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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Palestinian Authority Sets its New Strategy: Tempts Obama Administration with Instant Peace if it Pressures Israel




December 29, 2009



We now have Mahmoud Abbas's answer regarding short-term Palestinian Authority (PA) strategy. He says that if Israel stops all construction now-in Jerusalem and the 3000 apartments being completed-and accepts in advance the 1967 borders and there will be peace within six months. This is the basic story we've been hearing since around 1988: one or more Israeli concessions and everyone will live happily ever after.

This is clearly bait being dangled for President Barack Obama, offering him an "easy" way out of his dilemma of not having any peace talks after almost a year in office: pressure Israel to give up more and you will look good, with plenty of photo opportunities of you presiding over Israel-PA talks.

Of course, what Abbas wants to do is to remove one of the main points of Israeli leverage, the borders to be agreed upon and the status of east Jerusalem. Moreover, is leaving out both the additional demands he will be demanding (all Palestinians who want to can go live in Israel) and all the Israeli demands he will be ignoring (recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the end of the conflict and dropping all Palestinian claims, security guarantees, an unmilitarized Palestinian state, settling all refugees in Palestine).

In addition, of course, he can't speak for about half the people and territory he claims to represent, that is, the Gaza Strip. And by not holding elections and unilaterally extending his term, Abbas leaves the door open for some future Palestinian leadership saying he had no legitimate mandate to negotiate and therefore any agreement he made isn't binding.

Finally, he made one very big misstatement of fact, hoping-as usual-that the West pays no attention to what's said in Arabic. He claims that the PA has stopped incitement against Israel, in terms of urging violence and rejecting Israel's existence. While the PA is, of course, far better than Hamas on such matters, a very large dossier can be compiled on how that is a lie.

The question is what will the Obama Administration do? Is it going to press Israel for still more unilateral concessions so that the PA will come to talks and President Obama can claim a success? Will it try to get the PA to do something in terms of confidence-building measures or to talk without preconditions? Israel is certainly not going to accept the 1967 borders with absolutely no change before even talking with the PA (and probably not even as part of a peace agreement).

Indeed, it is now Obama administration policy that there need to be minor border modifications to accommodate the post-1967 changes on the ground. Moreover, Israel can say that if it stops all construction immediately, including in Jerusalem, the PA still won't talk so what's the point?

Incidentally, Abbas admitted that he never asked for an Israeli construction freeze before but is only doing so in the context of the Roadmap Plan. However, even after the Road Map, Abbas never made this a big issue until after Obama demanded the construction freeze. In objective terms, the president has no one to blame but himself for this mess, but of course he isn't going to blame himself. He has to blame either Israel or the PA. Which will it be?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

For Israel, Good Prospects in 2010



By Barry Rubin*
December 27, 2009

In contrast to my rather gloomy assessment of the Obama Administration's prospects in the Middle East, Israel's prospects look rather good. This is granted, of course, that the chances for any formal peace (note the word "formal") with the Arab states or the Palestinians are close to zero. In addition there are two longer-term threats in the form of Iranian nuclear weapons and Islamists one day taking over one or more Arab states.

But let's enjoy ourselves while we can. It's also important to remember in the Middle East, optimism does not mean forecasting blue skies but merely ones only lightly overcast.

It's funny, though, how much better Israel's situation is then it's generally perceived. Consider the pluses:

--The potential of a clash with the United States has been averted, most likely for the remainder of President Barack Obama's term. All the lessons received by the United States in the region-to whatever extent it learned them-are favorable to Israel, showing how ready Israel is to help U.S. efforts at the same time as demonstrating how hard it is to get peace and how limited is the other's side's cooperation or flexibility. The possibility of U.S. rapprochement with Iran or Syria has been destroyed by the latter

--On the surface the situation with Israel looks dreadful but where it counts the support is sufficient. France, Germany, and Italy have friendly governments while in Britain an acceptably positive regime is about to be replaced by a warmer one. (It helps to have low expectations.)

--Despite their rhetoric, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders are basically satisfied with the status quo. Their strategies for forcing more concessions from Israel without giving anything leave them smug but without prospects for success. The danger of a Hamas takeover has been averted. The economic situation on the West Bank is about as good as it's ever been. And the PA rulers prefer to avoid renewed violence. That's not nirvana but it ain't bad either.

--Hizballah doesn't want renewed war this year, seeking to carry out revenge terrorist attacks away from the Lebanon-Israel border. Hamas is probably cowed enough by the early 2009 fighting (outside observers still don't realize the extent to which its gunmen broke, ran away, and hid behind civilians, but the Hamas leadership knows), though this can't be taken for certain.

--While the international economic slump has hit Israel, the country has been more insulated than one might have dared hope from its negative effects. Its remarkable technical innovation on hi-tech, science, medical, and agricultural technology continues to make rapid progress.

--Israel has a government with a high level of popular support which really seems-after so much ineptness and ingenious plans that didn't do much good-to be on track. There is, by Israeli standards, a high degree of national consensus.

--Iran still doesn't have nuclear weapons.

That's not at all a bad list. There are many who think that Israel cannot flourish, perhaps cannot even survive, without having formal peace with the Palestinians or perhaps also Syria and the Arabic-speaking world in general. This is simply untrue. The lack of a signed peace treaty with everyone (not to mention that such documents exist with Egypt and Jordan) is not the same as war. From the usual standards of no war, no peace this is a pretty good one.

Of course, there are negatives yet they really don't amount to anywhere near as much as it seems on a superficial glance. The virtual defection of Turkey's regime from the Western alliance (yes, it really is that bad) and the end of the special relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara is a bad thing. But the Turkish semi-Islamist rulers are restrained by their desire to play a role in regional peacemaking and not to make the Americans or Europeans too angry.

Most distressing of all is the noise. The virulent hatred of Israel by large sections of the American and especially European intelligentsia goes along with the endless outpouring of academic, media, and EU sniping can be dispiriting. Yet even here there is some silver lining. The more extreme and outright crackpot the attacks, the less credible they are. Public opinion polls, especially in the United States where they are through the roof, are not so bad. In addition, the lies and screaming have little material effect on the region itself. Something to worry about but don't lose sleep.

What's most important of all is this: A willingness to assess your problems accurately, guided by reasonable expectations. Not being crippled with ideology, blinded by misconceptions, swayed by bad international advice and the desire to be popular. And with determination and courage to implement policies that do the best with the hand you've been dealt.

If only others were doing the same thing, the world-and especially the Middle East-would be a better and more peaceful place.


Monday, December 21, 2009

How the Auschwitz Sign "Work Makes Free" Embodies Current Western Thinking and Policy

By Barry Rubin*



The theft and then recovery of the famous sign at the entrance of Auschwitz-Arbeit macht frei, work will make you free-has brought that artifact of the Holocaust to international attention once again. Merely dismissing the sign as "cynical," few understand the meaning of the sign in context and its underlying implications for Jewish thought and Israel today.
At the time--and this was very clear in Eastern European towns like that of my grandparents in Poland-- Jews were used by the Germans for forced labor. While many were involved in road repair (an extremely important task during the war when highways were heavily used by the Nazis for military purposes), tree cutting, or other manual labor, others labored in their usual professions.
The Germans, of course, wanted to win the war, which they were waging, despite their victories, against difficult odds. Even after the French were defeated and the British retreated across the Channel, the combat was ferocious against the Soviets and the United Kingdom fought on. In pragmatic terms, the Germans needed Jewish labor. After all, too, they could hardly be receiving it under better circumstances. The Jews were not paid for the work, they were denied consumer goods, and their food rations were minimal.
In short, the German strategy toward the Jews-focusing on forced labor-made sense in pragmatic terms. And Western civilization is governed by pragmatism. One does what is beneficial to one's material self-interests. The German behavior made sense.
It was not hard to explain, for the overwhelming majority of the Jews under German occupation as well, the killings of Jews that they knew about. Here, it was a reprisal for Germans killed by partisans; there, it was a pure act of cruelty or the deeds of a sadistic officer. Or it could be perceived by the pragmatic German goal of keeping the Jews intimidated or to appeal to local anti-Semitic Christians themselves under occupation or actions against Jews who were known for anti-Nazi views.
Whatever it seems to those looking back from a time of much greater knowledge, this pragmatic understanding did make sense in terms of all past history (including Jewish history) and the events people knew about. True, Hitler had written about the extermination of the Jews but this was considered to be just ideology. In Western society, people had become cynical about ideology or at least of ideas that went against immediate self-interest. This was just rabble-rousing.
Thus, it could be expected that if Jews really did work hard and did not cause too much trouble, they would survive, at least the great majority, as had happened during so many previous persecutions. That was their life experience and their historical experience. Of course, it was richly supplemented by wishful thinking, sometimes a wishful thinking that promoted blindness to events that were clearly visible, but this line of reasoning gave an ample logical basis to that wishful thinking.
And so, work makes free. It was not just a sarcastic act of derision but an actual control measure. If the Jews believed they were in Auschwitz to work hard in exchange for their lives, they would be more docile and far easier to manage. The sentiment was meant to be taken seriously, and almost always, at least until late in the war, it was.
To understand all of this is of vital importance for historical reasons. The Jews who became victims were not just cowards or fools or sheep but people who often believed they were using their wits to survive once again a terrible but ultimately passing pogrom. No matter how much they were starved or mistreated, they could take the hunger and put up with the beatings with the confidence that one day this, too, would end. Of course, they often had no choice and they wanted to believe this, yet it was quite rational for them to do so, certainly before the middle of 1942.
At this point, I hesitate to continue. The analogy of the Holocaust has been too often used, and misused. Moreover, many will think that I gratuitously or lightly exaggerate what I'm about to say. But consider this explanation seriously and you will better understand our own era.
The key here is the Western obsession with pragmatism, the dismissal of ideology, and the wishful thinking that believes conflict can be negotiated away or at least whittled down to the tolerable level by patience and concession. These were also the fundamental ideas that motivated both most European Jews and the expectations of most Western leaders and observers regarding the treatment of the Jews during the war (and in many cases, German intentions before the war as well). This mode of thinking is still very much with us.
Thus, it is disbelieved that radical Islamists, and in many cases militant Arab nationalists or various others, really mean what they say. Instead, it is expected that they will act according to narrow and individual personal interests. They would rather be rich than right, or revolutionary. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, architect of Iran's Islamist revolution, derided this concept as thinking the revolution was made for the sake of lowering the price of watermelons.
Western deception and self-deception is also reinforced by the fact that the main contemporary experience in this regard has been with a tired and cynical Communism, long bereft of its revolutionary fire. It was well symbolized by a Soviet regime that was mainly interested in self-aggrandizement and staying in power. This was followed by the dealings with a Chinese Communist regime which seemed to be fanatically revolutionary but later settled down to making money and avoiding trouble abroad. The answer to Khomeini was the statement of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of that turn, who expressed the following view of ideology: "It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice." One can argue, with some justification, that after fifty years this has happened to Arab nationalism.
So, yes, revolutions do moderate, get tired, and settle down to redecorating with expensive furnishings. This is precisely the fate that the current Iranian regime is struggling to prevent for itself. Then there is the belief that the Supreme Being is guiding their steps. Then there is the belief of the Islamists-both pro- and anti-Iran ones--that they haven't been trying that long and will win eventually. And the belief that their enemies are weak and close to surrender while they have such secret weapons as suicide bombing and soon nuclear weapons.
While, then, it is easy to believe that they don't really mean what they say, that they would never do anything "anti-pragmatic" this is not likely to be true, at least not unless they are contained for many decades first. Or if they perceive they have failed or been defeated, which generally is nowhere near happening. Does Syria's regime prefer Western aid to an alliance with Iran? Will Iran be responsible in its use of nuclear weapons? Is Hamas or Hizballah eager to be moderate? Are the Palestinians on the verge of making peace with Israel? Can American dollars buy off the Taliban in Afghanistan?
The answer that appeals to most Western leaders and intellectuals to all these questions is "yes." After all, "they" must be just like "us" and it is allegedly arrogant or even racist to think otherwise. Needless to say, the Germans were much more like the Americans or British yet what happened did indeed happen. To put it bluntly, ideology and demagogic leadership turned the lovers of Mozart into the builders of Auschwitz.
It is easier, less painful, a much quicker solution that makes the problem go away. Underlying those thoughts, however, is the idea that they must not believe their own ideology and that they wouldn't do anything that went against their interests or material well-being.
Let me underline the point here. I am not saying that radical Islamists or Arab nationalists or those holding various other extreme ideologies today are "fascist" or "Nazi." That is simplistic, not credible, and misleading in its own way. They have their own history, world view, ideology, and goals. But they also have certain specific things in common: an ideology they really believe; profound genocidal hatred of others; readiness to sacrifice on behalf of these principles; and a profound belief they will win even though their enemies think this is ridiculous.
Of course, the Germans lost World War Two and their anti-pragmatism hastened that defeat. This, too, is worth keeping in mind. That is a factor to be used in the setting of strategy by democratic states and in the thinking of their people. Assuming they will act in the opposite way will not, however, strengthen that resistance.
Yet the greatest threat to the West of all is the mistaken belief that if we are really polite and avoid giving offense, that if we make concessions or work really hard we will be free of their threat.  We have set up our own signs at the entrances to our universities and foreign ministries that are the precise equivalent of Arbeit macht frei.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EU calls For Division of Jerusalem


More antisemitism springs from the EU as we illustrate here:

The EU states, "The Council recalls that it has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
The Council calls calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the Road Map. It also calls on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem."
In other words, the future of Jerusalem is officially an international football, and at the end of the game, the Palestinians are to get their wish: To call Jerusalem their capital.
This is an unprecedented intrusion into Israeli affairs. It completely ignores the facts on the ground. Before Israel controlled Jerusalem, Christians and Jews were barred from the Old City. The Jewish Quarter was destroyed and Jews were expelled and many killed.
Under Israeli rule, all people are permitted to live in and visit Jerusalem. Forcing an official Palestinian presence on this situation will cause unnecessary tensions and increase the danger level. Imagine the Field Day that terrorists will have launching attacks on visitors -- right from land in the Old City. Remember the carnage that resulted from the pull-out from Gaza? This will be a disaster.
It will also be a victory of another sort for the Palestinian leaders, like Abbas, who believe that Jews never lived in Jerusalem. They deny the existence of the Jewish Temples. Even under Israeli control, the Palestinians have destroyed thousands of years worth of Christian and Jewish antiquities. Imagine the carnage if they are ever put in control.
It is puzzling that Israel's official response to the EU declaration did not defend a united Jerusalem under the State of Israel.

We need to defend a united Jerusalem every opportunity we get.

Mary Kate and Michele


Thursday, November 5, 2009

It’s Almost Time For Channukah (Or Christmas..)

This was originally published on The Blackburn Report

Most people I think, know the difference between right and wrong, it is in our nature, that is why civilization has thrived and most of humanity has experienced a lifestyle that is a great improvement for vast numbers of people .

I have always felt that it is wrong for some people to be born wealthy and live unbelievably extravagant life styles, while millions of other people are born in grinding poverty.

George Bush, Paris Hilton, and other members of the American “Nobility” did nothing to earn life as Arabian Princes and Princesses.

Hilton has good looks, and may have been able to parlay that into something anyway, Bush has nothing going for himself yet he has been able to order others to kill thousands of people, poor people, for no other reason really except that he was born wealthy.
Many of the wealthy in America, especially the ones who know they didn’t really earn their millions or billions, perform charity work and give vast sums away.
Others, again, like the Bush family, spend their fortunes protecting their fortunes from being shared by others.
Life is not fair, but every one with morals is trying to make it more fair.
That, again, is in our natures.
All we can do, is a. Be thankful we were born in the West, where although we have rough times, as least we probably won’t starve or be swept away in a mudslide, or drowned in a tsunami, andb., in my opinion, try to be kind, try to do good for other people, try to be humble and non judgmental and fair and moral, and happy.
Those are the main points, I could write a book on what I think we should do, many people have, and some of them are helpful.
I like the Tao Te Ching, available free online.
It’s not my gospel, but I get a lot of good out of it, and if I had to preach a doctrine, (which I don’t, obviously) that would be the one I would choose.


Remember, life goes in cycles, good and bad, up and down.
The trick is to get through the bad times.
You can do that.

Posted in Humor, Israel, Politics | Tagged: , ,

Analysis: For Clinton, tough talk but few results




By ROBERT BURNS AP National Security Writer


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's tense exchanges with Pakistani civilians and Arab diplomats over a harrowing week of foreign stops exposed the confining limits of her office.

On her most ambitious and contentious overseas trip as secretary of state, Clinton had to resort to damage control after she appeared to mangle the Obama administration's message on frozen Mideast peace talks.

And while she scored points back home by standing up to angry Pakistanis who confronted her about drone-launched U.S. missile strikes, her blunt questioning of the resolve of Pakistan's government exposed American impatience with the country's incremental steps against terrorists.

In each case her extraordinarily public approach to diplomacy - for better or worse - reflected not only her personal style but also President Barack Obama's promise to reach out openly to friend as well as foe.

What remains less clear is whether Clinton's hot-button politician's persona works any better at producing international results - let alone clarity - than a more classic diplomat's cooler tact.

There were no breakthroughs, and it's too early to know how her public and behind-the-scenes performances in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Morocco and Egypt will play out. But Clinton emphatically followed through on a pledge she made last month when she said the time had come for the U.S. government to communicate more aggressively abroad and challenge U.S. critics on their own turf.

From here on, she said then, "we're going to be in the mix and we're going to be in the mix every day."

It is a boldly political take on taking on the world, and Clinton is relying on some of her old campaign trail tricks and moxie to press America's case.

In Pakistan, she aggressively sold the administration's stance against al-Qaida during several crowded "town hall" public forums that had been her stock-in-trade during the 2008 presidential primary run against Obama.

But despite finding some success in Africa and Asia earlier this year communicating Clintonian warmth with foreign audiences, Lahore was not Portsmouth, N.H.

And a brash in-your-face style that won voters' hearts and minds in the U.S. may have come off as confrontational to skeptical Pakistan civilians who responded in kind.

In Lahore, Clinton certainly won domestic consumption brownie points by saying what many Americans have complained about for years - that Pakistan's government had done little to root out al-Qaida's upper echelon.

"Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she said bluntly. "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to. And maybe that's the case. Maybe they're not getable. I don't know."

Pakistan's leaders were not pleased - waiting until Clinton departed to slap back. But even when she had a second chance to scale back her remarks, Clinton softened them only by a hair.

She also dinged Pakistan's leaders for diminishing their standing in Washington by complaining about tough new conditions set by Congress for providing billions in new aid.

"For the United States Congress to pass a bill unanimously, saying that we want to give $7.5 billion to Pakistan in a time of global recession when we have a 10 percent unemployment rate, and then for Pakistani press and others to say, 'We don't want that,' that's insulting," she said.

That wasn't what the Pakistani government wanted to hear, but it seemed to reflect Clinton's determination to show the Pakistanis that they can complain about U.S. counterterrorism tactics and about strings attached to U.S. aid - but not without hearing the administration's own concerns.

Clinton's toughened public stance was less in evidence, though, when she turned to the stymied Mideast peace process. Instead of bluntness, she struggled repeatedly to cater to both Israeli and Arab concerns, making no headway in getting either side to move closer.

In Jerusalem, trying to mollify Israeli reluctance to agree to halt all future settlements as a pretext to renewed peace talks with Palestinians, Clinton floated an Israeli proposal that would restrain - but not stop - more West Bank housing.

Palestinian and Arab diplomats reacted with outrage, and the Clinton who had been tough in Pakistan was forced to backpedal. Arab officials questioned whether the U.S. had tilted toward Israel and abandoned its position that continued Israel settlements are illegitimate and must be brought to a full stop.

Clinton's comments reflected a realization within the Obama administration that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt might be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.

Clinton had traveled to the region reluctantly, concerned her visit might be perceived as a failure without clear results, according to several U.S. officials. She agreed to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders after pressure from the White House, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration thinking.

In Marrakesh, Morocco, two days after her controversial comments in Jerusalem, Clinton issued what she called a clarification. But she was dogged by questions about the settlements issue for the rest of her time abroad.

Asked Wednesday before departing for Washington what she believed she had accomplished, Clinton focused on the depth of the challenges she faced, not on what the trip delivered - or failed to deliver.

"Every issue that we touched on during this trip is complicated and difficult," she said. "Each requires patience, perseverance and determination to see them through. If these were easy questions with simple answers, I wouldn't have made this trip."

---

EDITOR'S NOTE - Robert Burns has been covering national security and military affairs for The Associated Press since 1990.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The West's Choice of Strategy: Defending Itself From Terror Attacks or Combating A Radical Strategic Threat?

By Barry Rubin*


There are two basic strategies being put forth in the West and particularly the United States today in regard to the challenge from radical and Islamist forces. The narrower, terror-only strategy is a far more tempting one to follow. It is less expensive, less risky, and makes it far easier to claim success. That’s why it has such enormous appeal and is generally the one being adopted.

The Terror-Only Strategy

In this approach, the problem is defined as direct terror attacks on Western territory and facilities elsewhere like embassies. The enemy is those groups which directly target the West, meaning al-Qaida and its allies plus various independent local self-made terrorists (who are influenced, of course, by Jihadist propaganda).

Since these groups have no major state sponsor, this is a narrow counterterrorism strategy which does not require confrontation or conflict with any other country. It can be handled largely as a police and criminal matter. Success is measured by an ability to keep such attacks to an absolute minimum.

Moreover, it permits the luxury of ignoring attacks on or in other countries—including Israel especially—as not being a matter of much concern. [Even the United States has increasingly taken this stance. After the massive terror attack on Mumbai, India, Pakistan's policy of sponsoring anti-Indian terrorism has been for all practical purposes ignored. U.S. aid to Pakistan climbs steeply with no conditionality about stopping attacks despite the fact that Pakistan has done nothing to punish the terrorists involved, much less the Pakistani intelligence officers who direct them. The Administration has conducted engagement of Syria with no serious reference to Syria's sponsorship of terrorism against Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, or Israel. When Iraq protested Syrian involvement in a bloody recent attack the U.S. government declared its neutrality.

Thus, a whole category of terrorist revolutionary groups and their state sponsors can be ignored. If you don’t bother them, it is hoped, they won’t bother you. (This is not without exception, though, as Western states have been willing to put sanctions on Hamas, though these are under some challenge.)

This strategy also has an internal aspect. Since only those small groups which want to attack on their territory are the problem, it can be argued that the best defense is to work with Islamist groups which, no matter how extreme their ideology and their support for terrorism abroad, don’t engage in violence on your own territory.

While there is a sharp debate over the domestic aspect of the strategy--some countries like Britain and France are ready to work with "moderate" Islamists, others aren't—it has clearly won out on the international front and has been adopted by the Obama Administration.

--The Anti-Islamist Strategy

This seems closer to the Bush Administration’s view and is thus considered discredited in most Western policymaking circles. The concept here is that radical Islamist forces threaten Western strategic interests and pose the principal threat of this era.

The other side here consists, of several different forces: an Iran-led alliance (Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, Iraqi insurgents); Jihadist terrorist groups (al-Qaida and its various affiliates and the Taliban); the Muslim Brotherhoods; and some countries with radical regimes (Sudan, Libya). The key problem is not whether these forces are engaged in direct violence against Western targets, they are at war with Western interests which they seek to destroy.

In this context, they may well engage in anti-Western violence in future. But more important, they are capable of seizing control of countries or regions thus wielding enormous assets. If they succeed—or are perceived by millions of Muslims as succeeding—the entire strategic balance in the Middle East would shift. Western interests would suffer a huge setback and the imbalance could escalate over time.

Obviously, this latter strategy is far less attractive to policymakers. Why get into a possible confrontation with powerful forces and large countries if that can be avoided? Why set the standard of success so high that you probably cannot reach it?

Of course, the problem is that the larger threat is by far the more serious threat. A shift in the balance of forces in such a strategic region, leading inevitably to the encouragement of subversive and violent forces in one’s own countries, is a far more dangerous situation than the occasional bombing or shooting.

But if you believe that it is adequate to deal only with direct violence against you, it can be argued that the best solution is to engage the radical forces at home and abroad, appease them, and avoid trouble. As President Barack Obama put it, he doesn’t seek victory over Iran but a solution to the problem, which is defined as Iran developing nuclear weapons without some agreement or at all.

Iranian involvement in subverting Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and other countries, or fighting Israel, for example, becomes part of the background which you take for granted. But then so is Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism against U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, too.
At home, the problem is three-fold. First, if you strengthen Islamist forces, since their goal is to transform the state and society there is a likelihood that they will be a far bigger problem in future, including involvement in violence.

Second, there are always violent spin-offs from these groups, based on the people they indoctrinate even if the main group refrains from violence. Where do Jihadi terrorists come from except through the ranks of such organizations?

Third, by empowering an Islamist leadership, such individuals and groups are more likely to emerge at the head of all, or most, of the Muslim community. This will defeat assimilationist and moderate tendencies and thus greatly magnify the power of the Islamists. In effect, the government tells Muslims: these groups are your leaders so follow them and their ideology. By doing this, massive damage is being inflicted on the host society.

Terrorism is not a movement or a doctrine or a goal but only a tactic used by revolutionary groups. Their ultimate goal is to seize state power and terrorism is merely one way of trying to do so. The question, then, is whether the problem is the use of a tactic or the goal of destroying existing governments and societies to replace them with a totalitarian regime.

Understandably, this limited terrorism-only strategy is tempting as a policy since it is so hard to do anything to solve the bigger Islamist threat. But doesn’t this choice also put the West in great long-term jeopardy, discourage more moderate Third World clients, and guarantee a far higher level of anti-Western violence in future?

That’s something most Western policymakers prefer not to think about, far less do anything about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some on the left are calling for an end to our involvement in Afghanistan.

Some on the left are calling for an end to our involvement in Afghanistan.

We ran an article on “why we can’t leave Iraq” a couple of days ago.

On Senator Tom Hayden’s web site there are real-time counters of the cost of the two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s sobering to see it.

Tom Hayden was a hero to much of his generation, dashing, brilliant, self-effacing,

He brought a dignity and romanticism to some of the struggles of the sixties.

Tom Hayden should rethink his policy about Afghanistan.

Let’s just focus, for now, on the bottom line, the significance of the Afghan conflict.

Afghanistan is a complex culture with different nationalities and religions and backgrounds.

A 2001 population estimate was 26,813,057, though the effect of the war—with its casualties and refugees—makes estimating difficult.

In 1999 some 79 percent of the population lived in rural areas. Of the urban dwellers, probably about half lived in Kabul, the capital city. The nomadic population was estimated to be about 2.5 million people. During the war with the Soviets the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically, with as many as 2.5 million to 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

More than 99 percent of the population of Afghanistan practices Islam.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, we cannot in good conscience walk away from this situation leaving innocent women and children to being ruled by criminal, although allegedly religious, criminals.

Afghani rulers can be particularly destructive of life for women and girls.

Women are considered property, evil and sinful property.

They must be covered head to foot to hide their shame at being women.

Girls are not allowed an education, at least they weren’t under Taliban rule.

Progressives need to get this situation right.

If we leave Afghanistan, innocent women and children, mothers, daughters, sons, will be subjected to a brutal, criminal regime.

Moral people don’t walk away from this.

They stop it.

We are there now.

We have to protect these innocent people until the day they can run their own affairs and protect themselves.

Twenty years.

We put two generations, including women, through a normal education cycle.

We interact with the people like our soldiers are doing now, and demonstrate that there are better ways to relate to each other.

In 20 years they should be, as the kids say, “Good to go.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why We Can’t Leave Iraq


Michael Moore hecame wealthy by telling the unadorned truth.

And this is shocking, because we have not heard the truth. It’s new to us.

To realize that the government is basically controlled by less than 1% of the population. To realize that they do cynical things for their own profit.

The companies that own the media and have long promoted the idea that the government should not be involved in helping people, immediately had the government bail them out when they needed money.

For all of their wealth, those who make the decisions often make bad decisions, such as the timing of the war in Iraq.

I don’t know why Bush went into Iraq, really, it’s anyone’s guess.

But it was a mistake, a classic mistake, becoming overextended by having too many fronts.

This is elementary.

No doubt Saddam deserved to die.

The brutal humiliation and hanging was not excessive when compared to his crimes.

At the time, I agreed with those who said, about Iraq, “Go in, get Saddam, and get out.”

But we broke it, we’ve got to fix it.

Bush policies broke it, and Obama has to fix it.

Let’s cut thorugh the flowery language and face what we have to do, to safeguard the Iraqi cilvilians, mainly the women and children, who are most vulnerable to the brutality of the various militant criminals.

We need no other reason to be there than that we are protecting innocent people from brutal criminals.

We have to make Iraq a client state.

We run it, for their benefit, but we don’t allow oppression of women or children or brainwashing or any of the other activities for which the militant criminals are justifiably famous.

If we can have a generation or two of education and less exposure to the evil side of Islamic indocrination, they may actually be able to run their own country, with us as staunch allies for as long as needed.

But we can’t leave now.

Even though I want to, and you want to.

The way they will oppress innocent people who just yearn for a normal life, and most particularly women and children, if we leave without putting in place a structure that will protect universally recognized human rights, would be brutal and murderous.

In Iran, right now, clerics are having women raped and executed.

In Afghanistan the Taliban orders women to be covered head to foot, with only a thick guaze peephole to see out of.

In Gaza women are being forced into the dark ages, more and more enforced “dress codes”.

I won’t go into all of it here.

The Sharia way is well known, or should be.

Some will say, it’s not our fight.

Of course it is.

We should have dealt with Afghanistan first but now that we are in Iraq it would be immoral to just walk away.

That’s why we are still there.

I think it is an encouraging sign that President Obama isn’t just pulling out and leaving the people to fend for themselves.

It shows that he is going to do what he believes is right, even if it is not politically expedient.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

General Petraeus: How I see The Afghan Conflict


ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 7, 2009_ – As the president reassembles his national security team today as part of his ongoing review of the strategy for Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said the decision is likely to hinge on one of three approaches to reversing the insurgency’s gains.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus yesterday cited three basic ways to “change the equation in an area where insurgents have made progress,” as he conceded they have in Afghanistan.

“One, you can turn bad guys into good guys, or at least neutral guys,” an effort referred to as “reintegration of reconcilables,” he told attendees at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here. “You can increase the number of host-nation security forces. Or you can increase the number of coalition forces.”

Petraeus resisted defining exactly how many U.S. forces he believes are needed to support the mission — an issue under intense discussion within the administration. About 68,000 U.S. forces will be on the ground there by the end of next month, and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander on the ground, reportedly has asked for about 40,000 more.

The president will convene his national defense team again today, and later this week, to discuss this and other options for Afghanistan. Petraeus said he and his fellow uniformed participants have had “ample opportunity to provide our best professional military advice.”

McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who previously served as the ground commander in Afghanistan, are participating in the sessions by video teleconference. Anne Patterson, ambassador to Pakistan, also is participating.

“So this has been a very substantial endeavor,” Petraeus said. “It is moving quite rapidly. There is a recognition of the need to move through this.”

Although views of appropriate U.S. troop numbers vary widely, Petraeus said there’s little debate about two general principles: “Afghanistan obviously requires a sustained, substantial commitment” and more Afghan national security forces are needed.

The general resisted putting a precise timeline on when the United States will be able to declare its mission in Afghanistan completed, noting that it depends largely on how quickly Afghan national security forces can become fully developed.

That’s expected to occur by 2013 or 2014, he said, when Afghan security forces will assume the lead for security responsibility. But to be prepared for that transition, the Afghan National Army likely will need to grow to about 400,000 members, he said, more than initially projected.

Building the Afghan security forces isn’t a process that can be rushed, Petraeus told the group. “No question about the need to develop the Afghan national security forces as rapidly as possible, and likely to higher numbers,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that there are limits to how fast you can accelerate that development,” particularly of commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders.

Whether that happens as planned depends largely on the security situation, he said, recalling problems he encountered as commander of Multinational Force Iraq. When violence spiked there in mid-2006, “the Iraqi security force effort nosedived,” he said.

Petraeus said he’s committed to preventing a replay of that situation in Afghanistan. “It is hugely important that the security situation not undermine the Afghan security force effort,” he said.

Yet security has deteriorated in several key areas, he acknowledged. Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist elements that had been defeated and left the country, reconstituted over time and returned to Afghanistan, putting down roots and increasing insurgent activity.

Petraeus said he shares McChrystal’s assessment that the situation is “serious,” but that turning it around is “doable.” Additional troops that have arrived in Regional Command South in recent months already have made some tactical gains, he said.

“Reversing that cycle of violence, arresting the downward spiral in some of these key areas [is] very important,” Petraeus said.

Turning yesterday’s discussion to Iraq, Petraeus cited “very substantial progress,” with violence down to about 15 to 20 attacks a day, compared to a high of 180 in mid-2007.

He attributed the progress to the surge in U.S. troops that helped quell violence and laid the foundation for other progress to take place.

Keith Olberman Takes On the Insurance Companies

Today Keith Olberman came straight out and said what he believed about the insurance industry.

It is a sign that the moderates are making substantial headway against the aristocratRepublican Party, that many centrists are proudly reffering to themselves as “the left”.

Here I think Keith Olberman performs a real public service and tries to make the Health Care debate what it is, a matter of life. And death.

MFB

I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters’ bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they’d kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.

But I think you get the point. We don’t need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word “Dogs” is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.

You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.

If you will behave as if you are Republicans — as if you are the prostitutes of our system –you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!

Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.

Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/03/olbermann-slams-members-o_n_250580.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Women and Girls in Afghanistan

The Taliban is not just bad because of what they did on 9/11, but also for the brutal way they treated women when they were in power.
This is a document released in 1998, when the Taliban was firmly in control in much of afghanistan, their treatment of women was deplorable, as this document shows:

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Women and Girls in Afghanistan

Fact sheet released by the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues, March 10, 1998.

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The Problem

  • Since the Taliban became a military and political force in late 1994, women and girls in Afghanistan have become virtually invisible in Taliban controlled portions of the country. The impact of Taliban imposed restrictions are most acutely felt in the cities where women had enjoyed relatively greater freedoms. In 1996, the University of Kabul reportedly had several thousand women students while thousands of professional women worked in different capacities in the city. Since the Taliban takeover, women are not allowed to attend school and others have been forced to leave their jobs.
  • The Taliban have issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, except in limited circumstances in the medical field. Hardest hit have been over 30,000 widows in Kabul and others elsewhere in the country, who are the sole providers for their families.
  • The Taliban prohibit girls from attending school. There are a few home based schools and some schools in rural areas which quietly operate to educate girls. They fear closure.
  • Women and girls are not allowed to appear outside the home unless wearing a head to toe covering called the burqa. A three inch square opening covered with mesh provides the only means for vision. Although the burqa was worn in Kabul before the Taliban took control, it was not an enforced dress code and many women wore only scarves that cover the head. Women are also forbidden from appearing in public with a male who is not their relative.
  • Women’s and girls’ access to medical services has been drastically cut back. Women are treated primarily by female doctors and the number of female doctors has been greatly reduced. It is also dangerous for women to leave their homes. For example, one mother in the city of Farah reportedly was shot by the Taliban militia for appearing in public to take her toddler to a doctor. The child was acutely ill and needed immediate medical attention.
  • Taliban militia mete out punishment for violations of these rules on the spot. For example, women have been beaten on the street if an inch of ankle shows under their burqa. They have been beaten if they are found to move about without an explanation acceptable to the Taliban. They have been beaten if they make noise when they walk. According to one report, a women struggling with two small children and groceries in her arms was reportedly beaten by the Taliban with a car antenna because she had let her face covering slip a fraction.
  • Taliban edicts require that windows in houses that have female occupants be painted over.

United States Response

  • Secretary of State Albright characterized the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls as "despicable" during her recent visit to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan. She said "We are opposed to their [the Taliban] approach to human rights, to their despicable treatment of women and children, and their lack of respect for human dignity, in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future."
  • Promoting the observance of human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, is one of our highest foreign policy priorities in Afghanistan. We will continue to press the Taliban in public and private, to extend equitable and humanitarian treatment to women and girls. We call upon the Taliban to lift its restrictions on the mobility and employment of women and the schooling of girls; we also call upon the Taliban and all factions to abide by internationally-accepted norms of human rights.
  • The United States is neutral toward the various Afghan factions fighting in that country, but our neutrality does not extend to violations of international norms of behavior. We condemn Taliban human rights violations, particularly against women and girls.
  • The United States does not plan to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. We do not plan to recognize any government unless it is broad-based, representative of all Afghans and respects international norms of behavior in human rights, including the human rights of women and girls.
  • The United States has taken a leadership role in the region and in the United Nations to promote peace in Afghanistan. We believe the United Nations is central to the peace process and support the efforts of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the work of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan. We participate in the Group of Six Plus Two (the six countries bordering Afghanistan: Pakistan, Iran Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, plus the U.S. and Russia) in a serious attempt to see how progress can be made toward a peaceful negotiated settlement.
  • The United States has a commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to women and girls of Afghanistan. United States officials play a key role in making the issue of assistance to women in Afghanistan a major focus of the donors’ Afghanistan Support Group. In 1997 the United States government contributed $26.4 million to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program to run a variety of programs that directly benefit Afghan women and girls. This was nearly a quarter of the total funding for the UNHCR and ICRC programs.
  • In 1997 the United States also provided $1.7 million for non-governmental organizations such as CARE and the International Rescue Committee for health and education programs and services. These programs directly benefit women and girls in Afghanistan and in neighboring refugee camps in Pakistan.
  • The United States recently called for an UNHCR investigation of reports of violence against women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. Due to United States efforts, an investigation is now underway. United States funding supports UNHCR procedures to provide protection to women and girls in refugee camps.

New Initiatives

  • The United States is committing up to $2.5 million in new funds for women’s grass roots organizations in Pakistan and for training to improve the skills of women in Afghanistan.
  • In Pakistan, this funding pays for activities such as training health workers and teachers, and training women’s groups to familiarize themselves with and advocate for their legal rights, and to communicate with other organizations, locally and internationally. This training will enable women to provide services in refugee camps, as well as prepare them with skills that they can take with them when they eventually return to Afghanistan. Some of the women have been in these camps for 20 years.
  • In Afghanistan, this training focuses primarily on health such as training local women to be community health workers; training women to be traditional birth attendants; and building the capacity of the local community to deal with basic health issues, particularly diseases that affect children. Funding also supports training women to participate in the development of rural rehabilitation projects. This will allow them to have a say, for example, in determining the location of the water well since the women are the ones who carry the water.

[end of document]

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Iranian Regime's Charm Plus Western Credulity Equals "Diplomatic Success" in Geneva

By Barry Rubin*

October 2, 2009

http://www.gloria-center.org/Gloria/2009/10/diplomatic-success.html


The United States--along with Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany--met with Iran in Geneva and officials, media, and experts proclaim it a success. Was its nuclear program what Iran defused or merely Western pressure?

It is widely claimed that the meeting in Geneva obtained three great achievements toward ending the long-running Iran nuclear arms’ campaign.

The first point is that the talks were conducted in a polite and civil manner. The Iranian delegates did not shout slogans and throw shoes at the Americans.

This is absurd. With typically short memories, observers forget that Iran conducted years of serious talks with all the participants except the United States. But of course these talks were used to stall for time and divide the foreign opposition. Any commitments made were promptly broken.

What is amusing about this point is that it reveals how behind the screen of Political Correctness and respect for all peoples, it is considered a revelation if Iranians don’t act like stereotyped savages. In fact, Iran has a long and successful history of diplomacy imbued in its political culture.

And of course the regime has a strong vested interest in not engaging in furniture-throwing at the meeting. After all, in every other venue it can continue its ideological extremism, repression, sponsorship of terrorism, and so on merely in exchange for a few hours of making nice in Geneva.

The second claimed success is equally hollow. Iran agreed to allow inspections of its hitherto hidden enrichment facility. Again, memories are short. In fact, the Iranian government announced that it would do so before the meeting in the same statement where it admitted the facility existed.

Let’s take a step back and consider the situation. For four years, Iran built and kept hidden the Qom enrichment plant. This is in complete violation of Iran’s treaty commitments and is one more definitive proof—as if one was needed? Well apparently it is—that the Tehran regime is seeking nuclear weapons as fast as possible.

At last, though, Iran got caught. So it basically said: in exchange for keeping this facility and for no punishment for building it we will allow you to do inspections. This is a clever maneuver, not a huge concession. Indeed, it is a victory for Iran.

The third point is the most significant and interesting. Iran has agreed in principle—note that since this implies that once details are discussed the promises will either be less attractive or not implemented at all—to send much of its nuclear fuel from the Natanz enrichment plant—the one we’ve known about--to Russia where it will be further enriched and then sent to France to be converted into fuel, making it far less suitable for making into weapons.

But guess what? And this is important : Iran's ambassador to Britain has denied that Iran agreed to turn over the nuclear fuel. And this has not even been reported in the Iranian media yet.

Get it? Iran is getting credit for a concession that it has not even made yet and probably doesn't intend to make!

And so when I say: The account we are getting of the meeting's significance is too good to be true there's a lot of evidence for that conclusion.

It’s hard to believe otherwise. After all, one must take into context the nature, history, ideology, policies, and leadership of the Tehran regime as well as its immediate need to consolidate power at home and defuse pressure from abroad. If ever there was a situation that seemed ripe for trickery this is it.

But here’s the best argument: To believe that Iran is ready to act sincerely in giving up its nuclear fuel which can be used to make atomic weapons, you have to conclude that the regime’s goal all along has just been to build nuclear energy power plants, not weapons of mass destruction.

From Tehran’s viewpoint, in just about seven hours of talks it made the threat of sanctions go away for months without taking any actual action of significance. Indeed, Iran and those it met with have a common interest: to make the public and confrontational aspects of the problem go away.

U.S. officials said that the issue of repression in Iran was raised at the meeting—probably very much in passing—but that sanctions were barely mentioned. Of course, the Iranians knew all about the sanctions already but the point here is that the tone of the meeting was to downplay pressure and to give the Iranian regime a chance to “go straight.”

The responses of President Barack Obama show clearly his strategy. He will support Iran doing reprocessing in exchange for the regime pursuing only a peaceful nuclear energy option. Remember that this is what Iran has insisted it has been doing all the time and will go on insisting until the day that nuclear weapons are obtained. In a sense, Obama—to use current jargon—is empowering the Iranian narrative.

But consider this. Let's say that the United States, the Europeans, and Iran agree that Tehran is just seeking peaceful nuclear energy and should get it. What happens when some time in 2010 it becomes clear the regime was lying and that it's made dramatic progress toward getting atomic bombs? Won't this make Obama look to be about the most fooled world leader since Nevil Chamberlain waved that piece of paper saying Hitler only wanted western Czechoslovakia and should get it? How would the administration react in that event?

At any rate, what this may well amount to is a plea: Please fool us better. Do a more persuasive job of hiding your true intentions.

That’s not, of course, what Obama and other Western leaders intend. Here’s what Obama says: He created a framework for resolving the issue by affirming that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear power as long as they stick by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By making clear his commitment for all countries in the world to get rid of nuclear weapons he united the international community behind him. That is what made possible the Geneva meeting.

Obama then presented three demands. First, Iran must allow inspections of the Qom facility, which it already has agreed to do. Second, it must build confidence that it is only seeking peaceful nuclear energy. This is to be done by the transfer of uranium to Russia for reprocessing.

He is thus giving Iran a face-saving way out: keep your program but don’t build nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, sanctions are put off and Iran will be able to talk for months about the details of the Russia reprocessing deal. In a separate but related story, the Iranian automaker Khodro announced a deal with the French company Peugeot to make cars for export. Khodro also has such deals with Mercedes-Benz and the Japanese Suzuki company. It doesn’t sound like they are worried about being isolated internationally.

After the Geneva meeting, they don’t need to be.

Here's a good article by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post who seems to be the best journalist in the mainstream media writing on U.S. Middle East policy. Most of what you are reading elsewhere in the mass media is nonsense. Diehl's appropriate headline: "The Coming Failure in Iran."


*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky