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Monthly Archives: December 2011


IDF Shit List: Beirut

Reading David Hirst’s Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East, I’ve come across a passage that highlights other manifestations of Israel’s “purity of arms” in Lebanon aside from the mass slaughter of civilians (Hirst cites 20,000 fatalities, primarily civilian, in the 1982 invasion alone).

The passage discusses the “mess [that] confronted 1,500 US Marines, when, returning to Lebanon along with the rest of the ‘multi-national’ force [in September 1982], they took up position at Beirut international airport”. The Multinational Force, which had in August been tasked with overseeing the withdrawal from the country of the PLO, had itself prematurely withdrawn and was now being redeployed following the massacre of several thousand civilians at Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese Phalangists overseen by the IDF.

Hirst describes the scene at the airport:

“[The Marines’] first task there had been to remove the stinking mounds of excrement that, as in so many other places in the country, adorned just about everything, floors, elevators, chairs, desks and drawers. The Marines got the message. This, they quickly understood, was a ‘house-warming present’ from the Israeli soldiers whose place they were taking; it was their way of venting their spleen on those ‘Arab-loving’ American allies of theirs, who had bought all that Arab ‘propaganda’ about Sabra and Shatila, the Beirut blitz, and the iniquity of a nation that had done such things. Less disgusting, but decidedly more dangerous, was their other gift: the countless cluster bomblets, golfball-sized, which they had strewn the length and breadth of the airport buildings”.

Click here to read PULSE co-editor Robin Yassin-Kassab’s review of Beware of Small States; click here to read his interview with Hirst for The Electronic Intifada.


Democracy lessons for Fidel Castro

(Image from the Wolfsonian-FIU)

The following is an excerpt from my latest article for Al Jazeera:
In the 1950s, my father’s uncle Benito was summoned to Havana by Santo Trafficante Jr, Mafia boss for the southeastern United States and Cuba and a childhood friend of Benito’s from the Ybor City neighbourhood in Tampa, Florida.

In Havana, Benito was tasked with surveillance duties at the Sans Souci night club and casino run by Trafficante, a close friend of pro-US Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Trafficante had inherited the position from his father, the Sicilian-born Santo Trafficante Sr, who had been appointed by organised crime icons, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, to oversee gambling and drug operations in the Cuban capital, which served as a storage facility for heroin en route from Europe to the US.

Benito’s responsibilities at the Sans Souci included sounding an alert if the wife of a casino patron or other relevant figure arrived at an inopportune moment. Prospects for job security were slashed with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, however, and Benito returned to Florida to sell furniture while Trafficante enhanced his CV by becoming an accomplice of the CIA in the mission to assassinate Fidel Castro.

As journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair note in their book Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press, anti-Castro plots concocted by the Agency ranged from “tr[ying] to devise a way to saturate the radio studio where Castro broadcast his speeches with an aerosol form of LSD and other ‘psychic energisers'” to sabotaging his appearance before the United Nations in New York in 1960 by “plac[ing] thallium salts in Castro’s shoes and on his night table in the hope that the poisons would make the leader’s beard fall off”.


Guernica: The Latest Installment of the Iranian Terror Plot

”]The following is an excerpt from my short piece for Guernica on the continued fabrication of Islamo-Bolivarian threats to U.S. national security. The piece begins:

I have been kept up at night by the Iranian presence in Latin America ever since Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned in 2009: “We know that there are flights from Caracas via Damascus to Tehran.”

The warning, which was intended as evidence of Iranian infiltration of the American continent, occurred in the context of Ayalon’s excursion to Honduras to attend the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. Of no concern, apparently, was the fact that it is also possible to travel by air with minimal difficulty from Caracas to places like New York and Tel Aviv (and that Israel does not technically qualify as an American State).

The Caracas-Tehran one-stop has since been adopted as a pet issue by neoconservative pundits like the American Enterprise Institute’s Roger Noriega—author of such gems as “Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program”—who categorized the flight as a component of “Chávez’s Scary Anti-American Campaign.” Noriega reiterated the malevolent travel itinerary as part of his July 2011 testimony before a U.S.Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America— Implications for U.S. Homeland Security.”


Noriega’s Return

The London Review of Books blog has just published my short post on the repatriation to Panama of former dictator Manuel Noriega. The post begins:

The president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, announced on Twitter on 2 December that the repatriation and immediate imprisonment of Manuel Noriega would enable Panamanians to ‘finally close this bitter chapter’ of history. Noriega arrived in Panama City nine days later, the third and final stop on a multinational extradition tour that began with his ousting by the US military in January 1990 in Operation Just Cause. Incarcerated for nearly two decades in Miami on drug trafficking charges, Noriega then performed a shorter stint in a Paris jail for money laundering and was convicted in absentia in Panama for the murder of two political opponents in the 1980s. He is now in the El Renacer prison in Gamboa.

Residents of El Chorrillo, a poor area of Panama City, may not share Martinelli’s sense of justice and closure. It was bombed so heavily during Operation Just Cause that ambulance drivers referred to it as ‘Little Hiroshima’. According to the US military, a few hundred Panamanian civilians were killed; the UN puts the number at 2500 and other estimates are even higher. On the invasion’s tenth anniversary in 1999, US General Marc Cisneros said:

“I think we could have done it with less troops and less destruction. We made it look like we were battling Goliath… We are mesmerized with firepower. We have all these new gadgets, laser-guided missiles and stealth fighters, and we are just dying to use that stuff.”

Click here to read the post in its entirety at the LRB blog.

A few questions about a sign on a train platform in New Jersey

Photo: Belén Fernández. CLICK TO ENLARGE

  1. If the front lines of terror are located in the U.S., why are the emergency personnel responding to the TRAIN BOMBING wearing outfits labeled “POLICIA”?
  2. Why at every airport security line is there not a television screen replaying footage of the second airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, with the caption “PLANE CRASHING INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER”?
  3. Alternatively, why at every airport security line is there not a television screen replaying footage of the second airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, with the caption “AL QAEDA ALSO WANTS TO OCCUPY WALL STREET”?

Deconstructing Thomas Friedman: Book review by IPS

From yesterday’s review of my book by Sandra Siagian for Inter Press Service:

NEW YORK, Dec 6, 2011 (IPS) – A new book on the influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sets out to debunk his hawkish, neoliberal views, accusing him of overt racism, factual errors and skewed judgments on issues ranging from the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Deconstructing one of the country’s highest-paid journalists, Belen Fernandez’s “The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work” presents a comprehensive overview of the man – and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner – she describes as “characterised by a reduction of complex international phenomena to simplistic rhetoric and theorems that rarely withstand the test of reality”.

Fernandez, 29, admits that prior to 2009 she wasn’t too familiar with the work of the foreign affairs columnist. It wasn’t until that summer she decided to analyse Friedman’s work after reading “a sequence of ridiculous articles”.

Finding it difficult to “cram all of that incompetence into a concise book”, Fernandez divided the content into three issues that “most enraged” her, analysing his work along with a brief examination of the shortcomings of the U.S. media.


Doug Henwood interview: The Imperial Messenger

I was recently interviewed about my new anti-Thomas Friedman book by the great Doug Henwood for his program “Behind the News”. The show aired this morning on Berkeley’s KPFA 94.1.

The first guest was Michael Dorsey, professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth, who was speaking from the annual climate summit currently underway in Durban, South Africa.

My part begins at minute 27.10 with a wonderfully relevant introductory song.

Henwood has also included the recording of Friedman’s infamous “Suck. On. This” performance on Charlie Rose on behalf of the Iraq war effort. Remarks Henwood in response: “It’s like junior high school, only with automatic weapons and high explosives”.

Listen to the interview at the Left Business Observer or click below: