Archive | January, 2009

Bye-bye Bush. HELLO Obama!

20 Jan

After eight years of know-nothingism and do less-ism of the current administration, it is refreshing to see how far we have come from the Bush era of torture, lies, and illegal wars.  Guantanamo Bay prison will close, waterboarding is declared torture, and the Iraq withdrawal will begin on day one.

Obama has subversively misused America’s celebrity culture to make politics, history, and public service cool.  He’s returned eloquence in speech to American politics and speaks like all those speeches we read in high school textbooks.  Intelligence is now an asset, and big words are not something to be afraid of.  And by God, he looks and acts like a president…. something we haven’t seen in the post-Nixon era.

Here is someone with a sense of history and a sense of Ameica that perhaps a blueblood Ivy Leaguer like Bush could never understand.

It’s almost like you can see America’s greatness coming back before he swears in.

Obama’s Lincolnmania is a bit overdone, but I’d like to link everyone to Lincoln’s towering Second Inaugural Address to see what Obama’s been reading before his speech.  It gives you goosebumps.

Waltz down Memory Lane

17 Jan

1000 dead Palestinians and 13 dead Israelis.

A bombed school and UN headquarters in Gaza City.

One may ask, “Can Israel succeed at what it is doing?”  The stated goal is to destroy Hamas and end rocket fire attacks. The answer is no, because Israel has been there and done that.  In the Fifth Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Lebanon to destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the umbrella group that represented the Palestinian movement for independence.  The PLO included an army, a political party (Fatah), and an assembly and was the undisputed representative of the Palestinian people in those days.  To this day, the PLO represents Palestinians at the United Nations.  And unknown or unsaid by hotheads saying they do not want to negotiate with Hamas, the fact is that the negotiating partner is and has always been the PLO by the international community.

But Hamas did not exist in 1982.  Israel, in fact, promoted Hamas in the late 1980s as an opponent to the PLO (which was Arab nationalist instead of religious).  In the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israel intervened in Lebanon’s civil war on behalf of the conservative Christians and against the left, the Palestinians, and the Muslims.  It was a bloody and terrible invasion, killing thousands.  It is even said that the bombing of Beirut skyscrapers so shocked Osama bin Laden that he vowed to become a terrorist after hearing that news.

Israel’s invasion was a disaster for the political elite and electorate addicted to war and military means after their almost-divine victory in the Six Day War of 1967.  A major urban area (Beirut) was ruined, but the Palestinians have still not stopped their demands for self-determination or disbanded the PLO.

The following links will help understand this background.  One explains what is not often said about the fighting in Gaza.  The second is a review and backgrounder of the Israeli movie “Waltz with Bashir” made by an Israeli soldier who participated in the invasion of Lebanon and witnessed the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinians by the Lebanese Christians.  For those wanting daily news on Gaza, I recommend the prestigious Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Salon.com – “What ‘Waltz with Bashir’ can teach us about Gaza
New York Times – “What you Don’t know about Gaza

The Invasion of Gaza

6 Jan

Someone asked for me to update people about the crisis going on in the Gaza Strip.  I can’t definitively state what is going on right now, but if people would like a background to the recent history of the Gaza Strip, one can read my article and interview last year with the Red Cross’s Director for the Middle East about the humanitarian and medical crisis caused by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
 
In short: Israel proclaimed Independence in 1948 from the former British Mandate of Palestine.  The 50-50 split of the Mandate by the United Nations became more of a 2/3 to 1/3 split in favor of Israel.  Egypt occupied Gaza while Jordan controlled the West Bank.  In 1967, Israel simulatenously defeated five Arab nations in the Six Day War and occupying (illegally) East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza.  The illegal occupation and building of settlements on this land continues to this day. 
 
The Palestinian Authority was formed in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Peace Process.  After the death of Palestinian Liberation Organization founder, Yasser Arafat, in the early 2000s Mahmood Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority.  Arafat unified the Palestinian movement for independence, and his death opened the chance for a split between Palestinians.  That happened in the 2006 parliamentary election, when Hamas (an offshoot of the Egyptian fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood) fairly won an internationally observed election against the non-religious Fatah Party of Abbas and Arafat.  In response, the West cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority starving it of salaries to pay its government workers.  Economic chaos ensued.  And Hamas, idiotically, chose to shoot comically inaccurate missiles into Israel.
 
Israel (which pledged to end the occupation) had “withdrawn” from the Gaza Strip before 2006.  In reality, it meant that the settlements were shutdown, but there was an aerial and naval blockade…. there was no real independence for the Strip.  Egypt, which controls Gaza’s other border, also closed its gates because it felt that Hamas would encourage the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  This makes Egypt the most despised Arab nation in the Middle East as hundreds of thousands of Gazans are cut off from food and supplies by their own “Arab brothers.”     
 
This invasion began after a Hamas ceasefire with Israel ended last month, and hundreds of Gazans have died due to the misrule of Hamas and Isareli bombings.  Hamas is deluded in thinking it can prevail in a conflict with Israel like Hezbollah did.  Hezbollah is far better run, and while Hamas is kind of a joke militarily.   
 
To be fair, Hamas did fairly win elections against Fatah which had grown corrupt.  Putting sanctions on a country for electing someone you don’t like is not a way to encourage democracy in the Middle East.  Hamas had a reputation for being quite clean and running efficient social welfare programs like Hezbollah.  My understanding is that it became corrupt as well after winning elections.  

I would encourage readers to check out Robert Fisk’s work for the Independent.  He is a British Middle East correspondent who has covered the region for decades including Lebanon’s civil war, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even interviewed Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.  He is based in Beirut, Lebanon. 
 
The Independent – Robert Fisk’s Columns