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March 25, 2006

The Israeli Lobby and US Middle East Policy

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University wrote a study of the Israeli Lobby. An edited version appeared in the March 23, 2006 volume of the London Review of Books. This research has sparked debate on all sides of the political spectrum.

I'm not sure what I believe on this subject - I agree that AIPAC is an extremely powerful lobbying entity in the US. I agree that discussions of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict in the US are often one-sided, rampant with stereotyping and fear-mongering. On the other hand, I agree that the US policy in the Middle East is part of its larger policy for world domination / imperialism. So, I guess I don't agree with Mearsheimer/Walt when they argue that US policy in the Middle East is dictated by Israel's needs and runs counter to what is best for the US. While it would be better for the US to completely overhaul its foreign policy, I cannot blame the USG's actions on one lobby and one foreign country. (On the other hand, I agree that the impact of AIPAC on the creation and execution of foreign policy should be studied more and that the entire issue of US collusion in Israel's occupation of Palestine needs to be addressed.)

More info:
"The Israeli Lobby," by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the London Review of Books
Unedited, 81 page pdf version available here

"A Silent, Crippling Fear," by Paul Woodward on The War in Context

"Blaming the Lobby," by Joseph Massad on Al-Ahram

Posted by cj at 5:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

Perspective from Dr. Rashad Zaydan, an Iraqi woman

The Public Square, at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Chicago Cultural Center hosted a luncheon today with Dr. Rashad Zaydan, "Women Say No To War." I went to the event as a representative of our "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East" (WCUSP) campaign.

Dr. Zaydan is a member of the Iraqi women's delegation that is touring the US, organized by Global Exchange and Code Pink.

At the beginning of the presentation, we viewed an 8 minute slide show that included images of the horrors created in Iraq by the US. Here are some things I learned from Dr. Zaydan:

Before the war, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees. 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (About 35% of European and US women have graduate degrees.)
Now, 10% of Iraqi women continue in their professions. Most women stay away from their work because of serious safety concerns. And most women and girls are kept from away from schools and universities due to safety concerns.

Before coming to the US, Dr. Rashad thought that freedom and democracy in the US meant that "everything is done by agreement of the people," meaning that the US people must support the invasion and occupation of Iraq since we live in a democracy. She now realizes that many US people hate our government's policy and have no control over foreign policy.

Dr. Rashad attended a conference with women from through the Arab world. They studied all of their countries' constitutions to look for the best model on women's rights. They determined that the Iraqi constitution during Saddam's regime was the best on women's rights. For example, under the old regime, women could choose to work and were paid the same as men. They also received two months paid leave during birth, six months paid maternity leave after their child was born, and could opt for an additional six months leave at half-pay, and a second year of unpaid leave. (Meaning women could leave their jobs for two years, with the confidence that the job would be available when they returned to work.) Under the new constitution, women can work if it does not affect their family and if their husband agrees to allow them to work.

Under the former regime, Iraqis had universal healthcare. They had access to chemotherapy. Under the occupation, they must pay for access to healthcare. And there is no chemotherapy available, despite the fact that the use of depleted uranium by the US has significantly increased the amount of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women, and cancer in children.

In some ways, I am overwhelmed by the difference between Dr. Rashad's account of life in Iraq and mainstream media coverage. I know I shouldn't be surprised by the differences, but it seems vital to bring the truth to light and challenge this administration.

On a related note, WCUSP leadership team members were involved in the Portland "End the War, Begin the Peace" march last Sunday where another member of the Iraqi women's delegation, Eman Ahmed Khamas, spoke. Portland's event was the largest in the US; organizers estimate at least 15,000 people rallied to end US and Israeli occupations and begin the peace.

cross-posted from WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 6:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2006

Helen Thomas v. George Bush, Jr.

George Bush, Jr. had a press conference yesterday. (I was too busy voting and doing WILPF work to notice, but I read about it today.)

Here is Talking Points Memo's transcript of his exchange with Helen Thomas, columnist extraordinaire.

THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Gridiron, I am -- (laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

HELEN THOMAS: Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

HELEN THOMAS: -- everything I've heard --

(Read the entire TPM post for the full effect)

Thomas has covered more presidents as a member of the White House press corps than any other journalist. When the Moonies bought UPI, she ended her 57 year career there and became a columnist for King Features Syndicate (a Hearst company). Alas, I've been trying to find her columns for awhile to no avail. Or maybe her most recent column was penned on March 8...

According to Jack Shafer at Slate, she's no longer asking hard questions but rather speechifying, which makes it easier to dodger her questions because they are rarely asked directly. That might be true, but at 82, I think she's earned the right to be the voice of reason in the White House. Shame on us for not electing a president who appreciates her point of view.

More info on the press conference: "Bush Concedes Iraq War Erodes Political Status," by Elisabeth Bumiller in today's NYT

Less interesting transcipt from CQ Transcipts via The Columbia Dispatch (reporter names removed and full exchange not included)

Posted by cj at 8:45 AM | Comments (0)

Taxpayer Money Flowing Into Anti-Choice, Stridently Religious "Social Service" Groups

This should surprise absolutely no one - Shrub did this as governor of Texas and simply continued doing it once becoming president. Massive amounts of federal funding has flowed into socially conservative groups that stridently "educate" women that life begins at conception, to keep their legs closed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

To qualify for federal funding for social "service" (questionable whether most of these groups provide any real service) it really helps to be:

A member of a minority group that Republicans traditionally have difficulty reaching out to. Therefore, if you're Latino and Protestant, you're in. If you're Latino and Roman Catholic, the USG doesn't need your help providing services to the poor (b/c most of you still vote Democrat). Black Evangelicals are also appreciated.

Never fear, there's still room in the federal budget for white evangelicals with a background in campaign fund raising or getting people to the polls.

Strange that I agree with a quote from Grover Norquist:

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the grant-making is "corrupting."

"The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state rather than the constituencies they are trying to serve," he said. "The guy who writes the check writes the rules."

At least $157 million has been wasted. It's not just a waste of money - it puts women's lives in danger by not being honest about all health options available in the even of a pregnancy; it puts teenage lives in danger by not providing real sex education, so that they know how to protect themselves if they choose to have sex; and it is just plain wrong to use government money to prop up work that is tied to a specific religion / religious beliefs.

More info: "Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues: Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million," by Thomas B. Edsall in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

Women on the Move

1325 PeaceWomen E-News, issue #75, was issued today.

Shockingly, the UN continues to talk gender equity, but not implement it.

WILPF, along with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Women’s Environment Development Organization, and the NGO Committee on the Status of Women issued an open letter on Women and UN Reform.

The Conference on Disarmament started on March 16. Reaching Critical Will, a project of International WILPF, produces a weekly report on the CD.

WILPFers participated in many local marches over the weekend, demanding that we end this senseless war on Iraq and bring our troops home. They also insisted on including the demand that Israel cease its occupation of Palestine in anti-war rallies.

Are you on Friendster? or MySpace? If so, join WILPF's new group! I named in Women's International League for Peace and Freedom on both sites.

Must Read: "The Israel Lobby," by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the London Review of Books.

Posted by cj at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2006

Election Day Hassle

I completely brought this on myself. I could have re-registered at my actual address before the deadline for the primary election, but I didn't. I have re-registered, but according to the guy at the DMV I should vote at my old precinct. My old precinct is suburban Cook County and I live and work in the city. Even though I live in the heart of the Democratic machine and will be voting on a Democratic primary ticket, I think it's important to mark my ballot so I'm gonna trek out to my old haunts via public trans. My only worry is that I'll get all the way out there and wont be on the rolls. (I never actually voted there; I think I missed a local election; but I voted for Obama and Kerry back at my previous Chi-town address. I can't believe how many places I've lived in the last few years.)

Anyway, in case you too are wondering where to vote and for some reason you too live in suburban Cook County (or are registered there), go to http://www.voterinfonet.com/. Of course, I could've voted early downtown but alas that option ended last Thursday. Who knew?

And who the heck are all the people on the darn ballot?

Posted by cj at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

Still Here, barely...

News That Concerns Me:
Israel staking out a prison in Jericho with the tacit collusion of the US and British forces that coincidentally left the prison after securing it for four years on the day of the invasion.

SecState and SecDef telling Congress / the world that Iran is "the biggest threat out there."

Milosevic dying before he could be convicted of crimes against humanity.

Sectarian violence. Ethnic tension.

People allowing their differences to divide them instead of uniting them.

POTUS shredding the NPT by signing an illegal side-deal with India.

Rampant Islamaphobia in the US and Western Europe.

Not enough mainstream news coverage of Latin America.

Mainstream news.

Lack of updates on my blogs.

Posted by cj at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)