The editors of Antiwar.com have known for some time that the FBI has had an eye on them. Naturally enough, they used the Freedom of Information Act to request bureau’s files on them and their organization—but the FBI hasn’t been forthcoming. Now the ACLU has filed suit to force the bureau to divulge the extent of its snooping on anti-interventionist journalists. As Kelley Vlahos reports: Read More…
Both the title and the trailer of Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (now playing in DC at the E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row Cinema) suggest that this will be the story of how a man becomes a fundamentalist: how a young-gun New York financier, humiliated and mistreated after 9/11, turns his back on America and returns to Pakistan to become an Islamic terrorist. This is not the actual story of the film. In a sense the movie has too much story for this summary, and the protagonist, Changez Khan (a changeable, intense Riz Ahmed), gets trapped in the conflicting interpretations by which other people file down his life into intelligibility.
It’s hard to know which is the bigger deal, Stephen Hawking’s BDS-inspired decision to drop out of a high-powered conference in Israel (a country he has visited several times before) or the Boston Globe’s endorsement of Hawking’s protest. Both actions would have been virtually inconceivable five years ago, and both reflect the broader impatience of mainstream, high-prestige Western institutions and personalities with Israel’s intensifying land-grabbing on the West Bank and its longstanding practice of using the never-ending “peace process” to camouflage policies of slow-motion ethnic cleansing.
Hawking of course is a global celebrity, renowned as a top theoretical physicist who has triumphed professionally despite suffering from the most debilitating of diseases. His defiance is celebrated in graphic form here and analyzed perceptively by the Israeli anti-occupation journalist Larry Derfner here. Derfner doesn’t really like BDS but notes that nothing else to date has worked: the Israeli public seems all too happy to elect governments which support the occupation, the United States is too timid to try “tough love” on Israel, and it’s very difficult for the Palestinians to make non-violent protest effective against an occupier using live ammunition, midnight arrests, and detention without trial. Not that they aren’t trying. Read More…
The answer, judging from the image projected by the vice president in an interview with historian Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone, appears to be yes.
It’s not far-fetched to think that Biden will run for president in 2016 on Obama’s coattails. This notion surprises many Republicans, who feel Obama is foundering and that Biden, who will be 74 at the beginning of the next presidential term, is too old. But Biden is smart to stay close to Obama, whose public-approval rating hovers just below 50 percent (a number that rises to around 75 percent among registered Democrats). Assuming Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, she will sell herself as a successor to her husband, harkening back to the economic heyday of the 1990s. By contrast, if Biden gets into the race, it will be as an Obama Democrat promising to expand on the record of the last two terms.
A handful of observations about a potential Clinton-Biden rivalry:
1.) “Obama Democrat” and “Clinton Democrat” are no longer mutually exclusive. Hillary Clinton may come to personify the melding of the two political brands. The 2012 campaign saw President Obama rely on Clinton’s speechmaking and retail campaigning acumen to a far greater extent than he did in ’08. The former president’s contribution to Obama’s reelection was second in significance only to Obama’s efforts on his own behalf. In his stemwinder at the Democratic National Convention—an address that was emotionally and substantively superior to Obama’s acceptance speech—Bill Clinton entwined his legacy with that of Obama’s. In the event that both Biden and Clinton run in ’16, Hillary would in effect be able to run as a successor to both men.
2.) ”Experience.” In 2008, Hillary ran on the experience issue and failed miserably. She lost to a junior senator who had yet to complete his first term; the appeal to her service as first lady was laughed out of town. But let’s imagine, for our purposes, that 2016 won’t be a repeat of the novelty act that ’08 was. On foreign policy, in particular, Hillary lacked relevant credentials. This was the one issue portfolio where then-Sen. Biden could plausibly claim the upper hand. Hillary’s stint as secretary of state erases that gap.
3.) Benghazi. If, two to three years from now, the Benghazi issue still hovers over Hillary (which I doubt, but let’s say it will for argument’s sake), Biden will hardly be free of its taint. He brags to Brinkley of his tight relationship to Obama: “Think about it: Even our critics have never said that when I speak, no one doubts that I speak for the president. I speak for the president because of the relationship. And the only way that works is you’re around all the time. Literally, ever meeting he has, I’m in. You don’t have to wonder what the other guy’s thinking; I don’t have to guess where the president’s going.” Recall, in this context, Obama’s remark in the second presidential debate that Hillary “works for me.” By extension, she worked for Biden. If Benghazi still smells in ’16, the stuff will roll uphill from Foggy Bottom.
4.) Age and Sex. Hillary will have one very big advantage over Biden (and other male presidential aspirants) three years from now: She’s a woman. Having checked first black president off the list, Democrats will be eager to finally send a woman to the White House. And those worried about Hillary’s age—she’ll be 69 on Election Day ’16—will be able to favorably contrast her to Biden, who will be 74.
5.) Every waking moment of his life, Joe Biden exists on the knife’s edge of verbal catastrophe.
Is there anyone besides Andrew Sullivan who notes how peculiar it is that John McCain wants to aid al-Qaeda operatives in Syria? It is duly reported that most of the Syrian rebels are Sunni fundamentalists. And as soon as it is reported, it is just as quickly forgotten. I don’t understand for the life of me why anyone thinks that Syria controlled in part or in full by Sunni jihadis is better than one controlled by Bashar Assad. Assad, whom I’ve noted before, has run a thuggish regime with a social base largely on Syria’s minority but far from tiny Christian and Alawite communities. If he falls, he falls—certainly he and his regime are not something Americans need go to tears over. But I don’t fully understand the haste to drive him out, the fervor behind Johnny “the Jihadi” McCain’s desire to oust him.
I don’t fully understand, but I have my suspicions. They run like this: the reason McCain and much of the Beltway establishment so hate Assad, even to the point of preferring al-Qaeda, is that Assad is aligned with Iran and funnels Iranian weapons to Hezbollah, the only Arab force in the past 60 years that has been able to fight the Israeli army without breaking down and collapsing. One key factor constraining an Israeli strike on Iran is Hezbollah, which could plausibly respond by launching some rockets at Israeli cities. So, defeating Assad weakens Hezbollah, which weakens Iran’s deterrence against Israel, which solidifies Israel’s military domination of the Mideast. I get that, as the saying goes. A fractured Syria, even one dominated by al-Qaeda, is better for Israel than a Syria aligned to Iran and willing to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon.
My question is, is it better for the United States? For the life of me, I can’t see why. Hezbollah has done some vicious things, including killing and torturing Americans during Lebanon’s civil war of the 1980s. But it’s terrorism which is territorially motivated rather than religiously motivated, and there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t be happy to ignore America if we ignored them. Not so the Sunni fundamentalists. For them we are a religious enemy. The rebels in Syria, who have come from all over the Sunni Muslim world, seem quite similar in ideology to the guy who inspired the Tsarnaev brothers to blow up women and children at the Boston Marathon. Why should we want to strengthen this faction of Islam by bringing them to power in Damascus?
The Democratic Senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a bill yesterday that would arm the Syrian opposition and create a “transition fund” of $250 million annually until 2015 for reconstruction.
The bill was introduced on the same day Bloomberg reported the Senator pushed to delay a merger one of his campaign donors opposed, and the same day it was revealed promised charitable donations in the wake of a straw donor scandal have yet to materialize. The New York Times also recently tied Menendez to the Pigford scandal. That’s to say nothing of his deep ties to Florida doctor Salomon Melgen which have come under scrutiny, in particular the Daily Caller’s investigation which uncovered evidence the Senator patronized underage Dominican prostitutes, courtesy Melgen’s generosity. There’s widespread skepticism in the mainstream press about the prostitute allegations, but there are definitely some pieces that are difficult to explain away.
But, of course, his Syria resolution is completely separate from his slimy cronyism, informed solely and completely by a genuine concern for the Syrian people. Definitely not the contractors and weapons companies that stand to benefit from his bill and further American involvement in the Syrian conflict. Has he given us any reason to suspect otherwise?
Strangely, nothing but crickets so far from the Weekly Standard, Breitbart, and the Free Beacon (a wire report from the latter excepted), which all helped publicize the underage prostitute allegations, but have also called for intervention in Syria.
Update: Matt Feeney has more on Sen. Corker’s comment that, ”We’re doing a lot more on the ground than really is known.”
Amazing for its viciousness and rank dishonesty is the campaign waged against UN special rapporteur for human rights in occupied Palestine Richard Falk for making some pretty straightforward “blowback” points in the aftermath of the Boston terrorist attack. Falk’s piece is here; written before the perpetrators were discovered, it notes chiefly the relative calm compared to 9/11, and the greater reflectiveness of many of the callers to PBS and other venues, who noted (as have several other commentators) that many innocents are also victims of American violence. Falk also laments what he perceives as Obama’s apparent obeisance to Israel and fears a war with Iran. Falk is a lucid and often deep thinker, but this was not an unusual piece.
Yet the old and venerable Falk (he was a prominent international law professor when I was in college, a very long time ago) had enemies lying in wait. Within a few days a well-funded neocon group called UN Watch and its various media allies had ginned up an intense public relations campaign, based on falsifying the meaning of his piece, using ellipses to distort its sentences, to claim that Falk had said that the Boston victims somehow deserved their fate. Phan Nguyen at Mondoweiss records in meticulous detail the contours of the misrepresentation campaign here. UN Watch’s rendering of Falk got assistance from the New York Post and someone from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and they obviously sent out a lot of messages to politicians, diplomats, and UN functionaries claiming (falsely) that Falk had blamed Israel and America for the terror attack, while asking them to respond. Many politicians responded as you would think they would, with US UN ambassador Susan Rice calling for Falk to be stripped of his post. (One shudders to imagine this spineless creature as Secretary of State.)
The question is why. I don’t believe that Professor Falk has any particular power or influence as the UN rapporteur for Palestine, and I’m not sure if his reports have saved a single Palestinian olive tree or water cistern from Israeli destruction. I’d like to be mistaken. If the reason is simply ideological, it’s difficult to believe that Israel lobby is all that concerned about people who say that if the United States persists in fighting what appears to Muslims as a war against Islam, with drones and whatnot, some Muslims are going to become radicalized and do evil in return. A young Yemeni made precisely that point before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee early this week, and he was treated respectfully—despite much senatorial grandstanding. Americans are ready to at least entertain the notion that a violent foreign policy (even one that uses drones autopiloted from the sanitary airconditioned confines of Nevada) can produce blowback. Glenn Greenwald argued the point here.
The smear campaign was probably started not because what Falk wrote was ridiculous but because it was reasonable. He commited the additional offense of mentioning Israel’s obvious efforts to ignite an American war with Iran. My guess is that UN Watch and its allies thought Boston provided an opportunity, that there would be enough righteous anger at the perpetrators of the terrorist attack to open a window where a smear campaign might work. If Falk could be forced out, it would illustrate their power to punish dissent and control the American discourse. Lo and behold, they got Susan Rice to endorse them.
“I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people,” said Edmund Burke of the rebellious Americans.
The same holds true of Islam, the majority faith of 49 nations from Morocco to Indonesia, a religion that 1.6 billion people profess.
Yet, some assertions appear true.
Islam is growing in militancy and intolerance, evolving again into a fighting faith, and spreading not only through proselytizing, but violence.
How to justify the charge of intolerance?
The Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas. The Sufi shrines of Timbuktu were blown up by Ansar Dine. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, Christian converts face the death sentence.
In Nigeria, the Boko Haram attacks churches and kills Christians, as in Ethiopia and the Sudan, where the south seceded over the persecution.
Egyptian Copts are under siege. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Iraq have seen churches pillaged, priests murdered. In Indonesia, churches are being shut on the demand of Islamists. Sharia law is being demanded by militants across the Middle East, as Christianity is exterminated in its cradle.
Has Islam become again a fighting faith? Read More…
In the wake of the Boston Marathon terror attack, the punditocracy seems dumbstruck. We have come to expect after these things some good indications about perpetrators: old style terrorists would advertise their actions, and in the major recent cases, — 9/11, London subway, Norway — the killers were discovered quickly. As of this writing we the general public don’t seem to know much.
I agree with Charles Krauthammer that this has an Al Qaeda feel to it, the urban setting, the quest for dramatic photographs. But we don’t know yet. A smaller probability seems to me a right wing domestic terrorist, perhaps on the Breivik model. Smaller still, Shi’ite (Iran sponsored) terror, or some some kind of false flag operation designed to implicate Iran and jumpstart an American-Iran war. But I’m no insider, I just read the blogs and the papers.
Eleven plus years ago, my wife called me from Wall Street to tell me she was okay. Okay about what I wondered. She explained. That afternoon I wrote a blog post for Justin Raimondo’s antiwar.com, saying that Mideast resentment of US policy towards Israel and Palestine was at an all time high, and unless we did something about it, we could expect a lot more of same. David Frum, in an essay attacking antiwar conservatives, wondered whether it was Robert Novak or I who “blamed” Israel first. I think it was pretty much a tie.
At the time, in several subsequent pieces, I would argue that the best way for the United States to protect its own freedoms would be to have as little as possible to do with the Mideast– to cut loose our allies, limit immigration. Trade with that part of the world, but otherwise have as little as possible to do with it. We would of course have to punish the folks who did this to us, but after that, bye bye.
No one took this advice. Instead, we (the United States) have since 9/11 killed, wounded, droned, imprisoned, tortured, made refugees of millions of Muslims. We have fought the endless war, the forever war. Electing Obama barely changed the situation. Whether this has made us any more secure is highly doubtful, but it surely has created more enemies than friends.
To be continued, obviously, when we know more about who perpetrated the Boston atrocity.
The so called P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran are apparently going nowhere. One can find small signs of optimism: there was, for instance, some serious give and take at the last session between negotiators. But right now what the West is offering—limited sanctions relief in return for Iran dismantling its major hard-to-destroy reactor—hasn’t impressed the current batch of Iranian negotiators. As I read the accounts—which are highly technical for non-experts—it appears that the Iranians believe that if they’re going to accept limits and more intrusive inspections on their program, they want full sanctions relief, an end to all “regime change” talk and actions, and formal recognition of their right to enrich uranium. Right now the U.S. is offering limited sanctions relief and little else. The sides are far apart.
What seems obvious is why Iran would feel it would want a nuclear deterrent. It is surrounded by other nuclear powers, and has seen Iraq—which lacked a nuclear program—invaded on the basis of a packet of lies and its government destroyed. It has seen the West act like the most prudent of realists when dealing with a nuclear North Korea, which behaves like a crazy and aggressive state in ways Iran does not. It has observed the world’s passivity as Israel built up a massive nuclear arsenal, and its silence while Israel shared its nuclear expertise with apartheid South Africa, then considered a rogue state. It would be hard to imagine that Iranians—who began their nuclear pursuit under the Shah—would hear Western proclamations about the sanctity of nuclear non-proliferation as anything but rank hypocrisy.
The real reasons for the obsession with Iran’s nuclear program are not vocalized, and perhaps—resting as they do under layers of self-deception and sublimated power drives—are not even fully comprehended this country’s leaders. Wiliam Pfaff makes the point here: Read More…