Romney’s Jaw-Dropping Incoherence

Exclusive: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s latest distortion about an attempt by the U.S. Embassy in Egypt to calm Mideast tensions is not only renewing concerns about his honesty but raising new questions about his mental stability, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

For all his supposed business competence, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is running a campaign of jaw-dropping incoherence, mixing some of the most dishonest rants from right-wing talk radio with focus-group worries about health care and the economy even if they clash with conservative principles.

You saw this at the Republican National Convention, which was almost fully devoted to gross distortions of President Barack Obama’s positions like the endless repetition of his out-of-context quote, “You didn’t build that” combined with complaints that Obama had not intervened enough in the economy to create more jobs, even in contradiction of the GOP’s supposed love of “free markets.”

Now, Romney has pounced on a well-meaning though ultimately unsuccessful effort by the U.S. embassy staff in Cairo to tamp down anger caused by an incendiary anti-Muslim video that appeared designed to elicit the kind of violent rage that is now sweeping the Middle East.

Seemingly without regard for the delicate circumstances, Romney issued a statement that transformed the embassy’s criticism of the video into an expression of sympathy by the Obama administration for the protesters who attacked U.S. diplomatic outposts in Egypt and, fatally, in Libya. However, to make his point stick, Romney had to reverse the actual chronology of events.

Here is how the chronology actually went: Early on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Egypt sought to calm tensions by issuing a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

Despite the embassy’s message, hours later, mobs of angry protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In Benghazi, the assault involved weapons which led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three of his aides.

Shortly after 10 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi.”

However, Romney saw an opening to hammer home his beloved theme that President Obama “apologizes for America.” Disregarding the actual chronology, i.e. that the message by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo preceded the mob attacks, Romney put out a statement at 10:24 p.m., which declared: “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Romney’s statement ignored Secretary Clinton’s stern words, which represented the first official response from a senior member of the Obama administration. However, rather than correct his mistake on Wednesday, Romney expanded on his criticism of the embassy officials in Cairo and implicitly defended the offensive video.

Romney said, “the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake.” The principle that Romney appeared to be defending was the right to grossly ridicule someone else’s religion, while ignoring a competing American principle, tolerance of the religion of others.

On Wednesday afternoon after his own somber and stern response to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outposts President Obama said in an interview that “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

A Troubling Pattern

But Romney’s problem appears to be somewhat different. Both during the Republican primaries and since he nailed down the GOP nomination, he has demonstrated a readiness to say whatever he thinks will help him politically without regard to its truthfulness or its fairness.

While it’s common for politicians of all stripes to stretch the truth now and then, Romney has taken that behavior to a new level. He lies, distorts and misrepresents in a wholesale fashion, not the occasional retail fib that is more typical. Then he refuses to apologize as if accountability is not for him.

Earlier in Campaign 2012, Romney even won some grudging respect for his skill as a liar. On April 16, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote: “Among the attributes I most envy in a public man (or woman) is the ability to lie. If that ability is coupled with no sense of humor, you have the sort of man who can be a successful football coach, a CEO or, when you come right down to it, a presidential candidate. Such a man is Mitt Romney.”

Cohen cited a Republican debate during which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Romney’s SuperPAC of running dishonest attack ads. Romney claimed that he hadn’t seen the ads but then described and defended the content of one.

Cohen wrote: “Me, I would have confessed and begged for forgiveness. Not Romney, though, and herein is the reason he will be such a formidable general-election candidate. He concedes nothing. He had seen none of the ads, he said. They were done by others, he added. Of course, they are his supporters, but he had no control over them. All this time he was saying this rubbish, he seemed calm, sincere, matter of fact.

“And then he brought up an ad he said he did see. It was about Gingrich’s heretical support for a climate-change bill. He dropped the name of the extremely evil Nancy Pelosi. He accused Gingrich of criticizing Paul Ryan’s first budget plan, an Ayn Randish document. He added that Gingrich had been in ethics trouble in the House and [Romney] ended with a promise to make sure his ads were as truthful as could be. Pow! Pow! Pow! Gingrich was on the canvas.

“I watched, impressed. I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best. His technique is to explain, that bit about not knowing what was in the ads, and then counterattack. He maintains the bulletproof demeanor of a man who is barely suffering fools, in this case Gingrich. His [Romney’s] message is not so much what he says, but what he is: You cannot touch me. I have the organization and the money. Especially the money. (Even the hair.) You’re a loser.”

Economic Distortions

Other commentators have made the same point about Romney and his readiness to seize on any distortion relating to President Obama if it helps reinforce one of Romney’s campaign themes.

As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted earlier this year, Romney’s whole campaign is based on a cynical belief that Americans suffer from “amnesia” about what caused the nation’s economic mess and that they will simply blame President Obama for not quickly fixing it.

To illustrate the point last April, Romney staged a campaign event in Ohio at a shuttered drywall factory that closed in 2008, when Bush was still president and when the housing market, which had grown into a bubble under Bush’s deregulatory policies, was collapsing.

Krugman wrote: “Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don’t remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.”

Krugman added that the amnesia factor was relevant, too, because Romney is proposing more tax cuts and more banking deregulation, Bush’s disastrous recipe. In other words, Romney’s campaign is based on the fundamental lie that the cure for Bush’s economic collapse is a larger dose of Bush’s economic policies.

Romney’s speech at the shuttered drywall factory in Ohio was a precursor to a similar misrepresentation at the Republican convention when Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s vice presidential running mate, blasted Obama over the fact that a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, which stopped production under President Bush, had not been reopened as if it were suddenly the role of the federal government to make such detailed decisions for corporations.

The convention itself was a remarkable exercise in dishonest propaganda, focusing on two accusations against Obama that lacked any credibility. One was the repeated use of the misplaced antecedent in the “you didn’t build that” quote. Obama’s “that” clearly referred to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure that help business, not to individual businesses, as Romney and the Republicans pretended.

The other was a racially tinged claim that Obama had gutted the work requirement in welfare reform when his administration responded to a bipartisan request from some governors to give them more flexibility to make the work requirement more effective.

Wild Talk

Both lines of attack originated in the world of talk radio and then were adopted by the Romney campaign. But Romney’s dishonest attack lines sometime merge with his own ever-shifting positions on key issues.

For instance, on Sunday, Romney seemed to reverse his oft-stated pledge to repeal all of the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.” In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said he would keep some of its popular provisions, such as the ban on insurance companies denying coverage for preexisting conditions, though presumably without the individual mandate to buy insurance, which makes the reform economically feasible for insurance companies.

Of all people, Romney surely understands this link between mandates and preexisting conditions since he addressed that issue as governor of Massachusetts in passing “Romneycare,” which became the model for “Obamacare.” However, just as voters were trying to figure out Romney’s new position on health care, he reverted back to his previous promise to repeal “Obamacare” in its entirety.

Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Romney’s flailing efforts to land a knock-out blow on Obama went to new extremes amid unrest in Egypt and Libya over a provocative video produced in California and posted on “YouTube,” presenting the Prophet Muhammad as a buffoonish sex pervert and sadistic mass murderer.

Regarding the Egyptian-Libyan unrest, Romney appears to have jumped out front on his own, sensing that the statement from the Cairo embassy bolstered his dubious claim that Obama “apologizes for America,” a central point in Romney’s neocon-oriented book, No Apology.

But the emerging problem for Romney is that he has now developed a reputation for making any wild allegation that he thinks might rile up his conservative “base” or score some points against President Obama, no matter how reckless the words might be.

Romney’s behavior, particularly since his poll numbers have begun sinking over the past two weeks, is leading to a dangerous new narrative for him, that he is not simply an accomplished liar but that he may be mentally unstable, incapable of differentiating between fact and fiction.

Mitt’s Meltdown

New York Times columnist Gail Collins touched on this emerging theme in her Thursday column, entitled “Mitt’s Major Meltdown,” in which she says Romney “could do anything he wanted during this campaign as long as he sent out signals that once he got in the White House he was not likely to be truly crazy.

“It didn’t seem to be a lot to ask, but when the crisis in the Middle East flared up, Romney turned out to have no restraining inner core. All the uneasy feelings you got when he went to London and dissed the Olympic organizers can now come into full bloom. Feel free to worry about anything. That he’d declare war on Malta. Lock himself in a nuclear missile silo and refuse to come out until there’s a tax cut. Hand the country over to space aliens.

“Here is the Republican candidate for president of the United States on Wednesday, explaining why he broke into a moment of rising international tension and denounced the White House as ‘disgraceful’ for a mild statement made by the American Embassy in Cairo about the importance of respecting other people’s religions:

“‘They clearly, they clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And, and the statement came from the administration, and the embassy is the administration, the statement that came from the administration was a, was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a, a, a severe miscalculation.’”

If running a national campaign with all its challenges and frustrations is a test for how someone might serve in the pressure-cooker job as President of the United States, Mitt Romney may be in the process of demonstrating that he is unfit for the post that he seeks.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.




Managing Mideast’s Anti-Americanism

Anti-Americanism remains strong in the Muslim world, exacerbated by the kind of crude bigotry in a video that stoked the latest violence against U.S. diplomatic outposts and the killing of the American ambassador in Libya. Cool heads are needed to manage this problematic relationship, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Reactions to the deadly incident in Benghazi and the less lethal protest at the U.S. embassy in Cairo have been part of a swirl of grief, anger, bigotry, diplomacy, politics and much else. We should keep a few essentials in mind.

What took place was not a single type of phenomenon, executed by a single type of perpetrator. We are seeing not only spontaneous sentiment of masses, and not only conspiratorial behavior by small nefarious groups. It is instead a mixture. The still-inconclusive reporting from Benghazi suggests that an armed group may have taken advantage of what would otherwise have been an unarmed though still ugly protest.

As for the mass, mostly spontaneous, portion of what has occurred, there is enough history of this sort of outburst involving Western interests in that part of the world to conclude that this is a phenomenon that for all practical purposes is here to stay. We [the United States] will be unable to eliminate it; we need to deal with it and try to mitigate its damaging effects.

The history prior to the most recent episode includes popular reactions to perceived offenses ranging from cartoons in European periodicals to destruction of Korans by American forces in Afghanistan. However much we may understandably believe that “a fifth of humanity surely … can withstand the insults of a half-wit,” telling that to ourselves, or others, does nothing to calm things down or to preclude future occurrences.

It also is inevitable there will be more actions or statements by Westerners that will trigger such outbursts. Some triggers will be accidental, such as the destruction of the Korans in Afghanistan. Others will involve the thoughtless comments of televangelists or two-bit pastors, or even, as in the current case, instigators who expect a violent response but go ahead and do what they are going to do anyway.

In light of these inevitabilities, the main policy objective should be to dissociate the United States, and the U.S. government and Americans generally, as much as possible from what is thoughtless and offensive, while reiterating the importance of freedom of speech despite the unpleasant products that exercise of that freedom sometimes entails.

In the current case, as viewing of the video in question ought to make clear, policy-makers need have no concern that they are criticizing something that has artistic or any other value. The statement that the U.S. embassy issued after the video had begun stirring resentment, but before the protest at the embassy or the attack in Benghazi, may not have been perfect but it exemplified the kind of message that needs to be conveyed.

To suggest that the message in such situations ought to be substantially different or to be replaced by mere pugnaciousness is dumb. To suggest that the embassy’s statement was not issued before the incidents at the embassy and the Benghazi consulate but instead was “the Obama administration’s first response” to the incidents is dishonest.

The role that any organized violent groups had in the Benghazi event is a reminder of two things. One is the nature of what was left in Libya after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, how far Libyan politics and society have to go to reach anything approaching stability, and how insufficient was the thought given to this when the West intervened in the Libyan insurrection.

Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment observes that “the weak legitimacy and resources of the country’s provisional government” have resulted in a governmental response to Salafi violence that “has blended toleration and active collaboration.”

The situation also is a reminder of how even small terrorist groups feed off larger resentments. Radical ideologies and conspiratorial plots may be part of any act of terrorism, but widespread anger and anti-Americanism provides fuel that determines to a large extent what conspirators can do. General sentiments toward the United States matter.

The most general lesson to take away from this week’s incidents is that they are a manifestation of a context of suspicion that colors how almost anything the United States does in the Muslim world is interpreted. That context helps to explain why some things the United States does that are in no way anti-Muslim are nonetheless viewed as if they are.

The context also exacerbates the negative repercussions of some U.S. postures and initiatives, from use of military force to maintenance of some alliances, making the repercussions worse than one might otherwise expect.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post  at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




Narrowing ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

Many Christians claim a personal relationship with Jesus but show little regard for his commandments to serve the poor and love thy neighbor. Some conceal these contradictions by narrowing the definition of “neighbor,” as Rev. Howard Bess explains.

By the Rev. Howard Bess

Jesus set his ethical agenda in a conversation with a Scribe, who asked Jesus about the greatest of commandments. Jesus responded with not one but two: “You shall love God with heart, mind, strength and soul” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus’s response is recorded in Mark 12:28ff, and similar statements are found in the Matthew and Luke gospels. Since then, Christians have never disputed his standards; however, over the centuries Christians have argued over who constitutes a neighbor.

The vast majority of Christians over the past 2,000 years have conveniently avoided including all human beings in the embrace of a loving God.

And Christians have lots of company in this selectivity. Ancient Israelites had the same problem. Indeed, when Jesus recited his “love your neighbor” commandment, he was not cutting an entirely new path. He was quoting Leviticus 19:18. However, put into the context of the larger Leviticus passage, neighbor went no further than members of one’s own family and clan or tribe.

The story of limiting the meaning of neighbor has a long history among the Israelites.  According to these historical traditions, Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, delivered them from slavery and gave them a great leader in the person of Moses. With the aid of a series of miracles, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, with their first significant stop at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the laws by which Israelites were to live.

But Sinai was not their destiny. They were headed toward a land of their own, what we call Palestine. There was a problem, however. The land was already occupied by coalitions of tribes that were ready to fight for what they had.

Scholars, using both Biblical and non-Biblical sources, have pieced together the story of how the Israelites came to control the entire Palestinian area. These Israelites were not a peace-loving people. They had experienced many cruelties in Egypt and were not about to submit easily to the tyranny of another powerful ruler.

In their view, Yahweh had freed them from slavery in Egypt, and it was Yahweh, who would keep the dream of a new life in a new land alive. To the careful reader, the nature of their God is found embedded in their tradition. Exodus 15:3 states “Yahweh is a man of war. Yahweh is his name.” The Israelite God was not a peace lover, and neither were the Israelites.

In their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites made contact with another wandering, landless tribe, the Habiru, whose name is related to the word Hebrew. The word habiru can properly be translated “outlaw.”

The Habiru’s existence is well established by Near East documents, though they existed outside the social and political structures of the era. They were a tribe skilled in war and often hired themselves out as mercenaries. Scholars today believe the Habiru and the Israelites joined forces and became a lethal war machine.

In forming the partnership, the requirement of the Israelites was that the Habiru had to submit to the Israelite God, Yahweh, making the Habiru a part of the Israelite clan.  Under loyalty to Yahweh, the two groups became kin, family and neighbors.

The new Israelite war machine systematically conquered the coalition tribes that controlled Palestine. The Israelites were ruthless, requiring that the tribes that occupied Palestine bow down to Yahweh (the war God) or be killed. Those who did not were slaughtered without mercy.  However, most chose to bow down to Yahweh and also became neighbors worthy of the love and courtesies of the growing Israelite clan.

Old Testament law makes it very clear that love was reserved for people, who embraced Yahweh as their God and who were thus absorbed into the Israelite nation.   This was the dominant definition of neighbor in Israelite history and tradition. But it was not unchallenged.

During the entire history of the Israelites, special people, called prophets, appeared to critique the behavior of leaders, whether kings or priests. Prophets seemed to appear from out of nowhere. They might be farmers, poets or actors. But the position was not inherited, nor were they elected. They were not controlled by leaders.

The word “prophet” can be translated as “delegated messenger” or “one who is called.”  But their weapon was the simple phrase: “thus says the Lord.” The Old Testament prophets can best be understood as protesters who contested the standards and actions of those in power. It was the prophets, who had differing opinions about the definition of the neighbor, who was to be loved.

Jesus from Nazareth lived and taught in the tradition of the protesting prophet. A lawyer once asked Jesus “and who is my neighbor?”  Jesus did not give a direct answer but rather told the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus was including the Samaritan, though coming from a despised group, as a neighbor.

My argument with most of my Christian brothers and sisters is that they have abandoned the Jesus expansion of the definition of neighbor. Indeed, Jesus’s definition of neighbor made him the unique person that he was.

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.  His email address is hdbss@mtaonline.net

 




How Rev. Moon’s ‘Snakes’ Infested US

From the Archive: The death of Rev. Sun Myung Moon at 92 ends the long personal saga of a Korean theocrat whose life intertwined his bizarre religion with threads into organized crime and right-wing politics. Moon also showed how a fortune spent on media could change Washington’s political dynamic, as Robert Parry wrote in 2010.

By Robert Parry (Published on May 1, 2010)

As an investigative journalist, I’m not much for catchy political metaphors, but the revelation that snakes and rodents are infesting the Washington Times building as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s newspaper sinks into a financial swamp does have some poetic justice about it.

After all, for several decades, the right-wing Washington Times has sent disinformation slithering through the U.S. political system while creating a nest for propagandists who have befouled American democracy with irrationality and dirty tricks. Indeed, one could say that Moon’s newspaper pioneered the modern style of deceptive “journalism” that is the daily fare on Fox News, angry talk radio and right-wing blogs.

The immediate cause of the Washington Times’ financial plight was the bitter succession fight among children of the aging Unification Church founder who was no longer capable of maintaining personal control over his global religious-political-business empire.

That empire had split into competing factions, with one of Moon’s children, Justin Moon, who was in charge of the Asian operations, deciding to slash the church’s massive subsidy to the Washington Times headed by another son, Preston Moon. Staffers who have survived a series of draconian layoffs reported that snakes and mice had slipped into the newspaper’s building because the owners couldn’t afford exterminators to combat the infestations.

“There was a three-foot-long black snake in the main conference room the other day,” said reporter Julia Duin. “We have snakes in the newsroom.”

A Curious Case

It has long been amazing that Official Washington has been so blasé about the curious case of the Washington Times, where a Korean theocrat known for brainwashing his followers and for maintaining close ties with international drug cartels and foreign intelligence agencies has been allowed to spend billions of unregulated dollars to influence U.S. political decision-making.

The fact that Moon wrapped himself in “conservative” political garb and was quick to denounce any investigations of his organization as “religious bigotry” helped fend off inquiries into exactly where his money was coming from.

But what proved most important was how Moon made himself useful to Ronald Reagan, the Bush Family and other Republican heavy-hitters often by putting into play propaganda smearing their political enemies. These Republicans, in turn, helped protect Moon, at least since the late 1970s.

During the Carter administration, the congressional “Korea-gate” probe into South Korean influence-buying in Washington revealed Moon’s foreign intelligence ties and some of his criminal activities, leading to his conviction on tax fraud charges in 1982.

In that same year, however, Moon took steps to insulate himself from further inquiries, most notably by launching the Washington Times. Since then, Moon’s empire from its local fundraising scams to its international money-laundering has escaped any serious government examination.

It didn’t even matter when Church insiders, including Moon’s former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, provided first-hand evidence of systematic criminality. In an era dominated by Republican control of the federal government, U.S. authorities never seemed to put two and two together.

Though Moon’s operations in both Asia and South America were linked to major crime syndicates including the Japanese yakuza and Latin American cocaine cartels, federal prosecutors and congressional committees chose to look the other way.

That way Moon was allowed to continue pouring an estimated $100 million a year into his newspaper and other pro-Republican media outlets. Additional millions went to fund right-wing political conferences; to pay speaking fees to world leaders, including George H.W. Bush; and to bail Republican political allies out of financial troubles.

When I was investigating Moon’s activities in the mid-1990s, I interviewed former church insiders who explained how Moon’s U.S. business operations, such as restaurants and real estate deals, served to launder overseas money that his followers would first sneak past U.S. Customs, a practice confirmed by Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law.

In her 1998 memoir, In the Shadow of the Moons, Nansook Hong alleged that Moon’s organization had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to smuggle cash into the United States and to deceive U.S. Customs agents.

“The Unification Church was a cash operation,” Nansook Hong wrote. “I watched Japanese church leaders arrive at regular intervals at East Garden [the Moon compound north of New York City] with paper bags full of money, which the Reverend Moon would either pocket or distribute to the heads of various church-owned business enterprises at his breakfast table.

“The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon’s closet.”

Personal Confession

Mrs. Moon even pressed her daughter-in-law into one cash-smuggling incident after a trip to Japan in 1992, Nansook Hong wrote. Mrs. Moon had received “stacks of money” and divvied it up among her entourage for the return trip through Seattle, Nansook Hong wrote.

“I was given $20,000 in two packs of crisp new bills,” she recalled. “I hid them beneath the tray in my makeup case. … I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws.”

U.S. currency laws require that cash amounts above $10,000 be declared at Customs when the money enters or leaves the country. It is also illegal to conspire with couriers to bring in lesser amounts when the total exceeds the $10,000 figure.

Moon “demonstrated contempt for U.S. law every time he accepted a paper bag full of untraceable, undeclared cash collected from true believers” who smuggled the money in from overseas, Nansook Hong wrote. Despite Nansook Hong’s revelations, which corroborated longstanding claims by other Moon insiders, no known criminal investigation ensued.

There is also the question of where the mysterious money originated. Some Moon watchers believe much of the cash came from scams of superstitious Japanese widows who were sold miniature pagodas and other ornaments dedicated to their dead husbands.

Yet, while the Japanese scams might explain part of Moon’s fortune, others who have looked into Moon’s operation suspect that a major source of money derived from Moon’s close relationships with underworld figures in Asia and South America.

Those ties date back several decades to negotiations conducted by one of Moon’s early South Korean supporters, Kim Jong-Pil, who founded the Korean CIA and headed up sensitive negotiations on improving bilateral relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

The negotiations put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with two important figures in the Far East, Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who had been jailed as fascist war criminals at the end of World War II. A few years later, however, both Kodama and Sasakawa were freed by U.S. military intelligence officials.

The U.S. government turned to Kodama and Sasakawa for help in combating communist labor unions and student strikes, much as the CIA protected German Nazi war criminals who supplied intelligence and performed other services in Cold War battles with European communists.

Kodama and Sasakawa also allegedly grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a shadowy organized crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution in Japan and Korea. Behind the scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Far-Right Extremism

Kim Jong-Pil’s contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to Moon, who had made only a few converts in Japan by the early 1960s. Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church, according to Yakuza, a book by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.

“Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Japanese branch of the Unification Church” and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia, Kaplan and Dubro wrote.

Moon’s church was active in the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League, a fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist League, an international alliance that brought together traditional conservatives with ex-Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American “death squads.”

Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book, Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible.

The five were Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s dictator Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Sasakawa and Kodama, and Moon, “an evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of ‘Heavenly Deception,’” the Andersons wrote.

WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, according to the Andersons. The purpose of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that “would further Moon’s global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a respectable new façade,” the Andersons wrote.

Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding, move operatives or acquire weapons.

Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to insinuate themselves within more legitimate operations of sympathetic governments or intelligence services.

In the quarter century after World War II, remnants of fascist movements managed to do just that. Shattered by the Allies, the surviving fascists got a new lease on political life with the start of the Cold War. They helped both Western democracies and right-wing dictatorships battle international communism.

Though some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals after World War II, others managed to make their escapes along “rat lines” to Spain or South America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious powers, especially the United States.

Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders, such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found like-minded right-wing politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of the poor.

In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries like Bolivia or Paraguay. Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies.

French Connection

Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States. Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord’s accomplices as some of Paraguay’s highest-ranking military officers.

Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also “took on assignments for Argentina’s terrorist organization, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance,” Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup.

During President Richard Nixon’s original “war on drugs,” U.S. authorities smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and David in 1972 to face justice in the United States. However, by the time the French Connection was severed, powerful Mafia drug lords had forged strong ties to South America’s military leaders. An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the insatiable U.S. market, was in place.

Trafficante-connected groups also recruited displaced anti-Castro Cubans, who had ended up in Miami, needed work, and possessed some useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA’s training for the Bay of Pigs and other clandestine operations. Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void left by the broken French Connection and its mostly Middle Eastern heroin supply routes.

During this time of transition, Moon brought his evangelical message to South America. His first visit to Argentina occurred in 1965 when he blessed a square behind the presidential Pink House in Buenos Aires, but he returned a decade later to make more lasting friendships.

Moon first sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973. He also cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the military regimes arrange arms purchases and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.

“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.

“As an international money laundry, the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”

Cocaine Coup

In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when a right-wing alliance of Bolivian military officers and drug dealers organized what became known as the Cocaine Coup. Moon’s WACL associates, such as Alfred Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives who assisted in the violent putsch.

Right-wing Argentine intelligence officers mixed with a contingent of young European neo-fascists as they collaborated with Nazi war criminal Barbie in carrying out the bloody coup that overthrew the elected left-of-center government. The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.

One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza. After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”

According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.

Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Trafficante’s Cuban-American smugglers. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the border.

“The paramilitary units conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Kai Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”

A month after the coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.

As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.

On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.

In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.” According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an “armed church” of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.

Moon’s Escape

But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so staggering that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.

The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder.

Ex-Gestapo official Barbie, known as the “butcher of Lyon,” was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1991.

But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican administration in Washington.  Yet, where Moon got his cash remained one of Washington’s deepest mysteries and one that few U.S. conservatives wanted to solve.

“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson.

While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities, Moon’s spokesmen have angrily denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.

In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing. Our movement responds to the harmony of the races, nations and religions and proclaims that the family is the school of love.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]

Without doubt, however, Moon’s organization has had a long record of association with organized crime figures, including ones implicated in the drug trade. Besides collaborating with leaders of the Japanese yakuza and the Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia, Moon’s organization developed close ties with the Honduran military and the Nicaraguan contra movement, both permeated with drug smugglers. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

On the Offensive

Moon’s organization also used the Washington Times and its political clout in the nation’s capital to intimidate or discredit government officials and journalists who tried to investigate Moon-connected criminal activities. In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking, they came under attack from the Times.

An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras was denigrated in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”

When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, conducted a Senate probe and uncovered additional evidence of contra-drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper first published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” announced the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.

But when Kerry exposed more contra wrongdoing, the Washington Times shifted tactics. In 1987 in front-page articles, it began accusing Kerry’s staff of obstructing justice because their investigation was supposedly interfering with Reagan administration efforts to get at the truth.

“Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe,” said a Jan. 21, 1987, Times article that opened with the assertion: “Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said.”

Despite the attacks, Kerry’s contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of contra units both in Costa Rica and Honduras were implicated in the cocaine trade.

“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989.

“In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring or immediately thereafter.”

Kerry’s investigation also found that Honduras had become an important way station for cocaine shipments heading north during the contra war. “Elements of the Honduran military were involved … in the protection of drug traffickers from 1980 on,” the report said. “These activities were reported to appropriate U.S. government officials throughout the period.

“Instead of moving decisively to close down the drug trafficking by stepping up the DEA presence in the country and using the foreign assistance the United States was extending to the Hondurans as a lever, the United States closed the DEA office in Tegucigalpa and appears to have ignored the issue.”

The Kerry investigation represented an indirect challenge to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who had been named by President Reagan to head the South Florida Task Force for interdicting the flow of drugs into the United States and was later put in charge of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System.

In short, Vice President Bush was the lead official in the U.S. government to cope with the drug trade, which he himself had dubbed a national security threat. If the American voters came to believe that Bush had compromised his anti-drug responsibilities to protect the image of the Nicaraguan contras and other rightists in Central America, that judgment could have threatened the political future of Bush and his politically ambitious family.

By challenging press and congressional investigations of this touchy subject, the Washington Times helped keep an unfavorable media spotlight from swinging in the direction of the Vice President and bought some cover for Moon’s drug-connected right-wing allies, too.

Mounting Evidence

The resistance of the Reagan and the first Bush administrations prevented anything like a complete story of the contra-drug scandal from emerging in a timely fashion. However, the evidence eventually assembled by investigators at the CIA, the Justice Department and other federal agencies now indicates that Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup operatives were only the first in a line of clever drug smugglers who tried to squeeze under the protective umbrella of Reagan’s favorite covert operation, the contra war.

Other cocaine smugglers soon followed, sharing some of their drug profits with the contras as a way to minimize investigative interest by the Reagan-Bush law enforcement agencies. Based on official investigations, we now know that the contra-connected smugglers included Bolivians, the Medellin cartel, Panama’s government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and the Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans with their connections to Mafia operations throughout the United States.

In some cases, U.S. intelligence officials bent over backwards not to take timely notice of contra-connected drug trafficking out of fear that fuller investigations would embarrass the contras and their patrons in the Reagan-Bush administrations.

For instance, on Oct. 22, 1982, a cable written by the CIA’s Directorate of Operations stated, “There are indications of links between [a U.S. religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups. These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms.”

The cable added that the participants were planning a meeting in Costa Rica for such a deal. When the cable arrived, senior CIA officials were concerned. On Oct. 27, CIA headquarters asked for more information from a U.S. law enforcement agency.

The law enforcement agency expanded on its report by telling the CIA that representatives of the contra FDN and another contra force, the UDN, would be meeting with several unidentified U.S. citizens. But then, the CIA reversed itself, deciding that it wanted no more information on the grounds that U.S. citizens were involved.

“In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further,” CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982. Two weeks later, after discouraging additional investigation, CIA headquarters suggested it might be necessary to label the allegations of a guns-for-drugs deal as “misinformation.”

The CIA’s Latin American Division, however, responded on Nov. 18, 1982, that several contra officials had gone to San Francisco for the meetings with supporters, presumably as part of the same guns-for-drugs deal. But CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz when he investigated in the mid-to-late 1990s found no additional information about that deal in CIA files.

Also, by keeping the names of the participants censored when the documents finally were released in 1998, the CIA prevented outside investigators from examining whether the “U.S. religious organization” had any affiliation with Moon’s network of quasi-religious groups, which were assisting the contras at that time.

Studied Disinterest

Over the past quarter century as Moon invested heavily in prominent Republicans this pattern of government disinterest in his illicit operations remained one consistency. That disinterest wasn’t even shaken when disenchanted Moon insiders went public with confessions of their own first-hand involvement in criminal conspiracies.

Besides Nansook Hong’s account of money-laundering, other disaffected Moon disciples told similar stories. For instance, Maria Madelene Pretorious, a former Unification Church member who worked at Moon’s Manhattan Center, a New York City music venue and recording studio, testified at a court hearing in Massachusetts that in December of 1993 or January of 1994, one of Moon’s sons, Hyo Jin Moon, returned from a trip to Korea “with $600,000 in cash which he had received from his father. … Myself along with three or four other members that worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags.”

In an interview with me in the mid-1990s, Pretorious said Asian church members would bring cash into the United States where it would be circulated through Moon’s business entities as a way to launder it.

At the center of this financial operation, Pretorious said, was One-Up Corp., a Delaware-registered holding company that owned many Moon enterprises including the Manhattan Center and New World Communications, the parent company of the Washington Times.

“Once that cash is at the Manhattan Center, it has to be accounted for,” Pretorious said. “The way that’s done is to launder the cash. Manhattan Center gives cash to a business called Happy World which owns restaurants. … Happy World needs to pay illegal aliens. … Happy World pays some back to the Manhattan Center for ‘services rendered.’ The rest goes to One-Up and then comes back to Manhattan Center as an investment.”

In 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on another Moon money-laundering scheme, in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each.

The money from the women went into the account of an anonymous association called Cami II, which was controlled by Moon’s Unification Church. In one day, Cami II received $19 million and, by the time the parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million.

It was not clear where the money originated, nor how many other times Moon’s organization has used this tactic known as “smurfing” to transfer untraceable cash into Uruguay. Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently out of deference to Moon’s political clout and fear of disrupting Uruguay’s banking industry. However, other critics condemned Moon’s operations.

“The first thing we ought to do is clarify to the people [of Uruguay] that Moon’s sect is a type of modern pirate that came to the country to perform obscure money operations, such as money laundering,” said Jorge Zabalza, who was a leader of the Movimiento de Participacion Popular. “This sect is a kind of religious mob that is trying to get public support to pursue its business.”

While Moon’s criminal enterprises may have been operating at one level, Moon’s political influence-buying was functioning at another, as he spread around billions of dollars to the top echelons of Washington power.

For instance, when the New Right’s direct-mail whiz Richard Viguerie fell on hard times in the late 1980s, Moon had a corporation run by his lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak, buy one of Viguerie’s properties for $10 million. [See OrangeCounty Register, Dec. 21, 1987; Washington Post, Oct. 15, 1989]

Moon also used the Washington Times and its affiliated publications to create seemingly legitimate conduits to funnel money to individuals and companies. In another example of Moon’s helpful largesse, the Washington Times hired Viguerie to conduct a pricy direct-mail subscription drive.

Falwell’s Savior

Another case of saving a right-wing icon occurred when the Rev. Jerry Falwell was facing financial ruin over the debts piling up at Liberty University. But the fundamentalist Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, got a last-minute bail-out in the mid-1990s ostensibly from two Virginia businessmen, Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas, who used their non-profit Christian Heritage Foundation to snap up a large chunk of Liberty’s debt for $2.5 million, a fraction of its face value.

Falwell rejoiced and called the moment “the greatest single day of financial advantage” in the school’s history, even though it was accomplished at the disadvantage of many small true-believing investors who had bought the church construction bonds through a Texas company.

But Falwell’s secret benefactor behind the debt purchase was Sun Myung Moon, who was kept in the background partly because of his controversial Biblical interpretations that hold Jesus to have been a failure and because of Moon’s alleged brainwashing of thousands of young Americans, often shattering their bonds with their biological families.

Moon had used his tax-exempt Women’s Federation for World Peace to funnel $3.5 million to the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation, the non-profit that purchased the school’s debt. I stumbled onto this Moon-Falwell connection while examining the Internal Revenue Service filings of Moon’s front groups.

The Women Federation’s vice president Susan Fefferman confirmed that the $3.5 million grant had gone to “Mr. Falwell’s people” for the benefit of Liberty University. [For more on Moon’s funding of the Right, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Moon also used the Women’s Federation to pay substantial speaking fees to former President George H.W. Bush, who gave talks at Moon-sponsored events. In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches in Asia for the Women’s Federation. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush said “what really counts is faith, family and friends.”

In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. The former President addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon’s connection. Bush had no such qualms. [Washington Post, July 30, 1996]

In fall 1996, Moon needed the ex-President’s help once more. Moon was trying to replicate his Washington Times influence in South America by opening a regional newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo. But South American journalists were recounting unsavory chapters of Moon’s history, including his links to South Korea’s intelligence service and various neo-fascist groups.

Some newspaper articles noted that in the early 1980s, Moon had used friendships with the military dictatorships in Argentina and Uruguay which had been responsible for tens of thousands of political murders to invest in those two countries. There also were allegations of Moon’s links to the region’s major drug traffickers.

Moon’s disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine news media of trying to sabotage Moon’s plans for an inaugural gala in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23, 1996. “The local press was trying to undermine the event,” complained the church’s internal newsletter, Unification News.

Trump Card

Given the controversy, Argentina’s elected president, Carlos Menem, decided to reject Moon’s invitation to attend. But Moon had a trump card: the endorsement of an ex-President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. Agreeing to speak at the newspaper’s launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos Aires on Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem’s official residence, the Olivos.

As the headliner at the newspaper’s inaugural gala, Bush saved the day, Moon’s followers gushed. “Mr. Bush’s presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige,” wrote the Unification News. “Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children [Moon’s offspring] just a few feet from the podium” where Bush spoke.

“I want to salute Reverend Moon,” Bush declared. “A lot of my friends in South America don’t know about the Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. The editors of the Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision [Moon] interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C.”

Bush’s speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon’s followers. “Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory,” the Unification News exulted. “Everyone was delighted to hear his compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and ‘nice’ speech, but praise in Father’s presence was more than we expected. … It was vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from Heaven.”

While Bush’s assertion about Moon’s Washington Times as a voice of “sanity” may be a matter of opinion, Bush’s vouching for its editorial independence simply wasn’t true. Almost since it opened in 1982, a string of senior editors and correspondents have resigned, citing the manipulation of the news by Moon and his subordinates.

The first editor, James Whelan, resigned in 1984, confessing that “I have blood on my hands” for helping Moon’s church achieve greater legitimacy. But Bush’s boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America.

“The day after,” the Unification News observed, “the press did a 180-degree about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of a U.S. President.” With Bush’s help, Moon had gained another beachhead for his worldwide business-religious-political-media empire.

After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon. “Bush told me he came and charged money to do it,” Menem said. [La Nacion, Nov. 26, 1996]

But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By fall 1996, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-President also had been earning huge speaking fees as a front man for Moon for more than a year.

Throughout these public appearances for Moon, Bush’s office refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-President. But estimates of Bush’s fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church told me that the total spending on Bush ran into the millions, with one source saying that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million from Moon’s organization.

The senior George Bush may have had a political motive, too. By 1996, sources close to Bush were saying the ex-President was working hard to enlist well-to-do conservatives and their money behind the presidential candidacy of his son, George W. Bush. Moon was one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles.

Moon’s pattern of putting into Bush family causes continued into George W. Bush’s presidency. In 2006, Moon again used money-laundering techniques to funnel a donation to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Moon’s Washington Times Foundation gave $1 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which in turn acted as a conduit for donations to the library. The Chronicle obtained indirect confirmation that Moon’s money was passing through the Houston foundation to the Bush library from Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath.

“President Bush has been very grateful for the friendship shown to him by the Washington Times Foundation, and the Washington Times serves a vital role in Washington,” McGrath said.

But Moon has earned the deepest gratitude of the Bush Family and the Republican Party via his multi-billion-dollar investment in the Washington Times, a powerful propaganda organ that helped the GOP build its political dominance over the past quarter century.

Over those years, the Times has targeted American politicians of the Center and Left with journalistic attacks sometimes questioning their sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonated through the broader right-wing echo chamber and often into the mainstream media.

In 2000, the Washington Times was at the center of the assault on Al Gore’s candidacy highlighting apocryphal quotes by Gore and using them to depict him as either “Lyin’ Al” or delusional. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al Gore vs. the Media.”]

Aiming at Obama

The intervention by Moon’s media outlets into U.S. presidential politics continued into Campaign 2008 when Moon’s online magazine Insight tried to sabotage Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign before it even got started. The Insight article cited opposition research supposedly dug up by Hillary Clinton’s campaign that Obama had attended a fundamentalist Muslim “madrassa” while a child and had sought to conceal his allegiance to Islam.

“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” a source supposedly close to Clinton’s background investigation of Obama told Insight. “The idea is to show Obama as deceptive.” Insight used no named sources for the allegations, nor did the magazine check out the facts about the school.

After Moon’s online magazine published the “madrassa” story, it quickly spread to the wider audiences of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media outlets, Fox News and the New York Post, and then into the mainstream press. To further the subliminal link between Obama and Islamic terrorism, the New York Post ran its story under the headline “‘Osama’ Mud Flies at Obama.”

“The allegations are completely false,” said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. “To publish this sort of trash without any documentation is surprising, but for Fox to repeat something so false, not once, but many times is appallingly irresponsible.” Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson termed the Insight article “an obvious right-wing hit job by a Moonie publication that was designed to attack Senator Clinton and Senator Obama at the same time.” [Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2007]

When CNN checked out the Insight article on Jan. 22, 2007, the story collapsed. The Indonesian school that Obama attended as a child turned out not to be some radical “madrassa” where an extreme form of Islam would be taught, but a well-kept public school in an upper-middle-class neighborhood of Jakarta.

The boys and girls wore school uniforms and were taught a typical school curriculum today as they were 39 years ago when Obama was a student there, while living with his mother in Indonesia, reported CNN correspondent John Vause. While most of the school’s students are Muslim Indonesia is a Muslim country, after all Vause reported that the religious views of other students are respected and that Christian children at the school are taught that Jesus is the son of God.

Though this Moon-financed propaganda may have been debunked, the subliminal doubt was planted about whether Obama might be a secret agent of radical Islam, a theme that has continued to resonate within the right-wing media and the Tea Party movement.

In 2010, however, it appeared that the days of Moon’s news outlets initiating or circulating smears against political enemies may have finally been nearing an end. What ultimately caused the crisis within Moon’s money machine besides the infighting of Moon’s children remained a mystery, at least to outsiders.

It was possible that Moon’s lucrative connections to the netherworld of right-wing extremism, drugs and money simply were dependent on his personal relationships and as they died off, so did his ability to access those financial channels. It was possible, too, that the value of Moon’s propaganda operation had been eclipsed by less problematic right-wing media moguls and self-made talk-show hosts who were now rich themselves.

Though Moon played a key early role in building the right-wing echo chamber, other wealthy individuals, from media titan Rupert Murdoch to newly minted multi-millionaires like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, could carry on quite well without the help of a Korean theocrat who believed he was the new Messiah.

Still, even the eventual passing of Moon’s Washington Times [and Moon’s own death on Monday] would not mean that the snakes and other vermin that Moon let loose in the American political system would soon disappear. In fact, they may be more prevalent than ever.

To read more of Robert Parry’s writings, you can now order his last two books, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click here.]  

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.




Boy Scouts Still Embrace Discrimination

The pledges of the Boy Scouts of America to follow the nation’s laws and to befriend those who are different are increasingly at odds with the club’s continued rejection of gays and people who don’t believe in God, discriminatory policies that former Eagle Scout John LaForge protests.

By John LaForge

The camping and knot-tying club Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its discriminatory exclusion of about 10 percent of all boys, the gay ones, and of any out lesbians who volunteer as Cub Scout den mothers. The BS’s flagrant bigotry is rationalized and accepted, “unanimously” we are told, by its military-style leadership based in Irving, Texas.

BS policy, renewed in July, says, “we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” Sorry boss, but discrimination, homophobic bias and the avalanche of negative press distract from the mission.

Today, after the U.S. military has ended its official policy of lying (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) which kept thousands of service members in permanent fear of outing and expulsion, a large group of Eagle Scouts are publicly disowning their awards and returning their medals in protest of the prejudice. If I could find mine, I’d happily add it to the pile of discards in Texas.

Ever since I accepted my patch from Minnesota’s Troop 22 in 1974, I’ve received an annual invitation to contribute to the Eagle Scout Banquet Fund. I reply to this request every year with an invitation of my own. I remind the BS that I will donate after first reading of a public renunciation of both the group’s official homophobia and its pious intolerance of non-religious free thinkers, and then only after I see in print a public apology to the GLBTQ and agnostic and atheist communities for Scouting’s long-standing discriminatory policies along with an new and open membership invitation to one and all.

While current and former Scouts have all promised to be “loyal,” as well as trustworthy, thrifty, helpful, etc., the group’s directed embrace of discrimination, as Sam Stites wrote in Willamette Week, begs the question: Loyal to the Texas Chain of Command, or loyal to the protection of constitutionally protected civil and human rights? The BS Oath’s pledge to be “Obedient” says clearly: “A Scout … obeys the laws of his country” which today generally forbid discrimination.

While map reading and orienteering are two of the most interesting and challenging joys of scouting, the BS looks today like a Flat Earth Society claiming the sun revolves around us. While the country as a whole is embracing inclusion and respect of all people, BS executives in Texas have decided “to teach division and intolerance,” as Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said.

By its own definition of loyalty, the Oath says a Scout is “true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school and nation.” If this list is prioritized, it’s clear that Texas demands loyalty to its bizarre, archaic edicts before a Scout should think of his country or the law of the land. No. Scouts need to make a choice for fairness and inclusivity, even in the face of official BSA ignorance and paranoia.

The Oath says Scouts are to be Brave: “He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.” Reverent: “He respects the beliefs of others.” Kind: “He treats others as he wants to be treated.” Friendly: “A Scout is a friend to all. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.”

Until Texas gets it right, Scouts everywhere should follow their Oath and rebel. Every Scout in the country should refuse all further meetings, volunteer work, honors, contributions or fundraising until the commanders’ exclusionary bigotry is apologized for and made null and void.

Former Eagle Scout John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.

 




Iran-Israel: Who’s Threatening Whom?

The U.S. press readily accepts the narrative that non-nuclear Iran is threatening to wipe out nuclear-armed Israel, though Israel repeatedly vows to attack Iran if it even approaches a nuclear-weapons “capability.” The latest furor is over some harsh Iranian rhetoric, notes Nima Shirazi at WideAsleepinAmerica.

By Nima Shirazi

The rhetoric used in recent speeches by top Iranian officials has garnered much attention in the mainstream U.S. media. In addition to the outrage expressed over the statement that the Israeli governmental system and guiding Zionist ideology is an “insult to humanity,” comments that the “Zionist regime” is a “cancerous tumor” have also met fierce condemnation.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list of recent reported statements made by Iranian officials. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor toldthe press that the United States government “strongly condemn[s] the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel,” adding, “The entire international community should condemn this hateful and divisive rhetoric.”

Rabbi David Wolpe took to the pages of The Los Angeles Times to specifically condemn the cancer analogy. Wolpe incidentally did so by presenting a litany of outrageous statements of his own. He writes that the “state of Israel” is 3,000 years old, thus absurdly conflating an ancient Biblical minority community with a modern, settler-colonial nation-state. He insists Israel is not expansionist, a claim that doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory awareness of basic facts, the historical record and current aggressive Israeli policy.

Wolpe also states that the cancer analogy “leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide,” which he obviously follows up by invoking the Holocaust and asserting that “Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons,” thereby ignoring the consistent conclusions of U.S. intelligence and IAEA inspections.

He concludes by suggesting that, were Israel not to maintain such a destructive military capability, segregationist occupation infrastructure, rampant legal discrimination, and a two-tiered justice system, the result would be the “wholesale slaughter” of Jewish Israelis, presumably by vengeful Arab hordes.

Such a characterization recalls the ludicrous fears that beset the vast majority of white South Africans just years before Apartheid ended, many of whom were consumed by “physical dread” at the prospect of equality and their loss of racial dominance and superiority and foresaw a future full of “violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight.”

Even in 1987, as Apartheid was becoming increasingly untenable, about 75 percent of white South Africans feared that their “physical safety…would be threatened” as a result of “black rule.”  Nearly 73 percent, including over 85 percent of Afrikaners, believed “white women would be molested by blacks.”

Incidentally, as recently pointed out in Ha’aretz, in 1987, “Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa” and was one of the last countries to join the international boycott campaign.

Southern whites in the antebellum United States nurtured the same irrational apprehension, fearful that the violent and successful 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti would be replicated across the Gulf of Mexico, especially in states like South Carolina where slaves outnumbered whites two to one. Following emancipation, and in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Southern states enacted “black codes” restricting the voting, land ownership, and speech of former slaves.

Whites feared that their loss of racial dominance and an enslaved labor force would not only ruin the Southern economy, but also that the newly freed black population would seek revenge on their masters and rape white women; this led to numerous race riots and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that same year.

In April 1868, Alabama newspaper editor Ryland Randolph praised the Klan for opposing what he called the “galling despotism” of the federal government over the Southern states, which he “deemed a fungus growth of military tyranny” with the goal of “degrad[ing] the white man by the establishment of negro supremacy.”

Forrest G. Wood writes in Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction: “Although white men certainly feared for their jobs and income, they were more alarmed by the threat to their physical safety that the ‘savage African’ presented…

“Pointing to the absence of an advanced (by Western standards) African civilization, extremists described the Negroes as primitive, barbaric, and cruel. … Freedom, the white supremacist now asserted, would stimulate the black man’s worst passions, leading him to crimes of arson, murder, and rape.”

Newspapers often deliberately published grossly exaggerated or wholly fictitious stories of criminal acts and violence committed by blacks, stoking even more fear in the racist white population. For these white supremacists, rape was “the most frightful crime which negroes commit against white people” and the accusation of sexual assault (or even consensual interracial relationships) was a surefire way to spark a lynch mob.

Just this past Spring, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that many Israeli women have been raped by African migrants and refugees, “but do not complain out of fear of being stigmatized as having contracted AIDS,” insisting that “most of the African infiltrators are criminals.” At an anti-African rally, Tel Aviv resident Carmela Rosner held a sign that read: “They rape girls and elderly women, murder, steal, stab, burglarize. We’re afraid to leave home.”

Yishai said that Africans, “along with the Palestinians, will bring a quick end to the Zionist dream,” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the growing population of African immigrants “threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” as well as “the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.”

Palestinians in Israel along with their actual and potential offspring are regularly referred to as a “demographic threat” and a “demographic bomb,” a racist construction that exposes the discriminatory and supremacist nature of Zionism itself. Due to such incitement against minority communities, pogroms, race riots, and violence against non-Jews have become commonplace.

The Israeli Education Ministry is currently attempting to overturn a district court ruling that “migrant children … be fully integrated in the municipal school system and not be taught in a separate school.” The state appeal in favor of segregation claims that the education of Israeli children will suffer if done alongside the children of African immigrants.

Meanwhile, extremist Jewish groups continue to try to “rescue” Jewish Israeli girls who date Palestinian men and threaten Palestinians with violence if they flirt with Jews.

In 2008, a Jewish Israeli woman filed a police report after discovering that a man she had just had consensual sex with was Palestinian and not Jewish, as she had assumed. After spending two years under house arrest, an Israeli court convicted the man of “rape by deception” and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. A former senior Justice Ministry official was quoted as saying, “In the context of Israeli society, you can see that some women would feel very strongly that they had been violated by someone who says he is Jewish but is not.”

This is to be expected, as The Palestine Center‘s Yousef Munayyer explains: “An ideology that seeks to build a society around a certain type of people defined by ethnicity or religion is inevitably going to feature racism, supremacy and oppression, especially when the vast majority of native inhabitants where such an ideology is implemented are unwelcomed.”

Unsurprisingly, commentators who routinely denounce cancer analogies when they come from Iranian officials blatantly avoid addressing the use of the identical rhetoric by Israelis themselves when referring to the growing presence of non-Jewish communities within areas controlled by Israel.

When IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon referred to Palestinian babies as “cancerous manifestations” and Likud Knesset member Miri Regev called African migrants and refugeesa cancer in our body,” the commentators were silent.

While calling the government and founding ideology of a state a “cancerous tumor” is certainly not a nice thing to say and supporters of that state’s policies have every reason to take offense at such a description, it is quite obviously a political statement. Iranian rhetoric attacks a political entity, namely the “Zionist regime“, which systematically discriminates against and oppresses people based solely on their ancestry and religious affiliation.

In contrast, Ya’alon and Regev’s statements employ the cancer analogy to defend the concept of ethnic-religious exclusivity and have everything to do with people, whether Palestinian or African, who somehow – just by being born – threaten the continued dominance of a deliberately demographically engineered and maintained state.

To be sure, regardless of its intended target, this kind of rhetoric is purposefully harsh and often gratuitous. Yet, like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “insult to humanity” line, the cancer analogy is neither new nor original. While Iranian officials have been employing it since 2000, it has long been wielded for the express purpose of condemning a political system or ideology one vehemently opposes.

In the 1820s, former President John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson that “slavery is a cancer to be isolated.” On Oct. 16, 1854, in an stridently abolitionist speech in Peoria, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln likened the Constitution’s vague references to slavery to a “cancer,” hidden away, which an “afflicted man … dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time.”

A New York Times article from September 8, 1863, quoted then-Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson as telling a Nashville crowd in late August, “Slavery is a cancer on our society, and the scalpel of the statesman should be used not simply to pare away the exterior and leave the roots to propagate the disease anew, but to remove it altogether.” Johnson endorsed the “total eradication” of slavery from Tennessee.

In the final chapter of the first volume of Das Kapital (1867), entitled “The Modern Theory of Colonization,” Karl Marx excoriated British politician Edward Gibbon Wakefield for his efforts “to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies.”

The 1968 platform of Bermuda’s first political party, the Progressive Labor Party, proclaimed, “No government can be either responsible or democratic while under the rule of another country, ” adding, “Colonialism is a cancer.”

A Feb. 23, 1962, article in Time Magazine profiled U.S. General Paul Donal Harkins, the commander of a newly created U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, which is described as “the first step in a more broadly based anti-Communist campaign.” Harkins is quoted early in the piece as defining his mission as “doing all we can to support the South Vietnamese efforts to eradicate the cancer of Communism.”

In early June 1983, just a few months after Ronald Reagan delivered his “Evil Empire” speech in which he declared his belief that “Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written,” Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, because “Communism is a cancer,” Congress should support covert action and assistance to Nicaraguan Contras and other anti-Sandinista forces in Latin America in an effort to “fight for freedom.”

Hamas reportedly used “Communism is a cancer inside the nation’s body and we will cut it out” as a political slogan in opposition to Fatah soon after its establishment in the late 1980s.

Perhaps most applicable, however, are the comments made by South African Reverend Allan Boesak who, in 1983, formed the United Democratic Front, a legal umbrella organization for hundreds of anti-Apartheid groups. In his opening address to the UDF, Boesak stated:

“Apartheid is a cancer on the body politic of the world. A scourge on our society and on all human kind. Apartheid exists only because of economic greed and political oppression maintained by both systemic and physical violence and a false sense of racial superiority. So many have been forced into exile. So many have been thrown into jail. Too many of our children have been shot down mercilessly on the streets of our nation.”

In the same speech, Boesak called Apartheid “a thoroughly evil system” that “can never be modernized or modified, it must be totally eradicated” and, in 1985, denounced the white South Africans who continued to support Apartheid as the “spiritual children of Adolf Hitler.”

In 1988, Jim Murray echoed Boesak in the Los Angeles Times, writing that “apartheid is a cancer on the world body politic — to say nothing of its soul. You combat it the best way you can.”

Just as many others, including numerous Israelis, have described the state of Israel as practicing Apartheid, Boesak himself has endorsed such a comparison, and has gone even further.

In a November 2011 interview, Boesak reaffirmed his statement that the oppression of and discrimination against Palestinians by Israel is “in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid,” adding, “It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it.”

He cited the physical barriers, travel and employment restrictions, and the “two separate justice systems” for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank as examples of why “in many ways the Israeli system is worse.” He offered his wholehearted support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to impel Israel to comply with international law.

When asked whether Palestinians could ever be expected to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State,” Boesak replied:

“They can’t. There is no such thing as a specifically Jewish state. You can’t proclaim a Jewish state over the heads and the bodies and the memories of the people who are the ancient people who live there. That is Palestinian land we are talking about. Most of the Jews who are there come from Europe and elsewhere and have no claim on that land and we mustn’t allow it to happen to the Palestinians what happened to my ancestors who were the original people in this land (South Africa) but now there are hardly enough of them to be counted in the census. That is Palestinian land and that should be the point of departure in every political discussion.”

Similarly, official Iranian state policy maintains that the international community must “allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself” and that in “the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians [must] determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect.”

Hysteria over Iranian phraseology (rhetoric with a long political history) relies solely on the presumption – repeated ad nauseum by politicians and the press – that the nation’s leadership has threatened to attack Israel militarily and wipe it off the map. But Iran has never made such threats. Quite the contrary.

Speaking to Wolf Blitzer in April 2006, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, directly addressed claims that Iran seeks the physical destruction of Israel (whatever that means).

Blitzer asked, “Should there be a state of Israel?,” to which Soltanieh replied, “If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionist mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred, this is a fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is.”

In a June 2006 letter to The Washington Post, a spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations wrote, “Iran’s position is very clear: We have not threatened to use force nor have we used force against any country or government in the past 250 years. We’ve never done that in the past, and we’ll never do it in the future,” adding, “We wonder whether Israel or the United States can make the same statement.”

The letter also noted that, the same month, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that “We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any state.”

In October 2006, President Ahmadinejad stated, “Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country. … We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum.”

The following year, Ahmadinejad was asked by the Associated Press whether Iran “would ever make a first strike against Israel.” He replied, “Iran will not attack any country,” and insisted Iran has “always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one” and has no interest in territorial expansion, something Israel could never seriously claim.

In a 2008 CNN interview with Larry King, Ahmadinejad stated bluntly that “we don’t have a problem with the Jewish people,” and added, with specific reference to Israel, “We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt.”

The same year, at a news conference during the D8 Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad told reporters that because he believes the Zionist enterprise of ethnic cleansing and colonization is “inherently doomed” to failure, “there is no need for Iranians to take action” to hasten the inevitable political outcome in Palestine.  He also assured the press, “You should not be concerned about a new war.”

He also made his position clear in an NPR interview, saying, “Let me create an analogy here, where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear, but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future.”

During an October 2011 interview, Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera that Iran “will never enter any war against the U.S. or against any other country. This is our policy. … We have never attacked anybody. Why should we do that? Why should we start a war?”

This past July, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations said, “We will react if there is any provocative act from the other side. We will not initiate any provocative steps.”

Official assessments by both Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency, have affirmed that “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack.”

The alarmism that inevitably follows boilerplate speeches by Iranian officials serves an agenda of decontextualized demonization that paints the Islamic Republic as a genocidal, eliminationist aggressor and Israel as a victim, just one spinning centrifuge away from eradication. In fact, it is Israel that consistently threatens Iran with an illegal military assault, not the other way around.

But it is not a military attack that actually threatens the future of Israel, it is exactly the kind of struggle undertaken by those like Allen Boesak, who courageously stood against an unjust system of ethnocentrism and supremacy and prevailed.

Were Israel to finally respect international law, put an end to decades of racism, occupation and Apartheid, and begin to consider each and every human being as equal and worthy of the same human rights and dignity, freedom of movement and opportunity, it would no longer be subject to the harsh analogies that have for so long been directed at the most oppressive and inhumane ideologies the world has ever known.

Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. Visit his website at www.wideasleepinamerica.com . Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima




When GOP Likes Big Government

The Republican Party touts itself as the advocate for small government and individual liberty, but the reality is different when it comes to demanding that personal behavior fit with the moral precepts of fundamentalist Christianity and within the strictures of a national security state, says Lawrence S. Wittner.

By Lawrence S. Wittner

One of the most widely advertised but falsest claims in American politics is that the modern Republican Party stands for “small government.”

In the distant past, leading Republicans were indeed sharp critics of statism. And even today a few marginal party activists, like U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, have championed limited government — even libertarian — policies. But this is not at all the norm for the contemporary GOP.

For example, the Republican Party has stood up with remarkable consistency for the post-9/11 U.S. government policies of widespread surveillance, indefinite detention without trial, torture and extraordinary rendition.

It has also supported government subsidies for religious institutions, government restrictions on immigration and free passage across international boundaries, government denial of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, government attacks on public use of public space (for example, the violent police assaults on the Occupy movement), and government interference with women’s right to abortion and doctors’ right to perform it.

And this barely scratches the surface of the Republican Party’s “big government” policies. The GOP has rallied fervently around government interference with the right of same-sex couples to marry, government provision of extraordinarily lengthy imprisonment for drug possession (for example, in the “war on drugs”) and numerous other nonviolent offenses, government interference with voting rights (such as “voter suppression” laws), and government restrictions on freedom of information.

Where, one wonders, is the Republican outrage at the U.S. government’s crackdown on people like Bradley Manning who expose government misconduct, or on whistle-blowing operations like WikiLeaks and its leading light, Julian Assange?

If the Republican Party were a zealous defender of civil liberties, as it claims to be, it would laud civil liberties organizations. But, in fact, the GOP has kept its distance from them. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, publicly and repeatedly ridiculed his Democratic opponent as a “card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Then, there is the largest national military machine in world history. A Republican Party that wanted to limit government would be eager to cut funding for this bloated giant. But the reality is that the modern GOP has consistently supported a vast U.S. military buildup. Today, its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, assails his Democratic competitor for military weakness and champions a $2 trillion increase in U.S. military spending over the next decade.

Moreover, the Republican Party is an avid proponent of the most violent, abusive, and intrusive kind of government action — war. In recent decades, as U.S. military intervention or outright war raged in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other nations, the GOP was a leading source of flag-waving jingoism, as it is today in the U.S. government’s confrontation with Iran.

This is not a prescription for creating limited government. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked in the midst of U.S. government mobilization for World War I: “War is the health of the State.”

Yes, admittedly, there is plenty of GOP support for small government when it comes to cutting taxes on the wealthy, limiting regulation of big business, gutting environmental regulations, weakening legal protections for workers and racial minorities, and slashing government funding for public education, public health, and social welfare services.

But there is a common denominator to this kind of small government action. It is all designed to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else. Thus, the Republican Party opposes government alleviation of hunger through the distribution of food stamps, but supports government subsidies to corporations.

Just take a look at the platform that will emerge from the GOP national convention. There will be plenty of rhetoric about freedom and limited government. But the party’s actual policies will reflect a very different agenda.

For those people who can see beyond the deluge of slick campaign advertisements, it should be clear enough that the Republican Party’s claim to support “small government” is a fraud. That claim is only an attractive mask, designed to disguise a party of privilege.

Lawrence S. Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).

 




Israel’s Culture of Hate

The failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has inevitably stoked animosities on both sides. But recent acts of violence and ugly comments inside Israel reveal that a culture of hatred and bigotry is taking root, warns ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Two incidents last week underscored how broadly and deeply in Israeli society runs a streak of hatred against Palestinian Arabs.

In one, seven Israeli teenagers, including two girls, one 13 years old, were arrested for what witnesses described as an attempted lynching in West Jerusalem of several Palestinian youths, one of whom was beaten unconscious and was still hospitalized this week. In the same hospital was one of the victims of the other incident: the Palestinian driver of a taxi that was firebombed near a West Bank settlement.

As with violent crimes elsewhere that involve hatred against particular ethnic, racial or religious groups, and for those eager to highlight commonalities between Israeli and American society, this unfortunately has to count as one of them, given the history of hate crimes in the United States, the specific manifestations of such hatred are varied. They range from full-blown terrorism to less violent actions.

The unofficial resort by Israelis to force and violence against Palestinians has in recent years been most associated with West Bank settlers. (For an excellent analysis of this particular brand of Israeli terrorism, see the recent article on the subject by Daniel Byman and Natan Sachs.) As the assault in West Jerusalem demonstrated, however, the problem is not limited to settlers or to the occupied territories.

Also as with hate crimes elsewhere, there are multiple causes and explanations. Large-scale violence earlier this year against African migrants in Tel Aviv demonstrated that Palestinians or Arabs are not the only targets of Israeli hatred. That in turn suggests that one of the roots of what we are seeing is a generalized bigotry not unlike what we unfortunately have seen in the United States.

But the very relevant and distinctively Israeli circumstance that has the most power to give rise to widely held hateful attitudes is the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians. As a conflict that dates back to before the founding of Israel and that has accounted for so much of the violence that has been inflicted both on and by Israelis, it could not help but have that power.

It is not just a few radical settlers or violent teenagers who have gotten into a habit of regarding all Palestinians as dangerous aliens, as the enemy or as terrorists. The rightist Israeli governments of recent years, by making it quite apparent that they see no place for free Palestinians in a peaceful picture with Israel, have reinforced a nationwide tendency to view Palestinians as something less than human beings with inalienable human rights.

And that tendency leads to a legitimization of violence against them. In speaking critically about the effects of such legitimization, Professor Gavriel Salomon of Haifa University notes, “Suddenly it’s not so terrible to burn Arabs inside a taxi.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly condemned the latest violence, as he has earlier instances of it. But serious questions remain about the official posture toward the unofficial violence. Israeli policing of anti-Palestinian violence has been at best spotty.

Former chief of staff of the Israeli Army Dan Halutz has stated that Israeli authorities have not done enough to crack down on the anti-Palestinian terrorists and vandals among West Bank settlers. “If we wanted,” said Halutz, “we could catch them and when we want to, we will.”

There also is incitement through inflammatory remarks by religious leaders associated with the Israeli government or governing parties. For example, the government-paid chief rabbi of settlements in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, in speaking at a conference last year, described Arabs as “wolves” and “savages.”

The chief rabbi of Safed, also paid by the Israeli government, told reporters last year that “Arab culture is very cruel,” that “a Jew should chase away Arabs,” and that “expelling Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is part of the strategy.”

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, which is part of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, has said in sermons that Palestinians are “evil, bitter, enemies” whom God ought to “perish from this world,” that “it is forbidden to be merciful” to Arabs, that Arabs are “evil and damnable,” and that “you must send missiles to them and annihilate them.”

One wonders what Israeli government officials think of such remarks when they or others attempt to call to account Arab leaders for anti-Israeli invective voiced by anyone in their constituencies.

Amid an atmosphere fed by such comments, one does not need to look, as some Israelis are in searching for explanations for the latest incidents involving perpetrators so young, at such things as deficient parenting.

Nimrod Aloni of the Institute for Educational Thought in Tel Aviv notes that a teenager acting as a member of a lynch mob “cannot just be an expression of something he has heard at home.” Aloni continues, “This is directly tied to national fundamentalism that is the same as the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, Taliban and K.K.K. This comes from an entire culture that has been escalating toward an open and blunt language based on us being the chosen people who are allowed to do whatever we like.”

Although the non-resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Arabs is the biggest single contributor to hatred on both sides of that conflict, Israel also has a built-in vulnerability to exhibiting ethnic and religious intolerance, as a state that is defined in ethnic and religious terms.

The line between zealous patriotism and ethnic or religious bias is in greater danger of becoming blurred. And so Rabbi Yosef of Shas can say, “The sole purpose of non-Jews is to serve Jews.  . . .  Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world, only to serve the people of Israel.”

Nearly all of the rest of the world, including the assembled leaders of Arab states, has accepted Israel, and its status as the primary homeland of Jews, as legitimate. Hatred emanating from Israel will, of course, not be accepted as any more legitimate than hatred emanating from anyplace else.

As with other conflicts, the bigots, haters and terrorists on both sides will, tragically, play off of each other.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




Ryan’s Clash with Catholic Teachings

Republican vice presidential choice Paul Ryan calls himself a devout Catholic, but his right-wing politics would divert more wealth to the rich at the expense of the poor, the opposite of both the teachings of Jesus and the recommendations of the Vatican, notes Catholic ethicist Daniel C. Maguire.

By Daniel C. Maguire

Sound the alarm! There has been a Catholic coup d’etat in the United States of America! Six members of the Supreme Court are Catholics (just imagine the furor if six were Muslims or Jews!). Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell are Catholics. And now, rising to top of this surging Catholic dynasty is the alleged Wunderkind of Republican economics, perky Paul Ryan.

Ryan wears his strange version of Catholicism with a jaunty sophomoric pride: “Catholic social doctrine is indispensable for officeholders.” If only Paul Ryan knew what “Catholic social doctrine” is he would take flight from it just as fast as he is scrambling from the Ayn Rand breasts that, as he has proclaimed, suckled him and inspired all his political and economic views.

Catholics who know the difference between Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand skewered perky Paul. They know that Jesus’ mission, unlike Ayn Rand’s, was “good news for the poor” (Luke 4:18). They embarrassed the righteous Ryan when he spoke at the Jesuit Georgetown University carrying a sprawling sign that asked: “Where were you, Paul Ryan, when they crucified the poor?”

Of course they know where he was. He was driving the nails into everything that helps the poor and remember most of “the poor” are children. Budgets are intensely moral documents. They show where the heart is. To budget-makers we can say: show me the losers and the winners and I will tell you what you are.

The Ryan budget plan, embraced by Mitt Romney as “marvelous,” puts greed over need. Among its losers: Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, health insurance, preschool programs, environmental and financial regulations, Pell grants, Head Start, mortgage guarantees. “Are there no poor houses?”

The budget is not all sour. There are sweet tidings for the already engorged mega-rich. And as for the military, ah, yes, the military, Ryan feels they do not ask enough though they have never been known for modesty or timidity in their requests. Ryan would further feed that black hole in the economy that already sucks out some $2 million a minute. Kill-power is prized more highly than Head Start and Medicaid.

How Dare You, Paul Ryan!

How dare you invoke “Catholic social teaching” to bolster that warped and brutal vision! Had you presented that budget as an assignment in my theology class at Marquette University I would have had to give you an F and a note would go to your parents saying, “this student is wasting your tuition money.”

So, listen up, Paul, and I’ll show you why the “Nuns on the Bus” and Catholic university faculties are storming against your Catholic pretensions. It is no major undertaking to correct you. That’s why your ignorance must be classified as crass.

Just last year, in October 2011, Pope Benedict’s Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace gave all the help you need. The council summed up centuries of “Catholic social teaching” in a single document and applied it to today’s tottering global economy.

When asked about the document, you equivocated about whether you had read it. Clearly, from your recent utterances you either did not read it or you read it and trashed it. Small wonder. It would give Ayn Rand a stroke. Jesuit Thomas Reese said the document is “closer to the view of Occupy Wall Street that anyone in the U.S. Congress.”

Catholic Social Teaching 101

Here it is in gist: The Vatican document supports fair taxation, greed-controlling regulation and bailouts “with public funds” when necessary. Now, brace yourself, Paul, it excoriates “neoliberals,” the greed-is-good creed of your right wing.

The document calls for an international solidarity that would end poverty and obsessive reliance on military violence for security. It calls for more active citizenship, not voter suppression. Internationally it calls for “a new model of a more cohesive, polyarchic international society that respects every people’s identity within the multifaceted riches of a single humanity.”

It calls for a “public, supranational authority with universal jurisdiction, a “true world political authority” and a “world bank” to preside over a “global, universal common good.” Nations need to “transfer a part of each nation’s powers to a world authority and to regional authorities.”

It does not call for a tyrannical despotic world authority. The traditional Catholic tradition of “subsidiarity” means that nothing should be done by a higher authority that can be done by active participation at lower levels. Right-wingers like you grab that one word “subsidiarity” and claim it supports their maniacal hatred of government. It doesn’t.

The document, like the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, considers government the prime care-taker of the common good with a particular mission to protect the powerless and the poor from exploitation.

Catholic social teaching abhors despotism, either that of governments or that of corporate power that can enslave the poor of the world as it is now doing. The blood, sweat and tears of the poor are on our clothing, our shoes and on our iPads. Using what is cynically and euphemistically called “labor arbitrage,” corporations ship most of their work to slave operations in “the third world.”

Now at this point, my student, Paul Ryan, is squirming in his seat. What I had just taught, relying on papal teachings, is not right wing. It is left wing in as much as the Left stresses social justice and fair distribution of wealth and opportunity, and the Left has a preference for peace-power over kill-power.

So, Paul Ryan, call your knavish, mean-spirited budget plan what you will. But do not call it Catholic. Stop defaming and insulting the stirring compassion and richness of Catholic social teaching by associating it with your form of upper-class warfare.

Have you no shame!

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians. He can be reached at daniel.maguire@marquette.edu. (This article originally appeared as a blog post at HuffingtonPost.)




Israel’s Drift into Apartheid

The latest fury over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s condemnation of Israel’s Zionist government as “an insult to all humanity” ignores the growing body of evidence that today’s Israel is evolving into an Apartheid state similar to the old South Africa, Nima Shirazi writes.

By Nima Shirazi

As tends to happen whenever Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, especially one in commemoration of Al-Quds Day that explicitly rejects the ideology of Zionism and condemns the Israeli government for its inherently discriminatory, exclusivist and ethnocentric policies and actions, all hell broke lose after the Iranian President addressed a large crowd at Tehran University last Friday.

“The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity,” Ahmadinejad said, adding that “confronting the existence of the fabricated Zionist regime is, in fact, protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the remarks as “offensive and inflammatory.”  The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, also denounced Ahmadinejad’s speech as “outrageous and hateful.”

Naturally, Ahmadinejad’s words also sparked the usual shock and horror from the usual people, the same people who still insist that (1) Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and (2) believe that such a comment constituted a direct threat of military action against the superpower-backed, nuclear-armed state of Israel.

Without delving into the persistent myths and deliberate falsehoods surrounding that particular talking point (one that has been sufficiently debunked countless times) or seeking to justify anything said by Ahmadinejad, a few things should be noted:

First: While Associated Press described Ahmadinejad’s comment as “one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state,” which seemed to indicate that this is the first time such language has been used, they failed to point out that Ahmadinejad has used this exact same phrase before.

After Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” conference in February 2010, Ha’aretz reported he had said that “the existence of ‘the Zionist regime’ is an insult to humanity,” according to Iranian news agency IRNA. Later that year, he said the very same thing.

Second (and more important): The “insult to humanity” phrase was not coined by the Iranian President to describe a political power structure defined by demographic engineering, colonialism, racism, and violence. For example, a Dec. 11, 1979, editorial in California’s Lodi News-Sentinel stated clearly, “Apartheid is an insult to humanity” and “must be ended.”

But the phrase has far deeper roots – roots with which the UN Secretary-General himself should be well acquainted. A joint declaration by 20 Asian and African countries issued to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Oct. 1, 1963, called upon the agency to reject the membership of South Africa due to its racist and discriminatory regime of Apartheid.

It noted “with grave concern that the South African Government continues stubbornly to disregard all United Nations and Security Council resolutions and to maintain its apartheid policies in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Security, and consequently of the IAEA Statute.” The declaration stated:

1. We condemn categorically the apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa, based on racial superiority, as immoral and inhuman;

2. We deprecate most strongly the South African Government’s irresponsible flouting of world opinion by its persistent refusal to put an end to its racial policies;

3. The apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa are a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as being an insult to humanity.

The very first International Conference on Human Rights, held by the UN in (get this) Tehran from April 22 to May 13, 1968, “condemned the brutal and inhuman practice of apartheid,” “deplore[d] the Government of South Africa’s continuous insult to humanity,” and “declare[d] that the policy of apartheid or other similar evils are a crime against humanity.”

On Feb. 15, 1995, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adopted a resolution praising the end of “the era of apartheid in South Africa” which also reaffirmed that “apartheid and apartheid-like practices are an insult to humanity…”

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed “that the conclusion of an internal convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid would be an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, racism, economic exploitation, colonial domination and foreign occupation” and, more specifically, the UN has affirmed time and again that “the inalienable rights of all peoples, and in particular … the Palestinian people, to freedom, equality and self-determination, and the legitimacy of their struggles to restore those rights.”

Third: No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having any affinity whatsoever for Zionism or the government of Israel. Clearly he believes that Israel practices its own form of Apartheid against the Palestinian people. And he is not alone.

Back in 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa’s Prime Minister said, “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

In April 1976, just two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster took an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed.

At a banquet held in Vorster’s honor, Rabin hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom. Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.”

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization. Only a few months later, an official South African Government’s document reinforced this shared predicament: “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”

Both Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and as well as many other South African anti-Apartheid activists, have consistently called Israel an Apartheid state.

Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, has written that following the Six Day War in June 1967, “We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities.

“Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.”

That oppressive regime exists to this day. Avraham Burg, Israel’s Knesset Speaker from 1999 to 2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has long determined that “Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy,” insisting the only way to maintain total Jewish control over all of historic Palestine would be to “abandon democracy” and “institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.” He has also called Israel “the last colonial occupier in the Western world.”

Yossi Sarid, who served as a member of the Knesset between 1974 and 2006, has written of Israel’s “segregation policy” that “what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck it is apartheid.”

Yossi Paritzky, former Knesset and Cabinet minister, writing about the systematic institutionalization and legalization of racial and religious discrimination in Israel, stated that Israel does not act like a democracy in which “all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality.” Rather, by implementing more and more discriminatory laws that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens, “Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist.”

Shulamit Aloni, another former Knesset and Cabinet member, has written that “the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.”

In 2008, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel released its annual human rights report which found that the dynamic between settlers, soldiers and native Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Ehud Olmert, when he was Prime Minister, told a Knesset committee meeting, “For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable” and repeatedly warned that if “we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

Ehud Barak has admitted that “[a]s long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Shlomo Gazit, former member of Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, wrote in Ha’aretz that “in the present situation, unfortunately, there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement. The legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.”

Last summer, Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi told the Jerusalem Post that “keeping the status quo will deepen apartheid in Israel as it did in South Africa,” while Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told The Los Angeles Times last year that, in terms of public opinion of Israel, “I have the feeling that we are seen more like South Africa once was.”

Council on Foreign Relations member Stephen Roberts, after returning from a trip to Israel and the West Bank, wrote in The Nation that “Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as twenty-six feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wire.”

In April 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu’s own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi, wrote that Israel’s “policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories” undoubtedly fit the definition of Apartheid.

Linguist, cultural anthropologist, and Hebrew University professor David Shulman wrote in May 2012 in The New York Review of Books that there already exists “a single state between the Jordan River and the sea” controlled by Israel and which fits the definition of an “ethnocracy.”  He continues:

“Those who recoil at the term ‘apartheid’ are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as ‘Bantustans.’”

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they’re anything remotely like a “solution” to Israel’s Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down.

Whether those who get hysterical over Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric agree with the above assessments – many of which were made by prominent Israeli and Jewish politicians, officials and academics – is irrelevant.  It’s clear that Ahmadinejad himself would agree.

Consequently, his reference to Israel (which he sees as an Apartheid state) as an “insult to humanity” (which repeats the same verbiage used repeatedly by the United Nations itself) appears to be far less inflammatory then the outrage that followed would suggest.

Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. His Web site is www.wideasleepinamerica.com, where this story first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima