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Scoop: Collins: Clinton’s Threat to “Obliterate” Iran

Collins: Clinton’s Threat to “Obliterate” Iran

Is That Tough Enough?


Daniella Zalcman (cc)

Clinton’s Threat to “Obliterate” Iran

Michael Collins
“Scoop” Independent News
Washington, D.C.


Last week, Hillary Clinton proved that reason is on holiday. When asked how she would react to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, Clinton said that she would “obliterate” Iran. She didn’t say it in a rage. She didn’t say it in a state of nervous exhaustion. She appeared calm and composed. Her voice didn’t waiver at all as she spoke these words on “Good Morning America:”

Well, the question was, if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be? I want the Iranians to know that if I am president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that. Because it does mean that they have to look very carefully at their society. Because whatever stage of development they might be in their nuclear weapons program, in the next 10 years during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. Los Angeles Times Apr. 24, 2008 YouTube (at 2:29)

For decades it’s been an unspoken rule that the president and others in key leadership positions avoid open threats of nuclear attack. The United States and the Soviet Union both had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world hundreds of times over. This lead to a Cold War – a series of proxy wars and other encounters made necessary by the “mutually assured destruction” that would follow a serious exchange of nuclear weapons.

Yet Clinton told the Mullahs in charge of Iran to take a good look at their society since she’d evaporate it if they launched a nuclear attack on Israel.

Iran does not have nuclear weapons now and may not until 2015 according to the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

“We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.” National Intelligence Estimate Nov. 2007

What’s Her Point?

Does Clinton want Iran to develop nuclear weapons? That may seem like an absurd question. But it’s inspired by her threatening statement. Iran had a nuclear weapons program, halted it, and now appears to be headed in that direction again. Threatening to “obliterate them,” all 71 million Iranians, offers up ample incentive, along with propaganda cover, for the Mullahs in charge to move forward with these weapons of mass destruction.

Does Clinton want to protect Israel? Statements that prod the Iranians to move from reticence to action on any nuclear weapons development are not favorable to Israel in any conceivable way. As far as protection goes, Israel has its own version of assured destruction. Estimates of their nuclear stockpile range from 70 to 400 warheads. That’s enough to “obliterate” Iran. It’s a credible deterrence, it would seem, unless the Mullahs all want to die. Clinton’s proposed response would simply entail bombing the rubble.

Does Clinton want to look “tough enough” to be President? What’s her standard? Have we had any presidents who threatened to totally obliterate any nation with or without nuclear weapons? The use of these weapons has been considered and even suggested on occasion, but it’s difficult to find threatening statements before the fact. Clinton took it to a new level in this outburst.

On this specific question, President Bush was uncharacteristically restrained when Wolfe Blitzer asked how he’d respond if Israel were “attacked by the Iranians:”

Bush: “Well, you know, I hope it doesn’t happen. But, you know, you’re asking me to answer a hypothetical. My answer is, and they’ve got to understand, that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.” CNN Dec. 23, 2007

Clinton sounds tougher than Bush.

McCain commented on the Iran – Israel relationship in what was termed “tough talk” in New York City:

“We have a long way to go diplomatically before we need to contemplate other measures,” McCain said. “But it is a simple observation of reality that there is only one thing worse than a military solution, and that, my friends, is a nuclear-armed Iran. New York Post Dec. 11, 2006

In terms of talking tough, Clinton outdoes both Bush and McCain in a walk.

Clinton hypothesized a genocidal attack on Israel by Iran. Her solution is a genocidal attack on Iran by the United States (i.e., “we will totally obliterate them”). Clinton failed to note that Iran lacks nuclear weapons. She also failed to mention that to launch an attack, the future Iranian leaders must be willing die and issue a death sentence to all of their citizens, given Israel’s ability to respond (another point she didn’t mention).

Clinton failed to consider that the Iranians would be destroying the very people they seek to protect, the Palestinians, who live both within and next door to Israel. And even if the Iranians could avoid retaliation from Israel and the United States (impossible to conceive); they would risk death, disease and hardship as a result of radioactive fallout.

Clinton’s statement makes no sense whatsoever in terms of the situation discussed or the public dialog on the use nuclear weapons.

Intended and Unintended Consequences

If Clinton’s goal was to appear “tough enough” to be president, then there might be some logic in making such a statement. I’ll see your ‘protect an ally’ and raise you one ‘obliteration.’

Why does she need to be tough? Just before Clinton responded to the question about Iran, “Good Morning America” reporter Brian Cuomo asked, “Is winning enough for you.” Clinton responded, “I have to win, I believe that’s my task and I’m going to do everything I can to win.” It’s clear that fulfilling her “task” means that there are no limits on what she will say and do to get elected.

In the short term, Clinton may have given President Bush some cover for the long anticipated preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

An imminent attack on Iran has been covered by a variety of sources. It came into clear focus during Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in February 2007. Recently, the concern has heightened with the resignation of Admiral William Fallon, head of the joint chief, who opposed an Iranian adventure

There’s no implication of collusion intended between Clinton and Bush on this matter. President Bush and Vice President Cheney are quite capable of moving forward with their plans without any consideration of the action, the outcomes, and the opinions of citizens. But through her excessive rhetoric in the pursuit of votes and the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton provided some political cover for this plan.

What type of campaign is this when a leading candidate threatens to “obliterate” an entire nation by conjuring up a ridiculous scenario that’s years out … just to show that she’s tough enough to be president?

What kind of political culture is it that allows such an incredibly disingenuous and reckless statement to be made and then simply vanish without in depth consideration?

Who are these people anyway, the intemperate candidate and comatose media? They don’t represent the vast majority in the United States in terms of values and intellectual capacity. Yet Clinton seeks to rule and the press claims to act in the public interest.

We have reached a new low in the decline of the U.S. ruling class and their faithful servants, the corporate media. But it’s just a matter of time until they remind us again that in their culture of death, there’s no failure in excess.

Ralph Nader: A World of Hunger

Where’s Harry Chapin When We Need Him?

A World of Hunger

By RALPH NADER

Where is Harry Chapin when we need him? The popular folk singer (Cat’s in the Cradle), who lost his life in an auto crash 27 years ago, was an indefatigable force of nature against hunger—in this country and around the world.

To hear Harry speak out against the scourge of hunger in a world of plenty was to hear informed passion that was relentless whether on Capitol Hill, at poverty conferences or at his concerts.

Now the specter of world hunger is looming, with sharply rising basic food prices and unnecessary food shortages sparking food riots in places like Haiti and Egypt. Officials with the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) are alarmed. The WFP has put out an emergency appeal for more funds, saying another 100 million humans have been thrown into the desperate hunger pits.

Harry would have been all over the politicians in Congress and the White House who, with their bellies full, could not muster the empathy to do something.

Directly under Bush and the Congress is the authority to reduce the biggest single factor boosting food prices—reversing the tax-subsidized policy of growing ever more corn to turn into fuel at the expense of huge acreages that used to produce wheat, soy, rice and other edibles.

Corn ethanol is a multifaceted monstrosity—radiating damage in all directions of the compass. Reducing acreage for edible crops has sparked a surge in the price of bread and other foodstuffs. Congress and Bush continue to mandate larger amounts of subsidized corn ethanol.

Republican Representative Robert W. Goodlatte says: “The mandate basically says [corn] ethanol comes ahead of food on your table, comes ahead of feed for livestock, comes ahead of grains available for export.”

Corn growing farmers are happy with a bushel coming in at $5 to $6—a record.

A subsidy-laden, once-every-five-years farm bill is winding its way through Congress. The bill keeps the “good-to-fuel” mandates that are expanding corn acreage and contributing to a rise of global food prices.

Of course, more meat diets in China, futures market speculation, higher prices for oil and some bad weather and poor food reserve planning have also contributed to shortages and higher prices.

But subsidized corn ethanol gets the first prize for policy madness. It not only damages the environment, soaks up the water from mid-west aquifers, scuttles set asides for soil conservation, but its net energy equation qualifies for collective insanity on Capitol Hill. To produce a gallon of ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy (mostly coal burning) as it produces.

Designed to alleviate oil imports, hold down gasoline prices and diminish greenhouse gases, corn ethanol has flopped on all three scores.

Princeton scholar Lester Brown, an early sounder of the alarm of global food shortages and higher prices, writes in Science Magazine “that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions—and thus a catalyst for climate change.”

Can Congress change course and drop its farm subsidy of corn ethanol this year? Observers say, despite the growing calamities and the real risk of severe malnutrition, even starvation in Africa, Congress will do nothing.

Farm subsidies, once installed, are carved in stone—unless there is enough outcry from food consumers, taxpayers and environmentalists. They are paying from the pocketbook, from their taxes and health. That should be enough motivation, unless they need to see the distended stomachs of African and Asian children on the forthcoming television news.

Unless we wake up, we will continue to be a country stuck in traffic—in more ways than one.

Don’t rely on the election year political debates to pay attention to destructive corn ethanol programs. For years I have been speaking out against this boondoggle, while championing the small farmer in America, but no one in positions of Congressional leadership has been listening.

They must be waiting for the situation to get worse before they absorb a fraction of Harry Chapin’s empathy and care.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

Johann Hari: Israel is suppressing a secret it must face – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

Johann Hari: Israel is suppressing a secret it must face

How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago end up throwing filth at cowering Palestinians?

Monday, 28 April 2008

When you hit your 60th birthday, most of you will guzzle down your hormone replacement therapy with a glass of champagne and wonder if you have become everything you dreamed of in your youth. In a few weeks, the state of Israel is going to have that hangover.

She will look in the mirror and think – I have a sore back, rickety knees and a gun at my waist, but I’m still standing. Yet somewhere, she will know she is suppressing an old secret she has to face. I would love to be able to crash the birthday party with words of reassurance. Israel has given us great novelists like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, great film-makers like Joseph Cedar, great scientific research into Alzheimer’s, and great dissident journalists like Amira Hass, Tom Segev and Gideon Levy to expose her own crimes.

She has provided the one lonely spot in the Middle East where gay people are not hounded and hanged, and where women can approach equality.

But I can’t do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.

Standing near one of these long, stinking brown-and-yellow rivers of waste recently, the local chief medical officer, Dr Bassam Said Nadi, explained to me: “Recently there were very heavy rains, and the shit started to flow into the reservoir that provides water for this whole area. I knew that if we didn’t act, people would die. We had to alert everyone not to drink the water for over a week, and distribute bottles. We were lucky it was spotted. Next time…” He shook his head in fear. This is no freak: a 2004 report by Friends of the Earth found that only six per cent of Israeli settlements adequately treat their sewage.

Meanwhile, in order to punish the population of Gaza for voting “the wrong way”, the Israeli army are not allowing past the checkpoints any replacements for the pipes and cement needed to keep the sewage system working. The result? Vast stagnant pools of waste are being held within fragile dykes across the strip, and rotting. Last March, one of them burst, drowning a nine-month-old baby and his elderly grandmother in a tsunami of human waste. The Centre on Housing Rights warns that one heavy rainfall could send 1.5m cubic metres of faeces flowing all over Gaza, causing “a humanitarian and environmental disaster of epic proportions”.

So how did it come to this? How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago with a promise to be “a light unto the nations” end up flinging its filth at a cowering Palestinian population?

The beginnings of an answer lie in the secret Israel has known, and suppressed, all these years. Even now, can we describe what happened 60 years ago honestly and unhysterically? The Jews who arrived in Palestine throughout the twentieth century did not come because they were cruel people who wanted to snuffle out Arabs to persecute. No: they came because they were running for their lives from a genocidal European anti-Semitism that was soon to slaughter six million of their sisters and their sons.

They convinced themselves that Palestine was “a land without people for a people without land”. I desperately wish this dream had been true. You can see traces of what might have been in Tel Aviv, a city that really was built on empty sand dunes. But most of Palestine was not empty. It was already inhabited by people who loved the land, and saw it as theirs. They were completely innocent of the long, hellish crimes against the Jews.

When it became clear these Palestinians would not welcome becoming a minority in somebody else’s country, darker plans were drawn up. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in 1937: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

So, for when the moment arrived, he helped draw up Plan Dalit. It was – as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it – “a detailed description of the methods to be used to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; and laying siege to and bombarding population centres”. In 1948, before the Arab armies invaded, this began to be implemented: some 800,000 people were ethnically cleansed, and Israel was built on the ruins. The people who ask angrily why the Palestinians keep longing for their old land should imagine an English version of this story. How would we react if the 30m stateless, persecuted Kurds in the world sent armies and settlers into this country to seize everything in England below Leeds, and swiftly established a free Kurdistan from which we were expelled? Wouldn’t we long forever for our children to return to Cornwall and Devon and London? Would it take us only 40 years to compromise and offer to settle for just 22 per cent of what we had?

If we are not going to be endlessly banging our heads against history, the Middle East needs to excavate 1948, and seek a solution. Any peace deal – even one where Israel dismantled the wall and agreed to return to the 1967 borders – tends to crumple on this issue. The Israelis say: if we let all three million come back, we will be outnumbered by Palestinians even within the 1967 borders, so Israel would be voted out of existence. But the Palestinians reply: if we don’t have an acknowledgement of the Naqba (catastrophe), and our right under international law to the land our grandfathers fled, how can we move on?

It seemed like an intractable problem – until, two years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted the first study of the Palestinian Diaspora’s desires. They found that only 10 per cent – around 300,000 people – want to return to Israel proper. Israel can accept that many (and compensate the rest) without even enduring much pain. But there has always been a strain of Israeli society that preferred violently setting its own borders, on its own terms, to talk and compromise. This weekend, the elected Hamas government offered a six-month truce that could have led to talks. The Israeli government responded within hours by blowing up a senior Hamas leader and killing a 14-year-old girl.

Perhaps Hamas’ proposals are a con; perhaps all the Arab states are lying too when they offer Israel full recognition in exchange for a roll-back to the 1967 borders; but isn’t it a good idea to find out? Israel, as she gazes at her grey hairs and discreetly ignores the smell of her own stale shit pumped across Palestine, needs to ask what kind of country she wants to be in the next 60 years.

j.hari@independent.co.uk