U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke for a half hour or so at the annual Saban Forum, held this past weekend in Washington D.C. New Yorker editor David Remnick, who attended the forum, cuts to the chase:
Hillary Clinton is running for President.
Remnick says a lot more than just that in a piece he had posted Sunday at the New Yorker web site. He is not pleased with what he saw at the forum:
Hillary Clinton is running for President. And the Israeli political class is a full-blown train wreck. These are two conclusions, for whatever they are worth, based on a three-day conference I attended this weekend at the annual Saban Forum, in Washington, D.C.
Remnick was clearly upset by what he saw. He’s a very good writer when inspired or angered. Here is his description of a laudatory film on HRC, presented to forum attendees:
Hillary Clinton was the main speaker. In a packed ballroom of the Willard Hotel, she was greeted with a standing ovation and then a short, adoring film, a video Festschrift testifying to her years as First Lady, senator, and, above all, secretary of state. The film, an expensive-looking production, went to the trouble of collecting interviews with Israeli politicians—Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni—and American colleagues, like John Kerry. Tony Blair, striking the moony futuristic note that was general in the hall, said, “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.”
The film was like an international endorsement four years in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. The tone was so reverential that it resembled the sort of film that the Central Committee of the Communist Party might have produced for Leonid Brezhnev’s retirement party if Leonid Brezhnev would only have retired and the Soviets had been in possession of advanced video technology. After it was over there was a separate video from the President. Looking straight into the camera, Obama kvelled at length: “You’ve been at my side at some of the most important moments of my Administration.” [emphases added]
Remnick was a bit disturbed by the closeness of National Public Radio‘s Robert Siegel to Israeli Foreign Minister and avowed ethnic cleanser-racist, Avigdor Lieberman:
[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu was not at the Saban Forum, but his notorious foreign minister and hard-right-wing coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman was. Lieberman, who has a history of making vicious remarks about Israeli Arabs and a range of other subjects, is rarely made available for interviews with the foreign press; the chance of embarrassment and international incident is too high. But here he was, in D.C., as Clinton’s pre-dinner opening act. Lieberman, who was born in the U.S.S.R. and lives on a settlement, was interviewed onstage by NPR’s Robert Siegel.
“Everyone wanted me to be politically correct,” Lieberman said as he settled into a chair onstage. “I’ll do my best.”
And so he did. Lieberman avoided any language that would fly into the headlines as racist or xenophobic. A keen and intelligent interviewer, Siegel seemed uncharacteristically reluctant to press Lieberman very hard or bring up Lieberman’s history of indelicacies where Arabs are concerned. [emphases added]
She faults the Arab spring and praises rightwing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
She blames the Iranians for a skein of terror and “hegemonic” ambitions.
She blames Palestinians for the Gaza conflict.
…. her only references to settlements, [are] all praising Netanyahu and damning the Palestinians.
The usual demographic chatter, supporting Israeli discrimination against Palestinians:
“And without peace, the inexorable math of demographics will, one day, force Israelis to choose between preserving their democracy and remaining a Jewish homeland.”
Not once but twice:
“if you look at demography, you see the population shifts and the problems that that will cause for Israel.”
More from Weiss:
She speaks about Israeli settlements as if they are part of Israel:
“[I] walked along the fence near Gilo.”
She never uses the words occupy or occupation except in a favorable context:
“It gives Israel a moral high ground that I want Israel to occupy. That’s what I want Israel to occupy, the moral high ground.”
I commented at the Mondoweiss article, responding on whether HRC is running or not:
“Clinton won’t have much of a chance in 2016. She’s too old”
— Driving into town to go to a concert Saturday, the four of us talked about Clinton’s 2016 chances. That’s pretty much what I said too. I added that people are getting tired of the Clintons, even though Bill’s 2012 Democratic Party Convention speech showed he’s still got a spark or three of demonic life left.
The questions went on to “who will be the most likely 2016 Democratic Party prez contenders, then?” I suggested Rahm Emanuel, as he’s got the best operating money machine, even better than that of the Clintons.
The flag, morphing the American and Israeli flags into one banner, creeps me out. How about you?
According to three senior diplomats from various EU countries, Britain and France were coordinating their moves against Israel, which they will reportedly implement over the next few days, and have discussed the extraordinary step of recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv for consultations. This step has never been taken before by these countries toward Israel. It would be so extreme that Britain and France may not take such action at this point but, rather, could invoke it in the case of further escalation of Israeli actions against the Palestinians. A final decision in the matter will be made today by the British and the French foreign ministers. [emphasis added]
Egypt’s president on Thursday issued constitutional amendments that placed him above judicial oversight and ordered the retrial of Hosni Mubarak for the killing of protesters in last year’s uprising.
Mohammed Morsi also decreed immunity for the Islamist-dominated panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it, a threat that had been hanging over the controversial assembly.
Morsi took this and other actions within hours after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here’s a link to the text of PM Morsi’s declaration.
Nobody is yet making a connection between his meetings with HRC and this move, but one might ponder this from 2009:
We look forward to President Mubarak coming as soon as his schedule would permit. I had a wonderful time with him this morning. I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.
Clinton’s main job in the Middle East, after satisfying Netanyahu and his ilk, is finding the best dictators our money or threats can purchase. She may have found one this week.
Morsi today usurped all state powers & appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that cld have dire consequences
In Gaza, Israeli forces appear to have seriously violated the ceasefire agreement. The issue of changes in what constitutes the free fire zone along the Gaza-Israel border was widely reported to be in play in the Hamas-Israel negotiations mid-week. Mixed signals went out to Gazans. After the ceasefire, many Gazans approached the fence:
The old rule was that if you walked within 300 meters of the prison fence, you got killed. It was a really stupid, cruel rule, that has led to a lot of killing of innocent Gazan inmates, many of them kids.
A lot of people came to believe the old rule was gone, until:
One adult has been killed and 10 teenagers wounded as Israeli soldiers, stationed at the border line between Khan Younis and Israel, opened fire at them, medical sources say.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the teenagers entered the disputed area of the “buffer zone”, which is 300m along all the Gaza-Israel borders.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reporting from Gaza City said they had received reports that a number of farmers entered Khan Younis in the buffer zone, which ordinarily is a no go zone, to check on their crops.
She said they may have had confused information about that buffer zone as there has been lots of information about the easing of travel restrictions.
Medics said Anwar Qdeih, 23, was hit in the head by Israeli gunfire after he approached the security fence that runs along the Gaza frontier — an area that Israel has long declared a no-go zone for Gazans.
A relative of the dead man, who was at the scene, told Reuters that Qdeih had been trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence. He added that an Israeli soldier had fired into the air three times before Qdeih was hit in the head by a bullet.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “We will contact the Egyptian mediator to discuss the incident.”
Abu Zuhri’s statement is reassuring, and may indicate Hamas truly wants this cease fire to hold.
This is a rapidly developing Black Friday story, and I may update it after I get some sleep.
One of the iconic films about how crazy our world can get, especially when thinking about nuclear weapons, is Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. It was startling when it came out, and is just as scary every time I watch it again.
Part of what makes the movie as much horror as comedy can be glimpsed in this exchange between President Muffley Murkin and Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski:
“But this is absolute madness, ambassador. Why should you build such a thing?”
“There are those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. And at the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we’d been spending on defense in a single year. But the deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.”
“This is preposterous. I’ve never approved of anything like that.”
“Our source was the New York Times.”
“Dr. Strangelove, do we have anything like that in the works?”
Strange as that scene still seems, it is no less strange than a statement made last week by our real Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton:
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday urged Iran to back up its declaration that Islam bars weapons of mass destruction by agreeing to a plan that would prove it does not intend to develop nuclear arms.
To demonstrate just how ludicrous this line of thinking is, imagine if a police officer knocked on your door, and informed you that all their evidence suggested you were an honest and law-abiding citizen, but that he would arrest you anyways, unless you could provide proof to him that you had no “intentions” of committing a crime.
The similarities between arguments for going to war against Iran and the justification given in Dr. Strangelove by USAF Gen. Jack D. Ripper are more than skin deep:
I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion and the international communist conspiracy, to sap and im-purify all our precious bodily fluids.
Substitute “Iranian” for “communist” and you’re entering into the zone being created here. In Dr. Strangelove, Gen. Ripper’s fantasies are clearly shown to be delusional. But last week, National Public Radio came up with an equally delusional report on current Iranian intentions and capabilities. Here’s Glenn Greenwald’s take on it:
This morning, [NPR national security reporter Dina] Temple-Raston began her report by noting — without a molecule of skepticism or challenge — that Iran is accused (by the U.S. government, of course) of trying to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil (a plot traced to “the top ranks of the Iranian government”); there was no mention of the fact that this alleged plot was so ludicrous that it triggered intense mockery in most circles. She then informed us that Iran is also likely responsible for three recent, separate attacks on Israeli officials. These incidents, she and her extremely homogeneous group of experts from official Washington explained, are “red flags” about Iran’s intent to commit Terrorism — red flags consistent, she says, with Iran’s history of state-sponsored Terrorism involving assassinations of opposition leaders in Europe during the 1980s and the 1996 truck bombing of an American military dormitory in Saudi Arabia (note how attacks on purely military targets are “Terrorism” when Iran does it, as are the assassinations of its own citizens on foreign soil who are working for the overthrow of its government; but if you hold your breath waiting for NPR to label as Terrorism the U.S. assassination of its own citizens on foreign soil, or American and Israeli attacks on military targets, you are likely to expire quite quickly). All of this, Temple-Raston announces, shows that Iran is “back on the offensive.”
Iran is on “the offensive.” There is no mention in this NPR story — literally none whatsoever — of the string of serious attacks on Iran, from multiple explosions on their soil to the training and arming of a designated Terror group devoted to its government’s overthrow to the bombardment of its nuclear facilities with sophisticated cyber attacks to the multiple murders of its civilian nuclear scientists. These attacks on Iran — widely reported to be the work of some combination of the U.S. and Israel — literally do not exist in the world that NPR presented. Iran is simply sponsoring and launching “Terror attacks” out of the blue against the U.S. and Israel: presumably because they’re Evil Terrorists. Meanwhile, we learn from Temple-Raston that “what worked so well dismantling Al Qaeda” — like drone attacks [it 'worked so well' doing things like this] – won’t work on this kind of Terrorism.” Fortunately, though, the U.S. has vast powers of eavesdropping and banking surveillance that it can and must use against this “old adversary”: Iran. Imagine Bill Kristol delivering this “report” on Iran and try to identify how it would have been any different.
Strangely absent from top-line films these days are movies that shred apart our false and highly dangerous pretensions that have been laid bare to the rest of the world since the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. The fictions feeding our drive to an insane war against Iran are worthy of a film as scathingly scary yet outrageously funny as Kubrick’s.
Maybe it is impossible to get a film about this made, as the role of Israel and their extremely strangelovian Prime Minister would be integral to the plot line.
What are your ideas on a basic screenplay and characters for this long-past-due dark comedy into the underbelly of our out-of-control war machine?
And – who would play Hillary Clinton? At TheCallUp‘s diary on Clinton’s strangelovian statement, when I asked that question, AlternateID suggested “Danny DeVito.”
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — An Israeli company is recruiting mercenaries to support Moammar Gadhafi’s efforts to suppress an uprising against his regime, an Israeli news site said Tuesday.
Citing Egyptian sources, the Hebrew-language news site Inyan Merkazi said the company was run by retired Israeli army commanders.
The report claims that many high-profile former Israeli officers have been illegally trading weapons in several African nations, and have faced interrogations over their activities in the past.
The news site said the head of the company recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli intelligence chief Aviv Cokhavi. It added that the officials all approved the company’s recruitment of mercenaries to help Gadhafi.
The leader’s brutal crackdown has killed at least 1,000 Libyans so far, human rights groups say.
According to the report, Israeli officials approved the recruitment out of fears that if toppled, Gadhafi would be replaced by an “extremist Islamic regime.”
During Gadhafi’s four-decade rule of the north African state, he has been one of Israel’s most vocal critics.
Company representatives recently flew to Chad to discuss the matter with a high-ranking Libyan intelligence officer Abduallah Sanusi, the report said. During the meeting, Sanusi agreed to pay the company to recruit up to 50,000 mercenaries from African countries, according to the news site.
So, as we contemplate sending in U.S. forces to battle these mercenaries provided – in part – by “our greatest ally in the Middle East” – will the U.S. media just let it happen and bury the fact that Americans are being killed by people hired by Israelis?
Don’t hold your breath.
Update – Friday 3:00 pm PST:
1. Gordon Duff has taken up this subject at Veterans Today. Duff has a mixed reputation on the web, but sometimes his articles are fully informed, and on some intelligence-related matters, valuable.
In his long, rambling article on the Israeli role in the mercenary hire, which he does not appear to question, Duff describes a long-term covert relationship between Libya and Israel. Here’s his description of what is going on now:
Though Israeli advisors and intelligence personnel have been on the ground in Tripoli for some time, there are questions as to whether the Gaddafi’s regime can hold on until substantial aid arrives, particularly in light of increasing pressure for a US strike, widely called for, bringing Gaddafi’s rule to an abrupt end. Sources in the region tell us:
“Israeli military advisors have been “in place” since the first and Mossad teams who have long used Libya as a base of operations in Africa are working to “decapitate” rebel leadership.”
2. There have been no credible followups to Thursday’s reporting on the subject of an Israeli relationship to mercenary hiring for Libya. I posed the following questions as a comment to marsdragon’s post on this same set of subjects:
1. Does Gadhafi use middle men to bring in mercenaries?
2. Has he done this in the past, and is he using such companies now?
3. What are the firms used by him, if it is the case that he has employed them?
4. Stolen or forged passports have been confiscated from captured or intercepted mercenaries. How were these acquired? Are they being listed somewhere?
5. How are the mercenaries from Chad or other Saharan border countries getting in?
6. Where are their points of departure?
7. Whose aircraft are being used?
8. Where are the aircraft landing in Libya or adjacent to Libya?
9. Is Gadhafi using private contractors from any Western nations or Israel to shore up his regime?
The government of Ecuador seems to be offering Julian Assange a new refuge:
Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said in audio posted online by the EcuadorInmediato news site that “we are open to giving him residence in Ecuador, without any kind of trouble and without any kind of conditions.”
“We think it would be important not only to converse with him but to listen to him,” Lucas added, saying Ecuador wanted to invite Assange to “freely expound” and see what it’s like in “friendly countries.”
He praised people like Assange “who are constantly investigating and trying to get light out of the dark corners of (state) information”
Lucas said Ecuador’s government was “very concerned” by revelations that U.S. diplomats have been involved in spying in the first of the more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and directives that WikiLeaks has begun to release.
WikLeaks says it has 1,621 cables that originated in the U.S. Embassy in Quito. Their contents have not yet been disclosed.
~~Ed. note: Excerpt abbreviated for copyright compliance. Balance of article may be read at link provided above.~~
One of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s first acts upon taking office in 2007 was to investigate the financial relationships his predecessors had made with outside financial institutions. The result:
Not exactly firebrand leftist stuff. More like commonsense negotiations bearing fruit. However, Correa’s alignment with the South American New Left and hostility toward the American drug war paradigm on his home soil have both alienated his government from the government now seeming to being getting ready to kill or capture Assange. Ours.
The U.S. and northern European press are mostly concentrating on Wikileaks details this week that delve into the Iran nuclear situation. The South American press, however, is homing in on information about such things as Hillary Clinton’s fixation with details of the lives of that continent’s leaders:
Seeking a frank evaluation of Argentina’s president, the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires late last year to delve into her psyche.
“How is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner managing her nerves and anxiety?” asked a cable dated Dec. 31, 2009, and signed “CLINTON” in all capital letters.
The cable, sent at 2:55 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and originating in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, asked a series of other questions as part of what it said was an attempt by Clinton’s office to understand “leadership dynamics” between Kirchner and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.
“How does stress affect her behavior toward advisors and/or her decision making?” the cable continued. “What steps does Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner or her advisers/handlers, take in helping her deal with stress? Is she taking any medications?”
South America, far more than Europe, is the natural home for Assange to carefully cultivate and grow the Wikileaks machine. Especially if Assange’s releases begin to attack the international financial machines that have so crippled Latin America and much of the rest of the developing world.
Good luck safely getting there, Julian. The local Wasilla rumor is that Palin is preparing to film a new chapter of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, in which she, John Yoo and Dick Cheney journey from Alaska, to go hunting for Assange in the back alleys of Stockholm.
Just keep Cheney constantly in your field of vision, Sarah.
When I first started blogging, and Sarah Palin, who was about to begin her second year as Alaska’s governor,would come up, I tried to be careful to edit out my biases that might be read or seen as sexist. When writing critically, my pre-2008 presidential campaign articles concentrated on environmental issues in state policy.
After her selection as John McCain’s running mate, one of the first national reporters with whom I was able to discuss sexist treatment of Palin was Michelle Goldberg. She told me of her surprise at how well Alaskans seemed to be dealing with such an Alpha female. Since her Alaska visit in 2008, Goldberg has continued to cover this issue well. Here is a somewhat prophetic snip from Goldberg’s July 2009 Daily Beastresignation coverage of Palin:
Yet some of her most ardent backers have a different explanation: She’s gearing up to run for president in 2012. As Bill Kristol, a man who’s had an enormous role in creating her national profile, wrote, “If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It’s an enormous gamble—but it could be a shrewd one.” He continued, “[H]aven’t conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she’ll try to be that.” And there were parts of her speech suggesting she’s getting ready for a new challenge: “It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow. We’re fisherman. We know only dead fish go with the flow… There is such a need to build up, and fight for our state and our country.”
On the face of it, it seems preposterous that Palin might think she could maintain any political credibility at all after walking away from her job simply because she has her eye on bigger things. But Palin has long had an almost dementedly inflated sense of her own destiny. In one of the most quoted passages of Todd Purdham’s eviscerating Vanity Fair profile of Palin, he writes that, in traveling through Alaska, several people told him that, in trying to understand their governor, “they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Said disorder, Purdum points out, is marked by “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”
~~ Ed. note: Excerpt edited for copyright compliance; see original source at link provided above. ~~
Goldberg goes on to illustrate the way Palin seems to lie, even when a normal person would realize you’re gonna get caught:
Palin’s public statements have been full of petty, easily refutable mendacity, delivered with the vehemence of a compulsive liar. Purdum’s piece reveals one tiny but telling incident, in which Palin told McCain aides that she and her husband had been without insurance of any kind in the early years of their marriage. “Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along,” Purdum writes. “This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small.”
Those questions persist. Palin herself seems to beg them to be brought back up, every day. It is part of the celebrity cult’s baggage. As many have noted, Palin has brought the marriage of celebrity culture to political culture in a unique way. We’re 50-plus years beyond Ronald Reagan selling 20-Mule Team Borax soap on the Death Valley Days TV weekly.
Palin is everywhere, every day. I’ve long dreaded that some day more will have been written about Palin than about everything else in Alaska history. We may be arriving there soon.
Rebecca Mansour from SarahPAC, Palin’s most effective verbal response organizer, must be overwhelmed by the clashing images crossing her desk and screen every minute: The kids nastily tweeting and facebooking away, the DWTS vote fiasco, doing 180s on Korea at the same Rebecca has to teach Palin how few miles Seoul is from the DMZ. Tough job.
Palin’s people must be enduring fatigue, with the book tour, reality show series continuity (another 5 weeks), abstinence fairy dissonance and other stuff intruding on the product branding process and what not.
So is the rest of the country. Palin Fatigue might soon become serious. Every plank of Palin’s platform now seems to be packaged in episodes designed to be rolled out a couple of days apart. Relentlessly.
All this generates internet hits on the web. It makes some people money. That crosses over into print media profits too. Like nothing else out there. If they could somehow fix Sarah’s voice, the package would be an even bigger phenomena.
Living in Wasilla, I heard someone say, long, long ago, when asked about Palin’s popularity, “Maybe she’s too fun to watch to make up for the rest.”
I didn’t know what he meant. Was it physical attraction? Or was it her latent comedic value, her “farcissism.”
Here’s part of Friday’s coverage of this new word Palin has helped launch. Adele M. Stan’s article at AlternNet may have started it:
It seems, in fact, that Sarah Palin’s “new feminism” is nothing more than narcissism dressed up in feminist clothing. Call it farcissism. For when it comes to matters that affect her directly, Palin is all about feminism writ large. Despite her anti-government rhetoric, Palin on the campaign trail applauded Title IX, the federal mandate that barred federal funds from educational institutions that discriminated against women, even in their sports programs. This heralded a record expansion of girls’ and women’s athletic programs, of which Palin, a star basketball player known statewide as Sarah Barracuda, rightly availed herself. [bold added]
Stan goes on, regarding the uniqueness of Palin’s ambition:
I have seen Palin derided in sexist terms, and called on progressives to cut the crap when I see it coming from our own. But I wouldn’t count on Palin to step up for a liberal feminist — unless Palin found a way to make it about Palin herself.
“There is a narcissism in our leaders in Washington today,” Palin writes inAmerica By Heart (via the Huffington Post). “There’s a quasi-religious feeling to the message coming from them. They are trying to convince us that not only are they our saviors, but that we are our saviors… as candidate Obama proclaimed on Super Tuesday 2008, ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.’”
Yet it’s Palin who has a so-called reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” based around her own life in her home state. It’s hard to get more narcissistic than that. And it’s Palin who wants to reshape feminism in her own image — to hell with any woman who’s faced a different form of sexism than she has.
When calling narcissism or farcissism on Palin, I don’t use the terms lightly. Too many women of ambition are tagged as narcissists simply for behaving as ambitious men do. But if there were ever an example of someone living in a glass house, it’s one whose life is willingly scripted and served up on a flat screen, for the modest payment to Palin of $250,000 per episode.
I cringe when I see some of the things people say about her too, and have also called out progressives for being jackasses. But that doesn’t make her a heroine either, especially when she’s so incredibly disrespectful and arrogant to her fellow females in similar situations.
Palin’s walking a thin line here. In the past week, she has dissed Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush. Palin is sparring with HRC. The mama grizzly is roaring so loud and stridently, she’s probably going to wonder in about two weeks at how isolated she is beginning to feel among so many, more experienced, mama bears. Just when her voice turns hoarse from all the yelling.
At the end of the weekend, Palin will be in the Dallas-Houston area, for book signing, and other events for her favorite causes there. The mama griz is descending from her new winter lair in Arizona on Babs’ den.
Barbara Bush missed her calling, she has the comedic timing and the deadpan face of a professional comic. The former First Lady expertly set up her zinger:
I hope she`ll stay there. There are millions of us who agree with Barbara`s sentiments, but Hollywood has a stronger pull on Palin than Wasilla.
The former First Lady didn`t say.
I sat next to her once and I was impressed with her intelligence and grasp of the issues. A politician who can see Russia from her porch and is a steadfast supporter of our North Korean ally, isn`t going to dazzle anyone with her mental acumen.
Mrs. Bush was struck by Palin`s beauty, it`s unfortunate that the former governor of Alaska doesn`t realize that her looks are her greatest asset.
We’re reaching a point where the battle between the actual worth of Palin vs. the image we’re being bombarded with with reaches some sort of critical mass.
My hunch is that Palin’s people know she has to announce by the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan’s birth on February 6th. But they’ll milk this flighty ambiguity, until celebrity-driven suspense is trumped by the yet untried post-Citizens United presidential race gravity.
Nobody knows when that might be. Meanwhile, we’ll have to endure a period of “farcissism.”
I. Some of the best parts of Katherine Viner’s 2003 play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, have to do with how this vibrant 11-year-old spent the first half of the second half of her short life. In the play, the actress acts out a kid growing into adolescence and young adulthood. The scenes are based on diaries and correspondence Rachel’s parents shared with the playwright. Watching the monodrama, one can sense, through the diaries being declaimed, a powerful, rich, resonant feminist voice beginning to emerge.
The optimistic kid we see in the video above never lost that hope.
There’s always an abundance of hopeful kids. Not all of them are attractive young white Americans, though.
All around the world, whether it is in Darfur, East Timor, Juarez, Anchorage, Tehran or Hebron, some young optimistic kid in the 5th grade has an abundance of hope. There are scores of millions of hopeful kids like Rachel Corrie. Many will get eaten by the machine before they reach adulthood. 99 point something of these kids aren’t white, so we’ll probably never know whether or not the way the machine ate them was significant.
When Corrie was killed, seven years ago today, it was the eve of our Iraqi invasion and occupation. We’ll never know whether or not the war’s outbreak attenuated coverage of her death. It wasn’t covered, though.
The only extensive article on her death appeared in the September-October 2003 edition of Mother Jones magazine. The article’s author, Joshua Hammer, concluded:
Five days after her death, Rachel Corrie’s body was shipped home to Olympia. The [IDF] has since pulled out of the northern part of Gaza, but demolitions along the Pink Line continue. The inquiry promised by Ariel Sharon cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing, and momentum has faded for a U.S. congressional investigation. A skeleton staff at the ISM Rafah ofﬁce spends most of its time attempting to revitalize Corrie’s sister-city project. And Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else. [emphasis added]
He was wrong. Why?
Around the same time, other remarkable young American women had their lives swept up or away in the growing conflagration of multiple wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Exactly one week after Rachel Corrie was killed in Gaza, U.S. Army SPC Lori Piestewa was severely injured, when vehicles in her unit made a wrong turn and ended up being ambushed in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, a town the unit was supposed to bypass. According to another woman in Piestewa’s unit, Jessica Lynch, "Piestewa was wounded in the head, and it was impossible to perform delicate neurosurgery in an Iraqi civilian hospital in wartime conditions (such as intermittent electric power). In a U.S. military hospital with reliable power and neurosurgeons available around the clock, she might have survived.)."
Lynch was also seriously wounded, and Iraqi medical personnel managed to stabilize and save her, even as American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s fantasy machine began creating a labyrinth of myths about the incident. Shoshana Johnson, another member of the unit in which Piestewa and Lynch served, was also captured, and shown alive on Iraqi television.
Just over two years later, on April 16, 2005, American peace activist Marla Ruzicka, who was working in Iraq on a project that sought to reliably account for the number of civilian deaths caused by the deteriorating occupation war there, was killed by a roadside bomb on the Baghdad Airport road. Ruzicka, like Corrie, was assisting a non-governmental organization when she perished. Unlike Corrie, Ruzicka had been able to see some of her notable efforts come to fruition, both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rolling Stone noted, "Ruzicka is perhaps the most famous American aid worker to die in any conflict of the past ten or twenty years. Though a novice in life — she had less than four years of professional humanitarian experience — her death resonated far beyond the tightly knit group of war junkies and policymakers who knew her. She stands as a youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism, and darkly symbolic of what has gone so tragically wrong in Iraq."
A movie about Ruzicka, titled Sweet Relief, and starring Kirsten Dunst, has been in "development" by Paramount since before her death, but as yet, there is no movie. The current projected release year is 2011.
Though the powerful play about Rachel Corrie had difficulties getting a premiere performance in the United States, once the ice jam broke, there have been a number of productions, and perhaps hundreds of readings. In the past few months, My Name is Rachel Corrie has been produced in Spanish in Buenos Aires, in Greek in Athens, and in Arabic in Haifa.
The documentary, Rachel, by Simone Bitton, has caused controversy, most notably when it was shown as part of the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (Bitton is Israeli).
New productions of Viner’s play and showings of Bitton’s documentary often spark dialogue in the communities or at the larger events in which they are shown. From the beginning of Viner’s play’s runs, there have been requests or demands from segments of the local Jewish communities that the play or documentary be given "context." That has often meant discussion groups, lectures, distribution of written materials and debates. It has also often meant angry op-eds in the local papers and demonstrations outside of the productions. Media coverage of the play and the documentary has often centered as much on the demonstrations as it has on the play or movie.
And, like media coverage of the Tea Party, for instance, the image presented from the news isn’t always accurate. A good example of that might be BBC coverage of the London premiere of my own art about Rachel Corrie, the cantata The Skies are Weeping, in November, 2005. On the evening of the performance, outside of the Hackney Empire Theatre, where the work was presented, there were three demonstrations about the performance. There were rows of signs, with images of The Forgotten Rachels, and scores of demonstrators with graphic signs. All three of the protesting groups were Jewish, the BBC TV report announced. What they failed to disclose though, was that two of the demonstrating groups were protesting in favor of the performance. Eventually, BBC apologized to the concert organizers (another Jewish group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians) for their inaccurate coverage.
II. In the seven years since Rachel Corrie’s death, some of the causes in which she believed have been transformed. Some of the transformations have been positive. Others have been awful.
She died defending the house of a family she had come to know. It was one of many hundreds of houses the Israelis were demolishing in Rafah. Eventually, the IDF destroyed Samir Nasralla’s house. But the house has since been rebuilt, and Israeli military operations in Rafah are now limited to totally outrageous invasions, rather than day-to-day casual destruction of a city of 71,000.
Since Rachel Corrie perished, the Israel Defense Forces have killed almost 2,000 Lebanese civilians, almost 1,500 Palestinians in Gaza, and many Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories of the West Bank. They have gratuitously caused the largest oil spill in the history of the Mediterranean, and immense destruction of antiquities and archeological sites in Lebanon.
Gaza’s infrastructure is in ruins and the 1.5 million civilians there have been compared to the Soviet citizens of Leningrad during that city’s besiegement in World War II, to people in a vast, open-air prison, and to the Na’vi, in the movie Avatar.
Israeli encroachments on Palestinian land in the West Bank relentlessly continue. Destruction of archeological sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem happen on a weekly basis.
So why is this "transformed"? This level of destruction of Lebanon by the IDF isn’t as horrific as was that during the earlier war against that country, but it is more of the same. And the Israelis have been slowly stealing and appropriating Palestinian lands on the West Bank for almost 43 years.
The transformation has been apparent mostly since the 2009 Gaza War. As the title of Norman Finkelstein’s new book, This Time We Went Too Far – Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, implies, many people in Europe and North America who had previously supported IDF incursions, invasions, occupations and so on, reached their limit in early 2009, as they witnessed what is very difficult not to characterize as an atrocious war crime.
An earlier watershed was the August 2007 publication of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, written by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt. The book’s almost encyclopedic coverage of how this lobby often inhibits two of the three branches of American government from crafting policies that suit our own long-term interests rather than those of Israel, has had a profound impact. Particularly, the book’s conclusion "that when the Lobby succeeds in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East, then "Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying," is again and again resonating in sometimes startling ways.
The most recent example has been the leaked powerpoint presentation given on January 16 by CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Petraeus, and the context that presentation’s announcement has had this past few days. Petraeus, echoing Mearsheimer and Walt, proposed moving jurisdiction over Israel and Palestine to CENTCOM (the Central Command, which oversees our ongoing wars) from EUCOM (European Command). The argument’s central point has been distilled in an article for Foreign Policy, by Mark Perry:
David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
III. This past week, we’ve had the purposefully stunning public humiliation of the Vice President of the United States by the Israeli Prime Minister, a detailed and harsh response to that humiliation from our Secretary of State, increasingly successful boycotts of Israeli products created on lands in the West Bank stolen from Palestinians, the opening of the Rachel Corrie civil suit in Haifa, and the possibility of the reopening of investigations into the severe injury of American Tristan Anderson by IDF forces in the West Bank.
These mostly unconnected events are not being greeted in a vacuum. Typically, as Mearsheimer and Walt documented so thoroughly in their book, and was amply shown by the pushback against its publication and dissemination – Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, the supporters of Corrie’s trial, the supporters of Tristan Andeson’s vindication, and the hundreds of people writing about these items of interest, have all been branded as anti-Semites, in articles, press releases, statements and blog posts. Polemicist John Podhoretz is calling for American Jews to abandon the anti-Semitic Democratic Party.
Writer-blogger Philip Weiss may have best summed up the sea change we’re currently undergoing in an article yesterday at Mondoweiss:
When both Joe Biden and General David Petraeus are reported to say that the special relationship is endangering American soldiers, they are only saying what Walt and Mearsheimer said in their historic paper four years ago, and what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, described as the blinding flash of the obvious. But remember, Walt and Mearsheimer could not publish their paper in the United States, and when their book came out, the joke was that a lot of people in D.C. were reading it in brown paper covers, lest they be called anti-Semites.
You could not say that Israel was hurting our interests because Abrams, Libby, Wurmser, Feith, Frum, and Wolfowitz were helping guide the ship of state through the seas of Islamophobia. And intellectuals were just as afraid of the policers of official understanding, of Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Goldberg, Larry Summers, Richard Haass, and David Remnick and Bob Silvers too–Silvers who has never run a review of The Israel Lobby.
Now that atmosphere is changing, even in power circles. Of course, the best reflection of the change is Andrew Sullivan’s remarkable shift. Sullivan was not deterred by Leon Wieseltier’s calling him an anti-Semite, because he knows, the issue is just too important to world peace not to keep talking.
I don’t think you can say enough about Gaza, Goldstone, and the grassroots. Gaza vindicated those of us on the left who said that Israel was treating Palestinians like animals; and instead of understanding the moment and engaging the critics honestly, Israel hunkered down and smeared the critics, thereby discrediting itself in Europe and among young American peace types. I can point to many important moments over the last year: we have the crazy video from Judaized East Jerusalem to thank, the young bloggers of the Gaza war, the suppressed Max Blumenthal video from Jerusalem, and the silent demonstration outside the Waldorf last week with its swarming pro-Israel loonies.
IV. Back in 2003, 2004 and 2005, when tributes to Rachel Corrie were being suppressed, canceled or "postponed," courageous supporters of her idealism kept pushing, even in the face of threats, personal attacks and shunning from within their professional communities. Even as one Joshua Hammer after another wrote that she" ha[d] faded into obscurity," the relentless progress of projects seeking to portray her idealism for what it truly was and is, went on. And still goes on.
The comparisons between what Corrie sought to achieve, people drawn toward her story have hoped to show, and what policy makers on high levels are now attempting to bring to public attention all fall back onto what General Petraeus’ January briefing illustrated: That lack of peace and justice toward the Palestinian people by the Israeli government and armed forces hurts America and our fighting forces in serious ways, and the simplest remedy might be to seriously consider advancing peace and justice for those very people.
Even though the civil trial over the circumstances of Rachel Corrie’s death is getting scant coverage in the American media, the ideas she stood for, and for which her parents have been such powerful advocates are now unavoidably coming through in many arenas simultaneously.
Next week, the 2010 AIPAC Conference will occur. Most likely, the keynote address speaker, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will once again repeat the mantras about "our closest ally, the only democracy in the Middle East, whose interests and ours are irrevokably linked," etc. But there will probably be an edge to her remarks that, though invisible to some, will show to people aware of this sea change, where the Obama administration might take this evolving relationship next.
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