“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Illegal immigration from Brooklyn heights.

Palestine overwhelmed by Illegal American Immigrants

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
If there were a Palestinian Donald Trump, he’d be fulminating against illegal immigrants swamping the Palestinian West Bank. And he’d be complaining that fully 1 in 6 of these undocumented squatters are Americans .
Since Americans have trouble understanding the basic facts of the situation, it is worthwhile underscoring that the United Nations General Assembly’s partition plan for British Mandate Palestine in 1947 did notinclude Gaza or the West Bank of the Jordan. Those territories were never awarded to Jewish settlers or later Israelis by any legitimate authority (even the UNGC is not an executive body and the Security Council should have signed off to grant real legitimacy in law). Israel militarily conquered Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and have by now so altered the ways of life, economy and society of these occupied territories that the Occupation is illegal by the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 (designed to prevent atrocities against occupied populations of the sort the Axis carried out during WW II).
It is strictly illegal for the occupying power to attempt to annex occupied territory or to transfer its citizens into militarily occupied territory. Mussolini’s Italy pulled that stunt with the parts of France he occupied during WW II. When you hear that someone has violated the Geneva Convention, that isn’t just an abstract matter. It means that someone is acting the way the dictators acted during the war, because it is that kind of lawless behavior the conventions were attempting to forestall from happening again.
Israel illegally annexed part of the Palestinian West Bank to its district of Jerusalem and then settled it with Israeli squatters. Am I comparing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Mussolini in Menton, France? If the shoe fits . . .
Outside the territory annexed to Jerusalem, there are at least 350,000 Israeli squatters who have usurped Palestinian land.
This link explains the process of illegal Israeli squatting on and theft of Palestinian land (a process the International Court of Justice ruled is illegal in 2004).
Some 60,000 of the squatters, today’s equivalent of Mussolini’s Black Shirts , are Americans, according to a new study.
Those American politicians like Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, who make exaggerated and untrue statements against undocumented workers in the United States but who defend illegal Israeli immigration into the West Bank, are supreme hypocrites. The Israeli squatters, moreover, are often hostile and aggressive, excluding Palestinians from the townhouses they construct on stolen property.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dick Cheney, mass murderer and war criminal should be in prison for the rest of his miserable life - Instead , he will be giving a speech to the Republican faithful.

Dick Cheney’s staggering Iran hypocrisy: Why we need to ignore his sinister war games at all costs 

The former vice president is saying whatever he can to torpedo negotiations with Iran. Here's what he's not saying 

Dick Cheney's staggering Iran hypocrisy: Why we need to ignore his sinister war games at all costs(Credit: Reuters/William Philpott)

The photo accompanying a Washington Post article published yesterday, which reported on a letter signed by nearly 200 Generals and Admirals opposing the Iran deal, showed Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin. This matters because Boykin took part in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the Americans taken hostage in the embassy in Iran. More recently, Boykin played key roles running the Bush Administration’s covert operations, ultimately serving as one of DOD’s top intelligence officials. He’s best known for a 2003 speech he gave in uniform, pitching the War on Terror as a crusade against Satan. “We’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. … And the enemy is a guy named Satan.” Boykin’s inclusion on the letter associates the opposition to the Iran deal with his Islamophobia, though the vast majority of those who signed the letter have no such stain on their record.
Two other signatories — John Poindexter and Richard Secord — offer perhaps a more troubling indicator of how familiar the propaganda campaign against a nuclear deal with Iran is. Both men were key players in — and then National Security Advisor Poindexter was tried for — the Iran-Contra scandal. Thus, these two men, who claim that an agreement to forestall nuclear weapons would “enable Iran to become far more dangerous [and] render the Mideast still more unstable,” were key players in doing just that, back when they armed Iran in the 1980s.
Again, most signers of the letters aren’t notorious for their extra-legal efforts to sow chaos in the Middle East for fun and — in Secord’s case — profit, but the involvement of Poindexter and Secord taint the effort nonetheless.
Above and beyond the involvement of these unscrupulous figures, there is one attempt to defeat the Iran deal that actually does discredit all others: former Vice President Dick Cheney’s plan to give a speech at American Enterprise Institute on September 8, one week before Congress will vote on the deal.
Before joining the Bush Administration, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney opposed sanctions against Iran because American businesses would be “cut out of the action” (Halliburton is still one of the biggest likely beneficiaries of the easing of Iran sanctions).
Cheney spent much of the Obama Administration thwarting negotiations with Iran at a much earlier stage in its nuclear program. Had those negotiations happened then, they might have mitigated the concerns he and others now express about the nuclear deal. Indeed, as Poindexter had years earlier, Cheney’s office reportedly worked back channels to undercut the Iranian regime just as negotiations began.
Cheney’s real contribution to the Iran situation he claims to despise, however, was in championing a war against Iraq to undercut Weapons of Mass Destruction — including a nuclear program — that didn’t exist. The war created a vacuum of power in the region and a Shia-led government in Iraq, both of which Iran managed to exploit to increase its regional posture. While railing against Iran, Dick Cheney made it stronger. At the same time, the Bush (and Obama) Administration’s successful regime change in Iraq and Libya, but not in North Korea, showed the value of a nuclear program as a deterrent against US-led regime change.
Dick Cheney played a big role in raising the stakes of a deal with Iran, while also making it much harder to achieve.
Which brings me to the really nutty thing about Cheney giving a big speech — on September 8 — to oppose the Iran deal: Cheney, and the deal opponents in general, are working on precisely the same propaganda schedule they did to pitch the Iraq war.
George Bush’s first Chief of Staff, Andy Card, once famously explained the logic behind the fall 2002 campaign to launch a war in Iraq. ”From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
Admittedly, the timing here, in which commentators release a constant flow of fear-mongering throughout the summer, only to accelerate as Congress returns to DC in September, was dictated by the timing of the deal itself and previous delays that gave Congress 60 days to review the deal, as well as Congress’ own schedule.
But September 8. Cheney chose to give his harangue on September 8.
That’s the 13th anniversary of the day when he and Condoleezza Rice took to the Sunday shows and kicked off the campaign for the Iraq War in earnest. To justify it, they pointed to a newly published New York Times story that repeated “Bush Administration officials'” claims that Saddam Hussein had sought aluminum tubes destined for a nuclear weapons program. The story even quoted an unnamed senior administration official calling for urgency.
‘The question is not, why now?” the Times quoted someone who by description could be Cheney or Rice, among others. ”The question is why waiting is better. The closer Saddam Hussein gets to a nuclear weapon, the harder he will be to deal with,” the anonymous top Bush official said, kicking off a campaign that would lead to a catastrophic war that has only increased instability in the Middle East, leading to the rise of ISIS and other problems the U.S. still struggles to deal with.
Cheney echoed that line on Meet the Press: “We’re at the point where we think time is not on our side.” Rice went further, explaining away any uncertainty about the intelligence that would in the following decade prove to be utterly wrong, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
Cheney plans to make a case against the Iran deal — and what many believe would leave few options besides war — on the anniversary of the most discredited example of propaganda of recent history.
Cheney may not be calling for war and regime change this time — at least not explicitly (though that may well remain his favored option). But when he claims the deal will “put us closer to actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II,” as he already has, people should remember that Cheney made the same claims 13 years ago, to the day.
Dick Cheney, the Vice President who cries about nukes the way a little boy once cried wolf, plans to do so again on the anniversary of some of his most discredited claims.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

NY Post Sees That The GOP’s Efforts to Undermine The US Presidency Will Fail on Iran Deal

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal in Congress admit they can no longer kill the accord. Their focus now is making sure there will be a vote on the agreement at all, and salvaging some political benefit from their well-funded bid to stop it.
Lawmakers, congressional staffers and lobbyists opposed to the deal reached in Vienna last month tell us they are now fighting to get more than 60 votes in the Senate for a resolution of disapproval to avoid a filibuster by Democrats supporting President Obama. 
That is a far cry from the 67 votes in the Senate needed, along with two thirds of the House, to overturn an expected presidential veto of that resolution.
Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday it was “very unlikely” there would be 67 votes against the deal in the Senate, but there would be a “bipartisan majority” voting to disapprove of the deal. As of now, only two Senate Democrats and 14 House Democrats have come out against the pact.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to filibuster the bill, and unless at least four more Democrats promise to vote against the deal, Reid may succeed. Critics of the deal are outraged at the idea that Congress’ only chance at oversight of the initiative might not even get a hearing on the Senate floor. 
The White House is also reportedly pushing for the deal to be filibustered, so that Obama won’t have to veto a resolution disapproving the signature foreign-policy accomplishment of his presidency.


Senate Democrats climb closer to votes needed to back up Obama on Iran nuclear deal

Associated Press+ More
ERICA WERNER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware on Friday became the 30th senator to announce support for the Iran nuclear deal, as momentum for the White House-backed agreement grows.
If Senate Democrats can amass 41 votes in favor of the deal, they could block passage of a congressional resolution to disapprove of the deal.
If that doesn't happen and the GOP-led Senate votes to disapprove of the deal, President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it. Democrats then would need 34 votes — four more than they have now — to prevent a congressional override of the presidential veto.
A vote on the nuclear deal the U.S. and other world powers negotiated with Iran is scheduled for early September.
"This next week or 10 days will be critical because those that have really been thinking over long and hard about where they're going to end up many of them are likely to announce something before we return from the Labor Day recess," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
He wouldn't predict the success of getting to 34 or 41 votes, but said some of the 14 undecided Democrats likely would announce their decision before Congress returns from its August recess.
"We're in active communication with all of the remaining who have not announced," Durbin said. "I would say that most I've spoken to are inclined to do something sooner rather than later and I take that to mean possibly before we return."
In an opinion piece in The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, Carper said the deal was good for America and allies including Israel.
"The stakes surrounding this deal couldn't be higher," Carper wrote. "Current estimates assess Iran's nuclear program to be as close as two months away from a bomb. Without a deal, that time will only shrink. That's a stark comparison to what the deal would yield - an Iranian nuclear program that is at least a year away from a bomb for each of the next 15 years and, possibly, longer."
Republicans are unanimously against the deal which provides sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for constraints on its nuclear program. Two Senate Democrats also have announced their opposition.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Displaced Victims of Israel, US and NATO

Austrian Truck Tragedy echoes Palestinian Story, reminding us of 7 mn still stateless

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
The gruesome discovery of an abandoned truck in eastern Austria with 71 dead refugees in it, 4 of them children, has horrified the world. But few will realize that the plot of this story was laid out in the 1960s by Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, in his 1962 novel, Men in the Sun 
Of the 1.2 million Palestinians living in the British Mandate of Palestine, Zionist settlers allowed in by the British attacked and expelled over half of them in 1948, about 720,000, from their homes. To this day, of the 11 million Palestinians, 7.1 million are still refugees or displaced. Many of them are stateless, lacking the basic rights bestowed by citizenship in a state.
Kanafani’s novel treats 3 Palestinian workers who cannot work in Lebanon, who decided to try to get to Kuwait, being smuggled in the back of a tanker truck. When the driver finally makes it to Kuwait, he looks inside the empty tank, only to find them dead.
Kanafani was murdered by a covert Israeli hit squad in 1972.
The dead in the real truck in Austria appear to have been mainly Syrian. Of today’s 22 million Syrians, 11 million are displaced or refugees (including many internally displaced).
But often the great refugee crises, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, end by the refugees returning home when peace descends.
The Palestinians don’t have that prospect. Their home has been stolen from them by the Israelis and they were unceremoniously dumped on the neighbors or in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip. They are stateless. They are the original truck people.
Related video:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Barak is calling Israeli attention to two facts. The first is that militarily taking out Iranian facilities would be difficult, and the second is that attempting to do so would affect relations with Israel's indispensible ally, the United States

Israel: The Case Against Attacking Iran 


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On Aug. 21, Israeli Channel 2 Television aired a recording of Ehud Barak, Israel's former defense minister and former prime minister, saying that on three separate occasions, Israel had planned to attack Iran's nuclear facilities but canceled the attacks. According to Barak, in 2010 Israel's chief of staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, refused to approve an attack plan. Israeli Cabinet members Moshe Yaalon and Yuval Steinitz backed out of another plan, and in 2012 an attack was canceled because it coincided with planned U.S.-Israeli military exercises and a visit from then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The fact that the interview was released at all is odd. Barak claimed to have believed that the tape would not be aired, and he supposedly tried unsuccessfully to stop the broadcast. It would seem that Barak didn't have enough clout to pressure the censor to block it, which I suppose is possible. 
Yaalon, like Ashkenazi, was once chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces but was also vice premier and Barak's successor as defense minister. Steinitz had been finance minister and was vocal in his concerns about Iran. What Barak is saying, therefore, is that a chief of staff and a vice premier and former chief of staff blocked the planned attacks. As to the coinciding of a U.S.-Israeli exercise with a planned attack, that is quite puzzling, because such exercises are planned well in advance. Perhaps there was some weakness in Iranian defenses that opened and closed periodically, and that drove the timing of the attack. Or perhaps Barak was just confusing the issue.
A number of points are worth noting: Ehud Barak is not a man to speak casually about highly classified matters, certainly not while being recorded. Moreover, the idea that Barak was unable to persuade the military censor to block the airing of the recording is highly improbable. For some reason, Barak wanted to say this, and he wanted it broadcast.
Part of the reason might have been to explain why Israel, so concerned about Iran, didn't take action against Iran's nuclear facilities. Given the current debate in the U.S. Congress, that is a question that is undoubtedly being asked. The explanation Barak is giving seems to be that senior military and defense officials blocked the plans and that the Israelis didn't want to upset the Americans by attacking during a joint exercise. The problem with this explanation is that it is well known that Israeli military and intelligence officials had argued against an Israeli strike and that the United States would have been upset whether or not joint exercises were occurring.
It would seem, intentionally or unintentionally, that Barak is calling Israeli attention to two facts. The first is that militarily taking out Iranian facilities would be difficult, and the second is that attempting to do so would affect relations with Israel's indispensible ally, the United States. Military leaders' opposition to the strikes had been rumored and hinted at in public statements by retired military and intelligence heads; Barak is confirming that those objections were the decisive reason Israel did not attack. The military was not sure it could succeed.

The Potential for Disastrous Failure

A military operation, like anything else in life, must be judged in two ways. First, what are the consequences of failure? Second, how likely is failure? Take, for example, the failure of the U.S. hostage rescue operation in 1980. Apart from the obvious costs, the failure gave the Iranian government reason to reduce its respect for U.S. power and thus potentially emboldened Iran to take more risks. Even more important, it enhanced the reputation of the Iranian government in the eyes of its people, both demonstrating that the United States threatened Iranian sovereignty and increasing the credibility of the government's ability to defend Iran. Finally, it eroded confidence in U.S. political and military leaders among the U.S. public. In reducing the threat and the perception of threat, the failure of the operation gave the Iranian regime more room to maneuver.
For the Israelis, the price of failure in an attack on Iranian nuclear sites would have been substantial. One of Israel's major strategic political assets is the public's belief in its military competence. Forged during the 1967 war, the IDF's public image has survived a number of stalemates and setbacks. A failure in Iran would damage that image even if, in reality, the military's strength remained intact. Far more important, it would, as the failed U.S. operation did in 1980, enhance Iran's position. Given the nature of the targets, any attack would likely require a special operations component along with airstrikes, and any casualties, downed pilots or commandos taken prisoner would create an impression of Israeli weakness contrasting with Iranian strength. That perception would be an immeasurable advantage for Iran in its efforts to accrue power in the region. Thus for Israel, the cost of failure would be extreme.
This must be measured against the possibility of success. In war, as in everything, the most obvious successes can evolve into failure. There were several potential points for failure in an attack on Iran. How confident were the Israelis that their intelligence on locations, fortifications and defenses were accurate? How confident were they that they could destroy the right targets? More important, perhaps, how certain could they be that the strikes had destroyed the targets? Finally, and most important, did they know what Iran's recuperative capabilities were? How quickly could the Iranians restore their program? Frequently, an operationally successful assault does not deal with the strategic problem. The goal of an attack was to make Iran incapable of building a nuclear weapon; would destroying all known targets achieve that strategic goal?
One of the things to bear in mind is that the Iranians were as obsessed with Israeli and U.S. intelligence efforts as the Israelis and Americans were obsessed with the Iranian programs. Iran's facilities were built to be protected from attack. The Iranians were also sophisticated in deception; knowing that they were being watched, they made efforts to confuse and mislead their observers. The Israelis could never be certain that they were not deceived by every supposedly reliable source, every satellite image and every intercepted phone call. Even if only one or two sources of information were actually misleading, which sources were they?
A failed Israeli assault on Iran would cause a major readjustment among other regional players in the way they perceive Israel and Iran. And for Israel, the perception of its military effectiveness is a strategic asset. There was a high risk of damaging that strategic asset in a failed operation, coupled with a strong chance that Israeli actions could unintentionally bolster Iran's power in the region. The likelihood of success was thrown into question by Israel's dependence on intelligence. In war, intelligence failure is a given. The issue is how great the failure will be — and there is no way to know until after the strike. Furthermore, operational success may not yield strategic success. Therefore, the ratio of potential risk versus reward argued against an attack.

Considering Iran's Capabilities

There is another side to this equation: What exactly were the Iranians capable of? As I have argued before, enriched uranium is a necessary but insufficient component for a nuclear weapon. It is enough to create a device that can be detonated underground in controlled conditions. But the development of a weapon, as opposed to a device, requires extensive technology in miniaturization and ruggedization to ensure the weapon reaches its target. Those who fixated on progress in uranium enrichment failed to consider the other technologies necessary to create nuclear weaponry. Some, including myself, argued that the constant delays in completing a weapon were rooted both in the lack of critical technologies and in Iranian concerns about the consequence of failure.
Then there is the question of timing. A nuclear weapon would be most vulnerable at the moment it was completed and mounted on its delivery system. At that point, it would no longer be underground, and the Israelis would have an opportunity to strike when Iranians were in the process of marrying the weapon to the delivery device. Israel, and to an even greater extent the United States, has reconnaissance capabilities. The Iranians know that the final phase of weapon development is when they most risk detection and attack. The Israelis may have felt that, as risky as a future operation may seem, it was far less likely to fail than a premature attack.

Barak's Motivations

Whether intentionally or not (and I suspect intentionally) Barak was calling attention, not to prior plans for an attack on Iran, but to the decision to abandon those plans. He pointed out that an Israeli chief of staff blocked one plan, a former chief of staff blocked a second plan and concern for U.S. sensibilities blocked a third. To put it in different terms, the Israelis considered and abandoned attacks on Iran on several occasions, when senior commanders or Cabinet members with significant military experience refused to approve the plan. Unmentioned was that neither the prime minister nor the Cabinet overruled them. Their judgment — and the judgment of many others — was that an attack shouldn't be executed, at least not at that time.
Barak's statement can be read as an argument for sanctions. If the generals have insufficient confidence in an attack, or if an attack can be permanently canceled because of an exercise with the Americans, then the only option is to increase sanctions. But Barak also knows that pain will not always bring capitulation. Sanctions might be politically satisfying to countries unable to achieve their ends through military action or covert means. As Barak undoubtedly knows, imposing further restrictions on Iran's economy makes everyone feel something useful is being done. But sanctions, like military action, can produce unwelcome results. Measures far more painful than economic sanctions still failed to force capitulation in the United Kingdom or Germany, and did so in Japan only after atomic weapons were used. The bombing of North Vietnam did not cause capitulation. Sanctions on South Africa did work, but that was a deeply split nation with a majority in favor of the economic measures. Sanctions have not prompted Russia to change its policy. Imposing pain frequently unites a country and empowers the government. Moreover, unless sanctions rapidly lead to a collapse, they would not give Iran any motivation not to complete a nuclear weapon.
I don't think Barak was making the case for sanctions. What he was saying is that every time the Israelis thought of military action against Iran, they decided not to do it. And he wasn't really saying that the generals, ministers or the Americans blocked it. In actuality, he was saying that ultimately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked it, because in the end, Netanyahu was in a position to force the issue if he wanted to. Barak was saying that Israel did not have a military option. He was not attacking Netanyahu for this decision; he was simply making it known. 
It's unlikely that Barak believes sanctions will compel Iran to abandon its nuclear program, any more the current agreement does. My guess is that for him, both are irrelevant. Either the Iranians do not have the ability or desire to build a bomb, or there will come a point when they can no longer hide the program — and that is the point when they will be most vulnerable to attack. It is at that moment, when the Iranians are seen arming a delivery system, that an Israeli or U.S. submarine will fire a missile and end the issue.
If Barak didn't want a strike on Iran, if Netanyahu didn't want a strike and if Barak has no confidence in agreements or sanctions, then Barak must have something in mind for dealing with an Iranian nuclear weapon — if it ever does appear. Barak is an old soldier who knows how to refrain from firing until he is most certain of success, even if the delay makes everyone else nervous. He is not a believer in diplomatic solutions, gestures to indirectly inflict pain or operations destined for failure. At any rate, he has revealed that Israel did not have an effective military option to hamper Iran's nuclear program. And I find it impossible to believe he would rely on sanctions or diplomacy. Rather, he would wait to strike until Iran had committed to arming a delivery system, leaving itself wide open to attack — a nerve-racking solution, but one with the best chance of success.  

"Israel: The Case Against Attacking Iran is republished with permission of Stratfor."