Sunday, March 28, 2010

Israel Attacks Iran — the Sim!

David Sanger offers a laughably inadequate 'observation' of an even more laughably simplistic 'simulation' at the Brookings Institution's rabidly pro-Israel Saban Center. A raft of pro-Israel 'thinkers' — headed by pro-Iraq success-story Ken Pollack — were rounded up to make an Israeli attack on Iran look like a cake-walk. Of course, the US government (and I'm sure many others) have been simulating (translation: guessing) an attack on Iran for years. I'd be astonished if any of the government's simulations are as rosy as Saban's.

Sanger's blather about the Saban sim is more interesting for what it omits — most notably, no mention at all of Iranian civilian losses, which would likely be very high.

Here is my 'simulation' of the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities.
0. Israel strikes Iranian facilities, ostensibly to shut down potential Iranian nuclear weapons production.

1. Thousands of Iranians killed. Not clear whether Israel even struck all of Iran's facilities (Iran claims not).

2. Iran calls for international condemnation of Israel and US. US claims Israel attacked without advance notice to US, but the world recognizes this as nonsense, especially since the US would have immediate satellite info on Israeli attacks and the US has total air cover of Persian Gulf, Kuwait and Iraq. That is, Israeli air forces absolutely must get clearance from US for fly-overs, even over the Gulf.

3. Iran shows surprising deftness in driving wedges between US, Israel, Europe and Arab and Muslim worlds.

4. World condemns Israeli attacks, especially as Iranian civilian casualties mount and photographs and video are aired globally. US media downplays this, but bloggers provide access, resulting in a cacophany of condemnation of tepid US response to Israel.

5. Russia and China show surprising unity in categorically condemning Israel and lead the world in demanding that the US stop Israel's onslaught, especially as it becomes clear Israel is preparing for a second round of attacks to get what it missed first time round.

6. China sees an opportunity to assert the kind of leadership the US hasn't shown in decades. As it does so, anti-Chinese fear-mongering in the US raises its ugly head. China raises the possibility of sanctions on Israel and the US. Many in Europe and elsewhere agree, shocking the Americans.

7. For the first time ever, the US appears likely to be the target of a serious sanctions regime. Some in US Congress and executive branch suggest this is an act of war. A handful of US military figures cause a media furor when they suggest that the US must break with Israel, not just for US security but for the world's.

8. Iran does not attack neighbors or US forces in Iraq. It does halt oil production. Several other oil states drastically slow production. As oil prices soar, US is forced to ramp up military presence in Gulf and in states bordering Iran, especially Afghanistan.

9. Stock markets in the US and worldwide collapse. US government declares a market holiday, but this only inflames fears. There is growing public condemnation of Israel in the US. Habitually pro-Israeli news organizations like The New York Times and NPR are increasingly unsuccessful at trying to mask their pro-Israel bias. After holding out, the Times runs photos of Iranian children killed in Israeli attacks.

10. Iran deploys news depleted uranium (DU) munitions against Israeli and US aircraft in Iranian airspace. Shockingly, several aircraft are shot down. Crews are captured. The presence of US aircraft in Iranian air brings further charges from around the world that the US has secretly colluded with Israel in the attacks.

11. US and Israel condemn Iranian use of DU munitions, claiming that this proves that Iran did indeed have a nuclear weapons program (though DU munitions are not nuclear weapons). The world is astonished at the American and Israeli hypocrisy, noting that both use the very same munitions.

12. Oil hits $200 per barrel. World markets crisis becomes a general economic crisis. Fuel prices are so high, that transport of basic necessities worldwide suffers. In the northeast US, there are shortages of some food products as fuel prices hurt transport of food.

13. Insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan launch daring attacks on US forces. Though largely ineffective, the attacks make necessary more US forces and prove to be huge PR coups against the US and Israel in media worldwide. There are uprisings in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For the first time in years, there are series of bloody attacks within Israel itself.

14. Russia and China announce they are formally recognizing the State of Palestine in the pre-1967 borders. Numerous other nations follow suit, including several in Europe and then, astonishingly, Canada.

15. US orders Israel to cease all hostilities or it will also recognize Palestine. In the meantime, it terminates all sharing of satellite and other intelligence info with Israel. The president makes vague noises about seizing Israeli financial assets abroad. Joe Lieberman enrages most when he condemns the President as anti-Semitic in a speech before the Senate.

16. All hell breaks loose in the Middle East.
A wild speculation, you say? I can only respond that it is a lot more likely than the Saban garbage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Features of Democracy's Fall

In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes:
Meanwhile, the central problem persists: Israel rules more than 3 million Palestinians who will never become citizens of Israel and yet do not have their own state. As they multiply, Israel’s status as a democracy becomes more and more complex; the country looks more and more like an island of rich Israelis set in a sea of Palestinian serfs.
Zakaria almost nails it . . . . Israel’s status as a democracy doesn’t “become more and more complex.” It becomes more and more a pure fiction.

People should check what Ariel Atias (Minister of Housing and Construction and behind the “fuck you” to Biden and Obama) has said. He advocates radical apartheid, not just separating Palestinians but also orthodox from non-orthodox Jews. Israel has descended into a state where — even if every Palestinian were expelled from the area west of the Jordan River (in the biggest case of ethnic cleansing since the Second World War) — Israeli Jews would soon be at war with one another.

Whatever moral sense lived in Israel has been crushed by successive waves of right-wing, religious fanaticism. Israel now depends on the Palestinians to play the role of collective enemy of the Jews (much, I am sad to say, as Jews played a comparable, though by no means identical, role in Nazi Germany). The United States, too, is headed this way with the right-wing and moderates depending on a vilified, demonized Islam — a monolithic, terrorist enemy — to galvanize public support for, or at least apathy toward, every growing state power.

Fanatics, having won whatever battle gave their petty existences meaning, must turn on each other, like a pack of half-starved wild dogs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Tempest in the Dust Storm

or Tempest in a Teapot Dome

Moderates, neo-cons and right-wingers all are wringing their hands over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "Fuck You!" to President Obama and Vice Toad Biden. There was Biden making all nice nice at the feet of Bibi and the Big B takes a well-beshat shoe to Biden's forehead. Now everyone's in a tizzy. The right-wing zealots who cum every time IDF forces obliterate Palestinians are the most put-out. Obama and Biden have actually used something resembling harsh language. That's something of a shift from the normally obsequious American grovelling.

Frankly, I don't think there's much in this. Obama will do some saber-rattling, try to save face, but he's proved pretty well that he has no spine. And if, as all past American action suggests, the US has no real objection to Israeli settlement construction (except to call it "not helpful"), then what does it matter that the Israelis announce today or tomorrow? Even if the Israelis were working to heed US 'language', Obama's a master of the mixed message. One minute, he and Biden sound like they're green-lighting Israeli construction, next minute they having a fit. If you think the colonization of the West Bank is okay (I don't), then second-guessing the Americans comes second.

But, for reasons I don't really understand, this tempest has blown up into a storm. Politicians certainly have egos. Obama has a massive one, with a tiny bit of justification. Biden has an even more massive one, with no justification at all. And my guess is that this is also related in the minds of the Israel-idolaters to the Goldstone Report. The Israel Lobby has been attacking the report on all fronts. Now comes another blow to their facade of moral superiority.

John Podhoretz has raised the spectre of a Jewish revolt in Democratic ranks. I think Podhoretz is a little behind the times. Most Americans are ill-informed, maybe most American Jews . . . who knows? (It would be interesting to do a thorough study comparing how people self-identify, how they stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how well-informed they actually are.)

One way or another, fewer than normal can have entirely missed Israel's blitzkrieg in Gaza last year and not wondered what the hell the Israelis were doing and why — and that despite the "Go for it!" from Obama, The New York Times and most American 'leaders'.

Moreover, Americans have a habit of proving themselves wise to the Great Leaders' bullshit. We may be short on the facts, thanks to the 'reporting' of CNN, The New York Times and NPR, but we see the big picture better than our Masters would like. We saw what was really happening with the bailout and now with health care reform. As Marx would have said, we feel the sense of alienation — dissatisfaction, anger, rage — without being fully able to identify the cause. In a nation conditioned for fanatical adoration of Capitalism or Religion, many misidentify the cause.

But when thousands of Israeli troops, aircraft and artillery rain hell upon 1.5 million people, caus and effect are fairly obvious. It's pretty easy to see that it's Israeli fighter-bombers, tanks and heavy artillery leveling Palestinian villages — not the other way round, despite the best propaganda efforts of the Israel government and the US news media and politicians. (New York's Mayor Bloomberg just happened to pick the month of Operation Cast Lead to head over to Israel.)

Nevertheless, Podhoretz might have some kind of point. I'm just not sure what point.
It’s no secret that a wildly disproportionate part of the Democratic donor base is Jewish. While Jews are almost certain to continue to vote lopsidedly for Democrats, that doesn’t mean Jewish donors are going to open their checkbooks as widely as they have in the past three election cycles. A diminution in Jewish enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats is a problem for them. This is not a good moment to be picking fights on an issue of major emotional concern to a key Democratic constituency, even if you know that many of its members are not disposed to support the building program.

Is Podhoretz saying that a disproportionate number of donors to Democrats is Jewish or a disproportionate percentage of donors is Jewish? Those are two different claims. Or is Podhoretz saying that a disproportionately large percentage of the dollars donated are donated by Jews? That’s still another claim.

The largest donors in lump dollar amounts were institutions like Goldman Sachs, Harvard, etc. But as some point out, a huge percentage of donors and donor dollars to Obama were little folks, like us, here. And Obama has done squat to appease us. No public option, kowtowing to health insurers and big pharma, a huge bailout to billionaires at our expense, huge sums to the military at our expense, a thorough “fuck you” to labor, . . .

So if the Big O is concerned about donors bailing on him, he’d be trying some new tactics to appeal to US. But he ain’t. He’s waving his hands behind the curtain, get the Great and Powerful O to try to convince us he’s comin’ down hard on Big Health, Big Pharma, Big Banks. But we don’t even need little Toto to pull that curtain aside. We are Wise to the Ruse, Oh Mighty O. Worry about us and US.

If hardcore pro-Israel wingnuts want to bail for the Republicans, let ‘em go. The GOP will drive us and Israel into the ground so deep, even the best IDF bulldozer won’t be able to dig us out.

Rational people, however clueless on the nitty gritty details, aren't blind. Israel has overplayed its hand, and to mix metaphors, bitten the hand that feeds it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Israel's Humiliation of Normally Docile American 'Leaders' Backfires, But Only a Little

Israel's toying with the morons who pass for 'leaders' in the United States is nothing new. The difference is that Obama is of above average intelligence and, most important, has something resembling a conscience. George W. Bush was profoundly stupid and a true believer, a true racist, a true advocate of a Crusade to defeat Islam.

Obama genuinely believes that Arabs, including Palestinians, have rights. That puts him in a bind never faced by Republicans or most Democrats. Like all but five or six Democrats, Obama's main mission is the balancing act of pleasing the most powerful people as much of the time as possible — Wall Street, health insurers, military contractors, etc. — the American Oligarchs. But because he has something like a conscience, he actually believes in something like democracy — and (rare among Americans) not just for Americans and other members of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition.

What to do then when Israel must be appeased to appease powerful interests in the US but justice actually requires saying no to the Middle East's leading war criminal state? What to do when Israel is doing exactly what it has been doing for over 40 years and has promised to continue doing?

Answer: Orwellify! Send two messages designed to sound like one (or maybe I mean one message designed to sound like two). Have Biden prate about the 'demographic threat' to Israel while uttering the word "Palestine" (a word that the New York Times still can't print, that Israelis still choke on). Have Hillary issue "strong language". Behind closed doors — in Israel, at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, in speeches to AIPAC, etc. — promise that Israel will always enjoy the full backing of the US.

The Orwellian game is complicated these days by the growing delusion in Israel that Israel has a divine right to whatever the hell it demands. There's always been a minority that believed this, but that minority may now be a majority. Bad timing. The nation that enabled Israel's national psychosis is weakened worldwide by almost twenty years of war crimes in Iraq, absurd military expenditures, a steady economic decline and its own national psychoses.
An aside: Israel propagandist Martin Indyk has a piece on the Brookings website about Netanyahu's political calculus behind humiliating the pathetic Biden.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bloomberg Building Bull

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg fought the EPA designation of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site. Bloomberg claimed that he could bring his business genius to bear and get the cleanup done faster for less money. So let's review the Mayor's great successes in development across the city:
  • 2012 Olympics
  • West side stadium
  • Atlantic Railyards
  • Greenpoint 50-year oil spill
  • Kingsbridge Armory Mall in the Bronx
  • Numerous worker accidents, including deaths, that Bloomberg brushed off with "accidents happen."
And the very finest example of Mike Bloomberg's masterful shepherding of development in the city:
  • World Trade Center reconstruction, barely begun nine years after the attacks. By contrast, the Empire State Building was constructed (under Democrats) in less than 1 year and a half.
What the mayor really wants is the freedom to ignore safety, ignore environmental laws and make more of the sweetheart deals for his wealthy friends — the only thing he has really proved adept at in his years as mayor. If Mike Bloomberg had any more crap coming out of his mouth, he'd be a Superfund site.

Real Issues of Security for Average Americans

Some 15 million Americans are unemployed under the narrow terms popularly used. Under other terms used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the real unemployment rate is more like 17 percent, over 25 million people. So it's near certain that at least 40 million households, or over 150 million people, face dire income issues -- little to no regular income, or income that just barely meets living expenses. If there is any cushion against this, it is the fact that most households now have more than one income-earner (but many of those really need two income-earners).

One way or another, it is more than reasonable to conclude that on the order of one half of the US population feels financially insecure. Add to that the fact that most Americans know that they have unstable access to health care, given that most health insurers enthusiastically embrace yanking care away when it is needed. Add also the government fiscal crises, so education, infrastructure and other essentials are threatened. We sustained this instability for years with the credit bubble. (The bubble was 'load-bearing.') Now that has collapsed and will likely stay collapsed, despite Obama efforts to re-inflate the bubble.

What do most Americans have reason to feel safe about? In a country where the general population was less apathetic and less indoctrinated in acceptance of and obedience to authority, government and private elites might well be worrying about social upheaval.

Thursday, March 4, 2010