• Robert Taylor
  • 28
  • Dec
  • 09

While I spent my Christmas weekend surrounded by family, friends, and the warm central California weather, I tried for just a few days to escape the whirlwind circus of American politics.

Sadly, I couldn’t help myself.

While scanning the Internet for news stories (since TV and newspapers are anemic sources of information), I stumble across President Obama quietly signing a Christmas Eve executive order giving another bailout to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two of Obama’s largest campaign contributors. And I could barely keep from laughing while watching Senator Max Baucus (D-Pharmaceutical Industry) resurrect the ghost of Ted Kennedy while drunkenly stammering and slobbering all over the Senate floor.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Pentagon) calling for preemptive military strikes on Yemen after the failed attack by what is now being called the “underwear bomber.” On a flight bound for Detroit, a Nigerian man put firecrackers in his pants in an apparent attempt at terrorism. He received training and supplies from Yemen, and Al Qaeda, whose presence is growing in the southern tip of the Persian Gulf, is taking credit for the foiled attack.

Immediately, security agencies (there are too many to count) began beefing up security at domestic and international airports, and President Obama assured us today that he is doing everything he can to keep us safe and will soon be launching “accelerated offensives” in Yemen.

There is so much wrong with the responses to this plot it’s hard to know where to begin.

Increasing government “security” only provides the illusion of safety and at great costs to what’s left of our civil liberties.

As Congressman Ron Paul (R-Constitution) pointed out in a great debate on CNN today, the US is spending nearly $75 billion on security measures that are ineffective and easily outmaneuvered. He correctly notes how markets do a far better of job of providing protection, as it is up to individual owners of factories, hotels, banks, etc. to care of their property. If airlines were in charge of their own security instead of the clumsy and pushy TSA, flights would likely be much safer (and no strip searches either!)

Coming back to the suggestion of Lieberman that the US preemptively rain terror on Yemen, I wonder if he is aware that US special forces have been launching raids inside of Yemen for months, that the US-funded Saudi government is continually bombing the Yemeni border, and that President Obama fired a handful of cruise missiles into Yemen a week and a half ago, killing 120?

These minor points aside, the growing calls to blitz Yemen is typical of US policymakers: counterproductive overreaction. It might come as a shock to some, but terrorism comes to the continental US as a direct response to the terror that the US military has been inflicting on the Arab world for decades.

Initiating sanctions that starve half of a million Iraqis; bombing city after city; propping up corrupt governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan that torture, rob, and kill their own citizens; handing out billions of dollars a year for the last five decades to Israel so that they can wage indiscriminate warfare on their neighbors and cage the Palestinians in their own cities.

These are the reasons gullible young Muslim men are willing to blow themselves up. Losing a family member, a home, or a mosque in a US air strike might piss some people off.

Responding to acts or threats of terrorism with overwhelming military force is like chopping a machete to a problem that needs the calculated scalpel of effective intelligence gathering and police work. Using the logic of the Lieberman and Obama, the British had every right to launch air raids on the Irish Mafia in Boston for helping to fund IRA bombings and India should nuke Chicago for the Mumbia attacks.

The attempted attack last weekend fits the cyclical nature of America’s imperial foreign policy perfectly: we intervene militarily around the globe, terrorists strike back, more socialist security; we intervene militarily around the globe, terrorists strike back, more socialist security…

Under this rubble of fear-mongering and the bogeyman of terrorism, Americans become more and more willing to sacrifice freedom for the illusion of security. Eventually, we will run out of liberties to hand over.

_

For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

  • Robert Taylor
  • 25
  • Oct
  • 09

It’s to easy to see why Israeli leaders protested the UN investigation into alleged war crimes by both Hamas and IDF soldiers when Israel invaded the Gaza Strip the day after Christmas last year. After nearly a month of shelling a fenced-off civilian area with massive air strikes and white phosphorous, 1400 Palestinians (nearly a third of them children) lay scattered on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The Israelis lost 14 soldiers, mostly due to friendly fire.

What’s more puzzling has been the US response. By dismissing the findings of the report entirely (even when the UN found multiple instances of Hamas also targeting Israeli civilians with rockets), the US is stuck once again stubbornly defending its “ally” in the Middle East, no matter the costs.

Congress, the mainstream media, and whoever currently occupies the Oval Office all tend to muddle the incredibly complex issues that separate Israel and Palestinians (and other Arab states) into simple, dull catchphrases: Israel is the “only democracy” in the region, helping us fight against big, bad terrorism.

Fortunately, things may be changing in the way Americans view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict thanks to the rise and growing popularity of J Street. Founded last year, this lobby aims to establish more peaceful solutions to the problems plaguing Israeli and Middle Eastern security.

Just last weekend This week, they are holding their inaugural conference where they are calling on US leaders to lean harder on Israel and have the freedom to publicly criticize the Israeli government when it is warranted. They also oppose Israeli’s aggressive approach to Iran and argue that Israeli security is harmed with counterproductive military responses.

The politics of the progressive and left-leaning J Street are in direct contrast to the hawkish AIPAC, the largest and most powerful Israeli lobby in the US. AIPAC donates lots of money to members of Congress who support Israeli aggression and expansion and lobby to keep over $2 billion a year flowing to the Israeli militarized-socialist economy. Naturally, AIPAC doesn’t have the nicest things to say about J Street.

After AIPAC heard about J Street’s inaugural conference, they labeled the largest organization in the country that is lobbying in favor of peaceful solutions to enhance both Israeli and Arab security as “Jewish Stalinists,” the “surrender lobby,” and “terrorist sympathizers.”

Despite the many legitimate points that J Street makes, it’s tough to argue against a more powerful counterpart that resorts to elementary-school name calling. But just the fact that a pro-Israeli lobby that doesn’t support the cluster bombing of entire cities has a slowly growing popularity and influence is a welcoming sign for peace and a more open discussion about our blind friendship with Israel.

AIPAC and Benjamin Netanyahu may deny Gazan atrocities, support the expansion of settlements, and create nearly every barrier possible in the path to Israeli and Arab peace, but J Street’s growing grip in DC might mean the slow end of the monopoly of hawks.

_

For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to (d)N0t reader Eric G. for pointing out the J Street conference is started Sunday and ends Wednesday.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 28
  • Sep
  • 09

Only two weeks after the United Nations published a damning report finding war crimes in Israel’s lethal offensive into Gaza last winter, some Palestinian families have already given up hope for help from the international community.  Using the most explicit terms yet to characterize the war, the United Nations report said Israeli troops “punished and terrorized” Palestinian civilians during the conflict and failed to take precautions to minimize civilian casualties.  The report even went so far to suggest that such failures were deliberate.

But within the only other body on the planet with the capability of effecting material justice on the Gaza slaughter – the UN Security Council – it seems the report was already discredited on arrival.  The Goldstone Report (named for the South African Jew who directed its research) was barely mentioned during last week’s meetings, and only then by nations of marginal influence on the international scene.    Since its publication, Israel and, sadly, the United States have been in full-on damage control, seeking to discredit the report even before they had a chance to read its findings.

The PR push seems to have worked, with those who were dimly optimistic of some UN reaction as the war crimes perpetrated on Palestine close in on their one year anniversary.  Gaza remains mostly rubble and for many who continue to dig through the twisted rebar and shattered concrete, this report represented the last hope that the international community would take notice.

However, the historically indomitable reputation of Arabs continues to prove itself true. This week a group of Palestinian families filed suit against Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, former prime minister and honest-to-God cross-dressing assassin, for crimes against humanity.  Though filed in a magistrate court in London instead of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, lawyers representing families devastated by the war on Gaza have brought suit against Barak in the United Kingdom hoping to avail themselves of the UK’s liberal, post-WWII jurisprudence concerning war crimes.

The absurdity of suing in a British magistrate than within Palestine’s or even Israel’s own legal system is not lost to the family, whose lawyer asserted “If the Israeli courts were themselves to investigate there would be no need to have recourse to international tribunals.”

They even point to a similar case in 2005 when Israeli army general Doron Almog could not leave his airplane at Heathrow, as an arrest warrant had been issued similar to the one the Gazan families are seeking in their case against Ehud Barak.  Merely convincing a judge that Israel is worth investigating, it seems, is a major Palestinian victory.

Of course with the attention and the collusion of many Western heads of state, it is unlikely this suit will ever see Ehud  Barak or any of the other war criminals responsible for last winter’s invasion held in court.  Only removing Barak’s privileges to travel to London must seem like such small retribution compared to the loss of 1,300 lives in the offensive, a third women and children.

But for those families, their neighbors and the rest of the innocents trying to put their lives back together, at the very least a comforting picture can be visualized- that of the smile with which the officer serving Ehud Barak the warrant for war crimes would wear.

Hard to imagine how much comfort that daydream brings, but I suspect any would be welcome.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 13
  • Aug
  • 09

Even in winter, the early afternoons in Gaza remain dusty and warm.  So it must have been on 7 January when three little girls – Amal, Su’ad, and Samar – walked off their front porch and towards the Israeli tanks stopped in front of their home.  With a turret pointed directly at the house, the men sent the girls out towards the IDF soldier with their mother and grandmother, each clutching white bedsheets desperately above their heads.  They waves the hastily made flags of truce frantically as they approached, shit scared and pleading for their lives.

One can picture the mother clutching the littlest Amal close as the troops stared them down.  One can feel the tepid silicon skating across cheeks flushed with panic in the afternoon breeze.

And then, in full sight of the men in the house including the girls’ father, the soldiers opened their guns, killing Amal and Su’ad and paralyzing Samar.  Su’ad was seven years old.  Amal was two.

Stories of atrocity continue to pour out of Gaza following this winter’s occupation by Israel, the latest reporting Palestinian civilians executed by Israeli soldiers under flags of truce.  Published by Human Rights Watch, the investigation details seven incidents of civilians slain by under flags of truce.  Pieced together from eyewitness accounts, ballistics reports and victim autopsies, each case is a tale of unimaginable horror; war stories of the worst sort.  The report is third released by the NGO in the last five months and joins an over-whelming body of evidence produced by a wide array of organizations governmental and non detailing war crime in Israel’s winter offensive.

But while the investigators continue to piece together what happened in Gaza, the United States appears to be disinterested.  The newscycles continue to belong to Iran and North Korea, to Bill Clinton springing journalists from jail in Pyongyang and his wife refusing to channel her husband in the Congo.   Now seven months after the Gaza war, Palestinians are still digging out from under the rubble of their lives while the rest of the world just now catches up with the story.

The stories coming from this conflict are exposing what, but only the United States has the ability to compel discovery of why.  The legality of the Israeli offensive has been brushed over, a unilateral dalliance that has been overlooked to deal with what the United States considers to be more pressing.  The Obama administration has engaged with Israel on Iran and on settlements, but we have yet to see the president take a stance on the war that Israel slid under the wire before he took office.

War crime is not something we should “move on” from.  The Obama “looking forward” mindset should not apply to little girls getting slaughtered.  At the very least, this administration should compel Israel to justify the conflict, to admit its motivations for invasion.  If those responsible for these atrocities can’t answer for their war crimes, the United States should be able to compel them to explain their war crimes. They should be forced to explain why a two-year-old girl was a tactical threat.  They should admit to the world why they pulled the trigger.

Even in war, civilization has rules that distinguish between the combantants and the civilians, between those waging the war and those suffering from it.  Soldiers get killed.  Little girls get murdered.

Their father are still waiting.  The least we owe them is why.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 02
  • Aug
  • 09

This week’s episode of the Gonzo Podcast features the first edition of the Gonzo Roundtable, a recorded discussion of the crew from (d)N0t discussing the major news of the week.  This first edition was recorded live at the edge of the Western world at San Francisco’s SeaBiscuit Cafe features your humble editor and our Libertarian staff writer Robert Taylor.

The Robs cover the week’s biggest headlines with insights and analysis on the California budget, Obama’s healthcare plan, Israel’s “big hug,” and more.

Photo: Daniel Austin

Photo: Daniel Austin

 

Just Press Play