of belonging on a par with that of Palestinians and speaks about recent Israeli settlers with disdain, often referring to their heavy “Russian accent” to emphasize that they are foreigners. Peled says, “I couldn’t help but think it ironic that these new immigrants, who could barely speak Hebrew, had rights over these lands that the Palestinians were denied simply because they were Jewish. Quite unbelievable!” (143).

And when his Palestinian friend Nader el Banna tries to visit his homeland but is detained by one such young Israeli newcomer in a soldier’s uniform, Peled was indignant, saying, “It takes a special kind of arrogance or ignorance, for someone who is new to a country to keep an older person (who was born in that country and whose ancestors were born in that country) out” (150).

He’s right, of course, but he falls short of acknowledging that, in fact, his father’s generation stood precisely in that arrogant and ignorant space and people like my grandfather sat defenseless in Nader el Banna’s place.

In getting to know Miko Peled, I think he understands this, but that that understanding doesn’t come through in the narrative. This attitude extends to land and settlements. On pages 143 and 216, for example, he writes, “these settlements are not going away, I thought, and this land will never be handed back to its rightful owners,” and “having witnessed Israel’s immense investment in infrastructure to attract Jewish settlers and thereby exclude Palestinians — to whom the land belongs.” Peled seems to apply this logic only to the West Bank and makes no reference to the rightful owners of properties in Haifa, for instance. This, to me, was a shortcoming in the book and the principle reason I remained suspicious throughout most of The General’s Son.

Then, with only three pages to go until the end of the book, I read Miko’s account of a conversation he had with his brother-in-law, who apparently still maintains that Israel should remain a Jewish state. Miko clearly disagreed and said: “But you know as well as I that we are all settlers, and all of Israel is occupied Palestine.”

That was the turning point for me. That was the sentence I needed to read, even though Miko didn’t elaborate beyond it.

Admitting the truth

It didn’t matter that Peled overcame a racist ideology. That’s his own personal journey of growth. Nor did it matter that he went so far past his fears that he befriended and came to love certain Palestinian individuals. It didn’t matter that he embarked on humanitarian projects to help. Or that he participated in protests that got him arrested by the Israeli occupation forces.

In the end, what truly mattered was setting the record straight and acknowledging that Palestinians are native sons and daughters who have been cruelly dispossessed of home, history, heritage and story. What mattered was the acknowledgement. Uttering the truth, no matter how painful, is what I needed to hear. Because it was in that admission that Miko Peled became a man I could embrace as a brother and fellow countryman.

In that sense, it can be said that this book is about how Miko Peled was transformed from being the general’s son to being a native son of the land.

Endearing and ugly

Much is packed into the few pages of this book. There are little known historic notes, like the fact that Israel’s taking of the West Bank, including Jerusalem and Gaza was a decision made during the 1967 War, not before it, by the generals, not the civil government. It contains endearing and funny moments. I found it wonderful that Miko’s commanding officer called him the “antithesis of a soldier” because he was too left-leaning.

The reader learns that Benjamin Netanyahu and Miko’s sister Nurit had been like “brother and sister.” That’s hard for me to imagine. But when they run into Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Miko’s son later asks why “that man” had so many bodyguards. Nurit is quick with the delightful reply that “he must have done something really terrible and now he’s afraid for his life.”

There are touching sections of the book where Miko speaks of Palestinian children whom he trains in a karate studio (Miko is a 6th degree black belt). They are tender and endearing and truly lovely. On the opposite end of this spectrum, Peled also describes conversations he had with Israelis in Japan and one gets a sense of how Israelis speak to each other when they think no one is listening. The account of this is sickening, and Miko himself relates wanting to throw up afterward.

My criticisms aside, this is an important book, full of hope and inspiration for a shared destiny between Palestinians and Israelis based on mutual respect and equal rights. I recommend it. And I think Miko Peled is an important new voice, from which I hope to read and hear more.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller Mornings in Jenin and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.

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How We Scapegoat Children From Gaza to the US-Mexico Borderlands August 9, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: “Suffer little children …”  Matthew 19:14 KJV

 

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Border Wars Blog / NACLA

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Palestinian children break world record for Kite Flying. (United Nations / Under Creative Commons)

A week ago was when I first saw the picture that appeared in the The Telegraph of children in the Gaza Strip trying to break the Guinness world record for kite-flying. The kites floating mid-air off the Mediterranean shore were a sight to behold. I was taken with the photo and the happiness of the Gazan children on the beach, considering that all the news had been about the sustained Israeli bombardment of that besieged Palestinian territory. At first glance, it seemed like a triumph of the human spirit, or at least of the joy of childhood in the face of war. But then I realized that the picture had been taken at a previous time.

Again, I looked at the photo of all the children grouped on the beach, with the breaking, blue waves in the distance. Flying kites was still quite a feat with an unseen Israeli naval blockade six miles out to sea. However, with the sustained attack on the Gaza Strip, which has been going on since July 7, I realized that it was possible—if not probable—that some of these children were dead.

This U.S.-funded Israeli attack (on a 72-hour ceasefire since Tuesday, August 5) was a rallying point for several Los Angeles-based organizations to organize a march on July 25to protest the visit of President Barack Obama, who was on a trip to raise money for the Democratic Party and its upcoming election campaigns. But there was another reason for the protest. As that march moved forward down the L.A. streets in the mid-day heat, it was visually dominated by people holding flowing flags from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The defense of Palestinian and immigrant children converged, as a response to the similar strategies of dehumanization used to justify violence against them.

The focus of the march was children: Not only the close to 400 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of July, but also the 60,000 unaccompanied kids who have arrived at the U.S. southern border from Central American countries, often fleeing desperate circumstances, since October 1. And in doing so, these Latin American youngsters have entered into the jaws of the largest border, detention, and deportation regime that we have ever experienced in the United States. This summer official disdain and violence against children—or certain “types” of children—has been on pure, raw display across the globe.

As people marched, these two apparently separate issues joined together in a chant “Emigrantes, Palestinos, Estamos Unidos.” (“Migrants, Palestinians, We Are United”—it rhymes better in Spanish). The demands were not only that the United States stop its $3 billion annual military aid to Israel, but also that it put to a halt its deportation machine, especially with calls to expel many of these Central American children back to situations of certain violence.

Of course, there are huge differences between what is happening in Israel-Palestine and the exodus of children from Central America.

On that same Gazan beach where the children so ecstatically flew their kites, for example, on July 16 an Israeli missile killed four Palestinian children, between the ages of seven and 11, who had been playing on the shore. On July 28, another Israeli rocket obliterated a playground near a hospital in a Gaza refugee camp, killing eight children. “The children were playing and were happy, enjoying Eid, and they got hit. Some lost their heads, others their legs and hands,” an eyewitness told Russia Today. Israel’s military offensive has taken more than 1,900 Palestinian lives. In the last month, 419 Palestinian children have been killed in missile strikes hitting schools, mosques, and hospitals. 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed, mainly in gun battles in Gaza. No Israeli children have been reported dead thus far, though three of its citizens have perished.

For the children of Gaza, there is no place to run to when the Israeli Defense Forces bombs them. “The offensive has had a catastrophic and tragic impact on children,” said Pernille Ironside, head of the UNICEF field office in Gaza, who also mentioned that 2,502 youngsters have also been wounded.

In contrast many of the children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are able to run from their own war: A vast, complicated situation that, like in Israel-Palestine, is impacted and fomented by U.S. political, economic, and military policies in the region, both in a historical and contemporary sense.

U.S. media outlets have regularly described the Central American children as a “flood,” “tsunami” or “tidal wave” as if they were some sort of natural disaster. Others use the term “surge” as if the young ones were an advancing military “invasion,” one worthy of deploying the military to protect the “homeland.” This sort of language set the stage for the likes of Fox News host Sean Hannity to sit with Texas Governor Rick Perry, with a camera-friendly machine gun placed between them, as if the kids really did represent the “asymmetric warfare” against the United States as claimed by the ex-Border Patrol agent Zack Taylor.

“If asymmetrical warfare is going to be successful, the first thing that has to be done is to compromise America’s defenses against invasion,” said Taylor.

Taylor’s idea that Border Patrol “babysitting” has taken “the resources that are protecting America at the border, off of the border,” has been repeated across the media landscape and throughout officialdom ad nauseum. Along with this comes the incessant mantra of a “porous” border that, as Taylor describes, gives people “that are trying to get their infrastructure, their personnel, their drugs, their dirty bombs, their biological weapons, their chemical weapons into the United States without being noticed” a free pass. That is why civilian militia groups are roaming the borderlands again. This is one of the main reasons that Perry sent 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the international divide. Current media and official framing of the border crisis may also explain why the Obama administration (and U.S. Congress) will likely ramp up the border enforcement apparatus even more, and expel the children at a rapid rate from the country.

In other words both the Central American and Palestinian children have been transformed rhetorically into a full-fledged national security threat. This sort of wholesale dehumanization can be found again when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas wants topile up “telegenically dead Palestinians” for their cause.

Predating the Israeli attack on Gaza Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked stated on her Facebook page that “Palestinian people have declared war on us, and we must respond with war.” In her vividly written post she suggested that the destruction should include “[Palestine's] elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” And at the end she said that women whose families play any part in Palestinian resistance give birth to “little snakes.” It is no wonder Israeli soldiers have no problem posing for photosas they hold a detained Palestinian boy in a chokehold.

Similar were anti-immigrant protestors in Murrieta, California who called the Central American children “wet dogs.” Like in Israel-Palestine, there is example after example of how such words can go from a xenophobic sign in a protest, to the very way agents of the U.S. Border Patrol treat the Central American children in short-term detention. An ACLU report compiled the testimonies of many children, almost all whom complained of freezing conditions in the cells.

B.O., a 14-year-old boy, said he was never able to sleep because Homeland Security agents didn’t turn out the glaring lights. G.G. complained of agents feeding her moldy bread. When her stomach became upset and she asked for medicine Border Patrol told her “it’s not a hospital.” When she vomited, the Homeland Security agents accused her of being pregnant, and called her a “dirty liar.”

K.M. was a 15-year-old girl who said that agents woke her every 30 minutes in the “hielera” (the Spanish word for ice box), the freezing cell where she tried to sleep. She claimed that officials regularly called her and other children “sluts,”  “parasites,” and “dogs.”

R.D., a 17-year-old girl, slashed her hand while climbing the fence to get into the United States. She said that in Border Patrol custody an agent squeezed her wound with immense pressure causing her great pain.“It’s good that you are hurt,” the agent told her, “you deserve to be hurt for coming to the US illegally.”

The protestors in Los Angeles were putting this world in dispute, at least in part created by billions of dollars that U.S. taxpayers were giving to Israel and the U.S. border/immigration enforcement apparatus, that dehumanizes children with the same cold efficiency that it deports, or even kills them. Obama, representing the U.S. administration “has the opportunity to help and he’s decided to expedite policies that basically send children to certain deaths,” said Kelly Flores, a teacher at the demonstration. “These are children. It’s our duty to oppose inhumane policies.”

And the Gaza kids did indeed shatter the Guinness world record with their kite-flying in 2011. There, on that joyful day on the beach, indeed was a much better example of what it means to be a child.

Todd Miller has researched and written about U.S.-Mexican border issues for more than 10 years. He has worked on both sides of the border for BorderLinks in Tucson, Arizona, and Witness for Peace in Oaxaca, Mexico. He now writes on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog “Border Wars,” among other places. He is at work on his first book, Border Patrol Nation, for the Open Media Series of City Lights Books.

‘America Is Coming To Help’ Iraq … With Airstrikes August 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: In an effort to assure us that going to war is not really going to war, Obama’s speech writer has him saying idiotically that the strikes against ISIS will be “targeted.”  Well now, isn’t that nice to now that Obama’s bombs will have targets and that he is not tossing them just any old where?  Also note that the ISIS army, as with any force that the U.S. opposes, is referred to as “terrorist” (this coming from the president who destroys wedding parties with his drone missiles and funds Israel’s massacre of Gaza children).  If this were thirty years ago they would be referred to as “communist.”  Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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“Whatever else we may have learned from the president’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”—Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

The president said the bombings may be necessary to stop the advance of a Sunni militant group, called the Islamic State (previously the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS), if they approach the recently increased U.S. forces stationed at a fortified consulate and a military base in the northern city of Erbil.

“To stop the advance on Erbil,” Obama stated, “I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.”

ISIS has been warring with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in recent months, seizing large sections of the country, taking control of key infrastructure, and helping to fuel a humanitarian crisis for hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes to escape fighting.

Coupled with airdrops of food and water to stranded Iraqis, Obama justified the use of possible airstrikes as part of a “humanitarian” campaign even as he repeated his mantra that “there is no military solution” to the crisis in Iraq.

“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama said. It was unclear how many observers would note that the president’s administration was repeatedly accused of “turning a blind eye” in recent weeks as it offered its diplomatic, military, and financial support to the Israeli military as it bombed the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

Obama notably came to office in 2008 as the candidate who most strongly voiced his opposition to the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is frequently quoted as having called the Iraq War a “dumb war.” However, Obama has also defended the war in Iraq. Despite trying to extend the U.S. military presence, once that effort failed, Obama ultimately oversaw the withdrawal of active combat troops there in 2011.

Opponents of new airstrikes were quick to criticize the president for his decision to re-engage militarily.

“This is a slippery slope if I ever saw one,” Phyllis Bennis, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, told the New York Times in response to Obama’s announcement. “Whatever else we may have learned from the president’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”

Paul Kawika Martin, political director for the national anti-war group Peace Action,tweeted: “Drop Humanitarian Aid NOT Bombs!”

Bennis was among those who predicted earlier this year—as the ISIS threat emerged in Iraq and Obama responded by sending new troops and “advisers” to the country—that increased U.S. military involvement could feed off itself and lead to further escalations.

Obama’s decision to add military forces in Iraq must be challenged, Bennis wrote in June, “before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.”

Writing at Common Dreams, peace activist Medea Benjamin said that just because people oppose more wars and military intervention does mean the  U.S. must be ” complete isolationists” in Iraq.  She wrote:

What is does mean is we should stop spending hundreds of billions of taxdollars on wars that don’t work, harming and killing innocent civilians. If we truly want to help people around the world, there are myriad better ways to do so. The U.S. should put its energy and influence toward a comprehensive ban on the transfer of weapons from outside powers. Rather than attempting additional unilateral moves, the U.S. should be collaborating with regional and international actors to address the root cause of the violence in Iraq. And we should more to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. The US is one of the least refugee-friendly countriesin the industrialized world. Given we live in a time with the highest level of refugees since World War II, assisting refugees—often forced out of their homes because of wars we have engaged in or dictators we have supported—could be just one easy way to help others.

Instead of sending more troops, or selling the Iraqis more weapons, or actively bombing targets—Bennis urged the Obama administration and the U.S. lawmakers to instead pursue these five actions that would help alleviate the conflict in Iraq, rather than enflame it:

First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.

Second, call for and support an immediate arms embargo on all sides. That means pressuring U.S. regional allies to stop providing weapons and money to various militias.

Third, engage immediately with Iran to bring pressure to bear on the Iraqi government to end its sectarian discrimination, its violence against civilians, and its violations of human rights.

Fourth, engage with Russia and other powers to get the United Nations to take the lead in organizing international negotiations for a political solution to the crisis now enveloping Iraq as well as Syria. Those talks must include all sides, including non-violent Syrian and Iraqi activists, civil society organizations, women, and representatives of refugees and displaced people forced from their homes. All relevant outside parties, including Iran, must be included. Building on the success of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, Washington should continue to broaden its engagement with Tehran with the goal of helping to bring the Syrian and Iraqi wars to an immediate end.

Fifth, get help to the people who need it. The Iraq war is creating an enormous new refugee and humanitarian crisis, escalating the crisis of the Syrian war, and spreading across the entire region. The United States has pledged one of the largest grants of humanitarian aid for refugees from Syria, but it is still too small, and much of it has not been paid out. Simultaneously with the announcement of an immediate arms embargo, Washington should announce a major increase in humanitarian assistance for all refugees in the region to be made immediately available to UN agencies, and call on other countries to do the same.

Steps like these, not new rounds of airstrikes, is “how wars get stopped,” Bennis concluded.

The General’s Son August 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: Miko Peled was born in Jerusalem in 1961 to a prominent Zionist family with deep roots in Palestine.  His father, General Peled, fought in the wars in 1948 and 1967 and later became a peace activist.  Take a half hour to watch the most informative and moving discussion of Israeli oppression you will ever come across.  It was filmed before the current massacre but after the 2008 slaughter.  What Peled’s daughter said when her daughter was killed by a terrorist bombing is precious.  Watch the video.

http://t.co/r46zaSULk8

 

 

 

 

Miko Peled is a peace activist who dares to say in public what others still choose to deny. Born in Jerusalem in 1961 into a well known Zionist family, his grandfather, Dr. Avraham Katsnelson was a Zionist leader and signer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His Father, Matti Peled, was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai.
Miko’s unlikely opinions reflect his father’s legacy. General Peled was a war hero turned peacemaker.
Miko grew up in Jerusalem, a multi-ethnic city, but had to leave Israel before he made his first Palestinian friend, the result of his participation in a dialogue group in California. He was 39.
On September 4, 1997 the beloved Smadar, 13, the daughter of Miko’s sister Nurit and her husband Rami Elhanan was killed in a suicide attack.
Peled insists that Israel/Palestine is one state—the separation wall notwithstanding, massive investment in infrastructure, towns and highways that bisect and connect settlements on the West Bank, have destroyed the possibility for a viable Palestinian state. The result, Peled says is that Israelis and Palestinians are governed by the same government but live under different sets of laws.
At the heart of Peled’s conclusion lies the realization that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace as equals in their shared homeland.

 

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 69 Years Later August 7, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, History, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Roger’s note: Defenders of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings allege that they saved the lives of untold thousands of American and Japanese soldiers who would have died in an invasion of Japan.  This, as a justification for the unleashing of atomic warfare and the massive civilian death and destruction, is highly questionable speculation.  Credible historians have concluded that Japan was already defeated and that the bombings were unnecessary to achieve surrender.  Some point to evidence that the bombings were a warning signal to the Soviet Union.

August 6, 1945 and not December 7, 1941 is truly the day that will go down in infamy.

 

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Hiroshima, Japan in the wake of the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on August 6, 1945. (Photo: flickr / cc)

“I hate war,” Koji Hosokawa told me as we stood next to the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. The skeletal remains of the four-story building stand at the edge of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The building was one of the few left standing when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, the U.S. dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed—many instantly, and many more slowly from severe burns and what would come to be understood as radiation sickness.

The world watches in horror this summer as military conflicts rage, leaving destruction in their wake from Libya, to Gaza, to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Never far from the dead and injured, nuclear-armed missiles stand by at the alert, waiting for the horrible moment when hubris, accident or inhumanity triggers the next nuclear attack. “I hate war,” Hosokawa reiterated. “War makes everyone crazy.”

Koji Hosokawa was 17 years old in 1945, and worked in the telephone exchange building, less than 2 miles from ground zero. “I miraculously survived,” he told me. His 13-year-old sister was not so fortunate: “She was … very close to the hypocenter, and she was exposed to the bomb there. And she was with a teacher and the students. In all, 228 people were there together with her.” They all died.

We walked through the park to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. There, on display, were the images of death: the shadows of victims burned into the walls of buildings, the pictures of the fiery chaos that followed the bombing, and of the victims of radiation. Almost seven decades later, Hosokawa’s eyes tear up in the recollection. “My biggest sorrow in my life is that my younger sister died in the atomic bomb,” he said.

The day before my meeting with Koji Hosokawa, I sat down in Tokyo to interview Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was 10 years old in 1945. “When Japan experienced the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this was a greater catastrophe than anything we had ever known,” he told me. “The feeling of having to survive this, go beyond this and renew from this, was great.”

Now nearing 80, Kenzaburo Oe thinks deeply about the connection between the atomic bombings and the disaster at Fukushima, the nuclear power plant meltdown that began when Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The Nobel laureate told the French newspaper Le Monde: “Hiroshima must be engraved in our memories: It’s a catastrophe even more dramatic than natural disasters, because it’s man-made. To repeat it, by showing the same disregard for human life in nuclear power stations, is the worst betrayal of the memory of the victims of Hiroshima.”

After the Fukushima disaster, Oe said, “all Japanese people were feeling a great regret … the atmosphere in Japan here was almost the same as following the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the war. Because of this atmosphere, the government [in 2011], with the agreement of the Japanese people, pledged to totally get rid of or decommission the more than 50 nuclear power plants here in Japan.”

A-bomb survivors like Koji Hosokawa, writers like Kenzaburo Oe, and hundreds of thousands of others, now elderly, have lived through the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945 and seen its potential for devastation recently, at Fukushima. Nuclear-weapon arsenals and nuclear power plants each pose separate, horrific risks to humanity, yet the two are connected, with the byproducts of some power plants usable as material for nuclear warheads. Whether from an act of war, or an act of terrorism from a so-called loose nuke in the hands of a non-state actor, or from an uncontrolled meltdown at a nuclear power plant, nuclear disasters are massively destructive. Yet they are completely preventable. We need a new way of thinking, a new effort to eliminate nuclear weapons and shift to safe, renewable energy, worldwide.

As we were leaving the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Koji Hosokawa told me to stop. He looked me in the eye, and told me not to forget the victims: “People lived here. They lived here.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Then and Now: US Policy Towards Central American Fuels Child Refugee Crisis August 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Guatemala, Immigration, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: This article speaks of the US support for Guatemalan genocide.  We should not forget that the US government in Central America trained death squads in El Salvador (in support of a repressive ultra right government) and Nicaragua (in support of the fascist Contras) and enabled the 2009 coup in Honduras that replaced a democratically elected mildly progressive government with one that has turned the country into one of the most violent and corrupt nations on the face of the earth.  Your American tax dollar at work.

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Decades of failed US policies in Central America have a direct link to the dire conditions that cause young children to abandon their homes and flee north. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

For once the Republicans got it right. But not in the way they think. Indeed, President Obama carries the representative blame for the debacle (including reports of sadistic abuseby U.S. Border Patrol) of largely Central American migrant children long overwhelming shelters at the border. But the guilt is much broader, ranging from successive administrations all the way down to us, as American taxpayers.

Decades of U.S. policy in Guatemala alone have turned the country into a land of wreck and ruin. This is the ultimate reason migrants have been crossing into the United States in increasing numbers in recent months. Harsh immigration enforcement policies, such as the ones the Obama administration has been championing, add insult to injury as the U.S. punishes migrants when they arrive when it should be paying people like those of Guatemala massive reparations.

“They owe it to us.”

It is indisputable that the U.S. shares significant responsibility for the genocide of tens of thousands of Guatemalans—mainly indigenous Mayans who comprised a majority of the (at least) 150,000 killed in the 1980s alone. A 1999 UN Truth Commission blamed Guatemalan state forces for 93 percent of the atrocities. That same year, former President Bill Clinton admitted the wrongness of U.S. support support for Guatemalan state violence.

U.S. culpability for Guatemala’s plight endures to this day. The problem is—then and now—the United States is in denial as a nation over what to do about its complicity.

Just ask Clinton. The day of his apology in Guatemala City, he looked genocide survivors in the face, voiced regret for the U.S. enabling their suffering, and then rejected their impassioned pleas for U.S. immigration reform because, he said, “we must enforce our laws.” Today, many continue to call on the U.S. for reform measures like temporary protected status. And still, U.S. officials meet them with silence or dismissal.

Some Guatemalans, particularly the young generation living unauthorized in the U.S., know who’s responsible for the origins of their current troubles and aren’t confused by what to do about it. Erika Perez, an indigenous Mayan student in New England, told me: “My role in the U.S. is to tell [fellow Guatemalans], ‘Take advantage of all the opportunities around us.'” After all, “They owe it to us.”

Perez says the Guatemalan economy for most of the population hasn’t recovered from the genocidal wreckage of the 1980s and continues to be subjugated by U.S.-led neoliberal economic reforms like NAFTA and CAFTA. The desperate situation keeps sending Guatemalans like her migrating as a necessary means of decent survival.

Erika crossed the Arizona/Mexico desert, the deadliest area for migrants along the border, when she was eighteen in 2002. An indigenous Mayan who then spoke Spanish but no English, she faced sexual violence and dehydration along the way—but survived. So many other Guatemalans, a majority of them from the Mayan highland areas hit hardest by the genocide, remain missing while trying to cross the same part of border, according to data acquired from the Pima County medical examiner’s Missing Migrants Project (now theColibrí Center for Human Rights).

Escaping a “Silent Holocaust”

“Opportunity,” the young Antonio Albizures-Lopez recalls, was the purpose of his family’s unauthorized migration to the United States, as well as “to escape the violence that was influenced directly by U.S. intervention”—including the murders of four of Antonio’s aunts. Albizures-Lopez grew up in Providence, RI since he was 1 year old in 1992, shortly after his mother crossed the Rio Grande River with Antonio strapped to her back.

International legal experts describe the social climate in the U.S. at the time of the genocide as a “Silent Holocaust”. In Antonio’s case, the term couldn’t be more appropriate. He was born in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where one of the military bases set up with U.S. support “maintained its own crematorium and ‘processed’ abductees by chopping off limbs, singeing flesh and administering electric shocks,” according to veteran journalist Allan Nairn who interviewed a former agent of the G-2 secret intelligence service—the notorious Guatemalan agency long on the payroll of the U.S. State Department.

Meaningful forms of justice and accountability would have a long reach. They would provide restitution following the stories of Guatemalan youth like Antonio and Erika, two of many who are carrying the burden of genocide from their parents’ generation. True accountability would also address, among other cases, the 16,472 DREAM-ers who have listed Guatemala as their country of origin when they registered for President Obama’s 2012 deferred action program (DACA). Justice and accountability would lead to fundamental changes in U.S. policies toward the Guatemalan state.

Instead, Washington offers programs such as the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), a $496 million endeavor since 2008 to train and assist local security forces to counter, among other perceived threats, “border security deficiencies.” Along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Southern and Northern Commands, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have all expanded activities in the regionunder the auspices of the war on drugs, gangs, and other criminal activity.

The U.S. formally cut off military aid to Guatemala in 1977, though U.S. funding flowed atnormal levels through the early 1980s and Guatemala enjoyed enormous military support, by proxy, through U.S. client states such as Israel, Taiwan, and South Africa.

All in all, U.S. militarization in Guatemala has altered only in wording, shifting predominantly from anti-communist to currently anti-drug and counter-terror rhetoric. The policy trend continues through the present day, spanning across the Guatemalan boundary with Mexico as the “new southern border” of the United States, in the words of Chief Diplomatic Officer for DHS Alan Bersin.

The official U.S. position on supporting Guatemalan military activities is that it “was wrong” in the past, and is no longer permissible to support Guatemalan militarization except in relation to “homeland security.” In other words, Washington exercises the “doublethink” practice of “holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” to quote George Orwell.

Some Guatemalans won’t wait for U.S. immigration reform

Meanwhile, as we’ve seen here lately in Arizona, Guatemalans are still fleeing a constant renewal of U.S.-caused duress. Reviewing the most visible case, the plight of migrant children at the border has relentlessly gripped the nation. “Many of the parents of these children are in the United States,” explained Guatemalan ambassador to the U.S., Julio Ligorria, “and the children go to find them.” The children also are reportedly suffering the same sorts of Border Patrol abuses long familiar to their parents’ generation, whose mistreatment often goes unnoticed.

So what next? Recognizing guilt is a crucial first step. Even more important is what comes after that recognition. Relevant here, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described the function of a “guilt complex” in the American conscience regarding past and ongoing abuses. In a 1957 interview with NBC, King remarked: “Psychologists would say that a guilt complex can lead to two reactions. One is acceptance and the desire to change. The other reaction is to indulge in more of the very thing that you have the sense of guilt about.”

Recognition of U.S. guilt over the Guatemalan genocide should translate into concrete forms of remedial action which, to the degree possible, corresponds with the scope of the crime.

But Guatemalans like Erika aren’t waiting. She’s teaching Guatemalans in her community crucial skills like English, advocating to cancel deportation orders against fellow migrants, putting herself through college. She says her philosophy of “empowering people in my community is: ‘Don’t be afraid anymore.'”

 

Vietnam a Half Century after the Gulf of Tonkin August 5, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, History, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: The entirely “unnecessary” Vietnam War cost nearly 60,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands wounded and emotionally and physically destroyed.  But this doesn’t begin to approximate the cost in lives and physical destruction to the Vietnamese people.  There were more than a million deaths, a large percentage civilian.

Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were the commanders in chief who were directly responsible for the slaughter, but Eisenhower and Kennedy served as presidents during the the early years of American political and military intervention.  Of course there were many more, including the 98 senators who fell for the Bay of Tonkin hoax.  My generation will well remember such warmongers as Secretary of Defence (i.e. WAR) McNamara and General Westmoreland (Waste more land).  And then there is always Napalm (Dow Chemical) and Agent Orange (Dow and Monsanto).  And let’s not forget the vultures of the war profiteering arms industry.

The above named mass murderers will never be indicted, except perhaps by “history,” for what that’s worth.

I am reminded of Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov’s musing about his crime of murdering a despised old money lender versus the hundreds of thousands killed in Napoleon’s wars.  A single mother convicted of shop lifting to feed her children will suffer more at the hands of the criminal justice system than than the astute politicians, military and corporate elites mentioned above.  I don’t know why, but this somehow offends my sense of justice.

And why does all this seem not just a matter of history, but just as relevant today?

 

oped.com, August 4, 2014

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HOI AN, VIETNAM. “I believe that history will record that we have made a great mistake,” Sen. Wayne Morse (D, OR) declared fifty years ago this week. He was referring to congressional passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the decisive step into one of the greatest tragedies in American history. That resolution would be used for nearly a decade by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon as authorization to conduct war in Vietnam.

A look at Vietnam today makes plain just how mistaken and tragic the American venture into war there was. First, though, a brief summary of how the decisive turn into that disastrous mistake a half century ago occurred.A BLANK CHECK FOR WAR

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Lyndon Johnson signing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution
(image by
Wiki Commons)

Nearly unanimous (of the 516 members of Congress who voted, only Morse and Sen. Ernest Gruening of Alaska opposed) passage of the resolution was secured on August 7, 1964, on the basis of the claim that three days earlier North Vietnamese boats had launched an unprovoked attack on two American ships. Believing that the argument that he was “soft” on communism and the fight in Vietnam was the only thing that Republican nominee Barry M. Goldwater had as a potentially effective argument against him in the November election, President Johnson seized upon the apparent attack to get what he had wanted for months: a Congressional resolution giving him a blank check to conduct whatever military operations in Vietnam he deemed necessary and that would pass “quickly, overwhelmingly, and without too much discussion of its implications.”AN ATTACK THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN

As Johnson was moving to launch retaliatory airstrikes against North Vietnam on August 4, reports reached the Pentagon from the scene off the coast of North Vietnam that there was serious doubt that an attack had occurred and from Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Jr., at Pacific Command in Hawaii, suggesting that “a ‘complete evaluation’ be undertaken before any further action.” There is no indication that Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara informed the President of these communications during the crucial hours when the airstrikes were being set in motion.A 2000 National Security Council historical study reached an unambiguous conclusion about the alleged North Vietnamese attack on August 4: “No attack happened that night.” But an event that didn’t happen led to a resolution that served as the concept sketch for the script of a major tragedy.

Fifty years later, the magnitude of that mistake is unmistakable in Vietnam.

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Poster in front of bar in Hue, Vietnam, May 2014
(image by Robert McElvaine)

VIETNAM AND CHINAAmong the reasons given for undertaking the war, the most prominent were to block the expansion of Chinese influence into Southeast Asia and to oppose communism.

What was needed to accomplish the first objective was a strong, unified Vietnam. The Vietnamese have hated China for two thousand years, and having a communist government would not alter that basic fact in any way. Ho Chi Minh was by far the best bet to achieve this American goal.Less than four years after Hanoi’s reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the Communist regime was engaged in a brief but bloody border war with its putative comrades from China. And currently tensions between the two countries over islands in the South China Sea (Vietnam rejects that name and calls it the Eastern Sea) are high. Vietnam and the United States find themselves virtual allies in opposing Chinese expansionism.

MORE SOCIAL DARWINIST THAN SOCIALIST

As for the other main war aim, how communist is Vietnam in 2014?There is a store in Hanoi called “Shop Aholic.” There must be steel cables restraining the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh so it doesn’t spin in its glass coffin in the nearby mausoleum.

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Versace store, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
(image by Robert McElvaine)

On a walk in Saigon–its current official name notwithstanding, it is not now and never has been Ho Chi Minh’s city–from Notre Dame down Dong Khoi (the famous Rue Catinat in the days of the French Empire, when it was considered Saigon’s Champs Élysees) to the Hotel Continental, the Opera House, and beyond, one passes all the familiar ration outlets of a communist country: Cartier, Versace, Dior, Piaget, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Rolex . . . . “Dong Khoi” means “Total Uprising Street.” The total uprising taking place along it and throughout Vietnam is an explosion of capitalism.

When one visits the still more-or-less-communist country of Cuba, among the many indelible impressions is the nearly complete absence of trucks on the highways. They have no products to move around. Has anyone ever seen “Hecho en Cuba” on anything? They make, in a word, nada. Superimpose the roads in Vietnam on those in Cuba and the result would be a chiaroscuro painting. Vietnam’s highways are clogged with trucks moving goods around, reflecting the entirely market-based economy in this nominally socialist country.If they look at many aspects of Vietnam today, conservative Republicans in the United States might see the paradise of which they dream. This “socialist” nation has a paddle-your-own-canoe-or-sink economy. There is no welfare, no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, no national healthcare, no old-age pensions for most people, no free education beyond middle school ….

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Shrine to Ho Chi Minh, Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
(image by Robert McElvaine)

Ho Chi Minh’s countenance appears everywhere in contemporary Vietnam, benevolently smiling upon policies that he strongly opposed. It is much like the situation with many “Christians” in the United States who do the opposite of what Jesus taught. The farther self-identified followers get from the teachings of their supposed leader, the louder they proclaim his name. Uncle Ho has been deified–to the point of being portrayed like the Buddha on a lotus blossom. But when it comes to actual economic practice in Vietnam today, the altars at which worship takes place are those of William Graham Sumner and Ayn Rand.

But outside the economic realm the role of government is large. Vietnam remains a one-party political system in which corruption is rife and basic freedoms are restricted. The Vietnamese receive none of the benefits of positive government, but bear all the burdens of negative government. There are neither political nor economic checks and balances.A proposal was made in 2013 to change the country’s official name from the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” back to what Ho had named it in 1945: the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” That would constitute a lateral move–from one wholly inaccurate name to another, equally inaccurate, one. By no stretch of the imagination is contemporary Vietnam either socialist or democratic.

If they want to adopt a name that reflects reality, they should call the nation the “Social-Darwinist Dictatorship of Vietnam.”A WAR FOR NOTHING

American policymakers in 1964 sought a Vietnam that was capitalist, would block China, and with which they could have good relations.The United States fought a war at terrible cost to achieve those ends and lost. Today, though, Vietnam is staunchly capitalist, adamantly opposed to China, and friendly to the United States. Had the war never been fought, it is highly likely that all of those ends would have been achieved at a much earlier date.

What, then, was this “b*tch of a war,” as Lyndon Johnson would later call it, to which the President proposed marriage a half century ago this week, with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as the engagement ring, good for?Absolutely nothing.

USAID Hired Young Latin Americans to Incite Cuban Civil Society Revolt August 5, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: As I have said before, the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.  The current US interventions is Cuba, Venezuela and Honduras along with its role in Mexico’s presidential elections and its huge military to Colombia’s repressive governments (and a huge etcetera with respect to the rest of the Caribbean and South American continent), testify to this fact.  Please let me know if you can find an iota of difference between Obama’s foreign policy and that of the unabashedly imperial foreign policy of the Republican Party.

 

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Participants were given little training and payed less than minimum wage, despite known danger, AP investigtion finds.

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(Credit: USAID)

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A program established under the Obama Administration by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) endangered about a dozen young Latin Americans by employing them to incite political revolt in Cuba by using civil society and humanitarian aid programs as fronts for the real aim of political destabilization on the Communist island,reveals an extensive new AP investigation published Monday.

The secret program “was launched during a time when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama spoke about a ‘new beginning’ with Cuba after decades of mistrust, raising questions about whether the White House had a coherent policy toward the island nation,” according to the AP.

To help it implement the plan, USAID hired the firm Creative Associates International, the same Washington-based company that played a central role in the creation of the secret “Cuban Twitter” that the AP reported on in April.

Characterizing the program as “an operation that often teetered on disaster,” the investigation’s most shocking discovery was perhaps that of an attempt to recruit dissidents using “a ruse that could undermine USAID’s credibility in critical health work around the world.” This “ruse” was an HIV-prevention workshop put together by one of the key hires made by Creative Associates, Fernando Murillo, the 29-year-old head of a Costa Rica-based human rights group. Murillo reported back to his employer that such a workshop was the “perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.”

As DSWright points out at Firedoglake, what’s so disturbing about this is that “USAID was recently involved in setting up fake hepatitis clinics for the CIA in Pakistan,” causing Pakistanis to refuse being vaccinated, and prompting the White House to promise to never again use health clinics as a front for intelligence operations.

The travelers’ program was implemented at a time when the danger of being a U.S. operative on the island “was apparent to USAID, if not to the young operatives,” the investigation found, since Alan Gross, an American USAID contractor, “had just been hauled away to a Cuban jail.” After Gross’ arrest, USAID told contractors that they should consider suspending programs to Cuba and that—in the words of one official—the warning applied “to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens.”

And yet, just four months after Gross’ arrest, Murillo was sent to the island by the USAID, marking the beginning of yet another failed covert operation to overthrow the Cuban government.

Whereas Gross was paid over half a million dollars by the U.S. government, despite the fact that he had never been to Cuba and his Spanish was quite poor, the young Latin Americans were paid as little as $5.41 an hour. Other aspects of how they were used appear to have been dangerous and poorly thought out—in one example, a friend of Murillo’s who was used as a “mule” to bring money to a student group in Cuba said that his security training had amounted to about a half hour and was done via Skype.

While USAID did not deny the contents of the story, in a statement put out Monday the agency highlighted the fact that Congress funds “democracy programming in Cuba to empower Cubans to access more information and strengthen civil society,” and that “this work is not secret, it is not covert, nor is it undercover.” The statement failed to address the program in question, which is not a part of any such funding from Congress, and was secret until Monday. The same defense was used of the fake social network built by USAID, despite every aspect of it having been entirely covert.

The project was paid for out of the same fund used for the fake Cuban Twitter. USAID declined to comment on how much was spent on the travelers’ program, and has not fulfilled the AP‘s Freedom of Information Act request for a complete copy of the Cuban contracts that was filed more than three months ago.

The AP found “no evidence the political objectives were ever realized” and Cuban students belonging to what had been identified as a “target group” due to its supposed organizational abilities and political stance were “astonished to discover that the foreigners were acting on behalf of the U.S. government.” One student  said that he thought the operatives mistook typical Cuban griping on things like basic infrastructure issues for full-on political dissent.

Why Israel Lies August 4, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Roger’s note: Two more articles outlining the dynamics behind the Israeli government’s barbaric assault against the ghetto it has created in Gaza.  The notion that Israel’s actions are justified as self-defence is exposed as at best Orwellian.

 

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing on CBS’ Face The Nation last month. (Image: Screenshot)

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.

“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize …  a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

 

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Greenwald: NSA Docs Show ‘Israeli Action in Gaza has US Fingerprints All Over It’

New documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how intelligence cooperation enables repeated Israeli aggression against Palestinians

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Palestinian families seek shelter at an UNRWA school after evacuating their homes north of the Gaza Strip. (Photo: UNRWA)A new analysis of the intelligence and military relationship between the U.S. and Israeli governments—bolstered by new top secret NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden—exposes the deep complicity of American foreign policy when it comes to enabling Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories and its ongoing aggressive military assault on the Gaza Strip.

Reported by The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald on Monday, the new NSA documents show how the U.S. spy agency “has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians.”

According to Greenwald, the “new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.”

One newly published document discusses how U.S. intelligence agents work together with their Israeli counterparts to gain access to “geographic targets [that] include the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, and the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union.” The document also details how the relationship includes “a dedicated communications line between NSA and ISNU [that] supports the exchange of raw material, as well as daily analytic and technical correspondence.”

On Sunday—for the third time since Israel’s attack on Gaza began nearly a month ago—a civilian shelter administered by the United Nations was bombed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, killing at least ten people and wounding dozens of others. UN Secretary-General condemned the attack as a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and again demanded an end to what he called “madness” in Gaza. Israel has repeatedly defended its actions in Gaza amid global condemnation and the U.S. has repeatedly stressed that Israel has the “right to defend itself” and was the only country to vote against a measure by the UN Human Rights Council recently calling for a formal investigation of “war crimes” over the repeated attacks on Gaza civilians at hospitals, UN shelters, and highly-populated residential areas.

Greenwald argues the evidence contained in the newly disclosed NSA documents support the analysis that he and other critics of U.S. policy vis-á-vis Israel have repeatedly stressed:

The new documents underscore the indispensable, direct involvement of the U.S. government and its key allies in Israeli aggression against its neighbors. That covert support is squarely at odds with the posture of helpless detachment typically adopted by Obama officials and their supporters.

President Obama, in his press conference on Friday, said ”it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there,” referring to the weeks of civilian deaths in Gaza – “as if he’s just a bystander, watching it all unfold,” observed Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin. Robin added: ”Obama talks about Gaza as if it were a natural disaster, an uncontrollable biological event.”

Each time Israel attacks Gaza and massacres its trapped civilian population – atthe end of 2008, in the fall of 2012, and now again this past month – the same process repeats itself in both U.S. media and government circles: the U.S. government feeds Israel the weapons it uses and steadfastly defends its aggression both publicly and at the U.N.; the U.S. Congress unanimously enactsone resolution after the next to support and enable Israel; and then American media figures pretend that the Israeli attack has nothing to do with their country, that it’s just some sort of unfortunately intractable, distant conflict between two equally intransigent foreign parties in response to which all decent Americans helplessly throw up their hands as though they bear no responsibility.

The NSA documents reveal the exchange of cash payments between the U.S. government and ISNU as well as intelligence agreements with other regional intelligence forces, including the Palestinian Authority’s Security Forces and Jordanian authorities.

On Monday, the Ma’an News Agency reports:

According to the Ministry of Health, the Israeli offensive on Gaza has left over 1,822 Palestinians dead, including 398 children. Some 9,370 Palestinians have been injured, 2,744 of them children.

Approximately 373,000 children are in need of psychological support as a result of the trauma of the war, according to UN figures.

Over a quarter of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to leave their homes throughout the assault.

Israeli indicated it would honor a seven-hour “humanitarian” cease fire on Monday, but the most recent reports indicate that shelling and fighting continued in Gaza and new casualties, including the death of an eight-year-old girl in Gaza City, continue.

Read the full article about the new Snowden doc on The Intercept.

The Cost of Lower Prices August 1, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Roger’s note: human beings are both producers and consumers.  As consumers we enjoy a good bargain.  As producers we NEED a decent job.  Collectively labor should always trump consumption, although we are seduced by lower prices to betray the solidarity essential to the human community of producers (i.e. those of us who work for a living, which is the 99 percent).  This cartoon shows us graphically how capitalist economy is destructive of the human community, in this case globally.

 

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