Sociable

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Self-Criticism

A. Routine Security Check

It appears in the media as a routine matter of prison discipline. After three hours (!)of search, and the discovery of a cell phone, Marwan Barghouti, was thrown into solitary confinement, which can be, in many instances, almost a form of torture. A word about the prisoner: Marwan Barghouti has ranked in many polls as the most popular person in Palestinian politics and is widely considered a likely successor to Mahmoud Abbas. Many Palestinian observers argue that the sooner such a succession occurs, the better, for Palestinian fortunes, at home and abroad.

It seems that last week, Barghouti committed an indiscretion:

“Earlier this week, Barghouti issued a statement in which he called for mass protests across the Occupied Territories and the Arab world in support of the Palestinian bid to secure U.N. recognition in September.”

“Winning the battle of next September, which is an important step in our struggle, requires the biggest peaceful popular protests here, and in the diaspora, and in Arab and Muslim countries and international capitals,” Barghouti wrote. (The Daily Star, July 23, 2011)

One of the tests for us on the Israeli left is, that while we involve ourselves, in spirit and body with the mass movement against the Israeli government’s neo-liberal onslaught, we must continue to protest each and every act of cruelty (and political idiotism) generated by the Israeli military-security apparatuses and demand that Israel stop the revenge motivated inhuman harassment against Marwan Barghouti!

B. Self-Criticism

Last week I finished a long article in Hebrew in which I announced that I can no longer support the so-called solution to the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict known as the “two-state solution.” I do not think that this change of my view on the question is of major importance, but do feel it necessary to explain to many friends and political associates, in the broadest of terms the reasons for the change.

I was slow in reading the transformations in the region. Over time, the US abandoned all pretext of objectivity and fairness regarding the Palestinian question. At the same time that Washington was betraying the Palestinians, they established a strategically important military presence in the West Bank, increased the flow of funds to the PA and to wealthy, influential Palestinians. The process was directed mainly by Salim Fayed, who morphed from a mid-level technocrat to the role of prime minister by virtue of his connections to the US.

Washington became more involved militarily and politically in Palestine and at the very same time abandoned any pretense of acting as an “honest broker.” The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (DFPE) in Israel continued its unqualified support for Mohammed Abbas and his leadership despite the sad fact that Abbas led the Palestinian Authority into a fateful alliance with US policy. [The DPFE is a broader affair built around the Communist Party of Israel. Both groups are a single political formation for all practical purposes] It is not as if the PA could point to any achievement “on the ground” as an excuse for its total subservience to the US patron. It seems that the DPFE, admittedly the strongest party among the Israeli Arab population felt obliged to stick with Abbas. When I and others tried unsuccessfully to convince the DPFE that they would be crossing a critical line by their unconditional support of an openly pro-imperialist leadership, we encountered the stubborn argument that support for the PA and its abject pro-US policies is a logical continuation of support for a two state solution.

Historically, support for the two state solution, was linked to attempts to prevent the US from dominating the Palestinian issue. The two-state solution did embody at one point certain high ideals of a compromise on the national question – though it was clear in the left that the Palestinians would be making disproportionate concessions. At any rate, faced with the DPFE position, I and others argued that in principle it was justified to continue to support the two-state solution despite the capitulation of the Abbas leadership.

Meanwhile, Obama and the entire US political establishment caved in again and again to the Israeli settler right. The US cynically claimed that the moral collapse of its policies and its sickening surrender to Netanyahu and the settler right was part of preparing a new round of negotiations. The two-state solution was rapidly being transformed into some sort of sick joke. In order to reach negotiations on a two state solution, the Palestinians were called upon to negotiate during settlement activity. I do not have the time here to go into the details of the weird process by which control of US policy on Palestine was delivered up to 500 messianic second class cheap politicians in the U.S Congress . One did not have to be a master of diplomatic dynamics to understand that the US would not and could not sponsor any solution that might conceivably meet the minimal demands of the Palestinians – even as defined by the Abbas “moderates”. Negotiations on any two-state solution in the present context appears as some sort of bone to be thrown to an increasingly unpopular Palestinian leadership, or still worse, negotiations based on US-Israeli connivance might well deliver the final death blow to any semblance of genuine Palestinian sovereignty. The two-state solution, I came to understand had lost any of its original humanistic impetus and had become a diplomatic bauble for the Dennis Ross types who organize an infinite amount of meetings and flights for the Tony Blairs of this world, devoid of any real content. I thus came to understand, admittedly a bit late, that there was no reason whatsoever to support the so called two state solution.

In order to keep the record straight I should clarify that I have not abandoned my total skepticism regarding the idea of a “one state” solution. Nothing is to be gained by pretending that there is a solution on the agenda taking into account the given relations of power and the growingly irrational elements in the deployment of US hegemony in its present crisis. The left in this country will not remain without work to do. There must be a constant unremitting effort to condemn the occupation and expose Palestinian suffering in the territories. The struggle for Jewish-Arab solidarity and the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens must remain high on the agenda. The renowned flag of Israeli equality has been ripped to shreds by vicious neo-liberal policies. Masses of young Israelis have setoff on a search for social justice. It will be very hard to find equality even for some without equality for all.

C. Irresponsible Hyperbole

The following little piece of hype has no foundation in all the serious reporting on the mega demo in support of the demands for social justice:

“Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night,
with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants
of "Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu" filling the air.”

The item which appeared on a progressive blog is unsourced and pure fantasy. As a matter of fact, the militant young Israeli marchers did not have the faintest idea of relating in any form or fashion to the Israeli-Arab Palestinian conflict. They are hankering after an elusive quality which goes by the name of social justice and deeply hurt that even large sections of the middle class need some relief from the vicissitudes of what goes in Israel by the name of “market economics.”

Many sharp observers of the ME scene, such as Prof. Joel Beinin from Stanford University, have cited the startling similarities between the effects of neo-liberalism on the middle class in Egypt and Israel. But Beinin among others is quite clear about the danger of stretching that analogy too far, even before examining the gigantic differences linked to the political and diplomatic roles of the two countries.

For quite a while there have been two opposing views regarding the potential of class struggle in Israeli Jewish society. Important leftists such as MK Dov Khenin (HADASH) and the militant journalist Ephraim Davidi have stubbornly defended the view that there is an unlimited revolutionary energy in the streets that can and must be harnessed to radical politics. Many others, myself included, have pointed out that Israel’s colonialist role, past and present has been, at least up to now, a serious brake on any motion past establishment politics in this country, which are, unfortunately Zionist to the core. And Zionist in this frame of reference, means maintaining and protecting Jewish privilege over and against Palestinian demands for national and civic equality.

The young people fighting for decent rental housing, the doctors fighting for reasonable wages and the salvation of the public health system and the consumers who have figured out that they are being ripped off by the big supermarket chains all deserve the warm respect and support of progressives here and abroad. In regards to the revolutionary potential of the movement - this may be another one of those cases where you hope that you are wrong and the widespread disgust at Bibi and his gang may generate one form or another of radical politics. You do hear the chant of “Bibi Go Home”, but for now, no voices coming out of the tent compounds are saying “Go Home Bibi and take your Wars and Occupation with you.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Twelve Theses and Six Comments on the ME

Thesis 1: Though the following axiomatic truth is, or should be clear, it is necessary to remind ourselves that we must continue to relate to the ME and the Arab countries, in terms of a system and a structure dominated by the US and its NATO allies, (or US for short) .

Comment 1

It is strange to come across detailed analyses of events in the region, even from people who see themselves as members of the left that stubbornly ignore the above factual background, essential in understanding currents and developments.

Thesis 2: The chief goals of US domination are (a) profits from and control of the region’s resources, e.g., oil and gas and (b) permanent presence of constant strategic military superiority. These goals are guaranteed by an extensive series of agreements, contracts, and treaties with the formally independent, but actually subservient. governments in the region.

Thesis 3: These agreements are based on and ensure super profits resulting from the practice of unequal exchange and implemented so as to establish and maintain ruling circles that govern the specific countries in order to maintain the status quo favorable to foreign domination and local reaction – based on feudal, clerical, dynastic and military circles.

Thesis 4: On the eve of the Arab spring (February 2011) the key factors impacting the US system of domination were:

a) Deepening relative weakness of US economy and international crisis of the capitalist system; b) emerging coalition of countries opposed to foreign domination: Iran; Syria, Gaza and Hezballah in Lebanon; c) relative independence of Turkey re US policy; d) relative failure of US war to control Iraq.

Thesis 5: The first great success of the Arab spring was to undermine the Mubarek regime in Egypt, which along with Israel and Saudi Arabia served as the main agencies of strategic control, military rule and dictatorship against the Arab masses.

Thesis 6: The Arab spring was the signal for the spontaneous and unprecedented rise of the Arab masses in rebellion against the status quo and challenging the leadership of all Arab countries. However, each and every spontaneous rebellion must in its development elaborate its principles and goals – and its orientation regarding possible common fronts and coalitions.

Thesis 7: There is every reason to support the spontaneous rebellion of the masses. But this position must be distinguished from a kind of “revolutionary romanticism” which ignores the capability of existing political forces to co-opt mass movements that are unable or refuse to define their own clear goals.

Comment 2: In Libya many leftist commentators identified left influence and even hegemony among the anti-Quadaffi fighters. Sadly, this turned out to be wishful thinking.

Comment 3: Today, we have to repel attacks on the Arab spring because of current disappointments. It is worth recalling that the rise of the masses in the original spring of nations (1848) met with a resounding defeat. The success of any uprising depends in the final analysis on the clear definition of goals and the ability to organize the movement and its leadership.

Thesis 8: The category of anti-imperialism is under sharp attack by many on the left who argue that it is immoral to define as anti-imperialist regimes characterized by forms of extreme repression. This moralistic approach ignores the following: a) the anti-imperialist nature of such regimes is not a question of abstract theory but of a real, on the ground, clash between the goals and policies of the various anti-imperialist countries, and the US-NATO system of domination and control. The dominant system identifies, for all concerned, threats to it smooth functioning and control. Imperialism knows its enemies.

Comment 4: No one wanted to describe Iraq under Sadam Hussein in progressive terms. But a blatant war of aggression was launched by the US and its allies against the regime and the people of Iraq…. because of their anti-imperialist positions; b) the ideological basis of this approach is widely understood and recognized by Marxism. Resistance to imperial diktat and the aspiration for independence is recognized as progressive even when implemented by backward or repressive regimes.

This policy was completely vindicated in Latin America where the national liberation movements became the foundation of a serious, anti-imperialist threat to Yankee domination.

Thesis 9:

All the regimes in the region are dictatorships. This means that the level of repression and its expressions is more a question of form than of substance. The practice of brutal dictatorship, corruption and unlimited exploitation, cruel and vicious methods of imprisonment, torture and the total subjugation of the masses is commonplace for decades in countries of the region and not headline material. This, the norm of pro-imperialist government, has been imposed on more than 350 million Arabs for decades.

Thesis 10: The countries in the region which have broken away from imperial domination bear witness to having grown up in the same neighborhood. They are no better and no worse in matters linked to individual freedoms and no different in the reliance of brute power when they consider themselves threatened. At any rate, from the minute that they defy imperial domination, they are in danger of bloody reprisal by internal and regional enemies.

Thesis 11: The principle of sovereign rights is an important element which enables and encourages local groupings to consider options based on policies developing national independence. The process of breaking away from imperial domination is an important factor in the acceleration of developing contradictions in the imperial system. This explains the centrality of the intervention issue. Since the West cannot claim the existence of any right of intervention, huge resources are devoted to slanted media coverage and commentary and to richly financed acts of subversion and conspiracy to justify every kind of intervention.

Comment 5: It is amusing to hear the left mocked because it raises the issue of imperial conspiracy and subversion. In the more sophisticated political and intellectual elements of the West it is common knowledge, and rarely denied that such practices are central to the responsible administration of state interests.

12) The system of Western exploitation and domination determines to a decisive degree the class structure of the states in the region. There is throughout the region an almost total lack of investment in manufacturing and industry. As a result it is hard to identify a sizable industrial working class. In many instances, the oil and gas industry is dependent on foreign labor in an area of immense labor surplus.

Comment 6: It can be presumed –though the matter requires further examination – that the strength of religious feeling stems from the fact that it is the main or often the single force that supplies a modicum of material, social and cultural solidarity. It appears that the Islamic clergy and charitable institutions act as a virtual sub-contractor instead of the state – in the area of social services. The source of funding is probably the only oil money that remains in the region that is not devoted to the corrupt regimes and their henchmen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ha'aretz Tails After Barak

Ha’aretz Has A Big Front Page Scoop

The message in the front page headline, spread over six of the eight columns in today’s English edition of Ha’aretz (December 21, 2011) is clear and unequivocal . The headline states: ”Assad losing control as 10,000 soldiers desert Syrian military.” Here is the full text of the article, for your info.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/assad-losing-control-as-10-000-soldiers-desert-syrian-military-1.402625

However, there is a slight journalistic complication. No recognizable or identifiable source is given for the information. The only sources cited for these dramatic developments are simply “sources” or “Western intelligence agencies.” Moreover, Ha’aretz seems to be the only one out there with this tremendous scoop. The 10,000 deserters did not make it into the NYT today, which carried a routine balanced report on the daily casualties and on the preparations of the Arab League delegation to Syria.

Maybe the real clue to the Ha’aretz scoop is based on a statement by Defense Minister Barak a month ago (and cited in the very article) that Assad will fall in a few weeks. Now, it seems that the two Ha’aretz journalists, Issacharoff and Harel are playing that old Shin Bet game. They are converting their “personal” connections with Barak into a nice bit of journalistic hearsay. You see, no one can prove that they are wrong.

Ha’aretz, true enough is not the only media channel revealing a bit of hysteria these days. The “danger” of negotiations is looming and there are indications of attempts at a negotiated settlement. Such a negotiated settlement may be the only way to prevent a protracted civil war in Syria, which might easily mushroom into a regional conflagration. Now if you are against negotiations, the best argument against them, and you can hear it in the most recent Israeli commentary, is quite clear and simple. Asad is falling. He is dead. Why would anyone in his right mind want to negotiate with him?

Barak “knows” that Asad is going to fall any day. Barak’s buddies over at Ha’aretz send up this balloon. And this is Israel’s leading newspaper. Leading to where and to what?

All the above applies as well to the Hebrew edition of the paper, with one single difference. The banner heralding the scoop in the Hebrew paper was a bit longer.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ME Perspectives

The ME does not seem to be quieting down. Neither now or in the near future.

Instability is the rule and not the exception all over the area. Change is on the agenda.

The change is not uni-directional and the level of violence is different from country to country. Any country by country summary of major events in the region verifies the clear conclusion that the scope and the depth of tensions and instability on a regional level is unique in every sense.

The fact that there are salient differences in trends and directions from country to country has allowed the so-called experts to come up with the brilliant assertion that things are different from country to country and one should avoid generalizations. This generalization about the danger of generalization is about the most superficial stupidity that the establishment punditry has to offer. Differences, even important ones exist.

Even so, can one ignore the pressing probability that there must be some common forces at work, that there must be some under the surface dynamic that is the key to understanding the discrete events.

First Summary

The following ME survey should get us on the way to some sort of over arching analysis, or at the least, the tools required for this purpose.

Egypt and Tunis

We have here two unfinished revolutions. The US and its European allies, for short “the West” have lost their “safe” regimes. At this point they are doing everything to contain the damage. The hatred for the former rulers keeps the revolution going but the stalled pace is being utilized by the West to develop a new set of alternative forces and bridges to the mainstream alternatives. The main search is for a “moderate Islamic” electoral winner. But even formally free elections can push the scene anywhere. The West is in no hurry. The signs of growing economic difficulties may push the electorate to the right if there is no credible nationalist or left alternative.

Libya and Syria appear to be two successes for the “West.” Libya is real gain. The military defeat of Gadaffi shows that intervention, if organized and staged properly, is still an effective weapon. As the West prepares to assume control, everybody can formulate their own conclusions from the almost hysterical debates that beset the left. I doubt if there are anyone on the left who still believes that the intervention was an act of moral justice to prevent the annihilation of the Libyan masses by the regime. It is absolutely tiresome to have to reconvince people on the left that you cannot judge the forces at work from reports of the danger of a single specific pending atrocity. Even if the reports on the impending danger were totally accurate, that danger was, for the West, no more than a flimsy excuse to show some muscle. Many thousands of Libyans are dead. Few, if any white Europeans were discomforted. It is clear that there were enough Libyan people on either side to justify the view that this was a civil war. The war was not about any pending atrocity that had to be prevented but about control of Libyan territory, Libyan oil and the possibility of enthroning a much more compliant regime.

I definitely understand and support the basic position of Castro and Chavez, which is that whatever the specific crisis in any one country, the left should maintain a firm and unyielding position against outside military intervention. Even when the crisis is a result of internal strife and there are masses facing the military dictatorship, it is the duty of the left to distinguish between justifiable condemnation of the use of force by the regime and the possibility of an outcome which is as bad if not worse than the present situation. Dictators will invariably use naked force to stay in power. The masses have an inherent right to rebel. But this does not relieve us from the hard questions. What forces are leading the opposition? What are their programs and international connections. Are there ways to avoid an all out civil war? The Western media would have us freeze our analysis to the original scenes and prepare us for the victory of their scenario. Even when, as in the present situation, it is our duty, especially ours, to condemn the brutality of the Assad regime, there is no reason to desist from an analysis of events to refrain from pursuing an outcome that could lead to more positive and progressive outcomes. We cannot exclude the possibilities that events in Syria have transformed into elements of civil war. And we cannot be blind to the powerful simplistic message in the daily media to the effect that only NATO has the answer to ending the crisis. Is it not clear that this message confirms our worst apprehension that NATO might be trying to influence events in Syria in directions that will increase its chances for intervention?

There of course people in the left who wish to seize on any deviation from the simplistic message – overthrowing Assad as the main and only goal of the Syrian struggle - as an act of complicity with the dictatorship. In the eyes of the “liberal left” any hesitation about supporting any and all opposition forces in Syria exposes the hesitators to the charge of refusing to abandon their previous positive evaluation of Syria’s regional role. However, the anti-Assad demand that refuses to discriminate between forces and trends in the opposition is precisely the NATO position. Nothing is clearer than the fact that NATO is desperately searching for any bloc of internal forces which could sponsor their intervention.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

US Stabs Palestine in the Back

Why Obama Stabbed the Palestinians in the Back

There are two ways of looking at the disgusting performance of Obama at the UN where he openly and cynically stabbed the Palestinians in the back. One explanation is based on Obama’s electoral considerations and his need to coddle Israel at Palestinian expense. The second explanation is based on the logic of great power imperial strategic considerations. Israel is a serious ally and its services may be required express any day in the present stormy ME region. Incidentally, the two versions are not mutually exclusive.

The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier

Firstly, it might be a bit unpleasant, and some of my friends will be offended by the stark language, if not the essence of the matter, but the truth must be told in clear and bold language. It has been clear now for quite a while. The abandonment of Palestine to de facto annexation into Greater Israel is a process enabled and facilitated by the United States. For its own selfish imperialist reasons, the United States, led by Barack Obama, is prepared to sell the Palestinians down the river. Thus, the deeper reason for Obama’s disgraceful performance is the rising importance of the US’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in the region. The US correctly views the Middle East as being in a free for all. After Mubarek has been deposed, with Yemen and Bahrain hemorrhaging, the US needs its main ally, Israel, always ready to fight at the drop of a hat. The US has made some gains in the ME, notably Libya and Syria. But the revolutionary processes in the region are just beginning. Just compare the performance of the two main US allies, Israel and Pakistan, to understand why the US with its waning powers refuses to complicate life for Netanyahu.

Of course, during the “peace process,”the United States promised everyone a “happy end” to the protracted drama. But as things got worse and worse and the US stopped calling back – it became clear that DC had other fish to fry and Netanyahu was and is Obama’s exclusive point man in the region.

Scared of Rick Perry – Fear of Losing Jewish Votes

I doubt whether the sordid US behavior is only a matter of Obama trying to protect the “Jewish vote.” The stench of growing anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalism will probably keep the Jewish voters, who can figure out that all this love and friendship is supposed to end in their conversion, in the Democratic Party. With all due respect to pro-Israel sentiment, the mass of Jewish voters just will not want to pray in Rick Perry’s church. However, if I am wrong about the imperialist essence of the matter, and Obama willfully and cynically sacrificed the interests of the entire Palestinian people for an uncertain cheap electoral consideration, this is also proof that the US is in the hands of irresponsible, dangerous politicians. The end result is not all that different, whether the motivation is imperial strategic needs or cheap, local politics. The US continues to build its regional strategy on a sick, blind devotion to an Israeli, anti-Arab, regional hegemony. The Likud people are chortling all over the place. Netanyahu has the President of the United States in his hip pocket. Members of the ‘moderate’ public in Israel have now joined legions of liberal and progressive people in the United States who, having been fooled by Obama at one stage or another, now justifiably consider themselves betrayed.

Illusions regarding the US

What with the illusions in the Palestinian camp, represented by the policies of Abu Mazen, it was hard for the moderate peace camp in Israel to see things as they actually were for quite along time. Stressing the difficult situation wherein the US reigned as the single super power and the fact that the main opposition to the US role was dominated by Islamic forces – many on the left refused to see the handwriting on the apartheid wall and ignored the deadly danger of the US embrace. The US was throwing peanuts to the Palestinian Authority, in order to debilitate its resistance and encourage false hopes. For little expense, the US could pretend to seem to be working for peace. But this game is also over.

Many dear friends on the left, supporters of a reasonable two state compromise fell asleep on the job. They refused to criticize Abu Mazen and the PA and defended them because they were willing to make serious concessions for peace. But they refused to warn that Abu Mazen’s “practical “ line of leaning on the US for day to day support and sustenance had involved him in a set of military and economic concessions which hollowed out his support among the Palestinians. One can understand how our friend Uri Avneri, an indefatigable opponent of the occupation, allowed himself to be hoodwinked by the Obama administration – because of all the chatter about supposed common values. But how did the leftist Democratic Front for Peace and Equality in Israel allow itself to become the loyal, almost servile supporter of Abu Mazen and his policies – despite the pro-US orientation of the PA and the scandalous establishment of General Dayton’s army?

Meanwhile the Likud hacks are going wild with joy. If they have unqualified support from the US – they do not have another care in the world. Bibi returns to Israel in a blaze of glory. He and his friends have appointed Netanyahu as the leader of the Jewish people. There is no base in law or morality for this claim, but he will do everything to usurp such a role. So far, his main contribution has been to justify some of the more flagrant accusations against Israel by openly and cynically using the sufferings of the Jewish people to justify the occupation and its crimes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Palestinians are going to the UN

The Whole World is Watching

The Palestinians are going to the UN and demanding recognition as an independent state. It appears that the demand for UN recognition enjoys broad Palestinian support, chiefly for its symbolic value. It is not hard to understand that many Palestinians would prefer to be led by a more reliable and militant leadership. However, the dissenters would be making, in my humble opinion, a serious mistake were they to oppose the UN initiative with a long list of objections and reservations – howsoever justified. It seems that one needs only a minimum of political wisdom to understand that the complicated and fateful issues dividing the Palestinian public are almost totally irrelevant in this context. There will still be time for the complicated issues dividing Palestinian society.

Here in Israel, matters are even clearer. From Zionist doves to Anarchists Against the Wall (and everyone in between), “two staters,” “one staters” and “no staters” can all unite in protesting the disgusting and cowardly performance of the UN, which allows itself to be manipulated by every conceivable trick and tactic to block entrance of the Palestinians as full and equal members of the international community.

The Palestinian initiative is opposed by the main bitter enemies of the Palestinian people. The main culprits in this sordid and ugly crime against international morality are the US government and its leaders and its Israeli partner. Nor shall we ever forget the slimy role of the Tony Blair’s and the Dennis Ross’es who attempt to mask rank discrimination as honest mediation.

There is no reason for illusions regarding the Palestinian initiative. Things after the UN sessions on Palestine will not be radically different. There is reason to believe that the enemies of Palestine are not only evil, but increasingly out of touch with reality. One senses that they – the US and Israel - still believe that they are the unchallenged masters of the region. They are, we fear, laboring under a misconception that is both silly and extremely dangerous.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ending Civil War in Libya – Preventing Civil War in Syria


From the Desk of Reuven Kaminer May 16, 2011

Ending Civil War in Libya – Preventing Civil War in Syria

Just two long months ago, in the early stage of the Libyan crisis, advocates of UN intervention justified their position with the claim that Gadaffi was determined to slaughter thousands of his own citizens. There is no way of knowing whether that horrendous scenario was indeed going to materialize. Let us accept, for the sake of productive discussion in the left that the danger was real. Of course, this factor certainly influenced the public debate regarding intervention. It is understandable that many sincere people on the left supported the USNATO intervention because they did not want the blood of the citizens of Benghazi and other cities on humanity’s conscience. Two months later, the potential bloodbath in Benghazi, has been supplanted by a new dangerous reality, by the ongoing, real, undeniable bloodbath of civil war. Months of war and destruction are descending on Libya. Libyans, mobilized in two warring camps are killing each other daily.

We would like to assume that many friends on the left who supported intervention out of humanitarian considerations are not locked into irreversible support for the continuation of USNATO intervention and remain willing to analyze the situation as it unfolds. The humanitarian instinct, at the outset of the Libyan crisis, sought a particular solution for a specific drastic situation. Moreover, approval extended to the USNATO expedition by some on the left rarely, if ever, could be construed as to include a vote of confidence or any expression of confidence in the political-military leadership of the war against Gaddafi. One cannot be certain regarding motivations, but as far as we understood the bitter debate in the left, it appears that most pro-intervention sentiment was based on the assumption that the mission could be accomplished with speed and accuracy and if the intervention proved that Gadaffi had absolutely no support – his elimination from the political equation would be all for the better.

We know sincere people on the left who are increasingly aware that the UN mandate has been so distorted as to include regime change and even targeted assassination. This is not “mission creep,” but mission revision. And there is more to come.

It would seem that enough has happened – much of it unexpected -to renew the discussion in the left regarding this stage of development on a different level. There may still be some highly imaginative people on the left who are willing to stick with the intervention until victory, laboring under the illusion that with the final conclusive victory over Gadaffi, the revolution will reemerge in all its glory, thank the leaders of the free world for their assistance and relieve them of the keys of the kingdom. But the facts on the ground are quite clear and suggest the absence of any revolutionary perspective. The rebels are split into competing factions vying for USNATO backing and there is absolutely no reason to expect the emergence of anything progressive in the new regime when and if it is installed by Cameron and Sarkozy with Obama lurking in the wings.

It may appear a bit strange, but it is increasingly clear that USNATO is willing to cut any deal in Libya, if you can promise them Gadaffi’s head on a platter. It is not coincidental that the recent bombardment of command and control posts in Tripoli seems unmistakably similar to the targeted assassination techniques perfected by the IDF and learned by the U.S. Seals. There are many signs that the UN command is toying with the possibility of Gadaffi’s ‘accidental’ death. The USNATO stubborn insistence on death for Gadaffi is the kind of material that might well build a legend around him and the Libyan state-sponsored resistance. There is no reason to be certain that if Gadaffi is rubbed out he will not leave a camp of admirers who will continue the fight onwards. Real friends of Libya cannot be indifferent to the historical impact of the war that might cause irreparable damage to the very existence of Libyan society.

If there is an alternative path to stop the killing why would any progressive reject it out of hand? In diplomatic quarters, it is understood that the leadership of the West will suffer a serious blow to their prestige if Gadaffi survives. But, it would seem that no one on the left should be concerned with the danger to the crumbling prestige of the USNATO project, which needs Gadaffi dead to satisfy the appetite for his blood that they have nurtured in the Western media. The situation today in Libya is that the victory of any of the fighting sides might well be the occasion for bloody reprisals and massive revenge. The political will and the humanitarian instincts of people on the left should lead them – supporters and opponents of the intervention alike - to support the same demand today – immediate talks on a cease fire and a political solution.

Of course, there are “advisors” on the USNATO side calling for more and more military force for victory over Gadaffi. Is it conceivable that the left, humanitarian or otherwise, throw in its lot with the hawkish wing of the interventionists, who are calling for increased, more widespread bombing with bigger and more destructive bombs? Can there be a progressive position that calls for the USNATO to spill rivers of blood in Libya in order to end the mess that they have created?

In the face of this senseless killing, the idea of a cease fire has become compelling. Left wing supporters of the intervention are supporting the National Transition Council’s offer for negotiations after Gadaffi is removed. Now, the anti-imperialist left is called on to support the endless continuation of a civil war because the interventionist camp cannot negotiate until Gadaffi is eliminated from the picture. Here is another “anti-imperialist-pro intervention” position that just happens to fulfill the needs of imperial politics. Really.

Just one last comment on the dispute on the left. At this stage a lot of energy on both sides of the dispute is devoted to picking up and relaying particular news items that seem to have a bearing on who is right regarding the meaning of the intervention. The “dogmatists’ have been vilified for coming out automatically against the imperial initiative, though the anti-interventionist camp has massed sufficient evidence to fully prove the hypocrisy behind the whole attack.

Now, when each side to the argument on the left regarding the intervention is busy looking for quotations, it might be a good idea to ask who should carry the burden of proof. Do the anti-interventionists have to labor to show that it is silly if not worse to present the US-UK-French aggressors as disinterested volunteers in the cause of freedom? Even when the evidence regarding the mendacious nature of the NATO is plentiful, do we on the left have to labor to prove the wisdom of the principle that imperialist intervention is not and cannot be a vehicle of progress. Are we impartial regarding the loyal heirs of Bush and Blair?

Assad’s Last Chance

We remain unwilling to bow to the current fashion which refuses to see any difference, whatsoever, between the Assad regime, on one hand, and that of Mubarek in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. As a matter of fact all the Arab regimes have been dictatorships as far back as we can remember. All dictatorships fight against the opposition with no holds barred. The level of brutality and repression usually varies in direct proportion to the danger. This world and its mode of operation have been dictated in large by the needs and demands of the imperial masters of the region. The real chances for a democratic opening involve disabling the military, economic and political control of the region from USNATO domination. Support for the intervention in Libya is support for USNATO domination in the region.

It seems quite clear that the Syrian dictatorship did not hesitate to resort to brute force in order to squelch the rising flames of genuine and legitimate protest. This is inexcusable, and those responsible for this kind of response must be brought before the bar of justice. This having been said without any further qualification, more has to be said on other aspects of the Syrian question. Syria’s defense of its sovereignty over the years and its refusal to play the US game in the region regarding Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian issue were and remain an important contribution to restraining US-Israeli aggression. Justified criticism of Syria by the left cannot ignore these positive elements in the picture because of justified concern for the rights of the Syrian people and clear opposition to the brutal repression we have witnessed for weeks.

The first reports regarding the repression in Syria appeared at a time of the intensive debate regarding USNATO intervention in Libya and there was reason to fear that confirmation of the repression in Syria would appear to support intervention in Syria.

Intervention, it turned out, is not for the moment on the agenda in Syria. Importantly, there are still no signs of any credible political opposition. The opposition in the streets to the Assad regime is based for the most part on different and even competing sectarian and ethnic groups. Moreover, some of the regimes traditional enemies appear to have exploited the opportunity to initiate armed action. The strength and the cohesion of the regime, which is trying to deflect mass opposition by the promise of serious reforms, have restricted the USNATO scope of action. But, let there be no doubt that the USNATO operation is looking for weak spots in Syria and hoping for an opening that might make intervention a more feasible option.

It is certainly for the good that the Libya intervention has reminded Obama, Cameron and Sarkozi that there are no easy interventions.

In Syria there are serious calls from the left and many popular organizations for dialogue and genuine reform. There are differing opinions regarding the sincerity or lack thereof of the Assad reform program. Window dressing and empty slogans will make things worse. The neo-liberal policies of the regime have completely alienated natural allies among the workers and peasants. Assad must change course or crash and if he relies on massive force and repression to save him, no one on the left will be sorry to see his regime go down in flames.

Israel Sics Dogs on Workers

I generally shy away from covering the atrocities and more disgusting aspects of the Israeli rule over the occupied Palestinian territories. This unpleasant but necessary mission is performed by many devoted groups and non-governmental organizations. But the following piece of information has to be shouted from the rooftops in the hope of shaming the perpetrators of this latest bit of pure ugliness. The courageous journalist, Gideon Levy, tells of the latest IDF technical upgrade in punishing workers who try to get into Israel to earn their daily bread. Haaretz Friday May 13, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/israel-s-dogs-of-war-1.361449

The soldiers lay in wait on the border in the very early hours of the morning before dawn and sic the dogs on laborers trying to get into Israel for a few days work. The IDF explains that if not dogs, they would have to employ more severe measures. Iron logic and poison in the soul.

Danger!

Meir Degan, recently retired from his “distinguished career” as Mossad chief, came out openly against the idiotic idea of attacking the Iranian nuclear facilities. There is only one single explanation for Dagan’s speaking out. Just one: he has reason to fear that this option is being seriously considered by the Israeli leadership – here and now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Intervention in the Name of Stability

Intervention in the Name of Stability

Professor Noam Chomsky recently delivered an important address in Amsterdam entitled “Contours of the World Order.”(1)

A large part of the speech was devoted to the role of the US in defending its area of absolute hegemony. According to Chomsky’s excellent analysis, the United States relates to all countries with a simple rule of behavior. They must honor obligations stemming from US control and domination and governments which refuse to behave according to this universal principle will be the objects of US reprisals up to and including direct military threat to their very existence. Chomsky sums it up with his characteristic incisiveness. If you are on the US team, then you are part of the stability that must be treasured above all else. If you challenge US hegemony, you are an enemy of stability.

It is necessary to understand that this US policy has nothing to do with the internal nature of the given regime. Iraq was attacked, as we suspected, because it challenged US dictates regarding its use of its own oil. The nature of Sadaam Hussein’s regime or the scope of his repression against the people of Iraq was totally irrelevant when the US decided that he was getting out of line.

Regarding Iran, Chomsky explains that no military or security danger emanates from the Islamic Republic. The simple truth is that the carefully cultivated US-Israeli hysteria build-up stems from Iran’s success in the diplomatic and political field.

Apologetics for USNATO Intervention

It is almost a full time job following the intensive debate in large sections of the left regarding the USNATO intervention in Libya. The pro-interventionist current has an important spokesperson in the highly respected person of Prof. Gilbert Achcar, a theoretician close to the radical left. Achcar, who speaks for a minority of the left, supported UN intervention, and the “no fly” zone, but did criticize the interpretation of the UNSC 1973 which allowed for bombing the country. Achcar holds to the position that the USNATO intervention was justified by the danger to Benghazi which would have fallen to the merciless Gadaffi. In his most recent comments on events in Libya, Achcar warns against foreign “boots on the ground” but sticks to his support for the rebels National Transitional Council, and calls for massive arms shipments to the rebels.(2)

This position appears to your humble correspondent to be seriously flawed. Senator John McCain was in Benghazi this week also calling for arms for the rebels. At this point in the debate we have thoroughly examined all the theoretical approaches to the question and have entered the world of practical politics. A war is going on in Libya sponsored, administered and conducted by USNATO. The purpose of this war at this stage is to effect regime change without which USNATO will suffer a humiliating disgrace. One might argue that Gadaffi was guilty of attempts to snuff out the democratic elements in Libya which had raised the flag of the Arab democratic revolution and who should have received full support from the left.

However, by centering our whole analysis on the crimes of Gadaffi, we encounter a serious difficulty. This is the same difficulty that we encountered regarding the drive for intervention against a long list of unsavory characters, including the likes of Sadaam Hussein, the Taliban, or even El Qaida. Experience provides ample evidence that confrontation between the US, acting in its imperial interests, and the local tyrants, reactionaries and fundamentalists enables the most reactionary sections of society to present themselves as the legitimate voices of authentic identity and patriotism. This dynamic, which develops intensely, at the heart of almost all interventions, actually prevents the growth and development of the social forces that carry the seed of genuine emancipation and reform.

The pro-independence, pro-democracy forces in Libyan society, even if they were as originally influential at the beginning of the crisis, as some believe, could not have conceivably survived as a significant force when the fight against the Gaddafi forces was taken over, subverted and recast as a battle to impose the will of the USNATO coalition in order “to save civilization and the free world.” The world has seen just how this kind of subversion ends. By virtue of its results, the US is still in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues the frenzied establishment of additional new military bases all over the globe. The name of this game is the right of intervention versus the right of self determination.

Syria in Crisis

As reports of large scale military and police attacks on peaceful demonstrating Syrian civilians are verified from objective sources, it will be the obligation of all democrats to call on the Asad regime to cease and desist immediately from such practices. Even so, we do not live in a romantic pseudo-democratic wonderland and we cannot be indifferent to the nature of the opposition in Syria, especially since it known that Syria is composed of a complex patch work of ethnic and sectarian entities. The empirical evidence of US involvement in the past so-called “velvet-color” revolutions will, as has happened invariably in the past, also surface here at a later stage regarding the crisis Syria.

There are unkind souls who will insist that all those who warn of US subversion and CIA provocations are claiming that the demonstrations and the protests in Syria are the work of the CIA. This is, of course, a gross falsification. The principles of the anti interventionist position is clear. There is every reason to believe that the mass protests in Syria reflect serious, genuine defects and weaknesses in the Asad regime. But, the crisis in Syria activates the hope in Washington for a pro-US regime in Damascus. And if this is not possible, the US and its faithful supporters might well prefer the disintegration of Syria into an ethnic-sectarian hodgepodge.

Up till now, the Syrian government has defended, over the years, its sovereignty and its independence against US pressures. It has acted with a modicum of solidarity and sensitivity to the Palestinian cause, when dictators such as Mubarek were openly conspiring with the US and Israel against the rights of the Palestinian people.

The survival of the Syrian government depends, in the final analysis, on its deserving the confidence and the support of the Syrian masses. Syria does have enemies but this is good reason for it not to become its own worst enemy.

1)[http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175382/tomgram%3A_noam_chomsky%2C_who_owns_the_world/]

(2) http://www.zcommunications.org/the-libyan-insurrection-between-gaddafis-hammer-natos-anvil-and-the-lefts-confusion-results-and-prospects-by-gilbert-achcar