The defenders of Western values are always bold and brave: Israeli Soldiers Raid Homes, Question Kids as Young as 9 (NBC). Yes, it takes enormous courage for a gang of armed and body-armored men to barge into private homes in the middle of the night, haul children out of bed, point their weapons at them and batter them with threats and questions. We are indeed fortunate that such a bastion of our precious Western ideals exists in the Middle East, which is otherwise filled with brutal barbarians. And now that King Bibi has been re-anointed, the beat -- and the batterings -- will go on. To be fair, had his "liberal" opponents won, this would still be the case, as Yonatan Medel notes in the LRB. Here is a quote from an ad for the great progressive hope, Isaac Herzog:
I was going to write a careful, reasoned commentary on this article in the Washington Post -- “War With Iran is Probably Our Best Option" -- written by a highly respected fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Joshua Muravchik. But in the end all I could find to say was this: I hope this slavering, shrivelled-up, dead-souled little coward finds himself on the front lines of the war he advocates.
In a recent London Review of Books article detailing the abysmal horrors of Egypt's prison system -- a multi-circled hell with visible and invisible layers, all of them wretched, some of them unspeakably so -- Tom Stevenson noted, in passing, this piece of historical context:
I don’t really want to go too far down the road on this when there are far more important things happening in the world, but really, take just a moment to look at the language in the Ken Silverstein piece on the world-historical tragedy of him finding out that it was less than ideal to work for a rapacious, dodgy billionaire:
As always, Bill Blum gives us meet food to feed upon in his latest Anti-Empire Report. I was going to quote some pertinent excerpts, but why not just read the whole thing. Of special interest is Blum’s look at the true history of today’s “Greek crisis”— and, given that history, the grim prospects ahead for Syriza; the jaw-dropping (but not surprising) ignorance of history evinced by the “experts” in our State Department; and the all-consuming ideology of the “non-ideological” American media. In the latter, he digs up one choice quote from Brian Williams’ former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, who defended the beleaguered anchorman thus: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories.” That one quote speaks volumes, vast tomes, about our own recent history, and our current predicament. Anyway, the full Report is here.
Robert Ford, once one of the most vociferous champions of an aggressive American policy toward Syria has now changed his mind, McClatchy reports. Ford, who famously resigned from his diplomatic post last year in protest at the Obama Administration's "weak" support of Syrian rebels, now says the United States should not give any weapons to the rebels at all; they are too "disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists."
Ordinarily the death of an American hostage held by Islamic extremists is the occasion of bellicose, ballyhooed, bloody shirt-waving rage, stoked in tandem by government and media. It usually evokes widespread calls for retaliation, for taking the gloves off at last and exterminating the barbarians once and for all. Today, it almost always comes with its own hashtag, so that people can immediately identify themselves with the victim, who is seen invariably as a martyr for the goodness and specialness of America.
Millions of words have already been written about the Charlie Hebdo spectacle. No doubt readers have seen much of the small proportion of this verbiage that was pertinent, informative and insightful. There have been laudable attempts to provide political context, cultural nuance, historical background — and that rarest of unicorns, the voice of reason — amidst the Niagra-level roar of bullshit that engulfed the Hebdo case within minutes of the first tweets about the incident. And of course, it is good that we go on trying to make sense of a reality that is at all times besieged by a bewildering array of powerful forces trying to manipulate our perceptions to suit their agendas.
The American record in Somalia is shameful beyond measuring. Few people even know that 10 years ago, the US had a direct military involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, which destroyed the country’s first stable government in 15 years, killed thousands of innocent people, and opened the door for the radical extremists who plague the country today. I wrote about this Terror War sideshow for years (see below); nobody cared then, and nobody cares now. And still the beat goes on. George Monbiot details a new move by the Peace Prize Laureate in the White House that puts the lives of thousands of Somalis at risk — and will only exacerbate the terrorism that the policy is ostensibly designed to quell. But that has been the bipartisan MO of US policy for many years now.
For anyone interested, a small tribute to the great poet Boris Pasternak, born 125 years ago today, can be found here: In Praise of Boris Pasternak.If you'd like to hear the man himself reading one of his poems, you can find that here.For a previous article on Pasternak, go here: Immortal Communion: One Lowly Word and the Subversion of Power.