April 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
A recent newscast informed me that President Obama is “considering” removing Cuba from a list of terrorist sponsors. Huh! I didn’t know Cuba was on such a list. This caused me to think about how Cuban school children might react to this news.
A Short History of U.S. Cuba Relations
I assume that they, like American school children, are taught the history of their country. So, I assume they learn that Cuban patriots, in the 1890’s, revolted against Spanish colonial rule, just as America revolted against British colonial rule. Then, I assume they learn that, following an explosion on the American battleship Maine, the United States sent an army to Cuba, not to join the revolution, but to replace Spain’s colonial control of Cuba. They probably also read that the Maine explosion may have been part of a plot to create an excuse for the American invasion.
Next, they probably learn that a guerrilla army led by Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara waged a successful war against Fulgencia Batista, a puppet dictator of the United States and loyal friend of American corporations enjoying profitable arrangements in Cuba. That revolution lasted from July 1953 until January 1, 1959. On that New Year’s day, the victorious guerrillas swept into Havana, drove out Batista and established Cuba as a free country.
Fidel Castro became President, an office he still holds. The Cuban government nationalized property owned by American corporations. In retaliation, the American government imposed an embargo seeking to destroy the Cuban economy and confiscated all Cuban funds located in the United States. The Soviet Union loaned Cuba money to enable it to survive these destructive efforts and established a close relationship with Cuba.
In 1961, the United States attempted to overthrow the Cuban government with a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s southern coast. The Cuban army defeated the invaders.
After serving in various capacities following the revolution, Che Guevara, a communist from Argentina, went to Bolivia. There he organized a revolutionary force opposed to a military dictator, Renee Barrientos. CIA commandos were sent by the United States to support Barrientos. One writer claims that Klaus Barbie, a Nazi war criminal living in Bolivia, aka The Butcher of Lyon, assisted and advised the CIA about the capture of Guevara. Finally, on October 9, 1967, Che Guevara was executed by a Bolivian soldier, on orders from Barrientos.
I can only imagine, given this history, how Cuban school children might react to the news that this history brands their government as a sponsor of terrorism. I suspect they would like for the restrictions lifted on travel to and from the U.S.. They probably would like to emigrate to the U.S.. But they would be only human to question why this record labels their country with the same label as the one pinned on ISIS. They may even know of some Cuban version of an old saying about the pot calling the kettle black.
Are revolutionary efforts to free a population from brutal colonial rule or military dictatorships “terrorism”? If so, in addition to “considering” the removal of Cuba from a list of sponsors of “terrorism”, I think we should reconsider the definition of “terrorism”. The United States’ history of sponsoring and supporting military dictators all over Central and South America hardly gives us credentials to pin labels on Cuba or anyone else until we change our policies.
April 4, 2015 § 2 Comments
There’s an ancient vaudeville quip generally associated with Henny Youngman: “A fellow asked me, ‘How’s your wife?’ I said, ‘Compared to what?” Yes. It’s offensive. But it reminds me of the current reaction to the negotiations about Iran’s nuclear weapons. Netanyahu and every Republican oppose any agreement with Iran unless the Iranians promise to dismantle their nuclear capacity, change their foreign policy to conform to the preferences of Israel and declare that they will no longer oppose the policies and actions of the Israelis, usually described as ” agreeing that Israel can exist.” It appears they will be joined by a few chin-stroking Democrats, who affect a thoughtful pose and intone, “I think the Congress needs to become involved in this process.” [These stalwarts meekly abandoned their constitutional duty when LBJ began the Vietnam War and when George W began the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Now they suddenly want to second-guess negotiations concerning technical issues far beyond their knowledge designed to prevent a potentially dangerous Middle East war.]
My first reaction to all this is: First, it’s hard to treat your reaction as a reaction because a reaction usually occurs after the event to which it responds. Your “reaction” to this negotiation result began weeks before it was announced. Second, your reaction is based on the failure of the negotiations to propose solutions to problems entirely different from the issues considered by the negotiators. These negotiations concerned only nuclear weapons. They did not seek to settle all differences between Iran and the other negotiating nations. And finally, as this essay indicates, I find the negative reactions fatuous because they propose that the United States refuse to accept the negotiated framework and insist on more damaging economic sanctions.
This latter idea is so delusional that I do not, for one minute, believe that its proponents are making a serious and good faith proposal. They know very well that the Iranian leadership could not and would not return to their country to say, “Well, we tried, but we couldn’t get the U.S. and Israel to agree, so we’ll just have to dismantle our nuclear program and meet their demands.” That is the message of surrender after a devastating war; not a practical political response to the citizens of a proud nation.
I have a kind word for Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas freshman Senator. He is becoming a sort of Strangelove-Intern. Listening to him talk is like watching an vivified GI Joe doll. He proposes the logical alternative to a negotiated deal with Iran: Start bombing them. He is, at least, an honest nut.
A friend sent me a link to an excerpt from Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists. It contains the reactions to the proposed framework from twelve experienced and fully qualified scientsts. Eleven of the twelve praise the results of the negotiations and express cautious confidence that an historic basis for peace may ultimately be achieved. One scientist, from a think tank in Tel Aviv, expresses skepticism, but her skepticism is not based on the treatment of Iran’s nuclear program. She complains because the proposed agreement did not address Iran’s general international policies which she correctly identifies as opposed to those of Israel. In other words, she argues that restraints on Iran’s nuclear program should not be imposed unless Iran agrees to stop its other objectionable behavior.
Here is a link to that interesting Bulletin article.
One final note: Fox News has already been playing and replaying the celebration in Iran when the negotiation results were announced. Fox news’ message is: If Iran is happy, it’s bound to be a bad deal. I think that’s typical Fox News reasoning.
It is plain to me that when Iranians celebrated in the streets at the news of the negotiations result, the Iranian leaders got a message: “We want a deal.” Try to imagine the result if, on July 1, 2015, the Iranian leaders come back and report: “Sorry. The sanctions will continue. We couldn’t get an agreement. But, don’t worry. We have preserved the right to start a nuclear war with Israel and the U.S..” How much celebration would that evoke?
March 31, 2015 § 1 Comment
The friend who sent me the funny notice from an Indiana shop keeper has suggested that my sarcasm may not have been obvious enough. The imaginary notice from an Indiana business person was a joke – a fiction. I thought that was understood. I don’t want to be responsible for initiating some urban legend. I don’t want some reporter to start trying to identify the business person.
Hey! It was a joke. It didn’t really happen.
This teaches me a lesson: Don’t write a joke without plainly labeling it: Warning! This is a joke.
March 31, 2015 § 1 Comment
This is sort of an addendum to the Lipsticked Pig item I posted a few hours ago. A friend from Guatamala emailed to me this sorrowful reaction to the Indiana RFRA. I thought you, dear readers, might be empathetic with this poor Hoosier business person. Here is his or her lament:
March 31, 2015 § 1 Comment
I watched Indiana Governor Pence’s press conference this morning. It will be interesting to see what kind of “fix” he and the bigots in the Indiana legislature produce. As I watched his shucking and jiving, I couldn’t help recalling a picture a friend of mine in Corpus Christi sent me a few days ago. Jack Cooper is a talented internet scavenger who keeps me supplied with both serious and humorous postings that comment about current social and political issues.
The picture I recalled was a shot of the signing ceremony when the Governor signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. Here is an annotated part of that picture:
Here is a link to an internet site where the native Hoosier has been waging a vigorous war against this law.
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/31/3640801/conservatives-indiana-discrimination. His name is Wilson Allen. If you go to his Facebook site, you will find some excellent commentary concerning every aspect of this conflict.
I am posting this for two reasons: First, I think it illustrates the damage the Supreme Court did when they ascribed religious beliefs to a corporation in the Hobby Lobby case. There seems to be no limit to the grotesque results of equating corporations with human beings.
Second, this episode neatly illustrates the dilemma facing the GOP: How to maintain allegiance to corporate money while honoring the bigotry and ignorance of the so-called “social issue” oriented mob. The corporate lobbyists are experts at using race and religion as wedges to weaken political coalitions of working class Americans, but when their efforts threaten the profits of their corporate business clients, they always react with acute awareness of which side of their bread is buttered.
March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
The Day of Bibi’s Victory
On March 18, 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu was declared the winner, by a significant margin, of the Israeli election. During the last days of the campaign, he made two dramatic appeals to Israel’s right wing political forces: He declared that there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. He warned that “foreign money” was financing the transportation of busloads of Arab Israeli citizens to the polls to vote against him.
The first appeal amounted to a repudiation of his earlier public commitment to peace with Palestine based on a “two state” end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. The second appeal was generally perceived as a racist attack on twenty percent of Israel’s citizens.
The Day After Bibi’s Victory
On March 19, 2015, Netanyahu was interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. He denied having rejected peace based on a “two state” arrangement with Palestine. He claimed that, when he, without consulting with the White House, addressed Congress and deliberately tried to sabotage efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he did not mean to “disrespect” the President of the United States. He denied having made a racist attack on Israeli Arab citizens.
He couldn’t deny having said what he said. Instead he insisted that he had been “misunderstood”.
Two Days After Bibi’s Victory
On March 20, 2015, Netanyahu was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep. He again tried to claim that his “no two state” promise was “misunderstood”. This time, Mr. Inskeep was ready. Here is a partial transcript of his telephone conversation with Bibi: “SI: You said in this interview you were asked, “Are you saying if you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be created.” Your answer was, “Indeed.” Nentanyahu, responded that what he meant was that “circumstances would have to change” before a two-state solution would be acceptable.
When Mr. Inskeep asked Bibi about his pre-election day warning about Arabs coming to vote, he responded with the hackneyed response of bigots: His version of “Some of my best friends are _________”.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
“SI: I want to be clear, Prime Minister. I was in Israel during the election campaign. It is a democracy; it was a very free and open debate. I didn’t read your remark as suppressing the Arab vote. I read it as a warning that you were afraid that Arabs were going to flood the polls. Are you in some way suspicious of Arabs who are citizens of your country?
N: No. In fact, I had a meeting 10 days ago with Arab Likud supporters, and we got quite a few votes, by the way, from them. I have invested billions, billions, in my last two governments in trying to close the gaps, social gaps, infrastructure, education, in the Arab communities in Israel. I’m proud that I did that, I’m going to do that again, I’m committed to that. I’m the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs, alike.”
Here is a link to the entire interview: Inskeep
This is the guy who claims that negotiations with Iran are impossible because you can’t trust them to keep their word. His words have a “sell by” time period of about 72 hours.
Bibi’s Win – Israel’s Loss
Ari Shavit is an Israeli writer whom I regard as trustworthy. His allegiance to Israel is unquestionable, but so is his commitment to the truth. His book, My Promised Land, is a well written but evenhanded account of recent Israeli history. I have written about it. See The Broken Promised Land. So, when I wanted a reaction to last week’s election, I sought him out. He has written two interesting reactions.
The day after the election, he labeled Netanyahu’s victory a disaster. Here is a link: Disaster
Next day he wrote a second article.
Here are links: Is Israel Losing Its soul?
Here is link to page 2 of that story: Page 2
This week’s New York Times Magazine has an interesting article assessing the damage done by the alinement of Netanyahu’s Israeli politics with the Republican Party’s opposition to the Obama administration. Here is a link to that article.
A Second Comment
This last article features quotes from Elliott Abrams. You remember him. He and Ollie North helped Reagan support the Contras in Nicaragua and then lied to Congress about it. Abrams pled guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal to avoid going to the pen for having committed felonies. Then he was granted a “Christmas Time pardon” by Daddy Bush. George W. Bush appointed him as a senior adviser for “global democracy strategy”. As one writer put it, he will be “the architect for how Bush will fix the world”.
In the above-cited article concerning the future of Netanyahu and the Democratic Party, the writer quoted Ron Dermer, appointed by Netanyahu as Israeli Ambassador to the United States, expressing unconcern about younger, college age, voters opposing Israel’s right wing policies. Here is an excerpt:
“Like Abrams, Dermer wasn’t worried about liberal Jews. He argued that ‘a lot of the fissures’ in the American Jewish community would seal up the moment Israel came under attack. But when I asked him about the broader liberal antipathy toward Israel on college campuses and among Democratic voters, he said: ‘Israel is a symptom of a problem, but it’s not actually the problem that’s on campuses. It’s not an anti-Israel thing. It’s a problem of moral relativism. And we are low hanging fruit.’” (emphasis added)
I find it interesting that Dermer speaks disparagingly of “moral relativism”. I wonder if he has talked with his friend Abrams about that. Did Abrams think it was ok to lie under oath? Did he hesitate about illegally supporting and protecting military and paramilitary forces who were committing atrocities in Central America? In fact, I wonder how Dermer feels about a political candidate who makes public promises to gain votes and then, a day or two later, repudiates them.
Moral relativism is a serious subject. It opposite, moral absolutism, in my opinion, leads more often than not to oppression and abuse. Based on their credentials, I doubt either Dermer or Abrams are reliable sources of philosophical wisdom on that subject.
The GOP/Israel’s Dear Leader Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire, has bankrolled both Israeli and U.S. right wing politicians. His main requirement for handing over large checks is blind allegiance to Israel. I mention Adelson because Israel has successfully countered all efforts to negotiate peace with other nations by demanding, as a precondition for any negotiation an agreement that Israel’s right to exist as a nation is acknowledged.
This has proved to be a powerful defense for every action taken by Israel toward the Palestinians. It is in the first sentence of almost every explanation of Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate with Iran.
This has a long history. Here is a link to a discussion of several episodes in this history.
There are some obvious flaws in the logic of this argument. For example, why does it matter if Iran cherishes a wish that Israel would disappear, If, since that plainly is not going to happen, Iran is, nevertheless, willing to agree not to develop nuclear weapons? If Palestine is willing to negotiate a boundary with Israel and is willing to agree not to engage in a war with Israel, what does it matter that a majority of Israeli’s hate Palestinians and a majority of Palestinians hate Israelis? Granted that is sad and not an optimal situation, but isn’t it preferable to an endless war without boundaries?
Fareed Zakaria’s article in the Washington Post casts this whole argument in a different light. Here is his interpretation of Khomanie’s anti-Israel rhetoric. Khamenei proposes a referendum to decide Israel’s fate and use Israel’s commitment to democracy to justify his proposal. Here is a link: Zakaria
Which brings me to Mr. Adelson. Here is what one of the most revered supporters of Israel and its GOP idolizers had to say about Iran at a public meeting in 2013. Adelson
By contrast, I have found an address by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Non-aligned Summit in Teheran, published September 2, 2012. Address
This is a tedious item because it is in either Persian or Farsi. I couldn’t find an English translation. It has English sub-titles, so you can tell what he’s saying. Unfortunately, because you are dependent on the sub-titles, skipping around through the speech is difficult. I listened to the whole speech. Late in the speech, he states plainly that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons because, his words: “It would be a sin” He remonstrates with the U.S. for aligning itself with Israel and refers to Israel as an “usurper” because it occupies Palestine. There is no “great Satan” and no “wipe Israel off the face of the map” language.
I cite this item, not to express admiration for Iran. Its support of terrorist groups is well known. Its suppression of minority groups is reprehensible. But, I must say that, compared to Adelson’s speech, the Ayatollah sounds more like a man with whom one could reason than Adelson, who sounds like a billionaire thug right out of The Godfather.
If any of you are intrepid enough to have read this far, I’m surprised. This post is a way for me to catalog the information I have been able to compile about an event I regard as very important. I fear we are watching some reckless people making decisions that could lead to WWIII. Our media technology and modern communication technology have enabled us to be emotionally stirred by images and rhetoric coming at a pace too fast for reasoned analysis. Fear is being used by demagogues to gain popular support without enough thought given to the possible consequences.
I trust Barack Obama and John Kerry, but I fear they may win the logical and rational solution too late to forestall the war apparently sought by their irresponsible detractors, here, in Iran and in Israel.
March 9, 2015 § 3 Comments
Forty-seven Republican Party Senators dispatched a letter to the Nation of Iran warning them that any agreement between Iran and the United States negotiated by the President of the United States would be worthless and revocable in two years when a new president is elected. Iran responded to the letter with a classic example of politely, but firmly, labeling the Senators’ letter for what it is: Ignorant meddling into serious business being conducted by competent responsible agents of six nations.
Jay Bookman, columnist and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has commented on this episode in a blog post. It expresses my reaction better than I could. Here is link to his blog post. I urge all readers of this blog to read it.
Oh, by the way, I assume that it is superfluous for me to satisfy your curiosity: Both Texas Senators signed the letter. Texas has replaced Mississippi as a haven for jackasses and launching pad for every stupid governmental policy idea floating around. We have not one, but three Texas Coo-Coo Birds readying themselves for campaigns to become President of the United States. Stay tuned.
Here is a link: Jay Bookman