Saturday, September 29, 2012

Super Typhoon Headed for Fukushima

Monster typhoon nears Japan — Forecast shows storm to hit Fukushima Sunday (MAPS & VIDEO)

by ENE News

Watch a compilation of forecasts here

PhysOrg, Sept. 28: NASA sees super Typhoon Jelawat Affecting Japan [...] Super Typhoon Jelawat is a large and powerful storm that has been bringing very rough seas to areas in the western North Pacific. NASA’s Terra satellite passed over the monster storm and captured a visible image as it nears the big island of Japan [See Bottom].

Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog, Sept. 28: The models are in close agreement that Jelawat will pass over or very close to Okinawa, Japan, as a Category 2 or 3 typhoon on Saturday, between 03 – 06 UTC. Jelawat could hit the main island of Honshu in Japan as a tropical storm or Category 1 typhoon on Sunday.

Top Left: Location of Fukushima Daiichi; Top Right: Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast; Bottom: NASA

Obama's NDAA and the End of Posse Comitatus

Judges to Review Constitutionality of NDAA Military Detention Legislation 


Chris Hedges: We filed our lawsuit because this legislation threatens basic democratic rights allowing for indefinite military detention to repress domestic protest

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including 'Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle' (2009), 'I Don't Believe in Atheists' (2008) and the best-selling 'American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America' (2008). His book 'War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning' (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

Exxon Eyes Oil Drilling in Soviet Kara Sea Nuclear Dump

Exxon & Rosneft Plan to Drill for Oil in Old Soviet Nuclear Dumping Ground

by James Burgess -

It has been well documented that oil majors from around the world are looking at oil exploration in the Arctic, where they believe that some of the largest untapped fields in the world still lie. Environmentalists have been fighting efforts to start exploring for oil, fearing that any serious oil spill could mean the destruction of one of the last pristine wildernesses on the planet.

In the Kara Sea, where Exxon Mobil and Rosneft are planning to drill a region which is estimated to hold enough oil to supply the world for five years, environmentalists have a new reason to fear for the environment; nuclear radiation.

The Kara Sea is so remote that the Soviet Union used it as a dumping ground for radioactive material for more than 25 years. The two oil companies have avoided calls for the nuclear waste, estimated to consist of over 17,000 barrels of radioactive waste, worn-out reactors, and even an old nuclear submarine, to be cleared up before any exploration takes place.

Scientists from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) will soon present the results from their first survey in the area for 18 years, to determine whether or not the radiation is stable or increasing.

Rosneft released a statement to try and reassure the public that "all ecological and nature protection norms are being followed at the same time," using "the the best world practices available."

The most dangerous item down on the sea floor in that area is the K-27 nuclear submarine, which was dumped their by the Soviet navy in 1981. The NRPA said that any significant corrosion could damage the ships reactor and cause an environmental disaster.

Per Strand, a director at the NRPA, warned that "there might be a hypothetical possibility that the spent nuclear fuel in the reactor in extreme situations can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction, which can lead to heat and radioactivity releases."

Igor Kudrik, an ecologist from Norwegian campaign group Bellona, suggests that "oil companies should make sure that the area is swiped clean of nuclear waste before they start any oil exploration activity."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Salmon Activist Staniford Vindicated in Vancouver Court


Judgment Day in Salmon Farming Kills Lawsuit

- Norwegian Government-Owned Cermaq Vs. Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture

Here's the summary Judgment:

Judgment summary

Read Judgment in full online here

Madame Justice Elaine Adair’s judgment will be available from 10.30am (Pacific Standard Time) today (Friday 28 September) via the Supreme Court of British Columbia – online here

Cermaq photo #4

If Cermaq’s lawsuit and injunction are successful, over fifty statements will be deemed illegal and “any person”, “servants” or “agents” will be ordered to remove the ‘Defamatory Words’ from the internet:

Cermaq photo #5

Read more background via “Norway’s Injunction Kills Free Speech!” and “Gagging the Truth Becomes Mainstream
Read Cermaq's 'Amended Notice of Civil Claim' -  online here

 “If successful, the injunction would outlaw bumper stickers like ‘Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Farmed Salmon’ and 'Wild Salmon Don't Do Drugs' and truthful statements corroborated by peer-reviewed science such as ‘Salmon Farming Spreads Disease’ and ‘Salmon Farming Kills Wild Baby Salmon’,” said Don Staniford following the 20-day trial in February.  “It’s a sad but simple fact that Norwegian-owned salmon farming kills all over the globe: whether it is the killing of sea lions in British Columbia; the deaths of workers in Chile; the slaughter of seals in Scotland or the devastation of wild salmon at home in Norway.”  

Cermaq photo #1

“Norway now rivals China in its abuse of freedom of speech and the Draconian measures sought to suppress dissent,” continued Staniford.  “The Norwegian Government, via their state ownership of Cermaq, is abusing the Canadian courts to muzzle global criticism of Norwegian-owned salmon farming. Norway’s reputation as a champion of free speech now lies in the gutter along with the Nobel Peace Prize it awarded in 2010 to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.  Shame on Norway, shame on Cermaq!”

Watch Norway’s TV2 reporting on the lawsuit – online here and online here

TV2 on stickers

Speaking after the end of the 20-day trial, David Sutherland (legal counsel for Don Staniford) said:

“We need to create a separate cause of action, which does not have the adverse presumptions of defamation that protect the reputations of individual people but forces the corporation to, in fact, prove the sorts of damages and other criteria that are involved in the court of injurious falsehood.”

Watch via The Straight's: 'Media lawyer for Don Staniford calls for changes in the way corporations can sue for loss of reputation'

On the first day of the trial (16 January 2012), a police officer and officer from the Canadian Border Services Agency visited the court to inform Mr. Staniford he would be deported.  Following the trial, Mr. Staniford was deported from Canada and moved immediately to Norway to “slay the dragon in its own lair”.

“Staniford began his journey back to Europe in the same over-the-top theatrical style that inflamed his targets: He arrived at Vancouver International Airport clad in an orange Guantanamo Bay-like jump suit and fake, rubber chains,” reported Global TV (5 March).
“The Canadian government chose to intimidate me on day one of my court case by turning up at the courtroom in a very public and calculated display of police force, yet, when deporting me, they were embarrassed by the orange jumpsuit and chose to whisk me out of public sight,” said Staniford in an interview with The Times Colonist (1 March).  

Cermaq photo #3

Read more via “Don Staniford: Salmon Farming Critic Removed from Canada” and “Bad Boy Salmon Activists Teaming Up in Norway

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'You're the Rain in My Parade'

The Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to My Dismal Allies 

 by Rebecca Solnit

Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).

So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she's anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.

My friend Jaime Cortez, a magnificent person and writer, sent this my way: “At a dinner party recently, I expressed my pleasure that some parts of Obamacare passed, and starting 2014, the picture would be improved. I was regaled with reminders of the horrors of the drone program that Obama supports, and reminded how inadequate Obamacare was. I responded that it is not perfect, but it was an incremental improvement, and I was glad for it. But really, I felt dumb and flat-footed for being grateful.”

The Emperor Is Naked and Uninteresting

Maybe it’s part of our country’s Puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies, and corruptions in the system.

Believe me, a lot of us already know most of the dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing. Often, it’s not the emperor that’s the important news anyway, but the peasants in their revolts and even their triumphs, while this mindset I’m trying to describe remains locked on the emperor, in fury and maybe in self-affirmation.

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Sitting around with the first occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the first anniversary of Occupy, I listened to one lovely young man talking about the rage his peers, particularly his gender, often have. But, he added, fury is not a tactic or a strategy, though it might sometimes provide the necessary energy for getting things done.

There are so many ways to imagine this mindset -- or maybe its many mindsets with many origins -- in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn’t be less productive.

Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!

Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t -- and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.

We talk about prefigurative politics, the idea that you can embody your goal. This is often discussed as doing your political organizing through direct-democratic means, but not as being heroic in your spirit or generous in your gestures.

Left-Wing Vote Suppression

One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”

Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo -- and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.

I didn’t like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.

I’m with those who are horrified by Obama’s presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration’s soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption "Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils." It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy. Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.

We Could Be Heroes

We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.

Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.

Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recently put it, “What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don’t have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.”

Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as “snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left.” All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.

The desperate are often much more hopeful than that -- the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that amazingly effective immigrant farmworkers’ rights group, is hopeful because quitting for them would mean surrendering to modern-day slavery, dire poverty, hunger, or death, not cable-TV reruns. They’re hopeful and they’re powerful, and they went up against Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, and they won.

The great human-rights activist Harvey Milk was hopeful, even though when he was assassinated gays and lesbians had almost no rights (but had just won two major victories in which he played a role). He famously said, “You have to give people hope.”

In terms of the rights since won by gays and lesbians, where we are now would undoubtedly amaze Milk, and we got there step by step, one pragmatic and imperfect victory at a time -- with so many more yet to be won. To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.

There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve? And who do you want to be? And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.



As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Also, she wrote some books.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

Obama's UN Truths

On Rhetoric and Actions

by Jim Miles

After beginning his speech with a nice homespun heartfelt story about U.S. diplomat Chris Stevens, Obama turned the rest of his speech into a series of lies that are all too common in U.S. rhetoric, lies that are concealed by fine sounding platitudes and homilies.

Some of the lies are direct, but there are also lies of concealment, avoidance, willful ignorance, and perhaps, genuine ignorance.

The UN

After the introduction, Obama continues by extending his ideas to the UN itself and the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded -- the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

Sounds great, I would buy into it…except for the reality behind the statement. That reality is that the U.S. is one of the countries least disposed to “resolve their differences peacefully.” The global spread of U.S. military bases, generally considered to be well over 750, in over 120 countries in the world, speaks differently about “solving differences peacefully.” Obama reverses the general trend of U.S. history by saying that “diplomacy can take the place of war” when U.S. policy generally tends to be ‘we’ll threaten and manipulate first and then attack - overtly or covertly - if that fails.’

That trend can be seen in the history of Latin America and Asia in particular, with his later focus on Iran not accounting for the history of U.S. intervention there. In 1953 the U.S. and the UK covertly overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran, with all its decades of subsequent events, in Iran, and elsewhere in the world where the Iranian model of displacing uncooperative governments was put into place, the next in line being Guatemala in 1954 (Operation PBSUCCESS).

Finally, in an interdependent world, such as we have now, the “greater opportunity and security for our citizens” tends to speak for the one per cent, the global corporations, rather than the 99 per cent of the rest of the world.

The crisis

Obama then focuses on the crisis, the attacks on the U.S. embassies set off by the hate propaganda produced by the Christian right in the U.S.:

we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis -- because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.

And then, he leaves it at that, there is absolutely no honesty in speaking about the “deeper causes of the crisis” being, in my view, “the forces that would drive us apart.” Volumes have been written about the deeper causes of the crisis - to witness, Mossadegh’s Iran and Arbenz’s Guatemala as above, the oil agreements with the Saudi’s after World War II that maintains this bastion of Arabic feudalism to this day, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians under Suharto’s U.S. supported leadership, the unilateral support of Israel without acknowledging its nuclear threats and proliferation as well as its international humanitarian law abuses against the Palestinians, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the ongoing drone wars in Pakistan - a few among the many military interventions brought about by U.S. forces.

Some real lies…

We insisted on change in Egypt…. We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen….We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council….we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop

Not true, as the U.S. did and said nothing when the Egyptian protests started and continued, hoping to maintain the status quo of their militarily supported puppet regime. Not true, as the leadership in Yemen remained under the control of the same regime, backed by the Saudi’s. As for Syria, still unsettled business, the suffering could well have stopped before it started if the U.S. and its coalition partners (the Saudi’s, Bahrain, all the GCC countries, all well known authoritarian governments) were not supplying the rebel groups with armaments but instead worked on replacing war with diplomacy.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.

I think I covered this above, but let me add a few more. How about Vietnam and its denial of the UN promised vote on unification and the subsequent killing of millions of people? Or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a bombing that served only to demonstrate to the Soviets that the U.S. had and was willing to use nuclear weapons? Or what about the overthrow of Allende and the autocratic setup of Pinochet in Chile? The ongoing senseless blockade of Cuba? It goes on and on….Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Columbia, Indonesia, East Timor, Laos, Hawaii….

The rhetoric continues with its disingenuity

And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.

Fine, then the best thing for the U.S. to do is be quiet until they bring their military home and stop causing much of the mindless violence and the killing of innocents.

Now, let me be clear: Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.

In modern times, Libya and Syria not withstanding, perhaps you did not “dictate” the outcome, but overt operations - as in Yugoslavia and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan - combined with more covert operations and influences - as in the ‘colour’ revolutions in the Ukraine, Kirgizstan, and Georgia, along with the all the meddling in post Soviet Russia - have certainly had large effects on populations in those areas.

A politics based only on anger -- one based on dividing the world between “us” and “them” -- not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.

Whoa horses! (To use a U.S. cowboy metaphor.) “Us” and “them?” Really? Unfortunately Obama has carried forward and improved upon many of the Bush era practices from his statement about being “with us or being with them.” Yes, all of us do have an interest in standing up to these forces, while remaining clear with where it originated.

Israel and Palestine

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear -- a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

If the destination is clear and you are prepared to “walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey” then peace would already have been achieved. Otherwise, this statement is also a lie. The revelations of the Palestinian Papers by al-Jazeera demonstrated that the Palestinians would go to great lengths to achieve peace; and discussions with most Palestinians show that they wish peace and are resigned to accepting only about 22 per cent of their original homeland to achieve that.

On the other hand, Israel continues to illegally build settlements in occupied territories and confiscate and annex land and resources from the Palestinians. Both Hamas and Fatah have indicated by their actions that they are capable of working towards a peaceful solution. Israel on the other hand has used the “peace process” as a mask to continue with its settlement projects. It also has been the aggressor in most of its wars, most recently with its invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09, both resulting in large civilian casualties. Israel is content with the status quo, with the its sense of ‘victim hood’ and with the U.S. as ally, its creation of the ‘war on terror’, an unending war that satisfies the political-religious-corporate-warrior elements of both governments.

Next up, Iran

But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

Double standards abound here. The U.S. has, and does, and will continue to support dictators around the world as the need fits their geopolitical needs. This is particularly obvious today with the U.S. renouncing the Assad regime in Syria while utilizing the dictatorial powers of the Saudis and the GCC countries to get rid of it. The U.S. is the creator of some of the more egregious terrorist actions around the world, using them as convenient, with al-Qaeda being both an enemy and a special operations task force for them at the same time. “Time and again [Israel] has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful,” a not carefully guarded secret that it has upwards of several hundred nuclear warheads achieved outside of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.

Power harnessed for peace? Is that why the U.S. has about 5,000 nuclear warheads and is creating a euphemistic missile defence shield? Is that why the U.S. says nothing about the Israeli nuclear program, and has assisted the Indian nuclear program?

And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.

Can’t be contained? Unlike the Soviet Union, which was contained quite well, with their many thousands of nuclear warheads directed at the U.S.? And perhaps now Russia with fewer warheads, but still with the targeting? The Iranians may be a little bit crazy (as all politicians seem to be), but they have demonstrated over the years that they are not idiotic enough, in spite of their often strange rhetoric, to start a nuclear war. Of course the “security of the Gulf Nations” really refers to the security of U.S. control of the region with the aid of the dictators already in place. Ahh, the real answer is at the end, “the stability of the global economy”, the corporate elite want to continue harvesting the wealth of the world for themselves.

It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty.

Whoa horses (again!)! I am confused. A race has to start somewhere, and Israel had nuclear weapons first, and the U.S. was in the process of helping the Shah with a nuclear program, and the U.S. has helped India avoid the NPT….so where exactly did this race begin? And so who is helping to unravel the NPT?

Universal values

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.

Now this is true, one of those pleasant homilies that allow the U.S. to feel good about its indispensable self when it castigates then attacks other nations for their own good. It is also obvious that the U.S. has not learned from their “painful experience” as it has always been more painful to others than to them; and they are more than willing to sacrifice many of their own native sons along this path to “security”. The U.S. has shown little respect for international law and human rights over the decades, and continues to reiterate this nice homily while using all means - economic and military - to dominate the world.

But when you strip it all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people -- and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows.

Another pleasant homily followed by more illusory rhetoric. Yes, the people of the world want two or three square meals a day, a decent job, a reasonable place to live, and the ability to participate in their indigenous culture. The U.S., while proclaiming that it will always stand up for these aspirations as it was their founding purpose, have demonstrated quite the opposite. It started with the first settlers and their “civilizing mission” among the natives, whom, according to their religious beliefs, were nothing more than heathen savages.

The actions that speak the truth against the rhetoric continued across the North American continent with the genocide of large numbers of native people, spread through the other Americas, then took off overseas with its newly acquired Spanish possessions. Once overseas, it became a global power looking to control the wealth of the world for its own homeland purposes.

Imperial designs

The leaders of the U.S. empire utilize the wonderful rhetoric of humanitarian principles, universal values, and freedom of democracy to cover the reality of their actions around the world. The unfortunate part is that some of them actually believe their own rhetoric, remaining blind and ignorant to the manner in which it is applied via the military and corporate structures, and wonder why the rest of the world “hates” them. Obama’s speech reflected this in its finest form. He is a strong speaker, a good orator, but is also simply the front man for the power of the nation - the corporate nation - that is interested in maintaining its significant wealth and power differential with the rest of the world.

The United States is the largest military nation in the world. It carries the largest debt problem in the world (with perhaps the EU combined following closely behind). It remains in defiance of all the scientific information regarding global climate change.

This combination of ill health and grand-standing rhetoric does not bode well for the future of the U.S. and the world.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spanish Police Crack Down on Protesters Surrounding the Parliament 


Anti-austerity rage intensified in Madrid, as protesters surrounded the parliament Tuesday night in a sign of mounting frustration towards the right-wing government. Their demands included the resignation of top officials with new elections, the halt to austerity measures, and the rewriting of the Spanish Constitution. The protesters charged the government with theft and criminal activity for implementing harsh austerity measures, hiking taxes, record unemployment and allowing mass evictions of unemployed families on a daily basis.

Anti-austerity rage intensified in Madrid, as protesters surrounded the parliament Tuesday night in a sign of mounting frustration towards the right-wing government.

Watch full multipart Protests In Spain


Anti-austerity rage intensified in Madrid, as protesters surrounded the parliament Tuesday night in a sign of mounting frustration towards the right-wing government. Their demands included the resignation of top officials with new elections, the halt to austerity measures, and the rewriting of the Spanish Constitution. The protesters charged the government with theft and criminal activity for implementing harsh austerity measures, hiking taxes, record unemployment and allowing mass evictions of unemployed families on a daily basis.

As thousands converged outside the gates of parliament, hundreds of police clashed with protesters, detaining and beating many. Organizers of the action were harassed and intimidated by the police weeks before September 25th. Activists were detained, assembly meetings broken up and a cultural center was raided and shut down.

The Spanish government, with help of the mainstream media, hyped the event as a possible coup d'etate. Nearly 2,000 police officers were deployed to prevent the protesters from reaching the parliament. Despite the main unions withdrawing their support, it's estimated close to 10,000 people attended. The call to surround the congress brought out Spaniards from all walks of life despite police repression to prevent activists from mobilizing.

On numerous occasions, the police pushed and shoved us as we tried to film. Other journalists were beaten and injured by rubber bullets.

Story produced by Jihan Hafiz and Jairo Vargas Martin.

China v. Japan: War of Wills in the Pacific

Japan v. China: a Real Conflict?

by Conn Hallinan

Could Japan and China—the number two and three largest economies in the world—really get into a punch-out over five tiny islands covering less than four square miles? According to the International Crisis Group, maybe: “All the trends are in the wrong direction, and prospects of resolution are diminishing.”

That the two Asian superpowers could actually come to blows seems unthinkable, but a devil’s brew of suspicion, anger, ham-handed diplomacy, and a growing US military presence has escalated a minor dispute into something that could turn very ugly if someone makes a misstep.

And so far, the choreography in the region has ranged from clumsy to provocative.

A few examples:

On the anniversary of Japan’s brutal 1931 attack on China, Tokyo purchased a handful of islands in the East China Sea—known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China—whose ownership is in dispute. In response, China accused Japan of “stealing” the islands, and anti-Japanese demonstrations and riots broke out in 80 Chinese cities. Several major Japanese companies, including Toyota, Honda, and Panasonic were forced to shut down for several days.

Amidst this tension, Washington announced that it will deploy a second anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) in Japan, supposedly to guard against North Korea, but which the Chinese charge is aimed at neutralizing their modest nuclear missile force.

“The joint missile defense system objectively encourages Japan to keep an aggressive position on the Diaoyu Islands dispute,” charges Shi Yinhong, a professor of international studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. Tao Wenzhao, deputy director of United States studies at China’s Academy of Social Science, adds, “It is highly inappropriate and counter-constructive for the U.S. to make such a move at this highly sensitive time.”

Timing wise, the island purchase and the ABM announcement seem almost consciously provocative, but Tokyo and Washington are hardly the only capitols in the Pacific guilty of inept diplomacy.

Two years ago China declared the South China Sea a “core interest area,” which means Beijing essentially claimed sovereignty over 80 percent of one of the most heavily trafficked waterways in the world. China also insisted that several island groups—the Spratleys, Parcels, and Macclesfield Bank—were Chinese territory, and it backed this assertion up with ships and even a small garrison.

Some in China have gone as far as to claim sovereignty over the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa, an island hosting several major US bases, with a population of 1.4 million Japanese citizens. Japan took control of the island group in 1879, but several hundred years earlier the independent Ryukyu Kingdom had paid tribute to China.

On top of all this, the Obama administration last year announced an Asian “pivot” and beefed up its military footprint in the region, including plans to send 2,500 Marines to Australia—the first time US troops have been deployed on the sub-continent since the end of World War II.

Not to be outdone, China launched its first aircraft carrier, introduced a new stealth fighter, and is apparently upgrading its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Dongfeng-41. According to the Pentagon, China has 55 to 65 ICBMs and 240 nuclear warheads. In comparison, the US has over 1,000 ICBMs, 1737 strategic warheads, and over 5,000 nuclear weapons.

Feeling a little nervous? You should be. The tensions are real even though it is hard to imagine countries in the area letting things get out of hand. But when you combine overheated rhetoric with gunboat face offs, a clumsy move, a misinterpreted act, or plain stupidity could spark something that might be difficult to contain.

So who is to blame for all this sturm und drang?

Depending on your perspective, the crisis is either triggered by the US and Japan trying to smother a rising rival in a resurgent China, or by Beijing’s aggressiveness in the region creating dangerous tensions. Actually, it is a little of both and a lot more complex than it appears. First, China, Japan and the US are not the only actors in this drama. Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Russia and South Korea all have pieces on the board.

South Korea, for instance, is locked in a fight with Japan over the Dokdo Islands (called Takeshima by the Japanese). Taiwan and China have a grievance with the Philippines over the Seaborough Shoal, and Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims on a host of islands, shoals, reefs and tiny coral atolls. Japan and Russia are at loggerheads over the Kuril Island chain that Moscow occupied in 1945.

Nor are issues in the South China Sea the same as those in the East China Sea. In the south the disputes are mainly economic: fishing rights, and energy reserves. In the east, imperial history and the echo of World War II plays an important role. For example, the Senkaku/Diaoyu and Dokdo/Takeshima islands were seized by Japan in its early imperial days, and neither China nor Korea have forgotten or forgiven Japanese occupation of their countries.

Countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei view the Chinese as heavy-handed bullies who throw their weight around and routinely arrest their nationals for fishing in disputed waters. They would like Beijing to negotiate boundary issues with them as a group through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), while China insists on talking with them individually. This standoff has allowed the U.S. to reassert itself in the region by presenting itself as a “fair broker” (and thus enraging China).

China, on the other hand, sees the US as surrounding it with potentially hostile allies, shifting yet more aircraft carrier battle groups into the region, and drawing up plans to spend $352 billion modernizing its nuclear weapons arsenal. What China doesn’t want is an arms race with the US, which already out-spends the Chinese five-to-one on defense. But the new US ABM system in Japan will force China to respond.

While China’s economy is in better shape than that of the US, its growth rate has plunged further than Beijing had hoped, and increased military spending will come at the expense of economic stimulation, energy efficiency, and infrastructure improvement. The Chinese smell a whiff of the Cold War, when the Americans hobbled the Soviet economy by forcing it to divert many of its resources to defense in order to keep up with the US.

So if the Chinese are feeling a little paranoid these days, one can hardly blame them.

There are a number of ways the current atmosphere of tension in the Pacific can be defused.

First, China should back down from its insistence that it will only negotiate boundary and access issues country by country. It is perfectly valid for smaller countries to collectivize their negotiating strategies, and ASEAN would be the obvious vehicle through which to work. That would have the added benefit of strengthening a regional organization, which can then be used to deal with other issues, from trade to terrorism.

Second, while the US is a Pacific power, it is not a western Pacific power. Putting warships in Beijing’s home waters is asking for trouble, and feeds a strong nationalist current in China. There should be a gradual de-militarization of the region, and a reduction in the number of US bases. And the US has to recognize that ABMs are trouble. They have soured the atmosphere for military reductions in Europe, and they will fuel a military buildup in Asia. The ABM Treaty produced sensible policy until the Bush Administration unilaterally withdrew from it. It should be revived and adhered to.

Third, provocations like China’s bluster over Okinawa, Japan’s purchase of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Washington sending 2,500 Marines to Australia, and general chest-beating via gunboats needs to stop.

On one level it is unthinkable that Japan and China would actually come to blows, a conflict that could draw in the US though its mutual support treaty with Tokyo. China is Japan’s number one trading partner, and Japan is China’s number two partner (the US is Beijing’s first). Polls indicate that the average Chinese and the average American have favorable views of one another. A study by the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American group, found that 55 percent of Americans and 59 percent of Chinese had favorable views of one another.

It is a different matter with Japan and China, which makes the tension between the two countries much more dangerous. Some 70 percent of Japanese had an “unfavorable” view of Beijing, and those figures are matched in China. The islands crisis has brought out a powerful current of nationalism in both countries. It was the rightwing mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishimara, who kicked off the crisis by trying to buy the islands. Rightwing politicians from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have since seized the dispute to bludgeon the current government, and the LDP is likely to win the next election.

Passions are running high, distorted by bitter memories of the past, and fed by fear and political opportunism. “There is a real possibility that if diplomacy fails, there will be a war,” says Kazuhiko Toyo, a former career Japanese diplomat.

One hopes this is smoke, not fire.

Conn Hallinan is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bug Splats and Bipartisans: Terror on Both Sides of the Aisle

Pay in Blood: The Bipartisan Terror Machine Stripped Bare

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

In the category of "the sky is blue," "fire is hot" and "the sun rises in the east," the Guardian reports on a new study showing that Washington's murderous drone killing campaign in Pakistan is "counterproductive."

The sarcasm above is not meant to cast aspersions on the report itself -- which is detailed, devastating, and very productive -- but on the prevailing mindset in the ruling circles of the West (the self-proclaimed "defenders of civilization") that makes such a study even necessary, much less 'controversial.'

For of course even the denizens of the many secret services and black-op armies and intelligence agencies that make up America's world-straddling security apparat have said, repeatedly, that Washington's policy of murdering, torturing, renditioning and indefinitely detaining innocent people all over the world -- day after day, week after week, year after year -- is in fact creating the very extremism and anti-Americanism the policy purports to combat.

Thus the new report, by the law schools of New York University and Stanford (a famously if not notoriously conservative institution) should be, in a sane and rational world, a case of carrying coals to Newscastle or selling ice to the Inuit: an exercise in redunancy.

But instead, sadly, the report, "Living Under Drones," is a very, very rare instance of speaking truth to the power that is waging a hideous campaign of terror -- there is no other word for it -- against innocent people all over the world.

The personal testimonies gathered by the researchers -- on the ground, in Pakistan -- are shattering ... at least for those who actually believe that these swarthy foreigner are actually human beings, with "hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions .. fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is." You can be sure -- you can be damned sure -- that the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House has never and will never read these stories of the ones he is terrorizing, night and day. These testimonies will never appear beside the scraps of rumor, conjecture and brutal prejudice that constitute the "reports" he sees each Tuesday -- "Terror Tuesday" -- when he meets in the Oval Office with his death squad team to decide who will be assassinated that week.

The Guardian gives a good overview of the report:

The CIA's programme of "targeted" drone killings in Pakistan's tribal heartlands is politically counterproductive, kills large numbers of civilians and undermines respect for international law, according to a report by US academics. The study by Stanford and New York universities' law schools, based on interviews with victims, witnesses and experts, blames the US president, Barack Obama, for the escalation of "signature strikes" in which groups are selected merely through remote "pattern of life" analysis.

Families are afraid to attend weddings or funerals, it says, in case US ground operators guiding drones misinterpret them as gatherings of Taliban or al-Qaida militants.

"The dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling 'targeted killings' of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false," the report, entitled Living Under Drones, states. ...

The "best available information", they say, is that between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. The figures have been assembled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimated that a further 1,300 individuals were injured in drone strikes over that period. ...

"US drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in north-west Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning," the American law schools report says. "Their presence terrorises men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.

"These fears have affected behaviour. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims."

The study goes on to say: "Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best … The number of 'high-level' militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just 2% [of deaths]. Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks … One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy."

A powerful story, setting out the lineaments of the report with admirable concision. But then the Guardian correspondent, Owen Bowcott [or his inserting editors], betray heartbreaking naivete:

Coming from American lawyers rather than overseas human rights groups, the criticisms are likely to be more influential in US domestic debates over the legality of drone warfare.

The truth, of course, is that regardless of its "Homeland" provenance, this report will have no influence whatsoever on the non-existent "debate over the legality of drone warfare" in the United States. For beyond the rare, isolated op-ed, there is no "debate" on drone warfare in American political or media circles. The bipartisan political establishment is united in its support of the practice; indeed, both parties plan to expand the use of drones on a large scale in the future. This murderous record -- and this shameful complicity -- will be one of the Peace Laureate lasting legacies, whether he wins re-election or not.

As the story notes:

Reprieve's director, Clive Stafford Smith, said: "An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. George Bush wanted to create a global 'war on terror' without borders, but it has taken Obama's drone war to achieve his dream."

Stafford Smith gives more detail of the reality of Washington's terror campaign in his own Guardian piece on the report:

However, there can be no sensible disagreement over certain salient facts: first, the US now has more than 10,000 weaponised drones in its arsenal; second, as many as six Predator drones circle over one location at any given time, often for 24 hours a day, with high-resolution cameras snooping on the movements of everyone below; third, the Predators emit an eerie sound, earning them the name bangana (buzzing wasp) in Pashtu; fourth, everyone in the area can see them, 5,000ft up, all day – and hear them all night long; fifth, nobody knows when the missile will come, and turn each member of the family into what the CIA calls a "bugsplat". The Predator operator, thousands of miles away in Nevada, often pushes the button over a cup of coffee in the darkest hours of the Waziristan night, between midnight and 5am. So a parent putting children to bed cannot be sure they will wake up safely.

Stafford Smith also speaks of his mother, who lived through the attacks by Adolf Hitler's drones -- the V1 and V2 rockets -- toward the end of World War II, and he notes:

So little changes. Current RAF doctrine tells us, euphemistically, how "the psychological impact of air power, from the presence of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to the noise generated by an approaching attack helicopter, has often proved to be extremely effective in exerting influence …" Perhaps they mean "terror", as described by David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist kidnapped and held by the Taliban for months in Waziristan. Rohde, quoted in Living Under Drones, describes the fear the drones inspired in ordinary civilians: "The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death."

Again -- and we've said here over and over, for months, even years: when you vote for one of the factions in the imperial power bloc -- Democrat or Republican -- this is what you are supporting. You are empowering, enabling and associating yourself with an extremist regime that visits bin Laden-like terror on innocent people, day after day, night after night: killing them, traumatizing them, deranging their lives, destroying their families, their hopes and dreams. This is what you are voting for, you stalwart Tea Party patriots. This is what you are voting for, you earnest humanitarian progressives. This and nothing else but this: terror, murder, fear and ruin, in a never-ending, self-perpetuating, all-devouring cycle.

Who's Laughing at Unfunny Maher?

Muslims are no Different, or why Bill Maher’s blood libel is Bigotry

by Juan Cole - Informed Comment

Comedian Bill Maher puts himself in the company of “9/11 liberals” who believe that Islam as a religion is different and decidedly worse than all other religions. He said Friday that ‘at least half of all Muslims believe it is all right to kill someone who insults ‘the Prophet.’ His bad faith is immediately apparent in the reference to 9/11, not the work of mainstream Muslims but of a political cult whose members often spent their time in strip clubs.

Now, it may be objected that Maher has made a career of attacking all religions, and promoting irreverence toward them. So Islam is just one more target for him. But that tack wouldn’t entirely be true. He explicitly singles Islam out as more, much more homocidal than the other religions. He is personally unpleasant to his Muslim guests, such as Keith Ellison. His reaction to the youth of the Arab Spring gathering to try to overthrow their American-backed dictators was “the Arabs are revolting.” Try substituting “Jews” to see how objectionable that is.

Maher ironically has de facto joined an Islamophobic network that is funded by the Mellon Scaife Foundation and other philanthropies tied to the American Enterprise Institute, etc. which is mainly made up of evangelical Christians, bigoted American Jews who would vote for the Likud Party if they could, and cynical Republican businessmen and politicians casting about for something with which to frighten working class Americans into voting for them.

Maher is a consistent liberal and donated $1 million to the Obama campaign, so he is in odd company in targeting Muslims this way. So what explains this animus against Muslims in particular? The only thing he has in common with the Islamophobic Right is his somewhat bloodthirsty form of militant Zionism. He strongly supported the Israeli attack on helpless little Lebanon in 2006, in which the Israelis dropped a million cluster bombs on the farms of the south of that country. He talks about how the besieged Palestinians of Gaza deserve to be “nuked.” His interviews with Likudnik Israeli officials are typically fawning, unlike his combative style with other right wing guests.

In short, Maher is in part reacting as a nationalist to Muslims as a rival national group, and his palpable hatred for them is rooted not in religion but in national self-conception. It is a key tactic of militant Zionism to attempt to demonize and delegitimize Muslims; you don’t have to apologize for colonizing or imposing Apartheid on Palestinians, after all, if they aren’t really human beings. In addition, like many Americans, Maher sees the United States, Europe and Israel as ‘the West’ locked in a rivalry with an alien, Islamic civilization that is intrinsically fanatical and backward (his fellow-traveller on this issue, Pamela Geller, uses the word ‘savage.’) Maher is aware of the history of Christian bloodthirstiness, of course, but he often speaks of it as being in the past. He seems to see contemporary Muslims as having the same sorts of flaws (Inquisition, Crusades) as medieval Christianity.

Maher is not important, but his thesis is widely put forward, and it matters in real people’s lives. There is a nation-wide campaign by religious bigots (most of them sadly evangelical Christians) to prevent American Muslims from building mosques in their communities, and one of the reasons often given is ‘fear’ that the Muslims are homicidal and so the mosque is a conspiracy to commit murder waiting to happen. Maher’s singling out of Muslim as different willy-nilly encourages people to treat them as different, i.e., to discriminate against them.

It is significant that Maher tries to pin the label ‘murderer’ on the Muslims (or half of them?) Because one of the centerpieces of classical Western hatred of Jews was the blood libel, the allegation that they stole the babies of Christians and sacrificed them in secret rituals. It is hard to see what the difference is between that and arguing that some 3 million American Muslims are walking around like a grenade with the pin pulled out. Both blood libels configure a non-Christian group as homicidal, and locate the impulse for their alleged killing sprees in secret religious beliefs opaque to the normal Christian.

Refuting Maher would be tedious and, as others have noted, like nailing jello to the wall, since he doesn’t have a cogent set of testable theses about Muslims, he just despises them. For what it is worth, It is fairly easy to show that Maher’s specific assertions about Muslims, and more especially about American Muslims, are simply not true. Most reject militant groups, and nearly 80% want a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine, i.e. they accept Israel assuming Palestinian statelessness is ended.

Crowd politics is different in various parts of the world and it is certainly true that riots can be provoked in each culture by different things. It is a straw man to say Muslims “would” kill people for insulting Muhammad. How many such killings happen each year? where? And it stacks the deck against them to single out their motive from other possible impetuses to violence. Is the complaint that they are more violent than other people (not in evidence)? Or that their motives for violence are peculiar (depends on how you classify them)? In the United States, the police beating of Rodney King resulted in 3000 shops being burned down in Los Angeles. Race seems to be the thing that sets off riots in the US. Rioting over race relations is so common that major such incidents, as in Cincinnati, often do not even get national press.

The touchiness of Muslims about assaults on the Prophet Muhammad is in part rooted in centuries of Western colonialism and neo-colonialism during which their religion was routinely denounced as barbaric by the people ruling and lording it over them. That is, defending the Prophet and defending the post-colonial nation are for the most part indistinguishable, and being touchy over slights to national identity (and yes, Muslimness is a kind of national identity in today’s world) is hardly confined to Muslims.

In India, dozens of Christians have sometimes been killed by rioting Hindus angry over allegations of missionary work. Killing people because you think they tried to convert members of your religion to another religion? Isn’t it because such a conversion is an insult to your gods?

In Myanmar, angry Buddhists have attacked the hapless Muslim minority, sometimes alleging they were avenging an instance of the rape of a Buddhist girl (i.e. these are like lynchings in the Jim Crow South).

Or then there have been Sri Lanka Buddhist attacks on Tamil Christians. In fact, Sri Lanka Buddhists have erected a nasty police state and shown a propensity for violence against the Tamil minority, some elements of which have had revolutionary or separatist aspirations (not everybody in the group deserves to be punished for that).

And, militant Israeli Jews have set fire to Muslim mosques in Palestine and recently tried to “lynch” three Palestinians in Jerusalem. If Maher thinks only Muslims are thin-skinned, he should try publicly criticizing Israeli policy in America and see what happens to him.

Since Iraq didn’t have ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and wasn’t connected to 9/11, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that 300 million Americans brutally attacked and militarily occupied that country for 8 1/2 years, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the wounding of millions, and the displacement of millions more, mainly because Iraq’s leader had talked dirty about America. Now that is touchy.

Americans tut-tutting over riots in the Arab world appear to have led sheltered lives. In most of the world, crowd actions are common over all kinds of issues, beyond the ones of race, class and college sports teams that routinely provoke them here. When I was living in India there were always items in the newspaper about a bus driver accidentally running over a pedestrian, and then an angry mob forming that killed the bus driver. Neighborhood nationalism. The same sort of crowds gather when a blaspheming author drives his discourse into the sanctity of their neighborhood. It is appalling, but I’m not sure what exactly you would do about that sort of thing. It certainly isn’t confined to Muslims.

In fact, the crowd that attacked the US embassy in Cairo was just 2000 or so people, tiny by Egyptian standards. A demonstration that only attracted 2000 people would usually be considered a dismal failure in Cairo. Likewise, for all its horror and destructiveness, the crowd that assaulted the US consulate in Benghazi was very small, a few hundred people. Many of them have now been chased out of town by outraged Libyans disturbed at this affront to their city’s reputation as a cradle of a revolution made for the sake of human rights. A careful comparison in percentage terms of the size of the crowds that protested Mubarak’s rule in Cairo (hundreds of thousands) with the size of those who protested the so-called film attacking the Prophet Muhammad, shows that the latter is hardly worth mentioning.

Maher is using his position as a comedic gadfly to promote hatred of one-sixth of humankind, and that is wrong, any way you look at it.

Think-Tank Opines; Third "Pearl Harbour" Needed for Iran War

America's unrequited love for Israel: Israel lobbyist hints that ‘Pearl Harbor’ may be needed to get US into war with Iran

by Maidhc Ó Cathail - The Passionate Attachment

Last Friday, during question time at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy policy forum luncheon on “How to Build US-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” the director of research at the pro-Israel think tank hinted that a Pearl Harbor-type attack might be necessary to get the United States to go to war against the Islamic Republic.

“I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough,” said Patrick Clawson, who also heads the Washington Institute’s Iran Security Initiative, in response to a question about what would happen if negotiations with Tehran fail. “And it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … President can get us to war with Iran.”

As a consequence, Clawson said he was led to conclude that “the traditional way [that] America gets to war is what would be best for US interests.”

Intriguingly, he went on to recount a series of controversial incidents in American history — the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the blowing up of the USS Maine — that US presidents “had to wait for” before taking America to war.

“And may I point out that Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked,” Clawson continued, “which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack.”
“So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise,” the Israel lobbyist concluded with a smirk on his face, “it would be best if somebody else started the war.”

Note: Clawson begins his answer around the 1 hour 15 minute mark. 

Libyan Consulate Burning: Spontaneous Combustion, or Planned Political Statement?

US Consulate Killings - Spontaneous Religious or Planned Political?

by Media Lens

On September 11, four Americans, including the US ambassador, were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The following day, the BBC's Lunchtime News reported that the killings were part of 'disturbances' which were 'linked to an anti-Islamic video' (BBC News, September 12, 2012). The BBC's News at Six explained that the US ambassador was killed 'in a protest'. This was mild language indeed given that the consulate had been attacked with assault rifles, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. (According to the New York Times, two US security guards were killed by mortar fire).

We can easily imagine the BBC reaction if the killings had happened under Gaddafi, Chavez or some other official enemy. The favoured adjective, 'terrorist', would surely have made an early appearance.

How to explain the BBC's response? The key, of course, is that the current Libyan government owes its existence to Western military intervention. It achieved power because the West exploited UN resolution 1973, which authorised a 'no-fly zone', as an excuse to bomb Gaddafi's forces to defeat. The 'no-fly zone' in fact became a 'no-drive zone' for one side of the conflict. As so often, the BBC was taking its cue from Washington and Downing Street. Obama expressed 'appreciation for the cooperation we have received from the Libyan government and people in responding to this outrageous attack... This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya'.

Like most other media, the BBC instantly concluded that the 'protest' and killings were expressions of religious rather than political anger. As late as September 22, the BBC reported: 'The attack on the US consulate was triggered by an amateur video made in the US which mocks Islam.'

In similar vein, Julian Borger wrote an article in the Guardian under the title: 'How anti-Islamic movie sparked lethal assault on US consulate in Libya.' Kim Sengupta commented in the Independent:

'The US ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff were killed in an attack by an armed mob which stormed the country's consulate in Benghazi in a furious protest over an American film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.'

How, the world asked, could any sane human being kill over a second-rate film, over the idea that a religion had been insulted? Reasonable questions. On the other hand, one might ask how anyone could kill or die for a flag, or an idea like 'the Homeland/Fatherland/Motherland', or for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Subsequent reporting suggested that the initial media consensus blaming a provocative film was false. The Telegraph noted:

'A security guard wounded in the attack... has insisted it was a planned assault by Islamist fighters, and not a protest that got out of hand.

'The guard, who works for a British firm, said there was no demonstration over a controversial anti-Islamic film before extremists stormed the compound in the eastern city of Benghazi.'

Matthew Olsen, director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: 'I would say [the four Americans] were killed in the course of a terrorist attack.'

Olsen added:

'A number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area. We are looking as well at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaida or al Qaida's affiliates, including al Qaida in the Maghreb.'

US Senator Joe Lieberman also questioned the US regime's assertion that the attack was spontaneous:

'I will tell you based on the briefings I have had, I have come to the opposite conclusion and agree with the president of Libya that this was a premeditated, planned attack that was associated with the... anniversary of 9/11. I just don't think people come to protest equipped with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and other heavy weapons.'

Between June and August in Benghazi, there had been bomb, grenade and RPG attacks on the US consulate, the UK ambassador's motorcade, the Tunisian consulate, and the local headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, with leafleted warnings of more to come. CNN reported that Chris Stevens was 'worried about what he called the never-ending security threats' and 'mentioned his name was on an al Qaeda hit list'.

The attack also gave an insight into the US role in the country it helped 'liberate'. The New York Times observed:

'Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.'

Their role in a Libya that we are told is 'free' and 'independent':

'American intelligence operatives also assisted State Department contractors and Libyan officials in tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from the former arsenals of Colonel Qaddafi's forces; they aided in efforts to secure Libya's chemical weapons stockpiles; and they helped train Libya's new intelligence service, officials said.'

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, evidence that the attack was a carefully planned, politically-motivated attack, rather than a spontaneous eruption of religious ire, is the wrong kind of news for the many supporters of Nato's intervention in Libya:

'Critics of the war in Libya warned that the US was siding with (and arming and empowering) violent extremists, including al-Qaida elements, that would eventually cause the US to claim it had to return to Libya to fight against them – just as its funding and arming of Saddam in Iraq and the mujahideen in Afghanistan subsequently justified new wars against those one-time allies.'

The truth of the attack 'underscores how unstable, lawless and dangerous Libya has become'. Indeed, as we noted in July, the media did an excellent job of burying an Amnesty International report which described 'the mounting toll of victims of an increasingly lawless Libya, where the transitional authorities have been unable or unwilling to rein in the hundreds of militias formed during and after the 2011 conflict'.

This post-intervention mayhem is something supporters of Western intervention are naturally keen to hide – focus on a 'mocking' film has served the purpose.
'Killing US Embassy Staff Is Cool' – The Media Lens View, Obviously

David Aaronovitch of The Times shared the standard view that religious fanatics had attacked the embassy, adding:

'Protesters protest. We need another word for people who want to storm buildings and burn them down.'

Perhaps we also need another word for Aaronovitch. He wrote in 2003:

'Kosovo was, most of us agree, "worth it". Worth it even though we hit the train on the bridge at Leskovac, killing 10, and the refugee convoy at Prizren in Kosovo which slaughtered more than 70. "Worth it" to both Robin Cook (then foreign secretary) and me. As was the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 or, in Afghanistan, the infamous missile attack on the gun-toting wedding party.'

After we sent a tweet noting Aaronovitch's own enthusiasm for embassy burning, a small number of readers challenged him. His response:

'I couldn't work out where the trickle of "killing US embassy staff is cool" Twitter dickheads was coming from. Then medialens tweeted.'

To his credit, Glenn Greenwald - who had begun following us on Twitter a few days earlier – spoke up in our defence (a rare occurrence for a high-profile mainstream journalist), observing that Aaronovitch had 'just smeared @medialens with a lie' and 'a wretched falsehood'.

Greenwald wrote to us: 'You are really deeper in the heads of the British establishment-serving commentariat than anyone else - congrats.'

On Twitter, he noted that we had in fact challenged political analyst Sharmine Narwani on the same point after she had asked:

'100s of 1,000s of Arabs & Muslims slaughtered by American troops. Tell me again why I should care about whatshisname-plus-three? #Libya.'

We responded: 'Because all suffering is equal.' (David Edwards, Twitter, September 12, 2012)

Narwani missed the point, replying: 'If it were equal, the NYTimes would cover dead Arabs every day...uoften dead b/c of US policies.'

We wrote back:

'That's right - they certainly don't see suffering as equal. I'm saying that's our reason for caring about all, including those 4.' (Edwards, Twitter, September 12, 2012)

We never quite get used to the jaw-dropping cynicism of the smears flung at us by Aaronovitch et al. Anyone who has read even a small sample of what we have written knows that we would never endorse the idea that 'killing US embassy staff is cool' (Aaronovitch is certainly familiar with our work; he once urged one of us to meet with him, insisting: 'I'm not that bad.').

We had earlier written on Twitter:

'Terrible when anyone dies (so many have suffered in Libya), but notice the very particular shock and horror when the Empire is struck.' (Edwards, Twitter, September 12, 2012)

We expanded on this in a tweet quoted by Greenwald in his Guardian column:

'A crucial task is to perceive how our compassion is channelled towards some and away from others. It's the foundation of all mass violence.' (Edwards, Twitter, September 12, 2012)

We were obviously arguing against the idea that the US consulate deaths were 'cool' and in favour of equalised compassion for all.

Greenwald commented: 'There is a clear hierarchy of human life being constantly reinforced by this mentality, and it is deeply consequential.'

A key focus of our work over the last decade has been to show how media bias reinforces this 'hierarchy of human life'. It plays a crucial role in fuelling the barbarism of our world.

Aaronovitch responded to Greenwald's expression of support for Media Lens, reminding him we were 'Kooks', before adding his perception of the likely consequences for Greenwald's reputation: 'Your funeral.'

In conclusion, Aaronovitch advised Greenwald: 'One last piece of information. You have signed up alongside the stupidest and most extreme section of the British left. Enjoy.'

But, someone asked, surely Greenwald was aware that Media Lens 'deny Serbian atrocities' (we do not). Did he not agree that these accusations were accurate? Greenwald replied: 'I didn't follow their views on that at the time, but from what I've seen since: false.'

Prize-winning former Guardian journalist, Jonathan Cook, commented:

'David Aaronovitch's Twitter comment "Your funeral" to Glenn Greenwald was exceptionally revealing, didn't you think? Among other things, it suggested not only that he sees the UK liberal media as an exclusive old boys' club - and he's not wrong about that, it seems – but that he regards himself as the president of it. Would that make [The Observer's] Nick Cohen the treasurer, and [The Observer's] Peter Beaumont the receptionist?' (Email to Media Lens, September 14, 2012)

So what are we to make of the media's reflexive tendency to report and accept the claims of power at face value, and even to adopt the exact same tone in responding to controversial events? Do we at Media Lens imagine that senior editors and journalists sit around conspiring to deceive the public?

The truth is much more prosaic and even more disturbing. Establishment bias is built into the very structure, the very DNA, of professional journalism. Robert McChesney and John Nichols explain in their book Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy (The New Press, 2005):

'Professional journalism places a premium on legitimate news stories based upon what people in power say and do. The appeal is clear. It removes the tinge of controversy from story selection – "Hey, the Governor said it so we had to cover it" – and it makes journalism less expensive: Simply place reporters near people in power and have them report on what is said and done. It also gives journalism a very conventional feel, as those in power have a great deal of control over what gets covered and what does not. Reporting often turns into dictation as journalists are loathe to antagonize their sources, depending upon them as they do for stories.'

No conspiracy theory is required – the corporate system naturally tends to generate conformity across the media 'spectrum'.

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

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