Backtalk, October 20, 2007

The Mother of All Pretexts

Uri Avnery’s “The Mother of All Pretexts” is carefully and subtly wrought, by a mind alive with the history of the region and its deeper nuances.

Two points might be added.

The idea of a “clash of civilizations” is not a new idea, but rooted in the study of the Fourth Century A.D., when the Roman Empire opened the century pagan and Diocletianic and closed it Theodosian and putatively Christian.

However mistaken its application to some new crusade against Islam by the “West,” what the Germans called Kulturkampf and what was analyzed in the ancient world by Arnaldo Momigliano quite brilliantly, is not otherwise empty of significance in that context.

Interestingly enough, in the context of Islam itself, Oswald Spengler quite rightly implies that Islam and Arabic culture are, through the medium of “Magian Man,” more “western” than “eastern.”

In fact, in that context, what is unveiled is a conflict between different versions of the same prophetic religion, as Arthur Darby Nock phrased it.

The other point is more contemporary.

“Mother of All Pretexts” is obviously rooted in Saddam Hussein’s “Mother of All Battles,” and works quite nicely as a title in that context.

Saddam’s phrase, however, which he applied to the first Gulf War, was generally misunderstood in the West, and particularly by Americans, surely under the influence of American slang.

The gist in Arabic was not merely “a big battle” but also “a battle that would give birth to many other battles.”

Which indeed it has.

Thanks again to Mr. Avnery for a superb piece of contemporary analysis and intellectual history.

~ Eugene Costa

Christopher Hitchens and Genocide

Great article on Christopher Hitchens and his genocidal warmongering. As an atheist and a noninterventionist libertarian, I find Hitchens very frustrating. Many of his points about religion are, in my opinion, correct, but then he goes off on tangents, away from philosophical meandering to advocating violence and promoting prejudice against an entire group of people.

This just makes atheists look foolish, if not dangerous. Hitchens is NOT a typical atheist! (I know you know this. I’m just stating the obvious.) All of the atheists I know want to settle the philosophical differences through discussion, debate and scientific advancement, not violence – and certainly not genocide!

What scares me, is that I suspect that many neocons share his view on this. I am very upset by Hitchens’ rantings, but I am equally bothered by the ultra-religious who look forward to the end of the world and seem to want a kind of anti-Muslim crusade, even if they are not explicitly stating that goal as Hitchens has done.

If the U.S. bombs Iran, it won’t be an atheist who gave the order.

~ Scott Frost, Kenmore, WA

Lesson Learned – Or Not

I want to address bizarre and contradictory statements Gordon Prather has advanced in his latest column. He states in part:

“At this point it is worth noting that the NPT does not prohibit Iran from producing ­ subject to IAEA Safeguards ­ weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. Nor does the NPT prohibit Iran from producing or otherwise acquiring ballistic missiles capable of delivering small, sophisticated nuclear weapons to Israel.”

These sentences go against basically everything Dr. Prather has written in his columns for the past year. Also, it is somewhat odd that supposedly producing weapons grade uranium and plutonium is not “furthering a military purpose.”

Through his columns, I have come to respect Dr. Prather as a good and decent man devoted to accuracy and truth, telling it like it is often in opposition to the MSM. But in this last column it appears Gordon is laying the groundwork for an apologetic defense of supposed weapons grade nuclear materials production. Should it come to light and be proven that Iran has enriched uranium to 90%+, instead of 5% then this would confirm the worst suspicions.

This shifting of the goal-posts is troubling for a man I have come to respect.

~ Anonymous

Gordon Prather replies:

There is nothing “contradictory” in my statements. First, Bush-Cheney-Bolton to the contrary, there is nothing in the NPT about missiles. Nothing! Nada! Zip! Second, the NPT not only allows a non-weapons state to produce – subject to IAEA Safeguards, of course – almost pure Uranium-235 (which many reactors, including those in our nuclear powered submarines, run on) and/or Plutonium-239 (which is produced by many research reactors, such as the one the North Koreans “unfroze” as a result of Bush unilaterally abrogating the Agreed Framework) but Article V requires “each party to the treaty” (Bush) to ensure that “potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosives will be made available” to non-nuclear-weapons states (Iran) on “a nondiscriminatory basis.”

All NPT-signatories not already having nukes – such as Iran – are required to enter into a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA for the “exclusive” purpose of verifying to other NPT-signatories that no “source or special nuclear materials” are used in furtherance of any military purpose. The NPT is all about the peaceful use of special nuclear materials.

Anon is apparently thinking of the proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would prohibit even nuke-weapons states and states outside the NPT – such as Israel and India – from producing any more almost pure Uranium-235, Uranium-233 or Plutonium-239. As I noted in “Another Coalition of the Willing?,” Iran is a strong advocate of such a treaty, but obviously George Bush, Israel and India oppose it.

Lebanon: What a ‘Safe’ Cluster Bomb Did

Thank you very much for Rebecca Murray’s article “Lebanon : What a ‘Safe’ Cluster Bomb Did.” May I please draw your readers’ attention to a petition we have placed on Downing Street Petitions Online. The petition calls for the UK to honor its commitment to the Oslo Agreement and to ban the use of the M85 cluster bomb. As members of the Cluster Munition Coalition, we are also hosting a Global Day of Action Against Cluster Bombs on 5 November. Details of the event will be published on our Web site very soon.

~ Friends of Lebanon

The Phantom Menace

Dear Mr. Malic,

Some time ago I criticized you for bias in favor of Serbs in writing on Balkan troubles. I have no regrets for doing so on that occasion. However, your articles have become really excellent, with more balance and the right amount of venom for those who serve the would-be empire. My occasional small donation to is my support for an outstanding team.

~ Goran Vukovic



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