Tag Archives: Republicans

Congress promises Iranian people strangulation and catastrophe

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the depressingly predictable consequences of US-led sanctions against Iran: they have reinforced the regime’s hold on power and enriched the elite while wrecking the lives of millions of middle and working class Iranians. The Times’ Robert Worth made prominent note of the fact that sanctions were motivated at least as much by President Barack Obama’s domestic political ambitions as they were by American foreign pollicy interests:

Yet this economic burden is falling largely on the middle class, raising the prospect of more resentment against the West and complicating the effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program — a central priority for the Obama administration in this election year…

Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit. Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market. Some analysts and opposition political figures contend that Mr. Ahmadinejad deliberately worsened the currency crisis so that his cronies could generate profits this way.

More pointless, politics-driven economic warfare is on the way. At the prompting of United Against A Nuclear Iran, a neocon front group whose board members have already urged “military action” against Iran, the Senate Banking Committee recently approved a new round of sanctions that would force the “Swift” telecommunications industry to expel Iranian banks. The New York Times noted that the Swift sanctions “would be financially catastrophic for Iran if carried out fully, according to proponents and sanctions experts.”

One Democratic congressional aide who supports the Swift sanctions touted the Senate legislation as a collective strangulation of the Iranian population, remarking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “every time that a new sanctions bill is passed, the noose gets tighter around the neck of the Iranian economy.”

A co-sponsor of the Swift sanctions, Republican Senator Mark Kirk, has been the largest single recipient of AIPAC-related donations in Congress. Kirk’s desire to collectively punish the Iranian people for anything their government might or might not have done is unconcealed. In an October 2011 appearance on a Chicago-area radio show, Kirk spent his time harumphing over a transparently trumped up Iranian government terror plot. But the host interrupted the senator with an important question: “Are you really going after the government of the country, or are you taking food out of the mouths of the citizens?‘”

Kirk’s reply neatly encapsulated the sadistic consensus in Washington: “It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths of the citizens from a government that’s plotting an attack directly on American soil.”

Romney’s Man on Iran

In 2005, a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) participated in the school’s annual diplomatic simulation. The high-pressure scenario required the students to negotiate a resolution to a standoff with a nuclear-armed Republic of Pakistan. Mara Karlin, a student known for her hawkish politics on Israel and the Middle East, played President of the United States.

Though most of the participants were confident they could head off a military conflict with diplomatic measures, Karlin jumped the gun. According to a former SAIS student, not only did Karlin order a nuclear strike on Pakistan, she also took the opportunity to nuke Iran. Her classmates were shocked. It was the first time in 45 years that a simulation concluded with the deployment of a nuclear weapon.

That year, Karlin received a plum job in the Bush administration’s Department of Defense where, according to her bio she was “intimately involved in formulating U.S. policy on Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestinian affairs.” Lebanon was a special area of focus for Karlin. She claims to have helped structure the Lebanese Armed Forces and coordinated relations between the US and Lebanese militaries.

According to the former SAIS student, Karlin was a favorite of Eliot Cohen, an ultra-hawkish professor of strategic studies at SAIS, which is regarded in American foreign policy circles as a training ground for the neoconservative movement. Through Cohen’s connections among the neocons occupying key civilian posts in Bush’s Defense Department, the former student claims Cohen was able to arrange an attractive sinecure for Karlin. Besides Karlin, the ex-SAIS student told me Cohen has promoted the career ambitions of many former pupils, including Kelly Magsamen, who worked under Cohen in the Bush administration and now oversees the Iran portfolio in the Obama administration’s State Department.

Today, Cohen is among Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisers. He is the primary author of Romney’s foreign policy white paper, which attacks Obama for “currying favor with [America’s] enemies” and “ostentatiously shunning Jerusalem.”

The paper urges a policy of regime change in Iran including possible coordination with Israel on military strikes to prevent the Iranian regime from developing a nuclear weapon. It is an aggressive Republican election season document presenting a concoction of post-9/11 unilateralism and unvarnished neo-imperialism as the antidote to a sitting president Cohen accused of “unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere.” More importantly, it suggests that a Romney administration’s foreign policy might look remarkably similar to – and perhaps more extreme than – that of the Bush administration.

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The Bibi Connection

“US President Barack Obama is ‘naïve’ and needs to face up to the threat presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, Israel’s National Security Council concluded during a strategic discussion several days ago,” Israel Hayom reported.

The Israeli National Security Council consists of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s closest advisers. And Israel Hayom is not just another right-leaning Israeli tabloid. Referred to by Israelis as the “Bibiton,” or Bibi’s mouthpiece, the paper is an instrument that gives him extraordinary political leverage. The obviously planted article in Israel Hayom rang like a bell sounding the start of Netanyahu’s own campaign in helping the Republican Party oust Obama from the White House.

Israel Hayom’s genesis demonstrates the depth of Netanyahu’s connections in Republican circles. It was created by one of Netanyahu’s top financial supporters, a Las Vegas-based casino tycoon named Sheldon Adelson, who is also a major donor to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Adelson’s closest relationship is with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a longtime ally of Netanyahu who has been running a rancorous campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Netanyahu’s less than subtle intervention has become an open issue in Israeli politics. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party has criticized Netanyahu for damaging the US-Israeli relationship. “Netanyahu spoke about consensus,” Livni said in May, “and if there is a consensus in Israel, it’s that the relationship with the US is essential to Israel, and a prime minister that harms the relationship with the US over something unsubstantial is harming Israel’s security and deterrence.”

But Livni’s warning has been ignored. Rather than hesitating, the prime minister and his inner circle are moving full steam ahead in their political shadow campaign whose ultimate goal is to remove Obama. Bibi’s war against Obama is unprecedented. While Israeli prime ministers have tried to help incumbent presidents, none have ever waged a full-scale campaign to overthrow them.

Netanyahu has engaged enthusiastic allies in the Republican Congress, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and within the right-wing media. His neoconservative allies in Washington are launching a “Super PAC” to generate emotional attack ads against Obama and any candidate that might be an obstacle to his policies. And his campaign has even broadened into an attempt to discredit The New York Times, whose editorial page and foreign policy columnists, Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen, have been critical of him.

Netanyahu’s shadow campaign is intended to be a factor in defeating Obama and electing a Republican in his place. He opposed Obama’s early demand to freeze settlements on the West Bank as a precondition for reviving the peace process, a process since the Oslo Accord that Netanyahu has attempted to stall or sabotage, despite his signing of the Wye Agreement under pressure from President Clinton. Since his adamant stand against the settlement freeze, Netanyahu has undermined every effort to engage the peace process. He appears dead set on consolidating Greater Israel, or what many Israelis call “Judea and Samaria,” and has signaled a strong desire to attack Iran.

By all accounts, Netanyahu’s personal chemistry with Obama is toxic. Obama bristles at his belligerence. But Netanyahu’s hostility has reaped rewards from him, having stopped the peace process in its tracks. The latest effort by the Quartet seems doomed to failure. And Netanyahu’s rejectionism has put Obama on the defense. Most of the US Jewish establishment has remained a bulwark for Bibi’s policies. Obama, meanwhile, has been forced to declare America’s “unshakable bond” with Israel, even as Bibi thwarts Obama’s initiatives and attacks him in the Israeli press.

As political strategy, by tainting Obama as less than full-throated in support of Israel, Netanyahu bolsters the Republican themes that the president “apologizes” for US power, is weak on national security, and is an agent of “decline.” By depicting Obama as “weak” on Israel, Netanyahu’s campaign excites right-wing Jews and evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly accept the biblical claims of the Jewish state’s historical right to Greater Israel, Judea and Samaria. Bibi’s deepest attack line against Obama merges theology with ideology.
His campaign against Obama is a high-stakes gambit that will almost certainly color US-Israeli relations well past Election Day. Already, Netanyahu has succeeded in polarizing the political debate, as his agenda is singularly aligned with the Republican Party. Yet Bibi’s short-term objectives are rapidly turning the US-Israel relationship, at least under his aegis, into a partisan issue, another litmus test of conservative ideology rather than national interest.

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Lifting the Hood Off Rick Perry: Was His Family In The Ku Klux Klan?

Members of Texas-based Klan chapters rally in 1992

Members of Texas-based Klan chapters rally in 1992

Texas Governor Rick Perry has opened a new issue to try to lift his floundering campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, insinuating that President Barack Obama just might not be an American citizen. Asked if Obama was born in the United States, Perry told Parade Magazine, in an interview published on October 23, “I have no reason to think otherwise.” But he then qualified his answer, stating, “Well, I don’t have a definitive answer.”

Perry’s comments on Obama’s background are puzzling, considering that the President has produced a long form birth certificate proving his U.S. citizenship. For those Republicans who have become known as “Birthers,” Obama’s documention is not enough. To them, he will always be under suspicion as an alien. Whether it is his brown skin, Arabic middle name, or African father that feeds the doubters, he remains the source of heavily publicized right-wing conspiracy theories, now given credence by Perry. According to an October 12 PPP poll, 39 percent of registered Republicans still do not believe Barack Obama was born in the United States.

But by channeling the paranoia, Perry may have opened himself up to unsettling questions about his own background and family history. In his stump speeches since announcing his candidacy, Perry almost invariably touts his humble roots, describing a hardscrabble but wholesome childhood in Haskell County, Texas, the origin of his small-town traditional values. Yet the New York Times has reported the pervasiveness of racist attitudes in Haskell County, where white residents referred to the segregated area on the other side of the tracks as “Niggertown.” The Times story followed the report in the Washington Post on the Perry family ranch in West Texas, where the governor  often entertained guests, called “Niggerhead.”

But both papers missed an additional important historical fact: Haskell County was home to an active, large and influential chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The genealogy of a prominent farmer and longtime resident of Haskell County, Oran Ewan Webb, refers to the Klan as a central facet of life in the county, noting:“There was a meeting of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at the O E Webb farm four miles east of Haskell on Monday night September 29, 1924. Public lectures were given by speakers of state reputation. Every officer of the Haskell County Klan was present. (Notice from Haskell newspaper).”

During the 1920’s, the Klan virtually controlled Texas state politics. According to the Texas State Historical Association:

“With a membership of perhaps as many as 100,000, the Klan used its united voting block to elect state legislators, sheriffs, judges, and other local and state officials. Its greatest success, however, was in securing the election of Earle Bradford Mayfield to the United States Senate in 1922. The following year the Klan established firm control of city governments in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Wichita Falls, and the order probably had a majority in the House of Representatives of the Thirty-eighth Texas Legislature, which met in January. By the end of 1922 the paid membership swelled to as many as 150,000, and Kluxers looked forward to even greater triumphs.”

Though Klan membership declined steadily after the Great Depression hit Texas, local chapters remained active throughout the civil rights era. The Times reported that when Perry entered Texas A&M in 1968, some students posed for yearbook photos in Klan robes, while others formed a dairy group called the “Kream and Kow Klub” — KKK. Today, an underground Klan chapter operates in West Texas, and in 2010 its members left fliers in a parking lot at Texas Tech University.

Perry may continue to believe, or pretend, that he does not  have a “definitive answer” to the question about Obama’s citizenship — even though the state of Hawaii does. But he must have a “definitive answer” to another question closer to home — whether members of his family belonged to the Klan, or attended Klan rallies. It is an indisputable fact that the Klan was a central component of the cultural and political heritage of Perry’s hometown. Were members of his family ever members of the Klan?  The national press has begun to put Haskell Country’s disturbing history of racism in the  spotlight. Given Perry’s gesture to the “Birthers,” it is now time to learn more about his background. What exactly were his family’s ties to the Klan, if any, and if so, why has he kept the information hidden from the public for his entire political career?