Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: New Republic (7-15-09)
What we are witnessing right now in the streets of Tehran is, first and foremost, a political battle for the future of the Iranian state. But closely linked to this political fight is also an old theological dispute about the nature of Shiism--a dispute that has been roiling Iran for more than a century.
Shiism, like most religions, is no stranger to heated schisms. Shia and Sunnis split over the question of whether Muhammad had designated his son-in-law, Ali, as his successor (Shia believed he had). Some Shia, called Alawites, believe the only divinely designated successor was Ali, while another group, Zaydis, believe there were four imams. A large, intellectually vibrant third group is known as the Ismailis because it believes the line of imams ended with the seventh, Ismail. And the largest Shia sect is called the Ithna Ashari--or the Twelvers. Dominant in Iran, they believe in twelve imams and posit that the last imam went into hiding some 1,100 years ago. His return, bloody and vengeful, will mark the redemptive dawn of the age of justice.
It is within this branch that a further split took place beginning in the late nineteenth century--the moment when the Iranian elite began to confront the challenge of modernity. Ideas like rationalism, individualism, constitutionalism, rule of law, equality, democracy, secularism, privacy, and separation of powers began to find currency in Iran's political discourse. By 1905, these ideas, prevalent primarily among the intelligentsia, led to the Constitutional Revolution--the first of its kind in the Muslim world. The Shia clergy were faced with a historic challenge not unlike what the Catholic Church experienced with the advent of the Renaissance. How two rival ayatollahs reacted to that challenge would divide Iranian Shiism--and lay the groundwork for what is taking place today.
Over the years, many scholars, both in Iran and the West, have argued over the years that Shiism shares less with Islam than with pre-Islamic Persian ideas. They point to the fact that, while Iran became Muslim in the seventh century, it refused to accept Arabic as its language. Islam won the battle, these historians argue, but pre-Islamic ways and values won the war by surviving in a Shia veneer. As an example, they cite the Zoroastrian belief in messianic eschatology. The messianic role of the twelfth imam, they say, is essentially a Muslim version of the same Zoroastrian idea. Shiism, according to this view, is really a thinly disguised form of Iranian nationalism. And this helps explain why so much of Iran's political debate has over the years played out in the realm of theology....
Posted on: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 20:57
SOURCE: Asia Pacific Journal (6-22-09)
Although the worldwide campaign against nuclear weapons was in the doldrums during the early 1970s, the antinuclear movement maintained a lively presence in the Pacific, largely in response to nuclear testing in that region. Spurning the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the French government continued atmospheric nuclear testing on Moruroa in the South Pacific, sending deadly radioactive clouds drifting across Pacific island nations. In response, New Zealand activists began defying the French government during 1972 by sailing small vessels into the test zone. Joining the fray, the New Zealand Federation of Labour pledged a strict ban on French goods and the Labour Party took a principled stand against continued nuclear testing, leading to its election victory that November. In Australia, thousands joined protest marches in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney; scientists issued statements demanding an end to the tests; unions refused to load French ships, service French planes, or carry French mail; and consumers boycotted French products. In Fiji, activists formed an Against Testing on Moruroa organization, which, in 1974, began planning a regional antinuclear conference.
Nuclear testing in the Pacific also triggered the establishment of Greenpeace. In 1971, Jim Bohlen and Irving Stowe, two antiwar Americans who had relocated to Vancouver, Canada during the Vietnam War, decided to sail a ship north to Amchitka Island, off Alaska to protest U.S. government plans to explode nuclear weapons there. En route, the crew read of a Cree grandmother's 200-year-old prophecy that there would come a time when all the races of the world would unite as Rainbow Warriors, going forth to end the destruction of the earth. Deeply moved, the crew enlisted in that cause. Although U.S. authorities arrested the crew members as they approached the nuclear test site, thousands of cheering supporters lined the docks in Vancouver upon their return. Bohlen and Stowe embarked on another voyage to Amchitka and, although they failed to reach it before the U.S. government exploded its nuclear bomb, a new movement had been born. In New Zealand, a former Canadian, David McTaggart, convinced Canada's Greenpeace group that he should sail his yacht into France's nuclear testing zone around Moruroa. When he arrived with a crew in June 1972, a French minesweeper, at the order of the French government, rammed and crippled the ship. But McTaggart returned with a new ship and crew the following year.
Government officials from nuclear nations viewed these ventures with alarm. Thoroughly contemptuous of those he derided as "peaceniks," U.S. President Richard Nixon stepped up FBI and CIA spying upon peace organizations and the disruption of their activities. By the early 1970s, the CIA's Operation Chaos had targeted over a thousand U.S. organizations and 200,000 individuals. Angered by the opposition of scientists to nuclear tests on Amchitka and to other administration programs, Nixon abolished the President's Science Advisory Committee. French officials, too, were quite hostile. When McTaggart and his crew returned to the international waters that the French government had staked out for its nuclear test zone, French sailors boarded their ship, beat them savagely with truncheons, and threw their cameras and other equipment overboard.
The agitation of the early 1970s did produce some results. New Zealand's new Labour government dispatched a stiff letter of protest to the French authorities, condemning their plans for nuclear testing. Moreover, joined by its Australian counterpart, it went to the International Court of Justice to seek an injunction against the French tests. When the French refused to accept the court's jurisdiction, the New Zealand government, following the trail blazed by antinuclear activists, dispatched two protest vessels to the French testing zone, one with a cabinet minister on board. Although the French government refused to halt its nuclear tests during 1973 and 1974, it grew increasingly rattled. Near the end of the latter year, it announced that it had finally abandoned atmospheric nuclear testing.
There were other concessions to activism, as well. In October, 1975, the governments of New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea sponsored a proposal at the United Nations for a South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, a plan endorsed by the world body that December. Countervailing pressure from the U.S. government, however, plus conservative election victories in New Zealand and Australia, undermined this project. Nevertheless, the tide was beginning to turn. Even the hostile Nixon administration, acting for what a U.S. government spokesperson called "political and other reasons," responded to the Greenpeace campaign by canceling the remaining U.S. nuclear tests on Amchitka. Eventually, it turned the island into a bird sanctuary.
During the latter part of the decade, antinuclear activism accelerated. In Australia, the disarmament campaign developed obliquely, thanks to the growth of widespread public opposition to uranium mining. In this uranium-rich country, critics of such mining pointed out that it caused radioactive contamination of the environment, encouraged the growth of dangerous nuclear reactors, and provided the raw material for the building of nuclear weapons. In 1979, activists formed the Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM), which drew the backing of both the Australian Congress of Trade Unions and the Labor Party. Campaigning against uranium mining, MAUM came around to championing nuclear disarmament, as well. Indeed, it joined disarmament groups in protesting French nuclear testing, calling for a nuclear-free Pacific, and sponsoring Hiroshima Day activities. In turn, disarmament groups endorsed MAUM's anti-uranium campaign. The two themes for the 1980 Hiroshima Day march and rally in Sydney were: "Keep uranium in the ground" and "No to nuclear war." Later that year, the Sydney city council officially proclaimed Sydney nuclear-free, an action similar to that taken by numerous other municipal councils throughout Australia.
In New Zealand, public protest developed over the visits of U.S. nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered warships. In late 1975, calling for nonviolent action to make New Zealand "an island of sanity in an ocean of peace," the Rev. George Armstrong, an Auckland peace activist and theologian, proposed the development of Peace Squadrons to block their entry.
As a result, when a U.S. nuclear warship, the Truxton, arrived at Wellington, it was met by a small Peace Squadron, as well as by a union ban on the waterfront, which prevented it from berthing. Similarly, in October 1976, when the U.S. nuclear cruiser Long Beach arrived at Auckland, a Peace Squadron of some 150 small yachts, dinghies, canoes, and kayaks obstructed its passage, as did individual surfboarders, flying the nuclear disarmament symbol. As the confrontations grew more intense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and other groups joined the Peace Squadrons in seeking a court injunction to block future visits by nuclear warships. Joining the controversy, the leader of the Labour opposition fervently committed his party to the struggle for a nuclear-free Pacific. Meanwhile, the confrontations heightened. In 1979, when the Haddo, a U.S. nuclear submarine, rammed its way into Auckland's harbor, sinking a number of small protest craft, one activist—to the delight of the demonstrators—managed to board the nuclear behemoth. According to a news account: "Like Zorba the Greek he began a dance, half of defiance, half of joy on the very nose of the incoming sub." By 1980, nuclear disarmament groups were emerging throughout New Zealand.
In Japan, too, the movement was on the upswing. Sokka Gakkai, a peace-oriented Buddhist group, held antinuclear exhibitions in Japan's cities and gathered 10 million signatures on petitions calling for nuclear abolition. The most important factor behind Japan's antinuclear revival, however, was the shift toward greater unity in the divided nuclear disarmament movement, spurred on by the entreaties of non-political citizens' groups and by the approach of the 1978 U.N. Special Session on Disarmament. In May 1977, Gensuikyo and Gensuikin, the two mass anti-nuclear organizations, agreed to hold a united world conference against atomic and hydrogen bombs, and to establish a unified delegation for the U.N. gathering. Although organizational unity proved elusive, joint world conferences occurred in subsequent years and the joint delegation to the 1978 U.N. conclave brought with it a nuclear abolition petition containing 19 million Japanese signatures.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, a variety of nuclear hazards contributed to the growth of disarmament activism. In the Philippines, a lively, popular antinuclear campaign was organized in the late 1970s to protest the construction of a giant nuclear power plant on the slope of a live volcano in Morong, Bataan. Although constrained by martial law imposed by the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the movement mobilized thousands of local Filipinos against the project and, gradually, began taking on nuclear weapons issues, as well. Furthermore, in 1979, in the Marshall Islands, some 500 people staged a nonviolent occupation of eight islands from which they had been forcibly evicted years before by the U.S. military to accommodate U.S. nuclear missile tests. That same year, in Palau—another small island trust territory, located in the Caroline Islands—92 percent of the voters in a U.N. referendum endorsed a constitution, drafted in preparation for independence, that would make the island nuclear-free. As U.S. officials had nuclear plans for the island, they declared the U.N. referendum unofficial, and sponsored a second ballot, this time on a constitution without the nuclear ban. Despite a massive U.S. public relations campaign, Palau's voters rejected this U.S.-imposed constitution and, then, proceeded to adopt yet another nuclear-free charter for the island.
These events added momentum to the emerging nuclear-free movement throughout the Pacific. In April 1975, representatives of dozens of antinuclear organizations, meeting in Suva, Fiji, launched the Nuclear Free Pacific Movement. Its People's Charter called for prohibiting: the tests of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles; the presence of such weapons, support systems, or bases; nuclear reactors and waste storage; and uranium mining. Three years later, the Nuclear Free Pacific Movement held a second conference at Ponape, in the Caroline Islands, and in 1980 it convened again, in Honolulu. Sponsored by over 50 organizations from 20 Pacific and Pacific rim nations, the Honolulu conference voted to enlist the help of doctors to examine the people of the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia for radiation-caused illness, to mobilize international support for Palau, to oppose nuclear exercises and nuclear tests in the Pacific, and to work for a nuclear-free Pacific treaty. Activists were particularly outraged at the dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific by the great powers, which they perceived as yet another facet of colonialist exploitation. A popular Nuclear Free Pacific poster read: "If it's so safe, Dump it in Tokyo, Test it in Paris, Store it in Washington."
During the early 1980s, as hawkish governments in the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and elsewhere renewed the Cold War and threatened nuclear annihilation, the movement reached high tide.
In Japan, faced with the approach of the 1982 U.N. Special Session on Disarmament, Gensuikyo and Gensuikin, the major hibakusha organizations, labor federations, women's and youth associations, religious groups, and eminent individuals established the Japanese National Liaison Committee for Nuclear and General Disarmament. This set the stage for the greatest burst of antinuclear activism in Japanese history. Record numbers of people turned out for antinuclear rallies: 200,000 people in Hiroshima in March 1982 and 400,000 in Tokyo that May. Nuclear disarmament petitions were presented to the United Nations by the Liaison Committee (with 29 million signatures), by religious groups (with 36.7 million), and by political parties (with 16 million). Although the movement made little headway with the governing Liberal Democratic Party, other parties were far more responsive, and about two hundred local governments proclaimed themselves nuclear free. Furthermore, 76 percent of the public supported Japan's "three non-nuclear principles," (Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory) 86 percent wanted their government to promote abolition of nuclear weapons, and 58 percent opposed the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
Australia, like its counterparts elsewhere, experienced a phenomenal growth of nuclear disarmament activism. Antinuclear professional organizations sprang up, and hundreds of small, local antinuclear organizations appeared. Religious groups backed the campaign, as did women's groups, which established peace camps outside U.S. military bases and, in one case, staged a nonviolent invasion of a U.S. base and tore down its gates. Although the newly formed People for Nuclear Disarmament sought to coordinate activities at the state level and the Australian Coalition for Disarmament and Peace at the national one, the movement usually lacked central direction. Even so, the few united events illustrated its unprecedented popularity. On Palm Sunday 1982, an estimated 100,000 Australians took to the streets for antinuclear rallies in the nation's biggest cities. Growing year by year, the rallies drew 350,000 participants in 1985. For the most part, the movement focused on abolishing nuclear weapons, halting Australia's uranium mining and exports, removing foreign military bases from Australia's soil, and creating a nuclear-free Pacific. Surveys found that about half of Australians opposed uranium mining and exporting, as well as the visits of U.S. nuclear warships, that 72 percent thought the use of nuclear weapons could never be justified, and that 80 percent favored building a nuclear-free world.
In neighboring New Zealand, the movement attained even greater popularity. Older organizations like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were reinvigorated, while hundreds of newer ones were formed, including a crop of professional groups. Union, church, and Maori organizations joined the antinuclear campaign. In May 1983, 25,000 women participated in an antinuclear rally in Auckland—the largest public gathering of women in New Zealand's history. Continuing their program of resistance, Peace Squadrons sought to prevent visiting U.S. nuclear warships from entering their nation's harbors. In June 1982, when a U.S. cruiser tried to enter Wellington, maritime workers and seamen closed the port for three days through work stoppages, and 15,000 other workers halted labor for two hours to hold protest meetings. In August 1983, 50,000 people turned out for an anti-warship protest in Auckland. Meanwhile, a Nuclear Free Zone Committee pressed to have local governments proclaim their jurisdictions nuclear free. As a result, by 1984, 65 percent of New Zealanders lived in nuclear-free zones.
The New Zealand struggle reached a critical point during 1984-85. With the governing National Party (the conservatives) barely able to sustain an effective parliamentary majority against antinuclear resolutions, the prime minister scheduled an election for July 1984. Assuming that a warships ban (and the necessary revision of the Australia-New Zealand-United States alliance) would be unpopular, the Nationalists made the Labour party's antinuclear policy the centerpiece of their campaign. In turn, Labour and two minor parties spoke out vigorously for a nuclear-free New Zealand. On election day, 63 percent of the voters cast their ballots for the three antinuclear parties, catapulting Labour into power. Taking office as prime minister, David Lange announced a four-part program. It included barring nuclear weapons from New Zealand, halting French nuclear testing in the Pacific, blocking nuclear waste dumping in that ocean, and establishing the South Pacific as a nuclear-free zone. When the U.S. government requested entry for a nuclear-capable destroyer, Lange announced in January 1985 that the warship was banned from his country. Although U.S. officials and the opposition Nationalists bitterly condemned this action, it proved enormously popular. Between 1978 and early 1984, polls found that opposition to allowing nuclear armed ships into New Zealand's ports rose from 32 to 57 percent. And once Lange defied the United States, opposition soared to 76 percent. New Zealand had become a nuclear-free nation—and was proud of it.
Protest was rising elsewhere in Asia, as well. In the Philippines, the building of a giant nuclear power plant inspired growing opposition, as did U.S. military bases at Subic Bay and Clark Field, which housed nuclear-armed planes and warships. With the government's nominal lifting of martial law in 1981, representatives of church, labor, women's, student, and other groups organized the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, dedicated to halting construction of the power plant and closing down U.S. military bases. By early 1983, it claimed the support of 82 organizations. In South Korea, the presence of large numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons and the frightening promises of U.S. officials to employ them in a future war led to a growing public fear of nuclear disaster and protests by church groups. Furthermore, in India, a newly-formed Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy issued numerous public statements by prominent citizens warning against the activities of their nation's "nuclear bomb lobby" and pressed the government to reject nuclear weapons.
The antinuclear struggle reached a crescendo in the scattered island nations of the Pacific. Decades of western use of the region for thermonuclear explosions, nuclear missile tests, and nuclear warship ports, topped off by the latest great power nuclear confrontation, led to a surge of resistance among native peoples. In Fiji, church, union, and student organizations established the Fiji Anti-Nuclear Group to work for the creation of a nuclear-free Pacific. In Tahiti, thousands of people marched through the streets protesting French nuclear tests and demanding independence from France. On Kwajalein atoll, some 1,000 Marshall Islanders—reacting to a U.S. government plan to extend its military rights by fifty years—escaped their crowded squalor on Ebeye Island by staging "Operation Homecoming," an illegal occupation of eleven islands they had left years before to accommodate U.S. nuclear missile tests. In Palau, the U.S. government, stymied by that nation's antinuclear constitution, sponsored new referenda to overturn its antinuclear provision. When the third and fourth referenda proved unsuccessful, U.S. officials waged a $500,000 campaign to sway the nation's 7,000 voters in a fifth referendum. But the people of Palau stubbornly voted yet again to keep their islands nuclear free. Deeply resenting their mistreatment by the nuclear powers, delegates to the 1983 Nuclear Free Pacific conference renamed their organization the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement. By 1985, it had 185 constituent organizations.
In response to this tidal wave of protest, public policy changed dramatically in the Pacific. In New Zealand, the new Labour government of Prime Minister Lange not only defied Washington by barring nuclear-armed warships, but became a leading proponent of a comprehensive test ban treaty and of a South Pacific nuclear weapons-free zone. In Australia, after the victory of the Labor Party in the 1983 elections, the new prime minister, Bob Hawke, appointed Australia's first minister for disarmament, instructed Australia's representative at the United Nations to support a Nuclear Freeze resolution, withdrew his earlier offer to have Australia test the MX missile, and made his country into a key force in world efforts to secure a comprehensive test ban treaty. Moreover, New Zealand and Australia joined the other eleven nations of the South Pacific in negotiating the Treaty of Rarotonga, designed to prohibit the testing, production, acquisition, or stationing of nuclear weapons in the region. Although nations lacking antinuclear movements, such as China and Pakistan, made progress on their nuclear weapons programs during these years, the Japanese government—beset by waves of protest—proved more cautious, and Japan's "three non-nuclear principles" remained officially enshrined.
Even though nuclear arms control agreements and the waning of the Cold War led to a decline of the antinuclear campaign after 1985, it remained a powerful presence. In Australia, the 1986 Palm Sunday antinuclear rallies drew 250,000 people. Two years later, Australian protest flotillas blockaded the arrival of foreign nuclear warships. In Melbourne, the seamen's union boycotted the warships and even the prostitutes went on strike, announcing that the nuclear behemoths could "take their money, ships, bombs, and diseases and go home." In New Zealand, the renamed national movement, Peace Movement Aotearoa, served as the umbrella organization for about 300 peace groups working on projects that ranged from halting French nuclear testing to getting their town or city councils to declare their jurisdictions nuclear-free. The hottest issue, however, remained the Labour government's ban on nuclear warships. In August 1987, the warship ban provided the central issue in nationwide elections, which Labour won handily—its first re-election victory since 1938. At the same time, antinuclear protest raged in Palau, Fiji, the Marshall Islands, and India. Despite a police state atmosphere in South Korea, antinuclear ferment grew among student, women's, and religious groups. In 1986, the National Council of Churches called for the removal of all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. Protest even emerged in China. Enraged by the government's nuclear weapons tests at Lop Nur, in Xinjiang province, local Uighur people staged antinuclear demonstrations in Beijing and other Chinese cities. Polls throughout Asia and the Pacific found strong support for nuclear disarmament.
Not all governments were fond of the antinuclear campaign. Although the new Soviet party secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, courted nuclear disarmament activists, officials from the other nuclear powers remained venomously hostile. The administrations of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were particularly irate at resistance to their nuclear weapons programs, and did their best to discredit and destroy the movement.
To head off anticipated protest activities against French nuclear testing in the Pacific, the French government had its agents blow up the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, killing a Greenpeace photographer in the process.
Nevertheless, the "nuclear allergy" was spreading. The new Treaty of Rarotonga, adopted in August 1985 by the thirteen members of the South Pacific Forum, established the South Pacific as a nuclear-free zone. Scuttling arrangements for the testing and development of India's nuclear weapons, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi offered his nation's "Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear-Weapon-Free and Non-Violent World Order." In the Philippines, the government of Corazon Aquino—strongly influenced by growing antinuclear sentiment—adopted a constitution stating that the nation would henceforth be nuclear-free.
Despite some erosion of its strength, the nuclear disarmament movement remained a significant political factor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Powerful Filipino nationalist forces—including the press, the lawyers' group, and the peasant group—citing the nuclear-free provision in their nation's new constitution, grew increasingly vocal in their demand for the closure of the Subic and Clark Field U.S. military bases. Although China remained as repressive as ever, the largest Uighur protest yet against Chinese nuclear testing occurred in May 1992, when some 10,000 people reportedly demonstrated at Kashgar. In Palau, the population—responding once more to pleas by activists—voted down the latest attempt by the U.S. government to override that island nation's nuclear-free constitution.
The antinuclear ferment throughout the region continued to weigh heavily on U.S. officials, and contributed to new and far-reaching action by the administration of U.S. President George H.W. Bush. On September 27, 1991, Bush announced that all U.S. ground-based tactical nuclear weapons would be destroyed, all seaborne tactical nuclear weapons would be removed from U.S. warships, all U.S. strategic bombers (and some land-based strategic missiles) would be taken off alert, and plans for mobile ICBMs and short-range attack missiles would be canceled. Although Bush's extraordinary measures largely reflected his desire to set an example for the rapidly disintegrating Soviet Union, he was responding to the antinuclear movement, as well. According to Brent Scowcroft, his National Security Advisor, the weapons withdrawals resulted, in part, from pressures emanating from South Korea to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from its territory and from pressures by Japan and New Zealand to block the admission of nuclear warships to their ports.
These actions did not end the antinuclear turbulence. In India, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy joined with other concerned groups to urge the five declared nuclear powers to halt nuclear testing and move toward complete nuclear disarmament. In the Philippines, the popular clamor over nuclear weapons at U.S. military bases became so great that the Philippine legislature voted to close them down, thus ending nearly a century of U.S. military presence in that nation. As in previous decades, resistance to nuclear weapons was particularly widespread in Japan. Antinuclear activists in that nation circulated a new Appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, drawing nearly 50 million signatures by 1995. Out of 3,300 Japanese municipalities, 1964 proclaimed themselves nuclear-free zones by the end of that year. Meanwhile, Uighur protests against Chinese nuclear testing continued to erupt. In March 1993, when Chinese troops opened fire on a crowd of a thousand demonstrators outside the test site at Lop Nor, the enraged protesters stormed the complex—damaging equipment, setting fire to military vehicles and airplanes, and tearing down miles of electronic fencing.
A particularly dramatic wave of protest occurred in the mid-1990s, as the nuclear powers dithered over the movement's long-sought goal of a comprehensive test ban treaty. In June 1995, when France's new president, the conservative Jacques Chirac, announced that France was resuming nuclear testing in the Pacific that September, this proclamation unleashed what The Washington Post called a "Typhoon of Anger." Antinuclear rallies and protests sprang up around the world. Responding to appeals by disarmament groups, consumers boycotted French goods, irate citizens poured French wine into the gutters, and Australian unions refused to handle French cargo or French postal and telecommunication services. Sales of French wines and champagne plummeted in Australia and New Zealand, and polls in the latter nation found that public opposition to the resumption of French nuclear tests hit an astonishing 98 percent. In Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, 15,000 people turned out to welcome the arrival of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior II, then en route to another protest in Moruroa, and to call upon the French not to test. In France, thousands of Parisians demonstrated against their government's policy. In the United States, a coalition of 40 disarmament, religious, and environmental groups sparked a consumer boycott.
Confronted by this surge of antinuclear activism, the nuclear powers retreated. The French government abruptly cut short its test series and, abandoning its earlier insistence upon exempting low-yield nuclear tests from a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), suddenly announced that the future treaty should provide for "the banning of any nuclear weapon test." And this put the U.S. government on the spot. Impressed by the upsurge of public protest and no longer able to hide its own appetite for low-yield tests behind the stubbornness of the French, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton announced that, henceforth, it would work to secure a total cutoff of nuclear testing.
Things remained largely on track thereafter. Making the test ban its top priority in 1996, Greenpeace organized demonstrations, confrontations, and even a protest voyage to China, whose government, bowing to international pressure, announced in July 1996 that it was joining the worldwide testing moratorium. True to its promises, the Clinton administration did bring the other declared nuclear powers into line behind a CTBT. When India and Iran refused to cooperate, the Geneva negotiations broke down. But the Australian government brought the test ban treaty directly to the United Nations for endorsement. Pro-test ban groups around the world feverishly pressed their governments to back the Australian resolution. And at a U.N. General Assembly session of September 10, 1996, the representatives approved it by a vote of 158 to 3, opening the way for the CTBT's signature and ratification. Addressing the world body shortly after the vote, Madeline Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declared: "This was a treaty sought by ordinary people everywhere, and today the power of that universal wish could not be denied."
Of course, this antinuclear campaign in Asia and the Pacific comprised only one component of a vast, worldwide nuclear disarmament movement during the years from 1971 to 1996. Nevertheless, it sparked a massive popular mobilization throughout the region—one that had an important impact on public policy.
The signing of the CTBT in 1996 proved to be the worldwide movement's last major victory. Thereafter, the antinuclear campaign ebbed, with many disarmament organizations losing momentum or disappearing. In this more favorable climate for realizing their nuclear ambitions, three new nations—all in Asia—emerged as nuclear powers: India, Pakistan, and North Korea. In the United States, the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT, while the new president, George W. Bush, scrapped the ABM treaty, halted nuclear arms control and disarmament negotiations, and championed the development of new U.S. nuclear weapons.
Today, some 26,000 nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of the nine nuclear powers, with thousands on hair-trigger alert. Although U.S., Russian, and British nuclear arsenals are shrinking in size, those in the four Asian nuclear nations—China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—are growing, in large part because of tensions among them. This Asian arms race also has possibilities of bringing Japan into the nuclear club.
And yet, there remain possibilities for reversing this situation and getting nations back on track toward nuclear disarmament. The rising nuclear danger has led to a modest revival of antinuclear activism, particularly in India and Pakistan. In the United States, an outcry against the Bush administration’s plans for new nuclear weapons led Congress to reject all of them. Moreover, a surprising number of former (and some current) members of national security elites in numerous nations have made outspoken calls for serious efforts to create a nuclear-free world. During Barack Obama's successful U.S. presidential election campaign, he spoke out repeatedly for nuclear abolition. Furthermore, after his election, he reiterated this goal in major policy addresses and, also, advocated ratification of the CTBT, a treaty making deep cutbacks in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, and efforts to negotiate a halt to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, as indicated by the record of the mass nuclear disarmament movement and government response from 1971 to 1996, progress toward a nuclear-free world seems likely to require a very significant renaissance of antinuclear activism by the general public, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. As Frederick Douglass, a great leader of the U.S. antislavery campaign, once declared: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Posted on: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 13:52
SOURCE: TheCuttingEdgeNews.com (6-22-09)
In a frantic race with high winds, bone-chilling ice storms and rattled political nerves, the American defense establishment has been rushing to meet the threat now faced by Hawaii, Guam, Alaska and possibly the West Coast of the United States mainland—an advanced North Korean Taepodong-2 missile. The now-contested regime of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a full partner in the development.
Bellicose and prone to tantrums, North Korea’s bizarre strong man Kim Jong-Il has ordered a missile test of the new advanced Taepodong-2 missile, apparently in the direction of U.S. territory. Hawaii, Guam and Alaska are in the crosshairs. The defense establishment is convinced the decisive moment will once again come provocatively on America’s national holiday, July 4. This moment has been coming for more than a decade, and the Pentagon, North Korea and Iran have been preparing for it.
Alarm first sounded in 1999 when American defense officials realized that the Taepodong 1 missile, which doubled as an Iranian Shabab, was just the first phase of a decade-plus program by North Korea and Iran to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Named for the Taepodong village where it is developed, the long-range Tae-pondong-1 was capable of 2,000 km, enough to threaten its neighbors. But the new Taepodong-2 could achieve double that range, more than 4,000 km—most of the way to Hawaii—and was, therefore, approaching the status of ICBM. With the right wind conditions, this newer missile when further developed could reach the outer territories of the United States. If armed with a reduced-weight payload, and favorable weather conditions, a properly guided TD-2 could reach the United States, perhaps far inland, American defense planners feared.
What changed that made defense planners nervous in 1999? In the spring of that year, U.S. satellites detected that the North Koreans had completed a years-long upgrade to its Taepodong-1 launch site. The expanded facilities could host the longer-range and taller-standing Taepodong-2. Specifically, the pad gantry umbilical tower (rising some 22 meters) was extended by about 10 meters to 33 meters tall to accommodate the taller missile. By late 1999, the firing installation had been almost fully retrofitted; but the new, more powerful missile had not been ferried to the launch pad for a test. That process takes two days of tedious testing and a small squadron of liquid fuel tanker trucks. Just mobilizing the tankers and the fuel supplies requires weeks of logistics. However, the entire program was stalled to a standstill when North Korea was bribed with incentives as part of the international reaction to its troublesome nuclear and rocketry projects.
While the North Korean dictator was enjoying the wages of his blackmail, the Pentagon embarked on the crash construction of an anti-missile defense system to be located on the near-barren Aleutian island known as Shemya. The flat, desolate 5.9-square-mile rock at the tip of the Aleutian Island chain off the Alaskan coastline is some 3,000 miles from Seattle, 1,500 miles from Anchorage, and 100 miles from the nearest Eskimo village. But it is even further west than the most westerly point of Hawaii.
For decades, Shemya had been a mid-Pacific refueling point. It sported a 10,000-foot runway left from previous wars. In World War II, special hangers were built to house B-29 bombers for devastating raids over Japan. During the Cold War, Shemya hosted pivotal spy flights over the Soviet Union. At one point, Northwest Airlines leased the long airstrip to refuel its trans-Pacific routes. Today, the several dozen employees on “The Rock,” as it is affectionately called, make up Eareckson Air Station.
Here, on this nearly-empty protrusion in the Pacific, just 97 feet above sea level, the Pentagon began the new century by rushing to build a forward X-Band radar facility designed as the world’s most powerful missile detector. The X-Band would work in tandem with the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor missile), seaborne Standard missiles and lower-level Patriot-3s. X-Band, in conjunction with satellites and certain ground radars and early-warning aircraft, would detect a launch the very moment it happened, and track the offensive rocket for a number of seconds, just long enough to determine its trajectory and target. Midcourse corrections would be constant. The stream of data would allow multiple interceptors at high and low altitude to destroy the intruder, using their own on-board lock-on mechanisms as the final guidance to a kinetic kill. That is the theory.
The race for the Pentagon in the year 2000 was to complete the forward X-Band site on Shemya before North Korea would undertake enough testing to launch a Taepodong-2 should its unpredictable ruler decide to abandon multilateral talks. North Korean missile testing was hamstrung by harsh winters in the area that only allowed the remote facility to undertake launches during certain months. But the Shemya construction project faced the similar weather challenges.
Shemya is one of the most inhospitable rocks on the planet. Winds of 40 to 80 mph regularly sweep the flat, featureless terrain. But constructing new structures demanded wind conditions of less than 30 mph for four-hour sessions. Moreover, the heavy cranes needed to hoist the radar dome components into place could not operate in winds exceeding 10 mph. Subdued winds on Shemya, less than 10-30 mph only occur during the summer months, June and July. More restrictive, the calmer 10 mph winds needed for cranes only apply during July.
In the summer of 2000, President Bill Clinton rushed approval for the Shemya project. Acting with comparatively tornadic speed for Washington, the government authorized a half billion dollars for the project. Any delay in that summer of 2000 would mean the installation could not be completed by 2003. Unless the X-Band was in place by 2003, and unless more than 2,200 miles of fiber optic cable was simultaneously embedded three feet under the sea floor to connect the Shemya installation to the Alaskan mainland, the interceptors could not be operational by 2005. The anticipated early date for vulnerability to a North Korean missile launch was 2005.
Waiting just a few months until late 2000 for action, would mean weather and the challenge of leasing fleets of barges would bow to North Korean missile advances. Indeed, the barges had to reach the Gulf of Alaska by May 2001 for construction crews to begin enjoying Mother Nature’s 60-day annual window of opportunity. By August, the construction window is over. The project was launched on time in 2000.
Construction crews labored 24/7 in 10-hour shifts during those precious summer months. Exhausted, the men were rotated every few weeks. During construction, the site was extremely vulnerable to attack by any adversary, from aerial bombardment to a lightly-manned commando raid. It was a risk the Pentagon took.
While North Korea sat back and collected financial and materiel inducements, its missile development program was hardly stalled. Here is where Iran comes in. The Islamic regime undertook the crucial testing of North Korea’s No-dong-A rocket engines, calling them “home-grown” Shabab missiles. North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corp. was set up to export and trade the technology in 1999. Operating under some two dozen alter-egos, such as Changgwang Credit and Korean Mining and Industrial Development Corporation, the North Korean government company sent its rocket technology to the nuclear weapon labs of the notorious A. Q. Khan. Rocket engines were repeatedly provided to Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group located at Damavand Road 2 along the Abali Road industrial district in Tehran. Petrodollars from ordinary Americans continuously funded the project.
As many as a dozen engines reportedly arrived in Iran by the end of 1999, reportedly carried by an Iran Air Boeing 747 cargo jet that ferried them from an airfield 12 miles north of Pyongyang. It is thought that the booster Iran tested on September 21, 2000, which fell from the sky prematurely after just 105 seconds, may have been from this North Korean transfer. It was identified as a Shahab-3D/IRIS. But many intelligence sources believe Iran actually tested second and third stages of the Taepodong-2 ICBM also known in Iran as the Shahab-5.
By May 2004, Western intelligence sources had identified Teheran’s first so-called space satellite program as a mere cover for testing of the Taepodong-2 ICBM. Both the Korean and Iranian firms, Changgwang and Shahid Hemmat were sanctioned and blacklisted by Washington for weapons proliferation under Executive Order 13382 issued June 28, 2005. But the testing continued under the Ahmadinejad regime, again fueled by petrodollars from America and the world.
Iran continued to test Korean rockets during the years leading up to July 4 2006, when North Korean missile ban commitments terminated. It was the very next day, July 5, 2006, that North Korea shot off two long range missiles, startling vacationing Americans everywhere who learned of the news from widespread media reports.
Then, earlier this year, Iran’s so-called space satellite program stunned the world when Teheran successfully launched a multi-stage rocket into space on February 2, 2009. When Iran launched its so-called space satellite, the information and telemetry finally reassured North Koreans that their Taepodong-2 ICBM could work. That reassurance rang hollow when North Korea tested its own Taepodong-2 on April 5, 2009 with dismal results. It splashed down in the ocean far short of orbit. But the North Koreans are not after accuracy or even success as much as creating political sonic booms from their launches.
While the Iranians were co-developing the Taepodong-2 ICBM, and as construction crews worked around the clock to erect the Shemya X-Band, the Pentagon busily shipped more two dozen missile interceptors to Fort Greely, Alaska, near Fairbanks. But even 100 such interceptors could only be expected to defend against a few dozen such incoming warheads. It is not known how many Taepodong-2 or other shorter range missiles North Korea may shoot off, and how many will feature multiple warheads. The Pentagon has also continued to accelerate development of the forward X-Band. It stationed one battery at the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Shariki base in Tsugaru. The Japanese facility became operational in December 2006. X-Band has also been rushed to Hawaii in recent weeks.
Pentagon planners hope that a decade of frantic efforts have erected a loose defense net of trackers that will include X-band stations in Japan, mainland Alaska, Shemya, and Hawaii working in tandem with satellites, and sea-based monitors. This tracking network would feed information to a thin line of barely-tested interceptor rockets stretching from the Sea of Japan across the expanses of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and Alaska.
On the seas, the navy has recently updated its Standard anti-aircraft missile system to cope with a Taepodong-2 threat. The ship-based Standard Missile-3 now possesses a longer range of more than 500 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 160 kilometers. Each SM3 costs more than three million dollars. The four-stage SM3 interceptor relies upon the first three stages to synchronously boost the interceptor into the exosphere where it will encounter any threat. GPS readings are taken sequentially to correct course. The fourth and final stage deploys the killing vehicle, a 20-pound Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP). LEAP uses infrared sensors to close on the target and simply ram it. Raytheon Corporation developed LEAP and while it has passed muster in thousands of simulations, it has never been field tested.
More likely, the Pentagon will deploy the high-altitude THAAD because it is specifically designed to work with the constantly-correcting X-Band. Each THAAD battery deploys 24 missiles ensconced in three launchers synched to its X-Band radar controlling complex. The batteries cost $310 million each. The 1,400-pound THAAD can soar 200 kilometers, achieving an altitude of up to 150 kilometers. THAAD silos were inspected by Secretary of Defense William Gates a few weeks ago on June 5, 2009.
The Pentagon has high hopes for THAAD—but it, too, has barely emerged from testing before being rushed to the field. As recently as March 17, 2009 it was still being tested. On that day, THAAD successfully intercepted a ballistic test missile target off the island of Kauai in Hawaii under the auspices of 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. On June 25, 2008, it successfully passed the 35th of some 43 interception test firings. But it is all theoretical.
No one knows what missile North Korea will launch, when it will launch it, toward what target—Guam, Hawaii, Alaska or some place in Asia, and most importantly no one can predict the weather or the weight of the payload. Even a North Korean rocket with empty warhead coming within 500 miles of American shores would be considered virtually an act of war.
Nor can anyone predict how North Korea’s co-developer-in-chief, the Ahmadinejad regime, will figure into the complex now that the streets are running red with the blood of democracy-demanding protestors. What could Iran do in a show of strength to prop its own regime? What could it do in a show of solidarity with its missile partner regime, the North Koreans? If Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, it will interrupt 40 percent of the world’s sea-borne oil 20 percent of the American supply. American stockpiles would expire after 57 days. Washington has no plan for an oil interruption and has stubbornly refused to even discuss it.
Many are watching the calendars, the clocks and the clouds as the rogue elements on the globe, powered by petrodollars, converge on this latest crisis. All that can be stated for certain now is that no one has the answers. But they may have them by July 5, 2009.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 13:11
SOURCE: New Republic (7-15-09)
... The adage that understanding history requires understanding the historian also applies to literary critics trying to write history. Despite their differences in methods and conclusions, much of the new wave of books on Lincoln reflects a common mood among a portion of the liberal intelligentsia, one that cannot be ascribed simply to Lincoln's bicentennial. The mood might seem political, but this is imprecise: it cares about politics only so as to demote it and repudiate it and transcend it. The mood to which I refer is in truth profoundly anti-political. It runs deeper than conventional election loyalties, touching what has become a ganglion of contemporary liberal hopes and dreams about America, about its past, its present, and its future.
One would have to be blind not to see all the connections that bind this mood and the new Lincoln boom to the rise of Barack Obama. President Obama hardly created the mood. Although he wrote admiringly about Lincoln before he ran for the presidency, all these new books on Lincoln were in the works long before Obama's presidential prospects were very plausible. Along the way, though, the idealizations of Obama and Lincoln became tightly entwined, in support of an almost cultish enthusiasm--humorously, but unironically, illustrated by the ubiquitous Photoshop image that blended portraits of the two men into a single Abe-bama. The excitement of the campaign certainly had something to do with the linkage, as did pointed references by Obama to Lincoln on the stump--but liberal intellectuals eagerly validated it. And some of the books written to coincide with Lincoln's bicentennial went to press just in time to lend the linkage additional credibility.
The Lincoln Anthology concludes with a long excerpt from Obama's announcement of his candidacy in 2007 in Springfield, and suggests that the speech marks the fulfillment of Lincoln's aspirations and achievements. Stauffer's book, which was published on Election Day last year, carries as its epigraph a passage from The Audacity of Hope, in which Obama praises Lincoln for his combination of humility and activism, and cites Douglass to the effect that power concedes nothing without a fight. Gates's introduction, which reached the printers just after the election, mentions Obama three times, ending with an evocation of the president as the black man who, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, fulfilled Lincoln's legacy.
Like any group of able politicians, Obama and his strategists exploited the mood by hyping their Lincoln connections, real and imagined--right down to agreeing to have the new president sit down to a celebratory postinaugural lunch consisting of dishes that President Lincoln himself enjoyed. This is not a mystic chord of memory. It is branding. But the mood is bigger than the man, and Obama can be no more blamed for succumbing to it, or for trying to turn its symbolism to his own advantage, than Lincoln can be faulted for his own political maneuvering. Our president is hardly the innocent that he tries to appear to be, but it is precisely his intensely political character, the political cunning that lies behind all his "transcendence" of politics, that makes him Lincolnian; and it comes as a great relief from the un-Lincolnian sanctimony that surrounds his image.
Historically considered, the Obama phenomenon battened on the high-minded Mugwump disdain for "politics as usual" that has become such a central feature of contemporary left-liberalism--and which, in a twisted way, has become associated with the iconic Lincoln. Two of the major objects of enmity in this current of reformism are the political parties (with their dark hidden forces, the professional politicians) and the money-drenched system of campaigning (with its dark hidden forces, the corporate donors). If only the hammerlock of the two major parties--or, alternatively, that of the bosses within each party--can be broken, the true will of the rank and file, and ultimately of the people, will be unleashed, and principled government will be restored. And if the intrinsically corrupting (or so it is claimed) contributions of big money are ended, and something approximating public financing of elections installed in its place, then something closer to Lincolnian government of the people, by the people, and for the people will emerge. Right?
The Obama campaign, with its talk of repudiating politics as usual and creating a new post-partisan era in Washington, and with its liturgical incantations of "change" and "hope," aroused liberal anti-politics to a fever pitch. The above-politics talk also appears to have played a major role in winning Obama favor with the political press and the intellectuals, as well as with many more Americans (including not a few libertarian Republicans) for whom "politics" means "dirty politics." Some obvious ironies, though, have gone undiscussed. Obama ran up his early lead in the pledged delegate count during the primaries chiefly because of his victories in state party caucuses, a system of selection that is seriously skewed against working people and older voters, and that, with its viva voce voting and arcane rules, is singularly vulnerable to blatant manipulation. Obama then secured the nomination in June 2008 when he won over the party's so-called "super-delegates."
In the general election, Obama, although pledged to accept public campaign financing, changed his mind, having gained an enormous war chest by gathering small donations through the Internet, but also through more old-fashioned methods of big-money political fundraising. (About half his funds were accumulated in the old unimpeccable way.) All of this, including his maneuvering through the primaries, was fair and square--and, from the viewpoint of any professional politician, very impressive. But there was also something, well, rich about the candidate beloved by the good-government reformers relying on the party insiders to get nominated and rejecting public financing in order to get elected.
The intellectuals' rapture over Obama, their eagerness to align him with their beatified Lincoln, has grown out of a deep hunger for a liberal savior, the likes of which the nation has not seen since the death of Robert Kennedy in 1968. The eight years of George W. Bush's presidency only deepened the hunger; and last year it overtook a new generation of voters as well who, though born long after 1968, yearned for smart, articulate, principled liberal leadership. Along came Obama who, despite his inexperience--or, perhaps, because of it: he seemed so uncontaminated by the arts that he practiced--fit the bill, his African heritage doing more to help him by galvanizing white liberals and African Americans. Although Obama's supporters at times likened him to the two Kennedys, and at times to FDR, the comparisons always came back to Lincoln--with the tall, skinny, well-spoken Great Emancipator from Illinois serving as the spiritual forebear of the tall, skinny, well-spoken great liberal hope from Illinois.
The danger with the comparison does not have too much to do with the real Barack Obama, whose reputation will stand or fall on whether he succeeds or fails in the White House. The danger is with how we understand our politics, and our political history, and Abraham Lincoln. That the election of an African American to the presidency brings Lincoln to mind is only natural. But the hunger pangs of some liberals have caused them to hallucinate. Obama's legendary announcement in Springfield was the purest political stagecraft, but it was happily regarded as a kind of message from history. One hears that Obama, like Lincoln, is a self-made man--but Lincoln, unlike Obama, started out in life dirt poor, and lacked any opportunity to attend an elite private high school and then earn degrees at Columbia College and Harvard Law School. One hears that the rhetoric that carried Obama to the White House is Lincolnesque, which it most certainly is not, either in its imagery or its prosody. One hears even that Obama is not just an extremely talented and promising new president but, as Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes, that he is "destined"--destined!--"to be thought of as Lincoln's direct heir."
Who does not wish Obama well? But such hallucinations make it difficult for historians to keep the intricacies of political history front and center, or to acknowledge Lincoln's peculiar gifts as a political leader and a political president. It would appear that those intricacies and those gifts need to be salvaged from the mythologizing and aestheticizing glorifications, from populist fantasies born of forty years of liberal frustration. Lincoln himself might have understood the problem, given his familiarity, inside the Whig Party of the 1830s and 1840s, with powerful anti-party and anti-political sentiments that foreshadowed the Mugwump mentality of the Gilded Age....
Posted on: Sunday, June 28, 2009 - 19:59
SOURCE: Special to HNN (6-25-09)
There seems to be a common misperception that a "peace process" will end in "the two state solution," with a Palestinian State, that will then bring an end to the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. This is pure pie in the sky, wishful thinking of the first order. For the Palestinians this will merely be a stage in their strategy to destroy the Jewish State. This is why PM Netanyahu is insisting that any such State be demilitarized and not be able to make pacts with other enemy states such as Iran and Syria.
In Kfar Etzion, one of the two Jewish settlements that were captured by the Arabs in 1948, they destroyed the whole place down to the foundations and even uprooted all the trees. This is the pattern of Palestinian reaction if it gets its hands on any Jewish/Israeli facility. Many people assumed that when Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005, that would usher in a period of peaceful coexistence.
A group of wealthy liberal American Jews, believing this nonsense, actually spent $14m to buy the facilities of the Jewish settlers in order to hand them over to the Palestinians so that they could have factories and jobs (after all the Jews managed to make a good living there). But, what happened, the Palestinians smashed everything in sight, including the glasshouses that could have been growing produce to feed themselves and sell exports. What a waste! I am not making this up, it is a matter of record, it is irrational and self-defeating, but they always manage to shoot themselves in the foot.
During WWI and WWII Britain had a blockade ofGermany, and in WWII the US had a blockade ofJapan, this is common in war. Yet, many liberals, Jews and non-Jews, think Israel should supplyGaza with essential goods (food, medicine, oil, etc.) even though Hamas considers itself at war with us. The only reason that the entry of supplies to Gaza is stopped is when they periodically attack our forces guarding the terminals that feed them. Except for now, when a group of private citizens formed a "Save Gilad Shalit" Committee, and are preventing trucks from entering the three main crossings into Gaza. And who is clearing the blockade, the IDF. Now isn't that illogical.
Other examples of anti-Israel violence are the joint industrial sites built between Gaza and Israel (Erez) and the West Bank and Israel (Kalandia), where Palestinians were employed. During the intifada they attacked and destroyed most of these facilities, and killed several of the Israelis working there. There is an inescapable conclusion that the Palestinians are motivated by an irrational hatred of Jews and Israel, and this has nothing to do with what the Israelis have done to them, or the so-called "occupation," witness the massacres of Jews in Hebron in 1929 and in Jerusalem in 1948.
One assumption of the "two state solution" is that the PA is led by "moderates" such as Pres Abbas, who are ready to make peace with Israel. Both Pres. Mubarak of Egypt and Quartet emissary Tony Blair last week stated optimistically that a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians could be signed "in a year (or two)." However, this is false optimism purely for political purposes. Pres. Abbas controls the Mukata Compound in Ramallah, and practically nothing beyond that. The US, UK and EU, with Israeli approval, is helping the PA to develop a police force to "pacify" the cities that are within the PA. But, in fact, the PA's control over these forces is nominal, they only operate during daytime and they have never come up against armed Hamas or even Fatah terrorist gangs. If they ever do they will desert or be decimated. It is illusory forIsrael to make any kind of agreement with Abbas, it would not be worth the paper it is printed on.
So whichever way you look at it, there will be no realpeace process and no agreement, not in one year and not in ten years, at least not until the hatred that the Palestinians have for the Jews is dissipated. There is no "end game" in sight.
Posted on: Saturday, June 27, 2009 - 02:08
SOURCE: LA Times (8-15-04)
David J. Garrow is Research Professor of History and Law at the University of Pittsburgh.
Gay marriage is one of today's most hotly debated issues. In May, Massachusetts extended the right to marry to lesbians and gay men. On Thursday, a California court voided thousands of gay marriages performed in San Francisco. President Bush is calling for a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to male-female couples. So far such an amendment has no chance of winning congressional approval, but efforts to add anti-gay provisions to individual state constitutions are moving forward across the country.
Why is gay marriage now a front-page issue, and where did it come from? Right-wing critics blame "activist judges," but the Massachusetts court that mandated marriage equality was directly inspired by last year's historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas, which struck down the nation's few remaining state sodomy statutes and declared that gay Americans cannot be treated as second-class citizens. Conservative Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Republican from California and a devout Roman Catholic, wrote the opinion.
Just 17 years earlier, the high court issued an opposite, virulently homophobic decision, Bowers vs. Hardwick, which upheld the criminal statutes now voided by Lawrence. Bowers made it seem as if gays would remain the social outcasts that it claimed they always had been.
Yet over the last two decades, gays and lesbians have entered the U.S. cultural and civic mainstream. There also has been a remarkable blossoming in scholarship on gay and lesbian history, books that recaptured and brought to light a forgotten American past. One of the most notable was George Chauncey's "Gay New York," an eye-opening account of how, in the decades before 1930, gay men were openly visible and widely accepted participants in the city's social and cultural life.
Now Chauncey, a University of Chicago historian, turns his expert eye to how the evolution of gay life since then has brought the marriage issue to the fore. "Why Marriage?" is a short book, but it is a tour de force of historical analysis and explanation, essential for anyone eager to understand current political arguments.
Only with the onset of the Depression and its effect on men's status as family breadwinners, Chauncey explains, did gays encounter the widespread social ostracism and intense legal persecution that drove them underground into all-but-invisible lives until the late 1960s. "Anti-gay discrimination," he writes, "is a unique and relatively short-lived product" of the 20th century and "is neither natural nor inevitable."
Fifty years ago, gays "confronted a degree of policing and harassment that is almost unimaginable to us today" and which now "is almost entirely forgotten." David K. Johnson's "The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government" is a heart-wrenching reminder that homosexuals faced brutal employment discrimination and endless police hostility. Though the McCarthy era is remembered for the targeting of alleged Communists, far more government employees were fired for being gay than for sympathizing with the Soviet Union.
The severity of that repression, Chauncey says, stimulated the first gay political activists to speak out publicly in protest. Their initial assimilationist agenda, emphasizing that homosexuals were hard-working and patriotic Americans, not child molesters or "security risks," turned into an embrace of gay identity and pride soon after the African American freedom struggle likewise shifted from an integrationist to a cultural-pride orientation. The "coming out" of hundreds of thousands of gay Americans to their straight friends and neighbors "normalized" homosexuality, Chauncey says, by "showing outsiders that homosexuals were not so different" as they had imagined.
Beginning in the early 1980s, two tidal waves washed over gay America. The AIDS crisis "led to an unprecedented mobilization of gay men" on behalf of those who fell ill and in protest against government disinterest. About the same time, with "the astonishingly rapid appearance of what everyone soon called the lesbian baby boom," gay people emerged as two-parent families. "The mass experience of child-rearing and death," Chauncey writes, magnified both gays' visibility in society and their painful interactions with officials, who seldom treated unmarried partners with the deference accorded legal spouses....
Posted on: Friday, June 26, 2009 - 13:45
SOURCE: Times (5-26-09)
Is there always a political fallout from the effects of severe economic crises such as Britain is now experiencing? The answer must surely be yes.
In the 1930s the Depression broke the Macdonald Labour Party, divided the Liberals, ushered in an emergency National Government and led to the emergence of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Normal party politics was restored only 15 years later, in the campaign of 1945 when Labour rose triumphantly to power to build a New Jerusalem.
Not only did the recession reshape British politics in the 1930s, but the crisis also provoked a growing disillusionment with conventional party politics and the role of Parliament. The political elite that dominated the National Government was seen as self-interested and out of touch. There was little sleaze about in the 1930s - a great many MPs had private means - but there was a strong feeling among the more progressive forces in British society that MPs were a barrier to social change, economic reform and, above all, to a foreign policy that would really reflect the wide enthusiasm for the League of Nations and popular anti-war sentiment.
In 1935 there were two countrywide votes. One was the general election which the National Government won in the absence of a serious opposition. The second was the peace ballot organised by a number of voluntary associations under the direction of the peace campaigner, Lord Robert Cecil. Half a million volunteers tramped the streets knocking on doors to get voters to fill out a voting slip in favour of the league, disarmament, international control of aviation and so on. In the end 11.6 million people voted, almost all in favour. This was a remarkable expression of independent public opinion; the Government took no notice.
Voluntary effort to try to get across alternative, and more progressive, political solutions mushroomed in the 1930s. Above all the view took hold that Parliament no longer really represented what most people thought. Between 1936 and 1939 widespread efforts were made to create a people's front or popular front that would unite progressive opinion, independently of party allegiance. Sir Stafford Cripps, later Chancellor in the 1945 Government, was temporarily kicked out of the Labour Party in 1939 for making one last effort to create a united popular front to challenge Parliament. The National Government survived the people's front pressure but only at the cost of growing rejection of old-fashioned parliamentary politics, most marked among the chattering classes.
What did not happen was a shift to the political extremes, as in Germany when Hitler exploited economic disaster to make his the country's largest party. British fascism and communism remained fringe movements because much progressive opinion wanted liberal values and social progress, not an authoritarian new order. This is familiar ground today. The sense of disillusionment with conventional party politics, where the main parties seem the same and the new political class lines its own nest, opens the way to political extremism. The British National Party is waiting its turn; radical protest at the G20 summit filled the City with campaigners. Real politics, which will engage people's enthusiasm and mobilise their anxiety, may be about to move from Westminster and out on to the street, but it is unlikely to become a mass movement unless conditions deteriorate even more. ...
Posted on: Friday, June 26, 2009 - 00:41
SOURCE: Email to HNN (6-25-09)
Early this week, I took Amtrak down to Washington to interview Frank Synder, Pensylvania State director of the AFL-CIO about labor’s campaign for Obama in Pennylvania in the 2008 Presidential election, which was one of the most important, grass roots efforts to confront the “race” issue head on in modern American history
Normally when taking Amtrak, I sleep or read, but because of the terrible crash on the Washington Metro late Monday afternoon, which took place when I was on the very same Metro Line only four stops away, I was too rattled to do either, so I found myself looking out the window the entire ride back to New York
What I saw filled me with sadness.
From Baltimore right through Newark, I saw the remnants of of America’s crumbling industrial infrastructure revealed right before my eyes, along with the damage done to once proud working class neighborhoods in Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton, Elizabeth and Newark
It was not just the hundreds ofabandoned factories I saw along the route, some of them a quarter of a mile wide, their windows broken or boarded up, their walls covered with graffiti, their yards filled with garbage and rusting trucks, it was the physical conditions, and atmosphere of the neighborhoods adjoining the factory that was equally depressing
Here, especially in Baltimore, Wilmington and North Philadelphia, I passed block after block of two story attached row houses with porches, a distinctive form of housing built for the local working class when these three cities buzzed with industry and enterprise. Once, these modest houses were regularly painted and spotlessly clean, the sidewalks in front of them swept daily by working class men and women proud that a job in a nearby factory allowed them to purchase their own home. Now, what houses were still left, many of them boarded up, or in advanced states of disrepair, stood on blocks where weed filled vacant lots took up as much place as the homes. These neighborhoods once had vital commercial districts, but the few stores left, their entrances protected by gates and their walls covered with graffiti, looked like they were under siege. At the speed we were traveling, which was 20-30 miles an hour ( there were stations in each of these cities and the train would slow down when approaching) I could only get a glimpse of the people on the streets, on porches or in backyards, but the one thing that leaped out at me was that the vast majority of the m were Black and Brown. These on ce pro ud working class communities, deprived of unionized, living wage jobs in steel mills, shipyards, metal fabricating works, chemical and electrical plants and truck and railroad depots, had become holding pens for poor people, many of them trapped in intergenerational poverty, whose labor was no longer valued or needed in a post industrial American economy.
Significantly, the one institution along the tracks that I didn’t see boarded up were the prisons. I passed at least six prison structures along the Amtrak route, easily identified by the windowless walls, their turret like towers ( if they were more than 40 years old) and the barbed wire fencing &nb sp;that surrounded them. I had seen this before in declining industrial cities. When I visited Youngstaown Ohio ten years ago, where a five mile stretch along the Mongahela River was filled with the remnants of once bustling steel mills, the only new bu i lding in the city was a s panking n ew federal prison.
But if anything, the sight of the prisons along the Amtrak route depressed me even more. Once scene in particular reminded me of the profound inequalities, both racial and economic, that deform the American social structure. Just before the train pulled into the station at Newark airport, when it was moving ten miles an hour, I got a glimpse of what had to be prison yard on the West side of the tracks. There I saw a group of forty or fifty black men, most of them in their twenties, playing basketball, or standing around talking, while in a corner two very tough looking fort y year old white men with cut off sleeves stood observing. This was not a scene from OZ, it was real life, but I doubt if anyone else on the train noticed. What made it all the more eerie was that the people getting off and boarding the train at Newark Airport, were predominantly white and middle class. Here you had two different Americas, side by side, as separate and unequal as anything we had du ring the d ays of legal segregation, only race alone was not the criteria. Now it was race AND class that separated those left in decaying stretches of industrial towns and cities, from those living in middle class suburbs and upscale and gentrifying urban neighborhoods
Even before this current economic crises, significant portions of the American population were living in Depression like conditions. Bruce Springsteen, who knows the world along Amtrak very well, tried to remind us of the tragic consequences of deindustrialization in songs like “Born In the USA,” but how many of us heard his message?
Down in the shadow=2 0of the penit entiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go
Forty years of union busting, factory closing and prison construction have taken a terrible toll, not only on the lives of tens of millions of people, but on American democracy as a political ideal and a lived reality. Unless we do something to empower the people an d revive the communities that adjoin Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor- and places like it all around the nation-, large portions of the American population will remain locked out of the American Dream.
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 19:51
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (6-25-09)
The Israel Project hired pollster Stanley Greenberg to test American opinion on the Middle East conflict -- and got a big surprise. In September 2008, 69% of Americans called themselves pro-Israel. Now, it's only 49%. In September, the same 69% wanted the U.S. to side with Israel; now, only 44%.
How to explain this dramatic shift? Greenberg himself suggested the answer years ago when he pointed out that, in politics,"a narrative is the key to everything." Last year the old narrative about the Middle East conflict was still dominant: Israel is an innocent victim, doing only what it must do to defend itself against the Palestinians. Today, that narrative is beginning to lose its grip on Americans.
Well, to be more precise, the first part of the old narrative is eroding. Nearly half the American public seems unsure that Israel is still the good guy in the Middle East showdown. But the popular image of the Palestinians as the violent bad guy is apparently as potent as ever. The number of Americans who say they support Palestine remains unchanged from last September, a mere 7%. And only 5% want the U.S. government to take such a position.
Those numbers reflect the narrative that President Obama recited in Cairo on June 4th. He chided the Israelis for a few things they are doing wrong -- like expanding settlements and blockading Gaza. To the other side, though, his message was far blunter:"Palestinians must abandon violence." Of Israeli violence he said not a word.
The president's speech implicitly sanctioned the most up-to-date tale that dominates the American mass media and public opinion today: The Israelis ought to be reined in a bit, but it's hard to criticize them too much because, hey, what would you do if you had suicide bombers and rockets coming at you all the time?
That view is a political winner here. In the latest Pew poll, 62% of Americans say Obama is striking the right balance between Israel and Palestine; of those who disagree, three-quarters want to see him tougher on the Palestinians, not the Israelis. A Rasmussen poll finds even stronger support for a pro-Israel tilt.
There are, however, two things wrong with his narrative. First, though it's somewhat less one-sided than the story that prevailed during the George W. Bush years, it is far from impartial, which means the U.S. still cannot act as an even-handed broker for peace in the region. Since no one else is available to play that role, it's hard to see how, under the present circumstances, any version of a peace process can move forward.
The second problem is that the popular narrative just doesn't happen to match the facts. In reality, unjustified violence is initiated on both sides -- and if anyone insists on keeping score, Israel's violence, official and unofficial, outweighs the violence coming from the Palestinians.
Coming to Grips with Jewish Settler Violence
Israeli violence is often overlooked here because so much of it is done by official order of the state. Americans are quick to side with the man who wears the badge. Even when he lets loose the kind of violence that recently devastated parts of the Gaza Strip, the reigning assumption is that his gun is a force for law and order.
But what about the kind of violence Palestinians are so often accused of, the unauthorized civilian-on-civilian kind -- what the experts term"non-state-actor violence" and the rest of us simply call"terrorism"? Though you may not know this, much of it these days is done by Israeli Jews.
"Palestinian civilians bear brunt of settler violence," Agence France-Presse recently reported:"Nestled amid rolling hills and with an eagle eye's view to the Mediterranean coast, Nahla Ahmed's house has all the elements of Eden... if it weren't for the Molotov cocktail-throwing neighbours. 'We put bars on the windows after the first attack, three years ago,' says the 36-year-old mother of four. 'Now they come each week.'"
The attacks aren't always with Molotov cocktails; sometimes Jewish settlers throw tear gas canisters, simply spray a Star of David on a wall, or cut down trees owned by Palestinians. In other incidents, settlers have shot and killed a 16-year-old boy, fractured the skull of a 7-year-old girl with a rock, set a dog on a 12-year-old boy, and shot dead an Arab man but let his companion go when he identified himself as Jewish. These are not egregious, isolated cases of mayhem; they're just a few random examples of what's happening all too often on the West Bank. To see how depressingly common such violence is, just Google"West Bank settler violence" for yourself.
It's easy enough to see what the violence looks like too, since a lot of it has been captured on video. And this is just violence against people. The violence against property is far too common to begin to catalog.
Last December, Jewish settlers in Hebron went on a rampage, shooting at Palestinians, setting fire to homes, cars, and olive groves, defacing mosques and graves. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister at the time, said he was"ashamed" of this"pogrom."
Yet few such settler crimes are seriously prosecuted by the Israeli authorities. The Israeli rights group Yesh Din has documented this in an extensive report, which, the group carefully notes, is merely one more in a long line of similar reports:
"Since the 1980's many reports have been published on law enforcement upon Israelis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. All of the reports... warned against the failure of the authorities to enforce the law effectively upon Israelis... who committed offenses against Palestinian civilians... Yet the problem of attacks against Palestinian people and property by Israelis has only grown worse, becoming a daily occurrence."
Assessing Hamas Violence
Jewish settlers who commit violence claim just what the Israeli government claims when it directs state-sponsored violence at Palestinian areas: Self-defense -- it was nothing but self-defense. And it's certainly true that there are incidents of individual Palestinians venting their frustration violently. After all, they've been living under an arbitrary, demeaning, and sometimes brutal occupation for 42 years.
According to the common Israeli and American narratives, however, the real culprit and chief roadblock to peace is the constant violence -- suicide bombings and rocket attacks -- planned and carried out by a well-organized political party, Hamas. Again, as it happens, this popular version of events is simply not borne out by the facts.
Consider suicide bombings. In 2003 Israel's premier newspaper, Ha'aretz, reported that Hamas had decided"to stop terror against Israeli civilians if Israel stops killing Palestinian civilians." Though it's not clear that Israel did stop its own killings, Hamas soon halted its devastating suicide attacks. There were two in 2004 and not a single one in the nearly five years since then, according to the Jewish Virtual Library run by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (a source hardly sympathetic to Hamas).
The same source counts no"major attacks" on Israeli civilians by any Palestinians since 2006. Though there have been other attacks since then, their frequency has dropped dramatically, and none have been carried out by Hamas itself.
Israelis generally know what most Americans still don't: Suicide bombing, supposedly the trademark of"Palestinian terrorism," has virtually ceased. As a result, Israel's chief complaint has switched to Hamas rocket attacks. How can we let them have the West Bank, the argument goes? Look what happened when we pulled all our settlements out of Gaza and got nothing in return but thousands of rockets. That's why we had no choice but launch our full-scale assault on Gaza in December 2008: to put an end to them.
In fact, though, Hamas rocket attacks had ended in July 2008, when Israel agreed to the ceasefire Hamas had been asking for. That agreement held for four months until Israeli troops killed six Hamas operatives -- shortly before Hamas and Fatah were scheduled to create a unified government. It's a familiar Israeli tactic: block Palestinian unity and then complain of"no partner for peace."
Hamas was also moved by the plight of its people in Gaza, growing increasingly short of food, medical supplies, and other basic goods due to an ever-tightening Israeli blockade.
Yet all this is lost in the story that most Israelis tell, and most Americans believe, about why Hamas began shooting rockets (which, compared to the massive Israeli onslaught in response, did relatively little damage). Equally lost is Hamas's return to its moratorium on firing rockets after the recent Gaza war, formally confirmed by the party's leader, Khaled Meshal, in the New York Times.
Occasional rockets do fly out of Gaza, provoking the usual Israeli demand that Palestinian authorities must prevent every single incident of violence before there can be any talk of peace. That's something like holding the U.S. government responsible for the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington or the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
A Mirror Image?
Still, the Palestinian governments in both Gaza and the West Bank could do more to control the private violence of their people, just as the Israeli government could do more to control Jewish settler violence. Yet none of these governments act vigorously because they risk alienating a small but significant portion of their political support.
As the Times's Ethan Bronner recently wrote:"There are striking parallels between the hard-core opponents of a peace deal on each side. They are generally driven by a belief in a law higher than any created by human legislatures; they are exceptionally motivated; and they are very well organized... Many Israeli governments have fallen over the issue."
For the risk of offending hard-core groups, neither side sees obvious countervailing political gain. While a minority on both sides condemns the violence of its compatriots, the majority seems to accept it as an excessive, unfortunate, but understandable response to provocations initiated by the enemy. So neither Hamas, nor Fatah, nor the Israeli government see any clear advantage in bending over backwards to stop attacks by non-state groups.
What's more, as Uri Avnery, the grand old man of the Israeli peace movement, explains:"On both sides, the overwhelming majority want an end to the conflict but do not believe that peace is possible -- and each side blames the other." Each side blames the other because so many on each side believe that those who perpetrate the violence represent the entirety of the other side. We could have peace, the universal complaint goes, if only"the Palestinians" or"the Israelis" would stop their violence.
The tragedy is that, on both sides, those who inflict violence gain little of practical value from it. Indeed the motives that keep the conflict boiling may have little to do with any hope of practical gain from it. When researchers asked nearly 4,000 Israelis and Palestinians what it would take to make peace, few focused on tangible benefits like gaining more land or resources. Most on both sides wanted see"their enemies making symbolic but difficult gestures." They agreed that they would be willing to make concessions, but only if"the other side agreed to a symbolic sacrifice of one of its sacred values." The violence done by non-state actors is perversely satisfying, even if ultimately useless, because it's the most visible way to win little symbolic victories.
A New Narrative
Palestinians can argue, with good reason, that treating the two sides as mirror images creates a false equivalence. After all, one side is the occupier, constantly inflicting symbolic defeats through the use of state-sponsored violence that dwarfs the violence of its private citizens, or sometimes even more powerfully just by using its ability to re-organize the landscape. The other side is the occupied, a people with virtually no tools of state violence to wield even if they want to, struggling every day just to survive. In the U.S. and around the world there is growing pressure to reverse the traditional narrative of these last decades and turn the Israelis into the bad guys.
Given the tiny fraction of Americans who identify as pro-Palestinian, it's fruitless to think that a majority of us would ever adopt such a reversed narrative -- nor would it be very helpful, regardless of the facts. If the Obama administration really intends to be an even-handed broker, forcing the two sides to move towards genuine compromise at the negotiating table, it needs to represent a nation that tells an even-handed story.
Old narratives don't die out simply because they fail to fit the facts. They die out when a more appealing story comes along. The eroding support for Israeli policies in this country signals a growing appetite for a new, more even-handed narrative, one that says this:
The crucial conflict is not between Israel and Palestine. It's between peace and violence. Violence comes from both sides. But there's also the possibility of fostering a strong push for peace on both sides. Here in the U.S., we should urge our government to stop taking sides in the blame game, condemn all the violence -- including, for the first time, Israeli violence -- and support all forces of peace that exist or arise.
It is hard for many of my fellow Jews to accept the painful truth that we are as capable of violence as the Palestinians, or anyone else. But this new narrative is gaining ground rapidly in the American Jewish community, where groups like J Street and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom are making well-organized efforts to promote it and act upon it.
As non-Jewish Americans become aware of that change, they are likely to feel freer to adopt the even-handed narrative as their own, too. When enough of them do, the political winds in this country will change. Then the White House will feel safe enough to tell Israel, as well as Palestine, to stop both state and non-state violence. That's a necessary first step for an even-handed broker who hopes to open a path to peace.
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 19:39
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (6-23-09)
The empire ends with a pull out. Not, as many supposed a few years ago, from Iraq. There, as well as in Afghanistan, we are mulishly staying the course, come what may, trapped in the biggest of all the"too-big-to-fail" boondoggles. But from Detroit.
Of course, the real evacuation of the Motor City began decades ago, when Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler started to move more and more of their operations out of the downtown area to harder to unionize rural areas and suburbs, and, finally, overseas. Even as the economy boomed in the 1950s and 1960s, 50 Detroit residents were already packing up and leaving their city every day. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Detroit could count tens of thousands of empty lots and over 15,000 abandoned homes. Stunning Beaux Arts and modernist buildings were left deserted to return to nature, their floors and roofs covered by switchgrass. They now serve as little more than ornate bird houses.
In mythological terms, however, Detroit remains the ancestral birthplace of storied American capitalism. And looking back in the years to come, the sudden disintegration of the Big Three this year will surely be seen as a blow to American power comparable to the end of the Raj, Britain's loss of India, that jewel in the imperial crown, in 1948. Forget the possession of a colony or the bomb, in the second half of the twentieth century, the real marker of a world power was the ability to make a precision V-8.
There have been dissections aplenty of what went wrong with the U.S. auto industry, as well as fond reminiscences about Detroit's salad days, about outsized tailfins and double-barrel carburetors. Last year, the iconic Clint Eastwood even put the iconic white auto worker to rest in his movie Gran Torino. Few of these postmortems have conveyed, however, just how crucial Detroit was to U.S. foreign policy -- not just as the anchor of America's high-tech, high-profit export economy, but as a confirmation of our sense of ourselves as the world's premier power (although in linking Detroit's demise to the blowback from President Nixon's illegal war in Laos, Eastwood at least came closer than most).
Detroit not only supplied a continual stream of symbols of America's cultural power, but offered the organizational know-how necessary to run a vast industrial enterprise like a car company -- or an empire. Pundits love to quote GM President"Engine" Charlie Wilson, who once famously said that he thought what was good for America"was good for General Motors, and vice versa." It's rarely noted, however, that Wilson made his remark at his Senate confirmation hearings to be Dwight D. Eisenhower's Secretary of Defense. At the Pentagon, Wilson would impose GM's corporate bureaucratic model on the armed forces, modernizing them to fight the Cold War.
After GM, it was Ford's turn to take the reins, with John F. Kennedy tapping its CEO Robert McNamara and his"whiz kids" to ready American troops for a"long twilight struggle, year in and year out." McNamara used Ford's integrated"systems management" approach to wage"mechanized, dehumanizing slaughter," as historian Gabriel Kolko once put it, from the skies over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Perhaps, then, we should think of the ruins of Detroit as our Roman Forum. Just as Rome's triumphal arches still remind us of its bygone imperial victories in Mesopotamia, Persia, and elsewhere, so Motown's dilapidated buildings today invoke America's fast slipping supremacy.
Among the most imposing is Henry Ford's Highland Park factory, shuttered since the late 1950s. Dubbed the Crystal Palace for its floor to ceiling glass walls, it was here that Ford perfected assembly-line production, building up to 9,000 Model Ts a day -- a million by 1915 -- catapulting the United States light-years ahead of industrial Europe.
It was also here that Ford first paid his workers five dollars a day, creating one of the fastest growing and most prosperous working-class neighborhoods in all of America, filled with fine arts-and-crafts style homes. Today, Highland Park looks like a war zone, its streets covered with shattered glass and lined with burnt-out houses. More than 30% of its population lives in poverty, and you don't want to know the unemployment numbers (more than 20%) or the median yearly income (less than $20,000).
There is one reminder that it wasn't always so. A small historical-register plaque outside the Ford factory reads:"Mass production soon moved from here to all phases of American industry and set the pattern of abundance for 20th Century living."
America in the Amazon
To truly grasp how far America has fallen from the heights of its industrial grandeur -- and to understand how that grandeur led to stupendous acts of folly -- you should tour another set of ruins far from the Midwest rustbelt; they lie, in fact, deep (and nearly forgotten) in, of all places, the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. There, overrun by tropical vines, sits Henry Ford's testament to the belief that the American Way of Life could easily be exported, even to one of the wildest places on the planet.
Ford owned forests in Michigan as well as mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, which gave him control over every natural resource needed to make a car -- save rubber. So in 1927, he obtained an Amazonian land grant the size of a small American state. Ford could have simply set up a purchasing office there, and bought rubber from local producers, leaving them to live their lives as they saw fit. That's what other rubber exporters did.
Ford, however, had more grandiose ideas. He felt compelled to cultivate not only"rubber but the rubber gatherers as well." So he set out to overlay Americana on Amazonia. He had his managers build Cape Cod-style shingled houses for the Brazilian work force he hired. He urged them to tend flower and vegetable gardens and eat whole wheat bread, unpolished rice, canned Michigan peaches, and oatmeal. He dubbed his jungle town, with suitable pride, Fordlandia.
It was the 1920s, of course, and so his managers enforced alcohol Prohibition, or at least tried to, though it wasn't a Brazilian law, as it was in the United States at the time. On weekends, the company organized square dances and recitations of the poetry of Henry Longfellow. The hospital Ford had built in the town offered free health care for workers and visitors alike. It was designed by Albert Kahn, the renowned architect who built a number of Detroit's most famous buildings, including the Crystal Palace. Fordlandia had a central square, sidewalks, indoor plumbing, manicured lawns, a movie theater, shoe stores, ice cream and perfume shops, swimming pools, tennis courts, a golf course, and, of course, Model Ts rolling down its paved streets.
The clash between Henry Ford -- the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions in order to produce a series of infinitely identical products, the first indistinguishable from the millionth -- and the Amazon, the world's most complex and diverse ecosystem, was Chaplinesque in its absurdity, producing a parade of mishaps straight out of a Hollywood movie. ThinkModern Times meets Fitzcarraldo. Brazilian workers rebelled against Ford's Puritanism and nature rebelled against his industrial regimentation. Run by incompetent managers who knew little about rubber planting much less social engineering, Fordlandia in its early years was plagued by vice, knife fights, and riots. The place seemed less Our Town than Deadwood, as brothels and bars sprawled around its edges.
Ford did eventually manage to get control over his namesake fiefdom, but because he insisted that his managers plant rubber trees in tight rows -- back in his Detroit factories, Ford famously crowded machines close together to reduce movement -- he actually created the conditions for the explosive growth of the bugs and blight that feed off rubber, and these eventually laid waste to the plantation. Over the course of nearly two decades, Ford sank millions upon millions of dollars into trying to make his jungle utopia work the American way, yet not one drop of Fordlandia latex ever made its way into a Ford car.
The eeriest thing of all is this: Today, the ruins of Fordlandia look a lot like those in Highland Park, as well as in other rustbelt towns where neighborhoods that once hummed with life centered on a factory are now returned to weed. There is, in fact, an uncanny resemblance between Fordlandia's rusting water tower, broken-glassed sawmill, and empty power plant and the husks of the same structures in Iron Mountain, a depressed industrial city on Michigan's Upper Peninsula that also used to be a Ford town.
In the Amazon, Albert Kahn's hospital has collapsed, the jungle has reclaimed the golf course and tennis courts, and bats have taken up residence in houses where American managers once lived, covering their plaster walls with a glaze of guano. No commemorative plaque marks its place in history, but Fordlandia, no less than the wreck of Detroit, is a monument to the titans of American capital -- none more titanic than Ford -- who believed that the United States offered a universal, and universally acknowledged, model for the rest of humanity.
Errand into the Wilderness
It would be easy to read the story of Fordlandia as a parable of arrogance. With a surety of purpose and incuriosity about the world that seem all too familiar, Ford deliberately rejected expert advice and set out to turn the Amazon into the Midwest of his imagination. The more the project failed on its own terms -- that is, to grow rubber -- the more Ford company officials defended it as a civilizational mission; think of it as a kind of distant preview of the ever expanding set of justifications for why the U.S. invaded Iraq six years ago. Yet Fordlandia cuts deeper into the marrow of the American experience than that.
Over 50 years ago, the Harvard historian Perry Miller gave a famous lecture which he titled"Errand into the Wilderness." In it, he tried to explain why English Puritans lit out for the New World to begin with, as opposed to, say, going to Holland. They went, Miller suggested, not just to escape the corruptions of the Church of England but to complete the Protestant reformation of Christendom that had stalled in Europe.
The Puritans did not flee to the New World, Miller said, but rather sought to give the faithful back in England a"working model" of a purer community. Put another way, central from the beginning to American expansion was"deep disquietude," a feeling that"something had gone wrong" at home. With the Massachusetts Bay Colony just a few decades old, a dissatisfied Cotton Mather began to learn Spanish, thinking that a better"New Jerusalem" could be raised in Mexico.
The founding of Fordlandia was driven by a similar restlessness, a chafing sense, even in the good times, the best of times, that"something had gone wrong" in America. When Ford embarked on his Amazon adventure, he had already spent the greater part of two decades, and a large part of his enormous fortune, trying to reform American society. His frustrations and discontents with domestic politics and culture were legion. War, unions, Wall Street, energy monopolies, Jews, modern dance, cow's milk, both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, cigarettes, and alcohol were among his many targets and complaints. Yet churning beneath all these imagined annoyances was the fact that the force of industrial capitalism he had helped unleash was undermining the world he hoped to restore.
Ford preached with a pastor's confidence his one true idea: ever increasing productivity combined with ever increasing pay would both relieve human drudgery and create prosperous working-class communities, with corporate profits dependent on the continual expansion of consumer demand."High wages," as Ford put it, to create"large markets." By the late 1920s, Fordism -- as this idea came to be called -- was synonymous with Americanism, envied the world over for having apparently humanized industrial capitalism.
But Fordism contained within itself the seeds of its own undoing: the breaking down of the assembly process into smaller and smaller tasks, combined with rapid advances in transportation and communication, made it easier for manufacturers to break out of the dependent relationship established by Ford between high wages and large markets. Goods could be made in one place and sold somewhere else, removing the incentive employers had to pay workers enough to buy the products they made.
In Rome, the ruins came after the empire fell. In the United States, the destruction of Detroit happened even as the country was rising to new heights as a superpower.
Ford sensed this unraveling early on and responded to it, trying at least to slow it in ever more eccentric ways. He established throughout Michigan a series of decentralized"village-industries" designed to balance farm and factory work and rescue small-town America. Yet his pastoral communes were no match for the raw power of the changes he had played such a large part in engendering. So he turned to the Amazon to raise his City on a Hill, or in this case a city in a tropical river valley, pulling together all the many strains of his utopianism in one last, desperate bid for success.
Nearly a century ago, the journalist Walter Lippmann remarked that Henry Ford's drive to make the world anew represented a common strain of"primitive Americanism," reinforced by a confidence born of unparalleled achievement. He then followed with a question meant to be sarcastic but which was, in fact, all too prophetic:"Why shouldn't success in Detroit assure success in front of Baghdad?" We know the ruination that befell Detroit. Whither Baghdad? Whither America?
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 19:30
In a striking coincidence, two very different expressions of Iranian dissent took place exactly simultaneously on two continents on Saturday, June 20. Between them, the Islamic Republic of Iran faces an unprecedented challenge.
In a vast exhibition hall just north of Paris on June 20, about 20,000 people attended an event organized by the largest and best organized Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (or the People's Mujahedeen of Iran).
The protestors and Mousavi have both shown bravery but the former seem more radical than the latter. Mousavi's website announces that he does not seek confrontation with the"brothers" in Iran's security forces nor does he wish to challenge the"sacred system" instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini. Rather, the website declares,"We are confronting deviations and lies. We seek to bring reform that returns us to the pure principals of the Islamic Republic."
This timidity stands in contrast to the bold stance of the street protestors who shout"Death to the dictator" and even"Death to Khamene'i," an echo of the regime's perpetual slogans"Death to America" and"Death to Israel," implying a wish not just to correct Khomeini's"sacred system" but an aspiration to terminate the regime dominated by mullahs (Iran's clerics).
The other protest took place in a vast exhibition hall just north of Paris, where the largest and best organized Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq or the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MeK or PMOI) joined with smaller groups to hold their annual meeting. Tens of thousands attended it, including me.
The assembly's most emotional moment came when the anxious crowd learned that their peaceful counterparts marching in Iran had been killed or wounded. At that moment, freedom of assembly in France contrasted most starkly with its denial in Iran. Later that day came confirmation of the regime's obsessive fears of the MeK, when deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, blamed MeK"thugs" for his own government's violence against the peaceful demonstrators.
The MEK mounted an impressive display in France, as it did at the last meeting I attended, in 2007, with dignitaries, made-for-television pageantry, and a powerful speech by its leader, Maryam Rajavi. Like the street protestors, she also called for the demise of the Khomeinist regime. In a 4,000-word speech, she steered blessedly clear of attacks on the United States or Israel and excluded the conspiracy-theory mongering so common to Iranian political life. Instead, she:
- Ridiculed the regime for portraying the demonstrators as Western agents.
- Bitterly complained that corpses of demonstrators were"wrapped in American flags" and then trampled upon.
- Condemned the regime's" crimes" in Iraq and its"export of terrorism" to Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Afghanistan.
- Predicted that"the beginning of the end" of the Islamic Republic of Iran is underway.
- Critiqued the Obama administration for giving yet another chance to the regime, noting that the Bush administration had met its representatives 28 times to no avail.
Rajavi has rightly called for a stronger U.S. policy toward Tehran, explaining in a recent interview that"The West can stop the nuclear program if it stands up to the mullahs."
Sadly, standing up to the mullahs has never been American policy. Jimmy Carter meekly accepted their rule. Ronald Reagan sent them arms. To win their favor, Bill Clinton put the MEK on the terrorism list. George W. Bush did not foil their nuclear weapons project. And Barack Obama hopes to gain concessions from Tehran on the nuclear weapons issue by distancing himself from the dissidents.
Instead, flux in Iran should invite boldness and innovation. It is time, finally, for a robust U.S. policy that encourages those yelling"Death to Khamene'i" and that takes advantage of the hyperbolic fear the MeK arouses in Iran's ruling circles (first step: end the MeK's preposterous listing as a terrorist organization).
As Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Republican of Michigan) notes, regime change in Iran becomes the more urgent if the mullahs will soon deploy nuclear weapons. The vital and potentially victorious movement building both on the streets of Iran and in the halls of Europe better represents not only Western values but also Western interests.
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 14:40
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (6-24-09)
' First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days.
I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs.
But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the elections.
These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders.
This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.
The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers. And so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.
This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard.
Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.
While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech.
If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion.
That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government."
The thrust of these comments is to deplore the Iranian state's interference in the people's right of peaceable assembly and nonviolent protest, a right guaranteed in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is a good statement, insofar as it is phrased in terms that recognize an ongoing debate inside Iran and rejects US interference in Iranian domestic affairs.
But there are dangers here. Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989. George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran's crackdown on student protesters in 2003 or about the crackdown on reformist candidates, which excluded them from running in the 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections, or about the probably fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2005. It is hard to see what he could have done, contrary to what his erstwhile supporters in Congress now seem to imply. As an oil state, the Iranian regime does not need the rest of the world and is not easy to pressure. So Obama needs to be careful about raising expectations of any sort of practical intervention by the US, which could not possibly succeed. (Despite the US media's determined ignoring the the Afghanistan War, it is rather a limiting factor on US options with regard to Iran.) Moreover, if the regime succeeds in quelling the protests, however odious it is, it will still be a chess piece on the board of international diplomacy and the US will have to deal with it just as it deals with post-Tiananmen China.
And, the more Obama speaks on the subject, even in these terms, the more he risks associating the Mousavi supporters with a CIA plot. Iranian media are already parading arrested protesters who are 'confessing' that 'Western media' led them astray. In nationalist and wounded Iran, if someone is successfully tagged as an agent of foreign interests, it is the political kiss of death.
The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-1979. The shah had a national system of domestic surveillance and tossed people in jail for the slightest dissidence, and was supported to the hilt by the United States government. So past American intervention has not been on the side of let us say human rights.
More recently, the US backed the creepy and cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors or MEK), which originated in a mixture of communist Stalinism and fundamentalist Islam. The MEK is a terrorist organization and has blown things up inside Iran, so the Pentagon's ties with them are wrong in so many ways. The MEK, by the way, has a very substantial lobby in Washington DC and has some congressmen in its back pocket, and is supported by the less savory elements of the Israel lobbies such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson. I am not saying they should be investigated for material support of terrorism, since I am appalled by the unconstitutional breadth of that current DOJ tactic, but I am signalling that the US imperialist Right has been up to very sinister things in Iran for decades. A person who worked in the Pentagon once alleged to me that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was privately pushing for using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran. And Dick Cheney is so attached to launching war on Iran that he characterized attempts to deflect such plans as a" conspiracy." Given what the US did to Fallujah, it strikes me as unlikely that a military invasion of Iran would be good for that country's civic life. And there are rather disadvantages to being nuked, even by the kindliest of WASP gentlemen of Mr. Rumsfeld's ilk.
Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated 'protest zones' would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.
The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.
I applaud the Iranian public's protests against a clearly fraudulent election, and deplore the jackboot tactics that the regime is using to quell them. But it is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a 'Homeland Security' national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word 'terrorist' around about dissidents. Obama and the Democrats have not addressed this creeping desecration of the Bill of Rights, and until they do, the pronouncements of self-righteous US senators and congressmen on the travesty in Tehran will be nothing more that imperialist hypocrisy of the most abject sort.
American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 22:13
SOURCE: http://www.theaugeanstables.com (6-23-09)
The footage of a Palestinian man [sic] being shot dead [sic] next to his 12-year-old son, Muhammad Jamal al-Durrah, by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2000 has been etched in the minds of many Iranians, as state television has continually replayed the images to highlight the “Zionist regime’s brutality.”
Now, the Islamic regime itself has become the subject of similar allegations at home and abroad after gruesome footage of a dying young woman during the suppression of an opposition protest on Saturday was released on the internet.
The image of Neda Salehi Agha-Soltan, a 27-year-old philosophy student, bleeding to death on the asphalt road of a Tehran street after she was shot in the chest, has become the rallying cry of the country’s opposition, which is disputing the June 12 election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
Only neither Jamal (the father) nor Muhammad al Durah (the son) were killed, not by Israelis soldiers, probably not by anyone, and certainly not “on TV.” These days when real footage, shot spontaneously, of victims of brutal repressive forces make it out of Iran, a country where the leaders make every effort to shut down the media, it may be useful to revisit the case of Muhammad al Durah.
With al Durah, we have a case of footage uncensored by authorities coming out of a conflict in which the allegedly repressive regime — the Israelis — provides the most welcoming atmosphere of freedom for journalists. These journalists repay the Israelis for their tolerance by running Pallywood footage staged by the Palestinians, specifically designed to provoke outrage. And in the case of Muhammad al Durah, the boy behind the barrel at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000, the footage was not only staged, but, thanks to the efforts of France2’s Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, it made it around the world with the imprimatur of Western Mainstream media. In short order, it became an icon of hatred, provoking outrage, hatred and violence against both Jews and Israelis — the first blood(less) libel of the 21st century.
One of Enderlin’s favorite arguments is, “look, if there were any substance to these allegations, the Israelis would be all over me and Talal. The fact that they’ve done nothing is proof that we’re right, and Talal is “as white as snow.” He most recently repeated these arguments at his blog.
So let me suggest a counter-argument: If there were any substance to Charles Enderlin’s defense, he would have informed himself of the details of the evidence.
Instead, he continues to remain supremely ignorant of all the telling problems with both Talal’s account and his own.
His performance in his interview with Schapira for the new movie shows us precisely the kind of know-nothing folly that first inspired the term Pallywood, which came not from evidence of Palestinian fakes — I’d already seen many — but from Enderlin’s complacent response to having them pointed out: “Oh yeah, they do that all the time. It’s a cultural thing.”
Here are some views of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of a major MSM figure, one of the most influential journalists in Europe for the last two decades. Not one word that he utters has any substance in terms of serious argumentation. In any first-year graduate seminar in history the kind of cavalier contempt for hard evidence and argumentation that Enderlin displays here would earn him the disbelief of fellow students and a ticket to ride from the professors… Unless, of course, we were in an honor-shame culture where someone with protected status could get away with anything he wanted to say.
Both in the details, and in the argumentation, Enderlin gets an “F” in Second Draft of journalism.
It’s a smear campaign by people who don’t like my work
Here is Charles in court the day of the showing of Talal’s rushes (the beginning of his downfall), pugnaciously leading with his chin. He is typically dismissive — “you can say he was killed by Martians…” and categorical “we didn’t fabricate these images” (if that we includes Talal, it’s problematic). But the most revealing “argument” is that people who oppose him do so because they “don’t want my reports, my books, and my commentaries.”
Note the revealing slip at the beginning: “This is a libel suit… uuuh, a libel against me.” He’s the one bringing the libel suit against Karsenty, but he’s trying to position himself as the victim. Indeed, we met one vociferous ex-Israeli French journalist in the court who was indignant at how Enderlin was being dragged through the judicial mud by this suit against him.
But the larger question is certainly worth considering. Enderlin, true to style, uses conspiracy-theory logic. Cui bono? To whom the good? If I lose this case, then my whole oeuvre will be in doubt. Ergo, those who attack me on this case actually want to discredit me entirely.
Actually, I had never heard of Enderlin before this, and my concern was both to challenge so powerful and hate-engendering an icon — a blood libel — and, as I became involved, to challenge the inexcusable complaisance of the MSM with Pallywood footage. As I’ve learned more about Enderlin, I think he’s right on one point: his behavior here should call into question the rest of his work which, as I’ve learned, is also tendentious and treats evidence loosely. But to go from that to “it’s a conspiracy to shut me up” not only shows the paranoid quality of Enderlin’s thinking, but also the nature of his appeal: “Don’t listen to them; they don’t like my politics.” Alas, this works all too often these days....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 22:09
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (6-23-09)
Iran's Guardianship Council, a sort of clerical senate on Tuesday ruled out any cancellation of the results of the recent presidential election, as called for by the opposition. The official outcome gave incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. The vote tallies for Ahmadinejad have struck large numbers of Iranians as wholly unbelievable. So the Supreme Leader has spoken and the Guardianship Council has spoken.
It should be underlined that as it developed in 1979-1980, the revolutionary Iranian regime has two wings. There is a sphere of clerical authority, represented by Khamenei, and a sphere of popular sovereignty, represented by the parliament and, later, the president. The clerical sphere includes not only Khamenei but also two collective bodies, the Guardianship Council and the Expediency Council (which has among other duties the charge of reconciling conflicts between the civil parliament and the Guardianship Council). The clerical sphere also includes the judiciary.
The sphere of popular sovereignty is subordinate to the clerical sphere, but not a puppet of it. The parliament has passed laws that were known to be disliked by Khamenei. The popular sphere was a place that ordinary laymen could blow off steam. Reformists such as former president Mohammad Khatami used the presidency as a bully pulpit to press for more freedom of expression and more rights for women. He was largely blocked by the clerical sphere, but while he was president he did effect changes.
The election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 changed these dynamics, since his views overlapped in some areas with those of the clerical sphere. In essence, Iran moved closer to being a one-party state. By stealing the election for Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has effectively made a coup on behalf of the clerical sphere in alliance with lay hard liners, which threatens to virtually abolish the sphere of popular sovereignty. That is what Mousavi and Karroubi and their followers are objecting to so vehemently. From the outside, Iran was often depicted as a totalitarian state. But from the inside it seemed to have wriggle room. The reformers are saying that the regime has just moved toward really being a totalitarian state and is now removing any space for dissent.
In response, a leader of one of Iran's genuine political parties, Hosain Marashi of the Kargozaran, which supports former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and a pragmatic conservative line, has called for the formation of a broad political bloc to work over time to challenge the"illegitimate" (na-mashru`) government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mir Hosain Mousavi, the chief rival of Ahmadinejad, met Monday with senior Iranian clergy to complain about the regime security forces attacking peaceful protesters and killing some of them. He maintains that such repression will only worsen the current crisis. That Mousavi, a former prime minister, is still getting access to senior ayatollahs and has not been arrested shows that the regime is proceeding cautiously in its crackdown. Mousavi has openly challenged the Supreme Leader, who so far has been helpless to silence him because of mass public support for him.
Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist presidential candidate, has called for nationwide mourning of the demonstrators killed last Saturday, to be held on Thursday. Among the victims on Saturday was Neda Agha Sultan, who has become an iconic martyr for the reform movement.
Aljazeera English carries Neda's fiance's account of her death:
Mourning martyrs is central to Shiite Iran's religious sensibilities, and Karroubi's appeal plays on powerful cultural themes.
About 1000 protesters gathered in downtown Tehran late afternoon Monday, but the security forces dispersed them with main force. Attempts were made by protesters to block traffic in parts of Tehran on Monday afternoon, but they appear to have been effectively broken up. Western reporters in Iran have had severe restrictions placed on them.
An eyewitness report from a list I am on, about Monday's broken-up scattered demonstrations in Tehran:
' I cannot sleep and not write this.
Today in Haft-e Tir, there were so many members of basij that they outnumbered the demonstrators 3 or 4 to 1. They were less focused on women. This must be related to the murder of poor Neda. And this was also why whenever they got hold of a man, women would surround them and shout don't beat him, don't beat and they would turn and anxiously say we didn't beat him. It was astonishing. They explained; they talked.
But they didn't allow us to congregate; they kept telling us to walk and the crowd walked quietly for 2 hours in the circle (meydaan) and spontaneously gathered in whichever area they were not present. About 2000 of us were walking around the circle and only shouting Allah-o Akbar until they were forced to disperse us with tear and pepper gases. I thought people's patience and persistence was great, although there were also many bad scenes and I cried.
They arrested a whole bus load of people. There were many intelligence folks in the crowd too. They would point to a person and the basijis would arrest that person. There was no one from Sepah and the police was obviously sympathetic to the crowd. I swear some of the Basijis were only 14 or 15, or at least what they looked like to me. On the other hand, women are playing an amazing role in the streets; both in terms of numbers and effectiveness.. '
Since demonstrations are becoming so hard to stage, what with motocycle Basij forces constantly patrolling and the regime's willingness to break heads even just for having a peaceful demonstration, the opposition is rumored to be shifting tactics.
Mir Hosain Mousavi is said to be planning to call for a national strike. It is hard to keep people from closing their shops and declining to go to work, and if the transportation workers join in, it can close down the city. (The Pakistani public used this tactic in its successful quest to reinstate the supreme court chief justice dismissed by a military dictator). In fact, if the transportation workers strike, they can force most people to miss work . . .
So this item, which appeared on an email list, is potentially very important:
' Excerpts from Statement by Tehran and Suburbs Bus Workers Syndicate Published at this site
Translator’s note: The Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate has been in the forefront of Iranian labor struggles since 2005. Their leader Mansour Osanloo has has been languishing in prison since the Summer of 2007. Other members of the organization have been under attack and in and out of prison.
“We Condemn the Suppression and Intimidation of Civil Institutions”
During the past few days we have witnessed the passionate struggle and presence of millions of women, men, old and young, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran . They demand that the government recognize their most basic rights, that is, their right to choose freely, independently and without fraud. This right has been recognized in most parts of the world where every effort is made to protect it. In the midst of this situation, we have witnessed intimidation, arrests, murders and an egregious crackdown which is about to expand and lead to the deaths of many innocent human beings. This crackdown will only lead to more protests among the people, and not their retreat.
The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate had said the following in a statement that it had issued prior to the June 12 presidential election. “In the absence of freedom of organization, our organization is naturally deprived of a social institution that would protect it. The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate considers political activity to be the definite right of each member of society. If the presidential candidates present their labor charter and give us practical guarantees on their election promises in relation to labor, workers have the choice to participate or not participate in this election.”
It is clear to all that the demands of the majority of Iranian society goes far beyond economic demands. During the past few years, we have emphasized that so long as the principle of freedom of organization and choice is not realized, any talk of social freedom and economic rights is more of a joke as opposed to reality.
On the basis of this reality, the Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate supports those who are giving their all to build a free and independent civil institution. We condemn any kind of suppression and intimidation.
In order to recognize economic and social rights in Iran, Friday June 25 has been declared an international day of support for imprisoned workers and trade unions in Iran. We are calling on everyone to consider this day to be more than a defense of economic rights. Let’s transform this day into a commemoration of human rights in Iran and ask our fellow workers around the world to take actions in defense of the pummeled rights of the majority of Iranians.
For the Expansion of Justice and Freedom Vahed Workers Syndicate June 2009'
Likewise suggestive is this piece, appearing in the student newspaper Amir Kabir News and translated by a group of UCLA students, which was posted to an email list:
' Amir Kabir News: A group of faculty and professors at Sanati Sharif University's Chemistry College resigned yesterday. These scholars in protest to the recent committed crimes resigned as a group. Prior to this, several faculty members at Tehran University had also resigned in protest to the crimes committed on the University campus. A group of scholars from AmirKabir University also resigned last saturday after gathering at the university mosque in protest to the recent events against the people, the students, and the election frauds.'
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 22:47
SOURCE: http://sagethoughts.wordpress.com (6-18-09)
Boy, how predictable! Just when we we’re feeling good about this emerging environment of greater toleration. Just when a leader like President Obama could emerge and appoint a judge like Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court a last century wack job like the killer who showed up at the Holocaust Museum reminds of us of how many of the hatreds of the last century, the century some have called the century of genocide remain with us.
Of course it’s easy to hate people like the killer who went into the Holocaust Museum ready to murder – easy to hate those folks who despise the 21st century with its improving attitudes on race and its scientific conclusions that dash ancient wisdoms.
I myself met an incredibly angry fellow a few days ago who vehemently denounced me for believing the world’s scientific community’s findings that humanity’s aggressive burning of fossil fuel is pushing the world’s climatic system toward a new global climate. Pushing it toward a future that may well provoke a vicious competition for food and water that could easily dwarf the genocides of the last century.
But frankly, its seems to this commentator that moving us more smoothly into the 21st century has less to do with the moving past the racial hatreds of the last century, than confronting the seemingly more benign indifference that fed so many of the last century’s genocides. The indifference that inspired the great German theologian German theologian Pastor Martin Niemöller to famously write:
“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then… they came for me… And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
But today we have a different challenge – a challenge not born from the stupid racial theories of earlier generations. But a physical threat born from among earlier generations’ great accomplishments –the capture of fossil fuels as a source of unimaginably great new energy. And the climate bill for that accomplishment that has come due in our own time.
And today’s enemy not the Nazis or the demons who drove our 88 year old killer to the door of the Holocaust Museum. But Niebuhr’s evil of indifference that remains deeply within us making it harder to take on the 21st century’s greatest challenge to the world’s health– the indifference that causes so many of us to ignore the emerging traumas of climate change.
And perhaps might someday inspire a Niebuhr like apology:
First the waters came for the Pacific Islanders those who lived so close to sea leve.l
The very people who just last month begged the UN security council to recognize the threat climate change is making to their low lying islands
But I was not from Kiribati or the Indian Ocean’s Maldives.
And then drought came for the people of Darfur.
Whose suffering the secretary general of the UN has directly linked to the struggle over food and water caused by climate change.
And then the fires came for the people of Southern California & Australia
Whose drought parched lands saw flames destroy homes across their land.
But I wasn’t from Sidney or Santa Barbara.
And then they came for the Alaskan communities for whom the United States government is already spending millions to relocate their displaced communities -themselves victims of global warming.
But it does not have to be that way. After all we live in a democracy that is at this very moment working to enact a new energy future –a new energy structure that has the potential to avoid the worst horrors of dramatic climate change. Even as it offers work to unemployed Americans eager to build that new energy future .
But that is not going to happen unless we take Niebuhr’s denunciation of indifference to heart and insist that our leaders support the new energy legislation currently moving through Congress
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 11:54
SOURCE: NYT (6-22-09)
I am old enough to remember when Israeli kibbutzim looked like settlements (“a small village or collection of houses” or “the act of peopling or colonizing a new country,” Oxford English Dictionary).
In the early 1960s, I spent time on Kibbutz Hakuk, a small community founded by the Palmah unit of the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish militia. Begun in 1945, Hakuk was just 18 years old when I first saw it, and was still raw at the edges. The few dozen families living there had built themselves a dining hall, farm sheds, homes and a “baby house” where the children were cared for during the workday. But where the residential buildings ended there were nothing but rock-covered hillsides and half-cleared fields.
The community’s members still dressed in blue work shirts, khaki shorts and triangular hats, consciously cultivating a pioneering image and ethos already at odds with the hectic urban atmosphere of Tel Aviv. Ours, they seemed to say to bright-eyed visitors and volunteers, is the real Israel; come and help us clear the boulders and grow bananas — and tell your friends in Europe and America to do likewise.
Hakuk is still there. But today it relies on a plastics factory and the tourists who flock to the nearby Sea of Galilee. The original farm, built around a fort, has been turned into a tourist attraction. To speak of this kibbutz as a settlement would be bizarre.
However, Israel needs “settlements.” They are intrinsic to the image it has long sought to convey to overseas admirers and fund-raisers: a struggling little country securing its rightful place in a hostile environment by the hard moral work of land clearance, irrigation, agrarian self-sufficiency, industrious productivity, legitimate self-defense and the building of Jewish communities. But this neo-collectivist frontier narrative rings false in modern, high-tech Israel. And so the settler myth has been transposed somewhere else — to the Palestinian lands seized in war in 1967 and occupied illegally ever since.
It is thus not by chance that the international press is encouraged to speak and write of Jewish “settlers” and “settlements” in the West Bank. But this image is profoundly misleading. The largest of these controversial communities in geographic terms is Maale Adumim. It has a population in excess of 35,000, demographically comparable to Montclair, N.J., or Winchester, England. What is most striking, however, about Maale Adumim is its territorial extent. This “settlement” comprises more than 30 square miles — making it one and a half times the size of Manhattan and nearly half as big as the borough and city of Manchester, England. Some “settlement.”...
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 02:01
SOURCE: Elizabeth Redden at Inside Higher Ed (6-22-09)
Q. The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which goes into effect in August, is often described as being in the spirit of the original, World War II GI Bill. What are the merits of the analogy, and where, if anywhere, does it fall short?
A. The 2008 GI Bill is based on one part of the original bill passed in 1944, and was impelled by the same sense that veterans both needed and deserved a much better deal from the federal government. But the differences outweigh these similarities. The original GI Bill was drafted as a temporary measure to ease the transition to civilian life of millions of World War II veterans, many of whom had been conscripts, and to help the American economy make the transition from total war to peace without slipping back into the depression that preceded the war. The new bill is an ongoing adjustment to the package of benefits made available to much smaller numbers of veterans of our current professional military, and was enacted with little if any reference to the state of the American economy (note that it became law before last fall’s financial meltdown). The details of the two bills are also very different. The 1944 bill was far more comprehensive, providing veterans with programs of support for higher education and sub-college training, a year’s worth of unemployment and self-employment benefits, job counseling and placement, and government guarantees for loans for the purchase of homes, businesses, and farms. The 2008 bill focuses only on higher education, and provides benefits that are far less generous than those in the original bill. It pays college tuitions, but only to the level of the most expensive public university in a veteran’s state. The 1944 GI Bill paid full tuitions at every public and private institution in the land.
Q. You note that the original GI Bill is too readily idealized and argue, instead, “that the GI Bill should not simply ... be admired in splendid isolation from either the circumstances of its passage – the institutions, the ideological and partisan conflicts, the hopes and fears of the late war years – or the critical criteria we normally bring to bear on other events in our nation’s past.” Are there any popular misconceptions or oversimplifications out there you’d like to correct, or better situate in their historical contexts?
A. Yes. In one or two important ways, the effects of the GI Bill have been exaggerated by authors and others who are perhaps too eager to celebrate the bill’s contributions to post-war American life. It has been claimed, for example, that the VA mortgage, created by Title III of the GI Bill, was primarily if not wholly responsible for the vast expansion of suburbs after the war, and for a dramatic shift towards home ownership among American families. In reality, the VA mortgage financed only about one in six housing starts in the decade following the war, and the largest part of the shift toward home ownership occurred during the war, before the GI Bill was passed. The VA mortgage was very significant, but it did not create either the suburbs or a society of home owners. The GI Bill’s boost to college attendance was also quite significant, but the sudden swelling of enrollments owed a good deal to the postponement of college attendance for two, three, or four years by millions of young men and women who first had a war to win. Many of the veteran applicants who showed up after the war -- indeed, probably a majority -- would have attended college even if there had been no GI Bill. And apart from the effects of these important programs, Americans have been a little too quick to celebrate the bipartisan, non-ideological Congressional consensus that produced so wise a measure. The GI Bill was passed unanimously in both the Senate and the House, but this was mainly because conservatives and liberals saw the bill very differently. Conservatives hoped that this temporary measure, confined entirely to veterans, would help foreclose any return to more general New Deal-like domestic programs. Liberals hoped it would be just the opposite, a foot in the door for domestic policy expansion....
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 01:38
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (6-22-09)
Hey, have you heard the latest joke? It's called the New York Legislature.
Two Democrats recently defected to the Republicans, allowing the GOP to take over the Senate; someone locked the door of the Senate chamber, until Republicans mysteriously located the key; then one of the two defectors came back to the Democrats, leaving the Senate in a deadlock.
And it's all been good fun for the fourth estate. Adding to the circuslike atmosphere in Albany, the New York Post sent a real live clown into the statehouse to poke fun at lawmakers. Meanwhile, editorialists tripped over one another in condemning the Legislature's curious mixture of insolence and incompetence."Many important issues remain unaddressed as lawmakers are consumed by this clownish partisan free-for-all about whose petty issues most New Yorkers could not care less," declared the Staten Island Advance, in a typical complaint.
But here's the part its readers might not know: the Advance recently closed its Albany bureau. Since 2007, in fact, five newspapers have removed their correspondents from the statehouse. And the papers that still send reporters there have trimmed their bureaus to the bone.
Nationwide, the trend is the same. Th e number of full-time reporters in American state capitols has decreased 32 percent in the past six years, according to a study released last April by the American Journalism Review. Over 140 newspapers have reduced their statehouse staffs since 2003, and more than 50 have eliminated these staffs altogether. So should we really be surprised when state lawmakers act in corrupt, brazen, or silly ways? The real surprise is that they don't do it more often. Or maybe we just don't know, because newspapers are no longer minding the store. Remember, many of America's most notable journalists got their start by exposing malfeasance in state capitols. Modern investigative reporting dates to the 1880s, when Henry Demarest Lloyd showed how John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company bribed and intimidated state lawmakers. In Pennsylvania, Lloyd famously wrote, Standard Oil"has done everything with the legislature, except refine it."
Today, we look back on Lloyd as America's first"muckraker." But the term was not coined until 1906, by Theodore Roosevelt, who complained about journalists who" could look no way but downward" and scraped up"the filth of the floor." Here he took aim especially at David Graham Phillips, whose nine-part article on"Treason in the Senate" condemned the undue power of rich campaign contributors in Congress. But we often forget that Phillips's series also exposed corruption in state legislatures, which were s till responsible for selecting US senators. As Phillips showed, large corporations paid off state lawmakers to choose senators who would be friendly to big business.
Phillips's articles helped spark a public campaign for the direct election of the US Senate, which took effect with a constitutional amendment in 1913.
It's hard to imagine a modern-day Lloyd or Phillips rampaging through American statehouses today, exposing greed and sloth, because the newspapers simply don't have the staff to conduct large-scale investigations there. And that's bad news for all of us — even for state officials, who need the press watchdogs as much as anybody else.
That's why Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz released a statement last year bemoaning the shrinking newspaper bureaus at her own statehouse."A vibrant democracy is dependent on its citizens having access to information," Ms. Bysiewicz wrote."As I push for ethics reform this session and think of the string of politicians that have betrayed the public trust, I cannot help but feel the people of Connecticut would be better served by the consistent daily coverage of a large capitol press corps."
So what can we do to revive it? Several statehouse journalists around the country have begun their own blogs, which can report on events that don't make it into print. Others are experimenting with e-mail and text alerts to get breaking news to wider audiences.
0AStill others are starting websites such as the Arizona Guardian, formed earlier this year by four laid-off local journalists. They have already broken several stories and lit a fire under competing news gatherers, who don't want to be beaten to the punch.
But the site plans to rely upon paid subscriptions, and it's unclear if that's a sustainable model in the long run. Other new digital outlets are seeking money from foundations, which are struggling themselves amid the current economic downturn.
Will any of these innovations stick? Nobody knows. But here's what we do know: Without more reporting from state capitols, most of us won't have a clue what our lawmakers are doing. So go ahead, laugh at the clowns in Albany. The real joke is on us.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 01:26
SOURCE: Asia Pacific Journal (6-22-09)
Global attention focuses on North Korea (the DPRK, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and the crisis that envelops its nuclear and missile programs. A little-noted aspect of the crisis has been the rise of Japan to centre stage in the Security Council proceedings and in the formation of global understanding of the problem.
Less than a year ago Japan was the outsider at the Six Party talks on North Korea, blocking any agreement, refusing to meet its obligations under the agreements that were in due course reached in Beijing, and protesting vigorously, and eventually in vain, at the US decision to remove North Korea from the list of terror-supporting countries. From outsider at Beijing and in Washington under the late George W. Bush, Japan’s influence has soared under Obama. Though occupying only a temporary Security Council seat, secured by horse-trading with Mongolia, it has become in effect an honorary superpower, major architect of the Security Council presidential statement of 13 April and of Resolution 1874 of 12 June. For North Korea, nothing could be more galling than the awareness that its old nemesis and former colonial master now leads the world in denouncing and sanctioning it.
In the following essay, Wada Haruki, emeritus professor at the University of Tokyo and authority on the modern history of Korea, discusses the background to the present frozen and hostile relationship between the two countries. (GMcC)
１ What is the state of the Japan-DPRK relationship?
According to the materials of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, there are now in this world 194 countries - setting aside Taiwan, the Republic of China. Among these 194 countries Japan has diplomatic relations with all save one—the DPRK. And yet the DPRK is one of Japan’s closest neighbors, and one with which it has been closely tied throughout its history. In ancient times Japan was influenced culturally by the kingdom of Koguryo, which ruled in what is now North Korea. In late medieval times Japanese forces invaded North Korea and occupied Pyongyang for seven months in 1592—93. In the modern era Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and turned it into her colony until 1945. In the Korean war of 1950-53 Japan served as the most important air force and logistics rear base to US armed forces fighting against North Korea. US B-29 bombers flew every day from Yokota and Kadena bases, raiding North Korean cities and facilities. In 1977-1983 North Korean agents abducted up to two dozen Japanese citizens in order to conduct subversive activities in South Korea.
At present North Korea, the DPRK is the most hated and feared country for the majority of Japanese people. In their eyes, Kim Jong Il’s regime looks threatening and poor. More than 150 North Korean missiles are targeted at Japan, first of all at US bases and second at the Self Defense Force bases. Of course, North Korea’s nuclear tests have generated fear and anger in Japan. Such North Korean actions led Japan to ban all exports from North Korea and all visits of North Korean vessels and citizens to Japan. Our relations with North Korea may be worse now than ever.
This situation is dangerously abnormal. Without reliable relations with one’s neighbors, normal life becomes impossible. In order to secure safety, at a minimum right now it is necessary to start diplomatic negotiations to normalize relations with the DPRK. Actually, negotiations between the Japanese and North Korean governments on normalization started in 1991, 18 years ago. Japan’s Prime Minister visited Pyongyang twice in the last seven years, but in vain. This is an additional factor of abnormality in our situation.
Therefore we must think over the problem, “What is wrong with our attitude toward the Japan-DPRK relations?”
2 Koizumi’s Visit, 2002
On September 17, 2002, Prime Minister Koizumi surprised the international community by visiting Pyongyang. This unexpected turn of events was nevertheless the result of long, secret negotiations that began at the initiative of the North Korean side at the end of 2001. “Mr. X,” a North Korean who enjoyed the confidence of leader Kim Jong Il, and Tanaka Hitoshi, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asia-Pacific Bureau, had conducted negotiations patiently and came to an agreement named later the “Pyongyang Declaration”. This agreement was disclosed to some leading high officials of the Foreign Ministry only on August 21 and to Abe Shinzo, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, when he was accompanying Koizumi on the plane to Pyongyang .
We do not know when the United States government was informed of this agreement. Though Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang was carried out with the consent of the United States government, full information was not given to the United States. It was a rare case of independent Japanese diplomacy.
At Pyongyang, the two leaders agreed to “make every possible effort for an early normalization of relations.” Koizumi expressed “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for “the tremendous damage and suffering” inflicted on the people of Korea during the colonial era, while Kim Jong Il apologized for the abductions of 13 Japanese and for the dispatch of spy ships in Japanese waters. North Koreans informed Japan that 8 of 13 were dead and 5 survived.
North Korean Stamp to Commemorate the Koizumi Visit
Initially Koizumi’s diplomacy and the moves to normalize relations with North Korea drew a positive public response in Japan. But of course the families of the victims, informed that their sons or daughters were dead, were dismayed and reluctant to believe such information. Sukuukai (the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Abducted by North Korea), headed by Sato Katsumi, an anti-DPRK activist, devised an argument which served as a way out of this crisis.
Sukuukai issued a statement on September 19, two days after the Koizumi visit, saying:
"There is no basis for the information on the survival or death of the abductees that the North Korean government provided to Koizumi during his visit. The Japanese government has yet to verify the accuracy of this information. Thus, there is a strong possibility that the eight people who are reported as dead may still be alive. Despite this, the Japanese government's simply informing the families that these people are dead may increase the possibility that these victims, if indeed alive, will be killed." 
Whether North Korea gave evidence of the deaths of the eight victims or not, Japan should have responded to its confession about their death with sincere attention. The Sukuukai argument was not logical. Sukuukai began to attack Foreign Ministry officials, especially Tanaka Hitoshi. He came to be called a traitor who betrayed the national interest. Unreasonable anti-DPRK feelings were provoked in Japan.
Three weeks after the Summit, five of the thirteen recognized abductees returned to Japan in a special plane. According to the agreement between the two governments, these five were to return to Pyongyang to work out their long-term future and that of their families. But their parents and brothers and sisters were not willing to allow them to go back to Pyongyang. The five finally made up their minds to remain and wait for their children in Japan . What the Japanese government should have done at this moment was to apologize for violating the promise and to ask the North Korean government to allow the five to remain permanently in Japan. Instead, Tanaka Hitoshi was forced to say that there was no such promise and Abe Shinzo, to whom Koizumi entrusted this matter, began to issue highhanded and insulting demands for the return of the children of the Five.
The relations between two governments became hostile and Japanese national feelings toward North Korea deteriorated precipitously. Around this time Abe was saying that “In Japan there is food and oil, and since North Korea cannot survive the winter without them, it will crack before too long”.
Against this background US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly’s visit to Pyongyang and his story of a North Korean uranium enrichment program played a decisive role in disappointing the Japanese aspiration for normalization of relations with North Korea.
After these four lost years, 2002-2006, Abe succeeded Koizumi as Prime Minister.
3 Japan’s policy toward North Korea—“Abduction Issue First”
Japan’s Policy toward North Korea was comprehensively defined by the Abe Cabinet in autumn 2006. Prime Minister Abe said in his policy speech to the Diet on September 29, 2006:
“There can be no normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea unless the abduction issue is resolved. In order to advance comprehensive measures concerning the abduction issue, I have decided to establish the"Headquarters on the Abduction Issue" chaired by myself, and to assign a secretariat solely dedicated to this Headquarters. Under the policy of dialogue and pressure, I will continue to strongly demand the return of all abductees assuming that they are all still alive. Regarding nuclear and missile issues, I will strive to seek resolution through the Six-Party Talks, while ensuring close coordination between Japan and the United States” .
Prime Minister Abe declared that the solution of abduction issue was “the most important problem our country faces” and appointed Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki Yasuhisa as Minister in charge and Nakayama Kyoko as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on abduction issue. Just three days after the start of his Cabinet, Abe established a"Headquarters on the Abduction Issue" (hereafter: HAI) chaired by the Prime Minister and including all Cabinet members. It was a sort of an emergency form of the Cabinet.
The first meeting of the HAI, held on October 16, adopted a document entitled “Principles for measures to address the abduction issue”. In the preface phrases of Abe’s policy address were re-confirmed, such as “there can be no normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea unless the abduction issue is resolved,” and that the government united would seek to realize “the return of all abductees” alive.
“Megumi, and the Other Abductees, Are Alive – The Record of 10 years of Struggle”
Sankei shimbunsha, 2007
Behind this latter phrase lies the notion that if North Korea could not provide clear evidence of the death of the victims Japan should assume all are still alive and demand the return of all abductees. This notion was promoted by Sukuukai in September 2002. At that time, such a view was shared only by victim families, but in December 2004, just after the DNA examination of the so-called Yokota Megumi bones, the Japanese government adopted it as official policy toward North Korea.
North Korea declared that 13 had been abducted, of whom 8 were dead and only 5 remained alive. Japan demanded evidence of death, but not receiving satisfactory answers, came to think the 8 all still alive and to demand their return. It was a jump in logic, inappropriate in diplomatic negotiations.
The first meeting of the HAI decided on the following six point program.
1. The Japanese Government will continue to call resolutely on North Korea to allow all abductees to return immediately to Japan, to reveal the facts behind the abductions, and to hand over those who carried out the abductions.
2. The Japanese Government has implemented a series of economic sanctions against North Korea. It will consider implementing further measures, in accordance with the future stance adopted by North Korea.
3. The Japanese Government will continue to implement strict legal measures. (Under this head, wholesale harassment was carried out of North Korean-affiliated Koreans in Japan and their association, Chongryon, by the strict implementation of legal measures.)
4. The HAI will further enhance efforts to raise the awareness of the Japanese people regarding the abduction issue.
5. The HAI will continue to promote every effort to study and investigate other cases in which the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea cannot be ruled out.
6. The HAI will further strengthen its international collaborative efforts in multilateral forums such as the United Nations, and through close cooperation with concerned countries.
HAI has a secretariat, with a staff currently of around 40 from related Ministries and the Police agency and a budget of 226 million yen (2006), 480 million yen (2007), and 677 million yen (2008), not including personnel. In 2008, 75 million yen was spent on policy studies, 100 million on intelligence services, 110 million on public relations and education, 110 million on activities abroad, 146 million on broadcasts to North Korea . Around 200 million yen for the 40 officials is paid by their home ministries or police agencies. Therefore, if personnel expenditures are included, the HAI budget amounts to 900 million yen.
HAI’s main activities are propaganda at home and abroad on the awfulness of the North Korean crime of abduction and on North Korean cruelty. Posters, TV commercials, pamphlets, a DVD program entitled “Abduction—An Unforgivable Crime” have been produced and circulated. The documentary film “Megumi” and the animation film “Megumi” were bought up and shown, especially to high and middle school boys and girls. A broadcast to North Korea entitled “Wind from home towns” was regularly repeated. Together with local governments in Japan, HAI organizes various events during the “North Korean Human Rights Abuses Awareness Week” held every year from December 10th to 16th, and also occasional international symposia and national rallies.
One of HAI’s functions is to liaise between Kazokukai (The Abductee Families Association), the abducted families and the government. Abducted families regularly meet the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister through HAI. The activities abroad of abducted families are attended by officers of HAI and supported financially. Thus HAI tends to cope with the abduction issue monopolistically, taking over some of the diplomatic functions of the Foreign Ministry. The result is a phenomenon of dual diplomacy.
HAI’s activities are combined with economic sanctions against North Korea, decided in October 2006 and renewed or intensified every half year since then. The main content of economic sanctions is prohibition of North Korean exports to Japan and North Korean vessels’ visits to Japan. As these measures were adopted and carried out only by the Japanese government, their effects are believed to be not so serious. But it is a fact that the ban on Mangyongbong Ferry between Niigata and Wonsan, which was used mainly by Koreans in Japan, caused palpable damage to them.
Besides these measures, the direct harassment of DPRK–affiliated Koreans in Japan and their organization, Chongryon, was carried out systematically by police and local governments in the name of strict implementation of the rules. This policy was promoted and led by the Director of the Police Agency, Uruma Iwao. Uruma said overtly that it was the police’s task to make North Korea enter into negotiation with Japan . In the case of Koreans in Japan, even small violations of laws were not overlooked. Police search houses and arrest suspects. Newspapers write inflated articles. Tax exemptions which Korean associations and schools had enjoyed for many years were re-examined and abolished as illegal. These were all petty harassments which outraged minority groups and created internal cleavages.
Prime Minister Abe’s policy was expressed in Japan’s approach to the Six Party talks. In February 2007 it was decided that during the Initial Action phase and the next phase energy assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil would be provided to the DPRK. Five countries were each expected to provide 200 thousand tons of heavy fuel oil. Japan, however, refused to give its portion because the abduction issue was not solved. In October 2008 the U. S. government approached the Australian government to ask it to contribute in place of Japan. North Korea at that time said that Japan need not remain in Six Party Talks.
Prime Minister Abe’s HAI policy can be characterized as an Abduction Issue First policy.
4 Prime Minister Fukuda’s Failure and Exodus
In September 2007 Abe suddenly resigned, and was replaced as Prime Minister by Fukuda Yasuo. In his campaign speech Fukuda clearly distinguished his policy line on North Korean issue from Abe’s. In his October 1 policy address to the Diet, Fukuda stated:
“The resolution of issues related to the Korean Peninsula is indispensable for peace and stability in Asia. For the denuclearization of North Korea, we will further strengthen coordination with the international community, through fora such as the Six-Party Talks. The abduction issue is a serious human rights issue. We will exert our maximum efforts to realize the earliest return of all the abductees, settle the “unfortunate past,” and normalize the relations between Japan and North Korea” .
Fukuda put the nuclear issue as his top priority and sought the solution of abduction issue in the process of normalization of relations with North Korea. During his administration, no meeting of the HAI was held. It seems that Prime Minister Fukuda was not even conscious of being Chairman of this headquarters. Yet he could not actually abolish the HAI and kept the position of Nakayama Kyoko, Special Adviser on the Abduction Issue, intact. HAI’s budget and its staff was maintained and continued to expand.
As the Fukuda Cabinet faced continuously various annoying political issues, it could not tackle the North Korean problem. But in the spring of 2008 a new tide came in. Both in ruling parties such as the Liberal-Democratic Party and Komei Party, and in opposition parties such as the Democratic Party and Social-Democratic Party, committees and study groups committed to tackling the Korean peninsula issue were organized. Soon a Parliamentarians’ League for Promotion of Japan-DPRK Normalization was inaugurated on the basis of such committees and study groups. Backed by such moves, Saiki Akitaka, Head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asia-Pacific Bureau, negotiated with Song Il-ho, North Korean Ambassador, twice in June and August, 2008. They managed to come to agreement each time on partial removal of economic sanctions and re-investigation of the abducted victims.
In negotiations in Beijing on June 11-12, 2008 the North Korean ambassador stated that North Korea would no longer contend that the abduction issue was solved, and promised to re-investigate the abducted victims. He stated that return of the hijackers of the JAL plane Yodo (1970) would be promoted. A Japanese representative stated that the prohibition of visits for government employees and the ban on charter flights would be lifted and that North Korean vessels would be allowed to enter Japanese ports in order to carry humanitarian aid . However, when this agreement was made public in Japan, reaction was so strong that Cabinet Secretary Machimura hurried to retreat and stated that such sanctions would only be lifted after checking the results of the re-examination. North Korea rejected this.
But on August 11-12 Saiki and Ambassador Song met again in Shenyang and came to another agreement: when the North Korean side informed Japan about the start of the committee for re-investigation into the victims of abduction, Japan would lift the prohibition on visits by government employees and the ban on charter flights. It is amazing that the North Korean side withdrew its demand for the right of its vessels to visit Japan. But in the beginning of September Prime Minister Fukuda showed a lack of responsibility by suddenly resigning, and the second agreement collapsed.
From October 18 to 22, I visited Pyongyang (as Secretary-General of the National Association for Normalization of Japan-North Korea Relations) to meet North Korean participants in Japan-DPRK negotiations. Ambassador Song did not appear, but his assistant Yi Byung dok did. He explained that in the June negotiations the Japanese side had promised in future to behave carefully so as not to irritate the North Korean side and not to use the abduction issue for political purposes. He further said that in the August negotiations the Japanese side had pledged to keep its promise in the name of Prime Minister Fukuda. “Therefore,” he said, “we dared to come to the second agreement”.
This is the story from the North Korean side. I could not hear the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s response. But it is natural to imagine that on hearing that Japan was ready to change its attitude fundamentally, the North Korean side also changed its stand that the abduction issue was already solved. Saiki, representative of Japan, after the June negotiations explained that “we were able to have penetrating discussions about important issues between Japan and DPRK in a sincere and constructive atmosphere”. That is to say that the June and August negotiations were carried out by Prime Minister Fukuda and Foreign Ministry in different spirit from the HAI line. With Fukuda’s departure, however, the possibility of change disappeared.
5 Popular Consciousness and the Mainstream Media
While Fukuda was Prime Minister, he was under great pressure from the people’s consciousness and from mainstream media. The Japanese people have deep sympathy toward the abducted victims and their families. They are inclined to think that the abduction issue is the most important task Japan faces and are not willing to hear dissident opinions about this issue. Such prevalent social atmosphere binds equally government, Diet members, and Foreign Ministry.
The mass media tends to unite in a hard-line attitude. TV news shows in particular are sensational. The Abe Cabinet ordered Nippon Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) to step up its coverage of the abduction issue in its overseas broadcasts. This order exerted influence on NHK generally and NHK’s regular news at 19:00 began to cover the abduction issue constantly. Almost every Sunday this news covers the activities of abducted families, especially Yokota Megumi’s parents. When Prime Minister Fukuda resigned, in the main national NHK TV news at 19:00 it was the representative of Kazokukai (Association of Abducted Families), Iizuka Shigeo, who appeared first to assess the event. He was followed by the President of the Federation of Economic Organizations, Mitarai Fujio. Nowadays the leaders of Kazokukai, IIzuka and Masumoto Teruaki (Secretary General), are first priority in newspapers and on TV programs as commentators on North Korean matters. Their comments are always fiercely anti-DPRK and in favor of increased economic sanctions.
The newspaper Asahi Shimbun has been known to be liberal. This company organized exhibitions of Yokota Megumi’s photos in all parts of Japan during the past three years, with a late November exhibition in Tokyo to crown the enterprise. On November 23 Asahi Shimbun’s well-known column “Tensei Jingo” introduced this exhibition and finished with the following words: “A mother of a neighboring country is saying such words full of sorrow and anger, but a dictator still survives there.”  The mother, Yokota Sakie, has become a national heroine, fighting bravely against North Korea to get back her abducted daughter Megumi.
Yokota Megumi’s Parents, Shigeru and Sakie
On April 25, 2009 in the late night TV discussion program “Asamade Nama Terebi” the well-known anchor man, Tawara Soichiro, said, “The Japanese Government negotiations with North Korea are premised on the assumption that Yokota Megumi and Arimoto Keiko are alive. North Korea, however, has repeatedly said that they are not alive. And the [Japanese] Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows that they are not alive. But to negotiate on the understanding that they are not alive would be to invite severe criticism from public opinion and the mass media.” Tawara’s informant, he said, was a high-ranking Ministry of Foreign Affairs official (No. 2 or No. 3). Angry at this, Kazokukai demanded an apology from Tawara and his TV company.
It is difficult to examine the problem of life and death of abducted victims in public media or in parliament. Beneath the understandable anguish of the victim families a suspicion that their sentiments might have been manipulated, even by government, begins to surface. Yokota Shigeru, father of Megumi, spoke at a press conference on May 11:
“There is no evidence whatever of [my daughter’s] death. So long as there is no objective proof, naturally we have to proceed on the assumption that she is still alive. It would be outrageous if it turned out that negotiations are being prolonged even though she is dead. As her family, we want to know the truth. If she really is dead, then there is nothing for it but for us to accept that, but if it turns out that the government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been negotiating as if she were still alive while knowing her to be dead, that would be an extremely serious matter.”
If it is the case that the Japanese government has been manipulating the media and public opinion, and even the victim families, by concealing crucial information, and that political and media groups have been uncritically swallowing the government’s line, that would indeed be “outrageous.” Perhaps we simply have to wait for a small boy to say that “the king is naked.”
6 Prime Minister Aso’s Return Bout
The Bush administration’s decision to finally lift the terror-supporting label from North Korea hit the Aso Cabinet within days of its launch. On October 11, 2008 this decision was made public and North Korea, welcoming this action of the US government, announced that disablement of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon would be resumed. Given only 30 minute notice of the announcement, Prime Minister Aso and his government received a severe shock. Masumoto, Secretary General of the Abducted Families Association, said that it was “a betrayal, which shows the US government does not care for Japanese lives in the name of own national interest” . The Yomiuri featured the headline “Defeat of Japanese Diplomacy” for its October 13 issue .
The Aso Cabinet reacted to this shock by reviving the HAI. On October 15 the second meeting of the HAI chaired by Prime Minister Aso was held and it re-confirmed the Abe document “Principles for measures to meet the abduction issue”. At the same time economic sanctions were renewed for another half year. North Korea thereupon effectively cancelled its agreement with the Fukuda government.
Thereafter there have been no negotiations between two countries. We are facing a true stalemate. The Aso Cabinet has been annoyed by the falling percentage of support in public-opinion polls. Prime Minister Aso has made desperate efforts to prolong his Liberal-Democratic Party administration by every means. To a Prime Minister in such straits, the North Korean announcement in March of intention to launch a rocket for a communications satellite provided a big chance to project the image of reliable government.
Prime Minister Aso immediately on March 13 stated that even if it was a satellite launch, it would be a breach of U.N. resolutions, and that Japan was determined to cooperate with the United States and the ROK in promoting a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions . He ordered any possible falling objects from the North Korean missile flying high above Japan to be destroyed, allocating PAC3 rockets in several places of Japan. People’s apprehensions were very much heightened. The March 28 issue of the Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Aso wishes to raise the Cabinet’s reputation by showing its crisis-control ability . When North Korea launched a rocket on April 5, the Japanese government called upon the Security Council to convene an urgent meeting and joined with the United States to call for a resolution of further sanctions. Prime Minister Aso persuaded Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to join Japan’s resolution . Though a new Security Council resolution was not obtained, Japan succeeded in getting a Security Council chairman’s Statement that recognized North Korea’s launch as a violation of Security Council resolution 1718. Further sanctions against North Korea followed.
Japan itself decided to renew the existing economic sanctions for another year and adopted a new sanction. Each traveler to North Korea could hitherto take one million yen with him, but now was to be allowed to take only 300 thousand yen.
On the eve of the North Korean launch Japanese specialists without exception thought that North Korea wanted to achieve a repetition of the process after the launch of the Taepodong missile in September 1998, in other words, to start a process akin to the second Perry process. I agreed with my colleagues, but I attached greater importance to the North Korean internal situation. To Kim Jong Il’s regime the rocket launch on April 5 was rather an action to demonstrate Kim Jong Il’s power and the national integration around his leadership.
The ailing leader Kim Jong Il came to realize that the country’s internal situation had declined and many rumors of possible successors spread during his absence from the political scene. After recovery, he began his pilgrimage to various places in the country to show that he is alive and to remove people’s apprehensions. On March 8 an election of deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly was held. The rocket for a communications satellite was launched on the eve of the opening of the new Supreme People’s Assembly. On April 9 the Assembly opened and a new Defense Committee was elected. The portraits of all members of this highest power organ were published in the April 10 issue of Nodong Shimbun . The launch of the rocket was tightly linked with this power ceremony.
Japan paid no attention to this situation and led an international campaign against North Korea. The accusations of the international community, the Security Council chairman’s statement and the new sanctions damaged Kim Jong Il’s prestige. North Koreans were so infuriated that on April 30 the press officer of the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that if the Security Council did not apologize for freezing the assets of three North Korean companies, North Korea would take measures for self defense, such as nuclear tests and the launch of trans-continental ballistic missiles. This means that the actions taken by the Security Council after the launch of the rocket on April 5 rather than having a positive effect instead worsened the situation.
On April 17, two conferences were held in Tokyo at the initiative of the Japanese government: the Pakistan Donors Conference and the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Group Ministerial Meeting. Prime Minister Aso promised to give 100 million dollars in aid to Pakistan, saying “Without the stability of Pakistan, there can be no stable Afghanistan, and vice versa”. No doubt this is necessary aid. But Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and is still developing missile technology, and Pakistan provided uranium enrichment technology to North Korea. There are many problems in this country. Japan took the lead in helping Pakistan to overcome social unrest without saying that first it had to abandon its nuclear weapons program. We can not deny that this was a double standard.
7 The Obama administration and North Korea
Obama diplomacy toward Northeast Asia has not yet started in full scale. In its policy priority the position of Northeast Asia does not seem high. Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq problems may top President Obama’s list. Perhaps the Cuban problem ranks higher than North Korea. This is to be understood and supported. And in the beginning of April during his visit to Prague, he proposed a bold plan for nuclear disarmament. This address touched the Japanese people by such words, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act”. This was great indeed.
But unfortunately in the very morning, April 5, when President Obama was going to make the address, North Korea launched a rocket over Japan. The President was busy forming his attitude to this action of North Korea. Finally in his address President Obama included some remarks about North Korea. He said that North Korea had broken the rules once more and that violations must be punished. “North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons”. I think that the President of a country armed with long-range and middle-range nuclear missiles should not call a North Korean rocket “illegal”. President Obama talked as if he were a high school teacher rebuking a boy in his class. In his address Obama tried to persuade the Iranian government, but not the North Korean government.
Former President George Bush liked independent actions and lifted the terror-supporting label from North Korea in spite of serious Japanese opposition. President Obama, however, favors international cooperation and chose to move against the North Korean launch in close cooperation with Japan and the ROK. Japan and the ROK now have no diplomatic contact with North Korea. Therefore, if the US wishes to cooperate closely with these two countries, it can do so not by dialogue but only by increasing pressure on North Korea. The result of international cooperation undertaken without adequate thought as to its consequences was the second North Korean nuclear explosion on May 25.
Now is the time for strong and developed countries to examine soberly the effect of their sanctions and to find ways to negotiate with North Korea, a small nation, irritated to the utmost, but aspiring to national security and economic development in its own way.
1. Yomiuri Shinbun seijibu, Gaiko wo kenka nishita otoko—Koizumi gaiko 2000 nichi no shinjitsu, Shintyosha, 2006, pp. 26, 32.
2. Araki Kazuhiro (ed.), Rachi kyushitsu undo no 2000 nichi 1996-2002, Soshisha, 2002, pp. 479-481.
3. Hasuike Toru, Rachi—Sayu no kakine wo koeta tatakai he, Kamogawa shuppan, 2009, pp. 31-33.
4. Asahi Shimbun, September 30, 2006.
5. Information from Aoki Osamu.
6. Aoki Osamu, “Abe seikenka, tai tyosensoren atsuryoku seisaku no jittai,” Sekai, 2008, No. 7, p. 153.
7. Asahi Shimbun, October 2, 2007.
8. Asahi Shimbun, June 13, 2008.
9. Asahi Shimbun, November 23, 2008.
10. Mainichi Shimbun, October 12, 2008.
11. Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2008.
12. Asahi Shimbun, March 13, 2009.
13. Mainichi Shimbun, March 28, 2009.
14. Asahi Shimbun, April 10, 2009.
15. Nodong Shinmun, April 10, 2009.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 01:06
SOURCE: Sandbox, a blog run by Martin Kramer (6-20-09)
Well, the Middle East doesn't revolve around the Palestinians, and young Iranians don't intend to wait for Mahmoud Abbas (emir of Ramallah, where there is a"good reality") to get off his derrière before demanding their freedom. Iranians rightly think they're no less worthy of the world's sympathy than the Palestinians. (One of the chants of Iran's protesters: Mardom chera neshastin, Iran shode Felestin!"People, why are you sitting down? Iran has become Palestine!") Events in Iran have left Obama's simplistic mental map of the Middle East, first learned from a few Palestinian activists and an old Hyde Park rabbi, in shreds.
We're fortunate that this has happened now, and not a year down the line. The collapse of the Obama strategy has occurred early enough in his presidency to create an opening for alternative strategies. In October, I predicted that such alternatives"will become relevant in another two years, when reality sinks in and illusions are shed." But it's happened in only the five months since the inauguration. The reeducation of Barack H. Obama has to begin now.
Update: A friend of mine writes:"Comme on dit en français, tu vas un peu vite en besogne..." In other words, I've cut corners. Quite possibly. If I'd taken more time, I would have pointed out that Obama has also been taken in by the myth, to which he alluded in his Cairo speech, that all Iranians remain incensed by what the United States did to the"democratically-elected" Mossadegh government in 1953, as opposed to what has happened to them during the thirty years of democracy-deprivation since 1979.
Posted on: Sunday, June 21, 2009 - 15:27