Just International

Is Holocaust II (shorthand for another great turning against the Jews) Inevitable?

The Gentile me believes this question needs to be addressed because there is a very real danger that the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism, which is being provoked by Israel’s terrifying arrogance of power and sickening self-righteousness, will be transformed into anti-Semitism unless two things happen.

The notion that anti-Israelism could be transformed into anti-Semitism is not new. In his book Israel’s Fateful Hour, published in 1986, Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, gave this warning:

“Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”

The fact that (pre-1967) Israel is a Zionist not a Jewish state – how could it be a Jewish state when a quarter of its citizens are Muslims (mainly) and Christians? – in no way diminishes Harkabi’s message.

He was, in fact, treading a quite well worn path. Prior to the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, and as I document in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, most Jews, eminent American and British Jews especially, were opposed to Zionism’s enterprise in Palestine. They believed it to be morally wrong. They feared it would lead to unending conflict with the Arab and wider Muslim world. But most of all they feared that if Zionism was allowed by the major powers to have its way, it would one day provoke anti-Semitism.

Today, in my opinion, it can be said that Zionism wants and needs anti-Semitism in order to justify anything and everything its monster child does.

So what are the two things that must happen if anti-Israelism is not to be transformed into anti-Semitism (assuming as I do that the Zionist state is not going to change course in the direction of peace)?

One is that the mainly Gentile citizens of the Western world among whom most Jews live become aware of the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and thus why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the hardest core Zionist few in Israel. The difference can be simply stated. Like mainstream Christianity and mainstream Islam, mainstream Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles. Zionism, which created a state for some Jews in the Arab heartland mainly by ethnic cleansing and terrorism, is without moral values and ethical principles. Its driving ideology, conditioned by Jewish experience of persecution on-and-off down the centuries, is that might is right. Mainstream Judaism and Zionism are, in fact, total opposites. (In April one of the anti-Zionist Jews I most admire, Nazi holocaust survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer, is giving a talk in Luxembourg with the title How Israel betrayed all the human values of Judaism).

In the paragraph above I insist on the term “few” in Israel being to blame because the truth is that most Israeli Jews have been brainwashed by their leaders. (As the headline over an article by Gideon Levy for Ha-aretz put it on 5 February, Israelis should be afraid of their leaders, not Iran). Most Israeli Jews are, for example, totally unaware that the vast majority of Palestinians and most Arabs everywhere have been ready for many years for peace on terms which any rational government in Israel would have accepted with relief.

The other thing that must happen if anti-Israelism is not to be transformed into anti-Semitism stems from the fact, perhaps I should say overwhelming probability, that no American president is ever going to be free to use the leverage he has to oblige the Zionist state to be serious about peace because of the Zionist lobby’s control of policy for Israel-Palestine in Congress.

So as things are Israel is a nuclear-armed monster beyond control. (From recently de-classified documents we now know that in a memorandum dated 19 July 1969, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser, warned President Nixon that the Israelis “are probably more likely than any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons.” And as I mentioned in my post of 30 January with the headline Is Israel on the road to “self-destruction”?, Golda Meir said in an interview I did with her for the BBC’s Panorama programme when she was prime minster that in a doomsday situation Israel “would be prepared to take the region and the world down with it.”)

On reflection it seems to me that whether or not anti-Israelism is transformed into anti-Semitism will depend not only on the Westerners among whom most Jews live understanding why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the few, but also on what the Jews of the world, European and American Jews especially (I mean the majority of them), do from here on.

In my view they have two options.

OPTION 1 is to stay silent which, at this moment in time, is still the preferred option of most European and American Jews.

That said it has to be acknowledged that recent years have seen an increase in the number of Jewish groups which are critical of Israel’s polices and, in some cases, have even endorsed the call of Palestinian civil society for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. But the voices these groups represent are those of only a minority of Jews.

On the debit side of this particular balance sheet is also the fact that by limiting their campaigns to calls for an end to Israel’s occupation to make the space for a two-state solution, most if not all of the “progressive” (critical of Israel) Jewish groups are demonstrating that they are out of touch with or don’t want to recognise the reality on the ground in Israel-Palestine. The reality is that Israel’s still on-going consolidation of its occupation of the West Bank has made a two-solution impossible. It is not yet formally buried but it is dead.

My own understanding of why began with a private conversation I had with Shimon Peres in early 1980. At the time he was the leader of Israel’s main opposition Labour party and seemed to be well placed to win Israel’s next election and deny Menachem Begin and his Likud party a second term in office – an outcome for which President Carter was praying. After learning that Carter had said behind closed doors that institutional diplomacy could not solve the Palestine problem because of the Zionist lobby’s control of Congress and that what was needed was some informal and unofficial diplomacy, my purpose was to invite Peres to participate in a secret and exploratory dialogue with PLO chairman Arafat with me as the linkman. The idea was that if we could use the 18 months or so before Israel’s next election to get agreement in principle on the way to the two-state solution to which Arafat’s PLO was by then committed, Peres and Arafat could begin to do the business for real when Peres became prime minister. (I was aware that a two-state solution would not provide the Palestinians with full justice, but at the time I shared the hope of those, including Arafat, who believed it was not impossible that within a generation or two the peace of a two-state solution could open the door to One State for all by mutual agreement, thus allowing all Palestinians who wanted to return to do so).

Peres welcomed the idea of an exploratory dialogue with Arafat with me as the linkman, but at a point in our conversation before I went off to Beirut to secure Arafat’s agreement to participate, he, Peres, said, “I fear it is already too late.”

I asked him why.

He replied: “Every day sees new bricks on new settlements. Begin knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s stuffing the West Bank with settlers to create the conditions for a Jewish civil war because he knows that no Israeli prime minister is going down in history as the one who gave the order to the Jewish army to shoot Jews (in order to end the occupation).” Pause. “I’m not.”

Question: If it was too late in 1980 when they were only about 70,000 illegal Jewish settlers on the West Bank, how much more too late is it today when the number of illegal Jewish settlers is in excess of 500,000 and rising, and the political influence of Israel’s religious fanatics and other bigots is growing?

In the words of an old English cliché, Jewish groups which are critical of Israeli policy but limit their effort to calling for an end to Israeli occupation are flogging a dead horse.

My considered Gentile take on why most Jews are silent on the matter of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and denial of their rights is in my book. For this post I’ll make only two brief points.

One is that deep down, if only in their sub-consciousness, most Jews fear (in large part because they are conditioned by Zionism to fear) that there will one day be another great turning against them. Holocaust II. So they perceive Israel as their refuge of last resort, and they tell themselves they must say nothing, do nothing, that could undermine Israel and put their insurance policy at risk.

The other, no doubt related, is that private discussion about publicly criticising Israel or not can and does tear Jewish families as well as communities apart. So for the sake of at least the appearance of Jewish unity it’s best not to discuss the matter.

The problem with Jewish silence is that it’s not the way to refute and demolish a charge or assertion of complicity in Zionism’s crimes. So continued silence by the majority of European and American Jews is most likely to assist the transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism.

OPTION 2 is for the Jews of the world to distance themselves from the Zionist state.

A most explicit statement of this as a possible option was made in October 2001 by Dr. David Goldberg, the prominent, widely respected, liberal London rabbi and author of a popular introduction to Judaism, The Jewish People, Their History and Their Religion. He dared to say, in public, “It may be time for Judaism and Zionism to go their separate ways.”

Eight years on the late Tony Judt, a professor of history at New York University and director of the Remarque Institute, put some flesh on that bone. British-born of a Jewish mother whose parents emigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who was descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis, Judt started out as an enthusiastic Zionist. He helped to promote the migration of British Jews to Israel, and during the 1967 war he worked as a driver and translator for the IDF. But after that war, his belief in the Zionist enterprise began to unravel. “I went with the idealistic fantasy of creating a socialist, communitarian country through work, but I started to see that this view was remarkably unconscious of the people who had been kicked out of the country and were suffering in refugee camps to make this fantasy possible.”

In an article for the Financial Times on 7 December 2009, Judt wrote this:

“If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel, as many have begun to do, the assertion that Israel was ‘their’ state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbors.”

For the sake of discussion there’s a case for saying that an Israel that was obliged by European and America Jews to acknowledge its limits might also be an Israel in which many Israeli Jews were prepared to open their minds to the wise words of one of their own – Avraham Burg. Between 1999 and 2003 he was the speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. By the end of his term in that office he was a leading advocate of the idea that Israel and a viable Palestinian state could coexist in peace. In August 2003 he wrote a most remarkable essay which was published in its original Hebrew by Yediot Aharonot and subsequently newspapers in Europe and America.

His lead point was that Israel had to “shed its illusions” and choose between “racist oppression and democracy.” The Jewish people, he wrote, “did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programmes or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto nations. In this we have failed.”

And the following is what Burg had to say about Israel’s need to change course and the choices:

Here is what the prime minister should say to his people: the time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.

Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world’s only Jewish state – not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.

Do you want the greater land of Israel? No problem. Abandon democracy. Let’s institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.

Do you want a Jewish majority? No problem. Either put the Arabs on railway cars, buses, camels and donkeys and expel them en masse – or separate ourselves from them absolutely, without tricks and gimmicks. There is no middle path. We must remove all the settlements – all of them – and draw an internationally recognised border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian national home. The Jewish law of return will apply only within our national home, and their right of return will apply only within the borders of the Palestinian state.

“Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon the greater land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or give full citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those who did not want a Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via the ballot box. (Here, I note, Burg was being less than explicit about the consequences of Greater Israel giving full citizenship and voting rights to everyone. At the point not too far into the future when the Palestinian Arabs outnumbered the Jews of Greater Israel, Zionism would be voted out of existence. Palestine would effectively be de-Zionized, opening the door to One State for all).

The prime minister should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire and suicide bombers or a recognised international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem.

In my view Judt’s assumption that Israel “would” be obliged to acknowledge its limits if the Jews of Europe and America took their distance from it is questionable. Why? It’s rational, based on reason, and Israel’s deluded leaders are beyond reason. They are never going to shed their illusions and present the choices for Israel’s Jews in the terms outlined by Burg.

But the main argument for European and American Jews distancing themselves from the Zionist state and its policies is self-interest. By demonstrating that they were not complicit in Zionism’s crimes, they would be playing their necessary part in preventing anti-Israelism from being transformed into anti-Semitism.

But even if self-interest (in the context above) is the direction in which most European and American Jews might move, events on the ground suggest to me that the time left for them to decide whether or not to actually distance themselves from Israel is running out. And here is my brief summary of why.

Given their determination to keep for all time much if not all of the occupied West Bank (despite what they sometimes say to the contrary for propaganda purposes), Israel’s leaders have got to find a way to defuse the ticking, demographic time-bomb of occupation (the coming of the day when the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews of Greater Israel).

The evidence of the past 44 years is that Israel’s leaders believed they could do it in one of two ways.

One was by making life hell for the occupied Palestinians in the hope that very many of them would either give up their struggle in despair and accept crumbs from Zionism’s table – a few disconnected Bantustans which they could call a state if they wished; or, better still, abandon their homeland and seek new lives elsewhere. Neither of those two things happened or are going to happen.

The other was having in place a compliant, puppet, Palestinian leadership which could be bullied and bribed, with American assistance, into forcing its people to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table. It might be that Israel’s leaders still hope they can make this scenario work with Palestinian “President” Abbas or his successor, but it won’t work.

And that will leave them, Israel’s leaders, with only one way of defusing the demographic time-bomb of occupation – creating a pretext to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank and into Jordan, Syria or wherever. The final ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

I think that will be Zionism’s final solution to its Palestine problem. I also think that such an event will guarantee that the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism is transformed into anti-Semitism, meaning, as Harkabi warned, that Jews throughout the world will pay the price of Israel’s “misconduct”.

I’ll end by re-asking my headline question and giving it an explicit answer.

Is Holocaust II (shorthand for another great turning against the Jews) inevitable? Yes unless the Jews of Europe and America distance themselves from the Zionist monster before it’s too late to do so.

By Alan Hart

24 February 2012

@ Alanhart.net

Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent. He is author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. He blogs at http://www.alanhart.net and tweets via http://twitter.com/alanauthor

Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%?

The very rich in America increasingly work in finance, marry each other and care passionately about politics

MITT ROMNEY is not the first multi-millionaire to seek the presidency, nor the richest. Ross Perot, the record-holder, spent some of his billions earned from computer data on losing bids in 1992 and 1996. Since then men who owe their or their family’s fortunes to oil, sport, publishing, trial law, ketchup, beer and bestselling autobiographies have followed.

But Mr Romney, who earned his $200m or so as a private-equity executive buying and selling companies, is the first candidate from the world of high-octane finance. As such, he illustrates the changing complexion of America’s rich. The wealthiest 1% of Americans not only get more of the pie (see chart); they are increasingly creatures of finance.

The average household income of the 1% was $1.2m in 2008, according to federal tax data. The ultra-rich skew that average upwards: admission to the 1% began at $380,000 in 2008. The Congressional Budget Office puts the cut-off lower, at $347,000 in 2007, or $252,000 after subtracting federal taxes and adding back transfers. Measured by net worth, rather than income, the top 1% started at $6.9m in 2009, according to the Federal Reserve, down 23% from 2007.

The richest 1% earn roughly half their income from wages and salaries, a quarter from self-employment and business income, and the remainder from interest, dividends, capital gains and rent. According to an analysis of tax returns by Jon Bakija of Williams College and two others, 16% of the top 1% were in medical professions and 8% were lawyers: shares that have changed little between 1979 and 2005, the latest year the authors examined (see chart). The most striking shift has been the growth of financial occupations, from just under 8% of the wealthy in 1979 to 13.9% in 2005. Their representation within the top 0.1% is even more pronounced: 18%, up from 11% in 1979.

Steve Kaplan of the University of Chicago thinks finance explains much of the rise in inequality. Updating a series developed by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, Mr Kaplan notes that the share of income going to the 1% reached an 80-year high of 23.5% in 2007, only to sink to 17.6% in 2009 as the financial markets deflated (see chart). The trend is even more pronounced for the top 0.1%, whose share of total income rose to 12.3% in 2007 but sank to a still disproportionate 8.1% in 2009.

Mr Kaplan and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University note that investment bankers, corporate lawyers, hedge-fund and private-equity managers have displaced corporate executives at the top of the income ladder. In 2009 the richest 25 hedge-fund investors earned more than $25 billion, roughly six times as much as all the chief executives of companies in the S&P 500 stock index combined.

Although the 1% have been gaining share in most countries, a recent OECD report shows that the trend began sooner, and has gone further, in America. Some scholars, noting that inequality has risen more in English-speaking countries, think social and political values may play a role: in mainland Europe and Japan, corporate governance, tax laws and unionisation have tended to lessen income disparities. But the relatively large role of the financial sector in English-speaking countries could also be a factor: even more of the top 1% work in finance in Britain than in America.

Membership in America’s 1% is relatively stable; three-quarters of the households in the percentile one year will still be there the next. Although the proportion shrinks over time, one study found that the vast majority of the top 1% were still in the richest 10% a decade later. Kinship plays a big part: rich parents tend to produce rich kids. High levels of educational attainment and stable families help in this. According to Gallup, 72% of the 1% have a college degree, and half have a postgraduate degree; those are two to three times the proportion of the other 99%. The 1% are more likely to be married and to have children.

The rich also increasingly marry people like themselves. Mr Bakija and his co-authors found that between 1979 and 2005, the share of spouses of the 1% who had blue-collar or “miscellaneous” service-sector backgrounds declined slightly, from 7.9% to 6.4%. The share of spouses who worked in finance, property and law rose from 3.5% to 8.8%.

Politically, Gallup polls find that the 1% are more likely than the 99% to identify themselves as Republicans (33% to 28%) and less likely to be Democrats (26% to 33%). A survey of 104 wealthy families in the Chicago area, led by Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, found the budget deficit was their leading worry, followed by unemployment; for the broader population, the reverse is true. Still the rich, like most voters, have eclectic views, often supporting liberal and conservative positions simultaneously. For example, Keith Whitaker, who advises wealthy families on behalf of Wells Fargo, says many of them sympathise with the Occupy Wall Street movement. A lot of them became rich by building businesses and consider Wall Street “the place where businesses are taken apart and run by someone else”.

Bob Perkowitz embodies these contradictions. A rich entrepreneur, he now devotes much of his time to a non-profit environmental outfit. He is a lifelong Republican who objects to George Bush junior’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and backed Barack Obama in 2008. Having restructured companies himself, he has no trouble with Mr Romney’s private-equity work but agrees with Occupy Wall Street that corporations have too much power.

Until recently he split his time between conservative Charlotte, North Carolina, and liberal Washington, DC. His wife, Lisa Renstrom, used to manage hotels inherited from her father, a prosperous Republican businessman. Now she campaigns on climate change and backs Wealth for the Common Good, a group of rich people who back Occupy Wall Street. Her father used to give his occupation as “capitalist”. “I grew up believing that [capitalists] were making the world a better place,” she says. “The capitalism we have has left us with degraded infrastructure, threats to our health, and global warming.”

Most of the 1% prefer not to talk about their good fortune. As the New York Times recently observed in an article on the 1%, “Some envisioned waking up to protesters on the lawn; others feared audits by the IRS or other punitive government action.”

But Mr Perkowitz and Ms Renstrom are utterly typical of the 1% in that they are far more politically engaged than the average 99-percenters. Nearly all the rich people surveyed by Northwestern vote, 68% make campaign contributions, nearly half had contacted a member of Congress and a fifth had solicited contributions on behalf of a candidate. A good chunk of those calls were meant to help their businesses. But many were motivated by the common good, defined in as many different ways as the sources of their wealth.

By The Economist

21 January 2012

Imperialism, despotism, and democracy in Syria

The stark choice between a fascist or an imperialist course in Syria should be discarded for a third and better course.

New York, NY – In the context of the US invasion of the Gulf in 1991, British academic Fred Halliday announced his new right-wing affiliations in the British newspaper the New Statesman by declaring: “If I have to choose between imperialism and fascism, I choose imperialism.” It never occurred to Halliday that he could have opposed both and supported home-grown democratic struggles instead.

This was indeed a watershed moment for Arab, American, and European anti-imperialist leftists who would become turncoats, moving from a principled opposition to imperialism to a principled and financially more rewarding support of it. Like much of the scholarly and journalistic output of turncoats, Halliday’s sober and academically valuable studies, written before his transformation into a pro-imperial apologist, were followed by forgettable and mediocre studies after it, so much so that he did not publish a single study after 1991 that had academic merit or even a shelf life beyond a few weeks (though his Arab turncoat comrades saw fit to translate these later studies to Arabic!).

The stark opposition that Halliday drew between American imperialism and Saddam’s despotic rule preceded the events of 9/11 and the re-introduction of the term “fascism” in a slightly altered form to fit US imperialism’s new enemies, namely the neologism “Islamofascism”, which another British turncoat, Christopher Hitchens, had done so much to disseminate.

At the time, many Arabs, Europeans, and Americans (myself included), who have been unwavering critics of Saddam Hussein’s despotic and terroristic rule and US imperialism’s genocidal wars against Third World enemies, opposed the first US invasion of the Gulf in 1991 and the ensuing 12-year siege, which cost more than a million Iraqi lives, as well as the subsequent US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its 8-year occupation of the country, which killed another million Iraqis.

Opposition to US invasions of Iraq and Kuwait stemmed neither from any illusions about the nature of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime nor from his alliance with the Saudi theocratic state and its smaller Gulf partners. It came even less from his military strategic alliance with France and the United States from the late 1970s onwards, in the service of which he invaded Iran in 1980 and sacrificed the lives of one million Iranians and 400,000 Iraqis. On the contrary, it was based on a sober assessment of these realities and the costly impact of imperial invasions.

It was in this context that the Iraqi exile opposition in London and Washington, especially the irrepressible Kanan Makiya, who were calling for a US ground invasion and for more bombings of Baghdad by US forces, began to attack all those who oppose the US invasion, including the late Edward Said, as apologists for Saddam. Indeed, in 1991, Makiya’s Iranian ex-wife, Afsaneh Najmabadi, joined the fight and launched an impassioned defence of a US invasion of Iraq and the intellectuals and journalists who championed it, especially Thomas Friedman, Fouad Ajami, and Makiya himself. She obscenely attacked Said’s criticism of them, describing it as the “rhetorical equivalent of political murder”.

It would seem then, as Marx put it, that history repeats itself twice – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But does it repeat itself a third time?

The Iraqi exile opposition insisted along with its US imperial sponsors and the chorus of pro-war American intellectuals that people should make one of two choices: for or against Saddam. While the US and its Iraqi partners had their way, the subsequent destruction of Iraq, the dismantling of its state structures, and the destruction of its societal cohesion is the clearest illustration of what such a choice entailed for the Iraqi people and their country.

In 2011, we were treated to a repeat performance of the very same scenario. The Libyan exile opposition and those inside the liberated parts of the country, consisting mostly of erstwhile servants of the Qaddafi regime, began to call for a NATO invasion of Libya to help the Libyan people in their uprising against Qaddafi. Again, many anti-imperialist and pro-democracy Arabs and non-Arabs cautioned that while Qaddafi had been a merciless despot for four decades and had become an ally of the United States and Europe for the last decade of his rule, a western imperial invasion of the country would not be in the interest of most Libyans Rather, it would entail the destruction of the country, with thousands of casualties, for the sole purpose of controlling Libya’s oil wealth and not in the interest of establishing democratic rule. Again the Libyan opposition allied with imperial powers, like its Iraqi predecessor, immediately challenged any opponent of the imperial invasion to make one of two choices: for or against Qaddafi.

It would seem then, as Marx put it, that history repeats itself twice – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But does it repeat itself a third time?

In the age of Arab exile oppositions sponsored by Gulf oil and US imperialism, it clearly does. Enter Syria’s exile opposition who hijacked the popular uprising against the Assad dynasty in the country. True, neither Qaddafi nor Assad (Sr or Jr) could compare to the despotic terror of Saddam Hussein, though they have tried their hardest to approximate it.

Like Saddam, the Assad dynastic regime has been an ally of the Saudi theocracy and its junior Gulf partners, and an agent of US imperialism in the region, especially in its major intervention in Lebanon in 1976 at the invitation of the Christian fascist forces who called the Syrians in to help them crush the leftist revolutionary movement in the country, including the PLO. The role played by the Syrian regime (in conjunction with Israeli advisors) in the horrific Tel al-Za’tar massacre in 1976, when thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered at the hands of fascist Maronite forces abetted by the Syrian army, is now the stuff of history.

Moreover, the Assad regime again proved most helpful to its US and Saudi sponsors when it joined the imperial coalition to invade the Gulf in 1990-91 under the US flag. On the Zionist front, the Syrian regime proved as pliant as the Jordanian one, ensuring the security of Israel’s “borders”, which Israel conquered and established inside Syria’s and Jordan’s own territories. Internally, the regime has used and continues to use draconian measures to suppress, repress, and oppress the Syrian people mercilessly (though still not to the extent of Saddamist repression, which no Arab regime has ever reached). By calling for imperial military intervention, the Syrian exile opposition invokes, without originality, the very same puerile yet insidious choices presented to anti-imperialist and pro-democracy Arabs and non-Arabs by the erstwhile bankrupt Iraqi and Libyan exile oppositions, namely, that there is only one choice to be made: for or against Assad.

These are false choices not only ideologically but also, and more importantly, historically. The monumental loss of Iraqi lives and the destruction of their country as well as the ongoing destruction and killings in Libya belie the Syrian exile opposition’s call for imperial invasion of Syria as the way to peace, democracy and to stop the ongoing carnage in the country. One wonders why the Bahraini and Yemeni oppositions have never called for an imperial invasion of their countries to liberate them from their equally despotic rulers. Nor have West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, languishing under the despotic boots of the Israeli occupation army for almost half a century, ever demanded an imperial invasion to liberate them from Israel. In fact, when the Palestinians deigned to request UN peace forces to protect them from the deadly power of the Israeli occupation army, the US balked in utter horror and disgust.

Those cowed into silence by this old and tired rhetoric of the Iraqi, Libyan, and now Syrian exile oppositions should reconsider the imperial pedigree of the stark choices they present. Anyone acquainted with the history of American imperialism in the Arab world and with the record of local despotism knows that these choices are designed to block a third and central choice.

Unlike Fred Halliday and his pro-imperialist Arab and non-Arab acolytes, we need never choose between imperialism and fascism; we must unequivocally opt for the third choice, which has proven its efficacy historically and is much less costly no matter the sacrifices it requires: fighting against domestic despotism and US imperialism simultaneously (and the two have been in most cases one and the same force), and supporting home-grown struggles for democratic transformation and social justice that are not financed and controlled by the oil tyrannies of the Gulf and their US imperial master.

By Joseph Massad

6 February 2012

@ Al Jazeera

Joseph Massad teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York.

IAEA Inspection Team Intensifies Pressure On Iran

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in Iran yesterday for a critical two-day visit. If Iran fails to satisfy the inspectors over its nuclear programs, the way is open for a negative IAEA report, due later this month, and escalating sanctions and military threats by the US and its allies.

The Iranian regime has repeatedly declared that it has no plans to build nuclear weapons. It has branded IAEA evidence of alleged military aspects of its nuclear programs as fabricated. The IAEA has few independent sources of information and relies heavily on foreign intelligence agencies, including those of the US and Israel. Most of the allegations relate to programs that the IAEA itself acknowledges ended almost a decade ago.

Deputy director general Herman Nackaerts, who heads the IAEA team, told the media: “The highest priority remains the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, and we want to tackle all outstanding issues.” He has asked to visit the Parchin military site, an alleged testing ground for nuclear weapons components, and to interview nuclear scientists.

The modus operandi of the IAEA inspection team follows the pattern of the “weapons of mass destruction” inspectors inside Iraq before the US-led invasion in 2003. Every “possible military dimension” of Iran’s nuclear program becomes the pretext for a never-ending process of demanding greater access to sensitive installations and to key officials and scientists. Tehran is being asked to prove the impossible—that no weapons research has ever taken place anywhere in its vast territory.

Last week, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili sent a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, agreeing to new talks with the so-called P5+1—the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, France, Britain, Russia and China) plus Germany. Jalili said the success of any talks would depend on whether the grouping respected Iran’s initiatives on its nuclear programs.

Iran insists that its programs conform to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows for signatories to develop all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, for peaceful purposes. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last week that the country had manufactured its own fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes and had begun using more sophisticated gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

If a meeting does occur between representatives of Iran and the P5+1, the US and its European allies will exploit the opportunity to reiterate their ultimatums rather than engage in any genuine negotiations. The US continues to make unsubstantiated allegations that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons and demands an end to all programs that could potentially provide material for a nuclear bomb—including uranium enrichment and a heavy water research reactor being built at Arak.


The Obama administration is continuing to wind up the pressure on Iran through tough economic sanctions. By the end of June, the US is threatening to take punitive action against any financial institution or corporation internationally that does business with Iran’s central bank—a move that would block Iran’s oil exports. These sanctions are being complemented by an EU embargo on oil imports from Iran, due to come into force at the same time.

Tehran responded pre-emptively by announcing on Sunday an end to its oil exports to Britain and France—two of Washington’s chief allies in the mounting confrontation with Iran. At the same time, Iran’s deputy oil minister Ahmad Qalebani warned that “if the hostile actions of certain European countries continue, oil exports to these countries will be stopped.”

The Iranian regime is clearly seeking to open up divisions in the European Union (EU). While Britain and France rely on Iran for just 1 percent and 3 percent of their oil imports respectively, other European countries depend heavily on Iranian oil. Greece imports one third of its oil from Iran and sought guarantees before supporting the EU embargo. Italy and Spain each import about 13 percent of their oil from Iran.

Publicly, the Obama administration supports economically crippling sanctions on Iran as the means to force Tehran’s capitulation. At the same time, however, the “military option” by the US or its chief Middle Eastern ally, Israel, is openly discussed and debated in ruling circles and the media.

Differences between the US and Israel involve purely tactical considerations, especially over the timing of any military attack on Iran. Obama’s top national security adviser, Tom Donilon, arrived in Israel on Sunday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aimed, according to the media, at urging Israel to allow the sanctions to impact on Iran.

US joint chiefs of staff chairman, General Martin Dempsey, speaking on CNN last Sunday, warned it was “not prudent at this point” for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. British Foreign Secretary William Hague made a similar point to the BBC, saying: “I don’t think a wise thing at the moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran.”

Neither the US nor Britain has condemned Israeli preparations for a brazen and criminal act of aggression against Iran because both countries insist that “all options are on the table” and are making their own plans for war. The Pentagon has doubled the number of aircraft carrier battle groups near the Persian Gulf to two and warned of military action in the event that Iran attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz.

A comment in the British-based Financial Times on Sunday, entitled “Obama nears his nuclear moment,” pointed to the concerns of Obama’s electoral strategists over a possible conflict with Iran in an election year. “Yet that is what many in Washington are now calling a ‘probability’. Some White House officials have referred to 2012 as the ‘year of Iran’,” the newspaper noted.

A Guardian editorial, headlined “Iran: stumbling into war,” remarked: “There are two possible outcomes of the barrage of words being launched against Iran: a war that starts inadvertently… or a war that starts after an attack by Israel. A negotiated climb-down by both sides is the least likely option, although the venue for one still exists [at P5+1 talks with Iran].”

These comments reflect fears in sections of the European ruling classes that a conflict would not be limited to air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, but would escalate to embroil the Middle East and potentially other powers such as Russia and China. But that is exactly the path being recklessly pursued by the Obama administration as it seeks to advance its economic and strategic ambitions in the energy-rich region.

By Peter Symonds

21 February 2012

@ WSWS.org


Why Closure of the Strait of Hormuz Could Ignite a War and a Global Depression

Ever since December 27th, war clouds have been gathering over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow body of water connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean and the seas beyond. On that day, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that Tehran would block the strait and create havoc in international oil markets if the West placed new economic sanctions on his country.

“If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports,” Rahimi declared, “then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz.” Claiming that such a move would constitute an assault on America’s vital interests, President Obama reportedly informed Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Washington would use force to keep the strait open. To back up their threats, both sides have been bolstering their forces in the area and each has conducted a series of provocative military exercises.

All of a sudden, the Strait of Hormuz has become the most combustible spot on the planet, the most likely place to witness a major conflict between well-armed adversaries. Why, of all locales, has it become so explosive?

Oil, of course, is a major part of the answer, but — and this may surprise you — only a part.

Petroleum remains the world’s most crucial source of energy, and about one-fifth of the planet’s oil supply travels by tanker through the strait. “Hormuz is the world’s most important oil chokepoint due to its daily oil flow of almost 17 million barrels in 2011,” the U.S. Department of Energy noted as last year ended. Because no other area is capable of replacing these 17 million barrels, any extended closure would produce a global shortage of oil, a price spike, and undoubtedly attendant economic panic and disorder.

No one knows just how high oil prices would go under such circumstances, but many energy analysts believe that the price of a barrel might immediately leap by $50 or more. “You would get an international reaction that would not only be high, but irrationally high,” says Lawrence J. Goldstein, a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation. Even though military experts assume the U.S. will use its overwhelming might to clear the strait of Iranian mines and obstructions in a few days or weeks, the chaos to follow in the region might not end quickly, keeping oil prices elevated for a long time. Indeed, some analysts fear that oil prices, already hovering around $100 per barrel, would quickly double to more than $200, erasing any prospect of economic recovery in the United States and Western Europe, and possibly plunging the planet into a renewed Great Recession.

The Iranians are well aware of all this, and it is with such a nightmare scenario that they seek to deter Western leaders from further economic sanctions and other more covert acts when they threaten to close the strait. To calm such fears, U.S. officials have been equally adamant in stressing their determination to keep the strait open. In such circumstances of heightened tension, one misstep by either side might prove calamitous and turn mutual rhetorical belligerence into actual conflict.

Military Overlord of the Persian Gulf

In other words, oil, which makes the global economy hum, is the most obvious factor in the eruption of war talk, if not war. Of at least equal significance are allied political factors, which may have their roots in the geopolitics of oil but have acquired a life of their own.

Because so much of the world’s most accessible oil is concentrated in the Persian Gulf region, and because a steady stream of oil is absolutely essential to the well-being of the U.S. and the global economy, it has long been American policy to prevent potentially hostile powers from acquiring the capacity to dominate the Gulf or block the Strait of Hormuz. President Jimmy Carter first articulated this position in January 1980, following the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “Any attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America,” he told a joint session of Congress, “and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

In accordance with this precept, Washington designated itself the military overlord of the Persian Gulf, equipped with the military might to overpower any potential challenger. At the time, however, the U.S. military was not well organized to implement the president’s initiative, known ever since as the Carter Doctrine. In response, the Pentagon created a new organization, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and quickly endowed it with the wherewithal to crush any rival power or powers in the region and keep the sea lanes under American control.

CENTCOM first went into action in 1987-1988, when Iranian forces attacked Kuwaiti and Saudi oil tankers during the Iran-Iraq War, threatening the flow of oil supplies through the strait. To protect the tankers, President Reagan ordered that they be “reflagged” as American vessels and escorted by U.S. warships, putting the Navy into potential conflict with the Iranians for the first time. Out of this action came the disaster of Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian airliner carrying 290 passengers and crew members, all of whom died when the plane was hit by a missile from the USS Vincennes, which mistook it for a hostile fighter plane — a tragedy long forgotten in the United States, but still deeply resented in Iran.

Iraq was America’s de facto ally in the Iran-Iraq war, but when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 — posing a direct threat to Washington’s dominance of the Gulf — the first President Bush ordered CENTCOM to protect Saudi Arabia and drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. And when Saddam rebuilt his forces, and his very existence again came to pose a latent threat to America’s dominance in the region, the second President Bush ordered CENTCOM to invade Iraq and eliminate his regime altogether (which, as no one is likely to forget, resulted in a string of disasters).


If oil lay at the root of Washington’s domineering role in the Gulf, over time that role evolved into something else: a powerful expression of America’s status as a global superpower. By becoming the military overlord of the Gulf and the self-appointed guardian of oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, Washington said to the world: “We, and we alone, are the ones who can ensure the safety of your daily oil supply and thereby prevent global economic collapse.” Indeed, when the Cold War ended — and with it an American sense of pride and identity as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism in Europe and Asia — protection of the flow of Persian Gulf oil became America’s greatest claim to superpowerdom, and it remains so today.

Every Option on Every Table

With the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the one potential threat to U.S. domination of the Persian Gulf was, of course, Iran. Even under the U.S.-backed Shah, long Washington’s man in the Gulf, the Iranians had sought to be the paramount power in the region. Now, under a militant Shiite Islamic regime, they have proven no less determined and — call it irony — thanks to Saddam’s overthrow and the rise of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, they have managed to extend their political reach in the region. With Saddam’s fate in mind, they have also built up their defensive military capabilities and — in the view of many Western analysts — embarked on a uranium-enrichment program with the potential to supply fissile material for a nuclear weapon, should the Iranian leadership choose someday to take such a fateful step.

Iran thus poses a double challenge to Washington’s professed status in the Gulf. It is not only a reasonably well-armed country with significant influence in Iraq and elsewhere, but by promoting its nuclear program, it threatens to vastly complicate America’s future capacity to pull off punishing attacks like those launched against Iraqi forces in 1991 and 2003.

While Iran’s military budget is modest-sized at best and its conventional military capabilities will never come close to matching CENTCOM’s superior forces in a direct confrontation, its potential pursuit of nuclear-arms capabilities greatly complicates the strategic calculus in the region. Even without taking the final steps of manufacturing actual bomb components — and no evidence has yet surfaced that the Iranians have proceeded to this critical stage — the Iranian nuclear effort has greatly alarmed other countries in the Middle East and called into question the continued robustness of America’s regional dominance. From Washington’s perspective, an Iranian bomb — whether real or not — poses an existential threat to America’s continued superpower status.

How to prevent Iran not just from going nuclear but from maintaining the threat to go nuclear has, in recent years, become an obsessional focus of American foreign and military policy. Over and over again, U.S. leaders have considered plans for using military force to cripple the Iranian program though air and missile strikes on known and suspected nuclear facilities. Presidents Bush and Obama have both refused to take such action “off the table,” as Obama made clear most recently in his State of the Union address. (The Israelis have also repeatedly indicated their desire to take such action, possibly as a prod to Washington to get the job done.)


Most serious analysts have concluded that military action would prove extremely risky, probably causing numerous civilian casualties and inviting fierce Iranian retaliation. It might not even achieve the intended goal of halting the Iranian nuclear program, much of which is now being conducted deep underground. Hence, the consensus view among American and European leaders has been that economic sanctions should instead be employed to force the Iranians to the negotiating table, where they could be induced to abandon their nuclear ambitions in return for various economic benefits. But those escalating sanctions, which appear to be causing increasing economic pain for ordinary Iranians, have been described by that country’s leaders as an “act of war,” justifying their threats to block the Strait of Hormuz.

To add to tensions, the leaders of both countries are under extreme pressure to vigorously counter the threats of the opposing side. President Obama, up for re-election, has come under fierce, even hair-raising, attack from the contending Republican presidential candidates (except, of course, Ron Paul) for failing to halt the Iranian nuclear program, though none of them have a credible plan to do so. He, in turn, has been taking an ever-harsher stance on the issue. Iranian leaders, for their part, appear increasingly concerned over the deteriorating economic conditions in their country and, no doubt fearing an Arab Spring-like popular upheaval, are becoming more bellicose in their rhetoric.

So oil, the prestige of global dominance, Iran’s urge to be a regional power, and domestic political factors are all converging in a combustible mix to make the Strait of Hormuz the most dangerous place on the planet. For both Tehran and Washington, events seem to be moving inexorably toward a situation in which mistakes and miscalculations could become inevitable. Neither side can appear to give ground without losing prestige and possibly even their jobs. In other words, an existential test of wills is now under way over geopolitical dominance in a critical part of the globe, and on both sides there seem to be ever fewer doors marked “EXIT.”

As a result, the Strait of Hormuz will undoubtedly remain the ground zero of potential global conflict in the months ahead.

By Michael T. Klare

31 January 2012

@ TomDispatch.com

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (Metropolitan Books), will be published in March.

Copyright 2012 Michael T. Klare

Honoring Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah

Dahiyeh, South Beirut: Rushing to an appointment last Saturday I passed the Mohammad Hussein Fadallah Hassaniyeh (Mosque), which for many in my immediate Dahiyeh neighborhood is the religious institution we feel most connected to because of its long and continuing history of social and religious work in our community.

Nearly 18 months after the July 4th, 2010 death of Lebanon’s preeminent Islamic scholar, the Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, but seeming more like three months ago, the ‘Fadlallah Hassaniyeh’ is an ever active beehive of social work and religious study and truly a working people’s institution.

It is also the manifestation of Sayed Fadlallah’s achievement’s for and commitments to all in our community, Shia, Sunni, Christians and non-believers.

Unaware that it was the 12th day of the lunar month of Rabih el Awwal, the Prophet Mohammad bin Abdillah’s birthday, I was surprised by all the activity saturating the surrounding streets and the hundreds of school children in celebratory clothes doing various activities enjoying the festivity with their families.

Suddenly a gaggle of pre-teen friends from our neighborhood ran up to me and pulled me to the front of the vast ornate Fadlallah Mosque and to the tables in front where children were distributing small cloth wrapped candies in celebration. When night descends, which is early these days, the children might be given fireworks by their parents as was common in the past. Yet given so much uncertainly these days in the region and in Lebanon, even relatively mild explosive noises cause my neighbors to hustle their flocks inside and avoid balconies and windows until they understand what the noise was all about.

By then too late for my appointment, I postponed it and entered the Mosque and sat on a bench near the burial chamber (Maqam) of Ayatollah Fadlallah. I reflected on what he meant to Muslims and Christians in Lebanon and to all people of good will around the world and to me personally. I had the honor to meet with him several times and count his son Ali, who has succeeded him in much of his work, as my friend. As I sat close to the Maqam, I was surprised to see members of our community still arriving to his resting place, lean forward and speak privately to him and pledge to follow his progressive teachings, fatwas, and examples. Some, inspired by his life’s work took vows to become better people in their relations with others.

I also still recall vividly his funeral and the untold thousands who came to our neighborhood to join his funeral procession on July 6, 2010.


Friends carried his body around our neighborhood. They then marched to the spot of the 1985 CIA-Saudi assassination attempt, which killed 90 mainly school children and women and wounded more than 250, before returning to Imam Rida Mosque where he was laid to rest. Tens of thousands of mourners gathered at the mosque for prayer services before the funeral procession.

From all across the region delegations arrived and every Lebanese political and religious leader attended except the small minded Maronite Cardinal Patriarch Sfeir who took umbrage at Fadallah’s positive views about one person-one vote democracy. Sayeed Fadlallah did not favor Lebanon being ruled by the current archaic French colonial legacy of parceling out political power based on the undemocratic confessional formulae of the 1943 Paris installed National Pact.

His passing shocked and saddened the region and the loss of his advocacy of dialogue, respect and unity among all religions is incalculable. Justice for Palestine and ending the Zionist occupation was part of his unwavering lifelong work. Some media outlets, reported that shortly before he died, and upon being asked by a medical attendant a few days ago if he needed anything, he replied, “Only the end of the Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

I recalled the morning of July 4, Zeinab, the nurse on duty at the blood donor’s clinic at Bahman Hospital, a block from my home in Haret Hreik, had just instructed me to remain sitting for five minutes and to drink the juice she gave me before I returned to south Beirut’s blazing sun.

A companion and I had each just donated a pint of blood in response to an appeal from friends who worked in the Translation Office of Fadlallah. He had been hospitalized for the past 12 days but on Friday his stomach bleeding had increased dramatically, related to complications from a liver problem he had been treated for over the past several years. Sayeed Fadallah also suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.

As we waited, Zeinab returned, tears in her eyes, and simply said, “The Sayeed has passed away.” And she disappeared. So did my Shia hijabed companion, and as it seemed, everyone from the floor.

I decided to walk down the stairs to the main level and could hear sobs from hospital staff on each floor, now seemingly darkened with each level eerier than the preceding one as I descended.

As I left the main entrance of Bahman hospital, I was thinking about some of the more than a dozen meetings I had the honor to attend with Grand Ayatolah Fadlallah and some of his staff over the past three years. Such as those who regularly visited him from the Washington DC based Council for the National Interest and one visit that I had arranged for former President Jimmy Carter.

Suddenly there was movement for two blocks in front and along the side streets adjacent to Bahman, a state of the art and science Hospital operated by Fadlallah’s Al Marbarrat Charity. This hospital was among hundreds of civil buildings in Haret Hreik and South Beirut, that Israel had bombed in July of 2006. The Fadlallah home was also reduced to rubble.


“How did these guys get here so fast” I wondered, for it was only minutes since the Majaa (religious guide) to millions in the Middle East had died. Some security units, dressed in black shirts, caps and trousers, walkie talkies in their left hands, others in civilian clothes, quickly placed traffic barriers in the area. They politely asked that all vehicles including motorcycles be relocated a least two blocks away.

Some, from their appearance, obviously war toughened fighters, wept and consoled men and women who began arriving at the hospital to pay their respects, first in two and three’s and then streams.

The loudspeakers from the Hassanayn Mosque, where every Friday Fadlallah for the past nearly 20 years, delivered sermons to tens of thousands of faithful, Muslim and Christian alike, began broadcasting religious music and Koranic verses to our shocked and grief stricken neighborhood. During the night of the 27th day of Ramadan, known as Laylat al-Kadr, (according to the Al Kadar Sura in the Koran, this is the day that the Angel Gabriel came down from heaven and the beginning of the revelation of the Koran) more than 50,000 filled Fadlallah’s Mosque and surrounding streets.

“The father, the leader, the marjaa, the guide, the human being is gone.” Sayyed Fadlallah has died this morning,” senior aide Ayatollah Abdullah al-Ghurayfi told a hastily called news conference, at the hospital, joined by the late cleric’s sons, Sayyed Ali Fadlallah and Jaafar, who, like nearly everyone else in attendance, could not hold back tears.

The sweltering evening of July 5th, an American delegation was given by his family and Hezbollah security the rare honor of viewing the body of Lebanon’s senior Shia cleric inside his Mosque near where he would be buried at 1:30 p.m. the following afternoon. The group met a wide spectrum of Lebanon’s political and resistance leadership but were not joined by anyone from the US Embassy since their government would boycott Lebanon’s national day of mourning and the burial of this Washington branded “Terrorist.” It was in 1995, that then President Bill Clinton, at the urging of AIPAC and facing a re-election campaign, so designated him. Former President Carter promised during a visit in June of 2009 that he would contact President Obama immediately about this travesty but was unable to have his name removed before the Sayeed’s death.

The American delegation paying their respects included residents of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Hawaii and Oregon, a Catholic Priest and two nuns, some of whom were in Beirut as participants in the delayed Lebanon flotilla to help break the siege of Gaza. They felt they were the true representatives of their country, not their Embassy. Ever misleading the public with respect to the Middle East, the main stream western media began a thousand reports with the words, “A fiery anti-American critic died.” It is nonsense of course. Fadallah was very pro-American in the sense that he often extolled the founding American principles and his relationship with the American people was valued by both. Barely two weeks before his death he left his sick bed to meet with a group of Americans from Washington DC, against the advice of his doctors, and he urged them to work to preserve the founding principles on which their country was founded and to encourage dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews and to end the occupations of this region.

Like the rapidly growing number of American critics of US policy in the Middle East, many of Fadlallah’s Friday prayer sermons denounced arming and supporting serial Israelis aggressions.

For more than 50 years, he worked at “modernizing” the Shari’a and rendering it accessible to modern day youth, addressing their concerns, expectations and fears in a fast-changing world. He was truly the Mufti of the youth and of women, their guide who never oppressed their dreams and always simplified rulings. He was available for questions regarding the most taboo of social and political subjects. He was also the enemy of stalemate and a rejecter of tradition in its inflexible sense. He insisted on subjecting all ideas to discussions, debates and reassessments and was much more interested in human beings than doctrines.

His followers revered him for his moderate social views, openness and pragmatism. Fadlallah issued religious edicts forbidding female circumcision, condemning domestic violence-even allowing women to wear cosmetics and finger nail polish which some clerics opposed, and insisting that women could physically resist abusive husbands. He strongly supported female-male equality. He rejected the blood-letting at Ashoura events and like Hezbollah encouraged his followers to donate blood to the Red Crescent Society instead of cutting themselves. He also opposed the call to “jihad,” or holy war, by Osama bin Laden and he was among the first to condemn the 9/11 attacks. Fadlallah opposed ‘suicide attacks” but distinguished the right of an individual to sacrifice himself as a weapon during asymmetrical warfare by aggressors.

Fadlallah supported the Islamic revolution in Shiite Iran, and advocated armed resistance to Israel. In 2009, again during a meeting with Americans, including Jews, Fadlallah, whose family came from the southern Lebanese village of Ainata, reiterated his call for a Muslim-Jewish dialogue as part of interfaith efforts aimed at bridging the gap among various religious, rejecting any offensive against Jews or Christians in any Arab or Muslim country. But he emphasized to the delegation the importance of a Muslim-Jewish dialogue away from Zionist influence, stressing that Jews need to be freed from the cycle of world Zionism and Israel should be confronted because of its occupation of Arab lands.

He welcomed the election of Barack Obama in the US, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that “some of Obama’s statements show that he believes in the method of dialogue”. He added: We don’t have a problem with any American president, but our problem is with his policy that might affect our strategic interest.” He later told visitors of his disappointment at President Obama’s Middle East policy, accusing him of being “under pressure” from Israeli supporters and “not a man who has a plan for peace”.

Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah had a widespread reputation for piety and scholarship through his teaching and the more than 40 books and treatises he wrote. He established religious schools and foundations, clinics and libraries as part of the charitable Al Marrarat Foundation


In summary, Mohammad Hussein Fadallah was too moderate, progressive and too effective a spokesman advocating for the deprived to be tolerated by the US administration and Israel. Both required more stereotypical radical Muslim clerics to smear the region. The Mossad is believed to have targeted him more than half a dozen times including during the July 2006 Israeli attack.

A generation was inspired by Sayeed Fadallah and listened to him and studied his voluminous writings. Two generations feel the emptiness of his passing away.

Mohammad Hussein Fadallah was a rare man of an angel’s wit, mirth and singular learning. A marvelous man of gentleness, humbleness and affability. Sometimes when defending the rights of Muslims,Christians, Jews and all people of faith or non-believers of good will, his countenance was changed by a sad gravity and his smiling eyes darkened. For to his core, Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah believed in the right and responsibility to resist injustice and occupation.

He was a man for all seasons whose conscience and piety would not allow him to be idle as long as the poor and downtrodden remained dispossessed and voiceless or his beloved Lebanon and Palestine was occupied. For this, and for no other reason he was placed and kept on the US Political Terrorism list as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and his American charitable assets confiscated.

Like Thomas More, Fadlallah rejected offered inducements and bribes including T list removal from Washington if he followed the King’s wishes and stop support to the Lebanese National resistance. He wore his nonsensical Terrorist label as a badge of honor as his daily good works mocked and marked the list keepers with shame and cowardice for squandering American founding principles and for funding, arming and providing diplomatic cover to the Zionist colonial enterprise that stole Palestine.

Each month since Sayed Fadlallah’s passing brings deeper understanding about the greatness of this public servant and the value of his achievements. Following Arbeen, the Muslim 40 day period of mourning for the departed, I visited with two of Fadallah’s close associates who wondered whether the future without his leadership would lead to his social service agency, the Mabarrat, having to cut back on its 30 schools, medical facilities, and social service agencies. They were worried that with his parting, his life’s work might become diminished and growing demands in the community could not be met.

This morning I was advised by a key aide of the late Ayatollah Fadlallah that the Marbarrat, thanks to Fadlallah’s administrative skill, planning and foresight, is strong, expanding and will long serve our community.

May Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah forever rest in Peace.

By Franklin Lamb

14 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org

can be reached c/o fplamb@gmal.com

Growth And Free Trade: Brain-Dead Dogmas Still Kicking Hard

There are two dogmas that neoclassical economists must never publicly doubt lest they be defrocked by their professional priesthood: first, that growth in GDP is always good and is the solution to most problems; second, that free international trade is mutually beneficial thanks to the growth-promoting principle of comparative advantage. These two cracked pillars “support” nearly all the policy advice given by mainstream economists to governments.

Even such a clear thinker as Paul Krugman never allows his usually admirable New York Times column to question these most sacred of all tenets. And yet in less than 1,000 words the two dogmas can easily be shown to be wrong by just looking at observable facts and the first principles of classical economics. Pause, and calmly consider the following:

(1) Growth in all micro-economic units (firms and households) is subject to the “when to stop rule” of optimization, namely stop when rising marginal cost equals declining marginal benefit. Why does this not also apply to growth of the matter-energy throughput that sustains the macro-economy, the aggregate of all firms and households? And since real GDP is the best statistical index we have of aggregate throughput, why does it not roughly hold for growth in GDP? It must be because economists see the economy as the whole system, growing into the void — not as a subsystem of the finite and non-growing ecosphere from which the economy draws resources (depletion) and to which it returns wastes (pollution). When the economy grows in terms of throughput, or real GDP, it gets bigger relative to the ecosystem and displaces ever more vital ecosystem functions. Why do economists assume that it can never be too big, that such aggregate growth can never at the margin result in more illth than wealth? Perhaps illth is invisible because it has no market price. Yet, as a joint product of wealth, illth is everywhere: nuclear wastes, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, gyres of plastic trash in the oceans, the ozone hole, biodiversity loss, climate change from excess carbon in the atmosphere, depleted mines, eroded topsoil, dry wells, exhausting and dangerous labor, exploding debt, etc. Economists claim that the solution to poverty is more growth — without ever asking if growth still makes us richer, as it did back when the world was empty, or if it has begun to make us poorer in a world that is now too full of us and our stuff. This is a threatening question, because if growth has become uneconomic then the solution to poverty becomes sharing now, not growth in the future. Sharing is now called “class warfare.”

(2) Countries whose growth has pushed their ecological footprint beyond their geographic boundaries into the ecosystems of other countries are urged by mainline economists to continue to do so under the flag of free trade and specialization according to comparative advantage. Let the rest of the world export resources to us, and we will pay with exports of capital, patented technology, copyrighted entertainment, and financial services. Comparative advantage guarantees that we will all be better off (and grow more) if everyone specializes in producing and exporting only what they are relatively better at, and importing everything else. The logic of comparative advantage is impeccable, given its premises. However, one of its premises is that capital, while mobile within nations, does not flow between nations. But in today’s world capital is even more mobile between countries than goods, so it is absolute, not comparative advantage that really governs specialization and trade. Absolute advantage still yields gains from specialization and trade, but they need not be mutual as under comparative advantage — i.e., one country can lose while the other gains. “Free trade” really means “deregulated international commerce” — similar to deregulated finance in justification and effect. Furthermore, specialization, if carried too far, means that trade becomes a necessity. If a country specializes in producing only a few things then it must trade for everything else. Trade is no longer voluntary. If trade is not voluntary then there is no reason to expect it to be mutually beneficial, and another premise of free trade falls. If economists want to keep the world safe for free trade and comparative advantage they must limit capital mobility internationally; if they want to keep international capital mobility they must back away from comparative advantage and free trade. Which do they do? Neither. They seem to believe that if free trade in goods is beneficial, then by extension free trade in capital (and other factors) must be even more beneficial. And if voluntary trade is mutually beneficial, then what is the harm in making it obligatory? How does one argue with people who use the conclusion of an argument to deny the argument’s premises? Their illogic is invincible!

Like people who can’t see certain colors, maybe neoclassical economists are just blind to growth-induced illth and to destruction of national community by global integration via free trade and free capital mobility. But how can an “empirical science” miss two red elephants in the same room? And how can economic theorists, who make a fetish of advanced mathematics, persist in such elementary logical errors?

If there is something wrong with these criticisms then some neoclassical colleague ought to straighten me out. Instead they lamely avoid the issue with attacks on nameless straw men who supposedly advocate poverty and isolationism. Of course rich is better than poor — the question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or have we passed the optimum scale at which it begins to make us poorer? Of course trade is better than isolation and autarky. But deregulated trade and capital mobility lead away from reasonable interdependence among many separate national economies that mutually benefit from voluntary trade, to the stifling specialization of a world economy so tightly integrated by global corporations that trade becomes, “an offer you can’t refuse.”

Will standard economists ever pull the plug on brain-dead dogmas?

By Herman Daly

11 February 2012

@ Daly News

Herman Daly is an American ecological economist and professor at the School of Public Policy of University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. He was Senior Economist in the Environment Department of the World Bank, where he helped to develop policy guidelines related to sustainable development. He is closely associated with theories of a Steady state economy. He is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award.

Gateway To A Global War

I’ve long thought that the red line that would indicate an intolerable assault on Asia and her assets runs through Iran. However, at the moment I’m not so sure. What I mean is, that a war with Iran, once initiated, would eventually draw in all of the Middle East, and then China and Russia. I still believe that is true. And God knows, the current game of chicken in the Persian Gulf is certainly looking very threatening. With two American Carrier Groups including several French and British ships and, most likely, a couple of Israeli nuclear subs, along with a third US Carrier outfitted as a Forward Operating Base, the risk of an accident alone is enough to set one’s nerves on edge. Meanwhile the Iranians are conducting joint exercises in the straits of Hormuz with Oman. It is, after all, the Persian Gulf. The Western fleets are purportedly there to keep the Gulf free for oil traffic. I would argue that filling the Gulf with warships is not conducive to peaceful trade relations.

But, while all eyes are on Iran, and we are deafened by the din of Iranophobic threats and tirades, the situation in Syria continues to boil, in fact, has begun to boil over. The population is increasingly caught up in the internal violence. With all the big international players are becoming more and more engaged in the struggle, diplomacy on Syria has come to a standoff. The UN representatives of concerned parties have lost patience with the process and with one another, and their communications have become increasingly harsh and bitter. Inside Syria, the government is openly warring with the Free Syrian Army and their associates in neighborhoods ins and around the city of Homs. Outraged newscasts of atrocities in the mainstream media are appropriate except for one tiny detail. They neglect to mention that the armed opposition is the reason for the fire fight, and that it was armed by our allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel with our blessing and most likely our assistance. A Russian Carrier Group is now docked at Tartous, along with a couple of Iranian Warships, permitted by the new Egyptian SCAF + Muslim Brotherhood Government to take the short route to the Mediterranean through the Red Sea and the Suez. This is a tinder box waiting for a match.

Even China has joined the fray with a special diplomatic mission now in Damascus advising the Assad government. Russia has opted out of the ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting where the ‘international community’ will discuss how best to support the opposition in the country. Their statement is docked in Tartous. But the firefight in Homs has provided ammunition to the Imperial propaganda machine that is priceless. It is refined so that only the Assad government is responsible for the disaster. We hear the voices of those under fire, and it breaks our hearts. But the broad context of the disaster is viewed as a support system for the oppressed rather than a cold blooded initiative to use them as pawns on the world chessboard. The fact that external forces are exacerbating and prolonging the violence is never mentioned. The possibility of mediated diplomacy is dismissed. The government’s claims that they are under attack by international enemies are ridiculed in the same reports where that attack is righteously supported.

The question isn’t whether the people aren’t suffering or that they don’t have legitimate complaints. Of course they are and they do. The question is whether violent civil war is the best or only way to protect their interests and guarantee their rights. I want to suggest that violence and war are not, and would not in any context be the best approach to achieving justice, peace and prosperity. Meanwhile, the problem of a legitimate government to replace the Assad regime clearly frames the fallacy of this approach. It is assumed that, just as it has been for the last 100 years, whomever the Western Masters choose to put in power will be supported by the locals. Since the majority of the Syrian army is loyal to the government, this is a questionable assumption. The Syrians know this and so, nationally, the support for maintaining the present power structure and engaging in negotiations that lead to better governance is relatively strong. However this stance is slowly eroding under the combination of real damage from the firefights and the associated flood of propaganda. In other words, violence begets violence.

Since the Western Gods choose to oppose diplomacy on all fronts, their proxies will fight on to the last man and the circle chaos and destruction will continue to spiral outwards. While the majority of us in the west spin around wildly unrealistic election debates and lament the fate of our Syrian sisters and brothers, or cheer the most intransigent factions of the opposition in Syria, the risk is growing that the Immortals (our governments) and their minions (us) will be swept up in the fire storm they have nurtured and fed with the hopes and dreams, as well as the flesh and bone of the Syrian people.

By Judy Bello

24 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org

Judy Bello is currently a full time activist thanks to the harsh and unforgiving work environment in the Software Development Industry. Finally free to focus on her own interests in her home office, she is active with The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and with Fellowship of Reconciliation Middle East Task Force. She has been to Iran twice with FOR Peace Delegations, and spent a month in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya in 2009. Her personal blog, Towards a Global Perspective, is at http://blog.papillonweb.net and she is administersthe Upstate anti-Drone Coalition website at http://upstatedroneaction.org

From International Action Center – IACenter.org: Build this movement! Stop another war! Spread the word!

From International Action Center – IACenter.org: Build this movement! Stop another war! Spread the word!

NOW in 79 Cities –


NO War! NO Sanctions! NO Intervention! NO Assassinations against IRAN

(Alphabetical order by State in US, then other dates and countries listed)

1.     Huntsville, AL 10am, Whitesburg and Airport, 5001 Whitesburg Drive

2.     Phoenix, AZ, 2pm at Cesar Chavez Plaza, 200 W Washington.

3.     Tucson, AZ 6pm at Unitarian Universalist Church, 4831 E. 22 St.

4.     Los Angeles, CA 2 pm at Westwood Fed Building, next to UCLA campus.

5.     Los Angeles, CA Noon at Wilshire & Western Metro Stop.

6.     Palm Springs, CA 101 S. Palm Canyon Drive

7.     San Francisco, CA, Noon at Powell & Market, BART Plaza

8.     Sacramento, CA Noon, Demonstration at 16th & J Streets

9.     Truckee, CA Noon, at Donner Pass Rd/ Highway 89.

10.  Colorado Springs, CO, Acacia Park 115 E. Platte Ave

11.  New Haven, CT 11:00am at New Haven Green, 141 Church St

12.  Tampa, FL, Noon March on McDill Air Force Base-CentComm, Rally at Gandy Bivd. & Dale Mabry Highway

13.  Atlanta, GA 4:30 – 5:30pm at CNN Center, Marietta & Centennial Olympic Park.

14.  Honolulu, HI 7pm in Heart of Waikiki, Kalakaua Ave & Seaside Ave

15.  Des Moines, IA 6pm at Nollen Plaza, Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St

16.  Chicago, IL Noon at Federal Plaza

17.  Champaign-Urbana, IL 2pm at Neil and Main St.

18.  Highland, IN Highway of the Flags Veterans Memorial SE corner Indianapolis Blvd & Ridge Rd

19.  Wichita, KS Wichita Public Library, Main and William

20.  Boston, MA 1pm at Tremont & Park St, March to Israeli consulate & Copley Square

21.  Detroit MI 2pm at Grand Circus Park – Woodward Ave at Adams.

22.  Kalamazoo, MI 4pm, March from Urban Blend Coffeehouse, 14 N Burdick St.

23.  Kochville MI 12 noon at Bay Rd & Tittabawassee Rd.

24.  Grand Rapids, MN 12 noon, Peace vigil at Pokegama Avenue Bridge

25.  Minneapolis, MN 3 pm at 3rd St & Cedar Avenue South.

26.  Omaha, NE 72nd and Dodge Dodge St & S 72nd St

27.  Brevard, NC Noon, Transylvania Courthouse Lawn, E. Main Street & N. Broad St.

28.  Jersey City, NJ 2:30pm Vietnam Veterans Community Center, Central Ave & Manhattan Ave, then


29.  Montclair, NJ 10:30am, Near corner of South Fullerton Ave.

30.  Plymouth, NH Weekly Plymouth Common Peace Vigil,Plymouth Town Common.

31.  Albuquerque, NM 1pm, Assemble at UNM Bookstore Corner of Central and Cornell

32.  Albany NY Noon at Wolf Road & Central Ave, March 1pm to mall recruiting station.

33.  Buffalo, NY 3pm at City Hall Square, then marching.

34.  Delhi, NY Town Square, across from Delaware County Office Building

35.  NYC, NY 1pm at North end of Times Square – Duffy Square.  March to the US & Israeli missions to UN.

36.  Rochester, NY 11am at The Public Market, 280 North Union Street

37.  Saratoga, NY Noon at Broadway by Post Office, Weekly Vigil Site.

38.  Syracuse, NY 1:30pm, Fayette St. and Salina St.

39.  Cincinnati, OH 2pm, Piatt Park, E. 8th St and Vine St.

40.  Columbus, OH 4pm at 15th St. & N. High St.

41.  Defiance, OH Noon at Defiance County Courthouse, 221 Clinton Street

42.  Tulsa, OK Noon at Southwest Corner of 41st and Yale Ave,

43.  Astoria, OR Noon, The Post Office in Astoria, 8th and Commercial

44.  Harrisburg, PA Noon at State Capitol Steps, 3rd Street Side at North & Walnut

45.  Lewisburg, PA 2pmm Post Office 3rd and Market St.

46.  Philadelphia PA Noon at 5th & Market, Independence Hall.

47.  Rock Hill, SC 7pm at Byrnes Auditorium at Winthrop University, 701 Oakland Ave.

48.  Nashville, TN 2pm, Teach-in / Rally at Legislative Plaza, 6th Ave. between Charlotte & Union

49.  Amarillo, TX 3pm, NE corner of Elwood Park then march to Congressman Thornberry’s office at 905 S. Fillmore

50.  Austin, TX 1pm, Intersection of 6th St. and Lamar Blvd.

51.  Dallas, TX 3:30pm, Rally at Harry Moss Park, SE corner of Greenville Ave & Royal Lane

52.  Houston TX 3:30pm Westheimer & Post Oak

53.  Waco, TX 1pm, Valley Mills & Waco Drive

54.  Salt Lake City, UT 3pm at Downtown Federal Building, 125 S. State St

55.  Blacksburg VA Noon at Federal Building.

56.  Norfolk, VA 1pm at City Hall Ave at Saint Paul Blvd.

57.  Richmond VA, 2pm Main Post Office.

58.  Seattle, WA 1:30 at Westlake Center, March to Military processing center.

59.  Madison, WI 3pm, State St. and the Capitol, 2 E. Main Street

60.  Milwaukee, WI Noon  at East Capitol Dr. Bridge just east of Capitol Ave & Humbold Blvd.

61.  Green Bay, WI Noon at Lambeau Field.

62.  Racine, WI 10am NW Corner of Highways 20 & 31

63.  Washington DC Noon at Lafayette Square, White House

Feb 02 NO War on Iran Actions

1.     Bloomington, IL 5:30pm at Center for the Performing Arts 600 East Street

2.     Oklahoma City, OK, 4:30pm at Gold Dome corner, 1112 Northwest 23rd Street

FEB 3 NO War on Iran Actions

1.     Baltimore, MD. 5pm McKelvin Sq, Pratt & Light Street

2.     Raleigh, NC 4:30pm Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave

3.     Nashville TN 2pm, Nashville Legislative Plaza, 6th Ave & Deaderick St.

Feb 5

Vista, CA 2pm ,Vista Village Dr. and S. Santa Fe

Feb 12 Portland, OR 3pm The Corner of Salmon St and Park Ave SW

Other Countries organizing for NO War on Iran actions on Feb 4:

Canada F

1.           Calgary, AB 11am,Consulate General of USA, 615 Macleod Trail S.E., 10th Floor

2.           Lethbridge, AB 2pm, City Hall, 910 4th Ave. South

3.          Vancouver,BC: Picket and rally in front of US consulate, downtown, 3-6pm

Bangaldesh capital Dacca rally and march;

India message of actions in several cities including Calcutta.

Ireland at Shannon Air Base, forward base for NATO,

Norway, Oslo, Rally initiated by Iranians in Diaspora, Supported by Peace Initative Norway, Party Red & others.

UK Leeds, University of Leeds 8pm, Parkinson Steps Woodhouse Lane Leeds Sydney Town Hall 483 George Street

Let us know if you are also planning an action on Feb 4 or On the Feb 4 weekend and we will also post it, so that others can link up with you.

Or join a local action listed above.



A broad spectrum of U.S.-based anti-imperialist and anti-war organizations, including the IAC, agreed on a Jan. 17 conference call to hold coordinated protests across the country on Saturday, Feb. 4. The demands will be: “No war, no sanctions, no intervention, no assassinations against Iran.”

The ad-hoc group that took part in the call decided that although there are only two weeks to organize, it will invite anti-war forces around the world to join in to make this emergency protest a global day of action.

All agreed on the need to stop U.S. imperialism and/or Israel from launching a military attack on Iran. There was also a consensus that the new sanctions President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 31 — with the goal of breaking the Iranian central bank — were themselves an act of war aimed at the Iranian people. The political activists on the call raised the danger of a wider war should fighting break out in or around Iran.

While the organizations involved had varied assessments of the Iranian government, they all saw any intervention from U.S. imperialism in the Southwest Asian country as a threat to the entire region and to peace. Some of the people on the call who are originally from Iran and who were in touch with family and friends there conveyed the Iranian people’s anger at the recent assassination of a young scientist.

There was agreement to make “no assassinations” one of the demands to show solidarity with the Iranian population as well as to condemn the U.S. and its allies for criminal activities against Iran and its people.

As of Jan. 19, the organizations that called the actions or endorsed later included the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), the International Action Center (IAC), SI! Solidarity with Iran, Refugee Apostolic Catholic Church, Workers World Party, World Can’t Wait, American Iranian Friendship Committee, the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII). ANSWER Coalition, Antiwar.com, Peace of the Action, ComeHomeAmerica.us, St. Pete for Peace, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality-Virginia, WESPAC Foundation, Peace Action Maine, Occupy Myrtle Beach, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, Twin Cities Peace Campaign and Bail Out the People Movement (BOPM).

Individual endorsers include authors David Swanson, “When the World Outlawed War,” and Phil Wilayto, “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic”; and U.N. Human Rights Award winner Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general.

The list is expected to grow steadily as word spreads. Right now people can follow developments on the Facebook link: 
No War On Iran: National Day of Action Feb 4,

Visit StopWarOnIran.org

Fidel And 540 minutes :Fight, Don’t Let Pessimism Win, It’s Our Duty

“We have to fight. We can’t let pessimism win. It’s our duty”, Fidel Castro said.

This call to duty comes from the person who, long ago, in a court of trial quoted Martí: “A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather, the path where duty lies […]” (Fidel Castro, “History will absolve me”) Of this person, Tad Szulc observes: “Cuban and world history would have evolved differently had this single individual been less determined […]” (Fidel: A Critical Portrait) And, of the same person, Raul Castro told: “The most important feature of Fidel’s character is that he will not accept defeat.” (Herbert Matthews, Castro: A Political Biography)

So, today, Fidel describes the current world period as “harsh and difficult, with everyone asking each other what to do […]”. In terms of the enemy, the aspect that concerns him most is that “they believe that they are in control, they try to impose things, but they are not in control. Nobody really knows what is happening.” Elucidating the point Fidel cited the situation related to Iran. “The principal truth is the danger of war”, he said. Fidel warned: “[T]he most dangerous aspect is that enemy forces are less and less in control of the terrible forces and processes which they have unleashed. This is the situation of the United States and Europe in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they can neither stay nor go.” (Arleen Rodríguez and Rosa Míriam Elizalde, “Nine Hours of Dialogue with the Leader of the Revolution”, Feb. 14, 2012)

Fidel reiterated the need to keep people informed, (emphasis, here and henceforth, added) another news agency report said.

Fidel Castro was having a discussion in Havana. A Reuters news said: Fidel had a nine-hour discussion with intellectuals.

The meeting, “Encounter of Intellectuals for Peace and Environmental Conservation”, was participated by more than hundred laureates in literature, history and social and natural sciences, eminent thinkers from 21 countries and Cuba including Cervantes Prize (the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world) 2005 winner prominent Mexican writer, translator and diplomat Sergio Pitol, and Nobel Peace Prize (1980) laureate Argentine sculptor, architect and pacifist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. They were attending the 21st International Book Fair of Havana. The discussions covered issues including the state of the world, possible extinction of humanity, exhaustion of the planet’s natural resources, perversions of media transnationals, military and mind control devices, and the 85-year-old comandante’s health. An intimate Fidel gave full attention to all the speakers during these 540 minutes with two brief recesses. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)

“He is the same Fidel as always”, said Ignacio Ramonet, author of Cien horas con Fidel (One Hundred Hours with Fidel), Spanish journalist, writer and former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique. The revolutionary’s inexhaustible curiosity was there. As the participants were expressing ideas, Fidel’s thoughts were live with expression; there was his habitual gesture – touching face with index finger or reflectively stroking his beard. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)

Daniel Chavarría, the Uruguayan-Cuban revolutionary, writer, and winner of the National Literature Prize, mentioned Fidel’s capacity for being ahead of events, of being a type of “historical prophesier”, a “tactical pessimist and strategic optimist”. Chavarría wanted Fidel “to say whether, in a world at the point of going to the winds and with […] enormous problem […] he should be alarmed or stay calm. Fidel unhesitatingly replied, ‘In order to remain calm you have to think about the problem and fight against it.’ One of the best ways of helping the act of ‘thinking about the problem’ is to provide peoples with as much information as possible.” (ibid.)

Stella Calloni, Argentine journalist and writer, cited the frightening silence of media and part of the left in the face of colonial wars unleashed one after another since 2001 and those threatening to follow the script in Syria and Iran. She called for greater coordination on the Defense of Humanity network. “If we cannot stop these wars, they will come down on us later […] Silence on the part of intellectuals, never again”, she said. Frei Betto, author of the book Fidel and Religion, urged to generate projects, not only outrage, because it is not enough to address global injustice. (ibid.)

Award-winning Argentine journalist, novelist and politician Miguel Bonasso raised a burning issue: The latest British colonial aggression in the Malvinas. Fidel observed: “They have no choice but to negotiate and leave. What they have done is totally brazen: they even dispatched a destroyer and a helicopter with the Prince as a pilot. The Americans definitely won’t be very happy about that. The situation is not one of war, but pressure has to put on them.” “Pinochet’s no longer here; he was the one who helped the British in their last war on Argentina. They are desperate, and that’s the way in which they reacted when Uruguay recently vetoed the entry of a British ship flying the Malvinas flag. They have no business there, the only option left open to them is to leave”, Fidel said. (ibid.)

The dialogue turned amazing as Brazilian Marilia Guimaraes informed that architect Oscar Niemeyer, a friend of Fidel, is now 104 years of age. “His mind is extremely lucid and he often asks after ‘the 85-year-old boy.’” An amused Fidel asked “Why don’t we make a genetic study of him?” He wanted to know from German Harri Grünberg the way Germany plans to replace nuclear energy. Santiago Alba Rico, “Arab by adoption and a homeless European who, like many others, moves about defending Cuba”, was asked questions on the post-revolt situation in Tunisia – Rico’s present place of residence – its economy, agriculture, and its wine and date production. This led Frei Betto to comment: “Many people here, like Santiago Alba have experienced what an oral test in a Jesuit school means. It’s hard. That’s where Fidel comes from.” (ibid.)

Famous author of juvenile and youth literature Carlos Frabetti referred to advertising: “Advertising tries to convince us that happiness is possessing more than others, when happiness is having more with others.” Children are the most vulnerable to advertising, he said. Frabetti congratulated Cuba for not being subjected to this aggression while Europeans can receive up to 1,000 advertising impacts every day. He said children living under constant consumer stimulus turn frustrated and react aggressively. Fidel expressed his aversion to advertising, which the Cuban Revolution has never utilized, not even as a means of testifying to its positive actions. (ibid.)

Everything that Cuba has done for other peoples was without any desire for competitiveness, publicity or propaganda, Fidel said. He affirmed: The spirit of solidarity is part of the foundations of the Revolution that triumphed in January of 1959. In those years, Cuba had 6,000 doctors. Many of them left for the US when the economic and political blockade was imposed. However, at the same time, some of the professionals who joined the revolutionary process were also prepared to go to Algeria to help that country. “Thus Cuba’s internationalist tradition began”, Fidel noted. He recalled that “the initial aid for Angola was transported in the old Britannia aircraft that we had. We did it without seeking any limelight.” Experience was added to these principles, intertwined with what Fidel called “an honorable politics, not exempt from errors, but honorable.” He added, “The ideas which we defend are based on experience, they are not simply imaginings. We have experienced them.” (ibid.)

Honor and dignity are fundamental and uncompromising issues to Fidel. Even his class enemies fail to deny it while they refer to Fidel and Cuba. The revolutionary, whose struggle transgresses centuries, initiating in the twentieth century and continuing in the twenty-first century, stands for honesty, honor and dignity since the initial days of his revolutionary activities, since the days of his dream to “revolutionize [Cuba] from top to bottom” (Fidel, My Early Years, “Letters from prison, 1953-55”, April 15, 1954)

Fidel praised the Telesur network […] “for working very seriously and professionally […]” “I like Telesur very much”, he said. On ways to confront lies by the enemy’s powerful media, he said he no longer bothered these lies. “The problem is not in the lies they say, but that we cannot prevent them. What we are looking at today is how we ourselves state the truth.” The key, according to Fidel, is to inform. He praised Telesur’s approach and its lack of advertisements that bombard media users almost everywhere in the world. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)

“[T]oday, information within the media system operates like merchandise”, affirmed Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish writer and journalist. “[T]here are many free daily newspapers today […] How is it that a system which is always so concerned about benefit, is making the circulation of information free of charge? Because these days, the information trade does not consist of selling information to people, but in selling people advertising [….I]nformation is a strategic raw material [….M]edia power […] can only be conceived of as the twin of financial power [.…T]his media-financial link is more powerful than political power […P]olitical leaders have less power than before and the media is taking advantage of this weakening and the absence of authority to attack on behalf of objectives set by the financial power”, he added. (ibid.)

Fidel observed the abuse of technology that intrudes people’s privacy. “All aspects of their personal lives are explored and this surveillance is being carried out by those who consider themselves champions of individual rights.” He joked about certain people still believing in code and commented that the Yankee secret in wars has always been to know these codes. He went on to talk about devices already at the advanced research stage which can transmit electricity through appliances of barely one atom in height, from drone aircraft, and of the possibility of making soldiers subconsciously react to electronic orders more rapidly than by traditional means. The persons inventing them, he noted, “are going beyond insanity”. (ibid.)

Argentine writer Vicente Battista, Salvadorian playwright Lina Cerritos and the Culture ministers of Angola, Ecuador and Jamaica referred to cultural resistance, standing up to domination, environmental conservation, and the importance of discussing ideas. (ibid.)

Bonasso recalled with emotion a February day of 2006, when Fidel wrote the following dedication on the first page of a book which he was given: “With great hope in youth and that the world will continue to exist”. He narrated another incident on one night in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution, just after the earthquake in northern Pakistan in October 2005. The decision to send a Cuban medical team to the aid of the victims was taken on that night. Bonasso recalled that Fidel said, “The winter and the cold are coming now and thousands upon thousands of people have lost their homes in the mountains. What will happen to these people, to the women and children?” The Argentine writer added, “You are the only statesman I have known to have the capacity of thinking sensitively and whom I have seen deeply moved by […] people.” (ibid.)

In an exchange with Francisco Sesto, Venezuelan minister for the reconstruction of Caracas, Fidel inquired about housing and other social projects being implemented by the Bolivarian government and exposed “the propaganda and publicity apparatus being fired at Chávez.” (ibid.)

“I came to listen to you, to learn from you”, the Comandante en Jefe insisted. Argentine political scientist Atilio Borón recalled the absurd divisions within the left. “These are old habits which will gradually [get] eliminated”, observed Fidel. He termed the audience as “Infinite”. Probably he was meaning “the capability of the men and women accompanying him to multiply their non-acceptance of the current world order and to establish projects and models which can save humanity from its self-destruction.”(ibid.)

Fidel recommended that contributions to the encounter should be compiled into a book in order to disseminate the ideas expressed. The intellectuals present could revise their words, edit them and add what they might have forgotten in the heat of the dialogue. “Given that we are very pressed, there’s no need for haste”, he said. (ibid.)

Fidel’s all moves make news. His admirers and enemies keep eyes on him, on all news on him. The discussion with the intellectuals is significant as it brings notice to the deteriorating world situation, as imperialism is making one after another onslaught, as imperialism is turning captive to its crisis that makes it desperate. The days are much dangerous and uncertain then the Empire’s Iraq invasion days. “No other era in the history of humankind has experienced the current dangers humanity faces.” (Fidel Castro, “Marching toward the abyss”, Reflections, Jan.4, 2012) On the one hand, a section in peoples’ camp with their inert, ignorant brain is joining imperialists’ covert and overt invasions in the name of democracy, and on the other, capital is cementing ties with one of its old allies, retrogressive forces, while the inert brains join the alliance. Fidel, Guerrillero del tiempo, Guerrilla of Time, in this situation, calls to practice “honorable politics” that should be upheld and practiced at all costs, that a significant section in people’s camp in a number of poor countries has abandoned, and that moneyed elites dominating societies can’t practice.

By Farooque Chowdhury

21 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org

Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.