Backtalk, January 13, 2007

Who Is Planning Our Next War?

Buchanan has been rightfully warning of the neocons’ plan for war on Iran at least since April 28, 2006. (“It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense.”)

In this article he proposes a resolution stating, “In the absence of a direct Iranian attack on U.S. forces or personnel, or an imminent threat of such an attack, President Bush has no authority to launch a preemptive strike or a preventive war on Iran.”

That qualification raises a red flag: “a direct Iranian attack on U.S. forces or personnel” can be provoked – maybe by the two U.S. strike groups now at the Iran coast? It can also be fabricated – the same way Lyndon Johnson fabricated a North Vietnamese “attack” on a U.S. warship in their waters in 1964.

“… Or an imminent threat of such an attack.” Didn’t George W. Bush claim an imminent threat from Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”? The same lie is being recycled for Iran.

Even if those situations were true, one man still does not have the authority under the Constitution to plunge the country into a foreign war. The power still lies exclusively with Congress, as writings of the founding fathers unanimously attest.

Let’s amend that proposed resolution: “In accord with the Constitution, the president has no authority to launch a war or any attack of any kind against Iran or any other country without a prior declaration of war by Congress. Any violation shall be construed as a high crime and misdemeanor.”

But even if Congress would follow the constitutional route, it does not mean that it could justify an aggressive war without violating international law. Treaties of the U.S., including the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact – under which Nazis were hanged – still forbid aggression.

Bush has just committed his third aggressive attack – this time on Somalia and wholly unauthorized by Congress.

He can’t claim he is covered by the resolution of 9/14/01 – which has been used for five years to excuse the killing of Afghans. At most, it applies only to 9/11 terrorists or their harborers.

Unless Congress can wield the weapon of impeachment, what has our warlord-in-chief to fear?

Be aware that there is a group, based in San Francisco, devoted to ending executive war-making. Since 1998, the War and Law League has opposed all presidential wars and interventions (including the eight committed by Bill Clinton in his eight years in the White House).

~ Paul W. Lovinger, Jeannette Hassberg, War and Law League (WALL), San Francisco

Confronting the Empire

“The problem, as I see it, is summed up in a single word: Washington… the seat of the Empire.”

The problem is that the American people, including most of the “left” and much of the antiwar movement, suffers under the illusion that DC is the seat of imperial power and hence wastes much time, money, effort (and global warming emissions) on traveling there to stage their ineffectual protests.

The seat of imperial power in the U.S. is not Washington DC, but Wall Street. The politicians in Congress and the White House are but handmaidens to the much greater power of the global corporate capitalists and financiers who pay their bills and pull their strings. It is America’s “nonnegotiable” way of life, a level of consumption and comfort that few of us are willing to relinquish, which drives the engines of imperialism. For that, each of us is responsible, and precious few of us are willing to look in that mirror.

Imperialism, by its very nature, is a creature of gigantism. No small, decentralist democracy becomes imperialist; and no large-scale, centralized society can be democratic.

Where I agree with Raimondo is in this honest assessment: “It’s time for the antiwar movement to reevaluate its tactics in light of our abysmal failure.”

There is one way only that we Americans can reverse the trend, some 200 years in the making, of centralization and corporatization of power and its inherent and necessary imperial expansion. That is to devolve back to the Jeffersonian (and Athenian) vision of small-scale and decentralized democratic republics. And the only way that is possible is through peaceful secession from the American empire – one state or bioregion at a time.

Among the two dozen active secession movements currently in the U.S., Vermont is one of the most active. Check out our prize-winning newspaper, the Vermont Commons, and the Second Vermont Republic (we were an independent republic from 1777 to 1791).

And join us in the understanding that peace can come only be removing our pillars of support for the empire – both political and economic – and allowing it to crumble under its own weight.

~ Robert Riversong, Warren, Vermont

Mr. Raimondo hits the nail square on the head, as usual!

His call for a massive movement against the halls of empire is the only way for the USA to survive its impending doom.

We confronted the empire here in Puerto Rico, over the issue of the U.S. Navy’s abuses in our municipality of Vieques. Our massive, popular movement, the huge marches, the relentless civil disobedience into the firing ranges, all served to embarrass the Navy to the point that it had no option but to leave.

However, a spark is needed. In Vieques, it took the accidental bombing death of a single Puerto Rican security guard at the range (ironically, he came from one of the most pro-Navy families in Vieques). Then a single young man, “Tito Kayak,” sneaked into the range ALONE and chained himself to an abandoned tank to stop the target practices. It was his lead that got the mass of people going, and the politicos running behind us all, not be be left out of the movement.

You need something to inspire your masses. How about harping on the fact that the Bush twins are nowhere to be seen in this last ditch, “do or die” surge to save the empire and its war? Make them up in effigy, dressed in USMC uniforms, and “station” them at Lafayette Park to see what happens.

Just an idea. Keep up your great work!

~ Roberto Bouret

Israel’s Purging of Palestinian Christians

Interesting article but completely biased. Another explanation, which I believe, is true is:

1. The majority of suicide bombing murderers have come from or passed through Bethlehem. The Palestinian authority in charge of the area obviously has not prevented them. Thus Israel has a right to protect its citizens as best as it can even though it does cause inconvenience.

2. The number of Christians living in the Islamic Middle East has fallen whereas their number in Israel (pre-1967) has increased.

3. The persecution of Christians living in Islamic Middle East is increasing. This is why they are leaving areas controlled by Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Loss of their land caused by Palestinian Arabs, not Israel, forced marriages of Christian women to Muslim men and the firebombing of churches in Nablus, Tubas and Gaza after the Pope’s controversial remarks are examples.

4. Instead of putting the blame on Israel, the onus should be laid on the PA and Hamas. Israel has laws to protect minorities and allow freedom of worship, which are enforced. They have a duty to do the same. There are many Israeli Arab doctors, for example, working in Israel. Even representatives in the Knesset. Israeli hospitals such as Shere Hazedek in Jerusalem look after ALL people, including Palestinians.

~ Jonathan Vallance

Jonathan Cook replies:

Jonathan rather gives the game away, and his motives for writing, in his second sentence. He can “believe” what he likes, but no one is going to take him seriously unless he can support his argument with facts.

1. Where is his evidence that the majority of suicide bombers have “passed through” Bethlehem? Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, and its Military Intelligence have gained a reputation for distorting the evidence to suit their case, but I have never heard either make such a claim.

2. This argument is pure sophistry. In 1948 there were 43,000 Christians inside Israel living as citizens after 80 per cent of the indigenous Palestinians, including Christians, were forced out by Jewish forces during the war that established Israel. Today, nearly six decades later, there are a little over 100,000 Christians living in Israel – or a doubling in the numbers. To put those figures in perspective, consider that in the same period there was an eight-fold increase in the overall Palestinian population inside Israel (from 160,000 to 1.2 million). In other words, the Christian population decreased relative to the Muslim population by 400 per cent. That is not the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority; it happened inside Israel, under Israeli rule. The reasons it happened were set out in my article: lower births rates and Israel’s oppressive policy against all Palestinians, including Christians, that has encouraged them to leave.

3. No doubt tensions between some Christians and Muslim populations are increasing in the Middle East, just as they are between Shi’ite Muslims and Sunni Muslims. We in the West can hardly withdraw from responsibility for these developments. We are the ones promoting the ideology of a clash of civilizations; we are also meddling in the Middle East (as we always have) through a policy of divide and rule, based on sectarian lines, of the local population.

Most of Jonathan’s claims about Muslim treatment of Christians are again based not in fact but rumor encouraged by Israel’s foot soldiers of hasbara (propaganda). The attacks on churches by extremists in the occupied territories should be condemned but, equally, they have been mirrored by attacks on the main church in Nazareth by Jewish extremists. Why is Jonathan so quiet about that? He also, again, fails to account for the trend of Christians leaving Israel, as well as the Palestinian Authority. How is the PA responsible for the fall in numbers of Christians who are citizens of Israel? In truth, the dramatic Christian exodus can be easily explained in both Israel and the occupied territories by Israel’s continuing policies of Judaizing Palestinian land and ghettoizing Palestinians.

4. This is pure hasbara. Israel’s main laws are designed to protect and promote the Jewishness of the state. True, Israel has given control of personal status issues (births, deaths and marriages, etc.) to each religious community, but this is hardly a sign of the state’s progressiveness. Instead it has made civil marriages impossible and diminished the role of secular values. Other fringe benefits include the fact that non-Jews cannot easily convert to Judaism or marry Jews, and that only Jewish holy sites and cemeteries are state-funded. And that is what is happening inside Israel. The situation in the West Bank and Gaza, both under Israeli occupation, is a hundred times worse. Try telling Palestinians from Ramallah that they have freedom of worship when they and millions of other Palestinians have been banned from praying at one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), in the old city of Jerusalem, for the past six years. That is the Noble Sanctuary in East Jerusalem, Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel in 1967, where Jews daily visit the Western Wall.

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