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Monday, July 31, 2006

Is the U.S. the Evilest Nation in the World?

BegsToDiffer has introduced me to one "John Pilger," a writer and film maker who has an article that paints as negative a view of the United States and Israel as I have ever read. It is so unrelentingly anti-American and anti-Israeli that I suspect that he may be channeling Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr. Pilger writes:
The attendant propaganda - the abuse of language and eternal hypocrisy - has reached its nadir in recent weeks. An Israeli soldier belonging to an invasion force was captured and held, legitimately, as a prisoner of war. Reported as a "kidnapping", this set off yet more slaughter of Palestinian civilians. The seizure of two Palestinian civilians two days before the capture of the soldier was of no interest. Neither was the incarceration of thousands of Palestinian hostages in Israeli prisons, and the torture of many of them, as documented by Amnesty. The kidnapped soldier story cancelled any serious inquiry into Israel's plans to reinvade Gaza, from which it had staged a phoney withdrawal. The fact and meaning of Hamas's self-imposed 16-month ceasefire were lost in inanities about "recognising Israel", along with Israel's state of terror in Gaza - the dropping of a 500lb bomb on a residential block, the firing of as many as 9,000 heavy artillery shells into one of the most densely populated places on earth and the nightly terrorising with sonic booms.
I am interested here in his claims that Israel, the U.S., and much of the international press has engaged in an "abuse of language." I think he means to refer to the "capture" of an Israeli soldier who was part of an "invasion force" which the forces of evil, Israel and the U. S., called a "kidnapping."

For Pilger to be allowed to get away with calling the capture/kidnapping of the Israeli soldier (I thought it was two soldiers but that doesn't matter) a "capturing" he has to be able to prove that the Israeli army was poised to attack Lebanon and the Israeli government had formed the intention to attack. If Pilger is right then calling the capture/kidnapping some sort of preemptive "capturing" would have some legitimacy. The problem is that Pilger provides absolutely no evidence either that the Israeli army was poised to attack or that Israel had formed an intention to invade prior to the capture/kidnapping of the soldier(s) and, let us not forget, the killing of some solders. I guess that doesn't matter because Israel is a Jewish state and is also a puppet of Imperial America.

In fact, one would expect Israel's military to be poised to defend Israel at all times from an attack by Hezbollah. Any other practice would be irresponsible on the part of the leadership of Israel. This brings us to the distinction between an army being "poised to attack" and "poised to defend." One sign of the former but not the latter would be a massing of troops on a border. Well, that could be proved true or false with time- and date-stamped satellite photos taken by someone we trust. Obviously Pilger would not trust photos taken by the U. S. I wouldn't trust photos taken by Iran. And around and around we go on the Merry-go-Round of International distrust.

So, a massing of troops would be one sign of an impending invasion. Moreover, troops are formed differently when poised to defend than when poised to attack. That too admits of photo proof. Pilger offers none. His views are, I believe, taken by him to be self-verifying. Saying things makes them true.

One thing is clear. If Israel was poised to attack, they did a very poor job of it. They had too few troops in place to move very far into Lebanon. Part of that could be due to inadequate forces being available and part to an underestimation of the capability of Hezbollah to engage in conventional warfare. That they have anti-tank weapons and other weapons useful against a conventional army seems clear. My view, since I do not take a paranoid view of Israel, is that they were unprepared for a war and that they did underestimate Hezbollah's capabilities. Taking that view allows us to account for the fact without engaging in Mr. Pilger's special brand of prejudice.

Israel has been slow to reinforce its invasion force (whatever it was before it is an "invasion" force now) and has been calling up reserves. This is a clear sign to me that Israel was not planning to invade Lebanon. Furthermore, it is very unclear to me why Israel would have wanted to. Hezbollah was not giving them much grief. Israel doesn't like seeing its people killed. And, Israel, as always, can expect nothing but grief from the international community when it fights against Arabs and it will risk that only when provoked.

I suggest that everyone read Pilger. The man reminds me of Chomsky in that he takes an extremely anti-American view of everything we do and he is so convinced of the correctness of his position he does not feel the need to defend what he says. Rather, he, like Chomsky has done on many occasions in the past, engages in language games to further his argument. Pilger's language game in the article cited is to call the kidnapping a "capturing." That makes it all okay. Bullshit. Pilger is a propagandist, pure and simple. It is how he earns his living. However, reading him is good for the mind. It will serve to reboot your brain.


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13 Comments:

Blogger Language Guy said...

I think I should add that it pains me to be defending the US from Pilger when Bush is the President. I think he and his administration are acting in a quite imperial fashion. Naturally Pilger dredges up every past error on the part of the US. There ought to be a statute of limitations in international politics on actions by past governments. Otherwise, Germany and Japan could be beat about the head and shoulders forever, as bad as they were.

4:34 PM

 
Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

Dear LG it pains me to have to raise this but I must, Had you applied the same degree of rigor to your political education as you undoubtedly have to your linguistic, you would have noticed that Pilger is NOT referring to the recent Lebanon related kidnappings. He is in fact describing with complete accuracy, events that ocurred in Gaza very shortly before anything ocurred between Hezbollah and Israel.

You can thank the media for you perception, because you and most of the uncritical public have been repeatedly reminded of the two soliders that were kidnapped by Hezbollah but events immediately preceding this are unreported.

The soldier captured in Gaza WAS a prisoner of war, HE was caught over the border and was taken because two civilains (whose fate remains a mystery and is irrelevant anyway because they are not Israeli) WERE kidnapped by Israeli forces.

It is of this that Pilger writes, and being a greatly respected investigative journalist it is his vocation to report such events, they are no less news than the stories CNN and BBC select.

Please state here in this blog what you think are factual errors in Pilger's artcile.

Incidenatlly here is a brief summary of Pilger's professional awards, he is quite happy to discuss such issues so do not hesitate to draw his attention to any errors of fact that you discover:

Awards include
1966: Descriptive Writer of the Year
1967: Reporter of the Year
1967: Journalist of the Year
1970: International Reporter of the Year
1974: News Reporter of the Year
1977: Campaigning Journalist of the Year
1979: Journalist of the Year
1979-80: UN Media Peace Prize, Australia
1980-81: UN Media Peace Prize, Gold Medal, Australia
1979: TV Times Readers' Award
1990: The George Foster Peabody Award, USA
1991: American Television Academy Award ('Emmy')
1991: British Academy of Film and Television Arts - The Richard Dimbleby Award
1990: Reporters San Frontiers Award, France
1995: International de Television Geneve Award
2001: The Monismanien Prize (Sweden)
2003: The Sophie Prize for Human Rights (Norway)
2003: EMMA Media Personality of the Year
2004: Royal Television Society Best Documentary, 'Stealing a Nation'

9:55 AM

 
Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

Finally please define "anti-American" this is a term thrown around at people, that Chomsky and Pilger have both written about.

It seems that some people think it is somehow invalid to criticise the actions of certain powerful nations as if they were somehow not to be subjected to the same scrutiny as others and somehow are not required to adhere to the same standards demaned of others.

Pilger has been reporting about the US for decades, he is also a close friend of the writer of the "4th of July" and has received many awards from his US peers.

PS: Can I use the term "anti-French" or "anti-Lebanese" or "anti-Palestinian" or "anti-Arab" and if not why not?

10:01 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

My political education is in good shape. My reading skills need some work, specifically my life long failure to read carefully. You are right this kidnapping/capturing occurred on the Gaza side. Bowever, what I said applies nevertheless. The Telegraph.co.uk writes

"Israel was poised for a retaliatory strike last night after two of its soldiers were killed and another kidnapped in a dawn attack by Palestinian militants who tunnelled under Gaza's heavily protected border."

So, the kidnapped soldier was on the border but not on the Gaza side where he would have to be to be said to be "captured." He was clearly kidnapped. The admittedly conservative newspaper says "300 yards inside Israel near a kibbutz" in this sstory.

Was their an invasion force poised in Gaza ready to attack rather than a force poised to defend? Pilger provides no evidence of that. The idea that Israel would have attacked in force late in July, unprovoked, after withdrawing in September, many months earlier is hard to defend but not for Pilger. He doesn't cite any sources for his information. He just tells us what to believe. CNN states

"The incursion marks Israel's first large-scale move into the Palestinian territory since its troops and settlers left last September."

So, whether my reply deals with the Gaza side kidnapping or the Lebanon side kidnapping, it still applies. But the fact remains I did misread him. What I would like to see from you is rews stories that report facts supporting Pilger's extravagant claims. Quoting Pilger would be begging the question since it is his credibility that is on the line.

10:57 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

BegsToDiffer asks me to define "anti-American" in regard to people like Chomsky and Pilger. Chomsky's reply to the question why he attacks only America is that this is his country. He is responsible as a citizen for what we do but not for what any other country does. That is, of course, a disingenuous answer. One cannot evaluate the bad acts of any person or organization or country in a factual vacuum. Nor is there ever any account of how it might be that America might have been led to do this or that. In short neither writes in a fair in balanced way, as would be characteristic of a credible scholar or journalist.

So, what would be the criteria for saying some writer is anti-American?

1. Laying the blame for actions taken entirely on one side, in this case America or Israel. The Palestinians are never at fault. Only Isreal. Pilger does this. Pilger would doubtless blame FDR for Japan's bombing Pearl Harbor.
2. Dredging up facts from as far back as 1945 as if they have any relevance to what is happening now. Pilger does this in his story about our Imperial nature. Sorry but that aint' kosher. The Cold War was going on during a big chunck of time. We have had different administrations with very different policies. Right now we do have an Imperialist President, and a bad one at that.
3. Engaging in irrelevant, extravagant characterizations. Pilger writes, "The National Museum of American History is part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Surrounded by mock Greco-Roman edifices with their soaring Corinthian columns, rampant eagles, and chiseled profundities, it is at the center of Empire, though the word itself is engraved nowhere. This is understandable, as the likes of Hitler and Mussolini were proud imperialists, too: on a "great mission to rid the world of evil," to borrow from President Bush."
What in the hell does "rampant eagles" have to do with anything. As bad as Bush is, likening him to Hitler is simply disgraceful. Where are the gas chambers Bush has put up for Muslims in America? Pilger clearly has not integrity at all. He is mud-slinger.
4. Pilger does not define what it takes for a country to fairly be declared "Imperial." One oddity is that most imperialist capture land and stay there. Let's see. We captured Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, and half of Germany as well as Japan. Do we occupy them? No. Do we tell them what they have to do with any success? Obviously not in the case of Germany and France. We captured the Philipines. Did we keep it? We invaded all sorts of countries south of the border. Did we keep any. About our only possession in this hemisphere is Puerto Rico and they are free to leave whenever they want to. Do we "own" Afghanistan? We obviously don't "own" Iraq. Did we write their constitution? No. We can't get the heads of Iraq to do much of anything we want it seems. They are acting as badly toward Israel as Saddam did, at least verbally. Do we try to influence coutries? Yes. How successful are we? Not very. How often have we acted in a totally unilateral way? Never, except in this hemisphere.
So, given that Pilger meets all four criteria, he counts as anti-American and therefore not worth any more time on so I will stop. Buying into his crap puts a person in the position of the second stomach of a cow, feeding on predigested cud.

I notice that you didn't answer my questions and so I believe I can assume you believe that Jews have no right to live in Israel. By the way, who was in Palestine first, Jews or Muslims?

11:26 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

Question at the end there, LG--This is just for those who aren't aware.

Let's see . . . Jews go back about 3800 years, if you accept the Biblical account of Abraham, or 3200 years if you count from the establishment of the nation of Israel after the Exodus, if you want to ignore the Bible itself. Through almost all that time up until the present day, the Jews were in the region. Muslims, on the other hand, go back about 1300 years. Quite the short stint, as far as religions go.

12:03 PM

 
Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

It may be of interest to some that "Jew" actually refers to primarily a single tribe (Judah) of the twelve tribes of israel.

Often it includes the tribe Benjamin too. It is almost universally belived that Jew is synonymous with Israelite but it is not.

There are many passages in the Hebrew cannon that show Judah at war with Israel too.

Moses was not in fact Jewish even many Jewish people are unaware of this.

H

1:02 PM

 
Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

I dont have a great deal of time now LG but I think even a cursory reading of history since 1948 will make it clear that Israel has refused to give up land that it has a) promised to do and b) been ordered to do by UN resolutions.

So as for rights I dont beleive that Israel or its citizens have any right to dwell on territory stolen by ethnic cleansing, any more than any other race.

I dont know how ro decide if "Israel has a right to exist" but I do think that if one accepts that they do then one is compelled to accept that in doing so they do not violate any other persons rights nor deny them access to their homes or resources.

The ghettoization of Palestinians is barely discussed in the media, however if you cvan bring yourself to do so watch "Palestine is still the issue" a recent documentary by Pilger that despite being heavily critcized by some with a zionist leaning was nevertheless found to be free of bias in an independent investigation by a committe of journalists that included Jews living in israel.

I will be happy to give you details of this.

H

1:10 PM

 
Blogger Mr K said...

"I notice that you didn't answer my questions and so I believe I can assume you believe that Jews have no right to live in Israel. By the way, who was in Palestine first, Jews or Muslims?"

I don't think this is necessarily relevant, otherwise we'd actually have to do some crazy re-distribution of land- I have no idea who the hell would get the UK, but I know who would get the US. I will add that I do believe Isreal has a right to exist now it is there, but I rather think it shouldn't have been created in the first place- I know it's a holy land and everything, but good lord has it caused a ridiculous amount of ethnic tension. Couldn't the zionists have picked somewhere more sympathetic to them? But never mind....

Incidentally Kelly, after the Roman diaspora in some time AD, I don't believe there was a very large Jewish prescence in that region for a very long time, until Zionism became very popular thanks to the persecution from practically everywhere in Europe, and, indeed, America.

Anyways, on the Palestinian point, I am pretty sure that before the Palestinians kidnapped those Isreali soldiers Isreal had done pretty much the same thing a little bit earlier- surely an act of agression possibly leading to an equal kidnapping.

On Pilger, I find that level of polemic sometimes a little too much to take, just as when I receive it from the right, only I find that while that kind of view in the left has been marganilised, the right polemic has found a lot of mainstream acceptance, which is sometimes why it's interesting to hear what they have to say about things.

2:11 PM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

Mr K, I am aware of the Diaspora and that's why I said "most" of that time.

But honestly, I think an ethnic or religious affiliation is a superbly silly foundation for establishing a state, so giving the US to the Indians (or Native Americans, whatever) would be silly. And think of all the waste such a transition would involve, not to mention the vast open spaces that wouldn't be put to good use. Really, if you get down to it, if you wanted to give land to people based on some kind of ancestral basis, we'd all be living in the Middle East. Sounds kind of cramped, I think.

2:41 PM

 
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

By what justificatons could any people (nation, ethnic group, etc.) be said to have the "right" to live in and rule some land?

Likewise, under by what justification would their claim supercede those of others?

Some of the justifications I can think of, or am am hearing are:
-Ancient heritage (that predates claims of rival peoples)
-Right by conquest
-Pre-conquest right
-Fact of present occupancy
-Sacred right
-Right by treaty
-Right by international decree
-Right by lack of alternatives
-Right because oppressed

Are there more?

Which of them are valid?

If they are valid when applied to group X, can we apply them universally, including to ourselves?

For example, if we concede that Jews have a right to Israel on the grounds of their ancient heritage, do we apply that rule universally? Do we give North America back to the natives, for example? Do Canaanites and pre-Judaic inhabitants of the land occupied by present day Israel have a claim? (BTW, This may not be so farfetched as it seems in light of the Genographic Project)

11:58 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

One day The Children will have forgotten all the little fictional lines on their cute little maps and share the Land and Sea equally.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Yeah, right. Don't hold yer breath!

(Sorry, LG. This one exceeded my boredom threshold with the first mention of The Chompster. What the world needs right now is a good spanking, however un-PC such remedies may now be deemed.)

4:13 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Mr. Pregunta, you have raised one of the great questions. When, indeed, can a people claim right to a land? In fact, the US has taken the position, inconsistently and with multiple exceptions I imagine, that Amerindians have a right to some land, including rivers that were traditionally fished. Naturally, they were given the worst land. In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Strip was settled by, among others, my relatives and it was very good wheat land after the Cherokees were expelled (for a second time in their history, at least). A mistake was made in Choctaw country in Oklahoma and the Choctaws were given them land that turned out to have oil. I remember as a kid my dad talking about "head rights" individuals in the tribe had to shares in the oil revenue.

Let me make the following proposal. People have a right to share land if they have a history of living there and were expelled by force and if they are at the time of resettlement in extremis (refugees from the holocaust, refugees from the Arab-Jewish war of 1948), and if the United Nations sanctions it. That takes care of the Jews and would give Arabs forcibly expelled from what the UN declared to be Israel a right of return or, at the least, compensation.

Jews have a historic right to some part of Palestine. The U.N. sanctioned this quite a long time ago -- before most of you were born, I would imagine. And they were in extremis, which is why, I suspect, the U. N. carved out Israel. The real screw up was that a semi-racist America did not take in every Jew who wanted to come. We would be better for it and so would the Middle East. What is at issue is the return of Arabs who fled from homes in what the U. N. said was Israel in conjunction with the 1948 hostilities. Perhpaps, these people could be resettled in West Bank homes the Israeli government has forced Israelis to leave.

What is now clear is that Israel will never again voluntarily leave captured territory unless a fight-capable peace keeping force patrols their border.

Now, what do we do about the strip of India that China took from India -- about 15 miles wide I believe down the length of their common border. The principle here is do not poke a tiger in the eye. So nothing is done.

I remember a pathetic effort by Chomsky to defend China's actions. He was on the run intellectually at the time and was desperately seeking intellectual cover. Don't remember what he said. What I like about the Chinese invasion is that it proves false the canard that if you don't stop agressors they will keep agressing. China went in 15 miles or so and stopped. There was a long and very odd history behind this move. India's faith that Western democracies would stand with the lone Asian democracy was misguided. As I said, whatever guidelines we accept from Mr. Pregunta's list, the overarching principle is you don't poke a tiger in the eye.

9:01 AM

 

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