Archive for the On War and Peace in the Mid East! Category

Secularists vs. Theocrats in Egypt!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on July 12, 2013 by playthell

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                       A Muslim Imam and Colonel Nasser

 Can Egyptians Avoid Civil War?

The present Egyptian crisis, in which 51 people have been killed in the last few days and threatens to rip the nation apart, was sparked by events growing out of the last election a year ago, yet it has deep roots in the nation’s modern history, harkening back to the founding of Egypt as an independent nation in the middle of the last century.  At best it is old wine in new bottles. Hence the issues that have moved the nation to the brink of what increasingly looks like a brewing Civil War represent a persistent theme in the political history of Egypt over the last 61 years: The struggle between the secularists, represented by military strong men, and the Theocrats in the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is only when viewed from this perspective that the present conflict can be understood. Since the middle of the 20th century the Egyptians have gone through three major struggles in an attempt to forge an independent modern nation state.  First there was the movement for national independence from British protectorate status, secondly there was the struggle for a more equitable society, and finally there was the struggle against a takeover of the country by Islamic extremist, who were represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the anti-colonial struggle to overthrow the government of King Forouk, Colonel Abdel Gamel Nasser, a secular nationalist soldier trained in the art of war at Sandhurst, England’s elite military academy, enlisted the Muslim Brotherhood in the fight.  In 1952 he led a group of military men called the “Free Officers” that overthrew the Farouk regime and set up the Revolutionary Command Council, which was headed by Major General Muhammad Naguib.  But Nasser removed him from office two years later and declared himself Prime Minister.  In 1956 he was elected President of a new single party socialist government, whose constitution was also approved in the election, both by 98% of the vote

At first all was well, as both the secular nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to put an end to foreign domination, however when Egypt emerged as an independent nation the radical differences in their vision of the ideal society came to the fore and would eventually lead to open conflict.  Things got so bad the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Colonel Nasser, and he in return imprisoned their leading theologian Sayeed Guthb, author of the massive thirty volume theological exegesis “In the Shade of the Koran,” which along with Sayeed’s single volume treatise Milestones underpins the theology of the modern Jihad.

In 1966, Sayeed’s opposition to the secular Egyptian government, which inspired Islamic fanatics to attempt another assassination of Colonel Nasser, resulted in Nasser’s decision to send the militant Muslims an unmistakable message and hung Sayeed Guthb – who remained an unrepentant fanatic to the end, kissing the scaffold just before the put the noose around his neck.  This initiated a protracted struggle between the Secularist government and fanatical theocrats who want to establish Islamic Sharia law in Egypt that persists as I write.

This is why Egypt has been governed by a succession of secular military strong men over the last fifty years, and they kept the Muslim Brotherhood in check.  However it was not an easy task.  Colonel Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Colonel Nasser, was the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel.  He was assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist as he sat on a reviewing stand during a military parade and he was followed by Colonel Honsi Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for the next 30 years, until he was driven from office by the recent uprisings and put on trial for crimes against the Egyptian people.  The first multi-party elections in Egyptian history were held last year and Mohammad Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected.  A year later he was deposed and placed under house arrest by the by the military…to many observers it looks like de ja vu.

Sayeed Guthb

Saayd Guthb

Militant Theologian Hung by Nasser

Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat

Assassinated by a Muslim fundamentalist

However a closer look will reveal some important differences.  In 1952 the military overthrew a universally hated regime and held power, until the military leader was confirmed by a vote in a one party election four years later. In 2012 the military forced one of its own to step down as a result of a mass uprising of the Egyptian people.

The present takeover occurred after Mohamad Morsi was elected in a multi-party election in which many of the people who voted for Morsi vehemently disagreed with the decision of the military to depose Morsi.  Their massive demonstrations, vows of further resistance and the violence that followed Morsi’s removal make it clear that the situation in Egypt is far from resolved.

However while Morsi’s die hard supporters took to the streets in a fit of rage, some even fired on the police, many millions more cheered his removal by the army.  They cheered, and sang, and even set off fireworks while chanting “God is great!”  This is what distinguished the action of the military in this instance from a traditional coup, although some American politicians, like Senator John McCain, argue that it is.

The truth is that the military was carrying out the popular will, many on the scene observers who were there during the demonstrations that brought the authoritarian Mubarak regime down, say the demonstrations demanding the ouster of Morsi were larger.  This is because many Egyptians, who hoped the new government would bring a wider arena of freedom and democratic practice, felt that the actions of the Morsi government were a betrayal.  Before the army intervened the country was on the verge of anarchy and religious conflict, hence I think Dr. Ziebneiw Brzezinsky is right when he calls the military’s actions “a coup against anarchy.”

The People Return to the Streets in outrage

Egyptian Revolution 2013

Demanding an end to the Islamist Government!
Then the Army Stepped In
_Egypt_2013
And Restores Order

The fundamental problem with the new Egyptian “democracy” is that it was in reality a “tyranny of the majority,” a term coined by the French social theorist Alex de Tocqueville in his two volume masterwork “Democracy in America,” the pioneering study on the American style of governance published in 1830, in order to distinguish a true democracy in which the opposition and unpopular minorities are protected in the law, and a system in which the majority simply imposes it’s will without regard for dissenting opinions.

The latter approach is how the Morsi government went about its business as they cobbled together a constitution that was laying the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state; which has been a longtime objective of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Furthermore the constitution had no mechanism such as impeachment or recall procedures for the lawful removal of a president who misused his office.

It was clear that, like all Islamic parties when they come to power, these people believed their actions were ordained by God, so who cares about the wishes of men.  This kind of thinking leads to a system where you have one person one vote once!  Hence the Egyptian people, who sought a true democracy where political decisions are based on the will of the electorate, not the word of God whispered into the ears of some Islamic zealot, wouldn’t stand for it and took to the streets en mass.

Only the intervention of the army could prevent chaos.  That’s why in the eyes of the majority of Egyptians the soldiers are heroes who rescued the nation from catastrophe; and those Americans who oppose the wisdom of the Egyptian people – like the Arizona bully John McCain – remind me of the suspicious characters an old Ibo proverb warns us about:” Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family! “

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NOTE: This is the first of a multi-part series on the Egyptian crisis.

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 11, 2013

On The Perils of Arab Democracy

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on July 3, 2013 by playthell
_Egypt_2013
Police and Protesters Clash

 The Troubling Case of Egypt

 The brief reign of the Muhammad Morsi’s government in Egypt confirms verifies some critical points that I have argued for some time about the pitfalls of democracy in the Arab world.  Two things in particular: If allowed to express their will the masses in most Islamic countries will elect Islamic parties to power – they even did this in Turkey, a country founded as a secular state by Kamal Ataturk.  The only force in the Muslim world that prevents the Mullahs from taking over is the secular military strong men.

This is precisely the reason why modern Egypt has been ruled by a succession of military for over half a century.  They went from Colonel Abdel Nasser, to Colonel Anwar Sadat, to Colonel Honsi Mubarik, and they ruled under a constant state of emergency.  Their greatest fear was that that the Muslim brotherhood would take over the country if given the opportunity.  Rule by marshal law allowed the Egyptian government to outlaw the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and keep track of all radical religious trends.

Although it was not always the subject of news coverage, the struggle between the Islamic and the secularist forces in the Muslim world has been ongoing since the last century.  I first made this point in my essay opposing the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq on the premise that Sadam Hussein was secretly in league with Osama Bin Laden see: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.  I pointed out that Sadam and Osama were direct opposites and there was no way they were collaborating in a plot complex enough the massive attack of 9/11.

The other point that I have argued is that there is no institutional or ideological foundation on which to build a functional democratic government in most Islamic countries.  Hence when a popular vote is finally held what will emerge is a tyranny of the majority, not a liberal democracy in which the rights of unpopular minorities and opposing political parties are protected by law.  Such a system is a perversion of the ideal of democracy which is incapable of transferring power from one party to another, we often get one man one vote one time.

This is clearly at the root of the present uprising that has resulted in the military overthrow of the first elected government in modern Egyptian history after only a year in office.  What is most fascinating about this sudden turn in the political fate of Egypt is the military removed the recently elected President by popular demand.  The mass demonstrations that brought down the 30 year reign of Honsi Mubarik a year ago are out in the streets raising hell again, and by several estimates they are even bigger than before.

The ouster of the Egyptian President in order to restore law and order has set a bad precedent.  If a democratically elected president can be overthrown by the military acting on the demands of the mob in the largest and most advanced Arab country, what does that portend for the future of democratic governance in the Arab world?  Although President Obama stood aside and let the Egyptian people work their will – even while taking severe criticism from the Republican right, who felt we should have supported Honsi Mubarik a reliable supporter of US policy – some of the protesters are unfurling banners blaming President Obama for his support for what they are now calling Islamic “Fascist!”

It is a totally unfair charge: President Obama supported the government they elected.  In fact, he persuaded Honsi Mubarik to step aside and allow the people to express themselves at the ballot box.  The attempt to blame him for the government they chose demonstrates how little these people understands about the working of the democratic process.

This banner announces the high level of confusion among the Egyptian opposition.  From the beginning of the first uprising I pointed out that the opposition didn’t have a coherent ideology, or commonly agreed upon principles about governance, and thus anything could happen.  Early on I predicted that the Muslim brotherhood would emerge as the ruling faction when the smoke cleared, because of their superior and coherent world view compared to the other factions.  I also said that no matter what kind of smiley faces the Muslim Brothers adopted, nor how much lip service they paid to “democracy,” once they took power religious tyranny will be the inevitable result.

 The Revolt is fueled by Hatred for the President
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi speaks during a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul after their meeting at Presidential Palace "Qasr Al Quba" in Cairo
The Odd Man Out: The hated face of the Islamist

This is exactly what happened.  The reason for the mass uprising today is that the opposition saw the Brotherhood dominated government rapidly taking steps to Islamize the country and felt they must be stopped now, before they could put their ideas into law.  They were not reassured that this would not happen even after President Morisi publicly resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose party had  elected him President  with great fanfare.  Hence they are calling the role played by the military a “democratic” coup.”  The army has announced that it is acting in defense of the people, declaring itself an instrument of the popular will.

What is clear about the first uprising is that the various factions that came together to overthrow Honsi Mubarik were sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.  Now the country has been thrown into a world of confusion that could result in Civil War unless the army swiftly cracks down on any resistance by militant Islamists.  The US has no role in this, it is a purely Egyptian affair and they must resolve it.  And it could take a civil war to decide who shall rule Egypt.  It is a sad end to Egypt’s first democratically elected government…and we may yet see the same fate befall the democratically elected Islamist government in Turkey if the military is forced to step in.

There is a strong cautionary tale in all this regarding US policy in Syria, under no circumstance should Barack allow the Republican and Democratic hawks to force him into getting militarily involved…even to the extent of arming rebel factions, who are more mysterious than the various forces that comprise the Egyptian opposition.  We will be watching the situation closely: Stay tuned!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 3, 2013

For further reading: Look under the section titled War and Peace in the Middle East

Behind the Eight Ball!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on May 6, 2013 by playthell

 Barack behind the eight ball

                     President Obama in Israel

 Barack Looks for a Way out of Syrian Quagmire

As the Israeli’s escalate their attacks on Syria, offering the most spurious justifications for military aggression, we see the lingering effects of the Bush policy regarding preemptive strikes; which means attacking a potential adversary on the belief that they may someday strike you. President Obama should call for an immediate halt to Israeli aggression; it would be the wise and just thing to do.

But he dare not; lest he be sure to attract a hail of criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and suffer a merciless skewering in the press.  This would complicate everything else he is trying to get through a recalcitrant congress.  That’s why he is attempting to justify it in a public statement of support, arguing that Israel is acting in their national security interests against the machinations of Hezbollah, an Iranian armed proxy.   President Obama has evidently decided that choosing the wise and just decision would prove politically disastrous.

The President is trapped in his own rhetoric. In a moment of bravado designed to intimidate Syrian President Bashir Assad, an attempt to persuade him not to even think of deploying chemical weapons against his adversaries in the Syrian Civil War, President Obama drew a symbolic “red line” that, if crossed, would be Assad’s undoing.  The impression given by that statement was that should the Syrian president cross the red line, Barack Obama would make him pay big time.

Now that there are claims such chemical weapons have been detected, the war hawks on the right, who are unceasing in their efforts to besmirch Barack Obama’s foreign policy record – which I regard as a demonstration of diplomatic virtuosity just like his orchestration of domestic policy – are calling for military intervention.  In their ceaseless attempts to discredit the President, the Republican opposition has come very close to being not only disloyal…but a menace to our national security.

It used to be understood that in matters of war and peace, playing partisan politics is not only obscene but dangerous.  It should be taboo for people who are entrusted with guarding the national interests to act as if they were shooting crap with the fate of the nation.   How is it possible that intelligent men such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham could so cavalierly speak of the US getting involved militarily by arming the rebels and even establishing a no-fly zone over Syria?  These are acts of war.

Five years ago, when Barack was running against McCain for the presidency, I wrote an essay supporting the position of General Wesley Clarke that McCain was no better qualified to be commander-In-Chief than Barack Obama; despite McCain’s experience as a military officer.  However I went even further. I argued that McCain was in fact unqualified to be Commander-In-Chief.  My argument must have appeared ridiculous to many Americans in light of the Senator’s much vaunted military record.

However I thought his deep psychological need to “prove himself” by winning another war, after the debacle in Vietnam, meant that McCain would be prone to go to war at the first opportunity. The reasons are complex and since I have elucidated them elsewhere I shall simply refer the reader to the essay “General Clarke was Right: John McCain is unqualified to be commander-In-Chief!” on this blog.

Although the charge of sarin gas use is disputed by some experts, who told the Guardian- Observer of London that the evidence was highly suspect.  After considering the testimony of eyewitnesses to the explosion they concluded that there wasn’t sufficient reason to believe that what they described was indeed a Sarin gas attack.  The evidence, such as it is, is based on the analysis of soil samples.

Yet even if traces of Sarin gas have been detected it raises more questions than it answers. Where did it originate?  Who gave the order to use it?  Was the president talking about small traces of gas that are barely detectable when he drew the red line; or a large scale gas attack clearly ordered by the government that inflicted mass casualties?  The last question is the most crucial.

Given the chicanery we have witnessed in the past by people who wanted to start a war based on bogus events, the President is displaying Solomonic wisdom in waiting for a thorough investigation by disinterested scientist before taking any action; the consequences of which are unclear since an American intervention might well make a bad situation worse.  This would compound the problem of finding a peaceful settlement in Syria.

That’s why the Israeli attacks are so dangerous.  US commitments to Israel in the matter of defense are very complex, but it is enough to know that our entanglements are such that any war Israel starts in the Mid-East will eventually involve the United States.  Already their aggressions are being applauded by the usual suspects on the right, but President Obama has also given his approval while admitting that the US helped supply the intelligence that guided the Israeli attack.

We can be sure that hysterical cries for Barack to follow the lead of Bibi with no-fly zones, arming factions identified as being friendly to Israel and the US, and even airstrikes of our own.  Yet given the confusing nature of the opposition it is hard to predict what the outcome of such actions will be.

After an Israeli Attack

Israeli bombing of weapons research center in Syria The Syrians say this is a declaration of war

 And that’s how it looks….

israel-attacks-syria-golan-heights

…..Down on the Ground

The forces clamoring for the US to become involved in the Syrian civil war base their demands on President Obama’s loose talk about ill defined “red lines” that would trigger an American intervention. Senator John McCain has already snidely remarked that President Obama’s red lines “must have been written with disappearing ink.” This guy can hardly wait to start another war; chomping at the bit like a race horse at the starting gate.

Perhaps all of the morons on the left and Black Nationalist ideologues will finally understand why the President is wise not to adopt their rhetoric.  Intellectuals like Cornel West and Boyce Watkins can say anything they please, just like  whacko Republican elected officials who say crazy things; it is just hot air, “all sound and fury signifying nothing” as Shakespeare said.

But when the President of the United States makes a statement it has real consequences. Alas, it may even result in the US being pushed into a war that neither the President nor the American people want because of Israeli actions.  The Israeli’s justify their aggressions with the argument that their actions are surgical strikes aimed at preventing the Lebanon based pro-Palestinian group Hezbollah from receiving missile shipments from Iran, who is the ultimate target of the Israeli government, because they will eventually be used against Israel.

The problem with this argument is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy given Israeli actions.  And the President must resist all attempts by the Israelis to draw us into their war plans because we just can’t stand another war in the Mid-East in terms of blood, treasure or the long term prospects for peace.  It ought to be clear that the President of the United States needs to be level-headed and thoughtful about the consequences of military action.

The military might at a President’s disposal as Commander-In-Chief of the greatest fighting forces in the history of the world, can create feelings of omnipotence. Especially when military power is augmented by vast intelligence networks, funded with billions of dollars annually, and is capable of conducting spy operations all over the world. It could even make a US President believe that he has the power to determine the course of history through the use of covert actions and the outright projection of military power.

One need only look at the history of contrived events that have justified the US going to war based on bogus claims in order to find adequate reasons for skepticism in the present charges of chemical warfare in Syria.  Looking back to the war that many historians feel marked the beginning of America’s foray into empire building, the Spanish American War; it was the suspicious sinking of the Maine in a Cuban harbor that supplied the justification for a war with Spain that resulted in far flung Spanish colonial possessions in the Atlantic and Pacific coming under US control: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

Americans were persuaded to support a war in Vietnam because of a purported attack on an American vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin off the course of North Vietnam.  We have subsequently learned that it was a bogus charge.  And the invasion of Iraq was justified by the claim that Iraqi leader Sadam Hussein was hording “weapons of mass destruction” such as weaponized germs, poison gasses, and most of all nuclear weapons.  That claim also proved to be untrue, but it will still cost us trillions of dollars, nearly 5000 thousand American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

This sordid history is reason enough for us to view the increasingly hysterical calls for an aggressive American policy in Syria with a jaundiced eye, especially based on such spurious evidence. For instance one distinguished member of the independent commission investigating the charges, Carla Del Ponte, says she has evidence that it was the opposition who used Sarin gas.  As a former Swiss Attorney General and prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ms. Del Ponte is eminently qualified to conduct this type of investigation.

Given this possibility, along with the Russian and Chinese denunciation of the Israeli attacks on Syria and the US justification and support for them, it’s a safe bet that the US will not get UN backing for sanctions against the Syrian government.  Although John Kerry is planning a mission to Moscow, the Russians have already made their position clear.  Without specifically naming the America government, although it is pretty clear at whom Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks were intended.

Speaking on behalf of the Russian foreign ministry regarding Syria, he noted “signs that world public opinion is being prepared for possible military intervention. “ I think he is right, because I see the same signs; their frequency and vehemence are growing as I write.  Now Democrats are joining Republicans in calling for direct American military intervention in Syria, and they are citing the Sarin gas claim as the raison d’etre.  Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is calling for the US taking out the Syrian air force while it is on the ground with surface to air missiles.

And longtime diplomat and New Mexico Governor Richardson appeared somewhat trance like as he repeated the growing mantra for American military intervention in the Syrian crisis. And all of them join in religiously, almost speaking in unison, chanting “but no boots on the ground!”  In the minds of these mighty whiteys it’s all going to be a neat sanitized affair waged from the air.

Although I was in the Air Force, I agree with that old army man Colin Powell, who says the fly boys always promise more than they deliver in these kinds of civil wars.  And the situation could get very messy.  If these jokers manage to push Barack into yet another war we’ll see.  In the meantime it is incumbent for all thoughtful Americans to let the President know, by letter, telegram and phone that we wish to study war no more!

 The Ravages of War in Syria

8453_S_alqaeda-L

Will Giving These Guys More Guns Make Things Better?

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 4, 2013

No War with Syria or Arms to Rebels!!!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on April 28, 2013 by playthell

       untitled

Who are the good guys here?

 Barack Must resist Israeli and  Republican War Hawks

If ever there was an opportunity for the USA to reassess its role in the world it is now!  Listening to Republican Senators talk on CBS Face the Nation on Sunday Morning it is clear that if they had their druthers we would be bombing the Syrian air force right now and declaring a “no fly” zone over their country.  These guys are itching to start another war in the Islamic world.  And,  as the thoughtful reader might suspect,  they are casting themselves as liberators of the Syrian people; just like before they invaded Iraq.

Well, we all know how that turned out and there is every reason to believe that a military intervention in Syria will result in an even bigger disaster.  Despite the increasingly hysterical exhortations of the war hawks such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham for the president to take military action, it is imperative that our government decide what our policy goals are in the Mid-East region and shape our foreign policy accordingly.

Frankly I am at a lost to understand just what the objectives of the interventionist are.  It is my understanding that our paramount objectives in the region is to keep the oil flowing as cheaply as possible, defeat the Jihadist and defend the state of Israel against their Islamic adversaries…who seem to be everywhere.  Whether or not one agrees with all of these objectives, it is clear that they are quite enough for any nation to achieve.  We could even be “biting off more than we can chew” as my Grandmother Claudia would say.  But adding the grandiose agenda of bringing democracy to the Islamic world may well be inviting disaster.

The example of Iraq should serve as a cautionary tale.  After three trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, tens of thousands of Americans who are deeply wounded in body and mind, thousands of young Americans killed, and a wrecked American economy, we should have abandoned this impossible dream of planting an American style democracy in the Arab world.  But democratizing the Islamic world is a fairly recent ideal.

The most persistent American posture in the Islamic world is one of duplicity and Hypocrisy; our allegiances have been dictated by expediencies. The best example of this is Iran.  When the US calls for a secular democratic society in Iran the words should stick in the exhorter’s throat!

Iran had achieved exactly that sixty years ago, when they were governed by a western educated secular democrat who was elected by the Iranian people.  But since the Iranian President, Muhammad Mossedek, demanded a fair price for Iranian oil the CIA went in engineered his overthrow in 1953, replacing him with a militaristic tyrant who ruled with police state tactics.  The Islamic revolution in Iran was a direct result of that historic crime against the Iranian people.

The fact of the matter is that  US policy in the Middle East in the post-World War II era has been one disaster after another; hence we find ourselves in the mess we are in today.  American Mid-East policy at present resembles nothing so much as a game of whackamole.  Every time a crisis flares up one place and we rush to suppress it, another crisis pops up somewhere else.  That’s because the sad truth is the Middle East is a powder keg, filled to the brim with explosive antagonisms and unfathomable contradictions that we barely understand.

Based on the comments coming from the State Department, American intelligence agencies can’t tell friend from foe among the opposition; which tells me that the US should not rush into this confusing and murderous civil war in Syria.  At best we should lead an effort in the UN for the international community to take concerted action to find a solution to this catastrophe.

Although I am not a part of the crowd of Nervous Nellies who say we should never intervene in any situation, and I have warned against a paralysis from over analysis when taking action is the obvious course to address a problem.  As a member of a historically oppressed minority group in a nation where the majority group has demonstrated its willingness to resort to genocide in order to achieve its objectives – just consider the plight of indigenous Americans – I have repeatedly rejected the argument that governments should be free to treat their populations as they please without outside interference – to commit massive crimes against humanity behind the shield of “national soverignty.”

We have seen what that can lead to with the German Nazis, and most recently in Rwanda, despite the ignorant and racist statements of Republican Senators that the US has never stood by while as many as seventy thousand people were killed.  But chilling out and calling for the world community to act seems to be the wisest course of action in the present crisis.

The mere  claim that chemical weapons have been deployed by the Assad government is certainly no reason to rush into this conflict.  There are too many questions that remain unanswered.  And beyond the lack of clarity as to who done what, the last thing the US needs to do is initiate a military conflict in yet another Arab country spending billions that we desperately need to deal with the protracted economic crisis here on the home front….where we may yet face the moral equivilent of food riots.

No matter what the Israeli government, the Israel Lobby, or their Republican neo-con shills in the Congress say,  President Obama must not allow them to push us into a war with Syria, nor convince him to arm a mysterious opposition which appear to be riddled with Al Quaeda operatives.  Alas, in this case an ill informed American intervention could well prove to be a cure that’s worse than the disease!

Who are these Guys?

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Is it really a good idea to give them advanced US weapons?

 

 Will Arming the Syrian Opposition End the Destruction?

1-syria-4_3_r536_c534 

Or will it just make it worse?

 

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 28, 2013

The Goat!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by playthell
Image: U.S. President Obama smiles while he addresses students at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem
Greatest Of All Times

Barack Obama In Israel

As is the case with so many essays published at Commentaries On The Times, the present essay came to me serendipitously, like a revelation from on high.  I had just finished watching a video of President Obama’s speech before students and other selected quest in Israel, and marveling at his political skills as he wooed and won the audience; who gave him repeated and boisterous standing ovations.

I got the feeling that I was watching the most gifted politician in American history.  Then I heard a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discussing his new book about forgotten US Presidents who had left their mark on American civilization, and was confirmed in that feeling.

When he was asked if he thought President Obama would be remembered, the author quickly pointed out that Barack Obama will be remembered if only because he is the first African/American President.  But then he went on to enumerate the President’s monumental achievements – saving the world economy from ruin, rescuing the US auto-industry, the Affordable Health Care Act, The Lilly Ledbetter Act, Icing Osama bin Laden, etc – and assured us they will never be forgotten.

As Erhardt talked I kept thinking about the President’s speech, and how Bibi Netanyahu was getting a dose of what the reactionary Republicans have been getting at the hands of this highly intelligent, profoundly humane, visionary, virtuoso at the art of politics.

For just as in America, Barack was winning the intelligent youths of Israel and touching the heart strings of all Israeli’s who dream of a peaceful future with their Arab neighbors.  It was not long before Bibi, Barack’s former antagonist, assumed a lips to posterior posture and maintained it for the balance of the President’s visit.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Barack and Bibi in Israel
Barack and Bibi
Watch the hands: Who’s Listening to whom?

Taking a trip to Israel was viewed as an act akin to walking unarmed into a lion’s den by many astute observers from all over the American political spectrum. The right wing Republican infotainment complex was so certain the trip would be a disaster for the President that FOX NEWS – the flagship media shill of the Grand Obstructionist Party- was running advertisements for an upcoming program exposing President Obama’s hatred for Israel, hosted by that greasy headed numbskull charlatan Sean Hannity.  Unfortunately for them, the ad debuted just as the President was being addressed as “Dear Barack” by Israeli in a ceremony where he was conferred Israel’s highest civilian award…no other American President has received this honor.

 Israel Honors Barack

Barack being Honored in Israel

Simon Perez Places ….Medal on President Obama

Although such a reception would have been newsworthy during the best of times in the US Israeli relationship, it was especially remarkable now.  Just a couple of months ago Prime Minister Netanyahu brazenly attempted to interfere in the US presidential election by showing an open preference for his old Boston business partner Mitt Romney.  But when Obama won reelection it almost finished Netanyahu’s political career.

Among the most important duties of any Israeli Prime minister is to manage and maintain good relations with the US, without whose largess Israel’s security is compromised, and Netanyahu’s disrespectful treatment of President Obama had imperiled that critical relationship.  It almost cost Netanyahu the last election a few weeks ago. And this blunder was followed by the recent attempt to block the President’s nomination of former Republican Senator and decorated combat veteran Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, led by the US Israel Lobby, an appointment that is now a fait accompli.

The speeches Barack Obama presented on his Mid-East sojourn were models of political acumen; they were designed to advance his goal of working out a solution to the intractable Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  And this is the basis upon which they must be judged, not one’s pet ideological peeves.  And the nit picking of academic historians, though accurate in factual detail, may well-represent a cure that is worse than the disease, in that it will sacrifice today’s progress on the altar of yesterday’s truths.

Of course thoughtful people who are familiar with the facts about the Middle-East will disagree with the substance of some of the President’s assertions, and others will question the symbolism of some of his acts – like placing a stone from the monument honoring Dr. Martian Luther King on the tomb of Theodore Hertzel, the founder of Modern Zionism; who was a racial nationalist and thus was far more like Minister Farrakhan than Reverend King, although pro-Zionist Jews will be quick to deny this fact.

It comes as no surprise that many of the President’s critics on the left were cynical about the trip altogether.  In an article titled “Why Obama’s Israel Trip is One Big Mistake” published on  Slate.Com,  Janine Zachariah scoffs at the President’s attempt to win over the Israeli’s and assures us: “If Obama wants to talk about drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces or the price of apartments in Tel Aviv, he’ll find an audience. Those relatively marginal issues are what dominated Israel’s recent election, not the future with the Palestinians.” 

As usual, the hysterics on the left are wrong in their snarky critiques of the President.  Ms. Zachariah presents a laundry list of charges against Israel, which in her opinion nullifies any reason the President may have for visiting the Jewish nation.  Yet she offers no explanation as to how Barack will be able to address these complex issues without winning over substantial portions of the Israeli and American electorates.

It is as if the left yearns for a dictator who can issue a directive and the machinery of state act upon it the way the Catholic bureaucracy responds to an encyclical from the Pope, or the Chinese Communist Party carried out to the dictums of Chairman Mao without opposition.

But this is the USA, and we have a divided government in which the power of the executive is checked by the countervailing power of the legislature.  Hence the President will need the cooperation of Congress in order to successfully address the complex issues outlined by Ms. Zachariah, and he won’t get it if the Israel Lobby can successfully paint him as an enemy of Israel.

However, as is characteristic of the President’s critics on the left, Ms. Zachariah does not take the political opposition into account.  And as I have pointed out ad nauseum: That’s why the American left is confined to the status of a national debating society throwing verbal spitballs from the sidelines of American politics.  They are not even in the game where real power is exercised.

However as President of the United States Barack Obama is in the arena grappling with these monumental problems, trying to make deals that will further his objectives of peace and justice in the Middle East.  Which means his tactics must accommodate political reality, the commentariat can say whatever they want.  And even if he does not succeed he will have done no worse than all the American presidents before him.  But let’s not count him out just yet; for Barack is no ordinary politician.

The President’s political gifts were prominently on display during his Israeli Sojourn.  He beguiled the Israeli’s with his infectious charm, sun shine smile and moving eloquence.  And, Contrary to Ms. Zachariah’s prediction, he did talk about the future of the Palestinian people, in fact he called for the birth of a Palestinian State…and he was greeted with tumultuous applause. After effusive praise of Israel’s virtues and the history of Jewish suffering, the President told the audience:

There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

The reaction of Haaretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, is a measure of the way Israeli’s responded to the President’s speech.

“For Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem, and speak to Israeli students and talk persuasively of the possibility of a secure and peaceful future, for him to do that and garner a roaring ovation of approval, he would have to have given one hell of a speech. He did.  This was the speech that these young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear. A speech that radically redefined centrism in Israel, bringing it down to extraordinary common denominators in directions Israelis have learned to think of as diametrically opposed.  He spoke of security and peace as inextricably and necessarily linked, not a narrow choice between options, but a conscious choice for both.  They roared.”

The article went on to point out that the Israeli college students President Obama was speaking to were different from American students in important ways.

“This was not the student crowd that Obama is used to. These students are Israelis. This is a crowd that is world-weary, hair-trigger volatile. They have come by it honestly. In comparison to their American counterparts, they are, by and large, older by several years – some would say, several lifetimes. They enter college after years in the military, often followed by the escape-valve rehab of a marathon trek to remote continents.

They know a snow job when they hear it. And the rare times when someone makes a sincere and enormous effort to understand them, to see things from their point of view, and to bring them a message that no leader in Israel has managed to bring them, they know that too.”

The praise for President Obama becomes ever more effusive, and ends with this observation “This is not the same country after this speech. Four years from now, when he hands back the White House, Barack Obama should consider a change of direction, even a change of venue. Let him run here. It’s about time we knew again what a real leader was like.”

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Of all the reasons given for the affinity between the USA and Israel, one of the major reasons is never mentioned: their mutual origins as colonial settler states.  Perhaps this is because of the fundamental character of these societies: which is the massive land theft and displacement of the indigenous populations by force and the establishment of a racial caste system in which the invaders become the ruling elite.  This is true whether we are talking about the creation of the USA by Englishmen in the 18th century; the Republic of Liberia by Afro-Americans in the 19th century; or the state Israel in the 20th century. 

However if we simply changed the word “Arabs” to “Indians” this observation on the founding of Israel by  the great Zionist warrior, Moshe Dayan – in a 1969 speech in Haifa, quoted from quoted in Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969, could well have been made by an American statesman.

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single-Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab Village.” ­

The similarities between the Israeli and American experience with nation building can be easily seen in the fact that American cities from Chicago Illinois, to Tecumseh Michigan, to Chicopee Massachusetts are named after the Indian villages that once resided upon this land before it was stolen by white invaders from Europe.

President Obama was no more candid in his discussion of the founding of Israel than any of the US presidents who have preceded him.  And the reason is simple: it contradicts the Master Narrative, i.e. the national myth of their civilization…hence neither Israeli nor American Leaders are anxious to discuss the real story of their nation’s founding.

Phillip Weiss, an American Jewish journalist, published an article titled It’s Time for the Media to Talk about Zionism on the World News Daily Information Clearing House, a website that bills itself as offering “News you won’t find on CNN or Fox News.”  Mr. Weiss excoriated the major American media for its lack of objective reporting and candid commentary on the state of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.  In this criticism he is joined by a host of brilliant Jewish critics of Israel and the one sided reportage on the question of Palestinian rights and national aspirations.

Don’t ask don’t tell is the rule regarding the crimes against the indigenous peoples that were essential to the founding of America and Israel.  But unlike Native Americans, the seizure of Palestinian lands occurred in the Middle of the 20th century, when genocidal invasions were unacceptable; largely as a result of the furor over the Jewish holocaust in Germany.   The Palestinians are 20th century victims of land hungry settler/colonialists, and they have been waging a protracted war against Israel for over half a century.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is also the root cause of their problems with Iran.  And President Obama’s position on Iran will not help the situation.  While he is resisting Netanyahu’s blatant attempt to persuade him to commit the US to a military conflict with the Persian nation, he has nevertheless adopted the Israeli view of the threat to the national security of the US and Israel, which is more propaganda than truth, more fiction than fact.

When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That is why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in a dire condition. Its leadership is divided. And its position – in the region, and the world – has only grown weaker.

First of all, Iran has not grown weaker because the misguided American attack on Iraq has empowered the Shiites, which is a de-facto extension of the power and influence of Iran in the region and would make a war with Iran infinitely more difficult than the Iraq war, in which the US deployed troops for ten years at a cost of two trillion dollars!  It was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history…an attack on Iran will prove worse!

If the Iraq war was folly, an American war with Iran initiated by Israel would be an exercise in self-mutilation: a disaster for US relations in the region, and on the home front because it would wreck the US economy. Furthermore the President’s contention that Iran acquiring an atomic bomb “would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime,” is dishonest hyperbole that will not advance the goal of peace in the Middle East – since everybody knows that Israel has a formidable nuclear arsenal yet refuses to even sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus do not allow inspections on its soil.

This attitude will result in a permanent state of hostility with their Muslim neighbors, which has caused Israel to become a garrison state, ever vigilant at the possibility of violence. And it shall remain so as long as the question of Palestinian sovereignty is unresolved.  Hence it is the possibility of peace offered by President Obama that inspired the most fervent hope and tumultuous applause

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 30, 2013

 

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 21, 2013 by playthell
Barack and Bibi in Israel - March 2013
A Very Odd Couple

Barack Must Avoid Mid-East Pitfalls and Quagmires

On his present foray into the Middle East President Obama must proceed with caution.   This is the most volatile region of the world; the political landscape is strewn with pitfalls which can quickly metamorphose into quagmires that can bog an interventionist superpower down for a decade, cost trillions in treasure and rivers of blood – much of it resulting from the slaughter of innocents -yet end up leaving the situation worse than you found it.  This is the story of Iraq, the longest war in American history, where after a decade of combat and social engineering the cure has turned out to be worse than the disease.

When the US attacked Iraq with Operation “Shock and Awe” – a devastating aerial assault calculated to break the spirit of the Iraqi people and sap their will to resist,  which I called “March Madness” in a commentary – we were assured by pompous poseurs masquerading as great military thinkers such as Dirty Dick Cheney, “Rummy” Rumsfeld, and Paulie Wolfowitz, that American forces would be greeted with open arms by Iraqi citizens and hailed as heroes.  We were also told by George II’s National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice – “a mere theoric who knows no more of war than a spinster” as Iyago said of Cassio –  that the war would be over in a few weeks, and it would be completely paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. George Bush, then the commander-In-Chief, even flew out to an aircraft carrier in his moth eaten pilot’s jumpsuit a couple of months later and formally declared victory.  History testifies to the fact that they were wrong on all counts!  And it could prove to be the most costly blunder in American history.

A Serial Blunderer

Bush Declares victory

He declared victory…… but didn’t call the troops home

Now Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is trying to get President Obama to do it all over again.  Thus far Barack has kept his own counsel on these matters and ignored Bibi’s various attempts to try and persuade him to commit American military power to an assault on Iran.  However the American intelligence forces are already deeply involved in hostile covert acts inside Iran that range from implanting exotic computer viruses in their nuclear research programs to assassinating nuclear scientist.  Which makes the arguments about the danger Iran represents to us sound absurd and hypocritical.  Given the historic American meddling in the internal affairs of this country, it is they who should be afraid of us.

If the President is to have a positive and lasting effect on the course of events in the region he must first stand up to the Israeli’s and force a settlement with the Palestinians so  that America can gain credibility as an honest broker of peace.  His visit with Palestinian leader Mohmoud Abbis – about which i shall have more to say in a future commentary – is a good beginning.

And he must seek to avoid any wider war with Iran.  The best case for diplomacy over military adventurism lay in the consequences of the Iraq war, and the evidence is compelling.  In a New York Times Op-Ed written by John A Nagil, a veteran military officer who saw combat in Iraq and now research professor at the Naval Academy, we get a succinct cost/benefit analysis of the war in Iraq.

“The cost of the Iraq War….are staggering,” writes Nagil, “nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many grievously; tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis wounded or killed; more than two trillion in direct government expenditures; and the significant weakening of the major regional counterweight to Iran and consequent strengthening of that country’s position an ambitions. Great powers rarely make national decisions that explode so quickly and completely in their face.”

Reading this comment several things come to mind.  First there is the fact that two trillion may sound like a lot of money in the abstract, but to fully understand what that means in practical terms it should be pointed out that we could completely rebuilt the American infrastructure and put a million people to work in this same period.  And Professor Nagil’s final observation regarding bad decisions by great powers was the subject of a 2,500 word essay written on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly – I argued that the invasion of Iraq was a classic case of folly as defined by the two time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbra Tuchman, and would be the undoing of George Bush’s presidency. That when historians looked back on his administration in the cold light of the future, it would be this misbegotten war that will define his legacy…and it would be viewed as the reign of a hapless buffoon who was beguiled into taking the nation to war on false pretenses.  And so it has come to pass.

It reasonable to assume in light of my predictions about Iraq, and the fact that I also pointed out that the real threat of Jihadist getting a nuke lay in Pakistan – another argument that all the wise guys in the punditariat now share – my predictions about Iran should be taken more seriously than the major media wags who are now mouthing the hysterical charges of the Israeli government that Iran poses a grave and present threat to the national security of Israel and the United states.  My response to this charge can be summed up in one compound word, which happens to be the title of a profound book on the subject by Princeton Philosopher Dr. Harry G. Frank: BULLSHIT!

To insist that even gaining the capability of making an atomic bomb on the part of the Iranians justifies a military strike on their country is transparent madness driven by hubris, which is but an expression of the arrogance of power.   When viewed from the perspective of Iran, who knows that the US has thousands on nuclear weapons that are sufficient to destroy all life on earth several times; is the only nation to actually employ an atomic bomb in warfare; refuses to declare a no first strike policy, and tolerates a nuclear arsenal in Israel which is estimated by experts on nuclear weaponry to be larger than Great Britain’s; yet they refuse to even sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty,  hence they don’t allow inspectors on their soil: the American and Israel position is an insult to the national sovereignty of Iran, and a burlesque of the art of diplomacy.

Hence it is reasonable to believe that if the US and Israel continues down this road it will eventually lead to a war with Iran. One need only look at the size of Iran on the map as compared to Iraq, and consider their level of military organization to see that a war with Iran would be a very different proposition from war with Iraq.  Plus the Iranians are Persians not Arabs, they were a great civilization when America, and even Western Europe, was a wilderness.

What President Obama should be calling for is a nuclear free zone in the Mid-East and energetically pursue his agenda of ridding the world of nuclear weapons altogether.  And in the meantime he must resist any attempt by the Israel’s, supported by their neo-con and Christian Zionists allies in the US, to push America into a war with Iran.

 

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Playthell  G. Benjamin

Harlem,  New York

March 23, 2013

The Islamist Claim Victory in Egypt!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , on June 20, 2012 by playthell
  Muhamed Morsi, Egypt First Islamist President?

 

Now What Happens Next?

The comedian Paul Mooney invented a character called “Negrodamous;” a prescient black man who can predict the future.  I am beginning to feel more and more like that guy…except my stories ain’t funny.  Alas, it is now apparent that my predictions on both the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Egyptian upheaval were right on the money.

My prediction that the apolitical character of the Occupy Wall Street movement would insure they would end up like Jack the Bear, making tracks but getting nowhere in terms of diminishing the power of the Plutocrats has certainly come true. One part of the segmented leadership of OWS has announced that the only solution to American Problems is “world Revolution,” and another has decided that challenging the seat of progressive Democratic Congresswoman Lydia Valesquez is what they should be about.

Although the Egyptian upheaval, which served as their model, is a far more complex political phenomenon; I managed to get that right too.  From the outset I warned that we should be wary of uncritically embracing the popular resistance movement, because it contained dangerous elements that could be propelled to power.  This is because like all mass social movements, the Egyptian leadership was polycepalous and segmented; which means they have many leaders representing different factions.

While they all agree that overthrowing the Mubarak government was a vital necessity; any basis for unity between secular liberals and conservative Islamist stopped there.  Although all factions said they wanted an end to tyranny the Devil lurked in the details.  I suspected they were sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.

Some thought me cynical when I pointed out the naiveté of a young female doctor in a miniskirt interviewed by the New York Times, who gushed over how helpful members of the Muslim Brotherhood were in supporting the idealistic youths who thought they were ushering in a western style liberal /secular democracy.

Other’s thought me a reactionary when I sympathized with the middle class Egyptian women who came out in support of President Honsi Mubarak and the military, against the “revolutionaries” who advocated popular democracy.  As highly educated women they foresaw the danger of an Islamic takeover in a popular election and they knew the horrors that befell women, especially modern women like them, everywhere Islamic fundamentalists take power.

The military men understand it too, that’s why they have steadfastly kept Islamists from taking power ever since Egypt’s first President, Abdel Gamal Nasser, a military man trained at Britain’s elite Sandhurst military academy, hung the theologian Syyid Qutb, the ideological leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1966.  What we are witnessing in Egypt is a reflection of the FLN’s policy in Algeria, where the military overturned a popular election that chose an Islamic party, and took control.  And as I have written repeatedly: The only impediment to an Islamist takeover in all of these Muslim countries is the secular military caste.

Hence with a victory by Muhamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who claimed to have won by a million votes on Monday, and Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last appointed Prime Minister, Claiming to have won on Tuesday, we shall soon see if Morsi becomes the first Islamist President that’s allowed to take power by the military strongmen in a Sunni Muslim country.

With the announcement by the Military elite that they will be the architects of the new Egyptian Constituition, in order to keep it a secular document and prevent the institution of Sharia law, and that only the military high command can remove a military commander…it looks like de ja vu all over again with a faceoff by the theocrats and military secularists that marked the beginning of modern Egyptian politics.

This conflict presents President Obama with a dilemma: shall he support the results of Egypt’s first democratic election….or cast his fate with the military strongmen; exactly where America’s support has been for the last half century.  We shall see.

 Where the Real Power Resides

The Nemisis of the Islamist

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

June 20, 2012

 

Barack Apologizes to the Afghans

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on March 13, 2012 by playthell
Outraged Afghans Grieving their Murdered Kinsmen

On American Exceptionalism and War Crimes

The slaughter of sixteen innocent Afghan men, women and children in their homes by an American soldier is but the latest atrocity committed against innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As I pointed out at the beginning of these conflicts, back when the Bushmen were preparing to invade Iraq, the nature of foreign occupying forces tasked with suppressing indigenous insurrections is certain to result in war crimes.  It is in the nature of the conflict; the elements come together in such a way as to insure that war crimes will result.

Just imagine the following scenario.   An armed Arab force occupies your town; most do not speak English; they know nothing of our culture, history, or religious beliefs – except that it is the enemy of their beliefs.  Imagine these people blocking off streets and arresting your family and friends without the safeguards provided by our Constitution. They sexually violate women and men, bomb sections of the city trying to kill insurgents while slaughtering scores of innocents: people at weddings, baby showers, just going about their business.

This is the situation our young people in the military have been thrust into.  Since they are widely hated by the Afghan people, who neither understand nor agree with US objectives in their country, many support the resistance forces against the American invaders who might not have supported them otherwise.  Indeed US actions are the best recruitment materials the Taliban and other Jihadists could wish for.  Yet most Americans remain clueless on these questions.

.If it had not been so tragic it would have been amusing to watch MSNBC the hard hitting newsman and talk show host Chris Matthews scratching his head, and asking with a ring of indignation, why there was so much outrage about the recent burning of Korans.  It shows how little even highly educated American journalists/pundits understand about Islamic culture….especially in the remote country of Afghanistan.

Hence for the soldier on the ground who is hopelessly confused about his mission, and cannot distinguish between ordinary civilians and armed insurgents, everybody begins to look like the enemy.  And since the insurgents used the tactics of surprise attack and remote controlled explosive devices, our soldier’s nerves are as tense as hair triggers.  In such a scenario the miracle is that we have not seen even more atrocities.

The soldier who committed this atrocity is a 38 year old Sargent who is married with three children.  He had already done three tours of duty in Iraq and was then employed to Afghanistan!  The reason he has served this outrageous number of combat at tours is because the Republicans who started these wars were too cowardly to reinstitute the draft.

They knew that drafting college students and children of the elite would have revived an Anti-war movement on the scale of the movement that stopped the Vietnam war.  From all appearances the soldier cracked under the stress of multiple combat deployments, and the real criminals are those who constantly ordered him on those hellish missions.

It ought to be clear that the war in Afghanistan is magnifying the danger to our national security.  The recent incidents such as pissing on the bodies of dead Afghan soldiers; burning the Korans, and now this wanton slaughter of innocents in their homes, including children, plus the Republican policy of no apologies for war crimes or assaults upon the culture, religion and family honor of Afghans has placed any possibility of victory beyond the pale.

Offering apologies is the least that President Obama should do as an act of contrition to the Afghan people and reduce the danger to our troops!  American Exceptionalism cannot include immunity from war crimes There is no sane choice but to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible and refrain from starting yet another war in the Muslim world…which the Republicans are itching to do!

 Mission Impossible?

                       Fuck Afghanistan: Bring them Home!!!!!!!
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Playthell Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 13, 2012

Barack Genuflects Before APAC

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by playthell

Barack Pledged to support Bibi in An Attack on Iran

 Is it De Ja Vu Again?  Notes on the Road to War

I have never witnessed a more blatant example of the arrogance of power than the Israeli/American ultimatum to Iran.  Driven by the imperatives of domestic politics in both countries, the terms of this ultimatum were stated in no uncertain terms by President Obama in his speech before the powerful Jewish organization, APAC….and it was a de-facto declaration of war.  “When the chips are down I have Israel’s back!” declared the president.

Barack went on to say he was not interested in containing a nuclear armed Iran; his policy is to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon.   He said all options are on the table; including the full range of our nation’s diplomatic, economic and military resources.  He also said “I will not hesitate to use force to defend American interests.”  Thus the die is cast, and the saber rattling is approaching the decibel level before Bush’s march of folly in Iraq.

On the face of it the demand that Iran cease its nuclear research and development is both hypocritical and an insult to their national dignity.  It ignores Iranian national security interests on the one hand, and tells them in no uncertain terms that they are a second rate nation who will not be allowed to exercise the privileges that the US and Israel consider their natural right as sovereign nations.  No matter what kind of self-righteous preachment or diplomatic mumbo jumbo the US and Israeli governments employ to make their case in the court of public opinion, this is what it boils down to.

It is the height of duplicity for the US and Israel to have a hissy fit about the possibility that the Iranians are building a nuclear weapon when Israel has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the Arabs and Iranians in a fortnight.  And what’s more, the Israelis are already waging a covert war against Iran with American assistance. Although they are rarely reported because they are secret, these are real acts of war nonetheless!

They have assassinated several Iranian nuclear scientists in daring James Bond type hits that everyone who pays attention to these matters knows could only have been pulled off by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.   And the fact that it Furthermore, CBS Sixty Minutes recently did an in-depth report detailing how a brilliantly designed computer virus blew up an Iranian nuclear reactor.  The report featured an international group of distinguished computer scientists who specialize in cyber security, and they concluded the diabolical virus was almost certainly designed by US and Israeli intelligence agencies.

The urgent question for all Americans is whether a war with Iran will serve American interests.  This is an extremely complex question.  The consequences of such a war will have to be considered from the perspectives of foreign relations and domestic policy in order to grasp the full picture.  In terms of foreign relations the immediate consequences include several possibilities.

The most immediate consequence would be the disruption of the flow of oil and a dramatic rise in the price of gas and other petroleum based products.  This would arrest the progress of our economic recovery, which is already fragile and constructed on a shaky foundation.  Tranquility, not chaos, is what is needed in the Middle East.

The Iranians will surely resist, and they will be assisted by their well-armed Shite brethren in Iraq, whom the US put in power as a result of George II’s misbegotten military adventure there.  And they are armed with the latest American weaponry – thanks to US military assistance.  Furthermore Iran is reaching out to Islamic theocrats in an ecumenical manner, putting aside internal theological disputes in order to form a unified front against the “Great Satin” i.e. the USA, which has emerged as the foremost enemy of Islam.

Despite the efforts of those actually tasked with conducting US foreign policy to characterize American waged wars in Muslim countries political…the Jihadists insist that the US is at war with Islam!   And the leading Republican candidates for their party’s presidential nomination are doing their best to convince the moderates in the Muslim world that most Americans also believe they are in a war against Islam.

The Iranian Regime recently hosted a conference of militant Islamist, and Muslims of many stripes from all over the world were present.  There could be no greater catalyst for the rapid development of a new militant Pan-Islamic movement than a joint American/Israeli invasion of Iran.  The invasion would also imperil the stability of the remaining pro-American leaders in the region; who would be trapped between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

If they support the US they will be facing overthrow by the populace, and if they don’t support the US they will face the wrath of the US people and their representatives in Congress, who appropriate foreign aid.   And at the moment the Congress is in the hands of right-wing Republicans; impassioned Christian soldiers who act as if they are ready to wage war with the entire Islamic world at once.   Needless to say, it does not require a gift for prophecy to predict that this will be a real mess!

The Islamic world is in upheaval, old regimes are being overthrown and forces set in motion by an American/Israeli invasion will result in the fall of even more regimes.  No one can predict what new leadership structures or institutions of government will emerge from this turmoil.

Yet it is enough to know that there is a strong, organized, Islamic element among the rebels in each of these populist uprisings to recognize the danger they pose.  In every country the secular democratic forces fighting to modernize their nation, so they can compete in the 21st century, are already at a disadvantage.

The secular Democrats are promoting values that are highly prized only by the educated elite – many of whom have spent time living in western democracies – thus their core concepts are alien and poorly understood by the masses of their people.  I warned that the Islamist could seize control of the revolt in Egypt – while the cheerleaders in the west assured us the Muslim Brotherhood was passé and impotent and other Islamists without much influence – and it has come to pass.  I remembered something the other pundits seemed to forget.  The overthrow of the Iranian Shah was also engineered by secular intellectuals; but the theocrats quickly took control, executed many of the secularists, and established Sharia Law.

Alas, a cry for war is rising from much of the commentariat in commercial media.  It is manufacturing a pro-war hysteria among the public. People like Joe Scarborough who host MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” – a charming sophist whose claim to fame is that he looks like the old cowboy movie star John Wayne – are cheering the President’s militant stance, although he has been damming Barack for not pulling all American troops from Afghanistan.  Joe practically called for the dismissal of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he said “Iran is a rational actor in international affairs.”

The General’s intention was to quell the crazy narrative spun by hysterical warmongers who are painting the Iranian leadership as madmen willing to commit national suicide by launching a nuclear attack against Israel.  There is absolutely no evidence to support such a conclusion; I believe the US is far more likely to commit national suicide over Israel than Iran committing suicide over the Palestinians!  The attempt to paint the Iranian regime as irrational and therefore a danger to US interests is a transparent move to politicize intelligence regarding the threat from Iran in order to justify a “preemptive attack.”

This is the same path that led to war in Vietnam and Iraq, two nations that had also committed no offense against the US.   Yet we squandered massive amounts of American blood and treasure there, while maiming or killing millions of innocent bystanders.   Alas forces that lead to war have already been set in motion.

The momentum of events may well overwhelm President Obama’s resistance and we shall soon find ourselves in yet another major war with a Muslim country.   Indeed, if the Israeli’s decide to attack Iran, President Obama could find himself in the same predicament as Abe Lincoln when he reflected on the consequences of the Civil War and exclaimed: “Clearly I have not controlled events…but events have controlled me.”  It’s De Ja Vu all over again!

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 9, 2012

 

The Case For Palestinian Statehood

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , , on September 24, 2011 by playthell

 Bright Moments: Mahmoud Rappin with Barack

 

He told “a round unvarnished tale”

For those with any understanding of the facts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, President Obama’s speech before the United Nations on Wednesday was an embarrassment.  And for Americans of conscience who value truth, freedom and justice it was shameful if not sinful.

In the President’s speech only the security concerns of the Israeli’s was discussed; a nation with one of the world’s top military establishments armed with the most advanced weaponry and a nuclear arsenal larger than Great Britain’s.  It was left therefore to President Mahmoud Abbas to present the counter-narrative, to tell the Palestinian side of the story.  And, like Othello, what a round unvarnished tale he told.

Those Americans who took the time to watch the speech on CNN got an extremely rare opportunity to hear the Palestinian case presented unfiltered by an American media that is openly biased in favor of Israel; in fact most of their copy sounds as if it was written in the Israeli embassy.   Hence for many Americans President Abbas must sound like a man from Mars.  For the picture he painted so vividly is one of a victimized people; a people whose lands and wealth was plundered by foreign invaders.

He told how the Palestinian people are the victims of colonial/settlers, the European and American Zionist, who disposssed them of their lands, instituted a racist Apartheid system, and in spite of 60 years of resolutions and agreements, many of which originated in agreements supervised by the UN, the Palestinian people continue languish under Israeli military occupation and are forced to stand idly by as Israeli settlers,  Zionist Jews from all over the world, continue to gobble up Palestinian lands by building new settlements and carving up their territory with “security walls.”

It sounded as if Mahmoud and Barack were talking about two different worlds; as if the situation looked different ways on different days.  The narratives are so radically different that there seems little reason to hope that a catastrophe can be avoided in the Middle-East.  Thus while the American President spouted nonsense, putting forth an argument that can only make sense if viewed from the imperatives of an American domestic politics dominated by the Israel Lobby, arguing that there is no road to Palestinian Statehood except through bilateral negotiations with an intransigent Israeli government, Mahmoud Abbas took his case to the United Nations General Assembly and asked the world to recognize their inherent right to a national existence as a sovereign people with all the rights and privileges that are accorded independent nations.

His overview of the crisis beginning with the founding of the Zionist state of Israel in Palestine was heart rending, a damming case of conquest, colonial occupation, and racial apartheid.  By the time Mr. Abbas announced his intention to apply for membership, proudly holding up the document for the assembly to see, the wildly applauding crowd stood in ovation.  As far as I can see, only the American and Israeli delegations remained quiet.  Thus we can clearly see the intractability of the crisis in the Middle East.

If the response of Richard Hass, Editor of Foreign Affairs, one of Americas most distinguished journals devoted to international relations, is any measure things look grim indeed. Mr. Hass, who is widely regarded as one of our nation’s most knowledgeable and prescient foreign policy analyst, expressed disappointment with Mr. Abbas’s speech and assured us that while it inspired ovations in the UN General Assembly, and will inspire cheers on the West Bank and Gaza: It would only harden the Israeli resolve to maintain the status quo. And he appeared to think this was a reasonable stance.

I see it differently; it is a course of action that can only swell the ranks of the Jihadist all over the Middle East.  There is no question that this will happen, because that is how mass transformative movements work.  Of the many factors that contribute to the growth of a movement the most potent factor is the presence of a clearly identified enemy. And that means real trouble for the US, since we are regarded as Israel’s enabler in the region.

Not long after President Abbas ended his triumphant speech, the Israeli Prime Minister took the stage and presented yet another narrative in which Israel is the victim and the Arabs are the dangerous ones.  He skillfully painted a picture of a beleaguered Jewish homeland besieged by crazy murderous Muslims.  I say Muslims because his attacks were not confined to the Arabs, aside from the Jihadists his greatest invective was reserved for Iran, which is Persian.

And  the Israeli Prime Minister willfully misrepresented some critical facts. The worst of which is to suggest that Iran, a Shiite nation, would give a nuclear weapon to Sunni Jihadist; it is a claim that defies history and denies present realities.  But it is a great ploy to rile up a millions of Americans who are already dwelling on the verge of anti-Muslim hysteria.

Yet at the end of the speechifying, I had the funny feeling that all three political actors were playing to audiences that were not present in the General Assembly.  They are all tightrope walkers who must delicately balance their performance to appeal to several audiences.  I believe that, if left to their own devices, these three rational and skilled statesmen could work out a deal.  But if they wish to survive in their high office each of them must do the bidding of constituencies that are irrational, and if their hopes and dreams are not addressed they may do no telling what.

In President Obama’s case, failure to veto the Palestinian resolution would make him political enemy #1 to the Israel Lobby and Christian Zionist.  The President cannot afford to make such powerful enemies just now; not at a time when he is conducting three wars abroad and trying to devise a cure for the protracted crisis in American capitalism.

And the situation threatens to get worse in an economy with recession level unemployment.  Furthermore he has the bizarre problem of trying to raise his approval rating among the Israeli populace; lest they give the order to the Israel Lobby and Christian soldiers of Zion the order to ice him – a call that would energize and mobilize their troops against the President’s reelection.

Prime Minister Netanyahu sent the President a strong message when he came to Washington recently and addressed a joint-session of Congress and got 18 standing ovations – more than the President got on his last State of the Union Address!  The not so subtle message was: “I own your Congress Mr. President!”   As sad as the situation is, it is nonetheless true that a failure to veto the Palestinian proposal was tantamount to committing political suicide!

Since politics is the art of the possible and I am a political animal, I fully support the President’s decision to veto the Palestinian proposal in the spirit of a circus performer who holds his nose and kisses a skunk because that’s what the script calls for!  It is, by far, a lesser evil than a Republican victory in the 2012 election.  If Mahmoud Abbas thinks that the Palestinian people will ever have a better friend in the White House than Barack Obama he is delusional.

That’s why, in spite of the undeniable righteousness of his cause, Mr. Abbas may well have injured that cause by not acceding  to the President’s request to delay his proposal for statehood a while longer so that he can try to work other options.  An American veto of this proposal will almost certainly strengthen Hamas, Mr. Abbas’ nemesis, as well as swell the ranks of Jihadists, who are the avowed enemies of secular democratic leaders like Mr. Abbas.  But once the independence motion became an option, there is no way he could have withdrawn it.  That would surely have finished him with the cheering crowd massed in Ramallah.

Ironically, Bibi Netanyahu may have won this test of wills with Barack Obama, but he imperiled the security of Israel in doing so.  It was a pyrrhic victory and Netanyahu is too smart not to know it.  Hopelessness spawned from long standing injustice is the incubator of terrorist!  Simply because justice too long delayed becomes justice denied and in such situations the oppressed will resist by any means at their disposal including suicide bombers!

Yet Bibi must bow to the will of his Likud Party – which an article in the September 23 New York Times describes as “a governing coalition dominated by right-wing and religious parties” – or face a revolt from right wing fanatics that could bring down his government Mucho Pronto.

Alas, there are positions Bibi must take in deference to the realities of Israeli politics even if he thinks he has better options.  That’s the fundamental problem with courting unthinking fanatics who operate from an irrational perspective…such as religious dogma.  We can see that the Israeli Prime Minister is concerned about the optics of their intransigence; it explains his impassioned plea for Mahmoud to return to the bargaining table…and his surprising offer to conduct the talks right here in New York right now.

However his refusal to address the issue of expanding settlements his peripatetic rant, suggest that his overtures were purely cosmetic. In the end it appears that we are witnessing a real life drama that combines elements of classical tragedy, Shakespearean intrigues and a post-modern theater of the absurd!  Only one thing is certain:  unless these three leaders can find a way to elevate reason, courage and integrity over the imperatives of political survival, an unspeakable catastrophe looms on the horizon.

Barack and Bibi: Who’s the Boss?

Is the tail wagging the dog here?

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 24, 2011

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