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Israeli right cuts Biden's legs away
#21
It might be unwise of dear Bibi to declare victory over Obama when it's not even half-time yet.
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#22
I've been thinking abut this situation (and yep, I do have a headache!). Th question which keeps coming up in my mid is why the public fisticuffs? These matters are usually handled privately, rather than both parties stepping into the ring. Especially when they are supposed to be allies and friends.

And so I cogitated, ruminated, meditated and took aspirins.

And then a flash of intuition like Eureka!, but more modest.

Might it be that this squalid public cuffing that was initiated by Israel be in revenge for something the US has done to offend them? Could it be that it was US intelligence that has put together the "picture" that the Dubai police then used to publicize Israel's assassination of a top Hamas official less than a month before Biden got his welcoming box of chocolates stamped upon?

Is it possible that the US were engaged in brokering a secret peace negotiation between Hamas and Israel to make middle east peace process a success, and that Israel decided to assassinate a top Hamas official to sabotage that, resulting in the US providing the excellent intelligence analysis to the Dubai police to dress Israel down?

Or something like this?

Or nothing like it?

Oh dear, the headache is back...
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
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#23
David Guyatt Wrote:And then a flash of intuition like Eureka!, but more modest.

Might it be that this squalid public cuffing that was initiated by Israel be in revenge for something the US has done to offend them? Could it be that it was US intelligence that has put together the "picture" that the Dubai police then used to publicize Israel's assassination of a top Hamas official less than a month before Biden got his welcoming box of chocolates stamped upon?

Is it possible that the US were engaged in brokering a secret peace negotiation between Hamas and Israel to make middle east peace process a success, and that Israel decided to assassinate a top Hamas official to sabotage that, resulting in the US providing the excellent intelligence analysis to the Dubai police to dress Israel down?

Or something like this?

Or nothing like it?

Oh dear, the headache is back...

:help: :heeeelllllooooo:

My, David, that is an inspired piece of deduction.

I reckon you've been puffing on that opium pipe with Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America, your face morphing with his through the gauze into a grimace of truth too difficult to bear.


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"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#24
I'm not buying the cover story at face value either. It looks like that bit of theatrics in Red October where the captain apparently scuttles the Soviet sub with the Soviet crew looking on from the deck of the US sub, cheering the captain's great deed for the Motherland.

And just in case someone lost track of the score, Ray McGovern the intelligence estimator to the stars published the score card just before Biden's visit. McGovern notes Bibi doesn't take Obama seriously and likes to kick sand in his face etc etc.

Hits in Dubai, spy flights over Hungary, tens of thousands of "bunker buster" bobmbs sent to Diego Garcia for the Israelis to request in order to hit Iran...

The whole thing looks staged in order to convince China and Russia that we really really really are getting ready to wage real honest true genuine war on Iran, honest injun! Aren't you scared Russia and China? See how nuts we really are, we're likely to really do it, you can't discount it at this point.

Nothing is off the table, except of course the possibility of telling Israel in any way that the loans, grants, credit and foreign aid might be restricted in response to violations of international law in Jerusalem.

Stay tuned next for the staged hurling of veiled public private gossip diplomatic secret insinuations between Washington and JerUSAlem over state sponshorship of September 11, 2001.

(Also, as a thought-game, what if the Dubai hit were not what it seemed, an assassination intended to point at Mossad by the US using Abbas al Fatah Palestinians for coordination? Do Israeli responses fit that bill?)
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#25
Helen's post above contains much astute observation.

Here is a recent Ray McGovern piece on Netanyahu, Obama and Iran.

Quote:Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran
By Ray McGovern
March 6, 2010


Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came home with sweaty palms from his mid-February visit to Israel. Ever since, he has been worrying aloud that Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran.


This is especially worrying, because Mullen has had considerable experience in putting the brakes on such Israeli plans in the past. This time, he appears convinced that the Israeli leaders did not take his earlier warnings seriously — notwithstanding the unusually strong language he put into play.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem on Feb. 14, Mullen wasted no time in making clear why he had come. He insisted publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

After his return, at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22, Mullen drove home the same point — with some of the same language. After reciting the usual boilerplate about Iran being “on the path to achieve nuclear weaponization” and about its “desire to dominate its neighbors,” he included this in his prepared remarks:

“I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action. For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

In answer to a question about the “efficacy” of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear program, Mullen said such strikes “would delay it for one to three years.” Underscoring the point, he added that this is what he meant “about a military strike not being decisive.”

Unlike younger generals, such as David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, Adm. Mullen served in the Vietnam War. It seems likely that this experience prompted his philosophical aside about the war in Afghanistan:

“I would remind everyone of an essential truth: War is bloody and uneven. It’s messy and ugly and incredibly wasteful, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the cost.”

Though the immediate context for that remark was Afghanistan, Mullen has underscored time and again that war with Iran would be a far larger disaster. Those with a modicum of familiarity with the military, strategic and economic equities at stake know he is right.

Firing ‘Fox’

Recall that one of Mullen’s Vietnam veteran contemporaries, Adm. William “Fox” Fallon was cashiered as CENTCOM commander in March 2008 for saying things like war with Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch.”

Fallon openly encouraged negotiations with Iran as the only sensible approach, and harshly criticized the “constant drum beat” for war.

Fallon’s attitude appears to be shared by the more politically cautious – and less rhetorically blunt – Mullen, as the same war-with-Iran drumbeat reaches a new crescendo today.

Fallon abhorred the thought of being on the receiving end of an order inspired by the likes of then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams to send American troops into what would surely be – in Mullen’s words – a “bloody, uneven, messy, ugly and incredibly wasteful” war.

How strong the pressure was within the Bush administration to attack Iran – or to give Israel “a green light” to attack Iran – can be read between the lines in a Feb. 14 exchange between ABC News’ “This Week” host Jonathan Karl and former Vice President Cheney.

Karl: “How close did the Bush administration come to taking military action against Iran?”

Cheney: “Some of that I can't talk about, obviously, still. I'm sure it's still classified. We clearly never made the decision – we never crossed over that line of saying, ‘Now we're going to mount a military operation to deal with the problem.’ …"

Karl: “David Sanger of the New York Times says that the Israelis came to you – came to the administration in the final months and asked for certain things, bunker-buster bombs, air-to-air refueling capability, over-flight rights, and that basically the administration dithered, did not give the Israelis a response. Was that a mistake?”

Cheney: “I can't get into it still. I'm sure a lot of those discussions are still very sensitive.”

Karl: “Let me ask you: Did you advocate a harder line, including in the military area, in those final months?”

Cheney: “Usually.”

Karl: “And with respect to Iran?”

Cheney: “Well, I made public statements to the effect that I felt very strongly that we had to have the military option, that it had to be on the table, that it had to be a meaningful option, and that we might well have to resort to military force in order to deal with the threat that Iran represented. … [But] we never got to the point where the President had to make a decision one way or the other.”

Renewed Pressures

Clearly, those pressures have not disappeared during the first 13 months of the Obama administration. Today, it appears that Mullen has replaced Fallon as the principal military obstacle to exercising the war option against Iran.

From his recent demeanor, as well as his many statements since he became the country’s most senior officer, it is apparent that Mullen does not believe that a “preventive war” against Iran would be worth the horrendous cost.

Washington rhetoric, echoed by the many stenographers of the Fawning Corporate Media over the past eight years, has brought a veneer of respectability to the international crime of aggressive war, as long as done or sanctioned by the United States.

With nodding approval from the FCM, Bush and Cheney sold the notion that such attacks can be justified to “prevent” some future hypothetical threat to the United States or its allies, the supposed rationale for invading Iraq in 2003.

Clearly, the Obama administration has not fully backed away from such thinking.

While in Qatar on Feb. 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern over what she called “accumulating evidence” of an Iranian attempt to pursue a nuclear weapon, not because it “directly threaten[s] the United States, but [because] it directly threatens a lot of our friends” — read Israel.

Mullen, for his part, seems acutely aware that the Constitution he has sworn to defend makes no provision for the kind of war he might be sucked into to defend Israel. When he studied at the Naval Academy, his professors apparently were still teaching that the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that treaties ratified by the Senate become the “supreme law of the land.”

It would be, pure and simple, a flagrant violation of a supreme law of the land, the Senate-ratified United Nations Charter, for the United States to join in an unprovoked assault on Iran without the approval of the U.N. Security Council, which surely would not go along.

Adm. Mullen also appears to be one of the few Americans aware that there is no mutual defense treaty between the United States and Israel and, thus, the U.S. has no legal obligation to jump to Israel’s defense if it ignites war with Iran.

Now you may scoff. “Everyone knows,” you will say, that political realities in America dictate that the U.S. military must defend Israel no matter who started a conflict.

Still, there was a time – after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war when Israel first occupied the Palestinian territories – that the U.S. did take soundings regarding the possibility of a mutual defense treaty, in the expectation that this might introduce more calm into the area by giving the Israelis a greater sense of security.

But the Israelis turned the overture down cold. Such treaties, you see, require internationally recognized boundaries and Israel did not want any part of parting with the territories it had just seized militarily.

Besides, mutual defense treaties usually impose on both parties an obligation to inform the other if one decides to attack a third country. Israel wanted no part of that either.

This virtually unknown background helps to explain why the lack of a treaty of mutual defense is more than a picayune academic point.

Why Is Mullen Worried?

Yet, if Adm. Mullen is an old hand at reining in the Israelis, why is he so visibly worried at present? He’s had experience in reading the riot act to the Israelis. So what could be so different now?

Last time, in mid-2008, Cheney and Abrams were arguing for an aggressive military posture toward Iran but lost the argument to Mullen and his senior commanders, who – in the final days of the Bush administration – won the backing of President Bush.

When former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seemed intent on starting hostilities with Iran before Bush and Cheney left office, Bush ordered Adm. Mullen to Israel to tell the Israelis, in no uncertain terms, don’t do it. Mullen gladly rose to the occasion; actually, he outdid himself.

With Bush’s full support, Mullen told the Israelis to disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if Israel somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

We also learned from the Israeli press that Mullen went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident at sea like the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, which left 34 American crew killed and more than 170 wounded.

Never before had a senior U.S. official braced Israel so blatantly about the Liberty incident, which was covered up unconscionably by Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, the Congress, and by the Navy itself. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Navy Vet Honored, Foiled Israeli Attack.”]

The lesson the Israelis took away from the Liberty incident was that they could get away with murder, literally, and walk free because of political realities in the United States. Never again, said Mullen. He could not have raised a more neuralgic issue.

So, again, what’s different about today? How to account for Mullen’s decision to keep expressing his worries about “unintended consequences”?

I believe the admiral fears that things are about to spin out of control. Whether there will be war does not depend on Mullen — or even Obama. It depends on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And Mullen does well to be worried.

Netanyahu’s Impression of Obama

It is altogether likely that Netanyahu has concluded that Barack Obama is — in the vernacular — a wuss. Why, for example, does the President keep sending an endless procession of the most senior U.S. officials to Tel Aviv to plead with their Israeli counterparts: Please, pretty please, don’t start a war with Iran.

Loose-cannon Vice President Joe Biden arrives on Monday, hopefully with clearer instructions than when he blithely told ABC on July 4, 2009, that Israel is a “sovereign nation” and thus “entitled” to launch a military strike against Iran, adding that Washington would make no effort to dissuade the Israeli government.

Will Biden manage to keep his foot out of his mouth this time, or will his nearly four decades of experience in the U.S. Senate – learning how to position himself politically in regards to Israel – again reassert itself?

It is a safe bet that Netanyahu is wryly amused at such obsequious buffoonery. But his impression of Obama’s backbone – or lack thereof – is key.

The Israeli Prime Minister must be drawing some lessons from Obama’s aversion to leveraging the $3 billion a year the U.S. gives to Israel. Why doesn’t he simply pick up the phone and warn me himself, Netanyahu might be asking himself.

Is Obama so deathly afraid of the powerful Likud Lobby that he cannot bring himself to call me? Is the President afraid his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, might listen in and leak it to neoconservative pundits like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank?

Netanyahu has had ample time to size up the President. Their initial encounter in May 2009 reminded me very much of the disastrous meeting in Vienna between another young American president and Nikita Khrushchev in early June 1961.

The Soviets took the measure of President John Kennedy, and a result was the Cuban missile crisis which brought the world as close as it has ever come, before or since, to nuclear destruction.

The Israeli Prime Minister has found it possible to thumb his nose at Obama’s repeated pleas for a halt in illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories — without consequence. Moreover, Netanyahu has watched Obama cave in time after time — on domestic, as well as international issues.

Netanyahu styles himself as sitting in the catbird’s seat of the relationship, largely because of the Likud Lobby’s unparalleled influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers — not to mention the entrée the Israelis enjoy to the chief executive himself by having one of their staunchest allies, Rahm Emanuel, in position as White House chief of staff. In the intelligence business, we might call that an “agent of influence.”

Emanuel’s father, Benjamin Emanuel, was born in Jerusalem and served in the Irgun, the pre-independence Zionist guerrilla organization. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Rahm Emanuel, then in his early 30s, traveled to Israel as a civilian volunteer to work with the Israeli Defense Forces. He served in one of the IDF’s northern bases.

Mullen’s Worries

So, Netanyahu is supremely confident of the solidity of his position with the movers and shakers in Congress, Washington opinion makers, and even within the Obama administration, and he gives off signs of being singularly underwhelmed by the President.

These factors enhance the possibility Netanyahu will opt for the kind of provocation that would confront Obama with a Hobson’s choice of either joining an Israeli attack on Iran or facing dire political consequences at home.

And so Mullen continues to worry — not only about “unintended consequences,” but about what might be accurately described as intended consequences, as well. The most immediate of these could involve mouse-trapping Obama into committing U.S. forces to war provoked with Iran.

And for those fond of saying that “everything is on the table,” be advised that this would go in spades in this context.

Very little seems outlandish these days. Remember Seymour Hersh’s report about Cheney’s office conjuring up plots as to how best to trigger a war with Iran? Hersh said:

“The one that interested me [Hersh] the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy Seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up.”

In other words, another Tonkin Gulf incident, like the one that President Johnson used to justify a massive escalation in Vietnam.

Only a modern-day Gulf of Tonkin in the Strait of Hormuz could be even more problematic, given the waterway's vital role as a supply route for oil tankers necessary for maintaining the world’s economy.

The navigable part of the Strait of Hormuz is narrow, and things often go bump in the night without trying. For example:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – On the evening of Jan. 8, 2007, a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine collided with a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil supplies travel, officials said. The collision between the USS Newport News and the Japanese-flagged motor vessel Mogamigawa occurred at approximately 10:15 in the evening (local time) in the Strait of Hormuz while the submarine was transiting submerged.

AP, March 20, 2009: “The USS Hartford nuclear submarine and the amphibious USS New Orleans collided in the waters between Iran and the Arabian peninsula today. Fifteen sailors were slightly injured aboard the Hartford…the New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, spilling 25,000 gallons of diesel….The ships were on routine security patrols in a busy shipping route.”

Think back also to the bizarre accounts of the incident involving swarming Iranian boats and U.S. naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6, 2008.

Preventing Preventive War

The Persian Gulf would be an ideal locale for Israel to mount a provocation eliciting Iranian retaliation that could, in turn, lead to a full-scale Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear-related sites.

Painfully aware of that possible scenario, Adm. Mullen noted at a July 2, 2008, press conference, that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran.

If Mullen’s worries are to be taken as genuine (and I believe they are), it would behoove him to resurrect that idea and formally propose such dialogue to the Iranians.

He is the U.S. government’s senior military officer and should not let himself be stymied by neoconservative partisans more interested in regime change in Tehran than in working out a modus vivendi and reduction of tension.

The following two modest proposals could go a long way toward avoiding an armed confrontation with Iran — whether accidental, or provoked by those who may actually wish to precipitate hostilities and involve the U.S.

1 – Establish a direct communications link between top military officials in Washington and Tehran, in order to reduce the danger of accident, miscalculation or covert attack.

2 – Launch immediate negotiations by top Iranian and American naval officers to conclude an incidents-at-sea protocol.

A communications link has historically proven its merit during times of high tension. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 underscored the need for instantaneous communications at senior levels, and a "hot line" between Washington and Moscow was established the following year.

That direct link played a crucial role, for example, in preventing the spread of war in the Middle East during the Six-Day War in early June 1967.

Another useful precedent is the "Incidents-at-Sea" agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, signed in Moscow in May 1972. That period was another time of considerable tension between the two countries, including several inadvertent naval encounters that could well have escalated. The agreement sharply reduced the likelihood of such incidents.

I believe it would be difficult for American and Iranian leaders alike to oppose measures that make such good sense. Press reports show that top U.S. commanders in the Persian Gulf have favored such steps. And, as indicated above, Adm. Mullen has already appealed for military-to-military dialogue.

In the present circumstances, it has become increasingly urgent to discuss seriously how the United States and Iran might avoid a conflict started by accident, miscalculation or provocation. Neither the U.S. nor Iran can afford to allow an avoidable incident at sea to spin out of control.

With a modicum of mutual trust, these common-sense actions might be able to win wide and prompt acceptance by leaders in both countries.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing ministry of the Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was in Moscow in 1972 during President Richard Nixon’s first visit to Russia, when the U.S.-Soviet Incidents-at-Sea agreement was signed together with several key arms control agreements. A 27-year veteran analyst at the CIA, he is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/030610a.html
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#26
Thanks Jan for posting it. I bring particular attn to:

Quote:It is altogether likely that Netanyahu has concluded that Barack Obama is – in the vernacular – a wuss. Why, for example, does the president keep sending an endless procession of the most senior U.S. officials to Tel Aviv to plead with their Israeli counterparts, Please, pretty please, don’t start a war with Iran?

Loose-cannon Vice President Joe Biden arrives on Monday, hopefully with clearer instructions than when he blithely told ABC on July 4, 2009, that Israel is a “sovereign nation” and thus “entitled” to launch a military strike on Iran, adding that Washington would make no effort to dissuade the Israeli government.

http://www.infowars.com/mullen-wary-of-i...k-on-iran/
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#27
Helen Reyes Wrote:The whole thing looks staged in order to convince China and Russia that we really really really are getting ready to wage real honest true genuine war on Iran, honest injun! Aren't you scared Russia and China? See how nuts we really are, we're likely to really do it, you can't discount it at this point.


In order to frighten China and Russia into agreeing to a tougher round of sanctions? I doubt it. China's not keen and both they and Russia would be wise to Israel's mind games by now, imo. Brazil has also formally rejected the sanction plan as well.

I see a real falling out between Washington and Jerusalem, exacerbated by a genuine animosity which has developed between the two leaders. When he was inaugurated, Obama probably already knew Israel called the shots, but he wasn't aware that ritual humiliation was also part of the relationship, dating back to the Liberty incident in '67. Unlike invertebrates such as LBJ and Bush, Obama has major issues with this.

All speculation of course, but despite its grave seriousness, its the best show in town at the moment.

I've got my ear cocked for the next round of secret public diplomatic gossip, insinuations and bitching between Washington and Jerusalem in case anyone mentions Dealey Plaza. Someone will slip up soon.
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#28
At the moment I am thinking this has a lot less to do with the US than it does with Israel. There is some sort of power struggle going on amongst the Zionists to see who is the biggest baddest meanest Zionist of them all. Certainly the military on both sides, US and Israel, will be winners.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#29
Mark Stapleton Wrote:
Helen Reyes Wrote:The whole thing looks staged in order to convince China and Russia that we really really really are getting ready to wage real honest true genuine war on Iran, honest injun! Aren't you scared Russia and China? See how nuts we really are, we're likely to really do it, you can't discount it at this point.


In order to frighten China and Russia into agreeing to a tougher round of sanctions? I doubt it. China's not keen and both they and Russia would be wise to Israel's mind games by now, imo. Brazil has also formally rejected the sanction plan as well.

I see a real falling out between Washington and Jerusalem, exacerbated by a genuine animosity which has developed between the two leaders. When he was inaugurated, Obama probably already knew Israel called the shots, but he wasn't aware that ritual humiliation was also part of the relationship, dating back to the Liberty incident in '67. Unlike invertebrates such as LBJ and Bush, Obama has major issues with this.

All speculation of course, but despite its grave seriousness, its the best show in town at the moment.

I've got my ear cocked for the next round of secret public diplomatic gossip, insinuations and bitching between Washington and Jerusalem in case anyone mentions Dealey Plaza. Someone will slip up soon.

Good point. I think the game is way beyond sanctions at this point. It's nuclear brinksmanship over vital resources, the US thinks they have check-mated China somehow with Iran.

I sincerely hope we do get some revelations out of this at the very least. I don't consider Obama in any way sincere, so I can't ascribe feelings to him over the USS Liberty and I'm very dubious he has any problems with that sort of "ancient history." One president they compared him to early on was LBJ (and Kennedy and FDR and Lincoln in almost the same breath). LBJ's only plus was Medicare, which Obama has just gutted. Obama publicly declares he wants to find the perpetrators of 9/11, but mouths the old line bin Laden did it. And he only mentions 9/11 when he's trying to make the case for continued warfare, in every other instance it's "let's move on toward the future" although 9/11 informs every aspect of the executive currently.

It doesn't feel real to me, although Biden might have been left out of the loop.
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#30
The US' choreographed "outrage" at Israel
Stephen Maher, The Electronic Intifada, 23 March 2010

[Image: 100323-clinton-aipac.jpg] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, 22 March 2010. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
The speeches at AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group, on Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu's subsequent meeting with US President Barack Obama are widely seen as drawing to a close what Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren called the "most severe crisis in US-Israel relations" in decades. This rapprochement comes on the heels of a series of seemingly angry statements top members of the Obama Administration released, after Israel announced construction of 1,600 new illegal housing units in occupied East Jerusalem while US Vice President Joe Biden was in the country.

In fact, the basis for the Obama Administration's criticisms of the settlement announcement -- as well as the significance of the crisis itself -- has been widely misconstrued by both supporters and critics of Israel. AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were "shocked and stunned" that Biden and Clinton called the Israeli announcement "insulting." AIPAC urged the administration to "take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish state" and "move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel." Meanwhile, the ADL mused, "One can only wonder how far the US is prepared go in distancing itself from Israel."

Voices more critical of Israel, such as Richard Dreyfuss of The Nation, suggested that "this is not just the reaction to an insulting announcement during the visit of Vice President Biden," but rather "the Obama Administration is beginning to realize that Israeli intransigence ... is a major obstacle to US policy in the region." Dreyfuss predicted that this "might turn into the most significant confrontation between the United States and Israel" since the 1956 Suez War.

Contrary to both of these positions, the Obama Administration merely reacted to a diplomatic affront it was dealt by the Israeli government. Israel's announcement came on the same day that Biden had arrived in the country to proudly confirm the US' "absolute, total and unvarnished" commitment to its ally, and commence indirect talks with the Palestinians. Following the announcement, protests and violent clashes broke out in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Responding to this pressure, the Arab League threatened to cancel its endorsement of the indirect negotiations, with Secretary Amr Moussa even announcing that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had decided not to participate in the talks. As the endorsement was the only political cover Abbas had to re-enter negotiations, the US administration took careful notice of these events as pressure on Abbas to abandon talks from within the territories mounted. With the Arab world outraged and Biden humiliated due to the degree of US complicity that the timing of the announcement revealed, the Obama Administration was forced to react.

Clinton said the timing of the announcement was "insulting," while top aide David Axelrod called it an "affront" that "seemed calculated" to undermine the peace talks. The Obama Administration hopes that this PR display will allow the US to fortify its farcical claim to be an "honest broker" in the peace process, provide Abbas the political cover to re-enter negotiations, and send a message to the Israeli government that American leaders are to be treated with respect. As CNN reported, Netanyahu has now set up a team to investigate why the settlement construction announcement was made during Biden's visit.

Netanyahu may well have been telling the truth when he claimed to be "surprised" by the public criticisms by the US government. The day before, one day after US envoy George Mitchell arrived to broker newly-announced "proximity talks," the State Department explicitly approved Israel's construction of 112 new apartments in an illegal settlement outside Bethlehem. The assent came despite Netanyahu's declaration of a "moratorium" on settlement building, which he has insisted cannot include such illegal construction in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, a position the US has accepted.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also chastised Israel for its "provocative actions," including record-high rates of stripping Palestinians from Jerusalem their residency rights and infringements on Palestinian religious sites that are clearly designed to incite a Palestinian response or otherwise make it impossible for Abbas to return to the negotiating table. Yet even when the administration was at its most critical of Israel, following Obama's speech in Cairo last year, Israel was reassured that the actions taken by the US would be "largely symbolic." Indeed, Obama unconditionally re-authorized the loan guarantees program and massive US aid -- conservatively estimated at $7 million per day -- has continued without threat of reduction.

Obviously, the Obama Administration is hardly concerned about Israeli violations of international law, previous agreements it has signed, or the human rights of the Palestinians. The implication throughout is that had the announcement come a week before Biden visited (or even a day before, as the Bethlehem announcement did) there would have been no problem. Indeed, just one week later, after the Israeli government announced construction on an additional 426 East Jerusalem settlement homes, Clinton "bolstered her support for the Jewish state," according to The Washington Post. The Israeli army then opened fire on peaceful protestors in Gaza twice in two days, and carried out air strikes on targets in Gaza, while Clinton issued another statement saying that the steps offered by the Israeli government to resolve the dispute were "useful and productive."

The escalating repression continued Sunday, when the Israeli army shot and killed four Palestinian youths in 24 hours in the West Bank, two aged 18 and two 16. Simultaneously, Netanyahu issued a statement proclaiming that Israel would never cease building illegally in East Jerusalem as Ban Ki-moon arrived in Israel. Clearly, recent condemnations of these projects as "illegal" by Ban and the European Union did not stop Obama from welcoming Netanyahu to Washington on Monday with a private meeting, nor Clinton from proudly sharing the stage with him at the AIPAC conference to reaffirm the US commitment to support Israel's rejection of the international consensus for resolving the conflict. Though she did say the settlements "undermine mutual trust," she did not acknowledge their illegality and mostly stressed the threat that US support for them poses to its "credibility" as an "honest broker," thus urging Israel to refrain from such flagrantly provocative behavior while reinforcing that the US-Israel relationship is "rock solid."

The US hopes that this pretended outrage will lend its role as "honest broker" enough credibility to keep the "peace process" moving, itself merely a PR facade that shields Israeli crimes from public scrutiny. If it does not, the US will undoubtedly pay little mind to the harsh words spoken this week and do as it has done before: blame the Palestinians for its failure and support Israeli repression.

Stephen Maher is an MA candidate at American University School of International Service who has lived in the West Bank, and is currently writing his masters' thesis, "The New Nakba: Oslo and the End of Palestine," on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His work has been appeared in Extra!, ZNet and other publications. His blog is www.rationalmanifesto.blogspot.com.


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11154.shtml
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