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Total number of comments: 132 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:48)


Showing comments 132 - 101

  • Trump Counter-Terrorism Program to drop White Supremacists, focus on Islam
    • No one says you or yours should be targeted for your beliefs. But it seems that Trump and his friends have decided that Muslims should be targeted for their beliefs.

      The change being discussed here is a move to take a program that tries to curb all kinds of violent extremism and twist it to focus on extremist Muslims and while ignoring other types.

      It's worth noting once again that acts of violence and terror related to Islam are very much in the minority of such acts in the United States and Europe. Focusing on those actually places you at higher risk because of who's actually committing the crimes.

  • Palin for Trump: 'Political Correctness' (anti-racism) is a Suicide Bomb Vest
    • "This is one of those issues where a too hasty determination may invite unintended consequences; who defines where the line lies in the grey middle?"

      I don't know where the line lies, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't encompass the idea of banning immigration from an entire religious community, and doesn't involve setting up a database to keep track of members of that community that are already in the country.

      That's not just a silly to say, it's a time worn precursor to atrocity.

  • Who does Jerusalem belong To?
    • I don't see such a move ending well. Given the immense crowding that occurs during the hajj, the inevitable addition of people showing up just to watch sounds implicitly dangerous.

    • It's not uncommon for politicians running for election to say Jerusalem is the capital of Israel but that doesn't mean that it's become the nation's position.

      It's easy to imagine such a change occurring due to the immense sycophancy displayed in congress. It's also worth noting that it hasn't happened yet, despite the rhetoric.

  • 'American Terrorist': Middle East reacts to Murder of 3 Muslim-American Students in N Carolina
    • It's not like a bigot has ever exaggerated a minor grievance to justify their animosity. Perhaps he would have killed them even if they were white skinned blondes, but the trigger isn't necessarily the same as the motivation.

      Aside from that, I don't understand why people seem to believe that hating ALL religion makes someone less of a bigot than hating ONE religion.

  • Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris
    • Who would willingly align themselves with people that went out of their way to murder children?

      By attacking a magazine that had repeatedly been denounced for publishing images considered blasphemous by the ideologues they can at least hide behind the notion that they were fighting for their beliefs.

      Gunning down a classroom full of kids wouldn't allow even that fig-leaf. If the objective is to provoke a response, there's a point that the provocation risks being more horrific than the response for the target audience. Killing people that French Muslims may already be primed to see as bigots may seem like a comparatively safe middle ground to the perpetrators.

  • The Banality of Terrorism: Sydney's other Hostage Crisis, of 1984
    • A decade an a half of our media and conservative politicians banging on about terrorism and radical Islam and when it finally occurs... it's the random act of a mentally unhinged douchebag on bail for his part in the murder of his ex-wife. An utter non-entity on par with every other murderous ex-husband with impulse control problems.

      It says a lot about the Muslim community of Australia that when they finally give up something for the bigots to hang around their neck it's a piece of unfocused random violence from a disconnected yahoo and not a directed act of terrorist plot from a committed ideologue.

      I love you guys, stay awesome.

  • Reza Aslan, religion Ph.D. vs. Sam Harris
    • Smart man. People should feel free to criticize all they want, but if they don't do it in good faith and from a position where they know what they're talking about they should be disregarded as the ignorant demagogues that they are.

  • In Symbolic Vote, UK Parliament urges Recognition of Palestine
    • This is the only fight the Palestinians have a prayer of winning. For decades they've been painted as blood crazed zealots hellbent on genocide and enraged by the thought of peace.

      The Palestinian leadership have been practicing nonviolent resistance and establishing their theoretical nation as a part of the international community.

      Meanwhile the Israeli leadership have been poisoning their own reservoirs of international goodwill with increasingly public displays of brutality, open bigotry and the cynical exploitation of the holocaust to tar their every enemy as the new Hitler hellbent on their extermination.

      The vote accomplished no immediate or direct results, but that such a thing would occur at all was unthinkable five years ago.

  • Palestine goes to UN Security Council to Demand Israeli Withdrawal by 2016
    • The US will veto it again. Because that's what the US does.

      It'll provide more evidence that the United States' vaunted moral superiority exists only in the imaginings of idealists and children. This may help to force a change in US policy in the long term if it becomes more difficult for the nation to find willing partners in their endeavours, but it also may not.

      I'm hopeful that the Palestinians will gain something out of the process, but I'm pessimistic and expect that they'll have to go through another round of ramped up collective punishments.

  • Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declares Christian Jihad on all Muslims
    • She gets it from her supporters in the media anyway. So why not give it to her with a healthy dose of criticism and perhaps even context. You can't get past her ideas by pretending they don't exist.

  • Must Muslim Americans Condemn ISIL? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?
    • I think any person living in a society like my own, Australia, should find ISIL's actions repulsive and unsupportable. I also think that any person living in a society like my own should find Israel's conduct in regards to the Occupied Territories and Gaza repulsive and unsupportable.

      However, I find the notion that one group should have a special responsibility to publicly go out of the way to condemn the actions of a group on the other side of the world they have nothing to do with to be wrong-headed, toxic and pointless. It has been endlessly pointed out that American Muslim groups issue public statements denouncing every significant atrocity committed by a Muslim around the world, yet their enemies endlessly demand to know why they never speak up against those same atrocities.

      The supposition that Muslims in Australia, or the United States, should be should be held accountable for the actions in the Levant is as perverse as the corollary about Jews and Israel. Assuming a collective Jewish guilt in the crimes of Israel is clearly anti-Semitic, and assuming a collective Muslim guilt in the crimes of radical Islamic groups is no better.

      Yet recently our Prime Minister Tony Abbott lay the blame for his humiliating failure to win support for his amendment to our Racial Discrimination Act on the need to win over Muslim groups in the country. This was blatant dog whistling even when you don't have anyone to point out that Islam (or any religion) is not given any protection under the act in question, or that the attempt to remove the pertinent section of the act was prompted by the conviction of a major Australian right-wing columnist for racial vilification directed against our country's Aboriginal communities.

      I mention that specific example, because the special emphasis put into holding a specific group accountable for things they're not responsible for, is in no way different from constantly seeking reassurance that a specific group does not support activities that they have no connection to.

  • Israel can't Afford to Lose Jews Like Me
    • Antisemitism was basically coined as a scientific-sounding way to describe "Jew hatred". It's pretty much been used that way ever since the word was made up.

      Of course, it was coined in a context where people using the word had little knowledge, experience or awareness of the Middle East.

      Worth noting is the millennium long connection between Jew hating and Arab hating in Europe. For instance, every crusade against the Arabs was accompanied by local purges directed against Jewish communities.

  • Why is Obama bombing Iraq, Really?
    • Terrorism is by design a word with no clear meaning. It is applied to whoever happens to be our enemy at the time, never to anyone that happens to be our friend.

      These relationships are determined by a perception of whether or not those groups look like they're going to do what we want.

      It has less to do with morality or tactics and more to do with transitory alignments of interest.

      Similarly words like "Democracy" (just check out those US statesmen that rushed to Egypt to bask in al-Sisi's democratic credentials after his coup) and "Moderate" (Saudi Arabia is often described with that term despite forbidding the construction of Churches and outlawing proselytizing other religions) are employed cynically to define whether or not a country is on "our side" or not.

  • Is Israel Committing a Genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza?
    • It's right there in black and white.

      How many decades did Zionists deny the existence of Palestinians? How long did they claim that the Arabs only entered Jerusalem and Palestine after the European Jewish immigrants made the area prosperous?

      It was there right at the start with the mantra "A land without a people for a people without a land" being repeated in a perverted repeat of the principle of Terra Nullius that settlers in Australia the moral justification to come in and seize land and resources because after all, that land wasn't occupied by any civilized peoples.

      Then having seized the lands of the Palestinian Mandate there was a moral imperative to obscure the lies the Zionist enterprise grew out of. Arab communities destroyed and turned in natural parks, areas renamed in Hebrew to obliterate the past reality that up until a short period earlier this was universally recognized as an Arab land.

  • Most would-be US Terrorists Wouldn't have Committed a Crime without FBI Entrapment
    • Given the conduct of the American government toward them, it's a wonder that any American Muslim cooperates with them willingly at all.

      In there place I'm not sure I'd be so convivial.

  • From Kerry to Selena Gomez & Rihanna, Israel's Claims of Precision, Compassion are Dissed
    • It's terrifying watching someone self-destruct in front of you. Watching a country do it is even more horrifying.

      Israel may still be around for a good long time, but its public fall from grace has begun and there will come a time that publicly supporting Israel's policies of annexation, collective punishment and pre-emptive warfare will become political suicide no matter how much money its supporters throw around.

  • Gaza: 4 Dead Boys on the Beach & Israel's Precision War
    • He speaks true. The IDF doesn't target civilians. It just classifies all Palestinians as combatants until proven otherwise.

      A lot like the Americans and their drone strikes.

  • The Map: A Palestinian Nation Thwarted & Speaking Truth to Power
    • I didn't say the status quo was sustainable. I said they're not worried about losing to an armed uprising. Short of the region uniting against Israel they aren't going to lose militarily, and maybe not even then.

      In fact, without regular military clashes it's difficult for them to sell the fiction about how they're constantly under threat, so provoking attacks is part of their strategy.

    • Israel's come through each of the previous Intifadas intact. Short of the Arab region unifying it's hard to credit the notion that Israel is concerned about the possibility of a new uprising by the Palestinians.

      They've done a competent job of keeping them divided. Arab-Israelis separate from the occupied Palestinians. Gaza and Westbank. Hamas and Fatah. Decades worth of spying, intimidation, bribery and blackmail to find pliable informants and quite possibly agents provocateur and saboteurs among the oppressed populace.

      No, war with the Palestinians is the last thing they have to worry about. Foreign perception about the war is another question; after each atrocity they lose goodwill abroad but their supporters become more energized and motivated.

      Given the implausibility of the other options, they seem to favour a policy of rendering the Palestinians irrelevant. Forcing them into enclaves and denying them access to the outside world and vice versa. For decades it was claimed their was no such thing as a Palestinian people, I expect that seems like a golden age to Netanyahu.

    • It feels like I saw that map many years ago. It was shocking to see what I'd been reading about actually looked like on a map, which I suppose is why it's so offensive to Israel's apologists.

      But I don't understand why it's being denounced now when I've seen it, and used it, dozens of times in arguments about the occupation and the inherent ills. As opposed to any other time since it started to be seen.

      The current atrocities aren't much worse than Cast Lead a few years ago. If anything they're less atrocious having not come as a total surprise and allegedly motivated to punish for an incident that had happened months previously, nor conveniently timed to coincide with the time before the current US president took office.

      I suppose the attention Israel's been getting for their more publicized than usual mass pogrom might have something to do with the sudden sensitivity to this map.

  • And the Walls Come Tumbling Down: Israeli PM Netanyahu on Notice from both Left and Right
    • We've seen Israeli leaders overreach before, the bombing campaigns in South Lebanon and Gaza and the boarding of the Mavi Marmara for instance.

      I'm hopeful for some kind of meaningful progress, but that six month deadline? A lot can happen in six months, it's plenty of time for people to lose interest and forget and if that happens we'll be right back to the start only with more facts on the ground.

  • Prelude to Ethnic Cleansing? Israel Plans 3200 more Squatter homes on Palestinian Land
    • I've been saying for awhile that the plight of the Palestinians would have to get much worse before it started to improve. The further Israel pushes them, the more land they appropriate, the more openly defy international norms and thumb their nose at the evolving awareness of what's going on, the more tenuous their position becomes.

      The Palestinians should be encouraged to seek redress through every international body available to them, regardless of anticipated outcome. Israel will ignore any condemnations or sanctions, the U.S. will undermine or veto them to the best of their ability, and gradually it will become clear to all how lawless the two are in this issue.

      Without that consciousness in place the BDS can only have limited utility. The usual slurs employed to discourage such activities become less frightening and less useful the more they're pressed into service.

  • "Man-Up" Kerry tries to Swiftboat Ed Snowden
    • He doesn't think that.

      His objective isn't to get him to return to the United States, it's to discredit him by attacking his masculinity. If he managed to gain a few political political points with his fatuous taunts that would also please him.

    • For a brief moment not too long ago Mr Kerry spoke the truth about the ongoing failure to mend the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

      As soon as the criticism started he abandoned his principled statement and went back to the dishonest cliche that both sides were equally at fault for not taking advantage of his diplomatic efforts.

      He's really not in a position to tell anyone to "man up" and face the consequences of speaking a dangerous and unpleasant truth.

  • Anti-Muslim Gadfly to run DC Bus ads linking Hitler to Islam (+Russell Brand video against Islam Hatred)
    • America's media is anti-Israel? When did that happen?

      She certainly seems to be unhinged and her attitudes are blatantly bigoted. That said she, and the organisation she leads, are entitled to voice their opinions through legally proscribed means and the fact that they seem to be pushing for an actual government policy it certainly seems like it should be legal to me.

      Of course, anyone who falls back on Hitler to make their argument loses the debate pre-emptively.

  • Dear GOP: Here are Some Basic Real Questions to ask about Benghazi & CIA
    • Allowing your embassies and consulates to serve as a home and cover to agencies playing silly-buggers abroad is one of those jaw droppingly stupid decisions that always leaves me wondering who's making those decisions.

      It's one thing to consider them sacrosanct when they're representing their country diplomatically and handling issues related to immigration, traveler support and whatnot. It's something else to expect others to consider them sacrosanct when they realize they're being used as a cover for foreign spies running around their cities doing who-knows-what.

      Benghazi is basically an American obsession so I've never paid it all that much attention. But if this post is correct, and the consulate was playing host to sneaky business instead of doing what consulates are supposed to be doing it seems less like a tragedy -avoidable or otherwise- and more like a successful attack on a legitimate target.

      Just something for governments to consider when they're deciding how to make use of their embassies and consulates.

  • The Sterling Racism Scandal: What about Associating with Muslim People?
    • So, theoretically, you can change your religion when it becomes inconvenient and that makes it okay to demonize and discriminate against someone because of their beliefs?

  • Israel, US Complain about not being able to Divide and Rule the Palestinians
    • If Israel wanted a peace deal they wouldn't keep expanding the settlements.

      Israel can either expropriate land, or negotiate for peace. They can't do both, unless they're lying about their intentions.

  • Russian Annexation of Crimea, Israeli Annexation of Palestine
    • To be fair, China only became two separate nations as a result of their civil war which de facto ended with both sides claiming sole legitimacy as the only governing body of all China.

      Technically speaking, the two factions are still at war over total control of a single Chinese nation.

  • India Flap derives from America's Gulag Practices and Far-Right Supreme Court
    • The wider picture includes that the treated inflicted on the woman was so thoroughly regarded as the default setting that it clearly never occurred to anyone involved in the affair that it might have ramifications when applied to consular staff representing an important foreign nation.

      Not only are arrestees evidently are not only afforded the presumption of innocence, but are actually presumed to be irrationally dangerous. What other presumption can possibly justify a strip search and cavity search?

      So yeah. Labour laws are a matter of vital importance, but if the relationship between law enforcement and the community default to such abusive treatment then that must absolutely be a much more dire problem than an abusive relationship between employer and employees.

  • Egypt: Youth Remember Martyrs, Reject both Army and Muslim Brotherhood
    • Divide and rule, a time honoured tactic for maintaining control in the face of popular dissent.

      All the military had to do was giving the Brotherhood enough rope and then step in when the country's first stab at democracy didn't work out as expected.

      I wonder how long they'll manage to maintain the illusion of being on the people's side.

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  • Pakistani family testifies to empty room on Hill about US Drone that killed Granny
    • It's one thing to support morally questionable actions, it's something much worse to refuse to look at the consequences of those actions.

      The empty room is evidence of the fundamental lack of moral courage possessed by most United States Congresspeople.

  • The American Genocide Against Iraq: 4% of Population Dead as result of US sanctions, wars
    • Honestly I believe that particular decision had more to do with it being one of the major propaganda points of al-Qaeda. It's not for nothing that Bin Laden's first fatwa against the United States was entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."

      There's a world of difference between refusing to give in to terrorist demands and continuing to give them a major recruitment tool out of bloody minded stubbornness.

    • They were well aware that the sanctions regime they were implementing would cause a humanitarian catastrophe. Once it was in place they knew absolutely that it was causing tremendous suffering and death, and they continued to enforce it anyway.

      Intent be damned, if the predictable result of a policy is one of those consequences then it deserves the name.

  • Top Ten Ways the US and Iran could avoid a Catastrophic War
    • Obama may never have to face another election, but his political party will. I can't see him wanting to risk giving credibility, and power, back to the Republicans by pursuing policy and objectives that he believes will prove unsustainable or otherwise politically nonviable for the rest of his party.

      You make a good point about the desire to prevent anyone else in the region from developing the weapons. There's precious little that can be done to disarm Israel or Pakistan at this point, but making a clear and visceral example of Iran might serve a broader goal of preventing/delaying further proliferation. It's a goal potentially served regardless of Iran's actual or presumed intentions.

    • There are also those of us who think that a lot of the people who call themselves conservatives are actually extremely radical in their attitudes and politics. Their role in attempting to shutdown the United States government and their willingness to threaten to force the government to default on debt repayments regardless of the harm it could potentially do to the economies of their own country and the international system being a case in point.

      Having come to the conclusion that not every "conservative" is conservative, it's a simple step to question whether every "progressive" or "liberal" behaves in a progressive or liberal manner.

      They're just words people. There's nothing conservative about undermining international institutions constructed (in part) to legitimize your own country's new found political and military dominance by invading a third world country based on evidence that virtually the entire world concluded was if not fraudulent then at the very least heavily exaggerated.

  • Snowden: Federal Spying makes us Less Secure
    • Self-censorship is a nightmare to prove given that it's defined by the things we don't say, or do, to avoid potential unpleasantness.

      Given that you only seem willing to credit self-censorship to the lunatic fringe, you probably won't be swayed by the observation that the people most likely to be driven to censor themselves... are the people who would otherwise be inclined to say something that could potentially inspire consequences.

      As for not knowing of anyone who's had their ability to associate freely limited? I wonder how anyone could read of the way Muslim communities in the United States have been surveilled, infiltrated and occasionally entrapped over the last 12 years and still not comprehend the potential impact that those revelations could have on the targeted communities.

  • Would Israel's Netanyahu really Drag US into war with Iran?
    • The United States has repeatedly, openly and unambiguously affirmed its intention to defend Israel from the consequences of their aggression, both militarily and diplomatically.

      Iran isn't alone in believing that the two countries are heads from the same hydra. We've seen American political figures pledge that there could be no daylight between the policies of their country and Israel and the seemingly reflexive abuse of the UNSC veto power to protect Israel from the consequences of their aggression.

      I agree that Iran is a rational actor, but the last few decades have seen American officials make it clear that they would regard actions against Israel in the same light as actions against the United States.

      If Israel attacks Iran, then Iran will either retaliate or invite further belligerence by restraining themselves. If they choose to retaliate then it would be prudent for them to assume that they will be fighting the United States shortly thereafter.

  • Why Ted Cruz Should sit down and Shut Up: Countries with Social Safety Net Happiest
    • I think you give them too much credit.

      I've lost count of the number of times I've heard variations on: "Why should my taxes pay for someone too lazy to go to college so they can get a good job?"

      Cite all the evidence you want; observe that there aren't enough enough jobs for everyone who graduates with appropriate qualifications; point out that sometimes people get laid off when the company takes a hit that has nothing to do with the workers - it never makes an impact.

      If they're speaking from ignorance, it's a voluntary ideologically inspired ignorance.

  • Is Hamas Finished? Facing a Youth Rebellion and Egyptian, Iranian Hostility
    • I can't help but wonder what the Gazan youth are expecting to happen if they shrug off Hamas' rule.

      My reading of their electoral victory way-back-when was that it was to a large degree a result of their being the only really credible resistance to Israeli expansionism.

      While it's not inconceivable that Israel may reduce the blockade if Hamas is deposed, it's doubtful that they'll allow them to actually attain anything bearing more than a superficial resemblance to self-sufficiency.

  • President Obama's Doubtful Grounds for Military Action against Syria
    • It was a war crime.

      Rationalize it however you will. Dropping atomic bombs over cities was a colossal atrocity and seeing the way so many Americans shrug it off as regrettable but necessary tells world a great deal about 'American Exceptionalism'.

      Particularly when paired up with the apparent disinterest in the observable effects of American ordnance in places like Fallujah.

  • Syrian and Middle Eastern Christians Condemn US Strike Plans
    • It's quite a gamble to assume that they'll be left alone, or treated fairly, in the next government (assuming Assad's regime fails to reclaim power). Particularly since they've already been kicked in the teeth by the rebel faction in the first couple of years of the fight.

      If the rebels wanted the Christians support they were always going to have to earn it. They didn't, and probably won't, which probably doesn't bode well for them if Assad is replaced.

  • Invoking International Law Against Obama: Old Europe, New Europe and NeoCon Fail
    • "Iraq casts an incredibly long shadow that makes most (not all, such as Libya) international interventions in complicated ME conflicts difficult."

      Good. Twenty years of savagery blew up in our faces, it'd be nice to think it at least gave us pause before we bought into another war we've no stake in.

      "...even though the Syrian people are desperate for help."

      Which Syrian people? It's a civil war not a popular revolution. There are a number of factions in Syria, making up a good proportion of the population that are on Assad's side whether or not they support him personally. Those factions are certainly not desperate for the US or anyone else to intervene against them.

      As horrifying as the war is, it could easily become worse. Particularly with outside parties becoming openly involved in an essentially internal dispute.

      It becomes more dicey still when we realize just how little we understand the forces arrayed against Assad's regime, and how little we know of their post-war plans or relationships between the factions.

      There are a lot more opportunities to make the situation worse than there are to improve it. I'm pretty sure that was the case two years ago as well when we knew even less about the still-nascent opposition movement than we know now.

  • Rush to Western Strike on Syria slows, but does not Stall
  • Obama's Limited Options: Bombing Syria unlikely to be Effective
    • I can certainly see where you're coming from, I used to occupy that position myself some years ago.

      But then I noticed how many times our interventions, though justified or rationalized as humanitarian endeavors, had just turned out wrong. Either made a bad situation worse, either placed monsters in power or kept them there, or simply lead to exploitation later on by self-perceived saviors.

      At the best of time it's not easy to predict the outcome of our actions on the world stage, in a scenario like the Syrian civil war where we don't really know what's going on, or what some of the factions represent, it's even chancier.

      There's a temptation to pick a side and jump in, the possibility of it going horribly wrong is too great. It would be a different equation if the fight had any impact on us.

      But after the last decade I'm just not interested in seeing my country - or our allies - jumping into another fight, whether rationalized by national interest or noble principles and then realizing just a few years later that we've only added to the charnel legacy we've so carefully crafted in the region.

  • Egypt's Transition Has Failed: New Age of Military Dictatorship in Wake of Massacre
    • They opposed nominated constitution via a referendum so they abstain from the vote en masse instead of voting against it.

      Somehow, despite having a significant opposition movement that chose not to vote against the constitution the proposal passed.

      And somehow it's considered undemocratic because the opposition decided not to participate.

      This was the presumably the same opposition that took to the streets to demand that the government which was voted into power a year earlier be removed even though they'd barely begun their term of office.

      Somehow I don't think that the Muslim Brotherhood are the only participants who haven't quite figured out how this newfangled representative democracy thing is supposed to work.

      On a side note, is Morsi still imprisoned or has he been released?

  • India, China Defy US Congress' War on Iranian Oil
    • "The idea that American actions are making a peaceful resolution to the situation less likely by inflaming the Iranian public against collaboration just took a rather significant body blow."

      I don't recall the article suggesting that sanctions would push the Iranian public against the idea of co-operation with the United States or attempts at reconciling the two nations.

      What I believe I read was the suggestion that the ever-increasing sanctions will weaken the community's ability to challenge the government by and making the public increasingly dependent on the government to survive the artificial hardships they face.

      In effect strengthening the Iranian government by weakening the Iranian populace.

      Which, along with a lot of needless misery, is precisely what happened as the sanctions placed on Iraq ran their course.

  • Israeli Gov't mocks 'Peace Talks' with announcement of 1200 New Squatter homes in Occupied Palestine
    • The problem is that Israel, via the current administration, is making a point of sabotaging the peace talks by unilaterally giving the go ahead to build new structures on land that they have no legitimate ownership of.

      Whether the Palestinians are willing to trade away those areas is less significant than the fact that no such agreement has been struck, and that the move signals - intentionally - that Israel has no interest in negotiating with the Palestinians who have no leverage to achieve their own interests.

  • Top Ten Ways Bradley Manning Changed the World
    • On the other hand how much can he really accomplish, even if he is a genuinely honest broker, if he doesn't have demonstrable support from the administration and the elected bodies of government of the United States.

      It may be cynical to doubt his commitment to establishing a just and viable peace in the region, but the United States' consistent and ongoing support for Israel over the decades suggests that cynicism about the process isn't exactly unwarranted.

  • Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss Israel's Netanyahu on Attacking Iran
    • "Strategically, neither underestimating nor overestimating your enemy will produce your established goals. This is something Netanyahu doesn’t understand or willfully ignores."

      I disagree, the seemingly constant fear mongering thrown out against Iran and the various Arab nations is doing wonders to distract the world from the colonisation project.

      If there were any credible fear that Iran, or Israel's neighbours, could hurt Israel, and were prone to aggressive foreign endeavours, Netanyahu and co. would not be so eager to provoke them with threats and occasional "pre-emptive" military strikes.

  • Egypt: Fundamentalist Morsi Defies both Protesters & Military Ultimatum, says Obama Backs Him
    • It's their first shot at democracy so it's not really that surprising that Egypt's having a rough time of it. Both the politicians and the electorate will require time to figure out how to make the system work.

      Hopefully nobody will do anything stupid to escalate the conflicts before they all figure out what they're doing.

  • Uh, Segregated Buses aren't the Issue on the West Bank, Folks
    • The colonies steal land and resources from the Palestinian people, they restrict freedom of movement and they permanently block the establishment of a coherent and viable Palestinian State without which the Palestinians will remain at the mercy of their occupiers and unrepresented within the government that, in effect, governs them.

      The violence and the separate bus lines come from the same place, which is the racist and unhistorical assertion that the Palestinians are trespassers and have no rights.

      In my opinion the reason the segregated buses stand out is because it makes the similarities with South Africa's former policies a lot more credible, even to people who've thus far been determined to ignore them.

  • How the British Gov't Stripped Alleged Militants of Citizenship before they were Droned to Death (Woods & Ross)
    • "Citizenship is a privilege not a right."

      Easily the most perverted idea I've heard since I developed long term memory.

  • Egypt President condemns Israeli Air Raids on Gaza
    • There's some sort of difference between largely impotent home made rocket attacks made against Israel by the people that were intentionally dispossessed by them and persecuted by them; and the guided modern military ordnance being thrown around around by a first world nation against a nation that they've been preventing from even reaching even third world status.

      Condemning them equally, as if they shared parity in either specifics or context, is as far from fairness or just plain honesty, as you can get before wandering into outright falsehoods.

  • Pakistan: Imran Khan’s march brings global attention to CIA drone strikes (Ross)
  • Conservative Media Spin Biden-Ryan Debate (Young Turks)
    • It's been a while since I saw that much open contempt for the masses. Even 47% speech seemed less insulted than that carry on.

      There are credible arguments for the 'voting against their interest' thesis, but those two expressed so much blatant contempt that even I feel offended and my political flag has waving in the same winds for as long as I've watched politics.

      It's as though they fail to understand that people cast their votes in line with their own prerogatives, and not necessarily in accordance to their own priorities.

      An uncrossable line for some, is an acceptable disappointment that allows for the advancement of more highly prized agenda for others.

      Like for instance, tolerating drone strikes and civil rights infringements because of the belief that the other side will start a ruinous war with disastrous consequences if they win the next election

  • President Obama's Speech to the UN General Assembly
    • I tried to read it all, I really did. But it was just too thick with hypocrisy and propaganda.

      He talks about speaking honestly about the deeper causes of the violence but he ignores them, glosses them over and re-writes history to eradicate them from the record and peoples' memory.

      President Obama may be a great orator, but I've never seen it shine through in any of the videos I've seen.

      This is not a great speech, it doesn't address any great problem with honesty nor offer any path forward save to accept the status quo and trust that our betters have the best of intentions. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

      Just more of the same.

  • 10 Ways Arab Democracies Can Avoid American Mistakes
    • About point no. 6, specifically the part about making it hard to change the constitution.

      I would recommend making constitutional changes dependent on a mandatory referendum on a weekend. Generally speaking people don't like being dragged into the ballot boxes on their days off, and at least in Australia's case referedums fail more often than not unless the public care a great deal about the issue.

      For example the referendum to become a republic in 1999 was defeated even though it appears from polling information that most people favoured the change in theory but didn't like the model presented; but the 1967 referendum pass with overwhelming support (more than 90%) to alter the constitution to recognise aborginals as citizens.

  • Amnesty Int'l: United Nations Must Reject Israeli Campaign to Avoid Accountability for Gaza War Crimes
    • "Are you still living under the illusion that Gaza’s rulers do not have as their ultimate goal the disappearance of the Israeli people?"

      When the PLO accepted the idea of a two state solution Israel continued to take more land in the West Bank.

      Why would Hamas advertise their willingness to compromise as thoroughly when previous factions have found that adopting that position just leads to Israeli politicians doing a victory dance while taking more Palestinian land?

    • "That Hamas has conducted no investigation into it’s war crimes, including the deliberate targeting of civilians (which is its policy in firing rockets and mortar rounds into Israeli cities and villages) may be irrelevant to Israel’s obligations. Nevertheless, for you to condemn Israel, whose policy is to target military (i.e., Hamas) installations, some of which are deliberately placed among civilians, and ignore Hamas’ deliberate targeting of civilians and failure to conduct an investigation, demonstrates a lack of objectivity."

      Israel is country, allegedly democratic, and which advertises their IDF as 'the most moral military in the world', they purport that they are are committed to human rights and international law.

      If they choose not to uphold their stated ideals, it's newsworthy and those involved do deserve to be held accountable for their decisions and actions.

      Hamas, whatever its orgins and however just its cause, is a terrorist organisation and make few parallel claims about being fuzzy-bunny-huggers.

      When they behave like what they are, it's not newsworthy.

      That Israel's partisans complain their plucky little home of the brave isn't treated the same way as Hamas, it is a more damning indictment of the nation than anything any anti-semite could hope come up with.

  • Answer to Glenn Greenwald
    • I'm curious about the opinions of people who deem the intervention in Libya illegal because of the lack of congressional approval.

      Do they regard the intervention as legal, perhaps even morally exceptable, for other nations to participate in? And would they retract their opposition if congressional support were given?

  • The Gates of Hell Have Opened in Tripoli
    • <i?mr obama has to act as he did with moubarak

      You mean he has to equivocate and say that he thinks that democracy is nice, but Qaddafi isn't really all that bad if you think about it?

      The west doesn't move, I hope, because it's not our place to just barge in and smash everything because we don't have a plan. This is a U.N. matter and should be dealt with through the United Nations not through uilateral actions.

  • Egyptian Protests Swell in Response to Ghonim
    • My Lebanese friend once told me that her mother used to say that if she wanted to spend her life laughing she should marry an Egyptian because they're natural comedians.

      Finally I understand:
      "Although he affirmed that president Hosni Mubarak had undertaken not to arrest or interfere with the protesters, he said that one possible outcome of continued turmoil would be a military coup. "

      Jon Stewart could never match this guy for hilarious political satire.

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • Thanks for the “explanation.” If it means anybody, in any form or forum, attempting to defend any aspect of any Israeli policy, or to criticize anything said or done by Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims, I guess I qualify. If it must be part of a coordinated effort and/or requires acceptance of ALL Israeli policies, I certainly am not.

      I think the term is generally used to describe the cordinated effort rather than individuals acting upon themselves.

      BTW is there a similar name for coordinated or uncoordinated efforts to criticize every aspect of Israeli policy and defend everything done by Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims?

      Often it's denounced as anti-semitism (or the acts of self-hating jews), sometimes fairly and sometimes not. I don't think they ever bothered to come up with a separate name for it, but then if they did it would distract from the anti-semite label.

    • Absolutely untrue. There are many posters here who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, even deny the history of Jews in that area. And I don’t need to point out the Palestinian factions that are committed to the extinction of Israel.

      To acknowledge the right of a country to enforce its own security, and with territorial integrity is a separate issue than to make arbitrary rulings about its intended demographic population. By declaring Israel to be a "Jewish State" its government intentionally marginalizes it's non-jewish minorities.

      In exactly the same way that Iran does by declaring itself an "Islamic Republic."

      Both countries treat their religious and ethnic minorities with contempt and hold them to standards that differ from those they hold their majority to. Both countries react with brutality when their minorities act up and demand better treatment.

      Also untrue. Zionism calls for a Jewish homeland, generally but not always at the present location of Israel

      A definition for Zionism from the Jewish Virtual Library:

      "Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, advocated, from its inception, tangible as well as spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum. "
      link to

      And what the Zionists ultimately decided about setting up even a temporary homeland outside of Palestine (admittedly it wasn't unanimous, but the majority's beliefs always define the movement.):

      "...At the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basel on August 26, 1903, Herzl proposed the British Uganda Program as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger... While Herzl made it clear that this program would not affect the ultimate aim of Zionism, a Jewish entity in the Land of Israel, the proposal aroused a storm at the Congress and nearly led to a split in the Zionist movement...The Uganda Program was finally rejected by the Zionist movement at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905."
      link to

      Your point was that Israel “had to” accept those refugees. I agree that it was a moral obligation..."

      On the contrary I never intended to say that the newly established Israel "had to" make space for Jewish refugees and immigrants. Neither for moral, nor for legal reasons.

      The ideology of the zionists at that time, and it still exists today, was that all Jews had an undeniable right to return to Israel and live there. They couldn't refuse them access without revealing themselves as hypocrites.

      A practical consideration, after expelling hundreds of thousands of arabs they had a lot more space not being used. Bringing in the refugees made good economic sense, and bolstering the jewish population would further enforce their demographic dominance of the territory over the arab minority allowed to remain.

      Actually it would; if you leave voluntarily you do not automatically have the right to return. But regardless, I agree that those who are not allowed to return (and their descendants) are entitled to compensation.
      By your own assertion, still unproven, they fled in fear for their lives. Whether they thought their prospective killers were likely to be arabs or jews they were clearly being coerced to leave their homes and such weren't making a free decision to leave.

      It is unlikely they will ever be able to return to their old homes, either for practical or ideological reasons. But they still have that legal right.

    • However, when Egypt eventually installs a democratic government, then its prime minister will undoubtedly refuse to sleep around, notwithstanding the effect that may have on US ‘aid’.

      Politics is politics. It's not likely that a newly emerging government will totally repudiate Israel of the United States because if the foreign aid dries up the effects on Egypt will likely be catastrophic.

      The Egyptians will need to do some serious work on their infrastructure and economy before they're able to stand on their own two feet. But a democratic government will by necessity have to take a more nuanced, and critical, position on Israel and the Western powers by virtue of answering to the people.

    • It granted territorial integrity to Israel also–do you recognize and accept that?
      This is implicit in any argument that accepts that Palestinians were granted the right to their own territories and doesn't need to be constantly stated. The territories seized after the creation of Israel, and jewish settlement of those territories after their conquest (including East Jerusalem) are a separate issue and Israel has no claim on any of those lands save by force of arms. Which is a claim that invalidates any right to integrity by any nation seeking to expand by military conquest.

      I’ve asked before and didn’t get an answer…or maybe you didn’t publish the post, but what is hasbara?

      "The word Hasbara means "explanation" in Hebrew. In actual English usage, it refers to the efforts by the Israeli government, pro-Israel pundits and a considerable bunch of useful idiots (mostly bloggers) to justify Israel's behavior and slander the Palestinians, the Arabs in general, and, if necessary, the 1.3 billion followers of the Muslim faith."

      From here:
      link to

      Sorry, I don't know how to attach a link to it.

      Israel was not obligated to accept hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Arab countries and Iran

      Zionism as an ideology explicitly claims that Jews are the only people with a claim to what it's claimants characterise as their "ancestral lands" (the definition of which varies from individual to individual) and that all Jews are duty bound to return there (although that has seemingly lessoned or been jettisoned in the intervening decades.)

      The great majority left voluntarily, left because the invading Arabs told them anybody found there after the “conquest” would be assumed to be pro-Jewish and killed
      Often stated by Israel's supporters, but convincing proof has never been offered. Even if such proof existed it would not negate the right of the Palestinians to return to their lands.

    • Did the UN partition of British Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — and the rejection of such partition by the Arabs — never happen?

      What people in any time period would just allow a foreign body to hand over more than half of their homeland to an ethnic minority who had, for the most part, immigrated to their land in the last few generations?

      Why is it that anyone thinks that it's acceptable for a country to go into someone else's country and to take parts (or all of it) for themselves, or to cut off another section and give it to another group (minority or otherwise)?

      How is it that it's the people who resist this kind of invasive abuse that are considered the aggressors instead of the victims?

    • 1. Stability. Real or imagined, the American political apparatus which extends throughout both parties, perceives that without autocrats in the middle east, those countries would be more unstable. I include in this the threat of communism previously, and now reactionary Islam. We seem to overstate the problem, overreact, and then totally miss the real aspects of the problem. It’s like we don’t even understand it.

      If you assume that when they're saying "stability" they're actually talking about "controllability" then their position makes more sense. With a dictator you only have one leader and his inner circle making policies and deciding on priorities.

      Democracies are harder to game, for the most part. There's too much room for changes of opinion and shifting priorities. With a corrupted tyrant then they always know where he stands and it's with whoever has been giving him the means to maintain his own position and wealth.

    • - Why is the US the villain for supporting the corrupt dictatorship in Egypt but gets no credit for not supporting other corrupt dictatorships in the region?

      For the same reason that Richard Ramirez never got any credit for not being the only rapist and murderer active in Los Angeles in the 80s?

      It’s not irrelevant that the Arab countries did nothing for the refugees. Those refugees are the constant irritant to Arab-Israeli relations and it’s quite likely that there would be a permanent peace today without that irritant.

      The Palestinians had, and have, the legal right to return to their homes. Israel has the legal responsibility to find homes for them, that arabs haven't done enough for them does not in any way abrograte that reality.

    • I doubt that Israel's neighbours have any such faith in Israel's unwillingness to use nuclear weapons unless faced with imminent "extinction".

      Given Israel's unbroken history of "pre-emptive" wars, it's known use of prohibited weapons (yes, dropping white phosphorus on civilian centers is exactly that) and the increasingly frequent statements that Israel will not, and does not, bother to dstinguish between combatants and civilians any such assertion rings very hollow.

      I consider it much more likely that they concur with my belief that Israel will never use their nuclear weapons... unless they think they can get away with it.

  • Egypt's Class Conflict
    • If the Egyptian people believe that the alliance with Israel is undesirable then it is a legitimate perspective, they are under no more obligation to consider whether their position hurts or helps America than the opposite.

      The reality of the peace is that it weakened other Arab States by allowing the technology advanced and diplomatically protected Israel to attack other neighbours without having to worry about Israel's most formidable rival coming to their aid.

      Also the unbending support shown by Mubarak for the fradulent peace process has made Egypt complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Worse even than that, the willingness to enforce the blockade of Gaza is producing a generation of Gazans who will be physically and intellectually stunted from insufficient nutrition.

      Egyptians have a greater responsibility to think of the implications of the separate peace to the Palestinians than to the Americans because the Palestinians are their neighbours, because they can see what is happening without all the ideological baggage that Western countries bring with them wherever they go and also because of their role in aiding and abetting crimes against humanity directed toward the Palestinians.

      If the separate peace undermined the Egyptians belief in the legitimacy of their dictator, then I accept their reasoning.

    • As detailed by Ha-Joon Chang in 23 things they don't tell you about capitalism (not an anti-capitalist book despite the name) the adoption of neo-liberal, or free market, policies in developing countries has shattered their economies for decades.

      Before adopting them most African nations had healthy economic growth, even if slower in relative terms than some other developing regions like Asia and Latin America. Decades on and they're only now reaching the place they occupied before succumbing to pressure from lenders in the developed countries (who are remarkably unwilling to forgive debts from the people they ostensibly wish to help out of poverty) to open their countries to foreign investment and competition.

      No one has promised, or aspired to, a socialist utopia in generations. It's a strawman aimed at distraction rather than enlightenment. That said, few countries have destroyed themselves by protecting their peoples' interest but dozens have been bankrupted by favouring foreign investors over their own peoples' welfare.

  • Mubarak's Response to Demand for end of Military Rule
    • It isn't tone deafness, it's an explicit rejection of demands. Mubarak is putting himself in a corner and signalling that he has no intention of stepping down or being thrown down.

      Responding to demands for the end of military rule by directly appointing senior military personnel to high office, by having police fire on demonstrators and to deny their services to the people they're meant to be protecting he is putting himself in a position where any compromise he might make will be a sign of defeat and likely fatal for his regime.

      This will not end well.

  • Anzalone: Hezbollah’s Double Standards: Tunisia and Iran
    • There were no significant counter demonstrations in favour of Ben Ali, and to my knowledge have not been any in favour of Mubarak.

      The Iranians showed a lot of spirit for people who'd been so thoroughly beaten down.

    • I don't know enough about the Iranian election to know if allegations of fraud are factually accurate, exaggerated for political (or emotional) purposes or out-right propaganda.

      But a significant difference between the riots in Iran afterwards, and the ones in Tunisia recently would be that the Iranian rioters weren't looking to overturn the system and simply wanted their candidate in place instead of the one that was put into power.

      It's not a minor consideration and it does make the two situations very different, and therefore deserving of different responses and official positions.

  • Egypt forbids Protests a Day after it was Shaken by Thousands of Demonstrators, 3 Killed
    • I'm sure that the US embassy in Egypt would have been bombarded with questions from concerned citizens who want to know if it's time to grab their passports and head to the airport until things cool off. That would have been my response were I in Egypt during all demonstrations.

      They also would have been queried by American media who I expect would be quicker to notice unrest in Egypt than in Tunisia because the country is bigger and more important for anyone looking to maintain influence in the region.

      Anyone who wonders why the United States is so resistant to progressive change in third world allies and protectorates need look no farther. The disenfranchised have to look to each other for encouragment because they're rarely supported by those who have it better than them, at least not if it looks like they're going to seriously rock the boat.

  • Protest against Aljazeera Leaks in Ramallah; US Dictated Leadership to Palestinians
    • My question is what would it take to replace the US as a mediator with, say, European countries who seem to have a much more objective view of the conflict?

      A collapse of the United States' economy and their ability to project their power and influence internationally. The U.S. isn't going to back out of the game because being seen as abandoning Israel seems like (and probably is) political suicide for a mainstream politician.

      The Europeans are almost as bad as the Americans with their involvement in the middle east, aside from establishing the paradigm that the United States now dominates they've also played all sides against each other for their own gain ever since. It's not just the Palestinians they're messing with either, they've backed out of deals they had with the Iranians rather than honour pledges they've made to induce cooperation with nuclear weapons inspections to the point where the Iranians don't trust them any more than they trust the Americans.

      Turkey would be a much better choice for an arbitrating (not mediating) power in the dispute because living in the region they will inevitably have to deal with fallout if things go pear shaped; because they have long standing ties with Israel that neither side really want to abandon; and because they enjoy increasingly favourable relations with the arabs, in part, by demonstrating a willingness to stand their ground against Israel and the western powers.

      Of course neither option (E.U. or Turkey taking over for the Americans) has any chance of coming to pass in the short-term because the United States has too much invested economically, politically, ideologically, emotionally (and so on) in Israel's domination of the region to allow anyone else to play the decisive role. If they won't back out of Afganistan after nine years in an increasingly unpopular war then they are not going to change course here given all the pressure they face from the relevant lobbies and donors.

  • Aljazeera's Leaks Reveal Sham 'Peace Process,' Israeli Stonewalling
    • It takes a special kind of evil person to torture an oppressed class for decades, all the while assuming the role of victim and blaming the oppressed for the problem. I offer this as one definition of Zionism.

      Not really, it's standard fare for bigots unfortunately.

      I've known a number of Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils, without exception they have been warm, friendly and generous to me on both sides. Interestingly not one of my Sinhalese friends or acquaintances have ever exhibited the slightest hint of empathy for the Tamils. They've spoken to me about wonderfully they've treated "our Tamils" and how ungrateful they are and about how wonderful it is that the civil war is over and the government has crushed the terrorists.

      That's merely anecdotal, and it's not intended to depict the Sinhalese as a horrid ethnic stereotype. It's simply my hope that we can understand that for all the uniqueness of the various situations there are common underlying problems which at some point have to be addressed.

      For centuries the Jews and Gypsies of Europe were brutalised and their (un)Christian tormentors would lay the blame solely at the feet of their victims for not assimilating enough, or for discriminating in each others favour against their Christian neighbours and so on.

      Such claims are bigoted nonsense now, and generally always have been.

    • And, no, the fact that Costa Rica chose this outside of a treaty obligation with another country while Palestine would be doing it within the confines of one, while a major difference, is not a a defining one, unless you see Weimar Germany as also “not a state”.

      The Weimar republic had a military, albeit with strict restrictions like: No more than 100,000 men and they all had to be volunteers rather than conscripts, no submarines, tanks or air craft and, in addition to that, the Rhineland would be demilitarised for 15 years and occupied by the victors in the preceding conflict.

      A more telling similarity between Weimar Germany and Israel's conditions on creation of an imaginary Palestinian state is the imposed weakness and vulnerability inflicted on the Germans, and the pretense that all responsibility for their catastrophic collapse was their own and nobody elses. This vulnerability allowed the French to seize the Ruhr in 1923 when they felt it served their interests and the Germans were powerless to resist.

      That is a particularly important similarity between the two cases because Israel has shown a consistent disregard for international borders and has repeatedly breached the borders they share with Lebanon and Syria for years. Sometimes with distinctly violent intent, for example their bombing of an alleged nuclear site in Syria during 2007.

      Inflicting weakness on a new Palestinian state would be to make them vulnerable to their Israeli persecutors in a more formal and internationally acceptable way. That is not a reasonable solution, that is a recipe for increasing brutality.

    • I’m not sure that Fatah can survive being discredited to this extent.

      Their overthrow and dispersal cannot come fast enough for the sake of the Palestinian people.

      Tragically a relatively peaceful uprising like the one in Tunisia has little chance of working because even if Fatah's armed goons opt against firing on their siblings and children then Israel's occupation forces have demonstrated time and again that they're willing to do their bloody business as messily as opportunity permits.

      For all his professed sympathy for Palestinian peoples' generations' long suffering Mr Obama has demonstrated definitively that no matter who is in the White House they'll work hard to make sure no Israeli soldier or politician is ever punished for atrocities committed against a Palestinian, or likely any type of arab.

  • Thousands Protest Interim Government in Tunis
    • There has been little indication to suggest that whatever form the next government takes will be theocratic. The assumption that there is only one way a revolution could go in the Islamic world is naive at best.

      Even if, for whatever reason, the Tunisians opted to bring an Islamic party to power that would be their decision and there's no reason to assume pre-emptively that it would be a direct path to back dictatorship and tyranny.

      The consequences of the Western decision that an Islamic government in Somalia was unacceptable has lead to immense misery in the country in a decades long civil war that had essentially ended before we touched it off again by encouraging Ethiopia to attack. The best thing that we can do for the Tunisians, or our own interests, is to watch what is happening and hope that they make the right decisions for their own interests.

      On a related note Edward Said wrote a fascinating book called "Covering Islam : how the media and the experts determine how we see the rest of the world" that I read a few years ago, which among other things discussed the way that the English-speaking media (interestingly he used the French newspaper Le Monde as a contrast) dumbed down the internal workings of the Iranian revolution and how the American government involved itself in favour of the islamic faction out of knee-jerk fear that the socialist factions might come into power.

      Well worth reading even though I doubt it mentioned Tunisia at any point, it does help understand the coverage of the revolution and the concerns that colour the reaction to it.

  • GOP to Uninsured: Don't Get Sick, if you Get Sick, Die Quickly: Part Deux
  • No News is Good News (for Them)
    • It is almost as if they think it is better if the public of the world’s most powerful country were not very well informed about US policy, labor protest movements abroad, and the dynamics of politics in US allies.

      It'd catastrophic for some fairly influential people if Americans en masse started to seriously question whether they were, in fact, the good guys as well as in fiction.

      Whether there might be some merit in having a workers movement with the strength and organisation to fight for improved working conditions, wages and social benefits which are forever under threat from the latest economic blunder of the ruling classes.

      Or if lying down with dogs might be the cause for the increasingly distracting itchy feeling they've been dealing with unsuccessfully for the last few decades.

      To address those concerns in order.

  • New Wikileaks: US Knew Tunisian Gov. Rotten Corrupt, Supported Ben Ali Anyway
    • Would anyone with half a brain actually expect the U.S. to sever its relationship with Indonesia now, or when it was far worse, because of the whining of those who have preposterous expectations about the nature of other governments?

      I reject the notion that it is idiocy for people to demand that the United States, or any other country, live by it's stated ideals.

      When the Indonesian coup took place and the massacres of socialists began leading to deaths on an almost unimaginable scale it would have been appropriate for the United States to condemn those atrocities. Instead they saw fit to look the other way.

      Which is to say nothing of the other coups against democratically elected governments that the United States has planned, encouraged and supported over the decades.

      It may be inappropriate or foolish to want the United States to make enemies of despots and dictators, but it's simply vicious to explicitly undermine democracies when they elect leftist parties, or people who look out for the interests of their own countries rather than fall in at the tail end of the US' conga line of sycophants.

      After a half-century of sidling up beside torturers and murderers is anyone truly surprised that the United States is now known for practicing torture? Or the United States' president now reserves the right to not only imprison whoever he wants without charge, but even to have him murdered without oversight? Or that the United States military accidentally destroyed al-Jazeera's place of business in both Afganistan and Iraq? Or that a United States Senator has leaned on private companies to stop them from allowing Wikileaks to use their webspace despite Wikileaks, or it's leadership, having never been charged with a relevant crime?

      You become who you choose to associate with.

  • Over 9,000 Murders by Gun in US; 39 in UK
    • ...but fewer murders per capita over all.

      The ready availability of guns lends itself to higher bodycounts when someone decides to go on a rampage, but I'm unsure how the number of attacks with lethal intent (including failed murders) per capita compare.

      I haven't seen any studies or statistics that asked that question which seems an important one for the dispute. Still, I suspect that the guns are more of an amplifier for a deeper problem than as a cause of the problem.

      Reducing the number of guns in easy circulation is a crucial step in reducing violence, but even if it's done there'll still be some hard work to get to the root of the problem.

  • Death Penalty for Blasphemy Rare in Muslim World
    • I don't actually object to anything you posted, just thought I'd note that Australia doesn't actually have provinces. We actually organise ourselves into States and Territories, or at least that's what my primary school teacher told us way back when.

      Other than that, great work.

  • White Terrorism
    • Many Americans would not like to recognise an analogy between that act and the attempted murder of a moderate US Congresswoman, but some people outside the United States see the ready availability of firearms, the growth of the military-industrial complex and the philosophy of “full-spectrum dominance” as signs of a sickness at the heart of American society.

      I actually see the obsession with firearms as being a greater problem than the availability of them. Other countries, even those some that aren't war zones, have a larger proportion of the population as gun owners they just don't seem to be as enthusiastic about them.

  • Wikileaks: Israel Plans Total War on Lebanon, Gaza
    • Israel's supporters have been making similar claims about arabs for decades ("the only language they understand is violence") and it hasn't worked for them despite sixty years of upping the carnage level to the point where they openly refuse to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

      If arabs haven't been beaten into submission by the much greater force inflicted at them, why expect the Israelis to just roll over? Especially since the United States can be depended on to intervene directly if Israel ever faces an actual (as opposed to rhetorically convenient) existential threat? Not to mention the continuing support (or neutrality) of Europe and other advanced nations.

      The Israelis appear to fear their growing isolation more than violent retaliation. I think that is ultimately what will put an end to their brutality, not elevated violence from the other side.

    • When Israel levelled Gaza in 2008-9 the stated provocation for the attack was more than a month in the past. The argument that they had a clear and justifiable motive to attack Gaza is preposterous, it was a sneak attack and Israel's leadership boasted about taking them by surprise.

      Israel routinely practices same the behaviour it uses to justify it's regular, but incompetent, assaults on Lebanon and Gaza.

      It daily violates Lebanon's territory in both air and on the ground, it limits access to food and medicine to the population of Gaza, and it has on many occasions taken civilians hostage and used them as human shields.

      If it's criminal for arabs to behave in that manner, then only a racist or a hypocrite will argue that it's acceptable for jews to do so.

  • Palestinians Reject Piecemeal Talks offered by Israel
    • I doubt it would be enough without some kind of acknowledgement that the 1948 campaign of ethnic cleansing was a crime against humanity, or at least an epic act of bastardry.

      It would likely also accompany the resettling of a symbolic number of Palestinians in exile within Israel proper and/or compensation for the many, many Palestinian families who have had to make do with life in refugee camps outside of Palestine for the last sixty years.

  • Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010
    • #7 is a total nonsequiter. Because people in part of Afghanistan haven’t heard of 9/11, that means that we weren’t justified in attacking al Qaeda’s headquarters after 9/11? Does not follow. Does not even make sense.

      Not totally, in fact. If people don't know what happened in New York and Washington in September in 2001, or if they don't believe the evidence presented that the perpetrators of the atrocity were based in Afganistan then they aren't going to view the invasion as legitimate.

      If the people of Afganistan don't see the presence of foreign militaries, and their mercenary hirelings, as legitimate then they're not only perfectly justified in fighting to expel them... they're actually performing an admirable duty for their people by bearing arms against the invaders.

      It's very difficult to maintain that a military occupation has any legitimacy when the rural farmers forsake their crops to drive the occupiers out of their countries, and near impossible when the quisling despot installed by the occupiers openly threatens to join the resistance.

  • Senate Repeal of DADT in Global Context
    • I know it's a quibble, and perhaps even petty, but I think that it's important to correct mistakes immediately rather than just ignoring them.

      Islam actually is an Abrahamic faith like Judaism and Christianity.

      The Prophet Mohammed is even regarded in some circles as having descended from Abraham through his older son Ismail and the Kaaba is said to have originally been constructed by Abraham and Ismail.

      In the case of Islam-obsession case I think that what offends is more the similarities than the differences between the faith, it was a common perception and insult for a long time to describe Islam as a heretical Christian cult and the Prophet as a deranged and corrupt priest.

      Muslims look at the original message and take it in a different direction. There may be a temptation to see that alternate interpretation as a direct challenge, whereas other completely divorced faiths (Hinduism and Buddhism for example) don't claim to cover the same ground and may not seem as threatening.

  • Lawsuit over Drones in Pakistan forces CIA Station Chief to Flee
    • "Obama administration claims that the September 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in retaliation for 9/11 provides all the legal protection necessary for the strikes."

      In the U.S. that will probably prove more than sufficient, but as we see in cases like this the mere fact that the United States Congress gives it's permission to behave a certain way doesn't mean that the rest of the world feels obliged to abide by their decision.

      We've seen it for years now in regards to Israel. Officials cancelling trips abroad owing to fear of arrest and prosecution for actions sanctioned by the Israeli government at highest levels.

      I can't remember ever seeing the principle applied to a superpower though, it does warm the heart.

  • Obama Should Let the UN apply Economic Sanctions to Israel
    • 1. The nature of political parties and movements change over time. At it's founding the US'Republican party showed itself more committed to radical social reform (the abolition of slavery for instance) than it's competitors. Now... not so much.

      Many of the characteristics you ascribe to the P.A. are also evident in the Israeli government, regardless of which party currently possesses the Prime Ministership. Notably the refusal to negotiate without preconditions, such as the unique demand that the Palestinians acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish State (and therefore one which impilicitly excludes a significant minority of its acknowledged citizenry.)

      2. A semantic argument at best. The imagery evokes a direct challenge, as it intended to do so and has always done so. For more information on the imagery in question I heartily recommend you google the term: "glove slap" Simpsons.

      3. The "freeze" that the Israeli government agreed to included significant caveats; including exceptions for previously approved (by Israel) constructions within the contested areas, and "natural" growth of communities (to my knowledge the freeze didn't include stopping Jewish immigration to the West Bank for the duration, so their growth likely wasn't entirely "natural").

      By continuing expansion to the communities the Israeli government was in practice guaranteeing that it would be more difficult politically for any Israeli government to agree to hand over those areas in any negotiation. Abbas was right to object.

      4. My preferred term has been "Squatter Communities" for several years now, as Israel has no legitimate claim to the land under international law and has no legitimate right to sanction the immigration of foreigners to the same land regardless of their ethno-religious pedigree.

      Thus, squatters. Settlers, and settlements, implies that the land was unclaimed when it's owners arrived, this is an intentional inaccuracy.

      5. The land has been described as Palestine, in some format or other, for thousands of years at this point. The arab occupants now designated Palestinians have been there for an equally lengthy period, having survived and adapted to numerous invasions and colonising expeditions throughout the same time period.

      Whether Palestine existed as an independant nation, or as a Province in a larger empire is an irrelevant semantic argument. Israel didn't exist prior to 1948. The question of whether Palestinians previously considered themselves a distinctive culture or ethnic group is also irrelevant; they do consider themselves to be so now. The claims they have to nationhood are legitimate as Israel, along with the host countries to their expatriate refugee communities, have made it clear they are not going to be granted citizenship within those borders.

      As noted above, Israel has no legal claim to the the West Bank, and as Jordan has relinquished their claims to it there are no other legitimate claimants to the land, save for the land's indigenous occupants. The Palestinians.

      6. The Israeli and United States' governments actively undermined the democratic election held by the Palestinians a few years ago, by a number of means including funding and arming a paramilitary coup.

      Crying foul that the government isn't legitimate is a disengenous rhetorical tactic considering you've placed yourself in the position of championing the argument of the people who actively undermined and destroyed the legitimacy of that government.

      7. Israel's government, including under Netanyahu, has repeatedly refused to negotiate without preconditions frequently. Ignoring those incidents and jumping up and down when Abbas refuses to do so when he's preconditions are not met is dishonest.

      Particularly since you've already indicated you don't believe he has any legitimacy to negotiate for the Palestinians anyway.

      8. The continued building serves to make it more politically difficult for Israel's government to give up the land in negotiations. Given that they haven't stopped immigration of foreigners to the those communities it also means that there will be an ever larger voting bloc with a vested interest in keeping the land.

      Given that those communities are on contested ground, like those trees and crops you complain of, by your argument that building shouldn't be allowed. Of course there is a difference in that those crops and trees are the only source of income for the Palestinians who have no other homes, while those new buildings are being put up for people who are leaving perfectly viable homes elsewhere.

      9. Israel has a long history of either ignoring inconvenient agreements, or attaching a series of caveats to them which effectively state that they will only abide by the intended agreements if they feel so inclined to do so.

  • Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government
    • In all my moralizing I forgot to point out that the real question that the U.S. government should be asking itself isn't "how can we stop the leaks?"

      The more important question is "Why are so many of our employees driven to leak?"

      Answer that question, and you'll also have a good idea why there are so many third worlders willing to die to take a few of us with them.

    • For my part, the most noteworthy part of all of the Wikileaks controversies has been the genuinely single minded determination by the media and political classes to attack, discredit and (if possible) destroy Wikileaks instead of going after the perpetrators of the crimes and atrocities which have been exposed. Let alone those who conspired to conceal those crimes.

      Some may disregard the importance of Wikileaks because it doesn't expose enough crimes, or put out enough information that an informed reader wouldn't have put together for themselves; but for my part their greatest and most important function has been to demonstrate clearly how much continuity there is between administrations, and how little difference their is between political actors on either side of the mainshow division.

      It makes it clear that for any change to occur it will require that people force the changes. In their own words and with their own images the government has whispered that they can do whatever they want to and we can't stop them because we limit our participation in politics to water cooler chatter and intermittent voting duties.

      If it were just us getting what we deserved I'd have shrugged my shoulders a long time ago, said "what're you going to do?" and gone back to my X-Box; but the consequences of the governments' lack of transparency and avoidance of responsibility impacts too many people over too much landmass to just give up and pretend not to notice.

  • Bush could be Arrested in Europe: Turley to Olbermann
    • It would be very nice to believe that confessing to ordering torture could have some negative consequences.

  • Redd: What About Jerusalem?
    • I believe your analogy is flawed.

      Although no doubt your argument that both sides want to possess the city is accurate, it is solipsistic to argue that no one in their right mind would accept some form of agreement to share the city.

      It seems that the refusal to share the land, or even to live peaceably alongside their chosen neighbours is doing much to destroy the very thing that Israelis obstensibly desire. How long does a Jewish State remain Jewish, when its inhabitants ignore the values that (rhetorically) make them Jews?

      Back to your analogy, in many times and in many cultures polygamy has not only been accepted as the norm, it has also been a perfectly rational practice in context to the circumstances of those societies. Even if it is anathema to our own contemporary cultural circumstances.

      Likewise, in many times and many places, differing cultures and ethnic groups have effectively shared the same living spaces. If not in harmony, than at least without recourse to ethnic cleansing and the blatant oppression of minority inhabitants.

  • Update on German Terrorist Plot
    • It means people are sick of hearing about the war on "terror", and dismiss half of it as propaganda when they do hear about it.

      Where the reports used to be sexy and exciting and used to instill a sense of self-righteous pride in the target demographic, they now seem boring, dreary and encourage a (well deserved) sensation of guilt and humiliation.

      After a decade of focus on the subject, people are increasingly eager to ignore it, and pretend that it doesn't exist.

  • Obama dismisses Iran War Prospects, overrules Clinton
    • My understanding of articles I've read previously suggested that the bulk of the reservations which the IAEA had revolved around irregularities which occurred decades ago rather than abour current practices. They also indicated that the relevant authority was satisfied that all of Iran's nuclear material was being monitored, and that diverting it to other purposes would be easily detectable.

      Based on the decisions he's made, and on the policies he's chosen to pursue as the President his statement still seems very "do what I say... or else" which is all the more troubling since what he seems to be demanding appears to be so vaguely defined. As other's have previously noted, the deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil earlier this year seemed remarkably similar to one that the White House had seemed to support earlier; and the current administration ensured that the UN Security Council voted in harder sanctions the very next day, Ms Clinton explicitly commented that aside from serving U.S. policy interests generally they also served sent a message about what the U.S. thought of that deal.

      If Obama's administration were serious about engaging with Iran, or anyone else for that matter, it would do so without preconditions. Negotiations are rarely genuine if they only begin after one side has given up what the other side wants.

      What does Iran get for caving to U.S. demands? Maybe the U.S. will talk to them, or maybe the U.S. will decide that they still have to give up more. There were sanctions and embargoes and proxy wars against Iran before the WMD hysteria, there's no reason to believe they'll end just because Iran stops doing something it we can't prove it's doing in the first place.

  • Turkey's Constitutional Referendum Extends Range of Liberties
    • Any time a government takes it upon itself to limit, or discourage, or exclude a particular set of beliefs it is anti-democratic. A democratic society is created from the consensus of the citizenry not by having a self-designated elite impose their own values on the rest of the community.

      The army achieved this goal by monitoring officer cadets for signs that they might be religious and then summarily expelling them if they were found to be.

      No, there's nothing anti-democratic about this. Nor could choosing military officers based on their professed ideology lead to disruption of democracy by the military; that Turkey's military has stepped in on multiple occasions to dismiss democratically elected governments with whom they disagreed is pure coincidence and totally pro-democratic in any case.

  • 'Burn the Qur'an Day' Endangers US Troops: Petraeus
    • In my, admittedly limited, studies on the subject at the time it was apparently the belief of the polytheists that the high god had several daughters who would share in his power and would be more accessible than their father.

      If that is true, then the dilution of God's authority through lesser deities and intermediaries would likely have been an issue of discussion in theological discussions at the time and may have merited a mention in the qu'ran on that basis. It would also have been an important consideration for early Muslims to have clarified the differences between their own beliefs and the beliefs of their sister religions.

      Also, from my limited understanding of Christian history at the time there was still considerable controversy about those subjects (among otherwise) within the still far from homogenous Christian community.

  • Dems Reluctant to Allow Taxes on Rich to Rise
    • I've honestly never understood the hostility to taxes that so many people display. Taxes are what pay for our social services, our roads and all manner of other necessities including our wars of choice.

      In Australia under the Howard government I watched with dismay as they lowered taxes every year, because I was simultaneously watching the programs that had helped me escape poverty and end a decade-long period of unemployment being undermined and destroyed a year or two after I made use of them.

      It was heart breaking to know that people like me would be denied the opportunities I had, and that the reason that earners were getting a break, was because the most vulnerable classes were being sold up the river.

  • Kurashige: The Islamic Center and the “Pearl Harbor” Analogy
    • It occurs to me that I don't actually believe that Americans would be opposed to the Japanese putting up a site a short distance away from Pearl Harbour. Not if "Japanese" meant Americans of Japanese descent, nor a Japanese lobby group, nor even the Japanese government. Certainly not if the stated purpose of the building was to foster cross-cultural exchanges and to encourage mutual toleration.

      Realistically I doubt that it would have been tolerated immediately after the second world war, after all we continued to brutalise the Germans for some time after their surrender and they at least looked like us and shared a similar cultural background. But that's another problem with whole analogy situation, World War had a clear beginning and an ending even the those dates differed by country. This "War on Terror" has been described as a "long war" and it has no end in sight, not only is that likely to make total rapprochement a long way off but it virtually guarantees that relations between us and our perceived enemies will continue to deteriorate for the foreseeable future.

      History suggests very strongly that the initial animosity that was first brought to light after the attacks in New York and Washington, which appears to have been growing for the last decade will continue to become much more bitter and more violent the longer respected leaders continue to encourage the idea that Islam, or Arabs, as monolithic entities are the enemy.

      Nor is it a one way street. This conflict has attracted global interest. The rest of the world sees American political leaders conflating Islam with terrorism and demonstrating that they believe that Muslims should be prevented from integrating fully with their culture and contributing to it.

      This does not serve the interests of the United States of America nor the citizens of that generally admirable country.

    • I think that my response to that argument would be along the lines of:

      "If it's not okay for them to make war on us in a way that not only shows total contempt for the safety, or innocence, of civilians but also targets non-military infrastructure then what makes it acceptable for us to do it?"

      But generally speaking I agree, that the "if it's okay for them to do it then it's okay for us to do it" argument is flawed and self-defeating. A certain way to give up the moral high ground, and give legitimacy to the actions of the other side.

  • Dear Rev. Graham: Obama was not born a Muslim and neither is anyone else
    • This is a fairly crude way of putting it but according to my understanding of it all things that function as they are intended are more or less Islamic, at least in so far as they follow God's law.

      According to this view nature and animals do what they're meant to do because they're obeying God's law regardless of whether they have the ability to challenge their own behaviour or nature. To some extent that includes children because they are also unable to do anything but submit to their nature: they breathe, they eat, they sleep, they alternate between obeying their parents and defying them as they learn the bounderies between acceptable and unacceptable; that goes on until they're able to make decisions for themselves and understand distinctions between right and wrong.

      They aren't muslims exactly, but they follow God's law by obeying their natures.

      Professor Cole is correct however, Islam isn't a hereditary religion. Despite the insistence of some President Obama isn't half-muslim because such a state of being does not exist; and having been raised by his mother's family he was always more likely to take after them than to follow in the beliefs of his absent father, regardless of how much esteem he may have had for the man.

  • Mosque Building and Gay Marriage vs. Mob Rule by the Right
    • Some fairly important people signed a document with some fairly kooky ideas that Americans seem strangely attached to. One of those ideas was:

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

      Basically, when they signed off on the document they were saying that it's okay for people to do whatever they like, and that everyone should have should enjoy equal rights. If it's not hurting someone else, they should be able to do whatever they want and to heck with anyone who disapproves because they should be more concerned with their own conduct instead of finding fault with others.

      Those who shun traditional values or value individual rights over these views, however, are just as selfish, wanting to force those with Christian values to live under their moral rules.

      Demanding the same rights for all isn't the same as forcing your values under others. At least, no more than giving black people and women the same rights and responsibilities as white men.

      In any case, on a scale of harm denying people rights can usually be taken for granted as being more injurious than granting them.

  • The Closing of the Zionist Mind
    • Since there are two parts of your statements, I shall break my response into two sections.

      1.) Israel's "withdrawal" from Gaza was set up in a manner that virtually guaranteed that the maneuver would fail.

      The most crucial factor was that it was a unilateral move. There was no consultation with the Palestinian Authority or with Hamas, and so any expectation that either group would behave in what Israel or Israel's supporters would consider an appropriate manner is completely irrational. With no discussion, no asking "what will it take to make this work?" there was no reason to think that the terms Sharon imposed would be acceptable to anyone but Israel.

      Official Israel's refusal to negotiate with terrorists is not only counter productive, it is also blatantly hypocritical. It would have been like Franco refusing to communicate with Castro because the latter was a dictator - it would have been accurate but would in no way have granted moral high ground to the former, nor would it erase the reality that Franco was also a dictator. A number of Israel's first wave of politicians were members of terrorist organisations; Ariel Sharon was involved in a number of massacres during his career right up to Sabra and Shatila; and Netanyahu himself has publicly commemorated the bombing of the King David Hotel and the murder of more than 90 people.

      If Israel's terrorists and war criminals are acceptable leaders who deserve to be recognised by governments and should be negotiated with, then they have no ground to stand on when they refuse to deal with the elected leaders of the Palestinians in order to come to mutually acceptable terms.

      Nor would it be accurate to believe that Israel actually loosened it's grasp on Gaza. By removing Jewish squatters from the strip they drastically reduced the Palestinians' ability to retaliate to any provocative action that Israel, or groups/individuals affiliated with Israel might attempt (like for instance the Blockade of food, fuel and medical supplies, or Operation Cast Lead) and meant that the IDF had clear lines of fire with the only potential casualties being what would be considered acceptable collateral damage.

      Moreover Israel, and to a lesser but still significant extent Egypt, still controlled access to the strip. Movement between Gaza and the Westbank, which is a crucial component in any potentially viable two state solution was solely controlled by Israel and trade between Gazans and anyone else was completely under the control of foreign parties who the Palestinians have no reason to trust. Particularly given their refusal to form meaningful official relationships with the Palestinians' chosen representatives.

      At the same time there was no halt to construction in the squatter communities in the Westbank. There was no cessation of jewish immigration to land that under international law didn't belong to Israel. Leaving Gaza could only have worked if it had convincingly been shown as a first step to the decolonisation of all of (post-1948) Palestine.

      Other issues apply to Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon (and does anyone actually believe that Israel would have withdrawn if Hezbollah and associated factions hadn't raised the cost of the occupation beyond an acceptable level?) However the greatest cause of the situation there remains Israel's invasion of Lebanon in the 80s and their subsequent behaviour.

      2.) Citizens have a right of return to their homeland. If they had their citizenship revoked for whatever reason then Israel would, in the case of a two state solution, have the right to welcome however many jewish immigrants they chose; in the case of a one state solution the fate of the immigrants' citizenship would be negotiated between the merging communities.

      There is no reason to presume that dual-citizenship citizens of Israel would be prevented from returning to their other homeland by any party. Nor is it likely they would lose their citizenship in Israel/Palestine in the case of a viable agreement to end the conflict.

      In either case their would be the potential that they might be obliged to remove themselves from land that had been confiscated from Palestinians, or to purchase the land from the original owners.

    • I don't recall reading anyone even remotely credible who has seriously suggested that Jews should be forced to leave the Levant. The views that I've heard is that squatters in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should be relocated to Israel proper, or that a single state should be created to accomodate all inhabitants with equal rights and responsibilities.

      The "where should the the Jews go" argument is a deceitful gambit.

      But, it's worth remembering that immigrants who still hold citizenship within their orginal homeland can't honestly claim that they have nowhere to go. Unlike the Palestinians.

    • Sorry. Not buying into the fluffy kind of Zionism.

      The "let's all pull together and do something wonderful" kind of nationalism might be possible in some situations and with some groups; but if the nationalist group is the dominant group in the area and are demonstrating their dominance by forcing other groups to live with lower caste status and fewer rights, then any kind of exclusionary nationalism will forever be tainted.

      Zionism explicitly privileges Jews over all other peoples in the region and implicitly destroys, denies and dismisses two thousand years of history where the land was legitimately occupied by people who weren't Jewish and yet were indigenous to that land. It's not for nothing that Golda Meir could say "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."

  • Cameron Calls Gaza under Israel Blockade a 'Prison Camp'
    • "It may be a while before the two countries have the kind of relationship again that would allow Turkey to play broker between the Palestine Authority and Israel."

      Is that really a bad thing for Turkey? Or the Palestinians?

      The chance to mediate between negotiations that the Israeli government intends to go nowhere, and aren't likely to honour on the off chance that there appears to be some agreement. We've seen it before with the U.S. and their associated factions.

      The talks go nowhere and more Westbank squatters arrive. When pressure gets to the point that an agreement has to be reached it's either given an end point some time in the future which allows them to make token gestures in the short term and then forget the agreement altogether; or it's nullified by selective and self-interested interpretations of the agreement.

      Ultimately the people running Israel, and their supporters abroad, have no interest in peace on any terms but their own. That means they don't share Jerusalem, they don't end the expansion of Jewish communities on Palestinian land, they don't allow the Palestinians-in-exile to return to their homes or compensate them for their loss and help them to find new homes and Israel controls valuable resources like water and natural gas.

      Until that changes, being the middle man amounts to nothing more than playing the fig leaf to help them hide their near-naked aggression in politics and ideology. That role might play well in Eurocentric countries but it doesn't have quite the same allure in the near east and evidently not in Turkey proper.

  • Global Warming and al-Qaeda in the Greater Indian Ocean
    • I wasn't able to find the quote and it's entirely possible I misremember, or imagined it.

      However what I did find were these bits:

      Not only do they charge the Israelis with stealing Arab water, but the Palestinians have asserted that over-pumping by the Israelis on both sides of Green Line threatened the long-term viability of water reserves.
      These critics argued that unchecked Palestinian drilling on the West Bank side of the Green Line would have a drastic impact on the quantity and quality of Israel's water supply. They stress that the mountain aquifer is the principal long-term aquifer in Israel's water system and prime source of drinking water for most major Israeli cities. Overpumping would lead to increased salination of the aquifer because it would lower the water-table below the red line, which would allow the penetration of saline water from the Mediterranean Sea and cause irreversible damage to the aquifers close to the coast.
      'Safe yield' is the amount of groundwater that can be pumped from an aquifer on a regular and sustained basis without damaging it as a source.
      Overpumping increases the danger of salt-water infiltration by lowering the water-table. When the ground-water reserve sinks below a certain level – the so-called 'red line' - sea-water is drawn upwards causing salination
      In the words of Yosef Ben-Dor of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'for us, it is obvious that if the Palestinians do not have enough water, we shall not have peace'.
      Most objective observers believe that there can be no real peace between Israel and Palestine without a water agreement and that there can be no water agreement without an equitable watersharing formula and cooperative management of joint water resources.

      From a 1997 article in 'Survival' by Alwyn R. Rouyer called "The Water Issue in the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process"

      And the abstract from an Issue Paper in 'Ground Water' during 2004 written by by Ronit Nativ:
      Despite the central management of Israel’s water resources and the highly planned strategy for a sustainable water supply, Israel has twice faced an acute water crisis during the past decade. Although the visible problem is related to a lack of additional quantities of water, the deterioration of water quality appears to be endangering the future use of available water quantities as well. A long-term policy of ground water mining (translated to salt water encroachments), and irrigation with relatively saline water and recycled waste water, among other damage, account for this deterioration. Enhanced flushing of the salt and contaminant load from the aquifers (using various techniques) is proposed as a solution to the problem.

      This is important for a couple of reasons including the observation that it often seems to get missed in discussions on climate change that it isn't just limited to Global Warming and it's not just burning up fossil fuels that is rendering our planet uninhabitable. Irresponsible farming habits and short-term thinking in water use will waste the fertility of our soil and poison our drinking supplies (and that of our livestock).

      Second, having seen nations go to war and commit unspeakable atrocities to exploit and control resources like oil and gold for centuries or millenia it should come as no surprise that people are willing to kill each other over to preserve a reliable source of drinking water for themselves. From what I understand the atrocities in the Sudan were at least somewhat the result of scarcity of water in the region.

    • "But Democrats on the Hill are missing their big opportunity to appeal to Republicans by not foregrounding climate change as a security issue–in fact, an al-Qaeda issue. "

      Has it really been established that Democrats, on the Hill or otherwise, really care about climate change?

      I do remember reading an old article about the disputes over water between Israelis and Palestinians a few years ago which quoted one of the relevant names as saying something along the lines of "For the last 5000 years most of the wars in the region have been fought over water."

      I believe I still have a copy on my computer so I'll look it up after work and provide a proper citation for it.

  • Turkey Threatens Israel with cut-off of Diplomatic Relations
    • Indeed they would likely gain stature in the Middle East by cutting ties with Israel completely until the occupation ends, or even just until the siege of Gaza is dismantled. But Turkey's government would be well advertised to carefully consider the costs and benefits of doing so before committing themselves to such a significant change in policy.

      It's hardly a secret that Israel has benefitted from the support of some irrationally devoted supporters in the United States as well as in other NATO countries. Taking the hardline may, or may not, have consequences beyond a small loss of trade and tourism from Israel.

      Foreign policy should be devised by informed debate and careful consideration, not spurred on by throwaway statements by hot-blooded Foreign Ministers like Davutoglu and idiots like Lieberman.

  • On Fourth of July, Let Iraq Go
    • There were, and are, a lot of people convinced that going in and "changing regimes" was the right thing to do.

      Whether they were interested in it because "they attacked the U.S." or because of human rights violations or because of a contemporary reincarnation of the White Man's Burden to civilize the foreigners (there was a lot of talk of "Western-style democracies" but not so much talk on whether a "Western-style democracy" would really be representative of an Eastern people).

      The real danger that we pose to the world isn't that we aren't interested in doing things because they're the right things to do; it's because we're so willing to be convinced that doing the right thing is precisely what appeals to our base instincts and the danger we pose to ourselves is that we seldom bother to tally the real costs of "doing the right thing."

  • McCain Bashes Obama's Afghan Withdrawal Timetable
    As British, Poles, Dutch Plan Exit
    • Prime Minister Gillard wasn't elected. Because of former Prime Minister Rudd's immense lack of popularity the party leaders decided that it would be better to approach the election later this year with a different name at the head of the party.

      Not directly relevant to the nature of the post, but for an Australian it seems an important development to report accurately.

  • Turkey Shelves Israeli Cooperation,
    Considers breaking off Ties;
    Israel Lobbies in Congress denounce Ankara
    • Then you might consider re-reading it. The closest it gets to an apology is a "we regret the loss of life" and explicitly blames the victims.

      President Reagan in a statement said he was "saddened to report" that the Vincennes "in a proper defensive action" had shot down the jetliner. "This is a terrible human tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the passengers, crew, and their families . . . . We deeply regret any loss of life."

      Reagan, who was spending the Fourth of July holiday at Camp David, said the Iranian aircraft "was headed directly for the Vincennes" and had "failed to heed repeated warnings." The cruiser, he said, fired "to protect itself against possible attack."


      'Navy leaders said Iranian commercial aircraft had flown over U.S. warships in a threatening manner at least eight times before the Stark was hit by two French Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi jet. Ever since the Stark attack, skippers in the gulf have been less tolerant of such apparent threats. '

      Clearly the Iranians brought it on themselves, they were obviously "threatening" US military vessels for months and it was just a matter of time until one got shot down.

      Further, the article shows the government/military firmly behind the crew and captain of the Vincennes.

      Asked if the Vincennes' skipper had been prudent or impetuous by firing at a plane he could not see, Crowe replied: "The commanding officer conducted himself with circumspection and, considering the information that was available to him, followed his authorities and acted with good judgment at a very trying period and under very trying circumstances . . . . Not only was he following this aircraft and concerned about it," but he also "was engaged on the surface with Iranian units."

      To give you an idea of the mentality I was alluding to, Vice-President Bush was quoted after the incident as saying:

      "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are."

      Sounds a little familiar doesn't it?

    • For the same reason that the United States has never officially taken responsibility, let alone admitted guilt, for shooting down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988.

      Because nationalism breeds inflexibility, an unwillingness to acknowledge that the actions of the military might not always be justifiable and a contempt for people outside of your self-designated national group, particularly if they share characteristics that you associate with your enemies.

    • Good on Turkey. It's the right, indeed the responsibility of every government to stand up for their citizens when they're mistreated by other nations. If they don't stand their ground then it's a tacit acceptance that powerful governments can abuse and kill their people with no consequence.

      The frequency which Israel kills and maims foreign activists, and their seeming inability to avoid hitting U.N. facilities every time they carry out a serious military action demonstrates as clearly as anything that watered down criticisms and keeping disagreements behind closed doors just encourages more abuses.

      As for Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana):
      “There will be a cost if Turkey stays on its present heading of growing closer to Iran and more antagonistic to the state of Israel.”

      If your opinion on whether or not a genocide was committed is dependant on whether or not a different government does what you want, almost a century after the horrors in question, then you have no moral standing to make that distinction.

      For what it's worth I believe that a genocide was carried out against the Armenians, but that doesn't detract from the responsibility of the current Turkish government from demonstrating clearly that it will not tolerate the boarding of its vessels in international waters nor the killing of their citizens for resisting an illegal boarding operation. The two matters are completely unrelated.

  • Schumer's Sippenhaftung and the Children of Gaza
    • "So anything short of ‘starving to death’, i.e. mass extermination in the camps, is all right as long as it convinces the enemy? "

      Is that in any way inconsistent with American, indeed 'Western' foreign policy at all? We all did that to Iraq, we're trying to do it to Iran and some of us have been attempting it in Cuba for something like fifty years now.

      While I certainly agree that it's a hideous and hypocritical attitude to have, particularly for people who allegedly consider human rights and democracy to the cornerstone of their personal philosophy I'm always stunned to hear (or in this case read) someone who appears to be shocked by those sentiments in practice. The only thing that's surprising about Schumer's statements is that he's so brazenly stated what most of his constituents believe and explicitly supporting what his constituents implicitly support.

    • In the meantime the Palestinians don't get to have a state at all. If the big justification is that Jews needed a homeland, and that until then they had no guarantee they'd have any rights at all, then it's both hypocritical and sadistic for Israel and Israel's supporters to deny the same right to the people they expelled from the land they now occupy.

      With those other countries whose borders are in dispute, it's generally recognised that it's a provocation to cross over them and force the locals off the land their families have farmed for centuries. But in Palestine, it's considered a God-given right to take what belongs to them and to hell with them if they disagree.

  • A Sign of Modernization: Saudi Clerics Promote Kinship by Sharing Breast Milk
    • When flicking through a tourist's guidebook to Morocco (I'm pretty sure it was Morocco) it gave the advice that female travellers would do well to wear a headscarf. Not because it would offend the locals if they didn't, but because it sends a fairly specific message "I am not interested in going to the hotel with you."

      Having spoken to a woman in Australia who had chosen to wear the headscarf as a western revert to Islam, she told me that the way she was treated had changed with the addition to her wardrobe. Men, even non-muslim men, were less likely to flirt with her, less likely to use profanity in her presence, in short they were more polite to her.

      In every society what we choose to wear (if we're allowed the choice) impacts on the way we're seen and the way we're treated. Some customs are very localised and won't cross borders very well, but the headscarf seems to make the leap the between cultures fairly successfully if you can restrain yourself from an instinctive cry of "misogynist".

  • Mystery of Iranian Nuclear Scientist and the Duelling YouTube Videos
    • "Iranian politicians have been quick to speak out against the Israeli raid, and propose joint aid convoys for Gaza."

      Well, yeah. Considering the grudge match going on between the two sides that's to be expected.

      But Iranian involvement in attempting to break the siege is possibly the worst thing that could happen for Gazans. Iran is distrusted by most of the world, certainly European and Arab countries, their taking an active hand runs the risk of reinforcing the propaganda about Hamas being a tool of Iran. Israel's apologists will have their evidence that Gaza is in fact an existential threat to Israel and do you really believe there's just food and anti-biotics on those boats? Etc. etc. we've all heard enough of those fevered rants to know how they go.

      Bottom line, if Iran puts its navy to the task of breaking the siege then Israel gets its war and that's why it's not going to happen.

  • American Citizen Killed by Israeli Navy
    • Lower than if he'd been a Turk without U.S. citizenship? Or about the same altitude?

      Americans give weapons to Israel, ostensibly to use to defend themselves against western asian states and then Israel uses them to kill an American? That may not be particularly funny, but it makes a nice break from having the Israelis use them on United Nations personnel.

    • They'd just insist it was a forgery and demand to see the real one.

  • "The Ship Turned into a Lake of Blood": Israeli Commandos Used Beatings, Stun Guns, Live Ammo
    • I went to a demonstration in Sydney last night, among the speakers were several members of Australia's Greens Party. One of them, a senator I believe, announced her intention to demand the expulsion of Israel's ambassador.

      The event has reconfirmed for me that ending my lifelong support of the Labor Party in favour of the Greens is the right thing to do. I am convinced that Rudd's and Gillard's contemptible defence of Israel's right to murder civilians ... sorry "self-defence" in 2008-9 contributed to this be reassuring Israel that Eurocentric governments were still in lockstep with them.

      Gillard's trip to Israel following that slaughter to deepen trade relations even moreso.
      Thankfully some of our politicians have spines.

  • World Condemns Brutal Israeli Assault on Humanitarian Convoy
    • "al Jazeeral has discontinued their reporting from there because of constant heckling and threats, which could easily be heard in the background of their last report."

      Pity they aren't keeping it up then. It'd be interesting to see the Israelis' response when they realized just how explicitly they were telling the world (in their own words no less) that it's not just okay for them to kill arabs, but that's it's okay for them to kill people who try to help the arabs as well.

  • Top Ten Other Gratuitously Offensive Draw-a-Cartoon Days
    • Except that they chose a form of protest that they knew absolutely would, and not could, cause offence. Not just to threat tossing blow hards and religious zealots, but to a lot of people who after a decade are just well and truly sick of having to put up with people going out of their way to mock us and our beliefs.

      A second point, which ties in very closely to the first, is that the method chosen pretty much invited anyone to take part in, or to repeat, the experiment who has an axe to grind against Islam or muslims regardless of their opinions on censorship, religious freedom or just resenting being told they can't do something. It doesn't do all that much to invite intelligent discussions, it doesn't make it obvious to outsiders that it's an attack on problem behaviour as opposed to beliefs and it does provide an ideological smokescreen for people who just want to pitch abuse.

      I absolutely agree that Islam, like all institutions, should be open to discussion, criticism and (if someone really feels the need) mockery.

      There is however a fairly significant difference between taking the piss with Islam and or other religions. It's not because we're special and the true path to God or any such blatantly subjective twaddle.

      We're an easy target, and we're actively discriminated against in a way that Catholics, to use your example just aren't. Context is everything.

    • "I disagree with you on this particular issue in that while offensive and childish, your comparison of offending veterans is considerably off the mark. There is a distinct difference between publishing cartoons offensive to muslims in a european or north american newspaper vs. appearing at a mosque or a muslim cultural event and displaying such images. "

      Well yes. There is a difference. The latter actually implies a little courage of conviction, whereas the first suggests that the childish provocateur is hiding among a majority community and relying on the safety of distance while ridiculing their targets. The people putting up these pictures are, generally, intent on caricaturing others for the entertainment and amusement of their own group. It's meant to be demeaning, and it's meant to inspire the same contempt in the people who view the pictures.

      For myself, as a practicing muslim, I consider most depictions of our prophet as being in poor taste. Not because it violates our faith, but because by now everyone can reasonably be expected to know what the reaction is going to be.

      As for the reaction it provokes, as foolish and disgusting as it may be it's worth looking at the power dynamics and pre-existing relationships that shape that response. The United States (and indeed "the West" broadly) is at war with two muslim countries and regularly threatening war, and sometimes nuclear holocaust, on a third. Two of those countries (Afghanistan and Iran) were or are explicitly Islamic. The amount of anti-Islamic rhetoric, legislation and legal rulings coming out of West lends to impression that we are involved in a multi-front war against the religion. People outside of the effected community generally brush off or don't even notice these, but we're aware of them and they shape our responses.

      The response isn't just about idiots drawing insulting pictures. It's about a Anne Coulter saying that the U.S. should invade muslim countries and forcibly convert the inhabitants to Christianity. It's about the banning of headscarves in schools and civil service jobs in France and parts of Germany. It's about the Swiss banning minarets. It's about war, and threats of war, being pushed on our co-religionists. It's about the deportation, and arrest, of muslims with no official explanation from countries they've resided in peacefully for more than a decade. And yes, it's also about our prophet being depicted in a bear suit or with a bomb in his hat.

      But it's not a simple, one off insult and when people insist that it is it demeans our intelligence and further marginalises us.

    • On the contrary, what it proves is that people from all religious backgrounds take their beliefs seriously and that intentionally ridiculing them, or misrepresenting them, for no higher end than to cause controversy or show your disdain isn't a particuliarly bright idea.

      People have been known to riot over sporting events, the outcomes of particularly charged trials and over seemingly minor incidents which the rioters interpret as having powerful symbolic meaning. Rioting is rarely, if ever, a rational act but that doesn't mean that the soccer game, Rodney King or T.J. Hickey didn't actually exist. Or that the underlying issues that the triggering event tapped into aren't relevant and worth addressing.

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