Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper" 


"I, Arlen Specter, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."


"Arlen Specter said that the [torture] bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the President to detain people indefinitely. He also said the bill violates core Constitutional protections. Then he voted for it."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Look Out, Virginia...Here Comes Mississippi! 

I think the strategy now is simply to send out Republicans not in tight election races to make pronouncements more stupid and racist than the pronouncements recently made by those in tight election races.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bush's Useful Idiots 

Anyone who is still unsure about why we should not only not trust the Democrat party and the "liberal" establishment, but should actually start laying a large share of the blame at its feet (of the blood on its heads) should read this elegant and careful article by Tony Judt in the London Review of Books. (The piece is smartly called "Bush's useful idiots" because it compares American liberals, like David Remnick and Michael Ignatieff, who support the terror-war but are "opposed" to the "way it was executed," to the old left-wing intellectuals who tried to say that they were "against" Stalinist mass-murder but still "supportive" of communism, without seeing that the criminality of Soviet communism had been, since 1917, the insuperable problem.)

Judt is always calm, fair-minded, and consistently critical of cowardice and ineptitude wherever it's found, on the right or left.

Here's a good passage:

In a similar vein, those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War – the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ‘Off the Island’ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America’s drive to war – are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs. The same Friedman now sneers at ‘anti-war activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in’ (New York Times, 16 August). To be sure, Friedman’s Pulitzer-winning pieties are always road-tested for middlebrow political acceptability. But for just that reason they are a sure guide to the mood of the American intellectual mainstream.

Friedman is seconded by Beinart, who concedes that he ‘didn’t realise’(!) how detrimental American actions would be to ‘the struggle’ but insists even so that anyone who won’t stand up to ‘Global Jihad’ just isn’t a consistent defender of liberal values. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, writing in the Financial Times, accuses Democratic critics of the Iraq War of failing ‘to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously’. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially. Such insouciance in spite of – indeed because of – your past misjudgments recalls a remark by the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade to Edgar Morin, a dissenting Communist vindicated by events: ‘You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong.’

It is particularly ironic that the ‘Clinton generation’ of American liberal intellectuals take special pride in their ‘tough-mindedness’, in their success in casting aside the illusions and myths of the old left, for these same ‘tough’ new liberals reproduce some of that old left’s worst characteristics. They may see themselves as having migrated to the opposite shore; but they display precisely the same mixture of dogmatic faith and cultural provincialism, not to mention the exuberant enthusiasm for violent political transformation at other people’s expense, that marked their fellow-travelling predecessors across the Cold War ideological divide. The use value of such persons to ambitious, radical regimes is an old story. Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America’s liberal armchair warriors are the ‘useful idiots’ of the War on Terror.

....It is depressing to read some of the better known and more avowedly ‘liberal’ intellectuals in the contemporary USA exploiting their professional credibility to advance a partisan case. Jean Bethke Elshtain and Michael Walzer, two senior figures in the country’s philosophical establishment (she at the University of Chicago Divinity School, he at the Princeton Institute), both wrote portentous essays purporting to demonstrate the justness of necessary wars – she in Just War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, a pre-emptive defence of the Iraq War; he only a few weeks ago in a shameless justification of Israel’s bombardments of Lebanese civilians (‘War Fair’, New Republic, 31 July). In today’s America, neo-conservatives generate brutish policies for which liberals provide the ethical fig-leaf. There really is no other difference between them

Have you heard about this? 

Remember all the excitement when there was a so-called "Cedar Revolution" in Beirut? When all the freedom-loving A-rabs got together and demanded that the dirty Syrians leave Lebanon? This was big news in the all the American fascist dailies (like the New York Times, etc.). Not so much for the coverage of the even larger pro-Hezbollah, pro-Syria rallies that immediately followed. Not so much about Rafiq Hariri and why many opposed his "Westernizing" moves.

And certainly now no coverage of the rally this weekend that was apparently the largest in the history of Lebanon:

The Angry Arab gives his thoughts:

The speech by Nasrallah and the rally in the southern suburbs of Beirut are the big news in all Arab news... The event is most significant for the unprecedented size of crowd. This WAS the biggest crowd in Lebanese history, ever. Did you hear that, O American correspondents in Lebanon? Will the Nation magazine publish a piece paying tribute to the demonstrators as they did when demonstrations took place against Syrian domination? Will MERIP now assign a piece by Nicholas Blamford to note the “photogenic” quality of the demonstrators as they did for the 2005 demonstrations? Why do some demonstrations register in the US press and others don’t? And why didn’t the Lebanese “liberal” intellectuals who took to the streets to cheer victory against Syria not show up to cheer a victory against Israeli aggression, wondered my friend Joseph? But I agree with the wise words of Joseph Samahah today in Al-Akhbar (the newspaper has quickly emerged as “the most” important newspaper in Lebanon): he said that let us at least stay away from the war of numbers, and let us at least note that public opinion is split in half, and let us at least stop reducing all of Lebanon to the likes of Jumblat and mini-Hariri.

The best measure of the impact of the speech is my mother (a Beirut Sunni). A week ago she was quite displeased with Hasan Nasrallah because he invoked the phrase “divine victory”. She worried that the expression may connote a hidden agenda of Islamization of the republic. Today, when I spoke to her, she was most ecstatic and most pleased and most emotional. She kept saying: “May God protect him. May God protect him.” She felt that Nasrallah struck just the right tone, and she reported to me that her Sunni relatives (many of whom had supported Hariri) were in full support of the speech, and were most impressed that he appeared non-sectarian...

A Christian-born Arab leftist called me in tears after the speech.

I did not think that the speech went far enough but my standards are different from the standards of Hizbullah, and my mother said that Hizbullah has political calculations that I don’t have. The speech was clearly most effective on the Arab/Islamic level which already considers Nasrallah as their hero, but most significantly the speech may have been quite successful on the Lebanese scene (measured by the standards of Lebanese politics). He knew which buttons to push, and which to ignore, and the language to use. My mother has a theory which has validity: that [Druze leader and warlord] Walid Jumblat’s attitude to Nasrallah is motivated by deep-seated jealousy. Jumblat is quite jealous at the wide popularity and charisma of Nasrallah and wishes that he has it, just as Nayif Hawatimah was deeply jealous of the charisma and popularity of George Habash.

I think that the size of the crowd sent the strongest message: not only about the attachment of millions in Lebanon to Nasrallah and to Hizbullah, but also to the opposition by at least half of Lebanon to the lousy March 14th movement. The crowd clearly had more than the Hizbullah mass audience--there are many Lebanese of different sects who are rallying against the lousy March 14th Movement, and for different reasons--sectarian and secular reasons. Furthermore, the Hariri- Inc./Jumblat alliance has further alienated Christians...just as that Rafiq Hariri had done [before he was killed this spring].

I think that Nasrallah’s very presence at the rally was courageous: there was a clear danger to his life. He wanted to make a point by his very presence. Some lines of the speech were quite good rhetorically, and his tribute to the Palestinian question struck a chord with many in the Arab world at a time when Arab leaders including the Palestinian Hamid Karzai want to ignore the Palestinian cause. (But I have seen Nasrallah give much better speeches, in structure and in delivery, but again people are judging the speech differently—in less than academic or coldly political evaluation). And he criticized Arab governments (in very general and very vague terms—which always irritates me) without really criticizing them by name, and a Hizbullah member of parliament (the effective and media savvy Hasan Fadlallah) was today in Kuwait praising the Kuwaiti government.

Nasrallah mildly criticized the Hariri coalition but still operated on the very naïve assumption that “business can be done with them”, or that their danger can be simply neutralized. His criticisms of Jumblat I felt were very (or too) mild, but others felt that they were strong. It was a political speech, and it was successful at that: if you judge it by the standards of evaluation of speeches at Republican and Democratic conventions, you can easily say that it was a most successful speech in that he was able to delight his audience, while also pleasing the audience of tge March 14th Movement. That was masterful for sure. His reference to that quotation by the “old and great man” (a reference to Khomeini) was not quite accurate. That statement, or a variation of it, was first attributed to Chairman Mao and later to Algerian leader Howari Bumedyan long before the appearance of Khomeini.

Hariri Inc is facing a crisis, and they will have more difficulties especially as they fall under more increased US, i.e. Israeli, pressures to press on against Hizbullah. But the meetings that US ambassador has been holding with pro-Syrian Christians (like Sulayman Franjiyyah and Elie Frizli) have been interesting if not odd. I don’t understand the game here although the pro-Syrian sources are saying that US ambassador is fed up with the Lebanese Forces [despised Christian gangs noted for indiscriminately murdering Palestinians in refugee camps and serving as "boots on the ground" for Israeli occupiers] and is discovering that they have no popular standing, and the autocratic style of Samir Ja`ja` [notorious Phalangist mass-murderer, leader of avowedly pro-Nazi "Christian" militia, ally of Israelis despite avowed Nazism, recently released after 11 years of imprisonment for war-crimes, hailed by American neo-cons as a "freedom-fighter"] has split the small movement into multiple tribes.

The demonstration yesterday should disabuse US officials of any notions of Hariri Inc’s ability to run all of Lebanon on behalf of US. That notion should be discarded once and for all. Just as Maronite [Catholic Christian, not Orthodox] leaders (in 1958 and in 1982) were incapable given the sectarian structure of Lebanon to shape Lebanon on behalf of US interests, Hariri Inc will fail. Its signs of failures were marked by the foot of demonstrators yesterday. Take note. I should note that the New York Times's article by Michael Slackman was atypically fair althogh the pictures on the website did not show what the pictures of Lebanese newspapapers have shown: that there were non-veiled and non-bearded members in the large crowd.


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