Oct 29, 2007

Iran Attack (ack ack)

Alternet yesterday provided a translation from the original German article in Der Spiegel on the leak of a note from the White House indicating that Vice president Cheney 's strategy for striking Iran begins with an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The article is pretty frightening, but no more than what we have been reading and seeing in the news for the past 10 months, ever since the Russian Federation and China begin resisting strongly the saber rattling of the Bush Administration.

As for there being a leak in the White House, I don't believe it for a minute. These “leaks” often turn out to be just trial balloons to see what the world opinion would be; and since the Israelis have a number of German-built nuclear powered submarines now trolling around in the Persian Gulf area, capable of firing nuclear missiles (and with Germany footing 1/3 of the bill for the last two) what fitter place than in a well-known member of the German Press than to plant the leak? Who knows. When it comes to media these days and "white House leaks" I have no trust at all. Someone in the press room should ask Dana
Perino about this in order to get her to deny it, since you never want to trust any fact until it's officially denied.

In one of those Pogo the Possum ironies (“We have met the enemy and he is us.”), the
Der Spiegel article refers to the crazed neo-con Norman Podhoretz (aka Rudi Giuliani's senior foreign policy adviser) making his usually insane comparisons of the Iranian government to Hitler's Nazi Germany.

Podhoretz wrote, in an editorial in the
Wall Street Journal that he "hopes and prays" that Bush will finally bomb Iran. Podhoretz sees the United States engaged in a global war against "Islamofascism," a conflict he defines as World War IV, and he likens Iran to Nazi Germany. "Is it 1938 again?" he asks in a speech he repeats regularly at conferences.

Well, yes, it kind of is, I guess, except if you
really want to make the analogy, which is ridiculous to start with, the forces of Nazi Germany do not appear to be massing their tanks and their Luftwaffe on the Iranian side of the borders. Now that the IAEA has formally come out and said that Iran does not appear to be making nuclear bombs, although to be fair, it still reserves the possibility that further information should be forthcoming, the Bush administration has found itself in a position of only minimal credibility on the nuclear weapons charge. (Note how Bush weaseled a bit in his WW III speech; now it has become "the knowledge to make nuclear weapons" that he is afraid of.) So they are now playing hard on "fixing" their casus belli around the “terrorism” of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards and will probably—as Hitler did with the Poles the night before the attack—try to create a scenario to be used as the cause for war. Of course, that is absurd as well, another irony of history.

It really is a shame that you have to point out things like this. Those analogies are not useful--just like the Vietnam=Iraq one this past summer, and the stupid absurdities of the far right should have been laughed out of existence years ago. There is no analogy, of course, and those like Podhoretz who have become trapped by their analogous thinking are just weaving themselves in the fantastic silk of their own paranoia. "
Islamofascism" indeed, showing especially a total misunderstanding of the word fascism. The worms have eaten the brains of that intellectual class that Norman Podhoretz used to represent. And the people listening to Podhoretz, like Rudi Giuliani, and the people controlling this government, are fools.

No, if anyone is likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the analogy, it is our country, not Iran. We are the ones threatening a first strike. Ironically, under the laws of the United Nations, which we consistently fail to follow, and using the logic of our war of aggression, which we carried out in supposed "
pre-emption" of an "immanent" attack ( "Immanent." There's another word they are incapable of understanding), we, by our continuing threats over the years, are giving Iran the justification for initiating war. Perhaps that's what the Jack O' Lanterns in the White House want them to do?

The Herald (UK) on October 29 reports that the hangar infrastructure for stealth bombers based on the island of Diego Garcia (a British colony--though that is another story) in the Indian Ocean is being fitted for bunker buster bombs in preparation for the strike on Iran. And according to Jonathan Karl on ABC news on October 25, 2007, the Pentagon has ordered

$88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP.The MOP is the the military's largest conventional bomb, a super "bunker-buster" capable of destroying hardened targets deep underground. The one-line explanation for the request said it is in response to "an urgent operational need from theater commanders.

What urgent need?

The Pentagon referred questions on this to Central Command.ABC News called
CENTCOM to ask what the "urgent operational need" is. CENTCOM spokesman Maj. Todd White said he would look into it, but, so far, no answer.

You think your gas and oil bill is high now, wait until the next
Bushinator "shock and awe." Of course, the oil companies don't really care. All they do is increase the prices as the market goes up. But I have a feeling that high oil prices will be the least of our worries if we act on that insanity of attacking Iran.

Here is one rational response to the situation quoted in the
Der Spiegel piece:
Former presidential adviser [Gary] Sick thinks Iran would strike back with terrorist attacks. "The generals of the Revolutionary Guard have had several years to think about asymmetrical warfare," says Sick. "They probably have a few rather interesting ideas."

According to Sick, detonating well-placed bombs at oil terminals in the Persian Gulf would be enough to wreak havoc. "Insurance costs would skyrocket, causing oil prices to triple and triggering a global recession," Sick warns. "The economic consequences would be enormous, far greater than anything we have experienced with Iraq so far."

Because the catastrophic consequences of an attack on Iran are obvious, many in Washington have a fairly benign take on the current round of saber rattling. They believe the sheer dread of war is being used to bolster diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis and encourage hesitant members of the United Nations Security Council to take more decisive action. The Security Council, this argument goes, will be more likely to approve tighter sanctions if it believes that war is the only alternative.

But that's what we would all like to think is a reasonable response to the news, and we hope that the saber-rattling is all a ploy. One then has to rely on the reasonableness and rationality of the president, the vice-president, and their supporting conservative fanatics. I don't think the reasonableness and the rationality are there.

Given this information--especially the gearing up with the bunker buster bombs--I believe the decisions have already been made and the 'deciders' as they did with the Iraq war, are merely waiting for the scenarios to play out, fixing the facts around the intention. I hope that this is wrong, I hope that at the end of January, 2009, I will be breathing a sigh of relief and laughing at my fears. It would be nice to think so, wouldn't it?

Oct 26, 2007

Updates on Torture and the Cheney Calculus

First, on torture. Breaking story on Democracy Now! this morning when Juan Gonzalez interviewed Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Jeanne Sulzer of the International Federation of Human Rights: these human rights groups filed a lawsuit in France today charging former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing interrogation techniques that led to abuses at US-run prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo and which were in fact torture.

Rumsfeld had to be in France in order to allow for the filing of the suit. He is there—or was there this morning for a conference. However, the suit is being reviewed by the authorities. My bet is that the Sarkosy government will not allow the suit to proceed and papers to be served on Rumsfeld. France, of course, has an obligation under the international agreements to prosecute those responsible for torture. It was the Spanish prosecutor who snagged Pinochet and set up the situation for him being detained in Great Britain, for example.

The United States has a similar obligation, but has refused to honor it in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro terrorist, who is still being protected by the U. S. government in Florida despite extradition requests from Venezuela. Posada Carilles was responsible for the destruction of Cuban Airlines plane flying from Venezuela. The 1976 bombing killed 73 people and Cariles was tried and convicted in absentia. Ah, the rule of law. How we insist on it and then, when push comes to shove, we fail to uphold it.

My position all along is that, although some punishment has been meted out to low-ranking front line soldiers (the ones Rumsfeld referred to as the “bad apples”) for abuses, it was the command structure, those in positions of responsibility, who established the general instructions and atmosphere for torture, beginning with Rumsfeld. They have gone unpunished. In fact, enough evidence has come to light about his involvement in specific cases to enable material for the lawsuit to be gathered. The CIA has not been held to account. Our so-called leaders have been protected against responsibility for the violations of the Geneva convention and U.S. Law. As usual, one of the perks of higher management and office is cowardice and avoidance of responsibility.

The SECOND update refers you to some excellent information on the Iraqi oil situation in a great piece on Tom Dispatch by Jack Miles (Author of God: A Biography). The piece should be read in conjunction with the earlier one I referred to in my post of October on the calculus of blood for oil—Cheney's game, in other words.

In his very well researched piece, Miles puts together some interesting information that suggests that the Bush administration has its gonads over the grinder. “Baghdad to Bush: you have Fourteen Months.”

It discusses information that the MSM has not been paying attention to, particularly the decision by the Iraqi government that the UN mandate allowing the multinational force to stay in Iraq will be renewed only for one more year, after which, the Iraqi government insists, the United States will have to enter into a mutual defense arrangement with Iraq. That doesn't necessarily guarantee the removal of the U. S. forces, but it suggests that the Iraqi government is beginning to assert itself, though not in a way that the United States wants. Another assertion of power centers around their moves to eliminate the ukase of Paul Bremer under the Occupation regime that contractors could not be prosecuted. It also looks like the oil management boondoggle will not be put into effect. There is too much opposition to it from all factions. Remember, or well over two years now, polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want the United States out of their country.

Read the article and follow up with the references and links in it. This is well-written analysis, grounded in fact. You won't find a discussion like this in the main stream media.

The Spirit of Torquemada

Loss of habeas corpus last year, rendition, torture—all of these things cluster around a central problem with this country's deteriorating integrity during the years of the Bush Administration. (I will leave aside for the moment the illegality of the War in Iraq—or the War in Afghanistan for that matter—no matter what authority the Congress voted to give George Bush in 2001, the war is still a war of aggression, the supreme international crime, and a violation of the supreme law of the land since all treaties we sign become the supreme law of the land. And it is the crime for which we hung and imprisoned a few Nazis in 1945 .)

No, put those aside for the moment and let us consider the candidate for attorney general, supported so happily by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York who now, I hope, has enough guts to realize he made a mistake. I listened to the first two days of Mukasy's testimony last week; I've read a lot of commentary and have looked over the transcripts and found his exchange with the Senators on the matter of torture just a little too much to countenance.

I am mad as hell, because I think he will be worse than Gonzalez. He appears to be smarter and more competent. Remember what Mukasy said about the torture memo? Quoting some 19th century cynical politician, he said "it was worse than an error, it was a mistake." The Press picked up on "mistake" as something positive. I found the paraphrase worse, for it just reinforced the modus operandi of Cheneyism: no memos, no phone calls, no records, no paper trail, no archives, secrecy above all.

I'm not being too passionate about this matter. Those who know me well know that some of the most angry arguments I have ever gotten into with ex-friends and close family members have always centered around violations of another person's integrity and person. All of my values have at their core the belief that no one should be forced to do something against her will. In that sense, the core of my belief has a great deal in common with classic Liberalism (that of John Stuart Mill) and in contemporary politics, with Libertarianism. The violation of another person against his will is a cardinal sin in my belief system. The violation of a person's basic rights to justice is another component that flows from the same core. It makes me a Liberal, and I am proud of it.

Mukasy's refusal to make a clear statement on torture, and his comment that there might be areas of authority in which the President was not bound to the Constitution or to Congressional or Judicial oversight made him out to be just a smarter and more dangerous adherent to the unitary executive theory.

So I am most concerned and most condemn the apparently strong Judge Mukasy being unable or refusing to voice what should be a simple and just opinion on the matter of torture. Instead, he weaseled out of the questions by saying he does not know enough about the process to decide if water-boarding is really torture. Because I think what is happening is that Mukasy, as so many Americans, just cannot bring himself to understand that the very crux of American Constitutional belief centers around the matter.

After Mukasy testified, Senator Patrick Leahy promised he would communicate with him in writing on the matter of water-boarding. And so this letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee to Judge Mukasy was sent. (Thanks to TPM for the archived copy of the letter.) As the letter points out very early, a response on Mukasy's waffling was quickly given by Rear Admiral John Hutson. The former Navy Judge Advocate General and Dean of the Franklin Pearce Law Center responded to Mukasy's testimony by commenting that
Other than, perhaps the rack and pinion, water-boarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It was devised, I believe, in the Spanish Inquisition. It has been repudiated for centuries. It's a little disconcerting to hear now that we're not quite sure where water-boarding fits in the scheme of things. I think we have to be very sure where it fits in the scheme of things.
Note the signatures on the last page. Not one Republican, even Lindsay Graham, who should know better, had the cajones to sign the letter. Not Arlen Spector.

And how does that manifest itself in other Republicans of note? Add to Mukasy testimony a fine discussion of the matter of sleep deprivation as torture and the response of Rudi Giuliani, who is such a whore for support campaigning in New Hampshire, that he even holds himself out as a Boston Red Sox fan. (As more than one person has pointed out, he spent more time in his private box in Yankee Stadium in 2001 and 2002 than he did at Ground Zero in Manhattan. No Yankee fan ever roots for the Boston Red Sox.) Anonymous Liberal, a pretty well-known and very sharp attorney, sitting in for Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, puts together some relevant quotes in his post on Giuliani's support for torture.

First, AL quotes from a BBC News article on “The Real Victims of Sleep Deprivation” which ends with an excerpt from Menachem Begin, writing about being tortured by the KGB in White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia:
In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.
And now, here's Giuliani out in Iowa on the subject of sleep deprivation:
But they talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I'm getting tortured running for president of the United States. That's plain silly. That's silly.
Which really shows, of course, that he does not know the first thing about it, for if he did he would take it seriously or perhaps even refrain from making the joke. In fact, his ignorance makes him out to be pretty silly himself. (I will say it's more tolerable than George Bush, who would give a condescending smirk.) I would hope that a person who was running for the Presidency and who had spent most of his career as a lawyer and a Federal prosecutor before becoming Mayor of New York City in 1993 and who holds himself forth as an expert on terrorism, would be a bit more serious about torture.

So maybe he knows more about torture when it's water boarding?
And I see, when the Democrats are talking about torture, they're not just talking about even this definition of waterboarding, which again, if you look at the liberal media and you look at the way they describe it, you could say it was torture and you shouldn't do it. . .
But is water boarding torture? asks his interlocutor, Linda Gustitus? She is the president of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. She's questioning him out in Iowa. She wanted to know how he regarded water-boarding, because Michael Mukasey, Bush’s nominee for attorney general, had “fudged” on the question of whether it is torture.
Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it’s been defined in the media, it shouldn’t be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that’s the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn’t be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I’ve learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don’t always describe it accurately.
But look carefully, at what Giuliani noodles in his response: ”It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.” This comment is the key to the attitude. Does that mean that if the SS does it it's wrong? If the Generals in Myanmar do it, or the Chinese/North Koreans/Vietnamese/Russians in The Manchurian Candidate do it, it's wrong? And so who could possibly be right when they do it? Implied in that answer of Giuliani, of course, is the obvious. It's okay when we do it, but when “they” do it, it's torture. It's just another form of the attitude of all people with murderous power: when they blow us up it's terrorism; when we blow them up it's just response with a bit of collateral damage unavoidably thrown into the mix. The good old American exceptionalism in operation. Anonymous Liberal makes the point better than I can:
That pretty much sums up the prevailing right-wing view on this issue: It's not torture when we do it. It's American exceptionalism taken to an absurd and frightening extreme. It doesn't matter that we draft detailed reports every year chastising all other countries in the world who are known to engage in this activity. It doesn't matter that we've prosecuted people in the past for war crimes for engaging in this same activity. Somehow acts that we would all agree are torture when committed by other countries cease to be torture when they are authorized by the U.S. government (but only for us; it's still torture if others do it). If anyone thinks that the United States' standing in the world will improve if Giuliani becomes president, they're sadly mistaken.
I read things like this, and find nothing but superficiality in Giuliani's thinking; superficiality and toadying, manipulation and facile appeals to the most paranoiac and jingoistic elements in the American electorate. He is courting the vote of the fellow who calls up on a talk radio show and suggests we should just drop the nuke on Iraq, wait thirty years, then colonize it with Americans. (American expats from Arizona and New Mexico, no doubt.)

And then there's Mitt Romney, who I heard on the radio on Tuesday trying to address the comment that the War on Terror was a bumper sticker for George Bush:
Just look at what Osama--Barack Obama--said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all the different types, to come together in Iraq. 'That is the battlefield. That's the central place.’
Romney's campaign said it was just a simple mistake. Obama's campaign commented something to the effect that Romney could switch names as casually as he switches positions. They lost some credibility with me there. The snide attempt to slam back at Romney for a “flip-flop” when really it signified something more important. If Romney had any class, of course, he would have apologized for the error. But you know, “never apologize, never explain,” Rule One of the hard-nosed guide to business and politics.

I have seen some comments that said the mistake was intentional, an attempt to “meld” the two names together and thereby establish an association in the minds of the American public. That's pretty cynical, I'd say, and demands a good deal more acting skill than Romney has, but who knows? After Karl Rove, who really does know? Because in fact, the mistake that Romney made on Tuesday was no more egregious than comments I have seen, read, and heard on talk shows, Fox News, and Internet troll comments, associating Obama with Osama bin Laden. Americans have a lot of trouble pronouncing names and the stranger the name—or let's be blunt and accurate, the more Arabic the name--the more the xenophobic and terror-stricken vapors swirl in their brains.

Pay attention to their language. More on this later. Republicans. Pahh!

Oct 20, 2007

Comic Books

I loved them when I was a kid, those comic books, and although I abandoned them in high school they have grown and matured within the culture of the world, not only the United States. I have not been able to keep up with the development of the genre, but it certainly has burgeoned over the past three decades. We now have illustrated novels and stories, and the cartoon and the illustrated narrative have firmly established themselves. Firmly. They have even influenced contemporary cinema as in Sin City where the "illustrated" qualities of each shot overlay the cinematic qualities to produce a visual experience that is memorable.

Every once in a while, I have run across a memorable one, a combination of illustration, narrative, and commentary that leaps off the page and into my consciousness--the Art Spiegelman
MAUS I and Maus II were real discoveries; R. Crumb's the "Short History of America" was another, and today, after a few hours of reading some history and then a few disheartening articles on Iran and Palestine, I ran across another classic in seven parts, David Horsey's "Empire Rising, A Satirical History."

It will make you laugh out loud or at least chuckle, if the news of the weird world gets too heavy. Horsey is a cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and has won the Pulitzer Prize a couple of times. It's a delightful translation of the history of the current Bush administration into parodic Roman History, and filled with wonderfully literate puns (John Kerry is "Kerriolanus" for example
).Each of the installments can be viewed in .pdf format, or the individual frames of the comic panels can be viewed individually.

Oct 19, 2007

The Cheney Calculus

In one of the more interesting pieces on the Iraq War that I have read recently, Jim Holt (“It's the Oil” in the London Review of Books ) suggests that Bush and Company are right where they want to be, sitting on top of 115 billion barrels of oil reserves—and more importantly—on top of 220 to 300 billion more of unexplored and undetermined potential.

If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Thus, all of the lives, lost or shattered or traumatized, of American soldiers, Iraqi citizens (both dead and fled, innocent and insurgent), living and oppressed under an occupation and a puppet democratic government, according to this ugly Cheneyesque calculus, appear to be worth it. One can imagine Cheney and his oil cronies back in the early part of 2001, shortly after the inauguration, with their oil survey maps spread out before them, doing the rough calculations. And when you imagine it, there comes more of a frightful feel to the vision. No wonder they want to protect the details of the meeting from the prying eyes of the journalists who lost the FOIA request for the minutes. It was "executive privilege," remember? And of course, no one in attendance would ever dare spill the beans. No need to swear secrecy there in that meeting, since revealing the slightest detail would produce an immediate denial and a snarling smirk, though even a smidgen of truth would clearly make them out to be the international pirates we all suspect they are.

According to Holt, this is the reason for the permanent bases, this is the reason for the largest embassy ever built by the US, this is the reason for the projections that the troops will be in Iraq for another 5 to 10 years. This is the reason that the top three Democratic Party candidates refused to commit to the troops being out of Iraq by the end of a first term in their presidency. This is a vision of colonialism for the 21rst century. Below the bullshit of the WMDs, people of Iraq wanting freedom from a dictator, and the military intentions to bring security to the government, you have the need to possess someone else's resources under the guise of a free market system. I always wondered why the one recommendation of the Iraq Study Group that Bush and the Administration latched on to was the need for the oil sharing agreement. He rejected everything else almost out of hand. But of course, the oil sharing agreement was part of the ISG because the old way of doing business, as exemplified by James Baker, helped to produce the report. No matter the difference in the means, the end is still the same.

Holt points out the winners of this oil play: the oil companies, the US voters/oil consumers,Europe and Japan, even Osama Bin Laden(!), and in the end the U.S. also contains Iran, Russia, China, and even that pesky Venezuela. (If that doesn't make you read Holt's article, well, you are no Iraq War junkie and you really will be missing out on a good think piece.) Holt's article is a wonderful session of cynical speculation, and I recommend you read the full essay. Even better—run off a copy and keep it with you to study the details.

There's only a few things I can see that might suggest that the plan might not work: the desire for revenge on the part of the Iraqi people, the ummah or the sense of community of all Muslims, and the terrible pressures of the world's largest forced immigration now under process in the surrounding countries. Despite the fact that Iraq has only been in existence since 1920, perhaps there is a true sense of nationhood that may motivate its citizens against the foreign colonial power.

Forgive me if I seem to be going along with the cynicism of the article. I just finished watching John Pilger's newest film, The War On Democracy. One scary thought is that we have been perceiving this administration as being incompetent as well as ruthless. But what if we are flat out wrong? What if the perceived incompetence is really just a manifestation of the hard miserable truth that deliberately planned colonialism in this day and age is very expensive, bloody, gruesome, and sloppy, but that in the end there is, to borrow a very scary phrase, a “triumph of the will”? And then there is the thought that follows: What alliance will be powerful enough to fight against this axis power reaching out so far from its homeland?

Oct 16, 2007

Some Observations on Foreign Affairs

So the House Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has passed on to the floor of the House the bill formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and the Turks are annoyed and threatening to hold off on air and transport rights for supplies to our troops. Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports passing the resolution calling the killing of Armenians during World War I a genocide.

However, George Bush thinks now that it is wrong finally to recognize the Armenian genocide (which he kind of supported, you may remember, back in February 2002 when he first ran for president. At first you want to call the man a hypocrite again and remind him of his pledge. But he only pledged in a letter to two Armenian Activists, two college friends, who then passed it on to the Armenian National Committee of America:

History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.

(The text of the Texas Governor's letter is here.) How many Armenian votes did he pick up for that one? The paragraph is sly prose—it has Republican Spin Meister glycerin all over it—because it never really says that Bush would ensure that this country properly recognize the “tragic suffering” as genocide, only that he will make sure it is “properly“ recognized. Weasel me this, weasel me that.

Next, here is John Boehner, the Republican hack from Ohio, calling the resolution “irresponsible" on Fox News Sunday (as quoted in an AP article):

"Listen, there's no question that the suffering of the Armenian people some 90 years ago was extreme. But what happened 90 years ago ought to be a subject for historians to sort out, not politicians here in Washington."

Funny, it sounds just like Ahmadinejad last month (and last year after his "Anti-holocaust Convention") commenting on how historians still need to sort out the facts of the matter. Maybe Boehner actually paid attention to the President of Iran during the latter's recent visit to the US.

The subject of the Armenian genocide has in fact has been settled by historians in nearly one hundred years of research and scholarship. Legal opinions have been issued. And we, that is to say, we Americans, knew of it in 1915 as it happened, when Ambassador Henry Morgenthau sent reports early in that year to the State Department. Morgenthau later related the mass killings in an account of his years as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire published in 1919. The documentation is clear, and for a horrifying account, consult Robert Fisk's monumental The Great War for Civilization, chapter 10.

But now, the Bush Administration is scrambling, caught on the horn of an unintended consequence of our illegal war in Iraq. You may recall Turkey did not support the war effort and in fact pissed off Donald Rumsfeld before we struck in March of 2003 by refusing to allow its airbases to be used for the initial attacks. It appears that pressure, over the past four years has been applied and Turkey has been helping us out. Now the gonads of the war are in a vise of our own making: about 70% of the supplies for the war are being transported through Turkey, and Turkey is threatening to deny access.

It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out. Turkey is plenty mad at us for failing to stop the raids and terrorist acts of Kurdish rebels. Turkey is sending artillery shells into northern Iraq now and they are are especially ticked that some of those missing assault rifles are showing up in the Kurdish terrorists' hands. Of course, Turkey has been in a state of denial about the Armenian genocide since it happened—probably even more obsessively than our denial of genocide of native American Indians—and it is probably about time it learned to live with its past.

A really interesting sidebar on this whole matter is how Israel has failed to support the recognition of the Armenian genocide as strongly as it could. Of course, Israel has good diplomatic relations with Turkey to begin with, but according to Leonard Fein in the Jewish Daily Forward, the State of Israel's position was expressed in 2001 when “Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, could say, 'We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. What the Armenians went through is a tragedy, but not genocide.'” Fein goes on to point out that while the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Reform Jewish movement apparently recognize the Armenian genocide, “the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and B’nai B’rith International . . .have steadfastly refused to endorse [the] bill currently before Congress that would formally acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.”

Well, actually, there has been some movement at the ADL, though it took them a long while to “agree”:

New York, NY, August 21, 2007 … Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti- Defamation League (ADL) today issued the following statement:

In light of the heated controversy that has surrounded the Turkish-Armenian issue in recent weeks, and because of our concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people, ADL has decided to revisit the tragedy that befell the Armenians.

We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.
For years the ADL position had been to deny that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide, and in fact it was only after a conflict in New England this past summer that the above statement was produced. But look carefully: it has all the slipperiness of the Bush letter to his graduate school chums: Abe Foxman agrees with Morgenthau (at last! How long has Henry Morgenthau been dead? Since 1946 you say? No kidding!) that those actions were “tantamount to genocide” and then Foxman shimmies a little in the last sentence, “if the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.” And so, can we get a witness here, can you, Abe Foxman, say it's actually genocide? Nope, not quite.

The analysis of the letter and the brouhaha is nicely given by Rory Finnin in “The Anti-Defamation League and the Armenian Genocide” on the website History and Reconciliation. And although Finnin concludes his piece by saying that the ADL on the next day eliminated the ambiguity, a search of their website and press releases still shows a bit of rhetorical disingenousness:

Although independent scholars may have reached a consensus about the genocide, in an effort to help accomplish the reconciliation there is room for further dispassionate scholarly examination of the details of those dark and terrible days.
It sounds like Boehner, it sounds like—dare I say it again?--Ahmedinijad, asking for more scholarly investigation of what everyone agrees on already, playing for time, weaseling out of admitting that the word genocide is justified when the facts are there for everyone to examine. There really is a good deal of support in the US for the resolution on the Armenian Genocide. Well over 50 mainstream ethnic, human rights, civic, and religious organizations support it.

However, no one in the Administration wants to anger the Turks any further, threaten the outbreak of a a wider conflict in the Middle East, or choke the supply lines. The Bush Administration is scrambling here and finding out again the flaccid and impoverished quality of its imagination and strategic thinking.

Who knows, if Congress finds it can really skeeve the Turks, maybe it can also begin to see that it can anger the Israeli government by suggesting that they stop building illegal settlements, move their walls back to the 1967 Green line, pay reparations to people for the destruction of their houses and farmland, make restitution of their water rights, recognize the Palestinian State's right to exist, open Jerusalem as an international city, and come to a fair and equitable settlement for the Palestinian refugees.

Well, it's nice to hope, anyway.