Hillary Clinton: a Hawk in Hawk’s Clothing

I tend, for better or worse,  to be wary of progressive political surges in American politics that place too many expectations on who becomes president, and my attitude to Bernie Sanders is no exception.  On the one hand it’s heartening to see a self-proclaimed democratic socialist in the United States who is actually popular – and popular amongst young people.  At the same time I’m not impressed by his rather shallow and distinctly unprogressive foreign policy, and I’m not convinced about his ability to take on the very powerful forces that will inevitably try to destroy him.

That said, I hope he – or rather the movement around him – goes as far as he can, and I certainly hope that he goes further than Hillary Rodham Clinton, because I absolutely cannot abide her  and never have.  Before you call me sexist, I should point out that I never liked her sleazy husband either.

But Hillary; don’t get me started.  I didn’t like the fact that when she was campaigning against Obama she pretended that she’d come under sniper fire in Bosnia in order to make herself look tough, brave and experienced.  When she was caught out she said she’d ‘misremembered’, when in fact she lied, a little lie to be sure, but one which says a great deal about her cynicism and crass opportunism.

I didn’t like the fact that she chortled  like a sociopathic schoolgirl ‘ we came, we saw, he died’, after Gaddafi was sodomized with a knife.  I don’t like the fact that she has never seen an American war that she didn’t like or support.  I don’t like the fact that she sees praise from Henry Kissinger as some kind of endorsement; that she is the neocons’ favoured politician; that she is the consummate Israel-firster; that she makes millions of dollars giving speeches to Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions and then claims to be the champion of Americans whose lives have been wrecked by these same institutions.

I don’t like the fact that until recently she was taking donations from the US private prison industry, when her husband put more Afro-Americans in jail than any other American president in history.  I don’t like it that she thinks that post-Civil War Reconstruction was a mistake, and either doesn’t understand the history that she was referring to or has in fact chose to side with white supremacists in order to pick up a few more votes.

So I really don’t have much time for bourgeois feminists who say that if you don’t like Hillary then you must be sexist.   This school of thought – if thought is what it is – reached its nadir on Friday when Gloria Steinem told Bill Maher that young women who support Bernie Sanders are only doing it to meet boys.

No wait, that wasn’t quite the nadir.   It was the pre-nadir, compared with the ghastly spectacle of Madeleine Albright denouncing Bernie Sanders’s ‘revolution’ by arguing that ‘the  first female commander in chief would be a true  revolution.’

Yep, what a revolution that would be be, wouldn’t it?  So inspirational and empowering, that Albright felt it necessary to remind those young naifs out there who believe that politics are more important than gender that ‘  We  can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it is done. It”s not done.  There”s a special place in hell for women who don”t help each other!’

There should also be a special place in hell for former national security managers who think the death of 500,000 Iraqi children was a price worth paying to contain Saddam,  and  it doesn’t matter whether they’re men or women.  Of course Hillary clinton believed that too.

Not only has she  appeared consistently and blissfully oblivious to the catastrophic consequences of the wars that she has supported, but she even has the temerity to suggest that the litany of disasters that she has signed her name to somehow qualify her as an experienced politician with a national security resumé.

In short,  if I have reservations about Sanders, I have none about Hillary Clinton; she is a political operator of the worst kind.   She is  incompetent and ruthless, dishonest, hollow, and essentially fake.

So  respect to all those young women who are going for the old guy, I hope they prosper and that they won’t be dissuaded by the feminism-lite emanating from the likes of Steinem and Albright.

Gaza Unbowed

After more than two weeks of relentless violence that has cost more than 600 Palestinian lives and thousands of wounded, it is becoming increasingly clear that Israel’s savage assault on the Gaza Strip has not been successful even on its own terms.     Day after day the rockets keep coming out of Gaza, and civilian air liners are now refusing to land at Tel Aviv.

Tens of thousands of Gazans have been driven from their homes.     Yet there is no sign of any popular rebellion against Hamas or the other armed organizations.   Nor does there appear to have been any pressure on Hamas to accept the fraudulent ceasefire that Blair, Sisi and Kerry attempted to impose last week, which would have left Gaza still under the same economic siege that has been in place ever since its population made the mistake in 2006 of voting for a government that Israel and the West didn’t approve of.

On the contrary, Israel’s vicious assault appears to have hardened the determination of Gazans to resist.     On Sunday Israel killed more than one hundred Palestinians, most of whom died in the horrendous fighting in Shuj’ aia district,   but that day it also lost 14 soldiers, Israel’s bloodiest day since the 2006 war in Lebanon.

No one who has ever been to Gaza will be surprised by this.   Gazans have been resisting Israel for a long time.   In the 1980s I worked there for two summers as a volunteer English teacher.     I saw the large pool of sewage at Jabalya refugee camp, where most of the male population was rounded up by the victorious Israeli army in 1967 and forced to sit up to their waists and necks for hours in a sign of subjugation before their conquerors.   I saw the wide avenues in the refugee camps known as ‘Sharon’s boulevards’, where Ariel Sharon bulldozed some 16,000 houses in 1970 during counterinsurgency operations against the post-occupation resistance.

I met Palestinian men and women who had spent years in Israeli jails for nationalist activity, including a former fedayaat who described a strike at the womens’ prison where the IDF poured tear gas into their cells,       Most of these activists belonged to Fatah or leftist Palestinian groups.   Hamas didn’t exist then, and the only Islamist organization in Gaza was the Muslim Brotherhood, which was operating with the de facto protection of the Israeli army, in an attempt to foster divisions amongs the Palestinian nationalist movement.

These efforts eventually backfired during the first Intifada, when the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Gaza and the West Bank produced Hamas.   Given this history, it is entirely natural that Gazans should have refused to give in to the vicious eight year siege imposed by Israel with the utterly cynical support of the ‘international community’ and the ‘Quartet’ and its malevolent peace envoy – a siege that was intended to force the population to reject Hamas.

And whatever criticisms Gazans may have of Hamas,   it is difficult to imagine that Israeli bombs are going to make them reject it now.     Israel, of course, has its own explanations for this defiance.   Back in the 80s Gaza was often portrayed in Israel as a savage and barbaric place, where you were likely to get your throat cut if you went anywhere near it.     Today Gaza is often described as an irrational or even mad place, whose population is fatally trapped in a culture of martyrdom and hatred,   or languishing under the dictatorship of Hamas ‘terrorists’.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday the despicable Benjamin Netanyahu once again accused Hamas of deliberately using ‘human shields’ because ‘They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.’   In another interview with the BBC’s Arabic Department the same day, Netanyahu declared:   ‘Israel regrets every injury to civilians.     I call on the residents of Gaza, don”t stay there, Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe.’

Netanyahu is lying and the people of Gaza know he is lying.   They know they are being killed and terrorized because Israel wants to kill and terrorize them.     They know that Israel’s strategy in this war, as in so many others, is based on inflicting suffering on the civilian population in order to turn it against Israel’s armed opponents.This strategy failed in Lebanon in 2006 and it will fail in Gaza.   Because it is becoming increasingly clear that Gazans will not go back to the siege and the pre-war status quo, and that they will endure almost anything to avoid this.   They are fighting and dying because they want to breathe and become part of the world again.   As Sarah Ali, a Palestinian woman from Jabalya refugee camp, wrote last week:

[stextbox id=”alert”]’ This is not about destroying Hamas; this is about destroying every Palestinian in Gaza, destroying our lives, crushing our dignity and morale. Let it be known to (Israel) that the more they kill and destroy, the stronger we become. We have nothing left to lose. Now I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce. No justice, no peace.'[/stextbox]

Despite the enormous odds   against them, the Gazans are winning this war.     Of course they can’t win it militarily; no one doubts that Israel has the ability to obliterate the Gaza Strip with its British and US-funded weaponry.   But wars are not only decided by military hardware or even by battles, but by long-term shifts in attitudes, political positions and sympathies. And on this front, Israel is clearly losing.   Even journalists who have gone to Gaza primed with narratives of ‘balance’ have been shocked and reduced to tears at the sight of children blown to pieces by Israeli missiles.   Pro-Palestinian demonstrations and individual gestures across the world are a testament to the international popular sympathy for the Gazans, which is radically at odds with the cynical posturing and handwringing connivance of their governments with Israel’s war aims.

Everyday the world’s television screens are filled with Israeli spokesmen ranting, bullying, and lying, or even attacking news presenters, and it is becoming increasingly clear that even mainstream journalists no longer believe them.   Even the hapless Ban Ki-moon – the UN chief who has hardly said a word that the western powers on the security council didn’t like – has condemned Israeli actions.   It takes a lot to make Madeleine ‘the price was worth it’   Albright worry that Israel might be ‘overdoing it’ in Gaza and losing its ‘moral authority’.

Israel and its supporters will naturally try to attribute these developments to antisemitism or some sinister alliance between the left and ‘Islamism’, rather than the arrogance, stupidity and brutality of Israel’s leaders.     But that explanation no longer has the clout that it once did. Because it isn’t only that the world sees Gazans as victims.     The world also sees them as resisters.   It sees the courage, resilience and heroism of a population that has refused to give into Israel and its high and mighty supporters.   It sees the Palestinians as David, battling an Israeli Goliath that appears to be nothing but a cruel and sadistic bully, addicted to violence and unwilling to even consider a just peace.

States that behave like that eventually become pariahs, now matter how militarily powerful they may be, and no matter how many lies they tell.     They can get away with a lot of things only as long as they can count on the support of the powerful.       But sooner or later there will come a point when even the governments that have given Israel carte blanche for so long will conclude that it is not in their interests to do so any longer.   When that happens Israel will have to change or it will not survive.

That day may not be far off.   And when or if it comes, both the horrors that Netanyahu has unleashed on Gaza and the astonishing refusal of the Gazan population to be cowed by them will have done a great deal to bring it about.

Sanctions: War that Doesn’t Speak its Name

In today’s Guardian, Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Deghan report on the impact on ordinary Iranians of sanctions imposed by the ‘international community’ to pressure the regime into abandoning its nuclear program.     The article describes how

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.

Borger and Deghan note that

Western governments have built waivers into the sanctions regime aimed at persuading Tehran to curb its nuclear programme in an effort to ensure that essential medicines get through, but those waivers are not functioning, as they conflict with blanket restrictions on banking, as well as bans on “dual-use” chemicals which might have a military application

As a result, according to Naser Naghdi, the director general of Darou Pakhsh, the country’s biggest pharmaceutical company:

‘There are patients for whom a medicine is the different between life and death. What is the world doing about this? Are Britain, Germany, and France thinking about what they are doing? If you have cancer and you can’t find your chemotherapy drug, your death will come soon. It is as simple as that.’

Iranians are also dying in other ways.   Last year the New York Times reported that more than 1,700 Iranian airline passengers and crew had died because Iranian passenger planes were not able to get spare parts, due to sanctions imposed by the United States dating back to the Clinton era – whose effects have been compounded by those imposed more recently.

The Guardian insists that the lack of medicines is an ‘unintended’ consequence of sanctions, and that both the EU and the US are looking into ways of strengthening ‘ safeguards for at-risk Iranians’, but it is difficult to take such claims seriously.

In the twentieth century it became an established tenet of ‘modern’ warfare that the political and military objectives of war could no longer be achieved simply by defeating an opposing army on the ‘battlefield’, but on directing military force against the enemy economy or ‘infrastructure’,   or in order to break the will or ‘morale’ of the civilian population to continue with the war and support   a particular government or regime.

From World War II to the ‘low-intensity wars’ of the Cold War, in the two Iraq wars and the murky battlefields of the ‘war on terror’,   these principles have been put into practice in various military and quasi-military means that include the wholesale bombing of cities,   the ‘surgical’ bombings of Iraq during the two Gulf wars, and the use of death squads and other forms of state terror in counterinsurgency campaigns and ‘wars on terror.’

In the past twenty years, Western states have developed a new and – from a PR point of view, extremely attractive – means of waging war on civilians without explicitly have to declare that this is what is actually taking place.     The use of the sanctions instrument as a form of undeclared war against civilians first emerged during the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War.

In Invisible War: the United States and the Iraq Sanctions (2010) Joy Gordon attributes the lack of medicines and other crucial goods to the fact that

‘The United States insisted that Iraq seek permission for each item, rather than approving categories of permitted goods, and the United States insisted as well that each item be approved on a case-by-case basis, without the use of precedent or criteria for approval…Because of the consensus decision-making rule, each approval required the agreement of the entire committee.   Any single member of the [multinational] committee could unilaterally block the purchase of any contract for humanitarian goods by withholding its approval.’

These procedures resulted in frequently interminable delays, with disastrous consequences for the Iraqi population.   By 2000, UNICEF calculated that 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five had died as a result of the war, malnutrition and curable diseases for which medicines were not available.

These consequences were so dire that Denis Halliday, assistant secretary general to the United Nations, resigned his post as co-ordinator of humanitarian relief to Iraq in 1998 in protest at what he called ‘ a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals.’

The British diplomat Carne Ross, who served as the UK’s Iran expert to the United Nations during the 1990s and later resigned in protest at the 2003 Iraq war, similarly declared that ‘In many ways, the sanctions on the Iraqi people were worse than the war because the economy was taken back decades and the health service deteriorated massively.’

This not how sanctions were depicted by the governments that were imposing them.   In so far as the negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions were recognized at all, they were blamed on the corruption or negligence of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Occasionally, a different logic could be perceived, for those who wanted to look.    There was Madeleine Albright’s notorious’ ‘the price, we think the price is worth it’ response to an interviewer who pointed out that more civilians were dying as a result of sanctions than had died during Hiroshima.

There was the senior US Air Force officer, who suggested that Iraqi civilians might be complicit in the continuation of Saddam’s regime, and added that ‘The definition of innocents is a little unclear.   They do live here, and ultimately the people have some control over what goes on in their country.’

From the point of view of the ‘international community’, or at least some of its members therefore,   Iraq civilians were being punished in order to ‘contain’ Saddam and sanctions also had the more longterm and amorphous objective of pressuring a ‘guilty’ population to overthrow the regime.

The ‘area bombing’ of German and Japanese cities during World War II was intended to bring about a similar objective.   But the beauty of sanctions, from the point of view of the handful of countries that are powerful enough to impose them,   is that their impact is not immediately visible and easily ignored, evaded or blamed on the targeted government.

In effect, sanctions make it possible to wage war on civilians without ever saying so explicitly.   To democratic governments that pride themselves on their humanitarianism and their determination to limit ‘collateral damage’, this is an extremely valuable instrument of coercion and pressure.

And that is why you can bet that no matter how bad things get in Iran, someone, somewhere will have already concluded that the cost is ‘worth it’.