RSS feed for entries
 

 

Et tu, BBC? Bias in Israel reporting

I’m just like everyone else. I don’t understand what’s going on in Gaza. So when the BBC ran an article titled “Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?,” I read it.

It makes the point that Hamas has been much weakened by political changes around them. Iran used to contribute enough to run the government of Gaza, but (Sunni) Hamas supported Sunni rebels in Syria so (Shia) Iran stopped that funding.

Then while the Muslim Brotherhood ran Egypt, there was a good bit of trade going on and hence revenue for Hamas from taxes. But the current Egyptian government considers Hamas too close to terrorists and that source of funds has also dried up.

I’d heard about the new understanding between the West Bank Fatah group and Hamas, but I didn’t realize Hamas had no choice. They’re down to their last bean and fighting in the last ditch.

Meanwhile, Israel was just doing its usual “carefully calibrated” air raids.

[T]raining grounds and launching sites in Gaza were attacked. The target list was enough to persuade the Israeli public that Hamas was being punished for the rocket fire but not enough to push the militant group to step up its attacks.

There were even hints that a truce might be possible….

According to the report, the impression I get is that the escalation just happened.

The article says maybe Hamas was hoping that the sight of suffering civilians would increase funding and international sympathy for them.

The Israelis? They’re trying to get rid of rockets, apparently. This will be very difficult. They’re small, distributed, some are even home made.

I’m a bit boggled. So that’s why we see pictures of whole blocks blowing up in Gaza? There must have been a pipe full of gunpowder and nails in there somewhere.

A Palestinian reacts in front of a fire which police said was caused by an Israeli tank shelling in an industrial area in the east of Gaza City July 12, 2014. REUTERS-Ashraf Amrah

A Palestinian reacts in front of a fire which police said was caused by an Israeli tank shelling in an industrial area in the east of Gaza City July 12, 2014. REUTERS.
(Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

Nowhere in this narrative of monsters willing to sacrifice their neighbors and persecuted people trying to defend themselves does the article make the obvious point.

Hamas is weakened. Israel swoops in to try to finish them off.

Sure, that may not be the explanation for the current carnage. But it’s certainly one explanation.

How could a news organization of the BBC’s caliber not even mention it?

    Print This Post Print This Post

Inside a mind too safe to care

“I understand [Obama] wants to fight terrorism, but send in robots, drones. Don’t send in our troops. Our men and women are dying for what?”

Seen here, quoting someone in the USA regarding Obama’s moves in Iraq.

Translated: I don’t care who dies or how they die so long as it’s nobody I know.

Further translation: I know nothing about warfare and think it’s like a video game where drones work on their own and problems get solved by smashing them.

And also too: I don’t have to care or make sense because nothing’s gonna change my world.

Arrogance made a dog’s breakfast out of the Middle East. Now it’s their problem. Right?

My taxes pay for this shit. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Which does no good at all. Dear God, what a mess, what a crime, what an atrocity.

    Print This Post Print This Post

Not so cynical about Afghanistan

You know, mostly the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Afghanistan, I would have said, has been fasttracked.

And then today I saw this.

Afghani man backpacking a ballot box up a mountainous trail in the rain

Ballot boxes were carried by hand and by donkey all over Afghanistan
(Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

Sure, Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

They may make it.

Which means there may be hope even for the rest of us.

    Print This Post Print This Post

The roots of war

I was reading an article about Syria’s civil war, and sentences kept jumping out at me.

The white Horseman of war

For three men in northern Syria, the second civil war started shortly after the first staggered into a quagmire of sectarian violence. …

Like many others, the three men are bewildered at what has become of their war. Their alliances – and their goals – are shifting. …

They are a businessman, a smuggler and an army defector who became respectively the political officer, treasurer and military commander of a once-formidable battalion in northern Syria. …

“Maybe in 10 years we will all be bored with fighting and learn how to coexist.” He paused, then added: “In 10 years maybe, not now.” …

He opened Google Earth on his phone, zooming in closer and closer until the screen showed a small grey square: the house where his family used to live. “Before, all my family was in Syria, and I worried about them. Now, they’ve got out but I have lost my land. I have reached a point of despair,” he said. …

“I was in the revolution at the beginning, and I used to think that was going to be progress – but now we have lost everything. We don’t talk about military plans and hitting the regime – now the plotting is against each other.”

“I can’t defeat them [the jihadis] and the army. I am about to collapse. I can hold out for a month or two at most. Isis [jihadis] are expanding in a fearful way.” …

When they reached the base, the lieutenant sank down in a corner. He seemed weary. “I have been fighting for two years and a half. Tell me: what have I achieved? All I think about is attacking this checkpoint, getting that tank – maybe using the tank to attack another checkpoint.

“In all this time did I ever think of establishing governance? Did I consider working with the civilians in the areas under my control to get electricity or provide anything? …

He sighed. “… I want to get away from here and forget the absurdity of war. The liberated areas are in chaos: there is more purity on the frontlines.” …

“For three days I’ve been attacking this checkpoint,” said the lieutenant “I ask myself why, but I don’t know. Maybe because I can. Maybe because I need to keep my men busy. But honestly, I don’t know the purpose of all this. In Syria, everyone has lost. No one is winning.” …

The next day, the lieutenant decided he needed a break from war. A few days later, the smuggler, the lieutenant and another rebel officer were walking in an Istanbul shopping centre packed with Arab tourists. After two and a half years, the two men said they had finally decided to leave Syria and the war for good. …

Later, in the food court upstairs, the smuggler and the lieutenant ate lunch with another man, a people-smuggler, who told them how they could be spirited across the border into Greece and from there into Italy, where they could start a new life with their families. …

By now, the excitement of being in Istanbul had waned: the three men walked the streets aimlessly and sat for hours in cafes. … One evening, he admitted that he had tried to leave once before: he had stayed away for 25 days, but found he could not live in the world of peace: he missed the excitement, the combat, the camaraderie. …

The lieutenant left the cafe, and there was no news of him for weeks. Nobody knew if he was still in Turkey, or if he had gone with the people-smuggler and made his way to Italy.

When he finally called, he sounded relieved and almost cheerful. “I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t leave, I went back to Syria, to fight.”

People who go to war always say they do it to serve — their country, an ideal, their way of life, always something outside themselves. But then when the fighting is destroying what they care about they would stop, wouldn’t they?

    Print This Post Print This Post

If you want to send a message to Syria, use the Post Office

Just for the record, I’m not much of a pacificist. Self-defense is the least-bad option after an attack. And I do believe that everybody has a duty to stop crimes against humanity wherever they occur. On my planet, the UN has a militia ten times the size of any nation’s army, because those are all so small, and stops criminal nations.

But we don’t live on my planet. We live here, where the rhetoric about Syria has so many layers of hypocrisy it looks like a sedimentary rock.

Governments tolerate all kinds of dictators. No way we’re suddenly all hot and bothered about Assad.

Chemical weapons are horrible. No question about that. But death by shrapnel is no picnic either. Nor is being buried alive in fallen masonry. Around 100,000 children, women, and men have died in the Syrian war. A recent 1500 of those were the awful chemical weapons fatalities. Now suddenly senseless painful civilian deaths are unacceptable? Where have we been the last three, four years?

While we’re on the subject of bombs, I’d just like to mention how badly they work as envelopes. Any messages they’re carrying get all shredded and come out unrecognizable at the receiving end. If you’re trying to communicate, bombs don’t.

And then there’s the Israelis and Saudis expressing chagrin about the US lack of action. They’d prefer to have that mess near their borders cleaned up. As a purely practical matter with no ethical dimensions, I can understand that. I can also understand wanting the 600-pound gorilla on your side. But shouldn’t they at least be saying, “We’ll send so many tens of thousands of soldiers and so many tens of billions of dollars. We know it’s our fight, too.” Instead it’s all about what a spineless piece of cheese Obama is because he hasn’t already done it with US lives and cash.

So, if I’m so smart, what’s my solution? Well, one, we (meaning people, humanity) go back some sixty years and don’t get rid of Mossadegh in Iran. After that, we don’t do another million and a half idiotic things in the intervening decades. We transition to solar power and energy efficiency. We provide scholarship money to every remotely qualified woman in the whole Middle East. If there even was an effective Taliban in that world, and if the US did have to go after them in Afghanistan, then afterwards the US would have concentrated all its energies on the “nation-building” Rumsfeld had no use for.

I know. We don’t have time travel. (Although we may get it sooner than peace in the Middle East.) In this world, I have no idea what I’d do if I was handed the current crap on a plate. There are no good choices because too many idiots have made bad ones. So, do I want military dictatorships or religious ones?

No.

 

—————————-
Update, Sept. 5. The Saudi government reads this blog? I just saw this: Kerry says Arab countries offer to pay for invasion. (Now, if only they’d take on board some of the other, more important messages I keep pushing here. Equality, for instance.) Update, May14, 2014.: The link for Kerry’s statement has vanished from the Washington Post site. Neither the Senate hearing nor the House unequivocally contains such a statement in the full transcripts.

    Print This Post Print This Post

From pet rocks to key


Now they figure this out? Now, when it’s too late? After years of putting women on a par with rocks — in a purely egalitarian sense, of course. Not like the Taliban.

Exiting U.S. general says Afghan women’s rights are key.


War is Peace. Murder is Good.


It’s not war if no Americans are killed.

Americans may be killed at will because it’s all self-defense. There’s a war on, you know.

Only a handful of decades have passed since the soaring words of the Geneva Convention. The US was pleased to think it was leading that charge at the time.

But it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

MQ-1PredatorDrone

Flying blind
(Source: US military file photo?)

    Print This Post Print This Post

About that Iranian nuclear threat


AP has a big, exclusive story based on a graph of a simulation leaked by they’re-not-saying-who from they’re-not-saying-where. This is Proof the Iranians are working on a big bad nuke.

 
(graphic from AP)

 

Glenn Greenwald seems to be getting exasperated at the silliness of such setups:

even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane.

Well, yes, there is that.

But there’s one even bigger piece of evidence suggesting that the Iranians aren’t doing much, and for some reason that’s not being mentioned. They have a border with a huge and powerful country. (Well, a mere 200 or so miles away across Azerbaijan.) Russia has zero reason to want powerful Islamic fundamentalists right on its southern border who might encourage friction in other Central Asian majority-Islamic countries.

If the Iranians were really that close to useful nukes, you can bet your Sunday bonnet the Russians would be making noise about it and/or doing something about it.

    Print This Post Print This Post

Israel has a right to defend itself

Damage from Palestinian rocket in Ashdod, Israel, not far from the border with Gaza.

pothole-sized damage to road

 
(Nir Elias, Reuters)

Damage from Israeli strike in Gaza.

smoking crater which has demolished several buildings to rubble

 
(photog. unknown, Reuters)

Israel, like everyone else, has a right to defend itself. Lethal force against vandalism does seem a tad excessive. (Maybe their big friends and good buddies could explain that to them? On second thought, maybe not.)


Syria

I can’t write about this.

Wael, said he had seen a six-year-old die after being tortured and starved.The 16 year-old told the report’s authors: “I watched him die. He only survived for three days and then he simply died.”

BBC News – Syria child trauma ‘appalling’ – Save the Children

What kind of monster can do that? What kind of people are we that such things happen?

    Print This Post Print This Post

No. We should not respect other people’s beliefs


No. No, no, no. This is not about free speech as opposed to beliefs. It better not be. If it is, we’re headed straight for holy wars.

I’m talking about this sort of thing: BBC News – Film protest: Egypt PM urges US to end ‘insults’.

“At the same time we need to reach a balance between freedom of expression and to maintain respect for other peoples’ beliefs.”

There is no way to “respect beliefs” and have freedom of speech. It’s impossible. Think about it, Minister Qandil, for a microsecond. If my belief is that you speak drivel and should shut up, you can say nothing. If your belief is that I speak drivel and should shut up, neither of us can say anything if we’re both going to be “respectful.” Or, if we both talk and infuriate each other, then the only way to get “respect” is to silence the other. And only the dead are silent.

The malicious film is not a problem because it insults a religion. It’s a problem because its whole and only purpose is to inflict hate on people. It is not making a political statement, it is not arguing about anything. It’s trying to spit in the eye of people it hates. That is hate speech. It is incitement to riot. It is already illegal. It is an abuse of free speech. It is not protected under free speech laws.

The only problem is the growing US inability to understand that religion is a belief system, not an excuse. We should not lose all ability to tell right from wrong just because somebody hangs a judeochristian religious label on crap.

(Although when it involves a Muslim, the FBI seems to see “material support” for terrorists where only criticism exists. One example: Glenn Greenwald on the arrest of a person expressing outrage over the Abu Ghraib atrocities.)

We should take a deep breath, take our courage in our hands, and actually be responsible for some judgment calls. Avoiding responsibility with wishy-washy excuses about not having any right to judge anyone means only handing a blank check to the biggest bully to do their worst.

It’s pretty obvious where that leads. Haters incite hate and before you know it, real people with real families and real friends have died.

That’s why there are laws against hate speech. That’s why there are laws against incitement to riot.

By understanding the real reason why that sort of crap has to be squelched, it becomes clear that it is not criticism of religion which is the problem. Nobody can tell anybody to stop expressing their thoughts on a religion. They can insist on not hearing them. It’s the same as the idea behind the brown paper covers on porn mags. I don’t want to know what’s going on in the sewer of your mind, and you don’t have to tell me.

It becomes hate speech when you insist on rubbing my mind in your hated message. Then the intent is to hurt. Not to communicate. Then it’s hate speech.

That revolting film wasn’t noticed by anyone but the revolting people who made it. Pathetic, but not a huge issue. They didn’t like that. So they paid to have it translated into Arabic. That is hate speech, pure and simple.

We don’t have to slavishly avoid offending every bizarre — or even ordinary — belief system on the planet. We have to enforce our own laws against hate speech and incitement to riot. As a matter of fact, the solution is to be more willing to offend beliefs. When somebody’s beliefs result in hatred and harm we have to be ready to stand up to them and say, “NO.”

    Print This Post Print This Post

We need anti-pollution laws for free speech


Religious nuts belong in padded cells with the other nuts. They think they can say anything they want, no matter how untrue and nasty it is. And because it’s based on something they call “religion,” nobody wants to deal with them.

There was the kook in Florida who was going to make a big deal out of burning the Koran. Apparently in his mind that shows the superiority of something he believes in. That time people died in the Middle East and Africa.

This time another lunatic’s hate speech has led to more deaths.

Ambassador J Christopher Stevens reportedly died of smoke inhalation after a crowd stormed the consulate.

Three other Americans were also killed and the consulate set ablaze.

Update 2013-05-14: The four deaths at the consulate seem to be unconnected to a specific hate speech event. Hate speech repeatedly incites people to kill, but this is not an example of that as it turns out.

Not only that, but Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, and probably a score of other places are having to take steps to prevent — they hope! — violence. That’s effort, time, and money better spent on real needs, not on hysteria whipped up by infectious mental patients.

These troglodytes are a terrorists. We have a whole goddamn department of government to deal with terrorists these days. Why are they asleep at the switch?

The Biblebangers have no right to spew hate speech and incite riots. Why aren’t the creeps thrown in dungeons for their flagrant flinging of poo?

What is it going to take for people to wake up to the fact that we have to stop giving religious nuts a free ride? Religion is a belief system. It’s not an excuse.


Update Sept. 14, 2012: Good background, details, and more recent information by Juan Cole.

Update Sept. 15, 2012: Roger Ebert adds some points about the complete lack of merit in the clip and its purely inflammatory nature. One real give-away for the intent to inflame: when it didn’t get enough Muslim attention, our local loonies paid to have it translated into Arabic.

Update Sept. 18, 2012: I can’t resist a you-heard-it-here-first remark. Sarah Chayes opinion piece in the LATimes going into more detail as to exactly how much the Nastiness of Christians film is incitement to riot.

    Print This Post Print This Post

The Bombs Fall Elsewhere


There’s a bit of a flap over Iran, nukes, Israel, the US, etc., etc., etc. Discussion of sanctions, unexpected strikes, war. In other words, no biggie.

But, this just in, as they say, from Reuters:

But Israel, in weighing military action, faces the risk of a backlash from Congress and the American public if oil prices spike during a still-fragile economic recovery ….

“It’s the law of unintended consequences,” said an outside expert who advises the White House on national security. “This could lead to the first real reassessment in a generation of how America and Americans feel about Israel.”

If gas prices go up, that’s different. That changes everything.

    Print This Post Print This Post

Iran and nukes


I agree. Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

Neither should China, Russia, North Korea, Britain, France, the US, India, Pakistan, or Israel.

Hello? Those things are either bad, or they aren’t. What kind of quadruple standard are we using here? And don’t tell me that it’s different when sensible countries, who would never actually use mass death against civilians, have them.

Only one country has used nuclear weapons to mass murder civilians. And it currently has more of the things than anyone else and shows no sign of thinking that’s a bad idea.

Could we just tell the truth? Nobody wants Iran to get more power. Iran, on the other hand, does want more power. If you want to stop them, just say so. Enough of this sanctimonious dogwash.

    Print This Post Print This Post

Iraq isn’t costing three trillion dollars


Remember when Bilmes and Stiglitz published The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict in early 2008? There was much discussion about how it wasn’t true, how they’d overcounted this, and undercounted that. (E.g. 1)

Well, it turns out it was indeed not true.

It’s costing four trillion dollars. ($4,000,000,000,000. Actually, with those sorts of numbers, you’re really supposed to use scientific notation: $4 x 1012.)

That’s just the loss for the USA. It doesn’t count the cost for the troops of other nations. It doesn’t include the costs in Iraq. All told, six or seven trillion dollars’ worth of smoke and rubble is probably a cautious and conservative estimate.

The good news is there was nothing else that needed doing, so it’s not as if it matters.

    Print This Post Print This Post

They say delay is a sign of depression

(Updated below)

You have to admit, I have plenty to be depressed about. The rule of law has been dead in the US for years. Now, with the killing of al-Awlaki in Yemen, they put a marker on it, a great big gravestone.

“…[T]he Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki. No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was “considering” indicting him). Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even had any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt.

“…[T]he U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment [of the Constitution] was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law).” (Greenwald, Sep. 30, 2011)

And, as far as I can tell, most people here see that as a good thing. That’s the real death. Tumors are just a symptom of cancer. The cause is all the immune system cells, not enough of whom can tell right from wrong.

Update Oct 6: Now I read that there was another person, also a US citizen, Samir Khan, who was killed as collateral damage together with al-Awlaki. The government isn’t even pretending he committed a crime. All he did was write a pro-Al-Qaida blog. And have what my grandmother would have called “bad friends.” Meaning al-Awlaki. But I gather killing Khan is okay because he committed thought crimes. Or something.

    Print This Post Print This Post