Divest from Iran? Bad policy and horrible symbolism.

By State Representative Larry Galizio (D-Tigard).

What do Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, and Douglas Feith have to do with the Oregon Legislature, the state treasurer’s office, the PERS Fund, and Iran? A lot; especially if you’re a supporter of Senate Bill 633A [pdf] which directs the Oregon Investment Council and the state treasurer to try to ensure that Oregon investments, such as the PERS Fund, aren’t made in companies doing business with Iran.

The Neo-Conservatives complicit in laying the groundwork for the Iraq War are now busy fomenting hatred and demonization of Iran. The effort to create the conditions justifying military action against Iran - either by the US and/or Israel – is made much easier when US capital is no longer invested in the targeted country.

Leading the charge is the Center for Security Policy, a hawkish Neo-Con group headed by Frank Gaffney, former Reagan Pentagon staffer who worked under Richard Perle. The CSP is funded by the usual right-wing foundations – Bradley, Scaife, Olin – has received kudos from the most prominent pentagon military contractors, and is working with organized interests and individuals favoring a Netanyahu “no holds barred” military policy for SB 633A-like bills in several states. In addition to Oregon, CSP and affiliated groups have pressured state legislators in Minnesota, Ohio, California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.

SB 633A is bad policy and horrible symbolism. It further hamstrings an Oregon Treasurer’s Office that has seen a significant downturn in the PERS Fund. It aligns liberal Democrats with right-wing Neo-Cons whose aim is to isolate Iran and set the conditions for a military strike and/or invasion. It undercuts the Obama Administration’s more enlightened and intelligent foreign policy that seeks constructive engagement rather than saber rattling and military action as a first option. Moreover, as Illinois recently experienced, it might be declared illegal for a state to take such an action.

Finally, SB 633A presents absolutely no justification and/or criteria for when divestment should take place. Is it the threat of a nuclear program? Then do we need bills for Syria, North Korea, and Pakistan? Is it countries with nuclear programs now? I suppose we’d need bills urging divestment from companies doing business with China, the UK, and Russia. How about Belarus? Kazakhstan? Ukraine? And what about countries that have nuclear programs yet won’t declare it to be the case? That would be a bill to divest from companies doing business with Israel. (See a complete list here.) Or, perhaps the supporters of SB 633A think the criteria should center on countries with terrible human rights records? Oh, that might not work. Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, and a whole host of US client states would be vulnerable.

Or just maybe the Oregon Legislature should permit the state treasurer’s office and the investment council to do its level best to maximize returns by investing in the best funds so that we can start to recover the hundreds of millions of public dollars lost in the past 2 years? With a $4.2 billion deficit, it’s not as if those of us serving in the Oregon Legislature have a shortage of pressing financial concerns to address.

Comments

  • Roy McAvoy (unverified)
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    Divestiture from a rogue country may not make good economic sense for Oregon, but is it really the wrong thing to do? To say that Iran is not actively providing support to militants fighting US troops in Iraq is naive. I would like to hear more detail from both sides of this issue. I can see the support and funding is from the right side of the isle, but I would love to find out who is behind the scenes lobbying on the left side of the isle.

  • (Show?)

    Link it to the investment/divestment from Israel. Either invest in both or divest from both.

  • (Show?)

    Is there anything the US can do to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons? What should Oregon’s (US) foreign policy be in respect to Iran? Does it make sense for Oregon to impose, perhaps with other state governments, economic sanctions on Iran? Admittedly, these questions are complex. But, generally, I’m of the view that there is little we can do to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and that ongoing economic connectivity strengthens Western (including US) influence within Iranian society and politics. So, SB 633A does not, IMHO, seem like good public policy.

    I do support two other possible legislative actions that would impact US-Iran relations. Oregon should enact a substantial, revenue neutral gas tax. Such a tax would reduce oil revenues going to Iran, keep some of those dollars in Oregon, and give the price signal necessary for rapid development of alternative transportation. This is how to get tough with Iran. If the legislature is looking for a stick to beat Iran, this is it.

    But we should also offer Iran carrots. We should engage Iran. Oregon could, and should, have high school and university students studying abroad in Iran. HB 2719 would create a Go Global High School Study Abroad Program (permitting local school districts to pay for high school students to study abroad) and HB 2605 ( here ) would give additional financial incentives for students to study abroad in “critically needed foreign languages.” Farsi, aka Persian and the major language in Iran, is one of those “critically needed foreign languages.”

    SB 633A seems, IMHO, to be mostly theater. A gas tax and study abroad program would provide real substance.

  • Frank (unverified)
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    Preventing religious extremists getting their hands on nukes is a great idea. Keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of both Iranians religious extremists and the GOP.

    It's crucial to stay informed in regards to the real risks of proliferation. The Federation of American Scientists is a good place to get real information instead of propaganda.

    http://www.fas.org/index.html

    Here's their page about Iran... http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/nuke/index.html

    Nuclear proliferation is a issue full of hypocrisy and double standards. It's still a worthy goal to keep nukes out of the hands of one group of religious extremists when another group almost as bad also had nukes. My point of view, as someone who's sick of all the frackin' religious nuts is, I'm forced to admit two groups of religious extremists waving their nukes at each other threatening to send each other to paradise is a less stable situation then just one set of extremists waving their nukes around.

  • Frank (unverified)
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    Preventing religious extremists getting their hands on nukes is a great idea. Keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of both Iranians religious extremists and the GOP.

    It's crucial to stay informed in regards to the real risks of proliferation. The Federation of American Scientists is a good place to get real information instead of propaganda.

    http://www.fas.org/index.html

    Here's their page about Iran... http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/nuke/index.html

    Nuclear proliferation is a issue full of hypocrisy and double standards. It's still a worthy goal to keep nukes out of the hands of one group of religious extremists when another group almost as bad also had nukes. My point of view, as someone who's sick of all the frackin' religious nuts is, I'm forced to admit two groups of religious extremists waving their nukes at each other threatening to send each other to paradise is a less stable situation then just one set of extremists waving their nukes around.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    I see lots of effort to give respect to various minority groups. See, for example, Portland's well publicized street renaming efforts, etc. Isn't this bill being proposed as a way to give respect to Oregon's Jewish minority group (Israel, Iran, nukes, etc. etc.)?

    Being a relatively affluent, contented white middle-aged Catholic Irish guy, much of this does not make a whole lot of sense to me, but as a progressive liberal I guess I am ok giving respect to any and all who have been downtrodden by my race and class. Whatever!

  • Jägermeister (unverified)
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    How about a bill that says they can only invest in Oregon businesses or businesses that have significant interests in Oregon?

  • Nancy (unverified)
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    Regarding the "neo-cons":

    How hypocritical can you be?

    "Nancy Pelosi isn't, as some of her critics would have it, too "pro-Israel;" rather, she is simply too right-wing. Her positions on U.S. policy toward Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and a number of other nations in that region put her closer to the right-wing Christian Coalition than the moderate National Council of Churches, closer to the neoconservative Project for a New American Century than to the liberal Peace Action, and closer to right-wing Zionist groups like AIPAC than liberal Zionist groups like Americans for Peace Now or Brit Tzedek v'Shalom." (Stephen Zunes, Pelosi the Hawk, www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/6078)

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "What do Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, and Douglas Feith have to do with the Oregon Legislature, the state treasurer’s office, the PERS Fund, and Iran? A lot..."

    commondreams dot org has two articles in today's edition that are of interest related to this topic.

    The first is by Richard Silverstein - AIPAC's Hidden Persuaders - about the activities of Israel's Likud party agents at work in the United States and, presumably, now in Oregon.

    The other is by a distinguished foreign correspondent, Eric Margolis - US Stirs a Hornet's Nest in Pakistan - who alerts us to the potential disaster of the Obama-military-industrial complex's activities in the Pashtun tribal territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak). Continued slaughter of civilians in this area by U.S. drones and Pakistani mercenaries could very well lead to a conflagration that will make the Iran issue irrelevant.

    The next point to notice is what can be read between the lines in the statement that comes out of the White House after Obama's meeting with Binjamin Netanyahu. Will Obama continue to grovel on Israel as he did before AIPAC during the Democratic primary? Or, will he realize what is at stake for America and the Middle East if Israel's right wing continues to wag the American dog?

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Gosh if Halliburton's subsidiaries trade with Iran, it couldn't be all bad. http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/news/iran_subpoena.html

  • Hunter (unverified)
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    Rep. Galizio, do you have any idea how many Iraqi citizens and American soldiers have died thanks to Iranian-sponsored terrorism and weapon supplies? And you trust the government of Iran with nuclear weapons? I'm a liberal and I support divestiture. It worked in South Africa, and it is far preferable to letting the neo-cons have their way (armed conflict, not economic boycott).

  • mlw (unverified)
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    Interestingly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is based on the premise that nuclear power (not bombs) is a right enjoyed by all peoples, world-wide. Non-proliferation is a worthy goal, but exceedingly difficult to achieve, given that the technology isn't that complicated. The problem is not that the Iranians seek nuclear power - we should all accept that seeking nuclear power is their right and serves larger interests in decreasing world dependence on fossil fuels - but rather how to prevent their enrichment of uranium beyond the relatively low levels necessary for power generation to the higher levels necessary for weapons production.

    The dilemma here is not a new one - how do we encourage a people with much in common with us without assisting a government that does not further our interests or those of the people? Divestiture at the state level doesn't make a lot of sense. International affairs are pretty much exclusively the territory of the federal government. Isolation of a rogue regime like North Korea makes sense, as there's no way to assist the people without promoting the government.

    The calculations with Iran are more nuanced. Sure, they've got their share of nut jobs in the government, but the people generally support American and American ideals. Also, while not particularly democratic, their government is not an all pervasive authoritarian one in the North Korean mold. Divestiture comes off as more "you bad, no trade" than a careful analysis of how to promote an open inspections regime and democratization. Oversimplification won't help us on this one.

    The large issue is even more difficult. NNPT sets up an exclusive system of enriching uranium that causes legitimate concerns about supply for other countries. Sure, it makes sense for most smaller countries, but how would we feel if some other cabal of countries had control over most of our oil supply? (Bad, of course, who likes OPEC?) Furthermore, the kind of reactors that can be used to reprocess nuclear waste, diminishing it greatly in volume, are the same kind of reactors that can be used to make plutonium bombs, creating a dilemma between environmental responsibility and non-proliferation. We probably need to move beyond the NNPT into a system that allows countries to enrich under the supervision of neutral parties and imposes extreme sanctions if access is denied or enrichment beyond reactor grade occurs. The current structure of the NNPT is indefensible and ineffective - the worst of both worlds.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    Interestingly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is based on the premise that nuclear power (not bombs) is a right enjoyed by all peoples, world-wide. Non-proliferation is a worthy goal, but exceedingly difficult to achieve, given that the technology isn't that complicated. The problem is not that the Iranians seek nuclear power - we should all accept that seeking nuclear power is their right and serves larger interests in decreasing world dependence on fossil fuels - but rather how to prevent their enrichment of uranium beyond the relatively low levels necessary for power generation to the higher levels necessary for weapons production.

    The dilemma here is not a new one - how do we encourage a people with much in common with us without assisting a government that does not further our interests or those of the people? Divestiture at the state level doesn't make a lot of sense. International affairs are pretty much exclusively the territory of the federal government. Isolation of a rogue regime like North Korea makes sense, as there's no way to assist the people without promoting the government.

    The calculations with Iran are more nuanced. Sure, they've got their share of nut jobs in the government, but the people generally support American and American ideals. Also, while not particularly democratic, their government is not an all pervasive authoritarian one in the North Korean mold. Divestiture comes off as more "you bad, no trade" than a careful analysis of how to promote an open inspections regime and democratization. Oversimplification won't help us on this one.

    The large issue is even more difficult. NNPT sets up an exclusive system of enriching uranium that causes legitimate concerns about supply for other countries. Sure, it makes sense for most smaller countries, but how would we feel if some other cabal of countries had control over most of our oil supply? (Bad, of course, who likes OPEC?) Furthermore, the kind of reactors that can be used to reprocess nuclear waste, diminishing it greatly in volume, are the same kind of reactors that can be used to make plutonium bombs, creating a dilemma between environmental responsibility and non-proliferation. We probably need to move beyond the NNPT into a system that allows countries to enrich under the supervision of neutral parties and imposes extreme sanctions if access is denied or enrichment beyond reactor grade occurs. The current structure of the NNPT is indefensible and ineffective - the worst of both worlds.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Rep. Galizio, do you have any idea how many Iraqi citizens and American soldiers have died thanks to Iranian-sponsored terrorism and weapon supplies?"

    Hunter: Do you have any idea of how many Iranians died as a result of the CIA/British intelligence(?) overthrow of Iran's democratically-elected prime minister in 1953 and the subsequent installation of the venal Shah Reza Pahlevi? How about during the Reagan era when American policy makers saw fit to provide arms to Iran to keep them even with Iraq and prolong that Iraq-Iran war? How many hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis died as a consequence of our psychopaths playing God with other people's lives? There are good reasons to be concerned about Iran's leadership, but let's not cherry-pick some facts and ignore others to make a point.

    As to your question - do you have any idea how many Iraqi citizens and American soldiers have died thanks to Iranian-sponsored terrorism and weapon supplies? - what numbers do you have and sources to back them up? It would probably be a good bet the numbers are much less than you would like to believe and have others believe.

    While you are at it, would you care to guess how many American military personnel were killed and maimed in Iraq by Sunni IEDs and other weapons paid for by our "friends" in Saudi Arabia? Would you care to guess why the Bush Administration didn't attack Saudi Arabia for that? Or why President George W. Bush hosted high officials from Saudi Arabia at his ranch in Crawford, Texas?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    The Guardian (UK) has a preview of the Obama-Netanyahu talks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/17/barack-obama-israel-palestine

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    This is a legitimate question and not intended as sarcasm or irony.

    What international law permits a dozen or so countries (including USA, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, India, etc.) to possess atomic weapons, but forbids the other 200+ countries on the planet from possession of the same weapons? I would prefer NOBODY has any nukes, but if one country has them, why are not all countries on earth permitted to have them? I can understand if some of the big boys (US, Russia, China) can threaten or intimidate the smaller countries into giving up their weapon programs, but what is it about "International Law" that forbids the little guys like Iran from doing the same weapon program as USA, etc.?

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks for the column, Larry.

    Whether or not this is the right thing to do symbolically (as I understand it, whatever relations are between the governments, apparently ordinary Iranians like Americans--do we want to ruin that?), this state has bigger problems.

    I remember the debates about divesting from S. Africa. That was in better times without so many problems.

    Last week I called several legislative offices of Democrats asking them to get involved in the issue of high school administrator pay. Cutting days and reopening union contracts but not doing anything about top administrator pay ----this is something Democrats are willing to accept?

    Rep. Gelser's office treated me seriously and deserves credit. Staffers for other Democratic members whose names I will not mention told me it was not "protocol" for the legislature to have a position on school central office administrative pay, or "not how things are done" or too late in the session or "not much we can do". If there is no constitututional mandate for the legislature to just hand the money to districts without any oversight, isn't that why we have a legislature--to restructure? Even if it were in the Constitution, is the legislature incapable of discussing the issue and perhaps doing a referral?

    But there is a bill to take a foreign policy position on trade with Iran? The sponsors of SB 633A include some Republicans and some otherwise intelligent Democrats.

    I read in the paper today that Silver Falls School District administrators have frozen their pay due to the economic bad times.

    Perhaps those folks have more sense than the Democrats supporting this bill on trade with Iran?

    I worry that if Democrats don't think about the folks who campaigned for and elected them (did they campaign on divesting from Iran?) there may be rebellion among rank and file Democrats.

    Much of this session has reminded me in mostly good ways of the session 20 years ago. But there were also other things going on that year which hurt the Democratic majority--which Democrats lost in the 1990 election. Part of it was the beginnings of a "we know best" attitude on the part of some in the legislature and the state party, moving away from the grass roots tradition.

    If there is too much "we know what we are doing" from Democratic legislators and staff as if voters are just spectators and shouldn't expect to be able to give input to the legislative majority, they deserve another version of Measure 65 on the ballot next year. Today the Statesman-Journal had an editorial about suggestions for the budget situation. One was "remember that voters elected 90 individual legislators, they did not elect a party to control the legislature".

    It may be that many Democratic staff and members would argue with that notion. But over 500,000 Oregonians voted for nonpartisan elections with Measure 65. If Democrats don't take such people seriously, will they get their votes next year?

    Thank you State Rep. Larry Galizio for bringing this to our attention.

  • Roy McAvoy (unverified)
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    LT - "Whether or not this is the right thing to do symbolically...."

    LT,

    Is it always about dollars or can we just do the right thing here. Symbolic? Maybe, but that's the point.

    Bill B,

    If you really do not believe Iran has provided bombs to kill US troops then the many sources anyone could easily provide would mean nothing to you anyway.

  • Old Ducker (unverified)
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    A few random thoughts:

    a) Trade shouldn't be based on ideological considerations, but one shouldn't make the mistake of thinking trade relations create good cultural and political relations. Prior to WW2, Japan was a major trading partner of the US, but it didn't prevent colliding national interests, as they were viewed at the time.

    b) We should absolutely not engage in student exchanges in Iran. Our culture is poison to the Iranian regime...putting US students over there would not only put them in danger, but the contact with them over there would endanger Iranian civilians as well, for the same reason that western tourists in Cuba often endanger the safety of Cubans as they fall under the scrutiny of the police. On the other hand, there is zero chance Iran would send students to the US. The Shah did that and it didn't work out too well for him as those who returned were not supporters of the regime...and the Shah's regime was a bastion of liberty and tolerance compared to the current one.

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    SB633A is a dumb idea. Here's a better one: Make nuclear weapons and nuclear power illegal for everyone. The former kills quickly, that latter over time. Let's choose life.

  • Ted (unverified)
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    The real joke of the matter is that western intelligence agencies largely agree that Iran already has weapons grade anthrax, and many believe as a result of the former USSR scientists who were offered economic exile in Iran, it probably has small pox (the most horrific of bio-warfare scenarios) as well.

    So the truth is that Iran already has WMD which it doesn't need missiles to create terror and genocide with in Israel. This is where the propaganda really has duped the people. Dick Cheney, AIPAC, Pelosi, etc, keep talking about protecting against Iran having WMD, but nobody ever stops to mention they already have it. The real question is what kind of WMD they have. Is it WMD that simply can kill thousands of Americans or Israelis that is the concern, or is it WMD that can obliterate capital investment (in oil wells, for example) that is the real concern?

  • Brian C. (unverified)
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    Some thoughtful, well reasoned points but phrases like "constructive engagement" when discussing Iran come off as rather naive. Really? Do you actually believe that honest, meaningful diplomacy can be had with a nation currently run by a fundamentalist Shiite theocracy with a hard line holocaust denier as it's presidential figurehead? I'd like to think that most of us can see the folly in that regardless of which end of the political spectrum we happen to occupy. That is unless you like the idea of a nuclear armed Iran, antisemitism and their government actively supporting those who kill our soldiers. If so, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Bill B,

    If you really do not believe Iran has provided bombs to kill US troops then the many sources anyone could easily provide would mean nothing to you anyway."

    Roy McAvoy:

    Where did I say that I do not believe Iran has provided bombs to kill US troops?

    I said, "As to your question - do you have any idea how many Iraqi citizens and American soldiers have died thanks to Iranian-sponsored terrorism and weapon supplies? - what numbers do you have and sources to back them up? It would probably be a good bet the numbers are much less than you would like to believe and have others believe." My last sentence in this quote implies an acceptance of a possibility, even a probability, of Iranian bombs killing US troops. Most of the material I read from reliable sources suggested that if Iranians were supplying weapons to fellow Shi'ites in Iraq then they would have been careful to keep this on a limited basis. Given the fact that the Shi'ites were mostly in the south, more than likely the Brits were the greater victims.

    I would suggest you be more careful in future readings and refrain from converting unwarranted assumptions into "facts."

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    Brian C.,

    The situation in Iran with Islam is not so different than the situation in Israel concerning Judaism. In both cases, religious ideas have special status. One is an Islamic republic, the other is a Jewish state. One undeniable difference is that Israel has been killing many more Moslems than Iran has been killing Jews. I believe also that Israel is in violation of many more UN resolutions than is Iran, but you may want to check on that.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "One undeniable difference is that Israel has been killing many more Moslems than Iran has been killing Jews."

    I came across an article a few weeks ago in which the author cited Iranians steering business to Jewish dealers with the comment that visitors would be more likely to get fair treatment from the Jews than from their Iranian brethren. Though their numbers are small, apparently there are Jewish communities in Iran that live in peace and are unmolested by Iranians. Another example of the people being more civilized than their leaders.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "The current Jewish population of Iran is estimated by most sources to be 25,000,[5][6][7][8] though estimates vary, as low as 11,000 [9] and as high as 40,000[10]. Notable population centers include Tehran, Isfahan (1,200)[9], and Shiraz. Historically, Jews maintained a presence in many more Iranian cities. Jews are protected in the Iranian constitution.[6] Iran hosts the largest Jewish population of any Muslim-majority country." More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Jews

    "Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel.

    "About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures - as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots." More at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5367892.stm

  • Connor Allen (unverified)
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    Thank you, Rep. Galizio. You make me proud to be registered in Tigard.

    Divesting is bad policy. Doing things like this on a broad scale will only antagonize the Iranian regime, rather than make them more cooperative. To paraphrase Plato, punishing someone doesn't make someone more likely to do what you want them to, but, in fact, less, because it creates resentment.

    And even if it was good policy, I've neither seen nor heard anything that proved Iran was developing nuclear weapons, and even if I had, I've not been convinced that that would be the worst thing in the world that could happen. Pakistan is a country with much stronger ties to terrorists who we are fighting, and they already have nuclear weapons, so Pakistani technology could end up in the hands of terrorists, and while that's been the case with North Korea, I don't think there's been an indication that any has made it into the hands of Al Qaeda.

  • George Washington (unverified)
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    George Washington on Israel

    "A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification." ~George Washington Farewell Address

    "The nation which indulges toward another habitual hatred or habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interests." ~ George Washington

    "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." ~ Thomas Jefferson

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Divesting is bad policy. Doing things like this on a broad scale will only antagonize the Iranian regime, rather than make them more cooperative."

    Ironically, anti-Iranian comments often prove the short historical memories or historical ignorance of many Americans. Iran was very helpful to the United States when the U.S. first went into Afghanistan against the Taliban. More at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistans-need-for-help-breeds-a-bit-of-unfamiliar-cooperation-between-americans-and-iranians-620606.html.

    As for subsequent conflicts it is fair to say that blame can be shared among the various parties.

    The above suggests that Obama (and others) would do well to consider Winston Churchill's dictum about jaw, jaw, jaw being better than war, war, war.

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    Someone commented there isn't any chance that Iranians would allow students to student in the US. I know this to be false. I happened to go to college with a guy from Iran (one of the nicest guys I've ever met) at PSU.

    My guess is there are students from the US who study in Iran. It's too bad people are Iranianphobic. The government may be way off base, but there are millions of moderate people just like here in the US

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    A very well written piece on the Iran/US situation from a historical perspective. Inside Iran's Fury Smithsonian Magazine October 2008

    No American who was alive and alert in the early 1980s will ever forget the Iran hostage crisis. Militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, captured American diplomats and staff and held 52 of them captive for 444 days. In the United States, the television news program "Nightline" emerged to give nightly updates on the crisis, with anchorman Ted Koppel beginning each report by announcing that it was now "Day 53" or "Day 318" of the crisis. For Americans, still recovering from defeat in Vietnam, the hostage crisis was a searing ordeal. It stunned the nation and undermined Jimmy Carter's presidency. Many Americans see it as the pivotal episode in the history of U.S.-Iranian relations. Iranians, however, have a very different view. Bruce Laingen, a career diplomat who was chief of the U.S. embassy staff, was the highest-ranking hostage. One day, after Laingen had spent more than a year as a hostage, one of his captors visited him in his solitary cell. Laingen exploded in rage, shouting at his jailer that this hostage-taking was immoral, illegal and "totally wrong." The jailer waited for him to finish, then replied without sympathy. "You have nothing to complain about," he told Laingen. "The United States took our whole country hostage in 1953."
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    It's worth noting that the Neo-Con gambit to shift divestment discussion from Israel to Iran is consistent with the new Israeli government's strategy. As Josh Marshall notes this morning re. Netanyahu's U.S. visit (which begins today):

    The Netanyahu government has spent its brief time in office aggressively pushing the line that any work on the Palestinian front can't happen until the threat of the Iranian nuclear program is definitively ended. That has the dual benefit -- if the premise is accepted -- of forcing the US to shelve its entire approach to Iran, follow the Netanyahu government's lead and close the door on any work toward a final settlement with the Palestinians.

    What it all comes down to is that Obama wants a peace deal and Netanyahu doesn't. And Netanyahu is making a big push to tie Obama's hands or get him to back off his policy.

  • Israel Lobby Archive (unverified)
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    If Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons (a position supported by no hard evidence) it would probably be to have a second strike capability against Israel's known arsenal. That's called a deterrent.

    So focusing on Israel's nukes as a step toward peace makes a great deal of sense for US policymakers. So much that Senator John Glenn already passed an amendment outlawing US aid to rogue regimes operating nuclear facilities outside the NPT.

    Rogue regimes as in Israel, not Iran (which signed the NPT).

    So if we're going to start messing around with state investments, let's also enforce the Glenn Amendment and scuttle that $3 billion blank check to Israel. It is, after all, the law.

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    Bad enough the Mossad helped Cheney cook up the evidence for the Iraq invasion; now the Israeli right wing & their American supporters are using Iran as the boogie man to stop the U.S. from pursuing our own best interests in the region, again.

    I'd suggest we ourselves use Iran for the same purposes vis-a-vis the Likud: "You want Iran contained? Let's talk 2-state solution, now." Until then, we're just wasting our time and our breath.

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      I would have to oppose that position, Zakariah Johnson.

      Here's why: Let's say you want your neighbor, A, to stop beating his wife. And let's say that on the other side of your neighbor is a family, B, that wants to install a whole-house generator. Your next door neighbor doesn't want to live next door to a whole house generator because they make noise.

      So you tell neighbor A, if and when you stop beating your wife, I will go down to zoning department and make them refuse to grant a permit to your neighbor B to install a generator.

      Do you see all the moral, ethical, and jurisdictional problems here?

      Neighbor A is engaging in morally and legally sanctioned behavior.

      Neighbor B's situation is contractual and bureaucratic, but not moral.

      You are willing to hold Neighbor B hostage from something he is entitled to do, in exchange for granting a waiver to Neighbor A to continue his illegal and immoral behavior.

    • (Show?)

      oh, and it's also less than impressive that you're willing to put someone else's citizens in the line of fire but not take a courageous stand yourself.

      "fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here."

      cowards.

  • (Show?)

    "Preventing religious extremists getting their hands on nukes is a great idea. Keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of both Iranians religious extremists and the GOP."

    You forgot to mention one group of religious extremists who already have the bomb...

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Juan Cole, one of the more knowledgeable commentators on Middle East affairs, has a commentary for today's posting on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting that should be read by all: juancole dot com.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Iran, under the NPT, has the right to enrich uranium.

    Also, when was the last time an offensive war was launched from Iranian (Persian) territory? I believe its been quite a few centuries since this has occurred.

    Would that the U.S. or Israel had the same stellar record of not building, stockpiling and, in the case of the U.S., using nuclear weapons; and the same great record on not going about attacking some hapless foe every few years.

    Also, remember 1953? What would have been the U.S. or Israel's reaction to a foreign power removing the duly elected and liberal government of the nation?

  • (Show?)

    Also on the proliferation front: Turns out Pakistan has been adding to its nuclear arsenal.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    The United States and Israel have understandable concerns about other countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction. They have seen the results of their own weapons of mass destruction in Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Baghdad, southern Lebanon and Gaza and know how horrific they can be.

  • John Turner (unverified)
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    Boy am I glad Rep. Galizio is my state rep! Clearly, he's done the research and carefully considered the issue. Kudos.

    Iran may be a rogue nation, but where does divestment policy stop? Not to mention, the Obama administration has yet to have an opportunity to establish a rational foreign policy and attempt to normalize relations. China has a horrible track record of human rights abuses, so should we divest from all companies doing business in China? That wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Oregon has only divested twice in her history. Once from S. Africa in the late 1980s and from Sudan in 2005. In Sudan, over 70% of oil receipts from companies (mainly Chinese) drilling and exploring for oil go to fund an disproportionately large and well equipped military (that purchases tanks and attack helicopters from Russia). That military, and the associated Janjaweed militias, rape, pillage, exterminate and displace the people in the Darfur region, which happen to be on top of massive oil deposits. When Oregon's PERS, SAIF, and other public investments were tainted with the blood of the Sudanese people, the choice to divest was CLEAR. Since Russia sells tanks and aircraft to the Sudan government, should we divest from companies doing business in Russia?

    Not only is the divest Iran movement led by neo-con extremists, it essentially proposes to use public funds, retirement funds, and workman's comp funds for political and foreign policy goals. Where would this line of thinking stop? Not to mention, why would you propose to divest from anything at the worst time in the market in recent history. Could it be that neo-cons see that locking in investment losses to PERS and public funds as an added benefit in bringing down "big government"? I'm curious.

    Thanks again to Rep. Galizio and the other legislators who recognize this bill for the bad policy that it is.

  • Nancy (unverified)
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    Re: "You forgot to mention one group of religious extremists who already have the bomb..."

    We have met the enemy and it is US. (Israel is far less dominated by religious extremists. The problem with Israel is US.)

    If you want to reduce Israel's "bad behavior", then stop supporting U.S. politicians who support it.

  • (Show?)

    Playing Devil's Advocate here: I notice that the list of co-sponsors for this bill includes some people whom many of the readers of this blog hold in very high regard. I don't think it's fair to assert that any of these folks are "Neo Con's" or that they are promoting a "neo-conservative agenda".

    Divestment worked to promote regime change in South Africa. At least that's what Desmond Tutu said when I saw him speak at Willamette a few years ago.

    Why not Iran?

    I can understand the argument against divestment at a time when these investments themselves are down, but do we actually know whether that's currently the case?

    Personally, I'd like to see more of this money spent at home anyway. Wouldn't it be better if some of these billions were spent trying to free up credit so we can get people to work here in Oregon?

    I'd be interested in more light and less heat in this particular debate (but when isn't that true of blogs?)

  • (Show?)

    Playing Devil's Advocate here: I notice that the list of co-sponsors for this bill includes some people whom many of the readers of this blog hold in very high regard. I don't think it's fair to assert that any of these folks are "Neo Con's" or that they are promoting a "neo-conservative agenda".

    Divestment worked to promote regime change in South Africa. At least that's what Desmond Tutu said when I saw him speak at Willamette a few years ago.

    Why not Iran?

    I can understand the argument against divestment at a time when these investments themselves are down, but do we actually know whether that's currently the case?

    Personally, I'd like to see more of this money spent at home anyway. Wouldn't it be better if some of these billions were spent trying to free up credit so we can get people to work here in Oregon?

    I'd be interested in more light and less heat in this particular debate (but when isn't that true of blogs?)

    • (Show?)

      "Why not Iran," Sal Peralta? Why not treat Iran like apartheid South Africa?

      Because Iran is not an apartheid state, that's why.

      I'd be interested in more informed discussion and less knee-jerk opining on this particular debate.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "If you want to reduce Israel's "bad behavior", then stop supporting U.S. politicians who support it."

    If we rid Congress of all the politicians who feel beholden to the Likud party's agents in D.C., there would only be Dennis Kucinich and very few others left. What was the approval score in Congress for Israel's war crimes in Gaza? Wasn't it something like 400-plus in favor, a handful opposed, and something like 20 took no position? And the senate voted in favor of these crimes against humanity on a voice vote.

    Which doesn't say much for the American people who continually vote for these moral bankrupts.

  • PERS Recipient (unverified)
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    Sal Peralta said: "Wouldn't it be better if some of these billions were spent trying to free up credit so we can get people to work here in Oregon?"

    NO! As someone who is counting on getting a PERS pension check to help pay bills: NO, THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE!

    Please don't take the money I contributed into my reirement for economic development programs. I need a RETURN on that investment, Mr. Peralta!!!

  • (Show?)

    I think I wasn't clear: I am asking why this money should not be invested here in Oregon. Wouldn't that create a potential for a win-win -- a good ROI coupled with something that will help the local economy?

  • Anonymous Investor (unverified)
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    Wouldn't that create a potential for a win-win -- a good ROI coupled with something that will help the local economy?

    Nope. Restricting investment scope = lower returns.

    Though 'PERS Recipient' has used a more-than-average amount of capital letters, his or her point is correct: The objective of the PERS is to generate returns. Add another objective to that (say, regional economic development for example), and now you're no longer looking out for objective #1.

    Doing that with state dollars is one thing. It's quite another thing when you're doing it with people's own PERS contributions that are supposed to go to their own personal retirements.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Sal Peralta: the divestment from South Africa was intended at changing that country's heinous political system, the existence of which was not in question.

    The divestment from Iran seeks merely to address Israel's perceived threat from Iran, the existence of which is very much in question. And the purpose of Iran's nuclear program is very much in question.

    How about Israel trying to conform to international law, as a first step? (Israel has no legal claim to East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza). And then we'll see if Iran continues in any bellicose rhetoric, however erroneously such statements may have been translated in the past.

  • (Show?)

    I'm not weighing in on Israel, nor do I really have a position on whether or not the state should divest from Iran. As I've said, I am merely playing devil's advocate, asking some questions that I believe are worth asking.

    I disagree, by the way, that this is simply about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The United States has historically opposed (rightly so, in my view), the current regime in Iran. And yes, I know about the US's ill-advised effors to install and prop up the Shah.

    Nevertheless, this is a regime that gained in prominence thanks to Bush's ill-advised foray into Iraq, and it is deeply hostile to the United States.

    One thing I can say with some degree of certainty is that those of us who oppose military adventurism of the Bush variety should not dismiss out of hand the use of economic sanctions, including divestment, in pursuit of our nation's long-term strategic and economic interests.

    I also disagree with the assertion that targeting the investment of our state dollars to our local community guarantees a lower ROI. That's really a question that has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    For all I know, the investments that PERS currently has in Iran is not yielding a great ROI, and investment here locally might yield stronger returns than other alternatives.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one has presented any such data in this thread to justify a position one way or another. What we have seen instead is a sort of knee-jerk -- "If some members of the former administration support it, then I oppose it" mentality, and I do not believe that is a legitimate basis for making policy decisions.

    • (Show?)

      "The US has historically opposed (rightly so, in my view) the current regime in Iran..."

      little thought experiment, Sal: If Canada opposed -- rightly -- the current regime in the US, would Canadians like you and Oregonians have the right to work to reverse the vote of the 50 million Americans who voted for that regime? YES or NO?

      The Iranian people voted for their "regime." Unless you pay taxes their and live by Iran rules and are an Iranian citizen, I don't see how it's up to you to decide who Iran's regime should be.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Iranian Public Is Not Monolithic: Iranians Divide Over Their Government But Unite on Forgoing Nuclear Weapons. For poll report see: http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/609.php?nid=&id=&pnt=609&lb=

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    I don't know where this posting went on my first try, but here it is again:

    Iranian Public Is Not Monolithic: Iranians Divide Over Their Government But Unite on Forgoing Nuclear Weapons. For poll information see http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/609.php?nid=&id=&pnt=609&lb=

  • Nancy (unverified)
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    Re: "How about Israel trying to conform to international law, as a first step? (Israel has no legal claim to East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza)."

    Israel doesn't have to "conform to international law" because it is protected, funded and militarized by US. The rule is this: We and our allies do not have to conform to any law, even our own.

    The fact that almost all the elites of the two dominant parties support Israeli crimes means that we must threaten all of them by the only means we have at our disposal: withdraw our support from them and instead support candidates who represent us.

    The new Zogby poll results (http://www.alternet.org/story/140109/): when asked if the U.S. should "get tough" with Israel in order to back up its call for an end to settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, fully 50 percent of Americans said yes, with just 19 percent saying "do nothing," and 32 percent not sure. Furthermore, asked whether the interests of Israel and the US are identical, only 28 percent of Democrat voters agreed.

  • Anonymous Investor (unverified)
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    For all I know, the investments that PERS currently has in Iran is not yielding a great ROI, and investment here locally might yield stronger returns than other alternatives.

    OK... So who is BEST situated to make that determination? 1. The Legislature, after reading handouts from lobbyists, OR 2. The Oregon Investment Council, after a thorough analysis from professional fund managers?

  • Dems United for Humanity (DUH) (unverified)
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    Neocons gotcha again!

    What do we trade with Iran? Oil and oil field technology and equipment. "Divest in Iran" = "Reduce Dependance on Foreign Oil". Those clever neocons have found a way to get the Dems to disparage less petroleum trade.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Sal Peralta: thank you for responding. But allow me to disagree that Iran's regime is deeply opposed to the U.S.:

    I believe Iran actually assisted with the ouster of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after 9/11, by supporting the Northern Alliance, therefore assisting the U.S. cause.

    Iran has endorsed the Arab League peace plan as regards Israel and its neighbors.

    And I'd go so far as to say that all the true jihadists- the ones who wish for the epic clash of cultures- are radical Sunni. Iran represents no threat to the West (and might not represent any threat to Isreael, if Israel were to abide by the law).

  • LT (unverified)
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    When does Achmedinajad come up for re-election (as if the clerics aren't running the show)?

    What about the opinion of ordinary Iranians--or doesn't that matter?

    Seems to me I heard that the general populace of Iran doesn't hate Americans but rather likes them.

    Except for the symbolism which some seem to want to attack the government of Iran, exactly how does this help anything?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "George Washington on Israel"

    GW was right, but he wasn't running for re-election so he didn't need to sell his soul and the country down the Potomac for campaign donations from Friends of the Likud Party.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Nancy: thanks for reading my post and for quoting poll numbers that show the American public disagrees with U.S. federal gov't carte blanche support of Israel.

    Same old, same old, sad to say: the poll numbers on the TARP bailouts were 87% against and yet the legislation was passed and signed. And polls show 66% of Americans in support of single-payer insurance but only 1% of U.S. senators are willing to support it.

    I agree with your suggestion that we withdraw support, meaning no longer voting for the quisling Dems (there, of course, are some exceptions: members of Defazio's populist caucus, Dennis Kucinich as regards his courageous stands on foreign affairs, and a few others).

    I quit voting for almost all Dems years ago. And when the details of torture and deaths in custody came out, on top of the sheer outrage of the imperialist/Washington Consensus agendas, I quit paying federal taxes. Now the IRS is really after me.

    Am open to any practical suggestions on how to not support the sellout Dems (of course not support GOP, either).

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Am open to any practical suggestions on how to not support the sellout Dems (of course not support GOP, either)."

    One option is to pack your bags and move to another country, but that would have its drawbacks, one of which would be abandoning the minority of people who are fighting to keep this country from going down the tube. Therein lies a better option. Pitch in and support as many of these people and organizations as you can - ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, CREW, and several others. When you are on this site, let the most of the regulars, who are more Democrats than progressives, know that you are not buying any crap from the Democratic party. Register as an independent and think and argue as an independent. Until we get a majority of people becoming independents party regulars - Democrats and Republicans - will continue to enable both major parties of the American duopoly to screw the people until fascism - that is, a partnership of government and corporate America - is beyond dispute.

    Recommended reading: Walter Karp and I. F. "Izzy" Stone. They wrote in the 20th Century, but their assessments of politics are still valid. Also, Ralph Nader, CounterPunch. Noam Chomsky, and others.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Thanks, Bill. I am familiar with some of those sources and will look up the others.

  • Larry Galizio (unverified)
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    Sal, your final sentence demonstrates that you either didn't read my piece, or you failed to understand it.

    What criteria are being used to justify the policy? The burden of proof is on those advocating for the bill if they seek to change the status quo. Once the criteria are actually presented, then we'll most likely see that other countries/companies fit the bill as well. Or, more likely, that the goal of the bill is more about shifting the gaze of Americans from human rights records and military activities of US client states than it is about Iran.

    Furthermore, the legality of the bill remains in question (see successful lawsuit in Illinois).

    Finally, the argument concerning the purpose of the investment council and maximizing returns is a distinct argument from the one you claim is the only one presented thus far.

    If you're going to play devil's advocate, then start by accurately portraying the position which you're questioning.

  • pdxnag (unverified)
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    I'd be happy if the PERF were confined to investment exclusively in domestic entities.

    I'd be happy if the PERF were confined to investment exclusively in Oregon entities.

    I'd be happy if the legislature, rather than some court at some time in the future, recognized a right for any individual PERS member to opt out of PERS entirely and to select a fiduciary of their own choosing for their own private savings.

    If any individual PERS member objects to investment in Iran, or any other place or category for any reason at all or no reason, then simply let them transfer their account out of the hands of the state.

  • wadosy (unverified)
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    israel was a mistake. it was founded in lies, terror and injustice, and it preserves itself by lies, terror and injustice... in other words, israelis and american defenders of israel have abandoned their claim to the moral high ground.

    some prominent israelis are now, in public (the jewish forward), calling for all jews to abandon their morals in defense of israel... they might as well make it official, huh? ...after gaza, could there possibly be any doubt?

    ...apparently these heroic defenders of israel cant admit that the european founders of israel had abandoned their morals the day they moved to palestine and terrorized hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and land.

    now then: what does all this have to do with sanctions against iran?

    simple: the push for war with iran is coming from the likud crazies in israel and the israeli american wing of the PNAC/AEI/AIPAC/JINSA likud apparatus ---including perle, wolfowitz, kristol, gaffney--- who are attempting to lie us into war with iran just exactly like they lied us into war with iraq.

    <h2>so that's what the cold civil war is about: we're in the process of finding out if we still live in america, or israeli america.</h2>
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