Human suffering as entertainment

Hat tip to this blogger for exposing a rather strange, bizarre and macabre travel tour, euphemistically called the ‘ultimate mission‘ whose features include:

  • Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
  • Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
  • Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.

and when you get tired of all that real world entertainment you can retire to your five star Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem hotel accommodations and return to the world of make believe.

Words have meaning or maybe they don’t

Iraqis seem to have a better appreciation for the English language than American policy makers, so when it’s said ‘the two countries have agreed that timetables should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country’, all that’s left for the Iraqis is to set a date.  Not so say the Americans.  Look at the hedging and dodging:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States and Iraq have agreed to a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country.

Appearing with her Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari (HOH’-shayr zuh-BAH’-ree), Rice acknowledged at their joint news conference Thursday that the two parties have not yet finalized the deal. She said it close [sic] at hand, however.

Rice called her talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “very good and fruitful” and said an agreement is near that would “solidify the significant gains” in security in Iraq over the last year.

Meanwhile the Iraqi prime minister is on record saying there is a fixed date.

The US has agreed to withdraw all troops from Iraq by 2011, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said yesterday…”There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” said Mr Maliki yesterday, speaking at a gathering of tribal leaders in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The US has hung its acceptance of any agreement on the word “aspirational” which has now appeared in several stories which talk about the agreement.  What the Iraqis don’t understand is that “aspirational” means conditions which have to be negotiated, such as immunity for American troops or mercenaries from prosecution for crimes committed in Iraq, the number of military bases and their location allowed in Iraq, etc before any agreement can be cemented.  That reality is something the Iraqis probably hadn’t counted on.  Surprise! The Bush administration has never really wanted to be tied down to a date for withdrawing troops because they don’t want to leave for years to come.  Being an occupier means they can “negotiate” this point much more from a position of strength.  After all, what’s Iraq going to do, kick the US out?

Onward Christian soldiers!

Some don’t want to say it but the invasion of Iraq is about getting back at Islam and Muslims for their transgression of not accepting Christian ideology which we’ve managed to cloak in terms like “democracy” and “freedom”, etc. That’s not to say ours is not a “Christian” nation, but it’s also a “Jewish”, “Islamic”, “Buddhist” and “pagan” nation as well because our beloved Constitution says government is not a tool for religion, although it can allow for the safe and unfettered expression of any and all religion. However, the Bush administration and some inside the military don’t necessarily see it that way and instead allowed their representation of goverment to be an expression of Christian intent. That’ll get you in a lot of hot water constitutionally, and so it has with General Petraeus, leader of American forces in Iraq, who has “endorsed” a book entitled, Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel . Christian evangelism has been going on in the US military for sometime, but collectively it’s been demoralizing to those not Christian and is against military policy. A very diligent group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has been keeping an eye on this phenomenon for some time and much of what they discovered can be seen here. I hope to write more about what they’ve found in the months ahead. In the meantime that group, MRFF is calling for the immediate dismissal of General Petraeus because of his endorsement and nothing less than that should happen, the offense he committed is just that serious!

They’re at it again!

Neocons are very good at challenging national masculinity with such phrases as ‘bring ’em on’ or others which imply if we aren’t with their program we’re cowards.  Of course such language has to be answered in the collective affirmative in the neocon call for war.  This technique they have of denigrating the national will is a corruption of the civil discourse when it’s accompanied with the lack of perspective and reality that should come with war and the devastation it brings.  Hence, the public is actively denied seeing the images of dead bodies, ours or Iraqis/Afghanis, and instead we are treated with expressions like precision strikes, collateral damage, post traumatic stress, etc all designed to dampen the impact of killing and death. I don’t understand why we fall for it, but we do, so it’s no surprise  that the neocons are doing it again.  Check out how facts and history don’t matter to this guy who wants the US to confront Russia for its sin of invading Georgia and then hits the American mentality in the gut by saying

Europeans and Americans, including very senior officials in the Bush administration, blame the West for pushing Russia too hard on too many issues.

Blaming America is simply not acceptable to the average American, otherwise how could we justify our invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But neocons always work in a cabal, in tandem, never alone, so Kagan’s is not the only voice beating the drums for war. Neocons are persistent and I don’t necessarily think that’s a good trait, by the way, especially when used for their call to falsely defined wars, like Iraq and now Russia. So the mere fact they are making the claims seen in the link above means it will be a constant theme which they will go to for as long as it takes.  We saw that with PNAC and their appeal to invading Iraq even back during the Clinton terms when Iraq was but a blip on the national conscious, but which has now become our Waterloo.

Unless we recognize the language and psychology used by the neocons, they will always be able to push our buttons for their own narrowly defined interests.  I suggest the first question we should ask when their drums start beating is ‘which relative are they willing to sacrifice on the battlefield to fight their war’.

There’s more than one way to compete

The women’s movement of the sixties and seventies guaranteed women the right to choose for themselves the lifestyle they wanted to lead.  It also asserted that women were able to speak for themselves, and that when they spoke their words had meaning which we were to take at face value.  So it is that in the 21st century women are expressing themselves when it comes to athletic competition. This news story gives more detail about who is talking and what it is they’re saying.  I note with a certain amount of tongue in cheek that one of the women wearing a scarf is from the American liberated country of Afghanistan, where we were told a sign of the subjugation of women was the headscarf.

Muslim patriotism in the US military

I’ve heard a lot from people especially on the right about problems associated with having Muslims involved in anything American, as if the presence of Muslims is a threat to the process or would somehow leave it tainted. I remember vividly during the first Gulf war when America was concerned about its image, a lot was said about Muslims in the US military and especially those who converted to Islam because of their exposure to the Gulf. Now, however, those same people some of whom are still in the military and those who joined later are “tainted” goods, worthy of suspicion and distrust. America is cannabalistic in that sense when it comes to anyone other than blond hair and blue eyed soldiers fighting its wars. From the Civil War upto the Vietnam war people of color have always been looked down upon as unworthy of service in the US military. Today is no different, except now we have bloggers who point out to those who care to know stories of patriotism in the US military that work for the country. Check out this story of a young man who volunteered to join the military in response to Bush’s war on terror.

State sponsored terrorism

Will Grigg has an excellent blog that talks about the abuses of the federal government against its own citizens in the war on terror.  It’s a compelling blog with plenty of examples of government’s terrorism directed towards its own.  The state wasted no time solidifying its hold on Americans after 911.  Homeland security swelled the ranks of people on no fly lists and interrogates randomly people who enter airports, either checking for terrorists or making them.  What follows is another story of many that is a first hand account of what happens to everyday citizens in airports across this country.  I have had friends who’ve recounted experiences similar to the one written about by Feder, making these kinds of encounters more the rule than the exception.  We are told this is necessary to protect the “homeland” and while  you are digesting that remember no amount of protection is worth the erosion of even one of the rights we have guaranteed us under the Constitution.

I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. “You’ll find out,” he said.

We got to an enclosed holding area in the arrivals section of the airport. He shoved the folder into my hand and gestured toward four sets of Homeland Security guards sitting at large desks. Attached to each desk were metal poles capped with red, white and blue siren lights. I approached two guards carrying weapons and wearing uniforms similar to New York City police officers, but they shook their heads, laughed and said, “Over there,” pointing in the direction of four overflowing holding pens. I approached different desks until I found an official who nodded and shoved my green folder in a crowded metal file holder. When I asked him why I was there, he glared at me, took a sip from his water bottle, bit into a sandwich, and began to dig between his molars with his forefinger. I found a seat next to a man who looked about my age — in his late 20s — and waited.

Omar (not his real name) finished his fifth year in biomedical engineering at City College in June. He had just arrived from Beirut, where he visited his family and was waiting to go home to the apartment he shared with his brother in Harlem. Despite his near-perfect English and designer jeans, Omar looked scared. He rubbed his hands and rocked softly in his seat. He had been waiting for hours already, and, as he pointed out, a number of people — some sick, elderly, pregnant or holding sobbing babies — had too. There were approximately 70 people detained in our cordoned-off section: All were Arab (with the exception of me and the friend I traveled with), and almost all had arrived from Dubai, Amman or Damascus. Many were U.S. citizens.

We were in the front row, sitting a few feet from two guards’ desks. They sneered at each bewildered arrival, told jokes in whispers, swiveled in their office chairs and greeted passing guards who stopped to talk — guards who had a habit of looping their fingers into their holsters. One asked his friend how many nationalities were represented in the room. “About 20. Some of everything today.”

No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. The uninformed consensus among the detainees was that some people would be fingerprinted, have their irises scanned and be sent back to the countries from which they had disembarked, regardless of citizenship status; others would be fingerprinted and allowed to stay; and the unlucky ones would be detained indefinitely and moved to a more permanent facility.

There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, “I wouldn’t.” “What if someone has to?” I asked. “They will just have to hold it,” the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. “I speak the Queen’s English,” he said to me. “I’m third-generation British. I came to America because I’ve always wanted to come here, and now they’ve got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We’re paying for your stupid war anyway.”

To be powerless and mocked at the same time makes one feel ashamed, which leads quickly to rage. Within a few hours of my arrival, I saw at least 10 people denied the right to use the bathroom or buy food and water. I watched my traveling companion duck under a barrier, run to the bathroom and slip back into the holding section — which, of course, someone of another ethnicity in a state of panic would be very reluctant to do. The United States is good at naming enemies, but apparently we are even better at making them, especially of individuals. I don’t know if it’s worse for national security — and more embarrassing for Americans — that this is the first experience tourists have of our country, or that some U.S. citizens get treated this way upon entering their own country.

The American people still have some fight left in them

The neocons have tried everything they could to frighten America into going along fully with the program meant to reduce the rights and freedom given to us by the Constitution and to keep people from complaining by calling into question their patriotism. Along the way neocons have enlisted the help and support of the main stream media as well as politicians. Unfortunately help was rendered by people on both sides of the ideological divide, liberals as well as conservatives, Democrats as well as Republicans, each chipping in to the effort of state sponsored control, each waiting for their turn to exert that control in ways they see fit, not necessarily for the benefit of the people.

Realistically speaking the political process is the only way for people to regain control of this great Republic; by removing recalcitrant politicians, irrespective of their political persuasion, there is hope that people can turn the country around to the point it respects the rights of its citizens as well as the rule of law, nationally as well as internationally. One cannot be deceived by party loyalty; politicians are to easy to purchase. Witness this bipartisan list of people who’ve had their loyalty purchased by the neocons whose goal it is to insure perpetual chaos internationally, swell the coffers of the war machine and curb the rights of citizens of the United States while increasing government control over their lives. Of particular note are the Democrats on the list and especially Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House and the third most important person in the US government’s hierarchy. She has steadfastly refused to consider impeachment of Bush or a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq despite pledges to the contrary when hers was a minority party in politics. However, anything goes in love and war, and by identifying with the mood of the country which was against war and presidential policies she was able to install her party to power and enrich her personal wealth in ways she had not been able to do previously.

However, politics can be redemptive, enter Cindy Sheehan, who has successfully petitioned to have her name included on the ballot to challenge Ms. Pelosi. Judging from the looks of what some people are saying in her district Pelosi may be in for a fight and that’s a good thing. Comfortable and unresponsive politicians should always have to feel the ire of the people when they are ignored or neglected.

The Media approach to Israel

I ran across comments at one of my favorite blog sites, Xymphora, talking about the media’s treatment of Israel. We all know that generally the media has a very kid glove approach to Israel, however there is a very healthy skepticism about Israel in the blogsphere and an exploration of issues corporate media simply refuses to touch.  My interests were more than a little aroused when I ran across articles that spoke of the Fairness Doctrine and net neutrality implying that the call for the “Fairness Doctrine” by politicians might infringe upon the more vibrant discussions that take place on the net and in the blogsphere.  I was happy to read that bloggers themselves were the first to oppose this idea of net neutrality.  I’m left wondering whether the real reason for mentioning this possibility by an  FCC commissioner was to frighten some away from a particular politician or party or was this a genuine threat/concern?  In any event back to my discussion about Israel, it’s a sure bet any government intrusion onto internet content will more positively affect Israel’s position on the internet than what we already have in main stream media.  Here is how some think corporate media deals with the recalcitrant Israelis.

Any news program which deserves special citation for being produced from an Israeli perspective should follow these rules: never mention the word “occupation,” nor the conditions that Palestinians are forced to endure when speaking about the West Bank and Gaza; if you address the issue of casualties suffered by innocent Palestinians as a result of Israeli military offenses, always give the Israelis time to appear “aware and troubled” and to claim they do everything possible to minimize “collateral damage”; never mention anything negative or embarrassing about the Israeli armed forces which cannot be dismissed as an unfortunate mistake. Finally, and this is key, always express that the targeted enemy is “Hitler” and that the military action under consideration will prevent another Holocaust.

Regime change, America’s pandora box

The US used the expression “regime change” to justify its incursion into Iraq in 2003, but the term has been around since the beginning of the 20th century and was used by Bill Clinton who like George Bush referred to it with regards to Iraq. In the language of geopolitics, or in other words raw power, regime change for the US means installing people in power who will place US strategic interests above their own country’s interests. The myth that regime change has something to do with democracy really is a lie when you look at those countries America has instituted regime change in which were at the time democracies, like 1953 Iran, 1960’s Republic of Congo, 1973 Chile and 1980’s Nicaragua just to name a few. Those are all examples where the overthrow of countries was attempted or done clandestinely by the US with results that were usually not democratic and in some cases autocratic and dictatorial. However the results were seen as favorable for long term US interests.

In the ’80s the methodology of regime change took a different direction as the US became an active, visible part in the dissolution of governments with the full might and power of the US military. Invasions with the insertion of US combat troops onto foreign soil to cause the overthrow of governments or the capture and/or arrest of government officials became the way by which regime change was done. Grenada and Panama are two prime examples arising from that time period. Elaborate excuses were advanced to the American public to win broad appeal for the invasion of these countries, and media outlets were used to put the spin on threats which were magnified to an extent that equaled existential threats to American security from mere banana republics. What is interesting is some of the people who were instrumental in trying to overthrow Iraq in the 21st century, Elliot Abrams, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle were honing their skills working in government, particularly the Pentagon, during the ’80s when America was overrunning small states, particularly in the “American sphere of influence” the Caribbean and Central America.

Of course we all know about the regime change which took place in Iraq where the Americans became an occupying power and conducted the plunder of Iraqi territory and the murder of many of its political figures. As in the recent past, rationale was given and the media was used to propagate that rationale to the satisfaction of the American public which gave its approval for grave violations of international law. Little if any consideration was given to world opinion and the rhetoric of the day made irrelevant bodies erected to maintain the rule of law, like the UN or Geneva Conventions, or opponents of American policy domestically or internationally were either belittled or completely ignored. Because America perceived itself, justifiably, as the only superpower in the world, there was no government strong enough to stop it and world opposition opinion was meaningless. What mattered to American lawmakers was instituting a policy which would insure American interests were given the highest priority of the newly installed government, even at the expense of American citizens. (Witness the kid glove approach the US Justice Department shows towards private contractors in Iraq who have committed crimes against American citizens in Iraq, and the extent to which the US wants these contractors to be immune from prosecution by the Iraqi government.) Little thought was given to the fact that this in your face behavior of the US would open the door for others to do the same thing, with the same behavior along the way and that’s exactly what has happened in the conflagration in the central Asian republic of Georgia.

Having lost its moral right to indignation because of its previous scorn for morality and international law, America is reduced to howling from the sidelines as Russia defines its interests in terms which are geopolitically correct with much more at stake. It is irrelevant for the sake of this discussion, who started the conflict that began in the late summer of 2008, what’s at issue is the unilateral military intervention of a superpower seeking to define its interests as it sees fit without regard to public opinion because there’s no one who can stop it, and more primordially, because it can! Russia’s conflict involved a neighbor on its border with whom it has had an almost two decade conflict, and this conflict is one of natural resources, oil. Under those circumstances it is understandable Russia would react to the slightest provocation, real or imagined. After all the “threat” exists on its borders. What is interesting is how quickly the US administration has forgotten this very principle it used to justify its own illegal acts merely months ago. It had to be reminded of its own transgressions when the Russian ambassador to the UN told that forum and the US directly that regime change was an American concept and therefore America had no right to use that as a pejorative term directed at Russia. Just as the US accused Saddam of gassing the Kurds and justified removing him from power because of that, the Russians accused the Georgians of ethnic cleansing and meant to remove Georgian insurgents from the disputed territories of Abkhaz and South Ossetia. They can also claim there was no shock and awe campaign designed to obliterate whole cities and neighborhoods which were of no military values, merely as an act of intimidation as was the case with the American invasion of Iraq. As we stand on what could be the precipice to world war, America ‘s disdain for Russian aggression is as meaningless as the world’s outcry against American aggression in Iraq. American policy wonks shouldn’t be allowed to forget they opened this box.

Images of war return to the public

A bipartisan effort initiated by Republican congressman Walter Jones, NC and co-sponsored by three Democrats and three Republicans has culminated in the The Fallen Hero Commemoration Act, or H.R. 6662, which states, “The Secretary of Defense shall grant access to accredited members of the media at military commemoration ceremonies and memorial services conducted by the Armed Forces for members of the Armed Forces who have died on active duty and when the remains of members of the Armed Forces arrive at military installations in the United States.”

We’ve blogged before about how the Administration has tried to control the images coming from their occupation in order to control public opinion and everyone from media to government and the public in general has gone along with the program.  Finally, members of Congress are attempting to correct that situation by using the power they have as legislators to undo this Bush Administration policy.  Let’s hope they can wipe the entire slate clean of the excesses done by this cabal.

Obama the Anti-Christ

Or at least according to John McCain, and it’s unbelievable CNN actually explored this topic on one of their news segments.  I know why they did it; it appeals to the cheap, gaudy, entertaining nature of “news” these days.  Why even I used the tactic to increase the hits this blog gets from people who “google” the topic, but it’s another indication why CNN is not a news channel and why John McCain shouldn’t be president.

Neocons Now Love International Law

A very nicely written editorial underscores the double standard employed by the US government today as it tries to deal with the Russian-Georgian conflict. I didn’t necessarily want to write or even mention this conflict because it’s on the peripheral of my concerns, but I have been reading about it and was amazed at the similarities it has with most of the foreign entanglements the US has gotten itself into lately. I was surprised, therefore, by the reaction of US lawmakers to the Russian intrusion of Georgia. Robert Parry makes the point, US policy wonks don’t have a leg to stand on in their condemnation of Russia’s action.

It’s touching how American neoconservatives who have no regard for international law when they want to invade some troublesome country have developed a sudden reverence for national sovereignty.

Read the whole article here. Hat tip to Monsieur Parry who really nails the neocons’ double standard and calls it what it is.

Getting it wrong on all accounts

The blogosphere is abuzz about the abandoned book on the Last Messenger’s love life with his younger wife Aisha and how publishers are giving in to Muslim pressure to censure things some may consider derogatory about Islam. What “Islamophobes”like to point out are cases in modern society where they think people have caved in to pressure to forget about the bad things in Islam in order to appease Muslims.  It doesn’t matter that the bad things they try to bring to light are “fallacious representation(s)”  or “anti-Islamic polemic(s) that uses sex and violence to attack the Prophet and his faith”, much like the book in question.

In some cases, however, the publisher got it right. The excuse given for not publishing because of fear of violence is unfortunate but there is a precedent for that concern.  We’ve talked about media manipulation of Muslims’ reactions before at Miscellany; how things are printed or said to get a rise out of Muslims which is then used to show the uncivilized nature of the Muslims, and that’s unfortunate. However, methinks they chose not to print a book that is factually inaccurate, and perhaps their  vetting process pointed that out to them. Perhaps the author can find an irresponsible publisher who will print ANYTHING no matter how wrong it may be, but Random House chose not to!  Here’s why:

In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married Fatila bint Abdul Uzza,
from whom Abdullah and Asma were born.  Then he married Umm Ruman,
from whom Abdur Rahman and Aisha were born.  These four were born
before Islam.  ‘Abdullah, Asma, ‘Abdur-Rahman, and ‘A’isha were born
before the beginning of the Revelation (i.e, at least 13 years before
the Hijrah).  This is uncontested and well-known to the muslims.

‘A’isha was betrothed to Jubayr ibn Mut’im ibn Adi, before Abu
Bakr accepted Islam in the first year of the Call (12-13 years before
the Hijrah).  This is uncontested.

When Abu Bakr planned to go to Abyssinia during the fifth year of
the Call (8-9 years before the Hijrah), Mut’im broke off the
engagement because Abu Bakr had accepted Islam.  This is uncontested.

‘A’isha remembered the Revelation of a verse known to have been
revealed in the fifth year of the Call or before (i.e., 8-13 years
before the Hijrah).  This is uncontested.

‘A’isha was betrothed to the prophet two years after the death of
Khadijah, or a year before the Hijrah.  This is uncontested.

‘A’isha did not accompany her father and the prophet during the
Hijrah, but arrived in Madinah later, and became sick so that all of
her hair fell out.  This is uncontested.

‘A’isha moved in with the prophet a year or two after the Hijrah,
or two to four years after her betrothal.  This is unclear from the
various reports, which give different time periods, but all are agreed
as to the general time frame.

‘A’isha was widowed in 11h (the 11th year of the Hijrah).  This is

She was a widow for about forty years and died in 50h.  This is

Among the people who report these facts is one Hisham bin Urwa,
the grandson of Asma and ‘A’isha’s grand-nephew, who lived in Madina
for 71 years and then moved to Iraq, who reported that ‘A’isha died in
50h.  This is uncontested.

‘A’isha’s older sister Asma was ten years older than ‘A’isha.
Asma was 27 at the time of the Hijrah, making ‘A’isha 17.  This is
uncontested.  Asma died at the age of 100 in 73h.  23 years earlier,
when ‘A’isha died, Asma was 77.  This is uncontested.  Thus ‘A’isha
was 67 when she died in 50h, seventeen at the time of the Hijrah,
sixteen at the time of her betrothal to the prophet, and nineteen when
she moved in with him.

All of the reports saying that ‘A’isha was six at the time of her
betrothal to the prophet come from Iraq, as do all of the reports that
she was nine when she moved in with the prophet.  There are no reports
of this from Makkah or Madinah.  This is uncontested.  Most of these
reports from Iraq came through Hisham bin Urwa, Asma’s grandson,
mostly from his father.  This is indisputable.

Hisham bin Urwa is said to have reported (1) that ‘A’isha was nine
in the second year of the Hijrah, (2) was widowed in the eleventh year
of the Hijrah, and (3) died in the fiftieth year of the Hijrah ~ when
his grandmother, ten years older than his great aunt ‘A’isha, was 77.

The same person who said ‘A’isha was nine in 2h also said she was
67 in 50h.

So the only reports that ‘A’isha was six, or nine, come from
someone who also reports that she had to be sixteen when betrothed,
and nineteen when she moved in with the prophet.

And every other report showing her to be much older than six is
uncontested and considered reliable, while Hisham’s reports from Iraq
are considered unreliable for obvious reasons.

Of course not many people know about this and those that do choose to ignore or debate it, but what do you do with people who argue against facts?

Islamophobia and politics

One can expect the right wing of American politics to engage in distortion and race baiting.  It goes as far back as I can remember and that includes the administration of Richard Nixon.  So it is today, and the modern day target is the clean cut Arab/muslim guy or gal.  Mazen Asbahi is “it” today and I’m baffled in one sense but not totally surprised in another.  Baffled because monsieur Asbahi is as clean as they come, except for a really rather tangential connection to someone who had an equally tangentially inconsequential relationship with someone who…..well you know the rest.  This all boils down to party politics; Asbahi worked for Obama, and I guess it’s a little too much for the American palate to digest, so many strange sounding names working together.  But Asbahi has bonafides that not too many people who might even call themselves red blooded Americans possess, so I find his selection as a target unfortunate.  No matter how squeaky clean you try to get you can never get clean enough if you have one of those strange names or a swarthy complexion, but it’s just those characteristics that make him such an easy target. What inevitably the racists in American politics are trying to do is dilute the potency of Islamic charities by calling into question their raison d’etre and the full might of the US government to shut them down and take their assets.  For that reason I wish Asbahi had not resigned his position with the Obama campaign; there are bigger stakes here than helping someone who will gladly kick you to the curb in order to get elected. (That he decided to step down probably speaks more for his integrity than that of the Obama campain. )  Islamic charities have an important role to play in helping Muslims in developing countries maintain a subsistence level lifestyle; just as the cash strapped economies of central and south America depend on money from the American job force, so do those societies in the Middle East.  (Just ask Israel) Mazen was a political football kicked around to hurt a candidate who is running scared from the Muslim label and to damage the work of some honest hard working Muslims who wanted to establish a viable organization to help people at home and abroad.  I suspect there’ll be a lot more of this kind of election year posturing as the political season continues.


“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people
cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented,
in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet
under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public
liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let
them take arms.”
Thomas Jefferson

Obama’s woes continue

I hadn’t given one iota’s thought to Obama’s race problem, or rather the problem his race is to the election process in a race conscious society like America which always tries to hide the depts of the problem by ignoring it.  But sure enough, race has reared it’s ugly head, and it’s from of all places, the corporate media. Check out the question being asked by some in mainstream media:

Can Black Journalists be trusted to cover Obama?

For me the question begs, do we even have black journalists, they are so rarely seen. In any event the writer tries to set the record straight.  I guess because of that question the sole black journalist covering the McCain campaign’s stop in Florida was singled out and told to leave the press pool, so perhaps we should turn the question on its face and ask if black journalists can be trusted to cover McCain?  Of course this brings back all the ugly racial stereotypes of African-Americans…..can blacks be trusted with your women, can they be trusted in your schools, etc., etc that have been a part of America for many years

So I guess you could call this piling on, when I reiterate my complaint about Obama’s handling of the Muslim constituency.  I found a rather excellent editorial by a secularist white guy that I think speaks to the heart of how Obama should handle this.  I keep finding pieces that I think tell Obama succinctly what he should do to combat this part of his image problem, and it seems he is listening to everybody BUT, which makes me wonder whether an Obama administration will be equally poorly advised.

Will anyone notice? Barack Obama’s team just threw its key Muslim advisor under the bus.

Barack Obama needs to make a statement loudly, clearly, and with passion that he embraces Muslims as much as any other Americans of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or other religious persuasions. It wouldn’t hurt for him to embrace devout secularists like me for that matter.

But I’m irritated and saddened by news that Barack Obama’s Muslim-outreach coordinator, Mazen Asbahi, has resigned “amid questions about his ‘involvement’ in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups.”

Let’s tally up Obama’s Muslim outreach record:

~ Obama campaign apparatchiks ask young Muslim women not to stand in photo with Obama because of head scarves (Obama campaign later apologizes).~ Barack Obama gives AIPAC speech that manages to run to the right of President Bush and Israel Prime Minister Ohlmert in demanding that “Jerusalem must not be divided.” (Obama later recants after the fact)

~ Barack Obama not only terminates Middle East advisor Robert Malley from his team because of Malley’s views that Hamas should be engaged — but his spokesman, Bill Burton, states that not only is Rob Malley no longer advising Obama “but will never advise Obama”. That’s running the bus over someone and then backing it up to make sure that Malley doesn’t survive and has no chance in an Obama administration. I like to remind folks that Paul Volcker and Ted Sorensen signed the same letter Malley did but have thus far missed the campaign guillotine.

~ Barack Obama gives an inspirational speech to more than 200,000 Germans in Berlin calling for a “World Without Walls.” But Obama is silent in Israel when it is the wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians that is becoming an increasingly worse and impactful global ulcer.

~ Barack Obama spends 30 plus hours in Israel and 45 minutes in Ramallah during his recent trip and meets many Iraelis who have been pro-settilement expansion, solidly violating international law and US policy. Some on Obama’s advisory team turn a blind eye to Israel’s expanding settlements and continue to be associated with and meet with settlement zealots — but Obama keeps ALL of these people on his team.

~ Barack Obama accepts the resignation of a mainstream Arab-American lawyer from his advisory team because eight years ago, Mazen Asbahi served on a board “for a few weeks” that included a muslim fundamentalist imam from Illinois. Asbahi resigned from the board. . .eight years ago.

What? Wait? Obama has had a many years long relationship with Jeremiah Wright — and sat on a board with William Ayers — NEITHER of which I think are disqualifiers for Obama’s candidacy. . .and yet Obama’s political team and Obama himself did not demand from Asbahi that he stay on the team, stand his ground, and fight back against the vile right-wing hit on him and his credibility?!

I think that this is outrageous — and those on the left who appreciate Obama and what he may mean for this country must become as tenaciously committed to what is right and what is good — and fighting for that — because those on the other side of these debates are trying to compel Obama to dilute himself.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an effective and popular MUSLIM Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. We need more Muslims in our diplomatic corps. We need Muslims on the Supreme Court. We need more Muslims like Keith Ellison in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Obama should say it. Convince the American public that he’s not setting up a zero sum game between Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other.

Obama is a Christian. I get that. I’m a secularist hard core — but I won’t stand by to watch more good people be flushed down the political drain because they are Muslims trying to work for a balanced and level playing field in America.

This resignation by Asbahi stinks — and Obama and his team should immediately call him back and help him stand up to anti-Muslimism in America.