Friday, February 06, 2009

Pity The Nation

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.

Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest,
and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

By Khalil Gibran (1934)

Occupation 101

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who Cares??

In 1997 I read a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death, the premise of the book was that Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World, was becoming true. I didn’t care for the book at all, but recently I have been thinking about its theory again. The thought is that the government doesn’t need to control information or the media, because there will be such an information overload that officials will be able to lie, while the truth lays in plain sight. What sparked my rethinking about this the war on Gaza. President Obama gave his first substantial statements on the conflict on Thursday the 22nd of January. He was able to mislead in plain view of the truth, no one seemed to notice, no follow up stories in the press.

Obama repeated the same old tired line that all US presidents since LBJ have said, “Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security.” Once it would be nice to hear “America is committed to the security of the Arab population.” Actually, Eisenhower was the only US president to not support Israeli aggression against the Arabs and he seems like he will continue hold that position alone. Obama refused to acknowledge that Israel, not Hamas, violated the cease-fire agreement (November 4th 2008, Israeli special forces invaded Gaza and killed 6 men.) Obama also refused to acknowledge that the rockets, that he claims “started” the conflict were not fired by Hamas. He also said nothing about the UN run schools bombed by Israel, despite the fact the UN had given Israel the GPS location of the schools to their military. Nothing was said about 1/3 of the Palestinian victims who were children, while 1/3 of Israeli victims were the result of “friendly fire.” President Obama said the Palestinians need to renounce violence. This is the part of the speech that made my face grow bright red with anger. Renounce violence? How about Israel? Or the US? What a completely stupid thing to say, no country ever would renounce violence. The US refuses to see Hamas as a resistance force practicing self-defense. In the same breath Obama can say “we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats” and “Hamas must meet clear conditions…renounce violence.” Truly amazing that these things can be said and no one bats an eye. Americans knowledge on the Israeli-Arab conflict is truly depressing, especially because without massive US support none of it could happen. When I talk to people about the conflict, I have to repeat so many of the same basic facts, “yes Hamas is religious but is not fundamentalist… Hamas democratically won the elections… Israel is withholding money taken from the Palestinians to punish them for voting in Hamas… Hamas is a creation of the Mossad and the CIA… Hamas has a military wing, and a wing that runs schools, a wing that feeds the poor, a wing that builds people’s homes… Hamas does get some money from Iran but it is a Sunni organization… Israel has blockaded Gaza for over a year because of the election of Hamas… yes Hamas has tunnels into Egypt, and some weapons come through, also fuel for hospitals, food, medicine and other basic supplies because of the blockade…Hamas does not use suicide bombers, hasn’t for nearly 5 years… Hamas is not Fatah or the PLO or Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda or Black September or any other group…the founder of Hamas was killed in an Israeli missile strike launched as he left a mosque after Friday prayers killing him and 9 civilians, Kofi Annan condemned the killing and the UN sought to a resolution to condemn the attack, the United States vetoed it…”

These things are not things I discovered after lengthy research. I read most of them in the mainstream media (CNN, New York Times, NPR etc…). They are there and easily accessible for anyone to find out. Its information overload, look at the dates Israel violated the cease-fire November 4th, the day of the US elections, when does it end, a day before Obama takes the oath of office. Hidden in plain sight, right under our noses. In fact, the best piece I read in all of 2008 on Hamas and the blockade of Gaza appeared in the April issue of Vanity Fair, the story didn’t even appear on the cover. I suppose an article titled “Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?” about Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey and other women comics is far more important then “The Gaza Bombshell” a detailed account of Hamas election and the US role. It is a brave new world, but who cares?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration of Barak Obama

I watched only a small amount of the inauguration of President Obama, just the speech he gave. Which was very disappointing, a cut and paste of his stump speeches and a hodgepodge of past inaugural speeches, quite forgettable. I was forced to discuss the inauguration in each class throughout the day. In every class I was the pessimist, the one unmoved.
I had supported Obama very early on in the primary race, voting for him the Massachusetts primary round. However when November came, I was now supporting the candidate who wanted to increase the size of the military, threatened cross border strikes on Pakistan, wanted to increase troop presents in Afghanistan, no longer supported a quick withdrawal from Iraq, and wanted an undivided Jerusalem. I wasn’t voting my ideals anymore, I was voting against McCain. It is not lost on me the significance of the countries first African-American President. It is equal to France voting for an Algerian. Its was totally unthinkable 20 years ago and totally illegal further back in time. Although that moment where I saw the country move beyond race was on November 4th. That was the moment for me. The inauguration is a celebration of “American exceptional-ism”. The notion that America can control the world, because it is the exception to the rules and the election of Obama is the reaffirmation of this concept. Another “great” Democratic President, who also ran on a platform of peace in the world and promised never to enter World War I, first laid out this concept. Woodrow Wilson was clear on what American exceptional-ism allowed: “Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down … Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused." This is what American foreign policy will continue to be under President Obama the export of capitalism, in the form of corporations under the protection of marines bayonet. Obama has already said he will continue to use Blackwater forces in Iraq; He will not suspend Bechtel’s monopoly over Iraq’s water resources and Halliburton will continue to control the flow of oil. For me these were part of the greatest outrages committed in Iraq by President Bush, and to know they will transition smoothly under an Obama Presidency is unnerving.
My biggest fear of this “love-fest” for Obama is that the left and others will become pacified. No need to take to the streets, or pay close attention. As I watched CNN cover every gift, every ball, every breath Obama took, I longed for some real news. The world has not stopped so we could watch him dance. The country is transfixed in a glassy-eyed love affair, meanwhile cities burn and babies are starved. Here is a list of stories that happened on the day of the inauguration they were cut from CNN so we could watch our new President twirl his bride around on million dollar stages: Chinese laborers are deported from Saudi Arabia for considering a strike; Rwandan soldiers enter the Democratic Republic of Congo more then one million have been displaced by the fighting; The UN demands goods and humanitarian aid be allowed to enter into the Gaza strip; The US stock Market declines sharply; Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes for using white phosphorus munitions in densely populated area (white phosphorus burns through the skin, into the muscle and to the bone); 22 suspected Taliban fighters are killed in Afghanistan; Stanislav Markelov a Russian lawyer who exposed army abuses in Chechnya is assassinated in broad daylight in down town Moscow; a leading activist in Thailand is arrest for “insulting the king”; power sharing talks between Tsvangirai and Mugabe in Zimbabwe collapse; 25 people killed in fighting in Somali; the Arab league fails to agree on what to do about Gaza; Pakistan kills 60 “hardcore militants” according to a paramilitary official; and finally 5 killed in Iraq in several car bombs, three being civilians and two US soldiers were wounded.