vrijdag 6 augustus 2010

Israel as a Rogue State 84

Obama Warned Israel May Bomb Iran

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: War With Iran
We write to alert you to the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran as early as this month. This would likely lead to a wider war.
Israel’s leaders would calculate that once the battle is joined, it will be politically untenable for you to give anything less than unstinting support to Israel, no matter how the war started, and that U.S. troops and weaponry would flow freely. Wider war could eventually result in destruction of the state of Israel.
This can be stopped, but only if you move quickly to pre-empt an Israeli attack by publicly condemning such a move before it happens.
We believe that comments by senior American officials, you included, reflect misplaced trust in Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu.
Actually, the phrasing itself can be revealing, as when CIA Director Panetta implied cavalierly that Washington leaves it up to the Israelis to decide whether and when to attack Iran, and how much “room” to give to the diplomatic effort.
On June 27, Panetta casually told ABC’s Jake Tapper, “I think they are willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically … as opposed to changing them militarily.”
Similarly, the tone you struck referring to Netanyahu and yourself in your July 7 interview with Israeli TV was distinctly out of tune with decades of unfortunate history with Israeli leaders.
“Neither of us try to surprise each other,” you said, “and that approach is one that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to.” You may wish to ask Vice President Biden to remind you of the kind of surprises he has encountered in Israel.
Blindsiding has long been an arrow in Israel’s quiver. During the emerging Middle East crisis in the spring of 1967, some of us witnessed closely a flood of Israeli surprises and deception, as Netanyahu’s predecessors feigned fear of an imminent Arab attack as justification for starting a war to seize and occupy Arab territories.
We had long since concluded that Israel had been exaggerating the Arab “threat” — well before 1982 when former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin publicly confessed:
“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and also mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify expansion of its borders.
Given this record, one would be well advised to greet with appropriate skepticism any private assurances Netanyahu may have given you that Israel would not surprise you with an attack on Iran.
Netanyahu’s Calculations
Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, largely because of the strong support he enjoys in our Congress and our strongly pro-Israel media. He reads your reluctance even to mention in controversial bilateral issues publicly during his recent visit as affirmation that he is in the catbird seat in the relationship.
During election years in the U.S. (including mid-terms), Israeli leaders are particularly confident of the power they and the Likud Lobby enjoy on the American political scene.
This prime minister learned well from Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon.
Netanyahu’s attitude comes through in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV, in which he bragged about how he deceived President Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them.
The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward — and wonderment at — an America so easily influenced by Israel. Netanyahu says:
“America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. … They won’t get in our way … Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”
Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote that the video shows Netanyahu to be “a con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” adding that such behavior “does not change over the years.”
As mentioned above, Netanyahu has had instructive role models.
None other than Gen. Brent Scowcroft told the Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized;” that “Sharon just has him “wrapped around his little finger.”
(Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and told never again to darken the White House doorstep.)
If further proof of American political support for Netanyahu were needed, it was manifest when Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham visited Israel during the second week of July.
Lieberman asserted that there is wide support in Congress for using all means to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including “through military actions if we must.” Graham was equally explicit: “The Congress has Israel’s back,” he said.
More recently, 47 House Republicans have signed onto H.R. 1553 declaring “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran … including the use of military force.”
The power of the Likud Lobby, especially in an election year, facilitates Netanyahu’s attempts to convince those few of his colleagues who need convincing that there may never be a more auspicious time to bring about “regime change” in Tehran.
And, as we hope your advisers have told you, regime change, not Iranian nuclear weapons, is Israel’s primary concern.
If Israel’s professed fear that one or two nuclear weapons in Iran’s arsenal would be a game changer, one would have expected Israeli leaders to jump up and down with glee at the possibility of seeing half of Iran’s low enriched uranium shipped abroad.
Instead, they dismissed as a “trick” the tripartite deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil with your personal encouragement, that would ship half of Iran’s low enriched uranium outside Tehran’s control.
The National Intelligence Estimate
The Israelis have been looking on intently as the U.S. intelligence community attempts to update, in a “Memorandum to Holders,” the NIE of November 2007 on Iran’s nuclear program. It is worth recalling a couple of that Estimate’s key judgments:
“We judge with high confidence that in fall of 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons …”
Earlier this year, public congressional testimony by former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair (February 1 & 2) and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Ronald Burgess with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright (April 14) did not alter those key judgments.
Blair and others continued to underscore the intelligence community’s agnosticism on one key point: as Blair put it earlier this year, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build a nuclear weapon.”
The media have reported off-the-cuff comments by Panetta and by you, with a darker appraisal — with you telling Israeli TV “… all indicators are that they [the Iranians] are in fact pursuing a nuclear weapon;” and Panetta telling ABC, “I think they continue to work on designs in that area [of weaponization].”
Panetta hastened to add, though, that in Tehran, “There is a continuing debate right now as to whether or not they ought to proceed with the bomb.”
Israel probably believes it must give more weight to the official testimony of Blair, Burgess, and Cartwright, which dovetail with the earlier NIE, and the Israelis are afraid that the long-delayed Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE will essentially affirm that Estimate’s key judgments.
Our sources tell us that an honest Memorandum to Holders is likely to do precisely that, and that they suspect that the several-months-long delay means intelligence judgments are being “fixed” around the policy — as was the case before the attack on Iraq.
One War Prevented
The key judgments of the November 2007 NIE shoved an iron rod into the wheel spokes of the Dick Cheney-led juggernaut rolling toward war on Iran. The NIE infuriated Israel leaders eager to attack before President Bush and Vice President Cheney left office. This time, Netanyahu fears that issuance of an honest Memorandum might have similar effect.
Bottom line: more incentive for Israel to pre-empt such an Estimate by striking Iran sooner rather than later.
Last week’s announcement that U.S. officials will meet next month with Iranian counterparts to resume talks on ways to arrange higher enrichment of Iranian low enriched uranium for Tehran’s medical research reactor was welcome news to all but the Israeli leaders.
In addition, Iran reportedly has said it would be prepared to halt enrichment to 20 percent (the level needed for the medical research reactor), and has made it clear that it looks forward to the resumption of talks.
Again, an agreement that would send a large portion of Iran’s LEU abroad would, at a minimum, hinder progress toward nuclear weapons, should Iran decide to develop them. But it would also greatly weaken Israel’s scariest rationale for an attack on Iran.
Bottom line: with the talks on what Israel’s leaders earlier labeled a “trick” now scheduled to resume in September, incentive builds in Tel Aviv for the Israelis to attack before any such agreement can be reached.
We’ll say it again: the objective is regime change. Creating synthetic fear of Iranian nuclear weapons is simply the best way to “justify” bringing about regime change. Worked well for Iraq, no?
Another War in Need of Prevention
A strong public statement by you, personally warning Israel not to attack Iran would most probably head off such an Israeli move. Follow-up might include dispatching Adm. Mullen to Tel Aviv with military-to-military instructions to Israel: Don’t Even Think of It.
In the wake of the 2007 NIE, President Bush overruled Vice President Cheney and sent Adm. Mullen to Israel to impart that hard message. A much-relieved Mullen arrived home that spring sure of step and grateful that he had dodged the likelihood of being on the end of a Cheney-inspired order for him to send U.S. forces into war with Iran.
This time around, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel in February 2010. Ever since, he has been worrying aloud that Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran, while adding the obligatory assurance that the Pentagon does have an attack plan for Iran, if needed.
In contrast to his experience in 2008, though, Mullen seemed troubled that Israel’s leaders did not take his warnings seriously.
While in Israel, Mullen insisted publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”
After his return, at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22 Mullen drove home the same point. After reciting the usual boilerplate about Iran being “on the path to achieve nuclear weaponization” and its “desire to dominate its neighbors,” he included the following in his prepared remarks:
“For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”
Unlike younger generals — David Petraeus, for example — Adm. Mullen served in the Vietnam War. That experience is probably what prompts asides like this: “I would remind everyone of an essential truth: War is bloody and uneven. It’s messy and ugly and incredibly wasteful …”
Although the immediate context for that remark was Afghanistan, Mullen has underscored time and again that war with Iran would be a far larger disaster. Those with a modicum of familiarity with the military, strategic and economic equities at stake know he is right.
Other Steps
In 2008, after Mullen read the Israelis the riot act, they put their pre-emptive plans for Iran aside. With that mission accomplished, Mullen gave serious thought to ways to prevent any unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.
Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he indicated that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it.
It was a good idea — still is. The danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has not been addressed, and should be. Establishment of a direct communications link between top military officials in Washington and Tehran would reduce the danger of an accident, miscalculation, or covert, false-flag attack.
In our view, that should be done immediately — particularly since recently introduced sanctions assert a right to inspect Iranian ships. The naval commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly has threatened “a response in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” if anyone tries to inspect Iranian ships in international waters.
Another safety valve would result from successful negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” protocol that was concluded with the Russians in 1972 during a period of relatively high tension.
With only interim nobodies at the helm of the intelligence community, you may wish to consider knocking some heads together yourself and insisting that it finish an honest Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE by mid-August — recording any dissents, as necessary.
Sadly, our former colleagues tell us that politicization of intelligence analysis did not end with the departure of Bush and Cheney…and that the problem is acute even at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which in the past has done some of the best professional, objective, tell-it-like-it-is analysis.
Pundits, Think Tanks: Missing the Point
As you may have noticed, most of page one of Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section was given to an article titled, “A Nuclear Iran: Would America Strike to Prevent It? — Imagining Obama’s Response to an Iranian Missile Crisis.”
Page five was dominated by the rest of the article, under the title “Who will blink first when Iran is on the brink?”
A page-wide photo of a missile rolling past Iranian dignitaries on a reviewing stand (reminiscent of the familiar parades on Red Square) is aimed at the centerfold of the Outlook section, as if poised to blow it to smithereens.
Typically, the authors address the Iranian “threat” as though it endangers the U.S., even though Secretary Clinton has stated publicly that this is not the case. They write that one option for the U.S. is “the lonely, unpopular path of taking military action lacking allied consensus.” O Tempora, O Mores!
In less than a decade, wars of aggression have become nothing more than lonely, unpopular paths.
What is perhaps most remarkable, though, is that the word Israel is nowhere to be found in this very long article. Similar think pieces, including some from relatively progressive think tanks, also address these issues as though they were simply bilateral U.S.-Iranian problems, with little or no attention to Israel.
Guns of August?
The stakes could hardly be higher. Letting slip the dogs of war would have immense repercussions. Again, we hope that Adm. Mullen and others have given you comprehensive briefings on them.
Netanyahu would be taking a fateful gamble by attacking Iran, with high risk to everyone involved. The worst, but conceivable case, has Netanyahu playing — unintentionally — Dr. Kevorkian to the state of Israel.
Even if the U.S. were to be sucked into a war provoked by Israel, there is absolutely no guarantee that the war would come out well.
Were the U.S. to suffer significant casualties, and were Americans to become aware that such losses came about because of exaggerated Israeli claims of a nuclear threat from Iran, Israel could lose much of its high standing in the United States.
There could even be an upsurge in anti-Semitism, as Americans conclude that officials with dual loyalties in Congress and the executive branch threw our troops into a war provoked, on false pretenses, by Likudniks for their own narrow purposes.
We do not have a sense that major players in Tel Aviv or in Washington are sufficiently sensitive to these critical factors.
You are in position to prevent this unfortunate, but likely chain reaction. We allow for the possibility that Israeli military action might not lead to a major regional war, but we consider the chances of that much less than even.
Footnote: VIPS Experience
We VIPS have found ourselves in this position before. We prepared our first Memorandum for the President on the afternoon of February 5, 2003 after Colin Powell’s speech at the UN.
We had been watching how our profession was being corrupted into serving up faux intelligence that was later criticized (correctly) as “uncorroborated, contradicted, and nonexistent” — adjectives used by former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller after a five-year investigation by his committee.
As Powell spoke, we decided collectively that the responsible thing to do was to try to warn the President before he acted on misguided advice to attack Iraq. Unlike Powell, we did not claim that our analysis was “irrefutable and undeniable.” We did conclude with this warning:
“After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
We take no satisfaction at having gotten it right on Iraq. Others with claim to more immediate expertise on Iraq were issuing similar warnings. But we were kept well away from the wagons circled by Bush and Cheney.
Sadly, your own Vice President, who was then chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the most assiduous in blocking opportunities for dissenting voices to be heard. This is part of what brought on the worst foreign policy disaster in our nation’s history.
We now believe that we may also be right on (and right on the cusp of) another impending catastrophe of even wider scope — Iran — on which another President, you, are not getting good advice from your closed circle of advisers.
They are probably telling you that, since you have privately counseled Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran, he will not do it. This could simply be the familiar syndrome of telling the President what they believe he wants to hear.
Quiz them; tell them others believe them to be dead wrong on Netanyahu. The only positive here is that you — only you — can prevent an Israeli attack on Iran.
Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA (20 years)
Larry Johnson, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA; Department of State, Department of Defense consultant (24 years)
W. Patrick Lang, Col., USA, Special Forces (ret.); Senior Executive Service: Defense Intelligence Officer for Middle East/South Asia, Director of HUMINT Collection, Defense Intelligence Agency (30 years)
Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA (30 years)
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI (24 years)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), (29 years); Foreign Service Officer, Department of State (16 years)  

Howard Zinn 25

August 4th, 2010 9:12 PM

The Bomb: Howard Zinn's last call to rebel against war

The Bomb by Howard Zinn (City Lights Open Media, San Francisco, August 2010); paperback, 100 pp; $8.95.

In his lifetime, Howard Zinn wrote and edited nearly two dozen books, and altered radically the way Americans view their own history with his best selling A Peoples’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. He was compassionate, dynamic, and an unrelenting seeker after justice, and when he died in January 2010, he was mourned by friends and family, students and activists, fellow historians and makers of history like himself.

Zinn seemed to do it all: think, act, organize, and agitate for more than half a century. A G.I., he was also a professor and an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as well as a critic of the Vietnam War.

In The Bomb, a new book forthcoming from City Lights, he tells the little-known story of his own experience as a bomber in the U. S. Air Force and his role in dropping bombs on Germany during World War II. Zinn also explains that he initially applauded the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“So I wouldn’t be going to the Pacific, and might soon be coming home for good,” he thought when he saw a headline that read “Atom Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima.” Part history, part memoir, part sermon, The Bomb is meant to wake up citizens, to rouse them to reject “the abstractions of duty and obedience” and to refuse to heed the call of war.

It’s as though Zinn speaks from the dead one last time -- to plead for individual responsibility. Perhaps in writing the book, which he finished just before his own death, he also laid to rest ghosts in his own life. The publication of the book coincides with the 65th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There are two parts to The Bomb. One of them has to do with Zinn’s own experiences bombing -- and destroying -- the French town of Royen in April 1945 three weeks before the end of the war in Europe, that resulted in the deaths of more than one thousand people. Zinn was a bombardier with the 490th Bomb Group and flying in a B-17 with the crew. “I remember distinctly seeing, from our great height, the bombs explode in the town, flaring like matches stuck in fog,” he writes. “I was completely unaware of the human chaos below.”

Twenty-one years later, Zinn returned to Royen to do research about the destruction of the seaside French town. And in 2010, 65 years later he was still haunted by the bombing, and his own role as a bombardier. What Zinn learned from his research was that in the bombing of Royan, napalm or “liquid fire” was used for the first time. He concludes that it was “an unnecessary military operation” and that Royan was bombed to fulfill “pride, military ambition, glory and honor.”

He also argues that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary to win the war against the Japanese. He presents evidence to show that the war was already won, and that the argument that the bombs saved hundreds of thousands of American lives was misleading at best.

For Zinn, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were acts of terrorism, which he defines as “the indiscriminate use of violence against human beings for some political purpose.” The Japanese cities were bombed, he says, because the United States wanted to “show the world -- especially the Soviet Union -- its atomic weaponry.”

Zinn has collected an array of powerful quotations from U.S. presidents and generals that explode like bombshells in the pages of this book. “This is the greatest thing in history,” Truman boasted of the A bomb. General Curtis LeMay said during World War II, “There is no such thing as an innocent civilian.” During the Vietnam War, and speaking of the Vietnamese he said, “We will bomb them back to the Stone Age.”

Zinn has also included stories from Americans who were involved in the bombings of Japan, either directly or indirectly. Father George Zabelka, the chaplain to the crews that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said, years later, “I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians…I was brainwashed.”

The Bomb is Zinn’s last confession. It’s his last sermon, and an account of the ways that he too was brainwashed during World War II. It’s a horrific story that he tells. He brings out the little known fact that American prisoners in Japan also died in the bombing of Hiroshima. A Japanese doctor saw their bodies a day later and said, “They had no faces! Their eyes, noses, and mouths had been burned away, and it looked like their ears had melted.”

The City Lights editor for this book, Greg Ruggiero, says that Zinn “loved small acts of rebellion.” The Bomb is his final act of rebellion. Zinn observes in The Bomb that, “rebellion is a rare phenomenon.” But he doesn’t leave it at that. He urges citizens “to interfere” both with the war machine and the “odd perversion of the natural that we call society” and to save human lives.

Jonah Raskin is a professor at Sonoma State University and the author of The Mythology of Imperialism and Field Days.


The Jewish Lobby 3

Studies show that US coverage is Israeli-centric. The main bureaus for CNN, Associated Press, Time, etc. are located in Israel and often staffed by Israelis. The son of the NY Times bureau chief is in the Israeli army;"pundit" Jeffrey Goldberg served in the IDF; Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Because the U.S. gives Israel $7 million/day - more than to any other nation - we feel it is essential that we be fully informed on this region. Below are news reports to augment mainstream coverage.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Giraldi: House resolution could lead to war with Iran; ignores Pentagon views

Antiwar.com - "A Cakewalk Against Iran - Everyone who is concerned that yet another war in the Middle East could wreck what remains of the United States economy and probably strip away even more of our liberties should be troubled by the numerous calls for war against Iran.  No one believes that Iran is anything but a nation that is one small step away from becoming a complete religious dictatorship, but the country has a small economy, a tiny defense budget, and, as far as the world’s intelligence services can determine, neither nuclear weapons nor a program to develop them.  Labeling the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a new Hitler and describing the regime as "Islamofascist" is convenient but hardly conveys the reality of the complex political interaction taking place inside today’s Iran.  Ironically, the animus directed against Tehran relates not so much to what it is doing as to what its government might do, hardly an adequate pretext for going to war and a standard of behavior that many countries in the world would fail.

resolution (HR 1553) is making its way through Congress that that would endorse an Israeli attack on Iran, which would be going to war by proxy as the US would almost immediately be drawn into the conflict when Tehran retaliates.  The resolution provides explicit US backing for Israel to bomb Iran, stating that Congress supports Israel’s use of "all means necessary…including the use of military force." The resolution is non-binding, but it is dazzling in its disregard for the possible negative consequences that would ensue for the hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic personnel currently serving in the Near East region.  Even the Pentagon opposes any Israeli action against Iran, knowing that it would mean instant retaliation against US forces in Iraq and also in Afghanistan.  The resolution has appeared, not coincidentally, at the same time as major articles by leading neoconservatives Reuel Marc Gerecht and Bill Kristol calling for military action.

Both Gerecht and Kristol insist that action by Israel or the US would be better than doing nothing and both downplay the ability of Iran to counter-attack effectively.  One might note that both Kristol and Gerecht have been dramatically wrong in the past, most notably in their analyses of developments in Iraq.

Kristol is a poseur, a foreign policy wannabe, framing policy around his own Straussian beliefs.  Gerecht, who actually does know quite a bit about Iran and its internal politics, is the more dangerous of the two as he is able to use his knowledge, which he sprinkles throughout the article, to appear credible.  But as is so often the case with the neoconservatives, the thinking is based on false assumptions, optimistic assessments, and leaps of the imagination about what might occur.  One might recall neocon predictions of a "cakewalk" in Iraq, a war that still embroils tens of thousands of US troops and that kills Americans nearly every day.

In his article entitled "Should Israel Bomb Iran? – Better Safe than Sorry" Gerecht begins with three paragraphs outlining what might happen if Iran is attacked, to include attacks on US troops, shock oil prices, terrorist attacks worldwide, tumult in the Muslim world, and a rush by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon to defend itself.  He concludes, however, that "These fears are mostly overblown."

Why Gerecht thinks that Iranian retaliation would be minimal is not completely clear, but he spends the next seven pages explaining why an attack on Iran might be a positive step.  He opines that bombing Iran "remains the only conceivable means of derailing or seriously delaying Iran’s nuclear program…" Bombing would also result in "traumatizing Tehran."  And he provides a second reason for staging an attack, his argument that "Iran has already embraced terrorism against Israel and the United States" and that its regime supports the "indiscriminate killing" of Jews.  He presumes that Iran is hell bent on acquiring a nuclear weapon and would use it against Israelis "who must live with the Middle East’s merciless power politics…" or give it to terrorist groups to accomplish the same end.  Gerecht recommends that Israel should attack Iran to "rock the system" to make the regime "lose face" and suffer a military defeat that could have fatal consequences for its survivability.  He returns to the theme, mentioning oddly that "American fear of Iranian capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan has been exaggerated" and then excoriates "an ugly anti-Israeli reflex" on the part of many Europeans when Israel uses lethal force to defend itself.

Gerecht is doing two things.  First, he is ignoring any role that Israel might have had in creating its own predicament vis-à-vis Iran and its other neighbors.  Israel is, for him, always the victim and never the instigator meaning that whatever it does is always self-defense and justifiable.  Second, he assumes that Iran is manifestly evil and will always choose the most despicable option for its own behavior while he simultaneously only assumes the best motives and best possible outcome for any Israeli or American military action.  He ignores the fact that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and assumes that Tehran is willing to bear the enormous expense and risk to develop a nuclear device and use it on Israel or give it to a terrorist even though that would be national suicide.  He reflexively judges every group in the Middle East that is opposed to Israel as a terrorist and lumps them in as enemies of Washington as well as of Israel whether or not they have actually carried out attacks against the US.  If Iran reacts to being bombed, he notes that "It is entirely possible that Khamenei would use terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike," an asymmetrical response using available resources that many might consider self-defense against an attacker but which Gerecht chooses to dismiss as terrorism.  Gerecht dismisses any legitimate criticism of the actions of the state of Israel as anti-Semitic or "ugly."

The reality is that an Israeli attack on Iran will trigger an all-out war in the region, which will quickly include the United States.  It might or might not eliminate Iran’s technical ability to build a nuclear weapon and it would almost certainly accelerate that process.  It would not bring down the Iranian regime and usher in reformers who would embrace Israel and the United States while singing "Kumbaya" around the campfire.  It would be extremely nasty, would not solve any problems in the Middle East, and would kill tens of thousands of innocent people, if not more.  It could easily lead to the use of nuclear weapons by either the United States or Israel.  For the neoconservatives, it is easy to dismiss the possible downside while emphasizing the upside that they perceive, which is protecting Israel by damaging Iran’s nuclear program and possibly bringing about some version of regime change.  But we have seen too many times in the past how the neoconservatives can be wrong — think only of the "cakewalk" that has been Iraq now seven years on and still running.  A new war in the Middle East would be an unmitigated disaster for Iran, the United States, and even for Israel.  It must be avoided at all costs.

donderdag 5 augustus 2010

John Pilger 36

Tony Blair Must Be Prosecuted

by: John Pilger, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair's will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million. Now, consider Britain's Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenseless country, which the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the "paramount war crime." This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.
In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter "liberated" by the British) are now revealed as higher than those at Hiroshima. "UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003," the Defence Secretary Liam Fox told Parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic "anti-personnel" weapons, such as cluster bombs, were employed by British and American forces.
Such carnage was justified with lies that have been repeatedly exposed. On 29 January 2003, Blair told Parliament, "We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq...." Last month, the former head of the intelligence service, MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, told the Chilcot inquiry, "There is no credible intelligence to suggest that connection ... [it was the invasion] that gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad." Asked to what extent the invasion exacerbated the threat to Britain from terrorism, she replied, "Substantially."
The bombings in London on 7 July 2005, were a direct consequence of Blair's actions.
Documents released by the High Court show that Blair allowed British citizens to be abducted and tortured. The then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw decided in January 2002 that Guantanamo was the "best way" to ensure UK nationals were "securely held."
Instead of remorse, Blair has demonstrated a voracious and secretive greed. Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, he has accumulated an estimated £20 million, much of it as a result of his ties with the Bush administration. The House of Commons Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets jobs taken by former ministers, was pressured not to make public Blair's "consultancy" deals with the Kuwaiti royal family and the South Korean oil giant UI Energy Corporation. He gets £2 million a year "advising" the American investment bank J.P. Morgan and undisclosed sums from financial services companies. He makes millions from speeches, including reportedly £200,000 for one speech in China.
In his unpaid but expenses-rich role as the West's "peace envoy" in the Middle East, Blair is, in effect, a voice of Israel, which awarded him a $1 million "peace prize." In other words, his wealth has grown rapidly since he launched, with George W. Bush, the bloodbath in Iraq.
His collaborators are numerous. The Cabinet in March 2003 knew a great deal about the conspiracy to attack Iraq. Straw, later appointed "justice secretary," suppressed the relevant Cabinet minutes in defiance of an order by the Information Commissioner to release them. Most of those now running for the Labour Party leadership supported Blair's epic crime, rising as one to salute his final appearance in the Commons. As Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, sought to cover Britain's complicity in torture, and promoted Iran as the next "threat."
Journalists who once fawned on Blair as "mystical" and amplified his vainglorious bids now pretend they were his critics all along. As for the media's gulling of the public, only the Observer's David Rose, to his great credit, has apologized. The WikiLeaks' exposes, released with a moral objective of truth with justice, have been bracing for a public force-fed on complicit, lobby journalism. Verbose celebrity historians like Niall Ferguson, who rejoiced in Blair's rejuvenation of "enlightened" imperialism, remain silent on the "moral truancy," as Pankaj Mishra wrote, "of [those] paid to intelligently interpret the contemporary world."
Is it wishful thinking that Blair will be collared? Just as the Cameron government understands the "threat" of a law that makes Britain a risky stopover for Israeli war criminals, a similar risk awaits Blair in a number of countries and jurisdictions, at least of being apprehended and questioned. He is now Britain's Kissinger, who has long planned his travel outside the United States with the care of a fugitive.
Two recent events add weight to this. On 15 June, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a "crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter." International lawyers described this as a "giant leap." Britain is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions.
On 21 July, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, standing at the Commons dispatch box, declared the invasion of Iraq illegal. For all the later "clarification" that he was speaking personally, he had made "a statement that the international court would be interested in," said Philippe Sands, professor of international law at University College London.
Tony Blair came from Britain's upper-middle classes who, having rejoiced in his unctuous ascendancy, might now reflect on the principles of right and wrong they require of their own children. The suffering of the children of Iraq will remain a specter haunting Britain while Blair remains free to profit.


John Pilger, Australian-born, London-based journalist, film-maker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain's highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia's human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. His latest film is The War on Democracy.

Israel as a Rogue State 83

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UN Human Rights Committee concludes that Israel violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

DATE: 03 AUGUST 2010
REF.: 175/2010

On 29 July 2010, the Human Rights Committee (the Committee) adopted its Concluding Observations on Israel’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant).

The Committee concluded that Israel violates the Covenant with respect to several of the rights enshrined therein, and in particular the obligation to apply the Covenant to the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Despite Israel’s claim, rubber-stamped by the Israeli High Court of Justice, that it is not an Occupying Power with respect to certain parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Human Rights Committee emphasized that Israel remains an Occupying Power over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Moreover, the Committee reiterated that “the applicability of the regime of international humanitarian law does not preclude accountability of States parties under article 2, paragraph 1, of the Covenant for the actions of their authorities or agents outside their own territories, including in occupied territories”. Thereby the Committee affirmed that “All decision makers, be they military and civilian officials, should be investigated and where relevant prosecuted and sanctioned”.
As such, with respect to the findings of the UN Fact-finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, the Committee regretted that Israel “has not yet conducted independent and credible investigations into the serious violations of international human rights law, such as direct targeting of civilians and civilian objects, including infrastructure such as waste water plants and sewage facilities, use of civilians as ‘human shields’, refusal of evacuation of wounded, firing live bullets during demonstrations against the military operation and detention in degrading conditions”.
With respect to the attack on the Freedom Gaza Flotilla, the Committee declared that Israel “should invite an independent, international fact-finding mission to establish the circumstances of the boarding of the flotilla, including its compatibility with the Covenant.”
Other principle areas of concerns which the Committee found to be incompatible with the Covenant are: 

- Israel’s use of administrative detention, in particular for children. In addition to calling on Israel to refrain from resorting to such detention, the Committee told Israel to “Grant administrative detainees prompt access to counsel of their own choosing, inform them immediately, in a language which they can understand, of the charges against them, provide them with information to prepare their defence, bring them promptly before a judge and try them in their own or their counsel’s presence”;
- the continued creation of a “Seam Zone” by means of construction of the illegal Annexation Wall, which the Committee stated should be stopped;
- the construction of settlements in the occupied territories, which the Committed held should be halted;
- Israel’s illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, which the Committee declared should be lifted;
- Israel’s failure to incorporate the prohibition of the crime of torture in its legislation, and allegations of torture against Palestinian detainees, as well as Israel’s justification for torture under “defence of necessity cases”;
- the recent Military Orders 1649 and 1650, in light of which the Committee concluded that Israel should refrain from expelling long-term residents of the West Bank based on their former addresses in the Gaza Strip, and that the committee for the examination of deportation orders is not independent and lacks judicial authority;
- the “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary provision) which should be revoked;
- Israel’s policy denying Palestinians their right to family reunification;
- Israel’s practice of collective punitive home and property demolitions, and Israel’s housing policy and issuance of construction permits which should be reviewed “with a view to implementing the principle of non-discrimination regarding minorities, in particular Palestinians and to increasing construction on a legal basis for minorities of the West Bank and East Jerusalem”. Furthermore, the Committee noted that Israel “should further ensure that municipal planning systems are not discriminatory”; and
- the “water shortages affecting disproportionately the Palestinian population of the West Bank, due to prevention of construction and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the prohibition of construction of wells. The Committee is further concerned at allegations of pollution by sewage water of Palestinian land, including from settlements”.

On the occasion of Committee’s review, Al-Haq, in coordination with other human rights organisations brought to the experts’ attention several serious concerns about Israel’s active denial of Palestinians’ human rights. Al-Haq and COHRE submitted a Joint Alternative Report outlining Israel’s illegal administrative and punitive house demolitions (in particular the increase of demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank), as well as forced evictions of Palestinian families. The organisations took the opportunity to elaborate on the Human Rights Committee’s unprecedented inclusion of the right to water and sanitation to the Covenant, by providing the Committee with cases and legal analysis showing that Israel is discriminatorily allocating water and sanitation services between settlements and Palestinian homes, as well as deliberately attacking Palestinians’ water and sanitation infrastructure, in particular in the Gaza Strip throughout the blockade and during “Operation Cast Lead”.

Al-Haq, in its Alternative Report, also provided evidence on Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement, including the obstacles created by the illegal Annexation Wall, the excessive use of checkpoints and the recent Israeli Military Orders 1649 and 1650.

For the full Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on Israel, please click here:


woensdag 4 augustus 2010

The Empire 620

Without any shame or reservation. 

Chelsea's Wedding

Let Them Eat Cake

It is not unusual for members of the diminishing upper middle class to drop $20,000 or $30,000 on a big wedding. But for celebrities this large sum wouldn’t cover the wedding dress or the flowers.
When country music star Keith Urban married actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, their wedding cost $250,000. This large sum hardly counts as a celebrity wedding. When mega-millionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump married model Melania Knauss, the wedding bill was $1,000,000.
The marriages of Madonna and film director Guy Ritchie, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones pushed up the cost of celebrity marriages to $1.5 million.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes upped the ante to $2,000,000.
Now comes the politicians’s daughter as celebrity. According to news reports, Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to investment banker Mark Mezvinsky on July 31 is costing papa Bill $3,000,000. According to the London Daily Mail, the total price tag will be about $5,000,000. The additional $2,000,000 apparently is being laid off on US Taxpayers as Secret Service costs for protecting former president Clinton and foreign heads of state, such as the presidents of France and Italy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are among the 500 invited guests along with Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, and Clinton friend and donor Denise Rich, wife of the Clinton-pardoned felon.
Before we attend to the poor political judgment of such an extravagant affair during times of economic distress, let us wonder aloud where a poor boy who became governor of Arkansas and president of the United States got such a fortune that he can blow $3,000,000 on a wedding.
The American people did not take up a collection to reward him for his service to them.
Where did the money come from? Who was he really serving during his eight years in office?
How did Tony Blair and his wife, Cherrie, end up with an annual income of ten million pounds (approximately $15 million dollars) as soon as he left office? Who was Blair really serving?
These are not polite questions, and they are infrequently asked.
While Chelsea’s wedding guests eat a $11,000 wedding cake and admire $250,000 floral displays, Lisa Roberts in Ohio is struggling to raise contributions for her food pantry in order to feed 3,000 local people, whose financial independence was destroyed by investment bankers, job offshoring, and unaffordable wars. The Americans dependent on Lisa Roberts’ food pantry are living out of vans and cars. Those with a house roof still over their heads are packed in as many as 14 per household according to the Chillicothe Gazette in Ohio.
The Chilicothe Gazette reports that Lisa Roberts’ food pantry has “had to cut back to half rations per person in order to have something for everyone who needed it.”
Theresa DePugh stepped up to the challenge and had the starving Ohioans write messages on their food pantry paper plates to President Obama, who has just obtained another $33 billion to squander on a pointless war in Afghanistan that serves no purpose whatsoever except the enrichment of the military/security complex and its shareholders.
The Guardian (UK) reports that according to US government reports, one million American children go to bed hungry, while the Obama regime squanders hundreds of billions of dollars killing women and children in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The Guardian’s reporting relies on a US government report from the US Department of Agriculture, which concludes that 50 million people in the US--one in six of the population--were unable to afford to buy sufficient food to stay healthy in 2008.
US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that he expected the number of hungry Americans to worsen when the survey for 2010 is released.
Today in the American Superpower, one of every six Americans is living on food stamps.
The Great American Superpower, which is wasting trillions of dollars in pursuit of world hegemony, has 22% of its population unemployed and almost 17% of its population dependent on welfare in order to stay alive.
The world has not witnessed such total failure of government since the final days of the Roman Empire. A handful of American oligarchs are becoming mega-billionaires while the rest of the country goes down the drain.
And the American sheeple remain acquiescent.
Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Chelsea Clinton

Via Paul:

Effe trouwen, Chelsea’s trouwpartijtje

Trouwen hoeft helemaal niets te kosten. Naar het stadhuis, handtekeningetje en klaar. Je moet misschien vroeg je bed uit, terwijl je juist had willen uitslapen, maar dat is alles.

Een beetje rijke Amerikanen trouwen voor zo’n $20.000 à $30.000. Nicole Kidman telde er in 2006, $250.000 voor neer en van Donald Trump mocht het $1000.000 kosten. Madonna, Tiger Woods en Michael Douglas haalden daar hun neus voor op: $1500.000. Tom Cruise deed het voor $2.000.000 (twee miljoen).

Chelsea Clinton trouwde onlangs (31 juli 2010) met bankier Mark Mezvinsky (Goldman Sachs). Kosten: $3.000.000. Het kon niet eerder want de vader van Mark moest eerst nog uit de gevangenis worden ontslagen (personen en banken oplichten voor $10 miljoen). Volgens de London Daily Mail, kostte het feest in feite $5.000.000, als je daar de extra beveiligingskosten voor bijvoorbeeld ex-president Clinton, buitenlandse staatshoofden zoals de Franse en Italiaanse president en ex dinges Tony Blair bij optelt. Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, Denise Rich, een paar van de 500 genodigden, konden natuurlijk ook niet zomaar onbeschermd rondlopen. Laten we zeggen een leuk huwelijkspresentje van de Amerikaanse belasting betaler, eh, de gewone man/vrouw.

$3.000.000 is nogal een bedragje voor een trouwpartijtje. Dat had Bill als arme puber destijds vast niet geloofd. Ach de familie Blair heeft het overigens ook uitstekend gedaan. Maar goed, de trouwtaart kostte $11.000 en de bloemen waren $250.000. Verschil moet er wezen.

Geld is een raar iets. Zo is $33 miljard extra, om Afghanistan nog kapotter te maken, blijkbaar veel belangrijker dan 'slechts' 1 miljoen Amerikaanse kinderen die 's avonds zonder eten naar bed gaan en 50 miljoen Amerikanen (een zesde van de totale bevolking) voor wie in 2008 voldoende en gezond eten onbetaalbaar was. Dat zal in 2010 nog erger zijn.

Een op de zes Amerikanen leeft op voedselbonnen, 22% is ongewild werkeloos en bijna 17% is totaal afhankelijk van liefdadigheid.

Prachtig zo'n bruiloft toch? Een lichtpuntje in de duisternis….


Israel as a Rogue State 82

ashur says he did not pretend to be Jewish
An Arab man convicted in Israel of rape because he pretended he was a Jew has had his prison sentence delayed.
Sabbar Kashur, 30, was found guilty of "rape by deception" when he had consensual sex with an Israeli woman, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.
He has appealed against the sentence, and it has now been delayed, pending a high court decision.
Kashur is being held under house arrest, but the conditions have now been eased.
House arrest
According to the complaint filed by the woman, the two met in a Jerusalem street in 2008 and had sex that day.
When she discovered he was not Jewish, but an Arab, she went to the police.
Kashur was arrested and charged with rape and indecent assault, but the charges were later replaced by a different charge of "rape by deception".
But according to Kashur, he did not pretend to be Jewish.
He told reporters that he is known by friends and family by the nickname Dudu, which is more commonly used by Jews called David.
He was held under house arrest for two years prior to last month's trial.
Around 20% of Israel's population are of Arab descent. 

Obama 178

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty
hatever the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections, the activist phase of the Obama administration has likely come to a close. The President may have a fight on his hands even to hold on to what he's already achieved because his legislative successes have been large enough to fuel strong opposition but not big enough to strengthen his support. The result could be disastrous for him and congressional Democrats.
Consider the stimulus package. Although it's difficult to separate the consequences of fiscal and monetary policy, most knowledgeable observers conclude that the stimulus has had a positive effect.
Yet the official rate of unemployment remains above 9 percent, not including millions either too discouraged to look for work or working part-time when they'd rather have full-time jobs. Almost half of the jobless have been without work for more than six months, a level not seen since the Great Depression.
The central problem continues to be inadequate aggregate demand. The administration's original sin was not spending enough and focusing the stimulus more directly on job creation.
In fairness, no one knew how sick the economy was in February 2009 when Congress approved the initial stimulus. Yet by late spring 2009 the White House knew the extent of the damage and should have pushed much harder for significantly more spending. Almost a third of the initial stimulus, moreover, came in the form of temporary tax cuts, which already had been proven relatively ineffective at spurring demand after President Bush tried them in 2008. And many states were engaging in reverse stimulus policies, slashing spending and increasing taxes. The administration knew its stimulus was not nearly up to the job.
Even so, the initial spending inflamed conservative critics who claimed that it unnecessarily enlarged the federal deficit. And its subsequent apparent failure to reduce unemployment has only added more fuel to the fire. This pattern - big enough to energize adversaries but not enough to tangibly benefit most people or to gain the enthusiastic support of independent voters and the Democratic base - has come to haunt almost every major initiative.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was a clear financial success: It brought Wall Street back from the brink of collapse and in the end will likely cost taxpayers well under $100 billion. Yet in a larger sense, TARP also failed.
The bailout of Wall Street had been sold to the American people, by the Bush and then by the Obama administrations, as a way to revive Main Street and protect homeowners and jobs. But it didn't accomplish these broader goals. Small businesses have had difficulty getting loans. Few homeowners - according to a recent report by the special inspector general for TARP, only 340,000 of the estimated three to four million borrowers who were supposed to receive assistance - have had their mortgage terms permanently modified.
As Wall Street profits rebounded, TARP increasingly looked to many Americans like a giant political payoff. In a poll taken by Hart Associates in September 2009, more than 60 percent of respondents felt that "large banks" had been helped "a lot" or "a fair amount" by government economic policies, but only 13 percent felt that the "average working person" had been. TARP has fueled tea party anger on the right, disillusionment on the left, and cynicism on Main Street.
The recently enacted financial regulatory legislation offers another example. Although the legislation has riled Wall Street and fueled Republican opposition, it lacks many of the large-scale changes reformers were seeking. For example, it neither limits the size of big banks nor explicitly ties banker compensation to long-term performance. And despite Paul Volcker's entreaties, many risky trades will continue to be subsidized by protections the government accords to commercial banking. In short, the financial reforms do not rule out more bank bailouts down the road - a specter critics are already exploiting.
The health-care law, too, is big enough to have unleashed fierce attacks about a "takeover" of the health-care sector. But it's not nearly large or bold enough to assure most people truly affordable care in the future. By leaving the system in the hands of private for-profit health insurers rather than building on Social Security and Medicare, the law continues to subject most Americans to escalating costs. Yes, people with pre-existing conditions will gain coverage, and those who become seriously diseased can't be dropped. But most Americans will have to contract with insurers that already have or will be able to gain significant market power.
Reasonable people disagree about whether these initiatives should have been more or less ambitious, but almost everyone falls into one of these camps. And that's precisely the political problem Democrats now face.
A stimulus too small to significantly reduce unemployment, a TARP that didn't trickle down to Main Street, financial reform that doesn't fundamentally restructure Wall Street, and health-care reforms that don't promise to bring down health-care costs have all created an enthusiasm gap. They've fired up the right, demoralized the left, and generated unease among the general population.
This leaves the Democrats in a difficult position. They have to prove a negative proposition - that although these initiatives cost lots of money or require many new regulations, conditions would be or will be a lot worse without them.
The administration deserves tactical credit. It accomplished as much as it possibly could with a fragile 60 votes in the Senate, a skittish Democratic majority in the House, and a highly-disciplined Republican opposition in both chambers. Yet Bismarck's dictum about politics as the art of the possible is not altogether correct.
The real choice is between achieving what's possible within the limits of politics as given, or changing that politics to extend those limits and thereby more assuredly achieve intended goals. The latter course is riskier but its consequences can be more enduring and its mandate more powerful, as both Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan demonstrated.
So far, Barack Obama has chosen the former course. Despite the remarkable capacities he displayed during the 2008 campaign to inspire and rally Americans behind him, as president he has for the most part opted for an inside game.
Perhaps he didn't want to risk what he could achieve through inside deals. Maybe by temperament or inclination he is more comfortable with compromise than conflict. It's possible he implicitly traded a more ambitious domestic agenda for Republican support on foreign policy. Or perhaps he has sensed the increasing polarization of the electorate and didn't want to further exacerbate it.
Any or all of these hypotheses may be true, but the undeniable consequence has been to erode the capacity of the president and his party to accomplish much more from here on. Still, it is far too early to write an epitaph for the Age of Obama. He may yet surprise. He is, as he reminds us, a most improbable president.

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," and his most recent book, "Supercapitalism." His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.