April 15, 2018

Crisis: Trump & Syria, Russia-gate, Norman Finkelstein, Holocaust in USA, Attacking Syria


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 15, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 15, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from April 15, 2018
1. No, Trump isn’t suddenly concerned with Assad’s war crimes
2. How 'Russiagate' Produced the Missile Attack on Syria
3. Norman Finkelstein: The End of Israeli Influence in America?

4. America Doesn’t Have a Holocaust Problem -- It Has a History Problem

5. Attacking Syria: Thumbing Noses at Constitution and Law
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. No, Trump isn’t suddenly concerned with Assad’s war crimes

This article is by Sarah Kendzior on The Globe And Mail. It starts as follows (and is a replacement of a file I had earlier selected but then realized I had reviewed already):

At a July 2016 campaign rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump defended Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons. “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘Oh, he’s using gas!’” he said mockingly. “He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”

The compliment was not an anomaly: Mr. Trump likes dictators. He liked them during the campaign, when he defended Gadhafi and quoted Mussolini, and he liked them after he became President, lavishing praise on Erdogan, Duterte, and, of course, Putin.
Yes indeed. Here is some more:

Mr. Trump’s troubles now are more of a legal than a public relations matter, as the Mueller probe bears down on his closest associates, including his campaign managers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen. The tidal wave of revelations about the President’s shady deeds is so massive and ominous that it cannot be stopped by a Middle East incursion – unless that incursion transforms into a full-fledged regional war drawing in Iran, Russia, Israel, Turkey, and, as a result, the rest of the world.

The appointment of new national security adviser John Bolton, a Bush-era warmonger who regrets that the U.S. did not replicate its destructiveness elsewhere, makes world war a real possibility.
I think this is probably true as well. And this is a recommended article.

2. How 'Russiagate' Produced the Missile Attack on Syria

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Politicians, pundits and activists who’ve routinely denounced President Trump as a tool of Vladimir Putin can now mull over a major indicator of their cumulative impacts. The U.S.-led missile attack on Syria before dawn Saturday is the latest benchmark for gauging the effects of continually baiting Trump as a puppet of Russia’s president.

Heavyweights of U.S. media—whether outlets such as CNN and MSNBC or key newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post—spent most of the last week clamoring for Trump to order airstrikes on Syria. Powerful news organizations have led the way in goading Trump to prove that he’s not a Putin lackey after all.

One of the clearest ways that Trump can offer such proof is to recklessly show he’s willing to risk a catastrophic military confrontation with Russia.

Possibly so. Here is more:

On Saturday morning, the top headline on the New York Times website was “U.S. Attacks Syria in Retaliatory Strike,” while the subhead declared that “Western resolve” was at work. The story led off by reporting that Trump “sought to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people.”

Try putting the shoe on the other foot for a moment. Imagine that Russia, with a similar rationale, fired missiles at U.S. ally Saudi Arabia because the Kremlin “sought to punish King Salman for his country’s war crimes in Yemen”—with such reportage appearing under a headline that described the Russian attack as a “retaliatory strike.

Yes indeed, and I think this parallel is quite good. The article ends as follows:

What’s really at issue here is not the merits of the Russian government in 2018, any more than the issue was the merits of the Soviet government in 1967—when President Lyndon Johnson hosted an extensive summit meeting in Glassboro, New Jersey, with Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin, reducing the chances of nuclear war in the process.

If you keep heading toward a destination, you’re likely to get there. In 2018, by any realistic measure, the escalating conflicts between the United States and Russia—now ominously reaching new heights in Syria—are moving us closer to World War III. It’s time to fully recognize the real dangers and turn around.

Quite so, and this is a recommended article.

3. Norman Finkelstein: The End of Israeli Influence in America?

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer welcomes controversial author Norman Finkelstein, a longtime critic of the “Holocaust industry” and an outspoken commentator on the Arab-Israeli conflict. His most recent book, “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom,” delves into the struggles of Palestinians in the region.
In fact, here is some information on Norman Finkelstein. (And I like him without quite agreeing with him. There is more about him in some Nederlogs from previous years.)

Here is a summary of his latest book,
Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom”:

The Gaza Strip is among the most densely populated places in the world. More than two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half are under eighteen years of age. Since 2004, Israel has launched eight devastating “operations” against Gaza’s largely defenseless population. Thousands have perished, and tens of thousands have been left homeless. In the meantime, Israel has subjected Gaza to a merciless illegal blockade.

What has befallen Gaza is a man-made humanitarian disaster.

Based on scores of human rights reports, Norman G. Finkelstein’s new book presents a meticulously researched inquest into Gaza’s martyrdom. He shows that although Israel has justified its assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions constituted flagrant violations of international law.

But Finkelstein also documents that the guardians of international law—from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to the UN Human Rights Council—ultimately failed Gaza. One of his most disturbing conclusions is that, after Judge Richard Goldstone’s humiliating retraction of his UN report, human rights organizations succumbed to the Israeli juggernaut.

Finkelstein’s magnum opus is both a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and an act of resistance against the forgetfulness of history.

I think that is probably correct (but I don´t know). And this is about Finkelstein´s own Jewish background and about the latest generation of American Jews:

Finkelstein, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, tells Scheer during their conversation that he purposely used “martyrdom” in his new book’s title, as his parents invoked the same term when discussing their own suffering during the Holocaust.

Finkelstein believes the younger generation of American Jews is growing estranged from Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians and will move toward dissociating itself from Israel’s policies.

And he says the human rights community has largely abandoned Gaza, where living conditions are extremely poor for its residents, half of whom are children.

I think I don´t agree with Finkelstein about ¨the younger generation of American Jews¨, but again I don´t know.

My reasons not to know are that I am neither an American nor a Jew (though my communist family - father, mother, grandfather - were all much involved in the resistance against the Nazis in World War II, and though in one sense my father probably was Jewish in Goebbel´s sense, because his mother had a Jewish background, although she was in fact a Protestant).

My - non-conclusive - reasons to disagree about ¨the younger generation of American Jews¨ (though Finkelstein has some reasons) is mostly that most Jews, like most other people, are conformists.

And I did not select anything from Scheer´s interview that follows the above extracts from its introduction, but it is recommended.

4. America Doesn’t Have a Holocaust Problem -- It Has a History Problem

This article is by Matthew Rozsa on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

A survey released Thursday, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, revealed a startling lack of Holocaust awareness by a large percentage of Americans — and experts are troubled by its implications.

The study discovered that, although 93 percent of Americans believe that students should learn about the Holocaust at their schools, 31 percent (as well as 41 percent of millennials) wound up severely undercounting the death toll, believing that 2 million or fewer Jews were killed during the genocide, according to The New York Times. The actual number of Jews killed during the Holocaust is roughly 6 million, more than three times what the average American believes it to be.

The survey also revealed that 41 percent of Americans (as well as 66 percent of millennials) have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, while 52 percent incorrectly believe that Adolf Hitler came to power through force rather than through an election. One of the few silver linings of the survey was the observation that Holocaust denialism was very rare: 96 percent of Americans agreed that the atrocity was historical fact.

I say, for I did not know this, and I am both somewhat amazed and also not amazed. Here are my reasons for both facts:

First for my being somewhat amazed: In fact, I do not have adequate ideas about what ¨Americans¨ ¨on average¨ believe about WW II or the Holocaust.

Then again, if around 1/3rd (falsely) think that in the Holocaust ¨2 million or fewer Jews were killed¨ while 4/10th of Americans (and 2/3rd of Millenials) ¨never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp¨ this means that (after a little calculation) that 22 out of 30 Americans - that is: 73% - know hardly anything about either the Holocaust or WW II.

And next my main reason not to be amazed: In my time - which was between 1962 and 1968 - everybody got history at school. It was not a very important subject (like mathematics, English or Dutch), but everybody had to take it, which also meant that the Dutchmen of my age (late 60ies) almost all know about WW II, the Holocaust, and also something about the resistance against the Nazis, simply because they had to learn about these things.

Since the late 1960ies and early 1970ies in Holland (and also in all of Europe, and it seems in the USA) much of the education people got was simply done away with:

Whereas I had examinations in 14 subjects, of which around 3/4s were examined in writing, by 1980 the schools had all very much changed, and examined 6 subjects, of which 4 were examined in writing, and in general provided between 1/2 and 2/3rd of the education that I had received.

But almost no one cared, and in fact the vast majority (with IQs below 130) was quite pleased that they were required to know considerably less and still got ¨the same¨ diplomas.

And one of the many subjects that were made ¨voluntary¨ was history. Since I neither have children nor grandchildren (because I have ¨a serious chronic disease¨ since a mere forty years now, that was denied to be a disease, let alone ¨serious¨ and ¨chronic¨, until March 19, 2018)
I do not know how much history younger Dutchmen know, but I would not be much amazed if
they are hardly better than the average Americans.

Also, it is my guess that history also is a voluntary subject in the USA (but I do not know).

Here is some more on ¨the teaching of history¨ in American schools:

So how can we explain the disconnect between Americans' seeming good intentions when it comes to the Holocaust and their lack of understanding about its most basic details?

"I think one has to keep in mind that Americans are people, as a whole (obviously it's just unfair or injudicious to talk about 'Americans'), but they just don't know history of any kind," Professor Hasia Diner, who researches American Jewish History as well as Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, told Salon. "I mean, my guess is that if you polled those same Americans and asked them 'Who was Franklin Roosevelt?' 'What was the New Deal?' 'Who did America fight during World War II?' 'When was the Vietnam War?' et cetera[,] I think you'd get the same response."

She added, "I find with my students — these are select students who have done well in high school, gotten great SAT scores — and except for those who are history majors, who are interested in history, their knowledge of history is like, 'What happened yesterday?' And even that's a little fuzzy.
I do not know to what extent professor Diner is correct, but I fear she may be quite right. And this is a recommended article.

5. Attacking Syria: Thumbing Noses at Constitution and Law

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Sentence First, Verdict Later

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis could only say that he believes there was a chemical attack and that perhaps sarin, in addition to chlorine, was involved. Serving until now as the only available “evidence” are highly dubious reports from agenda-laden “social media.”  What is clear is that the U.S./UK/French Gang wanted to strike before the OPCW investigators had a chance to ascertain what happened.  Hmm.  All the earmarks of “Sentence first; verdict afterwards.”

Yes, this seems to be correct. And there is this on some background knowledge:

In 1961, when I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.  Also drummed into the heads of us newly minted officers was the obligation to tell the truth — always.

Note that the real point is about the ¨solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic¨, which is rather important because the Constitution is not the president nor any political party.

Then there is this:
Following Orders

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford remind me of the generals of the Third Reich in “just following orders,” lying through their teeth about the pretext for attacking Poland — er, I mean Syria — as though the solemn oath they took was to the Fuehrer — er, I mean President — not the Constitution.  It seemed, at first, that President George W. Bush’s dictum still reigned at the Pentagon; i. e., “The Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper.” But President Donald Trump and Secretary Mattis did not go as far as Bush. No doubt under White House orders, Mattis dutifully recited the key tenet of constitutional scholar Dick Cheney’s dubious “unitary executive” theory; that is, that the President is somehow not bound by Article I (Section 8) of the Constitution.
In fact the president is bound by the American laws and the American Constitution. Here is more on this:
At the beginning of his speech, Mattis employed this dubious variant, without the slightest demurral from those wishing to retain their Pentagon passes: “As our commander in chief, our President has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important U.S. national interests.”

Those interested should re-read Article II.  They will look in vain for anything like the Cheney/Mattis variant.  All that part of Article II says is: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”
Quite so. And this is the background:
Constitutionally, the craven Congress is a huge part of the problem. Only a few members of the House and Senate seem to care very much when presidents act like kings and send off troops drawn largely by a poverty draft to wars not authorized (or simply rubber-stamped) by Congress.
I agree and this is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

       home - index - summaries - mail