Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poem: Joseph Hutchison and E.E. Cummings on John Yoo

 
          In response to my post on Gerard Anderson's attempt to praise John Yoo/Cheney for pettifogging, after the fact,  criminal, still secret "distinctions" about torture at the expense of Jon Stewart here, Joe Hutchison, author of A Marked Man on Silas Soule - see here -  and  Colorado poet laureate, sent the following (amusing) musing on E.E. Cummings and Yoo:

    "Alan, you may remember e. e. cummings famous poem skewering Louis Untermeyer:

mr u will not be missed
who as an anthologist
sold the many on the few
not excluding mr u

Well, with that in mind:

mr yoo will not be missed
who as a torture apologist
sold a thousand lies as true
not excluding mr yoo’s

Joe"

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gideon Levy: What did you do at work, today, dad?


     is a question that any child might have asked a parent in Nazi Germany and afterwards.  It defines what modern Germany is, to this moment... Or to slave-owners in the United States or practitioners of Jim Crow or the depraved police officers who, as the Occupying Army in poor black communities in the United States, shot Michael Brown or Sandra Bland  today. "Say her name!" is the chant of Black Lives Matter! activists, ringing out, demanding the truth, and having to disrupt the speeches of Presidential nominees to get them to focus (Bernie Sanders, despite some ineptness, has come a long way, but needs to go further here).

***
 
     The bad feeling in the pit of one's stomach among both those who did the deed and the revulsion, when they learn about it, the look in the eyes, of children and great-great-grand children  is a real thing.  Listen to the powerful poem "I will not say"  by Caroline Goodwin about her great-great grandfather, Governor John Evans of Colorado, instigator of the Sand Creek massacre, here...

***

    In October, 2012, I went with a delegation from the Dorothy Cotton Institute to Tel Aviv Airport (we could not take literature on the Middle East since the Israeli airport agents might have excluded us, including Jews "whose right of return" is curtailed abruptly if we use our eyes...), and then saw, over and over again, in East Jerusalem and Occupied Palestine  - the burning of thousand year old olive trees on which families depend for their livelihood, the throwing of shit and urine down on the bazaar by settler's children in Occupied Hebron, the courageous speaking out of Nadav, a former Israeli soldier, of "Breaking the Silence" in showing us the "Jews-only" Shahudah street...See "Janna's song" here.

***

    A basic moral principle is to empathize with "others," to see others, in spite of all the social pressure, as human beings.  Over a long historical epoch, it has been captured powerfully in the social contract tradition - making the state of nature in which we are all free and equal, as in the case of John Locke, a proponent of liberty and yet a slave-trader as secretary of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina of indigenous people, and secondarily, a profiteer off the Royal Africa Company, a revealing device.  This great proponent of a public or common good for Englishmen, even day-laborers, curtailed, strangely, his state of nature in a fourth chapter putatively justifying slavery in the case of an unjust war (but slave-raiders/traders are the aggressors...), and it was left to J. Philmore, talking to sailors in 1760, to name rightly the Man-trade and Man-owners.

***

     In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls' original position - that each of us can put ourselves in the shoes of the least advantaged; judge institutions by whether, among the possible, they most benefit the least advantaged - makes that core moral insight an apt theoretical device in moral and democratic theory.  In the midst of Netanyahu's/Adelson's/Republicans/Schumer and Menendez's lying for more and even more destructive wars in the Middle East, to protect an increasingly destructive Occupation of Palestine and apartheid/ethnic cleansing, Gideon Levy's simple question from Haaretz on August 30 drives home, once again, its significance (h/t Michael Schwartz):

         What Did You Do at Work Today, Dad?

Quite a few Israelis, whose number is rising alarmingly, may find it extremely difficult to answer the above question.
            Gideon Levy

Aug 30, 2015 4:47 AM

An Israeli returns from a day’s work and his children ask him, “How was your day at work, Dad? What did you do today?” Most parents would give a light, nonchalant reply. But quite a few Israelis, whose number is rising alarmingly, may find it extremely difficult to answer. What will they say? How will they squirm? What excuse will they give and how will they get out of it, facing children who want to know and be proud of their parents?

What will the Arad municipal inspector tell his children, after standing last week at the entrance to the southern Israeli town and forcibly preventing asylum seekers who had just been freed from prison – after more than a year of detention without trial – from entering the town and finding shelter? How would the inspector describe that work to his children? Would he say, “I stood on the road and checked every car to make sure no black person was hiding in it”? “I pulled every black man out and sent him back to the desert”? I did it in the name of the law”?

A law forbidding entrance to a city because of the color of one’s skin has yet to be enacted in Israel. Security? That excuse, which always justifies everything, doesn’t hold water this time. “Did you carry out the mayor’s instructions?” “Yes.” “But Dad,” the child will ask, “will you carry out every illegal order you get from the mayor? Is that what you’re like? And what do you think of those who once treated the Jews like that?”

What will the Civil Administration inspector tell his children, after destroying – in blistering temperatures – the tents and tin shacks of 127 people, 80 of them children, who were left without a roof over their head in the Jordan Rift and near Ma’aleh Adumim last week? How will he explain his malicious behavior to his children? His wickedness? His inhumanity? Clearly, without these qualities, there is no way to carry out this filthy, heinous work – destroying shabby homes and abandoning their inhabitants in this terrible heat.

A Palestinian family whose home was demolished by the Civil Administration. What did the man responsible say to his own children that evening?

If the inspector tries to explain to his children that he was enforcing the law, the eldest child will ask, “Do you also treat the settlers like that? And where are those wretches, whose homes you’ve torn down, supposed to go? And what will become of Hudeifa, the 1-year-old baby, who has been crawling in the sand under the sun without shelter for two weeks already? Do you think about them, Dad, before you go to sleep?”

What did the Israel Prison Service guards who stood watch in the room of hunger striker Khader Adnan tell their children? Did they tell them they shackled him with his hand and leg to the bed, even when his consciousness clouded over? How did they not feel compassion for him, if only for a moment? Did they tell their kids about the pizzas and shawarmas they ate in his room, and the sunflower seeds they cracked in the face of a prisoner on his deathbed, the smell of the food driving him crazy?

And what did the doctors of Assaf Harofeh Hospital, who kept mum and enabled all that to go on, tell their children?

What do Israeli border inspectors tell their children when they come home from work? That for seven hours they interrogated a renowned U.S.-Palestinian author, one who had come to visit her family and set up playgrounds for children in the West Bank? Did they tell them that, after interrogating her, they expelled her solely because of her Palestinian origin? Did they say that they also expelled an elderly U.S.-Palestinian man, a native of Jerusalem, who hadn’t visited his homeland for 21 years, only because he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport?

What did the Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer tell his children the day he shot to death the teen Mohammad Kosba, whom he shot in the back as the boy fled? Did he say that because the boy threw a stone at his car, he deserved to die? That daddy killed a child because he can? That it’s OK to kill children, as long as they’re Palestinian? Did he tell them that Mohammad was the third son killed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in his family?

Perhaps these questions are not being asked yet. Their day will come.

 http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.673517

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Jon Stewart and the Smug Liberal": is torture a matter of opinion?

  
      In a Sunday Review in early August, the New York Times published a sour article by a Virginia political scientist apparently protesting Jon Stewart's putatively myopic liberalism. But the article actually built toward a conclusion which emphasized the pluckiness of John Yoo, whom Stewart had expected to be a blusterer, and the allegedly - by Professor Alexander - careful consideration given to what is torture by Mr. Yoo,  Yet, as Alexander does not say, Yoo’s memos – a lawyer writing texts for criminal purposes no lawyer could defend - have not so far seen the light of day...

***

        Alexander snarks:   "Ask yourself how intellectually curious Mr. Stewart really could be, not to know that this is what Bush administration officials had been saying all along?"  His general thesis - that "liberals" do not take the arguments of neocons seriously - fails to consider the money poured into so-called conservative views. Neither the British Tories nor any European conservative denies global warming or ignores science; that is left to, sadly, the "Republican" Party. In addition, it is, in fact, a conservative position to oppose crusading wars supposedly for democracy, as, for example, in Iraq and today in Iran (see Come Home America website or Andrew Sullivan…)

 ***

     In this election, a small clique of billionaires led by the Koch brothers
is ponying up $900 million for "Republican" candidates, the same as the Republic Party and the Democrats expect to raise as "political organizations."  Ted Cruz prates on a single contribution of $58 million dollars.  Though W., just reelected in 2004, tried to give individually-earned Social Security pensions to Wall Street, that was a moral, public relations and political disaster.  Yet every single current Republican candidate for the nomination, with the exception of the blustering, unusually racist Mr. Trump, has announced that they, too, will go after Social Security. That is shilling for the 1% - as Trump, a billionaire, pointed out when 5 potential nominees "went begging" at a Koch brothers conference; it is doing so, even more unusually than the Democrats (Bernie Sanders is the only exception in this campaign).

                                    ***

      Alexander reiterates a theme about alleged condescension from a previous article in  Washington Post - see "Why are liberals so condescending?" here (it is amusing what the Times finds worthy of recycling...).  Some of us just have anger as well as dismay at powerful people launching aggressions or threatening, through global warming for profit, to destroy life on earth; instead of providing decent arguments for "the cow is long out of the barn"...and there are none, Alexander strikes a pathetic pose of being condescended to (a neocon, as it were, who is good at a con)…

       For counterarguments that support the Iran treaty (Obama actually provided many of these) and not yet engaged by Adelson/Netanyahu/Republicans/Schumer and Menendez/Mr. Alexander, see here, here, here here, here and here.

***

         But shielding Bush crimes is the main objective (withdrawing even the 600 page summary of the Senate's torture report has been a full time CIA/Republican activity, sadly supported by Obama).  All of Professor Alexander's handwaving is a Trojan Horse to legitimize John Yoo and torture.

***
     
        For as Alexander omits, Yoo's memos were withdrawn by Jack Goldsmith, head of the Office of Legal Council, at the cost of his job (see Jane Meyer's account in The Dark Side of his collaboration with Assistant Attorney General James Comey in which they had to invent a special language to communicate in the American government - something  not even people working for Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler, i.e. working in a more obviously totalitarian government did… -  because they were unbelievable, legally speaking, as well as being ex post facto.  At Cheney/Addington’s command (and with Bush's approval), the CIA had already launched the torture program - taking over for the FBI and Ali Soufan who had elicited information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed without waterboarding -  six months before.

***

     Thus, the point of Professor Alexander's piece was to advance backhandedly the supposed reasonableness of torturers and of the crime of torture.  According to the Pentagon, over a hundred homicides occurred in American custody in the Bush period, most of those as a result of torture (the film "Taxi to the Dark Side" is about the murder by torture of Mr. Dilawar, a 24 year old taxi driver).  

***

     Murder is perhaps, even for Professor Alexander, a crime…

***

     That week, the Times printed four letters which made more or less clever points on behalf of Democrats against "conservatives." That left the misimpression that law and the rule of law are somehow a "partisan" issue. 

***

         But basing themselves on the Magna Carta in 1215 in England, Anglo-American conservatives support habeas corpus (the right of each prisoner to a day in court) and disdain torture and torturers...Bush, Cheney and Yoo are, in fact, imperial, racist authoritarians, destroying the centerpiece of international and domestic law to imprison and torture hundreds of innocent people - Bush finally released most - at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib, inter alia. Of those who were indifferent or of former friends abroad, they have made America many enemies (Since racism is an ideology, Yoo, of course, is not shielded from it, by being Asian-American). 

*** 

    The rule of law has not so far, been reestablished inside the United States  (as Black Lives Matter shows, it often does not exist for black and brown people).

***

    Under the United Nations' Convention against Torture, each regime is obligated to bring its own officials, against whom there is plausible evidence, to trial.  In the Bush case, the evidence in the public press is overwhelming: hence, Obama decided to have no hearings, and to suppress, at the CIA's request the Senate's Report on torture (Senator Udall courageously stood up for releasing at least the summary; even Dianne Feinstein, a career protector of the CIA spoke out, against this suppression).

***

     This Convention signed by President Reagan and ratified by Congress in 1994, is also American law.  By Article 6 section 2 of the Constitution (the Supremacy Clause), treaties signed and ratified by the US government become the highest law of the land. See here.

***

    That the Times did not print this brief - 88 word - letter shows that its onetime editorial protests against torture have, with Obama deciding to make himself an accomplice to the crime of torture, faded:

"To the editor, 

   Gerard Alexander praises John Yoo, an intelligent man, for getting the better of Jon Stewart, by Stewart’s account, on the Daily Show.  What Alexander fails to notice is that as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Council, Yoo licensed Government torture.  Under the Convention against Torture and many American laws, torture is a great crime.  It is not 'conservative,' and neither intelligence nor civility is a defense.  

       Alan Gilbert"

***

       The United Nations Convention against Torture, signed by President Reagan in 1988 and ratified by Congress in 1994 overrides John Yoo’s and Stephen Bradbury’s torture memoranda and the Military Commissions Act of 2006:

"Art 2, Sec. 2.  No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

      The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution: Treaties signed by the United States and endorsed by Congress are the Supreme Law of the Land:

"Art 6, section 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

***

   Here is Alexander's article, retitled for later editions:

Sunday Review | OPINION
Jon Stewart, Patron Saint of Liberal Smugness
By GERARD ALEXANDER AUG. 7, 2015
IT shows how gifted Jon Stewart is that his best moment happened on someone else’s show. He appeared in 2004 on “Crossfire,” a CNN yelling program, and asked the hosts to take seriously their responsibility to public understanding by having useful conversations instead of shouting matches.
It was Mr. Stewart’s finest hour. He made an earnest pitch for civility in a place where there really was none. Which makes it too bad that in his 16 years of hosting “The Daily Show,” he never lived up to his own responsibility. His prodigious talents — he was smart and funny, and even more of both when he was mad — perfectly positioned him to purge a particular smugness from our discourse. Instead, he embodied it. I loved watching him, and hated it too.
Many liberals, but not conservatives, believe there is an important asymmetry in American politics. These liberals believe that people on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum are fundamentally different. Specifically, they believe that liberals are much more open to change than conservatives, more tolerant of differences, more motivated by the public good and, maybe most of all, smarter and better informed. 
The evidence for these beliefs is not good. Liberals turn out to be just as prone to their own forms of intolerance, ignorance and bias. But the beliefs are comforting to many. They give their bearers a sense of intellectual and even moral superiority. And they affect behavior. They inform the condescension and self-righteousness with which liberals often treat conservatives. They explain why many liberals have greeted Tea Partiers and other grass-roots conservatives with outsize alarm. They explain why liberals fixate on figures such as Sarah Palin and Todd Akin, who represent the worst that many liberals are prepared to see in conservatives. These liberals often end up sounding like Jon Lovitz, on “Saturday Night Live,” impersonating Michael Dukakis in 1988, gesturing toward the Republican and saying “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” This sense of superiority is hardly the only cause of our polarized public discourse, but it sure doesn’t help.

And Mr. Stewart, who signed off from “The Daily Show” on Thursday, was more qualified than anybody to puncture this particular pretension. He trained his liberal-leaning audience to mock hypocrisy, incoherence and stupidity, and could have nudged them to see the planks in their own eyes, too. Instead, he cultivated their intellectual smugness by personifying it.

I don’t mean the know-it-all persona he adopted on the air. That’s normal for a host. If anything, he was unusually self-deprecating for his line of work. And I don’t mean that Mr. Stewart thought all progressives were perfect. When some self-styled smart liberals didn’t vaccinate their children, he cracked: “They’re not ignorant. They practice a mindful stupidity.” But there was no doubt where he tilted politically. Conservatives were his main target when George W. Bush was president, and also when Barack Obama took office.

His claims to be objective fell flat. For instance, Mr. Stewart denied being in President Obama’s corner by re-airing a clip in which he had made fun of the Obamacare website’s rollout, as if that was the same as questioning Obamacare itself. That was par for Mr. Stewart’s course, mocking liberals’ tactics and implementation but not their underlying assumptions or ideas.

He could have made the liberals in his audience more open to dialogue across the great left/right divide by asking them to examine themselves more carefully and to admit that both ideological camps contain fools. Instead, he was a cultural entrepreneur who provided those viewers with the validation they wanted.

Maybe that’s why my strongest memory of Mr. Stewart, like that of many other conservatives, is probably going to be his 2010 interview with the Berkeley law professor John Yoo. Mr. Yoo had served in Mr. Bush’s Justice Department and had drafted memos laying out what techniques could and couldn’t be used to interrogate Al Qaeda detainees. Mr. Stewart seemed to go into the interview expecting a menacing Clint Eastwood type, who was fully prepared to zap the genitals of some terrorist if that’s what it took to protect America’s women and children.

Mr. Stewart was caught unaware by the quiet, reasonable Mr. Yoo, who explained that he had been asked to determine what legally constituted torture so the government could safely stay on this side of the line. The issue, in other words, wasn’t whether torture was justified but what constituted it and what didn’t. Ask yourself how intellectually curious Mr. Stewart really could be, not to know that this is what Bush administration officials had been saying all along?

Mr. Stewart later acknowledged that Mr. Yoo had bested him, which didn’t happen very often. In that sense, the interview was an outlier. But it wasn’t a coincidence. Mr. Stewart had gone in lazy, relying on a caricature, and seemingly unprepared for the thoughtful conservative sitting in his guest chair.

After all those years, the comedian turned liberal standard-bearer still didn’t really comprehend the conservatives on the other side of the divide. Worse, he didn’t help his liberal viewers better understand themselves.

GERARD ALEXANDER is an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

3:AM magazine (London) -: Obama's speech on the Iran nuclear treaty



3:AM:: article:

obama’s speech on the iran nuclear treaty

By Alan Gilbert.
President Obama Addresses Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention
Last Wednesday, Obama gave the most important and
well-argued foreign policy speech of his Presidency,
a speech which follows two years of long and hard
diplomacy, and put together a diplomatic agreement
 to bar Iran from seeking a nuclear weapon. This
agreement blocks the danger of an even larger war
in the Middle East, provoked by yet another
American aggression. Obama was rightly critical
of the first Gulf War, but he did not quite say – no
 American President could speak English about
this – that Bush and Cheney lied to launch an
unprovoked attack on a people which had not
attacked the United States (see Article 2, section
4 of the UN Charter which bars aggression and
recognizes self-defense against it; Michael Walzer,
 Just and Unjust Wars, chs. 1-6).

It is worth taking in the stakes here, and mounting
an all-out effort to support this Treaty. This means
specifically talking to Congressional representatives,
but also demonstrating (there was one against Charles
Schumer in New York yesterday) or if need be, forging
a much more active, nonviolent, anti-war mass
movement. Because Obama’s speech was so important,
I showed it in my graduate seminar on Ethics and
International Affairs last Thursday night. I asked the
class how many had actually listened to the speech. Of
14 people there, only 1, Michael Akume, a student from
Nigeria who follows American politics perhaps more
carefully than I do, had. This is not surprising nor is
 it the students’ fault nor the fault of the American
people who have yet, for the most part, even to hear
Obama’s arguments. Americans are not anxious, as
we saw in the protests over Obama’s threatening to
fire missiles at Syria, to go to yet another, unpredictably
 wider, longer. losing war in the Middle East. They are
supportive of this agreement – and Jewish-Americans
are more supportive than others. But a section of the
elite – Sheldon Adelson at least, perhaps the Koch brothers
judging from Scott Walker’s haste to announce he would
bomb Iran the first day of his Presidency, and AIPAC –
wants war/regime-change and Netanyahu has ardently
campaigned for it so the corporate press is “confused”
and in supposed news coverage, often against the
President.(Still that a major speech by an American
President on so compelling an issue, one so carefully,
logically constructed, is so weakly covered in the
corporate press is shocking.)

As President Obama makes starkly clear, the alternative
to this agreement is war (that is, American aggression
against Iran). And he said, given his embrace of Israel’s
 needs, to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, he
himself would carry it out (I will return to this aspect
of the speech). Though Obama acts creatively and
under great criticism for peace, no American President,
head of a large Empire, can mainly fight for peace (as
Obama said, he has sent troops to fight in 7 cases; except
for taking out Bin Laden, none are justified…).
Nonetheless more intelligently than any existing
scholarly or journalistic comment (this is often a
 unique feature of Obama’s speeches, compared to
 any other figure in mainstream American political
 life), Obama underlined the point that not only the
European powers, Russia and China have come in
on this agreement through hard negotiations –
“I know; I was there” he said pointedly – and sometimes
 at the cost to their countries of billions in trade, but
 every government that has spoken about it, except
 Israel, has supported it. Nuclear experts and over
100 former American ambassadors have endorsed it.
This Treaty has major international standing as a peace
agreement through multilateral diplomacy.

Therefore, if the Congress sabotages this, as Obama
underlined, it will not only cause a larger and more
dangerous war in the Middle East; it will fatally
undermine America’s standing or credibility in t
he world as a political leader for diplomacy – a
decent one, at least sometimes – as opposed to
“with us or against us” naked aggression. And
against Congress’s expressed wishes, it would
enhance Iran’s standing and if the Iranian leadership
so desired (it is not clear that they do), enable them
to pursue a nuclear weapon quickly and with relief
of most of the sanctions.

In contrast to this Treaty, the notion of “with us or
against us” was Netanyahu’s first and longstanding
strategy, proposed by Richard Perle and others now
at the center of American neoconservatism, for
redefining the Middle East by war and conquest. This
bizarre approach is often pawned off on the United
States, as executed in Iraq, by Bush and Cheney and
incited today by William Kristol, McCain, Graham, the
Republican Presidential candidates – even Rand Paul
who should know better, but wants so badly to be
President… – and of course the Republican caucus
 backed by many Democrats.

In a deeper perspective, however, Obama likened his
own role to that of John F. Kennedy in the first
negotiations with the Soviet Union preventing war –
he spoke at American University because that is
where Kennedy spoke on the importance of negotiating
with an “enemy” more than 50 years ago – and he also
underlined the connections with Ronald Reagan negotiating
previous treaties. The great tradition of American diplomacy
contrasted with arrogance (hubris), trying to get everyone
to knuckle under to force, the “with us or against us”
taunting of critics, including domestic ones, as enemies
or “weak” of Bush-Cheney. With 12 years in in Iraq and
13 in Afghanistan, as well as the rise of ISIL, it is clear
enough that American policy – even a successful imperialist
policy – needs a level-headed attention to facts. Obama
underlined his own criticisms of the Iraq war – what he
once named a dumb war though it is also and more
 importantly an unjust war, an American aggression – but
said that his goal has been to change America’s mindset.
Instead of unilateralism and bullying, Obama sought to
exercise American leadership through multilateral
diplomacy and to avoid war wherever possible. This,
he said, is an admirable tradition in American foreign
policy, and the alternative has created a great crisis in
the Middle East, once again down to ISIL today.

Obama was right about the horrors of the Iraq
aggression and Mr. Cheney. This is the worst, most
destructive and dangerous thing initiated by American
leaders – it includes official torture, extraordinary
rendition and trashing international law which American
had previously fought for – in the post-World War II era.
But this speech, by an American President aiming rightly
to defeat a belligerent self-destructive hegemonic
argument, also erred on or left many deep issues in shadow.
As my student Habib Zahori (an Afghani, who has
reported for the Times) pointed out, Obama, shockingly,
 omitted, for example, American genocide in Vietnam
 (some two million Vietnamese died because of the
American invasion ).

“Block out the noise,” Obama said to the Congress, the
empty clamor for aggression. He is right.

Now some of the critics (this includes Democrats like
 Schumer on the take from Netanyahu and AIPAC and,
in fact, willing to endanger Israelis by pursuing
Netanyahu’s “conquest of the realm”) demand some
other, supposedly “better agreement.” But Obama
underlined that diplomacy worked here only because
 all the powers were concerned with Iran getting a
nuclear weapon and altering the status quo in the
Middle East. That status quo includes a nuclear
armed Israel, and as Obama emphasized, a far more
formidable power in conventional military terms
than Iran, one to be aided further by Obama as the
most supportive President, in terms of arms, in modern
times. The multilateral sanctions regime which exerted
such pressure on Iran that they agreed to this deal was
focused solely on eliminating Iran’s search (if it exists)
for a nuclear weapon.

Hence sanctions by other powers also end with this
agreement. For that is why they originally stepped up,
at Obama’s urging, the sanctions. One cannot have a
Treaty which achieves the goal explicitly sought by
all the allies and then keep the partners agreeing to
punish Iran forever to achieve the American/Israeli
Right’s goal of regime change or war.Further if the
American Congress sabotages this Treaty, Iran will
appear to others to be in the right., the power willing
to pursue, at some sacrifice, peace and America
governed by an irrational Congress/Israeli government
 influence, hopelessly belligerent, a pawn of
Netanyahu (or Adelson, his funder).

Obama speaks of his career-long defense of Israel and,
rightly, of the need of an American President to act on
his best judgment – in this case a very well-argued and
decent judgment – of America’s interests, not the Israeli
leader’s judgment. That this even has to be said – even
while America arms the illegitimate and immoral Israeli
Occupation of Palestine – is sad… Netanyahu’s policy
of trying to defeat Obama is ugly and is dangerous for
most Israelis (and is likely to produce widespread
revulsion in the United States if the Congress succeeds
in rejecting the Treaty, a long and losing war ensues…).

Now, other countries like Germany will gain in trade by
immediately opening to Iran. Thus, instead of a dramatic
agreement which bars Iran from seeking a weapon forever
 and imposes inspections for 15 years – and if there is
evidence that Iran is doing so, Obama underlined, the
US can act swiftly, militarily even, to do something about
it – Iran can instead move quickly to produce such a
weapon and with large international sanctions relief as
well as widespread sympathy (again, there is not clear
evidence, according to Western and Israeli intelligence
that Iran is now doing or would do so…). Now Ahmedinijad
(though not the Supreme Leader), was, as Obama
emphasizes, a Holocaust denier (he held a 
conference with various reactionary 
fantasists); he said something about being present
for Zionism’s burial (not the same as a 
statement that he would make war to 
do it – that cliche flows probably from a
partisan or interested mistranslation
of what he said), Further, Iran has 
not aggressed against any one.

Iran gives some aid to the Houthis and Hezbollah,
Obama notes. But talk about the Pot and the
Kettle: what violent movements for 
change usually from the Right has the US not
aided in the world?  Take the Contras in 
Nicaragua or the putsches against the 
democracies in Honduras or the Ukraine (the
latter both under Obama).And Hamas was
initially created and funded by Israel
 to defeat the PLO… Netanyahu had 5 Iranian
physicists  murdered going to work (until 
the US stopped him) while Israel
has locked up for 20 years the courageous
Mordechai Bnunu who worked on and told 
the truth about the Israeli nuclear arsenal…

What would the United States government do to a
government that murdered 5 of our physicists? 
Further, Netanyahu didn’t go on about Iran 
until after the supposed great enemy Iraq 
was invaded by the United States. So 
why is Netanyahu personally – and the 
Israeli government – so willing to 
undermine its three billion dollar a 
year in arms giving-ally, Barack Obama,
so all out for war? The answer unfortunately is
that the war and the threat of war is a 
diversion, as big a fraud as the Iraq 
war. What the government of Israel 
wants – a racist government moving 
over to the even farther right than 
the Prime Minister, not a single 
partner for peace among them 
(Netanyahu claims this of 
the Palestinians but Abbas 
would happily negotiate; 
what Netanyahu does is 
psychologically projection, as 
Jung might have named it). Israel 
is enforcing steadily 
a “second transfer” that is 
ethnic cleansing by force and 
phony law (Israel declares all 
longstanding residents of the 
Occupied Territories “temporary,” 
revokes their passports, takes their 
homes upon dying or declares 
them open for settlement and 
steadily moves them out). Netanyahu 
would also like a remodeling of the 
neighborhood a la Perle without 
additional Israeli effort.

But the Israeli government, as Netanyahu showed
openly with his last racist appeal in the recent
election to his supporters –“ Arabs are swarming to
the polls” – pursues a policy of enforced apartheid
(as many have noted) and transfer/ethnic cleansing.
No international organization will sanction it (this
policy of forced transfer, war and conquest in the
Middle East). Except for the US, Israel often has
no votes in the UN because its policy toward the
 imprisoned Palestinians (behind a wall) displays
 a contempt for decency. Anyone who has been
to the Occupied Territories or sees film of the
soldiers abusing the people on the news will
not sympathize with the Israeli government. Hence,
 Palestinians are behind a wall not only in Israel
but in the bad coverage of the commercial media
in the United States, led by the New York Times.
As Chris Hedges’ powerful, recent argument
for it indicates, the Boycott, Divestment and
Sanctions movement grows 
AP880540970157-640x480
What Obama said in the speech about Hamas firing
in missiles from Israel’s border – the “dangerous
neighborhood” – is not quite true since “greater Israel”
engulfs, step by step, illegally and immorally conquered
Palestine, including repeated slaughters (to test weapons)
in Gaza; it is Israel that refuses, as the most armed power
in the Middle East, to negotiate with the Palestinians. What
Hamas does is awful but where it attacks the Israeli
Occupiers and not civilians, self-defense (killing
civilians is murder; Israel killed some 460 children
in Gaza last winter, Hamas 1 in Israel…; mass nonviolent
resistance by Palestinians, however, would be both much
more effective and decent). Israel’s expansion – the
300 settlements and 500,000 settlers planted in Occupied
Palestinian Territory – makes the neighborhood
“dangerous” for the Occupiers. In contrast, seeking
an agreement would lessen the danger. The position
of Netanyahu, the Republicans and now Schumer is,
thus, as Obama underlines, stupid for the Israeli people.
It is not designed to limit Iran’s capacity to produce
a nuclear weapon. It tries instead to force the American
President to back out on a multilateral, international
agreement America negotiated, makes Iran’s search
for a weapon (if they are doing that) swifter and
abolishes all the multilateral inspections. If Iran
were strengthening its capacity to produce a weapon
 (some in Iran would like to, though the Supreme
Leader has barred making or using these weapons
 as he barred using chemical weapons in the
Iran-Iraq war), the US would then bomb Iran, and
instigate a wider war in the Middle East.

To sabotage the agreement is thus to facilitate more 
rapid Iranian proceeding – without inspections, not
 barring weapons and restricting research even for 
peaceful nuclear energy for 10 years – toward a 
nuclear weapon. That is why Obama underlined 
the ironic agreement between Iranian belligerents 
who chant “death to America” and Republicans 
about the Treaty. If getting rid of a supposed Iranian
 nuclear weapon were, in fact, the aim –
 it isn’t – then opposing the agreement would, 
as Obama said, produce the opposite of what 
opponents claim they want. Now as the Federalist 
Papers suggest (numbers 4 and 51, for instance), 
the American Congress could take special steps 
to oppose arbitrary Presidential wars, wasting 
the lives and treasure of citizens and many, 
many others:

“It is too true, however disgraceful it be to
human nature, that nations in general will
make war whenever they have a prospect of
getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs
will often make war when their nations are to
get nothing by it, but for the purposes and
objects merely personal, such as thirst for military
glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition,
or private compacts to aggrandize or support their
particular families or partisans. These and a variety
of other motives, which affect only the mind of the
 sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not
sanctified by justice or the voice and interests
of his people.” (John Jay, Federalist, number 4)

Congress sometimes does so, because of popular
resistance from below in the case of Obama firing
missiles at Syria. It is thus particularly sad and creepy
that the one time in the modern era – not about Vietnam,
 not about the aggression or torture in Iraq, not about
Kissinger-Nixon aiding torturers and backing every
murderous dictatorship in Latin and Central America
(Chile, Argentina, Salvador, Honduras – the list goes
on and on) – the Congress uniquely demands final say
on, to oversee/override an intelligent, peace-enhancing
agreement. This Treaty also weakens the ties of, the
thrall over American policy of Israel and monarchical
Saudi Arabia, one which gives more maneuverability to
seek peace or advance American purposes in the Middle
 East short of war, and makes America less widely
disliked/hated. Thus in all the bizarre, often 
criminal history of modern American foreign
policy, that the Congress claims, at the bidding 
of Israel and given America’s extraordinary 
warmongering militarism, in this case and 
in this case only, a right to review a 
Presidential decision is really 
awe-inspiringly awful. In the Federalist, the
balance of powers was supposed to prevent 
quasi-monarchical wars. Yet what the Congress
is doing is being even more dangerously and 
murderously warmaking than Obama’s version 
of the Imperial Presidency (Obama uses drones 
to murder people, usually civilians, in countries
the US is not at war with, allows the NSA to spy 
on all Americans without warrants, protects 
torturers/murderers from prosecution against 
Treaties signed or initiated by the United States 
and mercilessly prosecutes whisteblowers/American
heroes like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning).

Yet as Obama tries wisely to reinstate serious diplomacy in
this case and work toward balancing of powers in the
Middle East, the Congress is channeling Dick Cheney’s
ghost (he can be seen flickering, with his cracked
smile still, on Fox…) and neocon belligerence. The current
Congress – some Democrats as well as all Republicans reject
the agreement without any decent argument or often, without
argument except authority (“Netanyahu says…) – endangers
 most Israelis – wider war will definitely do this – and furthers
 pursuit of a nuclear weapon now, if that is Iran’s aim.
Moreover, this treaty reveals American imperial might.
As Obama underlines, it is extraordinarily intrusive on
Iran – in fact, uniquely so in the history of arms
agreements. It bars nuclear weapons forever. It
restricts even peaceful research on atomic power –
something that Iran has a right to do and which the
 US encouraged under the Shah – for ten years.
 Inspectors can oversee activities at any currently
identified nuclear site immediately, and gain access,
in 24 hours, or if there is Iranian objection, a
maximum of 24 days, to any site which the US
finds suspicious.
Obama_US_Jamaica.JPEG-0b1c7_s878x559
To have a nuclear weapon, Obama underlines, Iran
would have to have secret weapons chain from sites
at which uranium was mined or traded for to the
reactors to enrich uranium (the existing plutonium
reactors are now to be sealed). No country (including
the US or the USSR) has ever been able to do this
in the face of a modestly serious inspections regime.
Now the original SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation
Talks) Treaty Kennedy negotiated was for 5 years.
The Reagan treaty – START (Strategic Arms
Reduction Treaty) – was for 15 years. This Treaty,
in those traditions, is for 15 years and has, as
Obama underlined, far more intrusive aspects.
For Iran is a much weaker power than the Soviet
Union; it has no nuclear weapons pointed at
American cities as the United States (and Russia)
 still do. Further, Iran is now suffering from major
sanctions and its domestic product has fallen 20%
because of it. Ordinary Iranians are hurting. Thus,
Iranians elected the Rouhani government which
negotiated this agreement (Iran is probably more
of a democracy than what the US supports in the
Middle East, including Israel which holds a large,
subjugated population captive…). There is great
pressure emanating from below in Iran for better
standard of living – that is, relief from the boycott
– as well as for moving toward Western democratic
practices (recall the Green Revolution of 2011) and
in addition, toward open trading with the West.

In addition, Obama pointed out, the Treaty does
not require any reduction in US military power.
Answering these critics, he underlined that Iran
spends $15 billion on the military, an eighth of
even what US allies in the Middle East – the
reactionary regimes of Israel, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and
other bizarre monarchy/dictatorships spend on
American weaponry.But Obama also underlined
that the US official military budget – supposedly
600 billion dollars per year – is 40 times Iran’s. And
 this does not include nuclear research done in the
department of energy, the entire “intelligence” budget –
some hundreds of billions which includes the
drone shootings, the budget for the Joint Special
Operations Command which is off the Pentagon
books, a secret force of some 66,000 soldiers sent
by the President on 12 missions in some 70 countries
each night, money in the State Department budget
spent on lobbying other countries to buy American
weapons (some 6,500 “diplomats” are employed in
this – it is a central activity in every American
embassy – though the total diplomatic budget, about
60 billion, 1/10th that of the official Pentagon budget –
includes these costs as a small fraction…) and the like.
To put Obama’s point even more clearly and less
flatteringly to the US government, the US perhaps
spends over a trillion dollars a year on war and
has some 1180 military bases abroad (no other
country has more than 5).

In contrast, the Iranian government spends 15 billion
dollars per year…maybe one-seventieth of what the
US spends…Iran has no bases abroad.Short of a nuclear
weapon Obama says, Israel, with US help, can easily
withstand Iran. But the same is even true with such a
weapon (Israel has at least 200 nuclear warheads –
and would destroy Iran even without US support;
deterrence worked with the Soviet Union and would
with Iran; the Israeli leadership’s panic about Iran is
a diversion from their illegal transfer of the Palestinians.
The US has troops in – as a result of invasions over 10
years ago – the two countries immediately surrounding
Iran (the equivalent: if Iranian troops had occupied
Mexico and Canada…). Iran has not invaded any other
power in modern times. That is another fact Obama –
as the President of the largest Empire in the world,
trying to convince warmongers on the extreme Right
dedicated to Netanyahu not to launch another war –
glosses over.

In response point by point to the claims raised by
critics of the nuclear agreement, however, Obama
showed, that these are empty…He is right to refer to
 logic here. This is the most careful argument
advanced by an American President for a foreign
policy decision. Now The New York Times had a
serious editorial defending the agreement. But
with the Republican “debate” – once again, 
note how warmongering, led by Lindsay
Graham who suggested as a criterion for 
nomination that only a candidate who 
wants larger war, more troops to Iraq and
Syria – should be a Republican presidential 
nominee, and the “Christian” warmonger 
Huckabee – the commercial press barely 
covered the speech. Nor does it run down 
– even in summary form – Obama’s striking 
answers to every argument so far advanced 
by the critics.Senator Schumer of New York
 announced his opposition to the agreement
 Friday morning. He and others do not feel 
that they will pay a penalty for sabotaging a 
major peace agreement, undermining 
American diplomatic leadership in so far as 
(pretty rarely unfortunately) it plays a decent 
role, and mandating – in the name of 
Netanyahu and a bizarre and self-destructive 
faction in Israel – war by the United States 
of America. The Treaty is a new and 
courageous departure for American policy. 
But the corporate media – once again, influenced
by a large Israel, AIPAC funded campaign, some 
$40 million – have not covered this agreement 
honestly. For instance, before Obama’s speech, 
they had not noticed that all the advocates of this
war were advocates of the mad and also 
self-destructive aggression against Iraq in 
2003. In order to defend this Treaty, however, 
Obama reached out to canvas arguments to 
many groups and took in Peter Beinart’s fine 
column from the Atlantic on how the advocates 
of war in Iran and those who brought America 
to war in Iraq. As Obama said archly and rightly, 
these warmongers have been in the wrong about 
war repeatedly.

And thus, suddenly, last Tuesday, Beinart’s point made the
New York Times in its initial account of Obama’s position and
 then in the editorial.Now the warmongers include not just
the pathetic McCain and Lindsay Graham (and of course
the craziness/war advocacy/”the Bible says so” of the
“Christian Zionists” including Huckabee – see here for
another fine Beinart dissection of the strange claim that
Iran, which has had little harassment of Jews internally,
is plotting genocide against Israel – and of Straussian
neocons like William Kristol – stuck like a squeaky
broken record on “appeasement,” “appeasement” as
if all the world were a repeat of “Munich…” (consider
 the figures on Hitler’s arms, overwhelming, compared
to disarmed England or even the Soviet Union and the
United States in 1939…) and prayers for “Greater Israel”
– and behind them, Netanyahu (bankrolled by the Las 
Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson).

Against the haze in the corporate press, Beinart – himself,
like Andrew Sullivan, a former supporter of the Iraq war
who saw clearly its devastating effects on the Middle East
and America and how he had been misled – names every
one of these advocates of yet another war as a repeated
aggressor. As Beinart says, if this point becomes widely
recognized, support for sabotaging this agreement is likely
to evaporate.Responding carefully to each argument, Obama
said, rightly, that the exaggerations/panic of Huckabee,
Graham, Kristol et al is a sign of vacuity of argument.
Obama asked for new specific proposals or even
arguments beyond “get a better agreement”; there are none.
Now if the US attacks Iran, Iran has lots of troops to send to
fight; there will be a larger and more unstable war in the area,
and Israel, which has nuclear weapons may well be threatened
in 5 or 10 years and could easily come to use nuclear weapons.
And radiation travels.

This Treaty – this creative turn in American policy – is thus
no small matter for the fate of the world.Critics on the left –
those who rightly note that Obama is the President of an
Empire, not mainly a representative of you and me – are
mistakenly blind to this point. Glenn Greenwald, however,
rightly, criticizing Obama’s claim that the US is waging
wars in 7 countries under his leadership, does recognize
the value of the Treaty. Now my student Salvador
Armendariz pointed out to the class that there was a
contradiction between calling for international
agreement and threatening unilateral sanctions/force
 if it fails:

“President Obama initially stated that unilateral US sanctions
alone had failed to curb Iran’s nuclear policy which the
US considers a threat. However, when addressing
arguments against his administration’s nuclear deal,
he stated that if Iran were to break the terms of the
nuclear agreement the US could unilaterally impose
sanctions on Iran (I think he said even without the
consensus of the US Security Council) to address
that problem. I think the problem with his contradiction
is that it would be misleading to indicate that the US could
act unilaterally (in terms of imposing economic
sanctions) if necessary to curb Iran’s nuclear programs.
If Iran were to break the terms of the deal, and the
US would want to continue to use a diplomatic option
to address that problem, it would need to orchestrate
multilateral intervention once again as it has done now.”

Salvador is right, but as Salvador noted, this is a
comparatively small intellectual weakness in
what is, vis-a-vis the Right, a very careful argument.
 (I might also note: the Right agitates for precisely
another ineffectual, unilateral war, not that a
multilateral invasion would be more effective
or decent.) As Michael Akume also pointed out,
Obama made this error to reassure the Right that
America’s war-making power remains in tact.
Krista Vendetti gave a good talk on Amartya
Sen on democracy. After the seminar, she told
me she had gone with Move On to meet with
Congressman Ed Perlmutter. An older man
attending the meeting warned bitterly that Iran
must not be allowed a nuclear weapon. He did not
know that the new agreement prevents precisely
this result. One of Perlmutter’s aides was very
huffy with the group of defenders of the Treaty.
Nonetheless, Krista waited to speak one on one
 with Perlmutter; interestingly, Ed was sufficiently
impressed to offer her an internship. Hopefully, he
also has the good sense to support the Treaty. But
only the greatest active pressure from below, as
Obama rightly requested, can now uphold this
agreement, Majority sentiment on this, as on
many issues, does not sway Congress, an organization
 controlled – in Jimmy Carter’s recent words on the
Thom Hartmann show – by oligarchy; whether
democracy is more than in name usually, often only
depends on action from below.

The Move On group made a difference. You can, too.
I urge everyone to act in support of the agreement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan Gilbert is John Evans professor at the Josef
Korbel School of International Studies at the
University of Denver and author of
Marx’s Politics:Communists and Citizens(Rutgers,
1980),  Democratic Individuality 
(Cambridge, 1990), Must Global 
Politics Constrain Democracy (1999) and
Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting 
for Emancipation in the War for 
Independence (Chicago March, 2012). 
His blog Democratic Individuality is a 
rich mine.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, August 15th, 2015.