Stop Congress From Green-Lighting Attack on Iran

Nearly one third of the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives has introduced a resolution giving Israel a green light to attack Iran. H.Res.1553 declares unwavering support for Israel to “use all means necessary,” to “eliminate nuclear threats” posed by Iran.

The game plan of these Members of Congress was spelled out by John Bolton in the Wall Street Journal just two weeks ago: “Having visible congressional support in place at the outset [of an attack] will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.”

The National Iranian American Council is urging people to contact House Republican leader John Boehner urging him to block this measure.

You can go here to automatically contact Boehner.

I also urge you to contact your individual member of Congress and Senator to oppose H.Res.1553. You can go to to get contact info.

Antiwar Radio on Pacifica

Antiwar Radio’s Scott Horton will be interviewing investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. Mr. Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Army, will take a critical look at the Washington Post’s Top Secret America. KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles/98.7 Santa Barbara, Friday, July 16 at 5:00 PM Pacific. Listen live here.

Last week, Mr. Horton interviewed Gareth Porter and Michael Hastings for KPFK. The archive can be heard here.

Uganda’s Detached Outrage

This week in totally f*cking insane Somalia news, Ugandan officials declare their utter shock at the random, unprovoked attacks on Kampala last week which killed over 70 people. As the very first sentence in a long and entertaining piece in says, “Uganda’s East African neighbours have pledged soft support should the country choose to go on the offensive in Somalia.”

Yes, go on the offensive. Because stationing five thousand troops in another country is no provocation whatsoever, at least not one recognized by the Western world. And after all, African regimes got their ideas of proportionality and nationhood from the West, a lovely little gift of colonialism. Before I digress too far, suffice to say that Uganda has been “on the offensive” for a while now in Somalia, what with its penchant for shelling Mogadishu residences full of civilians. Not that their opponents in al-Shabaab aren’t guilty of the same thing, but then, often it’s because they’re fighting the Ugandan occupiers or the pathetic puppet “Transitional Federal Government,” a UN-backed clique of former Barre apparatchiks and US-financed warlords.

This, as I spoke with on Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton recently, is the idea that history begins anew each time the US or any Western-accepted country is hit with some atrocity in retaliation. The US was attacked on 9/11 for no reason except possibly that bin Laden was jealous of and/or hated our capitalisms; the previous 50+ years of Washington’s intervention in the Middle East didn’t happen, if you ask Sarah Palin. Evil, conditionless al-Shabaab attacked peaceable, celebratory Ugandans for no other reason than that the former are anti-soccer and anti-modernity; Somalis being killed by Kampala’s troops on their own soil has nothing to do with it. The logic employed here could make a neocon just die from pride, with any luck.

Uganda’s blustery officials declare this “the beginning of the end of al-Shabaab”; and sure, if US experience in driving out native insurgencies in such success stories as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Vietnam are any indicator, the capable likes of powerhouse Uganda could enjoy similar victory. “Sources” say that Uganda is willing and able to increase its Somalia contingent from 5,000 to 20,000 troops, the magical number somebody for some reason decided is needed to wipe out al-Shabaab. A cited regional precedent is Zimbabwe’s involvement in the “Great African War” in the DR Congo in 1998, in which Robert Mugabe, the great democrat and statesman, sent 12,000 troops to prop up Laurent Kabila, an erstwhile Marxist so corrupt that even legendary scoundrel Che Guevara turned his back on him.

In all seriousness, as I point out in my recent op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, this is a textbook case of blowback. It’s the clearest example we’ve seen in a while, which is why it’s so puzzling to see such reasonable people as African officials reacting with such surprise.

Ugandans should demand their government retreat from this downward spiral into fruitless and endless intervention and deal with more pressing issues, like the fact that homosexuals eat da poo poo and there are just still so many of them to put to death, and the other civilizational advancements for which sub-Saharan Africa is well known.

A Real Foreign Policy Debate

This Wednesday a debate between Bruce Fein (former associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration and author of American Empire: Before the Fall) and radio host/Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner. It will be moderated by American Conservative editor Daniel McCarthy.

The smackdown begins at 12:30 pm on the 6th floor of the Americans for Tax Reform offices — 722 12th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.

With RNC Chairman Michael Steele calling Afghanistan Obama’s war, there’s an opening, however small, for a true foreign policy debate on the Right for the first time in over a decade. The Fein/Kuhner event will give a taste of what’s in store. It’s free, and food and drink will be provided, so drop by if you’re in the area.

Obsession With Pakistan’s Tax System

Obsession With Pakistan’s Tax System

Just the latest in a long string of articles and other public comments in this vein, the New York Times today made a front page story of Pakistan’s low tax rate, with author Sabrina Tavernise going so far as to directly blame it for the nation’s rising insurgency. Quote:

In Pakistan, the lack of a workable tax system feeds something more menacing: a festering inequality in Pakistani society, where the wealth of its most powerful members is never redistributed or put to use for public good. That is creating conditions that have helped spread an insurgency that is tormenting the country and complicating American policy in the region.

Ms. Tavernise’s claims come as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making a high profile visit to Pakistan, and serves as a reminder that calls to dramatically raise taxes in Pakistan have been official Obama Administration policy for quite some time.

In early February, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin demanded that Pakistan impose a Value Added Tax and raise Capital Gains Taxes. Pakistan promptly complied, even though this meant the resignation of their Finance Minister, who had disagreed with the policy.

Days after the announcement Secretary Clinton was demanding that Pakistan again raise taxes precipitously and use it to “increase spending on health care and education.” This will likely again be a topic of Clinton’s visit, in between demands to launch ever more aggressive military offensives against the tribal areas to their north.

Yet while Ms. Tavernise correctly identifies Pakistan ratio of tax to GDP as “among the lowest in the world,” it is actually not out of keeping with other developing economies. Taxes are roughly the same percentage of GDP as Panama, slightly lower than Taiwan but slightly higher than Mexico.

The conclusion that this is helping to “spread an insurgency” is never defended but just presented as an obvious fact. Yet Pakistan’s rate of taxation did not suddenly drop drastically, and its insurgency has only really cropped up since the 2001 NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

Moreover this insurgency was born predominantly in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, and not in the low-income neighborhoods of richer cities like Karachi and Islamabad.

It is not, then, a lack of confiscatory taxation or a lack of massive social spending that is fueling this insurgency, but rather the presence of some 150,000 US-led occupation forces in their neighbor to the north, fighting an ever-worsening war with no end in sight.

Pakistan’s tribal areas have not, traditionally, come under more than nominal control of the central government, and when the American-led invasion of Afghanistan drove massive numbers of refugees, both Taliban and civilian, into those tribal areas, it was inevitable that it would serve as a bone of contention.

The tribesmen welcomed the refugees, who share a common culture and language, and American officials have been pushing for Pakistan to clamp down on the regions ever since.

It is true, of course, that Pakistan cannot afford to commit hundreds of thousands of troops to fighting these endless tribal wars without massive US aid, but these wars are being done almost wholly on the basis of US demands. Pakistan’s government has demonstrated, from the Swat Valley to North Waziristan, that its preferred way of dealing with tribal unrest is through diplomacy, and through ceasefire agreements predicated on the tribes agreeing not to become involved in the insurgency.

Pakistan’s current status as a financial basket case dependent on international largesse is not a function of mean-spirited politicians but rather of unreasonable demands placed on them by the international community. Attempts to dictate a higher tax rate on them will not solve this problem but will only put them at a competitive disadvantage economically, ensuring that the economic development that stalled when the US War of Terror broke out never fully restarts.

Bibi Spills the Beans

Liel Leibovitz and Gideon Levy have the rundown on a just-publicized tape of Benjamin Netanyahu from 2001. Addressing an audience at the West Bank settlement of Ofra without realizing that the cameras are running, Netanyahu claims that he has “de facto put an end to the Oslo accords” and boasts of his ability to manipulate U.S. policymakers. Among the tape’s highlights (from Liebovitz’s writeup):

“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.”

On getting the U.S. to concede to Israel the right to define which areas of the West Bank were “closed military zones: “From that moment on, I de facto put an end to the Oslo accords.”

“They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords]. I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.”

Bill Clinton is “radically pro-Palestinian”.

With the exception of the last line about Clinton, all of these statements appear to fit Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe — that is, when a politician unwittingly tells the truth.