Browsing Category

Politics

Politics,

Making Politics Personal

Lawmaking can seem like a mysterious process to many of us, and yet it really doesn’t have be that way. The Washington State government makes a substantial effort to make the legislative process accessible to everyone. If you’ve never thought of getting involved in lawmaking before, you might consider changing that this year, as the Washington State legislature convenes each January to debate and enact laws that impact the way we live and work.

The Process

Like most states, Washington has a bicameral legislature, meaning we have both a State Senate and a State House of Representatives to help create our laws. Each legislative session begins the second Monday in January, and lasts either 105 days (odd years) or 60 days (even years). During these sessions, some bills are introduced into the House of Representatives, while others are introduced into the Senate. Once these bills are introduced, they are then sent to committees for debate and public hearings. After making any refinements to the language that lawmakers feel are necessary, members of the committees determine which bills should be recommended for passage, at which time the bills are sent back to the full House or Senate for consideration. Bills that are successful in their houses of origin are turned over to the opposite house where the appropriate committees consider whether they be recommended for passage by the full house. Only bills that are passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are sent to the Governor to sign into law.

 

If you are following the status of a particular bill, it becomes important to also be aware of the legislative schedule, as a great many bills die in committee without ever having a chance to reach the floor for a full vote. During the first day of the legislative session, a cut-off calendar is set, identifying various important deadlines in the process. This schedule includes the last day in which committee reports can be read in the house of origin for a bill (recommending that it be passed or not passed), the last day in which the fiscal impacts of a bill can be considered, and reports heard from Ways and Means and Transportation committees in the house of origin. All of these are important steps on the way to a full vote and there is also a deadline for the last day a bill can be heard in the house of origin, after which it dies if it is not passed and sent to the opposite house for consideration.

Once a bill has made it to the opposite house, there are dates in the cut-off calendar for the last day that opposite house committee reports can be heard and also the last day for committee reports from fiscal committees, Ways and Means, and Transportation committees in the opposite house. Finally, the cut-off calendar includes a schedule for the last day to consider opposite house bills as well as the last day for the regular session.

At each step along the way, you can sit in on (and even testify if you wish) public hearings if you care to travel to Olympia, or listen to many of the hearings and floor debates and votes on the Internet live or as recorded audio files. It’s a fascinating process.

Your Legislators

Washington State legislators are actually part-timers here – when they’re not making laws during the first part of the year, they are nurses and teachers, realtors and veterinarians, and so forth during the rest of the year. They share our everyday concerns and are more than willing to hear from their constituents about the issues that matter to us. So who are they? Washington State is divided up into 49 legislative districts, each one served by two State Senators and one House Representative. To find yours, just enter your zip code at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx or view the statewide map of districts at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/statewide.aspx where you can click each district for more details. You’ll find contact information for each legislator as well as links to their biographies and information about their voting records, committee involvement, and bills they have sponsored.

You can easily share your opinions with your lawmakers by calling the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 1-800-635-9993) or sending your lawmaker an email. It’s always best to be respectful, concise, and to illustrate the significance of your position with stories that are personal and meaningful.

Navigating the Website

For anyone interested in the legislative process in general, or in the status of a particular bill under consideration, the Washington State Legislature website (http://www.leg.wa.gov)is a valuable resource. In addition to helping you find and understand more about your lawmakers, you can also find

* The legislative calendar
* Committee and house agendas
* Training and reference information for understanding the legislative process for adults and students
(including a Washington State coloring book and student guide to the Washington legislature)
* Tools for finding bills and tracking bill status
* Committee staffer contact information
* Archived Internet-accessible audio and video files of committee and House and Senate floor proceedings

Getting Involved

If you think you might like to become involved in the lawmaking process, try finding a bill that interests you and following it through the system to get an idea of how the system works. Along the way, if you have opinions, you can find the legislators representing your district and send them your thoughts. As you become more familiar with the legislative process, you may find you wish to develop a closer relationship with your legislators in the “off-season” and discuss with them the issues that matter to you, which could result in developing legislation for the next legislative session.

Politics,

Politics Through Poetry

I’m not the gun-slinging, god fearing, angry white male Republican I try to make myself out to be. For two things, I’m not white or god fearing. The reason for my recent McCain support is that I’m in a poetry contest held by my community newspaper. They hold these contests monthly and the election is this month’s theme. The rules are simple. Simply choose a party, write a poem, and hope your poem beats the other poets sharing your selected party. Each party gets three winners.

Judging from number of entries, hundreds of unique, creative-minded individualists who feel like rebelling against The Man are entering in the Obama category because NBC, Oprah, and MySpace told them to. I simply cannot compete against that many opponents for a spot in the top three.

The last time that I counted, four have entered in the McCain category. Either this is a gauge of how badly McCain will lose come November or true McCain supporters would never consider entering something as frou-frou as a poetry contest. Whatever the reason, my poem just has to be better than one person to win a spot on the top three. If I can find out the addresses of a couple of the McCain entries and convince them to withdraw, my odds of winning increase. So to John Doe and Alan Smithee: If you are reading this, let’s have a cup of coffee and discuss politics before the end of the month.

I figure an Obama poem would be more difficult to write. How many times can I use the word “change” before the judges realize that’s all my poem features? I suppose if I’m really desperate for ideas, I can bring up his race in the poem, but that would be scraping the barrel in a poem of issues and policies. Biden is dry as toast and just as boring to discuss in poetry. If Obama chose Hillary as his Vice President instead, I’m sure I would have a lot more rhymes to use. But for some reason, most of the words to describe her would rhyme with “itch.” My biggest hurdle is Obama himself. Besides “yo’ momma,” “comma,” and “Osama,” what other words rhyme with Obama?

 

Given his many years, McCain at least has more material to use for a poem thanks to his experience. If I feel like it, I could write about his capture during the Vietnam War. It’s not exactly relevant to his platform, but it makes for an interesting read. Having a woman Vice President like Palin adds more material to dazzle the poetry judges and readers. As long as I avoid being crass and add a line like “I’d rather be nailin’ Palin,” she should provide good material. By the way, if someone decides to make a YouTube video of “I’d rather be nailin’ Palin,” I want a nickel per view. And the easiest factor of all is that McCain is such an easy name to rhyme.

“The plain John McCain went insane from the pain.”

One line down, many to go.

I guess if I really wanted to challenge the poetry contest, I would write a poem for one of the third party candidates. But no matter how well I write the poem and how much the judges love it, the general readers are too focused on McCain and Obama to read the poems of the third parties. So I’m pretty much throwing my poetry away.

Best of luck to all of us aspiring poets. Just because I may talk about one candidate more than another, it doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily vote for him come election day. It’s just thinking out loud and open research and debate with others. That’s one of the fun things I like about our country’s elections. We really get to know our friends better from the way they debate and who they support. Based on the candidates and their stances on issues, I will cast my vote on who I want and will respect the votes that my friends and strangers make even if I think they’re idiots for voting that way.

Politics,

How Obama and Al-Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows

For a president that is executing Bush’s “war on terror” against Al-Qaeda and “its affiliates,” it seems odd that President Obama has targeted the secular Syrian government for “regime change.”

Equally odd is that Obama’s strongest military ally on the ground in Syria — the best equipped and effective fighting force against the Syrian Government — is Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has affiliated itself with al-Qaeda, and aims to turn Syria into an extremist Islamic state that enforces a fundamentalist version of Sharia law.

It’s difficult to know exactly how al-Nursa received its guns, but one can make an educated guess. For example, The New York Times explained in detail how the CIA has been in a massive arms trafficking operation that has already funneled thousands of tons of guns from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syria:

The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.

Where are the guns winding up in this massive arms trafficking operation? An important question to ask is: which rebels in Syria have guns and which ones don’t.

The Guardian reports:

The [secular] Free Syrian Army’s shortage of weapons and other resources compared with [jihadist] Jabhat al-Nusra is a recurrent theme… ‘If you join al-Nusra, there is always a gun for you but many of the FSA brigades can’t even provide bullets for their fighters,’…3,000 FSA [Free Syrian Army] men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition…Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition…

While it’s difficult to know if CIA trafficked guns are going directly or indirectly to al-Nursa, it’s extremely likely that these guns are going directly into the hands of ideological cousins of al-Nursa, since the Syrian rebels are completely dominated by Islamic extremists.

For example, when the Economist magazine was outlining the most important fighting groups in Syria, “Who’s Who in the Syrian Battlefield,” they noted with regret that the only important non-Islamist group was in the Kurdish areas, which is virtually an autonomous zone. As far as the secular U.S.-backed fighting group, The Supreme Military Command, the Economist conceded it “has little control on the ground.” Keep in mind that the Economist is very much in favor of a U.S.-NATO military intervention in Syria.

The New York Times also confirmed the complete dominance of extremists on the rebel side:

Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.

Thus, the minority of secular rebel fighters are not leading the civil war and will not be in power if Assad falls. Instead, honest Syrian revolutionaries will instantly fall victim to the extremists, who will immediately proceed to a mopping-up mission of their former allies.

It’s now clear that Obama’s foreign policy in Syria is actively encouraging terrorism. Many rebel-controlled areas in Syria are now new safe havens for terrorists, and there have been hundreds of terrorist bombing attacks against the Syrian government, many of which have targeted civilian areas.

While the U.S. is pouring arms into the jihadist-controlled areas, they have also downplayed the atrocities committed by these rebels, which are well documented on Youtube and include a multitude of war crimes that include beheadings, group execution of prisoners, ethnic cleansing, and the recent episode where a famous rebel commander was videotaped mutilating a dead Syrian solider and eating his heart.

By minimizing this barbarism the Obama administration ensures that it will continue, since the extremists are empowered by U.S. support and are shielded in the U.S. media and protected from international political pressures.

One question the U.S. media never thinks of asking is: Where did all these Islamic extremists come from and why? The Sunni Islamic opposition inside Syria has long been religiously moderate, implying that many of the extremists are foreigners.

The ideological source of this extremism came from Saudi Arabian religious figures and their allies, who use Islam as a political tool to target nations “unfriendly” to Saudi Arabia and the United States. The most glaring example of this in regard to Syria was the Fatwa (official interpretation/statement) issued by 107 Islamic scholars that denounced the Syrian government and encouraged Muslims to fight against it. The statement essentially encouraged jihad, though the word wasn’t mentioned explicitly.

The statement includes:

It is a duty for all Muslims to support the revolutionaries in Syria [against the government] “so that they can successfully complete their revolution and attain their rights and their freedom.

The hypocrisy of such a statement is almost too glaring: the many Saudi figures who signed the document that want “freedom” in Syria are not demanding freedom in Saudi Arabia, by far the country with the least amount of freedoms in the world.

With Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing guns to the Syrian rebels — with help from the CIA — the Saudi religious figures attached to the regime give religious/political support by misleading devout Muslims to flock to Syria to attack a country of Muslims, thus creating the giant sectarian divisions we now see throughout the Islamic world.

The vast majority of this Islamic sectarian warfare is exported by Saudi Arabia, which funds radical Islamic schools all over the Middle East that attract the downtrodden of these countries by providing basic social services that the host country is too poor — or unwilling — to provide. There is an informative chapter on this dynamic in Vijay Prashad’s excellent book, A People’s History of the Third World.

Now the debate among U.S.-NATO countries is whether to give more sophisticated weaponry to the extremist-dominated rebels in Syria. The Obama Administration is pressuring the European Union to drop its arms embargo on Syria so that a new torrent of weapons can flood the country (apparently the CIA operations haven’t yet completely drenched Syria with guns).

In response to the “drop the embargo” discussion, Oxfam intelligently responded by saying:

Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won’t create a level playing field. Instead, it risks further fueling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country.

One EU diplomat gave a scathing rebuke to the Obama Administration’s claim that it could ensure that new weapons wouldn’t wind up in “the wrong hands” in Syria:

It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms,” the diplomat said. “If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.

In Syria the weapons are needed by those doing the brunt of the fighting. Again, the al-Nursa jihad group is widely acknowledged to be the most effective fighting force against the Syrian government–the guns thus flow to them.

Obama has taken the saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” to irrational heights, and in so doing is helping to produce a new generation of Islamic extremists that will help fuel the U.S.-led never-ending “war on terror.” The real intention of the War on Terror is not to stop terrorists, but to target nation states that are opposed to U.S. foreign policy: Iraq and Libya — like Syria — were both secular countries at the time of their being invaded; Afghanistan was invaded even though the vast majority of those involved in the 9-11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. There was no terrorist problem in Iraq before the U.S. invaded, just like there was no terrorist problem in Syria before the U.S.-backed rebels came onto the scene, other than the typical terrorism inflicted by these regimes on their own people. But the U.S. government is hardly innocent of inflicting terrorism on its own citizens either.

It’s blatantly obvious to most Americans that Syria and Iran are at the top of Obama’s war list, a much higher priority than any terrorist group. This is why Obama is tolerating the terrorist groups inside Syira; they are being used as tools against his real target, Syria and then Iran.

The Syrian people must be left to themselves to decide their future. The United States is utterly incapable of “helping” countries by using military means, as the fractured nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya painfully prove. The global anti-war movement must demand Hands Off Syria!

Politics,

In Syria, Obama and al-Qaida share the bed

A Portuguese translation of How Obama and Al-Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows .

For a president who is running Bush’s “war on terror” against al-Qaida and “associated forces” [1], it seems strange that President Obama has chosen the Syrian secular government as the target of “regime change”.

Equally strange is that Obama’s strongest military ally on Syrian soil – the most effective fighting force against the Syrian government – is the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a group that has already declared itself an affiliate of al-Qaida and struggling to convert Syria. in an extremist Islamic state, under a fundamentalist version of the Sharia law.

It is difficult to know exactly how al-Nursa received his weapons, but it is not difficult to guess, with good chances of getting it right. For example, the New York Times explained (March 25, 2013) in detail how the CIA is implementing a massive arms trafficking operation that has already channeled thousands of tons of weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syria:

The CIA’s role in facilitating [arms] shipments has given the United States a degree of influence over the [weapons distribution] process (…) US officials have confirmed that senior White House officials are regularly informed of shipments [ of weapons].

Where does this massive arms trafficking operation take arms? An important question to investigate is: which “rebels” receive weapons in Syria and which do not?

The Guardian reports on May 8, 2013:

A recurring theme is the lack of weapons and other resources in the Free Syrian Army, compared to the abundance seen in [jihadist] Jabhat al-Nusra (…) ‘If you join the Al-Nusra Front, there is always a weapon at hand at your disposal, but the Free Syrian Army brigades can’t even get bullets for their fighters’ (…) 3,000 men in the Free Syrian Army have joined the Al-Nusra Front in the last few months, mainly because of the lack of weapons and ammunition (…). Fighters from the Al-Nusra Front rarely retreat for lack of ammunition (…).

While it is difficult to know whether the weapons trafficked by the CIA go directly or indirectly to the al-Nursa Front, it is extremely likely that the weapons are being delivered directly to the hands of al-Nursa’s ideological cousins, because it is already known that the “rebels” Syrians are now under complete control by Islamist extremists.

For example, when The Economist magazine published a profile of the most important groups fighting in Syria [“Who’s Who in the Syrian Battlefield” / A major Islamist was in the Kurdish areas, which is a virtually autonomous zone. As for the US-backed secular combat group, called “Supreme Military Command,” The Economist magazine had to concede that “in practice, it has minimal control in the field”. And let us not forget that The Economist works tirelessly in favor of military intervention, by US-NATO, in Syria!

The New York Times also confirmed that extremists completely control the entire “rebel” camp:

Nowhere, on the part of Syria controlled by the rebels, is there any secular force whose presence must be registered.

Thus it appears that this minority of secular fighters are not in control of the civil war and will not come to power if Assad is overthrown. Instead, without Assad, honest Syrian revolutionaries will immediately fall victim to extremists, who will also immediately try to get rid of their former allies.

It is now clear that Obama’s foreign policy towards Syria is actively encouraging terrorism. Several of the areas still controlled by the “rebels” in Syria are now safe havens for terrorists, and there have been hundreds of terrorist attacks against the Syrian government, many of them against civilian areas.

While the United States rains arms on areas controlled by jihadists, the United States also pretends not to see the atrocities committed by its “rebels”, which are abundantly documented on YouTube, documentation that includes a multitude of war crimes, sticking, execution of groups of prisoners, ethnic cleansing and the recent episode in which a renowned “rebel” commander is filmed when he mutilates the corpse of a Syrian soldier and eats his heart. Following video:

By minimizing barbarism, the Obama administration affirms and proves that it will continue, since the extremists are being strengthened by the support of the Americans and protected by the press-company in the USA, against any pressure, including political, international.

A question that the American press-company does not even think to ask is: Where do these Islamist extremists come from and why are they in Syria? Sunni opposition within Syria has historically been moderated. It must be concluded that the extremists are not Syrians: they are foreigners.

The ideological source of all that extremism is religious figures from Saudi Arabia and allies, who use Islam as a political tool to attack “unfriendly” nations in Saudi Arabia and the USA. The clearest example of this, with regard to Syria, was the Fatwa (an official religious declaration, weighted by law) issued by 107 Islamist doctors who denounce the Syrian government and order Muslims to fight against it. It is a statement that encourages jihad, although the word is not explicitly quoted. The statement concludes:

It is the duty of all Muslims to support revolutionaries in Syria [against the Syrian government] (…), so that they successfully complete their revolution and achieve their rights and freedom.

The hypocrisy of this statement is almost too obvious: the many Saudis who sign the document and call for “freedom” in Syria, do not call for any freedom in Saudi Arabia, by far the country in the world where there are fewer freedoms.

With Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying arms to Syrian “rebels” – with the help of the CIA – Saudi religious linked to the Saudi regime are giving them religious / political support, while they are diverting waves and waves of devout Muslims to march against Syria to attack a country of Muslims. Thus they invented gigantic sectarian divisions, as you can see, throughout the Islamic world.

The vast majority of these sectarian clashes are being exported by Saudi Arabia, which finances radical Islamist schools across the Middle East, to which they attract the destitute from all countries in the Region, offering them some basic social services nonexistent in the countries where they operate. their schools, because the respective governments cannot – or do not want – to offer them. There is a very informative chapter on this dynamic in Vijay Prashad’s excellent book, A People’s History of the Third World.

Currently, the countries led by the US-NATO are discussing whether or not to arm the extremist “rebels” who dominate portions of Syrian territory with sophisticated weaponry. The Obama administration is pressuring the European Union to lift the arms embargo on Syria, so that a new cataract of weapons can fall on the country (apparently, CIA operations have not yet completely drowned Syria with their weapons. ).

In response to the question of “lifting the embargo”, Oxfam responded intelligently:

Sending weapons to the Syrian opposition will not level the theater of war. Instead, it will create hordes of armed extremists to the teeth, whose victims are Syrian civilians. Our experience in other conflict zones teaches that this crisis will only deepen and extend over time, if more and more weapons arrive in the country.

A European Union diplomat replied firmly, upon hearing the Obama administration’s declaration, that he could ensure that the new weapons would not fall “into the wrong hands” in Syria:

It would be the first conflict in which someone says that he would be creating peace, supplying more and more weapons. If they think they know how far the weapons will go, it would be the first war in history in which someone would know in advance. It has already happened in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear. And they always reappear where someone is interested in them.

In Syria, everyone who is interested in maintaining the conflict is interested in more weapons. Again, first of all, the extremists of the al-Nursa Front, recognized as the most effective force among those fighting against the Syrian government: the weapons will therefore go directly to them.

Obama has already taken to the point of utter irrationality the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In doing so, it helps to produce a new generation of Islamist extremists who will forever fuel the “war on terror” invented by the United States. The real intention of the War on Terror is not to contain terrorists, but to destroy the nation states that oppose US foreign policy: Iraq and Libya – like Syria – were countries under secular governments when they were invaded; Afghanistan has been invaded, although the vast majority of those involved in the 9/11 attacks are from Saudi Arabia. There were never any problems of terrorism in Iraq before the American invasion. Nor had there ever been a problem of terrorism in Syria before the US-backed “rebels” came on the scene.

It is absolutely obvious to many Americans, that Syria and Iran are at the top of Obama’s kill list: far higher, as a priority, than any terrorist group. That is why Obama tolerates the terrorists who are working inside Syria today. Obama is using them as a tool against the real targets: Syria and then Iran.

The Syrian people have the right to decide on their own future. The United States is hopelessly unable to “help” someone, using military means. To prove it, there are, painfully, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. The global anti-war movement must demand:

“USA, outside Syria!”
Politics,

Who Killed the Syrian Peace Talks?

The long awaited Syrian peace talks — instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States — had already passed their initial due date, and are now officially stillborn.

The peace talks are dead because the U.S.-backed rebels are boycotting the negotiations, ruining any hope for peace, while threatening to turn an already tragic disaster into a Yugoslavia-style catastrophe…or worse.

The U.S. backed rebels are not participating in the talks because they have nothing to gain from them, and everything to lose.

In war, the purpose of peace negotiations is to copy the situation on the battlefield and paste it to a treaty: the army winning the war enters negotiations from a dominant position, since its position is enforceable on the ground.

The U.S.-backed rebels would be entering peace talks broken and beaten, having been debilitated on the battlefield. The Syrian army has had a string of victories, pushing the rebels back to the border areas where they are protected by U.S. allies Turkey, Jordan, and northern Lebanon. Peace talks would merely expose this reality and end the war on terms dictated by the Syrian government.

A rebel leader was quoted in The New York Times revealing this motive for the rebel’s abandonment of peace talks:

“What can we [rebels] ask for when we go very weak to Geneva [for peace talks]?… The Russians and the Iranians and the representatives of the [Syrian] regime will say: ‘You don’t have any power. We are controlling everything. What you are coming to ask for?’”

This is the reality as it exists in Syria, and realistic peace talks would recognize the situation in Syria and end the conflict immediately.

But first the rebel’s supporters — the United States and its lackeys Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — must acknowledge this reality and demand that the rebels forge ahead with peace talks, on threat of being cut off politically, financially, and militarily.

If this happens, war is over.

But if the war ended tomorrow, Syrian President Bashar Assad, would still be in power, and President Obama has said repeatedly, “Assad must go.” Obama would be further humiliated by his Syria policy if he had to again recognize Assad as president after spending a year recognizing a group of rich Syrian exiles as “the legitimate government of Syria” and after his administration repeatedly announced that the Assad regime had ended over a year ago.

More importantly, if Assad stayed in power, U.S. foreign policy would appear weak internationally, which is one main reason that the U.S. political establishment wants to go “all in” for regime change in Syria: super powers must back up their threats, since otherwise other nations might choose to challenge the United States.

This is the real reason peace talks will not be held. The U.S. and its European allies want regime change in Syria, and they are prepared to allow many more people to die to make it so. This was made clear by the Obama administration. The New York Times reports:

“[Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad’s gains on the battlefield have called the United States’ strategy on Syria into question, prompting the Obama administration to again consider military options, including arming the rebels and conducting airstrikes to protect civilians and the Syrian opposition, administration officials said on Monday.”

The above quote mentions “conducting airstrikes to protect civilians.” This is the infamous language of the UN resolution that allowed U.S.-NATO to intervene in Libya; but Obama immediately overstepped “protecting civilians” and quickly jumped into “regime change,” a gross violation of international law and a Bush-like war crime.

The UN — though especially China and Russia — have learned from the Libya example and will doubtfully ever again approve of a “protect civilian” UN resolution. If the U.S. intervenes in Syria, it will do so with a Bush-style “coalition of the willing,” i.e. U.S. allies.

Obama’s dream of having a post-Assad Syria is further complicated by the fact that Assad is apparently more popular than he has ever been.

Many Syrians that didn’t previously support Assad now do, having concluded that Assad in power is better than their country being obliterated in an Iraq-style invasion, or being dominated by Islamic extremists, as the majority of the Syrian rebel groups are.

Further helping Assad’s popularity is that Israel has bombed Syria recently on multiple occasions, while Syrians watch the unpopular United States funnel weapons to the rebels. As a result, Assad can now successfully portray himself as a defender of Syria’s sovereignty against foreign aggression.

But, Obama will not be deterred. After it became clear that the rebels were losing the war, the U.S. and its European allies removed the remaining legal barriers to further arming the rebels, while the religious leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar — both U.S. allies — assisted in the war effort by calling for Jihad against the Syrian government (the same week the leader of al-Qaeda did).

Behind this frenzy of rebel support lies the sick logic that, in order for successful peace negotiations to take place, the rebels need to be in a stronger battlefield position. Arm the rebels to the teeth for peace!

In response to this twisted logic, Oxfam International — a disaster relief coalition — responded by saying:

“Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won’t create a level playing field. Instead, it risks further fueling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country.”

Ultimately, the Syrian rebels would have already been defeated — and thousands of lives spared — if they had not been receiving support from the U.S. and other countries. The U.S.-backed rebels have said that a pre-condition for peace is “Assad must go;” but this demand does not coincide with the reality on the ground: the rebels are in no position to demand this, and the U.S. is using this unrealistic demand to artificially lengthen an already-bloody war.

Obama can either use his immense influence to end this bloody conflict by withdrawing support to the rebels, or he can extend the conflict and further tear to shreds the social fabric of the Middle East, while risking a multi-nation war that history will denounce as an easily-preventable holocaust.

Politics,

How Egypt Killed Political Islam

The rebirth of the Egyptian revolution ushered in the death of the first Muslim Brotherhood government. But some near-sighted analysts limit the events of Egypt to a military coup. Yes, the military is desperately trying to stay relevant — given the enormous initiative of the Egyptian masses — but the generals realize their own limitations in this context better than anybody else. This wasn’t a mere re-shuffling at the top of society, but a flood from the bottom.

In reality the Egyptian people had already destroyed the Morsi regime (for example government buildings had already been occupied or shut down by the people), which is why the generals intervened — the same reason they intervened against Mubarak: better to try to lead than be led by the people. But the people remain in the driver’s seat, no matter what “national salvation government” the generals try to cobble together to retain legitimacy before the Egyptian people.

Political legitimacy — especially in times of revolution — must be earned, not assumed. Revolutionary legitimacy comes from taking bold actions to satisfy the political demands of the people: jobs, housing, public services, etc. A “democracy” that represents only Egypt’s upper crust as the Muslim Brotherhood government did, cannot emerge from a revolution and maintain itself; it was destroyed by a higher form of revolutionary democracy.

The brief, uninspiring reign of the first Muslim Brotherhood government will alter the course of Middle East history, whose modern chapter was formed, in part, by the rise of the Brotherhood. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has done the Middle East a profound favor by exposing its political and economic ideology for what it is: pro-western/capitalist economic policies that serve the IMF-dominated big banks, while preventing any real measures to address Egypt’s jobs crisis and massive inequality — itself born from previous neo-liberal privatization policies.

What did the Brotherhood do with the corrupt state they inherited? They tried to adapt; they flirted with the Egyptian military, coddled up to the security services, and seduced the dictatorship’s primary backer, the United States. They shielded all the Mubarak criminals from facing justice.

The Brotherhood’s foreign policy was also the same as Mubarak’s, favoring Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, and favoring the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels against the Syrian government, while increasingly adopting an anti-Iran agenda. A primary financial backer of the Muslim Brotherhood government was the oil-rich monarchy of Qatar (a U.S. puppet government), who helped steer the foreign policy of the Egyptian government.

The Muslim Brotherhood followed the same policies as the dictatorship because they serve the same elite interests. Consequently, political Islam will no longer be a goal for millions across the Middle East, who will opt for a new politics that will serve the real needs of the people of the region.

Political Islam outside of Egypt is also being rapidly discredited across the Middle East. In Turkey the mass protests that erupted were, in part, a reaction by the youth in Turkey to the conservative political and free-market economic policies of the Islam-oriented government.

The people of Iran recently chose the most religiously moderate of candidates to represent them, whose electoral campaign sparked an emerging mass movement.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has allowed itself to become a pawn of U.S. foreign policy against the Syrian government, participating in a U.S.-organized “transition government” that will take power, in theory, after the U.S.-backed rebels destroy the Syrian government. The Syrian government’s battlefield victories and the new Egyptian revolution will further set back the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Political Islam was already stained by the disgraceful monarchies of the Middle East. The especially corrupt and decrepit dictatorship of Saudi Arabia has thoroughly exploited Islam, where a fundamentalist version of Sharia law is reserved for the Saudi masses, while the Saudi monarchy partakes in any kind of illegal or immoral behavior it wants. Saudi Arabia’s only source of political legitimacy is its self-portrayal as the “protector of Islam” — since the holiest Islamic cities are in Saudi Arabia. But the Ottoman Empire that was destroyed in WWI also based its legitimacy on being the “defender of Islam” — both exploited Islam for political and financial power.

Of course, Islam is not the only religion that is exploited by elites. The ruling class of Israel defiles Judaism by using it to legitimize the state’s racist and expansionist policies. A nation-state based on religion — like Israel — implies that the non-religious minority be treated as second class citizens, while also implying that the “most devout,” i.e. most conservative religious groups, gain greater influence and are granted greater privileges by the state.

The same is true in the United States for the Republican Party — and increasingly the Democrats — who base much of their legitimacy on a fundamentalist version of Christianity, the inevitable result of which discriminates against non-Christians, though especially Muslims. Republicans increasingly rely on whipping up their fundamentalist Christian base against immigrants, Muslims, and homosexuals, allowing them the cover to pursue a pro-corporate and militarist foreign policy.

In the Middle East the modern history of political Islam was birthed by the Western powers after WWII, who installed and supported monarchies across the Middle East to maintain cheap oil and subservient governments; these monarchies use a fundamentalist version of Islam as their primary source of legitimacy.

This Islamic-exploitative policy was extended to fight the rise of the powerful pan-Arab socialist governments that favored a Soviet-style publicly-owned economy, first initiated by the still-beloved Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Retired CIA agent Robert Baer discusses this pro-Islamic/anti-Soviet dynamic in his excellent book, Sleeping With the Devil, How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude.

When Arab countries — like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, etc. — followed Egypt’s example in the 1960′s and later took action against the rich and western corporations, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia relied ever more strongly on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists to destabilize these nations or steer their politics to the right.

When the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Egypt’s Nasser, he used the military and state repression to destroy the organization, whose members then fled to Syria and Saudi Arabia. Then the Brotherhood tried to assassinate Syrian President Hafez al-Assad — Bashar al-Assad’s father — who followed Nasser’s example and physically destroyed the organization. Libya’s Gaddafi and Tunisia’s Bourguiba — both popular Presidents for years — likewise took aggressive action against the Brotherhood’s own aggressive, reactionary tactics, which remained protected and nurtured by U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia.

This policy of using radical Islamists against Soviet-allied states was extended further when the U.S. and Saudi Arabia funded, armed, and trained the groups later known as al-Qaida and the Taliban against the Soviet-allied Afghanistan government. After this “success” the same policy was applied to Yugoslavia, where the radical Islamists, known as the Kosovo Liberation Army, were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as they targeted the Soviet-inspired Yugoslavia government. Now, the Saudi-backed radical Islamists are being employed against the Syrian government.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the semi-socialist Arab nations that depended on it for trade and support found themselves economically and politically isolated, and consequently shifted their economies towards western capitalist policies seeking injections of capital (foreign investment) and new avenues for trade.

This transition required neo-liberal policies — especially widespread privatization schemes — that created vast inequality and unemployment, and eventually became the main economic causes of the revolutionary movements now known as the Arab Spring. Ironically, to combat their flagging popularity, these regimes lessened restrictions on the Islamic parties as a way to funnel energy away from economic demands, while also acting as a counterbalance to the political left.

The Arab Spring toppled dictatorships but didn’t provide an organized political alternative. The Muslim Brotherhood was sucked into this vacuum, and was quickly spit out as a viable political alternative for the demands of a revolutionary Egypt and the broader Middle East.

And although the Egyptian military again holds the reins of institutional power in Egypt, it understands the people’s distrust of the post-Mubarak military, and is thus limited in its ability to act, since mass repression would further inflame the revolution and possibly fracture the army — the same way it did when former President Nasser rose to power in a junior officer’s leftist coup (a similar type of coup was attempted and failed by Hugo Chavez before he was president).

Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood and other similar Islamic political organizations are not a natural expression of the religious attitudes of people in the Middle East, but instead an unnatural political creation that serves a specific geo-political agenda, specifically that of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian people have now had the experience of political Islam and have discarded it, in the same way a tank deals with a speed bump. Now new policies must be sought based on a different political-economic ideology, until one is found that will represent the actual needs of the people.

Until the Egyptian masses discover and organize around a platform that serves the people’s needs, a series of other governments will be constructed in an attempt to keep Egypt’s elites — and their western foreign backers — in place. These governments will be likewise tossed aside until one emerges that represents the needs of the people.

There is a valid fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will choose to take up arms in Egypt in the same way that the Algerian Islamists triggered a civil war when the military annulled the elections they had won. The Brotherhood may say, “We tried elections and the results were denied to us.”

But revolution is the greatest expression of democracy, and only by extending the revolution can a potential civil war between the Brotherhood and the military be averted. The power of both groups can be undercut by a revolutionary movement that fights for improving the living conditions — with concrete demands — of the majority of Egyptians. The lower ranks of both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood will sympathize with such a movement, allowing for a new direction for the country.

Many revolutionaries in Egypt have learned a thousand political lessons in a few short years; they will not easily allow the army to usurp their power. The Egyptian revolution is the most powerful revolution in decades and has already re-shaped the Middle East. It will continue to do so until the people’s needs are met.

history, Politics,

How the U.S. Left is Failing Over Syria

It’s now painfully clear that Obama’s war on Syria is a replay of Bush’s march to war in Iraq, both built on lies. Zero evidence has been put forth that proves the Syrian government used chemical weapons. On the contrary, evidence has been recorded that suggests the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are responsible for the attack.

If Obama wages an aggressive attack on Syria — especially without UN authorization — he’ll be committing a major international crime that will, by any standard, make him a war criminal, just like Bush before him.

And because Obama’s attack on Syria followed Bush’s logic, you’d assume that liberal, progressive, and other Left groups would do what they did when Bush went to war: denounce it unconditionally and organize against it.

But that’s not what happened. Because this didn’t happen, less accurate information was made available to the public, and fewer public mobilizations have occurred, thus re-enforcing Obama’s ability to wage an aggressive war.

There are four pieces of information that all left groups have a duty to report about Syria, but they have either ignored or minimized them:

1) Obama presented zero evidence to back up his main justification for war: that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against civilians.

2) A top UN investigator, Carla Del Ponte, blamed a previous chemical weapons attack on the U.S.-backed rebels.

3) Any attack on Syria, no matter how “limited,” has a high risk of expanding into neighboring countries if Syria exercises its right as a sovereign nation to defend itself.

4) A war against Syria will be a violation of international law, since it is not approved by the UN, and therefore will make President Obama a war criminal.

There has been a broad spectrum of leftist failure to address these issues and condemn Obama’s war, ranging from those who take an overtly pro-war position to those who use anti-war slogans that are stained with pro-war justifications. A consistent “Hands Off Syria” message was hard to find, indeed.

The most guilty parties who have aided and assisted Obama’s expected war plans will have blood-stained hands after the bombing begins. Perhaps the best example of this coterie is Van Jones, the former adviser to Obama who founded the Rebuild The Dream organization. On CNN, Jones announced his new appetite for foreign war:

“I think we need to stand behind this president and send a clear message to Assad that this type behavior is not acceptable.”

Many liberals took Jones’ “stand by our president” approach, even if it wasn’t stated as directly as Jones did, and even after “our president” was unable to present any sensible reason for waging another aggressive war in the Middle East.

A notch lower on the leftist spectrum of Syria war guilt is MoveOn.org, which has done everything in their power not to portray President Obama’s actions in their true light. But MoveOn had to take a more creative approach to covering up for Obama in Syria.

MoveOn organized a “teach-in” that was streamed on their website. The panel of speakers — with one exception — presented Obama’s position in a very evenhanded, “objective” way, presenting the president as an entirely reasonable person for wanting to bomb Syria, even if it might not be the best way to deal with the situation.

Instead of pointing out the flagrant similarities between Obama’s Syria war rationale and George Bush’s Iraq War lies, these similarities were papered over, thus legitimizing Obama’s criminal actions.

The worst Obama apologist on the panel was Matt Duss from the Center for American Progress, who explained that, although he was against a war on Syria, he “respects” that “other progressives of good faith may come to a different view.”

Phyllis Bennis from the Institute of Policy Studies was the only consistent anti-war panelist, who appeared as a fringe element when compared to the rest of the panel, only because she offered a common sense, consistent anti-war message.

The teach-in ended with a “what can we do” segment to influence the situation. Instead of mobilizing in the streets against Obama, the panelists discussed “contacting congressmen,” “calling the White House’s comment line,” “tweeting,” “email,” “petitions,” but no call was made for doing what was done against Bush: mobilize people in the streets to demand that the war be stopped.

MoveOn further exposed their pro-Obama, pro-war attitude on the website, where for days the featured petition being promoted was titled: “President Obama: Don’t Strike Syria Without Congressional Approval.”

Again, there is no basis for any strike on Syria, period — Congressional approval or otherwise. Even if Congress doesn’t approve Obama’s actions in Syria, it’s likely that he’ll attack Syria anyway, just as happened in Libya after Congress refused authorization.

On the lower end of the spectrum of leftist failure on Syria sits the International Socialist Organization (ISO). After Obama announced his intention to attack Syria, the ISO’s main article, “Imperial Hypocrisy to Justify an Assault,” neglected to address any of the above-stated four critical points about the situation in Syria.

But the ISO’s article went beyond mere neglect of facts; in several instances it re-enforced Obama’s war plans by unquestionably accepting Obama’s claim that there was “evidence” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.

After Obama’s “evidence” was accepted, the ISO article then went on to plagiarize John Kerry’s hyper-dramatization of the YouTube video that showed the after effects of the attack:

“The mass killing in Ghouta was so awful that it forced the debate on Syria to a head. The warheads filled with sarin gas were targeted not at rebel fighters, but women and children in their beds. Their lungs filled with fluid, suffocating them. Hundreds more suffered severe and crippling injuries. Anyone with a sense of justice will be incensed by such a calculated effort to terrorize a vulnerable civilian population.”

Nowhere in the ISO article does it say “Hands Off Syria” or does it clearly denounce Obama’s pending attack on Syria. The article merely states that the U.S. is acting “hypocritically,” which, although true, falls tragically short of the needed response, therefore allowing more political space for Obama to wage a brutal attack.

It’s important to note that the above groups and individuals also politically failed BEFORE Obama announced a direct military intervention, since they did not sound the alarm bells of the long-approaching attack.

For example, the U.S. has been training, funding, and arming Syrian rebels for almost two years now, while having led the diplomatic organizing efforts of a group of rich Syrian exiles that Obama refers to as the “legitimate” government of Syria. Obama stated several times that “Assad must go.” The political Left had a duty to explain the significance of these events and their likely outcome, U.S. military intervention.

All of the above groups are also guilty of demonizing Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, buying in on the propaganda that he is worse than the Al Qaeda-linked rebels who are attacking him. This is a crucial element of justifying any aggressive war. Every head of state that is targeted by the U.S. government must be portrayed as an inspiring “Hitler,” since attacking a nation led by “Hitler” is, of course, a “good” thing to do.

And although opinion is certainly divided over Assad, those in the U.S. wishing to stop an aggressive war must focus on the actions of their own country.

“Hands Off Syria” is a united front demand, meaning that it’s intentionally aimed to create a broad based appeal in an effort to mobilize as many people as possible. No anti-war movement — or any social movement — is powerful without massive, ongoing mobilizations.

Within the united front demand of Hands Off Syria there is plenty of room for other tactics and room to discuss the deeper politics of the movement, but creating the largest possible mobilizations must be the base ingredient, and this can only be done under a demand that is capable of bringing together broad sections of the U.S. public.

The question of war sadly remains the greatest immediate threat the world faces, especially in light of an increasingly conflict-ridden and dangerous Middle East. The United States government is hell-bent on reckless wars that are increasingly likely to spiral out of control as they bring abject misery to the affected populations around the world while funneling money for badly needed social programs here in the U.S. into campaigns of death and destruction. Unequivocally denouncing U.S. foreign aggression is the duty of all working people who value peace, hate war, and aspire to create a better world.

Hands Off Syria! Bring the Troops Home NOW!

history, Politics,

Obama’s War Grows as Support Shrinks

Some careful listening has exposed the lie that a U.S. attack (war) against Syria would be, as Obama put it, “a shot across the bow,” i.e. a “tiny war.” But even before the first missile is launched the birth of Obama’s baby war began to grow, and when it’s eventually unleashed it will resemble any other fully matured war, complete with massive destruction, the death of untold innocents and yet another Middle Eastern nation torn to pieces.

The debated Syrian war resolution in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee saw the infancy of “limited strikes” quickly evolve into “altering the balance of forces” between Assad and the U.S.-backed rebels. Out of the Senate committee emerged a fully mature war, hell bent on regime change, though clothed in bureaucrat-speak to fool the American public. The resolution includes:

It is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria.

Translation: regime change.

Obama himself used the language of regime change to sell the war to the Republicans, though again, hidden in a swamp of words:

[the attack on Syria] also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required — so that ultimately we have a transition [regime change] that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region.

Now that the regime change motives are out in the open, a “real” war becomes all the more necessary, since Obama’s prized rebels — dominated by Islamic extremists — have encountered defeat after defeat by the Syrian Government, and need more than “limited strikes” to alter the balance of force.

Regime change, however, has been in the works long before recent events, having been the official policy of the U.S. towards Syria for at least two years, when Obama began intervening with weapons, funding, and training for the U.S.-backed rebels. During this time Obama also hand picked a group of rich Syrian exiles that the U.S. government still recognizes as the legitimate government of Syria, which of course presumes a change of regime.

The conflict in Syria would have ended — and tens of thousands of lives spared — without Obama and his allies — especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan — fueling the carnage with foreign fighters and massive arms trafficking. To think that Obama’s current projected bombing campaign can somehow be separated from the previous two years of regime change foreign policy is the height of political naivety.

Several news outlets have reported on the more than “limited” nature of Obama’s proposed missile strikes. ABC News expressed shock when they received information about the war preparations, since they were anything but “surgical.”

The ABC broadcast mentions the use of B-2, and B-52 bombers, as well as using the “vast majority” of the 200 tomahawk missiles fired from five Navy Destroyers already stationed off the coast of Syria. There is also a U.S. aircraft carrier in the region capable of deploying F-16 fighter jets.

The broadcast quotes a military official as saying that the Syrian shock-and-awe assault “could do more damage to Assad’s forces in 48 hours than the rebels have done in two years of civil war.”, i.e. a major military operation.

Add to this that there are already U.S. troops with “boots on the ground” in Turkey and Jordan, training and arming U.S.-backed rebels and operating more advanced missile systems. The French newspaper Le Figaro, reported that hundreds of these U.S. troops and opposition fighters have already entered Syria recently, no doubt in connection with Obama’s “limited strikes.”

Syria’s government has said that it would defend itself if attacked, a fact dismissed by the Obama Administration and the U.S. media. Secretary of State John Kerry arrogantly stated:

Let me say again unequivocally, bluntly: If Assad is arrogant enough and foolish enough to retaliate to the consequences of his own criminal activity, the United States and our allies have ample ways to make him regret that decision without going to war.

Kerry’s nonsense flips reality on its head: In Kerry’s fantasy world Syria is not being attacked by a foreign nation (the U.S.) but merely retaliated against, which doesn’t give Syria the right to defend itself (!) But if Assad does defend Syria by returning fire on an attacking Navy vessel, for example, the U.S. will “make him regret it”…. “without going to war” (?!)   Of course, war begins when Obama fires the first missile.

And this is exactly what the American public is not prepared for. Any capable sovereign nation would defend itself from such an attack, and would have every right to do so under international law. The Obama Administration — who would be breaking international law — is trying to skew the public debate in the U.S. to fit his fantasy world version of a war scenario.

If the Syrian government defends itself from U.S. attack, Obama will express “shock and outrage,” and demand that the war be escalated, possibly to include targeting Iran and Hezbollah, two entities long in the U.S.-Israeli crosshairs. The result is a catastrophic regional war that includes the possibility of becoming a global war, based on Russia and China’s reaction to the mayhem.

There are other hints that Obama has been planning for regime change for his recent war plans.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama was already meeting with regional allies for “contingency plans” in case the Assad regime happened to collapse due to the “limited strikes.” The contingency plans would be more aptly named “regime change” plans, which aim to ensure that a pro-U.S. regime takes power in Syria.

Obama has also hinted that he understands an assault on Syria would provoke a regional war, which is likely why he recently withdrew U.S. embassy staff in several countries surrounding Syria, while warning Americans not to travel to Turkey and Lebanon and “to be alert to the potential for violence.”

Of course, a U.S. war against Syria would instantly pour over its borders, since Israel has already bombed Syria four times in recent months, while the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon are crossed to funnel massive amounts of weapons while receiving millions of Syrian war refugees in exchange.

These are the regional implications that are keeping even the most submissive U.S. allies away from a war against Syria. The usual U.S. puppets like the Arab League and Britain have not endorsed an attack on Syria, while the UN also denied authorization.

So for Obama the most difficult aspect of waging war against Syria has been legitimizing it, giving it some kind of “legal” authorization, shallow as it will eventually be. Starting a war without some kind of justifiable cover would be politically costly on the foreign and domestic level, and already has been; the Obama Administration is going down in flames as it tries to revive his stillborn war.

The problem is that the same lies he used to start war in Libya cannot be recycled so easily. The UN Security Council and much of the rest of the world has learned its lessons; Obama’s “Humanitarian Intervention” in Libya to “protect civilians” instantly transformed to regime change after the first bomb fell.

Of course, Obama is combining his Libya lies with the deception of George Bush, who had “concrete” evidence that Iraq had WMD’s. Like Bush, Obama has presented no evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack; while ignoring that a previous chemical weapons attack in Syria was blamed on the rebels by the UN. Even several U.S. Congressmen who were recently shown the “top secret evidence” to prove that the Syrian government is responsible for the attack left “unimpressed.”

If Obama conjures up the audacity to wage war in Syria under such political isolation, it will be a watershed moment in U.S. history, marking a crucial moment of decline in U.S. influence abroad. But the same is true if Obama doesn’t attack; the weakness of U.S. foreign policy will likewise be exposed due to Obama’s ability to follow through with his threats due to lack of allies and domestic dissent.

Either way the U.S. elites who benefit directly from foreign wars — or by dominating international markets — will be doubly motivated to wage even more war in the future, since U.S. hegemony is no longer capable of exerting power through economic means alone. This makes it all the more important that the U.S. anti-war movement re-assert itself, and combine with the Labor Movement to demand a national set of new priorities that demand that the U.S. government attack the jobs crisis and U.S. poverty, with a federal jobs program, instead of foreign nations that are no threat to the United States.

Politics,

Is Capitalism to Blame for the Syrian War Drive?

Obama’s push for war in Syria seemed so deeply irrational, so crazed, that many people naturally asked, “Why is this happening?” And “who” wants it to happen? Few Americans actually believed that Nobel Peace Prizing winning Obama suddenly wanted to bomb Syria because “Assad gassed his own people” (especially when zero evidence was given to prove this).

Many commentators have correctly stated that geopolitics is a main motivation for Obama wanting to bomb Syria, acting as a gateway to Iran. Other commentators have also correctly discussed the specific economic (capitalistic) interests as a war motive. And others still have, again correctly, focused on the importance of Israel as a factor towards pushing for war in Syria and eventually Iran. All three answers are correct, and have an inter-dependence that is complicated and difficult to quantify, since much of the truth is hidden from public view.

Problems arise in analysis, however, when one of these issues is separated from the broader context, as was done in a recent article by Jean Bricmont and Diana Johnstone. Their article, “The People Against the 800 Pound Gorilla,” focuses on the importance of the U.S. Israeli lobby — “the 800 Pound Gorilla” — and their push for war, while minimizing or dismissing other crucial economic and political motives.

The article makes many excellent points, especially how the Israeli lobby in the U.S., American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is fanatically pushing for war against Syria. Congress is also trying to be politically immune from ANY discussion about AIPAC activities, lest accusations of “anti-Semite” are indiscriminately flung at them.

The problem with the article, however, is that the authors elevate the Israeli gorilla to a weight class it doesn’t belong in; and in so doing the authors are forced to minimize the size of several other giant gorillas, whose combined weight overshadows the Israeli chimp.

One of the giant gorillas that the authors seek to shrink is the U.S. capitalist class. The following passage summarizes the author’s main point:

“People who think that capitalists want wars to make profits should spend time observing the board of directors of any big corporation: capitalists need stability, not chaos, and the recent wars only bring more chaos.”

This is, of course, true for many if not most U.S. corporations. The authors are also correct when they argue that the average writer who uses a capitalist-centered analysis to explain war wrongly “…sees capitalism as a unified actor issuing orders to obedient politicians on the basis of careful calculations.” The authors are correct that this type of clunky analysis lacks nuance and should be rejected.

But the authors also fail to give capitalism the nuance it deserves; they construct a capitalistic straw man so arid it spontaneously combusts. For example, the authors limit the definition of capitalism to a sector-specific basis, mentioning specific types of capitalists that are blamed for pushing war and dismissing them as lesser gorillas than the Israeli lobby.

In naming corporate names the authors make some good points, but somehow skip over the 1,600 pound gorilla in the room — the big banks, the motor force of capitalism in the U.S. The authors might respond to this criticism by saying the banks were purposely omitted because they do not “directly benefit” from war and are, therefore, not at the forefront of advocating it.

This would be false. As the dominant corporate sector in U.S. capitalism, the banks are also the most internationalist in scope; the recent second quarter profits of U.S. banks were $42.2 billion (!), most of this money was made in overseas investing using cheap Federal Reserve printed dollars.

When there are overseas barriers to these types of profits, such as currency controls and other restrictions on foreign investment — as exist in Syria, Iran, and China — these nations are viewed as “enemies” by the banks who cheerlead their destruction. A submissive nation with an “open” economy is very good for the profits of U.S. corporations, and submissiveness is best taught by fear, i.e., the threat of military intervention.

Of course, the banks don’t act alone, but lead a pro-war coalition of corporations, such as the lesser gorillas the authors mention, like weapons manufacturers, the giant construction companies that “rebuild” a bombed nation, oil companies, and a gaggle of other companies — and there are many — who directly benefit from war profiteering. All of this is not to mention the fact that every U.S. multinational corporation has a stake in ensuring that their business is operating in a secure environment, with minimal chance of being nationalized by the host country. Corporations lobby via coalitions and through think tanks and other associations more effectively than they do as individual corporate sectors.

Thus, the U.S. pro-war coalition pushes U.S. foreign policy towards war, particularly against U.S.-capitalist hostile countries, with the AIPAC tail eagerly wagging behind — but not wagging the dog itself. It is this coalition of mega-corporations that the neoconservatives and other elite think tanks speak for when they endlessly discuss how to best project U.S. military power abroad.

These strategists — such as the Project For a New American Century — are the “vanguard” of American capitalism, and their geopolitical outlook is firmly rooted in the economic interests of the corporations that most benefit from overseas investing. This fanatic drive to maintain and expand the U.S. global empire of military bases — which help keep submissive nations in line — is a core ingredient to making the massive profits that are the motor force of U.S. capitalism.

Thus, this more abstract concept of “empire” was yet another 800 pound gorilla missing from the authors’ analysis, intertwined as it is to corporations whose interests are being expressed. And although the authors are correct when they say that U.S. capitalists would rather dominate foreign markets through the normal processes of trade, this peaceful kind of market domination has become more difficult as the U.S. has declined economically in relation to emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, etc. The U.S. military is consequently relied on to keep alliances together and opponents submissive, in addition to its more mundane function of keeping trade routes open and safe. This is why any empire in its declining phase — like the U.S. — is especially dangerous, as it logically falls back on its sharpest tool — bombing — no matter how “illogical” these bombings may appear.

The international game of geopolitics mirrors the corporate competition for international markets; with each country the U.S. dominates politically — through war — U.S. corporations are able to profit through being the primary lender, the primary military salesman, while also winning the tastiest natural resources “concessions,” and the biggest infrastructural contracts to build public works, not to mention many other privileges.

The authors also prematurely dismiss the role oil plays in U.S. foreign policy. It is not the individual oil companies that matter so much — as the authors suggest — but the role oil plays in broader geopolitics and as the motor of the U.S economy. Monopolizing this prized resource allows the U.S. massive deficit spending (war spending) via the “petro-dollar” trade, while ensuring that rival nations will be intimidated by the possibility of having the oil valve turned off. This is why the Middle East continues to be the prime objective for U.S. foreign policy. Of course, the giant oil corporations themselves play no small role in this process.

The authors also incorrectly minimize the ape of the military industrial complex (MIC), by arguing that the drawn-out military disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq have made the MIC gun shy, since “stupid wars” (as Obama put it) bring negative attention to the killing industry.

Yes, the military and its corporate parasites get better PR when “dumb wars” are avoided, but this superficial analysis ignores the “successful” bombing of Libya. It’s also not true, as the authors suggest, that the MIC only needs “the threat of war” — not actual war — to keep its profits high. Like any corporation, if the warehouses are full of inventory (bombs, in this case), then no new orders are needed, which of course drives down production and consequently profits.

To avoid the bad PR that “boots on the ground” brings, Obama has instead opted for illegal drone attacks, and Libya-style shock-and-awe bombing campaigns. Since a “no-boots-on-the-ground” policy makes classical regime change impossible, the U.S. foreign policy hawks seem to be shifting back to a balkanization policy (bomb and fragment) since the U.S. cannot tolerate strong independent nations anywhere which defend their own interests, though especially in the Middle East (Johnstone’s excellent book on the U.S.-NATO destruction of Yugoslavia, titled Fools Crusade, is a must-read on this policy). A country may be independent and strong — like Turkey and Israel — only if the nations are firmly welded behind U.S. economic and foreign policy.

Of course, the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, deserves a special place in any analysis of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and the authors deserve credit for taking to task those who ignore this gorilla. But this primate expresses its power best as part of a coalition of pro-war powerhouses, not independently.

It’s true that AIPAC also has an independent power of politically influential lobbyists, with a limitless pocketbook — the nation of Israel —with which it can enact promises (bribes) of all kinds. And it’s true that Israel has a special place in U.S. geopolitics, essentially acting as a giant military base for U.S. foreign policy in the oil rich region.

But the bigger picture is that the infamous AIPAC lobbyists are connected in myriad ways to the banking industry, weapons manufacturers and other giant corporations, and therefore should be viewed as an important member of the pro-war coalition led by the big banks.

Ultimately, however, the U.S. empire existed before the nation of Israel was even born, and would continue if Israel no longer existed. Obama’s administration is not full of AIPAC lobbyists, but wealthy bankers.

The authors Bricmont and Johnstone deserve credit for bravely exposing the role of AIPAC in pushing the Syrian war drive, but by overstating AIPAC’s influence — while ignoring the power of the big banks and others — the real motive for war in U.S. foreign policy is shielded, protecting the super rich Americans who relentlessly warmonger for profit, and who are much more dangerous than the horde of lobbyists Israel sends into Congress.

Politics,

Is Obama Fundamentally Shifting His Middle East Strategy?

The Saudis and Israelis are fuming. Obama’s talks with Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani point to a possible new direction in U.S.-Middle East policy. Iran is the regional archrival of the Saudis and Israelis, who for decades have shared the mantle as the main U.S. allies in the Middle East.

The Arab Spring has — along with the ascendance of Russia and China — shifted the geo-political ground of the region, and the U.S. is trying to maintain a dominant position with a new strategy. This shift, if successful, has the potential to create a political crisis within the U.S. government as well as abroad. Israel and Saudi Arabia, for example, won’t quietly accept a diminished role in the Middle East.

Israel gave a thunderous response to Obama’s Iranian talks last week by committing its fourth war crime against Syria in the last year, by launching a bombing raid against a Syrian military installation. Since Obama is currently pursuing “Geneva II” peace talks with Syria and Russia, the timing of the Israeli bombing suggests that Israel is intent on not being ignored.

The Saudis, too, have fired missiles, though of the diplomatic type, aimed at the U.S. by refusing a seat at the UN Security Council. The Saudis have also threatened a fundamental break from their long-standing U.S. ally, which in reality means a shift towards Russia and China.

There are three main factors that appear to be pushing Obama in a new Middle East direction: Obama’s political defeat in the Syrian conflict, the United States’ new ocean of natural (shale) gas, and the new Egyptian government’s shift away from a long-standing U.S. alliance. The Middle East is changing fast.

The Syrian conflict exposed the United States’ Middle East strategy as bankrupt; Obama planned a Bush-like bombing campaign to terrorize Syria into submission, but backed down at the last minute, due to immense domestic and international opposition, not to mention the fact that Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda were certain to come to power if Obama opened the gates of hell with U.S. missiles. Obama’s last minute retreat was a historic blow to U.S. foreign policy, along the lines of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam.

By agreeing to the Russian plan of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama admitted humiliating defeat and signaled that the U.S. was abandoning the proxy war against the Syrian government, the war now completely dominated by Islamic extremists and foreign jihad fighters; those who maintain that a legitimate mass “revolution” is still in play fool only themselves. Furthermore, those who claim, “the Israeli tail wags the American dog” were again proved wrong when the full force of Israeli/AIPAC lobbying — to attack Syria — was ultimately ignored.

Obama’s Syria shift also left Saudi Arabia in the lurch, which went “all in” against Syria by shipping huge amounts of money, arms, and Saudi nationals to destroy Assad’s Syria, no doubt with immense initial encouragement from Obama. If a Syrian peace deal is hatched at “Geneva II” (if in fact it ever happens), it’s certain that any outcome will make explicit Saudi Arabia’s waning influence in Syria.

Obama is also finally using the new U.S. flood of shale gas as a political weapon in his Middle East approach. The “natural gas revolution” threatens to change the face of the global oil/gas industry, and has energy giants Saudi Arabia and Russia shaking in their boots. This influx of American gas simply makes the Middle East less important.

An interesting Reuters article reports:

“…surging North American energy production [shale gas] has brought the United States closer to a long-dreamed “energy independence” that is reshaping its goals and role in the Middle East.”

Henry Kissinger, arch-war criminal and modern architect of the oil-focused U.S. foreign policy, was quoted in the Reuters article:

“You could not make plans in the Middle East or involving Middle East crises, without keeping in mind the considerations of the oil market…but that is now changing substantially with the, I wouldn’t say ‘self sufficiency’ but narrowing the gap between supply and demand in North America [shale gas], that is now of huge strategic consequence.”

Of course, the U.S. is simply not going to leave the Middle East for the foreseeable future, but Kissinger’s comments make clear that the U.S. now has more strategic flexibility than it had before, and the blunt Bush Jr. policy of bombings and invasions has had to give way at some point to some actual strategy (bombings will of course remain as “leverage” in peace talks and be re-introduced if talks fail).

Finally, the long-standing strategic U.S. partnership with Egypt is crumbling before Obama’s eyes. The revolutionary mobilizations against U.S. ally Muhammad Morsi brought forth a military government that, according to its public statements and state media, is taking a staunchly anti-U.S. position. The many analysts who called Morsi’s ouster a “U.S. coup” should be re-thinking their position, as Morsi was profoundly more pro-U.S. than his replacement.

The New York Times reports:

“Relations between the United States and Egypt, once-close allies, have grown increasingly strained…Since the military takeover, Egypt’s generals and their backers have lashed out at the United States, accusing it of showing favoritism toward Mr. Morsi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood by, among other things, criticizing the military government’s withering crackdown on Islamists.”

Egypt is also at the center of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia divorce, since Saudi Arabia is a huge backer of the new Egyptian military regime, displacing the Qatar-U.S. backed Muslim Brotherhood.

Again from The New York Times:

“Saudi Arabia, which strongly backs Egypt’s generals, has also rebuked the United States over its Egypt policy.”

Of course Obama still has time to give sufficient military aid and other bribes to bring Egypt back into the U.S.’ diplomatic orbit, but for now relations are spoiled.

Why would Obama potentially risk long-standing regional alliances to make peace with Iran? For one, Iran’s new president is a “reformer,” which in Iran means that he wants to completely “open up” Iran’s economy to foreign investors, and Obama sees an ocean of oil that could result in a sea of cash for U.S corporations and investors.

Iran’s former president, Ahmadinejad, went on a privatization frenzy that U.S. corporations and investors watched with forlorn eyes, as U.S. sanctions limited U.S. investments, while corporations from other nations enriched themselves off Iran’s formerly public assets. But Ahmadinejad viewed Iranian oil as a sacred cow, which, as the Economist explains, is set to be butchered and sold by Rouhani to the highest bidder (or at potentially reduced rates to U.S corporations as part of a peace deal).

If Obama can get his hands on Iranian oil — without having to physically destroy Iran — he’ll have little problem reducing the sanctions that have been economically destroying the country.

A peace with Iran will also have other profound regional implications. Doing business with the United States will push Russia and China out of the Iranian picture, amounting to a diplomatic coup for the United States, while Iran will likely be “urged” to cut off support for the Syrian government and Hezbollah, while making Shia-led Iraq more amenable to U.S. regional interests.

But achieving this major diplomatic shift will be incredibly difficult, and maybe impossible. Many U.S. congressmen from both parties want to maintain the status quo. As Obama initially announced his warming relations with Iran, Congressmen were preparing to increase the already-criminal sanctions, no doubt in an attempt to prevent any peace deal, causing tension between Obama and Congress.

Israel, too, is just crazy enough to ruin the whole enterprise by unleashing a reign of terror; the recent attack on Syria may have been just a warning shot. An Israeli attack on Iran — ostensibly to destroy its “nuclear capabilities” — would be enough to annihilate any U.S. diplomatic effort.

Whatever happens ultimately will reflect the power shift occurring across the Middle East and the re-alignment that has occurred since the Arab Spring, as well as the rise of China and Russia in the region. For now the U.S. is attempting to use diplomacy to gain a strategic advantage in the Middle East, which can very quickly revert to military actions if its goals of economic dominance aren’t peacefully achieved.