This post first appeared on Think Progress. Discussing President Obama’s Iran policy on Fox News this morning, Bill Kristol gave the neoconservative’s answer to every foreign policy problem: military force. Scoffing at President Obama’s continued offers of engagement, Kristol claimed that the only way to deal with Iran was to threaten war. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Iranians do a phony feint toward negotiations to try and buy some more time,” Kristol said. “That’s what they’re buying, they’re buying time for their nuclear program to go ahead, it has been going ahead.” Kristol then prepared the ground for what he hopes is America’s next war:
KRISTOL: I think the reason the president doesn’t want to talk about the real implications of having a delusional and hateful Iranian regime in power is that the real implications is if sanctions fail, we will have to use force. And not certain that the president doesn’t actually know that. I’m open to the notion that he will end up a year from now using force against Iran, and I guess he feels there’s no point signaling that now. I think it’s a mistake, because I think the more you put force on the table, the more you might encourage those within Iran to say ‘wait a second we’re heading towards the precipice.’ That’s not his style, he keeps to door open to negotiations, but I’ve got to say that if you look at the way this is playing out, it’s playing out toward use of force against Iran.
Watch it: In regard to the utility of threats of force against Iran, the actual evidence is, unsurprisingly, precisely the opposite of what Kristol says. President George W. Bush regularly threatened Iran, but rather than strengthening moderate voices, as Kristol imagines it would, this actually strengthened those elements who believe, like Kristol himself, that moderation signals weakness. As journalist Barbara Slavin wrote in 2007, Bush’s belligerent rhetoric had the effect of “boosting Iranian hardliners who argue that the Bush administration has no interest in reconciling with Iran and that Tehran’s best course is to reach bomb capacity as soon as possible.” Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji was adamant in a May 2010 interview that talk of a U.S. military option was harmful. “If you do not have the threat of foreign invasion and you do not use the dialog of invasion and military intervention, the society itself has a huge potential to oppose and potentially topple the theocratic system,” Ganji said, adding:
What I’m trying to get to is that jingoistic, militaristic language used by any foreign power would actually be detrimental to this natural evolution of Iranian society.
“Unfortunately, the policies of the United States have fanned the flames of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, particularly during the Bush administration,” Ganji said. “The belligerent rhetoric of Bush didn’t help us [the Iranian democracy movement], it actually harmed us.” On the other hand, Ganji praised President Obama’s engagement policy, stating that it helped create a favorable environment for the Iranian democracy movement. “Obama offered a dialog with the Iran,” Ganji said, “and this change in discourse immediately gave rise to that outpouring of sentiment against the Islamic Republic last year.” Unlike Bush’s threats of war, which only served to unite the regime against an outside threat, Obama’s engagement policy, combined with increasing sanctions pressure, has, by offering the regime a genuine choice, contributed to the worst crisis of legitimacy in the Islamic Republic’s history. Ganji also noted, however, that continuing fear of U.S. action had caused democracy activists to censor themselves. “Since Iranians, in particular opposition groups, do not want to see a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq in Iran,” Ganji said, “they’ve actually had to scale back their opposition to the government in order not to encourage an invasion.” In his mania to embroil America in yet another disastrous war, Kristol will no doubt simply dismiss these views, just as he dismissed Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s warning against U.S. strikes on Iran as “silly.” But given Kristol’s record of being wrong on most of the key foreign policy questions of our era, it’s clear whose views should actually be dismissed.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. On September 11, 2010, the extremist evangelical Dove World Church — whose pastor, Terry Jones, has written a book called “Islam Is Of The Devil” — plans to host “International Burn a Quran Day,” when it will burn Islam’s sacred text and encourage others across the world to do so as well. Church member Wayne Sapp has even posted an instructional video that explains how and why to burn the Quran. But today the Wall Street Journal reports that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the planned burning of Qurans “could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort“:
Petraeus said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians. “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here [in Afghanistan], but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
This post first appeared on Think Progress. The right-wing group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) has announced that it will be hosting a rally against the proposed Cordoba House Islamic community center on September 11. The confirmed list of speakers includes former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Andrew Breitbart, and, notably, the far-right Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology,” Wilders told the Guardian in 2009, “the ideology of a retarded culture.” In the past, Wilders’ extremism has been condemned by conservatives such as Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and even Glenn Beck, who called Wilders “fascist.” It’s a clear sign of how far the Republicans have shifted to the right and embraced Islamophobia as a political tool that movement figures like Gingrich, Bolton, and Breitbart now have no problem sharing a stage with Wilders.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Via Didi Remez (whose Coteret blog has become an indispensable resource for progressives on Israel-Palestine issues), Israel’s Channel Ten TV News was leaked a memo on a Frank Luntz poll commissioned by the right-wing propaganda outfit The Israel Project analyzing the effectiveness of the Israeli government’s public diplomacy efforts around the Gaza flotilla raid. A summary of the findings:
1. 56% of Americans agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza; 2. 43% of Americans agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving; 3. 34% of Americans support the Israeli operation against the Flotilla; 4. 20% of Americans “felt support” for Israel following announcement of easing of Gaza closure.
Consider these numbers against the fact that 84 Senators and 298 Representatives — 71% of the U.S. Congress — signed an AIPAC-backed letter supporting the flotilla raid. The Israel Project has worked with Luntz before, and gotten in trouble for it. Last year, columnist Doug Bloomfield obtained a copy of the group’s “Global Language Dictionary,” developed in conjunction with Luntz, which advocated equating an end to illegal Israeli settlement building with “ethnic cleansing” against Jews. Last December, journalist Spencer Ackerman also discovered that The Israel Project was shopping around an anti-Iran petition loaded up with false signatures.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. The Associated Press reports that “Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 10 passengers in a predawn raid that set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis”:
Israel said the forces encountered unexpected resistance as they boarded the vessels. Dozens of passengers and at least five Israeli soldiers were wounded in the confrontation in international waters.
The Israeli military said in a statement: “Navy fighters took control of six ships that tried to violate the naval blockade (of the Gaza Strip) … During the takeover, the soldiers encountered serious physical violence by the protesters, who attacked them with live fire.” The Israeli raid has “triggered widespread condemnation across Europe; many of the passengers were from European countries. The raid also strained already tense relations with Israel’s longtime Muslim ally Turkey, the unofficial sponsor of the mission, and drew more attention to the plight of Gaza’s 1.5 million people.” Greater international attention and sympathy to the plight of Palestinians suffering under the Israeli-Egyptian- (and U.S.) enforced siege of Hamas-ruled Gaza is precisely what Israeli authorities were hoping to avoid. In the days and weeks leading up to the launch of the flotilla, the Israeli government and its American mouthpieces were hard at work both todownplay the extent of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and to present the flotilla’s sponsors as supporters of terrorism. (The evidence for the latter claim seems to amount to the usual game of “Six Degrees of Osama bin Laden,” wherein everyone who has ever contributed money to a Palestinian cause is linked to global jihadism.) Responding to claims that the aid flotilla itself represented a “provocation,” Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine writes, well, yeah: “The whole point of the ‘Gaza flotilla’ was to get a reaction out of Israel and call international attention to the problem of the blockade of Gaza…like all other acts of civil disobedience it was designed to provoke a response.” Writing that the attack “is likely to create sustained international attention to the way Israel has treated the Gaza Strip in a way that nothing else has since the Gaza war and possibly since the beginning of the blockade,” Ibish suggests we compare the flotilla “to the ‘Mississippi Freedom Summer’ in which young white Americans from around the country went to the bastion of Jim Crow in order to organize local African-Americans, register them to vote, educate them and confront segregation”:
They knew it was a dangerous situation, and they were shocked but not surprised when James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were abducted and killed by the KKK as the project just got going. There were many other acts of quasi-official violence meted out to the volunteers, and while the organizers obviously would have preferred to have avoided all of that, they expected it and it was part of their strategy. The largely but not entirely unstated reasoning was that the country would continue to ignore massive violence directed towards the African-American community in Mississippi, but could and would not remain oblivious to similar violence directed towards young, white, middle-class college students from New York City and other metropolitan centers. This, indeed, proved the case.The violence directed at the Mississippi Freedom Summer shocked the conscience of the country and was among the numerous decisive moments in the civil rights movement that ultimately succeeded in dismantling the apparatus of formalized racism in the United States.
Like segregation in the American South, the siege of Gaza (and the entire Israeli occupation, for that matter) is a moral abomination that should be intolerable to anyone claiming progressive values. It’s sad that it should require the deaths of non-Palestinians to finally shake the international community from apathy and inaction, but, as with the tragic murders of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, if it contributes to ending the situation then that’s a positive outcome. Unfortunately, the killings will also likely result in the strengthening of support for Hamas vis a vis more moderate Palestinian leaders, greater unrest and more violence, which is not. White House spokesman Bill Burton said in a written statement that “the United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has expressed his “full backing” for the raid,has canceled his scheduled meeting tomorrow with President Obama.