Political MoJo

The Democrats' Dangerous "Pro-Israel" Stance

| Fri Aug. 4, 2006 1:00 PM EDT

Speaking of Iran, Iraq, and Israel, Billmon makes some crucial points here that need to be repeated far and wide. As we know, a lot of purportedly "antiwar" Democrats are against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Fine. But most of those same Democrats are also in favor of letting Israel kill hundreds of civilians and launch quixotic and bloody wars around the Middle East to fight whatever perceived threats may arise, regardless of what those wars mean for the United States. The problem is that those stances are in grave tension with each other, if not outright contradictory.

If the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iran certainly won't sit still. In the event that the ongoing Sunni-Shia civil war continues to expand, Iran will side with the Iraqi Shiites. It might even send troops in to invade. Israel, of course, will fear that Iranian influence in, or worse, control of Iraq will pose a grave threat to its existence. (After all, 100,000 Iraqi Shiites just marched in Baghdad chanting, "Death to Israel!" and supporting Hezbollah.) So Israel might oppose a U.S. withdrawal in the first place—and House and Senate Democrats could agree, so long as it's Israel at stake.

Worse still, Israel could ask the United States to ensure that Iran stay out of Iraq. That could mean war. It's not as if Olmert and Bush have shown much restraint in the past. And Democrats, tethered as they are to Israel—including those self-proclaimed "antiwar" icons such as Howard Dean and Ned Lamont—could well acquiesce. Why not? They've supported the Lebanon adventure so far. Needless to say, war with Iran would be a disaster—for the United States, for Israel, for the world. The point is that various parts of the Middle East are all connected—Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, the whole of it—the situation is extremely dangerous, and it's looking very likely that the Democratic Party will prove itself utterly incapable of stopping the worst of it.

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Is Iran to Blame for Israel's Woes?

| Fri Aug. 4, 2006 12:41 PM EDT

Laura Rozen writes:

From a colleague covering the conflict in Israel: "Almost everyone I talk to here is now saying the Iraq war has presented one of the most significant threats to Israel in its history." Namely because it has so empowered Iran, and reduced US ability to deal with Iran now.

Well, that may be true, in a sense, but it's worth thinking this through. It's a lot harder for the United States to invade Iran now, true—after all, we don't have the troops, and any war against Iran would endanger the 130,000 soldiers currently stationed in Iraq. (Of course, that may not actually deter the Bush administration from bringing out the tactical nuclear weapons and starting World War III, but it's at least convinced some top generals in the Pentagon to oppose war with Iran.) By extension, it's now a lot harder for the United States to threaten to invade Iran. But then again, invading Iran was never a good idea, regardless of what happened in Iraq.

The preferred dovish way of "deal[ing] with Iran" is to talk with the leaders in Tehran, and perhaps eventually striking a deal by promising not to attack (which is a horrible and unfeasible idea anyway) in exchange for better behavior. We still have the ability, even after Iraq, to give that a try at least; it's just that the Bush administration just refuses to do so for various ideological reasons. Maybe Iran is actually less willing to negotiate thanks to the war in Iraq. But it's hard to say, since no one has actually tried.

It's also hard to say in what sense Iran has posed "one of the most significant threats to Israel in its history." Iran has armed Hezbollah, yes. And Hezbollah has been firing missiles into Israel, true. But neither of those things pose existential threats to Israel in the way that, say, various Arab armies, backed by the Soviet Union, did back in the 1960s and 1970s.

In any case, it's worth noting that Israel brought the current crisis on itself by invading Lebanon. Iran had little to do with it. Prior to the outbreak of war on July 12, Hezbollah rocket attacks were somewhat desultory and killed relatively few Israelis—it was bad, yes, but not something Israel couldn't live with if there was no good way of dealing with it. And there wasn't a good way of dealing with it. At present, Israel is talking about occupying a greater portion of Lebanon than it did back during its disastrous occupation in the 1980s. How does that help matters? It doesn't, it's a disaster. Iran is a problem, but it's clearly not the sole problem here.

Geneva report highly critical of U.S. commitment to human rights

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 7:02 PM EDT

The Geneva hearings are over and the final report has been released. It is not pretty, insofar as the U.S. and human rights are concerned.

Every four years, nations representing the Conventions against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights meet to review meet to review compliance of ICCPR nations. An official report is issued, along with a "shadow report," what The Raw Story refers to as "a rebuttal from non-government organizations (NGO), advocacy groups, and citizen representatives. The US "shadow report" was prepared by The Coalition for Human Rights at Home, a coalition of 142 not-for-profit groups."

This year's 456-page shadow report describes over a hundred instances of human rights violations, in a response to the official report issued by the United States. Also, the U.S. was a mere seven years late in developing its report, which it is obligated to prepare as an ICCPR signatory nation.

The Raw Story goes on to describe correspondence between the Committee and the U.S. as a "cat and mouse game," in which the Committee addresses questions to the U.S., and the U.S. responds by saying it has already answered those questions. When the Committee then says "please clarify when you answered that and what the answer was," it receives no further communication.

Jamil Dakwar, a staff attorney with the Human Rights Program, National Legal Department of the ACLU, calls the interplay a "dialogue of deaf."

David Horowitz Dodges Charge He Didn't Write Parts of His Own Book (As First Heard on Mother Jones Radio)

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 3:57 PM EDT

professors.jpg

Media Matters:

Appearing with University of California, Irvine professor Mark LeVine on the August 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, right-wing activist David Horowitz refused to answer LeVine's accusation that Horowitz "admitted on the air" that he "didn't even write or research the parts of" his book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery, January 2006), that were about LeVine, and "therefore couldn't comment on how much
of it was true." Instead, Horowitz said, "I'm not going to discuss things that happened on other shows. I have read what Mark LeVine has written."

Horowitz and LeVine appeared on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the Middle East conflict, and during the discussion, Horowitz claimed that LeVine is "an apologist for the terrorists." LeVine responded, "This is absolutely unconscionable for you to say. ... Again, you're lying like you did in your book." LeVine then pointed to a prior debate he had with Horowitz over the research for the chapter on LeVine from The Professors. On the April 9 edition of Mother Jones Radio Broadcast, host Angie Coiro asked Horowitz, "[T]his research [in the LeVine chapter] is credited to Tzvi Kahn. ... How much of your work went into this chapter, per se? Did you clear all the facts, here?" In response to Coiro, Horowitz admitted to never having met Kahn, the researcher credited in the LeVine chapter of The Professors. Horowitz never addressed Coiro's question, which she asked twice, about the extent to which he was involved in the production of that chapter.

Listen to the original Mother Jones Radio interview here.

(Levine bio here, Horowitz bio here.)

Castro to CIA: "Beep! Beep!"

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 2:26 PM EDT

Apparently the exploding cigars were just the beginning. The U.S. has tried to kill Fidel Castro 638 times, or so says one of his former security guys. Many of the plans—which might have been taken from the reject pile of Wile E. Coyote—never got off the drawing board, like this classic:


Knowing his fascination for scuba-diving off the coast of Cuba, the CIA at one time invested in a large volume of Caribbean molluscs. The idea was to find a shell big enough to contain a lethal quantity of explosives, which would then be painted in colours lurid and bright enough to attract Castro's attention when he was underwater.

Now that its bivalve budget has been slashed, I assume the CIA has moved on from trying to off Fidel. But as it goes after our current crop of international enemies, you have to wonder what kind of half-baked, brilliant-in-their-stupidity kind of ideas it's been tossing around. Why do I have a hunch that someone in Langley is desperately trying to find out Osama bin Laden's favorite candy bar?

Lessons from Cuba: Why Sanctions Don't Work

Thu Aug. 3, 2006 2:13 PM EDT

In addition to recognizing that a Cuba-esque policy won't work in Syria, Jacob Weisberg writes that it probably won't work in Iran either. Weisberg is writing specifically about the futility of imposing sanctions on dictatorial regimes, but his argument begins with the same basic premise—namely, that a policy which has failed to effect change in Cuba for 46 years and counting probably isn't a great policy.

By applying economic restraints, we label the most oppressive and dangerous governments in the world pariahs. We wash our hands of evil, declining to help despots finance their depredations, even at a cost to ourselves of some economic growth. We wincingly accept the collateral damage that falls on civilian populations in the nations we target. But as the above list of countries suggests, sanctions have one serious drawback. They don't work.

Nothing like an ailing Communist dictator over whom we have no influence whatsoever to remind us what constitutes productive diplomatic strategy.

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"Senator Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse."

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 1:26 PM EDT

Reverse Joe-mentum! AP reports:

Millionaire businessman Ned Lamont opened a double-digit lead over veteran Sen. Joe Lieberman less than a week before Connecticut's Democratic primary, raising the possibility that the three-term senator may have to run as an independent in November, a new poll released Thursday shows. ...

"Senator Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse," poll director Douglas Schwartz said. "Despite visits from former President Bill Clinton and other big-name Democrats, Lieberman has not been able to stem the tide to Lamont." ...

The poll, however, indicated that Lamont's support is in large part a backlash: 65 percent of Lamont supporters said their vote is mainly against Lieberman. Schwartz said he had never seen a race where an incumbent has stirred up such negativity within his own party.

"Kill all military-age males..."

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 1:25 PM EDT

It was only a week ago that John Podhoretz wondered if the big tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them." As he put it: "Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of sectarian violence now?"

And now the New York Times reports today: "Four American soldiers from an Army combat unit that killed three Iraqis in a raid in May testified Wednesday that they had received orders from superior officers to kill all the military-age men they encountered." Anyone who thinks that excessive bloodhsed is the "solution" to Iraq should read this post by Dan Nexon. Just because the Roman Empire could be maintained through genocide doesn't mean the American empire can. The horrific possibility is that some military officers may be starting to think along the same lines as Podhoretz. Which is another indication, if we needed one, that there's absolutely no reason to stay in Iraq any longer.

EPA: An Unknown Risk is an Acceptable Risk

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 3:32 AM EDT

So there are about 82,000 industrial chemicals in use today. For 2,800 of those, industry has submitted--voluntarily, mind you--data on potential dangers to human health to the EPA. The remaining 79,200 are... a disaster waiting to happen? Something we really ought to look into more? Let's go now to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (chair: James "Global Warming is a Hoax" Imhofe) hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act, covered by almost no one except the LA Times' invaluable Marla Cone, for a live update:


When asked by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) if all 82,000 chemicals on the market were safe, [EPA Assistant Administrator James B. Gulliford] said, "Their risks to human health and the environment are acceptable."

Any questions?

In Iraq, No Troop Withdrawal in Sight

| Wed Aug. 2, 2006 8:44 PM EDT

More troops, not less, are in the offing:

According to U.S. Army officials, the withdrawal of troops from war-rattled Iraq has been delayed for four more months past their scheduled departure. The news came as U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to send more U.S. troops into Baghdad to curb the sectarian violence there….

The Pentagon also identified four other additional Army and Marine Corps units consisting of about 25,000 troops due to deploy to Iraq in the future, enough to maintain the U.S. force at about 130,000 troops for a year.