Monthly Archives: February 2019

Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”

It is a rare day that some member of Congress doesn’t expose him or herself as a hypocrite of the first order. This week, we have seen this done in spades.

On February 10, Representative Ilhan Omar (D- MN) said that U.S. Congressional support for Israel is “…all about the Benjamins…”, a reference to the U.S. denomination, $100.00 bills, that sport a picture of Benjamin Franklin. One would think that stating the obvious would not be met with such umbrage.

But no! Democratic leadership (how’s that for an oxymoron?) issued a statement condemning Omar’s “…use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters…’, and declaring her words ‘deeply offensive’.

Really? Was this, indeed, an ‘anti-Semitic trope’? Was it a ‘prejudicial accusation’? This writer, as is his custom, will attempt to make some sense of all this, a challenging undertaking, undeniably. We will do so first by looking at some of the members of Congress who voiced their objection.

+ Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who issued the statement condemning Omar’s remarks, has benefited from pro-Israel campaign contributions to the tune of $514,449.00.

+ Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) issued a concise statement to Omar: ‘STOP IT!”. Ms. Schakowsky has received $552,624.00 in campaign contributions from pro-Israel lobbies during her career.

+ Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Pelosi’s condemnation of Omar’s statement. His career take from pro-Israel lobbies: $804,215.00.

+ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who just last year suggested that wealthy Jews were trying to buy the mid-term elections, vowed that Republicans would “… take action this week to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred.” The hypocrisy of that statement, based on his own words of just a few months ago, is obvious. During his Congressional career, he has received $174,625.00 in contributions from pro-Israel groups.

These are just four examples; four members of Congress, whose total cash haul from pro-Israel lobbies equals $2,045,913.00, condemning Omar’s words. That is a significant number of ‘Benjamins’.

We will now move onto the pro-Israel attempt to conflate criticism of the apartheid state of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Currently, the Yellow-Vest protests continue in France. If one condemns the French austerity measures that have triggered them, and the brutal force that the French government is using to oppress those protests, does that mean that one hates all things French? Does it suggest that the person condemning these actions attributes repression and brutality to being inherent in the French persona? Does it suggest that, if one has French neighbors, one will take frozen French fries and fling them into one’s neighbor’s yard, all the while chanting ‘go home French person’?

No; it means that one disagrees with the policies of the French government. That’s it.

Let us look beyond all this, and review the reasons that so many august politicians in the U.S. proclaim their support of the apartheid, Zionist regime of Israel: shared values.

In Israel, there are separate laws for Israelis and everyone else. A crime committed by an Arab will received a far harsher sentence than the same crime committed by an Israeli. One supposes that is, indeed, a shared value, since in the U.S., crimes committed by people of color generally receive far harsher penalties than those committed by whites.

Throughout the illegally occupied West Bank, Israel has housed over 500,000 settlers, all of them living there in violation of international law. The U.S. has violated international law countless times, including by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). So again, disdain for the rule of law is a value shared by the U.S. and Israel.

Israel periodically bombs the Gaza Strip, an action that is routinely condemned by the United Nations. The U.S. bombs multiple countries on a nearly-constant basis. We see yet another commonality between the two nations.

During the 2014 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed homes, houses of worship, hospitals, U.N. refugee centers and press offices. The U.S. said that Israel probably shouldn’t have bombed those refugee centers. Not what one would call an effective criticism for such barbaric actions.

While Israel was busy with active genocide in Gaza (in addition to its ongoing genocidal practices), some of its soldiers targeted four young Palestinian boys playing on a beach. Apparently sensing mortal danger from unarmed 10-year-olds kicking around a soccer ball, the soldiers shot and killed them. More recently, the U.S.’s other great ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, dropped a U.S.-made bomb on a school bus carrying 40 boys ranging in age from 8 – 12. The U.S. and Israel apparently hold the slaughter of innocent children as a ‘shared value’.

But what is any of this? U.S. spokespeople are forever asserting that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and since these same people also proclaim that the U.S. is a model democracy, that, they say, is the true shared value.

One must point out that democracy means more than allowing many citizens to vote. Yes, both Israel and the U.S. have periodic elections, but in both countries, voter suppression is actively practiced, effectively ensuring that potential voters who actually want change are ignored. And doesn’t democracy also include equal rights under the law? Israel had codified separate rights, and the U.S. Constitution, that document so revered by so many members of Congress, provided ‘equal’ rights for wealthy, white, landowning males; all other need not apply. There have been some changes in 200 years, but equality is still a dream for women, people of color, the poor, gays, etc.

Representative Omar, bowing to the weight of pressure from so many Israeli representatives in Congress, apologized for offending any Jewish people. She need not have done so. A spokesman for J Street, another pro-Israel organization in the U.S., while criticizing Omar’s words, further said that “…elected officials should also refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as ‘anti-Semitic’”.

Might Pelosi, McCarthy, et al take some advice from these words? No, probably not. With all those ‘Benjamins’ at stake, why risk rocking the campaign-contributions boat? Better to hysterically shout ‘anti-Semitism!’ any time anyone criticizes Israel’s cruel, barbaric, inhumane and illegal actions.

It’s interesting to note that polls consistently show that younger Americans support Palestine over Israel, and these people are, of course, the future of the country. If and when the current crop of elected officials ever decides to actually represent their constituencies remains to be seen, but this writer is not optimistic. But things are changing and Palestinians are finally being seen as human beings with the same right to self-determination as everyone else. We have people like Representative Ilhan Omar to thank for that progress, and we look to her and other young and truly progressive officials to continue this trend.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Afghanistan, Venezuela and U.S. Interference

In this troubling week, this writer has seen a variety of disturbing news stories. Ok, that’s nothing new, we all know. But there are two that he would like to focus on today.

First, he saw an editorial saying that the U.S. must not abandon Afghanistan.  He attempted to make some sense of this series of words, but while each is easily understood, when strung together, they lose all meaning. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and has been bombing and terrorizing that nation every day since then. What the U.S.’s goal there is one cannot say; the war is certainly, in the minds of many in the U.S., a forgotten war, although it is all too real for its Afghani victims. As of November, 2018, civilian deaths are conservatively estimated at 80,000. The infrastructure is destroyed, and the air quality has become one of the worst in the world. One would think that the people of Afghanistan would be desperate for the U.S. to ‘abandon’ their country.

With Venezuela currently big in the news, this writer saw a second article, another opinion piece, saying that U.S. President Donald Trump is right on Venezuela. Trump, in usual U.S. fashion, wants to ignore and thwart the will of the people, by declaring an opposition candidate as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. If the consequences were not so dire, this would be a laughable statement, coming from someone who can hardly be seen as the legitimate leader of the United States. There is an old adage that ‘majority rules’, but that doesn’t apply in the U.S. If it did, Trump would be back on his reality television show, where he belongs, and Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States (heaven help us all!).

Why does the U.S. government feel it needs to insert itself into every trouble spot in the world? Is it because of its sterling reputation in solving global problems? Is it because, wherever it chooses to intervene, after just a short time, the opposing forces in whatever nation it has ‘helped’ all join hands and sing Kumbaya around some giant campfire?

And as we consider these trouble spots, it’s certainly worthwhile to note that it is the U.S. that frequently causes these problems in the first place. Already it is being suspected that the U.S. is arming anti-government forces in Venezuela. In Afghanistan, it was the U.S. who armed and trained the Taliban when it was a rag-tag group opposing the Russians during that long and deadly war. When the Russians left, U.S. government officials seemed surprised and puzzled to learn that the people they supported against the Russians weren’t willing to hand over the government to some U.S. puppet. As a result, the U.S. is now engaged in Afghanistan in the longest war in its long and bloody history.

Where else has the U.S. caused untold suffering? Let’s consider Chile, where, under the rabid anti-Communist president, Richard Nixon, the U.S. government overthrew the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, and supported the seventeen-year long reign of terror of dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

We could look to Iraq, where the U.S., in the 1963, overthrew the government of Abdel Karim Kassem, and threw its support behind a young, anti-Communist leader named Saddam Hussein. In the decades between that first support and the overthrow of Hussein in 2003, the U.S. ranged from naming Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism, to supporting it with advanced weaponry when Iraq was at war with Iran.

And while we’re speaking of Iran, let’s take a quick look at the U.S.’s violent history there.

In 1953, the U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the brutal Shah of Iran. Relations between the U.S. and Iran were quite cozy during this time, although the people of Iran suffered horribly. The Shah’s oppressive, barbaric reign ended when the people of Iran overthrew him, and installed a government of their own choosing. The U.S. government has never forgiven Iranians for daring to indulge in the luxury of self-determination, and as of this writing, continues to threaten Iran as it continues with cruel sanctions (illegal under international law, since they violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)), and even threatening its closest allies with sanctions if they dare comply with the terms of the JCPOA.

Need we even mention Vietnam? Perhaps we should; there were many lessons to be learned from that imperial disaster that, if they had indeed been heeded, would have prevented much of the international suffering that has occurred since then. In the south, the U.S. first selected Bao Dai, who had a long record of collaboration with Vietnam’s previous colonial masters, the French and the Japanese. Later, the U.S. supported Ngo Dinh Diem, a repressive dictator, who provided many rights and privileges to the Catholics in that nation, but not so many to the vast number of Buddhists.  Ho Chi Minh, who, despite his education and international travel, never lost his native identity, led Communist North Vietnam, and sought to reunite the nation. But the U.S. was determined that Vietnam not ‘fall’ to Communism, despite the wishes of the Vietnamese people. And so it launched its war, which killed at least 2,000,000 people, decimated the countryside, nearly destroyed the U.S. economy and tore the U.S. apart. Despite all that, the people of Vietnam were victorious.

And now we have the brilliant pundits and politicians telling us that the U.S. must not ‘abandon’ Afghanistan; rather, it should continue to destroy the country. Certainly there are many people left to be killed. And the U.S., we are also told, is right to support an opposition candidate over the democratically-elected one in Venezuela. Will the outcome of either of these disastrous mistakes be as successful as, say, the U.S. intervention in Iraq? Will they bring the same ‘benefits’ to either country that U.S. ‘help’ brought to the people of Chile?

For two centuries, the U.S. has run amok on the world stage, killing millions upon millions of innocent people, causing the torture of millions more, and destroying prospects, hopes and dreams for more people than can be counted. The world will be a more peaceful and just planet when the U.S. is eventually eclipsed in terms of military and the economy by any other nation. This cannot occur soon enough for the people of Afghanistan, Venezuela, and too many other nations to mention here.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Venezuela, the United States and Hypocrisy

United States hypocrisy, thy name is legion.

The number of examples of this are truly stunning, and this writer has commented on them more than once. He will take this opportunity to shine his spotlight on yet another one that is currently prominent in the news.

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro was elected president, in an election generally thought to have been fair. He is, horror of horrors, a leftist, much to the chagrin of that mighty moral arbiter of world values, the U.S. So what did President Donald Trump and his minions do, which was followed quickly by many other world leaders who march in lock-step with the U.S? They recognized his opponent, one Juan Guaido, as the president of Venezuela.

This brings up so many questions, that one almost hesitates to count them. But we will ask just one:

What right does the U.S. have to determine who is the leader of any other nation on the planet?

Let us consider a hypothetical situation. We will ask the reader to think back to the U.S. presidential election of November, 2016, when the county was faced with a choice between a vile, corporate-owned elitist candidate, and one that was even, incredibly, worse. The hapless voters selected the former, who won the popular vote by about 3,000,000 votes, yet the bizarre Electoral College installed the latter in the White House.

Now we will get to the hypothetical part. Imagine, if you will, the U.S. response if Russian’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Elizabeth May all declared that they recognized Hillary Clinton as U.S. president. What then-outgoing president Barack Obama would have said would have been nothing compared to the bellicose, belligerent Twitter storm that would sure have been unleashed by then president-elect Donald Trump.

The U.S. has, for months, been watching the Robert Mueller investigation into possible Trump collusion with Russia during the campaign; imagine the horror of a foreign nation attempting to influence the outcome of a U.S. election! How could such a thing possibly have happened?

Yet the U.S. is happy to recognize people other than duly-elected candidates as another nation’s leader. And if we are going to discuss foreign interference in U.S. elections, might we consider the millions upon millions of dollars donated to the campaigns of U.S. candidates and officials by pro-Israel groups? Is it mere coincidence that, once these candidates are elected, pro-Israel lobbies actually write legislation for them to introduce? The U.S. senate recently voted overwhelming for just such a bill that would make boycotting Israel illegal. These same senators proclaim their reverence for the U.S. constitution, but ignore Supreme Court rulings that clearly state that boycotts are protected by the constitution. What is that, when campaign contributions must be considered? The U.S. constitution? Who needs that old thing!

But let us return for a moment to Venezuela. The U.S. is concerned about ‘irregularities’ in the election that maintained Maduro in power. We have already mentioned that curious U.S. electoral ‘irregularity’, the Electoral College. However, that is just one of many.

In the U.S., in some states, government-issued photo identification is required in order to vote.

Despite what Trump says, U.S. citizens are not required to present photo identification when grocery shopping. One understands that preventing voter fraud is important, but, again despite the pronouncements of the raving lunatic in the White House, there is no evidence whatsoever of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the United States.

Where, one might ask, is photo identification most likely to be required for voting? This is a requirement in some states that have large minority (read: generally vote Democratic) populations, which include states with significant voters of African or Hispanic descent. Also, some university students study in states with such a requirement. Is it a simple coincidence that they, too, tend to vote for Democratic candidates?

A common form of photo identification is a driver’s license, which not every person of voting age has. One can get a government-issued photo identification card, but one must travel to a government office that provides them. Without a driver’s license, getting there is often a challenge.

In Canada, the nation to which this writer fled following the 2004 election of George Bush, everyone has medical coverage (which U.S. government officials seem to believe is Satan’s finest achievement), with an accompanying photo-identification card. We must present that when visiting a doctor, but it is not asked for when one presents oneself at one’s voting place. One states one’s name, the voting official looks it up on the list, and one signs that list, and then votes. If this writer, for example, returned later that same day to the polling place and attempted to vote a second time, the poll worker would note that his signature had already been placed on the appropriate line, and he would be prevented from voting a second time.

Some U.S. officials decry the large number of deceased people whose names appear on voting records. Yes, it is true that there are many such names. But this writer’s experience in this context may not be uncommon. When his parents died several months apart in 2016 and 2017, his first thought was not to contact the voting board, and remove their names. It was also not his second thought. He must confess that the thought never occurred to him. Is there a possibility that, in a future election, someone will go to the local polling place, give their name as that of his late mother or father, and vote? Yes, that is possible. Is it likely? When pigs fly.

Can voter repression, which is part of the U.S. electoral system, be seen as an ‘irregularity’? Can the Electoral College, which defeats the will of the people who actually vote, also be so seen? And we have not even mentioned the fact that, without being independently wealthy, it is almost impossible to run an effective campaign for public office (for exceptions, see Alexandra Ocasio Cortez). What has Venezuela done to deserve the wrath of the U.S., that is so much worse than what the U.S. routinely does?

While the U.S. condemns injustices around the world, it perpetrates its own that are usually far worse than those it criticizes. It also overlooks major violations of international law and human rights (see Israel; Saudi Arabia) if those countries provide it with some benefits.

The people of Venezuela do not need to be schooled in the art of democracy by a country whose government doesn’t know the meaning of the word. U.S. hypocrisy must be understood for what it is, and that country’s official pronouncements must be held up for ridicule. It is tempting to then ignore them; unfortunately, with the most powerful military on the planet, and leaders not hesitant to use it to force their will on other nations, ignoring the U.S. is not an option.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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