You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

August 26, 2010

Jim Henley, Right Again

I still have a few more posts to write about Jeffrey Goldberg's Iran article. But the final one was always going to make the point that Goldberg, without being conscious of it, presents Israel's leaders as completely insane. However, Jim Henley has already written this and hence saved me the work: Goldberg’s article, all on its own, Israel’s policy-makers condemn themselves out of their own mouth. If all you had was “The Point of No Return” and a brain, you would have everything you need to judge Israel’s case for bombing Iran as unjustified and immoral...

It adds up to a devastating case for mens rea regarding a prospective war crime. You don’t need to “fisk” Goldberg’s article with links to other sources making the above points. They are all in Goldberg’s article.

Read it all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at August 26, 2010 11:13 PM

Goldberg is a Zionist and poor man's version of Joseph de Maistre. His "Soirees" are convivial affairs illumined by Israeli dignitaries and a cancer stricken, soi-disant Marxist(!), neo-Con martyr.

He wants blood. Hold the milkshake.(rimshot)

Posted by: Alcibiades Slim at August 27, 2010 05:03 AM

"Bombing a country is going to war with that country – not, as American discourse frequently has it, some kind of alternative to war."

I'll call that and raise Mr. Henley by stating that embargo is in reality an act of war--not, as American discourse frequently has it, a peaceful solution.

Posted by: Paul Avery at August 27, 2010 07:11 AM

"Nor is a Basset Hound an alternative to a dog."

Henley has my admiration for that quip.

But Paul Avery, let's not ruin a great joke. An embargo may be a different canid, perhaps a fox or coyote or even a wolf or jackal, but it still isn't a dog. Like all canids, it can do many of the same things dogs can, if it's a wolf even better. It can terrify and punish your civilian population, and it can under the right circumstances certainly violate the protections of civilians provided by international law (especially in the 1949 Geneva Convention).

Whether or not an embargo violates international law, it can potentially kill as many non-combatants as a whole pack of war dogs. But I don't know whether an embargo can violate international law if the Security Council orders it. And though I'm no expert, I don't think that it would otherwise necessarily always violate international law. Most Iraqis probably would object to a lawyerly view of such questions. And if what happened to them is legal but what has happened to the Cubans is illegal, then international law has a ways to go even apart from enforcement problems. Frankly, those sorts of questions hurt my head, whereas Basset Hounds make me smile.

So Henley is right, and you are too but only with footnotes, and I'm not sure that raise was wise. Probably depends on whether you're playing house rules.

Posted by: N E at August 27, 2010 11:28 AM

I do appreciate the footnotes, NE. Under the strict legal definition, I'm inclined to agree. Unfortunately, the more powerful nation play by the rule book of Pretzel International Law when it comes to questions such as collective punishment and state sponsored terrorism, and they routinely deal from a stacked deck.

Posted by: Paul Avery at August 27, 2010 12:39 PM


Actually, the "sanctions" against Iraq were an act of war because they were enforced with a blockade; that is an act war. Technically, Iraq was not under "sanctions" but under a blockade.

Furthermore, a case can be made that the blockade was an act of genocide. According to U.S. documents, Iraq's power plants, sewage treatment plants, and water treatment plants were deliberately targeted during the gulf war to destroy "population will". The blockade was used to prevent Iraq from rebuilding this infrastructure.

Posted by: Edward at August 27, 2010 02:01 PM

THAT'S WHY its called "bombing them into the stoneage". (because that's what it is)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 27, 2010 04:15 PM

Jonathan, I was just wondering what you thought about becoming the blogger who Goldberg was referring to as having retracted his previous criticisms? To see into the future like that...whew, is this guy a mad genius or what?

Posted by: scudbucket at August 27, 2010 05:23 PM


I've seen some of the documents indicating intentional destruction by the US military of the sewage treatment facilities in Iraq during the First Gulf War, and I agree that destroying that infrastructure to kill civilians constituted war crimes. I'm also aware that blockades traditionally are acts of war under customary international law. (I now basically agree with Ramsey Clark, so you won't ever be seeing me on TV.) But I don't know whether it would count as genocide. Then again, I have a heck of a time caring whether something is genocide or just mass murder in violation of the laws of war.

One thing I don't know is whether the UN can violate international law. With regard to international law, the UN may be what the Pope is to Catholics. At least that is my way of restating Paul Avery's excellent point. The corporate elites of the US, EU, and Japan--the old trilateral commission--are running the world and for the time being managing to avoid fratricide.

Posted by: N E at August 27, 2010 05:32 PM

"I don't know whether it would count as genocide."

I know there are articles that have been written arguing this point. The U.S. has committed so many crimes at this point I don't know how much it matters whether it gets stuck with the "Iraq genocide" label.

I heard someone (Dennis Halliday?) say at some point that the various U.S. assaults on Iraq during the 1990's were a legal grey area; they would clearly be illegal during a war but it wasn't clear what laws should apply in that situation.

Posted by: Edward at August 27, 2010 08:51 PM

"THAT'S WHY its called "bombing them into the stoneage"."

A U.N. official who toured Iraq after the first Gulf War described the damage as "apocalyptic". An estimated one trillion dollars in damage was done to Iraq.

Posted by: Edward at August 27, 2010 08:53 PM

Welcome to the Stoneage, where FIRST YOU'RE "lit up like Baghdad on a Saturday Night!"

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 29, 2010 05:59 PM

Ahh, thank you Edward! I now know the counterpart to the phrase "political will."

Posted by: LT at August 30, 2010 05:10 AM