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Robert Fantina's blog
There has been much talk of late about the courage of Caitlyn Jenner. A recent Vanity Fair cover showed the transformation of former 65-year-old Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn, an attractive woman who appears to be in her thirties.
But let us look for a moment at the definition of courage. Merriam-Webster defines it thusly: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”.
For inexplicable reasons, the United States citizenry clings to the idea of 'exceptionalism', that heady concept that says that the U.S. is different from and better than all the rest of the world, and therefore has a sacred obligation to spread its goodness around the globe. In 2014, President Barack Obama said this: "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being."
It is rare for someone of this writer’s acquaintance to enlist in the military, although it has happened. When someone does so, his or her family usually speaks of how proud they are of them, as if the enlistee has done something to which great honor is attached. This attitude is also reflected in public opinion polls, in which much of the populace generally seems to agree that military service is good preparation for elected office.
Let us look at these two myths in a little more detail.
The murder of black men by white police officers is nothing new in the United States. The fact that the media is taking notice is what is newsworthy. Despite Civil Rights laws enacted decades ago, racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society.
The recent cases of Eric Gardner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, victims of horrendous cruelty and murder, only received coverage due to the outrage their deaths, and the almost immediate impunity their killers received, caused across the nation. But is white police brutality against blacks something new? Anecdotal evidence presented here indicates that that is hardly the case.
As the United States’ armchair warriors sit in their comfortable homes and offices and decide on which country it is time to invade, attack or bomb, little consideration is given to those that must carry out their decisions. Sound bites for the evening news are far more important that human suffering.
In 1969, at the height of the U.S. war against Vietnam, Edwin Starr recorded a song called ‘War’, that reached number one on the charts. Among the lyrics are these:
War: What is it good for?
Much as one would like to believe these simple lyrics, there are facts that belie them. In a report from the Financial Times from March of 2013, it is stated that private contractors earned at least a whopping $139 billion dollars from the U.S. war against Iraq up to that time, and that total is ever increasing. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Haliburton, the company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of this war, earned nearly $40 billion.
As Israel continues its unspeakable brutality, violating not only international law but basic human decency by targeting children, hospitals, mosques and private residences, its many outrages are being widely publicized, thanks to social media. One can access YouTube and see Israeli soldiers using Palestinian children as human shields. Facebook is awash with pictures of bloody, dismembered, dead children, victims of ‘the most moral army in the world’. Twitter is filled with links, all showing not only the horrors that Israel is inflicting, but the many worldwide demonstrations supporting Palestine. Numerous large such demonstrations have been held in Israel itself.
As this is being written, Israel is once again bombing the Gaza Strip. There are a few key points that the U.S. government, and the populace, seem to constantly overlook:
· Palestine has no army, navy or air force.
· All of the borders of the Gaza Strip are controlled by Israel. Only goods and people that Israel allows can cross those borders, and the restrictions are extreme.
· In the West Bank, occupied by Israel illegally in the eyes of the international community, Israel-controlled internal check points make the simple task of going to the market an hours-long ordeal.
The media is reporting that three teenagers living in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine are missing, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, on evidence he has not chosen to share, that they have been kidnapped by Hamas. In response, he has unleashed a new level of terrorism against Palestinians living in the West Bank, with mass arrests and a new level of harassment that is shocking even for his IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists.
At this point the whereabouts of the three missing people is unknown; how and why they left, whether or not there is a criminal component and, if so, who is responsible, are also unknown. One hopes they are found safely. However, the outrage that Israel and the United States is demonstrating by this event is somewhat puzzling at best, and wildly hypocritical at worst.
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The invasion was purported to be a response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but probably had a lot more to do with enabling the construction of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Today, thirteen years later, U.S. soldiers continue to fight there.
Two years later, the U.S, the most powerful country in the world, unleashed its terrorism on Iraq, due, it was said, to the dubious then and later unproven charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was moments away from using them to destroy the American way of life (whatever that is). It wasn’t until 2011 that something that President Barack Obama and his minions decided to call ‘victory’ was sufficient to withdraw U.S. troops.
A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
- Fought to protect corporate America’s $50,000,000.00 investment in Cuba during the Spanish-American War;
- Died on foreign shores during World War I in what President Woodrow Wilson, who involved the U.S. in that war, later said “…in its inception, was a commercial and industrial war;”
- Sacrificed so much in World War II while U.S. companies, with U.S. government approval, continually supplied the Axis powers with goods that U.S. citizens had to ration, including materials used to help kill Allied soldiers;
- Suffered and died in Korea, to safeguard and ensure the expansion of U.S. trade throughout the region;
- Endured the hell of the Vietnam War to satisfy the egos of three presidents, and help ensure their elections and re-elections;
- Fought in the heat of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti deserts to protect Western oil sources;
The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.
It appears that the weak, spineless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may finally have realized that his place in history is not going to be assured by functioning only as the puppet of the U.S. and Israel. As the latest round of so-called peace talks, sponsored by the U.S. which has no interest in any real negotiations between Israel and Palestine, has crashed and burned, Mr. Abbas has applied to join fifteen international treaties and conventions, with others expected. All this, it is said, is merely a lead-up to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could then investigate and charge Israel with war crimes.
On Sunday, April 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on U.S. television, denouncing progress made in reconciliation talks between Fatah, which ostensibly controls the West Bank, and Hamas, the democratically-elected government in the Gaza Strip.
According to CNN: “Netanyahu said he and Secretary of State John Kerry recently applauded that some progress was being made toward a peace agreement. ‘And then the next day, we were both shocked, there's no other word, we were absolutely stupefied that President Abbas embraced the terrorist organization Hamas that seeks Israel's destruction,’ he said on ‘Face the Nation.’”
Drone Strikes and Transparency
The craven U.S. Senate has stripped from a bill a requirement that the president disclose casualties resulting from his murderous, almost indiscriminant drone strikes. The original wording of the bill, authorizing intelligence operations for fiscal year 2014, required an annual report stating the number of ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatant civilians’ that were either killed or injured by drone strikes.
Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine
Let us, for a moment, take a look at a part of the world where suffering is rampant. Here are some of the conditions the residents there experience:
- Very limited potable water.
- Electricity for six hours a day, at a maximum.
- Children have to walk through areas destroyed by terrorist bombings to get to school. Many schools have been destroyed.
- Unemployment is in the double-digits. It rose to 32.5% over the second quarter.
- Food is lacking; few people have sufficient to eat, due to import restrictions.
It is a given that no elected Republican government official can agree with anything President Obama says or does. Whether or not this is due to genuine philosophical differences with the president, or, more simply, because he’s of African-American descent and therefore has no business being president, is a topic for another essay. Suffice it to say, not much is getting done in the nation’s capital these days.
On the international stage, it appears that Mr. Obama has had considerably more success in negotiating with Iran than he has with the U.S. House of Representatives. He and several other nations involved in the negotiations have brokered a deal with Iran, wherein Iran will scale back its nuclear ambitions, and the west will scale back some of its sanctions.
Veteran’s Day is over. The sparkling parades are a vague memory, and the soaring oratory has passed. The citizenry can now return to its complacency, tossing the bright, red, plastic poppies into the trash, and picking up new ones next year.
Today, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations. Much of his talk concerned the current situation in Syria, but he also touched on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Yet even Mr. Obama’s pretty words and soaring oratory were unable to camouflage his extreme pro-Israel bias, as he spouted nonsense that he and his predecessors have all said before. A look at just a few of his statements is informative.
- “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”
This apparently means that, unlike Syria, which isn’t allowed by the U.S. to use chemical weapons, the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is unconditional: Israel can commit the most shocking and brutal human rights violations, and the U.S. will still continue to give it billions of dollars every year.
CNN reported on August 2 that Secretary of State John Kerry made some rather startling remarks regarding drone strikes. A look at a few of these remarks is instructive
Remark 1: “Following talks with the Pakistani government, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is making progress in the war on terror, and hopes to end the use of drone strikes ‘very soon.’”
This apparently means that the U.S., which has waged a war of terror for several years now, is making so much progress in doing so that drone strikes will no longer be required to kill and terrorize innocent people.
Remark 2: Regarding ending the strikes, Mr. Kerry said this: “We hope it's going to be very, very soon.” In this statement, he seems to indicate that ending the strikes is something outside of the control of the U.S. government; he ‘hopes’ the strikes will end soon.
On this, the anniversary of the U.S.’s independence from Great Britain, some observations:
A report on June 11, 2013 from Reuters calls Richard Falk, the United Nations human rights investigator for Palestine, ‘embattled’, apparently because he has once again refused to dance to the U.S.-Israel tune. At a forum of the U.N. Human Rights Council, he called for an inquiry into what he sees as the torture of Palestinians in Israeli custody. The U.S., of course, with its own shocking record of torturing its political prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and who knows where else, boycotted the debate. Israel did the same, accusing the forum of anti-Israel bias.
One knows things are bad in Palestine when even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known for his brutal heavy-handiness against the Palestinians, has to decry what he calls ‘acts of hooliganism’ against them. These behaviors, known as price-tag attacks, are committed against Palestinians and Israeli security forces by Jewish youth living in violation of international law in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The point, apparently, is to extract a ‘price’ for actions taken against their illegal settlements. What actions Israeli security forces are taking, or have taken, were not mentioned.
It isn’t unusual to hear Israeli spokespeople talk about the various threats to Israel’s survival. The current bugaboo is Syria, which has displaced Iran only due to the current violent turmoil in Syria. But it is only a matter of time until Israel turns its attention to Iran, depicting that nation as the big bad wolf, just waiting for the right opportunity to chomp down and destroy poor, vulnerable Israel.
With U.S. approval of Congress holding steady at a whopping 15%, one wonders just who it is the elected representatives are representing. Perhaps we can answer that question, by looking at some of their recent activities, and considering some of the things currently left undone.
It has been some time since the language of U.S. politics has been twisted so far as to render words nearly meaningless. In an effort to clarify what is actually being said in Washington, D.C., this writer offers this glossary of terms, with historical context, current usage and, at times, synonyms and antonyms.
Some of these words and terms have been around for a while; others are brand new.
Two recent, but seemingly unrelated, news articles are worth reviewing more carefully, to see a common thread.
The first concerns remarks made by special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk. Following the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, Mr. Falk said this: “…the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East.”