Monday, July 20, 2015

Hypocrite Nation

Listening to Jacqueline Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation yesterday on KPFA made me think again of the hypocrisy that rules the world of nuclear negotiations and the bombast and blather that surrounds it. For those who have been in a deep freeze, the United States and Iran, along with six other nations, have just concluded an agreement to shut down Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons. In exchange, the sanctions that have crippled Iran for years will be lifted, and $100 billion in Iranian funds frozen in western banks will be released. Seems like a good deal.
            But of course, the yahoos in the U.S. Congress, led by the raving of Israel’s Bibi Netan-Yahoo, have been howling that this is the worst agreement in the history of the world, one that will allow Iran to secretly create nuclear weapons, at the same time rewarding it with a $100 billion “windfall” (it’s Iran’s money!) to supply its “terrorist allies.” Such “bad behavior” will create mayhem in the Middle East and lead to a dangerous nuclear arms race.
            In response, the administration and Secretary of State Kerry have insisted that this will not happen, that all paths to a nuclear weapon have been closed off, and that Iran will be subject to the most intrusive IAEA inspections in history. More, its alleged “bad behavior” of supplying arms to its allies will be closely monitored, and combatted immediately by the U.S. and others, and kept under better control than ever. All of this, of course, implicitly agrees with the Israeli characterization of Iran as a “bad actor” and the importance of keeping its warlike behavior “controlled.” So though the administration defends its agreement and insists that the only alternative to its diplomacy is war, it still essentially substantiates the warning cries of its opponents in their assessment of Iran—to wit, that it is the most dangerous and warlike nation in the Middle East which must be kept, like some rabid dog, on a short leash (without even a nod to the fact that the U.S. is the biggest arms dealer in the world, lavishly supplying arms to truly "bad actors" like Israel and Saudi Arabia).
            Of course, no one mentions, either, that Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has no nuclear weapons, and has always maintained that it is not trying to get one (as confirmed by a recent CIA report). Nor does anyone mention that Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, does in fact have a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons with several advanced methods of delivering them (nuclear subs, advanced rockets, etc.), and has engaged in more wars with its Arab neighbors, including devastating invasions against a helpless population in Gaza, than any other nation in the area or even the world.
            What Jacqueline Cabasso added to this story is the shameful behavior of the ‘peace-making’ United States, regarding an initiative that has been ongoing for years—the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the very Middle East under discussion. This initiative, according to Walter Pincus in a Washington Post article on June 15 of this year, “has been on the UN agenda since the 1960s,” and has been promoted in numerous UN Assembly resolutions, especially by Egypt and Iran. Indeed, Iranian President Rouhani reinforced this idea by proposing, in the General Assembly in September 2013, that Israel join the NPT immediately. Not surprisingly (after all, if it joined the NPT, its nuclear facilities at Dimona would be open for inspection for all the world to see), Israel has rejected all such proposals. What is more surprising is that the United States—always lecturing the world about limiting nuclear proliferation—has played just as prominent a role in neutering any talk of a nuclear-free Middle East.
            The most recent example of this, as noted by Cabasso, and confirmed by a Nov. 12, 2012 Reuters article, “U.S. Nixes Talks to Create Nuclear-Free Middle East,” reprinted in The Jerusalem Post (as always, Israelis are allowed access to news items that are routinely censored in the United States), was the U.S.’s 2012 cancellation of a conference to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East that the U.S. itself had earlier sponsored. The Reuters article quoted U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (a rabid neocon, according to Robert Parry) as to why:

“As a co-sponsor of the proposed conference ... the United States regrets to announce that the conference cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference.”

Nuland added that before any agreement could be reached, the states in the region would essentially have to reach consensus about how to implement such arms control. In other words, a conference to find ways to agree would have to have all parties in agreement before such a conference could take place. This not only effectively guarantees that such a conference could never be held, but also that if one ever were held, Israel would effectively have a veto over it (consensus, i.e. Israel’s vote, would be required). The Reuters article quoted Nuland again, with its (Reuters’) conclusion as to the real reasons for canceling the conference:

“We would not support a conference in which any regional state would be subject to pressure or isolation,” Nuland said, in a clear reference to U.S. concerns that other participants might gang up on Israel.

Poor little Israel; always being “ganged up on” by those big bad Arabs.
            In reference to the same U.S.-thwarted initiative, Walter Pincus, in the Washington Post article cited above, not only regretted the U.S.’s continuing opposition, but added that, in fact, “the best way to remove the Iran nuclear threat” would be precisely this: “to create a Middle East nuclear-free zone.” This is because, Pincus points out, Israel is no longer threatened by conventional weapons, having defeated every Arab army trying to oppose it, and has by far the best-equipped and most potent military in the Middle East. So, since it need not worry about conventional weapons any longer, eliminating the threat from Iran—which it could easily do by agreeing to make the Middle East nuclear free—would seem to make eminent sense. Except for the fact that doing so would require it to give up its nuclear weapons, and thereby the nuclear hammer it now holds over the entire region. 
            So here’s what we have. The United States has now completed an agreement to forestall Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons—which Iran was not trying to get. At the same time, the U.S. has worked diligently for many years to forestall any agreement that would force its protégé, Israel, to give up its nuclear weapons. And all along, it lectures the region and the world about the danger of any nation, especially Iran, getting its hands on nuclear weapons or any type of WMD at all (remember the excuse for invading Iraq?). While at the same time upgrading its own nuclear arsenal so that America’s legion of nuke-bearing missiles are equipped with the latest gadgetry designed to electronically guide them while in flight, like the ‘smart’ missiles fired from drones.
            Hypocrite nation. Or, as my parents used to put it:
            Do as I say, not as I do.    

  Lawrence DiStasi                                                                    

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day Blues

Been thinking about 4th of July, Independence Day, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, and later the Constitution. And it occurred to me that nothing so expresses our time, right now, than the inimitable rendition of America the Beautiful as sung by Ray Charles. Here it is. Take 4 minutes and listen to it.

That version always manages to bring me to tears. Why it does is at issue here. And I think it has to do--aside from the greatness of the song itself-- with that ache in Ray Charles' voice. There is a lifetime in that voice, a lifetime of joy and pain and deprivation, and it runs as a counterpoint to Irving Berlin's optimistic lyrics. Just as the experience of African Americans runs as a counterpoint to the optimism and success so often hailed on Independence Day. The words of the Declaration of Independence are inspiring, yes. But at the same time as those words were penned, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that paean to freedom, held slaves on his Virginia plantation, one of them his concubine. The freedom from tyranny demanded by that Declaration is mocked by the slavery that ran parallel to it and supported it and undermined it. And the singing of Ray Charles expresses that, consciously or not.
        So while Charles is singing of "brotherhood," we know that the brotherhood supposedly crowning America has never yet been fulfilled. For, as opposed to the "fatherhood" of the King from whom the American colonists were separating, brotherhood implies equality: equality of economic opportunity; equality of political opportunity; equality before the law...for all. And that equality has never been realized, first for those imported from Africa to be slaves, and counted as 3/5 of a person, and even today filling our jails in vast disproportion to their numbers; and second for all those who work for a living who have been progressively excluded from a share in the national wealth. That exclusion today has reached epic proportions and will, if not soon corrected, destroy democracy itself. May have already destroyed it.
       And while Charles is singing of "spacious skies" and "purple mountains majesties" and "amber waves of grain," we know that the counterpoint reality is daily becoming more unsustainable. Many of those mountains are having their tops blown off to get at the coal beneath them. Those skies are being filled with toxics from coal-fired plants and the exhausts of automobiles, and the atmosphere still higher is being filled with greenhouse gases that threaten the entire planet. And those fields are being poisoned by the toxic chemicals corporate farmers employ to protect their monocultural fields of waving grain.
       The way Ray Charles sings "America" suggests all that and more. So while the preferred anthem for 4th of July celebrations has always been the "Star-Spangled Banner," with its aggressive, militaristic imagery, my preference today, and always will be "America the Beautiful," as sung by Ray Charles. Rather than a triumphalist hymn to battle, it is an aspirational prayer to bounty and peace and harmony, that may still, if we are very very lucky, be fulfilled. Until then, the version sung by Ray Charles will have to do.
       Happy 4th everybody. It's my son's birthday.

Lawrence DiStasi