Category Archives: Middle East

Palestine’s Africa Dichotomy: Is Israel Really ‘Winning’ Africa?  

The decision by the African Union Commission, on July 22, to grant Israel observer status membership in the AU was the culmination of years of relentless Israeli efforts aimed at co-opting Africa’s largest political institution. Why is Israel so keen on penetrating Africa? What made African countries finally succumb to Israeli pressure and lobbying?

To answer the above questions, one has to appreciate the new Great Game under way in many parts of the world, especially in Africa, which has always been significant to Israel’s geopolitical designs. Starting in the early 1950s to the mid-70s, Israel’s Africa network was in constant expansion. The 1973 war, however, brought that affinity to an abrupt end.

What Changed Africa

Ghana, in West Africa, officially recognized Israel in 1956, just eight years after Israel was established atop the ruins of historic Palestine. What seemed like an odd decision at the time – considering Africa’s history of western colonialism and anti-colonial struggles – ushered in a new era of African-Israeli relations. By the early 1970s, Israel had established a strong position for itself on the continent. On the eve of the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, Israel had full diplomatic ties with 33 African countries.

“The October War”, however, presented many African countries with a stark choice: siding with Israel – a country born out of Western colonial intrigues – or the Arabs, who are connected to Africa through historical, political, economic, cultural and religious bonds. Most African countries opted for the latter choice. One after the other, African countries began severing their ties with Israel. Soon enough, no African state, other than Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland, had official diplomatic relations with Israel.

Then, the continent’s solidarity with Palestine went even further. The Organization of African Unity – the precursor to the African Union – in its 12th ordinary session held in Kampala in 1975, became the first international body to recognize, on a large scale, the inherent racism in Israel’s Zionist ideology by adopting Resolution 77 (XII). This very Resolution was cited in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted in November of that same year, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. Resolution 3379 remained in effect until it was revoked by the Assembly under intense American pressure in 1991.

Since Israel remained committed to that same Zionist, racist ideology of yesteryears, the only rational conclusion is that it was Africa, not Israel, that changed. But why?

First, the collapse of the Soviet Union. That seismic event resulted in the subsequent isolation of pro-Soviet African countries which, for years, stood as the vanguard against American, Western and, by extension, Israeli expansionism and interests on the continent.

Second, the collapse of the unified Arab front on Palestine. That front has historically served as the moral and political frame of reference for the pro-Palestine, anti-Israel sentiments in Africa. This started with the Egyptian government’s signing of the Camp David Agreement, in 1978-79 and, later, the Oslo Accords between the Palestinian leadership and Israel, in 1993.

Covert and overt normalization between Arab countries and Israel continued unabated over the last three decades, resulting in the extension of diplomatic ties between Israel and several Arab countries, including African-Arab countries, like Sudan and Morocco. Other Muslim-majority African countries also joined the normalization efforts. They include Chad, Mali and others.

Third, the ‘scramble for Africa’ was renewed with a vengeance. The neocolonial return to Africa brought back many of the same usual suspects – Western countries, which are, once more, realizing the untapped potential of Africa in terms of markets, cheap labor and resources. A driving force for Western re-involvement in Africa is the rise of China as a global superpower with keen interests in investing in Africa’s dilapidated infrastructure. Whenever economic competition is found, military hardware is sure to follow. Now several Western militaries are openly operating in Africa under various guises – France in Mali and the Sahel region, the US’ many operations through US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and others.

Tellingly, Washington does not only serve as Israel’s benefactor in Palestine and the Middle East, but worldwide as well, and Israel is willing to go to any length to exploit the massive leverage it holds over the US government. This stifling paradigm, which has been at work in the Middle East region for decades, is also at work throughout Africa. For example, last year the US administration agreed to remove Sudan from the state-sponsored terror list in exchange for Khartoum’s normalization with Israel. In truth, Sudan is not the only country that understands – and is willing to engage in – this kind of ‘pragmatic’ – read under-handed – political barter. Others also have learned to play the game well. Indeed, by voting to admit Israel to the AU, some African governments expect a return on their political investment, a return that will be exacted from Washington, not from Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, albeit expectedly, as Africa’s normalization with Israel grew, Palestine became increasingly a marginal issue on the agendas of many African governments, who are far more invested in realpolitik – or simply remaining on Washington’s good side – than honoring the anti-colonial legacies of their nations.

Netanyahu the Conqueror

However, there was another driving force behind Israel’s decision to ‘return’ to Africa than just political opportunism and economic exploitation. Successive events have made it clear that Washington is retreating from the Middle East and that the region was no longer a top priority for the dwindling American empire. For the US, China’s decisive moves to assert its power and influence in Asia are largely responsible for the American rethink. The 2012 US withdrawal from Iraq, its ‘leadership from behind’ in Libya, its non-committal policy in Syria, among others, were all indicators pointing to the inescapable fact that Israel could no longer count on the blind and unconditional American support alone. Thus, the constant search for new allies began.

For the first time in decades, Israel began confronting its prolonged isolation at the UNGA. America’s vetoes at the UN Security Council may have shielded Israel from accountability to its military occupation and war crimes; but US vetoes were hardly enough to give Israel the legitimacy that it has long coveted. In a recent conversation with former UN human rights envoy, Richard Falk, the Princeton Professor Emeritus explained to me that, despite Israel’s ability to escape punishment, it is rapidly losing what he refers to as the ‘legitimacy war’.

Palestine, according to Falk, continues to win that war, one that can only be achieved through real, grassroots global solidarity. It is precisely this factor that explains Israel’s keen interest in transferring the battlefield to Africa and other parts of the Global South.

On July 5, 2016, then Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, kick-started Israel’s own ‘scramble for Africa’ with a visit to Kenya, which was described as historic by the Israeli media. Indeed, it was the first visit by an Israeli prime minister in the last 50 years. After spending some time in Nairobi, where he attended the Israel-Kenya Economic Forum alongside hundreds of Israeli and Kenyan business leaders, he moved on to Uganda, where he met leaders from other African countries including South Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Within the same month, Israel announced the renewal of diplomatic ties between Israel and Guinea.

The new Israeli strategy flowed from there. More high-level visits to Africa and triumphant announcements about new joint economic ventures and investments followed. In June 2017, Netanyahu took part in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. There, he went as far as rewriting history.

“Africa and Israel share a natural affinity,” Netanyahu claimed in his speech. “We have, in many ways, similar histories. Your nations toiled under foreign rule. You experienced horrific wars and slaughters. This is very much our history.” With these words, Netanyahu attempted, not only to hide Israel’s colonial intentions, but also rob Palestinians of their own history.

Moreover, the Israeli leader had hoped to crown his political and economic achievements with the Israel-Africa Summit, an event that was meant to officially welcome Israel, not to a specific African regional alliance, but to the whole of Africa. However, in September 2017, the organizers of the event decided to indefinitely postpone it, after it was confirmed to be taking place in Lome, capital of Togo, on October 23-27 of that same year. What was seen by Israeli leaders as a temporary setback was the result of intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying of several African and Arab countries, including South Africa and Algeria.

Premature ‘Victory’

Ultimately, it was a mere temporary setback. The admission of Israel into the 55-member African bloc in July is considered by Israeli officials and media pundits as a major political victory, especially as Tel Aviv has been laboring to achieve this status since 2002. At the time, many obstacles stood in the way, like the strong objection raised by Libya under the leadership of Muammar Ghaddafi and the insistence of Algeria that Africa must remain committed to its anti-Zionist ideals, and so on. However, one after the other, these obstacles were removed or marginalized.

In a recent statement, Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, celebrated Israel’s Africa membership as an “important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations”. According to Lapid, the exclusion of Israel from the AU was an “anomaly that existed for almost two decades”. Of course, not all African countries agree with Lapid’s convenient logic.

According to TRT news, citing Algerian media, 17 African countries, including Zimbabwe, Algeria and Liberia, have objected to Israel’s admission to the Union. In a separate statement, South Africa expressed outrage at the decision, describing the “unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union” as “appalling”. For his part, Algerian Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra, said that his country will “not stand idly by in front of this step taken by Israel and the African Union without consulting the member states.”

Despite Israel’s sense of triumphalism, it seems that the fight for Africa is still raging, a battle of politics, ideology and economic interests that is likely to continue unabated for years to come. However, for Palestinians and their supporters to have a chance at winning this battle, they must understand the nature of the Israeli strategy through which Israel depicts itself to various African countries as the savior, bestowing favors and introducing new technologies to combat real, tangible problems. Being more technologically advanced as compared to many African countries, Israel is able to offer its superior ‘security’, IT and irrigation technologies to African states in exchange for diplomatic ties, support at the UNGA and lucrative investments.

Consequently, Palestine’s Africa dichotomy rests partly on the fact that African solidarity with Palestine has historically been placed within the larger political framework of mutual African-Arab solidarity. Yet, with official Arab solidarity with Palestine now weakening, Palestinians are forced to think outside this traditional box, so that they may build direct solidarity with African nations as Palestinians, without necessarily merging their national aspirations with the larger, now fragmented, Arab body politic.

While such a task is daunting, it is also promising, as Palestinians now have the opportunity to build bridges of support and mutual solidarity in Africa through direct contacts, where they serve as their own ambassadors. Obviously, Palestine has much to gain, but also much to offer Africa. Palestinian doctors, engineers, civil defense and frontline workers, educationists, intellectuals and artists are some of the most highly qualified and accomplished in the Middle East. True, they have much to learn from their African peers, but also have much to give.

Unlike persisting stereotypes, many African universities, organizations and cultural centers serve as vibrant intellectual hubs. African thinkers, philosophers, writers, journalists, artists and athletes are some of the most articulate, empowered and accomplished in the world. Any pro-Palestine strategy in Africa should keep these African treasures in mind as a way of engaging, not only with individuals but with whole societies.

Israeli media reported extensively and proudly about Israel’s admission to the AU. The celebrations, however, might also be premature, for Africa is not a group of self-seeking leaders bestowing political favors in exchange for meager returns. Africa is also the heart of the most powerful anti-colonial trends the world has ever known. A continent of this size, complexity, and proud history cannot be written off as if a mere ‘prize’ to be won or lost by Israel and its neocolonial friends.

The post Palestine’s Africa Dichotomy: Is Israel Really ‘Winning’ Africa?   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots

Jonah Goldberg and Michael Ledeen have much in common. They are both writers and also cheerleaders for military interventions and, often, for frivolous wars. Writing in the conservative rag, The National Review, months before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Goldberg paraphrased a statement which he attributed to Ledeen with reference to the interventionist US foreign policy.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” Goldberg wrote, quoting Ledeen.

Those like Ledeen, the neoconservative intellectual henchman type, often get away with this kind of provocative rhetoric for various reasons. American intelligentsias, especially those who are close to the center of power in Washington DC, perceive war and military intervention as the foundation and baseline of their foreign policy analysis. The utterances of such statements are usually conveyed within friendly media and intellectual platforms, where equally hawkish, belligerent audiences cheer and laugh at the war-mongering muses. In the case of Ledeen, the receptive audience was the hardline, neoconservative, pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Predictably, AEI was one of the loudest voices urging for a war and invasion of Iraq prior to that calamitous decision by the George W. Bush Administration, which was enacted in March 2003.

Neoconservatism, unlike what the etymology of the name may suggest, was not necessarily confined to conservative political circles. Think tanks, newspapers and media networks that purport – or are perceived – to express liberal and even progressive thought today, like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, have dedicated much time and space to promoting an American invasion of Iraq as the first step of a complete US geostrategic military hegemony in the Middle East.

Like the National Review, these media networks also provided unhindered space to so-called neoconservative intellectuals who molded American foreign policy based on some strange mix between their twisted take on ethics and morality and the need for the US to ensure its global dominance throughout the 21st century. Of course, the neocons’ love affair with Israel has served as the common denominator among all individuals affiliated with this intellectual cult.

The main – and inconsequential – difference between Ledeen, for example, and those like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, is that the former is brazen and blunt, while the latter is delusional and manipulative. For his part, Friedman also supported the Iraq war, but only to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East and to fight ‘terrorism’. The pretense ‘war on terror’, though misleading if not outright fabricated, was the overriding American motto in its invasion of Iraq and, earlier, Afghanistan. This mantra was readily utilized whenever Washington needed to ‘pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall’.

Even those who genuinely supported the war based on concocted intelligence – that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction, or the equally fallacious notion that Saddam and Al-Qaeda cooperated in any way – must, by now, realize that the entire American discourse prior to the war had no basis in reality. Unfortunately, war enthusiasts are not a rational bunch. Therefore, neither they, nor their ‘intellectuals’, should be expected to possess the moral integrity in shouldering the responsibility for the Iraq invasion and its horrific consequences.

If, indeed, the US wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were meant to fight and uproot terror, how is it possible that, in June 2014, an erstwhile unknown group calling itself the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), managed to flourish, occupy and usurp massive swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories and resource under the watchful eye of the US military? If the other war objective was bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East, why did many years of US ‘state-building’ efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, leave behind nothing but weak, shattered armies and festering corruption?

Two important events have summoned up these thoughts: US President Joe Biden’s ‘historic’ trip to Cornwall, UK, in June, to attend the 47th G7 summit and, two weeks later, the death of Donald Rumsfeld, who is widely depicted as “the architect of the Iraq war”. The tone struck by Biden throughout his G7 meetings is that ‘America is back’, another American coinage similar to the earlier phrase, the ‘great reset’ – meaning that Washington is ready to reclaim its global role that had been betrayed by the chaotic policies of former President Donald Trump.

The newest phrase – ‘America is back’ – appears to suggest that the decision to restore the US’ uncontested global leadership is, more or less, an exclusively American decision. Moreover, the term is not entirely new. In his first speech to a global audience at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, Biden repeated the phrase several times with obvious emphasis.

“America is back. I speak today as President of the United States, at the very start of my administration and I am sending a clear message to the world: America is back,” Biden said, adding that “the transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking backward, we are looking forward together.”

Platitudes and wishful thinking aside, the US cannot possibly return to a previous geopolitical standing, simply because Biden has made an executive decision to ‘reset’ his country’s traditional relationships with Europe – or anywhere else, either.  Biden’s actual mission is to merely whitewash and restore his country’s tarnished reputation, marred not only by Trump, but also by years of fruitless wars, a crisis of democracy at home and abroad and an impending financial crisis resulting from the US’ mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately for Washington, while it hopes to ‘look forward’ to the future, other countries have already staked claims to parts of the world where the US has been forced to retreat, following two decades of a rudderless strategy that is fueled by the belief that firepower alone is sufficient to keep America aloft forever.

Though Biden was received warmly by his European hosts, Europe is likely to proceed cautiously. The continent’s geostrategic interests do not fall entirely in the American camp, as was once the case. Other new factors and power players have emerged in recent years. China is now the European bloc’s largest trade partner and Biden’s scare tactics warning of Chinese global dominance have not, seemingly, impressed the Europeans as the Americans had hoped. Following Britain’s unceremonious exit from the EU bloc, the latter urgently needs to keep its share of the global economy as large as possible. The limping US economy will hardly make the substantial deficit felt in Europe. Namely, the China-EU relationship is here to stay – and grow.

There is something else that makes the Europeans wary of whatever murky political doctrine Biden is promoting: dangerous American military adventurism.

The US and Europe are the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which, since its inception in 1949, was almost exclusively used by the US to assert its global dominance, first in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, then everywhere else.

Following the September 11 attacks, Washington used its hegemony over NATO to invoke Article 5 of its Charter, that of collective defense. The consequences were dire, as NATO members, along with the US, were embroiled in their longest wars ever, military conflicts that had no consistent strategy, let alone measurable goals. Now, as the US licks its wounds as it leaves Afghanistan, NATO members, too, are leaving the devastated country without a single achievement worth celebrating. Similar scenarios are transpiring in Iraq and Syria, too.

Rumsfeld’s death on June 29, at the age of 88, should serve as a wake-up call to American allies if they truly wish to avoid the pitfalls and recklessness of the past. While much of the US corporate media commemorated the death of a brutish war criminal with amiable non-committal language, some blamed him almost entirely for the Iraq fiasco. It is as if a single man had bent the will of the West-dominated international community to invade, pillage, torture and destroy entire countries. If so, then Rumsfeld’s death should usher in an exciting new dawn of collective peace, prosperity and security. This is not the case.

Rationalizing his decision to leave Afghanistan in a speech to the nation in April 2021, Biden did not accept, on behalf of his country, responsibility over that horrific war. Instead, he spoke of the need to fight the ‘terror threat’ in ‘many places’, instead of keeping ‘thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country’.

Indeed, a close reading of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan – a process which began under Trump – suggests that the difference between US foreign policy under Biden is only tactically different from the policies of George W. Bush when he launched his ‘preemptive wars’ under the command of Rumsfeld. Namely, though the geopolitical map may have shifted, the US appetite for war remains insatiable.

Shackled with a legacy of unnecessary, fruitless and immoral wars, yet with no actual ‘forward’ strategy, the US, arguably for the first time since the inception of NATO in the aftermath of World War II, has no decipherable foreign policy doctrine. Even if such a doctrine exists, it can only be materialized through alliances whose relationships are constructed on trust and confidence. Despite the EU’s courteous reception of Biden in Cornwall, trust in Washington is at an all-time low.

Even if it is accepted, without any argument, that America is, indeed, back, considering the vastly changing geopolitical spheres in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Biden’s assertion should, ultimately, make no difference.

The post US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism 

On April 1, a mural appeared in the Southern Italian city of Naples, depicting Palestinian workers lining at an Israeli military checkpoint near the occupied city of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. It is called ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

The mural, which quickly became popular in the town and on social media, was the work of a well-known Italian artist and photographer, Eduardo Castaldo.

Castaldo, who is a cinematic and television photographer, is not your typical artist, as he dedicates part of his time and efforts to championing struggles for human rights, equality and justice, especially in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

It is only befitting that Castaldo is from Naples, a Southern Italian city with deep historical and cultural connections with Palestine and the Arab world. As Italian culture had itself influenced the Arab world, numerous markers of Arab culture can also be detected in Naples, from the Neapolitan dialect to music and dance, to food and much more.

Moreover, Naples, itself, is a symbol of the Italian resistance. The September 1943 uprising, known as “Le Quattro Giornate di Napoli” – Four Days of Naples – was a watershed moment in the history of the city as it liberated itself from Nazi German occupation.

Castaldo’s mural of the Palestinian workers is not his only work on Palestine and the Middle East. He has done other artistic displays. Moreover, he has spent years in Palestine working as a photojournalist.

We spoke to the Italian artist to understand his connection with Palestine and the Arab world, his inspirations and his ongoing fight against injustice in all of its forms.

Capturing the Occupation 

This work originated from my experience as a photo reporter in the Middle East,Castaldo said in reference to ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

Castaldo worked as a photojournalist in Palestine for about four years, from 2007-2011. These years allowed him to immerse himself in the Palestinian experience and to “directly witness the cruel dynamics of Israeli military occupation.”

“I visited the Bethlehem checkpoint several times, where I took many photos. My street artwork is a collage of photos that I took at the time,” he tells us.

“That was a particularly harrowing experience,” Castaldo reflects:

I was standing outside the checkpoint bars, taking pictures of Palestinian workers between ages 30 and 60, even 70, piled on top of one another for hours to cross the checkpoint and reach Jerusalem to work. These people repeated this same routine every day, from as early as 4 AM to 8 AM. And every day, they were forced by circumstances to suffer that same dehumanizing experience, simply to earn meager amounts of money (to feed their families).

Castaldo felt “uncomfortable being a Western photojournalist, outside of the bars, taking pictures” of entrapped Palestinian workers. He explains the reasons behind his uneasiness:

These people were already deprived of their dignity and I didn’t feel I had the right to take photos of them as if they were animals in a zoo. This feeling was so unpleasant that I decided not to show or sell those pictures to newspapers.

But that feeling didn’t depart Castaldo’s conscience; in fact, it grew “stronger and stronger” to the point that Castaldo quit photojournalism altogether. Needless to say, those experiences in Palestine were imprinted in Castaldo’s mind until this day.

“After several years, around 2018, I decided to re-elaborate these photos and I turned them into something else entirely,” he says, explaining:

I put together 40-50 images in one single image, which won several awards, including the Sony World Photography Awards in 2018. Feeling the need to convey Palestinians’ painful experiences to the world, I transformed that picture into a street artwork. As an artist, that was my way to narrate that experience: both my feeling of discomfort and the humiliation and abuse that Palestinians were forced to suffer.

From Naples to Palestine

The Bethlehem mural is not the only street artwork that Castaldo dedicated to Palestine. In Via San Giovanni a Pignatelli, also in Naples, there is another breathtaking mural of a Neapolitan woman dumping a bucket of water at two Israeli soldiers who are trying to climb the wall.

Castaldo says that this work is, too, a “reconstruction of a photo taken during an Israeli military operation in Palestine”.

“The act of throwing water is quite common in Naples, especially by women who want to scare away kids when they are too loud in the street,” he says. “By associating this typical reaction with Israeli soldiers I tried to epitomize Naples’ solidarity with the Palestinian people. In my mind, that gesture became a symbol of anti-Zionist Naples.”

But Castaldo’s Palestinian inspiration exceeds that of the geographic boundaries of Palestine to Italy itself. “Subsequently, I decided to add an element to the Palestinian flag,” which is present in the mural, namely, a portrait of Ali Oraney, a Palestinian-Italian activist who has been living in Naples since the early 1980s and died from Covid-19 some months ago.

Ali played an important role in carrying out the struggle of the Palestinian people in Naples. He has been one of the key figures for the pro-Palestine activism in Naples and, more generally, in Italy and that is a tribute from my town to the Palestinian people and Ali.

Human Connection

Like other artists, journalists and other visitors to Palestine, the human connection, for Castaldo, was far more powerful a rapport than books and news broadcasts. Spending time with Palestinians is usually the best answer to the dehumanization they suffer at the hand of mainstream media.

“Living in Palestine and the Arab world allowed me to create a strong bond with ordinary people living there, with their experiences, and with their daily struggles,” he says.

“I have made friends with many people there and I had the chance to experience some of these things firsthand, as a journalist and a human being. This is essentially what created my bond with the Palestinian people.”

Art and Change

We asked Castaldo whether he believes that art is capable of altering reality in any way.

As an artist “I have no illusion that my art can change things on the ground,” he says. “However, it is a way to offer my skills to what I perceive as important. It has undoubtedly a personal value to me. And I believe the political value of my artworks is intrinsically linked to the places in which they are set.”  Castaldo’s “ultimate goal is to connect the city of Naples, where I live, to this cause.”

On art, politics, and freedom, the accomplished Italian artist says:

I am perfectly aware that my art will not change such a dramatic political situation or have a key role, but I also think it can contribute because art is freedom. And, to me, it is important to point out that this freedom is not neutral, it has to stand on one side, on the right side.

Beyond Palestine

Castaldo’s morally motivated and politically conscious artwork spans other areas and subjects beyond Palestine, although, at their core, all of these issues are connected.

Castaldo, who also worked as a photojournalist during the Egyptian revolution, dedicated another mural to Giulio Regeni, a young Italian scholar who was murdered in Egypt, presumably by Egyptian security forces.

The mural was not only dedicated to Giulio Regeni, but to the Egyptian situation as a whole, because Regeni was part of it. Moreover, my ultimate goal was not only to denounce the single violation against Regeni but the repressive system in Egypt in its entirety.

Castaldo is particularly happy that his artwork is very popular in the Middle East, where he continues to receive much support and accolades from the people and fellow artists in the region.

“Thanks to social media, my works are more popular in the Middle East than in Europe. And I have to say that their positive reactions, their support, and their solidarity make me proud,” he says.

Castaldo is not a typical artist. Ethics and morality play a crucial role in everything he does. He takes his inspiration from the people, and whenever possible, he exhibits his work also to the people. He feeds on the love and support he acquires from ordinary people, whether in Palestine or in Naples.

This artist of the people is on a mission to convey the kind of pain, suffering, and indignity that proud people often undergo in isolation. His art also tells the story of pride, beauty, and hope for a brighter future.

The post “Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing

Censorship comes in many forms. One of [them] is a colossal moral indifference to official crimes at the highest levels of our government.

— Ralph Nader, April 17, 2021, Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Disclaimer: This is not a traditional mainstream or even left-stream book review. However, Steven C. Markoff’s book does play as the impetus and linchpin to my essay, more of an analysis/reaction to his book.  I give The Case Against George W. Bush, high marks. Read Steve’s book. Press your respective legislators to push for an investigation of W.’s crimes. Markoff sets out in the book about how those crimes were committed. I reference those. He completes his case: The evidence is there to prosecute and find guilty the 43rd President of the USA, George W. Bush.

Nader’s Raiders of the Lost Warriors

I was hitting the old Ralph Nader podcast a week ago when I stumbled upon Steven C. Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush. Nader had Markoff on his podcast, and both talked about the crimes of W Bush, and even more pertinently, the lack of a criminal case against George W. Bush, as well as the crickets in the so-called liberal media (SCLM) as well in the left press concerning Steve’s book.

I quickly emailed Steve for a copy of his book to review, and he came back at me with a PDF of this book which, as I have stated, has been iced out of mainstream media: no interviews, no reviews let alone getting Steve into a room one-on-one, or onto a Zoom call with other guests to parse his well-researched, well-quoted book on the crimes of George W. Bush.

The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Of course, those crimes are more than crimes of omission, or crimes of secret rendition and torture sites, or the crimes of Abu Ghraib “prison” and Guantanamo. The crime was more than just all the lies about WMD’s and Saddam murdering babies. The big crime was Bush and his Regime of psychotic sociopaths of the neocon variety completely derailing valid, active and clear intelligence that Osama bin Laden was about to make a huge fiery asymmetrical splash on the world stage.

Markoff lays out the daily briefs, the back and forth communiqués, the speeches Bush and others on his team made which all provides evidence of what “we” know about Osama bin Laden. The entire gambit goes back to the Soviet Union’s role in Afghanistan, then with Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and leading up to the ex-governor of Texas, W Bush.

Carter Doctrine 25 years before 9/11

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter’s man  got the Soviet Union and then USA, all tangled up in Afghanistan.

The best way for us to understand Afghanistan is to look at the record of American involvement going back four decades and to look at the record requires a reexamination of President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. From the start, U.S. policy formation surrounding Afghanistan has lived in a realm of magical thinking that has produced nothing but a catastrophe of nightmarish proportions. Brzezinski impacted the future of American foreign policy by monopolizing the Carter administration in ways that few outside the White House understand. In his role as national security advisor he put himself in a position to control information into and out of the White House and when it came to Afghanistan – to use it for whatever purposes he saw fit.

“Brzezinski was an obsessive Russia-hater to the end. That led to the monumental failures of Carter’s term in office; the hatreds Brzezinski released had an impact which continues to be catastrophic for the rest of the world.” Helmer wrote in 2017, “To Brzezinski goes the credit for starting most of the ills – the organization, financing, and armament of the mujahedeen the Islamic fundamentalists who have metastasized – with US money and arms still – into Islamic terrorist armies operating far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Brzezinski started them off.”

— ‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

The Clinton “team” briefed the incoming George W. Bush “team” before his January 2001 inauguration about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. For the younger Bush, he repudiated the evidence trail from so many intelligence sources. His eyes were on Operation Iraqi Freedom, but first called, O.I.L,  which was propagated by Jay Leno incessantly after it was blurted out from the source:

On the afternoon of March 24, 2003 days after the U.S launched missiles at Baghdad to start the illegal war, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer held a press briefing. After a few minutes, a couple of sentences into the briefing, he verbally stumbled on the name of Bush’s war, stating, “Operation Iraqi, uh, Liberation.”

Calling it “Operation Iraqi Freedom” officially is just more War is Peace, Lies are Truth bullshit. And that 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ― “Operation Enduring Freedom” – is yet more of the PT Barnum spin, all catalogued in the annals of United States Central Command and U.S. Army War College.

Trail of Tears, Trails of Evidence

Markoff’s book is a straightforward record of myriad published records – taped speeches, newspaper articles/Op-Eds, sections from books, redacted memos and top secret records. As a buttress to the asymmetrical history of what happened leading up to and during the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequently all that went wrong in the Middle East, this upcoming 20th anniversary of 9/11, Markoff’s book should be required reading.

But reading isn’t enough for just consuming Markoff’s book, and reading it is not enough for those of us who have been fighting the wars, those in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all the others. What we need is a truth and reconciliation hearing for all those murdered in the September 11 attacks (around 3,000) as well as the countless hundreds of thousands (several million some estimates determine up to today) killed when the USA bombed and razed Iraq.

The deep links between terror attacks and Southwest Florida - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL

Remember that famous photo of Bush reading about a goat to kids in Florida:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bush was at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida, reading “My Pet Goat.”

Oh, his dedication to inner-city first graders and listening to them recite the goat story is golden. Earlier, Bush had been on the way from his hotel to the school in his motorcade when it was reported to him a passenger jet had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Old commander in Chief Bush believed the crash was an accident caused, perhaps, by pilot error.

That old goat, man, what a story, so much so that when Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, entered the classroom at 9:06 to tell this president a second airplane had struck the South Tower and that the nation was under attack, Bush stayed on his duff for seven more minutes, following along as the children finished reading the book.

“Class Goat”

Goat may be an old West Point term for the man/woman graduating last in his/her class, but one infamous George the Goat from the Army Academy is none other than George Armstrong Custer.

Unfortunately, the proverbial goat in America’s eyes is the million people murdered and millions more suffering because of the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Steve’s book lays out the three legal frameworks or cases for prosecuting Bush (and solely Bush, not Bush and Company LLC) for crimes against humanity (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Bush’s own responsibility for those several thousand who died on that fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Mathematician Finally Solves Goat Problem: Here's the Answer

Here’s part of a blurb on the book’s web site, Rare Bird Lit:

Steven C. Markoff presents sourced evidence of three crimes committed by George W. Bush during his presidency: his failure to take warnings of coming terror attacks on our country seriously; taking the United States, by deception, into an unnecessary and disastrous 2003 war with Iraq; costing the lives of more than 4,000 Americans and 500,000 others; and breaking domestic and international laws by approving the torture as means to extract information. While Markoff lays out his case of the crimes, he leaves it up to the reader to decide the probable guilt of George W. Bush and his actions regarding the alleged crimes.

Casualties of War — Truth, Honor, Duty to Protect 

I had cut my teeth as a reporter in El Paso and elsewhere covering and following that other container ship of lies – Reagan’s crew of felons and thugs who philandered the American public with their special form of Murder Incorporated in Central America, and notably, Nicaragua. Or the illegal invasion of Panama under George H. W. Bush. Oh, those invasions, coups, clandestine bombings, proxy wars, incursions, secret operations, PsyOps.

I even ended up “down south,” in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua running into all sorts of odd fellows in the “drugs for guns” continuing criminal enterprise involving some of this country’s more nefarious “diplomats” and “generals” and CIA/NSA scum. Oh, those yellow belly Contras, murdering civilians and bombing schools and clinics for Reagan and Company. Those freedom fighters, AKA, the biggest lying cheats in recent times in Central America, Los Contras.

And the dead horse isn’t dead, and another author, like Markoff, just couldn’t buy the bs on those Contras:

Thus, in his 2012 book, The Manufacturing of a President, Wayne Madsen claims, based upon his numerous intelligence sources, that the CIA and Mossad have both been funding these rearmed Contras, and that they have been shipping these Contras arms over both the Honduran and Costa Rican borders.  He claims also that the Honduran government which came to power through the 2009 coup – a coup which the Obama Administration actively aided and abetted to unseat a leftist government which, by the way, happened to be friendly to Daniel Ortega – has been key to helping both support the Contras as well as to provide a staging ground for the covert operations to bring down the Sandinista government.  In other words, Honduras is playing the very same role it did in the 1980s, and the US-backed coup in 2009 – a mere 2 years after Ortega was elected – was crucial to this role.

Dan Kovalik

Of course, the Bush Family Legacy was also all written over that fiasco, and again, it was easy for me to continue my penchant for understanding how rotten the United States is as I am the son of a Vietnam War regular army veteran, who put in 31 years in uniform.

Lords of War, the Racket that is General Smedley Butler’s war warnings. Or Gary Webb, killing the messenger, the same CIA-infused Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times, to just name a few of the publications that corrupted the real work of Webb uncovering that entire drugs for guns Mafiosi.

Robert Parry, deceased now, but a journalist who started Consortium News in 1994, with Webb as one of his big stories on how bad the US government is, and how bad the mainstream media has become.

Here, Parry:

So what I was seeking by the mid-1990s was some solid ground in which to plant a flag for honest journalism, rather than constantly being forced into retreat, pulled by nervous editors and producers looking over their shoulders out of fear of right-wing retaliation. From solid ground, I thought, we could produce journalism that simply assessed the facts and made independent judgments regardless of who might be offended.

In 1995, it was my oldest son, Sam, who suggested the then-novel idea of “a Web site.” I didn’t fully understand what a Web site was and Sam was no techie but he demonstrated extraordinary patience in building our original Internet presence. (Back then, there were no templates; you had to start from scratch.) We married old-fashioned investigative reporting with the new technology of the Internet and began publishing groundbreaking investigative articles.

We followed evidence where it went, even when it flew in the face of the conventional wisdom, such as our work on the 1980 October Surprise issue of whether Reagan and Bush went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back during his Iran-hostage negotiations, much the way Nixon had in sabotaging Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

Not only did we present our own original work but we buttressed investigations by other serious journalists, such as Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News when, in 1996, he revived Ronald Reagan’s Contra-cocaine scandal. When the major newspapers set out to destroy Webb and discredit his revelations, Consortiumnews was one outlet that took on the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Yes, we were outgunned. Despite showing that Webb was not only right but actually understated the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking, we still could not save Webb from having his career destroyed and then watching the big newspapers essentially high-five each other for having helped cover up a serious crime of state.

The Three Crimes of the POTUS #43 (Secret Service called him Trailblazer)

I am not going astray here, kind reader. What Steven talked a lot about on the Ralph Nader podcast was how that same media, the So-called Liberal Press, has virtually gone silent on his book, a type of passive censorship that can eat at the soul of any author.

In reality, the “case against Bush” is the case against mainstream media/press and their close ties to not just the chambers of power, but within their “embeddedness,” inside the ranks, as well as their allegiance to, and participation in, the national security state’s various bureaus of hit men and hit women.

When I finished the book, I offered the book to everybody that I had quoted, which was… around ninety authors. I offered it to Condoleezza Rice, I offered it to Dick Cheney, I offered it to the [George W.] Bush [Presidential] Library. I haven’t heard from one person about the book.

— Steven Markoff stated on Nader’s show.

Interestingly, Markoff incorporates Richard Clarke’s words as a preface to this book. Clarke actually strips culpability from Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others laying the blame on Bush personally. Here, early in Markoff’s book, Clarke puts it clearly in his mind.

While I may be considered by some to be prejudiced in my judgment, there are facts that any objective observer must accept.

• First, Bush ignored warnings about the serious threat from Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.
• Second, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in violation of international law, when Iraq had been uninvolved in 9/11 and offered no imminent threat to the United States.
• Third, Bush authorized the use of torture and denied prisoners due process, both acts in violation of international law.

Note that in each case I say that Bush did these things, not the Bush administration. There is a revisionist school that seeks to place the blame on Bush’s vice president, Richard B. Cheney. While there can be little doubt that Cheney encouraged Bush to take many of these actions, it is not true that the president was merely a tool of a mendacious and scheming subordinate.

The evidence is now clear that Bush agreed with his vice president and knew full well what he was doing. He was an enthusiastic participant, a believer in the war on terror and the war on Iraq. It is true, however, that he did not master or manage the details of either war until the last few years of his eight-year presidency.

— Richard A. Clarke, in the Forward of Markoff’s book.

[In 1992, President George H. W. Bush appointed Richard A. Clarke to chair the Counterterrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National Security Council. President Bill Clinton retained Clarke and in 1998 promoted him to the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. Under President George W. Bush, Clarke initially continued in the same position and later became the special advisor to the president on cyber security. He left his government position prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.]

Markoff uses Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, as a touchstone of sorts. That was in 2007.

Importantly, Clarke had the necessary government background, involvement, and position to know about what he wrote. When I finished Clarke’s book, I was shocked. Could Bush have really disregarded threats of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11? If so, was there a compelling reason that Bush spent his political capital and energy going after Hussein? Could it be that George W. Bush’s Iraq War was about oil?

It occurred to me that while Clarke seemed knowledgeable about terrorists, 9/11, and the run up to our 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was just one person, and his knowledge was limited to what he had personally seen and learned.

I thought that if I combined details from Clarke’s book with related information from other diverse sources with inside or special knowledge of those times and places, that combined information could produce new and clearer insights about 9/11 and the Iraq War. I then set out to find what additional facts and information were available on those and related topics.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Torture, Rendition, Yellow Cake, WMD’s

I remember protesting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales June 27, 2007, in Spokane, when he showed up to talk about his department under Bush. Many of us were there to protest publicly Gonzales and the Bush administration, for many things, including that 2002 memo written by Gonzales that said Bush had the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties that protect prisoners of war.

Oh, the long arm of the “law” that Wednesday afternoon took a good friend down to the ground, arborist Dan Treecraft. He did nothing wrong, but Dan along with another person, was arrested for public disturbance.

I was there with students of mine from two community colleges where I taught, and alas, even those two respective presidents and chairs of the department where I taught thought they had the right to tell a faculty member what he could and couldn’t do as part of a class assignment on “what it’s like to come out and protest a representative of your/our government who states torture is okay.”

Ironically, he was in Spokane to talk about “gang enforcement,” and Gonzales  wasn’t alluding to the biggest continuing criminal enterprise Gang called the United States of America.

Steve’s book is a guide, a probable pathway for lawmakers, voters, and others, including the Press, to ratchet up the attention on George W. Bush the War Criminal, and to put to rest the fawning and ameliorating reputation of Bush as The Painter (sic) Friend of Michelle Obama and Ellen.

The kicker in Markoff’s book, says it all, quite damningly, but the reality is that the War is a Racket machine is a very fine tuned complex – Big Business Complex: Burger King, et al; Home Depot, et al; Mercenaries ‘R Us, et al; paint, air conditioning, roads, drywall, vehicles, depleted uranium, fuel, water, food suppliers, et al; all those financial products, that medical complex et al; Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Chemical, Big Prison et al, all in the manner of the for-profit system that is subsidized – welfare-ized – by the US taxpayer. Insanity we have already seen in other wars, and that War on Vietnam, not enough lessons learned there? I’ve been up close and personal with that war, in Vietnam as a civilian, and as a son of a wounded regular Army officer, social worker for wounded veterans, homeless vets and their families, instructor of college writing for Vietnam veterans.

There is no urban legend attributed to those $200 hammers and $600 toilet seats and $2000 each bolts holding the shrouding of Patriot missiles. War is graft central, and how many millionaires and billionaires were created after World War I? Read General Butler’s, War is a Racket.

Evidence of Crimes as Eight Bullet Points

This shit is personal to me, as well, since I have had friends and students coming back from Bush’s wars, full of trauma, fucked up beyond repair, walking PTSD warriors with all that resentment, anger and physical outbursts, and nowhere to go. Here is Steve’s book, again, near the end:

Could the following quote from Payback, a book by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, in part on the strategy of redirected aggression, explain Bush’s taking our country to war on his misleading and false premises?

“George W. Bush and his Administration were not stooges at all, but quite brilliant. They read the need of most Americans at the time: to hit someone, hard, so as to redirect their suffering and anger [from 9/11]. The evidence is overwhelming that for the Bush Administration’s ‘neocons,’ the September 11 attacks were not the reason for the Iraq War; rather, it was a convenient excuse for doing something upon which they had already decided. Their accomplishment—if such is the correct word—was identifying the post-9/11 mood of the American people, and manipulating this mood, brilliantly, toward war.”

It’s difficult to fathom the extent of the death and destruction caused by George W. Bush’s three crimes, but his legacy of death and destruction are of Olympic proportions.

  •  An estimated 2,977 people killed by the attacks on 9/11, and thousands more injured or incapacitated that day. In addition, hundreds if not thousands have died and will die early from the toxic air from the collapse of the Twin Towers and its aftermath.
  • By one count, there were 4,400 United States personnel killed and 30,000 wounded in the Iraq War as of August 31, 2010; tens of thousands more wounded physically and emotionally crippled by participating in that war; millions of Americans and their families destroyed, devastated, and/or traumatized by 9/11 and Bush’s 2003 Iraq War.
  •  As many as 650,000 deaths or more from Bush’s Iraq War, deaths that wouldn’t have occurred but for that war.
  •  Many of our civil rights, and the civil rights of others around the world, were curtailed due to the fear created by 9/11, a fear used by some as an opportunity to weaken our liberties.
  •  Three to seven trillion dollars in costs to our country from 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Those unnecessary trillions were and will be added to our national debt, a sum burdening our future, the future of our children, and perhaps of generations to come.
  •  Bush’s torture of prisoners puts American soldiers captured in future wars at greater risk of being tortured.
  •  The loss of America’s prestige and moral authority from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq War and torturing prisoners will hurt our country in the years ahead.
  •  Sixteen different US spy agencies on September 24, 2006, concluded that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq since March 2003 has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicals— effectively increasing the terror threat in the years after 9/11—and that the Bush administration tortured detainees and that torture wasn’t effective in securing intel otherwise unavailable.

Because America invaded a sovereign country without credible reason and tortured prisoners, how can we say without hypocrisy that other countries shouldn’t do the same to other nations or to us? What moral authority do we have to tell others it is wrong to torture?

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Pretty damning, and as I file this review/analysis/rant, that W is at it again, and his stupidity is the stunt, no, smart as a fox, or pet-painting war criminal?

George W Bush shakes hands with Condoleezza Rice in Washington DC on 5 January 2006.

In a People interview, the former president said he told his former secretary of state he had written for her. “She knows it,” said Bush, 74, “But she told me she would refuse to accept the office.”

Bush has been doing press to support the release of his book, Out of Many, One, which features his painted portraits of American immigrants and the stories of their lives.

He called current-day Republicans “isolationist, protectionist, and, to a certain extent, nativist.”

“Really what I should have said — there’s loud voices who are isolationists, protectionists and nativists, something, by the way, I talked about when I was president,” Bush said. “My concerns [are] about those -isms, but I painted with too broad a brush … because by saying what I said, it excluded a lot of Republicans who believe we can fix the problem.”

Shadow of War — Ghosts of the Dead

We’ll see if People magazine interviews Markoff, and gets a bit under the skin of his fine book, all 360 pages, with a decent bibliography and works cited section.

His conclusion:

Regardless of how I or others see what I submit are Bush’s criminal acts, some will continue to argue that while he wasn’t a perfect president, at least he rid the world of the tyrant, Hussein. Yes, he did, but for what reason, by what method, and at what cost?

In addition to the unnecessary deaths and wounding of thousands of brave Americans, hundreds of thousands of others died and were injured from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq invasion. The trillions of dollars Bush’s war has cost has and will continue to be added to our national debt. A debt saddling our future.

In conclusion, I believe the evidence in this book shows Bush’s three crimes were reckless, dishonest, and tragically unnecessary.

I rest my case.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Of course, there are gross inaccuracies when it comes to US-induced casualties, and the first casualty of war is truth, for sure:

Of the countries where the U.S. and its allies have been waging war since 2001, Iraq is the only one where epidemiologists have actually conducted comprehensive mortality studies based on the best practices that they have developed in war zones such as Angola, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In all these countries, as in Iraq, the results of comprehensive epidemiological studies revealed 5 to 20 times more deaths than previously published figures based on “passive” reporting by journalists, NGOs or governments.

Taking ORB’s estimate of 1.033 million killed by June 2007, then applying a variation of Just Foreign Policy’s methodology from July 2007 to the present using revised figures from Iraq Body Count, we estimate that 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 as a result of our country’s illegal invasion, with a minimum of 1.5 million and a maximum of 3.4 million.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies, March 19, 2018

main article image

[Civil protection rescue teams work on the debris of a destroyed house to recover the body of people killed in an airstrike during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)]

For Markoff, it’s the lives that were destroyed by Bush. That is the echo in his words, and the ghosts of those murdered are the shadows between the lines in The Case Against George W. Bush. 

Roots of Zionism and U.S. Liberty to Iraq and Now Iran

Alas, I am ending this analysis/response to Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush, by slogging through another quagmire, and then some reference to books on just who was lobbying to attack Iraq. We have Markoff trying to open up a case against W. Bush, and his book is clear, focused, not one we’d expect in the pantheon of history books or investigative research/journalistic screeds.

Some writers, thinkers, educators and journalists (such as myself), however, were already looking into the scope of this terror campaign, the implications of US Patriot Act, the entire mess that is Israel’s murderous mucking about in the Middle East with Israel-Firster American corporate heads, administration wonks, politicians and more clandestine and nefarious actors behind the scenes, supreme puppet masters and Svengali types.

All those Israeli wars led to the destruction of Lebanon, Syria and the biggest obstacle at the time, Iraq.

And, here I go again, tangentially putting more fuel into the fires that immolated Iraq and which have blazed through the Middle East before and during and since W. Bush and his Klan invaded the Middle East.

Here, I reference a recent piece by Timothy Alexander Guzman who briefly alludes to the AIPAC/Israel/Israel-firster connection to the invasion(s) of Iraq in his piece, “The Prospect of a Major False-Flag Operation in the Middle-East Grows by the Day: Remembering June 8th, 1967 the Day Israel Attacked the USS Liberty: “It’s was all part of the long-term plan and Iraq was part of that plan, in fact, the most powerful lobby in Washington is AIPAC and the Bush neoconservatives including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, Elliot Abrams and others who pushed Washington into a war with Iraq. According to John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)  was a major supporter for the War on Iraq”:

AIPAC usually supports what Israel wants, and Israel certainly wanted the United States to invade Iraq. Nathan Guttman made this very connection in his reporting [in Haaretz, April 2003] on AIPAC’s annual conference in the spring of 2003, shortly after the war started: “AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war, so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital.” AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr’s statement to the New York Sun in January 2003 is even more revealing, as he acknowledged “‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq” was one of “AIPAC’s successes over the past year.” And in a lengthy New Yorker profile of Steven J. Rosen, who was AIPAC’s policy director during the run-up to the Iraq war, Jeffrey Goldberg reported that “AIPAC lobbied Congress in favor of the Iraq war.”

— John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

 

Liberty Survivors Say US Still Downplays Israel's Attack on Ship | Military.com

[Oh, that anniversary, of the attack by Israel on the Liberty, June 8th (1967)]

I suppose this entire mess that Markoff catalogues in his book, as a triumvirate of crimes by George W. Bush, could for me, personally, be summed up, in my mind, with President George W. Bush, speaking at the annual AIPAC conference in May of 2004:

You’ve always understood and warned against the evil ambition of terrorism and their networks. In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever.

Steven Markoff doesn’t go there, for sure, and that is what makes Markoff’s book unique, too:  a clean record of the mess and blunder and murderous trail George W. Bush left in his wake as leader of the so-called “free world.”

The post W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From the Earth to the Moon: Biden’s China Policy Doomed from the Start

A much anticipated American foreign policy move under the Biden Administration on how to counter China’s unhindered economic growth and political ambitions came in the form of a virtual summit on March 12, linking, aside from the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

Although the so-called ‘Quad’ revealed nothing new in their joint statement, the leaders of these four countries spoke about the ‘historic’ meeting, described by ‘The Diplomat’ website as “a significant milestone in the evolution of the grouping”.

Actually, the joint statement has little substance and certainly nothing new by way of a blueprint on how to reverse – or even slow down – Beijing’s geopolitical successes, growing military confidence and increasing presence in or around strategic global waterways.

For years, the ‘Quad’ has been busy formulating a unified China strategy but it has failed to devise anything of practical significance. ‘Historic’ meetings aside, China is the world’s only major economy that is predicted to yield significant economic growth this year – and imminently. International Monetary Fund’s projections show that the Chinese economy is expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2021 while, on the other hand, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US’ GDP has declined by around 3.5 percent in 2020.

The ‘Quad’ – which stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – began in 2007, and was revived in 2017, with the obvious aim of repulsing China’s advancement in all fields. Like most American alliances, the ‘Quad’ is the political manifestation of a military alliance, namely the Malabar Naval Exercises. The latter started in 1992 and soon expanded to include all four countries.

Since Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’; i.e., the reversal of established US foreign policy that was predicated on placing greater focus on the Middle East, there is little evidence that Washington’s confrontational policies have weakened Beijing’s presence, trade or diplomacy throughout the continent. Aside from close encounters between the American and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, there is very little else to report.

While much media coverage has focused on the US’ pivot to Asia, little has been said about China’s pivot to the Middle East, which has been far more successful as an economic and political endeavor than the American geostrategic shift.

The US’ seismic change in its foreign policy priorities stemmed from its failure to translate the Iraq war and invasion of 2003 into a decipherable geo-economic success as a result of seizing control of Iraq’s oil largesse – the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves. The US strategy proved to be a complete blunder.

In an article published in the Financial Times in September 2020, Jamil Anderlini raises a fascinating point. “If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot,” he wrote.

Not only is China now Iraq’s biggest trading partner, Beijing’s massive economic and political influence in the Middle East is a triumph. China is now, according to the Financial Times, the Middle East’s biggest foreign investor and a strategic partnership with all Gulf States – save Bahrain. Compare this with Washington’s confused foreign policy agenda in the region, its unprecedented indecisiveness, absence of a definable political doctrine and the systematic breakdown of its regional alliances.

This paradigm becomes clearer and more convincing when understood on a global scale. By the end of 2019, China became the world’s leader in terms of diplomacy, as it then boasted 276 diplomatic posts, many of which are consulates. Unlike embassies, consulates play a more significant role in terms of trade and economic exchanges. According to 2019 figures which were published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine, China has 96 consulates compared with the US’ 88. Till 2012, Beijing lagged significantly behind Washington’s diplomatic representation, precisely by 23 posts.

Wherever China is diplomatically present, economic development follows. Unlike the US’ disjointed global strategy, China’s global ambitions are articulated through a massive network, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, estimated at trillions of dollars. When completed, BRI is set to unify more than sixty countries around Chinese-led economic strategies and trade routes. For this to materialize, China quickly moved to establish closer physical proximity to the world’s most strategic waterways, heavily investing in some and, as in the case of Bab al-Mandab Strait, establishing its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

At a time when the US economy is shrinking and its European allies are politically fractured, it is difficult to imagine that any American plan to counter China’s influence, whether in the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else, will have much success.

The biggest hindrance to Washington’s China strategy is that there can never be an outcome in which the US achieves a clear and precise victory. Economically, China is now driving global growth, thus balancing out the US-international crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurting China economically would weaken the US as well as the global markets.

The same is true politically and strategically. In the case of the Middle East, the pivot to Asia has backfired on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it registered no palpable success in Asia while, on the other, it created a massive vacuum for China to refocus its own strategy in the Middle East.

Some wrongly argue that China’s entire political strategy is predicated on its desire to merely ‘do business’. While economic dominance is historically the main drive of all superpowers, Beijing’s quest for global supremacy is hardly confined to finance. On many fronts, China has either already taken the lead or is approaching there. For example, on March 9, China and Russia signed an agreement to construct the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Considering Russia’s long legacy in space exploration and China’s recent achievements in the field – including the first-ever spacecraft landing on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon – both countries are set to take the lead in the resurrected space race.

Certainly, the US-led ‘Quad’ meeting was neither historic nor a game changer, as all indicators attest that China’s global leadership will continue unhindered, a consequential event that is already reordering the world’s geopolitical paradigms which have been in place for over a century.

The post From the Earth to the Moon: Biden’s China Policy Doomed from the Start first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A New U.S. Foreign Policy

President Biden has inherited a terribly flawed US foreign policy. For the past few decades, the pro-corporate US foreign policy has been a catastrophic failure, especially in the Middle East. Our criminal military interventions there have resulted in the devastation of much of that area, impoverished millions, created millions of refugees, and injured or killed millions more. Moreover, this criminal policy has wasted trillions of US taxpayer dollars, injured or killed thousands of US forces, and has badly damaged US strategic interests.

The illegal US use of aggressive sanctions against nations that don’t follow its dictates has also harmed tens of millions of people worldwide. In addition, US pro-corporate trade policies as well as the US-influenced International Monetary Fund and World Bank have impoverished tens of millions in the Third World. Perhaps of even greater importance, the US-led opposition to enforceable policies that ameliorate the effects of climate chaos threatens billions of people.

Clearly these ruinous policies need to be changed. The Biden administration must seize this opportunity and implement a sane foreign policy. Below are some excellent principles that provide a guideline for such a foreign policy. These principles were laid out in the “ Cross of Iron” speech delivered by President Dwight Eisenhower on April 16, 1953. Two lengthy excerpts from this speech are shown next.

He said:

The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third: Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.
And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

Later in this speech, Eisenhower added:

This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the underdeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitability and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.  The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.  We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United Nations an institution that can effectively g uard the peace and security of all peoples.

Eisenhower also pointed out the implications of spending huge amounts on military weapons in terms of homes, schools, hospitals, etc. that weren’t built.

President Eisenhower plainly recognized that our security and well-being, as well as that of all people on the planet, come from cooperation, not competition. Once we understand this point, the necessary policies become clear. In summary, President Eisenhower, a military icon who knew well the horrors of war, specifically stressed respect for the sovereignty of nations, the need to make the U.N. stronger, spoke against forced changes in regimes or economic systems, called for military disarmament and supported world aid and reconstruction. Even though he wasn’t correct in describing what the US was willing to do or its path, imagine the difference had Eisenhower or any of his successors followed through on his words.

President Biden now has the opportunity to follow Eisenhower’s counsel in a world where US actions have destroyed the myth of its moral authority or of being the exceptional nation. The US must work to rejoin the community of nations by complying with international law instead of running roughshod over it. This means among other things that the US must stop threatening other nations as well as ending its illegal sanctions.

In particular, possible steps the Biden administration could take in collaboration with the international community are:

  • share covid-19 vaccines with all nations at an affordable cost; may require the temporary suspension of patents;
  • create enforceable steps for dealing with climate chaos including a large and increasing carbon tax; and fulfill funding climate change commitments to Third World nations;
  • drastically reduce weapons spending, disband NATO and rely on the UN and diplomacy for settling conflicts; may require the ability to override a veto in the Security Council;
  • strongly support international law and human rights for Palestinians; also support enforcement of the Right of Return for Palestinians;
  • rejoin weapons treaties including the JCPOA (aka, the Iran Nuclear Deal) and ratify the Ban Nuclear Weapons Treaty;
  • pay reparations for their rebuilding to nations the US has devastated;
  • close overseas military bases;
  • end unilateral sanctions, especially those against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea; and,
  • strongly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Disappointingly, it appears as if President Biden will continue to pursue the disastrous US foreign policy. It is up to us, we the people, to convince President Biden and Congress to put the public interest over corporate profits.

The post A New U.S. Foreign Policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Beyond Slogans: Palestinians Need an Urgent, Centralized Strategy to Counter Israel in Africa

Arab normalization with Israel is expected to have serious consequences that go well beyond the limited and self-serving agendas of a few Arab countries. Thanks to the Arab normalizers, the doors are now flung wide open for new political actors to extend or cement ties with Israel at the expense of Palestine, without fearing any consequences to their actions.

African countries, especially those who worked diligently to integrate Israel into the continent’s mainstream body politic, are now seizing on the perfect opportunity to bring all African countries on board, including those who have historically and genuinely stood on the side of Palestinians.

‘Empower Africa’, an Israeli firm that is constantly seeking financial opportunities throughout the African continent, was one out of many who jumped on the opportunity to exploit Arab normalization with Israel. The goal is about maximizing their profits while promoting Arab normalization as if an economic opportunity for struggling African economies. In December, ‘Empower Africa ’hosted its first event in Dubai under the title “UAE and Israel Uniting with Africa”. In its press release, celebrating what is meant to be a momentous occasion, the Israeli company said that its guests included representatives from UAE, Israel, Bahrain, Nigeria, Rwanda, Egypt, among others.

Such events are meant to translate normalization with Israel into economic opportunities that will entangle, aside from Arab countries, African, Asian and other traditional supporters of Palestine, worldwide. The central message that the advocates of normalization with Israel are now  sending to the rest of the world is that closer ties with Tel Aviv will guarantee many benefits, not only direct American support, but innumerable economic benefits as well.

Those who promote solidarity with Palestine worldwide, based on moral maxims, are correct to argue that solidarity and intersectionality are crucial in the fight against injustice everywhere. However, realpolitik is rarely shaped by moral visions. This is the truth that Palestinians now have to contend with, as they watch their own Arab and Muslim brothers move, one after the other, to the Israeli camp.

Unfortunately, it was the Palestinian leadership itself that strengthened the normalization argument many years ago, especially in the early 1990s, when it first agreed to negotiate unconditionally with Israel, under the auspices of the US and not exclusively the United Nations. The Palestinian/Arab engagement with Israel in the Madrid Talks in 1991 provided the impetus for Washington to reverse a 1975 UN Resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

Ironically, it was the African Union that, in fact, first championed UN Resolution 3379, soon after it passed its own Resolution 77 (XII), earlier that year in the Kampala Assembly of  Heads of State and Governments, where it condemned Zionism as a racist, colonial ideology.

Those days are long gone and, sadly, it was the Middle East and Africa that altered their views of Israel, without compelling the latter to abandon its racist political doctrine. On the contrary, racism and apartheid in Israel are now even more integrated within the country’s official institutions than ever before. Moreover, Israel’s military occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza seem to accelerate at the same momentum as that of Arab and African normalization with Israel.

The now defunct Oslo Accords of 1993 served as a major pretense for many countries around the world, especially in the global South, to draw nearer to Israel. “If the Palestinians themselves have normalized with Israel, why shouldn’t we?” was the knee-jerk retort by politicians in various countries, in response to the advocates of the Palestinian boycott movement. This immoral and politically selective logic has been reinforced since the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco joined the camp of Arab normalizers in recent months.

While arguments that are predicated on moral values and shared history are, still, very much valid, making a case against normalization cannot rest entirely on ethical reasoning or sentimentalities. True, the shared anti-colonial past of Africa and the Arab world, especially that of Palestine, is uncontested. Still, some African countries did not side with the Arabs in their conflict with colonial Israel based on entirely moral and ideological arguments. Indeed, the Israel-Africa story has also been shaped by outright economic and business interests.

Africa’s significance for Israel has acquired various meanings throughout the years. Soon after Israel was established upon the ruins of historic Palestine, diplomatic ties between the newly-founded Israel and African countries became essential for Tel Aviv to break away from its geopolitical isolation in the region. That, in addition to the strategic importance of the Bab Al-Mandab Strait – separating Africa from the Arabian Peninsula and offering Israel breathing space through the Red Sea – gave Africa additional geostrategic significance.

In fact, on the eve of the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, 33 African countries had full diplomatic ties with Israel. Immediately following the war and in the run-up to the war of 1973, African countries abandoned Israel in large numbers, signaling the rise of an unprecedented Arab-African unity, which continued unhindered until the 1990s. It was then that Israel began, once more, promoting itself as a unique ally to Africa.

In recent years, Israel has accelerated its plans to exploit Africa’s many political and economic opportunities, especially as the continent is now an open ground for renewed global attention. The United States, the European Union, China, Russia and others are jockeying to win a piece of Africa’s massive wealth of material and human resources. Israel, too, as a regional power, is now part of this renewed ‘scramble for Africa’.

A statement by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in 2016 that “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel,” should not be dismissed as another political hyperbole by the Israeli leader. One could even argue that Israel’s burgeoning political and economic ties with Africa are Netanyahu’s greatest achievements in recent years. More, diplomatic rapprochements with Muslim-majority African countries, such as Mali and Chad, have served as the backdoor entrance to African Arab Muslim countries, such as Sudan and Morocco.

There is more to Israel’s keen interest in Africa than mere business, of course. Since the US’ superpower status in the Middle East is being challenged by other global actors, namely Russia and China, Israel is actively trying to diversify its options, so it is not exclusively reliant on a single benefactor.

Now that Arab and Muslim countries are normalizing, whether openly or discreetly, with Israel, some African governments feel liberated from their previous commitment to Palestine, as they are no longer forced to choose between their Arab allies and Israel.

Solidarity with Palestine, in all traditional platforms, certainly stands to lose as a result of these seismic changes. Even the UN General Assembly is no longer a safe space for Palestinian solidarity.  For example, in the UN General Assembly Resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, which was adopted on December 3, 2019, by 147 countries, 13 countries abstained from the vote. Unprecedentedly, several African countries including Cameroon, Rwanda, South Sudan and Malawi also abstained from the vote. The trend worsened a year later, on December 2, 2020, when more African countries abstained from voting on a similar resolution, with Cameroon, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, and even South Africa refusing to acknowledge what should have been a straightforward recognition of Palestinian rights.

Based on this disturbing trajectory, more such African countries are expected to either adopt a ‘neutral’ position on Palestine and Israel or, depending on the nature of their interests or the combined US-Israeli pressures, could potentially take Israel’s side in the future.

The Palestinian dichotomy rests on the fact that African solidarity with Palestine has historically been placed within the larger political framework of mutual African-Arab solidarity. Yet, with official Arab solidarity with Palestine now weakening, Palestinians are forced to think outside this traditional framework, so that they may build direct solidarity with African nations as Palestinians, without necessarily merging their national aspirations with the larger Arab body politic.

While such a task is daunting, it is also promising, as Palestinians now have the opportunity to build bridges of support and mutual solidarity in Africa through direct contacts, where they serve as their own ambassadors. Obviously, Palestine has much to gain, but also much to offer Africa. Palestinian doctors, engineers, civil defense and frontline workers, educationists, intellectuals and artists are some of the most recognized and accomplished in the Middle East; in fact,  in the world. Palestine must utilize its people’s tremendous energies and expertise in winning Africa back, not as a bargaining chip, but as a true and genuine attempt at reinvigorating existing solidarity between the Palestinians and the peoples of Africa.

Israel is trying to lure in Africa’s elites through business deals which, judging by previous experiences, could become a burden on African economies. Palestine, on the other hand, can offer Africa genuine friendship and camaraderie through many areas of meaningful cooperation which, in the long run, can turn existing historical and cultural affinities into deeper, more practical solidarity.

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What happened to JFK and a Foreign Policy of Peace?

Sixty years ago, John F Kennedy (JFK) was inaugurated as president of the USA. In less than three years, before he was assassinated in November 1963, he initiated major changes in foreign policy.

These foreign policy changes are documented in books such as JFK and the Unspeakable (2008) and Betting on the Africans (2012). One of the foremost scholars on JFK, James Di Eugenio, has an excellent new article of the Kennedy foreign policy at Covert Action: “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’Etat over Foreign Policy?“ Despite this literature, many people in the West do not realize the extent to which JFK was an exception. This article will briefly review some of the actions he took while alive, and what happened after he was gone.

While JFK was a staunch advocate for capitalism and the “free world”, in competition with the Soviet Union and communism, he promoted acceptance of non-aligned countries and supported nationalist movements in Africa, the Middle East and Third World generally.  In the summer before he was killed, he reached out to the Soviet Union and proposed sweeping changes to promote peace and prevent war.

The previous Eisenhower administration was hostile to post WW2 nationalist movements in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 1953 the CIA supervised the overthrow of Iran’s elected government. They supported the Saudi monarch and undermined the popular Egyptian Nasser. In contrast, Kennedy was sympathetic to the “winds of change” in Africa and beyond. He criticized France’s repression of the Algerian independence movement and was sympathetic to Patrice Lumumba leading the Congo’s independence from Belgium. Kennedy worked with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to preserve Congo’s independence and try to restore Lumumba to power. The CIA managed to have Patrice Lumumba executed three days before Kennedy’s inauguration.

Under Kennedy, the United States started voting against the European colonial powers in Africa. Kennedy provided tangible aid to Nasser in Egypt. After Kennedy’s death, the US policy returned to support for European powers and CIA intervention. The US supported NATO ally Portugal in its wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau. The US supported secessionist and tribal forces in the Congo, Angola, Somalia, and many other countries with hugely damaging results. The US supported apartheid South Africa until the end. The US supported the sectarian Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser.

This was also a critical time for Israel Palestine. JFK was more objective and balanced than most US politicians. Just 22 years old in 1939, Kennedy visited Palestine and wrote his observations/analysis in a 4 page letter to his father. He is thoughtful and recognizes the Palestinian perspective. He speaks of the “unfortunately arrogant, uncompromising attitude” of some Jewish leaders. In May 2019, more documents were released from the National Security Archives. They show that JFK, as president, was intent on stopping Israel from surreptitiously building a nuclear weapon. In a letter to the new Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol, Kennedy gives a diplomatic ultimatum that US support of Israel will be “seriously jeopardized” if Israel did not comply with inspection visits to the Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona. After JFK’s death, the Johnson administration was submissive to Israel and pro-Israel supporters. Johnson showed the ultimate political subservience by preventing the rescue and hiding Israeli treachery regarding the USS Liberty. The Israeli attack killed 34 and injured 172 US sailors. Would Israel have had the arrogance and chutzpah to do this if Kennedy had been in the White House? Unlikely.

The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs took place just three months after Kennedy took office. The CIA and generals expected Kennedy to provide US air support for the anti-Castro attackers. Kennedy said no and resolved to get rid of the long-standing CIA Director who had managed the operation. Allen Dulles and two Deputy Directors were forced to resign by the end of the year. The Pentagon, CIA and anti-Castro Cubans were furious at JFK. When the Soviet Union sent nuclear capable missiles to Cuba, the hawks demanded that the US attack. Kennedy opposed this and ended up negotiating an agreement whereby the US removed its nuclear missiles in Turkey as Soviet nuclear missiles were removed from Cuba.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country with vast natural resources and strategic location. President Sukarno led the country to independence and was a leader in the global Non-Aligned Movement seeking a middle ground between the poles of the USA and Soviet Union. The Eisenhower/Dulles administration tried to overthrow Sukarno. In contrast, JFK changed the policy from hostility to friendship. Sukarno invited JFK to visit the country and the invitation was accepted. Following JFK’s assassination, the policy returned to hostility and just two years later, in 1965, the US engineered a coup leading to the murder of about half a million Indonesian citizens suspected of being communist.

JFK visited Vietnam in 1951 as the French colonial powers were trying to assert their control. He saw the situation as 400,000 French soldiers were losing to the Vietnamese nationalist movement. Thus, when he became president, he was skeptical of the prospects. President Kennedy authorized an increase of US military advisers but never sent combat troops. As the situation deteriorated, JFK finally decided the policy was wrong. In October 1963 Kennedy issued National Security Action Memorandum 263 directing US withdrawal to begin in December and be completed by the end of 1965. After JFK’s death, President Johnson reversed course and began sending massive numbers of US soldiers to Vietnam. Twelve years later, after 58,000 American and about two million Vietnamese deaths, the US military departed Vietnam.

The Soviet Union was the largest communist country and primary challenger to the US and capitalist system. The Cold War included mutual recriminations and a huge amount of military spending as both sides designed and produced ever more hydrogen bombs, air and sea delivery systems. During the Cuba crisis, Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khruschev both realized how dangerous the situation was. Nuclear war could have accidentally or intentionally begun. In June 1963, JFK delivered the commencement address at American University. It was probably his most important speech yet is little known. JFK called for a dramatic change in US posture, from confrontation to mutual acceptance. He called for re-examination of US attitudes toward peace, the Soviet Union, the Cold War and peace and freedom within the USA itself. He called for a special communication line between Washington and Moscow to allow direct communications between the two leaders. And then Kennedy declared that the US would end nuclear testing as a first step toward general and complete disarmament.

In the last months before his death, JFK opened secret communications with Soviet Premier Khruschev and used a journalist to communicate directly with Fidel Castro. JFK proposed face-to-face talks aimed at reconciliation with Cuba.

Kennedy’s initiatives toward reconciliation and peace were opposed by the CIA and militarist elements in the government. As reported in the NY Times, Kennedy privately told one of his highest officials he “wanted to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”. Before that could happen, JFK was assassinated, and his policy changes reversed.

From Moscow to Cairo to Jakarta, Kennedy’s death was met with shock and mourning. Leaders in those countries sensed what the assassination meant.

The day after JFK’s funeral, President Johnson supplanted Kennedy’s planned withdrawal from Viet Nam with National Security Action Memorandum 273. This resulted in 12 years of aggression and bloodshed in southeast Asia. Coups were carried out in the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. US resumed support for South African apartheid and Portuguese colonial wars. Assassination attempts on Fidel Castro escalated while military coups took place in numerous Latin American countries. In the Middle East, the US solidified support for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The author of “JFK and the Unspeakable”, Jim Douglas, writes “President Kennedy’s courageous turn from global war to a strategy of peace provides the why of his assassination. Because he turned toward peace with our enemies, the Communists, he found himself at odds with his own national security state.”

The post What happened to JFK and a Foreign Policy of Peace? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The “Insurrection” and Its Discontents: “American Exceptionalism” Revisited 

History is being written in the United States today. Even the most pessimistic about the prospects of American democracy have rarely ventured out this far while offering a bleak analysis of America’s future, whether in terms of political polarization at home or global standing abroad.

As shocking and, certainly, telling as the images of thousands of American protesters taking over the symbols of America’s federal, representative democracy in Washington DC on January 6, it was only a facet in a far more complex and devastating political trajectory that has been in the making for years.

While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America’s ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient. The US has been experiencing an unprecedented political influx at every level of society for years, leading us to believe that the rowdy years of Trump’s Presidency were a mere symptom, not the cause, of America’s political instability.

Even the storming of the congressional halls by angry pro-Trump crowds did not fundamentally alter the make-up of America’s political affiliations. Not only did Democrats remain firmly Democrats, but Republicans also remained entrenched in their republicanism and their allegiance to President Trump.

The House of Representatives’ vote on impeaching Trump, which was held on January 13, hardly registered a significant shift even among establishment Republicans. Only ten Republican members of Congress voted to impeach Trump. But how about ordinary people – have they changed their views on Trump following the congressional insurrection? Hardly.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll published on January 13, 69% of all Republicans surveyed said that activists from the anti-fascist, leftist group, Antifa, are to be blamed for the takeover of the Capitol. While 22% said they are ‘unsure’, a meager 9% agreed that Trump’s supporters instigated the violent events which, even then, should not automatically be understood to be an admission of guilt.

These results should not come as a surprise. The mistrust in the government and media in the US is so widespread to the extent that the country is experiencing two parallel political realities, each committed to a fundamentally different set of aspirations. Each side perceives the other as the enemy, and while still believing in its own version of ‘democracy’, it no longer agrees to any functional definition of the term.

This has not always been the case.

In their seminal book, Manufacturing Consent,  Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky provided a most comprehensive analysis of how the ‘system’ – the government/ruling classes, big business and mainstream media – has invented the most effective mechanism which allowed the US to ensure two naturally contradicting realities: persistent popular consent within a seemingly democratic governance.

“The beauty of the system … is that … dissent and inconvenient information are kept within bounds and at the margins so that, while their presence shows that the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda,” Chomsky and Herman argued.

Years later, Chomsky contested that, underneath this facade of democracy, the US is, in actuality, a plutocracy, a country that is dedicated to serving the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, the famed linguist and historian further asserted that the “US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public.”

While these realizations have served as the core of the US Left’s ideology, it was most interesting to see American Right constituencies leading what they call the ‘revolution’, referred to by mainstream media as ‘insurrection’. Equally interesting, many of Trump’s supporters actually come from working-class and lower-middle-class America, itself a fascinating subject in its own right.

Regardless of what may transpire in the official investigation of the Capitol’s upheaval, US political polarization, the breakdown of trust between the public and the ruling elites, along with their media allies, will continue unabated. Undoubtedly, the consequences will be dire.

But there is another consequential crisis that is also brewing, ‘American exceptionalism’, a rare meeting point between Democrats and Republicans, is facing its greatest challenge since its coinage sometime in the mid-17th century.

Historically, the US has defined and redefined its mission in the world based on lofty spiritual, moral and political maxims, starting with ‘Manifest Destiny’, to fighting communism, to eventually serving as the defender of human rights and democracy around the world, using violence whenever necessary. In truth, ‘protecting human rights’ or ‘restoring democracy’ were mere pretenses often used to provide a moral cover that allows the US to reorder the world for the sake of expanding its market and ensuring its economic dominance.

The late American historian, Howard Zinn, explained in his essay entitled ‘The Power and the Glory’, the functional meaning of American exceptionalism as such: “… that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary …”

Many examples and numerous violent images can be immediately summoned when Zinn’s definition is translated into historical precedents. From the genocide of the Native Americans, to the enslaving of millions of Africans, to the never-ending interventions in South America – starting with the Monroe doctrine of 1823 – all the way to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, American exceptionalism has always served the purpose of reinforcing the notion that America possesses a moral, divine right to do as it pleases for the betterment of mankind.

When former US President George W. Bush took it upon himself to ‘restore democracy’ in Iraq as part of the US-championed ‘war on terror’, his ultimatum to the United Nations reflected both American entitlement and its rooted sense of exceptionalism. “You are either with us or with the terrorists,” he said on September 21, 2001. According to that maxim, the world was divided into categories, of ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’,  ‘with us’ or ‘against us’, ‘Old Europe’ and ‘New Europe’’, and so on. Despite the palpable irrationality – let alone arrogance – of that logic, US ‘democratic’ institutions and mainstream media cheered Bush on. The ‘war president’s’ ratings seemed to increase as his rhetoric and actions grew more violent.

But the orchestrated ‘popular consent’ is finally breaking down, raising an unprecedented challenge to the notion of American exceptionalism, a banner under which America’s ruling elites have long united. The more political chaos and societal division widen, the more the notion of exceptionalism will be exposed as bizarre, selfish and unsustainable.

Surely, the storming of the US Congress will have global repercussions, not least among them the collective rejection of the outdated notion of American exceptionalism. But with that, there is also an opportunity: first for Americans to swap their ‘manufactured consent’ with real dialogue; to salvage and, eventually, renew trust in their democratic institutions and second, for the world to challenge America’s hegemonic discourse of fraudulent democracy and other self-serving fables.

• This article was originally published in Politics Today.

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Rob Malley for Iran Envoy: A Test Case for Biden’s Commitment to Diplomacy

(Photo credit: National Press Club)

President Biden’s commitment to re-entering the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—is already facing backlash from a motley crew of warhawks both domestic and foreign. Right now, opponents of re-entering the deal are centering their vitriol on one of the nation’s foremost experts on both the Middle East and diplomacy: Robert Malley, who Biden might tap to be the next Iran envoy.

On January 21, conservative journalist Elli Lake penned an opinion piece in Bloomberg News arguing that President Biden should not appoint Malley because Malley ignores Iran’s human rights abuses and “regional terror”. Republican Senator Tom Cotton retweeted Lake’s piece with the heading: “Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel. The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.” Pro regime-change Iranians such as Mariam Memarsadeghi, conservative American journalists like Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, and the far-right Zionist Organization of America are opposing Malley. Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed opposition to Malley getting the appointment and Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a close advisor to the prime minister, said that if the U.S reenters the JCPOA, Israel may take military action against Iran. A petition opposing Malley has even started on Change.org.

What makes Malley such a threat to these opponents of talks with Iran?

Malley is the polar opposite of Trump’s Special Representative to Iran Elliot Abrams, whose only interest was squeezing the economy and whipping up conflict in the hopes of regime change. Malley, on the other hand, has called U.S. Middle East policy “a litany of failed enterprises” requiring “self-reflection” and is a true believer in diplomacy.

Under the Clinton and Obama administrations, Malley helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit as Special Assistant to President Clinton; acted as Obama’s White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region; and was the lead negotiator on the White House staff for the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. When Obama left office, Malley became president of the International Crisis Group, a group formed in 1995 to prevent wars.

During the Trump years, Malley was a fierce critic of Trump’s Iran policy. In an Atlantic piece he coauthored, he denounced Trump’s plan to withdraw and refuted critiques about the sunset clauses in the deal not extending for more years. “The time-bound nature of some of the constraints [in the JCPOA] is not a flaw of the deal, it was a prerequisite for it,” he wrote. “The real choice in 2015 was between achieving a deal that constrained the size of Iran’s nuclear program for many years and ensured intrusive inspections forever, or not getting one.”

He condemned Trump’s maximum pressure campaign as a maximum failure, explaining that throughout Trump’s presidency, “Iran’s nuclear program grew, increasingly unconstrained by the JCPOA. Tehran has more accurate ballistic missiles than ever before and more of them. The regional picture grew more, not less, fraught.”

While Malley’s detractors accuse him of ignoring the regime’s grim human rights record, national security and human rights organizations supporting Malley said in a joint letter that since Trump left the nuclear deal, “Iran’s civil society is weaker and more isolated, making it harder for them to advocate for change.”

Hawks have another reason for opposing Malley: his refusal to show blind support for Israel. In 2001 Malley co-wrote an article for the New York Review arguing that the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Camp David negotiations had not been the sole fault of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat but included then-Israeli leader Ehud Barak. The U.S. pro-Israel establishment wasted no time accusing Malley of having an anti-Israel bias.

Malley has also been pilloried for meeting with members of the Palestinian political group Hamas, designated a terror organization by the U.S. In a letter to The New York Times, Malley explained that these encounters were part of his job when he was Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, and that he was regularly asked by both American and Israeli officials to brief them on these meetings.

With the Biden administration already facing opposition from Israel about its intent to return to the JCPOA, Malley’s expertise on Israel and his willingness to talk to all sides will be an asset.

Malley understands that re-entering the JCPOA must be undertaken swiftly and will not be easy. Iranian presidential elections are scheduled for June and predictions are that a hardline candidate will win, making negotiations with the U.S. harder. He is also keenly aware that re-entering the JCPOA is not enough to calm the regional conflicts, which is why he supports a European initiative to encourage de-escalation dialogues between Iran and neighboring Gulf states. As U.S. Special Envoy to Iran, Malley could put the weight of the U.S. behind such efforts.

Malley’s Middle East foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills make him the ideal candidate to reinvigorate the JCPOA and help calm regional tensions. Biden’s response to the far-right uproar against Malley will be a test of his fortitude in standing up to the hawks and charting a new course for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Peace-loving Americans should shore up Biden’s resolve by supporting Malley’s appointment.

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