Empire Burlesque
The Fatal Bargain: Oil and Blood in a Burning World
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 14 July 2014 23:32

Israel’s disproportionate and increasingly pernicious role in American politics and policies is well-known. But Washington’s decades-long collusion of corruption with the repressive, retrograde regime of Saudi Arabia has if anything been even more disastrous for the world.

Historians of the next millennium will look back on the fatal bargain that humanity has made with fossil fuels as one of the great wrong turnings in the history of homo sapiens. By the end of this century it will have burned or drowned vast portions of the planet and plunged billions of people into ruin and suffering. The benefits that arose from our oil-based civilization cannot be denied — yes, I too am glad that an ambulance can get me quickly to the hospital or fly me across the ocean to see my children — but the cost of these benefits has been immense, and there is far worse to come in the years ahead … not least for those same beloved children.

One of the most deleterious effects of fossil-fuelled civilization has been the prominence that geographical happenstance has given to Saudi Arabia. Its vast reserves of oil has meant that governments of every stripe have overlooked its horrendous oppression and its global propagation of one of the most narrow and ignorant perversions of Islam. This is particularly striking given the fact that for the past 30 years, “Islamic extremism” has been the chief bugbear and bloody shirt waved by Western powers seeking to maintain and extend their dominance of world affairs. All of these powers — Washington especially — have always known that the greatest backing, financing and arming of “Islamic extremism” have come from the elite of Saudi Arabia … the same elite that the Western powers have cravenly courted, decade after decade. 

Without oil, Saudi Arabia would be one of the world’s pariah states, where women are oppressed to a degree unseen in any other nation, where clerics wearing 17th-century blinkers behead people for the crime of falling in love with the “wrong” person, where the political freedom of ordinary people is stifled on a level nearly commensurate with that of North Korea. But Saudi Arabia does have oil. And so its oppression, misogyny, brutality and tyranny is not only excused by the West’s great champions of democracy; it is honored, celebrated and sustained with arms deals and diplomatic support — and, of course, the trillions of dollars that have flowed to the kingdom from every corner gas station in America for decades.

This collusion with extremism has grown even more deadly since 9/11 — the beginning of what looks almost certain to be a century of “war on terrorism.” Indeed, one of Saudi Arabia’s great facilitators of Islamic extremism — its longtime ambassador to Washingon, Prince Bandar — was so close to the American power structure that he was known as “Bandar Bush” — an honorary member of one of the leading families of the American ruling elite. Even while America is ostensibly fighting an ever-expanding war against “Islamic extremism,” it is coddling and colluding with the most active and effective supporter of Islamic extremism in the world, Saudi Arabia. A cynic might see in this bizarre symbiosis the perfect expression of the murderous corruption at the heart of our political world — and of our whole oil-based civilization.

The horrific turmoil we are seeing in the Middle East today — particularly with the rise of ISIS — grows from that selfsame soil. In an excellent article this week, Patrick Cockburn traces the rise of ISIS in part to a long-term plan by Prince Bandar and the Saudi elite to eliminate their hated sectarian rivals, the Shiites, while protecting and extending their own repressive and illegitimate ascendancy over the Middle East — and Islam as a whole. As so often happens with these grand plans — like the neo-con vision of “remaking” the oil regions through military conquest — the Saudi scheme has gone badly awry: the puppets have cut the strings, and are now threatening the puppet-master. 

You should read the Cockburn piece in full, but here are a few excerpts:

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit. …

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

… The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

… The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

…Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. … 

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. …

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue. …

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. .. Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

Cockburn’s analogy of ISIS with the Khmer Rouge is disturbingly apt. In both cases, a volatile region whose societies were laid waste by the intervention of Western dominationists and their local partners has led to the rise of an implacable, intolerant and incredibly violent sect intent on returning the area to a fantasized “Year Zero,” upon which a genocidally purged and  “purer” society can be constructed.

Cockburn believes, I think rightly, that ultimately ISIS will not succeed, just as the Khmer Rouge were eventually ousted. (By America’s hated enemy, communist Vietnam.) But, as in Cambodia, before that happens, immense suffering is in store for millions of people.

What we are seeing in Iraq today are the fruits of American war crime in Iraq. Many people — even some who opposed the war — believed that the consequences of this atrocity could be contained: a tragedy, yes, and isn’t it a shame that the perpetrators got away with it, but in the end, the world moves on, and we can concentrate again on our partisan squabbles on Capitol Hill, or the latest episode of Game of Thrones. 

But these criminal actions, these reckless decisions, these fatal bargains with extremism and corruption, these pustulant growths of militarism and repression do not just go away. Their effects are real; they are long-lasting; they reverberate through the years in many lands, in many ways — ways which no one can foresee at the time. We are not going to go back to “normal” — not to the pre-9/11 normal, not to the pre-Iraq invasion normal. This is especially true given the fact that Barack Obama — and whoever follows him, be it Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush or some other wealthy imperial courtier — will keep following the same morally insane policies that have led to the current catastrophe. 

It’s not a joke; it’s not a dream; it’s not happening to someone else in another place, in another time. With every step, every new day, we are building a world of hell for ourselves and those who come after us.

 
Hebrew Lessons: America's Secret Lexicon and the 'Synagogue of Satan'
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 23:17
I.
Jonathan Schwarz points out how that bastion of the "secular-humanist liberal media," CBS, edited the new release of Nixon tapes in order to protect the reputation of the national saint of Bible-believing conservatives, Billy Graham.

The latest release of White House conversations secretly taped by Richard Nixon shows the elite's favorite evangelist spewing venomous invective about Jews. Responding to Nixon's ostensible worry that America might be gripped by Nazi or Franco-style anti-semitism if Jews "don't start behaving," Graham replies with the time-honored wisdom that made him the confidant and confessor of presidents for generations:

Well, you know I told you one time that the bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called the Synagogue of Satan. They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature. They're the ones putting out these obscene films.

This is the bit that CBS snipped out of the conversation, leaving only an innocuous statement by Graham about Jews' "usefulness" to God. Schwarz also notes that Nixon's warning about Jewish behavior had nothing to do with Israeli militarism, as the CBS story claims; it was in fact a response to "Graham being angry about a rabbi criticizing a new attempt at widespread evangelism." Schwarz concludes:

The whole thing is well worth listening to if you're a connoisseur of the psychosis of the people who run this planet. My favorite part is the repeated tongue baths Graham bestows on Nixon, assuring him the country loves him and he may well be the greatest president in history.

II.
There is of course nothing really new in the latest tapes. Nixon and Graham's fascinating dialogues about Jews have already entered the public record. I first wrote about this issue more than seven years ago, in The Moscow Times, showing also how Graham also helped sow the seeds of anti-semitism in yet another of his elite charges: George W. Bush.

Picture this: the skulking ruler of a corrupt and vicious regime, hunkered down in his palace, besieged by the forces of good as he plots to unleash weapons of mass destruction on his "satanic" foes across the sea. Accused of war crimes and military aggression, he cynically turns to religion, often calling in the leader of the country's largest fundamentalist sect to lend "moral" support to the criminal regime. Together, the ruler and the holy man engage in frenzied diatribes against the enemies of the state, especially that sinister conspiratorial power lurking behind every eruption of evil in the world – the Jews.

A portrait of Saddam Hussein, raging desperately as he braces for the final reckoning at the hands of history's avenging angel, George W. Bush? No, it's just our ole pal Tricky Dick – Nixon, that is, not Cheney – back from the dead in White House tapes released this week: yet another star turn from the Founding Father of modern U.S. politics.

In the tapes, recorded in early 1972, we find Nixon hankering to hurl his nuclear thunderbolts at Vietnam – standard Cold War ranting for the apostate Quaker, who first suggested nuking 'Nam back in 1954. More relevant to the current scene is the Jew-bashing duet Nixon shares with the American elite's favorite fire-breathing evangelical, the Reverend (sic) Billy Graham.

Graham has – not to put too fine a point on it – sucked from the teat of American power for more than 50 years, lending his "moral authority" to various presidents (usually when they're in political hot water) then leveraging the resultant publicity into boffo box office for his stadium harangues around the world. He is perhaps best known in recent years for a miracle that changed the course of human history – saving the soul of the aforementioned angel, G.W. Bush.

Bush credits Graham with "planting the seeds" of fundamentalist faith in his pre-presidential person during a family gathering in 1985. Graham was visiting the Bush clan's luxurious compound in Maine, mooching free meals and sucking up to the sitting vice president, Daddy Bush. (Well, what else should a disciple of Christ be doing? Breaking bread with the poor or something? Get real.)

At that time, of course, young George was in wastrel mode, boozing it up and losing millions of dollars of other people's money in the oil companies Daddy's friends gave him to play with. But the meeting with Graham struck a chord in the lost soul, as Bush himself (or rather his ghostwriter) tells it, in properly hagiographic tones: "[Graham] sat by the fire and talked. And what he said sparked a change in my heart. I don't remember the exact words. It was more the power of his example. The Lord was so clearly reflected in his gentle and loving demeanor."

That divine emanation was somewhat occluded in the Nixon meeting, where Graham heatedly denounced "satanic Jews" and warned Nixon that the "Jewish stranglehold" on the national media "has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain." The Lord-reflecting preacher then gently and lovingly described how he turned the Jews' two-faced perfidy against them with wily Christian deception of his own.

"A lot of Jews are great friends of mine," Graham begins with gentle, loving sarcasm. "They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them."

Graham chortles heartily when Nixon's toady and enforcer, H.R. Haldeman (the Karl Rove of his day) tells him to "wear a Jewish beanie" at an upcoming meeting with Time Magazine editors. And he yearns for a Nixon re-election later in the year: "Then we might be able to do something" about those nefarious Hebrews, says Graham.

As with Bush, Graham's potent spiritual seed found fertile ground in Nixon. "It's good we got this point about the Jews across," the president says after the meeting. "The Jews are an irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards."

This week Graham issued a most Nixonian reply to the taped revelations, saying he had "no memory" of the occasion, but even so, he "deeply regretted" comments he "apparently made" during the meeting. "Apparently?" Perhaps those "satanic Jews" doctored the tape, eh, Billy? As it says in the Gospels: "When the sins of thy past confront thee, always use a weasel-word to squirm thy way out."

These days, the elderly Graham is too frail to whack the Bible leather on the road anymore. His place has been taken by his son, Franklin, who runs the racket along the same old lines: hell-fire for the common folk, political cover for the high and mighty. Indeed, Franklin was called upon by the skulking ruler of yet another corrupt and vicious regime in January 2001, when he showered the Lord's blessing on the illicit inauguration of the unelected wastrel whom Daddy Graham put on the road to glory all those years ago.

Meanwhile, Bush is still faithful to his Imam's teaching. He believes Jews are damned to eternal torment unless they adopt his own pinched and primitive fundamentalist faith -- an opinion that once landed him in hot water with his less jihadic mother. Alarmed at her son's ignorant intolerance, she called – who else? – Graham to set Junior straight. Graham's response? "I happen to agree with what George says."

Well, he would, wouldn't he?

III.
Graham's janus-faced enmity -- supporting Israeli militarism while hiding what he "really feels" about Jews -- is still very much alive among the American elite. (And not just among the elite, of course.) The marriage of convenience -- or rather, the three-way orgy -- between Likudnik Jews and America's imperial militarists and Christian nationalists -- has obscured the fundamental hatred and distrust of Jews that underlies much of the nation's political discourse. For example, veteran cognoscenti have long known that "liberal media" is a code word for "the Jews" -- cast as wily, relentless corruptors of America's pure soul, with their promotion of immoral movies, jungle be-bop music, investigative journalism and what all. Indeed, in the subterranean American lexicon, the term "liberal" itself has long denoted a) Jews; b) uppity darkies duped by Jews, and c) white commies and race traitors in league with Jews to destroy America.

And if you think this template doesn't lie buried but percolating in the amygdala of America's cultural brain, then brother, you don't know these here United States at all. Of course, as with almost every anti-semitic elite down through the ages, there are also many "good Jews" around -- as Graham himself noted. In our day, these are the Jews who support America's imperial agenda and help keep down the "recalcitrant tribes" of the Middle East, in much the same manner as the American elite's illustrious forbears cleaned out those pesky redskins. In fact, with Israeli society now hurtling headlong into a quasi-fascist fortress state, there are probably more "good Jews" of this stripe than there have been in a long time -- perhaps ever.

But of course, most Jews are not imperial stooges or ethnic cleansers -- and these clearly belong to the "Synagogue of Satan" (with Noam Chomsky as High Priest, perhaps.) The American amygdala still pulses with a primitive fear response at the thought of these impure Others: Nixon's "irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards," still potently evoked by the masking term "liberal."

NOTE: One should not be fooled by the manufactured "tussle" between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations over Israeli "settlements," by the way. The bipartisan foreign policy elite of the United States do not give a rat's damn about how many Palestinian Indians are forced from their land, or how many Warsaw Ghettos the Israelis construct for their captives. If they did, they would not have sat idly by and watched the "settlements" grow like topsy throughout the so-called "peace process." Such rote displays of displeasure are just part of the game. Israeli nationalists get to look tough for their domestic political audiences; the Americans get to appear "even-handed," which in turn provides some cover for the brutal dictatorships they support in the region. Israel can then make "concessions" (insincerely offered, never carried out), which makes the American president look effective -- and casts Israel in a better light for the American audience. ("See, they listen to reason, they want to work things out.") It's a game that everybody wins -- except ordinary Palestinians.

If the Americans were serious about influencing Israeli policy on the "settlements" -- or anything else -- then they would move to cut off the nearly $3 billion a year the United States provides to fund Israel's war machine -- and its settlements. In politics, as in so much else, you must follow the money. And in American-Israeli relations -- as in so much else -- the money is not where the mouth is.

P.S. If you want to hear what the "Synagogue of Satan" really sounds like in full flow, then attend the words of Sir Gerald Kaufman, standing up in Britain's House of Commons during Israel's brutal decimation of Gaza earlier this year. As the UK magazine Lobster notes, Kaufman "described the murder of his Polish grandmother by a German soldier and then said:

"My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as their justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count."


Compare that to the overwhelming pro-massacre majority in the U.S. Congress, which voted its "vigorous and unwavering commitment" to Israel during the slaughter. Or indeed, compare it to the eloquent response then-President-Elect Barack Obama made to the attack, which Israel conveniently ended just before his inauguration:

 
A Brand New Day -- Yea, Verily, Morning in America!
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 22:04

Disturbing news of Barack Obama's embrace -- and extension -- of the Bush Regime's program to seed the nation's university classrooms with covert students being secretly groomed for service in the security apparat: "Obama's Classroom Spies" (David Price, Counterpunch).

Disturbing news of Barack Obama's embrace -- and extension -- of the Bush Regime's plutocratic economic policy in his latest "financial reform" plan: "Obama's (Latest) Surrender to Wall Street" (Michael Hudson, also Counterpunch).

Disturbing news of the true fruits of Barack Obama's embrace -- and extension -- of the Bush Regime's plutocratic economic policy: "Goldman Sachs to Make Record Bonus Payout" (Guardian). Quoth the paper: "The biggest bonus payouts in the firm's 140-year history."

Disturbing news of Barack Obama's embrace -- and extension -- of the Bush Regime's inhumanity in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp: "Military Attorney Major Barry Wingard Reveals Injustices Continue at Gitmo" (Buzzflash).

Disturbing news of Barack Obama's embrace -- and extension -- of the Bush Regime's claims of authoritarian powers: "In Stark Legal Turnaround, Obama Now Resembles Bush" (McClatchy).

 
Massacre of the Innocents: Slaughter in the Gaza Ghetto
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 13 July 2014 19:02

The horror of Israel’s latest slaughter in Gaza speaks for itself — despite the mountainous flow of media sludge designed to obscure the reality of the aggression. Even the New York Times has been forced to print a few stories about the high number of civilian deaths being caused by the Israeli assault on the “Warsaw Ghetto” they have made of Gaza, noting the hospitals and mosques and private homes where dozens of innocent people have been blown to pieces by Israel’s weaponry (much of it American-made).

Israel has imprisoned the people of Gaza in a stateless limbo while carefully controlling almost every aspect of their lives, including what medicines they can have, what manufacturing and building materials they are allowed and even, at times, how much food they are allowed to eat to keep the population weakened but just above malnutrition levels. This brutal regimen in daily life is of course punctuated with regular night raids, bombings,  kidnappings, “disappearings” and almost weekly civilians deaths at the hands of Israeli overseers. This has gone on year after year. Yet Western media — and Western politicians — are presenting a picture of a nuclear-armed, American-backed ultra-militarist Israel “under siege” from a handful of ineffective rockets fired by factions in Gaza which are answering violence with violence.

But as we all know, the West demands that Palestinians show superhuman, Gandhi-like forbearance in the face of murderous oppression and relentless, widespread violence killing their children and families. They are never to respond in kind — unlike the Americans, who have killed hundreds of thousands of people in response to a single attack on their soil. This after killing, by Washington’s own admission, more than half a million children in Iraq with peacetime sanctions — against a nation which had never attacked the United States and posed no threat to it. The merest hint of a possible threat remotely occurring sometime in a barely imaginable future is justification enough for the Americans to lay waste to whole nations and kill thousands of people. (Of course, in many states in America this principle is now enshrined in law on an individual basis: you can shoot dead anyone you feel might be a “threat” to you — whether they are or not. The ‘stand your ground’ laws are a perfect example of a nation rotting from the head, as the murderous militarism and adherence to violence embodied by the bipartisan elite seep down through every strata of society.) This is the true — the only — meaning of “American exceptionalism”: the right to ruin, rape and murder in perfect moral purity.

To be sure, this golden aura can be loaned out at times to others. Israel above all seems to have acquired a permanent lease on American’s license to kill. But it can also be spread around to other nations and factions, even terrorist groups, if it serves the purposes of the Potomac Imperium. Such as the “moderate al Qaeda” now being supported in Syria (or the al Qaeda forbears supported so fully in Soviet-era Afghanistan). Saddam Hussein was allowed to slaughter tens of thousands, and even use chemical weapons, with America’s blessing and military aid and money. Later of course, he morphed into a new Hitler, and, as noted, America had to kill half a million children in his land, before invading the country and causing the deaths of a million more people. Why, even Vlad the Impaler Putin — the current new Hitler in America’s eyes — was gifted with America’s moral exemption when he was killing thousands of people in Chechnya.

But yes, Israel is the chief beneficiary of Washington’s moral blank check. And so the false narrative — the mendacious “frame” — of a “besieged” Israel defending its poor, innocent self from unprovoked attack is promulgated at every turn by the Western political establishment and most of the media. Barack Obama and a bipartisan gaggle of Capitol Hill geese have lent their support to this narrative — and to the massacre of the innocents that lurks behind it.

Yet as David Cronin notes:

There is no acknowledgement that Israel has been subjecting Palestinian civilians to collective punishment — in clear violation of international law. There is no mention of the seven-year siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza. There is no recognition that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has used the murder of three Israeli teenagers as a pretext to kill much higher numbers of Palestinian children in recent days ….

“Pretext” is certainly the operative word. As Max Blumenthal reports, Netanyahu’s government knew almost immediately that the three teenagers were dead, and who had killed them. But they suppressed these facts in order to rouse atavistic hatred among Israelis and to rally world opinion and sympathy — preparatory to an assault on Gaza that was obviously long-planned, and which had nothing at all to do with the murder of the teenagers at the hands of a “rogue” clan at odds with the Hamas leadership. Blumenthal:

From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.

Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported.

Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive.

Instead of mounting a limited action to capture the suspected perpetrators and retrieve the teens’ bodies, Netanyahu staged an aggressive international public relations campaign, demanding sympathy and outrage from world leaders, who were also given the impression that the missing teens were still alive.

Meanwhile, Israel’s armed forces rampaged throughout the occupied West Bank and bombarded the Gaza Strip in a campaign of collective punishment deceptively marketed to Israelis and the world as a rescue mission.

Critical details that were known all along by Netanyahu and the military-intelligence apparatus were relayed to the Israeli public only after the abduction of more than 560 Palestinians, including at least 200 still held without charges; after the raiding of Palestinian universities and ransacking of countless homes; after six Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces; after American-trained Palestinian Authority police assisted Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian youths in the center of Ramallah; after the alleged theft by Israeli troops of $3 million in US dollars; and after Israel’s international public relations extravaganza had run its course.

Israeli forces began rounding up and interrogating family members of the main suspects, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer abu Eishe, the day after the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers. Yet this fact too was kept from the public, and from the world. As Blumenthal noted:

While Netanyahu and his top deputies blamed the entire membership of Hamas for the kidnapping, the Shin Bet gag order suppressed all information relating to the identities of the suspects until 26 June. As far as the Israeli public knew, the kidnappers could have been anywhere in the West Bank, in any schoolhouse or coffee house or hen house where anyone remotely affiliated with Hamas congregated.
Having manipulated an exceptionally suggestible population through the careful management of information, the military had all the political latitude it needed to rampage through cities far from the scene of the crime.
Blumenthal further notes:

According to Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, members of the Qawasmeh clan of Hebron have earned a reputation for attacking Israeli civilian targets during ceasefires between Hamas and Israel.

While an extended family of over 10,000 can hardly be blamed for the actions of some of its members, it is notable that attacks carried out by fighters from the family were privately criticized by top Hamas leaders, as Eldar explains. Hamas leadership regarded the operations as self-destructive acts of freebooting and often paid for them in the form of Israeli assassinations. In each case, the violence shattered ceasefires and inspired renewed bouts of bloodshed.

“The same is true now,” Eldar writes. “Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe have taken Hamas to a place where its leadership never intended to go.”

Hamas leadership has yet to take responsibility for the kidnapping and likely had no knowledge of its planning. As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel notes, “So far, there is no evidence that Hamas’ leadership either in Gaza or abroad was involved in the kidnapping.” Harel adds that the fallout of the kidnapping “effectively froze the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.”

The latter is certainly one of the reasons behind the current onslaught. A reconciled Palestinian leadership could offer more formidable resistance to Israeli domination (although the years-long fecklessness of Fatah, its enormous corruption and frequent, brutal cooperation with Israel does not augur well for any principled resistance). But before any reconciliation or spine-stiffening could take hold among Palestinian politicians, Israel went on the attack.

Blumenthal tells a harrowing tale of the propaganda campaign waged by the Israeli government to whip the population into a frenzy of revenging bloodlust over the “missing boys” — even as Netanyahu and his minions knew full well the boy were dead. These efforts were redoubled after the bodies were found, and of course led to the notorious murder of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli youths inflamed by the government’s cold-blooded manipulations. I won’t excerpt the passage here, but you should read the Blumenthal article in full.

But political power-playing to separate Fatah and Hamas were by no means the only impetus behind the operation. In a world whose lifeblood is fossil fuel, it’s no surprise to find that the present attack on Gaza — like the ISIS assault in Iraq — is, in significant measure, one of the “resource wars” which many analysts believe will be one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century. As Nafeez Ahmed notes in the Guardian:

…in 2007, a year before Operation Cast Lead, [Israel’s] concerns focused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gazacoast, valued at $4 billion. Defense Minister Ya'alon dismissed the notion that "Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state" as "misguided." The problem, he said, is that:

"Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel…

A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority [PA] will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel – or all three… It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

Operation Cast Lead did not succeed in uprooting Hamas, but the conflict did take the lives of 1,387 Palestinians (773 of whom were civilians) and 9 Israelis (3 of whom were civilians).

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel's increasing domestic energy woes.

Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to "eliminate" Hamas as "a viable political entity in Gaza" to generate a "political climate" conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and "leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid."

…As Dr Gary Luft - an advisor to the US Energy Security Council - wrote in the Journal of Energy Security, "with the depletion of Israel's domestic gas supplies accelerating, and without an imminent rise in Egyptian gas imports, Israel could face a power crisis in the next few years… If Israel is to continue to pursue its natural gas plans it must diversify its supply sources." …

Earlier this year, Hamas condemned a PA deal to purchase $1.2 billion worth of gas from Israel Leviathan field over a 20 year period once the field starts producing. Simultaneously, the PA has held several meetings with the British Gas Group to develop the Gaza gas field, albeit with a view to exclude Hamas – and thus Gazans – from access to the proceeds. That plan had been the brainchild of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

But the PA was also courting Russia's Gazprom to develop the Gaza marine gas field, and talks have been going on between Russia, Israel and Cyprus, though so far it is unclear what the outcome of these have been. Also missing was any clarification on how the PA would exert control over Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.

According to Anais Antreasyan in the University of California's Journal of Palestine Studies, the most respected English language journal devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel's stranglehold over Gaza has been designed to make "Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible." Israel's long-term goal "besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations." This is part of a wider strategy of:

"…. separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources."

For the Israeli government, Hamas continues to be the main obstacle to the finalisation of the gas deal. In the incumbent defence minister's words: "Israel's experience during the Oslo years indicates Palestinian gas profits would likely end up funding terrorism against Israel. The threat is not limited to Hamas… It is impossible to prevent at least some of the gas proceeds from reaching Palestinian terror groups."

The only option, therefore, is yet another "military operation to uproot Hamas." Unfortunately, for the IDF uprooting Hamas means destroying the group's perceived civilian support base – which is why Palestinian civilian casualties massively outweigh that of Israelis. Both are obviously reprehensible, but Israel's capacity to inflict destruction is simply far greater.

So here is another reason why the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation cannot be borne by Israel; it not only blocks a billion-dollar deal for existing Israeli gas, it also cuts Israel off from exploiting the 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the Gaza shore. As Ahmed notes, this isn’t the only cause behind the current operation — but it is a central one.

But beyond all the politics and petrodollars driving the madness of the latest assault lie the ordinary people whose bodies and lives are being ripped to shreds. As’ad AbuKhalil, the ‘Angry Arab,’ is, as usual, an important source for some hard fragments of reality amidst the toxic sludge of spin and propaganda. AbuKhalil points us to a number of stories on the human toll of the attacks. Such as this one:

Sahir Salman Abu Namous was just four years old, soon to turn five. … Sahir was killed on Friday afternoon when an Israeli warplane bombed his family home in the Tal al-Zaatar neighborhood in northern Gaza. “He was playing and smiling next to his mother when missile shrapnel divided his head,” Mahmoud writes. “His father took him to the hospital screaming ‘Wake up my son! I bought toys for you, please wake up!’”

…Sahir Salman Abu Namous was one of 21 children who had been killed in the onslaught by Friday.

A piece of shrapnel divided his head. “Wake up my son!” Wake up, indeed: the soul of the world is sleeping, and the murderous rampage goes on.

 
Court and Caliphate: New SCOTUS Ruling Fuels Sectarian Rise
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 04 July 2014 01:23

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that a sectarian college in Illinois, Wheaton College, did not have to fill in a federal form to claim its exemption from regulations providing contraception coverage in its employee insurance programs.

Note that the issue was not a question of whether the college was exempt from the regulation, as in the Hobby Lobby case. As a sectarian institution, it was already exempt. What the college objected to was simply sending a form to the government regarding the exemption. This, they said, would involve them in "a grave moral evil," because notifying the government would make the college complicit in some other organization providing the contraception coverage. (The law stipulates that if a sectarian employer does not provide the coverage, the government will ensure that it is provided by someone else, usually the insurance company involved or some other third-party administrator of the program.)

Just four days before, the Court majority on the Hobby Lobby case made specific mention of this government form as a justification for exempting commercial enterprises run by sectarians from providing contraception coverage for their employees. The Hobby Lobby decision cited the form as constituting "an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty," as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her dissent against Thursday's decision.

In other words, according to Justice Samuel Alito and his fellow conservatives in the majority, the Hobby Lobby case was a "win-win" all around; sectarian business owners did not have to dirty themselves with concerns about their female employees' reproductive health, while the government was free to ensure that contraception coverage was provided from another source.

But just four days later, the conservative majority has reversed course, and finds that the alternative they lauded on Monday is no longer good enough. They agree with Wheaton College that the alternative itself violates religious liberty and can be ignored. Sectarian organizations can merely send a letter to the government opting out, without filling out the form -- because the form would notify the insurance program's third-party administrator that the female employee was no longer covered for contraception.

(It is not known at this point if Wheaton College, like Hobby Lobby, covers Viagra and vasectomies for its male employees. But it would certainly make sense. We all know that the male member is more pleasing to the Lord, for it points upward toward Heaven -- and if it doesn't, there's always Viagra -- while the female reproductive parts dwell in darkness.)

Coupled with the Hobby Lobby case, the Wheaton decision means that all sectarian-ruled organizations, whether they are commercial businesses or non-profits, can not only opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to their female employees, they can also refuse to submit the form that would expedite the provision of such coverage from elsewhere, in accordance with the law. The result, as Sotomayor notes, will be administrative chaos:

Is HHS to undertake the daunting—if not impossible—task of creating a database that tracks every employer’s insurer or third party administrator nationwide? ... In addition, because Wheaton is materially indistinguishable from other nonprofits that object to the Government’s accommodation, the issuance of an injunction in this case will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy. The Court has no reason to think that the administrative scheme it foists on the Government today is workable or effective on a national scale. The Court’s actions in this case create unnecessary costs and layers of bureaucracy.

But of course, that is very much the point of the decision -- which the conservative majority considered so overwhelmingly important that they invoked the rarely-used All Writs Act, normally used in cases where it is "indisputably clear" that a law will substantially harm the appellant in some way, in order to make Thursday's ruling, thus by-passing the lower courts, where the legal arguments of this not-at-all-clear case could be thrashed out. The point is to gut the contraception coverage provision in any way possible. Immediately after the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Court majority made it clear that their ruling applied not only to so-called abortifacients, such as the morning-after pill -- which were the ostensible reason for the case -- but to all contraception. And now they have demolished the alternative to the system -- the very alternative, as noted above, that they cited on Monday as a linchpin of their decision.

The rulings by the conservative majority on the Court are part of a relentless, decades-long effort to reassert control of women's sexuality. In this, America's super-patriotic, politicized right-wing Christians share a common cause with the Islamic sectarians they hate so much (and are so scared of). Women's sexuality is apparently the most volatile, dangerous force in the world -- much, much more dangerous than, say, nuclear war or the heat-death of the planet, which concern them not at all. The amount of time, energy, money -- and frenzy -- spent on repressing and controlling women's sexuality is truly extraordinary. Or rather, it is, tragically, all too ordinary, part of an effort that has been going on since homo sapiens first emerged.

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It is also part of a larger agenda by our homegrown, well-heeled religious extremists to supplant secular government with sectarian rule. Their ludicrous public panic about the danger of "Sharia Law" being imposed on the country is a hysterical projection of their own desires -- and their own designs. A growing sectarian hardcore believes that secular government has no legitimacy whatsoever; a Bible-based "Dominion" is the only proper form of government. Wheaton College's objections to the government form likely have as much to do with this larger agenda as it does with the sectarian extremists' deep-seated, fear-ridden hatred of women.

I have seen this belief and this agenda in action. It was almost 30 years ago, when the sectarian extremism that is now rampant across the land, controlling one major political party, parts of the military and bankrolled with billions of dollars, was still, for most people, a distant sideshow confined to rural backwaters. I was working at a newspaper in one of those "backwaters," a rural country in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. A local fundamentalist sect was growing toward "mega-church" status. It had its own television facilities -- very much a rarity in those days. It had a huge new church complex. Then the church's pastor decided he wanted to have a school. He added on to part of the already existing complex to make room for a finely-appointed private Christian school. The state had no objection, of course. All they wanted was for him to allow the school building certified as safe, according to fire codes and structural regulations. It was all very routine; and had of course been done for the television studio and other structures in the complex.

But the new sectarianism was already growing more virulent. Not long before, in a neighboring county, a mother had sued the local school board -- because her daughter was being "forced" to use her imagination in class. There was an exercise in an English class where children were asked to shut their eyes and imagine any kind of scene they wanted. This, the mother said, was witchcraft -- imagining things that weren't there! And so, according to her understanding of the wishes of an invisible deity, she pulled her daughter out of class and filed a lawsuit that cost local taxpayers a great deal of money. (Her expenses, of course, were paid by outside sectarian organizations.)

Now the pastor in our county was taking a similar stand. He could not allow the State of Tennessee to issue a permit certifying that his school building was safe because this would be an unconscionable encroachment of secular government on religious liberty. Even though the state wasn't trying to tell him what to teach in the school. (Which would no doubt include anti-imagination exercises in English class.) It wasn't trying to dictate his beliefs or encroach on them in any way. There wasn't even any real question that the building was structurally safe and sound. He simply refused to have anything to do with the state.

The case came to court. The local sectarian extremists were in a state of high excitement. (The rest of the populace -- almost entirely Bible-believing conservative Christians -- thought the pastor's stance was ludicrous.) I remember sitting in the courtroom right behind the pastor's college-student son and his friends. (The son was attending a state university; perhaps he planned to refuse to accept his diploma upon graduation.) The young man was particularly hyped up, squirming in his chair, combative, ready for the fight. Suddenly he smacked his fist into his palm and said, seething, "Man, wouldn't it be great if the Lord struck down this courtroom right now!" His friends all agreed.

The pastor took the stand and under questioning from his lawyer delivered a long oration on religious liberty and the exaltation of sectarian belief over secular government. He could not accept -- would not accept -- that the state had the authority to regulate or license anything associated with his religious activities. There were cheers from the college contingent.

Then the state's attorney got up. He asked the pastor if he had a driver's license. The preacher said, yes, he did. He asked him to show the license to the court. The preacher did so. The attorney then asked what entity issued the license. The State of Tennessee, was the answer. Finally came this question: Do you ever use your car on church business? Yes, of course, said the pastor.

That was pretty much it. The church lost the case. The pastor appealed, of course, and succeeded in getting a change of venue to an even more conservative county, where the church won the case. Then the state appealed, and it eventually went to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ruled against the church. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent. The school got certified, it opened, and I assume the preacher spent many happy years pouring bile and fear and ignorance into his young charges. I was already gone by then.

But I remember very well the gathering ferment of this sectarian darkness in those days. To these sectarians, "religious liberty" didn't just mean the liberty to practice their religion as they saw fit; it also meant liberty from any vestige of secular government. It meant, ultimately -- and in those more obscure days, many of them were open about this -- the liberty to impose their religious beliefs on others and to supplant the secular government with sectarian rule. They didn't expect it to happen right away. (The Lord refrained from striking down the courthouse that day). They weren't even sure it would happen in their lifetime. But it was their goal, their dream -- and they have moved relentlessly and remorselessly toward it year after year, on every possible front.

So yes, our sectarians hate women (along with many other classifications of human beings), and they will cheer these rulings by the Supreme Court's conservative majority (which is itself dominated by sectarians). But what we see in the Wheaton College ruling is a Court-blessed manifestation of a hatred that goes beyond misogyny: a hatred of democracy, a hatred of any kind of human community or culture or social organization that is not under the "dominion" of their own narrow, stunted sectarian beliefs. What they seek is their own "Caliphate." And they are taking it, bit by bit. The Supreme Court has just handed them a large chunk of territory.

 
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