Nel's New Day

April 3, 2015

‘Give Peace a Chance’

Two huge stories have overwhelmed the news during this past week: the attempts in the United States to permit discrimination against anyone in the United States because of expressed religious belief, and the framework agreement between world powers and Iran to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds and redesigning a power plant to keep it from producing weapons-grade plutonium as well as eliminating much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. In the agreement, Iran consents to regular international nuclear inspections. President Obama said that “this framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the deal would contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the agreement is a “threat to Israel’s existence.” His government released a statement that Iran has made no concessions despite its agreement that it will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile and sharply reduce the number of centrifuges.

Israel’s media disagrees with Netanyahu. In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Barak Ravid wrote that the agreement “is not a bad deal” and concluded, “Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement, or portraying it as bad.” The article states that the agreement preserves Israel’s security interests.

Without the agreement, Iran could possibly produce a nuclear bomb in three to four months. With the agreement, Iran will be required to scale down three production facilities for at least a decade and turn these into scientific and medical research. The country is blocked from building any new facilities for 15 years. The 25-year international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, supply chain for nuclear materials, and uranium mines will be the most intensive in the history of the world. Any violation will immediately bring back the sanctions against the country.

Iranian citizens have celebrated their country’s agreement with the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—while hardliners are furious. Moderate Iranian politicians have lost their power for not being sufficiently anti-American. Any easing of hostilities between Iran and the United States is, according to hardliners, a matter of treason. Basically, the Iranian conservatives in Iran take the same position as the conservatives in the United States.

Most Republicans in Congress have worked hard to destroy any possibility of an agreement with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited Netanyahu to address Congress to sway not only legislators but also the people of the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) convinced 46 other senators to sign an open letter to Iran in the hopes of scuttling any diplomatic efforts. Following the announcement of the agreement, right-wingers have made egregious statements about the framework:

  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): The deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s talk with Hitler before World War II.
  • Israeli columnist for Politico Ari Shavit: The Iran agreement is just like the Iraq War—which is the country’s bloodiest conflicts of the twenty-first century.
  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s video: The visual shows the Statue of Liberty’s arm falling off in response to the agreement.
  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “The Iranian-Swedish con man is gloating,” in reference to one of the agreement’s proponents, Trita Parsia who moved from Iran to Sweden as a child and lived most of his life in the United States.
  • Laura Ingraham:If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Upset about the lack of support for the United States, he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): The presidential candidate would cancel any Iranian deal, sight unseen, that comes from the Obama administration. (He doesn’t need to read anything to reject it!)

As Jonathan Chait wrote, the conservatives hate this agreement because they hate all agreements since World War II.

The Yalta agreement stopping the war against the Soviets after the Allies defeated Germany in World War II formed the basis for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) paranoid ravings. Conservatives who tried to amend the constitution with the “Bricker Amendment,” limiting the president’s ability to agree to foreign treaties, were blocked by President Eisenhower.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that had not yet obtained them, was denounced by the National Review as “immoral, foolish, and probably most impractical, a policy that makes nonsense of our defensive alliance in Europe, that favors our enemies and slights our allies.” The NPT is now used to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.

President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was compared by conservatives to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union was described by conservatives as “one of the greater triumphs of the Soviet propaganda machine.”

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) was “profoundly unwise,” according to conservatives. Ronald Reagan opposed it in his campaign and then abided by it before signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to massive dismay from the right-wingers who compared Reagan to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler.

In his speech announcing the agreement with Iran, President Obama said:

“When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented backed by the world’s powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

The United States started the Iraq War with conservatives spreading fear about nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was a major instigator of this war when he told Congress in 2002 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”

John Bolton, booster and co-architect of the war in Iraq, represents most conservatives in Congress with his recent NYT op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Thirteen years ago, he was “confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime.” He was 100 percent wrong, and he knew it at the time.

Robert Gates, defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after CIA director under George H.W. Bush, said bombing Iran could prove a “catastrophe.” Meir Dagan, leader of Israel’s external spy service from 2002 to 2011, warned that an attack on Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

Since 9/11, jihadists have killed 26 Americans on U.S. soil, 13 of them killed by another soldier at Fort Hood, while right-wing extremists have killed 39. During the same time, an average of over 30,000 people died from guns each year—an approximate total of 450,000 people. Many of the same people who fight to keep unfettered ownership of guns spread fear about Iran with hopes to bomb the country.

About 1 million people died in Iraq during the ten years after the U.S. declared war on the country; 220,000 died in Afghanistan, and 80,000 died in Pakistan. During just the Bush years, 4.5 million Iraqis—one in six—were displaced, and only five percent went back to their homes by 2009. The 1-2 million widows and 5 million orphans leave half the people in Iraq tragically impacted by deaths.

Two years ago, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated to go as high as $6 trillion dollars–$75,000 for every household in America. At that time, more than half the 1,560,000 discharged military service members had gotten medical treatment and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. All the financing for the wars was done by borrowing, which has run up interest that taxpayers must fund. At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts cost the country about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue during the first nine years.

People in the United States don’t feel any safer when conservatives win elections by spreading fear. The conservatives claimed that war in Iraq would cost taxpayers about $200 billion. Between tax cuts that didn’t improve the economy and war costs, the tab is closing in on $10 trillion and sure to rise even without bombing Iran. That’s $10 trillion that could have dropped the deficit. A war in Iran will cost even more. In the words of John Lennon, quoted in another context by presidential contender in his coming-out speech, “Give peace a chance.”

June 18, 2014

Domestic Terrorists, a Bigger Problem than Foreign Ones

Almost 13 years, 19 al-Qaeda extremists killed 2,977 people in the U.S., a tragedy that allowed George W. Bush to start two “military actions” costing us over one trillion dollars. Reasons beginning with a search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction evolved to an excuse of bringing democracy to the world—preferably countries with oil. In the past 11 years, the U.S. has caused 6,717 military deaths, 650,000 or more Iraqi civilian deaths, and at least 320,000 brain injuries.

Shortly before Bush left the presidency, he signed an agreement that required U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by December 31, 2011. President Obama complied with Bush’s agreement, but the Sunni insurgents that the U.S.-appointed Shia government replaced are returning.

So are the conservative war hawks in Congress. As violence in Iraq escalates and Sunnis take over parts of Iraq, the conservative rhetoric against the president and for another “military action” in Iraq ramps up. The chicken hawks in Congress are demanding that the U.S. military kill more Iraqis.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is outraged because we are losing all those non-existent “gains” that the U.S. made in Iraq. He was wrong when he said over ten years ago that winning would be easy and that Iraqis would greet the U.S. as liberators, and he’s wrong now when he said, “The fact is, we had the conflict won. The surge had succeeded. And then, the decision was made by the Obama administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to cover for his buddy when he injected greater fear in his warnings. “The people that are moving into Iraq … have as part of their agenda … to hit our homeland.” What Graham ignores is that “our homeland” is already under attack. The attackers, however, are not foreign terrorists; they are domestic terrorists.

The definition of terrorism is violence against innocent civilians to advance a political cause. People in the United States are far more likely to be killed by right-wing Americans than foreign terrorists. Since 9/11, right-wing extremists (aka terrorists) have killed people at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a church in Kansas because a doctor performed abortions,  These acts were not simply one person deciding to murder another; the killers were tied to far right-wing groups.

In both the recent murders at the Jewish Community Center and the Boston Marathon bombing, three people were killed. One of these events produced hours and hours and hours of media attention, even on its anniversary; the other event received far less attention. A big difference is that the killer at the Jewish Center yelled “Heil Hitler” instead of “Allah Akbar.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calculates that the United States has 939 far right-wing hate groups, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, and border vigilantes. This is 56 percent more than in 2000. SPLC stated:

“This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president…. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of President Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012.”

The standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch because he didn’t want to pay his debts to the federal government is an indicator of domestic terrorism in the United States. Well-armed self-identified militia demanded that federal officials stand down and give up their guns. To prevent deaths, the federal officials complied. While conservatives refer to the people fighting the Iraqi government as insurgents, they use the term “patriots” to refer to the self-identified militia in Nevada and Utah. These armed “patriots” pointed weapons at federal officials, took armed control of local roads without challenge, and rode roughshod over federally-protected sacred Native American lands.

Five years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report about violent right-wing extremist groups that were recruiting military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Conservative columnists expressed outrage, and DHS retracted the report. They stopped examining non-Islamic terrorist threats—anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, “sovereign citizens,” eco-terrorists, etc.

The myths that gun carriers are good people and that killings can be stopped by gun carriers were erased less than two weeks ago when members of the militia on Bundy’s ranch walked into a Las Vegas Walmart and killed two cops before killing another man. There have been claims that the couple was asked to leave because one of them was a felon, but he was still part of the group holding off the federal officials.

While the killer was at the Bundy ranch, he spoke to reporters:

“I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and try to push us around or something like that. I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re going to come bring violence to us, well if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”

Before he fired on the police officers, he reportedly yelled, “This is the start of a revolution.” After the murders, the couple draped the bodies with the Revolution-era “don’t treat on me” flag.

A few days before the murders, the Department of Justice announced a law enforcement group to investigate domestic terrorism. The Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee was formed after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 but disbanded after 9/11. Attorney General Eric Holder said it was to “return our focus to potential extremists here at home,” specifically those motivated by “causes from anti-government animus to racial prejudice.”

Conservatives are again in a snit about the committee. Pat Dollard said it was waging war on white men. Alex Jones claimed that the president is going after his political enemies. Glenn Beck thinks that “this regime” is terrified about attempts to “re-establish our constitutional government.”

Another Bundy-follower and self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen,” 60-year-old  Brent Douglas Cole, shot a BLM ranger and a California Highway Patrol officer last Saturday at a campground in California’s Nevada County. According to SPLC, “Sovereigns believe that they–not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials–get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes.” Cole describes himself as “a statutory Attorney General of the United States.”

The “stand your ground” laws that allowed people to kill others and walk free has been superseded by an even more horrifying  NRA-promoted law in Indiana. In that state, anyone can kill police officers who might be overstepping authority. If a police officer trespasses on property, for example, that person can be shot and perhaps killed. The couple who killed the police officers in Las Vegas was from Indiana.

Graham is wrong about al-Qaeda hitting “our homeland.” People within the “homeland” are doing just fine at destroying it. Gun makers, gun sellers, gun show vendors, NRA execs and lobbyists, and open carry fanatics are terrifying members of Congress so that more people—including small children—will be killed and others will start to hide. The gunners succeeded in frightening people in Nevada and Utah, breaking laws with impunity and taking over governments.

The Pentagon has an ongoing series of studies to investigate large-scale civil unrest. The Minerva Research Initiative, started in 2008, is now studying only non-violent activists as part of a “social contagion.” A concern is that “problem-causers” in peaceful protests are “threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.” Part of the study also deals with how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

Instead of spending trillions of dollars to “fight terrorism abroad,” the country needs to fight homegrown terrorists who are taking over the United States. Instead of concentrating on non-violent activists, the Pentagon needs to look into domestic terrorists. We have a serious problem in “our homeland,” and it needs to be addressed.

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