Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Words Can Cut Deep: Speech and Violence




For the past few months the internet has been a buzz with fights and arguments over the concept of Free Speech. Its been quite varied and heated. Recently Libcom.org was the site of a textual slapfight with another blog, and while I don’t really think the position offered is useful or even consistent it did get me thinking.
The blogs stated there is a difference between speech and acts, the example given was that it is justified and correct correct to fight say the British Union Fascists (BUF) because they represented a paramilitary threat (debatable) rather than just an ideological one. This isn’t a unique distinction liberals who favour maximum speech rights for all do often give a concession to physical defence against unambiguous violence. But the problem is that speech in itself can and often is a form of violence as well.

This happens in a number of ways but one of the most common is the tactic of outing someone. Outing is most commonly associated with queer individuals and Milo Yiannopoulos himself a recent lightning rod for this argument outed a Trans student at a University in Milwaukee, and is believed to have planned on doing the same to undocumented students on the campus of the University of Berkley.

 

"I didn't know if I was going to get attacked or not. I was just like, 'Dear god, I hope nobody recognizes me.'"

"When you have a room full of people that are just laughing at you as if you're some freak of nature, like you have some kind of mental illness—which is how he described me—it's like, I don't even know how to describe it, but it was way too much,"

Now in this particular case the harassment remained verbal, but it could very easily have had a darker ending, in 2015 21 people were murdered for being transgender in the United States.[1]

In March of this year there have been seven recorded murders of Transgender individuals recorded in the United States.[2]

There’s also been an increase in hate crimes recorded with Transgender people being disproportionately targeted.

 
In its 2014 report, the FBI recognized 1,248 victims of hate crimes targeted due to their sexual orientation (18.6 percent of all hate crimes reported) and 109 victims of hate crimes targeted due to their gender identity (1.8 percent of all hate crimes reported). The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported that 2015 saw a 20% increase in the number of hate violence-related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people - noting that people of color and transgender people are disproportionally targeted. NCAVP reported that 62% of all LGBTQ homicide victims were people of color, and 54% of homicide victims were transgender women of color.”[3]



But this isn’t a situation unique to LGBTQ people, on the contrary it’s a fairly common tactic that can be used against any group and often is.

In El Salvador Roberto D'Aubuisson (pictured) the leader of the extreme right wing ARENA party used to give televised speeches exposing people he claimed to be communist terrorists. In addition to naming them would show photographs of them so they could be recognized. Once outed if they didn’t escape (either abroad or to the underground) they would disappear. Their bodies would usually be found some days later showing signs of torture and mutilation.

“Having established the principle, D'Aubuisson got down to specifics, marshaling charts, photos, videotapes, and computer graphics for an intricately detailed, name-by-name, face-by-face tirade against "El Salvador's terrorist conspiracy."

D'Aubuisson denounced union leaders, priests, academics, peasant organizers, students, professionals, government officials, and Christian Democrats. Among those he named was Archbishop Oscar Romero, whom he told, "You still have time to change your ways." He also attacked Mario Zamora, a leading Christian Democrat and member of the government who—like others identified in the broadcasts—was assassinated in a matter of weeks. “[4]

Now obviously the Salvadoran civil war is an extreme case but it does demonstrate how speech can be used as a systemic tool of terror. And the only thing that makes it extreme is the circumstances, denouncing political enemies both real and imagined in the hopes or knowledge that fellow supporters will take care of the problem for you is very common.

This was how Mcarthyism and the Second Red Scare worked. Once someone was denounced as a suspected Red they were fair game for state harassment and investigations, employers would fire them and they could be publicly harassed and victimised. The once denounced the only way for a victim to save themselves from further attacks was to publicly cooperate with HUAC and denounce others. 

And you don’t have to rely on state backing to pull of this off the Fascists have made use of this for decades.  First they have an annoying habit of describing everyone and everything in opposition to them or they just don’t like as Jewish. Now this tendency is often cited as justification to write them off as loons, but there is method to the madness. By denouncing someone as Jewish, or a Zionist or a Globalist they’re telling their base to ignore what their targets are saying.  And at the same time egging on local Fascists to attack them because they’re not just dissidents they’re actively part of the vast conspiracy against the nation or the white race etc.

For examples I’m spoiled for choice. Indeed so common is this practice that it actually found me. I uploaded a video by Johnathan Meades to youtube about architecture during the Nazi regime. Now I expected some backlash but I was caught by surprise how much vitriol a documentary on urban planning and statues would cause. Most of the negative comments were revolved around Meades being a Jew and a liar, or just a Jew with the implication being that as a Jew he’s lying. One commenter mentioned that Meades mother was Jewish, which she was though she had a deathbed conversion to Anglcanism and Meades himself is an outspoken atheist.

The reaction to this revelation caught me by surprise; it was like a smoking gun to these people. The fact that this man has a connection to Judaism was all the vindication they needed, the holocaust is a lie, because that smug liberal on the screen has a Jewish mother. Like I said is easy to dismiss these people, but unfortunately they are still quite capable of considerable organized violence.

The White Nationalist website Stormfront is suspected of being used as a platform for the occasional violent crime up to and including murder.[5]

In April 2013 Italian users of the site were arrested for publishing a list of names and encouraging violence against the people named.

“The blacklist included: Turin Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia; Riccardo Pacifici, the President of the Jewish Community in Rome; Adel Smith, the President of the Muslim Union of Italy; the Mayor of Padua, Flavio Zanonto; several members of the judiciary; and journalist Gad Lerner, a Jew, and veteran TV talkshow host Maurizio Constanzo. According to media reports, those on the list were targeted because of their support for immigrants. Also listed were then House Speaker Gianfranco Fini and then Minister for International Cooperation and Integration Andrea Riccardi, who have both spoken out about citizenship rights for immigrant children.”[6]

And it’s not just this one website there are others like Red Watch. Red Watch is a catalogue of supposed communists with identifying information. When I was 16 a friend of mine an inoffensive wooly liberal was listed on the site with his photo and then address. Yes someone put a teenager on a database used to target people.

Now nothing had happened to him thankfully at the time and he and his family moved out of the area, (though now that I think about it that could just mean someone attacked the house when other people were living there) though the potential consequences can be serious. In 2006 (the same year my friend told me he was on Red Watch) another person recorded on the site was stabbed.

“What McFadden did not realise at the time was that he was not being punched but stabbed. "I think it went on for a couple of minutes before I managed to get the door closed. I turned round and my daughter was screaming. It was only then, as I put my hand to my face and felt the blood, that I realised what had happened."[7]

Oh and my speculation on my friends danger wasn’t completely unfounded, far right types are active in my area, in 2013 a couple of them attacked the local Mosque with petrol bombs, and the Synagogue has reported severe vandalism on several occasions.[8]

 

Now there is more to this topic but it’s already getting quite long so I’ll wrap up. I can anticipate some of the counter argument, that these are all violent acts and should be opposed, but that’s the rub. Every example I’ve cited was started and required the use of speech. The only way to stop sites like stormfront and redwatch from exposing hundreds to potential assault and murder is to shut them down. The only way to stop a politician inciting attacks on the marginalized or a right wing zealot exposing queer and migrant students to harassment is to remove their platforms for example causing so much disruption that no venue will knowingly host such people. It isn’t sufficient to attack and neutralise the ones who carry out the attacks, more will take their place so long as the infrastructure remains intact. But we can’t take effective action against any of this without infringing on another’s freedoms of speech and expression.  
___________________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hunting Griffins: The BNP and Freedom of Speech



For the past few weeks I've encountered the thorny issue of free speech(tm) pretty much everywhere I look on the web. A lot of the back and forth is very old but one in particular has worn out its welcome. It concerns the British National Party (BNP) and their leaders one and only appearence on current affairs/political debate show Question Time on the BBC. 

In Liberal mythology this event has become something of an exorcism when Nick Griffin BNP leader and Britains main far right bogeyman was exposed for what he was and firmly defeated by the power of rational debate on a national platform watched by millions (eight million, the show has an average of 2.7 million per episode). And his party quickly crumbled into obscurity.  Its a good story, there's just one problem, its not remotely true. Its not even coincidental, and yet for some reason this myth has grown over time in proportion to the amount of evidence against it.

Now aside from annoying me this myth is potentially very dangerous which is why I decided to outline what really happened

First just a quick primer, the BNP came out of the collapse of the National Front, a fascist group that tried to be both an electoral party and a street fighting organisation. After its collapse the BNP launched itself as legal political party though individual members kept getting exposed for links to violent crime and terror. they became known as the fascists in suits, they tried to make far right policies and ideologies more respectable and mainstream. A big part of their propaganda that wasn't aimed at demonising migrants was that they were being unfairly targeted and singled out by the liberal establishment and attacked by communists. In what most believe was a shameless quest for higher ratings the BNP leader Nick Griffin was invited to the mainstream political debate show Question Time. 

 

The appearance occurred on the 22nd of October 2009. At the time it was very controversial multiple organisations and politicians criticised the decision to invite the leader of the BNP and there were large protests outside the BBC Television Centre. About 20 or so protesters managed to break into the studio reception area and six were arrested. The episode was broadcast in full despite these incidents, what happened next was a major case of mutual confirmation bias. Liberals who supported the invitation and looked forward to an opportunity to humiliate the stupid bigot rejoiced they got what they wanted. Meanwhile the Brit Nats were also gloating as their main champion got to call out the liberal establishment to its face. Griffin himself tried to play the bullied martyr calling the audience a lynch mob and lodging a complaint about his treatment.

That was the event, now according to the liberal narrative this was the start of the end for the BNP, one thing you'll notice when you encounter someone saying this is that don't have any evidence to back it up. There's a good reason for this, what evidence we do have shows the opposite. In the 2010 General election, the first elections after Nick Griffins appearance the BNP won 564,331 votes. That is the best results they've ever had and put them in fifth place in terms of votes cast.

Yes that's right the BNP in 2010 were the fifth largest party in the UK. In 2005 the general election before Nick Griffins humiliating defeat on QT, they polled 192,745 votes, and coming eighth in vote share. That's not a collapse or a drubbing, if the evidence says anything its that the QT appearance gave Griffin and the BNP a shot in the arm.


The BNP did collapse mind, but that was several years after the big debate at the BBC. Most place 2014 the year Nick Griffin finally lost the leadership as the period when the collapse of the BNP became irreversible. But the collapse was the result of other things, like infighting, competition, financial problems, increased opposition etc. Indeed if we to thank anything one thing for breaking the back of the BNP it would have to be Marmite.


No that last part wasn't a joke, Marmite really did do a lot of damage to the BNP. In 2010 Marmite had released a new series of ads based on their long time slogan "you either love it or you hate it" and the upcoming general elections. There were two ads styled like party political broadcasts one from the "Love" party who love Marmite, the other from the "Hate" party which, well hates it.




Now the Hate party was a parody of Nick Griffin and his policies. The BNP were not amused and decided to hit back in their own party political broadcast



Yes really, they super imposed an image of a Marmite Jar into the corner so it looks like its hovering. No I don't get it either. Though they did do a bit better by ending the broadcast with another picture of the jar with "Love Britain vote BNP" at least that one makes sense. It also violated copyright law. Unilever the company that owns Marmite were not pleased, shortly after the BNP ad aired they sewed the party and in July 2010 just after the elections they won £170,000 in damages.

But bosses at Marmite makers ­Unilever were furious at the BNP broadcast and began High Court proceedings for breach of copyright.
BNP caved in and the amount claimed is put by insiders at between £70,000 and £170,000.
Former National Organiser Eddy Butler has said the BNP is “on the brink of bankruptcy”.
And last night a ­spokesman for anti-racism group Searchlight said: “The Marmite fiasco has been a ­disaster from start to finish for ­Griffin.”
Unilever confirmed a settlement had been reached but said the terms were confidential.
This was a serious problem as it took a massive chunk of money from the party just after a General election, when a party has spent most of its assets on candidate registry and propaganda. It also dominate the news in regards to the BNP just after the elections overshadowing the BNPs historic performance at the ballot box. Both these issues exacerbated the other problems, infighting and competition.

At this time both the English Defence League (EDL) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) were squeezing the BNP. The party was formed to make racism more respeactable and mainstream but UKIP was doing a better job of that, it beat the BNP in both 2005 and 2010 elections.
And the EDL was attracting the right wing extremists that were never happy with the focus on elections instead of street action.

“In broader terms, the party is struggling anyway because of the rise of Ukip and the internal factionalism.
“It is fair to link the rise of Ukip and the fall of the BNP because there is a degree of overlap. Ukip’s success has restricted the space but, after 2010, the BNP was arguably finished anyway.”
If your curious the link is dead but Nick did repeatedly call the EDL a Zionist front
Nick wasn't a fan of the EDL, though after being kicked out of the BNP in 2014 he warmed up to UKIP.

That was outside the party, inside the party it was even worse. See most Fascist subscribe to the Fuhrerprinzip, it means that the leader can do what he wants, its extreme hierarchy. However this has a drawback, if the party faithful aren't happy with the way things are going, then the only way to change course is to topple the Fuhrer.

“I will not allow anyone to undermine me in my new role”, he said in one exchange after taking the reins. And he added: “gone are days when anyone with a gripe could use special pleading with the Chairman to undermine officials. That includes you, by the way, Nick!”
So if the demise of Nick Griffin means the victory of Liberal Democracy then I guess it means its champions are Tommy Robinson, Nigel Farage and Unilever. Hurrah?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Interview with IWW/GDC Survivor of UW Shooting


Some good news, the victim of a far right extremist in Seattle has recovered enough to give an interview on what happened and what he intends to do now.



The KEXP 90.3 radio program Mind over Matters has recorded a roughly 30-minute interview with Fellow Worker Hex, the IWW and GDC member who was shot on January 20th outside of the Milo Yiannopoulos event on the campus of University of Washington, Seattle.



The Seattle General Defense Committee has a new web page and is hosting this interview there as well; go check it out.
In this first interview with the press since the shooting, Hex talks about the experience of being shot, the importance of having a network that supports you when you are attacked, the responsibilities of firearm ownership and use, and the problems with the punitive model of justice.
We in the Twin Cities GDC salute our fellow defender and friend, continue to wish him speedy recovery, and call upon all those who oppose fascism in the Pacific Northwest to make your support of antifascist efforts known to your community. Make sure that our people are supported and defended, so that they can continue to help support and defend our communities.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

CHAPTER 3: THE GRAND INQUISITOR


WITH ROEHM DEAD AND THE SA Vanquished, Himmler and the SS quickly emerged alongside Hitler as the true victors. Within a short time, Himmler would preside over an empire of death whose factories of mass extermination would work around the clock, turning contragenics into ash. He was now the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. And like his master, he now had the opportunity to realise his deepest obsessions. His every whim, however perverse or murderous, was regarded by his SS henchmen as law. The mammoth effort to effect Hitler’s “Final Solution” for Europe’s Jews would increasingly absorb his time and energy. I this, unfortunately, he was largely successful. Himmler had a special horror of homosexuals, whom he was determined to exterminate as well. In this he enjoyed only a partial success. His raging homophobia, which was responsible for a vicious campaign against Germany’s homosexuals, struck fear in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of gays, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of others. In order to understand why he put such an effort into this campaign, we have to try to unravel the strands of his twisted personality.

There have always been two Himmlers: the colourless, sickly bureaucrat, hiding behind his pince-nez and his towers of alphabetised file cases, staying up late to scrutinise the family trees of prospective SS officers or the shape of “Aryan” skulls excavated in Tibet; and the ogre, the creator of the stunningly efficient Gestapo machine, the remote-control mass killer, ordering the elimination of entire populations without any visible sign of remorse. But most people who met Himmler shared the opinion of Walter Dornberger, the officer in charge of a Nazi experimental rocket base: “He looked to me like an intelligent, elementary school teacher, certainly not a man of violence. I could not for the life of me see anything outstanding or extraordinary about this middle-sized… man in grey SS uniform.”

Others, like Helmut Heiber, who collected and edited Himmler’s letters, felt that “there was something threatening about his personality, something inhuman.” Carl J. Burckhardt, the Swiss historian and diplomat, representative of the League of Nations in Danzig, met him twice between 1937 and 1939, before most observers had any inkling of Himmler’s fatal capacities. Burckhardt, an intelligent aristocrat from Basel, who seems rarely to have lost his composure, later wrote:

It has always been said that Himmler had the look of an elementary school teacher. I don’t know whether one can generalise about the looks of elementary school teachers… one really does these people an injustice… Himmler was of medium height, he had a round, pale face, a tiny, thin mouth; because of the pince-nez on his nose, his eyes looked like a caricature… When he tried to imitate his master and gave his eyes a hypnotic Fuhrer stare… or when, saying hello or goodbye, he attempted an expression of firm sincerity, one was tempted to think: Why all these efforts? Himmler was much more intelligent than one would conclude from his deeds and his appearance, and perhaps because of this he was essentially disloyal…Nevertheless, he radiated something much more insidious than did “his Fuhrer.” Whenever I met Hitler, I always had the feeling of a certain weakness, and of being with an obsessed man…. Himmler didn’t seem obsessed. He was sinister through the degree of concentrated subservience, through a certain narrow-minded conscientiousness, an inhuman punctiliousness about which there was something of an automaton.

Himmler was obsessed, all right, but it was another type of compulsion- less visible than Hitler’s, more like that of a reclusive miser constantly counting his hoard of gold. This bureaucratic side, however, was not how most of the world saw him. The world perceived Himmler as the butcher who ordered all Russian prisoners of war to be killed, and as the man who organised the destruction of European Jewry. It was Himmler’s SS that set up and ran the concentration camps, beginning modestly in 1933 with a few criminals, Communists, Catholics, liberals, Socialists, Jews, and homosexuals in Dachau, and that, within ten years, had extended its network of terror over more than half of Europe. It was Himmler’s “Order of the Death’s Head” that supervised the gassing of inmates and the salvaging of the gold fillings in their teeth to be deposited at the federal bank in Berlin in an account credited to the fictitious “Max Heilinger.”

By 1935 and 1936, when the campaign against contragenics, including homosexuals, began in earnest, Himmler’s officers were legally entitled to arrest suspects on any pretext, force admission of crimes not committed, and throw the victims into camps where they were without legal recourse. Next to Reinhard Heydrich, who was assassinated in 1942, Himmler’s name was the most feared throughout Germany and the occupied territories. His image was that of a monster, devoid of any shred of humanity. He did little to dispel that impression. In October 1943, for example, he topld SS leaders assembled in Poznan, Poland:

What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish… interests me only insofar as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does bot interest me. Whether or not ten thousand Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch, interests me only insofar as the tank ditch is completed for Germany… Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet, apart from a few exceptions- examples of human weakness- to have remained decent, this has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written.

It was also at this conference that Himmler “specifically made the connection between [the Roehm purge] and the policy of annihilation and confirmed the continuity of crime as a maxim of the regime.”
Himmler was both too pallid and too monstrous, it appears, to captivate the curiosity of most historians. Thus, no book has been written that is equal to the many excellent biographies of Hitler. What I will attempt here is less ambitious: first, to trace Himmler’s career briefly from unhappy pupil to grand inquisitor and, second, to describe his paranoid and homophobic universe of gods and devils, a universe closed to rational argument but endowed with its own peculiar logic.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

On the Puppet Strings: Israel and the USA

One of the really nasty features of internet politics is the ease of which anti-Semitic jokes, slanders and conspiracy theories can spread across the world and cover themselves up in a veneer of respectability. Its pretty bad in general, if you make a habit of scrolling through comments on youtube videos you'll eventually see at least a dozen comments alleging all sorts of underhand Jewish plots against well anything really. The Jews are behind communism, except for when they're controlling the world through stock markets and global finance. They're motivated by secret religious teachings, or a pathological hatred of everything and everyone who isn't them. Except for pure and virginal white Christian girls, though apparently they'll move heaven and earth to get a hold of them. Oh and the Holocaust was a lie, except for the parts of the Holocaust that the Jews deliberately allowed to happen, is all three dimensional chess with these guys.

I've even seen people claim that the Jew is using "the blacks" as footsoldiers in its war against white civilisation.... somehow. I've recently seen several substitute the black population with the LGBT groups as a sinister Trojan horse against the white civilisation.... again somehow. They're usually sketchy on the details of how these brilliant plans work but one conspiracy where there's a lot of detail concerns the apparent power of the Israeli state to control the worlds only Superpower.
For example a piece on website globalresearch.org A website that amongst other things hosts holocaust revisionism as a lengthy essay called Israel's International Conspiracy, about how the pro Israeli lobby through the use of local Jewish populations is strong enough to greatly distort their host nations governmental systems and even bring down American Presidents.

President George H. W. Bush (the good Bush) suffered a similar come to Jesus moment in 1991 when he went on national television to denounce the pressure tactics of the Israel lobby.
The Israeli government was demanding U.S. Treasury backed loans to construct illegal settlements. President Bush, who was running for reelection and far ahead in the opinion polls, suddenly was confronted by a well-funded and organized opposition raising doubts about him and his record. And President Bush was not reelected, presumably learning along the way that one does not trifle with the Israel Lobby, to be replaced by the enthusiastically Zionist Bill Clinton.
 This part of the essay is one of the few that has any kind of substantiation via that hyperlink, and I'll get to that later.

 A lot of people, many of whom wouldn't have any patience for the other thousand and one crackpot theories about Jewish people, have grossly misunderstood the international relationship between the United States and Israel. In short they've got it backwards, its not that Israel can bully and blackmail the United States into doing its bidding, its that the United States uses Israel from time to time and isn't threatened by Israel's pursuit of its own interests. And I can actually disprove this theory with just a few easy to find examples.


AWACS 



An AWAC (Airborne Warning and Control System) is one of those military planes with a great big radar dish on top of it. In the 1980's the Reagan administration was in talks with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudi's a few spare AWACS for about $8 billion. The plan also included selling the Saudi kingdom other weapon systems including parts of F-15 fighter jets with the AWACS becoming the symbolic figurehead of the deal. The sale was extremely controversial, announced in 1981 it didn't go through until 1986. It was such a major even there's a wiki article on it and this is the first paragraph on it:

 The sale of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia by the United States administration of President Ronald Reagan was a controversial part of what was then the largest foreign arms sale in US history. The sale saw objections from a majority of Americans, prominent US Senators, the State of Israel and the Israel lobby.[1]

Get that last part? The sale was bitterly opposed by the Israel government and its lobbying interests (the supremely powerful AIPAC) and yet Reagan spent nearly five years arguing and arm twisting in Congress to get the deal approved.

Here's a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:


The Foreign Ministry Spokesman said today that the American government's decision to sell additional parts for the F-15 planes is cause for the utmost concern and intensifies the danger to Israel. This sale, as with the handing over of other war material by the industrial nations, escalates the arms race in the area to dangerous proportions liable to endanger the strategic balance in the Middle East.
As is known, these and other considerations were brought to the attention of the American administration by Foreign Minister Shamir during his last visit in Washington. The Foreign Ministry Spokesman also reiterated Israel's view that the area's problems cannot be solved by an unrestrained arms race, but rather through negotiations, with all the nations of the area joining the Camp David process and the active support of this process by all the nations outside the area.
The Spokesman also stressed the fact that Saudi Arabia is not a "moderate" nation with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is counted among the leaders of the advocates of war against Israel, and provides aid to the PLO and to all those nations and elements actively fighting against Israel.

Now Reagan's lobbying for the AWACS deal did focus heavily on rather vague claims that arming Saudi Arabia would be good for security in the region and Israel specifically.

THE PRESIDENT. This morning Congress was notified of our intention to sell AWACS aircraft and F-15 enhancement items to Saudi Arabia. I have proposed this sale because it significantly enhances our own vital national security interests in the Middle East. By building confidence in the United States as a reliable security partner, the sale will greatly improve the chances of our working constructively with Saudi Arabia and other states of the Middle East toward our common goal-- a just and lasting peace. It poses no threat to Israel, now or in the future. Indeed, by contributing to the security and stability of the regions, it serves Israel's long-range interests.
Further, this sale will significantly improve the capability of Saudi Arabia and the United States to defend the oil fields on which the security of the free world depends.
As President, it's my duty to define and defend our broad national security objectives. The Congress, of course, plays an important role in this process. And while we must always take into account the vital interests of our allies, American security interests must remain our internal responsibility. It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy. An objective assessment of U.S. national interest must favor the proposed sale. And I say this as one who holds strongly the view that both a secure state of Israel and a stable Mideast peace are essential to our national interests.

[My bolding]

I think this statement is largely honest in its intentions, the United States was more concerned with protecting oil fields on the Arabian peninsula then the strategic defence of Israel so the Reagan administration was willing to fight for five years to make sure the plan went ahead over Israeli objections.


Iran

 In 2015 the United States government and the Islamic Republic of Iran came to an agreement on Iran's nuclear power developments. The deal was welcomed by some as the ongoing development of Iran's nuclear capabilities and hostility between the two governments kept tensions very high. Quite a few feared a potential war could result.

One group that wasn't happy about this however was the Israeli defence lobby. After the signing of the deal they released an incredibly hostile statement comparing President Obama to Chamberlain and the Islamic Republic to Nazi Germany.

"The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on reality. They have no value if the facts on the ground are opposite to the ones the agreement is based on," said the statement. "The Munich Agreements didn't prevent World War II and the Holocaust because their fundamental assumption - that Nazi Germany can be partner to any agreement - was false, and because world leaders at the time ignored clear statements made by Hitler and other Nazi leaders."
 Meanwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu a well known opponent of Iran and friend of the Israeli military establishment, publicly distanced himself from the critics in Defence Agency and tried to reassure the US of Israel's loyalty.

"The Israeli position on the Iran deal remains the same, but the prime minister staunchly believes that Israel has no ally more important than the U.S.,"
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.735445

 Jonathan Pollard


 Jonathan Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the United States government. In 1987 he was sentenced to life in prison for violating the Espionage Act. In 1998 the Israel government admitted that they had been paying Pollard to leak intelligence to them.

Israel paid Pollard in cash, jewels, and expensive travel for his espionage, which his first wife Anne abetted.

Despite smuggling secrets for pay and trying to get similar deals with other nations,  Jonathan Pollard became a celebrity political prisoner in Israel. The government gave him citizenship in 1995, and several prime ministers have lobbied hard for his release. Which finally bore fruit in 2015 in the aftermath of the US Iran deal.

 Now I have seen a few people argue that his release is proof of the power of the Israeli lobby but I'm not convinced. The quotation about being paid in jewels is from a very sympathetic and article about Pollard and just above the bit I quoted was a list of other American intelligence agents who were found guilty of leaking secrets to other nations and they got much lighter sentences.

For example, Navy Lt. Cmd. Michael Schwartz (not Jewish), who passed classified documents to the Saudis from 1992 to 1994 was simply discharged from the military, but never prosecuted, and served no jail time. Others who sold or disclosed documents to friendly countries such as Great Britain, Egypt, the Philippines or South Africa, generally received terms from two to four years and were released early. True, these espionage incidents were vastly less damaging than Pollard’s crime, and often did not involve compensation.
Indeed the article is so pro Pollard it argues that his much more serious punishment was motivated by anti-Semitism, an allegation it doesn't really back up aside from coincidence. Indeed he was sentenced to life imprisonment because he plead guilty. And he was in prison from 1987-2015 with several Presidents, (Reagan, George Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama's first term) rebuffing repeated attempts to reach a deal for his release by the Israeli government and the pro Israel lobbying groups. 

The Good Bush(!)

I think now is a good time to get back to that essay from the beginning. It laments how President Bush Snr, was defeated by the Israeli lobby over his opposition to loans for settlement expansions. It aside from a hyperlink to another article, it doesn't substantiate the point which is odd since really the crux of the argument relies on it. Anyway the article goes into a lot more detail about the incident but it has some problems.

The article The Bush Decision Point, written in 2014 goes into detail about the re-election campaign period for Bush Snr, particularly his fight with AIPAC other the issue of terms for loans to Israel. For example

In May 1991, both Bush and Baker publicly called the settlements an obstacle to peace. In response, under AIPAC’s prodding, Congress began pushing Bush to release the loan guarantees on Israel’s terms, meaning Israel could use the money to build wherever it wished. On September 6th, Bush asked Congress for a 120-day delay before considering the Israeli loan request. AIPAC pushed back, flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists. On September 12th, Bush called a press conference and denounced both Israeli West Bank settlements and the Israel lobby. He told reporters he was “up against some powerful political forces” designed to thwart him., adding that “a thousand lobbyists” were working the Hill, while he was “one lonely guy” on the opposite side. This pushback was initially very effective: rapid polls showed a large national majority in favor of the President and against the Israeli request, and Congress agreed to a delay.
But the problem is that the article doesn't actually provide evidence that this was a crucial turning point in the campaign. Indeed the article does acknowledge several of the more well known controversies in the last year of the Bush Snr Presidency.

 He then goes on to portray the difficult political landscape Bush 41 faced that fall: resentment from the GOP base over the breaking of the “no new taxes pledge”; the economy in recession; a somewhat dysfunctional White House political operation; the “unexpected” defeat of Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania’s special Senate election. And then, as the election year commenced, Pat Buchanan’s primary challenge, the relative success of which encouraged Ross Perot to undertake his own independent candidacy.

The author expands on the special Senate Election which happened after the split between the President and AIPAC as evidence of the extent of the damage.

As Goldberg notes, the important off-year election was the Pennsylvania Senate contest, where moderate Republican and close Bush ally Richard Thornburgh held a 44 point lead over Harris Wofford in mid-September. Within 10 days, money began pouring into Wofford’s inert campaign and the Democrat began to rise in the polls. In the final weeks Wofford was raising money at twice Thornburgh’s pace. After he lost by 10 points, Thornburgh told Bush he was the “canary in the coal mine.”

But there's no evidence that this money was raised by the Israeli lobby. I've looked and I can't find any evidence of this myself, I did however find that Wofford the Democratic candidate had already started to gain on Thornburgh and that Woffords campaign was used as a test bed for the Presidential campaign. Wofford had spoken out about the need for health care reform and attacked Thornburgh for his closeness to the President and the poor performance of the economy.

 Mr. Wofford, who was appointed to the Senate in May, was initially given almost no hope of winning the election. But in a trial run for themes that are certain to be important next year, he concentrated on the need for national health insurance and the problems with the economy and offered general pledges to help the middle class. In the last month he climbed in the polls by an average of almost a percentage point a day, and today he leapt ahead.
 So I'm not really convinced.

A bit later on the author admits how tenuous this linking of the fight with the Israel lobby is to the downfall of Bush Snr.

The president performed poorly in heavily Jewish precincts, but not enough to be decisive in any state. It would be too speculative to connect the settlement controversy to the transformation of Bush’s public image from the masterful diplomat who had put together an anti-Saddam coalition in 1991 to the out out of touch preppy of a year later.
 [Bolding my own]

Which is good to see, though now I'm questioning why the author felt the need to write this up since even they admit there's no smoking gun.

I will however address Bush's poor if indecisive performance amongst America's Jewish voters I would add this, according to the voting records at the Jewish Virtual Library, Bush Snr did indeed do worse amongst the Jewish population in 1992 (11%) then he did in 1988 (35%) but in both elections the majority voted for the Democratic candidate. 64% Voted for Dukakis in 1988 and he lost. So it appears that Jewish voters aren't actually very decisive, so while I'm sure the rift didn't help Bush Snr here, I very much doubt it played a very important role in the grand scheme of things. Especially given that the period is dominated with "read my lips, no new taxes" and Ross Perot nicking 20% of the vote (two thirds Republicans).

So in conclusion I don't think the idea that Israel is controlling the White House holds much water. On the contrary I think we've seen quite a few occasions were the two have diverged and when a period of negotiation and national level bickering fail to bridge the gap the United States will favour its own interests over that of Tel Aviv.



Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Resist Capitalism: My Favourite Tweets

On the 25th of February (my time) Twitter users started getting #ResistCapitalism to trend. The Hashtag is still being used, though I think its fair to say its lost a bit of steam. Kinda funny since user coffee luver, seems to be a major fan of it. Now I'm usually really sceptical about social media activism, but I think this is actually a pretty good use for it. It simply makes it easier for the curious to find out information that wouldn't normally come across. Some tweets were pretty bad, but some were very good, so I thought I would share some of the ones that caught my eye and slipped in a few of my own tweets.


Hey now, if I didn't think they were any good I wouldn't have tweeted them.

Here we go:















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