Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Robert Naiman on Justice and US Foreign Policy

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Naiman for my YouTube channel, JamesFetzerNews. He was also my guest yesterday on "The Real Deal", an internet radio program whose archives are at radiofetzer.blogspot.com. Robert is the National Coordinator and the Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, a membership organization devoted to reforming U.S. foreign policy to reflect the values and serve the interests of the majority of Americans.

Robert edits the Just Foreign Policy daily news summary and writes on U.S. foreign policy at the Huffington Post. He has worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. He has master's degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the Middle East. Robert's blog can be found at huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman.

During our video interview, Robert discusses recent events in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan against the background of traditional conceptions of American ideals, where the establishment of an International Criminal Court appears to have been opposed by Bush and Cheney because they did not want to appear before it. The invasion of Iraq in violation of international law, the UN Charter, and even the US Constitution, alas, was only the first in a series of on-going war crimes that have been perpetrated by the United States, which are cointinuing to this day.

Justice and US Foreign Policy - Robert Naiman interviewed on "The Real Deal" with Jim Fetzer (15 February 2010) in four 25-minute segments:

(1) War Crimes in Afghanistan

(2) Obama as "Bush Lite"

(3) How Did we Get Here?

(4) How Can we Get Out?

If Michael Moore Would Run for President
Robert Naiman / February 9th, 2010

If Michael Moore would run for President in 2012, it could be a game-changer in American political life. For starters, it would likely shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least six months, and the American and Afghan lives that would be saved would alone justify the effort.

If Moore announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination now, and followed up that announcement with a vigorous campaign focused on the struggles of rank-and-file Democrats, it would re-mobilize rank-and-file Democratic activists. It's possible that he might even win; but win or lose, the campaign could arrest and reverse the current rightward, pro-corporate trajectory of our national politics, which is the predictable consequence of the failure of Team Obama to deliver on its promises from 2008, which in turn was the predictable consequence of the doomed effort to try to serve two masters: Wall Street and Main Street.

Like few people with his political views, Michael Moore needs no introduction to the Democratic primary electorate. To most rank-and-file Democrats, the name Michael Moore stands for a set of progressive populist ideas: health care for all, workers' rights, opposition to Wall Street's stranglehold on Washington, closing down the wars of empire and bringing our troops home.

In 1984 and 1988, the Jesse Jackson campaigns showed what could be accomplished running a populist, issue-based, movement campaign in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. In 1984, Jackson got more than 3 million votes, a fifth of the total, and won 5 primaries and caucuses. In 1988, he got almost 7 million votes and won seven primaries and four caucuses; at one point, following his victory in the Michigan caucus, he was ahead in delegates.

Of course, the progressive Jackson campaigns had a particular starting point: their base in the African-American community. But a Michael Moore campaign would also have a starting point: his status as an international progressive populist rock star. The moment that Michael Moore says, "I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2012," it's a live proposition. And Moore would have tools for getting out his message -- videos and the internet -- that the Jackson campaign didn't have in 1988.

Like few American progressives of his prominence, Moore has the ability to connect with and mobilize working-class anger at Washington and Wall Street.

In the Jackson campaign, picket lines were campaign stops. That's the kind of campaigning that could be happening now. You get out the campaign message, but you also shine a spotlight on local struggles, nationalize them and magnify their power.

In Michael Moore's last movie, there was a long sequence about the struggle of the UE workers in Chicago. Those are the stories around the country that the Moore campaign for President would be telling to a national Democratic audience: Studs Terkel with a video camera and an RSS feed.

A Moore campaign for President announced today could be active in this Congressional election cycle: campaigning for progressive Democrats in the 2010 primaries, and thereby mobilizing the national progressive base in these contests, campaigning for progressive Democrats in the November election, building its national organization at the same time. A Moore campaign for President would compete for the endorsement of every organization of progressive Democrats, including Progressive Democrats of America, MoveOn, and Democracy for America. A Moore campaign would compete for the support of labor unions, which would put the Employee Free Choice Act and fair trade right back at the top of the national agenda. And a Moore campaign would work to build the base of the endorsing organizations.

If Obama's advisers knew for certain that they would face an effective progressive challenge in the 2012 primaries and caucuses, it's likely that they would start making different political choices immediately, because everything they fail to accomplish by spring 2012 would be on the table in the primaries and caucuses: health care for all, putting America back to work, ending the war in Afghanistan. Most analysts seem to think that there was a strong correlation between Obama's announcement of July 2011 as the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the 2012 election cycle; but an effective primary challenge would bring that calculation forward by six months. It's likely that if Obama's advisers knew they faced a spring 2012 deadline for showing that the war was ending, they would stop undermining Afghan efforts to start peace talks. A Moore campaign could save thousands of American and Afghan lives. In contesting Democratic primaries and caucuses against Michael Moore, Obama's advisers won't be able to prevail by deploying mere rhetoric, because now they're in power, and would have to answer for what they are actually doing.

In many ways, the stage is set perfectly. There will not be a crowded field; if career advancement is your goal, you generally don't run in a primary against a sitting President. When "the Democratic Party is in power" is the ideal time to mount a progressive Democratic challenge, because that's when the inability of Washington Democrats in thrall to Wall Street to deliver on progressive promises is thrown into sharp relief.

The Tea Party movement and the Massachusetts election are a warning. Populist anger is going to go somewhere. Team Obama will not be able to channel that anger so long as its economic team is a subsidiary of Wall Street. If we don't want a repeat of 1994 and a long return to Republican reaction, there must be an alternative voice that can reach the majority of Americans. A Michael Moore campaign could be that voice.

And for Michael Moore, I think it's a logical next step. He may be near the limit of what he can accomplish politically by only making movies. It's time to make a new documentary: the documentary of a campaign to rally rank-and-file Democrats to take back America from Wall Street, Wal-mart and the military industry.

"The U.S. is out of control" - an interview with Sherwood Ross

Sherwood Ross was my guest on 3 February on "The Real Deal", an internet radio program whose archives are at radiofetzer.blogspot.com. Sherwood has worked as a publicist for Chicago, as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and workplace columnist for Reuters. He has also been a media consultant to colleges, law schools, labor unions, and to the editors of more than 100 national magazines. A civil rights activist, he was News Director for the National Urban League, a talk show host at WOL Radio, Washington, D.C., and holds an award for "best spot news coverage" for Chicago radio stations for civil rights reporting. Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based writer and public relations consultant for good causes.

Sherwood is a prolific author and is a frequent contributor to Global Research, The Smirking Chimp, OpEdNews, Political Affairs, Atlantic Free Press, etc. On 2 June 2009, Political Affairs Magazine ran a column by Sherwood on Russ Baker’s 2004 blockbuster pre-election scoop about George W. Bush’s intent, expressed back in 1999, to invade Iraq. A few days later, The Raw Story’s John Byrne picked up the story. Byrne’s entry immediately became a hit on Digg.

Among Sherwood's recent writings:

Cowardly Congress Thinks Backing White House Plays It Safe (4 February)
Why U.S. Makes Wars (2 February)
Can The White House Control The News? (31 January)
Zinn Said "Largest Lie" Was "Global War on Terror" (28 January)
Panetta Turns Blind Eye To CIA Crimes (24 January)
TV Networks Giving Americans Sanitized Version Of War (24 January)
American Academics Disappointed with Obama (23 January)
Obama Spreads War Flames To Engulf The Middle East (18 January)

Pentagon war cost exceeds US annual tax intake?

Today the US is spending more on war than the governments of 50 American states spend on education, healthcare and welfare of the American people, says journalist Sherwood Ross. "American people who voted for peace are finding that we have a greater war economy than ever before, said Ross. The idea of the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex is not necessarily to win the war, but to wage continuous wars to keep this inflated Pentagon budget sky high and that is what they are succeeding in doing".

Sherwood and I talked about the vast expansion of U.S. bases globally and also about the CIA's role in meddling in Latin American elections and overthrowing Latin governments. His article "Obama's Base Pact With Colombia Accelerates "Dangerous Trend", dated 2 February, bothered me so much I wanted to have him as my guest as soon as possible. In fact, it was that same article which inspired me to write "The U.S. is out of control". Sherwood sang a song "I Sliced Pastrami for the CIA (And Found God)" which I publish below. If you like the lyrics, wait till you hear it sung!

Is the U.S. Out of Control? - Sherwood Ross interviewed on "The Real Deal" with Jim Fetzer (3 February 2010) in four 25-minute segments:

(1) Obama is a major disappointment

(2) The U.S. is out of control

(3) Our options appear to be limited

(4) "I cut pastrami for the CIA"

Iraq, Iran, and the CIA - Carl Herman interviewed on "The Real Deal" with Jim Fetzer (11 January 2010):

Obama's Base Pact With Colombia Accelerates "Dangerous Trend"
Sherwood Ross

The Obama administration’s pact to use seven Colombian military bases accelerates “a dangerous trend in U.S. hemispheric policy,” an article in The Nation magazine warns.

The White House claims the deal merely formalizes existing military cooperation but the Pentagon’s 2009 budget request said it needed funds to improve one of the bases in order to conduct “full spectrum operations throughout South America” and to “expand expeditionary warfare capability.”

“With a hodgepodge of treaties and projects, such as the International Law Enforcement Academy and the Merida Initiative, Obama is continuing the policies of his predecessors, spending millions to integrate the region’s military, policy, intelligence and even, through Patriot Act-like legislation, judicial systems,” writes historian Greg Grandin, a New York University professor.

Although much of Latin America is in the vanguard of the “anti-corporate and anti-militarist global democracy movement,” Grandin writes, the Obama administration is “disappointing potential regional allies by continuing to promote a volatile mix of militarism and free-trade orthodoxy in a corridor running from Mexico to Colombia.” Grandin’s article in The Nation’s February 8th issue is titled, “Muscling Latin America.”

The fountainhead of this effort is Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package that over the past decade “has failed to stem the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States,” Grandin says, noting that more Andean coca was synthesized into cocaine in 2008 than in 1998.

Underlying the anti-drug fight, however, is a counterinsurgency struggle for control of “ungoverned spaces” via a “clear, hold and build” sequence urged by the U.S. military to weaken Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces(FARC). The Bush White House condoned the right-wing paramilitaries who, along with their narcotraficante allies “now control about 10 million acres, roughly half of the country’s most fertile land,” Grandin reports. They also spread terror in the countryside and are responsible for many killings and for driving peasants from their land.

Grandin reports that the paras “have taken control of hundreds of municipal governments, establishing what Colombian social scientist Leon Valencia calls ‘true local dictatorships,’ consolidating their property seizures and deepening their ties to narcos, landed elites and politicians.”

What’s more, “The country’s sprawling intelligence apparatus is infiltrated by this death squad/narco combine, as is its judiciary and Congress, where more than forty deputies from the governing party are under investigation for ties to (the right-wing) AUC (United Self Defense Forces).

“Colombia remains the hands-down worst repressor in Latin America,” Grandin asserts. “More than 500 trade unionists have been executed since (Alvaro) Uribe took office. In recent years 195 teachers have been assassinated, and not one arrest has been made for the killings. And the military stands accused of murdering more than 2,000 civilians and then dressing their bodies in guerrilla uniforms in order to prove progress against the FARC.”

Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities fighting paras who have seized land to cultivate African palm for ethanol production have been evicted by mercenaries and the military, Grandin says. “From Panama to Mexico, rural protesters are likewise targeted. In the Salvadoran department of Cabanas,” he observes, “death squads have executed four leaders---three in December---who opposed the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company’s efforts to dig a gold mine in their community.”

Obama could reconsider the Pentagon’s base deal and Plan Colombia, Grandin writes, “But that would mean rethinking a longer, multi-decade, bipartisan, trillion-dollars-and-counting ‘war on drugs,’ and Obama has other wars to extricate himself from---or not, as the case may be.”

“Unable or unwilling to make concessions on these and other issues important to Latin America---normalizing relations with Cuba, for instance, or advancing immigration reform---the White House is adopting an increasingly antagonistic posture,” Grandin explains. He notes that after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Brazil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Latin Americans to “think twice” about “the consequences” of engagement with Iran. An Argentine diplomat responded, “The Obama administration would never talk to European countries that way.”

(This score is available as ABC, SongWright, PostScript, PNG, PMW, or a MIDI file.) Pennywhistle notation and Dulcimer tab for this song is also available.

I Sliced Pastrami for the CIA (And Found God)
(Sherwood Ross)

I ran a kosher deli
Down old Virginia way
Not far from the Pentagon
And the CIA
An Admiral got heartburn
Two generals passed away
That's when my country called on
To trick for the U.S.A.

Oh, I was whisked to Langley
In a foreign service car
Asked to go to Cuba
Set up my deli bar
"Irving, slice the same pastrami
You fix here every day
Let's hope Big Enchilada
Is gonna come your way."

cho:   Oh, I sliced pastrami for the CIA
      The CIA, the CIA
      It was Fidel deedle deedle deedle dee all day
      Down old Havana way.

Armed with just a butcher knife
And a roll of Cuban bills
They flew me in a southeast line
They dropped me in some hills
I floated to Havana
And I am proud to say
I set up a little deli
Hoping he'd drop in someday

One day soon it happened
In the afternoon lunch crowd
This bearded man he entered
So arrogant and proud
"I hear you got pastrami
That could give the devil fright
Don't be chintzy with the mustard
Let's see if they are right."

Now I knew he was a tough guy
The Mafia missed its turn
But where they failed with poison
I'd nail him with heartburn
They could not make his beard fall
So that he'd look less virile
Boldly I sliced a double one
I'd freeze his Cuban smile.


Well, Fidel took one bite from it
His sunbrowned face turned white
He began to choke and gasp
But asked for another bite
Just then the sky split open
A voice cried loud and shrill:
"Irving take back that pastrami
I said Thou Shalt Not Kill!"

Fidel, he got angry
But I was out of reach
Miraculous this hand comes down
I'm flown half price to Miami Beach
Now I'm back at my old deli
And somehow very proud
I sliced pastrami for the CIA
And that's how I found God!


Copyright Sherwood Ross, 1982
Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition

Jim Fetzer

A Patriot missile is launched during an Israeli-US military excercise in the Negev desert in southern Israel in February 2001. Photograph: Reuters

Madison, WI (2 February 2010) – There are increasingly disturbing signs that the United States is out of control and targeting Pakistan with predator drones, Iran with threats of an immanent attack, and now occupying bases in Columbia with the intent of using American military force to dominate South American as it has the small states of Latin America. Every day, new atrocities are being inflicted upon the civilian populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan as US military forces employ the mindless and remorseless use of predator drones to kill our suspected enemies. A recent report, “Over 700 killed in 44 drone strikes in 2009”, for example, has calculated 140 innocents are being killed for every “insurgent”. That is an appalling record, where every civilian we kill serves as a recruiting poster for our opponents.

As a former Marine Corps officer, I am not opposed to weapons of war as a matter of principle. It's not the efficiency of predator drones that bothers me but the uncertainty of the identity of the actual targets and the collateral damage they cause. Predator drones are deadly, but my concern is with whether their use is moral, especially when consideration is given to the political context involved. How many wedding parties are we going to take out because the drone saw group behavior that it had been programmed to hit? How often do we have sufficient information to know that we are actually targeting insurgents, not innocents? This country used to believe that it was better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be punished. Now we are murdering 140 innocents for every insurgent.

We are now invading Pakistani airspace in our seemingly relentless determination to take out those who oppose us. From the point of view of the countries that we have invaded and occupied, however, they might be more aptly described as “freedom fighters”. Since we have invaded these countries in violation of international law, the UN Charter and even the US Constitution—which grants the same status to treaties we have signed as the Constitution itself—we appear to be committing crimes against humanity. In retrospect, the (at the time) inexplicable opposition of the Bush administration to supporting the International Criminal Court has become clear. Bush and Cheney opposed the ICC because they did not want to be prosecuted by it!

There are new reports of high-level meetings between officials of the US and Israeli governments that appear to be preparing for an attack on Iran. “Secret CIA-Mossad Meeting” (2 February 2010), reports, “A secret meeting between the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Leon Panetta and Israeli officials has reportedly centered on Iran's nuclear program. In a secret flying visit to Israel on Thursday, the head of the CIA reportedly discussed Iran's nuclear issue in a sit-down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad Chief Meir Dagan.” What the article does not explain is why Iran should not be permitted nukes of its own.

The stunning imbalance of nuclear power in the Middle East, where Israel is generally understood to have between 200 and 600 nukes of its own, while other nations in the region collectively have none, is never mentioned, much less discussed. Indeed, if Iran had a few nukes of its own, they could never be used for offensive purposes without inviting national annihilation. But they could serve a useful defensive function by increasing the risk that any nation that attacks Iran would run the risk of nuclear retaliation. The US and USSR had massive nuclear arsenals, which led to five decades of standoff under the doctine of Mutually Assured Destruction. If that could work in the far more dramatic world theater of conflict between the Superpowers, why couldn’t it work between Israel and Iran? The situation is absurd.

Not only is Iran entitled to possess nuclear weapons of its own, but its record of non-intervention in other states stands in striking contrast to the occupation and subjugation of other populations by Israel, which thinks nothing of invading Lebanon or of treating Palestinians in the same fashion that Nazis treated Jews. Estimates of the human costs of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, moreover, suggest that around 1,000,000 deaths would occur initially, with as many as 35,000,000 more early deaths due to leukemia and other forms of cancer due to the contamination by pollution from nuclear fallout that would affect the populations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. An attack of this kind would represent one of the greatest atrocities in human history.

The Guardian, UK (31 January 2010) has reported that the US has “Raised the Stakes” in relation to Iran by sending ships and missiles to the region. According to the article “The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries—Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait—and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudii Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.” This might be justifiable if Iran posed any threat to its neighbors. Apart from the war between Iraq and Iran (in self-defense), the history of Iran has not involved attacking other nations since the time of Cyrus the Great.

The most charitable interpretation of this move appears to be that it is actually intended to reassure Israel that the US is prepared to cope with threats from Iran, which diminishes the need for an attack. But no such charitable interpretation is available for the new agreement to provide the US military with long-term access to seven bases in the territory of its closest Latin American ally. According to the Colombia Journal (6 November 2009), “Some leaders, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez in particular, have claimed that the agreement poses a threat to left-leaning South American nations. The recently released text of the base agreement and a related U.S. military document confirm that the fears of Chávez and other South American leaders are not mere paranoia.”

The documents, the article explains, make evident that US military objectives extend fat beyond Colombia's borders, where the use of Palenquero Air Base "provides an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America." The change in administrations from Bush to Obama provides no indication that American objectives for economic domination of the world have abated. It appears that we can expect from Obama the same kind of benefits that previous administrations have brought to Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and (now) Pakistan. The US and its ally, Israel, now appear to be the leading aggressor and terrorist states in the world, which is a tragic turn of events for those who aspire to world peace.