Saturday, August 30, 2014

ISIS Thrives after Demonizing Assad Backfires

Why do we think of kings as better than dictators? Could it be too much Disney, or the old tradition of upper-class Americans sucking up to the Queen (or King) of England? What differentiates an elected President-for-life like Franklin D. Roosevelt from a dictator like Adolph Hitler or Saddam Hussein?
Americans don't ask themselves these questions, but they should. While this essay is focused on Dr. Bashar Assad [or al-Assad], the current President of Syria, this is just one example of how Americans fall prey to propaganda created by the government of the United States of America. And how lying, especially systematic lying, backfires.

[Note that the U.S. government, with cooperation from Microsoft and Google, has hidden or blocked access to official Syrian government web sites. Try searching "government of syria official web site" or any variation on it if you don't believe me.]

In the Dictator column place the fact that Bashar Assad became President when Hafez Assad, his father, died. On the other hand, we have had two father-son presidencies in the U.S., Adams and Bush, and have come close to having others (Taft).

The U.S. considered Hafez Assad an enemy because he was a leftist, and therefore pro-Soviet, back when we demonized anyone who dared to not let their country become a U.S. colony. But within the leftist — everyone get up in the morning and have a nice day instead of slaving for some capitalist boss — countries, Hafez was a pretty decent leader. Richard Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger's, description of Hafez is worth quoting at length:
"Withal, I developed a high regard for Assad. In the Syrian context he was a moderate indeed. He leaned toward the Soviets as the source of his military equipment. But he was far being from a Soviet stooge. He had a first-class mind allied to a wicked sense of humor. I believe that I was the first Western Leader with whom he had dealt consistently. He grasped the opportunity for some free tutorials on Western political systems. During the Syrian shuttle, almost every bargaining session began with an hour or so of perceptive questioning on the institutions and personalities of the Western democracies."
The quote is direct from Years of Upheaval [page 781], and is about negotiations in the year 1974, the year Nixon was hounded out of office.

Why did the end of the Soviet era not result in the un-demonization of Hafez Assad, which would have meant that Bashar Assad might have been viewed factually, rather than demonized?

Syria, not just the Assad family, had reason to be anti-U.S. aside from being socialist. Syrians know Syrian history. Add that to the ability of the state of Israel to look covetously upon any lands adjacent to their own, and the enormous pro-Jewish bias of America, and you have your answer. It never had anything to do with Islam, though it will pretty soon if ISIS adds all of Syria (except that part already occupied by Israel) to its new Caliphate.

Syria is in the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of civilization, as far as we know. It has had its ups and downs over the past five millennia. When industrialization gave the western European powers the ability to take any colonies they wanted, starting around 1800, for a long time Syria was "protected" by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire.

Contrary to popular mythology (taught as history) in the U.S., World War I was started by England (the British Empire), France, and Russia mainly in order to grab the lands governed by a weakened Ottoman empire. France had already grabbed Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881, and after the war grabbed Syria (sending in troops to depose Faisal I in 1920), with the fig leaf of calling their colony a League of Nations mandate. This is despite the fact that the British Empire had promised that a united Arab nation would be created, which would have included present-day Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

France, of course, was allied with the United States. France became Vichy France during World War II, a Roman Catholic dictatorship allied with Nazi Germany. A sucked-dry Syria gained independence in 1946, unlike other French colonies like Vietnam and Algeria. American support for the continuation of the French and British empires led not just Syria, but most newly-independent nations, to be rightfully suspicious of the United States.

And so Syrians were not pro-American, and had to be demonized, long before the first Assad came to power in 1971. But it is political suicide for anyone in a position of power in the U.S., like Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, or members of Congress, to stand up and say "Bashar Assad is okay." The other dogs would rather use such an incident to rip their rivals apart, rather than change U.S. policy to reflect reality.

Not to mention Zionist Israelis and Americans. Say anything nice about Bashar and money just would drain from the campaign funds, and the slush funds, and the other indirect bribes that make America a pseudo-democracy.

American foreign policy has a way of shooting itself in the foot. We helped France grab its former colony of Indochina after World War II, and ended up fighting the Vietnam War. We helped radical Islamists throw a modern, Soviet-backed regime out of Afghanistan, and they morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We talk about democracy, but when the people of a nation decide not to elect American puppets, we back military coups. We are allied with the Dictator of Saudi Arabia, but opposed to a democratic regime in Iran.

We, led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, decided to encourage the overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria. Instead of just demanding elections, the pro-U.S. faction, which would have lost elections, started a civil war. This provided an opening for radical Islam, which before had been minimally present in Syria. Not only has ISIS grabbed much of Syria, but it used Syria as a base for grabbing much of Iraq.

President Obama is befuddled. If he helps Assad, the Republicans will accuse him of helping Iran, another unfairly demonized nation. If he helps the non-ISIS rebels against Assad, most likely ISIS will take over the entire country. So Obama's best domestic political bet is to do as little as possible and hope that Assad's popularity will enable him to defeat ISIS, and of course the pro-U.S. rebels, without U.S. assistance.

The Israelis are stone-cold crazy too. If they had any sense they would let the Palestinians have their rump independent state in the West Bank and come to the aid of Bashar Assad. ISIS is the equivalent of the Jews after the Holocaust: it has come through the fire, and if it has the resources of both Iraq and Syria at its disposal, it will probably take over Jordan and Saudi Arabia too and then drive Israel into the sea.

Hillary will likely be our next President. Despite the liberal gloss, Hillary is America's Margaret Thatcher, a cold-hearted imperialist who will kill anyone who gets in her way, including women and children. That is why everyone is trying to get their battles won before January 2017. No one who knows her expects any mercy or humanity from President Clinton II.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Should the U.S. Arm Syria to fight ISIS?

ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is no ordinary group of rebels bent on becoming a new government. ISIS is ultra-violent and ultra-orthodox, and worse still, ultra-competent in both military and economic matters.

Sometimes the least bad choice is the best choice. ISIS is clearly (from our secular, freedom-and-equality oriented American perspective) the worst choice for governance of the Arabic/Islamic nations.

It could be argued that Saudi Arabia is a U.S. ally, and that the rulers of Saudi Arabia are as religiously oppressive and dictatorial as ISIS. We believe the U.S. should not be allied with the Saudis, but then again they have grown soft on their oil money and don't represent a regional threat. We should continue to recognize the de facto, if democratically illegitimate, government of Saudi Arabia.

When it come to ISIS we have choices, both short term and long term. In the short term the only realistic choices are supporting the de facto governments of Iraq and Syria.

The Syrian government has long opposed U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, but for good reason. The Arabs have been beat up by European nations and the U.S. for about two centuries now. People are angry, and that anger has now been distilled into ISIS.

The Syrian government is headed by Bashar al-Assad, and in some ways resembles a dictatorship. But opposition parties are allowed to participate in elections, and Assad seems to be genuinely popular among much of Syria's population. In particular, when it comes to religion Assad has been non-sectarian, more so than most U.S. politicians.

ISIS was able to grow in strength in Syria because of the civil war against the Assad regime that broke out after the Arab Spring. That civil war has devastated the country, but it has not lead to the pro-U.S. rebels replacing the current government. At this point in time the pro-U.S. rebels are rapidly being squeezed between ISIS and the government of Syria.

President Obama, in consultation with those few members of Congress who are not suffering from hardening of the brain, should make a dramatic change in U.S. policy.

By giving support to Assad, including both military and economic support, the U.S. could put a stop to ISIS before it gets further out of control. ISIS running Syria, or Iraq, or Syria and Iraq, would be a disaster and would probably lead to an ISIS takeover of Jordan and then Saudi Arabia. With all those resources, global Islamic jihad would certainly be on the agenda.

U.S. support for Assad could be contingent on his government pardoning the pro-U.S. rebels and encouraging them to participate in the next election. The U.S. could give economic aid to compensate for the damage done. U.S. military aid would go a long way towards defeating ISIS. Done right, this might even eventually swing Syria into the U.S. camp, or at least into a tolerant neutrality.

Human rights activists will protest that the Assad regime has committed crimes against humanity. That might be true, but in a civil war it is hard to separate out civilians from resistance fighters. The U.S. failed to make that separation in its wars against Vietnam and the Philippines, and when it dropped firebombs and atomic bombs on the cities of Japan, and many, many other times. When the big fish have been fried, including George W. Bush, perhaps then we can go after the small fry.

If Assad defeats ISIS without U.S. aid, that would be fine, but it would create a long-term dynamic where Syria remains unfriendly to the U.S.

I simply would not bet on Assad' crew beating ISIS. It is too dangerous of a bet.

[Originally published at Mendoday]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Palestine, Israel, and U.N. Resolution 181

When tempers are high people tend, even more than normal, to discard any evidence that anything is wrong with the side they have chosen. They rally around the flag.

Add that to the tendency for history to be treated as propaganda, rather than a true record of the past, and it is not surprising that many people are confused by the history of Palestine as told by its partisans, which appears have very little in common with the history of the modern nation of Israel, as told by its partisans. Voices in the middle tend to get drowned out.

Here I want to take a look at the myth that the United Nations (U. N.) sanctioned the creation of the nation of Israel, and that the non-Judaic Palestinians were opposing a fair and just plan to create that nation. To do that I will be referring to the original 1947 document, available from Yale University at this link:

I highly recommend you read the document first, and think about it, before I walk you through how I see it. You may not agree with my analysis.

The key word to look at, in distinguishing historical propaganda from what actually happened, is the word "state." The document uses the word "state" frequently. It is a word that can mean "nation" or a government. But as we know from our own United States, the word "state" can mean a level of government different from (usually subordinate to) a national government.

Everyone agrees that a majority of non-Judaic citizens in the British Mandate of Palestine, possibly a majority of all citizens, rejected the U.N. resolution. They preferred the better-established international standard for transitions from imperial dominance to local freedom: national self-determination. Under that system all the voting-age citizens would elect representatives, mainly by geographic units, and those representatives would then write a Constitution for the nation, then have another election, and start writing the laws of the nation.

The Zionist Palestinians and their foreign supporters (but not all Judaic Palestinians) preferred a Jewish-majority, explicitly theocratic and ethnically defined Nation of Israel. They did not want to have a merely Jewish-majority "state" within a Palestinian nation.

How do we know that the U.N. did not intend to set up a sovereign Nation of Israel through Resolution 181?

In propaganda Resolution 181 is usually called the "United Nation Partition Plan for Palestine" which implies a two-nation solution. You can see that it is actually an attempt at a a one-nation solution from the text in the very first paragraph, which bears repeating: "for the consideration of the question of the future Government of Palestine."

The word Partition comes from the phrase "plan of partition with economic union" which first occurs in paragraph 6. Some relevant U.S. history is the partition of the various areas taken from Native American Indians and partitioned into a variety of states. Partition does not, in itself, imply nation. If historians focussed on the word "union" and minimized the word "partition," people would think about the events of 1948 dfferently.

The words "Jewish State" first appear (Part I, A., para. 3) in the context of withdrawal of British troops. After that the terms Jewish State, Arab State, and City of Jerusalem are used frequently, and they are described as "independent."

But Palestine is not really granted independence. Instead a U.N. commission is to take over the power formerly exercised from the British. The commission is empowered to make the final lines of demarcation of the Jewish, Arab and Jerusalem sectors.

Rather than holding elections, the commission is to appoint Provisional Councils for each of the "states". Among other responsibilities, each Provisional Council is to recruit an "armed militia." Even then "general political and military control, including the choice of the militia's High Command, shall be exercised by the Commission."

Then there are to be elections, and illegal immigrants (who would be mostly European Jews) can vote simply if they "have signed a notice of intention to become citizens of such State."

Neither elected government is supposed to discriminate based on religion or ethnic origin. There is to be freedom of transit, and you can see that a peculiar lapse in language consistency by a referral to "the other State in Palestine, " where elsewhere the term Arab State is used.

The three States are to establish "the Economic Union and Joint Economic Board." Recall that the original call in the United States to go beyond the Articles of Confederation was for an economic union between the 13 states, to be planned at the Annapolis Convention.

Resolution 181 even provides for Arabs living in the Jewish State and Jews living in the Arab state to have the option to vote instead for representatives in the state they are ethnically aligned with, and to be considered citizens of the State which they have opted to vote for. (Section C., Chapter 3)

You can see both the ambiguity of the word "state" and that the Resolution did not intend to create a Nation of Israel most clearly in Section C. Chapter 3, Subsections 2 and 3 where the overall state is again called "Palestine." The phrasing, "These obligations shall be fulfilled through participation in the Joint Economic Board in respect of those obligations applicable to Palestine as a whole, and individually in respect of those applicable to, and fairly apportionable between, the States" is particularly telling.

I'm figuring that is about as much information as anyone can be expected to absorb in one blog post.

I conclude that while Resolution 181 is somewhat ambiguous on the question of whether it authorized a Jewish nation in Palestine, the ambiguity results from the complicated political balance it seeks to impose. The most reasonable reading is that the intention is that a Nation of Palestine is to have three subordinate States, and that each state is to guarantee the usual generally accepted freedoms to all of its inhabitants. It is an attempt to guarantee some protection for minorities, in particular the Jewish minority, rather than to set up two or more racially supremacist or theocratic nations.

My own opinion is that the United Nations had no right to impose a solution on Palestine. The people of Palestine should have been allowed to go through the usual national self-determination process without United Nations (or any other outside) interference.

Although it begins a more complex topic (the history of the conflict), I would also add that the evidence is that a majority of Palestinians would have rejected the dictation from the U.N. had they been allowed to vote on it. However, the actual armies that opposed the creation of the Nation of Israel in 1948 were not Palestinian. The Palestinians had no army. The opposing armies were from other, pre-established Arab nations. In addition, the State of Israel, really a new nation, was declared on May 15, 1948, well before the August 1, 1948 expiration of the British occupation.