Saturday, August 12, 2006

Excellent post on the non photo scandal

Jim Lewis nails it.

'Two days ago, the AP got caught sending out a crudely—and nonsensically—altered photo of an Alaskan oil pipeline worker; last month, the Charlotte Observer fired a photographer for changing the color of the sky in a picture of a firefighters; the same week, the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald acknowledged that a picture of prostitutes in Havana had been cobbled together from two different shots; in 2003 the Los Angeles Times sacked a photographer for combining two pictures from Iraq, taken moments apart, into one. In fact, it's beginning to look as if every major institution that prints photos has printed doctored or manipulated photos: Time and Newsweek, the New York Times and USA Today, Harvard University and Science magazine, and the 2004 Bush campaign. (There's a good rogue's gallery here.) Some of these were quite serious attempts to mislead the public, and some were relatively trivial, but all of them undermine the public's trust in the reality of photographs. And so much the better, because that trust is badly misplaced....What, after all, do we believe when we believe that a photograph is true? That it mimics what we would see with our own eyes, if we were standing where the camera was placed? But a camera sees quite differently: For one thing, to take only the most obvious features, photos are rectangular, whereas the human eye's visual field is an ovoid blob. Moreover, "normal" vision is roughly equivalent to what you get from a 35 mm camera lens set somewhere between 42 mm and 50 mm zoom. Anything longer than that shows details no human eye could see; anything shorter shows an unnaturally broad vista. And cameras are notoriously crude when it comes to dynamic range: Highlights get blasted and dark areas become muddy. Can we countenance using Photoshop to draw otherwise invisible details out of shadows (a correction it can make almost magically, with two mouse clicks), so a photo better approximates what an eyewitness would have perceived? How far can we take this? What about using zoom and contrast enhancement, Blowup-style, to reveal elements that would be lost to the naked eye? Should that be prohibited? As far as I can tell, the news world's answer is, "Maybe. Sometimes." Then maybe we should ban photos taken through microscopes. And so you see how quickly this criterion fails.'

I would really have thought that after 25 years of the attack on 'realism' by French post-structuralists amongst many others, we would all have realised by now that photographs do not in any sense provide a neutral 'window' into the world. All photography is selection, is artifice. And all photographers do it. Get real.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Genocide watch

One in an occasional series in which members of the American Right call for the extermination of every last Muslim man, woman and child. Perhaps they hate their freedoms.

'"The depth of the Moslem world's failure to adjust to modernity, the profundity of its need for scapegoats, the seeming boundlessness of its willingness to accept the death and destruction of its own in exchange for the 'honor' of 'revenge,' are difficult for Americans to acknowledge."
"Meanwhile, short of a preemptive war, Iran is bound to get the bomb."
"The entire Western world now stands in a position roughly analogous to that of Israel: locked in an essentially permanent struggle with a foe it is impossible either to placate, or to entirely destroy — a foe who demands our own destruction, and whose problems are so deep they would not be solved even by victory."
"The West is on a collision course with Iran."
Stanley Kurtz ROCKS. If you didn't read his "Hawkish Gloom" piece on yesterday's NRO (from which all the above quotes are taken), go read it now. Then, read it again. Read the links too.
Stanley's notion of the Israelization of the West — the slow change of opinion here from deep dove-hawk, lib-con differences to a glum, grim, pessimistic consensus, is spot on.
I only wonder — as of course I would — if Stanley is gloomy enough. There is a nightmare here, lurking just out of sight behind all the thoughts and articles of the gloomy-cons. The nightmare is so appalling to any civilized person I cannot bring myself to mention it. I'll just call it the g-word. Us or them. Please may it not come to that. I need a cup of coffee. '

Me too.


There are a number of dates coming up for you all to put in your diaries that are of cardinal importance in the way that things go in the Middle East. Needless to say, if we make it to Christmas then we should probably make it to Summer 2007, although strikes on Iran in the Autumn of that year are not out of the question.

Nevertheless, I still think that we are rapidly approaching the most dangerous period right now. Dates to remember, therefore: August 22nd (see below). Labour Party Conference 24-28 September. It is highly unlikely that Blair will want Israeli/US strikes on Iran going on while his conference goes down the toilet around him. Therefore, either he will want the strikes before this (unlikely, given the risk of escalation) or afterwards. Which brings us to October. And then November when there are the 7th November elections: Senate and Representatives. Bush is unlikely to do well in these elections (unless something happens.....) and this might leave him as a 'lame duck' president, his ability to act severely curtailed. Therefore he will either want to get what he wants done, done by then, or he will try and ensure that he does well in these elctions.

So October is the month (especially the last two weeks). This will also give him all of September to try and get a Security Council resolution against Iran, and Lebanon might well be spinning completely out of control by that time.


(since) 'the Bush administration retains the fundamental belief that Iran simply cannot be allowed to have even the technical capability of diverting resources from civil to military nuclear programmes. That remains the bottom line and should never be underestimated.
Second, it is probable that by the end of 2006 the Iranians will have moved towards a fully-fledged pilot-scale uranium enrichment capability at Natanz, while the Bushehr nuclear reactor may be ready for fuelling. These developments may still be within the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and under the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors; they may not involve any moves towards producing nuclear weapons; but they will almost certainly take Iran further than the Bush administration is prepared to allow.
Third, the US political leadership, especially in the form of the office of the vice-president, may consider that a concerted US military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely to be highly effective in the short term (in a similar way to the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime, with George W Bush's "mission accomplished" speech following three weeks later).
Iran certainly does have a wide variety of opportunities to retaliate - in Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan for a start - but these would take weeks and months, rather than days, to develop. It follows that the most likely period for US military action would be in late October, just before the mid-term elections. The scenario would be of US attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, declarations of success, plenty of TV footage of destroyed nuclear plant, and a "mission accomplished" speech -all in the space of a week or so, culminating in the elections. It is, in (Republican) political terms, a seductive prospect.'

This is the sort of stuff that the Americans are being fed.

All eyes turn to August 22nd. The month following this could be one of the most dangerous for the world since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

'Is Iran planning an apocalyptic strike against Israel and/or the United States for August 22? If so, what should the U.S. do to protect Americans and our ally? Such questions are worrying a growing number of officials in the White House, at the CIA, and at the Pentagon, and for good reason. '

Etc. etc. etc.

The author is: 'a one-time aide to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, (and) a New York Times best-selling author of Middle East-based political thrillers. His new novel is The Copper Scroll. His forthcoming non-fiction book is entitled Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings In The Middle East Will Change Your World.'

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nasarallah speaks.

'I say to the Zionists, I hope they can still hear me under the recent utter control of the media means: you are the victims, likewise the Lebanese and Palestinians, of a complex that exists at your Prime Minister Olmert. What is this complex? Everyone pays the cost of this complex. Olmert wants to prove that he is a great leader, and that he is like Sharon, Rabin, and the historic leaders that ruled this usurping entity. In this domain, I can say that he succeeded in one issue and failed in another. He succeeded in being like Sharon, Rabin, Begin, and those resembling them, when he perpetrated the massacres and the daily killing of women and children as well as destroying the houses in Palestine and Lebanon. Yes, I acknowledge this issue for him in this field; he is no lesser than them regarding this field.

On the other hand, regarding the field of the political command, military conception, administration, and performance, until now, he [Olmert] has proven that he is the most failure (sic), hopeless and stupid Prime Minister ever to rule the entity of the Zionist enemy....

[However, despite this] I want to be very clear. The killings, massacres, destruction, atrocities and barbarism that have taken place since the first day of the war and continue to be, Bush and his US administration are the first ones to be blamed. In our opinion, Olmert and his government are mere executive tools of this war. I want to stress on this meaning and say that the blood of the women and children in Qana as well as the blood of all the old people and innocent civilians whose blood was shed in Lebanon are tainting the faces of Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney and this US administration. This administration is the assassin, murderer and assailant. Until now, this administration has been thwarting all attempts to stop the aggression and it is designing the terms and trying to dictate these terms. This issue must be clear to each Lebanese, each Moslem and Christian, and each noble person in this world. We are explaining this issue to eliminate any confusion.

I repeat to all Lebanese, today we are at war; but the war ends and it will end. I do not want you to ever forget that this US administration, the friend, ally and love of Lebanon, whose heart is aching for the nation of Lebanon and wants it to live in an oasis of security and peace, and wants it to be a democratic example in this region, this US administration may become the gamble of some people in the future, knowing that it has been the gamble of some people in the past. I hope that we will never forget this issue for our coming days, months and years. At this point, I want to confirm, regardless of the outcomes of this war, Lebanon will never be American or Israeli. Lebanon will never be part of the New Middle East which Bush seeks with Rice.'

Further comment would be superfluous

But safey to say that the following will happen in the next few months.

1: There will be no ceasefire in Lebanon.

2: The Israelis will occupy and begin to ethnically cleanse Lebanon up to the Litani river.

3: Iran and Syria's economies will become more and more entwined with Hizbollah (as Hizbollah will shortly begin to run out of ammunition and rockets, it will need resupplying from these two countries: specifically Iran. It will also need more money to pay feed and pay its fighters).

4. With the rest of the international community increasingly outraged at the behaviour of Israel, the US (and Britain) will become increasingly close to Israel (this is the meaning of Blair's constant reiterations that he will not leave office for another year. Blair will not leave office until Bush's plans for the Middle East have progressed to the point where there is no stopping them).

5: This will end in an attack on Iran by the US by 2008 at the latest.

Dan Plesch points out the obvious:

'American intentions towards Iran are fairly clear. If diplomacy and sanctions fail to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions then military force must be used. No one should be shocked that William Kristol, the neoconservative leader, has already called for a military strike on Iran in response to Hizbullah's attack on Israel.
Seymour Hersh's articles (for the New Yorker) claim that President Bush ordered war against Iran shortly after the President's re-election in 2004. His claim that Bush is determined not to leave Iran to a future president and that he has support from leading Democrats is born out by numerous conversations I have had with colleagues in Washington. As a senior staffer to Senator Kerry put it: "why should people object if we carry out disarmament militarily?"
There are plenty more reports that war with Iran is either underway or in preparation.'

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The truth will set you free

Which is why they will never let you have it. Anyway. I dislike 'monocausal' explanations of complex phenomena: and the current invasion of Lebanon by the US/Israel is a case in point. It is obvious what the US gets out of it: Iraq swept off the front pages, Iran 'weakened' (assuming of course that Hizbollah is indeed being seriously hurt), the beginning of serious military movies against Iran and Syria, which paves the way for direct military action against them (Iran at least) by 2008 at the latest. But what does Israel get out of this? The key point that must be understood is that Israel is an imperialist power: it desires more land than it has. In world terms of course, the land it seeks is not a huge amount, but that's not the point. The point is that Israel covets the West Bank (amongst other places). And one of the other places it seeks is South Lebanon.

'Officially, Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon is an act of self-defense against Hezbollah's threat, aimed at creating a security buffer zone until the arrival of a "multinational force with an enforcement capability". But increasingly, as the initial goal of a narrow strip of only a few kilometers has now been extended up to the Litani River deep in Lebanon, the real motives behind Israel's invasion are becoming crystal-clear. It's about (de facto) annexation, stupid. This is a war to annex a major chunk of Lebanese territory without necessarily saying so, under the pretext of security buffer and deterrence against future attacks on Israel. Already, since the Six Day War, Israel has annexed the Sheba Farms, considered part of the Syrian Golan Heights, although the government of Lebanon has long complained that the 25-square-kilometer area was a part of Lebanon. Now the Israeli army is sweeping the area south of the Litani River as a temporary occupation. '

Make no mistake. The reason that the South Lebanese had leaflets dropped on them, encouraging them to move, was not to protect their lives. It was to tell them to get out of South Lebanon. This is ethnic cleansing. And the parallels are obvious: not just with the German seizure of the Sudetenland, but with the Serbian (Yugoslavian) desire to hold on to Kosova and the Russian desire to hold onto Chechnya. In all three cases, despite the pretexts, the key point is that the imperialist power intends to have 'hegenomy' (which may or may not amount to annexation) permanently.

If Hezbollah is defeated, then Israel will get away with it, and it won't stop there. That will be the effective end of the idea of a Palestinian state.

What a great example this sets

Turkey said yesterday that Israel's action in Lebanon to stop Hezbollah attacks meant it should be allowed to take similar steps against Kurdish guerrillas operating from northern Iraq against its forces.
Despite strong opposition from America, its military is now drawing up plans for either an air or ground assault. "Whatever step needs to be taken will be taken," the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said.
Fifteen Turkish soldiers, police, and security guards have been killed in the southeast of the country in the last week in clashes with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
It has long been a concern in Turkey that the growth of Kurdish nationalism in northern Iraq, where the country's instability has permitted a Kurdish semiautonomous state to assume near independence, would inflame Kurdish radicals inside Turkey's borders.
Already this year has seen at least 87 PKK rebels and 51 members of the Turkish security forces killed. A similar rise in attacks by Kurdish armed groups targeting Iran's Kurdish regions resulted in Iranian troops crossing the border earlier this year to wipe out guerrilla bases in northern Iraq.
So far American concern that any armed intervention by Turkey would only destabilize Iraq's north, at present by far the most peaceful part of the country, has prevented similar action being conducted by Turkey, a military ally as a member of NATO.
There would also be strong opposition to an attack from within the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join. The European Union has encouraged the government in Ankara to be as inclusive as possible toward its Kurdish minority as an element of its preparation for talks on E.U. entry.
Any military incursion into Iraq would come at a time when Turkey's prospective accession to the European Union is under particular scrutiny.
But Israel's attacks in Lebanon have led to new demands by the Turkish government that it be allowed to follow suit if American and Iraqi forces do not act quickly against the Kurdish guerrillas, who are believed to be based in northern Iraq's rugged Qandil mountains.
The intervention plans are reported to range from limited artillery barrage and airstrikes to attacks by commando forces.'

Monday, August 07, 2006

Blair's Wars

Who to blame in this nightmare? The Israelis? Perhaps. But who enables the Israeli economy to function? Who 'sells' them weapons (actually since US 'aid' is actually almost all spent on US weaponry, in effect Israel gets the weapons for free)? And those with whom the Israelis discuss their foreign policy, and without whose 'green light' there would BE no foreign policy?

This is why calls for a boycott of Israel is so pointless and beside the point. So what if a boycott begins? The Israeli economy is so tightly bound up with the US economy (in a way the South African economy wasn't) that an financial shortfall can easily be made up by the US.

Which brings us (by a slightly circuitous route) to little Tony Blair. What role does he play in all these actions of Empire?

'Israel's assault on Lebanon is, in many respects, as disastrous as the war in Iraq. But at least then the pre-war hubris and deceit were played out in parliament and at the UN. This latest act of folly took place suddenly, with only the barest of attempts to justify it to global public opinion. And it stems from the core Middle East problem: the decades-old conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. I am told that the Israelis informed George W Bush in advance of their plans to "destroy" Hezbollah by bombing villages in southern Lebanon. The Americans duly informed the British. So Blair knew. This exposes as a fraud the debate of the past week about calling for a ceasefire. Indeed, one of the reasons why negotiations failed in Rome was British obduracy. This has been a case not of turning a blind eye and failing to halt the onslaught, but of providing active support. Blair, like Bush, had no intention of urging the Israelis to slow down their bombardment, believing somehow that this struggle was winnable. Israel has a right to self-defence, but it could have responded to the seizure of its soldiers, and to the rocket attacks, by the diplomatic route. That would have ensured greater sympathy. Now, growing numbers in Israel itself realise that military action will bring no long-term solution.'

Certainly true. But it will have consequences, which will not be good for Britain, the US, Israel, Lebanon or the Middle East as whole.

Incidentally: 'A record of conflict: the death toll from wars Britain has fought under Tony Blair: 71, 617 deaths in 9 years in power'. (note: this is the absolute minimum number: some estimates of fatalities from Iraq go far higher).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The horror....the horror.....

Short but essential post on Charlie Wilson's Little War (soon to be a major motion picture! With Tom Hanks!). As seems to be the case with everything in US history, it's all much worse than you could possibly imagine. The book is here, for those of you for whom Wolf Creek just wasn't gory, frightening, bleak and depressing enough.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Paranoid lunacy from Ha'aretz

Well if the Guardian once gave a comment slot to Osama Bin Laden, then I suppose Ha'aretz is entitle to give a slot to this guy.

'Now we are in the midst of the storm. The second Lebanon war sometimes looks like a repeat of the past, but in truth it is the flash of the future. An Iranian Cuba was established on our northern border. If the Iranian Cuba is not disarmed, it will threaten us continuously and intolerably. However, our present effort to disarm the Iranian Cuba looks more and more like the Bay of Pigs fiasco.'

It has been obvious for some years that many Americans (mainly in Congress) are under the strange misapprehension that they live in Israel. It now seems that many Israelis are under the equally strange misapprehension that they live in the United States, or, even more interestingly, that Israel is actually a part of the United States. Just as, therefore, the terrified masses of the US live in fear of the inevitably onslaught from Castro's mighty military machine, it now seems that Israelis now live in fear of the massed hordes of Hizbollah, which has well over 3,000 fighters. Over 3,000! Just imagine. That's as many as demonstrated in favour of Iceland in May! In the demonstration that shook the world! Frightening stuff.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I have no idea if this is made up or not

But if it's true, it brings new meaning to the tag line of the joke 'Someone who makes you an offer you can't understand'*. Or in this case, 'our demands are opaque and incomprehensible, and if you don't meet them immediately we will kill you (or 'deconstruct you').

*(The joke is, what do you get if you cross a continental theorist with the Mafia?)

Vicious Palestinian protesters

Adopting a brutal campaign of whining and pleading against peace loving armed Israel soldiers, callously allow themselves to be shot and (tear) gassed in order to make propaganda points.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I don't agree with all of this

But it has three killer paragraphs that are worth highlighting. They make three key points.

Point one: The shifting (and shrinking) 'goals' of the invasion.

' The campaign's goals have been reduced and shrunk during these three weeks. From restoring Israel's power of deterrence, eliminating Hezbollah, and disarming it immediately -- after three weeks we have arrived at the present goal, which is the dismantling of the forward outposts of Hezbollah and the deployment of an international force to defend the North of Israel from the possibility of a repeat attack. '

Point two: the demolition of the reputation of the IDF.

'Is this how we are restoring the IDF's power of deterrence? Haven't we accomplished exactly the opposite? Hasn't it become clear to the entire world that our "invincible" air force not only failed for three weeks to end the barrage of rockets, but also even needs an emergency airlift of war materiel, as during the 1973 Yom Kippur War?'

And point three: the real killer....the nature of the 'threat'.

' If several thousand guerrilla fighters do constitute an existential danger to a country with a strike force and weaponry that are unparalleled in this part of the world, how is it that during the past five or six years we heard nothing to that effect from government leaders? '

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is anyone seriously suggesting.........?

Is anyone seriously suggesting, even in a fantasy, that if the IDF had kidnapped two members of the Lebanese Army (perhaps who were working with Hizbollah....they do that you know) then Lebanon would have been justified in invading Israel?

Does Lebanon have a right to self-defence?

Why secular democrats should support Hizbollah.........

Ermm....ok not the most intuitive of headlines but bear with me. The question: why should secular, non anti-semitic non-nationalists support an anti-semitic extremist party like Hizbollah, at least in the current conflict? The answer is not simple, but makes sense. When you think it through.

'If Hezbollah can fight Israel to a standstill or withstand its bombardment with much of its weaponry intact, it will be strengthened within the Lebanese political establishment.
Ironically that will allow the Saniora government -- no real friend to Hezbollah -- to push Israel and the United States for a comprehensive agreement between the various parties, which could include the release of prisoners and an Israeli withdrawal from Chebaa farms, a tiny strip of land captured from Syria in 1967, but which Hezbollah and Berri say are occupied Lebanese land. The territory is often cited by Hezbollah as proof that Lebanon is still occupied and that Hezbollah's resistance wing is still necessary.
With such a deal in hand, the interrupted political process of transitioning Hezbollah to a mainstream political party could continue, its dignity intact and its mission to liberate all of Lebanon completed.

If Hezbollah is defeated, however, any deal -- which almost certainly would include the disarmament of Hezbollah as called for in United Nations' Security Council Resolution 1559 -- will be seen as being imposed by outsiders and would threaten Saniora's government by allowing Hezbollah to paint it as a puppet in the service of Lebanon's enemies. '

So: if Hizbollah wins we have at least the chance of a just fair peace on the Lebanon/Israeli border, the disarmament of Hizbollah (remember the message of the IRA disarmament: paramilitary groups will only disarm from a position of strength) and peace in the region. If Israel wins on the other hand we have the possibility of civil war, and the increased possibility of a wider conflagration in the region. It's as simple as that.

All true friends of Israel should be hoping and praying that Israel 'loses' (i.e. does not win) in this battle, or the next stage will be even less pleasant.