All of the opponents to the Iran deal are confused and delusional.

Is Iran a dangerous state and not to be trusted? Yes. But they are trustworthy on some things. They are, in fact, our allies in the fight against ISIS. Without them, we could not keep ISIS in check.

iran20a  Is it possible that Iran will use some of the funds released by the agreement to fund terrorism? Yes. But no one knows how much and it is already funding terrorism now. And our allies, the Saudis, also fund terrorism. 9/11 being the most glaring example. We do know that this agreement is something that will support the rising population of young Iranians who are looking towards the west for inspiration. This group can serve as a bulwark against the Iranian right wing and the Ayatollah.

Is the inspection process something that provides Iran with some ability to hide what they are doing? Possibly. But right now we have no inspection process and they can do whatever they want. With this agreement we have some way of monitoring what they are doing.

Will our not signing tDiplomacy-NIAC-infographiche agreement stop the deal? Nope. Other nations have signed on and will no longer punish the Iranians. So, Iran will be able to do whatever the opponents say they will do even if we do not sign. Is there a possible better deal out there that we can get if we persist? Possible, but not likely. This deal took years to make and faced opposition in our country and Iran. This is the best possible deal we can make at this moment.

How do we get Iran not to build nuclear weapons?  If you know anything about selling, we have already won by getting them to sign the deal. What we all want is for Iran to join the fraternity of nations who abide by international law and decency (something the U.S. has not always done, btw). By getting them to say YES to this deal, this deal has created a situation where they will likely say yes to those larger goals. That is what salesmanship is all about.

Here are some thoughts on racism and how it plays out for Blacks and Latinos in the U.S. after hearing about, but not yet reading Coates much celebrated book on being Black in this country.  I think the experience of racism is a little different for Latinos.

It was the first time that Coates, who writes for The Atlantic, had held a copy of his latest book, Between the World and Me.

This book is personal, written as a letter to his teenage son Samori. In it, we see glimpses of the hard West Baltimore streets where Coates grew up, his curiosity at work on the campus of Howard University and his early struggles as a journalist.

Coates also reflects on what it meant, and what it means, to inhabit a black body in America. He gets at the physical consequences of slavery and racial discrimination, and he brings to bear his big fear that his life and the lives of his loved ones might end unnaturally.

This is exactly what it felt like growing up in Harlem and East New York…you walk around the streets with a fear that goes to your bones, a fear of others around you who were also traumatized. They and I walked around posturing tough, with a little jive, to hide our fear, walking among zombies, ready for battle, ready for death…and knowing deep inside that the world outside not only did not care, but wanted you dead…and yet we found comfort in the grace, beauty, and support of the people you lived with and who, at bottom, loved you…

The experience of racism is different for Blacks and for Latinos. For Blacks, it is about their bodies… those desired and despised bodies. For Latinos, it is about their space, their land…and the desire and demand that they move off that land. Blacks get adored in sports and destroyed by police in the streets. Latinos get in the way of American profit making machines in Latin America and in U.S. cities.  People build physical and imaginary walls built to keep them out of the U.S. or displace them from desired neighborhoods.

In a recent Hugh Eakin New York Books interview, Mark Danner does a masterful job of dissecting the voids, contradictions, and failures of the recent Senate report on the CIA’s torture program.  This interview article, “Our New Politics of Torture,” includes many observations and gems. One comment by Danner, in particular, stuck out because it points to a wider and more profound flaw in modern state sovereignty.  Danner concludes that the major problem with the U.S. torture, or “enhanced interrogation,” program was that it was mostly about our fears and, more exactly, the fears of our officials and leaders in the U.S. state. He states that,

“It’s an epistemological paradox: How do you prove what you don’t know? And from this open question comes this anxiety-ridden conviction that he must know, he must know, he must know. So even though the interrogators are saying he’s compliant, he’s telling us everything he knows—even though the waterboarding is nearly killing him, rendering him “completely non-responsive,” as the report says—officials at headquarters was saying he has to be waterboarded again, and again, because he still hadn’t given up information about the attacks they were convinced had to be coming. They kept pushing from the other side of the world for more suffering and more torture.”

Thus, we tortured because we were so afraid of another attack, of being surprised, of being embarrassed and shamed, of the terrorists! Aside from the idea that our fear is exactly what the terrorists wanted… and achieved, there is another very grave conclusion that we can make. It was not just the CIA that was afraid. The American people were very afraid too. And our state leaders, from Bush to Cheney to Rumsfeld to Congress, were very afraid indeed. Why? Primarily, I think, because terrorism strikes at the achilles heal of modern states, especially Super Powers like the U.S.  All of our weapons systems and armed forces are geared to repel and preempt attacks against us by other nation-states. But this is precisely what terrorism is not.

A Shiite pilrim w flag of martyr Iman HusseinTerrorists have no specific land to call their own. They have no military bases. They have no standing army. They operate without a specific chain of command. They operate like independent cells. There is no easy way to destroy its head, no matter how many drone strikes we deliver to eliminate terrorist leaders. Our missiles sit impotently in their silos. Our ships and planes circle “problem areas” but cannot encounter the enemy. We can spend billions and billions more on Defense, without a noticeable impact on our security.

Global travel, communications, and capital flows makes terrorist location, actions, and intentions so much more difficult to trace and block. The U.S. State is reduced to relying on information, and the CIA, in a much more profound and, ultimately incomprehensible way. The information we need is complicated, dense, unreliable, and often complicated by pesky things like human and constitutional rights. One can sense the exasperation of state leaders. Complaints about constitutionality of the bulk screening of U.S. civilian phone calls and emails are rendered irrelevant by the realization that intelligence officials have no other way of knowing what terrorists are up to. Thus, a recent government report lamented that

“From a technological standpoint, curtailing bulk data collection means analysts will be deprived of some information,” said Robert F. Sproull, the chairman of the committee that examined the problem and a former director of Oracle’s Sun Labs.”

That scares the hell out of state leaders. And thus, like a parent, who cannot get a child to behave with mere words and nagging, state leaders feel compelled to resort to violence. Their hope is that it will deliver the cooperation and information they need to not be embarrassed and shamed… by terrorists. But, ultimately, torture does not work.  It just inflames and expands the terrorism.

An interesting New Yorker article by George Packer explains the reasons behind the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo as a result of the deep alienation of many African immigrants in France. He writes that the product of that alienation is a turn to a religion as politics. Thus he states, “For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.” 

Tribute To Victims Killed During Attack At Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo At Place De La Republique In Paris

I have no doubt that he is right about how this radical ideological Islamic movement has so powerfully captured the imagination of these immigrant young men. The cause, however, is not the religious ideology. It is the sense of powerlessness felt by these young immigrants, and by non-immigrant young French, caught in maelstrom of the on-going transition from a nationally based economy into something global, more automated, less secure, and requiring higher levels of education. Adding to that is the continuing frustrations of a democratic politics that has been captured by the ultra rich everywhere it claims to exist. Those economic and political transformations affect everybody in modern capitalist countries, but not evenly or without variation.

Terrorism experts everywhere understand that people resort to such violence when they find that other routes towards influencing those around them and the society at large seem closed or ineffective. Terrorism is a tactic used to terrorize a population to accept something (independence, an ideology, religion, etc.) when other methods fail. Thus, terror was used by Irish Catholics, Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolutionaries, Rwandan Hutus, and countless more. States also engage in terror tactics when they sense the population is no longer listening or obedient to the rulers. Thus, dictators like Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Stalin in the Soviet Union, Tito in Yugoslavia, and many more.

But what makes terror such a prevalent tactic is not only that its users think that other attempted ways to influence policy and politics are not working. Terror is so prevalent because it is so easy to use and to work. Every other form of influencing others requires knowledge about what those others need, want, or desire. In democratic countries, influence comes from following accepted rules and laws (or appearing to) about how to process and channel individual claims and preferences, such as by voting. When we want to influence consumers in a capitalist society, we delve into consumer research with surveys, focus groups, or, more recently, with brain research that identifies how our minds operate. Then we tailor advertising to tap into those discovered preferences or subconscious desires for designer brands, stimulation, sweetness or whatever.

Violence, however, is a method of influencing others that requires very little knowledge of the other party. Nobody has to conduct any expensive research or try to mobilize and organize millions of people. Violence is simple.  In the vast majority of cases, probably 99.9% of all people, we already know that people do not want to be hurt or to die. That makes the threat of violence, like with terrorism, something that is very effective because it is so easy to influence others.

Terrorism, whether it is in France, Iraq, or the U.S., springs not only from the alienated psychological state of some marginalized populations. It springs from the characteristics of what makes coercive force so effective and easy to get. All anyone needs is a gun or bomb or knife or box cutter to get people to obey them…even into permitting their bodies and plane to be used to destroy symbols of Western capitalist power. With rare exceptions, the very vast majority of us are so afraid of harm and death that most threats instill enough fear to either paralyze us or make us more obedient to those dispensing the threat.

Will write more about this later.

There are good reasons why it is racist to focus on bad parenting in black communities as an explanation for their plight. Just as it is absurd to dismiss all charges made by minority people and leaders that racism may be at work in particular incidents. These knee-jerk rejections have little logical or historical support. Poverty is what causes family stress and disintegration. All the data shows, for instance, that marriage rates increase as income and education get higher. That is true in all communities. Divorce is increasing and marriage rates are dropping in the fading white middle class too. Blacks are just a lot poorer than whites… thus, they experience more marriage breakdowns. So, an explanation that claims that it is black family disintegration that explains their economic and social condition is misleading and destructive. It is the other way around.

And I find it funny that conservatives often accuse President Obama or Al Sharpton of stoking “racial hatred” any time they suggest that racism and police brutality are an endemic problem in minority communities. The conservative thinking seems to be that just by uttering some magical words, Black leaders can make “racial hatred” appear out of nowhere!! And yet, the same people adamantly reject the idea that racism from whites towards blacks and Latinos exists at all despite all the CONCRETE evidence SHOWING that they lack proper representation in media, job opportunities, housing, politics, business, education, etc. Thus, real evidence of a racial division counts for a lot less and has much less power than the power of magical words like “police brutality” and “racism” uttered by elected and other Black leaders. Amazing. We now live in a world of magical realism.

The New York Times pubished an article that argued that the CIA choose to torture because of their haste to respond to the attrocities of 9/11.  Aside from the realities that the torturing did not start in earnest till almost a year had passed since 9/11, there is evidence to suggest that torture was not just a hasty decision but rather a critical feature of the Bush administration.

The reason why the U.S. engaged in torture go beyond the CIA, contractors Mitchell and Jensen, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the Congress, a petrified American people, and an uncritical media. The answer lies in the overarching political strategy and theory of “preemption” that occupied a large contingent of White House officials and that dominated White House decisions and actions after 9/11. That was what I and my co-authors argued in our 2010 book, The Iraq Papers, published by Oxford University Press. Preemption was a strategy advocated by a contingent of neoconservatives that included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld. They had argued for over a decade before 9/11 that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1Hood_headphones_what_is989 gave the U.S. a singular, supreme Super-power status that could be put to use to fix the world’s problems without opposition from any other power. Preemption meant attacking and defeating opponents even though they may only pose a hypothetical threat. They had approached President Clinton with the idea of toppling Saddam Hussein during his administration without success. They finally succeeded with President Bush because of the 9/11 tragedy.

As we argued in the Iraq Papers, preemption was not only a Bush policy for international affairs. It also permeated domestic policies. Thus, the casual dismissal of our constitutional and ethical safeguards regarding personal privacy, human rights, judicial processes, and democracy. Our moral standards and international law regarding torture were preempted.

Eric Garner and the Police

Posted: December 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Eric Garner’s killing at the hands of the police is about a lot of things. It is about racism, inequality, and male testosterone.  It is also about bad policing policy.  This came to mind when I read that Rand Paul declared recently that Garner got killed because of the high taxes in New York on cigarettes.

Rand_Paul_5

Paul’s tax lament is that “for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians, we put our police in a difficult situation with bad laws.” [MSNBC, Hardball12/3/14]

The real issue is not taxes, however.  It is the “Broken Windows” policing policy that has cops out looking for jay walkers, subway sleepers, spitters, open beer-can drinkers, and loose cigarette sellers. Broken Windows policy claims that reducing minor criminal infractions will result in the reduction of major criminal infractions. In practice, it means that police departments push cops to look for, fine, and arrest people for minor infractions. They end up doing this primarily to minorities, homeless, and the poor because they are the low-hanging fruit. This produces an ever increasing number of abusive interactions that often result in tragedy like what happened to Eric Garner.

The New York City Police, for their own malicious reasons, do not provide all the data that would conclusively prove the connections between their policing methods and increasing friction with poor and minority people. But analysis by organizations at the front lines provide estimates that reveals the high degree of terror by police in minority neighborhoods.  As a New York Civil Liberties Union analysis shows, “81% of New Yorkers slapped with a criminal summons between 2001 and 2013 for minor infractions are black or Latino.” Fix the broken policing policies and you will help to radically reduce police killings of innocent and mostly harmless people.