Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Greece; Iran; terrorism; doors opening, maybe

Things I think that I think about the situation we're in ... some, guardedly, hopeful. While other events wrung me out over the last few days, I can't let pass three developments foreign and one domestic.

Tourist photo from Athens
1. Does it seem to anyone else that the German government and European banking elites are treating Greeks much as rural state legislators treat cities where people of color are the majorities -- as stupid, incompetent, foolish, lazy and incapable of self government? In Europe, are Greeks the blacks?

Nobel winning economist Joseph Stiglitz might concur:
We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.
2. Sometime in the next ten days, the U.S. and its partners in nuclear negotiations with Iran will or will not come up with a deal to prevent further bomb making for some period of time. If there is a deal, there'll be war in the U.S. Congress between the administration and the fully bought and paid for representatives of the Israel Lobby in both U.S. parties. Oil industry friends of the Saudis will be doing their best to scuttle the deal as well. It's going to be one of those times when people who care about peace will have to push for spine transplants for our legislators.

It is worthwhile remembering a little of the backstory of U.S./Iran relations. In addition to using the C.I.A. to impose the Shah's dictatorship over Iranians in the 1950s, the U.S. supported chemical war by Iraq against the revolutionary Iranian people during the 1980s. Robin Wright in the New Yorker explains:
Officially, the United States was neutral. But Washington did not want Iran to win, so U.S. intelligence provided satellite imagery of Iranian positions to Iraq, along with military options. With American and other foreign guidance, the Iraqis constructed a replica of Faw for practice runs.

Iraq also used U.S. intelligence to unleash chemical weapons against the Iranians in Faw. U.N. weapons inspectors documented Iraq’s repeated use of both mustard gas and nerve agents between 1983 and 1988. Washington opted to ignore it. At Faw, thousands of Iranians died. Syringes were littered next to bodies, a U.S. intelligence source told me; Iranian forces had tried to inject themselves with antidotes. The battle lasted only thirty-six hours; it was Iraq’s biggest gain in more than seven years. The war ended four months later, when Iran agreed to a cease-fire.

... U.S. intelligence estimated, at the time, that Iran suffered more than fifty thousand casualties—deaths and injuries–from Iraq’s use of nerve agents and toxic gases. A senior Reagan Administration official told me that he was ashamed of the covert U.S. role at Faw and during the final period of the war.
No wonder we're not buddies with Iran.

3. Last Friday, militants linked plausibly with ISIS killed scores of people in Tunisia, Kuwait, and France. Probably fortunately, most U.S. media where too preoccupied to notice. U.S. media have lately pointed out that, since 9/11, nearly twice as many people in this country have been killed by right-wing (racist) extremists as by Islam-tinged nutcases.

And 4, here at home: Some recognition that our legal system of mass incarceration and brutal punishment is off the rails seems to be infiltrating the rarefied precincts of the Supremes. And it is the "centrists" who are talking. First, out of the blue, Justice Kennedy questioned the constitutionality of unbounded solitary confinement in prisons. Then Justice Breyer raised the likelihood that application of the death penalty, in the words of former Justice Potter Stewart, is as random as being struck by lightening.
The problem, Breyer suggests, may be irresolvable. We can have executions without long delays, or we can have the procedural review necessary to avoid unfair executions, but we can’t have both. If the Constitution requires both, the death penalty may well be unconstitutional.
It's a start.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

"Are Greeks the blacks?"

All I know is that Greece might leave the Eurozone.