Saturday, February 23, 2013

Little Things Matter! - Remembering my days in Canada

In the spring of 1979, I accompanied some friends who were traveling from Edmonton, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Considering the long trip – almost 1200 kilometers, which can take at least 12 hours, we decided to leave at night and take turns driving the car. At night, with hardly any traffic on the highways, such trips usually take less time to reach a destination. An older friend had a big, old Chevrolet Impala Station Wagon, which could comfortably seat seven riders. We tied our bags on the top of the wagon thus allowing the back seat riders to sleep with their legs stretched out.

Within probably an hour into our trip, I started feeling sleepy, and dozed off only to be awakened by the horns of a car that was following us. I also saw car indicator light signals flushing, as if to stop us. But our driver friend would have none of those signals to retard his speed. He was probably driving at speeds way above the allowable speed limit of 100 km per hour. The riders of the other car were ordinary young Canadians and were not from the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The fact that it was a long weekend and after midnight, our driver friend did not want to slow down or stop, assuming that those guys were drunk Canadians, and meant trouble.

After racing for another half an hour, the other car driver was eventually able to overtake us. His friend sitting on the passenger side screamed through the rolled down window for us to stop our car and succeeded in forcing our driver to comply more like a cop would do to block a car from moving forward.  The sudden stop had woken up the rest of us inside the car. As we curiously looked out, we saw them bring out a suitcase from their car, which belonged to one of us. Obviously, the suitcase was not tied up properly on the upper rack of the wagon and fell down while our driver friend was speeding his car. He simply did not realize the problem. Those two Canadians saw the suitcase fall and picked it up from the highway and were following us for almost an hour only to return that piece of luggage. Their homes were sixty miles away in the opposite direction, very close to the place where they found the suitcase. After returning our suitcase, they turned around their vehicle in the opposite direction and sped away without allowing us enough time to thank them for that noble deed.

Nearly 23 years have passed by since I left Canada to pursue my doctoral work and eventually settle in the USA. But still that piece of Canadian kindness has remained as fresh as ever in my memory. Canada was a much colder place for someone like me coming from the tropical South Asia and I moved out in 1980 to warmer and beautiful southern California to pursue my doctoral studies.

Another time, on a very cold, icy day, I was in a car with some friends returning to Saskatoon from Regina, the provincial capital city of Saskatchewan. On our way, our car suddenly hit ‘black ice’ – a thin coating of glazed ice on road surface that is virtually transparent, and thus difficult to distinguish it from snow and frozen slush or thicker ice layers. Deicing with salt, which helps to depress the freezing point of the solvent (water) per Le Chatelier’s Principle, usually works well down to a temperature of minus 18 degrees C. But if the road temperature is below that, then ‘black ice’ formed on roadways, especially bridges and highways can be quite dangerous unless properly treated with more effective salts.

As soon as our car hit ‘black ice’, it spun out of control and threw us all into a pile of snow between the highways going in the opposite directions. Canadian highways, especially in the middle Prairie territories, are much less frequented by commuters than their counterparts in the USA. In those days, there were no cell phones either, and the likelihood of finding a phone booth on the roadside to call CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) or the police was rather remote. As such, we were quite vulnerable – being stranded in a freezing cold day on a highway halfway between the two cities, separated by roughly 300 kilometers.

Fortunately, the driver of a small pickup truck was able to spot us, and seeing our miserable condition stopped by and promptly offered us help without any monetary incentive. He had a long piece of rope, which he tied to the rear bumper of his truck, and we tied the other end to the bumper of our car. Slowly but steadily he pulled our car from the pile of snow. Driving carefully, we were then able to return to our dorms.

Before I came to Canada, I heard people say negative things about the people of Canada – that they are closet racists. And sure, there were occasions in which I was pained in my heart to hear young Canadians taunting anyone that looked brown calling them ‘Pakis.’  But I have come to overlook their fault and cherish their kindness which they showered on me when I needed help. Thank you, Canada. Little things matter!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Obama’s Nominations and the ‘Kill-list’

Last week, Chuck Hagel’s nomination for the Secretary of Defense hit a roadblock in the Senate floor. Fifty-eight senators voted yes and forty voted no to his nomination. Obviously, these days a simple majority does not mean much in the Senate floor! The majority leader Senator Reid of the Democratic Party was one of those who voted against so that he could use parliamentary rules to quickly reconsider the nomination.

Congress is in recess next week. So, the next vote may have to wait until Tuesday, February 26. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2016, who has tried to promote himself as a more traditional realist on foreign policy, wary of too much interventionism, could have been the deciding vote to clear the way for Hagel’s confirmation, but instead he opted to vote no. He told CNN that he would back a filibuster of Hagel, relying on the most spurious of pretexts: the charge, raised by senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), that Hagel is in the pay of foreign powers and that Hagel needs to “prove” that he is not in league with foreign governments or sympathetic with terrorists. 

In a few short months in office, Cruz has already earned the notoriety as an Israel-firster and as one of the most McCarthyite members of the GOP, someone happy to use lies and innuendo to destroy opponents. Even senator John McCain had to call his allegations against Hagel as being “over the line.”

And now for Rand Paul to endorse Ted Cruz’s bogus claims shows his greatest lapse of judgment. Already he has proven himself to be very unlike his more popular father – Congressman Ron Paul -- respected by many, who sought the GOP nomination in 2012. His excessive pandering towards Israel on a recent trip there where he offered an entirely unnecessary security guarantee to Israel, combined with an unfathomable obtuseness about the occupation of the Palestinian land, plus his vote for cruel sanctions against Iran have already made him an embarrassment to many of his antiwar conservatives and libertarian supporters. His vote against Hagel was like the final straw for many who like to see him emerge as a viable leader of a realist foreign policy tendency within the GOP, and as a presidential candidate in 2016. If he persists on going demagogic on Hagel, his supporters may not be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His father’s reputation will not be able to salvage his political hara-kiri.

Many in America are tired of the American foreign policy, which hitherto has rewarded criminal regimes and put the country on a collision course with others that was either unnecessary or avoidable. They also distaste President Obama’s drone policy, which has killed thousands of innocent civilians, including children and elderly.  In recent years, that policy has also contributed to the assassination of American-born citizens without any trial.

In his interviews with David Frost, (late) President Nixon famously said, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Unlike the latter-day trigger-happy presidents that lived in the White House, Nixon was not talking about targeted assassinations and drone attacks, but he was talking about wiretaps and covert entries to protect lives and safeguard national security in a cold war era. Compared to these war criminals Nixon was a saint, or, so it seems!

In the post-9/11 era, under the pretext of global war on terror, President George W. Bush approved illegal crimes like the waterboard, torture, rendition and hold enemy aliens in indefinite detention at Guantanamo. Under President Barack Obama, who once taught constitutional law at the prestigious University of Chicago, we have a “kill list” from which the president selects individuals to be executed abroad. Where are we heading to?

According to a Justice Department “white paper,” anyone can be in the U.S. president’s ‘kill list.’ To be included as a target, it only requires, an ‘informed high-level official’ to decide that so-and-so “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”  The salient point of the memo is this: It allows the president to bypass the traditional constitutional requirements governing how American citizens are treated judicially. Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union has precisely pointed out that "This is a little bit like assuming that the defendant is guilty and then asking whether it's useful to have a trial." 

This is a far cry from the checks and balances mandated in a constitutional democracy to stop the abuse of power, and the fundamental notion within the American judicial system that espouses innocence of everyone until proven guilty.  

Patrick Buchanan recently wrote, “As killing a U.S. citizen is a graver deed than waterboarding a terrorist plotter to get information to save lives, Obama, who bewailed Bush’s detention, rendition and interrogation policies, appears guilty of manifest hypocrisy.”

In the “Smiley & West” radio program, Professor Cornel West of Princeton University took on the administration’s drone policy and said, “The chickens are coming home to roost.” “We’ve been talking about this for a good while, the immorality of drones, dropping bombs on innocent people. It’s been over 200 children so far. These are war crimes.” West called Bush and Obama “war criminals,” adding that “They have killed innocent people in the name of the struggle for freedom, but they’re suspending the law, very much like Wall Street criminals. The law is suspended for them, but the law applies for the rest of us.”

President Obama has nominated John Brennan to be the Director of the CIA. If approved, the bombs and missiles, like the rain, will continue to fall on the good and the bad, the innocent and the guilty, the deserving and the undeserving individuals alike. As the U.S. law makers decide on Brennan, let them ponder on the question — Are we creating more terrorists than we are killing? As rightly noted by Buchanan, “For if these drone strikes that kill innocent and guilty alike are creating new millions of sympathizers for al-Qaida, and recruiting new thousands of volunteers willing to dedicate their lives to taking revenge against us, we have entered upon a war that may never end.”

Is that the legacy that president Obama wants to leave behind? Already, the capital city of the USA looks like a barricaded city with its great buildings and monuments enveloped in concrete barriers. Passengers are forced to submit to invasive searches before boarding planes, which add to their ticket prices and wastage of valuable time. They can’t event carry a water bottle! How long will such mindless safety measures continue, and at whose behest and at what cost?

Patrick Buchanan fears that if we do not end this drone war, this war will one day bring an end to the freedom for which the founding fathers of the USA fought. We may end up living in a garrison state!

And the latest episode with vigilante, fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner’s killing spree (when he chose to become the plaintiff, jury, judge and executioner – much like what President Obama has been to his drone victims) and his suicide after a standoff with police shows that Buchanan may be right. As already noted by Professor West, parroting what Malcolm X had said nearly five decades ago soon after the assassination of President Kennedy, “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

We forgot that message and need to be reminded of the wisdom behind those seven words. We need a paradigm shift with our immoral policies at the top to avoid the catastrophic showdown at home. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Indian Federation: Dream or Delirium?

Many Indians living in the USA strongly believe that all the south Asian countries that once belonged to the British Raj should be united under a single federation. They believe that the partition of India was a grave mistake and that none of the countries in the region outside India has what it takes to become a vibrant democracy. With all the street politics oozing out their ugliness, surely, it seems that Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are not ready for democracy.

Bangladesh achieved its independence from Pakistan on 16 December, 1971 after a bloody civil war that lasted for nearly nine months. The secular constitution, adopted within a year, proclaims a parliamentary form of democracy, and yet after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – revered as the father of the nation (more like what Gandhi was to India) – on 15 August, 1975, in a CIA inspired military coup, military or quasi-military regimes prevailed for the next 15 years.

Since the fall of military dictator Hossain M. Ershad in 1990 the position of the prime minister has rotated between two female leaders that run the two major political parties – the Awami League and the BNP. To many outsiders, the economic miracles of Bangladesh in the last few years which have put the country amongst the Next 11 countries (that have the potential to becoming major economies) owe their success to her smart, hard-working, rapidly growing entrepreneurs and that if these two leaders had stopped their political bickering for power – the ‘nasty’ rivalry, the tit-for-tat vindictive politics, Bangladesh’s economy would have seen a much higher growth rate than demonstrated hitherto.

Truly, for the last two decades, the parliament has failed to become the house for debating national issues, and instead, the streets in towns and cities have become the venues to show opposition to government policies.

On any given day, tens of millions of hours are lost by Bangladeshi commuters, and add to this worsening menace the strikes and protests called by opposition parties, often violent ones, which disrupt all the means of transportation and virtually paralyze the country. With election due within a year, there is no shortage of such dastardly behaviors of a failing democracy in which the destruction of public and private properties goes in parallel.

Last week Bangladesh war-crimes tribunal has sentenced a senior leader of a religious party – Jamat-e-Islami (JI) - to life in prison, the second verdict in trials that have reopened old wounds about the country's independence war and sparked violent riots. Activists of the JI clashed with police in which dozens got injured. In the ancient port city of Chittagong, a police officer - Pradip Kumar Das – was seen shooting a protester to death, which can only be described as a religiously-motivated execution-style murder. Reports from Chittagong suggest that Das had abused his position in the law enforcing agency to deliberately murder and injure unarmed protesters, affiliated with an organization (JI) that he personally distastes. It is not clear whether he will face any disciplinary action or be tried for committing such unprovoked and deliberate acts of crime, which are no less criminal than those committed by the alleged individuals currently being tried for war crimes in 1971.

Begum Khaleda Zia, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's arch rival and leader of the BNP, has called the tribunal a "farce". Some outside observers also see the war crimes trial as politically motivated and as a charade to liquidate opposition, especially the JI, which was founded by (late) Mowlana Moududi in the British era. It is worth mentioning here that Jamat, which had earlier opposed the partition of India along the religious lines – much in contrast to secular Muslim leaders of British India (who had opted for Pakistan), also opposed the breaking of Pakistan, and is therefore widely blamed as a collaborator for the Pakistani forces during the liberation war of Bangladesh.

According to a rights group, as of December 31, 2012, at least 775 people were killed and 58,251 injured in political violence across Bangladesh in the last four years. These numbers point to what is wrong with the health of democracy in this nation of 150 million people. They highlight how violent politics has become in the absence of mutual trust and meaningful dialogue between rival political organizations – the necessary elements for a viable democracy. Politics in Bangladesh has also come to be equated with permits, crimes and corruption, let alone influence pandering. Western democracies have also criticized Bangladesh for the absence of democracy within the major two political parties, let alone their neo-fascistic leanings when in power. This is not the Bangladesh that Bangabandhu envisioned, the martyrs shed their bloods for and the freedom fighters fought for!

In spite of such serious flaws with the illiberal democracy in Bangladesh, hardly anyone inside Bangladesh, or for that matter in South Asia minus India, sees India as a model to copy. Nepotism, crime and corruption are also very common in India. Like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Indian politics has been dynastic since the British days. Shortly after partition, India witnessed the assassination of her non-violent leader MK Gandhi by a fanatic Hindu who was affiliated with the Hindu ultra-nationalist parties – the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabah. Those parties, along with their political arm BJP, have epitomized bigotry and are an anathema to Indian secularism. They played a major role in the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid in 1992. In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the RSS had plotted to uproot the Muslim population in India and that during the 2002 Gujarat violence "the RSS circulated computerized lists of Muslim homes and businesses to be targeted by the mobs in advance". Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and a BJP leader, is widely believed to have played a major role in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002 in Gujarat that saw the death of more than a thousand people, most of whom were Muslims. Notwithstanding such a tainted past, Modi remains very popular in his home state.

In spite of her much touted secular claims, India, sadly, has remained a country of communal and caste violence, and continues to reward her Hindutvadi forces that are chauvinist and divisive. Even the ruling Congress Party is guilty of following dubious policies and of playing politics with minority votes. Hardly a day passes in India without such violent outbursts where the weak are attacked, killed and injured. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer lamented recently in the Secular Perspective, “India’s legacy of communalism and communal violence is here to stay, if one goes by activities of rightwing Hindutva forces and government’s total inaction, nay, paralysis. Communalism in India is taking long strides and the lull after Gujarat riots in communal violence has been broken and now communal riots are more frequent. Assam riots had shaken the country like Gujarat did and series of riots have been taking place, one after the other or what M.J.Akbar called, during eighties riot after riot.”

In recent years, New Delhi has earned the title of “rape capital” of India, with more than 560 cases of rape reported in the city, but violence against Indian women is widespread and has deep roots. Studies suggest that more than 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year in India, although citing experts the HRW believes that many more cases go unreported. It has been reported that every 20 minutes an adult woman is raped in India.

The Reuters TrustLaw group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women this year, in part because domestic violence there is often seen as deserved. A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is justified. A recent national family-health survey also reported that a sizable percentage of women blame themselves for beatings by their husbands. The Times of India reported that rapists have discovered a new way to assault their victims without the public seeing: behind the tinted windows of cars.

Indian judicial system is also broken. The country has about 15 judges for every 1 million people, while China has 159. A Delhi high court judge once estimated that it would take 466 years to get through the backlog in the capital alone. As recently noted in a Washington Post article by Olga Khazan and Rama Lakshmi, India’s conviction rate is no more than 26 percent. There is also no law on the books covering routine daily sexual harassment, which is euphemistically called “eve-teasing.” The passing of a proposed new sexual assault law has been delayed for seven years. India has one of the lowest female-to-male population ratios in the world because of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Throughout their lives, sons are fed better than their sisters and are more likely to be sent to school and have brighter career prospects. 

But more problematic than India’s internal problems is her external relationship with all her neighbors. It is simply patronizing, irritating and unwelcome! Such demeaning attitudes have cooled down the warm feelings that many Bangladeshis felt shortly about India after their independence. The liberating Indian forces are remembered more for their looting and stealing of heavy industrial equipment (esp. the jute mills) from the newly liberated Bangladesh than their sacrifice in the liberation war. The Indian government is despised for the enormous harm it has caused Bangladesh through the construction of the killer dams like the Farakka Barrage. And now the Tipaimukh Dam is designed to add to that list of suffering.

Notwithstanding the serious objections from Bangladesh, India has proposed a series of dams within the Teesta river system to produce some 50,000 MW of electricity within the next 10 years.  There are genuine concerns that the building of these dams may lead to river-induced seismicity. Despite such worries the construction of the dams had started. In his report to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji in December, hydrologist Kalyan Rudra recommended that “in the interest of keeping the Teesta alive, it is important to maintain the normal flow of the river towards Bangladesh.” Rudra has reportedly observed that the Teesta river should be allowed to flow ‘as normally as possible’ into Bangladesh – or else it will dry up if too much of its waters are withdrawn upstream.

India has not also honored the Mujib-Indira Pact about the enclaves. In 2011, the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) was signed by Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina. However, the Indian government has not ratified the LBA yet, in spite of the fact that once the Indo-Bangladesh border gets demarcated according to the LBA, India would receive more lands (2,777.038 acres) from Bangladesh than what she will transfer (2267.682 acres) back.

Hardly a week passes by when Bangladeshis living along the border are not killed by Border Security Forces of India. Such provocations are enough to permanently sour bilateral relationship. The Indian aspiration of federation is not even a beautiful dream for others! It is more like a delirium. Nightmare!

Before Indians dream of a federation with its neighbors, they may like to reread the history of partition from the opposing viewpoints, and not from the half-truths fed in their schools. The Indian government and its biased scholars have shamelessly turned history into hagiography; but facts rather than mythmaking should be the basis of history. If they amend, they will find that it was their chauvinist attitude, their take-it-all arrogance and sickening racism and bigotry that made its minorities feel threatened in a Hindu-majority India, which had too many of those forces of division and hatred – the likes of K.B. Hedgewar, Ballav Bhai Patel and Syama Prasad Mookerjee. They will find that Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was the most staunchly secular person in India, who believed in and worked for Indian unity before being pushed to the cause of Pakistan. Jaswant Singh’s book – Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence – can be a good starting point in that journey. As Jaswant Singh says in his book, "Facts are humbling. They prevent you from jumping to conclusions."

Is the Indian government willing to revise its tainted history of mythmaking and let facts become the basis of history? And what good is democracy when the minorities are denied opportunities and lag behind the majority in all measures of human development index? Is not the status of Muslims and Dalits, let alone women, in today’s India a sufficient reminder that cosmetic surgeries cannot hide the ugly truths, not for too long any way?

Friday, February 8, 2013

First International Conference on the Rohingyas of Burma - an old video, only recently released

In 2007 JARO under the able leadership of Mr. Salim Ullah hosted the first international conference on the Rohingyas of Burma (Myanmar) in two cities of Japan, which included Tokyo. Recently, I came across the newly released videos from this conference. I was invited as the chief guest and keynote speaker in this conference. The videos can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here in piecemeals (8 part series).

As you will notice, my concerns about the Rohingya people in a flawed democracy came so true with the latest unleasing of the pogroms against them - this time a collaborative one between the state actors and racist, criminal Rakhine politicians of the Arakan state.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lies about peace and war!

In his second inaugural speech, President Obama said, “We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.  We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.  America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.  We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”

Such claims are simply bizarre! Anyone paying slightest attention to history and facts would find, instead, that the U.S. foreign policy - especially with regard to Iran and the wider Middle East minus Israel - has been anything but peaceful. For more than half a century, it has been violent, destructive and utterly hostile to the wishes and aspirations of those people. Even to this very day, the U.S. government has been less than a reluctant supporter for democracy in that part of the world. It had held onto the despots like the Shah of Iran and Husni Mubarak of Egypt as long as it could until popular revolution had forced those puppets out. Even today, the Syrian murderer Bashar Assad had managed to hold onto power simply because the Obama administration would not come to the material aid of the Syrian people and its resistance forces fighting the brutal regime.

The United States has opposed and attempted to block Palestine’s upgraded UN status at every step. After the UN General Assembly voted on November 29, 2012 overwhelmingly to upgrade the status to a non-member state, Ambassador Susan Rice irately said that the United States "will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies." One has to be simultaneously deaf, dumb and blind or outright disingenuous to qualify the vote of over 130 countries on something as "unilateral." As a matter of fact, apart from Canada, no major country joined the U.S. and Israel in voting no. The other opponents included Palau, Panama and Micronesia. Britain and Germany abstained.

Rice added, “Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded."  What she failed to mention is the bitter truth about her own government’s criminal complicity has been at the heart of prolonging Palestinian suffering and their lack of statehood.  The pro-Israeli U.S. Congress, more correctly known as the ‘Amen Corner’, has been behind a series of punishing measures cutting off financing to the UN aid agencies which had hitherto provided material support to the Palestinian people, including the UNESCO in 2011 after it accepted Palestine as a member. 

The U.S. government is also guilty of shielding the pariah state of Israel from legal scrutiny of its actions which are considered criminal by every unbiased expert on the subject. Predictably, Rice described all efforts to hold Israel accountable for its actions and to abide by the international treaties, charters and conventions to which it is bound as "anti-Israel crap." What a disgraceful hogwash of ‘conscience’, which Obama alluded to!

The United Nations Human Rights Council said in a report issued last Thursday that Israel is violating international law in the West Bank, that Israel “must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the West Bank and cease further settlement building “without preconditions.” The UNHRC report said that Israel’s settlement policies violate article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of civilian populations to occupied territory. It says the settlements are “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” “The Rome statute establishes the international criminal court’s jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory,” the UNHRC report stated. It added: “Ratification of the statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims.”

But seriously speaking, what chance is there that Israel would listen and abide by the Rome Statute when it has the U.S. to shield it from all its crimes – past, present and future?

As to the matter of resolving the tense U.S.-Iran relationship peacefully, the least said the better. Iran continues to be punished savagely for its legitimate right to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. At Israel’s behest – the rogue country that is a non-signatory to the NPT and is known to possess hundreds of nuclear bombs -- the U.S. government wants to stop that Iranian pursuit by hook or crook. It manufactures and spreads lies. In this regard, it is worth noting Dr. ElBaradei’s statement, who earlier headed the IAEA. In 2011, he told The New Yorker, "During my time at the agency we haven't seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials," before adding, "I don't believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran."

But with a new director at the IAEA, long known to be the America's man in Vienna who has proudly boasted of being "solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision" (who began secretly meeting with White House and National Security Council officials before presenting biased IAEA reports on Iran), the campaign of lies and sanctions against Iran go unabated. A year ago, Suzanne Maloney - a former U.S. State Department policy adviser and currently a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution - argued in Foreign Affairs that Obama's policy of sanctions against Iran had cornered his administration into a pointless regime change posture with no chance for successful diplomacy. 

Since the days of GW Bush the pro-Israeli War Party has been beating the drum for war on Iran, lest we wake up to a mushroom cloud over an Israeli city. In his theatrical performance at the UN last year, Bibi Netanyahu has already introduced his ‘ticking bomb’ theory. Back then, on September 20, 2002, he told us, courtesy of the pro-war Wall Street Journal, about the necessity of going to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He wrote, "This is a dictator who is ... feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons." He continued, “(I)f action is not taken now, we will all be threatened by a much greater peril ... (for) no gas mask and no vaccine can protect against nuclear weapons."

It did not take too long for everyone to find out what a liar Bibi was. But by then, the USA has lost nearly 5,000 of its own soldiers, and another 50,000 wounded, and killed and maimed nearly a million of Iraqis, and widowed and orphaned millions. The country was almost broke financially. Undaunted, however, with such massive losses the pro-Israeli War Party wants the USA to fight its next dirty war against Iran. It is there they need a pro-Israeli hawk in the Pentagon. Can Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nomination for the Secretary of Defense, be trusted to deliver for Israel?

Unlike Senator John Kerry (D – MA) who was confirmed as the Secretary of State, former senator Hagel is facing an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. Many of the neoconservative pundits and politicians, and Israel-firsters, sold to the powerful Israeli-lobby, are up in their arms resisting his nomination. They claim that he would be ‘soft’ on Iran and ‘harsh’ on IsraelAmerica’s ‘only’ trusted ally.

A brand new conservative group calling itself ‘Americans for a Strong Defense’ and financed by anonymous donors is running advertisements urging Democratic senators in five states to vote against Chuck Hagel, saying he would make the United States “a weaker country.” Another anonymously backed organization, Use Your Mandate, which its television time through a prominent Republican firm, is attacking Mr. Hagel as “anti-Israel” in ads and mailers. Anti-Hagel advertising — including TV and newspaper ads, website banner ads, and direct mailing — is also paid for by groups like the American Future Fund, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), and Log Cabin Republicans.

But more troubling is the revelation that the gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson (chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and a die-hard Zionist, who was the biggest individual donor of the so-called super PACs with more than $100 million that sought to defeat Mr. Obama) has reached out directly to Republican Senators to urge them to hold the line against Hagel’s confirmation. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in December, Mr. Adelson said he was prepared to “double” his investment in politics in the coming year.

Seemingly the power and influence of the pro-Israeli lobbies would only grow in the coming years. Mindful of their growing power, many politicians in the USA are on a race to prove how protective they are of the Israeli interests. Last Thursday at the senate hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham, arguably the most hawkish member in the Capitol Hill, challenged Hagel’s 2008 claim that the “Jewish lobby,” or Israel lobby, “intimidates” people on Capitol Hill. To his question “Do you agree with me you shouldn’t have said that?” Mr. Hagel agreed.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz soon followed by quoting an interview Hagel did on al Jazeera in 2009, in which Hagel responded to a question suggesting Israel had committed war crimes. “Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?” Cruz asked Hagel. “No I do not, senator. I would want to look at the full context of the interview, but to answer your question, no,” Hagel said.

As can be seen all this hullaballoo about Chuck Hagel’s nomination is like raising storm in a tea cup. When someone refuses to support his extremely supportable claim that the Israel lobby has intimidated US Congress and has helped to lobby for US policies that are blindly endorsing Israel’s war crimes, no Israel-firster should lose his or her sleep over the potential harm caused by that person when he is confirmed as the Secretary of Defense. Chuck Hagel, like his peers, is another mainstream politician who has learned the trade well and surely belongs to the Club.
Iran represents no threat to the United States to justify a war. Nor is Iran threatening Israel with a war. In the last hundreds of years, Iran has never initiated a war against any country. As a signatory to the NPT, it has all the rights to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful means. The USA and the rest of the world are better off believing its peaceful purpose than to fall for Netanyahu’s lies. The lies of Netanyahu, propagated by his partners in crime, had brought nothing but shame and suffering to the USA.

It would be absolutely foolish of President Obama to be fooled like Bush Jr. Let him instead walk the talk of his statement: “We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.” That would be fair and better for all. Or, will he play into the hands of Amen Corner and military industrial complex that are salivating over a war with Iran?