Showing posts with label kennedy. obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kennedy. obama. Show all posts

Friday, April 04, 2008

Chalabi, Christ, Omaba, Richardson


Well, just too many wierd things have been going on to digest.
1) Bill Clinton called Bill Richardson a "Judas" for endorsing Obama. Can anyone continue the metaphor or similie? Who, for example, becomes Christ in this context?
2) Conservative Radio Hosts have been encouraging listeners to vote for Clinton in the primaries.
3) Kieth Olbermann managed to get Wal-Mart to behave properly after listing them on his "Worst Persons" list daily until they did. It had to do with ... never mind, they screw their own employees on health care.
4) 81% of Americans think Amerika is going the the wrong direction. Really?
5) You may remember that I told many of you in 2001 about Chalabi. Now it is laid out, below:
Click here </doc/20080421/roston> to return to the browser-optimized
version of this page.
This article can be found on the web at

Chalabi's Lobby
[from the April 21, 2008 issue]
With the invasion of Iraq still three years in the future, Ahmad Chalabi
would step into the lobby of the modern granite office building at 1801
K Street in Washington--the heart of the nation's lobbying corridor. He
would walk past the security guard and ride the elevator up to the ninth
floor. The ride was, in some sense, one small vertical leg of Chalabi's
journey back to Iraq. This particular way point was the office belonging
to Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey (BKSH), one of the most powerful
lobbying firms in the United States, owned by public relations
powerhouse Burson-Marsteller.
No one could have guessed, back in 2000, what would come of Chalabi's
efforts in Washington. Few people knew who "eoconservatives" were, and
even those who did could not have grasped their remarkable affection for
and loyalty to Chalabi, a shrewd Iraqi Arab from a family of Shiite
bankers. No one could have predicted that Chalabi's group, the Iraqi
National Congress (INC), would go on to push false stories about terror
and weapons of mass destruction with such great success as the group
campaigned against Saddam Hussein's quite sadistic regime. Nor,
certainly, was it possible to foresee that the massive propaganda
campaign run by Chalabi to encourage the United States to invade Iraq
would be fully paid for with US taxpayer funds.
One thing people did know, even in 2000, was that Ahmad Chalabi, whose
thickly accented English seemed only to enhance his charisma, had lots
and lots of friends on Capitol Hill. Congress had passed the Iraq
Liberation Act in 1998, written largely to achieve Chalabi's vision for
toppling Saddam. And every year Congress was earmarking money for him.
But he had opponents, too, in the government: American diplomats who
were skeptical of him, despite his charm and his claims of inside
knowledge about Iraq. These Americans knew all about his murky past: a
bank embezzlement conviction in absentia in the Kingdom of Jordan years
earlier. They knew that the Central Intelligence Agency considered him a
phony and a liability and, after working with him for years, had cut all
ties with him.
So it is important, when considering Chalabi's relationship with BKSH,
to ponder that this elite firm was hired in part as a result of a feud
in the American government. It was in the late 1990s, when Congress was
earmarking funds for Chalabi's INC and charging the State Department
with spending all the cash, that State enlisted BKSH's services. The
State Department diplomats, under veteran Frank Ricciardone, were among
the skeptics on the subject of Ahmad Chalabi and were concerned about
the accounting challenges posed by their obligation to dole out the
earmarked funds. They figured that through BKSH, they could funnel
support to the INC while complying with Congressional intentions and
normal accounting procedures, and moreover that an American firm could
be controlled and monitored and would have the expertise in PR and
organizing that was necessary. They put a contract out for bid; PR giant
Burson-Marsteller won the award and quickly handed the work over to its
subsidiary BKSH.
BKSH was the lobbying vehicle of the legendary Republican insider
Charles Black Jr., one of "America's foremost Republican political
strategists," according to BKSH. Black, a former adviser to Presidents
Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, is now a senior adviser to GOP
presidential candidate John McCain, who was himself an early Chalabi
backer with ties to the Iraqi going all the way back to 1991. BKSH,
which represented major defense contractors, governments and
international corporations, was perfectly situated to leverage its
expertise on behalf of the Iraqi National Congress.
In an interview, Charles Black explained that his firm received $200,000
to $300,000 per year from the US government "to promote the INC." Black,
in his pleasant Texas drawl, says the firm did "standard kinds of public
relations and public affairs, setting up seminars, helping them get
speeches covered by the press, press conferences." Black said he
believes his company can take a lot of pride in a strong campaign. "The
whole thing was very successful. The INC became not only well-known, but
I think the message got out there strongly."
Most of BKSH's work for Chalabi was handled by Riva Levinson, a longtime
Capitol Hill lobbyist who quickly became passionate about Chalabi's
cause. "Riva would spend her weekend thinking about, How can I get press
coverage for the INC next week?" Black explained, "and then come in on
Monday morning and schedule a speech or call reporters to get a speech
covered or get Chalabi or the other leaders out to get the message out."
Levinson even spoke out overtly as the INC's spokeswoman, giving
interviews on its behalf.
The State Department's efforts to control Chalabi through
Burson-Marsteller ultimately backfired. In the course of his power
struggle with his State Department patrons over who would control the
Iraqi opposition and the stream of American funding, Chalabi would
frequently criticize both US policy and his Iraqi competitors. The
government would complain to BKSH. "We'd tell him.... And he'd say,
'Fine,' and go say the same thing over again," said Black. "Basically
the US government couldn't make Chalabi do anything he didn't want to
do." So while US taxpayers paid for BKSH's services, the company, from
all appearances, worked for Ahmad Chalabi.
Normally, before campaigning on behalf of a foreign interest (which,
after all, was what Chalabi was), the agent would register under the
Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act. That's required
whenever someone represents a foreign interest in a "political or
quasi-political" way.Examples include groups that at times had been
allied with Chalabi, like Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
and Masoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party. But since BKSH was paid
by taxpayer funds through the State Department, it never registered as a
foreign agent. Since it was not technically a "lobbyist" for Chalabi,
even though that is exactly how it was functioning, it never registered
on Capitol Hill either, which would be the norm for a lobbyist. Although
the transaction was not classified or secret, journalists, legislators
and the American public weren't told about it.
T he last week of October 2003 had been particularly gory in Baghdad.
Rockets tore into the Al-Rashid Hotel, where Paul Wolfowitz lay sleeping
on a rare visit. Terrorists destroyed the International Red Cross
compound, and then, on Wednesday, October 29, a land mine gutted a US
Army Abrams tank outside Baghdad, killing two soldiers. That was the day
BKSH and the Iraqi National Congress were honored for their work in the
run-up to the war.
The black-tie award ceremony took place far from the violence in Iraq,
in London, where more than 1,000 of the public relations industry elite
assembled in a ballroom at the luxurious Grosvenor House Hotel. /PR
Week/ hosted the event, its annual awards dinner for public relations
companies. Burson-Marsteller, whose subsidiary BKSH had carried out the
work, was named the winner in the public affairs category. The "Awards
Supplement" of /PR Week/ called BKSH's work a "solid, disciplined
campaign that is totally deserving of this award." "Of particular
importance," said the citation, "was positioning INC founder Dr. Ahmad
Chalabi and other Iraqi opposition spokespeople as authoritative
political leaders." BKSH "compiled intelligence reports, defector
briefings, conferences and seminars.... The PR team also ran a
contact-building programme, focusing on the European Union, Downing
Street, the Foreign Office and MPs in the UK, matched to a US programme
aimed at the White House, the Senate, Congress and the Pentagon."
The awards description does not mention that the fund- ing came entirely
from the US government, let alone that many of the campaign's claims
turned out to be erroneous. But by the time BKSH won the award, the
State Department's funding for the program had stopped, with the
American troops surging through the desert. That did not mean that
BKSH's Iraq work would end. Instead, having eased Chalabi's path to
Baghdad, BKSH would now use its ties to Chalabi to get into the business
of Iraqi reconstruction.
The business elite was eager for a seat at the table. Corporate
executives flocked to conferences, corporations set up divisions to work
on developing business in Iraq, consultancies thrived and newsletters
proliferated to detail legal niceties and dispense advice. BKSH was
going to get in on the ground floor of the industry. Charles Black said
it was a busy time. "After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a lot of US
companies, some of our long-term clients as well as some people who
weren't our clients, came to us and were looking to do business in
Iraq," he explained. The problem, he said, was that BKSH was not "going
to be over there. We didn't have an office over there or have full-time
But the Chalabi operation did. Margaret Bartel, an accountant who had
been hired by the State Department to sort out the INC's books and
stayed on to become a key member of the organization's staff, was taking
in Defense Intelligence Agency funds and delivering them to Chalabi's
intelligence operation. Zaab Sethna, Chalabi's press aide, was also in
Iraq. As Black explains it, "Peg was there and Zaab was there, so we
just referred business to them." Bartel and BKSH reached an agreement:
in exchange for a referral fee, BKSH would send clients to Bartel's
consulting company, which would set them up with contacts, influence,
housing, security and everything else they would need to get themselves
started on Iraqi reconstruction. In the gold rush of 1849, they say, it
was not the miners who got rich but the operators who sold the picks and
the shovels and the wagons and the denim. So it was in Iraq, with the
likes of Bartel, the INC and BKSH. The American businessmen would be the
miners taking their chances, and the PR operatives and INC loyalists
were selling the picks and shovels.
In essence, all that was required was a small adjustment in their
previous efforts. BKSH and Chalabi simply pivoted their operation. They
realized that with Chalabi on the ground, they could sell access to him
using the same sophisticated lobbying regime they already had in place.
He had the sort of influence that corporate executives could use in
their search for contracts.
One of the businessmen who signed up for the Iraq package was Albert
Huddleston, an old BKSH customer. "Albert is a longtime client," Black
explained. Huddleston, a Texas oilman and staunch supporter of George W.
Bush, was a Bush "Minor League Pioneer" in the 2000 election, raising
close to $100,000. In the 2004 election he contributed $100,000 to the
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that targeted Senator John
Kerry's campaign by publicizing discredited allegations about his
military service. Huddleston's daughter even worked in the White House
for First Lady Laura Bush.
Huddleston's interest in Iraq was logical and straightforward: he wanted
oil deals, and his company, Hyperion Resources, wanted to be in a good
position when the oil valves finally opened. So it was only natural that
BKSH would refer him to the Chalabi allies who were offering to help
American businessmen. "He was definitely interested in Iraq," Black
recalled, "and we definitely hooked him up with that organization." The
veterans of the PR and lobbying efforts of the INC went to work for
Huddleston. They had focused for years on human rights, democracy and
freedom. Now that the regime of Saddam Hussein was gone, they were
dedicating more and more time to oil and business.
Over time, Sethna became indispensable in these efforts. "Whatever
Albert wanted," recalled one associate, "it was Zaab's mission to go get
it done." In the years after the Iraq invasion, Huddleston did his best
to forge ties in Iraq. What he found at first was that there was no
legitimate government to deal with under the occupation. Paul Bremer had
no authority to negotiate oil deals, because occupying powers can't
legally make decisions about a country's natural resources. And later,
after Bremer left Iraq, the Iraqi government couldn't pass an oil law to
regulate the industry. Nabeel Musawi, a former close Chalabi associate
who later became a member of the temporary National Assembly, remembers
Chalabi, Sethna, Bartel and their guest Huddleston coming to dinner to
petition for help. They wanted to see if Musawi could set up a meeting
between Huddleston and the oil minister. Musawi says he wanted to help
but had to shrug them off because the oil minister was out of town.
Chalabi was well aware of Huddleston's connections to the Bush White
House, and he fawned over the Texan, taking him out and offering him
gifts. Chalabi presented him with a lavish crystal sculpture of an Iraqi
reed house, which had to be shipped back to Texas. But for Huddleston,
the pre-war promise of rosy prospects for American oilmen like himself
was turning out to be an illusion. Chalabi and others had talked about
Iraq's oil and the gushers to come, but despite all the oil under Iraq's
desert, it was unobtainable. Deals made during the occupation would be
shredded later. Huddleston never did make his huge oil strike in Iraq,
despite the money he paid to Chalabi's people there.
Then there is the matter of how much money the American government
itself spent on the services of Chalabi and his INC. One former member
of the INC put it at about $90 million, but a safer and more
conservative estimate of the total American taxpayer subsidy to Chalabi
and his organization is $59 million over the course of eleven years.
This includes an estimated $20 million from the CIA secret budget in the
early 1990s (although it may be far more); add to this $33 million from
the State Department in the years leading up to the war in Iraq and $6
million from the Defense Intelligence Agency starting in 2002.
Chalabi's fortunes have fluctuated wildly since the war. By mid-2006 it
appeared that he had lost any prominent political role in Iraq, although
he held on to his title as chairman of the de-Baathification commission.
A new Iraqi government had finally taken shape, presumably a permanent
one, and Chalabi seemed unsteady as he scrambled for new allies.
He began to make a public comeback, however, in the fall of 2007. One
day in late October, dressed in one of his dark suits, he climbed into a
US Army Black Hawk helicopter in Baghdad. As the rotors of the
helicopter thumped, Chalabi was surrounded by American military men. His
host was Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq.
It had been only thirteen months since a majority of the members of the
Senate Intelligence Committee had found that Chalabi's INC had
"attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq" before the US
invasion "by providing false information."
But Chalabi had survived, and he was soaring over the capital of Iraq in
an American helicopter. The new Iraqi government had appointed him to a
committee to oversee Baghdad's municipal "services." The hope was that
Chalabi, with his organizational skills and his charm, could cut his way
through the Iraqi government's red tape and spur on the efforts of the
beleaguered Health, Electricity, Communications and Transportation
ministries. And the Americans, once again, thought they had found a man
they could work with.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Just in case you missed it, below is Obama's declaration on race. I'm posting it just in case you are asked about it, you hear nonsense about it, bad papaphrases, etc. I have to apoligize in advance for the mess -- every ? should be replaced with an " and the paragraph markers slipped away. A link to the source is provided so you can get it without the mess.
His words:
The Wall Street Journal Home Page Text of Obama?s Speech: A More Perfect Union Posted By _Editor_ On March 18, 2008 @ 10:27 am In _Campaign 2008_ | _173 Comments_ /*Here, the full text of Sen. Barack Obama?s speech, ?A More Perfect Union,? as prepared for delivery.*/
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.? Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America?s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787. The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation?s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations. Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution ? a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time. And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part ? through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time. This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign ? to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together ? unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction ? towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren. This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story. I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton?s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I?ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world?s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners ? an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. It?s a story that hasn?t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts ? that out of many, we are truly one. Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans. This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either ?too black? or ?not black enough.? We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well. And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn. On one end of the spectrum, we?ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it?s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we?ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike. I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely ? just as I?m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren?t simply controversial. They weren?t simply a religious leader?s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country ? a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. As such, Reverend Wright?s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems ? two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all. Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way But the truth is, that isn?t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God?s work here on Earth ? by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity: ?People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend?s voice up into the rafters?.And in that single note ? hope! ? I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion?s den, Ezekiel?s field of dry bones. Those stories ? of survival, and freedom, and hope ? became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn?t need to feel shame about?memories that all people might study and cherish ? and with which we could start to rebuild.? That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety ? the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity?s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America. And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions ? the good and the bad ? of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother ? a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love. Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America ? to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality. The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we?ve never really worked through ? a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, ?The past isn?t dead and buried. In fact, it isn?t even past.? We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven?t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today?s black and white students. Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments ? meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today?s urban and rural communities. A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one?s family, contributed to the erosion of black families ? a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods ? parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement ? all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us. This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What?s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them. But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn?t make it ? those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations ? those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright?s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician?s own failings. And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright?s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races. In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don?t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience ? as far as they?re concerned, no one?s handed them anything, they?ve built it from scratch. They?ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they?re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren?t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism. Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze ? a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns ? this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding. This is where we are right now. It?s a racial stalemate we?ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy ? particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own. But I have asserted a firm conviction ? a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people ? that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances ? for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans ? the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives ? by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny. Ironically, this quintessentially American ? and yes, conservative ? notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright?s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change. The profound mistake of Reverend Wright?s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It?s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ? a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old ? is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know ? what we have seen ? is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope ? the audacity to hope ? for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds ? by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world?s great religions demand ? that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother?s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister?s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle ? as we did in the OJ trial ? or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright?s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she?s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we?ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ?Not this time.? This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can?t learn; that those kids who don?t look like us are somebody else?s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time. This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don?t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together. This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn?t look like you might take your job; it?s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit. This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should?ve been authorized and never should?ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we?ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned. I would not be running for President if I didn?t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation ? the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election. There is one story in particularly that I?d like to leave you with today ? a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King?s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that?s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too. Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother?s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn?t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice. Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they?re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who?s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he?s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, ?I am here because of Ashley.? ?I?m here because of Ashley.? By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children. But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Article printed from Washington Wire - ** URL to article: ** Click here <#Print> to print.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama and religion


Illustration: Two coins and their explaination, illustration donated by one of you. I have come to the conclusion that the motto: "In God We Trust" should be replaced with the motto, meaning essentially the same thing, "Credo quia absurdum est." This would certainly fit the situation more aptly.
So let us say a few words about how religion has been a part of this political campaign. Back in 1958-59, Nixon was running against JFK and pointed out that he had nothing against Kennedy being a Catholic, but he was not so naive as to assume the nobody would. This time around, the pulpit pounders, the fundamentalists, the ignorant, and the stupid are being treated to a festival of religious absurdity that is overwhelming. The voting public is a group from which I am serious considering resigning. If I thought MENSA was shallow and thus resigned, I can hardly be consistent if this idiocy continues or if it makes any difference at all.
We will start with John McVain, now that Hucklebery Hound is out of the race. McVain has been endorsed by religious leaders who consider the Catholic Church an agent of the devil. McVain said "Thank you, sir, I'm honored." Another of McVain's religious supporters asserts that the United States was founded to oppose Islam. [The truth is that John Adams, our second President, explicitly stated otherwise.] McVain said "Thank you, I'm honored." There has been virtually no criticism of McVain about this.
Hillary Clinton, former Goldwater Girl, was asked about the "charge" [what is the penalty?] of Barak being a Moslem. She paused, and finally said "Not that I know of."
But the real absurdities surround Barak Obama. First, Farrakan says its nice to see an African American with a chance to be President. Obama was forced to "denounce" that. Hillary demanded that he "reject it." Well, ok, although it seems that "denounce" is more proactive than "reject," he added "reject." Got any more words for me?
Well, now it is clear that he is a "christian." So, they went after the ex-pastor of his church and I'm pretty certain you have seen them on the networks. Obama said he had never heard those words from he and he "rejects them too."
But what were those words? Well, "The chickens have come home to roost," was one point, a rather trite, homey one. The preacher then elaborated as his point can be paraphrased thus: the U.S. supported the Aparteid government in South Africa in defiance of every other country in the world, except Israel. Since South Africa finally changed somewhat, we have an aparteid situation in the West Back and Gaza in the Middle East. Jimmie Carter was castigated for even suggesting this. [Another ex-President.] The United States invaded Mexico, stole the country now called "Panama," from Columbia, set up dictators in Iran, and around the world. When we captured Norriega, a graduate of the School of the Americas and ex-cia employee, we also killed thousands of his countrymen, all civilians. We killed millions of Vietnamese, mainly civilians. We have killed Iraqis recently, mainly civilians. Osama bin Laden first fought in Afghanistan (on our side v. the Russians) and most of the 9/11 participants were Saudi or Egyptian. We blamed Saddam Hussein, one person bin Laden hated more than us, and attacked him for it. All this while, we were correct and serving God's mission. The preacher said that the 3,000 who died, did so because bin Laden was retaliating against us. Who is surprised that such a thing would happen?
If Obama pointed out that the remarks were correct, how would not have a chance to win. I should point out here that Obama, Clinton, McVain, and George Bush all know these facts, but are quick to deny them. That is why the espression "speak truth to power" is meaningless. Power already knows the truth, and it will continue. Why bother telling them what they already know?
The article below is a rumincation on Race and Politics in the U.S.:
(And lest I be accused of being racist, the author is African American, so it's ok):

Barack Obama's Problem -- And Ours Along the Color Line
March 15, 2008 By *Manning Marable*
Manning Marable's ZSpace Page </zspace/manningmarable>
Several years ago, I was walking home to my Manhattan apartment from
Columbia University, just having delivered a lecture on New York State's
notorious "Rockefeller Drug Laws." The state's mandatory-minimum
sentencing laws had thrown tens of thousands of nonviolent drug
offenders into state prisons with violent convicts. In my lecture I had
called for more generous prisoner reentry programs, the restoration of
felons' voting rights, increased educational programs inside prisons,
and a restoration of judges' sentencing authority.
A white administrator from another local university, a woman, who I had
always judged to be fairly conservative and probably a Republican, had
attended my lecture and was walking along with me to go to the subway.
She told me that my lecture about the "prison industrial complex" had
been a real "eye opener." The fact that two million Americans were
imprisoned, she expressed, was a "real scandal."
Then this college administrator blurted out, in a hurried manner, "You
know, my son is also in prison . a victim of the drug laws."
In a split second, I had to make a hard decision: whether to engage this
white conservative administrator in a serious conversation about
America's gulags and political economy of mass incarceration that had
collaterally ensnared her son, or to pretend that I had not heard her
last sentence, and to continue our conversation as if she had said
nothing at all. Perhaps this is a sign of generational weakness on my
part, but the overwhelming feeling I had at that precise moment was
that, one day, the white administrator would deeply regret revealing
such an intimate secret with a black person. I might tell the entire
world about it. Instead of proceeding on the basis of mutual trust and
common ground, transcending the boundaries of color, it would be better
to ignore what was said in haste.
All of this occurred to me in the span of one heartbeat. I decided to
say nothing. Two seconds later, I could visually detect the signs of
relief on the woman's face. African Americans have survived in the
United States for over four hundred years because, at least up to the
most recent generation of black people, we have made it our business to
study white Americans generally, and especially those who exercise
power. This explains why so many African Americans, at the very core of
their being, express fears that millions of white Americans will be
unable to cast ballots for Obama for president solely due to his racial
identity. Of course, the majority of them would deny this, even to
Among the remaining Democratic presidential candidates, former Senator
John Edwards (albeit with a "suspended" campaign) has been consistently
the most progressive on most policy issues, in my view. On issues such
as health care and poverty, Edwards has been clearly to the left of both
Obama and Hillary Clinton. But since Edwards probably cannot win the
Democratic nomination the real choice is between Clinton and Obama.
We've all heard the arguments explaining why Obama's "not qualified" to
be president. Chief among them is that he "doesn't have enough
experience in government." As a historian, I think it may be instructive
to observe that three of the twentieth century's most influential
presidents had shorter careers in electoral politics than Obama.
Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, served as New York's governor for only
two years, and was William McKinley's Vice President for barely six
months. Woodrow Wilson served as New Jersey's governor for only two
years before being elected president. And Franklin D. Roosevelt, our
only four-term president, had served in Albany as New York's governor
for four years. None of these leaders was ever elected to Congress.
Obama's seven years in the Illinois State Senate, according to the New
York Times' Nicholas Kristof, show that "he scored significant
achievements there: a law to videotape police interrogations in capital
cases; an earned income tax credit to fight poverty; an expansion of
early childhood education." To be perfectly honest, there are some
public policy issues where I sharply disagree with Obama, such as health
care. Obama's approach is not to use "mandates" to force millions of
healthy twenty-somethings into the national health insurance pool. He
claims that you won't need mandates, just lower the price of private
health insurance and young adults will buy it on their own. Obama's
children are still small, so maybe he can be excused for such an
irrational argument. Obama's reluctance to embrace health mandates is
about his desire to appeal to "centrists" and moderate Republicans.
Not getting email from BC?
That brings us back to Barack's unspoken problem: white denial and voter
flight. It's instructive to remember what happened to David Dinkins, the
first (and still only) African American elected mayor of New York City.
According to Andrew Kohul, the current president of the Pew Research
Center, the Gallup organization's polling research on New York City's
voters in 1989 indicated that Dinkins would defeat his Republican
opponent, Rudolph Giuliani, by 15 percent. Instead, Dinkins only
narrowly won by 2 percent. Kohul, who worked as a Gallup pollster in
that election, concluded that "poorer, less well-educated [white] voters
were less likely to answer our questions;" so the poll didn't have the
opportunity to factor in their views. As Kohul admits, "Here's the
problem - these whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more
unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews."
So I return to the white college administrator whose son is in prison on
drug charges. I made a mistake. People of color must break through the
mental racial barricades that divide America into parallel racial
universes. We need to mobilize and support the election of Barack Obama
not only because he is progressive and fully qualified to be president,
but also because only his campaign can force all Americans to overcome
the centuries-old silences about race that still create a deep chasm
across this nation's democratic life. In the end, we must force our
fellow citizens who happen to be white, to come to terms with their own
whiteness, their guilt and fears about America's terrible racial past.
If there is any hope for meaningful change inside U.S. electoral system
in the future, it lies with progressive leaders like Barack Obama. If we
can dare to dream politically, let us dream of the world as it should be.
/ Editorial Board member, Manning Marable, PhD is
one of America's most influential and widely read scholars. Since 1993,
Dr. Marable has been Professor of Public Affairs, Political Science,
History and African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York
City. For ten years, Dr. Marable was founding director of the Institute
for Research in African- American Studies at Columbia University, from
1993 to 2003. Dr. Marable is an author or editor of over 20 books,
including Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American
Past Can Remake America's Racial Future (2006); The Autobiography of
Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life And Legacy Revealed Through His Writings,
Letters, And Speeches (2005); Freedom: A Photographic History of the
African American Struggle (2002); Black Leadership: Four Great American
Leaders and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1998); Beyond Black and
White: Transforming African-American Politics (1995); and How Capitalism
Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and
Society (South End Press Classics Series) (1983). His current project is
a major biography of Malcolm X, entitled Malcolm X: A Life of
Reinvention, to be published by Viking Press in 2009./
["Along The Color Line", written by Manning Marable, PhD and distributed, is a public educational and information service
dedicated to fostering political dialogue and discussion, inspired by
the great tradition for political event columns written by W. E. B. Du
Bois nearly a century ago. Re-prints are permitted by any Black-owned or
Black-oriented publications (print or electronic) without charge as long
as they are printed in their entirety including this paragraph and, for
electronic media, a link to

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama, Lies, and Cover Ups



The bird flu pandemic is the most covered up story today. In the upper illustration you can seen all the areas infected with the vile disease, threatening our little children. Birds migrate, you know, Whooping Cranes, Ostriches, all sorts of birds can catch this disease, and if the black areas you can see where it has been transmitted to humans. Yet not one word about it this election cycle. I suggest you warn all of your friends to keep on the lookout for sneezing birds, especially chickens, because this threatens us all. The press has covered it all up under the pretense of doing "investigative journalism" on more important topics (see on Obama, below). I urge all of you to call all superdelegates you can and tell them to support whichever candidate first mentions bird flu!! This is life and death and our media ignores it.
OBAMA: The New York Times has investigated Omama's revelation that he once used illegal drugs, pot, drinking, and some cocaine, or "blow," but say how he was going down the wrong path and quit. Well, it turns out that nobody they could find who knew him at the time could confirm this one bit. In fact, some even denied it! The Times speculated that he made it all up! Imagine, running for the Presidency of the United States and never taking dope? Intolerable!! The Decider did and is an alcoholic (in a dry drunk). Bill Clinton at least smelled pot once. Al Gore said he had smoked it. Obama, don't try to cover it up. You are not a drug user and no use claiming to be. I'm endorsing McCain because he was given morphine upon return from Viet Nam, but that has never been proven, so I take it back, I DON'T endorse McCain. Hillary? She was a Goldwater Republican of all things -- how square can you get? Huckabee? It could explain why he supports a geo-centric solar system, but I doubt it. It would be interesting and quite amusing to hear him explain epicycles.
Despite all of the above, Obama won all three primaries last night by very large margins. He will win Wisconsin. Her daughter was there last week "pimping" for her mom, but did not make any sale. She did the same in mid-Missouri, but MSNBC's David Schuster was suspended for saying that. I was there at the time, and he was right -- just he used to word in a slang sense, so he has been suspended. Naughty Schuster, "Pimping, indeed!"

Here is a pretty good review of a book on the Mideast problems. Thanks to the sender:
Michael Neumann's /The Case Against Israel/
by Gilles d'Aymery
Book Review
Neumann, Michael: /The Case Against Israel,/ CounterPunch
<> and AK Press,
<> January 2006, ISBN 1-90485-946-1, 220
pages, $16.50 (paperback)
/(Swans - December 19, 2005)/ The British essayist and novelist Edward
Morgan Forster (1879-1970), author of /A Room With A View/ and /A
Passage To India,/ wrote in his 1951 collection of essays, /Two Cheers
for Democracy,/ "I suspect that the only books that influence us are
those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down
our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves." Amidst the one
hundred-plus books I've read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, none
fits Forster's sentiment better than Michael Neumann's /The Case Against
Israel./ This is simply the most cogent, reasoned, and lucid
argumentation I have ever read in support of a two-state solution to the
century-old conflict. Short (220 pages); to the point but not in your
face; impeccably researched with 26 pages of references including a list
of 28 important works, 188 endnotes, and a full index; there is no stone
left unturned and practically no issue left unexplained in this highly
condensed, unadulterated, and coherent analysis.
The book's title should not mislead readers. Those who follow the
horrific tribulations of that small real estate with its strategic and
religious confluences will obviously recognize that the title is a play
on, or a response to, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz's /The Case
for Israel/ (John Wiley & Sons, August 2003). The argumentation is by
and large a refutation of Dershowitz's case though it is not a
point-by-point rebuttal of the 32 questions Dershowitz attempted
(poorly) to answer. In actuality, Dershowitz is only mentioned once in
the entire book. Instead of rebutting a lawyerly discourse based on
polemical diatribes, crass emotionalism, and the repetitive
regurgitation of falsities, Michael Neumann focuses on what has been
lost in our recent historical travails: reality-based analysis --
historical facts, formal logic, ethics, behavioral rationality,
philosophy, morality, and politics (Neumann is a professor of moral and
political philosophy at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario,
Canada). While he does not posit that he's an expert or historian,
history is no stranger to him: his father, Franz Neumann, was the author
of /Behemoth: the structure and practice of national socialism,
1933-1944,/ the classic history of Nazi Germany. (And, for what it's
worth, his stepfather was Herbert Marcuse.)
Indeed, Neumann convincingly debunks the old canards, myths, and
fallacies advanced by Dershowitz and the legions of Israeli apologetics:
The Zionist project was about redeeming the land or creating a
"homeland" for the Jews, the bible says god gave the land to the Jews;
the Palestinians did not /really/ exist (they're only /Arabs/), their
actual state is Jordan; they hate the Jews; they want to throw them to
the sea; they never did and don't want to compromise (they are
/jusqu'au-boutistes/); they are terrorists; there is no moral
equivalence between Palestinian and Israeli violence (the former is
terroristic, the latter sheer self defense); Israel is a "beacon of
light" (of democracy, Western values) judged by a "double standard";
critics of Israel are anti-Semites, etc.
The last point -- opposition to Israel is anti-Semitic -- is quickly
dismissed by the author. First, he has already addressed the charge in a
brilliant essay, "What Is Anti-Semitism?", published in /The Politics of
Anti-Semitism/ (CounterPunch/AK Press, 2004), also reviewed in these
pages. <../art10/ga176.html> Second, "since not all Jews are Israelis or
supporters of Israel, to be against all Israelis or Israel, is not to be
against all Jews." Third, most criticisms are directed against the
policies of Israel toward the Palestinians, not the existence of Israel;
and lastly, as he states, "[N]o doubt many anti-Semites oppose Israel,
and do so for anti-Semitic reasons, and conceal their motives. [But]
none of this is relevant to whether or not Israel is in fact in the
wrong." "No doubt," he concludes, "many people opposed Japanese fascism
for racist reasons. It does not follow that such opposition was
mistaken." End of discussion. Michael Neumann shows little patience with
irrelevancies and false arguments.
Furthermore, he does not make a legal disputation against Israel but
confines his attention to a "moral and political argument," in search of
"what /ought/ to occur in Palestine, what solution to the conflict
/should/ be adopted," and he relies on three widely accepted views in
political philosophy: That "there is some basic right of self-defense
that on occasion permits a violent response"; that "one group can't
normally acquire the power of life and death over another group without
their consent"; and that one is responsible for the foreseeable
consequences of one's action whatever the intentions that motivated it.
Then he lays out his claim in two parts and dispassionately demonstrates
that the Zionists and Israel with their allies /du jour/ have mostly
been in the wrong in their dealings with the Palestinians, and that the
end of the conflict necessitates the unilateral end of the occupation
and the recognition of the Palestinian people within the sovereign
borders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. His case is not so much
/against/ Israel that it is /in favor of/ a Palestinian state.
"/The central fact of the conflict is that Zionists sought sovereignty
in Palestine./ From this, all else follows: the Arab response and all
that came after." (emphasis in the book) "Israel is the illegitimate
child of ethnic nationalism." These are the two statements that best
summarize "Zionism and the Birth of Israel," the first part of /The Case
Against Israel./ They are reinforced by a methodical, logical, and
historical narrative. From the inception of the Zionist project in the
late 19th century, Zionism was not about a safe heaven (the "saving
Jews" advocacy line would come much later, in the ashes of the
Holocaust, and is not even convincing, as Neumann shows), or having a
"homeland," or redeeming ancestors' territories -- all contentions that
keep being rehashed to this day. It was about taking sovereignty over a
foreign land, a land inhabited by a people who had no interest or reason
to be dominated in matters of life and death by Jews. From Theodore
Herzl to David Ben Gurion, Zionists were about creating a state in
Palestine -- a state, with its monopoly on power, of the Jews, by the
Jews, and for the Jews. It matters not whether the Zionists were
enlightened socialists, or idealists, or racists. What matters is that a
group of people, foreign to the land, wanted to impose their sovereignty
through expropriation -- and we now know, through expulsion too -- on
another group of people that inhabited that land. This, contends
Neumann, was the first mortal threat to the Palestinians -- a threat
they could not but oppose and resist through violent or non-violent
means. It surely began in non-violence with the pleas from Palestinian
notables to the European powers to stop the influx of Jews in Palestine,
but the pleas were not heeded and blood began to flow as early as the
1920s. It went downhill from then on.
Neumann notes that at the very moment Europeans were turning their backs
on ethnic nationalism that had been so devastating, Zionists were
imposing their own ethno-nationalism in Palestine. The establishment of
sovereignty by one ethnic group over another has quite logically -- and
sadly -- led to the consequences that we've witnessed for so long. For him,
Zionism always was, despite strategically motivated denials and
brief flirtations with other objectives [e.g., bi-nationalism], an
attempt to establish Jewish sovereignty over Palestine. This project
was illegitimate. Neither history nor religion, nor the sufferings
of Jews in the Nazi era, sufficed to justify it. It posed a mortal
threat to the Palestinians, and it left no room for meaningful
compromise. Given that the Palestinians had no way to overcome
Zionism peacefully, it also justified some form of violent resistance.
By 1948 the Jewish state in Palestine was a /fait accompli,/ and its
existence quickly earned international legitimacy. By the early 1970s,
following Israel's wars (1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973) and the military
supremacy of the Jewish state, the existence of Israel was assured and
secured. But, this /fait accompli/ was not enough for the Zionists.
Sovereignty within the 1948 borders was a tactical step in the direction
of wider ambitions that went back all the way to early Zionism: Greater
Israel. In the next part of his exposé, "The Current Situation," Michael
Neumann examines the second mortal threat to the Palestinians -- the
continuation of the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and,
even more threatening to their existence, the settlement of these
occupied territories -- that has resulted in the predictable, and
understandable, violence that continues to this day.
The policies undertaken by the Israeli governments (both Labor and
Likud) following the pre-emptive Six-Day War in 1967 -- occupation and
settlement of the West Bank and Gaza -- will quite possibly be recorded
by historians as the single most damaging political calculation ever
made by this small state. Their consequences have now become a threat to
its existence; not its physical existence, which is quite secure, but
its moral existence -- a threat to the moral fabric of Israeli society.
The opprobrium Israel faces in the entire world, with the lonely
exception of the United States, to which one could add the Marshall
Islands and Micronesia, can only be traced to the implacable
continuation of these policies. This young country so endeared and
admired in the 1950s and 1960s even though it was born out of the
expropriation, partial expulsion, and imposition of a foreign
sovereignty over the remaining indigenous population, the Palestinians,
has become an international pariah. The time has long passed since one
could speak of "a land without people, waiting for a people without
land," or, as Golda Meir stated in 1969, "It was not as though there was
a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their
country away from them. They did not exist."
It turns out that they did exist, were largely dispossessed, and became
the subjects of an alien sovereignty; and they still exist, are still
being dispossessed, and remain subjugated to a violent and humiliating
occupation. The outcome could have been quite different. In the wake of
the Six-Day War, the Palestinians hoped for an independent state and
regarded the Israeli victory as a means to free themselves from
Jordanian rule. This is not a well-known historical fact, but Neumann
documents that for a short flimsy period the Palestinians felt that the
Israelis were their liberators. The Palestinians let the Israelis know
that they were ready to negotiate an immediate settlement to establish
their own sovereign state alongside Israel. Their calls were not
answered or, to put it slightly differently, the answer was loud and
clear. Israel annexed East Jerusalem and started its settlement policy.
It's worth quoting a citation from a speech by Israeli Defense Minister
Moshe Dayan:
This is what used to be called 'Jew after Jew'... It meant
expansion, more Jews, more villages, more settlements. Twenty years
ago we were 600,000; today we are near three million. There should
be no Jew who says 'that's enough,' no one who says 'we are nearing
the end of the road.' ...It is the same with the land. ...there will
be complaints against you if you come and say: 'up to here.' Your
duty is to not stop; it is to keep your sword unsheathed, to have
faith, to keep the flag flying. You must not call a halt - heaven
forbid - and say 'that's all; up there, up to Degania, to
Musfallasim, to Nabal Oz!' For that is not all.
Which brings Michael Neumann to comment on "the comparison with fascist
ideologies of 'blood and soil'"...and leads him to cover the deliberate
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians that has taken place ever since, as
well as the inevitable violent resistance from the Palestinians. Their
only choice was, and remains, to leave the territories or to resist.
What's so infuriating here, and well documented by the author, is that
Israeli leaders have consistently acknowledged -- not so much in public,
for it is yet another argument used in the propaganda war to appropriate
the Occupied Territories -- the uselessness of these territories for the
strategic defense of Israel. The Palestinians have no alternative but to
resist, when Israel has an obvious one, recommended by many Israeli
military experts: unilateral withdrawal.
Yet again, it is the Palestinians that are accused of violent actions
and faulted for not resorting to non-violence. But, as Neumann
convincingly establishes, "non-violence has never 'worked' in any
politically relevant sense of the word, and there is no reason it ever
will." His demonstration, using the examples of Gandhi (Indian
independence), Martin Luther King (US Civil Rights), and South Africa
(the end of Apartheid), may be resisted by the partisans of non-violence
but I strongly recommend they read his analysis. A non-violent advocate
myself, I must admit that Neumann makes a compelling case. Non-violence
can only work when the powers-that-be are on the side of the struggle.
Israel, evidently, has not been on the side of the Palestinian struggle
for independence! It should also be noted that the Palestinians have
gone through periods of substantial calm with little or no violence, to
no avail. Suffice it to look at the current Israeli response to the
non-violent resistance and demonstrations against the massive wall of
separation that Israel is slowly completing. It does not make the news
in the U.S. but its harshness is obvious to anyone who cares to look.
So, we are left with the old hatred. "They" hate us...always
have...always will. How, then, can we have a Palestinian state next door
that will forever be Israel's enemy and never accept its existence?
Neumann answers this old hogwash with the precision of a surgeon. Hatred
comes from war. Hatred comes from occupation and from being treated
worse than dogs. Hatred slowly rescinds with peace. And is not peace
with Egypt (and Jordan) proof that the existence of the state of Israel
is accepted by its former enemies? Even the latest bombastic comments
originating in Iran cannot hide the actuality: Israel is a fully secured
country whose legitimacy, within its 1948 boundaries, is a fact, fully
recognized by the overwhelming majority of the world.
Neumann then turns his attention to terror and terrorism, which he
dissects in both practical and moral terms. He also examines how Israel
became an ally of the USA ("a child of the Cold War") and the role of US
Evangelical Christians in the support of Greater Israel; why the
alliance should end, for the benefit of all -- Israelis, Jews,
Americans, Palestinians... -- and whether Israel is judged by a double
standard, or "higher standard," as well it should be since, as the
narrative goes, the country is deemed by its proselytizers a /Great
Beacon of Light./
But I can't get into his rationale further; this review is already too
long. I must confess that having a natural contrariant propensity, I was
humbled by Michael Neumann as I could find nothing to object to in the
case he makes. Perhaps he could have covered the importance of the West
Bank aquifers in Israel's decision to hold tight to the Occupied
Territories and colonize them; but I suspect he would dismiss this point
as yet another irrelevancy that besieges this sorry state of
affairs...and, darn, he would be correct.
To close: I very much appreciate the even-handedness of Neumann's
precise, thought through, and well-documented rationale. Very few people
have the capability and the character to be intellectually relevant and
to address this divisive subject so objectively. Yet, I sensed a
subterraneous emotional thread in his faultless, short, yet exhaustive,
dissertation: A call for justice. People from all backgrounds, Jews and
non-Jews alike, are clamoring with quiet certitude: Enough is enough. A
growing number of Israeli and Jewish people all over the world,
including the U.S., are courageously raising their voices in favor of
the end of the occupation. Michael Neumann is one of these voices. He
deserves to be heard and widely disseminated. Please buy the book, read
it, and if you feel like it, prove me wrong.
· · · · · ·
Neumann, Michael: /The Case Against Israel,/ CounterPunch
<> and AK Press,
<> January 2006, ISBN 1-90485-946-1, 220
pages, $16.50 (paperback) -- You can buy the book directly from
/CounterPunch's/ On-line Bookstore.
You can also purchase it from your local independent bookstore
through Booksense <>.
Simply enter your Zip code and click on "Go" to find all local
independent bookstores near you (in the U.S.):

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Published December 19, 2005