Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Potpourri

Oh, what a lovely week it has been in world events.

Julian Assange is out on bail, albeit under draconian restrictions, and Mark Zuckerberg is named Time's Person Of The Year, in spite of the fact that Assange had nearly 400,000 votes in the reader poll, as opposed to a piddling 18,000 for Zuckerberg. Corporate-controlled media is such an amusing phenomenon. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has publicly confirmed that Julian Assange and Wikileaks did not break any Australian laws.

The new Conservative government in the Netherlands is trying to pass restrictions on the delightfully famous Dutch Coffee Shops, particularly in the border areas. Let us stop and consider this one, boys and girls. People come to the Netherlands, spend their money in the local economy, then go home again. And this is a bad thing? The thinking of Conservatives is always a puzzlement to me. Or perhaps they don't really think, and that's the problem...

And that fun guy Silvio Berlusconi, who happens to be both Prime Minister of Italy and a huge media mogul, has banned a new Renault commercial from his Italian TV channel. Because it shows two women together. Ahhh, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

Speaking of real fun guys in charge of countries with a tentative grasp of reality, that perennial favorite Robert Mugabe has threatened to completely nationalize US and UK firms in Zimbabwe unless all sanctions against himself, his party, and his cronies are lifted. This is after Mugabe's ZANU-PF party passed a law requiring all foreign firms in Zimbabwe to sell a 51% interest to Zimbabweans, a law that was accompanied by a helpful list of Mugabe's cronies as "suggested buyers". The people of Zimbabwe deserve far better than Bob Mugabe. Their nation was once one of the brightest stars in Africa, and I earnestly hope it may one day be so again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


"The time has come", the Walrus said, "to talk of many things."

And I believe the time has come to talk seriously about ending US aid to Israel. In terms of human rights, in terms of international law, the US has been backing the wrong horse for 60 years now.

Among the things that the main-stream media doesn't want to talk about -

Hamas recently said, through an official spokesman, that it was willing to accept a 2-state solution based upon the pre-1967 borders. You know, Hamas, that organization that isn't invited to the so-called "peace talks", even though it's the democratically-elected government of Gaza, in which fully half of the Palestinian people are besieged. For the record, the division along pre-1967 borders is also the key to the UN peace plan, as expressed in numerous UN resolutions.

On Tuesday, Israel denied entry to a group of Palestinian firefighters, who were on their way to a ceremony in Israel. What was this ceremony about? It was to thank them for their help battling wildfires in Israel last week.

On a related note, the reason is emerging for last week's Israeli wildfires getting so badly out of control. It seems the Minister of the Interior is a religious fundamentalist who had been funneling all his department's money to the illegal settlements, and ignoring fire preparedness.

But these are relatively small things, simply among the thousand-and-one symptoms of a racist state spinning out of all logical control.

In a much larger symptom of the problem, PM Netanyahu this week rejected utterly any partition of Jerusalem. Given that every halfway-credible peace plan ever advanced has been based upon a partition of Jerusalem, this essentially scuttles any hope for peace.

And so, what is the USA left with? Netanyahu has snubbed and humiliated the US repeatedly in the last two years, his administration is utterly unresponsive to input from our nation, in any form. So why should we continue to support Israel? What's in it for the USA, what do we get for our $12 Billion per year in aid?


Monday, December 13, 2010

Common Sense Down Under

Leave it to the Oz to be the ones displaying hard-headed common sense while others are in a dither.

Among the many other tidbits revealed in the latest release by Wikileaks, (which we will no doubt be sifting through for years), are a few truly encouraging cables from the US embassy in Canberra, Australia relating that the Australian intelligence community takes a very different view from that of the USA.

How utterly delightful, how like a breath of fresh air, to read that the Australians do not consider Iran a "rogue state", and think the US is making a mistake by dealing with Iran that way. And furthermore, that the ONA, (think Australian CIA), considers Iran's potential nuclear program to be "deterrent" in nature.

On a more sobering note, the Australians are concerned about a possible Israeli attack on Iran, and believe that such an attack could lead to a nuclear exchange. Australia is also concerned about long-term nuclear proliferation in South Asia as a whole.

I will admit that I find this as much surprising as encouraging. The Australians can be appallingly conservative in some ways, a trait they have in common with many former British colonies. What's that you say? The pot calling the kettle black? Who, me?

Story at the Sydney Morning Herald here
Story at AJE here
No doubt, dear reader, you will note the amusingly different headlines at the two publications.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Nobel for Bradley Manning

Mark Levine, who is a professor of history at UC Irvine, has a new entry at AJE entitled Wikileaks:Call of Duty, in which he proposes a Nobel for Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the documents which Wikileaks has released, to such a stir among the DC elite.

"No one outside of the Washington establishment and the myriad foreign leaders shamed by revelations of their penchant for hatred, hubris and pedestrian peccadillos can seriously argue that the release of these classified documents has done anything but good for the cause of peace and political transparency."

Oh, well said, professor!

"At the very least, given what a mockery President Obama has made of the principles for which the prize is supposed to stand - evidence of which, like pressuring Spain to drop criminal investigations into Bush administration torture, have only come to light thanks to the latest WikiLeaks release - the Nobel Committee should demand his medal back and give it to Manning or whoever the leaker is."

Late in the article, he takes some cheap shots at the game Call of Duty. Now, CoD is not something I play; I like my shooters set safely in a fantasy world, thank you very much. But still, as a gamer, I am not really comfortable with seeing such criticism come our way. We get enough crap of that sort from the other side of the aisle.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saudis and Syrians Broker Lebanon Deal

Saudi Arabia and Syria are again trying to prevent a blow-up in Lebanon, over the results of a tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.

As I have reported here before, the tribunal supposedly investigating the murder of former PM al-Hariri has been at work for years. The outside influence upon that tribunal, from the USA and other nations, has been extreme. The tampering with the records, by Israel and others, has been shameless. The use of secret witnesses, who never appear before the eyes of the tribunal, and whose names are kept secret, has tainted the proceedings irredeemably. And the findings of this tribunal will not be made public for months yet, or perhaps never, depending upon the decisions of a panel of judges.

Yet everyone in the region is in a furor over the tribunal, because of a few complicating factors. Lebanon's current PM is Saad al-Hariri, the son of the man who was assassinated. Most Lebanese, (and many Europeans), suspect Israel was behind the murder. But the tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah for the killing. The US and Israel would very much like to pin the murder upon Hezbollah, because that would weaken Hezbollah in particular and Lebanon in general. And there are signs that both the US and Israel are tampering with and even fabricating evidence to frame Hezbollah.

But Hezbollah has greater military strength than the Lebanese army, so there can be no question of any Hezbollah members being seized by force.

How, you may ask, did this come to pass? It came about because when Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon in the 1980's, they created a Christian puppet army called the South Lebanon Army, and used that force to murder Muslim Lebanese wholesale. From this grew both the popularity of Hezbollah, and the mistrust of the central Lebanese Army. And by doing this, Israel sowed anew the seeds of mistrust between Christian and Muslim Lebanese.

As I wrote in my initial report on Lebanon, some four months ago -

Lebanon has a sizable Christian population, roughly 40% of the population, as compared to a single-digit percentage in other Arab countries. While 95% of the people are ethnically classified as Arabs, "many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendants of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians" (quoted from the CIA World Factbook). Furthermore, there are 17 officially recognized sects; 5 Muslim and 12 Christian.

As goes Lebanon, so goes the Middle East. And that, dear reader, is why both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Bashir al-Assad of Syria are doing all they can to prevent a renewed civil war in Lebanon.

Latest related story at AJE here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

OMG, it's a Scary Muslim!

A new article in Foreign Policy magazine caught my eye, and aroused my ire.

Hiding in Plain Sight, is the title, with a subtitle of, "You don't need to get your hands on secret cables to learn that Turkey's foreign minister has a radically different view of the world than American diplomats. Just read his dissertation."

Oh, really? So another nation's Foreign Minister has different ideas from those of our own State Department? News Flash, sweetheart, at least half the population of our own country has very different views from those of the US State Department.

Predictably enough, the article goes downhill from there, offering a breathless expose of the dissertation written by Turkey's FM back in 1990, as though this had somehow been hidden away to conceal sinister intent. Bullshit, the damn thing was written in English and it's been sitting in the library for the last 20 years, available to any fool who cared to read it.

So, what's so sinister in this dissertation? It says that Muslim Society and Western Society have fundamentally different views of the world. It says that Western institutions do not work well when forcibly imposed upon Muslim societies.

Rudyard Kipling, dear reader, told us that over a century ago.

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

This was written by Kipling in 1887. In this, the author tells us bluntly that we are different, but we are equal, and we can live together in mutual respect.

But no, we can't have that, that would interfere with Israel's agenda.

And so the author embarks upon a long series of slanders, innuendos, and exaggerations, all designed to portray Davutoglu (the Turkish Foreign Minister who wrote the dissertation) as a sinister Islamist with a dark agenda that inevitably leads to a nuclear Jihad, if they don't just murder us all in our beds and carry off our virgin cheerleader daughters to the harem of some swarthy Arab sheikh.

(and yes, one could question whether the phrase "virgin cheerleader" isn't an oxymoron, but let's stick to the main issue, shall we?)

And so this article becomes one more shell in an ongoing bombardment of propaganda, all designed to turn Western public opinion against Turkey, by appealing to the worst fears of that Western audience, by pandering to the lowest common denominator in society, by invoking the hidden leverage of racism and religious prejudice.

And this has been the agenda since Turkey chose to take a hard stance in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara massacre, what is sometimes called the Gaza Flotilla massacre.

And yet, now that Israel is hard-pressed by huge wildfires, Turkey has sent firefighters to help.

Islam is not our enemy. Muslims are not our enemies. Our enemies are those who would seek to profit through manipulating us into fighting their wars.