Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation discusses the merger of Israel’s Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu parties; why it seems like all the Iran war talk was just to distract from the Palestine issue; how “facts on the ground” have made a two-state solution impossible; and proposals to change Israel’s flag from a Jewish star to a symbol more befitting the diverse population.
Scott Horton Interviews Sheldon Richman
The Scott Horton Show
October 29, 2012
Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s the Scott Horton Show. I named it after myself, really. My website is scotthorton.org. I keep all my interview archives there, more than 2500 of them now going back to 2003, and you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at /scotthortonshow.
Now we head over to sheldonfreeassociation.blogspot.com, which I think if you just go to sheldronrichman.com it’ll forward you on anyway. It’s the blog of my good friend Sheldon Richman, senior something or other at the Future of Freedom Foundation. How’s it going?
Sheldon Richman: It’s going fine. And you’re right, if you just put in sheldonrichman.com you’ll get there.
Scott Horton: Yeah, there you go. Well why don’t you just change the URL to sheldonrichman.com?
Sheldon Richman: Well, blogspot, you know, gives you that.
Scott Horton: Oh, I see. Yeah.
Sheldon Richman: But I created the domain and that lets me make it an alias or something like that. I don’t understand this stuff.
Scott Horton: I get it. Well, hey, at least you own the URL to your own name dot com. I don’t. Some other guy’s got it, and he will never sell it. And I talked to him about it.
Sheldon Richman: But it’s not the real Scott Horton, I take it.
Scott Horton: He’s a newspaper man from Oklahoma and he’s owned scotthorton.com since 1995 when it first went on sale, so…
Sheldon Richman: Okay.
Scott Horton: Yeah, and he ain’t giving it up. So I got dot org, even though I’m not really an org very much. I’m more of an individual.
Sheldon Richman: Yeah.
Scott Horton: Actually that’s not true. I am a legal fiction. I’m an LLC. Does that make me an org? You want to be on my board of directors?
Sheldon Richman: Why wouldn’t that make you a com? I don’t know.
Scott Horton: I don’t know. I wonder if I could get dot net somehow. Anyway. I’m sorry, I’m wasting your time.
Sheldon, I want to ask you about what the hell is going on in Israeli politics, and I know you know a lot about Israeli politics, and, you know, of course, the role Israeli politics plays in American politics, but, so, tell me about Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party’s merger with his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, which I’m sure I pronounced that wrong. It means Israel Our Home. I’m not sure why they don’t just translate it, but anyway. What does this mean? Is this a big deal, these two parties merging together? I mean, they’re already in a coalition, right?
Sheldon Richman: Yeah, that’s true. Avigdor is the foreign minister. And they’re saying it’s not an outright merger. It’s a merger of the lists for the next election but not a merger of the two parties. I’m not sure exactly what that distinction means, but they are saying that. Avigdor, of course, is known as being rather a hardliner on the Palestinians and the Arabs in general. He’s got quite a colorful history. He at one time a few years ago was recommending that Arabs and Israeli Jews be completely separated, including the Arabs who have been living in Israel continuously since, you know, before 1948 and right through. Then he backed off of that. So, you know, it’s hard to know where he stands at any given moment, but he’s hardly one of the people you think of when you think about possible reconciliation and people sitting down and talking about cooperation and putting all this violent nonsense behind them. So it’s hard to say. You know, one bit of speculation is that Netanyahu did this so he’ll look like a moderate by comparison.
Scott Horton: (laughs) Yeah.
Sheldon Richman: Except he’s now joined with him. I mean, they used to be able to say, "Well, look, he’s not a Lieberman." But now he’s teamed up with Lieberman, so maybe it cuts the other way, that people won’t be able to say he looks like a moderate by comparison anymore since he’s, you know, since they’ve teamed up. There’s also speculation that this will embolden the parties that are more pro-peace, you know, the centrist and left parties, because they’ll try to rise to the occasion now that you have this coalition.
Scott Horton: But who’s left to rise for peace when the Labor party is run by Ehud Barak, the defense minister?
Sheldon Richman: Well, there’s – does Kadima exist, you know, the former Likud partner – that didn’t last very long. They’re sort of a kind of a centrist party that, again, by comparison would look better than Likud.
Scott Horton: Yeah, they split – that was Sharon’s party. He split off from Likud when they had a disagreement over the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, or, well –
Sheldon Richman: Right. Right.
Scott Horton: – the moving of the settlers out of Gaza and the turning of it into a giant prison.
Sheldon Richman: Well, that’s true. Which reminds me, one way to judge Lieberman is that Sharon – he was too much for Sharon. Sharon fired him from the cabinet. (laughs) So that gives you a sense of how far out Lieberman is, if Sharon couldn’t tolerate him.
Scott Horton: So, now, I’m trying to remember. Oh, it was Daniel Levy (lee-vee), or Levy (leh-vee), Levy (lee-vee). He had written this thing back in, what, ’09, called “The Israel of the Three Likuds.” And it was about Kadima, Labor and Likud and how they’re basically all Likud now. The Labor party really has moved that far to the right under the leadership of Ehud Barak. And he wasn’t even bringing up at that point this Israel Our Home party. But they’re like really hardcore secular rightwing nationalist types.
Sheldon Richman: Right.
Scott Horton: And so now it’s Israel of the four Likuds, I guess. And then, so is there anyone else, or is Kadima, do you think that there’s much hope that Kadima could actually, you know, fill that role of the more moderate peace-oriented party? I mean, Sharon’s still in his coma, thank God.
Sheldon Richman: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I don’t know whether Kadima’s in any shape whatsoever to do anything. Haaretz was saying at the time that this story broke about the merging of the lists –
Scott Horton: That’s the liberal daily in Tel Aviv there, Haaretz.
Sheldon Richman: Yes. And there was a column by Ari Shavit, who was saying that – well, I can read a line from this. He says, "This deck shuffling maneuver will repel both moderate voters and Mizrahim," which is the Jews of Middle East origin. So they may be, you know, completely grossed out by this and join forces in opposition, so it could give new life to, you know, what are regarded as sort of centrist parties, which I suppose aren’t as bad on, you know, the Palestinian question.
You know, nobody seems to know. There’s all this kind of speculation. The merger gets a pretty bad review from Shavit. He talks about how, you know, people will say, "Well, at least this group will be able to govern." But, as he puts it, yeah, it’ll be “governability of the jackboot kind." So he’s not looking forward to this.
Scott Horton: Yeah. Mm. Well, you know, I wonder if power has (laughs) moderated this guy, Avigdor Lieberman, because of course before he was foreign minister he would say things like, "Well, maybe if Mubarak," who of course was his most loyal slave, right? "If Mubarak doesn’t like it, maybe we should just bomb the Aswan Dam," meaning –
Sheldon Richman: Right. Right.
Scott Horton: – flood Cairo.
Sheldon Richman: And he had to apologize, you know, over that sort of stuff. I guess he was forced into apologizing. It’s just not the sort of stuff you’re supposed to say. (laughs)
Scott Horton: That’s pretty hardcore though. And, you know, Martin Peretz, who I would characterize as a neofascist, characterized this guy as a neofascist.
Sheldon Richman: Yeah.
Scott Horton: And that’s pretty bad, when the neofascists call you a neofascist. Then you’re like pretty bad on some issues, right?
Sheldon Richman: Right. Like I said, when you’re too much for Sharon and Peretz and some others, you’re really accomplishing something. That’s really saying something. And now this reflects of course on Netanyahu for taking him in as a partner, especially when your last partner was Kadima, who I guess was a bit more reasonable than those guys on the right. So it’s – I would say it bodes ill, but on the other hand did we ever expect anything serious out of Netanyahu regarding the Palestinians? I would say no. We know that his interest is only in stalling. Meanwhile they’re still demolishing houses in the Middle East. They’re still gobbling up territory. They’re still building a wall. They’re still building or expanding settlements. Netanyahu is not going to give any ground on this. And so I don’t know what anybody’s waiting for.
You know, I’m more and more beginning to buy the theory that this whole Iran thing was just a way to take our minds off the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinians.
Scott Horton: Yeah. I’m thinking that more and more too.
Sheldon Richman: And maybe the whole thing was a bluff all along, or just, you know, a smoke screen, or you know a fire you light over there so that no one’s looking at the other place where the real damage is doing on.
Scott Horton: Yeah. Well, still all blame lands on Barack Obama for that. You know, if he can have his administration put it in the New York Times last March that everybody knows Iran is not even making nukes, shut up Netanyahu, then he could have done it two Marches before that too. And instead he went along playing along with this with his phony 2009 December 31st deadline before all the new sanctions and with his phony outing of the Qom facility and with his – you know, all the rest of it. He’s gone along with Netanyahu on making Iran the issue. If he wanted to say, "Oh, please. Iran’s not even an issue,” whatever, and – the way he did this year, he could have put it on the back burner and stayed focused on the West Bank. And so, you know, Netanyahu, he might be, you know, better at playing chess than Obama or whatever, but Obama’s the one with all the power, and he just did nothing but lay down and get walked all over. So screw him. I mean, not that you were defending him or anything.
Sheldon Richman: Right.
Scott Horton: But I’m just saying, that’s where the responsibility really lies. He came into power saying he wanted to do something about the West Bank.
Sheldon Richman: Look, the Palestinians are, you know, out of sight and out of mind. Was the word "Palestine" or "Palestinians" even spoken during the foreign policy debate? Of course "Israel" was said many, many times by the two candidates.
Scott Horton: I don’t believe so. I don’t think they talked about the Palestinians at all.
Sheldon Richman: But, you know, Schieffer didn’t bring it up. Nobody brings it up. But Iran is the big conversation. I mean, when Netanyahu was in New York for the U.N. meeting and he was getting on Andrea Mitchell and these other shows, all they talked about was Iran. It’s a perfect way to take peo– it’s called misdirection. In the art of stage magic, it’s called misdirection. Right? You don’t want people to look over on one side of the stage so you create some diversion on the other side. And that’s exactly what Netanyahu has done. And I’m beginning to believe the whole thing was a way to misdirect us, the whole world, from the Palestinians.
And look at this – you know, look how petty they can get, when the leader of the Fatah, or the Palestine Authority, Palestinian Authority, wants to go to the U.N. and try to upgrade their status – I mean, not even ask for full membership, which he first did, but then that got nowhere because the U.S. obstructed it. But even when he just says, "Well, okay, how about if we – you know, can we have our status upgraded?," the U.S. starts talking about how we’re going to cut money off to them.
Now, you know that I like you are opposed to foreign aid, just on general principle, because it’s money you extracted from the taxpayers. But that issue aside, when the government responds to something like, you know, the Palestinians talking about upgraded status at the U.N. by saying, "Oh, we’re going just withhold your money," that just shows you how petty tyranny can get. And it gets down to that level. I mean, what is so horrible about the request that we have to, you know, hit them over the head with this? It just shows you how disgustingly petty tyranny can be. You know, it’s not even, it doesn’t even have grandeur. It’s just petty.
Scott Horton: Well, you know, I ain’t trying to encourage it or anything, but for the life of me, after years and years of looking at this, I still can’t figure out why the Israeli government doesn’t just round up every last Palestinian Muslim and Christian in the West Bank and force march them either into the river or across it. What are they waiting for? Who’s going to stop them? Nobody. So, why this slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the West Bank? Just steal it, you damn thieves. I don’t understand.
Sheldon Richman: Well, this – you know, there’s still a sense, like, sure, that in the world and in the U.S. and even among some Israelis that that’s just, you know, that’s too far. That’s just a step too far. And I mean I’m speculating, obviously, but I guess there’s just a sense that that would be considered so out of bounds that they can’t predict what the backlash would be in the U.S., and, like I said, even a lot of Israelis, Jewish Israelis, would be repulsed by that. So I have to assume that’s what’s holding them back, even though it’s pretty reasonable to think that that’s what they would like to do. I assume they believe that would solve a lot of problems.
I mean, you know, the Likud-type position has always been that Jordan is the true Palestinian state, so everybody ought to just be thrown across the river, you know, into Jordan. After all, they’re showing no signs of wanting to give up the Jordan Valley, right?
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: There are Jews who have been moved into that, subsidized, and whenever they talk about what a final settlement might look like, they say, "We want the Jordan Valley. You know, we’ll give the Palestinians some other land, but we want the Jordan Valley."
Scott Horton: In other words, "We’ll have them surrounded no matter what."
Sheldon Richman: (laughs) Well, that’s what it would do.
Scott Horton: Well, and the facts on the ground, as they’ve made them – that’s what they call it, the facts on the ground –
Sheldon Richman: Yeah.
Scott Horton: – are already such that it’s too late for there to ever be an independent Palestine in the West Bank anyway, right?
Sheldon Richman: Well –
Scott Horton: I mean, you’d have to have really a war between the IDF and the settlers that they put there, in order to get them out.
Sheldon Richman: Well, more and more people are saying what you just said, including some Israelis, that a two-state solution is now impossible, given what Israel has done. It’s so – it’s built so much into the West Bank, it’s gobbled up so much of it, it’s got this wall snaking through which surrounds some towns and separates residences from farm land, you know, olive groves. It’s destroyed olive groves. And that now, you know, it’s one state. The only question is, is it going to be an apartheid-type state, or is it going to be a truly democratic state?
And it doesn’t look like it’s headed toward a truly liberal sort of democratic state where everybody has really equal rights. I mean, even the Arabs of Israel, the ones who have citizenship papers, are not treated as full citizens. In fact, they’re more like third class. The reason I don’t say they’re second class is because the Ashkenazi Jews who dominate Israeli have long treated the Sephardic Jews, which are the ones that, you know, come from Spain and Arab countries, only treated them as second-class citizens. So the Arabs, you know, are down to the third class. They don’t get the same sort of public services, you know, the quality of services, you know, and stuff like that. So they’re beginning to awaken.
And there are people talking about, saying, "Look, there are Arab citizens of Israel who have been here, you know, since the founding of Israel – actually, you know, obviously, they were there long before that, but they were there. They didn’t flee when the 750,000 fled, they stayed behind, and so they’ve been there continuously. And yet, and even though they can have parties and they have some small – they’re 20% of the population, they have some small representation in the Parliament, but they can’t really change the basic law.
And some people are saying, "Well, maybe we ought to make some changes, like let’s have the flag represent the fact that there are, you know, two groups here, Jews and Arabs." Arabs are both Muslim and Christian, of course, but the flag is a Jewish star. And the national anthem is a reference to Judaism, Jewishness. So some people are actually saying, "Let’s change the flag and the national anthem to reflect the fact that 20% of this population are not Jews and that they’re not going anywhere." So people are actually beginning to talk like that.
Scott Horton: Well, that gets us back to this Avigdor Lieberman character. Because one of his proposals, anyway, was, "How about we take all –" I guess there are certain villages inside Israel where the Arab-Israelis live, you know, mostly concentrated together kind of thing rather than spread out. And so, "How about we’ll re-draw the border and they won’t even be Israelis anymore. We’ll strip them of their citizenship and they will be Palestinians included within the West Bank, and then we’ll redraw the borders in the West Bank so that we’ll just call that Israel where the Israeli settlements already are. We’ll just go ahead and, you know, stop calling them settlements and call them one territory.”
Sheldon Richman: Well, yeah. He made that proposal not that long ago. He’s since given it up, and you know who knows if he just gave it to political purposes, maybe he felt his ambition was being thwarted if he stuck to that, so we can’t really tell. But he doesn’t claim that position today.
But we know there’s an awful lot of animosity. We see how Israeli youth attack Arabs. There’s, you know, "Death to Arabs,” “Kill the Arabs." There’s a definite deep-seated hostility to Arabs. You know, they may say, "Well, that’s because Arabs hurt us." But I always have to raise the context. I mean it’s something you’ve long pointed out: Who’s occupying whom?
Scott Horton: Yeah. Well, you know –
Sheldon Richman: People want to forget that and just say, "Well, look. Arabs commit violence." And I don’t justify that, but the point is they are the ones who were imposed upon by the U.N. in 1947 when they partitioned Palestine. They were never asked their opinion of anything. I mean the Palestinians – the Arabs living in Palestine; I’m not talking about the rest of the Arab world – their preferences and desires were never even taken into account. They were never even asked.
Scott Horton: Yeah, they lie and pretended nobody lived there. "Yeah, it’s a land without people for a people without land! How convenient, huh?"
Sheldon Richman: Well, that’s right. And people even knew in the late 1890s when Herzl and his people were saying that. You know, their own folks went over to visit Palestine to check it out and they came back and said to Herzl, "Hey, guess what? It’s not a land without a people." So they knew that, and everybody knew it. You know, the U.N. knew it, and the British knew it during World War I, but the point is when the idea of partition started to get floated, nobody sat down with the Palestinians and said, "What do you think of this?" They didn’t matter.
And we’re living with the headaches of British imperialism, you know, where they made contradictory promises to everybody. You know, they promised the Arabs independence, but they also promised the Turks if the Turks would not side with the Germans, and then they promised the Zionist organizations under the Balfour Declaration – so they made all these promises, and Balfour later himself said, it’s in his diaries or memoirs or something, he said, "Look, we knew full well we were making promises that conflicted and that we never had any intention of keeping."
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: So, of course we’re living with all these troubles now. That’s what comes of imperialist duplicity. It was totally cynical on the part of the British. And the French were involved in this too, but Palestine was an area that was supposed to be under, you know, British domination.
And then the U.S. just picked up where the British left off, and Truman recognized Israel immediately, and the reason he did, even though he had lots of people in the State Department telling him, "This is crazy," he said, "Look, how many Arab votes to I have to worry about?" I mean, it was purely political. It had nothing to do with principle or self-determination or anything like that. And the Palestinians got screwed. And they’ve been screwed ever since.
Scott Horton: Now, in East Jerusalem, which under the U.N. mandate was supposed to be – well, I don’t know. What is the deal with East Jerusalem?
Sheldon Richman: Well, under the U.N. mandate, Jerusalem was supposed to be an independent, bi- , you know, universal city. Not binational city. You know, there’s a term they use for it which I can’t recall at the moment, like a French term or a Latin term or something. [ed: corpus separatum]
But, so it wasn’t supposed to be divided. It got divided in the war where Israel had secret negotiations with the Jordanians to make sure there was no Palestinian state, to make sure the Palestinian part of the partition didn’t come to be. And that’s what they did. They divided it up.
And Golda Meir negotiated secretly with a representative of King Abdullah, who was King Hussein’s grandfather, and that’s what they did. They said – neither side wanted there to be the Palestinian part of the partition.
And I have a feeling that Ben Gurion, you know, the first prime minister, and the other founders of the state were thinking, "Okay, let Jordan have the Palestinian part right now. We’ll get it in due course. Just bide our time, be patient, and something will happen." And of course 1967 happened, and they took it. And they’ve had it ever since.
Scott Horton: I can’t ever remember the name of it, but I’m sure you remember a few years back, there was leaked the PDF file from a Frank Luntz study, which he’s the big fat Republican pollster guy, and they did this study about, you know, how to basically manipulate American opinions about the West Bank and about the occupation over there, and of course a big part of it was to spin it like, "The Palestinians of the West Bank, they are brown supremacists, and they have this Jim Crow system where they won’t let the poor Jews just live wherever they want."
Sheldon Richman: Yeah. Right. (laughs)
Scott Horton: "They’re just bigots!" And just turn the whole thing upside down.
But then another part of his advice was – and apparently, you know, some Israel lobbyists in America had made the mistake of using this very bad talking point, and so he was correcting them and saying, "Don’t accuse the Palestinians of being in violation of their zoning laws as your excuse to bulldoze their houses and steal all their land, because Americans hate zoning." But that had been their big PR thing that they thought would be their good justification before that, was, "Your house that was built in 1902 is not up to the code," (laughs) you know?
Sheldon Richman: Well, Israel supporters have been, you know, very good at presenting their case to the American people. It was tailored for the American people. The Palestinians, unfortunately, have not been as good, and the media has tended to help the Israeli side.
I mean, there are Israeli representatives on television all the time. Their English is always impeccable. Heck, their U.N. ambassador, no, U.S. ambassador, Oren, you wouldn’t know he was an Israeli. He doesn’t even have any kind of accent. So they can put him on and people can listen to him, and they say, "Oh, well, look. That guy seems reasonable. He seems like one of us."
How often do you even see a Palestinian on? Not much. They have some very eloquent spokespeople. Hanan Ashrawi, for one thing, is an extremely intelligent woman, very articulate. Her English is very good. She does have a trace of an accent. But how often is she on TV? And why isn’t she on television being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell and all these people?
Scott Horton: Yeah.
Sheldon Richman: It’s just like with Iran. I mean, how often do you see an Iranian on television? Why don’t they want us to see these people? Well, I think you and I know the answer. It would hurt their case if we saw reasonable people coming on and talking about the hardship and, you know, all the other issues involved in this thing, and it’s better to keep them off TV so they’re more easily portrayed as, you know, terrorists and recalcitrant and people who don’t want to cooperate.
You know, who would know that in 1988 Yasser Arafat said, "Look, okay, we relinquish all claim to 78% of Palestine," which means, you know, Israel as it was set up under the partition. "Just give us our 22%," which is the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. You know, do you think the average American knows that that happened in 1988? Of course not! And that other Arab countries signed onto that and agreed to recognize Israel? No! You wouldn’t know that. You would think they’re all just ready to pounce.
Scott Horton: Yeah, well, yeah, of course, you’d think, you know, the Palestinians were the aggressors. "Land for peace" is – it makes it sound like, you know, the Israelis are on the ground with their arm being twisted behind their back, and if only they’d give up some of their land will the Palestinians stop suicide bombing them to death all the time.
Sheldon Richman: Right. Right, right. Every time – you know, anything the Israelis say is considered generous. "Oh, look how they’re going the extra mile." And, you know, but it’s Palestine, it’s the Palestinians who are basically, who are saying, "Look, we won’t even – we’ll give up our claim even to the homes in Israel itself. We’ll give up our claim to that. We’ll no longer –” you know, and compensation, or right of return. And yet what credit do they – they don’t get any credit for that. Most people don’t know it and they think that the Palestinians are just a bunch of terrorists.
Look, even when rockets go from Gaza into Sderot and other villages in southern Israel – which I don’t justify, but it does help to know the context. In ’48, during the war, people were driven – or before the war, you know, people were driven out of that village and that area. Arabs were driven out. Palestinians were driven out and driven into Gaza. So some of the people that lob rockets are either refugees or children of refugees who know that that village was once an Arab village, but the Israelis destroyed 400 or so Arab villages, changed the names, paved them over, rebuilt them, and they’re Jewish only. And you can think about that when you hear about rockets going from Gaza to those villages.
Scott Horton: Right. I mean, this is like the riot of Attica prison. They were throwing Molotov cocktails over the wall. (laughs) Something like that, you know?
Sheldon Richman: Yeah. And again, you know, I don’t like the idea of people firing rockets near schools and, you know, hitting children, or possibly hitting children or residences. I don’t mean to be saying that that’s an okay tactic. But it does help to understand things even if you don’t approve of what people are doing. It’s ridiculous to say, "Well, I don’t need to understand it then." That’s stupid. That’s just totally stupid.
Scott Horton: Well, look. I mean, hey, the fact that even the Israelis call them rockets and don’t even dare to pretend that they amount to missiles is pretty telling. You know?
Sheldon Richman: Well, and look, they’re hardly the latest technology. Israel, on the other hand, has, you know, the very latest of everything since they get, what, 3 billion a year from the U.S. under very favorable terms, terms that no other country gets. In other words, they get it all in a lump sum on January 1st rather than have it paid out, and they get to hold it, they get to earn any interest on it.
You know, normally like with Egypt or another country, the U.S. government pays it out over the year and it’s – you know, it’s – at least, well, they, of course the government’s in the red, so it’s not earning any interest on it, but it doesn’t have to pay the money out sooner than, you know, agreed to.
Israel gets it all on day one, and since it’s not spending it all at once, it gets to earn the interest. This is all taxpayer – this is the American taxpayers’ money.
Scott Horton: Yep.
Sheldon Richman: It shouldn’t be taken from the taxpayers in the first place. And I don’t just mean Israeli money shouldn’t be, I mean money for any country, but we’re talking about Israel right now. And, you know, when we just signed this new cooperation agreement, the U.S. government did with Israel, which means they’re getting the latest stuff. And instead of addressing this issue of the Gazans and stolen land, what are we doing? We’re helping them build a shield, right, against the rockets. But maybe they wouldn’t have to defend themselves against rockets if they would sit down and talk to the Palestinians.
Scott Horton: Right. Hey, I want to – I know you got to go, but I wanted to bring up one more thing here real quick, and that is that there was this piece here in the New York Times. I think – well, I don’t know who wrote it. It’s not the greatest thing or whatever, but it’s, you know, worth a read. It’s by Robert F. Worth, and it’s called "Al Qaeda-Inspired Groups, Minus Goal of Striking the U.S." And it’s basically about how, you know, what was unique about bin Laden and Zawahiri and, you know, the merging of Azzam’s group with Islamic Jihad and their goals that they agreed upon was striking the U.S., which they blame for supporting all of their local enemies. And only once we bankrupt and drive the U.S. out of here will we be able to take on all our local dictatorships and whatever. But the norm would be, if you’re a jihadist from Libya, you fight in Libya against Khamis Gaddafi. Or if you’re a jihadist in Jordan, you fight against the Hashimite king, or whatever, right?
So, anyway, I just wanted to point out that, well, first of all, that that’s what the article is. But they say here in the second-to-last paragraph, they admit, I think as far as I’m aware, for the first time in the history of the New York Times, what it was that was the motivation for the September 11th attacks or even, you know, more importantly, for the formation of Al Qaeda and their purpose in attacking America, "the far enemy," and which made them so different than all the rest of these local revolutionaries, and what it says is, "Most of the political realities that inspired bin Laden’s organization are still in place, including America’s apparently unqualified support for Israel and the rulers of the Persian Gulf states."
So, if that’s why we were attacked on September 11th, support for what we’ve just been talking about for half an hour, Israel’s perpetual unlimited warfare and crime against the people of Palestine that just – it never ends and it’s all paid for with American dollars. The bullets are NATO rounds fired from American M16s and M4 machine guns, the bombs fall from American F-16s and Apache helicopters, and you’d have to be a real dumb Palestinian to not understand what’s going on with that. And who’s ultimately responsible for that.
Sheldon Richman: That’s right. I was just writing on this subject over the weekend, and all you have to do is google, you know, "Al Qaeda fatwa against the United States," and you read the two fatwas that came out in ’96 and ’98, and bin Laden goes through the reasons. And you’ve just mentioned one. They also mentioned having U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia near the holy places.
And the funny thing is, even Wolfowitz admitted that that was something that led to terrorism against the United States, because when we were building up for the war in Iraq, one of the benefits he said of going into Iraq was we could take the troops out of Saudi Arabia, move them to Iraq, because the troops in Saudi Arabia irritate people so much in the Middle East. I mean, he conceded the point!
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: And then the third thing, of course, was the more than decade long sanctions on Iraq after the Gulf War which didn’t come off until the U.S. then invaded Iraq. He’s quite – I mean, bin Laden is quite clear in the two fatwas precisely what the reasons are. And then every time a member of Al Qaeda has been brought before an American court like for sentencing or something, like the guys involved in the ’93 bombing of the World Trade Center, every time they get a chance to make a statement, they say the same thing! They never say, "We hate America for your freedom or MTV," or "You got too much nudity here," or, you know. They say, "You’re trashing our part of the world. Cut it out."
Scott Horton: You know, in the book Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermott, the LA Times reporter, it’s a biography mostly of the Hamburg cell, the ringleaders of the 9/11 plot, the pilots, and it’s about – part of what he talks about there is how Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Marwan al-Shehhi, these were the guys from, you know, the Hamburg mosque, and they would hang out in their apartment all day. And this is before they ever went to Afghanistan and, you know, met with bin Laden and them – which there’s video of that. But they would just sit around and talk about what was going on in Palestine and in Lebanon at the time and how Americans have to pay for this. That was their thing. The guys that became the actual pilots of those hijacked jets. That was their thing before they ever even got recruited by bin Laden.
Sheldon Richman: The Hamburg cell, that’s right. I guess that’s why George Bush bombed Hamburg –
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: – after 9/11. Oh, wait a second. We didn’t bomb Hamburg, did we? (laughs) No, we didn’t do that, even though a lot of the work went on in Hamburg. That’s –
Scott Horton: It’s like Carlin says, "We don’t ever bomb white people – well, okay, except that time against the Germans, but that’s only ’cause they were trying to cut in on our action. As long as they’re going along with our program, we would never bomb them. Only brown people."
Sheldon Richman: Well, that’s right. No, and it’s true, and of course we had people like Madeleine Albright saying, you know, half a million Iraqi children dying is worth it to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And you know that was played over and over again in the Middle East. And, you know, if you set out to get a group of people mad, or a part of the world mad at you to the point where they would want to do you harm, you couldn’t do a better job than the U.S. government has done since 1948. Maybe we can go back ever further, but certainly from ’48 on, you couldn’t construct a better strategy for having that result, making a whole group of people so pissed at you that they’re willing to – they can find volunteers to fly planes into buildings, into tall buildings.
Scott Horton: Yep. Well, then again, this is a common theme all show long. It works out real well if you’re a stockholder in Raytheon, but for the rest of us, not so much.
Sheldon Richman: Well that’s right. That’s why we don’t want to say it’s madness, and we don’t want to say it’s irrational. Because from the point of view of people who are profiting, the people that are, you know, amassing power, even if it’s not money, but politicians getting power, it’s not insane or irrational. It’s in a sense perfectly rational. They wanted an end and they found a darn good means to achieve the end, money and power. So how can you argue with that? But you’re right, the rest of us suffer.
Scott Horton: Right. Yeah, I shouldn’t leave out all the generals and their ribbons. I mean, just imagine. Everyone, use your imaginations. How many ribbons have been attached to officers’ shirts in the last decade? Like, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of additional ribbons have been granted, and that is really important. You know, people should not underestimate how much a military man loves playing dress up.
Sheldon Richman: And that would make the ribbon makers big profiteers. So… (laughs)
Scott Horton: I know. I wonder if there’s a big, like, plastic medal lobby in D.C. "We’ve got to keep the war going!"
Sheldon Richman: Yeah, there’s a ribbon cartel. I think you’ll have to have Nick Turse look into that.
Scott Horton: Exactly. It’s the public choice theory of American empire. All right.
Sheldon Richman: (laughs) Well, we’ll find out that, you know, Dick Cheney actually is the ribbon magnate.
Scott Horton: Oh! You know what? I’m glad you said his name, because he one time admitted that it was hatred of American support for Israel that was responsible for the Islamist insurgency being directed against the United States.
Sheldon Richman: And didn’t Petraeus get in trouble for it?
Scott Horton: I’m sorry?
Sheldon Richman: Petraeus said something like that before Congress and got in trouble for it, didn’t he? Or he didn’t say it in his oral remarks but they were in the written remarks?
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: Remember that? There was something along those lines, where he said, "I know this is a sensitive issue, but our support for Israel is what creates a lot of trouble for us."
Scott Horton: Right. And you know what? People want a real hoot on those lines, go to the Mondoweiss blog and search about Petraeus and you will find where this activist James Morris had been pestering David Petraeus by e-mail, and Petraeus responded back to him but accidentally had attached his e-mail conversation with Max Boot that basically had Petraeus on his knees kissing Boot’s boots –
Sheldon Richman: Licking Boot’s boots.
Scott Horton: – and saying, "Please, please, don’t dislike me now! What if I tell you that I had dinner with Elie Wiesel last night? Well you tell all the Jews not to hate me, please?"
Sheldon Richman: (laughs) I saw that.
Scott Horton: I mean, it’s right in there.
Sheldon Richman: I remember it well. I read it back then. You’re right. It got some attention. It’s pretty pathetic. And of course he got rewarded by being – they gave him the CIA, right? So he’s doing fine.
Scott Horton: Yeah. You know, it’s really too bad that David Hackworth died of Agent Blue disease, bladder cancer, from the U.S. government’s chemical warfare against their own men during Vietnam, because, man, I would love to hear what he would have to say about David Petraeus. You know?
Sheldon Richman: No, I agree. I can recall TV appearances by Hackworth. What would that be, around the time of the Gulf War? And, he was always –
Scott Horton: And the second one too, yeah.
Sheldon Richman: He was always great. Yeah. There was almost nobody like him. The only guy who I think even equaled him was Edward Peck.
Scott Horton: Right.
Sheldon Richman: The former ambassador to one of the countries over there who got totally frozen out of television, right? He used to be on TV, used to see him around the time of the Gulf War and I think even leading up to the Iraq war. And then I think, you know, the higher-ups must have said, "Hey, we can’t put this guy on! He’s a critic of the American empire. And unfortunately his credentials are too good," right? He was a former State Department guy. "We got to get this guy off TV." And I haven’t seen him in years.
Scott Horton: Well he’s at the Council for the National Interest now, but you’re right. I should interview him all the time. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times, but –
Sheldon Richman: Wasn’t he on the Mari – what was that ship, that boat on the flotilla? The Mari – whatever it was called. Mavi Mamari or something.
Scott Horton: Oh, Mavi Marmara.
Sheldon Richman: I think he was on that. And he’s not a young guy. He’s heroic.
Scott Horton: [crosstalk] even remember that, but, yes, that guy.
Sheldon Richman: And I miss that guy because he was one of the few voices of sanity that got on TV now and then.
Scott Horton: Yeah. Well, we can’t have sanity. But yeah, I just remember Hackworth just crucifying Wesley Clark, calling him the "Perfumed Prince," the politician. You know, that any real man in the military would think Wesley Clark was a little sissy. That kind of talk where you got to be, and you have to be covered in ribbons and medals yourself to be able to talk like that credibly about a powerful general, but, so that’s why I miss Hackworth so much because I think he would have just absolutely slayed Petraeus by now. I mean, Petraeus probably would have had to follow John Nagl and go become the head of a boys’ school somewhere in disgrace.
Sheldon Richman: I agree. There weren’t too many like Hackworth. In fact, you can count them on one finger.
Scott Horton: All right, I’m abusing my privileges here. I’ve kept you way over time, Sheldon. Thank you so much for your time on the show.
Sheldon Richman: Okay, my pleasure, and any time, Scott.
Scott Horton: That is the great Sheldon Richman from the Future of Freedom Foundation, that’s fff.org, of course, and sheldonrichman.com for his website.
Here’s that clip of Madeleine Albright in case you didn’t hear it, from 1997 or 8 maybe?
Lesley Stahl [ed: 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996]: "We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"
Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it."
So, yeah, you could see why that would anger people. And by the way you can find bin Laden’s fatwas at the PBS Newshour website, government TV there, they’ve copied and pasted the whole thing for you. It’s called "The Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."
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