Posts tagged ‘Middle East’

May 21, 2011

“They hate us for our freedoms”

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald explains a major reason why many Middle Eastern denizens hate America. Hint: it isn’t because of our freedoms but because of NATO strikes that killed three children in four days:

Just imagine the accumulated hatred from having things like this happen day after day, week after week, year after year, for a full decade now, with no end in sight — broadcast all over the region.  It’s literally impossible to convey in words the level of bloodthirsty fury and demands for vengeance that would arise if a foreign army were inside the U.S. killing innocent American children even a handful of times, let alone continuously for a full decade.

It’s the perfect self-perpetuating cycle:  (1) They hate us and want to attack us because we’re over there; therefore, (2) we have to stay and proliferate ourselves because they hate us and want to attack us; (3) our staying and proliferating ourselves makes them hate us and want to attack us more; therefore, (4) we can never leave, because of how much they hate us and want to attack us.  The beauty of this War on Terror — and, as the last two weeks have demonstrated, War is the bipartisan consensus for what we are and should be doing to address Terrorism — is that it forever sustains its own ostensible cause.

For the war hawks, many of whom are Republicans, you may see this as a pro-life war in that it protects your life and your families life and ensures your freedoms, etc. This is not pro-life for all of the innocent deaths in every war.

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May 21, 2011

Barack Obama on The Middle East

by Vince

Here is his speech that has all of the Zionists / Israel lovers / Arab haters mad. More commentary to come.

May 14, 2011

Foreign Policy Wonkhood of the Weekend

by Vince

Jeffery Goldberg (of TheAtlantic) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Secretary of State) discuss Arab foreign affairs.

March 26, 2011

Tell Me Why, Barack.

by Vince

He gives his reasoning behind intervening in Libya, but I still want to know why not also intervene in the Ivory Coast, Bahrain (here, here, here, and here), Yemen (here, here, here, here, here, here) , SyriaIran (2 years ago – here, here, here), Congo, or even Burma?

My lighter side says that maybe I should just be ok with the fact that the U.S. is intervening somewhere and not standing idly. I then think about the other two quagmires we are in and sigh.

On a lighter and related note, this is amazing.

March 24, 2011

Candidate for America’s 4th War

by Vince

Sure, why not? Pick Syria:

February 20, 2011

Democratic Thought For Sunday

by Vince

Andrew Sullivan provides a profound thought on the pursuit of democracy in the Middle East vis-à-vis Libya, Egypt and now Bahrain:

…when was the last time you saw frenzied crowds in the streets in several Muslim Arab countries where the American flag wasn’t being burned? We finally figured out how to help democracy in the Arab world: get out of the way and nudge quietly from a distance.

February 10, 2011

A Letter to Obama on Egypt

by Vince

A reader submits a letter to Obama:

Because of the close coverage of the Egyptian uprising, it is now clear that American aid to Egypt supports the repressive policies of the government because they are seen as supporters of American policy toward Israel.  This is morally bankrupt.  Israel’s existence is crucial in the middle East- but the argument for Israel loses its power when it’s cost is immoral support for a repressive. anti-democratic regime.  The U.S.’s moral superiority was lost when the U.S. attacked Iraq- it can be regained by removing financial support for Egypt’s government, even at the threat that they will no longer support the U.S. policies toward Israel.  The Arab and Muslim countries, as well as other countries, will admire the U.S. for its moral action- and that will have a far reaching effect throughout the world.  One obvious result is that the people of repressive countries will feel emboldened to rise up against their governments.  For a very long time the U.S. has supported repressive countries to buy their cooperation, creating disrespect for the U.S. in the people of those countries.  Reversing that policy for Egypt will create unpredicted repercussions in Egypt, the Arab and Muslim world and in repressive governments supported by the U.S..  This is an opportunity to lead the world by choosing morality over fear of loss of control.

I am writing this because it is very clear that each and every whistle blower in Egypt will be beaten, tortured and killed, and the U.S. will be blamed for standing by and not supporting the desire for democratic reforms.  Betrayal is the lowest of low of immoral actions.  Betrayal first of the ideals of the American founders and all the Americans who believe in those ideals.  Betrayal second of all the democratic aspirations of the people of the world.  Because the U.S. is so powerful, allowing the fear of loss of control to be the central most powerful tenant in decision making, ignoring morality, will set back the change to democratic structures a very long time- and the whole world will blame the U.S. throughout history.

Yours, Pat Davison – patssav@comcast.net

February 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden, Egypt, and Us

by Vince

The past week has filled our news outlets with pictures, videos, and stories of the Egyptian riots. What the denizens of Egypt are fighting for is not jihad but democracy:

Middle Eastern tyrannies aren’t falling the way George W. Bush predicted. America isn’t the hammer; if anything, we’re the anvil. But Bush’s argument that Middle Eastern democracy could help drain the ideological swamp in which al Qaeda grew may yet be proved true. Osama bin Laden has never looked more irrelevant than he does this week, as tens of thousands march across the Middle East not for jihad, but for democracy, electricity, and a decent job. It’s a time for hope, not fear. America can survive having less control, as long as the Arab people have more.

Big ups to Bush II. Historian Basheer Nafi adds on:

My feeling is that we are witnessing a second wave of the Arab liberation movement … In the first wave, the Arabs liberated themselves from colonial powers and foreign domiantion. I think now, the very heart of the Arab world, the backbone of the Arab world, is leading the move towards freedom and democracy and human rights.

(Pictured Above: “Sleeping protester at Tahrir Sq. with signs: “people decide for themselves” and “down with the head of the gang” [Reuters])

November 7, 2010

Irrationality: As American as Apple Pie

by Vince

Michael Kinsley questions the core ideology within our American textbooks:

A recent Yahoo poll (and I resist the obvious joke here) found that 75 percent of Americans believe that the United States is “the greatest country in the world.” Does any other electorate demand such constant reassurance about how wonderful it is — and how wise?

But my colleague Joe Scarborough got it right in these pages last week when he argued that the 2010 elections, for all their passion and vitriol, are basically irrelevant. Some people are voting Tuesday for calorie-free chocolate cake, and some are voting for fat-free ice cream. Neither option is actually available. Neither party’s candidates seriously addressed the national debt, except with proposals to make it even worse. Scarborough might have added that neither party’s candidates had much to say about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (except that they “support our troops,” a flabby formulation that leaves Americans killing and dying in faraway wars that politicians won’t defend explicitly). Politicians are silent on both these issues for the same reason: There is no solution that American voters will tolerate. Why can’t we have calorie-free chocolate cake? We’re Americans!

So you are a politician and want to tell your electorate that the wars in the Middle East are long, messy processes? They won’t want to hear it. You want to make hard choices in budget cuts? You will be demonized for doing too much or not doing enough. This is the life of an American politician and we as Americans have created this faux reality that we are holier than thou, God’s last great hope on earth, and is below no one, inferior to no other, and almost invincible. Our textbooks, propaganda in the form of excessive American flag memorabilia (divine gear?), and artificially created American history built by oppression, stealing, and suppression but credited to the white guys can be thanked for this. John B. Judis ponders how we will come out of this economic mess:

What this election suggests to me is that the United States may have finally lost its ability to adapt politically to the systemic crises that it has periodically faced. America emerged from the Civil War, the depression of the 1890s, World War I, and the Great Depression and World War II stronger than ever—with a more buoyant economy and greater international standing. A large part of the reason was the political system’s ability to provide the leadership the country needed. But what this election suggests to me is that this may no longer be the case.

October 25, 2010

Song of the Day

by Vince

WE ALL GOOD PEOPLE pt. 1 (ISRAEL/PALESTINE) from Grant Slater on Vimeo.

*This song reminds me of two middle school students I had a few weeks back. One was a boy from Palestine and the other was a girl from Israel. That sat next to each other and seemed to get a long just fine. The boy came up to me at the end of class and showed me a Palestinian coin.

September 29, 2010

“How To” with Iran and Human Rights

by Vince

A handbook was created for the Islamic nation whose leader not only denies the Holocaust ever happening but believes 9/11 was an inside job. PBS tracked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pernicious lies while recently in NYC for a UN General Assembly:

“Iran is the freest country in the world”:

This is while there are at least 800 political prisoners in Iran whose sole “offense” has been protesting the terrible state of the nation, at least 110 people have been killed since last year during demonstrations and in detention centers, at least two prominent supporters of the Green Movement have been assassinated, and at least eight people have been executed.

Obama reacts here.

September 26, 2010

“Our Silence Sends Our Voices To The World”

by Vince

Once you get past Iran and its progressing nuclear program, its missiles, its connections to Hezbollah, its ambiguous and dangerous leadership, and its connection some see to the Rapture, you have the above video. I watched it at first and didn’t know what it meant. Its translation is here:

Tomorrow is Saturday. Tomorrow is a day of destiny.
Tonight, the cries of Allah-o Akbar are heard louder and louder than the nights before.
Where is this place? Where is this place where every door is closed? Where is this place where people are simply calling God? Where is this place where the sound of Allah-o Akbar gets louder and louder?
I wait every night to see if the sounds will get louder and whether the number increases. It shakes me. I wonder if God is shaken.
Where is this place that where so many innocent people are entrapped? Where is this place where no one comes to our aid? Where is this place that only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world? Where is this place that the young shed blood and then people go and pray — standing on that same blood and pray. Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?
Where is this place? You want me to tell you? This place is Iran. The homeland of you and me.
This place is Iran.

Watching a video like this will send you in one direction. Reading these tweets or viewing these pictures with captions sends you in another completely opposite direction.

We can’t continue to see and view others in broad brush strokes. More so, this surpasses Islam and pervades every other religion, ethnicity, and aspect of life. It would be ignorant of me to think of my friend who is Jewish as a cookie cut identical to the last Jew I met, in his thinking, his religious views, and his politics. This world is too complex, our thoughts are so vast and deep (everyone is included here, not just the educated), and our issues are so deep that we can’t settle for cutting ourselves short in discourse with others and our own thinking. This all goes beyond mid term voting, 2012 general elections, and politics. This is life. And the one manning the camera above, speaking in private, has no voice but to speak into a camera. Their voice is against the tyranny of their Islamic Republic. And we think all of those crying out Allah Akbar are about to kill themselves and others. Let’s get real.

September 19, 2010

A Poem for Sunday

by Vince

“I Studied Love” by Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000) translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld first appeared in The Atlantic in July of 1998:

I studied love in my childhood in my childhood synagogue

in the women’s section with the help of the women

behind the partition

that locked up my mother with all the other women

and girls.

But the partition that locked them up locked me up

on the other side. They were free in their love while I

remained

locked up with all the men and boys in my love, my longing.

I wanted to be over there with them and to know their

secrets

and say with them, “Blessed be He who has made me

according to his will.” And the partition

a lace curtain white and soft as summer dresses, and

that curtain

swaying to and fro with its rings and its loops,

lu-lu-lu loops, Lulu, lullings of love in the locked room.

And the faces of women like the face of the moon behind

the clouds

or the full moon when the curtain parts: an enchanted

cosmic order. At night we said the blessing

over the moon outside, and I

thought about the women.

(Photo: An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man looks at a Palestinian shop owner reading the Muslim holy Koran outside his shop near the Ibrahimi Mosque, or Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the divided West Bank city of Hebron on September 15, 2010. By Hazem Bader /AFP/ Getty Images)

H/T: TDD

September 15, 2010

“They Hate Us for our Freedoms”

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald shows how sad American exceptionalism can be:

So, to recap:  the U.S. creates a worldwide regime of torture, disappearances and lawless imprisonment.  Then, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the American federal judiciary all collaborate to shield the guilty parties from all accountability (Look Forward, Not Backward!), and worse, to ensure that not a single victim can even access American courts to obtain a ruling as to the legality of what was done to them, let alone receive compensation for their suffering, even while recognizing that many of the victims were completely innocent and even though other countries have provided the victims with compensation for their much more minor role in what happened.  Our courts even ensure that Blackwater guards are shielded from prosecution for the cold-blooded murder of Iraqi citizens.

But we invade, occupy and destroy Iraq — while severely abusing, torturing and killing their citizens — and then demand, as a condition for our allowing the end of crippling sanctions, that they fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to American torture victims, even though it all happened 20 years ago, under an Iraqi regime that no longer even exists.  They hate us for our Freedoms.

To me, this puts a big black eye on the USA and lowers us down a few notches to an archaic nation of yore. We very well may have different reasons to act in this case when compared to Iraq. I guess it comes back to the Wikileaks comparison – don’t release information that could harm our troops.

September 14, 2010

Adaptions in the Approach of War

by Vince

I went with MJ to the Miller Library in York, PA yesterday. I picked up a 2008 edition of the Atlantic and read up on insurgency, Iraq, Afghanistan, David Petraeus, and war fighting in general. I then proceeded to Google Petraeus’ dissertation and downloaded it. Maybe sometime I will get around to reading the nearly 300 page .pdf document.

One of the first evolutions in the war approach by America since Vietnam is a move away from intervention due to military regime threats per say to now responding to global political instabilities:

To Nagl, the lessons of the recent past are self-evident. The events of 9/11, he writes, “conclusively demonstrated that instability anywhere can be a real threat to the American people here at home.” For the foreseeable future, political conditions abroad rather than specific military threats will pose the greatest danger to the United States.

Nagl makes a solid and refreshing point next, leading into evolution number two:

For Nagl, the imperative of the moment is to institutionalize the relevant lessons of Vietnam and Iraq, thereby enabling the Army, he writes, “to get better at building societies that can stand on their own.” That means buying fewer tanks while spending more on language proficiency; curtailing the hours spent on marksmanship ranges while increasing those devoted to studying foreign cultures. It also implies changing the culture of the officer corps. An Army that since Vietnam has self-consciously cultivated a battle-oriented warrior ethos will instead emphasize, in Nagl’s words, “the intellectual tools necessary to foster host-nation political and economic development.”

This second evolution will challenge much of what we call National Security today. If for the slightest reason you are seen as having some minute connection to anything Middle Eastern, there is a chance you can be monitored, not permitted to pass security clearances, and rendered unable to serve your country with your skills, education, fluency in Arabic, and or other training possessed by you. DADT doesn’t help with this, either, but that is another discussion.

The Green Zone, starring Matt Damon, mostly focuses on the questionability of if there were WMD’s in Iraq. I appreciate the movie for its suggestion of a bottom-up approach to war. Damon forms relationships with Iraqi citizens and informants. The information he provides is what is fed into policy and mission planning. As I transition into the second article, and into Afghanistan, the second war evolution above is absolutely essential for

America to approach Afghanistan in a smarter over stronger way.

To understand Afghanistan, you have to have a glimpse of their government. Just as with Vietnam, we are approaching our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of 1) intervening 2) ridding the countries of terrorist strongholds 3) equipping the domestic governments and police forces* and 4) withdrawing. The starred (*) item has been a difficult task. The Afghan police throughout the country have been perennially plagued with corruption, which can in part be due to frustration with Kabul. They are usually undermanned and unable to fully spar with the Taliban. Also noteworthy is that Afghanistan has not had a strong central government since the 19th century: “under the “Iron Emir,” Abdur Rehman, in the late 19th century, Rehman famously maintained control by building towers of skulls from the heads of all who opposed him.” Much of Afghanistan is provincially maintained which can be a gift and or a curse.

The glut of American and NATO forces are in major metro areas within Afghanistan, far away from the real action and influence. See once again Vietnam with the hamlet systems –  in desperate hopes of protecting the villagers from night time visits / attacks from the Viet Cong, Americans placed walls around Vietnamese villages. America is not attempting that now with Afghan provinces but the village remains just as valuable to this 21st century war effort.

The approach to rural affairs is no easy task, however:

The rural Pashtun south has its own systems of tribal governance and law, and its people don’t want Western styles of either. But nor are they predisposed to support the Taliban, which espouses an alien and intolerant form of Islam, and goes against the grain of traditional respect for elders and decision by consensus. Re-empowering the village coun cils of elders and restoring their community leadership is the only way to re-create the traditional check against the powerful political network of rural mullahs, who have been radicalized by the Taliban. But the elders won’t commit to opposing the Taliban if they and their families are vulnerable to Taliban torture and murder, and they can hardly be blamed for that.

The article is summed up below:

As long as the compounds are discreetly sited, house Afghan soldiers to provide the most visible security presence, and fly the Afghan flag, they need not exacerbate fears of foreign occupation. Instead, they would reinforce the country’s most important, most neglected political units; strengthen the tribal elders; win local support; and reverse the slow slide into strategic failure.

I personally feel this threat was needed to of been addressed but looks all too familiar to Vietnam. If we are able to adapt our military approach, take a blow to American pride by trading in our tanks for intelligence and Arabic speaking men and women, and be ready for dirty fire fighting with the Taliban, we can confront these extremists. Until then, we will have in our future text books a new Vietnam similar in being a quagmire.

September 9, 2010

Castro on Israel/USA vs. Iran

by Vince

Jeffery Goldberg received a random phone call from Cuba inviting him down to chat with Fidel Castro. The topic: his Iran/Israel article. Goldberg’s piece on Castro is one of many parts and is rather interesting.

Castro went on to analyze the conflict between Israel and Iran. He said he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and he added that, in his view, American sanctions and Israeli threats will not dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing nuclear weapons. “This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That’s my opinion,” he said. He then noted that, unlike Cuba, Iran is a “profoundly religious country,” and he said that religious leaders are less apt to compromise. He noted that even secular Cuba has resisted various American demands over the past 50 years.

At this point, Castro seems more levelheaded and apt to share his thoughts. I am looking forward to the rest of the pieces by Goldberg.

September 2, 2010

Nuclear Crossroads: Israel, Iran, and the USA

by Vince

Moving across a few counties gave me a great opportunity to catch up on my Atlantic reading (thanks Nate Dog for driving). For at least an hour, I read up on Iran, Nuclear Warfare, Henry Kissinger, and the current brouhaha that is percolating over Iran’s soon-to-be nuclear capabilities. Here are some of my thoughts on this article.

There is a “50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July”, according to Jeffery Goldberg. The repercussions of such a decision give Israel and the USA no easy answers at all. Each decision (Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear reactors, Israel doesn’t bomb Iran’s nuclear reactors, the US support Israel, the US doesn’t support Israel, the US seeks more negotiations, the UN continues its sanctions) could prove to be disastrous for Israel and the US and even give worldwide sympathy to Iran. The last two, negotiations and sanctions, have proven to be somewhat helpful.

Some high up leaders in Israel believe Iran is taking advantage of Obama’s tendency towards negotiations. That time has allowed for stricter UN sanctions which have cut off Iran’s connects to foreign supplies needed for nuclear bombs. As Goldberg points out, “when they [Iran] make the parts themselves, they are making parts that don’t have quality control.” (When Goldberg mentioned this comment to a senior Israeli official, he said, “We agree with this American assessment, but we also agree with Secretary Gates that Iran is one year away from crossing the nuclear threshold.”)

The move towards nuclear capability has larger-than-life implications (both literally and metaphorically). Robert D. Kaplan quotes Henry Kissinger’s 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy that “by acquiring nuclear weapons, a nation becomes able, for the first time, to change the regional or global balance of power without an invasion or a declaration of war.” “Iran,” Kissinger told Kaplan, “merely by pursuing nuclear weapons, has given itself a role in the region out of proportion to its actual power, and it gains further by the psychological impact of its being able to successfully defy the United Nations Security Council.” The ability for Iran to wield control over its people two summers ago with the faulty election and now with nuclear progress places it in many Christianists apocalyptic sights. After reading Kaplan’s piece, I am left wondering what limited war would look like between multiple nuclear capable countries.

Back to Goldberg. There is skepticism on both sides (Israel and USA) whether Barack Obama would side with such measures taken up by Israel. We have to remember this is not an invasion of Iran (see Iraq and Afghanistan) but the proposed bombing of the Natanz, Qom, Esfahan, and Bushehr nuclear reactors. Add to that the probability of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and Iran retaliating against U.S. troops or Israel (“Hezbollah, which now possesses, by most intelligence estimates, as many as 45,000 rockets—at least three times as many as it had in the summer of 2006, during the last round of fighting between the group and Israel.”)

A question that kept popping up in my mind throughout this piece (and as I read a Zionist periodical at the doctors the previous day) was why is there such a stubborn sacredness over this land to the point of nuclear bombing? Before calling me an idiot or ignorant, I can see the promises from G-D to Abraham and his descendent’s that Israel would once again belong to them (possession, not ownership).  The point we are at now is using nuclear bombs and a ballooning U.S. military “stipend” to protect Israel from ever being powerless again (and stopping Iran from creating the new Auschwitz). You are stuck in a messy situation anytime you have a Holocaust denier as your president (Iran) but this stubborn zeal over land by both sides has gotten quite old for me. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome,” he said in April. “In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.”

August 12, 2010

Amare Stoudemire in Tel Aviv

by Vince

Amare has taken some time this summer to spiritually seek out his roots in the Middle East. Here is the exclusive interview:

July 11, 2010

The Rule of Law within the USA

by Vince

Greenwald points out the issues seen over the past several years:

* If you torture people or eavesdrop on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, you receive Look-Forward Imperial Immunity.

* If you shoot and kill unarmed rescuers of the wounded while occupying their country and severely wound their unarmed children sitting in a van — or if you authorize that conduct — your actions are commended.

* If you help wreck the world economy with fraud and cause hundreds of millions of people untold suffering, you collect tens of millions of dollars in bonuses.

* If you disclose to the world evidence of war crimes, government lawbreaking, or serious corruption, or otherwise embarrass the U.S., you will be swiftly prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and face decades in prison.

As was true for Ellsberg, the issue isn’t that Manning is being prosecuted; the issue is the extreme disparities in how such decisions are made and what that reveals about the objectives and priorities of those responsible for these decisions.