Month: September 2009

Don’t believe the hype

Now, really.

If the Obama administration was responsible here, they’d de-emphasize this hype, this politically motivated hype, and deal with the reality that there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran, that the newly declared Qom facility is not a threat to international peace and security, and that when Iran and the United States sits down this coming Thursday, that we will—you know, the United States hopes to find a way out of this morass, that we hope to find a way to peacefully coexist with Iran, an Iran that has a nuclear energy program fully monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Fmr. UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter Warns Against “Politically Motivated Hype” on Iran Nuke Program

There are just a few things to remember here.

1. Iran is in compliance with its obligations vis a vis the NPT, and this revelation changes nothing. It’s only the additional voluntary protocols Iran agreed to take on (and then changed its mind about) that are at issue in any way.

2. Non-proliferation imposes obligations of both the non-nuclear states AND the nuclear powers. The United States, as well as the other nuclear powers, have an obligation to disarm. There has been significant reduction in the total number of weapons, but the U.S. military is striving to upgrade and “modernize” its arsenal, and can still blow the planet to dust many times over.

3. Israel threatens to attack Iran constantly. This is a nation that is doesn’t just talk about attacking. It has routinely attacked its neighbors, possesses a formidable nuclear arsenal, and has a really neat facility for making bombs. It has also no interest in non-proliferation.

4. Ahmadinejad is no one’s favorite head of state, least of all the Iranians’. His Holocaust denial is stupid and troubling. But he never vowed to wipe Israel off the map. See Juan Cole, who has covered the subject quite well. He is also not in charge of Iran’s armed forces. But it would be useful to remember that Iran is surrounded by hugely powerful military machines, the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel.

5. As awful as Ahmadinejad is, and as sketchy and brutal as the recent Iranian elections were, 81 percent of the Iranian public still consider him to be legitimate president of Iran. Which is pretty much the exact percentage who believed George Bush was the legitimate president after the 2000 election debacle in our own fair land. See here.

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Grave of the Fireflies

September 21, 1945… that was the night I died.

Just watched this powerful, gorgeous film again last night (you can find complete versions online at

Animation or no, it’s one of my favorite films of all time. The ineffable beauty of childhood innocence and the brother/sister bond comes up against the unspeakable evil of the firebombing of a nation, already defeated, whose buildings were mostly made of paper and wood. Not to mention the indifference of an adult population with its own survival issues.

What imagination: the visual pairing of dying fireflies with scenes of incendiary devices trailing gently down from the American planes. What acid observation: the doctor tells the boy Seita that Setsuko, his deathly ill younger sister, needs food, not medicine, and turns his back.

(FWIW I just read that in its theatrical premier in Japan, it played on a double bill with another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, My Neighbor Totoro. That seemed weird to me at first glance, but on reflection makes perfect sense).

more about “Grave of the Fireflies Japanese Trailer“, posted with vodpod</d

The sixty-eight-year state of emergency

Gary Wills makes a persuasive (and pessimistic) case that the “whole history of America since World War II caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch” and that Obama will have a hell of a time reversing it, even if he wants to…..

The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the “war on terror”—all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941–2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order.

Iran “breaking the rules all* nations must follow”

* not really. but doesn’t it sound even-handed?

So this General Assembly will be all about rattling sabres at Iran for not-yet-existing nuclear weapons, and for  “breaking the rules all nations must follow.” Well, not ALL nations.

There is one county in the middle east that has a lot of  (up to 400) thermonuclear devices, and a large middle finger extended to anyone who wants to say anything about it.

VIENNA (Reuters) – Arab states in the U.N. nuclear assembly on Friday won narrow approval of a resolution urging Israel to put all its atomic sites under U.N. inspection and join the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Jewish state deplored the measure for singling it out while many of its Islamic neighbors remained hostile to its existence, and said it would not cooperate with it.

The non-binding resolution, which passed for the first time in 18 years of attempts thanks to more developing nation votes, voiced concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to tackle the issue.

Israel is one of only three countries worldwide along with India and Pakistan outside the nuclear NPT and is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.

I love this: “Mr. Obama said that the Iranian nuclear program ‘represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.”’ Guess what? The U.S. has obligations under the NPT. The “Second Pillar: Disarmament.” How’s that goin’? How much disarming have WE done?

All war, all the time

Borges wrote:

I believe if there were any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this absence of camels would be sufficient to prove it is an Arabian work. It was written by Mohammed, and Mohammed, as an Arab, had no reason to know that camels were especially Arabian; for him they were a part of reality, he had no reason to emphasize them….

And so it is with 21st century America and war. Nobody really talks about it much, and if they do, they don’t go all “This is FUCKING NUTS!” or “We’re murdering innocent people on a daily basis in the most awful way–blowing them to bits with bombs and rockets and crushing them under the rubble of their own homes–no matter who’s in the goddamn White House.”

Well, not many other than me.

But there is Tom Englehardt. This essay is an absolute must-read.

An excerpt:

What do you make of a world in which the U.S. has robot assassins in the skies over its war zones, 24/7, and the “pilots” who control them from thousands of miles away are ready on a moment’s notice to launch missiles — “Hellfire” missiles at that — into Pashtun peasant villages in the wild, mountainous borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan? What does it mean when American pilots can be at war “in” Afghanistan, 9 to 5, by remote control, while their bodies remain at a base outside Las Vegas and then can head home past a sign that warns them to drive carefully because this is “the most dangerous part of your day”?

What does it mean when, for our security and future safety, the Pentagon funds the wildest ideas imaginable for developing high-tech weapons systems, many of which sound as if they came straight out of the pages of sci-fi novels? Take, for example, Boeing’s advanced coordinated system of hand-held drones, robots, sensors, and other battlefield surveillance equipment slated for seven Army brigades within the next two years at a cost of $2 billion and for the full Army by 2025; or the Next Generation Bomber, an advanced “platform” slated for 2018; or a truly futuristic bomber, “a suborbital semi-spacecraft able to move at hypersonic speed along the edge of the atmosphere,” for 2035? What does it mean about our world when those people in our government peering deepest into a blue-skies future are planning ways to send armed “platforms” up into those skies and kill more than a quarter century from now?

And do you ever wonder about this: If such weaponry is being endlessly developed for our safety and security, and that of our children and grandchildren, why is it that one of our most successful businesses involves the sale of the same weaponry to other countries?

Tomdispatch is always an essential site, but this particular essay has to be read in full.

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