Saturday, April 21, 2018

Circle the Wagons!

The 70th anniversary of the ill-conceived, apartheid state of Israel is looming, and Murdoch's Australian is literally salivating at the prospect.

On Thursday, we had a 6-page supplement -  INNOVATION NATION - "Seventy years ago on May 14, David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the state of Israel. In an arid landscape, the nation has succeeded through ingenuity in endeavours including agriculture and, more recently, hi-tech centred on Tel Aviv and its Silicon Wadi" (19/4/18) - and a lead article by Bruce Loudon, A miracle shaped from the desert, in which he amusingly confuses Israel's apartheid Law of Return with the Palestinians' international law-backed right of return:

"The 'right of return' has attracted migrants with a commitment to the future of Israel."

"And then there is the upsurge of violence in Gaza. Hamas terrorists are inciting impoverished Gazans into defiant protests under the banner of a 'Great March of Return' aimed at reclaiming Palestine, to coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary."

But for me the highlight of Loudon's leader was his resurrection of the hysterical words of Israel's first ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban (who, btw, once cynically quipped that "Propaganda is the art of persuading others of what one does not believe oneself"):

"Surrounded by hostile armies on all its land frontiers, subjected to savage and relentless hostility, exposed to penetration raids and assaults by day and by night, suffering a constant toll of life among its citizens, bombarded by threats of neighbouring governments to accomplish its extinction by armed force - embattled, blockaded, besieged, Israel alone among the nations faces a battle for its security anew with every approaching nightfall and every rising dawn."

An oldie but a goldie. Made my day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Iraq: No 'War for Oil'

I watched George Galloway's fine 2017 doco The Killing$ of Tony Blair last night. If you haven't already seen it, I can assure you it's well worth it.

Should you do so, I have only one, albeit rather large, caution: the film has footage of Noam Chomsky parroting his nonsense about the US invasion and destruction of Iraq being a 'war for oil', a line unfortunately repeated by Galloway at the conclusion of the film.

Just to clarify, here are my top authorities, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, on this furphy:

"Saddam was eager to sell his oil to any customer willing to pay for it. Moreover, if the United States wanted to conquer another country to gain control of its oil, Saudi Arabia - with larger reserves and a smaller population - would have been a much more attractive target. Plus, bin Laden was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and fifteen of the nineteen terrorists who struck the United States on September 11 were Saudis (none were from Iraq). If control of oil were Bush's real objective, 9/11 would have been an ideal pretext to act... There is also hardly any evidence that oil interests were actively pushing the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2002-03." (The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, 2007, p 254)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Yeehaa!

It seems only yesterday that I was writing about how the language of Trump's bizarre 'Get ready, Russia/Gas Killing animal' tweet, signalling his intent to attack Syria, smacked of a b-grade 50s western. Well, it appears Trump's started something of a trend. Still, who'd have thought it'd be echoed on the other side of the pond by a Tory toff:

"The president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Lord David Howell said the Syrian crisis should prompt the [Commonwealth Heads of Government Movement] summit leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to stand up for common values including the rule of law... Lord Howell rejected the claims made in Britain by Mr Corbyn and others, that Parliament should have debated or voted on the use of force before Ms May authorised the military strikes. 'When the posse is riding out you have to join the posse,' he said. 'You can't say 'Oh we'll be back next week when we've had a discussion about it'." (CHOGM 'can pressure Syria' on chemicals, David Crowe, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/18)

We live in strange times.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Please Explain

Former senator for the Australian Greens, Scott Ludlam, has resurfaced as a Guardian Australia columnist... with mixed results. To deconstruct just these two sentences:

"Syria, and Yemen, and Gaza, each in their own way, are terminal signs that our system of global governance is truly broken." (Syria exposes the broken state of global governance. How do we respond? 16/4/18)

Why Gaza, and not Palestine?

"No party to these bruising conflicts can say with a straight face that they are acting in good faith, or with any regard to the 'international rules-based order' in which post-second world war generations have placed their trust."

To focus here just on Gaza/Palestine, by 'party to the conflict,' does Ludlam mean that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are 'acting in good faith,' or adhering to international law? If so, this statement of equivalence between the two suggests that he has no idea of the underlying settler-colonial nature of the problem. In 2018!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Rubbery Figures

"More than 120,000 civilians have been killed... in Syria since 2011, says the Violations Documentation Centre." (Gas often used on civilians: aid group, Sarah Almukhtar, The Sun-Herald, 15/4/18)

"Assad has killed at least 400,000 of his fellow Syrians in seven years of civil war." (Trump strike futile, but will make him feel better, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/18)

"... the US has been silent on the approximately 100,000 civilian deaths." (Missile strikes easy part. What happens next is harder, Denis Dragovic, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/18)

"Analysts view the latest retaliatory strike as futile in a war that Assad instigated and won, after seven years of brutal fighting and the deaths of more than 500,000 civilians." (Strikes met with scorn and shrugs, Farid Farid, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/4/18)

"Of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed... " (Despot gets back to work bombing his people, Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 17/4/18)

Here's One for You, Babe

"The White House was in touch with Jerusalem ahead of the overnight airstrikes on Syria. US President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, spoke in the last few days with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, to coordinate details of the US-led attack on Syria... " (Trump adviser Bolton coordinated US-led strike in Syria with Israel, Noa Landau, haaretz.com, 14/4/18)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Israel's Chemical Weapons Capability

"Following the horrors of World War I... civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare... The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States." (From Full text of Trump's address regarding airstrikes in Syria)

OK. Well, now you've punished Syria for its alleged gas attack, how about Israel for its actual gas attacks? James Brooks' extensive essay The Israeli poison gas attacks: A preliminary investigation, (mediamonitors.net, 8/1/03) details these.

Here's a most interesting extract from chapter IV, Israel's chemical weapons capability:

"Regardless of official pronouncements, the Israeli government has had a deep and abiding interest in the full range of chemical and biological warfare agents. It is well known that Israel has been developing chemical and biological weapons for decades at its Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) complex in Nes Ziona, near Tel Aviv. The facility has been involved in, among many other things, 'an extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gasses (such as tabun, sarin, and VX) and other organophosphorus and fluorine compounds.'

"One of the IIBR's specialties is inventing novel delivery systems for chemical weapons. One example is a revolver with a range of 150 feet. On impact, a bullet from this weapon injects a needle impregnated with a deadly toxin. The whole affair is designed to penetrate just enough to deliver a fatal dose, and leave little or no trace of the needle.

"IIBR's expertise is also highly scalable. In the aftermath of a tragic 1992 air crash in Amsterdam, the large scale production of nerve gases at IIBR became very difficult to deny. An El Al 747 jumbo cargo jet, flying from New York to Tel Aviv, plowed into a 12-story Amsterdam apartment building, killing the four people on the plane and at least 43 people on the ground in an instant inferno. Teams in while Hazmat suits, never identified or acknowledged by officials, descended on the scene and hauled away certain debris. The Dutch and Israeli governments assured the public that the plane had been carrying 'perfume and gift articles,' and 'no dangerous material' was on board.

"In time, a syndrome of debilitating and chronic health disorders beset at least 850 local survivors. They and their doctors suspected a connection to the El Al crash. In 1998, a Dutch newspaper partially leaked the flight manifest; 20,000 pounds of chemicals had been on the plane, including large amounts of three of the four ingredients needed to make sarin, a deadly nerve gas - enough, when properly mixed, to annihilate a major world city.

"Finally, El Al admitted the presence of the three chemicals. But the identity of one-third of the chemicals on the plane remains a secret to this day. A Dutch citizens group, OVB, literally dug deeper to learn more. They found that soil at the crash site was tainted with uranium, zirconium and lanthanum. Tests also found depleted uranium in the stool samples of local survivors, which, doctors said, corresponded well with the symptoms suffered in the post-crash health syndrome."

See also Salman Abu Sitta's essay, Traces of Poison, weekly.ahram.org.eg, 27/2/03.