Diplomacy and other strong-arm tactics.

03 Dec

What passes for “diplomacy” in this new world we are creating is a strange and cruel misuse of the word.  This shift away from the dictionary definition began some time ago; now it is difficult to determine what would not be accepted as “diplomacy”.   Our State Department intends to use over 16,000 “contractors” in Iraq as the military pulls out.  Is it odd to anyone that our diplomats are hiring mercenaries?

It was fifteen years ago that the words of the former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, went largely unremarked by the mainstream press after this 60 Minutes interview with her.

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. –60 Minutes (5/12/96)

Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, calmly asserting that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has been much quoted in the Arabic press. It’s also been cited in the United States in alternative commentary on the September 11 attacks (e.g., Alexander Cockburn, New York Press, 9/26/01).

But a Dow Jones search of mainstream news sources since September 11 turns up only one reference to the quote–in an op-ed in the Orange Country Register (9/16/01). This omission is striking, given the major role that Iraq sanctions play in the ideology of archenemy Osama bin Laden; his recruitment video features pictures of Iraqi babies wasting away from malnutrition and lack of medicine (New York Daily News, 9/28/01).

Obama likes this sort of diplomacy.  It’s right up his alley.  Obama, on the latest sanctions imposed on Iran for its alleged attempts to build nuclear weapons:  “The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope, and we’re building off the platform that has already been established. The question is, are there additional measures that we can take? And we’re going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically. I have said repeatedly, and I will say today, we are not taking any options off the table.”

We are so insane that we are sanctioning (diplomatizing, I guess we could call it) Iran until they stop doing what they are not doing.  [For the truth about the “plans” Iran has to build nukes, see this article:]

What?  Sanctions are “diplomacy”?  Diplomacy is talking to people, having a tete-a-tete, going back and forth, you give some, I give some, we talk politely and reason with one another.  But in this crazy backassward world, sanctions that will cripple a country, have an extremely deleterious affect on the civilians of that country – those are our first diplomatic moves?  And what else might we consider “diplomacy”?  Breaking their collective legs?  Leaving a horse’s head in the beds of all the higher-ups in Iran’s government?  Assassinating Ahmadinejad?  (“Even our Diplomatic Sniper has had no effect on the intransigent Iranians.”)

Why do I even ask?  For Iraq, in our second (or continuing, depending on how you look at it) war against them, in 2003, our “diplomacy” was telling them we were going to bomb the fuck out of their country right before we did it.

The National Defense Authorization Act (S 1867) – yes, the one that seems to authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens – had an amendment added to it by Senator Levin, called Amendment 1414.  The title of this amendment is “The Imposition of Sanctions with Respect to the Financial Sector of Iran, Including the Central Bank of Iran”.  This amendment finds that the Secretary of Treasury (Timmeh) has “identified Iran as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.”  Swear to God, that is the exact wording of the amendment.  It finds that “Treasury is calling out the entire Iranian banking sector, including the Central Bank of Iran, as posing terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and money laundering risks for the global financial system.”  (Sounds a bit like what the Fed, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and those guys are doing, eh?)  The amendment freezes assets, property, and transactions of Iranian financial institutions that come in contact with the US.  It occurred to someone that we buy a lot (like, a LOT) of oil from Iran and that refusing to touch the stuff just because it came from Iran might be problematic, so the amendment asks for a report within 60 days and every 60 days thereafter on the availability and price of petroleum produced in countries other than Iran.  Guess if crude gets too expensive elsewhere, we’ll amend the amendment so that we sanction everything but oil.  On Dec. 1, this amendment was agreed to in the Senate by a yea-nay vote of 100-0.  All our senators are diplomatizing now.  We will keep this up until Iran stops doing what they are not doing.

I guess the audacity of Iran trading their oil on their oil market, the bourse, using currency other than the US dollar, makes them “money launderers” and “financial terrorists”.   [See my post, “Live Free and/or Die”, of 13 Oct. for details on the Tehran oil bourse.]

Our current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – the topdog “diplomat” who sets the tone for our entire State Department and leads our “diplomatic outreach” to all other nations – is so demented as to actually laugh after we illegally, and with extreme prejudice, forced the change in government in a sovereign nation and instigated the murder of its leader.  I speak, of course, of Libya and Ghaddafi.  I know I have posted this short video clip before, but it is astounding to me that this moment was so completely overlooked by the media and that Clinton’s reaction upon learning of Ghaddafi’s death was not cause for her immediate dismissal.  “We came, we saw, he died,” was her remark before she turned away from the camera, cackling like one of the mad witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”.  It must be seen to be believed.

I am not sure who is teaching whom in diplomatic circles – us teaching Israel or the other way around – but Israel has recently decided to join us in punishing other countries beyond all reason for imagined slights.  Palestine had the temerity to ask the UN if it could be recognized as a country; as a start, they asked for and received membership in UNESCO.  We reacted by punishing the entire set of UNESCO member countries by stopping all US funding promised to UNESCO.

Palestine became a full member of UNESCO overnight in a historic vote that could cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the US and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.

The decision is a grand symbolic victory for the Palestinians, but it alone won’t make Palestine into a state…

Meanwhile, the US government cut off tens of millions of dollars in annual funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after it voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

Victoria Nuland, US state department spokeswoman, said payments to the Paris-based organisation would be stopped immediately. She said Washington would refrain from making a $60m payment it planned to deliver in November…

In an address to Parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu harshly criticised the Palestinian move and warned his government would “not sit quietly”. [Note: as we shall see, they did not.]…

Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions…

Even if the vote’s impact isn’t felt right away in the Mideast, it will be quickly felt at UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve world literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding, but it also has in the past been a forum for anti-Israel sentiment.

Existing US law can bar Washington from funding any UN body that accepts members that do not have the “internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” That requirement is generally interpreted to mean UN membership. But it remains unclear whether the US State Department will try to find legal wiggle room.

UNESCO depends heavily on US funding. Washington provides 22 per cent of its budget …UNESCO, like other UN agencies, is a part of the world body but has separate membership procedures and can make its own decisions about which countries belong. Full UN membership is not required for membership in many of the UN agencies…

Not to be outdone, Israel immediately reneged on its monthly payments to Palestine.  These payments are tax monies collected by Israel on behalf of Palestine; in other words, this money is not a gift, it is simply collected by Israel, but actually belongs to Palestine.  What strange mindset finds this acceptable?  Israel obviously thought this would be greeted with a wink and a nod, especially after seeing how we went after the UNESCO countries collectively.

Israeli Cabinet ministers have decided to keep withholding around $100m in monthly tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority, in what is being seen as retaliation for its bid for membership to the United Nations.

The revenues, used to pay tens of thousands of Palestinian salaries, have been withheld since the Palestinian Authority was granted full membership of heritage body Unesco on 3 November. Israel has also suspended funding for Unesco itself.

Ministers decided on Monday they would continue to withhold the funds, against the clear advice of the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak…

The monthly payments from Israel are mainly customs and income taxes collected on their behalf under an interim arrangement.

The payments are needed by the Palestinian Authority to pay employees, including security forces, and there have been warnings from the defence ministry that the whole stability of the Palestinian government in the West Bank could be put in peril.

It turns out this was a bit too blatant even for the US and the UK to accept and pressure has been put on Israel to release the money it owes to Palestine.

Israel announced Wednesday [30 Nov.] that it would release tens of millions of dollars of tax funds owed to the Palestinians, ending a standoff that the Palestinians say has caused grave damage to their fragile economy.

The move followed heavy pressure from the United States, United Nations and Europe on Israel to free the money. Israel collects the tax funds for the Palestinians and transfers the money each month, in accordance with partial peace agreements from the 1990s…

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he decided to release the money because the Palestinians appear to have suspended their “unilateral moves.” It said the decision would be “reassessed” if the Palestinians resume these steps…

Note, however, that Netanyahu warns that he might stop the monthly transfers again if the Palestinians continue to seek UN recognition as a state.  This apparently is how “diplomacy” is done now.


One response to “Diplomacy and other strong-arm tactics.

  1. morning's minion

    January 5, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Teri, thanks for a remarkably astute and eloquent post. Like you, I despair of the ways words like “diplomacy” have been divested of all meaning. Somehow the affront seems worse when words are turned on their heads. Of course that feeling is rooted in the knowledge that language has become deadly. It wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t know that lives were being lost. It’s not so much semantics, per se; it’s the deeds behind them. That Albright interview is insufferable; I get furious every time I reread it.

    Thanks, Teri. Sing it!



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