Peres Sabotages Abbas with Praise

Israel has always undercut any possible peace process, but its tactics are big and small. Officials don’t have to start a war in Gaza to break a truce with Hamas, they can also just say things like “Abbas is the best Palestinian leader for Israel.” Thus spake President Shimon Peres today at a Rosh Hashana ceremony with foreign diplomats.

Fresh off his rhetorical win at the UN over Palestine’s weak recognition bid, Abbas needs to be smacked back down in the eyes of the Palestinians, and what better way than for such a figure as Peres to praise him as the best man for Israel? Subtle, and possibly effective. Not that Abbas is any kind of hero. Just that this is more evidence of how Israel operates — in bad faith.

What Changed? Nothing.

Justin Elliott had a good piece in Salon yesterday, which we featured here. But when I went to read it, the subtitle made me laugh out loud.

“The president promised early on to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. What changed?”

What changed? LOL. Nothing. Anything Obama said that didn’t involve escalating something — he shook his fist at Pakistan even when “bomb bomb Iran” McCain was cautious about bombing a nominal ally — was a total lie. Seriously, the man hasn’t kept any campaign promises. Even domestic stuff like Obamacare was a betrayal of his progressive base — it just duped the left into getting on board a plot to deliver all of us into the clutches of the corporate insurance oligarchy. How did we really think the wars would go?

I’m not saying I had good judgment myself; I thought he’d be marginally better than Bush on foreign policy. Instead, he is worse in every way. And yet there are still partisans who slaver over him as long as he’s still preceded by that magic D. Democrat, not Disgusting. He shot bin Laden in the f’n face! PROGRESSIVE!

Not to go on too long, as I can. Nothing changed, Justin Elliott. Obama was and is a liar, especially on Iraq. But hey, leaving a few troops in Iraq when he said he’d take them all out (well, aside from thousands upon thousands of contractors) gives him the opportunity to end the Iraq War three times! A true peacemaker.

Sorry. Iraq Was Still Better Under Saddam.

Studies show that it really is impossible to be totally objective. A recent one asks a set of people that if they lose a trial they brought, if they should still have to pay the defendant’s legal fees. 80% said no. But if the question was flipped — should you have to pay your own legal fees if you lose a case brought against you? — only 40% said yes. Given data like this, it’s not surprising that organizations typically considered bastions of journalistic propriety are full of reporters who can’t help but bare their biases.

The latest is a piece on Iraqis’ PTSD: present-traumatic stress disorder. They can’t leave their homes without worrying they won’t come back. Constant bombings and shootings — some 20 a day on average in the country — maintain civilians in a state of chronic terror. Our Margaret Griffis documents several to dozens of Iraqis killed and wounded every day in the country’s low rumble of violence — and these are just the ones that make it into the papers. The controversy for AP reporter Lara Jakes is that Iraq is indeed worse, by far, than it was under the last years of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

In America, this has always been an inflammatory statement. Whatever you may say about the wisdom of the Iraq War, even those who opposed it say, at least Saddam is gone — so goes the conventional wisdom. Only rarely does anyone question this. Jakes may think she’s gone rogue, but even the headline — “Fear still reigns in Iraq, even after Saddam” — is wimpy. Even after Saddam? Whatever their evils, dictators are interested in calm and quiet, no upheavals to disrupt their rule. With the dictator gone, the artificial empire he created is in a state of violent unraveling. So it’s actually quite obvious — Iraq is far more violent eight whole years later, though much of this has to do with the presence of the American occupiers.

Jakes quotes several Iraqis, even those who initially supported the 2003 invasion, who now long for the life of relative ease they had when they only had one predictable enemy to avoid. After each anecdote, she inserts a sentence that amounts to “but still, Saddam was pretty bad.” And as if to illustrate her desperation to keep it a crap-on-Saddam party, she cited an “expert” from the American Enterprise Institute, the key neocon outfit home to all the most prominent jerks who pushed for the war.

AEI’s Gerard Alexander says it’s a “‘conservative estimate’ that an average 16,000 Iraqis a year were killed.”

But as I pointed out to a sloppy jingoistic pro-war “libertarian” in 2005, this is a very dishonest take. If Hussein killed even the highest estimate of one million people within a few years of his taking power, you don’t average that out over his entire rule and declare he was an insatiably murderous monster. I mean, if you want to be taken seriously. The most respected estimates hover around 300,000 Hussein victims. Over half of these were killed in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds — from which we get the “his own people” meme — and the US was still his buddy afterwards. Others were likely direct political rivals, and then those killed when Bush the elder encouraged a Shi’ite uprising, promising US backing, and then abandoned it to be crushed by Hussein. The killing and terror had ebbed by the late 1990s. The American invasion dramatically ramped up killing in Iraq, and this turmoil has not let up. That is a plain fact not open to interpretation.

As if to illustrate further the desperation to make an anti-invasion set of facts into a pro-invasion narrative, Jakes matter-of-factly credits the 2007 “surge” in Iraq for “quell[ing] much of the sectarian violence.” This is false. Sectarian murder had already succeeded in its aim of separating Iraqis by religious tradition; no further violence was “necessary.” But this reporter doesn’t ask questions to which she doesn’t want the answer.

It’s not that a reporter should be a robotic recorder — we have suffered for lack of inquisitive journalism, for a surfeit of stenographers who simply present “both sides” without actually parsing a given controversy. But when you are desperately shoehorning in statements to drag the facts back to your point of view, it’s time to give it up.

In response to the inevitable accusation of Saddamy, my response is what I said back in January in the wake of the Tunisian overthrow and in the midst of the revolutionary swells at Tahrir.

“Imagine, if the US hadn’t blown up Iraq, how Saddam would be sweating right now,” I said on the @Antiwarcom twitter account. “And a million more people would still be alive to see it.”

Everything is Terror Now. Didn’t You Know?

Apparently even the Dutch, those most contemplative guardians of high civilization, have begun using Washington’s crude definition of “terrorism” — that is, Anything We Don’t Like. Sunny Ofehe, a Netherlands resident and activist from Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, was brought up on charges of sabotage of oil pipelines, people smuggling, and fraud. It’s irrelevant whether or not these charges are true; Ofehe says they are a conspiracy against him and his case should be dropped while a Dutch judge says they’re not and the case will continue.

Notable here is the classification of even the bombing of pipelines as “terrorism.” Pipeline bombings, whatever their merits, are not done to strike fear, and they are not targeted at civilians — these are two indisputable requisites for terrorism. They are carried out specifically to damage the corrupt Nigerian central government that siphons the resources of the Niger Delta region and recklessly despoils its delicate ecosystem. And also to make it less profitable for foreign oil companies to make their ill-gotten profits as well — in this case, shock of shocks, Royal Dutch Shell.

The Niger Delta is home to several insurgent groups, rebels who demand they benefit from the loot that flows to elites in the capital and profiteers in Amsterdam.

Similar to American terror cases, judges refuse to allow Ofehe to see evidence against him. This stretching of the definition of terror makes it ever easier for the government to shut down inconvenient dissent.

News Flash: Those in charge are looking out for their own interests, whether in the Netherlands, Nebraska, or the nether regions of Nigeria. They just have different ways of managing the plebes.

Petraeus’ Lies and Failure Mount — Toward Ever-Greater Career Success

Where Gen. David Petraeus goes, lies follow. Or maybe he’s the liar. We probably can’t expect the truth from a man in the military for as long as he’s been.

The 37-year veteran, retiring this week, is credited by the stenographic media with cutting violence in Iraq — something that happened but for which he is in fact not responsible; and cutting violence in Afghanistan — something that never happened at all.

Iraq is the annoying lie, since everyone still believes it and even the “opposition” president flipflopped on it. But it is a simple one to bust because we have so many evidences. As I wrote last year:

1) Sadr ordered his men to stand down, apparently sickened by the recent violence between his followers, and other Shi’ites and the government.
2) The Awakening (Sahwa) councils, Sunni groups who were revolting against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq’s senseless slaughters, began receiving large sums of money from the US to only fight AQI, and not US troops as well, as they had been doing. The verdict is yet out on what happens when the money stops and Maliki, or whoever is in power, decides to turn on this now-well-trained movement.
3) This is the big one: the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was essentially complete. No more violence was necessary for many partisan sectarians.

So yes, violence in Iraq did for a time enter a comparative lull. It of course subsequently ramped up again briefly in 2008, though with different targets. And then until recently, it had been lower than any time since the invasion. Could the fact that there are the lowest number of troops there than ever have had anything to do with this? Gosh! Whoever could have been saying the whole time violence would drop as American troops left? It’s so hard being so right so often and not being in charge. Really.

Now I don’t mean to imply that Iraq is at peace. No, it turns out Iraqis aren’t fooled by the mere relabeling of combat troops as “advise and assist” agents. They still consider their country to be militarily occupied, and now Shi’ite militias have apparently been stepping up attacks on US troopslike they said they would. It’s cool though, it gives the US an excuse to blame Iran for something else.

But seriously. It can’t not be obvious to all involved that Iraqis just want the occupiers out. There was never any need for Petraeus’ “counterinsurgency” voodoo. The only magic needed is a disappearing act.

In Afghanistan, it is claimed Petraeus quashed steadily rising violence through yet more of his much-vaunted counterinsurgency tactics. In reality, he simply repealed ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “try not to kill as many civilians” doctrine when he was given the job of commander by a desperate and uncreative President Obama. In July this year, Gareth Porter reported that despite the troop surge and Petraeus’ dusted-off COIN theories, Taliban attacks and US casualties surged in Afghanistan. This was before July became a hideously bloody month and yet was still eclipsed by August — the deadliest month ever for US troops and God knows how many Afghan civilians. Yes, a true hero, our Commander.

But that’s not all. At his pompous farewell speech before he becomes America’s chief snoop, he warned against cutting the Pentagon budget “too deeply.” The comment is absurd as nobody has discussed actually cutting the Pentagon’s budget, only slightly reducing the rate at which it expands. But a man who thinks all the world’s problems are solved by war can’t imagine not giving ever-larger shares of public treasure to the one bureaucracy he considers to define, order, and protect civilization itself.

This, with Petraeus’ penchant for perjuring himself in front of the Congress — though there are no consequences for an heroic general — makes it obvious this “suck-up” is never, ever to be trusted. His lies and those of his sycophants are breathtaking.

Petraeus is a disgrace of an American. Which is why he’ll probably be waterboarding us all in 2016.

Netanyahu Uses ‘J14’ Protests to Steal More of Palestine — and Israelis Let Him

This was written two weeks ago and sent to hundreds of American newspapers — only one of which said they’d run it. We never herd back from them after embargoing this piece for days. It’s not quite timely anymore, but these were my views on the “J14” protest movement in Israel, and the analysis still holds, though the protests have died down and will likely now take — conveniently? — a back seat to recent security issues.

Responding to the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Israel’s streets demanding affordable housing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has not responded with the opening of land within Israel for more development, but a massive expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israel’s “J14” protests have been compared to the huge demonstrations of the “Arab Spring” that led to the ousting of two dictators and the undermining of several more. But though J14 is supposed to be about “social justice,” it is of the type that most Israelis consider within the pale: food and housing prices, entitlements, and relations between the several Jewish ethnic groups that reside in the country. The occupation of Palestine is beyond it, and is essentially absent from the discussion.

The cost of Israeli housing is due to overly strict regulation and the hoarding of land by the state land trust, paired with a lackluster economy that has never provided robust wages for workers, especially those belonging to the non-European Jewish castes. The solution has not been to liberalize the housing industry and shake up the moribund economy, but to use the protests as a pretext for further settlement expansion on Palestinian land. The Interior Ministry is expected to approve some 4,300 units of housing in the West Bank for Israeli Jews.

The protests have allowed the state to dramatically ramp up the “acceptable” number of these Jews-only homes on land stolen from Palestinians. Just this past March the US weakly criticized a plan to build a mere 500 settlement apartments.

On the surface, it could seem that this would indeed bring down the cost of housing in Israel, even if you don’t care about legitimate Palestinian grievances. But Israel spends more than half a billion US dollars every year on maintaining and protecting this occupation and making sure Arab anger persists for many more years. In light of the two- to three-billion dollars in aid Israel receives from the United States each year, one could come to the not-rash conclusion that Americans fund this occupation.

Palestinian activists are rightly ho-hum about the movement. Electronic Intifadah’s Ali Abuminah yawns on his Twitter account at the lack of J14 profundity as another writer on the site less-snarkily questions the movement’s radical intentions.

“If Israel announced cheese price hike instead of 1000s more Jim Crow homes on stolen land, Israelis might protest,” Abuminah tweeted, referring to recent outrage over the price of cottage cheese.

Israeli columnist Didi Reider thinks J14 challenges something “deeper” than the occupation — the “principle of separation” itself. But even Reider’s account doesn’t show a willingness of Israelis to apply the alleged undermining of this “principle” outside of the 1967 borders to actual Palestinians living under occupation, instead of just grudgingly accepting that Palestinians with Israeli nationality cards should probably be treated a bit more equally.

The J14 movement could have been used to bring about radical social change in not just Israel’s regimented, top-down economy, but also in the relations between all the individuals who live in Palestine. Instead, it seems Israelis are just fine hitting a perennial pressure-valve used by Israel’s ruling class — taking another bite out of the hide of the long-suffering and marginalized Palestinian.