HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
email@example.com, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
1. QUOTES OF THE MONTH — On Women's Equality
2. AUG. 26 PROTEST TO DEFEND WOMEN'S RIGHTS
3. EVE ENSLER: DEAR REP. AKIN....
4. U.S. VETS: NO WAR WITH IRAN!
5. EGYPT THUMBS NOSE AT U.S.
6. THE SPECTER OF AL-QAEDA IN SYRIA
7. CLIMATE CHANGE IS WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
1. QUOTES OF THE MONTH — On Women's Equality
Aug. 26 is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating passage of the 19th Amendment 92 years ago permitting American women to vote. Congress in 1971 designated Aug. 26 a perpetual “Women’s Equality Day” after New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced the legislation. In honor of this day, and in recognition that the struggle for women's equality is far from completed, we offer these few quotes.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), born into slavery in the Mid-Hudson region's Ulster County, she was an abolitionist and fighter for women's rights.
"I am glad to see that men are getting their rights, but I want women to get theirs, and while the water is stirring, I will step into the pool."
Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952), Russian revolutionary.
“I always believed that the time inevitably must come when woman will be judged by the same moral standards applied to man. For it is not her specific feminine virtue that gives her a place of honor in human society, but the worth of the useful mission accomplished by her, the worth of her personality as human being, as citizen, as thinker, as fighter."
Rebecca West (1892-1983), English writer.
"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute."
Emma Goldman (1869-1940), international anarchist.
"A true conception of the relation of the sexes will not admit of conquerer and conquered; it knows of but one great thing; to give of one's self boundlessly, in order to find one's self richer, deeper, better.
Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005). Radical feminist and author.
"Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge."
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), early leader of American movement for women's rights.
"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.... Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.
Anthony also declared on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: "The women of this nation in 1876, have greater cause for discontent, rebellion and revolution than the men of 1776."
Gloria Steinem (1934 - ), feminist, author, activist, editor.
"I've yet to be on a campus where most women weren't worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career. I've yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing."
2. Aug, 26 PROTEST TO DEFEND WOMEN'S RIGHTSBy the Activist Newsletter
Right wing rhetoric against women's rights, threats to restrict contraception, efforts to defund women's health care facilities, and Republican Party demands for a constitutional ban on all abortions, are attaining new heights of political misogyny in the United States.
On Sunday Aug. 26 — Women’s Equality Day in America — Hudson Valley advocates of women's rights will gather in New Paltz, N.Y., to march and rally in opposition to this latest manifestation of the ongoing "War on Women."
The demonstration begins with a 1 p.m. rally in Peace Park next to New Paltz Village Hall (25 Plattekill Ave.). This will be followed by a march with signs through the downtown village district, returning to the park for a brief final rally. (In event of inclement weather, the rally will be inside the hall.)
Sixteen local organizations have endorsed the fight-back rally, which is being organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter. They include: American Association of University Women (Kingston), Arts for Peace, Dutchess Greens, Dutchess Peace, End New Jim Crow Action Network, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, Middle East Crisis Response, NAACP (Ellenville), Occupy New Paltz, Orange Democratic Alliance, Orange Peace & Justice, Peace & Social Progress Now, Real Majority Project, Ulster Democratic Women, Ulster MoveOn Council, Women in Black (New Paltz). National endorsers include: Roseanne Barr, actor; Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild; Leah Bolger, President, Veterans for Peace; Farheen Hakeem, National Co-Chair, Green Party of the U. S., Sarah Sloan and Peta Lindsay, ANSWER Coalition.
Speakers at the New Paltz event include (in alphabetical order):
• Ariana Basco —New Paltz Village Board Trustee, co-chair NP Environmental Task Force.
• Donna Goodman — An editor of the Activist Newsletter, elected delegate to United University Professions (AFL-CIO) and statewide co-chair of the union's Women's Rights and Concerns Committee.
• Elizabeth Gross — Recent SUNY NP graduate, founder of New Paltz Feminist Collective.
• Monica Miranda — President of the Hispanic Coalition of New York.
•Joanne Myers — Marist College professor, head of Women's Studies, Vice President Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center, member Ulster Democratic Women.
• Beth Soto — Director of the AFL-CIO's Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation.
• Barbara Upton — Founder of New Paltz Women in Black, which has conducted weekly Saturday peace vigils in front of the library for 11 years.
• Janice Williams-Meyers — Political Organizer, SEIU/1199.
• Music will be provided by The Mahina Movement.
Protests in support of women's rights will take place in a number of cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago on Aug. 26, the day before the Republican Party Convention in Tampa. These actions are in response to a call for protests by a new activist/feminist organization titled Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD), which "is dedicated to building the struggle for women’s rights and equality for all." The organizers emphasize "Women and men of all ages, nationalities and sexual orientations are invited to join in this campaign."
According to Donna Goodman, an organizer of the local demonstration: "Women’s Equality Day commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote after a 100-year struggle for basic rights including suffrage for women. Women have always known that winning the right to vote — as important as it was — still left many rights yet to be gained. Some additional advances have been obtained in recent decades, but political attacks on women's rights from the right wing have been sharply increasing in the last couple of years. Last year alone, 26 different states enacted new anti-choice laws. The Women's Equality Day protests in the mid-Hudson region and elsewhere are part of the fightback. We demand full equality!"
The main demands of the New Paltz Rally are: • Full reproductive rights now: Access to birth control, safe, legal abortion on demand, and an end to abstinence-only sex education in our schools. • Women's rights in the workplace: Pay equity, family leave, and an end to sexual harassment at work. • Stop the budget cuts: Cutting federal and state social services and eliminating public sector jobs disproportionately punish poor women, working women and women of color. • Full equality and respect now: Fight racism, sexism and anti-LGBT bigotry. End violence against women.
For information about the New Paltz event contact firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or (845) 255-5779. Details about the national events (including time and place for the New York City protest) are at http://www.defendwomensrights.org/.
3. EVE ENSLER: DEAR REP. AKIN...
[The recent insufferable comments on rape by right wing Missouri senatorial candidate Rep. Todd Akin has elicited the following rebuke from activist, writer, performer and feminist Eve Ensler, best known for her work "The Vagina Monologs." The Aug. 21 open letter was posted from Bukavu, Congo, and is appearing on a number of websites.]
By Eve Ensler
I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 a.m. and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.
I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.
Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake. As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking "off the cuff."
Clarification. You didn't make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.
You used the expression "legitimate" rape as if to imply there were such a thing as "illegitimate" rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only "forcible" rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren't forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us, muting us. Your playing with words like "forcible" and "legitimate" is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn't get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evil content? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a "legitimate" rape.
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger, friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body -- the most personal, sacred, private part of your body — and violently, hatefully forcing himself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger's sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can't get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.
Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.
I don't know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.
I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.
I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.
Why don't you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.
And by the way you've just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.
4. U.S. VETS: NO WAR WITH IRAN!
[Following is the text of an Aug. 21 document by the American group Veterans for Peace titled, "Appeal to Non-Aligned Leaders Meeting in Tehran." Representatives of the 118-member organization, which includes China and India, will gather in Iran in a few days for an important conference. None of these nations is aligned with the U.S. or any power bloc. Even more disturbing to Washington and Tel-Aviv is the fact that Iran is scheduled to lead the group for the next year.]
By Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (retired)
President, Veterans For Peace
This is an urgent appeal from Veterans For Peace. We are an organization of U.S. veterans formed in 1985 to try to bring an end to war. VFP is a nonprofit organization recognized by the UN as an NGO.
We are appealing to the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement to do everything in your power to head off a military attack on Iran in the coming weeks. Israel’s leaders regard the period between now and the U.S. election on Nov. 6 as the most opportune time to virtually guarantee U.S. support for such an attack. And the continuing buildup of U.S. forces in the area of the Persian Gulf strengthens the impression of U.S. readiness to provide it.
As you non-aligned leaders meet later this week in Tehran, it seems time for plain speaking — and warning. Official statements by Israel and the U.S. assert, with cavalier nonchalance, that the “military option” against Iran is “on the table.”
Thus, Israel and the U.S. are, de facto, in open violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, which prohibits not only the use of force but also the threat to use force against a country from which there is no imminent danger. Sadly, after such threats it can be a short step to the actual use of force, as we observed in the lead-up to the illegal attack on Iraq in March 2003.
The U.S. corporate-owned media is highlighting the same kind of “fixed” intelligence and facts used exactly 10 years ago to “justify” the attack on Iraq. Even though in January both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, acknowledged that Iran is NOT working on a nuclear weapon, military action is still being blithely promoted as one option to deal with Iran’s “nuclear ambitions.”
We Veterans For Peace know what war is like. President Obama does not. His political advisers also do not. Besides, their attention is fixed almost exclusively on the upcoming presidential election.
What is most dangerous is that the White House threat/mantra that all options, expressly including the “military option,” are on the table is seen by Israeli leaders as tantamount to a pledge that Obama will feel forced to honor, giving them carte blanche for attacking Iran, with the full expectation of U.S. military support.
Veterans For Peace has been trying to warn about the mounting threat to Iran, but our warnings have been kept out of the U.S. corporate-owned media. Six months ago we sent an official memorandum to President Obama warning him that he needed to “talk sense to [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu.”
More recently, at the conclusion of our national conference on Aug. 12, we issued this statement:
"We reaffirm our solidarity with the Iranian people and urge the United States to lift the economic sanctions that were imposed on Iran. These sanctions are an act of war and are hurting the people of Iran. We demand that our own government stop its threats of war and we implore President Obama to state publicly and very clearly to Israel that the United States will not support an attack on Iran."
Most Israelis and most Americans do not want war with Iran. As for the harsh sanctions on Iran, it is only the rhetoric of the governments in Tel Aviv and Washington and the parroting corporate media that have misled so many into thinking that sanctions against Iran are needed and morally justified.
Non-aligned countries are aware, better than most, of the suffering incurred by the imposition of such measures. Sanctions against Iran are no more justified than the ones imposed earlier on Iraq, which caused the deaths of at least 500,000 children under the age of five, according to the UN.
The U.S. Catholic bishops denounced that death toll as “unconscionable” in a formal statement on Nov. 14, 2001. Madeleine Albright, in contrast, when she was U.S. ambassador to the UN, said she thought the toll was “worth it.” Sadly, that kind of thinking still prevails in the Obama administration.
The stringent economic sanctions imposed on Iran are equally unconscionable. And a military attack on Iran would be a flagrant violation of international law.
This is not a time to sit on the sidelines and watch events unfold. Accordingly, we appeal to the leaders of non-aligned nations about to meet this week in Tehran to move swiftly to do what they can to head off any military attack on Iran and to take a strong position against the economic sanctions.
— Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National President of Veterans For Peace.
5. EGYPT THUMBS NOSE AT U.S.
By M. K. Bhadrakumar
The gloom in Washington must be deepening. Egypt is careering away from the alliance with the United States — and the bitter truth cannot be hidden or obfuscated anymore.
Consider the following. President Barack Obama was one of the first statesmen to greet Mohammed Morsi on his election victory in May. Obama broke protocol and phoned to congratulate him,
signifying the anxiety in Washington to have a splendid chemistry with him.
Then, Obama wrote a letter to Morsi and he deputed Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to fly to Cairo and deliver it in person. Burns was followed to Cairo by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, again for an audience with Morsi. That, in turn, was followed by the visit to Cairo by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. All this, within the first month of Morsi's presidency.
Panetta came back to Washington greatly pleased that the Egyptian military leadership, which has been the anchor of the U.S. regional strategy and the custodian of the U.S. interests in Egypt, and Morsi were not only getting along fine but they even had a common agenda.
The rest is history. Within days or weeks of Panetta's optimism, Morsi unceremoniously sent the military back to the barracks from the corridors of political power. Washington had no choice but to put a brave face on it, almost spreading a canard that Morsi consulted the Obama administration before cracking down on the Egyptian military.
However, in the weekend, the truth is out. The U.S. may be facing across a huge setback to its robust efforts to influence Morsi's presidency. The letter that Burns carried a month ago apparently contained an invitation from Obama to Morsi to visit Washington. And Morsi is instead traveling to China and Iran.
This was announced on the Egyptian president's official website on Sunday. Morsi is apparently combining the visits to China and Iran. It seems he will pay a three-day visit to China next Monday at the invitation of President Hu Jintao and from Beijing he proposes to travel to Tehran on Thursday to attend the summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Beijing (as of Aug. 21) is yet to announce a visit by Morsi. The government-owned China Daily, in fact, featured a commentary on Monday exclusively titled "Morsi's visit to Iran could reshape political landscape", which pointedly sidestepped any suggestion that the Egyptian president's itinerary would include Beijing as well.
However, Egypt's flagship newspaper Al-Ahram has reported that Morsi and Hu "plan to discuss crucial issues facing the Arab world, such as the Syrian situation and the Palestinian question. The two presidents will also discuss ways of enhancing commercial exchange between their respective countries, in addition to increasing Chinese investment in Egypt."
Al-Ahram summed up: "The two visits may mark changes in Egypt's foreign policy, given that both countries [China and Iran] have tense relations with the United States, to whom Egypt has been a loyal ally, especially under the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak."
Indeed, the Middle East is waking up to the fact that the Americans are in the dog house in Cairo. Without doubt, this decision bears the stamp of the Muslim Brotherhood. What are the calculations?
First, Brothers know that this will go down extremely well with the public mood in Egypt, which is vehemently demanding a new foreign policy orientation that jettisons the Mubarak-era partnership with the U.S. and Israel and a return to the country's independent foreign policy.
Second, Morsi does not want to depend too heavily on the dole-outs by the International Monetary Fund and/or the wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, which he is hard-pressed to accept while knowing that they come with political strings attached.
The International Monetary Fund is dictating tough terms for a $3.2 billion loan for Egypt. The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank agreed to give Egypt $2.5 billion in financing. Qatar is depositing $2 billion in the Central Bank of Egypt aimed at alleviating Egypt's foreign exchange shortage. Last year in May, Saudi Arabia announced aid to Egypt totaling $4 billion in "soft loans, deposits and grants." A U.S.-led struggle was keenly underway to buy off Egypt's soul.
Conceivably, Morsi eyes China as a potential investor in the Egyptian economy because Beijing attaches no strings to economic cooperation and plays generally by the market rules, attuned to the neo-liberal policies that Morsi would be largely pursuing. The point is, Brothers know pretty well that the GCC countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia — but especially Saudi Arabia, view them intrinsically with distaste and disquiet as posing an existential danger to their authoritarian regimes. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has had a troubled relationship with the Brotherhood.
The late Crown Prince Nayef used brutal methods to suppress the activities of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awasat displayed its antipathy toward Morsi as recently as Saturday, when in a signed article the daily's senior editor Osman Mirghani wrote:
"The blow that Morsi struck [at the military], allowing him to seize power, was completely unforeseen, not just on the part of the SCAF leadership, but for the Egyptian people as a whole ... These decisions were akin to a coup d'etat ... Brotherhood has attempted to dominate the political arena since they hijacked the revolution and rode the revolutionary wave into government, despite the fact that they joined this revolution quite late ... Brotherhood has sought to undermine all other parties and therefore purposely refused to cooperate or coordinate with them during the transitional period prior to the elections.
"Egypt is now being governed by declarations and 'constitutional' decisions that are issued by a president who has far more powers than Mubarak ever did.... If some people are saying that Morsi... has liberated himself and the presidency from the army's custody and intervention, then the question that must be asked here is: will this be followed by Morsi liberating himself from the Brotherhood, which seems to be present in all his decisions and measures?"
It is useful to bear in mind that this sharp criticism appeared within a month of Morsi's visit to Riyadh at the invitation of King Abdullah and within two days of the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, which Morsi attended.
The narrative has been that Morsi while addressing the OIC summit called for "regime change" in Syria — implying that Egypt is a dutiful camp follower of the line set by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. But in actuality, Morsi snubbed the troika by proposing a solution to the Syrian crisis by forming a Contact Group comprising Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Egypt, which could mediate a Syrian dialogue and reconciliation leading to peaceful political transition in an atmosphere free of violence.
Of course, Morsi's inclusion of Iran in the proposed Contact Group amounted to a snub to Saudi Arabia, which hosted the OIC summit. Then, there was the body language, which counts heavily in intra-Arab parleys. On the sidelines of the OIC summit, Morsi exchanged handshakes and kisses with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and spoke with him amidst much manifest warmth.
Tehran promptly welcomed Morsi's proposal, which in turn prompted an appreciation by the Brotherhood in Cairo that saw in Tehran's warm reaction an unmistakable confirmation that Egypt is beginning to regain some of the diplomatic and strategic clout it once held in the region. A sort of mutual admiration society formed between Cairo and Tehran across the arid deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.
Three things emerged from Morsi's performance at the OIC summit. First, Morsi signaled that Egypt intended to pursue a foreign policy that would be independent of Western or Gulf oil countries' agendas. That is to say, Egypt will not meekly follow their footsteps any more or accept an inferior position.
Second, Egypt does not see Turkey as a role model, notwithstanding the high-decibel Western propaganda ever since the Arab Spring appeared that the Islamism of the kind that the present government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan espouses is what the doctor would also prescribe for the ailing Middle East. Erdogan came back from a visit to Cairo last year imagining he was a rock star for Egyptians, but Morsi apparently doesn't think so.
Third, Morsi's decision to include Iran as a partner in the search for peace in Syria meant a rejection of the Western and Saudi-Turkish approach. On the sidelines of the OIC summit, Egyptian foreign minister Mohammed Amr also met his Iranian counterpart Al Akbar Salehi to urge that Tehran should assist in solving the Syrian crisis.
Indeed, these are early days but Morsi's decision to visit Iran (with which Egypt doesn't have diplomatic relations) can only be seen as a strategic move with profound implications for regional security and global politics. It needs some explanation.
For one thing, Iran is the first Muslim country after Saudi Arabia that Morsi will be visiting in the Middle East. The Arab Street will take note that Egypt's Brothers reject the notion (propagated by Saudi Arabia and the West) of an Iran-led "Shi'ite crescent" [Iran, Iraq, Syria, and a portion of Lebanon] posing a threat to the Sunni communities of the Muslim Middle East.
Clearly, Egypt intends to normalize its relations with Iran, whereas Mubarak's Egypt was awash with Manichean fears of Iranian plots to destabilize it. Things have changed. The deputy leader of the Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat, recently told Associated Press, "The old regime used to turn any of his [Mubarak's] rivals to a ghost. We [Brotherhood] don't want to do like Mubarak and exaggerate the fear of Iran."
From Tehran's viewpoint, this comes as a diplomatic and geopolitical breakthrough at a difficult time when the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] talks with Iran are in an impasse. Simply put, the Middle Eastern equations have been suddenly thrown into a state of flux....
In retrospect, Morsi's crackdown on the military a week ago was a pre-emptive coup. The Brothers estimated that their best bet would be to ride the wave of high expectations in the public opinion favoring fundamental changes in national policies and that any delay and procrastination in doing so would result in the military gaining the upper hand and turning the tables politically on Morsi's leadership.
Equally, the Brothers harbor distrust of the U.S. role and its real intentions toward Morsi's leadership. It is useful to remember that the Brotherhood (and Hamas, which governs Gaza) pointedly accused Israel's Mossad of being responsible for the terrorist strike in Sinai on Aug. 5.
What made the Brothers come to this conclusion is unclear, but Sinai has been a lawless land for decades and it is inconceivable that Israeli intelligence paid no attention to the Islamist militant groups present there. In fact, what really happened on August 5 remains anybody's guess and it needs a willing suspension of disbelief to accept that the Bedouins could mount such a highly professional operation.
Besides, something else was jarring. The terrorist strike in Sinai followed Morsi's meetings with the Hamas leadership in Cairo and his decision to partially ease the restrictions at the Rafah crossing (which of course made a mockery of Israel's "blockade" of Gaza).
Be that as it may, the attack in Sinai came even as the U.S. was piling pressure on Morsi to optimally resuscitate the Mubarak-era security and military tie-ups between Cairo, Washington and Tel Aviv. Both Clinton and Panetta tried hard to persuade Morsi to recapture the spirit of the tripartite U.S.-Egypt-Israel security cooperation over Sinai.
But the Brothers would see that any such reversion to Mubarak-era policies towards Israel would be deeply resented by the Egyptian public — Islamists and secularists alike — and in turn discredit the Brotherhood and erode the credibility of Morsi's presidency — in sum, it will be suicidal politically. The Brothers would also know that any configuration of Egypt's regional strategies with the locus resting on terrorism would preclude all possibilities of any creative policy rethink on Gaza.
Morsi's decision to open a line to Beijing and Tehran needs to be weighed against a big backdrop. The Brothers apprehend a U.S.-Israeli plan to destabilize Morsi's government if it doesn't fall in line with Washington's diktat. Therefore, they are looking for ways and means to whittle down the current level of Egypt's over-dependence on the U.S. and its Persian-Gulf allies by diversifying the country's external relationships and adding countervailing partnerships that would help enhance the country's strategic autonomy.
Next week promises to be a defining moment in Middle Eastern politics and inter-Arab alignments when Morsi travels to Beijing and Tehran. With Egypt drifting away, the U.S. regional strategies are in great disarray. The immediate question will be what is gained, after all, by conquering Damascus with such mindless brutal violence and bestiality if Cairo and Baghdad have already been lost.
—This article appeared Aug. 21 in Asia Times. Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
6. THE SPECTER OF AL-QAEDA IN SYRIA
[This article was produced Aug. 6 by Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Ed Husain. The Council, which publishes Foreign Affairs, is the most influential of America's non-government foreign policy institutions.]
The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime's superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.
In Syria, al-Qaeda's foot soldiers call themselves Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahli al-Sham (Front for the Protection of the Levantine People). The group's strength and acceptance by the FSA are demonstrated by their increasing activity on the ground (BBC) – from seven attacks in March to 66 "operations" in June. In particular, the Jabhat has helped take the fight to Syria's two largest cities: the capital of Damascus, where 54% percent of its activities have been, and Aleppo. Indeed, al-Qaeda could become the most effective fighting force in Syria if defections from the FSA to the Jabhat persist and the ranks of foreign fighters continue to swell.
Al-Qaeda is not sacrificing its "martyrs" in Syria merely to overthrow Assad. Liberation of the Syrian people is a bonus, but the main aim is to create an Islamist state in all or part of the country. Failing that, they hope to at least establish a strategic base for the organization's remnants across the border in Iraq, and create a regional headquarters where mujahedeen can enjoy a safe haven. If al-Qaeda continues to play an increasingly important role in the rebellion, then a post-Assad government will be indebted to the tribes and regions allied to the Jabhat. Failing to honor the Jabhat's future requests, assuming Assad falls, could see a continuation of conflict in Syria.
Thus far, Washington seems reluctant to weigh heavily into this issue. In May 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly accepted al-Qaeda's presence in Syria. And in July, the State Department's counterterrorism chief, Daniel Benjamin, rather incredulously suggested that the United States will simply ask the FSA to reject al-Qaeda. The unspoken political calculation among policymakers is to get rid of Assad first—weakening Iran's position in the region—and then deal with al-Qaeda later.
But the planning to minimize al-Qaeda's likely hold over Syrian tribes and fighters must begin now as the Obama administration ramps up its support to rebel groups. Of course, these preparations should also include efforts to locate and control Assad's chemical weapons. The months ahead will not be easy.
— From the Activist Newsletter: The U.S. has frequently supported terrorist groups when they served Washington's interests. Starting in the late 1970s and for over a dozen years, Washington spent multi-millions of taxpayer dollars financing and training terrorist organizations in Afghanistan that were fighting against a left wing government in Kabul. Out of that war, which spawned and brought the Taliban to power, also emerged al-Qaeda, followed by the 9/11 attacks and the 11-year stalemated U.S. war against Afghanistan. It is interesting to contemplate what may emerge from the U.S.-Saudi-Turkey debacle in Syria.
7. CLIMATE CHANGE IS WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
By James Hansen
(Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University.)
When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988, I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.
But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic.
My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.... [o]ur analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.
In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Aug. 6, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.
This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.
The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.
These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills.
Twenty-four years ago, I introduced the concept of “climate dice” to help distinguish the long-term trend of climate change from the natural variability of day-to-day weather. Some summers are hot, some cool. Some winters brutal, some mild. That’s natural variability.
But as the climate warms, natural variability is altered, too. In a normal climate without global warming, two sides of the die would represent cooler-than-normal weather, two sides would be normal weather, and two sides would be warmer-than-normal weather. Rolling the die again and again, or season after season, you would get an equal variation of weather over time.
A clean energy economy ... is a simple, honest and effective solution.
But loading the die with a warming climate changes the odds. You end up with only one side cooler than normal, one side average, and four sides warmer than normal. Even with climate change, you will occasionally see cooler-than-normal summers or a typically cold winter. Don’t let that fool you.
Our new peer-reviewed study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, makes clear that while average global temperature has been steadily rising due to a warming climate (up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century), the extremes are actually becoming much more frequent and more intense worldwide.
When we plotted the world’s changing temperatures on a bell curve, the extremes of unusually cool and, even more, the extremes of unusually hot are being altered so they are becoming both more common and more severe.
The change is so dramatic that one face of the die must now represent extreme weather to illustrate the greater frequency of extremely hot weather events.
Such events used to be exceedingly rare. Extremely hot temperatures covered about 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of the globe in the base period of our study, from 1951 to 1980. In the last three decades, while the average temperature has slowly risen, the extremes have soared and now cover about 10 percent of the globe.
This is the world we have changed, and now we have to live in it — the world that caused the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed more than 50,000 people and the 2011 drought in Texas that caused more than $5 billion in damage. Such events, our data show, will become even more frequent and more severe.
There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time. We can solve the challenge of climate change with a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs. It is a simple, honest and effective solution.
The future is now. And it is hot.
— Dr. Hansen was the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change. This article appeared as an Op-Ed in the Washington Post Aug. 3.