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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad ventures into the Lobby's Den

The recent visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad showed the level of outright hatred for the Iranian leader. Many in New York blame Iran for supporting terrorism; Ahmadinejad was denied entry to the 9/11 Memorial site.

The Iranian president faced a grilling at Columbia University performed by its president, Lee Bollinger. Mindful always of the hardcore Zionists who fund the school, Bollinger had to bolster his pro-Israel credentials by bashing Ahmadinejad. The TV networks, run by the same Zionist, Israel-first crowd, captured all the hate-filled regalia of street protests against the visit. New Yorkers would clearly rather not extend the right of free speech to a foreign dignitary perceived as anti-Semitic. Nonetheless Ahmadinejad seemed to have his chance to speak, through the raspy voice of interpreter and after enduring Bollinger's tirade guised as questions.

I previously debunked the mistranslation that quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that Israel should be wiped off the map. The regime in Tel Aviv should be removed was the accurate interpretation of the original remarks in Farsi. Nonetheless, the wipe Israel off the map sticks in the memory of countless writers. I saw it corrected in The Economist after being passed off in an article condemning Iranian bellicosity, but countless other news sources and editorials have passed on the mistranslation as objective fact.

Ahmadinejad may have denied the Holocaust, which is a crime in Germany and other nations. I don't think that has endeared him to too many.

Whatever the man's opinions, they are interpreted as representing the anti-Semitic roots of Iranian policy and the terrorism it has spawned.

While it's nice to imagine a State-sponsor behind terrorism--thereby allowing the threat to end with the destruction of that state--, the geopolitical framework that spawns terror is far more complex. While hating Ahmadinejad may make supporters of Israel feel better, criticism does nothing to resolve the cause for the Islamic terror, which is definitely Israel's treatment of Palestinians and its military actions taken against its neighbors.

Ahmadinejad's visit did put the spotlight on how much hate Jews carry against Muslims, particularly those that harbor hostility towards Israel. Honestly, Ahmadinejad's viewpoint might reflect that of hundreds of millions of Muslims. Post 9/11, after all, Osama bin Laden has been voted the most popular man in the Muslim world.

Some hardcore Zionist would probably endear themselves to the notion that the Muslim multitudes hate Israel and would support strikes on the US. The more extreme the violence that Muslims seek to extract, the more justifiable the military preemptions. Flag-draped, military action is a hallmark of the Right wing and the patriotism it evokes is arguably its most reliable source of popularity.

Yet as I say below, constant military action isn't practical, even if we can "win" in any traditional confrontation. As it is the balance of forces is so much in Israel and America's favor that assymetrical warfare--terrorism and guerrilla actions--are the only way Arabs can level the playing field.

The technological advantage held by Israeli and American armed forces might be increasingly marginal as well. Iranian missiles under Hezbollah control and high-tech explosives imported into Iraq may limit the advantages typically ascribed to Israel and the US, particularly in a logn, drawn out war of occupation without clear "victory" (withdrawal pre-)conditions.

Iran developing nuclear weapons would be the grand prize in force parity, although Israel's nuclear weapon strength provides adequate deterrence. The possibility that Iran would give nukes to terrorists is clearly what Israel fears most; still, if Israel were struck, the Israelis have made it clear that Damascus and Teheran would be the atop the list of retaliatory targets. (This is, as I pointed out some months back, assumes Israel's arsenal can survive the first strike.)

Peace is the Only Option

Can the US, acting on Israel's behalf, exterminate all the anti-Semites in the Muslim world? If not, we must choose to live with them. Peaceful co-existence would seem to be the most effective solution when two people are forced to live together, especially when they hate one other.

The Ahmadinejad visit revealed the ongoing propaganda war that surrounds any high-level interactions between Americans and leaders of Muslim states. If the background of the Islamic leader carries the slightest hint of anti-Zionism, he will be painted anti-Semitic by the media which is controlled by hardline advocates of Zionism.

The media makes its job to villify Muslims, particular those who may have expressed anger or resentment towards Israel. In major media companies run by Republican moguls like Jack Welch of NBC, the emphasis is on war, not peace, because the conglomerate's interests are served best by war. NBC's parent GE, the world's largest military contractor, had nothing to gain by peace in the lead-up to Iraq; it fired Phil Donahue who spoke out against the war. Likewise, Jewish media directors sympathetic to Israel and more tellingly, Zionist aggression, believed that attacking Iraq was in the best interests of their patron State.

Not surprisingly, the antiwar view was repressed and the neo-conservative viewpoint reigned supreme. Dissent was packaged as anti-American and disloyal. All the media conglomerates moved together to pound the war drums.

If forcing the US to fight Israel's enemies was the goal, the MSM can continue their success by undermining public exposure to the antiwar point of view. Olbermann and others have launched into antiwar and anti-Bush tirades, but the bulk of coverage minimizes the benefits of getting out and does all it can to present the pro-war perspective and distort the debate.

So what is the problem that Zionism presents? Infiltrating all major media, it's clear that Israeli sympathizers have a huge amount of public influence. American foreign policy in the Middle East is shaped in Tel Aviv, largely as a consequence of the pro-Israeli lobby, called "the Lobby".

Lerner's Viewpoint

Who exactly are the Zionistists? In an intriguing article in Tikkun, Michael Lerner defines Zionists as "the small but powerful group of neo-con Jews for whom support of Israel’s expansionist policies..."

Lerner describes the extent of their influence in the media as legendary, with "powerful ties that shaped the consciousness of The New York Times op-ed page, culture sections, book review, and magazine..."

The political orientation of Zionism has changed in response to what are deemed the necessities of survival for the Jewish state. One of these has been to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel. Israeli Arabs make up a very large minority, and birth rates for non-Jewish Israelis are astronomically high compared to Israeli Jews. To maintain a Jewish plurality, Israel has two choices: deny Arabs political representation or ethnically cleanse them out of Israel proper.

Understanding the domestic political concerns and motivations in Israel goes a long way in analyzing the political alignment in the country. If the Lobby is a direct reflection of Israeli political opinion, its influence will be meant to acheive specific goals like disguising extraterritorial ambitions and drumming up American support for military action against enemies of Israel.

Non-violent resolution of conflict is apparently off the table, at least if the Zionist perspective controls Israeli politics and in turn its Lobby:

"The Lobby’s solution for Israel is that the country be involved in endless struggle with evil enemies who will always be there, rejecting any more complicated or sophisticated view that might point to the interactive nature of conflict, the way in which conflicts are frequently a product of both sides taking provocative actions. The 'security' strategy that results from the Israel Lobby’s fear-orientation is the Strategy of Domination: we must conquer or dominate others before they conquer or dominate us."

Lerner gives as examples instigations that have engendered broad anti-Israeli sentiments (and in turn sympathy for the struggles faced by its victims.) These include:

"...the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the dropping of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon, the refusal to give up land of Syria’s conquered in 1967, the holding of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Israeli prisoner camps, the use of torture, the violation of the rights of Israeli citizens who happen to be Arabs, and the refusal to acknowledge any responsibility for the Palestinian refugees."

Lerner goes on to identify the source of future strife and difficulties for Israel:

"The Israel Lobby identifies the best interests of the U.S. with those of the Israeli right-wing, and that right-wing engages in activities against the Palestinian people in particular and against surrounding neighboring states, which have inflamed global public opinion not only against Israel but against the United States which is seen as its puppet."

Used frequently, military action has invariable negative consequences. The blowback as Lerner explains it:

"Israel will some day face a reckoning from Arab states and from the peoples of the world for the gross arrogance and insensitivity of their government’s policies, and people will some day look back at the Israel Lobby in the U.S. and realize that it was destructive to Israel’s long-term survival interests."

He goes on to define the threat not only to Israel but to the Jewish diaspora:

"...the coming outbreak of anti-Semitism in the next decades will. . .happen primarily because of the legacy of the Israel Lobby and the Jewish Political Correctness it has fostered..."

Military aggression is counterproductive unless the goal of using force is to encourage more force, which in turn justifies territorial expansion of the Jewish state under the pretext of security. Likewise, the threat posed by Palestinians can serve to make them second-class citizens in their own country, stripping of their right to vote and be represented in an Israeli state that annexes them. In this sense resistance to military aggression is a toll that benefits the aggressor; their patience continually tried, the victims must remain non-violent or risk losing more freedom and territory.

The expansionist roots of Zionist also fit well into annexation of the West Bank. Aggressive Israeli militarism thrives off of Palestinian resistance in the West Bank, coincidentally territory Israel has been colonizing. To justify the construction of an Apartheid wall dividing the Occupied Territories, a threat must be made real on the other side of the wall.

With no threat, no justification exists for military action. Abuse any people long enough and they will turn to violence, so to justify the seizure of additional territories, abusive security practices embitter a native population who must practice Ghandian self-restraint lest more militant factions strike back at the colonists and precipitate further security abuses and land grabs, in the name of security for Israel.

Lerner says "the Israel Lobby...reinforc(es) tendencies to believe in power and domination rather than in love, generosity, compassion and open-heartedness."

The shift to the right in the domestic Israeli political race might reflect a departure from the traditional values associated with peaceful coexistence: values focused on mutual respect, restraint, and good will. Instead the Machiavellian principles of control and unrestrained rule of might have conquered Israeli perceptions towards its neighbors, poisoning the relations with them and increasing the likelihood of military action.

Lerner bemoans the loss of morality:

"...the Israel Lobby (is) so successful in turning many of the Jews who are supposedly religious into worshipers of power; people who believe that the will of God can be read by the outcome of military struggles..."

Moderates can tone down the militaristic tone of the Lobby by joining one of the many groups that constitute the Jewish lobby, Lerner says. The uniform approach to lobbying ensures an outward consensus but also crushes distinctions and reason in the process, stomping them under the rigid boot of heavily enforced political correctness.

How best to moderate the Lobby? The groups need to accept some level of autonomy. Deviations from a standard policy must be tolerated, especially if the status quo perpetuated by rigid adherence to dogma stifles alternatives that may be more productive and less confrontational. Lerner believes that moderates have a duty to influence the Lobby from the inside, to present a non-violent solution as an alternative to the Right's militarism.

Lerner blames much of the "perpetual victim" mindset borne by Jews on the bull-headed aggression cradled in the Right-wing and its constant reliance on military exertion to achieve foreign policy aims. The policies are confrontational, Lerner argues, as they encourage retaliation by Israel's enemies.

I've argued that military action contributes to a cycle of violence that the Right can claim to be managing through additional warfare. By creating the animosity and making violence certain, the Israeli Right can provide the apparent solution--more violence--which engenders more hate and violence upon the recipients of the force. More war is the only possible outcome.

Bush has invited Syria to Middle East talks and said of the Ahmadinejad visit that it's "OK with him", so his years of avoiding negotiation with "enemies" may be drawing to an end. The absence of dialogue has increased tensions and made alternatives to military force twindle as viable policy options. Eventually the use of force--not coincidentally the most effective political tool of the Right--becomes the centerpiece of all foreign policy if dialogue is eschewed.

The nexus of Zionists and Christian fundamentalism inhibits more balanced dialogue and reasoned approaches formulated out of a diverse basket of conflict resolution alternatives. In the US, Christo-Zionists have propagated the myths of Zionism: that Arabs are in cahoots to destroy Israel, and that the US should defend the Israeli state in whatever way it can--an euphemism for unconditional support for military aggression against anyone considered a threat by a Right wing Israeli government.

Limits of Military Effectiveness

The returns on the use of military force diminish, as we see in Iraq now. While the Right may be able to strum up nationalist impulses through the exercise of military force--particularly against weaker third world armies who are sure to collapse--, it cannot dictate outcomes in an unpredictable combat environment. Starved of diplomatic recourse, the war takes on a life of its own, forcing the sane and rational need for closure forever farther on, taking with it a growing stream of blood and treasure.

It's this cradle of madness that pushes wars on, particularly wars that have no specific victory conditions. The occupation emerged out of the simple purpose of an regime-changing operation and has come to justify its own continuity under the grounds we will lose if we get out.

Whatever the mission creep, we now find ourselves in a situation where we can't achieve a clear victory, under conditions that could demonstrate an outcome in our best interest. Knowing the certainty of a dissatisfactory conclusion, many war supporters crave more war, blithely hoping that we can change the eventual outcome simply by staying longer.

Relying on our military to solve political problems and internal strife effectively hobbles the fledgling government in Iraq. Incidents like the Blackwater massacre of apparently innocent Iraqis have stretched the credibility of the new government's claim to sovereignty. If a country can't expel mercenaries and wanton murderers from its midst, how can it claim its rights as independent nation-state? To stand alone, the Iraqi government must be separated from its patron and in the bargain gain exclusive control over itself, an outcome not possible if the US insists on occupying the country indefinitely.

So we soldier on, desperately hoping that we can get different results when trying nothing new. Some on the Right might say the surge worked or an even bigger surge might; the political realities on the ground reveal the situation the US now faces--horrible unless the goal of the invasion were to perpetuate itself, through willful mismanagement.

To think the Bush administration would plan to make the occupation endless before invading gives them perhaps too much credit. The more likely scenario is that the mismanagement was unintended. Still, the presence of US in Iraq is long-term, and in at least one way conducive to our strategic interest, as we are a nation that needs a lot of oil (and our military is the world's largest consumer of oil, so there's no absence of self-interest on their part either.) Where is our oil going to come from? Keeping Iraqi oil out of control by the Chinese and others is another strategic achievement, one that can't be sustained if we pull out entirely.

Imaging a conclusion that would see the US leave Iraq would mean that the US has no direct control over Iraq's petroleum. To make matters worse, because Bush demanded democracy for Iraq, our intervention has turned Iraq into a Iranian client state. Maliki's government is inundated with Shia militiamen and Iranian mullah-backed politicos. Of course Iran would triumph if we leave. So we can't and won't.

Another reason our leaders assume that we will get different results might be the huge amount of war spending flowing to industries with close ties to politicians. Some 40% of the Pentagon's budget goes directly to military contractors; our Vice President owns stock in one, his former company Haliburton.

The ongoing benefits to a key Bush corporate constituency can't be understated. War profiteers will find Iraq a smashing success for as long as it goes on. The blood money keeps coming courtesy of a Democratic party too scared of looking soft on terror to stop the killing.

A huge reason why the Democrats won't act to end the war (and no it's not the Senate's 60-vote majority needed to prevent a fillibuster) is the influence of the Lobby. It insists on continued military action in the hopes that a continued military presence will confound its enemy Iran. Israel is bent on destabilizing Iran. Besides, I've read that Israel also wants the restoration of the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline.

The US would dearly like to extract all the Iraqi oil we can. Unfortunately for our colonial inspirations, the Iraqis know exactly what we want from them. The Blackwater episode will be tame in comparison to the popular outrage that will emerge if Iraqi politicians sell out to American oil firms. The gap between Iraq government authority and its level of empowerment was cracked by the impunity with which Blackwater acted. For Iraq to give up its rights to its own oil alongside endless occupation will embolden an enduring resistance and strengthen anti-American elements in its government.

In this sense Iraqi moderates have been pushed out by the sectarianism. Military conflict between the sides in the Iraq civil war is continuing; if the Iraq government merely represents one side it cannot reign much less claim to represent the country. In the north the Kurds have signed a deal with Bush crony Ray Hunt, the head of an energy conglomerate. Hunt is betting that oil deals with the central government will fall through; his relationship with Bush hints at inside knowledge of what the highest echelons of the US government might be planning for Iraq: a division along sectarian lines. See the Krugman article on the deal here.

To keep the US presence going, and the Iranian one suppressed, the US must prop up a unviable regime in Baghdad which, if the smothering blanket of the US occupation is thrown off, will become an instant rival influenced by Iran. Maybe partition is the way the US can get oil out of Iraq--from the Kurdish side. The price of partitioning would be giving Iran indirect control over most of the country.

Unfortunately the Sunnis are the unknown quantity. They can create sufficient chaos in the cities of what would be Kurdistan with their sizable Arab minorities. They can blow up pipelines which present the only geophysical method to avoid routing oil pipelines to a Shia (read Iranian)-controlled region on the Gulf, or going through Turkey, where an large population of indigenous Kurds would be inspired to secede from Turkey. A new Kurdish state will look at any event along the pipeline as a reason to help liberate their long-oppressed brethren in the north, across the border in Turkey. Turks would hardy want their Kurds hungry for independence--they spent decades crushing a Kurdish separatist movement.

With Syria hardline (a direct consequence of unending military action with Israel and a lack of diplomatic discourse), the pipeline must go west through Jordan. Yet surely the Sunnis wouldn't just let the pipeline go by. They'd be bought off, presumably in weapons that they could use against Shia in the East, which would achieve an outcome which Israeli hardliners could claim had "split their enemy."

In reality, the ongoing nature of Shia-Sunni violence means peace is not viable and that the US military will be justified in staying for a long, long time. This is of course seen as a very favorable outcome for the state of Israel among neo-conservatives controlling the Lobby. Their thinking may be woefully short-term, however.

Long-term, the chaos seeded in the sectarian conflict might well spill over and destabilize Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. At the very least these countries would be forced into clarifying where they stood on Iraq, which would be a proxy for their commitment to the cause of a broader pan-Islamic posture against Zionism. The more aggressive their respective populations the outcry against Israel, the more sympathy will be extended to entities opposed to Israel; in this respect the use of Israeli and American force, predominantly military, generates a countervailing force of opposite and equal power. A pan-Islamic amalgamation of political forces opposed to Israeli and American long-term foreign policy interests could emerge. Shia-Sunni combat might only make a lasting peace that much more necessary for the regimes in the neighboring states, especially considering how animosity towards Israel shapes the preoponderance of public opinion in those nations away from so-called "moderation."

Even if perpetual warfare is the aim, such an outcome could create a massive threat of epic proportions at Israel's door. As Israel's war in South Lebanon in 2006 showed, the conventional capability of Hezbollah has grown markedly and Israel may not have the military advantage it once had. Nuclear capability would be a feather in the cap of Iranian military capability and represent a new paradigm in force parity. Ironically a conventionally outmatched Israel would be forced to depend on its nuclear arsenal.

I can't predict the future, but understanding the Middle East requires confronting the Israeli-Palestinian issues suppressed in the media environment. Once the motives of the Zionists in the Israel right are considered, and their impact on formulating foreign policies in the US understood, their influence can be identified, isolated, and overcome.

Maintaining silence on the Lobby allows a select group of neo-conservatives to hijack a great religion. Reason held hostage, the war-centric approach dominates whatever limited political dialogue transpires on Middle East issues. The almost paranoid fixation on controlling all media representation leads to the repression of any view other than the aggressive and expansionary vision for Zionism, with Israel in some sort of dominant power position. Meanwhile Israel's credibility and its soul suffer as it abandons peace as a positive and productive end-goal--instead the State and its perpetual warfare has usurped the Jewish religion and its values.

Other Sources

A transcript and video of Ahmadinejad's CBS interview by 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley is here.

The MSM's reaction to Ahmadinejad's visit has been criticized broadly. Here is one article by Ted Rall.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reporting on DC

My most recent article on the Washington march was posted on onlinejournal.

A short documentary of the march is available here(Windows Media required). It runs 13 minutes and you will definitely want to see it. {If you have technical problems, you can try an alternative download at http://web17.streamhoster.com/jbpeebles/protestmarch.wmv or .../interviews.wmv}

I also have a clip of interviews here(Windows Media required). Most are abbreviated or hard to hear; bear with my first efforts in this area. The interviewing environment was quite tricky. Noise, heat, and the angle of the sun made things difficult, not to mention the controlled chaos of a large political gathering.

A camcorder is inadequate for the purpose; I did see a fair number of microphones being used. I saw many professionals about with real cameras but my Minolta Z-10 performed adequately--picture definition is limited by the display capacity of the Web, a limitation I've been forced to address in my efforts to stream my videos.

Before the event, the focus in ANSWER's press briefings seemed to be on the speakers, but they were swallowed up in the limited confines of Lafayette Park. All in all the people were really the most amazing part of the march. In the end, I'd settle for the interviews I'd done over covering anyone else.

I saw the all women cast of Code Pink dressed in their characteristic color, made famous for their resistance in the Petraeus hearings. (I learned that Adam Kokesh was kicked out yelling "Swear Him In", in reference to the new Congressional habit of neglecting to swear in those who testify.) When the women of Code Pink passed it was if a strong breeze had blown by. The effeminate pink clashed with the olive drab green of militarism. It was clear the group had a level of presence, solidarity, and determination that is simply not going away.

I also saw anarchists in black and red, who looked askance when filmed, carefully fixing their bandanas to hide their identities, chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!"

There were some die-hards who'd been there in the park protesting for years, alongside energetic young students bubbling with exuberance for a new cause.

I also measured people's reactions to the protest who weren't involved. Most common in small town Indiana is the perception that the demonstrators were fringe people, freaks, and the like in the mold of the 60's counter-culture. In West Virginia I'd been told how wild the protest had been.

"Was pot smoked?" I was asked. "Hippie freaks" I'd been told to expect. How wrong had that impression been! I'd been right on with the title of my blog entry before departing for the big show, calling the counter-culture backing the war one decoupled from its revolutionary precedents. Gone with the tie-dyes were the drop out themes of the Vietnam era and sadly, the great music of that period.

Instead it seems we have a President who has turned the existing order upside down, in what Justin Raimondo has called a Bizarro World, where war is peace. We are the good guys riding to the rescue of the oppressed, the arm of our military supposedly representing justice incarnate and our victims uniformly deserving of their fate.

The protesters who want our society to revert to justice and the rule of law, to reestablish American values. Peace is simply the fruit that accompanies the restoration of pre-Bush norms.

If the status quo is one of perpetual war in the Middle East then our country has abandoned whatever restraints on intervention that might have let reason prevail. Instead we are expected to anchor our belief in the President not with reason but with a full conviction in the righteousness of our cause--his. To admit even the possibility of failure is a act of treason in this Bizarro World, where dissent is the worst betrayal and patriotism the exercise of blind obedience.

The counter-protesters were the source of most of the day's friction. Few from the crowd seemed willing to engage protesters on their positions on any intellectual level. This inability of war supporters to make a case for war on rational grounds shows that the body of evidence and the truth are against them. Hiding behind an emotionally charged mantle of sadistic derision seems the last refuge of these self-described patriots.

Facing row upon row of antiwar marchers must have them thinking that their presence or harassment will do nothing to diminish the antiwar cause. The clear disparity in their numbers gave ample evidence of the lack of popular support for the war they patronize. In short the American public has grown tired of the endless sacrifices that the war party and their supporters demand from the people for a war that can't be won.

As a coping mechanism it's simply easier not to confront years of fruitless blind faith in the President, especially when their unconditional support has perpetuated so much needless suffering and useless sacrifice.

Back to Reality

I think I was meant to cover this story and do 1-on-1 interviewing; call it fate. I'm new to the field of journalism but have a broad range of life experiences that makes me reluctant to "pre-judge." Everyone at the rally offered a potentially vast storehouse of insight into the war and unique perspectives on the political climate. There's no way I could have ever analyzed enough or read enough to reach the views that these people held so close to their hearts, as my interviews attest.

I also knew that these were no automatrons--people of weak willpower who'd been brainwashed by the righteousness of their cause. They were deliberate, focused, angry yes but far too convinced by the truth of what they knew to let anyone tell them differently. They were the story, not the politicians, not the media...them and only them.

They shared a healthy contempt for the office for the President, in what is usually a good-natured anti-authoritarian streak in most Americans that wanes only during times of war. Some would argue this humanization of the office is better not left repressed indefinitely through constant miltarism.

No one in Lafayette Park could have presented a serious danger to anyone, which spoke legions about their true pacifistic nature. A fear of violence which seems to so often curtail political debate among Americans couldn't have come from that crowd--they'd come to make their opinions known, whatever the opposition, which contrasts greatly with Congress and others would just go along with the President and his plans for war.

While most protesters may have voted Democratic in the past, they'd lost a great deal of respect for the Democrats. Rather than reflect a disappointed fringe, the protesters reflected broad discontentment in our society at large, where Congressional popularity is hitting all-time lows.

In short the crowd of citizens that formed the march were both informed and concerned, which are hallmarks of good citizenship so rarely seen in our self-absorbed, "better than" (to borrow John Butler's song by that name) society. The people there spoke for millions more who weren't able to attend but are similarly bothered with the course of events in Iraq.

Our government is paralyzed, unable to manage the conflict or extricate us from Iraq, at least under any conditions that could vaguely resemble victory. The Senate voted down Jim Webb's bill to equal time for servicement in and out of Iraq; at the last minute sponsor Warren abandoned his support for his own bill!

Accountability is completely lacking in Washington, this I felt when the march concluded on the lawn of the Capitol Building. The interests of the majority were clearly constituted among the protesters, held at bay by a line of police separating them from their supposed representation. Justice can't come from lawmakers disconnected from the popular will who hide behind police.

The fact Congress ignored the march may be a positive indicator. The fact is that no one is laughing at the antiwar movement any more. If it is as Ghandi said, first they will laugh at you, then they will ignore you, then they will fight you.

I don't think the resistance against this war will be fought physically between demonstrators and police. Instead the battle will be fought in different ways, perhaps in wildcat strikes and boycotts, nasty methods indeed to undermine a massive war economy that just keeps rolling.

I heard one participant tell me they no longer watch any TV, in large part due to the absence of real news and unbiased reporting, now routinely replaced with celebrity infotainment, with celebrity du jour OJ now back in the news.

I think the public's cynicism with the media may also be a long-term blessing. If the media can't perform the duties of the free press, it's inevitable that the people will turn off their TVs. If things get bad enough, more and more Americans will abandon the traditional media and turn to the Web to get the news, as part of the process of asking "how did things get this bad?" There, in the burgeoning ones and zeroes of a new Digital Age, they will find the truth waiting.

Other Sources

Mike Ferner supplies an excellent article on Onlinejournal. During the protest veterans had exclusive access behind a mobile cordon at the front of the march. Ferner also provides key details of the processing of the 190 or so people arrested.

I'd been a good distance away from the arrests as I'd become quite tired from the march and all my coverage by that point. The crowd apparently congregrated on the lawn well into the evening.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Uncle John Goes to Washington

What an amazing event the ANSWER march has been. I've met dozens of people united in their desire to end the war.

I followed the parade as it made its way from the White House to Capitol Hill.

The mainstream media, as expected, made its presence scarce. I did see some Japanese reporters and a local news channel.

The Iraq Veterans Against the War made an impressive point guard in the march, wearing fatigues and carrying an upside-down American flag--a symbol of distress.

Things were peaceful although the counter-protesters did hurl insults and really wade into the much larger antiwar crowd. The only violence I saw was a Prowar protester smashing an antiwar protester over the head with his sign, which I attirbute largely to a video camera being thrust into the arguing duo's faces: a wholly unnecessary and confrontational method to stir confrontation out of a difference of opinion.

There'd been a package of speakers but I didn't hear speeches. Marchers were under the impression speakers would be present on the South lawn of the Capitol--the march's terminus. The march itself was the main attraction.

I have tons of video in addition to interviews with people from all over the nation. I will post as much as I can, as soon as I can go through it.

Now as for this blogger, I've given all I can to the cause by gathering the footage I have and don't have enough energy to follow up at this point. I need to recharge my batteries and review all that's happened in order to blog effectively.

The computer I'm using is communal in a hotel, as my laptop is dated. My video camera is a hand-me-down. Still they work, and at least I don't contribute to e-waste, a huge problem in our consumption-oriented, "mine-is-newer-and-better-than-yours" society that requires constant newness. I'll put my footage up against theirs any day.

There was a lot of interviewing going on, so if you are hungry for content in the meantime, it should be available on the Web somewhere.

I did see "Not So Peaceful Protest" on Headline News this Sunday AM, literally showing just as I talk about how non-violent the protest was. Of course, the mainstream wasn't there--that's the only way they could assume it was violent (and the violence comes from video footage by ringers of the end of the march, when 200 or so got arrested as no media person actually there could presume the march was violent.)

Oh well, I guess with no derelict news I wouldn't be writing this blog. I wouldn't have come to Washington without a war either.

I guess I've become a blogger largely because of the inadequacy of mainstream news sources, so in this sense the incompetence of others is a positive.

Anyway, I'm working under lousy conditions and need time and a break. I do have tons of content for you, so you'll have to be patient in the meantime. I think you'll be pleased with what I have.

Now hopefully this post will work--the text on the communal PC here is in Russian, so I'm not sure if it will work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

DC 2007: Counterculture without the Long, Wonderful Trip

I'm going to the September 15th march in Washington, led by Act Now to End War and Racism (ANSWER). I'll be covering a participant or an neutral observer in the crowd as it goes from the White House to Capitol Hill, starting at noon. Details are available at ANSWER's sept15.org site.

The status quo is becoming one of endless war, but the US military apparatus is slowly changing, beginning to support a reduction in forces. How soon a drawdown will occur is unclear at this point. I think the antiwar movement seeks to speed an end to the war and build on the strong opposition to it. Waiting for the politicians to declare victory and go home is taking too long.

9/11 has come again and Petraeus' report seems to have created few waves. My impression is that Iraq and the War on Terror have merged. In order to discredit the antiwar side, in something right out of Goering, the peacemakers are belittled as soft against the threat in an old political game using the tools of nationalism and propaganda.

Defanged (or is it a more delicate region of the body that the Democrats have lost), the so-called political opposition is unwilling to look "soft on terror." H. L. Mencken said that no one's ever gone broke underestimating the American public so I guess this mask will have to be worn by all the players in Washington's Midnight Masquerade to keep politicans looking good dancing with the public, who may by now know the truth but still succumb to oozing embrace of superficiality laid upon them by their suitor. On one side of the politicians mask is the antiwar face, white and of the truth; the face on the other side of the mask is dark, lying to support the troops, sacrificing the fundamental truth that we can't win by stretching the myth of victory forward year after year. Until the pain of change is less than the pain of going on, things will go on as they have. Isn't this the ultimate purpose of political activism: to make the status quo intolerable?

Not everyone is sitting down. ANSWER, the organizers of the march, has been sued for putting up posters, and in one video, a police action occurred where prominent ex-Marine opposed to the war, Adam Kokesh, tried to post bills for the event, along with two other peace activists. The arrestees claimed the placing the signs was wholly constitutional.

While Americans in the streets might not be subjected to Guantanamo-style bags over their heads, the police state appears to be springing into action. This is the same heavy-handedness we see in what I've heard called "a desensitization of the American public to police violence" common in a widening plethora of reality TV cop dramas that feature chases and arrest.

Some of us have seen a good deal of excitement, or enough Dead shows, to know when that the craziness really begins, when the ugly beast roars its head, and to stand well clear or strap in and "enjoy the ride".

The big bad government--you naughty--is apparently being quite bad, if you can read and aren't tethered to anemic flow of mainstream news. Perhaps the public need a jolt of reality java to waken themselves up to the excesses of the ever-growing State before it's too late. As Timothy Leary said, we need more people to turn on, tune in and drop out in order to build a new counterculture. Maybe we needn't go that far--even the simplest expression of public disobedience by the 70% opposing the war should be enough to shake the status quo, which is only tacitly admitting the need to draw down our forces, years after that point had been made on the Web for anyone curious enough and open to learning the truth.

This style of government beyond accountability has been going on for a while. Ignoring the popular mandate is nothing new for the administration; its spawned new lows in the cashing in on the public good and pandering to corporate sponsors and lobbyist who wag cash notes in the face of our greedy public servants. Look no farther than recent mine disasters and mountaintop removal, to see the effects of regulatory neglect on the environment and worker safety.

A teaser for Naomi Klein's new video is here, just released under the director of Children of Men Alfanso Cuaron. {Editor's Note: I'd reviewed the movie earlier this year--I hope to assemble the information in a move review section, perhaps on my forthcoming website www.jbpeebles.com}

I saw Ms. Klein at a conference on media consolidation at the Univ. of Illinois in May of 2005. She was good then, talking about her experiences covering Iraq. She's now written a new book, Shock Doctrine, on disaster capitalism.

With Baghdad and New Orleans as viable example, Klein will be able to make a powerful point that the crony capitalist system has gorged itself upon the miserable suffering of others. Each weather event seems almost guaranteed to produce a desirable rate of return for corporation that wield the most inflence in Washington.

Washington may be the heart of the empire, but the empire isn't ruled by Darth Vader, yet. I hope by going to our nation's capital I can participate fully in the American duty to be political active. I act on this principle in writing this blog. While much of what I write comes from a political perspective, I try not to let bias clear my analysis of objective facts. Being closer to th story should allow me to do more reporting and perhaps less commentary, but I don't see how suppress my inner conviction that the war is wrong.

I'm self-taught as a journalist, and blogging is a new profession, but I hope I can act as a single person news-gathering entity, a microscopic version of the media behemoths that claim to be providing the news that we really know is watered-down infotainment more concerned with missing children and celebrities.
Those items sell more stuff, and the meaningless blather spews on, a consumer culture of endless consumption and rising profits.

I will not go so far as to say that we've all dumbed down. Wherever you stand on the war, I respect your opinion and the right you have to express it.

These are the Constitutional liberties I believe all Americans are entitled to. No man has the right to take them from American citizens.

I've also tried to avoid leaning Democrats, an easier task with the Demo not fighting the war. I'm much more concerned with the erosion of our personal liberties than a choice of parties, or "choice of lesser evils" as I've called their alternative (others have said this too.) The war on terror can't be allowed to sabotage the rights that so many have given so much to defend.

I lean to the libertarian side on shrinking the size of government. I am not, however, for grossly diminishing it. Simply to keep our federal government from getting any larger would be an admirable achievement; ending Iraq and the $3 billion a week it cost us would be a start.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are routinely ignored by the mainstream media, but I hear they're doing better than expected. I like the independent voices of these two; perhaps a healthier middle is between the political views of those two than the current upsidedown political environment where war is peace and support of peace equated with terrorism.

I hope to honor our veterans by ending the war. I know some may disagree, and to those I'd like to extend the willingness to disagree. Too many of us shy away from our difference. We need to be willing to enter into a dialogue amongst ourselves, to achieve great things and make changes when we must.

September, in 2007, is such a time of change. With the first cool hint of fall comes a clarity of space and time, an opportunity to decide the future course of our nation. I could not simply let the bus go by. I had to get on.

News Content:

Streaming? Well not just not yet. I'm mostly a words guy, but I do dabble in photography and a little video. I hope to do some audio interviewing too.

I will be writing for another Internet news resource, actually reporting this time it looks like. I appreciate the chance to generate raw content for my readers.

I also have a good amount of nature photos. I've started posting them to flickr.com, under John Peebles. I want to assemble all my info in one place on the Web, including my photos.

Working in two and three media is a challenge, so I hope you'll be patient with my efforts to bring you photos under the new web at www.jbpeebles.com

I hope to write close to real time. This is my first endeavor in covering a major protest, so I hope you will bare with me. I do expect to see the prevalence of discontent manifest itself quite vigorously.

Now as for whatever friction might arise, I'd just assume stay away. The wild and crazy days with the Grateful Dead were long ago and I have no desire to relive them at this stage of life.

Flashback: I'm seeing the Dead with Bob Dylan in RFK Stadium in 1986. Very hot back then. I remember the riot squad sweating down in the dugout, near the field, which was General Admission. I was with some people I knew from Kenyon. The show was great; I can still remember the Can't Get No Satisfaction encore. Waking up now, realizing it was another time. There may be a heavy police presence, but that was true back then too.

Oh how much sweeter with time are the memories! Some of you were there. Maybe you got on the bus sometime in the past. Well, I hope you can make the journey to Washington, to have your voice heard or just to enjoy the city.

I think it's not so much the results of taking action as the act of participating fully in the life we make for ourselves. I guess living is really about how much we care, and how much we give. I guess I getting soft in my old age, or as Jerry Garcia said, "with a touch of grey."

I'll be posting soon, here and perhaps elsewhere on the Web. Stay in touch.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Blogging On: Looking Back and Seeing the Future

End of An Era

I write this post recollecting on the year I've spent blogging here. The writing has been a challenge. Like physical exertion, the task of returning to write can require considerable arm-twisting of oneself. Yet like a good workout, the effort made in the task once completed is quickly forgotten, replaced with basking in a sense of completion. The sweat, feared by so many, dries quite quickly while the exertion can impart benefits for quite a while, lasting far beyond memory of the sacrifice made.

Periodically, looking back at the culmination of writing gives me perspective on the passage of time. Last August was an apogee of sorts in the geopolitical climate, a point when the control of international events began to slide out of US control. The US had been hyper-power; American unity was unravelling as Iraq worsened. Israel launched a war with Lebanon. Rather than show the effectiveness of military superiority, it showed the folly of throwing 40-something reservists against hardened Hizbollah positions in South Lebanon.

Not to be outdone, Israel in the end dropped more than a million cluster bombs, a noxious weapon that kills and maims indiscriminately, as something like 40% of these rounds fail to detonate and lie waiting to be picked up by children or come into contact with olive pickers or farmers' plows. Like so much of the carnage in the Middle East, the cluster bombs came from America, and were meant to give our close ally Israel an edge.

In the end the war showed that the US and Israel can really only terrorize, in ways that differ from terrorists only in methodology and the choice of target.

As a dove, I see military aggression in the end as ineffective. Combat results in huge civilian collateral damage, a price that may have been accepted as necessary in an age of war between States, but in the present situation really just increases support for the real targets: the people our Government calls terrorists.

Defining an amorphous enemy broadly also destroys the mission of the military, which must be narrow to succeed. While I may be pacifist, I am also quite familiar with military strategy, as I'm an active online strategy gamer and student of military tactics. I've also been drawn to military matters since my days as a child climbing on the ruins of European castles and Roman walls. I don't envy war, but I respect the efforts of those who fight and lead men in battle.

Yet perhaps the age of military conflict between large States is drawing to a close. The amount of collateral damage is too high. And states that offer competitive military resources tend to have nuclear weapons, which is the ultimate force leveller. So sustained combat operations devolve into conflict between a strong state and a weaker one, or an organization called a non-state actor.

In physics, any action will invoke a countervailing action; war is no different. Lacking the means to oppose the US military, the weaker state or non-state actor resorts to guerrilla tactics. Recognizing that unrestrained collateral damage will build sympathy for the resistance, the entity shelters itself among civilians. Using bunker-busters and other weapons of extreme destruction designed to destroy Soviet-era military forces, the US tries to kill ants with a hammer and in the process engenders more hatred of itself, creating always more ants or ant supporters.

It was my hope that by writing this blog I could explain the limitations of military force before they became so self-evident, but the resistance appears to have done more to make those limits apparent to the American public than I could have. As more and more evidence of the inability of our armed forces--the recipients of more military spending than the rest of the world combined--to squash a ragtag insurgency emerges, the more clear these limits are. The rhetoric of how great are armed forces are really doesn't address the shortage of troops and supplies, which really plays to the insurgents' favor.

While wars seem good for political incumbents early on, they can produce blowback in the longer term. We are now seeing virtually all the politics in the US emerge from the backdrop that we are losing in Iraq. Therefore it's become apparent to all but the most hardcore Republicans that our military can only do so much, given the mission it has.

Foggy Goals; Leadership Failures

To define the mission so late after the initiation of hostilities is symptomatic of questionable motives--likely political ones--for launching the war in the first place.

Even now, only 3 of the 18 Congressionally mandated conditions imposed upon the Iraqi government for a continuation of funding have been met. Meanwhile our President hedges on defining victory conditions, accusing Congress of legislating failure, like we did in Vietnam, by "getting out." I've long said this leadership cop-out is not only to prevent the scrutiny that can emerge from and failure to achieve results, but also a means of extending the occupation which is I believe a goal of Bush's and the Big Oil and War Profiteering industrial complexes that he represents.

Failures of this scale cannot come from bad leadership alone--they require co-conspirators that compound the initial erros of judgment. Americans were content to settle for whatever explanation the government gave them for the war in Iraq, whether it was Saddam's purchase of yellowcake--the evidence for which has been proved to be forged--or Iraq's terror link.

I still drive at the inherent evil of starting a war on false premises. The retaliation against Joe Wilson for his revealing the administration's lies on Niger was the opening chapter in a saga which saw the perversion of justice at the federal level for political purposes. The willingness to out Plame should have been a red flag that partisanship ruled the White House and that our country would be led in a direction that would protect the incumbent political party, away from accountability on its justifications for war. The unrestrained partisanship has opened up a dangerous precedent for future administrations.

One year ago, this blog focused on the mainstream media as a major factor limiting resistance to the war. The mainstream media's constant ducking began to fade as Americans began to see more and more of the results coming out of Iraq. As I've said, the move away from unconditional prowar reporting may have resulted from the war's unpopularity, or the more objective reporting may have led more Americans to question the war. Either way, American have woken up; poll numbers put Presidential approval at 25%, a little bit higher than approval for the can't-stop-the-war Congress at 18% or so.

With General electric being the world's #1 military contractor, it comes as no surprise that its NBC networks would fire Phil Donahue in the war's run-up. I heard Donahue talk about the political environment at GE and other multimedia conglomerates at the University of Illinois in May, 2005. My article on the conference is here.

As a result of that conference, I came to believe that what Americans think is a function of the accuracy and objectivity of the news that they get. Now if media consolidation means that the news is constrained to a small handful of conglomerates, it follows that corporations will dictate what is good for Americans to know. These newsrooms-turned-profit-centers omit critical information unfavorable to any corporate cause on the grounds that it could jeopardize ad revenues.

I've followed up on the massive amount of war profiteering that makes war so lucrative to large conglomerates like GE. Wars provide a nationalistic cloak that companies like FOX can use to drum up support for war as they pander to a Christian Zionist crowd, which a year ago appeared in control of the White House and Congress.

Since then we've had Marc Foley, Ted Haggart, and Larry Craig to remind us of the far worse sin of repressed desires, hidden under a mask of hate-filled homophobic rhetoric. Can the Faith-based community really trust its leaders? It would seem that many of those who prattle on about the evils of homosexuality are those who've fallen prey to its temptations, or at least can't hold back their object of their lust indefinitely. Rather than suffer the sin of immorality, I believe these men suffered from the stigma assigned to homosexuals by segment of society which they claimed to lead. Now perhaps they are freed and will be better men for it, whether they seek treatment for their "afflicition" or accept themselves as who they really are.

The easy part of being on the left is that we are labelled as immoral "libruls". In a Red State environment, we are seen as corrupted beyond all repair, products of a society given over to its hedonistic ways. There's no need to hide our transgressions, as we are thought to be people of diminished moral character. Out in the light, our indiscretions are easily revealed to be the harmless if immoral things they are.

People on the Right are expected to be beyond sin, their leaders conquerors over temptation and thus stronger than the rest of us--shining examples of righteous victory over their Inner Nature. It's really quite humourous to see these people are if anything more tempted by sin, not less. Perhaps its the pressure of the presumption that they're morally upright that tempts them to scratch their itch; their homophobia masks deeply seeded homosexual desires, making the unscratchable itch itch all the more.

Well, back to reality. The side issues that are flung at the American television-viewing public are distractions from the geopolitical realities that our dumbed-down, militarized foreign policy and inept leadership has brought. Ignoring history, Bush tromped into Iraq then declared mission over. He failed to understand that what Americans consider an eternity--a year or so--is barely a flicker in the perception of ancient Middle Eastern civilizations that measure out revenge teaspoon by teaspoon, century after century.

The ignorance of our leadership cemented our foreign policy into the reckless, fully predictable circumstances we now find ourselves. When I set out a year ago to prove the folly of our course, I believed that Americans hadn't seen the truth from their media. As a student of international relations and globalism (not strictly the internationalization of business), I could see into the future and recognize that what we saw as so natural a course as beating up on Saddam would lead to dangerous consequences.

I also couldn't help but want to expose the Israel connection. Israel influences America like no other small country has ever influenced a larger. The American Israeli Political Action Committe really does formulate American foreign policy in the Middle East. With so many sympathizers of Israel in the press, it comes as no surprise that negative coverage of Israel never appears in our media. So strong is pro-Israel political influence that few dare to acknowledge it, or confront it, for fear of being ostracized and called anti-semitic.

I think the "we Jews have to stick together" philosophy has really damaged both US and Israeli interests. By going along with the invasion of Iraq, American Jews in positions of influence may have placated the aggressive militarism of the Right, both here and in Israel, but they also severely restricted debate on how the invasion of Iraq would help in the long term.

The unwillingness of the Jewish community to open the Iraq war to external debate came essentially out of the belief that a US military action against Israel's enemies would help the Jewish state. Well it hasn't. Israel has become even more hated and the possibility of productive dialogue with the enemy--the real fear of the prowar Right--has become untenable. So essentially, the media blackout on criticism of Israel and absence of any debate has forced Israel to depend almost exclusively on its military power as a deterrent and instrument of protection. Meanwhile evidence from the '06 war showed that Israel's Muslim neighbors have become powerful indeed, and that the non-nuclear balance of military power has most definitely shifted away from Israel and even the US, judging from the impotency of its Iraq occupation.

With the crack in the door quite apparent, Israel's enemies have been strengthened. European states have been so turned off by American hubris that there is little chance for help in resolving the plight of Palestinians from that end. Like Arab moderates (the real ones), they will simply wait out Bush and no progress on Middle Eastern issues will be made, at least while the militarists are in charge.

Moving On

To see the roots of American foreign policy for the Middle East, one must understand Israeli doctrine like David Wurmser's Clean Break strategy, as well as the positions of key influencers of Bush policy in Middle East. Many strategists are ardent (pro-military, expansionistic) Zionists who've been up-moted (Wolfowitz) or moved on (Perle).

Unfortunately, the influence of these people remains, as Bush stubbornly refuses to accept the possibility that these doctrines have failed and cannot work. Nowhere is this more clear than in the bellicosity directed against Iran. Now if Iran really were a threat--to the US--we've made a terrible mistake by expending our military capacity on the clear non-threat the Iraq posed. From an Israeli perspective, attacking Iraq did seem to make more sense, at least according to Clean Break, which aims to destabilize Iran as well.

If what's happened so far in the Middle East is an indicator of the influence exerted by Zionist on our policies, we could be in for more trouble despite the clear military limitations we've encountered by over-extending ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. By hitting a home-run, the architects of Iraq--who are by no coincidence fervent Zionist supports of Clean Break--perhaps the Lobby has become a victim of its own effectiveness, succeeding beyond all expectations and beyond the ability even of the world's strongest military.

Self-delusion is a hubristic hallmark of empires and the mortals running those empires, whose ego inflate to the scale of emperors as they contemplate the glory of State and the crushing under boot of its enemies. The belief in the superiority of their rule and the State they control is what dooms that State to the dust bin of history. Lacking self-criticism, these emperors--Hitler, Napoleon, countless others--cannot contemplate the possibility of failure thus when things inevitably unravel they spiral utterly out of control.

Is the US an empire, led by the principles of faith, not reason (as Chris Hedges points out)? Perhaps we Americans are no less vulnerable to the delusional cravings for empire held by our our leaders than other nations have been through history.

Bush and his circle of sycophants have failed to accept even the possibility of failure and we're therefore collectively at risk of facing total disaster. Would a nuclear-armed Iran represent disaster? Perhaps not for the US, but most likely for Israel, whose small size makes it vulnerable. If US foreign policy in the Middle East is a function of Israeli influence, formulated in Tel Aviv by Zionist right-wingers, then our foreign policies reflects Israel interests not American.

The symptoms of uncontained Israeli influence are therefore wars and other malfeasance which run counter to US interests. Iraq appears to be such a war. The US had little to gain and the results are proving to be wholly unacceptable and counterproductive in the medium term and longer.

The benefits to Israel of US military involvement may have appeared wholly positive as they were spun in neoconservative think tanks, but put to test they're now proving counterproductive and injurious to Israeli long-term security. An environment of endless retaliation may be viewed as a political adavantage for the militaristic Right, at least in the short-term. Eventually limitations on military effectiveness kick in; these are a function of human ingenuity and the capacity to wage war unconventionally against a stronger foe.

Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged the fact that a terrorist strike in the US would help Republicans. This controversial statement is indicative of a historical trend to support the political Right during times of war. Still, as Iraq has dragged on, war fatigue is becoming a major political factor and is contributing to a new political equilibrium very much opposed to any new wars, justified or not.

Other Sources

See this article by Anrew Stephen in the New Statesman on how Bush might be imploding.

Rodrique Tremblay writes on the roots of the current anti-Iranian hysteria being formented in the media.

See James Petras' "US Empire and the Middle East: Zionism, Puppet Regimes, and Political Allies" for more on the US-Israeli nexus. Here is another article on the topic by Petras.

For a harsh take on AIPAC and Israeli influence, read Ted Lang's wakeupfromyourslumber article.

Uri Avnery discusses the large increases in military aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia in his article White Elephants written for Gus Shalom.