Tomgram: Tony Karon, Obama’s Gaza Opportunity

January 26, 2009

January 22, 2009

[Note for TomDispatch readers: Saturday is usually a dead zone for this site, but no longer. For the next two Saturdays, TomDispatch will be offering sizeable excerpts from a soon-to-be-published graphic memoir, Waltz with Bashir, created alongside the remarkable new Israeli animated movie of the same title about the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which has just received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Keep your eyes out for it. Tell your friends. It’s a must read.]

Yes, we now know the ever grimmer statistics: more than 1,400 dead Gazans (and rising as bodies are dug out of the rubble); 5,500 wounded; hundreds of children killed; 4,000 to 5,000 homes destroyed and 20,000 damaged — 14% of all buildings in Gaza; 50,000 or more homeless; 400,000 without water; 50 U.N. facilities, 21 medical facilities, 1,500 factories and workshops, and 20 mosques reportedly damaged or destroyed; the smashed schools and university structures; the obliterated government buildings; the estimated almost two billion dollars in damage; all taking place on a blockaded strip of land 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide that is home to a staggering 1.4 million people.

On the other side in Israel, there are a number of damaged buildings and 13 dead, including three civilians and three soldiers killed in a friendly-fire incident. But amid this welter of horrific numbers, here was the one that caught my eye — and a quote went with it: Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israeli Army, told Parliament on January 12th, “We have achieved a lot in hitting Hamas and its infrastructure, its rule and its armed wing, but there is still work ahead.”

Work? The “work” already done evidently included a figure he cited: more than 2,300 air strikes launched by the Israelis with the offensive against Hamas still having days to go. Think about that: in a heavily populated, heavily urbanized, 25-mile-long strip of land, 2,300 air strikes, including an initial surprise attack “in which 88 aircraft simultaneously struck 100 preplanned targets within a record span of 220 seconds.” Many of these strikes were delivered by Israel’s 226 U.S.-supplied F-16s or its U.S.-made Apache helicopters.

In addition, the Israelis evidently repeatedly used a new U.S. smart bomb, capable of penetrating three feet of steel-reinforced concrete, the bunker-busting 250-pound class GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. (The first group of up to 1,000 of these that the U.S. Congress authorized Israel to buy only arrived in early December.) In use as well, the one-ton Mk84 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and a 500-pound version of the same. These are major weapons systems. Evidently dropped as well were “Dime (dense inert metal explosive) bombs designed to produce an intense explosion in a small space. The bombs,” reported Raymond Whitaker of the British Independent, “are packed with tungsten powder, which has the effect of shrapnel but often dissolves in human tissue, making it difficult to discover the cause of injuries.”

Keep in mind that Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups are essentially incapable of threatening Israeli planes and that the Israelis were using their airborne arsenal in heavily populated areas. Though the air war was only one part of a massively destructive assault on Gaza, as a form of warfare, barbaric as it is, it invariably gets a free pass. Yet, if you conduct an air war in cities, it matters little how “smart” your weaponry may be; it will, in effect, be a war against civilians.

Whatever the damage done to Hamas, what happened in Gaza was, simply put, a civilian slaughter. And yet, as Tony Karon, TomDispatch regular and senior editor, who runs the Rootless Cosmopolitan blog, indicates below, the very scale of the Israeli assault on what was essentially a captive population wiped away many illusions, tore up the Middle East playbook, and potentially created the basis for a new Obama era approach to both Israelis and Palestinians. Whether that opportunity will be taken up is another matter entirely. Tom

Change Gaza Can Believe In
Tearing Up Washington’s Middle East Playbook
By Tony Karon

Lest President Barack Obama’s opportunistic silence when Israel began the Gaza offensive that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians (more than 400 of them children) be misinterpreted, his aides pointed reporters to comments made six months earlier in the Israeli town of Sderot. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” Obama had said in reference to the missiles Hamas was firing from Gaza. “I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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Tomgram: Transition Mania

December 11, 2008

December 7, 2008
Tomgram: Transition Mania

[Note to TomDispatch readers: Here we are nearing the end of the year. Just a reminder: If you’re getting ready for a little pre-2009 giving in tough times, why not hit the “Resist Empire. Support TomDispatch” button to the right of the site’s main screen and consider bulking up TD a little. Every dollar is appreciated.

And while you’re at it, if you’re in the mood for holiday book gifts, another way to support the site and its authors is to check out the list of TomDispatch-inspired books to the left of the main screen (scroll down). They range from this year’s The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, a best-of collection that will help make sense of this moment, to Michael Schwartz’s superb just-published War Without End, which capatures the hell Bush & Co. drove Iraq (and the U.S.) into, Nick Turse’s The Complex, a groundbreaking book on how our daily lives have been militarized, and — for a dash of pure hope — Rebecca Solnit’s classic volume, Hope in the Dark. Or if you want to know a little more about American triumphalism and how it crashed and burned twice in a matter of decades, check out my own recently updated The End of Victory Culture. Tom]

The Imperial Transition
44, The Prequel
By Tom Engelhardt

Did you know that the IBM Center for the Business of Government hosts a “Presidential Transition” blog; that the Council on Foreign Relations has its own “Transition Blog: The New Administration”; and that the American University School of Communication has a “Transition Tracker” website? The National Journal offers its online readers a comprehensive “Lost in Transition” site to help them “navigate the presidential handover,” including a “short list,” offering not only the president-elect’s key recent appointments, but also a series of not-so-short lists of those still believed to be in contention for as-yet-unfilled jobs. Think of all this as Entertainment Weekly married to People Magazine for post-election political junkies.

Newsweek features “powering up” (“blogging the transition”); the policy-wonk website offers Politico 44 (“a living diary of the Obama presidency”); and Public Citizen has “Becoming 44,” with the usual lists of appointees, possible appointees, but — for the junkie who wants everything — “bundler transition team members” and “lobbyist and bundler appointees” as well. (For those who want to know, for instance, White House Social Secretary-designate Desiree Roberts bundled at least $200,000 for the Obama campaign.)

The New York Times has gone whole hog at “The New Team” section of its website, where there are scads of little bios of appointees, as well as prospective appointees — including what each individual will “bring to the job,” how each is “linked to Mr. Obama,” and what negatives each carries as “baggage.” Think of it as a scorecard for transition junkies. The Washington Post, whose official beat is, of course, Washington D.C. über alles, has its “44: The Obama Presidency, A Transition to Power,” where, in case you’re planning to make a night of it on January 20th, you can keep up to date on that seasonal must-subject, the upcoming inaugural balls. And not to be outdone, the transitioning Obama transition crew has its own mega-transition site,

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

ICH: Conned Again…

November 10, 2008

These are just a few of the informative articles from this weekend’s edition of the Information Clearing House (ICH) newsletter:

Conned Again
By Paul Craig Roberts
Obama’s selection of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama’s election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the faces.
Obama vs. Medvedev
Nuclear Smackdown in New Europe
By Mike Whitney
Most of what is written about Medvedev is nonsense. The same corporations that own the politicians own the media as well. Naturally, they want to demonize their rivals. In truth, most Americans would have a lot more in common with Medvedev than they would with Bush, Cheney or any of their “silver spoon” elitist cronies.
The Machine Grinds On
By Morton Skorodin
The machine grinds on relentlessly. Now it’s: give Obama a chance. This means: Public, go back to sleep. In the meantime Obama and the state machinery work at feverish pace.
Tough Sledding Ahead
Surviving A Coming USD Collapse
By Christopher Laird
The Two insoluble problems that will lead to a depression and ultimately the final USD collapse.
Pakistan attacks kill 54: :
Jets from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed hills in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal district, killing at least five people.
U.S. Missile Attack Kills at Least 10 in Pakistan:
Missiles fired from a remotely piloted United States aircraft slammed into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan along the Afghan border on Friday and killed 10 to 13 people, according to a local intelligence official, a Pakistani reporter and two Pakistani television channels.
U.S. Admits Killing 37 Afghan Civilians :
The U.S. military Saturday admitted it while responding to an insurgent ambush has killed 37 civilians and wounded 35 others in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar, a Taliban heartland.
Afghanistan: The Promise and the Reality
Reckless Soldiers, Slappers and Smack
By Yvonne Ridley in Afghanistan
The day after US war planes bombed an Afghan wedding party killing more than 30 women and children, I drove from Pakistan’s troubled tribal areas to the border crossing.
Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered Since The U.S. Invaded Iraq “1,284,105”


Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America’sWar On Iraq 4,193

The War And Occupation Of Iraq Costs

See the cost in your community


Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Day of the Citizen

November 7, 2008

November 6, 2008
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Day of the Citizen

For almost eight years, somebody else’s bad-seed children had the run of the political sandbox. You could look on in horror as they bullied others, tore up the playground, and even managed to throw sand in their own eyes. You could yell at them (though they were heedless), or wonder where in the world their parents had gone, or who in the world had ever raised them to be this way. It was harder to dream, to hope.

Perhaps the best thing about the election of Barack Obama is simply the thought that, two and a half months from now, those mad children will be gone (though the damage they did will be with us eternally). At least that opens up the possibility of dreaming — and not just about the undoubtedly relatively familiar cast of characters who are likely to be appointed by the new president.

What’s happened is still only slowly sinking in for me, but the din outside my window election night when CNN declared Obama the victor — as if the Mets had just won the World Series (yes, I live in New York) — was surely a roar of joy, but also of relief. The images of Americans, young and old, weeping with pleasure and relief, the interviews on the news yesterday in which Americans nationwide dared to hope, however hesitantly, were all moving.

Back in May 2003, in a particularly dark moment, Rebecca Solnit posted an essay, “Acts of Hope,” at this site that became her wonderful, essential book — one that changed the way I look at history and life — Hope in the Dark. In it she wrote:

“A lot of activists expect that for every action there is an equal and opposite and punctual reaction, and regard the lack of one as failure… But history is shaped by the groundswells and common dreams that single acts and moments only represent. It’s a landscape more complicated than commensurate cause and effect. Politics is a surface in which transformation comes about as much because of pervasive changes in the depths of the collective imagination as because of visible acts, though both are necessary. And though huge causes sometimes have little effect, tiny ones occasionally have huge consequences… History is like weather, not like checkers. A game of checkers ends. The weather never does.”

She never stopped hoping or dreaming. Now, it seems, the weather is changing. If you feel hopeful, hang on to that feeling when things start to go wrong, as they certainly will. Tom

A Great Day, Nine Years, Three or Four Centuries

The Jubilant Birth of the Obama Era

By Rebecca Solnit

Citizenship is a passionate joy at times, and this is one of those times. You can feel it. Tuesday the world changed. It was a great day. Monday it rained hard for the first time this season and on Election Day, everything in San Francisco was washed clean. I went on a long run past several polling places up in the hills around my home and saw lines of working people waiting to vote and contented-looking citizens walking around with their “I Voted” stickers in the sun and mud.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Ernie Regehr on Obama and nuclear disarmament

November 6, 2008

Go to for Ernie Regehr’s blog posting on yesterday’s election and the hope for change in US approaches to nuclear disarmament.

Yesterday’s election offers the genuine hope of a dramatic change in US approaches to nuclear weapons and the Treaties and agreements that are intended to control and eventually eliminate them.

Tomgram: Heading for 2012

November 6, 2008

November 5, 2008
Tomgram: Heading for 2012

The Juggernaut

Obama and “the Elecular”

By Tom Engelhardt

The following email came in from my friend Wendy, very early Tuesday morning: “At 6:22, I am standing in a block long line on w. 65th. In 33 years I have never stood behind more than ten people for a prez election…”

Keep in mind that we’re talking about New York City, where the election result was never in doubt. At about the same time, at our neighborhood polling place, my wife found a more than hour-long line winding around the block, and my son, on his way to work, had a similar traffic-jam experience. For a friend downtown, it was two-and-a-half hours. Again, this wasn’t contested Ohio, it was New York City.

So don’t think I wasn’t excited — even thrilled, even filled with hope — when, at 11:30 that morning I hit my polling place and still found a sizeable, if swiftly moving, line of voters of every age, size, and color, and in the sunniest of moods. Normally, on voting day, I just waltz in. But it was a pleasure to wait and imagine. Even then I knew, as Jonathan Freedland wrote recently of Tom Friedman’s new book, that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” But believe me, that didn’t stop me from thinking about what the turnout might be like in states where it mattered, or what that might mean. And it didn’t stop me from remembering another moment, more than four years earlier.

It was the summer of 2004 and I was walking the floor of a packed Democratic Convention in Boston, interviewing dutiful delegates. They were intent on nominating John Kerry as the Party’s candidate because they were convinced he was the man who could “win.” Despite no less dutiful cheering as speakers rattled on, there was a low hum of conversation, a sense of distraction in the air — until, that is, a politician I had never heard of, a young man from Illinois named Barack Obama, was introduced as the keynote speaker.

All I can say is that I’ve never been in a crowd so electrified. It was visceral, as if the auditorium itself had suddenly come alive. I felt it as a pure shot of energy coursing through my body. Like others in that vast arena, I simply didn’t know what hit me. When it was over — and it took a long time for that surging din to ebb — when I could finally shout into a cell phone, I called my daughter, who, by an odd coincidence, was in the nosebleed section of the same arena with a camera crew. What I said to her (and then repeated to a friend in another call soon after) was: “I know this is going to sound ridiculous but I think I just heard a future president of the United States.” (And then, in my report from the convention, I actually wrote it down: “He was a knock-out. Call me starry-eyed, or simply punchy as a day inside the Fleet Center ended, but there’s always something about genuine enthusiasts that just does get to you. I thought to myself when Obama was finished and the place was truly rocking, maybe, just maybe, I listened to a speech by a future president of the United States.”)

Soon after, a friend commented that people had said the same thing of Julian Bond back in the 1960s. And I promptly forgot all about it until my daughter reminded me of it this spring.

Last night, that electric moment came to mind again — as a journey of unbelievable improbability reached its provisional, slightly miraculous endpoint. And, while the results poured in, I had another visit from the past. I remembered a day in 1950. I was six and my mother had taken me to one of those magnificent old movie palaces then still on Broadway in New York City to see a cowboy flick. At its climax, with the hero and villain locked in primordial struggle on a mountainside, the bad guy went over the cliff. As it happened, my father had mentioned this dramatic plot development the previous evening and so, as the villain dropped into the void, I yelled out into that darkened theater in sheer delight at being in the know, “My Dad told me it was going to happen this way!”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tariq Ali: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (VIDEO)

September 17, 2008

Watch this two-part Tom Dispatch VIDEO by Pakistani-born journalist and writer Tariq Ali and you will better understand the US-Pakistani relationship and its consequences in Afghanistan:

Part 1: The Tangled U.S.-Pakistani relationship on the edge of war
Part 2: Barack Obama’s disastrous plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan