Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jimmy Carter Acts Like a Statesman Again

What is a statesman? Is it a soothing presence like James Baker, willing to lend his name to things like "The Iraq Study Group" so that the United States can ignore what was offered as advice in exchange for an extra six months of pretending the war in Iraq is going well? Or is it something more like Jimmy Carter, who stands up and delivers knock out blows to the collective consciousness of people who pay attention to what's going on?

Chris Floyd nails it:

Here's a thought experiment. Try to imagine a major American political figure boldly calling on Europe to break with the United States, unilaterally lift the blockage on Gaza and negotiate directly with Hamas, the democratically-elected government of Palestine.

He then goes on to reveal -- from his access to the most highly classified intelligence -- that Israel, far from being at risk from "destruction" by Iran or anyone, possesses a minimum of 150 nuclear weapons: the first time that any such high-level U.S. official has ever publicly confirmed the existence of Israel's arsenal, much less detailed its size.

What's more, this Establishment renegade then calls for the complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, combined with pledges of massive aid to rebuild Iraq "from the destruction we've caused."

Yes, Jimmy Carter did just that over the weekend. Did any of that appear in your newspaper or on your television? Chances are, if it ever does, it will be accompanied by the sneering presence of someone who has worked tirelessly to provide political cover to the Bush Administration. Think of a Fox News roundtable and a wholesale condemnation of Carter, accompanied by sneering and leering and misinformation.

What did Jimmy Carter do that was so wrong? He met with people and used his status as a former President to advocate for peace. Then, he had the temerity to follow through on what he had promised. And, he had the courage to speak about what he was doing:

Although it is 27 years since he left the White House, Carter recently met Hamas leaders in Damascus. He declared a breakthrough in persuading the organisation to offer a Gaza ceasefire and a halt to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel if Israel stopped its air and ground strikes on the territory.

Carter described western governments' self-imposed ban on talking to Hamas as unrealistic and said everyone knew Israel was negotiating with the organisation through an Egyptian mediator, Omar Suleiman. Suleiman took the Hamas ceasefire offer to Jerusalem last week.

Israel was still hesitating over the ceasefire, Carter confirmed yesterday. "I talked to Mr Suleiman the day before yesterday. I hope the Israelis will accept," he said.

While being scrupulously polite to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who represent the Fatah movement, he was scathing about their exclusion of Hamas. He described the Fatah-only government as a "subterfuge" aimed at getting round Hamas's election victory two years ago. "The top opinion pollster in Ramallah told me the other day that opinion on the West Bank is shifting to Hamas, because people believe Fatah has sold out to Israel and the US," he said.

Carter said the Quartet's policy of not talking to Hamas unless it recognised Israel and fulfilled two other conditions had been drafted by Elliot Abrams, an official in the national security council at the White House. He called Abrams "a very militant supporter of Israel". The ex-president, whose election-monitoring Carter Centre had just certified Hamas's election victory as free and fair, addressed the Quartet for 12 minutes at its session in London in 2006. He urged it to talk to Hamas, which had offered to form a unity government with Fatah, the losers.

That, in a nutshell, is what a statesman does. This, in a nutshell, is what delusional neocons do:

Confidential documents obtained by "Vanity Fair" magazine have surfaced that appear to show that the U.S had planned to overthrow the Hamas-led Palestinian government shortly after they won their election in 2006.

In one of the documents, from March of 2007, detail a plan to remove Hamas by force. By supplying weapons and money to rival Fatah fighters, the U.S could install the movement into power, even though Hamas was democratically elected.

Sources at the U.S. State Department and Palestinian officials corroborate the documents, which revealed the plans were to be implemented by the State Department.


The report confirms long-standing allegations by Hamas and other Palestinian officials that the U.S has been supplying arms and money to Fatah, so that fighters could "bring down the government". Even some senior Fatah officials themselves have accused the U.S of "meddling" in Palestinian affairs.

The magazine said that Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams "were entrusted with provoking a Palestinian civil war", and also quoted a former U.S Intelligence officer--experienced in covert planning--as saying that the plan was "close to the margins" of legality, but "probably wasn't illegal".

Your State Department at work. These are the people who are enabled by the people who sneer at Carter. These are the people who were supposed to bring dignity and honor back to Washington. And, once can just hear the "anti-Semite" charges cranking up, courtesy of the likes of Joe Lieberman and Alan Dershowitz. Floyd notices that Carter let loose with a bombshell:

Carter's unprecedented explicitness regarding Israel's nuclear weapons somehow escaped the notice of the Guardian -- which sponsored the festival and conducted the interview -- but The Times picked it up:

Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, former President Jimmy Carter said yesterday, while arguing that the US should talk directly to Iran to persuade it to drop its nuclear ambitions.

His remark...is startling because Israel has never admitted having nuclear weapons, let alone how many, although the world assumes their existence. Nor do US officials deviate in public from that Israeli line.

But Carter, who as president had full access to America's secret knowledge about Israel's arsenal, steamrolled right over the long-held public line. The existence of this arsenal is of course the true context of Middle East relations: the fact that Israel can "obliterate" any of its antagonists in a matter of minutes, while none of them poses, even remotely, a similar "existential threat" to Israel. Yet the entire U.S. "bipartisan foreign policy establishment" gears much of its Middle Eastern policies around the professed goal of guaranteeing the survival and security of Israel.

The plain fact is that Israel is more than capable of guaranteeing its own survival. As for its manifold security problems, these might be better addressed by a more realistic, pragmatic engagement with its neighbors, and with the Palestinians locked down under its control. But as long as Israeli leaders can count on the full backing of the United States -- financially, diplomatically and militarily -- no matter what they do, they will have no incentive to come to any viable terms, and can continue their own dominationist policies, which over the years have only bred more suffering, more radicalization and more intransigence in their opponents.

How can it be wrong to point out that what is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian nightmare? Are all of the people complicit in the crimes of a militarized few? Wouldn't it make sense to reach out to the suffering and encourage them to get involved in the political process? Or is it too late, given that the Bush Administration has meddled in the affairs of these people to an extent that has blown away any possible chance of American influence?

I think the most important question is not whether there really are 150 nuclear weapons in Israel's arsenal. The most important question is whether any of them are scattered or deployed throughout the world for strategic reasons.

Either way, how much of a threat can Iran really be to a country with 150 nuclear weapons?

No comments: