The Stupid War

I was in Manhattan yesterday and saw a group of protesters in Times Square. They were waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs denouncing Israel and the U.S. for the current bombing of Gaza. And I’m thinking, this is what comes of idiot American politicians and right-wing gasbags saying there should be no space between the U.S. and Israel (and they still aren’t winning the Jewish vote). I’m also thinking that anyone who actually lives here ought to have noticed that the realities of both politics and international relations force President Obama to walk a very fine line regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, simultaneously voicing support for the security of Israel while signalling Bibi Netanyahu to stop being a dick.

But I guess U.S. righties are not the only ones who don’t get nuance. The firebagging twit who accuses the President of “eliminationist racism” is just the mirror image of the wingnut who calls Netahyahu “the leader of the free world” and accuses the President of embracing Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and all those other “A-rabs” who melt into one pernicious stereotype in the rightie mind. Neither one of these guys is bright enough to find his own feet, and it’s this kind of brainless reaction to events that gets in the way of applying anything resembling constructive thought to what are very complex situations.

One more time — bias ultimately is a strategy for conserving cognitive resources. It’s so much easier to just accuse people of being evil than to actually think things out.

That said, Juan Cole says that the bombing is not really about defending Israel.

Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine.

It ought to be obvious that a land war is not in anyone’s best interests, including (in the long run) Israel’s, but of course “obvious” is too subtle for Israeli hawks. Juan Cole explains just a few of the really bad consequences of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

And of course U.S. news media aren’t providing the full story to the American public, because doing so would draw the wrath of the U.S. Right. So as far as most people here know, Israel is just defending itself, and I doubt many Americans could easily be persuaded otherwise. And this very much ties the hands of any American president, who has little room even in foreign policy to completely ignore the consensus of Congress.

So, stupid wins time after time, mostly because it yells louder.

Update: Another perspective from Rabbi Michael Lerner.

First step: the international community, led by the U.S., should impose an immediate cease-fire on all sides of the struggle, and should introduce an international peace force to restrain and if necessary arrest anyone involved in any side of this struggle who is acting to continue the violence. That force should be equally charged with arresting any military figures on the Israeli side or guerrilla forces on the Palestinian side that are attempting to engage in hostilities.

That works for me, although I suspect Congress would mostly throw a fit about it. Still, if President Obama were to ever support such an action, the time to do it would be now, when he’s just won re-election and when the next mid-terms are more than two years away.

Darrell Issa and the House Witch-hunt Committee

Rep. Darrell Issa dealt another blow to American security yesterday by compromising the identities of several Libyans working with the U.S. government. Josh Rogin reports at Foreign Affairs that Issa, as Chair of the House Oversight Committee, released a “document dump” of State Department communications without consideration of the people named in the “dump.”

Issa posted 166 pages of sensitive but unclassified State Department communications related to Libya on the committee’s website afternoon as part of his effort to investigate security failures and expose contradictions in the administration’s statements regarding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. …

… But Issa didn’t bother to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables, and just as with the WikiLeaks dump of State Department cables last year, the administration says that Issa has done damage to U.S. efforts to work with those Libyans and exposed them to physical danger from the very groups that had an interest in attacking the U.S. consulate.

Way to go, genius.

One of the cables released by Issa names a woman human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to U.S. officials and criticized the Libyan government.

“This woman is trying to raise an anti-violence campaign on her own and came to the United States for help. She isn’t publicly associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable. It’s a danger to her life,” the administration official said.

Another cable names a Benghazi port manager who is working with the United States on an infrastructure project. …

… One cable names a local militia commander dishing dirt on the inner workings of the Libyan Interior Ministry. Another cable names a militia commander who claims to control a senior official of the Libyan armed forces. Other cables contain details of conversations between third-party governments, such as the British and the Danes, and their private interactions with the U.S., the U.N., and the Libyan governments over security issues.

Issa is turning into a one-man threat to national security. He’s so focused on trying to find dirt on the Obama Administration regarding national security that he is totally oblivious to, you know, actual national security issues. But you know GOP priorities — they’ll destroy Obama if they have to burn down the whole United States to do it.

A spokesman for the House Witch-hunt Committee said that the Obama Administration hadn’t protected sensitive documents within the Benghazi consulate when it was attacked, so nyah nyah nyah, they leaked first. The State Department says that Issa didn’t consult with them about releasing the documents and apparently gave no consideration to the consequences of the release.

Primer on Democracy and the Middle East

A bit more on Mitt’s remarkably vacuous foreign policy op ed. Rightie blogger Rick Moran thought it was brilliant, but this sentence — well sentence fragment — of Moran’s jumped out at me —

A perfect summation of Obama’s “Leading from Behind” strategy, as well as his still incomprehensible embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood as some kind of agent for Arab democracy.

Righties do tend to use words without thinking real hard about what they mean. So let us examine democracy.

The word democracy is derived from the Greek dÄ“mokratía, meaning “will of the people.” Essentially, a democracy is any government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. The people of a democracy enjoy the freedom to exercise its will, usually through elections.

Whether we in the U.S. like it or not, the Muslim Brotherhood has a broad popular following in the Middle East. The Egyptians had elections last year, and as a result, as I understand it, about half of the seats in the Egyptian parliament are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the election with 51.73% of the vote.

So, if one respects democracy, one must at least respect the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood in the government of Egypt. Of course, a substantial percentage of Egyptians didn’t vote for the Muslim Brotherhood and don’t much care for them, but if we are to respect democracy we have to let the Egyptians work that out for themselves through their own constitutional processes. It’s not up to us.

However, it’s possible Rick Moran wasn’t using the word democracy to mean, you know, “democracy.” Sometimes I think righties use democracy in regard to the Middle East to mean “pro-American.” But that isn’t what it means. The people of a democratic Middle Eastern nation can choose to be anti-American if they want to. I’m not saying that’s what I like; I’m saying that’s how it works.

And this presents a paradox that U.S. conservatives have never been able to solve. They can barely acknowledge the paradox exists, in fact, but prefer to paper over it with rhetoric about how much we love democracy and freedom even when our foreign policy was anti-democratic and anti-freedom.

American foreign policy going back to the Cold War era has assumed that we prefer pro-American dictatorships over potentially anti-American democracies. This usually turns out to be a stupid policy that ends badly, but often that’s what we’ve done, reasoning that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For example, during the Eisenhower Administration the United States played a significant role in overthrowing a popular, democratically elected government in Iran and installing the unpopular Mohammad Reza Shah in its place. It might have looked like a smart strategic move at the time, but you can pretty much draw a straight line between that and why Iran is so screwy today.

So now we’ve got the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. We may object to the Muslim Brotherhood for many reasons, but so far we cannot object to them for being un-democratic, since it was democracy that gave them power in the first place. It may be that the Muslim Brotherhood will morph into a dictatorship, but they haven’t done it yet. If the Right wants the U.S. military to overthrow every democratically elected government we don’t like, then they should say so, but lets not pretend we’re doing it because we love democracy so much.

Now, what does President Obama think of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? A short time ago the President said of the government of Egypt, “I don’t think that we consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.” The mouth-breathers on the Right promptly hooted that the President doesn’t know who are allies and enemies are. I thought the President was sending a not-too-subtle signal to the Muslim Brotherhood that they might want to spend some time considering Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. It was tough and smart, IMO. However, as we all know, righties don’t get nuance.

But just a few days later they’re back to calling the President a Muslim-lover and enabler of the coming globe-straddling caliphate. How soon they forget.

Mitt: I’ll Bury Our Enemies With Platitudes

Mittens has an op ed in the Wall Street Journal called “A New Course for the Middle East” that I made myself read so you wouldn’t have to. Although you can if you like.

Executive Summary: The strategy appears to be that we are going to overwhelm the Middle East with our glorious greatness, and once they fully appreciate how gloriously great we are they will love us and stop misbehaving.

At one point, Mittens writes that he would place “no daylight between the United States and Israel.” That’s as close as he gets to any concrete policy. The rest of it is all verbiage that doesn’t say shit. Writing an article about new Middle East policy without using the words “Afghanistan,” “Iraq,” “troops,” “drones,” or “Islam” may provide a clue how utterly empty this op ed is. It is a mush of platitudes and straw men.

Mittens appears to believe that the United States can control everything that happens in the world if we just want to badly enough, and the fact that people in other countries misbehave is all President Obama’s fault. Typical paragraph:

The first step is to understand how we got here. Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law. We ally ourselves with like-minded countries, expand prosperity through trade and keep the peace by maintaining a military second to none.

We mostly got to be “leader of the free world” because we were the only major power on the winning side of World War II that wasn’t left in ruins when it was over. And thanks in large part to the economic stimulus provided by government spending on the war, plus postwar programs like the GI bill, our economy was strong and growing while most of Europe and Asia were still struggling to just find their socks and make some breakfast. We were fortunate to have moderately progressive leaders, including Republican ones like Eisehnhower, who respected FDR’s New Deal legacy and who ignored the hotheads who wanted nuclear war with China. We also implemented the Marshall Plan and maintained sensible foreign aid programs even though conservatives grumbled about it. And that’s how we got to be “leader of the free world.” But after the Debacle that was Dubya, it’s hard to say that title has any real meaning any more.

But in recent years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy. Our economy is stuck in a “recovery” that barely deserves the name. Our national debt has risen to record levels. Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied—and misunderstood—by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.

Mitt Romney seems to think that history jumped from VE Day to the assassination of Ambassador Stevens in Libya with nothing happening in between. He describes President Obama’s policy as afflicted with “incomprehension.” I don’t doubt Mittens doesn’t comprehend it, as there are no tax shelters involved, but fortunately President Obama is a lot smarter than Mittens.

In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.

And who would that be, Mitt, except Bibi Netanyahu? And, frankly, I’m not sure many of us over here share Netanyahu’s “values,” whatever they are. The U.S. has a long policy of propping up anti-communist dictators, such as the Shah of Iran — notice how that turned out — and of forming alliances with people who openly are selling us out — think Pervez Musharraf. But when people in other countries win the freedom to finally elect their own choices, they don’t always choose people we might like. Our glorious greatness doesn’t always make an impression, I guess.

This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.

And how are you going to do that, Mitt? Send them rotten fish in the mail? Insult their mothers? Threaten them with nuclear war? Don’t ever make threats you aren’t willing to carry out, dude.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.


And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

See, Mitt, I don’t think anyone actually disagrees with that. The question is, how will you do it? That’s kind of the catch, son.

But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.

One might question the degree to which our “values” ever had much to do with our foreign policy. But I don’t see that President Obama is anti economic or military strength, or that he has no values. And throwing money at the Pentagon to maintain some muscle-bound military prepared to land on Normandy Beach and slog toward Berlin doesn’t necessarily address current military need.

And how is it that this moron was such a success in “business”? Making boatloads of money must not take much in the way of smarts.

Update: See also Paul Waldman, “Foreign Policy Is Hard.”

Mitt’s Pancake Syrup

Every now and then Tom Friedman hauls his head out of his ass and writes a good column.

For the first time in a long, long time, a Democrat is running for president and has the clear advantage on national security policy. That is not “how things are supposed to be,” and Republicans sound apoplectic about it. But there is a reason President Obama is leading on national security, and it was apparent in his U.N. speech last week, which showed a president who understands that we really do live in a more complex world today — and that saying so is not a cop-out. It’s a road map. Mitt Romney, given his international business background, should understand this, but he acts instead as if he learned his foreign policy at the International House of Pancakes, where the menu and architecture rarely changes.

Rather than really thinking afresh about the world, Romney has chosen instead to go with the same old G.O.P. bacon and eggs — that the Democrats are toothless wimps who won’t stand up to our foes or for our values, that the Republicans are tough and that it is 1989 all over again. That is, America stands astride the globe with unrivaled power to bend the world our way, and the only thing missing is a president with “will.” The only thing missing is a president who is ready to simultaneously confront Russia, bash China, tell Iraqis we’re not leaving their country, snub the Muslim world by outsourcing our Arab-Israel policy to the prime minister of Israel, green light Israel to bomb Iran — and raise the defense budget while cutting taxes and eliminating the deficit.

I would add that all that stuff didn’t really happen in 1989, either. Of course, Republicans have been playing the “we’re tough on security and they’re not” game since the end of World War II, and they’ve had a good run with it. Dems were first soft on communism and then soft on terrorism, according to the GOP. Looking at the actual history of the past century or so, I see no evidence that Republicans are intrinsically more effective at keeping America safe than Democrats, but they have managed to market themselves as the superior foreign policy brand lo these many years. And they’ve gotten away with that because Americans on the whole don’t travel much and don’t have a strong grasp of what’s going on in the rest of the world. Or much care, for that matter, as long as it’s not in their neighborhood.

I’d like to think that the young folks who grew up in the Internet age are less provincial and not so easily fooled. We’ll see. But my sense of things is that right now the general electorate is not in the mood to hear about bombing some Middle Eastern country if we can, you know, choose not to bomb some Middle Eastern country. Recent experience tells us that bombing Middle Eastern countries doesn’t really settle anything.

As far as Mitt is concerned, his hookup with the old Bush neocon gang was not something I would have predicted a couple of years ago. I had assumed he was more sophisticated about the world than that. And maybe he is, and he’s just playing the game because he thinks it will help him get elected. But if he knows it’s all a scam, that doesn’t speak well for him, either.

The President Is Getting Uppity Again

Right now most of the rightie blogosphere is trembling in outrage because the President of the United States is not being properly deferential to Benjamin Netanyahu, and will be speaking with him only by phone and not in person. Apparently the First Holy Priority of American foreign policy is kissing Netanyahu’s ass.

The Weekly Standard is also upset that Reuters and AP took “shocking” photos of Bibi’s UN speech. It took me a few seconds to figure out what the “shock” was. Well, OK, he looks a little like he’s giving a Nazi salute.

But this is the photo everybody’s laughing at today. As far as I can tell, the only people publishing the “Nazi salute” photos are rightie bloggers expressing outrage about them. I haven’t seen them anywhere else but on right-wing blogs and rightie websites like the Weekly Standard and the Daily Caller.

And you know that if Reuters and AP sent out photos of President Obama doing a Nazi salute or whatever the equivalent would be in our culture, the Weekly Standard (plus every wingnut with a blog) would have it splashed all over its print and web editions. We’re all supposed to be more respectful of the Premier of Israel than of our own President.

Y’know, this really is getting tiresome. And the same allegedly American people pushing Israel Uber Alles (sorry, but that’s the truth) are perpetually harping on the rest of us because we are insufficiently patriotic. But what would please them? Should our flags and lapel pins display the stars and stripes or the Star of David? Y’all do sit down and work on that, and let us know, OK?

Nobody in U.S. politics that I’ve seen is anti-Israel, and I would join with the enormous majority of Americans wishing Israel peace and prosperity. But this business of putting the Premier of Israel, or the head of any other country, on a higher pedestal than the POTUS is, frankly, offensive.

In 2004 the Bush campaign took a statement by John Kerry and twisted it into a claim that Kerry would be taking foreign policy directions from other countries and would need permission from the international community to defend America. That was nonsense, of course. But now some of this same crew wants our Middle East policy to be dictated from Tel Aviv.

Clue: There’s a difference between being pro Israel, which I believe most Americans are, and being shills for Likud.

This obsequious pandering to Bibi may all be about getting the “Jewish vote,” but the last I heard, Jewish Americans overwhelmingly are supporting President Obama. So, dudes, if that’s your game, it ain’t workin’.

I can’t read President Obama’s mind, but if it’s true he’s being cool to Bibi it might be he’s signalling to Bibi to back off. No meddling in U.S. politics. No assuming we’ll dance to your tune. If so, this is entirely appropriate.

See also:

Netanyahu overplays his hand with Obama

Breaking Yom Kippur fast, American Jews talk Obama, Netanyahu

At UN, Netanyahu needs to repair his own power of deterrence

Mittens: Craven Weenie Who Would Risk War to Get a Few Votes

The following exchange took place last week at a White House press briefing by Jay Carney:

Q Jay, may I?

MR. CARNEY: Yes, Connie.

Q What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel — Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?*

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had that question in a while. Our position has not changed, Connie.

Q What is the position? What’s the capital?

MR. CARNEY: You know our position.

Q I don’t.

Q No, no, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. That’s why she asked.

MR. CARNEY: She does know —

Q I don’t.

Q She does not know. She just said she doesn’t know. I don’t know.

I understand “Connie” is Connie Lawn, correspondent for IRN USA News. I don’t know that much about IRN USA except that it merged with the conservative-leaning USA Radio Network in 2008.

The dialogue reveals, at least, tacit collusion between the press and the Republican messaging machine, because the “Jerusalem versus Tel Aviv” thing has become a high point of Mitt’s visit to Israel. If the press briefing question wasn’t requested by the Romney campaign or some SuperPac working for Romney I’ll eat my mousepad.

For those of us who don’t give a bleep where they put the capital of Israel, here’s an article explaining the perspective of the Israeli right wing — that Israel considers Jerusalem to be the capital even if the rest of the world doesn’t. Mittens, in Israel, thumped his chest and said Jerusalem is the capital, vowing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Juan Cole, in
Romney on Jerusalem: A World of Hurt for America explains why this should make us very afraid of a Romney Administration:

Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Israel, like other countries, “has the capacity” to choose its capital, and that he would, in consultation with Israeli authorities, move the US embassy there if he became president. He didn’t use the word “right to choose its capital,” because, presumably, he knows that the status of Jerusalem is a matter for diplomatic final status negotiations with the Palestinians. That is the reason that the countries of the world keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. Putting an embassy in Jerusalem forecloses the issue of the negotiations. The right wing Israeli position is that they own all of Jerusalem, since they conquered it in 1967. The rest of the world doesn’t agree that after WW II and the UN Charter, it is permitted to go around annexing other people’s territory by war.

Romney’s position will put him at odds with NATO allies, including most of Europe and Turkey. It will cause immense frictions with Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, and with the Arab world generally. It could also provoke violence. Al-Qaeda gave as one reason for launching the 2001 attacks on the US, American support for the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.

Not that Romney cares about US allies in the Middle East other than Israel– most of whom he has now insulted and alienated. The Middle East is undergoing tremendous change and the Arab people are mobilizing. Country-club Mitt is the worst possible person to deal with this transformation, and he proved it in Israel.

And, it is hard to see why the world should line up to sanction Iran as Romney insists, based on the UNSC resolutions, if Romney wants to completely disregard the UN Security Council’s repeated castigation of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem.

So Mittens is threatening to flush decades of diplomacy down the toilet to get the Jewish and evangelical vote. Do read Juan Cole’s entire post; it explains a lot.

Paul Werdel of Talking Points Memo anticipated what Mittens would do in a post published last week.

The Romney campaign had at time of writing on Friday sent out two separate e-mail press releases chiding the Obama administration for its “refusal to say whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

One quoted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and another, former Minnesota Senator and Romney surrogate Norm Coleman.

Now it’s worth noting this was long the easy rhetoric of some of the less serious contenders throughout the GOP primary. But coming from Romney, the party’s nominee-to-be, it would signal something far more significant.

I suppose it’s possible the Romney campaign is so unaware of the realities of the Middle East peace process, however moribund it may be, that they’re unconcerned with just how inflammatory an American president’s expression of support for an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be to the Arab world. But even with the stumbles Mitt Romney has made this week on the international stage, that seems unlikely.

So, accepting that Romney is aware of the significance, it seems likely he’s prepared to signal a very real, very controversial departure from decades of U.S. peacemaking policy, and put the weight of his potential presidency behind a declaration that he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. That would be a very big deal.

Update: July 28, 10:14 AM

Reader MR rightly points out that then-candidate Obama in a 2008 speech to AIPAC said that an undivided Jerusalem was and should remain the capital of Israel. That’s true. But after Palestinian leaders reacted with dismay, his campaign quickly walked things back.

Dave Johnson:

Reading Romney’s speech today, he is undermining decades of US policy in the Middle East, and obviously trying to provoke the Arab world. (See previous post.) His goal is to provide riots across Arab countries, resulting in video on American TV of angry Arabs burning US flags.

The idea is to scare people here into supporting him, and blaming Obama.

The end result could well be war in the Middle East.

I’m betting the riots wouldn’t start until the day after the November elections, if Mittens is elected, followed by escalating and possibly global war. But you can see the point of the question asked of Jay Carney — if he answers “Tel Aviv” he pisses off some people, and if he answers “Jerusalem” he pisses off a lot more people and possibly brings on a diplomatic crisis. And surely Connie Lawn knew that, or she has no business being in the White House press corps.

Today (and Yesterday) in Politics

Noot suspended his campaign today, officially, and it turns out he’s about $4 million in debt to campaign employees and vendors, who fear they will never be paid.

Newt is throwing his support to Mittens. Naturally, the Obama campaign was ready with a video:

I like the part about Bain Capital leaving companies with enormous debt. Et tu, Noot?

The big news today is that the Republicans for the most part have scaled back their yapping on how the evil Obama was making national security a political issue. Like no one has ever done that before.

Well, I said for the most part. The New York Post was downright snippy about it. They sure had a different tone back in 2003, when President Bush made a secret trip to Baghdad. Yeah, that was the “preznit gif me turkee” trip.

Even better, check out the Post’s coveraage of the capture of Saddam Hussein. Here’s a headline: “Dramatic Call: How Bush Got the First Word.” Bush got credit just for being woken up for a message. And there’s nothing political about “Tyrant’s Capture Throws Democrats Into Disarray.

Jon Stewart Gets the Last Word:

Kvetching About Israel

It’s been a while since I read Tom Friedman, but I see the Israel First contingent is up in arms about something he wrote, so I thought it was worth checking it out.

Friedman writes that while American politicians are tripping all over themselves declaring total subservient loyalty to whatever the government of Israel wants, American Jews are conflicted and ambivalent.

I’d never claim to speak for American Jews, but I’m certain there are many out there like me, who strongly believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state, who understand that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood yet remains a democracy, but who are deeply worried about where Israel is going today. My guess is we’re the minority when it comes to secular American Jews. We still care. Many other Jews are just drifting away.

This is the passage that is getting the most attention:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.

Here’s the rest of the paragraph, generally ignored:

The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.

Friedman goes on to say that a lot of worrisome stuff is going on in Israel that is making it look less like the western-style democracy that we like to pretend it is. You can read Friedman for details. I think Friedman hits a lot of nails square on the head in this column.

Naturally, Jennifer Rubin is beside herself in outrage of biblical — nay, Michelle Malkin — proportions. You can almost hear the steam coming out of her ears.

The neocon Elliott Abrams also is fuming, to the point that he is stumbling to express himself in English:

… what in the world except prejudice can lead Mr. Friedman to make the ugly charge that support for Israel in Congress, need support for Mr. Netanyahu in Congress, is “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby?”

Oh, I don’t know. Truth, maybe?

BTW, the war in Iraq is officially over. Thought I’d mention it.

Update: David Frum, currently filling the role as the “reasonable” conservative, bashes liberals as anti-Semites by framing any criticism of Israel’s Likud government as “antisemitism.” This is, of course, a slick way to slap down open and honest discussion of how much the U.S. is subordinating its own interests to support right-wing radicalism in Israel. See also Andy Sullivan.

Update: Remarkably, nearly all of the comments to Frum’s op ed are pointing out to Frum that he’s full of it.

Don’t Blame Jesus or Muhammad for This

By now you’ve heard that violent mobs in Afghanistan have slaughtered several people in retaliation for the burning of a Q’ran by the not reverent Terry Jones of the hilariously misnamed Dove World Outreach Center in Florida.

How disgusted am I? Let me count the ways …

I can’t think of a proper word for randomly slaughtering westerners because of what some whackjob in Florida did to a book. Evil, unjust, barbaric, inexcusable. If we were talking about some Stone Age tribe living in isolation in the Amazon somewhere I might just chalk it up to ignorance, but nobody else gets off the hook for this. If one is educated enough to know that the earth is not flat, one should be able to understand that not all westerners are to blame for the actions of one.

Of course, our native Islamophobes like Pam Geller and Peter King are no less bigoted. Lizard brains, the lot of them.

And once again demonstrating that he doesn’t know the Sermon on the Mount from the Yellow Pages, the not reverend Jones is demanding retribution for the slaughter that his actions touched off. After all kinds of people begged him to not act out and burn a Q’ran because it would set back whatever it is his country is doing in Afghanistan, this jerk burns a Q’ran anyway. It’s beyond disgusting.

At least one rightie blogger — I’m sure there are more — is saying that Jones is not responsible for the massacre. And I understand the argument; rational people don’t kill other, innocent, people, because they share some kind of loose racial or national association with assholes who did something insulting to one’s religion.

At the same time, however, rational people don’t go ahead and pull some stupid publicity stunt after it’s been exhaustively explained to them that the consequences could be genuinely horrific and harmful to their country.

In other words, if we hadn’t already been through this with Jones, it might have been argued that he didn’t realize what the consequences of his acts might be. But he was told.

In America, Jones’s right to burn any book he wants to burn is pretty much absolute. Even if 99.9 percent of his fellow countrypersons want to smack him for what he did, we can’t do it without getting jail time. This may be incomprehensible to many people living in the Middle East, and they don’t seem to be in a mood to listen to explanations. We can only hope there are some cooler heads among the Afghanis, and that the cooler heads may prevail.

But Jones is likely to continue to burn Q’rans as long as he can get attention for doing so. Perhaps the argument could be made that Jones’s stunt amounts to yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, and he could be placed under some restraining order to burn no more Q’rans. That would likely set off more Q’ran burning by other dimwits in protest of the violation of Jones’s rights, however, so even that could backfire.

Sometimes we really are all at the mercy of the stupid and sociopathic among us.

Anyway — I’m no expert in Islam, but my understanding is that the mob violence in Afghanistan really isn’t justified by anything Muhammad taught. And Jones apparently uses the Gospel as toilet paper. So don’t blame Jesus or Muhammad for this. And in the absence of religion, a true fanatic will always find something else to be fanatic about.

See also: “This attack is different.”