a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The truth is, Israel doesn’t want peace

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st December 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told us once Israel wants peace:

“The truth is, Israel wants peace, and the truth is, the Palestinians are doing all they can to torpedo direct peace talks,” Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting.
(AP via Politico, 9/18/11)

If so, he’s got a funny way of showing it.  First he has a Hamas leader killed who was negotiating with Israeli officials.  Then: a massively disproportionate attack on Gaza — following a history both in the past year and the past twelve years of the same.  And now, after Palestinians gained a limited measure of formal recognition at the U.N.,

Israel plans to build some 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for recognition at the UN General Assembly this week, a senior diplomatic source told Haaretz on Friday.

According to the source, Israel also plans to advance long-frozen plans for the E1 area, which covers an area that links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.

If built, the controversial plan would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.
(In response to UN vote, Israel to build 3,000 new homes in settlements; Ravid, Haaretz, 11/30/11)

The truth is, Israel doesn’t want peace — at least its government and those who will probably re-elect it don’t.  Judging by its actions, the Netanyahu administration wants conquest, occupation, blockade, and humiliation of Palestinians in their territories.

That’s nothing new, but it’s important to see the plain truth and I think it’s important to be willing to say so.  Because of our nation’s nearly unconditional support for Israel, Americans don’t have right to just claim this is an intractable problem or say a pox on both their houses.  We need to look at facts like those in the map or in this chart, prepared by “Visualizing Palestine“:

Palestinian and Israeli deaths since September 2000
via Visualizing Palestine)

The chart plainly shows an Israel far too interested in just killing alleged enemies (and anyone in the vicinity) — and not interested enough in preventing enmity by not killing first so often.  The same could be said of the U.S., unfortunately.  Yet both countries might actually be more safe the less often they kill in the name of safety.  From a BBC report centered on a Gazan colleague’s loss of a baby boy:

Before I left Jehad’s house, leaving him sitting round a camp fire with other mourners, I asked him – perhaps stupidly – if he was angry over Omar’s death.

“Very, very angry,” he said, his jaw tensing as he glanced at the photos on his phone.

Jehad may well not look for revenge, but other Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank will.

EDIT, 12/1: “–following..” clause and links added.

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Return of “Sorta like mowin your lawn”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th November 2012

*Every* danged week — stuff just keeps growing back.
Maybe just pave it over.

Previously in “Sorta like mowin your lawn”:

The latest in “Sorta like mowin your lawn”:

  • “What is striking in listening to the Israelis discuss their predicament is how similar the debate sounds to so many previous ones, despite the changed geopolitical circumstances. In most minds here, the changes do not demand a new strategy, simply a redoubled old one. The operative metaphor is often described as “cutting the grass,” meaning a task that must be performed regularly and has no end. There is no solution to security challenges, officials here say, only delays and deterrence.”
    (As Battlefield Changes, Israel Takes Tougher Approach, Bronner, New York Times, 11/16/2012)

Corey Robin observed, “Classic anti-Semitic propaganda depicted Jews as vermin; Israeli propaganda sees Arabs as vegetation.”

With apologies to the incomparable Fafblog!, who meant well, but look at what happened, so I hope Fafnir et al are very, very sorry for what they have done to the art, science, and zen of lawn mowing.:

  • “An right now the level of torture talk has gone from ‘Torture: Bad!’ to ‘Torture: Bad, But Not As Bad As Saddam Hussein’ to ‘Torture: Bad, But What About Ticking Bombs?’ to ‘Torture: Bad, But Not Necessarily Proof That The People Who Ordered Torture Are Bad’ to ‘Torture: We Still Talkin Bout Torture?’ to ‘Torture: Bad?’ An before we get to ‘Torture: Sorta Like Mowin Your Lawn’ I think we should try as hard as we can to wake up.”
    (wake up , Fafblog!, 7/10/2004)

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UN documents disproportionate Israeli lethal force in Gaza this year before November conflict

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th November 2012

A  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report* documents who had been killing whom in and around occupied Palestinian territory for the week of October 31- November 6, 2012 — i.e., until just prior to the current war.  The report has separate segments for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

UN logoPalestinian casualties by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip:
Killed this week: 1
Killed in 2012: 71
Killed in 2011: 108
Injured this week: 1
Injured in 2012: 291
Injured in 2011: 468
2012 weekly average of injured: 8
2011 weekly average of injured: 9

Sure, but what about Israeli casualties?

Israeli casualties by Palestinian fire from Gaza
Killed in 2012: 1**
Injured this week: 3

Injured in 2012: 19

Thus, according to OCHA reports, there was 1 Israeli death in 2012 due to hostile fire from Gazacompared to 71 Palestinian casualties by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Now even one Israeli death by violence is one such death too many.  (Of course, by 71 of the same tokens, 71 Palestinian deaths are 71 too many as well.)  But like other analyses have suggested, these facts show there’s a bit of a problem with claiming the current hostilities are all Hamas’s fault.  However much we’re trained to assume that.

* Via the “Moon of Alabama” blog.
** This line is documented in the  Oct 10-16  report, but (currently) not in the subsequent three reports (Oct 17-23, Oct 24-30, Oct 31-Nov 6).


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Assassinating negotiation

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 17th November 2012

Gershon Baskin is a respected Israeli peace activist, columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and co-director of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, who helped arrange the 2011 release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in captivity in Gaza for five years.  He had been trying to arrange a more permanent cease-fire along the Gaza-Israel border — but had his efforts bombed out from under him by the IDF.  Here’s the key part of “Assassinating The Chance For Calm” that Baskin wrote on Thursday, November 15 for the Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” section:

Both Israel and Hamas had decided months ago not to take action on my proposed ceasefire option, which included within it a mechanism that would prevent Israeli pre-emptive actions and would enable Hamas to prove that it was prepared to prevent terror attacks against Israel. Both sides responded very seriously to the proposal, but without any signal that there was an openness on the other side, neither was willing to advance the possibility for testing it.

Several weeks ago, I decided to try once again and, through my counterpart in Hamas, we both began speaking to high level officials on both sides. A few days ago I met my counterpart in Cairo and we agreed that he would draft a new proposal based on our common understanding of what was required to make it work.

Yesterday morning, hours before Israel assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, my counterpart in Hamas presented the draft to Jaabari and to other Hamas leaders. Senior Hamas leaders on the outside had already seen it and had instructed him to check the reactions to it in Gaza. I was supposed to receive the draft yesterday evening to present to Israeli officials who were waiting for me to send it to them.

That option is now off the table. Jaabari is dead and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term ceasefire understanding…

There does not seem to be any dispute that Jaabari and Israeli officials were in dialogue, via Baskin, shortly before Jaabari was killed.  In comments to Ha’aretz, Baskin made clear he had no illusions about Jaabari — “[h]e was in line to die, not an angel and not a righteous man of peace.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration dutifully strongly condemns the Hamas/Gaza rocket attacks. But while it also claims “[t]here is no justification” for them, many analyses put that in dispute — as often the case in the past: Israel had been engaging in numerous, generally deadlier attacks of its own in the prior weeks, but with bullets, not with missiles.  Meanwhile most (though not all) Gaza rocket attacks were either operationally or intentionally symbolic, falling on open spaces rather than on Israelis.

Should Hamas be rocketing Israel, or letting others do so?  Of course not.  But if Israel and Israelis actually want to get to peace, at some point they’ll need to talk to the people on the other side with their fingers on the triggers and launch switches, not provoke them into one-upsmanship — let alone kill them.  But getting to peace is clearly not what Benjamin Netanyahu or his base want —  they prefer assassinating negotiations instead.

Now a dangerous, deadly ground war looms for Gaza — just like four years ago, after a U.S. general election and before an Israeli one.  If that happens, it will be even more difficult than usual to end.  After all, who in Gaza will want to be a part of  peace talks, when Israel has made that a death sentence?

I have the sinking feeling Netanyahu et al think they’re engaged in tough, clever realpolitik with both Hamas and Washington.  To me, their actions seem like a stupid, bloody, and deeply cynical waste of time and lives.

UPDATES, 11/17: Moshe Dayan explains it all for you (Corey Robin); 11/19:  Israel’s Shortsighted Assassination (Baskin to NYTimes); I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War (Lithwick,; 12/30: Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict? (timeline -Wright/Hauser, The Atlantic), addl. timelines above (“many”,”analyses”,”often the case”), see also “Visualizing Palestine” timeline graphic.

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“One Nation” minus one friend

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th December 2010

We March For Hope Not Hate
Children with “We March for Hope not Hate” sign
at 10/2/10 “One Nation” demonstration
( Click for “One Nation” slide show).

The “One Nation” event — already unimaginably long ago, more than two months! — at least succeeded in discomfiting one fellow who needed it. John Avlon — the smug author of the unbearable “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Taking Over America” — was unaccountably assigned to the rally by the Daily Beast to confirm his superiority over attendees.  He reported:

The signs started off badly as I approached the Washington Mall. “Yes We Can… Bomb Civilians!” read the first sign I saw, held aloft by a 2008 Ralph Nader supporter from Providence, Rhode Island, named Adrian. Behind him, representatives from “The World Can’t Wait” positioned a black-hooded orange-jumpsuited effigy to protest Guantanamo next to signs that read “Stop Occupation and Torture for Empire!”

A pre-game rally south of the Washington Monument featured drum circles and papier maché puppets. President Obama was called an “imperialist president” who was insensitive to the “African community” and “the 2.5 million people in concentration camps called prisons.”

I’ve never been sure what’s wrong with drum circles and paper mache puppets, and I’m pretty sure nothing’s wrong with confronting a supercilious prig or his readers with the facts of mass imprisonment in the U.S., bombing civilians, occupation, torture, or an assertion of empire that matches facts and is actually embraced by leading thinkers on the right.  But if there is something wrong with it, I guess we’ll all just have to live with ourselves.

Next, though, Avlon noticed some more debatable signs — but just as debatably classified them all as anti-Semitic, un-American and beyond the pale:

The curious migration of anti-Semitism to the left was evident in signs that read “End All U.S. Aid to the Racist State of Israel” and “Fund Jobs, Not Israel.” I cringed as these marchers crowded past a group of World War II vets from Columbus, Ohio, being wheeled to their war memorial as part of the excellent “Honor Flight” program.

Why those vets would necessarily care one way or the other — either about Israel or about what protesters think of it — is presumably clear to Mr. Avlon, but was left unexplained for the rest of us.  It’s one thing to say these demonstration participants were somewhat off the main message of the day — jobs, employment, economic help for those needing it rather than for those not needing it.  (Though their signs did arguably match the One Nation principle of providing “greater national investment in new jobs, improved infrastructure, and public education instead of escalating military spending.”)

But Avlon’s objection was broader: these people had no valid point whatever, and their failings indicted the demonstration as a whole.  To me, that’s an insidious sentiment of its own. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wieseltier v. Sullivan

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th February 2010

There’s an interesting — well, interesting to me — contretemps going on between The New Republic’s long-time literary editor Leon Wieseltier and The Atlantic Monthly’s (and one-time TNR editor) Andrew Sullivan.  On Monday, Mr. Wieseltier unburdened himself of a four thousand plus word avalanche of a rant titled “Something Much Darker” and subtitled “Andrew Sullivan has a serious problem.” The outburst was seemingly triggered by, of all things, an obscure W. H. Auden quote Sullivan had posted on his blog a few days earlier: “Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy.”

To make a long story short, Wieseltier’s delicate political instrumentation detected tell-tale traces of anti-Semitism in Sullivan’s throwaway Auden quote, and Wieseltier implied that was of a piece with stronger indications yet elsewhere in Sullivan’s writings.

To make it a bit longer, re Auden and the Trinity, Wieseltier presented himself at considerable length as just the kind of  “stiff-necked”, “rational,” and “Jewish” (his words) person who is proud neither to understand the doctrine of the Trinity nor to aspire to do so.*  And of course all right thinking folk who wish not to ponder arcane theological disputes say it’s a free country, more power to him, and why don’t we order lunch now.  Unfortunately, Wieseltier closes Section Roman Numeral One of his wrathful reflections with the ominous words

…when [Sullivan] piously implies that the orbit of The New Republic is immune, or hostile, to the eternal verities of Christianity, he is baiting another class of people, and operating in the vicinity of a different canard.

As blanching readers immediately suspected, Sections Roman Numeral II, III, IV, and V would prove to be considerably nastier bits of work, however tendentiously based on reeds as slender as the Auden quote.  Wieseltier’s next and primary exhibit was from a January 13 post by Sullivan in which Sullivan wrote that

Most American Jews, of course, retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities (Jews, for example, are the ethnic group most sympathetic to gay rights).  But the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing–that celebrates and believes in government torture, endorses the pulverization of Gazans with glee, and wants to attack Iran–is something else. Something much darker.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ezra Nawi and the laughing soldiers

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 11th August 2009

I admire people like Ezra Nawi, people with the cussedness and determination and confidence to just keep doing simple right things. In Nawi’s case, that means being an Israeli yet sticking up for Palestinians on the West Bank near Hebron — people who are being viciously and criminally (they’re really the only words that will do) harassed by nearby Israeli settlers.

To the right is a short video of the incident that has led to Nawi’s conviction for “assaulting” an Israeli officer. (Nawi is in the green jacket as the video begins.) As you’ll see, I think, if there was an assault it was pretty hard to spot. Be that as it may, the first point of this post is to ask you to go to and add your name to a petition asking the Israeli justice system to forego jailing Mr. Nawi.

But the real point is what was happening to the Palestinians. Writing for Ha’aretz in mid-June, David Shulman (who says he knows Nawi and is certain the charge is untrue) explains:

On February 14, 2007, the Israeli authorities sent army bulldozers to demolish several Palestinian shacks in a tiny place called Umm al-Kheir, 25 kilometers southeast of Hebron. Umm al-Kheir embodies the everyday reality of the Israeli occupation like no place else: The 100 or so impoverished Bedouin who call it their home, eking out a livelihood by grazing goats and sheep on the dry, stony hills, live in rickety structures of canvas, tin and stone. The land is theirs: Originally refugees from Tel Arad in the Negev in 1948, they bought it for good money from its Palestinian owners in the early 1950s. Israel, however, has put up a large settlement called Carmel right next to Umm al-Kheir, and like all settlements, Carmel (founded in 1981) is constantly expanding, encroaching on the lands of its Palestinian neighbors. As documented in detail in police records in Kiryat Arba, settlers also regularly attack these neighbors, whom they would like to remove altogether from this area.

House demolitions in the Palestinian territories are routine, and there have been several at Umm al-Kheir, too. The legal justification is always that the houses were built without a permit. But Palestinians living in Area C in the territories have almost no hope of getting a building permit. (To give some idea: on average, in all of Area C, only one building permit is granted to Palestinians each month, whereas some 60 demolitions orders are issued, of which 20 are carried out. Fewer than 5 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are approved.)

You may have skimmed past the “settlers also regularly attack these neighbors” part above, or imagined a shouting match or some scuffles.  Wrong.   Nir Rosem, writing about Nawi for Ha’aretz in 2005, reported nearby Israeli “settlers” poisoned livestock, destroyed olive orchards, plowed up fields, committed arson, and beat the Palestinian village children and foreign volunteers accompanying them to school badly enough that several needed hospitalization.

I don’t really know that much about the lay of the land over there.  So I wouldn’t usually have a feeling for whether what’s happening or happened in and around Umm al-Kheir is an outlier, or whether it’s as everyday as Shulman says it is.

Except for that video.  Because the worst thing about it isn’t the soldiers breaking in to the metal shack, it isn’t even the bulldozer demolishing the old house next to it while villagers cry and curse.  The worst thing was that the IDF soldiers laughed when they were done. Like it was no big deal at all.

You can also visit for ongoing news about the case and the cause.

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The DemAIPAClican Party

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th May 2009

There’s obviously a lot else going on, but I’ll post this because it hardly requires further comment.  From Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column in the Washington Post this morning:

…House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent out a “Dear Colleague” e-mail Tuesday asking for signatures “to the attached letter to President Obama regarding the Middle East peace process.”

The letter says the usual stuff, emphasizing that Washington “must be both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel” and noting: “Israel will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement.”

Curiously, when we opened the attachment, we noticed it was named “AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009.pdf.”

Kamen’s title: “Now, that’s lobbying.”

You know, it’d be cheaper if we just set up a web site called, say, on an AIPAC server and populated it with 535 little avatars called “HoyerMD5,” “CantorVA7,” and so forth.  There’d be e-mail blasts, a “congressional record” blog, people could vote for their favorite avatar, the works.

UPDATE, 5/15: Here’s the letter (posted over at; here’s what MJ Rosenberg and Yglesias have to say about it. Rosenberg: “not one word in the letter that calls on Israel to do anything, not one word about the settlements, the blockade of Gaza, the checkpoints that make it impossible for Palestinians to travel from one village to the next.”

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Many, many eyes for an eye

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th December 2008

Israel has now declared “all-out war” on the Gaza strip Hamas government for its continued rocketing of nearby Israeli towns and settlements.  The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan and Griff Witte report the death toll stood at 364 — including at least 57 civilians, according to a separate (and heartbreaking) report on the death of five sisters when a neighboring mosque was bombed.  The numbers and high civilian casualties are in large part because the aims of the Israeli government are broader than ever before:

While previous Israeli assaults on Gaza have pinpointed crews of Hamas rocket launchers and stores of weapons, the attacks that began Saturday have had broader aims than any before. Israeli military officials said Monday that their target lists have expanded to include the vast support network that the Islamist movement relies on to stay in power in the strip. The choice of targets suggests that Israel intends to weaken all the various facets of Hamas rather than just its armed wing.

“There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel,” said a senior Israeli military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Hamas’s civilian infrastructure is a very, very sensitive target. If you want to put pressure on them, this is how,” said Matti Steinberg, a former top adviser to Israel’s domestic security service and an expert on Islamist organizations.

This is a formula for all-out, total war indeed.  But it presupposes you’re fighting people who’ll accept different leadership when it’s over — and by that measure, Israel’s war may well have the opposite effect.  In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Palestinian journalist Daouad Kuttab notes that Hamas had been increasingly unpopular in Gaza — its support stood at a Bush-like 17% level among Palestinians in November, with Hamas trailing Fatah even within the Gaza Strip.  As importantly, it had lost support around the Arab world, in part for scuttling Arab-sponsored talks with the rival Abbas government in the West Bank.  That’s all a thing of the past:

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

But the same poll showing low Hamas approval ratings showed Palestinians essentially uncommitted to the Hamas 6 month truce with Israel: a clear majority (41%) felt it had made no difference, with the remainder statistically tied between judging the truce had served or harmed the national interest.

The question was whether even an eye for an eye — let alone many, many eyes for an eye — was the right way to go under these circumstances. It’s interesting and a little sad to note that the “original intent,” as it were, of the “eye for an eye” phrase may be quite different from what it’s assumed to be.*  Exodus 21:23-25, in the King James Version, reads as follows, with emphasis added:

23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

To be sure, other biblical passages (e.g. Lv 24:19-20, Dt 19:21) are more clearly about punishment to be exacted, and there’s apparently room for debate with this one, since other translations replace the “give” with “take.” But this discussion suggests that the original Hebrew for this Exodus passage amounts to “being in place of being” — i.e., it actually comes closer to suggesting proportional, functional substitution of something new for that which was lost, by you, for your own misdeeds rather than narrowly equivalent penalties on someone else for theirs; the writer proposes that a person blinded by your fault would be compensated by a seeing servant.

But in any case, the fundamental idea is “proportional” — and also in any case, these biblical passages aren’t the end of all wisdom on the topic.  It’s all too easy for me to sit here in safety and pontificate, but I think hilzoy is right:

I imagine what people on both sides are thinking is something more like: do you expect us to just sit here and take it? Do you expect us to do nothing? To which my answer is: no, I expect you to try to figure out what has some prospect of actually making things better. Killing people out of anger, frustration, and the sense that you have to do something is just wrong. For both sides.

* In case it’s not obvious, I’m no biblical scholar; I’m just following up on leads from the Wikipedia “eye for an eye” entry.

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You’d think this would get more attention

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 7th January 2008

The Sunday Times Online reported today that…

…foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions. […]

…one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan…

“He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”

For Sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets Sunday Times Online, 1/6/08

The source is Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator fluent in Farsi and Turkish, who was assigned to a backlog of untranslated documents and wiretaps in 2002. Following what she saw as an unsuccessful effort in late 2001 to enlist her in espionage similar to that reported above, Edmonds reported the Americans involved to the FBI — and was fired for her trouble in March 2002.* In his 2005 Vanity Fair piece “An Inconvenient Patriot,” David Rose described what came next:

But being fired is one thing. Edmonds has also been prevented from proceeding with her court challenge or even speaking with complete freedom about the case.

On top of the usual prohibition against disclosing classified information, the Bush administration has smothered her case beneath the all-encompassing blanket of the “state-secrets privilege”—a Draconian and rarely used legal weapon that allows the government, merely by asserting a risk to national security, to prevent the lawsuits Edmonds has filed contesting her treatment from being heard in court at all. According to the Department of Justice, to allow Edmonds her day in court, even at a closed hearing attended only by personnel with full security clearance, “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the foreign policy and national security of the United States.”

Using the state-secrets privilege in this fashion is unusual, says Edmonds’s attorney Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It also begs the question: Just what in the world is the government trying to hide?”

Now we have a better idea.

Remarkably, Ms. Edmonds couldn’t get any major American news organization to agree to publish her allegations naming names. It’s really a bit of a shame the story is getting crushed by ObamaNewHampshireIowaEdwardsClintonHuckabeeRomney, and one may wonder why Ms. Edmonds took so long to go to foreign media with her story, which even as reported in outline form before now seemed like a huge scandal. The answer may have to do with libel laws abroad, or at least in the U.K., that are more protective of public figures than they are in the United States. Certainly no names were named in the Times Article.

However, Ms. Edmonds has now published a “State Secrets Privilege Gallery” on her own web site (“Just A Citizen“) with unlabeled photographs of well known Defense Department and intelligence figures like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Brent Scowcroft, and Congressmen Dennis Hastert, Richard Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Art Lantos, to name a few — the full list is spelled out by lukery (“Let Sibel Edmonds Speak”). The intent appears to be to imply names to put to the allegations in the Times story, without taking the legally fraught step of connecting every dot in writing.

Whoever the weak links in the American chain turn out to be, the nexus of espionage that Edmonds’ story describes is unsettling indeed:

The Turks and Israelis had planted “moles” in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. “The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,” she said.

If the Israeli angle is true as well, it seems plausible that they were trying to get information about how to build “better” nukes of their own, though I suppose there are Israelis who’d sell nuclear plans to Pakistan. The Times provides a timeline of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development at the end of the story, and most reactions understandably focus on that country.* Jim Henley (“Unqualified Offerings”) writes, “The thing that most struck me is how much, over the decades, Pakistan has acted not at all like a client state of the US.”

The Turkish Connection
True. I’d add, though, that most of the article tends to point our good friend Turkey’s way in that respect. The Congressional involvement implied by Ms. Edmonds’ photo gallery is certainly all connected to Turkey; sometimes the worthy Congressmen involved were impressed that Turkey has been willing to work with Israel diplomatically and militarily, sometimes they’ve been impressed with Turkish money (Livingston’s lobbying firm is on an annual $1.8M retainer by the Turkish government), and sometimes both. Edmonds says Mr. Hastert may not have been willing to wait to get out of office before pocketing his payoffs. Rose:

[Edmonds] reported hearing Turkish wiretap targets boast that they had a covert relationship with a very senior politician indeed—Dennis Hastert, Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House since 1999. The targets reportedly discussed giving Hastert tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information.

What sort of political favors? In an interview with Amy Goodman, Rose says that in secret testimony, Edmonds told Congressional investigators that Speaker Hastert may have sold out his support for the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2000, withdrawing it just before a final vote:

One of the Turkish targets of these wiretaps claimed that the price for getting Dennis Hastert to withdraw the resolution would be $500,000. Now, I do emphasize there’s no evidence at all that he received such a payment, but that is what is said to have been recorded in one of the wiretaps.

Thus, it’s not all about nukes; denial of the Armenian Genocide is a centerpiece of Turkish policy, since acknowledging it would invite reparations claims — and might undermine the political legitimacy of a Turkish republic that has long and strenuously denied many of its founders’ responsibility for that genocide.

But it is likely very much about money in any case. Since 9/11, Turkey is the 7th largest recipient of military “aid” from the United States,** and Turkish military officials — who wield constitutional power in that country as designated arbiters of the secular tradition in that country — are both well placed and not reluctant to profit from sidelines, or recycle some of that largesse in ambitious ways. Entrepreneurism being universal, and absolute power notoriously corrupting absolutely, it would be little wonder if Turkish military and intelligence might go into all kinds of unexpected business sidelines.

We’ll just have to hope that responsible, upstanding people in Islamabad — and not Al Qaeda — were the final destination for any nuclear secrets said entrepreneurs got their hands on.

CROSSPOSTED TO “American Street

* Indeed, I wonder if Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was an additional reason Edmonds went to the Times. The stated reason, however, was that she “approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.” Joseph Cannon (“Cannonfire”) writes the story was probably this one about Louai Sakka (or Sakra), an Al Qaeda operative now jailed in Turkey. The “hall of mirrors” feeling about the story deepens in that Sakka is apparently linked to many Western intelligence services, according to a article citing the 9/11 Commission and media reports.
** $1.325 billion from 2002-04, according to Countries receiving more aid — or “aid” — were Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Colombia, with figures ranging from $9 billion to $2 billion over the same time period.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’d be remiss not to mention that I’ve often written often about the Armenian Genocide and the struggle to have it acknowledged as such. (See, e.g., 90 years ago: Armenian Genocide Begins and Another Day, Another Turkish New Lira for the Washington Post) While I like to think I’d feel this way in any case, I’m married to an Armenian American.

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