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Total number of comments: 42 (since 2012-01-18 11:22:49)


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  • Think Hagel represents meaningful change for US foreign policy? Think again.
    • So the AP is reporting that " ... Chuck Hagel, is meeting with senior Pentagon staff to try to set the record straight about his stand on Iran, saying he backs strong international sanctions against Tehran and believes all options, including military action, should be on the table... "

      This piece of Kabuki theater evidently relies on the notion, believed by most Americans, that the Pentagon desperately wants to attack Iran and thus requires assurances from Hagel that he is on board with such plans.

      Can I just point out that if the Pentagon really was so keen on attacking Iran, there was nobody to get in their way during the Bush years when Cheney spent every waking minute trying to get that war on.

      So who really did stop that war? The Pentagon stopped it, obviously. There was nobody else who could stop it. They stopped it because unlike Cheney and assorted neocon fruitloops, the military actually has a clue about the consequences.

      So it is obviously not the Pentagon being reassured during the theatrical events in Washington. There is an intended audience, certainly, but it isn't the military.

      As for the idea (in a comment above) that withdrawing from the Afghan mess would relieve pressure on the military and make room for an Iranian war... let me just put it this way: a war with Iran would be a real, actual war. They would actually fight back. Unlike the Iraqis and Afghans, the Iranians would hit the US at home. There is also the possibility that China might decide it didn't like one of its major energy suppliers being messed with. The Iranians have submarines, so if Chinese submarines sink a few aircraft carriers, they could simply say it was the Iranians hitting back and while the US might know otherwise, what would they do, declare war on China? There are dozens of scenarios like that. The Pentagon would rather keep those scenarios strictly theoretical , especially since they know there are no actual American interests at stake.

      This is not to say that the US won't strike Iran. I don't trust Obama if he gets desperate but if Bush didn't do it there's a decent chance Obama won't do it either and it certainly won't happen due to the Pentagon agitating for it ... they are the ones who will have to deal with resulting disasters.

  • Why did Washington Post and NYT lend themselves to 'unglued' 'angerfest' directed at Beinart?
    • So that's what it was!? At last, a plausible theory for why Iraq happened. It was the world's most expensive IQ test. Very cunning of The Powers That Be... they must have employed a few psychology grads to think that one up.

    • Great first line in the article. But like others here, I don't see any mystery in the WP/NYT hatefest. Goldberg thinks they are "high minded". Really? Let's ask the surviving Iraqis what they think of that.

  • MJ Rosenberg is leaving 'Media Matters' to start his own blog
    • "AIPAC firsters" ?? Meh. They aren't lobbying for AIPAC, they're lobbying for Israel.

      So "Israel Firsters" it must be.

      Proof of the pudding is the fanaticism of the response.

      Media Matters = Epic Fail.

      I disagree with MJ on the value of protecting Media Matters if you can't talk about The Issue, because frankly, on most things there isn't enough difference between the major parties to bother with. Fox News is just more upfront and boastful about the R's policies than the Dems are about theirs ... although to be fair Obama has taken a liking to boasting about how illiberal he is.

  • How to win friends and influence people -- to bomb Iran
    • The propaganda drivel from Israel is becoming ever more outlandish and absurd, and this *is* diminishing what little credibility they had. As for the idea that Israel will attack to maintain the credibility of the their constant stream of threats, I would point out that they already lost their invincibility status in 2006.

      The main target of all this propaganda is of course the US, not Iran.

      I think the guess that the scenario with 200 US casualties refers to a missile strike on a ship is probably right. The scenario is a little optimistic, since the US has many ships in the Gulf and Iran has enough missiles to overwhelm the most sophisticated countermeasures just through weight of numbers. Maybe they would only attack a single ship, but maybe they would attack all shipping, in which case the 200 number would be a dramatic understatement.

  • NYT buries the lead-- Iranians halted weapons program in '03 and have not restarted it
    • lede
      c.1965, alternative spelling of lead in the newspaper journalism sense (see lead (v.)), used to distinguish this sense from other possible meanings of the word, perhaps especially the molten lead used in typesetting machines.
      Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper


      I've seen this "burying the lede" expression many times & this finally provoked me to look it up & see if "lede" is really, like, actually a word. Apparently it is.

  • Brian Williams suggests that Israeli attack on Iran will invite terrorism to London Olympics
  • Israel will attack Iran-- and Obama gave tacit approval (Haaretz)
    • "The Yahoo" can try to prepare Israelis for war all he likes, but the reality is that Israel completely freaks out even with very low levels of casualties from their regular civilian slaughter escapades. Thousands of rockets landing there will completely freak them out, and The Yahoo knows that. Israelis saw that their much vaunted IDF wasn't all that crash hot in the last Lebanon war and not many Israelis actually believe they will do better in a bigger, longer war. That's why the polls show Israelis only want an attack if the US in "in".

  • Israel is sucking up all the oxygen in the White House
    • Phil, um, you didn't endorse it whole hog. You qualified your endorsement by mentioning falsities.

      A phrase like " the Lobby ... is an enemy of the people" is a little uncomfortable, shall we say. But here's the problem: what if it's true? What if the truth is uncomfortable? Do we opt for comfort or truth?

      If only the "Israel" part of the Lobby could be surgically distinguished from the "US Jewish community" aspect, everything would be much simpler. But alas.

      Anyway, these musings led me to a weird and crazy idea. You often mention the destructive effect of US based fundraising for settlements. So.... what if US based Jewish groups started raising funds to go and buy houses in Israel and then .... give them to Palestinians... ?? It sounds crazy ... but could it not be done? I mean, the idea would be mainly symbolic I suppose, but I just wonder if it could be done ...

  • Obama victory over Netanyahu gained support, time
    • I don't trust him one bit. The only reason for my guarded optimism is the evidence that he has finally realized he needs to protect himself from those who care nothing either for him or his country. That is to say, I'm banking on a combination of his cynicism and the apparent emergence of an instinct for self-preservation. It remains to be seen how far it goes.

    • joemowrey - I'm no fan of Obama and I don't mind saying that a lot of his conduct has been disgraceful. However there is a problem with your narrative. Early in his term, it was clear from the Israeli media that Bibi and a lot of other Israeli politicians were seriously scared of Obama. They thought he was going to lay down the law. Remember, the House Republicans were also visibly scared of him, for the same reason: they figured he would treat them the way Bush treated those opposite.

      You have to remember Obama was very popular in those early days. There was talk of the permanent decline of the Republicans. Governments, including Israel, took Obama very seriously.

      So what happened? Well, Obama's character was revealed in his actions and it became clear that he was the milkiest, toastiest milquetoast there ever was!

      As soon as Bibi got his measure, he started to wipe the floor with Obama. That continued until just recently, when Obama was forced, with his back to the wall, to push back.

      Now I agree that it does not inspire confidence that Obama has to be in such deep trouble before tackling those who are trying to destroy him (and his country).

      But I would point out that after the election, an attack on Iran will still be a disaster for a sitting US president. The economy will most likely be even worse than it is now and an oil shock would be that much more destructive. There will still be plenty of reasons for the US to keep Israel at bay.

      I am not expressing confidence, just guarded optimism.

      On that note, the Financial Times has an interview recently where it was stated that oil traders are factoring in an extremely low probability of a strike. The recent run up in oil prices is due to the embargo on Iran's oil resulting in reduced global supply, and was not due to a war premium.

      In other words, oil traders don't take Bibi seriously and I'm inclined to agree with them.

  • 'We are you and you are us,' Netanyahu says-- but Obama thumbs him with talk of Palestinians and diplomacy
    • This piece by Derfner is very revealing:

      link to

    • Yes, this is the major difference with Iraq. You never saw military/intelligence figures undermining the case for that war and it is also clear that some media figures have taken the hint both regarding war and (gasp) Israel. We are starting to see a media meme where, whilst Israel is still wonderful, they aren't supposed to contradict the Commander in Chief of the Known Universe, aka Dear Leader, aka Mr Obomber. He's the one who says when the bombs start a-flyin', got it? There have been notes in Haaretz about Israel drawing fire in the US due to being too pushy. This is new.

    • As someone who doesn't believe it will make much difference who wins the next election, nor believes that the winner of the last election has made any difference, I hope I'm not going to be accused of giving Obama a pass. FWIW, I think Obama has been a disaster on pretty much all counts. I recently spoke to someone who is a rabid Obama cultist. I said "He hasn't done anything. Tell me what he's done". The reply was that "he has let gays serve openly in the military". I kid you not, that was the reply.

      Wow, so now gays can not only go to various ME hellholes and commit war crimes, they can do so openly. Instead of what we had before, i.e. equal opportunity war crimes, we now have OPEN equal opportunity war crimes. I mean, wow, that changes everything, doesn't it?

      So with that out of the way, I think Phil is basically right here. It seems significant to me because I can't think of any other occasion where Obama has been put under pressure and he hasn't capitulated.

      This is his first non-capitulation, as far as I am aware. I think the basic reason for it is that the Israelis, whether they realize it or not, are demanding that Obama do something that would be catastrophic both for him personally and for the US. It is clear that the military has comprehensively explained the situation to Obama and that he understands it.

      So the Israelis are finding that whilst it is usually easy to manipulate and pressure presidents into doing stupid things that cost the US materially, it is a different matter when the cost is existentially high. Obama knows that the economy will fall apart if the Iran thing blows. The total collapse of the economy is an existential threat to the US, something that the Israelis appear not to understand ... not that they would care but it does seem to me that they don't understand the consequences for the US. I suspect the reason is that they always get bailed out of the consequences of their own idiotic wars, so they are unacquainted with the concept of having to live with your mistakes and that there is nobody to bail out the US. On the contrary, the Chinese are eagerly waiting for the US to collapse. As Zbiggy noted, their only request is "please don't decline too quickly".

      pabelmont, let me try to answer your question, i.e. "what has changed". Well, firstly the Republicans do not look like serious contenders and the economy is showing some signs (very minor, but perhaps not completely invisible) of recovery. This is putting Obama into a position where he feels like "listen, you guys are going to have to deal with me next year, so don't try anything". Secondly, because the Israelis are simply asking for too much, Obama finds himself with his back against the wall. But between his back and the wall is the military/intelligence community, which is visibly and publicly giving him cover. Of course there is a lot of mixed messaging and obfuscation, but the message to Israel seems clear enough to me.

      I don't expect Israel to attack alone, for various reasons:

      1. The 5th Fleet being jammed so conspicuously into the Gulf.

      2. I think Netanyahu is a coward. He wants Uncle Sam to do the business, he doesn't want to take the blame for the casualties himself.

      3. They know they can't really take out the Iranian program completely. So after using their air force without getting the job done, they are then left with nothing to bluster with. No leverage at all on Iran in that scenario.

      I could be wrong, they could be crazier than I think, but that's my call on it at the moment. I think Obama has bought some time and he may even find that non-capitulation serves him well. I mean, even George Bush learned on the job to the extent that the Israelis couldn't persuade *him* to bomb Iran, as much as I'm sure he wanted to.

  • Forward: 'Israel and most US Jewish orgs are beating drums of war'
  • Both sides are wrong in the ‘Israel Firsters’ debate
    • I don't know about that ... grade inflation is poor preparation for reality.

      BTW, I'm not opposed to philosophy... my favorites are realism and solipsism. Realism because it's, well, kind of necessary. Solipsism because it's hilarious and we need a laugh, don't we?

    • Shorter Stern-Weiner:

      1. If the truth is ugly, then you're not allowed to tell the truth, because, uh, someone might not like it and pleasing that someone is *much* more important than being truthful

      2. When your country is about to be dragged into an orgy of jingoistic violence involving the annihilation of another country that has done nothing to yours, the correct response is to send the warmongers wistful, overlong, politically-correct philosophical essays concerning what they may or may not have been thinking in 1967, and then begging them not to call you names in return.

      As an aside, as Citizen already mentioned upthread, the article contains the absurd claim that Israel has been a strategic asset. In reality, US statesmen always expected it to be a liability and so it has proved, in spades.

      The only strategic interest the US has in the region is the steady movement of tankers full of black goo. Since Israel doesn't supply any of said goo and constantly endangers its continued supply, it is a liability.

    • Exactly right. In fact, consider that the US public does know, in general terms, that the US destroyed Iraq. Sure they've had the grim details carefully airbrushed out, but they still know that a whole country was destroyed for no reason. Yet it doesn't seem to bother them much.

      I just don't see the plight of the Palestinians registering with the pubic anytime soon.

      The issue of Israeli interference in US affairs is a much more potent one, and indeed, this explains the panicky attempt to ban the term "Israel Firster". Their panic reveals just how concerned they are about the potency of this phrase, and that alone is plenty of reason to keep using it.

    • Is it "innocuous" to point out that this article is silly?

      Has anybody ever claimed it is "innocuous" to use the term "Israel Firster"?

      Is it "innocuous" to point out that a murderer is a murderer? No, it isn't. It's unpleasant, but also necessary.

      Is it "innocuous" to accuse someone of lying? No, but what else are you going to do when they keep lying?

      Is it "innocuous" to try to stop a war? No, it isn't. Why should it be? If you've got a whole arsenal of "innocuous" methods to stop the next stupid war, then what are you waiting for. Get on with it! But no, you don't seem to be doing that. Instead, you think it's useful to indulge in mind-reading, in particular, you concern yourself with what people (I'm not sure who exactly) were thinking in 1966.

      Who cares? I don't care what Sheldon Adelson was thinking in 1966, I'm more concerned with what he and fellow Israel Firsters are doing now.

      The term "Israel Firster" is being applied to people whose public comments have explicitly put Israel's interests above that of their own country, the country that they presume to urge into the next stupid war. Furthermore they have also often explicitly urged others to likewise put Israel first.

      So enough with the mind reading. It's in their own words, which are perfectly consistent with their actions.

      Am I supposed to believe that Abelson isn't an Israel fanatic? Instead, he's a "Me" fanatic? Listen, the fact is that for most of his international business dealings, his Israel connection is an albatross. If he was a "Me" fanatic, he would ditch Israel. The model for a "Me" fanatic is Rupert Murdoch, who ditched his Australian citizenship the moment it held up his business career: he needed to be a US citizen to acquire US media properties.

      Murdoch really does only care about his businesses. He isn't interested in ideology unless it will sell advertising. I'm sure he's very unpleasant and all, but he doesn't give a damn about ideology.

      The Israel First crowd are nothing like that. They are ideologues and fanatics. It's not complicated.

  • So the U.S. military doesn't want to attack Iran and neither does Israel. Who does?
    • The Bromwich article is devastating. I concluded that Obama was a boob on Inauguration Day, when it became clear that his tone in government would bear no resemblance to his campaign. This indicated that contrary to appearances during the campaign, he didn't really understand the situation he would attempt to govern. For example he thought that the economy would right itself without any real leadership from him. What a boob.

      Whilst he seems to have found (or rather the Joint Chiefs have found) a tactical approach for keeping a lid on war with Iran, my concern is that he has rolled it out too soon and will be outmaneuvered politically by the Israelis before the election.

      In other words, he will find himself flailing in the election and will try to save himself by starting the same war that he is currently trying to prevent (also to save himself).

      Hope isn't a strategy, but I suppose we can hope the Republicans self destruct so effectively that Mr Milquetoast won't be threatened.

    • Dan Crowther:

      the aitimes article points out that half the US Navy is in the Gulf.

      So, Obama has swung a large number of floating targets into a confined body of water. Some of those targets have 5000 men aboard.

      Mr Obama probably doesn't know much about military matters, but I'm sure he's been advised that it is not possible to defend those ships against a swarm of anti-ship missiles. One or two can be beaten, yes, but not a swarm.

      The main Iranian naval tactic is swarming, they have a huge number of missiles and it's not as if they are saving them up for some other job they have in mind. They also have submarines and if any of their torpedoes are at all modern, they cannot be defended against.

      The reality that the Navy knows perfectly well, but that the public is never told, is that huge surface ships, especially carriers, are obsolete against any serious opposition. They are great for use against countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, who had no air force, no surface navy, no submarines, no cruise missiles, no decent anti-ship missiles. You will note that it is a long time since the US has been at war with a serious country, i.e. a country with halfway modern weapons.

      Carriers can be used against Iran if they stand off out of the Gulf and rely on airborne refueling to get their planes over the Gulf. But leaving them in the Gulf is suicidal if war breaks out. So we can infer that Washington does not expect war to break out.

      It's not hard to connect the dots. The Navy is there only because Obama believes the Gulf will *not* become a hot war zone, and part of the reason he believes it won't is because the Navy is there, see?

      It's a deterrence tactic, with very high stakes for the Navy, but it is self-consistent. Their presence will deter Israel from trying to sneak through Saudi Arabia or Iraq. They know perfectly well the Iranians are not going to attack first.

      Americans love seeing TV images of their ships steaming impressively around in heathen waters, so it is hard to depict Obama as "weak on Iran".

      The David Ignatius piece is aimed at the domestic constituency. Obama can't just come out and say, "look, we've decided we're not going to attack Iran under any circumstances and if Israel starts something, we're just going to let them stew". So they have to mix it up a little. But the straight message was delivered by Dempsey to Israel :

      "the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington"

      Now, since the *only* purpose of an Israeli attack is to drag the US in, this is just code for saying "you don't have a green light". And with half the USN in the Gulf, Israel *does* need a green light for this, notwithstanding all the bravado to the contrary.

      The propaganda exercise in the NYT magazine, done with full coordination of the Israeli political leadership, demonstrates their desperation to drag the US in. Why would they bother with all that if they are going to strike alone and against US wishes?

      If we see reports that the carriers are all leaving the Gulf and air forces are being transferred into land bases nearby, then I would be more worried.

  • Mossad chief held secret talks in DC with top U.S. officials
    • Well, for a "clandestine visit", it seems that a lot of people are blabbing about it. Does that mean the usual "slap on a fake beard" routine failed?

      As for the "Worldwide Threat Assessment". Why so modest in scope? Why not the intergalactic pan-dimensional multiple-universe threat assessment?

  • Rosenberg gets Trita Parsi call for Iran diplomacy into 'LA Jewish Journal'
    • It's silly to let the neocrazies tie you up in knots about the term "Israel firster". If you let them dictate what words you can use, they are already winning and you are giving them far too much credit by taking them seriously. They are the Stalinesque Thought Police but since you don't live under Stalin, you can ignore them, or better, just call them Israel firsters and be done with it. Mondo could do a series, "Israel Firster of the Week" and unearth all the explicit quotes in which they not only put Israel first, but urge others to do likewise.

      Maybe the neo-Nazis also used the word "America", so you are banned from using that, too. If the Language Police were honest and actually cared about actual anti-semitism, then it would be fine to engage with them. But they are dishonest and only too happy to exploit the real victims of anti-semitism (eg. Holocaust victims) to achieve their fraudulent ends. There is no point engaging in argument with a dishonest person ... do you think they will admit it when you win the debate? You wouldn't play tennis against someone who tells you that as well as being your opponent, they are also the umpire!

      Sullivan apparently didn't get the memo from Raimondo about the actual origin of the term. Maybe someone can email him.

  • 'NYT' gives Israelis its magazine to make an attack on Iran 'normal'
    • "If and when Iran begins to assassinate Israeli scientists I will react at that time. "

      And how will you react? Will you bring the dead Iranian scientists back to life to make it all better and ask Iran to bring the Israelis back to life? No, you'll claim that Iran is practicing terrorism, notwithstanding that you are explicitly promoting terrorism in your post here. Do you even understand that you are advocating terrorism?

      You claim that Iran is "at war" with Israel. By that standard, Israel is at war with the entire region. So according to your logic, Israel is a legitimate target for terrorism.

    • "I am opposed to a war (other than the current low level killing of scientists)"

      I trust you will be all in favor of Iran retaliating against Israeli academics? Since it's only, you know, low level and all.

    • Well, I'd have trouble recalling that since I haven't read "City of God", but I'll stand with St. Augustine on that point. I was going to say I'm on the same team, but that might have undermined the argument somewhat.

    • Yes, inspectors arriving unannounced *in* Iran does constitute being *in* Iran. First you say there have been dozens of inspections up until Oct 2011 and then you say there have been no inspections since 2007.

      The current "inspection" you refer to was actually a negotiation session, with just 6 IAEA people of whom two are very senior:

      "A senior IAEA team will visit Iran from 29 to 31 January 2012. The overall objective of the IAEA is to resolve all outstanding substantive issues.

      The team of experts will be led by the Deputy Director General for Safeguards, Herman Nackaerts, and will include the Assistant Director General for Policy, Rafael Grossi. "

      link to

      They are not going to be getting their hands dirty doing actual inspections. They are there for a gabfest. The BBC quotes Iranian sources that the team did not visit any nuclear sites.

      link to

      According to Business Week, "IAEA nuclear inspectors leave Vienna tomorrow for three- days of talks with Iranian authorities."

      link to

    • Buffet is just one guy. Yeesh. Capital markets are bigger than Buffet.

      If you want a pillar of the global capitalist system in the region, try Saudi Arabia.

      Israel has an economy based mainly on subsidies from the US. Call it a pillar of global welfare statism.

    • The cover image seems to me to be suggestive of a sports promotional poster advertising a soccer grudge match. I mean is it normal to describe a war as "A vs. B" ?

      The idea is to convince Americans that war is a spectator sport they can safely watch from a distance, while cheering for their favorite team.

      Phil is right to call it a landmark in warmongering. Maybe my memory is faulty, but I think it even outdoes the propaganda efforts prior to Iraq, which at least pretended to have a serious tone to them. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    • "UN nuke inspectors have just arrived in Iran, which would never happen unless Iran is sweating bullets."

      Wrong, the UN inspectors have been in Iran regularly for many years.

    • "You don’t get primetime access to Israel’s biggest decisionmakers splashed out on 15 pages as a coverstory in one of the defining establishment magazines in America without a lot of strings attached. It’s beyond naïve to think that Israel’s defence establishment didn’t have a clear goal with allowing specifically Mr. Bergman as their vessel."

      Correct, and they wouldn't be going to such lengths to telegraph an attack if they were really planning to carry it out. No, they still harbor hopes of suckering in Uncle Sam to do their dirty work for them.

    • "there is no bigger Israel firster than capital"

      Sorry, I don't buy that. Israel is simply not a major player in world capital flows. The reason the Lobby gets its way on the Issue is because it is completely orthogonal to the interests of US capital. So whatever Israel does, it has very little effect (positive or negative) on Big Business, which is focused on building things in China and importing them to the West. Consequently the Lobby owns this issue because they don't have to compete with the business lobby, which actually has more money to spend if it comes to it. But for the most part, business could care less about the Middle East. Attacking Iran is an exception that would be very Bad for Business, unless you are small oil company in the Bakken. But even then, a global depression might not work out well for you.

    • Can you expand on your point about Turkey? I haven't kept up with that.

    • Phil,

      how long is it since Netanyahu said the Times was Israel's worst enemy? Long enough for the community to put the heat on the Times and for them to cook this up?

      Here's an interesting quote:

      "Some have been recruited under a false flag, meaning that the organization’s recruiters pose as other nationalities, so that the Iranian agents won’t know they are on the payroll of “the Zionist enemy,” as Israel is called in Iran."

      I note they ever so delicately forgot to mention which "other nationality" was involved. Wouldn't want the Times' readers to splutter in their cornflakes.

  • Quoting Israelis, 'NYT' front pager says Iran will take a military strike lying down (won't even raise oil prices!)
    • They are promising less than 1000 dead in Israel, as if 900 dead would be no big deal. Let me point out that during the recent Lebanon war and the Gaza slaughter, every military casualty was treated by their media as if it was the end of the world. They were completely freaking out at the casualty rate in the Lebanon war. So this is just more bluff and nonsense, but with the US media the way it is, this campaign to promote the Iran war as a kind of adventure holiday might end up working.

  • Iran sanctions backlash-- oil buyers ditch dollar
    • Annie, well done on keeping up with this development. Krugman is wrong on this. The crude oil market is the biggest market in the world. There is a reason why the Petrodollar deal was made in the first place: it confers huge advantages to the US. In return, the US guaranteed security.

      But according to Krugman, the Petrodollar deal doesn't help the US, so they needn't have bothered. Does that make sense? No. As a rule, when an economist tries to persuade you of something that makes no sense, it really really doesn't makes sense. Even more so when its a Nobel prize winning economist. (BTW, there isn't actually a Nobel Prize in economics. Alfred Nobel never established one. What the media calls the Nobel Prize in Economics is actually the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel". )

      The Petrodollar system allows the US to buy oil with bits of paper that it can print as much of as it likes. Could this be an advantage? Now suppose OPEC decides they would rather be paid in gold. Which is easier to come by, gold or bits of paper you can print at will?

  • New additions to the Mondoweiss comments policy
    • As a long time reader of the site and a recent commenter, I find the revised comments policy disturbing.

      Before going into why, I should say that it is Phil and Adam's party and they can run it anyhow they want. I find it amazing that they can find time to moderate all the comments. I could never do that and if I attempted it, I would go cranky and then mad in quick succession.

      OK, so here's the bit that I find disturbing:

      "People are going to ask Where's the line? When do references to Nazi Germany or the politics of the 9/11 attacks cross our red lines? The answer is like Potter Stewart's famous line on pornography, We know it when we see it...

      If we judge that you have broken one of these rules you will be banned. In view of the new rules and in the name of civil discussion, we've banned a few commenters. We won't hesitate to ban others."

      The thing is, judging from a lot of earlier responses, plenty of regular commenters here can't figure out what the line is. It's not good enough to say "We know it when we see it... " because clearly a lot of people, who are contributing here in good faith, do not have the requisite mind-reading skills to figure it out.

      That would be fine if the policy stated "If we judge that you have broken one of these rules we will delete the comment and advise you of the reason. If you persist, we will ban you".

      But instead, what we have are vague rules, and a promise to immediately ban, without warning, a commenter who crosses a line that exists only in the form of "We know it when we see it".

      The overall tone of this strikes me as hostile and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the result of the mind-altering effects of trying to moderate all the comments. This hostile tone seems to me to have more of a chilling effect than the actual substance of the rule, i.e. the topics that are verboten.

      Who were the newly banned commenters? Is there a reason they can't be mentioned?

      So far I've been talking about questions of "due process" in managing the new rules.

      Now for the substance. I don't know much about the Zionist role aiding and abetting the Holocaust, but I'm sure that what little I know of it, I read here and I'm fairly sure it was in Phil's writings, or perhaps writers he linked to.

      Given the way Israel wields the Holocaust as a weapon against Western countries and in particular the way it is used to interfere in US politics, so preventing the US from pursuing its actual interests in the Middle East, it seems to me that honest discussion of the WWII period is essential to debunking Zionism.

      Adam says that "You don’t have to go back nearly that far to understand, critique and disassemble Zionism."

      Really? Phil likes to quote from Herzl's diaries, which go back a lot further still.

      So, on a substantive level, there seems to be to be some incoherence. Then again, I thought Donald's post was incoherent and little more than fancy concern-trolling.

      Finally, if it is unacceptable to discuss WWII, I really cannot fathom how it is acceptable to have posts by Jerome Slater advocating starting new wars on an ethnic basis. The ethnic aspect became clear in his reaction to commenters enquiring as to why, according to his fanciful Just War theories, shouldn't the US intervene against Israel? It was apparent that Jerome hadn't considered that his theories, if acted upon on a non-racist basis, would lead immediately to such an intervention. But of course, his whole conception of intervention was intended only to be applied in the mass murder of Islamic people and perhaps other heathens and swarthy types, in the hope that the survivors might eventually be civilized.

      In short, advocating wars of choice is advocating mass murder and I thought this site was about The War of Ideas, not advocating real wars.

  • Report: Israel to give US only 12-hour warning before attacking Iran because Netanyahu doesn't trust Obama
    • chet,

      yes, I agree, that's basically what I argued here:

      link to

      (see point # 6)

      So whilst the presence in the Gulf is partly aimed at Iran, in my view it is intended mainly to restrain Israel, because they are much more likely to be breaching the peace than Iran is. The chances of Iran actually starting the war are negligible, so it isn't necessary to put a fleet in there to deter them. Yet there they are and they must be there for a reason ...

    • ToivoS, not sure why you say that. The report below is from 16 hours ago:

      WASHINGTON — The US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has passed through the Strait of Hormuz and is now in the Gulf, the Pentagon said, after Tehran threatened to close the strategic shipping route.

      "USS Abraham Lincoln ... completed a regular and routine transit of the Strait of Hormuz ... to conduct maritime security operations as scheduled," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby told AFP via email Sunday.

      "The transit was completed as previously scheduled and without incident."

      The carrier, which can have up to 80 planes and helicopters on board, was escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St George and two destroyers.

      Earlier, Britain's Ministry of Defence said a British Royal Navy frigate and a French vessel had joined the carrier group to sail through the strategic waterway.

      While allied ships often participate in US naval exercises and sometimes are part of joint naval flotillas, the presence of British and French ships seemed to be a message to Tehran about the West's resolve to keep the route open.

      "HMS Argyll and a French vessel joined a US carrier group transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, to underline the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law," said a spokesman from Britain's MoD.

      He said Britain maintained "a constant presence in the region as part of our enduring contribution to Gulf security."

      link to


      The presence of US carriers (with multiple AWACS aboard) combined with in-flight refueling based in Qatar essentially gives the USN control over airspace in most of Iran, Iraq and KSA. The stated goal is to keep the Gulf open. The media assumes that this is aimed at Iran ... and, well, sure it is ... partly.

      It has now become clear that the exercise was cancelled by the US (which, BTW, was the only explanation that ever made the slightest sense) and the Israelis were off balance for several days, trying to get their story straight. The WH wants to keep it vague in public because they don't want to hand ammo to the Lobby, obviously.

      Since they are always demanding more equipment and deployments from the US, the idea that Israel would cancel at the last minute just never made sense (and yes, I am taking into account the capricious nature of their PM and DM and the fact that a lot of what they do doesn't make much sense. But even they have limits).

      Iran seems to have gotten the de-escalation message and is trying to calm things down also.

  • A regular commenter on this site seeks a more temperate comment board
    • Brenda,

      US intent toward Iran is regime change. But it seems to me they want to get there by putting a big economic squeeze on them and hoping the resulting tension will boil over and the government will fall. This is of no interest to the Israelis, who basically want the US to destroy Iran so they will have no regional competitor. What they really fear is another country in the region becoming successful: economically, technologically, culturally etc, and Iran looks like it might just be able to do that, hence the freak-out.

    • Brenda,

      well, for the most part my analysis is just based on what can be gleaned from the interwebs and a bit of logic and my failure to attend the mandated "2-minute hate sessions" against Iran, so that unlike a lot of people, if you sneak up behind me and whisper "Iran", I don't feel any need to wet my pants, hide under the bed and start drooling and foaming at the mouth simultaneously.

      I have some specialized knowledge of naval weapons systems, which may lead me to different interpretations of naval movements than you usually see in the media, put forth by ignorant bobble-heads whose "analysis" has to be understood in the context of the fact they have just wet their pants, hidden under the bed and are covered in their own foam and drool.

      The key facts that lead to my interpretation of current events are:

      1. The obvious efforts of La Clinton (as Robert Fisk calls her) to distance the US (and herself) from the terror attacks in Tehran. It is not so much that she expects Iran to believe her, nor whether she is telling the truth, but the mere fact that she is trying to convince them of that (or anything really) indicates an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Given her notorious boasts of US capacity to annihilate Iran during the presidential campaign, and her general enthusiasm for starting wars, it must have taken some pain on her part to come out and plead with the world to believe that "we didn't do it, honest, it wasn't us". The only reason I can think of for her to undergo that painful procedure is dire concern that the situation was spinning out of control and that this is not what the White House wants to happen (unlike certain other parties).

      2. The cancellation of the exercise. Attempts to spin this as no big deal or routine are bilge. If there were logistical issues, they would have been solved. It is absolutely not routine for an exercise to be cancelled when all the elements were already in place. This was a signal from Obama that he is sick of being bullied, and also perhaps a signal of de-escalation to Tehran.

      3. The crude oil price is very sensitive to these matters. Oil traders don't care what you do to the Palestinians, who don't have any oil. But if you are going to mess with the Iranians, crude gets bid up substantially. The price spiked up a few weeks ago and again when the scientist was killed, but the price is now subsiding because oil traders have looked at events and seem to have concluded that probably not much will happen in the short term at least.

      Looking a bit further out, if the economy is falling apart and Obama looks a loser, I would be worried about his being tempted to do something stupid a few weeks out from the election (long enough to get the reflexive flag-waving but short enough so that the economy wouldn't quite have time to vanish without trace prior to election day).

    • Donald's post needs to be confronted head-on, starting with his item number 1.

      " A suggestion that Israel be nuked or might be nuked by the US.  Completely insane."

      This is worded sloppily or worse. American did not "suggest" (i.e. propose or advocate) that anyone be nuked. He did point out that in an extreme scenario, the US could nuke Israel, assuming that all other measures of restraint had failed. American made this point in response to multiple claims that Israel is too strong to be attacked. That is to say, it was not American who first raised the nuclear issue.

      First there were numerous hypothetical discussions about what if the US had developed nukes earlier in WWII (i.e. if it got involved earlier on a Just War basis) and could have saved more Jews. This is what you get when you start discussing cockamemie rationalizations for starting wars. Nuclear weapons are a major fact of life, so you can't discuss starting wars without talking nuclear options.

      The nuclear issue was later raised again by Jerome Slater, who, when repeatedly asked why he didn't support US intervention in Gaza under his Just War theories, said this:

      "The second reason is that Israel is indeed so powerful that the casualties on all sides would be horrendous--even if we leave aside the possibility that an Israel on the verge of defeat would use nuclear weapons--which would be more likely to occur than not."

      That is, Slater claimed (absurdly) that Israel would actually attempt to fight a US intervention, and if it was "on the verge of defeat", would nuke the US.

      Donald himself said: "I agree that the US shouldn’t have intervened militarily against Israel in Gaza–for one thing, Israel has 200 nukes."

      In response, American pointed out the absurdity of these claims and then Donald accuses him of "suggesting" a nuclear attack. Nice one Donald.

      But to return to the substantive issue: the fact (and it is, obviously, a fact) that the US could nuke Israel. It is also a fact that Israel applies nuclear blackmail against Europe and the US : ("We have the capability to take the world down with us" link to

      These are simply the brutal realities of the nuclear age, which have been with us for some time. Where was Donald during the Cold War? All nuclear powers automatically consider *all* possible deployments of nuclear weapons and would be crazy if they didn't.

      As for Donald's idea that military conflict between the US and Israel is "unthinkable", I would point out that

      (a) it already happened (The USS Liberty)
      (b) Admiral Mullen pointedly raised the Liberty issue with the Israelis when he was telling them not to attack Iran (he told them not to even think about a false-flag attack against a US ship, designed to draw the US in)
      (c) The US repeatedly let it be known that it would not allow Israel to fly over Iraq to attack Iran. What does this mean? Since the Israelis are notorious for violating airspace, this had no meaning at all unless there was a credible threat to shoot down any attempt to cross Iraqi airspace.

      If I recall, point (c) was even mentioned in the MSM (and by Zbig Brzezinski) but Donald seems to think that these realities should not be discussed, despite the current situation, in which:

      1. Israel is making a determined attempt to precipitate a WAR between Iran and the US.

      Such a war would completely pole-axe the US economy, which simply cannot withstand $12/gallon for any length of time. It is not a question of Iran "closing the gulf". It is that Iran can easily take out Saudi and other oil installations (which are, to put it mildly, extremely vulnerable).

      The economic chaos would lead to the collapse of the US empire in very short order, since it is already in obvious decline and is structurally weak.

      Unlike many politicians, the US military is acutely aware of these facts, and conveys them to the President every time a President starts talking about attacking Iran. Do you really think Bush Jr. didn't WANT to attack Iran? Of course he did, he desperately wanted to do it. But the military told him what the consequences would be, and he made one of his few rational decisions and "Decided" not to be known as the President who destroyed America.

      2. The US military and intelligence communities are acutely aware of the constant hostile behavior of Israel toward US interests. They realize that Israel simply doesn't care about the fate of the US. They are frustrated that mentioning this is taboo in Washington.

      3. Since Israel uses military force and threats of force (including nuclear blackmail) as its first and only response to all situations, the US is compelled to consider Israel in a military context. As American points out, the Pentagon has a huge library of scenarios and plans that it studies and maintains. When it comes to the Middle East, those scenarios have to include worst case possibilities.

      4. It is well known that the US maintains plans to attack and disable the nukes of other powers, such as Pakistan. Looked at objectively, it is clear that Israel is a more dangerous rogue state than Pakistan, because it has much more powerful delivery options for its nukes and also frequently threatens to use them.

      At the moment, the Islamists in Pakistan do not control the nukes. At the moment, Bibi *does* control the nukes in Israel and it's not clear to me that he isn't completely nuts.

      5. There is actually a precedent. Remember when South Africa, Israel's partner in nuke development, decided, all of its own accord, to abandon nuclear weapons? Well, the story I've heard from South Africans is that is wasn't voluntary. The US told them they were going to do it. Or else.

      Of course, unlike Israel, South Africa didn't possess second-strike capability etc, so the threats didn't have to be all that heavy. There were many ways the US could "persuade" the South Africans to give it a rest.

      Now suppose the ever-increasing penetration of the Ultra-Orthodox sector within the Israeli military and government continues to expand (and it will). Eventually *they* will control the nukes. Then what does the US do?

      Does Donald really believe that the US military won't have to consider all possible scenarios when that bunch of nuclear-armed crazies, located in the world's critical energy region, start making their moves? When the President is confronted by threats of this magnitude, Congress simply doesn't matter.

      6. Currently there are 3 carrier groups in or heading toward the Gulf. Why are they there?

      Are they there to deter the Iranians? No. Because everybody in this game knows the Iranians are not going to start this war. Also, if the US really believed that the Iranians *were* going to attack, there is no way they would put the carriers in the Gulf itself, where they are far too vulnerable.

      Are they there to attack Iran? No, because again they would keep the carriers out of the Gulf in that scenario. Also, you would see a massive build up of other air firepower - the carriers are simply not enough.

      So what are they doing there? They are there to deter Israel. By putting carriers groups in such easy reach of Iranian counter-strike, the US is making sure that Israel knows it will be blamed for their loss if Israel attacks. Particularly after repeated public statements making it clear Israel does *not* have a green light for this and then the cancellation of the joint exercise.

      One of the targets of an Israeli raid would be Bushehr, which is on the Gulf coast. So the Israelis would have to fly past the carriers to get there. This puts the US in a position to give a very firm "no".

      And of course, the media assumes the carriers are there to threaten Iran, so it's hard for the Lobby to make Obama look "weak on Iran".

      BTW, in case you wonder why the USN is sending carrier groups into a confined body of water where they are extremely vulnerable to missiles, torpedoes and mines: politicians in Washington routinely use the carriers in this way, overriding the Navy's objections to putting them at such extreme risk. The public mostly doesn't realize how vulnerable these things are, especially to modern "smart" torpedoes that are almost impossible to stop.

      The point here is that the US is compelled *currently* to view Israel as a dangerous and unpredictable military player and the US cannot avoid taking steps to deal with this situation.

      Donald doesn't want that to be mentioned, for some reason.

      American made this point after having demanded why Slater wouldn't approve of US intervention to prevent the Gaza slaughter. Various people claimed that it was inconceivable for the US to act against Israel, because Israel has nukes.

      Leaving aside the question of whether it might be technically possible for the US to take out all of Israel's long-range nukes, I would point out that it doesn't matter. When Israel attacked the USS Liberty, they knew the US had nukes and could vaporize them if it wanted to. Yet they still attacked a US ship.

      If the US decided to enforce a no-fly zone over Gaza and had to shoot down a few planes to prove they weren't bluffing, Israel would have backed down. They would not have nuked the US, for the reason that American mentioned.

      So the fact that Israel is a nuclear power is irrelevant. It is totally dependent on the US, and a no-fly zone could probably be imposed simply by transmitting back-door codes to the software running in the fire-control systems of the US-made fighter aircraft that Israel uses to slaughter civilians.

      In other words, US intervention was perfectly possible in Gaza and does indeed provide an interesting test case of the Just War theory. The Israelis would have panicked at the first sign of US intent and the slaughter would have been prevented without a shot being fired. So the only real question is US intent.

      As an aside, I think the Just War theory is a total crock, and I notice that neither Slater nor the dear-departed warmongering Hitchens ever seemed interested in getting themselves killed in stupid wars, however just they claimed them to be.

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