The Case for Pragmatism

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Exclusive: Since American neocons emerged in the 1980s, they have pushed an aggressive “regime change” strategy that has left bloody chaos in their wake. The cumulative impact, including Mideast refugees flooding Europe and overuse of sanctions, is now contributing to a global economic crisis, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Crashing global stock markets – punctuated by the bracing 1,000-plus point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the start of Monday’s trading before a partial bounce-back – are a reminder about the interdependence of today’s world economy and a wake-up call to those who think that the neocon-driven ideology of endless chaos doesn’t carry a prohibitively high price.

The hard truth is that there is a limit to the amount of neocon-induced trouble that the planet can absorb without major dislocations of the international economic system – and we may be testing that limit now. The problem is that America’s neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks continue to put their ideological priorities ahead of what’s good for the average person on earth.

President Barack Obama talks with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation as they join other leaders en route to the APEC Family Photo at the International Convention Center in Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the International Convention Center in Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In other words, it may make sense for some neocon think tank or a “human rights” NGO to demand interventions via “hard power” (military action) or “soft power” (economic sanctions, propaganda or other non-military means). After all, neocon think tanks raise money from self-interested sectors, such as the Military-Industrial Complex, and non-governmental organizations always have their hands out for donations from the U.S. government or friendly billionaires.

But the chaos that these neocons and liberal interventionists inflict on the world – often justified by claims about “democracy promotion” and “human rights” – typically ends up creating conditions of far greater horror than the meddling was meant to stop.

For instance, the Islamic State butchers and their former parent organization, Al Qaeda, are transforming Iraq and Syria into blood-soaked killing fields. But the neocons and liberal hawks still think the higher priority was and is to eliminate the relatively stable and prosperous dictatorships of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

There is always a fixation about getting rid of some designated “bad guy” even if the result is some “far-worse guys.” This has been a pattern repeated over and over again, from Libya to Sudan/South Sudan to Ukraine/Russia to Venezuela (just to name a few). In such cases, we see the neocons/liberal hawks release a flood of propaganda against some unpleasant target (Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi/Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir/Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych/Russia’s Vladimir Putin/Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Nicolas Maduro) followed by demands for “regime change” or at least punishing economic sanctions.

Anyone who tries to provide some balance to offset the propaganda is denounced as a “(fill-in-the-blank) apologist” and pushed out of the room of acceptable debate. Then, with no one in Official Washington left to challenge the “group think,” the only question is how extreme should the punishment be – direct military assault (as in Iraq, Libya and Syria), a political coup d’etat (as in Ukraine and almost in Venezuela) or economic sanctions (as in Russia and Sudan).

For many Americans trying to do international business, it can be confusing as to where the legal lines are, who is or who isn’t on some black list, what kinds of transactions are allowed or forbidden. I know of one counselor who helps people overcome stuttering who had to reject Skype lessons with a prospective patient in Iran because it wasn’t clear whether that might violate the draconian U.S. sanctions regime.

Spreading the Chaos

Arguably some narrowly focused sanctions against a particularly nefarious foreign leader might make sense. Even a limited military intervention might not upset the entire world’s economy. But the proliferation of these strategies has combined to destabilize not just the targeted regimes but nations far from the front lines and is now contributing to global economic chaos.

In tracing these patterns, you can go back in time to such misguided fiascos as the CIA’s huge covert operation in Afghanistan in the 1980s (which gave rise to the Taliban and Al Qaeda). However, for argument’s sake, let’s start with the neocon success in promoting President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Not only did that war divert more than $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayers’ money from productive uses into destructive ones, but it began a massive spread of chaos across the Middle East.

Add in President Barack Obama’s 2011 “humanitarian” interventions in Libya (via Western bombing operations to topple Muammar Gaddafi’s regime) and in Syria (via covert support for rebels and sanctions against President Assad’s government) – and you have two more Mad Max scenarios in two once relatively prosperous Arab states.

These human catastrophes have sent waves of refugees crashing into other Mideast countries and into Europe where the European Union was already stumbling economically, still trying to recover from Wall Street’s 2007-08 financial crisis. After tasting the bitter medicine of austerity for years, Europeans now find their fairly generous welfare systems stretched to the breaking point by refugees seeking asylum.

Having just returned from a visit to Europe, I was struck by the intensity of feelings about the refugee crisis. Some EU nations are throwing up anti-migrant barriers while everyone seems to be squabbling over who should foot the bill at a time when there are financial crises in Greece and other southern-tier countries, which coincidentally are bearing the brunt of the refugee problem.

Toss into this volatile mix of a Europe seemingly close to explosion the Obama administration’s “neocon/liberal interventionist” policies toward Ukraine, where neocon holdover Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate a 2014 coup to remove democratically elected President Yanukovych after he was demonized in the U.S. mainstream media as corrupt.

Citing “democracy promotion” and “anti-corruption,” the Obama administration backed the creation of a coup regime that has relied on neo-Nazi and Islamist militias to serve as its tip of the spear against ethnic Russian Ukrainians who have resisted the ouster of Yanukovych. Thousands — mostly eastern Ukrainians — have died. Of course, all this was explained to the American people as a simple case of “Russian aggression.”

After the coup, when the ethnic Russians of Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, that became a “Russian invasion,” justifying harsh economic sanctions against Moscow, with the Obama administration strong-arming the Europeans to forgo their profitable trade relations with Russia to punish the Russian economy. But that also added to the pressure on the European economy.

As this madness has escalated, the neocons and their liberal-hawk pals now envision destabilizing the Putin government in nuclear-armed Russia. They don’t seem to recognize that the guy who might follow Putin may not be some obliging Boris Yeltsin but a hard-line ultranationalist ready to brandish the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal in defense of Mother Russia.

Misguided Interventions

While these various U.S. “hard” and “soft” power interventions are justified by the principles of “human rights,” they often end up working against that goal. A discrete example is the case of Sudan and South Sudan, a crisis that traces back to the demands for a “humanitarian intervention” over Sudan’s alleged genocide in Darfur in 2003.

That horrible conflict was painted in stark black and white colors in the U.S. press, innocent good guys versus evil bad guys, but was actually much more nuanced than what was shown to the American people. The war was touched off by Darfur rebels, but the Sudanese army struck back brutally. The “human rights” community settled on Sudan’s President Bashir as the designated villain, who now faces an indictment in the International Criminal Court.

So, there was great sympathy for carving South Sudan away from Sudan in 2011 and making it an independent country (although oddly Darfur remained part of Sudan). But South Sudan, which possesses significant oil reserves, could sustain itself only if it could get its oil to market and the pipelines went north through Sudan.

And, since the United States and other countries were busy sanctioning Sudan for not turning over Bashir to the ICC, oil companies were unable to assist South Sudan in exploiting its valuable resource, which in turn caused hardship in South Sudan and contributed to a bloody civil war pitting one tribe against another. That led to, you guessed it, calls to sanction South Sudan.

The ongoing tragedy of Sudan/South Sudan is horrific enough, but it is only emblematic of the unintended consequences of rigid neocon/liberal interventionist ideology, which rejects negotiations with “bad guys,” insisting instead on “regime change” or endless punishment of entire populations through sanctions even when those “solutions” inflict more hardship and death.

But now these destructive strategies are going global. They are threatening the economic well-being of the entire planet – taking their place along with other misguided theories such as “free-market” absolutism and “austerity” in the face of recessions. The cumulative impact from these various follies has been to put the West’s Middle Class under severe pressure regarding income and purchasing power, which finally has slowed China’s growth and prompted a crash of its financial markets.

That, in turn, is reverberating back across the rest of the world’s stock markets, erasing trillions of dollars in wealth and further reducing the savings of the Middle Class. As this vicious cycle starts spinning, that could mean even less consumer spending and further economic retrenchment.

The prospects for a global recession, if not a full-scale depression, can no longer be ignored. And such economic hardship would only contribute to more death, devastation and destabilization.

Pragmatic Solutions

So what can be done? As dark as the gathering economic storm may be, one silver lining could be that Americans and other Westerners will finally begin pushing back against the powerful neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist fellow-travelers.

Perhaps, instead of President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal being a one-off affair that may barely survive a determined neocon assault in the U.S. Congress, it could become a model for pragmatic approaches to other international crises. The core of this pragmatism would be that one doesn’t have to love or even like the leadership of another country to cooperate on global concerns, whether they are economic, geopolitical or environmental.

There also should be a recognition that no country has all the answers or a monopoly on morality. American self-righteousness is not only hypocritical – given the many flaws in the U.S. political system from the buying of our campaigns to our repeated violations of international law – but it is self-defeating, requiring the endless expenditure of blood and treasure to act as self-appointed global “policeman” whether the world wants it or not.

If pragmatism replaced exceptionalism as the focus of U.S. international relations, there would be some obvious moves that could reduce world tensions and alleviate some of the economic dislocations that are contributing to the deepening economic crisis.

For instance, instead of a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, what’s wrong with the eastern Ukrainians receiving more autonomy and the right to keep their Russian language? Why shouldn’t the people of Crimea have the right to break their political bonds with Kiev and renew them with Moscow? Why has President Obama bent to the neocon prescriptions of Assistant Secretary Nuland when a little give-and-take could make life better for Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans?

Similarly, why can’t the United States accept a compromise in Syria that includes power-sharing for whatever moderate Sunnis remain and accepts at least the temporary continuation of President Assad’s rule as part of a secular state protecting the lives and interests of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities? Why not a joint U.S.-Russian-Iranian effort to stabilize the war-torn country, block the expansion of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and ease the refugee crisis in the Mideast and Europe?

Yes, I realize that geopolitical pragmatism is anathema to many power centers of Official Washington, particularly the influential neocons, their benefactors in the Israel Lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex, and the many self-interested NGOs of the “human rights” community which favor “humanitarian wars” and seem to care little if their purity leads to even more suffering.

But – as the world’s economy teeters and global markets tumble – the American people no longer have the luxury of intervening willy-nilly around the globe. International pragmatism, including working with adversaries, may be the only way to prevent the swelling geopolitical pressures from building into a devastating financial crash.

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Misleading AP Story on Iran Deal Draws Fierce Critique

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Soon after publication of exclusive report, questions began to circulate about its accuracy and aim

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Akhbar Salehi at the signing of a roadmap for the clarification of past and present issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna on July 14, 2015. (Photo: IAEA Imagebank/flickr/cc)

An Associated Press exclusive report on the Iran nuclear program, published to much hoopla on Wednesday afternoon, appears to have been at best unintentionally misleading and at worst knowingly inaccurate, according to analyses of the reporting on Thursday.

“Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work,” the AP‘s George Zahn wrote, setting off backlash from conservatives who oppose the nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S., and five world powers.

Reporting on the story and its aftermath, the Huffington Post wrote:

Critics of the Iranian nuclear deal declared vindication, citing the report as evidence that the broader nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers was flawed. “How does this not set a precedent for future inspections at suspicious military sites in Iran?” asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), suggesting that the Iranians would be entrusted to oversee their own nuclear inspections going forward.

Indeed, “readers were given the impression that President Obama had made a catastrophically foolish concession to the Iranians; that our much-touted inspections regime was a big joke,” Max Fisher wrote in a media critique for Vox on Thursday. “And indeed, a number of prominent political journalists tweeted out the story with exactly this alarmed interpretation.”

However, the HuffPo reports:

[N]o sooner had the report surfaced than questions began to circulate about its underlying assertions and the accuracy of its claims. Hours after publication, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis noted on Twitter that the AP deleted several paragraphs that contained the most damning allegations about the way in which inspections would occur.”

[...] The revised version of the exposé also scrubbed a paragraph that suggested IAEA inspectors would oversee Iranian scientists as they collected samples and photographs at Parchin, despite other parts of the report claiming that officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency would be barred from entering the facility.

“The oldest Washington game is being played in Vienna. And that is leaking what appears to be a prejudicial and one-sided account of a confidential document to a friendly reporter, and using that to advance a particular policy agenda.”
—Jeffrey Lewis, Middlebury College’s Monterey Institute of International Studies

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for its part, rejected the AP‘s report as “a misrepresentation.”

AP spokespeople insisted the details were cut for space—and no correction or explanation of the changes had been posted as of Thursday afternoon.

But in an interview with Vox, Lewis, the Middlebury College arms control expert cited by the HuffPo, suggested that the incident illustrated how mainstream media reporting can be used as a tool of manipulation in debates over foreign policy.

“The oldest Washington game is being played in Vienna,” Lewis said. “And that is leaking what appears to be a prejudicial and one-sided account of a confidential document to a friendly reporter, and using that to advance a particular policy agenda.”

Added Fisher: “This is certainly not the first time that someone has placed a strategic leak in order to achieve a political objective. But it is disturbing that the AP allowed itself to be used in this way, that it exaggerated the story in a way that have likely misled large numbers of people, and that, having now scrubbed many of the details, it has appended no note or correction explaining the changes. It is not a proud moment for journalism.”

Still, according to the HuffPo, “momentum on Thursday appeared to be growing for ultimate passage of the deal.”

Just after the AP story was published, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced he would vote in favor of the nuclear accord. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) followed suit Thursday morning, bringing the Obama administration eight votes away from what is needed to implement the agreement.

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Congresswoman Asks For Investigation Into Nazi Shooting Of Two Palestinian Teens

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She suggested the killings could violate the Leahy Law, which would require some military aid be withheld.

The Huffington Post
A Palestinian man shouts for help moments after the 17-year-old Mohmmad Abu Daher, on the ground, was killed near the West Bank city of Ramallah. May 15, 2014. CREDIT: MAJDI MOHAMMED/ASSOCIATED PRESSA Palestinian man shouts for help moments after the 17-year-old Mohmmad Abu Daher, on the ground, was killed near the West Bank city of Ramallah. May 15, 2014.

WASHINGTON — Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has requested the State Department open an investigation into whether the killing of two Palestinian teenagers last year by Israeli security forces warrants withholding of military aid under the conditions of the Leahy Law.

“The murders of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Daher highlight a brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children,” she wrote in a letter to two State Department officials, referring to the teenagers who were shot and killed May 15, 2014, during a protest at the Ofer prison in the West Bank. “It is time for a strong and unequivocal statement of U.S. commitment to the human rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation,” McCollum continued in the letter, which was publicly released on Monday. 

The protests were part of the annual remembrance of Nakba Day, the Palestinian term for the day after Israel declared itself a state in 1948. The Israeli military initially denied using live ammunition at the protest, insisting that security forces only used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. But a bloodied bullet was found in Nawara’s backpack, and an autopsy showed an entry and exit wound in his body. At his family’s request, Daher did not have an autopsy.

A compilation of live video footage from news outlets and closed-circuit television from a local business show that neither boy was actively participating in the protest or posing a threat to Israeli soldiers when shot. 

Nadeem Nawara shooting at 1:45 p.m., May 15, 2014.

Mohammad Daher shooting at 2:59 p.m., May 15, 2014.

The Israeli military said the footage had been edited in a “biased and tendentious way” and did not “reflect the violent nature of the riot.”

A subsequent video, compiled by the London-based Forensic Architecture group, overlays the closed-circuit television footage of Nawara being shot with CNN footage of two Israeli security officials, showing the trajectory the bullet traveled to hit the 17-year-old.

Ultimately, the Israeli police conducted an investigation into the shooting claims, resulting in the November arrest of border policeman Ben Deri. He was indicted for manslaughter in December and his trial is set to begin next month.

Even with the indictment, Nawara’s father, Siam Nawara, fears that the broader problem of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will go unaddressed. In coordination with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of activist groups, the elder Nawara has spent the last month in the U.S., where he has told several lawmakers, including McCollum, his story.

“I don’t want my son to be another number, and I want to make sure no family suffers like ours is suffering now,” Nawara wrote as part of an ongoing petition, calling for the international community to hold Israel accountable for crimes against Palestinians the occupied territories.

Beyond urging the State Department to press for a fair and transparent trial, McCollum requested in her letter an investigation into whether the Leahy Law prevents the 38th Company of the Israeli Border Police from being eligible for U.S. military aid and training.

The Leahy Law prohibits the U.S. from providing sending military aid to states found to violate human rights with impunity. The Minnesota Congresswoman noted that if the shooting was found to constitute a violation of the Leahy Law, the border police involved in the shooting should be denied visas.

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Why Congress Must Support the Nuclear Agreement With Iran

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by: Prof Richard Falk

Image result for US-IRAN FLAG

[Prefatory Note: this post republishes an article appearing in the Huffinton Post on Aug. 21, 2015. It is jointly written with Akbar Ganji, an important human rights defender who spent several years for his efforts in an Iranian jail. Ganji is a leading commentator on Iranian affairs and world issues, and recipient of an International Press Association World Press Hero award. Our articles stresses the critical importance of obtaining American approval of the nuclear agreement.] 

 

Why Congress Must Support the Nuclear Agreement With Iran

Akbar Ganji & Richard Falk

What should have been an occasion of diplomatic rejoicing has turned into an ugly partisan struggle over whether or not the international agreement negotiated with Iran will or will not be approved by the United States Government. The extremely troublesome obstruction to the agreement is centered in the U.S. Congress where anti-Obama Republicans are teaming up with pro-Netanyahu Democrats to create uncertainty as to whether the arrangments negotiated with such persistence by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council together with Germany will be undermined by this unprecedented leverage being exerted by Israel on the internal governmental processes in America. It should be appreciated that the agreement has been unanimously endorsed by a positive vote of all 15 members of the Security Council, a rarity in UN politics for an issue of this geopolitical magnitude.

In the end this debate raises some fundamental questions about American domestic politics along with its leadership in the Middle East and indeed, the credibility of its global role. Here is an agreement, restricting Iran’s freedom of action with regard to its nuclear program beyond that imposed on any other country ever, clearly serving the national interest of the United States in Middle Eastern stability, an outcome of dedicated efforts by the President and Secretary of State to find a way to avoid both another war in the region and a dangerous nuclear arms race.

That such a diplomatic breakthrough is being so furiously opposed posts a warning that irrationality is mounting a serious challenge to common sense and self-interest. As Obama has noted on several occasions he knows of no other leader that interferes so directly in the national policy debates of a foreign country than deos Netanyahu( 1 and 2 ) . Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond observed: “Israel wants a permanent state of stand-off and I don’t believe that’s in the interests of the region. I don’t believe it’s in our interest.”

Israel has used all the influence at its disposal to block approval, mobilizing rich ultra-Zionist donors in the U.S. to create a war chest of $20 milion and relying on AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) to twist enough legislative arms to override an expected Obama veto if the agreement is turned down by a majority in the two houses of Congress. This drive has been led by the ever belligerent Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is disturbing to realize that all the leading political parties in Israel are united in their opposition to the agreement. This alone tells us the degree to which political attitudes in Israel are out of sinc with those prevailing in the rest of the Middle East, and indeed the world.

As such, there is a moment of truth for the relationship between the United States and Israel. A rejection of the agreement will raise serious questions about the capacity of this country to pursue a foreign policy that reflects its best interests and dominant values. It will also raise doubts about whether it is capable of constructive leadership in the Middle East and the world. If the agreement is approved, as we firmly believe it should be, it will not only confirm the autonomy of national institutions in the United States but show that the alliance relationship with Israel can withstand disagreement when vital issues are at stake.

 

The Iran Problem

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a religious dictatorship that systematically violates the rights of its citizens, and has demonstrated enmity toward the United States since the 1979 Revolution. Despite this, compared with other Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa, it is far better situated to realize democracy and respect human rights.

Iran is a stable nation that has not invaded another country for nearly 300 years. Its population has nearly more than doubled since the 1979 Revolution, but its number of university students has increased by a factor of 27, with more than 60 percent of them female. The most important international writings of Western liberal, feminist, and secular thinkers have been translated into Farsi, including the work of some of the most important Jewish thinkers. Iran has a large middle class, and is the only country in the region, aside from Turkey, that has the prerequisites for a transition to democracy despite problematic features of the relations between state and society.

For over 22 years Netanyahu has been “making” nuclear bombs for Iran, continuously claiming that Iran is only a short time away from having the bomb. The predictions have turned out to be false and inflammatory, but his desire and appetite for war with Iran seems only to have increased over time. The nuclear agreement with Iran, which has imposed severe restrictions on its peaceful nuclear program despite going well beyond what the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty requires, has agitated Netanyahu and the political mainstream in Israel. There are several explanations of this irrational Israeli response to an agreement that help all in the region. Netanyahu has engaged in fear-mongering that has mobilized Israeli society. Beyond this, a focus on Iran’s nuclear program draws attention away from other difficult problems confronting Israel,, including the Palestinian problem and its own covertly acquired arsenal of nuclear weapons.

 

National interests of the United States or Netanyahu’s political interests?

As President Obama has repeatedly said, the only alternative to the nuclear agreement with Iran is war. But, this would be a war that Israel wants the United States to fight on its behalf. Military attacks on Iran will almost certainly produce an extremely strong reaction by Iran and other nations in that region, a process likely to set the entire Middle East on fire. Iran with its population of 78 million will likely degenerate into another Iraq and Syria, and extremists from throughout the world will stream across its borders to join the struggle. How can risking such an outcome possibly be in the interests of the United States?

Approving the nuclear agreement with Iran is by far the least costly solution to whatever problems can be associated with Iran’s nuclear program, and approval will also promote peace and stability in the Middle East. With this background in mind Congress should clearly approve the agreement, and it is also why the citizenry of the United States should welcome it. After approval,, the United States would find itself in an excellent position, perhaps in coopeation with other governments to help address other problems on the Middle East agenda by proposing an ambitious diplomatic package with the following essential elements:

Guaranteeing present national borders through resolutions backed by the United Nations Security Council

Elimination of all weapons of mass destruction from the region through the establishment of a nuclear free zone in the whole of the Middle East

Resolving the Palestinian problem encouraging two-state diplomacy premised on the right of the Palestinian people to form their own independent, viable and contiguous state on all territories occupied since 1967, and if diplomacy fails, then more coercive measures should be imposed by action of the United Nations

A collective security and mutual non-aggression treaty signed by all the Middle Eastern nations

Investment in the economic and political development of the region combined with the regulation of arms sales

Moving forward from the agreement it is important to appreciate that peace is a common value envisioned and shared by Jews, Muslims, and Christians:

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”(Matthew 5:9).

“Making peace is the best” (an-Nissa 128) and “O, you who believe! Fulfill the promises and covenants made [by you]” (al-Maidah 1).

For too long these shared values, deeply embedded in the worldviews of these civilizational perspectives, have been ignored, even repudiated. The nuclear agreement with Iran creates the opportunity to move the flow of history in better directions. Such an opportunity must not be lost. If lost, the United States and Israel would be morally, politically, and legally responsible for whatever harm befalls the region and the world.

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4 Million Muslims Killed In Western Wars: Should We Call It Genocide?:

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By Kit O’Connell

 

It may never be possible to know the true death toll of the modern Western wars on the Middle East, but that figure could be 4 million or higher. Since the vast majority of those killed were of Arab descent, and mostly Muslim, when would it be fair to accuse the United States and its allies of genocide?

 

A March report by Physicians for Social Responsibility calculates the body count of the Iraq War at around 1.3 million, and possibly as many as 2 million. However, the numbers of those killed in Middle Eastern wars could be much higher. In April, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed argued that the actual death toll could reach as high as 4 million if one includes not just those killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the victims of the sanctions against Iraq, which left about 1.7 million more dead, half of them children, according to figures from the United Nations.

 

Raphael Lemkin and the definition of genocide

 

The term “genocide” did not exist prior to 1943, when it was coined by a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin. Lemkin created the word by combining the Greek root “geno,” which means people or tribe, with “-cide,” derived from the Latin word for killing.

 

 

The Nuremberg trials, in which top Nazi officials were prosecuted for crimes against humanity, began in 1945 and were based around Lemkin’s idea of genocide. By the following year, it was becoming international law, according to United to End Genocide:

 

“In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that ‘affirmed’ that genocide was a crime under international law, but did not provide a legal definition of the crime.”

 

With support from representatives of the U.S., Lemkin presented the first draft of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to the United Nations. The General Assembly adopted the convention in 1948, although it would take three more years for enough countries to sign the convention, allowing it to be ratified.

 

According to this convention, genocide is defined as:

 

“…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

 

  • (a) Killing members of the group;

 

  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

 

  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

 

  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

 

  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

 

Under the convention, genocide is not merely defined as a deliberate act of killing, but can include a broad range of other harmful activities:

 

“Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.”

 

It can also include forced sterilization, forced abortion, prevention of marriage or the transfer of children out of their families. In 2008, the U.N. expanded the definition to acknowledge that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”

 

A Middle Eastern genocide

 

A key phrase in the convention on genocide is “acts committed with intent to destroy.” While the facts back up a massive death toll in Arab and Muslim lives, it might be more difficult to argue that the actions were carried out with the deliberate intent to destroy “a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

 

The authors of the convention were aware, however, that few of those who commit genocide are so bold as to put their policies in writing as brazenly as the Nazis did. Yet, as Genocide Watch noted in 2002: “Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts.”

 

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush employed a curious and controversial choice of words in one of his first speeches. He alarmed some by referencing historic, religious conflicts, as The Wall Street Journal staff writers Peter Waldman and Hugh Pope noted:

 

“President Bush vowed … to ‘rid the world of evil-doers,’ then cautioned: ‘This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.’

 

Crusade? In strict usage, the word describes the Christian military expeditions a millennium ago to capture the Holy Land from Muslims. But in much of the Islamic world, where history and religion suffuse daily life in ways unfathomable to most Americans, it is shorthand for something else: a cultural and economic Western invasion that, Muslims fear, could subjugate them and desecrate Islam.”

 

In the wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. not only killed millions, but systematically destroyed the infrastructure necessary for healthy, prosperous life in those countries, then used rebuilding efforts as opportunities for profit, rather than to benefit the occupied populations. To further add to the genocidal pattern of behavior, there is ample evidence of torture and persistent rumors of sexual assault from the aftermath of Iraq’s fall. It appears likely the U.S. has contributed to further destabilization and death in the region by supporting the rise of the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and Syria by arming rebel groups on all sides of the conflict.

 

After 9/11, the U.S. declared a global “War on Terror,” ensuring an endless cycle of destabilization and wars in the Middle East in the process. The vast majority of the victims of these wars, and of ISIS, are Muslims. And, as extremist terrorists created by the unrest increase tensions with their attacks on the West, some Americans are embracing Bush’s controversial language of religious warfare, calling for Muslims to be placed in camps or even openly calling for genocide.

 

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AL-ZABADAANI: TERRORIST RESISTANCE FAILING

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56 TERRORIST JACKALS KILLED IN LATAKIA; ZIAD’S INTERVIEW WITH DR. STAGGENBORG

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ZABADANIDAMASCUS:  There is some scuttlebutt concerning the death of the Rat King of Doumaa, Zahraan ‘Alloosh, but, no confirmation yet.  Oh, he’s going to die violently, to be sure, yet, maybe it’s not in our interest yet to see him fly off into another dimension.  You see, ’Alloosh is a doofus who leads his rats straight into a sea of lead.  We can’t afford to lose an idiot like that.

Al-Zabadaani:  The Syrian Army and its Lebanese allies in the Resistance have now totally secured and deloused the area around the Al-Faarooq Mosque and the MTN building creating more avenues to assault the remaining, quivering rodents in the northeast of the town.  Yesterday and today, the SAA killed 10 Ahraar Al-Shaam terrorist hyenas all of whom were foreigners, some Saudis.

‘Irbeen:  The SAAF pulverized a warehouse in which scores of ‘Allooshi rodents were gathered.  Based on excellent intelligence, Sukhois were deployed to the area and destroyed a 23mm cannon atop a Toyota flatbed and a missile launcher.  According to an aerial estimate and intercepted rodent communications, over 29 were killed in the aerial assault. This attack was one in which people began speculating that ‘Alloosh was also in the warehouse.

LATAKIA:

Ayn Al-‘Eedu:  In a multifaceted air assault on a large concentration of Nusra/Alqaeda rodents,  34 terrorists were confirmed killed by the SAAF.  Infantry followed up with an attack and an assessment:

Ayyoob Firtakli

Hishaam Muta’ Shihaab

Muhammad Al-Hammood

The rest were foreigners.

Salmaa Town area:  22  disease-carrying rodents killed in SAAF sorties yesterday as they were preparing to fire rockets at the city of Latakia using longer-ranged weapons provided by the Turks:

Hamda Ismaa’eel

Shafeeq ‘Abdul-Mutawakkil Al-Jamaali

Radhwaan Al-Ashqar

The rest are believed to be foreigners.

Kinsibba: 2 days ago, a missile launcher was destroyed by the SAA.  No other details.

Heavy fighting reported here:  West of Abu Reesha Village, Kitf Al-Hareeq, Jabal Al-Raab

HERE’S THE LINK TO ZIAD’S INTERVIEW WITH DR. RICK STAGGENBORG IN OREGON.  NOTE THAT THE TAPE HAD TO EDITED AND DUBBED BECAUSE OF TECHNICAL PROBLEMS:

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http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sfpiradio/2015/08/15/syria-versus-the-empire-of-chaos-with-ziad-fadel

Read more at http://syrianperspective.com/2015/08/al-zabadaani-terrorist-resistance-failing-56-terrorist-jackals-killed-in-latakia-ziads-interview-with-dr-staggenborg.html#3sKjvR8G3sF8F4Kv.99

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US Plans To Deploy Pentagon-Trained Syrian Rebels, Provide Air Cover

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In its ongoing struggle to contain ISIS, the Pentagon is about to deploy its second batch of “moderate” US-trained fighters.
Last month, reports surfaced that the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front had captured a large number of the 60 US-trained Syrian fighters sent to combat IS. Their capture highlighted just one of several key problems in the Pentagon’s plan to train so-called “moderate” rebels.

But despite this early failure, Washington is pushing forward with its plan, and will soon send a group of fighters to push IS away from the Turkish border.

“Although there has been some skepticism about it, it is far too early to write off this program,” a diplomatic source familiar with the program told Reuters. “Massive resources have been invested in this to make it work and we think it will work in the end.”

In many ways, that skepticism is valid. While the Pentagon initially hoped to train over 1,000 moderate fighters to combat the terrorist group in Syria, that number has dwindled considerably or the simple reason that the Pentagon is unable to find moderates.

“We are trying to recruit and identify people who…can be counted on…to fight, to have the right mindset and ideology,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the House Armed Services Committee in June.

“It turns out to be very hard to identify people who meet both of those criteria.”

Others noted that even if the plan were possible, it would take a decades-long commitment to achieve.

“The project is very slow…If it takes this long to train 60, it will take decades to get everyone ready,” Capt. Ammar Wawi told the BBC earlier this month.

There were also concerns that arming and training rebel groups could result in inadvertently aiding terrorists. The Nusra Front’s capture of fighters – and their equipment – seems to have proven those fears justified.

But the US and Turkey have a new plan to ensure that the new group proves more successful than the last: the two nations will provide air support.

A deal was struck last month which allows the US to conduct air strikes against IS from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. The first of those operations began earlier this month with a drone strike in northern Syria.

But as a number of US experts told Sputnik, air strikes may end up benefitting the Islamic State.

“So in effect, Obama, by his orders, has fully aligned the US with the hardcore Salafist-backers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to oust Assad and, ultimately, give ISIS [Islamic State] a beachhead on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean,” said Jeff Steinberg, senior editor of the Executive Intelligence Review.

The second group of fighters is currently undergoing training in Turkey by instructors from the US British military. Deployment may come in a matter of weeks, and while the precise coordinates will depend on “the latest battlefield dynamics,” according to the diplomatic source.

While Turkey has refused to comment on the program, US agencies have only reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the plan.

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Why The US Turns A Blind Eye To Saudi Arabia’s Troublemaking

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Medea Benjamin explains why Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive dicatatorships in the world, has America’s undying support.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah, left, stand together prior to a group photo before a US- Gulf Cooperation Council forum at the Gulf Cooperation Council Secretariat in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Medea Benjamin, founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

NOTHING gets US Republican Party politicians fired up like Iran.

In the first televised debate for candidates competing to lead the Republicans in the 2016 presidential election,Scott Walker promised that he’d tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorinablamed the country for “most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East.” Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the “terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”

Oddly, when the candidates complain about the “evil forces of radical Islam” or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s no democratic paradise. But on many counts, Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse. The Saudi royals crush dissent with an iron fist, spread extremist ideology, and invade their neighbors with impunity.

Domestically, the Saudi regime oppresses women, religious minorities, and millions of foreign workers. And it brutally represses criticism from human rights activists, prompting condemnation from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, for example, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes just for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in prison — including Badawi’s lawyer, who was sentenced to 15 years for his role as a human rights attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism.

Saudi women aren’t permitted to appear in public without adhering to a strict dress code. They need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport, and they’re prohibited from driving.

The penalties for defiance are steep.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use, and sorcery. It has conducted over 100 public beheadings this year alone.

Meanwhile, the Saudi monarchy has used its military and financial might to impose its will throughout the Middle East.

In 2011, Saudi tanks invaded neighboring Bahrain and brutally crushed that nation’s budding pro-democracy movement. Two years later, the Saudis backed a coup in Egypt that killed over 1,000 people and saw over 40,000 political dissidents thrown into squalid prisons.

In their latest military intervention, the Saudis have used American-made cluster bombs and F-15 fighter jets in a bombing campaign over Yemen that’s killed and injured thousands of civilians and created a severe humanitarian crisis.

All the while, they’ve helped export an extremist interpretation of Islam around the globe. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

Despite all these abuses, Saudi Arabia has been a key US ally for decades. Why?

One reason is oil: Saudi Arabia is the world’s second largest producer, trailing only the United States itself.

Another is the arms trade: The country is the largest purchaser of American-made weapons. In 2010, the US government concluded a $60.5 billion arms deal with the Saudis — the largest in history. This means that for years to come, US weapons will be used by the Saudis to maintain their repressive rule and impose their will on neighboring countries.

A third reason, ironically, is Iran. Since 1979, Washington has pursued a policy of building up the Saudi military as a counterweight to Iran’s revolutionary government.

For Republican presidential candidates, this primary season is all about vilifying Iran. While they beat up on the White House for making peace with America’s enemies, maybe voters should ask them more questions about America’s friends.

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92-Year-Old Woman Kicked Out Of Church For Not Tithing

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A 92-year-old woman is no longer allowed to worship at the church where she was a member for more than 50 years because she was not tithing.

A 92-year-old woman is no longer allowed to worship at the church where she was a member for more than 50 years because she was not tithing.

Josephine King said that was the reason she was kicked out of Bainbridge’s First African Baptist Church.

Her family members said they hope the situation will bring change to churches across the nation.

“Josephine King is no longer considered a member of the First African Baptist Church of Bainbridge, Georgia,” read Gerald Simmons, as he skimmed over the letter addressed to his aunt.

The letter, signed by Senior Pastor Derrick Mike, stated that Ms. King “has shown non-support” towards the church in the areas of “constant and consistent financial and physical participation.”

“She was stunned. She was disappointed. She was shocked,” said Simmons.

He said Ms. King was considered sick and a shut-in for several months, which was the reason for her lack of attendance.

He also said his aunt had gone above and beyond in the past to financially support the church.

“You shouldn’t chase the individuals down,” said Simmons. “You shouldn’t do that. If that’s the case, you’re money hungry.”

Simmons also noted that his aunt isn’t the first person to receive a letter of removal for not tithing, and hopes her story will shed some light on the policy.

“You have to have money to make these churches run, but it’s not about money,” Simmons said. “It’s about God. You have to put God first.”

Several requests for comment from the church were made, but no responses by officials or other members were given.

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Anti-Hillary: Across the Spectrum

NOVANEWS

by ANDREW LEVINE

For three decades or more, politicians and pundits have been proclaiming the end of the left-right spectrum. The terms left, right and center, they say, are irrelevant or are rapidly becoming so. They are meaningless descriptions of ideas, policies and practices.

This has always been an exaggeration at best – concocted to serve the interests of economic and political elites intent on diminishing challenges to the status quo. The challenges that concern them come from the left.

For proponents of a “third way” – Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, for example, and other like-minded figures associated with historically leftwing or left-leaning political parties – blathering on about the irrelevance of the old spectrum was a more or less transparent subterfuge, part of a larger, generally successful, effort to shift politics to the right.

For others, there was no skullduggery involved. This was just how the world seemed.

But fashions change. The analytical advantages of the purportedly superseded left-right spectrum are becoming obvious again. It has been useful for understanding politics and reflections on politics for more than two hundred years. It still is.

Even so, there seem to be more issues than there used to be where left, right, and (some) centrist positions converge.

For example, there appers to be substantial agreement at the two ends of the spectrum and in sectors of the center, that the country and the world would be better off if somebody other than Hillary Clinton were to become the next President of the United States.

Clinton will almost certainly be the next President anyway. Hardly anyone is happy about this. But, for most Americans, this unhappiness has more to do with feelings than ideas; it is not particularly ideological, reasoned, or even well informed. They just don’t like Hillary, but will vote for her anyway – faute de mieux – because they see no better option.

She is likely to win because our elections are about selling candidates to voters. The hucksters behind Hillary have a poor product to sell.   At some level, they know this and so does everybody else. But, for many reasons that make for a long and complicated story, best not gone into here, she is coming into this election season with a market share to lose.

Bernie Sanders is drawing the crowds, but Hillary nevertheless has a leg up on him and everyone else in the contest to become the Democratic nominee. After that, with the Republicans running one or another buffoon, it will be clear sailing ahead.

But regardless how sure the outcome is, regardless of the fact that feelings seem to matter more than judgments to which reasons can be attached, it is worthwhile exploring the reasons behind anti-Hillary sentiments.

These reasons surely do play some role, even if only beneath the surface. In any case, it is instructive to reflect upon them in their own right. The reasons differ across the spectrum, but they all point to the same conclusion.

There are some who think that Hillary inspires enmity because she is a woman, and running for President is an uppity thing for a woman to do. There is surely something to this. America has been “exceptional” – even in comparison to countries where patriarchal attitudes are far more salient – in keeping the highest office in the land under exclusively male control.

It is far from clear, though, how deliberate this has been. The fault almost certainly lies more with the filtering mechanisms inherent in the exceptionally undemocratic electoral institutions that shape our so-called democracy at the national level than with any socially constructed infrangible “glass ceiling.”

At the two poles of the spectrum and at key point in the center, the fact that Hillary is a Clinton is more important than that she is a woman.

Indeed, in many peoples’ minds, she and her husband are, for all practical purpose, one and the same.

There are liberals, well represented in the media, for whom this is a plus. But for almost everyone else, it is at least a somewhat negative factor that becomes effectively dispositive at the two poles of the continuum and at a point in between.

Linking Hillary and Bill together might seem unfair. After all, they are distinct individuals, held together by a shared (and troubled) marital and political history — not integral parts of a supra-individual, indivisible entity with a common soul.

However, from a political (not metaphysical or psychological) point of view, the Clinton spousal connection does indeed run deep enough to justify thinking of the two of them as if they are essentially the same.

Of the two bodies that share the Clinton soul, Hillary’s is plainly the more inept.

Early on in her tenure as First Lady, she took the lead on health care reform. Characteristically, she bollixed that effort up badly enough to set the cause back a generation.

She couldn’t even get what Obama got two decades later: insurance reforms that extend coverage somewhat, but that also secure the interests of Big Pharma, private insurance companies, and health care profiteers.

After failing at that, Hillary involved herself mainly in women’s and children’s’ issues. Her publicists are now playing her commitment to women and children up for all it is worth.

Needless to say, nothing much came of her efforts. How could it? A First Lady is an unelected spouse, not a public official. Her actions can only be symbolic, except when her husband effectively deputizes her to act on his behalf. After her failure with health care reform, which was supposedly Bill Clinton’s signature program, the deputizations were slow in coming.

We are told that nevertheless, she remained a power behind the throne: almost a co-President. No doubt, this too is an exaggeration.

What is beyond dispute is that it would take a keen eye indeed to discern policy disagreements between Hillary and Bill. Fifteen years after the end of the Clinton era, no examples have come to light.

Back in the eighties, from their perch in Arkansas where Bill was Governor, the Clintons were actively involved in “third way” efforts to refashion the Democratic Party. Hillary is said to have played a role in that as well, and she probably did.

Behind the scenes politicking doesn’t earn brownie points on a résumé, so we may never know for sure just how important her role was. But what else would explain why she was considered an administration heavyweight from the moment the Clintons moved into the White House?

As First Lady, Hillary performed the required duties. But despite her much publicized efforts to channel Eleanor Roosevelt, she was no more like her than Mamie Eisenhower or Nancy Reagan.

To this day, it is not clear how much of the gravitas surrounding Hillary, especially at first, was anything more than a public relations triumph, unconnected to demonstrable accomplishments.

What is clear is that parachuting Hillary into a Senate race in New York, a state to which she had no prior connection, on the basis of her political apprenticeship as First Lady, was, to put it mildly, a stretch.

No matter. She won the election. This was bound to happen, once she became the anointed nominee. A predictably lackluster Senate career ensued.

Memories of Bill were still too vivid in 2004 for her to vie for the Democratic nomination then. 2008 was to have been Hillary’s year, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Barack Obama’s time in the Senate was even shorter than Hillary’s and his record there was also undistinguished. But as he was a more charismatic figure and a better campaigner, his campaign put the kibosh on hers. This was probably a good thing. For all Obama’s shortcomings as a leader, he is clearly the more capable of the two.

Hillary fought the primary battles to the end, even though it had become clear early on that she was bound to lose. Nevertheless, for reasons that defy understanding, Obama made her his Secretary of State. She started off doing a lackluster job at that post too. It all went downhill from there.

It is better now that Hillary is gone, but foreign policy is not, and never has been, the Obama administration’s strong suit. This isn’t all Obama’s fault. George Bush and Dick Cheney had broken the Middle East and then passed it on to him.

Nevertheless, as Brother Jeb can’t point out often enough, it was on Obama’s watch that the present terrible fully came to be – in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and throughout the entire region.

It is not clear how to apportion blame, but there is no doubt that at least some of it, probably quite a lot of it, can be attached to the clueless machinations of the jefa suprema at the Department of State between 2009 and 2013. In addition to the “humanitarian” interventions – the one in Libya being the most disastrous – and the incoherent meddling in the Arab Spring, the American foreign policy establishment, with Hillary in the lead, has made one colossal mess. The consequences are still unfolding – and becoming worse all the time. But for the greater wisdom and competence of their Russian counterparts, the Department of State would have done even more harm in reviving Cold War tensions too.

Luckily for Hillary, the full extent of the damage America’s mindless policies (especially in Syria) did not become apparent until she left the State Department in order to move on to serious “fund raising.” The Clintons know how to get top dollar for the political clout they wield.

Liberal pundits look at Hillary’s years as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State and see a past that qualifies her many times over for the office she seeks. But some on the left, the right and in key sectors of the center, people look at the same résumé and see disaster ahead. With good reason!

Count on it: Obama will start to look good just as soon as the weight of another Clinton presidency begins to register. Hillary Clinton is Obama’s best hope for leaving a positive legacy.

The reason for this is not just Hillary’s incompetence. Her abilities (or lack of them) account, for only a small part of the varieties of anti-Clinton feeling at various positions on the political spectrum.

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Right and Center

On the right, two factors are at work – one is estimable, the other not so much.

It is hard to situate the Tea Party demographic, or, insofar as there is a difference, people who might actually vote for Donald Trump, along a left-right spectrum. But the politicians they elect to represent them do cluster solidly around the farther right pole.

For the present purpose, it is therefore fair to place people who vote for Tea Party types — and people who would vote for them if they voted at all – on the right, even if their views are for the most part more reflexive than deeply considered.

These voters and non-voters cut rightwing Republican politicians a lot of slack. But for politicians anywhere else on the spectrum, they do have a knack for sniffing out phonies. Since there are few politicians phonier than the Clintons, this is as good a reason as any to get behind “the vast rightwing conspiracy” of which Hillary has famously complained.

As the quip goes, the Clintons give opportunism a bad name. Acting on principle goes against their nature; when they lie and prevaricate, they are true to form. From the moment the Clintons became political figures on the national scene, they have therefore rubbed people in the Tea Party demographic the wrong way. Liberals are too dense to see it

The other, less estimable reason why the Clintons draw the enmity of the right is that they came to be identified with the side in the culture wars of the eighties and early nineties that genuine conservatives (along with less reputable rightwingers) had vehemently opposed.

This was partly their own fault: they helped refashion the fault lines of American politics in a way that made political identities depend less on class interests and more on views about such matters as abortion and prayer in schools.

On economic policy issues and other matters of fundamental political concern such as foreign and military policy, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have long been of one mind.

Republicans were, and still are, generally more servile to corporate interests than Democrats, but not in a way or to a degree that would stir political passions. To the very considerable extent that the Clintons got their way, the traditional Sturm und Drang of political contestation took on an almost exclusively cultural turn. It is in part thanks to them that all that was left of liberalism was social liberalism, and even this was narrowed down to sexual politics and related issues.

In reality, the Clintons did little, if anything, actually to advance gender or sexual equality. Quite the contrary. But they were able to make themselves appear as actively involved on the side of the angels.

It was much the same with race.   No President did more to dismantle welfare state institutions and union protections essential for maintaining the well-being and improving the conditions of the vast majority of African-Americans and other “people of color.” And yet, to an alarming degree, to this day, many African-Americans still give the Clintons a pass.

The absurdity peaked when Toni Morrison called Bill “our first black President.”   It doesn’t get more ridiculous than that – though, compared to the real black President we have had since 2009, Morrison’s comment no longer seems quite so off-base.

There is an historical parallel for this.

African American attitudes towards the Clintons resemble Jewish attitudes towards FDR a half-century earlier. Roosevelt did almost nothing substantive to help European Jewry in the thirties and after World War II began – or, for that matter, to diminish discrimination against Jews within the United States.

But through good personal and working relations with a few conspicuously prominent Jews, he did change the atmosphere to a considerable extent. The man who refused to let all but a handful of Jewish refugees enter the United States and who refused to bomb the train tracks leading into Auschwitz is remembered fondly to this day.

Now that Black Lives Matter has brought institutional racism back into public awareness, it is becoming hard not to see how little the Clintons actually did to advance racial dignity and equality.

On the Right, though, truth doesn’t matter; appearance is all.

* * *

Centrist anti-Hillary sentiment has more to do with the enervating effects of having the Clintons around for so long and the prospect of having four or eight more years of them at center stage. How else to explain the sudden eruption of support for Joe Biden?

The man is a Clintonite at heart; one who is, all the evidence suggests, even more inept – and certainly more daft — than Hillary herself.

Before he became associated with Obama, right-wing Zionists loved him. But it was not only them: the man is drawn to right-wing émigré groups like a moth around a flame.

This became particularly evident in the late nineties, when the Clintons were superintending the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Central to the process as it unfolded, was the demonization of Serbs and the glorification of Croats and other ethnic groups who were traditionally hostile toward them. Before and during World War II, fascist political currents made significant inroads within some of these communities. This influence survived after the war ended, particularly in émigré circles, where, following Israel’s example and the lead of like-minded counterparts from Latin America, they courted American politicians with zeal. Biden was uncommonly eager to oblige.

But even granting that his views on foreign policy are no worse than the average Democrat’s, for Democrats to dump Hillary for Joe would be like dumping Hillary for Hillary, or rather for someone even worse but worse in the same way. Moreover, they wouldn’t even receive the benefit of breaking a glass ceiling for their trouble.

Yet, for many, this seems like a reasonable, albeit desperate, move. Compared to four or eight more years of Hillary and Bill, they may be right.

Then there is Al Gore. There is even talk of resurrecting him.

Liberals still won’t admit it – they’d still rather blame Ralph Nader – but, in the heat of battle, it would be hard to deny that Gore threw the election that set George W. Bush loose upon the world.

Gore ran a poor campaign in the year 2000. Before 9/11 and with the dot-com bubble still resonating, it took some effort on his part to lose.

And in every sense but the one that matters, he didn’t lose. Gore won the popular vote. He lost the election because he lost in the Electoral College, but he shouldn’t have.  That took some effort on his part too.

It has been clear, almost from the moment that five Republican Supreme Court Justices handed the victory to the House of Bush that Gore ought to have been awarded Florida’s electoral votes. This would have put him over the top. But he and his minions were outfoxed by Bush family fixers.

There would have been no need for a recount in Florida, had he won in his own state, Tennessee, and had he permitted Bill Clinton to campaign for him – even if only in Arkansas, Clinton’s home state.

For whatever reason, Gore preferred not to press his case vigorously enough to prevail.

However, past history is not the main reason why Democratic Party centrists would have to be desperate enough – and full of anti-Hillary fervor — before turning to Al Gore.

Gore is as much a bona fide neoliberal and de facto neocon as Hillary. But his later-day (post Vice Presidential) prominence as an environmentalist and, to a lesser extent, as an entrepreneur in soft-liberal broadcasting ventures, would displease the Democratic Party’s paymasters almost as much as the thought that Bernie Sanders might become the Party’s nominee.

In addition, Gore has been feuding more or less openly with the Clintons since he ran for President in 2000. A Gore attempt at winning the nomination would be perceived as unfriendly within Democratic Party ranks.

Were the Democrats to turn to Gore again, it would be an act of sheer anti-Hillary desperation. This is why they will leave Al Gore on the back burner unless and until both Hillary and Biden crap out. In all likelihood, once the idea is floated, it will soon be forgotten.

Too bad: a Gore versus Clinton contest would make for a more interesting spectacle than anything involving Joe Biden. And in our electoral circuses, spectacle is all there is to look forward to.

Most likely, with no more suitable candidates than Biden or Gore in the wings, we can expect anti-Hillary centrists to bite the bullet and grudgingly accept the inevitable. At appropriate moments, they will probably even pretend to be enthusiastic, fearing that voters’ reluctance to elect whichever walking joke the Republicans field will not be enough to keep them in power.

They should be up to the task. If Democrats are good at anything, it is deluding themselves about lesser evils.

The View from the Left    

From the time of the French Revolution, when the more radical delegates to the National Assembly seated themselves to the left of the presiding officer, Left has designated a relatively stable, though evolving and multi-faceted, political orientation.   Right took on a corresponding, contrary meaning. What these words signify is impossible to explain precisely, although the difference is generally understood because an idealized notion of the left/right spectrum has been recognized, more or less explicitly, by nearly everyone for more than two hundred years. The Left is dedicated to continuing the French Revolutionaries’ commitment to “liberty, equality, and fraternity (community).” Tradition, authority and order are core values for the Right. The Left is generally indifferent, and sometimes hostile, towards those commitments. Socialists, anarchists and some liberals are on the Left; conservatives are usually, though not necessarily, on the Right. This is the meaning of Left I have in mind.

Left, right and center are also spatial metaphors, and therefore relational notions, defined by contrast to one another. This is why they have no fixed meaning. It is also why political parties and social movements, no matter where they fit on an idealized left-right spectrum, have their own left, right and center wings.

Nowadays, there is little of the Left left in the prior sense of the term – especially, but by no means only, in the United States.

Democratic Party cheerleaders, like the ones on in the evenings on MSNBC, are on the left only in relation to the rest of the spectrum. And while they aren’t especially enthusiastic over Hillary – not at this point, anyway – they are fine with her candidacy.

On the notional Left, however, the story is very different: the problem with the Clintons is not that they are on the wrong side of the old culture wars. If anything, they are on the right side, but not vigorously enough – and, like Barack Obama, only when the polls say it is safe.

That they are rank opportunists, and that they make even people who agree with them yearn for anything other than more of them – even a Biden or a Gore – is not the problem either. It is not the main problem, anyway.

The main problem with the Clintons is their Clintonism. Because the Clintons are not exactly thinkers or innovators, adding an ism to their name seems inapt. The term is unfortunate – in much the way that, say, “Thatcherism” or “Reaganism” is. But, then, it is even more inapt to call, say, architectural styles “Victorian.” Queen Victoria was no architect; she never designed anything of consequence. However, she was on the throne at a time when architecture took certain turns that have come to be associated with her name. At least the Clintons did something to implement Clintonism. So did Thatcher and Reagan with the isms associated with their names. Indeed, what the three of them did was of a piece.

Thatcher and Reagan superintended the neoliberal turn.   They didn’t invent privatization or deregulation, and they were hardly alone in wanting to break the back of their countries’ labor movements or in dismantling their welfare states. But the great transformation happened on their watch, and it has become customary to name what came out of it after them.

Thatcher and Reagan (or rather the people around them) thought of it and they believed in it. But they were not very good at putting it into practice because they could never bring the opposition along. Even in a democracy as pale as ours, this does matter.

This is why, for Reaganite or Thatcherite politics to have its day, Left or, in the American case, left-leaning political parties have to cooperate. Any obstacles in the way must either be removed or neutralized. This is the essence of Clintonism; it is Reaganism for Democrats. And it is particularly pernicious on this account.

All Democrats are now Clintonites. If they were to have no further effect on our political life, this would be the Clintons’ legacy.

But then why abhor Hillary more than any of the others? There really is only one good reason: because, in this case, the legacy is so egregious that guilt by association is, if not entirely reasonable, at least understandable and appropriate.

It is the same with Jeb Bush. In his own right, he is probably no more noxious than his rivals for the GOP nomination. He is a thoroughly risible figure – in the tradition of his family – and is no more ridiculous than the other Republican candidates.

But he is George W’s brother, and George W. was the worst President ever. George W. broke the world, the Middle East especially, and he trashed the Constitution. The consequences of his eight years in office are still unfolding. We may not yet have seen the worst of them.

This is why a vote for Jeb is a vote for Bush in more than just the obvious sense. It is a vote for the torture and surveillance order established under his brother’s aegis and for the perpetual war regime he launched.

Similarly, whatever she says to get elected, a vote for Clinton, is a vote for Clintonism – if only because she was married to the man who Clintonized the Democratic Party. However, it is worse than that: she helped him do the job, and she is doing it still.

A vote for Clinton is a vote for austerity, for imperialism, and for the augmented perpetual war regime established under her tenure as Secretary of State.

In the United States today, smashing Clintonism should be the (notional) Left’s highest priority.

Stopping Hillary in her tracks and making sure that, at long last, we finally do see the back of her and her better half is an indispensable step towards this end.

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