Sunday, May 17, 2015

Music - Mariah Carey - Fantasy

Video - Bust of Putin as Roman emperor unveiled near St.Petersburg

People's Daily editorial: 'a community of common destiny', an option for a better world

Proposing "a community of common destinyfor countriesregionsand the entire human worldChina has expressed its wish for peaceful development andpresented its own strategy for win-win cooperationaccording to a People's Daily article.
The articletitled "Promise of a Better Future for the World," will be publishedunder thebyline of Guo Jipinginon Monday's People's Dailythe flagship newspaper of theCommunist Party of China (CPC).
According to the articlePresident Xi Jinping has mentioned "a community of commondestiny" 62 times in public since the notion was first raised in a report approved by the18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, expressing the hope of the Chinese people tobuild a better world on Earth together with people from other countries.
"We should raise awareness about human beings sharing a community of commondestinyA country should accommodate the legitimate concerns of others when pursuingits own interestsand should promote common development of all countries whenadvancing its own development," the report said.
"Make dialogues rather than confrontationbe friends but not allies," the article notes,adding thatin a framework of win-win cooperation and joint developmentone country'sdevelopment should compliment that of anotherand thus bring positive influence on awider scope to combat the risks and challenges in the world economy.
Meanwhileone will get his own moustache burned if he blows off otherscandlesitwarns.
"In the current worldno country can realize its own security detached from worldsecurityand no security can be based on other countries insecurity," it saysurgingcooperation and sustainable development to eliminate safety risks.
Calling for civilized dialogues based on equality instead of condescension and mutualappreciation instead of derogationthe article stresses that "a community of commondestinyshowcases the promise that China's development will never be at the cost of othercountriesbenefits.
China has established different forms of partnership with more than 70 countries andmany regional organizations by 2014, and the friendly network is expanding.
In the past 500 years since the New World was discoveredeach time the changes ofinternational orders were caged by the concerns of involved partiesown interestsandpersistent peace was ever out of reachit says.
According to the articledismissing "survival of the fittestand wars and tyrannyChinapresents "a community of common destinythat respects the basic values of humancivilization.
"Our fates rejoice and suffer togetherand our dreams are interconnected," it says. "'Acommunity of common destinyoffers the possibility that more than 200 countries andregions might walk toward long-term peace."

Turkish incursion into Syria would be disastrous, say experts

The possible invasion of Syria by Turkey, allegedly masterminded by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an effort to postpone the upcoming general election in June and to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, spells serious danger for Turkey, according to academics and international relations experts.
The rumor of Turkey's possible incursion has spread like wildfire since Gürsel Tekin, the deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told the media on May 7, that the Turkish government was planning to send ground forces to Syria within two days, saying that the government's reckless policies would drag Turkey into an intractable conflict. Erdoğan is accused of pressing for the invasion after reports that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is performing badly in the polls.
The Turkish Constitution has a provision in Article 78 which allows for elections to be postponed, stating: “If holding new elections is deemed impossible because of war, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey may decide to defer elections for a year.”
Tekin demanded a direct refutation of the claims he said he'd learned from a “trusted source,” from either Erdoğan or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The response came from the latter when he ruled out an imminent military incursion into Syria, claiming that the balance is shifting in favor of the Syrian opposition. In remarks published on May 9, Davutoğlu also said there that were no new developments between Saudi Arabia and Turkey regarding Syria, despite several reports which suggest that the two countries have been aligning their efforts to step up assistance to Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.
Despite Davutoğlu making an effort to play down the allegations, many international news agencies have already published reports on Erdoğan's new-found love for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its newly elected monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud. “Casting aside U.S. concerns about aiding extremist groups, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have converged on an aggressive new strategy to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad” wrote the Associated Press on May 7.

Top commander's absence stokes controversy regarding incursion

The unexpected and highly unusual medical leave of the top commander of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Gen. Nejdet Özel, also sparked a fresh wave of rumors within the Turkish media that the leave was a result of a standoff between Erdoğan and Özel over the latter's disillusionment with a plan to invade Syria in an attempt to postpone the upcoming elections.
Özel's medical leave has garnered special interest in the media both because it is highly unusual for the TSK to announce the vacation or medical leave of a chief of General Staff and because Özel's temporary departure comes only months before his term is to come to an end in August. The top commander's true intentions will be made crystal clear if he returns to his post as top commander of the TSK when the time allotted for his medical leave comes to an end.

Academic: Turkey entering Syria would be worse than US entering Vietnam

Selim Savaş Genç, an associate professor of international relations at Fatih University, explained to Sunday's Zaman that the speculated invasion of Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia would be disastrous for Turkey and would have worse consequences for the country than Vietnam had for the United States. “Vietnam was thousands of miles away from the US, but Syria is on our [Turkey's] doorstep,” he said.
The Vietnam War was a lengthy and costly armed conflict that cost the lives of more than 3 million people, including 58,000 Americans, when it pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the US. The Vietnam War finally ended in 1975 with the final withdrawal of US forces and the unification of Vietnam under communist control.
“Also, who is Turkey going to fight? Will it fight ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]? Will it fight al-Qaeda? Will it fight Iran [Hezbollah]? Will it fight them all?” asked Genç. “Is Turkey ready to go to war with Russia and Iran? If by chance they [Russia and Iran] shoot one of Turkey's ships or down one of Turkey's fighter planes, will they [the government] say, like they did before, that the ship or plane did not bear the Turkish flag?”
On Tuesday, in his condemnation of an attack on a Turkish-owned ship by forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government, in which one crew member was killed, Erdoğan warned that Turkey's response would have been different had the ship been sailing under a Turkish flag.

The Iranian factor in Syria

Turkey and Saudi Arabia may be biting off more than they can chew in Syria, as Iran's influence in the country and Russian technical support pose but two of many obstructions that the invading countries might face. Iran has led an extensive effort to maintain Assad's government in power long enough to be able to weather the storm of the civil war.
Tehran and Ankara back opposing sides in the civil war, which pits rebel forces that include radical Sunni Muslim fighters from ISIL against Assad, Tehran's closest regional ally. Turkey, which has called for Assad to step down, has been criticized for being the main transit point for foreign militants crossing into Syria to fight his forces, while Iran has supported him both militarily and politically.
The military advances by ISIL challenge Tehran's strategy of projecting power from the Gulf to the Mediterranean through its mainly Shiite allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Tehran has blamed the West for the rise of ISIL, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq, but also suggests the need for common action in confronting the group.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops fighting on behalf of the Assad regime have reportedly withdrawn from a number of battlefronts and redeployed to strategic points around the Syrian capital, according to a report on the online news portal which covers issues in the Middle East.
Also, the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) reported in April, “The Iranian leadership has withdrawn [IRGC fighters] because there is no strategic advantage for their forces in many areas and they have suffered heavy losses.”

AK Party founder: Turkey couldn't protect own land, let alone invade Syria

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Yakar Yakış also talked to Sunday's Zaman, highlighting the risks Turkey would be undertaking by contributing to an incursion into Syria and saying that Turkey's aggressive tone toward its neighbors is the wrong move.
"When [previously] there were acts of grandstanding and people saying that we [Turkey] would reach Damascus within three hours, we had to be very careful when undertaking the operation to the [Süleyman Şah tomb] which is only 30 kilometers from Turkey's border. Damascus is 400, maybe 500 kilometers away," said Yakış, remarking, "Let's not forget, Turkey had to ask for assistance from regional actors such as the Kurdish factions [already active there]."
AK Party deputy Şamil Tayyar predicted on a TV program in 2012 that "Turkey would reach Damascus within three hours" if it wanted to.
“Guessing when the Syrian regime will fall is like guessing [the time of] an earthquake, it might happen in three days, but it may not happen over the next three years,” said Yakış, hinting at Davutoğlu's remarks of three years ago, when he said, while still the minister of foreign affairs, that the “painful situation in Syria would not last that long,” and that it was more appropriate to note the time of Assad's ousting as “weeks and months, not years.”
However, the past four years have shown Assad's ability to keep a firm grasp on power no matter the cost, killing over 200,000 Syrians in the process. Sharing a long border with Syria, Turkey has also welcomed Syrians escaping the civil war and officially currently hosts around 1.6 million Syrian refugees, but the real figures are thought to be substantially higher.
Yakış, who is also one of the founders of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) said, “If the practice of trying to topple the government in a neighboring country becomes commonplace, then other countries may try the same thing [against Turkey].” When asked if Turkey faced such a threat, Yakış said: “The only country that can do that [topple the government] is Russia. I hope our [Turkey's] relations with Russia never [reach] such a bad point,” continuing, “Turkey entering Syria is hard, Turkey exiting Syria is nearly impossible.”
Turkish-Russian relations have seen lows and highs during the tenure of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as both have common interests such us building a pipeline to transport gas to Europe via Turkey's western regions, but are also at odds with each other on issues such as Putin's unflinching support for Assad and his recent use of the word “genocide” to refer to the mass killings of Armenians at the end of World War I under Ottoman rule. Putin traveled to the Armenian capital of Yerevan to attend the ceremonies marking the centennial of what Armenians claim was the genocide of Ottoman Armenians in eastern Anatolia during World War I.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement regarding Putin's remarks, saying: “We reject and condemn the labeling of the 1915 events as ‘genocide' by the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, despite all our warnings and calls. Such political statements, which are a flagrant violation of the law, are null and void for Turkey.”

Turkey - Prosecutor allegedly asks ministry to silence media critical of gov’t

An ongoing war launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) against the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet, has reached new heights with a controversial and apparently unlawful move from an Ankara prosecutor, who allegedly asked the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications to disallow critical media outlets from using the state's communications infrastructure.
According to media reports, Ankara public prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, who is responsible for the Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, sent a document to the Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) Directorate General on April 27, asking it to prevent a state-owned satellite connection being used by these media outlets.
The reason behind the controversial move, which has come shortly before June's general election, is allegedly the anti-government media outlets' "creating polarization in the society and terrorizing people." If the prosecutor's demand is carried out, opposition parties will be deprived of the means to conduct their campaigns and convey their messages to the nation for the June election because most of the media in Turkey, which is controlled by the AK Party government, give little or no coverage to the election campaigns of the opposition parties.
The Turkish media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into claims about the “parallel structure,” and particularly targets the media outlets inspired by the Gülen movement. The demand reportedly includes “TV stations, radio stations, websites and printed publications.”
The “parallel structure” is a term invented by President Erdoğan after a massive corruption scandal to refer to members of the Gülen movement -- which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- who allegedly operate from within the police and the judiciary.
The government has failed to offer any evidence indicating such a structure exists in the government since December of 2013 when senior members of Erdoğan's government who was the prime minister at the time were implicated in a massive graft scandal. In addition, there is no court decision classifying the movement as "armed terrorist organization" as is claimed by pro-government circles.
The order targeting the media is believed to be an act of retribution by Erdoğan's administration for the corruption investigation that went public on Dec. 17, 2013.
Erdoğan claims that Hizmet initiated but was unable to complete a coup against him and the government. The corruption probe incriminated four former Cabinet ministers, businessmen with close ties to the government, senior bureaucrats and members of Erdoğan's family.
In the document, prosecutor Coşkun allegedly asked the ministry to prevent statements of Gülen, whom he referred to as the leader of a terrorist organization, from reaching the public through the media with the use of state means. He said Gülen delivers his messages and instructions to his followers through media outlets inspired by him, while recalling that there are ongoing investigations in many provinces against individuals from the “parallel structure.”
The prosecutor allegedly claimed that the “parallel state” has for years operated under the guise of a religious community despite being a terrorist organization, adding that it aims to topple the government by violating the constitutional order and establish its own dictatorship.
No evidence has been brought forward and no court ruling exists in Turkey that proves Hizmet is “an armed terrorist organization. ”
Gülen, who inspired the Gülen movement that promotes inter-religious dialogue and educational activities, has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and has not returned to the country since then. Before Erdoğan's relations with the movement soured after a corruption probe became public in 2013, he and many members of his government valued the movement's educational activities very highly. They visited the Gülen-inspired schools opened all across the world by Turkish entrepreneurs and praised their services and quality education.
Sources from the prosecutor's office have said they had not received any response, either negative or positive, from the ministry concerning the prosecutor's demand.
Neither the Constitution nor laws grant the authority to a public prosecutor to take such a step targeting certain media outlets; however, in Turkey's judiciary, which is criticized for being highly partisan, it has become an almost daily occurrence for judges and prosecutors to act as tools in the government's war against its opponents.
Over the past weeks, Turkey has seen disbarment from the profession and even the arrests of judges and prosecutors who took part in major investigations that angered the government -- for instance, two judges who ruled for the release of journalist Hidayet Karaca, top executive at Samanyolu Media Group, and dozens of police officers from jail, where they are being held pending trial. Karaca and the police officers were placed in jail following government-backed operations and despite the absence of evidence of wrongdoing.


Prosecutor's demand found unlawful, politically motivated

Representatives from opposition parties have lashed out at the alleged move from Ankara public prosecutor Coşkun to silence critical media outlets by denying them from benefiting from the state's communications infrastructure. They described the move as being unlawful and politically motivated in addition to aiming to influence the results of June's general election.
Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Mustafa Destici, whose party established an election alliance with the Felicity Party (SP) for the upcoming election, told Today's Zaman on Sunday that the prosecutor's “political” demand is “null and void” because the prosecutor did not base its demand on judicial concerns but political concerns.
Destici said the prosecutor's move aims to silence not only the critical media but also the opposition parties.
“Silence the media, silence the opposition. This cannot happen in a democracy,” he said, while calling on the prosecutor to look at those polarizing the society in the pool media, a phrase used to refer to the pro-government media in Turkey.
Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker recalled a recent statement from President Erdoğan, who hinted that critical media outlets in the country will be silenced, noting that the prosecutor's move which came after Erdoğan's statement shows that the government is exerting pressure on the media and the judiciary is helping the government with this.
He said the reason behind efforts to silence the critical media is to influence the elections. “If the prosecutor is really concerned about social polarization and division, he should first look at the prime minister and the president for their polarizing statements and policies,” Türker told Today's Zaman.
As part of their smear campaign targeting Hizmet, Erdoğan and AK Party officials have used various defamatory expressions such as the “parallel state,” “gang,” “virus,” “secret organization” and even “hashashin” to refer to the members of the movement. The hashashin were a shadowy group that carried out politically motivated assassinations during the time of the Seljuk Empire.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal said the prosecutor's demand targeting critical media outlets aims to eliminate media outlets that are not pro-government and create a completely pro-government media.
“This is actually a violation of the Constitution caused by authoritarianism and prosecutors exceeding their authorities. This is exactly a coup,” he said.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli described prosecutor Coşkun's demand to silence critical media as an introduction to dictatorship. Speaking to reporters following an election rally in Mersin, Bahçeli said: “There is no need to comment on this issue. This is an introduction to dictatorship.”
MHP Deputy Chairman Ruhsar Demirel said among the duties of a public prosecutor, there is nothing like demanding the silencing of critical media outlets. She said what a public prosecutor actually needs to do is to ensure that different opinions are voiced freely and the right to communication, a fundamental human right, is enjoyed by all.
Another MHP deputy chairman, Ahmet Kenan Tanrıkulu, said the prosecutor's move is aimed at preventing the holding of free elections in Turkey because it makes it impossible for citizens to have access to information freely.
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Hasip Kaplan also said prosecutors do not have any authority to demand the silencing of some media outlets. He said if there is any suspected criminal activity, prosecutors are expected to launch an investigation into them.
According to Kaplan, who is also a lawyer, if media organs violate the law, only courts can issue decisions regarding the ceasing of their activities, hence prosecutor Coşkun's demand is unlawful.
Independent parliamentary candidate from İzmir İlhan İşbilen, who parted ways with the AK Party following the corruption scandal in 2013, said the prosecutor's move must be a first in the history of Turkish Republic and in the history of the press of democratic nations.
“The prosecutor ignored the Constitution, freedom of expression, freedom of press and opposition in Turkey with this move,” he said.
In the meantime, President Erdoğan, speaking at a public rally in the central province of  Kayseri on Sunday, targeted the Doğan Media Group over the way the group's flagship newspaper Hürriyet covered the news about a death penalty handed to ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
“A death penalty was handed to Morsi and his friends who came to power with 52 percent of the vote in Egypt. How did the Doğan Media Group cover this news in Turkey? ‘Shocking decision, death penalty with 52 percent.' Oh, Doğan Media Group, I would not speak too personally, but you should know this, pardon me, but you spend your life in fear. Just know this, we set out on this road with our shrouds ready. Our deaths would be honorable,” he said.
Erdoğan implied that with its headline, Hürriyet was giving a warning to him as he was also elected president by getting around 50 percent of the national vote.

Scottish independence ‘within next decade’ - poll

A MAJORITY of people across the UK believe that Scotland will be independent within the next decade, a poll suggests.

Just over half (52 per cent) of people in Scotland and nearly three-fifths (59 per cent) of people in England think the UK will split by 2025, a Survation poll for think tank British Future found.

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of Scots think the new UK government needs to hand more powers to the nations and regions, but nearly half of people in England (48 per cent) say Scotland should not be offered any more powers, according to the poll of 3,977 UK adults including 1,056 in Scotland between May 8-14.

Three-fifths of Scots say independence is unlikely within the term of the current UK Parliament, with only a third predicting separation in the next five years.
But the vast majority of people in Scotland (72 per cent) say the nation will be independent by 2040, giving Nicola Sturgeon the opportunity to “play the long game” of securing independence in a generation, British Future said.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “It’s interesting that Scotland is split pretty much down the middle on whether independence will happen, even within a decade, while more people in England think it’s already lost.
“This fits with Nicola Sturgeon’s pragmatic, gradualist approach and reluctance to call a quick referendum.
“With nearly three quarters of Scots wanting more powers, Sturgeon can feel confident that a broad consensus, uniting Yes and No camps, supports a new settlement for Scotland.
“David Cameron has more work to do with the English. Some doubt that the union can be saved and while only a minority are against Scotland getting more powers, he will have to persuade the undecideds that it’s worth his time and energy.
“In the longer term, nearly three quarters of Scots think the nation is likely to become independent by 2040.
“That’s a long-term challenge for unionism and an opportunity for Nicola Sturgeon to play the long game - up to a third of that 72 per cent will be No voters who are resigned to independence, and her task will be to convince them that it’s all going to be alright.”

Scotland threatens London with 2nd independence vote

Scotland has threatened London with a second referendum on independence if Edinburgh’s demands for more powers are ignored by the UK’s new Conservative administration.

An unidentified source close to Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Sunday Herald that she raised the issue in a Friday meeting with British Prime minister David Cameron.
Sturgeon stressed that Cameron would be personally responsible for another referendum if London fails to transfer further powers to Edinburgh, according to the source.
“Cameron was told the ball is firmly in his court, so how things develop in Scotland over the next couple of years or so is now mainly up to him,” the source said.
The Scottish first minister further warned that the Tories can “work to deliver more powers, or they can go on pretending it is business as usual and watch as support for independence grows,” according to the source.
Last week, the UK premier dismissed the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying Scots had once rejected a breakaway from the UK. 
In the referendum, held on September 18, 2014, Scots voted 55-45 percent to preserve the 307-year-old political union with England.
Following the vote, the British government announced the formation of a commission tasked with overseeing the process to take forward the devolution commitments on extra powers for the Scottish parliament.
Cameron recently vowed to include a forthcoming Scotland Bill on extra devolution based on the commission’s proposals in this month's Queen's Speech.
The pledge came as the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), headed by Sturgeon, won 56 out of the nation's 59 seats in the 2015 UK general elections earlier this month.
The Conservatives, led by Cameron, also secured 331 seats in the UK's 650-seat parliament, allowing them to govern without the need for a coalition or agreement with other parties.

4,000 medical doctors urge ICRC to help injured Yemeni people

"We, 4,000 members of medical society, are asking the ICRC president to take immediate and appropriate action for arrangements to dispatch volunteer doctors, nurses, health and relief aid workers for humanitarian medical assistance to the oppressed people of Yemen."

The signatories expressed their readiness for full cooperation with the initiatives the ICRC is expected to take to extend humanitarian emergency aid to the Yemeni people.

The doctors reminded that Saudi government perpetrated aggression on the sovereign state of Yemen and embarked on ruthless bombardment of civilian targets in Yemen causing a great deal of deaths and injuries among women, kids and the elderly.

They said that deterioration of humanitarian situation in Yemen injured sentiments of the mankind in blatant violation of the basic principles of humanity and all the human rights conventions.

Severe shortage of medical services and medicines, silence of international community and human rights forums ignoring the crimes against humanity underway in Yemen have created a catastrophic situation for people of Yemen, it said.

If ICRC can not fulfill its main duties in helping the war stricken people and dispatching medical assistance, undoubtedly the silence vis-a-vis the Saudi aggression will discredit the international humanitarian organizations.

The letter said that it is necessary that the ICRC to enlighten the world public opinion asking for help to the people injured in the Saudi air strikes -- the human catastrophes created against the innocent Yemeni people.

The signatories said that the international humanitarian bodies are expected to relief aid workers and take effective steps for medical treatment of the people injured in the Saudi air strikes and stop the genocide-magnitude massacres in Yemen.

Why Are We in the Middle East?


To placate their pique at his effort to get a non-proliferation agreement with Iran, Barack Obama met last Thursday at Camp David with Saudi royals and leaders of the other five feudal dictatorships of the Persian Gulf. He reaffirmed the United States "ironclad" commitment to their security and promised even more military aid and cooperation. After the personal dust-up between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu settles, we can expect the Administration and Congress to add even more steel to our commitment to protect and subsidize Israel by adding more to its already vast store of sophisticated weapons.
Thus, we take another step deeper into the tragedy of U.S. intervention in the Middle East that has become a noxious farce.
Consider just one of the head-spinning subplots: We are allied with our declared enemy, Iran, against the bloody Islamic State, which was spawned from the chaos created by our own earlier decisions to invade Iraq and to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, which has us fighting side-by-side with jihadist crazies financed by Saudi Arabia, whom we are supporting against the Houthis in Yemen, the bitter rivals of Al Qaeda -- the perpetrators of 9/11!
Since 1980, we have invaded, occupied and/or bombed at least 14 different Muslim countries. After the sacrifice of thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars, the region is now a cauldron of death and destruction. Yet, we persist, with no end in sight. As a former Air Force General Charles F. Wald remarked told the Washington Post, "We're not going to see an end to this in our lifetime."
Democrats and Republicans snipe over tactics, but neither wants to discuss the question of whether we should be there in the first place. Even liberals counseling caution, like the New York Times editorial board, hasten to agrees that the U.S. must play a "leading role" in solving the Middle East's many problems. In other worlds, stay the course.
The ordinary citizen trying to make sense of all this might reasonably ask: why? The president's answer is that the war is in our "national interest." Congress says, Amen. The phrase causes politicians and pundits on talk shows to synchronize the nodding of their heads, signaling that the national interest should not have to be explained -- and certainly not debated.
When pressed for more specifics, our governing class offers four rationales for this endless war:
1. Fighting terrorism
2. Containing Iran
3. Securing oil
4. Defending Israel.
But when the citizen in whose vital interest the war is supposedly being fought takes a close look, he/she will find that none of these arguments -- or all of them together -- justifies the terrible cost, or even makes much sense.
The claim is that we will prevent another 9/11 by killing terrorists and keeping them offshore. But by now it is obvious that our interventions are counter-productive, i.e., they have vastly enlarged the pool of American-hating fanatics, willing to kill themselves in order to hurt us.
Americans are appalled when shown ISIS's public beheadings on TV. What they are not shown is the beheadings routinely performed by the Saudi Arabian government and our "moderate" allies. Nor are they told that militias allied to the U.S.-backed government in Iraq have killed prisoners by boring holes in their skulls with electric drills. This is the way bad people behave in that part of the world. ISIS is a symptom, not a cause, of Middle East fanaticism -- a problem rooted in corruption, tyranny and ignorance, which the United States cannot solve. Meanwhile, Arab governments themselves have enough firepower to defeat ISIS if they can put aside their own differences to do it. If they can't, it is not our job to save them from their own folly.
The rationale here is embarrassingly circular -- we must remain in the Middle East to protect against terrorists who hate America because we are in the Middle East. George W Bush's often echoed claim that "They hate us for our freedoms" is nonsense. They hate us because we are foreign invaders. The longer we stay, the most likely it is that we will see another 9/11. And as the Boston Marathon bombing demonstrates, the people who carry out the next attack are more likely to live here, than there.
Iran is not a threat to U.S. security and will not be as far as one can see into the future. Its hostility to the U.S. is a product of over 50 years of our active interference in its politics, beginning in 1953 when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected prime minister and replaced him with a king.
Barack Obama is right that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons should be one of our highest international priorities. But taking sides in the Middle East's political and religious civil wars has undercut our credibility, making it look like we are more interested in checking Iran's influence than nuclear proliferation. Why, the inquiring American citizen might ask, is it OK for Israel and Pakistan to refuse to sign international treaties and allow inspection of their nuclear facilities, but not Iran?
In any event, the leverage that brought Iran to the negotiating table was not the U.S. military's presence or saber rattling in Washington. It was the economic sanctions.
Oil is an international commodity. When it comes out of the ground it is sold on world markets. Producing countries need consumers. U.S. consumers buy oil at world prices, and it is available to them as it is to everyone else who can pay for it. They get no special discount for having military bases in the area.
The economic motivation for the invasion of Iraq was not to assure that we Americans would have gas for our cars and oil for our furnaces, but to assure that American-based oil companies would be the ones to bring it here.
Today, we get less than 10 percent of our oil from the Persian Gulf. The U.S. is now projected to pass both Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's largest oil producer in the next two years. By 2020 North America, and likely the U.S. alone, will be self-sufficient in oil and gas.
The claim that Americans need to be in the Middle East for the oil has gone from dubious to implausible.
The United States does not need Israel to protect its security. Nor does Israel need the U.S.
Israel has by far the most powerful sophisticated military in the entire region. Its arsenal includes nuclear and chemical weapons that, because Israel has refused to ratify international nonproliferation treaties banning, it can continue to develop with no outside interference. The surrounding Arab states are dysfunctional, disorganized and caught in the brutal quasi-religious war between Sunnis led by Saudi Arabia and Shiites led by Iran that is likely to drag on for decades. Hezbollah, which arose in Lebanon as a result of Israel's 1982 invasion, can harass, but is certainly no threat to Israel's existence.
Even if Iran eventually builds a bomb, Israel would still have the capacity to blow that country back to the Stone Age, and there is no evidence that Iran's political establishment is suicidal.
The security problem for Israel comes from within the territory it controls: the status of the conquered, embittered Palestinians, who in 1948 and 1967 were driven out of their homes and herded into the ghettos of the West Bank and Gaza in order make room for the Jewish state.
The Palestinians are militarily powerless. They can throw stones and occasionally talk some lost soul into becoming a suicide bomber. From Gaza they can lob wobbly mortars over the Israel border. But always at the cost of harsh retaliation. Two thousand Gazans were killed in the Israeli punitive attacks of August 2014. It will take them ten years to rebuild their homes and infrastructure.
Yet the Palestinians will not give up their own dream of an independent homeland -- at least on the territory occupied by the Israel army since 1967. So for almost a half century, our governments have pushed both sides to negotiate a permanent solution, pouring billions in aid to Israel, and lesser, but substantial amounts to placate the Palestinians and to bribe Egypt and Jordan into recognizing Israel. We have paid a huge political price; our role as collaborator in the Palestinian oppression is a major source of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
The U.S. effort has failed. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis -- both driven by anger, mutual distrust and historical grievances -- have behaved well. But, Israel is the one in control of the West Bank. So any credible solution requires that it end the apartheid system they have imposed, either by giving Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians (One-State) or by permitting the establishment of an independent Palestine (Two-States).
The Israelis will never accept a one state solution with the Palestinians. Among other reasons is a widely shared fear of the faster Palestinian birthrate. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in March after he promised Israeli voters he would never accept two states, has buried that idea as well. The real Israel solution is already in motion on the ground -- pushing Jewish settlements further and further into the Palestinians' territory until there is no space left for a Palestinian state.
There are now about 600,000 people in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and their number is growing. No Israeli government in the foreseeable future will be capable of evicting a substantial share of them in order to give the Palestinians room to form an independent country. The only pressure on Israel is the fear that it might become an international pariah state -- as South Africa did before it ended its apartheid. But so long as Israel is under the political protection of the U.S., it can, and will, ignore world opinion.
Our choice therefore is either to remain as enabler of Israel's "settler" solution, or, as part of a general withdrawal from the region, to let the Israelis and Palestinians deal with the consequences of their own behavior. Indeed, U.S. disengagement might be the political jolt needed to force a change.
Thus, the real answer to the question of why our country is stuck in the Middle East will not be found in the phrase, "national interest." Rather it will be found among a much narrower group of special interests -- military contractors, oil sheikdoms, the Israel lobby, and a media that hypnotizes the electorate into equating patriotism and war.
These interests are formidable. Their fallback argument is that we are in too far even to contemplate pulling out. Much too complicated. And America's "credibility" is at stake.
Maybe. But our credibility as a democracy is also at stake. To maintain it, responsible citizens should at least demand clarity about why we are slogging deeper and deeper into this quagmire, putting lives at risk, wasting enormous resources and diverting the attention of the U.S. government from the deterioration of our national economy -- the fundamental source of national security.
America's bi-partisan governing class has no intention of opening up their Middle East misadventure to such scrutiny. So it's up to the citizenry. The 2016 president election campaign will force candidates into forums, town meetings and question-and-answer sessions. It may be the last chance for citizens to pierce the veils of glib rhetoric that hide the reasons our rulers have pushed us into a part of the world where we have no real business and where our presence has only made things worse.