Friday, January 30, 2009

Will Obama's Presidency End Next Week?

Word is percolating up, from the murky recesses of Fox News, that Karl Rove will defy the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to testify about the “politicization” of the Justice Department. Apparently, he has said he won’t show up. That’s what happened last May. Then, Bush instructed the Justice Department not to prosecute Rove for contempt or otherwise to enforce the subpoena. Rove was, after all, “Bush’s brain.” To the Bush administration’s crack legal minds, that sorry fact creates a “privilege” that must never be breached.

The same miscreants are still claiming that the privilege exists. All informed commentators agree that, legally, this is nonsense. But, if the recent past is any guide, it’s not out of the question that the “change” President, Mr. Bipartisan, might decide that it’s better “to move on” or “look forward” or whatever the cowardly phrase of the hour now is than to restore the rule of law. If he does, it will mark the day his Presidency died.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


One can only admire the obstinacy of House Republicans, not one of whom voted for the stimulus package – despite the election, despite public opinion, despite Obama’s popularity, despite everything. When not just repeating the old shibboleths about the evils of taxing and spending, they justify themselves with arguments that are, at best, borderline incoherent. The latest version: that there isn’t enough spending on “infrastructure,” though there is also, somehow, too much spending and not enough tax cutting. In a word, they’re idiots. But they know how to leverage their power.

That’s what they did back in the early days of the Clinton administration. It’s how we got the Contract (with/on) America, and how the likes of Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich got to be so powerful. Their positions were no more coherent then, though they were more in tune with the Zeitgeist of that still Reaganite era. Nevertheless, they were able to take power and hold onto it until 2006, doing untold damage – in accord with the wishes of their benighted “base.”

If only the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity (or, equivalently, Pelosiism) was similarly diabolical! We might then have been spared some of the wreckage of the past two years; we might even have been relieved of Cheney and Bush a few months earlier. But, of course, that was out of the question – not only because the Democrats have a tradition of abject cowardice, but also because many of the new additions to their Congressional ranks –for example, New York’s (actually David Patterson’s) new Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand -- were Rahm Emanuel recruits, with views even farther than usual to the right of the Democratic “base.”

But the so-called Progressive Caucus was another matter. They could easily have done what the Gingrich-Armey gang did. But, for that, they’d have had to have broken free from the Pelosiites, and defied their erstwhile Progressive Caucus colleague, Nancy Pelosi. They were too dense or too nice or both. Finally now, at least the House Judiciary Committee, with John Conyers in the lead, is showing a little more backbone: they are investigating Bush era Justice Department abuses, and they’ve issued a subpoena for Karl Rove! Lets hope they don’t back down. More importantly, lets hope Barack Obama and Eric Holder don’t make them back down. By early next week, when "Bush's brain" is scheduled to testify (under oath!), we’ll see which way the wind is blowing.

Meanwhile, Obama seems to be turning into the anti-Gingrich by making unprecedented gestures of “niceness,” and self-defeating concessions, to his obstreperous, and not particularly loyal, opposition. Maybe there’s some shrewdness behind the madness. More likely, Team Obama is still in the campaign rut – going after the moronic middle that thinks (if that’s not too strong a word!) that “bipartisanship” will make everything right.

To this, the “base” that put Obama in office and gave him a mandate for “change” should say with one voice – “enough already. Mister President, everybody who will ever like you already does. If the election were held today, you’d double your landslide. So stop campaigning and start governing.” Step number one: learn from the GOP. They have no defensible principles and no coherent strategy. But because they are mean sons of bitches who know no scruples, they are and always have been tactical geniuses. Now is the time to be like them – to put away childish, “bipartisan” things, so that, as your choice for invocation speaker, His Holiness Reverend Rick, might say, “thy will be done.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Transformative Presidencies

America is good at producing leaders who are plodders, capable only of “stewarding” the regime from one crisis to another. Bill Clinton and the Bushes, both of them, are examples. All three were of a piece in being weak on what the first Bush called “the vision thing,” though they differed in competence (on that dimension Clinton and the first Bush stand on one side, the Bush boy on the other) and, at the margins, they plod along differently because they draw voters from different sectors of the population. In this respect, the now fallen House of Bush stood as one, while the Clintons, Hillary and Bill, because they pander to different constituencies, take a somewhat different path. Needless to say, neither Bill Clinton nor either of the Bushes led “transformative” presidencies – except in the sense that George W was so god awful that, despite himself, he “transformed” many things (for the worse). It is said – for example, by Barack Obama -- that Ronald Reagan was a “transformative” President. In reality, he too was a plodder – or, rather, since, like George W, though not to the same extent, he was ignorant and lazy -- his advisors and handlers were. In the late seventies, while Jimmy Carter was still the Plodder-in-Chief, capitalism began one of its periodic crises and reconstructions. Because the Zeitgeist happened to coincide with the interests of the capitalists to whom Reagan was most accountable, he, or rather his advisors and handlers, managed to transform a few things, not as many as widely imagined, just by ratcheting up the kind of plodding they inherited.

Then there are politicians who “grow” in office. They are the ones most likely to be genuine transformers. LBJ was an example, though he threw it all away on Vietnam. RFK might have been an even greater example, had he not been assassinated before he got the chance. According to a spate of recent articles, the historical icon of the moment, Abraham Lincoln, was yet another example. The Great Emancipator was not even in favor of abolishing slavery, at first. Neither was he ever a proponent of racial equality, though he might have become one, had he too not been assassinated. Transformative presidencies are rare because leaders of this sort are rare.

Obama will probably not grow in office; he doesn’t need to – he already “knows” enough. Like the Clintons, he is a politician above all. But, unlike them, he isn’t just a plodder – if only because he hasn’t been busy pandering 24/7 for nearly as long as they have. If the Clintons, either of them, ever knew enough to do more than plod, they forgot it all a long time ago.

The problem, then, is not to “educate” Obama; it’s to force him to use what he knows. Here, the most apt model is FDR, though there are many dissimilarities. By most accounts, FDR, unlike Obama, was an intellectual lightweight; and, having been born into privilege, he lacked Obama’s experience of the world. But FDR was capable of supporting (though not always obtaining) sweeping, transformative changes when circumstances necessitated bold departures in governance. The FDR model resembles plodding more than growing, but there is a qualitative difference, and not just because the circumstances – then, like now -- were more dire than usual. It takes a special – and rare – leader to see beyond this or that crisis to a point where they become agents of a “vision thing.” FDR was capable of that, at least to some extent.

Not every President who fits the FDR model more than the others is a hero in retrospect, though they are all, in varying degrees, transformers. Richard Nixon, the most criminal President ever before George W. Bush, is an example. Nixon set in motion processes that defused an impending crisis, of potentially devastating proportions, in race relations. He transformed the scene he inherited. He did it mainly through cooptation, and so the consequences were not unequivocally for the good – a point to which growing numbers of incarcerated black males can attest. On the other hand, Nixon did make “integration” more than just a formal right, and he did qualitatively enlarge and transform the black middle class. To a considerable extent, Nixon’s transformative presidency made Barack Obama’s presidency possible. Still, the man was a crook and a war criminal – to a degree that makes even Dick Cheney seem benign.

Thanks to the neo-Hooverite policies of the Bushes, the last one especially, but also thanks to Clinton and Reagan and even Jimmy Carter, Obama faces an FDR moment. Will he rise to the occasion? The evidence so far is not unambiguously hopeful. Obama drifted so far to the right during the transition period that it is a wonder that Obamamania still flourishes on the left. Who to the left of Bob Gates can deny that Obama’s national security and foreign policy appointments were dreadful, and that his economic policy team is not much better? Nevertheless, since taking office, Obama does seem to have gotten off on the right foot – at least so far as the headlines go. For anyone who takes the trouble to read the fine print (about Guantanamo, for example), the situation is less clear. Still, by undoing some of Bush’s most egregiously retrograde and lawless policies to the extent that he is able on his own, Obama has redeemed himself somewhat, at least for now.

Thus there is indeed a possibility that the Obama presidency will be like Roosevelt’s or better – if his “base,” the masses of people who voted for him and who are still in the thrall of Obamamania, rise to the occasion themselves. Obama may also continue to get help from the Republicans – not because they’re disposed to cooperate, but because they are not. If the Greater Evil Party leadership remains sufficiently obstinate, as they show every sign of doing in the negotiations around the impending stimulus package, they may force Obama to come to his senses and abandon his vaunted, self-defeating “bipartisanship.” But no matter how stuck in their ways Republicans remain, the main burden is on us, on “we, the people.”

We should fight on every front – on Israel/Palestine, on health care, on a host of environmental issues, and so on. But there are at least two crucial areas where Obama seems adamant, so far, in resisting what is clearly urgent and right.

One is, of course, bringing Bush et. al. to justice. If nothing else, prosecuting them for torture is a no brainer. There is no question that, under both U.S. law and international law, torture is a war crime. Bush and Cheney both have confessed publicly to this crime; Cheney has even boasted of it. Should Obama not prosecute them, he’ll be guilty of even worse than complicity – Nancy Pelosi style. He’ll be an accessory to a war crime. He knows this well enough now; he doesn’t have to “grow” to find it out. We must make it clear to him that “we, the people” know it too, and that we will hold him to it.

Then there’s the Afghanistan War. Obama and his national security team are on track for escalating that failed and wrong-headed venture. So far, the so-called peace movement has given him and them a free pass on this. But if Obama, the peace candidate, keeps the Bush wars going, and especially if he makes them (or, at least one of them) worse, it will all be finished; his transformative presidency will fail. Thanks to Bush et. al., plodding is not now an alternative; and it is not in Obama’s nature anyway. Therefore the question now is: will Obama go the FDR route, or will he end up like LBJ. To a very large extent, the answer is up to us.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Way to Go, Big Dave

The race to the bottom is back. After playing the Caroline Kennedy appointment for all its was worth, NY Governor David Patterson, the “Decider,” is reportedly about to name Kirsten Gillibrand to “Madam Secretary’s” just vacated Senate seat. Gillibrand was a corporate lawyer in New York City from a politically connected family. She was recruited two years ago by, you guessed it, Rahm Emanuel to run for Congress in an up-state, largely rural Republican district. Like so many other Emanuel picks, she is to the right of a party that is far to the right of its base. But Gillibrand was not the only “blue dog Democrat” on Patterson’s list. Evidently, he chose her over the others to placate the “women’s vote.” Shades of the master strategist John McCain, Sarah Palin’s Big Dave. But, in the end, who knows what he was thinking! Maybe it’s not as patronizing as it seems; maybe he just thinks that the way to beat the increasingly repellent Rudy Giuliani in 2010 is to field a co-thinker. Maybe he thinks, not unreasonably, that Gillibrand is a good match with Charles (Schmucky Chucky) Schumer or a worthy successor to Slick Willy’s wife. Remember, though, it could have been Caroline. Maybe someday we’ll learn why it isn’t. Whatever the reasons, be sure that the clownish Patterson is part of the story.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Caroline

The real story will no doubt emerge in time. For now, it seems odd, to say the least, that Caroline Kennedy would have withdrawn from consideration for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat because she is worried about her Uncle Teddy’s health. If anything, that would be a reason to persevere. In any case, it’s a disappointment. Had Kennedy gotten the post, had she done well (as she would have since her uncle would assure that she had a more than capable staff), and had she developed the requisite political skills (which she now conspicuously lacks), she could have gone on to win the seat the traditional way in 2010, and again in 2012, when Hillary Clinton’s term expires. Then she’d have been well placed to run in 2016 to become the first woman President of the United States. How sweet it would be if that Senate seat was indeed the launching pad to the White House – but not for Hillary!

How much sweeter too if, before too long, Hillary’s husband’s machinations lead to her untimely departure from the Secretary of State position for which she is so poorly suited. Bill Clinton will never be brought to justice – for killing nearly a million Iraqis through sanctions, for his crimes against the peace and his support for ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, for the death from the air that he visited from time to time upon defenseless populations – but a pale semblance of justice would be forthcoming if he and his “entitled” better half are made to depart from the political scene. That would have happened, had only Obama not been so “magnanimous.” But the alleged divinity, the One all those snake oil salesmen (and women) at the National Cathedral yesterday entreated, works in mysterious ways. Until the news of Caroline’s withdrawal broke, it seemed that She just might have something up Her sleeve that would put Obama’s mistake to advantage. Now, alas, it’s clear that that too won’t happen; that notwithstanding the pronouncements of those ecumenical charlatans, Providence is decidedly overrated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If Only

At the end of more than a few episodes of “Get Smart,” Maxwell Smart would say something like: “if only they had done all that for niceness.” Those words keep coming to mind as millions throng Washington for Obama’s inauguration. If only they had come to stop Bush’s wars or to demand single-payer health insurance or to demand that the United States force Israel to stop visiting death and destruction upon Gaza.

Even so, there is much to celebrate today. It has to do with race. After all, Obama will be sworn in as President in a city that, just sixty years ago, was still officially segregated! That he won the election shows not only that “change” is possible. It also shows that, despite our not very democratic electoral institutions, we the people can bring it about – at a pace that our political class and their media flunkies can hardly comprehend.

That Cheney and Bush are about to be dispatched is also something to celebrate. May we see then next in shackles and orange jump suits! That’s an exhilarating thought for persons with a sense of justice, but also a sobering one. The Forgiver-in-Chief is likely to let his predecessors and their underlings get away with worse, much worse, than murder -- for the sake of “bipartisanship” and “moving on.” It’s the same mistake, magnified, that Bill Clinton made when he assumed office at a time when it was still possible to prosecute Reagan and (poppy doc) Bush and their underlings for the crimes of Iran-Contra. But, of course, Clinton, like his wife, was and is an opportunist slug. One hopes (still) for better from Obama. But as he relentlessly reempowers Clintonites and pals around with Republicans, the chances of getting more get dimmer by the day.

Maybe, though, just maybe the throngs will take consciousness of their power in numbers. Then, maybe, they’ll be back to stop the war in Iraq that Obama may not end or the one in Afghanistan that he vows to make worse (under the guise of waging it more “wisely.”) Maybe, they’ll be back to demand a sane health insurance policy!

On Inauguration Day in 1993, hardly anyone thought that the Clinton administration would continue the “Reagan Revolution” (actually, an anti-New Deal, anti-Great Society counter-revolution). But it did – as much as it could. We must take care to assure that Obama doesn’t do something similar by attempting to realize the neo-con’s vision for the Middle East – projecting U.S. and Israeli military power to divide, weaken, and conquer the peoples of the region. Should matters drift that way, the Democrats, as always, will be worse than useless. Only we the people, united and in immense numbers, will be able to stop him.

Today’s celebrations will be truly “historic” to the extent they encourage a sense of that power, peoples’ power, to emerge!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Savor the Moment

It was profoundly moving to see Pete Seeger, along with Bruce Springsteen, sing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at the Lincoln Memorial; at 89, this is probably the closest a genuine national treasure will get to “laying his hammer down.” The rest of the concert wasn’t half bad either – hell, Bono even got to put in a plug for Palestinian freedom, after putting one in for the country that has just visited murder and mayhem upon them.

So I resolve, for the next day and a half, to set reality aside -- to “bracket” the Clintonite appointments, the toadying to Wall Street, the abject and self-defeating “bipartisanship,” even the impending escalation of the war in Afghanistan -- and to feel good that the Bush/Cheney nightmare will soon be over, and that at last we will have a capable, intelligent, eloquent and, yes, African American leader. There will be more than enough time to pick up the hammer again when Obama lets Bush and the others get away with worse than murder, and when it becomes even clearer than it already is just how meretricious his vaunted “change” will be.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ceasefire in Gaza

Obama knows better and the Israeli political class knows that he knows better, though he may not be able to do much about it – unless he turns out to possess a virtue that is all but unknown among Democrats, courage. Throughout the campaign there was little sign of it; in the transition period, there has been none at all. Still, the Israelis realize that, no matter how good (for them) Obama turns out to be, they’ll never have had it so good as under W. Dimwit Bush. So they’re treading (somewhat) lightly, for the time being. It is Obama’s inauguration that accounts for the unilateral ceasefire Israel just announced. Neither morality nor even elementary decency has anything to do with; and neither do Israel’s strategic objectives towards the other parties involved – whether they be Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, or Iranian.

Of course, a cease fire with the (re)occupiers in place is bound to be fragile, especially if Hamas has no interest of its own, at this point, in observing it. [Saving the people who elected them to office from Israeli murder and mayhem has never been a high priority for Hamas. Maybe, though, they too will want to make a peace offering to the new President.] Nevertheless, if Israel is lucky, it will be able to present itself as the peacemaker – for at least a short while. The Israelis know they can count on servile Western media to help them present that (transparently false) image. They also know that the media that matters most (for them), American media, are nothing if not servile (and gullible and morally corrupt), especially where Israel is concerned.

What is absolutely clear is that, as in Lebanon in 2006, all the killing and maiming and infrastructure destruction accomplished none of Israel’s declared aims. No doubt, Hamas’s military capabilities, never much to worry about, have been somewhat “degraded.” But Hamas can still fire rockets into southern Israel whenever it pleases. Much as Hezbollah did in 2006, Hamas “won” if only by surviving. Correspondingly, Israel “lost” by demonstrating again that its overwhelming military superiority is a paper tiger – of little or no use in the circumstances it confronts.

But, of course, Israel’s declared aims were never its real aims. Everything Israel has done to Gaza in recent years, including its vaunted “withdrawal” in 2005, has had the same aim: to drive a wedge between Fatah and Hamas, helping to insure that the Palestinians who cannot be driven out of Greater Israel will have no viable political leadership capable of countering Israeli dominance.

[Sadly, both Fatah and Hamas have been more than a little complicitous in this Israeli endeavor. Indeed, from the time the Palestinian national movement coalesced in the 1960s, the Palestinians have been spectacularly unsuccessful in building institutions capable of running a viable state. In this respect, the contrast with the pre-1948 Jewish minority in Palestine is striking.]

Israel’s assault on Gaza was part of its on-going project of “dividing and conquering” the Palestinian national movement. Israel took some hits this time around, as it did in Lebanon in 2006, but, in view of its real aims, it hardly “lost” categorically. Its goal – an ethnically “pure” Jewish state in as much of Mandate Palestine as it can obtain and hold – is still very much on track. So too, despite its military setback, is its ambition to become the hegemonic power in a militarily and politically fragmented region.

[Recall that, despite its crushing technological advantages, the United States “lost” militarily even more spectacularly in Vietnam. But if the real aim was to block what Noam Chomsky calls “the threat of a good example” – economic, political and social development outside the American ambit – it’s far from clear who lost.]

Anyway, before long, perhaps even from the get go, Obama will have to deal with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – from Gaza, and from “Judea and Samaria” (the Occupied West Bank) as well. Because Israel is able to get away with its depredations thanks mainly to American largesse, Obama could stop it on a dime. He knows he should. But he also knows that, if he tries, he won’t still have 80% of Americans rooting for him; he knows that the Israel lobby will fight him tooth and nail. Will he have the courage to do the right thing – to do what will benefit both America and even Israel (in the long run) most? It’s not yet certain that he won’t, but it’s plainly unlikely. That’s the shadow that hangs over the impending and “inspiring” Martin Luther King - Inauguration Day celebrations.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Excusing the Inexcusable

It’s understandable that dedicated Stalinists found excuses for the Hitler-Stalin pact; they were, they thought, agents of a movement that was indispensable for leading humanity into the realm of freedom. In their minds, if Stalin said it was alright, then it was alright.

Because we’re in the midst of it now – because Israel just yesterday and today ratcheted up its assault on Gaza, moving in force into Gaza City, brazenly attacking schools, hospitals, and even UN headquarters as it escalates its campaign of murder and mayhem – it’s harder to fathom how so many “liberals,” not all of them Chosen folks like me, are able to find excuses for the Tribal State. But at least they too have a “higher” end in view. True, it’s not exactly for the sake of full human emancipation that they are so eager to sacrifice their integrity and/or betray their ignorance and moral shortcomings. Ethnic chauvinism and eschatological fantasies hardly rise to that level. But these are nevertheless “higher” reasons of a sort. Thus the excuses offered by true believers in the Israeli-government-right-or-wrong cause, unlike the excuses parroted by crass opportunists and cowards (like Nancy Pelosi et. al.), are at least understandable, if not excusable.

But what can we make of the liberals who excuse each and every “bipartisan” betrayal of Barack Obama’s? In their eyes, no matter how far to the right the Change Agent surges, it only goes to show what a “class act” he is. Can anyone stomach MSNBC anymore, now that they don’t have Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber to kick around (though Keith Olbermann still won’t let go of Sarah Palin)? Watching Chris Matthews praise Obama for palling around with Republican nitwits, and for hosting a dinner for John McCain is too much to take so soon after dinner. How pathetic is it that liberals, unlike Stalinists and Zionists, harbor their illusions without even the pretense of a high cause!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Excuse This!

It is becoming harder, even for the most deluded liberals, to maintain that Obama’s charm offensive – directed first at Clintonites, and now at Republicans -- is a skillful strategy for “change,” undertaken by a progressive super-hero capable of putting the Forces of Darkness to work in behalf of Truth, Justice and (a sanitized and humane version of) the American Way. What super-hero would stoop to dine with such a motley band of pompous pseudo-thinkers as George Will, William Kristol, David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer? Lex Luther is one thing, but a super-hero has standards.

Then there’s the hullabaloo about to descend upon those of us living in the Belly of the Monster. Despite some well-publicized efforts to include the hoi polloi who put Obama in office, the inauguration will hardly be “a festival of the oppressed” such as has always accompanied genuinely transformative moments. As inaugurations always are, it will be a festival of the over-dressed, tripping the light fantastic in obscenely glamorous “balls” (while the moral equivalent of Rome burning takes place everywhere outside). Evidently, Obamamaniacs are so dense or deluded or both that they somehow don’t find this offensive.

There are better ways to celebrate the swearing in of our first African American President, and to rejoice in the fact that our “one President at a time” is no longer a criminal of historical dimensions: rallies against institutional racism, for example, or to demand that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld et. al. be brought to justice. There will be some of that, but far too little; and watch what little there is get co-opted into the Obamamaniacal frenzy.

* *

What does it say of liberals that they are not appalled by the stench of sanctity attaching to the inaugural events? To counter a spate of bad PR and as a sop to his high-minded admirers, Obama, at the last moment, invited Gene Robinson, the gay Bishop (of the splintering Episcopalian Church), to pray at an inauguration event. It’s the least he could do after inviting Rick Warren, a homophobic (and anti-abortion) mega-church evangelist to deliver the invocation. But in a country that rightly prides itself on “separating” church and state, what business do any of these snake oil salesmen have there at all? The same goes for Joseph Lowery’s benediction. Invite him, of course, for the Martin Luther King reference, and have him speak as much as he wants. But the least Obama could do is dispense with his “blessing.” It’s bad enough that he will be sworn in on a Book of Holy Writ. That Honest Abe took the oath on the same tome changes nothing.

* *

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton slouches towards confirmation – amidst a chorus of praise from Democratic Senators and liberal commentators. As I wrote months ago, Mamie Eisenhower had better qualifications, if only because she had a better husband to learn from. But regardless of her very dubious, though highly trumpeted, fitness (or lack thereof) for office, the tragedy is that she’ll be bringing back with her all those Kissinger wannabes like Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke. The even greater tragedy is that, compared to the miscreants they’ll replace, this actually will be a change for the better. It’s almost reason enough to join the liberals as they praise the Lord for giving them a leader who, whether they realize it or not, will soon be passing the ammunition down Afghanistan way, and writing up yet another blank check for the ethnic cleansers of the Promised Land.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Abject and Servile, Part 2

All the Senate Democrats, indeed all the Senators, voted last week for a resolution according essentially unconditional support for the on-going Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The House of Representatives has now followed suit. Here in the Home of the Brave, only five representatives had the courage to vote No: Dennis Kucinich (OH), of course, and three other Democrats -- Maxine Waters (CA), Gwen Moore (WI), and Nick Rahall (WV). They were joined by the one real “maverick” in the Republican Party, Ron Paul (TX).

Twenty-two other Democrats voted “present”; so much for the vaunted “Progressive” Caucus to which most of these cowards belong. The ones who voted “present” include Raul Grijalva (AZ), Sam Farr (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), George Miller (CA), Loretta Sanchez (CA), Pete Stark (CA), Diane Watson (CA), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Hank Johnson (GA), Neil Abercrombie (HI), John Dingell (MI), Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI), Keith Ellison (MN), Betty McCollum (MI), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Pete DeFazio (OR), Donna Edwards (MD), John Olver (MA), Donal Payne (NJ), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Jim Moran (VA), and Jim McDermott (WA).

The rest, including many prominent and ostensibly “progressive” members of the Black Caucus, couldn’t even find it within themselves to rise to the level of cowardice.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Opportunities Keep Coming/Democrats Keep Quashing Them

The Cheney/Bush “vision” (neo-conservatism, untrammeled free marketeering, disrespect for the rule of law, wanton environmental destruction, and so on) and the rank incompetence with which Cheney/Bush policies were implemented created a rare historical opportunity for progressive policy departures and perhaps even for social, political and economic structural transformations. However it has been clear for nearly a year, since even before so-called Super Tuesday, that the Democratic leadership and their media allies were intent on quashing that opportunity – that their standard-bearer would stand far to the right of their base. Thus throughout the spring we had an epoch struggle between two figures with almost identical center-right political views: one the vehicle for an outright Clinton Restoration, the other a Rorschach candidate representing indeterminate “change.”

The Rorschach man won. That was a relief – on the better the devil you don’t know principle. But once his victory was secure, he capitulated. The first sign was the selection of Joe Biden for Vice President. Then, throughout November and December, the indications kept on coming. Clintonism would be restored; even Hillary Clinton would be back – as Secretary of State no less . For anyone not willfully blind, it had always been clear that Obama’s “change” would be, at best, largely cosmetic. It has turned out not even to be that.

But Cheney/Bush and the rest of them are gifts that keep on giving. Once it became clear that the economy was in ruins – that a new Great Depression was a distinct possibility – nearly the entire political class fell in behind a reversal of the anti-affirmative state policies of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush years. As leaders, Obama and his Clintonite-Wall Street crew could hardly not follow. But will they take full advantage of this new opportunity? There’s little sign of it.

In much the way that Obama empowered the Clintonites he defeated, he and they are now dead set on empowering the Republicans they defeated. They call it “bipartisanship” and the only good thing that could come out of it is that that awful word – and what it represents – will, in time, attract the opprobrium that is now turned against the likes of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan. Thus Obama proposes what seems to be far too flimsy a recovery package, one loaded down with all but useless tax cuts – because he wants to lure Republicans into voting with him, and all Republicans want is tax cuts for their corporate benefactors. Making nice with Republicans makes even less sense than making nice with Clintonites, since Republicans are nasty to the core and will turn on you whenever they get the chance. It’s also dead wrong from a policy point of view – unless, of course, the point just is to quash another historic opportunity.

Cheney and Bush et. al. have presented the Democrats with three opportunities, two of which the Democrats have already quashed – one a year ago when they narrowed the race down to Obama v. Clinton, another in the fall when the defeated Clinton camp was handed every consolation prize at Obama’s disposal. The third is about to be quashed by Obama’s vaunted bipartisanship. There won’t be others – soon, to everyone’s relief, Cheney and Bush will be gone!

Meanwhile, outside our borders, there are others hard at work presenting Democrats with yet more historical opportunities. The current, on-going Israeli atrocities in Gaza are a case in point. They offer another chance, perhaps the best ever, for the United States finally to insist that Israel accede to the peace terms upon which there is near universal agreement. The war on Gaza, like Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, is largely the doing of the Israeli political class. But Cheney and Bush have played an important role too. Indeed, their culpability is on-going. [How sickening it is to watch Condoleezza Rice operate in the United Nations. If only Stanford had let her kill! She might have gotten some of that bloodthirstiness out of her system before she could do so much harm.] Needless to say, the Democratic Party, essentially a political arm of AIPAC, will quash this opportunity as well.

Still, it will be wonderful to see Obama on Inauguration Day, and not just because it spells the end of the dreadful reign of Cheney and Bush. January 20 promises another Grant Park moment. But soon, very soon, Obama will have to shed his Rorschach carapace and the Obamamaniacs , the more lucid ones at least, will have to shed their illusions. By then, though, it may be too late for them to come to their senses enough to make a difference. By the time it becomes impossible to deny that “change we can believe in” has very little to do with democracy (popular empowerment, doing the people’s will) and a great deal to do with forging a center-right/right alliance dedicated to keeping everything pretty much as it is, the Clinton 2.0 agenda will be well underway – with or without “bipartisan” support.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Abject and Servile

That should be the motto of the U.S. Senate which today voted unanimously to endorse Israeli depravity in Gaza. [Killing women and children who had taken refuge in a UN school, and a UN worker driving a truck to pick up supplies for Gaza’s starving population are just the latest atrocities.] Moral cretinism is evidently the only real requirement for Senate membership. Yet they question whether Roland Burris or anyone else appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich might be unfit to sit among them -- because Blagojevich is “tainted”!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stick It To Harry

The Senate should and probably will seat Roland Burris; the legal case for letting him be the Senator from Illinois is overwhelming. Also, Burris will be no worse, and probably better, than the vast majority of his colleagues in the Party of Pusillanimity, the POP. Obviously too, he’s light years better than any of the GOP Senators. Even a turnip would be better than those bought and paid for scoundrels – the miscreants Barack Obama, that paragon of “bipartisanship,” is trying his best now to win over, by conceding everything he can away with!
But the main thing is this: seating Burris will be tantamount to throwing egg (alas, not shoes!) in the face of Harry Reid. For all the cowardice he has exhibited since becoming Majority Leader – most recently, for his abject support of Israeli crimes in Gaza -- the man deserves a lot more than being made a fool of. But in the words of soon to be Senator Caroline Kennedy’s father: “life is unfair.” There is, of course, the question of selective prosecution; nearly all Reid’s fellow Democrats are as bad or worse. But we defenders of minimal decency have to take what we can get

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What Obama Should Do/What Obama Seems to Be Doing

What Obama should do is heed Uri Avnery’s advice, as recounted on his web site. What he seems to be doing, beyond repeating his “one President at a time” mantra, is going along with the Pelosi-Reed Democratic Party consensus which is also the Cheney/Bush position: that Israel should have a free pass (and a blank check) with which it can do whatever it wants to Gazans and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

It is reported that Richard Haass will be Obama’s Special Envoy for Israel-Arab Affairs. That’s not much reason for hope, but, given who Obama has been palling around with of late, it could be worse: it could have been Dennis Ross or Richard Holbrooke, for example.

[Not not to worry, however: rumor has it that the former will become Special Envoy for Iran, and the latter for India-Pakistan. What does Ross know about Iran except that Israel would like the United States to bomb it? Will that make him cautious? And is there reason to hope that, having fewer cards to play in India and Pakistan than he had in Yugoslavia, Holbrooke will do less harm there? Maybe, but the wise should still worry – a lot.]

Anyway, here follows Avnery:

“The following humble suggestions are based on my seventy years of experience as an underground fighter, special forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine, member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:

1) As far as Israeli-Arab peace is concerned, you should act from Day One.

2) Israeli elections are due to take place in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination to achieve Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab peace in 2009.

3) Unfortunately, all your predecessors since 1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace, and sometimes going through the motions of making some effort for peace, they have in practice supported our governments in moving in the very opposite direction. In particular, they have given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace.

4) All the settlements are illegal in international law. The distinction sometimes made between "illegal" outposts and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed to obscure this simple truth.

5) All the settlements since 1967 have been built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state--and hence peace--impossible, by cutting the territory of the prospective State of Palestine into ribbons. Practically all our government departments and the army have openly or secretly helped to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements--as confirmed by the 2005 report prepared for the government by lawyer Talia Sasson.

6) By now, the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the 200,000 settlers in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat different). They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the majority of the Israel public, but enjoy significant support in the army and government ministries.

7) No Israeli government would dare to confront the concentrated political and material might of the settlers. Such a confrontation would need very strong leadership and the unstinting support of the President of the United States to have any chance of success.

8) Lacking these, all "peace negotiations" are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have done everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for fear of provoking a confrontation with the settlers and their supporters. The present "Annapolis" negotiations are as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the pretense for its own political interests.

9) The Clinton administration, and even more so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli government to keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent members of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy into the old channels.

10) It is important for you to make a complete new start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed initiatives--such as the Bush "vision," the Road Map, Annapolis and the like--should be thrown into the junkyard of history.

11) To make a new start, the aim of American policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be: to achieve a peace based on the two-state solution within a defined time span (say, by the end of 2009).

12) It should be pointed out that this aim is based on a reassessment of the American national interest, in order to extract the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim relations, strengthen peace-oriented regimes, defeat Al Qaeda-type terrorism, end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable accommodation with Iran.

13) The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of negotiations, conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:

13.1) A sovereign and viable State of Palestine will be established side by side with the State of Israel.

13.2) The border between the two states will be based on the pre-1967 Armistice Line (the "Green Line"). Insubstantial alterations can be arrived at by mutual agreement on an exchange of territories on a 1:1 basis.

13.3) East Jerusalem, including the Haram-al-Sharif ("Temple Mount") and all Arab neighborhoods will serve as the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and all Jewish neighborhoods, will serve as the capital of Israel. A joint municipal authority, based on equality, may be established by mutual consent to administer the city as one territorial unit.

13.4) All Israeli settlements--except any which might be joined to Israel in the framework of a mutually agreed exchange of territories-- will be evacuated (see 15 below).

13.5) Israel will recognize in principle the right of the refugees to return. A Joint Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, composed of Palestinian, Israeli and international historians, will examine the events of 1948 and 1967 and determine who was responsible for what. Each individual refugee will be given the choice between (1) repatriation to the State of Palestine, (2) remaining where he/she is living now and receiving generous compensation, (3) returning to Israel and being resettled, (4) emigrating to any other country, with generous compensation. The number of refugees who will return to Israeli territory will be fixed by mutual agreement, it being understood that nothing will be done that materially alters the demographic composition of the Israeli population. The large funds needed for the implementation of this solution must be provided by the international community in the interest of world peace. This will save much of the money spent today on military expenditure and direct grants from the United States.

13.6) The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip constitute one national unit. An extraterritorial connection (road, railway, tunnel or bridge) will connect the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.

13.7) Israel and Syria will sign a peace agreement. Israel will withdraw to the pre-1967 line and all settlements on the Golan Heights will be dismantled. Syria will cease all anti-Israeli activities conducted directly or by proxy. The two parties will establish normal relations between them.

13.8) In accordance with the Saudi Peace Initiative, all member states of the Arab League will recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it. Talks about a future Middle Eastern Union, on the model of the EU, possibly to include Turkey and Iran, may be considered.

14) Palestinian unity is essential for peace. Peace made with only one section of the people is worthless. The US will facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and the unification of Palestinian structures. To this end, the US will end its boycott of Hamas, which won the last elections, start a political dialogue with the movement and encourage Israel to do the same. The US will respect any result of democratic Palestinian elections.

15) The US will aid the government of Israel in confronting the settlement problem. As from now, settlers will be given one year to leave the occupied territories voluntarily in return for compensation that will allow them to build their homes in Israel proper. After that, all settlements--except those within any areas to be joined to Israel under the peace agreement--will be evacuated.

16) I suggest that you, as president of the United States, come to Israel and address the Israeli people personally, not only from the rostrum of the Knesset but also at a mass rally in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Israel in 1977, and, by addressing the Israeli people directly, completely changed their attitude towards peace with Egypt. At present, most Israelis feel insecure, uncertain and afraid of any daring peace initiative, partly because of a deep distrust of anything coming from the Arab side. Your personal intervention, at the critical moment, could literally do wonders in creating the psychological basis for peace.”


I never thought I’d be pleased that Obama appointed yet another Clintonite to high office, but I am pleased that he decided to make Leon Panetta CIA Director. Obama had the wits not to appoint someone tainted by torture, illegal wiretaps, dark ops and who knows what other criminal mischief the Cheney/Bush CIA has been up to. Who cares if Panetta has no “intelligence” experience! So long as he’s able to ride herd over the miscreants in his charge, that’s a plus in my book. And, to top it off, it pisses of off one of the most noxious Democrats in Washington, Dianne Feinstein, Chair (stool) of the Senate Committee on Intelligence. Not having been consulted, she’s already mouthing off. Panetta’s appointment also keeps Feinstein’s noxious House counterpart, Jane Harman, from getting the post. So – one and a half cheers for Obama. That’s the most he deserves for anything he’s done so far.

But what gives will Bill Richardson? Time will tell if there’s more there than they’re letting on. But whatever there is (or isn’t), Richardson’s withdrawal from the Commerce Secretary appointment is disappointing. Of all the candidates running in the Democratic primary, he was the best – excluding, of course, Dennis Kucinich, whose politics was too good for a party led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed, Mike Gravel, my personal favorite because he wasn’t afraid to tell the others how full of shit they are, and John Edwards. [The ones even worse than Obama were the one’s he’s empowered – Joe Biden and, worst of all, Hillary Clinton. Chris Dodd was better than Obama too, but Richardson was better than Dodd on Bush’s wars and on getting out of Iraq.]

Edwards’ disappearance into the memory hole remains a mystery. Even before his “zipper” problem was exposed, he was as marginalized by the media as could be, given his electoral strength. Evidently, his “populism” was just too much for our meida moguls. [Admittedly, on foreign policy, he was probably no better than the others.] It’s too bad that he’s gone missing; he’d be a better cabinet appointment than any of the Clintonites Obama has reempowered. It’s also hard to understand, inasmuch as the Clintonite-in-Chief has a zipper problem that Edwards has only in his dreams. But such is life in the Party of Pusillanimity.

Monday, January 5, 2009

When the Lesser Evil Party is Not a Lesser Evil

As happens when Israel “acts out,” there is little to do but despair. So much injustice, so little resistance – not among the world’s peoples, including the American people, many of whom evidently know better – but among governments and the media that serve them. As usual, the U.S. is First Among Scoundrels.

[In fairness, our media have reported on “civilian casualties” and they have run comments from people on “the other side.” Being “fair and balanced,” however, those who dare utter obvious but politically inadmissible assessments are without fail balanced by interviews with Israeli government officials or other apologists for Israel. One can only wonder – would they have covered the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in a similarly fair and balanced way?]

Thus the Bush government blocked a Security Council resolution this weekend calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. [With just two more weeks of Cheney/Bush rule, one can only hope that this was their last egregious crime!] There was hardly a peep of dissent from within our political class. Our “liberals” especially, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed along with other Lesser Evil Party luminaries, have offered unqualified support to Israel and Bush. Their abject servility to the Israel lobby probably makes little difference in this instance, however; after all, no country disregards international public opinion – and international law – with the wanton brazenness of the state of Israel. And why not, with the U.S. giving them all the “get out of jail free” cards they could possibly want!

This leaves “us” with little to do except despair over our impotence. In our “democracy,” we have no means of political expression. In this case, even more than in the days before Bush launched his war against Iraq, Democrats, almost without exception (Dennis Kucinich is always an exception), are unwilling to offer even mute opposition. All we can do, alas, is write for each other -- in the hope that some of it will find its way to a larger (already overwhelmingly sympathetic) audience. There’s been a lot of that in the past few days. Some of the preaching to the converted (and a few others?) has been excellent. For context, a concept all but unknown in our media, see, for example, Robert Perry’s piece in, “The Long and Bloody Hypocrisy of U.S. Acts of Terrorism.” Glenn Greenwald’s latest in, “Orwell, Blinding Tribalism, Selective Terroism and Israel/Gaza” offers fresh insights – particularly on the remarkable, but entirely predictable, phenomenon of “liberal” support for Israel’s latest aggression.

I have one other reading recommendation: Henry Siegman’s “The Last Chance at Middle East Peace” in the January 12 Nation. Siegman, a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, has been arguing for years about the need for the U.S. to force Israel to act in its own interest by accepting the so-called Clinton Parameters of December 2000, as elaborated at Taba in January 2001. Siegman thinks that time is running out: that Israeli settlements on the West Bank have all but made a two state “solution” impossible, and that if Obama doesn’t act decisively within the next year or so, the chances for any durable two state solution will be irreversibly lost. The events of the past few days in Gaza make his argument even more compelling.

I am not an unequivocal supporter of a two-state solution: I think that, in light of the advances registered in the American and French Revolutions, the idea of an ethnic and/or confessional state is atavistic. And I find the idea of ethnic cleansing, the principle upon which the state of Israel exists, repellent. On the other hand, given the state of opinion among all the interested parties, there seems to be no other way to arrive at a lasting peace.

Will Obama rise to the occasion? It’s not quite yet time to abandon all hope, but the prospects are dim. That’s why it surely is time to begin to plan strategies, enlisting the large numbers of Americans who don’t buy the Israel can do no wrong line of our political class --especially those of us Chosen folks who can rise above ethnic chauvinism -- into something like the grass-roots, civil society struggles that helped bring down Apartheid in South Africa. With so many powerful forces mobilized against justice, it will be harder this time to launch boycotts and to promote divestment; and, needless to say, getting the U.S. government to agree to sanctions is all but out of the question. In view of how utterly dependent Israel is on U.S. support, if sanctions were politically possible they would be unnecessary. But, with or without Obama’s aid, Israel must be stopped! It is necessary for national and international security; and, even were it not, the victims of the Israeli occupation deserve at least a semblance of justice. Now is therefore the time to ponder how to proceed – and how to integrate that struggle into the broader struggle in and over our despicably abject Lesser Evil Party.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What Is It Good For?

As was all but inevitable once Israeli planes began the wanton destruction of Gaza, Israel has launched a ground assault; it has made the transition from Clinton (kill only from the air) to Bush (kill from everywhere). It is certain that, as in Lebanon, the Israelis will indeed kill a lot of people, maim even more, and destroy much of what is left of critical infrastructure. It is very nearly as certain that the Israeli “Defense” Force will, again as in Lebanon, suffer significant casualties and accomplish none of its declared aims. This is good news in a way: Israel will again be humiliated. It would be even better news if the Israeli political class – left, right and center -- had the capacity to learn from its mistakes.

Meanwhile, there is nothing from the Bush government except support for the aggressor, while the Mubarak regime in Egypt continues to collaborate with Israel and the United States. It will probably not remain able to resist public opinion for long. Paradoxically, the Americans and Israelis had better hope it does not. If Mubarak continues to be America’s and Israel’s stooge, his government is likely to fall. Then Israel could be facing a far graver threat than a few homemade rockets lobbed at its southern cities. This plain truth is probably beyond the capacity of anybody in the Bush administration to understand. It is therefore not surprising that they are uninterested in stopping the killing. But what were the Israelis thinking? They know what’s what. Don’t they care that, even before they started this war, Mubarak was holding on by the skin of his teeth, sustained only by a brutal apparatus of police repression and American aid? Or does that worry pale before the electoral machinations of Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, her rival on the (yet farther) right?

More than most, this is a war good for, as the song says, absolutely nothing. But there may be lessons we can draw from it – about the post-Bush era. Everyone knows that the Bush government, from the Commander-in-Chief on up, lacks vision, strategic understanding and competence, and that it has no moral depth whatsoever. But the world is full of people who hope that Obama will be better. That he remains wedded to his “one President at a time” mantra in the face of such atrocities does not bode well. Obamamaniacs would do well to inquire of their idol whether he too is so much in the thrall of shortsighted, political exigencies that he will give a free pass to almost anything Israel does, no matter how monstrous.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Knowing Better

When it comes to the U.S. role in the world, I believe Obama knows better than he’s let on from the beginning of his campaign, and that he knows better than the Clintonites (and Clinton) he’s (re)empowered. They’ve been so opportunistic for so long that if any of them ever knew better, they long ago forgot. I concede, though, that I have no evidence for my belief about Obama; if there is any, he’s kept it close to his chest.

I also believe that Obama’s foreign policy will be essentially like the foreign policy of his dreadful (but “competent”) appointees, and therefore not very different from Cheney’s and Bush’s. Our corporate and military elites and our powerful interest groups -- not just the “Israel Right or Wrong Lobby” but, also the one that upholds the insanity of U.S. policy towards Cuba -- will see to it. [Is it not odd how archaic the expression “military industrial complex” seems now that American “industry” has all but, literally and figuratively, gone south!] Just as there are limits to how much competence counts, there are limits, severe ones, to how much it matters that Obama knows better, if indeed he does.

Were there not an economic catastrophe unfolding around us, Obama’s economic and domestic policies would probably be utterly conventional too, even if, as I also believe, he knows better in that department as well. Inasmuch as the environmental catastrophes unfolding around us are less salient (and of less immediate political concern) than the economic catastrophes Bush and Company have wrought, expect Obama not to stray far from policies friendly to elite interests in that domain either, though, again, he probably knows better. Needless to say, the future is unpredictable. On the one hand, Obama and his Wall Street crew could fail to rise to the occasion. Their efforts to save capitalism from itself might turn out to be too constrained by the wishes of their corporate cronies and paymasters to do much good, notwithstanding the fact that, for now, there is a political opening to do much more. On the other hand, environmental catastrophes could become harder to ignore, forcing (or at least facilitating) far-reaching changes in policy. Or events – for example, Israel’s current and on-going assault on Palestinians in the Gaza theater of its permanent war against Palestine – could spin out of control (if, for example, it destabilizes “friendly” governments in Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia). Then perhaps Obama would be able to do better, not just to know better. He might even force Israel to resign itself to its internationally recognized borders; and to dismantle the Apartheid regime it has concocted in occupied Palestine. He wouldn’t have to know very much to realize that only that will bring peace to the region. But don’t count on it.

Obama’s acquiescence in the face of the current spate of Israeli atrocities is evidence in support of my hypothesis about what the Obama presidency will be like in foreign affairs. It is also evidence for the more general claim about how little knowing better matters. The Israeli war on Gaza provides additional support.

In 2006, Israel perpetrated ghastly horrors of comparable (or perhaps even greater) dimensions in Lebanon, ostensibly to win the release of a captured soldier but also, it was clear to all from the beginning, to inflict a blow on Hezbollah; to punish it for its role years earlier in forcing Israel to vacate southern Lebanon. Everyone knows the outcome – for all the murder and mayhem, for all the blatant criminality, Israel got none of what it was after. Even the U.S., which supported Israel fully – in part because it saw the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict as a proxy war against Iran -- got none of what it wanted. Israel’s 2006 war strengthened Iranian influence in the Middle East.

One would think therefore that the Israelis would know better than to repeat 2006. They probably do. They probably understand that if they truly want “tranquility” in southern Israel, and in the rest of the country, there is one and only one way to get it, and that it is readily at hand – all they need do is end the occupation that has been on-going since 1967. But there are too many constraints on Israeli politicians to do anything of the sort, and too many constraints on American politicians, including Obama, to force them to do it, even if only to save Israel from its own counter-productive folly. So on it goes. Soon, having done all the destruction they can from the air, there will be only two alternatives for Israel: they can call a truce, restoring the status quo ante, conceding, in effect, that all the killing and maiming was in vain;, or they could escalate the killing and maiming by occupying Gaza with ground troops. After Lebanon, they must realize that would likely be spectacularly counter-productive. They must know as well that it’s what Hamas wants them to do. Hamas believes, no doubt rightly, that they are now in a position to do what Hezbollah did in 2006: they believe they can humiliate the Israeli military.

Hamas, is willing to bear the cost of an Israeli invasion for reasons having mainly to do with intra-Palestinian politics; they want to supplant the increasingly servile PLO as the political vehicle for Palestinian national aspirations. Gazans, it seems, are sufficiently desperate to go along; Israel’s blockade and continual harassment since they elected Hamas into office in an indisputably fair election saw to that. Israel will take Hamas’s bait for reasons having mainly to do with Israeli politics; because, with elections coming, the center-right Kadimah Party feels it has to best the Likud, the party of the far right, in anti-Palestinian militance. The U.S. will go along for reasons having mainly to do with the influence of the Israel lobby, no matter whether the President is Bush or Obama. And the “moderate” Arab states will continue to provide Israel with tacit support for reasons having to do with the perceived interests of their corrupt, ruling elites.

But the outcome is clear for everyone who knows better (and there must be many such people in all the contending camps). As in the Bush war against Iraq, the main beneficiary will be Iran. I don’t particularly bemoan that result; as well them as any of the others. And I rather like the fact that the perturbations in world order that the Bush government’s adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan have unleashed are so thoroughly, and ironically, counter-productive.

The problem, though, is that with militarily dominant powers, like the United States and Israel, defeat is seldom salutary – because, as in Lebanon in 2006 and as in Iraq now, it is seldom obvious enough to change domestic perceptions in a way that would force policy changes. Most Americans today actually believe that the “surge” has worked and therefore that the U.S. has won or is winning the Iraq War. Not only is this obviously false; it is plain that, in reality, if not in its media-driven representation, the U.S. has conceded defeat; indeed, that it has de facto surrendered. Rather than argue this point myself, I will conclude by quoting from the opening paragraphs of Patrick Cockburn’s excellent account in the December 18 London Review of Books. It reveals the gap between appearance and reality as vividly and concisely as can be.

It also shows that while knowing better is seldom a force for good, being clueless can be even worse. The perpetrators of the Iraq War are moral monsters -- guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace. They deserve to be brought to justice; something Obama shows no sign of doing. But there is a certain justice in the fact that their machinations produced precisely the opposite of the outcome they envisioned:

Thus Coburn: “On 27 November the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favour of a security agreement with the US under which its 150,000 troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities, towns and villages by 30 June next year and from all of Iraq by 31 December 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq….Private security companies will lose legal immunity, US military operations will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. No US military bases will remain after the last American troops leave in 2011 and in the interim the US military is banned from carrying out attacks on other countries from within Iraq.”

If those are not surrender terms, then what is! Cockburn continues: “The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America’s bid to act as the world’s only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt that began with the invation of 2003, has ended in failure.” And he then points out that “…Even Iran, which had denounced the first drafts of the SOFA, fearing that any agreement would enshrine a permanent US presence in Iraq, now says that it will officially back the new security pact….a sure sign that American’s main rival in the Middle East sees the accord as marking the end of the occupation and the end f any notion of Iraq being used as a launching-pad for military assaults on its neighbors.”

Morally and strategically, would it have been any better had Bush and Cheney and their band of neo-cons known better? Perhaps. But, with peace candidate Obama on board for Israel’s predations in Gaza and eager to escalate Bush’s Afghanistan War, it isn’t all that clear.