Monday, April 13, 2009

Just The Questions Send A Chill Up Ones Spine |Tomgram: Roane Carey, Will Israel Attack Iran? | Can Israel Go It Alone?

Just The Questions Send A Chill Up Ones Spine |Tomgram: Roane Carey, Will Israel Attack Iran? | Can Israel Go It Alone?



There Is No One In This Post Asking You For Money Or To Sign Yet Another Petition, Just Intelligent Folks Asking You To Read And Think!


Just The Questions Send A Chill Up Ones Spine |Tomgram: Roane Carey, Will Israel Attack Iran? | Can Israel Go It Alone?


Sometimes, reading about the Middle East, or at least about Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons, feels like your most basic broken-record phenomenon. As New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen reminded readers recently, there's nothing new about Israeli predictions that Iranian "madmen" -- or rather, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of a rather extreme new government, put it recently, "a messianic apocalyptic cult" -- would soon have nuclear weapons in their hands. The charges and predictions of the imminent arrival of the Iranian bomb go back well into the 1990s and yet, despite Iran's growing nuclear enrichment program, we still don't know what the true predilections of its leaders are on the basic issue of weaponization. (They might, for instance, be planning to opt for the Japan "solution," not weaponizing, but simply being capable of doing so relatively quickly.) 

The other part of that broken-record phenomenon concerns Israel's nuclear arsenal, which I wrote about at TomDispatch back in 2003, since which time remarkably little has changed. One of the genuinely strange aspects of just about anything you can read here in the U.S. on nuclear weapons and the Middle East is this: all fear and much print (and TV time) is focused on whether the Iranians may someday, in the near or far future, get a nuclear weapon; that is, we're focused on a weapon that doesn't yet exist and, for all we know, may never exist. 

In the meantime, just about no mention is ever made of Israel's massive nuclear arsenal, which includes city-busting weapons, and leaves that tiny country as perhaps the fifth largest nuclear power on the planet. In addition, at least some of its nuclear weapons are on submarines in the Mediterranean, which means that the country is invulnerable to the madness of a take-out first strike by any other nation. This is simply reality. 

The Israelis have long taken a position in which, as Jonathan Schellonce put the matter, "They won't confirm or deny that they have [nuclear weapons], but they have this curious phrase: 'We will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.' Evidently, in some abstruse way, possessing them is not introducing them." Our media has, in essence, accepted the Israeli approach to its arsenal as if it were a reasonable reportorial stance on the subject. It's from within this distinctly unbalanced world of heightened fear and silence that we read of both the dangers of the Iranian bomb and responses to it, which is in itself, simply put, dangerous. 

Recently, warnings from Israel about possible future attacks on Iran have multiplied. Roane Carey, managing editor of the Nation magazine and co-editor of The Other Israel, is in Israel at the moment on a journalism fellowship at the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy. As his first piece for this site, I asked him to offer an assessment from that country of just how dangerous the most recent warnings and threats actually are. Tom


Don't Flash the Yellow Light
Mixed Messages from Washington Could Lead to Catastrophe in Iran
By Roane Carey

JERUSALEM -- Israel has been steadily ratcheting up pressure on the United States concerning the grave threat allegedly posed by Iran, which seems poised to master the nuclear fuel cycle, and thus the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The new Israeli prime minister, Likud Party hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned President Barack Obamathat if Washington does not quickly find a way to shut down Iran's nuclear program, Israel will.

Some analysts argue that this is manufactured hysteria, not so much a reflection of genuine Israeli fears as a purposeful diversion from other looming difficulties. The Netanyahu government is filled with hardliners adamantly opposed to withdrawal from, or even a temporary freeze on, settlements in the occupied territories, not to mention to any acceptance of Palestinian statehood. On his first day as foreign minister, extremist demagogue Avigdor Lieberman, with characteristic bluster, announced that Israel was no longer bound by the 2007 Annapolis agreements brokered by Washington, which called for accelerated negotiations toward a two-state settlement.

Such talk threatens to lead the Israelis directly into a clash with the Obama administration. In what can only be taken as a rebuttal of the Netanyahu government's recent pronouncements, in his speech to the Turkish Parliament Obama pointedly reasserted Washington's commitment to a two-state settlement and to the Annapolis understandings. So what better way for Netanyahu to avoid an ugly clash with a popular American president than to conveniently shift the discussion to an existential threat from Iran -- especially if he can successfully present it as a threat not just to Israel but to the West in general?

All of this adds up to a plausible argument against undue alarm over the latest Israeli warnings about an attack on Iran, but it's flawed on several grounds. There is a broad, generally accepted paranoia in Israel about Iran, a belief that its leaders must be stopped before they proceed much further in their uranium enrichment program. (This view is not shared on the Israeli left, but it's now a ghost of its former self.)

In an interview for TomDispatch, Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a specialist on the Iran issue, commented, "Of course there are different opinions, but there is a general consensus, among both security experts and political leaders, from Labor to the right wing. This is not a controversial issue: if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will pose a deep threat. It will be the first time in our history that another country can deal a major blow to Israel."

Kam hastens to add that, in his own view, the scenario Netanyahu proposes -- that Iran is led by irrational fanatics who would nuke Israel at the first chance, even knowing that an Israeli nuclear counterstrike would be swift and catastrophic -- is false. "Iran is a pragmatic, logical player," Kam says. He remains convinced that "even a radical fundamentalist regime" wouldn't attack Israel, but he adds, "This is just my assessment, and assessments can go wrong. I wrote a study on wrong assessments, so I know something about this." In other words, if Kam's claims about the Israeli consensus are correct, the country's leadership takes it for granted that Iran is indeed hell-bent on producing a nuclear weapon and is not inclined to take a chance that a nuclear Iran will play by the MAD (as in mutually assured destruction) rules hammered out by the two Cold War superpowers decades ago and never use it.

This attitude reflects a longstanding Israeli strategic principle: that no neighboring state or combination of states can ever be allowed to achieve anything faintly approaching military parity, because if they do, they will try to destroy the Jewish state. By this logic, Israel's only option is to establish and then maintain absolute military superiority over its neighbors; they will, so this view goes, accept Israel's presence only if they know they're sure to be defeated, or at least vastly outmatched.

This is the famous "iron wall," conceived by early Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky more than 80 years ago, well before the founding of Israel itself. (Jabotinsky founded the Revisionist movement, which in opposition to the Labor mainstream refused to accept any territorial compromise regarding Zionist aims, such as partition. Although he and his followers were for years shut out of the political leadership, their views regarding Israel's neighbors became deeply lodged in the public psyche.) If Iran were to acquire the capacity to build even one nuke -- Israel itself is estimated to have 150-200 of them -- that iron wall would be considered seriously breached, and the country might no longer be able to dictate terms to its neighbors. Given Iran's support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israel would then have to recalibrate its strategy both on its northern front and vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Recent developments in Israel could certainly give the impression of a nation preparing for war: the Home Front command, one of four regional divisions of the Israeli army, has just announced the largest defense exercise in the country's history. It will last an entire week and is intended to prepare the civilian population for missile strikes from both conventional warheads and unconventional ones (whether chemical, biological or nuclear). Meanwhile, the country is accelerating its testing of missile defense systems, having just announced the successful launchof the Arrow II interceptor.

Can Israel Go It Alone?

Would Israel really attack Iran without at least tacit approval from Washington? Could Israel do so without such approval? At the very least, Israel would need approval simply to get permission to fly over Iraq, whose airspace is controlled by the U.S. military, not the Iraqi government in Baghdad. As columnist Aluf Bennput it in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, "Defense experts say that without a green light from Washington, Netanyahu and Barak will not be able to send in the air force." Kam adds, "In my judgment, it is somewhere between difficult to impossible for Israel to do it alone, for both technical and political reasons."

Most analysts here believe that a solo Israeli attack would, at best, set back Iran's nuclear program by several years -- not that this would necessarily be a deterrent to Netanyahu & Co. It's widely believed that, in their view, even a temporary delay in Iran's nuclear capability would be an improvement on the current course. It's worth recalling that Israel sought an explicit go-ahead from the Bush administration for an attack last year, which President Bush -- presumably fearing massive conventional retaliation from Iran in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- sensibly refused, a rare moment in his tenure when he did not accede to Israeli wishes.

It's also clear that President Obama seeks to resolve the standoff with Iran through diplomatic means. He's abandoned the confrontational rhetoric of his predecessor and continues to extend peace feelers to the Islamic Republic. Tehran's response has been mixed, but at least a new mood of negotiation is in the air.

Israeli strategists, however, see this new mood as threatening, not hopeful. Any U.S. rapprochement with Iran -- especially if carried out on terms that acknowledge Iran's status as a regional power -- could, they fear, undermine Israel's "special relationship" with Washington. As Iran analyst Trita Parsi put it in a recent piece in the Huffington Post, Iran would then "gain strategic significance in the Middle East at the expense of Israel."

It's within the realm of possibility, for example, that Washington could work out a grand bargain with Tehran terminating its policy of regime change and ending sanctions in return for Tehran's vow never to weaponize its nuclear program. Intrusive international inspections would presumably guarantee such a bargain, but Tehran's national pride would remain intact, as it would be allowed to retain the right to enrich uranium and develop a peaceful nuclear infrastructure.

There has even been some recent slippage in Washington's language when it comes to demands placed on Iran -- with an insistence on an end to all nuclear enrichment evidently being replaced by an insistence on no weapons development. To Israel, this would be a completely unsatisfactory compromise, as its leaders fear that Iran might at some point abandon such an agreement and in fairly short order weaponize.

Given Obama's new approach, it might seem that Israel is stymied for now. After all, it's hard to imagine Obama giving the go-ahead for an attack. Just this week, Vice President Joe Biden told CNN that he thought such an Israeli attack "would be ill-advised."

Other factors, however, play in the hardliners' favor: the Obama administration's new special envoy for Iran, Dennis Ross, is himself a hardliner. Last year, Ross was part of an ultra-hawkish task force that predicted the failure of any negotiations and all but called for war with Iran. Ross is a man who not onlyknows how to play the bureaucratic game in Washington, but has powerful backers in the administration, and his views will have plenty of support from pro-Israel hawks in Congress.

The attitude of another key sector in decision-making, the high command of the U.S. military, may also be evolving. Washington's dilemma in Iraq is not nearly as dire as it was two years ago. The nightmare envisioned by the American generals running the Iraq campaign in recent years -- that, in response to an attack on its nuclear facilities, Iran could send tens of thousands of well-trained commandos across the border and inflict grave damage on U.S. forces -- has faded somewhat. The Iraqi government's military has much better control of the country today, with insurgent violence at far lower levels. The Shiite Mahdi Army and Iran-connected "special groups" seem to be mostly quiescent.

Of course, the situation in Iraq is still unstable, and any attack on Iran could easily throw the country back into ungovernable chaos. Still, given the role we know American commanders played in nixing such an attack in the Bush years, the question remains: Has resistance to such an attack lessened in the military? It's unclear, but an issue worth monitoring, because American commanders were the most consistent, persuasive voices for moderation during the Bush administration.

It should go without saying that an Israeli attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences. No matter what Washington might claim, or how vociferously officials there denounce it, such an attack would be widely understood throughout the Muslim world as a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.

It would, as a start, serve as a powerful recruiting tool for extremist Islamist groups. In addition, an outraged Iran might indeed send commandos into Iraq, aid armed Iraqi groups determined to attack U.S. and government forces, shoot missiles into the Saudi or Kuwaiti oilfields, and attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz though which a significant percentage of global oil passes. Washington would certainly have to write off desperately needed cooperation in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Any attack would only strengthen the reign of the mullahs in Iran and reinforce the country's determination to acquire a nuclear deterrent force that would prevent future attacks. And keep in mind, Iran's nuclear program has overwhelming public support, even from those opposed to the current regime.

Given the Netanyahu government's visible determination to attack, an ambiguous signal from Washington, something far less than a green light, could be misread in Tel Aviv. Anything short of a categorical, even vociferous U.S. refusal to countenance an Israeli attack might have horrific consequences. So here's a message to Obama from an observer in Israel: Don't flash the yellow light -- not even once.

Roane Carey, on leave as managing editor of the Nation magazine, is on a journalism fellowship at the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel. He is co-editor of The Other Israel (New Press).


Appeasement: Meaning: We, The United States, are not blindly supporting Israel’s every desire, not thumbing our nose at every International Law and Convention, Not threatening to Bomb The Shit out of any nation doing something we don’t approve of, conducting Wars to achieve anything that suits us, and in no uncertain terms are we going to admit to anyone that we are wrong or apologize for any blood letting, Genocide, or any other act that others may perceive as being either arrogant or characteristic “The Ugly American”.


What an Unadulterated Crock!




"Look Forward, Not Back," and Other Cliches, Idiocies, and Abused Words

Contributed by blackandred on Sun, 2009-04-12 21:00.

In sections:




"Look forward, Not Back," and Other Cliches, Idiocies, and Abused Words

By Edward S. Herman; April 2009 - Z Magazine


One of my favorite cliches of today is “look forward, not back,” also a favorite of President Obama and Vice President Biden. These leaders are under a certain amount of pressure to prosecute, or at least investigate, the Bush-Cheney gang’s war crimes and violations of U.S. and international law. There is also the matter of principle: That is, whether there can be said to be a “rule of law” when high level but serious violators of law are beyond prosecution. Barry Bonds must be pursued because he allegedly may have lied to a grand jury on his use of steroids, but Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld-Powell lied many times on issues involving mass killing and violations of domestic and international law. Of course they haven’t lied before a grand jury, but that is because the establishment won’t let them be put before a grand jury. But what then happens to that famous “deterrent” that is so important when the establishment deals with and punishes lower-class law violators?

This use of the “look forward” cliché today is in the Pelosi “impeachment-off-the-table” mold, which is itself in the Democratic Party tradition of bipartisanship and agreement that international law doesn’t apply to this country and its leaders (or to those of a major client state like Israel). Dean Acheson said it way back in 1963 before the American Society of International Law: No “legal issue” can arise when U.S. “power, position, and prestige” are at stake. In that same tradition Bill Clinton was pleased to bomb the al-Shifra pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan in 1998 and attack Yugoslavia in 1999, in violation of the UN Charter, and Obama himself has quickly joined this great tradition. Veteran analyst of Afghan civilian casualties Marc Herold credits Obama with 72 Afghan civilian killings during January 21-February 23, with no perceptible slowing down of the kill rate from that of the Bush-Cheney era (Herold, "Seventy-Two Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S/NATO since Obama Took the Reins," Diagonal No. 97, marzo 5-19, 2009, Madrid, forthcoming in Spanish).

Of course, sometimes we must look back. Even after the NATO defeat of Yugoslavia and occupations of Bosnia and Kosovo, Milosevic had to be pursued and the Bosnian Serb leaders Mladic and Karadzic captured and brought to trial, because the Bosnian Muslims cannot move forward until they obtain justice. The Serbs must apologize often and humbly and must cough up each Serb participant in the earlier wars demanded by the ICTY, both in the interests of justice and to obtain world forgiveness and reentry into the community of honorable states that only kill in self-defense. The Srebrenica massacre must be remembered each year for the same reasons--of the still-to-be realized justice to the satisfaction of the victims and the need for sincere apologies and proper behavior by the guilty population. So the Serbs also cannot move forward without looking back. Furthermore, how could the United States and NATO justify the followup “humanitarian interventions” in Afghanistan and Iraq unless it is proven in (kangaroo) court and reiterated that justice had triumphed in Yugoslavia?

By the same politicized and power-based double standard, Vietnam war leaders Nixon and Johnson—and the many scores of their killer colleagues like Walt and Eugene Rostow, George and William Bundy, Robert “Blowtorch” Komer, William Colby, and William Westmoreland—could prosper and die in bed, because the millions of dead Vietnamese victims had no avenues through which they could realize justice; there was no tribunal created by the UN Security Council to pursue the big-time criminals in that case. The lesser but still impressive killers in Western client states, like Suharto and the Shah of Iran, could also prosper and die in bed. Israel has been able to “move forward” in seizing Palestinian land, with positive assistance from the same powers that have required justice for victims in the former Yugoslavia. In short, in the Age of Kafka the global double standard on the link between justice and “moving forward” is truly impressive.

Projection Cliché—The Violent “Extremists”

In his very useful book The Liberal Defense of Murder, Richard Seymour quotes Christopher Hitchens' friend Martin Amis, who says “The extremists, for now, have the monopoly of violence, intimidation, and self-righteousness.” Bush, Blair, Olmert and their gangs are clearly not the “extremists” Amis has in mind—Bush and friends are the ”self-defense” folks just striving for a wee bit of security and human rights, and fighting off the invasions of their territory by the Islamo-fascists. The pitiful giant, with 50 percent of the arms budget of the earth, invading or bombing at least three countries right now, is being overwhelmed by the violent folks, “for now.” Among the other things that make this projection comical, the Pentagon’s National Security statement of 2002 was quite clear on the intent to monopolize the means of violence and to prevent any challenger to this monopoly position from realizing that challenge, implicitly by force. But I guess that was all a bluff by a gang that knew that the Islamo-fascists had them whipped, for now.

This kind of idiocy may rest in part on the ultra-self-righteousness of the Western racist-nationalist-imperialist bloc and their pundits and thinkers, who don’t count Western arms and Western aggression and murder as violence any more than they can use the word “extremists” to refer to their home-grown big-time aggression enthusiasts, managers, and killers. One frequently reads about Western officials demanding that the people who are resisting Western encroachments and rule “eschew violence.” Only one side has a right to arms, occupation of somebody else’s land, “self-defense,” and violence—only when “we” do it it cannot be called violence.

This is closely analogous to the treatment of “terrorism.” Retail terrorism by dissidents, rebels, and resisters to a Western or Western-back state (e.g., the African National Congress in apartheid South Africa), is “terrorism” (the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the Pentagon in 1988, but not Jonas Savimbi and UNITA in Angola, supported by South Africa and the United States). State terrorism, often extremely violent, and commonly using torture, regularly induces resistance (e.g. Israeli versus Palestinian; Guatemalan military versus Mayan victims). But state terrorism is not called terrorism, it is “retaliation” or “counter-terrorism.” It is also not “violence,” an invidious word reserved for the Western-designated bad guys, taking its place alongside “terrorism.”

Nuttiest Argument for the Iraq Invasion-Occupation: Nick Cohen on Getting Rid of the Iraq Sanctions Regime

The establishment intellectuals and pundits quickly adjusted the reasons for the Iraq invasion-occupation from protecting our national security from Saddam’s WMD to our desire to bring liberty to the Iraq people. Their ability to do this while Bush-Cheney were busy reducing U.S. liberty, cozying up to Karimov and Musharaff, and struggling as long as they could to prevent free elections in Iraq itself, is really touching on their patriotic ardor and capacity for self-deception. The classic here is Michael Ignatieff's NYT Magazine piece “Who Are Americans To Think That Freedom Is Theirs To Spread” (June 26, 2005), where the author feels no obligation to prove the liberation goal beyond the fact that Bush declared it to be so. This swallowing of a completely implausible propaganda line was extremely widespread in the United States, running from George Packer in the New Yorker and Frank Rich in the New York Times to the entire rightwing stable at Fox.

It was also widespread in Britain. Seymour quotes British journalist Nick Cohen, a noted member of the UK branch of the cruise missile left, who was enthused at the prospect of a “multiracial devolved democracy, which stands up for human rights,” which he saw as the outcome of the invasion-occupation. Seymour also notes Cohen’s questioning of “how Noam Chomsky and John Pilger manage to oppose a war which would end the sanctions they claim have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would have had happy, healthy lives in a prison state.” Of course, Cohen isn’t admitting those children’s deaths from sanctions, but what an idiotic line of thought! The sanctions were imposed by the two imperial states at the expense of those children (their deaths were “worth it,” according to Madeleine Albright), and could have been ended by their simply deciding that more sanctions-deaths of children were no longer worth it. This never seems to occur to Cohen, who is offering implicit apologetics for those sanctions killings. But the further irony is that the invasion-occupation that Cohen is defending in the quoted passage killed hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, and the children of Iraq are not living “happy, healthy lives” in a wonderful democracy. So Cohen offers crude apologetics for two phases of the imperial mass killing of Iraqis, and he demonstrates a complete incapacity to analyse and forecast the imperial goals and processes of his leaders as they did their dirty work in that victim country. But on the other hand, his service to those imperial leaders and the imperial state is exemplary.

“We” and “Our”

Who is included in “we” and “our”? In the political system it is notorious that members of the elite use “we” and “our” when they appeal to the underlying population even as they are in the midst of betraying the general citizenry. They are protecting “our security” in Afghanistan, and advancing “our” economic interests as they pour taxpayer dollars into Citicorp and AIG. However, they are sometimes honest about a narrower meaning of “we,” almost always in exchanges within their in-group. This was given public expression when the fired and angry former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, told the story of his exchanges over tax policy with Cheney and Rove to Ron Suskind, whose bookThe Price of Loyalty is built on O’Neill’s words and documents. In 2004 O’Neill, a conservative and former CEO of the Aluminum Company of America, opposed Cheney and Rove on tax cuts on dividends and further cuts for upper income groups. O’Neill thought the rich had had enough by then at the expense of the middle class. But Cheney’s response to O’Neill was that “We won the midterms. This is our due.” The “our” is telling. Bush had once publicly admitted that fat cats were his real constituency— Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 includes a video of Bush speaking at a fund-raising dinner, saying "This is an impressive crowd -- the Haves, and the Have-Mores. Some people call you 'The Elite'. I call you my 'Base'. [Laughter]." And Cheney, responding to O’Neill, is obviously talking about those Haves and Have Mores as “our” people. In this exchange, as reported by Suskind, Bush actually suggested that maybe the middle class should be given a break at this point, but Cheney demured, and Suskind-O’Neill state that Rove chimed in appealing to Bush to “stick to principle.” The principle is presumably trickle-down theory, or maybe the “principle” is Cheney’s view that “we” won the election hence have the right to reward ourselves—a right of conquest. These are principles of class warfare, put into reality in the Bush years, but certainly with the help of the mainstream media and Democrats.

We should note that Ignatieff’s view that it is "Americans" who think that freedom is "Theirs To Spread," is in the same deceptive tradition of implying that what the elite support is what the American people want. The editors of theNew York Times obviously approved of this refurbished Bush twist of apologetics for invading and occupying Iraq, but they also approved the original invasion based on the threat of WMD, backed by the war-propaganda reporting of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller and their commentary columns by Kenneth Pollack and company. The public was less enthused and had to be lied to by the Bush team and New York Times. “We” the public didn’t want this war and increasingly disapproved it, but the elite “we” supported it.









TMP Cafe

Obligations elsewhere mean that a full post under this name can only appear generally once a week, usually on Saturdays. This week's was published yesterday.  

But it is hard to ignore a growing noise that could well become dangerous. As Jon Stewart explained last week, dissenting from what the government is doing is not only acceptable in this country, it should be encouraged. While many of us believe we have a president who has the potential to be a great one, others, quite naturally, do not agree and are unhappy with his proposals, and with a Congress that appears to agree with them.

There is no intent to criticize Stewart, who is as important a voice as there is, in saying that it is  wrong to trivialize (or even exult in) the extreme language being used to express that dissent. Media Matters did a good job collecting many of them and kos himself noted a similar tone in some of what else is out there. Comments posted to that post allowed some concerns to be vented, but this essay is a longer version of them, because, honestly, this is becoming frightening. To those of us who have been around a few years this is a scary repeat of the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s. The "Impeach Earl Warren" campaign, based mainly on the Supreme Court's decisions desegregating public schools and against religious ceremonies on public grounds, including at schools, was a particularly memorable example of reasonable dissent morphing into incendiary rage. Indeed, the intolerance that was not only encouraged by the John Birch Society, but propogated by such broadcast and newspaper figures as Fulton Lewis, Jr. and then his son, F.L. III, and the many others who followed the extremists Father Coughlin and Westbrook Pegler in the prior generation, ultimately found their voice from the podium of the Republican National Convention when its presidential candidate proclaimed that


It is, sadly true that when President Roosevelt died exactly 64 years ago today, there were some who were quietly happy. Eighteen years later, far more expressed (even publicly) satisfaction in the murder of President Kennedy. Indeed, the Warren Commission detailed the many extreme comments made in Dallas in the weeks before that horrible event, including the publication of this hand bill similar to an advertisement published in a major newspaper.

The result of all of this, so sadly similar to that we heard during the campaign just finished, and the garbage passing for political commentary today, ended tragically as we all know and prompted this from Chet Huntley in the middle of that evening's Huntley-Brinkley Report.


(The magazine he is referring to was, by the way, the National Review. Things haven't changed much, huh?)

And here we are 45 years plus later, and Chet Huntley's prayer has still not been realized.

Huntley was right. Some of us are guilty of incendiary talk---we cheered the guy who threw shoes at the President of the United States, and we expressed hatred for that President and the repulsive Vice President with whom he served. But the levels of rhetoric have increased markedly since President Obama's election began to seem likely and certainly since his inauguration.

There is no place for this stuff. It has to stop. It is irresponsible. If a guy like Limbaugh or Beck thinks he is being funny or just making a buck, he does not seem to care about the impulses it unleashes in the less balanced among us. Others should know better. 

It is our duty to cause those who ignore or want to laugh about these excesses to pay attention to what is going on here. If the whole goal was nothing more than a stupid empty impeachment, which was bad enough in distracting the country from more serious issues, we could certainly hoot them down by now. But impeachment is off the table now and these screwballs are getting angrier by the moment. It is important that we act now to prevent this from getting worse.


Feds Need Torture Commission Now
CBS News - New York,NY,USA
11 torture practices, Holder deftly tossed the potato not to his boss in the White House, but to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee...

CourtWatch: The President And Congress Should Set Up Bipartisan Panel To Understand Why Torture Occurred, If It Reached Goals

Comment On This Post

April 12, 2009 | by Andrew Cohen

Like the good politician that he is, Attorney General Eric Holder last week question about the advisability of a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" that would broadly investigate America’s descent into torture both as a technique and as a policy in the war on terrorism. Even in the immediate wake of a shockingly-detailed Red Cross report on America’s post-Sept. 11 torture practices, Holder deftly tossed the potato not to his boss in the White House, but to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). 

Sen. Leahy is famously on the record as favoring such a commission - but only if the Republicans play along. Leahy blames the GOP for labeling any sort of official review of our torture policies as a post-hoc witch hunt. But he also blames human rights organizations for pushing too loudly for criminal charges for former officials. And therein lays the genius of a blue-ribbon, bipartisan panel on torture policy; it’s the most reasonable compromise offering the best possible outcome for the most people on the still-contentious political, legal, moral and ethical issue of why we tortured before - and whether we should again. 

Despite a slew of recent coverage summarizing the damming Red Cross report, the notion of prosecuting the men who engaged in torture, or the lawyers and bureaucrats who blithely authorized them, still has little legal or political traction here in the United States. Like it or not, American law virtually guarantees the failure of a torture case against, say, former White House counsel. But in Poland and the United Kingdom, officials reportedly have begun criminal investigations into the past conduct of U.S. officials. And a Spanish magistrate may be ready even as early as this week to indict on torture charges former U.S officials like Alberto Gonzales and Jay Bybee. 

The White House and the Congress shouldn’t allow zealous foreign prosecutors, domestic inertia or restrictive legal precedent to determine how the torture debate evolves. It’s not enough to declare again, as the Administration did on Friday, an official end to the use of “secret prisons” all over the world. It’s not enough to say we will no longer torture or contract out torture to private contractors. We must fully understand why and how we sanctioned torture, and why and how it did or did not ultimately work, so that we may react properly and decisively the next time the question of torture flares up as an option in fight to protect Americans from terrorism. 

No foreign prosecution is going to accomplish that goal. And no domestic prosecution is going to get anywhere close enough to trial to make a difference. President Obama and Congress should do the right thing right now and set up a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel - like the well-conceived and brilliantly-executed 9/11 Commission. If the Bush Administration itself could accede to a contemporaneous study of its own negligence and incompetence in the lead-up to Sept. 11, and then ensure such a worthy report as we got from the 9/11 Commissioners, then surely the Obama Administration could and should accede to a fair look-back on torture. 

Indeed, the current Justice Department has taken several concrete steps toward illuminating the rest of us on some of the Bush-era decisions surrounding the war on terror. We now know, for example, that some Bush officials early on in the fight contemplated drastic restrictions upon our First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights. We are anticipating the release of more of those legal “memos” that offered justification and rationale for the ugly practices that have done so much damage to our reputation and which may, in the end, have been far less successful than initially claimed. 

Taking this concept one step further, the White House and Justice Department must ensure the value of a torture commission by granting use immunity to (and the concomitant power of contempt over) all officials, in and out of government now, who would need to be questioned by members and investigators. Such a bold stroke would break the legal gridlock that has muted Holder and Company, give powerful political momentum to commission advocates like Leahy, and offer President Obama another opportunity to demonstrate the “post-partisanship” for which he wants to be famous. Combine this immunity with a diplomatic initiative to stop those overseas investigations and you’ve got yourself a winning quinella. Don’t wait. Do it now. 

Advocates on the left cringe when they hear the "I-word" - to them it smacks of capitulation, another example of government protecting itself from its own misconduct. But what, realistically, do human rights advocates believe is going to happen otherwise? What’s better - years of pre-trial hearings and appeals in a vain effort to bring John Yoo before a jury? Or hauling him in as early as this year, under penalty of perjury, before an inquisitive panel of experts? What’s worse? Hearing Vice President Dick Cheney use torture as a political issue with his dire (but cynically unspecific) warnings about how we are weaker now that we don’t degrade prisoners? Or a nationally-respected panel that has access to classified information, subpoena power, and near-universal heft? 

Three months ago, I laid out the argument in favor of a commission (and against criminal trials for former Bush officials). Intervening events only make both of those cases stronger. We shouldn’t spend five years trying to restrict the scope of governmental immunity. We shouldn’t spend the time roiling in litigation against defendants that we almost surely can’t win. We should instead spend our energy on getting to the truth of the matter. Author and torture-law expert Mark Danner, a brilliant scholar on the topic, easily said this best. In the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books, he wrote: 

The issue [of torture] could not be more important, for it cuts to the basic question of who we are as Americans, and whether our laws and ideals truly guide us in our actions or serve, instead, as a kind of national decoration to be discarded in times of danger. The only way to confront the political power of the issue, and prevent the reappearance of the practice itself, is to take a hard look at the true ‘empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years’ and speak out, clearly and credibly, about what this story really tells.


Blueoregon: Hostage Captain Rescued; Conservatives Not Happy?
Hostage captain rescued; conservatives not happy?

Carla Axtman

After a standoff lasting several days, U.S. Navy seals shot and killed 3 pirates who'd been holding an American captain hostage:

U.S. forces killed three pirates Sunday and rescued cargo ship Capt. Richard Phillips, held hostage in a lifeboat since Wednesday, after seeing him in "imminent danger," a senior defense official told CNN. Capt. Richard Phillips, right, stands with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Frank Castellano after Phillips' rescue Sunday.

The official contradicted earlier reports that the captain jumped into the water off Somalia on Sunday.

Three of the pirates on the lifeboat with Phillips were shot and killed, the U.S. Navy said. A fourth pirate was aboard the nearby USS Bainbridge negotiating Phillips' fate when the shootings occurred. He has since been taken into custody, officials said.

Thankfully Phillips is safe. Reports of his of courage and fortitude in the face of a harrowing, life-threatening situation is indeed amazing.

Meanwhile, the freak show over at Redstate has reached the conclusion that this never would have happened had Obama not been a "pansy" with the pirates:

Playing pansy politics with pirates put the Captain’s life at increased risk. His first escape attempt was thwarted by the thugs as Phillips remained adrift from the aid and cover of the US Navy, which sat restrained by an administration too cowardly to let slip the dogs of war.

The dogs of war? (And "pansy"? Seriously?)

We're supposed to unleash the guns of the U.S. Navy on a teeny little lifeboat adrift in the ocean...and hope that the American captain is wearing his bomb-proof batsuit?

The real problem for the Redstate clan is they want Obama to screw up. They're looking for an excuse blather on about how the President just can't handle the "3AM phone call".

I suspect this outcomes serve to buffet Obama's very high favorability ratings. And I suspect the vast majority of Americans are going to find the rhetoric such as that at Redstate completely off the rails.

Kidnapped US captain freed; snipers kill 3 pirates

Associated Press Writers

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Piracy around the world


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Navy Seal snipers on the fantail of a destroyer cut down three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescued an American sea captain on Easter Sunday. The surprise nighttime assault in choppy seas ended a five-day standoff between a team of rogue gunmen and the world's most powerful military.

It was a stunning conclusion to an Indian Ocean odyssey that began when 53-year-old freighter Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage Wednesday by pirates who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. The Vermont native was held on a tiny lifeboat that began drifting precariously toward Somalia's anarchic, gun-plagued shores.

The operation, personally approved by President Barack Obama, quashed fears the saga could drag on for months and marked a victory for the U.S., which for days seemed powerless to resolve the crisis despite massing helicopter-equipped warships at the scene.

Negotiations with the three pirates were growing heated, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

One of them pointed an AK-47 at the back of Phillips, who was tied up and in "imminent danger" of being killed when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge made the split-second decision to order his men to shoot, Gortney said. Navy snipers took aim at the pirates' heads and shoulders, he said.

The lifeboat was about 25-30 yards away and was being towed by the Bainbridge at the time, he said. The pirates had agreed to the tow to move the powerless lifeboat out of rough water.

A fourth pirate surrendered after boarding the Bainbridge earlier in the day and could face life in a U.S. prison. He had been seeking medical attention for a wound to his hand and was negotiating with U.S. officials on conditions for Phillips' release, military officials said.

The rescue was a dramatic blow to the pirates who have preyed on international shipping and hold more than a dozen ships with about 230 foreign sailors. But it is unlikely to do much to quell the region's growing pirate threat, which has transformed one of the world's busiest shipping lanes into one of its most dangerous. It also risked provoking retaliatory attacks.

"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding the Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: "Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press. "We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men."

Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told the AP from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl, that: "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)."

"Now they became our number one enemy," Habeb said of U.S. forces.

Phillips was not hurt in several minutes of gunfire and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said he was resting comfortably on a U.S. warship after receiving a medical exam.

Aboard the Bainbridge, sailors passed along a message from Andrea Phillips to her husband: "Richard, your family loves you, your family is praying for you, and your family is saving a chocolate Easter egg for you, unless your son eats it first."

Phillips himself deflected any praise.

"I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home," Phillips said by phone to Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart, the company head told reporters. A photo released by the Navy showed Phillips unharmed and shaking hands with the commanding officer of the USS Bainbridge.

Obama said Phillips had courage that was "a model for all Americans" and he was pleased about the rescue, adding that the United States needs help from other countries to deal with the threat of piracy and to hold pirates accountable.

With news of the rescue, Phillips' 17,000-ton ship, which docked with the 19 members of his crew Saturday in Mombasa, Kenya, erupted into wild cheers. Some waved an American flag and one fired a bright red flare skyward in celebration.

"We made it!" said crewman ATM Reza, pumping his fist in the air.

The ship had been carrying food aid bound for Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda when the ordeal began hundreds of miles off Somalia's eastern coast Wednesday. Crew members said they saw pirates scrambling into the ship with ropes and hooks from a small boat bobbing on the surface of the Indian Ocean far below.

As the pirates shot in the air, Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men, crew members said.

Phillips was then taken hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was soon shadowed by three U.S. warships and a helicopter in a standoff that grew by the day. The pirates were believed armed with pistols and AK-47 assault rifles.

Talks to free him began Thursday with the captain of the USS Bainbridge talking to the pirates under instruction from FBI hostage negotiators on board the U.S. destroyer. The pirates had threatened to kill Phillips if attacked.

A government official and others in Somalia with knowledge of the situation said negotiations broke down late Saturday. The stumbling block, Somali officials said: Americans' insistence the pirates be arrested and brought to justice.

Phillips jumped out of the lifeboat Friday and tried to swim for his freedom but was recaptured when a pirate fired an automatic weapon into the water, according to U.S. Defense Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the unfolding operations.

On Saturday, pirates fired a few shots at a small U.S. Navy vessel that had approached, but the U.S. sailors did not return fire.

The U.S. Navy had assumed the pirates would try to get their hostage to shore, where they could have hidden him on Somalia's lawless soil and been in a stronger position to negotiate a ransom.

Somalia's government, which barely controls any territory in the country, welcomed the news of Phillips' rescue.

"The Somali government wanted the drama to end in a peaceful way, but any one who is involved in this latest case had the choice to use violence or other means," Abdulkhadir Walayo, the prime minister's spokesman, told the AP. "We see it will be a good lesson for the pirates or any one else involved in this dirty business."

Worried residents of Harardhere, another port and pirate stronghold, were gathering in the streets after news of the captain's release.

"We fear more that any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages," Abdullahi Haji Jama, who owns a clothes store in Harardhere, told the AP by telephone.

Pirates are holding about a dozen ships with more than 200 crew members, according to the Malaysia-based piracy watchdog International Maritime Bureau. Hostages are from Bulgaria, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Tuvalu and Ukraine, among other countries.

The Navy said Phillips was freed at 7:19 p.m. local time. He was taken aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based Bainbridge and then flown to the San Diego-based USS Boxer for the medical exam, 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen said.

Christensen said Phillips was now "resting comfortably." The USS Boxer was in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, Christensen said.

U.S. officials said a fourth pirate had surrendered and was in military custody. FBI spokesman John Miller said that would change as the situation became "more of a criminal issue than a military issue."

A spokeswoman for the Phillips family, Alison McColl, said Phillips and his wife, Andrea, spoke by phone shortly after he was freed.

"I think you can all imagine their joy and what a happy moment that was for them," McColl said outside of the Phillips home in Underhill, Vt. "They're all just so happy and relieved. Andrea wanted me to tell the nation that all of your prayers and good wishes have paid off, because Capt. Phillips is safe."

Capt. Joseph Murphy, the father of second-in-command Shane Murphy, thanked Phillips for his bravery.

"Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday," Murphy said. "If not for his incredible personal sacrifice, this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse."

Murphy said both his family and Phillips' "can now celebrate a joyous Easter together."

"This was an incredible team effort, and I am extremely proud of the tireless efforts of all the men and women who made this rescue possible" Gortney said in a statement.

He called Phillips and his crew "heroic."

Terry Aiken, 66, who lives across the street from the Phillips house, fought back tears as he reacted to the news.

"I'm very, very happy," Aiken said. "I can't be happier for him and his family."

Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writers who contributed to this report include Mohamed Olad Hassan and Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia; Michelle Faul, Elizabeth Kennedy, Malkhadir M. Muhumed and Tom Maliti in Kenya; Matt Apuzzo in Washington, John Curran in Underhill, Vermont, Matt Moore in Berlin and Dena Potter in Norfolk, Virginia.


Thoughts on Bill O'Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse

By Roger Ebert / April 7, 2009

To: Bill O'Reilly
From: Roger Ebert

Dear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your "Hall of Shame." To be in an O'Reilly Hall of Fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben.

Yes, the Sun-Times is liberal, having recently endorsed our first Democrat for President since LBJ. We were founded by Marshall Field one week before Pearl Harbor to provide a liberal voice in Chicago to counter the Tribune, which opposed an American war against Hitler. I'm sure you would have sided with the Trib at the time.

I understand you believe one of the Sun-Times misdemeanors was dropping your syndicated column. My editor informs me that "very few" readers complained about the disappearance of your column, adding, "many more complained aboutNancy." I know I did. That was the famous Ernie Bushmiller comic strip in which Sluggo explained that "wow" was "mom" spelled upside-down.

Your column ran in our paper while it was owned by the right-wing polemicists Conrad Black (Baron Black of Coldharbour) and David Radler. We dropped it to save a little money after they looted the paper of millions. Now you call for an advertising boycott. It is unusual to observe a journalist cheering for a newspaper to fail. At present the Sun-Times has no bank debt, but labors under the weight of millions of dollars in tax penalties incurred by Lord Black, who is serving an eight-year stretch for mail fraud and obstruction of justice. We also had to pay for his legal expenses.

There is a major difference between Conrad Black and you: Lord Black is a much better writer and thinker, and authored a respected biography about Roosevelt, who we were founded to defend. That newspapers continue to run your column is a mystery to me, since it is composed of knee-jerk frothings and ravings. If I were an editor searching for a conservative, I wouldn't choose a mad dog. My recommendation: The admirable Charles Krauthammer.

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?

That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. It seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one day. Approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, he called out: Raise the bridge! I have an erection!





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