Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why the US/NATO is in Afghanistan: A Query inspires an unconventional if not an outlandish response

JJ wonders why we're in Afghanistan

The material below is from MoonofAlabama.org. It's very interesting analysis, but it leaves me more confused than ever about the fundamental question: What is the American interest in Afghanistan? I had thought it was to pacify the country for the proposed Unocal pipeline. But I see no rational connection between war and getting that result. On the contrary, I'd expect war to ensure the unattainability of such a goal, by getting the Afghans more antagonized and sabotage-minded with each passing day.

Are we really there, then, in search of one man, Osama bin Laden? Or to suppress the Taliban or al Qaeda? I suspect bin Laden is long since dead, and I'd think war would be the perfect recruiting tool for such entities. Are we there to outflank Iran? That hardly fits with what follows. To outflank Pakistan and its nukes? That doesn't seem to make sense either, especially given the history of our involvement.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what we're trying to do.

In the meantime, as I say, what follows is interesting stuff. Note the figures for the comparative costs of maintaining an army in Afghanistan and maintaining one in Iraq

Ronald responds to JJ:
Thanks for asking. I’m afraid my views are unconventional but – like others – I find that the evidence I choose to look at is not inconsistent with my theories.
Yes, quite the right question. What is the American interest in Afghanistan?.
First thing of course is that the Obama administration is following the Bush administration’s policy.
What was that policy? Just as it was in Iraq, to further their permanent war agenda and to cause as much pain and suffering and turmoil and tension and oppression as possible.
I submit that in Iraq it’s very easy to point to indictable evidence: namely the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the firing of virtually all the able bureaucrats –de-bathification.
Have you seen the documentary No End in Sight? (actually I’m blanking on the title. That might be a lucky guess.)
Either those two policies were mistakes or purposeful actions intended to ensure that there would be a pretext – an insurgency and the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- to keep the war going indefinitely. Take your choice. Alternately you can ask yourself if Cheney is the type to make such mistakes.
Needless to say there’s a mountain more evidence. High on the list are policies to ensure that there would be no reconstruction of the country. Talk about evidence not inconsistent: Have you seen Ragiv Chandrasekaran’s book on the Green Zone?
The same with Afghanistan. Their purpose is to destroy the country. The interesting irony there is that Taliban rule is what they wanted (there and here and everywhere) and they were unhappy to overthrow it. But as we have seen, it was done in such a way as to ensure the return of the Taliban after a few years. Karzai sort of gave the game away in a December ’08 interview to the Washington Post: He asked: How can a little group of ragtag fanatics be causing so much trouble. He was pointing to U.S. aid to the Taliban by means of the Pakistani ISI. Yup, we’re paying billions so that they can kill U.S. soldiers and thousands upon thousands of Afghanis.
We might have hoped that the Obama administration would change policy. I used to joke after Nov 4 and before Jan 20 that we had hope. It’s not such a joke anymore. It’s not the Obama administration. It’s the Rahm Emanuel –Obama administration with the latter the figurehead.
You can see why my views aren’t popular. Most people figure that there’s got to be something ---$$$$ -- in it for the policymakers. But to me it’s a question of evidence. Your astute questions are more evidence.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

William Black (Huffington Post) Geithner (Obama) Continues Bush's corruption

With Bush it was malevolence, with Obama it's apparently stupidity and ignorance. Stupidity for believing that Geithner had some answers even though he contributed to the Bush plan that many could see would only help the most corrupt elements. And ignorance in thinking that listening to such discredited veterans as Lawrence Summers would do any good. It's not too early to see that Obama is way off base and has chosen in too many cases, for reasons which are not entirely clear, people who will contribute to failure in too many critical policies. We hoped for change and we got someone in training wheels. We're wondering now if Hillary could have done any worse. --RB

William K. Black

Associate Professor, University of Missouri; Senior regulator during S&L debacle
February 10, 2009 |
Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-k-black/the-audacity-of-dopes_b_165637.htmlThe Audacity of Dopes

We are being played for chumps. The Bush and Obama plans could only have been designed by failed bankers -- for their principal beneficiaries are failed bankers. We already know enough to confirm that the Bush administration made us the "fool" in the market by massively overpaying for assets. The Obama administration is about to compound that scandal with a "guarantee" program. The bankers that caused the crisis designed both programs. The senior officers at big bank aren't very good lenders, but they are expert in maximizing their compensation.

Worse, Mr. Geithner, the senior public official who, with former Treasury Secretary Paulson, designed the failed Bush plan is the architect of the disastrous Obama plan. Indeed, as theNew York Times has just revealed, it should be called the Geithner plan. He overcame intense opposition within the Obama administration and designed a plan that is even worse than the failed Bush program. Geithner's gifts to the bankers that caused the crisis include: a unnecessary taxpayer bailout of "risk capital," a massive coverup of their banks' insolvency, gutting the proposed limits on executive compensation, and devising a "guarantee" mechanism designed to hide the expenses of the unprincipled bailouts from the American public. Remember, executive compensation is not "merely" a fairness issue. Executive compensation and the compensation systems used for appraisers, accountants, and rating agencies were designed, and served, to create the perverse incentives and ethical rot that caused the ongoing financial crises by producing a "Gresham's dynamic" in which fraudulent and abusive lending and accounting practices drove good practices out of the marketplace.

Here's the amazing part -- the bankers are so arrogant that they bragged to a sympathetic CNBC commentator they are playing us:

What a delicious irony this is--last week, just as President Obama was publicly bashing the stupidity of the banks ... his economic team [was] privately begging for input from Wall Street. The administration was conducting around-the-clock discussions and interviews with senior Wall Street executives, including many from the same firms he was theoretically appalled with, about how to fix the lingering financial crisis. "

There are proven ways to resolve the crisis that are far cheaper and more effective because they don't subsidize bankers and "risk capital." We know how to resolve failed banks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) can place even the largest banks in "pass through" receiverships on Friday at the close of business and reopen them as "New Federal" bank Monday morning with minimal disruption to customers and creditors and retain "going concern" value. This is how the Reagan administration resolved failed S&Ls during the debacle.

The FDIC appoints a senior manager to ensure that "New Federal" is run prudently. There is plenty of unemployed banking talent available. Hundreds of good bankers lost their jobs during the financial bubble because they refused to make bad loans. Research has shown that its sister agency, FSLIC, appointed receivership managers that greatly reduced losses during the S&L debacle. Leaving the managers in charge of failed banks that they led into insolvency is suicidal. The new senior leader is picked based on expertise in prudent lending and integrity. If we want failed banks to return promptly to making prudent loans and help lead an economic recovery an S&L style "New Federal" is the best possible device. The existing managers have terrible incentives -- to cover up existing losses and to make bad or even fraudulent loans that produce the greatest (fictional) accounting income and to "live large" through bonuses and perks. (The Obama compensation limits are political cover. The bankers have designed the "guarantee" plan to ensure that the compensation limits will be illusory.)

The FDIC managers have the correct incentives to finally produce an honest evaluation of which assets are toxic and how much they are worth. This transparency is essential if we are to end this crisis. Under the Bush and Obama plans we retain the existing managers that have overwhelming incentives to cover up the losses. The bankers have designed the guarantee plan to encourage banks to continue to cover up their toxic assets and not recognize their losses. These cover-ups make a financial crisis last longer and increase the taxpayers' costs.

The FDIC managers preserve the going concern value by making prudent loans and get the "New Federal" in shape to be acquired. By providing reliable information about the toxic assets the managers reduce acquisition risks, which expands the number of bidders and reduces the financial assistance required to aid the acquisition.

"New Federal" receiverships dramatically reduce cash needs. Most costs are deferred until the New Federals are sold.

Pass through receiverships save the taxpayers money and prevent perverse managerial incentives because they do not subsidize "risk capital" when banks are insolvent. Common and preferred stock and subordinated debt in banks are "risk capital." Their holders are supposed to receive nothing if a bank becomes insolvent, but the Bush and Obama plans reward them. There is no need to do this. Subsidizing risk capital and maintaining the failed managers at insolvent banks creates the worst possible incentives. It will cause future crises. It will delay the recovery from the ongoing crises. It robs the U.S. taxpayers and primarily benefits the wealthy -- many of them non-U.S. citizens. The contract they made was that they would get nothing if the bank failed. It has failed, and they are often complicit in those failures. The bankers have convinced the Bush and Obama administrations that the taxpayers should be looted to bail out risk capital. We should stop listening to the folks that caused the crisis and have interests hostile to our interests. Let's stop them from using us as chumps.

Read more:


William K. Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri - Kansas City. He held senior regulatory positions during the S&L debacle and is the author of "The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One" (2005)

Monday, February 02, 2009

AMEU: Joel Kovel on Israel's Immunity despite savagry

Here's AMEU's flyer for the latest issue of their publication, The Link. Every issue is outstanding and all their back issues are available on their website.

This article, by the brilliant Joel Kovel, the author of Overcoming Zionism, will resonate with many. I'll excerpt two sections, the first which gives the most realistic definition of the Lobby that I've seen.

The second is an important description of soft Zionists. It's a good reminder that there are some who see themselves as anti-Zionists, and/or are opposed to Israel's brutality, wanton destruction and lawlessness, but who, nevertheless, are opposed to efforts to transform the Jewish state into a state for all its people. They find ways of denying the reality of the power of the Lobby, often by smearing opponents as anti-Semites. It's as if they don't understand that Zionism, on the road to becoming perhaps the most destructive ISM in history, means a Jewish state. How can you be an anti –Zionist and support a Jewish state? How can you oppose Israeli oppression and support a Jewish state? The structure of Israel as a Jewish state requires its savagery.

I have one minor or not so minor quibble with Kovel. He writes that U.S. support for Israel would collapse if not for the power of the Lobby (as per his definition). I believe it’s more complicated. Part of the power of the Lobby is that it resonates not merely with activists, but with a large majority of the population, the grassroots who, for a variety of reasons, believe that the Jews are good and the Arabs and Muslims are bad. It’s a Lobby-grassroots dynamic that’s mutually sustaining. The Lobby is telling many people what they want to hear.

from Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Immunity"

The suppression mechanism is usually ascribed to an influencing agent, or lobby, either called the “Israel Lobby” or, equivalently, the “Zionist Lobby,” with its apex in AIPAC. Needless to say, a massive and richly funded institutional system of lobbies are a vital part of the process; indeed, one might call them the factories in which the manufacture of the final product is carried out. But the suppression of criticism is not made from whole cloth; there are also components and raw materials to be taken into account. So it is with the lobbies, the raw material for which entails a common belief system that circulates among elites and stems from deeply held assumptions that go back to the origins of our society.

The lobbies as such are therefore powerful enforcers of a much more broadly based system. This develops within what is called civil society, the interconnected set of institutions that comprises the connective tissue of a nation, and includes churches and synagogues, schools, libraries, publishers, and a wide range of community organizations. Among this great mass certain Zionist organs of repression have crystallized in recent years—Campus Watch, CAMERA, the David Project, and so forth—and, in alliance with traditional Zionist groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, have acted as focal points of repression. I am sure that they communicate with each other, with AIPAC, and with other major Jewish organizations, as well.

But while there are definitely lobbies among these networks, the overall network is no lobby. It would be better to call it, as sociologist James Petras has, a “Zionist Power Configuration,” or perhaps we could say, a “Zionist Apparatus.” What we call it is not especially important; what matters is that we understand that the loose and decentralized character of the network floats atop an attitudinal sea that supports the basic notions of Zionism, and functions to structure the Israeli cause in the collective mind.

Though a great many repressive acts are initiated by one node of the network or another, a great many others are executed without any particular organizational focus. These fade off, as is the case with most discriminatory campaigns, into gestures and slights, shunnings and glances that never register on the meter as newsworthy. Thus numberless decisions are made by publishers to automatically reject books critical of Israel, at times without even an acknowledgement of receiving the manuscript; or literary agents will decline to represent the work; or if the book finally does get published library committees will decide not to purchase it, or editors of journals will more or less automatically decide not to review it.



from Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Immunity"

The soft Zionist cannot so easily override the moral contradictions that dog the Jewish state. He is therefore obliged to admit criticism. But he cannot allow criticism to reach the stage of calling Zionism itself into question. Therefore soft Zionism calls for “responsible” criticism and remains divided in its soul. This leads to a veritable frenzy of subterfuges, rationalizations and legal pettifogging. The soft Zionist, generally speaking, does not exult in Israel’s power nor allow himself to dream of Jewish restoration. He will console himself, rather, with “realism” and call attention to the complexities and imperfections of this world. He will advance the (quite specious) notion that everyone is entitled to a national state; or ponder the great sufferings of the Jews and their entitlement, therefore, to a country of their own; or congratulate the Jewish state for allowing the Palestinians who live in Israel proper to vote, all the while chiding its improprieties. More generally, he will consider Israel to be a “normal” state; and when its massive impunity and lawlessness is pointed out—for example, that the country has flouted scores of U.N. resolutions, or that it lacks a constitution—he will rejoin that after all, England lacks a constitution, too, or that nobody is perfect, or that the Arabs are much worse. The technique of the soft Zionist, then, is to employ lines of reasoning that enable Palestinians and Jews to be compared on equal ground—for example, how much each side has suffered, or as perpetrators of equivalent violence. Thus the soft Zionist dwells on narratives—individualized lines of reasoning that foster the equivalence of both sides in a complex and imperfect world—rather than on basic structures of justice whose asymmetry reflects the actual history of Zionist conquest.

Soft Zionists are more numerous than hard Zionists and are often successful in academia, the law, and politics. Being conflicted, they can go one way or the other, and thus on occasion will aid the cause of justice. An important example has arisen in context of the debacle of the neocon-driven 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. This has provoked a reaction from representatives of the so-called “realist” school of foreign policy. In the process, Israel itself has come under open criticism for the first time from within the elites, and this in turn provoked a harsh reaction from hard Zionists....


Kovel continues with a discussion of President Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine -- Peace Not Apartheid.

read more:



Overcoming Impunity, by Joel Kovel
AMEU's Latest Issue of The Link
January 1, 2009
Contents of This E-mail:
-- Overcoming Impunity
-- Lessons Learned
-- Link Author Joel Kovel
-- Rabbi Elmer Berger
-- The USS Liberty Website

This is the first of five scheduled year 2009 "alerts" to inform you of a new issue of The Link.

Overcoming Impunity

Writing in Haaretz on Dec. 29 about Israel's all- out war on Gaza, Israeli historian Tom Segev observed that:

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey."

Israel learned long ago that whatever gratuitous violence and collective punishments it might unleash on Palestinians using weapons and cash from American taxpayers, the U.S. Government would remain silent at best, or, as in the current case of Gaza, perform as cheerleaders. Israel, as Dr. Joel Kovel, points out in the current Link operates without restraint under an umbrella of impunity provided by the world's sole superpower.

Lessons Learned

In listing incidents which informed Israel that the U.S. would always be its Great Enabler, Kovel begins with Israel's 1967 attack on the USS Liberty in international waters off the coast of Gaza. Thirty-four seamen were killed and 137 wounded. President Lyndon B. Johnson called off a rescue mission and survivors were ordered to say nothing about the incident. To this day it is the only peacetime attack on a U.S. naval vessel that Congress refuses to investigate.

Impunity was drawn upon once again by Israel just four days ago when its Navy vessels set upon the mercy ship Dignity 90 miles off Gaza in international waters, firing live ammunition around it without warning, ramming it three times, and forcing it to abort the mission of delivering three tons of medical supplies and surgeons to besieged Gazans.

Link Author Joel Kovel

Joel Kovel, a retired medical doctor, is Professor of Social Studies at Bard College in Annandale, N.Y. He describes himself as a "citizen of the United States and a Jew descended from Russian-Ukrainian immigrants," and explains how he came to write about Zionism and Israel:

Although I spent a great portion of my adult life in movements against racism, war, U.S. imperialism, the corruptions of media and mass culture . . . , I remained relatively quiet about Israel itself until the year 2000. This was not for lack of aversion to Israeli policies, nor did I fear the accusation of anti-semitism, the identification of which with criticism of Israel I had always regarded as tedious, albeit pernicious, nonsense. My reticence stemmed, rather, from certain family conflicts. When the individuals concerned in these--chiefly my mother--passed away, my political development in this sphere resumed and, as if to make up for lost time, gathered speed.

Rabbi Elmer Berger

As each new Link is placed on our website, a companion issue is selected from our archive. To complement Dr. Kovel's discussion on Zionism--his book "Overcoming Zionism" is available from AMEU--we have chosen a Link written by Rabbi Elmer Berger, who for 50 years headed up American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism.

During that half century, Rabbi Berger refused to travel to Israel, saying he would do so only when Israel acknowledged its theft of Palestinian lands, allowed refugees who wanted to return to do so, and paid reparations to others for the land and property they had lost. Rabbi Berger died in 1996, never having set foot in Israel.

As a new feature of every Link issue we interview the webmaster of a site we believe deserves attention. Our interview for this issue is with James Ennes, Jr., who discusses the USS Liberty website. Ennes was on the bridge of the Liberty when it was attacked by Israel.

The USS Liberty Website

Contact Information
email: info@ameu.org
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