[Marxism] (no subject)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Apr 22 12:25:37 MDT 2009

Some introductory comments by myself (including a response to Joaquin
http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2009w16/msg00004.htm) and a
digression on Palestine and anti-Semitism:

Below is a report on the latest blast by former Vice President Richard
Cheney against President Obama's current course in foreign policy, including
his repeated warning that this course could lead to another massive 9/ll
style terrorist attack. He seems to be suggesting that it may take another
such attack to rescue the nation from the course Obama is pursuing in
international affairs.

Bipartisan debate opening up
There seems to be so far general agreement about counter-insurgency in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama has no plans for conciliatory visits to the
latter two, and had to sneak in and out of Iraq in the customary manner of
high US officials. He seems to have been popular among the US troops,
however, because of his indications that many of them might soon be

But despite the indications of accord on the war zones, it seems to me that
the dispute over US imperialist foreign policy in the ruling circles is
heating up sharply.  This is a bipartisan dispute, even though Democrats
like Lieberman (and others) who clearly disagree are  cautious in openly
criticizing him.

The debate is not limited to Latin America, but seems to take in such
questions as dealings with Russia and Iran. And by way of Iran it is
accelerating the drift toward sharper debate with the government of Israel,
although the Obama administration has remained faithful to the centrality of
Israel's role as an imperialist regional guard-dog and oppressor of the
Palestinians in the region. Albeit with formal reaffirmations of support to
the endless and, for the Palestinians, so far fruitless "peace process."  US
support to Israel also remains a vital link in the attempt to hold an
ideological line against the decline of Anglo, European, North American
(which, don't kid yourself, still means white) superiority and supremacy
against the disorderly and often confused and vulnerable  struggles of the
rest of humankind.

The more "liberal" opposition to the course pursued by Obama has been voiced
cautiously by the Washington Post. I tend to assume the New Republic is on
board here. (Maybe it is time for me to resubscribe.)

Obama administration divided?
Within the administration itself, Hilary Clinton and General James Jones
seem to be on board with Obama, while Gates, Dennis Ross, and General
Petraeus seem at least uncomfortable. Rahm Emmanuel seems a board so far and
may continue to do so unless the administration becomes genuinely
pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel which cannot happen under present
conditions. For the US to genuinely abandon support to Israel, the Zionist
state would have to be, if anything, even closer to disintegrating than
South Africa was under the apartheid regime by 1990 or so. 

In any case while the ongoing struggle for Palestine remains of very great
importance, lineups are not being determined solely by that question.
Involved is a broader course of US foreign policy, particularly since Bush
was defeated in 1992, in part by his declining (along, at that time, with
Cheney and others) to take the risks involved in toppling Saddam and taking
over Iraq after the Gulf War of 1991.

Leading the charge against Obama is not only Cheney, but the powerful
network of lobbies, committees, and the strata of bureaucrats that built up
over the last 16 years over the "hard cop" foreign policy.

The "Israel Lobby"
The "Israel Lobby", (too often these days used as a name for the entire
foreign policy machinery politically committed or simply used to operating
on the Clinton-Gore, Bush-Cheney line) has been a key cog in this. It is
important to keep in mind that this has never been a primarily Jewish
organization, although the major US bourgeois Jewish organizations are an
important component, nor even exclusively an instrument of the Zionist state
of Israel. 

It is also a genuine US foreign policy lobby, with strong support across the
two-party system, the foreign policy apparatus, and in the top circles of
the ruling class. In this sense it is rather like the once supposedly all
powerful China and Cuba lobbies.

US foreign policy at an impasse 
The course of boycotts and war in various forms as the first resort against
Palestinians, Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, etc., and which was being
slowly but steadily and almost automatically extended to Venezuela, Bolivia,
Ecuador, Argentina, North Korea, and even Russia -- basically anybody who
barked back. 

The gross interventions against the governments in Venezuela and Bolivia,
and the open marching orders to Nicaragua and other countries about how they
better vote in elections was a part of this arrogant and commanding posture,
as well, of course, as the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the deliberate
course toward war with Iran, and the all-out support to Israel. 

And we all know how the US Interests Section became the organizing center of
an effort to build an opposition party with US dollars in blockaded Cuba,
known in official parlance as "the people," to whose leaders, who are also
the members, all prominent officials of whatever country visitors are
expected to pay obeisance if they visit Cuba.

Obama attempts major cosmetic surgery
In Obama's eyes and those of his allies, this policy had one giant flaw. It
did not work. When the smoke cleared, the US was in a weaker position than
when the offensive opened despite the occupation of two countries. And
definitely not qualitatively more powerful (i.e., hated perhaps but above
all feared), which is what Bush-Cheney believed was virtually a sure thing
when they inherited and escalated sharply the Clinton-Gore version of this
course after 9-11.

Obama can back down on this and may well do so at some point, but only at
the cost of retreating from the attempt to adopt a more "soft cop" approach
toward defending imperialist interests in Latin America and Iran, and losing
all freedom from maneuver relative to the "hard cops" even where they appear
to agree today -- the continuing bloodshed the US including his
administration has brought to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

US support for Israel is 100 percent "American"
There is nothing unpatriotic about the aggressive defense of Israel that is
fostered by the rulers of this country. Israel -- the "Jewish state," the
supposed homeland of all Jews in the world and only all Jews in the world,
and from which 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in 1948, is a RACIST state
through and through. It is a criminal state in a special way like South
Africa, and not just like dozens of other bad, repressive, undemocratic,
discriminatory, and even imperialist governments. Israel is inevitably a
central target of worldwide antiracist public opinion in a situation where
white supremacy has been in a long historical retreat which is far from

The US has been committed to the creation and defense of an exclusively
"Jewish state" in Palestine (not in Germany, not in Eastern Europe, not in
LIVED)for the past 60 year. This began with US backing to the policy of
expulsion from their country, expropriation of almost all their land,
brutalization, and permanent war against Palestinians as a people. Israeli
government lawyers recently declared this to the country's Supreme Court in
no uncertain terms.

This is the central and distinctive characteristic of the Israeli state.
This distinctive characteristic is the reason why the tactic of
international boycott is appropriate, as it was in the case of South Africa
and regardless of academic disputations by theoreticians over whether the
racist system in Israel is identical or different in some important respects
than apartheid. 

Especially if one rejects, as any consistent democrat must, the underlying
assumption that Israel being different from South Africa means that Israeli
society is superior or preferable in some way.

Digression on Israel and Palestinian "anti-Semitism" 
>From the standpoint of consistent democracy, how can you size up the actions
of those who oppose any boycott of Israel claiming that this would be
anti-Semitic, regardless of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians? At
the same time, they insist that Hamas must be boycotted by all leftists and
liberals on pain on being proclaimed anti-Semites, because the Hamas
analysis of their experience with the Zionists and the imperialists includes
significant political elements borrowed from anti-Semitic sources. There is
supposedly nothing anti-Palestinian about the demands for a boycott of
Hamas. Very even-handed.

The most dangerous result for Palestinian of accepting the anti-Semitic
version of history is the reversal of the actual relationship between the
imperialists and Zionists, making the latter the masters and the former
almost into poor victims of Zionist manipulation. In fact, the imperialists
have always been in charge, and the Zionists, in their current form as a
capitalist state and ruling class, have always strained at the leash and are
doing so now.

One of the ways they strain is on the question of Israeli expansionism. All
Israeli governments now claim to have given up this perspective, which they
never openly and officially proclaimed, and which was never the defining
characteristic of Zionism. The defining characteristic of Zionism today is
the expulsionist, exclusivist, racist "Jewish state" of Israel itself, whose
governing ideology and that of all major political parties is, officially
and publicly, Zionism. 

Nonetheless Israel is a warlike and war-making state on a much larger scale
than was apartheid South Africa. And every time they make war, the question
of one or another form of geographical expansion whether in Lebanon or back
to Gaza arises. Furthermore, on the West Bank and even in Israel, expansion
through the expropriation of Palestinian land and establishment of
settlements. Even the "separation wall" was used to expand the Israeli
state. "Greater Israel" is quiet but not dead, as the daily attempts to
expand its territory in one way at the expense of the indigenous
Palestinians continues day by day.

Palestinians and the "Protocols"
I have long been aware that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an
anti-Semitic forgery which portrayed a group of "Zionist" rabbis plotting to
rule the world by oppressing, deluding, dividing, and defeating all the
ordinary folks (everybody but the Jews). Nonetheless, it seems pretty
natural to me that this document could be read by Palestinians  as the story
of their lives. It is an unsurprising though decidedly negative fact that
this scam is a best-seller in the West Bank and, I assume, the Gaza Strip. 

Jews have killed them, expelled them from their homes and country, stole
their land and goods. Jews dominate them, Jews divide them, Jews rule them,
Jews block their road forward at every point. Jews kill them, expel them,
expropriate them. The fact that they notice that is simply not anti-Semitic,
although we must fight the influence of the anti-Semitic propaganda on their
thinking and anybody else's.

I have thought for some time that an international campaign to expose and
explain the fraudulence and fallacies of the Protocols, which I keep on my
desktop, would be very useful. And noone would benefit more politically than
the Palestinian people. 

But the vulnerability of the Palestinians to anti-Semitic propaganda has
never tempted me to take sides or declare neutrality or  against their
struggle for Palestine, or to imagine that they are persecutors of the
beleaguered Israeli Jews.

Israelis as "beasts" and "hangmen"
To understand why some Palestinians fall for anti-Semitic versions of the
history of their oppression, it is worthwhile to keep in mind Leon Trotsky's
1939 assessment of the social relation between whites and Black people in
the United States. In relation to the Blacks, he said, the whites are
"beasts", they are "hangmen." Can anything more gentle be justifiably said
about the social relation of Jews and Palestinians in Palestine today?

The special character of Israel, like that of South Africa, is why
governments of Cuba, Venezuela were 100 percent right to break relations
with Israel even while seeking normal ties with the imperialist United

Consistent opponents of the boycott tactic must characterize this "singling
out" of Israel as anti-Semitic, and almost all of them would. 
End of digression.

Release of torture documents
Two developments indicate that the supporters of the basic administration
course are beginning to take the offensive. One was the Obama
administration's release of the torture memos, used to justify crimes
against humanity. While Obama's posture has been consistently against trials
of those who violated the law in this regard, his action inevitably produced
sharply increased demands for congressional investigations which could lead
to prosecutions (as a recent New York Times editorial suggested) up to and
including Bush and Cheney. 

As Obama, if he is at all politically conscious, knew that they would. The
exposures place his opponents more on the defensive and the shadow of the
prison house closing on the aging, wheelchair-bound old boy does not hurt
either. Regardless of what Obama actually intends toward them, and I assume
that his intentions toward these torturers are at least as mild as he can
get away with.

Cheney is now calling for release of secret materials that he claims would
vindicate his position on the torture question.  I hope this will lead to
the release of all the materials relevant to torture of US detainees, those
renditioned to other countries, and so forth. (Aside from the fact that the
whole secrecy business is overwhelmingly a coverup of crimes.)

The Israel Lobby comes under fire.
New revelations are exposing some of its methods, including how far -- like
the US government itself over many many years -- it operates outside the law
and with utter contempt for the law except insofar as it can be used to
outlaw or intimidate their critics and opponents. At issue is an attempt to
quash the ongoing prosecution of AIPAC leader Steve Cohen for giving
classified information to Israel.

The Israel lobby plays central role in propaganda and organization for this
whole broad bipartisan foreign policy right-wing establishment. It is
central because of special "moral" authority of Israel as the state of the
oppressed Jews, victims of the holocaust.  

The Obama side in the debate cannot prevail without cutting this force down
to size -- much as happened to the US-supported China Lobby in the past, and
has been happening to the US-supported Cuba lobby in recent years. Of
course, it is always very possible that they will cave in rather than
confront the serious fight this will require.  But for now, the president's
trips to Europe and Latin America seem to have put some wind in their sails.

Instances of anti-Semitic prejudice likely 
It really nauseates me when some liberal critics jump at the opportunity to
accuse their opponents of "treason" as Juan Cole did on April 21 regarding
the developing scandal around AIPAC http://www.juancole.com/. His ground was
that the accused perpetrators were advancing the interests of a foreign
government of a foreign government which has allegedly been dictating US
foreign policy. 

Treason charges and anti-Semitism
For people who are as knowledgeable about the law as Cole probably is, this
accusation against Steve Cohen of AIPAC and others who run errands for
Israel is outrageous. The authors of the constitution had experiences that
led them to define treason very narrowly indeed, and the reported acts,
while quite likely criminal offenses, fall far outside that definition.

In fact the outside-the-law functioning of AIPAC highlights its close ties
with the US government, whose officials -- high and often low as well --
routinely violate these and other criminal statutes every day. Their close
ties with the US ruling class circles has been their license to ignore the
legal niceties and get their jobs done.

The kind of broadside expansion of the definition of treason that Cole
implies fosters witch-hunting and frame-ups and reactionary demagogy. Cole
may someday have strong reasons to regret his light-minded agitation around
so-called "treason" in high places. 

I don't insist that Cole's demagogic accusation was anti-Semitic, though it
did cause my sensitive nose to twitch strongly.

In a fight like this among bourgeois forces, anti-Semitic prejudices are
sure to play a role. This reflects the way the role of Israel helps to
reinforce Jew-hatred that is still deeply rooted in imperialism today. Every
such manifestation on any side of the dispute should be exposed and

Pro-Israel anti-Semites
It should be noted that anti-Semitic prejudices are hardly restricted to
critics of Israel, let alone to liberals and leftis. The Christian Zionists,
for example, hold that all Jews must eventually be gathered in Greater
Israel to prepare the war with anti-Christ who will most likely be Jewish.

Rev. Hagee, one of the top leaders of this current, argued that Hitler's
drive to exterminate the Jews was dictated by God, who saw no other way to
force the recalcitrant Jews of Europe to go where God dictated that they go,
Israel. While Republican John McCain had to repudiate Hagee's support -- the
latter took it in stride. Sen. Joseph Lieberman attended Hagee's convention
and hailed his work in defense of Israel. Zionism, as distinct from Jews,
has no necessary disagreement with Hagee's political outlook, and alliances
with anti-Semites have always been an organic part of the strategy of
establishing and defending the exclusivist "Jewish state" in Palestine.

This Christian Zionist core position poses the possibility -- not at all
immediate, of course -- of US Jews someday being expelled from the United
States and "returned" to their sacred homeland.  

Although some devotees of this style of thought imagine that Obama himself
was the anti-Christ. Thy might have imagined, given his polyglot national
and cultural background that he was secretly Jewish. He's a smart guy,
that's clear. Given that fact, what else makes sense but that he is a closet
Jew, from a certain anti-Semitic (but not necessarily anti-Israel) point of

Was "summit" hands-down win for imperialism?
Joaquin Bustelo's article left me with the impression that Obama had taken
the "summit" by storm. I think he paid a significant price for the
international adulation he received -- the handshake with Chavez, the
solidarity with Morales against assassination, the tone of wanting
rapproachement with Cuba, the abstention from challenging the three or four
revolutionary processes in the region (and thus the glancing blow to
Peruvian President Alain Garcia) the last of the hard-core open opponents on
the continent).  

I don't see any reason to assume that. There is no justification for
ASSUMING that this will halt or contain the general pressure for change. The
Good Neighbor pose may provide some cover for a while for the ongoing moves
to militarize Mexico under US auspices. This is more aimed at preventing an
Obrador comeback or something of that sort--which would bring to
transformational tendencies in Latin America right to the Rio Bravo--than at
stopping the drug trade, which the US has not even made headway against
anywhere (including countries under US occupation like Afghanistan, or
countries with a strong US military presence like Columbia). 

I think the conference was a severe blow to the forces who seek to prevent
some kind of "progressive" (and possibly a real one) from winning the next
Peruvian election.

Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy"
The parallels with Roosevelt's Good Neighbour Policy are inescapable.
Although this ended direct US military occupation or intervention as a
central tactic -- partly due to Sandino's success in stalemating the US
forces in Nicaragua -- US standing and power in the region probably gained
overall, although this made it easier for nationalist trends to take hold in
Brazil and the last upswing of the Mexican revolution under Cardenas.

But I think many things have changed since then.  And there is no guarantee
that the "soft cop" posture will be any more successful than the hard cop
practices that were firmed up under Clinton-Gore and were driven to impasse
by Bush and Cheney.

I also pointed out earlier that if Obama simply continued the same course
without significant modifications, his being Black would end up cutting no
parsnips for him. If he acted like Bush and Clinton, he would come to be
viewed as they came to be viewed, in Latin America and elsewhere. And to the
extent that he continues the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that is
exactly what he is beginning to face in that part of the world.

But there is no guarantee at all that small retreats will halt the damage
that his been done over decades to the US position and image in the world.
There is no guarantee at all that US imperialism will be stronger when Obama
left office than it was when Bush left office.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, governments and people have, as Nestor
Gorojovsky rightly pointed out, a lot of experience with the United 
States, and even among the solidly bourgeois governments, the view of the
United States as an antagonist and not simply a kind papa or goodbuddy among
equals is firmly established.

Radical changes since Good Neighbor
In two countries on the continent, Bolivia and Venezuela, revolutionary
processes are taking place, which are popular and tooted in the most
oppressed though not yet socialist. In Ecuador. the process is showing
similar potentialities although some deep internal conflicts in the movement
have not been resolved. 

And in Cuba a deep-going worker-peasant national and socialist revolution
survives after about 50 years of imperialist blockade and various other
attacks. These in and of themselves are vast and qualitative changes in the
And they have leaders who are competent unlikely to be smiled and romanced
into a prone position by either Obama's words or the color of his skin. They
have gotten something and they want more. It is a gain for Venezuela that
they can re-establish full diplomatic relations on the basis of an open and
basically semi-friendly posture by the US president, and a gain for Bolivia
that the president of the United States has come out against violent efforts
to topple the government. These are gains even if Obama at home acts toward
them in practice in the same old way, in whole or in part. This is a
political and moral victory.

Shaking hands with the devil
Remember, Fidel Castro's view of United States imperialism was firmly
established long before he came to power, but he did not come out swinging
against the United States until the US government was clearly doing so
against him, and his posture was always willingness to have normal relations
with the United States, including no doubt smiles and handshakes and
friendly small talk provided normal relations and not subordination were
offered in return.

It WILL be necessary to remind people many times of the character of the US
government and the character of most Latin American governments, who are
still subordinate to Washington, though not in the same degree. Fidel
Castro, who has no differences whatever with how Chavez, Morales and
Ortega,  acted at the summit, has been making this point in "The Secret
Summit" and other post-summit reflections. 

The centrality of Obama's role at the summit -- of his every word and
gesture -- was a demonstration of this continuing subordination, even as it
represented the introduction of a new pose of Good Neighbor. 

But that is no substitute for recognizing the gains that our side made in
Port au-Prince, and the substantial gains that are registered in the US
government's attempt to adopt the "soft cop" posture, and the legitimacy of
attempting to exploit this change of posture for further gains rather than
drifting into fantasy that Obama's greater intelligence or the color of his
anskin will neutralize all the social struggles.

"Soft cops," "hard cops" -- does the difference ever matter?
In the fight between the "hard cops" who want to hold the line on the
policies that took shape in the Clinton-Gore and Bush-Cheney years, and the
Obama "soft cops" who are trying to adjust US foreign policy to take account
of what Hilary Clinton calls the failures of past policies, we oppose both,
should say so, and explain why.

But the posture of effectively denying that the difference matters to us is
simply wrongheaded.  It is a fact that US imperialism is not about to be
replaced by something else any more than the capitalist regime, which the
contending groups seek to represent and advance, is about to be replaced by
the regime of another class or alliance of classes.

For prisoners who can't just walk out of the jail, it can sometimes be wise
to adopt a tactical approach when the "soft cop" and the "hard cop" start
actually fighting EACH OTHER over how to deal with you.  And this can be
done well short of throwing your full political and moral support to one or
the other. 

Given that, it is simply scientifically false and politically less than
worthless to pretend that on the issues of imperialist war with Iran,
boycott of Cuba, or how to oppose the revolutionary processes and tendencies
to greater independence in Latin America, there is not a lesser evil at the
moment. The opening may not last long, but while it does, I see no benefit
from acting as though it does not exist on "principle". 

What tactics should be adopted given that face will be a legitimate subject
for debate. But to deny the reality is simply to step away from the real
Fred Feldman


Cheney Slams Obama again, calls overseas trips "disturbing"
Marcus Baram 
04/20/09 10:37 PM 

Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed President Obama again on Monday
night during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity at Cheney's home in
McLean, Virginia.

Cheney pointedly questioned the president's leadership, criticized Obama's
overseas trips as "disturbing," said his handshake with Venezuela's Hugo
Chavez was "not helpful," and strongly disagreed with the release of the
torture memos.

"I've been concerned at the way we've been presented overseas... What I find
disturbing is the extent to which he's gone to Europe and seemed to
apologize profusely, been to Mexico and seemed to apologize there," said
Cheney. "The world out there, both our friends and foes, will be quick to
take advantage of that... I don't think we have much to apologize for."

Watch the interview:

Describing the Bush administration's policy as to "ignore" Chavez, Cheney
said that Obama's handshake was "not helpful... You have people all across
South America who are watching how we respond." He added, "The president
needs to provide leadership... needs to distinguish between good [guys] and
bad guys."

Finally, Cheney defended the use of waterboarding and other interrogation
techniques, saying, "It worked. It's been enormously valuable in terms of
saving lives and preventing another mass casualty attack on the US." 

Story continues below  

Cheney formally asked that the Obama administration to release what he
claimed are memos that demonstrated the success of those techniques.

"One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent
disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from
the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed
the success of the effort," Cheney said. 

While former President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have
withheld comment on the new administration, Cheney has been outspoken in his

In his first TV interview last month with CNN's John King, Cheney said that
Obama's policies had raised the risk of a domestic terrorist attack.

And the criticism doesn't seem to bother the president - during a February
rally in Austin, Texas, Obama dismissed the former vice president, saying
"When Dick Cheney says it's a good thing, you know that you've probably got
some big problems."

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