Bombing a Prison Camp for Children

Even the shameless Israeli state seems momentarily shamed, as it has announced a five-hour ceasefire in their bombardment of Gaza after having shelled to death four Palestinian children who had been playing soccer on a beach, thereby presumably serving as “human shields” for Hamas fighters ingeniously hiding under the sand.

Over 36 children have now been killed by Israel’s assaults out of 200+ total (mostly civilian) Palestinian deaths. Such a high proportion is hardly surprising, given that a majority of the population in Gaza is under 18, and over 40 percent are age 14 and under. Israel is bombing what is for the most part a vast open-air prison camp for children. This is what the Obama administration refers to as Israel “defending itself.”

“Eye for an eye” probably wouldn’t make the whole world blind. But, “the eyes of your children and neighbors for an eye,” sure as hell will. This bombing campaign of collective punishment is bloodthirsty, rank tribalism of the most primitive sort. Every American should be as aghast as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder recently expressed himself to be that his tax dollars are paying for it.

Frankensteinian Hubris: Bush’s “Redirection” and the Rise of ISIS

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Monster and maker meet again.

As the ISIS Sunni radicals, after proclaiming a new Caliphate, continue to conquer Iraqi towns, and the Al Nusra Front Sunni radicals proclaim a new Emirate in Syria, it is good to remember that the policy that led to this mess was initiated under the Bush Administration, with full cognizance of the possibility that it could result in severe terroristic and destabilizing blowback. It was in 2007 that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia launched what Seymour Hersh, who broke the story in The New Yorker, called “the Redirection.” Under this policy revolution, the U.S. and the Saudis (with Israel’s blessing and prodding) began trying to bolster Sunni radicals in an effort to “contain” the “Shiite resurgence” brought about by the U.S. empowerment of the Shiites in Iraq. It all started in Lebanon (emphasis added):

In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. (…)

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

(As it turns out, as reported by Patrick Cockburn, not all of the Saudis embraced such a blowback-inviting policy, so it would be more accurate to call it a victory for the Prince Bandar bin Sultan line.) The fact that U.S. policymakers concluded that beleaguered Iran, with its long track record of not attacking a single country, is more of a danger than Sunni radicals, like the ones responsible for 9/11 and every other Al Qaeda attack, is an indication of just how little our overlords care about actually protecting us, as compared to pursuing regional power politics.

Continue reading “Frankensteinian Hubris: Bush’s “Redirection” and the Rise of ISIS”

Exchange of Projectiles?

Numerous headlines in mainstream American coverage of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip feature language about Israelis and Palestinians “exchanging rocket fire,” which conveys to the American public the sense that it is a matter of a “battle” between two neighboring “powers,” instead of the bombardment of an occupied territory; as if there was any kind of equivalence between the 400 tons of explosives that have rained down from Israeli jet planes, and the primitive, unguided rockets being lobbed from Gaza. The former has, in just a few days already killed over 100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and including at least 13 children. The latter has resulted in zero Israeli deaths, and only 7 injuries.

It’s rather like a scrum of cops assaulting a prostrate man with batons and tasers, and the media calling that a “fight” instead of a beating, because the man, as he flailed about under the blows raining down on him, kicked the leg one of the cops.

The Palestinians aren’t allowed to leave; the Gaza Strip is a giant open-air prison camp. They have no air raid shelters or sirens. They are like fish in a barrel, being blasted by a shotgun from above. It’s like some of the fish in the barrel pathetically spitting water at the gunman, and calling that a “shooting battle.” Indeed one has to wonder, if the economic blockade and the destruction wrought upon the Palestinians were to reduce them to such penury that they no longer had enough materials for rockets, and were reduced to only throwing rocks while continuing to have 1-ton smart-bombs dropped on their houses, would the American mainstream media call the affair an “exchange of projectiles”?

Playing With Fire, Both Israel and Ukraine Say, “No Truce for You”

The empire is in a particularly testy and truculent mood. Two of its appendages have, virtually simultaneously, eschewed ceasefires in their respective campaigns of aggression. Both have bombarded civilian centers with airstrikes, and Ukraine has been rolling in armored vehicles, while Israel is preparing to do the same. As Jason Ditz reports:

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich today ruled out any ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, as the Israeli military continues to escalate airstrikes against the tiny Gaza Strip, and is building up for a ground invasion.

and

Having taken Slovyansk earlier this week, Ukrainian officials are increasingly bellicose about their ongoing civil war, demand unconditional, unilateral disarmament by the rebels before any future discussions. “There will be no more unilateral ceasefires” by Ukrainian troops, announced Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey, while other officials promised a “nasty surprise” for any of the eastern rebels that continue to resist their takeover. (…) “…the Ukrainian military is increasingly using not only airstrikes, but armored vehicles in its offensives.”

With Ukraine, as it always does with Israel, the U.S. government, which funds and arms both, defends its actions as “defending itself.” Propping up such merciless savagery is unbelievably reckless on the part of U.S. policymakers. It is precisely this kind of mass brutalization of Arabs that has resulted in incidents of blowback like 9/11. And now, even as the empire doubles down on this treatment of Arabs, it is so suicidally stupid as to actually extend it to Russian-speaking people, right on the border of nuclear Russia.

Demonize Putin all you want, but never forget that control over Russia’s mountain of H-bombs is, in the final analysis, in the hands of the Russian people. And it is far from impossible that the “blowback” rage and hatred to come from grinding Russian-speakers under the imperial boot will not be dissimilar from the blowback of doing the same to Arabs; only this time with potentially thermonuclear consequences. How, after all, do you think it makes Russians feel to see pictures like this, which is from a Ukrainian airstrike on Russian-speakers in early June?

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And no, you hubris-addled neocons, not even regime-change against Putin would solve the problem. If anything his popularity is putting a lid on the outrage, because the Russians trust him to stand up for them, and therefore give him leeway for compromise.

Stop the madness now.