Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Michael Hastings explores, "The Runaway General."

Uri Avnery sees, "A Flash Of Lightning."

David Sirota studies a, "War For Resources."

Joe Conason concludes, "Big Government? In the Gulf, It's Too Small And Too Weak!"

Jim Hightower watches, "Big Oil Turns Against One Of Its Own."

Phil Rockstroh returns with, "A Zionist State of Mind, A Dreamscape Of Ghosts."

James Donahue finds there is, "No Mystery In Greene Election Win."

Scott Peterson explains why, "Why Iran Versus Israel Rhetoric Could Escalate Into War."

Chris Floyd comes back with, "Sincerely Yours: Another Legal Triumph for the Obama-Yoo Administration."

Case Wagenvoord is having a, "Dress Rebellion."

Mike Folkerth warns, "Globalization; A Fool's Paradise."

Ira Chernus discovers, "US Stands, And Lies, With Israel."

David Michael Green with yet another must read, "Present Obama Doesn't Strike Again."

Texas Con-gressman Joe Barton wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald examines, "The Obama Administration And Its Pundit-Defenders."

Mary Pitt asks, "Progressives, What Do You Really Want?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Hawking: Aliens 'No Longer Interested' In Invading Earth" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Eat The Rich Part Trois."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Trever, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, John Backderf, All Hat Not Cattle.Com, Dees, Mikhail Galustov, Pete Souza, Eugene Delacroix and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

Eat The Rich Part Trois
By Ernest Stewart

Eat The Rich
There's only one thing that they are good for
Eat The Rich
Take one bite now - come back for more
Eat The Rich
I gotta get this off my chest
Eat The Rich
Take one bite now - spit out the rest
Eat The Rich ~~~ Aerosmith

"I recently learned of something happening in my country that is so vile that it makes me wonder which medial and political officials, and what other WHM's practices and laws, support such activity, and why the perpetrating doctor isn't immediately arrested. It's not that the overall policies of this country would prevent sexual violence against women and intersex people of all ages, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and sexualities. I'm not surprised that doctors in this country are doing that is grossly harmful and violatingly abusive to girls and intersex children. I am nonetheless horrified, however. The doctor is part of Cornell University, in a medical school in NYC." ~~~ Julian Real

"I did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or out of any sense of personal insult." ~~~ Barack Obama

Love him or hate him, you must admit that British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward certainly has a way with words! Of course, most all of what Tony has said about the current disaster in the Gulf has been lies. One lie, a top another, a top another, ad infinitum! However, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially on someone like Tony who said, "I want my life back." Sure, Tony, just as soon as the people of the Gulf get their lives back! Tony is just the tip of the iceberg! BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg gave a press conference after BP's four hour meeting with Obama at the White House. During his statement, he disputed the claim that the oil giant didn't care about gulf residents. Carl's Freudian slip was showing, too. How embarrassing, eh?

Carl said:

"We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are really companies that don't care, but that is not the case in BP, we care about the small people."

Of course, he doesn't care about them. If he did, he'd help them pay their ever mounting bills from not being able to fish or shrimp or the other millions of losses caused by BP's scrimping to save a few million dollars by not putting various safety devices on that well. There's been a lot of talk about a huge fund set up to help the folks losing their boats, motels, restaurants and such, but damn few checks are being cut, far too few, far too late. To see those BP commercials you'd think everything is rosy but that's 180 degrees from reality.

Meanwhile, as people lose everything, Carl sneaks off back to Sweden and Tony's off to the races, the yacht races that is. Tony left the gulf last weekend to race his yacht, "Bob," (I kid you not that's it's name) in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, around the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said Hayward "took time off his duties handling the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico to see his boat participate in Saturday's race." Well, isn't that nice? Looks like Tony is getting his life back.

It's already cost BP several billion dollars and is likely to cost them ten or twenty times more but have no fear, they'll be able to deduct those costs from their taxes which you'll be paying for, Mr. & Ms. American taxpayer. If that were the only cost, that would be bad enough for an economy on the verge of total collapse, but the environmental damage will take decades, or more likely centuries, to repair. And Barry once again hemmed and hawed and stammered, stalled and covered up for BP and reacted with the speed of a snail on Thorazine! The Rethuglicans were quick to call this Barry's Katrina when it wasn't, but Barry has done everything in his power to make it so.

And they were also quick to lick the hand that feeds them with Con-gressman Joe Barton saying in committee:

I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private company would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown.

Then the "black widow" Michele Bachmann opened her cake-hole and called the proposed escrow account: "More of a redistribution-of-wealth-fund" and warned BP not to become "chumps" at the hands of the Obama administration. She continued, "The president continues to focus on blaming and on extorting money out of a company rather than letting the courts deal with making victims whole, which they should, and actually stemming the leak in the Gulf."

Your tax dollars at work, America!

In Other News

Just when you thought America couldn't possibly get any weirder, any sicker, any more outrageous, along comes Dr. Dix Dix Poppas, to take medical malpractice to a whole new level! What is more puzzling still is why an Ivy League school would sanction such medical abnormalities under its roof?

In case you're not hip to what I'm on about, Children's Hospital of New York Presbyterian - Weill Medical College of Cornell University is allowing the good doctor to mutilate and molest little girls at will. This in not the University of Nairobi but Cornell University! It seems Poppas convinces parents that their daughters' genitalia are much too big and he can fix that up by slicing the four or five year olds' clitoris in two! Chief of Pediatric Urology Poppas is performing nerve sparring ventral clitoroplasties on children, obviously because he gets off on it, claiming that the surgery allows female patients to "undergo a more natural psychological and sexual development." Bullshit! Dr. Dix is just a dirty old man and child molester!

The website Feministing recently reported:

The findings of Alice Dreger and Ellen Feder of Bioethics Forum, who wrote last week that because there is no evidence that a large clitoris will increase risk of psychological problems, the surgery is likely wholly unnecessary. In fact, the operation is found to increase the risk of psychosocial problems and decreased sexual function. It's almost purely cosmetic and based on the false importance ascribed to the size of a female's clitoris. As a related post at Alternet recently noted: "These procedures seem motivated mostly by an obsession with having 'normal' genitalia-and normal kids."

Even more frightening than the idea of unneeded surgery being performed by a chief doctor at a world-renowned university medical facility is that the pre- and post-operative testing runs the risk of inflicting more psychological damage on the child than the enlarged clitoris ever would because it constitutes what most normal folks would consider to be repeated sexual assault! Here's Dreger's and Feder's details on these procedures:

At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter's surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a "vibratory device," and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a "capillary perfusion testing," which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl's clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time.

So Poppas is conducting what would be considered anywhere else serious sexual molestation and mutilation. The doctor gets his kicks hurting and masturbating little girls!

Feministing also suggests contacting Cornell's Office of Research Integrity and Assurance directly. Join the Facebook group here or contact members of the Research Integrity and Assurance team directly by e-mail and let them know that human rights violations like genital mutilation should not be tolerated. Cornell's Office of Research Integrity and Assurance:

You know that I did and here's what I wrote them:
Child sexual molestation and mutilation at Cornell

Dear sir or madam,

Could someone explain why your Dr. Mengele er, Dr. Poppas is allowed to mutilate and molest little girls and hasn't been arrested and sent to to deepest, dankest, darkest sh*t hole in America's prison system? I, and my several readers would really like an explanation of why Cornell University would sanction such atrocities on their campus. Isn't it your, i.e., Office of Research Integrity and Assurance, responsibility to see that such crimes against humanity don't take place? Please explain yourself!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine

As always, if they reply after we go to press I'll print their answer in a future column!

And Finally

Not since Truman told "Dug-out Doug" to hit the road has a General dared to publicly challenge a President. Of course, Harry S. had a pair, having spent some time in the trenches in WWI and he wasn't buying McArthur's song and dance. Sure, when Bush had Ray Guns blasted, General Haig said, "I am in charge here at the White House." It wasn't so much a coup as it was Haig's ego jumping up until George H.W. showed up and slapped Alexander down.

Barry apparently is lacking a pair as his various run-ins with the Rethuglicans have pointed out. Also, Barry whose "decision-making factor is absent from brain" chose McChrystal after dismissing his predecessor Gen. David McKiernan on the Joint Chiefs demands. Then he bought into Stanley's and the Pentagoon's Vietnam counterinsurgency approach to Afghanistan, which you may recall worked so well in Vietnam! So, I have my doubts that he'll accept Stanley's resignation, unless, of course, he could make a worse choice!

There are, no doubt, those who are pointing out to the president the price he will have to pay if he doesn't accept McChrystal's resignation and Obama may just be stalling for time to choose McChrystal's replacement. (I have a bad feeling about this!) He'd better, as the sharks at the Pentagon already smelled blood after Barry's first sojourn there in 2008. So far Barry's hemming and hawing, something that he is a master at, and thinking of McChrystal. "So what if Stanley called Joey "Vice President Bite Me?" We all call him that or worse. If I fire Stanley over that, I'll have to get rid of the entire cabinet! What to do? What to do?"

My guess is that he'll finally replace Stanley with the one person even worse than McChrystal, i.e., General David Betray-us.

PS: Damn it, sometimes I hate it when I'm right!

Oh And One More Thing

It's that time of year once again when those income tax checks come a rollin' in. If you're getting one, please think of us because we always think of you! We desperately need your help to keep publishing. Please send us what you can and not only will we be extremely grateful, but we'll see that it goes to good use in the struggle to reclaim our Republic! Please, do whatever you can. We need your help.


07-29-1918 ~ 06-20-2010
Thanks for the kiss!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine.

The Runaway General
Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House
By Michael Hastings

This article appears in RS 1108/1109 from July 8-22, 2010, on newsstands Friday, June 25.

'How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the H™tel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies - to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn. McChrystal turns sharply in his chair. "Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?" McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel's thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual - blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks - McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the "most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine." The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too "Gucci." He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops.

"What's the update on the Kandahar bombing?" McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general's assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

"We have two KIAs, but that hasn't been confirmed," Flynn says.

McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you've fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

"I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says. He pauses a beat. "Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it." With that, he's out the door. "Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides. "Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the ƒcole Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan." The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?" "Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. "I want the American people to understand," he announced in March 2009. "We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan." He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan - then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan - and replaced him with a man he didn't know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government - a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinistas" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it.

As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out. After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn't send another 40,000 troops - swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half - we were in danger of "mission failure." The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president's ass.

Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three-month review to re-evaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position." For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics - a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense."

In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted. On December 1st, in a speech at West Point, the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It's expensive; we're in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words "victory" or "win," Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as many as McChrystal had requested. The president had thrown his weight, however hesitantly, behind the counterinsurgency crowd.

Today, as McChrystal gears up for an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year - a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja - continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer." In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history - and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year. The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it's precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn't want.

Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win," says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. "This is going to end in an argument."

The night after his speech in Paris, McChrystal and his staff head to Kitty O'Shea's, an Irish pub catering to tourists, around the corner from the hotel. His wife, Annie, has joined him for a rare visit: Since the Iraq War began in 2003, she has seen her husband less than 30 days a year. Though it is his and Annie's 33rd wedding anniversary, McChrystal has invited his inner circle along for dinner and drinks at the "least Gucci" place his staff could find. His wife isn't surprised. "He once took me to a Jack in the Box when I was dressed in formalwear," she says with a laugh.

The general's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There's a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority. After arriving in Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO-led mission is known. (U.S. soldiers had taken to deriding ISAF as short for "I Suck at Fighting" or "In Sandals and Flip-Flops.") McChrystal banned alcohol on base, kicked out Burger King and other symbols of American excess, expanded the morning briefing to include thousands of officers and refashioned the command center into a Situational Awareness Room, a free-flowing information hub modeled after Mayor Mike Bloomberg's offices in New York. He also set a manic pace for his staff, becoming legendary for sleeping four hours a night, running seven miles each morning, and eating one meal a day. (In the month I spend around the general, I witness him eating only once.) It's a kind of superhuman narrative that has built up around him, a staple in almost every media profile, as if the ability to go without sleep and food translates into the possibility of a man single-handedly winning the war.

By midnight at Kitty O'Shea's, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal's top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention. "Afghanistan!" they bellow. "Afghanistan!" They call it their Afghanistan song.

McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. "All these men," he tells me. "I'd die for them. And they'd die for me."

The assembled men may look and sound like a bunch of combat veterans letting off steam, but in fact this tight-knit group represents the most powerful force shaping U.S. policy in Afghanistan. While McChrystal and his men are in indisputable command of all military aspects of the war, there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side. Instead, an assortment of administration players compete over the Afghan portfolio: U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not to mention 40 or so other coalition ambassadors and a host of talking heads who try to insert themselves into the mess, from John Kerry to John McCain. This diplomatic incoherence has effectively allowed McChrystal's team to call the shots and hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan. "It jeopardizes the mission," says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports McChrystal. "The military cannot by itself create governance reform." Part of the problem is structural: The Defense Department budget exceeds $600 billion a year, while the State Department receives only $50 billion. But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, "turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful." Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.'"

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He's a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can't just have someone yanking on shit."

At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance. "Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg," an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.

By far the most crucial - and strained - relationship is between McChrystal and Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador. According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry - a retired three-star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 - can't stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He's also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO's allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general. The job instead went to British Ambassador Mark Sedwill - a move that effectively increased McChrystal's influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival. "In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight," says a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations.

The relationship was further strained in January, when a classified cable that Eikenberry wrote was leaked to The New York Times. The cable was as scathing as it was prescient. The ambassador offered a brutal critique of McChrystal's strategy, dismissed President Hamid Karzai as "not an adequate strategic partner," and cast doubt on whether the counterinsurgency plan would be "sufficient" to deal with Al Qaeda. "We will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves," Eikenberry warned, "short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos."

McChrystal and his team were blindsided by the cable. "I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," says McChrystal, who adds that he felt "betrayed" by the leak. "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.'"

The most striking example of McChrystal's usurpation of diplomatic policy is his handling of Karzai. It is McChrystal, not diplomats like Eikenberry or Holbrooke, who enjoys the best relationship with the man America is relying on to lead Afghanistan. The doctrine of counterinsurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so. Over the past few months, he has accompanied the president on more than 10 trips around the country, standing beside him at political meetings, or shuras, in Kandahar. In February, the day before the doomed offensive in Marja, McChrystal even drove over to the president's palace to get him to sign off on what would be the largest military operation of the year. Karzai's staff, however, insisted that the president was sleeping off a cold and could not be disturbed. After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan's defense minister, who persuaded Karzai's people to wake the president from his nap.

This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tin-pot leader we've backed - a danger that Eikenberry explicitly warned about in his cable. Even Team McChrystal privately acknowledges that Karzai is a less-than-ideal partner. "He's been locked up in his palace the past year," laments one of the general's top advisers. At times, Karzai himself has actively undermined McChrystal's desire to put him in charge. During a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Karzai met three U.S. soldiers who had been wounded in Uruzgan province. "General," he called out to McChrystal, "I didn't even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!"

Growing up as a military brat, McChrystal exhibited the mixture of brilliance and cockiness that would follow him throughout his career. His father fought in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a two-star general, and his four brothers all joined the armed services. Moving around to different bases, McChrystal took solace in baseball, a sport in which he made no pretense of hiding his superiority: In Little League, he would call out strikes to the crowd before whipping a fastball down the middle.

McChrystal entered West Point in 1972, when the U.S. military was close to its all-time low in popularity. His class was the last to graduate before the academy started to admit women. The "Prison on the Hudson," as it was known then, was a potent mix of testosterone, hooliganism and reactionary patriotism. Cadets repeatedly trashed the mess hall in food fights, and birthdays were celebrated with a tradition called "rat fucking," which often left the birthday boy outside in the snow or mud, covered in shaving cream. "It was pretty out of control," says Lt. Gen. David Barno, a classmate who went on to serve as the top commander in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. The class, filled with what Barno calls "huge talent" and "wild-eyed teenagers with a strong sense of idealism," also produced Gen. Ray Odierno, the current commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The son of a general, McChrystal was also a ringleader of the campus dissidents - a dual role that taught him how to thrive in a rigid, top-down environment while thumbing his nose at authority every chance he got. He accumulated more than 100 hours of demerits for drinking, partying and insubordination - a record that his classmates boasted made him a "century man." One classmate, who asked not to be named, recalls finding McChrystal passed out in the shower after downing a case of beer he had hidden under the sink. The troublemaking almost got him kicked out, and he spent hours subjected to forced marches in the Area, a paved courtyard where unruly cadets were disciplined. "I'd come visit, and I'd end up spending most of my time in the library, while Stan was in the Area," recalls Annie, who began dating McChrystal in 1973.

McChrystal wound up ranking 298 out of a class of 855, a serious underachievement for a man widely regarded as brilliant. His most compelling work was extracurricular: As managing editor of The Pointer, the West Point literary magazine, McChrystal wrote seven short stories that eerily foreshadow many of the issues he would confront in his career. In one tale, a fictional officer complains about the difficulty of training foreign troops to fight; in another, a 19-year-old soldier kills a boy he mistakes for a terrorist. In "Brinkman's Note," a piece of suspense fiction, the unnamed narrator appears to be trying to stop a plot to assassinate the president. It turns out, however, that the narrator himself is the assassin, and he's able to infiltrate the White House: "The President strode in smiling. From the right coat pocket of the raincoat I carried, I slowly drew forth my 32-caliber pistol. In Brinkman's failure, I had succeeded."

After graduation, 2nd Lt. Stanley McChrystal entered an Army that was all but broken in the wake of Vietnam. "We really felt we were a peacetime generation," he recalls. "There was the Gulf War, but even that didn't feel like that big of a deal." So McChrystal spent his career where the action was: He enrolled in Special Forces school and became a regimental commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion in 1986. It was a dangerous position, even in peacetime - nearly two dozen Rangers were killed in training accidents during the Eighties. It was also an unorthodox career path: Most soldiers who want to climb the ranks to general don't go into the Rangers. Displaying a penchant for transforming systems he considers outdated, McChrystal set out to revolutionize the training regime for the Rangers. He introduced mixed martial arts, required every soldier to qualify with night-vision goggles on the rifle range and forced troops to build up their endurance with weekly marches involving heavy backpacks.

In the late 1990s, McChrystal shrewdly improved his inside game, spending a year at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and then at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he co-authored a treatise on the merits and drawbacks of humanitarian interventionism. But as he moved up through the ranks, McChrystal relied on the skills he had learned as a troublemaking kid at West Point: knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out. Being a highly intelligent badass, he discovered, could take you far - especially in the political chaos that followed September 11th. "He was very focused," says Annie. "Even as a young officer he seemed to know what he wanted to do. I don't think his personality has changed in all these years."

By some accounts, McChrystal's career should have been over at least two times by now. As Pentagon spokesman during the invasion of Iraq, the general seemed more like a White House mouthpiece than an up-and-coming commander with a reputation for speaking his mind. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his infamous "stuff happens" remark during the looting of Baghdad, McChrystal backed him up. A few days later, he echoed the president's Mission Accomplished gaffe by insisting that major combat operations in Iraq were over. But it was during his next stint - overseeing the military's most elite units, including the Rangers, Navy Seals and Delta Force - that McChrystal took part in a cover-up that would have destroyed the career of a lesser man.

After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former-NFL-star-turned-Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters. He signed off on a falsified recommendation for a Silver Star that suggested Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. (McChrystal would later claim he didn't read the recommendation closely enough - a strange excuse for a commander known for his laserlike attention to minute details.) A week later, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman's death. "If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public," he wrote, it could cause "public embarrassment" for the president.

"The false narrative, which McChrystal clearly helped construct, diminished Pat's true actions," wrote Tillman's mother, Mary, in her book Boots on the Ground by Dusk. McChrystal got away with it, she added, because he was the "golden boy" of Rumsfeld and Bush, who loved his willingness to get things done, even if it included bending the rules or skipping the chain of command. Nine days after Tillman's death, McChrystal was promoted to major general.

Two years later, in 2006, McChrystal was tainted by a scandal involving detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Iraq. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, prisoners at the camp were subjected to a now-familiar litany of abuse: stress positions, being dragged naked through the mud. McChrystal was not disciplined in the scandal, even though an interrogator at the camp reported seeing him inspect the prison multiple times. But the experience was so unsettling to McChrystal that he tried to prevent detainee operations from being placed under his command in Afghanistan, viewing them as a "political swamp," according to a U.S. official. In May 2009, as McChrystal prepared for his confirmation hearings, his staff prepared him for hard questions about Camp Nama and the Tillman cover-up. But the scandals barely made a ripple in Congress, and McChrystal was soon on his way back to Kabul to run the war in Afghanistan.

The media, to a large extent, have also given McChrystal a pass on both controversies. Where Gen. Petraeus is kind of a dweeb, a teacher's pet with a Ranger's tab, McChrystal is a snake-eating rebel, a "Jedi" commander, as Newsweek called him. He didn't care when his teenage son came home with blue hair and a mohawk. He speaks his mind with a candor rare for a high-ranking official. He asks for opinions, and seems genuinely interested in the response. He gets briefings on his iPod and listens to books on tape. He carries a custom-made set of nunchucks in his convoy engraved with his name and four stars, and his itinerary often bears a fresh quote from Bruce Lee. ("There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.") He went out on dozens of nighttime raids during his time in Iraq, unprecedented for a top commander, and turned up on missions unannounced, with almost no entourage. "The fucking lads love Stan McChrystal," says a British officer who serves in Kabul. "You'd be out in Somewhere, Iraq, and someone would take a knee beside you, and a corporal would be like 'Who the fuck is that?' And it's fucking Stan McChrystal." It doesn't hurt that McChrystal was also extremely successful as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite forces that carry out the government's darkest ops. During the Iraq surge, his team killed and captured thousands of insurgents, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. "JSOC was a killing machine," says Maj. Gen. Mayville, his chief of operations. McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down - often with the help of cyberfreaks traditionally shunned by the military. "The Boss would find the 24-year-old kid with a nose ring, with some fucking brilliant degree from MIT, sitting in the corner with 16 computer monitors humming," says a Special Forces commando who worked with McChrystal in Iraq and now serves on his staff in Kabul. "He'd say, 'Hey - you fucking muscleheads couldn't find lunch without help. You got to work together with these guys.' "

Even in his new role as America's leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep-seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. "You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight," McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he'll add, "I'm going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though." In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 - a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. "We've shot an amazing number of people," McChrystal recently conceded.

Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It's "insurgent math," as he calls it - for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. "For a while," says one U.S. official, "the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a 'civ cas' incident." The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There's talk of creating a new medal for "courageous restraint," a buzzword that's unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal's new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing."

In March, McChrystal traveled to Combat Outpost JFM - a small encampment on the outskirts of Kandahar - to confront such accusations from the troops directly. It was a typically bold move by the general. Only two days earlier, he had received an e-mail from Israel Arroyo, a 25-year-old staff sergeant who asked McChrystal to go on a mission with his unit. "I am writing because it was said you don't care about the troops and have made it harder to defend ourselves," Arroyo wrote.

Within hours, McChrystal responded personally: "I'm saddened by the accusation that I don't care about soldiers, as it is something I suspect any soldier takes both personally and professionally - at least I do. But I know perceptions depend upon your perspective at the time, and I respect that every soldier's view is his own." Then he showed up at Arroyo's outpost and went on a foot patrol with the troops - not some bullshit photo-op stroll through a market, but a real live operation in a dangerous war zone.

Six weeks later, just before McChrystal returned from Paris, the general received another e-mail from Arroyo. A 23-year-old corporal named Michael Ingram - one of the soldiers McChrystal had gone on patrol with - had been killed by an IED a day earlier. It was the third man the 25-member platoon had lost in a year, and Arroyo was writing to see if the general would attend Ingram's memorial service. "He started to look up to you," Arroyo wrote. McChrystal said he would try to make it down to pay his respects as soon as possible.

The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo's platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram's death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal's new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. "These were abandoned houses," fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. "Nobody was coming back to live in them."

One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. "Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force," the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that's like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won't have to make arrests. "Does that make any fucking sense?" asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. "We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?"

The rules handed out here are not what McChrystal intended - they've been distorted as they passed through the chain of command - but knowing that does nothing to lessen the anger of troops on the ground. "Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on," says Hicks, who has served three tours of combat. "I get COIN. I get all that. McChrystal comes here, explains it, it makes sense. But then he goes away on his bird, and by the time his directives get passed down to us through Big Army, they're all fucked up - either because somebody is trying to cover their ass, or because they just don't understand it themselves. But we're fucking losing this thing."

McChrystal and his team show up the next day. Underneath a tent, the general has a 45-minute discussion with some two dozen soldiers. The atmosphere is tense. "I ask you what's going on in your world, and I think it's important for you all to understand the big picture as well," McChrystal begins. "How's the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you're losing?" McChrystal says.

"Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir," says Hicks.

McChrystal nods. "Strength is leading when you just don't want to lead," he tells the men. "You're leading by example. That's what we do. Particularly when it's really, really hard, and it hurts inside." Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counterinsurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard. He makes COIN seem like common sense, but he's careful not to bullshit the men. "We are knee-deep in the decisive year," he tells them. The Taliban, he insists, no longer has the initiative - "but I don't think we do, either." It's similar to the talk he gave in Paris, but it's not winning any hearts and minds among the soldiers. "This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks," McChrystal tries to joke. "But it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies."

During the question-and-answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight - like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal. "We aren't putting fear into the Taliban," one soldier says.

"Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing," McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can't kill your way out of Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn't work."

"I'm not saying go out and kill everybody, sir," the soldier persists. "You say we've stopped the momentum of the insurgency. I don't believe that's true in this area. The more we pull back, the more we restrain ourselves, the stronger it's getting."

"I agree with you," McChrystal says. "In this area, we've not made progress, probably. You have to show strength here, you have to use fire. What I'm telling you is, fire costs you. What do you want to do? You want to wipe the population out here and resettle it?"

A soldier complains that under the rules, any insurgent who doesn't have a weapon is immediately assumed to be a civilian. "That's the way this game is," McChrystal says. "It's complex. I can't just decide: It's shirts and skins, and we'll kill all the shirts."

As the discussion ends, McChrystal seems to sense that he hasn't succeeded at easing the men's anger. He makes one last-ditch effort to reach them, acknowledging the death of Cpl. Ingram. "There's no way I can make that easier," he tells them. "No way I can pretend it won't hurt. No way I can tell you not to feel that. . . . I will tell you, you're doing a great job. Don't let the frustration get to you." The session ends with no clapping, and no real resolution. McChrystal may have sold President Obama on counterinsurgency, but many of his own men aren't buying it.

When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal's side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan - and he wasn't hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France's nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest - there's nothing for us there."

In mid-May, two weeks after visiting the troops in Kandahar, McChrystal travels to the White House for a high-level visit by Hamid Karzai. It is a triumphant moment for the general, one that demonstrates he is very much in command - both in Kabul and in Washington. In the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai. The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is, about the pain they feel over civilian casualties. They mention the word "progress" 16 times in under an hour. But there is no mention of victory. Still, the session represents the most forceful commitment that Obama has made to McChrystal's strategy in months. "There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years - in education, in health care and economic development," the president says. "As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed - lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier."

"It was one of our first impressions," one GOP official said in 2006, after landing in Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. "So many lights shining brightly." So it is to the language of the Iraq War that the Obama administration has turned - talk of progress, of city lights, of metrics like health care and education. Rhetoric that just a few years ago they would have mocked. "They are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory - because victory is not even defined or recognizable," says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq in 2006. "That's the game we're in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn't get run off. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future."

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn't begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn't prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. "There's a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here," a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

Back in Afghanistan, less than a month after the White House meeting with Karzai and all the talk of "progress," McChrystal is hit by the biggest blow to his vision of counterinsurgency. Since last year, the Pentagon had been planning to launch a major military operation this summer in Kandahar, the country's second-largest city and the Taliban's original home base. It was supposed to be a decisive turning point in the war - the primary reason for the troop surge that McChrystal wrested from Obama late last year. But on June 10th, acknowledging that the military still needs to lay more groundwork, the general announced that he is postponing the offensive until the fall. Rather than one big battle, like Fallujah or Ramadi, U.S. troops will implement what McChrystal calls a "rising tide of security." The Afghan police and army will enter Kandahar to attempt to seize control of neighborhoods, while the U.S. pours $90 million of aid into the city to win over the civilian population.

Even proponents of counterinsurgency are hard-pressed to explain the new plan. "This isn't a classic operation," says a U.S. military official. "It's not going to be Black Hawk Down. There aren't going to be doors kicked in." Other U.S. officials insist that doors are going to be kicked in, but that it's going to be a kinder, gentler offensive than the disaster in Marja. >"The Taliban have a jackboot on the city," says a military official. "We have to remove them, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't alienate the population." When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. "This looks like CT-plus!" he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting.

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over - the Afghan people - do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" - a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.
(c) 2010 Michael Hastings

A Flash Of Lightning
By Uri Avnery

NIGHT. UTTER darkness. Heavy rain. Visibility close to nil.

And suddenly - a flash of lightning. For a fraction of a second, the landscape is lit up. For this split second, the terrain surrounding us can be seen. It is not the way it used to be.

OUR GOVERNMENT' action against the Gaza aid flotilla was such a lightning flash.

Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world is concerned. But for that instant, the real landscape around us could be seen, and it looked frightening. Then the darkness settled down over us, Israel returned to its bubble, the world disappeared from view.

This split second was enough to reveal a dismal scene. On almost all fronts, the situation of the State of Israel has worsened since the last flash of lightning.

The flotilla and the attack on it did not create this landscape. It has been there since our present government was set up. But the deterioration did not start even then. It began a long time before.

The action of Ehud Barak & Co. only lit up the situation as it is now, and gave it yet another push in the wrong direction.

How does the new landscape look in the light of Barak's barak? ("barak" means lightning in Hebrew.)

THE LIST is headed by a fact that nobody seems to have noticed until now: the death of the Holocaust.

In all the tumult this affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust was not even mentioned. True, in Israel there were some who called Recep Tayyip Erdogan "a new Hitler", and some Israel-haters talked about the "Nazi attack", but the Holocaust has practically disappeared.

For two generations, our foreign policy used the Holocaust as its main instrument. The bad conscience of the world determined its attitude towards Israel. The (justified) guilt feelings - either for atrocities committed or for looking the other way - caused Europe and America to treat Israel differently than any other nation - from nuclear armaments to the settlements. All criticism of our governments' actions was branded automatically as anti-Semitism and silenced.

But time does its work. New tragedies have blunted the world's senses. For a new generation, the Holocaust is a thing of the remote past, a chapter of history. The sense of guilt has disappeared in all countries, except Germany.

The Israeli public did not notice this, because in Israel itself the Shoah is alive and present. Many Israelis are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and the Holocaust has been imprinted on their childhood. Moreover, a huge apparatus ensures that the Holocaust will not disappear from our memory, starting from kindergarten, through ceremonies and memorial days, to organized tours "there.".

Therefore, the Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political instrument. Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.

THE CENTRAL pillar of our policy is our alliance with the United States. To use a phrase dear to Binyamin Netanyahu (in another context): it's "the rock of our existence.".

For many years, this alliance has kept us safe from all trouble. We knew that we could always get from the US all we needed: advanced arms to retain our superiority over all Arab armies combined, munitions in times of war, money for our economy, the veto on all UN Security Council resolutions against us, automatic support for all the actions of our successive governments. Every small and medium country in the world knew that in order to gain entrance to the palaces of Washington, the Israeli doorkeeper had to be bribed.

But during the last year, cracks have appeared in this pillar. Not the small scratches and chips of wear and tear, but cracks caused by shifts of the ground. The mutual aversion between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu is only one symptom of a much deeper problem,

The Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset last week: "For the US, we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden."

This fact was put into incisive words by General David Petraeus, when he said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The later soothing messages did not erase the significance of this warning. (When Petraeus fainted this week at a Senate hearing, some religious Jews viewed it as divine punishment.)

IT IS not only the Israeli-American relationship that has undergone a fateful change, but the standing of the US itself is changing for the worse, a bad omen indeed for the future of Israeli policy.

The world is changing, slowly and quietly. The US is still by far the most powerful country, but it is no longer the almighty superpower it had been since 1989. China is flexing its muscles, countries like India and Brazil are getting stronger, countries like Turkey - yes, Turkey! - are beginning to play a role.

This is not a matter of one or two years, but anyone who is thinking about the future of Israel in ten, twenty years must understand that unless there is a basic change in our position, our position, too, will decline.

IF OUR alliance with the US is one central pillar of Israeli policy, the support of the vast majority of world Jewry is the second.

For 62 years, we could count on it with our eyes shut. Whatever we did - almost all the world's Jews stood at attention and saluted. In fire and water, victory or defeat, glorious or dark chapters - the world's Jews did support us, giving money, demonstrating, pressuring their governments. Without second thoughts, without criticism.

Not anymore. Quietly, almost silently, cracks have appeared in this pillar, too. Opinion polls show that most American Jewish young people are turning away from Israel. Not shifting their loyalty from the Israeli establishment to Israel's liberal camp - but turning away from Israel altogether.

This will not be felt immediately either. AIPAC continues to strike fear into Washingtonian hearts, Congress will continue to dance to its tune. But when the new generation comes to man key positions, the support for Israel will erode, American politicians will stop crawling on their bellies and the US administration will gradually change its relations with us.

IN OUR immediate neighborhood, too, profound changes are underway, some of them beneath the surface. The flotilla incident has exposed them.

The influence of our allies is decreasing constantly. They are losing height, and an old-new power is on the rise: Turkey.

Hosni Mubarak is busy with his efforts to pass power to his son, Gamal. The Islamic opposition in Egypt is raising its head. Saudi money is trumped by the new attraction of Turkey. The Jordanian king is compelled to adapt himself. The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hisbollah-Hamas is the rising power, the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.

BUT THE most important change is the one that is taking place in international public opinion. Any derision of this reminds one of Stalin's famous sneer ("How many divisions has the pope?")

Recently, an Israeli TV station showed a fascinating film about the German and Scandinavian female volunteers who flooded Israel in the 50s and 60s to live and work (and sometimes marry) in the kibbutzim. Israel was then seen as a plucky little nation surrounded by hateful enemies, a state risen from the ashes of the Holocaust to become a haven of freedom, equality and democracy, which found their most sublime expression in that unique creation, the kibbutz.

The present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world, male and female, who would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim, can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza, which touches the hearts of many young people. The pioneering Israeli David has turned into a brutish Israeli Goliath.

Even a genius of spin could not change this. For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters executing "targeted eliminations", and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas. Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes. When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel becomes a monster. The more so since the Israeli propaganda machine is successfully suppressing any news about the Israeli peace camp.

MANY YEARS ago, when I wanted to ridicule the addiction of our leaders to the use of force, I paraphrased a saying that reflects much of Jewish wisdom: "if force does not work, use brains." In order to show how far we, the Israelis, are different from the Jews, I changed the words: "If force doesn't work, use more force."

I thought of it as a joke. But, as happens to many jokes in our country, it has become reality. It is now the credo of many primitive Israelis, headed by Ehud Barak.

In practice, the security of a state depends on many factors, and military force is but one of them. In the long run, world public opinion is stronger. The pope has many divisions.

In many respects, Israel is still a strong country. But, as the sudden illumination of the flotilla affair has shown, time is not working in our favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the region - which means making peace with our neighbors - as long as we are as strong as we are now.

If force doesn't work, more force will not necessarily work either.

If force doesn't work, force doesn't work. Period.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

War For Resources
From slander to clarion call
By David Sirota

Reading this week's New York Times headline - "U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan" - many probably wondered how this information was being presented as "news" in 2010. After all, humanity has long been aware of the country's vast natural resources. As Mother Jones magazine's James Ridgeway said after recalling past public accounts of the ore deposits, "This 'discovery' in fact is ancient history tracing back to the times of Marco Polo."

The intrigue in The Times dispatch, then, is not Afghanistan's "huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals" that the paper quotes Pentagon officials gushing about - it is the gushing itself. Indeed, the real question is: What would prompt the government to portray well-known geology as some sort of blockbuster revelation?

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder proffers a convincing answer. Noting the military's coordinated quotes in The Times piece, he writes that the Pentagon is probably trying to bolster Americans' support for the flagging Afghanistan campaign by "publicizing or re-publicizing valid but already public information about the region's potential wealth."

This assertion, mind you, is not coming from some antiwar ideologue in a "No War for Oil!" t-shirt. On the contrary, Ambinder is a quintessential buttoned-down establishmentarian far more interested in covering political process than in pushing a pet cause - which means his charge (later echoed by other Washington journalists) is a particularly powerful one. And if he's correct, we may be witnessing the final spasm of a radical shift.

Remember, the idea that the U.S. invades countries to pilfer natural resources was once written off as an inflammatory insult and/or an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, irrespective of corroborating facts (like, say, pre-9/11 Pentagon plans to divvy up Iraqi petroleum, State Department proposals to privatize Iraq's oil fields and top government officials insisting Saddam Hussein's overthrow was "essential" to protect oil supplies). The assumption, of course, was that the public opposes resource conflicts and that therefore labeling wars as such is nothing but disreputable slander designed only to harm a political opponent.

This manufactured construct, though, began eroding as soon as George W. Bush started turning the "war for oil" aspersion into a proud clarion call.

In 2005, the Associated Press reported that the president "answered growing antiwar protests with a fresh reason for U.S. troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields." During a press conference a year later, Bush three times pitched petroleum as a rationale for war, criticizing "extreme elements" who "want to control oil resources," insisting that "we can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East with large oil reserves" and warning that we must stop insurgents from gaining "the capacity to use oil as an economic weapon."

Now, under President Obama, we get leaked Pentagon memos cheerily promising that Afghanistan will become "the Saudi Arabia of lithium" and generals touting the minerals' "stunning potential" - the implication being that America is morally obligated to exploit such potential through armed occupation.

The theater of battle is different but the paradigm is the same: Whereas it was previously considered uncouth for anyone to even suggest that economic hegemony might motivate U.S. military action, our leaders are now boldly selling wars as commendable instruments of such profit-focused imperialism.

Importantly, this revised message relies on the new assumption that the public now sees resource conflicts not as detestable - but as worthy and even admirable. And should that assumption prove true, it would mean that this latest exercise in martial propaganda represents more than mere marketing innovation. It would signal a disturbing change in what the population thinks is - and is not - a just reason for war.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at

Interior Department Inspector General Mary
Kendall and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Big Government? In the Gulf, It's Too Small And Too Weak!
Federal inspectors assigned to inspect oil platforms in the Gulf are poorly trained, over-stretched and powerless.
By Joe Conason

If there is any simple, succinct, somewhat contrarian lesson to be drawn from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it is this: The federal government is neither too big nor too intrusive but is in fact shockingly meek and weak -- at least when dealing with giant corporations whose operations can imperil the entire planet. That was essentially the message delivered yesterday by Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall, whose congressional testimony was overshadowed by the Tony Hayward show on Capitol Hill.

Kendall told Congress that the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the regulatory agency that oversees petroleum and mining development on federal property, is pathetically understaffed and poorly trained. Its regulations are out of date and it is unable to collect even the most basic data needed for its statutory mission:

The IG also said that the MMS relies too heavily on oil companies "to document and accurately report on operations, production and royalties." Kendall said she's launched an investigation of those practices in the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well and the subsequent spill.

Kendall criticized the MMS for having only five paragraphs in its regulations on how to investigate such an incident. She said the MMS investigation of the Deepwater Horizon spill is required to follow Coast Guard regulations, which are "completely backwards".

"MMS inspectors, at least in the Gulf of Mexico region, operate relatively independently, with little direction as to what must be inspected, or how," Kendall said.

Not only are the MMS inspectors often unable or unwilling to adequately regulate the drilling operators but there are far too few of them and their training is sorely lacking:

While the MMS has 10 inspectors for the 23 facilities in the Pacific Ocean, it has only approximately 60 inspectors for the nearly 4,000 facilities in the Gulf.

Additionally, Kendall said that the MMS training program, developed between 1984 is "out of date," resulting in employees conducting faulty inspections.

Students of government have long accepted as a rule of thumb that hiring additional well-trained auditors to oversee major government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid always results in savings that amount to many multiples of the cost in salaries and overhead. (The more general argument for a muscular government is very capably and entertainingly articulated by Jeff Madrick in his excellent book "The Case for Big Government.") A similar principle plainly applies to oil platform inspectors, because perhaps if there were more of them, better trained, with real regulatory clout, we not only would suffer less pollution and earn more royalties every day -- but this time we could have saved $100 billion or so in economic damages, along with the Louisiana wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico too.
(c) 2010 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

Big Oil Turns Against One Of Its Own

The brotherhood gathered at the table, vowing fealty to the cause and to each other. "One for all and all for one," they pledged - except for "that one," pointing to BP's man at the end of the table.

These were the barons of Big Oil, gathered at the witness table for a hearing by the House energy committee investigating BP's disastrous deepwater oil well. Arrayed before the committee were five aging white guys in dark suits - top executives of BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. Usually, the industry stands unified, forming a fortress against all critics of its arrogance and avarice. But this day, the brotherhood tossed BP to the howling wolves of public outrage.

"We would not have drilled the well the way they did," sniffed Exxon's man. "Not all of the standards... that we would employ were in place," said Chevron's man dismissively. "It's not a well that we would have drilled," Shell's man asserted smugly, washing his hands of BP's failure.

But, had it been their well that erupted in the Gulf, how would the four detractors have responded? Uh... um... ahem... uh, well... exactly the same as BP. All five of the barons had submitted almost exactly the same disaster response plan to federal regulators. That would be the 582-page "plan" that reads like it was written as a comedy skit for Stephen Colbert's show.

Under it, no birds or turtles would be harmed, no beaches or marshes soiled, and no water quality seriously compromised. The farcical document promises that walruses, sea otters and sea lions would not suffer - which, technically, is true, since these mammals do not live anywhere near the Gulf!

Big Oil's other barons can run from BP, but they can't hide from the reality that all of their offshore rigs are disasters waiting to happen.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

A Zionist State of Mind, A Dreamscape Of Ghosts
One Jew's Hard Awakening
By Phil Rockstroh

Although my mother fled Nazi Germany, as a child, on a Kindertransport, with a few family valuables sown into her clothing, and I was brought up on the myths and hagiography of the Zionist state, I, over time, came to recognize the folly of the whole colonialist enterprise - the folly of ethnic exclusion and expulsion, the inherent tragedy of nationalism based on the delusion of religious birthright. With much sorrow, I came to the sad realization that the dream of the State of Israel was based on European chauvinism and exceptionalism. This reckoning has been a difficult one for me to bear -- the hardest awakening of my adult life.

My father was born on a Reservation in the American mid-west. His people, like the Palestinians, resisted invaders of European ancestry and were crushed. At present, both peoples remain exiled and caged in their native land.

The Jewish side of myself understands the historical traumas that gave rise to the yearning for a tribal Homeland. Atavistically, I suffer the Jewish state's collective night terrors and reel in its daylight rationalizations for its brutalities. But the Native American in me knows the rage of those crushed by the heartless force of an invading people.

Neither my father's peoples' bows and arrows nor the "threat" of metal rods, clutched by a few activists aboard the illegally seized Gaza-bound Peace Flotilla, nor Hamas' small rockets will change the tragic trajectory wrought by a tribalist land grab. History reveals a conquered and caged people will starve, in both body and soul, as they watch their hopes wither to dust. But I will not condemn them for their struggle, and even their "provocations" - dangerous and outrageous provocations ... such as the desire not to live out their lives behind ghetto walls, and the actions they take accordingly. (Even though, a provocation will never soften the banal mind of a bully to end his reign of brutality.)

To this day, within me, there are traits of cultural Judaism that have not been washed away in the deluge of shame I experience when confronted by the actions of the state of Israel and the casuistry of her apologists. Deep in my genetic structure, I carry tribal memories of Diaspora and its concomitant feelings of alienation from majoritarian culture. Most often, I still apprehend human existence from the perspective of an alien and interloper, believing my survival is dependent upon knowing where I stand in hostile terrain. By rote, I play the role of the outsider, wary and savvy in my dealings with a hostile gentile world.

In this, I understand the paranoid nature of the Jewish state and the reasons underlying her supporters' rationalizations of her many crimes. Self-deception is at the root of habitual deceit. Sadly, the true believers of the Zionist cause have become case studies in that tragic trait. The archetype of the eternal outsider and his involuntary wandering still resonates within me. In this manner, I feel kinship with my urban Ashkenazi/Sephardim ancestors ... those who knew a just society, structured on social justice and civil equity, was the Jewish minority's best hope for living in safety among a gentile majority -- not this narrative of grandiosity and exceptionalism one hears muttered by bearded boneheads (and other Bronze Age cultural throwbacks) at the Wailing Wall and posited on the editorial pages of the Jerusalem Post.

By stealing those parcels of arid acreage in the Middle East, Zionists will match generations of hostile Goyim in the harm they level upon future Jewry: By having chosen mindless might over justice and fairness, they have bestowed a wasteland upon the human hearts of their descendants.

Every human being is born, powerless and vulnerable, into a world they did not create. Ergo, for the awakening heart of the young, it can be a barren land, a dreamscape of ghosts, built by the bony hands of the dead ... their mouldering myths carrying the cold of the grave not the eros of the breathing moment. Ghosts such as these, curse at the present with the imprecatory psalms implicit in the foundation of the Zionist state -- and, as the nation's history unfurled, became explicit in her policies. Israel's collective brutalities are the blind thrashings of traumatized souls who, in their agonies, wound all near them.

Such forces of toxic, displaced vehemence can uncouple us from our humanity, warping libido into murderous intent, reducing meaningful endeavor to selfish striving, and twisting our exuberance into zealotry, thereby achieving a form of ass-backward alchemy by transforming living human beings into resentful shades -- those seemingly no longer here ... reacting rather than responding, reciting propaganda as opposed to seeking meaning, squandering the golden, eternal moment before us by transmuting it into leaden habituations of the mind. For all appearances becoming a ghost, haunting the moments of one's own life -- non-responsive, sans retrograde resentment, to the elan vital of the world -- dead, but for the redundancy of one's breathing. In this way, the spirit of a culture can become a mob of resentful, vicious ghosts. With ghosts, the context of their suffering is misplaced. They cannot haunt those who gave them injury. Their tormentors are long dead as well. The raging spirits of the Zionist state can no longer locate the historical oppressors of the Jewish people, for they have long since been conscripted to dust. Hence, the adherents of Zionism reap vengeance against those living souls who misfortune has placed near them.

The Jewish state demands its neighbors make amends for crimes they did not commit -- to cower before the steel-toe might of its military and make perpetual penitence for the sins of Europe. Even if they did so: Such an act would not restore my mother's childhood ... would not return to flesh the ashen remains of the millions who made their graves in the winds of twentieth century Europe.

For the Jewish people, as is the case with all humanity, survival in the present age is not dependent on military prowess nor the blessing of an imaginary father in the sky. Awakening to new realities restores meaning and resonance to our lives. Felicity to the putrid, Bronze Age admonitions of a savage sky spirit involving the ownership of desert real-estate only entombs the heart and mummifies the mind.

Accordingly, the most putrefied and pernicious of these fallacies -- the delusion that there exists a "Chosen People" -- must be the first to be toppled.

God's Chosen People? Chosen for what reason: First, divinely bestowed entitlement to a parcel of parched landscape, then exile, persecution, extermination? And now for what purpose: Simply to join the brutal ranks of history's bullies?

When the ashes of the Holocaust cleared, this is the world my mother's tribe built: A right-wing state that believes its godly mission is to lord over and oppress a militarily weaker people. Moreover, if they resist -- starve them, murder them in their homes, drive them into exile. The Israelis seem to be demanding this of the Palestinian people: Why don't you simply accept your lot as being compliant lessors and stay confined to your ghettos?

Furthermore, if you object, then leave -- go into exile -- wander the earth without a home. It would seem, over the course of the lives of the last few generations of Jewish believers, the ancient myth has morphed: The desert god has become more of an earthly ironist than wrathful sky-daddy.

In fact, mirroring the ways of their invented father in heaven, some of my blood relatives have become such inadvertent ironists, as they, at this moment, squat in Palestine, bristling with misplaced rage, manic with delusional entitlement, and, on the whole, casting a curse upon future generations that will poison their hearts and cascade through the generations with a terrible symmetry.
(c) 2010 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website.

No Mystery In Greene Election Win
By James Donahue

People who study such things understand that there probably was no skullduggery behind the surprise victory of unknown Democratic candidate Alvin Greene as the party nominee for U. S. Senator from South Carolina.

Even though Mr. Greene spent almost nothing campaigning for the office and emerged as a total "unknown" among Democratic Party circles, he defeated former Circuit Judge Vic Rawl of Charleston in the state primary elections. Rawl challenged Greene's victory, suggesting that the election had to have been rigged for Greene to have gained more than 100,000 votes.

But the secret shouldn't have been a secret. People who study election results should understand that candidates with double letters in their names are more likely to win. Greene not only had two "e's together in his last name, he has a third "e" at the end of it. Rawl's name could not compete with that.

Double letters are found to be powerfully attractive to electors when they are deciding how to cast their vote. But candidates with the same letters in both first and last names also appear to have the advantage. Consider Barack Obama, with four "a's" in his name who defeated John McCain with two "n's" and double "c's. That the second "c" was capitalized may have made a difference.

George W. Bush had two "e's" and two "g's in his first name which gave him an edge over Al Gore in 2000 and he defeated John Kerry in 2004. Kerry's double r's" in his last name apparently were not enough to overpower the simplicity and familiarity of the Bush name. Many Americans believe both elections were rigged.

Overall, however, the formula works at the polls, almost every time. It didn't seem to work in the Texas 22nd Congressional District, however, where another Democratic unknown, Keshna Rogers, defeated Doug Platt (with double "t's") and Freddie John Weider Jr. (with double "d's" and three "e's") for the party nod. The asset in her name was the two "e's" and two "s's" in the full name. Perhaps the name Rogers seemed more familiar to voters than the names Platt or Weider.

Some years ago I was told about this strange phenomenon of multiple letters by a man that liked to study numbers and statistics. I have been watching it work in elections ever since. It seems that many of our past presidents . . . Roosevelt, Kennedy, Hoover, Harry Truman, "Bill" Clinton, and "Jimmy" Carter . . . have had double letters in their names.

Other presidents like Richard Nixon, with two "i's" and two "n's" and Dwight D. Eisenhower with two "d's," two "w's," two "i's" and three "e's" also held that high office.

We must wonder if Al Gore had chosen to use his full first name, Albert Gore, which offers two "e's" and two "r's" in the full name, history might have taken a different course in 2000. As it was, he came within a hare's breath of winning that election anyway.

. Whether caused by a subconscious preference among American voters to choose names with double letters, or some other reason, there has been a pattern here that should be considered by candidates before they spend the money it takes to jump into a presidential, Senatorial or Congressional campaign.

This also suggests that the fate of the nation may not rest on voter common sense.

Alvin Greene may have a harder time defeating incumbent Senator Jim DeMint in November. DeMint has two "m's" in his name. If he uses the name James DeMint on the ballot, he will have even more strength in the name because it adds a second "e."

If the formula is correct, however, a name like Greene is going to be hard to beat. The man might even make a successful run for president in 2012 without lifting a finger.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Why Iran Versus Israel Rhetoric Could Escalate Into War
By Scott Peterson

Tel Aviv, Israel; and Istanbul, Turkey - The Israeli drumbeat for a military strike against Iran's nuclear program grew louder this week as former intelligence chief Shabtai Shavit said the Jewish state must not "sit idly and wait until the enemy comes to attack you."

"Since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of preemption and not of retaliation," Mr. Shavit told a conference at the hawkish Bar Ilan University on Monday.

Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran have long been arch-foes. But these enemies have grown in their ignorance, misperceptions, and demonization of each other - and have thereby dangerously raised the risk of escalation to direct conflict, analysts say. That has raised jitters in Washington, with Israel's closest ally warning against a unilateral attack that would inevitably draw in US forces already overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The real fear is that someone will get carried away by his own rhetoric and fear-mongering," says Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "But if you are going to get anything out of this, you have to make the impression that this [first-strike] is not impossible. You can't take the option off the table. Why should you?"

'The Rhetoric .. Can Just Become Reality'

Israel's overall political shift to the right means comments such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak's recent statement that Iran currently "does not pose an existential threat" are increasingly rare.

"When you have that kind of political environment, you are leaving yourself no space to find another solution," says Trita Parsi, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. "You may very well end up in a situation where you are propelled to act, even though you understand it is an unwise action, but [do so] for political reasons."

Haggai Ram, an Iran specialist at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, agrees.

"Being a historian, I know how things get out of control, how all of a sudden there is a dynamic you can't control and you find yourself in a war," says Dr. Ram. "The rhetoric from both sides, because it is so intensive, and involves so many emotions ... can just become reality."

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

A number of Israeli experts on Iran reckon the actual threat from Tehran is limited - even non-existent - "but nobody ever listens to them; you don't see them in the headlines," says Dr. Van Creveld. "Most Israelis - because they are really afraid, or as a matter of policy - reinforce each others' fears."

Those fears have been near the top of Israel's strategic calculations for many years, and often rank higher than ongoing conflict with Palestinians, and the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Top Israeli officials say that Iran's nuclear program - which Tehran says is for peaceful energy production - presents an "existential" threat.

The result is skewed calculations, analysts say, that could inadvertently lead to war.

"Since the mid-1990s, there has been a policy of seeking to portray Iran as a very significant threat to the region and the world, partly to motivate the West - particularly the US - to take a hard line against Iran," says Dr. Parsi, who is also president of the National Iranian American Council.

"A lot of people in Israel who had dealings with Iran in the 1980s, and obviously extensively in the 1970s, who know the country quite well, are less and less in the bureaucracy," says Parsi, author of The Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States. "That distance between actual understanding, and the [Iran-threat] talking points that were used externally ... creates a very dangerous situation for Israel, because it turns the threat from Iran into a self-fulfilling prophecy."

But Ram points out that the hard-line rhetoric goes in both directions.

"It's two-dimensional: one side always provokes the other side, and vice versa; it's a dialogue," says the historian, author of Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession. "So when [Iran's President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad says he would wish the death of the 'Zionist occupying regime,' it is in essence not different from when [Israeli President Shimon] Peres or another Israeli functionary says that we should bring an end to the Iranian regime."

One Approach: Let Iran Know Missiles = Israeli Strike

The outcome of Iran-Israel sparring, then, may depend on how Israel interprets Iranian rhetoric and possible actions and reactions.

Reuven Pedatzur, head of a strategic dialogue center at Netanya Academic College, analyzed seven options for Israel at an Iran seminar last week. "Most of them are bad, and one which is less bad - and eventually we will have to adopt it - is open nuclear deterrence," says Mr. Pedatzur, a long-time critic of missile defense, saying it is "irrelevant" in the case of a nuclear attack.

Israel should declare its own nuclear arsenal, and spell out the "rules of the game" to Iran, says Pedatzur. "The main rule would be ... 'You should know what will happen if we detect one missile going westward from Iran. We are not going to wait to see whether it's [nuclear], automatically we are going to launch our missiles and destroy Qom, Tehran, Tabriz, Esfahan, and so on.'"

If that were clear, Pedatzur believes Tehran would be deterred.

"I don't see any Iranian national interest that justifies destroying Iran, just for killing 200,000 Zionists," he says.

Olmert Asked: Have We Taken This Too Far?

Van Creveld has also argued for such nuclear deterrence. In 1997, he told the Monitor that "when Mao and Stalin acquired nuclear weapons, they calmed down," and that if Iran were to ever acquire nuclear weapons "the effect will be the same" because "war ceases to be fun. It becomes suicide."

The historian believes that deterrence can work in a country where some have argued that Iran is irrational, and can't be deterred. He says former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked him whether "we [Israelis] had not taken this too far, to the point where it was doing more harm than good," by "frightening ourselves."

Nuclear deterrence "has worked elsewhere in every single place around the world," says Van Creveld. "So why not in the Middle East?"
(c) 2010 Scott Peterson

Sincerely Yours: Another Legal Triumph for the Obama-Yoo Administration
By Chris Floyd

James Bovard at points out one of the more egregiously sick-making of the many atrocious "arguments" employed by Barack Obama in his successful effort to block the efforts of Maher Arar to seek justice for his unjust rendition and proxy torture in the Great War of Global Terror.

Obama bade his legal henchmen -- his own personal John Yoos, as it were -- to tell the Supreme Court that it should kill the Canadian citizen's case seeking compensation for his unlawful arrest by U.S. officials, who then rendered him not unto Caesar but to the untender mercies of Syria's torture cells. The Robed Ones agreed, dismissing, without comment, Arar's appeal of a lower court ruling that quashed his case -- a decision that Scott Horton rightly likened last year to the Dred Scott case, which upheld the legality of slavery, even in states which prohibited it.

The Arar ruling upholds the "legality" of a new, universal form of slavery, i.e., the United States government can deprive anyone in the world of their freedom, and dispose of their bodies as it sees fit: torture, "indefinite detention," or even "targeted assassination." The fact that it is a man of partly African descent who is now outstripping the Southern slavers in this extension of servitude to the entire world is one of those poisonously bitter ironies with which history abounds.

But grim and depraved as Obama's position is, it is not without its comic elements. As Bovard notes, one of the "arguments" offered by the Obama/Yoo administration was that the case should be dismissed because it might call into question "the motives and sincerity of the United States officials who concluded that petitioner could be removed to Syria." We kid, as they say, you not.

So now cases of monstrous and criminal actions by agents of the United States government cannot be heard in court, because this might impugn the "sincerity" of the officials involved. And after all, as we all know, it is the inner feelings of government officials that are all important in determining the legality -- and morality -- of their actions. That is why the murder of more than a million Iraqis in an act of naked military aggression is not a war crime; it is, at the very worst, just a "tragic blunder," a misdirected excess of good intentions gone awry. Because we meant well, didn't we? We always mean well.

Even those Southern slavers were "sincere" in their belief that keeping people of African descent in servitude was the "right" thing to do. It's too bad that Barack Obama was not around in those days to stick up for them and ensure that their "motives and sincerity" could not be questioned. Heaven forefend that the delicate sensibilities of slavers, renditioners, torturers and assassins should ever be exposed to public scrutiny!

So Arar's American case is now dead. (The Canadians long ago 'fessed up -- and paid up -- for their role in his torment.) But its implications live on. As I noted in my first article on the Arar case, back in December 2003:

... Arar's case is not extraordinary. In the past two years, the Bushist organs have "rendered" thousands of detainees, without charges, hearings or the need to produce any evidence whatsoever, into the hands of regimes which the U.S. government itself denounces for the widespread use of torture. Apparatchiks of the organs make no secret of the practice -- or of their knowledge that the "rendered" will indeed be beaten, burned, drugged, raped, even killed. "I do it with my eyes open," one renderer told the Washington Post. Detainees -- including lifelong American residents -- have been snatched from the homes, businesses, schools, from streets and airports, and sent to torture pits like Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan -- even the stateless chaos of Somalia, where Ashcroft simply dumped more than 30 Somali-Americans last year, without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and with no visible means of support, as the London Times reports.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Of course, the American organs needn't rely exclusively on foreigners for torture anymore. Under the enlightened leadership of Ashcroft, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other upstanding Christian statesmen, America has now established its own centers for what the organs call "operational flexibility." These include bases in Bagram, Afghanistan and Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean island that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960s to make way for a U.S. military installation. Here, the CIA runs secret interrogation units that are even more restricted than the American concentration camp on Guantanamo Bay. Detainees -- again, held without charges or evidentiary requirements -- are "softened up" by beatings at the hands of military police and Special Forces troops before being subjected to "stress and duress" techniques: sleep deprivation (officially condemned as a torture method by the U.S. government), physical and psychological disorientation, withholding of medical treatment, etc. When beatings and "duress" don't work, detainees are then "packaged" -- hooded, gagged, bound to stretchers with duct tape -- and "rendered" into less dainty hands elsewhere.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Not content with capture and torture, the organs have been given presidential authority to carry out raids and kill "suspected terrorists" (including Americans) on their own volition -- without oversight, without charges, without evidence -- anywhere in the world, including on American soil. In addition to this general license to kill, Bush has claimed the power to designate anyone he pleases "an enemy combatant" and have them "rendered" into the hands of the organs or simply killed at his express order -- without charges, without evidence, with no judicial or legislative oversight whatsoever. The life of every American citizen -- indeed, every person on earth -- is now at the disposal of his arbitrary whim. Never in history has an individual claimed such universal power -- and had the force to back it up.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

All of the above facts -- each of them manifest violations of international law and/or the U.S. Constitution -- have been cheerfully attested to, for years now, by the organs' own apparatchiks, in the Post, the NY Times, Newsweek, the Guardian, the Economist and other high-profile, mainstream publications. The stories appear -- then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts -- the supposed guardians of the people's rights -- beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial "warrants" for torture. And among the great mass of "the people" itself, there is -- nothing. Silence. Inattention. Acquiescence. State terrorism -- lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder -- is simply accepted, a part of "normal life," as in Nazi Germany or Stalin's empire, where "decent people" with "nothing to hide" approved and applauded the work of the "organs" in "defending national security."

This is the scandal, this is the nation's festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed -- and attract -- a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents.

And please note: none of this has changed. None of it. These crimeful, brutal abuses of power are becoming more thoroughly entrenched under the rule of the progressive Peace laureate now in the White House. What Bush did with winks and nods, Obama is openly championing, expanding and codifying into law. And these deeply sincere evils will keep reverberating, in ways that we can not even imagine, far into the lives of our children and grandchildren, and for generations beyond.

UPDATE: Scott Horton has much more on the latest ruling in the Arar case.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Dress Rebellion
By Case Wagenvoord

One of the more thoughtful writers on the peak oil scene is John Michael Greer. His blog, The Archdruid Report is as perceptive and intelligent as it is well written. In one of his recent posts he made the following observation which concisely sums up one of the problems that plagues progressives in America:

Striking a rebellious pose and claiming originality is very fashionable these days; actually rejecting the conventional wisdom of our time, and thinking thoughts that conflict with those of one's contemporaries, is less common now that it was in the supposedly conformist Fifties.

The truth is that when America's young people revolt they head for the mall where they are clothed, tattooed and pierced. Having established their bona fides as well-appointed revolutionaries, they return to their rooms or their clubs to lose themselves in the ramped-up music of rebellion and despair.

Nothing insures social stability like a fashionable revolution. In a consumer society, revolution is all about style. Once properly costumed, the revolution goes mainstream and nothing changes. For the Corporatist State, revolution is not about liberte, egalite and fraternite, but about market share, retail shares and brand recognition.

But our corporatist should beware of the revolutionary who shows up in Dockers, penny loafers and a button-down shirt. That sonofabitch will hurt them. Where fashionable rebels hope to bring a pier down by slam dancing on its surface, the guy in Dockers is the one who puts on his scuba gear, drops beneath the surface of the water and starts chipping away at the pilings.

Unfortunately in an age when it is not only necessary to think outside the box, but to reduce the box to kindling, too many would-be rebels think that all the box needs is a fresh coat of paint or a new addition.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Globalization; A Fool's Paradise
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning Middle America. Close your eyes and hold your nose for another stiff dose of stark reality; your King of Simple News is on the air.

From the very beginning of this blog I have attempted to explain in plain English why it is impossible to grow endlessly in a world that remains the same size.

In short, humans can multiply and consume at an exponential rate for only as long as the finite resources allow that expansion. It pays to remind one's self from time to time that Mother Nature is one mean Mother with a zero tolerance policy.

What I may have neglected to point out is that the remainder of the industrialized world is also making a full fledged frontal assault on the bounties of our planet. So, what happens when a nation can no longer produce sufficient food for their domestic population? The common sense solution would be to limit the population to the available food production capabilities of that nation. That's how the lower animals have handled the situation for years. But not so for the big brained animals that walk on two legs.

The answer to my food supply question in the loony world of Homo-sapiens is, "It depends on which nation we are talking about." Those people living in nations that have little monetary wealth simply starve to death when the food runs out. That is unlike those nations who lack the capacity to feed their domestic populations but have sufficient long green to ply the poverty stricken nations out of their farm land.

We have all observed the tragedies of overpopulated and poverty stricken countries such as Haiti and Ethiopia where death by starvation is a daily occurrence. But what about overpopulated nations such as South Korea that lack food production but have a strong economy? To date such nations have simply purchased food from countries that produce surpluses. Why not continue that practice?

That would seem like a logical idea in a world that is just, and fair, and sharing, and compassionate. Of course, that wouldn't include the planet earth. After all, the food producing nation might just cut off the overpopulated wealthy nation's food supply when a better offer comes in from a competing wealthy nation.

No, that wouldn't do at all in our dog eat dog world, so some mechanism for control over another nations crop land is a much safer idea. As I wrote in Chapter 6 of my book, the English called it Colonialism, today we call it outsourcing.

In 2008, South Korea was set to complete a 99 year lease of some 1.3 Million Hectares of prime farm land on the financially poor island of Madagascar. The deal fell through during a recent coup that overthrew the government and the president of Madagascar was ousted.

But this is certainly not the only arrangement of this type going on around a planet that is reaching its limits; not by a long shot. Countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, England, Saudi Arabia, China, and others are leasing hundreds of thousands of acres from poor nations who have rich farmland, and let's say, not the most honest government officials on the planet.

How powerful is money when it comes to food? Ethiopia has 4.6 Million malnourished citizens, yet that nation exports thousands of tons of wheat and rice to Saudi Arabia every year. So what happens when the oil income for Saudi Arabia diminishes? What happens when the industrial might of South Korea encounters the harsh reality of resource depletion or protracted global recession? Will they willingly give up their foreign food supply and starve off in quite resolute? I didn't think so.

This trend of rapid globalization (which now includes basic food requirements), cannot, and will not, end well. Advocating unchecked interdependence on globalization and suggesting that such an arrangement is a desirable state is nothing more than a smoke screen for advancing the absolute impossibility of exponential growth on a finite planet.

A nation that depends on others for their daily nutrition is doomed when that dependence exists in a hostile and finite world such as our own. The same can be said for a nation that is totally dependent of foreign manufacturing for their daily needs. The fuse is lit. All that remains to be seen is the length and burn rate of that fuse.

Globalization was a terrible idea that was designed from a foundation of power and greed in order to divvy up our planets remaining resources among the rich and politically powerful who firmly believe that they will emerge as a global version of lords and serfs ruling over a hierarchical society. They are wrong.

Moving a zoo born tiger to smaller quarters and shorter rations is not a difficult thing. Dealing with a wild tiger who has tasted freedom and full rations is a totally different proposition all together.
(c) 2010 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"I was born a Heretic. I always distrust people who know so much about what God wants them to do to their fellows."
~~~ Susan B. Anthony

US Stands, And Lies, With Israel
By Ira Chernus

"We stand by Israel," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declared, as he voiced the State Department's support for Israel's internal investigation of the attack on the flotilla bound for Gaza. Israel "has the institutions and certainly the capability to conduct a credible, impartial and transparent investigation," Crowley said.

Over at the White House they stand by Israel, too. Though the White House press release forgot to use that exact phrase, the rest of the words of praise from the highest level of the US government were much the same as the State Department's: Israel "is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation and the structure and terms of reference of Israel's proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation."

At the highest level of Israel's government, though, things look a bit different. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to persuade his cabinet to approve the commission he appointed to investigate the killings at sea. On the Israeli right, any kind of investigation looks like capitulation to hostile world opinion.

To blunt charges of weakness, Netanyahu started off the cabinet meeting insisting that the whole purpose of the investigation is to prove that the Israel Navy operation and the ensuing investigations were appropriate and met international standards: "The government decision will make it clear to the world that Israel is acting legally, responsibly and with complete transparency."

"Two principles guided us," Netanyahu said. His first principle was "maintaining the freedom of IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers to act and the credibility of the IDF investigation." To that end, Netanyahu told the cabinet that the committee he is appointing will not be able to talk with IDF soldiers, as any international investigating body no doubt would. The Israeli panel will have to rely on summaries of the IDF's own investigations and an interview with IDF Chief of Staff (and one of Israel's most powerful political figures) Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi.

Israel's civilian politicians are typically afraid of the political power of the military. So, their first rule is never to limit or impinge on the freedom of the IDF. That means letting the IDF investigate itself and then rubber-stamping the results.

The second principle, Netanyahu told his cabinet, is "giving a credible and convincing response to the responsible states in the international community." Before meeting with his cabinet, Netanyahu addressed a gathering of his Likud Party and decoded those words. He assured his followers bluntly that he was appointing the committee only to appease the international community.

The editors of Israel's most respected newspaper, Ha'aretz, got it right : The panel is "aimed at appeasing the world, in particular the United States. Its authority is too limited to conduct a real investigation and its makeup raises the suspicion that it is designed more as a public-relations tool than to properly examine the events and reveal the responsible parties.""the deceptive appearance of a real investigation."

Another Ha'aretz editorial, denouncing the charade as "a farce" and "a whitewash," pointed out that the panel will have no real powers, not even those of a government probe, and that the head of the panel, retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tirkel, "does not believe in such a panel." In an interview, he "made clear that he is not a devotee of drawing conclusions about individuals and dismissing those responsible for failures."

Tirkel also opposed having foreigners on the panel. But to give the appearance of transparency, there will be two. One of them, David Trimble, a Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is a co-founder of a new initiative called "Friends of Israel" - along with neocon John Bolton and an eminent Likudnik, Dore Gold.

For all these reasons, as Ha'aretz concluded, the panel is bound to fail both at finding the truth and at appeasing the international community. It will be obvious to anyone watching closely that the investigation is intended to substitute appearance for truth, that the results of the investigation have already been determined in advance.

When truth disappears, all that's left is lies. So, if the US stands with Israel on this matter, as the State Department says, it stands with an Israeli government that seems ready to lie.

There's a similar move brewing in Congress, this one aimed at discrediting the flotilla movement by keeping all its participants out of the US because they are "terrorists." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are circulating a bipartisan letter calling on Obama to put the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) on the US "terrorist" list.

At a press conference pushing this effort, Rep. Eliot Engel justified Israel's blockade of Gaza and its attacks on ships trying to break the blockade, using the familiar mantra: "The United States must stand with Israel as it seeks to carry out legitimate acts of self-defense." "Legitimate acts of self-defense" will surely be the conclusion of the Israeli probe, too.

But defense against what? What is it, exactly, that the US is standing with? Netanyahu has an answer, one that wraps all the particular distortions of truth inside one big overarching lie. To his cabinet, he said that the flotilla "was not a one-time thing. We find ourselves in the midst of a difficult and continuous battle against the State of Israel. The flood of hate is being led by Israel's enemies all over the world. They are trying to pinch us with the metal pinchers of missiles and terror and revoke Israel's right to defend itself."

In his talk to Likud, Netanyahu put it in a broader and more dramatic historical frame. "There is a difficult and continuing struggle against Israel being led by the country's enemies.... Dark forces from the Middle Ages are raging against us," he warned ominously. Netanyahu is usually content to equate all critics of Israel with Nazis and charge that another Holocaust is in the making. Now, though, he conjures up a much larger history of oppression going back to the Middle Ages, identifying Israel's critics not merely with Hitler, but with ten centuries or more of anti-Semitic persecution, violence and rage.

It might be tempting to dismiss such florid rhetoric as mere window dressing. But it would be a mistake. Because when a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the big lie. And when so many people believe the big lie, it takes on a life of its own. Ignoring it means letting it go on doing its destructive work.

The popular picture of Israel as a defenseless ghetto, packed with innocent, vulnerable Jews surrounding by raging anti-Semites, is the big lie that lets all the little falsehoods about Israeli policy flourish.

Apparently, it's increasingly popular in Israel. Reporting on a poll that shows Netanyahu's popularity growing (though still at only 52 percent approval), Ha'aretz commented: "The [Israeli] public apparently buys Netanyahu's narrative, which seems to suggest that the world is hypocritical, that we are the only just people and that whoever is not with him - with Netanyahu - is against Israel."

Israeli columnist Doron Rosenblum agrees that Netanyahu gets political mileage out of this narrative of victimization: "The National PR man has once again succeeded in explaining to the domestic consumer, who is wallowing in his fears and hatreds, that there really is a reason for the sense of siege, isolation and persecution: The world is hypocritical, the wave is getting stronger, the vise is closing in." And Rosenblum points out the tragic irony: the more Israelis base their policies on their fear of being ostracized by the world, the more they take actions that insure they'll be ostracized.

Unfortunately, we don't have polls that ask the public here in the US about that narrative. If we did, I'd bet the farm that it would be accepted by a sizable majority, in one form or another. There are many versions, some more subtle than others. But they all reflect the basic image of the Jews as victims of an unbroken chain of oppression and victimization, leading right up to the present-day woes of "poor little Israel."

There would be many Americans who would know the facts that disprove this narrative: Israel's immense military power, which it does not hesitate to use, and Israel's obvious position as dominator, not dominated. Some would know that the history of the Jews is hardly one of unrelieved persecution. Jews have often lived amicably with Christians and Muslims in many places around the world. Certainly, today, most Jews in the US and many other lands live freely, with virtually full acceptance and no discrimination.

Yet, even those who consciously know these facts are unconsciously affected by the story of endless suffering, which Netanyahu and so many other Israeli leaders have relied on to justify Israel's violence. That's how the big lie works, spreading its tentacles beneath the surface of consciousness as well as above it.

And I suspect that it reaches up to the highest levels of power, in Washington as well as Jerusalem. There's no hard proof; the evidence is anecdotal. But when you grow up in a culture suffused with the big lie, it is very difficult to escape. With a public so primed to see Jews as defenseless victims, policymakers who are on the fence find it politically safer to "stand with Israel." And if they still aren't sure which way to go, the emotional tug of the Israeli narrative, no matter how slight, can be enough to tilt them to the Israelis' side.

That's not to say Washington always takes the Israelis' side. In the wake of international outrage over the flotilla attack, President Obama called on the Israelis to ease the Gaza blockade. Though they'd previously refused, the Israelis are now taking steps, albeit slowly and ambiguously, to comply. As one Israeli analyst put it: "The right flank of Netanyahu's cabinet is far from thrilled with these steps, and the same goes for senior defense establishment officials, But when the Obama administration insists, the Netanyahu government gives in.

This was the price Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak paid for Obama's stamp of approval on an internal investigation that would save those leaders' political skin, according to Israeli journalist Amos Harel: "Netanyahu and Barak fought like lions over the status and powers of the committee that has been appointed to examine the naval raid. The narrow mandate accorded the committee, with U.S. agreement, ensures that no harm will befall the two leaders."

It also insures that little or no harm will befall the big lie with which all Israeli governments have justified their violence against Palestinians and the ensuing cover-ups. And it encourages the Israelis to count on the big lie to justify future violence against the many flotillas yet to come. The same big lie is part of the reason the U.S. government so often stands, and lies, with Israel - even when that policy obviously runs counter to U.S. interests and alienates the U.S. from the international community, as in the current case of the flotilla investigation. How big a part the lie plays is anyone's guess. There's no way to prove it. But it would be dangerous to underestimate it.

(c) 2010 Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and American Jews at Contact him at

Present Obama Doesn't Strike Again
By David Michael Green

I really didn't want to write another rant this week on the now yawn-inducing fact of Barack Obama's irrelevance and presidential impotence (when, that is, it isn't something far worse), but watching his first Oval Office address to the country the other night, I'm just amazed at the deterioration of this presidency and the new heights of abysmalosity (to coin a term) the guy has managed to scale.

Next to the state of the union address, such speeches are about the most powerful arrow that presidents have in their quiver, used for doing the most important thing associated with the modern presidency - namely, persuading. The speech was absolutely pathetic, to the point where even those of us sick and tired of being sick and tired with disappointment at this president still need to pay attention.

First of all, it was ridiculously late. Why has it taken this guy two months to directly address the country on what he is himself calling the worst environmental disaster in our history?

Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern with him. Paul Begala, one of the folks who gave us Bill Clinton, absolutely slobbers over Obama and his speech, seeing in its tardiness the wonder of The Great All-Seeing One (With A Plan) in action:

Thus began what is now a familiar play. He hangs back, holds back, resists fully engaging. His supporters get nervous, then edgy, then panicky. And then he swoops in to save the day. It happened in the campaign, on health care, and now, can we dare to hope it's happening on the BP disaster?

Whoa, babe. Be still my heart. There's just one problem (well, really, more like six, but we don't have all day here) with this dribble that is being passed off as analysis: This behavioral pattern that gets Begala a little, ahem, too excited, is actually a total disaster. Both for the country and for the president. Begala looks on the healthcare initiative, for example, as some great victory. To my mind, it was an utter fiasco. The legislation produced is anemic at best, and at its core exacerbates the medicine-for-profit destructive system that we are currently foolish enough to employ. By stupidly negotiating with his antagonists, who then shockingly unanimously failed to vote for his legislation, Obama was rightly seen to have lost control of the process. By failing to articulate a moral vision, by declining to specify enemies to the well-being of the American public, and by deferring to the cesspool that is Congress to fill in the details, Obama also succeeded in winning a legislative 'victory' that has produced no political benefit for him or his party, and probably considerable baggage instead.

If this is what Begala means by "saving the day," then I'll go ahead and stick with having my days unsaved, thanks just the same. He's right that this is Obama's style, he's just wrong about its implications. Obama did the same thing with his stimulus bill and his Afghan war policy, as well as less prominent issues like (not) pushing Israel towards peace or advocating for the unemployed. In every case, the substantive product is pathetic, and the president and his party are further damaged in the process. Poll ratings for both have gone down precipitously in the last year and a half, twenty points lower for the president, who came to office on inauguration day with enough goodwill to launch a minor new religion. His hang back, frosty-cool aloof, style of governing accounts for a considerable chunk of this dissipated support. Call me crazy, but that is not a modus operandi to be emulated, as Democrats will surely learn in November.

It is, however, one that has also been applied to the oil hemorrhage in the Gulf. Here, I think someone like Begala must have a truly excellent drug dealer in order to obtain the amazing hallucinogens he's obviously been imbibing. Even if Obama donned his superman briefs and cape tomorrow, swam to the bottom of the Gulf, and tied the pipe into a knot, in what sense would this constitute saving the day? Eleven people are dead, untold numbers of birds, fish and other critters are suffering and dying, fishing and tourism industries have been hammered in four states, and the economy is likely to plunge in a region still suffering from the effects of the last president who couldn't be bothered. Even assuming he could shut the thing off right now, how out of it would you have to be to consider that a victory?

A second problem with Obama's speech is that he just flat-out lies. When he tells us to "make no mistake, that were fighting this spill with everything we've got," he neglects to mention that his administration has been assisting BP in covering up the magnitude of the crisis, in blocking press coverage, and in handling it whatever way the company wants. The United States federal government under Obama didn't even bother to prevent BP from using highly toxic dispersant that is banned in BP's home country. The administration just sort of asked them not to do it, whereupon BP reminded them of who was really in charge, and then went out spewed the damn poison. Obama also lies about his own complicity in turning the Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department, and the federal government into agents of corporate plunder. They knew what was going on in MMS, and they didn't fix it. Indeed, you don't appoint a guy like Ken Salazar to the cabinet if you remotely intend for that garbage to be fixed. Obama also repeated his lie about the drilling moratorium in his big speech this week, just as he lied about the known dangers of offshore drilling a few months ago when he announced his new "Drill, baby, drill" policy. We know that, since the moratorium has been in place, his administration has already issued at least seven new permits and dished out at least five environmental waivers for more projects like the Deepwater Horizon. Moratorium? Not even close. Moribund? Yeah, that's more like it.

In his speech, Obama was brazen enough to say, "A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe - that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why." It's hard to even know where to start with that construction, so packed is it with dishonesty. Apart from the most significant lie - the fiction that he was duped - he doesn't tell us who lied to him or why. He doesn't tell us why he didn't do sufficient due diligence as president to know better, before risking our lives and livelihoods on private oil profits taken from national resources. He doesn't explain why, two months after Deepwater Horizon blew up, he supposedly still hasn't by now obtained an answer to his own question of why it happened. He doesn't tell us why he didn't clean up the government agencies charged with making offshore drilling "absolutely safe" (don't even get me started on that one), why he has been allowing drilling permits without required environmental impact reports, and why he continues to issue new permits even under his faux moratorium, and even though he doesn't yet know what went wrong. This is pathetic. Like many a president before him, Obama has been reduced to stacking lies upon lies to justify his policies and hide his crimes and those of his sponsors.

And then he lectures us in this speech for our "lack of political courage and candor"?!?! Is that supposed to be funny?

This is a speech, third, that was just dripping in empty platitudes and filled with Obama's recent and pathetic attempt to cowboy up and demonstrate presidential machismo. How is it possible that a presidential speech in 2010 could still make use of the most shop-worn of rhetorical devices in existence, the hoary 'we-landed-a-man-on-the-moon-so-we-can-do-this-too' assertion? Man, was sick of hearaing that one And just when you thought no president could look more idiotic than George W. Bush trying to convince us (and especially himself) that he possessed a courage that was instead so manifestly lacking, here comes Barack Obama to 'kick some ass'. Are there actually political strategists in the White House - people who draw a salary paid by you and me - who believe that this pathetic speech will rally the country to adopt a new energy policy and change personal behaviors? If so, I say give that money to charity instead of paying for decision-making of this quality. As with the healthcare legislation or the stimulus bill, the president failed to specify one particular policy that he demands Congress adopt, or one particular behavior he expects members of the public to change. He gave us nothing to rally around, and did not ask us to rally around anything. Nobody even knows what he would do if it were entirely up to him to do what he wanted.

But what we do know, remarkably, is that President Deference will be delighted to chat with anybody to consider their policy prescriptions, a fourth set absurdities that emerge from the speech. Somehow, Barack Obama still believes that it's a good idea to negotiate with people who are flat-out enemies of the public interest, and even announced enemies of his presidency, including all forms of corporate marauders and a political party that has overtly indicated its intention to oppose everything Obama does, regardless. So we have to listen to more mealy-mouthed, knock-kneed, do-nothing, embarrassing tripe, like this blather from the speech:

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party - as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development - and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development. All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fear hearing in the months ahead.

Oh, please. Is there any possibility you could just shut up and govern? Any chance you could take your mandate and put it to work protecting the public, while permitting the Republicans to fulfill the mandate they got to go sit in Siberia for a while? Any chance that you could for once not bring predators to the negotiating table while leaving those who fight for the public interest standing at the White House gate? Any chance you could do away with negotiating tables altogether, and just take some serious actions to benefit the country - you know, like actually using the powers of your office?

After all, it was you yourself who said: "But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon." And thus we see that in addition to his fifth problem - that a once great orator has now been reduced, in his only Oval Office speech to date, to the most tired of analogies - the truth is that great things happen in America in significant measure because of gutsy leadership by presidents. Neither of those words seems remotely in his vocabulary, however. He might want to try them out, though. If it's not too late for him by now, that is, having spent his political capital on ardently maintaining the status quo.

Obama's speech the other night was abysmal for all of the five reasons catalogued above, but it wasn't until he got to the end that I truly wanted to hurl. His sixth crime was unbelievably obnoxious. It wasn't enough to end his speech, as they all do, calling for god to bless America. Instead, Obama spent the last major chunk of his speech riffing on the wonders of religious faith. This included the bizarre concept (but then, hey, it's religion) regarding even the limited nature of what we expect from the magic deity: "The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always." So, do I have this straight? We're not asking god to make the bad things go away, but instead just to experience them with us together? Silently? And invisibly?

Obama ends his great turn to the spiritual with these words: "Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day."

So this is what it has come to now, huh? A Democratic president, with all the power of the presidency at his disposal, refusing to act, refusing to be bold, refusing to lead, and now praying for the courage that he lacks, and calling on us to pray to some unseen fantasy in the sky for a solution to turn off this oily catastrophe in the Gulf? (Why the deity turned it on in the first place is, of course, not discussed.)

If I had to draw a portrait of the absolute depth of presidential impotence, that would be it. Hammered by adversaries, never punching back, afraid to seek real solutions to major problems, slow to even speak, and reliant upon the lamest of historical analogies to make a case before a tuned-out nation. And now, for the coup de grace, kneeling on the train tracks, asking for Zeus or Ba'al or Jesus or some other mythical dude in the clouds to come rescue us from our drought or pestilence or famine.

Christ, if we're down now to begging our deities for solutions to our problems, what's the point of having a president anyhow?

We can be stupid and frightened pagans on our own.

We're actually quite good at it.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Barton,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Fredo Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Sonia (get whitey) Sotomayor.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your speech in committee demanding "sympathy for the Devil," a.k.a. B.P., Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-03-2010. We salute you Herr Barton, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Obama Administration And Its Pundit-Defenders
By Glenn Greenwald

Even in the context of America's wretched civil liberties abuses over the last decade, the case of Mohamed Hassan Odaini stands out. He was 17 years old in 2001 when his father sent him from Yemen to study at a religious university in Raiwand, Pakistan, and when a campus house in which he was staying there was raided by Pakistani authorities in early 2002, he was turned over to the U.S. and shipped to Guantanamo, where he has remained without charges for the last eight years (he's now 26). A federal court this month granted his habeas petition for release, finding that the evidence "overwhelmingly supports Odaini's contention that he is unlawfully detained." Worse, the court described the multiple times over the years -- beginning in 2002 and occurring as recently as 2009 -- when the U.S. Government itself concluded that Odaini was guilty of nothing, was mistakenly detained, and should be released (see here for the court's description of that history).

Despite that, the Obama administration has refused to release him for the past 16 months, and fought vehemently in this habeas proceeding to keep him imprisoned. As the court put it, the Obama DOJ argued "vehemently" that there was evidence that Odaini was part of Al Qaeda. In fact, the Obama administration knew this was false. This Washington Post article this weekend quotes an "administration official" as saying: "The bottom line is: We don't have anything on this kid." But after Obama decreed in January that no Yemeni detainees would be released -- even completely innocent ones, and even though the Yemeni government wants their innocent prisoners returned -- Obama DOJ lawyers basically lied to the court by claiming there was substantial evidence to prove that Odaini was part of Al Qaeda even though they know that is false. In other words, the Obama administration is knowingly imprisoning a completely innocent human being who has been kept in a cage in an island prison, thousands of miles from his home, for the last 8 years, since he's 18 years old, despite having done absolutely nothing wrong.

It really is hard to imagine many things worse, more criminal, than imprisoning people for years whom you know are innocent, while fighting in court to keep them imprisoned. But that's exactly what the Obama administration is doing. Every day that Odiani is kept in a cage is a serious crime. Just imagine what has happened to his life by being shipped off to Guantanamo for 8 years, starting in 2002 during that camp's darkest days, with absolutely no justification. As the court put it:

I honestly don't understand how any Obama DOJ lawyer or official could involve themselves with anything like this. If you're willing to work to keep a person whom you know is innocent imprisoned, what aren't you willing to do? What decent human being wouldn't be repulsed by this? I don't care how many times someone chants "Pragmatism" or "The Long Game" or whatever other all-purpose justifying mantras have been marketed to venerate the current President; these are repellent acts that have no justification.

Of course, none of this is new for the Obama administration; it's consistent with their course of conduct from the start. I highlight this today only because there is an obvious, concerted effort by a slew of Democratic Beltway pundits over the last month or so to attack the so-called "Left" for daring to express displeasure with the Obama administration, and to demonize those objections as unserious, shrill, irrational, purist and all the other clichŽs long used by this same cadre of party apparatchiks for the same purpose. This is all coming from a homogeneous clique of Democratic Party pundits who have strikingly similar demographics and background, most of whom supported the Iraq War, and who spend a great deal of time talking to one another in public and private and reinforcing their talking point platitudes, and have spent years railing against the Left. Just look at who is purporting to lecture liberals on how to promote progressive goals.

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait -- vocal Iraq War cheerleader (from a safe distance) who works for a magazine whose declared editorial mission is to have Joe Lieberman's worldview "once again guide the Democratic Party" -- has written yet another lecture chiding liberals for unfair and irrational discontent with his beloved leader. Peter Connolly -- a D.C. lobbyist and telecom lawyer for Holland & Knight -- published a screed this weekend at The Huffington Post condemning progressives who are mounting primary challenges against conservative Democratic incumbents for creating a terribly unjustified "civil war" in the Democratic Party, which, after all, is led by what he called that "unabashed liberal" Barack Obama. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter -- the first known mainstream pundit to explicitly call for torture in the wake of the 9/11 attack and one of the creepiest Obama loyalists around -- has been running around the country promoting his booby spouting "the typical warmed over Village sentiments, particularly as it relates to liberal critics of the President."

Lanny Davis published a column this weekend arguing that "the Left" is a threat to good Democratic principles and that Obama should "Sister Souljah" progressives who are criticizing him. The New York Times' conservative columnist Ross Douthat even adopts their script today by pronouncing liberal disenchantment with Obama to be "bizarrely disproportionate" and grounded in unrealistic expectations of Obama. And a whole slew of other, similar Obama-defending Democratic Party loyalists (Jon Chait, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Bernstein) -- for whom the excuses of "not-enough-time-yet" and "Pragmatism" are now dry wells -- have together invented a new one: none of this is Obama's fault because the Presidency is so weak and powerless (though Klein, to his credit, accurately acknowledges that that excuse is "less true on foreign policy than on domestic policy").

So the homogeneous Party loyalists who cheered for Bush's invasion of Iraq, who spend their time privately railing together against those misguided liberal critics, have all magically come forward in unison, with the same script, to decree that The Left's discontent with the President is so terribly shrill, unrealistic, unfair, and unSerious. The same trite pundits who reflexively ingest and advocate whatever the political establishment spits out are announcing that criticisms of the President are so unfair. Jon Chait, Jon Bernstein, Jon Alter, Lanny Davis, Peter Connolly, Ross Douthat and friends know what good Progressives must do -- with their track record, who could possibly disagree? -- and that's be grateful for the President we have and to refrain from all this chattering, irrational, purist negativity. Meanwhile, the administration does one thing after the next along the lines of what it's doing to Mohamed Hassan Odaini, rendering these You-Leftists-are-so-UnSerious sermons no more impressive or worthwhile than when the same unfailingly wrong establishment spokespeople, driven by exactly the same mentality, were spouting them back in 2003.
(c) 2010 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Progressives, What Do You Really Want?
By Mary Pitt

After the national outpouring of support which thrust Barack Obama into the presidency in November, 2008, one would suppose that he had a solid majority of Americans behind him and would have little trouble in making the changes which he had promised. Immediately faced with an opposition minority who declared intentions to make sure that he would fail, the new President nonetheless toiled on in the effort to do what he could to make the lives of working Americans better, safer, and healthier.

First, of course, he had to deal with the collapse of the entire banking system as well as record unemployment due to a decade of oursourcing of American jobs. The "stimulus" bill for the banks had been pushed through by the Bush administration just before the close of their term and the economy staggered under the load of bailing out the very people who caused the crash and continued their old practices of gouging the public for the enrichment of their own investors.

Next, it became apparent that the unemployment was likely to worsen due to the financial condition of the American automobile manufacturers. So much borrowed money had been funneled to the banks that it required a good deal of ingenuity to be able to salvage what was almost the last industry in the nation and prevent the additional layoffs of their workers. President Obama was blasted for accepting shares of stock from General Motors as collateral for their loan but that seems to be working out.

Then came the blockbuster! Health care reform! Sure, we all wanted a program of universal health care as it exists in most of the world but, by then, it was clear that the Republicans would never allow such a measure through the Senate. Then we prayed for the "public option" so that, as taxpayers, we could pay only the true costs of health care rather than further enriching the health insurance corporations. The political wall went up again. Republicans are strange creatures who find that compulsory health insurance where we all pay into corporate profits is preferable to paying a bit more in taxes in order to save everybody more money.

Now the poor man is under fire for the way he "handled" the Gulf oil spill. He didn't go down to the Gulf soon enough or do enough about it! What did we expect him to do? Would it have helped if he had flown over on his way home from vacation and had pictures of him looking out the window at the devastation below published in all the papers? Or maybe he should have gone to New Orleans and given a rousing speech? Even the Progressives are acting as if they expected him to go out on a fishing boat and suck the crude oil up with a long straw?

Yes, that's facetious but I am angry! The people's movement moved the Democratic Party far to the left and elected a highly-intelligent, thinking man to lead the nation. Now everybody is angry because he is not doing precisely what we each imagined that he would do. He has not and cannot, with a wave of his hand, make the Bush/Cheney administration simply disappear into the mists of Avalon. Those two pesky wars are still with us and we must forgive the President for taking the time to feel his way into a decent solution to the problem of ending them. Our international relations were as strained as last year's girdle but are slowly improved in most areas, thanks to delicate diplomacy.

The situation of the United States is still precarious on all fronts. The Party of NO in partnership with the Blue Dogs seem determined that any plans or ideas proposed by the President must be stopped in their tracks. With an election facing us, any loss of Progressive Democratic support will be a death knell to what small reforms have already been accomplished. The Tea Partiers are running rampant with their campaign to return us to colonial days of "every-man-for-himself" while the Progressives whine their disappointment and look over third-pary candidates.

If this is the ambition of the Progressive Democrats among you, congratulations, you are right on track. If not, we need to come back together and stay together to add to our majorities in Congress so that those reforms that have been begun can be advanced and those that have not yet been attempted will not be dead a-borning. It is time fort all of us who worked so hard to make radical changes in the governance of the country to roll up our sleeves, pull up our pants, and redouble our efforts to complete the job at hand, to get rid of the congressional obstructionists and replace them with people who truly realize that freedoms which we have enjoyed are still in mortal danger.

If we do not get behind the President whom, by our super-human efforts, we were able to elect, then we wasted our time and his and can look forward to another administration even worse than the last. We Progressives must decide whether we really want "progress" or if we prefer to become only single-issue voters without representation as a group in the halls of government. If the latter is the case we can flush our American Dreams, and join the many other nations thoughout history who thought it possible to establish a lasting government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
(c) 2010 Mary Pitt is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The System. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Trever ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

For What It's Worth
By Buffalo Springfield

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
We got to stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
We got to stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, look around, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
(c) 1967/2010 Neil Young

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Hawking: Aliens 'No Longer Interested' In Invading Earth
Planet Already 'Pre-destroyed,' Scientist Says
By Andy Borowitz

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) - Reversing his recent position on the dangers of an extraterrestrial invasion, eminent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said today that the planet is in no such peril anymore because aliens are "no longer interested" in invading Earth.

"Assuming that aliens have been monitoring Earth for the past month in preparation for an invasion, they've probably figured out it's no longer worth the trip," Dr. Hawking said.

Speaking at a conference of the International Society of Eminent Theoretical Physicists, Dr. Hawking added, "Most extraterrestrials would want to come to Earth to destroy it, and let's face it, this planet has been pretty much pre-destroyed."

Even if aliens planned to travel to Earth to warn humans against destroying their own planet, Dr. Hawking said, "If they showed up now and took a look around they'd be like, 'Oops, too late.'"

The physicist said that the rocket fuel aliens would have to expend to launch an Earth invasion was significant, "and you don't spend that kind of money to invade a shithole."

In recognition of his role in deterring an alien invasion, Queen Elizabeth II of England today knighted Tony Hayward, the CEO of oil giant BP.

In remarks to reporters after the knighting ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Sir Tony said he would be working tirelessly this week to study the impact of the Gulf oil spill on the beaches of the South of France.
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 26 (c) 06/25/2010

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