Sunday, September 30, 2007

Three big questions

1. Why did Israel bomb Syria? According to Jonathan Cook, in his September 27th article, it could be an opening shot for a war on Iran. “…[T]he political significance of the justifications for the Israeli air strike is that both neatly tie together various strands of an argument needed by the neocons and Israel in making their case for an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office in early 2009. Each scenario suggests a Shia ‘axis of evil’, coordinated by Iran, that is actively plotting Israel's destruction. And each story offers the pretext for an attack on Syria as a prelude to a pre-emptive strike against Tehran -- launched either by Washington or Tel Aviv -- to save Israel.”

2. Why did Saddam Hussein want to take WMD papers with him into exile? In his September 28th post, Bush-Aznar Transcript: The War Crime of the Century, Juan Cole states, “…[T]he documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush's goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. The looting, which set off the guerrilla war, also functioned as a vast shredding party, destroying incriminating evidence about the complicity of the Bushes and Rumsfeld in Iraq's war crimes.”

3. What is standing in the way of a U.S. attack on Iran? On September 28th, Glenn Greenwald posted The U.S. military's role in preventing the bombing of Iran: “What is most striking about all of this is that even after all of this time, even after it has become more or less conventional wisdom that the Iraq War is an unparalleled disaster, no real political checks on their extremism exist. The Cheney-led neoconservatives are still the most powerful force, by far, in the American government….

“So that is the environment in which the U.S. military seems to be taking a defiant stand against the neoconservative radicals in our government -- one in which all other political checks are far too broken and weak, if not supportive, to do anything to stop them in their ongoing Middle East war march. Steve Clemons' recent, much-discussed article in Salon emphasized the role military commanders have played in insisting that a military strike against Iran would be disastrous. And Clemons cited this post from Time's Joe Klein which reported that the Joint Chiefs, when asked last December by Bush about air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, were ‘unanimously opposed to taking that course of action,’ and they warned that ‘the Iranian response in Iraq and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be devastating.’

“I'm far from convinced that, as Clemons and Klein both suggest, these warnings have persuaded President Bush that he cannot pursue a military confrontation with Iran. That is not how Bush works. When he is convinced that there is a moralistic imperative to his actions, he will pursue it even in the face of military opposition….

“Bush asked the Chiefs [Joint Chiefs] about the wisdom of a troop ‘surge’ in Iraq. They were unanimously opposed.

“…[F]or Bush, remaining in Iraq is the Right Thing, so Bush ignored the military's advice and replaced the top Generals with David Petraeus, who told him what he wanted to hear. Bush continues to believe that Iran is part of the "Axis of Evil" and that his legacy depends upon destroying that regime, and particularly stopping them from acquiring nuclear weapons, no matter what the cost. It is hard to envision Bush accepting the notion that he cannot bomb Iran. The central lesson of this presidency has been that Bush does not accept limits of any kind on his decision-making powers -- whether such limits are grounded in the law or in the basic constraints of reality.”

(question mark: University of Northern Iowa library)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

PASSing it on: CERT teams practice suppressing fires

On September 20th, I attended my first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, which I posted about here. My goal is to PASS on what I learn each week by posting about it.

Last Thursday the second session focused on fire safety. This was as exciting and fun as it looks:

This is what we practiced: (Click on it to enlarge)
We also learned about this sign means:
I’ve seen them on buildings and never really bothered to find out what the colors and numbers mean. This sign is known as the National Fire Protection Association 704 Diamond:

1. The red quadrant describes the material’s flammability
2. The blue quadrant indicates health hazard
3. The yellow quadrant indicates reactivity.
4. The number in each of the colored quadrants indicates the degree of risk associated with the material. The higher the number, the higher the risk.
5. The white quadrant will include a symbol, such as the W with a line through it, which means that the material should never be mixed with water.

As emergency response team members, our task is to alert professional firefighters about what the diamond says and evacuate persons who are downwind to an uphill and upwind location.

(CERT logo from CERT website, PASS and 402 Diamond - National Fire Protection Association)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Recommended reading - Iran: Chronicle of a War Foretold?

On August 25, I posted about Tony Karon’s Iran: Asking the Wrong Questions. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend you do in light of the continuing ramping up of hostilities toward Iran.

Tony Karon posts at Rootless Cosmopolitan and is a senior editor at who has been covering the Middle East, the “war on terror” and international issues ranging from China’s emergence to the Balkans. His posts are his personal opinions unrelated to his work for Time.

On September 26, Karon posted Iran: Chronicle of a War Foretold?, another must-read article in my opinion.

I’m leaving it to you to follow through without tempting you with highlights from the most recent article. As what feels like a global unraveling is accelerating, I’m accelerating my efforts to be self-reliant and helpful to my neighbors by being prepared for any future disaster.

(logo from Tony Karon’s blog, Rootless Cosmopolitan)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What the world needs more Jonathan Mooneys

"What the world needs now" is the opening line of a famous song that tells us that we need “love, sweet love.”

Sweet love is great, but a little abstract. I think we need more Jonathan Mooneys. Yesterday I listened to “Beyond Normal,” an interview with Jonathan Mooney, who is not abstract, on KPFA’s Against the Grain. Mooney, a self-described dyslexic activist, traveling thousands of miles across the US, visiting people diagnosed with various disabilities. He wrote about his experience and insights in The Short Bus - A Journey Beyond Normal.

Most touching to me were Mooney’s comments about Ashley, a deaf and blind eight year old. When he first met her, his thought was that “she’s not like me. She’s not normal.” His reactions to her and others like her with other disabilities prompted Mooney to ask himself what the societal notion of “normal” really meant. He has concluded that “normal” unnecessarily excludes so many people, including those who are diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, ADD and ADHD, as well as physical limitations like deafness and blindness. Exclusion creates barriers not only in attempting to understand people with various disabilities but also how they are treated by society.

You can listen to the interview here. At Mooney’s website, you can read an excerpt, read reviews, or purchase The Short Bus, watch a video clip featuring Mooney, or check his tour schedule.

(book cover of The Short Bus, from Mooney’s website)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hope in the streets of Washington, DC on September 29 and San Francisco on October 27

I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty discouraged about the state of our nation, the world of nations, and the melting earth we all inhabit. I’ve been so distracted by the current crises __ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the likelihood of an attack on Iran __ that I’ve put the biggest threat of all, global warming, on the back burner.

Then I received an e-mail from my friend and political ally, Janie Sheppard, who sent me a link to her brother Bill’s slideshow, set to great music, about the March on Washington on September 29th. The march is the culmination of the weeklong encampment urging Congress to stop the war. Watch the slideshow; if it cheered me up, it’s likely to cheer you up, too.

I then thought of Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful little book, Hope in the Dark. At the beginning of Chapter 4, Rebecca states, “What initially prompted me to write this book was the despair that followed a season of extraordinary peace activism in the spring of 2003.” Her book is a testament to her faith that even when things look so, so dark, one can find hope. Her humor shines through. For instance, chapter 13 is titled “Viagra for Caribou.”

What I remember from reading Solnit’s book in 2004 is her belief that action in the street can make a difference and those of us who participate can experience some joy and lightheartedness. Bill Sheppard’s slideshow and photos of the encampment and preparations for the March on Washington proves to me that we can still stand up, show up, and leave our worry lines and frowns at home.

Since I live in northern California and am mindful of not jetting about and adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, I plan to attend the October 27th End the War - Bring the Troops Home rally in San Francisco.

I don’t know if it matters where you show up, large rallies or standing on the street corner in your town, but showing up matters. It’s time to become visible and protest what the Bush Administration is doing. And while we’re at it, I hope we remember to have a little fun.

(photo of “Cheney” – courtesy of Bill Sheppard; Hope in the Dark book jacket,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

U.S. media in a tizzy about Ahmadinejad

Yesterday morning in The New York Times, I read U.S. Focus on Ahmadinejad Puzzles Iranians. When I went online in the evening, I was stunned by the number of articles and posts about the Iranian president’s appearance in the US and speech at Columbia University.

The mainstream media: The Washington Post article, Ahmadinejad Met with Protests, Criticism at Columbia University, where Ahmadinejad defended his human rights record in the face of withering questions and a jeering audience. “Pressed about the Holocaust, he said at one point, ‘I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all.’ Rather, he said, he is asking ‘what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?’”

The New York Times article, Facing Scorn, President of Iran is Defiant to His Critics, reported Ahmadinejad’s comment, “'If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, who are you to question other people who just want nuclear power....?'"

Both posts are well worth reading.

While the mainstream media is focusing on Ahmadinejad, where was the news about the climate change session going on now at the U.N? According to Sameer Lalwani, reporting from the UN on behalf of The Washington Note (TWN)* Ahmadinejad Steals The Show.

Lalwani laments, “This underscores the difficulties the climate change debate has encountered time and again -- how do we raise the spectre of global climate change to the level of imminence, and in turn, raise the political salience? ...[E]ven those who are willing to acknowledge the climate threat are not convinced it trumps more imminent threats like blowback from the Iraq war, the next terrorist attack on US soil, or possible Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. Hence the reason Ahmadinejad stole Ban Ki Moon's news cycle.

“When the job of the President and this Congress is increasingly driven by crises rather than long-term planning to meet emerging challenges -- especially the greatest collective action problem perhaps the world has ever known -- it would take someone fiercely determined like former Vice President Al Gore (who thundered away at the UN today in his call to arms against climate change) to manage crises without allowing the total usurpation of a long-term agenda.”

Back to the puzzled Iranians. According to The New York Times article, “Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

“Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up….

“In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.”

*[update: two TWN posts about Iran added last night]

(caricature of Ahmadinejad – Cox and Forkum)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Community Emergency Response Team training - I want to be CERTain that I can help in a disaster

Last week I started training so I can be a part of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in my community. One night a week for seven weeks I’ll be going to the Healdsburg Fire Department to learn fire safety, disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue operations.

When I complete the course, I plan to go visit all of my neighbors to let them know that I and others in the neighborhood are trained to help and to find out if they have any special needs, i.e., a disability that might require special attention.

We’re in earthquake country here in northern California, with the Rodgers Creek fault running right through our town. In 1906, the earthquake on the San Andreas fault affected not only San Francisco (watch a simulation of the earthquake) but also our county.

It doesn’t really matter what disaster a community may face. We need to be prepared to take care of ourselves and our neighbors for a minimum of three to five days (think Hurricane Katrina).

The best place to start is at home. Here’s a sample emergency preparedness kit, using a trash can as a container (click on it to enlarge):
CERTs are starting up all over the US. Check here for more information.

(CERT logo from CERT website, emergency preparedness kit courtesy of Healdsburg Fire Department)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Giuliani - a worse president than Bush?

Is there a likely contender for President who could be worse than George W. Bush? Yes. Rudy Giuliani.

At this time, Giuliani is at the top of the Republican heap. As of September 21, Rasmussen Reports in its Daily Presidential Tracking Poll…”[F]ormer Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are now tied. Each man is the top choice for 24% of Likely Republican Primary Voters."

Wonkosphere shows Giuliani as the most “buzzed-about” candidate in the blogosphere:
What’s wrong with Rudy? Kevin Baker knows. His article, A Fate worse Than Bush - Rudolph Giuliani and the Politics of Personality appeared in the August 2007 Harper's Magazine (subscription required).

For those who don’t subscibe to Harper's Magazine, ( I recommend that you do) here are three sources of information:

1. President Rudy, posted by Jon Wiener of The Nation on July 30. Wiener interviewed Kevin Baker, who writes for The New York Times and the Washington Post as well as Harper’s.

Below are excerpts from the interview with Baker's comments in quotation marks.

“Most of 9-11 was actually a debacle for the city government," Baker told me in an interview, and "Giuliani bears a great deal of the responsibility." The World Trade Center had been attacked in 1993, but Giuliani had "learned none of the lessons that could have been learned. There was no serious attempt to coordinate the radios between the police and fire departments, or even to insure that the fire department had its own communications that would work inside buildings. The consequences? Probably hundreds of unnecessary deaths that day.'' [emphasis mine]

The second failure: Giuliani insisted on locating his emergency control center in the World Trade Center complex, even though that had been the target of the 1993 attack. "He did that against the advice of virtually all the security experts he consulted," [emphasis mine] Baker explained. "He put it on the twenty-third floor of a forty-seven-story building, World Trade Center Tower 7. It included an unprotected, 7,000 gallon fuel source on the seventh floor, a sort of a fuse to set the building off. When the building was hit by debris on 9/11, that did indeed bring the whole building down."

Giuliani told the 9/11 Commission that the firemen in the towers died because they refused orders to come out. He said they wanted to save lives of people trapped inside.

"That's a demonstrable lie," Baker told me. [emphasis mine] "The firemen in the buildings were simply waiting for orders. They never got the word. It's easy to second-guess people in such a traumatic event, and anybody could be forgiven for not making the right decisions in the middle of everything. But to go to Congress months later and lie about this--I find that despicable."

The workers at Ground Zero in the following months, we now know, were exposed to significant health hazards. How much of that is Giuliani's responsibility? "He made no real attempt to determine the safety of working there," Baker said.

2. Rudy's foreign policy, posted by Scott Horton on August 17 at No Comment: “A few days ago the new Foreign Affairs arrived carrying an article which purports to have been authored by Rudy Giuliani entitled ‘Toward a Realistic Peace.’… In it we learn that the world of foreign policy for Rudy consists of just one thing: the long twilight battle against America’s natural and mortal enemy, Islamo-Fascism. Everything else is entirely peripheral to the Great Struggle, which Rudy is committed to winning by leveraging brute force to pummel the Enemy. And after they have been obliterated, we will have 'realistic peace.' This is Cheney on steroids. And I don’t mean the rational, articulate, cautious Dick Cheney from 1994. I mean the post-microstroke, delusional Dick Cheney who shoots his own friend in the face with birdshot. The Dick Cheney of today. Rudy would substitute a tactical nuclear device for the birdshot....

"[I]t [Giuliani’s Foreign Affairs article] leaves me more convinced than before that the man deep inside of Rudy waiting to emerge after a successful election on the national stage doesn’t care much for democracy, the Constitution, or civil liberties. He has one overriding obsession: power.”

3. Glenn Greenwald’s September 21st post, Giuliani's proposal for endless Middle East wars on behalf of Israel: "In London this week, Rudy Giuliani proposed what is probably the single most extremist policy of any major presidential candidate, certainly this year and perhaps in many years: Rudy Giuliani talked tough on Iran yesterday, proposing to expand NATO to include Israel and warning that if Iran's leaders go ahead with their goal to be a nuclear power we will prevent it, or we will set them back five or 10 years."

NATO nations are obligated to defend one another in the event of an attack on one of them.

Greenwald concludes: “Now that we are occupying two Middle Eastern countries, with a broken military, and are threatening imminent war with at least another one, isn't it long past time to have the discussion about the extent to which the U.S. is willing to wage war on behalf of Israel's interests? Do Americans really think that Iranian hostility towards Israel or its support for 'terrorists groups' that are hostile to Israel are grounds for declaring Iran to be our Enemy or waging war against them? If so, then let proponents of war with Iran make that case expressly. And for the rest of the presidential campaign, shouldn't Giuliani's desire to involve the U.S. military in every war Israel fights be a rather central feature in discussions of his potential presidency?”

(cartoon of Giuliani- Cox and Forkum, buzz chart: Wonkosphere)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The debate about whether or not Bush is likely to attack Iran

Bloggers are starting to weigh in on whether or not they think Steve Clemons is right when he explains why Why Bush Won't Attack Iran at, which I posted about here, followed by another post expressing my doubts that Clemons is right because of Cheney’s and the neoconservatives’ influence on Bush.

However, Jim Lobe knows a lot more than I do. He’s the Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service. He has also written for Foreign Policy In Focus,, Alternet,, Asia Times, and other internet news publications. Lobe is best known for his stiff criticism of U.S. foreign policy, American militarism and particularly the neo-conservatives, their worldview, their relationship to other political tendencies, and their influence in the Bush administration.

On September 20th, Lobe posted Notes on Clemons' Salon Analysis. Apparently he’s also Steve Clemons’s friend since they went backpacking together in the Pacific Northwest this summer. I don’t think that affects his objectivity.

Here’s what he has to say about Clemons’ post: “I think Steve’s analysis, which should be read carefully and in full, is very sound, although I’m not quite as persuaded as he appears to be that Bush fully understands or absorbs some of the potential costs of a military attack.”

Lobe adds some of his observations and concerns, which are well worth reading. Lobe stresses the influence Cheney exerts over Bush: “I agree very much with Pat Lang’s analysis of Steve’s article in which acknowledges that Steve’s ‘discussion of the ongoing argument within policy circles …is reasonably accurate,’ but that ‘it is also irrelevant (because) (o)nly the decider will decide. He will decide with the help and advice of his pal, ‘just plain Dick,’ … [emphasis mine]

“Moreover, his [Cheney’s] neo-conservative backers, who have been pre-occupied for the past three months with ensuring that the Surge not be compromised by Congress, have yet to launch the kind of orchestrated campaign that led up to the Iraq war….Obviously, some seeds have already been planted – although not yet systematically cultivated — over the last two months…. With the Surge debate out of the way, I expect that those seeds to be vigorously watered and fertilized.”

(photo: Stanford Blog)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bush won't attack Iran unless......

Now that I’ve had some time to ponder about Steve Clemons’s article, Why Bush Won't Attack Iran, which I briefly posted about yesterday, I’ve decided the qualifiers in the article negate his opinion that Bush won’t attack Iran.

Those qualifiers are the influence on President Bush of both Vice-President Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives, who want to exercise the military option against Iran.

Cheney: In Clemons’s article posted yesterday at, Clemons admits that he first reported that a member of Cheney’s national security staff, David Wurmser, had mentioned that they might need to “end run” the president to narrow his choices regarding Iran….

“We should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An ‘accidental war’ would escalate quickly and ‘end run,’ as Wurmser put it, the president's diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus. It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Cheney may or may not be responsible for comments made by his staff members. However, I learned enough about Cheney from the excellent Washington Post four part series, The Angler,
published this past June, to know that he exercises tremendous influence over Bush. From the first article, A Different Understanding with the President: “Two articles, today and tomorrow, recount Cheney's campaign to magnify presidential war-making authority, arguably his most important legacy….

Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.” [emphasis mine]

The Neocons:
Clemons’s comment: “What we should worry about, however, is the continued effort by the neocons to shore up their sagging influence. They now fear that events and arguments could intervene to keep what once seemed like a ‘nearly inevitable’ attack from happening. They know that they must keep up the pressure on Bush and maintain a drumbeat calling for war.”

Glenn Greenwald has described Bush’s relationship with neoconservatives in his book, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency and in his March 14, 2007 post, The president receives "lessons" from his neoconservative tutors: “On February 28, George Bush hosted what he called 'a literary luncheon; to honor 'historian' Andrew Roberts. Accounts of that luncheon -- which describe the ‘lessons’ the guests taught the President… really provide an amazing glimpse into the Bush mindset and his relationship with neoconservatives….

“The White House invited a tiny cast (total: 15 guests) of standard neoconservatives and other Bush followers to the luncheon, including Norman Podhoretz (father-in-law of White House convict Elliot Abrams), Gertrude Himmelfarb (wife of Irving Kristol and mother of Bill), Mona Charen, Kate O'Beirne, Wall St. Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, etc. etc. The Weekly Standard's Irwin Stelzer was also invited and wrote about the luncheon in the most glowing terms.

"Stelzer's account provides truly illuminating insight into what neoconservatives have been filling the President's head with for years now, and demonstrates how they have managed to keep him firmly on board with their agenda. The most critical priority is to convince the President to continue to ignore the will of the American people and to maintain full-fledged loyalty to the neoconservative agenda, no matter how unpopular it becomes.

“To do this, they have convinced the President that he has tapped into a much higher authority than the American people -- namely, God-mandated, objective morality -- and as long as he adheres to that (which is achieved by continuing his militaristic policies in the Middle East, whereby he is fighting Evil and defending Good), God and history will vindicate him….

“…[T]he neoconservatives left Bush with the overarching instruction -- namely, the only thing that he should concern himself with, the only thing that really matters, is Iran. Forget every other issue -- the welfare of the American people, every other region around the world -- except the one that matters most.” [emphasis mine]

So Steve, I’m sorry, but I’m still alarmed about the prospect of an attack on Iran.

(Photos: Cheney and the Angler series: Washington Post; Uncle Sam with a gun: Adbusters)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Bush Won't Attack Iran

As a daily reader of The Washington Note, I’ve been waiting since September 11th for Steve Clemons’s article on “whether or not we will bomb Iran right now.” It came out yesterday at under the title Why Bush Won't Attack Iran, with the following introduction: “Despite saber-rattling, and the Washington buzz that a strike is coming, the president doesn't intend to bomb Iran. Cheney may have other ideas.”

Clemons set my mind at ease by stating “…[T]he president is not planning to bomb Iran,” but he qualifies this reassuring statement with, “But there are several not-unrelated scenarios under which it might happen, if the neocon wing of the party, led by Vice President Cheney, succeeds in reasserting itself, or if there is some kind of ‘accidental,’ perhaps contrived, confrontation.”

Clemons is considered a Washington insider, so what he writes is worth reading in its entirety.

(photo of Steve Clemons – Wikipedia)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When will enough people say, "Enough is enough"?

My friend and guest blogger Janie Sheppard has been sending me articles on the anti-war pro-impeachment rally in Washington D.C. last Saturday, along with photos taken by her brother, Bill Sheppard.

Of course, the mainstream media mentioned the anti-war rally, reporting that a “few thousand” protestor showed up. You will get the flavor of its reporting in this two minute video.

The real story of the protest, however, is told in words and photos of those who participated.

Bill Sheppard took the following photo of Carlos Arredondo and the symbolic coffin for his son, Alex (who died in Iraq on August 25, 2004), shortly before Carlos was attacked by at least five counter protestors, as reported by the stepmother of Alex here.
The message I got from this is that those who oppose the ongoing war in Iraq and the likelihood of an attack on Iran need to show up at protests in large enough numbers not to be dismissed as a “few thousand.”

I’m wondering when sufficient numbers of Americans will say “Enough is enough” and start showing up. And when we show up, will we have the courage to create a protective cordon around those who are susceptible to being attacked?

(photo- courtesy of Bill Sheppard)

Monday, September 17, 2007

"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war"

Yesterday in an interview on French TV and radio, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said, "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war." According to the BBC World News, Kouchner says the world should prepare for war over Iran's nuclear programme. The short news item concluded with, “The United States has not ruled out a military attack against Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

On September 14, the BBC reported US Iran report branded dishonest: The UN nuclear watchdog has protested the US government over a report on Iran's nuclear programme, calling it "erroneous" and "misleading.": “In a leaked letter, the IAEA said a congressional report contained serious distortions of the agency's own findings on Iran's nuclear activity…. A Western diplomat called it ‘deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period.’”

Are you asking yourself what the likely unintended consequences are of an attack on Iran? Chris Hedges can help you with that. He’s been a foreign correspondent for more than two decades, which included coverage of the Middle East. On September 3rd, Hedges posted The Next Quagmire at Truthdig: “…The Pentagon has reportedly drawn up plans for a series of airstrikes against 1,200 military targets in Iran. The air attacks are designed to cripple the Iranians’ military capability in three days…But then what? We don’t have the troops to invade. And we don’t have anyone minding the helm who knows the slightest thing about Persian culture or the Middle East. There is no one in power in Washington with the empathy to get it. We will lurch blindly into a catastrophe of our own creation.

It is not hard to imagine what will happen. Iranian Shabab-3 and Shabab-4 missiles, which cannot reach the United States, will be launched at Israel, as well as American military bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad. Expect massive American casualties, especially in Iraq, where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able to call in precise coordinates. The Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, will be shut down. Chinese-supplied C-801 and C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines and coastal artillery will target U.S. shipping, along with Saudi oil production and oil export centers. Oil prices will skyrocket to well over $4 a gallon. The dollar will tumble against the euro. Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, interpreting the war as an attack on all Shiites, will fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, will begin retaliatory raids on Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan, with a huge Shiite minority, will reach greater levels of instability. The unrest could result in the overthrow of the weakened American ally President Pervez Musharraf and usher into power Islamic radicals. Pakistan could become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The neat little war with Iran, which few Democrats oppose, has the potential to ignite a regional inferno.” [emphasis mine]

(photo: courtesy of Bill Sheppard, who attended the September 15 anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beach Impeach III - The power of one multiplied a thousand times

I spent yesterday with friends in San Francisco, participating in Beach Impeach III. What a great way to contribute to an important message while having fun!

My friend Phil and I positioned ourselves at the top of the “P,” where we lay down with the like-minded while a helicopter hovered overhead to capture our impeach message.

This event, conceived and implemented by Brad Newsham, convinces me that one hardworking, cheerful person can make a huge difference.

I took my camcorder, and interviewed the following people, asking them why they were there.

My neighbor at the top of the “P”:

A family on its way to its letter:
A member of Code Pink:
Unfortunately, with my minimal camcording skills, the wind made so much noise that it was impossible to hear them and I didn't know what to do about it (sorry, interviewees!).

After the event, I was able to capture the spirit here:

You can view videos of all three of Brad’s impeachment events from links at Beach Impeach III.

While we San Francisco were participating in the impeachment message, there was an anti-war rally in Washington D.C. People at both events wore orange, the color of impeachment and to show compassion for the thousands and thousands who are swept up, forced to wear orange jumpsuits and detained without charges.

Demonstrator at D.C. rally:
More photos of the DC event are available here.

What did I take away from today’s event?

1. That one person, in this case Brad Newsham (who turned 56 yesterday), working tirelessly to make a difference can make a difference.

2. That people across the country are saying “Enough is enough” by showing up at protests. If enough of us show up, we may be able to make a difference. Last week, I heard Norman Solomon describe Nixon’s decision not to use nuclear weapons on Vietnam because of the hundreds of thousands, if not a million, people who marched past the White House protesting the war and the use of nuclear weapons. Can we avert an attack on Iran?

(photos: Impeach Beach III: John Montgomery,
“detainee”: uploaded to by the organizers of the DC protest)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peter Bergen on the need to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq

I support withdrawal of all of our military forces from Iraq, the sooner the better.

However, I try to remain open to new information, and a couple of days ago I came across Peter Bergen’s Fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, recently posted at his website.

Bergen was part of the CNN team, along with the veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett and the cameraman Peter Jouvenal, that interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1997.

His bio is impressive. Bergen “…is a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C; an Adjunct Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security; CNN's terrorism analyst and author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden.

In Fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, Bergen unequivocally states, “A persistent Al Qaeda safe haven in Iraq will be a launching pad for attacks against American interests in the region, and even against the United States itself. The National Intelligence Estimate made public in July explains that Al Qaeda ‘will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland.’ In addition, a safe haven would be an ideal location from which to attack “near enemy” American allies such as Saudi Arabia and to disrupt the world’s oil supply, which Osama bin Laden has made a priority according to tapes he has released since 9/11….

“Indeed, America’s top strategic challenge post-drawdown is to position itself in such a way as to prevent the emergence of a long-term Iraqi safe haven for Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups….

“The successful elimination in Anbar province of Al Qaeda forces suggests one approach—persuading, empowering, and bribing tribal leaders to do the work for you. Of course, like a game of whack-a-mole, Al Qaeda fighters have now migrated to other provinces such as Diyala. Applying the Anbar model to fight Al Qaeda in other parts of the country is a promising strategy, particularly since it uses relatively few U.S. troops to leverage larger local forces….

“However, the United States cannot wholly rely on tribes of uncertain loyalties to secure its interests in Iraq, which include not only disrupting Al Qaeda but also securing a number of bases and the enormous embassy that is being built in Baghdad. Other important functions the U.S. military will have to sustain after a withdrawal include training the Iraqi army and any other groups who might help American interests; gathering intelligence; maintaining some kind of reserve combat force; regularly deploying several thousand Special Forces troops for operations against Al Qaeda; and, of course, maintaining the logistical tail to supply all of those functions and soldiers. Given the need to successfully continue those various tasks, some estimate the United States will have to maintain a reinforced division of about 20,000 soldiers combined with logistical delivery teams of a further 10,000 to 15,000 to supply them.” [emphasis mine]

What am I going to do with this information? Before I support maintaining a military presence in Iraq, I’m going to do my homework. I’ll keep you posted.

(photo of Osama bin Laden and Peter Bergen: University of Delaware)

Friday, September 14, 2007

U.S. demands tougher sanctions against Iran while the IAEA is asking the U.N. to take a sanctions "timeout."

Yesterday morning, the Washington Post published an article on page A14, U.S. Starts a Push for Tighter Sanctions on Iran - Promotion of New U.N. Resolution Comes as Tehran's Influence in Iraq is Called Surprisingly Deep: "The Bush administration has begun mobilizing support for a third U.N. resolution that would impose tougher sanctions against Iran, as the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad said yesterday that one of the biggest and still unfolding surprises in Iraq has been the depth of Iran's intervention….

“In a briefing at the National Press Club, Petraeus said arms supplies from Iran, including 240mm rockets and explosively formed projectiles, "contributed to a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support. . . . The evidence is very, very clear…."

Is Iran meddling in Iraq? I don’t know. Can we trust what we are being told? I don’t know. However, I do know that International Atomic Energy Association [IAEA] is making progress on increasing verification of Iran's nuclear program.

Posted at Informed Comment Global Affairs on September 11, The IAEA Board of Governors Meet to Talk about Iran Again: At the meeting this week, “… Mohammad ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director General, is asking the Board, despite American objections, to give the IAEA time to implement the work plan the Agency has negotiated with Iran. ElBaradei’s hope is for the Security Council to take a "timeout'' from sanctions and for Iran to pause its uranium enrichment to avert a crisis over the country's nuclear program…..

“But Iran has already stated that it will not accept a suspension under any conditions and will halt its newly agreed upon cooperative work plan with the Agency if new sanctions are pursued at the Security Council.”

The article on the IAEA Board of Governors' meeting describes what the IAEA has already been able to accomplish:

“First, the Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has continued to provide the access and reporting needed to enable Agency verification in this regard.

"Second, Iran has provided the Agency with additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long outstanding issues. In particular, Agency questions regarding past plutonium experiments in Iran have been satisfactorily answered, and this issue has been resolved. Questions about the presence and origin of high enriched uranium particles at the Karaj Waste Storage Facility have also been resolved….

“Third, contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with the construction and operation of the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Iran is also continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak. This is regrettable.

"Fourth, despite repeated requests by the Board and the Security Council to Iran, the Agency has so far been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s nuclear programme…. However…it was agreed that Iran would work with the Agency to develop a work plan for resolving all outstanding verification issues.

This is the first time that Iran has agreed on a plan to address all outstanding issues, with a defined timeline, and is therefore an important step in the right direction.”

Iran’s decision not to suspend its enrichment related activities is described as “regrettable,” but it doesn’t appear to be a deal killer to the IAEA. Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif has stated that Iran is committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and, "Iran insists on its right to have access to nuclear technology for explicitly peaceful purposes. We will not abandon that claim to our legitimate right."

If Iran is enriching uranium within its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, I wonder why the US wants the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions that would doom the IAEA’s efforts to implement the work plan that would provide the transparency regarding Iran's nuclear program that the whole world wants.

(Photo: At left, IAEA Director General ElBaradei, before the opening of the Board meeting 6 January. At right, Ambassador Nabeela Al-Mulla, Chair of the IAEA Board, consults with Mr. Kwaku Aning, Secretary of IAEA Policymaking Organs. IAEA, Credit: Calma/IAEA)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freedom's Watch sells the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq

On August 22nd, Freedom's Watch was launched. Its message: “Victory is America’s Only Choice.”

As reported in the September 12th Washington Post article, 9/11 Linked to Iraq, in Politics if Not in Fact, Freedom’s Watch is airing four spots in 60 congressional districts in 20 states. “The commercials urge Congress to stick with the president's strategy in Iraq. The most poignant of them stars a soldier identified as John Kriesel, who was wounded on Dec. 2, 2006, and is shown walking with two artificial legs….’They attacked us,’ he says as the screen turns to an image of the second hijacked airplane heading toward the smoking World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. ‘And they will again. They won't stop in Iraq.’” You can watch the commercial here.

Ari Fleischer, former Bush White house press secretary and one of the group’s founders, has stated that it doesn’t matter that the Iraqis didn’t attack us on 9/11 because some of the same sorts of people who did are now fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

According to Juan Cole, who posted Who is the US Fighting in Iraq? on August 27, “Self-identified al-Qaeda are only 1,800 of the 24,000 in captivity, about 7 percent. (Of course, most of these fighters are not really al-Qaeda in the sense of pledging fealty to Usama Bin Laden or being part of his organization; they are using "al-Qaeda" to mean ’bogeyman’ i.e., 'be afraid of me'.)”

As early as September of 2005, we’ve known that only 4 to 10 percent of the insurgents are foreigners, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor, The "Myth" of Iraq's Foreign Fighters.

The right-wing think tank, the Cato Institute, published a report on January 31st of this year, The Myth of an al-Qaeda Takeover of Iraq: “Even the U.S. government concedes that there are fewer than 2,000 al Qaeda fighters in Iraq, and the Iraq Study Group put the figure at only 1,300.

“Indeed, foreign fighters make up a relatively small component of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. and British occupation forces. It strains credulity to imagine 1,300 fighters (and foreigners at that) dominating a country of 26 million people….

At best, al Qaeda could hope for a tenuous presence in predominantly Sunni areas of the country while being incessantly stalked and harassed by government forces -- and probably hostile Iraqi Sunnis as well. That doesn't exactly sound like a reliable base of operations for attacks on America.” [bolding mine]

According to the Washington Post article, 9/11 Linked to Iraq, in Politics if Not in Fact, the Freedom's Watch ad featuring John Kriesel is “…part of a new $15 million media blitz launched by an advocacy group allied with the White House, [and] may be the most overt attempt during the current debate in Congress over the war to link the attacks with Iraq."

(photo from Media Matters)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perpetual War?

This morning, The New York Times reported Officials Cite Long-Term Need for U.S. in Iraq: “The two top American military and diplomatic officials in Iraq conceded Tuesday that the Bush administration’s overall strategy in Iraq would remain largely unchanged after the temporary increase in American forces is over next summer, and made clear their view that the United States would need a major troop presence in Iraq for years to come. …

“As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker wound up two days of grueling testimony to the House and Senate, Ms. Pelosi said everything she had heard ‘sounds to me like a 10-year, at least, commitment to an open-ended presence and war….’

“Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, who is one of the party’s leading voices on foreign policy, asked whether the current strategy in Iraq was 'making America safer.' General Petraeus retreated to an explanation that he was doing his best ‘to achieve our objectives in Iraq.’

“But when pressed again, he said: ‘Sir, I don’t know, actually’.”

And then there’s The Next War, as reported by Harper’s Magazine blogger, Scott Horton: “Dr. Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies look at the signs for an American aerial war on Iran and say the pieces are in place for this to happen imminently. It now only awaits Bush’s command….Read the entire SOAS study here. (PDF)”

Check Steve Clemons’s The Washington Note the next couple of days. Yesterday he posted that he’s working on an article about whether or not we will bomb Iran right now.

(photo: Grow a Brain)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who's right about Gen. Petraeus - Juan Cole or Glenn Greenwald?

Today’s post from Juan Cole, Can Gen. Petraeus and Ryan Crocker Save the Next Democratic President?: Excerpt: “I'm a severe skeptic on the likelihood of anything that looks like success in Iraq. But I don't think career public servants such as Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus are acting as partisan Republicans in their Iraq efforts. I think they both are sincere, experienced men attempting to retrieve what they can for America from Bush's catastrophe. [bolding mine]. They may as well try, since the Democrats can't over-rule Bush and get the troops out, anyway. If the troops are there, they may as well at least be deployed intelligently, which is what Gen. Petraeus is doing. I wish them well in their Herculean labors. Because if they fail, I have a sinking feeling that we are all going down with them, including the next Democratic president. And their success is a long shot."

Today’s post from Glenn Greenwald, Brit Hume and the Bush administration take propaganda to a new level - Gen. Petraeus gives an exclusive "interview" that was scripted by the U.S. military and designed to bolster every claim of the Bush administration. Excerpt: “Just as George Bush and Dick Cheney have done on politically important occasions, Gen. David Petraeus (along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker) last night selected Fox News' Brit Hume as the ‘journalist’ rewarded with an exclusive ‘interview.’ Whereas Hume, in the past, at least has pretended to play the role of journalist when interviewing high Bush officials -- doing things like asking (extremely respectful) questions about sensitive areas (with no follow up) -- he dispensed entirely with the pretense here. This ‘interview’ took government propaganda to a whole new level, and really has to be seen to be believed (the full video is here).

“The whole production was such transparent propaganda that one doubts that Pravda would have been shameless enough to present it. Even the title of the program was creepy. Fox did not even bother to call it an ‘interview,’ but rather hailed it as a ‘Briefing for America.’”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The "Anbar Model"

Over Labor Day weekend, Bush paid a “…[H]ighly symbolic visit to the vast, sparsely populated and Sunni-dominated Anbar province in western Iraq….He held out the tantalizing promise that some U.S. troops may soon be headed home if the military successes in Anbar can be echoed in violence-racked Baghdad,” as reported in The Globe and Mail on September 4 in Bush visits Iraq to buttress claims of progress.

The mainstream media is repeating this story of success in Anbar, notably in The New York Times, with an op-ed by Roger Cohen on September 6, The Least Bad Choice, “Exit timing and U.S. election maneuvering stand at the center of this month’s Iraq drama… One [report], from the Government Accountability Office, has already given the Bush-Petraeus surge a failing grade: a feckless Iraqi government, unshared oil money, untamed militias and undiminished violence.

Not fair, Petraeus and Bush will argue, using the new catchphrase ‘bottom-up progress’ to highlight headway in Sunni-dominated provinces like Anbar through cash-cemented alliances with local sheiks who have been persuaded to turn again to Al Qaeda.” [bolding mine]

On September 9, The New York Times published a lengthy article, Troop Buildup, Yielding Slight Gains, Fails to Meet U.S. Goals. “ In recent weeks, President Bush and his commanders have shifted their emphasis to new alliances with tribal leaders that have improved security in Diyala Province, the Sunni Triangle and other Sunni areas, most notably Anbar Province.” [bolding mine]

Today the Seattle Times reported more objectively in Buildup fails to mend political divisions in Iraq: ‘With the national government in deadlock, U.S. officials have begun encouraging reconciliation at the local level. The model is Anbar, the vast Sunni province where tribal sheiks turned against al-Qaida in Iraq and sought cooperation with the Americans….Still, Anbar is not secure, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. deaths in Iraq so far this year — making it the second deadliest province after Baghdad. Four Marines were killed in Anbar on Thursday…."

Nonetheless, U.S. officials now speak of exporting the "Anbar model" elsewhere, including the Shiite heartland of the south, where militias hold sway." [bolding mine]

“Not so fast,” says Juan Cole of Informed Comment in his September 4th post, On How al-Anbar isnt' that Safe and on How it's "Calm" is Artificially Produced. Cole asks, “Is al-Anbar Province really paradise, as Bush suggested?” He answers this question with a series of answers, including: ”Al-Anbar residents killed 20 US troops in July. The total US fatalities in July were 79 according to, and some of those were presumably from accidents, etc. So al-Anbar, despite being reduced to the stone age, managed to kill a fourth or more of all US troops killed in combat in July. Al-Anbar is roughly 1/24 of Iraq by population. So it killed six times more US troops than we would have expected based on its proportion of the Iraqi population. …

”In mid-July, There were about 100 violent attacks in a single week in al-Anbar. That's a bright spot. That's progress. Since the year before, there were 400 violent attacks in that same period.Well, yes, that's a relative improvement. But a hundred violent attacks in a week? That's being touted as good news to be ecstatic over? There were probably on the order of 1100 attacks that week in all of Iraq. So al-Anbar generated nearly one-tenth of all attacks. But it is only 1/24 of Iraq by population, so it is more than twice as dangerous with regard to the number of attacks than you would expect from its small population.”

I hope you’ll take time to read Cole’s entire post before General Petraeus gives us his progress report this Tuesday.

(map of Iraq with Anbar Province in yellow: - double-click on the map to enlarge)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Keep your eye on Petraeus - Part Four

This morning, the photo accompanying The New York Times article about General Petraeus’s appearance in Washington, D.C. for the upcoming Congressional hearing about progress in Iraq was rather amazing. The caption: “ANOTHER WAR, 40 YEARS AGO: Gen. William C. Westmoreland briefed Congress in 1967 on what he described as gains in Vietnam. President Bush hopes a general will bolster his case for Iraq.”

The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. Will we be in Iraq for another 8 years? MoveOn has cleverly captured President Bush’s comments about “progress” in Iraq over the past several years:

So now we have General Petraeus as President Bush’s political spear-carrier as he appears before Congress on September 11th to talk about progress in Iraq.

I posted about General Petraeus on January 26, as he headed to Iraq shortly after being confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Commander in Iraq. I referred to the counterinsurgency manual that Petraeus authored in which he had stated that 120,000 troops would be needed to secure Baghdad, but he reasoned that the roughly 32,000 American troops that would be deployed in the capital under the plan would be enough.

On March 20, I posted Keep your eyes on Petraeus - Part Two linking to my favorite Middle Eastern expert, Juan Cole who posted this comment on March 19 at Informed Comment: “General Petraeus, in the meantime, is signalling that his own patience is not infinite, and that if he can't see a genuine improvement in the security situation by June [bolding mine], he would have an obligation to his own troops to say so. It is so refreshing to hear that kind of language from the Pentagon after all those years of Donald Rumsfeld's despicable disregard for the welfare of the troops he was supposed to be leading….”

Part Three on Petraeus was posted on April 16, in which I linked to Robert Fisk’s April 11 article in the UK Independent, Divide and Rule - American's Plan for Baghdad, in which Fisk describes the latest security plan concocted by General Petraeus to seal off vast areas of Baghdad.

Update: According to todays' New York Times article, Troop Buildup,Yielding Slight Gains, Fails to Meet U.S. Goals, “The hulking blast walls that the Americans have set up around many neighborhoods have only intensified the city’s [Baghdad] sense of balkanization.”

When I listen to General Petraeus on September 11, what do I need to remember? On July 19, Glenn Greenwald at posted How much credence should Gen. Petraeus' reports be given - The source being depicted as the Objective Oracle on Iraq has a long history of extreme optimism about the progress we were making in the war. If you don’t read anything else before September 11, read this. Greenwald has exhaustively listed the countless times in the past that General Petraeus has sunnily reported on progress in Iraq.

(photo: The New York Times, Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Friday, September 07, 2007

A review of THE LEMON TREE by Sandy Tolan

From guest blogger Janie Sheppard:

On advice of a good friend I recommended that my book group read Sandy Tolan’s THE LEMON TREE. It was a good read and we learned a lot.

Through the story of an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man (not romantic although I wanted it to be . . .), Sandy Tolman lays out the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dalia’s family came to the newly minted Israel with her family, refugees from Bulgaria, where they had survived World War II due to the grace of local officials who “suspended” a deportation order that, had it been executed, would have sent them to death camps.

Bashir’s father built a house in Al-Ramla, within what was to have been an Arab state under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan. Instead, after Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence and war between the Arabs and the Jews resulted in the capture of Al-Ramla for Israel, Bashir’s family was forced to leave. Dalia’s family claimed Bashir’s family home.

The two meet in 1967, after the June war that resulted in Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which paradoxically resulted in Palestinians being able to visit their old towns. When Bashir knocked at the gate of what had become Dalia’s home, she graciously invited him in to make himself at home.

Dalia & Bashir

The two families eventually become acquainted and the friendship that began then continues to this day.

The story could have been told as a heartwarming story of two families that somehow manage to transcend their histories. That’s not what happened. Dalia is an Israeli through and through and Bashir remains a displaced Palestinian, longing to return home.

The strength of this book lies in the meticulous telling of the feelings and the histories. For starters, the reader learns that the Soviet Union supported a two-state vision for Palestine over a binational democratic state for all the people of Palestine. The United Nations mediator who advocated for placing Al-Ramla in Jordan, a move that would have allowed Bashir’s family to return home, was assassinated by the Stern Gang, a Jewish militia. UN Resolution 194 declared in 1947 that Arab refugees should be permitted to return to their homes. In 1967 Resolution 242 would supplant that resolution, calling instead for acknowledgement of the integrity of “every State in the area”, which, decoded, meant foregoing the right of return. The United Nations having given up on a right of return, the Soviet Union and the United States supporting separate states, it is no wonder to me that Palestinians are so angry. It is this anger that Bill Clinton failed to grasp when he failed to get Yasser Afafat to agree to a peace plan in 2000.

In the paperback edition, 264 of the 362 pages constitute the narrative while the remaining third contains a bibliography, source notes and an index. You can listen to a NPR Fresh Air interview with Sandy Tolan here

No longer do I feel totally ignorant about why Palestinians are so angry. Thanks to Sandy Tolan, I get it.

(THE LEMON TREE book cover:; photo of Dalia and Bashir –

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rubin: How to Stop War with Iran

Last night I read Barnett Rubin’s Theses on Policy Toward Iran at Informed Comment Global Affairs and think it’s one of the best articles I’ve read about the likelihood of an attack on Iran and what we can do about it.

This morning Juan Cole provides a summary: “Barnett Rubin gives us a thoughtful call to arms on how to prevent war with Iran at the Global Affairs blog. After analyzing the way the Bushies would probably go to war if they can, Rubin writes:

' The immediate goal for Democratic presidential candidates and the Democrats (and sensible Republicans) in Congress should be to use the power of the legislative branch to prevent the administration from launching a war. I can think of two possible ways to do this: [bolding mine]

* Pass an Act of Congress stating that the 2001 AUMF does not authorize a preemptive strike against Iran (or a strike in response to an alleged provocation – recall Tonkin Gulf). In this case, Congress would claim that war with Iran requires new authorization.

* Cut off funding for any war with Iran not specifically authorized by Congress in accordance with the law after September 30, when spending starts out of next year’s budget. Presumably they won’t be able to start the war by then and rely on the “support the troops” argument. In coordination with this immediate response, responsible leaders in both parties should articulate an alternative policy toward Iran starting with the same principle as the Helsinki Accords of 1975 – no regime change. '

"Read the whole thing"

Then go to to find contact information for your Congressional representatives and urge them to take action per Rubin’s suggestions.

(photo of Barnett Rubin –

Do we have the courage to stop a war with Iran?

I’ve started blogging in mid-January. Starting on January 23rd, I’ve been posting about the issue of whether or not Bush is going to attack Iran here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

I’m convinced that we’ve gone from the possibility to a probability to the likelihood that Bush will launch at attack on Iran. If it’s now more likely than not, what do we citizens do?

This past Labor Day weekend, Ray McGovern, who served 27 years as an analyst for the CIA, wrote Do We Have the Courage to Stop War with Iran?: “I fear our country is likely to be at war with Iran-and with the thousands of real terrorists Iran can field around the globe.

“It is going to happen, folks, unless we put our lawn chairs away on Tuesday, take part in some serious grass-roots organizing, and take action to prevent a wider war-while we still can.”

Ray McGovern has been actively working for impeachment of Bush and Cheney for months. He, Elizabeth de la Vega, author of United States v. George W. Bush, et al., and David Lindorff, co-author of The Case of Impeachment - The Legal Argument for Removing George W. Bush from Office, appeared on an impeachment panel last February in Olympia, Washington.

All three of these proponents for impeachment see the risk of an attack on Iran if Bush and Cheney aren’t impeached.

Here’s Elizabeth, speaking last January in Santa Rosa. California:

And here’s David Lindorff’s latest post at Smirking Chimp, Beware the Wounded Beast: Bush Has Lost the Iraq War: “Numerous reports, including most credibly one in The Times in London (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.), suggest that a plan has already been laid out for a three-day massive bombardment on over 1200 targets in Iran, which would attempt to destroy not just that country’s nascent nuclear processing capability, but also its government, communications, and military facilities, essentially leaving the country of 70 million a smoking ruin.

“Such an attack, with no international support, no UN sanction, no threat, imminent or otherwise, and no provocation, would be, pure and simple, a war crime of the first order. It would also put the US at war, not just with Iran, but also with virtually the entire Islamic world.”

So what do we citizens do? We support impeachment. I’ve been urging readers whose Congressional representatives haven’t signed on to House Resolution 333 to call them and ask them why they aren’t supporting the impeachment of Vice President Richard Cheney, who appears to be the driving force behind the plan to attack Iran. Go to to find out who represents you.

Also, you can go to StopWaronIran and sign a petition which will be sent directly to the White House, selected members of Congress, and the media. It may take a little courage to send your contact information to the White House, but we all need to draw on all the courage we possess during these perilous times.

(cartoon: Tom Toles for the Washington Post, published on July 26, 2007)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ledeen vs. ElBaradei, Part II

On September 3rd, I posted The Rollout War: Michael Ledeen of the A.E.I. vs. Mohamed ElBaradei of the I.A.E.A.. That “war” is heating up.

This morning, the editoral page of the Washington Post unleashed an attack on El Baradei, describing him as a Rogue Regulator: “For some time Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian diplomat who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, has made it clear he considers himself above his position as a U.N. civil servant. Rather than carry out the policy of the Security Council or the IAEA board, for which he nominally works, Mr. ElBaradei behaves as if he were independent of them, free to ignore their decisions and to use his agency to thwart their leading members -- above all the United States.”

As my mother used to say when she was shocked, “Oofdah!”

Good old Glenn Greenwald: He unleashes a counterattack on Fred Hiatt, author of the WaPo editorial, along with Michael Ledeen, in this morning’s post, Fred Hiatt, Michael Ledeen and the "bomb Iran crazies": “Fred Hiatt today unleashes an Editorial Page attack on Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency whom Hiatt labels ‘the Rogue Regulator.’ Bizarrely, though revealingly, Hiatt begins by complaining that ‘Mr. ElBaradei was lionized by opponents of the Iraq war for debunking Bush administration charges that Saddam Hussein had restarted his nuclear program before the 2003 invasion’ -- as though having been right about Iraq, and thus admired by 'by opponents of the Iraq war,' is a sign of low credibility."

Greenwald zeroes in on Michael Ledeen, describing him as the "...preeminent and most highly regarded right-wing expert on Iran...who has devoted his life to engineering 'regime change' in Iran." Read the rest of Greenwald's post if you're a Ledeen watcher, as I am.