Archive | April 15th, 2012



1600 Palestinian political prisoners, held by Israel, declared they will be starting an open-ended hunger strike on April 17th in protest to their illegal detention, and demanding basic rights.


Palestinian Minister of Detainees in the West Bank, Issa Qaraqe’, stated that the situation of the detainees in Israeli prisons is very difficult, and dangerous, especially amidst the ongoing Israeli violations and attacks against them.

Qaraqe’ added that the detainees are fighting a battle to defend their dignity and to improve their living conditions.

He further called for massive solidarity campaigns, and called for declaring April 17, the Palestinian Prisoners Day, as a day for solidarity and massive nonviolent protests in all parts of the occupied territories.

The Maan News Agency reported that a committee formed by the Israeli Prison Authority, headed by Yitzhak Gabai, visited a number of detention facilities, listened to the demands of the detainees, and “promised” respond to these demands this coming week.

Some of the demands presented by the detainees are;

1. Ending Administrative Detention.
2. Ending Solitary Confinement.
3. Reinstating the right to education.
4. Halting all invasions targeting detainees’ rooms and sections.
5. Allowing family visitations, especially to detainees from the Gaza Strip.
6. Improving medical care to ailing detainees.
7. Halting the humiliation, and body-search of the families of the detainees.
8. Allowing the entry of books and newspapers.
9. Halting all sorts of penalties against the detainees.

Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons are subject to harsh and illegal treatment that violates International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.

The Palestinians started marking April 17 as the Palestinian Prisoners Day, on April 17, 1974, the day Israel released Mahmoud Bakr Hijazi, in the first ever prisoner-swap deal.

202 Palestinian detainees died after being kidnapped by the Israeli forces since 1967, following Israel’s occupation to the rest of Palestine (The West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights).

Hundreds of detainees died after they were released suffering from serious illnesses and medical conditions resulting from extreme torture and abuse in Israeli prisons.

70 detainees died in prison due to extreme torture, 74 were executed by the soldiers after being arrested, 51 died due to the lack of medical treatment, 7 detainees died due to excessive force by the soldiers, and after being shot while in prison, former political prisoner, head of the census department at the Ministry of Detainees, Abdul-Nasser Farawna reported.

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The Brighton-based ‘Wandering Who? Reading Group’ met for the third time on Wednesday 11th April, this time in a tower block with a fantastic, if dizzying, view over Brighton & Hove. We were considering Chapters 4 and 5 of Gilad Atmon’s book, ‘The Sabra, the Settler and the Disapora Jew’, and ‘Fagin vs. Einstein’ respectively.

Atzmon makes an interesting distinction between the Sabra, a native born Israeli whose ideal is to be tough outside and tender inside, and the Settler, who dispenses with any idea of compassion. The Sabra ‘can ethnically cleanse the entire Palestinian nation on Friday and then attend a “Peace Now” demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.’ In this he is the negation of the soft Diaspora Jew. While he resembles a German soldier in certain respects, ‘he is loose, he likes to walk in Biblical sandals …’ Atzmon objects that this constructed identity is fundamentally inauthentic, while that of the Settler, however much we may dislike it, is authentic. The West-Bank settler, who arose after the 1967, ‘doesn’t shoot and sob; he is driven by conviction.’ Whereas the Sabra negated the Diaspora Jew, the Settler negates the Goy.

Chapter 4 (like Chapter 5) is so full of philosophical ideas which are difficult to evaluate that we were left struggling. What did ‘negation,’ ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ mean in this context? Nevertheless, on reflection we were able to see that Herzl’s ideal Jew was a ‘negation’, at least, of the ghetto Jew, and perhaps that negation grew with time to include all non-Israeli Jews.

(It should be noted at this point that at least one of our number was unhappy with the use of the word ‘Diaspora’, since this implied a certain view of history which had been well and truly debunked, first by Arthur Koestler and more recently by Shlomo Sand. In other words, the idea that the Jews were expelled by the Romans from Palestine, and then spread all over the world doesn’t stand up to historical investigation. The concept of the Diaspora is, rather, a mythical construction which serves Zionism’s interests.)

It was also possible to see how killing people one day and being warm-hearted and peace-loving on another is inauthentic. Perhaps the problem here is simply that we are not Israelis, and we therefore have some difficulty getting inside the Israeli psyche. On the other hand, this phenomenon is hardly limited to Israelis. At the end of the war Harold Macmillan was involved in the Keelhaul operation which required the deportation of 70,000 POWs to the Soviet Union and Tito’s Yugoslavia, as as result of which large numbers of them were killed. And yet a more avuncular figure it is difficult to imagine. Was he an inauthentic character too?

We were also unsure whether we agreed that there was a clear distinction between earlier settlers and those after 1967. Were those Jewish women settlers of the thirties who would gun down Palestinians just because they were attempting to return to their land, any better than the post-1967 settlers? There was, however, no doubt that Israel had largely abandoned its earlier socialist (albeit ethnocentric) ideas, and was less ambiguous in pursuit of its aims.

In Chapter 5 Atzmon reiterates his oft-stated objection to groups which specifically link their Jewishness to various forms of activism; so there are ‘Jews for Peace, Jews for Justice, Jews for Jesus and so on.’ The Jewish connection is supposed to give such groups a special status, according to Atzmon. Yet he points out the anomaly that while Jews themselves make much use of the Jewish signifier (as he calls it), others who do so get into big trouble unless they are praising Jews for their particular talents and virtues. Here is how he illustrates this phenomenon:

‘… most Jews are not that concerned when being associated collectively with some great minds, adorable violin players or conductors … but you may get into some serious trouble once you mention the following list of real and fictional characters: Bernie Madoff, Fagin, Wolfowitz, Lord Levy, Shylock, Alan Greenspan, Netanyahu and Nathan Rothschild [in the context of their Jewishness].’

This was indeed a phenomenon which our group had encountered, especially in relation to ‘Holocaust’ memorialisation and Jewish studies. When combined with serious sanctions against anyone who spoke critically of Jews collectively, it resulted in a distortion of political and social thought of which almost everyone in our society is consciously, or at least unconsciously, aware.

We didn’t get as far as discussing Atzmon’s attitude to Anthony Julius’s article ‘Trials of the Diaspora,’ which is a pity, because it contains a strong argument against anti-Zionism. If we don’t take it up at the beginning of our next meeting, to which Atzmon is invited, we will no doubt encounter it again in our discussions. Fundamentally it says: ‘We’re only doing what everyone else does, or has done in the past’.

As always, this report has been approved by those attending the meeting.


Italian pro-Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni


A picture dated 28 august 2008 shows Italian pro-Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni (R) as he receives a Palestinian passport from Hamas prime minister Ismael Haneiya in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip condemned 15 April 2011 as a “shameful crime” the kidnap and killing of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni whose body was found 15 April hours after he had been abducted . Arrigoni, an Italian activist for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was found dead in an abandoned house in the north of the Gaza Strip in the early hours 15 April.

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IsraheLl’s Orwellian message on human rights




It would appear that Israel’s borders now extend as far as most of Europe.

This weekend hundreds of people participating in the Welcome to Palestine campaign have been barred from “entering” Israel by being prevented from leaving their own country.

Article 13 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Israel provided airlines with a list of individuals whose right of entry it denies, ordered these airlines to prevent them from boarding their flights and threatened the airlines with sanctions if they failed to comply. So much for the human right of freedom of movement.

Anticipating that Israeli intelligence might not have been able to identify everyone they are afraid of, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office prepared a letter to be handed to activists who manage to reach Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The letter looks like it could have been hammered out by Benjamin Netanyahu himself on a manual typewriter as he struggles to protect Israel from its latest existential threat. It’s ironic that a state that craves respect and recognition as a democratic state, expresses itself in the sarcastic language one might expect from a paranoid autocratic ruler.

Unwelcome to Israel letter

The unsigned letter (without corrections) states:

Dear activist,

We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the
object of your humanitarian concerns.

We know there are manyother worthy choices.

You could have chosen to protest theSyrian
regime’s daily savagery against its own people,
which has claimed thousands of lives.

You could have chosen to protest the Iranian
regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support
of terrorism throughout the world.

You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in
Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double
war crime by firing rockets at civilians and
hiding behind civilians.

But instead you chose to protest against Israel,
the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are
equal, the press criticizes the government, human
rights organizations can operate freely,
religious freedom is protected for all and
minorities do not live in fear.

We therefore suggest that you first solve the
real problems of the region, and then come back
and share with us your experience.

Have a nice flight.

In 2008, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saying:

Let us reaffirm that each and every state –– regardless of circumstances –– must fulfill its primary responsibility to respect and protect the rights of all individuals, without distinction of any kind. Let us continue to promote the work of non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders who have played a critical role in assessing violations and protection gaps. Let us work towards supporting international mechanisms, such as human rights treaty bodies, international and regional tribunals and courts and the ICC – all of which seek to provide effective tools to ensure adequate redress and respect for human rights.

In an era when we are increasingly interconnected –– in a time when information rapidly flows across oceans and continents –– we must shine the light of the Universal Declaration to the four corners of the globe. We must commit our resources, as well as our collective resolve and determination, to secure human life, dignity and basic rights for all.

For in the end, human rights are not merely legal instruments. They are expressions of our common humanity, our common vision for a better, more just world.

Nice words. It’s a shame they have such little meaning in a state that repeatedly trumpets its claim to be the region’s “sole democracy” yet denies the human rights of almost four million Palestinians living under Israel military rule or control.

Meanwhile, this is how Israelis treat foreign human rights activists if they manage to reach the West Bank:

Just as disturbing as this soldier’s unprovoked use of violence are the comments below the video.

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Review of Shir Hever



My review of Shir Hever’s The Political Economy of Israel’s Occu­pa­tion is up at the Middle East Report:

There is a latter-day tendency to see the 44-year Israeli occu­pa­tion of the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries as the organic outward growth of the Zionist idea — as though the aspi­ra­tion to hold the entirety of the land, embedded in Labor Zionist doctrine, was in fact a certainty, simply waiting for time to catch up. With the occu­pa­tion deepened since the 1993 Oslo accord, and the remainder of the Pales­tin­ian populace crowded into a scat­ter­ing of ban­tus­tans in the West Bank and one big one in Gaza, one can under­stand the diffusion of this way of thinking. It appears that the Zionist drive to dominion has neared completion.

Debate about the begin­nings of the Israeli state is rea­son­ably settled in his­to­ri­og­ra­phy if not yet in the broader public realm. The general tra­jec­tory of Israeli history, its grounding in exclu­sion­ary settler-colonialism, quite unlike the inclu­sion­ary, plantation-style variety in South Africa, emerged from trends set in motion and likely crys­tal­lized by the early twentieth century. On the occu­pa­tion, however, con­tro­versy still rages. Liberals and realists, glancing hopefully at a “peace process” that has been underway for one third of Israel’s existence, cast the post-1967 occu­pa­tion as evanes­cent and extractable, rather than tightly woven into the warp and weft of Israeli political economy and culture.

Radicals depict the occu­pa­tion as emanating from long-standing ten­den­cies among Jewish settlers, always eager to relax internal social tension by further theft from the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion. Similarly, critics of Israeli settler-colonialism have long split along the his­tor­i­cal fault line marked by the year 1967. For some, the founding of the state of Israel was bloody but legit­i­mate, and the irre­den­tism in the Occupied Ter­ri­to­ries is a horrible deviation from the Zionist project. For others, perhaps growing in number as the occu­pa­tion persists, the process of Israeli state formation was, in its origins, sin.

Attitudes are well estab­lished. Yet actual expla­na­tions of the occupation’s endurance have been thin. Shir Hever’s The Political Economy of the Occu­pa­tion is an effort to supply one that goes beyond partial or flawed theories and dominant obfus­ca­tions. Hever is first concerned to total the macro-economic costs and benefits of the occu­pa­tion.

He warns that aggregate numbers can conceal dis­par­i­ties of economic power and privilege in a blur of averages, but he uses them to paint a rough-and-ready picture of the rela­tion­ship between the Pales­tin­ian and Israeli “sectors,” as well as the ways in which labor and capital, demand and tariffs, coil, braid and meld, making talk of Pales­tin­ian this or Jewish that not merely muddying but mis­lead­ing. Many of the relevant sta­tis­tics are buried or delib­er­ately made inac­ces­si­ble by the Israeli gov­ern­ment. Nev­er­the­less, Hever arrives at a cautious estimate of “income” drawn from the occu­pa­tion: about 39 billion shekels during the period 1970–2008. He also cal­cu­lates outflows of 104 billion shekels in the form of subsidies to the settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, and 316 billion shekels in “security costs,” the currency expended to protect the settlers and subdue the restive Palestinians.

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Debunking Civil War Myths – Long Proven Wrong


The Victors Write the War History, but Should Their Lies be Immortal?


[Editors Note: I was 46 before I learned that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave  anywhere ….Jim W. Dean]

by  Steve Scroggins

Lincoln’s Proclamation Did Not Free a Single Slave

The most persistent and pernicious Big Lie regarding the so-called “Civil War”— more properly called the “War to Prevent Southern Independence”— is this:

Noble and saintly yankees fought the war to abolish slavery; evil Confederates fought to preserve it. 

The historical record incontrovertibly refutes this Big Lie and yet it lives on, repeated incessantly by many who know better, and by many, many more who accept without challenge what they were taught in government schools.

The proverbial phrase “the victors write the history” was well-known well before the war.

In fact, General Patrick R. Cleburne, arguing for freeing slaves in exchange for military service, warned what would happen should the South’s bid for independence fail:

 ”… Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late. … It means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the War, will be impressed by all influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, our maimed veterans as fit objects for their derision. …to establish sectional superiority and a more centralised form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.” –Major General Patrick Cleburne, C.S.A. (Jan. 2, 1864)

Gen. Patrick Cleburne

Cleburne’s warning was indeed prophetic.   The Big Lie is the official myth taught in virtually every public school in the country. Jim Dean noted this above, and he even went to a fancy prep school for two years in Massachusetts.

It is the myth believed and repeated incessantly by most Americans who never looked any deeper than the textbook they were issued in junior high history class. And when FDR’s New Dealers migrated from government service to academia in Southern universities, they made sure the Big Lie was taught down here in the South.

The facts and the historical record, which we will review below, are widely and easily available, but unfortunately most Americans don’t see it as their duty to understand American history in more depth than was offered in the superficial,comic-book summary they heard in government schools.

“It is a testament to the effectiveness of 140 years of government propaganda that a 308 page book filled with true facts about Lincoln could be entitled “The Lincoln No One Knows.” It is not a matter of a poorly-performing government education system but quite the opposite:

The government schools have performed superbly in indoctrinating generations of American school children with a pack of lies, myths, omissions, and falsehoods about Lincoln and his war of conquest.

As Richard Bensel wrote in Yankee Leviathan, any study of the American state should begin in 1865. The power of any state ultimately rests upon a series of government-sponsored myths, and there is none more prominent than the Lincoln Myth.” –Thomas DiLorenzo, from The Unknown Lincoln

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has as its mission statement what is commonly called “The Charge,”  issued by General Stephen Dill Lee, who was then the Commander General of the United Confederate Veterans. 

The Charge is a reflection of Cleburne’s warning above, and a stated desire to keep alive the memory of the Confederate soldier’s true history and motivation and the founding principles he fought to defend.

Gen. Stephen. D. Lee

” To you Sons of Confederate Veterans, we submit the vindication of the cause for which we fought; to your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldiers’ good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles he loved and which made him glorious and which you also cherish. 

Remember, it is your duty to see that the true history of the south is presented to future generations.”  —Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee, Commander General, United Confederate Veterans, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1906

First, let’s establish HOW the war was started, then we’ll proceed to WHY.

South Carolina seceded December 20th, 1860.  Major Robert Anderson, commanding U.S. forces in Charleston, moved the garrison in Fort Moultrie (Sullivan’s Island across the harbor East of Charleston proper) –which he deemed indefensible– to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.  He made this move in stealth in the middle of the night on December 26th.

Major Anderson

South Carolina officials were understandably infuriated, but Anderson refused to evacuate  Sumter.  President Buchanan was a lame duck; he didn’t want a war started on his watch, but refused to issue orders either way.

South Carolina officials made clear that the U.S. Army staying in Sumter was NOT an option and that resupply or reinforcements would be viewed as a hostile act.

On January 9th, an unarmed steamer, the Star of the West, approached Charleston harbor intent on reinforcing Sumter with more troops and ammunition (see diagram below).  Charleston batteries fired warning shots near the ship and the Star of the West turned and fled.

By February, South Carolina had joined six other states in the Confederate States of America.  Confederate officials pressed for the evacuation of Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens (Pensacola, FL).  Buchanan stonewalled and the crisis escalated.  Lincoln would inherit the crisis March 4th.

“[T]he Union … will constitutionally defend and maintain itself… In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority.

The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.” –Abraham Lincoln, from inaugural address, March 4, 1861.

Lincoln essentially declared war in his inaugural address March 4th in which he promised not to invade or attack any one EXCEPT…EXCEPT to hold the forts and property of the U.S. government for the purpose of collecting tariffs.   In essence, he was denying the right of secession and promising to invade the southern states and force them back into the Union.

 Lincoln refused to meet with Confederate emissaries sent to negotiate full payment for U.S. properties now within  the jurisdiction of the C.S.A.  Secretary of State Seward gave mixed signals, suggesting that evacuation of the forts was likely — in fact, all senior U.S. military officers recommended immediate evacuation to Lincoln.

Instead, Lincoln ordered a flotilla of war ships with additional troops and supplies to Charleston, then advised Confederate officials that it was coming to “resupply” Sumter, “by force if necessary.” 

Rather than wait for war ships and the greater likelihood of loss of life on both sides, the Confederates decided to force a surrender before they arrived.  Anderson was given a final chance to evacuate Sumter, given a deadline and told when the bombardment would commence.  He replied that he would not evacuate.

The bombardment commenced on April 12th and Anderson surrendered on April 14th due to fears the magazine (with powder and ordnance) would ignite.  No one was killed during the bombardment and Anderson’s garrison was allowed to peacefully leave the fort .

CSA Flag Flies at Fort Sumter – Later to be Replaced

Though he made force necessary, Lincoln had succeeded in provoking the Confederates to fire the first shots and it had the desired effect: it incited a war fever in the North.    On April 15th, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the southern states to force their return to the Union, or as he phrased it, to quell “a rebellion.”

As a result of Lincoln’s call for a coercive force, four more states seceded in protest to join forces with the C.S.A.  Virginia seceded April 17th and North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee followed in short order.

The stealthy taking of Fort Sumter was an act of war.  The stated intention to insert more men and ammunition BY FORCE was another act of war.  The bombardment of Fort Sumter to force its surrender was an act of war, but it was NOT the first act of war in the conflict.

Now, let’s review the WHY of the war.

There would have been no war if Lincoln had not ordered invasions and naval blockades of southern states.  The southern states made known they wanted a peaceful separation.  The answer to WHY the southern states fought the war is painfully obvious:  Self Defense. Duh!  Because their country was being invaded!

In the same Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1861) in which Lincoln promised to use force to collect the tariffs (protect U.S. tax revenues), Lincoln reiterated his previous statements that he had no intent, no lawful right and no inclination to interfere with slavery where it existed.

He went on to say that he supported the proposed Constitutional Amendment (the Corwin Amendment) that would constitutionally enshrine slavery beyond the reach of the U.S. Congress.

The proposed amendment reads as follows:

“No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”
 As noted earlier, Lincoln called for troops to launch an invasion April 15th.  He ordered a naval blockade, and made various preparations for war beginning April 15th without a Congressional declaration of war.  When Congress finally convened in July, it basically rubber-stamped his actions thus far.

But Congress also approved the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25th, specifically stating the purpose of the war was to reunite the southern states into the U.S.A.   It was clearly stated the war’s purpose was to “preserve the Union” and NOT to overthrow or interfere with “the rights or established institutions of the states” (slavery).  This unequivocal statement from Congress and Lincoln’s unequivocal support for the Corwin Amendment directly contradict the official Big Lie.  But there’s more.   As you’ll see below, Lincoln’s stated purpose remains the same 16 months into the war.

At this point (July 1861), it seems clear that if the Confederate States’ purpose was merely to “preserve slavery,” then its best option would have been to end hostilities and rejoin the Union.  It was independence the South was committed to maintain and it was Southern Independence that the North intended to prevent by force if persuasion failed.
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.” –Abraham Lincoln, from letter to Horace Greeley, Aug. 22, 1862
Horace GreeleyHorace Greeley

Over 16 months after the war began (Aug. 22, 1862), Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune, an open letter in response to a Greeley editorial, in which Lincoln essentially said that slavery was not relevant to the war.   He stated that his “paramount object” was to “preserve the union,” and that slavery had no bearing on the war effort.

This was just days before the Emancipation Proclamation extended the offer, once again, to preserve slavery if the southern states would simply lay down their arms and return to the Union.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free any slaves in any territory controlled by the U.S. government.  It was generally seen as a farce by both Americans and the British press.
“We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”  —Secretary of State William Seward

“The Union government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it would the enemy’s cattle, simply to weaken them in the conflict. The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.” –London Spectator, 1862

Right up to very near the end of the war, the South could have saved slavery simply by returning to the Union.

Independence was the southern goal.

 General John B. Gordon, in his book Reminiscences of the Civil War (p. 19) summarized it this way:

General John B. GordonGeneral John B. Gordon

“But slavery was far from being the sole cause of the prolonged conflict. Neither its destruction on the one hand, nor its defense on the other, was the energizing force that held the contending armies to four years of bloody work. I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness-stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his country. ….No other proof, however, is needed than the undeniable fact that at any period of the war from its beginning to near its close the South could have saved slavery by simply laying down its arms and returning to the Union.” —General John B. Gordon, from Reminiscences of the Civil War, page 19

The North’s primary purpose was to prevent southern independence.  It’s the North that betrayed the Founding principle of “consent of the governed” from that celebrated secession document, the Declaration of Independence.
How can any American deny the right of secession and at the same time celebrate Independence Day and the principle it embodies?  As Greeley put it in his editorial in the New York Tribune December 17th, 1860:

If the Declaration of Independence justified the secession of 3,000,000 colonists in 1776, I do not see why the Constitution ratified by the same men should not justify the secession of 5,000,000 of the Southerners from the Federal Union in 1861… We have repeatedly said, and we once more insist that the great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that government derives its power from the consent of the governed is sound and just, then if the Cotton States, the Gulf States or any other States choose to form an independent nation they have a clear right to do it… And when a section of our Union resolves to go out, we shall resist any coercive acts to keep it in. We hope never to live in a Republic where one section is pinned to the other section by bayonets.”   —Horace Greeley, NewYork Tribune, Dec. 17, 1860. 

In December of 1860 and January of 1861, many newspapers across the North and Midwest echoed Greeley’s sentiments to “let the South go in peace.”  But the bankers, railroads and shippers soon informed the press of the financial implications of southern independence.

The editorial tune changed dramatically in February and March of 1861 to “No, we must NOT let the South go,” and “what about our shipping?” and “what about our revenue?”  As the New York Times noted on March 30th,“We were divided and confused until our pockets were touched.”  [ See Northern Editorials on Secession, Howard C. Perkins, ed., 1965 — See Sample editorials here. ]

All the powder keg needed was a spark to ignite a war.  Lincoln sent the war ship flotilla to Charleston and it was on.  Lincoln had his excuse.

There you have it.  The North prevented southern independence because it threatened their financial interests.  The South wanted independence for its own best interests, in the tradition of the American Founders.  It sought peaceful separation, but fought in self-defense when invaded and blockaded.

The current best estimate for death toll of the war is 750,000 American soldiers and at least 50,000 southern civilians.  Adjusted to current population, that’s the equivalent today of 8 million Americans dying in four years.

The Official Big Lie was created and maintained to obscure the overthrow of the Founding Principles, and the true motivations that resulted in tragic and unnecessary death on an epic scale.

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Between Kafka & Kabul


Gilad Atzmon interviews Sarah Gillespie


I have been working with Sarah Gillespie for the last five years. Sarah is an incredible singer songwriter, a very unique combination of poetic power coupled with natural compositional skills. Sarah doesn’t follow the book, she doesn’t fit into any recognized genre. Through collages of sounds, beat poetry and broken associations she manages to communicate yearning, pain, disillusion, joy and sometimes, hope.

I spoke to Sarah about her new project, The War On Trevor – a narrative piece of music depicting the plights of a luckless London lad whose life unravels in 1 day.




Gilad Atzmon: Why Trevor?

Sarah Gillespie: Obviously it is a pun on the slogan ‘The War on Terror’. A pun is a figure of language that depends on similarity of sound and disparity of meaning. It matches 2 sounds that fit perfectly together as aural shapes yet stand provocatively apart in sense. The name ‘Trevor’, like ‘Brian’ signals safe, middle of the road, normality. ‘The Life of Brian’ would not work as a concept if the protagonist was called ‘Tarquin’ or ‘Joshua’ for instance. The joke relies on the implausibility that anyone called ‘Brian’ could possibly be the Messiah. Like Brian, Trevor is totally devoid of glamour, exoticness, power or danger. Therefore, in the title alone, there is already sense that Trevor is probably a harmless, ordinary plonker. He is the innocent twin of ‘Terror.’

Gilad Atzmon: Does our imaginary Trevor posses the capacity to dwell on The War on Trevor?

Sarah Gillespie: Initially no, because he assumes it has absolutely nothing to do with him. He just wants to go to work in the morning, get paid and live a normal life. That’s exactly what he is doing in the beginning when he gets caught up in anti Capitalist riots and needs to pee. He just wants to be in the world, but the environment around him conspires to make it impossible. Three cataclysmic events happen: he is arrested, he is dumped and he is misidentified as a terrorist. This trauma induces an awakening, a metamorphosis, which is played out in the final song ‘The Banks of the Arghandab.’ (The Arghandab is the main river running through the Helmand Province in Afghanistan).

Gilad Atzmon: But here we may face a slight problem, why is a ‘middle of the road ‘Trevor’ identified as a terror suspect? Is he a Muslim, an Arab? Is it his dark skinned? In Zionised Britain people become suspicious of being enemies of the State when they fit into a very specific profile. And yet, the War On Trevor sounds to me as a Kafkaesque tale, is it possible that you express here some nostalgic yearning to the horrific bureaucratic State? At least in Kafka’s universe ethics and the absurd are lucid and transparent, something you cannot attribute to the English speaking empire. At the end of the day we kill millions in the name of liberty, democracy and freedom.

Sarah Gillespie: For sure, the War On Trevor is Kafka-eque. Yet where as Josef K was persecuted by a pre-war bureaucratic authority, Trevor is stalked by a contemporary cocktail of political correctness, so-called ‘security measures’, fear of annihilation and the Enlightenment itself. Trevor doesn’t need to be an Arab to be under suspicion. For Jean Charles de Menezes it was enough to have slightly olive skin and brown hair to get 7 bullets in the head from the Metropolitan Police. This was after days of being under surveillance. It’s impossible to conceive of a more Kafkaesque scenario than that. This means that the criteria, to become a target is vast and, with that in mind, there is a sense in which we are all ‘Arabs’.

Gilad Atzmon: Are Trevor, Brian, the so-called ‘middle of the road’ capable of thinking politically, ideologically or ethically? Or are they, together with the rest of us, totally robbed by now?

Sarah Gillespie: Like all of us, Trevor’s ability to think is disabled by the systems of knowledge he’s born into, the pedagogy, the culture, the movies etc. He can’t help it, it’s not his fault. However, while he may not be able to think ethically, he is still capable of experiencing ethics on a visceral level and no one can ever rob him of that. In the final song ‘The Banks of the Argandab’ Trevor suddenly identifies the world around him for the first time and he is swamped with grief and shock. He doesn’t present coherent slogans or action plans. Instead the contradictory images in the lyrics paint a dissociation and despair. Finally he cries out ‘we are mute and we’re sorry.’ He is robbed of his ability to articulate – but he’s not robbed of his gut, his sorrow, his heart. He simply wants to cry on the banks of the Arghandab. This is not something you would write on a badge or a placard. It is a total break down.

Gilad Atzmon: This is indeed very interesting. I also believe that 150 years of slogans has robbed us of the ability to think authentically and even operate emotionally. As if this is not enough, political correctness, which is really a set of political stands that do not allow political criticism, is there to kill and sensor any form of genuine ethical and political reflection even before it reaches a level of consciousness. I guess that in the case of Trevor it is the collapse of his symbolic order which introduces new realisations. Would you agree that politics and ideologies belong to the past. They both failed us and we come to realise it all. We are now entering the great era of civil impotence? We can’t even imagine what our means of resistance should or could be.

Sarah Gillespie: I couldn’t agree more. When I was young I was enchanted by Francis Fukuyama’s conceit that history had arrived at its destination. Modern Liberal Democracy was the utopia we had always been striving towards across the centuries. This is obviously exposed now as nothing more than a fleeting, ethnocentric, self-love festival. We are in one of those crucial moments in time where the future is unimaginable. Every ideology has failed us. The rhetoric of pseudo compassion in the Left has robbed us of true compassion. The eagerness to pretend to understand the Other has divorced us from ourselves. The slaughter of millions of Muslims in the name of Liberty has transformed us into a heartless collective. Global Capitalism has given birth to ‘tent cities’ erupting across the USA. In the light of this, all the motifs of ‘resistance’, the scarf wearing, marching, boycotting etc, though done in good faith, really provide no more than a fig leaf across our gaping impotence. It is hard even to know which topic to protest against. There are so many to choose from. All we can really hope to do is begin to think in new ways and hone our awareness. As artists, we must express ourselves freely. New ways of being in the world will invariably unfold.

Gilad Atzmon: It is more than clear to me, at least, that we cannot envisage an alternative reality or future because the reality in which we are living in is a magnitude amplification of the so-called ‘self’. The so-called ‘credit crunch’ is an amplification of our personal deficit. Neocon righteous wars are the true embodiment of our righteousness. Even when engaged in some colossal genocidal crimes we manage to convince ourselves that is all done in the name of some moral interventionist reasoning, after all we always ‘liberate’ others. Liberal Democracy has been presenting itself as the embodiment of the our ‘free will’ and, as it appears, our will is bottomless. I believe that this is why the artist is the true meaning of redemption. While the politician is stuck within the symbolic order, the artist is there to introduce a new symbolic order. Sarah, do we have a role as artists or should we just let ourselves be?

Sarah Gillespie: Both. We can only have a role as an artist of we let ourselves be. People always say about modernity ‘follow the dollar’. Perhaps the enduring adage of the future might be ‘follow the beauty.’ I’m an optimist despite everything.

Gilad Atzmon: Is the rise of Trevor just another symptom of the decline of the music industry? Isn’t he a product of an authentic independent thinking?

Sarah Gillespie: I don’t know about the mainstream music industry because I’m not a part of it. Still I doubt very much that a 16 min anti-war narrative piece of music about a bloke called Trevor is likely to be an MTV hit. I think that when music is created for the sake of itself, and not for reasons to do with commerce or identity craving, then it will convey a purity that is authentic. It might not be amazing music but it will most definitely be uncontaminated.

Gilad Atzmon: I totally agree, the collapse of our industry may as well mean that we are free at last to play and sing the song we had in mind for so long. What next?

Sarah Gillespie: new music, new poetry and a hope that we might curtail our self-loving mechanisms for the sake of a better world.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Between Kafka & Kabul

Both Sides of an Argument : The Crisis of Zionism

Israel’s next great crisis may come not with the Palestinians or Iran but with young American Jews…

A perfect match of opposing views was the focus of two book reviews of Peter Beinhart’s The Crisis of Zionism.

by Paul J Balles

Rubbish! Someone characterized the arguments we made as college debaters.

We knew better. The hours we spent at night gathering evidence we would use against our opponents made us more than just debaters. We were different.

We were the informed public who read the major newspapers and political magazines.  We knew how to use libraries to prove our opponents wrong.

Just as importantly, we could argue for or against the same thing. One day affirmative, the next negative on any topic.

We knew in our hearts and minds that we were superior to those who didn’t read and keep up with what was going on in the world.

We were even convinced that we knew more than the writers we quoted: they could only argue one side of a question, and therefore lacked the knowledge needed to convince an audience that what they believed was undeniable.

We took our gigantic trophies, mounted them in glass cages in the university, graduated and took our skills and large egos with us to convince others of whatever arguments we were trained to win.

This evening, I couldn’t help remembering that early training as I scanned through arguments on a topic which a friend suggested.

A perfect match of opposing views was the focus of two book reviews of Peter Beinhart’s The Crisis of Zionism.

Cohen wins this round…

One of the reviews, the negative one by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, on March 26 in Tablet, is headlined “Peter Beinart’s False Prophecy”.

Stephens denigrates ‘The Crisis of Zionism’ from the outset, arguing that “the Israeli occupation alienates young American Jews, is sloppy with facts and emotionally contrived.”

The other, Roger Cohen’s “The Dilemmas of Israeli Power” in the New York Times, is positive from beginning to end .

Cohen praises  “… Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism as an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.”

There you have the ideal topical debate.  The debate itself, however, is less than ideal. Concluding his review, Stephens dismisses Beinhart’s book as “an act of moral solipsism.”

“It doesn’t seem to occur to him that his idea amounts to another squeaky note in the blasting chorus that is modern-day Israel bashing.”

Thus, Stephens gives himself away as the defender of Israel, no matter what Israelis do; and any criticism can be ignored as Israel bashing.

After reading the same book, Cohen was able to look at Reinhard’s topic with fresh eyes from outside of the box.

“This is not 1938 revisited, or even 1967. Israel is strong today, a vibrant economy and the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state,” writes Cohen.

Cohen doesn’t forget what it looked like inside the box.  He argues “Threats persist, of course. The annihilationist strain in Palestinian ideology, present since 1948, has not disappeared.”

Both writers are debaters who argue only one side of a question. To take more than one side is to earn the epithet “a flip-flopper” as Mitt Romney has.

Stephens and Cohen are both Jewish, which gives their arguments an aura of authenticity. In reviewing a book on Zionism, both have an innate familiarity with their topic.

While both have the advantage of familiarity with their topic, how is the casual reader to accept or reject arguments?

In any debate, the most credible argument comes from one whose own interests are sacrificed for the sake of truth. Cohen wins this round.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Both Sides of an Argument : The Crisis of Zionism

George Soros Targets Syria


by Stephen Lendman

Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Soros’ Open Society Foundations pretend to be liberal. Their claimed mission is to “work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”

In fact, Soros, like other corporate predators, doesn’t tolerate democratic values. He’s no populist. He supports everything that smells money. He’s involved in grabbing all he can.

He promotes marketplace sovereignty; deregulation; privatization of government services; ending popular entitlements, social spending, and affirmative action; prioritizing business friendly policies; class war; controlling electoral politics; supporting scoundrel media cheerleading his ideology; and wars advancing his agenda.

On January 25, 2010, New York Times writer Andrew Sorkin headlined, “Still Needed: A Sheriff of Finance.” He quoted Soros saying:

“We need a global sheriff.” Perhaps he has himself in mind.

An unverified quote attributed to him said:

“Assad is a mass murderer! He is no better than Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Quadafy, etc. He has committed crimes against humanity and deserves DEATH! The U.S. & the world stands by and does NOTHING! How many more innocent civilians must die? Where are our drones? Where are our Special Forces?”

If accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time he saw a potential business opportunity and exploited it unscrupulously.

In 1992, he made a billion dollars by sabotaging the European Rate Mechanism (ERM) through highly leveraged speculation.

He made billions more from the 1997 Asian currency crash. His business model is rogue investing. As a market participant, he’s unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.

In the late 1990s, he supported ousting Saddam Hussein by any means, including war. He’s connected to the war-profiteering Carlyle Group. He donates millions to dissident movements against regimes he opposes. He took credit for “Americanizing Eastern Europe.” His agenda’s notorious.

Apparently he’s at it again targeting Syria and likely Iran. Wealth accumulation is his main objective. Means justify ends. Body counts don’t matter, just accumulating money to make more it any way he can.

Aryeh Neier

Aryeh Neier serves as president of his Open Society Foundations. On April 4, the New York Times featured his op-ed headlined, “An Arab War-Crimes Court for Syria,” saying:

“….Syria(‘s) government and its henchmen (must) pay a price for slaughtering their citizens….” US “officials are seeking ways to bring them to justice. A war crimes tribunal run by the Arab League could be the solution.”

Fact check

Assad is more victim than villain. For over a year, Western armed, funded and trained killer gangs ravaged Syria. They’re murdering civilians and security forces alike. They’re part of Washington’s scheme to replace him with a US client state.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Der Spiegel exposed their atrocities. HRW said insurgents committed targeted killings, summary executions, kidnappings for ransom, torture, hostage taking, and other violent crimes. Assad responsibly confronts them. He deserves thanks, not condemnation.

A March 29 Der Spiegel article headlined, “An Executioner for Syria’s Rebels Tells His Story,” saying:

Hussein was part of the “Homs burial brigade.” He and comrades “kill in the name of the Syrian revolution. They leave torture (to) the so-called interrogation brigade….”

“They do the ugly work,” he said. He believes in violence he explained. He “cut the throats of four men.” With a heavy machine gun he “killed a lot more men….”

“The rebels in Homs began carrying out regular executions in August of last year.” It continues daily, including prisoners killed in cold blood.

If Assad doesn’t confront them, who will? Imagine the greater death toll if he didn’t. Letting Arab League members operate as judge, jury, and executioner is like putting belligerents in charge of passing judgment on victims.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and most other League members are lawless rogue states. Pro-Western despots head them. They’re part of Washington’s imperial agenda. They actively supported Libya’s ravaging, colonization, exploitation, and plunder. They’re silent about ongoing atrocities in Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, and elsewhere in the region.

Since March, they also supported Western-backed, armed and funded anti-Syrian insurgents. They’re supplying plenty of both themselves. Most League members attack, kill, persecute, arrest, imprison, and torture their own people for protesting against political, economic and social injustice.

Neier wants these rogues to judge Assad and those around him. “That would put the forces of Syria’s president….on notice that the surest way to end up in the dock is to persist in the crimes they have been committing.”

“….(C)reating a tribunal for Syria today would be a bold decision for the Arab League – one that could ensure that those who committed atrocities would face consequences.”

Neier advocates a court similar to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He called it “remarkably successful.”

In fact, evidence showed prosecution witnesses were pressured, intimidated and perhaps bribed. Some were threatened with arrest and imprisonment if they didn’t cooperate.

The prosecutor wanted convictions by any means. Allegations of misconduct were made. The presiding judge ignored them. Benjamin Schetts article headlined, “The Criminalization of Justice at the Hague: Former Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte Faces Charges of Witness Intimidation,” saying:

“….(T)he tribunal’s manner of conduct cannot be called impartial.” Tactics employed included den(ying) the right to self defence….silencing the microphone when the accused speaks out on facts that are embarrassing to the prosecution, (and) intimidation of witnesses. Such occurrences happened often enough during the Milosevic trial.”

Others were treated the same way. When evidence wasn’t available, it was created. Other tribunals were similar. Saddam’s was rigged to convict. The entire production was theatrical. It was a made-for-television extravaganza, a sham from start to finish, a show trial.

The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) had no legitimacy. Washington established, funded, and controlled proceedings. US-approved judges were chosen.

International law was flouted. It’s commonplace in Western manipulated international tribunals. They give kangaroos a bad name. Why else would Neier support them. Ousting and prosecuting Assad gives Soros another profit opportunity. How he makes it doesn’t matter.

A Final Comment

The New York Times consistently supports US wars and prospective ones. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Neither do justice or body counts. Only imperial interests count.

In numerous previous articles, op-eds, editorials, and Neier’s commentary, one-sided views are presented. Truth and full disclosure are absent. Readers end up knowing nothing.

Only Washington’s agenda is supported. The same goes for Israel. Its 2008-09 Gaza war killed over 1,400, injured many thousands more, and caused vast destruction. Mostly civilians and civilian infrastructure were affected.

Israel committed grievous crimes of war and against humanity. Those responsible should be held accountable. Yet on April 4, the International Criminal Court (ICC) spurned its mandate to prosecute individuals for genocide and aggression, as well as crimes or war and against humanity.

Doing so made chief prosecutor Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo complicit in Israel’s crimes. Instead of denouncing him, a Times article dismissively headlined, “Court Rejects Palestinians in Their Bid for a Tribunal,” saying:

Ocampo “turned down a longstanding request by the Palestinian Authority to investigating accusations of Israeli war crimes” because Palestine’s not a state.

In fact, it’s been one since the late 1980s. The Times didn’t explain or demand justice. It also alleged Hamas “violated the rules of war with its attacks on Israeli civilians during the war….”

Israel attacked Gaza preemptively. International law permits self-defense. Nine soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed. About 100 soldiers were injured and several civilians.

Hamas rockets inflicted minor damage. In contrast, Gaza was ravaged. Accountability never followed. Instead of explaining and denouncing the ICC’s decision, The Times skirted both issues entirely.

It’s how the “newspaper of record” always reports. Doing so makes it a criminal accomplice like Ocampo.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on George Soros Targets Syria

Newsweek Reports – VT’s Imran Khan May Become Pakistan’s Next Prime Minister


Playboy, sports star—and possibly Pakistan’s next prime minister.

Stuffed into the driver’s seat of his silver Land Cruiser, Imran Khan, the cricket sensation and possible next prime minister of Pakistan, careens wildly through the Punjab night around livestock and Mack trucks tricked out with trinkets.

His is the most recognizable face in Pakistan yet Khan speeds unnoticed past pickup beds and rickshaws full of constituents, swerving into oncoming traffic and along the shoulder of the road.

When two women from the wheat fields appear suddenly in his high beams, Khan finally flinches, jams the brakes, cuts the wheel, and then squeezes his SUV between them with just inches to spare. He quickly collects himself. “You need good reflexes,” he says.


Khan talks like the man who would be king—not like someone who spent years waging a lonely Ron Paul-like candidacy, as Foreign Policy described it. In the fall, he shocked observers in Pakistan and the West by staging the largest political rally Pakistan has seen in years.
If he manages to become prime minister in the elections, which are expected early next year, he will be the country’s first top leader since 1971 who is not a member of the Bhutto-Zardari family, a military dictator, orNawaz Sharif. “We will win the election,” he says confidently. “God willing, we will sweep it. Unless we do something stupid.”

As if it were an easy win in a cricket match, Khan predicts that his centrist party, the Pakistan Movement for Justice, can fix the country’s problems in just 90 days. But his strategy for dealing with the Taliban and other Islamic militants has led to charges that he is soft on extremists. His plan is to order the Army to withdraw from the unruly tribal areas and start a dialogue with the militants.

To him the war in Afghanistan and on the Pakistan border conforms to “Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result … The Pakistan Army is killing its own people. It’s the most shameful period in our history. We created militants through collateral damage, and we are creating more militants through collateral damage. It’s a ruling elite which sold its soul for dollars.”

Beyond ending the fighting in the border area, his campaign is built on the twin promises of battling corruption and standing up to the American administration, which puts him in the interesting political position that the worse things get in his country, and the further U.S.-Pakistan relations deteriorate, the better for him.


“The disenchantment with the other political parties is so acute, and that’s the space that has been carved for Imran Khan,” says Jugnu Mohsin, publisher of The Friday Times, an independent weekly based in Lahore, and a frequent Khan critic. When asked what kind of president he would make, her response is visceral. “I shudder to think because he is a man who doesn’t really have a firm grip on history, or politics, or economy,” she says. “He would be very easily led and misled … And I think the military would probably continue to call the shots.”

Khan’s campaign is funded by Pakistani businessmen, and supported by the middle class and the young, along with many right-wing voters who “choose not to vote for a religious party but want more or less the same policies,” according to Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an analyst based in Lahore.

Mohsin and other observers have also suggested that Khan is secretly propped up by the military and Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Khan himself denies any clandestine connections and Hamid Gul, the former director of the ISI widely considered the “father of the Taliban,” says that although some security forces have sympathy for Khan, he doesn’t think that Khan takes their orders. “Many individuals might support him, but that’s individuals.”

When asked whether he believes the Pakistan Army or the intelligence brass knew about Osama bin Laden hiding out in Pakistan, Khan says they had little to gain and much to lose, though he does think it’s possible that lower-level officers played a role. And he is quick to criticize the killing of bin Laden, which inspired a “total sense of humiliation” among Pakistanis, he says. “Rather than shooting him, they should have picked him up,” he says. “Here’s a country that’s lost 35,000 troops in your war. Are we an ally or not?”

His populist rhetoric has often been aimed at the U.S., and he is dismissive of President Barack Obama, whom he describes as “intelligent” but without “the strength to take those big decisions which we were all hoping he would.” Some commentators have described him as anti-American—a charge he denies. “I guess they call me anti-American because slaves are not supposed to disagree with the policies of the masters.”

Such tough talk has lifted him in the polls—the last survey showed an approval rating of about 68 percent—but Pakistan, like Britain, has a parliamentary system, requiring his untested party to win broadly across the country. It may be his moment. Almost 60 percent of Pakistan’s population is under 25, and they are sick of the status quo: the military’s grip on power, tired political dynasties, and a lack of economic opportunity. “Pakistanis want a way out of this,” says Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador to the U.S. and Britain, and an influential supporter and confidante. “The election is his to lose.”

His father hailed from poor and rural Mianwali, but Khan was bred in Lahore prep schools and has a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University. On the cricket pitch, Khan captained Pakistan to its first and only World Cup victory, in 1992, and was considered the sport’s top athlete. His testosterone-charged exploits in London drew almost as much attention, and even now Khan can’t suppress a red-blooded boast about his bachelor days:

“Don’t forget, I was the No. 1 cricketer in the world at the time.” Romantically tied to Goldie Hawn, among many others, he was also a close friend of Mick Jagger and Princess Diana. “He obviously had this great playboy reputation, and he was gorgeous,” says a former girlfriend, adding, “When you’re with him, he’s very much with you.” (She says that during “intimate moments” he “growled like a tiger.”)

Khan still has his lean good looks and trademark feathered haircut, though there’s a just-visible bald spot on his head and his sideburns have hints of gray. On this evening, his two sons, 15-year-old Sulaiman and 12-year-old Kasim, are visiting from London, where they live with their mother, the British journalist and heiress Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith).

When she and Khan married in 1995, she was a golden-haired 21-year-old “it” girl, and he was just about to begin his transformation from national sports hero to politician. They moved to Lahore and, in 1996, Khan founded his political party, donated much of his money to charity, and began campaigning. Jemima, meanwhile, converted to Islam, learned Urdu, championed Pakistani causes, and lived in what was described as a cramped place with “grimy sofas.”

Khan raised money for a cancer hospital in Lahore for the many poor who couldn’t afford specialized treatment. When it opened in 1994, he named it the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, after his mother, who died of colon cancer in 1985 at the age of 63. Two years later, political enemies of Khan bombed the hospital in a blast that killed eight people and injured 30. Khan was scheduled to visit but hadn’t yet arrived, and so was unscathed.

For the glamorous couple, life had clearly taken a harder turn, and Khan was often away from his family.

“There was a lot of time spent apart and, more importantly, there was just an endless sense of being a kind of terrible Achilles’ heel, because every time there was an election campaign, there’d be something else about me that would be used to discredit him,” Jemima says today, adding that smears and death threats were constant. People would even call and tell her that Khan was dead. “It was tense. He used to go for walks with his dogs with a big gun on his waist … It became clear in the last campaign that I was better off just not being involved.”

In 2002, he was elected to Parliament. Two years later, the couple had divorced.

By then Khan had established himself as a devout Muslim. He’s now so close to the religious right that critics call him “Taliban without a beard.” (During a recent spat, Salman Rushdie described him as “a better-looking Gaddafi.”)

But in Pakistan, both religious parties and the militants remain suspicious of him. Mullah Malang, a Taliban commander, describes him as one of the “usual U.S. puppet politicians of Pakistan.” “His track record is full of sins and scandals,” the commander says. “If he was a good Pakistani and practicing Muslim, he wouldn’t have married an English Jewish girl.” Jemima (who’s not Jewish) disagrees with those who say he’s a phony. “He has all sorts of bits in him—a bit like Pakistan. He’s very complicated and conflicted.”

And, in Pakistan, a man with his past must walk a very fine line.

Khan “has been careful not to make any statements that would antagonize the extremists,” says Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general who now comments on Pakistani politics. “His policies and manifestos converse well with the Taliban. He has always pushed for talks and peace deals with the Taliban. Let me put it this way: he avoids taking them on. I think he has learned from Benazir Bhutto’s example. She took a strong stance against the extremists and suffered as a result. He does not want to be targeted; neither does he want to lose the conservative vote.”

This may be Khan’s moment as people look for change in a country that has gone through five finance ministers in the last four years, a place where trash doesn’t get picked up, power outages are frequent, and where teachers, nurses, and police don’t get paid. But Khan’s plans for dealing with economic mismanagement and endemic corruption are vague, and even Gul, the former ISI chief and an early mentor for Khan, is unconvinced. “What change is he going to bring? He has been focusing his attention only on corruption. But there are more structural changes required in Pakistan.”

When asked about Khan becoming prime minister, his ex-wife says: “I’m conflicted because, on the one hand, I don’t want my children’s father to put himself into a position that’s very dangerous … but at the same time, part of me wants him to be successful, not just for him and for Pakistan, but also because it makes sense of some of the really big sacrifices that he did make, and one of those was his family life. You know, if he’s not successful, there’s a point at which you ask, ‘What were all those sacrifices for?’ ”

At one campaign stop, Khan sat like a king as excited locals pressed around him. Big bowls of chicken and mutton were placed before him. While his aides ate with forks, Khan dug his big fingers right into the bowls—in the traditional way of eating. Once the meal was over, however, the celebratory mood shifted as people shouted complaints and needs: a new hospital, a better primary school. It was late in the afternoon, and Khan seemed exasperated as he put up his hands. “When the Movement for Justice is in power, I will take care of these problems,” he finally said, then got back into his Land Cruiser and sped away.

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