Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jews in Hezbollah

Got your attention, didn't I. No, I don't know if there are any reports of Jews fighting for Hezbollah. But this was an equally silly or man-bites-dog piece of news I ran across, of a Hindu commander of a Kashmiri Islamic militant outfit, the Hizb Mujahideen. Read the article here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The New Emergency by Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan has written an important new book (State of Emergency). I haven't read it yet, but saw a brief set of highlights from it on the web, reproduced later. The book deals with the unfettered illegal and legal immigration fast turning America into a third world country, a theme Buchanan has stressed repeatedly over the years. The immigration debates and rallies of this year make this book timely, though it may be too late as a wake up call.

This from the Drudge Report:


“As Rome passed away, so, the West is passing away, from the same causes and in much the same way. What the Danube and Rhine were to Rome, the Rio Grande and Mediterranean are to America and Europe, the frontiers of a civilization no longer defended.”

So begins a new work of warning from Pat Buchanan.

And this time Buchanan goes all the way.

STATE OF EMERGENCY: THIRD WORLD INVASION AND CONQUEST OF AMERICA streets this week and is designed to jolt readers with stats/analysis of illegal immigration gone dangerously wild.

Buchanan warns: “The children born in 2006 will witness in their lifetimes the death of the West."

One in every twelve people breaking into America has a criminal record.

By 2050, there will be 100 million Hispanics concentrated in the U.S. Southwest.

Between 10 and 20 percent of all Mexicans, Central Americans and Caribbean people have already moved to the United States.

Every month, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehends more illegal aliens breaking into our country, 150,000, than the number of troops we have in Iraq.

[The book was ranked #571 on AMAZON's sales chart Sunday evening.]

Buchanan slams the president: “Concerned about his legacy, George W. Bush may yet live to see his name entered into the history of his country as the president who lost the American Southwest that James K. Polk won for the United States."

In EMERGENCY, Pat Buchanan charges the Mexican regime with an Aztlan Plot, a conscious campaign to use America as a dumping ground for its poor and unemployed, both to relieve social pressure and effect a cultural re-annexation of the American Southwest. La Reconquista, the reconquest of the lands lost by Mexico in the Mexican-American War, Buchanan charges, is underway.

The Republican Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is in the grip of a cult called “Economism.” It is all about money now. The GOP worships at the “Church of GDP”

• Both parties are paralyzed by guilt over American past racial sins.

• Powerful Mexican and U.S. elites seek to erase America’s borders and merge the United States and Mexico into a “North American Union.”

In his controversial final chapter, “Last Chance,” Buchanan lays out a national plan to deal with the State of Emergency, before it makes an end of America:

• An Eisenhower-type deportation program, beginning with all illegal aliens convicted of felonies and every gang member not a U.S. citizen.

• A ten-year moratorium on all legal immigration, at the level JFK favored in 1958 -- 150,000 to 250,000 a year.

• A $10-billion, 2000-mile double-line security fence between the United States and Mexico, built with no apologies to Mexico City.

Tony Blankley, Buchanan's fellow member of the McLaughlin Group, has this to say in his review of the book:
Most people will be familiar with Mr. Buchanan's view on immigration. But even those who have read his earlier books and read his columns, as I have, will not be prepared for the remorseless presentation of unimpeachable facts with which he makes his convincing case for the reality of his book's subtitle: "the third world invasion and conquest of America." Here he deepens his case against illegal immigration (and his case for a moratorium on even legal immigration) with statistic after statistic concerning, among many topics, the shockingly disproportionate degree of disease and crime that illegal Mexican and other immigrants are transmitting into the country.

For example, in Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide, which total 1,200-1,500, are for illegal aliens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California now has almost 40,000 cases of tuberculosis (a disease only recently thought to be virtually extinct in America). He presents compelling evidence that the "Reconquista" of southwestern United States is not merely the silly conceit of a few extremists, but is widely desired by Mexicans (he cites a 2002 Zogby poll showing that by 58 percent to 28 percent, Mexicans believe the American Southwest belongs to Mexico).

New to me was his citation to the fact that all 47 Mexican consulates in the United States are mandated to provide textbooks to U.S. schools with significant Hispanic populations, which textbooks teach history from the point of view of General Santa Ana -- in which America stole the Southwest. The Los Angeles consulate, alone, has distributed 100,000 such textbooks just this year to the L.A. Unified School District.
This weekend, I turned on the PBS TV channel and discovered a Sesame Street program in Spanish. Since when did the regular PBS channel become bi-lingual? The notice from the utility company comes in seven or eight languages. High up in the Lick Observatory in San Jose this summer, I saw signs in English, Spanish-- and Vietnamese (I think). The recent response to a wholly unjustified destruction of Lebanon's civil life, strong armed by an Israeli lobby, and the equally intense lobbying by Indian groups to twist (wholly willing, for a price, one should add) congressional opinion on the nuclear agreement, are evidences of where immigrant loyalties are influencing important policy decisions.

Notwithstanding his unforgivable support to Bush in the 2004 election, despite all his opposition to Bush on the Iraq War, Buchanan has been been astute in his diagnosis of many of the major trends of our times. He is right on immigration, he is right on foreign wars, he is right on outsourcing, he is right on globalization, he is right in his opposition to US foreign policy being made an adjunct of Israel's. That's a lot of rights. A big picture guy who can also quote minute details to bolster his points, Patrick J. Buchanan is worth listening to.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Politics of Terror - Cui Bono?

Cui Bono?

Who benefits from the terror of terror?

A few months back, Werther wrote a brilliant piece in Counterpunch, called "A Half-Dozen Questions About 9/11 They Don't Want You to Ask". Now, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC has a remarkable presentation of the close proximity of terror warnings of the past four years to politically inconvenient times for the Bush administration. This is an incredibly painstaking work of journalism. See for yourself: Nexus of Terror and Politics. A must watch. Olbermann presents facts without making allegations. Far more powerful that way.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

John Kerry was Right?

Here's an astonishing article by George Will, who was an ardent supporter of George W. Bush, and (I think) was a supporter of the Iraq War.

Yes, that George Will.

The Triumph of Unrealism

Tuesday, August 15, 2006; Page A13

Five weeks have passed since the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers provoked Israel to launch its most unsatisfactory military operation in 58 years. What problem has been solved, or even ameliorated?

Hezbollah, often using World War II-vintage rockets, has demonstrated the inadequacy of Israel's policy of unilateral disengagement -- from Lebanon, Gaza, much of the West Bank -- behind a fence. Hezbollah has willingly suffered (temporary) military diminution in exchange for enormous political enlargement. Hitherto Hezbollah in Lebanon was a "state within a state." Henceforth, the Lebanese state may be an appendage of Hezbollah, as the collapsing Palestinian Authority is an appendage of the terrorist organization Hamas. Hezbollah is an army that, having frustrated the regional superpower, suddenly embodies, as no Arab state ever has, Arab valor vindicated in combat with Israel.

Only twice in the United Nations' six decades has it authorized the use of substantial force -- in 1950 regarding Korea and in 1990 regarding Kuwait. It still has not authorized force in Lebanon. What is being called a "cease-fire" resolution calls for Israel to stop all "offensive" operations. Israel, however, reasonably says that its entire effort is defensive. The resolution calls for Hezbollah to stop "all attacks." The United Nations, however, has twice resolved that Hezbollah should be disarmed, yet has not willed the means to that end. Regarding force now, the U.N. merely "expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements" of the U.N. force that for 28 years has been loitering without serious intent in south Lebanon.

The "new Middle East," the "birth pangs" of which we supposedly are witnessing, reflects the region's oldest tradition, the tribalism that preceded nations. The faux and disintegrating nation of Iraq, from which the middle class, the hope of stability, is fleeing, has experienced in these five weeks many more violent deaths than have occurred in Lebanon and Israel. U.S. Gen. George Casey says 60 percent of Iraqis recently killed are victims of Shiite death squads. Some are associated with the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry, which resembles a terrorist organization.

The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented Sept. 11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England.

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

The official is correct that it is wrong "to think that somehow we are responsible -- that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies." But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy -- and domestic politics -- unrealism.

Foreign policy "realists" considered Middle East stability the goal. The realists' critics, who regard realism as reprehensibly unambitious, considered stability the problem. That problem has been solved.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Connecticut Donkey...

A Connecticut Donkey in King George's Court
(with apologies to Mark Twain)

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

The first three letters just happen to be,
L-I-E., L-I-E.
(with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music)

But what's in a name? It is the actions that count. And here, perhaps the biggest greatest contribution to legitimizing the actions of the Bush administration has come from what can be euphamistically called, an 'enabling' legislator.

I first noticed the strange behavior of Joseph I. Lieberman shortly after the 2000 election. Those were difficult days (you have to remember, we had higher standards then). It was bad enough that Gore and Lieberman went quietly into the night after so blatant a travesty as the Rehnquist court judgement. While Gore may not have had Obrador's gumption, it was clear that he was at least capable of inner outrage.

Lieberman, on the other hand, clearly appeared relieved that he could now go back to full-time faux bipartisanship. Instead of being a stringent opposition politician watching every false move of the ruling party, he was happy to promote a phony 'let us all get along'. Such an attitude, always dubious in an opposition, turned disastrous for the country when a criminal and inept administration was at the helm.

The stentorious statesman who pilloried Ralph Nader in 2000 for bolting the party and standing as an independent, announced during the primary campaign he would consider precisely such a move himself. He kept this pledge, announcing after his loss last evening, using a concession speech to Lamont into a launching pad for his campaign as independent, although he kept saying that he would be a Democrat. How? By opposing the Democratic nominee? While Lamont in his victory speech praised Lieberman, the Senator spewed bile on the upstart who had beaten him. Talk of the politics of division!

But doublespeak comes naturally to this self-professed moralist. Michael Kinsley wrote long ago that when he was hosting his TV show, the two politicians who were always available to appear, day or night, weekday or weekend, were Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, the very same enablers who gave so many of Bush's egregious initiatives the stamp of moral authenticity, or at least, temporary cover. I cannot erase from my memory how assiduously Lieberman helped McCain pilot the Iraq War resolution through the Senate, and how Lieberman went after Howard Dean when Dean said Saddam Hussain's capture had not made America any safer (see Duryodhana Dies). No wonder the Bush administration made full use of Lieberman's crucial votes, portraying him as a reasonable and bipartisan politician who cared for the country in this time of war. Rather ironic, coming from a crew that itself didn't care about the country, and saw the war only as an opportunity to curtail rights and help its friends.

Bill Clinton, knowing Lieberman's intentions, still came out to campaign for him. How glorious that it helped not at all, exploding the myth that people will be fooled into excusing enablers, and their enablers. So did Chris Dodd and Barbara Boxer, both of whom had voted against the war. The Senate protects its own.

A week before the primary, facing a 13 point gap in the polls, the man of principle attempted to shed his record with a vigor that surprised even his admirers, all the while claiming to stand firm on principle. "I not only respect your right to disagree or question the president or anyone else -- including me -- I value your right to disagree".

How magnanimous! One wishes Lieberman had valued as much his right to disagree with Bush. We are not talking about any old administration here, but the most brazen and incompetent one in memory. But Lieberman had no problem voting with the Bush team for Gonzales, Rice, CAFTA, the Patriot Act, Roberts, Alito, on the recent resolution (the original and the watered down versions) on withdrawing troops...

Lamont may have any number of flaws, but his courage in taking on this so-called icon of the Democratic party (a true representative for a party under whose Senate leadership the war resolution was passed), challenged him on the War and laid him low, assures him a place in the history of our times.

Congrats and thanks, Ned Lamont, for your wake up call to the Democratic Party, and for causing more sleepless nights for all those other minor and major Liebermans among the political elite.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at His blog is at

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Fig Leaf(let) of Warning

Looking for the Bright Side


Banta Singh has been hit by a car, and his colleague Santa Singh is visiting him in the hospital. Seeing Banta swathed in bandages, Santa racks his brain for something cheerful to say.

Finally, he observes, "Ohe Banta, look at it this way, at least it is only your left hand that's broken, not the right."

Banta Singh brightens up immediately. "Aha! At last, a person who appreciates my presence of mind! You know, actually it was my right hand that was under the car at first. I thought to myself how terrible that would be, so I quickly withdrew my right hand, and put in my left instead!"

--From my late friend, philosopher, and guide, D. Subbarao.

If Banta Singh's logic appeals to you, then you should have no difficulty applauding the wisdom of the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman.

Speaking of the deaths of ordinary men, women and children in Qana and other places in Lebanon, Mr. Gillerman told the Security Council that Israel regretted every casualty, and was indeed so concerned to avoid them that each time, before bombing, it dropped leaflets beseeching people to leave the area. His nodders, assistant nodders, and sundry yes-men on the US side, including John Bolton, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Snow, Hillary Clinton and why, even Bill Maher, have been echoing Mr. Gillerman's words in their own remarks.

The Israeli statements exceed even the old Billy Bunter double-defense, "I never touched that cake. Besides, it tasted terrible". First they said they were ultra-careful to hit the correct building. Then they said they were sure Hezbollah was holed up near, if not inside the building itself. Then they said they had used precision missiles. Then they said they were sorry, but this was war, and errors do happen. This is why they dropped leaflets in the first place.

Once you have given a warning, you are absolved. What next, complaints that Israel only dropped printed leaflets, of omitting to put up warnings on the web and send out an email message to everyone in Lebanon? (A Jewish state sending out spam?). Some people are never satisfied.

By this fresh piece of Israeli-American logic, however, Hitler's atrocities are mitigated, if not absolved, because he had given umpteen warnings to the Jews, all the way from Mein Kampf on, of their impending fate if he came to power. If people didn't believe him, stuck around and suffered the consequences, it was because they did not follow their many smart cohorts who left Germany when they were warned. Hezbollah and Hamas, too, are similarly exculpated, because they have never left any Israeli in doubt of their intentions towards Israel. As is Osama bin Laden because, long before Khobar Towers, Cole and 9-11, he repeatedly warned American to leave the Muslim lands.

Welcome to the 21st century version of "Let them eat Cake".

Going along with this argument for a moment, assume that I, as a resident of Lebanon at whose feet a floating Israeli leaflet has just landed, decide that prudence is in order, and taking the warning seriously, depart town with my family. I return two days later to find my roof lying on my living room floor, my town devastated, my water and power supply busted. One million Lebanese are, like imaginary me, estimated to be refugees within their own country, having left their residences in heed of Israeli warnings or fear of being buried alive by a bomb. Surely they are beside themselves in gratitude for Israel's pre-bomb warning leaflets.

The natural tendency of the human mind is to equate the protagonists in a fight. In the subconscious of world opinion, then, the Hezbollah is acquiring coequal status with Israel. Current reality too has added to the perception. Once upon a time, Israel finished off three whole countries and doubled the territory under its control, all in less time than God took to create the universe. Today it cannot advance more than two miles along a narrow front, against an entity that is not even a regular army (maybe for that very reason).

By its tactics, which have killed ten times the number of people as has Hezbollah, Israel has also obliterated any distinction between itself and its enemy which, as it says, does not care about the human toll. Along with its leaflets, myths of Israeli military invincibility and moral superiority too have dropped out of the sky, making their way to the ground where Hezbollah stands.

The Banta Singh analogy does not end with Israel, however. Those who rejoice in the damage to Israeli myths should be equally mindful of falling victim to the mystique of Hezbollah. The tragedy remains that it has taken a religious and sectarian militia to accomplish what broad-based nationalist and secular movements could not. To take heart in Israel's discomfiture, ignoring this reality, is to emulate Banta Singh's smug satisfaction in salvaging the right hand by sacrificing the left. No pun intended.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at His blog is at

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Campaigns in the new Century

Michael Neumann is an extraordinarily original and perceptive thinker. His article, How Time Flies, is among the most insightful writings on the Iraq and Afghan wars, though it analyzes the actual fighting almost not at all. Here, once again, is a piece by him in yesterday's online edition of Counterpunch examining the nature of communication and organization in the era of emails.

Like other writings by Neumann, it does not seek to provide an answer, but leads one to a better starting point for thinking about the problem.

August 1, 2006

War in the Blathersphere

What is to be Said?


Every day the emails swarm, like earnest flies around some goo on the sidewalk. You get more of them when there is more human misery, more filth or gore. They are useless in various ways. Sometimes they moralize about the obvious. Often they tell you what you already know. They at once proclaim that the press does not report the story, and get the story from the press. Many emailers both get their items from, say, The Guardian, and pretend that The Guardian doesn't exist, or that you don't read it. But if you get these sorts of emails, you do read it. If you don't read it, you don't get these sorts of emails.

Even then, you may well learn what the emailers insist, ad nauseam, you will never learn. "Watch as Palestinians struggle without basic necessities", says CNN.

Sometimes the emails do contain information you can't get elsewhere, but don't want from anywhere. You receive them because you have been identified, correctly, as someone concerned about the horrors unfolding in some particular part of the world. If the idea is to arouse further concern, one wonders why: your greater concern probably won't mean that you help the sufferers, or even that you try to help them. Most likely you will simply send more emails, which is why the concerned types often get the same story from four or five sources.

Sometimes the emails call for 'action'. Petitions are signed. There are 'boycotts', which really are a sort of *in*action: for a while, a few concerned boycotters half-heartedly try to do the work of billions. Here, in full, is what one very decent person sent out a few months ago: "To express solidarity with the Palestinian people and their democratically elected government, all citizens of the world should join in a global non-violent boycott of US and European products until the governments of these countries change all such policies which condone, help and support the occupation of the Palestinian people and their effective genocide by the Israeli Apartheid regime." If there were enough people to mount these boycotts, the problems they address would not exist in the first place. But boycott efforts do bear fruit in the form of many more emails, for and against the boycott.

The emails (and I've sent them myself) are symptomatic of a big, bad, debilitating problem. They exhibit profound faith in a doctrine contradicted by all recent history. Apparently, most kind-hearted people with keyboards feel that humanity, or the people, or the nation, or some skillful vanguard, is driven by a powerful conscience which, once aroused, will like a lion descend on injustice and rip it to shreds. How quickly this is to happen isn't clear, but the emailers at once proclaim the dire urgency of 'the situation' and signal that really, there is no urgency at all. We know and they know and the whole world knows that outraged consciences are not going to change anything much anytime soon. People are dying right now, we are told - yet not one person on the planet can expect these messages to drive back the killers or suppress the terrible ambitions of their handlers. If the emails produce any effect, it will be far, far down the road, when today's urgency has become last year's memory.

Some emailers simply pretend otherwise. For others, the answer is: "one has to do something." No one doesn't, when this is all one does. For yet others, their messages are simply a bearing of witness to evil, which essentially means watching people suffer and die. Why this should be some moral obligation or personal accomplishment is a mystery.

If these emails are action, what we need is better talk. It is emphatically not time to organize - organize whom? how many? with what money? to what end? to do what? have a march? How exactly will 'organizing' stop the next army crashing through the next far-off slum, much less the armies already on the move? No one can really believe that because marches and lugubrious meetings have failed in the past, they will succeed in the future. Indeed the very same critics who insist on the impotence of individuals in the face of a thoroughly debased electoral process, the emasculation of the trade unions and the repression of genuine dissent - these same critics act as if none of this made any difference, and we could, politically, do pretty much as we'd like.

Lenin asked, and answered, the question of what is to be done. Today the question is adolescent and the answers are lame. "We must build a movement" now belongs to the same category as "we must make the revolution" or "we must radicalize the underclass" or "make love not war". Leftists need to take their own pessimism about American politics seriously. If anything is ever to be done, some illusions need to go.
First among them is the supposed power of goodness. Many morally good movements have indeed succeeded. The usual suspects are the struggles of black Americans (Martin Luther King or Malcom X, take your pick), feminism, trade unions, the anti-apartheid movements and, implausibly, Gandhi's pacifist yet blood-soaked liberation of India. Others might add the Cuban, Algerian, Chinese, or Russian revolutions, and the Vietnamese expulsion of their enemies. But none of these movements succeeded *because* they were morally good. The bulk of those who fought these fights - as opposed to the well-wishers on the sidelines - were acting out of self-interest. The rank and file often fought for themselves or their families. The political types fought for some group to which they belonged, and with which they identified. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Malcom X had fine words but little else for the Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh had fine words and little else for American or South African blacks. No one expected, or should have expected, otherwise.

Today, these heroes might have sent some emails, and those emails might have been appreciated. People like getting messages of support. Maybe these messages even help a little - but not much. Usually a movement succeeds because it has enlisted huge numbers of self-interested followers, usually against a numerically inferior opposition. Departures from this pattern say nothing for the power of The Good. The Vietnamese had important Soviet support; this had to little to do with love of justice and much to do with countering American ambitions. The civil rights movement had the armed backing of the US federal government, and the anti-apartheid movement had (much-exaggerated) international backing. In both cases morality was not the driver of this support; it was rather a recognition that, without racial equality, there would be an ongoing bloodbath that would serve no one's political or economic interests. In both cases, many local whites eventually came to the same conclusion.

A look at some of the world's more conspicuous failures provides a better gauge of the power of moral concern. One sometimes hears that the world just didn't care about the pogroms against Jews in Russia and the Ukraine, the Armenian massacres, the horrors of Biafra, Ethiopia, Rwanda. This is nonsense: there was a huge outpouring of concern about these events, as there was about many forms of poverty and exploitation the world over, as there was when America was poised to attack Iraq. Lack of power, not lack of concern, was the problem. Then, of course, there are the painful failures we live with this very day, in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Congo. We give our emails and articles and speeches no credit for any improvement in these areas, because there is none. Hand-wringing is not new; that's why we ought to know it doesn't work.

This is no somber reflection on 'human nature'. Concern is not enough, that's all, and for three reasons.

First, we take sides. Once you are for the USA, you will not be overwhelmed by concern for dead Afghan kiddies. People don't actually proclaim the one-sidedness of their compassion, but why should they need to? Isn't it an obvious fact of life? If there are people who cried as many tears for both wounded Vietnamese and wounded American GIs, for both innocent Jews and innocent Germans, for both Palestinian and Israeli children, there are very few, and fewer still whose tears helped any substantial proportion of these victims.

Second, our concern, however admirable, is almost never sufficiently focused. There are so many things to be concerned about. One person is particularly touched the condition of the Palestinians, another by cancerous children, another by famine in the Sudan, another by sweatshops, another by animal extinctions, another by landmines, another by the destruction of native cultures, another by sweatshops. Often the same person flits from one concern to another.

Third, and decisively, We lack any real power to change what we are concerned about. Our votes count for nothing; nonviolent protest is ignored; violent protest, these days, is inconceivable. This could all change, but not soon. For now, many people - and who can prove them wrong? - judge there is nothing they can do about the world's ills, and look to their own business.
These are the reasons not to preach. Now it would be silly to argue against concern for others, or to claim that moral argument has absolutely no place in politics. Sometimes it is useful for deflating propaganda. Often it is useful for creating propaganda, once a cause has powerful support. But it almost never creates such support, and the left has gone astray by inflating its very modest political importance.
It is time we stop bringing one another news and views we've already heard, time we stopped wallowing in others' crimes, time we stopped invoking wimpy principles of law and morals as if these invocations really mattered, time we stopped crying on one another's soggy shoulders. Preaching does spawn longer and more varied email lists, but it is time we realized that this electronic chatter will never help the people we claim to want to help. It is not, for example, that no one will care about the plight of the Palestinians. On the contrary, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have cared, do and will care, very much. But that's just why we should realize that mere caring, and the actions it produced, are resoundingly ineffectual. The Palestinians are worse off than ever, and Israel couldn't care less about our caring.

The short of it is that you cannot build an effective movement on altruism, which means that, for many of the causes that most concern us, you cannot build an effective movement at all. There is an alternative, unromantic and unsatisfying, but much more promising, and therefore morally obligatory. It is to appeal to the interests of those with power. Depending on your point of view, this could mean the rich and corporate, or the mainstream majority, or either, or both.

These appeals need to be practical. Sermonizing results at best in empty gestures. Nor is it any good basing such appeals on what some pet theory proclaims as the deeper interests of humanity. If people were responsive to leftists revealing deeper, unrecognized human interests, the world's problems would have been solved a long time ago. Instead, effective appeals address the ignoble, short-term, possibly 'unreal' interests of those with power. These interests are mainly to have wealth and/or a good job, security and the comforts of life - yes, that includes gas for SUVs.

If effective appeals deviated from leftist orthodoxy, that would hardly speak against them. But they don't. Appealing to unsavory groups or interests doesn't endorse those interests or say anything about the legitimacy of policies or power structures. It is no renunciation of the desire to change those structures, even by the most radical means.
It is simply recognition of contemporary political realities. If that isn't impeccably orthodox, so much the worse for orthodoxy.

For anyone who actually gives a damn whether people starve or are beaten or burned to death, the whiny moralizing of the left is no longer a mere annoyance. It is also immoral. Lacking any remotely reasonable prospect of success, it is an exercise in self-gratification. The forms of this gratification may vary: for some it is simply a relief from great distress about the ways of the world, an outlet for painful frustration. For others it is an exercise in snobbery. For others it is a trip to fantasyland, glowing with visions of revolutionary triumph. Whatever its form, leftist moralizing places the moralizer's own satisfaction over the needs of those in desperate straits. That's not good; it's selfish. It is unpleasant to admit powerlessness and to act within the political framework of an abhorrent system. But it's the only game in town.
To pretend otherwise is hypocrisy - not the worst sin, perhaps, but one the left most loves to condemn. It is to act as if one really cares about others while pursuing a strategy that clearly will help only oneself.

The irony of it all is that it is only once leftists give up on their obsession with concern that they can make progress on those same concerns, on what induced them to become leftists in the first place.
The ignorance and stupidity of America's leaders and their supporters present great opportunities. Many think American policies, though they do run counter to the interests of 'ordinary Americans', serve the interests of big business, or the ruling class. This is false. Most American foreign policies run counter to the interest of big business as well.

Big business, on the whole, has no interest in supporting Israel, or invading Iraq, or confronting Iran, or tying aid to 'abstinence' birth control.* Major oil companies, who value stability, have no interest in risky, expensive, outrage-provoking schemes to siphon off oil from Central Asia. Even in Venezuela or Bolivia, American businessmen don't think lame coup attempts are an intelligent response to oil nationalizations. No corporate type wants high-ranking dweebs admonishing Russia or China about human rights, or provoking these nations with attempts to encircle them. All of these policies, because of the chaos and hostility they create, are worse for America's security, its energy supplies. and therefore its economy. American foreign policy is, often as not, an appeal to special voting blocks like anti-Castro Cubans or born-again Christians, not the implementation of corporate agendas.

The idiocies of US policy are an opportunity, not for effective action, but for its prerequisite, effective talk. In half the world, the US undercuts its security and economic prospects by supporting Israel, thereby alienating oil producers and key allies. Iran was once in the US camp; support for Israel is part of the reason it is now on the other side. In the first Gulf War, most of the world, including Syria, sided with the US and even fought alongside it. Now only a coalition of poodles skitters at America's heels. In Turkey, in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, in every country important to US objectives, anti-American sentiment explodes; this endangers America's grip on its energy suppliers. On the other side of the ocean, America's boycott of Cuba has done much to alienate first Venezuela, then Bolivia; Brazil and Mexico may not be far behind. This policy benefits no one and pleases only bitter first-generation Cuban refugees in Florida.

None of this does middle America or the big corporations any good. It's not hard to promote change on the only viable basis for promoting it, the self-interest of those who can make the changes. But most leftists, instead of addressing the obvious needs of virtually all Americans, apparently think they can infect a whole population with passionate altruism and high ideals. People are going hungry! Children are dying! International law is defied! There are violations of the Geneva Convention! Democracy is not being spread! Corporations are profitable! US policymakers are hypocrites!

When unions organize, when Toyota wants to sell a car, they don't say: "this will be great for someone else." Until the left stops thinking that's a smart way to sell change, the question of what is to be done can't even arise. Civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, feminism, environmentalism - the only progressive postwar movements that can claim some success - were successful precisely because they got past leftist idealism and made powerful appeals to the interests of those involved.(**)

Real compassion requires placing results over political puritanism. No one heeds connoisseurs of purity and agony. Nobody is interested in what we do or don't 'support' - the emptiest term in the whole vapid lexicon of leftism. You can 'support' violent revolution all you like, just as you can 'support' socialism in the United States or fair wages around the world or a secular state in Israel/Palestine. "Supporting' these things - or even more comically, 'demanding' them - has absolutely no tendency to bring them within a parsec of reality. At such a distance from high ideals, it is idle to fuss about whether they've been abandoned. Again, and until then: we are powerless. This could change dramatically tomorrow, but there is no sign of it changing, and if the signs come they will overshadow our 'radicalism' completely.
For now, we are - to harp on it - powerless. It is only by accepting this that we can set about persuading those who do have power to do less harm. If we succeed, and our chances are good, the American left will have more power than it has had for many years.


(*) Inevitably Halliburton will come to mind. Halliburton, despite years of government patronage, hasn't made it to the top 100 of the Fortune 500. Its 2005 revenues are a bit over 20 billion and its 'profit' is a loss of 979 million; it lost similar amounts in the previous three years. Exxon Mobil had revenues of $270 billion and profits of $25 billion. ChevronTexaco had revenues of almost 148 billion and profits of over 13 billion. ConocoPhillips had revenues of over 121 billion and profits of 8 billion. None of these truly big companies made anything noticeable out of Iraq or Afghanistan, much less Israel.

(**) Even churchmen are often less other-wordly than lefists in recognizing the importance of appeals to self-interest. The leader of Greece's Orthodox church, condemning Israel's attack on Lebanon, provides an example:

"[Israel is] sacrificing innocent civilians by the hundreds, and creating refugees by the thousands," he added, telling the Israeli authorities, "Do not provoke our consciences. Do not feed the world condemnation against you. It is not in your interest...Fear God's wrath."

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann's views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What's Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, "What is Anti-Semitism", to CounterPunch's book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Fidel Castro on September 11

Prophetic? You be the judge. Pay attention to the words in italics.
[Speech in Havana, September 22, 2001]

Fellow countrymen:

No one can deny that terrorism is today a dangerous and ethically indefensible phenomenon, which should be eradicated regardless of its deep origins, the economic and political factors that brought it to live and those responsible for it.

The unanimous irritation caused by the human and psychological damage brought on the American people by the unexpected and shocking death of thousands of innocent people whose images have shaken the world is perfectly understandable. But who have profited? The extreme right, the most backward and right-wing forces, those in favor of crushing the growing world rebellion and sweeping away everything progressive that is still left on the planet. It was an enormous error, a huge injustice and a great crime whoever they are who organized or are responsible for such action.

However, the tragedy should not be used to recklessly start a war that could actually unleash an endless carnage of innocent people and all of this on behalf of justice and under the peculiar and bizarre name of Infinite Justice.

In the last few days we have seen the hasty establishment of the basis, the concept, the true purposes, the spirit and the conditions for such a war. No one would be able to affirm that it was not something thought out well in advance, something that was just waiting for its chance to materialize. Those who after the so-called end of the cold war continued a military build-up and the development of the most sophisticated means to kill and exterminate human beings were aware that the large military investments would give them the privilege to impose an absolute and complete dominance over the other peoples of the world. The ideologists of the imperialist system knew very well what they were doing and why they were doing it.

After the shock and sincere sorrow felt by every people on Earth for the atrocious and insane terrorist attack that targeted the American people, the most extremist ideologists and the most belligerent hawks, already set in privileged power positions, have taken command of the most powerful country in the world whose military and technological capabilities would seem infinite. Actually, its capacity to destroy and kill is enormous while its inclination towards equanimity, serenity, thoughtfulness and restrain is minimal.

The combination of elements --including complicity and the common enjoyment of privileges-- the prevailing opportunism, confusion and panic make it almost impossible to avoid a bloody and unpredictable outcome.

The first victims of whatever military actions are undertaken will be the billions of people living in the poor and underdeveloped world with their unbelievable economic and social problems, their unpayable debts and the ruinous prices of their basic commodities; their growing natural and ecological catastrophes, their hunger and misery, the massive undernourishment of their children, teenagers and adults; their terrible AIDS epidemic, their malaria, their tuberculosis and their infectious diseases that threaten whole nations with extermination.

The grave economic world crisis was already a real and irrefutable fact affecting absolutely every one of the big economic power centers. Such crisis will inevitably grow deeper under the new circumstances and when it becomes unbearable for the overwhelming majority of the peoples, it will bring chaos, rebellion and the impossibility to govern.

But the price will also be unpayable for the rich countries. For years to come it would be impossible to speak strong enough about the environment and the ecology, or about ideas and research done and tested, or about projects for the protection of Nature because that space and possibility would be taken by military actions, war and crimes as infinite as Infinite Justice, that is, the name given to the war operation to be unleashed.

Can there be any hope left after having listened, hardly 36 hours ago, to the speech made the President before the U.S. Congress?

I will avoid the use of adjectives, qualifiers or offensive words towards the author of that speech. They would be absolutely unnecessary and untimely when the tensions and seriousness of the moment advise thoughtfulness and equanimity. I will limit myself to underline some short phrases that say it all:

We will use every necessary weapon of war.

Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.

Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

I’ve called the armed forces to alert and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud.

This is the worlds fight, this is civilizations fight.

I ask for your patience [...] in what will be a long struggle.

The great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depend on us.

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. [...] And we know that God is not neutral.

I ask our fellow countrymen to meditate deeply and calmly on the ideas contained in several of the above-mentioned phrases:

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

No nation of the world has been left out of the dilemma, not even the big and powerful states; none has escaped the threat of war or attacks.

We will use any weapon.

No procedure has been excluded, regardless of its ethics, or any threat whatever fatal, either nuclear, chemical, biological or any other.

It will not be short combat but a lengthy war, lasting many years, unparalleled in history.

It is the worlds fight; it is civilization's fight.

The achievements of our times and the hope of every time, now depend on us.

Finally, an unheard of confession in a political speech on the eve of a war, and no less than in times of apocalyptic risks: The course of this conflict is not known; yet its outcome is certain. And we know that God is not neutral.

This is an amazing assertion. When I think about the real or imagined parties involved in that bizarre holy war that is about to begin, I find it difficult to make a distinction about where fanaticism is stronger.

On Thursday, before the United States Congress, the idea was designed of a world military dictatorship under the exclusive rule of force, irrespective of any international laws or institutions. The United Nations Organization, simply ignored in the present crisis, would fail to have any authority or prerogative whatsoever. There would be only one boss, only one judge, and only one law.

We have all been ordered to ally either with the United States government or with terrorism.

Cuba, the country that has suffered the most and the longest from terrorist actions, the one whose people are not afraid of anything because there is no threat or power in the world that can intimidate it, with a high morale Cuba claims that it is opposed to terrorism and opposed to war. Although the possibilities are now remote, Cuba reaffirms the need to avert a war of unpredictable consequences whose very authors have admitted not to have the least idea of how the events will unfold. Likewise, Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate with every country in the total eradication of terrorism.

An objective and calm friend should advise the United States government against throwing the young American soldiers into an uncertain war in remote, isolated and inaccessible places, like a fight against ghosts, not knowing where they are or even if they exist or not, or whether the people they kill are or not responsible for the death of their innocent fellow countrymen killed in the United States.

Cuba will never declare itself an enemy of the American people that is today subjected to an unprecedented campaign to sow hatred and a vengeful spirit, so much so that even the music that sings to peace has been banned. On the contrary, Cuba will make that music its own, and even our children will sing their songs to peace while the announced bloody war lasts.

Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people and we will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging to peace and calmness. One day they will admit we were right.

Our independence, our principles and our social achievements we will defend with honor to the last drop of blood, if we are attacked!

It will not be easy to fabricate pretexts to do it. They are already talking about a war using all the necessary weapons but it will be good recalling that not even that would be a new experience. Almost four decades ago, hundreds of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons were aimed at Cuba and nobody remembers anyone of our countrymen sleepless over that.

We are the same sons and daughters of that heroic people, with a patriotic and revolutionary conscience that is higher than ever. It is time for serenity and courage.

The world will grow aware of this and will raise its voice in the face of the terrible threatening drama that it is about to suffer.

As for Cubans, this is the right time to proclaim more proud and resolute than ever:

Socialism or death!
Homeland or death!
We will overcome!

The Moral Culpability for Qana

by Patrick Buchanan
(Reprinted from

"Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah," roared Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon on July 27.

"Every village from which a Katyusha is fired must be destroyed," bellowed an Israeli general in a quote bannered by the nation's largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

The Israeli paper then summarized what the justice minister and general were saying: "In other words, a village from which rockets are fired at Israel will simply be destroyed by fire." That was Thursday.

Sunday, in Qana, 57 of Haim Ramon's "terrorists," 37 of them children, were massacred with precision-guided bombs. Apparently, Katyushas had been fired from Qana, near the destroyed building.

"One who goes to sleep with rockets shouldn't be surprised if he doesn't wake up in the morning," said Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman.

Today, we hear unctuous statements about how Israel takes pains to avoid civilian casualties, drops leaflets to warn civilians to flee target areas, and conforms to all the rules of civilized warfare.

But Israel's words and deeds contradict her propaganda. As the war began, Ehud Olmert accused Lebanon, which had condemned Hezbollah for the killing and capture of the Israeli soldiers, of an "act of war." Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz publicly threatened "to turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years."

Gillerman, at a pro-Israel rally in New York, thundered, "[T]o those countries who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You're damn right we are."

"His comments drew wild applause," said the Jerusalem Post.

Though Israel is dissembling now, Gillerman spoke the truth then. No sooner had Hezbollah taken the two Israeli soldiers hostage than Israel unleashed an air war – on Lebanon. The Beirut airport was bombed, its fuel storage tanks set ablaze. The coast was blockaded. Power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads, trucks, and buses were all hit with air strikes.

Within 48 hours, it was apparent Israel was exploiting Hezbollah's attack to execute a preconceived military plan to destroy Lebanon – i.e., the collective punishment of a people and nation for the crimes of a renegade militia they could not control. It was the moral equivalent of a municipal police going berserk, shooting, killing, and ravaging an African-American community, because Black Panthers had ambushed and killed cops.

If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean? There are 600 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio of 30-1, though Hezbollah is firing unguided rockets, while Israel is using precision-guided munitions.

Thousands of Lebanese civilians are injured. Perhaps 800,000 are homeless.

Yet, whatever one thinks of the morality of what Israel is doing, the stupidity is paralyzing. Instead of maintaining the moral and political high ground it had – when even Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan were condemning Hezbollah, and privately hoping Israel would inflict a humiliating defeat on Nasrallah – Israel launched an air war on an innocent people. Now, 87 percent of Lebanese back Hezbollah, and the entire Arab and Islamic world, Shia and Sunni alike, is rallying behind Nasrallah.

And how does one defend the behavior of the United States?

When Gillerman was exulting in the disproportionality of Israel's attack on Lebanon, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was smiling smugly beside him. When the UN Security Council tabled a resolution condemning Hezbollah's igniting of the war and Katyusha attacks, but also the excesses of Israel's reprisals, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton vetoed it. When a few congressmen sought to moderate a pro-Israeli resolution by adding words urging "all sides to protect innocent life and infrastructure," GOP leader John Boehner ordered the words taken down.

Why? Because, says Zbigniew Brzezinski, AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, had prepared the resolution and wanted it passed the way they wrote it. Our Knesset complied. It sailed through the House 410-8.

For two weeks, Bush seemed unable to find a word of criticism for what our friends in Israel were doing to our friends in Lebanon. He publicly sent more bombs to Israel. He and Condi emphasized that America did not want a cease-fire – yet.

And because America provides Israel with the bombs it uses on Lebanon, and we refused to restrain the Israelis, and we opposed every effort for a cease-fire before Sunday, America shares full moral and political responsibility for the massacre at Qana.

Rubbing our noses in our own cravenness, "Bibi" Netanyahu took time out, a week ago, from his daily appearances on American television, denouncing terrorism, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the terror attack on the King David Hotel by Menachem Begin's Irgun, an attack that killed 92 people, among them British nurses.

This was not a terrorist act, Bibi explained, because Irgun telephoned a 15-minute warning to the hotel before the bombs went off. Right. And those children in that basement in Qana should not have ignored the Israeli leaflets warning them to clear out of southern Lebanon.

Our Israeli friends appear to be playing us for fools.