IDF has a blog! Meh. Too Jewish, didn’t read.

Until the IDF dropped in on the Gaza Food Folks & Fun Flotilla (without bringing so much as a nice loaf of marble rye as welcome gift) we had no idea that the IDFers had a blog. Awesome! The IDF Spokesperson blog is kind of like Contentions but with less chest-thumping butched-up bluster from Noah Pollack and more Friday Night iShabbat Random Tens which are pretty much mostly klezmer music, Matisyahu, the Scorpions, and, for some reason, Night Ranger.

Anyway, since the IDF doesn’t Twittertwat (yet!) they want you to know that the Islamoflotillatists had highly sophisticated weaponry like the kind of stuff that Q gives to James Bond such as cuff link lasers or a watch that turns into a chain saw and that is why the IDF guys had to, you know, shoot a bunch of them.

As they say, pics or they don’t exist, so here is the captured weaponry courtesy of the IDF……:

You can click on the picture to get a better idea of how fearsome the weaponry is although, outside of the kinda cool looking scimitar, you may have many of these same Weapons of Gaza Invasion laying around your house, probably because you are an Israel-hating and, by extension, an American-hating terrorist. But pay close attention to those four black-handled knives in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture. If I’m not mistaken those are Wüsthof knives from Germany. And you know who else came from Germany?

That’s right….. The Scorpions.

The Wonders of the American Way of War

By David Swanson

If a person could approach you on the street, gently caress your cheek, and walk away leaving you with the feeling of having been violently slapped and dowsed with a bucket of ice water, they would approximate Tom Engelhardt’s writing, including that in his newest book "The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s."

Let me stipulate from the start that at least three-quarters of the book has nothing to do with Obama, but deals purely with Bush’s wars. However, those wars — which always were and still are our wars and our Congress’s wars, and the wars of our grandchildren who will pay for them financially and probably in more serious ways — have not been fundamentally changed by applying the name of a different emperor to them. What Engelhardt has written over the past several years and collected here on the subject of war needed to be said and will continued to need to be said more loudly with each passing day.

By "wonders of war" I don’t mean the latest technological feats, drone warrior desk jobs, or space weapons — all things Engelhardt does cover. I mean, rather, the quiet pausing to marvel in silence, or to ponder along with Engelhardt, the perverse and unnatural wonder that is our war-based society and our war-based economy, beginning perhaps with the wonder that we live in these things unknowingly.

Engelhardt’s writing puts into historical context, and into the context of possible alternatives some of our more bizarre/mundane phenomena, including, among much else:

–The crimes of 9-11, how our culture was prepared for such a thing, how differently we might have taken it had the buildings not fallen, and how readily and outrageously we transformed a crime into a war. Engelhardt reminds us of a White House press conference at which a reporter asked President Bush whether he really was considering declaring war on an individual. (The concern for this reporter, of course, was not with presidents declaring wars, but with the nature of the proposed enemy.)

–The insanity of the response to 9-11 that has been building for almost nine years in what we never before would have tolerated anyone calling "the homeland."

–The empire of military bases the United States has spread around the globe, which occupy (pun intended) such a central position in the motivations of everything our government does and in the understanding that most of humanity has of us, but of which we are almost entirely unaware.

–The empire of 17 competing and catastrophically bad "intelligence" agencies in the U.S. government. If we can’t pause and wonder at this world of public but unaccountable crime, we are probably beyond the point of recovery.

–The nature of aerial bombing, the horrific murdering and torturing done by the bombs, and the sick spell that has convinced people that dropping bombs is moral and right, while retail scale killing and torturing is barbarous and evil.

–The exaggerated attention paid to certain dangers, like terrorism, as compared to much greater dangers, like illnesses and preventable accidents. If you wonder about this one too much you may begin to suspect that the libertarian denunciation of government may only ever be strong enough to defund workplace safety, environmental protection, and healthcare, whereas the funding of wars rises or falls based on acceptance or rejection of much more grandiose myths of good-and-evil created specifically to counter our usual distaste for unnecessary deaths.

Engelhardt draws out what is new, and what is identical to the claims and myths produced during previous wars and empires. And he goes after the degradation of our language. "Terrorism" has been reshaped to mean anti-U.S. activity. (Which explains why the media compares peace activists attacked by the Israeli military to al Qaeda.) Well known and openly discussed wars like our current war in Pakistan are consistently labeled "covert." The explanation for this may be that presidents think the label "covert" makes their undeclared wars less unconstitutional. But why, exactly, should a secret war — if it really were secret — be less, rather than more, an abuse of power?

Tom Engelhardt occasionally publishes my articles on his website, TomDispatch, and less than a year into the reign of Obama, he was good enough to publish an article of mine with the headline "Bush’s Third Term? You’re Living It." But, reading "The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s" leaves you perplexed, most of the way through, about the subtitle. Engelhardt writes as if something has fundamentally changed for the better, or may have, or might if we hope it:

"Whatever the Obama administration may want to do, or think should be done, if we don’t face the record we created, if we only look forward, if we only round up the usual suspects, if we try to turn that page in history and put a paperweight atop it, we will be haunted by the Bush years until hell freezes over."

True enough, but at this point the Obama years are likely to do the most severe haunting if they do not produce hell right here on earth.

Chapter 6 of this seven-chapter book is called "Obama’s War" but still says very little about Obama, although including plenty of criticism for Bush, the media, the Pentagon, and others. Chapter 7, however, begins to fulfill the promise of the book’s subtitle. Here we read a truly brilliant speech that Engelhardt tells us Obama should give but never will. Although why an ideal speech would include this line is beyond me:

"As president, I retain the right to strike at Al-Qaeda or other terrorists who mean us imminent harm, no matter where they may be."

No nation has that right. No world will long survive in which nations claim that right. And our republic will not long survive ascribing that right to presidents. These are all points that I take Engelhardt to more or less agree with in other passages. He goes on, in the closing pages of the book, to accurately describe the criminal policies of the current White House. Our recovery from these policies will depend on writers like Engelhardt prodding us to pay attention through each coming step and stumble down the oil-slicked slide to fascism.

The Ever-Changing River: Thoughts as I Approach Graduation

No, I’m not valedictorian or salutatorian and I don’t get to give a speech at my high school graduation, but I’m still reflecting and considering and getting scared.

When I was a little girl, Pocahontas was my favorite movie. As I approach my high school graduation, there is a part of me that isn’t ready to leave high school — a piece of my heart that wants everything to stay exactly the same. Last night, I was reminded of the old adage that everything always changes. Just as a river changes the lives and the plants it touches, so the river itself changes from moment to moment, and so do our lives.

The real Pocahontas was a young teenager when the English settled at Jamestown and her life and the life of our continent changed forever. The Disney movie places her closer to my age and her questions are similar to my own.

What I love most about rivers is:

You can’t step in the same river twice

The water’s always changing, always flowing

But people, I guess, can’t live like that

We all must pay a price

To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing

What’s around the riverbend

Waiting just around the riverbend

I look once more

Just around the riverbend

Beyond the shore

Somewhere past the sea

Don’t know what for…

Why do all my dreams extend

Just around the riverbend?

Just around the riverbend…

Lyrics here

Unlike Pocahontas, I know where I am going. I have no marriage proposals to consider, but I do have a scholarship to Princeton. My dreams await past the shore and into the sea. The river of high school has changed me, as have all the streams and rocks and reeds in my life.

In the past 18 years, my river has included rough and smooth waters and has taken some unexpected turns. I have a sense of what lies just beyond the river bend, and I’m gathering the courage to explore the rest of the twists and turns.

Israel Receives Overdue Wrath From The World

Previously, many people of the world criticized Israel meekly and softly, afraid of being called antisemitic. But such fears of ridicule don’t hold sway over the international community as it once did. After Israel’s attack on an unarmed humanitarian ship, the actions of the terrorist state are increasingly regarded as indefensible. Also, Israel’s persistent defiance of the rule of the law, and the wishes of the world, are drawing intense anger from all quarters of the globe. People’s patience with Israel’s brutal behavior towards its neighbors has ended.

In reaction to Israel’s attack on a humanitarian ship, which resulted in the death of 19 lives, Professor Norman Finkelstein described Israel as a "lunatic state" in an interview with Russia Today. Video of Finkelstein.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel’s act "state terrorism." At the United Nations, Turkey’s Foreign Minister pressured the international community to take strong action against Israel, saying "No state is above the law." Turkey also said that future Gaza humanitarian aid ships will travel with military escorts. Video of Turkish FM at UN.

Reactions From Around The Web

Glenn Greenwald:
“On a day when the meaning of “heroism” is often discussed, the people on these ships who tried to deliver aid to Gazans, knowing that they could easily find themselves in a confrontation with the Israeli Navy but doing it anyway in order to bring attention to the extraordinary injustice and cruelty of the blockade, are pure, unadulterated heroes.”

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed:
“Under Netanyahu, the IDF has become increasingly unhinged. Utterly incapable of grasping that its war crimes and crimes against humanity can no longer simply be dressed up as a fight against terrorists, when terror itself is a primary instrument of statecraft. Completely incapable of self-reflection or self-critique. Pathetically incapable of putting to rest the ‘final solution’ of the knee-jerk trigger-finger.”

Sean Paul Kelley:
“Israelis were afraid of slingshots and marbles, really? Where are the guns? Where are the knives? This is turning into an outright PR catastrophe for Israel, and deservedly so. What would have happened had the Israelis killed the 86 year-old Holocaust survivor or the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the flotilla?”

Marwan Bishara:
“The emergence of a civic ‘international community’ committed to taking action to break the siege of Gaza comes as a result of the incapacity of the official ‘international community’ to do more than issue UN resolutions and condemnations.

Israel’s worst nightmare is becoming a reality. The civic ‘international community’ is organising much as it did against Apartheid South Africa.”

Jeffrey Kaye:
“The world should condemn this criminal attack by Israeli commandos on the peace flotilla bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza, and should defend those who in self-defense protected themselves against the military assault. Israeli must release everyone they are holding in custody from the flotilla now. Let the flotilla be freed to continue its mission.”

Paul Craig Roberts:
“No one in the world will believe that Israel attacked ships in international waters carrying Israeli citizens, a Nobel Laureate, elected politicians, and noted humanitarians bringing medicines and building materials to Palestinians in Gaza, who have been living in the rubble of their homes without repairs or medicines since January 2009, without first clearing the crime with its American protector. Without America’s protection, Israel, a totally artificial state, could not exist.”

Late Night: Thinking About What’s Missing

Today was a travel day for me.  Bruce Springsteen’s “You’re Missing” played early in the day on my mp3 player, and the haunting cello theme from this very moving song has stayed with me throughout the day.  This relentless, searching passage has played over and over in my mind, reminding me of all that we are missing on this Memorial Day.

We are missing US soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are missing civilians who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are missing aid workers who died trying to penetrate the blockade of Gaza.  We are missing a way of life that may not return for many generations along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  We are missing retirement savings and homes that disappeared in a gluttonous feeding frenzy on Wall Street.

And still the cello plays on.

Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair
Papers on the doorstep, you’re not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing

Pictures on the nightstand, TV’s on in the den
Your house is waiting, your house is waiting
For you to walk in, for you to walk in
But you’re missing, you’re missing
You’re missing when I shut out the lights
You’re missing when I close my eyes
You’re missing when I see the sun rise
You’re missing

[Link for lyrics]

Yet, in the face of these searing losses,  life continues and artists like Springsteen find beauty coming from the pain.  What new beauty awaits us as we mourn today’s losses?

In Memory of Candy

It’s Memorial Day, and while still using my day off to move to a new apartment, drink beer, and shop at Home Depot, I’m also going to pay respect to a friend of mine who was killed in action while serving with me in Iraq last year.

Israel Candelaria didn’t have to serve. When he joined the Army he couldn’t even speak English. I remember how he would gesticulate when explaining things, how his face would light up. And even before his English became passable, you could tell that he was funny.

We used to want so badly to be a part of his humor, to be in on his joke, that we couldn’t stop ourselves from playing tricks on him. He would ask us the word for something in English and we would always tell him the wrong one. Like the time we told him that the word for “tracks” was “stove tops”. He kept talking about the stove tops that the camels left behind. He loved to play along. He was a good sport.

One of the last conversations I had with him was about riding camel spiders like cowboys. On the screen that doesn’t sound funny. Candy made it funny. He’ll be missed.

Memorial Day Memory Hole: After Israel Forgets “Exodus”, White House Forgets “Shores of Tripoli”. Will Obama Remember NATO?

The Exodus docked at Haifa, July, 1947 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Last night, Israel’s leaders and commandos forgot the past Leon Uris drew upon for his fictionalized celebration of their nation’s creation. The IDF’s witless, merciless repetition of their nation’s pre-history ensured predictably tragic consequences for the humanitarian flotilla attempting to penetrate Israel’s deadly Gaza blockade. As of this writing, the IDF are reported to have killed up to twenty and wounded scores more civilians aboard the unarmed flotilla. In this lethal campaign of attacks on unarmed vessels in international waters, Israel’s leaders and armed forces aped the the British Navy’s attack on the Exodus’ attempt to break the British blockade of Palestine in 1947.

When the passengers of the Exodus challenged the Brits’ blockade in that era, the British responded with violence. Three shipmates died from bludgeoning, and several dozen others were injured. In this faster electronic era, media aboard the flotilla this weekend reported that Israeli forces fired live ammunition at passengers before they even boarded the NATO-flagged vessels. In 1947, the Brits justified their murders and violence against crewmen and Jewish refugees by claiming the Zionists were “terrorists”. This weekend, in all apparent sincerity, Israel’s mouthpieces at home and abroad leaped to justify the IDF’s murders and assaults by claiming Israel’s victims are – you guessed it – “terrorists”.

Today – Memorial Day – Obama’s White House observed Memorial Day by forgetting the Marine Hymn. You know that part about “The Shores of Tripoli”? That’s not about the hundreds of Marines who were blown up after Reagan defied his Defense Secretary and ordered the Marines deployed to Beirut for political reasons. Nope – the “Shores of Tripoli” is about the First Barbary War. What does that have to do with the US Marines? In the First Barbary War, President Jefferson sent American forces to war against lawless pirates plaguing the Mediterranean.

The turning point in the war came with the Battle of Derna (April-May 1805). Ex-consul William Eaton, who went by the rank of general, and US Marine First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led a mixed force of eight United States Marines[7] and 500 Greek, Arab, and Berber mercenaries on a march across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt to assault and to capture the Tripolitan city of Derna. This is the first time in history that the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil. This action was memorialized in a line from the Marines’ Hymn — “the shores of Tripoli.” [8]

After Israel’s murderous attack on the humanitarian convoy last night, what did Obama’s White House say today?

Bill Burton, a deputy press secretary for the White House, said, “The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”

Earth to Bill: Americans have understood piracy since before the First Barbary War started in 1801. It’s that whole “Shores of Tripoli” thing.

If you and your boss hadn’t been sucking up to AIPAC and the Lobby long enough to forget their hands are over your ears and your worldview consists of a face full of pubes, perhaps you’d have figured this out on your own.

Bill, when your boss has caught up with the last two hundred and nine years, what will he do about the 21st Century pirates plaguing the Mediterranean and illegally blockading Gaza? You know – the pirates who last night committed multiple acts of war against six unarmed NATO flagged vessels in international waters. The pirates who this minute still hold nearly all the survivors hostage in IDF camps. Will your boss defend NATO and the rule of law, or will the Nobel Peace Laureate keep studying the IDF’s acts of war – and keep his silence?

Watercooler – Will BP Survive?

It goes without saying that the primary concern with the BP oil spill is the environmental and economic devastation that is being wrought on the Gulf Coast. Nonetheless, this catastrophe will also be significant in that it could spell doom for one of the world’s most powerful corporartions:

BP’s brand is by no means damaged beyond repair at this stage, but as things worsen at the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico some observers are saying the company would be better off selling itself or many of its prized assets to its rivals.

Since the April 20 explosion at BP’s deep-water rig started gushing oil, BP’s stock has lost as much as 30% of its value. Despite that dramatic US$55-billion drop in its market value, with so much uncertainty, BP’s rivals aren’t likely to be circling with a takeover in mind at this juncture, analysts said.

Another hurdle would be antitrust concerns given the huge size of BP and its rivals. If its competitors acquired some of BP’s assets, rather than the whole company, the liability probably wouldn’t follow. But analysts doubt BP is ready to go that route, noting that Exxon’s brand was able to recover after the disaster that spilled 250,000 barrels of crude in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989 and BP might do the same.

One thing we can be sure of is that no matter what happens, somebody will be going home filthy rich.

What’s on your mind tonight?

I think I am a progressive

Until recently, I was a Ron Paul voter. Ron Paul appealed to me because his message is one of freedom, peace and personal responsibility. He seems to believe that the way to freedom is to get the government out of people’s lives. Of course, there are many conservatives that preach the small government message. However, Ron Paul seemed to be more consistent than most conservatives. For example, many conservatives talk about small government but still support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ron Paul is opposed to the war in Iraq.

Ron Paul being antiwar is a good thing. However, I have come to believe that Ron Paul and other conservatives’ domestic policies would be bad for the country. A big part of what made me change my mind was the healthcare debate. My parents pay hundreds of dollars a month for "health insurance," but they still pay out of pocket for health expenses. The "health insurance" companies can’t afford to pay for medical expenses, but they can afford to lobby the government to require people to pay them money? What is wrong with that picture? I now support a single payer healthcare system. Even with the greed of the insurance companies, Ron Paul and other conservatives are against any government involvement in healthcare. Now there is the oil spill. Even though BP is responsible for the oil spill, conservatives such as Ron Paul’s sun call people anti-American"> for criticizing the British company. It would seem that any reasonable person would see the oil spill as a reason for the United States to invest in alternative energy.
Because of what I have discussed above, I think I am more of a progressive than a conservative or libertarian. However, I have a few questions about progressive/liberal philosophy.
1. Are progressives and liberals the same thing?
2. What do liberals/progressives think about imminent domain? I believe it should be used as little as possible. People work hard to afford to purchase their homes.
3. What do progressives/liberals think about agreements such as NAFTA that cause Americans to lose jobs?