December 29, 2009

It’s the blowback, stupid!

I don’t know why blowback is such a difficult concept for people to understand.

Simply stated, blowback refers to the unintended consequences of a county’s foreign policy. Example: the US supports Israel in its murder of Lebanese civilians; a group of Muslims retaliate by hijacking American planes and flying them into the World Trade Center. That’s blowback.

We can see this principle at work in everyday life. We can see it in most works of literature. Paris abducts Helen; the Greeks respond by invading Troy. Claudius kills King Hamlet; the prince responds by killing just about everyone he can.

And yet when a Muslim attacks the United States, few conservatives have the sense to view the attack as a response to our own actions. Instead, they tell us that Islam is to blame. Islam is always to blame.

When Major Nidal Hassan killed thirteen people at Ft. Hood, we were told that he was just following the teachings of the Qur’an. And now, four days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up an American plane (but succeeded in setting his own lap on fire), they’re again laying the blame on Islam.

Frank Gaffney tells us that Abdulmutallab is part of a “theo-political-legal program that authoritative Islam calls Shariah.” This program, he writes, “requires its adherents to engage in jihad, or holy war, to bring about the triumph of Islam under a global theocracy, one that will impose Shariah on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

Now I have no idea where Gaffney gets this stuff. He has, you might remember, a long history of saying crazy things—e.g., the US should “take out” Al Jezeera; Saddam Hussein was behind the Oklahoma City bombing; President Obama might be a secret Muslim (h/t Wikipedia).

We don’t yet know a whole lot about Abdulmutallab’s motivations, but the evidence we do have suggests that he was trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen and that his Christmas day malfunction was an attempt to avenge recent US-backed attacks in Yemen.

In a statement released today, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed that the attack was coordinated with the “mujahidin in the Arabian Peninsula after the savage bombardment of cluster bombs and cruise missiles launched from US ships occupying the Gulf of Aden against the courageous Yemeni tribes in Abyan, Arhab, and finally, Shabwah, where they killed dozens of Muslim women, children, and entire families.”

Now maybe you think that the attacks in Yemen were justified. Maybe you think that we’re all safer today because some US cruise missiles splattered a bunch of Yemeni children into a million pieces. But even so, why create a nonexistent boogeyman, that of the crazed Islamofascist hell-bent on global domination?

Even Osama bin Laden has been clear that his intention is not to take over the entire planet but simply to stop the US from attacking Muslims and to drive it from the Muslim World, especially the Arabian Peninsula. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.”

It couldn’t be any clearer. They’re attacking us because we’ve been attacking them. Why Gaffney and others refuse to understand this is beyond me.

December 28, 2009

Deconstructing Danny Ayalon’s “Peace Overture”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon begins an op-ed in A-Sharp Alawsat:

Since the reestablishment of our state, Israeli leaders have sought peace with their Arab neighbors. Our Declaration of Independence, Israel's founding document that expressed our hopes and dreams reads, “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help.” These words are as true today as when they were first written in 1948. Sadly, sixty one year later, only two nations, Jordan and Egypt, have accepted these principles and made peace with the Jewish State.

In other words, it’s not us, it’s you. We want peace, you want war.

Ayalon proceeds to give numerous examples purporting to prove that Israel, which launched its assault on Gaza a year ago Sunday, really does want peace, his primary example being Prime Minister Netanyahu’s settlement freeze in the West Bank, which as I’ve previously explained, isn’t actually a settlement freeze.

He continues:

It is time for courageous leaders to emanate from the Arab world as did Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979 and Jordan's King Hussein in 1994 and recognize that peaceful coexistence is far better for all of our people than enduring conflict and enmity.

We recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative is an important document, and is welcomed in Israel as a crack in the denial of an Arab recognition of Israel. However, like the Palestinian Authority's dictates to Israel on the peace process, it remains frozen in 1993.

Given that it wasn’t proposed until 2002, it’s not exactly clear how the Arab Peace Initiative could be frozen in 1993. It’s also unclear why it’s time for courageous Arab leaders to extend a hand of peace to Israel when that’s just what they did—in 2002—in the Arab Peace Initiative. As I've explained, every nation in the Arab League, save Libya, has endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative. First proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the initiative states that the Arab nations will both sign a peace treaty and normalize relations with Israel provided that Israel (1) withdraws to its 1967 borders, (2) attains a “just settlement” to the refugee problem, and (3) allows for the creation of a Palestinian state. As I further explained, these demands are all required by international law. And yet the vast majority of Israeli leaders have rejected the initiative.

But, of course, Ayalon doesn’t think that Israel deserves any, or at least not the lion’s share, of the blame here. To the contrary:

Both in 2000 at Camp David and in 2008 during the Annapolis process, Israeli prime ministers offered the Palestinians everything possible for peace and on both occasions the Palestinian leadership rejected these offers. The Palestinian Authority, like the Arab Peace Initiative, is still holding to its maximalist positions and has not moved an inch towards Israel since 1993. These positions are obviously untenable for peace and reflect a worldview that ignores Israel's significant gestures and seeks to enforce a solution that will mean the end of the Jewish State. Recent Palestinian and Arab League declarations only enforce this view.

So it’s not as though the Arabs haven’t attempted to make peace with Israel. They have. The problem, according to Ayalon, is that their terms have been too harsh, they’ve refused to abandon their “maximalist positions.” Translated, this means that Arab leaders have insisted on resolving the conflict in accordance with international law [.pdf]. (Now uttering those two words—international law—generally irks people on the right. But that’s never made much sense to me. International law isn’t something that’s been imposed upon Israel against its will. Rather, international law consists of treaties and other agreements that Israel itself has agreed to live by.)

At Camp David, Palestinian negotiators demanded that Israel completely withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which Noam Chomsky describes as “the center of Palestinian commercial, cultural and political life.” (According to international law, all of Gaza and all of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem, are Occupied Palestinian Territory.) But Israel rejected these demands and only offered to withdraw from 91% of the West Bank and part of East Jerusalem. By the standards of international law, this was obviously unacceptable. Even Shlomo Ben-Ami, who served as Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time, later stated that, had he been on the Palestinian side, he too would have rejected the offer.

In the months following the Annapolis Conference, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered the Palestinian Authority “land equaling 100% of the West Bank.” But it seems that the offer, which sought to retain settlement blocs in the West Bank in exchange for Israeli land, did not include East Jerusalem. According to this map, “based on sources who received detailed information about Olmert’s proposals,” Olmert’s plan called for Israel to annex East Jerusalem.

And yet Ayalon has the gall to conclude his op-ed:

It is surely time to look to the future and break with former intransigencies to create a better future for all the people of the region. Israel has gone very far and is prepared to do its part, but we must be met by a willing partner. Without this, the region is doomed to more conflict and will negate the unity of purpose in the Middle East that is necessary to face the mounting challenges from without and within.

I suppose he thinks that if he keeps repeating this nonsense, people will believe it.

Methinks the current Israeli government doesn’t really want a two-state solution, at least not one based on the principles of international law. Perhaps it’s time for the Palestinians to finally give up that dream and start demanding equal rights as members of a single Jewish-Arab nation.

December 24, 2009

A Christmas Message to Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris, who has recently become a superstar in the conservative movement—and I know what you’re thinking: “Chuck Norris? The old guy who can’t act? Superstar in the conservative movement? What does he know about politics?”—and the answer, of course, is almost nothing—Chuck Norris knows almost nothing about politics—but don’t be so surprised that he’s now a spokesman for a major political movement—after all, we’re living in a democracy—government of the plebs, by the plebs, for the plebs—and who do the plebs admire more than Walker, Texas Ranger? Anyway, where was I going with all this?

Oh, that’s right. Chuck Norris, conservative superstar, began his latest column at Human Events:

I'm willing to bet that President Barack Obama's Christmas address this week will shine with a religious significance that's about as bright as what was in his unusually short Thanksgiving proclamation, which gave a token reference to God via a quote from George Washington.

Even in the Obamas' superstar Christmas interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Estefan, there were discussions about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, ornaments, gingerbread houses and even their dog's Christmas stocking. Obama even gave a Christmas shout-out to all Hispanics. But there was not one mention of religion or a hint of the real reason for the season.

Chuckie goes on to show how past presidents, even past Democratic presidents, have “stood up for America's Judeo-Christian heritage and the true meaning of Christmas.” In December 1963, for example, LBJ told the nation:

We were taught by him whose birth we commemorate that after death, there is life. ... In these last 200 years, we have guided the building of our nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas.

Norris proceeds to show that even Bill Clinton—yes, even Bill Clinton—even philandering, semi-automatic-firearms-banning Bill Clinton—spoke reverently of Jesus. He then laments:

Unlike all preceding presidents, President Obama has denied America's rich Judeo-Christian heritage before the eyes and ears of other countries, as he publicly declared in Turkey on April 6 for the whole world to hear: "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation."

Now Norris’ comments illustrate what’s wrong with so many American Christians today. Simply put, these people are fricking idiots. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying all Christians are idiots. I’m not even saying most. I’m saying that many Christians—certainly most that I know—are stupid fricking idiots.

Because only a stupid fricking idiot would judge a politician by his words and not his actions. Chuckie and all his little Chuckites (many of whom I’m related to) spent eight years believing that George W. Bush was one of them. And why did they believe this? Well because W. said he was one of them. And that’s it, that’s all it took to fool millions of Evangelicals.

Of course, if they would have examined Bush’s record, they would have realized that he was essentially no different than Bill Clinton. Take his record on abortion, for instance. Although Bush said that he wanted to end abortion, during his eight years in office, he:

  • Forced taxpayers to fund abortion by repeatedly signing Health and Human Services appropriations bills into law. These appropriations bills funded “selected surgical abortions, chemical abortions, and the nations largest chain of abortion centers and perpetrators of abortion in America, namely, Planned Parenthood.”
  • Gave tax money to various pro-abortion foreign aid groups.
  • Repeatedly campaigned for pro-abortion political candidates.
  • Appointed a Supreme Court Justice with a decidedly pro-abortion voting record.
  • Appointed a Supreme Court Chief Justice who had formerly made it clear that he had no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade.

And yet Bush, who seemed to delight in talking the Christian talk, even as he was lying the nation into an immoral and unnecessary war, even as he was allowing defenseless men to be tortured, said that he was against abortion, and that’s all it took to win the undying support of Walker, Texas Plebian and all his pleb followers.

Now by no means am I defending Barack Obama. You couldn’t pay me enough to defend that baby-killing sociopath. I’m merely making the point that, just as Jesus instructed, we ought to judge people, not by their words, but by their fruit. And none of these politicians bear good fruit. Sure, some of them talk the Jesus Talk. So do some car salesmen. But so what?

December 22, 2009

Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Strategy for Achieving Peace and Liberty

From Democracy: The God that Failed, pages 91-94:

“In order to strip government of its powers and repair it to the status of a voluntary membership organization (as before 1861), it is not necessary to take it over, to engage in violent battle against it, or even to lay hands on one’s rulers. In fact, to do so would only reaffirm the principle of compulsion and aggressive violence underlying the current system and inevitably lead to the replacement of one government or tyrant by another. To the contrary, it is only necessary that one decide to withdraw from the compulsory union and reassume one’s right to self protection. Indeed, it is essential that one proceed in no other way than by peaceful secession and noncooperation.

“If this advice seems at first naïve (what difference does it make if you or I decide to secede from the Union?), its status as a genuine strategy of social revolution becomes apparent once the full implications of an act of person secession are spelled out. The decision to secede involves that one regard the central government as illegitimate, and that one accordingly treat it and its agents as an outlaw agency and ‘foreign’ occupying forces. That is, if compelled by them, one complies, out of prudence and for no other reason than self-preservation, but one does nothing to support or facilitate their operations. One tries to keep as much of one’s property and surrender as little tax money as possible. One considers all federal law, legislation and regulation null and void and ignores it whenever possible. One does not work or volunteer for the central government, whether its executive, legislative, or judicial branch, and one does not associate with anyone who does (and in particular not with those high up in the hierarchy of caretakers). One does not participate in central government politics and contributes nothing to the operation of the federal political machinery. One does not contribute to any national political party or political campaign, nor to any organization, agency, foundation, institute, or think-tank cooperating with or funded by any branch of the federal Leviathan or anyone living or working in or near Washington D.C.

“Instead, with as much of one’s property as can possibly be secured from the hands of government one begins to provide for one’s own protection and adopts a new systematic twofold investment strategy. On the one hand, just as the existence of private crime requires an appropriate defense such as locks, guns, gates, guards, and insurance, so the existence of government requires specific defense measures: that one invest in such forms and at such locations which withdraw, remove, hide, or conceal one’s wealth as far as possible from the eyes and arms of government. But defensive measures are not sufficient. In order to gain full protection of one’s property from the reaches of government, it is necessary not to remain isolated in one’s decision to secede. Not everyone must follow one’s example, of course. Indeed, it is not even necessary that a majority of the entire population do so. It is necessary, however, that at least a majority of the population at many separate localities do so, and to reach this critical level of mass withdrawal it is essential to complement one’s defensive measures with an offensive strategy; to invest in an ideological campaign of delegitimzing the idea and institution of democratic government among the public.

“The mass of people, as La Boetie and Mises recognized, always and everywhere consists of ‘brutes,’ ‘dullards,’ and ‘fools,’ especially deluded and sunk into habitual submission. Thus today, inundated from early childhood with government propaganda in public schools and educational institutions by legions of publicly certified intellectuals, most people mindlessly accept and repeat nonsense such as that democracy is self-rule and government is of, by, and for the people. Even if they can see through this deception, most still unquestioningly accept democratic government on account of the fact that it provides them with a multitude of goods and benefits. Such ‘foods,’ observed La Boetie, do not realize that they are ‘merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.’ Thus, every social revolution will necessarily have to begin with just a few uncommon men: the natural elite…

“Just as there can be no revolution without a liberal-libertarian elite, however, so can there also be no revolution without some form of mass participation. That is, the elite cannot reach its own goal of restoring private property rights and law and order unless it succeeds in communicating its ideas to the public, openly if possible and secretly if necessary, and awakening the masses from the subservient slumber by arousing, at least temporarily, their natural instinct of wanting to be free…

“In fact, there must never be even the slightest wavering in one’s commitment to uncompromising ideological radicalism (‘extremism’). Not only would anything less be counterproductive, but more importantly, only radical—indeed, radically simple—ideas can possible stir the emotions of the dull and indolent masses. And nothing is more effective in persuading the masses to cease cooperating with government than the constant and relentless exposure, desanctification, and ridicule of government and its representatives as moral and economic frauds and imposters: as emperors without clothes subject to contempt and the butt of all jokes.”

December 18, 2009

It’s the occupation, stupid!

Ari Shavit of Haaretz writes:

The cat is out of the bag: Palestine, all of Palestine. Standing before 100,000 people in the center of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh this week declared the objective of the Hamas movement. The moderate prime minister of the moderate faction of the Palestinian religious movement publicly announced the peace solution for which his government is aiming.

The ultimate solution is not the total liberation of the Gaza Strip or a Palestinian state. It is the liberation of all of Palestine.

Shavit here refers to the following comments made by Haniyeh at Monday’s rally in Gaza City:

This movement, with the help of the militant factions liberated the Gaza Strip, and we say, brothers and sisters, we will not be satisfied with Gaza. Hamas looks toward the whole of Palestine, the liberation of the strip is just a step to liberating all of Palestine.

Shavit continues:

In recent years, quite a number of experts have promised us that Hamas does not really mean it. Hamas is only playing tough, but its intentions are lofty: cease-fire, Green Line, coexistence. Live and let live. But no message conveyed by any senior Hamas member to any diplomat behind closed doors is equal in status to the message conveyed by Haniyeh to the masses. What counts is only the direct and open statement made by the Palestinian leader to his people. Palestine, all of Palestine. Every piece of Israeli land on which any Israeli citizen lives. His home, your home, our home. The land beneath our feet.

Now there are several points I’d like to make here.

First, it’s important to be clear about what exactly Haniyeh did and did not say. He very clearly said that Hamas intends to liberate all of Palestine. But he did not say that Hamas intends to achieve this end through force. Over the years, numerous Hamas leaders have made it clear that, once Gaza and the West Bank are liberated, they intend to gain control of Israel Proper through nonviolent means. For example, “Abd-al Aziz Rantisi, a prominent radical [and the group’s cofounder], said: ‘The intifada is about forcing Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries’, while adding this ‘doesn’t mean the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over’, but rather that its armed character would end.”

Now don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not trying to create the impression that Haniyeh is some misunderstood peacenik. And I’m certainly not saying I can read his mind. It’s possible that he intends to use force to achieve his end goal. I’m merely suggesting that we should focus on what he actually said and put his words in their proper historical and cultural context.

But let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that Shavit is right and that Haniyeh and Hamas leaders will not stop fighting until they rule all of Historic Palestine. For several years now, most Israeli leaders have held this belief. And consequently, they have contended that, for the protection of their own people, they’ve been obligated to continue the occupation. For, the argument goes, it would be suicidal to give the Palestinians a state that they would just use as a base for more terrorist operations.

The problem with this argument is that, far from keeping Israelis safe, the occupation is the very reason why Israelis are not safe. The occupation is what fuels hatred among many Palestinians; it’s what motivates some to blow themselves up on Tel Aviv buses and others to fire rockets into Sderot. The occupation, now in its forty-second year, is why in 2006 the majority of Palestinians turned to Hamas, which, along with rejecting a two-state solution, had long claimed that Israel could only be persuaded through violence. Poll after poll reveals that most Palestinians support an end to conflict and a two state settlement. But as the hopes of Oslo started to slip away, many lost faith in negotiations and turned to Hamas. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Shavit understands that the occupation is harmful to Israelis. “The occupation,” he writes, “is destroying Israel. It is undermining Israel’s ethical, democratic and diplomatic foundations.” But he believes that Hamas isn’t really interested in a two-state solution and is therefore essentially preventing Israel from ending the occupation. But again, the only reason that Israel has to contend with Hamas is because it has persisted in violating international law and has deprived millions of Palestinians of their basic human rights. If Israel really wants its own citizens to live in safety, then it should end its war against the Palestinian people. It should end the blockade on Gaza; it should stop hoarding water resources in the West Bank; it should stop building settlements in East Jerusalem.

Such actions certainly wouldn’t appease everyone. Some would continue in their determination to destroy Israel. But only a small minority fall within this category; most Palestinians just want to live in freedom and security. So if Israel took these actions, if it proved that it’s truly committed to international law, then I’m convinced that the radicals in Palestinian society would soon find themselves marginalized, and Israel would find itself closer to true peace.

December 15, 2009

Does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Want to Nuke Israel?

So evidently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has claimed that the United States is preventing the return of the Mahdi. What’s that? You’re not all that interested, you don’t see the relevance of this? Well, I didn’t either, but this story’s been getting a lot of play throughout the conservative blogosphere, so I finally decided to look into it. You know me—have to keep tabs on those conservatives.

First, here’s what Ahmadinejad said, as reported by Al Arabiya News:

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has documented evidence that the United States is doing what it can to prevent the coming of the Mahdi, the Imam that Muslims believe will be ultimate savior of mankind, press reports said Monday.

“We have documented proof that they [U.S.] believe that a descendant of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts [Middle East] and he will dry the roots of all injustice in the world,” the hard-line president said, addressing an audience of families of those killed during the 1980’s war against Iraq.

“They have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule."

And here’s how well-known conservative blogger Bob Owens responded:

The press will no doubt downplay this latest declaration as they have previous invocations of the Mahdi by Ahmadinejad — and if [the] media do discuss his seemingly bizarre beliefs, they immediately remind their audience that the real power in Iran is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

But despite attempts by the world’s media and politicians to avoid dealing with the dark religious overtones in his addresses, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly returned to the same message. That message, of an Iranian government pushing ever further towards the development of nuclear weapons that will fall under the control of an apocalyptic religious movement, is terrifying.

So, according to Owens, Ahmadinejad has been preaching the message that Iran is “pushing ever further towards the development of nuclear weapons.” Now those of you who take even a minimal interest in foreign affairs will realize that there’s one main problem with this claim—there’s no evidence to support it. Yes, Iran has a nuclear energy program, but, in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the program is safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Commission. And to date, the IAEA has found no evidence that Iran has diverted any of its nuclear material to non-peaceful uses. Moreover, the US intelligence community continues to believe that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Despite all this, Owens contends that, not only is Ahmadinejad trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but that he intends to use them against Israel:

The Pentagon was provided an unclassified January 2006 briefing entitled “Iranian President, Islamic Eschatology, and Near-Term Implications.” A 42-page copy of the slide deck used for that presentation focused heavily on the threat of a faction within the Iranian government, led by Ahmadinejad and his spiritual mentor Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. Yazdi is a powerful member of the Assembly of Experts, which has the authority to appoint or dismiss the supreme leader. Yazdi’s disciples have sanctioned the use of nuclear weapons.

Owens goes on to note that this document concluded that “Iran was preparing for war, and offered two scenarios,” one of them being:

…that of a “blitzkrieg-like” rocket and missile assault on Israel by Iran, Syria, and their proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. In November, Israel intercepted a 500-ton shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah that included Iranian rockets identical to those used against American forces in Iraq.

Let’s break all this down, shall we?

Proof #1 that Ahmadinejad wants to nuke Israel: Ahmadinejad’s “spiritual mentor” has some students who want to nuke Israel. Now if you’re confused by this piece of “logic,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. I don’t get it myself, and, between you and me, I don’t see how Owens could either.

Even if it were the case that Yazdi wanted to nuke Israel, it wouldn’t follow that Ahmadinejad was intent upon doing so. For what evidence is there that Ahmadinejad is an obedient follower, a sincere believer? Isn’t it possible that Ahmadinejad is using Yazdi for political purposes? I know that’s a crazy thing to suggest—that a politician would use a religious figure to further his own political agenda—but hear me out.

You see, I seem to remember that our own president had a spiritual advisor. And as long as Obama’s relationship with Reverend Wright furthered his own political ambitions, the two men were the best of friends. But as soon as Wright became a political liability, Obama dropped him, and since then, he’s shown that he never really bought into Wright’s crazy beliefs after all, especially all those crazy anti-war beliefs.

Proof #2 that Ahmadinejad wants to nuke Israel: Israel just intercepted a shipment of Iranian rockets intended for Hezbollah. There are a number of problems with this claim. First, there’s reason to believe that the rockets Israel intercepted were not actually from Iran. If you haven’t followed the story, on November 10 Israel’s Foreign Ministry published pictures on its website purporting to prove that the munitions it intercepted were from Iran. But a few days later, Iran’s state news service pointed out that one of the pictures indicated that the munitions were being sent from the Ministry of the Sipah [i.e., Soldier]. But twenty years ago, the Ministry of the Soldier’s name was changed to the Ministry of Defense. Juan Cole writes:

It is tempting to speculate as to how the Israelis got the letterhead of the Iranian Ministry of the Soldier. It should be remembered that in the 1980s, Israel was allied with Khomeini and received petroleum and other goods from Iran in return for helping against Iraq. It is likely during that era of good feeling that Israel received the letterhead, and whoever dredged it back up to plaster on the goods carried by the intercepted ship did not realize that in the meantime the Iranians had changed the name of the ministry concerned.

But even supposing that the arms were from Iran, it wouldn’t follow that Iran was planning a nuclear strike against Israel. Owens points out that “nuclear warheads fired into Israel from Syria, from Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon, or by Hamas terrorists in Gaza or the West Bank could decimate Israel without the telegraphed punch of a long-range missile launch from Iranian soil.” True enough—but the arms shipment did not contain nuclear warheads; nor did it contain material that could be used to make nuclear warheads!

Now I imagine that I hate Iran’s leaders every bit as much as Owens does. I believe that, with few exceptions, they’re evil men, and I’d love nothing more than to see the Green Revolution prevail. But as evil as Iran’s leaders might be, I see no reason to believe that they intend to attack Israel. These men are evil, not suicidal, and they know that a nuclear strike against Israel would result in their own destruction.

Owens can write all he wants that Ahmadinejad is “not interested or deterred by earthly interests,” that he believes nuking Israel “could create the cataclysm that would usher in the return of the Hidden Imam to save the world”—but, again, there’s no evidence for these assertions. Which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that Owens is wrong. It’s possible that Ahmadinejad really is intent upon nuking Israel. It’s also possible that, behind his toothy grin, Ahmadinejad is really a reptilian space alien who’s come to earth to eat up all our rats. Lots of things are possible. But until Owens can demonstrate that he can actually read Ahmadinejad’s mind, I think it’s best to stick to the evidence.

December 11, 2009

Obama's Peace Prize Speech: In Defense of War

I’d love to know how President Obama and his advisors went about writing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. After the President’s recent announcement that he’d be once again sending more troops to fight in Afghanistan, they must have realized that he couldn’t exactly extol the virtues of peace. After all, that would be kind of inappropriate, kind of like, I don’t know, kind of like Bill Clinton extolling the virtues of abstinence. So instead they decided it’d be best if the President extolled the virtues of…war.

I kid you not. After giving a brief history of just war theory—

And over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers and clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

—President Obama explained why “the instruments of war” have “a role to play in preserving the peace”:

There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Now, of course, most people would agree that using force against others can sometimes be justified. As Norman Finkelstein has shown, even Gandhi believed this. But merely pointing out that using force against others can sometimes be justified does not prove that the War in Afghanistan is justified.

And Obama has never given an adequate moral defense of the War in Afghanistan. In his speech at West Point on December 1, he claimed that defeating the Taliban was in America’s “vital national interest.” Because, he claimed, if we don’t defeat the Taliban, then they might retake Afghanistan, and if they retake Afghanistan, then they might again allow al-Qaeda to “operate with impunity.”

But that argument clearly violates just war theory, which, as the President so eloquently explained, holds that war cannot be justified unless it’s a last resort. Because if the objective is to prevent al-Qaeda from again attacking innocent Americans, then there’s a very simple way to do that, one which doesn’t require the US to continue dropping bombs throughout Afghanistan.

As Osama bin Laden has repeatedly made clear, al-Qaeda has only attacked the United States because the United States has spent the past several decades attacking Muslims. As deplorable as it was, it must be understood that 9/11 was a reaction to US atrocities throughout the Muslim world. Now, with this last sentence, I imagine I’ve lost a few readers. I imagine a few people have concluded that I’m just another Blame America First Liberal and have consequently clicked onto another site. Well, people can think about me what they will, but the facts remain the facts, and I don’t know how anyone can look at America’s foreign policy over the last five decades and not understand why so many in the Muslim world hate us and why many are even willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to kill us.

Michael Scheurer is no anti-American peacenik. Former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit, he repeatedly tried to have bin Laden assassinated. But he’s not afraid to admit why al-Qaeda is at war with us:

The United States is hated across the Islamic world because of specific U.S. government policies and actions…America is hated and attacked because Muslims believe they know precisely what the United States is doing in the Islamic world. They know partly because of bin Laden’s words, partly because of satellite television, but mostly because of the tangible reality of U.S. policy. We are at war with an al Qaeda-led, worldwide Islamist insurgency because of and to defend those policies, and not, as President Bush mistakenly has said, “to defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world.”

So what US policies have inflamed Islamists? Well, for starters, there were the American-led sanctions against the people of Iraq from 1990 to 2003. For several years, US officials knew that the sanctions were devastating the Iraqi people. In 1996, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Replied Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” And so the sanctions continued.

Islamists also hate that the US has spent the past several decades propping up numerous corrupt regimes throughout the Muslim world. From the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia to the dictatorship in Egypt to the dictatorships in many other Muslim countries, the US has given hordes of money and military support to one murderous tyrant after another.

And, of course, the US has also propped up the Israeli government and, in so doing, has enabled it to commit war crimes against millions of Muslims throughout the region. As Laurence Wright describes in The Looming Tower, learning about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians played a key role in radicalizing Osama bin Laden:

In Osama’s fourteenth year he experienced a religious and political awakening. Some ascribe the change to a charismatic Syrian gym teacher at the school who was a member of the Muslim Brothers. Osama stopped watched cowboy shows. Outside of school, he refused to wear Western dress. Sometimes he would sit in front of the television and weep over the news from Palestine. “In his teenage years, he was the same nice kid,’ his mother related. ‘But he was more concerned, sad, and frustrated about the situation in Palestine in particular, and the Arab and Muslim world in general.” He tried to explain his feelings to his friends, but his passion left him nonplussed.

Bin Laden later claimed that his hatred for the United States began in 1982 “when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them”:

He recalled the carnage: “blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents…The situation was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child, powerless except for his screams.”

Other Islamists have similar stories—from Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-’Owhali (a participant in the East African Embassy Bombings) to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (believed to be the mastermind of 9/11) to Mohammed Atta (the 9/11 ringleader). Regarding Atta, Wright notes:

On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque. It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response.

So that’s it, that’s why they’re at war with us—because we’ve been at war with them. Despite what you might hear on Fox News, the terrorists are not at war with us for religious reasons. In his 2005 work, Dying to Win, University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape showed that this has been the case for the vast majority of suicide terrorists. After compiling a database of every suicide attack since 1980, Pape demonstrated that what 95% of all suicide terrorist attacks during this period had in common was not religion (in fact, the Marxist Tamil Tigers committed more suicide attacks than any other group) but rather the goal of forcing an occupying army to withdraw “from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”

So if President Obama really believed that the United States should only go to war as a last resort, then he wouldn’t escalate the war in Afghanistan. Rather, he would do everything within his power to end the US government’s war against Muslims. This means that he would order every American troop in Afghanistan and Iraq and in fact everywhere in the Middle East to be brought home. This means that he would cut off US funding for Israel and every other evil regime throughout the Muslim world. This means that he would stop threatening Iran for its IAEA-safeguarded, nonmilitary nuclear program. And for doing all that, he truly would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

December 9, 2009

Breaking News: Don Emmerich Supports New War Tax

Dec. 9 (Los Angeles) -- In a move that has shocked many in the blogosphere, self-proclaimed peacenik Don Emmerich has come out in support of Carl Levin’s proposed war tax. Levin (D-MI) recently suggested that President Obama fund his Afghan troop escalation by imposing an additional tax on individuals making more than $200,000 a year.

“Taxpayers are footing the bill for these wars anyway,” Emmerich told reporters as he emerged from a Los Angeles bar late last night, “so why not,” he slurred, “why not force the government to be up front about it? Why not -- oh sh*t, I’ve lost my train of thought.”

“Look,” he continued, “from the taxpayer’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter whether you fund a war through tax increases or deficit spending. Because deficit spending is essentially a tax hike. You see, deficit spending causes inflation, which in turn diminishes the value of the dollar. So either way, we’re screwed. Hey, has anyone seen my keys?”

When asked if he’d ever before supported a tax increase, Emmerich replied, “Hell no. I’m a libertarian, man. Down with taxes, man! Down with the government! Oh I see what you’re getting at. You think I’m abandoning libertarianism, don’t you? For the love of God, has anyone seen my f*cking keys?”

After getting into a scuffle with a companion who claimed he was too inebriated to drive, Emmerich continued: “I think every penny that the Pentagon spends should come from tax revenue. That would force people to realize how much we’re actually paying for these wars. Running an empire ain’t cheap, you know.”

Asked if he thought this would help the peace movement, he yelled out: “Hell yes! You see, Americans are far too insulated from these wars. There are exceptions, of course. These soldiers coming home with brain damage and PTSD understand the evils of war. Their wives and children understand the evils of war.

“But most other Americans just don’t get it. They’re too busy writing new status updates on Facebook—‘just watched Monk series finale, very impressive,’ ‘just took a dump, very impressive’—to give a damn.

“So I say tax these bastards! Since these fat f*cks are too absorbed in the minutiae of their own pathetic lives to care that their fellow Americans are being sent out to die for a bunch of lies, I say tax them! Maybe that will actually get their attention, turn a few more people onto peace!”

At this point, someone from a nearby apartment yelled out their window that it was three in the morning and asked Mr. Emmerich if he would mind shutting the f*ck up. “Sorry!” Emmerich yelled. He then turned to a friend: “Has anyone ever told you that you bear a striking resemblance to Friedrich Nietzsche? And I say that as a compliment. By the way, have you seen my keys?”

December 7, 2009

Blaming the Brown-Skins

Clifford May begins his most recent column:

Because the Obama administration is keen to restart negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has responded by demanding more - as a precondition, before he will talk. Just a guess: Mr. Netanyahu is not surprised.

And this, my friends, is exactly why everyone should read my blog. Because if Clifford May had read my blog, he would know that Benjamin Netanyahu has not—I repeat: has not—for the seeing impaired: HAS NOT—offered to freeze settlement construction. As I explained on November 25, Netanyahu declared a ten-month freeze in settlement construction while, in the same breath, making it clear that this freeze in settlement construction wouldn’t actually freeze settlement construction. For Bibi stated that Israel is going to continue building homes already under construction as well as non-residential buildings; moreover, Israel is going to continue building in East Jerusalem, which, according to international law, is Palestinian Territory.

But according to May, Israel has once again held out an olive branch to the Palestinians, only to once again be rejected. But we shouldn’t be surprised, May continues, because, didn’t you know, Arabs obviously don’t want peace with Israel. For example:

Hamas' leaders have been candid: Their goal is the annihilation of Israel, an "infidel" nation occupying land Allah has endowed to the Muslims. A "two-state solution" or any other compromise is out of the question.


As for Israel's neighbors, they are undemocratic regimes so, for them, allies are nice, but enemies are essential. Where else can popular dissatisfaction be deflected? Take Saudi Arabia. Israel long ago proved itself to be the Saudis' best enemy. The Saudis know they face no actual threat from Israel, but hatred of Israel is something Wahhabi clerics - whose theological support the House of Saud requires - can sink their teeth into during Friday night sermons. Why would a Saudi prince trade that for an invitation to dine in Jerusalem?


As for Iran's Shia Islamist rulers, the vehemence of their jihad against Israel buys them legitimacy within the Sunni world. Like Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorists groups they finance (the first Sunni, the second Shia), Iran's rulers have not the slightest interest in such Western diplomatic constructs as a "final-status plan for a two-state solution."

Now again, if Clifford May would just take the time to read my blog, he wouldn’t have to worry about writing such silly things. But, alas, he chooses to ignore me. So let me now take a few minutes to set things straight.

First of all, as I wrote in August, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal recently stated that Hamas would accept a two-state solution. In return, Meshaal demanded that, in accordance with international law, Israel (1) withdraw to its 1967 borders, (2) grant the refugees the right of return, and (3) allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu responded, not by testing Meshaal’s sincerity and agreeing to sit down and talk, but by rejecting the offer, claiming that Meshaal “remains rooted in an extremist theology which fundamentally opposes peace and reconciliation.”

Second, every nation in the Arab League, save Libya, has endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative. First proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the initiative states that the Arab nations will both sign a peace treaty and normalize relations with Israel provided that Israel (1) withdraws to its 1967 borders, (2) attains a “just settlement” to the refugee problem, and (3) allows for the creation of a Palestinian state. The vast majority of Israeli leaders have rejected the initiative.

Third, although a case can certainly be made that Iran benefits from the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s important to note that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that Iran would accept a two-state solution if this is what the Palestinian people decided upon. Sure, many in Iran might fear such a settlement, but the nation’s president is prepared to accept it nonetheless.

So that’s the situation. Contrary to Clifford May, most of the Middle Eastern world has agreed to make peace with Israel. Its only stipulation has been that Israel comply with international law. Now whether or not Israel should do so is another issue, one I’m not going to get into today. My point today is simply that it makes little sense to claim that that the Arabs don’t want peace when, with few exceptions, they’ve given every indication to the contrary. So get with the program, Cliff May—read the blog.

December 4, 2009

Feeling a Little Betrayed, Are You?

An open letter to my liberal friends.

Ten months into his presidency and you’re finally starting to get it: He’s not one of us. Barack Obama is not one of us. Yes, it turns out that all that Hope and Change talk was just a ploy to get us to vote for him. It turns out that there is no Hope, there is no Change, just a new sociopath in the White House.

Now I’ll be honest, he fooled me too. For a short time last year, I too supported the guy. What can I say, I was young, I was dumb, I was influenced by this Justin Raimondo column. And I really thought—I hate to admit this—but I really thought that the guy meant at least some of what he said.

Of course, it didn’t take me long to see the light. I did a little research and by early April I felt like a total douche for having given fifty bucks to his campaign. Yes, another confession—I gave $50 to Barack Obama’s campaign last year! God have mercy.

But you liberals, not all of you, but most of you—what the hell? Seriously, it took you all this time to realize that the guy’s essentially no different than George W. Bush? All this time to realize that he was just putting you on?

Of course, some of you still aren’t aboard. Some of you are still twitterpated, believing that the war in Afghanistan is humane, that, by occupying the country and propping up Karzai and his warlord buddies, we’re actually doing the people a service. Ha! And I suppose you all still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, am I right?

Anyway—and I’m now addressing those of you who’ve repented of your naïveté—welcome back, it’s so good to see you again. You know, I’ve thought about you a lot over the past year, I’ve missed our all-night rants about Bush and Cheney. Man, those were good times. And now you’re back. Thank God you’re back! So have a seat, get yourself something to drink.

And please tell me you’ve learned your lesson. Please tell me you’ve grasped the moral of this story. And no, the moral is not that Barack Obama is an evil warmongering son of a bitch. Of course, that’s all true. Repeat after me, will you? It’ll make you feel better. Barack Obama. Is an evil. Warmongering. Son of a bitch. Feels good, huh?

But that’s not the moral of the story. The moral is that they’re all evil warmongering sons of bitches. The moral is that the system is corrupt, that American democracy is an irredeemable failure. So don’t go looking for another politician to rally behind. There was never a Mr. Smith and he never went to Washington. There are only evil warmongering sons of bitches.

But don’t be discouraged. I’m not saying there’s no hope. I’m not saying there won’t ever be change. I’m just saying it’s not going to come from one of them.

December 3, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas for Future Peaceniks

Don’t buy Savings Bonds.

I know the temptation is there. You probably have a niece or nephew and you just don’t know what to get them for Christmas/Hanukah/Etc. Or let’s be honest: You just don’t want to take the time to figure out what to get them. So you’re standing in line at the bank one afternoon, and then it hits you: Savings Bonds! You’ll get them Savings Bonds!

At the time, it seems like the perfect gift. It’s easy. But more than just that, you think it’ll make you look like the responsible aunt or uncle, one who sees the importance of instilling today’s youth with the value of thrift, blah, blah, blah.

Well, stop. Please—for the sake of all those dead little children in Gaza and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan—stop. I’ll post more pictures of dead children if you don’t listen to me. I swear I will.

Don’t buy Savings Bonds.

First of all, the rates stink. Secondly—and most importantly—when you buy a Savings Bond, you’re just loaning money to the federal government. And why would you want to do that? It’s bad enough that you’re already being forced to subsidize their evil wars, so why would you choose to give them more money?

So if Savings Bonds are out, what do I recommend? Well books, of course.

That’s what I generally get my nieces for Hanukah. (Sometimes, in an attempt to maintain my “cool uncle” status, I’ll also throw in a stuffed animal.) I’m very selective, of course. I realize that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives being inundated with lies, being told that Lincoln fought to free the slaves, that Truman had no other choice but to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc., so I want to do my part to start them out on the right path.

This year I bought them a picture book entitled The Upstairs Cat, a tale of two cats, an upstairs cat and a downstairs cat, who are always fighting. As one reviewer writes, “This battle continues week after week, year after year, until the fed-up author declares that ‘nothing is dumber than war. Is that clear?’”

I also bought them Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale, which one—disgruntled—Amazon reviewer describes as follows:

For the third time in as many books, Marcus Pfister passes along the lesson “Be nice to others.” That was the moral of the story in The Rainbow Fish; it was also the moral in Rainbow Fish to the Rescue. Why Mr. Pfister felt it necessary to bludgeon the reader over the head with it yet again in Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale is truly beyond me.

Of course, I’m glad Mr. Pfister chose to “bludgeon” his readers with this lesson. It’s an important lesson, one that I wish certain war-escalating American presidents had been bludgeoned with while growing up.

If you’re buying for a teenager, I’d recommend the recently-released IraqiGirl. IraqiGirl is a memoir of an Iraqi teenager who came of age under US military occupation. Although Hadiya lived through extraordinary circumstances, she herself seems like a fairly typical teenage girl, which is exactly why this book is so important. Because if we can just get this one point across to young people—that those brown-skinned people living overseas really aren’t all that different from us—then we’d be doing a whole lot for the cause of peace.

Of course, there are many other antiwar books out there—some, like Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, have pretty blatant antiwar messages; others, like the ones I’ve described above, have much subtler messages. It turns out that even Dr. Seuss wrote an antiwar book. Maybe this is old news to you, but I just learned that The Butter Battle Book is actually an allegory about the Cold War, with the US and USSR represented by the Yooks and the Zooks.

A great breakdown of antiwar books for young people, from toddlers to teenagers, can be found here.

December 2, 2009

Post-Speech Depression

After listening to Obama’s speech, I’m thoroughly depressed. I’ve spent the night drinking Manischewitz (only about half a glass, but that’s a lot for me), and reading Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Neither has really cheered me up.

Yes, I’m depressed. So much so that I can’t find the energy to write an article explaining why I think this surge is both immoral and stupid. So, in lieu of a new article by yours truly, let me refer you to the following:

Obama’s War Speech: An Unconvincing Flop by Justin Raimondo

Top Ten things that Could Derail Obama’s Afghanistan Plan by Juan Cole

Obama’s surge: has the president been misled by the Iraq analogy? by Juan Cole

Building at home and abroad by Stephen M. Walt

A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan by Malalai Joya

And, finally, a recent speech by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) (h/t Skeptical Eye):