How the Saudis Wag the Dog May 26, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia.
Tags: Pakistan nuclear, al-Qaeda, Middle East, Seymour Hersh, israel, Osama bin laden, pakistan, saudi arabia, pakistani military, bin laden assassination, us diplomacy, andrew levine, pakistani intelligence
add a comment
Roger’s note: Anarchism as a political theory has some merit, particularly in its consideration of government’s limiting of individual freedom. But anarchy in the sense of disorder and chaos can be most dangerous. And “anarchistic” is how I would characterize the current world (dis) order. This is reflected in the diplomatic, security and military relationships that the United States maintains with various governments. Only by massive public relations efforts and pandering to myths and racism do the ruling classes maintain the surrealistic narrative and the cover up of its manifest contradictions. A little historical and critical analysis can go a long way towards untangling the knot and helping us to understand what is really going on in our upside down world. I hope this article helps.
American diplomacy favors (majority) white, English-speaking countries (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and non-Hispanic European settler states (Canada, Australia and New Zealand again, but also Apartheid South Africa and, of course, Israel).
South Africa eventually fell out of favor, thanks in part to boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts in Western countries.
Similar efforts now underway directed towards Israel are beginning to change public opinion too; though elite opinion, in the United States and the other settler states especially, has, so far, hardly budged.
Thanks to its lobby and its strategic location, Israel is still, for America, the most favored nation of all.
Western European countries are also favored, though to a lesser extent – thanks, again, to cultural affinities and historical ties. Those that sent large numbers of emigrants to North America generally have a leg up. France didn’t send many emigrants, but it is also favored, at least some of the time, for philosophical and historical affinities dating back to the American and French Revolutions.
With Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, there are no deep or longstanding cultural and historical ties; quite the contrary. Nevertheless, those nations, Saudi Arabia especially, receive favored treatment too.
The events surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden provide a window into this strange and revealing state of affairs.
* * *
When Barack Obama lied about how Navy Seals murdered bin Laden, he blew apart a carefully constructed cover story concocted in Washington and Islamabad intended to conceal the role of Pakistani intelligence and the Pakistani military.
According to Seymour Hersh’s account in The London Review of Books, bin Laden had been in Pakistani custody at least since 2006. American intelligence learned of this some four years later, when a “walk-in” gave them information that checked out.
The raid itself took place a year after that, in time for the 2012 Presidential election in the United States.
The Pakistanis had reasons for keeping bin Laden in custody and out of American hands. It gave them leverage with the Taliban and with the remnants of Al Qaeda, as well as with other radical Islamist groups.
The Saudis wanted bin Laden kept in Pakistan too; away from the Americans. According to Hersh, they paid Pakistan generously for their trouble.
Hersh’s article does not dwell on their motives, but, in interviews he has given after his article went on line, he is less reticent.
The Saudis didn’t want the United States to get its hands on bin Laden because they didn’t want him to talk about Saudi involvement in 9/11 and other operations directed against Western interests.
This is only a conjecture, but it makes eminently good sense. It isn’t even news. Like the fact that the Israeli arsenal includes nuclear weapons, everybody knows about the Saudis’ role, but nobody in official circles or in the media that toes its line talks about it.
Since his article appeared, official Washington and mainstream media line have gone after Hersh with a degree of vehemence reminiscent of their attack on Edward Snowden.
They hate it when their bumbling is revealed, almost as much as when the hypocrisy of their claims to respect human rights and the rule of law is exposed.
But, for all the sound and fury, they have not effectively rebutted a single one of Hersh’s contentions – nor, for that matter, any of Snowden’s.
If Hersh is right, as he surely is, then two of America’s closest allies were, to say the least, not acting the way that allies should.
Capturing bin Laden was officially – and probably also really – a high priority for the United States. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia kept him from being captured.
However, none of this appears to have harmed U.S.-Pakistani or U.S.-Saudi relations.
The rulers of both countries depend on American support to survive. And yet, when they choose, they defy their protector with impunity. Israel isn’t the only country that wags the dog.
Pakistan gets carte blanche because, like Israel, it has the Bomb. Keeping the Bomb out of the hands of anyone who might use it – especially, against the United States or its interests abroad — is, understandably and legitimately, a goal of American diplomacy.
And so, the United States will do what it must to keep the Pakistani military and intelligence communities happy and on board.
This is not easy: the Pakistanis have been involved with radical Islamists from Day One. By all accounts, contacts survive to this day.
The United States encouraged these connections, especially when the prospect of getting the Soviet Union bogged down in Afghanistan clouded the thinking of diplomats in the Carter and Reagan administrations.
But, since even before the Americans became involved, the Pakistanis have been going their own way in Afghanistan – partly for cultural and historical reasons of their own, and partly to keep India at bay.
For all these reasons, the Americans have found it expedient to buy off the leaders of the Pakistani military and intelligence communities. Therefore, whenever possible, in light of the totality of their concerns, they give them what they want. What the Pakistanis wanted with the bin Laden killing was plausible deniability.
This was the point of the story that Obama blew. Therefore when he, or his political operatives, decided that, with the 2012 election looming, the moment was opportune to announce bin Laden’s death, they had to concoct a different story that would also keep the Pakistani role secret.
The one they made up had the added benefit of reinforcing the swashbuckling image that the Navy Seals, Obama’s Murder Incorporated, try to project. Hollywood got the message, and made the most of it. So did the Obama campaign.
But, for reasons Hersh explains, the fable they concocted was transparently implausible; a point not lost on observers at the time.
To point this out, back in the day, was to risk being taken for a “conspiracy theorist” – or, worse, a Romney supporter.
Now that a definitive account of what happened has appeared, it is plain who the real conspirators were.
And so, by now, only the willfully blind – and the Washington press corps — believe the tale Obama told.
Needless to say, it is not exactly news when Obama lies; in the “man bites dog” sense, it would be news if he didn’t.
And neither is the duplicity of Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership surprising. Politics in the Indian sub-continent is as devious and convoluted as anywhere in the world.
In Pakistan, as in Iraq and Syria, the stewards of the American empire – the ones who worked for Bush and Cheney, and the ones who have worked for Obama and his hapless Secretaries of State — are in way over their heads. They are like the proverbial bull in the china shop; powerful and therefore destructive, but ultimately clueless.
American obeisance to the wishes of the Saudi royal family is not unusual either. The United States has been toadying up to them since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. They have oil, and we want to control what they do with it.
However, the fact that the American public, and its counterparts in other Western countries, goes along, almost without dissent, is puzzling in the extreme.
The American way, after all, is to villainize first, and ask questions later.
The Saudi royals, and the ruling potentates in the other Gulf kingdoms, are prime candidates for villainization. They are characters out of central casting.
One would think that a public that loathes, or has been made to loathe, Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad – and that still goes livid at the very thought of the Iranian Ayatollahs and Saddam Hussein — would be out with pitchforks demanding the heads of each and every member of the Saudi ruling class.
They were, after all, if not the perpetrators, at least the protectors of the perpetrators, of 9/11, a “day of infamy,” our propaganda system tells us, equal only to the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
And yet the public’s ire seldom turns the Saudis’ way.
This is all the more remarkable because they have neither a Bomb nor a domestic lobby that the entire American political class fears.
All they have is a massive public relations operation. Evidently, the flacks they hire know their trade. No matter how much money they are paid, they earn every cent.
* * *
Ironically, the Saudis’ hold over America’s political and economic elites is an unintended consequence of American diplomacy in the days when the United States was, or seemed to be, on the side of the angels.
When Britain or France wanted Middle Eastern oil – in Iraq or Iran, for example, — they took it. They were colonial powers; this is what colonial powers do.
Before World War II, American diplomats cultivated a different image. Washington’s cupidity may have been no less than London’s or Paris’; but, in the White House and at Foggy Bottom, the idea was to present the United States as, of all things, an anti-colonial power.
Never mind Puerto Rico or the Philippines or, for that matter, Hawaii and the several other Pacific islands that the U.S. Navy coveted; and never mind America’s obvious collusion – before, during, and after World War II — with the British and French empires.
It is true, though, that in the Middle East, American domination took a different form. When American oil companies wanted Middle Eastern oil, they didn’t seize it; they bought it from the rulers of the peoples who live on top of it.
And, if there weren’t rulers willing or able to sell, the Americans created them.
The House of Saud made out like bandits. For the oil companies, it was a small price to pay.
The U.S. got control of the oil without having to administer rebellious colonies. Meanwhile, local elites got rich. All they had to do for the money was give the Americans free rein and enforce the order that made American domination possible – with American help, of course, and with arms purchased from American corporations.
And so, until reality made the pretense unsustainable, the U.S. could present itself, throughout the Middle East, as a defender of anti-colonial, independence movements.
As other Gulf states broke free from British rule, the U.S. took over, applying the same model. This worked well — for a while.
Before long, though, the Saudi regime, and he others, became too big to fail.
This is why, even as the Clinton State Department floundered about cluelessly when the Arab Spring erupted, the prospect of allowing those regimes to fall was never seriously considered. For official Washington, this was as unthinkable as allowing nuclear Pakistan to “go rogue,” or not kowtowing to the Israel lobby.
When there is a disconnect between public and elite opinion, elites generally win, but not always: not when too many people care too much. American elites, eager to maintain the status quo, like the PR people the Saudis hire to keep public opinion from getting out of control, therefore have their work cut out for them.
Some of the reasons for this reflect poorly on the moral probity of public opinion in the West.
In their appearance, manner and demeanor, the Saudi ruling class epitomizes the Western idea of the Arab.
Even before Europeans inserted themselves into the Arab world, Arabs have occupied a special place in the imaginations of Western peoples.
Like many of the other peoples of the East, they were deemed mysterious and exotic, highly sexualized, and vaguely dangerous.
But, unlike Turks and Persians or the peoples of South Asia and the Far East, and like Africans and the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, Arabs were never quite regarded as fully human.
The Saudi PR machine therefore has deeply racialized attitudes to counter. The Saudis epitomize “the other”; this makes them a hard sell.
They also epitomize the retrograde, which makes them a hard sell for reasons that have nothing to do with racial or cultural stereotypes — and everything to do with modern political morality.
There is hardly a reactionary trend in the Muslim world that the Saudis haven’t supported financially; and there are few that they did not actually instigate or help shape.
Also, there are few places on earth where human rights and gender equality are less respected, or where liberal and democratic norms hold less sway, than in Saudi Arabia.
Elites in that country and in the other Gulf monarchies are rich and idle because they are sitting on top of vast oil reserves, and because they have accumulated so much wealth that they can exploit “guest workers” in the ways that masters exploit slaves. No one holds them to account for this or anything else untoward that they do.
In a world that permits, indeed encourages, private ownership of natural resources and the limitless accumulation of wealth — and that is largely indifferent to the harm petroleum extraction does — they won the lottery.
This could make them objects of envy, of course; and envy tinged with racial animosity is a lethal brew. Yet, for all practical purposes, the Saudis get a pass – not just in Western elite circles and within the political class of Western countries, but in Western public opinion too.
It has been this way ever since the phasing out of the short-lived Arab oil embargo brought on by American support for Israel in its 1973 war against Egypt.
The Saudis’ immunity from public rancor is all the more amazing because it would be easy to rationalize – indeed, to justify – turning them into objects of scorn.
Inasmuch as our moral intuitions took shape over many centuries, under conditions in which nearly everything everyone wanted was in short supply, we are inclined to think that, where the distribution of income and wealth are concerned, principles of fair play apply; and therefore that “free riding” on the contributions of others is morally reprehensible.
In existing capitalism – and, indeed, in all class divided societies – plenty of free riding nevertheless occurs. It is so commonplace that people often don’t notice it or don’t care. Sometimes, though, when people get something for nothing, it can be enough over the top to cause consternation. When the free riders stand out conspicuously, the level of consternation is typically enhanced.
Saudi Arabia’s feudal rulers, and their counterparts in other Gulf states, are about as over the top as it gets.
Other than maintaining the profoundly oppressive order that makes the status quo possible in the territories they control, it is hard to think of any contributions, productive or otherwise, that they make to justify the riches they receive.
But, as finance has superseded industry as the driving force behind the world’s overripe capitalist system, Western publics have become more accustomed than they used to be to rewarding unproductive people.
The robber barons of old, and the “industrialists” who succeeded them, at least played a role in increasing society’s wealth. The enterprises from which their riches derived made things. The money people at the cutting edge of capitalism today make money out of money, an activity even more useless than collecting rents for drilling rights.
Yet, hostility is seldom directed towards them. Quite the contrary: the richer they are, the more they are esteemed.
Could the sort of confused and obsequious thinking that has made hedge fund managers the heroes of our age account, in part, for how Saudi elites escape vilification? Is this yet another situation where, if you are rich enough, everything is forgiven?
No doubt, this is part of the explanation. But a government intent on keeping public and elite opinion on the same page is a more important factor. Add on a lavishly funded PR campaign and an entire category of miscreants gets off scot-free.
That there is no group of people on earth today to whom the epithet “malefactors of great wealth” more justly applies hardly matters. The Western public may not like them much or respect them; but, so long as they don’t flaunt their wealth too blatantly, hardly anyone complains when Western politicians let them call the shots.
Meanwhile, Islamophobia rages and a gullible public lives in mortal fear of terrorist bogeymen. And yet the Saudi elite gets a pass, notwithstanding the fact that nearly all the perpetrators of 9/11 — of the event that, more than any other, boosted Islamophobia and got the so-called war on terror going — were Saudi nationals. It is an amazing phenomenon.
* * *
In real democracies, governments would do what the citizens who put them in office want them to do. The United States and other Western democracies make a mockery of that ideal. But, even so, there are limits; governments cannot defy public opinion on matters of great moment indefinitely.
It is also the case, at least in the United States, that public opinion is affected significantly by the very government that is supposed to do what the people want – and therefore, ultimately, by the demands of the corporate and financial forces that corrupt democracy.
This is why propaganda matters. Keeping public opinion in line is a function, perhaps the main one, of propaganda systems. In America in the Age of Obama, that is one of the few things that works well.
We underestimate its effectiveness at our peril.
Enabling the Saudi ruling class, and the rulers of the other Gulf states, to direct American foreign policy to the extent that they do, and to get away with whatever they please, is hardly the least of it; but neither is it the only cause for concern.
ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).
Tags: anti-semitism, bds, bds movement, ccr, divestment, gaza, gaza genocide, human rights, israel, israel divestment, israeli policy, jewish voice for peace, Palestine, palestine solidarity, roger hollander, steven salaita, terrorism
add a comment
False anti-Semitism charges used to undermine campus movement for Palestinian rights
On Monday, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) and CCR released findings regarding the increasing use of accusations of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses to suppress speech critical of Israeli policy. Between January and April of this year, PSLS documented 60 incidents involving accusations of anti-Semitism made against students or faculty and 24 incidents involving accusations that students or faculty were “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism,” based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy. At two universities, for example, votes on divestment resolutions were blocked because Israel advocacy groups claimed they would create an anti-Semitic climate. Such attacks deliberately conflate advocacy on behalf of Palestinian human rights with anti-Semitism in order to undermine such advocacy, including the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as a way to shut it down. They thereby violate the free speech rights of students and scholars and undercut the university as a place of debate and critical thinking; they also detract from the fight against true anti-Semitism. Complementing the release of the findings was an analysis of the political context by Dima Khalidi, founder and director of PSLS and CCR cooperating counsel. Also on Monday, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) delivered a letter signed by over 250 academics to the U.S. State Department, asking it to revise its definition of anti-Semitism in order to prevent the charge of anti-Semitism from being misused to silence critics of Israel.
CCR represents Professor Steven Salaita, who was terminated by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from a tenured position for tweets critical of Israeli policy – which were also called anti-Semitic. A court date scheduled for last week on the university’s motion to dismiss his case was cancelled, and we are awaiting a written decision.
GAZA GENOCIDE VICTIMS:
Tags: breaking the silence, civilian casualties, gaza, idf, israel, israel military, israeli veterans, Palestinians, protectrive edge, roger hollander, rules of engagement, saral lazare, War Crimes
add a comment
Roger’s note: This speaks for itself.
Over 60 officers and soldiers who took part in ‘Operation Protective Edge’ anonymously testify about acts they committed or witnessed
The “massive and unprecedented harm” inflicted on the population of Gaza during last summer’s 50-day Israeli military assault stemmed from the top of the chain of command, which gave orders to shoot indiscriminately at civilians, according to the anonymous testimony of more than 60 officers and soldiers who took part in “Operation Protective Edge.”
The Israeli group Breaking the Silence, an organization of “Israeli Defense Force” veterans who engaged in combat, on Monday released the 240-page collection of testimony entitled, This is How We Fought in Gaza.
“While the testimonies include pointed descriptions of inappropriate behavior by soldiers in the field,” the report states, “the more disturbing picture that arises from these testimonies reflects systematic policies that were dictated to IDF forces of all ranks and in all zones.”
Breaking the Silence said that the war on Gaza operated under the “most permissive” rules of engagement they have ever seen.
“From the testimonies given by the officers and soldiers, a troubling picture arises of a policy of indiscriminate fire that led to the deaths of innocent civilians,” said Yuli Novak, director of the group, in a press statement. “We learn from the testimonies that there is a broad ethical failure in the IDF’s rules of engagement, and that this failure comes from the top of the chain of command, and is not merely the result of ‘rotten apples.'”
Gaza is one of the most densely-populated places on earth—home to an estimated 1.8 million people, over 60 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. Approximately 2,194 Palestinians were killed in last summer’s attack, at least 70 percent of Palestinians killed in the assault were non-combatants, according to the United Nations. The assault damaged and destroyed critical civilian infrastructure—including houses, shelters, and hospitals—and nearly a year later, hardly any reconstruction has taken place and the civilian population remains strangled by an economic and military siege.
Numerous soldiers said that, during the war, they were told that all people in given areas posed a threat and were ordered to “shoot to kill” every person they spotted.
“The instructions are to shoot right away,” said an anonymous First Sergeant who deployed to Gaza City. “Whoever you spot—be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes—shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.”
Some said they were lied to by their commanders, who told them there were no civilians present.
“The idea was, if you spot something—shoot,” said an anonymous First Sergeant identified in the report as having deployed to the Northern Gaza Strip. “They told us: ‘There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.’ Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza, it’s cool, no big deal.”
Soldiers testified that thousands of “imprecise” artillery shells were fired into civilian areas, sometimes as acts of revenge or simply to make the military’s presence known. Civilian infrastructure was destroyed on a large scale with no justification, often after an area had already been “cleared,” they said.
“The motto guiding lots of people was, ‘Let’s show them,'” said one Lieutenant who served in Rafah. “It was evident that that was a starting point.”
One Staff Sergeant described perverse and deadly acts committed by soldiers:
During the entire operation the [tank] drivers had this thing of wanting to run over cars – because the driver, he can’t fire. He doesn’t have any weapon, he doesn’t get to experience the fun in its entirety, he just drives forward, backward, right, left. And they had this sort of crazy urge to run over a car. I mean, a car that’s in the street, a Palestinian car, obviously. And there was one time that my [tank’s] driver, a slightly hyperactive guy, managed to convince the tank’s officer to run over a car, and it was really not that exciting– you don’t even notice you’re going over a car, you don’t feel anything – we just said on the two-way radio: “We ran over the car. How was it?” And it was cool, but we really didn’t feel anything. And then our driver got out and came back a few minutes later – he wanted to see what happened – and it turned out he had run over just half the car, and the other half stayed intact. So he came back in, and right then the officer had just gone out or something, so he sort of whispered to me over the earphones: “I scored some sunglasses from the car.” And after that, he went over and told the officer about it too, that moron, and the officer scolded him: “What, how could you do such a thing? I’m considering punishing you,” but in the end nothing happened, he kept the sunglasses, and he wasn’t too harshly scolded, it was all OK, and it turned out that a few of the other company’s tanks ran over cars, too.
While numerous human rights organizations and residents have exposed war crimes committed during last year’s assault on Gaza, this report sheds light on the top-down military doctrine driving specific attacks by ground and air.
One First Sergeant explained that soldiers were taught to indiscriminately fire during training, before their deployments. “One talk I remember especially well took place during training at Tze’elim—before entering Gaza [the Gaza Strip]—with a high ranking commander from the armored battalion to which we were assigned. He came and explained to us how we were going to fight together with the armored forces. He said, ‘We do not take risks, we do not spare ammo—we unload, we use as much as possible.'”
No Israeli soldiers, commanders, or politicians have been held accountable for war crimes, and the Israeli government has resisted international human rights investigations, from Amnesty International to the United Nations.
Breaking the Silence says it “meticulously investigates” testimony to ensure its veracity. The group garnered global media headlines when it launched a report featuring testimony from Israeli soldiers who took part in the 2009 military assault on Gaza known as “Operation Cast Lead.” In that report, soldiers testified about indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including use of chemical weapon white phosphorous.
Hillary Clinton is Not a Feminist April 21, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Hillary Clinton, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, War, Women.
Tags: Bashar al-Assad, clinton hawk, feminism, gaddafi, gaza massacre, hard choices, hillary clinton, libya, roger hollander, sophie stephenson, Syria, women's rights
add a comment
Roger’s note: is it really necessary for me to post this article? Well, just in case you haven’t heard …
Consider the Women of Saudi Arabia and Libya
Hillary Clinton says she’s a feminist, and claimed, astonishingly, while promoting her book “Hard Choices” last year:
“Women and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” saying that countries that value the rights of women are “less likely to breed extremism.”
However this statement is completely at odds with her actions as Secretary of State, such as with Libya – of which it has been said was her own project rather than Obama’s – where she put her own vile agenda ahead of the rights of the nation’s women, which were until that point light-years ahead of most other Middle Eastern countries. Since the death of Gaddafi, the rights of Libyan women have been rolled back by decades, with them now having to leave the house covering their heads, if not also their faces. It should be noted that the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – Abdelhakim Belhadj – whose group was backed by NATO air strikes and who afterwards had his photograph taken with Washington’s leading warmongers John McCain and Lindsey Graham, is now said to be leading ISIS in Libya.
Clinton was also central to the “Friends of Syria” group, an ironic name if ever there was one, which advocates for the violent overthrow of the country’s President Bashar al-Assad. Syria is also one of the few countries in the Middle East where women are treated as human beings. In November, Al Arabiya reported that nightlife has returned to the besieged ancient city of Aleppo. In the government-held half women dance the night away underneath the lasers, even on weeknights…whilst in the rebel-held part of the city, cafes and restaurants are divided into men only and family sections, and women do not leave the house without their husbands. Clearly following the example set by Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most oppressive country on earth in terms of women’s rights.
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue she has staunchly defended Israel’s massacres in Gaza, and has said that if she were the Israeli Prime Minister, she would not give up “security” in the West Bank – suggesting that she does not support a two-state solution.
Therefore, Hillary proclaiming herself a feminist, and her claim that women’s rights are important to the Obama administration’s foreign policy, is crude and absurd. As Kelley Vlahos wrote in The American Conservative last year:
Hillary Clinton just may prove to be what the defense establishment has been waiting for, and more. Superior to all in money, name recognition, and influence, she is poised to compete aggressively for the Democratic nomination for president. She might just win the Oval Office. And by most measures she would be the most formidable hawk this country has seen in a generation.
“It is clear that she is behind the use of force in anything that has gone on in this cabinet. She is a Democratic hawk and that is her track record. That’s the flag she’s planted,” said Gordon Adams, a national security budget expert who was an associate director in President Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget.
Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who has spent her post-service days protesting the war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, is more blunt. “Interventionism is a business and it has a constituency and she is tapping into it,” she tells TAC. “She is for the military industrial complex, and she is for the neoconservatives.”
Clinton’s record as Secretary of State can be summarised by her response when asked about Gaddafi’s death in an interview: “We came, we saw, he died.” This was followed by a period of laughter that can only be described as giving the impression of her being in a state of pure ecstasy. Evidently, to Clinton, the brutal killing and sodomizing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – himself thinking he was surrendering under the safety of a white flag – was a foreign policy achievement to be proud of. If the African nation’s women and girls were central to her objectives in the now failed state that is Libya, Hillary Clinton is certainly no feminist.
Sophie Stephenson is an American History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in US foreign policy and relations with the Middle East. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillary Clinton Wants You to Call Her a Feminist
Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya
The Military-Industrial Candidate
Sliver of Aleppo’s once thriving nightlife returns
Here is Hillary Clinton hanging with two of our foremost warmongers:
Saving Raif Badawi: We Are Prepared to Present Ourselves, Also Give Him the Nobel Peace Prize February 5, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia.
Tags: 9/11, abby zimet, nobel peace, raif badawi, roger hollander, saudi arabia, saudi blogger, torture
add a comment
Roger’s note: Saudi Arabian government, not exactly a democracy but great friend and ally of the United States and long standing closeness to the Bush family. Evidence coming out that they financed the 9/11 attack, which we know was carried out largely by Saudis. With friends like that …
While the fate of jailed Saudi blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi remains unclear – officials have twice postponed the next round of a 1,000-lash punishment advocates deem a death sentence dragged out over 20 weeks – the movement to free him escalates. Along with global protests and campaigns, a group of U.S. intellectuals have offered to take his lashes and two Norwegian politicians have nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize as “a beacon of light.”
Badawi was publicly flogged with 50 lashes on January 9 in Jiddah, the start of a 10-year, 1,000-lash sentence for “insulting” Islam with his website Free Saudi Liberals. Badawi’s lawyer was also sentenced to 15 years in prison. Last week, his scheduled flogging was postponed for the third time, reportedly for health reasons. His wife, who with their three children has been granted political asylum in Quebec, says his health continues to deteriorate. The ongoing movement to free him has included protests in Europe and Canada, social media campaigns by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, and an open letter from 18 international Nobel laureates to Saudi academics urging them to condemn Badawi’s punishment and the repression it represents. Last week, the new Saudi regime released a royal decree offering pardons to some prisoners convicted of “public rights” charges – pardons that usually require giving up the right to free expression – but it’s unclear if Badawi was among them. And this week his case, which had been referred to the Supreme Court in December, got sent back again to the Court of Appeals.
Amidst the legal maneuvering, two members of the Norwegian Parliament, Snorre Valen and Karin Andersen, have nominated both Badawi and his attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair for the Nobel Peace Prize, arguing their longtime “commitment (to) challenging the suppression of free thought, speech and expression in a peaceful manner… should be recognized and embraced…as a beacon of light for those who crave more liberties in one of the last functioning theocracies in the modern world. Their announcement in a petition
urged Saudi officials to “put a halt to this grave injustice.” But “if your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi,” they said, “we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him.” They were offering “to present ourselves,” they add, because “compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as ‘suffering with another.’ We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims.” One member of the group stressed he only signed the letter once he felt “genuinely committed” to going through with taking the lashes, meaning he had to ponder “what it means to sacrifice for others in the fight for justice…What does it mean to say, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’”?Commission on International Religious Freedom. In an open letter to the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC, they sorrowfully
Saudi’s Perfidy: Ten Years In Prison and 1,000 Lashes In Public For Seeking to “Respect the Differences Among Us” January 15, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, Saudi Arabia.
Tags: abby zimit, human rights, islam, medea benjamin, raif badawi, religion, saudi arabia
add a comment
Roger’s note: Where is the outcry? Where are the headlines? Where is the righteous indignation? Oh, I forgot. Saudi Arabia is an American ally, its barbarism doesn’t count.
The same day the Saudi Arabian Ambassador marched in Paris against the attack on Charlie Hebdo and free speech, his country – the one that regularly persecutes and jails writers, artists, activists and intellectuals for expressing their views, that seeks to try women drivers as terrorists, and that just declared a fatwa against snowmen – dragged blogger Raif Badawi shackled from his jail cell and flogged him 50 times in the public square at Jeddah’s al-Jafali mosque for “insulting Islam” through his website, Saudi Arabian Liberals, which offered social and political debate. It was the first of 20 such scheduled “severe” floggings, to total 1,000 lashes over 20 weeks. Badawi’s sentence last May also called for ten years in prison, a ten-year travel ban, a hefty fine and a lifetime ban from media outlets. His lawyer was also sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The sentence and lashings have prompted international outrage, a sustained campaign by Amnesty International, #FreeRaif and #RaifBadawi campaigns online, a tepid response from a U.S. State Department that is “greatly concerned” and a likewise mild response from Canada – where Badawi’s wife and children have settled in Montreal after receiving political asylum – which says it has “raised his case…as part of an ongoing, respectful dialogue” with the Saudis. Today, supporters held a vigil in Montreal, where they and Badawi’s family demanded he be freed. Yesterday, he marked his 31st birthday in jail. On Friday, presumably, he will once more be dragged from his cell and publicly, severely whipped 50 times. His wife worries he will not survive many more. In one of his last blog posts, insisting that “as part of humanity” we all have the same duties and the same rights, he urged, “Let us all live under the roof of human civilization.” Help him to live, period, here.
Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar
“Flogging for Blogging” Official Saudi Policy
On January 9, two days after the massive Paris march condemning the brutal attack on freedom of the press, a young Saudi prisoner named Raif Badawi was removed from his cell in shackles and taken to a public square in Jeddah. There he was flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators who had just finished midday prayers. The 50 lashes—labeled by Amnesty International a “vicious act of cruelty”—was the first installment on his sentence of 1,000 floggings, as well as ten years in prison and a fine of $266,000. Badawi’s crime? Blogging.
The father of three young children, Badawi hosted the website known as Free Saudi Liberals, a forum intended to promote a lively exchange of ideas among Saudis. Badawi wrote about the advantages of separating religion and state, asserting that secularism was “the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.” He accused Saudi clerics and the government of distorting Islam to promote authoritarianism. Unlike the Saudi rulers, Badawi cheered the Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak, calling it a decisive turning point not only for Egypt but “everywhere that is governed by the Arab mentality of dictatorship.”
In mid-2012, Badawi was arrested for his blogs, including an article in which he was accused of ridiculing the kingdom’s religious police, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. He was also charged for failing to remove “offensive posts” written by others. The prosecution originally called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, or abandoning his religion, which carries the death penalty.
If nothing changes, Raif Badawi will be flogged every Friday for the next 19 weeks. And he will not see his wife or children for ten years, who were forced to flee to Canada to avoid public harassment at home.
Badawi’s case is not unique. In 2014, Reporters Without Borders describes the government as “relentless in its censorship of the Saudi media and the Internet”, and ranked Saudi Arabia 164th out of 180 countries for freedom of the press.
Last year, four members of the group Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, an organization documenting human rights abuses and calling for democratic reform, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 4 to 10 years. The fourth member sentenced was Omar al-Saeed, who was handed four years in prison and 300 lashes because he called for a constitutional monarchy.
Or look at the case of another human rights lawyer, Walid Abu al-Khair, in prison since 2012. Just this week, on January 13, a Saudi court increased his prison term from 10 to 15 years after he refused to show remorse or recognize the court that handed down his original 10-year term for sedition. Al-Khair, founder of Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) and legal counsel for blogger Badawi, was convicted on charges of disrespecting King Abdullah and the Saudi authorities.
Saudi Arabia also remains the only country in the world to maintain a ban on women drivers. According to this law, women are strictly restricted to the passenger seat of vehicles. This ban is so harshly imposed that two women, 25-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul and 33-year-old Maysa al-Amoudi, were not only arrested for driving to the United Arab Emirates, but they were also referred to be tried by a terrorism court. In the past, punishments for women drivers have included loss of jobs, passport revocation, and even floggings.
The US government’s response to these egregious and inhumane punishments from its ally usually takes the form of a US State Department spokesperson expressing “concern.” But there is no major public condemnation. No threats of cutting arms sales. No sanctions against government officials. The US government basically turns a blind eye to the medieval forms of torture the Saudis still mete out.
One major reason is oil. Since before World War II, the United States has viewed Saudi Arabia as a strategic source of petroleum. In 1933, the Arab American Company (ARAMCO) was established as a joint venture by both countries. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the second largest supplier of petroleum to the United States.
With the money it receives from oil, the Saudi government purchases vast amounts of weaponry from the United States. In 2010, the US government announced it has concluded a deal to sell $60 billion of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia—the largest US arms sale deal in history. One use of US tanks was seen in Bahrain, where the Saudis intervened to crush a democratic uprising against the Bahraini monarchy.
There’s now Congressional legislation being introduced to declassify a 28-page section of the 9/11 Senate report which allegedly exposes the direct role of the Saudi government in the Twin Tower attacks on 9/11. After all, Saudi Arabia supplied 15 out of the 19 9/11 hijackers and was the home of Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia exports the radical version of Islam, Wahhabism, that fuels extremism throughout the Middle East. Saudi Arabia treats its women as second-class citizens. Saudi Arabia is the capital of beheadings, with the government carrying out 87 public beheadings in 2013 and nine already this year.
Being the world’s top oil provider does not give a country the right to dehumanize its own people. The US is certainly no model for respecting freedom of expression – as we saw in the streets of Ferguson where peaceful protesters were teargassed and beaten – but it shouldn’t overlook the human rights abuses carried out by a country that imprisons, tortures and executes its citizens simply for speaking their minds. This Friday, when Raif will once again be subjected to 50 lashes, take a moment to call the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC (202-342-3800, then press “3” for the Public Affairs office and tell them: “Free speech is not, and should never be, a punishable crime. Je suis Raif!”
Palestine and the ICC January 5, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: Avi Shlaim, civilian casualties, gaza, hamas, icc, international criminal court, International law, israel, mohmoud abbas, Palestine, plo, roger hollander, War Crimes
add a comment
Roger’s note: One would have to be blind (and so many are!) not to see that the current government of Israel is in no way interested in a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, that “talks” are no more than a stalling tactic used while smothering the Palestinians via warfare and settlements. I have always found Robert Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East for decades, to be a reliable analyst.
Throw an old dog a bone and sure enough, he’ll go chasing after it. So it is with “Palestine’s” request to join the International Criminal Court. An obvious attempt by Mahmoud Abbas to try Israel for war crimes in Gaza this year, we are told.
Or maybe a “two-edged sword” – yawns are permitted for such clichés – which could also put Hamas “in the dock”. Israel was outraged. The US was “strongly opposed” to such a dastardly request by the elderly potentate who thinks he rules a state which doesn’t even exist.
But hold on a moment. That isn’t the story, is it? Surely the real narrative is totally different. The BBC didn’t get this. Nor CNN. Nor even Al Jazeera. But surely the most significant event of all is that the descendants of the PLO – excoriated only a quarter of a century ago as the most dangerous “terrorist” organisation in the world, its mendacious leader Yasser Arafat branded “our Bin Laden” by Israel’s mendacious leader Ariel Sharon – actually wants TO ABIDE BY INTERNATIONAL LAW!
Heavens preserve us from such a thought, but these chappies – after all their past calls for Israel’s extinction, after all the suicide bombings and intifadas – are asking to join one of the most prestigious judicial bodies on earth. For years, the Palestinians have demanded justice. They went to the international court in The Hague to have Israel’s apartheid wall dismantled – they even won, and Israel didn’t give a hoot. Any sane Palestinian, you might think, would long ago have turned his or her back on such peaceful initiatives.
Yet still these wretched Palestinians persist, after this most humiliating of insults, in resorting to international law to resolve their conflict with Israel. Here they go again, dutifully seeking membership of the International Criminal Court. Will these Arabs never learn?
And of course, the Americans are threatening to punish such effrontery. Stop those millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. Stand by Israel’s refusal to accept any such approach to the International Criminal Court by “Palestine”. The EU – especially Britain and France – have gone along with this tosh. Israel has already decided to stop more than £80m in tax owed to the Palestinian authority.
The US State Department’s spokesman told us that his government is “deeply troubled” by the Palestinian application. It is “entirely counterproductive”, he informed the world. It does “nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign state” – though one might have thought that membership of so august a judicial body would have done a lot to persuade the world that Palestinians were ready to shoulder all the burdens of statehood.
After all, the Palestinians would indeed have to abide by international law and – if the law applied retrospectively – they would have to carry the burden of opprobrium themselves for both Hamas crimes and past PLO murders. The United States, of course – and this fact oddly did not feature in the flurry of news reports on “Palestine’s” request to join – has itself refused to join the International Criminal Court. And with good reason; because, like the Israelis – although this is not quite how the whole fandango was explained to us – Washington is also worried that its soldiers and government officials will be arraigned for war crimes. Think waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, the report on CIA torture…
No wonder Jeffrey Rathke, the windbag who speaks for the State Department, says that the Palestinian request “badly damages the atmosphere” with Israel, “undermines trust” and “creates doubts about their (Palestinian) commitment to a negotiated peace”. And remember, Abbas only made his request after America had vetoed – and it has used its veto more than 40 times on Israel’s behalf to reject Palestine’s self-determination since 1975 – a UN Security Council resolution to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land by 2017.
But of course, what this whole kerfuffle is really about is quite simple. The world is tired of witnessing the suffering of Palestinians. Those with an ounce of human sympathy are sickened at being slandered as anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist (whatever that is) every time they express their outrage at Israel’s cruelty towards the Palestinians.
Killing more than 2,000 Palestinians last summer, hundreds of them children, was a mass slaughter. We’ve watched this grotesquerie so many times now – in Gaza, for the most part – that even our statistics have become spattered with blood.
Who now recalls the fatalities of the 2008-9 Gaza war? One thousand four hundred and seventeen Palestinians dead, 313 of them children, more than 5,500 wounded. That was the conflict upon which President-elect Obama had no comment to make.
And who knows what other gory Pandora’s box ICC membership would open? That bomber pilot who in 2002 killed 15 civilians, 11 of them children, in a Gaza apartment block to assassinate a Hamas official, for example? Wouldn’t that constitute a war crime? Don’t these outrages “damage the atmosphere” and “undermine trust”. Were these bloodbaths not “entirely counterproductive”? And the Jewish colonisation of the occupied West Bank?
Sure, bang up those behind Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide attacks for war crimes. Get the Palestinian Authority thugs who torture and murder their own prisoners. But that’s not what Israel and the US are worried about. They are concerned that, after months of arguing and rowing and delving through thousands of documents, jurists may decide that Israel – horror of horror – may have to answer for itself before international justice, something which no routine US veto could prevent.
Now just imagine if Israel and America wanted the Palestinians to sign the Rome document. Conjure the thought – for a split-second only – that Israel and America insisted that the Palestinians must abide by an international treaty and become members of the International Criminal Court to qualify for statehood. Abbas’s refusal to do so would be further proof of his “terrorist” intentions. Yet when Abbas does sign the Rome document, when the Palestinians want to abide by an international treaty, they must be punished – surely a “first” in modern history.
I can only think of two phrases that fit the bill for this scandal of the West’s politicians. Confound their politics. Frustrate their knavish tricks.
The impasse in the Middle East in a nutshell
Apropos of which… Avi Shlaim, among the finest of Israeli historians, has just brought out a new edition of his great work The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. “The prospect of a real change in American foreign policy looks slim to non-existent,” he writes. “Nor is there at present any evidence to suggest that Israel’s leaders are remotely interested in a genuine two-state solution… They seem oblivious to the damage that the occupation is doing to their society and to the reputation of their country abroad.” That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.
The U.S. Seeks the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East December 10, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: Iraq, Iraq war, israel, israel nuclear, matt peppe, Middle East, non-proliferation, npt, nuclear, nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapons, uss liberty, wmd
add a comment
The resolution passed by a margin of 151-4. Only the United States, Israel, Canada and Micronesia voted against it. In a separate resolution, the U.S. and Israel stood alone against 177 other countries who supported further efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That resolution calls for a “prohibition on the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons.”
In March 2003, George W. Bush proclaimed that he was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 687 to use force against Iraq to rid the country of WMD. Iraq presented such an existential threat that an immediate war was the only conceivable means of dealing with the situation. After Bush did invade Iraq and kill 500,000 Iraqis and create millions of widows, orphans and refugees, what was obvious all along was proven: the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD were nothing more than lies and distortions.
The administration knew full well that Israel, however, did have a large-scale, rogue WMD program when Bush cited UNSC Resolution 687 as his legal justification for invading Iraq. Four U.S. Presidents have all ignored the actual text in Resolution 687 which declares “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.”
The only country to ever have used nuclear weapons – by dropping two on a country that had been trying for weeks to surrender – has consistently provided Israel with a diplomatic shield in the United Nations. On top of guaranteeing their right to violate international law with impunity, the U.S. has showered Israel with over $140 billion in military aid that amounts to more than $3 billion per year.
Even without its WMD, Israel would pose a grave threat to peace with its army and conventional weapons alone. Israel has repeatedly violated the sovereignty of its neighboring countries, the most flagrant example being the aggressive invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982 which killed 20,000 people. Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Israel has even attacked the United States itself. In 1967, Israeli warplanes bombarded the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen. Israel’s possession of WMD only compounds their destructive capacity.
Israel is one of only four countries in the world (India, Pakistan and South Sudan) that has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This landmark treaty, in force since 1970, binds signing nations to work together stop the spread of nuclear weapons and work towards disarmament.
While it was long understood that the two ethnic exclusivist regimes maintained close military ties, the first concrete evidence that Israel tried to sell South Africa nuclear warheads emerged several years ago when American scholar Sasha Polakow-Suransky obtained declassified documents from the South African archives.
“South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states,” reported the Guardian.
The paper goes on to note that “the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.”
South Africa easily could have followed through with potential nuclear strikes against its neighbors. In 1988, the SADF were being chased out of Angola by Cuban troops assisting the Angolan government. South Africa was illegally occupying the Southeastern part of Angola in a bid to topple that country’s government and install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. Years later, Fidel Castro recounted the potential danger of nuclear strikes Cubans faced as their forces pushed forward to repel the aggression of the South African troops.
“The main problem was the fact that the racist South Africans possessed, according to our calculations, between 10 and 12 nuclear arms,” Castro wrote. “They had carried out tests in oceans or frozen areas to the South. President Ronald Reagan had authorized such tests, and the device necessary for blasting the nuclear charge was among the equipment delivered by Israel.”
Since it developed and used the first nuclear weapons, the United States government has supported weapons of mass destruction on principle. They also refuse the concept of nuclear weapons solely as self-defense, never having accepted a no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union had.
The U.S. has never had any moral or legal inhibitions about countries it chooses having a right to WMD. For countries that support the U.S. government’s self-professed right to rule the world, there is no danger to peace or to the survival of civilization itself that Washington will not tolerate and enable.