Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Late last week, Senator Hillary Clinton offered a bill that would effectively revoke the 2002 congressional authorization that allowed the Bush Administration to wage war in Iraq, and require the president to convince Congress to re-approve the war this October. It’s the latest step taken by Clinton to establish herself as the Democratic Party’s anti-war candidate. If she’d only known in 2002 what she knows now, she has repeatedly said, she would never have supported the earlier resolution.
At its essence, Clinton is saying that the Bush Administration tricked her into voting for the war resolution. “I Was Duped” is hardly an inspiring slogan, and in Hillary’s case it’s a thoroughly disingenuous one as well. She wasn’t duped. She was playing the polls, and at the time she concluded that a vote for war was the smart bet.
Take a look at Clinton’s October 10, 2002, floor speech in which she authorized the use of force against Iraq. She didn’t just side with the Bush Administration, she more or less endorsed its entire case for war:
Intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program . . .
If left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.
While acknowledging that there was no evidence to tie Saddam to the September 11 attacks, she said he had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members,” and went on to say:
This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make–any vote that may lead to war should be hard–but I cast it with conviction. Over eleven years have passed since the U.N. called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret . . . A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him - use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein–this is your last chance–disarm or be disarmed.
Dick Cheney could hardly have put it better. Now compare Clinton’s remarks with those made by other prominent Democrats during the runup to war. Even if they believed that Saddam had WMDs, many of Clinton’s Democratic colleagues opposed the war and challenged the administration’s case for an invasion. Take Al Gore during a September 23, 2002 speech in San Francisco:
The resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. Here’s why I say that; we know that he has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country. As yet, we have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with terrorist groups. If the administration has evidence that he has, please present it, because that would change the way we all look at this thing.
Senator Edward Kennedy’s speech in Washington on September 27 rejected just about every argument tossed out by President Bush.
Information from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. I have heard no persuasive evidence that Saddam is on the threshold of acquiring the nuclear weapons he has sought for more than 20 years. And the administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. As General Joseph Hoar, the former Commander of Central Command told the members of the Armed Services Committee, a case has not been made to connect Al Qaeda and Iraq . . . To the contrary, there is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
When Hillary cast her “yes” vote “with conviction” a few weeks later, Kennedy and 22 other Democratic senators (and a majority of Democrats in the House) rejected the use-of-force resolution. “The question,” Senator Patrick Leahy said during the debate on the vote, “is not whether Saddam Hussein should be disarmed; it is how imminent is this threat and how should we deal with it?” Leahy continued:
The resolution now before the Senate leaves the door open to act alone, even absent an imminent threat. It surrenders to the President authority which the Constitution explicitly reserves for the Congress . . . Many respected and knowledgeable people–former senior military officers and diplomats among them–have expressed strong reservations about this resolution. They agree that if there is credible evidence that Saddam Hussein is planning to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or one of our allies, the American people and the Congress would overwhelmingly support the use of American military power to stop him. But they have not seen that evidence, and neither have I. We have heard a lot of bellicose rhetoric, but what are the facts? I am not asking for 100 percent proof, but the administration is asking Congress to make a decision to go to war based on conflicting statements, angry assertions, and assumption based on speculation. This is not the way a great nation goes to war.
Then there was Robert Byrd, who unsuccessfully tried to mount a filibuster against the resolution, which he described as “the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again”:
The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States.
Byrd rejected the administration’s arguments about Saddam posing an imminent WMD threat and noted that no one “has been able to produce any solid evidence linking Iraq to the September 11 attack.” He also said that any overthrow of the Iraqi regime “would require a long term occupation,” and that this “kind of nation-building cannot be accomplished with the wave of a wand by some fairy godmother, even one with the full might and power of the world’s last remaining superpower behind her.”
So here are some questions for Hillary:
- Other Democrats knew. Why didn’t you?
- Why did you trust President Bush more than you trusted top figures in your own party?
- Did you, in fact, vote for the war resolution on the basis of polling numbers and political calculations about an expected future run for the presidency?
- And finally, if you won’t vote your conscience on questions of war and peace, when will you?
The answer to that last question is “never.” A recent Washington Post story on Mark Penn, Clinton’s pollster, described him as taking “taking increasing control” of her presidential campaign. “Armed with voluminous data that he collects through his private polling firm, Penn has become involved in virtually every move Clinton makes, with the result that the campaign reflects the chief strategist as much as the candidate,” the Post said. “If Clinton seems cautious, it may be because Penn has made caution a science, repeatedly testing issues to determine which ones are safe and widely agreed upon.”
May 7, 2007 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative
by Justin Raimondo
Is there a First Amendment right to engage in espionage? Dorothy Rabinowitz seems to think so. Describing the actions of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former top officials of AIPAC, the premier Israel lobbying group, who passed purloined intelligence to Israeli government officials, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist characterized them as “activities that go on every day in Washington, and that are clearly protected under the First Amendment.” If what Rabinowitz says is true—if passing classified information to foreign officials is routine in the nation’s capital—then we are all in big trouble.
On Aug. 4, 2005, Rosen, Weissman, and Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin were indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with violating provisions of the Espionage Act that forbid divulging national defense information to persons not authorized to receive it. The indictment traces the treasonous trio’s circuitous path as they met in the shadows—in empty restaurants, at Union Station in Washington, on street corners. Rosen and Weissman sought out and cultivated Franklin, milking him for information that they dutifully transmitted to their Israeli handlers. According to Rabinowitz, however, they were merely “doing what they had every reason to view as their jobs”—which is true, assuming they understood their jobs to be spying for Israel.
The trial is scheduled to begin June 7. As the day of reckoning approaches, the Israel lobby is ratcheting up the rhetoric. So, too, is the defense: in a duet of hysterical accusations and frenzied rationalizations, the accused spies’ defenders have described the proceedings as a frame-up, the result of an intra-bureaucratic struggle within the government, and a plot by anti-Semites in Bush’s Justice Department to carry out a Washington pogrom. None of these flights of imagination are any more convincing than the Dream Team’s defense of O.J. Simpson. Yet the noise level continues to rise, as if sheer volume, instead of logical arguments, could overwhelm the copious evidence of the defendants’ guilt.
The indictment lists numerous acts of espionage, dating back to 1999, in which Rosen and/or Weissman acted as conduits for classified information flowing from Washington to Tel Aviv. The feds had been watching for a long time: the indictment makes clear that Rosen and Weissman didn’t make a move without the FBI’s counterintelligence unit knowing about it. This surveillance is how they happened on Larry Franklin, the Pentagon’s top Iran analyst, who walked in on a luncheon meeting in Arlington, Virginia, attended by Rosen, Weissman, and Naor Gilon, chief of the political-affairs section at the Israeli Embassy. The feds were listening in as Franklin—referring to a document dated June 25 and marked “top secret”—announced he had secrets to tell.
Tell not sell: unlike the majority of post-Cold War spies, the AIPAC-Franklin espionage ring wasn’t centered around financial gain but ideology. Franklin is a dedicated neoconservative, a minor yet key player in the neocon network, who served in the military attache’s office in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in the late 1990s and was a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with expertise in Iranian affairs working in Douglas Feith’s policy shop.
The counter-intelligence unit was hot on Franklin’s trail, and they watched his every move—his wholesale transfer of top-secret information on Iran, al-Qaeda, and other intelligence of interest to Israel to Rosen and Weissman, who funneled it to their contacts in the Israeli Embassy. The FBI gave Franklin enough rope to hang himself, and then moved in, showing up at his door and confronting him with his treachery. A search of his home and office turned up a veritable lending library of classified documents dating back years, all of which had doubtless been made available to the Israelis. Faced with the probability of a long prison stretch, Franklin agreed to wear a wire to his subsequent meetings with Rosen and Weissman. In the months that followed, the FBI built its case, recording conversations and following the AIPAC duo.
And they did a good job, apparently, because the government is making an unusual request: that some testimony and evidence be shielded from the public due to its highly sensitive nature. This wasn’t just a case of pilfering a few innocuous memoranda. It looks like team AIPAC made off with the family jewels and maybe even the deed to the house. Why else would the Justice Department risk having a conviction thrown out on appeal on account of such a rarely invoked legal mechanism?
The defense has protested proposed security procedures—magnetometers at the courtroom door, security sweeps of the courtroom itself, an officer of the court monitoring electronic surveillance while the trial is in session—on the grounds they would prejudice the jury against the defendants. They compare this to dragging Rosen and Weissman before the jury in prisoners’ uniforms and shackles. Yet these security measures point to the seriousness of the matter before the court, the depth to which the Rosen-Weissman-Franklin spy ring penetrated the government, and the ongoing breach they have opened in America’s national-security firewall.
While most of the more cautious elements in the Jewish community are staying well away from this case, the radicals, such as Rabbi Avi Weiss and his AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns, who have previously devoted their efforts to freeing Jonathan Pollard, have now turned their attention to Rosen and Weissman. Steven Lieberman and Anne Sterba, lawyers for the group, wrote in an amicus brief: “Trying these two men for disclosing critical ‘national defense information’ to foreign officials, without letting the public know what the alleged information was, will allow enemies of the Jewish people to exaggerate the significance of that evidence and will leave the press and the public to subsist only on rumors and speculation.”
The Weiss group likens the prosecution of Rosen and Weissman to the Dreyfus case—in effect positing the existence of a vast anti-Semitic conspiracy at the highest levels of the Justice Department. Not exactly a credible contention, offered, as it is, without evidence, but the defenders of Rosen and Weissman are getting more frantic as the trial date approaches. As a writer for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz put it, “Does this trial really carry any resemblance to the Dreyfus trial? It’s a different era, a different country, a different system, a different accusation. Making this comparison demands some imagination, much ambition, and maybe a speck of chutzpah too.”
A recently unsealed defense memorandum details a Feb. 16, 2005 colloquy between Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, and Nathan Lewin, AIPAC’s legal counsel, in which the latter reveals that Paul McNulty—then the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia and chief prosecutor in the case—“would like to end it with minimal damage to AIPAC.” Lewin told Lowell, “He is fighting with the FBI to limit the investigation to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman and to avoid expanding it.” This is hardly the behavior one would expect of contemporary anti-Dreyfusards in the Justice Department plotting to scapegoat AIPAC and the Jews.
Clearly the Rosen-Weissman defense team is involved in a bit of “greymail,” that is, forcing the government to disclose as much classified information as possible during the discovery phase of this case and hoping to derail the prosecution entirely as it weighs the effects of disclosure against the benefits of a possible conviction. As we go to press, Judge T.S. Ellis has ruled against the prosecution's proposal to shield sensitive testimony and evidence behind a veil of pseudonyms and euphemism, which could delay the begining of the trial.
Efforts to embarrass the administration go beyond accusing DOJ and extend to prominent figures such as Condoleezza Rice, who is accused by Abbe Lowell of leaking national defense information to AIPAC as Franklin did. Gen. Anthony Zinni is being targeted in a similar manner. Both have been subpoenaed, along with David Satterfield, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq, and William Burns, U.S. ambassador to Russia, to testify. If Rosen and Weissman are going down, the Israel lobby seems to be saying, then so are a lot of prominent people—some of whom, like Zinni, just happen to be their enemies.
This isn’t greymail, it’s blackmail. It was Zinni, after all, who said of the Israel lobby and the neoconservatives: “I think it’s the worst-kept secret in Washington. Everybody—everybody I talk to in Washington—has known and fully knows what their agenda was [during the run up to the Iraq War] and what they were trying to do.”
The intrigue thickened last October as word leaked that a proposed deal was dangled in front of Rep. Jane Harman: AIPAC would back her to become head of the House Intelligence Committee if she would urge the government to treat Rosen, Weissman—and AIPAC itself—with kid gloves. The Forward reported, “Several congressional sources confirmed that major donors to the Democratic Party have been lobbying Pelosi on behalf of Harman’s nomination to head the intelligence committee and that these attempts were not welcomed by the House Democratic leader.” Time named Haim Saban, the billionaire Hollywood producer and major AIPAC moneybags, as one of the supplicants. Pelosi didn’t fall for it, and Harman was rebuffed. Perhaps this was in the background when the speaker was booed as she addressed the subsequent AIPAC national conference, although Pelosi got back in the Israel lobby’s good graces after she stripped a provision from the military appropriations bill that would have required the president to go to Congress for permission to attack Iran.
The defense has fought to get the case against Rosen and Weissman thrown out on any number of grounds: the Espionage Act is unconstitutional, it doesn’t apply to their clients but only to government officials, and, last but not least, it’s a violation of the Israel lobby’s First Amendment “right” to betray classified information to its masters in Tel Aviv. Twisting and turning, threatening and spitting, delaying as best it can, the defense has tried to wriggle out of it every which way, to no avail. The trial is going forward, and the public spectacle of the biggest espionage scandal involving Israel since the prosecution of Pollard could deliver a body blow to the Israel lobby at a time when it has come in for public scrutiny and criticism as never before.
But that hasn’t prevented the lobby from brazenly defending the accused spies, in spite of the preponderance of evidence, and even hailing them as patriots. Writing in The Forward, Michael Berenbaum avers, “Instead of being grounds for prosecution, perhaps the influence Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman were trying to exert—making officials and the public aware of the danger from Iran—should be heralded.” And why should we hail espionage as laudable in this instance? Well, you see, because the AIPAC defendants were ahead of their time in citing the danger from Iran: “In Washington, as Rosen and Weissman are learning the hard way, the ‘crime’ is often not being wrong, but rather being right too early or at the wrong time, or being out of sync with the conventional wisdom, or pushing an inconvenient truth.”
In light of Judge Ellis’s recent ruling that in this trial the Espionage Act is going to be interpreted narrowly and that the burden is on the prosecution to show that the defendants knowingly harmed U.S. national security interests, the defense might be expected to make a pitch similar to Berenbaum’s—that, instead of prosecuting Rosen and Weissman, we ought to be pinning medals on their chests.
The AIPAC defendants weren’t spies, they were merely ahead of the curve, anticipating the day when a distinction is no longer being made between American and Israeli interests. That is the line we are hearing, as the curtain goes up on the trial of Rosen and Weissman. Whether the jury or the public falls for it remains to be seen.
Justin Raimondo is editorial director of Antiwar.com.May 7, 2007 Issue
Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine,
by Joel Kovel
We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon,
Edited by Kamal Boullata and Kathy Engel
Monday, May 14, 2007, 5:30PM
211 East 4th Street
Joel Kovel, Kathy Engel and others will read from their works.
Both books will be available for purchase
Refreshments will be provided by MAMLOUK
In Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine, Kovel confronts the unfortunate confusion between Jews, Judaism, Zionism, and the State of Israel as the basis for systematic manipulation by the imperialist power system. He argues that the inner contradictions of Zionism have led Israel to a “state-sponsored racism” fully as incorrigible as that of apartheid South Africa and deserving the same resolution. Only a path toward a single-state secular democracy can provide the justice essential to healing the wounds of the Middle East.
Joel Kovel is a well-known writer on the Middle East conflict. He has written ten books which include The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World, White Racism a Psychohistory; Red Hunting in the Promised Land: Anti-communism and the Making of America. He is a professor of social science at Bard College and edits Capitalism, Nature and Socialism. He was a candidate for the Green nomination for US President in 2000.
We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, contains poems written in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon together with poems offered in support of the Palestinian and Lebanese people following the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, and others written about the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. Following a great tradition of poetry throughout history, this book shows the vast conscience and lyrical spirit of resistance on the part of poets in support of the dignity, rights, and humanity of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
Kathy Engel is a poet, creative and communications consultant for peace, social justice and human rights groups, and currently an adjunct professor at NYU. Her emphasis is connecting the imagination and art to work for social justice and peace. Her books include Banish The Tentative, 1989 and Ruth's Skirts, 2007. She is co editor of We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, 2007. She has founded and co founded organizations including MADRE, Riptide Communications, East End Women in Black, Hayground School. She serves on the Advisory Board of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
How many lies is George Tenet allowed to tell on TV before he immolates the last shred of credibility? Judging by his latest sad performance on Meet the Press I would say his time is up. Tenet insisted to Tim Russert today that he was crystal clear in debunking the assumption that Al Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots:
Well, Tim, Tim, I will tell you that I had many conversations, particularly on Iraq and al-Qaeda, particularly on the terrorism question, where we drew the line as sharply as we knew how. We were very, very clear about our judgments. We worked very, very hard to make sure that people comported and stayed within the bounds of what the intelligence showed.
George Tenet wants gullible book buyers to believe that he always disputed the notion that Saddam and the 9-11 attackers were working in concert. But the words and actions of George Tenet tell a radically different story. A damning one at that.
In March of 2002 George Tenet said:
"There is no doubt that there have been contacts and linkages of al-Qaeda organization. As to where we are in September 11, the jury is out. . . . . Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides' mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggest that tactical cooperation between them is possible."
Why did George Tenet leave open the window of doubt on this critical issue when he now insists that there was no there there? But wait, there is more.
CIA Deputy Director, John McLaughlin, sent a letter responding to a query from Senator Evan Bayh on October 7, 2002 that said:
"Regarding Senator Bayh's questions of Iraqi links to al-Qaeda, senators could draw from the following points for unclassified discussions. One, We have solid reporting of senior level contact between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade." Two, "Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal" aggression." Three, "Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad." And lastly, "We have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."
Did anyone hear George Tenet at the time remind anybody that there was no “operational tie” between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? He chose to say nothing. Did he challenge those--like Dick Cheney--who suggested there was a substantive ongoing relationship? Nope. George Tenet said nothing to dispel that false conclusion.
That same day (October 7, 2002) President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio (this is the famous speech in which Tenet excised the reference to Niger, Iraq, and uranium) and said the following:
And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. . . . We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.
George Tenet's CIA approved this language and Tenet was familiar with the speech because he had called the White House to protest another portion of the speech. This provides circumstantial evidence for Richard Dearlove's (George Tenet's British counterpart) now famous memo (the Downing Street Memo) that the facts and the intelligence were being fixed around the policy of going to war with Iraq. In my day we called it cooking the books and George Tenet was one of the chefs.
Tenet’s participation in the hoodwinking of the American public continued when, on February 4, 2003 , he sat stoically behind Colin Powell at the UN Security Council and, by virtue of his presence, provided the CIA ’s imprimatur for the following claim:
Al Qaeda continues to have a deep interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. As with the story of Zarqawi and his network, I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.
I will relate it to you now as he, himself, described it. This senior al Qaeda terrorist was responsible for one of al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan . His information comes firsthand from his personal involvement at senior levels of al Qaeda. He says bin Laden and his top deputy in Afghanistan , deceased al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, did not believe that al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable enough to manufacture these chemical or biological agents. They needed to go somewhere else. They had to look outside of Afghanistan for help. Where did they go? Where did they look? They went to Iraq .
The support that (al Libi) describes included Iraq offering chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000. He says that a militant known as Abu Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) had been sent to Iraq several times between 1997and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and gases. Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.
This intelligence came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda commander who was tortured by the Egyptians. Even though George Tenet was briefed in January 2003 that his analysts doubted al-Libi’s account (see Hubris pp. 187-88) he signed off on Powell’s briefing.
But he did more. On February 11, 2003 Tenet he went before Congress and said:
Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close associate of al Qaeda. ... Iraq has in the past provided training in document forgery and bomb-making to al Qaeda. It has also provided training in poisons and gases to two al Qaeda associates. One of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful. ... I know that part of this - and part of this Zarqawi network in Baghdad are two dozen Egyptian Islamic jihad which is indistinguishable from al Qaeda - operatives who are aiding the Zarqawi network, and two senior planners who have been in Baghdad since last May.
Now, whether there is a base or whether there is not a base, they are operating freely, supporting the Zarqawi network that is supporting the poisons network in Europe and around the world. So these people have been operating there. And, as you know - I don't want to recount everything that Secretary Powell said, but as you know a foreign service went to the Iraqis twice to talk to them about Zarqawi and were rebuffed. So there is a presence in Baghdad that is beyond Zarqawi.
The public record is quite clear about the role George Tenet played in helping condition the American people to fear Iraq and support a preemptive war against Iraq. He helped build the myth that Al Qaeda enjoyed safehaven in Iraq and was biding its time to strike us again. George Tenet was not an honest broker trying to get the best intelligence to the President and the Congress. He willingly and knowingly agreed to make public statements and authorized statements that were at odds with the actual intelligence.
What do you think would have happened if George Tenet had gone to members of Congress and warned them that there was no relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq? Would overwhelming majorities have voted to give the President authority to start a war with Iraq? I do not think so. Would Americans still raw from the wounds inflicted by Al Qaeda on 9-11 support the President’s campaign to attack a country which had nothing to do with those attacks and, despite claims to the contrary, was not protecting or enabling Al Qaeda operatives who wanted to launch new attacks against the United States? The answer. No, and hell no!
Lie is the only word that comes to mind and seems appropriate to describe what George Tenet has done. This is the chief reason I say he has the blood of American soldiers on his hands. And I, along with several former members of the CIA , the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Army, believe that George Tenet owes the soldiers and the families of soldiers who have died or been wounded in Iraq part of the proceeds from his $4 million dollar advance for his book. It would be the decent thing to do, but George Tenet’s decency quotient appears to be running on empty.
Posted by Larry Johnson on Monday, 07 May 2007 at 00:57 | Permalink
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
See yesterday's stories here below.
by John Bellamy Foster
Changes in capitalism over the last three decades have been commonly characterized using a trio of terms: neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. Although a lot has been written on the first two of these, much less attention has been given to the third.1 Yet, financialization is now increasingly seen as the dominant force in this triad. The financialization of capitalism—the shift in gravity of economic activity from production (and even from much of the growing service sector) to finance—is thus one of the key issues of our time. More than any other phenomenon it raises the question: has capitalism entered a new stage?
I will argue that although the system has changed as a result of financialization, this falls short of a whole new stage of capitalism, since the basic problem of accumulation within production remains the same. Instead, financialization has resulted in a new hybrid phase of the monopoly stage of capitalism that might be termed “monopoly-finance capital.”2 Rather than advancing in a fundamental way, capital is trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of stagnation and financial explosion. These new economic relations of monopoly-finance capital have their epicenter in the United States, still the dominant capitalist economy, but have increasingly penetrated the global system.
The origins of the term “financialization” are obscure, although it began to appear with increasing frequency in the early 1990s.3 The fundamental issue of a gravitational shift toward finance in capitalism as a whole, however, has been around since the late 1960s. The earliest figures on the left (or perhaps anywhere) to explore this question systematically were Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, writing for Monthly Review.4
As Robert Pollin, a major analyst of financialization who teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has noted: “beginning in the late 1960s and continuing through the 1970s and 1980s” Magdoff and Sweezy documented “the emerging form of capitalism that has now become ascendant—the increasing role of finance in the operations of capitalism. This has been termed ‘financialization,’ and I think it’s fair to say that Paul and Harry were the first people on the left to notice this and call attention [to it]. They did so with their typical cogency, command of the basics, and capacity to see the broader implications for a Marxist understanding of reality.” As Pollin remarked on a later occasion: “Harry [Magdoff] and Paul Sweezy were true pioneers in recognizing this trend....[A] major aspect of their work was the fact that these essays [in Monthly Review over three decades] tracked in simple but compelling empirical detail the emergence of financialization as a phenomenon....It is not clear when people on the left would have noticed and made sense of these trends without Harry, along with Paul, having done so first.”5
From Stagnation to Financialization
In analyzing the financialization of capitalism, Magdoff and Sweezy were not mere chroniclers of a statistical trend. They viewed this through the lens of a historical analysis of capitalist development. Perhaps the most succinct expression of this was given by Sweezy in 1997, in an article entitled “More (or Less) on Globalization.” There he referred to what he called “the three most important underlying trends in the recent history of capitalism, the period beginning with the recession of 1974–75: (1) the slowing down of the overall rate of growth, (2) the worldwide proliferation of monopolistic (or oligipolistic) multinational corporations, and (3) what may be called the financialization of the capital accumulation process.”
For Sweezy these three trends were “intricately interrelated.” Monopolization tends to swell profits for the major corporations while also reducing “the demand for additional investment in increasingly controlled markets.” The logic is one of “more and more profits, fewer and fewer profitable investment opportunities, a recipe for slowing down capital accumulation and therefore economic growth which is powered by capital accumulation.”
The resulting “double process of faltering real investment and burgeoning financialization” as capital sought to find a way to utilize its economic surplus, first appeared with the waning of the “‘golden age’ of the post-Second World War decades and has persisted,” Sweezy observed, “with increasing intensity to the present.”6
This argument was rooted in the theoretical framework provided by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital (1966), which was inspired by the work of economists Michal Kalecki and Josef Steindl—and going further back by Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg.7 The monopoly capitalist economy, Baran and Sweezy suggested, is a vastly productive system that generates huge surpluses for the tiny minority of monopolists/oligopolists who are the primary owners and chief beneficiaries of the system. As capitalists they naturally seek to invest this surplus in a drive to ever greater accumulation. But the same conditions that give rise to these surpluses also introduce barriers that limit their profitable investment. Corporations can just barely sell the current level of goods to consumers at prices calibrated to yield the going rate of oligopolistic profit. The weakness in the growth of consumption results in cutbacks in the utilization of productive capacity as corporations attempt to avoid overproduction and price reductions that threaten their profit margins. The consequent build-up of excess productive capacity is a warning sign for business, indicating that there is little room for investment in new capacity.
For the owners of capital the dilemma is what to do with the immense surpluses at their disposal in the face of a dearth of investment opportunities. Their main solution from the 1970s on was to expand their demand for financial products as a means of maintaining and expanding their money capital. On the supply side of this process, financial institutions stepped forward with a vast array of new financial instruments: futures, options, derivatives, hedge funds, etc. The result was skyrocketing financial speculation that has persisted now for decades.
Among orthodox economists there were a few who were concerned early on by this disproportionate growth of finance. In 1984 James Tobin, a former member of Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1981, delivered a talk “On the Efficiency of the Financial System” in which he concluded by referring to “the casino aspect of our financial markets.” As Tobin told his audience:
I confess to an uneasy Physiocratic suspicion...that we are throwing more and more of our resources...into financial activities remote from the production of goods and services, into activities that generate high private rewards disproportionate to their social productivity. I suspect that the immense power of the computer is being harnessed to this ‘paper economy,’ not to do the same transactions more economically but to balloon the quantity and variety of financial exchanges. For this reason perhaps, high technology has so far yielded disappointing results in economy-wide productivity. I fear that, as Keynes saw even in his day, the advantages of the liquidity and negotiability of financial instruments come at the cost of facilitating nth-degree speculation which is short-sighted and inefficient....I suspect that Keynes was right to suggest that we should provide greater deterrents to transient holdings of financial instruments and larger rewards for long-term investors.8
Tobin’s point was that capitalism was becoming inefficient by devoting its surplus capital increasingly to speculative, casino-like pursuits, rather than long-term investment in the real economy.9 In the 1970s he had proposed what subsequently came to be known as the “Tobin tax” on international foreign exchange transactions. This was designed to strengthen investment by shifting the weight of the global economy back from speculative finance to production.
In sharp contrast to those like Tobin who suggested that the rapid growth of finance was having detrimental effects on the real economy, Magdoff and Sweezy, in a 1985 article entitled “The Financial Explosion,” claimed that financialization was functional for capitalism in the context of a tendency to stagnation:
Does the casino society in fact channel far too much talent and energy into financial shell games. Yes, of course. No sensible person could deny it. Does it do so at the expense of producing real goods and services? Absolutely not. There is no reason whatever to assume that if you could deflate the financial structure, the talent and energy now employed there would move into productive pursuits. They would simply become unemployed and add to the country’s already huge reservoir of idle human and material resources. Is the casino society a significant drag on economic growth? Again, absolutely not. What growth the economy has experienced in recent years, apart from that attributable to an unprecedented peacetime military build-up, has been almost entirely due to the financial explosion.10
In this view capitalism was undergoing a transformation, represented by the complex, developing relation that had formed between stagnation and financialization. Nearly a decade later in “The Triumph of Financial Capital” Sweezy declared:
I said that this financial superstructure has been the creation of the last two decades. This means that its emergence was roughly contemporaneous with the return of stagnation in the 1970s. But doesn’t this fly in the face of all previous experience? Traditionally financial expansion has gone hand-in-hand with prosperity in the real economy. Is it really possible that this is no longer true, that now in the late twentieth century the opposite is more nearly the case: in other words, that now financial expansion feeds not on a healthy real economy but on a stagnant one?
The answer to this question, I think, is yes it is possible, and it has been happening. And I will add that I am quite convinced that the inverted relation between the financial and the real is the key to understanding the new trends in the world [economy].
In retrospect, it is clear that this “inverted relation” was a built-in possibility for capitalism from the start. But it was one that could materialize only in a definite stage of the development of the system. The abstract possibility lay in the fact, emphasized by both Marx and Keynes, that the capital accumulation process was twofold: involving the ownership of real assets and also the holding of paper claims to those real assets. Under these circumstances the possibility of a contradiction between real accumulation and financial speculation was intrinsic to the system from the start.
Although orthodox economists have long assumed that productive investment and financial investment are tied together—working on the simplistic assumption that the saver purchases a financial claim to real assets from the entrepreneur who then uses the money thus acquired to expand production—this has long been known to be false. There is no necessary direct connection between productive investment and the amassing of financial assets. It is thus possible for the two to be “decoupled” to a considerable degree.11 However, without a mature financial system this contradiction went no further than the speculative bubbles that dot the history of capitalism, normally signaling the end of a boom. Despite presenting serious disruptions, such events had little or no effect on the structure and function of the system as a whole.
It took the rise of monopoly capitalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the development of a market for industrial securities before finance could take center-stage, and before the contradiction between production and finance could mature. In the opening decades of the new regime of monopoly capital, investment banking, which had developed in relation to the railroads, emerged as a financial power center, facilitating massive corporate mergers and the growth of an economy dominated by giant, monopolistic corporations. This was the age of J. P. Morgan. Thorstein Veblen in the United States and Rudolf Hilferding in Austria both independently developed theories of monopoly capital in this period, emphasizing the role of finance capital in particular.
Nevertheless, when the decade of the Great Depression hit, the financial superstructure of the monopoly capitalist economy collapsed, marked by the 1929 stock market crash. Finance capital was greatly diminished in the Depression and played no essential role in the recovery of the real economy. What brought the U.S. economy out of the Depression was the huge state-directed expansion of military spending during the Second World War.12
When Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy wrote Monopoly Capital in the early 1960s they emphasized the way in which the state (civilian and military spending), the sales effort, a second great wave of automobilization, and other factors had buoyed the capitalist economy in the golden age of the 1960s, absorbing surplus and lifting the system out of stagnation. They also pointed to the vast amount of surplus that went into FIRE (finance, investment, and real estate), but placed relatively little emphasis on this at the time.
However, with the reemergence of economic stagnation in the 1970s Sweezy, now writing with Magdoff, focused increasingly on the growth of finance. In 1975 in “Banks: Skating on Thin Ice,” they argued that “the overextension of debt and the overreach of the banks was exactly what was needed to protect the capitalist system and its profits; to overcome, at least temporarily, its contradictions; and to support the imperialist expansion and wars of the United States.”13
If in the 1970s “the old structure of the economy, consisting of a production system served by a modest financial adjunct” still remained—Sweezy observed in 1995—by the end of the 1980s this “had given way to a new structure in which a greatly expanded financial sector had achieved a high degree of independence and sat on top of the underlying production system.”14 Stagnation and enormous financial speculation emerged as symbiotic aspects of the same deep-seated, irreversible economic impasse.
This symbiosis had three crucial aspects: (1) The stagnation of the underlying economy meant that capitalists were increasingly dependent on the growth of finance to preserve and enlarge their money capital. (2) The financial superstructure of the capitalist economy could not expand entirely independently of its base in the underlying productive economy—hence the bursting of speculative bubbles was a recurrent and growing problem.15 (3) Financialization, no matter how far it extended, could never overcome stagnation within production.
The role of the capitalist state was transformed to meet the new imperatives of financialization. The state’s role as lender of last resort, responsible for providing liquidity at short notice, was fully incorporated into the system. Following the 1987 stock market crash the Federal Reserve adopted an explicit “too big to fail” policy toward the entire equity market, which did not, however, prevent a precipitous decline in the stock market in 2000.16
These conditions marked the rise of what I am calling “monopoly-finance capital” in which financialization has become a permanent structural necessity of the stagnation-prone economy.
Class and Imperial Implications
If the roots of financialization are clear from the foregoing, it is also necessary to address the concrete class and imperial implications. Given space limitations I will confine myself to eight brief observations.
(1) Financialization can be regarded as an ongoing process transcending particular financial bubbles. If we look at recent financial meltdowns beginning with the stock market crash of 1987, what is remarkable is how little effect they had in arresting or even slowing down the financialization trend. Half the losses in stock market valuation from the Wall Street blowout between March 2000 and October 2002 (measured in terms of the Standard and Poor’s 500) had been regained only two years later. While in 1985 U.S. debt was about twice GDP, two decades later U.S. debt had risen to nearly three-and-a-half times the nation’s GDP, approaching the $44 trillion GDP of the entire world. The average daily volume of foreign exchange transactions rose from $570 billion in 1989 to $2.7 trillion dollars in 2006. Since 2001 the global credit derivatives market (the global market in credit risk transfer instruments) has grown at a rate of over 100 percent per year. Of relatively little significance at the beginning of the new millennium, the notional value of credit derivatives traded globally ballooned to $26 trillion by the first half of 2006.17
(2) Monopoly-finance capital is a qualitatively different phenomenon from what Hilferding and others described as the early twentieth-century age of “finance capital,” rooted especially in the dominance of investment-banking. Although studies have shown that the profits of financial corporations have grown relative to nonfinancial corporations in the United States in recent decades, there is no easy divide between the two since nonfinancial corporations are also heavily involved in capital and money markets.18 The great agglomerations of wealth seem to be increasingly related to finance rather than production, and finance more and more sets the pace and the rules for the management of the cash flow of nonfinancial firms. Yet, the coalescence of nonfinancial and financial corporations makes it difficult to see this as constituting a division within capital itself.
(3) Ownership of very substantial financial assets is clearly the main determinant of membership in the capitalist class. The gap between the top and the bottom of society in financial wealth and income has now reached astronomical proportions. In the United States in 2001 the top 1 percent of holders of financial wealth (which excludes equity in owner-occupied houses) owned more than four times as much as the bottom 80 percent of the population. The nation’s richest 1 percent of the population holds $1.9 trillion in stocks about equal to that of the other 99 percent.19 The income gap in the United States has widened so much in recent decades that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke delivered a speech on February 6, 2007, on “The Level and Distribution of Economic Well Being,” highlighting “a long-term trend toward greater inequality seen in real wages.” As Bernanke stated, “the share of after-tax income garnered by the households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution increased from 8 percent in 1979 to 14 percent in 2004.” In September 2006 the richest 60 Americans owned an estimated $630 billion worth of wealth, up almost 10 percent from the year before (New York Times, March 1, 2007).
Recent history suggests that rapid increases in inequality have become built-in necessities of the monopoly-finance capital phase of the system. The financial superstructure’s demand for new cash infusions to keep speculative bubbles expanding lest they burst is seemingly endless. This requires heightened exploitation and a more unequal distribution of income and wealth, intensifying the overall stagnation problem.
(4) A central aspect of the stagnation-financialization dynamic has been speculation in housing. This has allowed homeowners to maintain their lifestyles to a considerable extent despite stagnant real wages by borrowing against growing home equity. As Pollin observed, Magdoff and Sweezy “recognized before almost anybody the increase in the reliance on debt by U.S. households [drawing on the expanding equity of their homes] as a means of maintaining their living standard as their wages started to stagnate or fall.”20 But low interest rates since the last recession have encouraged true speculation in housing fueling a housing bubble. Today the pricking of the housing bubble has become a major source of instability in the U.S. economy. Consumer debt service ratios have been rising, while the soaring house values on which consumers have depended to service their debts have disappeared at present. The prices of single-family homes fell in more than half of the country’s 149 largest metropolitan areas in the last quarter of 2006 (New York Times, February 16, 2007).
So crucial has the housing bubble been as a counter to stagnation and a basis for financialization, and so closely related is it to the basic well-being of U.S. households, that the current weakness in the housing market could precipitate both a sharp economic downturn and widespread financial disarray. Further rises in interest rates have the potential to generate a vicious circle of stagnant or even falling home values and burgeoning consumer debt service ratios leading to a flood of defaults. The fact that U.S. consumption is the core source of demand for the world economy raises the possibility that this could contribute to a more globalized crisis.
(5) A thesis currently popular on the left is that financial globalization has so transformed the world economy that states are no longer important. Rather, as Ignacio Ramonet put it in “Disarming the Market” (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1997):
Financial globalization is a law unto itself and it has established a separate supranational state with its own administrative apparatus, its own spheres of influence, its own means of action. That is to say, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)....This artificial world state is a power with no base in society. It is answerable instead to the financial markets and the mammoth business undertakings that are its masters. The result is that the real states in the real world are becoming societies with no power base. And it is getting worse all the time.
Such views, however, have little real basis. While the financialization of the world economy is undeniable, to see this as the creation of a new international of capital is to make a huge leap in logic. Global monopoly-finance capitalism remains an unstable and divided system. The IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO (the heir to GATT) do not (even if the OECD were also added in) constitute “a separate supranational state,” but are international organizations that came into being in the Bretton Woods System imposed principally by the United States to manage the global system in the interests of international capital following the Second World War. They remain under the control of the leading imperial states and their economic interests. The rules of these institutions are applied asymmetrically—least of all where such rules interfere with U.S. capital, most of all where they further the exploitation of the poorest peoples in the world.
(6) What we have come to call “neoliberalism” can be seen as the ideological counterpart of monopoly-finance capital, as Keynsianism was of the earlier phase of classical monopoly capital. Today’s international capital markets place serious limits on state authorities to regulate their economies in such areas as interest-rate levels and capital flows. Hence, the growth of neoliberalism as the hegemonic economic ideology beginning in the Thatcher and Reagan periods reflected to some extent the new imperatives of capital brought on by financial globalization.
(7) The growing financialization of the world economy has resulted in greater imperial penetration into underdeveloped economies and increased financial dependence, marked by policies of neoliberal globalization. One concrete example is Brazil where the first priority of the economy during the last couple of decades under the domination of global monopoly-finance capital has been to attract foreign (primarily portfolio) investment and to pay off external debts to international capital, including the IMF. The result has been better “economic fundamentals” by financial criteria, but accompanied by high interest rates, deindustrialization, slow growth of the economy, and increased vulnerability to the often rapid movements of global finance.21
(8) The financialization of capitalism has resulted in a more uncontrollable system. Today the fears of those charged with the responsibility for establishing some modicum of stability in global financial relations are palpable. In the early 2000s in response to the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis, the bursting of the “New Economy” bubble in 2000, and Argentina’s default on its foreign debts in 2001, the IMF began publishing a quarterly Global Financial Stability Report. One scarcely has to read far in its various issues to get a clear sense of the growing volatility and instability of the system. It is characteristic of speculative bubbles that once they stop expanding they burst. Continual increase of risk and more and more cash infusions into the financial system therefore become stronger imperatives the more fragile the financial structure becomes. Each issue of the Global Financial Stability Report is filled with references to the specter of “risk aversion,” which is seen as threatening financial markets.
In the September 2006 Global Financial Stability Report the IMF executive board directors expressed worries that the rapid growth of hedge funds and credit derivatives could have a systemic impact on financial stability, and that a slowdown of the U.S. economy and a cooling of its housing market could lead to greater “financial turbulence,” which could be “amplified in the event of unexpected shocks.”22 The whole context is that of a financialization so out of control that unexpected and severe shocks to the system and resulting financial contagions are looked upon as inevitable. As historian Gabriel Kolko has written, “People who know the most about the world financial system are increasingly worried, and for very good reasons. Dire warnings are coming from the most ‘respectable’ sources. Reality has gotten out of hand. The demons of greed are loose.”23
- Gerald A. Epstein, “Introduction,” in Epstein, ed., Financialization and the World Economy (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2005), 1.
- John Bellamy Foster, “Monopoly-Finance Capital,” Monthly Review 58, no. 7 (December 2007), 1–14.
- The current usage of the term “financialization” owes much to the work of Kevin Phillips, who employed it in his Boiling Point (New York: Random House, 1993) and a year later devoted a key chapter of his Arrogant Capital to the “Financialization of America,” defining financialization as “a prolonged split between the divergent real and financial economies” (New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 1994), 82. In the same year Giovanni Arrighi used the concept in an analysis of international hegemonic transition in The Long Twentieth Century (New York: Verso, 1994).
- Harry Magdoff first raised the issue of a growing reliance on debt in the U.S. economy in an article originally published in the Socialist Register in 1965. See Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, The Dynamics of U.S. Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 13–16.
- Robert Pollin, “Remembering Paul Sweezy: ‘He was an Amazingly Great Man’”; Counterpunch, http://www.counterpunch.org, March 6–7, 2004; “The Man Who Explained Empire: Remembering Harry Magdoff,” Counterpunch, http://www.counterpunch.org, January 6, 2006.
- Paul M. Sweezy, “More (or Less) on Globalization,” Monthly Review 49, no. 4 (September 1997), 3–4.
- Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966).
- James Tobin, “On the Efficiency of the Financial System,” Lloyd’s Bank Review, no. 153 (1984), 14–15.
- In the following analysis I follow a long-standing economic convention in using the term “real economy” to refer to the realm of production (i.e. economic output as measured by GDP), as opposed to the financial economy. Yet both the “real economy” and the financial economy are obviously real in the usual sense of the word.
- Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, Stagnation and the Financial Explosion (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987), 149. Magdoff and Sweezy were replying to an editorial in Business Week concluding its special September 16, 1985, issue on “The Casino Society.”
- Paul M. Sweezy, “Economic Reminiscences,” Monthly Review 47, no. 1 (May 1995), 8; Lukas Menkhoff and Norbert Tolksdorf, Financial Market Drift (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2001).
- The failure of investment banking to regain its position of power at the very apex of the system (as the so-called “money trust”) that it had attained in the formative period of monopoly capitalism can be attributed to the fact that the conditions on which its power had rested in that period were transitory. See Paul M. Sweezy, “Investment Banking Revisited,” Monthly Review 33, no. 10 (March 1982).
- Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, The End of Prosperity (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), 35.
- Sweezy, “Economic Reminscences,” 8–9.
- This is in line with the financial instability hypothesis of Keynes and Hyman Minsky. See Minsky, Can “It” Happen Again? (Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1982).
- Robert W. Parenteau, “The Late 1990s’ US Bubble,” in Epstein, ed., Financialization and the World Economy, 136–38.
- Doug Henwood, After the New Economy (New York: The New Press, 2005), 231; Fred Magdoff, “Explosion of Debt and Speculation,” Monthly Review 58, no. 6 (November 2006), 7, 19; Epstein, “Introduction,” 4; Garry J. Schinasi, Safeguarding Financial Stability (Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2006), 228–32.
- Greta R. Krippner, “The Financialization of the American Economy,” Socio-economic Review 3, no. 2 (2005), 173–208; James Crotty, “The Neoliberal Paradox,” in Epstein, ed., Financialization and the World Economy, 77–110.
- Edward N. Wolff, “Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S.” The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Working Paper No. 407 (May 2004), table 2, http://www.levy.org.
- Pollin, “The Man Who Explained Empire.”
- See Daniela Magalhães Pates and Leda Maria Paulani, “The Financial Globarlization of Brazil Under Lula” and Fabríco Augusto de Loiveira and Paulo Nakatini, “The Brazilian Economy Under Lula,” in Monthly Review 58, no. 9 (February 2007), 32–49.
- International Monetary Fund, The Global Financial Stability Report (March 2003), 1–3 and (September 2006), 74–75.
- Gabriel Kolko, “Why a Global Economic Deluge Looms,” Counterpunch, http://www.counterpunch.org, June 15, 2006.
|SHABTAI GOLD, THE JERUSALEM POST||Apr. 23, 2007|
The relationship between the state and its Arab citizens is at its lowest level ever," says Jafar Fareh, of the Haifa-based rights group Mossawa, ahead of Israeli Independence Day.
Fareh is worried about the concept of separation which he feels is becoming more dominant in Israeli society. He, like other Arab citizens of Israel, is concerned that as Israel enters its 59th year, the gulf between Jews and Arabs continues to widen.
Arab intellectuals speak of the "Jewish ghetto" mentality, which, in their view, means Israel is closing itself off from all non-Jewish regional elements, including the Arab citizens. Many are worried that this trend will have negative consequences not only on Israel and its Arab citizens, but on the region as a whole.
Fareh is quick to place a fair amount of the blame for the "ghettoization" on the Left.
"The readiness to talk and negotiate [with the Palestine Liberation Organization] is part of the separation concept, based on the idea of 'We are here, and they are there,'" he says.
The talks with the PLO, he believes, have worsened the situation of Arab citizens in Israel. "Now people in Israel say to us, 'If it's not good for you here, go live in the PA,' implying that in Israel we must behave according to their terms."
Fareh points out that both the Oslo agreements and the disengagement plan went ahead because of the support of Arab MKs. He also blames the PLO, which he says forgot the Arab-Israelis, and says there is a rift between the two.
"Nabli Shaath, from the PLO, said Arabs should be loyal citizens in the Jewish state," Fareh recalls. "A dog is loyal. I want to be a partner, not loyal to Jewish masters."
Aida Touma-Sliman, from Acre, is also in favor of partnership with Israeli Jews, based on a changing of the current rules.
She, like Fareh, was a signatory of the "Future Vision" document, which is an attempt to outline a strategy for autonomy for the Arab citizens of Israel and which has alarmed many Israeli Jews with its blueprint for separatism.
She says the document, which was mainly intended to be an internal document aimed at starting a dialogue among Arabs, was translated into Hebrew because "we want to talk with the Jews. This document is not at all a sign of separatism."
Touma-Sliman, a member of the Hadash political party, notes that a recent survey shows that some 80 percent of Arabs in Israel support the concepts the document puts forward.
"This document says we want this place to be a homeland for Jews and Arabs who are here. We want equality for all citizens."
Touma-Sliman also wants recognition of the Arabs in Israel as a national collective. "The state wants to divide us into groups. However, we are not Druse, Beduin, Christian or whatever. We are all part of the Palestinian-Arab people."
Author Salman Natour traces the separation problem to the British Mandate. "The problem of separation has been around since the beginning. This goes back to the British policy of divide and conquer. In the State of Israel, the Ashkenazi elite controls, and the others are controlled."
For Natour, from Daliat al-Carmel in the Galilee, the problem of separation hits close to home. "I am Druse. We are supposed to have equal rights, according to the Israeli criteria. Most Druse serve in the army. Yet we don't have full rights or equality."
Natour sees the ruling elite of European Jews as responsible for the generally lower social status of Mizrahim, or, in his words, "Arab Jews."
"The Ashkenazi elite looks down on all things Arab. The eyes of Israel are to the West, especially culturally, and it rejects the East, to an extent."
Natour, who wrote the cultural section of the Future Vision document, views himself as an "Arab-Palestinian from the Druse community. I am not Israeli, but a citizen of Israel. Israel, as a Jewish state, prevents me from having a full Israeli identity."
Like many other signatories of the Future Vision document, he wants to break the old mold of Arab-Jew relations through dialogue with the Jews. "This is not a final document, but a basis for dialogue."
He uses his own community as an example for the change he wishes to see. In the future, "Druse can choose to serve in the army if they want, but not because they have to. After we break the mold, the old treaty, we can think about how to build a new relationship."
Ghaleb Majadle, the new minister of science and culture and the only Arab minister in the current government, sees things differently. He thinks the document doesn't deal with the real issues affecting the Arabs in Israel, and that the group that wrote it is not representative of the Arab sector.
He says the Arab public is too concerned with making ends meet and other basic needs, and it is not free to deal with weighty issues like those raised by the document. Those basic needs, he says, include more classrooms, more economic opportunities, better planning for houses, and a generally better quality of life.
The Jews in Israel, Majadle says, are not yet ready for the document either, noting that it lacks widespread support. More public debate of the document is needed before it can be considered for presentation to the coalition, he says.
Majadle partly blames past governments for the Arab sector's socioeconomic problems, saying the distribution of wealth was not equal, and that government policies contributed to widening social and economic gaps.
He points out that not one new Arab village was founded by the state since its inception, while it strives to create more and more Jewish towns. "Fifty percent of Arabs are below the poverty line. When we close the gaps in the Israeli society between Jews and Arabs, I am convinced that the Arab population will be free to deal with these important questions."
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) also believes that more attention needs to be paid to issues that are of greater concern to the Arabs in Israel, like improved social services and economic opportunities, and less on symbols, like the anthem and the flag.
Khenin says the Israeli establishment focuses on symbols in order to rally the Jewish public together. "Separation is a bad characteristic of the Israeli society, dangerous to the whole society."
Because the major afflictions of the country's Arab citizens are a troubled economic situation and social discrimination, Khenin explains, the government would rather not deal with those issues.
While Khenin agrees with Majadle that the Future Vision document needs more public debate - "among all Israelis, not just Jews or Arabs" - he says that nationalist political aspirations of many Arab Israelis can exist simultaneously with the desire to improve socioeconomic levels, and one is not dependent on the other.
But Majadle's views are seen by many emerging political voices as of the older generation, one that didn't strive to fully achieve the multifaceted objectives of the Arab minority in Israel.
Haneen Zoabi, a member of the political bureau of Balad, says the Israelization process that the Arabs in Israel underwent necessitated the emergence of a more Arab-nationalist line, such as that of her party.
She talks about the older generation, the "bent generation," that lived through the 1948 war and gave in to the Israeli establishment, and the younger generation, the "upright generation," that emerged in the late 1960s with a more rebellious nature.
WHILE MOST Jewish Israelis will celebrate their victory in the 1948 war, many Arabs see it quite differently.
The 10th annual March of Return will take place this Independence Day. It is an event organized by the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced. The protesters, including Jews from organizations like Zochrot, will march to the abandoned northern village of al-Lajun; most of the village's former residents live in Israeli-Arab areas like Umm el-Fahm.
About one quarter of Israeli Arabs, according to some estimates, are internal refugees. Although citizens of the state, they are not allowed to return to the land which they lost as a result of the war.
Daoud Bader is one such displaced person. He was born and raised in al-Ghabisiyya, a village with about 800 residents at the time of the 1948 war. The villagers left during the war, but were allowed to return based on a High Court of Justice decision from 1951. However, the army declared the area a closed military zone, thereby preventing their return. The village was then razed by security forces. Only the mosque, which Bader says is 230 years old, remains standing. He now lives in the village of Sheikh Dannun, near Acre.
Khenin says that Israel should recognize its part in the plight of Arabs created by the 1948 war. "It won't hurt Independence Day if we were to recognize the pain caused [to the Arabs] in 1948," he says, adding that "the day will have a positive connotation for Arabs citizens when they feel the state cares about them, and stops viewing them as a threat."
While it might be true that the politicization of the Arabs in Israel has led to a greater divide between them and the Jewish citizens, Zoabi blames the Zionist parties, from the Left and the Right, for creating the separation.
She says at first, right after Oslo, Israel felt it needed peace with the Arabs to live in the region. Now, she says, Israel feels it can exist without peace with the Arabs, including the Arabs in Israel. This, she declares, will "strengthen the concept of the Jewish ghetto, the concept of separation."
Fareh, although not in full agreement with Zoabi, is also deeply concerned. His litmus test for judging the situation is a statistic that says that in the last six years, 35 Arab citizens were killed by Israeli police, while not a single Jew died at the authorities' hands. "Even during the disengagement and evacuations of settlements, when the settlers threw stones and blocks," the security forces did not respond with lethal force, he notes.
"If the Jews fail to live with the Arabs in Israel, we will pay the price in the short term. But in the long run, the whole Middle East will suffer as a result. The status of relations between the Jews and Arabs in Israel is a good measuring stick for regional peace. We are the face of the Middle East in Israel. We are the ones with the potential to make this place normal," Fareh says.
"There is a two-year window," he cautions, referring in part to the Arab Peace Initiative re-launched in Riyadh last month. "If nothing is solved by then, there will be a catastrophe.
|Israel's wall in the West Bank village of Al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, 20 February 2007. (Moti Milrod/MaanImages)|
Last Monday's paper gave us a small reason to be happy. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for the second time in just a few weeks. Reporting the meeting -- described by Palestinian sources as "fruitless" -- Ha'aretz noted:
"An IDF lieutenant-colonel also attended the meeting. The officer briefed the Palestinians on the plan to remove IDF roadblocks in the West Bank. According to the officer, the IDF has so far removed 44 roadblocks. He added that the IDF was planning to remove an additional 17 in the next stage of the plan. The sources said that the Palestinian delegation requested the removal of more roadblocks, and that Olmert expressed his willingness."
Good News, Isn't It?!
Hear, hear: the IDF removed 44 roadblocks! This may not be much, given the rather extensive list of restrictions imposed on Palestinians, i.e.:
Travel permits required
Checkpoints and barriers
Main roads closed to Palestinians, officially or in practice
So, given this list, as I was just saying, removing 44 roadblocks may not be much, but nevertheless, it is good news. Isn't it?
Back in December 2006 ...
Let's refresh our memory. It all started last December, when Olmert met Abbas. Olmert promised to remove checkpoints in the West Bank: "I intend to personally supervise it," he told Abbas, "so that the Palestinian society would feel the relief" (Ha'aretz, Dec. 24, 2006). The same day, Ha'aretz reported that Defense Minister Amir Peretz and his deputy Ephraim Sneh were actually working on a plan to facilitate Palestinian movement in the West Bank.
The two must have spent the whole night in their office, devising a plan for dismantling not less than "45 out of approximately 400 checkpoints." At dawn, just as they intended to retire for a short nap, they found Ha'aretz at the doorstep, the top of which headline read: "IDF Opposes Olmert Plan to Dismantle West Bank Checkpoints."
This sounded like a story worth following. In a democracy, the government sets the policy, the army carries it out. In other kinds of regimes, the army sets the policy, the government nods. Which regime is Israel's?
A few days later (Ha'aretz, Dec. 27, 2006) the prime minister indeed ordered the army to dismantle scores of checkpoints -- but "in a second phase, dependent on an additional decision of the political echelon." So at the first stage, no checkpoints will be removed (and then we'll see). This, as some Israeli sociologists claim, has always been Israel's regime: instead of risking a dispute with the army, the government complies with the army's demands.
Meanwhile, Aluf Benn of Ha'aretz revealed that the "new" plan to dismantle 45 checkpoints was nothing but an old document, prepared by the Israeli army originally in English -- an "export product" for American eyes -- back in 2005. And never implemented, of course. So much for the sleepless night of Olmert's aides: all they did was feed the media with an old army document.
The Army Rewards
Anyway, the prime minister gave the army a green light not to dismantle any checkpoint. The army, for its part, did not leave this ministerial gesture unrewarded. On Jan. 17 Ha'aretz reported that the Israeli army finally complied.
"The Israel Defense Forces announced yesterday that it recently removed 44 dirt barriers that were located near Palestinian villages in the West Bank. In recent years, the army established nearly 400 barriers and permanent roadblocks. The move is one of a series of steps aimed at easing restrictions on the Palestinians that were announced following the December 24 meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas."
So you see: Olmert did keep his solemn promise, and the Israeli army did carry it out and did dismantle 44 checkpoints. At least, that's what the army announced, and the Israeli army always tells the truth. Well, almost always.
In this exceptional case, it took less than a week to expose the dirty deal between the government and the army. Scores and dozens of such deals -- among the government, the army, and the settlers -- are never exposed; the entire Israeli colonial project is based on such deals, made behind the back of all democratic mechanisms. But this was an exception. On Jan. 22, following an embarrassing UN report, the army had to admit:
The Israel Defense Forces admitted yesterday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist.So the 44 "removed" checkpoints, or dirt obstacles, didn't exist in the first place. The Israeli lie probably counted on Israel's information superiority: after all, who could count all those checkpoints better than the Israeli army? Alas, the UN turned out as an unexpected party-pooper.
Last Tuesday, the IDF announced that it had removed 44 dirt obstacles that blocked access roads to West Bank villages, to fulfill promises made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting a month ago. Olmert had pledged measures to ease the lives of Palestinian civilians.
However, a military source admitted yesterday that these obstacles 'had either been removed before the political level decided on the alleviations or had been bypassed by Palestinians earlier, and a decision had been made not to rebuild them.'
Yesterday's Lie Is Today's Truth
But why bother to tell the truth when a lie is just as good? Three months later, Israel is again counting on our short memory. In an official meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president, no less, the army airs once again the legend about the 44 "removed checkpoints." The lie exposed in January is recycled as truth in April, and everybody is happy: Israel can claim it kept its promise, the Americans can claim progress in the "peace process," even President Mahmoud Abbas can claim an achievement.
Who would bother to remind us that all this is nothing but a lie? The abused Palestinians haven't felt any relief whatsoever, but have been cynically cheated once again. And all of us media consumers have been duped along with them.
Remember this next time the Palestinians show their inexplicable ingratitude.
Remember this next time you hear an official Israeli announcement.
Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature, and his PhD is in Jewish Studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com. This article, which first appeared on Antiwar.com, is republished with the author's permission.