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How to Criticize the Israeli Government

10:40 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story.  It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.

Cover of Our Hash Logic

Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it.  The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews.  Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn’t seen.

Now, I don’t know any more about that story than what I’ve read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens).  The report may be accurate or not.  Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged.  The story at least seems to merit investigation.  The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me).  Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.

This happens with the United States too, of course.  If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I’ll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much.  Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly.  I haven’t made a career of trying to reform Israel’s government.  All I had to do was tweet a link to an article.  Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed.  Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel.  Not everyone can do it.  The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military.  This approach helps people whose “service” was years ago.  And it helps those whose memories of what they did “for their country” are very fresh.  Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing.  Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven’t), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010, collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names.  Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online.  The online database sorts the stories into categories: › AbuseAssassinationsBriberyCheckpointsConfirmation of killingCurfews/closuresDeathsDestruction of propertyHuman shieldsHumiliationLootingLoss of livelihoodRoutineRules of engagementSettlementsSettler violence.

“Supporting the troops” is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops.  But these troops should be listened to.  Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.  But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight.  Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing.  The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians.  The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

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Cheney’s Kettle Logic

7:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Sigmund Freud once mentioned the defense offered by a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.

That man’s name?

Dick Cheney.

On “Morning Joe” on MSNBC on Thursday, the former Vice President claimed that the intelligence used to invade Iraq had been sound and accurate; the faulty intelligence was all Bill Clinton’s fault; the invasion didn’t do any damage but rather it was the Iraqis who damaged Iraq; and any invasion causes horrific things to happen, that just comes with the territory.

This incoherence was interspersed with gossip about Cheney’s marriage and his friends and his whole lovable social self. That lie may have overshadowed the more serious ones. When in the hell did Cheney become respectable, much less lovable? But that’s a distraction. Cheney’s crimes have long been catalogued.

Joe Scarborough began his Cheney interview by asking, not why did you commit so many crimes and abuses, but how did you, dear Dick, suffer from having the image of Darth Vader imposed on you? Cheney replies that he had fun wearing a Darth Vader mask. But listen carefully for the Freudian slip: he says he wore it in the President’s office, not the VICE President’s office.

Cheney claims he didn’t transform into Darth Vader, and of course he didn’t. Cheney was an immoral power-mad neocon for decades who consistently favored presidential prerogatives and aggressive militarism. But Cheney claims that what changed was that a terrorist act became an act of war rather than a crime. Did it do that all on its own?

Cheney slips in his usual baseless defense of torture and related abuses as having served some useful purpose. Scarborough does not follow up on that claim. Instead, he asks about Colin Powell’s comments on Cheney’s book. Nice and gossipy. But Lawrence Wilkerson’s more serious comments on the same topic, including his expression of willingness to testify against Cheney in court, go unmentioned.

Cheney then claims the Iraq lies were well-intended mistakes and basically accurate at the same time. Content with this, Scarborough focuses in on DC social scene changes over the decades. That’s journalism!

Mike Barnicle, a SERIOUS journalist, then asks Cheney if he regrets the death of a U.S. soldier in a humvee that was operating in Iraq without proper armor. This is a question along the lines of “Why did the military waste $60 billion in Iraq?” These talking heads are not 60 seconds from the topic of the lies that launched an illegal and immoral war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, almost none of them Americans, and Barnicle wants to know why the humvees weren’t better armored. Wednesday’s news of U.S. troops having murdered Iraqi children gets no mention. This is breakfast table reporting for goodness sake! And yet, even with the softball question about the humvee armor, Cheney makes excuses and points out that things like that just happen in wars.

Well, exactly. But why do the wars happen?

Finally Scarborough asks Cheney why the U.S. military invaded Iraq, and Cheney says it was the right thing to do. He paints it as defensive. We attacked an unarmed impoverished nation halfway around the globe IN DEFENSE. Cheney even regurgitates a long-debunked claim about Mohamed Atta meeting with Iraqi officials. Next, Mika Brzezinski asks Cheney about the war lies, and Cheney blames Clinton. Now, I’m no fan of Clinton, and he told plenty of his own lies and engaged in plenty of power abuses tied to wars and military actions, but the fixing of the facts around the policy on Iraq was a major operation created after Clinton was gone. On this, Scarborough and Brzezinski had no follow up questions.

Instead, Barnicle helpfully turned to the topic of moving troops early out of Afghanistan and into preparation for war in Iraq. Cheney dishonestly suggested that no troops were moved to Iraq until a year and a half later. Then Cheney claims the Iraqis are the ones who did all the damage in Iraq. And on that note, Scarborough insists on chattering about Cheney’s marriage, while Brzezinski insists on hearing about Cheney’s sedated dreams of Italian villas.

Cheney admitted in this interview that his vice presidential role was unique. But that’s not actually an argument for buying his book. It’s an argument for amending our Constitution to include a ban on vice presidents exercising executive, as opposed to legislative, power.

The trouble is that there’s little point in amending our laws until we start enforcing them. Dick Cheney is a human advertisement for the absence of the rule of law in the United States. Wilkerson thinks Cheney is bluffing because he is scared of being prosecuted. I think Cheney knows that could only happen abroad. He is safe here because the Justice Department answers to Obama, and Obama is protecting Cheney because Obama is continuing similar crimes and abuses.

If Obama were to allow Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce our laws against Dick Cheney, Obama might very well save his own electoral prospects. But he would put himself at risk of future prosecution. The question of whether we will have the rule of law becomes the question of whether Obama wants to trade four years of power for decades in prison. That’s not how it is supposed to work.