Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cornel West: “He Posed As A Progressive And Turned Out To Be Counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”


Exclusive: Cornel West talks Ferguson, Hillary, MSNBC -- and unloads on the failed promise of Barack Obama

By Thomas Frank

August 26, 2014 "ICH" - "Salon" - Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nation’s progress since then.

The conversation ranged from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, and although the picture of the nation was sometimes bleak, our talk ended on a surprising note.

Last time we talked it was almost six years ago. It was a panel discussion The New Yorker magazine had set up, it was in the fall of 2008, so it was while the financial crisis was happening, while it was actually in progress. The economy was crumbling and everybody was panicking. I remember you speaking about the financial crisis in a way that I thought made sense. There was a lot of confusion at the time. People didn’t know where to turn or what was going on.

I also remember, and this is just me I’m talking about, being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president at the time. I don’t know if you and I talked about him on that occasion. But at the time, I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed.

So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

That’s exactly what everyone was saying at the time.
That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.

Yeah. That’s what everyone was saying.

And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.

When you say you got hit hard, are you talking about the personal confrontation you had with him?

I’m just thinking about the vicious attacks of the Obama cheerleaders.

The personal confrontation you had with him is kind of famous. He got angry at you because you were saying he wasn’t progressive enough.

I just looked at him like “C’mon, man. Let the facts speak for themselves. I’m not into this rhetorical exchange.”

Is there anybody who thinks he’s progressive enough today?

Nobody I know. Not even among the progressive liberals. Nobody I know. Part of this, as you can imagine, is that early on there was a strong private-public distinction. People would come to me and say privately, “We see what you’re saying. We think you’re too harsh in how you say it but we agree very much with what you’re saying in private.” In public, no comment. Now, more and more of it spills over in public.

There’s a lot of disillusionment now. My liberal friends included. The phrase that I have heard from more than one person in the last year is they feel like they got played.

That’s true. That’s exactly right. What I hear is that, “He pimped us.” I heard that a zillion times. “He pimped us, brother West.” That’s another way of saying “we got played.”

You remember that enthusiasm in 2008. I’m from Kansas City. He came and spoke in Kansas City and 75,000 people came to see him.

Oh yeah. Well we know there were moments in Portland, Oregon, there were moments in Seattle. He had the country in the palm of his hand in terms of progressive possibilities.

What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything.

The rule of law, oh my God. There’s one law for us and another law if you work on Wall Street.

That’s exactly right. Even with [Attorney General] Eric Holder. Eric Holder won’t touch the Wall Street executives; they’re his friends. He might charge them some money. They want to celebrate. This money is just a tax write-off for these people. There’s no accountability. No answerability. No responsibility that these people have to take at all. The same is true with the Robert Rubin crowd. Obama comes in, he’s got all this populist rhetoric which is wonderful, progressive populist rhetoric which we needed badly. What does he do, goes straight to the Robert Rubin crowd and here comes Larry Summers, here comes Tim Geithner, we can go on and on and on, and he allows them to run things. You see it in the Suskind book, The Confidence Men. These guys are running things, and these are neoliberal, deregulating free marketeers—and poverty is not even an afterthought for them.

They’re the same ones who screwed it up before.

Absolutely.

That was the worst moment [when he brought in the Rubin protégés].

We tried to point that out as soon as he became part of the Rubin stable, part of the Rubin group, and people didn’t want to hear it for the most part. They didn’t want to hear it.

Now it’s six years later and the search for the Grand Bargain has been fruitless. Why does he persist? I shouldn’t be asking you to psychologize him…

I think part of it is just temperament. That his success has been predicated on finding that middle ground. “We’re not black. We’re not white. We’re not rich. We’re not poor. There’s no classes in America. We are all Americans. We’re the American family.” He invoked the American family last week. It’s a lie, brother. You’ve got to be able to tell the truth to the American people. We’re not a family. We’re a people. We’re a nation. And a nation always has divisions. You have to be able to speak to those divisions in such a way that, like FDR, like Lincoln, you’re able to somehow pull out the best of who we are, given the divisions. You don’t try to act as if we have no divisions and we’re just an American family, with the poor getting treated in disgraceful ways and the rich walking off sipping tea, with no accountability at all, and your foreign policy is running amok with Israelis committing war crimes against precious Palestinians and you won’t say a mumbling word about the Palestinian children. What is history going to say about you? Counterfeit! That’s what they’ll say, counterfeit. Not the real thing.

Let’s talk about Ferguson. All I know about it is what I’ve been reading in the newspapers; I haven’t been out there. But I feel like there’s a lot more going on there than this one tragic killing.

Oh, absolutely. I mean, one, we know that this is a systemic thing. This thing has been going on—we can hardly get a word out of the administration in terms of the arbitrary police power. I’ll give you a good example: Carl Dix and I, three years ago, we went to jail over stop and frisk. We had a week-long trial and we were convicted, we were guilty. While the trial was going on, President Obama came into New York and said two things: He said that Michael Bloomberg was a terrific mayor even though he had stopped and frisked over four and a half million since 2002. Then he went onto say that Ed Koch was one of the greatest mayors in the last 50 years. This is right at a time when we’re dealing with stop and frisk, arbitrary police power, and Bloomberg is extending stop and frisk and proud of it. At least Bloomberg is honest about it. Bill De Blasio is just trying to walk a tightrope in this regard. At least Bloomberg was honest about it. He was glad that stop and frisk was in place. When we went to jail he said, “Y’all are wrong. If stop and frisk is stopped, then crime is going to go up…”

I just give you that as an example in terms of arbitrary police power because in Ferguson we’re talking about arbitrary police power, and this particular instance of it has been going on for a long time. The Obama administration has been silent. Completely silent. All of a sudden now, you get this uprising and what is the response? Well, as we know, you send out a statement on the death of brother Robin Williams before you sent out a statement on brother Michael Brown. The family asked for an autopsy at the Federal level, they hold back, so they [the family] have to go and get their own autopsy, and then the federal government finally responds. [Obama] sends Eric, Eric’s on the way out. Eric Holder’s going to be gone by December.

Oh, is he?

Yeah, he’s already said, this is it. He’s concerned about his legacy as if he’s somehow been swinging for black folk ever since he’s been in there. That’s a lie. He’s been silent, too. He’s been relatively silent. He’s made a couple of gestures in regards to the New Jim Crow and the prison-industrial complex, but that’s just lately, on his way out. He was there for six years and didn’t do nothing. See what I mean?

I see exactly what you mean, but I look at the pictures at Ferguson and it looks like it could be anywhere in America, you know.

Absolutely. It looks like it could be New York, Chicago, Atlanta, L.A. It’s like they’re lucky that it hasn’t hit New York, Chicago, L.A. yet, you know.

When they rolled out the militarized police, it frightened people. Something is going on here. It’s not breaking down the way it usually does. People are reacting to this in a different way.

That’s true. It’s a great moment, but let me tell you this though. Because what happens is you got Eric Holder going in trying to create the calm. But you also got Al Sharpton. And when you say the name Al Sharpton, the word integrity does not come to mind. So you got low-quality black leadership. Al Sharpton is who? He’s a cheerleader for Obama.

I haven’t followed him for years; I didn’t know that.

He meets with the president regularly.

I did not know that.

On his show on MSNBC…

I knew he had a show, I just…I guess I don’t watch it enough.

You gotta check that out, brother.

That’s the problem with me, I don’t watch enough TV.

It’s probably good for your soul but you still have to be informed about how decadent things are out here. But, no: MSNBC, state press, it’s all Obama propaganda, and Sharpton is the worst. Sharpton said explicitly, I will never say a critical word about the president under any condition. That’s why he can’t stand what I’m saying. He can’t stand what I do because, for him, it’s an act of racial traitorship to be critical of the president. There’s no prophetic integrity in his leadership.

I understand that. I think a lot of people feel that way. Not just in a racial sense but because Obama’s a Democrat. People feel that way in a partisan sense.

I think that’s true too. You have had some Democrats who’ve had some criticisms of the president. You’ve got some senator that has been critical about his violation of civil liberties and so forth, and rightly so. But Sharpton, and I mention Sharpton because Sharpton is the major black leader who is called on to deal with arbitrary police power. So, Trayvon Martin, what did he do? You got all this black rage down there calling for justice. Has there been justice for Trayvon Martin? Has the Department of Justice done anything for the Trayvon Martin case? None whatsoever. The same is true now with Ferguson. They call Sharpton down. He poses, he postures like he’s so radical. But he is a cheerleader for the Obama administration which means, he’s going to do what he can to filter that rage in neoliberal forms, rather than for truth and justice.

One last thing, where are we going from here? What comes next?

I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep. Thank God for the new wave of young and prophetic leadership, as with Rev. William Barber, Philip Agnew, and others. But look who’s around the presidential corner. Oh my God, here comes another neo-liberal opportunist par excellence. Hillary herself is coming around the corner. It’s much worse. And you say, “My God, we are an empire in decline.” A culture in decay with a political system that’s dysfunctional, youth who are yearning for something better but our system doesn’t provide them democratic venues, and so all we have are just voices in the wilderness and certain truth-tellers just trying to keep alive some memories of when we had some serious, serious movements and leaders.

One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like they’re going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time there’ll be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

It’d be about over then, brother. I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point it’s even too hard to contemplate.

I know, I always like to leave things on a pessimistic note. I’m sorry. It’s just my nature.

It’s not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren’t pessimistic. We’re prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That’s different.


Thomas Frank is a Salon politics and culture columnist. His many books include "What's The Matter With Kansas," "Pity the Billionaire" and "One Market Under God." He is the founding editor of The Baffler magazine.

Copyright © 2014 Salon Media Group, Inc.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Outsiders in Ferguson

from Counterpunch

AUGUST 21, 2014
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14
The American Dispossessed

by KANISHKA CHOWDHURY
Since the outbreak of the protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been a lot of talk in the media and on blogs disparaging “outsiders” who are participating in the protests. These comments echo the official line: for instance, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson referred to those arrested on the night of August 18th as coming from as far away as New York and California, implying that the “trouble” in Ferguson was caused by these outsiders. Likewise, Corporal Justin Wheetley of the Missouri State Highway Patrol asserted that “It is mostly outsiders who are coming in and destroying this peaceful community.” Even The Guardian’s headline on August 19th reads “Ferguson: outsiders spread unrest and unease in pursuit of eclectic aims.”

This distinction being made between “outsiders” and the people of Ferguson, of course, has a precedent in the long history of race relations in this country. After all, Southern whites during the civil rights movement had a standard line that outsiders should not interfere in their matters. The Freedom Riders, for example, were commonly described by Southerners as “outside agitators.” But, even more disturbingly, claiming this distinction between those who live in Ferguson and those who are “outsiders” ignores or suppresses a basic reality about the similar economic and social conditions that exist in so many minority communities across the country, eliding the bonds of solidarity that tie together people across this nation. Indeed, the economic disparities between Ferguson and the neighboring white communities, the violent behavior of the predominantly white police force toward the black residents of Ferguson, and the complete invisibility of such communities in the mainstream media and in the consciousness of national politicians is instantly recognizable to most of us who do not reside in Ferguson. Moreover, the reality of what is means to be black and poor in this nation is also recognizable to the “outsiders” who are in Ferguson. This means that these outsiders know and experience the connections between race and economics; they know about the absence of employment opportunities that offer a living wage; and they live the effects of a lack of affordable housing and health care. They also know that they are liable to be stopped, beaten, or in extreme cases, shot by police officers, and that many cops see them, as they saw Michael Brown, purely and simply as black bodies to be violently policed, regulated, and controlled. These outsiders’ lives are tied to the destinies of the people of Ferguson and to those of all of the people around the nation who live in similar circumstances.

If we are seeking true outsiders in Ferguson, then we don’t have to look very far. As we have seen in the last few days, it is Governor Nixon, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, Mayor James Knowles, and the legions of other people in power in the state of Missouri who are the true outsiders. Indeed, the predominantly white power brokers in Ferguson and in the state of Missouri have demonstrated the irony of the insider/outsider binary. Their insider status has not prevented them from being completely surprised by the scale of the protests. They have shown that they have neither a strategy to deal with the people’s response nor a clue about what “justice” really means, other than reciting the usual pieties about “coming together.” President Obama and Attorney General Holder have done little better, offering predictable and banal remarks that obviate any attempt to link the events in Ferguson to the widespread economic disparities that exist across the nation. Predictably, the President asks us to “heal,” but we get no indication of how people are supposed to heal in the face of continued violence directed against them. Perhaps it is foolish to expect those in power to acknowledge the connections between race, capitalist exploitation, and police violence. However, if the response of the true outsiders demonstrates anything, it is that we ordinary people can’t expect those in power—the true outsiders—to solve our problems.

One could argue that the fact that there are so-called outsiders in Ferguson is a sign that a critical constellation of the dispossessed is possible in this nation, that even as the Occupy movement demonstrated, resistance and revolution must start somewhere and will include insiders and outsiders. And the outsiders should include those of us who live in relative privilege, lucky enough not to endure the oppressive conditions and the constant indignities of everyday marginality. Aren’t we all part of and responsible for what is happening in Ferguson? As soon as “normalcy” returns to Ferguson, will we go back to our lives, waiting for the next insurrection, and then lighting up Twitter and newspaper blogs with our comments of outrage? If we believe, along with Walter Benjamin, that the oppressed exist in a permanent state of emergency, then we must cease to be outsiders and join those who are dispossessed in whatever way we can in their struggle for equality.

Kanishka Chowdhury is Professor of English and Director of American Culture and Difference at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of The New India: Citizenship, Subjectivity, and Economic Liberalization.

Palestinians Live What Israelis Fear

from The Dish
AUG 20 2014 @ 10:54AM
by Freddie deBoer


The emails filling my box about Israel function as a remarkable document. They are a record of seemingly reasonable people who have completely lost track of basic moral reasoning. And that represents itself nowhere more consistently or powerfully than here: treating what could possibly happen to Israelis as more important than what already is happening to Palestinians. It’s such a profoundly bizarre way to think, that only this maddening issue could bring it about.

“Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist!”

Indeed– and Israel not only denies Palestine’s right to exist, it has achieved the denial of a Palestinian state in fact. What kind of broken moral calculus could cause someone to think that being told your existing state should not exist is the same as not having a state of your own?

“Israelis will become second class citizens!”

Arab Israelis already are second class citizens, and Palestinians in the territories no citizens at all. They are denied freedom of movement, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. They are systematically discriminated against for jobs, especially in government. They lack adequate representation in government. Their leaders are kicked out of Knesset meetings for questioning the IDF. Racist, ultra-nationalist mobs marched through their streets, chanting “death to Arabs!” Their weddings to Jews are the subject of vicious protests. They live side-by-side with racist teenagers who unashamedly trumpet ethnic warfare. They must live in a society where men like Avigdor Lieberman, an explicit racist and literal fascist, serves in a position of power and prominence. Where Meir Kahane is memorialized by groups receiving state funds, where the JDL’s thugs march, where Lehava preaches against miscegenation. A society where the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset openly calls for ethnic cleansing. Palestinians live in a society where a tiny fraction of government funding is spent on their communities or their people. Where human rights organizations like B’Tselem are oppressed by the state. Where they have to endure Kafkaesque application processes to prevent their homes from being bulldozed, if they are given that opportunity at all. Where they live under fear of reactionary, fundamentalist Orthodox settlers who call for death to the Palestinian race.

“Israel is diplomatically isolated unfairly!”

Palestine is diplomatically isolated in a way Israel cannot imagine. The United States uses its veto power to unilaterally deny even the possibility of full membership status for Palestine in the United Nations. The US has used its foreign aid programs and incredible diplomatic leverage to marginalize Palestine and protect Israel. Israel enjoys the protection of the most diplomatically powerful country on earth; Palestine cannot even claw out formal recognition of its borders.

“Israelis will be rounded up and put into camps!”
Palestinians are already in camps, open-air prison camps like Gaza, tiny, beleaguered cantons that lack access to drinkable water or transportation infrastructure, blockaded from receiving food and essential supplies, prevented from fishing their own waters, their movements harshly restricted, forced to go through humiliating and threatening checkpoints to get to work. They travel in segregated buses. They are frequently denied access to Eastern Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian commercial and cultural life. They endure constant calls for “Greater Israel,” the call for ethnic cleansing to establish a unitary ethno-nationalist state. They live in unrecognized villages in the Negev and the North which the Israel state provides no services for. They, unlike Israeli Jews, have no “right to return.” They endured the Nakba.

“Israelis will be killed by terrorist violence!”

Palestinians are killed by terrorist violence. They are subject to spasms of outrageous violence, as the IDF kills them by the hundreds with bombs, tanks, and guns. The vast majority are civilians, many children. Their homes are destroyed, their neighborhoods demolished, their entire villages wiped out. Their hospitals and schools and universities and places of worship are bombed by Israel. Palestinians are subject to routine violence and degradation from IDF troops, who make light of this fact on social media. They are at risk from right-wing Israeli mobs who attack them at their protests and deny them their rights to protest. Their nonviolent protesters are thrown into prison. Their homes are bulldozed out of revenge.

Do I need to go on?

Everything that defenders of Israel insist will happen if Palestinians gain power, Palestinians are now enduring, or worse. Every humanitarian disaster that you imagine will occur with the creation of a Palestinian state is happening now. It’s just happening to the people of Palestine. And so this is the question for my many, many critical emailers: why do you shed more tears for what you imagine might happen to Israel than for what is happening to Palestinians?

Israel is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. Its people enjoy prosperity and security. The most powerful country on earth protects and enables it no matter what its behavior. In every meaningful sense– in terms of physical security, in terms of functioning government and democracy, in terms of human and political rights, in terms of economics and employment, in terms of respect and protection for culture and religion, in terms of life expectancy and health, in terms of education and happiness, in terms of pure self-determination– Israel is one of the most well-off nations on earth, and Palestine, one of the most beleaguered. So then why calls for the defense of Israel so outnumber calls for the defense of Palestine? The only answer that makes sense is this: the belief, whether subconscious or knowing, that an Israeli life is worth more than a Palestinian life. That is the enduring, tacit, obvious belief that underlies this entire discussion, the thing people think but do not say.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tomgram: Patrick Cockburn, How to Ensure a Thriving Caliphate


Posted by Patrick Cockburn at 8:08am, August 21, 2014.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.


Think of the new “caliphate” of the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's gift to the world (with a helping hand from the Saudis and other financiers of extremism in the Persian Gulf). How strange that they get so little credit for its rise, for the fact that the outlines of the Middle East, as set up by Europe’s colonial powers in the wake of World War I, are being swept aside in a tide of blood.

Had George and Dick not decided on their “cakewalk” in Iraq, had they not raised the specter of nuclear destruction and claimed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was somehow linked to al-Qaeda and so to the 9/11 attacks, had they not sent tens of thousands of American troops into a burning, looted Baghdad (“stuff happens”), disbanded the Iraqi army, built military bases all over that country, and generally indulged their geopolitical fantasies about dominating the oil heartlands of the planet for eternity, ISIS would have been an unlikely possibility, no matter the ethnic and religious tensions in the region. They essentially launched the drive that broke state power there and created the kind of vacuum that a movement like ISIS was so horrifically well suited to fill.

All in all, it’s a remarkable accomplishment to look back on. In September 2001, when George and Dick launched their “Global War on Terror” to wipe out -- so they then claimed -- “terrorist networks” in up to 60 countries, or as they preferred to put it, “drain the swamp,” there were scattered bands of jihadis globally, while al-Qaeda had a couple of camps in Afghanistan and a sprinkling of supporters elsewhere. Today, in the wake of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and an air power intervention in Libya, after years of drone (and non-drone) bombing campaigns across the Greater Middle East, jihadist groups are thriving in Yemen and Pakistan, spreading through Africa (along with the U.S. military), and ISIS has taken significant parts of Iraq and Syria right up to the Lebanese border for its own bailiwick and is still expanding murderously, despite a renewed American bombing campaign that may only strengthen that movement in the long run.

Has anyone covered this nightmare better than the world’s least embedded reporter, Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent? Not for my money. He’s had the canniest, clearest-eyed view of developments in the region for years now. As it happens, when he publishes a new book on the Middle East (the last time was 2008), he makes one of his rare appearances at TomDispatch. This month, his latest must-read work, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, is out. Today, this website has an excerpt from its first chapter on why the war on terror was such a failure (and why, if Washington was insistent on invading someplace, it probably should have chosen Saudi Arabia). It includes a special introductory section written just for TomDispatch. Thanks go to his publisher, OR Books. Tom

Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed
The Underrated Saudi Connection
By Patrick Cockburn


[This essay is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, with special thanks to his publisher, OR Books. The first section is a new introduction written for TomDispatch.]

There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis. It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

The reality of U.S. policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well. This has now happened.

By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the U.S. has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.

Using the al-Qa'ida Label

The sharp increase in the strength and reach of jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq has generally been unacknowledged until recently by politicians and media in the West. A primary reason for this is that Western governments and their security forces narrowly define the jihadist threat as those forces directly controlled by al-Qa‘ida central or “core” al-Qa‘ida. This enables them to present a much more cheerful picture of their successes in the so-called war on terror than the situation on the ground warrants.

In fact, the idea that the only jihadis to be worried about are those with the official blessing of al-Qa‘ida is naïve and self-deceiving. It ignores the fact, for instance, that ISIS has been criticized by the al-Qa‘ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for its excessive violence and sectarianism. After talking to a range of Syrian jihadi rebels not directly affiliated with al-Qa‘ida in southeast Turkey earlier this year, a source told me that “without exception they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the U.S.”

Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of U.S. policy aims. In Syria, the Americans backed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build up a “Southern Front” based in Jordan that would be hostile to the Assad government in Damascus, and simultaneously hostile to al-Qa‘ida-type rebels in the north and east. The powerful but supposedly moderate Yarmouk Brigade, reportedly the planned recipient of anti-aircraft missiles from Saudi Arabia, was intended to be the leading element in this new formation. But numerous videos show that the Yarmouk Brigade has frequently fought in collaboration with JAN, the official al-Qa‘ida affiliate. Since it was likely that, in the midst of battle, these two groups would share their munitions, Washington was effectively allowing advanced weaponry to be handed over to its deadliest enemy. Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qa‘ida in Syria.

The name al-Qa‘ida has always been applied flexibly when identifying an enemy. In 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, as armed Iraqi opposition to the American and British-led occupation mounted, U.S. officials attributed most attacks to al-Qa‘ida, though many were carried out by nationalist and Baathist groups. Propaganda like this helped to persuade nearly 60% of U.S. voters prior to the Iraq invasion that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and those responsible for 9/11, despite the absence of any evidence for this. In Iraq itself, indeed throughout the entire Muslim world, these accusations have benefited al-Qa‘ida by exaggerating its role in the resistance to the U.S. and British occupation.

Precisely the opposite PR tactics were employed by Western governments in 2011 in Libya, where any similarity between al-Qa‘ida and the NATO-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was played down. Only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qa‘ida “core” of Osama bin Laden were deemed to be dangerous. The falsity of the pretense that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in direct contact with al-Qa‘ida was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by Western governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

Imagining al-Qa'ida as the Mafia

Al-Qa‘ida is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case. For a five-year period after 1996, it did have cadres, resources, and camps in Afghanistan, but these were eliminated after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Subsequently, al-Qa‘ida’s name became primarily a rallying cry, a set of Islamic beliefs, centering on the creation of an Islamic state, the imposition of sharia, a return to Islamic customs, the subjugation of women, and the waging of holy war against other Muslims, notably the Shia, who are considered heretics worthy of death. At the center of this doctrine for making war is an emphasis on self-sacrifice and martyrdom as a symbol of religious faith and commitment. This has resulted in using untrained but fanatical believers as suicide bombers, to devastating effect.

It has always been in the interest of the U.S. and other governments that al-Qa‘ida be viewed as having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or like the mafia in America. This is a comforting image for the public because organized groups, however demonic, can be tracked down and eliminated through imprisonment or death. More alarming is the reality of a movement whose adherents are self-recruited and can spring up anywhere.

Osama bin Laden’s gathering of militants, which he did not call al-Qa‘ida until after 9/11, was just one of many jihadi groups 12 years ago. But today its ideas and methods are predominant among jihadis because of the prestige and publicity it gained through the destruction of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and its demonization by Washington as the source of all anti-American evil. These days, there is a narrowing of differences in the beliefs of jihadis, regardless of whether or not they are formally linked to al-Qa‘ida central.

Unsurprisingly, governments prefer the fantasy picture of al-Qa‘ida because it enables them to claim victories when it succeeds in killing its better known members and allies. Often, those eliminated are given quasi-military ranks, such as “head of operations,” to enhance the significance of their demise. The culmination of this heavily publicized but largely irrelevant aspect of the “war on terror” was the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011. This enabled President Obama to grandstand before the American public as the man who had presided over the hunting down of al-Qa‘ida’s leader. In practical terms, however, his death had little impact on al-Qa‘ida-type jihadi groups, whose greatest expansion has occurred subsequently.

Ignoring the Roles of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The key decisions that enabled al-Qa‘ida to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a member of the Saudi elite, and his father had been a close associate of the Saudi monarch. Citing a CIA report from 2002, the official 9/11 report says that al-Qa‘ida relied for its financing on “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”

The report’s investigators repeatedly found their access limited or denied when seeking information in Saudi Arabia. Yet President George W. Bush apparently never even considered holding the Saudis responsible for what happened. An exit of senior Saudis, including bin Laden relatives, from the U.S. was facilitated by the U.S. government in the days after 9/11. Most significant, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the attackers and Saudi Arabia were cut and never published, despite a promise by President Obama to do so, on the grounds of national security.

In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. But despite this private admission, the U.S. and Western Europeans continued to remain indifferent to Saudi preachers whose message, spread to millions by satellite TV, YouTube, and Twitter, called for the killing of the Shia as heretics. These calls came as al-Qa‘ida bombs were slaughtering people in Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. A sub-headline in another State Department cable in the same year reads: “Saudi Arabia: Anti-Shi’ism as Foreign Policy?” Now, five years later, Saudi-supported groups have a record of extreme sectarianism against non-Sunni Muslims.

Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence in the shape of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the other parent of al-Qa‘ida, the Taliban, and jihadi movements in general. When the Taliban was disintegrating under the weight of U.S. bombing in 2001, its forces in northern Afghanistan were trapped by anti-Taliban forces. Before they surrendered, hundreds of ISI members, military trainers, and advisers were hastily evacuated by air. Despite the clearest evidence of ISI’s sponsorship of the Taliban and jihadis in general, Washington refused to confront Pakistan, and thereby opened the way for the resurgence of the Taliban after 2003, which neither the U.S. nor NATO has been able to reverse.

The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.

The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa‘ida and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the U.S., closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.

In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qa‘ida-type groups were numerous and powerful.

In other words, the “war on terror,” the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.

Patrick Cockburn is Middle East correspondent for the Independent and worked previously for the Financial Times. He has written three books on Iraq’s recent history as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy, and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009. His forthcoming book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, is now available exclusively from OR Books. This excerpt (with an introductory section written for TomDispatch) is taken from that book.

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Copyright 2014 Patrick Cockburn

Despite ravages of war, Gaza supports armed resistance to lift the siege

from Mondoweiss.org

Dan Cohen on August 20, 2014 22
Dima and Kamal Qadan display bombs dropped onto their home by Israeli warplanes. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

Hours before the latest ceasefire was set to expire last night, Israel resumed attacks on the Gaza Strip and Hamas again began to launch rockets. Both sides blamed each other for the failed ceasefire. Five missiles hit the al-Dalou family home in Gaza City, killing the wife and three-year-old daughter of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, and injuring 18. The al-Dalou family was targeted in 2012 when an airstrike destroyed their home.

With airstrikes throughout Gaza, 22 have died and 100 wounded since the collapse of the most recent ceasefire. Rockets have landed as far into Israel as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, demonstrating Hamas’ unabated capability to continue attacks.

While Israel’s assault on Gaza has now claimed at least 2,030 lives and caused more than 10,302 injuries, along with entire neighborhoods destroyed, frustration with the status quo has boiled over into near-total support for armed resistance. As exhausted as they are with the war, everyone I spoke to across Gaza said they were willing to endure another round of fighting if it meant an improvement in the long term humanitarian situation. Beyond that, no one seemed willing to take Israel’s assault lying down.

Kamal Qadan’s family barely escaped from Rafah during the Black Friday massacre, when 120 civilians were killed after Israel invoked the Hannibal Directive — the order to conduct an all-out assault on the circumference of an area where a soldier was supposedly captured. As we sat in his home, his grandchildren played with bombs that Israeli jets had dropped through their roof. Israel had attacked them and their neighbors with F-16s, tanks, artillery, Apache helicopters, bulldozers, and snipers.

“Our life is hard under the siege,” Qadan told me. “And it would be insane not to lift it after this disaster that we lived during this war. But I don’t think it will be lifted. That’s why we need to go on and fight and be steadfast and even pay double the price if we have to so it can be lifted.”

Israeli bombs continue to rock Gaza as I write and more deaths are expected tonight. Yet the ability of Hamas to continue launching rockets and the willingness of Gazans to endure has made it clear that no military solution exists for Netanyahu and his inner circle. Gaza’s beleaguered population will accept nothing less than the lifting of the siege they have endured for almost eight years. Until then, they are left to wonder which one of them

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WEST OF EDEN

from Haaretz
by Chemi Shalev
American Jewish leaders fiddle while Israeli democracy burns
Jews fight for freedom, equality and minority rights in America but exempt themselves from the same battle in Israel.
By Chemi Shalev | Aug. 19, 2014 | 6:59 PM | 4


Members of right-wing organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014. Photo by Ofer Vaknin


Many American Jewish organizations have full-fledged offices in Israel, while others employ part-time representatives. Almost all have lookouts on the Israeli scene and contacts in high places in the Israeli government, not to mention numerous relatives and close personal friends.

So American Jewish leaders don’t need author David Grossman to realize that “nationalism, fanaticism and racism have erupted all at once”, imposing a “dictatorship of fear” in the public arena.

And they didn’t have to wait for Professor Zeev Sternhell to opine that Israel 2014 is beginning to look like France, 1940, that “Israeli democracy reached a new low point during the recent war” or that Israel’s universal values “are constantly being eroded.”

And they should find it superfluous to have someone describe the “post-democratic camp” that B Michael wrote about, which “wants to break free of the foibles of democracy, sees civil rights as a nuisance and regards racism as a welcome trait.”

Because by virtue of their strong interest and deep immersion in Israeli life, presumably, American Jewish leaders must be fully aware of the evil winds blowing in the Israeli public arena; of the rising intolerance, racism and xenophobia; of the efforts inside and outside the Knesset to stifle free speech and to inhibit freedom of the press; of the spreading use of violence and intimidation to instill fear among those who would stray from the government-inspired right wing line; of the ongoing delegitimization of liberal values and human rights and the organizations that safeguard them; of the increasingly vile and abusive language used in the public sphere and on social media against divergent views; of the growing official and unofficial intolerance and incitement directed at Israel’s Arab minority.

But then the question must be asked: If they know all of this, why are they staying so silent? Why are they not speaking out? Why are these representatives of America’s Jewish millions not standing up for the values of tolerance, pluralism and democratic freedoms that that they hold so dear when it comes to their own lives in America? Why do they enlist in the defense of Jews everywhere around the globe - except those who live in their dear beloved Israel?

Just imagine the outcry from American Jewish leaders if hundreds of white supremacist Christian protesters came to a wedding of a mixed couple somewhere in the U.S. to take part in a court-sponsored demonstration in which the most popular chant was “Death to the Jews”. Try to conjure the howls of protests that would accompany a public call by a senior U.S. cabinet member for a blanket boycott of Muslim shop-owners who closed their shops in solidarity with the people of Iraq during the Gulf Wars. Think of the torrents of protest letters that would be published if an American university dared to reprimand a professor who expressed sympathy not only for Palestinian losses during the recent Gaza fighting, but for Jewish ones as well. Visualize the mass sit-ins that would be organized in front of office whose owners dared to fire Jews because they expressed support for Israel on their private Facebook pages. Envision the dramatic calls for tougher police action against roving gangs of hooligans who go Jew-hunting in the streets of lower Manhattan - or Istanbul or Djakarta, if you prefer - whenever another Jew was convicted of a serious crime. Think of the hunger strikes and days of mourning that would be declared if Congress tried to legislate the supremacy of Christianity, the diminishment of minority rights, the enfeeblement of the Supreme Court.

American Jews would go nuts, and rightly so.

Yet all of these and other phenomena that have developed gradually in recent years - and at an alarming pace since the start of Operation Protective Edge - have been met with a wall of silence by most American Jewish organizations. There have been no protests, no emergency summits, no call to arms, not even a request for more information or further investigation. Nothing but the sounds of silence.

There are many explanations for this muteness, ranging from the reasonable to the absurd to the truly disturbing. It could be, though it’s highly unlikely, that American Jewish organizations are thoroughly engaged in defending Israel against its external foes now and are simply awaiting the end of the war in order to let loose on its internal demons. Perhaps they take the word of Israeli government ministers, on this as in all other matters, who claim that all this talk of deteriorating democracy is just trumped up leftist hysteria amplified by the liberal MSM. Possibly, American Jewish leaders realize that something wicked this way comes, but are afraid to speak out for fear that they themselves will be criticized and cut off from the friends in high places and ultimately described as “fair-weather friends”, at best, or as outright traitors, at worst, as Israeli dissenters are. Maybe they think that in the shadow of all the meshugas in the Middle East, Israel’s transgressions are minor.

And some American Jewish leaders might actually agree with many of Israel’s current political leaders and citizens who have given up on a liberal and multicultural Western-style Israel and now support an ethno-centric pseudo-democratic garrison state instead. Some might believe, like too many Israelis, that left wing and liberal critics of Israel should indeed be denounced, censured and ostracized. After all, didn’t the Conference of Presidents recently reject the membership application of J-Street for those exact same reasons?

American Jewish leaders know how to identify crimes of hate and prejudice from a million miles away, but for some reasons they go deaf, blind and mute when it comes to the same offences in Israel. They have gotten so used to playing Israel’s fiddle, that they can’t bring themselves to shout, “Fire!” when Israeli democracy is burning down.

But these explanations do not provide an excuse. The American Jewish community knows from its head to its kishkes what it is like to live as a religious minority. It has stood at the forefront of all the good fights for freedom and equality and against oppression and discrimination in America for over a hundred years, and it has done so both as a matter of Jewish justice as well as self-preservation. On this matter, American Jews cannot hide behind their staple “we don’t intervene because we don’t live there” routine. When it comes to the preservation of freedom and the entrenchment of equality and tolerance, the traditional roles between Israel and the greatest Diaspora community are actually reversed: it is the American Jewish community which must be a light unto Zion.

American Jews cannot ignore this battle or shirk away from it: in this war, there will be no exemptions for college students or conscientious objectors. They must fight on behalf of their Israeli brothers and sisters, but also for themselves. If they don’t speak up soon, they could wake up one day to an Israel that even its most ardent supporters will find hard to defend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Latin American Leaders Are Standing Up To Israel

The frostier their relations are with the US, the more likely they are to sympathize with the Palestinians

By Laura Carlsen

August 18, 2014 "ICH" - "Al Jazeera America" --Since the Israeli offensive against Gaza began, images of Palestinian children murdered in their homes and schools and bombs exploding in neighborhoods have outraged people around the globe. Many governments have followed the United States, making empty declarations against the violence, as if the death dealing were equal and not overwhelmingly of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli bombs and bullets.

But as the U.S. government backpedals to reconcile its unconditional support of Israel with basic principles of human rights and Europe waffles, one region stands out in its opposition to the siege of Gaza: Latin America. Leaders from across the region have condemned the Israel Defense Forces’ attacks on Gaza as excessive and unfair.

“I think what’s happening in the Gaza Strip is dangerous,” Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff told the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. “I don’t think it’s genocide, but I think it’s a massacre.”

Chile, currently a member of the U.N. Security Council, stated that the Israeli government “does not respect the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law.”

Uruguayan President José Mujica condemned the attacks in a weekly radio show. “The loss of perspective in the response is undermining Israel’s prestige and, I think, sullies the marvelous history of the Jewish people. Hatred and revenge do not work to build civilization,” he said. Bolivia’s Evo Morales went further, saying, “Israel does not guarantee the principle of respect for life and the basic right to live in harmony and peace in the international community,” adding that Israel was “passing onto the list of terrorist states.”

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa joined the criticisms and canceled a planned official visit to Israel later this year.

In addition, at a recent meeting the regional bloc Mercosur issued a statement condemning “the disproportionate use of force on the part of the Israeli armed forces in the Gaza Strip, force which has almost exclusively affected civilians, including many women and children,” while criticizing Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians. Mercosur urged “an immediate lifting of the blockade that is affecting the Gaza population, so that the free movement of people, food, medicine and humanitarian aid can flow freely in and out, both by land and sea” and “an immediate and durable cease-fire.”

Louder than words

The declarations didn’t mince words. But what really called attention to the region’s stance were their governments’ actions. So far, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel, and Venezuela suspended diplomatic relations.
This drew the ire of Israeli officials. The government blamed Brazil for leading the pack and called the South American regional leader “a diplomatic dwarf.” The Israeli reaction started to look like the behavior of a bully in the schoolyard when Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor added that Brazil was “an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions” and through a clumsy non sequitur recalled the nation’s 7-1 loss in the World Cup just in case the previous insults didn’t sting enough.

And yet the Latin American position wasn’t entirely surprising. Latin American nations have historically shown their support for the Palestinians. In a recent column in El País, Peruvian writer Diego Garcia-Sayan points out that Latin America has defended the Palestinians at key moments in history. He notes that Latin American nations called for withdrawal from occupied territories in the 1967 Six-Day War and drew up what would become Resolution 242. In recent years, nearly all Latin American have recognized the Palestinian state.
A major factor in the forthright tone of current criticism of Israel, though, is Latin America’s relatively newfound independence from U.S. foreign policy. For the first time, a majority of the continent isn’t afraid to offend its northern neighbor.

Country by country, Latin America still breaks along geopolitical fault lines on the Palestinian issue, as on most other foreign policy issues. The nations most tightly tied to the U.S. — Mexico and Colombia, for example — have had muted responses, while center-left governments have come out strong in opposition to Israeli bombings and the occupation of Gaza.

The list of Latin American nations that refuse to recognize the Palestinian state follows to the letter the list of nations with the strongest military and economic ties to the United States: Colombia, Mexico and Panama. These countries receive significant amounts of Israeli arms, which reached at least $107 million in sales to the region in 2012, often with U.S. aid. In the November 2012 vote to admit Palestine to the U.N. as a nonmember observer state, Panama voted no, and Paraguay, Colombia and Guatemala abstained.

Today counter hegemony movements, new regional organizations, like the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, that do not include the United States and a coming of age in global affairs have combined to make Latin America a leading voice. The fact that it has been one of the most economically dynamic regions — with emerging economies, a BRICS member and growth rates that compare very favorably with crisis-bound developed countries’ — doesn’t hurt either.

That’s why the Israeli government lashed out in response to the withdrawal of the Latin American ambassadors. The move sets a dangerous example. The southern countries broke out of the historical and ideological confines that equate any criticism of Israel as an attack on its right to exist and an affront to the U.S. and acted on the basis of human rights and international law. By so doing, Latin America sent a double message: that it supports the Palestinians and it will no longer render diplomatic tribute to the United States.

A Latin America freed from U.S. dictums has the capacity, if not to isolate a wayward state, at least to send a powerful message of opprobrium.

Hopefully, other nations will see the example and follow suit.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas program of the Center for International Policy in Mexico City. She is a frequent commentator on Latin American relations and an international consultant on gender and foreign policy issues.